In Christ you were chosen to exist for the praise of God’s glory…You have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation. (see Ephesians 1:11-14)
Missionaries evangelize. They proclaim the Gospel and initiate pagans into the life of Christ and His Church. Missionaries give up everything and risk everything. They make friends with people who speak another language, with unfamiliar customs. All in order to share the heavenly life of Jesus.
Missionaries often get themselves killed. In New York and Ontario, the French Jesuit martyrs we commemorate at Holy Mass today met death at the hands of Hurons and Iroquois.
In San Diego, California, the Kumeyaay killed a Franciscan named Luis Jayme during a night raid of the mission. In 1597 the Guale killed five Franciscans near Savannah, Georgia. Here in Virginia, eight Jesuits died as martyrs in 1571.
One thing many of these martyrs have in common is this: They loved the native Americans and learned their languages and customs, but they would not compromise with polygamy. As we know from reading the holy gospels, the Son of God preached a Gospel involving monogamous marriage for life. The early missionaries of these lands practiced ‘enculturation’ like nobody’s business. But the Gospel always requires some change in people’s lives. Like renouncing polygamy.
Anyway: While the martyrs of what is now the USA shed their blood here, the life of the Church had all kinds of issues in Europe. Don’t know if they had federal grand jury investigations in those days. But plenty of secular authorities clashed with corrupt bishops and priests.
Meanwhile, the missionaries here bore their pure and loving witness to the urgency of conversion to Christ. Mankind needs the Gospel, and Jesus, and His Church. Internal ecclesiastical problems don’t make that need less clear; they make it all the more clear.
We found ourselves together–the priests of the diocese. We get together for a couple days every October, for our annual Priests’ Convocation.
Every October we sing the same hymns at our prayers. Every October the bishop spends forty minutes talking to us about himself. Every October a professional traveling speaker bores us unto truancy.
Same this year. Everything proceeded exactly as it always does. The eerie air of normalcy has driven me insane.
In our parishes, no one trusts anyone in the hierarchy–other than the parish pastor. Our most-dedicated volunteers wonder: What kind of future does our Church have? Outside the Church, our institution has become a byword for hypocrisy and corruption. And the Catholic people continue to wonder: Do we know how to deal with sex abuse? Does anyone pay attention to the victims? Will anyone in authority ever answer our questions honestly? Or give an account for their own actions or omissions?
Our people have these questions. And we have land-mined our own mission field with suspicion and doubt. The Church with the duty to proclaim God’s truth to the world has entered into a period of moral receivership. State Attorneys General provide the kind of oversight that our own bishops have spent the past forty years failing to exercise. International pressure on the Vatican–to make its secrets known–mounts; a diplomatic crisis looms.
No one in the hierarchy offers any answers. We parish priests hang out there to dry, trying to do our thing, holding fast to the mysteries of the faith…
We had a chance to talk all this over. We didn’t. We could have heard our bishop’s plan for how to help us through this. He doesn’t have one.
What exactly is the crisis? Are schismatics trying to break down the communion of Christ’s Church? Will the pope have to resign because too many people lose confidence in his honesty? Is there a Gay Mafia operating at high levels? How can we get past this endless scandal?
We had a golden opportunity to talk these questions over, here at the Diocesan Priests’ Convocation. We did not take that opportunity.
What do we really stand for, at this point? Does a Catholic parish priest represent a worldwide institution that people can believe in? Do we ourselves, we priests, believe in this institution? Do we have any confidence that the pope and bishops will co-operate and solve the ‘problem?’ Do we think the pope and bishops understand what the problem is?
Talk it over together? Try to identify the problem? Not this October.
Theodore McCarrick’s “incoherence” as a priest and as a man (to use Card. Ouellet’s word)–McCarrick’s incoherence–it is in the process of corroding the mutual trust of dozens of bishops, hundreds of priests, and thousands of Catholics. Our institution operates on the currency of mutual trust. That mutual trust is corroding. This is in the process of happening.
We had a chance to talk it all over together. We didn’t. We carried on like a cancer patient who refuses to discuss the diagnosis.
Cancer rages in our organs. We carried on as if it were just another October.
Dear faithful people, please forgive us. You deserve braver priests than this.
Our traveling professional speaker referred at one point to Christ’s gaze. I feel His gaze. And I am ashamed. Of the blinkered, irrational institutional ‘normalcy’ of which I am a part.
We have to do our best to follow the Commandments. Love God and seek Him above all. Honor Him. Mass every Sunday. Respect for those who have the authority to guide us. Be kind, gentle, pure, and honest with others. A peaceful life with a clear conscience. [Spanish]
We can do it. We can live prayerful Christian lives. Because God loves us with tender mercy and showers us with grace through the sacraments.
