The Parish Church, Viganò, and Nathan Doe

A parish = part of the earth. A part of the earth, with a church.

A parish church = a building with a baptismal font, a confessional, a pulpit, an altar, a tabernacle, an ambry for the holy oils, and a priest. The building, and everything in it, lifts the mind to heaven.

church_drawingThe overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians receive and live the faith in a parish church. Someday, we will emerge from the coronavirus crisis, and the parish churches of the world will function normally again.

The most fundamental task of a bishop, and most sublime: provide the parishes of his diocese with priests.

The more invisibly the bishop does this task, the better. Because the goal clearly is: That everyone who enters the parish church does so with the safe and true assumption that they will find a priest there they can trust. A priest who honestly represents the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ.

I think we all know that, a generation ago, a tidal wave began to wash away that trust, here in the USA. It started to wash across the land in Louisiana, thanks to the work of the journalist Jason Berry.

Catholics had to face the fact: you might not find a priest you can trust in your local parish church. You might find a criminal sexual abuser, fleeing justice. Because Catholic bishops do not know how to deal with criminal sexual abuse.

McCarrick NBC screen shotThe tidal wave crashed down over me in the summer of 2018, when I learned that I received Holy Orders from a criminal fleeing justice. I received Holy Orders from the very man who convinced America, in 2002, that the bishops had finally figured the thing out. Turns out he did that con-job on us as a criminal fleeing justice himself.

As you know, Bishop Barry Knestout threw your unworthy servant into the ecclesiastical gulag for the ‘crime’ of pointing out this evident fact.

My friend Bob Hoatson runs “Road to Recovery,” a non-profit that helps victims of sexual abuse. Last week, Bob mailed the same package to both Bishop Knestout and myself, a copy of Carmine Galasso’s book Crosses.

Bob mailed me a copy because of our friendship. He mailed Bishop Knestout a copy because the bishop serves on the Bishops-Conference Committee for Child and Youth Protection.

Crosses is an incredibly painful book to read. Also enormously illuminating. Catholic sex-abuse survivors tell their stories, in the first person. Galasso captures their world with haunting photos. The late A.W. Richard Sipe, expert in clerical sexual abuse, wrote of Crosses, “This book is a triumph of making sexual abuse by religion understandable.”

Now, speaking of trusting bishops…

Two weeks ago, a retired titular Archbishop,* Carlo Maria Viganò, wrote to the priests and laypeople of the Archdiocese of Washington. advising them to distrust their sitting archbishop, Wilton Gregory.

Why should they distrust him? Archbishop Viganò’s letter does not explain. Rather, Viganò simply takes for granted a certain interpretation of a number of unclear facts.

The White House apparently organized a visit by President Trump to the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, and invited Archbishop Gregory. Gregory, it seems, begged off.

Then, the night before the visit, White House security forces used some violent tactics to remove peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square, the lovely park just north of the White House.

Archbishop Gregory chose to condemn those tactics, in the form of a statement about the president’s visit to the JPII Shrine, which occurred the following day.

Crosses Galasso HoatsonDoesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Criticizing one thing by expressing bafflement about another. On the other hand: the police did, in fact, forcibly remove peaceful protesters from a place where they had lawfully assembled, without proper warning.

Let me simply note the following:

I wrote to Archbishop Gregory myself in April, 2019, while he was still Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia. I gave him some unsolicited advice. I recommended that he insist on full public disclosure about the McCarrick cover-up, before agreeing to take office in Washington.

I pointed out to Archbishop Gregory that, had Donald Wuerl done this–insisted on honesty about McCarrick–then the cover-up would have ended fourteen years ago.

We would have a much-larger reservoir of trust and good will in our Church, had either Wuerl or Gregory insisted on full disclosure of McCarrick’s crimes, prior to taking office as McCarrick’s successors.

What do we have instead? Well…

…Remember “Nathan Doe,” abused by Theodore McCarrick? Nathan moved me to tears with his loving solidarity last October. He told a reporter:

“McCarrick was charming. He was self-effacing. He was completely disarming. And he ran that game on everyone. He ran it on his colleagues, donors and on young boys. Everyone around this guy is just a different shade of victim.”

Nathan reported last fall that Vatican investigators had spoken with him. Nathan expressed his confidence that a healing ‘McCarrick Report’ would see the light of day.

Nathan kindly wrote to us again ten days ago, to offer an update. He remains hopeful. In spite of everything, Nathan trusts Pope Francis. He trusts the pope to give us a painful but soul-cleansing McCarrick Report.

