We commemorate the birth of our Savior. His Nativity makes the long, cold night holy and bright. [Spanish]
The virgin Mary gave birth to the Savior in the humblest of circumstances, with the cattle lowing and the hay on the floor. The quiet humility of the people—the Child, His mother, St. Joseph, and the shepherds—that humility makes the night lovely. The loveliness of their humility begins to draw us into the holiness of the moment. But we have to go deeper into that holiness to identify it correctly. We have to find the path of humility ourselves.
We know that this poor family lives in intimate communion with the God of Israel. Mary and Joseph found themselves in the stable in Bethlehem, with a newborn child, in December, precisely because of their membership in the chosen nation.
They are descendants of king David, children of Abraham; they are praying Jews. Their kinsfolk Elizabeth and Zechariah lived a few miles away, not far from the Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah ministered as a priest in that Temple, originally built by king David’s son.
Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place, and had to deal with spending the night of the child’s birth with the animals, because their people lived under the yoke of foreign occupiers. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have spent the night comfortably at home, if the children of Abraham were not subject to oppression. That was their nation’s history, beginning in Egypt.
This family’s chosen-ness as humble Israelites, then—that draws us into the holiness of the moment. But still we have to go deeper.
We know that the child born in the stable will become the wisest and gentlest of teachers. He will give His followers a body of doctrine, both classic and new. He will teach about religion, human relationships, justice, mercy, and the meaning of life. He will become the most-profound religious and ethical philosopher the world has ever known.
This fact makes us see the night of Christ’s Nativity as an “enlightenment” of the dark world. Jesus lived His teaching with perfect fidelity, total honesty and consistency. His whole life reflected what He taught. In fact, His consummate lesson was simply His life. He lived what He taught and taught us above all by how He lived.
This convincing wisdom of the Savior helps us understand the spiritual radiance of the night of His birth. Still, though, we have not reached the heart of Christmas holiness.
The holiness of Christmas fundamentally involves this:
The Savior born on this night went to the cross. He offered Himself to the Father. His whole human existence led to His crucifixion. He died an innocent Lamb. He became a priest, and offered Himself, as a religious sacrifice on behalf of the whole human race, His people.
The sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth saves us because it is both human and divine. For a man—even the noblest of men—to offer himself in death as an innocent victim of injustice—that would inspire us as an act of selflessness. That is precisely the case of the many martyrs that we venerate. But even the noblest self-offering of a human being cannot in itself save the human race from evil.
What happened with our Savior is: God became a human being, and offered His divine holiness, justice, and love, in sacrifice—as one of us. The eternal Word became flesh, and then He gave Himself back to the Father, as a man, for the salvation of all His human brothers and sisters. The unfathomable Trinity opened up to us, and drew us into the Eternal Love of the Father and Son, the Holy Spirit.
That is salvation. That is heaven opening, and grace pouring down upon us. Our salvation involves a divine human being, a human God. The dark, cold night of Christmas shines with radiant holiness because the cooing child is the infinite, incarnate Creator.
The Christmas mystery. The Person Who Jesus is. The mystery of the Incarnation silences the night because God’s grandeur surpasses our capacities of expression, even of thought. The holiness of the moment makes the whole situation perfectly simple. All we can do is worship.
God transcends us. He transcends everything. We know we cannot master God. Therefore, we cannot master Christmas, either. We cannot even fully fathom the word “Savior,” which we use to identify the Child. What we can do is believe. We can believe in the Incarnation precisely because it is God Almighty Who could and would make Himself one of us. We can call Jesus our Savior not because we understand what that means, but because we believe that Almighty God can and will save us.
Therefore, when we draw spiritually near to Bethlehem, we worship. We kneel before God in Christ. All praise, honor, glory, and majesty to Him, the Word of God made flesh for our salvation.
How good a friend to us is the Lectionary? It’s the best. [Spanish]
Maybe you wonder: What does he mean by Lectionary?
Let’s start by saying that the Holy Bible offers our souls medicine that gives us faith and hope for heaven. But to get sustained benefit from the medicine, you have to take it in regular doses.
The Lectionary gives us those regular doses. The Sunday lectionary gives us readings from Scripture for the Lord’s day and the biggest feasts of the year. The weekday lectionary gives us a daily dose Monday through Saturday.
