Chapters 12, 13, and 14

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 12

Chapter Twelve covers “the Wisdom of God.”

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 13

Chapter 13 develops the psychological analogy. St. Thomas arrives at the ideas necessary to answer the objections raised in Chapter 10. Chapter 14 contains those answers. Probably worth listening to Chap. 10 again, before trying to tackle Chapter 14.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter14

Our Next Scandal

Paycheck Protection Program

About a year ago, we Americans began to realize that the coronavirus would change our lives. On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, with bipartisan unanimity. The president promptly signed it.

The CARES Act provided for–among other things–the Paycheck Protection Program. The federal government funded the PPP in order to help small businesses that needed cash in order to survive. The idea: Let’s keep small-business employees working and paid, even if revenue plummets.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount
St. Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount, Virginia

The money would come in the form of a loan to cover two and one-half months of payroll. Uncle Sam would forgive the loan completely, if you used the money to pay employees, rent, utilities, or interest on a mortgage.

According to the Small Business Administration, tasked with administering the program, “small business” includes small non-profits.

Now, are Catholic parishes ‘small non-profits?’ According to one seminary professor of canon law, yes.

Nearly each of the nation’s 17,000 parishes operates as its own non-profit… Under canon law, the assets of the parish are managed by the pastor and are not owned by the bishop.

The federal government agreed.

The finance office of our diocese guided our two parishes here in southwest Virginny through the application process. In a matter of weeks, both parishes had received the government funds. A total, as best I can recall, of about $40,000. (I no longer have access to the figures.)

St. Joseph’s, Martinsville, Virginia

Meanwhile, another “small non-profit” did the same–the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, in the western part of that city, 165 miles away. That other small non-profit also received federal money to meet the payroll at the diocesan headquarters ($2 million).

Then, in a stunning turn of events, the CEO of that small non-profit 165 miles away unilaterally ordered the removal of the CEO of the two small non-profits in Rocky Mount and Martinsville. And the Richmond small non-profit CEO had all the locks re-keyed on the buildings owned by the small Rocky Mount and Martinsville non-profits.

A couple weeks ago, the Associated Press published the second of two comprehensive reports on Catholic use of PPP money. The Catholic Church in the United States holds at least $10 billion in cash or other immediately usable assets. Meanwhile, Catholic entities have received at least $3 billion of the federal aid money.


The report makes our Church look opportunistic and dishonest. (And that’s a nice way to put it.) So much so, in fact, that there likely will be a congressional investigation–and certainly should be, if there’s any justice for the American taxpayer.

Not that Catholic “small non-profit businesses” are the only institutions that seem to have abused the PPP. Far from it. But apparently we are the largest and most-egregious abuser of the program.

We have to ask, though: Do the Associated Press reports paint a fair picture? After all, we poor Catholics have suffered plenty of unfair press over the centuries here in the U.S. Non-Catholics tend to see our Church as some kind of monolith, while we on the inside know that it’s actually a large herd of cats.

To consider the fairness of the AP report, let’s break down the purpose of the PPP into it’s two parts. To fund the program, the federal government borrowed from our as-yet-unborn great-grandchildren in order to: save small businesses (1) from going under completely (2).

1. Is a Catholic parish a small non-profit?

As mentioned earlier, numerous Catholic writers have tried to explain away the Associated Press findings with this argument: It’s not one big company. The Catholic Church in the USA does not have one payroll. Even a diocese–its parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and charities: not one big company. They are each separate companies. Separate property, bank accounts, and employees to pay.

Problem is: That idea would come as a stunning surprise to the Catholic parishioners here in this little part of the world. They found themselves without a pastor, and locked out of their own buildings, all because of the unilateral decision of someone who–according to the “small non-profit” logic–has no direct connection with the two parishes. Only a relationship of “theological communion.” Somehow that “communion” managed to change the locks.

But that’s not the only example that gives the lie to the “small non-profit” logic. The bishop has unilateral hiring and firing authority over the vast majority of the CEOs of all the “small non-profits” in the diocese. He regularly compels the small non-profits to raise money and send it to him. The nursing homes of the diocese operate with a surplus of cash, and they provide a significant portion of the income necessary to run the operations at diocesan hq. In the middle of the last decade, the bishop compelled us priests and Catholic people to raise $100 million, a big portion of which has funded large diocesan endowments.

