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.
On December 5 of last year, Dr. Taylor Marshall interviewed Mr. James Grein. They discussed Theodore McCarrick’s language studies in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in 1948. And they discussed the self-named “St. Gallen Mafia”–a group of European bishops who met sporadically in the same town of St. Gallen during the 1990’s, to discuss their disagreements with Joseph Card. Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II.
Marshall and Grein saw a connection. Between these events occurring in the same town (albeit separated by a lapse of forty-five years). The connection: Communist infiltration of the Roman Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marshall went on to publish Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church From Within. Marshall reflects on his conversation with Grein, writing: “One cannot help but wonder if Sankt Gallen served as an infiltration center for recruiting young men to infiltrate the priesthood.”
I, for one, can help but wonder. Since I try to avoid falling into kooky conspiracy theories, unsupported by any evidence. Serious reviewers have rightly greeted Marshall’s book with alarm. Marshall speculates wildly and proves nothing.
Now, Marshall and Grein are two different men. Grein, we presume, did not speak about any Communist plots when he testified before the Church tribunal considering McCarrick’s crimes. More likely, Grein described acts of sexual abuse which McCarrick did, in fact, commit. As I noted in December, someone can be both a credible victim-witness to the crime of sex abuse and a kook full of conspiracy theories, at the same time. The two are not mutually incompatible.
But: The simultaneous publication last week of Marshall’s largely deranged book, and Pope Francis’ largely deranged interview: It does not reflect well on the integrity of the Vatican court that defrocked McCarrick, and our Church’s justice system in general.
As I mentioned, in his recent interview, the pope called McCarrick’s guilt “obvious.” Does His Holiness base that assertion solely on the testimony of a single witness–a single witness who has demonstrated himself publicly to be an irrational conspiracy theorist?
How could anyone’s guilt be “obvious” under such circumstances? Wouldn’t any competent judge of a criminal case insist, at least, that the accused be granted his right to due process, a full trial, and a chance to answer the charges? Before making a verdict?
Of course, a question has haunted our minds for nearly a year now; the question that brought Archbishop Viganò out of the woodwork: Does the Holy See possess other evidence of McCarrick’s crimes?
Apparently the answer is yes. The large file that Viganò mentioned to His Holiness in June of 2013. Which contains multiple denunciations of sexual abuse and two hefty cash-settlement documents.
…When the new Archbishop of Washington, Wilton Gregory, spoke with his priests last week, he declared that it’s time to “turn the page.” Pope Francis, too, spoke of the McCarrick Affair as something that ended in early February.
But, in fact, the scandal has only grown worse, as the past year has unfolded. The McCarrick Affair has exposed the painful fact: Our Church has no integral criminal-justice system.
In free and honest societies, judges mete out criminal justice in open courts, according to fixed rules. Victims of crime get to testify publicly. Malefactors get punished fairly, according to clear laws. Justice gets done openly, and peace in the community gets restored. The written acts of the case stand as a public record.
On the other hand: dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian regimes conduct unintelligible ‘trials’ behind closed doors. They mete out hidden punishments. They acknowledge no rules of order; rather they operate according to favoritism and short-term political expediency.
What kind of government does the Catholic Church have now? The McCarrick Affair has revealed: We clearly, obviously, and manifestly have the authoritarian, corrupt, and dishonest kind.
“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.
Today, 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.
1. In the preface to Vos Estis Lux Mundi, Pope Francis insists that we cultivate holiness, so that crimes of sexual abuse “never happen again.”
Problem is: this sentiment discourages victims from speaking. Sex abuse not only happens in secret, it involves long-term, merciless brainwashing. The abuser twists reality to make the victim believe: a. there’s nothing wrong going on here at all; it’s actually beautiful love; and b. telling anyone would destroy the beautiful intimacy we have.
A great and marvelous miracle occurs whenever a sex-abuse victim finds the clarity to recognize: I am the victim of a crime that merits imprisonment. I will crawl out from under the cloak of deception that this abuser has thrown over me, and I will speak the truth, holding nothing back, mincing no words. Not sure I can survive the ordeal, but I can’t live in the web of lies anymore.
