Travel Unwise (in SW VA)

If you can walk to St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, I will see you there at 8:00am  for Mass.

Otherwise, dear ones of Franklin and Henry Counties, and the City of Martinsville: Stay home, do the readings if you can, say the Confiteor, Creed, and Our Father, and maybe the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Quedense en casa, queridos, y disfrutan la nieve.


God Smoothes the Rough Ways

tatooine c3p0 r2d2

From our first reading at Sunday Mass:

God has commanded that every lofty mountain shall be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground. [Spanish]

From the gospel reading:

Every valley shall be filled; every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth.

Why? Why all this leveling and straightening of the earth? So “that Israel may advance secure, for God is leading Israel by the light of His glory.” (Baruch 5:9)

God leads a people. Us. The people united in His Christ. St. Paul wrote to his beloved Philippians:  “I pray for all of you with joy in my heart, because of your partnership for the gospel.”

We are partners. For the gospel. With a pilgrimage to make. To Mt. Zion, to the Temple in heaven. To glorify God there, together.

For the ancient Israelites on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the terrain posed great challenges. Anyone ever visited the Dead Sea? St. John the Baptist lived nearby. He ate locusts, because that’s pretty much all there is to eat there.

Anyone ever heard the parable of the Good Samaritan? The traveler fell into the hands of brutal robbers while he made his way on the Jericho road. A rocky land of dangerous mountain passes—like the territory on Tattooine where the Sand People live, where old Ben Kenobi had his hermitage. (That’s Star Wars, if you didn’t know.)

Vatican II stallsIn other words: Getting to Jerusalem posed problems. Tough terrain. Physical struggles and dangers. But the prophets promised: Fear not. God Himself will level it all out. So that Israel can proceed together, singing, towards God’s glorious Temple.

We can ask ourselves: Why frequent the parish church on Sundays? Hasn’t the Catholic Church suffered the definitive disgrace this past year? With attorneys general raiding bishops’ offices? With confusion reigning among the successors of the apostles?

The first reading at Sunday Mass includes a reference to a ‘miter.’ Everyone know what that word means? The distinctive headdress of the bishop. It represents the Holy Spirit pouring into Moses’ head. The miter symbolizes divine wisdom. But, at this point in the Church’s history, it’s not easy to preach on the divine wisdom symbolized by the bishop’s miter.

Yet Sunday-morning Mass means: Israel, united.

Are we out-of-step with reality? After all, “Many of our contemporaries never get to the point of raising questions about God, since they seem to experience no religious stirrings, nor do they see why they should trouble themselves about religion.”

That’s actually a direct quote from Vatican II. Many of our contemporaries never get to the point of raising questions about God, since they seem to experience no religious stirrings, nor do they see why they should trouble themselves about religion. (Gaudium et Spes 19)

Why do we trouble ourselves about religion? And why do we do it in the Catholic Church?

Maybe we can say that we trouble ourselves with seeking God because: “each of us remains to him- or herself an unsolved puzzle.” Because: “We face the riddles of life and death, of guilt and grief.” (GS 21)

Again, a direct quote from Vatican II. And the fathers of that Church Council, held fifty years ago, went on to affirm: “Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. Christ reveals the Father and His love, and so fully reveals man to himself and makes man’s supreme calling clear.” (GS 22)

In spite of this entire mess that we ourselves are, the prophets, amazingly, propose:  We can have genuinely coherent lives, instead of a tumult of zigs and zags. We can march together in a straight line towards heaven.  We can live according to the fundamental truth of who we are; we can greet every situation with calm self-assurance, ready to act as a saint would act.

How?  By raising questions about God.  By troubling ourselves to know Him.

The Lord has provided us with the means to know Him. And to know what His commandments are. He does smooth the way for His pilgrim people to reach Jerusalem. We go together, in partnership for the Gospel of Christ.

And the communion that we enjoy with each other has a depth that reaches back through time, and also towards the promised future of eternal life. We may have entered a very difficult period of Church history. But our communion with God and with each other does not rest on the current political situation of the Church’s hierarchy.

