Apr. 10, 2007 (CWNews.com) - The sex-abuse crisis within the Catholic Church was brought on in large part by a collapse in the traditions of ascetical discipline, especially among the clergy. That is the argument of an important book about the crisis, and after years of research on the topic, I find that argument persuasive.
Just over one year ago, the Linacre Institute released After Ascetism: Sex, Prayer, and Deviant Priests. Regrettably, the book has received little public attention-- certainly nowhere near the attention it deserves.
Perhaps this is understandable. The secular media, which have done so much to expose the failings of the Catholic clergy, have little interest in promoting traditional Catholic spirituality. So we couldn't expect the media to recognize the value of After Asceticism.
Church leaders should have snapped up the Linacre Institute's argument. Bishops, religious superiors, and seminar rectors should have recognized an important argument on the proper formation of priests. They did not, and that fact should tell us that something was amiss. But then, we already had plenty of evidence on that score!
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THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Yes, you read that headline right. The sex-abuse scandal in the US Catholic Church was caused by a general lack of Catholicism in the US Catholic Church. If Catholic clergy had just been well, "more Catholic," none of this would have ever happened.
The problem is generally an American one, though there is evidence of it in other parts of the western Church as well. Some have blamed Vatican II for the woes of western Catholicism, but these problems are not as prevalent in the eastern Church, which Vatican II affects equally. So the problem was not Vatican II. The problem was how Vatican II was implemented in the western Church -- specifically in North America, and particularly in the United States.
Western Catholic bishops, for the most part, interpreted Vatican II in a very liberal and radical way. Rather than seeing Vatican II in its proper context, as flowing from the historic tradition of the Catholic Church, western bishops tended to view Vatican II as a watershed event, which repudiated historic Catholic tradition. As a consequence, western bishops (for the most part) tried to recreate Catholicism in a whole new image. Time honored historic traditions were cast aside. New traditions were created out of thin air -- some of them from non-Christian sources. Moral teachings were pushed to lesser importance, while historic Catholic teachings on social justice were twisted into a kind of Church sanctioned socialism. Nowhere is this more evident than in the "Liberation Theology," repudiated by the Vatican, after being popularized in Central and South America.
The hand of Marxism weighed heavily on the western Church during the decades following Vatican II, while simultaneously, the eastern Catholic Church triumphed over Marxism in eastern Europe. Again, this goes back to the interpretation of Vatican II. Eastern Catholics interpreted Vatican II in the context of historic Catholic tradition. They saw the reforms of Vatican II as naturally following those from the Council of Trent in 1545 and Vatican I in 1869. There was no sense of rupture in Catholic Tradition in the eastern Church. As a result, eastern Catholicism triumphed over the Marxist forces of Soviet communism. In the west, however, where historic traditions was cast aside in the "spirit of Vatican II," the Church easily succumbed to Marxist influences and other liberal ideologies.
There is only one way to rescue western Catholicism, and that is to return to the time-honored historic traditions that once made the western Church strong. This must be done to truly fulfill the "spirit of Vatican II" which never sought to disrupted the flow of historic Catholic tradition from one generation to the next. A return to historic Catholic tradition will bring about the ascetical discipline needed to restore the integrity of the Catholic priesthood in the western world.