Friday, March 29, 2002

Fr. Richard Neuhaus, in First Things provides a defense of Fr. Marcial the founder of the Legionaires of Christ (see below), in the March 2002 issue of First Things: The Public Square:

So what is a person who does not share their prejudices and purposes to believe? I can only say why, after a scrupulous examination of the claims and counterclaims, I have arrived at moral certainty that the charges are false and malicious. I cannot know with cognitive certainty what did or did not happen forty, fifty, or sixty years ago. No means are available to reach legal certainty (beyond a reasonable doubt). Moral certainty, on the other hand, is achieved by considering the evidence in light of the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” On that basis, I believe the charges against Fr. Maciel and the Legion are false and malicious and should be given no credence whatsoever.

That being said, I would disagree with some of Fr. Neuhaus' reasoning.

I met Fr. Bruce Ritter once some years ago and I was very impressed with him. I spent a weekend with him, he never made any moves toward me that were inappropriate and we shared some moments watching news coverage of the Pope's visit to Nicaragua. Ritter's work was praised by President Ronald Reagan at the time and his Covenant House ministry spread throughout the country. But, sadly when tales started coming out about Fr. Ritter's inappropriate sexual activity, very few came to his defense. Human beings fail and they fall, whether they are conservative or liberal.

On Good Friday it seems redundant to have to bring this up. When the Son of God was arrested--all of the Apostles fled Jesus. In Mark's Gospel the point is driven home by telling us that one young man even left his clothes behind to get away from Jesus. When he called them, they left everything to follow him, now at the moment of decision they leave everything to get away from him.

If we make excuses for some priests who fall, then we are unjust. If we make our judgements based on idealogy and who agrees with us versus who doesn't than we are indeed libelous.

Our Lord counseled against judging and I believe wholeheartedly that this is the most ignored command of Jesus--I know personally it is a sin that I have confesses regularly throughout my life and made little progress allowing the Holy Spirit to convert me from, but he also counseled the Church to remove those who harm the "little ones", St. Paul in Corinthians counseled them to remove the man living in an incestous relationship from their midst. The Church has a duty to excomunicate those who pervert the Gospel for selfish means--whether they are conservative or liberal.

It is hard to know the truth when faced with two people, one accusing and the other claiming it didn't happen. In fact in Jewish law at least two witnesses were needed to condemn anyone. That didn't stop the evil elders from conspiring against Susanna when she would not give into their attempts to seduce her so there is good reason to doubt even two witnesses. But when a number of people come forward all claiming the same thing one has to wonder.

Utimately, God is the judge and ultimately God sees that justice is done no matter what I or anyone else thinks--the truth is the truth.