After all, the pope has a most-important, most-sublime task, too. To provide bishops we can trust to give us parish priests people can trust.

I, for one, wonder why the duty of encouraging trust in the hierarchy falls to this particular anonymous sex-abuse victim. Nathan’s public hopefulness about full disclosure only makes the long, dull silence of the miters all the creepier.

…Nathan insists that earnest Vatican investigators have collected a huge amount of information. Presumably facts about McCarrick’s abuses of minors and young men, during the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

Tornielli Giorno GiudizioGetting all those facts on the table someday will certainly help to clear away the tidal-wave waters of American-Catholic disillusionment. Thank you, Nathan, and all the victims who have spoken to these investigators.

But certain facts already sit squarely on the table. In August of 2018, Archbishop Viganò revealed a great deal of theretofore-secret information. Anonymous Vatican sources confirmed a large chunk of that information, in Andrea Tornielli & Gianni Valente’s book Il Giorno del Giudizio, which I summarized for you, dear reader, in December 2018.

Let’s call the consensus of Viganò and Tornielli/Valente the “common ground” facts. (That’s what judges call the facts acknowledged by both sides in a court of law.) The common ground facts include: The pope, the heads of the Roman Congregations, and Donald Wuerl all knew something about McCarrick’s crimes. In 2005.

I pointed out those “common ground” facts in my letter to Archbishop Gregory last year. Archbishop Gregory never answered me.

…A few days after writing to the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Viganò then wrote to President Trump.

In this letter, Viganò paints two pictures. The first: a contest between good and evil in politics. I certainly cannot agree with the archbishop’s analysis there. He sees the protests over George Floyd’s death as purely theatrical, the result of behind-the-scenes manipulation. I don’t see that. To the contrary, I fear disastrous riots–all 100% sincere–if the prosecutors in Minnesota do not obtain guilty verdicts for the officers who killed George Floyd.

But Archbishop Viganò’s second picture touches our theme here: There’s a “deep Church”–a corrupt, hidden bureaucracy, hostile to the cause of Christ. This “deep Church” wages a vicious battle against the “good shepherds.”

Viganò provides no facts to substantiate this assertion. Which makes it sound more like Donatism than like orthodox Catholicism.

The truth–the ugly, detailed, tedious facts: they will help to purify our Church. On the other hand, broadside condemnations, unsupported by evidence, do more harm than good.

What I see is this:

The “corruption” causing such widespread disillusionment among Catholics involves, above all, unexamined self-righteousness.

I think we, the victims of the deception, could pretty easily forgive all the conspirators in the 21st-century part of the McCarrick cover-up, the “Washington phase.” If only those conspirators had the humility to acknowledge their culpable cowardice in failing to bring the malefactor to justice.

(Indeed, the “great” Viganò seems to have a hard time facing the fact that he himself was, for years, one of the conspirators in the 21st-century phase of the McCarrick cover-up.)

We could pretty easily forgive, if only there was some ‘fessing up. But the obdurate self-righteousness of the conspirators has stalled the whole process. And made the situation ten times worse than it ever had to be. (With a well-meaning parish priest in southwest Virginia languishing in an outrageous ecclesiastical gulag, with his people suffering needlessly.)

Instead of lining up on two teams, let’s remind ourselves:

Why do we enter a parish church in the first place? In order to take our rightful place on the “true Church” team?

Speaking for myself, that’s not my reason. I walk into the parish church because: I fear winding up on the other team, in the end. I fear I’m on the other team right now. I need every bit of divine mercy to help me. And we find that mercy in the ministry of priests.

I violated Bishop Knestout’s “no trespass” order against me on Saturday. I entered St. Francis of Assisi parish church in Rocky Mount. (I had violated it the preceding Sunday, too, at St. Joseph’s in Martinsville, for the same reason.)

To go to confession.

* Higher-ranking officials of the Holy See of Rome generally become archbishops of places that no longer have Catholic populations, or of dioceses that have gotten absorbed by other dioceses during the course of history. A “titular” archbishop, therefore, has great responsibility in assisting the pope, but does not actually govern an archdiocese.

6 thoughts on “The Parish Church, Viganò, and Nathan Doe

  1. Fr. White, you seem to be revealing more and more your own bias and limits. Fr. White writes: “In this letter, Viganò paints two pictures. The first: a contest between good and evil in politics. I certainly cannot agree with the archbishop’s analysis there.”

