Spotlight Continues

Spotlight movie

The possibility of his returning to lawful courses and restoring to his fellow citizens their freedom and their rights was no longer open to him: because during the thoughtless days of his youth he had entangled himself in such terrible crimes and committed so many guilty acts that he could only return to sanity at the cost of his own destruction.

The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero’s description of Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse. Or maybe his unwitting prophecy of McCarrick and his confederates.

Where do we stand now? A year after the most painful and confusing August in the history of the Lord Jesus’ Church?

1. In a December report on the dioceses of Illinois, the state attorney general pointed out that the terms “credible allegation” of abuse, or “substantiated allegation” do not have a clear, standard definition in the Catholic Church in the United States.

Even though the disciplinary procedures of the bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People utterly rely on these terms.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore

2. No state outlaws inappropriate attentions that could constitute “grooming” for sexual abuse. Grooming, in and of itself, involves no civil crimes. But grooming certainly involves a profound betrayal of any priest’s–or any adult’s–duty.

Over the course of the past year, no ecclesiastical official has so much as attempted to define what constitutes grooming.

3. Earlier this month a former member of the bishops’ National Review Board published a list of myths about the Catholic sex-abuse crisis. He defended the decade-and-a-half-long record of the large administrative and educational apparatus that the 2002 Charter erected.

Dr. Plante insists that the bishops can reasonably claim: they basically fixed this problem in 2002.

But, doctor: What about the fact that most victims do not find the courage to speak out for many years? Couldn’t many cases of as-yet-unreported abuse since 2002 still come to light, thereby altering your statistics?

Dr. Plante insists: That’s outdated thinking. It used to be difficult for victims to come forward, but now it’s easy.

I think most sex-abuse victims would strenuously disagree.

4. Last August, Carlo Maria Viganò reported that he had informed Pope Francis about McCarrick’s thick Vatican file, which included testimony about McCarrick’s sexual abuses.

Viganò wrote that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick at a meeting they had in June of 2013. That is, well over four years before two lawyers in New York uncovered evidence against McCarrick, more or less by accident–leading to his eventual downfall.

A reporter asked the pope about Viganò’s claim, later that same day, last August. The pope would not answer.

In October, one of the pope’s assistants, in an open letter to Viganò, insisted that Pope Francis could not possibly be expected to remember such a detail. (Namely, that a sitting papal nuncio to the US informed him of a file on a Cardinal, containing information about the sexual abuse of seminarians.) How could His Holiness remember everything he deals with, in the rush of events that a pope confronts every day?

Archbishop Vigano

In May, the pope himself echoed that sentiment, in an interview with a Mexican journalist. He could hardly have remembered what Viganò told him.

In other words, no one ever has denied the truth of what Viganò said about his June 2013 meeting with Pope Francis. He told the pope about McCarrick. Pope Francis did nothing until five years later, when he had no choice but to act. He hadn’t acted previously because he “forgot.”

5. Last September our bishop promised his “full co-operation with any independent, lay-managed, authoritative investigation into the scandal of Theodore McCarrick.” As far as we know, no such investigation has occurred.

I hate to quote myself. But, at that time, when the Catholic airwaves coursed with prelates promising a thorough McCarrick investigation, I predicted:

“Maybe sometime next year we will learn that the pope quietly laicized McCarrick. And that, supposedly, will satisfy justice. When the good faith of thousands of American Catholics has been cruelly mocked.”

I take no pleasure in pointing out: time has proven me right.

Lying, self-interested mafiosi make lots of promises of future disclosures of information. But then they never disclose any. They make endless pledges to study and solve problems. But they never solve them.

mccarrick and wilton gregory

These problems did not emerge for the first time last summer. At the time when McCarrick preyed on his victims–back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s–all these issues of Church governance already sat squarely on the table:

How do you foster an environment in which sex-abuse victims feel free to accuse the criminals? How do you verify accusations of sexual abuse? How can the Church give justice to victims in situations where the civil authority cannot, or will not, act? What rules must we have for priestly life that would prohibit interactions that could lead to sexual abuse?

These questions hardly arose out-of-the-blue last summer. If you want to blow your mind, dear reader, click this link and read the report submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by Thomas Doyle, Ray Mouton, and Michael Peterson. In 1985. 1985.

Among victims’ advocates, that report came to be known at “The Manual.” The report raises dozens of disciplinary, legal, and pastoral questions. Questions that the prelates of the Church must find a way to answer.

Over 34 years later, most of the questions remain unanswered.

A lumbering, multi-generational mafia of incompetent frauds runs the Church. It’s a sad and evident fact, with no short-term hope in sight.

A couple weeks ago, a West-Virginia theologian named Michael Iafrate published an essay in the Washington Post about the crisis of leadership in the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

If you’ve followed my posts about Bransfield and Lori, you know the saga. Bransfield did wrong, and nobody paid attention for over a decade. Then everyone panicked last August. Archbishop Lori of Baltimore “investigated.” Bransfield got “punished.” New bishop installed. Case closed.

Iafrate concludes his essay:

From the start, some West Virginia Catholics including myself were suspicious of the investigation because Lori wouldn’t reveal the investigators’ identities and other basic details of the probe. We felt justified when The Washington Post report came out in early June showing that Lori was among the recipients of Bransfield’s gifts — using funds for which Bransfield was later reimbursed by the diocese. Lori received $10,500 in checks from Bransfield, The Post reported, and then redacted the names of gift recipients, including his own, from the report before it went to Rome.

The archbishop later apologized for the decision, but he told a West Virginia newspaper, “As you can see, it didn’t prevent me from authorizing a no-holds-barred report.” “As you can see” is funny language to use in reference to a report that remains hidden from the public.

Now that Rome has issued its sanctions on Bransfield, church officials want us to trust that the punishment fits the crime and that healing can now begin. But Lori’s tight control of the report and his misrepresentation of its contents still prevent us from knowing the truth about the crimes in the first place.

All of this suggests that the new system of bishops investigating bishops is simply a new face of the church’s textbook protectionism. At some point, the bishops could very well convince us that they are capable of investigating one another, and that justice has been done in West Virginia.

The only way to do that, though, is by atoning for Lori’s sins of omission through real transparency, including the release of the full Bransfield report and a full accounting for what happened in Philadelphia [Bransfield’s hometown, where he stands accused of sexual abuse, a diocesan “exoneration” notwithstanding]. Short of that, welcome to the same old story.

A full accounting for what happened with McCarrick? Looks like we will have to wait for Judgment Day for that. Because the mafiosi can only return to sanity at the cost of their own destruction.

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West-Virginia Audit

Gordon Gekko

With impressive boldness, lay people in West Virginia have banded together and won a promise from Archbishop Lori. Lay Catholic Voices for Change threatened to withhold donations until an independent auditor checked the diocese’s books. Lori promised that such an audit will occur, with a report to be published for everyone to read.

Of course, the Archbishop currently sits on another, more important report. The findings of the investigation into former-bishop Michael Bransfield’s free spending and sexual harassment of seminarians and young priests. Lori has insisted that he will not, cannot publish that one.

And, of course, Archbishop Lori, in his letter making his promise, clearly explains how he never could possibly have done anything about this before now, and how he himself makes an honest living, and lives in a reasonable domicile, and meets with committees even when he’s tired, etc…

…Dear reader, you ask: Why so obsessed with West Virginia, Father Mark? To the point where you lose your temper and fling around bad words?

1. It’s our sister church, united with us by two centuries of intertwined history.

2. It could have been us. Richmond.

Pope John Paul II named one Philadelphian, Francis X. DiLorenzo, bishop of Richmond less than nine months before he named another Philadelphian, Michael Bransfield, bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.

Walter Sullivan had turned 75 years of age, and submitted his resignation, three months before Bernard Schmitt, then the incumbent in West Virginia, did the same. The bishop/sausage-making apparatus churned out two Philadelphians in quick succession for these openings. If Sullivan were a few weeks younger, or Schmitt a few weeks older, it could easily have gone the other way.

PhiladelphiaSkyline
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

After all, neither DiLorenzo nor Bransfield had any particular affinity for either Virginia or West Virginia. Neither of them came with any talents or dispositions particularly suited for ministry in Virginia or West Virginia.

Anyway, during the ensuing thirteen years: West-Virginia Catholics lived through the ever-growing sense that something was rotten in their state of Denmark, so to speak.

