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Quite often, the news of corruption, whether in the Church, culture or government, can be quite difficult to hear — not just the degree of it, but the sheer amount of it. It can get to the point that you just don't want to hear it anymore. And believe us, it can get to the point where it's difficult to report on constantly as well.
However, and this is the overriding point, every single instance of corruption means someone else has become a victim — at least one person and usually more than one. If the corruption is not exposed, nearly every victim has no voice because the corruption is usually exercised and participated in by a powerful force, a person or an institution.
It's the classic Goliath and David scenario. The only way to knock out Goliath is to expose Goliath. So as "wash-rinse-repeat" as it may seem, it isn't that way for the latest victim. Whenever corruption occurs, not only is truth offended against, so too is justice.
The prevailing effect of corruption is injustice — someone or some people are deprived of something they are due. The act or practice is done specifically by some entity to personally profit from that unjust act. And when corruption becomes institutionalized, accepted and engaged in as a standard way of operating by the powerful, the little people become crushed.
Often, they lose heart, throw in the towel, accept the cliche that "you can't fight city hall" and resign themselves to a somewhat desperate outlook on life, certainly a more gloomy one. In cases of extreme injustice, they will kill themselves.
Injustice is sinful and, like all sin, it infects, propagates and, if left unchecked and unexposed, its destructive powers know no end. Most people accept that much of the government is corrupt — there are way too many temptations for the man unassisted by grace to resist. In fact, it is precisely because of the enormous power vested in government officials that, at least traditionally, an appeal — "So help me, God" — was made directly to God to help them faithfully execute their duties.
The same is true, although perhaps not as much, in the culture. Corruption in commerce, education, etc., may not get the big headlines that some other spheres do, but pretty much everyone accepts some low-level form of it as "just how things are done."
However, the one area where a huge number of people are still unwilling to concede that corruption is rampant is followers of religion. The irreligious willingly accept that many religious leaders are corrupt, but the followers have proven to be more stubborn in conceding this point.
Within the Catholic world, it is flat-out disturbing how many (with all that has been revealed in the past three years) are still ignorant of the malfeasance on the part of the hierarchy. Many people, too many, are simply willing to go along with whatever evil or corruption a bishop or pastor glosses over because they are a bishop or pastor, as though the office somehow excuses the man from corrupt deeds.
Of course, many Catholic religious leaders know they are often talking to gullible Catholics, and they use their office as a means to control and deflect. And if you press them hard enough, they will turn and walk away or challenge your challenging of them as a sign of disrespect for their office, when, in truth, it is challenging the man in the office.
Every single one of these instances of corruption has at least one victim in its wake, and to palaver with the cleric and stand there making nice with him completely ignores that victim and his or her suffering.
Additionally, corruption in the Church comes in many flavors:
This list of corruption is so numerous and so extensive that it is clear that over the 20th century it seems to have been the actual goal to corrupt the Church.
The short-, mid- and long-term spiritual impacts of this are devastating because, again, corruption creates victims — humans deprived of what is due them. For example, in Detroit, it all coalesced and then took off under the corrupt cardinal, John Dearden. When Dearden was archbishop here in the 1960s, there were close to 500 parishes. A little more than 60 years later, when Vigneron wraps up here in two years, there will be about 50 parishes.
From 500 to 50 — that's quite an impact, a 90% slashing. Of course, the spin doctors at the Detroit chancery will tell you it's not 50 parishes exactly, it's 50 families of parishes; small clusters of already previously clustered parishes forced into the arrangement by dwindling numbers 20 years ago. But that's just a clever deception, a made-up naming convention to gloss over the massively shrinking Church here in Detroit, as is happening in a multiplicity of dioceses around the country.
Corruption has a cost, but unlike a corrupt government stealing your money or freedom or liberty or an election or even your country, a corrupt hierarchy steals salvation from people; it steals eternal life.
But on the way to Hell, there is much desperation along the path. There are shattered families, for example, brought about by a decided lack of morality, brought on by corrupt leaders depriving people of the truth. There are drugs, suicide, mental illness, isolation, loneliness, fear. The road to Hell isn't really paved with good intentions when it barely glimpses what awaits the damned.
Corruption in the Church robs people and deprives them of hope and joy. And in a world whose natural state is bereft of any real hope or joy, ecclesiastical corruption lowers the good to a joyless existence. Life is tough enough on its own, even for the faithful. But to prevent people from having faith — or making it so difficult for them that they struggle deeply to see the point of faith — is downright evil.
Yes, corruption has a very real effect, and it is always necessary to combat it for the sake of the innocent.