No one asked me. But if a bishop at the meeting in Baltimore asked me, “What should we do?” I would say:
Circulate the following letter for the signature of all the members of the conference, then send it to Theodore McCarrick…
Mr. James Grein has lodged testimony against you. He says you sexually abused him for two decades. Others have also testified that you abused them.
We believe these charges. You yourself have given us no choice but to believe them. You have not denied them.
We all saw your intelligence and charisma when you led this conference through the sex-abuse scandal of 2002. But, amazingly, you had these crimes on your conscience at that time. How could you manage to stand in the limelight, knowing how dishonest you were?
Your dishonesty at that crucial moment in the history of the Church in America has now scandalized our people–and us–so thoroughly that we hardly know what to do.
We condemn you for what you have done. The debt you owe to James, and to all the people you have wronged; the debt you owe to society, to the Church–it is staggering, terrifying to imagine.
We beg you to go on the record and admit the truth in full. Please do so, under oath, and before suitable witnesses. Admit everything: all your crimes, all your hypocrisy. Acknowledge the damage you have done to others, to the integrity of your office as priest and bishop–the damage you have done to the integrity of our Church.
For our sake, for the sake of those you abused and harmed so deeply, for the sake of all the Christian people, and for your sake: Admit the truth. Repent of your sins. Beg God’s mercy, before it’s too late. Too late for us, and too late for you.
Fraternally in Christ, Your brother bishops of the USA
As you know, dear reader, over these past months, memories from my seminarian days have surfaced, making me wince with pain as I realize what they actually meant.
Our American bishops have their annual meeting in Baltimore this week. The big news is that the Vatican nixed any voting on “policy remedies” to the sex-abuse problem.
The whole thing has me remembering the annual meeting sixteen years ago, when then-Cardinal McCarrick pretty much called the shots. (And when the supposedly “monarchical” Pope John Paul II allowed the bishops conference a lot more leeway than the supposedly “synodal” Pope Francis allows them now.)
Anyway, at that meeting in 2002, McCarrick seemed quite preoccupied with something. He insisted that the scandal of that year meant that any priest who committed sex abuse from then onward would have to suffer “zero-tolerance,” exclusion from ministry for good. But he insisted it wouldn’t be fair to make zero-tolerance retroactive. We can’t give second chances anymore. But we can’t revoke the second chances that we already gave.
At the time, many of us who were paying attention allowed McCarrick to manipulate our minds into seeing this as a fair and equitable solution. Of course it was not: It meant that the victims of abuses that happened before 2002 had to continue to see their abusers stand at the altar, interact with young people, and possibly begin to manipulate and abuse others.
Since 2002, sitting bishops have only addressed pre-2002 abuses when victims have made them do so. It is precisely the outcry of those very pre-2002 victims, who never got justice—their outcry has produced the Scandal of 2018. May God reward them for fearlessly standing up. And forcing us all to face the truth and live in it.
Looking back, we see: Theodore McCarrick desperately wanted to keep the pre-2002 truth hidden. And now we know why: When he spoke with such apparent “equanimity” about old cases, he spoke with pure self-interest. He was himself guilty. He wanted to continue to give a second chance to himself. He couldn’t be bothered to consider his victims, and their having a chance for a decent life. He just wanted to let himself off the hook, in his own tortured mind. He wanted to tell himself: okay, you have to cut it out from now on. But the previous dalliances? They should not face strict scrutiny; they can remain hidden.
…Oh, that McCarrick had actually been honest with himself sixteen years ago! Openly acknowledged the full truth about all the destructive, evil things he had done! Stood before the assembled bishops and admitted the now-known fact. Namely, that he deserved to be defrocked. And deserved to spend some serious time in jail.
If he had just admitted it, and given us all a chance to start fresh back then, in 2002–where would we be now? We would all be part of an institution with a great deal more integrity than it currently has.
Could the our bishops bring themselves to discuss these cold, hard facts right now? Could they examine how Baltimore 2002 had this big lie at the heart of it? (Which made Baltimore 2018 necessary.)
Don’t they see? If they did that–if they reckoned honestly with facts, instead of blah blah blah-ing endlessly on the purely theoretical level–if they studied reality, in other words–the sad reality of how Theodore McCarrick the liar made fools of them all–then they could begin to heal the Church.
They could do this; there’s nothing stopping them. But they won’t. None of them, from the Nuncio on down, even have the courage to say McCarrick’s name.
The haplessness of Baltimore 2018 comes as no surprise. We know perfectly well that, for now, the holy Catholic Church has a hierarchy made up of flimflamming, dithering cowards.
Maybe someday that will change.
In the meantime, we have the Lord, the Christ, the eternal Bridegroom. We belong to the Catholic Church because of Him. I am a priest because of Him. He will see His Church through.
