Spotlight Continues

Spotlight movie

The possibility of his returning to lawful courses and restoring to his fellow citizens their freedom and their rights was no longer open to him: because during the thoughtless days of his youth he had entangled himself in such terrible crimes and committed so many guilty acts that he could only return to sanity at the cost of his own destruction.

The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero’s description of Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse. Or maybe his unwitting prophecy of McCarrick and his confederates.

Where do we stand now? A year after the most painful and confusing August in the history of the Lord Jesus’ Church?

1. In a December report on the dioceses of Illinois, the state attorney general pointed out that the terms “credible allegation” of abuse, or “substantiated allegation” do not have a clear, standard definition in the Catholic Church in the United States.

Even though the disciplinary procedures of the bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People utterly rely on these terms.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore

2. No state outlaws inappropriate attentions that could constitute “grooming” for sexual abuse. Grooming, in and of itself, involves no civil crimes. But grooming certainly involves a profound betrayal of any priest’s–or any adult’s–duty.

Over the course of the past year, no ecclesiastical official has so much as attempted to define what constitutes grooming.

3. Earlier this month a former member of the bishops’ National Review Board published a list of myths about the Catholic sex-abuse crisis. He defended the decade-and-a-half-long record of the large administrative and educational apparatus that the 2002 Charter erected.

Dr. Plante insists that the bishops can reasonably claim: they basically fixed this problem in 2002.

But, doctor: What about the fact that most victims do not find the courage to speak out for many years? Couldn’t many cases of as-yet-unreported abuse since 2002 still come to light, thereby altering your statistics?

Dr. Plante insists: That’s outdated thinking. It used to be difficult for victims to come forward, but now it’s easy.

I think most sex-abuse victims would strenuously disagree.

4. Last August, Carlo Maria Viganò reported that he had informed Pope Francis about McCarrick’s thick Vatican file, which included testimony about McCarrick’s sexual abuses.

Viganò wrote that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick at a meeting they had in June of 2013. That is, well over four years before two lawyers in New York uncovered evidence against McCarrick, more or less by accident–leading to his eventual downfall.

A reporter asked the pope about Viganò’s claim, later that same day, last August. The pope would not answer.

In October, one of the pope’s assistants, in an open letter to Viganò, insisted that Pope Francis could not possibly be expected to remember such a detail. (Namely, that a sitting papal nuncio to the US informed him of a file on a Cardinal, containing information about the sexual abuse of seminarians.) How could His Holiness remember everything he deals with, in the rush of events that a pope confronts every day?

Archbishop Vigano

In May, the pope himself echoed that sentiment, in an interview with a Mexican journalist. He could hardly have remembered what Viganò told him.

In other words, no one ever has denied the truth of what Viganò said about his June 2013 meeting with Pope Francis. He told the pope about McCarrick. Pope Francis did nothing until five years later, when he had no choice but to act. He hadn’t acted previously because he “forgot.”

5. Last September our bishop promised his “full co-operation with any independent, lay-managed, authoritative investigation into the scandal of Theodore McCarrick.” As far as we know, no such investigation has occurred.

I hate to quote myself. But, at that time, when the Catholic airwaves coursed with prelates promising a thorough McCarrick investigation, I predicted:

“Maybe sometime next year we will learn that the pope quietly laicized McCarrick. And that, supposedly, will satisfy justice. When the good faith of thousands of American Catholics has been cruelly mocked.”

I take no pleasure in pointing out: time has proven me right.

Lying, self-interested mafiosi make lots of promises of future disclosures of information. But then they never disclose any. They make endless pledges to study and solve problems. But they never solve them.

mccarrick and wilton gregory

These problems did not emerge for the first time last summer. At the time when McCarrick preyed on his victims–back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s–all these issues of Church governance already sat squarely on the table:

How do you foster an environment in which sex-abuse victims feel free to accuse the criminals? How do you verify accusations of sexual abuse? How can the Church give justice to victims in situations where the civil authority cannot, or will not, act? What rules must we have for priestly life that would prohibit interactions that could lead to sexual abuse?

These questions hardly arose out-of-the-blue last summer. If you want to blow your mind, dear reader, click this link and read the report submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by Thomas Doyle, Ray Mouton, and Michael Peterson. In 1985. 1985.