Our ancestors in the Christian faith apportioned and organized the doses. The Lectionary doles out the medicine according to a schedule that respects the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. It also takes into account the relative importance of the different books of the Bible.
How to read this medicinal Lectionary? You can read it out of a book called a “Missal” or a disposable “Missalette.” (Back before the plague, we used to have the books or booklets in the pews. Good Lord willing, we will have them there again someday soon.) You can also read the daily readings from the Lectionary on your computer or smart phone with a Catholic devotional app.
You could resolve to spend a few moments reading the Lectionary readings at least every Sunday. Or even try to build the habit of reading the Lectionary every day. The best way of all to read the Lectionary, of course, is to present oneself for Holy Mass. The Lectionary contains the readings we read at Mass.
When the Lectionary becomes a weekly or even daily companion, the Holy Scriptures begin to enter our minds and take up residence there. Over the years, the decades, the quarter centuries, the Word of God can become the fundamental organizing principle of our thoughts. No training regimen could produce a better outcome.
The angel found Mary alert, ready to inquire about mysterious matters. How can I conceive a son and remain a virgin? –You will conceive the Christ by believing in Him. Put your faith in the Savior, and the Holy Spirit will make Him flesh in your womb. Mary had an inquiring mind, but she also stood ready to believe. Yes, she thought. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of heaven and earth—He can do this. I believe.
This lectionary passage–which we will read at Mass on Sunday–we call it the… Annunciation. Gabriel came to the Blessed Mother to announce a heavenly message. She asked her question, then put her faith in the announcement. The Annunciation.
This is how good a friend the Lectionary is to us:
What will the date be, on Sunday? Correct. December 20.
I mentioned that the Lectionary has two “volumes,” so to speak, Sunday and weekday. For most of the year, there is no “competition” between the two volumes. One covers the Sundays and big feasts, the other covers ordinary Mondays through Saturdays.
But when Christmas gets close, the daily lectionary covers not just six, but the full seven days. The seven days before Jesus’ birthday. The Lectionary keeps sacred all seven dates before Jesus’ birth date.
So the Fourth Sunday of Advent has some competition from the daily Lectionary. The Fourth Sunday of Advent always falls within those seven sacred days before Christmas. It’s a Sunday, with Sunday readings. So there’s a little competition there, for which readings to use. The Sunday readings win.
This year, however, that could have caused a Lectionary disaster. Because December 20 is the day for reading the Annunciation passage. What if Christmas came and went, and we never read that gospel passage? What kind of devoted students of Scripture would we be then?
The Lectionary, however, is a better friend than that. Turns out, in this year, 2020—a year when disaster seemed to loom everywhere, and, to top it all off, we might even miss the December 20 gospel reading of the Annunciation—on this difficult year, the Sunday lectionary has an important passage assigned to the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The Annunciation.
It’s as if we were riding a bike for the first time, and we were getting up to speed, but then we lost nerve, and panicked, and we started to wobble, and oh no we’re going down… But there’s our father’s strong hand on the back of the bike holding it up. No crash. No problem. He’s got it.
That‘s how good a friend the Lectionary is. You can be a fifty-year-old priest, and it can still surprise you. It holds you up in the life of faith, even when you fear you will fall.
There is one among you whom you do not recognize. (John 1:26)
This is what St. John the Baptist said to the priests and Levites. We will read this gospel passage at Sunday Mass. The Baptist told them: The Son of God is here, but you don’t see it. God became man and walked the earth, and most of the locals did not notice. [Spanish]
Let’s consider the how and the why of this. How could it happen?
First of all, people were looking forward to the coming of Christ, but they expected it to be different. The pagans had all kinds of myths about the gods coming down to earth, but none of them involved stables and mangers, and gentle, humble virgin mothers. The pagan myths about gods coming to earth involved smoke and lightning bolts, terror and fury.
The pagans back then respected wealth and prestige, just like they do now. They were not looking for a poor carpenter who taught His closest followers to give away all their possessions.
The Jews, meanwhile, were looking for a field general to lead a revolutionary army. They were convinced that God would come to smite their foes. It was us vs. them. The Jews did not think that the Messiah would come and say, “Love your enemies,” and “Turn the other cheek.”
