Our Holy Father said recently that “NATO has barked at Russia’s door” and “perhaps facilitated” Russia’s “reacting badly and unleashing the conflict in Ukraine.”
The Wall Street Journal took stern exception to this statement, in a staff editorial. The WSJ editors write:
Since the invasion, Francis has called for an end to the war and criticized the violence, but he hasn’t directly called out Russia for starting the conflict. Now that he finally speaks, he blames NATO for accepting members that want to avoid being invaded by Russia. What a terrible moral signal to send to dictators.
That Independence-Day Sunday, I anticipated the event that appears to be imminent now, the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
…Now, suddenly, in the summer of 2018, we find ourselves at a point in our history when we can reasonably hope that this will change. With a new justice, the Supreme Court likely will abandon its claim to govern the country when it comes to abortion…
We Catholics are pro-life. As Pope St. John Paul II explained to us, we simply cannot accept the idea of elective abortion. Accepting it would mean betraying the most central realities of our Christian faith.
That said, we also love, and sympathize with, all mothers who find themselves in situations which might tempt them to seek abortions. The culture of death, the throwaway culture—it poisons many minds, with its hopeless, dark fear of the future. We Catholic Americans fight the culture of death in our country not with anger and judgment, but with love.
Roe v. Wade accorded a “right” to abortion that does not exist. The irony is: this actually short-changed pregnant women of the rights they do, in fact, possess.
Every pregnant woman has the right to love and support, without being judged. Every pregnant woman has the right to the best healthcare available for her and her baby. Every pregnant woman deserves our friendship, our advocacy, our help.
…We know that plenty of people fear what will happen when an abortion case reaches the Supreme Court with a pro-life majority and the whole legal situation changes.
Let’s sympathize with that fear. Let’s acknowledge that something has to fill the vacuum that Roe v. Wade will no longer fill. Something has to occupy the psychological space that the abortion industry has occupied in these last, lawless 45 years.
Let’s pledge ourselves: We American Catholics will fill that space with our Christian love. When the tropical storm that is Roe v. Wade finally blows out to sea, away from these shores, and the sun comes back out again: We will stand there with acceptance, support, and tender loving care for every pregnant woman.
We can hardly hope that the Supreme Court would ever turn Roe v. Wade completely on its head and make abortion illegal in all fifty states. Rather, it seems like we’re headed towards: red-state/blue-state regional variations in abortion law.
Which means, of course, that here in purple Virginia we will have the pro-life fight of a lifetime on our hands…
Do we want to ‘impose our religion’ on others? Well, did the slavery abolitionists of two centuries ago intend to ‘impose their religion?’ Plenty of people said that they did, including US President and native Virginian John Tyler…
Maybe some people call themselves ‘pro-life’ out of sexism or prudishness. If so, that doesn’t mean that innocent and defenseless unborn children should face death with no legal protection, just because some of their advocates have imperfect motives.
No one thinks that the slaves in the South should have stayed slaves because some northern abolitionists were hypocrites, or because Abraham Lincoln himself had confused, and not altogether humane, ideas about blacks.
Why are we pro-life? Do we have a ‘religious conviction’ that life begins at conception? Actually, we have airtight scientific evidence that it does.
Whatever happens in the statehouses and courts, we have a clear mission. Serenely to love every human being. We do that out of religious conviction. That’s our way of ‘imposing’ our religion—loving our neighbors selflessly, unconditionally, and generously.
This is actually not a sermon but an analysis of a magazine article about “accompanying” pregnant women. Quotes:
…Kaveny gets it wonderfully right here. The problem of procured abortion is not, ultimately, a metaphysical matter. We have to focus solely on the simple moral question. Can it be right to choose to have an abortion?
…To countenance the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–that would involve a failure of charity towards both baby and mother. Just like refusing to sympathize with the burdens faced by the mother would involve a failure of charity towards both of them…
I have argued for most of my life that we do not need faith in order to know that abortion is wrong, since sonograms clearly show us that is is.
But, on the other hand, it is faith that protects us from the hubris that justifies abortion, based on uncertain predictions about the future. Every line of thinking that leads to the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–all of them start with fear of the future. From that fear of the future comes the compulsive attempt to control it, through violence.