No one follows God’s commandments without God’s help. Knowing that is where a real relationship with Christ begins.
Now, politics has become a kind of religion for a lot of Americans. With a big Us-vs.-Them aspect to it. In the Us.-vs.-Them scheme, We are righteous. And They are not.
I don’t want to get bogged down in a whole lot of political details here. But here in the USA these days, the Us.-vs.-Them political scheme tends to revolve around one person. He’s either The Devil or The Savior, depending on which Us you fall into. Talking about a certain orange-haired gentleman.
The thinking goes like this: We’re right, because They cling to the orange-haired Devil. Or it goes like this: We’re right, because They hate and want to destroy the orange-haired Savior.
No. Christians brothers and sisters. No. There’s only one real We. Only one real Us. Us sinners. We sinners who have no hope, but Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ looked at us with love. He saw that we had misunderstandings among ourselves, petty resentments, and self-righteous blind spots the size of Texas. He saw that we desperately wanted to attain righteousness, and truth, and inner peace. But we actually have no earthly idea how to do that. He saw us constantly shooting ourselves in the foot in our very efforts to attain godliness. He saw that we have emotions that run away with us to places like Las Vegas. Where we tend to make a colossal mess of even our best intentions. He saw that we human beings have a habit of hurting the people we claim to love the most.
He saw this one, united screwed-up human race. Perfectly united in this one thing—being sinners. Perfectly united in having wrecked our friendship with the one, true God Who made us. He saw us here on earth, perfectly united in making one pilgrimage together. A pilgrimage straight to the grave.
He saw all this—saw it all with perfect clarity. And He loved us. We were in the middle of taking His precious gifts for granted and squandering them. He loved us while we were in the middle of lying about each other and stabbing each other in the back. He loved us while we were in the process of making a mockery out of the very idea of justice. He loved us as we nailed Him to the cross.
Then: everything changed. Because He, Jesus Christ, the one and only Messiah and Savior—He brought righteousness to the human race. He brought the heavenly gift: Now we can live better. Now we can have a clear conscience. Now we can quietly aim for heaven. And make our way there, one step at a time.
We can keep God’s Commandments because God has given us the gift of faith and the sacraments. Because we believe in Jesus, we know God loves us with a merciful fatherly love, patient and ready to forgive everything.
Because we have the sacraments, we receive supernatural wisdom from heaven. We receive superhuman strength to do good. The Heart of Christ beats in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. By the power of His Heart, we can love.
We can love our neighbors. We can love our enemies. We can love our persecutors. We can forget everything that isn’t God, and let it go, and live like St. Francis of Assisi—totally free, because we have nothing and want nothing except God Himself.
Now, I’m not trying to be Pollyannish here. We are living through extremely uncertain, fearful times. The institutions that should preserve peace and decorum among men—those institutions are visibly failing.
Again, I don’t want to get bogged down in details. But it seems to me that both the orange-haired gentleman, and the man in the white robe–even though they are sworn enemies of each other—seems to me like they will both go down in history with the same distinction: Being a householder who spent long days talking to himself in the mirror, while the termites ate the main support beams of the house.
So we face tough times. The younger we are, the more rough time we have ahead of us. But Christ came, and He did His work, and He gave us His Gospel—precisely for times such as these. The grace of Christ shows forth its sublime beauty most intensely in uncertain, dangerous times. Jesus Christ can make people righteous. Jesus Christ can unite the human race. Jesus gives hope. And He gives the gift of a quiet, godly life.
The Christian mystery must be taken literally, with the greatest possible realism, because it has a value for every time and place. –Pope St. John Paul II, Divini Amoris Scientia
Your humble servant had the privilege of attending the Roman Consistory of February 21, 2001. Pope John Paul II created Jorge Bergoglio, Theodore McCarrick, and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor Cardinals, along with 43 other prelates and theologians, including the well-known Walter Kasper.
During the ceremony, candidates for Cardinal solemnly profess their faith before the pope. They use the same formula that I had just used myself a few weeks before, in the seminary rector’s office, since I was to be ordained in a matter of months.
The solemn Profession of Faith taken by Cardinals (and potential deacons and priests) goes like this:
“I, [name], firmly believe… 1. The Nicene Creed 2. “Everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in tradition, which the Church sets forth for belief.”
So, we in the Square heard, on February 21, 2001:
I, Theodore, firmly believe…everything contained in the Word of God.
Also: I, Jorge… I, Cormac… I, Walter…
I did not, on that day, credit the rumors then circulating that McCarrick had a past as a homosexual predator of seminarians. I thought his conservative enemies spread those rumors. That’s the explanation for the rumors that McCarrick himself gave us.
