In this scorching letter to the editor of the Notre Dame Observer, a sign that the younger generation of Catholics is not prepared to keep its head down while the Church’s leadership class excuses its own sins and failings. Father John Jenkins is the president of the University of Notre Dame:
I must say at the outset that I am a loyal son of the Church, and it is because of my love for her that I cannot stay silent regarding Fr. Jenkins’ recent comments about the clerical sex abuse crisis. Fr. Jenkins demonstrated clearly that he either doesn’t recognize that evil stalks our world — which is extremely awkward given that he is a Catholic priest — or that he is is willfully blind to it.
Both conclusions are horrendous, and he must swiftly and contritely retract his tone deaf remarks, recently made in an interview with Crux, an online newspaper devoted to covering the Catholic Church, and beg the forgiveness of the Church, if he is to avoid further scandalizing the faithful, victims or otherwise.
Fr. Jenkins implores us to resist the “[un]helpful tendency” to cast as “monsters” the perpetrators of systematic child rape and serial sexual abuse, such as those exposed by the August 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report. He is speaking specifically of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, once a prince of the Church and successor to the Apostles, who for years repeatedly sexually abused the seminarians left in his care. Such abuse was an “open secret.”
Ines San Martín, the reporter conducting the interview, writes that it is “befitting” of Fr. Jenkins to find “complexity” in the wickedness perpetrated by his fellow clerics because he is an “Oxford-educated philosopher.”
Is this a joke?
There is nothing “complex” about what has happened here at all. Priests, who are commanded to tend to their parishioners as a shepherd to his flock — caring for them, accompanying them in their joys and sorrows, witnessing as Christ to them as they journey to their eternal home and protecting them — sexually abused the most vulnerable in their charge, children and men like McCarrick, when they weren’t debasing themselves by abusing others, systematically covered it up.
Frankly, only an “Oxford-educated philosopher” could possibly see anything in this heinous mess other than a thick coating of demonic filth, a filth that now covers the Body of Christ and obscures her God-given mission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew. 28:19). Institutions that churn out moral illiterates, bereft also of common sense, do not deserve our respect, regardless of how “prestigious” they are. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew. 8:36).
There is nothing “nuanced” or “ambiguous” about this tragedy. Rather than give of themselves fully — spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically — these priests selfishly indulged their own twisted, sinful desires and abused those they were to love, even unto death — like Christ.
Instead of living out Our Lord’s sacrificial words, words they repeated each time they celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass — “For this is My Body, which will be given up for you” — they chose instead to act out predatory words, placed in hearts by Satan and allowed to take root there because of their sloth and woefully insufficient fear of the Lord: “That is your body, taken and trashed by me.”
Jesus has a stinging denunciation for men like this, for those who cover up their crimes and wicked sins and, I’m sure, for those who excuse it all, dismissing it with sophisticated but, ultimately, deeply hollow, jargon, as Fr. Jenkins has done: “It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones” (Luke. 17:1-2).
Repent, Fr. Jenkins. Rather than play “footsie” with evil, do your sacramentally commanded duty as a priest, and fight it with all your strength.
Notre Dame Law ’20
That, my friends, is what you call a hot take. A few months ago, Father Jenkins declined a request by alumni to rescind the honorary degree Notre Dame bestowed upon McCarrick in 2008.