The Oil of the Wise Virgins

William_Blake_-_The_Parable_of_the_Wise_and_Foolish_Virgins

Today at Holy Mass, we read the Parable of the Ten Virgins. They await the bridegroom’s arrival, deep into the night. Then, behold, he comes! But only five of the young ladies have an extra flask of oil, to keep their torches burning.

Here’s a little compendium of links to the homilies I have given about the parable, over the years.

The Ten Virgins at Super Bowl XXII (2020)

The Wise Virgins’ Oil (2018)

The Wise Virgins’ Parable (2017)

The Mass is the Oil (2017) I remember giving this one in the basement social hall at St. Francis, while the workers were laying the new hardwood floor in the church above us.

Where is Time Headed (2012)

In Here, Lord? (2011)

Hamlet + Ten Virgins (2011)

If the necessary oil represents a completed manuscript of Ordained by a Predator, sent to a potential publisher, then yours truly is good. Thank you for praying. 🙂 It’s all in the Lord’s hands now.

 

 

Invitation to Get Together

transcript (with dates, times, and locations)

Seems like America is back. We can go places. We can get together. Praise God.

A year ago, the pandemic separated us, and the bishop here suspended me unjustly from ministry. He has prohibited me from celebrating the sacraments publicly, and now he is trying to have me kicked out of the priesthood entirely. I am trying to fight that.

I have obeyed the suspension order, and I will continue to obey it. I love the priesthood and the Catholic Church. I am no Protestant. I am no rebel.

But the bishop cannot prohibit me completely from trying to help the Church. Let’s get together again, and do something good.

I will host a series of talks given by survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergymen. These brave heroes will give us a vision for what our Church can be.

We will start this summer, with talks by Chris O’Leary, Mark Vath, and Becky Ianni. The first talks will take place here in Virginia–in Martinsville, Roanoke, Richmond, and Alexandria.

We’re calling ourselves “Our Church, our Problem.” The series of talks is called, “I Survived, and I Have a Vision.”

The first talks in the series…

Mr. Chris O’Leary in Martinsville: Sunday, June 27, 5pm at Grand Fiesta Venue, 6812 Greensboro Rd.

Mr. Chris O’Leary in Roanoke: Monday, June 28 at 6:30pm at the Jefferson Center

Mr. Mark Vath in Martinsville: Sunday, July 25 at 5pm at Grand Fiesta Venue

more info about talks in Richmond and NoVa to follow soon

Let’s get together again. I look forward to seeing you.

18th Anniversary

McCarrick ordination

Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eighteen years ago today, then-Cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick ordained nine of us as priests, sacred ministers of the holy mysteries of Jesus Christ, chaste and loving.

At the ceremony, we all promised to respect and obey the bishop. Over the course of the ensuing years, McCarrick gave me my first three parish assignments. I gladly did his will.

But [PG-13] if he asked me to play with his penis, should I have obeyed?

The Cardinal was a criminal. For decades he abused his power as a priest, then as a bishop, to obtain cheap sexual gratification for himself.

In May of 2006, right after he gave me one of the happiest assignments I have ever had, McCarrick suddenly announced his retirement. He was evidently able-bodied and vigorous. Something weird was going on.

Turns out that the highest authorities in the Church were working behind the scenes to cover-up McCarrick’s crimes. My own current bishop, Barry Knestout, was apparently in-the-know about the cover-up.

It was an institutional deception piled on top of a criminal betrayal. When we learned the truth, over a decade later, many of us experienced intense anger and pain. I will spend the rest of my life trying to deal with the effects of this betrayal of my trust in Church leadership.

We priests do our best to obey. But we are also baptized and confirmed Catholic Christians, who have to prepare ourselves for judgment by God, just like everyone else.

We’re human beings. We’re not trained monkeys.

Last year, Bishop Knestout assigned me as prison chaplain for the diocese. I could not undertake the assignment because…

1. The pandemic has prevented prison ministry for the past year.

2. Bishop Knestout suspended my priestly faculties shortly after giving me the assignment.

A local businessman here recently offered to purchase a building for me to set up an independent church. “Father, people will come from all over!”

