The Fantasy of the February Vatican Meeting

Vatican synod hall empty

Sometimes people call me a pessimist. How about: Realist.

Our beloved bishops met in Baltimore. Card. DiNardo concluded things by saying:

I am sure that the conversation the global Church will have in February will help us eradicate the evil of sexual abuse from our Church.

Three problems here.

1. The speaker of these words

Last week the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called upon Card. DiNardo to resign as President of the US conference of Catholic bishops. As you remember, dear reader, the police arrested one of Card. DiNardo’s episcopal vicars in Houston on sex-abuse charges. The police proceeded to raid two parish offices, and the office of the local Catholic mental-health treatment center.

DiNardo had known about the abuse for the past eight years. He had promised one of the victims that the abusing priest would never again have the opportunity to interact with children. But the priest continued in parish ministry until his arrest in September.

2. The meeting in February

In three months and six days, the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences will meeting in Rome. For the first time. Ever.

No customs exist to guide the proceedings. Will every president have ten minutes to speak? If so, that will occupy nineteen hours. That fills two and a-half of the four days scheduled for the meeting. One assumes that the pope and some Vatican officials will also speak.

Doesn’t leave much time for anything else. Like discussion. Or voting on anything.

No public documents governing the February meeting exist. The only written reference to the meeting is a September 12 “Communiqué of the Council of Cardinals.” (The “Council of Cardinals” is itself a body without a history or any clear authority.)

Have the presidents of the bishops conferences received official invitations to the meeting from Pope Francis himself? If so, what do those invitations say?

(To be honest with you, dear reader, I think it is likely that, at this moment, some bishops’ conference presidents do not know anything about this meeting yet. Some presidents certainly will not appear, owing to ill health; some may not appear because they never heard anything about it.)

The Catholic world has Roman-rite and non-Roman-rite bishops’ conferences. The Roman-rite conferences fall into twelve regions. I believe there are 114 Roman-rite conferences. Plus a handful of non-Roman conferences.

A meeting of bishops’ conference presidents cannot claim proportional representation; it will make our US Senate look proportional by comparison. Huge conferences–like our own, or India’s, or Brazil’s–have one president. So do small conferences, like New Zealand, Liberia, or Latvia.

The presidents of bishops’ conferences do not all speak Italian. I would daresay that only a tiny minority of them do.

Last month the Vatican hosted a Synod of Bishops. Some Synod fathers complained about having to vote on a final document that they could not understand, since it had been written in Italian and no translations had been made. As of today, the Vatican website still has only the Italian version of the final Synod document; no translations.

What text will serve as a point-of-departure for the meeting?

In August our Holy Father published a “Letter to the People of God,” reacting to the Pennsylvania grand-jury report.

The pope insisted that all Christians must live in solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse. He invited us all to fast and do penance. He condemned “clericalism.” He called sexual abuse an “atrocity.”

Will this letter serve as the point-of-departure for the February meeting?

If so, I foresee some problems. Imprecisely lumping sexual abuse in with ‘atrocities’–acts of cruelty usually associated with war–does not help. ‘Clericalism’ is a problem in search of a definition.

But if the Holy Father’s letter will not serve as the point-of-departure for discussion, what will? Will the Holy See publish anything between now and then? If so, when?

My point here: I think we fall into naivete of the most blameworthy kind if we imagine that one four-day meeting of the world’s bishops’ conference presidents will result in anything specific or concrete. Best case scenario for the February meeting: Universal agreement that sexual abuse is bad.

3. Card. DiNardo promised the impossible: “The eradication of sexual abuse from our Church.”

I think we can rest assured: If human efforts could eradicate sexual abuse from the Church, St. Peter himself would have done it. But in this real, fallen world of ours, we have to contend with unpleasant things like people sexually abusing minors.

The problem we have in the Catholic Church is: No one running the operation has any idea what to do when sexual abuse occurs. That has been The Scandal. Still is.

And the fantasy that the February Vatican meeting will address the scandal is itself quite scandalous.

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Lateran V

Giles of Viterbo
Giles of Viterbo

Ever seen the Sistine Chapel? Michelangelo painted the ceiling, and the wall behind the altar. Do the paintings communicate a message? A grim one? A hopeful one?

The ceiling gives us our past. The creation, the prophets. And behind the altar: What we will ultimately face. Judgment by Jesus. Not grim; not dark. Luminous and splendid.

Michelangelo had a “theological consultant.” Martin Luther’s ecclesiastical superior, the head of the Augustinian order. Giles of Viterbo.

Michelangelo painted. Meanwhile, on the other side of Rome, an ecumenical Council began in the Lateran Basilica.

A group of Cardinals had met a few years before, and had “suspended” Pope Julius II. Like the principal suspending a delinquent student. Though, in this case, the Cardinals had no authority to “suspend” the pope.

But they did have reason. At his election to the See of Peter, Julius had sworn, under oath, to convene an ecumenical Council to address the degradation of the Church. And Julius took his time doing it. He preferred to fight wars. Literally. He practically abandoned the sacred functions of his office and fought in the battlefield instead.

Pope Julius finally fulfilled his promise, in 1512. And Giles of Viterbo gave the Council’s opening address.

The sacred things of our religion: it is not for us to change them, the preacher declared. We must let them change us.

Giles warned the assembled bishops and the pope that Christianity stood on the brink of utter collapse, because the Church had all but lost Her connection with the sources of Her life. The sacred traditions coming from Christ. The life of prayer. The struggle against vice, especially against worldliness, avarice, and sexual impurity.

Giles did not spare the pope. Julius had focused on the wrong battles, Giles declared, expending himself on futile military enterprises. The real battle had to be fought in prayer.

