2018-19: McCarrick, McWilliams, and Me

Father Robert McWilliams
Father Robert McWilliams of Cleveland

Can you have a relationship with God without the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, governed by Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, and the bishops in communion with him?

God gives us all existence and life. We exist and live at this moment only because He gives us our share of His pure, infinite existence and life. This establishes a relationship. So, to answer the question above: Yes, you can. But…

What about God revealing something about Himself, like a friend would? Giving us insight into Himself? Showing us His will, His plan–His loving plan? Saving us from our ignorance, and our evil, so that we could find true, everlasting happiness?

God sent His Son, to save us all, to enlighten us all, to give us grace from heaven. Jesus Christ saves and redeems the whole world. He founded His Church, giving us the Holy Eucharist of His Body and Blood, through the priesthood that continues from the Last Supper till now by the laying on of hands.

McCarrick ordinationTheodore McCarrick made us–my classmates, myself, all the couple hundred men he ordained–he made us ministers of the Body and Blood of God Incarnate. Can I have a relationship with God without the Church and the Holy Mass? Me, Mark White, Father Mark White–can I? No, I don’t believe so.

McCarrick’s criminal trial in Massachusetts will unfold in 2022. May it be God’s will, the world will hear for the first time, in open court, the testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims. A man who first appealed to Church authorities for help over 30 years ago. May justice be done, in that Massachusetts courthouse, next year.

We have come a long way since the initial public revelation of McCarrick’s crimes, back in the summer of 2018. Through 2018 and 2019, I experienced intense anger about the situation, and I wrote a great deal about it, with an angry edge.

In the spring of 2020, the bishop here intervened in the life of the parishes of which I was the pastor. By the grace of God, my anger turned into something else then. A clearer vision of why I find myself in the situation I find myself in.

I just learned this morning some details about the crimes of Father Robert McWilliams of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. (One of his victims and the victim’s mother both spoke bravely to a skilled reporter; read the article on the other end of the link only when prepared to deal with a vision of malice that will make you ill to contemplate.)

During the very period of time when I struggled through the throes of my initial anger over the McCarrick cover-up, Father McWilliams was in the process of sexually exploiting and spiritually torturing teens and pre-teens. Children of families that he had first gotten to know while still a seminarian. The families went to the police in October 2019. A judge has now sentenced McWilliams to life in prison.

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

The McCarrick situation has progressed since 2019. Much of what I wrote in 2018 and 2019 no longer reflects the current state of affairs. Also, I believe that a careful, private study, on my part, of those old posts will help me understand the inner workings of my soul better. For that reason, the “Scandal Posts” tab above will provide access only back as far as February, 2020–at least for the time being.

Injustice moves us to anger. The emotion is not inherently evil. Only the foolishly proud, however, indulge themselves in believing that their anger is always just. Or even half the time. The perfectly pure-hearted Lord Jesus righeously drove the money-changers and pigeon-peddlers out of the Temple. But I know that my heart is far from perfectly pure. Calm reflection gets me a lot closer to the truth than righteous indignation does.

The battle, however, is only just beginning. If any of us could calmly say that McCarrick and McWilliams have nothing to do with each other; if any of us could scrutinize both situations and see nothing in common, other than incidental aspects–well, then I would have to bow my head and say, ‘My 2018-2019 anger was perhaps understandable, under the circumstances, but now it’s time to move on. After all, I didn’t know anything at all about McWilliams at the time, so it’s a pure coincidence that I vented some anger appropriate to that case, as it unfolded secretly in the hidden recesses of homeschool-Catholic-family Ohio. That’s just a fluke, that I wrote some jeremiads appropriate to the situation, as it happened.’

That would be what I would have to conclude, if we could all look at our beloved Catholic Church right now and say to ourselves, “Yes, the system is sound. This is a tragic, isolated case, just like McCarrick’s was.”

But can we say that?

Didn’t structural problems in the Church enable both these criminals? Problems that persist: unchecked clerical authority and secrecy, protecting the institution instead of souls, thinking about lawsuits instead of the Final Judgment?

One of the intentions I pray for at the holy altar, with the angels for company, is this: May I be spiritually ready to respond to God’s call, as the scandal involving the prelate who ordained me enters its next phase, in 2022. May I have the courage to examine myself honestly. May we all respond with generous love to God’s gift of being who He made us to be, here and now.

18 thoughts on “2018-19: McCarrick, McWilliams, and Me

  1. I had been greatly bothered by this question: How on earth could God, in His infinite goodness and providence, take a good man like you who so generously and totally gave himself to the Church His Son founded, and see to it that at the end of your path to ordination there was a man like McCarrick at the altar to receive you into the priesthood? Huh?!

    But I now see that He not only allowed this, but probably insisted on it, because God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that if he put the Church’s “Big Problem” right in your face, that you, alone, of all priests, would be the one who would actually have the courage to do something about it.

