Think about the cool kids in high school. Think especially about the cool boys. Confident that whatever they did was okay, cool boys attracted girls–and they attracted other boys, who wanted to hang out with cool kids and be cool, too.
Theodore McCarrick was a cool Catholic cleric.
He has many talents: charisma, great intelligence, natural leadership ability. He ran the show without appearing to need anyone’s approval. Like a cool high school kid, he exuded confidence that what he did was a good thing to do.
Theodore McCarrick did good things for the church. At least he thought they were good things, he said they were good things–and all the clergymen around him thought that such a very cool person could only do very good things.
Other Catholic clerics were not as cool. They needed the approval of others. Did they decide to become priests because a priest gets automatic approval and attention in his parish?
From the beginning, McCarrick carried himself differently. He wasn’t needy like they were. At least he didn’t appear to be. He just took control—politicking, organizing, giving speeches, seeking and getting the attention of bishops, cardinals, and popes with his wit and easy manner.
Was McCarrick ever nervous? He never seemed to be. Cool people speak and move and act with great ease.
McCarrick achieved fame, inside and outside the Catholic Church. He became a bishop, then cardinal archbishop. He conferred with popes. He went on diplomatic missions. All the uncool Catholic bishops and priests loved seeing him in newspapers and on TV. They thought he made the church seem cool. Even better, he made them feel cool because they were associated with him.
So maybe we can imagine McCarrick, early in his career as a bishop, sitting with three other priests on the porch of his Sea Girt, New Jersey, beach house. He’s suggesting something about the five bedrooms of that house. What he means is: a priest (including himself) in each bed, and a good-looking, vulnerable boy in each bed, too.
One of his companions gets led into it. “Hey, I could do that.”
Yes, he could do that. He had the inclination, but—before now–he had never actually done it. But now, Mr. Cool Cleric is even organizing the party. Why not?
Another of the McCarrick companions on the porch thinks to himself, “Wait. I don’t know. This stuff he’s talking about–it’s wrong.” McCarrick stares at him for a long silent minute. “Well, okay. You’re so cool. I guess you get a pass on this.”
“A pass on this.” This companion couldn’t bear for the cool kid, McCarrick, to dislike him. So he and all the other Catholic clergymen give McCarrick a pass. And gave themselves one, too, if they wanted it.
The third oceanfront companion then speaks up. “Sure. Nobody will ever find out about this anyway.”
The perennial dynamic of peer pressure. From the “cool” kid. But with life-shattering consequences for the victims.
Eventually the world did find out. But only because victim survivors had the courage to speak out, after years of hidden pain. And whistle-blowers, lawyers, and journalists scoured broom closets to find the hidden skeletons. To this day, state attorneys general wonder if there are still more closets, more evidence of the considered-to-be-cool belief that “Nobody will ever find out about this.”
Criticize McCarrick. He deserves it. But remember who else deserves criticism. All the cowardly, Mr.-Cool wannabes who sucked up to McCarrick as though they were high school rejects sucking up to the cool kid in the group.
They carried on the myth that McCarrick deserved respect. Catholic boys and young men did respect him. Their parents respected him, too, never dreaming that he would use their sons as sex toys.
It took a long time before the uncool clergy got it together to remove McCarrick from the priesthood. They finally had to mete out a token punishment for the cool kid, because they couldn’t completely escape the pressure of an outside world that didn’t quite see the coolness in sex abuse.
But look at what those uncool Catholic clergymen have never admitted about themselves. They haven’t admitted that, with respect to McCarrick the sex abuser, they didn’t behave like adult men able to make sound judgments about a peer.
No, decade after decade, they behaved like high school kids who worshiped the cool kid in their midst. The clergy around McCarrick wanted more than anything else in the world to hang out with cool kid, be like him, and get him to like them.
16 thoughts on “Guest Post by Ann White: McCarrick the “Cool Kid””
Honor your vow of obedience. Take down your blog. Minister as a Catholic priest.
Just be a blogger.
Honoring the vow of obedience and taking down the blog isn’t going to make the abuse, or the horrific memories suffered by the victims go away.
