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Archbishop Naumann says “current crisis” is result of “failures of the accountability of bishops”

“First and foremost,” says the Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas in a pastoral letter published August 31st, “we must pray for healing and comfort for victims. Secondly, this is a moment to pray for the purification of bishops, priests and the entire church.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., speaks during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast May 24, 2018 in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

In a lengthy letter posted last Friday, August 31st, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas addressed the grand jury report from Pennsylvania, outlined responses to the current crisis, remarked on progress that has been made in reporting and handling instances of clerical abuse, gave a detailed defense of Catholic teaching on the priesthood and marriage, and concluded with a strong call to bishops to “renew our determination to strive to be shepherds who follow the example of Jesus, the good shepherd.” Below are some excerpts.

On the allegations and findings about Abp. McCarrick:

This rightly shocked and angered Catholics of the United States. Understandably, it shook their confidence in their bishops. It has prompted many questions and concerns. How was it possible for McCarrick to advance in the leadership ranks of the church? Who knew what and when?

Understandably, many Catholics are angry, confused and saddened by this. Many are asking questions: Did we not go through all of this 15 years ago? Has nothing been done? Don’t the bishops get it? Many are tired and ashamed of hearing bad news about the church they love. For others, this is all new. In 2002, they were too young or not paying attention to these issues within the church. Confronted with these questions and concerns, what are we to do?

On the need for prayer:

Our first response to any personal, familial or — in this case — church crisis should be to pray. Be assured that I am not suggesting that is the only thing we need or can do, but I believe it must be our first response. First and foremost, we must pray for healing and comfort for victims. Secondly, this is a moment to pray for the purification of bishops, priests and the entire church.

On accountability among bishops and the testimony of Abp. Viganó:

It is inconceivable to me that the bishops who were involved with the settlements for McCarrick’s misconduct did not bring these matters to the papal nuncio (the Holy Father’s ambassador to the United States) and the nuncios failed to inform the pope at that time and those who assisted him with the care of bishops.

Just this past week, the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, released a statement that claims he and his predecessors, Archbishop Pietro Sambi and Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo (both now deceased), did inform the respective popes. In my experience of Archbishop Vigano during his tenure as apostolic nuncio, he was a man of integrity. There are also respected sources that are contesting elements of Archbishop Vigano’s statement.

This development makes it even more imperative that we embrace Cardinal DiNardo’s commitment to pursue the truth of why McCarrick was allowed to continue to exercise public ministry and continue in the College of Cardinals, when his sexual misconduct and abuse of power were already known. We must do all that we can to ascertain the truth and then allow the chips to fall where they may.

On conversion and the matter of homosexuality:

This is a moment for conversion and renewal of the entire church, but especially for bishops and priests. The only way forward for renewal is to acknowledge and confess our past sins, as well as to make a firm purpose of amendment not to repeat them.

Both the Pennsylvania grand jury report and the earlier national study by John Jay College commissioned by the U.S. bishops in the wake of the 2002 scandal reveal that a high percentage of victims of clergy sexual misconduct were postpubescent males. In other words, much of the misconduct involved homosexual acts. We cannot ignore this reality.

Pope Emeritus Benedict gave guidance to seminaries and vocation ministries regarding the nonacceptance for priestly formation those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies. All candidates for the seminary have to be able to give evidence for their capacity of living celibate chastity with both integrity and joy.

On priesthood, celibacy, and homosexuality:

It is not enough for those seeking ordination to the priesthood to accept reluctantly celibacy as a necessary burden to become a priest. If our heart is not into embracing the challenges and beauty of celibacy with joy, then we are setting ourselves up for failure and wounding our people.

Nor is it sufficient for priests to live celibacy faithfully, but not be able to teach with conviction and enthusiasm Catholic sexual morality as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Catholic understanding of human sexuality is beautiful and guides those who embrace it to the path to authentic love and happiness. The priest needs to be able to articulate, in a convincing and compelling way, why heterosexual intimacy outside of the marital covenant is gravely immoral, as well as why homosexual activity is also always seriously sinful.

On reasons for the current crisis and the responsibility of the bishops:

The reason for this current crisis is not primarily one of individual weakness, but failures of the accountability of bishops. We, bishops, are sinners in need of God’s mercy. The Gospels reveal the frailty of the apostles — the first bishops. By every human measurement, they were unqualified to accomplish the mission Jesus had entrusted to them — namely, to make disciples of all nations.

The Gospel narrative is strewn with examples of the apostles being slow learners, possessing unhealthy ambition, exhibiting jealous rivalry, succumbing to cowardice, abandoning and even denying Jesus in the face of danger. Our Lord prefers to use the weak in accomplishing his mission to make clear that the fruits realized are the results of God’s power, not the wisdom or talents of the church’s ministers. I certainly fit the profile of being a very weak and frail instrument.

This is not a moment for any of us to allow ourselves to yield to natural feelings of discouragement and despair. It is an occasion for all of us to recommit ourselves to living lives of integrity.