But Giles hoped for a better day. With the pope and bishops meeting together in Council, they could focus on the Christian religion as they had received it–in the sacred texts and traditions. They could survive and thrive by uniting in the unchanging essentials.

…A lot of the drama sounds eerily familiar. Let’s have the same hope. It is not for anyone to change the sacred realities of our religion. It is for them to change us.

Forty Years Ago Today

Pope John Paul II: His Remarkable Journey

Pope St. John Paul II began his ministry as the pope. Over the course of the ensuing quarter century, many of us came to revere John Paul II as a hero and a spiritual father.

During the 1980’s, when I was in high-school, some of us held on to the pope for dear life. It seemed like he alone, on the whole face of the earth, offered a brave witness to sexual sanity, to chastity–while everyone else was awash in condoms and broken marriages.

Many of us spent the 90’s reading John Paul II’s writings. He consumed himself with teaching the faith inherited from the Apostles. He traveled the world and used the power of his reverberating voice and magnetic charm to evangelize.

Technocrats and feminists hated his intransigence on artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, and the men-only ministerial priesthood. Political and aesthetic conservatives hated his rejection of the capitalist profit motive and his embrace of Vatican II.

But in the middle, we vast multitudes of spiritual children listened eagerly to the man we loved as a trustworthy father. A lot of us wept more bitterly on the day that he died than we had since we were babies. Mainly because we knew we wouldn’t hear the sound of his voice on earth again.

Looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, we can wish that JP II had applied himself more to the reform of the Roman Curia. We can wish that he had understood the sex-abuse crisis better–understood it more as a practical matter, rather than as a purely spiritual one.

st john paul ii

And we can recognize: The way Popes Paul VI and John Paul II defined the Roman papacy after Vatican II left a huge gap in authority. That gap has now brought the Church to the point of paralysis.

Bishops need a disciplinarian, too—just like priests, seminarians, doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, bricklayers, school children–everybody needs a disciplinarian. But the world’s Catholic bishops don’t have one. The whole post-Vatican II system of Church governance assumes that bishops will do right. But, as we now know all too well, often they do not.

So St. John Paul II had human faults, blind spots—which we did not want to see, as we listened to him heroically urge us on to holiness.

But let’s go back to October 22, 1978, to what he said in his homily that day. His words resonate today with even more force than they had then.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself…

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk….

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ… Christ knows ‘that which is in man.’ He alone knows it.

…Man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart… He is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

One Consistory, Three Cardinals, a “Gaslighter,” and Two Books About Pope Francis

The Christian mystery must be taken literally, with the greatest possible realism, because it has a value for every time and place. –Pope St. John Paul II, Divini Amoris Scientia

Consistory February 2001 McCarrick Bergoglio
Consistory for the Chair of Peter, 2001

Your humble servant had the privilege of attending the Roman Consistory of February 21, 2001. Pope John Paul II created Jorge Bergoglio, Theodore McCarrick, and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor Cardinals, along with 43 other prelates and theologians, including the well-known Walter Kasper.

During the ceremony, candidates for Cardinal solemnly profess their faith before the pope. They use the same formula that I had just used myself a few weeks before, in the seminary rector’s office, since I was to be ordained in a matter of months.

The solemn Profession of Faith taken by Cardinals (and potential deacons and priests) goes like this:

“I, [name], firmly believe… 1. The Nicene Creed 2. “Everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in tradition, which the Church sets forth for belief.”

So, we in the Square heard, on February 21, 2001:

I, Theodore, firmly believe…everything contained in the Word of God.

Also: I, Jorge… I, Cormac… I, Walter…

I did not, on that day, credit the rumors then circulating that McCarrick had a past as a homosexual predator of seminarians. I thought his conservative enemies spread those rumors. That’s the explanation for the rumors that McCarrick himself gave us.

But: I did doubt the man’s full sincerity in saying that he firmly believed everything contained in the Word of God. I doubted Walter Kasper’s sincerity there, too.

I doubted Kasper based on the evidence of his own theological opinions. I had read his book Jesus the Christ. He there suggests that the Lord Jesus did not know everything.

An intricate theological dispute could emerge here, but I will save that for another day. Suffice it to say I had some reason in doubting Kasper’s complete honesty in his Solemn Profession of Faith on February 21, 2001.

Dictator Pope Henry Sire

I based my doubts about McCarrick’s sincerity on something else: his institutional connection with priests who, at that time, were tormenting me mercilessly. At that point in my little life, I was locked in the middle of a controversy which resulted in my expulsion from the seminary.

In those days, I don’t think any reasonable observer of the situation at the Catholic University of America could have failed to recognize:

On the one hand, The Catechism of the Catholic Church invokes the historical authority of Sacred Scripture in one way. For instance: The Catechism assumes the accuracy of the four gospels regarding historical details. And assumes that an ancient flood did, in fact, occur. And that Abraham was a real person. Etc.

On the other hand, the professors at CUA taught something else. Like: we need exegetical theories about the underlying sources of the books of the Bible–in order to separate fact from myth.

This unacknowledged discrepancy caught us seminarians in a vise. And it seemed to me that our entire future as preachers hung in the balance. If we could not assume that everything we read out loud at Mass from the Word of God is simply true, then what kind of homilies could we give?

Of course this doesn’t mean that historical study isn’t necessary. Human beings did, in fact, write the Bible. God intends to convey the meaning that the human authors intended to convey. But no one comes to church to listen to the priest explain to them the ways in which the Bible isn’t true.

I don’t mean to make myself a martyr, dear reader. But the fact is: ten months after JP II created McCarrick a Cardinal, I got kicked out of the seminary. For refusing to say that the Flood didn’t happen.