Our bishop lives way too high on the hog. Drinks too much. Travels outside the diocese more than he should. Yes, he has some winning qualities. And an awful lot of rich friends, apparently. But I can’t shake the sense that he acts more like Gordon Gekko than like Jesus Christ

So people complained. Up the ecclesiastical chain of command. People who cared about true religion, serving God, the spiritual integrity of His Church, etc.

But, for thirteen years, the Church powers-that-be were like: No, people. Nope. This is normal. Quit complaining.

Metropolitans of Baltimore O’Brien and then Lori; papal nuncios Sambi and Viganò; Popes Benedict and Francis: Quit complaining, West Virginians. Bransfield’s cool. This is normal.

Thirteen years of increasingly painful cognitive dissonance for priests, seminarians, Catholics paying attention. Thirteen years of ever-increasing surreality.

Could have been us, here in Richmond.

(Some might say: Wait a minute, Father! That was us. Our Philadelphian pushed us way into the realm of the surreal, too! …Ok. Fair enough. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Anyway: After thirteen years of Quit your complaining! West-Virginia Catholics now have received some slender vindication. They rightly complained.

But it seems like cold comfort to me. After all, the problem always was: Why is the shepherd of the flock so into himself? Why so preoccupied with himself?

As I mentioned, Archbishop Lori wrote the Catholic people of West Virginia a letter, promising an audit. The letter focuses on one particular person.

–One of of the West-Virginians who took a chance, speaking out  to try and right the ship? No.

–The brave soul who leaked all the information about the bribes to the higher-ups, that forced Lori’s hand to concede to an independent audit? Did Lori find the courage actually to thank the leaker? By no means.

No, Archbishop Lori’s letter to the Catholics of West Virginia focuses on the one person that concerns William Lori. The one person that truly preoccupies him. The same person he has focused on during all his numerous interviews and statements on the subject of the church crisis in West Virginia.

You guessed it: Just like Michael Bransfield’s main preoccupation in life has been, ultimately, Michael Bransfield, William Lori’s perennial concern is, above all, of course, William Lori.

The shepherd writes a letter to a confused and disenchanted people. About himself.

In one way or another, that’s basically what’s been happening for the past year, all up and down the East coast, and other parts of the country, too, for all I know, and in Rome. That’s what drives me to use bad words and conclude that our ecclesiastical situation totally sucks.

We are in the thrall of a mafia that may or may not be riddled with homosexuality, but which certainly lives its entire nervous, inept life in front of the mirror.

Ecclesiastical Discipline in Our Province

Knestout Lori

The discipline of Catholic bishops relies on the oversight of Archbishops, and the pope. If our bishop did something wrong–like, for instance, suspending the ministry of a priest without a commensurate cause–the wronged person must seek justice from the Metropolitan Archbishop of the ecclesiastical province, or from the pope.

Here in Virginia we find ourselves in the ecclesiastical province of Baltimore. If Bishop Knestout does wrong, we appeal to Archbishop William Lori, or to Pope Francis.

We would appeal to them, that is, if we thought we could trust them. I have pretty thoroughly documented for you, dear reader, why no reasonable man can trust Pope Francis to do justice. What about this question: Can a reasonable person trust Archbishop William Lori?

Long-time readers might remember my noting last September that Archbishop Lori made a public statement about another one of his suffragan bishops, Michael Bransfield. Bransfield had just retired as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. Lori referred to “troubling allegations” against Bransfield.

Now, what I found most troubling about Lori’s statement was: We, the general public, had no idea what these ‘troubling allegations’ were.

A decade earlier, Bransfield had been accused–by a convicted pederast–of sexually abusing minors in Philadelphia (Bransfield’s hometown). Bransfield had been exonerated.

And Catholics in West Virginia had gone to their local press with complaints about Bransfield’s apparently profligate spending.

They went to the press in 2006, a year after Bransfield became West Virginia’s shepherd. And they went to the press again in 2013, shortly after Pope Francis became pope–and supposedly set a new standard of simple, poor living for bishops. (Even though the pope actually lives in a $20-million Vatican hotel, paid for by a donor-friend of Donald Wuerl.)

Archbishop William Lori

Anyway, no Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore had so much as acknowledged those earlier complaints about Michael Bransfield. No churchman had ever referred publicly to any ‘troubling allegations.’ Not a word.

So what in the world was William Lori talking about, last September?

