Eerie, isn't it, to re-read Legionary of Christ and teacher of moral theology, Father Thomas Williams now, in retrospect, on issues like scandal and shaking folks out of their moral lethargy--now after we know what we know was going on in his own life (and which his superiors knew) even as he uttered these words:*
Though in common language "scandal" often refers to something shocking or disgraceful, the word comes from the Greek "skandalon" -- a stumbling block -- and properly means "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil," as the Catechism says in No. 2284.
Because of their high public visibility and moral authority, politicians can, by their example, lead others to good or to evil.
According to the Catechism, No. 2285: "Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others." We further read in No. 2286 that "they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals."
Sometimes a prophetic voice is needed to shake people out of their moral lethargy, especially when people have come to accept as "normal" something which by rights should provoke moral outrage.
And no, Father Williams is not talking about priests vowed to celibacy fathering children they don't acknowledge or support. Or priests abusing minors.
He's talking about abortion. To be specific, he's talking about a pro-choice stand on abortion. And about denial of communion to those who give scandal to the Catholic community by taking public pro-choice stands while running for office.
|Father Thomas Williams, LC|
This is from an interview with the Roman newspaper Zenit, which is closely aligned with Father Williams's Legionaries of Christ group, and which was published by Father Williams from its foundation. In the interview, Father Williams is providing theological cover for
über-GOP politician then Archbishop Raymond Burke (on whom see here), who was trying to make GOP political hay out of denying communion to Catholics running for office as Democrats in 2004.
The scandal Father Williams is talking about here--you know, the "stumbling block" that makes it very hard for Catholics to continue with the Catholic church--and the "decline of morals" and the "moral lethargy" that outrage people of faith, have nothing to do with him.
Or his life.
Or the life of Father Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, with his drug addiction, bribery of Curial officials, serial molestation of seminarians, or fathering children while being vowed to celibacy, and supporting them with Legionary funds.
It's taking a pro-choice stand on abortion that's the source of the scandal, the moral decline, and the threats by GOP-aligned big players in the Catholic church that's causing the scandal.
That's the stumbling block that's causing many Catholics to question their faith these days.
|His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke|
Or so Father Williams and His Eminence Ray Cardinal Burke would have us imagine.
*I find certain Catholic websites already scrubbing material by or about Father Thomas Williams, following the revelations about him last week. It's possible this link and article will disappear, too. Meanwhile, it's worth reading in light of the latest news about Father Williams.