Don’t accuse me of bringing politics into Christmas Eve. Our Catholic adherence to the Gospel of Life runs much deeper than any political affiliations we have. But, of course, being pro-life has political implications. We rejoice in the victories won this past Election Day by candidates with a pro-life message.
These victories mean that we have to pray all the harder and remain all the more vigilant for opportunities to participate in building up the culture of life. May the year to come see us living out in practice, day in and day out, the spiritual worship that we take part in at Christmas, beside the holy manger of the newborn Son of God…
We find ourselves next to the newborn babe in the manger, we clearly perceive that violence has no place here, in this sublime mystery of conception, pregnancy, and birth. As the prophet Isaiah put it, declaring the Gospel of Life: “Every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for flames, because the Prince of Peace has a vast dominion, which is forever peaceful.” The cruel violence of abortion is completely foreign to the peace of God’s kingdom. Visiting Bethlehem spiritually cements this truth into our minds.
…The babies themselves are in the hands of God. But the persons who are morally responsible for their deaths find themselves in an untenable state. The Pro-Life Movement holds that we find ourselves in this untenable state as a nation.
With tears, we lament this collective darkness of soul. We insist that purification and enlightenment can and must be a legitimate object of political activism. We reject the abortion-tolerating status quo as foreign to human decency…
Our then-Archbishop, Theodore Card. McCarrick, participated in the April 2005 conclave that elected Joseph Ratzinger pope.
I remember how elated I was. Ratzinger the pope! I asked the older priests I lived with at the time if we could share a bottle of champagne that evening before dinner.
We didn’t. They were neither pleased by the election, nor amused by my request.
We know now, of course, that McCarrick’s case was hanging fire in the Vatican in 2005. It had been hanging fire there for nearly a decade. The file already had multiple denunciations for sexual abuse in it.
We also now know that after Benedict took his seat in the Chair of Peter, McCarrick sent the new pope a gift of $200,000 cash.
A year later, in May 2006, McCarrick had reached the mandatory age of 75, and he retired as Archbishop of Washington. He began his new life as a full-time Cardinal diplomat, with no public declaration of any kind about his many ecclesiastical and civil crimes.
Fast forward fifteen years: An investigator working on the Vatican McCarrick report questions the now-retired Pope Benedict about McCarrick’s 2006 transition from Archbishop to globe-trotting Cardinal.
Benedict insists to the investigator that he had sent a “clear message of disapproval,” by secretly insisting on McC’s timely retirement as Archbishop, rather than allowing him two extra years in office.
Wait. “Clear message of disapproval?” Clear to whom?
Joseph Card. Ratzinger served as Archbishop of Munich, Germany, from 1977 to 1982. Then he became a Vatican official, then the pope.
Last week, a Munich law firm released a report they had prepared for the Archdiocese of Munich. The firm studied the archives of the archdiocese, from 1945 to 2019, in order to 1. identify criminal sex-abuser priests, and 2. consider how the archdiocese dealt with those priests’ cases.
The Munich report will benefit our Church tremendously in the long run. Like the French CIASE report, this report will help to facilitate a full encounter with the Catholic criminal-sex-abuse cover-up, one of the greater evils ever perpetuated by human beings.
The Munich report tackles the problem with a uniquely helpful approach: It assesses the decisions made by Church officials, measuring those decisions by the officials’ own rhetoric. That is: we as a Church stand with Christ on the side of the weak and suffering.
The Munich report is the total flip-side of our American “Reconciliation Programs” coin. Our own Reconciliation Program here in Richmond, like others done here in the US, involved an outside law firm studying the Church’s archives and identifying cases of sexual abuse. We paid out millions of dollars, just like the Archdiocese of Munich did.
But otherwise the two approaches to the problem are like photographic negatives of each other:
–In Munich, the lawyers gave the victim survivors’ the benefit of the doubt and doggedly cross-examined the Church officials. In our program, we did the opposite.
–In Munich they produced 1,900 pages of illuminating information for the general public. Here we produced 0 pages.
