He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. He is God made man. He speaks not a human opinion about God; rather, He is God revealing Himself to us human beings.
We find ourselves struggling always to navigate between two possible deadly traps. On the one hand: talking about God without any discipline or restraint. As if we could know that God “wants” this or “doesn’t want” that. As if we could know that God “likes” this or “doesn’t like” that. The world abounds with preachers and other well-meaning people who try to domesticate the awesome, unfathomable majesty of the Creator. And the absurdity of a human being claiming to understand God—it’s enough to push a sober skeptic over the line into atheism.
On the other hand, God has not left us in the dark about Himself—about His plan, His will. No. He sent His only-begotten Son. The words Jesus has spoken are spirit and life. The Redemption He brought about is real. He lives and reigns, and He shares His grace with us through the means that He Himself established. We didn’t make it all up–the sacraments and the New Testament.
Which brings us to an interesting twist in the verses that we read at Mass today. At first, the Lord refers to His words, in the plural. But then He changes to word, singular, when He refers to the final judgment.
Christ revealed Himself in His sayings. He announced Himself. He, therefore, is the word that He spoke.
God has spoken. His one and only eternal and infinite Word. Jesus Christ.
PS. Back in 1986, I listened to Eric Clapton’s August so many times that I wore out the tape in the cassette. But I was holed-up in a monastery when this incredible event occurred in 1996. I never knew about it, until a friend alerted me…
We read the Acts of the Apostles during the fifty days of Easter. We marvel at the clarity the Apostles had about what had happened. Meanwhile, others experienced confusion.
Some people had admired Jesus of Nazareth, including many Pharisees and some members of the Sanhedrin. Some people thought He posed a threat to the Roman occupation; some exulted in the idea that He intended to start a revolt against it.
Some recognized that He taught in harmony with the Torah, that He captured the unifying insight of the Law. Others recognized that His doctrine meant the end of their supposed monopoly on true religion, and they resented it.
Many people thought He might be the Messiah. And many found Him an enormous nuisance and considered His popularity dangerous.
Some who loved Him loved Temple Judaism, or the Jewish monarchy, or the synagogue system. Some who loved Him had practically nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism in any way. Some who hated Him hated Him because He wasn’t Jewish enough. Some who hated Him hated Him for being Jewish.
When the Passover came, a small faction of the Sanhedrin saw their moment. Pilate proved too weak to resist them. A bloodthirsty rabble gave vent to their ugliest fury, and Jesus of Nazareth got executed in a spasm of irrational violence.
Some saw the end of a political problem, or the beginning of one. Herod and Pilate became friends; others became enemies. Some saw a terrible tragedy. Others saw just another crucifixion.
But the Apostles perceived with perfect clarity what had happened. The Lamb of God had offered Himself in sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He had redeemed the world. God had revealed His love. The High Priest ascended to the heavenly Temple, to preside over the liturgy of the new and eternal covenant. The Holy Spirit came. The gates of heaven opened. The mission of Christ’s Church began.
Congar distinguishes four senses of the word “Church.”
First Sense. The institution coming from God, representing the totality of the principles established by Jesus Christ to make humanity His Body. The faith (revealed doctrine) and the sacraments of that faith. Apostolic powers derived from the ‘energies’ of Christ king, priest, and prophet.
With respect to its essential principles, the Church is incapable of failure and has no need to reform… The Church is free of failures and mistakes to the degree that it is joined and united to God…. The Church’s quality of holiness follows precisely Her quality as spouse.
Second sense of the word “Church.” The Christian people. The Church’s proper work is precisely ceaselessly to purify sinners from their sin.
Third sense. Churchmen. The hierarchy.
Fourth. The concrete Church. The one, real Church. The first three senses of the word, all rolled into one.
Congar first published his book over sixty years ago. Yet: His formulations of the problems that require Church reform–they ring as true as ever.
Under the form of questions that the world poses to the Church, God interrogates His people, standing at the door and knocking with raps made up of facts and events. These ‘instructors’ that God sometimes gives us–the Church has to listen to, and to allow herself to be called into question.
Unaware of the way others see us, we are sometimes surprised and pained to discover that they don’t trust us. Recognizing this can lead us to reflect and to question ourselves, wondering if we don’t look more like servants of the clerical apparatus than servants of God and of humanity.
Congar outlines two ‘tempations’ that perennially beset the Church.
1. Pharisaism. Regarding spiritual means as spiritual ends.
Pharisaism began as a way to purify the faith of Jews who had to contend with two sources of confusion: foreign cultures dominating their way of life and leaders of their nation who did not really believe in God. But the Pharisees eventually confused the means they had developed to cultivate piety with piety itself.
The Church can fall into the same temptation. Desiderius Erasmus, a faithful son of the Catholic Church who sympathized with Martin Luther, rebelled against the “Judaism” of late-fifteenth-century Catholic practices. Erasmus preferred to study the New Testament.