Also, when God became man, He veiled His divinity with His humanity. He took our human nature to Himself so intimately that He only made His divinity evident a few times during His pilgrim life, like when He worked miracles, or at the Transfiguration. Otherwise, the Christ was indistinguishable from other men. He ate, drank, slept—just like us. The God-man walked wherever He went, just like the other poor people of the time.
Considering all this, it is not hard for us to see how people could miss the Christ.
Now we come to the hard question: Why?
Why did the Lord conceal Himself this way? Why did He choose to be born of an insignificant woman, instead of a queen? Why did He labor in obscurity in a carpenter-shop for most of His earthly life? Why did He reveal His true identity only to a chosen few, ordering those who saw His miracles not to tell anyone about them? Why did God allow Himself to be arrested, tried, and condemned like a petty criminal? Why did He let Himself be crucified as if He were a powerless mortal? Why is He so confoundedly humble?
Now, we cannot, of course, presume to read the depths of God’s infinitely glorious mind or understand His plan. May it please Him, we will spend eternity contemplating His generous love, which led Him to do everything He has done, in the way that He has done it.
We can, however, give a short answer to the question of why God came so gently and unassumingly to earth, why He submitted to indifference and insult. Simply put, the reason is this: He came not to condemn, but to save.
The day will come when the heavens and the earth will shake. The day will come when the Lord will show Himself in power and glory, and no one will miss it.
He could have come that way the first time. But He did not come to terrify; He came to love. He came to make justice and praise spring up, as we will read from the prophet Isaiah on Sunday. Slowly, quietly, like a garden grows. His first coming was to plant the seeds.
The Lord does not want to find us unprepared for the final Judgment. He came to the earth humbly in order to give us the grace and knowledge we need to be ready when Judgment Day does come.
Now, even when the people failed to recognize Him in the flesh, God remained altogether powerful. Jesus the poor man made everything we see and know. But this is what shows us how awesome He truly is: He was willing to be ignored. He cast aside even His own divine honor in order to save us.
Yesterday we commemorated the immaculate conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.
The festivities began on the eve of the Solemnity, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with the NFL upset of the year. Team-formerly-known-as-Redskins solidly defeated the league-leading, as-yet-unbeaten Pittsburgh team. 🙂
Then our Holy Father paid a quiet visit to the statue of the Immaculata at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome.
Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness.
Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery.
God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things…
When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom… When he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied, he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care.
In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father.
Today would have been my dear dad’s 83rd birthday. May he rest in peace.
Public service announcement. If you catch the coronavirus, how do you know when to end your isolation?
I have had to find an answer to this question, and I have learned something. I think the general public remains confused on this. (I know I was.)
Testing does not help, when it comes to determining when to end coronavirus isolation. I spent fourteen days in isolation. My symptoms had long since gone away. But I didn’t want to expose anyone to possible infection. I went to the CVS drive-thru and swabbed my own nostrils twice–and got two positive results. 😦 Finally, I got wise and talked to my doctor.
I should have talked to him three weeks ago. Turns out, in October the Center for Disease Control eliminated testing from their criteria for determining when to end coronavirus-patient isolation. The fact is, positive tests continue for months, even long after you’re no longer sick or infectious.
If you catch the virus and never experience severe symptoms, the CDC recommends discontinuing isolation ten days after the symptoms first appeared, provided you have at least 24 hours without a fever.
(Good Lord willing, dear reader, you will get immunized before you ever need to take this information into account.)
The Vatican’s McCarrick report is a fundamentally dishonest document. Accepting it at face value, as an exercise in “transparency,” would require the reader to suppress his or her common sense. The anonymous author(s) of the report have applied a particular whitewash to the actual facts. Let me explain.
First, here are links to the posts I have written so far about the report:
Throughout his adult life, Theodore McCarrick preyed sexually on innocent people. He damaged his victims’ faith, their relationship with the Church, their sense of themselves as human beings, their capacity for trust and openness in relationships, their earning potential, their interior freedom, and much more. He did damage like this over and over again.
We do not have a full reckoning of the damage. The Vatican report does not even pretend to offer such a reckoning.
In fact, the report even has a hole when it comes to something as “documentable” as legally binding financial settlements. As I alluded to in an earlier post, the report unwittingly shows that we remain altogether in the dark about multiple McCarrick settlements. (See the quote of Archbishop Myers of Newark on page 227, as well as footnote 815 on page 242.)