For the next eighteen months, the Archbishop was happy to let me dangle, living in rectory attics, hoping I would walk away. Even though I had already promised God I would serve Him for life as a deacon, and then a priest.

Eventually, McCarrick ordained me. For that I am grateful. But the truth is he had no choice–since he had already ordained me a deacon, and I had committed no crime. And the pastors I lived and worked with begged him to ordain me.

The fact is, as far as I could tell, McCarrick did not care at all about the facts surrounding my expulsion from the seminary. He never ‘spoke one word’ to me about it. As far as I know, he never asked the seminary rector, “Did Mark break one or more of your rules?” The Archbishop knew perfectly well that I had not broken any rules. I just refused to accept the idea that preaching could find a foundation in the historical-critical method.

It began to dawn on me, even then, dear reader: These mafiosi who run this institution do not care about facts. They operate only on the level of slogans. They please ‘the masses’ with saccharine abstractions, calculated to avoid all controversy. Since we sheep have a religious obligation to give these men the benefit of the doubt, we accept their empty sloganeering; we even give it a charitable interpretation. The damage that such empty sloganeering does to the integrity of people’s faith–well, we ignore it. That is: Until the summer of 2018.

McCarrick had a favorite slogan for us seminarians and young priests. He would conjure the image of JP II visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. “He walked right down the middle of the aisle, so he could reach out and touch the people on both sides,” McCarrick said over and over. “We have to be like that. Down the middle.”

I would think to myself: What does he mean? Down the middle of what? Both sides of what?

So: My doubts about McCarrick’s sincerity in the Profession of Faith in St. Peter’s Square in February 2001–they had some foundation. Little did I know then how much foundation they in fact had.

…What about the two other Cardinals I mentioned when I began? One of them went on to become pope. Jorge Bergoglio. Pope Francis.

Recently Mr. Steve Skojec of onepeterfive.com wrote the essay that I was on the verge of writing. Skojec accuses Pope Francis of “gaslighting.”

The Great Reformer Ivereigh

Now, this psychological term enjoys a certain vogue right now. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t real. The best definition I have come across for “gaslighting” is the movie, The Girl on the Train. (Watch at your own risk; it’s rough.)

Anyway: Is it true? Is Pope Francis gaslighting the Catholic people? Trying to trick us into thinking of him as an honest and loving spiritual father–when in fact he is altogether otherwise?

To try and answer this question as impartially as possible, I plowed through two books simultaneously. The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire, under the pen-name Marcantonio Colonna. And The Great Reformer by Austin Ivereigh.

The Dictator Pope is basically this: An illuminating arrangement of facts gleaned from the conservative Catholic press these last five years, supplemented with some additional anonymous-source information. Sire organizes the facts masterfully, to paint a convincing picture of the man.

The man who rose to the Chair of Peter through the avowed machinations of what is widely known as the “St. Gallen Mafia”–a caucus of liberal western-European prelates who spent their careers waiting for John Paul II to die. (Walter Kasper among them.)

The Dictator Pope reviews the entire controversy of the Family Synods and Amoris Laetitia, which we have covered in detail here on this little weblog. Sire tells the heartbreaking story of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Italy, an order of primitive Franciscan observance and pure faith–which Pope Francis apparently destroyed. Sire even brings Archbishop Carlo Viganò into the story–way before Viganò issued his McCarrick testimony–by recounting the failed reform of the finances of the Holy See.

Sire reviews the pope’s authoritarian intervention into the internal affairs of the Knights of Malta. This particular account helps explain Judge Anne Burke’s recent public resignation as a Dame of Malta. (As reported by the Chicago Sun Times; scroll down if you click the link. The City Club of Chicago recently hosted a discussion of the Church’s sex-abuse crisis, moderated by Burke–very much worth watching on Youtube.)

Judge Burke, who tirelessly served the U.S. Bishops during the last sex-abuse scandal in 2002, objected to a directive from the American superior of the Knights and Ladies of Malta. To this effect: Stay out of the current controversy.

Judge Burke resigned over this. She intends to “continue to speak out about the need to investigate the underlying causes and conduct by the hierarchy in our church that permitted these crimes to continue.”

Back to the The Dictator Pope. Sire explains Pope Francis like this: You will never understand him if you think of him as a priest. He cannot be understood as someone who fundamentally sees himself as a humble steward of divine mysteries. Rather, Sire contends, the pope is a “Peronist”–an opportunistic politician, intent on pleasing the audience in front of him at the moment. In other words, a professional sloganeer.

Which brings us to the other book.

Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer, served briefly as Cormac Card. Muphy-O’Connor’s public-relations assistant. (As I mentioned earlier, St. JP II created Murphy-O’Connor a Cardinal alongside Bergoglio and McCarrick, in February 2001.)

Murphy-O’Connor died last year. In England, Catholics are now reeling over recent revelations about how Pope Francis handled an allegation of sexual abuse against Murphy-O’Connor. Former Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, has recently spoken out about how the pope ordered a premature end to a Vatican investigation of Murphy-O’Connor’s alleged misdeeds.

(Cardinal Müller’s interview with Raymond Arroyo last week also very much rewards the watching.)

the mission movie poster

Anyway, Ivereigh has written a more substantial book than Sire. Ivereigh recounts fascinating facts of Argentine history. I loved reading this biography, which includes a full history of the Jesuit Reductions (immortalized in the movie The Mission). I loved reading it–until I got bored with the subject. Namely, Jorge Bergoglio.

Don’t think of him as a priest. So insists Henry Sire.

Ivereigh’s book brough back a flood of memories. From my Jesuit days.

