[The author uses the pen-name B. Phil. He wrote this poem ten years before he began to process the trauma of having been sexually abused as a child, by two priests of our diocese. He is now trying to find a hopeful future… Thank you for sharing this with us, B. Phil.]
Not ask “Why?”
Thoughts of suicide have run in my mind
as long as I can remember, that is what I find.
I have always thought of ways for me to die-
for most of my life I have always wanted, for good, to say “Goodbye”.
I had never realized that daily thoughts of death
were not common for others, until I talked to a nurse named Beth.
The thought of having Peace, of being happy, loved, joyous and free;
I honestly felt I didn’t deserve it, NO, not me.
I have tried to die many times and in many ways;
a few attempts put me in the ICU for numerous days.
Over most of my life, I can’t remember many times of happiness
unless I was on the soccer field or in post-orgasmic bliss.
The first time I ever tried to take my own life,
I wasn’t even a teenager and yet had that much strife.
I was so ashamed of who I was and wanted to die,
I put a 12-gauge to my head but couldn’t reach the trigger…God knows why.
The ineradicable feelings of shame and having no worth or value…
not even my own family ever really had a clue.
Being swept under the rug, bullying and numerous types of abuse
were ingrafted into my life; they nearly destroyed me while trying to seduce.
The next few times were quite feeble attempts,
that is why I don’t count them, they are exempt.
I don’t discount the shame, worthless and hopeless feelings,
for they grew and grew, infiltrating almost all of my dealings.
Next came the times that no one can understand
why I lived through them…I have NO doubt that it was God’s Hand.
I overdosed two times on meds because I didn’t think that I could face
the shame and pain; ideas of the future, I never could embrace.
There is a Divine reason behind why I am still alive
for six attempts at suicide, I should not have survived.
I despised God, for a time, for not letting me die…
From now on, I am going to Love Him and others, do His Will and NOT ask “Why?”
Nota bene: Richard spoke to us here in Virginia in July. He grew up in New Orleans. His article contains hard truths for Catholics and Saints fans alike. But I think we need to understand his experience, and he helps us by expressing it eloquently.
Richard concludes by mentioning the guardian angels. Today’s their feast day.
The Catholic Church and the Art of the Cover-Up
It was the summer of 2011, and I was summoned to the office of a psychologist in Dallas by Raymond Fitzgerald, the President of Jesuit High School, who flew from New Orleans to attend. Jesuit paid for the psychologist as a part of their due diligence, to determine if I was telling the truth about my childhood sex abuse at the hands of Peter Modica, a janitor, and Cornelius Carr, a Theology Teacher at the school.
Before Fitzgerald arrived, I was very nervous. I asked the psychologist, Ronald Garber, how long it would take for him to make his determination. He responded “I already have, you cannot control the nervousness of your hands, you are rocking back and forth.” He continued “When you described to me the first time you were abused, you said that you ‘froze up,’ and that’s what all victims of childhood sex abuse do, and someone who is not telling the truth doesn’t know to say that.”
Father Fitzgerald arrived, and he showed me a photo lineup of many priests, and asked me which one was my abuser. I pointed him out, and Fitzgerald said, “That goes further to confirm what you said was true,” that there were other accounts of sexual abuse against him.
I asked if he wanted me to reach out to the other victims. He immediately responded “No!” When I asked why, he said that “some people don’t want to be found.” I ultimately signed an agreement with a confidentiality clause–which was actually forbidden by the Church, because of the Dallas Charter years before.
What Fitzgerald didn’t know was that I recorded everything…
Up until that point, there were the occasional civil suits, but the victims were always referred to as “John Doe” or a “Jane Doe.” The Church would publicly lament in the media; “Who are these great accusers who are out to destroy our Church?” when they damn-well knew what they had done and what they were doing. In that same breath, they were privately settling cases, and requiring our silence. I no longer had emotions of shame, but I felt angry and guilty. It had occurred to me that because I had signed away my voice and was summoned to silence, that I was complicit and part of the cover-up, while the Church was publicly taunting victims for not naming themselves.
That, along with a confluence of other extraordinary events, would result in me coming forward, and going public with my real name and likeness. I released the audio recordings and agreement to the press, and I was interviewed by The Advocate and Fox 8 News in New Orleans. This would be the catalyst for the scandal in New Orleans to reach a fevered pitch, as victim after victim after victim came forward, now finding the courage to publicly tell their stories of abuse at the hands of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Jesuit Order.