The last thing anyone in this situation needs is for the authority that can and must do justice against the abuser to insist shrilly that: ‘Such things must never happen!’ Of coure, they shouldn’t happen. All sane people know that. But, in fact, they do happen.
A victim needs someone to listen–someone who is not sorry that the victim is speaking. Angry that it happened, yes. Ready to right the wrong. But realistic enough to know that, in this fallen world, we need clear procedures and penalties to deal with the crime of sexual abuse–because it happens. It happens all the daggone time. We are a fallen race of sinners, we human beings.
2. In his motu proprio, Pope Francis outlaws sexual acts by clerics and religious with a minor, defining a ‘minor’ as under 18. As far as clerics, this law already stood, defined as ‘the delict against the sixth commandment’ with a minor.
At first glance, both phrases seem clear enough–‘delict against the sixth commandment’ and ‘sexual acts.’ Problem is: it’s actually not anywhere near as clear as it first appears.
A spectrum spans from: a social-media message intended to ‘groom’ a victim, on one end, to: actual sexual penetration, on the other. Where on that spectrum does the proscribed delict begin? Flirty talk? Kissing? Fondling? Of course all of these are wrong. But not every wrong thing is a crime.
A billion-dollar industry has grown up in the Catholic Church in the US to try to prevent sexual abuse of minors. Criminal background checks, training, certifications, etc. A whole professional class has emerged in this area.
Everyone must watch out for ‘grooming.’ Sexual abuse almost never occurs without a long period of grooming preceding it. So we rightly strive to prevent grooming.
Problem is: ‘Grooming’ does not fall under criminal law. Because a perfectly innocent social overture–one that might even have real Christian charity for its motivation–can look exactly like an act of grooming. It’s not illegal to send someone a facebook message. And yet a facebook message can lead to a misplaced sense of trust, which can lead to a channel of secret communication, which can lead to sexual abuse.
I do not hold myself out as a canonical or safe-environment expert, by any means. I merely intend to point out that the motu proprio not only did not solve this issue, it didn’t even address it.
3. Pope Francis has outlawed: “forcing someone [anyone–even an adult], through the abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts.” [emphasis added]
I guess we could call this “The McCarrick Law.” Apparently, he clearly abused his authority to get sex. After all, the pope convicted him of breaking this law (even before it was on the books) in a summary administrative procedure, without a full trial.
But: If it was as clear as all that, why wasn’t McCarrick convicted by Pope Benedict, back in 2006? We generally regard Pope Benedict as a sober, upright man. Why didn’t he recognize a case of criminal abuse, if the matter was so crystal-clear?
McCarrick ordained me a transitional deacon 18 years ago today. On that day, I thought of him as an amazingly talented, crushingly self-centered, charming tyrant. He gave the Archdiocese of Washington a huge amount of energy that it had not previously had. He appeared utterly uninterested in anything having to do with theology. He was a flawed man. He was no walking demon.
On May 13, 2001, many churchmen, who we then regarded as at least somewhat reasonable–including Pope John Paul II–knew something about McCarrick’s sexual life. They had not concluded that his actions amounted to crimes.
My point is: I think anyone who has ever served in the military knows: The line between criminal abuse of authority in a sexual relationship, on the one hand, and a consensual affair, on the other: by no means crystal-clear.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do grave evils. Who convinced whom to do them? Did Macbeth abuse his authority over his wife? Or did she seduce him into committing murder–to satisfy her ambition? The answer is: Yes.
Criminal laws on paper accomplish nothing without competent investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges–and principles of application of the laws, based on acquired experience. Pope Francis has given us: the paper. We don’t have the rest.
They include a procedure for accusations against bishops. Those go to the Archbishop. If someone accuses the Archbishop, you go to the neighboring bishop. Then the bishop who receives the accusation forwards it to the pope’s ambassador to the country, the ‘nuncio.’
Sounds simple enough. So simple, in fact, that we could be forgiven for thinking: Wasn’t that already the law?
And it sounds not only simple, but also familiar. It’s what happened in the case of Theodore McCarrick, over twenty years ago. McCarrick sat as an Archbishop. At least two of his suffering sex-abuse victims told neighboring bishops. The bishops told the nuncio.