2. The Synagogue. Forgetting that God has implanted a law of growth and development into humanity as a whole, and the Church must engage humanity as humanity develops.
The synagogue insists on maintaining its profession of God’s oneness in forms linked to the past, tied up with the Mosaic Law, the Temple, and the city of Jerusalem. The synagogue rejected the fulfillment of the promise when confronted with the Church that was born on the cross and at Pentecost…
The ‘synagogue’ acted out of fidelity to its tradition. But this fidelity to a cultural form became an infidelity with respect to the origin of the form; the form was an imperfect and historical realization of the principle…
There are cases where fidelity to the principle can only be achieved by a kind of infidelity to the transitional form in which it is expressed.
…In 2003, after the last Catholic sex-abuse crisis, the late Avery Cardinal Dulles summarized Congar’s book. Dulles defined ‘reform’…
To reform is to give new and better form to a pre-existent reality, while preserving the essentials. Unlike innovation, reform implies organic continuity; it does not add something foreign or extrinsic. Unlike revolution or transformation, reform respects and retains the substance that was previously there. Unlike development, it implies that something has gone wrong and needs to be corrected. The point of departure for reform is always an idea or institution that is affirmed but considered to have been imperfectly or defectively realized. The goal is to make persons or institutions more faithful to an ideal already accepted.
Dulles ruled out two errors regarding reform:
The first is to assume that because the Church is divinely instituted, it never needs to be reformed. This position is erroneous because it fails to attend to the human element. Since all the members of the Church, including the Pope and the bishops, are limited in virtue and ability, they may fail to live up to the principles of the faith itself. When guilty of negligence, timidity, or misjudgment, they may need to be corrected.
The second error would be to assail or undermine the essentials of Catholic Christianity. This would not be reform but dissolution. The Catholic Church is unconditionally bound to her Scriptures, her creeds, her dogmas, and her divinely instituted hierarchical office and sacramental worship. To propose that the Church should deny the divinity of Christ, or retract the dogma of papal infallibility, or convert herself into a religious democracy, as some have done in the name of reform, is to misunderstand both the nature of Catholicism and the nature of reform.
Congar had written before Vatican II. In fact, knowledgeable people give him credit for inspiring Pope John to convoke the Council. With the benefit of forty years of post-Vatican-II experience, Dulles recognized a colossal weakness in the Council’s exposition of the Church’s institutional form:
As a prime structural problem, therefore, I would single out for special attention the episcopal office… The Council exalted the episcopacy to an unprecedented peak of power and responsibility. No normal individual is capable of being at once the chief teacher, the leading mystagogue, and the principal administrator for millions of Catholics, responsible for a huge array of parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations. Bishops are also expected to be in constant consultation with pastoral councils and senates of priests. Within the diocese the bishop holds the fullness of legislative, judicial, and executive power… Persons who have prestige, influence, and power usually want to retain and increase these; those who lack them want to acquire them.
…Dear reader, from my point-of-view, we find ourselves at an almost-unendurable impasse.
Today Pope Francis extended the supposed American reforms of 2002 to the entire worldwide Church. The idea clearly is: Now we have this problem under control.
But, as we know, what happened here in the US in 2002 was, in fact, a cover-up. Bishops who had covered-up clerical sex-abuse cases for decades faced no discipline of any kind. Instead, priests–who had gotten away with crimes, because bishops had let them–now felt the swift sting of the law.
The Dallas charter included vague promises and lots of vague rules. Same thing with the Pope’s new rules of today. In 2002, no one with a miter faced any justice. And no one is facing any justice with the pope’s new rules, either.
The simple fact is: we do not live under the rule of law in our Church. We live under the governance of a mafia of nervous narcissists who have precious little interest in our faith.
The world outside sees the preposterous weakness of the Roman Catholic Church. Meanwhile, inside the institution, the mitered–and all those beholden to the mitered for their paychecks–pretend that everything is basically normal and fine.
…One thing that I intend to do, dear reader, is: Study the history or our local church here as deeply as I can. Next year, we will mark our second centenary as a diocese. Our history includes some enormous failures of apostolic witness, which I intend to document as thoroughly as possible.
Not because I want to suffer for no reason–or you, dear reader. But because we can and will find our original mojo again–the Apostles’ sublime clarity–if we live in the truth.
A quarter century ago, I read Fr. Aidan Nichols’ A Grammar of Consent. It helped me enormously.
From the preface:
Contact with the living past, in all its latent powers of spiritual fruitfulness, is the best cure for intellectual myopia… The ‘pre-Vatican II Church,’ when all is said and done, includes the apostles.