The poor widow. She attracted no attention. But the Lord Jesus did not consider her a non-person. He measured her not by her wealth, nor by the extent of her entourage, nor by her influence over the affairs of this world. He measured her by the only criterion that ultimately matters: by the sincerity of her love for God and neighbor. [Spanish]
Every human being is a person: someone who can love and do good and become a heroic saint. A Christian has to see all people this way, penetrating beyond the outer veil of worldly considerations and finding the truth that will last beyond the grave.
What makes abortion so scandalously evil? It treats the unborn child as a non-person. What makes racism and xenophobia so scandalously evil? The immigrant, the non-English-speaker, the desperate refugee: non-person. What’s so horribly scandalous about an angry menace going into a synagogue, or a church, or a mall, or a dancehall–and shooting indiscriminately? The shooter thinks of these people as non-persons.
Tonight we mark the eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany, the beginning of the Holocaust. Why is the Holocaust such a shameful stain on the history of humanity? Because the Nazis regarded the Jews as non-persons.
Now, this next step will prove painful and difficult for us to get through. But we have to. What is the unending Catholic Clergy Sex-Abuse Scandal about? Isn’t it fundamentally about the systematic treatment of particular vulnerable human beings as non-persons?
In both these cases–as in so, so, so many others–the abusing priests treated these teenage boys as non-persons. Instead of respecting the child of God–with a conscience, with ambitions and dreams for the future; instead of seeing this person, the abusing clergyman saw only a prop for use in his own desperate, twisted escapade; he saw an implement for satisfying his own evil appetites.
Now, this kind of abuse would scandalize us plenty, in and of itself. But the abusers were not the only ones who treated these young men (and, in about 20% of the cases, young women) as non-persons. So did the entire authority structure of the Church. For decades.
Over the past nine months, many secret Church records have finally come to light. What do they show? –The records that will continue to come out, as investigations all over the country run their course: What will they show?
That the Church as an institution has not respected sex-abuse victims as persons. The abusers saw them only as props for pleasure. And way too often, the bishops saw them only as public nuisances and legal liabilities.
Now, in this fallen world of ours, we have to face the sad fact: people treat each other as non-persons all the time. We disrespect each other, use each other. That’s what sinning against your neighbor usually involves.
But when we sinners realize that we have done this, we’re sorry. We apologize. We try to heal the harm done. We heal disrespect, de-humanization, non-personhood. With respect, humane treatment, personal attention.
And as common as it may be for us sinners to treat each other as non-persons, that doesn’t change this fact: Whenever a Christian clergyman treats a fellow human being as a non-person, it does deep damage. It compromises the integrity of the one institution that Jesus Christ founded to propagate His Gospel. The Gospel of the personal dignity of every human being. The Gospel of Almighty God’s fatherly love.
The soul-crushing fact of the Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal is this: whistleblowers and Attorneys General have pulled back the curtain to reveal the “wizard.” And we see that the whole authority structure of the Church has treated sex-abuse victims as non-persons. Consistently, for decades, despite numerous promises to the contrary.
Bishops here and there have actually done heroically beautiful things to try to deal with this problem. But the hierarchy of the Church, considered as a whole, has shown no real interest in truly redressing the wrong done. Instead, over and over again, the same question has dominated the minds of bishops, Cardinals, popes: Quick! What rug can we sweep this under?
Now, that begs the question. What would real redress for sexual abuse involve? Tough question to answer. Except: There is always one expert who knows. Namely, the person who suffered the abuse.
What will make things right for you? What could restore your faith in God, and His Church? What can heal your soul? What will make it possible for you to turn a corner?
The person who has suffered has the one right answer. No ‘policy’ will ever solve this scandal, because every case involves specific human beings. The Scandal will end when the pope and the bishops ask the victims these questions personally–in each and every case–and actually listen to the answers.
Before Buffalo diocese whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor spoke on 60 Minutes, she worked extensively with Charlie Specht. The man has given our Church a tremendous gift of dogged truth-telling.
One important point Specht makes, which diligent readers here have heard me make before:
Beware a bishop who says, ‘We’ve had no claims of abuses occurring since Dallas in 2002! Look how great we are!’
Minors rarely, rarely report abuse at the time. It usually takes decades for the Gospel of You-Didn’t-Deserve-to-be-Treated-that-Way-and-You-Deserve-Justice to penetrate the huge edifice of manipulative lies that the abuser constructed in the victim’s mind.
A reasonable bishop would admit that some Catholic official in his diocese is probably building just such an edifice of lies right now. But: “When I learn about it, I will kick that manipulative bas-d’s a-s myself!” Or something along those lines.
…As the PA Grand Jury pointed out in their August report, one particular institution brought about the reforms which the bishops enacted in 2002. That institution is The Boston Globe.
Their report demonstrates the hollowness of the bishops’ actions of 2002. This time the Globe co-operated with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and both newspapers published the same article simultaneously. It is long, detailed, and devastating.
