Listening sessions are designed to gather concerns and ideas. Politicians and corporate executives have undertaken such excursions for years as an integral part of their business.

Enter the bishop of Harrisburg, 71-year-old Ronald Gainer, a Pottsville native, who scheduled nine such “listening sessions” throughout the 15 counties that make up the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. Gainer’s expedition is a result of the clergy sex abuse scandals that were revealed in last summer’s Pennsylvania grand jury report that shook the church to its core.

Gainer’s visit to the diocese’s Northumberland Deanery brought him to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Elysburg on Thursday, where he was accompanied by the recently contracted Janet McNeal, a retired state police captain, and the diocese’s safe environment coordinator.

Opening remarks by the bishop emphasized how the diocese has made several changes to help make restitution available for those who were victims of abuse. Moreover, the diocese has put into place policies to reduce the risk of any such deviant behavior from occurring again, recognizing that the harm inflicted upon young people and their families by such abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound. It was also made known that if one was unable to attend any of the scheduled listening sessions, but would still like to ask Gainer a question, an email address has been established: Three more stops remain on the listening tour at Chambersburg, York and Berwick.

Immediate remedies

Gainer was lauded for speaking out against New York’s latest abortion law and returning the St. Michael the Archangel prayer after the conclusion of the Mass that was once a mainstay.

Was this an exercise in damage control and plea for business as usual with the annual diocesan Lenten Appeal, now renamed the Diocese’s Annual Campaign, on the horizon, and mounting expenses to help deal with the abuse scandal? Or was this an altruistic outreach to gather, heal and tend to the Harrisburg flock with realistic solutions?

Some immediate remedies rest in the church’s long-standing tradition. One in particular is to end the practice of receiving the Eucharist in the hand. Receiving in the hand is no different from how we might receive everyday food, then the message we send is that the Eucharist is something ordinary, and that in itself is sacrilegious.

In Pope John Paul II’s letter to all the bishops of the church, “Dominicae Cenae,” in 1980, the saintly pontiff writes, “To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.” Receiving on the tongue would reduce desecration of the Eucharist that has been smuggled in the use of Black Masses that are on the rise.

For centuries, only the ordained could handle the sacred host and precious blood. In the Tridentine (Latin) Mass that was celebrated for centuries and all but disappeared after the conclusion of Vatican II in December 1965, the faithful witnessed the great care, love and reverence with which the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ is to be handled. As the church has always taught, every single particle must be cared for in order to never profane the Eucharist. Anything less leads to loss of belief in the real presence. In order to shore up one’s basic knowledge that is severely lacking in today’s Catholic world, a return to the Baltimore Catechism is a must.

The root cause

In his January letter to the U.S. bishops, Pope Francis didn’t provide any genuine direction on how to handle the sex abuse scandal. Moreover, his letter also failed to acknowledge the root cause of the crisis — nearly a century of homosexual infiltration at every level of the church.

There are at least two very revealing books that lend insight into what has been transpiring within the Church. Both tomes have been out for at least a generation and were virtually ignored by the clergy as well as the laity then as they are today. One is Michael Rose’s “Goodbye, Good Men: How Catholic Seminaries Turned Away Two Generations of Vocations from the Priesthood,” underscores what we are witnessing today. Rose’s book, published in 2002, is based on interviews with men who were repulsed by seminaries dominated by the “lavender (gay) mafia.” Then there is Marie Carre’s “AA-1025: Memoirs of the Communist Infiltration into the Church” that was first made available in 1972, less than a decade after Vatican II, weaves a story of communist infiltration in order to destroy the church from within that has been happening since the conclusion of World War I.

Running parallel to Gainer’s listening tour stop in Elysburg was the three-day meeting on the sex abuse scandal at the Vatican led by Chicago Cardinal Blasé Cupich. Showing their displeasure on how things are being handled were Catholics who mobilized in Rome’s historic center that Wednesday to silently protest the bishops’ stonewalling over priestly abuse, and their refusal to address the plague of homosexuality among clergy.

In addition, Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Burke have called upon the bishops to end the conspiracy of silence that is allowing homosexuality to flourish in the church.

Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago stated the summit was to focus on the protection of minors, rather than dealing with the root of the abuse problem — homosexuality — that has infected the universal church. Cupich has claimed a big part of the problem lies with a healthy dose of clericalism.

Cupich has it exactly backward.

Clericalism is the means, while homosexuality is the end. Throughout the church, too many believed that men of the cloth were exempt from prosecution because as clergy they would be the last to violate the trust of anyone in particular — most especially, children.

The abandonment of one’s faith doesn’t happen in a day. It usually begins small and then only mushrooms. The bishops who continue to actively rebuff the presence of a homosexual network within the church are the ones who have done the most to enable it.

