The Opaque “Transparency” of the Richmond Diocese

cartoonvillainLet’s use our imaginations. A couple of fairy tale characters.

One: A hard-hearted scheming bishop. He hates some of his priests. He wants to see them suffer. So he includes their names in a published list of sex abusers.

Two: A princely, zealous, loving bishop. He longs for the faithful people of his diocese to live in open, pure chastity. Free of sexual abuse.

The princely bishop carefully studies all the clergy files, to determine if any contain information that would help the public. When he finds something against a priest, he gives the accused the chance to answer.

Then he publishes a list. It helps people heal. And it puts fear into the hearts of potential predators.

Trick is: How to tell these two characters apart, in real life? In a fairy tale, the one would wear a black cape and twiddle his fingers together maniacally. The other would look like Tom Brady in a Roman collar.

But we don’t have the luxury of type-casting. Here in the real world, we must seek evidence, in order to distinguish villain from prince.

The bishop of our beloved Diocese of Richmond summoned us priests to a mandatory meeting. Last week, his Vicar-General wrote us:

“Bishop Knestout will provide pastoral resources to assist in responding to questions and concerns relating to the release of a list of the names of priests who have served in our diocese and have a credible and substantiated accusation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

His Excellency himself did not attend the meeting today. Too busy.* He provided us with the “resources” via certain members of his staff.

Tom Brady

If you’re like me, dear reader, you would arrive at such a meeting with questions, like:

When will the diocese publish the list?

What information will it include? Just names? Summaries of specific cases? Will any additional documents accompany the publication of the list? Legal proceedings, etc?

Why did His Excellency decide to publish this list? And why now?

Guess what? Nope. No answers to any of these!

Okay. So the prince won’t tell us: when, what, or why. How about: Who or how?

Who exactly is working on the compilation of this list? The Vicar for Priests? No.

Who then? Some skilled people.

Will the diocese’s list include only those clergymen tried and convicted in a court of law (or admittedly guilty)? Or will it include any priest accused by anyone ever? Or is there some clear criterion in between, which will settle the question of what names appear?


Does “sexual abuse of a minor” include “grooming” activities?


Will the diocese’s list correspond to the list already available at


Have we asked victims whether they want to see this list published?


Actually: Some victims say that publishing lists can help heal souls. Others say that it’s just a publicity stunt that only makes the victims feel worse. Do we have any evidence to go on, to try to settle that dispute?


Mark Herring

…Dear reader, you may remember that our Virginia State Attorney General recently opened an investigation into the dioceses of Virginia. And he published a hotline for victims to call.

Has that hotline received calls? A lot of calls? Involving new cases or old ones?

Has the diocese even asked the Attorney General about that?

Answers from the diocese at today’s mandatory priests’ meeting:


…Now, the fact is: good people have already worked hard to give the public a great deal of information about sexual abuses that have occurred in our diocese. The bishop-accountability list I mentioned above has links to newspaper articles. And you can go to the “tapatalk” of the Survivors’ Network, and search the names on the bishop-accountability list. Lots of information.

But information is only as good as the trustworthiness of the person who provides it. Who can we trust? Do we have a supreme judge in our diocese whom we can trust to do the right thing? About criminal violations of the Sixth Commandment?

Forgive me for slipping into cynicism. But the entire exercise of today’s mandatory meeting, and the imminent release of the list–it all seems to me like a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from something else.

Sacred Heart cathedral Richmond.jpg

Our bishop came to us a year ago. In our cathedral, he sang the praises of his mentor, the prelate who had ordained him to the episcopacy. Donald Card. Wuerl.

Turns out: That mentor has participated in the on-going cover-up of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians. Turns out that Donald Wuerl lies. Shamelessly. He lied to one of Theodore McCarrick’s victims two weeks ago.

We Catholics desperately want to trust our shepherds. We want to trust that they know what they do. And do it honestly.

But today’s mandatory meeting? I would sin against honesty if I did not report this: It consisted of morale-sapping groupthink propaganda. I left the meeting as dispirited and angry as I have ever been in my life.

This is “transparent?” If so, what does opaque look like?


* Bishop’s brother died today. May he rest in peace.

