James Still Deserves an Amanuensis + Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

from the “When Will the Scandal Be Over?” file…

Abraham Lincoln faced defeat in the election in 1864. But then General William T. Sherman took Atlanta (as recounted in Gone With the Wind). The victory restored the voters’ faith in the war effort. Lincoln won re-election and gave a second inaugural address in 1865, as the war neared the end of its fourth year.

lincoln-readingLincoln kept his second inaugural speech blessedly short. He quoted, or alluded to, the Holy Bible at least six times. His theme: the workings of Divine Providence.

Lincoln meditated on the preceding four years. Civil war had come shortly after his first inauguration. Neither side imagined that the war would drag on as it had, with 600,000 dead. But God had willed it so.

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

In other words: The U.S. owed the Civil War to Almighty God, as a kind of debt for centuries of chattel slavery. Lincoln prayed that the war would soon end, but then continued:

If God wills that it continue until… every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, …the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

…The bishop of our sister diocese in West Virginia recently wrote in a letter to his people:

As some of you have told me, we need to put the Bransfield saga behind us and move on.

But at least one of Bransfield’s victims does not agree.

On August 20, Bishop-Emeritus Bransfield published a “Letter to the Faithful” of our sister diocese, in which he wrote:

I am writing to apologize for any scandal and wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me… There have been allegations that by certain words and actions I have caused certain priests and seminarians to feel sexually harassed. Although that was never my intent, if anything that I said or did caused others to feel that way, then I am profoundly sorry.

BISHOP MARK E. BRENNAN
Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan, current bishop of Wheeling-Charleston WV.

One of those seminarians that Bransfield harassed goes by the initals VGD. After Bransfield published his letter, through diocesan channels, VGD issued a statement, pointing out that…

1. Michael Bransfield’s attempt at apology and reconciliation is, in our Catholic Tradition, inadequate and unsatisfactory… We Catholics do not apologize for ‘actions attributed to us,’ or for hypothetical ‘ifs.’

2. Sitting Bishop Brennan had suggested to the public that Bransfield had privately apologized to his victims. VGD notes: Michael Bransfield did not reach out privately to apologize to me or other victims of his with whom I exchange support. [emphasis added]

3. VGD filed a lawsuit, after he had tried to meet with Archbishop William Lori, and with Lori’s investigators, and got rebuffed both times. The lawsuit outlines the web of cronyism involved in the situation. The suit also describes the sexual harassment VGD suffered at Bransfield’s hands. VGD writes, about his lawsuit:

I would not be seeking legal recourse if justice would be done by my church. The bishops in charge…delay, draw out, and stay my case…while at the same time telling us to “move on.” That is the language of perpetuating abuse, it is the language of cover-up.

Let’s just briefly recall the facts. Bransfield was about to reach mandatory retirement age, after decades of abuse of power–abuse that had been reported to Church authorities repeatedly, over the course of those decades. When it was all about to end anyway, with the malefactor’s retirement, one of Bransfield’s chancery priests denounced him to the Archbishop of the province, Lori.

Lori then received a mandate from the Vatican to conduct a secret investigation. Someone on the inside of that investigation apparently ran out of patience with the endless secrecy of the ecclesiastical cronies and leaked the whole report to the Washington Post. This gave the world access to the stunning details of Bransfield’s abuses of power. One of those details: Bransfield had given Lori cash gifts.

Archbishop William Lori
Archbishop William Lori

Lori suppressed that fact from the final version of the report. (Lori’s deception there may be what pushed the leaker over the edge.)

The investigators’ report recommended punishments for Bransfield, most of which have never happened. As someone Bransfield sexually harassed, VGD asked:

Are we supposed to simply sleep well at night crossing our fingers and just hoping that the re-empowered “bishop” Bransfield doesn’t get drunk and call us in the middle of the night, again? Or text us in the middle of the night, again?

VGD went on:

We can keep waiting for a scrubbed McCarrick report, or we can simply watch Bransfield unfold. We can watch our bishops demonstrate how to give gifts, how to make payments, how to promote your proteges, auxiliaries, and successors, how to bury and defy an abuse report, how to redact your own names, how to get away with it.

…A few weeks ago, a group of clerical sex-abuse survivors in Buffalo NY wrote to Pope Francis. They lamented that they had tried to communicate with the Apostolic Administrator currently running their diocese, without any success.

From the time the apostolic administrator, Edward Scharfenberger. came to Buffalo, he stated on numerous occasions his willingness to meet with any Survivor and offered the opportunity to see the files of our offenders. To this date, even with our reaching out to him, he has never personally followed through to contact any of us, making his words as a representative of the Catholic Church ring hollow. As Survivors, we are forced to relive our past experiences of sexual abuse, and being ignored re-traumatizes us.

pope francis head rubThe sex-abuse survivors asked the pope:

Why have you not taken swift and decisive action in putting and end to the sexual abuse of children and punish the perpetrators under your authority?