  2. 1. Many priests (and more often, ex priests) have made it very clear that the colleagues of these abusing priests, and very often their superiors, KNEW about these men like McCarrick and COVERED IT UP so as to “protect” the church. That’s coming back now, in spades, to harm the church.

    2. I have never understood how it is that any normal male human being –that is, a theologian, church official, or prospective seminarian–could think that it was actually possible for an otherwise more-or-=less normal human being to give up sex.

    I would love to see someone explain that to me–preferably someone with some detailed knowledge of human behavior.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Cresante’s remarks. Thank you for putting it so eloquently

  4. Thank you for continuing to share your journey and the journey of those who have felt unheard.

  5. To Mr Howard Kay’s remarks: A man can believe it’s possible to live without sex because the Lord Jesus reveals it to us. We would never have believed this without Him. But, when pressed by the Pharisees, He teaches that some men “make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom.” His Apostle St. Paul also says, “He who does not marry his virgin does better.” And St. John, in the Book of Revelation, praises the “virgins, who have not defiled themselves with women.”

    How then can you say that men cannot live without sex if St. John praises male virgins???! You have no excuse!!

    The Lord develops this further–in the resurrection we neither marry nor are given in marriage. Wow. We will all perceive each other as brothers and sisters and as such have no carnal desire for one another. It’ll be like a big family reunion. It will be the fulfillment of what St. Paul advises to St. Timothy–we will all see younger women as sisters, (or maybe like nieces), and older women as mothers (or maybe aunts), with absolute purity. How beautiful!

    If you accept the authority of Sacred Scripture, then you should accept that men can live without sex. But if you do not believe the Lord and His Holy Apostles, then neither will you believe should someone rise from the dead.

    C’mon brother, believe in the Holy Scriptures, and have the humility to believe that perhaps you are one of the men, spoken of by St. Paul, when he says that, “each has a particular gift from God,” meaning that not all have the gift of celibacy that St. Paul wishes all would have. Accept that maybe celibacy is beyond YOUR ability, but please believe that it is possible for others. For as the Lord says of some men, “Not all can accept this.”

    But by saying that not all can accept this, the Lord Himself implies that some men can. Thus you should believe this and assent to it.

  6. Howard….how is it that you question whether it’s possible for someone (men AND women), who choose to give their lives to Christ and his Church, to live a celibate life? With God ALL things are possible. What a grace it is to freely choose to sacrifice one’s sexuality for the sake of promoting the Kingdom here on earth and to be reminders to us all that in heaven there will be no need for carnal pleasures as we know them this side of eternity.

    1. Mr. Cresante, regarding your response to me, if you are going to quote the bible, may I suggest that it would be useful and interesting to quote the very words of Jesus?

      For starters, you might quote Mark 16:17:

      And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name
      they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
      they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison
      , it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

      So: have you done any of this? After all, these are the very words of Jesus. (And of course I know full well that the church is not l;ike the inerrantists and literalists etc who believe that the entire bible is true–even as they of course offer all sorts of rationalization.

  7. to WEND:

    A few points:

    1. there are plenty of people who “give their lives to Christ” who are in fact married–obviously, in other Christian denominations.

    2. May I suggest that you look up the work of A. W. Richard Sipe, who was commissioned by the church to research sexual behavior among priests, and who found (estimated) that 25% of all priests were sexually involved with men, and 25% with women?

    That suggests to me that in fact it is extremely difficult for some people–50%, in fact–to give up sexual behavior.

    3. Are you aware of the origins of the idea of celibacy among clergy? It has to do with church property. Clearly many other Christian denominations believe clergy need not be celibate, i.e. can be married.

  8. Bless you Father Mark, for bring all this up, good for the people too understand what has been happening. I know this is very hard on you, Terry and I miss seeing you at church. I hope that the good LORD , will bless you and return you to the Church. You are only the one who can stand with the LORD . Sorry you have too go through all you had too. We believe in you.
    God Bless you.

  9. Fr. Mark, my initial reading of this blog was the day you posted it. Your words touched me deeply. I sensed in your writings an inspiring depth of love and trust in God’s will for you. As I have read it again today, that sense is even stronger. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  10. Praying for you, as always, Father Mark. You are an incredible man and it is a blessing to call you a friend.

  11. Fr. Mark, I believe you are a courageous man who is doing his best to help the church. It’s too bad those opposing you have such a gross misunderstanding of your work and how it in fact is *benefitting* the church.

    At the same time, I think it’s quite interesting that your opponents have such a distorted understanding of how the real world works.

  12. Everything we’ve learned in the past 30 years or so about abuse by priests makes me wonder: why has the church not started or encouraged sex ed for kids? If kids were educated about acceptable and not acceptable forms of touch, –and maybe about sex in general?–wouldn’t that help cut down on abuse?

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