Watch Evening News weeknights at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret. (Ephesians 5: 8–11)
Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Forever one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. (John 3: 19–21)
Who believes that heinous evil done in secret is, therefore, less evil? Terrorists who steal into a household at night and, under cover of darkness, murder a family's sleeping children may take pride in their ability to steal away their lives under cover of darkness. But does this make their crime less outrageous to the conscience of decent humanity?
Christ followers profess to accept Christ's teaching when He says, "Do not fear the one who can destroy the body, but the one who destroys both body and soul in Hell." By this standard, is the crime of a sexual predator who privately lures those who are young in faith to "take part in fruitless works of darkness" somehow less intolerably outrageous because he or she contrives to do the crime in private?
If someone charged to instruct and guide seminarians and others placed under their authority for that purpose, privately takes pleasure in seducing them, does the self-serving concealment of their forsworn vows and responsibilities reduce or aggravate the mortal gravity of their crime against God, their brethren and the Church, to whom they are supposed, like Christ, to represent the salvation of God?
The answer is self-evident. What sense does it make, then, for "one of the Pope's top advisers, Cardinal Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga" to assert that "The scandal of ex-Cardinal McCarrick's homosexual abuse of young priests and seminarians and Pope Francis' alleged cover-up are 'of a private order' and a merely 'administrative affair.'" That statement itself gives grave scandal, implying as it does that the searing example of conniving, calculated evil deeply impressed upon minds and hearts of the predator's victims is of no account. How is this nonchalant assertion compatible with the example of Christ, who saw the harm done to those of relatively less maturity and power (the "little ones") to be of such account that it warranted a penalty so terrible capital punishment would seem preferable?
Christ considered the nature of the crime from the perspective of God and the damage done to the victims' relationship with God. Pope Francis' top advisor gives the greatest weight to the perspective of the world. In a world that rejects the premises of God's rule, this involves belittling the transgression of that rule and exalting the authority of the world that rejects it. Cardinal Maradiaga says, in effect, "Since the world cares, the transgressions matters. But since it doesn't care much, the transgression doesn't matter much. It's just an administrative detail."
How can it be right for the Church to substitute the nonchalant standard of the world for the stand of God in Christ? Isn't this derogation of God's rule in favor of human understanding the original paradigm of sin Eve acted upon? Though God saw death in the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve ignored God's warning, following instead her own perception that it was ripe and good to eat. But the consequence of the neglect of God's will can only be rightly understood by the Body of Christ, in and through which the presence of God is made known in human form, and His rule always taken into account.
Those who profess to be members of the body of Christ understand the will of God as their will, even when, in appearance, their own will departs from it. They say with St. Paul, "It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me." They accept, in consequence, the mind of Christ, which says to God, "Not my will, but thine be done." For Christ, who is the Word through whom all things are made, never forgets the dependence of all existence on being according to God. He never forgets that every departure from God's will implies separating this or that way of existence from the way of being that makes existence possible.
Cardinal Maradiaga's impoverished understanding of scandal involves just such a departure from God's will. It involves pretending that the standard of right and wrong, of good and evil, can be borne aloft by human will, without the aid of God's prescribed and Incarnate Word. This pretense abandons the assumption of faith. For faith accepts the assumption of existence itself: that the will by which God shares His being makes His the only wholesome perspective, the only one through which the whole subsists harmoniously in the being of each and every existing thing and all existing things subsist harmoniously in relation to one another.
With this in mind, how does "privacy" alter the nature of transgression? The sinner afflicts the wholesome being of God in the moment of transgression, not in the moment human understanding begins to perceive its consequences. And in that moment of transgression, God accounts for the consequences — whether or not human beings have the knowledge or will to do so. The good we do in secret, God rewards, according to our good intention. But whether for good or ill, in His administration of all, things God knows and takes account of all. It is not for us to pretend that we are masters of one jot or tittle of their true consequences.
Rather it is for us to take care of the word He has revealed, according to the paradigm of our human perfection Christ enacted in word and deed. Where in that paradigm does He privately betray human souls to evil for the sake of His own power and pleasure? Rather, all innocent, He suffers the most public of all humiliations for crimes He did not commit, so that the love of God may truly be made known. Does Cardinal Maradiaga think that he and his fellow "princes" are too exalted to do likewise? Does Pope Francis believe that it behooves the Vicar of Christ to exalt the privacy of clerics above the souls God called to Christ for salvation?