That’s right. Nothing.
McCarrick became a Cardinal. Bishops arranged secret settlements with his hurting victims. In 2008, after all the bishops in his former dioceses, and all the high-ranking Cardinals and popes in the Vatican, all knew about McCarrick’s abuses, McCarrick not only continued to carry on as if nothing had happened, he actually preached at the Beatification of a saint.
Pope Francis’ new law also establishes that exploiting your authority in the Church in order to get sex counts as a crime, even if the victim is over 18. And the new law establishes that covering-up for such crimes also counts as a crime.
Again, my beloved, I think we could be forgiven for thinking: Wasn’t all that a crime already? Doesn’t every God-fearing person on the face of the earth know that exploiting your clerical authority to get sex offends God, and the victim—offends them so grievously, that you must be punished for it? Wouldn’t any churchman of sound mind know that, without anyone having to spell it out in a papal motu proprio?
Today at Holy Mass we read in the Acts of the Apostles about how evil St. Paul was–before he became good, by God’s gracious mercy. St. Paul never made any secret of the evil he had done. And he never let himself off the hook, simply because he didn’t know any better, when he viciously persecuted the Church. No—he knew perfectly well that he should have known better.
I’m sorry to have to say this, and I’m sorry to have to hammer it out with you, dear reader, ad nauseum—but if I don’t write about it, I will lose my mind.
Pope Francis has done the opposite of accountability. He and his predecessor both broke the very rules he laid out yesterday, in the case of Theodore McCarrick. Now, instead of holding himself accountable, the pope pretends that no one knew the difference between right and wrong before May 9, 2019.
This is the exact same thing that the American bishops (including McCarrick himself, of course) did in 2002. They made rules that any reasonable person would have thought were the rules all along—rules which the bishops themselves had broken for decades. What they didn’t do, and still have never done, is hold themselves accountable for having done great wrong themselves.
They pretended that the rules weren’t the rules when they broke them. Now the pope has done the same thing.
…St. Paul, honest sinner and protector of the Church of Rome, pray for us!
Pope Francis has made a law criminalizing any cover-up for clergymen who abuse their power to get sex. And he made a law requiring every diocese to have a number to call to report these cover-ups. Who do I call in Rome to report Francis and Benedict for covering-up for McCarrick?
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church. Acts 8:3.
Who wrote this–the human author? Did St. Paul want St. Luke to write this?
Well, we can safely presume that St. Luke wrote the whole book of Acts in consultation with St. Paul. After all, St. Luke narrates significant stretches of his account of St. Paul’s work using the pronoun “we.” St. Luke traveled with St. Paul from Asia Minor to Greece, from Greece to Jerusalem four years later, and from the Holy Land to Rome two years after that.
We can rest assured that St. Paul gladly approved of St. Luke reporting for all the world how the younger Saul originally tried to destroy the Church. St. Paul referred to the same fact in his own letters. To the Galatian Christians, Paul wrote: “You have heard of my former way of life, how I persecuted the Church.” To the Corinthian Christians, he wrote: “I am not worthy to be called an apostle, since I persecuted the Church.” To the Philippians: “With zeal I persecuted the Church.”
Now, yes, the younger Saul had acted out of ignorance of the truth of Christianity. But he knew that didn’t exonerate him of the malice he had shown. Paul admitted openly, without fear, that he had sinned grievously. He had received mercy from Christ. Paul responded to that mercy with pure honesty and love.
St. Paul went on to co-found the Holy and Apostolic Church of Rome. Throughout the ages, popes have invoked the authority not just of St. Peter, but of St. Paul as well. Even though Paul had done such great evil. The truth had come out, God had shown mercy, and no one has ever doubted the heavenly authority of St. Paul of Tarsus. His sins do not taint his authority—because he freely admitted everything, holding nothing back.
(And of course we could say all of that about St. Peter, also.)
Would that we found ourselves now in such a situation, when it comes to our pope and bishops! But let’s look at what happened in Washington, D.C., Newark, N.J., and Rome, over the course of the past year.