2. Did we need the federal aid money?

Last spring everyone trembled. In our parishes, we feared not being able to make payroll. At St. Joseph’s, that prospect became an imminent possibility. At St. Francis, the money we had in the bank could have held us for a year or two, before we totally ran out of money.

ten-thousand-dollar-bill-salmon-p-chaseUnder “normal” circumstances, that money in the bank at St. Francis should get used only for the specific purpose for which it was raised, just like the $140 million+ that the diocese and its associated foundation has.

The money in the bank at St. Francis should go to a building project. We had one planned and ready to move forward when the virus hit, as some of you dear readers remember. And the endowments the diocese has should be used for the specific purposes for which they were set up in the first place.

Should, that is, unless a catastrophic emergency occurs.

Our national treasury was already way empty. The USA already owed more money than any of us can really imagine in our little brains. But we faced a catastrophic emergency as a nation. Potential economic collapse threatened the survival of American small businesses. The US government took out another huge loan, with both political parties endorsing the move.

We Catholic “small non-profits” took $3 billion that small businesses in genuine danger could have had. We were never in real danger of going under. The Catholic Church in America has more than enough ready capital within its own institutions to support the parts of the Church that need it.

Our bishops have yet again brought us to the precipice of a crushing scandal. This time, though, it’s not too late to avoid the debilitating hit to the reputation of our Church.

Everyone panicked last spring. No one knew what the future would hold. It’s only with hindsight that we can see clearly: we wrongly padded our already-big Catholic bank accounts with money that should have gone elsewhere.

We can still give the money back. It’s not too late to do that.

Please, Excellencies. For once, let’s do what the average American will see as the right thing. Protect us rank-and-file Catholics from yet another faith-challenging embarrassment. Let’s give the $3 billion back to Uncle Sam.

Podcast Update

We will resume the podcasts on Sunday. (They only give you so many minutes per month.)

So far, we have covered…

1. The basic project of Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles. That is, to clarify the truths we Christians believe by divine faith that transcend reason, and to defend them from apparently reasonable objections.

2. Sacred Scripture reveals that the eternal Father has begotten the eternal Son, as we confess in the Nicene Creed.

3. The Adoptionists, Sabellians, and Arians misunderstood Scriptural teaching on this. Their errors led to further clarification of what precisely the Bible teaches us about God.

4. Reasonable minds raise good objections to the doctrine of the divine generation of a Son by the Father.

5. The “psychological analogy” can help us understand what we mean by the Father generating the Son.

…St. Thomas will go on to use the psychological analogy to resolve the objections that remain unanswered. Then we will move on to the Holy Spirit.

It’s hard work, to be sure, understanding St. Thomas’ ideas. Listening and re-listening to these podcasts is like long-term training for a marathon. But, IMHO, great spiritual gain comes from the pain involved in the strain when we train our minds like this.

The Rosa Parks of Seminarians?

The bullies running our Church will trample on our human rights until someone intervenes

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King

On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus. The conductor, Mr. James Blake, demanded that she get up and move further back, in order to conform with the custom of racial segregation. Parks would not co-operate with the humiliation.

Rosa Parks was not the first person to get arrested for such a “crime.” Others before her had refused to conform with the humiliations of racial segregation on Montgomery’s public buses. Nor was Parks’ December 1, 1955, arrest her first open rejection of institutional racism. She already had a decade of experience as a civil-rights activist.

That said, Parks had not decided ahead of time to get arrested on the evening of December 1, 1955. Also, contrary to a widespread myth, she was no more tired that evening than she was on any weekday evening, and she was not an old lady–she was only 42. She was tired, however, of being humiliated on the bus. So she wound up getting arrested that night.

That date–December 1, 1955–became the beginning of what we now call the Civil Rights Movement because: The leaders of the movement (including the young new Baptist preacher in town, Martin King, Jr.) immediately recognized Rosa Parks’ potential as a rallying point.

Parks could worthily represent the whole black community. She had zero skeletons in her closet for the racist press to bring out. To the contrary, she lived a life beyond reproach. As Dr. King put it: “Mrs. Parks was regarded as one of the finest citizens in Montgomery–not one of the finest Negro citizens–but one of the finest citizens.”

I recall all this, dear reader, because a friend of mine has filed a lawsuit. And I hope and pray that he will become the Rosa Parks of Catholic seminarians.

Former New-York seminarian Anthony Gorgia saw a seminary official take liberties with a fellow seminarian. The official got touchy-feely in a way that certainly was not appropriate for the supervisor-supervisee relationship. The priest exploited his authority in order to initiate physical contact with the seminarian, contact that the seminarian did not welcome, but was powerless to avoid.