Our communion rests on stronger foundations than that. It rests on the basics. On the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. On His doctrine, contained in the New Testament; on His commandments. On the prayer that He taught us to say. Right now we have the bishops and the pope that we have, and may God help them to do their duty well. But our communion with God flows from something deeper. It flows from the mysteries of the life of Jesus.

James Grein St. Gallen Interview + The Groër Case

As James’ faithful self-appointed amanuensis, I dutifully listened to this entire interview. I found it quite difficult.

James has inspiring things to say. About his relationship with Christ. About his triumph over drugs and alcohol, by God’s grace. About friendship, communication, and doing God’s will.

And he has insightful, illuminating things to say about Theodore McCarrick. He knows a great deal about McCarrick’s life. He says things about McCarrick that resonate with me. (For instance: the man is cheap. Has tons of money, but hates spending it.)

James continues to insist that he cannot discuss ‘on-going investigations’. Dr. Marshall asked James: What did Pope Benedict know about McCarrick? “I can’t go there,” James replied.

My question: Why, exactly, can’t you go there, sir? Or: Could you explain to us what these investigations are, that preclude you from giving any information about McCarrick’s abuse?

I would ask dear James that because: We don’t know. We the People. Out here, just wanting to know the facts, just wanting to see justice done. So this ordeal can end.

St. Gallen, Switzerland

Apparently, according to James, in 1948, Thedore McCarrick studied languages in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Nearly fifty years later, a group of Cardinals and bishops began meeting annually in St. Gallen, to discuss how much they disliked Josef Card. Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Both of these are perfectly honest and reasonable things to do. Learn languages. Talk church politics. Both fine.

And St. Gallen, Switzerland, seems like a perfectly lovely place to do them.

But it would appear that neither of them has anything to do with the other. The young Cardinal McCarrick studying there for some months in 1948; liberal European bishops and Cardinals meeting there in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Nothing to do with each other. Except that they happened in the same place.

I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1970. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, D.C., in 1865. Connection?

According to Dr. Marshall and Mr. Grein, evil spirits must rule the lovely canton of St. Gallen. And they are to blame for both: Theodore McCarrick’s abusive homosexuality. And the election of Pope Francis.

I don’t see the connection myself. According to Dr. Marshall and Mr. Grein, the connection is: Bella Dodd. (Famous ex-communist in the 1950’s.)


…My point is: The Marshall-Grein interview above is kooky. Kooky kooky.

Now, people are allowed to be kooky. James Grein is allowed to be kooky. His being kooky does not mean that he’s not telling the truth about Theodore McCarrick abusing him in a criminal manner.

Please, though: Can’t we stick to facts? At least for now?

Evil spirits may very well rule the Swiss canton of St. Gallen. If so, may God help those afflicted by it. But we cannot determine the truth of that claim based on the evidence before us. And it’s not the real question, anyway.

The real question is: Is Theodore McCarrick guilty of crimes? And which crimes, exactly? And what punishment should be meted out upon him, to restore justice?

Hans Hermann Card. Groer
Hans Hermann Card. Groër

Speaking of lovely European places:

In 1995, a sex-abuse victim denounced the sitting Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Austria.

A meltdown ensued. The Cardinal denied the charge. The Vatican would not intervene. Other victims came forward. The other Austrian bishops began to wonder. The Vatican then intervened in a backhanded manner, promoting one of the auxiliary Vienna bishops (Christoph Schonborn) to the status of co-adjutor.

(The Holy See even had an investigation done, eventually, but never released anything.)

The poor little, ancient church of Austria lurched through almost three years of not knowing what to believe. The pope even came to visit, and beatified three saints, and it seemed more painful than joyful.

”The Pope is visiting a burning house,” a victims’ advocate complained. ”But instead of speaking about the fire, he talks about the lovely flowers in front of it.”

At the beginning of 1998, a journalist published a book comprehensively documenting Cardinal Groër’s systematic sexual abuse of students and seminarians over the course of decades.

And then an amazing thing happened. It happened two years too late, and it apparently drew the Vatican’s ire. But it happened.

The bishops of Austria issued a statement. They publicly affirmed, in writing, that they had achieved moral certainty that Cardinal Groër was guilty.

