This guest essay written by Father George David Byers, of Arise! Let us be going!, compares four points of Cardinal Bergoglio’s pre-conclave speech with four scenes of betrayal and evangelization of the dark peripheries of Gethsemane: The Judas Crisis & TNCRRG.
It is with sweet and comforting joy that we thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, for being the Papa of our Catholic Family of Faith. We are confident of his solidarity with us in the midst of our evangelization of the most extreme peripheries of existential desperation.
It is with unbounded trust in his fatherhood as he walks among us that we rush out as the littlest of children to grasp his hand, wanting to pull him into the peripheries known to us, so that we may show him, our beloved Papa, who willingly comes with us, what we see, peripheries so dark that they necessitate the authoritative governance of his fatherhood as Bishop of Rome in order for those peripheries finally to reflect He who is the Lumen Gentium, the Incarnate Light of the Nations.
Easily getting lost in the maze of badly lit back alleys of the peripheries, purposely labyrinthed with the self-referential ideologies of greed and political correctness, it is Pope Francis himself who hands us a map that leads us to Jesus Christ, who is the Way. That map consists not of images, but of four paragraphs, the four points of his speech to the Cardinals immediately preceding the Conclave. These four points – with my own, more accurate translation below – reflect the Gospel’s four descriptions of betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane inasmuch as it is by these accounts that our Lord’s supreme example of evangelizing the most obscure of existential peripheries is manifested with goodness and kindness, Truth and Life.
The peripheries into which we make a foray are those bureaucratic, highly refined, protectionist, and ever so self-referential betrayals that are the hierarchical, episcopal abuses of power regarding the many clergy whom so many bishops know to have been falsely accused of sexual abuse of young people, but whom they condemn as guilty by way of their written policies of immediate cash settlements, policies which tolerate no due-process for priests, but have those priests forever removed from the priesthood, and even imprisoned by criminally stacking any jury in this way. The bishops think that they save thirty pieces of silver even while drawing attention to their façade of solicitude for the Church. In this way, they only further endanger true victims, whose voices will not be heard as people tire of false accusations and a lack of priests.
Have no doubt, the same abuse of power which indulged in sexual abuse, is the same of abuse of power which overlooks that abuse. The abuse of power which condemns as guilty those priests they know to be innocent, is the same abuse of power which will once again indulge in, or overlook sexual abuse. Abuse of power is self-serving, self-referential, self-perpetuating, hidden in darkness of its own non-light, far from Christ Jesus.
When cases against priests reach the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it is assumed that there are no local diocesan policies forbidding due process for priests. We pray that the officials there will take a few minutes to follow the links in the next paragraph, and thus discover the truth of the written policies forbidding due process for priests. It seems that we too easily forget the lack of due process for Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, who, today, may well have been literally left to die under a bridge, forever barred from active ministry (see, for instance, “I Am a Mystery to Myself.” The Last Days of Padre Pio, with associated links). It seems that we too easily forget the lack of due process for Jesus, and, indeed, the time When Jesus Was in Prison, when all of his Apostles, including Peter, collegially ran away.
I’ve recently written on the frankly penned policies which, in an effort to save those thirty pieces of silver, forbid due process for priests: see The Judas Crisis and The National Catholic Risk Retention Group (TNCRRG). Father Gordon MacRae has a number of articles of compelling interest, including, Why the Catholic Abuse Narrative Needs a Fraud Task Force and When Priests Are Falsely Accused Part I: The Mirror of Justice Cracked. Although he doesn’t say so explicitly, the latter article references Father Steven Rossetti, who was head of the horrific Saint Luke Institute at the time. Father Rossetti, along with Monsignor Edward Arsenault, are the cheerleaders of The Judas Crisis, of the betrayal of priests known to be innocent.
Having said all that, it must quickly be added that such Cardinals, Archbishops and bishops are to be called “Friend”, the name Jesus gave to Judas at the moment of betrayal, and this in an effort to evangelize these darkest of existential peripheries. We must remember that eleven of the Apostles returned, having taken Jesus’ evangelizing of their own existential peripheries to heart, He having taken their hearts to His own. And isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that what is of greatest benefit to the Church?
There are no peripheries awaiting our surging forth unto evangelization which could possibly be darker, colder, more cynical – or more needful of that evangelization – than the present policies of most (Arch)dioceses, for such betrayal of innocent priests is an affirmation and confirmation of the abuse of office and power which was and continues to be the cause of the abuse of youngsters, an action singled out for its horror by our Lord Himself.
The following four sections of this article will each include a point from the speech of Pope Francis, a description of betrayal during the account of the Jesus being apprehended in the Garden of Gethsemane, and a further drawing out of an analogy of the abuse of office.
From Cardinal Bergoglio’s Intervention
“(1) Evangelizing necessitates Apostolic Zeal. Evangelizing necessitates in the Church a speaking of the truth, a surging forth from herself. The Church is called to surge forth from herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographical, but also the existential peripheries: those of the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of thought and of all misery.”