…The pattern has long since gotten familiar. Promises made by prelates of personal interactions with survivors that will bring about reconciliation. Then it never happens.

Reminds me of one fact recounted in the Minnesota Public Radio series Betrayed by Silence, which won a prestigious journalism award in 2014. The series exposed the duplicity of  three Twin-Cities Archbishops, including the late Harry Flynn, who had previously served as bishop in Lafayette LA.

(Flynn also chaired the committee that drafted the Dallas Charter of 2002, sharing the limelight on that occasion with Theodore McCarrick.)

The Scandal began in Lafayette, with the predations of Father Gilbert Gauthe. The MPR reporters found one of Gauthe’s victims, Mr. Scott Gastal. They told Gastal how Flynn had said he met with Gauthe’s victims. “Did he meet with you?”

“That’s the first I’m hearing of anything like that,” Gastal replied.

Betrayed by Silence also recounts how Mr. Tom Mahowald sought justice and reconciliation by seeking an encounter with a diocesan official, Father Kevin McDonough–only to have Father Kevin slam the door in his face:

…My point is: President Abraham Lincoln recognized that he had no right to exhort anyone to “move on.” If the Civil War was to drag on longer, with all its misery, so be it. The nation owed God all that misery and more, in exchange for the misery that slavery had cost the slaves.

In our Church, a huge debt of pain remains. If every ounce of suffering drawn by acts of clergy sexual abuse shall be paid by another ounce of suffering drawn from the institution, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore
Mr. James Grein

…You may remember that, 26 months ago, I committed myself to the task of collecting all of James Grein’s public statements. James recently spoke on a “Catholic Project” podcast called Crisis. He recounted the abuse he suffered at the hands of Theodore McCarrick.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick last year. But the malefactor still has the ear of at least one high-ranking Vatican cardinal. And the web of deceit involved in covering up for McCarrick remains very much in place.

Don’t give up hope on my book about this, dear reader. I actually have almost all of it written, but it needs editing and emendations. I will post the draft of chapter three soon.

5 thoughts on “James Still Deserves an Amanuensis + Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

  1. Writing as a soon-to-be married “Millennial” and alumnus of Franciscan University of Steubenville, I am neither a “rad trad catholic” nor a “grossly malformed loosey-goosey catholic.” I must say, Rev. White, you add to the ongoing issue of corruption among clergy. You rail about the indifference and arrogance of bishops, even while you callously ignore the accusation that you espouse a lie that harms the Church in souls! Please conform your own mind and heart fully to the “unity of belief” preserved by the God-Man, Jesus Christ!

    You claimed that: “…the act of voting in a presidential election can only be analyzed morally based on the intentions involved.” (Comment under Fr. White’s blog entry on September 21, 2020)
    And you claimed that a person “must have an evil intention in order to sin.” (Comment under Fr. White’s blog entry on September 21, 2020)

    Abiding by these claims, you apparently believe that ‘well meaning catholics’ are not liable for Grave Sin when they empower a political organization that works to proliferate abortion and euthanasia.

    Despite the fact that the Democrat Party PLATFORM commits to exalting “murder” to the point of being a “global right,” you would have the sheep believe that “Church teaching” gave us the green light to empower the Democratic Party so long as our personal ‘intention’ is aimed at accomplishing something good.

    Dear fellow Catholics: Rev. White here is misrepresenting a clarification that originally came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2004. The CDF writes that: “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
    https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/worthiness-to-receive-holy-communion-general-principles-2153

    What Mark White, Cardinal Tobin, and the Jesuit James Martin all have in common is that they do not care to explain the circumstances in which a Catholic can invoke a “proportionate reason.”

    If a voter is facing morally negotiable practices and weighing these (in their conscience) against other morally negotiable practices, then there is room for invoking a “proportionate reason” to vote for a specific political organization. Here are some government issues that deal with morally negotiable practices: policies dealing with the fluctuation of the climate; policies dealing with illegal immigration; policies dealing with domestic or foreign defence; policies dealing with the welfare system and economy; policies dealing with police and criminal administration.

