Bishop Robert Barron gave an interview to share his reaction to the Vatican’s McCarrick report. The bishop quibbled with the interviewer’s question about a “culture of cover-up.” Barron said:
When you press the issue of cover-up, you’re looking at real wickedness. You’re looking at people who were desirous of suppressing the truth. That’s a harder thing to judge. You’re looking at motivation. I think what’s clear objectively is how the system failed… What struck me is a clunky, sclerotic, dysfunctional system.
Bishop Barron’s lack of moral clarity here comes as no surprise. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Vatican report itself reaches no clarity about McCarrick’s guilt.
In fact, if you took the Vatican report as your primary source of information, you would wind up thinking, “McCarrick is a saintly man who served the Church selflessly over a long and brilliant career. Pope Francis had to defrock him after some anonymous people said terrible things about him in 2018. But who really knows the truth? McCarrick himself said, over and over again, that the men accusing him were just after money.”
On the other hand, if you have any moral clarity about the situation at all, you recognize the evident fact that McCarrick’s accusers are not all lying. You recognize that the offense for which the Vatican gave McCarrick a pass for decades–forcing subordinates and minors to share his bed–itself merits defrocking. A clear-headed, non-compromised reader of the report sees the evidence of a “culture of cover-up” begin to pile up on page 1 of the Vatican report.
The phrase “cover-up” does not do justice to the depths of wickedness that the report unwittingly reveals. One of my book editors pointed-out to me that the term “cronies,” which I use at crucial points in my narrative, falls short of the mark. A “crony” is some kind of government or union official without scruples. But a union or government crony has considerably less of a duty to exemplify Christianity than a Catholic prelate does. A Catholic prelate can’t be just a “crony.” A Catholic prelate who doesn’t care about justice is something more wicked than a crony.
What the Vatican report reveals is a network of cowards who have transformed responsibility-shirking into a genuine art form. This network of men has convinced itself that taking no responsibility whatsoever for the welfare of the vulnerable is precisely what makes for a successful churchman.
According to the report, Pope Paul VI made McCarrick a bishop on the testimony of dozens of fellow clergyman–at a point in history when McCarrick belonged in jail, 1977. As auxiliary bishop of east Manhattan, McCarrick established a domicile for himself in a building that had been a children’s hospital. It was in this place that McCarrick traumatized the victim that the Vatican report calls “Priest 1.”
The Vatican report treats “Priest 1” and other McCarrick-survivor-priests with thinly veiled contempt. The report calls them by number, rather than by name–even when they have spoken openly about their experiences. Priest 2 is Robert Ciolek. Priest 3 is Father Lauro Sedlmayer. Priest 1’s name is publicly available, but apparently he prefers to retain his privacy at this point, so I will respect that here.
These are the men who tried in vain–for years, decades, quarter-centuries–to get some Vatican official to own the McCarrick problem. Apparently, in 2006 and 2008, Archbishop Viganò tried to do just that, but his proposals met with rejection by his superiors. (More on that in a subsequent post.)
The Vatican report fails to sympathize with the survivor-priests’ point-of-view. In footnote 833 on page 253, the report even tries to set two of them against each other. Priest 1’s and Ciolek’s testimony agrees on the basic facts. The discrepancies between them are understandable, given the traumatic nature of McCarrick’s predation. But instead of recognizing that the Church owes these survivors not only sympathy, but praise for their courage and honesty, the report continues the cruel cover-up tactic of trying to cast doubt on their word, and does so by disingenuously pitting them against each other.
Father Sedlmayer, “Priest 3,” fares even worse. The report treats him solely as a pawn in the Vatican bureaucrats’ petty little cat-fight with Archbishop Viganò.
I know some find it hard to believe that an adult could be forced so easily [into mutual masturbation, which McC repeatedly forced upon Sedmayer.] The answer is fairly straightforward: a bishop holds your professional life, your reputation, your assignments, and your dignity in his hands… It was extremely difficult to resist the sense of fear and control that McCarrick exercised over me.
Sedlmayer gave his written testimony for the Vatican report to the Post; the Post printed these words of his. The Vatican report, however, does not include this statement. Perhaps because it so eloquently expresses the experience of McCarrick’s many victims.
In fact, the Vatican report blithely leaves the reader with the impression that Father Sedlmayer is a dangerous liar. The report only invokes him in order to make Archbishop Viganò look negligent. (Viganò appears, in fact, to have neglected Sedlmayer; as I mentioned, I intend to write more on that later.) The report happily ignores the torture to which ecclesiastical officials subjected Father Sedlmayer for decades. McCarrick’s successors in the diocese of Metuchen all told Father Sedlmayer to shut up.
No one in the Vatican would do anything about it. They still won’t.
The first reading at Mass on Sunday comes from Isaiah 63. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways and harden our hearts so we fear you not? …Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of your ways! There is none who rouses himself to cling to you. [Spanish]
The prophet speaks on our behalf, on behalf of the human race. As a sinful human being, Isaiah wrestles with his conscience. We experience this struggle within ourselves, too.
We have fallen away from God, and we know we have. We know the difference between how we are and how we should be. We’re in a bad situation, but it’s not entirely hopeless, because we see it for what it is. We are blind and lame. But not totally blind.
The passage from Isaiah expresses the way we wrestle with our consciences. If we give ourselves the chance, we can find enough of the truth within us to accuse ourselves of our own sins.