I am glad Mark is strong enough to speak out for the victims. I wish the Church leaders felt the same way. The only way to prevent more abuse is to take a stand against the abuse that has already happened.
“A Sinner”: she is not a priest and not even Catholic so you are way off base (always good to read the by line before you start issuing commands). As for Fr Mark, he is living out his baptism, particularly the prophetic part, and so should any baptized person, priest or layperson (refer you to Catechism, esp CCC 909). To the point, the baptized act prophetically when they speak the truth. Jesus says in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. Maybe some people just feel more comfortable with a sheepish, immature person who quietly administers sacraments and never challenges them with the actual Gospel. But do you honestly believe Jesus would have his church continue to cover up the truth of these horrific sins and never come completely clean? I cannot for the life of me understand is why more are not speaking out loudly. Sickening.
Think about God. Think about God for once. Think especially about Jesus Christ, and the salvation of souls and forgiveness of sins. Think about the Church He founded. Think about His spotless Bride. Think about every single soul in Heaven and all of the Saints who found salvation and perfection in Jesus Christ in His Church. Think about all those who have found healing and love in His Church. Think about every single Priest in this Church who has faithfully and courageously given himself to Christ, His Church and tended the flock. Think about every single Baptism in His Church. Think about every sin forgiven sinners through the Priesthood and the Sacrament of Confession in the Church. Remember God!
Our beautiful Priests worship God every single day. They worship God. In all of their flaws and perfections, they are in persona Christi. Our Priests work tirelessly to show us Jesus Christ every single day through the Sacraments He initiated. Nothing on this earth compares to the Eucharist, the living manna straight from Heaven. Our Priests need our love and support now more than ever. They are being torn apart from every side. I have known good Priests and awful Priests. We all have. Jesus Christ loves them all.
Priests are not perfect. They are human beings. The closer one comes to perfection, the harder the Evil One will attack. Some fall like Judas. We are still called to love. We need to pray for our Priests, good and bad alike. Yes, they should all be held accountable for crimes committed and abuses of power. Absolutely! We also need to pray for healing of all victims, not just those who make for good politicking and headlines. We need healing and forgiveness. We need Jesus Christ!
Start reflecting on Him instead of obsessing on evil and making up silly stories. Stop trying to make excuses for your son’s poor behavior. He is not being disciplined for defending victims. That is a LIE. He is being disciplined for horrible and foul behavior unbecoming of any person claiming Christianity and for disobeying orders he agreed to follow.
You have made clear you are not Catholic. It is not necessary. As a convert, I can assure you any devout Catholic mother would have chased her 50 year-old son around with a switch to put a bar of soap in his mouth, directed him to Church for Confession and recommended an honest public apology for the questionable nonsense on this page!
You cannot keep using McCarrick as an excuse for your son’s problems. Victims of abuse are not pawns in a silly political game. It is not working. Mark is going to have to face reality and take responsibility for his poor behavior at some point.
In the meantime, think about the Word of God. Think about the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. Think about that light shining in the darkness. That light is the way out. He is the only way, the truth and the life. Read John 1 and remember Him.
Continued prayers for you and your family.
Whatever any of us may think, believe, wish for, etc., the fact is that Fr. Mark has to obey God, and God alone. Whatever our opinion or judgment is regarding what he is doing, why he is doing it, how all of this has come to pass…in the end, it still comes back to Fr. Mark obeying what he believes God has called him to do. As I have said before, why would Fr. Mark put himself through this if he didn’t believe it was God’s purpose for him? For those who may now reply that Fr. Mark isn’t hearing God correctly, who among us has the authority to judge what God is saying to His servant Mark! Let us pray for ourselves as well as for Fr. Mark.
The fact is that it is a Bishop’s duty to correct a Priest when they have erred, in particularly if the sin is causing public scandal. We have a hierarchy that was established by Jesus Christ and passed on through the Apostles. We have an entire Bible and a Catechism, as well as nearly two thousand years of Christian doctrine and ethics that explain the difference between right and wrong, grace and sin, that we are supposed to obey and uphold. Priests have a code of conduct they have to follow.