Actually, it was not difficult to see through the smokescreen. The long-slumbering hand of ecclesiastical discipline had bestirred itself to imitate action. The McCarrick Affair had exposed to the world the utter paralysis of the prelates of the Catholic hierarchy, when it comes to disciplining each other. So Lori–and Pope Francis–had something to prove.

Of course they had no trouble finding “troubling allegations” against Bransfield. All they had to do was search their own files, where repeated complaints had languished for years. (Probably in the same Vatican drawer as the McCarrick sex-abuse settlements from a dozen years ago.)

Anyway, Archbishop Lori proceeded to announce this past March that a ‘preliminary investigation’ had run its course. Bransfield should no longer minister as a bishop or priest. At least not in Lori’s territory.

That would have been the last anyone ever heard about any of this. Except: Someone on the inside had gotten fed-up with William Lori’s endless self-serving nonsense. Some insider(s) decided to provide the Washington Post with extensive documentation of the case.

Question #2: Why had the complaints against Bransfield gone unaddressed for over a decade? Maybe because Bransfield had greased the palms of his ecclesiastical superiors? (Using diocesan funds.) Including, of course: the palm of William Lori.

Investigators found that Bransfield had given Lori checks totalling $7,500. In February, Lori privately attempted to suppress that information. In June, it leaked.

Lori had known about the allegations against Bransfield for years. Lori attempted to suppress that piece of information. This month, it leaked.

mccarrick…An old, familiar pattern, my dear ones:

During the 80’s and 90’s, aggrieved individuals went to the Metropolitan Archbishop, and to the papal nuncio, seeking justice. They reported the wrongdoing of then-bishop (and later Archbishop) Theodore McCarrick.

Nothing happened.

(Until investigators from outside the hierarchy uncovered something. In the fall of 2017.)

During the 00’s and 10’s, aggrieved individuals went to the Metropolitan Archbishop, and to the papal nuncio, seeking justice. They reported the wrongdoing of bishop Michael Bransfield.

Nothing happened. Bransfield retired. Then, because the McCarrick Affair rattled the cage: An investigation!

Which led to: Lori getting caught covering up his role in the earlier cover-up.

…The mafia of self-righteous tinpot dictators that reign over our Church do not realize how corrupt they are. They always have some cockamamie rationale to try to paint themselves as angelic. William Lori styles himself a thoroughgoing Boy Scout. But I would rather seek justice from Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall.

We live in a windswept wilderness when it comes to ecclesiastical discipline, my dear ones. We might as well face that fact. We will need another Council of Trent, and an ensuing century of saintly self-sacrifice, to recover from the reign of these prissy, dishonest a-holes. But God will provide.

James Grein and Steven Cook

[this post rated PG-13]

First, watch the movie A Civil Action. (One of the best ever.) John Travolta portrays an ambulance-chasing lawyer with a Porsche, who becomes an impoverished, contrite, compassionate human being–through his interactions with the victims of a New-England environmental disaster.

Robert Duvall portrays Travolta’s legal adversary. Duvall to Travolta: “If you’re looking for the truth, look for it where it is. At the bottom of a bottomless pit.”

Second, recall that your humble servant nominated myself Mr. James Grein’s official amanuensis last August. Mr. Grein’s testimony apparently led to Theodore McCarrick’s defrocking by Pope Francis.

We have to say ‘apparently,’ since the ecclesiastical justice system remains 99.9% opaque, despite the endless church-mafia propaganda about ‘transparency.’ What we know: James spoke to reporters after he gave secret testimony under oath in December, and told us what he said. Shortly thereafter, the Vatican punished McCarrick.

Third, consider: Mr. James Grein has now accused the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of groping him.

Now, Cardinal Bernardin died almost 23 years ago. But James’ accusation against Bernardin nonetheless reverberates with enormous significance.

Bernardin, then the sitting Archbishop of Chicago, endured protracted public scrutiny in the mid-90’s. Because of another accusation against him, leveled by Mr. Steven Cook. As Jason Berry and Gerald Renner meticulously outline in their 2004 book Vows of Silence, Cook’s eventual retraction of his accusation—and the press’ conclusion that Bernardin was innocent—played a huge role in the public’s understanding of the Catholic sex-abuse problem.

At that time, the sex-abuse victims of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionnaires of Christ, sought a hearing from anyone who would listen–in Mexico, the USA, or Europe. But public sympathy for Bernardin crescendoed after Cook withdrew his accusation. For most journalists, the story became: Sketchy, unreliable money-grubbers go after innocent churchmen, who handle it all like Christian gentlemen. No one wanted to believe Maciel’s victims. It took another decade for justice to be done for them.

Bernardin Time magazine

Now, I don’t know enough about the late Cardinal Bernardin to write any more about him, at least right now. But I would like to point out the following spider-web of a situation.

Either James Grein’s assertion that Bernardin groped him is true, or it isn’t.

If it is true, then Bernardin was a second McCarrick—or worse. And the necessary correction regarding how Bernardin is remembered: it will critically wound the faith of even more people. Bernardin ordained more priests than McCarrick, confirmed more young people, played a far-more significant role in leading the bishops’ conference. McCarrick never appeared on the cover of Time magazine, or Newsweek; Bernardin graced the cover of both.

Bernardin Newsweek.jpg

On the other hand, maybe James’ assertion about Bernardin is not true.

Last summer, your humble servant offered you a link to themediareport.com website, where Mr. David Pierre raised some real questions about the reliability of James Grein’s testimony. Since then, James has shown us that he has some kooky theories about communist infiltration of the Catholic Church.

As I have repeatedly noted, you can be a sex-abuse victim telling the truth and a kooky conspiracy theorist—they’re not mutually incompatible. But Mr. Pierre has written again about James, mounting a case against his believability. Pierre argues that James must be working with a dishonest “recovered-memory” therapist. I don’t find that argument very convincing; it’s pure speculation on Pierre’s part. But, by the same token, the militant “journalists” who have publicly interviewed James have never pressed him with any tough questions, and his accusations have unfailingly served their ideological agendas.

pope francis head rubSo: our pope may very well have convicted McCarrick on false testimony. Which would mean that: McCarrick Monster isn’t exactly real. Just a convenient scapegoat among the many, many episcopal mafiosi–who pretty much all suck equally, in reality.

Pope Francis said in the interview he gave a month ago that McCarrick’s guilt was “obvious;” no need for a full trial. But if McCarrick’s guilt is so “obvious,” then is Bernardin’s guilt obvious, also? The same man now has accused them both.

And if Bernardin’s guilt is “obvious” then shouldn’t the Cancer Center at Loyola University Chicago be re-named? (Currently named for Bernardin.) And the awards named after him–given by the USCCB and the Catholic Common Ground initiative? Won’t the Chicago and Cincinnati diocesan archives have to be thoroughly examined by outside investigators? Not to mention the archives of the Bishops’ Conference itself, and the papal nunciature?

All of these offices co-operated in Bernardin’s vindication back in 1995. If that much-celebrated “vindication” was itself dishonest, just like the 2002 American Church “reform,” led by McCarrick, was dishonest, well: another wing of the American Catholic Church burns to the ground.

The right thing to do is: Pray. Come, Lord Jesus! This world is old enough. Give us all the grace to repent of our sins, and come. Judge everything, with your infinite Light. Sort all this out. We will gladly be done with the nonsense of this world.

The second right thing to do is: While we still await His coming, never give up on getting to the bottom of the bottomless pit called the truth.

[PS. Click HERE for a compendium of all my posts on the Great Scandal of 2018-2019]

A Dishonest Archbishop of our Very Own

We touched briefly on the Bransfield affair last September. The bishop of Wheeling-Charleston WV turned 75, had his resignation swiftly accepted by Pope Francis, then found himself the subject of an investigation led by the Archbishop of our province, William Lori of Baltimore.

Turns out that Bishop Bransfield spent freely, drank heavily, and groped while in his cups.

How do we know this?

Your humble servant, as well as anyone else who spent any amount of time in the sacristy of the National Shrine during Msgr. Bransfield’s nineteen-year tenure there as rector, could have told you: that’s what the man is like.

Another person who could have told you that, at any point during the 1990’s: William Lori.

I daresay that everyone involved in putting Michael Bransfield’s name on the list of candidates for an episcopal see with a $200 million+ endowment (thanks to a nineteenth century heiress)–everyone knew perfectly well what their old friend Monsignor Bransfield was like.

Yesterday, Archbishop Lori, wrote to the people of our sister diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. His letter highlights some of the grievous shortcomings of Michael Bransfield’s free-spending, free-drinking “normal.”

Now, what moved Archbishop Lori to write to the Catholic people of West Virginia yesterday?

If you answered, Zeal for their souls! you missed an important simultaneous event. Someone on the team that had investigated Bransfield sent two copies of their secret report (completed in March, and heretofore unremarked-upon by Archbishop Lori) to a reporter for the Washington Post.

Someone on that investigative team had run out of patience with the feckless dithering of Archbishop Lori.

One copy of the report that the reporter got included a list. A list of prelates who had received large cash gifts from Bransfield over the years. The other copy did not include that list.

The first copy was the original report. The second was the modified version which Lori sent to the Vatican.

Lori’s name was on the list.

We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men, headpiece filled with straw. Alas.

… We poor Catholic peons find ourselves passengers on the ecclesiastical-history version of United flight 93, my dear ones. Hold on and pray.

The Constitution

Chris the priest

Today at Holy Mass, we read the conclusion of Christ’s “priestly” prayer. He ministers as High Priest of all creation, offering Himself, the Eternal Word, in union with His human flesh and blood.

All Christians share in Christ’s priesthood. We all find communion with God, and with each other, by offering ourselves to the heavenly Father along with the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

We base our entire lives on this offering of ourselves with Christ. It gives our lives their true meaning. Our participation in Holy Mass situates us in the universe properly. It makes prayer possible. One Christ, Head and members, glorifying the Father with the eternal and infinite sacrifice of love that Christ revealed on the cross.

Now, for this offering to occur, Christ instituted the sacred priesthood of the altar. He chose from among His disciples those who would minister at the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who would stand in His place, to bring about the union of the Head and the members of the Body of Christ. The sacred priestly ministry of the altar.

priestMy dear Protestant mother and I have been locked in argument lately about this. The sacred priesthood, conferred by the laying on of hands through succession in office, going back to the Apostles. The indelible sacramental mark that makes a man a priest.

We Catholics rightly recognize that in the upper ranks of the hierarchy, a false sense of superiority has produced a class of arrogant and detached men, men who seem incapable of governing the Church honestly and effectively.

So a lot of people rightly question the whole idea of a sacred priesthood. The whole idea that Jesus Himself chose from among His whole flock a “clergy,” a group of men who stand apart, consecrated shepherds, with a unique authority. Why not just have a ‘democratic’ Church?

Now, the building is on fire, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that the basic idea of the foundation is wrong, or even really changeable. The Son of God did, in fact, start the sacred priesthood of the New Covenant at the Last Supper. He did so in order to make it possible for all of us Christians to exercise our baptismal priesthood as members of His Body. And He made the celebrant at Mass the shepherd.

Certainly there’s a better way to do this, better than the dispiriting mess we’re living through now. But we could search high and low, combing the Scriptures and the countless tomes of learned theology, and we will never a find another, better “constitution” of the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us our “Constitution” when He walked the earth, when He celebrated the first Mass, when He breathed the Holy Spirit upon the original Apostles.

Our task is to serve Him, to obey Him, to trust Him. To offer ourselves to the Father, in union with Him.

Guest Post: Praying for a Catholic Separation of Powers (by a non-Catholic)

Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals possess unchecked power. This means that they can do whatever they please.

momThus, W. Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield gave hundreds of thousands of diocesan dollars in gifts to cardinals and to young priests he was accused of sexually abusing. He spent millions of diocesan dollars on travel, millions on renovating his church residence, and $1000 a month on alcohol. This man, this supposed church leader, was head of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for fifteen years and Bishop of West Virginia for thirteen years — a church leader for twenty-eight years — and no one did anything to stop him until last year.

Don’t tell me he’s “just one bad apple.” The entire orchard of the Catholic hierarchy is rotten: bishops who ruin the careers of priests who serve under them without offering a single reason for doing so; bishops who punish other clergy without trial, without showing that wrongdoing exists; bishops who hold secret trials, reporting neither the evidence nor the results; bishops who hear a young seminarian say about his priest, “He ran his hands over my genitals,” then send the priest for counseling and then back into a parish, either keeping no record or hiding the record in a broom closet.

Roman Catholics: if you’ve been paying attention, if you’ve been reading, and if you do not pretend to yourself that the church is okay, you know these things. Someone has to have the power to say yes or no to all-powerful bishops. Don’t tell me it’s the pope. Obviously he’s done nothing about the problem.

A Catholic historian has shown that in medieval and early-modern times, local aristocrats and monarchs restrained bishops for their own purposes. No longer. Today’s presidents and dictators don’t give a fig about Roman Catholic bishops.

Today the church needs a “separate power” to check the bishops’ power. For the U.S. church, I propose a Senate of Priests, a group of priests elected by all U.S. priests for a specified term, to meet regularly to review and correct the work of U.S. bishops. Individually, in the church hierarchy, priests are subject to bishops. With this separation of powers, bishops are subject to priests when priests act collectively as the Senate of Priests.

Is such a separation of powers un-Catholic? No doubt. Does it seem like pie in the sky? No doubt. Is it necessary for the church? Yes, without the slightest doubt in the world. The church needs it desperately.

Ann White (Father Mark’s dear mother)

The College of Lying Cowards

Gregory installation

“I have called you friends,” says the Lord. (John 15:15)

Sixteen years ago today, I had an explanation in my mind for the state of the Church in America. Over the course of last summer, 2018 quickly became the worst year in the history of American Catholicism. But before that, 2002—the year before my ordination—held the title.

We had learned just how many millions upon millions upon millions of dollars the Catholic bishops of the USA had paid out in hush-money, to cover up crimes.

As I knelt to be ordained, I thought I had a plausible explanation for this. A Romanian-priest friend of mine had pointed out to me: In Romania, people would never hold the diocese responsible for the crime of a single priest. They would hold the priest himself responsible.

In America, my thinking went, dioceses had to contend with the deep anti-Catholic prejudice of our country. The typical American conceives of the Catholic Church as a suspicious foreign enterprise. So American courts treat the Church unfairly. The bishops really had no choice but to pay big settlements.

After all, we all knew too well how much anti-Catholicism this country harbors. During 2002, the lampoonists of press and screen had open season on Catholic priests. Everyone refrained from any caricature of Muslim leaders, for fear of a cruel backlash after 9/11. But you could mock Catholic priests en masse, as twisted sexual perverts, with total impunity. Just like you can now.

McCarrick ordinationToday, however—sixteen years later—I know different. We all know that anti-Catholicism does not explain the endless settlements paid by dioceses in sex-abuse cases.

The revelations of the past year have taught us: the bishops did not make all those payments to protect the victims, or the Church—or because prejudice stacked the legal deck against them. The bishops paid the hush-money to protect themselves. They had everything to lose, if the truth about their dereliction of duty came out. The bishops paid to “protect” people from scandal—not scandal about the sins of priests, but scandal over their own incompetence as enforcers of ecclesiastical law.

One bridge spans the sixteen years I have been a priest: the cover-up of the crimes of the very man who ordained me. His successor in office, Donald Wuerl, knew fifteen years ago that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and young priests. This past Tuesday, Wilton Gregory, the newly arrived successor in Washington, praised Donald Wuerl as “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

But let’s imagine a true Christian gentleman, reading the sworn testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims, in the fall of 2004. Wouldn’t a true Christian gentleman, in Donald Wuerl’s place, think to himself: I need to see justice done here. I have a duty to this poor soul. May God help me to do right by him.

Instead, Wuerl obsequiously sent the whole thing to Rome and washed his hands of it. In the Vatican, they masterminded the McCarrick cover-up. And Wuerl has hidden behind the supposed virtue of filial obedience to the pope ever since.

Lord Jesus calls us His friends. Friends don’t let friends betray what they supposedly stand for. Friends don’t let friends cover up crimes of sexual abuse—even if one of those friends is a Cardinal, or even the pope.

On Tuesday, Donald Wuerl strode in last, at the end of the procession, when his successor was to be installed. The end of the procession is, of course, the place of honor. Fitting that Cardinal Wuerl took that place. He presides, with unique distinction, over the College of Lying Cowards that sat there in their miters in the Shrine on Tuesday.

…Sixteen years in, and this is the priest you have, my dear ones! Let’s keep loving God and His Christ together, one day at a time. Jesus reigns. The One to Whom we must answer, when everything is said and done, is He.

Chrism Mass on the Titanic

Titanic

Here is My servant, upon Whom I have put my Spirit. (Isaiah 42:1)

Mary of Bethany anointed Him. He pointed out: It’s for My burial.