Now: if we didn’t have mafiosi for bishops (and a pope), they would do that for us. A clear declaration. Guilty. Or, maybe, innocent. Whatever the evidence indicates. And it would not take three years.

Immaculate-Conception Day Homily

Remember that all able-bodied Catholics must attend Mass either this evening or tomorrow. Our cluster Masses here: 7pm this eve at St. Joseph; 10am tomorrow at St. Francis. The 4:30pm Mass at St. Francis also fulfills the holy day obligation.

PS. If we get a lot of snow during the night Saturday, remember also:

No one ever has an obligation to travel to Mass in unsafe conditions. Including me. I will drive to Martinsville after Rocky Mount Mass Sunday morning, provided it’s safe for me to do so.

I will keep you posted here.


They shall keep my name holy. They shall reverence the holy one of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel. (Isaiah 29:23)

Our religion. The faith of Abraham. In spite of all the estrangement from goodness which goes along with human life on earth; in spite of all the malice and confusion, God’s Israelites keep holy the name of the Creator. We stand in awe of Him—hopefully somewhat like how Adam and Eve themselves stood in awe of their heavenly Father, in the garden. Before the devil tempted them, and they fell.

Among those who have kept the name of God holy, one stands above all the rest. She had absolutely pure religion. She stood in awe before the great loving kindness of God, and submitted herself to that love, without holding back even the tiniest iota of herself.

missale-romanum-white-bgAfter Holy Communion at Mass honoring our Lady’s immaculate conception in St. Ann’s womb, we pray:

May the sacrament we have received heal in us the wounds of that fault, from which, in a singular way, you preserved Blessed Mary.

The wounds of that fault from which the Lord preserved His mother, so that she could show us what the Church of God truly is.

Mary had humble charity. She hastened to help Elizabeth, as soon as she learned about her older cousin’s unusual late-in-life pregnancy. And, of course, Mary showed her perfect compassion even more radiantly at the foot of the cross. No human being has ever loved as Mary loved her son, unto death.

We also know that: Mary’s love proceeded according to penetrating prudence. At the wedding of her kinspeople, she concerned herself with a practical problem. Let’s not run out of wine here, for God’s sake.

But, even more magnificently prudent. She asked the stunning archangel announcing God’s grand plan:

‘How do you figure that, o angel? I only know one way of getting pregnant.’

Faultlessly loving and prudent. But the entire edifice of the Blessed Mother’s purity rested on something else: Faith. Awe before the majesty of Israel’s God.

‘The Holy Spirit will give you a son!’ To which she replied, ‘Amen. I believe in God the Father Almighty, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’

The Holy Mass is our sacrament of faith in the triune God, Who made heaven and earth, and Who won our salvation on the cross. The Mass can and will heal our fault—the faultiness of our charity, of our prudence, of our faith.

The grace of the Holy Mass is the same grace that preserved the Blessed Mother from original sin. Gathered at the altar, we will overcome the estrangement of The Fall. We will keep the name of God holy.

Nicene Creed and North Pole

processione san nicola
Procession with St. Nicholas’ relics in Bari, Italy

One year ago today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave us a new bishop, Barry Knestout. May God be praised.

1,675 years ago today, another bishop died.

We know Old St. Nick as “Father Christmas.” But first he served as one of the fathers of the Council of Nicaea. He participated in the great work done there. Namely, the preservation of true doctrine regarding Jesus Christ, true God and true man, eternally begotten of the Father and born of the Virgin.

In today’s gospel reading at Holy Mass, we hear the Incarnate Word exhort us: Build your spiritual houses on solid rock. Our spiritual lives have one obvious foundation. Our baptismal promises.

Lost in the BarrensWe rejected Satan and all his works and all his empty show. We embraced the faith. God Almighty. His only-begotten Son, Jesus. His Holy Spirit. Our baptismal creed. St. Nicholas risked death to profess it.

They say that St. Nick still lives. Up at the North Pole.

You know that I have been on a kick of watching Alaska adventure movies lately. I watched one set not technically in Alaska, but in far-northern Canada, in what they call The Barrens, or the Barren Grounds. These days they actually call it the province of Nunavut.

