The following is by Pia de Solenni, SThD, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Orange and Theological Advisor to the Bishop.
Back in October, when Harvey Weinstein’s exploits [crimes] became public, those of us who have been supportive of the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality were quick to think of the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae when he foretold the dire effects that contraception would have on the way that men treat women.
As other prominent figures were exposed for their despicable manipulation of sex with women and men, we continued to be confirmed in our thinking.
However, the June revelations of the credible allegations of sex abuse on the part of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick confirm what many have suspected for a long time. The Church has been uncomfortably silent on matters of sexuality, family, and marriage because some in her leadership do not live these teachings themselves. And it is very hard to teach something that one does not know and live.
Obviously, celibate priests are not called to marriage or a life where contraception would even be a question. But their celibacy makes no sense unless one appreciates marriage. Marriage between a woman and a man points to the perfect union between Christ and his bride, the Church. Setting aside the exceptions for married priests, the theology of the Latin Church understands that the priest, called to be in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), enters into a supernatural type of nuptial vocation. Put simply, if he’s not continent- refraining from sexual activity- he’s cheating, just like any married person who acts unchastely and engages in sexual activity outside that person’s own marriage.
In my experience, the priests and bishops who are comfortable talking about, defending, and promoting the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage are confident in their vocations. They understand that their vocation and the vocation of the married support each other and point to the reality that we are all called to an eternal relationship with God.
I’m also confident that the celibacy of their relationship is hard work, just as marriage is hard work for the two spouses. I’m confident that they struggle, as married couples do. And I’m confident that they are willing to sacrifice, as married couples do, so that, in the words of St. Paul, they may “run so as to win.” All of the challenges here are worthwhile because overcoming them brings us closer to our ultimate desire, which is union with God.
Apart from serious eschatological considerations, celibacy (not to mention, virginity and chastity) makes little sense. Which explains why those who have lost sight of the greatest prize find it extremely challenging, if not impossible, to live the vocation.
When we lose sight of the reality of God, then we become all too comfortable with using others as objects, even children and others we have been given to protect and love. And none of this can be accomplished without chastity. It’s not about subduing love; it’s about allowing love to burn passionately and strongly. Anything that exists outside of chastity is a mockery of authentic love.
Just a few days before the most recent round of headlines which helped to refocus attention on Cardinal McCarrick’s reported abuses, I was visiting with the editor of a national publication. We were both saddened, even distraught, that it seemed like the story was going nowhere. One credible allegation of abuse of a minor, two settlements with adults, and…nothing.
Timing is everything. The groundswell came a few days before July 25, the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. I’ve no doubt that it will continue to unfold throughout this year.
The timing of these revelations alongside the commemoration of one of the most polemical papal writings in the history of the Church – which happens to be about love and sex – is more than a coincidence for me. God, in his gift of free will, has allowed us to be utterly stupid about the teachings of his Church. And now we have arrived at a place where those teachings must be lived and taught by the leadership of the Church in order for the Church to heal. Humanae Vitae is the lynchpin in the abuse crisis.
In the end, I believe that there are no coincidences, only God’s providence. It is our choice how we respond.
Full story at Orange County Catholic.