Pope Francis and Donald Wuerl Contra Mundum

[The information outlined below all comes from multiple reliable sources, although Church officials have made none of it public.]

pope francis donald wuerl

In 1994, then-Father Gregory Littleton wrote to Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen, New Jersey. Littleton described the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of Theodore McCarrick, Hughes’ predecessor, and Archbishop of Newark at that time.

Sometime during the nineties, Cardinal O’Connor of New York learned of this complaint against McCarrick. In 1999, O’Connor wrote to Rome, predicting that the pope’s plans to make McCarrick a Cardinal would bring shame and division on the Church.

When confronted, McCarrick denied the charges. O’Connor died of old age. John Paul II believed McCarrick’s denials and named him Archbishop of Washington.

In late 2000, another complaint: a former professor at the Newark seminary reported to Rome what he had heard about McCarrick preying on seminarians.

In November 2004, Robert Ciolek spoke to the review board of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, governed at that time by Donald Wuerl. Mr. Ciolek accused a Pittsburgh priest of sexual abuse. He also mentioned that McCarrick had put him in some very inappropriate and awkward situations.

That is: McCarrick insisted that Ciolek rub his back and that they sleep in the same bed. McCarrick forced Ciolek to accept nighttime above-the-waist caresses.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Does what Ciolek described amount to sexual abuse? For a superior to treat a subordinate, or for a cleric to treat a member of the Christian faithful, in such a way? I think so. It’s abuse.

holy comforter st cyprianAlso in 2004: McCarrick “punished” your unworthy servant. For giving a series of homilies in a large suburban parish, about the immorality of artificial contraception. McCarrick moved me to what he thought was “the ‘hood.” In fact, the parish lay in the middle of a thriving white/black/gay/hipster neighborhood, where I had two wonderful years.

Anyway: Donald Wuerl became aware in November of 2004 that McCarrick had preyed on seminarians. (Maybe Wuerl knew before then. But he certainly knew, as of November 2004.) And Wuerl communicated what he knew to Rome.

In 2005:

1. John Paul II died.

2. The Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton (and the Archdiocese of Newark) paid Mr. Ciolek $80,000 to compensate him for abuse by McCarrick, and by a high-school teacher. Bishop Paul Bootkoski then governed the Diocese of Metuchen, and he reported this to Rome.

3. McCarrick reached the canonical retirement age of 75. (But Cardinals usually serve until 80.)

Apparently in late 2005 or early 2006, Pope Benedict considered the evidence before him and came to this conclusion: I will not judge McCarrick’s guilt or innocence, but I will attempt to restrict his public appearances.

Thus began a cruelly laughable secret seven-year farce: Pope Benedict XVI’s failed attempts to discipline Theodore McCarrick. During that interval, the Diocese of Metuchen paid $100,000 to Mr. Littleton (the first to accuse McCarrick) to compensate him for the abuses he had received at McCarrick’s hands. Everyone kept the settlement secret.

In 2006, Donald Wuerl came to Washington knowing that his predecessor had to leave office prematurely because he preyed sexually on seminarians.

pope-benedict-saturno-hat…Looking back soberly on these turns of events, let’s acknowledge: Pope Benedict presided over a cover-up. The McCarrick Cover-Up. From 2005 to 2013.

Only the pope can judge a Cardinal. The pope should have tried McCarrick for the crime of sexually abusing his seminarians. It may or may not amount to a civil crime. But in the Holy Church, we certainly see what McCarrick did to these seminarians as a damnable crime. The entire proceedings of the trial–the trial that should have happened–should then have been public.

Instead they covered it up. Who? Pope Benedict and quite a few prelates.

The following are certainly complicit: Giovanni Battista Re and Marc Ouellet, Prefects of the Congregation of Bishops. Tarcisio Bertone and Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretaries of State. Gabriel Montalvo and Pietro Sambi (papal ambassadors to the U.S., both now deceased) John Myers, McCarrick’s successor in Newark. Edward Hughes and Paul Bootkoski, McCarrick’s successors in Metuchen. John Smith, bishop of Trenton at the time of the first McCarrick settlement.

And Pope Francis, who knew about McCarrick and the seminarians, as of 2013. And Donald Wuerl.

All knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians. All kept it secret. I think we can safely say: All of them had a Christian duty to speak out on behalf of the victims, regardless of how speaking would have affected their own lives. After all, they are all priests, consecrated to Christ, supposedly free of all attachments to worldly considerations.

But none of them spoke out. All kept silent.

None of them ever would have said anything. We would know none of this, and McCarrick’s seminarian victims would still languish in the painful shadows. But then, in New York City, in the fall of 2017, a man accused McCarrick of abuse, while the man was a minor.

mccarrickThe cover-up conspirators participated in keeping the evil secret of not just any prelate. McCarrick was the public face of the American bishops in 2002. The public face of the organization that supposedly committed itself to openness and zero-tolerance of sexual abuse.

No thanks to any of the men named above, we now know this entire sordid story–we who, trusting in the integrity of McCarrick’s life and ministry, have all been cruelly betrayed. Betrayed by the men listed above, who knew the truth, and owed us the truth.

But, even though all of this now lies out in the open, Cardinal Wuerl continues to insist: We did not engage in a cover-up! Wuerl maintains that zero-tolerance and transparency only have to do with sex-abuse cases involving minors.

Wuerl does not consider McCarrick’s history of abusing seminarians to be a matter of public record. He does not regard McCarrick’s abuses of seminarians as ecclesiastical crimes. He regards everything that took place between McCarrick and the seminarians he abused as purely private.