And we find that we have wandered off the path, not just as individuals, but as a people. We have lost our sense of purpose, the purity of our innocence, our discipline and ideals. Our institutions should guard the treasures of our identity as God’s children, but those institutions themselves have grown worldly and corrupt.
We have one thing left in common, one thing that binds us all together—all races, all political parties, both sexes, all regions and continents, all health plans—we are sinners. We are not what we should be, and we know it. Without divine intervention, we languish in a hopeless situation. We need a Savior. We need heavenly grace, so that we can find ourselves again and be ourselves again.
It’s humbling to recognize that we dwell in the valley of sinners. But it’s a comfort also, because getting taken down a notch is exactly what we need.
Our pride and grandiosity draw us into debilitating self-deception. We enshrine ourselves as the gods of our own little cosmoses. Then we have to lie to ourselves about our god skills. We try to convince ourselves that we know what we’re doing. Problem is: we stink as gods. The Lord did not cut us out for that. He cut us out for obedience—obedience to Him. There we find our peace; there we excel.
The passage from Isaiah continues: We human beings are the clay. God is the potter. The good Lord made each of us and gave us each our own endowments and our own path. He put the light of truth into our minds, to guide us in following His holy will. He gives us the gift of faith, which rouses us to cling to Him. He gives us holy hope to trust in His plan even though we don’t know what it is. We know that God’s design beats anything we could ever imagine. He pours out His divine love into our hearts, so that we can obey His demanding Law, out of devotion. The Lord gives these helps to the sinful human race, showering them down from Jesus’ Sacred Heart as interior gifts for us.
In Sunday’s gospel reading we encounter a little parable about the Second Coming of Christ. The master of the household leaves all the servants with their particular work and goes away. When he returns, he expects to find all the servants working diligently, each at his or her appointed task.
The gatekeeper has a special role, to keep watch. The gatekeeper must alert everyone to the imminent return of the master, when the time comes.
Maybe we could say that the gatekeeper in the parable represents the prophet. The passage from Isaiah has helped us like a gatekeeper, alerting us to the voice of conscience inside us, helping us to learn humility before God. Only religious humility can keep us focused on our true role.
We each have a unique, humble task in the household. If my job is to keep the fire burning in the hearth, then let me focus on that. If I’m supposed to knead the dough in the kitchen, let me do that, and not distract myself with extraneous matters. After all, I am not the lord of the manor. I am the butler at best.
Forgive us, Lord, for distracting ourselves with delusions of grandeur. Give us a fresh start. When You come in glory, in Your own good time, may You find us doing Your will, doing the good little task you have given each of us to do.
Have you have whiled away some of these long, dark evenings with the latest season of Netflix’s The Crown? Have you found yourself reminiscing about the 80’s? And struggling with the cruel platitudes of Thatcherism?
The fifth episode of The Crown, season 4, ends with a ska song. We Americans called the band “The English Beat.” In England, they called them simply “The Beat.” The song: “Stand Down Margaret.”
As Thatcher protest songs went, that was a mild one. Very mild.
“Black Boys on Mopeds” lives in sub-basement #10 of my little mind. Tears come to my eyes just listening to it, remembering old friends and the car rides when we sang it together. The song refers repeatedly to the gospels.
O’Connor’s song, however: Mild. Compared to the mother of all Thatcher protest songs, “Tramp the Dirt Down.”
Elvis Costello prays that he will live long enough to stomp on the Prime Minister’s grave (after she dies of natural causes; there’s no incitement to violence in the song.)
[WARNING: Bad word in the video’s intro.]
I have known every word of every song on Costello’s Spike since he released the cassette in 1989.
I saw a newspaper picture from a political campaign. A woman was kissing a child who was obviously in pain. She spills with compassion, as that young child’s face in her hands she grips. Can you imagine all that greed and avarice coming down on that child’s lips?
Here’s my point: They hated it, these protest musicians. They hated what they saw as the degradation of their nation.
The musicians lapsed into self-righteous unkindness. They did not sympathize with the complexities of a politician’s life. They made enemies for themselves, even among good people.
What they did not do, however, was try to compel anyone to do anything. Costello put it like this:
“We’re allowed to express ourselves. We’re not asking anything of anybody.”
We Catholics have more than enough reason for pitiful discontent with the incumbent regime. The Attorney General of New York State has lodged a lawsuit to put the diocese of Buffalo into moral receivership for the next five years.
A.G. Jones’ lawsuit demonstrates how the diocese has failed to comply with the rules adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002. Buffalo now joins the diocese of Springfield, MA in this category: Proven by independent investigators to lack the competence necessary to abide by the Dallas Charter.
Here’s a priest in Buffalo, reacting to the news of the lawsuit:
“misusing Charitable Assets”. Yet they bang on our doors for more💰. I am ashamed to be affiliated with @BuffaloDiocese. “We are squandering the goodwill of lay Catholics, squandering our Faith” I’ve said to every Bishop of Buffalo from Mansell on. The depth escaped me. pic.twitter.com/lAYPBmxkXU
…A different whistleblower priest in Buffalo was suspended from ministry a year ago, for trying to expose the very corruption that the AG documents in her lawsuit against the diocese.
He remains suspended.