This kind, well-meaning Christian has the necessary money. But I do not have the will to do such a thing. I believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, governed by Pope Francis, and all the bishops in communion with him.

mlk birmingham jail cellI obey my suspension and celebrate Mass in the company of just the Lord, the angels, and the saints. Today my Mass will be for Theodore McCarrick, that he might get to heaven somehow. The pope kicked him out of the priesthood two years ago.

I wrote my bishop last month, asking him if we could try to find a compromise about this blog, so that I could undertake the assignment he gave me last year, before he suspended me.

He wrote back, insisting that I would never have an assignment. He urged me to ask the pope to remove me from Holy Orders. Then he quickly wrote again, informing me that he had asked the pope to laicize me. So I could wind up just like the former Cardinal who ordained me. Seems strange, since McCarrick abused people, and I just wrote about it.

Every priest I know finds Bishop Knestout’s petition breathtakingly unbelievable. Especially when you consider that there are convicted criminal pedophile priests alive and well today, who have never been laicized.

I do not know what my bishop has sent to Rome. I have asked for more information, and for a chance to understand the rationale and defend myself.

In his letter to me, Bishop Knestout referred to my “persistent disobedience.” He says I should be kicked out of the priesthood for a failure to honor my promise to obey. He has ordered me to shut up about all this. I have not done so.

Can’t we keep this in mind here, please: I made my promise of obedience to a criminal, a criminal that everyone in a miter covered-up for.

I’m doing my best here. I really am, all things considered.

How about cutting a suffering dude a break? I will happily minister to the incarcerated criminals.

After all, a criminal ministered the holy priesthood to me, eighteen years ago today.

Holy Virgin, help of Christians and Mother of the Church, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Quick Update and Request

Last month I wrote my bishop, Barry Knestout.

I asked if we could work together with a mediator, or with a brother priest, or with anyone he might think helpful, in order to try to resolve our dispute over this blog.

I made the same request a year ago, and never got a direct response.

This time, I got this response:

Bishop Knestout has written to the Vatican, demanding that I be removed from the priesthood completely, without any further dialogue or recourse.

The bishop has submitted documents to the Vatican, to support his demand. I have never seen the documents. I have no idea what they contain. The bishop and I have never discussed this.

I have never done anything to justify the bishop’s actions, nothing that Church law forbids, or the moral law, or civil law.

All I want is to continue serving God as a priest. I have asked the bishop for an assignment. He refuses to give me one.

Would you be kind enough to write to Beniamino Cardinal Stella of the Congregation for Clergy at the Vatican? Could you alert him to the fact that Bishop Knestout has acted in a clearly unfair manner?

And could you share this with others and ask them to do so?

Write to Cardinal Stella in care of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.

His Eminence Beniamino Card. Stella

Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy

c/o The Apostolic Nunciature

3339 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20008

Nunciature looking north

“By Strong Hand and Terms Compulsatory”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene 1

[This is Part II of my series in honor of my dad, on the fifteenth anniversary of his death. Click HERE for Part I.]

Rodney King tape

During the midnight hour on Sunday, March 3, 1991, three Los Angeles patrol officers brutally beat a defenseless man. The three officers acted under the direction of a sergeant.

The officers’ names are: Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno. The sergeant was Stacey Koon. The defenseless man was Rodney Glenn King.

George Holliday made a video of the beating, from the balcony of his apartment across the street.

King had two passengers in the car with him. The police detained the passengers at the scene briefly, but then released them without taking them anywhere.

Holliday must have crossed the street and told the passengers–Rodney King’s friends–that he had videotaped the beating. One of the passengers told King’s brother, Paul, about the videotape.

The following day, both Paul King and George Holliday went to the police to report the unlawful beating. Paul King mentioned the videotape.

Both complaints were immediately filed as “requiring no further attention” by the LAPD. Holliday and Paul King knew they had been totally blown off.

So Holliday then took his videotape to KTLA, and within 36 hours the rest of America had seen the beating on the news.

For freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). But a criminal forfeits that freedom and subjects him- or herself to compulsion. By lawful authority.

Four Los Angeles police officers
The officers awaiting arraignment on Friday, March 22, 1991 (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

I.

Rodney King had subjected himself to compulsion by lawful authority, in the midnight hour of Sunday, March 3.

A California Highway Patrol vehicle saw King’s Hyundai going 120 mph on the San Fernando Freeway. The officers tried to pull King over. He had a duty to obey, to stop on the shoulder. He did not do so. He led the officers, and other patrol cars that joined in pursuit, on an eight-mile chase.

By doing this, King apparently committed the crime of “felony evading.” (He was never charged for this, or any other crime.) When King finally pulled over, next to a park, the officers in pursuit identified the situation as a “high-risk stop.” Which means that they had the right, in the interest of their own safety, to order all the occupants of King’s car to get out with their hands up. King and his two friends had a duty to obey such an order.

At this point in the unfolding story, we reach the moment where we might question the way the officers tried to compel King and his passengers, under the color of lawful authority.

It apparently was the policy of both the California Highway Patrol and the LAPD, at “high-risk stops,” to order the motorist and passengers to lie down flat on the pavement, arms spread wide, face turned away from the approaching officer.

police night stick batonThis was to allow for a relatively low-risk approach by the officer, to handcuff the motorist, and any passengers.

(Whether or not this policy of demanding a “prone position” has changed since 1991, I do not know.)

Granted, if you have led police officers on an eight-mile high-speed chase, I think we can say that you have forfeited your bodily freedom at least for the moment, and you must submit to handcuffing.

But ordering someone to lie down, prone on the asphalt, face turned away? Maybe that crosses a line out of the realm of officer safety and into the realm of undue humiliation?

Anyway, as a practical matter: At about 12:40am on March 3, 1991, Rodney King did not comply with the order to lie prone on the ground, and for good reason.

For one thing, King likely did not hear the order over the sound of the helicopter overhead. Secondly, he would have had trouble understanding the word “prone,” even if he did hear the order. Lastly, while he did get down on all fours, he did not appear able to lie the whole way down. Was it because he was too proud? Maybe. Was it because he was intoxicated and confused? Almost certainly.

King never made any violent action; he posed no threat. He never even directly evaded getting handcuffed. He was pretty clearly drunk and confused. And then suddenly he was in fear for his own life.

II.

Officers Powell and Wind proceeded to beat King mercilessly with their metal batons. Officer Briseno kicked him. Sergeant Koon gave the orders.

scales_of_justiceAs we mentioned, George Holliday captured it on tape. The overwhelming majority of the people who saw the tape in the ensuing days regarded the police officers’ actions as criminal.

According to two different polls, 90% of the residents of Los Angeles County saw Holliday’s videotape, and 92% of those who had seen it believed the officers had used excessive force. Eighty percent thought the officers had committed a crime.

The officers, in other words, put themselves into the position that Rodney King had put himself in, by speeding on the freeway and not pulling over. The officers made themselves subject to compulsion by lawful authority.

Lawful authority did not respond with violence this time, but with due process. An L.A.-County grand jury indicted the four officers for criminal assault.

Due process requires a fair trial. The long, hot summer of 1991 saw some stunning developments in the pre-trial business.

California County map

III.

I don’t know who made the decision to try all four officers together. I don’t know if putting them on trial separately was ever even considered as an option.

The decision in Minneapolis last year to try Derek Chauvin separately from the other officers involved in George Floyd’s murder–that certainly seems like a wise decision, indeed.

The circumstances in L.A. three decades ago were different. Sergeant Koon never personally laid a hand on Rodney King. He did, however, order his officers to beat the defenseless man mercilessly.

I would say that putting all four officers on trial together proved to be the first, and probably greatest, of the prosecution’s mistakes. That is, if it was their mistake. Perhaps it was simply a fait accompli, for legal reasons I don’t understand.

By putting the officers on trial together, the prosecutors wound-up having to contend with four different, highly skilled defense lawyers. The defense ultimately managed to dominate the trial. If the officers had been tried separately, maybe that wouldn’t have happened.

The Superior Court of Los Angeles County assigned the case of People v. Powell et al. to Judge Bernard Kamins. (In California, the trial courts are called “Superior” courts.)

The defense immediately petitioned to have the trial moved outside of Los Angeles, on the grounds that the officers could not get a fair trial there.

At that time, Los Angeles County had 6.5 million eligible jurors. For the officers to have received a fair trial in that county, the court would have had to find twelve among those 6.5 million who could listen impartially to testimony and review evidence, leaving a final conclusion about guilt or innocence until the end.

Jurors must presume criminal defendants to be innocent of the charges against them, then wait to see or hear proof, proof that overcomes every reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt.

California law stipulates that a criminal trial should occur in the county where the crime took place, unless a compelling reason calls for a “change of venue.”

The defense argued that the daily news coverage of the event had “contaminated” the objectivity of the L.A.-County jury pool.

Judge Kamins concluded that this was not a compelling reason to move. Because: the same could be said about the jury pool in every county in California.

They simply could not conduct the trial in a county where the potential jurors would show up for duty not having heard about the case. No such county existed. Therefore, this was no reason to change the venue.

Los Angeles Superior Court

…As spring turned into summer, Judge Kamins became ever more eager to move the trial forward.

I don’t presume to know the judge’s mind, but what little I know about the steps he took lead me to see him as a humble, practical man. He recognized that the best thing for everyone involved was to move the trial forward as expeditiously as possible. But the judge’s humble practicality got him into trouble.

The defense insisted on a change of venue and appealed over Judge Kamin’s head, to the California Court of Appeal.

Kamins had set June 19 as the day to begin the trial. On June 12, the Appeal Court put an “indefinite stay” on moving forward with jury selection, until the higher court had considered the defense petition for a change of venue.

Kamins tried to negotiate his way out of the impasse by putting a possible change of venue back on the table for discussion by the parties. The judge communicated informally, departing from the strict rules that govern court communications. It seems clear that Kamins did this in order to get the trial moving sooner rather than later. But his effort backfired completely.

The defense petitioned to have Judge Kamins removed, on the grounds that his off-the-cuff communications had given the impression that he was partial to the prosecution.

In high summer 1991, the California Court of Appeal made two decisions that deserve to go down in infamy.

On July 23, the Appeal court unilaterally ordered a change of venue. That particular Appeal Court decision is known as Powell v. Superior Court.

In this decision, the Court of Appeal granted that the “media saturation” argument did not suffice to compel a move. But the Court of Appeal introduced another consideration: the contamination of the L.A.-County jury pool by political allegiances to either the mayor or the police chief.

A “coup,” so to speak–put into motion by the police commission, and backed by the mayor–had tried to oust Chief Gates. The City Council protected the chief, and the “coup” failed.

But:

Neither the mayor nor the chief were directly involved in People v. Powell et al.

And:

All other political issues in L.A. paled in significance to the trial itself. The allegiance of the citizens was not really to either Mayor Bradley or to Chief Darryl Gates. If either of those two gentlemen had suddenly moved to Tahiti, it would not have had anywhere near the political impact that the ultimate verdict of this trial would have.

The Appeal Court’s stated goal was to prevent the “average person on the street” from thinking the trial unfair. So, on August 21, in Briseno v. Superior Court, they removed Kamins from the case.

Fall arrived, and the Appeal Court’s two interventions had delayed the trial by six months. Courtroom testimony didn’t actually begin until a year after the beating. And that testimony unfolded in front of a Ventura-County jury that had not one single black person on it.

Ironically enough, it was the Appeal Court itself that managed to make the average person on the street start to think that things were not right, not fair, not above-board. Something rotten in the state of Denmark, as Hamlet put it.

To be continued…

 

My Dad, George Floyd, Rodney King, and Some Posts to Come

la-riots-rodney-king-beating-cant-we-all-get-along

Fifteen years ago today, my father died.

He grew up in Washington, D.C., a fifth-generation native of the city. He became a lawyer and dedicated his whole career to urban land-use law. That is: the orderly growth and prosperity of his city.

When my father was working as a young lawyer, not long before I was born, Washington, D.C. erupted in riots. After Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, the city burned.

This had a big impact on our family life. Some of my earliest memories involve driving around the damaged neighborhoods, my father explaining to my brother and me what had happened.

By my late teens, I knew the streets of Washington better than any cabbie. My seminary classmates at Catholic University had a game: They would look at a map of town and randomly name an intersection. I would then describe all the buildings located there, from memory.

dad3I could do it because of love. My dad taught me that love.

I was a young man myself when Los Angeles, California, burned at the end of April and the beginning of May, 1992. My dad was still with us then. He had not yet suffered the debilitating stroke that would render him an invalid for the last decade of his life.

The LA riots were more brutal than the riots of the 60’s. On tv sets all over the world, people saw senseless beatings take place live.

In our home, we were stupefied with deep, crushing sadness. I have never been as profoundly upset as I was during those four or five days. We hardly slept; we spent most of the nights watching the news. The devil was dancing on the face of the earth.

The innocent blood of the dead in the streets stained my young, idealistic dreams. My dad had taught me to cultivate hope for American urban life and peace among races. The things that he stood for, the things for which he had dedicated his whole life–they lay broken in front of our eyes, like a shattered window on the asphalt.

LA Times Rodney King verdict front page

One week ago today, on the other hand, things went differently. Like the jurors in People v. Powell et al. in 1992, the jurors in State v. Chauvin had seen a video. (In fact, in Minnesota, they had seen several videos.)

This time, the jurors believed their own eyes. They had seen a murder committed on video, so they reasonably proceeded to convict the murderer of the crime.

The prosecutors in State v. Chauvin had calmly and diligently made their case. They presented several credible eye-witnesses to the murder. They presented experts on the use of force by police. They testified that what Derek Chauvin had done was certainly wrong and criminal. The prosecutors presented medical experts who explained the cause of death; their testimony successfully removed any reasonable doubt that George Floyd died by homicide.

At the Chauvin trial, black witnesses and white witnesses spoke about Floyd as a human being. They spoke to a jury of Floyd’s peers, themselves willing to see Floyd as the human being that he was.

In other words, the prosecution in the Chauvin trial had a slam-dunk case, and they held the ball firmly in both hands and sprang towards the basket with the steady self-control of a well-trained athlete. They dunked the ball.

Chauvin is in jail, awaiting sentencing, and the world recognizes that justice has been done.

What happened thirty years ago was altogether different. I have reflected on this extensively, and I think I have identified one particular aspect of what happened in Los Angeles that we should try to understand now. This will take a few days, and a few posts, to get through, so bear with me as I try to lay out my thoughts.

Here comes Part I:

Cellphones existed in March of 1991, but they most certainly did not have cameras, and they were the size of a loaf of bread. The only person I knew with a cellphone then was my business-executive aunt. She kept the thing in her car, in a large leatherette pouch.

People did have camcorders in 1991. Portable hand-held video cameras that recorded on magnetic tapes.

Mr. George Holliday, who lived in the Monte Vista apartments on Foothill Boulevard, near the San Fernando Freeway, in Los Angeles, owned a new camcorder.

The sound of sirens and a helicopter awoke Holliday from his Saturday-night slumber at 12:45am on Sunday, March 3, 1991. He looked out his window and saw an arrest unfolding across the street. A large number of police officers had converged.

Holliday thought of his new video camera sitting by the tv in the living room, went to get it, and stepped out on his balcony to film what he saw. His 81-second videotape captured three LAPD officers–under the direction of a fourth–brutally beating a defenseless man.

There was no way to “upload” the video since a. it wasn’t digital and b. there was no internet to speak of at the time. Instead, Holliday took the tape to a local television station the following day. The station broadcast it on the evening news. By midnight Tuesday, every station in the Western world had broadcast the video.

People who saw the video spontaneously thought of the beating and scourging of the Lord Jesus by the Roman soldiers. In fact, when Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came out, I wondered if he had staged the scourging scene to look like the Rodney King tape, because there are so many similarities in body movement by Jesus in the movie and King in the video.

In many communities, tv stations had to apologize for airing the Rodney King tape at times when children could have been watching. It caused nightmares. Watching the nine minutes of Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd is sickening, but the brutality of the Rodney King beating is actually a great deal harder to endure, even though King did survive. That King survived was a miracle in and of itself, as was clear to everyone who watched Holliday’s video.

Passion of the Christ scourging my heart is ready

So, significant difference #1 between State v. Chauvin in 2021 and California v. Powell et al. in 1992:

In 1992, there was only one videotape. Over the course of the last month, the jury in Minnesota saw over twenty different videos, shot from different cameras. Over a dozen bystander cellphones, street security cameras, police body-cams.

When Rodney King got beaten, there was only the word of the people involved, the police reports which manifestly did not recount what had happened, and George Holliday’s video. (During the thirty hours between the incident and the public airing of the video, the officers did everything they could to cover up the beating.)

I don’t pretend to understand all the events that unfolded in the short-term aftermath of George Floyd’s murder last year. I shared some thoughts at the time, but I don’t claim to have a comprehensive view.

On the other hand, I do have a pretty good understanding of what happened after the Holliday video became public in early March 1991.

The video presented compelling evidence of criminal police brutality. As a police-commission report put it, the following July: “All segments of society condemn the Rodney King beating.”

ap_9103140118

But the political situation in Los Angeles was far, far from stable. What was then known as “south-central” was a largely lawless world of gangland violence. The white police chief and black mayor were at odds. Chief Darryl Gates nonetheless acknowledged after seeing the Holliday tape that the officers should face prosecution for criminal assault with a deadly weapon.

Warren Christopher was a widely respected elder-statesman California lawyer. (He went on to become President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State.) He chaired a joint commission formed out of the two separate commissions that the feuding mayor and police chief formed. The joint commission became the “Christopher Commission.”

LAPD patrol cars in 1991 had a rudimentary form of text messaging called Mobile Digital Terminal communications, or MDTs. The Christopher Commission studied all the MDTs of the previous six months, as well as thousands of other records, and conducted interviews with hundreds of officers and citizens. The commission concluded:

There is a significant number of officers in the LAPD who repetitively use excessive force… Our computerized study of complaints filed in recent years shows a strong concentration of allegations against a problem group of officers. Graphic confirmation of improper attitudes and practices is provided by the brazen and extensive references to beatings in the MDTs. The problem is aggravated by racism…

The LAPD’s failure to analyze and act upon these revealing data evidences a significant breakdown in the management and leadership of the Department… The Department not only failed to deal with this problem group of officers but it often rewarded them with positive evaluations and promotions.

As Christopher put it, it was a “blunt” report. It clearly identified a serious problem of organizational racism. The report took for granted that the Rodney King beating involved a heinous crime.

Meanwhile, however, other wheels started turning in the exact opposite direction. The four charged officers began to mount their legal defense.

The officers would never acknowledge any personal wrongdoing. In the summer of ’91, the officers’ lawyers successfully impeached the impartiality of the first judge assigned to the case. He had refused a “change of venue” petition. The replacement judge then agreed to move the trial to a suburb. The criminal case would be tried in Simi Valley, Ventura County, a bedroom community for many LAPD officers. Meanwhile, all this legal wrangling consumed months of time.

In Simi Valley, the jury pool for the Rodney-King-beating trial consisted of predominantly white suburbanites. They finally reported for voir dire, to a brand-new county courthouse, in January 1992. The parking lot hadn’t even been fully paved. After the whittling down of candidates, the final jury panel did not include a single black person.

To be continued…

Coming Out from Under the ‘Rona, Etc.

Yesterday we commemorated the immaculate conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.

The festivities began on the eve of the Solemnity, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with the NFL upset of the year. Team-formerly-known-as-Redskins solidly defeated the league-leading, as-yet-unbeaten Pittsburgh team. 🙂

Then our Holy Father paid a quiet visit to the statue of the Immaculata at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Pope Francis Immaculate Spanish steps

The pope gave us a letter about St. Joseph. The letter has a couple paragraphs about fathering…

Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness.

Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery.

God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things…

When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom… When he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied, he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care.

In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father.

dad3Today would have been my dear dad’s 83rd birthday. May he rest in peace.

Public service announcement. If you catch the coronavirus, how do you know when to end your isolation?

I have had to find an answer to this question, and I have learned something. I think the general public remains confused on this. (I know I was.)

Testing does not help, when it comes to determining when to end coronavirus isolation. I spent fourteen days in isolation. My symptoms had long since gone away. But I didn’t want to expose anyone to possible infection. I went to the CVS drive-thru and swabbed my own nostrils twice–and got two positive results. 😦 Finally, I got wise and talked to my doctor.

I should have talked to him three weeks ago. Turns out, in October the Center for Disease Control eliminated testing from their criteria for determining when to end coronavirus-patient isolation. The fact is, positive tests continue for months, even long after you’re no longer sick or infectious.

If you catch the virus and never experience severe symptoms, the CDC recommends discontinuing isolation ten days after the symptoms first appeared, provided you have at least 24 hours without a fever.

(Good Lord willing, dear reader, you will get immunized before you ever need to take this information into account.)

Update: “Remonstratio Placed Out of Time”

canon law codex canonici

On June 17, my canon lawyer received a letter from the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome. The letter said two things.

1. My lawyer never had standing to speak on my behalf.

2. I should go to my new assignment, since the time limit to appeal the bishop’s decision had passed.

This surprised both my lawyer and me. Bishop Knestout had corresponded with my lawyer, taking for granted that my lawyer spoke for me, throughout April and into May.

(In March, we had presented to the bishop a notarized document in which I authorized my lawyer to write and speak on my behalf.)

We had followed all the proper procedures. My lawyer petitioned for justice; when the bishop rejected the petition, we went to Rome, asking for redress. We did everything well within the legal time limits. (The full timeline is available here.)

That same day, June 17, when the letter came from Rome, I also received a letter from Bishop Knestout. It informed me that I could not, in fact, take up my new assignment, as the Congregation said I should do, until this weblog ceased to exist.

st-peters-sunriseThis stipulation left me in limbo. I can hardly conceive that Bishop Knestout has a right to order me simply to shut up. I long ago conceded that he has every right to supervise, edit, purloin, moderate, even perhaps suppress, statements of mine regarding Catholic faith and morals. My friends and I repeatedly proposed compromise solutions.

In his letter to me of June 17, however, the bishop expressed his position in writing for the first time: You will not criticize your betters. Period.

When I tried to reason with the bishop about the impossibility of this situation, he rebuked me harshly. So I wrote to the Congregation for the Clergy myself, begging them to decide the case that my lawyer had presented to them. Then my lawyer petitioned the bishop again, waited for a response that never came, then petitioned the Vatican again.

I never received any reply from the Congregation. A few days ago, my lawyer received an answer to his petition.

The Congregation insists that my letter to them “cannot be considered an initial request for a favorable decree, but must be treated as a remonstratio placed out of time.” [remonstratio = appeal]

This defies reality. The written record clearly shows how we filed everything with punctilious promptness, beginning on Easter Monday, when the bishop originally published his decree removing me as pastor.