What a Fool Believes He Sees

[An essay at inspired me to give the old blog a new name–the first line of Shakespeare’s Henry V. A Muse of fire can destroy a Death Star.]
Homily on the Parable of the Sower

The eternal Word proceeds eternally from the Father. He pours out the eternal Spirit. And He gives us created reality as we know it, in all its glory.

Or, should I say: He gives us reality as we strive to know it. The work of our lifetime: to attune our wayward and ignorant minds to reality as it actually is, as God gives it to us.

To hear the Word and accept it—that requires constant effort. It requires our daily readiness to admit that we, for the most part, live in our own little dream-worlds, miles away from God and each other.

doobie brothers 1979

What a fool believes he sees no wise man has the power to reason away.

(Doobie Brothers, 1979)

How? How can we find the courage to reason away all our own foolishness? So we can welcome God’s gift, as it comes? Without getting in His way? Without shutting the little door that cuts off our ‘personal space’ from the great, lovable world outside, full of people whom God gave me to love?

How about if we try to grasp the most-fundamental reality of all, first.

On the cross, the eternal Word spoke His entire truth. “You are My people!”

Let’s answer: “You are our God!”

Vertical and Horizontal

christ-synagogue1Let’s try to put the three readings for Holy Mass this Sunday together, into two sentences.

From all eternity, God Almighty ordained a holy law, to fill His creatures with true blessings. Jesus came to bring that law of divine love to fulfillment, by gathering us all into His Body.

The Body of Christ. His flesh, given for us, offered to the heavenly Father on the cross. A human body, Jesus’, comprised of different parts—feet, hands, ears, eyes, nose—all forming a unity. Now, He reigns on high, risen from the dead. And He abides with us in the Church, uniting us intimately with Himself, through the sacraments.

By heavenly grace, we make up a part of Christ’s Body. Each of us—distinct, individual members of one, living body. Doing something together. That is, forming Christ’s Church, here and now, in the winter of 2019.

Why? How?

Well, everyone has his or her own reasons for showing up at Mass. But I think we can say this much. All the members of Christ’s Body have at least one thing in common. God. We frequent the church building because of God.

God is… God. He deserves worship and praise. He deserves prayerful attention from us. He deserves our obedience. He has a sovereign will. By that eternal will, all things have come to be. He governs all His creatures. He decrees our good, our blessing, our abundant life.

Our business: To co-operate. To do the good that God wills. And to avoid evil, which we know displeases Him.


1. God is God, from all eternity unto all eternity. Eternally willing goodness, life, fruition, blessedness.

2. We’re not God. We dwell on the earth. We are God’s creatures. He summoned us out of nothingness by His power. To give Him glory, by forming His Body.

We cannot see Him; we cannot understand Him. We struggle even to find the words to begin to speak to Him and about Him.

In between the two ends of this vast expanse—the impenetrable, exalted heaven of God on the one end; us here, walking around our little corner of the lowly earth, on the other—in between these two ends stands one man.

He stood up in the synagogue and read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He fulfilled the prophecies. That is: The prophecies that slavery and blindness would end. That time would not just march on meaninglessly, but would reach a goal. He stands at the point that unites us with our Creator. He unites God and mankind in Himself. The Christ.

From all eternity, God ordained a holy law, to fill His creatures with true blessings. Jesus came to bring that law of love to fulfillment, by gathering us into His Body.

torahscrollSt. Francis of Asissi parish, St. Joseph parish–every Catholic parish: a “religious organization.” Our parishes are “religious organizations.” No doubt. Like I said earlier: What brings us together under one roof? God. God does. We come to church to practice religion.

But the phrase “religious organization” doesn’t quite do justice to the reality. It doesn’t quite capture the Body of Christ that we are. God, the Almighty and unknowable, has fulfilled His eternal law in Christ, the humble and the knowable.

He, like us, had the custom of frequenting the local church building on the Lord’s day. He, like us, read and meditated on the Scriptures. He, like us, participated in the ancient liturgy.

In other words, the Christ exercised religion. In order to bring religion to its fulfillment. Union with Christ means not just imitating Jesus’ scrupulous submission to God; it also means sharing in His perfect fulfillment of God’s love. He loved His Father in heaven. And He loved every human being, enough to die on the cross for each of us and all of us.

We need each other to form the Body He made us to be. At the same time, each of us needs to seek God and His ineffable heaven. We must do that individually, in order to be for each other what we must be for each other. We love each other best by loving God first.

It all sounds demanding. Because it is. But we can’t go wrong if we keep the eyes of our minds fixed on the one man, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Dose of Reality for February Vatican Meeting


We Catholics generally want to believe that our hierarchy possesses the skills necessary to respond to crises. We want to think that the meetings they have, and the documents they produce, will “move things forward.” We foot-soldiers for the kingdom of God want to find something that justifies optimism about the institution.

But we must recognize these emotions for what they are: Pointless and distracting fantasies.

In a month, the leaders of the bishops’ conferences of the world will meet in Rome. A kind of mini-three-day ‘Vatican III.’

Why? Ostensibly to address the sex-abuse crisis.

Reason #1 Why We Can Hope for Nothing Good

The Vatican itself remains hopelessly mired in at least one major sex-abuse cover-up. To be sure, other corners of the globe may know of others. In our little mid-Atlantic corner, we know of this big one:

Theodore McCarrick sexually abused seminarians during the 1980’s. At least two of his victims notified neighboring bishops, during the 90’s and early 2000’s. The Vatican knew of the accusations.

McCarrick sofa

The two currently living popes, multiple living Cardinals, former and current heads of Roman dicasteries–all have participated, and continue to participate, in the cover-up of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians.

None of the churchmen who know the truth about this have reckoned with it at all, except anonymously. (The one exception, of course: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.)

The facts are indisputable; none of the churchmen involved in the cover-up have ever disputed them. But no one has acknowledged anything. That’s what you call an on-going sex-abuse cover-up. Involving the former and current popes.

To be sure, the McCarrick case is not the only one that fits into this category. It just happens to be the one that your humble servant knows and understands well enough to write about.

Reason #2

The very villain of this on-going cover-up, Theodore McCarrick, personally presided over the USCCB Cover-up of 2002. Which the organizers of next month’s Vatican meeting have the self-serving audacity to envision as a kind of model.

The idea peddled by meeting-organizer Blase Cardinal Cupich is this:

The Church in the USA accomplished a “breakthrough” in child protection with the Dallas Charter of 2002. Let’s break that down…

i. Education in chastity and in recognizing potential abusers

(I’m going to have to write a book on this. But, for now, let’s say:) We know that sexual abuse is sexual abuse because we know what chastity is. When you don’t know what chastity is, sexual abuse seems like just another form of interpersonal relations.

Because Christ is chaste, and because He gives the gift of true happiness in chastity to the beloved children of His heavenly Father, we can recognize sexual abuse for the heinous crime that it is.

Teaching this pertains to the perpetual duty of Christ’s Church. Experienced counselors can help in this educational effort. To some extent, lay experts have helped to supply the grave deficiencies in education of this kind, which bishops and clergy have failed to offer. And continue to fail to offer. The Dallas Charter has, to some extent, facilitated this education.

ii. Preventing convicted felons from working or volunteering in Catholic institutions

The Dallas-Charter rules about fingerprinting and background checks probably have prevented some potential predators from gaining access to our young people. Praise God for that.

iii. The idea that our young people are “safer” now, thanks to our bishops and what they did in 2002

No honest professional who has interacted with sex-abuse survivors would ever claim to know this. We cannot honestly maintain that we have had fewer instances of sexual abuse during the past sixteen years than we had before.

Minors rarely report sexual abuse. It takes many years even to begin to find the courage. We won’t know whether the Dallas Charter has led to a reduction in sex-abuse cases until 2045.

Cardinal Cupich and the reigning church mafia loudly insist that Dallas 2002 made children safer. Guess what? That self-serving insistence itself deters victims from coming forward. It’s the same episcopal reaction as before, just under a new guise.

Keep your mouth shut, because what you have to say makes us look bad.

That’s what sex-abuse victims got from bishops in the 1980’s, in the 1990’s, in the 2000’s, in the 2010’s, and now.

2002 was a cover-up of the real scandal. The real scandal was, and is: Our bishops did not have, and do not have, the kind of moral compass that any normal Catholic parent has.

Cardinal Cupich writes:

“Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we report all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, offer support to all who make allegations through our Victim Assistance Ministry, remove archdiocesan clergy from ministry permanently if an allegation of abuse of minors is substantiated and publicize the names of those with substantiated allegations against them.”

What’s missing? The fundamental duty of the bishop: To reckon fully with the truth and see to it that malefactors receive an appropriate punishment. The Cardinal’s litany of swell accomplishments misses the most-important one of all: Finding, and clearly declaring, the truth.

The Attorney General of Illinois pointed out recently that the Dallas-Charter norms do not have adequate clarity and specificity. Over and over again, knowledgeable investigators have pointed out that bishops must formulate clearly–in concrete cases–the precise violations of chastity that have occurred. That’s how justice gets done.

But, of course, that involves hearing a victim’s entire story yourself, rather than shuttling the victim off to some “Victims’ Assistance Ministry” who likely will not even answer the phone.

So, speaking of justice being done:

Apparently the pope and bishops gathered in Rome next month will celebrate a “penitential liturgy.”


With the Holy See itself still implicated in the McCarrick Cover-up, not to mention other similar cover-ups, the liturgical expression of penance at St. Peter’s will ring hollow. The sound of the pope’s and bishops’ crocodile tears will bounce off the inside of Michelangelo’s dome.

If they really want to move God to pity, all the prelates of this mini-sex-abuse Vatican III should kneel at St. Peter’s tomb and cry out as follows:

Lord, we have failed you and your people! Forgive us for presuming to shepherd and govern, when we obviously do not know how!

We will stop talking about policies. We will stop engaging in endless paper-pushing exercises, aimed only at repeating moral truths that are obvious to every mature human being who has ever lived.

Instead, we will make a thorough account of all our own scandalous failures as shepherds. Then we will establish a procedure for choosing our successors by lot.

By this random-selection process, please choose better men than ourselves to take our places, Lord!

Once the lots are chosen, we will ordain our successors as necessary, and then we ourselves will retire to live in quite prayer and penance until Judgment Day.

St. Paul and Vatican II

Caravaggio Conversion on the Way to Damascus Paul

Lord Jesus died, rose again, ascended into heaven bodily, and reigns over all things, at the right hand of the Father.

The original Apostles witnessed some of these events, from the point-of-view of Planet Earth. St. John saw Jesus die. They all saw Him after He rose. They watched Him ascend into the clouds.

The Apostles proceeded to testify orally and in writing. All except John suffered execution, rather than deny what they had seen, and what they believed about the One they had seen. Namely: that He is the Christ of God, the incarnate eternal Word, Who has made Himself the new Adam of the redeemed human race.

St. Paul did not witness the things that the original Apostles witnessed. But he did encounter some of those Apostles personally, as well as other original Christians.

At first Paul not only did not believe them, he despised them. He counted them blasphemers, criminal enemies of true religion.

But then, on this holy day, He, too, encountered Jesus. The Lord spoke to Paul from heaven. Why do you persecute Me? Why do you kick against the pricks? You love God and desire only to serve God. I, Jesus, am God—the true God of love and mercy, in Whom your father Abraham believed.

St. Paul had the faith and courage to embrace Jesus with every fiber of his being.

One thing that makes Christianity so believable is this: The New Testament depicts the human countenances of some absolutely believable people. Jesus Himself. His mother. St. Peter. St. John. And St. Paul.

John XXIII Vatican IIProbably St. Paul more than any other. After all, he wrote half the New Testament. Plus, almost half of St. Luke’s second book is about Paul.

Many passages of St. Paul’s letters pose extreme challenges to the reader. He had a mind of encyclopedic complexity, and he lived a pilgrim life ten times more adventuresome than Indiana Jones.

A lot of Paul’s writing requires careful study in order to understand–precisely because it is all so absolutely real. The whole thing is geographically coherent, religiously consistent–full of human love, human impatience, webs of relationships, and fatherliness.

Speaking of which: sixty years ago today, the new pope, John XXIII, visited the tomb of the Apostle Paul. The pope gave a little speech. He declared that he would soon summon all the world’s bishops to the Vatican, for an ecumenical council.

I think I may be one of the last of a dying breed: an incorrigibly conservative priest who loves Vatican II. Who loves it more, not less, with each passing year.

Conversion. Pope St. John XXIII had enough faith in Christ, and enough courage, to imagine that the indefectible Church could convert—in those aspects of Her life that can, and have, gone wrong. The pope believed that the true Church of Jesus—Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever—could adapt Herself better to what the Lord asks of Her now. Which differs somewhat from what He asked of Her yesterday.

St. Paul trusted totally and completely in Christ—enough to change. We can, too.

Why We Don’t Like Pharisees

Head of a Pharisee by Leonardo da Vinci
da Vinci “Head of a Pharisee”

We don’t like Pharisees. We don’t want to be Pharisees. But what exactly was a Pharisee?

A purist. Separated from the world for the sake of purity.

The ancient practice of temple Judaism had grown worldly. The prophets had long decried how pilgrims and priests just went through the motions. And the “Jewish” monarchy hardly maintained even the pretense of religion.

The Pharisees sought purity of heart and soul, in the home and in small communities. By scrupulous observance of devotional practices. They read the Scriptures assiduously, with faith and reverence. They cared about people’s souls. They despised idolatry and corruption.

So what’s not to like? Why do we dislike the Pharisees? How about three reasons.

1. They sought devotional integrity, instead of empty temple ritual. But in doing so, they fell into the same trap that they tried so zealously to escape.

At the Temple, no one really undergoes a conversion of heart! they thought. Christ replied: Guess what, Pharisees? You go through the motions with your pieties also. Without real conversion of heart.

2. This trap of empty external-ity turned the Pharisees into outrageous hypocrites. Their ‘system’ failed to take one very important thing into account: the unfathomable depth of mankind’s inveterate moral weakness.

Now, people called Jesus ‘rabbi.’ He practiced devotional prayer and worship, like the Pharisees did. He frequented the synagogue, like they did. Christ interacted with many Pharisees.

I’m not calling Jesus a Pharisee. But there are certain walks-and-talks-like-a-duck similarities.

Except: The Pharisees responded to the reality of human sin and weakness by a. judging it in others, and b. pretending it didn’t exist in themselves.

Meanwhile, the Lord Jesus responded to the reality of human sin and weakness by…

Grunewald the Small Crucifixion

3. The Pharisees’ hypocrisy made them mean. When your religion insists on something impossible, it becomes an instrument of human oppression; it leads to false judgments.

The Pharisees insisted on scrupulous observance of their practices, all based on the Torah. By this means, you could become perfect. Or so the system claimed.

But it didn’t work. Still doesn’t.

We need mercy from above. We need grace from God–grace that we didn’t, and can’t, ‘earn.’ We need to humble ourselves and face the truth about our miserable sinfulness.

That’s the only path to perfection. And it’s the only way to avoid judging others in a pharisaical manner.

Melchisedek and St. Agnes

saint agnes fuori la mura
Sant’Agnese fuori le mura, Roma

At Holy Mass today, we read that Jesus, the Son of God, ministered as a priest. Not as a priest of the Old Covenant with Abraham and Moses, but a priest of the order of Melchisedek.

Any idea what that means? Melchisedek ruled Jerusalem in the most-ancient times. Our father Abraham won a battle, and Melchisedek blessed him afterwards. Melchisedek offered a sacrifice of bread and wine, and Abraham offered a tenth of his goods, which is where we get the idea of tithing. (Genesis 14:18-20)

King David sang as a prophet in Psalm 110. He called the eternal Son of God “a priest forever in the manner of Melchisedek.”

We Christians mention Melchisedek at the altar, whenever we use the Roman Canon at Mass, Eucharistic Prayer #1.

We use that prayer today (at St. Joseph, in Martinsville, Virginia), because we also mention St. Agnes in that prayer. She went to her martyr’s death today.

At age twelve or thirteen. Younger than the now world-famous-for-a-short-time Covington-Catholic students. (St. Agnes, pray for them, and for all of us!)*

In ancient Rome at the dawn of the fourth century AD, the persecution of emperor Diocletian tried to force Christians to burn incense to the pagan gods. Especially lovely, young, eligible bachelorettes, like Agnes.

But she refused. She made the sign of the cross instead. She had consecrated her virginity to Christ. She would not marry the suitor who courted her.

They took her to a brothel. The one man craven enough to try anything with her? He got struck by lightning and blinded. St. Agnes kindly healed his blindness.

So they beheaded her.

Her name sounds like one of the titles of Christ, in Latin. “Agnes.” “Agnus.” Lamb. The Lamb of God.


*My prize for the best, most-appropriate reaction to the initial video of the Lincoln-Memorial incident, from a dear parishioner who watched it with me on a smarrphone after Mass yesterday: “What’s up with the staring contest?”

Trinity at Cana


According to St. Faustus of Riez, the wedding we read about at Sunday Mass symbolizes “the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Holy Trinity.” [Spanish]

Le’ts meditate a little bit on the most basic foundations of the Catholic and Christian faith. We read, about Jesus at the wedding: “His disciples began to believe in Him.” We want to follow Christ as disciples, too. So what exactly does a Christian disciple believe?

We believe in: God. The One, the only. Source and goal of all things. All-knowing, all-good, all-powerful. Everywhere, and greater than everything. Both more intimate and more transcendent than we can imagine. God. The Almighty.

We believe in Him. We acknowledge that to deny His existence seems irrational, considering things like sunsets, vast oceans, people as lovely as Michelle Dockery, not to mention the human soul. Only a fool denies the existence of God. But, by the same token, only a fool claims to know, to understand, to grasp God’s infinitely beautiful and spiritual mind.

When the disciples “began to believe” in Jesus, what exactly did they begin to believe? They did not begin to believe that He had a beard. They knew He had a beard. They did not begin to believe that He could attend weddings. They saw with their own eyes that He attended the wedding in Cana.

Michelle Dockery Lady Mary DowntonWhat they began to believe is: This man, Who turns water into fine wine, is God. He, Jesus, is The One in Whom believers believe. God made the heavens and the earth; He makes the mighty rivers flow. The disciples began to believe: Jesus of Nazareth is the One Who knit us all together in our mothers’ wombs!

This is what we call faith in the Incarnation. We believe not just that God could become man, if He so chose–which of course is true, since God is God and nothing less than omnipotent God. But we believe not only that the Incarnation is theoretically possible; we believe that it has, in fact, happened. Therefore, we make a big fuss at Christmas.

Okay, we done with the theology lesson? Not quite. St. Faustus did not say that the joyful marriage of man’s salvation involves confessing the Incarnation. We begin by believing in the Incarnation. The Word became incarnate for a reason: to reveal the unfathomable secret of God.

When the Lord Jesus came up out of the Jordan water, as we heard about last Sunday at Mass, He did not pat Himself on the head and declare with His own lips: “I am very pleased with myself.”

When He knelt to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not say, “Let this chalice pass from me. My own will be done.”

When He breathed His last on the cross, He did not groan and say, “Into my own hands I commend myself.”

No. When Jesus spoke, the One, eternal God spoke; the infinite and omnipotent spoke. The infinite and omnipotent Son prayed. He prayed to the infinite and omnipotent Father. God the Son has a father. God the Father has a Son.

And when God the Son finished the mission that God the Father had given Him to complete, God the Son sent the pure, glorious spirit of truth into the world. And that pure, omnipresent Spirit is God. He is neither the Father, nor the Son. He is the eternal Spirit of Jesus Christ, anointed by the heavenly Father.

Trinity. The one and only God is tri-une. The disciples began to believe this. We have begun to believe this. And I say “begun” because we will not successfully finish believing in the Trinity until we actually gaze upon this mystery, totally unveiled before our eyes.

Believing in the Trinity is not confusing. This dogma of faith does not make a mess out of rational thinking. Just the opposite. Believing in the Father, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit of Pentecost offers the human race the only real path to a life that makes sense.

Our job is not to understand the mystery. Our job is to share in it. To live in communion with Jesus, loving and serving the Father. We profess our faith in words, to be sure, by reciting the Creed–words that we would rather die than deny.

But the true profession of our faith is our lives. Lives lived–if I might dare to put it this way–lives lived “inside” the Trinity. By His life on earth, Jesus invited us inside the inner life of God. When we see, hear, react, think, judge, and act with Jesus, then we live in the embrace of the triune God.

Integrity of the Womb and the Confessional

confessional“Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mark 2:7)


Sin involves corrupting the pure integrity of God’s beautiful plan. A plan for the salvation and glorification of all things.

We pray for the marchers up in Washington. We share their zeal. In the womb, God knits together an unfathomable plan. It’s like a little Garden of Eden. May no hand of violence ever desecrate that garden.

God, the pure One, can forgive the sins of us impure ones. He even uses some of us impure ones as His instruments of mercy. The Son of God entrusted “the power of the keys” to His Church. He gave His Apostles and their successors in office the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. To continue the Incarnation, so to speak. Jesus, when He walked the earth, had the authority to forgive sins. Bishops and priests have that same authority, as ministers of Christ.

But a profound responsibility accompanies that authority, doesn’t it? When we go to confession, we go with faith in the power of the keys. But we also need to have confidence in the human integrity of the confessor. We have to trust that the priest who hears my confession will respond according to true discipline, guided by holy teaching.

That is: He won’t distort my own conscience by calling good evil or evil good. He won’t betray God’s mercy by being too hard on me, or betray God’s justice by being too easy on me.

My point is: The supernatural grace of Holy Orders means that even a sinner can offer Christ’s sacraments. But in the confessional, our faith in that supernatural grace has to meet a representative of a human institution with integrity. Yes, all priests are sinners, too. But a confessor receiving penitents cannot be a liar. He cannot be a swindler or a sodomite. He cannot be an atheist or a heretic.

unborn…On March-for-Life Day, the young Catholic Church in America takes Her vigorous stand. Faith, hope, and love show up on Constitution Avenue.

But She limps this year. Her faith God invigorates Her as always. But Her inability to trust in the fundamental integrity of the clerical hierarchy saps Her strength.

Our faith in the triune God does not contradict reason. But, at the beginning of 2019, we cannot rationally claim that our clerical hierarchy has integrity. If we did claim that, reasonable non-Catholics would make arguments to the contrary. And we would have no answers.

May God send us leaders to get our footing back. It will take a long time. But we can do it, if we hold on. We sinners, who want to live honest lives.

Pope Francis and Donald Wuerl Contra Mundum

[The information outlined below all comes from multiple reliable sources, although Church officials have made none of it public.]

pope francis donald wuerl

In 1994, then-Father Gregory Littleton wrote to Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen, New Jersey. Littleton described the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of Theodore McCarrick, Hughes’ predecessor, and Archbishop of Newark at that time.

Sometime during the nineties, Cardinal O’Connor of New York learned of this complaint against McCarrick. In 1999, O’Connor wrote to Rome, predicting that the pope’s plans to make McCarrick a Cardinal would bring shame and division on the Church.

When confronted, McCarrick denied the charges. O’Connor died of old age. John Paul II believed McCarrick’s denials and named him Archbishop of Washington.

In late 2000, another complaint: a former professor at the Newark seminary reported to Rome what he had heard about McCarrick preying on seminarians.

In November 2004, Robert Ciolek spoke to the review board of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, governed at that time by Donald Wuerl. Mr. Ciolek accused a Pittsburgh priest of sexual abuse. He also mentioned that McCarrick had put him in some very inappropriate and awkward situations.

That is: McCarrick insisted that Ciolek rub his back and that they sleep in the same bed. McCarrick forced Ciolek to accept nighttime above-the-waist caresses.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Does what Ciolek described amount to sexual abuse? For a superior to treat a subordinate, or for a cleric to treat a member of the Christian faithful, in such a way? I think so. It’s abuse.

holy comforter st cyprianAlso in 2004: McCarrick “punished” your unworthy servant. For giving a series of homilies in a large suburban parish, about the immorality of artificial contraception. McCarrick moved me to what he thought was “the ‘hood.” In fact, the parish lay in the middle of a thriving white/black/gay/hipster neighborhood, where I had two wonderful years.

Anyway: Donald Wuerl became aware in November of 2004 that McCarrick had preyed on seminarians. (Maybe Wuerl knew before then. But he certainly knew, as of November 2004.) And Wuerl communicated what he knew to Rome.

In 2005:

1. John Paul II died.

2. The Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton (and the Archdiocese of Newark) paid Mr. Ciolek $80,000 to compensate him for abuse by McCarrick, and by a high-school teacher. Bishop Paul Bootkoski then governed the Diocese of Metuchen, and he reported this to Rome.

3. McCarrick reached the canonical retirement age of 75. (But Cardinals usually serve until 80.)

Apparently in late 2005 or early 2006, Pope Benedict considered the evidence before him and came to this conclusion: I will not judge McCarrick’s guilt or innocence, but I will attempt to restrict his public appearances.

Thus began a cruelly laughable secret seven-year farce: Pope Benedict XVI’s failed attempts to discipline Theodore McCarrick. During that interval, the Diocese of Metuchen paid $100,000 to Mr. Littleton (the first to accuse McCarrick) to compensate him for the abuses he had received at McCarrick’s hands. Everyone kept the settlement secret.

In 2006, Donald Wuerl came to Washington knowing that his predecessor had to leave office prematurely because he preyed sexually on seminarians.

pope-benedict-saturno-hat…Looking back soberly on these turns of events, let’s acknowledge: Pope Benedict presided over a cover-up. The McCarrick Cover-Up. From 2005 to 2013.

Only the pope can judge a Cardinal. The pope should have tried McCarrick for the crime of sexually abusing his seminarians. It may or may not amount to a civil crime. But in the Holy Church, we certainly see what McCarrick did to these seminarians as a damnable crime. The entire proceedings of the trial–the trial that should have happened–should then have been public.

Instead they covered it up. Who? Pope Benedict and quite a few prelates.

The following are certainly complicit: Giovanni Battista Re and Marc Ouellet, Prefects of the Congregation of Bishops. Tarcisio Bertone and Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretaries of State. Gabriel Montalvo and Pietro Sambi (papal ambassadors to the U.S., both now deceased) John Myers, McCarrick’s successor in Newark. Edward Hughes and Paul Bootkoski, McCarrick’s successors in Metuchen. John Smith, bishop of Trenton at the time of the first McCarrick settlement.

And Pope Francis, who knew about McCarrick and the seminarians, as of 2013. And Donald Wuerl.

All knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians. All kept it secret. I think we can safely say: All of them had a Christian duty to speak out on behalf of the victims, regardless of how speaking would have affected their own lives. After all, they are all priests, consecrated to Christ, supposedly free of all attachments to worldly considerations.

But none of them spoke out. All kept silent.

None of them ever would have said anything. We would know none of this, and McCarrick’s seminarian victims would still languish in the painful shadows. But then, in New York City, in the fall of 2017, a man accused McCarrick of abuse, while the man was a minor.

mccarrickThe cover-up conspirators participated in keeping the evil secret of not just any prelate. McCarrick was the public face of the American bishops in 2002. The public face of the organization that supposedly committed itself to openness and zero-tolerance of sexual abuse.

No thanks to any of the men named above, we now know this entire sordid story–we who, trusting in the integrity of McCarrick’s life and ministry, have all been cruelly betrayed. Betrayed by the men listed above, who knew the truth, and owed us the truth.

But, even though all of this now lies out in the open, Cardinal Wuerl continues to insist: We did not engage in a cover-up! Wuerl maintains that zero-tolerance and transparency only have to do with sex-abuse cases involving minors.

Wuerl does not consider McCarrick’s history of abusing seminarians to be a matter of public record. He does not regard McCarrick’s abuses of seminarians as ecclesiastical crimes. He regards everything that took place between McCarrick and the seminarians he abused as purely private.

With this distinction Wuerl justifies his years of silence. Meanwhile, any honest Christian looking at the facts sees something else: A cruel betrayal of McCarrick’s adult victims, and a cruel betayal of all the Christian faithful of this region, who trusted our leaders.

Wuerl has lost the confidence of his priests and of his city. And the Apostolic See is well on its way to losing the confidence of the Catholics of this region, too.

Because we can only assume that Wuerl is insisting on this distinction–the distinction between the abuse of minors and the abuse of adults–a distinction clearly obtuse and spurious in this case–for a reason. Namely: Wuerl insists on it because Pope Francis will use the same distinction to convict McCarrick, while at the same time acquitting himself.

In other words, as of this hour, with McCarrick’s summary conviction for the abuse of minors imminent any day, Donald Wuerl and Rome still want to justify the 2004-2018 McCarrick Cover-Up.

Which means our Church in this part of the world will continue to collapse.