In a rare act of self-awareness, Father William Corcoran, a Catholic priest at St. Elizabeth Seton church in the south suburbs of Chicago, publicly held himself accountable for the Capitol riots during a recent homily:
“I too want to engage in finger pointing,” said Father Bill, as he’s known in the parish, “and point to myself, and accept personal responsibility in part for what happened in the Capitol this past Wednesday.”
Corcoran went on to name the many times he failed to speak out about Donald Trump’s ugly behavior. Like when the president talked about grabbing women. When he mocked a disabled reporter. When he dissed John McCain.
He talked about the German Catholic Church’s failure to condemn Adolf Hitler, about the failure of the American Catholic Church when faced with the sexual abuse committed by priests.
“As President Trump has lied about so many things,” he told the congregation, “I have never spoken out, and fear we are teaching the young that truth and facts do not matter.”
Predictably, several people in the church stormed out. But not all of them. So the priest continued speaking, and explained his reasoning for pointing a finger at himself:
Corcoran sees one of his jobs as “keeping people together.” Until recently, he worried that denouncing Trump’s behavior would divide the congregation unnecessarily. The Capitol insurrection changed his mind.
“To remain silent now, in the face of this violence,” he says, “was to give tacit permission that this is how we settle some things.”
If only the Catholic Church had more people like Father Corcoran; perhaps more priests would hold themselves accountable for enabling or committing abuse if their peers helped light a figurative fire under their feet.
A critical piece of the gospel message that tends to get lost in American Christianity is the idea of communal responsibility. In biblical times, there was no concept of “individual sins.” People were more accountable to each other in both church groups and families. This isn’t to say that children should be punished for the sins of their parents, so to speak, but rather, emphasizing community over individuality. One person’s sins affect all. And writing them off with the No True Scotsman fallacy isn’t an option.
(Screenshot via YouTube)