This began a chain of events. Believe it or not, that chain of events did not result in an investigation by Church authorities or disciplinary action against the liberty-taking priest. No, it resulted in the Pontifical North American College and Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York forcing Anthony out of the seminary.

Anthony loves the Lord and the Church. He never had an “agenda,” other than heeding the Lord’s call.

Anthony saw the liberties that Father Adam Park took. Anthony showed by his facial expression that the situation disturbed him. This lead other seminarians to let Anthony know privately what they had suffered at Park’s hands.

Anthony asked the proper authorities within the Church to investigate the matter. Anthony never leveled unfounded accusations against anyone. But he could not in good conscience pretend that he had not seen and heard things that disturbed him.

It disturbs me, too–particularly so, since I have known Adam Park for 23 years. Early on in our seminary days, I regarded him as a friend.

Anthony got nowhere when he requested an investigation by the Church officials who have the duty of overseeing such things.

Sounds familiar. Like I did, Anthony at one point wrote to Beniamino Card. Stella, prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome. Anthony never got any answer at all. (As you recall, dear reader, the answer I got was: We refuse to hear your case.)

Anthony has now filed a lawsuit in civil court.

I encourage you to read the whole filing. Again, many of Anthony’s points in his lawsuit harmonize with ideas I have tried to put forward here.

We “underlings” in the ecclesiastical hierarchy actually do have human rights. We actually do deserve due process. Our superiors do not have the right to drum us out of public service in the Church simply because we refuse to acquiesce silently to their questionable leadership.

Anthony and I have this in common: Our unreasonably hostile ecclesiastical superiors appointed themselves prosecutor, judge, and jury in our cases.

Anthony’s seminary rector and vice-rector forced Anthony out of the seminary on false and incoherent charges, charges that Anthony never had the opportunity to answer. They actually conspired to get rid of him while he was recovering from urgent spinal surgery. (Anthony suffers from scoliosis.)

Cardinal Dolan accepted the rector’s and vice-rector’s version of events without ever hearing Anthony’s side of the story. Indeed, Cardinal Dolan refused to meet with Anthony.

As you know, dear reader, I, too, got falsely accused, and then unjustly convicted. One man, Bishop Barry Knestout, had appointed himself prosecutor, judge, and jury.

In any fair trial, the judge and prosecutor are not the same person. And a judge has the obligation of providing the accused with a forum in which to defend himself from the charges that the prosecutor has made.

As we ruefully remember, Bishop Knestout wrote a letter to all the parishioners here accusing me of the ecclesiastical crime of schism. The bishop insisted that the local newspaper publish his letter, apparently threatening them with adverse consequences if they did not. Then, without a trial, the bishop convicted me of the crime.

Wuerl Knestout Pope Francis

This is the way the cronies operate. No one under their jurisdiction has any rights.

The question now is: Will Anthony get justice in the New York court where he has filed his case?

All Anthony has asked for is: a forum in which to petition for redress for injuries that Church officials have done him. That is what a court of law is supposed to be.

Will the Church institutions involved in this case try to hide behind the “separation of Church and state?” There are no disputed points of doctrine at issue here. Anthony asks for simple human justice.

In this matter, as in many others, the Church as a human enterprise has failed to live up to the ideals we claim to have. Like the powerful people in any human operation, Church officials should be accountable. They should not try to hide behind the pretext that the “separation doctrine” means: they don’t have to answer for their injustices.

Let’s pray that the judge will see Anthony’s case for what it is: a human rights case, not an internal Church matter.

(PS. If you would like to help Anthony financially, you can click HERE.)

Apologia for Believing: The “Psychological” Analogy

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 11

(Using the word psychological in the most-basic sense: pertaining to the human soul.)

St. Thomas did not invent the psychological analogy for the Holy Trinity. He inherited it from ancient theological tradition. St. Augustine also used the analogy 800 years earlier.

In one of my theology classes, I joked with the professor that the psychological analogy is actually more mystifying than the divine mystery of the Trinity itself. But it’s worth listening to this long chapter four or five times in order to begin to understand it. (It took me more than five tries to record it, believe me.)

For me, the most inspiring thing is St. Thomas’ utter humility. He does not propose grand theories. He merely correlates the words used in the Bible with the way that we generally use those words, and tries to find the most-consistent way of understanding it all.

Reasons Why the Nicene Creed Seems Impossible

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St. Thomas has shown what Scripture teaches about the Father and the Son. The eternal Father has begotten an only Son, also eternal and divine. One God, two distinct Persons.