(You and I, dear reader, have registered the hollowness of the ‘reforms’ of 2002 for months now, of course. Since the King of the 2002 “Reform” was… Theodore Edgar McCarrick.)
The best line quoted in the report comes from a sex-abuse victim of former Wyoming bishop Joseph Hart. Hart’s successor made a trip to New York to apologize personally. The anonymous victim told the Globe/Inquirer:
I remember thinking, ‘What the f— am I going to do with an apology?’ And then you realize it actually means a lot–to be believed.
…Three bishops have responded to the Globe/Inquirer report. 1. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput published a pointlessly tendentious and defensive op-ed in the same edition of the Inquirer. 2. Newark Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Tobin wrote a letter to his people. In which he could only manage to refer blandly to “the resignation” of Theodore McCarrick. 3. Sean Card. O’Malley of Boston expressed to the Globe his disappointment that evil still exists in the world.
Brothers: This is not going to work. I mean: Euphemisms. Defensiveness. Invoking 2002. Crocodile tears and words and blah blah blah blah.
We’re praying for a miracle in Baltimore. To be honest, I think the beautiful miracle might wind up looking ugly, at least on the surface. That is: open disagreements and recriminations.
Holley yelling at Wuerl and Wuerl yelling at Holley. Dolan yelling at Malone and Malone yelling at Dolan. Tobin yelling at Chaput. Kurtz yelling at Holley. Holley yelling at DiNardo. O’Malley and Cupich cowering behind the coffee urns, as the fur flies.
Bring it on. We need to break this thing wide open.
Bring in Charlie Specht from Buffalo, and give him a microphone. Bring in McCarrick’s victim James–from Michael Voris’ nearby rally–and give him the microphone.
We don’t need bella figura. We need hard-nosed journalist types who get in your face to learn the truth.
Click HERE for a pretty reasonable satire about the choice we American Christians face in the voting booth today.
Tuesday, November 13 MECU Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD **Subject to change** 12:30–5 p.m. SPEAKERS Michael Voris (Founder & President, St. Michael’s Media / Church Militant) James (Theodore McCarrick abuse victim) Siobhan O’Connor (Buffalo whistleblower featured on 60 Minutes) Matt Walsh (writer, speaker, author…) Dr. Alan Keyes (conservative political activist…) Jesse Romero (author, radio host, evangelist) Michael Hichborn (founder and president of the Lepanto Institute)
(My color emphasis added. Click HERE for my collection of James links.)
Click the link and read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. Here’s a brief quote:
In the public remonstrances directed at me I have noted two omissions, two dramatic silences. The first silence regards the plight of the victims. The second regards the underlying reason why there are so many victims, namely, the corrupting influence of homosexuality in the priesthood and in the hierarchy.
As to the first, it is dismaying that, amid all the scandals and indignation, so little thought should be given to those damaged by the sexual predations of those commissioned as ministers of the gospel.
This is not a matter of settling scores or sulking over the vicissitudes of ecclesiastical careers. It is not a matter of politics. It is not a matter of how church historians may evaluate this or that papacy. This is about souls. Many souls have been and are even now imperiled of their eternal salvation. [emphasis added]
…Meanwhile, a whistleblower in the Diocese of Buffalo, NY, has worked with a local journalist to dissect the misinformation campaign that the bishop there had been running. (Her name is in blue on the rally-speaker schedule above.)
Ms. O’Connor appeared on 60 Minutes and CBS This Morning. Her own soaring righteousness brought tears to the eyes of all the decent people listening.
The bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, has been exposed as a fraud. By two earnest, heroically kind parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"The diocese recently helped [the priest] move into a retirement home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, without informing administrators at the Catholic school across the street." @rjfoley reports. https://t.co/kXONaBMVYj
Michael Voris of Church Militant tends, in my book, to overstate his case. But earlier this week, he, too, soared. He promised to convene the faithful to say the rosary for our American bishops. He begged the bishops to cross the defensive line they maintain for themselves (as the tinpot celebrities they consider themselves to be). Voris invited them to come and thank the people praying for them.
I pray for our bishops, and I will pray for them during their meeting in Baltimore. Meanwhile, I thank God for all the people Michael Voris will gather to pray in Baltimore during the meeting.
I want to be counted among those people.
Vatican claims it is instructing it’s bishops to co-operate with police in abuse case. Then in a complete ignoring of their own advice they block a legal summons to the head of the CDF from a French Court. Does anyone believe a word they say anymore? https://t.co/XZyV5JtL9j
In my previous post I published an e-mail I wrote to our Bishop’s Office, asking about a directive we priests had received.
The dear Special Assistant and Advisor to the Bishop wrote me back. She noted that the directives in the original e-mail had come from “our attorneys, who are working closely with the [Virginia] Attorney General’s office and potentially the U.S. Department of Justice, to highlight this developing investigation process. They wanted to highlight the focus on our diocese’s cooperation with civil authorities.”
You, dear reader, may find it odd that our Bishop gives unsigned directives to his priests that come from him–no, not actually from him; actually from “our attorneys.”
Ms. Anne Edwards went on to tell me “there’s no reason why [you] could not can add that number in your bulletin.” That is, the actual phone number for sex-abuse victims to call the diocese–an important piece of information which was not included in the announcement the diocese ordered us to publish.
We also received an attachment explaining many legal terms and the types of documents that the diocese must retain. You can click HERE to read it, if you want to. It is legalese–highly illuminating legalese.
First of all, we priests received this document with no explanation of the context. It is cryptically labeled as “Enclosure to Letter of October 9, 2018.”
To whom was this letter of October 9 addressed? And from whom did it come? Can’t say. But the stipulations in the enclosure suggest that the document originated in the office of the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. I say this because the investigation includes the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
What practical good can it do to distribute all this legalese to us parish priests? Can’t see any practical good there. But, of course: it’s all an exercise stipulated by our attorneys.
What I do see is this:
We are in for it.
We Catholics in Virginia–and in all the 49 states, other than Pennsylvania–will spend the next couple of years dealing with the publication of all the secret documents held in all diocesan files (just like the Pennsylvania Catholics did in August.)
These documents will provide evidence of cover-ups. Cover-ups of shameful abuses of minors and other vulnerable people by Catholic clergymen.
The sitting bishops will rely on this defense: We didn’t know what we were doing before 2002, but now we do. The public will not buy this defense. (This already happened in Washington, DC: Card. Wuerl offered this defense; the public reasonably rejected it.)
In other words, the Catholic Church in the USA will limp along like a grievously wounded animal for the foreseeable future. Eventually, someone in law enforcement will realize that the diocesan archives tell only part of the story. The rest lies in files at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
A representative of the USA will demand those documents. The Vatican will refuse. The Vatican will become an international pariah. Italy will likely revoke the provisions of the Concordat that guarantees the sovereignty of the Holy See. Italian police officers will raid Vatican offices. The contents of those files will be published, and it will deeply scandalize the entire world.
…We do not have shepherds that can deal with any of this well. If we had good shepherds, we would not find ourselves in this predicament in the first place.
The entire Scandal of 2018 involves old cases. If we had sensible shepherds, shepherds who cared about us, who cared about protecting our faith; shepherds who cared about justice for abuse victims–including victims of abuses that occurred before 2002; if we simply had non-mafiosi running our institution–that is, honest stewards of Christs’ gifts–they would have owned this problem long ago. They would have dealt with the scandalous contents of their own files before the Attorneys General came knocking at their doors.
But it never occurred to them to do that, when they had the chance. So now we face this imminent meltdown of epic proportions.
But we should not despair.
The cause of truth and openness is the cause of Christ. The end of secrecy about sexual abuse means the chance for justice. Jesus Himself will liberate many hearts through this ordeal.
When it is over, He will still be with us. We will still be His Church.
Dearest Reader, Many long, hard days await us. The entire American Church will undergo what the dioceses of Pennsylvania have undergone. Deep pain and shame.
May the ordeal have this beautiful effect: Namely, that victims of sexual abuse in the state of Virginia, and throughout the US, will find the courage to seek justice. And may someone with authority have enough love and courage to try to see justice done.
Thank you for sending the bishop’s message and enclosures. I have two questions about the announcement for the parish bulletin and website.
Shouldn’t we include the telephone number for the diocesan Victims Assistance Coordinator? Is 1-877-887-9603 still the correct number? Or is there a particular reason for us not to include that number? Seems a little counter-productive to ask a victim to “reach out,” and then not provide the necessary contact information.
Our hotline promises confidentiality. Do we know if the Attorney General’s hotline ensures it? Someone might want to call and talk through the process before going “on the record,” so to speak. Do we know if the Attorney General’s hotline will capture the caller ID?
As you may have heard, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office has announced their ongoing investigation into whether criminal sexual abuse of children may have occurred in Virginia’s Catholic dioceses, and whether leadership in the dioceses may have covered up or abetted such crimes. We have also received word of a pending federal investigation. We have been cooperating with the state’s investigation and intend to cooperate with any federal investigation. In light of these investigations, I issue the following directives:
1. In order to protect any potential evidence, you must not destroy, discard, dispose of, delete, or alter any documents or electronically stored information which have anything to do with sexual conduct and/or allegations involving a minor and certain information regarding the organizational structure of the Diocese and related entities. Please review the attachment entitled “Enclosure to Letter of October 9, 2018” for an exhaustive list all documents which fall under this directive; [NB. Dear Reader, I will include this attachment in a subsequent post, since I have a great deal to say about it.]
(2) Do not discuss or comment on any aspect of any investigation with any media outlet or person. If you receive any media contact, please notify Deborah Cox at the Diocese at (804) 971-7412.
3. If you receive any legal paperwork or any contact from law enforcement or investigative entities related to child sexual abuse, notify Fr. Michael Boehling at the Diocese immediately at (804) 622-5124. Please politely refrain from discussing these matters with any investigators until you have received direction from the Diocese;
4. Please publish the following announcement in your church bulletin and post it on your parish website:
Bishop Knestout encourages anyone aware of misconduct or abuse on the part of clergy or staff of our diocese to notify civil authorities, call the Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Hotline at 1(833) 454-9064, and reach out to the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator.
Also attached is a joint statement from Bishop Knestout and Bishop Burbidge in response to the Attorney General Investigation.
We found ourselves together–the priests of the diocese. We get together for a couple days every October, for our annual Priests’ Convocation.
Every October we sing the same hymns at our prayers. Every October the bishop spends forty minutes talking to us about himself. Every October a professional traveling speaker bores us unto truancy.
Same this year. Everything proceeded exactly as it always does. The eerie air of normalcy has driven me insane.
In our parishes, no one trusts anyone in the hierarchy–other than the parish pastor. Our most-dedicated volunteers wonder: What kind of future does our Church have? Outside the Church, our institution has become a byword for hypocrisy and corruption. And the Catholic people continue to wonder: Do we know how to deal with sex abuse? Does anyone pay attention to the victims? Will anyone in authority ever answer our questions honestly? Or give an account for their own actions or omissions?
Our people have these questions. And we have land-mined our own mission field with suspicion and doubt. The Church with the duty to proclaim God’s truth to the world has entered into a period of moral receivership. State Attorneys General provide the kind of oversight that our own bishops have spent the past forty years failing to exercise. International pressure on the Vatican–to make its secrets known–mounts; a diplomatic crisis looms.
No one in the hierarchy offers any answers. We parish priests hang out there to dry, trying to do our thing, holding fast to the mysteries of the faith…
We had a chance to talk all this over. We didn’t. We could have heard our bishop’s plan for how to help us through this. He doesn’t have one.
What exactly is the crisis? Are schismatics trying to break down the communion of Christ’s Church? Will the pope have to resign because too many people lose confidence in his honesty? Is there a Gay Mafia operating at high levels? How can we get past this endless scandal?
We had a golden opportunity to talk these questions over, here at the Diocesan Priests’ Convocation. We did not take that opportunity.
What do we really stand for, at this point? Does a Catholic parish priest represent a worldwide institution that people can believe in? Do we ourselves, we priests, believe in this institution? Do we have any confidence that the pope and bishops will co-operate and solve the ‘problem?’ Do we think the pope and bishops understand what the problem is?
Talk it over together? Try to identify the problem? Not this October.
Theodore McCarrick’s “incoherence” as a priest and as a man (to use Card. Ouellet’s word)–McCarrick’s incoherence–it is in the process of corroding the mutual trust of dozens of bishops, hundreds of priests, and thousands of Catholics. Our institution operates on the currency of mutual trust. That mutual trust is corroding. This is in the process of happening.
We had a chance to talk it all over together. We didn’t. We carried on like a cancer patient who refuses to discuss the diagnosis.
Cancer rages in our organs. We carried on as if it were just another October.
Dear faithful people, please forgive us. You deserve braver priests than this.
Our traveling professional speaker referred at one point to Christ’s gaze. I feel His gaze. And I am ashamed. Of the blinkered, irrational institutional ‘normalcy’ of which I am a part.
The Christian mystery must be taken literally, with the greatest possible realism, because it has a value for every time and place. –Pope St. John Paul II, Divini Amoris Scientia
Your humble servant had the privilege of attending the Roman Consistory of February 21, 2001. Pope John Paul II created Jorge Bergoglio, Theodore McCarrick, and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor Cardinals, along with 43 other prelates and theologians, including the well-known Walter Kasper.
During the ceremony, candidates for Cardinal solemnly profess their faith before the pope. They use the same formula that I had just used myself a few weeks before, in the seminary rector’s office, since I was to be ordained in a matter of months.
The solemn Profession of Faith taken by Cardinals (and potential deacons and priests) goes like this:
“I, [name], firmly believe… 1. The Nicene Creed 2. “Everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in tradition, which the Church sets forth for belief.”
So, we in the Square heard, on February 21, 2001:
I, Theodore, firmly believe…everything contained in the Word of God.
Also: I, Jorge… I, Cormac… I, Walter…
I did not, on that day, credit the rumors then circulating that McCarrick had a past as a homosexual predator of seminarians. I thought his conservative enemies spread those rumors. That’s the explanation for the rumors that McCarrick himself gave us.
But: I did doubt the man’s full sincerity in saying that he firmly believed everything contained in the Word of God. I doubted Walter Kasper’s sincerity there, too.