Some say: “You cannot accuse the infallible pope, the Vicar of Christ, of heresy. ‘Heretical pope’ is an oxymoron.” But you can accuse a pope of heresy. Not everything a pope says enjoys divine protection from error. Pope Francis has never invoked the charism of infallibility. He could be a heretic.
Some say: “You can accuse a pope of heresy, but no one can judge the case.” But they can. The bishops of the Church could conceivably convict a pope of heresy. Under certain circumstances–like “one of the worst crises in the Church’s history”–the bishops might have a duty to do so.
Problem here is: Father Nichols and Co. do not offer evidence clear enough to convict Pope Francis of heresy. You can’t find someone guilty of heresy without clear statements that lack any possible orthodox interpretation. You always have to give a priest or teacher the benefit of the doubt. Namely, that they mean what they say in an orthodox sense, if such a sense exists.
Meanwhile, our weird, wily pope has never really taught anything clearly enough to get convicted of either heresy or orthodoxy.
Father Nichols and Co. do, however, make two points which add to the huge body of evidence. Not of the pope’s heresy, but of his dangerous incompetence as a teacher and shepherd of souls.
In chapter eight of his Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes that the Church has prohibited invalidly married people from receiving Holy Communion because She presumes that they are not in a state of grace. And the pope insists that this long-standing presumption has to change (para. 301).
But the prohibition against invalidly married people receiving Holy Communion does not spring from a presumption about anyone’s state of grace. The Church does not judge anyone’s state of grace, even in confession. Because even a person’s own conscience cannot make a certain judgment about that.
I can know that my conscience does not now accuse me of any un-confessed mortal sins. Which leads me to hope that I am in a state of grace. Since I trust in God’s mercy and love, and in His will that I be saved. But I cannot know for sure whether or not I am in a state of grace. So certainly no one else can know for sure whether or not I am in a state of grace. The Church does not make rules about such uncertain things.
It is perfectly possible that some people in invalid marriages actually are in the state of grace, with quiet consciences. Annulment tribunals can and do make mistakes. Regrettable. But no one can presume to judge his or her own case. So without a decree from a competent judge establishing the contrary, everyone must presume that his or her first marriage vows still bind.
Therefore: there will always be people who have to choose between trying to live as brother and sister with a civil-marriage spouse, or making a spiritual communion at Mass, instead of a sacramental one. None of this touches on whether or not the person in question is in a state of grace. The governing principle simply is: The marriage laws of the Church are just, and they must be obeyed. Disobeying them is a sin.
Amoris Laetitia chapter VIII makes a complete mess of this. Why? For an ulterior motive? Does the pope intend to suggest that marriage is temporary? Or that no couple could ever successfully live as brother and sister, for the sake of receiving Communion? Maybe the pope simply does not believe in chastity?
Now, it seems to me that perhaps a priest or a pope could say such a thing, if everyone understood that he did not mean that God willed all other religions in the same way that He wills the true religion, the religion of Christ.
God willed to make human beings inherently religious. Before the preaching of the Gospel, mankind’s inherent religious tendency produced all the pagan religions. And God also appealed to the ancient Israelites’ inherent tendency toward religion in His direct dealings with them, to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Now, what does God’s permissive will mean? It is a venerable theological concept. To understand it, we have to start with this: God wills one thing fully, infinitely: Himself. Everything else, He wills with respect to His absolute willing of Himself.
He positively wills everything good. All good things conform to His own infinite beauty. He also positively wills certain things that are evil from our perspective, but which are fundamentally good. Like punishments for those who deserve them.
But God wills moral evil—the sins of fallen angels and human beings—only permissively. When we do good, God does good in us. But when we do evil by our own choice, God does not do evil in us. He does the good of giving us freedom, and He permits us to do the evil of sinning. He permits it only because a greater good will come of it. A greater good pertaining to His infinite, perfect beauty. Either He will move us to repent, which shows the beauty of His mercy. Or we won’t repent, and He will punish us with His beautiful justice, in hell.
So: For the pope to say that he meant “God’s permissive will” when he signed the document with the imam–ie., that God merely permits the sin of Islam: That totally betrays the whole purpose of the document in the first place. He signed it to build goodwill with Muslims. Then he turns around and explains himself by saying that God wills the diversity of religions in the same way that He “wills” sin.
Hard to make this up. Not a competent shepherd.
Father Nichols and Co. do not prove their case for a heresy conviction. But the pope has shown himself incompetent to govern the Church. That’s the reality we have lived with for some time now.
We march on, loving the Church, loving the papacy, and loving the episcopal office, too. But not lying to ourselves. Not drinking the Kool-Aid about how the current incumbents actually know what they are doing. They do not.
All the following people have something in common.
