Visiting St. Thomas II: Montecassino

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

* That is, re-built…

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

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

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

And this textbook of science…

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

And trod these floor tiles.

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

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

This is of particular interest, considering:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The McC Criminal Case: Two Receptions

St Matthews Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 

Wellesley College Boston Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is never late.

 

Disturbing 35-Year-Old Echoes

letters

The following quotations come from a series of letters sent to Church officials, beginning 35 years ago. They all came from people who knew that Theodore McCarrick was a criminal…

McCarrick has an attraction to children. I have seen him touching 13- and 14-year-old boys inappropriately. (from a 1986 letter sent to all the Cardinals in the U.S., as well as to the pope’s ambassador to the US, the nuncio)

Civil charges against McCarrick include pedophilia… The charges are substantial and will shatter the American Church. The court of public opinion will question the private morality of all ecclesiastical authorities. (from a 1992 letter sent to the Archbishop of New York)

Though he postures as a humble servant, as an advocate of family life and family values, Theodore McCarrick is actually a cunning pedophile. McCarrick will be exposed for the sick bastard that he is! The reputations of all in priestly ministry are on the line. (from a February 1993 letter sent to the Archbishops of Chicago and New York)

Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct will be revealed. He will be exposed as an ephebophile. (from a March 1993 letter to the nuncio)

McCarrick uses the priesthood for opportunity and access to young boys by ingratiating himself with their families, by openly displaying these fake nephews, by sexually exploiting them while their trusting families genuflect before him. The number of incidents and their occurrence over twenty years foreclose any credible claim of a simple indiscretion or lapse of judgment. His conduct is not ambiguous. He is a consummate sex offender. He is psychologically unfit to serve as a shepherd. Under our penal code, he is a criminal. (from a March 23, 1993 letter to the nuncio)

McCarrick is a pedophile. By saying youths are his nephews, he has facilely explained overnight trysts with them in hotels and in homes of benefactors over twenty years. (from an April 1993 letter to the nuncio)

Bishop McCarrick is a pedophile. Church hierarchy and priest associates have long known of the bishop’s propensity for young boys. Monsignor Dominic Turtora lived with McCarrick at the Metuchen cathedral and knew of McCarrick’s misconduct. He knew the Bishop’s young guests never stayed overnight in guest rooms, but spent the night with the Bishop. (from a August 1993 letter to the nuncio)

Apparently, the authors of the letters were afraid of reprisals if they included their names. In one way or another, McCarrick exercised power over their lives.

The nuncio who received these letters, Agostino Card. Cacciavillan, disregarded them “because they were anonymous and lacked substance.”

These written denunciations of McCarrick that have survived until now–they are only the tip of the iceberg. McCarrick’s victims and their families tried; they tried over and over and over again. Priests who knew the truth tried. They tried to get the leaders of our Church to listen.

They refused to listen.

McCarrick and Gerety
Theodore McCarrick’s installation as Archbishop of Newark, NJ, 1986. Outgoing Archbishop Peter Gerety stands second from the right. (Photo by D.J. Zendler.)

The quotations echo now in a new way, since police have finally charged McCarrick with the crime of sexually abusing a minor.

Thirty-five years after Church authorities first heard about it.

[NB–All the information recounted here about the letters can be found in the Vatican McCarrick Report.]

 

Grand-Jury Reports + McCarrick Charged with a Crime

PA Grand Jury victims

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

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

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

Mark Herring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros
Camille Biros and Ken Feinberg

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

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

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

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

 

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

McCarrick paten chalice

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

Update in the Local Paper + Father Altman

I appreciate Bill’s very good report. To be clear, though, my appeals haven’t completely run out.

Bishop Knestout has petitioned the Vatican to expel me from the priesthood. I am fighting the bishop’s petition, with the help of a canon lawyer.

Please pray. If you want to help me pay my canon lawyer, click HERE.

My friend Father James Altman of the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, has now been suspended from sacred ministry, like myself.

Our cases are quite different. We have different personalities. I can’t say that I agree with everything my friend says. And he certainly doesn’t agree with everything I say or don’t say.

Be all that as it may, I found this part of his interview yesterday with John Henry Westen to be quite moving (starting at 15:15):

Father Altman and I have this much in common: We have suffered severe penalties without due process. What exactly did he do or say that required a suspension of his priestly ministry? What did I do or say? The authorities over us have never specified with any precision these “offenses,” for which we have been so severely punished.

That is not fair.

The Church is a mysterious web of relationships. By the grace and power of God, we parish priests form relationships with our people, and those relationships run very deep.

Under circumstances like this, any unilateral and arbitrary exercise of bureaucratic authority will inevitably wound peoples’ souls. Those wounds may never heal in this lifetime.

Parishioners in Rocky Mount and Martinsville speak of the parishes being “cursed” by what the bishop and his henchmen did here last spring. Now another parish in Wisconsin will have to live under a similar curse.

As I mentioned, I do not agree with everything that my friend Father Altman says. If I had been his parishioner, I would have disagreed with him on certain points, just like many of my parishioners have disagreed with me, over the years.

The Catholic Church has to be a place where people can disagree with each other and still receive the sacraments together, kneeling next to each other in peace and mutual love. Our minds simply do not comprehend the mystery that we share at the altar. So anyone who would propose to “police” the boundary lines has to tread lightly.

Also: there has to be room for us priests to be our individual selves.

When we priests have criticisms of managerial decisions made by our superiors in the chain-of-command, we have a right to voice those criticisms. Criticizing management decisions does not involve breaking communion with Holy Mother Church. The bishops ≠ Christ’s Church.

I don’t know the bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin. But it seems to me that he has made a power play that will wound a lot of people, without any real benefit coming from it.

A year and a half ago, I begged Bishop Knestout to leave me in peace. Just let me do my thing. If my blog posts are the work of a whack-job with a crazy ax to grind, so be it. You can show your strength as a leader by tolerating them. Ignoring them. In the end, the world ignores the work of whack-jobs.

He did not take my advice.

Whack-jobs vent their misguided spleens, and, in the end, the world takes no note of them. But when someone without power criticizes authority, and then authority turns around and punishes the critic arbitrarily, with a merciless power-play… That actually proves the criticism to have been valid in the first place.