Priests know what it's like to enter the pulpit facing scriptures that appear to have been torn from the headlines.
That happened just the other day, with news that one of America's most powerful Catholics -- retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. -- had been accused of the sexual abuse of boys, as well as decades of seminarians.
Days later the Sunday Mass lectionary featured the Prophet Jeremiah, speaking for Jehovah: "Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture."
That reminded Father John Hollowell of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis of even stronger words from St. John Chrysostom, the early church's most celebrated orator: "The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts."
Priests who took their vows during the clergy sexual abuse scandals a decade or so ago thought that they had heard it all, said Hollowell.
Now, with hellish reports about McCarrick the "wound in the church continues to be infected and it oozes with fresh pus. … Everyone says the same stuff -- that everybody knew, and nobody knew what to do about it, and nobody knew who to tell and there's a fresh trail of people discovered to have been destroyed by his crimes and his actions," he said, in a sermon posted online.
What happens now? While many powerful voices in the American church remained silent, or offered public-relations talk, several bishops in smaller dioceses wrote urgent letters to their flocks.
Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth (.pdf here) focused on this stunning fact: One of the men accusing McCarrick of years of abuse had been the first child he baptized after his ordination as a priest.