With this distinction Wuerl justifies his years of silence. Meanwhile, any honest Christian looking at the facts sees something else: A cruel betrayal of McCarrick’s adult victims, and a cruel betayal of all the Christian faithful of this region, who trusted our leaders.

Wuerl has lost the confidence of his priests and of his city. And the Apostolic See is well on its way to losing the confidence of the Catholics of this region, too.

Because we can only assume that Wuerl is insisting on this distinction–the distinction between the abuse of minors and the abuse of adults–a distinction clearly obtuse and spurious in this case–for a reason. Namely: Wuerl insists on it because Pope Francis will use the same distinction to convict McCarrick, while at the same time acquitting himself.

In other words, as of this hour, with McCarrick’s summary conviction for the abuse of minors imminent any day, Donald Wuerl and Rome still want to justify the 2004-2018 McCarrick Cover-Up.

Which means our Church in this part of the world will continue to collapse.



Donald Wuerl: Shameless Liar

mccarrick wuerl

We read: the Spirit is truth. The Spirit that consecrated the Christ, giving His human soul a prelapsarian integrity. Total engagement with unadulterated reality, unswerving communion with the heavenly Father, faultless courage and selflessness. Man in full. The new Adam, free of sin and deceit.

The integrity of the Christ became our integrity, too–by the Spirit of truth which He breathed forth on His Holy Apostles. We will discuss this further on Sunday. For now, let’s just put it like this: The ministry of Christ’s Holy Church involves human integrity, honesty, open humility before the God—all flowing from the spotless integrity of the Christ.

A year ago, we welcomed our new bishop here in our cathedral in Richmond. Pope Francis’ ambassador handed him the pastoral staff. Everyone cheered. Two Cardinals sat in choir, cheering. Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington. And Donald Wuerl, sitting Archbishop.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The truth is: I wouldn’t have trusted either of those men any farther than I could have thrown them, even then. We worker bees in the clergy have known for years: Honest Christians do not become bishops. At least not in this day and age, in this particular province of Holy Church. Attaining such an office requires a long initiation phase of flattering sycophancy. Honest men naturally run in the other direction.

Synod of Bishops Pope Francis

But we had no idea, a year ago, of the depths of Theodore McCarrick’s dishonesty. We learned a lot about it, last summer and fall.

Nor did we have any idea about the depths of Donald Wuerl’s dishonesty. At the end of last August, Archbishop Viganó called Donald Wuerl a shameless liar. The pope defended Wuerl, writing that Wuerl has “the heart of a shepherd, nobility, and docility to the Holy Spirit.”

But yesterday the Washington Post published proof that Wuerl is every bit the shameless liar that Viganó said he is.

My dearly beloved: This is not the way it’s supposed to be. When we go to the cathedral and see our leaders, we should think: I want to have the integrity these men have. I want their scrupulous obedience to divine law. God, give me the grace!

Instead, we see a rogues’ gallery of childish liars. We see grown men who have more trouble telling the truth than eight-year-old children. Liars who spew falsehoods not out of malice, but simply because they have never developed the competence to manage the inconvenient facts of this toilsome life on the Planet Earth.

My dear ones, what can I say? “Welcome to our world?” The world of those who have had close dealings with these men for decades, and have known them all along as the frauds they are?

But I can’t put it that way, because it all breaks my heart too much. You don’t deserve this, any more than I do.

We must carry on. Our leaders are incompetent frauds, compulsive liars, defensive little boys who mom just caught having broken the garage window.

But God is no liar. His Christ is no liar. And He still has a Church. And we proudly belong to Her.

Trust: Philip Roth, Donald Trump, James Grein

Roth Plot Against AmericaHistory buffs: Imagine that Franklin Delano Roosevelt only served two terms. Then Charles Lindbergh became president.

Yes, the Missourian aviator after whom a highway and a high school in St. Louis are named. Who addressed an “America First” rally a year after Hitler had marched into Poland. He insisted that the USA must stay out out of the war. “British and Jewish interests seek war, ” Lindbergh argued. But America’s “tolerance” for Jews will “not survive” such a war.

Lindbergh really said that. Two months before Pearl Harbor brought to an end any debate about the US entering the war, and the “America First” movement disbanded.

Lindbergh never actually became president. But Philip Roth gives us an imaginary 1940-1942 USA, in which Lindbergh did. In this novel, the USA allies itself with Hitler. A nine-year-old Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, tells the story.

Little Philip rides city buses with a wild school chum, discovering strange non-Jewish neighborhoods. He worships his older brother Sandy and his orphaned cousin Alvin. The family listens every Sunday night to the radio broadcasts of anti-Nazi journalist Walter Winchell, like all their neighbors do.

Philip’s social-climbing aunt marries a prominent Newark rabbi, who had shocked most of Newark’s Jews by aligning himself with the Lindbergh administration. Sandy goes to live on a Kentucky farm for a summer, as part of a program to “mainstream” the Jews–over his father’s strenuous objections. Alvin joins the Canadian army, determined actually to fight Hitler. He loses a leg.

Early in the novel, the family takes a vacation in Washington, D.C., leading to a stark contrast: Philip’s father rhapsodizes about the Lincoln Memorial, then he encounters hostility at a local cafeteria–for talking while Jewish.

Roth manages the nine-year-old-boy point-of-view with masterly brilliance. Little Philip collects stamps, worries about when and where people will get to go to the bathroom, dislikes a neighbor boy for being a clingy drip, and feels guilty for bad things that grown-ups have done.

Above all, he has a heroically devoted mother. Her calm clarity, under extreme pressure, produces a scene that brought tears to my eyes. Worth reading the whole novel just to get to it.