…Will the Attorney General here in Virginia lodge a similar lawsuit against our diocese? Time will tell. We can imagine that Mr. Herring has enough evidence in hand.
One of the kind editors of my book told me that I need to acknowledge this: some of my blog posts have understandably offended the bishop. The kind editor is right. I have done some “Thatcher-Protest-Song”-type posts that failed in kindness and sympathy, and I am sorry about that. In the end, Elvis Costello did not rejoice when Margaret Thatcher actually did die, twenty-four years after his song about it.
But communities need to have room for protest songs, even edgy ones. Especially when reasons for discontentment with the regime keep piling up daily. Margaret Thatcher and Elvis Costello co-existed for decades. England survived.
I have had a little crucifix for over twenty years. Every morning when I first wake up, I kiss it and say, “Christ our King, Your Kingdom come.” Same thing when I lay down to sleep at night. “Christ our King, Your Kingdom come.” This little daily ritual with the crucifix is one of the customs of the Regnum Christi movement. Regnum Christi means “Kingdom of Christ.” [Spanish]
Everyone knows that we read the same Sunday readings on a cycle of… how many years? Correct: three. Six cycles ago, on Christ the King Sunday, 2002, we celebrated a large Mass for members of the Regnum Christi movement at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. The Archbishop celebrated the Mass. The seminarian, who was a deacon, chanted the gospel reading. Same gospel reading as this Sunday, the separation of the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25.
Father Marcial Maciel founded the Regnum Christi movement. He turned out to have been a serial sexual predator, protected for decades by higher-ups in the Church. He victimized countless people and ruined many, many lives. The Archbishop who celebrated that Regnum Christi Mass at the Shrine, Christ the King Sunday, 2002: Theodore McCarrick. The deacon who chanted the gospel: me.
In the gospel passage, the Lord Jesus invites the sheep into the Kingdom of heaven. They have been kind to the weak and suffering. They have acted humbly and gently towards everyone. They’re surprised that the king beckons them, because they never thought of themselves as anything great. They lived obscure lives of daily kindness.
Maybe you know that the Vatican published a “McCarrick Report” last week. For thirty years, the higher-ups in the Church left us seminarians, young priests, and young people at risk. They knew that McCarrick posed a serious danger to us, but they did nothing.
On that Christ the King Sunday, 2002–when McCarrick and I stood next to each other at the altar in that huge church filled with eager Christians–the higher-ups already knew about him. McCarrick had already destroyed a lot of lives. The pope knew it; Cardinals and bishops knew it.
They did not think of the suffering wounded. They thought only about their own reputation. They had comfortable lives with servants at their beck and call. They wanted it to stay that way. It never so much as crossed their minds to seek out the lost souls whose lives McCarrick had destroyed. Most of the prelates who knew the dirty secret hated McCarrick—not because of what he had done to defenseless, innocent people, but because of the danger he posed to the stability of their own coddled lives. They just wanted everyone to shut up about the whole thing.
What if the King has this to say to the goats, before he sends them to hell: “A sexual predator manipulated, demeaned, and abused me, and you did not care. A powerful Church careerist crushed my faithful, innocent soul, and you worried about your own reputation. I tried to tell you that this man is a dangerous criminal, and you said it was all my fault. The predator threw me out on the street for refusing to give into his advances, and I appealed to you. You never even wrote me back.”
My print-out of the McCarrick Report appears to be missing the last page. The page where they all say: “We are terribly sorry. We clearly do not know what we are doing. We have wronged the innocent and defenseless victims for decades, turning a deaf ear to their cries, treating them as the problem. We still have no earthly idea how to handle what they say. We have failed you, dear earnest Christians. You deserve much braver, more honest leaders.”
I cannot tell you how much it hurts to think about that Christ the King Sunday eighteen years ago. Now that I know how the hierarchy betrayed us. They betrayed all of us who were there because we kiss our crucifixes every morning and every night, and long to get to heaven, and just want to treat everyone kindly. We’re no saints or heroes, but we would have known what to do with McCarrick, if we had the information and the power.
The hierarchy offers excuses, rather than take responsibility. The McCarrick Report is 449 pages of “It’s someone else’s fault.” No churchman has ever been willing to own the McCarrick problem. Not for the past 35 years, and not now.
What if the king says, “I came looking for encouragement in living an upright, responsible life, and you passed the buck. I needed someone to give me an example of courage, and you called a lawyer to protect yourself from liability. I came to church hoping to find someone who believes enough in Christ crucified to admit his sins, and you insisted that you have no memory of any conversation having to do with that issue.”
I’m going to keep kissing my crucifix and celebrating my Mass. We live in dark, dark days for His Church, our Church. Let’s hold onto our faith and just keep trying to live in the truth.
In the spring of 2002, when the American press buzzed about the Catholic sexual-abuse crisis, Theodore McCarrick emerged as the primary spokesman of the hierarchy. He had been in office as Archbishop of Washington for just over a year, having been transferred from Newark, New Jersey, at the end of 2000.
In early April 2002, Susan Gibbs, the Executive Director for Communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, was informed that reporters were asking questions about Cardinal McCarrick’s conduct with adult seminarians at the beach house on the New Jersey shore. Gibbs prepared questions for McCarrick based on the limited information she had been provided and met with McCarrick at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center on 11 April 2002 to ask him about the rumors. Gibbs stated that she had “steeled” herself to “ask a series of very intense questions to try to understand whether something had happened.”