For me and my brother bishops, it is a time to renew our determination to strive to be shepherds who follow the example of Jesus, the good shepherd. Please pray for me and my brother bishops as we seek to make structural reforms that will ensure greater accountability on our part.

Jesus tells his disciples his yoke is easy and his burden is light — not because what he asks of us is not difficult, but because Our Lord promises to shoulder the yoke and carry the burden with us as we strive to follow him. Our confidence is not in ourselves, but in the fidelity of his promises to be with us until the end of time and to send the Holy Spirit to guide his church.

Read the entire letter on The Leaven site.

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About Carl E. Olson 1220 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Would that we had more Archbishop Naumann’s, Olmsted’s, Bishop Morlino’s et al. The reality is too may others do not have the moral conviction and resolve to engage in a universal purification of clerical homosexuality. Some actually favor a more lenient approach. Apparently Cardinals Cupich, J Tobin, K Farrell perceive a more favorable theological understanding of homosexuality. We can expect serious resistance from many at this stage. Much depends on Cardinal DiNardo’s request from the Pontiff for the Cardinal to investigate allegations and receive delegation of authority to initiate reform. The responsibility rests with the Pontiff who alone can sanction hierarchy and grant the authority to initiate a true universal cleansing. A truly monumental painful and lengthy task. Individual prelates can be effective within their spheres but within limits. Experience has shown that it isn’t feasible to expect a cleansing by refusing only “those with deep-seated homosexual tendency” as clerical candidates. How do we distinguish “deep-seated” from a presumed lesser inclination? That’s sufficient reason to refuse anyone with same sex attraction as a clerical candidate as argued by Bishop Morlino. They can lead holy lives in the community. And as Fr T Hennigan remarked previously there is the issue of those long ordained and struggling. Should there be a case by case assessment, which seems reasonable? If we appeal to Him we do know God can do all things.

    • Why don’t we call a spade a spade? SODOMITES COMMIT SODOMY. The culture around us thinks it is OK and allows it by law, like abortion, or same sex “marriage”, or pornography, or fornication. Who knows, maybe some day it will be legal to throw infants into the Hudson River like the Romans threw babies over the city walls (perhaps more humane than abortion). But we know differently. The city of Sodom was destroyed by God as a warning. The Roman Empire was overcome by barbarians who outnumbered them. Muslims are replacing Europeans for the same reason. Marriage is for family and children. Children don’t come to Sodomites. Sodomites, and those who seek only pleasure from sexuality, are destroyers of humanity and their very nature. Unfortunately, they have included some priests. We must end it, especially now that it has become known to everyone, not just a cabal of empathizing and disgraceful Bishops. Enough already!!!! For the sake of the Church they pretend to love, get out, leave us alone, go your own way if that is what you want, but leave us! God will provide us the priests we need if we pray for them and turn our lives back to Him. We all might start with Ephesians 5. Christian men, wake up!!!

      • Thank you Archbishop for addressing the many faceted issues of our Churches crisis. Your Leadership in Kansas City and abroad does not go unnoticed. Let the laity seek to both live the call to holiness and articulate our universal call as the
        Catechism claims. If only all priests, catechists, and parents not only lived but proclaimed what they profess. Also thank you Carl Olsen for featuring this article from Archbishop Naumann that addresses the so much of what faithful catholics want to hear from their Bishop. Repentance, Reality, Renewal and Hope that there are still some Bishops willing to fight for the Deposit of Faith Lived Out.

    • Our human experience and intuition have all led us to conclude that some of the priests we have known in our lives very well could be same-sex attracted. Men in the priesthood who are living faithful lives before God and men are not to be subjected to a witch hunt. And that is one of the gross adverse consequences of this apocalyptic catastrophe which we presently endure. The flagrantly immoral and heretical are bringing another hell of prejudice down upon those shouldering the cross of same-sex attraction while living faithful and holy lives.
      One injustice cannot replace another.
      This inadvertent and unfortunate effect gives fuel to those who are pushing a homosexualist agenda in the Church. How can it be denied that it in itself is a form of bigotry and prejudice?
      You know that there are men who experience same sex attraction who are leading faithful lives of chastity within and without the priesthood. Pedophilia, hebephilia and ephebophilia are not exclusive by any means to the same-sex attracted. They are at least as common among heterosexual males, if not more so.
      Christ’s grace is able to achieve the miraculous in the lives of men receptive to it. Is this man being called by Christ and is he receptive to His grace? That is the question. This can only be determined by conscientious vocation directors and superiors. [Do they exist is another reasonable question]. Should a sincere virtuous candidate shouldering this cross be denied the opportunity to respond to Christ’s call because we are unwilling to do the depth discernment required of ALL candidates? The Lord who raised Lazarus from the dead, who gave sight to the man born blind, can and will without doubt support and sustain the candidate shouldering same-sex attraction who clings to Him and is prudently directed by holy priests.
      Jesus Christ calls individual men. Each man need be met as the gift he is. The discernment process need be applied with a lens which discerns the virtue being lived out in the candidate and his capacity to grow in all the virtues. Secrecy will encourage deception, and those inadequate to the task will get through and we are back to square one. For all our talk of gay networks in the Church there has never been a neon sign saying “gays only need apply.” It’s happened over time within an élan of secrecy, shame, fear, the wink and the nod – and most importantly grossly deficient attention given theological realities and inadequate practice of the asceticism required priestly existence.