Roth sets the USA’s devolution into anti-Semitic violence in Kentucky. I, for one, do not think that, as a state, Kentucky deserves that.

But let’s leave that quibble aside. Roth moves the story to its conclusion by changing narrative style in mid-stream. From his calm narration of neighborhood and home events, he suddenly shifts his cadence to a rapid-fire, newspaper-like recounting of catastrophe.

Little Philip finds himself surrounded by adults who do not know whom to trust for reliable information. Meanwhile: martial law, riots.

The final chapters reverberate with the sense: What is going on? What is really happening? Whom can we believe?

…Which brings us to: President Trump’s claim that we have a state of emergency at our border with Mexico.

Now: If the man had shut down the federal government in order to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn child, I would cheer. If he had declared: Congress can count on me to veto every appropriations bill. Until we, as a nation, acknowledge that every procured abortion involves the taking of a human life!

You can be sure that I would be leading the rosary at a prayer rally supporting the president right now, if that was the situation we faced.

But it is not.

President Trump has brought us to the brink of the state that Roth evokes in his novel, in his imaginary 1942. America, untethered from facts. America in a haze.

Trump has chosen this hill to die on: A wall, technologically incapable of succeeding at its appointed task, enormously bothersome to neighboring men and beasts, erected for the sake of keeping at bay an enemy that does not exist.

…We also live in Roth’s 1942 USA in the Catholic Church. With no one to trust.

Vatican insiders supposedly say:

Pope Francis will laicize Theodore McCarrick through an abbreviated penal process, before next month’s sex-abuse meeting. The overwhelming evidence against him, compiled by Church investigators, makes a full trial unnecessary.

Meanwhile, the only accuser known to the public gives two ninety-minute interviews on a supposedly reliable Catholic podcast.

He accuses McCarrick not just of specific acts of sexual abuse, but of willfully and maliciously participating in a century-old conspiracy to destroy the Catholic Church. The conspiracy supposedly emanates from an otherwise unremarkable Swiss city. It involves bribes given by Italian-American businessmen and taken by popes for decades.

(In other words, Dr. Taylor Marshall has given James Grein a platform. But he has not done him any favors. Because 90% of James’ two interviews, conducted by Dr. Marshall, consist of incoherent nonsense.)

Meanwhile, the Vatican officially says: No Comment.

…I feel like little Philip. Don’t know whom or what to believe.

In My Dreams

the Apostolic See of Rome, having conducted a thorough trial of Theodore McCarrick, publishes all the documents of the case, for the world to read (with the names of abuse victims redacted, if they so request).

scales_of_justiceWhat would the .pdf file look like?

It would include a document outlining clearly the criminal charges, like:

1. Gravely violating the Sixth Commandment by engaging in acts of sodomy with those under his spiritual care, including with at least one boy too young to consent to sex.

2. Profaning the Sacrament of Penance by soliciting sex from a minor during Confession.

3. Betraying the trust of the Christian faithful by knowingly withholding the truth about his crimes when asked by the pope to hold office as a bishop, archbishop, and Cardinal-Priest of Rome.

(And other charges, as the accusations given under oath might indicate.)

The .pdf file would also include: All the documents produced during the investigations into McCarrick’s crimes by the review board of the Archdiocese of New York (in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018). Also, all the correspondence between New York and Rome.

And McCarrick’s responses regarding that investigation.

The .pdf would include all the sex-abuse settlement documents from 2004 and 2007. And all the correspondence among American prelates and Roman officials pertaining to those settlements.

It would include the entire sworn testimony of Mr. James Grein, as well as any other sworn testimony that has been taken.*

Also the entirety of McCarrick’s response to the accusations in that testimony.

The .pdf would include a detailed finding of corroborated facts. It would clearly lay out any disputes regarding facts.

A carefully reasoned legal document would then spell out precisely the principles according to which McCarrick should be judged, guilty or innocent.

Then a document giving the judgment, with careful reasoning, and the sentence imposed.

…I could well imagine that such a .pdf would run 200 or 300 pages at least. I would use up all my toner to print it out. I would read it through completely during the night. And write a summary of it for you, dear reader.

Then I would be able to sleep again, like I haven’t slept in many months. Because we could start over again. We could believe again. Believe that the Church can handle something like this, live in the truth, and step forward into the future as Herself.

…I know that, at this point, this seems like nothing but a pipe dream. That the Apostolic See could manage this in 2019. That is, manage to conduct a trial of Theodore McCarrick, and do it in such a way that the entire proceeding could be laid open to the eyes of the world, and we would see that justice had been done, with only blind zealots on either extreme end of the liberal/conservative-tribe spectrum trying to poke holes in it.

It’s a dream. But as far as being able to sleep again–those of us whose relationship with God has relied in one way or another on Theodore McCarrick–I don’t see any other way to get there.

Granted, no human judicial process ever achieves total clarity about everything, like the Divine Judgment will. But that doesn’t mean we humans shouldn’t try.

Human fallibility does not mean that Holy Mother Church should dispense with having laws against crimes, and judges and inquiries and court cases. As in any community of people, someone has to mete out punishments intended both to bring about the repentance of the damnable law-breakers, and for everyone else: to restore trust in the integrity of the institution.

* As we noted here, James Grein testified last week in an ecclesiastical “court.” (Church law cases do not take place in a courtroom; the process involves documents; James’ testimony will be entered into evidence as a written document.)

Reports have circulated since, in various communications media, about the nature of James’ testimony, and how it fits into the case. James himself, and his lawyer, appear to be the sole sources for those reports.

James gave another extended youtube-video interview with Dr. Taylor Marshall. As in the case of James’ previous interview with Dr. Marshall, it seems to me that the wise viewer, who separates clear facts from wild speculations, will wind up with just a few nuggets of actual information. (A man can be both a brave sex-abuse victim speaking the truth about what happened to him, and a bit of a kook at the same time.)

Those nuggets of information about McCarrick’s crimes are precisely what the judge of this case must weigh.


True and False Reform

Something moved Elizabeth Ann Seton to explore Catholicism. At one point, as she sat in her Protestant church in New York City, she made an act of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus. In the tabernacle of the Catholic church around the corner.

MonstranceHe is with us. He called Simon, gave him the name Peter, and founded the holy Church upon him.

The visible, organized Church, governed by Peter and his successors in office. She, and she alone, has preserved the original Christian faith, has continued the sacred ministry throughout the centuries, and offers us the Real Presence of Christ in the blessed sacrament of the world’s Catholic altars.

There’s a very significant theological book called True and False Reform in the Church, originally published almost seventy years ago. It makes an absolutely crucial distinction.

One extreme that cannot be right: Total enthusiasm for the institution of the Church. Christianity as nothing but rituals and rules. Pope and bishops, right or wrong!

The other extreme, equally wrong: Christianity as pure interior experience. Just me and my Jesus! I am a true believer, and that makes me a holy law unto myself. Who cares what the pope says or does? Jesus has made me my own holy pope.

We can only find communion with God somewhere between these two incorrect extremes. That is: in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Which can and does deeply criticize Herself, in order to find God’s path of purification and reform of life.

Outside the Church, our informed friends and neighbors in this world–those that prize the integrity of institutions–have reached a conclusion: the pope and bishops of the Catholic Church are dangerously incompetent. At best. The truth might actually be: they are much worse than just dangerously incompetent.

We have no evidence at our disposal with which we can disagree. We cannot credibly argue with these informed friends and neighbors of ours.

And yet we know that Jesus lives. He gives us Himself, and His divine, ever-living grace, through the sacraments of the Church. Using the very flawed sacred ministers that we have.

We have to find a way to live here. A strange place to live. We have to trust that God will provide.

The Cover-Up of the Cover-Up of the Cover-Up + James Under Oath

Vatican synod hall empty

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, recently published an article about sexual abuse of minors in the magazine La Civiltà Cattolica.

Father Lombardi enjoys close familiarity with Pope Francis, and the Holy See publishes the magazine. So we can assume that it expresses the Vatican’s thoughts at this point in time. About the upcoming Big Meeting in Rome.

In his article, Father Lombardi misrepresents the history of the McCarrick case. In reviewing the events of 2018, which gave rise to the February 2019 meeting, Lombardi writes:

The former Archbishop of Washington was accused of sexually abusing a minor, an allegation that was found “credible and substantiated” by the review board of the Archdiocese of New York, and of molesting seminarians, and the pope removed him from the College of Cardinals.

First of all, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope accepted his resignation. Second of all, McCarrick’s resignation came not after the finding of the Archdiocese of NY review board, but after the publication in the NY Times of James Grein’s allegations.

Most Orwellian of all: Father Lombardi indicating that accusations regarding McCarrick’s “molesting seminarians” reached the ears of authorities this past summer. In point of fact, we have documentary evidence that a former seminarian accused McCarrick of abuse in 1994. A quarter century ago.

One thing we need to wake up and realize: The US bishops claim that, in 2002, they straightened their sex-abuse problem out. What they really did in 2002 was: Cover it up.

In 2002, they did not resolve all the outstanding cases lingering in their files. They did not admit that they themselves had failed to enforce the basic norms of human decency that upright people know without being taught. They had heard accusations of criminal abuses, and they had not investigated. They had not applied the Church’s own laws.

They, the bishops of the US, had scandalized the world by their mismanagement–their non-management–of sex abuse cases. That was the Scandal of 2002.

But they covered that up by pretending that the problem was the abusing priests. The bishops invoked the empty slogan “zero tolerance”–as if any sane person could ever have tolerated the sexual abuse of a minor. As if the divine law somehow used to tolerate the sexual abuse of minors, but now it doesn’t. Please.

What the bishops did in 2002 was: cover over the reality that stared everyone in the face. Bishops have a duty of governance that requires the prosecution of criminal cases under Church law. But they have neither the will, nor the expertise, necessary to do that duty. They didn’t have it in the 80’s and 90’s; they didn’t have it in 2002; they don’t have it now.

In February, the pope intends to try to do the same trick that the US bishops did in 2002. In 2002, the Boston Globe uncovered numerous unresolved cases of sexual abuse–situations involving particular individuals, in which the Church had failed to see justice done, under Her own law. Rather than face this, the bishops made the whole thing about policies.

Not the victims. Not the cases. Not their own egregious failures. Policies.

The Scandal of 2018 involves individual cases that no one has ever resolved. Pre-eminent among them: the McCarrick case. But the pope wants to make the Scandal of 2018 about policies. Not about his own failures. Not about victims. Again: Policies, policies. (And hopelessly vague policies at that.)

…Now, did someone savvy in Vatican City State intentionally schedule James Grein’s sworn testimony in the McCarrick case for a week when most of the world’s journalists are on vacation? Hard not to think so.

If so, perhaps that savvy cover-up artist failed to foresee that Mr. Grein would recount something this stunning: McCarrick abused him during confession.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore

May justice be done. But don’t get your hopes up. Apparently, “the Vatican wants this finalized by the second week of February–the entire case.”

Which could conceivably have happened–if someone started the prosecution last summer. If someone took James’ testimony in August.

But if you’re just now taking preliminary sworn testimony? Then conclude a just criminal process in six weeks? Giving the accused all the rights he enjoys under law? (Which everyone, even Theodore McCarrick, deserves.)

I don’t see how that can happen so quickly. So, either: 1. No just resolution to the case. or 2. A rush to unjust judgment. Either way: Same problem we have had throughout this scandal: incompetence at the episcopal level, including the bishop of Rome.

…Happy New Year to you, dear reader. We all know that everyone should be able to go to confession without worrying that the confessor is a pederast. We all know that when someone accuses a cleric of sexual abuse in 1994, his trial should have long since been concluded, without rushing, by 2019.

But the mafiosi running the Church don’t operate according to the basic standards of decency and justice which we all know. They operate according to some other strange calculus–a desperate narcissism, somehow both sinister and pathetic at the same time.

The Christmas Twilight Zone: Justice Requires a Verdict

[Being Catholic Now, Q2 A1: A Non-Smarmy “Christmas Message” from Fr. Mark]


On the one hand: Our pope’s representative here in the U.S., looking quite tired, offers us a tree-side Christmas video message, filled with platitudes.

(Though, to give the nuncio his due, he at least acknowledges a “storm.*” Our own bishop can’t even manage to do that.)

On the other handEsquire magazine blithely asserts: “The Catholic Church is a worldwide conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Now, with a headline like that, either Esquire has resorted to crass anti-Catholic bigotry–and we should raise a stink about it–or there’s some truth to it.

…Peace on earth requires the rule of law. The rule of law means: when someone accuses someone else of a crime–and the accused denies it–the reigning authority provides a secure forum in which to present the evidence.

Then the judge gives a binding verdict, based on the evidence presented. Then a fitting sentence.

This is Peace on Earth 101. The rule of law.

The alternative: Government by arbitrary warlords.

Arbitrary warlords do not mete out justice in open courts, guided by clear laws, and according to the evidence. They arbitrate criminal cases privately, secretly–according to either their own whims or their calculations of expediency.

A secular prosecutor may or may not eventually prove that the Church is a worldwide conspiracy to obstruct justice. The evidence that Esquire presents does not prove as much as the author of the essay claims. But two of the many confusing and scandalous things that happened in the US Catholic Church this week are:

1. Two days ago, the Attorney General of Illinois issued the preliminary findings of her investigation of the Church. She produced a brief and readable document, with no references to any particular cases. She explicitly notes that the investigation has only just begun.

The dioceses of Illinois all responded–not with one statement, but with six. None of the sitting bishops responded in his own name. Nor did the dioceses manage to articulate a response together. That said, all of the diocesan statements sound basically the same: defensive and off-point. None of them engage the helpful insights that the AG offered.

Ecclesiastical_Province_of_Chicago illinois diocesesLike: The dioceses of Illinois have not adequately explained to the general public how cases of sexual abuse get adjudicated. Terms like “credible or substantiated allegation” remain woefully unclear. The entire process remains shrouded in the mists of poor communication.

(And if you think there’s a state in the U.S. where the above paragraph isn’t true, then I offer to sell you the state of Illinois for a cheap price!)

2. The same day, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, Alexander Salazar, who is only 69 years old. (Nowhere near the mandatory retirement age of 75.) The Holy See offered no explanation.

The sitting archbishop of Los Angeles, however, offered one. A tortured, incomprehensible, self-defeating explanation.

Turns out a young woman accused Salazar of sexual abuse sixteen years ago. No one held a trial to determine his guilt or innocence. And no one has any intention of holding one now.

Instead, in the Church ruled by Pope Francis, bishop Salazar shuffles off into some undisclosed limbo, neither guilty nor innocent, the whole matter painfully unresolved. Just like McCarrick. And God knows how many others.

Someday someone will investigate the Salazar case. And make the same suggestions that the AG makes in Illinois. Clarify your terms. Make your processes open and honest. Do justice for the wronged.

No one handled the Salazar case according to the rule of law sixteen years ago. No one handled it according to the rule of law in the meantime. And no one handled it according to the rule of law in 2018, either.

…So, what has Christmas 2018 brought us?

The world now knows what many of us priests have known for twenty, thirty, forty years. We have lived in fear of the authorities above us. They do not govern according to rules. A seminarian or priest can wind up in some superior’s “doghouse” for no good reason. And then there’s no way out.

Macbeth and his mirror

I have served Holy Church under obedience for almost a quarter-century, and it’s been this way the whole time.

None of the superiors I have ever had–the seminary rector, Card. McCarrick, Card. Wuerl, bishop DiLorenzo–none of them governed according to clear rules. None provided an open forum for accusations, with the opportunity to respond. None made decisions based on evidence. All of them conducted their deliberations in secret, did their arbitrary wills, and then covered it over with some thin veil of an implausible rationale.

Warlords always have some cloak of a rationale for their arbitrary decisions. But all you have to do is: Scratch the surface, dig a little, and you discover: Ambiguous terms. Limited documentation. Lack of due process. No rule of law. “The Boss” rules, with no one to challenge him.

Warlords do it that way, and Catholic bishops do it that way. And the pope does it that way.

* Today the pope gave a dramatic speech, including grand promises about not tolerating sexual abuse anymore. But he condemned himself out of his own mouth.

To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice.

Your Holiness: Look in the mirror. You are supposed to be “human justice” in these cases. Your duty is to deliver justice, not endless platitudes. You have made it obvious to the world that you don’t know how to deliver justice. And that you don’t want to know.


The Unbearable Roman Malaise


Absent a comprehensive and communal response to the abuse crisis facing the Church, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry out the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.