Maybe St. Nick lives there? The average daily high temperature in the capital of the province of Nunavut:

In July, 43 degrees. This time of year? -29.

We know St. Nick is tough. But maybe “the North Pole” is actually a metaphor for where he lives? A metaphor for… heaven?

Whether or not St. Nick will bring us little gifts for Christmas—I leave that up to parents to determine.

But, for sure, St. Nick can pray for us. Dear St. Nicholas, up there in “the North Pole,” pray for us!

Scandal Compendium


If you find yourself at a loose end, dear reader:

Compendium of My Posts So Far on the McCarrick Case and the PA Grand-Jury Report, in reverse chronological order

The Vatican Spills the McCarrick Beans (Off the Record) December 4

More From James’ Amanuensis (with a could-have-been/was comparison) November 21

Guest Exhortation from Dr. Ann White November 17

Tornielli Giorno GiudizioThe Fantasy of the February Vatican Meeting November 15

Proposed USCCB Letter November 14

USCCB 2002: A McCarrick Memory November 13

Non-Persons to the Mafiosi November 10

Journalists and Bishops November 6

The Need a Miracle November 5

Rally in Baltimore; Buffalo Whistleblower; Sioux City and New York City November 2

Here come the Feds: Part I, Part II October 25

Priests’ Convocation: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

Pope a Gaslighter? Two Books

Commentary on Marc Card. Ouellet Open Letter to Viganò

Oct. 6 Vatican Communique on McCarrick: Commentary

Archbishop ViganoMafiosi Run Our Church: The Evidence

Holy Father on the Cardinal Wuerl Train

To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 20

When Will the Scandal End? (McCarrick Settlements Edition)

September 2018 Exchange between Bishop Knestout and Your Humble Servant

Being Catholic Now Q1 a2

Another Open Letter to His Holiness, about Severity

Increasing Sense of Helplessness

How to be Catholic Now, Q1 a1

In Love with a Tattered Scarlet Rag

Transparent and Unfathomable

The Corrupt Conspiracy September 7

Open Letter to the Holy Father September 1 [NB. I have removed this post from my weblog at the request of Bishop Knestout]

Caso Romanones August 31

Should the Pope Resign? August 29

Believing Viganò August 28

Pontifical Prevarication August 27

Late Night with Viganò August 26

The Church’s Center of Gravity August 24

Pope Francis mate.jpgWe Think You’re Incompetent August 22

More about the PA Report August 22

Me and Jake Tapper Hate the Bishops August 20

The Good PA Catholics August 19

Victims Crucifix + Wuerl Fail, Part II August 17

PA Grand Jury Report: Not Bad, But Good August 16

Wuerl Fail August 14

The Teaching that Convicts August 12

Checchio Fail August 10

Our Vichy Regime August 9

James w McCarrickTottering Church August 8

Priesthood Ex Opere Operato August 5

Burbidge Fail August 4

Open Letter to Theodore McCarrick August 1

St. Alphonsus, Pray for Newark and Washington August 1

Going Backwards July 31

James’ Amanuensis July 30

James the Man of the Hour July 30

No Longer His Eminence July 28

New Scandal, Worse than the First July 26

Scandal of 2002 Painfully Revisited June 29

The Spider Web June 20

Vatican Spills the McCarrick Beans, Part II

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Anyone watching the work of the American bishops meeting in Baltimore three weeks ago knows that they voted on this:

Be it resolved that the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops encourage the Holy See to release all the documentation that can be released consistent with the canon and civil law regarding the misconduct of Archbishop McCarrick.

The bishops voted that resolution down.

Meanwhile, laughter in Rome. Why? Because Rome had already released all the info. By talking secretly to two journalists. The book was published November 6.

“Don’t these silly Americans understand how we do things here?” the Roman cardinali thought to themselves. (Among the Roman cardinali, I include Donald Wuerl, certainly one of Tornielli & Valente’s anonymous sources.)

Meanwhile, we American men wonder: Really? Talking off the record to a sympathetic journalist counts as “accountability?”