And what does a “Great Accuser” look like? Victims of childhood sex abuse live a life of misplaced guilt and shame, and thus, they keep it a closely held secret. Because it is a secret, they do not reach out for help. Without exception, all victims have PTSD, clinical depression, and anxiety disorder. Because they can’t tell anyone, they self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs. And when that doesn’t work, and it will stop working, they commit suicide, in numbers. I myself tried to commit suicide when I was nineteen, and I ended up at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, in a coma for five days.
One of my childhood friends was abused by the same man at Jesuit. His sister walked in, broke it up, but never said a word. When my story went public, she pulled back the plunger on the syringe full of more heroin than it takes to kill an elephant, while her brother feverishly tried to beat the locked door down to save her, and she committed suicide. Her last vision was the “lovely rose” that author William S. Burroughs described.
When you sexually abuse a child, not only do you kill the child, but you kill their entire family. When my parents found out about my abuse, my Father stopped coming around, and my Mother fell into a deep depression from which she would never recover.
That is the spectrum of the damage and suffering of the Catholic Church’s crimes against our precious children, for which they alone are responsible. What’s worse, victims and survivors will suffer the results of their abuse for the rest of their lives, until they draw their last breath in the world. There is no cure for what we have, the only thing we can try to do is successfully manage it.
Later, the New Orleans Saints would be accused of assisting the Church in the cover-up, to manage the fallout, to gain control of the narrative, when almost 300 documents and emails between the organizations were discovered. The Saints claimed that they only offered advice to the Archbishop, to be honest and upfront about the abuse. That’s a simple phone call, not volumes of documents. In fact, a local reporter said publicly that while he was interviewing the Archbishop, that Greg Bensel of the Saints was present, and was shooting down a lot of his questions. A reporter from Sports Illustrated did an in-depth story on the scandal, and she confided in me that they flat-out lied to her about the extent of their relationship.
Both the Church and the Saints, with their very long train of very expensive attorneys, argued to seal the documents and were initially successful, as the court appointed “Special Master” recommended that they be sealed. But before the judge could finally rule on the motion, the case was moved to bankruptcy court, where they remain sealed today. Of course the victims and survivors were desperate to know what the documents contained. On their behalf, I asked an attorney, and he told me “Richard, I can’t tell you what is in them, but I can tell you what is not in them, and that is any regard whatsoever for the victims and survivors of their crimes.”
The cover-up continues…
The Archdiocese filed bankruptcy, saying this was to consolidate all the claims and to ensure that all victims would be compensated for what happened to them. This was devastating to the victims. I asked myself “If the Church is exempt from taxes and does not contribute to the tax base, why are they allowed to avail themselves of the courts for relief?” Well, the Church is indeed not insolvent–which is why the court and bankruptcy laws exist. A motion to get the bankruptcy thrown out on those grounds was denied by the court.
I viewed the bankruptcy filing as a litigation tactic. There were many, many cases in civil court at the time. Attorneys were chomping at the bit to depose the Archbishop. He avoided these depositions by citing health reasons, and in one case because the weather was bad. When the Archbishop was finally compelled and ordered to testify by the court, the Bankruptcy case was promptly filed. Now the Archbishop doesn’t have to testify after all, and all those cases become moot and moved to the Bankruptcy court, where they will settle with the victims for pennies on the dollar. All that effort and work by the attorneys, the pain and suffering of the victim’s participation in these cases–all destroyed. Justice denied once more.
Victims were granted a very short period to file their claim in the Bankruptcy. I asked several of them why they didn’t file in time, and they confessed to me that writing down their accounts of their abuse was re-traumatizing, and they simply did not have enough time to painfully describe the horrors they endured at the hands of the Church. If you believe that all the victims in the Bankruptcy are accounted for, I can confidently look you in the eye and proclaim that is simply not true.
The cover-up is well-established…
When I co-founded Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse (SCSA), we quickly learned of a courageous state representative, the Honorable Jason Hughes, had introduced a house bill asking for the civil Statute of Limitations to be extended from 10 to 35 years for sexual abuse committed against children. IRS code states that a Nonprofit 501(c)(3) like SCSA can lose their tax-exempt status for lobbying legislation. But it did not preclude us from sending busloads of survivors willing to testify before House and Senate committees. Their testimonials were devastating and very compelling.
During the House committee hearing, those present were allowed to submit their support or opposition to the bill, by filling out either a green card for support, or a red card for opposition. At the end of hearing, the cards are tallied and read out loud. A priest in the gallery seemed nervous. Green card and after green card was read. At the end, a single, lone red card was read, filed by the priest on behalf of a council of Bishops in Louisiana, of which Archbishop Aymond is the Chairman. The priest sunk in his chair. Not even the very powerful Insurance lobby, who would have to pay for these claims, opposed the bill.
The bill was adopted unanimously, and we got more than we asked for; the Legislature eliminated the Statute of Limitations for sex crimes against children completely, and they included a “look back window” for three years, allowing all previous victims an opportunity for justice. Governor Edwards signed the bill into law. In response, the Archbishop, knowing full-well what he had done in opposition to the bill–which is now a matter of public record–released the following official statement:
“As a Church we remain committed to doing all that we can for the healing of survivors of abuse. This legislation allows those abused not only in churches and schools but in their families, playgrounds, workplaces, youth organizations, and other public businesses where children and teenagers should be safe to pursue their claims in court regardless of when it occurred.”
The cover-up of the cover-up is self-evident…
That, in essence, is the playbook of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop of New Orleans, and the other Orders of the Church: to conceal their crimes and escape responsibility. I never thought I would see the day when the cover-up would actually eclipse the initial acts of sex abuse. What’s even more frustrating is that the survivors are the very ones who are doing the heavy lifting required to fight this abuse. We will no longer make the distinction between those who assist, are complicit, or cover up these crimes, and the Church who committed these crimes against our children in the first place. We will hold you in the same pathetic esteem as the Catholic Church itself.
Greg has blood on his hands. He is directly responsible for his own actions and that of his Church, in their intentional crimes which are the institutionalized, systematic, and the wholesale rape of our precious children. I do not call the Archbishop by his first name out of disrespect, but to emphasize that he is human, and he and the victims and survivors will both be judged by the same criteria when we are all delivered to Saint Peter by the loving arms of the Angels. The only unanswered question remaining is who will get the clouds, and who will get the coals?
Becky Ianni, third in Mark’s series of speakers and a leader in SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), will remind us that priests abuse girls as well as boys.
Consider, for example, a 7-year old girl in her first Communion dress. Her priest follows her into the bathroom of her house, calls her “the chosen one,” and puts his tongue in her mouth.
This little girl was Sheri Biasin of West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Her priest continued to abuse her until she was 12, at family picnics, sleepovers, and beach outings. He would touch her breasts, put his hand inside her bathing suit, rub up against her.
This priest was a trusted family friend, often in Sheri’s home and along on family outings. He was considered a person who could do no wrong. Sheri remembers her family scurrying to tidy up when the priest was expected: “It was like God coming to the house.”
Like abused boys, girl victims suffer great trauma, requiring years of counseling, their lives wrenched out of normal shape. From the beginning, girls who suffer abuse struggle in their relationships with boys.
Becky Ianni: “I never dated in high school. I was too afraid… I didn’t get to go out and be nervous about my first kiss or hold anybody’s hand, but I really wanted to. But I couldn’t because I was too afraid.”
Abused girls grow up feeling dirty, as though they themselves were responsible for what happened to them.
Founder of SNAP Barbara Blaine spoke of feeling shame and guilt because she was raped by a priest who was her teacher. He took her and other girls from their classrooms in a Toledo, Ohio, Catholic school and raped them in his bedroom in the rectory. He raped Blaine repeatedly from her 7th-grade year until she was a senior in high school.
The criminal did the raping, but the victim felt the shame and the guilt. Becky Ianni has this to say about her fear of dating: “I wasn’t afraid because of what would happen. I was afraid I couldn’t say no.”
The self-blame is worse for girls than for boys. Men examining an abuse case–church officials, attorneys, police–often think an attack can be caused by a girl’s seductiveness.
Corinne Curley, a Kansas City attorney abused by a priest as a teenager, says: “They’re going to assume that you’re Lolita, a temptress.” Gary Schoener, a clinical psychologist in Minneapolis who has handled hundreds of clergy abuse cases, says, “Girls are asked what they were wearing. They’re accused of being seductive. This is routine.” Schoener reports that financial settlements tend to be smaller for female victims.
This blaming of the female victim frequently occurs in sexual-abuse cases in general. But in priest sex-abuse cases, the victim-blaming gets even more perverse. It’s not just any man that “little Lolita” has “seduced.” It’s a sexually pure, celibate holy man. Barbara Blaine: “We’re treated like the evil sinner, like we caused the good, holy priest to sin.”
According to the John Jay Report, commissioned by the US Catholic Bishops, the most likely age of victims, both girls and boys, is between 11 and 14. But girl victims tend to be younger than boys: The percentage of abused girls under age 8 is higher than the percentage of boys under age 8. Priest abusers with large numbers of victims tend to target boys, establishing what some have called a “lifestyle,” whereas a girl is more likely than a boy to be an abuser’s only victim.
In society as a whole, the overwhelming majority of sex-abuse victims are female. But the John Jay Report gives the well-known statistic: in priest sex-abuse cases, 81% of the victims are male, 19% female.
These John-Jay numbers, however, may be misleading. Two reasons:
1.The report covers five decades, the second half of the last century. For the first 35 years of that period, the Catholic Church did not have girl altar servers. The sexual abuse of minors is a crime of opportunity. Yes, priest sex-abusers in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s had the opportunity to prey on girls in school or at home. But not in one of the primary venues of opportunity–the sacristy. (Credit to Chris O’Leary for pointing this out.)
2. Second reason the John-Jay Report may misrepresent the true boy/girl percentage: There is a higher number of unreported cases with girl victims. Barbara Dorris, victim and SNAP leader, says that church officials are “more apt to write down, save, and take seriously the allegation” of the sexual abuse of a boy.
All survivors of sex abuse, no matter male or female, live with continuing pain. Sue Archbold, an advocate for abuse victims who was sexually abused by a priest when she was a teenager, comments: “The traumatic suffering that comes from the abuse extends beyond any age or gender barrier.”
All priests who abuse a minor commit a heinous criminal act, no matter the sex of the victim. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are inherently wrong, whereas heterosexual acts can be beautiful and holy. But heterosexual abuse of a minor is just as much a crime as homosexual abuse of a minor. All of these criminal offenses should be met with prompt, severe punishment.
My dear mom wrote this open letter to the management of Our Lady of the Valley, Roanoke, Virginia. I imagine that a lot of nursing home residents will relate.
We Need More than Rules
There’s a sadness at Our Lady of the Valley. I write for myself but I think I speak on behalf of others when I say that the past Covid year has caused us residents much pain and suffering.
We’re human beings who make our own decisions, yet for an entire year we’ve had almost no choices to make. We’re human beings with intelligence and emotions, not just followers of rules for avoiding coronavirus. We’re social human beings, forced into a year’s isolation: no visitors and repeated quarantines in our rooms—quarantines not unlike solitary confinement, which is proven to cause psychic and physical ills in as few as ten days.
You’ve done your best to protect us from coronavirus, and your best has been very good. Our Lady of the Valley has remained relatively free of sickness.
But running a nursing home involves more than “stopping the spread” and avoiding legal liability. Dealing with the pandemic has gotten in the way of human relationships—relationships among residents, relationships between residents and staff. We’ve spent a year of dreary days with little human interaction except for rules: what you can’t do this week; what you might be able to do next month; but no, being able to do that is postponed into the indefinite future. . .
Coronavirus has been a big challenge for you. It has been a bigger challenge for us. You get to go home every day, but this place that has been a prison for a year is our home. We’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The whole world is, but we nursing home residents are suffering from it worse.
Don’t make giving orders to isolate us from you and from each other your permanent disposition toward us. Please remember that we deserve tablecloths, kind words, and respect for the wise and experienced people that we are.
Political Musings on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Contemplating the events of the past month, or 10 years, or 48 years since Roe v. Wade, has led me to believe that we who believe in charity, Christ’s divine love, need to distance ourselves from a political mentality. I am not suggesting no longer running for office or abandoning political science or not voting. What I am suggesting is that people who profess a faith which holds that “God is Love” is both the foremost truth and the highest ideal remove themselves emotionally from, and no longer identify with, politics.
Since Roe v. Wade, and perhaps before, Catholics in America have watched and participated in an ideological political battle between two parties that has not helped us love our neighbor. We have poured mountains of time, emotional energy, millions and millions of dollars–and sometimes–ourselves, into trying to create political solutions to moral and philosophical problems that pre-date the 20th century. In practice we have forgotten that there are no temporal solutions and have fallen into the trap of identifying ourselves as supporters of one or the other political party or candidate because they seem to represent more of what we believe our faith asks of us. But there is a reason the Beatitudes make no mention of politics.
Setting aside the fact that neither party comes close to a platform that reflects the Church’s social teaching, we have allowed this errant self-identification to both cloud our overall ability to be charitable and to lull us into thinking we are being “good” Catholics by vehemently espousing particular political views and supporting candidates who have little interest in charity or the truth.
In today’s climate, if we are going to properly foster the mentality Jesus actually asks of us, Catholics in general ought not identify as Democrat or Republican, at least not publicly (unless forced to do so to run for office). We should not find ourselves vociferously supporting deeply flawed candidates or their parties or using their catch-phrases. Stoking political passion both in ourselves or others is not Christian. On the contrary, it is at best a distraction from charity and, at worst, a fanning of the flames of irrationality. There is no search for truth or love in politics today.
We cannot and will not make the United States a Christian country, whatever that means in the 21st century. Half of the positions one side or the other supports are unchristian. Half of what most Christians do is unchristian. If we had poured all the political passion, rhetoric and fundraising into a zeal to actually accomplish face-to-face charitable works, the country would be more Christian than any political crusade could have made it.
We ought to refrain from digital political discourse as well. Conservative catholic and liberal catholic are terms we ought not to permit or identify with. Every Tweet or post that supports a candidate is only read by those who agree with the writer anyway. Who is that helping? Why place ourselves in a camp? Christians have done a disservice to what should be our cause by identifying politically and becoming cheerleaders for candidates. Doing so separates us. Our identity should be humble and struggling Christians and our communications should reflect that.
It is true that Roe v. Wade is a colossal evil in this country, but it is not the actual killing of a baby. It is a legal decision. Abortions happened before it was handed down and will happen if it is overturned. Would we all get along if it was overturned? Would we actually do anything concrete for mothers and others in trouble if it were overturned? Do we do anything for mothers and others in trouble now?
The effort to overturn Roe v. Wade was and is noble but part of the evil the decision has wrought is sucking Catholics into the vacuity and furor of present-day politics. We find ourselves expending our energy and talents on candidates and parties that do not foster authentic Christianity. For those who recognize abortion is a tremendous evil, it has forced us into painful decisions that we have let identify us politically, instead of as Christians making a hard choice as best we can.
A person striving to live a charitable and truth-filled life should only begrudgingly accept the fact that a vote has to be cast for someone, whether that someone is from one of the two popular parties or not. The same holds true for Christendom. In today’s America, most of the time, an authentic Christian ought to be holding his or her nose and grimacing when their vote is cast.
Had Catholics, Christians, and “all monotheists who believe in charity” spent all our blood, sweat and tears on charitable works instead of political endeavors, imagine! For 48 years, many Catholics have engaged in a political struggle that has maybe, just now, resulted in a Supreme Court that might overturn Roe v. Wade and return the decision on abortion to the states. Then what, another 48 years? The loss of the Christian culture requires a different solution.
Roe v. Wade serves as the most egregious example of how wrong our system can be. It reveals two points to consider. First, Christians are not going to change the world through politics. Secondly, Christians have allowed politics to drive us apart. Symbolically and practically, what we need are pro-life community centers next door to every abortion provider, staffed and funded by all the money currently being wasted on political and media endeavors supporting this or that, Republican or Democrat, candidate, or this or that “left- and right-” leaning Catholic publication which belittles the other side and trumpets the praises of deeply inadequate political figures.
The time has come for Catholics to fundamentally alter their approach to engaging the problems in the country. While continuing to be civically active, vote, and run for office, we must emotionally and rhetorically leave politics behind. If there is any great political insight to be taken from Scripture, it is that even the greatest empire the world has ever seen could not keep the religious “right and left” from killing Christ (Mark 12:13-17). Politics has become the algorithmic science of screaming as loud as one can to one’s own camp. There is no longer a redeeming reason to identify politically. The only way to keep our country beloved, or make it beloved again, is to focus on charity.
Death of an Altar Boy: The Unsolved Murder of Danny Croteau and the Culture of Abuse in the Catholic Church by E.J. Fleming, 2018.
Reviewed by Ann White
In 1972, thirteen year-old Danny Croteau was found dead in the Chicopee River near Springfield, Massachusetts. Danny’s head was gashed, his jaw broken, his clothes stained with blood. This book about Danny’s death reads like a murder mystery novel; in fact, it tells a shockingly true story.
Danny Croteau was a Catholic altar boy and the victim of priestly sexual abuse. Author E.J. Fleming’s understanding of Danny’s murder comes from 10,000 documents and interviews and from the fact that Fleming’s background was similar to Danny’s. Fleming, too, was a Catholic altar boy in Springfield, MA–but not in Danny Croteau’s parish and not with an abusing priest. Continue reading “Guest Post: Book Review”→
Think about the cool kids in high school. Think especially about the cool boys. Confident that whatever they did was okay, cool boys attracted girls–and they attracted other boys, who wanted to hang out with cool kids and be cool, too.
Theodore McCarrick was a cool Catholic cleric.
He has many talents: charisma, great intelligence, natural leadership ability. He ran the show without appearing to need anyone’s approval. Like a cool high school kid, he exuded confidence that what he did was a good thing to do.
Theodore McCarrick did good things for the church. At least he thought they were good things, he said they were good things–and all the clergymen around him thought that such a very cool person could only do very good things.
Other Catholic clerics were not as cool. They needed the approval of others. Did they decide to become priests because a priest gets automatic approval and attention in his parish?
From the beginning, McCarrick carried himself differently. He wasn’t needy like they were. At least he didn’t appear to be. He just took control—politicking, organizing, giving speeches, seeking and getting the attention of bishops, cardinals, and popes with his wit and easy manner.
Was McCarrick ever nervous? He never seemed to be. Cool people speak and move and act with great ease.
McCarrick achieved fame, inside and outside the Catholic Church. He became a bishop, then cardinal archbishop. He conferred with popes. He went on diplomatic missions. All the uncool Catholic bishops and priests loved seeing him in newspapers and on TV. They thought he made the church seem cool. Even better, he made them feel cool because they were associated with him.
So maybe we can imagine McCarrick, early in his career as a bishop, sitting with three other priests on the porch of his Sea Girt, New Jersey, beach house. He’s suggesting something about the five bedrooms of that house. What he means is: a priest (including himself) in each bed, and a good-looking, vulnerable boy in each bed, too.
One of his companions gets led into it. “Hey, I could do that.”
Yes, he could do that. He had the inclination, but—before now–he had never actually done it. But now, Mr. Cool Cleric is even organizing the party. Why not?
Another of the McCarrick companions on the porch thinks to himself, “Wait. I don’t know. This stuff he’s talking about–it’s wrong.” McCarrick stares at him for a long silent minute. “Well, okay. You’re so cool. I guess you get a pass on this.”
“A pass on this.” This companion couldn’t bear for the cool kid, McCarrick, to dislike him. So he and all the other Catholic clergymen give McCarrick a pass. And gave themselves one, too, if they wanted it.
The third oceanfront companion then speaks up. “Sure. Nobody will ever find out about this anyway.”
The perennial dynamic of peer pressure. From the “cool” kid. But with life-shattering consequences for the victims.
Eventually the world did find out. But only because victim survivors had the courage to speak out, after years of hidden pain. And whistle-blowers, lawyers, and journalists scoured broom closets to find the hidden skeletons. To this day, state attorneys general wonder if there are still more closets, more evidence of the considered-to-be-cool belief that “Nobody will ever find out about this.”
Criticize McCarrick. He deserves it. But remember who else deserves criticism. All the cowardly, Mr.-Cool wannabes who sucked up to McCarrick as though they were high school rejects sucking up to the cool kid in the group.
They carried on the myth that McCarrick deserved respect. Catholic boys and young men did respect him. Their parents respected him, too, never dreaming that he would use their sons as sex toys.
It took a long time before the uncool clergy got it together to remove McCarrick from the priesthood. They finally had to mete out a token punishment for the cool kid, because they couldn’t completely escape the pressure of an outside world that didn’t quite see the coolness in sex abuse.
But look at what those uncool Catholic clergymen have never admitted about themselves. They haven’t admitted that, with respect to McCarrick the sex abuser, they didn’t behave like adult men able to make sound judgments about a peer.
No, decade after decade, they behaved like high school kids who worshiped the cool kid in their midst. The clergy around McCarrick wanted more than anything else in the world to hang out with cool kid, be like him, and get him to like them.
I write today re Fr. Mark White, who was suspended from his ministry by Bishop Barry Knestout, Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, USA.
I am confident that mine is not the first letter you have received about this grievous matter. Many other letters of support have been sent to you from loving and deeply upset parishioners, who have been blessed with having Fr. White as their priest. People came to Mass not out of a sense of duty, but to hear him preach, and to receive the spiritual nourishment he provided. He inspired us all with a desire to better serve God and to seek a deeper spiritual commitment.
I insert the following from a previous letter by Ms. B. Harmon, dated June 23, 2020 (with her permission) as a brief refresher of the subject matter: “…Fr. White re-opened his web blog during the COVID-19 shutdown to communicate with his parishioners sheltering at home. Fr. White had closed his blog at the bishop’s request in November, 2019. The bishop has asked Fr. White to terminate his blog (its primary purpose to house his homilies, 12 years of content), because he also used it as a forum to express personal commentary and information about newly uncovered scandals related to the sex-abuse issue beginning with the announcement of allegations against Theodore McCarrick in June 2018 (McCarrick had ordained Fr. Mark White in 2003).”
Fr. Mark’s writing about such problems are not a “first.” In Jude, vs. 3, 4 we read: “Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
It has been known for years that sexual perversion and sexual abuse have become rampant in the Catholic Church. Yet rarely was anything admitted or done about it, other than payoffs. (In addition to that scandal, we have learned of the gross misuse of funds by some members of the hierarchy, including those who lived in mansions, enjoyed lives of luxury and self-indulgence, all of which in no way reflected the life lived by our Savior Jesus Christ while on earth.)
Fr. White filed an appeal to the Bishop’s actions. The Bishop, during the interim time, moved swiftly to remove Fr. White from his priestly duties, disregarding the Canon laws that protect a priest while his appeal is being heard. These actions are a matter of record, which I will not bore you with repeating. I assure you, however, that parishioners are very aware of the bishop’s actions and reacting accordingly.
I also write with the knowledge that the Vatican has responded to Fr. White’s appeal to the effect that because the lawyer’s submission omitted one word, “procurator,” at the beginning, this nullified the entire case. That information was received by Fr. White and his lawyer in a time frame that appeared designed to stop additional efforts. This reeks of deliberate efforts to stop this appeal immediately.
Is this what our Church has come to? Is this seen as fair treatment for a priest who has given his life to the work of the Church? Known sexual abusers are “over-looked” while a faithful priest is treated in this manner. What is right about that? What is holy about that? How does this glorify God?
It is Bishop Knestout’s contention that Fr. White’s blog and actions caused discord among the faithful.
I disagree. (Please bear in mind that not everyone read the blogs…it was each individual’s choice to do so.) It is my belief that the actions of the bishop have done far more to damage the faith and the image of the Catholic Church than anything Fr. White ever said or wrote.
Fr. White has attempted to reconcile with the bishop, including offering an apology on the blog if anything he may have written had seemed inappropriate or offensive to others. (It should also be noted that readers were able to post their own responses regarding the blog.) Fr. White offered to have others review future blogs prior to their posting. He also offered proposals for ways to resolve the conflict which were rebuffed, without response from the bishop. Nothing was acceptable to the bishop…only the complete shutdown of the blog and other forms of communication.
Fr. White was to cease “…disseminating his opinion by means of any social media: in print, by audio, or video, or any digital means….” This decree from the bishop is in direct opposition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media.” As you know, every pope for the last sixty years has endorsed this Declaration.
I believe it time for the bishop to practice the forgiveness that the Church teaches. Christ, while on earth, repeatedly chastised the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, for not practicing what they preached. The twenty-third chapter of Matthew addresses this in great detail.
Forgiveness is at the heart of our faith. This is what we are taught, what we preach, what we tell the world we believe. Jesus, as he hung dying on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:24) Simon Peter denied Jesus three times; yet Christ loved him and received him back as his own. He did not “punish” him or seek revenge against him. We are required to practice forgiveness. It is not optional. “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12) And, again, in Luke 6:37: “…forgive and you will be forgiven… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
The bishop has not demonstrated, in my opinion, a willingness to practice forgiveness for what he perceives to be Fr. White’s transgressions. Yet, the best example of Christian love he could give to this skeptical, doubting world, would be to reconcile with Fr. Mark White. Instead, what the world sees is a bishop willing to hurt or destroy a beloved and faithful priest who dared to tell the truth about the sexual scandal. They also see a man [bishop] determined to do whatever he can to circumvent justice and force a good priest into submission. This should not be so. Do not think the world is not watching…it is. News of this deplorable situation has spread far and wide.
Because of Bishop Knestout’s prior position as Secretary to McCarrick, he has been viewed with skepticism since his arrival as bishop. It is not my place to judge him….that is only for God. I do know from what I hear and read that what appears to be a crusade on his part to stop, by any means, additional information about McCarrick, the sexual abuse, and/or questions about why the McCarrick Report has not been released by the Vatican, do not serve him well. More and more, many see this as the driving force behind his actions against Fr. White.
My prayer and my hope is that Fr. Mark White will receive a fair and just adjudication of his appeal, and that a positive outcome—for the bishop, Fr. White, and his parishioners—will be forthcoming with the return of Fr. White to his two parishes. Parish priest or bishop…both are priests of the same God.
In closing, I share this verse from I Corinthians 9:16:
“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
This is the priest that I know Fr. Mark White to be. He can be nothing less and be true to his calling from God as a priest. Would that all were like him.