A committee of four is planning the Roman meeting of Bishops’ Conference presidents, scheduled for the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair, in February.

Three of the committee members gave interviews in English-language publications a few weeks ago…

Blaise Card. Cupich interview

Archbishop Charles Scicluna interview

Father Hans Zollner interview

…All three spoke only in vague platitudes. Archbishop Scicluna specifically ruled out the possibility of the February meeting addressing any canon-law matters, much less any specific cases.

Now, we know well that Vatican meetings have long produced mountains of glittering generalities, which have piled up now over the decades.

But the lack of concrete details in this case is especially disturbing, because the going-around-in-circles aspect glares out at us:

The Holy Father personally wrote to all the presidents of the bishops’ conferences almost four years ago. In his letter of February 2015, Pope Francis urged the presidents to implement a circular letter issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011.

The CDF had written to assist the bishops’ conferences in formulating the guidelines necessary for synthesizing the demands of canon law and civil law, in cases of a priest accused of sexually abusing a minor, or using child pornography.

In the meantime, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors designed a template for bishops’ conference guidelines.

My point is: Anyone conscientiously following the “paper trail” knows that precise questions of canon law have remained on the table for years now. Also: Who will judge bishops accused of sexual abuse? That question likewise has sat on the table for years.

Vatican synod hall empty

And yet the organizers of the vaunted February meeting have ruled out the consideration of these concrete questions.

The organizing committee released a letter this morning, from which I have taken the ominous quote above.

My first question upon reading the organizers’ letter is: Has the Holy Father himself written to the bishops’ conference presidents, inviting them to Rome for the February meeting?

I ask this innocent question because: Can anyone reasonably assume that every bishops’ conference president reads the daily Vatican Press Office briefing? I don’t think they do. In fact, I would wager that if you or I called every bishops’ conference president on earth, tonight, and asked him (in his native tongue), “Are you going to Rome in February?” quite a few of them would respond (in their native tongues), “Huh?”

Be all that as it may. Today’s letter from the organizers goes on to ask the bishops’ conference presidents to make sure they “reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries” before February.

Now, at first blush this request seems unobjectionable. But if we put ourselves in the shoes of some imaginary bishops’ conference presidents, the request starts to rankle.

Every conference president has, after all, a prior, more fundamental duty. Namely shepherding and governing his own diocese.

Let’s assume one case: The dutiful bishop who has diligently followed the guidelines as they have come from the Holy See over the course of the past seventeen years. (The procedure for clerical sex-abuse cases was altogether revised in 2001).

If the bishop had diligently followed all the rules, then he would already have had interaction with abuse victims–if such cases had occurred in his diocese. He would have interacted with them as he did his duty to see justice done for them. So he could rightly ask, upon receiving today’s letter: ‘Which victims do you want me to reach out to again, o organizers?’

Now let’s assume a different case: The bishop who neither knows nor cares about the rules. Maybe the organizers are backhandedly trying to “guilt” such bishops into paying attention to sex-abuse victims? If so, is that the right way to do things?

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Next question: What lies behind all this spinning around in circles, to no purpose? There is an answer.

A lot of English-speaking Catholics still wonder why Pope Francis has never addressed the specific allegations made by Archbishop Viganò in his August testimony. Namely that Pope Francis knew about Theodore McCarrick abusing seminarians, but did nothing, The pope knowingly allowed a sexual predator to continue to represent the holy Catholic Church as a Roman cardinal.

The pope apparently gave some homilies at his daily Masses in early September, in which he seemed to equate Viganò with the “Great Accuser” intent on destroying Christ’s Church. But the pope never mentioned Viganò by name.

A fulsome exposition of the pope’s thinking–with names attached–can be found, however, in the last ten chapters of Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente’s book. (Click here to read about the first four chapters.) The whole answer to the great question, What is the Pope Thinking? is readily available to anyone who can read Italian.

I say this because: Vaticanisti know Tornielli as an inveterate ‘chameleon,’ perfectly willing to change his own ideas in order to maintain access to the reigning pope. Today Tornielli received a reward for this quality of his.

So we must presume that the apologia offered in Il Giorno del Guidizio is not Tornielli’s apologia for Pope Francis, but is the pope’s apologia for himself. The Holy Father’s thinking, as expressed in Tornielli/Valenti’s book, explains his otherwise inexplicable letter to Cardinal Wuerl. The pope accepted the resignation of, and simultaneously praised to the skies, a prelate he regards as an innocent scapegoat, done-in by a nefarious American internet campaign.

So, allow me to schematize the pope’s thinking about Viganò for you, dear reader:

Viganò’s memo belongs to a co-ordinated media attack, which emanates from wealthy American conservative Catholics. The attack comes at the pope for two reasons:

1. Conservative American Catholics misidentify Christian doctrine with Christianity itself.

2. The pope has criticized the international capitalist economy.

Now, we cannot dismiss these assertions out of hand. The pope rightly laments any tendency on the part of us American Catholics to deputize ourselves as Guardians of Purity and Orthodoxy. We have no right to use phrases such as “real Catholics” versus “fake Catholics.” The very Christian doctrine that we cherish teaches us: all baptized people belong to the Catholic Church. And every last one of us relies on God’s mercy for any hope of salvation.

I think we can all agree: Nine times out of ten, the most evangelical thing any zealous Christian can do at any given moment is: Be kind.

I gladly kiss the pope’s hand for reminding us all of this.

earthAlso: The global environmental crisis does threaten future generations. Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ resounds with wisdom. The Paris Agreement took a baby step in the right direction. The pope righly laments our apparent American indifference to the future fate of Mother Earth.