Mr. James Grein
former priest Gregory Littleton
former priest Robert Ciolek
confidential secretaries who worked for Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen, New Jersey, who died in 2013 (He succeeded McCarrick in office.)
secretaries and assistants who worked with Msgr. Michael Alliegro of the diocese of Metuchen, who died in 2009
the confidential secretary who typed then-Archbishop of New York John Card. O’Connor‘s 1999 letter to Pope John Paul II, about Theodore McCarrick (O’Connor died the following year; John Paul II died in 2005)
Stanisław Card. Dziwisz, who likely opened O’Connor’s letter, and all the secretaries who worked with him
all the lawyers, private advisors, and confidential secretaries who worked for Bishop Vincent dePaul Breen, Hughes’ successor as bishop of Metuchen, who died in 2003
Bishop Paul Bootkoski, emeritus of Metuchen, Breen’s successor
all the lawyers, private advisors, and confidential secretaries who worked with Bootkoski
John Myers, Archbishop-emeritus of Newark, NJ (McCarrick’s successor in office there)
the members of the Pittsburgh diocesan Review Board, which met in November 2004, and heard Robert Ciolek’s claims about McCarrick
the lawyers who arranged for the settlement payments to Ciolek and Littleton
Father Boniface Ramsey, former professor at the seminary at Seton Hall University in Newark
the confidential secretaries of Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Apostolic Nuncio to the USA, who would have opened the dossier Bishop Bootkoski sent to the nunciature on December 6, 2005 (Montalvo died in 2006)
Pope Benedict XVI
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary to Benedict XVI
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano (the Vatican whistleblower)
the confidential secretaries who have worked in the Roman offices of the previous and current Cardinal Prefects for the Congregation of Bishops (Giovanni Battista Re and Marc Oullet) and Cardinal Secretaries of State (Tarcisio Bertone and Pietro Parolin)
confidential secretaries, advisors, and lawyers who worked with Theodore McCarrick during his various tenures
Mr. Theodore McCarrick
All these people had a part in “The McCarrick Affair”–the long-term cover-up of his sexual abuses, which has left the Church in this region in a death spiral. They all likely have strained consciences over this.
Which means: We can safely imagine that many of them would talk to a skilled journalist, one without a Church-politics ax to grind. They would tell their stories to someone who could put the whole business together into a unified, fair account.
All of these people also likely know others who know things–things about which the public as yet knows nothing.
We need a straightforward narrative, sir.
The English-speaking world’s access to facts has suffered because Andrea Tornielli’s Il Giorno del Giudizio has not appeared in our language. Yes, Tornielli undertook a blatantly biased attempt to discredit Archbishop Vigano. But the book nonetheless contains a great deal of solid information.
The Vatican brass talked to Tornielli, thinking that he would put together a book defending them from Vigano’s charge that they conspired in a cover-up.
But these men have long grown accustomed to having people think as they order them to think. They completely misunderstood what they were doing. They revealed to the Italian-speaking world many previously unknown details about: The cover-up that they had in fact conducted.
Please, Mr. Krakauer! Tackle this project!
If you need a $100,000 or $150,000 book-grant to get started–perhaps to hire an Italian translator, if you don’t know the language yourself–I will find the money. No problem.
[Click here for links, if you want more background information.]
History buffs: Imagine that Franklin Delano Roosevelt only served two terms. Then Charles Lindbergh became president.
Yes, the Missourian aviator after whom a highway and a high school in St. Louis are named. Who addressed an “America First” rally a year after Hitler had marched into Poland. He insisted that the USA must stay out out of the war. “British and Jewish interests seek war, ” Lindbergh argued. But America’s “tolerance” for Jews will “not survive” such a war.
Lindbergh really said that. Two months before Pearl Harbor brought to an end any debate about the US entering the war, and the “America First” movement disbanded.
Lindbergh never actually became president. But Philip Roth gives us an imaginary 1940-1942 USA, in which Lindbergh did. In this novel, the USA allies itself with Hitler. A nine-year-old Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, tells the story.
Little Philip rides city buses with a wild school chum, discovering strange non-Jewish neighborhoods. He worships his older brother Sandy and his orphaned cousin Alvin. The family listens every Sunday night to the radio broadcasts of anti-Nazi journalist Walter Winchell, like all their neighbors do.
Philip’s social-climbing aunt marries a prominent Newark rabbi, who had shocked most of Newark’s Jews by aligning himself with the Lindbergh administration. Sandy goes to live on a Kentucky farm for a summer, as part of a program to “mainstream” the Jews–over his father’s strenuous objections. Alvin joins the Canadian army, determined actually to fight Hitler. He loses a leg.
Roth manages the nine-year-old-boy point-of-view with masterly brilliance. Little Philip collects stamps, worries about when and where people will get to go to the bathroom, dislikes a neighbor boy for being a clingy drip, and feels guilty for bad things that grown-ups have done.