Anyway, click Part One of my summary of the book, if you haven’t read it already. We continue now with:

Facts about Theodore McCarrick revealed by the unwitting accountability team of Vigano-Tornielli-Valente…

In December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians.

McCarrick turned 75 in July, 2005, still healthy and energetic. I remember it as if it were yesterday; all us Washington priests had to attend a 75th birthday party held in a fancy new dining hall at Georgetown University.

Even though canon law requires the resignation of all bishops at 75, sitting Cardinal Archbishops generally serve at least two extra years, if not four or five.

But McCarrick did not. Having concluded that McCarrick posed a grave danger to the good name of Holy Mother Church, Pope Benedict rushed the replacement process, hastily naming Donald Wuerl as McCarrick’s successor. Well before McCarrick turned 76.

crozier wuerl

Meanwhile: two things…

1. Everyone knew that Pope Benedict was embarrassing Theodore McCarrick. But we all thought it had to with a fast one that McCarrick had pulled on then-Card. Ratzinger in 2004. Ratzinger had explained that priests could and should withhold Holy Communion from politicians who voted in favor of abortion. McCarrick did not communicate that instruction to his brother American bishops.

We priests in the trenches thought McCarrick got relieved early because of that. Little did we know…

2. The second settlement of an abuse claim against McCarrick ran its course during 2006. Rome got the word.

Vigano wrote about “sanctions” against McCarrick. Vigano supposed that the sanctions began in 2009, after Dr. Richard Sipe published selections from the McCarrick abuse-claim settlement documents.

But the ‘sanctions’ actually began in December of 2006.

Vigano wrote that Pope Francis “lifted” them in 2013.

He did not. Because they had never been enforced at all.

The history recounted in this book–of nuncios and cardinals trying to enforce Pope Benedict XVI’s order that Theodore McCarrick live a retired life of prayer and penance–it reads like the slapstick farce that it was. McCarrick outmaneuvered them all.

Tornielli and Valente document it, in excruciating detail. They propose to contradict Vigano, insisting that Vigano painted an inaccurate picture of a McCarrick effectively punished by Benedict XVI, then liberated by Francis.

But: I don’t remember Vigano insisting that Benedict’s sanctions were effective. As Tornielli and Valente point out, Vigano himself proved utterly inadequate to the task of enforcing them.

Tornielli and Valente try to cast doubt on Vigano’s utterly crucial assertion that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s abuses in June of 2013. But Card. Ouellet, prefect of Bishops, has already acknowledged that Vigano probably did tell the pope about McCarrick. (Oullet preposterously claimed that we could hardly expect the pope to focus on such information).

And even if Vigano never told Pope Franis anything about McCarrick, Tornielli and Valente effectively inform us that they all knew anyway–all the Cardinals around the pope. Pope Francis didn’t need Vigano to tell him that McCarrick was a ticking time bomb of scandal that could explode and destroy them all. The pope already knew. He just did not appear to care.

McCarrick sofa

The picture from this hit-piece book against Vigano is manifestly not: Vigano wrong. The picture that emerges is: The people who run our church really, really do not know what they are doing.

I will likely have more to tell you about what I have read, dear reader, but let me close now with:

My Analysis

In 1994, Bishop Hughes of Metuchen, NJ, could have insisted on a church trial of his predecessor, even though that predecessor was his ecclesiastical superior. Trials are ugly, but they do attain the kind of certitude that we can have in this life, about an accused man’s guilt or innocence.

It would have taken a great deal of courage for Hughes to denounce the Archbishop of his province. But the alternative was: Slip into the shadow world of the mafiosi

In 1999, Cardinal O’Connor could have insisted on a trial of Theodore McCarrick, for violations of the Sixth Commandment with his own seminarians. But he did not. O’Connor wasn’t hung up about guilt or innocence, either; he only cared about whether or not McCarrick got promoted.

(Even the good guys among the mafiosi are still mafiosi, my friends. O’Connor was convinced that McCarrick had preyed on defenseless young men. But still O’Connor never suggested that McCarrick had no business remaining in the throne in Newark–and had no business saying Mass at all.)