During their meeting, Gibbs first asked McCarrick whether it was true that he had shared a bed with seminarians; McCarrick acknowledged that it was true. (page 215)
McCarrick went on to tell Gibbs that he had never had sex with anyone–man, woman, or child. He lied about that. But he did not lie about sharing his bed with subordinates. McCarrick knew that he could not lie about that particular fact. Dozens of people knew it already, including the pope.
According to the Vatican report, in October 1999, the then-Archbishop of New York wrote the following, to alert the Vatican about McCarrick:
He would frequently invite male visitors for dinner and to say overnight. Usually they shared a bed, although there were sufficient guestrooms… [At the beach house] one of the seminarians shared the bed with the Archbishop. This became known and was a source of joking among the clergy. (page 132-33)
When the Vatican inquired among neighboring bishops about this, the then-bishop of Long Island, NY wrote:
McCarrick would invite young men, some of whom were his relatives, to visit and occasionally spend an overnight at the Cathedral [in Newark, where McCarrick lived]. The guest shared his bedroom rather than using a guest room. This was known to priests living in the Cathedral Rectory… McCarrick also invited seminarians to overnight visits at a vacation house… the sleeping arrangements involved sharing bedrooms and two sleeping in the same bed. This became widely known. (page 149)
We have to understand the reference to “relatives” in this bishop’s letter in light of what the then-bishop of Trenton NJ wrote about McCarrick, in answer to the same Vatican inquiry:
The only thing that seemed odd to me was [McCarrick] calling people ‘family’ who were not really blood relatives. (page 157)
That summer, McCarrick learned that other bishops had written to the Vatican about him. According to the Vatican report, someone recently interviewed McCarrick about what he learned from his Vatican source that summer. McCarrick said there was “some kind of criticism of me for the seminarian thing. The sharing of beds.”
To protect his reputation with the pope, McCarrick wrote to the pope’s personal secretary on August 6, 2000. In that letter, McCarrick admitted what he would later admit to Susan Gibbs: “I have made some mistakes and have sometimes lacked in prudence.” (p. 170) The Vatican report interprets McCarrick’s statement here in this way: “McCarrick admitted that his sharing of a bed with seminarians at the beach house was ‘imprudent.’” (pg. 9)
In his letter in 2000, McCarrick then went on to offer to the pope the same denial that he offered to Gibbs: “I have never had sexual relations with any person.”
That second statement has proved to be a bold lie. But the important thing to note here, for our purposes, is this: McCarrick did not deny that he slept in the same bed with his subordinates.
The Vatican report summarizes what I have just outlined:
Inquiry [in the year 2000] confirmed that McCarrick had shared a bed with young men…
The report adds:
but did not indicate with certainty that McCarrick had engaged in any sexual misconduct. (page 7)
This is a contradiction in terms. To say that the inquiry confirmed that McCarrick shared a bed with subordinates and minors but that the inquiry did not indicate with certainty that there was sexual misconduct: that is worse than a non-sequitur; it is a canard, a deception. Let me explain.
Abraham Lincoln often slept with other grown men, in the same bed. In the mid-nineteenth century, in the United States, only rich people had mattresses; most Americans slept on straw. Buildings had no central heating. For two men to sleep in the same bed was perfectly normal–in the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
By the 1980’s and 90’s, however, things had changed. Completely. Grown American men did not sleep in the same bed with any regularity in the 1980’s and 90’s. To the contrary, it was generally taboo, just as it is now.
If some emergency circumstances arose, without enough mattresses for everyone, someone would sleep on the floor. One night in 1988, I was among a group of eight tough-jock high-school seniors who went to see the Mickey-Rourke thriller Angel Heart. When we left the theater, we were all so terrified by the movie that we resolved to sleep in the same room (promising never to tell anyone.) There were two beds in the room where we slept. It would never have occurred to any of us that anyone would share a bed. Unthinkable. We played rock-paper-scissors for the beds, and the other six of us slept on the floor.
Theodore McCarrick and Abraham Lincoln were never contemporaries. By the time Theodore McCarrick was born in 1930, the practice of American men sharing a bed for convenience’s sake had declined to the vanishing point.
My point: McCarrick violated social norms. Glaringly.
And McCarrick did it–not his bedfellows. McCarrick was the one with the authority; the young people could not refuse. McCarrick intentionally set up the situation: a young person he found attractive would have no real choice but to get into bed with him. He would cloak the whole thing in offhandedness; he would add weird to weird by saying to the seminarians at the beach house, “You guys can’t sleep together; that would be wrong. But you [his chosen target] can sleep in bed with me. I’m the Archbishop. I’m not going to do anything wrong!”
Blessed be the seminarian with mettle enough to say, “No, your Grace, I will sleep on the floor in the living room.” Under the circumstances, that would have required courage beyond what most human beings possess. It would have meant risking your entire future. His Grace held that future in his hands. You had to please him; that was your job as a seminarian. You had to please the bishop, so that he would ordain you, so that you could pursue the life you believed God had called you to live.
By the time me and my confreres came along as unwitting, idealistic seminarians under Theodore McCarrick, dozens of people–including numerous journalists, Cardinals, and the pope–already knew, as an established fact, that McCarrick regularly forced his subordinates to share his bed. In clear violation of social norms.
Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that Abraham Lincoln once shared a bed with a stranger, some random 65-year-old woman, in a ramshackle tavern in rural Illinois, in order to stave off frostbite during a blizzard. (Lincoln traveled frequently, on horseback, all over the state, for his law practice, and as a politician.) Those two could very well have shared that bed innocently. They would have had a good reason. But Lincoln never would have done it, because he was an honorable (and married) man, and: Anyone who knew about the bed-sharing would have had a hard time resting easy in an “innocent” interpretation of it.
In the United States, in the 1980s and 90s: an “innocent interpretation” of the Catholic prelate Theodore McCarrick forcing a subordinate or minor to share a bed with him? Not available. You simply could not take as a settled fact that McCarrick shared the bed in that way–a fact that McCarrick never denied–and also hold that McCarrick “could be perfectly innocent of wrongdoing.” That was not a reasonable option.
It was evident then, based on the undisputed fact, that McCarrick was a serial sexual predator, constantly looking for and grooming potential victims. The recent Vatican report would have us believe otherwise. But the report’s contention to that effect is just as untenable as the magical thinking about McCarrick being innocent twenty years ago.
The Vatican report quotes an anonymous priest (“Priest 4”) whose testimony unveils McCarrick’s genuine intentions in his “innocent, imprudent” bed-sharing strategy: [WARNING: Reading this will likely make you vomit.]
During the Summer of 1985, Bishop McCarrick’s priest secretary telephoned Priest 4 to tell him that McCarrick had invited him on an overnight trip to the beach house in Sea Girt, New Jersey, along with some other seminarians. The invitation made Priest 4 uneasy given McCarrick’s previous behavior, so he decided to speak to Monsignor Gambino, whom he trusted. Gambino told him that he “should go” and that “if I did not accept the invitation it would be frowned upon by the Bishop,” so Priest 4 decided to accept.
Priest 4 received directions to the Sea Girt house, which was a few blocks from the beach, and drove there in his own car. Priest 4 described the house as two stories with a spacious living room that was furnished with some recliners and chairs. The house had three bedrooms upstairs, with two double beds in one room and one bed in another. In the third room, where McCarrick stayed, there was one large bed, a “king or queen.”
The first trip to the beach house was uneventful. Nothing transpired that was alarming to Priest 4, who has little memory of the trip. Priest 4 stated that it seemed “normal” and that this allayed his initial anxiety.
Later in the summer, Priest 4 again received a call from Bishop McCarrick’s priest secretary who invited him, on McCarrick’s behalf, on a second trip to the beach house. About this trip, Priest 4 has a clear recollection.
…After dinner, Bishop McCarrick dictated the sleeping arrangements. McCarrick told the group that he had over-calculated the number of guests and beds – a fact about which the seminarians were well aware – and said to Priest 4, “There is not enough room; don’t worry about it, you can come with me.’” …McCarrick’s “miscalculation” appeared to be a ploy, so the sleeping arrangements announced by McCarrick made Priest 4 anxious, but he felt “pressured” because there was no other bed available and the Bishop “insisted that it would be fine since it was a large bed.”
Reluctantly, Priest 4 did not object: “The situation made me uncomfortable, but I thought I could tolerate it because I had seen the bed so I knew that it was large enough that I could have my own side.”
In Bishop McCarrick’s bedroom, “with the door closed,” Priest 4 began to change for bed. Priest 4 felt “upset” because “I was placed in the position of having to change into sleeping clothes in front of my bishop.” When McCarrick noticed that Priest 4 was wearing pajamas over his underwear, he was displeased, stating “‘What are you wearing those for? It’s warm.’” McCarrick himself changed quickly in the bathroom and emerged wearing only “tighty-whitey” underwear and a sleeveless undershirt.
Initially, Bishop McCarrick asked Priest 4 to sit with him on the bed and began talking about how he had “‘so many troubles’” and “‘a diocese to run,’” and complained about the fact that his back hurt. McCarrick asked Priest 4 to rub his back, which Priest 4 did “[b]ecause it was very difficult to say ‘No’ in that situation.” Soon McCarrick lay down on the bed and asked Priest 4 to continue rubbing his back. McCarrick then offered to give Priest 4 a backrub; although Priest 4 “did not want a backrub from him,” he “found it was very difficult to say no” and felt compelled to acquiesce. After the exchanged backrubs, the lights went out for sleep.
Though on guard, Priest 4 hoped that the touching had ceased and, wishing to avoid any further physical contact, he lay on his side near the edge of the bed turned away from McCarrick. Sometime later, but while Priest 4 was still awake, McCarrick began to rub Priest 4’s back again and, as he drew closer, reached around and rubbed Priest 4’s chest from behind. Then, rubbing his back again, McCarrick worked his way down to Priest 4’s buttocks. Priest 4 felt “frozen and trapped.” As McCarrick “wrapped his body around me,” Priest 4 described himself as being “ensnared” and could feel that McCarrick was sexually aroused. This “shocked” Priest 4 out of his frozen state, and he realized that he “had to escape.” Priest 4 recalled what happened next:
I told him point blank, “I don’t like this.” I didn’t like it. “I don’t like this.” And he said, “Oh, I’m not doing anything;” “Uncle Teddy is under pressure;” “I don’t mean anything;” “Oh, it’s just a rub down, it’s ok.”