Above all, he has a heroically devoted mother. Her calm clarity, under extreme pressure, produces a scene that brought tears to my eyes. Worth reading the whole novel just to get to it.
Roth sets the USA’s devolution into anti-Semitic violence in Kentucky. I, for one, do not think that, as a state, Kentucky deserves that.
But let’s leave that quibble aside. Roth moves the story to its conclusion by changing narrative style in mid-stream. From his calm narration of neighborhood and home events, he suddenly shifts his cadence to a rapid-fire, newspaper-like recounting of catastrophe.
Little Philip finds himself surrounded by adults who do not know whom to trust for reliable information. Meanwhile: martial law, riots.
The final chapters reverberate with the sense: What is going on? What is really happening? Whom can we believe?
…Which brings us to: President Trump’s claim that we have a state of emergency at our border with Mexico.
Now: If the man had shut down the federal government in order to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn child, I would cheer. If he had declared: Congress can count on me to veto every appropriations bill. Until we, as a nation, acknowledge that every procured abortion involves the taking of a human life!
You can be sure that I would be leading the rosary at a prayer rally supporting the president right now, if that was the situation we faced.
But it is not.
President Trump has brought us to the brink of the state that Roth evokes in his novel, in his imaginary 1942. America, untethered from facts. America in a haze.
Trump has chosen this hill to die on: A wall, technologically incapable of succeeding at its appointed task, enormously bothersome to neighboring men and beasts, erected for the sake of keeping at bay an enemy that does not exist.
…We also live in Roth’s 1942 USA in the Catholic Church. With no one to trust.
Pope Francis will laicize Theodore McCarrick through an abbreviated penal process, before next month’s sex-abuse meeting. The overwhelming evidence against him, compiled by Church investigators, makes a full trial unnecessary.
Meanwhile, the only accuser known to the public gives two ninety-minute interviews on a supposedly reliable Catholic podcast.
He accuses McCarrick not just of specific acts of sexual abuse, but of willfully and maliciously participating in a century-old conspiracy to destroy the Catholic Church. The conspiracy supposedly emanates from an otherwise unremarkable Swiss city. It involves bribes given by Italian-American businessmen and taken by popes for decades.
(In other words, Dr. Taylor Marshall has given James Grein a platform. But he has not done him any favors. Because 90% of James’ two interviews, conducted by Dr. Marshall, consist of incoherent nonsense.)
Meanwhile, the Vatican officially says: No Comment.
…I feel like little Philip. Don’t know whom or what to believe.
Anyone watching the work of the American bishops meeting in Baltimore three weeks ago knows that they voted on this:
Be it resolved that the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops encourage the Holy See to release all the documentation that can be released consistent with the canon and civil law regarding the misconduct of Archbishop McCarrick.
The bishops voted that resolution down.
Meanwhile, laughter in Rome. Why? Because Rome had already released all the info. By talking secretly to two journalists. The book was published November 6.
“Don’t these silly Americans understand how we do things here?” the Roman cardinali thought to themselves. (Among the Roman cardinali, I include Donald Wuerl, certainly one of Tornielli & Valente’s anonymous sources.)
Meanwhile, we American men wonder: Really? Talking off the record to a sympathetic journalist counts as “accountability?”
Anyway, click Part One of my summary of the book, if you haven’t read it already. We continue now with:
Facts about Theodore McCarrick revealed by the unwitting accountability team of Vigano-Tornielli-Valente…
In December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians.
McCarrick turned 75 in July, 2005, still healthy and energetic. I remember it as if it were yesterday; all us Washington priests had to attend a 75th birthday party held in a fancy new dining hall at Georgetown University.
Even though canon law requires the resignation of all bishops at 75, sitting Cardinal Archbishops generally serve at least two extra years, if not four or five.
But McCarrick did not. Having concluded that McCarrick posed a grave danger to the good name of Holy Mother Church, Pope Benedict rushed the replacement process, hastily naming Donald Wuerl as McCarrick’s successor. Well before McCarrick turned 76.
Meanwhile: two things…
1. Everyone knew that Pope Benedict was embarrassing Theodore McCarrick. But we all thought it had to with a fast one that McCarrick had pulled on then-Card. Ratzinger in 2004. Ratzinger had explained that priests could and should withhold Holy Communion from politicians who voted in favor of abortion. McCarrick did not communicate that instruction to his brother American bishops.
We priests in the trenches thought McCarrick got relieved early because of that. Little did we know…
2. The second settlement of an abuse claim against McCarrick ran its course during 2006. Rome got the word.
Vigano wrote about “sanctions” against McCarrick. Vigano supposed that the sanctions began in 2009, after Dr. Richard Sipe published selections from the McCarrick abuse-claim settlement documents.
But the ‘sanctions’ actually began in December of 2006.
Vigano wrote that Pope Francis “lifted” them in 2013.