John Paul II could have, and should have, conducted a trial. But he preferred to think the best about the charming snake-oil salesman.

Benedict XVI absolutely had to conduct a trial. But he did not do so. He assumed McCarrick was guilty. Meanwhile, McCarrick regarded Benedict’s attempts to closet him in a monastery as a “persecution.” Because McCarrick denies to this day that he did anything wrong.

There’s no getting around this: Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of covering up for Theodore McCarrick. The pope worried about scandal. He did not appear to understand that McCarrick’s victims needed justice. Nor did he understand that more victims would surely come forward.

But we can well imagine that Benedict is suffering his punishment right now. He himself made the choice that leaves him in the impossibly painful position that he now occupies. He knows everything about all this. He knows he made a terrible mistake, out of weakness of will.

And he can say nothing. He has information that could help resolve the problem–The Problem, that he knows has released termites into the very foundations of the Church. But he cannot say anything. Because of the choice that he himself made, to live as the “contemplative ex-pope.”

Pope Francis inherited a nightmare situation in which one of his Cardinals (an unusually prominent one) stood accused of grave abuses. But his guilt had never been proved; it had never even been put on trial, by anyone.

Pope Francis absolutely, positively had to conduct a trial, to establish McCarrick’s guilt definitively and remove him from the clerical state.

Instead, Pope Francis blew the whole thing off completely.

Until a man came forward accusing McCarrick of abusing him while he was still a minor. And this apocalypse we have lived through, and continue to live through, began.

The Chief Mafiosi Speak About McCarrick (Off the Record, of Course)–Part I

Il Giorno del Giudizio (The Day of Judgment) by Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente

Dear reader, your unworthy servant reads the Italian. So I can inform you of what this book says. They published it in Italy a month ago, and it says a lot:

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Two Vatican journalists, intent on making Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano look bad, obtained access to some very knowledgeable churchmen. The churchmen talked.

First: Thedore-McCarrick-related facts, heretofore unknown to the public, which we learn in the first four chapters of this book

1. The Vatican began to look for a replacement for James Card. Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, in early 1999.

John Card. O’Connor, then-Archbishop of New York, had heard about McCarrick abusing seminarians. He wrote to Rome, warning Pope John Paul II that choosing the incumbent of Newark for Washington would lead to a colossal scandal: “The American clergy will become divided, and the reputation of the hierarchy will suffer, with mud on the Church.”

(Yes: prophetic.)

Tornielli and Valente include the reason why O’Connor knew. The priest who eventually received a settlement payment in 2004 had complained to Bishop Edward Hughes, McCarrick’s successor in the diocese of Metuchen, NJ, about McCarrick’s abuse. He complained about it in 1994.

In his August testimony, Archbishop Vigano painted a picture of an enfeebled John Paul II who wasn’t really in the decision-making loop in AD 2000. Tornielli and Valente successfully undermine that picture. I myself had the privilege of meeting the pope in the year 2000; he was somewhat enfeebled. Out-of-it? No way.

Cardinal O’Connor’s letter led to a yearlong delay in choosing a successor for Washington. During that year, Cardinal O’Connor died. Meanwhile, McCarrick wrote Rome, denying the accusations against him.

John Paul II believed the man who had spoken Polish to him, and to Bill Clinton, in Newark in 1995.

john paul ii theodore mccarrick newark 1995
Pope St. John Paul II and Theodore McCarrick, Newark, 1995

[Would like to pause here for one moment, dear, attentive reader.

Discussion of McCarrick’s career tends to focus on his ‘promotion’ to Washington in 2000. But this obscures an important fact: sitting in the episcopal throne of the Archdiocese of Newark, while less prestigious, actually involves shepherding a lot more people. And Newark, unlike Washington, has multiple suffragan sees. Washington barely qualifies as an archdiocese; it has only one very-small suffragan see.

What if McCarrick had not become the Archbishop of Washington? He would not have ascended to the College of Cardinals. But his depredations would still have wounded the faith of thousands upon thousands of Catholics. And hundreds of priests.

