2018-19: McCarrick, McWilliams, and Me

Father Robert McWilliams
Father Robert McWilliams of Cleveland

Can you have a relationship with God without the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, governed by Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, and the bishops in communion with him?

God gives us all existence and life. We exist and live at this moment only because He gives us our share of His pure, infinite existence and life. This establishes a relationship. So, to answer the question above: Yes, you can. But…

What about God revealing something about Himself, like a friend would? Giving us insight into Himself? Showing us His will, His plan–His loving plan? Saving us from our ignorance, and our evil, so that we could find true, everlasting happiness?

God sent His Son, to save us all, to enlighten us all, to give us grace from heaven. Jesus Christ saves and redeems the whole world. He founded His Church, giving us the Holy Eucharist of His Body and Blood, through the priesthood that continues from the Last Supper till now by the laying on of hands.

McCarrick ordinationTheodore McCarrick made us–my classmates, myself, all the couple hundred men he ordained–he made us ministers of the Body and Blood of God Incarnate. Can I have a relationship with God without the Church and the Holy Mass? Me, Mark White, Father Mark White–can I? No, I don’t believe so.

McCarrick’s criminal trial in Massachusetts will unfold in 2022. May it be God’s will, the world will hear for the first time, in open court, the testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims. A man who first appealed to Church authorities for help over 30 years ago. May justice be done, in that Massachusetts courthouse, next year.

We have come a long way since the initial public revelation of McCarrick’s crimes, back in the summer of 2018. Through 2018 and 2019, I experienced intense anger about the situation, and I wrote a great deal about it, with an angry edge.

In the spring of 2020, the bishop here intervened in the life of the parishes of which I was the pastor. By the grace of God, my anger turned into something else then. A clearer vision of why I find myself in the situation I find myself in.

I just learned this morning some details about the crimes of Father Robert McWilliams of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. (One of his victims and the victim’s mother both spoke bravely to a skilled reporter; read the article on the other end of the link only when prepared to deal with a vision of malice that will make you ill to contemplate.)

During the very period of time when I struggled through the throes of my initial anger over the McCarrick cover-up, Father McWilliams was in the process of sexually exploiting and spiritually torturing teens and pre-teens. Children of families that he had first gotten to know while still a seminarian. The families went to the police in October 2019. A judge has now sentenced McWilliams to life in prison.

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

The McCarrick situation has progressed since 2019. Much of what I wrote in 2018 and 2019 no longer reflects the current state of affairs. Also, I believe that a careful, private study, on my part, of those old posts will help me understand the inner workings of my soul better. For that reason, the “Scandal Posts” tab above will provide access only back as far as February, 2020–at least for the time being.

Injustice moves us to anger. The emotion is not inherently evil. Only the foolishly proud, however, indulge themselves in believing that their anger is always just. Or even half the time. The perfectly pure-hearted Lord Jesus righeously drove the money-changers and pigeon-peddlers out of the Temple. But I know that my heart is far from perfectly pure. Calm reflection gets me a lot closer to the truth than righteous indignation does.

The battle, however, is only just beginning. If any of us could calmly say that McCarrick and McWilliams have nothing to do with each other; if any of us could scrutinize both situations and see nothing in common, other than incidental aspects–well, then I would have to bow my head and say, ‘My 2018-2019 anger was perhaps understandable, under the circumstances, but now it’s time to move on. After all, I didn’t know anything at all about McWilliams at the time, so it’s a pure coincidence that I vented some anger appropriate to that case, as it unfolded secretly in the hidden recesses of homeschool-Catholic-family Ohio. That’s just a fluke, that I wrote some jeremiads appropriate to the situation, as it happened.’

That would be what I would have to conclude, if we could all look at our beloved Catholic Church right now and say to ourselves, “Yes, the system is sound. This is a tragic, isolated case, just like McCarrick’s was.”

But can we say that?

Didn’t structural problems in the Church enable both these criminals? Problems that persist: unchecked clerical authority and secrecy, protecting the institution instead of souls, thinking about lawsuits instead of the Final Judgment?

One of the intentions I pray for at the holy altar, with the angels for company, is this: May I be spiritually ready to respond to God’s call, as the scandal involving the prelate who ordained me enters its next phase, in 2022. May I have the courage to examine myself honestly. May we all respond with generous love to God’s gift of being who He made us to be, here and now.

Canonical Process Update

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Fra_Angelico
Sermon on the Mount by Fra Angelico

This fresco has comforted and encouraged me for decades. Then I stepped into one of the small, dark cells in the friary of St. Mark’s last month, and there it was: the original. Painted for the benefit of the one novice who occupied that particular cell.

…Thank you for praying for a successful outcome at our meeting in Richmond on Friday.

I believe that heavenly grace moved us in a good direction. More to come about what happened, in a few days.

Happy October 31st Sunday of the Year today, and happy All Saints Day tomorrow.

