Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, amidst the allegations that he sexually abused minors and seminarians over the course of decades. But the grief and harm caused by McCarrick’s actions are something that the Church will need to continue to address.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville and former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, stopped by A Closer Look™ to discuss the need for constant intellectual, emotional and spiritual purification in the Church.
“The first thing I have to say is that we all have a heavy heart,” Kurtz told host Sheila Liaugminas. “I feel an embarrassment and anger that a prelate of the Church has really violated his priestly vows, the vows of celibacy and chastity, and misused his power. I’m not a judge and jury, but I have no reason to think that the allegations that have come forward are not true. I’ll let our Holy Father, of course, go forward with the steps that he will be taking.”
Kurtz expressed his grief over the fact that the Church has spent the past 15 years rebuilding the trust of the faithful after the abuse scandal of the early 2000s, and this new scandal is yet another breach of trust.
“Trust is built – whether it’s a family, or a church, or a parish – a little bit at a time, but it can be wiped away so very quickly,” Kurtz said. “Like a family we must confront the truth, certainly, but I don’t know who would not grieve at what apparently has been done.”
Archbishop Kurtz explained what he views as the two-fold need for purification in the Church in the wake of the McCarrick scandal.
“Purification is in two levels when we deal with someone who is in a position of responsibility. There is the call to chastity, and that is a call that every one of us must take seriously,” he said. “But there is the second idea of purification, and that is Jesus told us to lead in a way that imitates Him. To lead as a servant and never to misuse the authority that we have.”
“So just as we would tell a parent to treat their children in a way that’s going to raise them well, but never misuse your power,” he continued. “The same is true for anyone in the Church, much less a bishop, who has been given the solemn responsibility, and really the privilege, of leading. That is the second purification, to purify our ambitions.”
But Kurtz pointed out that while there is a need for interior purification amongst the members of the Church, that interior work results in actions that hold people, especially those in power, accountable.
“I think there is a twin question here of the call from Christ for us to purify, and to do it very seriously,” he said. “It means approaching proper authority if you see someone who is misusing authority or someone who is not living a good witness.”
“Sometimes people might think, ‘I’m going to turn by back or turn my eye from something, for fear that I speak too quickly.’ Surely, we need to correct people in a way that is always filled with charity and based on truth, but to go to a competent authority and place it in that person’s hands and say that here is something that you suspect is amiss, here something that is not what the Church should be doing. We need to have all of us take responsibility, and those in authority need to act on it.”
Listen to the full conversation below: