Pisa & Florence

When the wind blows hard, it requires some effort…

But without wind, no problem…

Germans, Mexicans, Filipinos, and plenty of Americans taking each other’s pictures in such poses.

Seems unfair to the tower, which still does its duty: holding the bells aloft, to summon Christians to Mass in this magnificent Duomo next door.

St. Ranieri presides over the south trancept.

Pisa’s “Palazzo Blu” has a collection of interesting paintings like this one, artist unknown…

Which brings us to another town, further up the Arno…

Arno in Pisa
Arno in Florence

The cloisters of Florence abound with paintings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

This last one adorns the wall of a cell in the Museo San Marco, where Fra Angelico produced the most breathtaking collection of paintings I have ever seen, for the spiritual benefit of his Dominican brothers.

One cell has this painting, which has inspired me for over twenty years. I never knew where the original was, until now…

The ghost that haunts Fra Angelico’s San Marco most intently, however, is Fra Geronimo Savanarola. He ruled as prior at the time of his arrest and execution in the Piazza della Signoria.

I will have more to say about Savanarola when I get home and have a real keyboard to work with. I think he is both less of a hero and less of a villain than his lovers and his haters make him out to be. He was, without a doubt, an eminently learned Thomist.

The thing he did that I find most charming: he appealed to an ecumenical council against the corrupt Borgia pope and proposed that Florence replace Rome as the Holy See.

(Savanarola wasn’t as kooky as you might think there; an earlier pope lived for a decade in Florence–and presided over an ecumenical council there– earlier in Savanarola’s 15th century.)

…I did not realize until I saw the statue in person that Michelangelo’s David holds a stone in his right hand–to use against Goliath, I suppose.

On the south side of the Arno, you can see this crucifix by the same artist.

Visiting St. Thomas III: Where He Died

In the infirmary, second floor of this old building at Fossanova Abbey. There’s a little chapel there now.

Fossanova is about an hour’s drive from Thomas’ birthplace in Roccasecca. Not exactly close, since he didn’t ride a horse and traveled exclusively on foot.

But considering that the man had walked some 9,000 miles in his life, had lived in Paris, and was in fact on his way to Lyons, France (on foot) when he fell deathly ill, the moment came remarkably close to Aquino, and the mountains he gazed upon in his youth.

When I visited Ars years ago, a saint who had previously intimidated me by his austerity of life (John Vianney) became human to me, when I saw the very confessional where he sat for hours on end, and the ramshackle little kitchen where he boiled his potatoes.

Now, a saint whose mind has intimidated me suddenly became more human, because I have seen the mountains where he grew up, and where he died.

The ridges of Lazio could move you to contemplate the Five Ways, to be sure. That’s just the beginning of what they can make you contemplate.

Visiting St. Thomas II: Montecassino

The ancient* abbey where St. Thomas studied as a boy looms above the sweet little city of Cassino.

* That is, re-built…

…ater being destroyed completely by US bombs in February, 1944.

St. Thomas prayed at the tombs of Saints Benedict and Scholastica, which are now in a chapel below the high altar of the basilica.

The young student from nearby Aquino may have read this very biography of St. Benedict…

And this textbook of science…

He probably walked through this doorway (now preserved in the abbey museum).

And trod these floor tiles.

…In his treatise on justice in the Summa, St. Thomas considers some questions about criminal trials, including how many witnesses are required to establish a fact.

In the third objection in II-II q70 art2, St. Thomas quotes a medieval canon which decrees that, to establish a fact against a Cardinal, sixty-four witnesses are required.

This is of particular interest, considering:

St. Thomas approves of the (practically insuperable) requirement, with this argument:

The rule protects the Roman Church [that is, the College of Cardinals], on account of its dignity: and this for three reasons. First because in that Church those men ought to be promoted whose sanctity makes their evidence of more weight than that of many witnesses. Secondly, because those who have to judge other men, often have many opponents on account of their justice, wherefore those who give evidence against them should not be believed indiscriminately, unless they be very numerous. Thirdly, because the condemnation of any one of them would detract in public opinion from the dignity and authority of that Church, a result which would be more fraught with danger than if one were to tolerate a sinner in that same Church, unless he were very notorious and manifest, so that a grave scandal would arise if he were tolerated.

A lot to consider here; I promise to come back and discuss this thoroughly when I get back home.

In the meantime, though, we can say for sure that the judge in Massachusetts will not have such a high threshold, when it comes to allowing testimony. (Plus, McC is no longer a Cardinal anyway, as of summer 2018.)

In this case, I believe it will actually benefit the Holy See in the long run, that the word of one accuser–with plenty of circumstantial evidence to support what he has to say–will be allowed against this particular accused criminal.

There are a lot of facts that need to come out, and getting them out will, in the end, help the Church.