This lacuna, however, is far from the central whitewash that the Vatican report tries to slather in front of our eyes.
First, let’s call to mind the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, pars II-II, question 60, article 5, reply 1. This question in the Summa explains how to make fair judgments; the article discusses giving the benefit of the doubt. The reply reads:
He who interprets doubtful matters for the best may happen to be deceived more often than not. Yet it is better to err frequently through thinking well of a wicked man than to err less frequently through having an evil opinion of a good man, because in the latter case an injury is inflicted [on the misjudged innocent man], but not in the former.
The Vatican report offers a thesis that would resonate with this teaching of St. Thomas. “The popes did not have clear evidence of guilt, at least not until they somehow obtained it in 2018. They rightfully gave McCarrick the benefit of the doubt until then.”
The report quotes Pope-emeritus Benedict about the doubtfulness of the matter, as things stood in November 2005, when the Vatican demanded of McCarrick that he resign as Archbishop of Washington. The pope-emeritus recalled: “There were suspicions regarding McCarrick’s prior conduct but a dearth of concrete evidence.” (See footnote 798, on page 233.)
This understanding of the situation, as Pope Benedict expressed it, produced the “foolhardy conspiracy” to which I referred in a previous post. The idea governing Vatican policy towards McCarrick under Pope Benedict was this: McCarrick says he’s innocent, and we believe him. But the danger of scandal hovers like a terrifying cloud, because ‘numerous voices’ have ‘raised red flags.’ We must make McCarrick vanish from the public eye.
Papal representative Gabriel Montalvo went to an early grave after having to pursue this policy. Then Montalvo’s successor, Pietro Sambi, complained about having McCarrick “always at my door,” looking for permission to continue his globe-trotting (page 308).
Sambi, too, died an early death, with the McCarrick situation still pending.
Both of these earlier nuncios, however–premature as their demises may have been–got off easy compared to their successor in office, Carlo Maria Viganò.
In both 2006 and 2008, Viganò–while still working in the Vatican–tried to convince his superiors that the “hiding McCarrick” strategy would not work. Viganò suggested that the pope should put McCarrick on trial, canonically (as ultimately, the pope did have to do.) Viganò proposed that they make an example of McCarrick, to indicate to the whole Church that McCarrick’s abuses were intolerable.
Now, with its McCarrick report, the Holy See has thanked Archbishop Viganò for having been right–by making him out to be the dishonest villain of the story.
Be all that as it may, the ‘hide-McCarrick’ policy pursued under Pope Benedict did not actually resonate with the teaching of St. Thomas on giving the benefit of the doubt in uncertain matters. At the time, McCarrick called the Vatican’s bluff on that score.
All the Vatican’s communiques to McCarrick (until 2018) conceded that he was, in fact, innocent. (Even after two Metuchen victims gave sworn testimony about McCarrick’s sexual harassment.) Nuncio Sambi told McC that “no one believes the truth of the accusations,” and Cardinal Re, Prefect for Bishops, wrote to McC in June 2008; Re referred to the “unfounded reports” about McC.
So McCarrick made a reasonable answer. In a September 2008 letter to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone, McCarrick wrote, “I have asked for a complete investigation and have offered to submit to a lie-detector test.”
Ironically enough, therefore: McCarrick and Viganò agreed. Justice requires a thorough investigation which will result in a definitive conclusion of guilt or innocence. The policy based solely on an indeterminate fear of people finding out–that does an injustice to everyone involved. The judge must reach a clear decision.
According to canon law, only one authority in the Church can judge a Cardinal. The pope.
I thought that Benedict understood the commitment to zero tolerance for sexual abuse that the American bishops had made in 2002. After all, they made that commitment in direct consultation with Vatican officials, including then-Card. Ratzinger.
I figured, therefore, that Pope Benedict recognized that he betrayed that principle with his “hide McCarrick” strategy, but that the pope felt he had no choice. McCarrick had just served as the public face of the Catholic Church in America during the biggest sex-abuse scandal ever. That made McCarrick ‘too big to fail,’ so to speak.
I speculated that Benedict thought to himself: “Yes, it is wrong for us to cover this up. We ought to judge and condemn McCarrick openly. But we can’t, because that would destroy the Church in the U.S.”