In all three of these churches, the successors of the apostles had participated in a massive cover-up of sex-abuse crimes by Theodore McCarrick. Last June a little of the truth came out, from another source. Despite the pope and bishops’ multiple-decade effort to keep it all hidden.
Did the cover-uppers come clean then? To the contrary, they tried to put a lid on it. Then a little more of the truth came out. They tried another lid. Then even-more-damning facts came out. Yet another ploy to keep a lid on it. By the beginning of October, all three of the incumbents had promised “full reports.”
But that empty promise was: just another lid they tried to put on the steaming mess.
Where are those accountings, those reports, those acknowledgements? Where are the fearless admissions that can restore trust?
(They are nowhere, my friends. They don’t exist. Last month, the New Yorker magazine published an interview with the original source of the original McCarrick revelation, Ms. Camille Biros. She revealed that there are as many as seven sex-abuse cases against McCarrick pending in the Archdiocese of New York.)
See, here’s our problem. Paul admitted the worst of all the things he had done. The worst part of the truth was out there, freely acknowledged.
But when a guilty party won’t even openly admit the facts that we already know, we can only assume that the reason is: There’s worse. What we know about the McCarrick cover-up is bad. But there’s actually much worse that we don’t know. That’s the only reasonable conclusion.
St. Paul, repentant enemy of the Church and protector of the Holy See of Rome, pray for us!
A quarter century ago, I read Fr. Aidan Nichols’ A Grammar of Consent. It helped me enormously.
From the preface:
Contact with the living past, in all its latent powers of spiritual fruitfulness, is the best cure for intellectual myopia… The ‘pre-Vatican II Church,’ when all is said and done, includes the apostles.
Some say: “You cannot accuse the infallible pope, the Vicar of Christ, of heresy. ‘Heretical pope’ is an oxymoron.” But you can accuse a pope of heresy. Not everything a pope says enjoys divine protection from error. Pope Francis has never invoked the charism of infallibility. He could be a heretic.
Some say: “You can accuse a pope of heresy, but no one can judge the case.” But they can. The bishops of the Church could conceivably convict a pope of heresy. Under certain circumstances–like “one of the worst crises in the Church’s history”–the bishops might have a duty to do so.
Problem here is: Father Nichols and Co. do not offer evidence clear enough to convict Pope Francis of heresy. You can’t find someone guilty of heresy without clear statements that lack any possible orthodox interpretation. You always have to give a priest or teacher the benefit of the doubt. Namely, that they mean what they say in an orthodox sense, if such a sense exists.
Meanwhile, our weird, wily pope has never really taught anything clearly enough to get convicted of either heresy or orthodoxy.
Father Nichols and Co. do, however, make two points which add to the huge body of evidence. Not of the pope’s heresy, but of his dangerous incompetence as a teacher and shepherd of souls.
In chapter eight of his Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes that the Church has prohibited invalidly married people from receiving Holy Communion because She presumes that they are not in a state of grace. And the pope insists that this long-standing presumption has to change (para. 301).
But the prohibition against invalidly married people receiving Holy Communion does not spring from a presumption about anyone’s state of grace. The Church does not judge anyone’s state of grace, even in confession. Because even a person’s own conscience cannot make a certain judgment about that.
I can know that my conscience does not now accuse me of any un-confessed mortal sins. Which leads me to hope that I am in a state of grace. Since I trust in God’s mercy and love, and in His will that I be saved. But I cannot know for sure whether or not I am in a state of grace. So certainly no one else can know for sure whether or not I am in a state of grace. The Church does not make rules about such uncertain things.
It is perfectly possible that some people in invalid marriages actually are in the state of grace, with quiet consciences. Annulment tribunals can and do make mistakes. Regrettable. But no one can presume to judge his or her own case. So without a decree from a competent judge establishing the contrary, everyone must presume that his or her first marriage vows still bind.
Therefore: there will always be people who have to choose between trying to live as brother and sister with a civil-marriage spouse, or making a spiritual communion at Mass, instead of a sacramental one. None of this touches on whether or not the person in question is in a state of grace. The governing principle simply is: The marriage laws of the Church are just, and they must be obeyed. Disobeying them is a sin.