If you can hang tight until March, you will be able to read about many of those facts in Ordained by a Predator. Good Lord willing, the book will see print then.

Guest Post: Priests Abuse Girls, Too

momby Ann White

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.”

Barbara Blaine
the late Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP

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. 

The McC Criminal Case: Two Receptions

St Matthews Cathedral

Theodore McCarrick began his ministry as Archbishop of Washington DC in January of 2001.

After a ceremony at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, there was a reception in a banquet hall at the Capital Hilton, a few blocks away. The victim in the upcoming Massachusetts criminal case against McCarrick was at that reception. So was I.

We did not meet then. I have since had the privilege of getting to know the victim, and he has shared some of his experiences with me. His identity will become public on September 3.

I learned from my friend that there were, in fact, at least three of McCarrick’s victims at that Capitol-Hilton reception in early ’01. All three were members of devout Catholic families, families that McCarrick had befriended in his early years as a priest.

The three had shared their experiences with each other before then. That day, they spoke privately among themselves outside the reception, taking counsel with each other about the situation. The man who had sexually abused them, when they were teenage boys a quarter-century earlier, had just become the Archbishop of the capital city of the United States. The criminal would soon become a Cardinal, a potential pope. They had to do something.

Connie ChungThe men agreed that one of them would try to speak to a prominent journalist. The deputized victim called the ABC News reporter Connie Chung. He told her their story. Chung did not believe it.

A year later, after the Boston sex-abuse scandal, McCarrick told a group of reporters that he had been “falsely accused” during the 1990’s. In Rome, Chung interviewed McCarrick. She asked, “Would you address the question of sexual conduct on your part?” McCarrick answered, “I have never had sexual relations with anybody.” Chung: “End of story?” McCarrick: “End of story.”

It might have been the end of the story. But the victims of McCarrick’s crimes did not give up.

— 

Wellesley College Boston Marathon

The course of the Boston Marathon takes you past the campus of Wellesley College. The year that I ran the race, the college choir greeted us runners with an encouraging serenade.

In 1974 Monsignor Theodore McCarrick served as priest-secretary to the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. McCarrick had been friends with one particular north-Jersey Catholic family for decades. That summer he officiated at the wedding of one of the sons. The couple had met when the groom was studying at Boston University and the bride at Wellesley. In the summer of 1974, Wellesley offered itself as an inexpensive venue for wedding receptions.

The victim–the younger brother of the groom–will testify, in person, in court, in Massachusetts. He will tell the jury what happened at that wedding reception. McCarrick had been regularly sexually abusing the boy for five years, beginning at age 11. McCarrick abused him every chance he got.

McCarrick had convinced the young man that he, Uncle Ted, was the only person on earth who could keep the boy connected to God. McCarrick would fondle and kiss the boy’s penis during confession. The previous winter (February 1974), McCarrick had gotten the boy drunk at a hotel bar. McCarrick took the boy up to a room, with only one bed, and proceeded to [Rated R] ejaculate on the boy’s chest. At the wedding reception, McCarrick pulled the boy outside and fondled his penis. Later, McCarrick pulled him into a coat closet, told the boy to confess his sins, and fondled his penis again.

If you have seen the move Spotlight, you know about the Armenian Boston lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci in the movie.

Spotlight movieIn January of this year, Garabedian sat at his desk, poring over all the incidents of criminal abuse that the victim had suffered at McCarrick’s hands over the course of the boy’s teenage years. Garabedian wanted to find a way to get some justice, in a criminal court room, even now. As he went over the list of incidents for the umpteenth time, an idea struck him out of the blue.

At that wedding, McCarrick criminally abused the boy in Massachusetts. McCarrick never lived in Massachusetts. Garabedian remembered that Massachusetts has a provision of law that prevents criminals from escaping justice by fleeing the state. If a criminal leaves Massachusetts, the statute-of-limitations clock stops ticking, until such time as the criminal returns to the state. So, even though nearly fifty years have passed since the crime, the six year statute-of-limitations period has not expired.

The victim then spoke to the Norfolk County MA District Attorney, under oath. A Wellesley MA detective investigated the accusations and concluded that they are more likely true than not. The matter now sits before a judge at the county courthouse in Dedham.

McCarrick belonged in jail on the day that he ordained me, and eight other young men, to the sacred priesthood. That day was over eighteen years ago, and it was nearly thirty years after the two crimes that McCarrick committed at that wedding reception at Wellesley College.

Justice has moved slow. But the victim said to me today: “Father Mark, finish your post with this: God is never late.”

God is never late.

 

Grand-Jury Reports + McCarrick Charged with a Crime

PA Grand Jury victims

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

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

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

Mark Herring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros
Camille Biros and Ken Feinberg

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

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

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

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

 

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

McCarrick paten chalice

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