Thinking Christianly (January 17, 2019)

“But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn,” (1 Corinthians 7:9; KJV).

I recall, when I was younger and battling with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), an older person gave me a wise bit of counsel. He told me that we remember the things that are important to us. That is certainly true for most people with ADHD. We are able to remember, and even fixate, on the things that are most important to us. In many ways this can be a great strength of ours. Understanding this weakness/strength can help people to battle against their selective memory and even think through those matters of ethical conduct that they give priority.

One individual who has recently had a moral gut check is Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the DC Archdiocese. In the wake of the McCarrick scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the Western hemisphere, when it was made known that Cardinal Wuerl was aware of at least some of the allegations made against McCarrick and did not act, his reason for having previously claimed to have no knowledge of McCarrick’s actions was telling. He simply forgot.  He wrote in a letter:

“Nonetheless, it is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse of memory. There was never the intention to provide false information.”

One particular allegation of sexual harassment, of which he was aware and now admits he clearly remembers, was made by a former seminary student and priest. In an attempt to at least justify some of his actions, Cardinal Wuerl further wrote: “There was never the intention to provide false information. In fact, all those years ago the priest in question was immediately removed from ministry and the report was sent to the Nunciature.”

So, to recap, the Cardinal knew of allegations made against McCarrick and claimed that he knew nothing of the controversies surrounding McCarrick. In one particular instance, the accuser was “removed from ministry,” and a report was sent upstream. Now, all these years later, Rome is yet again rocked by a massive scandal involving sex abuse, harassment, and cover-up.

As Christians thinking through these matters, there are several takeaways. First, we must ask what the extra-biblical celibacy requirement within the clergy class of Rome has wrought. When men who clearly do not have the gift of celibacy are told that they must nonetheless remain celibate their entire lives in order to fulfill their vows to Rome, is it any wonder when they become absolute monsters? Did not Paul warn against just such a scenario when he wrote: “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn,” (1 Corinthians 7:9; KJV)?

Second, it is proper to ask what kind of apology this constitutes. There are few biblical examples of such an apology, but one’s mind almost instantly goes to Genesis 3, in which Adam shifts the blame for his own sin on to God, telling God in essence, “It was the woman you gave me,” (Genesis 3:12; paraphrase). In this instance, the Cardinal has decided to pass the blame on to his superiors. As Christians, we must realize that we cannot shift the blame. Local churches must think through how to properly handle criminal allegations and to see them through to the end without passing the buck. Not only do we have our reputation with outsiders to consider but, most importantly, we will have to give an account to God one day for how we handle such matters.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we see the danger inherent in such a closed-door cult as Rome. When these matters are allowed to be handled behind closed doors, priests are able to be removed or shifted from post to post, and reports can be sent up channels of a seemingly endless hierarchy of bishopric, it becomes clear that the episcopal puzzle that is Rome provides the perfect breeding ground for such scandals. May God help the roughly 1.3 billion souls who are caught in the salacious web that is Rome to escape before it is too late for them.


Cardinal Wuerl had been the Archbishop in the greater DC area until his resignation in October. No details have been released in regard to his resignation.