Blasphemous declaration

Just this month, after being found guilty of sexual abuse, the Vatican laicized Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood, making him the first U.S. cardinal to ever be defrocked. Moreover, the much-anticipated book, “In the Closet of the Vatican” by Dr. Frederic Martel, confirms Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s report that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s serial sexual predation.

At the center of this muddle and mayhem is, of course, Pope Francis, who earlier this month signed a joint declaration with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar saying the plurality of religions is willed by God. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Perhaps more to the point, why is such a document viable? For the faithful that are committed to upholding the Commandments and its precepts, such a beleaguered event only gives the impression that all religions are good, all people are saved and all gods are the same as the God of the Holy Trinity.

This is nothing short of blasphemy.

In an age when objective truth is ridiculed and dismissed and doublespeak and euphemisms reign supreme, laying in its sizable wake are innumerable casualties of confused and malnourished souls — all in the name of listening, tolerance and ecumenicalism.

The clergy and, in particular, the bishops, must shepherd the faithful to the nourishing waters of the truth revealed by God in sacred Scripture, while affirmed and propagated through the magisterium and longstanding tradition. Gainer is not one to publicly call-out his brother bishops in an act of mercy; rather, he spends his time touring and trying to heal the diocese by wading through bewildering opinions of frustrated parishioners who, for the most part, have been poorly catechized.

Even less transparency

The diocese did a major disservice to those faithful who couldn’t attend the bishop’s most recent meeting by not allowing the homegrown media first-hand coverage of such an exceptional and unique event. Regulating the local journalistic horde access to the bishop only upon his departure within the confines of the church’s parking lot in a cold, late February evening was anything but accommodating, it was demeaning.

Such a public relations debacle is unwarranted, not only to those intrepid and underpaid reporters trying to do justice to a demanding assignment under a tight deadline, but also to the septuagenarian bishop, who, after a two-hour exchange with disgruntled and discouraged parishioners, was commuting from Harrisburg.

Apparently, transparency is something that still needs to be addressed and genuinely implemented because to get anything in the light, even if it’s wicked, is to take away half its power. Transparency also produces more proficient and competent governance and, therefore, greater public confidence. Perhaps this is why the diocese felt compelled to hire last year another layer of ecclesiastical bureaucracy in Executive Director for Public Relations Rachel Bryson, who, if anything, should know better.

As Jesus went through His trial and passion, so manifestly is His church.

As the church goes, so goes the culture.

Laity must act

One feasible justification for such decay within the clergy is a loss of supernatural faith. With such a drastic forfeiture, the church becomes an object of disdain and ridicule and surrenders its moral mandate. So many throughout the episcopate have yielded to the modernist and homosexual subculture that has produced a bumper crop of poisoned fruit.

Some in prominent Catholic circles are framing the sex abuse calamity as the greatest crisis since the Protestant revolt in 1517. The restoration of the Catholic clergy to holiness, piety and devotion will require the prayers, persistence and patience of the laity. And here lies yet another dilemma as too many in the laity have been anesthetized by weak preaching and possess an unschooled comprehension of the church’s Catechism.

If we know the truth, we have an obligation to defend it because souls and their eternal destination remain at risk. The laity has a duty to speak up as canon law makes that quite clear.

What the leaders will not do the laity must.

Straightforward reasoning in the church has been squelched by heresy, impiety and confusion. And yet they wonder why people are leaving the pews in droves and collections are down?

Writing in last week’s Our Sunday Visitor, Russell Shaw referenced how nearly 160 years have elapsed since Cardinal John Henry Newman’s edifying essay “On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine.” After describing how bishops wavered while the laity remained steadfast during the Arian heresy of the fourth century, Newman, who will be canonized a saint in the near future, explained how the church is happier when the laity are involved than when it isn’t. Such an antiquated recommendation has yet to be heard and the church is paying dearly for it.

Righteous anger, however, is not enough; it is only through action that the church can be restored. The universal call to holiness, which has grown dim in our broken world, demands it of us. Recreating a church that resembles more like the early church, in all of its vibrant energy and reliance upon God, is the best starting point.

In the Letter of St. James we are taught about being “quick to hear and slow to speak.” Many are talking, and hopefully, being heard. Only someone who truly listens and understands can make the words of Samuel theirs, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

Let’s pray that’s the case.

(Maresca is a local freelance writer and member of Holy Rosary Church.)

(1) comment


Greg, I appreciate your sentiments, but I believe you are confusing Homosexuality with pedophilia. Homosexuality itself doesn't make people target and victimize children. I say this with all due respect, as someone who had three of my childhood priests on the list published a few months ago in The Patriot News of Harrisburg. Perhaps the solution is to allow priests to marry like in other Christian and Non Christian religions, which would sate the natural, wonderful God given desire for sex and intimacy in humans, without going outside their natural inclinations, to victimize children or parishioners in varying states of vulnerability due to their circumstances, who go for assistance and end up being preyed upon by people they trust. God Bless!

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