Friedrich Card. Wetter succeeded Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich. He read the Munich law firm’s report over the course of the past few days. From the nursing home where Wetter lives, he made this statement:
I only became aware of the fatal consequences that abuse inflicts on children in 2010. I had not had a serious and thorough discussion up to that point. I didn’t deal with the perpetrators with the necessary severity. I have not lived up to my responsibility.
The Munich report covers the cases of dozens of criminal priests. The law firm, however, decided to single out one case for extra research. They came to regard this particular case as an emblematic instance of the long-term cover-up typically practiced by Church officials. The report calls it “Case 10.” It is the well-known case of Father Peter Hullermann.
In 1979, as a young priest on a parish camp-out, Hullermann forced an 11-year-old boy to give him oral sex.
At that time, Hullermann belonged to the German diocese of Essen. The boy’s parents complained to the Church, and when diocesan officials confronted Hullermann, he admitted what he had done. He consulted with a psychotherapist in Essen, who referred him to another therapist, in Munich.
(No one, of course, told the police about the crime. Actually, I should say crimes, because Hullermann likely did the same thing on at least two other occasions between 1977 and 1979.)
Now, if you are a careful Vatican-news watcher, you know that our pope-emeritus made an official statement yesterday regarding a meeting in Munich that took place on January 15, 1980. He acknowledged yesterday that, ‘Yes, I actually did attend that particular meeting.’
Seems like a random thing to acknowledge, out of the blue. Certainly a 94-year-old retiree might have a hazy memory of events from half a lifetime ago. Maybe not such a big deal?
Actually, it’s a very big deal. Here’s the context:
At the meeting in question, the Munich “Ordinariate”–that is the governing Church officers–agreed to accept Hullermann as a transfer from Essen.
The bishop of Essen didn’t just neglect to inform the police; he also did not fully inform the officials in Munich about Hullermann–at least not in writing. He had a statement from the victim’s parents, as well as the Essen psychologist’s report, but he did not send those documents to Munich.
The Essen bishop did, however, indicate in a letter to Munich that Hullerman posed a “danger.” That January 1980 letter sits in the Archdiocese of Munich’s files, marked as cc’d to the Archbishop.
Hullerman went on to abuse many more children during his decades of priestly service. A civil criminal court convicted him in 1986, but gave him a suspended sentence. The Munich Archdiocese kept him in ministry until 2010. (Hence Cardinal Wetter’s apology above.)
Last fall the Munich law firm working on the report repeatedly wrote to pope-emeritus Benedict, confronting him with the facts of Hullerman’s 1980 transfer from Essen to Munich.
They also confronted him with facts about Hullerman’s move a year later, from one Munich parish to another, after talk of sexual acts with children at his first Munich assignment.
And they confronted Benedict with questions about 2010. In that year, the priest who had served as Ratzinger’s right-hand man in 1980 took the full blame for the cover-up, when the Hullermann story hit the press.
Benedict claims to have no memory whatsoever of Hullermann. He claims he never saw the letter from Essen indicating a danger (even though it’s marked as received by his then-office.)
Now, again: one might sympathize with a 94-year-old retiree having to answer questions about a meeting that took place during the Carter administration. But this was no cold case.
As I mentioned, Der Spiegel covered the whole thing in 2010, as did other German periodicals, and the New York Times as well. The question of Benedict’s role in Hullermann’s career sat squarely on the Catholic-news front burner.
We can safely say this: Joseph Ratzinger’s reputation in Germany rests on his involvement in the case of Father Peter Hullermann. And he knows it.
In a letter Benedict sent to the law firm in December, our pope-emeritus insisted: not only did he know nothing of Hullermann, he had not been present for the January 15, 1980 meeting at which Hullermann’s transfer to Munich was approved.
[NB. I have undertaken to translate pertinent sections of the Munich report into English. Not perfect, but serviceable. Click HERE to access the on-line files.]
But then Benedict faced a problem this month. The law firm has the minutes of the January 1980 meeting. Those minutes prove beyond any doubt both that 1. Benedict was present at the meeting and 2. he had personally spoken with the bishop of Essen about Hullermann, twice (at least).
In other words: Ratzinger, caught in a lie.
Back in 2019, Benedict published an essay about the sex-abuse crisis. He made a dishonest statement in that essay. He blamed the “Sexual Revolution of 1968” and its effect on children for the “extensive collapse of the next generation of priests.”
1. This chronology is at least a decade off. In his essay, Benedict laments explicit sex-education in the 1970’s. But Hullermann and his contemporary priest-criminals were already adults by then.
2. The sexual revolution, for all its many faults, never led to the widespread acceptance of pedophilia. Some extreme libertines have argued for free sex between adults and minors, but Western society as a whole has always rejected this. Since the advent of Christianity, we have considered the sexual abuse of a child to be a damnable crime.
That is, all of us have thought that, except our bishops and popes.
The Munich report concludes that Ratzinger knew that Hullermann posed a danger, and did nothing about it. If this is true, Joseph Ratzinger owes a lot of people a personal apology, and whatever reparation he can muster.
Is the law firm wrong, and Benedict isn’t lying? He really knew nothing about one of his priests–a priest that all the other diocesan officials knew was a serial pederast?
That would actually probably be even worse. A shepherd that clueless actually became the freaking pope? Seriously?
The law firm takes no position on the question of whether or not the Vatican and the Munich chancery pressured the right-hand man from 1980 to take all the blame in 2010. There isn’t enough evidence to come to a conclusion about that.
But that lack of evidence has resulted from Benedict’s own recalcitrance. Here is our pope-emeritus’ repeated response to all of the law firm’s questions touching on anything that happened after the early days of 1982:
That question does not pertain my service as Archbishop of Munich, so it lies outside the scope of your inquiry.
Our “transparent” Church.
I remain a committed conservative Catholic priest. I love the Catechism with Ratzinger’s imprimatur more than just about anything in the world.
But I was wrong when I wanted to drink champagne on the evening of April 19, 2005. I thought it was a happy day. It wasn’t.
Former French priest, Father Bernard Preynat, spent over a decade abusing boys in a scout troop. A quarter-century later, some of the survivors of Father Preynat’s crimes found each other, and they organized a group.
Their courage in speaking about what had happened to them ultimately led to the production of a movie, By the Grace of God.
All of this made the 2018 “Catholic Summer of Shame” particularly intense in France. That fall, the French bishops’ conference (known by the French acronym CEF) ceded to intense public pressure and commissioned an independent study on the problem of sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church.
The independent commission came to be known as CIASE. The Church provided 2.6 million euros; the members of the commission gave 1.2 million euros-worth of volunteer time. Their final report, released this past Tuesday, has generally been called Le Rapport Sauvé in France, after Jean-Marc Sauvé, the career government official who chaired the commission.
This sounds like our American “John Jay Report” of nearly two decades ago. But Le Rapport Sauvé contains much more information and insight. Our John Jay researchers worked only with information provided by US dioceses, and all the documents handed over to them had all names blocked out. (And let’s not forget that the most-prominent churchman involved in commissioning the John-Jay report was Theodore McCarrick.)
The CIASE in France, on the other hand, apparently had free access to all diocesan and religious-order archives, including secret archives. And the CIASE also beat the bushes for victims to come forward.
This transformed the CIASE’s effort into something fundamentally different from what the John Jay researchers did here in the US. The John Ray report gives statistics without any human connection to the victims; Le Rapport Sauvé, on the other hand, became primarily a means for survivors to speak the truth about what had happened to them.
The CIASE, therefore, is not blind to the fact that, even if representatives of the French Catholic Church wanted the Commission to be set up, it is mainly thanks to the determined action of victims of violence that it actually came to be created, and it is beholden to these people to study their cases.
International news organizations have covered the release of the CIASE report, and for good reason. These media reports have focused primarily on the statistics provided by the CIASE.
The CIASE report grants that its staggering estimate of over 300,000 total victims of sexual violence does not square easily with the number of perpetrators reported. It would work out to 70 victims per criminal, a number higher than is generally thought to be normal.
On the other hand, though, experience has taught us that almost all statistical analyses of criminal sex-abuse actually under-count the real totals.
