Pope Francis instructed the faithful catechetically today on the meaning of freedom. The summary of that catechesis did not define freedom directly but suggested it was the choice to heed God’s invitation to repent and live charitably (“rejecting evil and practicing justice” was the wording in the written summary of his instruction).
Coming on the heels of his indelicate rebuke of Donald Trump, the Shepherd of Rome returned to a traditional theme. Readers and listeners of his instruction will have to decide if some of his newer emphases have a Catholic ring to them. Pope Francis’ demarcation of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border as an indicator of one’s Christianity, ergo one’s faith and salvation, seemed a stretch at best, if not irrelevant.
Other pronouncements, or failures to effectively pronounce, on the use of birth control, the bloody practice of abortion, and the scandalous sexual molestation of children by priests and the accompanying cover ups by highly placed bishops, continue to tar the church’s moral authority. Too often the church erects pompous stands on political questions, such as illegal immigration and Muslim refugees, while egregiously grieving the Holy Spirit when it does not control the deceitful migration of sexual predators and their enablers into the priesthood and bishopry, where they encamp permanently and play a shell game with the reassignments of the child abusers.
Speak of repentance! Not only must the church leadership repent in sackcloth and ashes, those priests and bishops who practiced and sustained such sexual predations should be chastised: punished in the most severe fashion, turned over to the civil authorities for lifelong imprisonment. They betrayed young believers or young potential believers for their selfish, autonomous, unpriestly gratification at the greatest cost to the children – the rapacious destruction of their innocence.
Many specific types of freedom exist. Understood simply, freedom is the ability to make choices, practical and moral. Beyond that is the question of spiritual freedom. Catholic and Protestant theologians disagree on how much native spiritual freedom a man or woman has. At least in appearance, however, men and women are called upon to answer God’s calling, or “invitation” as the pope calls it, and to make choices that have a godly, spiritual end.
The priests and bishops who made themselves wolves in sheep’s clothing, using ministry as the mask and machinery for their sexual predations, made a choice to answer God’s calling negatively, to use the trappings of spirituality and holiness for their own voracious pleasures, even though it meant laying waste to so many innocent souls. They willingly, freely colluded with the Evil One, exercising his modus operandi that traces its utility all the way back to the Garden of Eden: a seduction, a promise of love or of more when all the predators wanted to do was dominate a weaker human being for some kind of pleasure, sensual or schadenfreudien.
How is this for a benchmark or test of one’s Christianity, Pope Francis: Can a man be a sexual predator and be a Christian? I shudder to even begin to contemplate the concept of in persona Christi in relation to this disgusting mess. The time to begin massive chastisement has long passed. The time to repair and restore the spoiled souls must continue, and they should be, in some sense, avenged; not a human vengeance, but they deserve to know that the Most High has heard their cries, and that the cavalry has arrived, and that means the evildoers must pay.
I don’t know whether Donald Trump is a Christian or not. The more vital agnosticism for the church is whether those predatorial priests and bishops are Christians. Do we know them by their fruits, or not?