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The Holy Catholic Church founded nearly twenty-one centuries ago is currently incurring a bombardment that might be compared to what London endured during World War Two.

The rumble in the distance, the nightly sirens, are not, of course, actual aerial strafing, but each new revelation and surprise and disappointment is a bomb and seems devastating.

It is also, as the great mystic Maria Esperanza might have said, a good purification.

The Lord is moving in His Church to remove very dark elements. He is removing what might be called the "spirit of Judas."

It is interesting that earlier this month, within a week's time, two different high Vatican officials made remarks about the horrendous and unprecedented clergy-abuse crisis.

One was Pope Benedict himself, who urged young people not to abandon their faith in God because of the "attacks of evil" within the Church. "Carry intact the fire of your love in this Church every time that men have obscured her face," said the Pope in a foreword to a new catechism edited specifically for young people. 

Here's a rumination: would the Church in the West not improve if every member of the clergy and hierarchy emulated the humility and acuity of the Pope?

Added Vatican Cardinal Jorge Medina, in Chile: "Any informed Christian knows we are prone to weakness because of our human fragility. The devil gets in where he can. Priests are not immune from his snares."

Another official lamented over how clergy far too often fail to admit their guilt, and once they have, to seek forgiveness from their victims.

Sad it is that officials have to issue such statements, but it is not surprising for those who have long expected our time to be one of tumult. 

The spirit of Judas within Catholicism -- so prevalent in too many diocesan offices (where secularism, aloofness, and arrogance have taken hold) -- is not tolerable and shows us plainly that when Pope Leo XIII warned Satan had been given a century to test the Church and when Pope Paul VI subsequently warned that the dark smoke of Satan was rising through a "fissure," they knew what they were talking about (in Paul VI's case, he was speaking specifically about the infiltration of intellectualism and scientism).

In fact, that intellectualism -- the turn away from deep spirituality, mysticism, and devotionalism, emphasizing instead the institution -- is at the heart of this crisis.

It was the liberal-intellectual-worldly-academic mindset that excused, and still excuses, sexual perversity.

Our seminaries somehow began to conform with the template of secular education.

Why they did this is astonishing and has not yet been rectified; there is still cooperation with worldliness -- which will always fail. Jesus called it "lukewarm" and said God spat such out. Incredible it is that devotional Catholics find reason to rejoice -- are almost amazed -- when a priest allows a parish to have something like Adoration. Priests should be begging for parishioners who take such an interest.

And so in this way too do we know that the devil has infiltrated. It was Benedict who likewise nailed it when he stated that there are two kinds of Catholics: spiritual ones and "professional Catholics."

Unfortunately -- and we hate to say this -- it seems like professional Catholics control the majority of rectories, Catholic schools, and chanceries (not to mention music ministries).

This might be a bigger crisis than the infiltration of homosexuality, and is responsible for the aridity that has turned countless away from regular Mass attendance (although really there is no excuse for missing Mass).

The Church is under attack from all sides, sometimes literally -- as earlier this week when an arsonist torched one in California and in several recent cases of statue defacements or even thefts (not to mention publicity just this week for an occult rock star who released a song proclaiming an infatuation and love for, yes, Judas).

To place the abuse crisis in perspective, there are nearly half a million priests in the world -- more priests than there are people in a city like New Orleans. If headlines were made every time a person in a city that size transgressed, there would not be enough room in the local newspaper. The number remains a low but still extremely disturbing (and inexcusable) percentage -- actually, unbelievable; last week came astonishing words from a Belgium bishop who had to be banished to a facility in another country, but not before he publicly made light of his acts.

Thankfully, new claims of sexual abuse are plummeting. But it is devastating to know that in the U.S. alone, the abuse crisis has cost Catholics $2.3 billion (that's 2,300 million, or enough to send 51,000 kids to Catholic grammar school), much of course pocketed by lawyers. Meanwhile, at least in Philadelphia, there are indications that it has now become much too easy to accuse a priest of abusing a youngster, and we remain skeptical of some claims of "repressed" memories.

How many of us have had major negative things happen to us that we have totally forgotten for decades?

At any rate, it is difficult to conclude other than that there has been a complete breakdown in the higher local Western clergies. What a shame that so many good priests (and bishops) have to suffer. We expected the donning of sackcloth, but instead have received bureaucracy. Excuse this Lenten lamentation. The Pope has said it more strongly than we could. Bishops and priests will make a comeback, upon developing humility. This is our prayer. Perhaps it should be a prayer of many Catholics upon the conclusion of this potent prayer time called Lent.

[see also: Tabernacle destroyed in Spanish parish]

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