From Luke’s Account of Gethsemane (22,39-46)
“Then surging forth, He went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. When he arrived at the place He said to them: ‘Pray that you may not undergo the trial.’ After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, He prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’ And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the trial.’”
The Word of the Father surges forth to the immobilization of the Cross, to speak in the silence of death to the darkest of existential peripheries, becoming sin so as to conquer pain, injustice, ignorance and indifference to religion, self-referential ideology and all misery. In surging forth with an acceptance not of His will, but that of the Father, He is betrayed by the failure of His co-evangelizers to pray, so that they, in their self-referential sleep, must become the first subjects of this surging evangelization: “Get up! Pray that you may not undergo the trial!” Their sorrow differs so much from His agony, grieving their own loss instead of literally bleeding goodness and kindness for others. He prepares to carry them in the battle, to lay down their lives with His own, that they might not flee into the futility of doing battle alone, merely to die the death of the self-referential, immediately forgotten by their politically correct sycophants.
Our Heavenly Father sacrifices His Son for this evangelization of the dark peripheries, but there are those who fall asleep, turn in on themselves, and refuse to accept that there is a battle to be fought, betrayers to confront and evangelization to be accomplished with one’s own life being lain down with that of Jesus Christ. One sleeps as the betrayers hiddenly go about their secret work. One permits Satan to have his way with the flock, their lives being shattered because the shepherds sleep with dreams of their own satisfaction, in this way bringing only pain, injustice, ignorance and indifference to religion, self-referential ideology and all misery. The betrayer is upon them, and they don’t want to know it, letting him free to do his work of sacrificing the Son of Another, Jesus, the Son of the Father, so as to satisfy his own self-referentiality.
At least in the U.S.A., the epicenter of abuse, especially from 1968 to 1978, it was as if all were asleep, for those abusing the children of others were permitted to do so with impunity, that is, by those in authority who knew that this was happening.
From Cardinal Bergoglio’s Intervention
“(2) When the Church does not surge forth from herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick (as with the woman collapsing in upon herself in the Gospel). The evils that, in the course of time, afflict ecclesial institutions, have a root in self-referentiality, in a kind of theological narcissism. In the Apocalypse, Jesus says that He is at the threshold and calls. Evidently, the text refers to the fact of His being outside of the door and knocking in order to enter… But at times I think that Jesus knocks from within, so that we might let Him out. The self-referential Church has the pretense of keeping Jesus Christ within herself, and does not let Him go forth.”
From Luke’s Account of Gethsemane (22,47-48)
“While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22,47-48).
Jesus had commanded Peter, James and John to pray that they might not enter into the battle, just as He did when He taught them to pray: “Do not bring us to the battle (alone), but deliver us from the Evil One” (who would attack us far from God). Now they had an example of one of their own, Judas, who had decided to throw in his lot with the Evil One, putting his betrayal into action right in front of their full view.
The kiss of Judas, so repugnant to Jesus, was Judas’ self-referential kiss of death: Jesus is mine! He wants to go forth and evangelize, but He is all mine! I can kiss Him! Possess Him! Sell Him! Betray Him! Kill Him! He is all mine! He will never go forth from me! Look at me! Only me! I am narcissistically mine! But Judas, whose feet had been cleansed of the cursed dust of Satan at the Last Supper was now possessed once again. “Friend!” Jesus exclaimed, always trying to evangelize even the darkest of hearts with goodness and kindness. Yet, the others, immobilized by their lack of prayer, can only watch as Judas goes about his work, sacrificing the Son of Another, Jesus, the Son of the Father, for his own satisfaction. Inversion, theological narcissism, looking only to oneself, as to an idol, cannot tolerate fruitfulness, but only that the children of others are sacrificed as a confirmation of one’s own self-referentiality.
The other Apostles look on, immobilized in their waking slumber, watching as the abuse of children continues for all to see. There were signs of nervousness, of course, but nothing significant would change the course of Judas from 1978 until 2002.
From Cardinal Bergoglio’s Intervention
“(3) The Church, when she is self-referential, without being aware of this, believes to have her own light; she ceases to be the “mysterium lunae” [the mystery of the moon (which reflects the light of the sun, that is, the Son)] and gives way to that ever so serious evil which is spiritual worldliness (according to De Lubac, the worst evil into which the Church can run amuck): that living so as to give glory to one another. Put simply, there are two images of the Church:  the evangelizing Church which surges forth from herself, “Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidente proclamans” [religiously listening to God’s Word and faithfully proclaiming], or  the worldly Church, living within herself, by herself, for herself. This must shed light on the possible changes and reforms to be accomplished for the salvation of souls.”
From Luke’s Account of Gethsemane (22,49-51)
“His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, ‘Lord, shall we strike with a sword?’ And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop, no more of this!’ Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.”