I doubted Kasper based on the evidence of his own theological opinions. I had read his book Jesus the Christ. He there suggests that the Lord Jesus did not know everything.
An intricate theological dispute could emerge here, but I will save that for another day. Suffice it to say I had some reason in doubting Kasper’s complete honesty in his Solemn Profession of Faith on February 21, 2001.
In those days, I don’t think any reasonable observer of the situation at the Catholic University of America could have failed to recognize:
On the one hand, The Catechism of the Catholic Church invokes the historical authority of Sacred Scripture in one way. For instance: The Catechism assumes the accuracy of the four gospels regarding historical details. And assumes that an ancient flood did, in fact, occur. And that Abraham was a real person. Etc.
On the other hand, the professors at CUA taught something else. Like: we need exegetical theories about the underlying sources of the books of the Bible–in order to separate fact from myth.
This unacknowledged discrepancy caught us seminarians in a vise. And it seemed to me that our entire future as preachers hung in the balance. If we could not assume that everything we read out loud at Mass from the Word of God is simply true, then what kind of homilies could we give?
Of course this doesn’t mean that historical study isn’t necessary. Human beings did, in fact, write the Bible. God intends to convey the meaning that the human authors intended to convey. But no one comes to church to listen to the priest explain to them the ways in which the Bible isn’t true.
I don’t mean to make myself a martyr, dear reader. But the fact is: ten months after JP II created McCarrick a Cardinal, I got kicked out of the seminary. For refusing to say that the Flood didn’t happen.
For the next eighteen months, the Archbishop was happy to let me dangle, living in rectory attics, hoping I would walk away. Even though I had already promised God I would serve Him for life as a deacon, and then a priest.
Eventually, McCarrick ordained me. For that I am grateful. But the truth is he had no choice–since he had already ordained me a deacon, and I had committed no crime. And the pastors I lived and worked with begged him to ordain me.
The fact is, as far as I could tell, McCarrick did not care at all about the facts surrounding my expulsion from the seminary. He never ‘spoke one word’ to me about it. As far as I know, he never asked the seminary rector, “Did Mark break one or more of your rules?” The Archbishop knew perfectly well that I had not broken any rules. I just refused to accept the idea that preaching could find a foundation in the historical-critical method.
It began to dawn on me, even then, dear reader: These mafiosi who run this institution do not care about facts. They operate only on the level of slogans. They please ‘the masses’ with saccharine abstractions, calculated to avoid all controversy. Since we sheep have a religious obligation to give these men the benefit of the doubt, we accept their empty sloganeering; we even give it a charitable interpretation. The damage that such empty sloganeering does to the integrity of people’s faith–well, we ignore it. That is: Until the summer of 2018.
McCarrick had a favorite slogan for us seminarians and young priests. He would conjure the image of JP II visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. “He walked right down the middle of the aisle, so he could reach out and touch the people on both sides,” McCarrick said over and over. “We have to be like that. Down the middle.”
I would think to myself: What does he mean? Down the middle of what? Both sides of what?
So: My doubts about McCarrick’s sincerity in the Profession of Faith in St. Peter’s Square in February 2001–they had some foundation. Little did I know then how much foundation they in fact had.
…What about the two other Cardinals I mentioned when I began? One of them went on to become pope. Jorge Bergoglio. Pope Francis.
Recently Mr. Steve Skojec of onepeterfive.com wrote the essay that I was on the verge of writing. Skojec accuses Pope Francis of “gaslighting.”
Now, this psychological term enjoys a certain vogue right now. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t real. The best definition I have come across for “gaslighting” is the movie, The Girl on the Train. (Watch at your own risk; it’s rough.)
Anyway: Is it true? Is Pope Francis gaslighting the Catholic people? Trying to trick us into thinking of him as an honest and loving spiritual father–when in fact he is altogether otherwise?
To try and answer this question as impartially as possible, I plowed through two books simultaneously. The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire, under the pen-name Marcantonio Colonna. And The Great Reformer by Austin Ivereigh.
The Dictator Pope is basically this: An illuminating arrangement of facts gleaned from the conservative Catholic press these last five years, supplemented with some additional anonymous-source information. Sire organizes the facts masterfully, to paint a convincing picture of the man.
The man who rose to the Chair of Peter through the avowed machinations of what is widely known as the “St. Gallen Mafia”–a caucus of liberal western-European prelates who spent their careers waiting for John Paul II to die. (Walter Kasper among them.)
The Dictator Pope reviews the entire controversy of the Family Synods and Amoris Laetitia, which we have covered in detail here on this little weblog. Sire tells the heartbreaking story of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Italy, an order of primitive Franciscan observance and pure faith–which Pope Francis apparently destroyed. Sire even brings Archbishop Carlo Viganò into the story–way before Viganò issued his McCarrick testimony–by recounting the failed reform of the finances of the Holy See.