“Christ” means… same as “Messiah”… Anointed. Almighty God put His Spirit on this man. Mary of Bethany anointed Him at the beginning of Holy Week, for burial. But the triune God anointed the Christ at the moment of His conception in His mother Mary’s womb. Jesus always was, and always will be, The Christ.

All Christians revere Holy Week and keep it sacred. But of course it is especially sacred for us priests. The Lord drew us intimately into His work of salvation by choosing all of us, as He sat at table with His Apostles. And gave the world the Holy Mass.

All Christians receive the anointing of the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. But we priests have also received an anointing on our hands. We have to use our minds and our voices to do our work, to be sure. But also: the hands. To hold the Host and Chalice.

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the ChristIn our Liturgy, the symbol of the heavenly anointing is an oil called… Sacred Chrism. Every Holy Week, we priests concelebrate Mass with our bishop to consecrate new Chrism for the year to come.

Baptized babies will receive anointing with the Chrism on the crowns of their heads. Christians ready to spread the reign of Christ will receive anointing with the Chrism on their foreheads. And the priests to be ordained in June will receive anointing with it on their hands.

Now, one hundred seven years ago today, the Titanic sank. Last year, Holy Mother Church struck an iceberg. And by all worldly estimations, She’s going down.

I never thought I would walk into the cathedral for a Chrism Mass, with the reasonable man in the back of my head thinking: Dude, you’re like one of those violinists on the deck of the Titanic.

But here I go, up the road to Richmond, knowing full well what all reasonable observers know, during Holy Week 2019: Holy Mother Church is sinking. And the men on the bridge have no idea how to save the ship.

But we have more than worldly estimations to consider in this Church. We have Jesus, the Christ.

The McCarrick Report

Just put a letter to Archbishop Gregory into the mail…

St Matthews Cathedral

Your Excellency,

In 2001, when Theodore McCarrick took possession of the Archdiocese of Washington, he did so as a criminal fleeing justice. He had sexually abused seminarians and at least one minor.

By late 2004, Donald Wuerl and Joseph Ratzinger, among others, knew beyond any reasonable doubt that the sitting Archbishop of Washington was a criminal. No written law explicitly condemned what they knew McCarrick had done to some of his seminarians. But every honest churchman would have recognized the criminal acts. As Pope John Paul II so famously put it, in 2002: “There is no place in the priesthood for those who would harm the young.”

The Apostolic See had a clear duty: put McCarrick on trial. Didn’t happen.

By this time of year in 2006, McCarrick had turned seventy-five, Ratzinger had become Pope Benedict, and the nuncio called Donald Wuerl. Everyone involved entered into a dishonest pact.

Just a few years earlier, Wuerl had participated in the common promise of the American bishops never again to cover-up clerical sexual abuse. Pope Benedict had been a party to that promise as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But in the case of Theodore McCarrick, they broke their recent promise. Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, and Donald Wuerl proceeded to cover-up the crimes of Theodore McCarrick for the ensuing twelve years. They ended the cover-up only when forced to do so, by circumstances beyond their control.

If Donald Wuerl were an honest man, he would have told Pope Benedict back in the spring of 2006: I will not accept the Archdiocese of Washington as my pastoral charge until we make good on our promise and deliver public justice against McCarrick. Had that happened, Wuerl could have entered St. Matthew’s cathedral without dishonesty. As it was, he sat on the throne in Washington with a lie under the cushion for twelve years, complicit in that lie with two popes.

Sir: Do not enter St. Matthew’s with this same lie burdening you. Insist that the pope acknowledge these known facts. Recognize that the Apostolic See has grievously wronged the faithful of Washington. From at least 2004 until 2018, Rome failed to exercise due vigilance over Theodore McCarrick. Pope Francis must openly acknowledge this, and Donald Wuerl must openly acknowledge his complicity in it. Neither of these men deserve anyone’s trust until they publicly acknowledge these known facts.

Until these admissions take place, do not enter St. Matthew’s in the company of Donald Wuerl, and do not accept the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis. I know you didn’t ask for my advice. But I advise you as a brother, anyway.

Christ always offers us a fresh start. But we have to live in the truth. The truth: McCarrick entered St. Matthew’s a dishonest criminal. Donald Wuerl entered a liar. Two popes lived in this lie for years.

Don’t walk in as another liar.

 

Yours in Christ, Father Mark White