If even the Pope is corrupt, it means that I was drastically wrong about him. I have been drastically wrong before: I was once a Protestant!

If even the Pope is corrupt, it means that I thought someone an eminently holy man who was not. It means that I still have much to learn about the love of God– but when has that not been the case? It is a lesson in humility and humiliation, in being willing to adjust my view as time goes on, but also to reserve my judgment when it comes to someone’s character.

When the charges against the Pope (charges I still see no reason to believe) first hit the news cycle, I was dashed. My practice of prayer was already suffering under the weight of the Pennsylvania report, reeling from the sheer inhumanity of clerics and diocesan workers involved in the cover up of evil, often unmistakably satanic, deeds. The report became public on my first day of retreat, right before the Assumption, and colored my interactions with bishops and priests I have known since I entered the Church, clerics I have looked forward to seeing year after year to celebrate Our Lady. It is no exaggeration to say that, on the psychological level, my retreat was entirely ruined. Still, I offered this pain and fear to Christ in prayer– albeit, sad and frustrated prayer. But soon after, when I contemplated that even the Pope may be implicated, the first day passed in some time that I had not picked up my breviary or my Bible. The shock was too much. It is no exaggeration to say that I hid from the Lord. The Lord wandered, looking for me, calling out, “Where are you?”

Soon, I felt that familiar stir, whispering for me to “take and read.” And I did. It was in the pages of my breviary that it struck me like a bolt from the sky: if the Pope is not holy, ought not I be holier? If the Pope has let down the People of God so dramatically, ought not I strive ever more determined to pick up the slack? In fact, whether the Pope or my bishop or any bishop is holy, ought not I be holy? The Lord did not tell His disciples, “Be holy, as your leaders are holy.”

The truth became clear to me: my trust in my bishops, in my Pope, had become a kind of crutch for me. It was not all the natural and good trust of a son to a father but became mixed with the untenable faith that the men were the message. It had never been a conscious thought. I had succumbed to a kind of quiet Donatism, a silent faith that those who brought me the truth could not drastically fall short of it. Of course, I knew such a belief to be misguided, but the mind has a way of disguising its thoughts in ways that take time to unmask.

It is a blessing to have holy leaders, but perhaps it can also become a reason for slack. It is as if the holiness of those leading us can be subconsciously transferred to ourselves– as if their efforts can subtly substitute for an even greater vigor in loving Jesus. Somewhere within, part of me thought that much of the work was being done on my behalf, and so I could put off doing the work myself. The shock, the silence, the rush to hide, were Christ’s way of revealing to me just how much slack in my soul there still is.

Perhaps the Pope is corrupt. Perhaps he is one of the Pharisees he has so long preached against. I do not think so. But even if I am wrong, what does it matter for my pursuit of the Lord? Did Christ not say to obey the teachings of the Pharisees, only do not do what they do? Perhaps the Pharisees have taught me much but they have certainly taught the truth. The Pope’s invitation to me in Evangelii Gaudium still stands:

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.

Christ’s promise to the Church is one of victory over Satan and unshakable solidity in the Gospel, not the sinlessness of those in it. Holiness is obedience to that Church, obedience to its teachings, living a life of faith in the Gospel and love for my neighbor. The mystery of faith includes its transmission by woefully inadequate, sometimes even evil, people, but that faith is no less true because of it. As for me, whether the Pope or the bishops are good or bad makes no difference as to what I must do. Onward for the poor, the wounded, the outcast, the weak! Onward for Christ and the ones He loves! Onward!

Remember, Christian soul,
that thou has this day,
and every day of thy life:
God to glorify.
Jesus to imitate.
A soul to save.
A body to mortify.
Sins to repent of.
Virtues to acquire.
Hell to avoid.
Heaven to gain.
Eternity to prepare for.
Time to profit by.
Neighbors to edify.
The world to despise.
Devils to combat.
Passions to subdue.
Death, perhaps, to suffer.
Judgment to undergo.

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Joe Dantona is a convert living in eastern Ohio. He studied political science, history, and theology. He divides his free time between entertaining his wife and kids with dad jokes and getting distracted while reading good books.