St. Augustine spoke clearly on the matter: “You become worse than the sinner if you fail to correct him.” St. Aquinas elaborated on whether sinful acts can be considered good: “Now sinful acts are evil in themselves, and cannot become good, no matter how, or when, or where, they are done, because of their very nature they are connected with an evil end, as stated in Ethic. ii, 6: wherefore negative precepts bind always and for all times.”
As to the current case, “It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God’s condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.”
The Bishop has the authority to determine right from wrong. The Bishop has spoken justly and correctly on this matter repeatedly. Who are you to judge the authority of my Bishop?
For reference on Fraternal Correction: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3033.htm
Let us pray for our Bishop and all of our obedient, holy Priests who have had to endure unjust attacks and undue hardships while trying to lead their flocks through a pandemic because of the continued insolent and selfish behavior of Fr. White.
No no no Cynthia, with all charity, you are very wrong! The bishop is not infallible and you (assuming you are baptized) may not abdicate your moral decision-making to “your Bishop” or anyone else for that matter. Will Bishop Knestout stand next to you on your judgement day and Be your spokesperson? By your argument, priests in Nazi Germany who spoke out against Hitler when their bishops urged silence and compliance were wrong…except they were not wrong at all and some are now recognized by the Church as saints for precisely doing what the Holy Spirit urged them to do in spite of their bishops! And there have been saints all down the centuries who faced opposition from their very own bishops for doing what we can clearly see in hindsight was what God called them to do. Who are you to judge?!?
Cynthia, your correct in your evaluation of the situation that Mark has created for himself. There are many parishioners who respect your thoughts.
M. Spencer: well said. Also, Nazi Germany point is right on!
C. Fore: if we use the rule that priests must always blindly obey the bishop/archbishop/etc.,then could that not translate into including obedience to sexual improprieties requested by the bishop/archbishop/etc.?
Re scandal: The bishop was the one who chose to place the entire matter in the eyes of the public with his publication in the Martinsville Bulletin. Up until then, I think it is accurate to say that primarily it was people who read the “blog” who were aware of the situation.
The rule of “obedience” requires that those in “power” be themselves fair and trustworthy, a “servant to the servants,” as per the Pope. In my opinion, the behavior of the bishop brings to mind the leaders in the New Testament, who were so wrapped up in their own egos, their self-serving interpretation of the laws, their fear of loss of power, that their actions ultimately led to the crucifixion of the Son of God.
Judy, comparing Marks situation to the Crucifixion of the Son of God is difficult to digest. Mark has stated he cannot perform his duties since a pedophile/homosexual Bishop ordained him. There is an understandable moral/psychological injury towards ALL of those who were ordained by this Bishop, his victims, and faithful Catholics. It is not a matter of crucifying any of these men who speak out as much as discussing solutions in the open forum in a RESPECTFUL manner. Anger and accusations have dominated much of the discussion. A tried and true method is for ALL is to adhere to the Gifts/Fruits of the Holy Spirit in moving forward. Sure the hard core disillusioned on this blog will have a field day with this…
Reductio ad Hitlerum is a fallacy and irrelevant to the subject matter as is the vile fallacy of relating defense of our Bishop in this situation to defense of sexual abuse.
We are talking about why Fr. White was reprimanded. It has nothing to do with defense of victims or his “investigation.” It is his poor behavior, lack of Christian ethics, and inability to follow an order he agreed to honor.
Sane judgment is required to make a valid determination sans fallacies. No sane individual could or would justify the questionable remarks from Fr. White as correct, prudent, charitable or Christian. Public correction should be done with gentleness and respect after judicially seeking private clarification. Our Bishop dutifully followed the correct procedure in that regard.
This blog is considered public. It is not private. A quick search on Google will show you an invite to visit St. Joseph’s with an advertisement to check out Fr. White’s blog. https://www.catholicdirectory.com/martinsville/church/st-joseph-catholic-church
Sane judgment must include prudence which is “…an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not and how to come at the one and avoid the other.”
Virtuous speech is not slanderous or driven by malice.