But: I did doubt the man’s full sincerity in saying that he firmly believed everything contained in the Word of God. I doubted Walter Kasper’s sincerity there, too.
I doubted Kasper based on the evidence of his own theological opinions. I had read his book Jesus the Christ. He there suggests that the Lord Jesus did not know everything.
An intricate theological dispute could emerge here, but I will save that for another day. Suffice it to say I had some reason in doubting Kasper’s complete honesty in his Solemn Profession of Faith on February 21, 2001.
In those days, I don’t think any reasonable observer of the situation at the Catholic University of America could have failed to recognize:
On the one hand, The Catechism of the Catholic Church invokes the historical authority of Sacred Scripture in one way. For instance: The Catechism assumes the accuracy of the four gospels regarding historical details. And assumes that an ancient flood did, in fact, occur. And that Abraham was a real person. Etc.
On the other hand, the professors at CUA taught something else. Like: we need exegetical theories about the underlying sources of the books of the Bible–in order to separate fact from myth.
This unacknowledged discrepancy caught us seminarians in a vise. And it seemed to me that our entire future as preachers hung in the balance. If we could not assume that everything we read out loud at Mass from the Word of God is simply true, then what kind of homilies could we give?
Of course this doesn’t mean that historical study isn’t necessary. Human beings did, in fact, write the Bible. God intends to convey the meaning that the human authors intended to convey. But no one comes to church to listen to the priest explain to them the ways in which the Bible isn’t true.
I don’t mean to make myself a martyr, dear reader. But the fact is: ten months after JP II created McCarrick a Cardinal, I got kicked out of the seminary. For refusing to say that the Flood didn’t happen.
For the next eighteen months, the Archbishop was happy to let me dangle, living in rectory attics, hoping I would walk away. Even though I had already promised God I would serve Him for life as a deacon, and then a priest.
Eventually, McCarrick ordained me. For that I am grateful. But the truth is he had no choice–since he had already ordained me a deacon, and I had committed no crime. And the pastors I lived and worked with begged him to ordain me.
The fact is, as far as I could tell, McCarrick did not care at all about the facts surrounding my expulsion from the seminary. He never ‘spoke one word’ to me about it. As far as I know, he never asked the seminary rector, “Did Mark break one or more of your rules?” The Archbishop knew perfectly well that I had not broken any rules. I just refused to accept the idea that preaching could find a foundation in the historical-critical method.
It began to dawn on me, even then, dear reader: These mafiosi who run this institution do not care about facts. They operate only on the level of slogans. They please ‘the masses’ with saccharine abstractions, calculated to avoid all controversy. Since we sheep have a religious obligation to give these men the benefit of the doubt, we accept their empty sloganeering; we even give it a charitable interpretation. The damage that such empty sloganeering does to the integrity of people’s faith–well, we ignore it. That is: Until the summer of 2018.
McCarrick had a favorite slogan for us seminarians and young priests. He would conjure the image of JP II visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. “He walked right down the middle of the aisle, so he could reach out and touch the people on both sides,” McCarrick said over and over. “We have to be like that. Down the middle.”
I would think to myself: What does he mean? Down the middle of what? Both sides of what?
So: My doubts about McCarrick’s sincerity in the Profession of Faith in St. Peter’s Square in February 2001–they had some foundation. Little did I know then how much foundation they in fact had.
…What about the two other Cardinals I mentioned when I began? One of them went on to become pope. Jorge Bergoglio. Pope Francis.
Recently Mr. Steve Skojec of onepeterfive.com wrote the essay that I was on the verge of writing. Skojec accuses Pope Francis of “gaslighting.”
Now, this psychological term enjoys a certain vogue right now. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t real. The best definition I have come across for “gaslighting” is the movie, The Girl on the Train. (Watch at your own risk; it’s rough.)
Anyway: Is it true? Is Pope Francis gaslighting the Catholic people? Trying to trick us into thinking of him as an honest and loving spiritual father–when in fact he is altogether otherwise?
To try and answer this question as impartially as possible, I plowed through two books simultaneously. The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire, under the pen-name Marcantonio Colonna. And The Great Reformer by Austin Ivereigh.
The Dictator Pope is basically this: An illuminating arrangement of facts gleaned from the conservative Catholic press these last five years, supplemented with some additional anonymous-source information. Sire organizes the facts masterfully, to paint a convincing picture of the man.
The man who rose to the Chair of Peter through the avowed machinations of what is widely known as the “St. Gallen Mafia”–a caucus of liberal western-European prelates who spent their careers waiting for John Paul II to die. (Walter Kasper among them.)
The Dictator Pope reviews the entire controversy of the Family Synods and Amoris Laetitia, which we have covered in detail here on this little weblog. Sire tells the heartbreaking story of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Italy, an order of primitive Franciscan observance and pure faith–which Pope Francis apparently destroyed. Sire even brings Archbishop Carlo Viganò into the story–way before Viganò issued his McCarrick testimony–by recounting the failed reform of the finances of the Holy See.
Judge Burke, who tirelessly served the U.S. Bishops during the last sex-abuse scandal in 2002, objected to a directive from the American superior of the Knights and Ladies of Malta. To this effect: Stay out of the current controversy.
Judge Burke resigned over this. She intends to “continue to speak out about the need to investigate the underlying causes and conduct by the hierarchy in our church that permitted these crimes to continue.”
Back to the The Dictator Pope. Sire explains Pope Francis like this: You will never understand him if you think of him as a priest. He cannot be understood as someone who fundamentally sees himself as a humble steward of divine mysteries. Rather, Sire contends, the pope is a “Peronist”–an opportunistic politician, intent on pleasing the audience in front of him at the moment. In other words, a professional sloganeer.
Which brings us to the other book.
Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer, served briefly as Cormac Card. Muphy-O’Connor’s public-relations assistant. (As I mentioned earlier, St. JP II created Murphy-O’Connor a Cardinal alongside Bergoglio and McCarrick, in February 2001.)
Anyway, Ivereigh has written a more substantial book than Sire. Ivereigh recounts fascinating facts of Argentine history. I loved reading this biography, which includes a full history of the Jesuit Reductions (immortalized in the movie The Mission). I loved reading it–until I got bored with the subject. Namely, Jorge Bergoglio.
Don’t think of him as a priest. So insists Henry Sire.
Ivereigh’s book brough back a flood of memories. From my Jesuit days.
I fell in love with the Society of Jesus in 1992, served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, teaching at a Jesuit school for inner-city boys, then entered the novitiate, did the thirty-day silent retreat, lived with Jesuits in Mexico for two months, spent the summer at Forham in the Bronx…
Then, in 1996, I left. Because I wanted to be a priest.
Sounds strange, because Jesuits are priests. But, for those of Bergoglio’s generation, the priesthood only got in the way. The priesthood, as someone put it so well, involves serving primarily as a kind of beast of burden. Say your Mass. Hear confessions. Baptize the babies. Bury the dead. Try to give a good homily–but, above all, keep it short.
There’s nothing theoretical about any of these priestly duties. Forgive me for putting it this way, but it serves the purpose: There’s nothing theoretical about conjugal relations between husband and wife. Such things occur in a given place, at a given time. Same thing for the Catholic priesthood. Show up and do your duty. This aspect of priestly life Jesuits find altogether inconvenient. It gets in the way of the realization of their grand theories of things.
Back to Ivereigh’s hagiography–er, biography. Eventually it becomes impossible to take Ivereigh seriously. He lauds Jorge Bergoglio as the spiritual equal of St. Ignatius Loyola and the oratorical equal of Abraham Lincoln. Ivereigh calls Bergoglio’s speech during the General Congregation of Cardinals prior to the Conclave of 2013 “a second Gettysburg address.” Please.
What made the book grow so boring I had to give up on it? The Argentinian politics which Ivereigh narrates so meticulously ultimately became a battle of sloganeers. On the one side: President Nestor Kirchner. On the other side: the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio.
Ivereigh knows a lot of Argentine history. He does not appear to know a lot of theology. But one theological slogan interests him. Namely, “episcopal collegiality.”
Ivereigh convicts John Paul II of grave sins against episcopal collegiality. According to Ivereigh (and the members of the St. Gallen Mafia), the late sainted pope “centralized” the government of the Church, to a fault. Vatican II had intended to restore authority to the local church. But JP II stood in the way.
Perhaps there’s actually something to this, in areas other than sexual morality. And the Sacred Liturgy.
But “episcopal ollegiality” serves as the “states’ rights” slogan for the pro-gay, pro-divorce Church crowd. In this way:
Dr. Martin Luther King enlightened America about the fallacy of the ‘states rights’ argument (which by then was 140 years old). Dr. King taught America: We will never have quiet consciences as long as racism prevails. Instead, we will try to cover over our consciences with dishonest slogans. The dishonest slogan of Southern American racism is: States’ Rights! But the fact is that no state has a right to make racism legal; it can’t be made legal. Not really, anyway. Because institutionalized racism (not to mention chattel slavery) will always disturb people of conscience.
Same thing goes for homosexuality, divorce, fornication, artificial contraception, etc. Ecclesiastical liberals cry: Collegiality! Authority belongs the local church! Rome needs to loosen the grip of her heavy hand! (So insisted the St. Gallen Mafia. And so insists Pope Francis.)
But these cries against “Roman centralization” ascend to heaven in vain. John Paul II didn’t make artificial contraception and homosexuality immoral. God made it immoral. Local authority cannot contravene laws that bind every human conscience.
Even our current sloganizing, gaslighting pope can’t silence the inner voice of truth that troubles people’s consciences. And Pope Francis’ attempts to do so–especially his false mercy to Theodore Edgar McCarrick–have disturbed my conscience. Mightily.
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
Who wrote this? St. Paul. The first pope had erred how?
By acting in a hypocritical manner. Apparently because he feared conflict—over a matter in which conflict could not be avoided.
St. Peter knew by divine revelation that under the New Covenant all foods were “clean.” The Lord had given St. Peter a vision, while the Apostle made his way to the pagan home of…? The centurion Cornelius.
But that doesn’t mean that the problem was simple. God had given the Law of Moses to His Chosen People. Not all of that Law admitted of revision. The Ten Commandments still remained in effect, of course. And circumcision had distinguished God’s people for almost two millennia. Also, in pagan homes, worshiping false gods usually involved eating foods offered to them. Christians had to take care to avoid even the appearance of co-operating with pagan worship.
To try to deal with these difficult matters, they convened the Council of…? Jerusalem.
Much to the relief of the adult pagan men who wanted to enter Christ’s Church, the Council decided that they could retain their foreskins.
That said, the Apostles decided that the prohibitions in Leviticus 18 remained in effect. No homosexuality, and no marriage within the family (including in-laws).
Moral: Sometimes finding our way together as God’s People gets difficult. But the Lord does help us.
As you may know, dear reader, our Holy Father meets in Synod this month with representative bishops from around the world.
The meeting occurs behind closed doors. As the “Information Secretary” Father Antonio Spadaro put it: “The fathers must know that what they say will remain in the hall.”
But here at Achilles and His Gold, we want to know more. So we trained an intrepid mouse named Xavier Rynne to carry a portable recording device under the Synod dais.
We reviewed the recordings so far, and we found that most of the speeches involved petty infighting, meaningless apologies, lame abstractions, and indecipherable nonsense.
But we have faithfully transcribed the intervention of Stephen Card. Fermoyle, from the diocese of Columbia Pictures…
Your Holiness, Eminences, brother bishops: The Catholic people of the world have a religious duty to give us the benefit of the doubt. Yet we have still managed to make it impossible for them to do so.
They prefer to think about us prelates as little as possible. Who can blame them?
Our people would love us if we simply did one thing. Send them trustworthy priests. No sexual predators.
A simple enough task for us to manage. Yet we have screwed it up royally.
Here we find ourselves, in this magnificent echo chamber, giving four-minute speeches to each other. Meanwhile, civil authorities execute raids on many of our offices. The Church universal careens toward an international legal and diplomatic crisis. The Holy See faces the all-but-inevitable prospect of a confrontation with other sovereign states regarding the secrecy of our clergy records.
What are we doing here? Don’t we all have an obvious duty to resign?
Pope St. John Paul II taught: It is a doctrine of faith that the authority of the Supreme Pontiff derives directly from Christ, of whom he is Vicar on earth. No Catholic can doubt this. The pope serves at the pleasure of… God.
Every 20th-century pope, starting with Pius XI, considered resigning in their waning years. None did.
Pope John Paul II decided not to resign because:
He feared creating a dangerous precedent for his successors, as one of them might be exposed to subtle maneuvers and pressures by those who wish to depose him.
[the quote comes from Julian Card. Herranz’s account of a conversation with JP II’s confidante Stanislaw Dziwisz]
…Then the first 21st-century pope, Pope Benedict XVI, taught us to think differently.
Many of us felt deeply betrayed by Benedict’s abdication in 2013. He had concluded that he no longer had the competence to fulfill the office. I disagreed with him on that. I thought: You’re competent to occupy St. Peter’s chair as the prayerful old man that you are. You don’t need to fly on airplanes. You don’t need to celebrate Holy Mass in huge stadiums. Just stay home, keep the faith, and pray.
But Benedict thought differently. He put a new concept on the table: A pope should assess his competence to hold the office.
Is it wrong to suggest to the Holy Father a good criterion of self-assessment? Namely:
Can my people trust me to ensure that the victims of sexual abuse get a hearing? And receive justice as promptly as possible?
From the More-Evidence-that-the-Answer-to-this-Question-is-No file…
Archbishop Carlo Viganò and I now have something in common (other than being white Catholic priests with glasses). Both of us now have received letters from our ecclesiastical superiors, trying to make us feel guilty for proposing that Pope Francis should resign (because of his evident hypocrisy and incompetence in handling cases of sexual abuse.)
[Click HERE to read the letter I received. Click HERE to read the letter Archbishop Viganò received yesterday.]
Three points about Marc Card. Ouellet’s open letter to Archbishop Viganò…
I. The Cardinal’s letter includes a significant error regarding recent facts.
Ouellet writes that Pope Francis “divested [McCarrick] from the dignity of a Cardinal when a credible accusation of the abuse of a minor became evident.”
In fact: On June 20, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington announced that a credible allegation had been made, at some point prior to that date.
Then, on July 19 another allegation appeared in the New York Times.
Then McCarrick apparently resigned from the College of Cardinals. On July 28, the Vatican announced that the pope had “accepted McCarrick resignation from Cardinal.”
An honest lapse of memory on Ouellet’s part? Changing an acceptance of a resignation after a second shoe dropped a month later into: An immediate divesting of the dignity of Cardinal.
An honest lapse? No. Looks much more like a self-serving, convenient lie.
II. Card. Ouellet confirms Viganò’s earlier assertion that McCarrick had been disciplined long before this past summer. Ouellet writes: “The former Cardinal, who had retired in May 2006, had been strongly advised not to travel and not to appear in public.”
Ouellet also confirms that he informed Viganò about this, when Viganò began his tenure in Washington in 2011.
Ouellet then engages in a magnificent subterfuge, a subtle prevarication worthy of the Church-mafia.
On the one hand, Ouellet confirms what Viganò courageously made known to the world. Namely that the Holy See knew. Seminarians had accused McCarrick of sexually abusing them. Because of this, someone in the Vatican ordered McCarrick not to appear in public or travel.
Then Ouellet turns around and asserts: “At that time, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of [McCarrick’s] guilt.”
i. If there was not sufficient proof of his guilt at the time, then how could anyone justify ordering him not to appear in public or travel? We’re not talking about a period of weeks, or even months. Seven years.
For seven years, a Cardinal of the Roman Church was under orders not to appear in public or travel. But his guilt was in question? He might have been innocent of abusing seminarians?
No. Either the Holy See did McCarrick a grave injustice. Or there really was no honest doubt about his guilt. Which brings us to…
ii. If there really were genuine doubts about McCarrick’s having abused the authority of his office to satisfy his sexual perversity, then why did the dioceses in New Jersey pay out cash settlements to his victims?
Thanks to Archbishop Viganò (and Richard Sipe before him) the world knows something about these settlements. We know some of the facts about what McCarrick did. Strange, manipulative, craven sexual abuse of subordinates who would have risked their futures saying No.
If he had not done these things, then McCarrick, and the dioceses involved, could have fought the allegations openly. Indeed, if he did not do these things, then he–and the Holy See, and the dioceses involved–owe us all a vigorous, public defense of McCarrick’s innocence right now.
But, in fact, among those who knew the details, there has been no real doubt that McCarrick preyed on subordinates. There has been no genuine doubt about it for well over ten years now.
So: Cardinal Ouellet actually writes the script of The Scandal without even realizing it.
The Scandal is: The authorities who govern the Church cannot be bothered to adjudicate cases of sexual abuse. They have no interest in the truth. They only care about covering things up. So as to perpetuate the myth that they know what they’re doing.
Ouellet tells the tale of exactly how this cover-up by half-measures happened in McCarrick’s case. Over the course of the past fourteen years. In the Holy and Apostolic See of Rome.
…But we still haven’t gotten to the most genuinely jaw-dropping thing that Ouellet writes.
III. Ouellet acknowledges the perfect plausibility of Viganò’s insistence that he informed Pope Francis about McCarrick on June 23, 2013.
This was the essential point of Viganò’s testimony; it was the crucial fact. As of June 23, 2013, Pope Francis knew that Theodore McCarrick had preyed sexually on subordinates. And yet McCarrick continued to minister publicly and travel extensively, representing holy Mother Church as a Cardinal. All in flagrant violation of any meaningful kind of zero-tolerance policy.
The only person who could have disciplined McCarrick for his crimes: Pope Francis. For five years, the pope did nothing.
Ouellet denies none of these facts. Rather, Ouellet writes to Viganò about that day–June 23, 2013:
I imagine the enormous quantity of verbal and written information that [Pope Francis] would have gathered on that occasion about many persons and situations. I strongly doubt that McCarrick was of interest to him to the point that you believed him to be, since at the moment [McCarrick] was an 82-year-old Archbishop Emeritus who had been without an appointment for seven years.
Please, Nellie. Whoa. Stop, horses.
Your Eminence, can you really be saying this? A sitting pope, hearing from a sitting Apostolic Nuncio to the US that an American Cardinal is a known sexual predator who has ruined multiple lives–
You, Eminence, are saying to us, your people, that we cannot possibly expect the pope to focus on that disclosure? To focus on it enough to do anything about it sometime within the ensuing five years?
What kind of sick joke are you mafiosi trying to pull over on us Christians? Your Eminence, you have condemned yourself out of your own mouth. Twice.
Your Holiness, your Eminences of Rome: You are steering our ship, the Barque of Peter, into an iceberg.
Let’s try to think of that victim with compassion, too. Don’t we have to imagine that, at some point, the poor, wounded man asked, “Did they catch the thieves who did this to me?”
He might add: “If only they had asked me peacefully, I would gladly have helped them with some money. But to beat me and leave me half-dead? For this, they should do time in prison. And restore to me my money. Justice demands it.”
To which we can only imagine the Samaritan—who represents Christ—saying: “Amen, brother.
“I spoke to the centurion in Jericho. I gave him a full account of what I know. He has investigated the case, and his soldiers arrested a group of thieves. When you’re well enough, we’ll take you to see if you can identify them as the group that robbed and beat you.”
In other words: If we claim to have Christian compassion for victims of violence, that means: Doing the painstaking work required to see justice done.
Of course we know that no human effort can attain perfect justice. And we trust that God will make everything right in the end.
But when God helps someone who has been victimized see the wrongness of what has happened; when a victim of violence attains the clarity of mind necessary to describe the crime carefully and thoroughly, and then demand justice—that is a miracle of grace.
If we do not accompany that victim in the quest for justice, then any claims we make to Christian compassion are nothing but empty hypocrisy. A Good Samaritan who loves the suffering neighbor will fight for justice, and will not rest until something gets done. We won’t live in a world in which people can rob and beat innocent travelers and get away with it scot-free.
Today the Holy See issued a long-awaited statement regarding Theodore McCarrick. If you don’t mind it when fork-tongued liars patronize you with obfuscations couched in pop-morality, click the link and read it.
In the statement, we learn…
In September 2017, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Holy See that a man had accused former Cardinal McCarrick of having abused him in the 1970s. The Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation into this, which was carried out by the Archdiocese of New York, at the conclusion of which the relative documentation was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
If the Vatican had given us all this information back in June, it would have inspired a great deal more confidence than it does now.
We can only laugh at the communique’s insistence that “the Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation,” since this particular instance of abuse came to light under the auspices of an on-going program in New York. The accuser had a forum in which to speak because McCarrick was, at the time of the abuse, a New York diocesan priest. Not because of any action on the part of McCarrick’s current ecclesiastical superior, Pope Francis.
The statement then goes on to say:
In the meantime, because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, prohibiting him by order from exercising public ministry, and obliging him to lead a life of prayer and penance.
This sentence misrepresents the course of events. The most charitable way to put it: It elides the facts in a self-serving manner. Another way to put it: They lie.
The actual chronology:
On June 20, Pope Francis suspended McCarrick from ministry, owing to the accusation lodged in New York. At that time, the Holy See made no public comment.
On July 19, the New York Times published the allegations of a man named James. He accused McCarrick of long-term abuse, beginning at age 11. This allegation came to light because of the work of journalists, not because of any church-initiated investigation.
On July 27, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals. The Vatican issued a statement the following day, indicating that the Holy Father had sentenced McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance. Without bothering to conduct a trial.
So today’s communique conflates a sequence of events, gilding the lily at every turn, so as to make the Holy Father look decisive.
But, in fact, if James had never come forward, and if journalists had not publicized his story, McCarrick would likely still be a Cardinal, and we would never have received today’s communique from the Vatican.
Without crusading journalists and whistle-blowers forcing their hands, the mafiosi prefer to leave us in uninformed darkness. Since they consider us to have the intelligence of dogs.
Today’s Vatican statement then goes on to say that the Holy Father has ordered a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”
They could have completed such a study long ago. You could read all the pertinent documents in one afternoon. By the Vatican’s own admission today, the Archdiocese of New York informed the pope thirteen months ago of the accusation for which McCarrick was removed from ministry in June. If the Vatican had any real intention of coming clean re: Theodore McCarrick, they could have come clean a year ago. They have no such intention; they only want to dance around the truth until this problem goes away. But it won’t go away.
The most damning part of today’s communique–the part that spells certain doom–is this sentence:
The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues.
The PA Grand-Jury Report contains the story of a father who threatened to beat up a priest who had molested his child. The police had to restrain the father. This happened in the 1950’s.
Reasonable, decent people have never had any doubt: Child sexual abuse demands swift and decisive punishment.