I fell in love with the Society of Jesus in 1992, served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, teaching at a Jesuit school for inner-city boys, then entered the novitiate, did the thirty-day silent retreat, lived with Jesuits in Mexico for two months, spent the summer at Forham in the Bronx…

Then, in 1996, I left. Because I wanted to be a priest.

Sounds strange, because Jesuits are priests. But, for those of Bergoglio’s generation, the priesthood only got in the way. The priesthood, as someone put it so well, involves serving primarily as a kind of beast of burden. Say your Mass. Hear confessions. Baptize the babies. Bury the dead. Try to give a good homily–but, above all, keep it short.

There’s nothing theoretical about any of these priestly duties. Forgive me for putting it this way, but it serves the purpose: There’s nothing theoretical about conjugal relations between husband and wife. Such things occur in a given place, at a given time. Same thing for the Catholic priesthood. Show up and do your duty. This aspect of priestly life Jesuits find altogether inconvenient. It gets in the way of the realization of their grand theories of things.

Back to Ivereigh’s hagiography–er, biography. Eventually it becomes impossible to take Ivereigh seriously. He lauds Jorge Bergoglio as the spiritual equal of St. Ignatius Loyola and the oratorical equal of Abraham Lincoln. Ivereigh calls Bergoglio’s speech during the General Congregation of Cardinals prior to the Conclave of 2013 “a second Gettysburg address.” Please.

What made the book grow so boring I had to give up on it? The Argentinian politics which Ivereigh narrates so meticulously ultimately became a battle of sloganeers. On the one side: President Nestor Kirchner. On the other side: the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio.

Ivereigh knows a lot of Argentine history. He does not appear to know a lot of theology. But one theological slogan interests him. Namely, “episcopal collegiality.”

Ivereigh convicts John Paul II of grave sins against episcopal collegiality. According to Ivereigh (and the members of the St. Gallen Mafia), the late sainted pope “centralized” the government of the Church, to a fault. Vatican II had intended to restore authority to the local church. But JP II stood in the way.

Perhaps there’s actually something to this, in areas other than sexual morality. And the Sacred Liturgy.

But “episcopal ollegiality” serves as the “states’ rights” slogan for the pro-gay, pro-divorce Church crowd. In this way:

Dr. Martin Luther King enlightened America about the fallacy of the ‘states rights’ argument (which by then was 140 years old). Dr. King taught America: We will never have quiet consciences as long as racism prevails. Instead, we will try to cover over our consciences with dishonest slogans. The dishonest slogan of Southern American racism is: States’ Rights! But the fact is that no state has a right to make racism legal; it can’t be made legal. Not really, anyway. Because institutionalized racism (not to mention chattel slavery) will always disturb people of conscience.

Same thing goes for homosexuality, divorce, fornication, artificial contraception, etc. Ecclesiastical liberals cry: Collegiality! Authority belongs the local church! Rome needs to loosen the grip of her heavy hand! (So insisted the St. Gallen Mafia. And so insists Pope Francis.)

But these cries against “Roman centralization” ascend to heaven in vain. John Paul II didn’t make artificial contraception and homosexuality immoral. God made it immoral. Local authority cannot contravene laws that bind every human conscience.

Even our current sloganizing, gaslighting pope can’t silence the inner voice of truth that troubles people’s consciences. And Pope Francis’ attempts to do so–especially his false mercy to Theodore Edgar McCarrick–have disturbed my conscience. Mightily.

Smuggled Out from the Roman Synod Hall… (includes Card. Ouellet commentary)

As you may know, dear reader, our Holy Father meets in Synod this month with representative bishops from around the world.

The meeting occurs behind closed doors. As the “Information Secretary” Father Antonio Spadaro put it: “The fathers must know that what they say will remain in the hall.”

But here at Achilles and His Gold, we want to know more. So we trained an intrepid mouse named Xavier Rynne to carry a portable recording device under the Synod dais.

We reviewed the recordings so far, and we found that most of the speeches involved petty infighting, meaningless apologies, lame abstractions, and indecipherable nonsense.

But we have faithfully transcribed the intervention of Stephen Card. Fermoyle, from the diocese of Columbia Pictures…

the cardinal tom tryon

Your Holiness, Eminences, brother bishops: The Catholic people of the world have a religious duty to give us the benefit of the doubt. Yet we have still managed to make it impossible for them to do so.

They prefer to think about us prelates as little as possible. Who can blame them?

Our people would love us if we simply did one thing. Send them trustworthy priests. No sexual predators.

A simple enough task for us to manage. Yet we have screwed it up royally.

Here we find ourselves, in this magnificent echo chamber, giving four-minute speeches to each other. Meanwhile, civil authorities execute raids on many of our offices. The Church universal careens toward an international legal and diplomatic crisis. The Holy See faces the all-but-inevitable prospect of a confrontation with other sovereign states regarding the secrecy of our clergy records.

What are we doing here? Don’t we all have an obvious duty to resign?

Pope St. John Paul II taught: It is a doctrine of faith that the authority of the Supreme Pontiff derives directly from Christ, of whom he is Vicar on earth. No Catholic can doubt this. The pope serves at the pleasure of… God.

Every 20th-century pope, starting with Pius XI, considered resigning in their waning years. None did.

Pope John Paul II decided not to resign because:

He feared creating a dangerous precedent for his successors, as one of them might be exposed to subtle maneuvers and pressures by those who wish to depose him.

[the quote comes from Julian Card. Herranz’s account of a conversation with JP II’s confidante Stanislaw Dziwisz]

Then the first 21st-century pope, Pope Benedict XVI, taught us to think differently.

Many of us felt deeply betrayed by Benedict’s abdication in 2013. He had concluded that he no longer had the competence to fulfill the office. I disagreed with him on that. I thought: You’re competent to occupy St. Peter’s chair as the prayerful old man that you are. You don’t need to fly on airplanes. You don’t need to celebrate Holy Mass in huge stadiums. Just stay home, keep the faith, and pray.

But Benedict thought differently. He put a new concept on the table: A pope should assess his competence to hold the office.

Is it wrong to suggest to the Holy Father a good criterion of self-assessment? Namely:

Can my people trust me to ensure that the victims of sexual abuse get a hearing? And receive justice as promptly as possible?

From the More-Evidence-that-the-Answer-to-this-Question-is-No file…

mar cardinal ouellet
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Archbishop Carlo Viganò and I now have something in common (other than being white Catholic priests with glasses). Both of us now have received letters from our ecclesiastical superiors, trying to make us feel guilty for proposing that Pope Francis should resign (because of his evident hypocrisy and incompetence in handling cases of sexual abuse.)

[Click HERE to read the letter I received. Click HERE to read the letter Archbishop Viganò received yesterday.]

Three points about Marc Card. Ouellet’s open letter to Archbishop Viganò…

I. The Cardinal’s letter includes a significant error regarding recent facts.

Ouellet writes that Pope Francis “divested [McCarrick] from the dignity of a Cardinal when a credible accusation of the abuse of a minor became evident.”

In fact: On June 20, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington announced that a credible allegation had been made, at some point prior to that date.

Then, on July 19 another allegation appeared in the New York Times.

Then McCarrick apparently resigned from the College of Cardinals. On July 28, the Vatican announced that the pope had “accepted McCarrick resignation from Cardinal.”

An honest lapse of memory on Ouellet’s part? Changing an acceptance of a resignation after a second shoe dropped a month later into: An immediate divesting of the dignity of Cardinal.

An honest lapse? No. Looks much more like a self-serving, convenient lie.

II. Card. Ouellet confirms Viganò’s earlier assertion that McCarrick had been disciplined long before this past summer. Ouellet writes: “The former Cardinal, who had retired in May 2006, had been strongly advised not to travel and not to appear in public.”

Ouellet also confirms that he informed Viganò about this, when Viganò began his tenure in Washington in 2011.

Ouellet then engages in a magnificent subterfuge, a subtle prevarication worthy of the Church-mafia.

On the one hand, Ouellet confirms what Viganò courageously made known to the world. Namely that the Holy See knew. Seminarians had accused McCarrick of sexually abusing them. Because of this, someone in the Vatican ordered McCarrick not to appear in public or travel.

Then Ouellet turns around and asserts: “At that time, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of [McCarrick’s] guilt.”

Whoa, Nellie.

i. If there was not sufficient proof of his guilt at the time, then how could anyone justify ordering him not to appear in public or travel? We’re not talking about a period of weeks, or even months. Seven years.

For seven years, a Cardinal of the Roman Church was under orders not to appear in public or travel. But his guilt was in question? He might have been innocent of abusing seminarians?

No. Either the Holy See did McCarrick a grave injustice. Or there really was no honest doubt about his guilt. Which brings us to…

ii. If there really were genuine doubts about McCarrick’s having abused the authority of his office to satisfy his sexual perversity, then why did the dioceses in New Jersey pay out cash settlements to his victims?

Thanks to Archbishop Viganò (and Richard Sipe before him) the world knows something about these settlements. We know some of the facts about what McCarrick did. Strange, manipulative, craven sexual abuse of subordinates who would have risked their futures saying No.

If he had not done these things, then McCarrick, and the dioceses involved, could have fought the allegations openly. Indeed, if he did not do these things, then he–and the Holy See, and the dioceses involved–owe us all a vigorous, public defense of McCarrick’s innocence right now.

But, in fact, among those who knew the details, there has been no real doubt that McCarrick preyed on subordinates. There has been no genuine doubt about it for well over ten years now.

So: Cardinal Ouellet actually writes the script of The Scandal without even realizing it.

The Scandal is: The authorities who govern the Church cannot be bothered to adjudicate cases of sexual abuse. They have no interest in the truth. They only care about covering things up. So as to perpetuate the myth that they know what they’re doing.

Ouellet tells the tale of exactly how this cover-up by half-measures happened in McCarrick’s case. Over the course of the past fourteen years. In the Holy and Apostolic See of Rome.

…But we still haven’t gotten to the most genuinely jaw-dropping thing that Ouellet writes.

III. Ouellet acknowledges the perfect plausibility of Viganò’s insistence that he informed Pope Francis about McCarrick on June 23, 2013.

This was the essential point of Viganò’s testimony; it was the crucial fact. As of June 23, 2013, Pope Francis knew that Theodore McCarrick had preyed sexually on subordinates. And yet McCarrick continued to minister publicly and travel extensively, representing holy Mother Church as a Cardinal. All in flagrant violation of any meaningful kind of zero-tolerance policy.

The only person who could have disciplined McCarrick for his crimes: Pope Francis. For five years, the pope did nothing.

Ouellet denies none of these facts. Rather, Ouellet writes to Viganò about that day–June 23, 2013:

I imagine the enormous quantity of verbal and written information that [Pope Francis] would have gathered on that occasion about many persons and situations. I strongly doubt that McCarrick was of interest to him to the point that you believed him to be, since at the moment [McCarrick] was an 82-year-old Archbishop Emeritus who had been without an appointment for seven years.

Please, Nellie. Whoa. Stop, horses.

Your Eminence, can you really be saying this? A sitting pope, hearing from a sitting Apostolic Nuncio to the US that an American Cardinal is a known sexual predator who has ruined multiple lives–

You, Eminence, are saying to us, your people, that we cannot possibly expect the pope to focus on that disclosure? To focus on it enough to do anything about it sometime within the ensuing five years?

What kind of sick joke are you mafiosi trying to pull over on us Christians? Your Eminence, you have condemned yourself out of your own mouth. Twice.

Your Holiness, your Eminences of Rome: You are steering our ship, the Barque of Peter, into an iceberg.

Vatican Communique on McCarrick

Synod of Bishops Pope Francis

…from the Ongoing Soul-Crushing Scandal Desk…

Today the Holy See issued a long-awaited statement regarding Theodore McCarrick. If you don’t mind it when fork-tongued liars patronize you with obfuscations couched in pop-morality, click the link and read it.

In the statement, we learn…

In September 2017, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Holy See that a man had accused former Cardinal McCarrick of having abused him in the 1970s. The Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation into this, which was carried out by the Archdiocese of New York, at the conclusion of which the relative documentation was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

If the Vatican had given us all this information back in June, it would have inspired a great deal more confidence than it does now.

We can only laugh at the communique’s insistence that “the Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation,” since this particular instance of abuse came to light under the auspices of an on-going program in New York. The accuser had a forum in which to speak because McCarrick was, at the time of the abuse, a New York diocesan priest. Not because of any action on the part of McCarrick’s current ecclesiastical superior, Pope Francis.

The statement then goes on to say:

In the meantime, because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, prohibiting him by order from exercising public ministry, and obliging him to lead a life of prayer and penance.

This sentence misrepresents the course of events. The most charitable way to put it: It elides the facts in a self-serving manner. Another way to put it: They lie.

The actual chronology:

On June 20, Pope Francis suspended McCarrick from ministry, owing to the accusation lodged in New York. At that time, the Holy See made no public comment.

On July 19, the New York Times published the allegations of a man named James. He accused McCarrick of long-term abuse, beginning at age 11. This allegation came to light because of the work of journalists, not because of any church-initiated investigation.

Archbishop ViganoOn July 27, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals. The Vatican issued a statement the following day, indicating that the Holy Father had sentenced McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance. Without bothering to conduct a trial.

So today’s communique conflates a sequence of events, gilding the lily at every turn, so as to make the Holy Father look decisive.

But, in fact, if James had never come forward, and if journalists had not publicized his story, McCarrick would likely still be a Cardinal, and we would never have received today’s communique from the Vatican.

We can also be sure that if Archbishop Viganò had never published his testimony, we would have never received a communique from the Vatican today.

Without crusading journalists and whistle-blowers forcing their hands, the mafiosi prefer to leave us in uninformed darkness. Since they consider us to have the intelligence of dogs.

Today’s Vatican statement then goes on to say that the Holy Father has ordered a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”

They could have completed such a study long ago. You could read all the pertinent documents in one afternoon. By the Vatican’s own admission today, the Archdiocese of New York informed the pope thirteen months ago of the accusation for which McCarrick was removed from ministry in June. If the Vatican had any real intention of coming clean re: Theodore McCarrick, they could have come clean a year ago. They have no such intention; they only want to dance around the truth until this problem goes away. But it won’t go away.

The most damning part of today’s communique–the part that spells certain doom–is this sentence:

The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues.

The PA Grand-Jury Report contains the story of a father who threatened to beat up a priest who had molested his child. The police had to restrain the father. This happened in the 1950’s.

Reasonable, decent people have never had any doubt: Child sexual abuse demands swift and decisive punishment.

In August, Donald Card. Wuerl attempted to use the that-was-then, this-is-now line of reasoning. In the course of that interview, he lost whatever shred of credibility he had.

We saw when he did his last press conference that Pope Francis intends to try to hide behind this canard. ‘Now we know better, but back then people thought differently….’

Holiness, we knew better then. This damage-control strategy will not work. Face the obvious fact. Please. You have no choice but to resign. There’s no other way to get this ship turned around.

 

Mafiosi Run our Church: the Evidence

 

goodfellas

Let’s start with this fact:

Well over two months ago, on July 19, a man named James summoned the clarity and courage to accuse then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of long-term, life-destroying psychological and sexual abuse.

If our church did not have mafiosi running the show, what would have happened next? Church authorities would have moved forward immediately with a case against McCarrick. We would quickly have seen the law applied, in the open light of day.

Which law, or laws? The First Commandment, which requires clergymen to keep their vows. The Sixth Commandment, which forbids sex outside of marriage. And the law of nature, which prohibits genital contact between members of the same sex, and gravely forbids sex with immature persons.

Let’s imagine a group of honest people who at some point worked closely with McCarrick. Once that theoretical group of honest people became aware of the gravity of what McCarrick had done, you would think they would begin to clamor relentlessly for an open trial.

Because they would recognize that they need one, to clear themselves from any guilt by association. It’s not fair for people to assume that anyone who worked closely with McCarrick shares in his guilt. But people will assume as much, unfair at it may be.

So the honest people who worked closely with McCarrick would naturally insist on total institution transparency in this matter, with due provision made for the privacy of innocent parties. The honest people would shout for that, even if it meant challenging higher authorities openly.

But where is that clamor? I hear a lot of crickets. So apparently there weren’t any honest people who worked closely with McCarrick. Just fellow mafiosi.

More evidence: No Church official has so much as clearly identified the laws which McCarrick appears to have broken. The application of those laws to this case would require the disclosure of many facts. The mafiosi who run our church have many of those facts in their possession. They don’t want those facts disclosed. So they blow smokescreens.

godfather

Little by little over the course of the past two months, other people who have some of those facts have found the courage to make them public. The former priest who, in 2005, settled a case against McCarrick (and two other abusers) spoke recently to a reporter for the second time. The reporter has published a story revealing new information about that settlement.

