Guest Post: Richard Windmann

Richard Windmann

Nota bene: Richard spoke to us here in Virginia in July. He grew up in New Orleans. His article contains hard truths for Catholics and Saints fans alike. But I think we need to understand his experience, and he helps us by expressing it eloquently.

Richard concludes by mentioning the guardian angels. Today’s their feast day.

The Catholic Church and the Art of the Cover-Up

It was the summer of 2011, and I was summoned to the office of a psychologist in Dallas by Raymond Fitzgerald, the President of Jesuit High School, who flew from New Orleans to attend. Jesuit paid for the psychologist as a part of their due diligence, to determine if I was telling the truth about my childhood sex abuse at the hands of Peter Modica, a janitor, and Cornelius Carr, a Theology Teacher at the school.

Before Fitzgerald arrived, I was very nervous. I asked the psychologist, Ronald Garber, how long it would take for him to make his determination. He responded “I already have, you cannot control the nervousness of your hands, you are rocking back and forth.” He continued “When you described to me the first time you were abused, you said that you ‘froze up,’ and that’s what all victims of childhood sex abuse do, and someone who is not telling the truth doesn’t know to say that.”

Father Fitzgerald arrived, and he showed me a photo lineup of many priests, and asked me which one was my abuser. I pointed him out, and Fitzgerald said, “That goes further to confirm what you said was true,” that there were other accounts of sexual abuse against him.

I asked if he wanted me to reach out to the other victims. He immediately responded “No!” When I asked why, he said that “some people don’t want to be found.” I ultimately signed an agreement with a confidentiality clause–which was actually forbidden by the Church, because of the Dallas Charter years before.

What Fitzgerald didn’t know was that I recorded everything…

Up until that point, there were the occasional civil suits, but the victims were always referred to as “John Doe” or a “Jane Doe.” The Church would publicly lament in the media; “Who are these great accusers who are out to destroy our Church?” when they damn-well knew what they had done and what they were doing. In that same breath, they were privately settling cases, and requiring our silence. I no longer had emotions of shame, but I felt angry and guilty. It had occurred to me that because I had signed away my voice and was summoned to silence, that I was complicit and part of the cover-up, while the Church was publicly taunting victims for not naming themselves.

 

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans
Archbishop of New Orleans Gregory Aymond

That, along with a confluence of other extraordinary events, would result in me coming forward, and going public with my real name and likeness. I released the audio recordings and agreement to the press, and I was interviewed by The Advocate and Fox 8 News in New Orleans. This would be the catalyst for the scandal in New Orleans to reach a fevered pitch, as victim after victim after victim came forward, now finding the courage to publicly tell their stories of abuse at the hands of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Jesuit Order.

And what does a “Great Accuser” look like? Victims of childhood sex abuse live a life of misplaced guilt and shame, and thus, they keep it a closely held secret. Because it is a secret, they do not reach out for help. Without exception, all victims have PTSD, clinical depression, and anxiety disorder. Because they can’t tell anyone, they self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs. And when that doesn’t work, and it will stop working, they commit suicide, in numbers. I myself tried to commit suicide when I was nineteen, and I ended up at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, in a coma for five days.

One of my childhood friends was abused by the same man at Jesuit. His sister walked in, broke it up, but never said a word. When my story went public, she pulled back the plunger on the syringe full of more heroin than it takes to kill an elephant, while her brother feverishly tried to beat the locked door down to save her, and she committed suicide. Her last vision was the “lovely rose” that author William S. Burroughs described.

When you sexually abuse a child, not only do you kill the child, but you kill their entire family. When my parents found out about my abuse, my Father stopped coming around, and my Mother fell into a deep depression from which she would never recover.

That is the spectrum of the damage and suffering of the Catholic Church’s crimes against our precious children, for which they alone are responsible. What’s worse, victims and survivors will suffer the results of their abuse for the rest of their lives, until they draw their last breath in the world. There is no cure for what we have, the only thing we can try to do is successfully manage it.