The report notes:
Such statistics must be treated with caution. The silence of the victims and of the Church inevitably limits our knowledge of the facts.
Our friend Chris O’Leary has done a helpful short video to explain how the average criminal priest sex-abuser could in fact have 70 victims or more in total:
But Le Rapport Sauvé offers much, much more than just numbers. It appears to contain genuine insight into the problem, offered with both humility and conviction. I for one believe that this report is one of the best things to happen in our Church in our lifetimes.
The CIASE promises that a full English translation of the report will be available on-line by the end of the year. In the meantime, I offer some quotes from the 30-page English summary.
Faced with this scourge, for a very long time the Catholic Church’s immediate reaction was to protect itself as an institution, and it has shown complete, even cruel, indifference to those having suffered abuse…
It was only from 2010 that the Church began to recognize victims when it started reporting cases to the judicial system, imposing canonical sanctions and accepted that dealing with aggressors should no longer be an internal affair.
It is not that the violence was organized or accepted by the institution (although this did happen in a very small number of communities or institutions), rather that the Church did not have any clear idea how to prevent such violence or indeed even see it, let alone deal with it in a fair and determined manner.
The Church did not have any clear idea how to prevent such violence or indeed even see it, let alone deal with it in a fair and determined manner.
This past summer, we took note of how our Holy Father revised the Code of Canon Law. The CIASE, however, finds the revision wholly inadequate to deal with the reality of the crisis:
In analyzing factors specific to the Catholic Church which might help explain the sheer scale of the phenomenon, and the Church’s inappropriate reaction to it, the Commission firstly looked into the specificities of canon law, as to a certain degree the inadequacy of the Church’s response to the phenomenon lies in the shortcomings of this law.
Canon law was conceived, above all, to protect the sacraments and reform the sinner. The victim has no place in this law. Canon law, even its criminal aspect, is totally ill-adapted to the repression of sexual violence, which, incidentally, it never refers to by name. The Commission reached the conclusion that canon law is entirely inadequate with regard to fair-trial standards and human rights in a matter as sensitive as the sexual abuse of children.
Despite taking into account the reform of the criminal section of the Code of Canon Law due to come into force on 8 December 2021, in the light of the bleak observations made in the second part of the report, the CIASE nonetheless pleads for a wide-ranging overhaul of canon law in criminal matters, and in dealing with and sanctioning offences. This should begin with a clear definition of the offences in the Code of Canon Law and their implementing legislation, specifying applicable reference standards by establishing a scale of the gravity of offences and by distributing a collection of case law in the matter.
Secondly, canonical criminal procedure needs to be reworked and aligned with basic fair-trial rules, thereby giving victims a place in canonical procedure, which is not the case today.
The Seal of the Confessional
In France, this has quickly become the most controversial part of the report:
The Church must issue precise directives to confessors regarding the seal of confession. Confessors must not be allowed to derogate, on the grounds of the sanctity of the seal of confession, from the obligations provided for by the [French] Criminal Code, which are compliant with those of natural and divine law, which provides for the protection of a person’s life and dignity, to report to the competent authorities cases of sexual violence inflicted against a child or a vulnerable person.
This is not to question the seal of confession generally; but within the scope of sexual violence inflicted against children, a reminder is issued that the letter and the spirit of the law of the French Republic (Articles 223-6, 226-14, 434-1 and 434-3 of the Criminal Code) apply to every single person on French territory.
[The French laws cited require anyone aware of imminent danger of physical harm to another to alert the authorities.]
The French Bishops’ Conference quibbled with this recommendation. I think that we should recognize the point: It is precisely the inviolability of the seal of the confessional that produces a forum in which a criminal might confess everything. (And in which a victim might begin the process of speaking the truth about what happened.) Without the absolute secrecy, such conversations cannot happen.
I think this particular controversy will blow over. The French government issued a finding in 2004 that the secrecy of the confessional does not infringe on mandatory-reporting laws.