Judge Burke, who tirelessly served the U.S. Bishops during the last sex-abuse scandal in 2002, objected to a directive from the American superior of the Knights and Ladies of Malta. To this effect: Stay out of the current controversy.
Judge Burke resigned over this. She intends to “continue to speak out about the need to investigate the underlying causes and conduct by the hierarchy in our church that permitted these crimes to continue.”
Back to the The Dictator Pope. Sire explains Pope Francis like this: You will never understand him if you think of him as a priest. He cannot be understood as someone who fundamentally sees himself as a humble steward of divine mysteries. Rather, Sire contends, the pope is a “Peronist”–an opportunistic politician, intent on pleasing the audience in front of him at the moment. In other words, a professional sloganeer.
Which brings us to the other book.
Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer, served briefly as Cormac Card. Muphy-O’Connor’s public-relations assistant. (As I mentioned earlier, St. JP II created Murphy-O’Connor a Cardinal alongside Bergoglio and McCarrick, in February 2001.)
Anyway, Ivereigh has written a more substantial book than Sire. Ivereigh recounts fascinating facts of Argentine history. I loved reading this biography, which includes a full history of the Jesuit Reductions (immortalized in the movie The Mission). I loved reading it–until I got bored with the subject. Namely, Jorge Bergoglio.
Don’t think of him as a priest. So insists Henry Sire.
Ivereigh’s book brough back a flood of memories. From my Jesuit days.
I fell in love with the Society of Jesus in 1992, served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, teaching at a Jesuit school for inner-city boys, then entered the novitiate, did the thirty-day silent retreat, lived with Jesuits in Mexico for two months, spent the summer at Forham in the Bronx…
Then, in 1996, I left. Because I wanted to be a priest.
Sounds strange, because Jesuits are priests. But, for those of Bergoglio’s generation, the priesthood only got in the way. The priesthood, as someone put it so well, involves serving primarily as a kind of beast of burden. Say your Mass. Hear confessions. Baptize the babies. Bury the dead. Try to give a good homily–but, above all, keep it short.
There’s nothing theoretical about any of these priestly duties. Forgive me for putting it this way, but it serves the purpose: There’s nothing theoretical about conjugal relations between husband and wife. Such things occur in a given place, at a given time. Same thing for the Catholic priesthood. Show up and do your duty. This aspect of priestly life Jesuits find altogether inconvenient. It gets in the way of the realization of their grand theories of things.
Back to Ivereigh’s hagiography–er, biography. Eventually it becomes impossible to take Ivereigh seriously. He lauds Jorge Bergoglio as the spiritual equal of St. Ignatius Loyola and the oratorical equal of Abraham Lincoln. Ivereigh calls Bergoglio’s speech during the General Congregation of Cardinals prior to the Conclave of 2013 “a second Gettysburg address.” Please.
What made the book grow so boring I had to give up on it? The Argentinian politics which Ivereigh narrates so meticulously ultimately became a battle of sloganeers. On the one side: President Nestor Kirchner. On the other side: the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio.
Ivereigh knows a lot of Argentine history. He does not appear to know a lot of theology. But one theological slogan interests him. Namely, “episcopal collegiality.”
Ivereigh convicts John Paul II of grave sins against episcopal collegiality. According to Ivereigh (and the members of the St. Gallen Mafia), the late sainted pope “centralized” the government of the Church, to a fault. Vatican II had intended to restore authority to the local church. But JP II stood in the way.
Perhaps there’s actually something to this, in areas other than sexual morality. And the Sacred Liturgy.
But “episcopal ollegiality” serves as the “states’ rights” slogan for the pro-gay, pro-divorce Church crowd. In this way:
Dr. Martin Luther King enlightened America about the fallacy of the ‘states rights’ argument (which by then was 140 years old). Dr. King taught America: We will never have quiet consciences as long as racism prevails. Instead, we will try to cover over our consciences with dishonest slogans. The dishonest slogan of Southern American racism is: States’ Rights! But the fact is that no state has a right to make racism legal; it can’t be made legal. Not really, anyway. Because institutionalized racism (not to mention chattel slavery) will always disturb people of conscience.
Same thing goes for homosexuality, divorce, fornication, artificial contraception, etc. Ecclesiastical liberals cry: Collegiality! Authority belongs the local church! Rome needs to loosen the grip of her heavy hand! (So insisted the St. Gallen Mafia. And so insists Pope Francis.)
But these cries against “Roman centralization” ascend to heaven in vain. John Paul II didn’t make artificial contraception and homosexuality immoral. God made it immoral. Local authority cannot contravene laws that bind every human conscience.
Even our current sloganizing, gaslighting pope can’t silence the inner voice of truth that troubles people’s consciences. And Pope Francis’ attempts to do so–especially his false mercy to Theodore Edgar McCarrick–have disturbed my conscience. Mightily.