Kevin Bourgeois Sports Illustrated New Orleans Saints
Survivor Kevin Bourgeois of New Orleans. (Sports Illustrated photo by Jeffrey Salter)

Later, the New Orleans Saints would be accused of assisting the Church in the cover-up, to manage the fallout, to gain control of the narrative, when almost 300 documents and emails between the organizations were discovered. The Saints claimed that they only offered advice to the Archbishop, to be honest and upfront about the abuse. That’s a simple phone call, not volumes of documents. In fact, a local reporter said publicly that while he was interviewing the Archbishop, that Greg Bensel of the Saints was present, and was shooting down a lot of his questions. A reporter from Sports Illustrated did an in-depth story on the scandal, and she confided in me that they flat-out lied to her about the extent of their relationship.

Both the Church and the Saints, with their very long train of very expensive attorneys, argued to seal the documents and were initially successful, as the court appointed “Special Master” recommended that they be sealed. But before the judge could finally rule on the motion, the case was moved to bankruptcy court, where they remain sealed today. Of course the victims and survivors were desperate to know what the documents contained. On their behalf, I asked an attorney, and he told me “Richard, I can’t tell you what is in them, but I can tell you what is not in them, and that is any regard whatsoever for the victims and survivors of their crimes.” 

The cover-up continues…

The Archdiocese filed bankruptcy, saying this was to consolidate all the claims and to ensure that all victims would be compensated for what happened to them. This was devastating to the victims. I asked myself “If the Church is exempt from taxes and does not contribute to the tax base, why are they allowed to avail themselves of the courts for relief?” Well, the Church is indeed not insolvent–which is why the court and bankruptcy laws exist. A motion to get the bankruptcy thrown out on those grounds was denied by the court.

I viewed the bankruptcy filing as a litigation tactic. There were many, many cases in civil court at the time. Attorneys were chomping at the bit to depose the Archbishop. He avoided these depositions by citing health reasons, and in one case because the weather was bad. When the Archbishop was finally compelled and ordered to testify by the court, the Bankruptcy case was promptly filed. Now the Archbishop doesn’t have to testify after all, and all those cases become moot and moved to the Bankruptcy court, where they will settle with the victims for pennies on the dollar. All that effort and work by the attorneys, the pain and suffering of the victim’s participation in these cases–all destroyed. Justice denied once more.

Victims were granted a very short period to file their claim in the Bankruptcy. I asked several of them why they didn’t file in time, and they confessed to me that writing down their accounts of their abuse was re-traumatizing, and they simply did not have enough time to painfully describe the horrors they endured at the hands of the Church. If you believe that all the victims in the Bankruptcy are accounted for, I can confidently look you in the eye and proclaim that is simply not true.

The cover-up is well-established…

When I co-founded Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse (SCSA), we quickly learned of a courageous state representative, the Honorable Jason Hughes, had introduced a house bill asking for the civil Statute of Limitations to be extended from 10 to 35 years for sexual abuse committed against children. IRS code states that a Nonprofit 501(c)(3) like SCSA can lose their tax-exempt status for lobbying legislation. But it did not preclude us from sending busloads of survivors willing to testify before House and Senate committees. Their testimonials were devastating and very compelling.

During the House committee hearing, those present were allowed to submit their support or opposition to the bill, by filling out either a green card for support, or a red card for opposition. At the end of hearing, the cards are tallied and read out loud. A priest in the gallery seemed nervous. Green card and after green card was read. At the end, a single, lone red card was read, filed by the priest on behalf of a council of Bishops in Louisiana, of which Archbishop Aymond is the Chairman. The priest sunk in his chair. Not even the very powerful Insurance lobby, who would have to pay for these claims, opposed the bill.

The bill was adopted unanimously, and we got more than we asked for; the Legislature eliminated the Statute of Limitations for sex crimes against children completely, and they included a “look back window” for three years, allowing all previous victims an opportunity for justice. Governor Edwards signed the bill into law. In response, the Archbishop, knowing full-well what he had done in opposition to the bill–which is now a matter of public record–released the following official statement:

“As a Church we remain committed to doing all that we can for the healing of survivors of abuse. This legislation allows those abused not only in churches and schools but in their families, playgrounds, workplaces, youth organizations, and other public businesses where children and teenagers should be safe to pursue their claims in court regardless of when it occurred.”

The cover-up of the cover-up is self-evident…

That, in essence, is the playbook of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop of New Orleans, and the other Orders of the Church: to conceal their crimes and escape responsibility. I never thought I would see the day when the cover-up would actually eclipse the initial acts of sex abuse. What’s even more frustrating is that the survivors are the very ones who are doing the heavy lifting required to fight this abuse. We will no longer make the distinction between those who assist, are complicit, or cover up these crimes, and the Church who committed these crimes against our children in the first place. We will hold you in the same pathetic esteem as the Catholic Church itself.

