The College of Lying Cowards

Gregory installation

“I have called you friends,” says the Lord. (John 15:15)

Sixteen years ago today, I had an explanation in my mind for the state of the Church in America. Over the course of last summer, 2018 quickly became the worst year in the history of American Catholicism. But before that, 2002—the year before my ordination—held the title.

We had learned just how many millions upon millions upon millions of dollars the Catholic bishops of the USA had paid out in hush-money, to cover up crimes.

As I knelt to be ordained, I thought I had a plausible explanation for this. A Romanian-priest friend of mine had pointed out to me: In Romania, people would never hold the diocese responsible for the crime of a single priest. They would hold the priest himself responsible.

In America, my thinking went, dioceses had to contend with the deep anti-Catholic prejudice of our country. The typical American conceives of the Catholic Church as a suspicious foreign enterprise. So American courts treat the Church unfairly. The bishops really had no choice but to pay big settlements.

After all, we all knew too well how much anti-Catholicism this country harbors. During 2002, the lampoonists of press and screen had open season on Catholic priests. Everyone refrained from any caricature of Muslim leaders, for fear of a cruel backlash after 9/11. But you could mock Catholic priests en masse, as twisted sexual perverts, with total impunity. Just like you can now.

McCarrick ordinationToday, however—sixteen years later—I know different. We all know that anti-Catholicism does not explain the endless settlements paid by dioceses in sex-abuse cases.

The revelations of the past year have taught us: the bishops did not make all those payments to protect the victims, or the Church—or because prejudice stacked the legal deck against them. The bishops paid the hush-money to protect themselves. They had everything to lose, if the truth about their dereliction of duty came out. The bishops paid to “protect” people from scandal—not scandal about the sins of priests, but scandal over their own incompetence as enforcers of ecclesiastical law.

One bridge spans the sixteen years I have been a priest: the cover-up of the crimes of the very man who ordained me. His successor in office, Donald Wuerl, knew fifteen years ago that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and young priests. This past Tuesday, Wilton Gregory, the newly arrived successor in Washington, praised Donald Wuerl as “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

But let’s imagine a true Christian gentleman, reading the sworn testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims, in the fall of 2004. Wouldn’t a true Christian gentleman, in Donald Wuerl’s place, think to himself: I need to see justice done here. I have a duty to this poor soul. May God help me to do right by him.

Instead, Wuerl obsequiously sent the whole thing to Rome and washed his hands of it. In the Vatican, they masterminded the McCarrick cover-up. And Wuerl has hidden behind the supposed virtue of filial obedience to the pope ever since.

Lord Jesus calls us His friends. Friends don’t let friends betray what they supposedly stand for. Friends don’t let friends cover up crimes of sexual abuse—even if one of those friends is a Cardinal, or even the pope.

On Tuesday, Donald Wuerl strode in last, at the end of the procession, when his successor was to be installed. The end of the procession is, of course, the place of honor. Fitting that Cardinal Wuerl took that place. He presides, with unique distinction, over the College of Lying Cowards that sat there in their miters in the Shrine on Tuesday.

…Sixteen years in, and this is the priest you have, my dear ones! Let’s keep loving God and His Christ together, one day at a time. Jesus reigns. The One to Whom we must answer, when everything is said and done, is He.

9 thoughts on “The College of Lying Cowards

  1. I pray for words to comfort you Father Mark. I find my faith still strong and wish I could share that strength with so many others. For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

  2. Elizabeth M. speaks to how I feel – That Father – you must know there are many of us who wish you comfort for these betrayals to you and your fellow brothers and to Christs Church. The sorrow is deeply felt. What always spurs me on and up when I become frail and allow myself to temporarily sink – is this – I am never alone – I know the Lord loves me though I fail more often than not – and He pulls me up yet again for the millionth time. Father I am so grateful for the courage you have to speak the truth on this wrenching hurt. I pray to the Trinity with all Their One Glorious Power and Love to mantel you and all the other hurting and sorrowful Priest in Their Love and Peace.

  3. A Christian non-Catholic to Catholics: Why don’t you rise up and hold the lying cowards accountable for their acts? They are betraying YOU. Your prayers alone won’t address their evils. Action is necessary.

  4. As far as rising up against it… well there are some problems with that as I see it…. one, for the most part those who have risen up, have been ignored, moved to other parishes, etc… the men who govern such things do not take kindly to it…I see calls to no longer give at the church or diocesean level… well that hurts the laity and the religious who haven done anything…nones are now faster growing than Catholics in the US … but what good does leaving the church do us? None in fact it seriously damages the eternal future of our soul…prayer is powerful… prayer alone can move mountains… in many ways it may not seem like much but it may do more good than many other options… I do pray things will change that God will change the hearts of some bishops and priests a like…. I also pray that those who are catholic believe in things like the Eucharist being the body blood soul and divinity of Christ…. and in the social justice teachings of the church…after all as long as so many turn from him…it will be that much longer I fear before our payers are truly answered… I hope I’m wrong in that though I suspect many of us are gonna have a long wait.

  5. I can only imagine how it must feel, Fr. Mark, to know that you were ordained by someone like McCarrick. I pray that God will give you peace, in His own time, from your hurt and pain. But, and I realize that I repeat myself with this thought, never forget, God’s power over your ordination was greater than the sinfulness of the man who put his hands upon your head that day. You are a true priest of the church, which is why you suffer and hurt for the Church that you love and serve so faithfully. May knowing how much those who love you also hurt for you be of some comfort to you.
    Judy R.

  6. You are the Best Father Mark.The Dear Lord above, Send you to us.Just like his only Son.

  7. Father Mark, you were ordained a priest by God. Never mind that McCarrick laid his dirty hands upon your head.
    So sorry you are suffering. I am asking God daily to let you heal. Thank you for keeping us informed. Lori

  8. I am so sorry for your journey up to now, Father Mark. I am incredulous that the personal aide and secretary of McCarrick (for two years) can hide behind the “I was not aware/I had no knowledge of the Cardinal’s indiscretions”. Every other Mid-Atlantic clergy knew. It was the great oxymoron of an “open secret”.

    I suspect your blog hit a little too close to home for our bishop?

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