If Even the Pope is Corrupt…

8 Responses

  1. jong says:

    Great pondering, don’t deviate from your belief Pope Francis is a “Luminous Pope”. He is a courageous Pope who are willing to battle upfront the growing forces of evil inside & outside the Church.He is not alone Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI figured out how to best fight the inside forces in the Vatican by offering a life of prayer & sacrifice.
    We are blessed to have Two Great Popes who are both Masters in the Art of War thru “prayer & sacrifice”, and the fruit of silence as always is a great force of prayer that satan cannot overcome.
    The Church is going into a tough battle right now after Pope Francis shake-up the clergy to know who are obedient & who are the enemies hiding in clothe of priesthood. and now almost all them are expose.
    The battle line is much clearer now, although I believe there are still unknown forces the Pope Francis & Pope Benedict are exposing thru “prayer & sacrifices”
    Look how Pope Francis handles the spiritual battle with satan & his human cohorts. First he shake and expose the enemies, fake news Pope Francis easily handles that thru Wisdom. but in the heat of battle Pope Francis is one step ahead always of the church enemies.
    Pope Francis proclaimed Mary as the Mother of the Church, precisely because He is imploring Mama Mary’s Help.
    Our Lady is now closely watching our battles and will strike at the perfect time.
    Satan & his human cohorts are all desperate & noisy, if Cardinal Vigano’s ploy doesn’t work they will resort to a much evil ploy maybe thru forceful means but if that happens “one big last card” of Pope Francis is to proclaim the 5th Dogma.
    Mary will be our ADVOCATE, and the Church fully recognizing Her Maternal Mediation will bring forth all the graces and the heavenly forces to aid the Church in battle. Remember Mary is Sovereign Queen of Angels & Saints, and the only to tap those forces is for the Pope to proclaim officially Mary’s title as ADVOCATE.
    Because the Pope has the Key to bind everything in Heaven & Earth, by declaring Mary’s title as ADVOCATE we implore Her Sovereign help, and Angels & Saints will do the Final Battle together with the rest of clergy & faithful obedient to Pope & Church Magisterium.

    Pope Francis as Anointed by God had the advantage of seeing a clearer vision where the Church is heading according to God’s Will, we just have to put our full trust to our Chief Shepherd, and never be affected by the noise of satan & his human cohorts thru “snake tactics” of fake news.



    • Joe Dantona says:


      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I have certainly not given up on Pope Francis! May Our Lady protect him, help his ministry, and lead us all ever closer to Jesus. And thank goodness for the prayer of Benedict!

      Be well,

  2. Anne Lastman says:

    Joe, you are right men are not the message but they are the living message. Our spiritual leaders lead by both living and speaking and teaching the message. They verbally continue for us the words of Jesus then and now.
    Thats why we respect, look to, emulate our spiritual leaders.
    In the scriptures we read about God and holiness our leaders mske visible and model that holiness
    and we subliminally learn to do the same.

    • Joe Dantona says:


      Thanks so much for your kind response. I definitely want the leaders of the Church to be authentically holy, and their witness is important to the health of the Church. That said, I don’t know that I agree that they are the living message– I think that phrase would more accurately describe the Sacraments. The bishops are the living transmitters of the message, but that handing on has nothing to do with their own goodness and everything to do with Christ’s promise to us. That message, though, should spur us on to demand our leaders be seriously striving for God– as well as pushing the rest of us forward on the journey.

      Be well,

      • Yaya says:

        Jars of clay filled with the Holy Spirit. We can break but our hearts must always be set on Jesus.
        I enjoy reading your articles Joe. Like so many here, you too build up the body of Christ.
        I’m grateful because in these difficult times, it has helped me tremendously.

        Keep up the good work!

  3. Bo says:

    Thank you Joe for the prayer at the end of your post. I agree that homosexual clergy cover up scandal should stir in us greater effort for penance and holiness. I also pray and plead that the pope has the courage to tell the truth and in the process heal the wounds of the Church. If that does not happen, I pray the following:
    Surge Domine et dissipentur inimici Tui, ut fugiant qui oderunt Ye a facie Tua.
    Beyond that – God help us all…’

  4. Yaya says:

    Viganò: Benedict did not want public sanctions because McCarrick was retired – La Stampa

    Another interesting read that seems to be deflating Vigano’s claims.

    Glad that someone has taken up our Holy Father’s challenge to “read it for yourselves then come to your own conclusions.”

    Me thinks someone jumped the gun by calling for Papa Francis resignation after this story and especially after Vigano’s second or is a third interview from his “hidden location.”

    Let the reporters continue to dig further, clarify more and continue to ask questions, honest questions, regardless of who it is. Sadly, and unexpectedly, the consequences of Vigano’s accusations more and more involve Papa Benny too.

    Maybe, that was something he and his colleagues were not expecting?

  5. Yaya says:

    To follow up on my previous post … what if Papa Francis was indeed told about McCarrick exactly as Vigano’s now claiming and he simply chose to follow Papa Benny’s example?

    In my opinion, that is a whole he** of a lot different than what was first claimed.

    Any thoughts?

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