In another context–implementing Child-Protection policies–the CIASE adds this sensitive observation:
While it is convinced of the merits of such policies of prevention and practical provisions, the CIASE is not blind to the risk entailed by undue rigidity and “protocolization,” so little in keeping with the vocation of the Church–indeed with any healthy human relationship–and which could potentially asphyxiate relationships. Similarly, too much transparency can be detrimental to intimacy and lead to a paradoxical climate of surveillance and suspicion. The balance is fragile but necessary in order to clamp down on risk without distorting human relationships.
The content of seminarian training should include the importance of critical thinking, particularly about issues of authority and obedience…
During all types of catechism, the faithful, particularly children and teenagers, should be taught the importance of listening to one’s conscience with critical intelligence under all circumstances.
The recommendations made by the CIASE to try and overcome the trauma caused by sexual violence, and the shroud of silence covering it, are not conceived in a spirit of “turning the page,” because in all the testimonials–which the Commission very much hopes echo loudly through its report–the first cry is for justice.
In other words, before proclaiming “it must never happen again,” the “it” has to be recognized, acknowledged, and described, those responsible for “it” need to be designated and, in as far as is possible, reparation for “it’s” consequences need to be found.
Before proclaiming “it must never happen again,” the “it” has to be recognized, acknowledged, and described, those responsible for “it” need to be designated.
It is not enough for the Church to claim awareness, albeit too late in the day. Or to claim that the past is the past and that for today’s and tomorrow’s children and vulnerable persons the same mistakes will not be repeated. For such a discourse which is consistent with the logic of “helping” victims of historical abuse, more often than not time-barred by the [French] Criminal Code, perpetuates an attitude of non-recognition or denial of what really happened, characteristic of the Church during the period analyzed, and is used as an escape from genuinely dealing with the phenomenon.
This is why the Commission insists on the Church’s need for a process of truth and reparation and that it has to begin with the acknowledgement of responsibility which has so far been avoided.
I think the insight in these paragraphs is profound. Let’s give Chris O’Leary the last word here. He produced another video, reflecting on the CIASE report. It offers a stirring exhortation:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here 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.
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.)
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.
…As I sit writing this, my phone has blown up, as they say.
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.
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.
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.
Shortly thereafter, the Vatican Secretary of State received a letter from then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
McCarrick referred to his dealings with the Holy See over the course of the previous decade. The Vatican had attempted to get McCarrick to disappear quietly from the public stage. McCarrick had not co-operated with the cover-up scheme.
But in his March 8, 2016, letter to Cardinal Parolin, McCarrick offered to “retire to a holy place and pray for the salvation of my soul, instead of wandering around the world.”
Cardinal Parolin mentioned McCarrick’s letter to Pope Francis.
The pope already knew that McCarrick stood accused of abusing his authority to force seminarians into his bed. Archbishop Viganò, as well as Cardinal Becciu, had alerted the pope to McCarrick’s predations. The Vatican file contained testimony about McCarrick forcing a seminarian to put on a sailor suit and get into bed with him.
Pope Francis told Cardinal Parolin not to accept McCarrick’s March, 2016, offer to disappear.
“Maybe McCarrick could still do something useful,” the pope said.
Holy Father, you have spoken over and over again about the primacy of mercy. You misinterpreted what the moment demanded. For over a generation, no one has had any doubt that the Church knows how to act with mercy. The obvious problem we have is: the Church has forgotten how to act with severity. How can you not see that your former-Cardinal-Priest Theodore McCarrick has–in his brazen recklessness–exposed this colossal weakness?
What did the moment demand, when the first of McCarrick’s brother bishops learned of his predations? Mercy? Hardly. What did the moment demand, when you learned of it? Mercy? No. The moment demanded the just application of strict rules.
Do you not see how desperately the Church needs a severe father right now? A fearless and exacting enforcer of rules. A man whom sinners behold, and tremble.
Last week, the Holy Father published a decree revising the Code of Canon law.
In the past, great damage was done by a failure to appreciate the close relationship existing in the Church between the exercise of charity and recourse — where circumstances and justice so require — to disciplinary sanctions.