I said, “You know what? I just can’t sleep here.” And when I objected like that and let him know it would not be OK to continue like that, he got pissed. He got mad. At first, he was trying to convince me to stay and trying to convey that he was doing nothing wrong. He was trying to be reassuring: “It’s OK, it’s between us.” But then he got angry. He got so angry when I left, and when I went downstairs [to sleep on a recliner], he was so pissed off at me. So much so that he did not even address me the next morning. He did not even say hello. . . . [H]e gave me a very bad look but did not communicate with me. And I just left [the beach house]. I thought, “I am finished in the diocese.”
The report continues:
Shortly after his return to Metuchen, Priest 4 went to see Monsignor Gambino to tell him what McCarrick had done, expecting to receive support.
Priest 4 recalled Gambino’s reaction: “I explained what had happened to me and, according to the way he handled it, he treated me like I was somehow at fault for making an accusation.” Gambino admonished Priest 4 that he was making “serious accusations” against the Bishop and that he needed to go to counseling or else he “‘may not be ordained.’” (page 69-73)
The psychologist proceeded to sexually abuse Priest 4 also. May God give us grace. Priest 4 is a brave, brave man.
My point in reproducing this entire painful story is this: The only reasonable conclusion, based on the established fact of McCarrick forcing subordinates to sleep in the same bed with him, was that McCarrick was after precisely what Priest 4 described.
What occurred twenty years ago among the people who knew that McCarrick slept in the same bed as other grown men: it was not rational deliberation. It was distorted groupthink. McCarrick was a sexual predator; there was no other reasonable conclusion to come to.
But they refused to come to it. For three decades they pretended that they “did not have hard evidence.” These people should all be ashamed of themselves.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the church realized a mistake born of a colossal blunder and allowed Father White to return to his adoring parishioners in Martinsville and Rocky Mount?
…I appreciate the kind encouragement. Thank you, dear editors. That certainly sounds like a good idea to me. I adore the parishioners, too.
I mentioned last week how the Vatican’s McCarrick report hides its sources of information, making it practically impossible to verify what it says. Quoted sources have taken to the airwaves to dispute the report’s claims.
The report quotes well-known Catholic psychologist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons repeatedly. The report includes a letter purportedly written by him.
Dr. Fitzgibbons has written that the report contains “falsehoods and fabrications” about his work. On a Catholic radio show, the doctor said, “in that document are pages and pages of total fabrications…totally untrue…They have a letter they claim that I wrote. Totally a lie.”
To hear what Dr. Fitzgibbons had to say, start at 22:00 here:
1. The report does not comprehend an important fact: For every victim of McCarrick’s predations that the Vatican knew about over the years, there are likely five or ten (or twenty or fifty) that they didn’t know about and still don’t know about.
Lena gets himself tied up in knots in a footnote on page 242. He does not understand how McCarrick referred to a mediated settlement in a January 2006 letter, when that settlement wasn’t actually reached until over a year later. But maybe there was another settlement?
On page 281, Lena assumes that the priest to whom Dr. Richard Sipe refers in a letter is Lena’s “Priest 1.” But it could just as easily be another victim, about whom Lena knows nothing.
False assumption by Lena: “I know about all the abused priests and all the settlements.” More likely truth: You do not know the half of it, sir.
2. Crucial pieces of information in this report apparently come from McCarrick himself.
On page 314, Lena refers to a letter McCarrick wrote to the Vatican Secretary of State in September 2008. Lena acknowledges, however, that the letter was not in the Vatican archives. How does Lena know about the letter’s existence then? One assumes the answer must be: McCarrick himself.
When I came across this, I realized: Lena’s #1 source is McCarrick himself. McCarrick himself shaped the narrative of this report.
McCarrick is a pathological liar. He continues to lie to himself about the most-decisive facts of his own life. Soon he will die and meet The Judge, and he will have to face with genuine, crushing shock the full toll of the damage that he himself has done.
Having the unfathomably dishonest McCarrick as the primary source of information makes this report highly unreliable, to say the least. In the spring of 2002, McCarrick bamboozled the journalists of New York, New Jersey, and Washington–a fact that Lena lays out. Lena does not see, however, the extent to which McCarrick has bamboozled him, winning his sympathy to keep him from seeing the obvious: McCarrick is a depraved man, a master manipulator who knows no real truth other than his own compulsive desires. You cannot trust him about anything.
3. Lena makes a glaring error as a lawyer in his summation of McCarrick’s canon-legal situation as of 2009 (pages 340-341.) Lena claims that, at that point, there have been no “findings of fact” about McCarrick’s crimes.
This is false. For years before then, all the parties, including McCarrick, agreed that McCarrick many times slept in the same bed with seminarians, priests, and other young men.
This is a highly significant fact, in and of itself. I will explain the importance of it in a subsequent post. For now, I simply want to point out. Lena is wrong. This fact was never in dispute. It was a settled “finding of fact” all along.
We need to have every factual assertion in the Vatican McCarrick report verified by an independent investigator. The Vatican needs to give such an investigator access to all the secret source material that underlies this report.
I hope that Bishop Knestout heeds the Bulletin editors’ call. I hope we can get back to normal in the parishes here.