Cardinal Stella goes on, in his recent letter:

The fatalia legis in this case is no mere ‘technicality,’ but exists in law to prevent the decisions of ecclesiastical authority from remaining permanently in question. [fatalia legis = time limits for filing appeals]

Two interesting things to note about this sentence.

1. This is the first time that the word ‘technicality’ has appeared in the legal correspondence in this case. Cardinal Stella put the word in quotes, as if quoting someone. But neither my lawyer nor I used the word in our letters in June and August. We made constructive legal arguments, having to do with the situation as it now stands. It seems that the Cardinal himself recognizes that the word ‘technicality’ would naturally come to mind.

2. 100% agree that: The decisions of ecclesiastical authority should indeed not remain open permanently to question. We must have time limits for appeals.

We acted well within those time limits. We promptly raised questions about the justice of the bishop’s actions against me. Those questions remain unaddressed.

My lawyer and I did our part, to offer everything the court needed to investigate the situation, establish the facts, and apply the law. No one ever said this is an easy case; it involves difficult questions about free speech in the Church. We never asked for anything other than the due process of law, and a decision based on the reality of the situation.

Neither Bishop Knestout, nor the Congregation for the Clergy, have done their part. They have not faced the facts of the matter. They have said, over and over again, for months, simply this: “Shut up, and go away.”

That’s not how you solve anything. Bishop Knestout’s decisions regarding my ministry as a priest will remain in question. The Congregation’s rejection of the case on the flimsiest technicality means that the bishop’s decisions will remain in question indefinitely.

My lawyer and I did everything we could to inform the court and contribute to a just resolution. We tried.

PS. This is not the absolute end of the road. We have the right to appeal to a court called the Apostolic Signatura, and we will do so. My lawyer says that the Signatura could remand the case to the Congregation for the Clergy, insisting that we get a hearing. Say a prayer.

PPS. From the beginning, I have always felt that time is on our side. In spite of this painful development, I still do. I miss being the pastor, to be sure. But I have a roof over my head, prayers and Masses to say, a book to finish and try to get published… In other words, I’m ok. God is good. One day at a time.

 

Message for Parishioners

Happy Labor-Day weekend. We say goodbye to summer and try to get back to normal—or at least as normal as we can, with these masks, and everything that goes with them.

Over two months ago, I let you know that I had written to the Vatican. I wrote to insist on a proper resolution of our case. When they had previously tried to dismiss the whole thing on a flimsy technicality, it took less than two months for them to do it. So I take no news as good news this time. I hope the rule of law will prevail in the end. Then we can get back to normal.

If Bishop Knestout has a problem with my blog, or with me personally, I remain ready to work that out with him–in a way that does not confuse, or harm, anyone else.

A large group of us traveled to Richmond and to Washington, over the course of the past two months, to try to have a dialogue and get a good resolution to our situation. We did not get any immediate results. But we know from Scripture that the Lord rewards the persistent.

Now Father Carlos Lerma has arrived. Many of us in Martinsville remember Father Carlos’ first Mass as a priest, at St. Joseph’s in June of 2012. I had the privilege of helping him celebrate that Mass. I love Father Carlos as a brother priest and as a friend. I will not interfere with his work, and I wish him well.

Over the course of the past couple weeks I have written a rough draft of a book about everything we have been through. Writing is hard work, of course. But it has helped me a lot, to think it all through and put it down on paper.

I am working on getting it all edited, and finding a publisher. I am pretty sure that people all over the country will want to read about our case.

In the meantime, though, it occurred to me that it might help you to read through the draft chapters, just as it helped me to write them. I will break the whole thing up into shorter passages and publish them on my blog over the course of the next few weeks. I will be glad to hear your thoughts about what you read.

The Lord has sorely tried our faith through this ordeal, but it is nothing compared to what He went through for us in His bitter Passion, and it’s nothing compared to the suffering that many of our brothers and sisters have had to endure because of the pandemic.

We put all our faith in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. We know He has a plan. I love you and look forward to seeing you.