Well over two months ago, on July 19, a man named James summoned the clarity and courage to accuse then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of long-term, life-destroying psychological and sexual abuse.
If our church did not have mafiosi running the show, what would have happened next? Church authorities would have moved forward immediately with a case against McCarrick. We would quickly have seen the law applied, in the open light of day.
Which law, or laws? The First Commandment, which requires clergymen to keep their vows. The Sixth Commandment, which forbids sex outside of marriage. And the law of nature, which prohibits genital contact between members of the same sex, and gravely forbids sex with immature persons.
Let’s imagine a group of honest people who at some point worked closely with McCarrick. Once that theoretical group of honest people became aware of the gravity of what McCarrick had done, you would think they would begin to clamor relentlessly for an open trial.
Because they would recognize that they need one, to clear themselves from any guilt by association. It’s not fair for people to assume that anyone who worked closely with McCarrick shares in his guilt. But people will assume as much, unfair at it may be.
So the honest people who worked closely with McCarrick would naturally insist on total institution transparency in this matter, with due provision made for the privacy of innocent parties. The honest people would shout for that, even if it meant challenging higher authorities openly.
But where is that clamor? I hear a lot of crickets. So apparently there weren’t any honest people who worked closely with McCarrick. Just fellow mafiosi.
More evidence: No Church official has so much as clearly identified the laws which McCarrick appears to have broken. The application of those laws to this case would require the disclosure of many facts. The mafiosi who run our church have many of those facts in their possession. They don’t want those facts disclosed. So they blow smokescreens.
Little by little over the course of the past two months, other people who have some of those facts have found the courage to make them public. The former priest who, in 2005, settled a case against McCarrick (and two other abusers) spoke recently to a reporter for the second time. The reporter has published a story revealing new information about that settlement.
But many questions obviously remain. Who, among the clergy, or among the lay employees of the various dioceses (and the Vatican) knew about the settlements involving McCarrick? No churchman has clearly answered this question; instead, the dioceses involved continue to stonewall, as the article cited above makes perfectly clear.
There are lawyers who worked for the dioceses, helping them to arrive at the McCarrick settlements. Those lawyers know important information. The dioceses involved could authorize those lawyers to make all the information touching McCarrick public, so that it could become part of the record. For the sake of an open trial, in which McCarrick would face justice for his crimes.
But the dioceses have not done anything like that. The Vatican has not done anything like that. Why? Because ecclesiastical mafiosi run these institutions.
Let’s remember: If we had only the mafiosi who run the church to rely on for information, we would know practically nothing about any of this. McCarrick’s victims have had the courage to go on the record and have spoken to reprorters. Thanks to them, some of the truth has come out. Meanwhile, the mafiosi who run the church would rather we were still dumb sheep living in a cloudy darkness.
Another question: Does McCarrick admit wrongdoing? Again, if our church were not run by mafiosi, we would know the answer to that question. McCarrick would have faced an open indictment by now, and we would know his answer.
But, as it is, all we know on this subject is: McCarrick’s lawyer says that the accused looks forward to his opportunity to contest the charges against him. Which, as we know, is what mob lawyers always say.
Because I have an old friendship with a mid-level mafioso who has spoken recently to McCarrick, I can tell you, dear reader: McCarrick is unrepentant. He admits nothing. On June 20, the pope ordered the then-Cardinal to ‘a life of prayer and penance.’ But McCarrick repents of nothing. So that ‘order’ of the pope’s is a joke. A joke at our expense.
Let’s give the devil his due: Why should McCarrick repent? No one to whom he must answer has so much as confronted him with the charges. No judge has found him guilty of anything. Right now he can reasonably tell himself that he sits on the sidelines only because of an administrative process. He can think to himself: They are wronging me by not giving me the opportunity to prove my innocence. And he would be right.
…I don’t know if last week’s Senate hearings involved a ‘con job,’ as Judge Kavanaugh and President Trump put it. Looked to me more like an open forum in which two people had the opportunity to give their version of events. Maybe it was a divisive political circus. But it has brought us a million times closer to the truth about Dr. Blasey Ford’s charges than we are to a full reckoning of the charges against Theodore McCarrick. The U.S. Senate, politically divided as it may be, makes the hierarchy of the Catholic Church look like…the mafia, by comparison.
So, as I said, the Senate hearing didn’t look like a con job on the American people to me. But the mafiosi running the church are certainly in the process of pulling a con job on us U.S. Catholics. Conning us into forgetting that the task of arriving at justice in the case of Theodore McCarrick belongs to them. They have the information. They have the jurisdiction. They have the duty to apply the applicable laws. No one else does.
James’ charges against McCarrick remain unanswered. Countless facts about McCarrick’s predations remain undisclosed. So far as we know, no one has so much as confronted the man with the full extent of the accusations against him. He has not received even the opportunity to repent. Justice remains undone.