Now, I don’t mean to say that I thought such a line of thought made sense. To the contrary, in my speculations I concluded that Pope Benedict deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the McCarrick catastrophe. But I still managed to give the pope emeritus too much credit.
Pope Benedict apparently experienced no interior strife over orchestrating a cover-up. The Vatican report shows that he never really grasped the implications of the supposed zero-tolerance policy in the first place.
Benedict did as pope the same thing he had done as Archbishop Ratzinger of Munich, in the early 1980’s. The same thing that countless bishops have done, all over the world–thereby reducing our Church to the state of zero credibility: He pushed the whole business away from himself. He refused to deal with it. He left if for others. While the McCarrick case lingered, unresolved, for a decade, Pope Benedict focused on writing his books.
The examination [of all records involving McCarrick] did not reveal evidence that McCarrick’s customary gift-giving and donations impacted significant decisions made by the Holy See regarding McCarrick during any period.
This may be the most truly laughable sentence in the report.
We still, however, have not brought into focus the precise whitewash used in this report.
To return to St. Thomas’ principle: In cases of doubt, it is better to be deceived by a wicked man than to think ill of an innocent man. The supposed ‘doubt’ in the McCarrick case was: Some say he has acted inappropriately, that he has harassed, that he has abused. He states categorically that he has not.
But this much was never in dispute, never in doubt: McCarrick slept in the same bed with seminarians, young men, even teenage boys. With none of these bedfellows did McCarrick have any blood kinship.
McCarrick acknowledged the truth of this set of facts repeatedly; the written record of this acknowledgement begins with his August 6, 2000, letter to Pope John Paul II’s personal secretary (see page 169 of the Vatican report). McCarrick knew he could not deny his bed-sharing and remain even remotely credible, because too large a circle of people knew about it.
As I tried to explain in an earlier post, no honest person in the 1980’s, 90’s, or 2000’s could construe these facts as ‘innocent.’ An Archbishop sleeping in the same bed with a young priest of his diocese, or a seminarian, or a young man, or a teenage boy: that was, in and of itself, clearly wrong. An abuse had occurred. Even if no other facts were known, the bed-sharing was enough to justify the conclusion that McCarrick deserved clear and decisive punishment.
In other words, the popes, their ambassadors to the U.S., and their department heads in Rome never actually found themselves in the situation considered by St. Thomas in ST II-II q60 a4 reply1. They had enough evidence to clear up any doubt. They had this evidence all along.
Now, none of the popes, nor their close co-workers, have been dumb or naïve men. They all knew that you cannot really extend the benefit of the doubt to someone who has himself acknowledged sleeping in the same bed with his subordinates and with minors.
The Vatican report expects the reader to reject this clear fact from his or her mind. The report only makes sense if you take refuge in a dream world where popes and experienced priests can calmly think that McCarrick shared his bed with his targeted victims just like the sisters shared a bed in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
The popes and Vatican officials did not, in fact, think that. They knew better. That’s the ugly reality hidden beneath the whitewash. Scrape away that whitewash, and we see:
With its McCarrick report, the Vatican clearly declares to the world that bishops may freely abuse their subordinates, so long as there’s no big stink about it. Just don’t get caught. Keep it quiet. As long as you manage to keep it quiet, the Successor of St. Peter and his men will gladly look the other way.
In our second reading at Sunday Mass, we hear St. Peter exhorting us to wait for the coming of the day of God. The Day of the Lord will conclude human history, and the Lord Jesus will bring about complete and perfect justice. [Spanish]
St. Peter tells us we can hasten the coming of the eternal day. How? By our eagerness for holiness and peace.
What puts us sinners at peace with God? Baptism into Christ. On the cross, the Lord Jesus made peace between God and man. The Lord offered His infinite divine holiness as a sacrifice on behalf of the human race, as one of us. That holy sacrifice makes the eternal peace, the peace that will unfold fully on the Day of God.
Baptism unites us with that peace. Holy Baptism makes the peace won by Christ’s sacrifice our own peace.
Now you might say, “Father, hold on. I love the idea of inner peace. But I have anxieties. Grave ones. Not only do I not really understand when we will get our ‘normal’ life back; not only am I seriously concerned about what new name they will give to the Washington Redskins. But the whole world seems, like, broken.”
