Grand-Jury Reports + McCarrick Charged with a Crime

PA Grand Jury victims

Soon we will mark the third anniversary of the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clerical sex-abuse and cover-up. The report offers the public a window into the corrupt way that the hierarchy of our Church has dealt with these crimes.

When the grand jury published its report, the pope and bishops reacted with embarrassment and dismay. We rank-and-file Catholics, on the other hand, recognized the report for what it was: a gift to our community.

Finally the survivors had their chance to tell their side of the story. Finally we gained a clear insight into exactly how our upper leadership has handled this. That is, very badly.

Mark Herring

Shortly after the publication of the Pennsylvania report, our Attorney General here in Virginia announced an investigation into clergy sex abuse in our state. He established a hotline for survivors to call, and his office has worked on mounting criminal prosecutions based on the information they have collected.

I know that a number of clergy-sex abuse survivors, as well as we Catholics in general, have wondered when the A.G.’s office will produce a report like they did in Pennsylvania.

The fact is, however, that we will likely never have a similar report here in Virginia. I did some research to try to understand this.

A state law in Pennsylvania empowers grand juries there to publish their findings, to inform the general public about problems in the community. The investigation conducted by the PA grand jury did not lead to many criminal indictments, since many of the offenders had died. But the investigation exposed the reprehensible conduct not just of abusers, but also the dioceses.

The grand jury recommended changing the statute of limitations for civil suits. Regrettably, that pro-survivor reform has yet to occur in Pennsylvania.

The PA grand jury produced its report because Pennsylvania state law empowered it to do so. It is a legally settled matter there that the damage done to the reputations of malefactors named in grand-jury reports (but never charged with crimes) can be offset by written responses appended to the report. The PA report includes such responses by Church officials.

Jake Tapper grand-jury reportHere in Virginia, we have no similar law. Grand juries here are not empowered to release reports to inform the public. To the contrary, grand jury investigations conducted in Virginia remain sealed. Their findings can only become available to the public as part of a trial.

For example, this past May, a VA grand jury indicted a former priest on two felony sex-abuse counts. When the accused stands trial, prosecutors will likely introduce some of the grand jury’s findings as evidence.

I know that the VA Attorney General’s office eagerly seeks clergy sex-abuse survivors who want to press charges. There is no criminal statute of limitations in Virginia for the sexual abuse of a minor. The hotline # is (833) 454-9064, or you can click HERE.

(If you have any problems reaching someone through the AG office’s intake system, please contact me directly by making a comment below, and I will help facilitate things.)

Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros
Camille Biros and Ken Feinberg

The “Reconciliation Program” that our diocese ran last year was tailor-made to short circuit criminal prosecutions. Our diocese used $6.3 million given by faithful Catholics over the years, to pay settlements to survivors, in order to reduce their incentive to go to the Attorney General. (That is, in those cases where the perpetrator is still alive.)

Criminal prosecutions do not fully address the need for accountability that hangs in the balance here. Just like in Pennsylvania, we Virginia Catholics who believe in honesty and justice want to see our institution held accountable for the decades of systematic cover-up. We know that the cover-up has caused as much pain as the original abuse. The crimes are one, very ugly thing. The cover-up is another thing, and equally ugly.

I hope that our Attorney General can figure out a way to give the public something like the PA grand-jury report. Even if it takes some creativity to find a legal way to do so, in our state.

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

 

…As I sit writing this, my phone has blown up, as they say.

Theodore McCarrick has been charged with a crime. By police in Massachusetts. Criminal sex abuse. The incident took place in June, 1974.

McCarrick molested the anonymous victim when he was a teenager, at his brother’s wedding. It was not the only time McCarrick sexually abused the boy. The court has summoned McCarrick to appear on August 26.

Wow.

It is likely that the Vatican has known about this crime, and many others like it, for at least three years, and has kept it all secret. (They could have known about it thirty years ago, if they had gone to the trouble to investigate the charges that made their way to them back then.)

All the evidence that Pope Francis had before him, when he defrocked McCarrick in February 2019, has remained secret. Until now. Now, at long last, the survivors of this predator’s abuse might actually get some real justice. Praise God.

McCarrick paten chalice

Theodore McCarrick ordained me a priest. I am forever grateful for the gift of the priesthood. And I pray for mercy for all of us sinners. But justice must be done, as far as the law allows.