In August, Donald Card. Wuerl attempted to use the that-was-then, this-is-now line of reasoning. In the course of that interview, he lost whatever shred of credibility he had.
A marriage is a marriage because a man and a woman make vows to God. Getting married is, fundamentally, an act of faith in God. And getting married always involves not just the two individuals, but also their families, the children the Lord pleases to give them, and all the people who will relate to them thenceforward as a married couple. [SPANISH]
The idea that the laws of marriage could ever be the subject of political dispute? Marriage as a political hot potato? That strikes us Catholics as strange and shallow. Marriage is not a “political issue.” Marriage is what Jesus Christ said it is: 1. God made us male and female. 2. A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh. 3. What God has joined together, let no man separate.
Marriage is not “political.” It is beautiful. Man and wife, united in an unbreakable bond, reflect the love between Christ and His holy People. Husband and wife, faithful through all trials, persevering through setbacks and defeats they never could have anticipated, but never giving up—that offers hope. That offers convincing testimony to the truth of the Catholic faith.
I don’t think I go too far when I say: The faithfulness of husbands and wives makes the world beautiful and trustworthy. Faithfulness made possible by the grace of God, delivered through the sacrament.
Marriage is not “political.” Marriage is spiritual. Discerning the will of God about marriage requires prayer and the regular, sustained practice of our religion. Remaining faithful in marriage requires prayer and the sustained practice of our religion.
And remaining faithful requires embracing the Cross. The world has never seen a marriage that didn’t involve a Via Crucis. If you won’t walk with Christ the Way of the Cross, don’t get married. That said, no one can get to heaven without walking the Via Crucis with Christ. So we all might as well prepare ourselves to follow the Way of the Cross, whether or not we have any thought of getting married.
Marriage is not “political.” But it is legal. Laws can cut like razors, both for good or ill, depending on your point of view. Without following the laws of marriage, you can’t obtain the sacramental grace of marriage. And no one loses the freedom to marry in a scenario in which the laws of marriage didn’t get followed.
Some people think the Church’s marriage laws are too strict, making it difficult to get married in church. Some people think they’re too lax, allowing for too many annulments. No one says that the laws are perfect. But they are fundamentally reasonable.
You have to be mature and clear-minded in order to bring about the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Once that happens, it lasts until death. But sometimes it doesn’t happen, even when a couple tries to make it happen. Because they didn’t meet the legal criteria.
Which means that there is nothing faithless or unspiritual about petitioning for an annulment when you have a solid case for obtaining one. And there’s nothing faithless or unspiritual about Church tribunals granting decrees of nullity in accord with the law.
That said, there certainly is nothing faithful or spiritual about the kind of pride that would lead someone to try to grant him- or herself an annulment. Or the kind of pride that would refuse to seek an annulment when the law would provide for one.
Marriage is not “political.” But, by the same token, it is also not eternal. Christ was made lower than the angels “for a little while.” A man and a woman get married, and live the Christian married life, until death do them part, beautifying the world at every step… But it all lasts only a little while. In the grand scheme of things.
Some choose not to marry because they have no faith and would rather just skate along. Some don’t marry because they won’t make a commitment to love like Christ. Or they don’t know how. These aren’t worthy reasons.
But some choose not to marry because eternal life beckons. Even now, the Kingdom of Christ the God-man beckons. Not marrying because of that doesn’t mean rejecting love. It means embracing the Love that made them male and female in the first place.
Earlier this week, we kept the anniversary of St. Therese of Lisieux’s death. On the 100th anniversary of her death, twenty-one years ago, Pope St. John Paul II wrote a letter about her. He quoted the opening prayer for today’s Holy Mass, where we acknowledge that God demonstrates His almighty power most clearly by pardoning and showing mercy.
In the gospel passage today, we hear the Lord Jesus warn His countrymen about missing the big news. The Big News. That God became man in order to make mankind children of God. God came to reconcile us sinners to His perfect self.
Infinite, perfect justice and truth, acting with unfathomable love. God doing as a man what we men, left to ourselves, could never do: Make things right. Settle all our debts with our Creator. God, as a man, freed us from the burden of our ungodliness.
The Christ paid our bill in full. He did not turn away from the full extent of human sin. When we look at a crucifix, all prudishness and all saccharine-sweetness melt away. This is what He did, because He had to do it, to save us.
His act of mercy allows us to stare our sins square in the face. We can reckon them fearlessly. Because we know that He has redeemed us from them; all we have to do is admit them.
Twenty-first century man risks missing this news. Like the townspeople of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, who never recognized the Christ. Twenty-first century man risks having to live in his sins, paralyzed by self-righteous rigidity and hopeless desperation. There’s no one to tell him about Christ. Except us.