But: If that is not to be, I offer my services to conduct the independent investigation of the underlying source material of the McCarrick report. I would be glad to put together a team to double-check Mr. Lena’s work, from a more-realistic perspective.
1. The investment strategy of the first two servants: risky or conservative?
A “talent” was the annual salary of a skilled worker, $50,000 in today’s money. The master gave the first servant $250,000 to invest; the second got $100,000.
How much time did they have to work with? How long did it take for them to double their money? The parable says that the master took a “long trip abroad.” Maybe a couple years. Probably not seventy years.
I bring up seventy years because: At today’s interest rates, and adjusting for inflation, it would take seventy years to double your money by putting it into a safe savings account. The first and second servants doubled their money much more quickly than that. They took big risks. They could have lost everything their master gave them. He could have returned from his trip to find those first two servants penniless. But he didn’t. Their risks paid off.
Meanwhile the third servant got intimidated by all the big numbers and risk taking. He thought to himself, “I don’t belong with these high rollers.” The master had given him $50,000. Not as much as the first two, but still a lot of money. He played it safe. He protected himself from potential catastrophe. He hid everything he had, in a secret place, away from prying eyes.
In sports, if you have a lead and then just play defense and try to run out the clock, what happens? You almost always lose.
Point 2. At the beginning of the parable, the Lord Jesus said that it explains the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, He was not talking Wall Street in this parable; it’s not really about money. The talents in the parable represent something else. What do they represent?
What chapter of the Bible is this? Matthew 25. What comes at the end of that chapter? We will read it next Sunday. The separation of the sheep from the goats. The king tells the sheep, “Come inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, because you loved Me when I needed it. You welcomed, fed, clothed, comforted, and healed Me.” They say, “When did we see you, Lord?” He answers: “When you did it for these least brethren of Mine, you did it for Me.”
The cash in the Parable of the Talents represents love and kindness, openness and understanding, patience and gentleness. The first two servants received a lot of “money”—that is, the Lord gave them big, devout hearts. They proceeded to love dangerously with them. They loved without holding back. They risked everything—they risked themselves. They gave themselves over completely to the work of loving God and neighbor. They had faith; they trusted in God. They feared nothing.
Meanwhile, the third servant received a pretty big heart also. He could have used it to love God and his neighbor, but he didn’t bother. He feared potential dire consequences. He did not consider himself an adventuresome person, when it came to caring about anything. “That’s for heroes, and people like that, not me,” he thought to himself. “I just need to make sure that no one gets mad at me. I don’t want to get hurt.”
We cannot serve both God and mammon. We have to choose one. We have to choose God and despise all the pomp and circumstance of this passing world. But we serve God well in the same way that worldly people make a lot of money: by risking everything. By fearlessness. By jumping out into some unknown situation because I believe I have something good to offer that no one else does.
The point of the Parable of the Talents is: No one ever made it to heaven by loving God and neighbor timidly. Half-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ never did anyone any good. God gave us everything, and, as the parable has it, He is a “demanding man.” He expects us to risk ourselves completely for His glory. We owe Him nothing less than that.
What do we imagine the master in the parable did during his long journey abroad? Did he play it safe? Did he go somewhere comfortable, some place he had visited before? Where do we figure he got the $400,000 he gave his servants in the first place?
He obtained his fortune by going on adventures. He traveled in dangerous places, in order to give the world something new and good. His creativity, confidence, and energy provided the servants with something to work with themselves.
We do not have to come up with zeal and love out of nothing. God gives us what we need to work with, in order to do something good—namely, ourselves. We just have to risk ourselves fearlessly, so that the good thing He has begun in us can come to fruition.
God is undying, infinite love. That’s what we believe. That’s what Christ crucified teaches us. If we believe that, then we have no excuse for being afraid to love Him back, and love our neighbors, with everything we have.
The report contains testimony about McCarrick’s crimes, testimony that never saw the light of day until now. This testimony adds to the picture already painted by other survivors.
Now that the Vatican has published this report, other heretofore-silent survivors will speak out. I received a phone call yesterday from one such survivor, a one-time seminarian, who had never before spoken to anyone about what McCarrick did to him. Just talking to each other made us both feel better.
On the other hand:
It is perfectly clear that the Vatican did not publish this report to contribute humbly to the public record. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
The process by which McCarrick faced justice in the Church remains completely opaque. None of James Grein’s public testimony appears in this report, nor does the testimony of “Mike” (the boy whose penis McCarrick fondled in the St. Patrick’s cathedral sacristy), nor the testimony of any of the “Nathans.” [It appears that Nathan Doe will have more to say, and I very much look forward to reading it.]
My point is: We cannot see the Vatican report as an honest attempt at “transparency.” It is a work of propaganda, produced by an unstable regime, aimed at regaining some of its long-lost credibility.
The Vatican report relies on sources that remain 100% secret. There is no way for anyone to check the accuracy of the report against its sources of information. The report has 1,410 footnotes, but those footnotes do not serve the purpose of footnotes in respectable publications.
A footnote in a respectable publication gives the reader the opportunity to check the accuracy of a clam that the author makes. In the Vatican McCarrick report, only a tiny portion of the cited sources are available to the public.
I am by no means dismissing this report out-of-hand. It contains a great deal of information, which I intend to study very carefully and write about in a series of subsequent posts. I do not think that the report is patently false. Not at all.
