I have had a little crucifix for over twenty years. Every morning when I first wake up, I kiss it and say, “Christ our King, Your Kingdom come.” Same thing when I lay down to sleep at night. “Christ our King, Your Kingdom come.” This little daily ritual with the crucifix is one of the customs of the Regnum Christi movement. Regnum Christi means “Kingdom of Christ.” [Spanish]
Everyone knows that we read the same Sunday readings on a cycle of… how many years? Correct: three. Six cycles ago, on Christ the King Sunday, 2002, we celebrated a large Mass for members of the Regnum Christi movement at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. The Archbishop celebrated the Mass. The seminarian, who was a deacon, chanted the gospel reading. Same gospel reading as this Sunday, the separation of the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25.
Father Marcial Maciel founded the Regnum Christi movement. He turned out to have been a serial sexual predator, protected for decades by higher-ups in the Church. He victimized countless people and ruined many, many lives. The Archbishop who celebrated that Regnum Christi Mass at the Shrine, Christ the King Sunday, 2002: Theodore McCarrick. The deacon who chanted the gospel: me.
In the gospel passage, the Lord Jesus invites the sheep into the Kingdom of heaven. They have been kind to the weak and suffering. They have acted humbly and gently towards everyone. They’re surprised that the king beckons them, because they never thought of themselves as anything great. They lived obscure lives of daily kindness.
Maybe you know that the Vatican published a “McCarrick Report” last week. For thirty years, the higher-ups in the Church left us seminarians, young priests, and young people at risk. They knew that McCarrick posed a serious danger to us, but they did nothing.
On that Christ the King Sunday, 2002–when McCarrick and I stood next to each other at the altar in that huge church filled with eager Christians–the higher-ups already knew about him. McCarrick had already destroyed a lot of lives. The pope knew it; Cardinals and bishops knew it.
They did not think of the suffering wounded. They thought only about their own reputation. They had comfortable lives with servants at their beck and call. They wanted it to stay that way. It never so much as crossed their minds to seek out the lost souls whose lives McCarrick had destroyed. Most of the prelates who knew the dirty secret hated McCarrick—not because of what he had done to defenseless, innocent people, but because of the danger he posed to the stability of their own coddled lives. They just wanted everyone to shut up about the whole thing.
What if the King has this to say to the goats, before he sends them to hell: “A sexual predator manipulated, demeaned, and abused me, and you did not care. A powerful Church careerist crushed my faithful, innocent soul, and you worried about your own reputation. I tried to tell you that this man is a dangerous criminal, and you said it was all my fault. The predator threw me out on the street for refusing to give into his advances, and I appealed to you. You never even wrote me back.”
My print-out of the McCarrick Report appears to be missing the last page. The page where they all say: “We are terribly sorry. We clearly do not know what we are doing. We have wronged the innocent and defenseless victims for decades, turning a deaf ear to their cries, treating them as the problem. We still have no earthly idea how to handle what they say. We have failed you, dear earnest Christians. You deserve much braver, more honest leaders.”
I cannot tell you how much it hurts to think about that Christ the King Sunday eighteen years ago. Now that I know how the hierarchy betrayed us. They betrayed all of us who were there because we kiss our crucifixes every morning and every night, and long to get to heaven, and just want to treat everyone kindly. We’re no saints or heroes, but we would have known what to do with McCarrick, if we had the information and the power.
The hierarchy offers excuses, rather than take responsibility. The McCarrick Report is 449 pages of “It’s someone else’s fault.” No churchman has ever been willing to own the McCarrick problem. Not for the past 35 years, and not now.
What if the king says, “I came looking for encouragement in living an upright, responsible life, and you passed the buck. I needed someone to give me an example of courage, and you called a lawyer to protect yourself from liability. I came to church hoping to find someone who believes enough in Christ crucified to admit his sins, and you insisted that you have no memory of any conversation having to do with that issue.”
I’m going to keep kissing my crucifix and celebrating my Mass. We live in dark, dark days for His Church, our Church. Let’s hold onto our faith and just keep trying to live in the truth.