On November 10, the Holy See released the long-awaited McCarrick Report, detailing the results of a two-year investigation into former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s serial immorality and abuse of power.
Over 400 pages reveal a tangled web of sexual abuse, institutional dysfunction, cover-up, deception, manipulation, and grave evil. It is a masterful, tightly woven plot which could only be authored by one who is “a murderer from the beginning” and a “father of lies” (Jn 8:44), who hates the Church with a vengeance and seeks to destroy the priesthood.
There is a natural grief and righteous anger that surges in the Church, in all of us, in the wake of such unprecedented scandal. There is sorrow for the victims, many of them seminarians and young priests. There is an aching need for justice, that those who allowed and participated in such sin be held accountable. There is a sense of being shaken awake, of being sobered by the task in front of us to undertake the work of rebuilding the Body of Christ and the broken trust of a hurting world.
I feel the immense burden of this with you. I see the Church right now as a bride on the Cross with her Bridegroom, the mystical union deepened by a shared sort of suffering.
But I am not without hope. First of all, because I know the power of suffering. I know the incredible mercy of God who uses all of these things for our good and for the glorious coming of His Kingdom—when we cooperate with His plan. I know saving, redemptive power of Christ who has already taken all of this scandal upon Himself and who invites us to join in His salvific mission.
I see the end of the story, the part Our Lady promised, when we can flip a few pages ahead and read about the part when “My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
I also see another plot line that is being written even now. And I want to tell you about it, to offer you a sense of hope, too. I want you to know that the Holy Spirit is moving. And as we can expect, He is moving right into the place the devil seeks to destroy.
What the evil one tries to tear down, God raises right back up.
The Avila Institute’s High Calling program is part of the direct answer to the scandal. This is how the Church answers back: by stepping into the breach to form young men discerning a call to the priesthood—men who are courageously seeking God’s will, but need the fellowship and formation to solidify the call and the strength to answer it.
In a powerful, pre-seminary, year-long program, we connect these men to strong, faithful mentors and teachers, to each other, and to a body of believers that is praying them into a place where they can discern God’s call in complete freedom and authentic wholeness. By the grace of God, we are setting them up for success in seminary—but even more than that, in the sanctifying work of grace.
Just as the McCarrick scandal was breaking, we were launching. And just as the report came out, we were beginning our biggest year ever: 27 dioceses (and counting), 63 men learning what it is to pray, to discern, to navigate cultural challenges, to give and receive spiritual direction, to act in persona Christi, to be real men, unafraid of proclaiming the Gospel and unafraid of all of the demands of living it—including radical, life-giving purity.
Friends, the timing is no coincidence.
This is not only the antidote for the McCarrick report. This is the antidote for the crisis.
Please join me in praying for these young men. Please intentionally and specifically ask Our Lady to cover them with her mantle and protection. Ask the Lord to complete the work He has begun in their brave and eager hearts. And pray that we at the Avila Foundation and especially the High Calling program can serve them as they deserve and ask Christ demands.
For this, I would be most grateful.
Yours in Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest,
Image courtesy of Unsplash.