Being Catholic Now, Q4: Two Letters

Jenny Grosvenor Daily Beast
(photo from The Daily Beast)

In October of 1994, Jenny Grosvenor received a letter from the priest-principal of her late husband’s Catholic high school. It was obviously a form letter. It had no salutation, no “Dear…” Instead, the letter began…

We have been informed that you and your family have suffered the loss of a loved one during this past year.

Jenny’s “loved one” had died four months earlier, at the age of 32. By suicide. Her husband. The father of their four young children.

The letter continued…

Prayers were offered for the repose of the soul of your loved one at his alma mater. As the years have passed, Stepinac High School has lost track of many of her former students, so we ask that you share this announcement with all interested parties and please call our Development Office.

Now, it’s a little hard for me to imagine a priest doing something so callous and obtuse. Sending a form letter to a widow in her early thirties with four babies.

But it’s worse than obtuse. Under the unctuous veneer, the letter actually communicates dismissive contempt. Father would have shown more respect if he had simply written what he meant, in a straightforward manner, like…

I really don’t care about you or about your dead ‘loved one.’ Send some money.

But guess what? We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the contempt involved in Jenny’s situation. The word “contempt” doesn’t even capture it. Jenny puts it better, in an article she just published: conspiracy of pedophiles.

Jenny’s husband Peter killed himself because: a criminal sex-abuser priest who worked at the high school had destroyed part of his soul. Father Donald Malone (now deceased) dealt Peter a mortal blow. Peter wrote in his suicide note: “This thing has been in me for years, it was time to come out.

And the priest who wrote the “condolence” fundraising form letter? Also a criminal sex-abuser of minors. The now-laicized Monsignor John J. O’Keefe.

In her masterpiece of an article, Jenny explains her decades-long attempt to understand her husband’s untimely death. She recounts her dealings with the Reconciliation Program of the Archdiocese of New York (about which I wrote last year.)

Jenny tells us how she snuck into the high-school priests’ residence, to visit the place where the criminal had abused her late husband. She confronted the priest running the school. He called her a liar.

Concluding her story, Jenny writes that she “wishes she could let it go, let it be.” But, she goes on:

Truth is, I can’t. Stories surfacing daily in the news and on social media of ongoing priest abuse, the Pope’s inaction, and victims’ continuing harm and suffering won’t let me.

This conspiracy of pedophiles must end. I must do something, anything to find and help others suffering in silence, to somehow catalyze the telling of stories, to ease this debilitating shame brought upon countless victims of this diabolical, predatory abuse.

In the Divine Office this week, we read St. Ignatius of Antioch’s writings. His early-second-century letters bear witness to the hierarchical structure of the original ancient Christian Churches, founded by Jesus’ apostles.

St. Ignatius was martyred, devoured by lions in the Roman Colosseum. Prior to his death he wrote of a particular priest: 

Ignatius
St. Ignatius of Antioch

I continue to take delight in him because he is obedient to the bishop as to the grace of God… Holy priests defer to the bishop with the prudence which comes from God, or rather not to him but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of all. So then, for the honor of Him who loves us, it is proper to obey…

Be zealous to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God… be united with the bishop… you must do nothing without the bishop.

Our bishop here, Barry Knestout, opened his letter to the people of Martinsville and Rocky Mount with a quote from St. Ignatius of Antioch. Then Bishop Knestout condemned me for “pushing the faithful to animosity against the Apostolic See and his bishop,” by keeping this blog on the internet.

Jenny’s article will make people hate the Catholic clergy.

Why? Because we deserve that hatred?

Can we honestly say that we don’t? Can we find a way to be Catholic that reverences both St. Ignatius’ truth and Jenny’s? Don’t we have to find a way?

 


Nota Bene

Allow me to correct the record on one matter. It is a minor point. But Dr. Francesco Cesareo, one-time chairman of the USCCB National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, deserves this correction.

In April of 2020, I wrote about the formal complaint made to the Review Board by the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, in Tennessee. The complaint asked that the Diocese of Knoxville not receive certification by the board for conformity with the rules of the 2002 Dallas Charter (which is supposed to govern all the dioceses of the US).

I explained how my friend Tom Doyle had written a brief supporting the complaint. Tom demonstrated how a “non-disparaging agreement” that the diocese had forced upon a sex-abuse victim violated the rules of the charter.

When Tom and I discussed the situation, he told me that the Review Board had not even acknowledged the complaint, much less responded to it.

