Until recently, wrote Michelle Boorstein at washingtonpost.com, it was practically “unheard of” for Catholic priests and seminarians to go “to investigators, journalists and lawyers with complaints about their superiors”. But the Me Too movement, and the fallout from the McCarrick case, has encouraged them to speak up. “The Washington Post has received more calls from Catholic seminarians and clergy members with tips and concerns in the past year than in the previous decade,” he wrote.
Moreover, seminarians are talking to each other. One seminarian in the Washington, DC, region, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was worried about being dismissed from seminary, told the Post: “I’ve never had conversations in all the previous years like the ones I’ve had in the past year. People feel they can finally talk about things.”
The new atmosphere is already leading to change: “More than half-a-dozen priests and former seminarians were the key whistleblowers in the recent fall of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield,” who was accused of sexual and financial misconduct. (He denies any wrongdoing.)
Catholic media have also played a part. “Some say the expanding of a more aggressive Catholic media in the past couple of years has emboldened Catholics, including seminarians, to challenge the hierarchy.”
What links incivility and unsound doctrine
One key theme of St Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus is “insistence on sound doctrine”, wrote Mgr Charles Pope at cathstan.org. But Paul “also makes an interesting connection between doctrine and civility”.
Paul writes that “Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” becomes entangled in “arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth.”
We can see this phenomenon today, wrote Mgr Pope: rejection of true teaching goes hand-in-hand with “widespread incivility”.
What’s the connection? The loss of shared, agreed realities, thanks to “radical individualism and subjectivism”. Without the ability to discuss things with shared premises, “We have descended into vehement disagreements, strident protests, heated rivalries, and even
hatred.” Without the truth, “there will be no peace”.
Marriage, Confession and self-knowledge
A few years ago, wrote Haley Stewart at Church Life Journal, “I saw the most poignant image of what marriage is designed to be. As I waited in line for Confession, an elderly woman at the front of the line held the arm of her unsteady husband and walked him to the door of the confessional before taking a seat to wait for him.”
Marriage, Stewart wrote, “calls us to love our spouse, not with a blind love, but with the kind of love that pushes each towards self-knowledge and the grace that accompanies acknowledging our sin and strengthening us in our path towards virtue.”