The few cup-fulls of truth, however, have been dipped out of a huge swamp of total secrecy. And those cup-fulls of truth have been dipped to serve a clear purpose. Namely, shoring up the power of a teetering corrupt regime.
We believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, founded by the Lord on the rock of St. Peter. Pope Francis is the legitimate successor; he is the pope. We can hold these truths while simultaneously recognizing that many of the incumbents in ecclesiastical office right now are dishonest, self-serving cronies.
A skillful lawyer produced the Vatican McCarrick report. Lawyers serve clients. This lawyer served his client well. He produced a document that contains true information arranged in such a way as to reinforce the prevailing myth that keeps the current cronies secure in their self-righteousness.
The myth is: “We are dutifully fixing an old problem, for which we are not really responsible. Things were bad before ’02, but we have steadily improved the situation since then. Things are better now in the Church. Don’t blame us.”
It would appear that the sole aim of the report is to shore up this self-assurance of the incumbent cronies. They certainly need shoring-up in their self-assurance: In any honest organization, they would have resigned in disgrace long ago.
But re-assuring the cronies in their self-righteousness does not do any of the rest of us any good. The episcopal hierarchy of the Catholic Church has lost its credibility completely. This Vatican document does nothing to restore that credibility. It actually tarnishes it further, for two reasons…
First, the obvious one: The Vatican report contains appallingly embarrassing material. For decades, the bishops and the pope were utterly deaf to cries for justice. Those cries were insistent and convincing for thirty years, and the prelates of our Church ignored them.
As someone who strives to be a conscientious human being, I am profoundly embarrassed to be associated in any way with these three men, and with their cronies. The report reveals the three of them to be the cowardly, careerist apparatchiks that many of us have known them to be for years. (This goes for the pope-emeritus, also.)
Secondly, even though the report reveals all this, it nonetheless reaches an evidently self-serving and mendacious conclusion, exonerating all the incumbent office-holders.
This fact raises the question: What information does the report withhold? We cannot know, since the Vatican is as “transparent” as a brick wall, and this report is no exception. The report could be a pure tissue of lies, for all we know. The ecclesiastical cronies continue to guard all their secrets with an iron fist.
I leapt with surprise when I read McCarrick himself quoted at length, beginning with footnote 245 on page 55. He apparently submitted to extensive interviews for the report. The report discloses absolutely nothing, of course, about how the interviews were done. Under oath? With a lawyer present? We do not know.
McCarrick has claimed that he never got an adequate opportunity to defend himself against the charges leveled against him in his canonical trial. Those charges were leveled by a secret Church prosecutor, we assume. But do not know.
The even-more incredible irony is: That has been the problem all along. A Church prosecutor should have tried and convicted McCarrick, in open court, thirty-five years ago. But this mafia of obtuse narcissists does not know how to do anything like that. They did not know how to do it when Ronald Reagan was president, and they do not know how to do it now.
The McCarrick Report has a lot of blood-curdling passages. The most utterly nauseating: section IX.D, “Incident at the Newark Catering Hall.”
Here is a LINK to the banquet scene in Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables. [WARNING: R-rated violence. Extremely disturbing content.]
From the McCarrick Report, covering January 25, 1990: [WARNING: Extremely disturbing content.]
In an interview, Bottino [a New-Jersey priest] stated that it looked like McCarrick, [then-Newark-auxiliary Bishop] Smith and the young cleric [accompaying McCarrick] “had been [at the catering hall] for a while.”
It also appeared that McCarrick had been drinking, because he had a large tumbler in front of him, with another empty glass on the table near him. Several hors d’oeuvres had already been served, and waiters continued to bring more appetizers to the table. The young cleric sitting next to McCarrick looked nervous and remained silent.
Soon after Bishop McHugh and Monsignor Bottino sat down, McCarrick turned to speak to Bottino, referring to him as the “new attaché at the Mission of the Holy See at the United Nations.”
…Bottino recalled that McCarrick explained to him that the Vatican UN Mission regularly received a diplomatic pouch which contained, among other things, episcopal appointments for dioceses in the United States. Placing his hand on Bottino’s arm, McCarrick asked whether he could “count on” Bottino once he became the attaché to provide him with information from the pouch. After Bottino stated that it would seem that the material in the pouch needed to remain confidential, McCarrick patted his arm and replied, “You’re good. But I think I can count on you.”
…Bottino stated that McCarrick then turned his attention to [Camden Bishop] McHugh and Smith. While talking to the two bishops, McCarrick pounded the table and blurted out “I deserve New York!”
Bishop Smith quickly changed the subject by standing up and raising his glass to make a toast to the occasion of the dinner, namely the second anniversary of the [episcopal] consecration of Smith and McHugh [by McCarrick]. McHugh, Bottino and the young cleric, but not McCarrick, stood up for the toast.
After everyone sat back down, Monsignor Bottino observed McCarrick turn towards and begin speaking to Bishops Smith and McHugh about the consecration. In the same moment, Bottino saw McCarrick move his right hand to the young cleric’s crotch area. Bottino observed McCarrick “moving his fingers up and down on the cleric’s crotch” for several seconds, which was “plenty of time to see what he was doing.” As McCarrick was touching him, the young cleric looked as though “he was paralyzed,” with his eyes “wide open” like “a deer in the headlights.”