My Mass on Tuesday will be for the repose of the souls of all our beloved dead, especially those who died from the long-term affects of sexual abuse by an authority figure.

All Saints Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico fresco, in Fiesole, outside Florence

Update on My Canonical Case

canon law codex canonici

I have received a notice from Bishop Knestout. He intends formally to charge me with two canonical “delicts,” that is, Church crimes. He tells me that he intends to pursue an “extrajudicial penal process.” (Not sure what that means.) He intends to “resolve my situation” by “invoking II Special Faculty.” (Don’t know what that means, either.)

The charges are: 1. disobedience 2. incitement.

According to the canon, disobedience = “not complying with the legitimate precepts or prohibitions of the Apostolic See or the ordinary [ie. bishop].”

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount
St. Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount, Virginia

Precept. I believe that, in November 2019, Bishop Knestout signed a ‘precept’ concerning this blog. On the 21st of that month, the bishop surprised me after daily Mass and read at least part of that precept to me.

The situation that day was far from calm; I did not catch every word of what the bishop was reading to me. I didn’t worry about that, though, because I assumed that I would receive a written copy.

When bishop finished reading, however, he informed me that I would not receive a copy of the document. I was dumbfounded.

I am assuming that the Bishop intends to accuse me of disobeying this particular precept of November 2019, in this “penal process” now begun. I certainly hope that I will have the opportunity to hold the document in my own hands and read it with my own eyes, before I am put on trial for disobeying it. I hope that I will have some time to consider its contents carefully.

None of us are in the dark, though–at least I don’t believe we are–about the basic thrust of this mysterious document. The precept compels me, under pain of losing the office of pastor in Martinsville/Rocky Mount, to remove this blog from circulation entirely and to withdraw completely from publishing anything.

In March of last year (2020), my canon lawyer wrote to Bishop Knestout, pointing out that I needed more information from him in order to understand his problems with this blog and to make adjustments to satisfy him. We never received any response to my lawyer’s letter.

sacredheartcathedralrichmond

Then last summer my lawyer argued that the precept in question appears not to be in harmony with the teaching of the popes, when it comes to priests using the internet to communicate.

My lawyer made this distinction:

On the one hand, we acknowledge the prerogative the bishop has to guide me in what I would publish here. I have, in fact, repeatedly sought such guidance. On the other hand, the bishop’s demand that I cease entirely to communicate over the internet violates my basic freedom as a human being, and it contradicts the law and the teaching of the Church.

This past March, I wrote to Bishop Knestout. I re-iterated my offer to work with him–or with someone delegated by him, or with anyone approved by him–to try to solve the problems that this blog has caused in our relationship. I remain willing, as I have been all along, to correct any errors I have published here. I expressed my desire to serve the diocese in some priestly ministry that might be helpful.

St Peters

Bishop Knestout responded by urging me to seek laicization. Then he informed me that he himself had petitioned the Holy See to expel me from the clergy.

Apparently that petition was returned to Bishop Knestout at some point this summer, without any action taken on it in Rome. Perhaps because I have never been given due process and the opportunity to defend myself. Indeed, I have never been clear on what exactly the bishop believes I have done wrong, other than continuing to keep this weblog in existence.

To return to the charges that have now, at long last, been made a little more clear… The second one is brand new. I don’t have any record of the bishop ever accusing me of incitement, until last week.

According to the canon, the crime of incitement = “publicly stirring up hostilities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary [bishop] on account of some act of ecclesiastical power or ministry, or inciting subjects to disobey.”

I have no awareness whatsoever of ever having done this.

I have freely shared my own point-of-view, on topics that cause a lot of thoughts and emotions. But I believe that I have always left it to you, dear reader, to determine how you react to what I write.

For my part, I bear no ill will towards Pope Francis or Bishop Knestout. To the contrary, I pray for both of them with love every time I celebrate Holy Mass. I have at times been angry with both of them, but that anger cooled long ago.

It seems to me that expressing yourself in a proper forum about highly debatable matters of Church governance ≠ incitement to hatred or disobedience.

I do not think that I myself have wrongly disobeyed; I know for certain that I have never urged anyone to disobey the Church’s law or any particular ordinance of Bishop Knestout.

Two weeks from today my canon lawyer and I will meet with the bishop and Judicial Vicar to initiate this “extrajudicial process.” I pray for humility and honesty. Apparently the bishop will present evidence to support his charges; may I have a mind open to see the whole matter as clearly as possible.

If I have in fact done wrong in the ways that the bishop contends, I pledge myself to do whatever I can to repair the damage.

Today we keep the anniversary of St. Therese of Lisieux’s holy death. On the day of the meeting in Richmond, we will remember Therese’s spiritual mother, St. Theresa of Avila. Let’s pray to these two Doctors of the Church. May a miracle of peace and mutual understanding occur.

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.