This manner of thinking — as we have learned from experience — risks leading to tolerating immoral conduct, for which mere exhortations or suggestions are insufficient remedies. This situation often brings with it the danger that over time such conduct may become entrenched, making correction more difficult and in many cases creating scandal and confusion among the faithful.
For this reason, it becomes necessary for bishops and superiors to inflict penalties. Negligence on the part of a bishop in resorting to the penal system is a sign that he has failed to carry out his duties honestly and faithfully.
You’re welcome, Your Holiness. For the idea.
Allow me to point out, however, that you accuse yourself with your own words.
You were McCarrick’s bishop, his priestly father in God. From 2013 onward, only one man on earth had authority over Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
You were negligent. You failed to carry out your duties honestly and faithfully, just like Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II failed to do, before you.
Another person who deserves a big apology from the mitered mafia: Father Lauro Sedlmayer.
McCarrick abused his authority over Father Sedlmayer during the 1990’s, to obtain sexual gratification from the young, naive, foreign-born priest.
Sedlmayer tried to denounce McCarrick for his crimes. In response, the Diocese of Metuchen NJ and the Archdiocese of Newark proceeded to sue him in court.
On May 17, 2013, two months after Francis became our pope, the then-Bishop of Metuchen Paul Bootkoski wrote to Father Sedlmayer. The bishop insisted that Father had “violated Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s rights.”
According to Bootkoski, Sedlmayer had “calumniated” McCarrick, because Sedlmayer publicly referred to McCarrick as a “predator.”
Bootkoski went on to stipulate in his letter: Sedlmayer could not continue in ministry as a priest unless he underwent intense supervision, therapy, and “spiritual direction.”
The Vatican knew perfectly well that calling McCarrick a “predator” did not involve calumny, or a violation of McCarrick’s rights. When Father Sedlmayer blanketed a parish parking lot with fliers calling McCarrick a predator, he spoke the truth, with justice.
The Vatican had more than enough evidence in hand to vindicate Father Sedlmayer in his accusations against McCarrick.
What did they do?
In the Vatican.
While a bishop mercilessly persecuted a priest who spoke the truth about Theodore McCarrick, the truth that they knew full well?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
In 2016, Bishop Bootkoski reached the normal retirement age, and the pope accepted his resignation, without any reference whatsoever to McCarrick, or to Father Sedlmayer’s decades of suffering at the hands of prelates who abused their authority.
Kinda makes you wonder:
Would they be doing anything at all at the Vatican, about McCarrick, now? Except that circumstances outside their control forced them to do something?
Last week’s revision to the Code of Canon Law changes canon 1395.3, which defines a crime, namely: A clergyman forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts by force or threat. The revised law adds the phrase “or by abuse of his authority.”
I guess we could call this “The McCarrick Law.” Apparently, he clearly abused his authority to get sex. After all, the pope convicted him of breaking this law (even before it was on the books) in a summary administrative procedure, without a full trial.
But: If it was as clear as all that, why wasn’t McCarrick convicted by Pope Benedict, back in 2006? We generally regard Pope Benedict as a sober, upright man. Why didn’t he recognize a case of criminal abuse, if the matter was so crystal-clear?
McCarrick ordained me a transitional deacon 18 years ago today [May 13, 2019]. On that day, I thought of him as an amazingly talented, crushingly self-centered, charming tyrant. He gave the Archdiocese of Washington a huge amount of energy that it had not previously had. He appeared utterly uninterested in anything having to do with theology. He was a flawed man. He was no walking demon.
On May 13, 2001, many churchmen, who we then regarded as at least somewhat reasonable–including Pope John Paul II–knew something about McCarrick’s sexual life. They had not concluded that his actions amounted to crimes.
My point is: I think anyone who has ever served in the military knows: The line between criminal abuse of authority in a sexual relationship, on the one hand, and a consensual affair, on the other: by no means crystal-clear.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do grave evils. Who convinced whom to do them? Did Macbeth abuse his authority over his wife? Or did she seduce him into committing murder–to satisfy her ambition? The answer is: Yes.
Criminal laws on paper accomplish nothing without competent investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges–and principles of application of the laws, based on acquired experience. Pope Francis has given us: the paper. We don’t have the rest.