More Re: VA Attorney General

To Kill a Mockingbird Jem Scout Dill

In my previous post I published an e-mail I wrote to our Bishop’s Office, asking about a directive we priests had received.

The dear Special Assistant and Advisor to the Bishop wrote me back. She noted that the directives in the original e-mail had come from “our attorneys, who are working closely with the [Virginia] Attorney General’s office and potentially the U.S. Department of Justice, to highlight this developing investigation process. They wanted to highlight the focus on our diocese’s cooperation with civil authorities.”

You, dear reader, may find it odd that our Bishop gives unsigned directives to his priests that come from him–no, not actually from him; actually from “our attorneys.”

Ms. Anne Edwards went on to tell me “there’s no reason why [you] could not can add that number in your bulletin.” That is, the actual phone number for sex-abuse victims to call the diocese–an important piece of information which was not included in the announcement the diocese ordered us to publish.

We also received an attachment explaining many legal terms and the types of documents that the diocese must retain. You can click HERE to read it, if you want to. It is legalese–highly illuminating legalese.

First of all, we priests received this document with no explanation of the context. It is cryptically labeled as “Enclosure to Letter of October 9, 2018.”

To whom was this letter of October 9 addressed? And from whom did it come? Can’t say. But the stipulations in the enclosure suggest that the document originated in the office of the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. I say this because the investigation includes the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

What practical good can it do to distribute all this legalese to us parish priests? Can’t see any practical good there. But, of course: it’s all an exercise stipulated by our attorneys.

What I do see is this:

We are in for it.

We Catholics in Virginia–and in all the 49 states, other than Pennsylvania–will spend the next couple of years dealing with the publication of all the secret documents held in all diocesan files (just like the Pennsylvania Catholics did in August.)

These documents will provide evidence of cover-ups. Cover-ups of shameful abuses of minors and other vulnerable people by Catholic clergymen.

The sitting bishops will rely on this defense: We didn’t know what we were doing before 2002, but now we do. The public will not buy this defense. (This already happened in Washington, DC: Card. Wuerl offered this defense; the public reasonably rejected it.)

In other words, the Catholic Church in the USA will limp along like a grievously wounded animal for the foreseeable future. Eventually, someone in law enforcement will realize that the diocesan archives tell only part of the story. The rest lies in files at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

A representative of the USA will demand those documents. The Vatican will refuse. The Vatican will become an international pariah. Italy will likely revoke the provisions of the Concordat that guarantees the sovereignty of the Holy See. Italian police officers will raid Vatican offices. The contents of those files will be published, and it will deeply scandalize the entire world.

…We do not have shepherds that can deal with any of this well. If we had good shepherds, we would not find ourselves in this predicament in the first place.

The entire Scandal of 2018 involves old cases. If we had sensible shepherds, shepherds who cared about us, who cared about protecting our faith; shepherds who cared about justice for abuse victims–including victims of abuses that occurred before 2002; if we simply had non-mafiosi running our institution–that is, honest stewards of Christs’ gifts–they would have owned this problem long ago. They would have dealt with the scandalous contents of their own files before the Attorneys General came knocking at their doors.

But it never occurred to them to do that, when they had the chance. So now we face this imminent meltdown of epic proportions.

But we should not despair.

The cause of truth and openness is the cause of Christ. The end of secrecy about sexual abuse means the chance for justice. Jesus Himself will liberate many hearts through this ordeal.

When it is over, He will still be with us. We will still be His Church.


10 thoughts on “More Re: VA Attorney General

  1. To a non-Catholic, the bishop’s letter to his priests on this anguished subject (quoted in Fr. Mark’s last post), sounds very un-Catholic, that is, it sounds impersonal, clinical, remote. I wonder: do faithful Catholics get such an impression of the bishop’s stance when they read this letter?

    Ann White

  2. Father Mark,This is so Heart breaking,You are so Strong in your way’s,This is why I am so proud to Know you. I love my God, My church,and the Priests.

  3. Ann, yea… I think the reply from herr bishop sounds that way, now I am a convert, but pretty sure it would still sound that way to others as well….

  4. Thank you, Father, for your informative post. It sheds light on much … particularly for me helpful in that it gives me insight into what our own parish priests, who are wonderful, are going through. As if you dear priests didn’t have enough to do and worry about. We had two holy hours so far and our priests, who are not youngsters, prostrated themselves before the Blessed Sacrament for a good half hour through it all. It brought tears to my eyes. Yes, it is hard not to ‘despair’ … yes, Anne, I do get that impression from lots of them. Hang on. As Father says “When it is over we will still be His Church” God Bless!

  5. Old cases are also as good as new in that they are very telling when the same people or close friends of those people, are still in charge and controlling power plays.

  6. Fellow Catholic Christians now is the time where our unity is being tested. We are all being “sifted” and the “wheat” is being separated from the “chaff.” It is heartbreaking to see and be a part of, unfortunately we must not be “fair weather” catholic. The justice that all victims of abuse by clergy deserve and seek is priority one. Our suffering can never compare to theirs and as Fr. White has stated numerous times, the Church cannot heal and move forward until the complete truth is known and the victims are cared for and treated.

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