Lack of prudence warps true virtue. “Thus without prudence bravery becomes foolhardiness, mercy sinks into weakness, and temperance into fanaticism.” https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12517b.htm
This blog has become an obsession for Fr. Mark like the ring is to Gollum. His precious has started eating away at his life little by little. I pray he is able to find his way back.
Thank you Terry. It is an unfortunate situation, and I pray for God’s will to be done and for peace to prevail.
We each have our own understanding and beliefs about this situation, about the bishop and his actions, and about how Fr. Mark has handled it.
Re blog: I do not believe I said it was private. My point was that people chose to read it…or not…it was not forced upon them.
Re comparing Fr. Mark’s situation to the crucifixion of Christ, the comparison intended was that “leaders” have not changed that much over the centuries. (I am confident Fr. Mark would not wish that I compare him to Christ in this way and that was not my intent.) The leaders then chose to do what was the “best” for them and their positions…and felt justified in their actions.
(I do understand that Christ’s death and resurrection were for our salvation.)
We all have our hurts in our individual lives. But I doubt any of us have experienced the spiritual hurt that Fr. Mark experienced when he learned that the man whose hands rested upon his head as he knelt before him for his ordination had lived a life of such “unholy” behavior. A trust betrayed is a horrible hurt. Fr. Mark is God’s servant and God will bring him through this trial.
IN THE END, all of these discussions/quotes/opinions aside, Fr. Mark’s actions are between Fr. Mark and God. We will each believe as we think is right, we will each do what we choose (or not) to do, we will each support Fr. Mark or not…we will each act according to what we believe is God’s leading….just as Fr. Mark is doing.
I am cynical enough to realize that our individual “thoughts” about what “may” be God’s will are likely very different. Even so, I am thankful for the common thread among all of us in that we say we will pray for God’s will to be done.
May God’s mercy be upon us all.
Judy, is there any difference that the hands that rested on Marks head as he knelt before this unholy Bishop for his ordination diminish the absolution of our sins that Mark gave us in the confessional all these years? Did the unholy hands that rested on Marks head diminish the sanctity of those receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation? Did the hands of the unholy Bishop that rested on Marks head diminish the sanctity of the Pascal Mystery we experienced at Mass all these years? Did the hands of this unholy Bishop that rested on Marks head diminish the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony who officiated at wedding ceremonies? Did the hands of the unholy Bishop that rested on Marks head diminish the Sacrament of Baptism performed for innocent children and their families all these years? Did the unholy Bishops hands that rested on Marks head diminish the grace one receives in Anointing of the Sick? Why should Marks spiritual hurt of betrayal be any greater or lesser than that of other faithful Catholics sitting in the pews? One does not inherit another’s sins. One can chose to work in communion with the Church for change.
Terry, I have already stated in my comments on Fr. Mark’s blog months ago that despite the sins of the person whose hands ordained Fr. Mark, God’s love and power were greater. Fr. Mark’s ministry over the years has been a blessing to his parishioners and to the community. The many letters written in support of him attest to that…it is not just my personal opinion.
None of us can measure the depth of hurt experienced by another person. It is not a contest about who is hurting the most. It is very possible Fr. Mark himself might disagree with MY perception of his hurt. (For me, hurt is often accompanied by anger. Anger can motivate needed change.) Other priests ordained by McCarrick over the years may have processed their feelings very differently.
Fr. Mark has written about becoming very aware of the pain suffered by people who were victims of McCarrick, as well as those victims of other clergy. It is understandably frustrating, even insulting, to everyone, but especially so to victims, that the McCarrick report remains unavailable.
All of us who comment on this blog are, in addition to whatever facts, quotes, rules, we choose to share, still in the end voicing our personal views/ feelings/opinions, etc. (Even highly educated scholars sometimes disagree on the meaning of writings, events, etc.) We can argue/discuss/disagree. I think it unlikely that anything we write is going to change another person’s mind. We present and defend our points of view, with Fr. Mark on the receiving end of all of our opposing “wisdoms.”
Despite our different views, I think we each do love our Church and desire healing for all.
At this point in time, as I referenced in my earlier comment, I think that most of us have decided where we stand. Now we each do what we feel we should do. As Fr. Mark must do also.
May God be with all of us. Amen.
Pass the popcorn!