We see here a form of betrayal that is all the more insidious as it is all the more subtle. It is the betrayal of “doing something”, a tantrum of self-righteous indignation, a doing of anything but listening religiously to God’s Word, anything but faithfully proclaiming that Word. What is done under such vacuous circumstances of believing that one is one’s own light cannot be anything other than a confirmation of self-referentiality, a spiritual worldliness seeking to be praised and adored by the world. One cuts off the ear of the one who stands before God’s very Word, attempting to cut short his faithful proclamation, ensuring that all are mirror images of oneself, living within oneself, by oneself, for oneself, never reflecting the light of the Son of God among us. Malchus is cut down without due process. He is guilty by association. Judas was guilty as judged by the King of kings and Lord of lords and the Prince of the Most Profound Peace. But Malchus was judged by the self-referentiality of Peter.
Regarding the treatment of priests who are accused of sexual misconduct, most all bishops follow the bad example in the early life of the first Pope. Priests are held to be guilty for the incredible “reason” that a few Judas priests certainly were guilty. Innocent priests are guilty by association, that is, just because they are priests. Due process for priests accused of abuse of minors is expressly forbidden by The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, a ruling subscribed to or otherwise followed by most every bishop in the U.S.A. See how the policy is explained to bishops, with a critique, here: The Judas Crisis and The National Catholic Risk Retention Group (TNCRRG). The priests are simply hacked down with the sword of immediate monetary settlements being made with the accuser, often without knowing the dates or allegations. The facts are not important. It is the saving of thirty pieces of silver by Judas, and the self-righteous indignation wrought by cutting down the innocent by Peter that are thought to be important. Flashing a sword makes one look nice. But this is condemned by our Lord Jesus Himself. Jesus evangelizes the dark peripheries of the heart of Peter: No, Peter! Put the sword away! There is a redemption to accomplish!
From Cardinal Bergoglio’s Intervention
“(4) Thinking of the next Pope: [We need] a man who, by way of the contemplation of Jesus Christ and the adoration of Jesus Christ, may help the Church to surge forth from herself unto the existential peripheries, that he may help her to be the fruitful mother who lives “by way of the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
From Luke’s Account of Gethsemane (22,52-53)
“And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, of the power of darkness.’”
In this last and saddest scene of betrayal, we see Judas, possessed by the prince of the power of darkness, having such influence upon the ecclesiastics of the day. They take the scandal he offers. They rejoice in the lack of due process for Jesus, Priest of priests. They rush to support the accusation of Judas, which became irresistible by its sheer repetition, irresistible with more and more bearing clubs and swords. Father Gordon MacRae masterfully wrote of this “availability bias” in his article defending Pope Francis, called: Strike the Shepherd: Behind the Campaign to Smear the Pope.
This availability bias, demanding submission to any false accusation by way of insisting on lack of due process for priests, is today everywhere present in the self-referential Church spoken of by Cardinal Bergoglio. Those ecclesiastics who wield their swords and clubs against Jesus still today would do well to let the darkest of their existential peripheries be evangelized by the goodness and kindness of Jesus.
Jesus, indeed, provides an example of this evangelization by pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of those who wield their swords and clubs. For good measure, He mocks their action with the description of a mere hour, which will end as the Day of the Lord continues, providing them a chance to repent. In contemplating and adoring Jesus Christ, the very power of His proclamation – “I AM” – we are encouraged to surge forth into even these existential peripheries, knowing such goodness and kindness of Jesus, and therefore the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing even in the midst of betrayal.
It is true that the many innocent priests who have been betrayed by their bishops are suffering with our Lord for the good of the Church, but it cannot be said that the action of the betrayal is good for the Church, as has so often been said: Pro bono Ecclesiae! The betrayal must be set right without respect for one person over another. Sure, the world is set against priests, including those who are innocent. They come with swords and clubs. Yet, evangelization of the peripheries, those who have been abused, is never served by holding that it is better that innocent priests die humiliated and imprisoned so that many in the episcopacy might save thirty pieces of silver and, they think, their own credibility. Instead, they loose more money, more priests and all credibility by not providing justice for all involved, and only pave the way for more abuse.
How wonderful it would be if Pope Francis were to come to these United States of America, to our darkest peripheries. How wonderful it would be for him to have a chat with our Episcopal Conference about The National Catholic Risk Retention Group and those who imitate their policies. How wonderful it would be – before dealing with those peripheries – if Pope Francis were to visit our prisons, indeed, the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, where the falsely accused priest at the epicenter of this controversy, Father Gordon J. MacRae (about), has been imprisoned for almost two decades.
Should this article make it into the hands of Pope Francis, I have only one message to give him in regard to Father Gordon J. MacRae, his faithful priest-son:
Miserando atque eligendo!
Editor’s Note: You can listen to Joe Maher’s interview on falsely accused priests here. (at the 38-43 minute mark.) Joe founded Opus Bono Sacerdotii. Also, Ryan A. MacDonald will have a guest post on These Stone Walls next Wednesday, May 1st. Father Gordon will return on May 8th. He much appreciates Ryan and Father Byers stepping in for two weeks while he engages in another writing project.