Among victims’ advocates, that report came to be known at “The Manual.” The report raises dozens of disciplinary, legal, and pastoral questions. Questions that the prelates of the Church must find a way to answer.

Over 34 years later, most of the questions remain unanswered.

A lumbering, multi-generational mafia of incompetent frauds runs the Church. It’s a sad and evident fact, with no short-term hope in sight.

A couple weeks ago, a West-Virginia theologian named Michael Iafrate published an essay in the Washington Post about the crisis of leadership in the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

If you’ve followed my posts about Bransfield and Lori, you know the saga. Bransfield did wrong, and nobody paid attention for over a decade. Then everyone panicked last August. Archbishop Lori of Baltimore “investigated.” Bransfield got “punished.” New bishop installed. Case closed.

Iafrate concludes his essay:

From the start, some West Virginia Catholics including myself were suspicious of the investigation because Lori wouldn’t reveal the investigators’ identities and other basic details of the probe. We felt justified when The Washington Post report came out in early June showing that Lori was among the recipients of Bransfield’s gifts — using funds for which Bransfield was later reimbursed by the diocese. Lori received $10,500 in checks from Bransfield, The Post reported, and then redacted the names of gift recipients, including his own, from the report before it went to Rome.

The archbishop later apologized for the decision, but he told a West Virginia newspaper, “As you can see, it didn’t prevent me from authorizing a no-holds-barred report.” “As you can see” is funny language to use in reference to a report that remains hidden from the public.

Now that Rome has issued its sanctions on Bransfield, church officials want us to trust that the punishment fits the crime and that healing can now begin. But Lori’s tight control of the report and his misrepresentation of its contents still prevent us from knowing the truth about the crimes in the first place.

All of this suggests that the new system of bishops investigating bishops is simply a new face of the church’s textbook protectionism. At some point, the bishops could very well convince us that they are capable of investigating one another, and that justice has been done in West Virginia.

The only way to do that, though, is by atoning for Lori’s sins of omission through real transparency, including the release of the full Bransfield report and a full accounting for what happened in Philadelphia [Bransfield’s hometown, where he stands accused of sexual abuse, a diocesan “exoneration” notwithstanding]. Short of that, welcome to the same old story.

A full accounting for what happened with McCarrick? Looks like we will have to wait for Judgment Day for that. Because the mafiosi can only return to sanity at the cost of their own destruction.

3 thoughts on “Spotlight Continues

  1. Thank you, father mark for having the courage to make sure that your flock, that those who know you, that those who stumble across this blog have a way to see the truth. It is a shame, that for many of us it may be our only hand up to the truth. I would like to think im at least middle of the road when it comes to research but on this topic id have been very lost as to where i should start and would believe the powers that be. I also, think there is a very big difference is not forgiving, standing up for what is right. We are all called to follow the beatitudes we are all called to fight for social justice and i very much believe you can do that even if you forgive. Stay safe father mark…i hope you had a wonderful feast day yesterday…..what a glorious day in the church it was.

  2. What is the recipe for reform? When we unburden our conscience in the confessional, the priest, in persona Christi, having ascertained the sincerity of our contrition, absolves us of our sins, but not before prescribing our penance and hearing our act of contrition. So our remorse should lead to repentance, reparation, and reconciliation. The penance given is ordinarily some number of well-known prayers, e.g. the Lord’s Prayer or Hail Mary. My personal favorite is Psalm 51. Those are easy. What’s not easy is the reparation and reconciliation. These involve a humble spirit, a sincere apology, and making right the wrong that was done. I struggle greatly with reparation as it invariably causes pain. It hurts my ego, but should follow right behind the sin that caused the damage to love, friendship, and trust. And yet, I almost never hear the priest emphasize an explicit reconciliation with the injured person(s) as part of the healing process. And I have been blessed with wonderfully holy confessors. The obvious answer is that the duty to repair and reconcile is implicitly understood and promised in the act of contrition. But for me at least, the exhortation to make it right needs to be explicit. When I promise to amend my life, my puny brain does not always equate that with making amends. We prove our love for God in our love of neighbor. A complete confession should lead to reconciliation with both. Could the reform of Holy Mother Church begin in the confessional with explicit accountability for our sins in the form of truly repairing the damage done?

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