Amoris Laetitia chapter VIII makes a complete mess of this. Why? For an ulterior motive? Does the pope intend to suggest that marriage is temporary? Or that no couple could ever successfully live as brother and sister, for the sake of receiving Communion? Maybe the pope simply does not believe in chastity?
Now, it seems to me that perhaps a priest or a pope could say such a thing, if everyone understood that he did not mean that God willed all other religions in the same way that He wills the true religion, the religion of Christ.
God willed to make human beings inherently religious. Before the preaching of the Gospel, mankind’s inherent religious tendency produced all the pagan religions. And God also appealed to the ancient Israelites’ inherent tendency toward religion in His direct dealings with them, to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Now, what does God’s permissive will mean? It is a venerable theological concept. To understand it, we have to start with this: God wills one thing fully, infinitely: Himself. Everything else, He wills with respect to His absolute willing of Himself.
He positively wills everything good. All good things conform to His own infinite beauty. He also positively wills certain things that are evil from our perspective, but which are fundamentally good. Like punishments for those who deserve them.
But God wills moral evil—the sins of fallen angels and human beings—only permissively. When we do good, God does good in us. But when we do evil by our own choice, God does not do evil in us. He does the good of giving us freedom, and He permits us to do the evil of sinning. He permits it only because a greater good will come of it. A greater good pertaining to His infinite, perfect beauty. Either He will move us to repent, which shows the beauty of His mercy. Or we won’t repent, and He will punish us with His beautiful justice, in hell.
So: For the pope to say that he meant “God’s permissive will” when he signed the document with the imam–ie., that God merely permits the sin of Islam: That totally betrays the whole purpose of the document in the first place. He signed it to build goodwill with Muslims. Then he turns around and explains himself by saying that God wills the diversity of religions in the same way that He “wills” sin.
Hard to make this up. Not a competent shepherd.
Father Nichols and Co. do not prove their case for a heresy conviction. But the pope has shown himself incompetent to govern the Church. That’s the reality we have lived with for some time now.
We march on, loving the Church, loving the papacy, and loving the episcopal office, too. But not lying to ourselves. Not drinking the Kool-Aid about how the current incumbents actually know what they are doing. They do not.
Pope Benedict XVI still lives, and he can still write. He took the trouble to try to explain the sexual abuse crisis, by looking back at his career in the Church. Click to read his essay.
Problem is, His Holiness Emeritus has written things that aren’t really true. He writes, “Only where faith no longer determines the actions of a man are such offenses [sexual abuse of minors] possible.”
But even a cursory examination of the record reveals that faith and sexual abuse can and do often co-exist. Did Theodore McCarrick not believe in God and Christ? I can say with no doubt that he did and likely still does. Many sex abusers have been wracked with bitter remorse and genuine penitence–and have proceeded to offend again.
Pope Benedict suggests that sex abuse spiked after the sexual revolution, which caused moral confusion in the Church. But most people have never been confused at all, regarding the criminality of sexually abusing a minor. In the 50’s, the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, up until now: An overwhelming consensus that sexually abusing minors is a crime. In the ancient world, society tolerated the sexual abuse of minors. But not in the modern West.
For the Pope Emeritus to publish a thoughtful essay on this topic: that could conceivably have helped us enormously. If he had given us the full details of what he knew about McCarrick, and when he knew it–that would really help.
No such luck.
Rather, Benedict XVI has embarrassed himself significantly. He has perpetuated the hierarchy’s standard misidentification of the scandal. The Scandal doesnot = priests sexually abusing minors. The Scandal = bishops and popes neglecting to discipline criminals.
In his essay, the former head of the the Vatican tribunal dealing with sex-abuse cases–and the former supreme legislator of the Church–laments problems with ecclesiastical law. That’s like Bill Gates writing an essay to lament problems with Microsoft Office.
…How about this, gentlemen of the higher clergy:
Take two hundred men, the approximate size of many presbyterates. Between one and four of them will sexually abuse a minor at some point. What do you do then, when you learn of it?
Just put a letter to Archbishop Gregory into the mail…
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.