    Now when it comes to Non-Morally Negotiable practices, this concept of “proportionate reason” is often distorted to mean something that the Catholic Church does NOT teach. Anyone who sincerely desires to remain faithful to Christ’s truth will have to grapple with the following question: Does my Post-Modern society and lifestyle present me with a “proportionate reason” to empower a political network that systematically works to globalize the ‘right’ to murder? THIS is the question that malformed priests always avoid! Luckily, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dispels ambiguity at least for this specific question. The CDF writes:

    “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
    https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/worthiness-to-receive-holy-communion-general-principles-2153

    The USCCB’s latest output on this matter echoes this point, albeit with slightly less clarity:
    “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed” (Page 6, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship) https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf

    If the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is correct, then Rev. White cannot be right that “…the act of voting in a presidential election can only be analyzed morally based on the intentions involved.”
    He is wrong in believing that a person “must have an evil intention in order to sin.” On the contrary, a person can indeed sin even though they ‘intend’ to do good! One can do this by
    doing mental gymnastics in order to empower a political network that doggedly works to globalize the ‘right’ to murder!

    Saint John Paul II describes this kind of scenario, where persons can sin on account of the objective accomplishments of the organization that they support or fail to resist:
    “Whenever the church speaks of situations of sin or when the condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins.” (Saint John Paul II, Reconciliation and Penance, no. 160).

  2. Socrates, despite your apparent certainty otherwise, you have made several mistakes in your comments across various posts.

    First, to conclude from Fr. White’s focus on victims of abuse that abortion victims are less important or not important at all is an informal fallacy of relevance. There is no logical way to conclude anything from his mentioning one group and not the other.

    Second, you seem unclear on the difference between objective and actual sin. Objective sin is an act that offends against God’s love, and thus is immoral, whether or not a person knew it was immoral or they were free to choose the act in itself. Actual sin is also an act that offends against God’s love, and thus is immoral, but the person committing the act knows something of the immorality of the act and choose to do it anyway with some degree of freedom. When a human person commits an objective sin, without knowing that it is immoral, or without any freedom of choice, then act is not an actual sin. Now, purposeful failure to inform one’s conscience about the moral quality of their actions increases culpability, but unavoidable ignorance does not (the prevalence of that is another discussion).

    Third, you are conflating the act of procuring an abortion with the act of voting (either for legislation, as a legislator, or for a candidate, as a voter). As Fr. White has said repeatedly, if Roe v. Wade was directly on the ballot as a referendum, voting in favor of keeping it would be immoral not just because of the moral matter at hand, but because of the proximity of the voter to cooperation with that evil (aiding, abetting, etc.), as the 2004 CDF clarification also states. Even so, the act of voting would still not be the same as procuring an abortion; voting is not intrinsically evil, and so intentions and circumstances must be taken into account (though not only those things, nor just one of those things). The degree to which a particular politician supports the official party platform also matters as part of circumstances.

    The piece you cite from the CDF explaining the difference in moral weight is of course correct, but your use of it continues your conflation of the intrinsic evil and gravity of abortion and euthanasia, and the non-intrinsic evil of voting for a politician who supports those things (which can be morally permissible, given a proportionate reason). I agree that given the candidates we have running in this election, finding a proportionate reason to vote for many, if not all, pro-abortion candidates is difficult, if not impossible.

    However, to attack Fr. White’s mention of proportionate reason as if he’s saying it’s OK to do whatever you feel like, as long as it seems good to you, is unfairly placing words in his mouth (as it’s obviously something he doesn’t believe or mean, based on everything else he’s ever posted, including in responses to your comments; this seems to be one reason for his stated frustration with your posts). He is correct that an evil intention is necessary for someone to be guilty of an offense they’ve committed against God’s love (it is still an objective sin, but not an actual sin for which the person is guilty, assuming there was no way they could have known beforehand that it was immoral).

    Even though it is strictly an error—or at least misleading—to say that “the act of voting can only be analyzed morally based on the intentions involved,” a more charitable reading of this is that since the act of voting is not an intrinsic evil, we must consider the intentions and circumstances as well; because circumstances only increase or diminish the moral goodness of an act and cannot change the moral quality of the act of voting, we consider the object of the act (the what) and the intentions (the why) to determine the moral quality of the act (in considering whether something is an objective sin). Filling in the gaps this way, Fr. White’s statement aligns to this understanding of Church teaching (found in the Catechism #1750–56).

    The current election situation, especially the political party platforms in place today, doesn’t inspire much confidence of a restoration of a culture of life, and I understand that displeasure with that state of affairs is where a lot of these comments are coming from. It’s just not only is some of the theology used missing or misleading, but also that the lack of charity shown—which is, by the way, the same criticism Fr. Altman’s bishop levied on the latter’s video—is part of the problem we have in America regarding polarization and a lack of civil discourse. It’s disappointing that this lack of charity was directed by one Catholic toward another for so prolonged a period.