He did not. Because they had never been enforced at all.
The history recounted in this book–of nuncios and cardinals trying to enforce Pope Benedict XVI’s order that Theodore McCarrick live a retired life of prayer and penance–it reads like the slapstick farce that it was. McCarrick outmaneuvered them all.
Tornielli and Valente document it, in excruciating detail. They propose to contradict Vigano, insisting that Vigano painted an inaccurate picture of a McCarrick effectively punished by Benedict XVI, then liberated by Francis.
But: I don’t remember Vigano insisting that Benedict’s sanctions were effective. As Tornielli and Valente point out, Vigano himself proved utterly inadequate to the task of enforcing them.
Tornielli and Valente try to cast doubt on Vigano’s utterly crucial assertion that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s abuses in June of 2013. But Card. Ouellet, prefect of Bishops, has already acknowledged that Vigano probably did tell the pope about McCarrick. (Oullet preposterously claimed that we could hardly expect the pope to focus on such information).
And even if Vigano never told Pope Franis anything about McCarrick, Tornielli and Valente effectively inform us that they all knew anyway–all the Cardinals around the pope. Pope Francis didn’t need Vigano to tell him that McCarrick was a ticking time bomb of scandal that could explode and destroy them all. The pope already knew. He just did not appear to care.
The picture from this hit-piece book against Vigano is manifestly not: Vigano wrong. The picture that emerges is: The people who run our church really, really do not know what they are doing.
I will likely have more to tell you about what I have read, dear reader, but let me close now with:
In 1994, Bishop Hughes of Metuchen, NJ, could have insisted on a church trial of his predecessor, even though that predecessor was his ecclesiastical superior. Trials are ugly, but they do attain the kind of certitude that we can have in this life, about an accused man’s guilt or innocence.
It would have taken a great deal of courage for Hughes to denounce the Archbishop of his province. But the alternative was: Slip into the shadow world of the mafiosi…
In 1999, Cardinal O’Connor could have insisted on a trial of Theodore McCarrick, for violations of the Sixth Commandment with his own seminarians. But he did not. O’Connor wasn’t hung up about guilt or innocence, either; he only cared about whether or not McCarrick got promoted.
(Even the good guys among the mafiosi are still mafiosi, my friends. O’Connor was convinced that McCarrick had preyed on defenseless young men. But still O’Connor never suggested that McCarrick had no business remaining in the throne in Newark–and had no business saying Mass at all.)
John Paul II could have, and should have, conducted a trial. But he preferred to think the best about the charming snake-oil salesman.
Benedict XVI absolutely had to conduct a trial. But he did not do so. He assumed McCarrick was guilty. Meanwhile, McCarrick regarded Benedict’s attempts to closet him in a monastery as a “persecution.” Because McCarrick denies to this day that he did anything wrong.
There’s no getting around this: Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of covering up for Theodore McCarrick. The pope worried about scandal. He did not appear to understand that McCarrick’s victims needed justice. Nor did he understand that more victims would surely come forward.
But we can well imagine that Benedict is suffering his punishment right now. He himself made the choice that leaves him in the impossibly painful position that he now occupies. He knows everything about all this. He knows he made a terrible mistake, out of weakness of will.
And he can say nothing. He has information that could help resolve the problem–The Problem, that he knows has released termites into the very foundations of the Church. But he cannot say anything. Because of the choice that he himself made, to live as the “contemplative ex-pope.”
Pope Francis inherited a nightmare situation in which one of his Cardinals (an unusually prominent one) stood accused of grave abuses. But his guilt had never been proved; it had never even been put on trial, by anyone.
Pope Francis absolutely, positively had to conduct a trial, to establish McCarrick’s guilt definitively and remove him from the clerical state.
Instead, Pope Francis blew the whole thing off completely.
Until a man came forward accusing McCarrick of abusing him while he was still a minor. And this apocalypse we have lived through, and continue to live through, began.
Il Giorno del Giudizio (The Day of Judgment) by Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente
Dear reader, your unworthy servant reads the Italian. So I can inform you of what this book says. They published it in Italy a month ago, and it says a lot:
Two Vatican journalists, intent on making Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano look bad, obtained access to some very knowledgeable churchmen. The churchmen talked.
First: Thedore-McCarrick-related facts, heretofore unknown to the public, which we learn in the first four chapters of this book…
1. The Vatican began to look for a replacement for James Card. Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, in early 1999.
John Card. O’Connor, then-Archbishop of New York, had heard about McCarrick abusing seminarians. He wrote to Rome, warning Pope John Paul II that choosing the incumbent of Newark for Washington would lead to a colossal scandal: “The American clergy will become divided, and the reputation of the hierarchy will suffer, with mud on the Church.”