Greg has blood on his hands. He is directly responsible for his own actions and that of his Church, in their intentional crimes which are the institutionalized, systematic, and the wholesale rape of our precious children. I do not call the Archbishop by his first name out of disrespect, but to emphasize that he is human, and he and the victims and survivors will both be judged by the same criteria when we are all delivered to Saint Peter by the loving arms of the Angels. The only unanswered question remaining is who will get the clouds, and who will get the coals?

[This article first appeared in Big Easy magazine. It is also available at the Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse (SCSA) website. We re-print it here with the author’s encouragement and warm regards for you, dear reader.]

Anniversaries and Things that Don’t Change

Last year on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), we had our first ‘virtual’ Mass. We meditated on this:

By believing in Christ, we share in His experience. The eternal Father has made Jesus the heir of all things. Our Lord receives His inheritance as the gift that it is. He offers it back to the Father as a sacrifice of love.

By believing in Jesus, we share in this divine communion of the eternal Father with His incarnate Son. Through thick and thin, we have our share in that communion.

On St. Joseph’s feast day last year (March 19), our bishop here publicly accused me of harming the Church’s unity. He provided misleading evidence to support the charge. Shortly thereafter, he suspended me from ministry and locked me out of my house. I have had to celebrate Holy Mass in solitude ever since. It’s been a year now since I celebrated Mass “with the people.” Not easy.

…Now, imagine the Lord sent an angel to speak with me. “Mark, you’ve had a rough year. What’s one thing we can do up here in heaven, to ease the burden for you a little?”

If that happened, I would not even have had the presumption to ask: “Can you make the Georgetown Hoyas win the Big-East tournament in Madison Square Garden?”

Georgetown Hoyas Big East tournament champions

Our Father in heaven knows the good things we need, before we even ask Him. 🙂

On the other hand, I might have asked: “Could you have the bishop call me on Holy Thursday? And make him say, ‘Mark, it’s the day of the priesthood. I have thought things over. It’s been a year since the problems we had. I will give you your place back now.'”

Problem is, he might then say: “April fool!”

…A couple weeks ago, we kept the 1,985th anniversary of St. Peter’s arrival in Antioch, Syria, in the third year after the Lord Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. The word “Christian” originates from Antioch, which served then as the capital of the eastern Roman empire. Peter governed the Church from Antioch for a few years. Then he went to Rome and governed the Church from there. He suffered martyrdom under emperor Nero and thereby established Rome as the Apostolic See, the See of St. Peter, the city of the pope.

We keep an annual feast on the anniversary of Peter’s arrival in Antioch, February 22. To celebrate the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair, Dom Prosper Gueranger wrote:

Our Lord will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honor, then, and submission to Jesus and His vicar! Honor and submission to the vicar of Christ, in the pastors he sends.

Dom Prosper Gueranger
Dom Gueranger

…Yesterday the Vatican made an announcement, and a reporter at WFXR in Roanoke called me. The Vatican announcement hardly came as a surprise–namely, two people of the same sex cannot get married by a Catholic clergyman, and no bishop, priest, or deacon can “bless” the “union” of two men or two women.

The Vatican announcement did not engage the underlying question: Are physical relations between two people of the same sex always a sin? Church teaching has taken for granted from time immemorial that such relations cannot be right. But these days the question sits squarely on the table, with a lot of devout Catholics proposing that the answer might be more complicated. The magisterium of the Church has not addressed the matter since 1986.

One thing I said to the reporter that didn’t make it into the broadcast is this: I think a lot of people find it hard to credit the Vatican with honesty and good will on this subject. The prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, who issued the decree yesterday, himself ducked a subpoena to testify in a French court about his role in covering up sexual abuse by a Lyon priest.

Just in time for this little controversy, I finished reading Confessions of a Gay Priest by Tom Rastrelli. It is one of the most compelling and heartbreaking books I have ever read.

Rastrelli and I are contemporaries. He opens his book with the story of how a squirrel got electrocuted on a transformer outside the cathedral shortly before his ordination ceremony was to begin. They continued in candle light, without air conditioning. That was in June of 2002.