    Fr. White, certainly you do not disagree with the philosophical insight that “man is a political form by nature.”? The Church has always affirmed this aspect of the human condition through theological Doctors, Magisterial documents pertaining to the common good, etc. The idea of a “political order” that posits a divorce between “politics” and questions of “good vs evil” is a tenet of the 17th Century Modern Enlightenment. This is a very recent novelty in the history of any civilization. This idea is by no means congruent with Christianity since it contradicts a fundamental anthropological reality discernable both by reason and also taught in Sacred Tradition (See Augustine and Aquinas’ commentaries on the Book of Genesis). Given that this is the case [feel free to fact check my claim!], why is it that you cannot agree that there exists “a contest between good and evil in politics”? Certainly the war between good and evil spans all human domains.

    Fr. White again writes, commenting on Vigano’s statements: “But Archbishop Viganò’s second picture touches our theme here: ‘There’s a “deep Church’–a corrupt, hidden bureaucracy, hostile to the cause of Christ.’ This ‘deep Church’ wages a vicious battle against the ‘good shepherds.’ Viganò provides no facts to substantiate this assertion. Which makes it sound more like Donatism than like orthodox Catholicism.”

    Fr. White, the heresy of “Donatism” is not even remotely equivalent to the claim that “corruption [both in regard to sex abuse and with regard to theological decadence] prevails in the human bureaucracy of the Catholic hierarchy.” If there is no corrupt, human-driven bureaucracy, then please explain the following story:

    We have a bishop (from Pope Francis’ own ARGENTINA), ousted by his own seminarians, who was found to have photos of himself in the act of grave sexual perversity, having been reinstated FOR THE SECOND TIME at a specially-created position in the Vatican. This same bishop did all he could to use his power to silence the seminarians and priests who turned him in. His history is well documented. Yet, over the past year, this same man has enjoyed a sanctuary at the Vatican under the express wish of Francis. Hmm.

    There are so many stories that can be cited. Here is another one. An openly corrupt bishop who created a mural of HIMSELF in the midst of homosexual pandemonium being carried up into a net straight into heaven. (This was installed at the bishop’s cathedral). This same man was elevated to a high role of authority over the Pontifical Academy of Life by Francis, where he proceeded to oust anyone who defends Orthodox positions on matters of sexual morality. In their place, this man hired many open heretics. Go ahead and fact check all of this with your own sources. It is all quite public:

    These kinds of occurances sure appear to be a “corrupt bureaucracy” that actively operates against the work of genuine “shepherds.” If this is not a “corrupt bureaucracy” motivated by the human forces [in rebellion against the Holy Spirit], then please, explain, Fr. White, what the hell is?

  2. Until every human being recogizes that we are unworthy of anything without the love and mercy of God, healing will not happen. The ego continues its rampage of lies, confusion, corruption, and spiritual murder because the complacent human is afraid to face his or her darkiest side and say to his Savior…I surrender. It is over. I choose to walk with you. In humility and sincerity the human must say I believe there is a place for me in your kingdom. Come and rescue me from the delusions and lies of the enemy. If our heirarchy had the faith to say this from a trusting heart the McCarrick file would be opened, Cardinals, Bishops and priests would knock down the walls of protectionism which have greatly harmed the Church. Each of us will face our Creator on judgement day when there will be no finger pointing or excuse making. Just the soul before the God who loves him or her more than one can imagine. Sin is in all of us…I pray for those chosen as our Shepherds to demonstrate what they preach. Mercy and Trust will save us. Indifference will destroy us. It’s as simple as that. I continue to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary for you, father.

  3. Couple things,

    First, my understanding is that the crowd was given 3 warnings on loudspeaker 📢. But setting that aside, Gregory clearly was dishonest Bout his outrage since he know Trump was coming weeks before. If he was that concerned about it then why allow the visit in the first place? The best one can say is that Gregory’s expression was too overtly political when he knew the visit was scheduled for the 100th anniversary.

    Second, it appears to me that Vigano tends to assume that readers of his letters have read the entire body of his letters in recent years including the one from last year which contains a good amount of granular and objective information. I also get the impression he (or maybe he wants us to believe) has more information.