Tornielli and Valente include the reason why O’Connor knew. The priest who eventually received a settlement payment in 2004 had complained to Bishop Edward Hughes, McCarrick’s successor in the diocese of Metuchen, NJ, about McCarrick’s abuse. He complained about it in 1994.
In his August testimony, Archbishop Vigano painted a picture of an enfeebled John Paul II who wasn’t really in the decision-making loop in AD 2000. Tornielli and Valente successfully undermine that picture. I myself had the privilege of meeting the pope in the year 2000; he was somewhat enfeebled. Out-of-it? No way.
Cardinal O’Connor’s letter led to a yearlong delay in choosing a successor for Washington. During that year, Cardinal O’Connor died. Meanwhile, McCarrick wrote Rome, denying the accusations against him.
John Paul II believed the man who had spoken Polish to him, and to Bill Clinton, in Newark in 1995.
[Would like to pause here for one moment, dear, attentive reader.
Discussion of McCarrick’s career tends to focus on his ‘promotion’ to Washington in 2000. But this obscures an important fact: sitting in the episcopal throne of the Archdiocese of Newark, while less prestigious, actually involves shepherding a lot more people. And Newark, unlike Washington, has multiple suffragan sees. Washington barely qualifies as an archdiocese; it has only one very-small suffragan see.
What if McCarrick had not become the Archbishop of Washington? He would not have ascended to the College of Cardinals. But his depredations would still have wounded the faith of thousands upon thousands of Catholics. And hundreds of priests.
Archbishop Vigano, and Tornielli and Valente, have given us a lot of information about events in Rome and Washington since 1999. But we can’t forget: the story of Theodore McCarrick is fundamentally the story of a New-York priest who became a bishop and archbishop in New Jersey. And apparently did quite a few terrible things. Which got covered-up, even before his name appeared on anyone’s list of candidates for Archbishop of Washington in 1999.
McCarrick’s abuses would demand a serious reckoning–of who knew what, and when–even if the ball had bounced a different way for Washington in the year 2000.
Anyway, back to the facts revealed in the book…]
2. In the process of trying to make Vigano look dishonest, Tornielli and Valente make him look fundamentally honest. Their sources corroborate all of these assertions:
On the day after the Vatican announced the pope’s choice for Washington, a former seminary professor in Newark wrote to the Holy See, at the insistence of the then-nuncio to the US, Gabriel Montalvo. The professor re-iterated O’Connor’s charges against McCarrick. (O’Connor’s prior letter explains why Montalvo already knew something about it.)
Tornielli and Valente have a lovely paragraph outlining their presumption (which I believe accurate) that McCarrick ceased his depredations upon arriving in Washington:
The diocese doesn’t have a beach house to which he could invite seminarians. And seeing how close he was to the marble halls of the federal institutions, to the Congress and the President of the USA, McCarrick knew that, with so many eyes focused on him, he had to be much more careful.
In December 2005, the sitting Bishop of Metuchen, NJ, Paul Bootkoski, reported to the Apostolic See this fact: his diocese had secretly settled claims of abuse against McCarrick made the previous year.
(In the meantime, McCarrick had participated in the Sistine-chapel conclave held after the death of JP II.)
At this point, the authors’ sources tell them: Bootkoski, Montalvo (the nuncio), and the officials of the Roman dicasteries all acknowledge the fundamental fact. This problem now sits squarely on the desk of the new pope, Benedict XVI. Only the Holy Father can judge and sentence a Cardinal of the Roman Church…
A liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the Sunday closest to the feast of this ‘first apostle.’
Final Jeopardy question yesterday evening. In the category of “Catholicism.”
None of the contestants got the correct answer. It was a hard question. For two years I served as pastor of St. Andrew’s parish in Roanoke, and I can confidently say: only about 10% of the parishioners of St. Andrew’s would have known that the correct answer is St. Andrew.
We call Andrew the ‘first’ because he recruited his brother… Right: St. Peter. We call them all ‘apostles’ because: St. Andrew, along with everyone else in the upper room on Easter Sunday, saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead.
We could say a lot more. Each of us baptized Christians exercises the ‘apostolic ministry’ in some way. So there is certainly a great deal to say about it.
But let’s start here: The original Apostles saw Jesus. Risen from the dead. They saw Him multiple times, over the course of forty days. The “New Testament:” the original Apostles testimony that they saw Jesus of Nazareth, risen from the dead, with their own eyes. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church believes that testimony.
Now, speaking of resurrection: Alex Trebek reminded me. St. Andrew Day means: it’s time to flip back to the beginning of the book. The Missal. The Lectionary. The Breviary.
We start again. We cannot overstate the spiritual significance of the liturgical year. It organizes the Sacred Scriptures for us. It unfolds the mysteries of the Savior’s life. It consecrates the months and seasons. It redeems time, draws daily earthly life up into eternal heavenly life.