  3. Addendum: Regarding my statement that “persons can sin on account of the objective accomplishments of the organization that they support or fail to resist.” Something comparable has already happened in American history. By the 1800s, the Church’s magisterium had clearly condemned, several times, over the course of several centuries, the heinous activity of slave ownership. At one point, the Pope even barred Catholics from Sacramental Absolution if they continued to own slaves. All the while, many lay catholics appealed to “economy” and “industry” and other negotiable issues to justify their involvement with the systematic institution of slavery. At the same time, the vast majority of U.S. bishops ignored the magisterium. They were dead silent and many of them benefited monetarily from their reticence. Sound familiar?

    Considering Saint John Paul II’s statement that: “such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins,” (On the Reconciliation and Penance, no. 160), we have to wonder: What what were the “personal sins” of so many lukewarm laity and bishops back then? Certainly it had something to do with a Consequentialist appeal to “proportionate reasons” to justify participation in an inherently evil organization.

  4. Socrates, despite your apparent certainty otherwise, you have made several mistakes in your comments across various posts.

    First, to conclude from Fr. White’s focus on victims of abuse that abortion victims are less important or not important at all is an informal fallacy of relevance. There is no logical way to conclude anything from his mentioning one group and not the other.

    Second, you seem unclear on the difference between objective and actual sin. Objective sin is an act that offends against God’s love, and thus is immoral, whether or not a person knew it was immoral or they were free to choose the act in itself. Actual sin is also an act that offends against God’s love, and thus is immoral, but the person committing the act knows something of the immorality of the act and choose to do it anyway with some degree of freedom. When a human person commits an objective sin, without knowing that it is immoral, or without any freedom of choice, then act is not an actual sin. Now, purposeful failure to inform one’s conscience about the moral quality of their actions increases culpability, but unavoidable ignorance does not (the prevalence of that is another discussion).

    Third, you are conflating the act of procuring an abortion with the act of voting (either for legislation, as a legislator, or for a candidate, as a voter). As Fr. White has said repeatedly, if Roe v. Wade was directly on the ballot as a referendum, voting in favor of keeping it would be immoral not just because of the moral matter at hand, but because of the proximity of the voter to cooperation with that evil (aiding, abetting, etc.), as the 2004 CDF clarification also states. Even so, the act of voting would still not be the same as procuring an abortion; voting is not intrinsically evil, and so intentions and circumstances must be taken into account (though not only those things, nor just one of those things). The degree to which a particular politician supports the official party platform also matters as part of circumstances.

    The piece you cite from the CDF explaining the difference in moral weight is of course correct, but your use of it continues your conflation of the intrinsic evil and gravity of abortion and euthanasia, and the non-intrinsic evil of voting for a politician who supports those things (which can be morally permissible, given a proportionate reason). I agree that given the candidates we have running in this election, finding a proportionate reason to vote for many, if not all, pro-abortion candidates is difficult, if not impossible.

    However, to attack Fr. White’s mention of proportionate reason as if he’s saying it’s OK to do whatever you feel like, as long as it seems good to you, is unfairly placing words in his mouth (as it’s obviously something he doesn’t believe or mean, based on everything else he’s ever posted, including in responses to your comments; this seems to be one reason for his stated frustration with your posts). He is correct that an evil intention is necessary for someone to be guilty of an offense they’ve committed against God’s love (it is still an objective sin, but not an actual sin for which the person is guilty, assuming there was no way they could have known beforehand that it was immoral).

    Even though it is strictly an error—or at least misleading—to say that “the act of voting can only be analyzed morally based on the intentions involved,” a more charitable reading of this is that since the act of voting is not an intrinsic evil, we must consider the intentions and circumstances as well; because circumstances only increase or diminish the moral goodness of an act and cannot change the moral quality of the act of voting, we consider the object of the act (the what) and the intentions (the why) to determine the moral quality of the act (in considering whether something is an objective sin). Filling in the gaps this way, Fr. White’s statement aligns to this understanding of Church teaching (found in the Catechism #1750–56).

    The current election situation, especially the political party platforms in place today, doesn’t inspire much confidence of a restoration of a culture of life, and I understand that displeasure with that state of affairs is where a lot of these comments are coming from. It’s just not only is some of the theology used missing or misleading, but also that the lack of charity shown—which is, by the way, the same criticism Fr. Altman’s bishop levied on the latter’s video—is part of the problem we have in America regarding polarization and a lack of civil discourse. It’s disappointing that this lack of charity was directed by one Catholic toward another for so prolonged a period.

  5. One last quote, which has grave implications for laity and clergy who refuse to let their ‘conscience’ be formed by the “objective morality” and “eternal principles” proclaimed by Christ’s Church:
    “Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Par. 1859).

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