This may appear impossible to an inquiring mind, for reasons that St. Thomas outlines in this chapter.

St. Thomas Resolves Questions about Scripture Verses

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In this brief chapter, St. Thomas explains the meaning of a few disputed verses touching on the divine Persons Father and Son, and the divine nature vs. the human nature of the Christ.

The McCarrick of Wyoming

This is the second of the two posts I promised, proving that the current ecclesiastical hierarchy continues to operate according to this long-debunked, wrong-headed principle:

Sexual abuse is a shameful private matter that should be kept from the public eye. If people know that clergymen have committed this crime, they will lose the faith. Therefore, it should be hushed up, at any cost.

[click HERE for the first post proving the point]

BIshop Joseph Hart (Getty image)
Bishop Hart at center (Getty image)

Bishop Joseph Hart sexually abused a number of innocent young people, teenagers and pre-teens. The survivors of Hart’s crimes have tried, over the course of half a century now, to get the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to acknowledge the truth. It has led them only to disappointment and more pain.

Hart began his priestly ministry in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in northwestern Missouri. (Not to be confused with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, a separate ecclesiastical province.) During his first assignment as a priest, Hart established a relationship with a large Catholic family, the Hunters. Father Hart became like a second father to the Hunter children.

Hart proceeded to molest three Hunter boys. He started with the eldest, Darrel, at age 12. Darrel manage to escape before anything serious happened.

Darrel’s younger brother Kevin was not so fortunate. In 1971, Hart took Kevin on a road trip through the southwest USA. Hart got Kevin drunk, forced the 14-year-old to sleep with him, and sexually abused him.

Kevin would never be the same after the trip. He became a drug addict and died at age 32, in 1989.

Michael Hunter was born between Darrel and Kevin. Hart groped Michael, beginning in 1963. Michael went on to lead the Kansas City chapter of the Survivors Network. He spent himself, trying to keep other survivors alive and healthy. Mike died of a heart attack in 2015, at age 66.

Here’s Darrel, Mike, and Kevin’s sister, Susie McClernon, in a 2019 Kansas City Star interview:

Another Hunter sister, Kathy Donegan, put it like this, in a 2019 interview:

Hart took my brother and best friend away from me. This body count is his legacy.

In 1969, Hart became the pastor of a new parish, St. John Francis Regis. He abused multiple boys there. One survivor, known as “John,” had lost his father at age six. John remembered Hart abusing him:

It occurred on the couch in the TV room of the rectory. Nobody else was there. He tickled me and rubbed against me, then he started moving his hand down. Then he unbuttoned my jeans and tried to unzip them. He was laughing the whole time.

I said, “Father, stop.” He said, “It’s OK.” After about ten minutes of fighting him off and nervous laughing, I took off. I ran through the living room and went home.

I was very confused. I didn’t tell anybody. About a week later, during class, I was walking down a hallway at school. We met, and he grabbed me. He held on to me. He said, “You’re a troublemaker. Nobody’s going to believe you. If you tell, you won’t see your dad again, because you’ll go to hell.”

Another survivor, who goes by the name John Doe E.K., volunteered at the St. John Francis Regis rectory, answering the phone. He remembers Hart groping and fondling him while they played basketball, “passing it off as mere sport.”

Mr. Gilbert Padilla also remembers Hart abusing him at St. John Francis Regis. Hart and his priest-friend Thomas O’Brien would take Padilla out of class, show him pornography, offer him drugs and alcohol, and molest him.

Thirteen-year-old Padilla tried to report the abuse to the principal in 1976. She told the boy, “That’s impossible. Priests are men of God.”

“John,” John Doe E.K., and Padilla were not the only boys at St. John Francis Regis that Hart abused. Like McCarrick and his partners in crime, Hart and Co. had a vacation house to use. This one was on Lake Viking, northeast of Kansas City.

Mr. Pat Lamb recalls O’Brien, Hart, and another priest, Thomas Reardon, taking him and other boys, including Kevin Hunter, to the lake house. The priests offered the boys whiskey-and-cokes, then fondled them.

Lamb remembers:

We were too afraid to tell anyone else, because it was just embarrassing for us. I mean, these men were well-known priests. Who was going to believe us? But we did try to warn other boys not to go to Lake Viking.

Hart became a bishop in Wyoming in 1976. He flew “John” from Kansas City to Wyoming, gave him alcohol, and abused him in a hotel room. John thought: “How do you say no to a bishop?”