It doesn’t get old, the business that begins anew every year on the First Sunday of Advent. We flip the ribbons back; we start fresh. The world outside gets older. But the Sacred Liturgy of the Church offers us, quite literally, a heavenly Fountain of Youth.
Was this past liturgical year the worst in the history of Jesus’ Church? From my limited vantage point on the unfolding of events, I would say: Absolutely.
Will the year to come actually bring even worse? No doubt. We’d be fools to imagine otherwise. Our ‘leaders’ have given us nothing upon which to base any optimism. To the contrary, their heartbreaking ineptitude has all but ground us down in to despair.
I still stand by the suggestion I floated in August. Namely, that the whole lot of them, from the pope on down, resign. And we fill their places in the hierarchy by a lottery that chooses parish priests from around the world at random. But, Father! That might result in an incompetent hierarchy! Well…
All that said: A new year of saving grace dawns for us Catholics anyway. The holy Church can still light the candles of Advent. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, still reigns in heaven. And He continues to sanctify His people through the annual celebration of the unfathomable mysteries of His pilgrim life.
Philip Roth wrote a novel about what would have happened if Franklin Delano Roosevelt had not won re-election in 1940. The Plot Against America imagines that Charles Lindbergh became president that year instead.
Lindbergh then makes a peace pact with Hitler, instead of committing to the alliance against him. American Jews begin to experience terrifying anti-Semitism, like the Jews in Europe.
The novel centers on one New-Jersey Jewish family.
In an early chapter, they take a family vacation to see the sights of Washington, D.C. They visit the Lincoln Memorial. Dad insists that his two sons carefully read the Gettysburg address, which is chiseled into the marble wall. “All men are created equal.”
Then they return to their hotel and discover that the manager has evicted them from their room. A clerk had mistakenly allowed them to check in. Jews are not allowed.
The fictional father interprets the situation to his sons: We are proud Americans. We love America. America has her ideals, and we cherish them. But the incumbent President of America betrays America by betraying her ideals. What is America? We know by her ideals, which you can read on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. Not by the current president.
An amazingly moving scene. [NB. Apparently they are working on a t.v. mini-series version of the novel.]
…In 1953, Pope Pius XII made today, November 21, Pro Orantibus Day. He urged Catholics to pray and give thanks for all the cloistered nuns and monks, who spend their whole lives praying for us.
They pray for us. They also strive to live purely by our ideals. A life of contemplation of the truth that does not change.
My point is that Christian contemplatives are like the living Lincoln Memorial of our Church.
Of course the USA is a political reality, with a relatively short history and no divine guarantees. While the Church has not just ideals to live by, chiseled on a wall somewhere–but the living, breathing Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
During this period of time, however, we Catholics reasonably wonder if our current leaders have a grip on how to govern our Church according to her true ideals. So I think this analogy might help us.
No matter who holds office right now, the Catholic Church always has an indestructible, living Lincoln Memorial. The “vanishing center” of the Church. In their hidden chapels and simple cells, all they do is pray. And hope for heaven. And love God and everyone.
Blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it. (Revelation 1:3)
From the beginning of the last book of the Holy Bible. St. John’s Revelation both begins and ends with exhortations about reading the sacred book. Exhortations that we can apply not just to this last book of the Bible, but to all of Scripture. St. John’s words echo Moses’ in the book of Deuteronomy. Carefully listen to, and heed, the Word of God. Change nothing.
How does St. John conclude the Bible?
I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from these words, God will take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
The Church feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church listens to, and heeds, the words of Scripture. We know This Is Who We Are since: This is What a Mass Is.
The Catechism puts it like this: “The Church has always venerated the Scriptures as She venerates the Lord’s Body… In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.” (CCC 103-104)
Sounds lovely and sweet. But we cannot get sentimental and pollyannish about something as genuinely intimidating as the Holy Bible.
You know I recently read about one young man’s ill-fated solo adventure in Alaska. Then I went on a binge and watched multiple movies about people daring the Alaskan wilderness. And losing the dare every time. “Into the Wild.” “To Brave Alaska.” “Rugged Gold.”
The point of this movie genre is: Only a fool underestimates the challenges involved in surviving in the Alaska bush. And my point is: The Holy Bible is the Alaska of books. Only a fool underestimates the challenges. Only a fool ventures out alone, unguided and without provisions.
So we read together. According to an ancient, well-established plan. With guides. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
When we read the Scriptures in union with the Church—systematically, year after year, guided by experts—then we survive and thrive. Then we enter into the joy of seasoned explorers.
A week from Sunday, we begin anew. We Catholic Scripture-reading survivalists understand the Lectionary cycle. This year we have had B-2. Which means on the first Sunday of Advent, we begin…
Right, amigo. C-1.
A steady march through the beautiful bush. Blessed are those who listen to, and heed, the Word of God.