Takeaways From the Revelations on Father McCloskey
National Catholic Register, 11 January 2019
COMMENTARY: While important details of the story are still emerging, there are a number of points that this high-profile priest’s case underscores.
The revelation that in 2005 Opus Dei made a nearly $1-million settlement for sexual misconduct with an adult victim of Father C. John McCloskey left many of his admirers shocked and shaken.
Those admirers include many readers of the Register and viewers of EWTN, as Father McCloskey appeared in both venues with considerable frequency. I myself spoke at conferences alongside him. Given his very high profile, the news has affected the many who followed his work without ever meeting him.
Readers of the Register and EWTN viewers have been through this sadness and anger before, in regard to Father John Corapi of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and Legionary Father Thomas Williams, though there is no suggestion that Father McCloskey was engaged in living an ongoing double life, nor that he will leave the priesthood. While important details of the story are still emerging, there are a number of points that Father McCloskey’s case underscores.
Sexual sin is a widespread scourge in society at large, and this “filth” — to use the term of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — is far too prevalent in the clergy. The purification of the clergy is a task in every age of the Church and is now the urgent long-term response to the crisis at hand. Purification is always painful, and part of that pain is the bringing of past sins to light.
The McCloskey case also teaches us that the past is now present. The complaint was resolved in 2003, and a settlement — a very expensive settlement — was reached in 2005. But now, presumably a result of the increased attention given this past year to the historic record, the victim asked that this be made public now. The desire to purify the past means bearing the burden of older cases in the present.
Doctrinal orthodoxy, liturgical precision, evangelical effectiveness, cultural refinement — none of these render a priest immune from sexual misconduct, a lesson that has been repeatedly learned.
That Father McCloskey did great good and helped a great many people become better disciples of the Lord Jesus remains true. His sexual misconduct does not cancel out the good he did, nor should those whom he helped feel that somehow they were cheated or manipulated. That Father McCloskey manipulated his relationship with a particular person does not mean he did so with everyone. The weeds and wheat grow together, even in the heart of an individual priest. That the woman continues to frequent activities of Opus Dei indicates that she has been able to distinguish between the weeds and the wheat in the guidance she has received from Opus Dei.
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