St. Paul, Admitted Malefactor and Heavenly Authority

Caravaggio Conversion on the Way to Damascus Paul

Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church. Acts 8:3.

Who wrote this–the human author? Did St. Paul want St. Luke to write this?

Well, we can safely presume that St. Luke wrote the whole book of Acts in consultation with St. Paul. After all, St. Luke narrates significant stretches of his account of St. Paul’s work using the pronoun “we.” St. Luke traveled with St. Paul from Asia Minor to Greece, from Greece to Jerusalem four years later, and from the Holy Land to Rome two years after that.

We can rest assured that St. Paul gladly approved of St. Luke reporting for all the world how the younger Saul originally tried to destroy the Church. St. Paul referred to the same fact in his own letters. To the Galatian Christians, Paul wrote: “You have heard of my former way of life, how I persecuted the Church.” To the Corinthian Christians, he wrote: “I am not worthy to be called an apostle, since I persecuted the Church.” To the Philippians: “With zeal I persecuted the Church.”

Now, yes, the younger Saul had acted out of ignorance of the truth of Christianity. But he knew that didn’t exonerate him of the malice he had shown. Paul admitted openly, without fear, that he had sinned grievously. He had received mercy from Christ. Paul responded to that mercy with pure honesty and love.

St. Paul went on to co-found the Holy and Apostolic Church of Rome. Throughout the ages, popes have invoked the authority not just of St. Peter, but of St. Paul as well. Even though Paul had done such great evil. The truth had come out, God had shown mercy, and no one has ever doubted the heavenly authority of St. Paul of Tarsus. His sins do not taint his authority—because he freely admitted everything, holding nothing back.

(And of course we could say all of that about St. Peter, also.)

mccarrick and wilton gregory

Would that we found ourselves now in such a situation, when it comes to our pope and bishops! But let’s look at what happened in Washington, D.C., Newark, N.J., and Rome, over the course of the past year.

In all three of these churches, the successors of the apostles had participated in a massive cover-up of sex-abuse crimes by Theodore McCarrick. Last June a little of the truth came out, from another source. Despite the pope and bishops’ multiple-decade effort to keep it all hidden.

Did the cover-uppers come clean then? To the contrary, they tried to put a lid on it. Then a little more of the truth came out. They tried another lid. Then even-more-damning facts came out. Yet another ploy to keep a lid on it. By the beginning of October, all three of the incumbents had promised “full reports.”

But that empty promise was: just another lid they tried to put on the steaming mess.

Where are those accountings, those reports, those acknowledgements? Where are the fearless admissions that can restore trust?

(They are nowhere, my friends. They don’t exist. Last month, the New Yorker magazine published an interview with the original source of the original McCarrick revelation, Ms. Camille Biros. She revealed that there are as many as seven sex-abuse cases against McCarrick pending in the Archdiocese of New York.)

See, here’s our problem. Paul admitted the worst of all the things he had done. The worst part of the truth was out there, freely acknowledged.

But when a guilty party won’t even openly admit the facts that we already know, we can only assume that the reason is: There’s worse. What we know about the McCarrick cover-up is bad. But there’s actually much worse that we don’t know. That’s the only reasonable conclusion.

St. Paul, repentant enemy of the Church and protector of the Holy See of Rome, pray for us!

One thought on “St. Paul, Admitted Malefactor and Heavenly Authority

  1. Fr. Mark – if true contrition consists of remorse, repentance, reparation, and reconciliation to achieve reform, the Vatican seems to have lost the path. Its river seems to flow through denial, deception, duplicity, and defamation to arrive at darkness. What if the hellish scandal is a symptom of a larger unwillingness to energetically engage the really thorny moral issues that confront the Church and her members daily?

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