But many questions obviously remain. Who, among the clergy, or among the lay employees of the various dioceses (and the Vatican) knew about the settlements involving McCarrick? No churchman has clearly answered this question; instead, the dioceses involved continue to stonewall, as the article cited above makes perfectly clear.

There are lawyers who worked for the dioceses, helping them to arrive at the McCarrick settlements. Those lawyers know important information. The dioceses involved could authorize those lawyers to make all the information touching McCarrick public, so that it could become part of the record. For the sake of an open trial, in which McCarrick would face justice for his crimes.

But the dioceses have not done anything like that. The Vatican has not done anything like that. Why? Because ecclesiastical mafiosi run these institutions.

Let’s remember: If we had only the mafiosi who run the church to rely on for information, we would know practically nothing about any of this. McCarrick’s victims have had the courage to go on the record and have spoken to reprorters. Thanks to them, some of the truth has come out. Meanwhile, the mafiosi who run the church would rather we were still dumb sheep living in a cloudy darkness.

mccarrickAnother question: Does McCarrick admit wrongdoing? Again, if our church were not run by mafiosi, we would know the answer to that question. McCarrick would have faced an open indictment by now, and we would know his answer.

But, as it is, all we know on this subject is: McCarrick’s lawyer says that the accused looks forward to his opportunity to contest the charges against him. Which, as we know, is what mob lawyers always say.

Because I have an old friendship with a mid-level mafioso who has spoken recently to McCarrick, I can tell you, dear reader: McCarrick is unrepentant. He admits nothing. On June 20, the pope ordered the then-Cardinal to ‘a life of prayer and penance.’ But McCarrick repents of nothing. So that ‘order’ of the pope’s is a joke. A joke at our expense.

Let’s give the devil his due: Why should McCarrick repent? No one to whom he must answer has so much as confronted him with the charges. No judge has found him guilty of anything. Right now he can reasonably tell himself that he sits on the sidelines only because of an administrative process. He can think to himself: They are wronging me by not giving me the opportunity to prove my innocence. And he would be right.

…I don’t know if last week’s Senate hearings involved a ‘con job,’ as Judge Kavanaugh and President Trump put it. Looked to me more like an open forum in which two people had the opportunity to give their version of events. Maybe it was a divisive political circus. But it has brought us a million times closer to the truth about Dr. Blasey Ford’s charges than we are to a full reckoning of the charges against Theodore McCarrick. The U.S. Senate, politically divided as it may be, makes the hierarchy of the Catholic Church look like…the mafia, by comparison.

So, as I said, the Senate hearing didn’t look like a con job on the American people to me. But the mafiosi running the church are certainly in the process of pulling a con job on us U.S. Catholics. Conning us into forgetting that the task of arriving at justice in the case of Theodore McCarrick belongs to them. They have the information. They have the jurisdiction. They have the duty to apply the applicable laws. No one else does.

James’ charges against McCarrick remain unanswered. Countless facts about McCarrick’s predations remain undisclosed. So far as we know, no one has so much as confronted the man with the full extent of the accusations against him. He has not received even the opportunity to repent. Justice remains undone.

Why? Because mafiosi run our church.

Holy Father on the Cardinal-Wuerl Train

Donald Cardinal Wuerl, to Tom Fitzgerald of Fox 5, August 15:

“How we dealt with things in the late 80’s/early 90’s is different from the way we would today.”

Mr. Fitzgerald reacted with earnest disbelief. “What could possibly ‘evolve’ about child sexual abuse?!”

Three weeks later, Cardinal Wuerl realized he had no future as the Archbishop of Washington.

Pope Francis gave a press conference on the papal plane yesterday. The National Catholic Reporter (an avowedly liberal publication) notes:

“Journalists aboard the flight from Estonia had planned to ask Francis again about Viganò’s claims [that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s abuses since 2013], but were unable to after the pope suspended taking questions outside the scope of the trip.”

Shepherd One
Shepherd One

The pope did, however, say this:

“I take the Pennsylvania report, for example, and we see that the first 70 years there were so many priests that fell into this corruption, then in more recent times it has diminished, because the Church noticed that it needed to fight it in another way. In the old times these things were covered up, they even covered them up at home, when the uncle was molesting the niece, when the dad was molesting his sons, they covered it up because it was a very big disgrace… it was the way of thinking in previous times or of the past time. It is a principle that helps me to interpret history a lot.

“A historic event is interpreted with the hermeneutic of the time period in which it took place, not as a hermeneutic of today passed on. For example, the example of indigenous people, that there were so many injustices, so much brutality, but it cannot be interpreted with the hermeneutic of today [now] that we have another conscience. A last example, the death penalty. The Vatican, when it was a State, a pontifical State, had the death penalty. In the end the state decapitations were 1870 more or less, a guy, but then the moral conscience grew, it is true that always there were loopholes and there were hidden death sentences. You are old, you are an inconvenience, I do not give you the medicine, it went so… it is a condemnation to social death. And about today… I believe with this I have responded.”

We regret that…

a. The reader finds it hard to make any sense out of this.

b. Morals are historically relative? So slavery was okay before, but not now? Where did the early abolitionists get their ideas? Were they wrong, since, at that time, slavery was okay? Was abortion wrong before, then it became okay, and someday it will be not-okay again?

c. To quote Tom Fitzgerald: “What could possibly ‘evolve’ when it comes to child sexual abuse?!”

d. I think the Viewers at Home watching the Cardinal-Wuerl interview of August 15 wound up believing: this man is not honest. Yesterday Pope Francis punched a ticket on the same train.