        • To say such is to deny the efficacy of Grace. Yout comment betrays a great error — on more than one level, but this one is actually unbelievable from a Catholic.
          It betrays a catechesis scandalously, grievously deficient.

      • James, you said: ” Should a sincere virtuous candidate shouldering this cross be denied the opportunity to respond to Christ’s call because we are unwilling to do the depth discernment required of ALL candidates?”

        Answer: Yes, by choosing a homosexual “inclination” you have by default discerned yourself out of Seminary and the Priesthood.

        Ora et labora above is correct in his very Thomistic assessment of homosexuality.

        It must be purged from the Hierarchy for both existing and future candidates.

        My question is 2 fold at this point:
        1. Why in the Traditional Seminaries and Orders do we not see this horrid state of sodomitical takover?
        2. And, what exactly is the current “weed-out” processes for Religious Orders and Seminaries, even so-called “Conservative” ones such as Kenrick in St. Louis??

        • The origins of same-sex attraction are unknown. It is not chosen, nor is it genetic. Your position is erroneous.
          Ideology promoting and condoning licentious behavior must be eliminated by the restoration of authentic theological seminary formation as well as forming candidates to the priesthood and ascetic practice.
          You assume there are no persons shouldering homosexual attraction in faithful traditional seminaries and orders. It is an enormous assumption and surely erroneous. A virtuous and prudent individual does not publicize such realizing it can cause scandal and promote a laisse-faire attitude toward the condition — as it obviously has in the wider Church.
          Psychological “screening” is obviously not a means to determine appropriate candidates for the priesthood and religious life. Spiritual “screening” — by faithful and devout spiritual directors determines the action of grace in a man’s life.
          Never put a limit on the possibilities actualized by God’s grace.
          We need meet men and women as God’s gift — unrepeatable — and not bag them into a untouchable class. Doing so is a sin against justice, a sacrilege against the person, and in the end quite unproductive.

      • Men who are heterosexual also shoulder the cross, offering their sexuality as a pure gift to God. Heterosexual persons who are not married offer their chastity as a pure gift to God. Sexuality is a blessing and sometimes a cross. Life is full of crosses for all. Shouldering the cross is the nature of life in Christ. Homosexual men are not above others because they carry a cross. Like all of us, sinners, it is necessary to avoid the occasion of sin which is but one of the reasons the Church forbids men with same sex attraction to become priests. Not being faithful to the laws of God and his Church has wrecked havoc with the Church

    • You are right about that, any inclination prevents a candidate from entering or STAYING in seminary, because of course there are going to be deceivers. This is where a lay board comes in, with the express purpose of encouraging all seminarians, but of quickly dealing with any report of homosexual behavior, by quickly removing that man from the seminary. You just have to really know your lay board, because there is going to be pressure put on them by the insiders. What one knows, they should all know, rule number one. And the goal has to be that open, the board exists to maintain clerical integrity, no homosexuals. There is no time to waste, the church is imploding.

    • Father, with all due respect, Francis does not assent to Christ’s teaching on The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Matrimony so we can expect serious resistance from him.

  2. Send your Holy Spirit and Renew the face of the earth. Why do we allow this cause we are not relying on Jesus.
    Truth will set us free, now is the time, now is the new enlightenment. Teach what is true, Holy and to be virtuous.

  3. Well done, good Archbishop Naumann. A superior improvement over other statements from the episcopate. I am particularly impressed by the citation above relating to the priesthood, celibacy, and homosexuality, and on the gift of the priesthood in the unabridged document.
    The only thing I miss is an awareness that this situation has developed in an environment where the deep truths of the faith have been neglected and abused as well. The decay and decomposition of Roman Catholicism is, to borrow a phrase, a moth eaten “seamless garment.”
    We really do have to get back down to basics. Before we were scandalized the baptized have been starving for the depth content of the faith.

    • The Bishop’s statement is wonderful as far as it goes, but the problem is deeper than just episcopal oversight of the clergy or each other. Around 1975, the President/Rector of a Pontifical Seminary in the City where I lived used to say Mass and preach in the parish I attended. His sermons were often difficult to accept. One Sunday after a particularly acerbic and denigrating remark about the immaturity of the Little Flower and the consequent shortcomings of her personality, I confronted him in the Sacristy. His only response was, “At (our seminary) we are preparing the priests of the future Church.” His seminary which serves many Dioceses was widely and derogatorily referred to as “The Pink Palace”. I think he still holds his job.

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