Meanwhile, “Martin” was volunteering around the parish where Bishop Hart lived, in Cheyenne. Martin, too, had lost his father. The family relied on the Church for assistance. Martin’s mother worked at the school.

One day, Hart insisted on hearing Martin’s confession. Martin recalls:

Somehow when I was with the bishop, I always had to get naked. I had to show him what I did when I had my impure thoughts. I had to sleep in bed with Hart and change into a bathing suit in front of him.

Looking back, Martin reflects:

Why didn’t I say no? Because I didn’t want my mother to lose her job and everything that the church was giving us.

Hart had threatened Martin with these consequences, if the boy did not comply.

Martin was not the only Wyoming boy that Hart abused. There were at least five others.

Gilbert Padilla w David Biersmith
Gilbert Padilla (with David Biersmith) Reuters image

As I mentioned, Gilbert Padilla first reported Hart’s crimes in 1976. Another of Hart’s Missouri victims (who remains anonymous) reported Hart to the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 1989.

In 1992, the Hunter family tried to tell diocesan officials how Hart had destroyed their family. They were shocked when the Vicar General arrived at the meeting with a lawyer, whose first question was, “How much do you want?”

The diocese offered the surviving Hunters free counseling. The Kansas City Star discovered that the counselors were instructed to report back to the diocese about what the Hunter sisters said in therapy.

In 1993 the diocese told the Hunters that Hart had submitted voluntarily to an “evaluation” in Arizona, which had determined that he “posed no threat to himself or others.” When the Hunters reported this information publicly, the Vicar General accused them of lying. The VG insisted that he would not pass judgment on the credibility of anything the Hunters had told him.

According to later disclosures, the diocese of KC-StJ notified the Vatican in 1993 about what the Hunters had told the Vicar General. In Wyoming, Hart apparently managed to cover the whole business up completely.

Also in 1993, “John” reported the abuse he had suffered from Hart to the diocese in Missouri. The Vicar General bought John a truck, using $12,100 of the diocese’s cash. The VG demanded that John sign a document forswearing any further financial claims against the diocese.

In September 2001, Hart retired from his position as diocesan bishop at age 70, five years early. By the following January, when the Boston Globe began publishing its Spotlight series (which had been delayed in publication several months, owing to the 9/11 attacks), Hart was conveniently on a sabbatical outside of Wyoming.

In 2002, John Doe E.K. reported his abuse to church officials in Missouri, and “Martin” reported his to the police in Wyoming. Martin says he came forward primarily to support the Hunters, who had become pariahs in the Catholic community for telling the truth about a “beloved Kansas-City priest” who became a bishop.

marc cardinal ouellet
Marc Card. Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops

Hart’s successor as bishop of Wyoming, David Ricken (who now serves as bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin) claimed in April of 2002 that he never heard anything about Hart’s crimes until that month.

Ricken promptly issued a pastoral letter, assuring the faithful that he believed in Hart completely. Ricken insisted that everything had been investigated previously by the diocese in Missouri, and Hart had been exonerated. Bishop Ricken went on:

Sometimes those who have been hurt project their memories onto someone they have known who may not actually have been the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, back in Missouri, the Vicar General of KC-StJ diocese claimed that “John” had never actually made a credible report of abuse by Hart. And in Wyoming, a state prosecutor conducted an “investigation” into Martin’s charges–by trying to blame Martin.

In August of 2008, the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph paid $10 million to 47 survivors of abuse committed by twelve priests, including Hart. The then-bishop, Robert Finn, made a blanket public apology for the priests’ “behavior.” (Finn later had to resign from office, after having been convicted in civil court of child-abuse cover-up.)

In 2011, Padilla filed a lawsuit against the diocese, for covering-up for Hart.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, in 2009 Bishop Paul Etienne (currently bishop of Seattle) succeeded Ricken in the bishop’s chair that Hart had occupied for the last quarter of the 20th century.

Hart continued to live the adulated life of a bishop emeritus, in spite of having been named in a $10 million sex-abuse settlement in Missouri. Martin’s family met with Etienne and insisted that something be done.

Etienne apparently did not share Ricken’s certainty that Hart was innocent. Etienne privately asked the Vatican to open an investigation. The Vatican did nothing. Etienne nonetheless quietly “restricted” Hart’s ministry, prohibiting the retired bishop from celebrating the sacraments publicly.

In 2017, Bishop Steven Biegler succeeded Etienne in Wyoming. Before he left, Etienne told Biegler about Hart. Biegler continued to “restrict” Hart’s ministry.