Diocletian Persecution and Donatism

[WARNING: High-level difficulty quiz. Might need a Catholic Encycolpedia]

Cosmas Damian apse
mosaic depicting Sts Peter and Paul ushering Sts. Cosmas and Damien into heaven

Today, at the altar, we remember the martyrs Cosmas and Damien, who went to their deaths during the persecution of the Emperor…

Diocletian.

Ironically enough, Diocletian appears to have ordered the persecution precisely because he had such piety. As a pagan.

He believed that the Roman Empire would thrive if everyone participated in the cult of the gods, and that the empire would collapse if they did not.

What provoked the crisis was the emperor styling himself as divine, according to the pagan system. Christians soldiers then refused to wear their insignia, because it depicted the emperor as a god. And they refused to take their oaths, because it referred to the emperor as a god.

From that starting point, widespread hideous cruelties against Christians began. The pope was martyred, and the Church couldn’t elect a successor for… how long? Three years. Countless bishops and clergymen were martyred for refusing to hand over the Scriptures for desecration.

This gave rise to which heresy and schism? …Donatist.

Some sly bishops tricked their way out of getting martyred by handing over heretical, non-canonical Scriptures, instead of actual Bible books. The pagan authorities didn’t know the difference, and those bishops squeaked through.

After the persecution finally ended, the Donatists denied the validity of the ordination of the bishops who tricked their way through. The Donatists insisted that if they were real priests, they would have willingly gone to their deaths.

The schism lasted for over 100 years. To finally resolve the issue, it took someone as clever and enterprising as…?

St. Augustine.

A couple morals of this little story

1. We can’t worship the President of the US, or any political leader—or even religious leader. He may be right or wrong about this or that, just like all fallible human beings. We fallible human beings help each other stay honest by challenging assertions that appear to be wrong. (Only exception: Pope of Rome speaking ex cathedra on faith or morals.)

And Moral of the Story #2. We have had big, confusing, painful messes in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church before. And, by God’s grace, we managed to survive.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 20, and Nikko Lane at OnePeterFive

To Kill a Mockingbird Jem Scout Dill

Three children have snuck into the Maycomb, Alabama, county courthouse to hear a trial. The children of the defense attorney, Scout and Jem, and their friend Dill. They sit in the “colored” balcony, because they’re not supposed to be there. It’s too ‘grown-up’ for them.

The accused is black, and everyone but the children know that he will not get justice. At one point during the trial, while the prosecutor cross examines the defendant, something in eight-year-old Dill begins to realize: the truth doesn’t matter in this courthouse. He starts crying. Jem and Scout take him outside for a breather.

A town fixture named Dolphus Raymond sits outside the courthouse, drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. He tries to comfort Dill. “He’s crying because the world hasn’t gotten a hold of him and made him blind to its meanness.”

Raymond offers Dill a sip from the bottle to calm his nerves. Jem and Scout are horrified at first, but turns out: it’s not whiskey. It’s just Coke.

…That’s us, those kids. Sitting outside the courthouse. They went inside to hear their father do his work. They assumed that all the people running things there were basically honest. It had never occurred to them that there are such things as corrupt judges and county prosecutors. Just like we sons and daughters of the Catholic Church assumed. Until the summer of 2018.

Now we’re sitting outside the courthouse in a daze, trying to dry our tears.

We, too, need a little sip of Coke. Here’s one. Excerpts from an article called “The Laity Action Plan for Our Dark Times.”

*

The pope has no answers for us. Do we really need them at this point?

The bishops he has promoted defend him and continually deflect public attention away from him and his camp. And what do we lay faithful do? We sit, we worry, we ruminate, we pray.

Is this enough?

With the hierarchy covering for themselves and their allies amid this scandal and the lower clergy without the power to implement change in this present pontifical climate, our Church leaders remain static. It seems the Church, like its lay members, as an institution (innocently and guiltily), is stalling, waiting for change to occur with a pope who has given no indication of making changes and reforms, no indication of admitting fault, no indication of stepping down.

Let us not forget what started all of this: sexual abuse of minors, adolescents, and adults alike by clergymen and the continued cover-up from the lowest to the highest levels of the Church. These victims call for us to break the static, even when it is apparent that Francis and company have no intention of acting on anyone’s behalf but their own.

Being the voice of Jesus Christ’s Church when society will call you crazy is what sainthood is all about… This is especially true in light of the scandal: when the Church’s leadership are outed as perpetrators of injustices against the people, the Church will require strong, saintly lay defenders of the faith moving forward.

The best way to seek our Lord’s consolation is by getting back to the basics of our faith. Attending daily Masses on a regular basis, spending time in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament, and engaging regularly with a confessor in the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation are all wonderful ways we can return to what makes us Catholic – and thus seek the solace we so desperately need as His damaged but unbroken Church.

Let’s reclaim our place in the Church as its driving force. This starts with the seemingly mundane, daily activities we can take part in in our local parishes. Be a strong leader of your parish. Get involved. Join councils and committees at your parishes and in your dioceses. Be the support the victims in our own communities need.

The strength of our Church as a whole starts with you. It starts at home.

What does this have to do with the scandals we face today, right now? Pope Francis calls us as lay Catholics to lead the Church out of a scandal that he refuses to face. So be it. This is how we lead.

While the response by the Church’s leadership has been unacceptable up until now, Pope Francis may get what he asks for. He calls us to take this scandal into our own hands. Through his inaction and silence, he may be inadvertently provoking us to do just that. Take Pope Francis’s influence for what you will, but the lay faithful will be the force the Church needs to overcome this dark time. These initiatives – fervent prayer; a desire to defend Church doctrine, tradition, and values; and enabling ourselves to lead our Church on our local levels – may seem small, but the Lord moves mountains with our small actions.

Mother Teresa put it wonderfully: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” That’s what our Church needs right now. That is what we can do.