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.

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.

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

Chris O’Leary Footage & Funds

Chris’ talk in Roanoke this past Monday…

Q&A session afterwards…

Chris’ talk in Martinsville on Sunday, with Q&A…

Chris’ interview with Dale Thompson of Our Church Our Problem and The Truth Guardians

Chris has an on-line fundraiser to help him continue his fight. Click HERE.

SCG: We Will Rise Immortal

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 82

In the last part of this chapter, St. Thomas presents two cosmological arguments about the impossibility of an endless cycle of life and death for human beings.

Contemporary cosmologists would no doubt consider St. Thomas’ scientific ideas quaint. But I think he actually achieves a more-profound insight.

St. Thomas includes the perceiving mind within his overall conception of the cosmos. The mind or soul, which can know and understand, exists as a greater being than any material thing in motion, including the earth, sun, and moon–whose motions relative to each other give rise to our conception of time passing.

liturgical-cycle

Objections to Faith in the Resurrection, and Answers

signorelli_resurrection
The Resurrection by Signorelli, in the Brizio Chapel in the Duomo in Orvieto

First St. Thomas outlines reasonable objections to Christian faith in the resurrection of the body…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 80

Then he explains how those objections do not, in fact, stand in the way of the Christian faith:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 81