Ok. Well said. Baptism gives us Christ’s peace and makes us ready for the Final Judgment. Baptism is the sacrament of… faith. Faith. Baptism is not the sacrament of unrealistically thinking that life on earth is a picnic. Baptism is the sacrament of believing in the holy triune God, Who transcends this world in every way.
And baptism is the sacrament of the faith of the Church. To hasten Judgment Day, we all need to recognize: We do not have faith in our Savior Jesus as autonomous individuals. We have faith in Christ by having the faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus.
If it were just me and God, I would be terrified of Judgment Day. Under those circumstances, I would be condemned, as I rightly deserve. But I can eagerly try to hasten Judgment Day because I hope to stand before the divine tribunal not alone, but with the Lord Jesus, His Mother, St. Joseph, the Apostles, the martyrs, all the saints. I hope to greet Judgment Day filled with the heavenly grace that Christ has communicated to His Church. I just need to stay current on the sacramental confessions of my sins.
“But, Father! There you go again, extolling the decisive importance of communion with the Catholic Church. You who have been tossed to the curb by that Church! Your kind friends think you should call the local Episcopalian bishop. The Catholic institution has pushed conscientious people to their limit. Practicing Catholics have no solid arguments to make with the lapsed Catholics who won’t associate themselves anymore with the mafia of sex-abuse cover-uppers.”
Again, amen. Well said. Thankfully, at least for now, the virus pushes the final turning-point into the future, for us troubled Catholics. No one has an obligation to go to Mass now anyway. The people who feel safe going to Mass and the people who—for whatever reason—don’t feel safe: we’re all still in this together. We can do what St. Peter said, and wait. Wait on God, trusting that He knows best.
My life certainly makes less sense to me with each passing day. But having your life make sense is over-rated. The Almighty never promised that our lives would make sense all the time. The good plan of God does indeed make sense; it makes sense to the saints and to the angels. It’s just that we miscreants bobbing and weaving here on the surface of the earth do not have the insight necessary to grasp it all yet.
Christ Himself is our peace. The Virgin bore Him as the Holy Child. The holiness of Christ—what is it exactly? His consecration to the will of the Father. His total submission to the loving kindness of God. God will show us the way. One thing we know for sure: the way involves not doing unkind things, and doing all the kind things we can.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò published his “Between the Lines” of the McCarrick report last week. He included this sentence about persecuted whistleblowers, with a hotlink embedded. The link takes you to the interview Michael Voris did with me. I appreciate the compliment, Excellency.
The Vatican McCarrick report contains some information about the year 2006. That’s when then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick got rushed into retirement.
We knew something weird had happened. We just did not know why.
Healthy Cardinal Archbishops customarily serve well beyond their 75th birthdays. In the spring of 2006, the sitting Cardinal Archbishop of Washington remained stunningly energetic. Only a few months earlier, McCarrick had publicly declared that the pope wanted him to continue to serve as Archbishop for at least two more years.
In other words, McCarrick’s removal from office in May ’06 embarrassed him enormously. Also, as the subsequent years unfolded, a certain person almost never turned up at diocesan liturgies: the Archbishop emeritus.
The question was: Why?
We know the answer now: Because McCarrick belonged in jail. But no one in the Vatican had the guts to deal with that fact. They tried instead to keep the miscreant out of public view. (More on this foolhardy conspiracy in a subsequent post.)
Bishop Michael Fisher and Bishop Barry Knestout have these things in common:
Both were appointed to career-track jobs in the Washington archdiocesan office by Theodore McCarrick. Both held those positions when the unsettling 2006 Archbishop shuffle occurred. Both moved up into positions of even greater responsibility during the subsequent couple of years–when the Vatican was orchestrating its campaign to keep the McCarrick situation hidden from the public.
What did these two men know about McCarrick at that time? Did they know things that the rest of us did not? Did they know the real explanation for the sudden changing of the guard and the attempted sequestration of the Archbishop emeritus?
If the Vicar for Administration (Knestout) and the Vicar for Clergy (Fisher) did not know the reason for the strange situation, why didn’t they ask their new boss, Donald Wuerl? He had known for two years that McCarrick had sexually harassed at least one seminarian.
From 2006 on, the McCarrick situation in Washington clearly demanded an explanation. Did Knestout and Fisher not want one?