Respectfully yours in Christ,
Judy L. Rogers
Parishioner, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Rocky Mount, VA
Scripture references: The Holy Bible, RSV, Second Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press
cc: His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio, 3339 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 USA
His Excellency Archbishop William Lori, Archdiocese of Baltimore, 320 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD 21201 USA
Fr. Mark D. White, Pastor (suspended), Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount (24151); St. Joseph, Martinsville, VA (24112) USA
From: Alex B. McMurtrie III
Date: Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 8:38 AM
Subject: Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout & Fr. Mark White
My name is Alex McMurtrie. My family and I have a vacation cabin in Franklin County, Virginia, and attend St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Rocky Mount, Virginia, which, until recently was pastored by Fr. Mark White.
We have known several very fine pastors at St. Francis over the years, all of which have been excellent shepherds, who have faithfully instructed the laity, adhering to the principles and sacred doctrine of Holy Mother Church. I have never once been scandalized nor found any teaching given by any priest presiding there to be in conflict or contrary to what is held true by Holy Mother Church.
I can say without hesitation that one priest in particular stands out to me as the embodiment of a “good shepherd” and that was Fr. Mark White. Unfortunately, I must refer to Fr. Mark’s position as pastor of St. Francis, and St. Joseph in Martinsville, Virginia, in the past tense, due to Fr. Mark being suspended by our bishop, Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, as I am sure Your Excellency is painfully aware.
I could go on and on about how selflessly and faithfully Fr. Mark has served ever since I have known him, which is approximately eight years. I could list example after example of his love for us the faithful, but more importantly his love for Jesus Christ, especially in the Blessed Sacrament. Never have I seen a priest offer the holy sacrifice of the mass with more reverence and adoration to Dear Jesus. Never have I seen a priest more scrupulous in the handling of Our Dear Lord in the consecrated Host, and I can safely say that Jesus is at home in the hands of such a priest son as Fr. Mark.
Your Excellency, at the risk of sounding a bit extreme and even braggadocious, which is not my intention, I will say that I am a very prayerful man. I pray many rosaries every day, for various people, and have done so for many years, and with God’s grace I will continue to do so.
One rosary I pray each day is for priests and the church hierarchy. I pray for priests for selfish reasons. I pray for priests because I know that without you my soul will certainly perish. I pray for priests because I know that Satan never gives priests a moment’s rest from his various and insidious torments. I pray for priests because I love Jesus and Holy Mother Church, and I am so blessed to be Catholic. I also pray for priests’ families, because they too suffer more, I believe, due to their relative’s vocation.
Your Excellency, I am praying now for justice. I am praying now for God to purge Holy Mother Church from within of any and all who have agendas that are contrary to Jesus’, and especially those priests who are evil in thought, word, or deed, and bent on Her destruction.
I’m tired of asking God for conversions of heart. Souls are at stake here, as you well know, Your Excellency. This situation between Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout and Fr. Mark White is pure madness and is extremely detrimental to Holy Mother Church and we faithful. It must stop.
I don’t pretend to begin to understand what it must be like to have such responsibilities as are upon you Your Excellency. I am a simple man who loves simplicity. The last thing I want to do is add to your “plate,” but, Your Excellency, a grave injustice is occurring here, and I ask your intercession on behalf of we faithful.
Please, I beg you to do all in your power to see that Fr. Mark be given the chance to defend himself, and I am confident that if he is given that opportunity, this situation will be resolved. Pride is the root of this issue, and I pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten the hearts of all involved so that the balm of humility may heal this terrible wound.
My name is Patricia Gurley and I am a member of St. Joseph Parish in Martinsville, VA. I am writing to ask you to please open your heart and help Father Mark White remain as our pastor. I have been a Catholic all my life and have seen many priests come and go. Some were wonderful, but of all Father Mark has had the greatest impact on my spiritual life.
Being at Mass and seeing the look of love and joy on Father’s face as he celebrates Mass is so inspiring. I find myself opening my heart to welcome God more fully into my life. My husband, who is not Catholic, comes to church with me and finds Father’s homilies so inspiring and intelligent. We discuss them on the way home and while we have lunch I bring the homily up on the computer so we could read it again. That is the impact he has on us. During this difficult time in our lives while we are not able to attend church because of covid 19 we look forward to his writings on his website. They keep me connected to the church and increase my love of God.
I don’t understand why the Bishop has decided to treat Father Mark so terribly. Why he is silencing Father Mark is beyond me, unless he is hiding something. Father Mark hasn’t said anything that most everyone else had thought or talked about. The church needs to come clean about the scandal and get their house in order. Only then will those folks who have walked away from the church think about returning. I personally know people who feel that way. This Bishop in my opinion is a vindictive person and doesn’t want to work things out with Father Mark. If Father isn’t reinstated as our pastor it will devastate two parishes who love and support him. It will also create a split with the Bishop that will never be repaired.