In other words, the pope has managed successfully to convince himself to blow off Viganò’s testimony precisely because: his rationale for blowing it off has some truth to it.

The pope thinks Viganò and the American right wing attacked him in the style of a hostile corporate takeover. Borrowing from the Wall Street playbook, you try to present an unflattering a picture of the CEO, in order to get the stockholders to demand his resignation.

Pope Francis regards this as a tragic, Judas-like betrayal. The pope insists that no true Catholic could ever suggest that the pope resign. The pope is not the CEO; the pope is The Holy Father.

Now, since this is the logic that I myself applied to justify my weeping and whining when Pope Benedict XVI abdicated, you might wonder how I could credibly take a different position now.

But, let’s remember:

Absent a comprehensive and communal response to the abuse crisis facing the Church, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry out the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.

The pope has gotten the whole thing quite wrong. An “American corporate mentality” has not caused the current crisis of confidence in the Church’s hierarchy.

No. We observers–laymen, laywomen, parish priests in the trenches, all of us struggling to live honest Christian lives–we have seen with our own eyes the crushingly disillusioning fact. The current hierarchy of our Church is incompetent.

Neither divisiveness, nor political prejudice, nor fussiness about doctrine, nor malice of any kind leads us to such a conclusion. The conclusion arises from the facts disclosed to the public this year.

What has been revealed? The incumbents of practically all the episcopal thrones that we are familiar with–namely, the American bishops and the pope of Rome–all of them have managed to bring scandal upon our Church by failing to address sex-abuse cases that had languished for years in their own files.

How would an honest Christian react to this revelation, if he sat on one of these thrones? He would say to himself: I clearly do not have the personal intellectual and moral resources necessary to execute the duties of this office. Let me abandon it, so that someone more competent than myself can take over.

But the mafiosi running the Church do not think that way. They think only of protecting their own position, no matter what the cost. Yes, like a father–a father who should go away, for drug rehab or some such thing, but refuses to go.

Like Vincent Card. Nichols of London. Rather than accept the blame for bringing shame and scandal upon his people, he blamed his lawyers for not reminding him that he had a duty to communicate with sex-abuse victims. (Maybe that sounds to you like a Trump tweet about Michael Cohen. But I am not making this stuff up for giggles.)

Or like Pope Francis. Rather than acknowledge that he has failed his people, he blames conservative American priest bloggers.

Like me.

James Grein St. Gallen Interview + The Groër Case

As James’ faithful self-appointed amanuensis, I dutifully listened to this entire interview. I found it quite difficult.

James has inspiring things to say. About his relationship with Christ. About his triumph over drugs and alcohol, by God’s grace. About friendship, communication, and doing God’s will.

And he has insightful, illuminating things to say about Theodore McCarrick. He knows a great deal about McCarrick’s life. He says things about McCarrick that resonate with me. (For instance: the man is cheap. Has tons of money, but hates spending it.)

James continues to insist that he cannot discuss ‘on-going investigations’. Dr. Marshall asked James: What did Pope Benedict know about McCarrick? “I can’t go there,” James replied.

My question: Why, exactly, can’t you go there, sir? Or: Could you explain to us what these investigations are, that preclude you from giving any information about McCarrick’s abuse?

I would ask dear James that because: We don’t know. We the People. Out here, just wanting to know the facts, just wanting to see justice done. So this ordeal can end.

St. Gallen, Switzerland

Apparently, according to James, in 1948, Thedore McCarrick studied languages in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Nearly fifty years later, a group of Cardinals and bishops began meeting annually in St. Gallen, to discuss how much they disliked Josef Card. Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Both of these are perfectly honest and reasonable things to do. Learn languages. Talk church politics. Both fine.

And St. Gallen, Switzerland, seems like a perfectly lovely place to do them.

But it would appear that neither of them has anything to do with the other. The young Cardinal McCarrick studying there for some months in 1948; liberal European bishops and Cardinals meeting there in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Nothing to do with each other. Except that they happened in the same place.

I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1970. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, D.C., in 1865. Connection?

According to Dr. Marshall and Mr. Grein, evil spirits must rule the lovely canton of St. Gallen. And they are to blame for both: Theodore McCarrick’s abusive homosexuality. And the election of Pope Francis.

I don’t see the connection myself. According to Dr. Marshall and Mr. Grein, the connection is: Bella Dodd. (Famous ex-communist in the 1950’s.)


…My point is: The Marshall-Grein interview above is kooky. Kooky kooky.

Now, people are allowed to be kooky. James Grein is allowed to be kooky. His being kooky does not mean that he’s not telling the truth about Theodore McCarrick abusing him in a criminal manner.

Please, though: Can’t we stick to facts? At least for now?

Evil spirits may very well rule the Swiss canton of St. Gallen. If so, may God help those afflicted by it. But we cannot determine the truth of that claim based on the evidence before us. And it’s not the real question, anyway.

The real question is: Is Theodore McCarrick guilty of crimes? And which crimes, exactly? And what punishment should be meted out upon him, to restore justice?

Hans Hermann Card. Groer
Hans Hermann Card. Groër

Speaking of lovely European places:

In 1995, a sex-abuse victim denounced the sitting Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Austria.

A meltdown ensued. The Cardinal denied the charge. The Vatican would not intervene. Other victims came forward. The other Austrian bishops began to wonder. The Vatican then intervened in a backhanded manner, promoting one of the auxiliary Vienna bishops (Christoph Schonborn) to the status of co-adjutor.

(The Holy See even had an investigation done, eventually, but never released anything.)

The poor little, ancient church of Austria lurched through almost three years of not knowing what to believe. The pope even came to visit, and beatified three saints, and it seemed more painful than joyful.

