|Bishop Edward Scharfenberger|
In negative terms, and as clearly and directly as I can repeat our Church teaching, it is a grave sin to be “sexually active” outside of a real marriage covenant. A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not. A member of the clergy who pledges to live a celibate life must remain as chaste in his relationship with all whom he serves as spouses within a marriage. This is what our faith teaches and what we are held to in practice. There is no “third way.”
“Sexual activity” includes grooming and seduction – the kind of experience that one of our brothers tells of in a recent interview in America magazine that you may have seen. The psychological and spiritual destructiveness of such predatory behavior, really incestuous by a man who is held up as a spiritual father to a son in his care – even if not a minor – cannot be minimized or rationalized in any way....
Abuse of authority – in this case, with strong sexual overtones – with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB attempted to address in 2002. Unfortunately, at that time – something I never understood – the Charter did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons. [NB - Bishop Scharfenberger was not a bishop at the time. He was consecrated bishop in 2014.] ....
I hope and pray that others who may have suffered such traumatic experiences at the hands of their spiritual fathers will find the courage to say so. To you, if you are among them, and to them I offer my support and assistance in any way the resources I have can muster.
Let me be clear, however, in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to “get away with” such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.Bishop Scharfenberger not only sent this letter to his spiritual sons, but encouraged one, Fr. Desmond Rossi, to go public about his harassment by Cardinal McCarrick as a seminarian. One point he made that bears reflection was about power:
Blessed Pope Paul VI prophetically warned us in Humanae Vitae of the long-range consequences of the separation of sexuality and sexual behavior from the conjugal relationship. Contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable. This is not a sexuality befitting of human beings that responds to the need and true desire of every human person to be respected and loved fully and unconditionally.
All of us who are ordained to preach what the Church teaches must practice what we preach and teach. We also need to uphold what our faith proclaims about the gift and beauty of human sexuality, fully lived in its essential conjugal meaning. A culture of virtue and chastity – in short, personal holiness – rooted in a trusting and committed relationship with Jesus Christ is the path toward healing and wholeness, even as we seek to drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church.
On a later occasion, Father Rossi said, he met with then-Archbishop McCarrick at the cathedral rectory in Newark. Though he cannot remember the occasion for the meeting, he said the archbishop sat very close to him, letting his hand linger on his knee. He said what made the gesture so troubling to him was the power imbalance between the two.
“When I’m in that office with him, I know that he’s touching me because he has power over me,” Father Rossi said. “And I’m allowing him to touch me because he has power over me.”
As a matter of fact some of the dioceses where these seminaries were located were notorious centers of dissent, like Detroit where Archbishop John Deardon hosted the first "Call to Action" conference which was loaded with Catholic dissenters. That conference birthed the national Call to Action group which advocates for sexual libertinism, women's ordination, and other heterodox positions.
The Catholic laity need to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We must bravely oppose error and call our bishops to give an account of their stewardship. If we truly love Holy Mother Church, we can no longer be silent at the abuses and neglect of the hierarchy. Today is the moment to speak. Silence is no longer and option.
If you would like to thank Bishop Scharfenberger his contact information is: