Me and Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper grand-jury report

The PA grand-jury report has a lot of pages. But I can now claim to have perused them all, dear reader.

“Dozens” of sex-abuse victims (or family members) testified before the grand jury. Less than 100. As I said before: First, we honor them.

Second, however, let’s note this: The report primarily consists of documents from the confidential clergy files of the six dioceses. The grand jury came into possession of those documents because the court served subpoenas on the diocesan offices in 2015 and 2016.

We can break down the 1,400 pages of the report into three large sections.

Section One. An overview of each of the six dioceses, with a narrative of particular cases of “institutional failure.”

Section Two. One- or two-page summaries of the depredations of all the accused predator priests (and deacons and seminarians).

Section Three. The responses submitted to the grand jury by the six dioceses, including responses by individual personnel.

The report, therefore, is a systematic attempt to synthesize information from two different sources: 1. The testimony of the witnesses. 2. The documents submitted under subpoena. It is an incredibly valuable collection of information.

This synthesis reveals…

  1. No reasonable person can come away with any doubt that the grand-jury did, in fact, uncover a scandalous failure on the part of diocesan officials between 1960 and 2002. They failed to recognize that the sexual abuse of a minor is a crime that must be brought to justice and punished. They failed to recognize that they had a duty to believe the accusers and mistrust the perpetrators. They failed to recognize that they had a duty to protect potential future victims.
  2. It also reveals, however, that the subpoena’d documents have a context (the on-going relationships of all the priests and bishops involved) that the grand-jury did not have an adequate expertise to understand fully. The assessments of “institutional failure,” while fundamentally correct, do not penetrate to the depth necessary to solve the problems

What do I mean by that? For one thing, the grand-jury apparently did not possess the complete case files of the clergy who had proceedings against them in Rome. Without those case files, the record is nowhere near complete.

Also, the grand jury (and subsequent news reports) appeared not to understand fully the obligation that a bishop has to a priest of his diocese. The bishop must provide three squares and a roof for all of his priests, no matter what.

But this brings me to…

3. We have a serious problem with the process of arriving at justice in cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy. (Obvious enough, but let me break that down.)

Canonical procedures remain opaque to the general public. Our total reliance on civil authority in this area leaves a huge gap: We may find ourselves completely convinced of an offender’s guilt, but the police don’t have adequate evidence, or there’s a statute of limitations, or some other impediment intervenes.

In other words, when the police and criminal justice system can’t do anything, we need a procedure for establishing the guilt of the accused in an open manner, without having to refer the case to to Rome. And we need ecclesiastical prisons for clergy sex abusers.

…Many Catholic commentators have noted that the report is difficult reading, requires Pepto Bismol, etc.

I grant that freely. But I note that squeamishness about sexual abuse is one of the big problems revealed by this report.

Attorney General Shapiro and the grand jury (in consultation with the FBI) note the use of “euphemisms” in the documents, as part of the effort to conceal the truth. The indefatigable Bill Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has written an intelligent “debunking” of the report. He points out that the euphemisms, to which AG Shapiro referred, actually do not appear in the documents. True enough. But other, horrendously dangerous euphemisms do appear, over and over again.

In the most-moving scene of Spotlight, one of the Boston Globe reporters urges a sex-abuse victim to spell out for her in explicit detail what happened. That is what we need to bring about justice, the reporter says. In my book, that is profoundly correct.

National Air and Space Museum

…Now, speaking of seeking justice:

As I said, the grand jury interviewed somewhere between 24 and 100 victims or family members of victims. Their testimony certainly plays a significant role in this report.

But the report fundamentally consists of the documents subpoena’d from the dioceses.

Which means: The diocesan officials who had in their possession these documents, and who did not foresee that their publication would embarrass the Church–crushingly, brutally embarrass the Church–and who did not take steps themselves to see justice done somehow: those officials have failed us, the Catholic people. They have failed us very, very grievously.

They cannot say: Well, we have been doing right since 2002! That has nothing to do with this. This has to do with the investigative work in Pennsylvania, done by the civil authority, that began in 2015.

We, the people of the Church, could have been spared this horrible embarrassment very easily. If Church officials had acted on these documents–had published them, had sought out the victims–before they were subpoena’d. this entire catastrophic embarrassment of August 2018 could have been avoided completely.

…Here’s an irony. The Pennsylvania grand-jury has invaded the independent operations of these dioceses, justifiably so. And the grand jury’s work has led to the widespread conclusion that the Church cannot govern Herself properly. So there will certainly be civil laws passed in many states that interfere with the independent operation of the Catholic Church. All totally justifiable.

Meanwhile, the USCCB has spent enormous energies this past decade championing “Religious Freedom.” All that effort has gone down the drain in a few short days. While the bishops blathered on about the Founding Fathers, these documents sat in their archives, ticking like the bomb on the Hindenburg. Nice work, guys. Nice work.

Please resign. We need champions of justice running our dioceses. Not you.


Eating the Bread that is His Flesh

Whoever eats this bread will live forever. The bread that I will give is my flesh. (John 6:51)

The Holy Mass: A sacrifice and a Passover banquet. Can’t have the banquet without the sacrifice. And: No point in having the sacrifice without the banquet. [Spanish]

Christ offered Himself, a Lamb slaughtered to atone for all the sins of the world. “This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

Ghent Altarpiece Adoration of the LambReligion always involves approaching the all-good, all-pure God with something to offer Him. Our religion involves approaching the all-good, all-pure God with His Son as our sacrifice.

This sacrifice pleases the Father. The Body and Blood of His only-begotten, the eternal Word, made man. We know this sacrifice pleases the Father because… ?

The Resurrection. Jesus did not offer Himself as a sacrifice in vain. No. The Father accepted, approved, and vindicated the offering. He granted mercy to sinners because of it. He gave creation a fresh start. The Resurrection proves all that.

So: The Mass involves offering the Christ to the Father as a sacrifice. We all do that, together, as the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer. And we offer ourselves, too, with Christ, to the Father. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, all honor and glory is yours, Father.

But: That’s not the end of Mass. There’s more. He didn’t say, “Take this and offer it.” He said, “Take this, and eat it.” He said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

The Paschal banquet of Holy Communion involves receiving as food the risen flesh of Jesus Christ.

HostSome people have a hard time featuring the Real Presence. Christ with us–Body, Blood, soul, and divinity—in the Blessed Sacrament. But maybe we can resolve any doubts by remembering: Holy Communion does not involve consuming mortal flesh. Christ’s flesh, since He rose from the dead, is immortal, heavenly, glorified.

Now, that does not mean that Christ’s Body is purely spiritual and mystical. He is not just ‘an idea.’ After all, we know from the gospels: Jesus ate, even after He rose from the dead. And Thomas fingered the wound in His side. Christ is risen in the flesh, real human flesh. But it is human flesh that has passed over from mortal life to immortal life.

Ok. What does God ask of us, to prepare to receive Christ’s flesh in Holy Communion?

  1. A clear conscience. We have to confess all our serious sins to a priest beforehand.
  2. Fasting for one hour before Holy Communion.
  3. Living in union with the Church. Striving for honest harmony with my neighbor. Forgiving others as I have been forgiven by God.

And how does receiving Holy Communion affect us? Well, only a mystic could give a comprehensive answer to that question. But we can name a few effects:

  1. Holy Communion draws us closer to Christ. Heaven means total union with Him. So every Holy Communion received in a state of grace gets us that much closer to the final goal.
  2. Holy Communion cleanses us from past sins and protects us from committing future sins.
  3. Holy Communion unites us with our neighbors, especially with the poor, with those who need our love and mercy.

We cannot fathom the depths of the loving generosity of God. Yet all of God’s love is present in the consecrated Host and chalice. With every Holy Communion, we enter more deeply into the divine love, the generous love, of the Heart of Jesus. And He enters more deeply into us.


Last week we talked about the faithful Catholics with hearts broken over the Theodore McCarrick scandal. This week we have to mourn with everyone brokenhearted by the Pennsylvania grand-jury report on sex abuse by priests.

Namely: All the good Pennsylvania Catholics baptized or given First Holy Communion by priests whose names are on the lists or predators. And everyone confirmed by one of the bishops who neglected their duty.

May the good Lord comfort all those good Catholics.

Above all, however: We need to honor the victims of sexual abuse who had the courage to speak to the grand jury and give the world this report. It took enormous courage, and great faith. They have given us a great gift. The truth.

PA Grand Jury victimsThe truth will set you free. That’s what we believe. Our beloved Jesus has suffered. He suffers in the poor, the sick, the grieving, the lonely. And he suffers in the victims of sexual abuse by priests. That means that the grand-jury report is like a crucifix, held up before our eyes.

It moves us. To despise every act of abuse. To love and admire every victim of abuse who has the guts to stand up against it. To react that way is the duty of every decent human being.

For decades, the Pennsylvania bishops did not react that way. That’s the scandal. The Church owed those victims justice. Instead, the bishops muffled their pain under a cloak of secrecy.

No more. Now the truth of those cases stands before the world in black and white. That’s a gift, a fresh start, a chance for a better future. Thank you grand jurors, and thank you, courageous witnesses who testified.

The Ugly Beauty of Ezekiel 16 + Wuerl Fail, Part II

Father forgive them Passion of the Christ

Difficult reading. Our first reading at Holy Mass today, from Ezekiel, chapter 16. When you were born, your navel cord was not cut… You were thrown on the ground as something loathsome… Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood.

The chapter actually gets a lot worse, more graphic. But the good souls who produced our Lectionary decided to spare us the worst of it, for reading publicly in church.

The Lord addresses His words in this prophecy to… the city of Jerusalem. The holy city. But, as the prophecy points out, Jerusalem began her urban life as a pagan city. Yes, Abraham obeyed God and climbed the mountain, willing to sacrifice his only son there. But then eight centuries passed before David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And even after the temple got built there, other Hebrew holy sites vied for precedence with it. As we read in John 4, the Lord Jesus Himself debated with the Samaritan woman about where a child of Abraham ought to worship.

But: Something consecrated Jerusalem as the holy city, the image of heaven. A totally unique event. One that makes the ugliness of Ezekiel 16 look like a Hallmark card by comparison. The crucifixion of the innocent Lamb of God.

jerusalem-sunriseThe Crucifixion consecrated the city and fulfilled the prophecy. When the sacraments unite us with Christ crucified, the beautiful part of Ezekiel 16 comes true: I bathed you with water, washed away your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered gown and put sandals of fine leather on your feet.

Christ bleeding, suffering, groaning to heaven, gasping for breath, dying: that has consecrated Jerusalem. That has consecrated us.

Difficult reading: The famous PA grand-jury report. I have read a great deal of it; stayed up late last night reading it. Difficult. Like looking at a crucifix.

We know that Christ suffers on hospital beds, and in war zones. He suffers in hungry children. He suffers in mothers who have lost a child. We know all this. We must bear this sight also: Christ suffers in victims of sexual abuse, including children. Including children abused by priests, priests that they and their families trusted.

The PA grand jury has done what our bishops have not had the stomach to do: They have held this crucifix up in front of us. Please, let’s see the report for the spiritual gift that it is. On the cross, Christ triumphed by His trust in the Father. The victims who told their stories to the grand jury triumphed over the evil they had suffered, with the same trust.

Nothing about any of this is truly “scandalous”—at least not to anyone prepared to endure the scandal of the Cross.

The scandal is this: Our bishops have strayed far away from this cross of Christ. The refused to look at this crucifix, and for the most part they continue to refuse.

Donald Cardinal Wuerl took to the airwaves two nights ago and submitted to an interview, in an attempt to save his reputation. He proceeded to show the world that he never could look squarely at this crucifix and still has no interest whatsoever in looking at it.

But we can look at it. A lot of people thought Mel Gibson had lost his mind when he made The Passion of the Christ. But what he did was give us the Stations of the Cross in the form of a movie. It brought us back to the truth. The PA grand jury has given us a similar gift.


One additional note about the above interview…

The Cardinal insists that things changed in 2002.

On the one hand, the data supports that. (History shows, however, that it takes years for victims of sexual abuse to summon the courage to accuse their abusers. So low numbers in the past decade don’t really prove anything.)

But: Even if it is true that the Dallas Charter of 2002 has improved the situation, that does not address the fundamental point. The grand-jury report itself takes cognizance of the Charter. They point out correctly that it came as a reaction to the work of the journalists of The Boston Globe.

The interviewer, Mr. Fizgerald, confronted Cardinal Wuerl with this observation: What could have changed about abusing a child? In other words, how could it become more wrong in 2002 than it was in 1960?

…It’s not the public’s job to understand the history of ecclesiastical regulations. It is a shepherd’s job to love Jesus in those who suffer. And to love his people enough, and trust them enough, to live in the truth with them.

Not Bad, but Good: The PA Grand Jury Report

PA Grand Jury victims

Today at Holy Mass we read the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Pretty famous parable.

The king forgives a huge debt. Turns out that debtor has a debtor of his own, owing much less. But he refuses to forgive. The other servants are outraged. So the king calls his debtor back and righteously condemns him.

Who’s the main character of the parable? A question prompted the parable: Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother’s sins? So: I guess this parable is about the original debtor? About his failure to show mercy? Or maybe it’s about the fellow servants? Their zeal for justice?

No, silly. Obviously the parable is about: The King. God. The mercy of God. He has compassion. He sees reality.

He is the only one in the parable who isn’t desperate. Because He has no needs. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. He has no fear whatsoever of the unvarnished truth.

Out of kindness, in order to get everything straight for everybody, He initiates a reckoning. But He Himself has such endless wealth that He can afford to write off huge debts. It doesn’t matter. He has infinitely more. Infinitely more.

God is the hero of the parable. He is the hero of the Bible. And He is the Spouse of the Church.

…Everybody heard about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report? How about: Anybody actually read it?

Probably not, because the nauseating recurrent narrative in the Catholic media has repeated itself: The report comes out, and the usual happens. Bishops everywhere begin to talk endlessly about themselves. (Because that is what they do.)

My question is: Why is the release of this grand-jury report an occasion for sorrow? Most of the sorrowful events recounted in it occurred twenty years or more ago. The original events are terribly sad, and sickeningly maddening. But the release of the report is not sad. The release of the report is a triumph. Of the truth.

This moment has come because: the victims have achieved heroic honesty. They have stood up. They have born witness to exactly what we, the Catholic Church, believe in: Justice. Chastity. Truthfulness. The victims have done this in spite of the excruciating pain involved in doing it.

Seems to me that our job right now is to honor these heroes. They have shown great faith in the infinite love of God. Sorting out good from evil in their lives has cost them an enormous struggle. But they did it. They triumphed. This is their hour.

I say: We should rejoice that they have climbed to the top of this terrifying mountain. Now they can see a beautiful sight. God is good, and there is hope.

Many of the sex offenders listed in the report have died. They have met justice. Those still alive should face justice, and let’s hope they will. Seems like we human beings can manage that; we can organize things so that criminals face justice, and a penalty, for what they have done.

Steve Breen statute of limitations in hell
copyright Steve Breen

One thing the report, and the reaction of the bishops the past 36 hours, shows: The bishops of the United States do not know how to organize that. That is: Seeing justice done. They don’t have the foggiest idea how to study facts and make careful judgments.

Thank you, grand jury, for pointing that out. But we knew that already. That has actually been perfectly obvious for many, many years.

All that, really, is just a tawdry sideshow to the real brilliance of the moment. What really happened when this report came out is this: A people abused and suffering stood up, spoke the truth, and brought about a new and better day.

Wuerl. Fail. “Bleed, bleed, poor Washington!”


In Act iv, scene 3, of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macduff weeps. He has exiled himself in England. But his heart turns to his native Scotland, which suffers under Macbeth’s rule. “O Scotland, Scotland… Bleed, bleed poor country!”

Down here in beautiful southwest Virginia, we live a relatively carefree life. But: “O Washington, my poor native local church!”

Let me begin with the questions we have. When I say “we,” I mean all of us who prayed daily, at the altar, for “Theodore, our bishop” (then-Cardinal McCarrick). In other words: “we” means all practicing Washingtonian Catholics older than twelve years of age. He was our Archbishop, so we have a personal interest in his case.

Our questions;

  1. Where is he?
  2. When will his trial begin?
  3. With what, exactly, will he be charged? Who will testify against him?
  4. Who will judge the case?
  5. When will all this information be given to us? Who will give it to us?

Honest questions, I think. Straightforward and perfectly reasonable. You would imagine that the sitting Archbishop of Washington would provide the answers.

But no. Evidently, these questions do not enter his mind. He has other concerns.

Cardinal Wuerl’s diocesan chancellor gave an interview today. She made it pretty clear that the Washington Pastoral Center no longer takes an active interest in the details of the McCarrick Affair.

Because now we have the Wuerl Affair. Cardinal Wuerl wrote to the priests of Washington yesterday. Did he offer clear answers to the questions above? No. Did he offer fatherly comfort and encouragement? Far, far from it.

Rather, he inflicted on a group of men, minding their own business, a self-interested pre-buttal to the attacks that fell upon him in Pennsylvania today. A grand jury had studied six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Cardinal Wuerl’s home, Pittsburgh. And they issued a report.

No one accuses Cardinal Wuerl of abusing anyone himself. But he, by his own admission, operated according to “evolving” standards of how to deal with child sexual abuse. (Translation: I did not necessarily always do… what any normal father would have instantly known was the right thing to do.)

So, now the question is:

What did the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington do to deserve this? In 2001, here comes a ticking time bomb of an Archbishop, from New Jersey. Then, in 2006, a new Archbishop from Pennsylvania, also with a exploding skeleton in his valise. Both bombs set to go off in the summer of 2018.

My heart aches for the Catholics of Pennsylvania who have to deal with a mountain of painful reading. But I can’t say much about that, since I don’t know much about it.

One thing I can say:

The church in Washington desperately needs a father who can help her recover from the wounding shock of McCarrick’s dishonesty and apparently profound perversity. But she does not seem to have such a leader.

Cardinal Wuerl insists that the Pennsylvania grand-jury report criticizes him unfairly. But his very self-centeredness at this moment, when all his thoughts should bend to his wounded local church; his defensiveness and incapacity to express any real sorrow and pain–he’s tone-deaf now. He was probably tone-deaf then, too.

…Our Lady watches over us from heaven. We believe in her, and her Son, and in the Father. We will survive. Dangerous and inept prelates come and go; they do not touch our faith.

Someday, may it please the Lord, we American Catholics will have leaders who focus on the people who hurt. Leaders who care about justice. And respect our intelligence. Who think and talk like honest men, not like nervous bureaucrats.

Someday. Please, Lord.

937,603 + Kolbe, JPII, and Our Lady

937,603 visits here so far. Ten years. Happy anniversary, dear Reader!

El Greco Virgin Mary

The Christ came to us, God made man. He was conceived and grew in the womb of His immaculate mother. He spent most His life on earth in her household. When He went to the cross for us, she accompanied Him. Then she saw Him again on Easter Sunday morning. After He ascended into heaven, He poured out His Holy Spirit upon His Apostles–when they gathered to pray with His Mother.

The flesh-and-blood intimacy between the Christ and His mother–we cannot even begin to fathom its depths. When she came to the end of her earthly life, the intimacy between them reached its fulfillment: Our Lady entered heaven, body and soul, flesh and blood.

Seventy-seven years ago, a Polish priest came to the end of his life on the Vigil of Assumption Day. He offered himself for execution in a Nazi concentration camp, to take the place of another prisoner who had a wife and family.

Father Maximilian Kolbe had dedicated his life to spreading devotion to the Blessed Mother. He built a small publishing empire to combat the forces of atheism and irreligion.

Father Kolbe had a German father. When the Nazis took over Poland, the priest had an opportunity to sign up for the “German-blood” list. It would have protected him from arrest. But, like many other half-German Poles, Father Kolbe would not do anything to co-operate with the Nazis.

He loved our Lady. He knew that our Lady’s heart beats in heaven. With love for the whole human race. And he knew that the blood flowing through her heart, and though our Lady’s entire glorified body…not German, not Polish. Not English, French, Italian, or Scandinavian, either.


The Nazis killed flesh-and-blood human beings on a massive scale. Because they had fallen in love with the pagan dream of racial purity. But God has no interest in such a fantasy. He’s interested in particular individual human beings. Each of which He makes utterly and unrepeatably unique.

On the day when the Nazis killed Father Kolbe in a concentration camp, Pope St. John Paul II was also in Poland. He was working at hard labor, because the Nazis had closed the university. He was 21 years old.

Anyway, as we know, the 21-year-old fellow Pole grew up to be the pope. The pope who would canonize Father Kolbe and declare him a martyr for the faith. John Paul II understood from the inside that Nazism counted as a persecution of the Christian religion. Father Kolbe had said what the Church believes–when his brother Franciscans asked him about helping to save Jews: “We are all brothers!”

During the 1930’s and World War II, the Church had a kind of meltdown. The rise of Nazism posed a huge challenge, and not every Catholic met that challenge. Many bishops, even whole national conferences of bishops, lost sight of this crucial aspect of the Christian mystery: God loves every individual human being enough to die on the cross for him or her. Plenty of Catholics, including plenty of bishops, forgot that God loves the Jews as much as He loves anybody. And they forgot that the Son of God, and the Mother of God, are both…Jewish.

Christ would have died just so His mother could go to heaven. Even if she were the only one, He would gladly have done it. We think: well, of course, He would have died to save His mother. But the same goes for everyone else. Christ would have died for any single individual human being–any single one–to go to heaven.

The many Christian martyrs during the time of Nazism kept that fact in perfect focus in their minds. Their witness inspired Pope St. John Paul II to formulate his doctrine about the Gospel of Life. We, the Church, stand for the dignity of every human being. Or rather, we stand with every human being–especially the weak, the victims of injustice, the suffering.

From heaven our Lady sees everything and identifies with those who need love. May she help us always do the same.

The Teaching that Convicts

They shall all be taught by God. (John 6:45) [Spanish]

Lord Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had prophesied about the restoration of the holy city of Jerusalem, a vision of peace and purity. Let me quote the passage:

O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled, I lay your pavements in carnelians and your foundations in sapphires; I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54)

Jesus quoted from this prophecy to answer those who murmured about Him. Christ had said, “I came down from heaven.” The murmurers could not accept it. They thought, ‘This man came from the household of a poor carpenter.’ They could not feature Jesus coming down from heaven to teach the human race the truth about divine love.

notre dame campus.jpg

Now, when it comes to divine teaching, a fair number of people these days are murmuring, too. How can the Catholic Church expect anyone to believe Her moral teachings anymore? Haven’t the latest scandals proven to the world that the hierarchy of the Church harbors evil and corrupt men?

As you know, the Cardinal McCarrick scandal has outraged me about as much as anyone. As I mentioned last week, I’m on the long list of priests that he ordained. And he ordained us while he himself should have been in jail.

But we priests are not the only ones outraged. How about all the good lay people in New Jersey, and in Washington, D.C., who supported McCarrick’s ministry as a bishop? How about all the students, faculty, alumni, and administrators of Fordham University, Catholic University, Notre Dame University, and all the other institutions which thought they had an illustrious friend? Now this friend has become an embarrassment and a disgrace.

How about the members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, the religious order that runs Notre Dame? McCarrick had the temerity to preach at the Beatification of their founder, ten years ago. Now the joy of that occasion has a cloud over it forever.

El Greco Christ blessing croppedWhat about the students of Cardinal McCarrick High School in South Amboy, New Jersey? Thank God, they will not have to return to class this fall with the scandal hanging over them. Because the school closed its doors in 2015 due to low enrollment.

Point is: the USA has a lot of Catholics who feel personally betrayed. Meanwhile, a lot of non-Catholics see this spectacle and think: What kind of operation is the Catholic Church? Which makes us Catholics feel even more betrayed.

But let’s remember this. We know something important. We know that what this bad man did was wrong. How do we know it was wrong? Because we have received teaching about right and wrong from God, through His Church. We know right from wrong in the first place because God teaches us through His Church. And one thing that Jesus came down from heaven to teach us is: Every human being has dignity. No one has the right to take advantage of, or abuse, another human being.

The brave man in northern Virginia who had the courage to speak to reporters about what former-Cardinal McCarrick did to him—that man knew right from wrong; he knew that this priest had done him wrong. How did he know that? Because he had learned the truth about human dignity from Jesus and Jesus’ Church.

That man’s courage and insight is nothing less than a miracle of grace. Whenever victims of abuse have the courage and clarity to stand up and call evil evil—that is not a defeat for the Church. That is a victory.

So: what does this mean for us? Sorry to have to tell you: It means that we don’t have the easy option of saying to ourselves, ‘Well, the Church had a really bad Cardinal. So that means I can be bad, too.’

No. We know that sins are sins because the Holy Church teaches that they are sins. We know that bad is bad because the Church teaches us what goodness is. Which means that we all have to strive, more than ever, to live up to what we stand for.

Checchio Fail


Pope St. John Paul II erected the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey. He named Theodore McCarrick the founding bishop. McCarrick went on to serve as Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. Then Archbishop of Washington.

Twenty-some years after McCarrick began his tenure as its first bishop, the Diocese of Metuchen, along with the Archdiocese of Newark, secretly paid out money to seminarians whom McCarrick had abused.


What did McCarrick do?

Why did the Diocese of Metuchen, and the Archdiocese of Newark, choose to cover that up?

Answers: [crickets]

Bishop Checchio of Metuchen recently broke his silence on the matter of McCarrick’s downfall. But he offered no answers to these questions.

Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, did an interview, in which he addressed McCarrick’s downfall, among other things. The Cardinal insists that this is “not a massive crisis.” Cardinal DiNardo, President of the USCCB, also did an interview. “It’s time to move forward.”

We still do not know that McCarrick is guilty of anything–if we live by ‘innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.’

Apparently McCarrick contested the veracity of the original claim lodged against him in the Archdiocese of New York. In a private interchange of information with the Archdiocese, McCarrick claimed to have evidence that he did not reside in New York at one of the times that “Mike” said he had fondled him. McCarrick made this claim before the Pope suspended his ministry on June 20.

According to “Vatican sources,” Pope Francis is “personally” handling McCarrick’s case.

So we find ourselves…

1. Unsatisfied regarding justice. We do not even know precisely what case of abuse sits on the Pope’s desk to judge. As I mentioned before: James, of northern Virginia, spoke to the New York Times. That is what led to McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals. But, as far as we know, James has never spoken to a Church official.

2. But who can really doubt that McCarrick is guilty of grievous sins and crimes against human dignity? If he were altogether innocent, why did he resign from the Cardinals? And remain totally silent?

[If McCarrick is, in fact, actually innocent, and he keeps his silence only out of holy obedience to Pope Francis–that would mean that the Pope is guilty of a grievous injustice against one of his Cardinals. That scandal would actually be even worse than this one.]

3. Meanwhile, we, the People of God touched by the ministry of this now-disgraced priest and bishop, remain totally in the dark about many, many, many, many, many facts.

The bishops’ party line is: Let’s focus on good policies and move on!

This is surreal.

Transparent with Temporalities

El Escorial
designed as a gridiron to honor St. Lawrence

We read in the Acts of the Apostles about the origin of the diaconate. Deacons took on the duty of administering the Church’s earthly goods, so that the Apostles could focus on the Word of God.

The deacon St. Lawrence administered the temporal goods of the Church in Rome. In AD 258, the Emperor Valerian ordered that all those goods be confiscated, and all the clergy executed.

St. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the Church’s possessions. He gave everything away to the poor. Then, when the Roman prefect asked Lawrence for the goods, the deacon pointed to a group of poor people and said: “Here is the Church’s treasure.”

Titian Martyrdom of St. Lawrence

On August 10, they burned Lawrence alive on a gridiron. Halfway through, Lawrence said: “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”

Anyone ever visited Spain? King Philip II won a decisive victory over the French on St. Lawrence’s feast day in 1557. So the king ordered his palace built in the shape of a gridiron, in honor of the deacon martyr. The Escorial.

In my mind, a contrast immediately emerges: St. Lawrence’ faithful stewardship of the Church’s treasure, unto death. Versus: something we learned about recently. Two New-Jersey bishops entering into secret settlements with victims of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse, apparently in order to protect the reputation of a criminal. So far no bishop has explained why this happened.

St. Lawrence intercedes in heaven on behalf of a lot of classes of people: the people of Rome, the people of Canada, the poor, students, firefighters, miners, chefs, roasters, and comedians. Let’s beg him to intercede for us, too: American Catholics looking for leadership in the wake of the McCarrick scandal. And not finding any. Looking for a just resolution to this case. And not finding any hope that justice will be done.

Our Vichy Regime

Philippe Petain Vichy

Seventy-six years ago today, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) died in a Nazi gas chamber. She was Jewish Catholic nun. She had received the sacraments of Christian initiation at age thirty, in 1922. She gladly met her death, at age fifty, as an act of love for her people.

This saint, in her all-encompassing devotion to Christ, kept in focus the key thing that the real heroes in World War II never lost: reverence for the dignity of the individual human person.

The Catholic Bishops of the Netherlands had enunciated that concept and publicly condemned Nazism just two weeks before St. Edith Stein’s martyrdom. The Nazis rounded up the Catholic nuns in revenge for that condemnation.

St. Edith SteinPope St. John Paul II declared that the Catholic Church must remember the Holocaust each year, on the anniversary of Edith Stein’s death.

This year, because of the McCarrick scandal, I want to contrast St. Teresa Benedicta’s experience of the Holocaust with that of a fellow Catholic, Philippe Pétain.

Anyone know him? Maybe you do, if you’re a Jeopardy! addict like me. Pétain ran the “Vichy Regime” in France, which collaborated with the Nazis.

Edith Stein died for the Christian truth of individual human dignity; meanwhile, Pétain and the Vichy regime in France lost sight of the concept. The regime had the trappings of a legitimate government. But it was compromised at its core.

After World War II ended, a highly politicized French court convicted Pétain of treason and sentenced him to death. Charles De Gaulle commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, because of Pétain’s advanced age. At that moment in her history, the French nation had an opportunity for profound self-examination of her identity. But she didn’t really take it.

I bring all this up because: I think we may have stumbled upon a good analogy to help us understand where we are, the Catholic Church in the US, right now.

We need to keep clearly in focus what St. Teresa Benedicta died for: the dignity of the human individual. We need to start with the individual human beings that Theodore McCarrick preyed on. The dignity of those people demands that we advocate for them and insist on justice–and a public reckoning with all the facts.

The USCCB seems to mirror the inner-emptiness of the Vichy regime. What remains utterly absent from any public response to the McCarrick scandal by any American bishop so far? The mention of the individual human beings still awaiting justice in this case. Instead, the bishops can only focus on the survival of their own bureaucracy.

McCarrick flourished in this very Vichy-regime bureaucracy. The real, evangelizing, pro-life Church–submitted under the reigning spirit of the technocratic, post-modern world. The Catholic Vichy Regime of late 20th-century and early 21st-century America.

I promise to try to break down this (admittedly preposterous) generalization with specific analyzes as we move forward. May the Vichy regime fall. We can hope that it will, if we stay focused on precisely what St. Edith Stein died for, in the gas chamber, 76 years ago today: the dignity of the human individual.