Biegler then hired an investigator to put together a full report. Hart declined to be interviewed. The investigator’s report went to the police and to the Vatican. The report remains secret, and there is no public record of who the investigator was.

Biegler announced his actions in 2018. HeĀ  did numerous press interviews, including this one with Wyoming public radio:

Biegler stated unequivocally that he believes Hart’s accusers. The bishop urged the police to re-open the investigation. (Wyoming has no statute of limitations on prosecuting criminal sex abuse of minors.)

Biegler released a public letter which revealed that Etienne had “previously” restricted Hart’s ministry, and that the Congregation of Bishops in Rome had now extended that restriction to include all the dioceses of the Church. Biegler also decided to remove Hart’s name from a building at the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, northeast of Cheyenne.

Biegler declared:

I hope that our investigation will lead to a final determination by the Vatican that the sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Hart are credible and require disciplinary action.

Apparently, a few months later, in October 2018, the Vatican secretly ordered Hart to stay out of sight, just as they had done with McCarrick a decade earlier.

The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Bishop Hart’s Vatican trial occurred there.

Last summer, the Wyoming prosecutor decided not to move forward with any charges against Hart. Then, last month, the Vatican returned its verdict. Not guilty.

Not guilty.

According to Bishop Biegler, however, the Vatican did issue a “canonical rebuke” of Bishop Hart. According to Biegler, the Vatican declared:

Hart showed flagrant lack of prudence for being alone with minors, which could have been potential occasions endangering the obligation to observe continence [ie, refrain from sex], and that would give rise to scandal among the faithful. Hart disregarded [our] urgent requests that he refrain from public engagements that would cause scandal among the faithful due to the numerous accusations against him.

Bishop Biegler has now revealed that, in October 2018, the Vatican secretly prohibited Hart from having any contact with “youth, seminarians, and vulnerable adults.”

Now, let’s acknowledge: Convicting someone of a crime requires a convincing amount of evidence. It is up to the judge or jury to determine whether or not the prosecution has proved its case.

scales_of_justiceThe Vatican judge in Hart’s case–whoever he may be; his identity is secret–he had all the evidence I have presented here, and more. That judge decided it was not enough. That judge will have to answer to God for his decision.

Perhaps we have a serious discrepancy in our Church over what constitutes abuse? As we remember, in the McCarrick case, the Vatican refused to condemn him for forcing subordinates to sleep in the same bed with him. Even though, outside the Church, pretty much everyone would see such a thing as an egregious offense worthy of swift and decisive discipline.

Maybe the same problem operates here in the Hart verdict? [WARNING Rated R] Maybe Hart has managed to escape conviction because no one presented evidence of actual anal penetration? Even though the abuses that he did commit have let a trail of broken lives a mile wide?

We do not know the answer to such questions because:

Secrecy still rules in holy mother Church. Leaving the rest of us with no idea whatsoever about how “justice” gets done. Indeed, we are left with the impression that there is no justice at all.

Hart will soon have to answer to the Lord, and the survivors of his crimes lost faith in the Church bureaucracy a long time ago.

The endless secrecy is the deeper problem. The hierarchy–with the possible exception of Bishop Steven Biegler, who has got to be pretty daggone disillusioned at this point–clearly still prefers secrecy over public accountability. Two decades of promises of “transparency” have proven to be nothing but empty words, public-relations damage control.

Shame on them when we believed them the first time. Shame on us for believing them every time since then.

The Church will declare Bishop Joseph Hart neither innocent nor guilty. The important thing is that he vanish from sight. That is the modus operandi. Still.

It is a cruel way to do things, scandalous in and of itself. That a bishop is a criminal? Not a scandal; every corner of the world has its criminals, after all. But when the hierarchy fights to the bitter end to bury the crimes of clergymen in secret files forever–that does scandalize people. It causes loss of faith.

It communicates this attitude: The suffering of the survivors does not concern us. Let them endure it, in silent, isolated agony. Let them remain estranged from the sacraments of Christ. None of that is the Vatican’s concern.

The Prefects of the Roman dicasteries involved in the Hart case, Cardinals Ladaria and Ouellet, have themselves certainly orchestrated a good number of cruel cover-ups like this one. In their benighted world, such “discretion” accrues to their credit as churchmen.

What they obtusely fail to recognize is: Their efforts to protect the precious reputation of the ecclesiastical hierarchy have succeeded only in ruining it.