”The Pope is visiting a burning house,” a victims’ advocate complained. ”But instead of speaking about the fire, he talks about the lovely flowers in front of it.”

At the beginning of 1998, a journalist published a book comprehensively documenting Cardinal Groër’s systematic sexual abuse of students and seminarians over the course of decades.

And then an amazing thing happened. It happened two years too late, and it apparently drew the Vatican’s ire. But it happened.

The bishops of Austria issued a statement. They publicly affirmed, in writing, that they had achieved moral certainty that Cardinal Groër was guilty.

Now: if we didn’t have mafiosi for bishops (and a pope), they would do that for us. A clear declaration. Guilty. Or, maybe, innocent. Whatever the evidence indicates. And it would not take three years.

More From James’ Amanuensis

What could have happened. And should have happened.

Actual facts: Roman characters. Could have/should have: italics.

Late June. The archdioceses of Washington and New York notify the public about an accusation against Theodore McCarrick. The Church publishes a phone#/e-mail/snail-mail address for anyone with knowledge of the case. Also publishes: A clear, thorough explanation of how McCarrick’s church trial will proceed, including the date on which it will begin.

Also in late June: The Holy See releases a comprehensive report about the secret cash settlements between McCarrick and the seminarians he abused. The report includes all relevant documents, with only the names of innocent victims redacted. All bishops and other administrators involved acknowledge their grave mistakes. And resign.

The bishops of Metuchen, Newark, and Washington, D.C. acknowledge the shock and pain of their people. They begin visiting their parishes to help their people cope.

Late July. James Grein comes forward, speaking out about McCarrick through the New York Times. The bishops of Arlington, Virginia (where James is known to reside), Washington, D.C., and New York all reach out personally to James.

Mid-August. The Pennsylvania grand jury releases its report on sexual abuse of minors by priests. The bishops of Pennsylvania, along with all the bishops in the US, acknowledge that they have gravely failed their people. They could have audited their own files, made sure that all sex-abuse victims had been heard, and justice done for them. But instead, the bishops idly sat by, distracted from their duty by their own tender and over-sized egos.

Late August. The USCCB meets in an emergency session and unanimously adopts a resolution. Yes, we have failed you, dear People of God. We will all return to parish ministry and try to learn how to administer the Church’s resources better than we have done. We have developed a five-year process for replacing ourselves with priests currently serving in parishes.

Also in mid-August. The Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C., admits that he made serious mistakes while serving in Pennsylvania in the 80’s and 90’s. He does not get defensive. Instead of focusing on himself, he focuses on his people, who still need a lot of help in coping with the revelations about Theodore McCarrick’s dishonesty.

Late August. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano sees no need to publish a dossier, The public already has all the documents pertaining to the McCarrick cash settlements from 2004 and 2006. The public already knows who covered for McCarrick; they have all resigned.

November. The US bishops hold their annual meeting. The president begins the meeting by announcing the verdict of the McCarrick trial.

Scandal over.

…This is no idle fantasy, dear reader. It could and should have happened this way. Indeed, it would have required a great deal less effort than all the fruitless attempts that Pope Francis and our American bishops have made, trying vainly to justify themselves with pointless abstractions, rather than confront facts.

But, as it is, we find ourselves in a haze.

As I understand the beginning of the EWTN interview which you can watch above, Mr. James Grein is in contact with Church officials. James declines to elaborate about sex-abuse details in this interview, referring to “investigations” now underway. (In July, James willingly gave details.)

Meanwhile, McCarrick continues to maintain his innocence. One of his brother bishops said as much, in Baltimore last week.

mccarrickA trial, therefore, must proceed. In order to reach justice through a contentious process.

It’s never too late! Those governing the Church could right now offer to us a careful, detailed explanation of how the process will unfold.

The fundamental point in dispute: Has James falsely and wrongly accused Theodore McCarrick of grave crimes?

Could be. No one ever reached the truth without hearing both sides.

We considered this question here before. James, sympathetic as he may be in the speech and interview above, has not added to his credibility with the statements he has made this past week. I’m not saying he compromised his credibility, either. He simply added nothing specific to our knowledge of the case.

Perhaps he could have explained better why he refrained from giving details this time around. But it’s not Mr. James Grein’s job to explain such things.

My point here is this: Either the course of justice is moving forward in a way that we can respect, or it isn’t.

If James has testified under oath, and that’s why he won’t get into details on Youtube, then maybe the wheels are really turning.

But, if that is the case, why hasn’t any Church official explained to the public the current state of the process? Why leave us with the strong impression that all any bishop or pope does in the Catholic Church is kick the can down the road, hoping the stupid sheep will forget about all this?

On the other hand, if James has not, in fact, given official testimony, then why not speak more freely in the interview above? EWTN reporter Wyatt Goolsby gave James a wide-open opportunity clearly to spell out McCarrick’s crimes. And if the official Church continues to do nothing, and you say this is “your moment” to speak, why not speak clearly and in detail? Criminals get convicted based on clear details of evidence.

But, again: If James is not to be believed–if he won’t give details because he doesn’t really know what he is talking about–then why won’t someone who knows the facts come to McCarrick’s defense? After all these months, no one has said anything to defend McCarrick from the grave charges James leveled against him in July.

…My old friend Msgr. Charles Pope recently published an essay arguing that Pope Francis now “owns” the crisis.

Would that Pope Francis did own it. The problem we have is that no one appears willing to own the McCarrick case.

And the cowardly refusal to own sex-abuse cases is The Scandal. The Scandal that has brought the pope and bishops of our Church to the state of utter infamy that they now occupy.