Archbishop Vigano, and Tornielli and Valente, have given us a lot of information about events in Rome and Washington since 1999. But we can’t forget: the story of Theodore McCarrick is fundamentally the story of a New-York priest who became a bishop and archbishop in New Jersey. And apparently did quite a few terrible things. Which got covered-up, even before his name appeared on anyone’s list of candidates for Archbishop of Washington in 1999.

McCarrick’s abuses would demand a serious reckoning–of who knew what, and when–even if the ball had bounced a different way for Washington in the year 2000.

Anyway, back to the facts revealed in the book…]

2. In the process of trying to make Vigano look dishonest, Tornielli and Valente make him look fundamentally honest. Their sources corroborate all of these assertions:

On the day after the Vatican announced the pope’s choice for Washington, a former seminary professor in Newark wrote to the Holy See, at the insistence of the then-nuncio to the US, Gabriel Montalvo. The professor re-iterated O’Connor’s charges against McCarrick. (O’Connor’s prior letter explains why Montalvo already knew something about it.)

Tornielli and Valente have a lovely paragraph outlining their presumption (which I believe accurate) that McCarrick ceased his depredations upon arriving in Washington:

The diocese doesn’t have a beach house to which he could invite seminarians. And seeing how close he was to the marble halls of the federal institutions, to the Congress and the President of the USA, McCarrick knew that, with so many eyes focused on him, he had to be much more careful.

In December 2005, the sitting Bishop of Metuchen, NJ, Paul Bootkoski, reported to the Apostolic See this fact: his diocese had secretly settled claims of abuse against McCarrick made the previous year.

(In the meantime, McCarrick had participated in the Sistine-chapel conclave held after the death of JP II.)

At this point, the authors’ sources tell them: Bootkoski, Montalvo (the nuncio), and the officials of the Roman dicasteries all acknowledge the fundamental fact. This problem now sits squarely on the desk of the new pope, Benedict XVI. Only the Holy Father can judge and sentence a Cardinal of the Roman Church…

[Much more to come over the next few days, my dear ones. Click here for PART TWO.]

Advent Focus

Martyrdom of Pierre Dumoulin Borie
the martyrdom of St. Pierre Dumoulin-Borie

Last Saturday we marked the 180th anniversary of the martyrdom of Pierre Domoulin-Borie, one of the martyrs of Vietnam. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese Christians suffered torture and death for the faith. It was one of the most cruel persecutions the Church has ever seen. The authorities branded Christians on the face with the Chinese characters that mean “wrong religion.” [Spanish]

A week ago Friday, we marked the 91st anniversary of the martyrdom of Miguel Pro. They shot him to death in Mexico City for the crime of being a faithful Catholic priest. He died willingly, shouting… Viva Cristo Rey!

Remembering this kind of Christian heroism, it focuses us for Advent, the holy season before Christmas.

Advent does not mean maxing out the credit cards on American-Girl space suits or Aquaman merchandise. Keeping Advent means going back spiritually to the days before our Savior’s birth. It means sharing intimately in the thoughts, affections, hopes, and longings of a special group of people. The “heroes” of Advent, our brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham, who longed for the Messiah’s coming.

The prophet Isaiah. Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth. St. John the Baptist. The three Wise Men. St. Joseph. The Blessed Virgin Mary.

Instead of going shopping, they visited the Temple. Instead of watching tv, they memorized the Psalms. Instead of playing video games or fantasy football, they gazed at the stars in the night sky.

Events happen. Campaigns, elections, birthdays, sports seasons, Winter Sales Events, trials, tribulations, travels, transactions, treaties and treaty violations–they happen. Signs in the sun, moon, and stars. The anxieties of daily life. History constantly seethes with events.

Bl Miguel Pro
the martyrdom of Bl. Miguel Pro

But the heroes of Advent stayed vigilant while the world around them flimmed and flammed. It’s not as if the world just recently became crazy. The craziness of the world goes way back.

The prophet Isaiah witnessed events that would make our heads spin. Foreign armies conquering the Holy Land, the people dispersed in exile and degradation. St. John the Baptist saw the Romans take control, wrenching power from Herod the Great’s feckless progeny. Only the Lord knows all the things that the Wise Men saw, as they journeyed west across deserts and through huge ancient cities teeming with Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Greek-speaking self-help gurus.