    All that said, I would agree that extremists can hijack or leverage unrelated events to advance their own agenda. This is true of the anarchists and communist groups that don’t really care about George Floyd. It could also be true of groups like The SPX group that doesn’t recognize Vatican II that may want to leverage events to overreach in other areas beyond the core crisis of getting the abuse chloroxed out of the Church. I see Vigano on the precipice of that but he has other things he’s done that gives his views some weight such as the fact he uncovered the Vatican banking scandal.

  4. Hello Fr. White. I understand that you do not want to model your ministry after the phony shepherds. So then please respond to the criticism of your highly problematic points of view. In particular, please address the two questions posed to you [June 15], in my comment above. On a related note, it looks like Mr. Tom Albanese engages in the same line of thinking as Fr. White with regard to controversies of the ‘political order.’

    Mr. Tom Albanese faults Archbishop Gregory on the basis that his expression was “too overtly political.” Please do tell, Mr. Albanese, where the Catholic Magisterium ever taught that being “political”—either in a “covert” manner or in an otherwise “overt” manner—is evil for Christians? Where do you guys come up with this stuff? This is is ironic because Mr. McCarrick once used the exact same diabolical deception to thwart the Church’s longstanding practice of refusing communion to public apostates:

    The problem is not that Archbishop Gregory is defending a “political” stance. The problem is that his “political” stance does not conform to right reason and the natural law with regard to the Common Good and Marriage and Family Life. ***For those who do not know, Archbishop Gregory is an outspoken proponent of the lgbt∞ celebratory nonsense. Regarding Cardinal Bernadin—infamous for having raped a child during a Satanic ritual—Archbishop Gregory recently stated: “He was a mentor and a friend and a father and a brother. Just watching him being a bishop taught me a lot — how he handled people, how he approached difficulties, how he sought to resolve issues and respond to needs.”

    Getting back to the point, the Catholic Church has always taught, and still teaches!, that ‘man is a political form by nature.’ [[I elaborated on this in my first comment, June 15, above. See also Aristotle’s Politics, Book 1, which St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas fine tuned without altering the essential notion that man is intrinsically (teleologically) a political creature]]. And yet, so many bishops today erroneously presume a divorce between ‘spiritual, religious’ matters and ‘secular, political’ matters… THIS is a MAJOR tenet of theological decadence among Catholic clergy today! Hence, in 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith weighed in very strongly on the matter: “there cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life’, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.” Here is the citation in context:

    “The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible. There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life’, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In fact, every area of the lay faithful’s lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the ‘places in time’ where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility – as, for example, skill and solidarity in work, love and dedication in the family and the education of children, service to society and public life and the promotion of truth in the area of culture – are the occasions ordained by providence for a ‘continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity’” (Published 2002, Doctrinal Note: on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, Paragraph 6).

    The same document laments how today: “citizens claim complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices, and lawmakers maintain that they are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore the principles of natural ethics and yield to ephemeral cultural and moral trends, as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value. At the same time, the value of tolerance is disingenuously invoked when a large number of citizens, Catholics among them, are asked not to base their contribution to society and political life – through the legitimate means available to everyone in a democracy – on their particular understanding of the human person and the common good” (Paragraph 2).

  5. Addendum: Here are some public facts regarding Archbishop Gregory. *These facts deserve to be noted since Fr. White voiced incredulity at the suggestion that Catholics should “distrust” Archbishop Gregory*:

    ~~Back in 2004, when Gregory was bishop of Belleville, Illinois, he was held in contempt of court for refusing to release mental health records related to a sex abuse case involving a retired priest.

    ~~In 2018, Gregory pushed back against the Hidden Predator Act, a Georgia bill that would have extended the statute of limitations from age 23 to 38 for victims of child sexual abuse. The bill also would have allowed child sex abuse victims to sue both their alleged abusers and the organizations that enabled the abuse.

    ~~That was just a few months before 2018’s “summer of shame” for U.S. Catholics, when homosexual abuse claims came to light against now-laicized ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and a grand jury report in Pennsylvania listed sexual abuse allegations against hundreds of Catholic clergy.

    ~~In addition to his filial ties to Satanist-Rapist Cardinal Bernardin, Gregory also had close ties to McCarrick. After news broke last year of abuse allegations against McCarrick, Gregory said in a statement, “I am hurt, because my respect and fraternal esteem for Theodore McCarrick were clearly misplaced.”

    ~~In 2013, Gregory restored a priest to active ministry who had been removed for homosexual activity. That priest, Fr. Juan Fernando Areiza, was removed from ministry in 2010 after evidence came to light that he violated priestly celibacy in a consensual gay relationship.

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