It turns out that Dr. Cesareo did in fact acknowledge the complaint. He reported to SNAP that he had forwarded their complaint to Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, the chairman of the committee charged with enforcing the charter. (Click HERE, and scroll down, if you want to see Dr. Cesareo’s letter.)

Over a year has passed since then, and Bishop Doherty has not responded.

The Concluding Chapters of the Summa Contra Gentiles

We face judgment immediately after death:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 91

The blessed souls remain fixed forevermore on the good:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 92

The damned souls remain fixed forevermore on evil:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 93

The souls in purgatory do not change their wills, either:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 94

The reason why we cannot change from good to evil, or vice versa, after death:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 95

The Last Judgment:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 96

The cosmos after the Last Judgment:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 97

St. Thomas wrote many books. Among them, the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles have the most-monumental status.

St. Thomas did not live to complete the Summa Theologica. He died while working on Part III, and his student completed the task, using St. Thomas’ earlier writings.

St. Thomas did, however, write the entire Summa Contra Gentiles himself. Book IV is the final book of the SCG. So: we have reached the conclusion of the most-monumental work of St. Thomas that he himself also reached.

Praise the good Lord.

Reading Book IV aloud has done me enormous good. Hopefully it has done you some good, too, dear reader/listener.

Not sure when I will record more podcasts, or what they will include. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

Update in the Local Paper + Father Altman

I appreciate Bill’s very good report. To be clear, though, my appeals haven’t completely run out.

Bishop Knestout has petitioned the Vatican to expel me from the priesthood. I am fighting the bishop’s petition, with the help of a canon lawyer.

Please pray. If you want to help me pay my canon lawyer, click HERE.

My friend Father James Altman of the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, has now been suspended from sacred ministry, like myself.

Our cases are quite different. We have different personalities. I can’t say that I agree with everything my friend says. And he certainly doesn’t agree with everything I say or don’t say.

Be all that as it may, I found this part of his interview yesterday with John Henry Westen to be quite moving (starting at 15:15):

Father Altman and I have this much in common: We have suffered severe penalties without due process. What exactly did he do or say that required a suspension of his priestly ministry? What did I do or say? The authorities over us have never specified with any precision these “offenses,” for which we have been so severely punished.

That is not fair.

The Church is a mysterious web of relationships. By the grace and power of God, we parish priests form relationships with our people, and those relationships run very deep.

Under circumstances like this, any unilateral and arbitrary exercise of bureaucratic authority will inevitably wound peoples’ souls. Those wounds may never heal in this lifetime.

Parishioners in Rocky Mount and Martinsville speak of the parishes being “cursed” by what the bishop and his henchmen did here last spring. Now another parish in Wisconsin will have to live under a similar curse.

As I mentioned, I do not agree with everything that my friend Father Altman says. If I had been his parishioner, I would have disagreed with him on certain points, just like many of my parishioners have disagreed with me, over the years.

The Catholic Church has to be a place where people can disagree with each other and still receive the sacraments together, kneeling next to each other in peace and mutual love. Our minds simply do not comprehend the mystery that we share at the altar. So anyone who would propose to “police” the boundary lines has to tread lightly.

Also: there has to be room for us priests to be our individual selves.

When we priests have criticisms of managerial decisions made by our superiors in the chain-of-command, we have a right to voice those criticisms. Criticizing management decisions does not involve breaking communion with Holy Mother Church. The bishops ≠ Christ’s Church.

I don’t know the bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin. But it seems to me that he has made a power play that will wound a lot of people, without any real benefit coming from it.

A year and a half ago, I begged Bishop Knestout to leave me in peace. Just let me do my thing. If my blog posts are the work of a whack-job with a crazy ax to grind, so be it. You can show your strength as a leader by tolerating them. Ignoring them. In the end, the world ignores the work of whack-jobs.

He did not take my advice.

Whack-jobs vent their misguided spleens, and, in the end, the world takes no note of them. But when someone without power criticizes authority, and then authority turns around and punishes the critic arbitrarily, with a merciless power-play… That actually proves the criticism to have been valid in the first place.

Five SCG Chapters on Resurrected Bodies

tombstone cross

We will rise in bodies of the same nature as we have now, flesh and blood…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 84

But with a different disposition: incorruptible and immortal…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 85

…With perfect agility and freedom from suffering, for the blessed:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 86

With a place in the heavens:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 87

We will rise male and female, as we are now.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 88

adam-and-eve-in-the-garden-of-eden-giclee-print-c12267346