But, through all this, one thing, and one thing only, touched the innermost hearts of the heroes of Advent. The world turned, unsteady and confused. But one single sentence made its way into the epicenter of the bosom of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Behold. You will bear a son who will sit on the throne of David.”

If we keep these four weeks of Advent holy, the liturgical season will train our hearts and our minds to remember that all of history has one decisive event. One. He has a name.

Stay awake, “lest that day catch you like a trap.” What could ‘that day’ mean, other than when earth and heaven meet? ‘That day,’ when God opens Himself up as a living temple for our souls, His light shining as a perpetual sun. ‘That day,’ when truth and justice kiss. ‘That day,’ when sick people heal, when blind people read the words of a book, when the human child and the bear cub frolic together. That day: when God and man are one.

The Incarnate Word of God was born in humble circumstances. He never wrote a book, got interviewed on “60 Minutes,” played professional football, or won a Nobel Prize. He never had a facebook or twitter, never ran for office, never made a lot of money. Never endorsed a product or conducted any kind of PR. We’re not even sure exactly what He looked like.

But: in the list of all the things that have ever happened or ever will happen, His coming to earth is The Big One.

They waited. The ancient prophets. The devout foreigners longing to know God. The aging carpenter, living in a chaste marriage and hoping for a future that only God could know. And his lovely young wife who had become pregnant through an act of faith. They kept quiet and waited patiently, calmly. Awaited the birth of the man, the child, the baby boy Who is God.

Final Jeopardy! and a New Beginning

A liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the Sunday closest to the feast of this ‘first apostle.’

Final Jeopardy question yesterday evening. In the category of “Catholicism.”

None of the contestants got the correct answer. It was a hard question. For two years I served as pastor of St. Andrew’s parish in Roanoke, and I can confidently say: only about 10% of the parishioners of St. Andrew’s would have known that the correct answer is St. Andrew.

We call Andrew the ‘first’ because he recruited his brother… Right: St. Peter. We call them all ‘apostles’ because: St. Andrew, along with everyone else in the upper room on Easter Sunday, saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead.

We could say a lot more. Each of us baptized Christians exercises the ‘apostolic ministry’ in some way. So there is certainly a great deal to say about it.

But let’s start here: The original Apostles saw Jesus. Risen from the dead. They saw Him multiple times, over the course of forty days. The “New Testament:” the original Apostles testimony that they saw Jesus of Nazareth, risen from the dead, with their own eyes. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church believes that testimony.

missale-romanum-white-bgNow, speaking of resurrection: Alex Trebek reminded me. St. Andrew Day means: it’s time to flip back to the beginning of the book. The Missal. The Lectionary. The Breviary.

We start again. We cannot overstate the spiritual significance of the liturgical year. It organizes the Sacred Scriptures for us. It unfolds the mysteries of the Savior’s life. It consecrates the months and seasons. It redeems time, draws daily earthly life up into eternal heavenly life.

It doesn’t get old, the business that begins anew every year on the First Sunday of Advent. We flip the ribbons back; we start fresh. The world outside gets older. But the Sacred Liturgy of the Church offers us, quite literally, a heavenly Fountain of Youth.

Was this past liturgical year the worst in the history of Jesus’ Church? From my limited vantage point on the unfolding of events, I would say: Absolutely.

Will the year to come actually bring even worse? No doubt. We’d be fools to imagine otherwise. Our ‘leaders’ have given us nothing upon which to base any optimism. To the contrary, their heartbreaking ineptitude has all but ground us down in to despair.

I still stand by the suggestion I floated in August. Namely, that the whole lot of them, from the pope on down, resign. And we fill their places in the hierarchy by a lottery that chooses parish priests from around the world at random. But, Father! That might result in an incompetent hierarchy! Well…

All that said: A new year of saving grace dawns for us Catholics anyway. The holy Church can still light the candles of Advent. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, still reigns in heaven. And He continues to sanctify His people through the annual celebration of the unfathomable mysteries of His pilgrim life.