Tom Rastrelli photo credit Frank Miller
Tom Rastrelli (photo by Frank Miller)

I had heard the whole story before, because I was in the same cathedral exactly a year later, for the ordination of a good friend of mine. Everyone was talking about the hot, candle-lit ordination of the year before.

Rastrelli and I both studied for the priesthood under the Sulpician Fathers, he at their seminary in Baltimore, me at their seminary in Washington. We both went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in August, during our seminary years, and stayed with the priests there. Rastrelli and I know dozens of people in common.

In his book, Rastrelli communicates his experience of sexual abuse at the hands of priest “mentors” with crushing humility and honesty. He thought he was in love; in fact, he was being abused.

Rastrelli is such a good writer that he conveys all the confusion, all the self-doubt. As he put it in an interview about his book, “Most victims don’t know they’re victims at the time. That’s how predators operate, by that kind of mental manipulation.”

When you finally reach the end of Confessions of a Gay Priest, and then consider the stunning way in which the Church has not dealt with the McCarrick scandal, or with the sex-abuse problem in general, you’re left with this: The Catholic clergy is one big closet of confused, compulsive, and dangerous self-hating gays.

A lot of people think that, and we have given them good reason to think it.

Rastrelli has given us a gift. A painful one to receive, to be sure. I cannot exactly recommend reading the book; it made me both cry and vomit. But I salute Mr. Tom Rastrelli as a mesmerizing writer, a brother seminarian I wish I had known in person, and a truth teller with a message we need to consider with the greatest care.

Meanwhile, your humble servant believes more than ever that: the Holy Mass celebrated at our altars–the altars of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church–is the religion that God Himself gave us, by sending His only begotten Son to be our brother.

Someday things will make more sense. In God’s good time.

Laetare pic 2021
Laetare Sunday, 2021

The Holy Spirit is the third Person + Hoyas

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 18

Subsistent = existing by virtue of its own proper, independent existence. As opposed to an accident = existing by virtue of being a part, in some way, of some subsisting thing.

madison-square-garden

Update from the most-fun annual sporting event in the history of the world…

A strange Big-East tournament, to be sure, without the usual crowd noise. (More crowd noise than last year, anyway.)

But it’s a great year. UConn has returned to the family, after wandering like a prodigal, and:

Yesterday, the Georgetown Hoyas got their first win in the tournament in five long years! Setting up a face-off with top seed Villanova at high noon today.

We believe in miracles.

Coming Out from Under the ‘Rona, Etc.

Yesterday we commemorated the immaculate conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.

The festivities began on the eve of the Solemnity, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with the NFL upset of the year. Team-formerly-known-as-Redskins solidly defeated the league-leading, as-yet-unbeaten Pittsburgh team. 🙂

Then our Holy Father paid a quiet visit to the statue of the Immaculata at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Pope Francis Immaculate Spanish steps

The pope gave us a letter about St. Joseph. The letter has a couple paragraphs about fathering…

Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness.

Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery.

God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things…

When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom… When he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied, he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care.

In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father.

dad3Today would have been my dear dad’s 83rd birthday. May he rest in peace.

Public service announcement. If you catch the coronavirus, how do you know when to end your isolation?

I have had to find an answer to this question, and I have learned something. I think the general public remains confused on this. (I know I was.)

Testing does not help, when it comes to determining when to end coronavirus isolation. I spent fourteen days in isolation. My symptoms had long since gone away. But I didn’t want to expose anyone to possible infection. I went to the CVS drive-thru and swabbed my own nostrils twice–and got two positive results. 😦 Finally, I got wise and talked to my doctor.

I should have talked to him three weeks ago. Turns out, in October the Center for Disease Control eliminated testing from their criteria for determining when to end coronavirus-patient isolation. The fact is, positive tests continue for months, even long after you’re no longer sick or infectious.

If you catch the virus and never experience severe symptoms, the CDC recommends discontinuing isolation ten days after the symptoms first appeared, provided you have at least 24 hours without a fever.

(Good Lord willing, dear reader, you will get immunized before you ever need to take this information into account.)

Goodbye, Dear Old Friend

redskins-logo

In early summer, 1991, your unworthy servant sat in a crowded classroom, in the 1300 block of H Street, Northwest, Washington.

Everyone undertaking to obtain a District-of-Columbia taxicab driver’s license had to sit through such a class.

Twenty Pakistanis and a handful of Ugandans surrounded me. A black American, a native Washingtonian like myself, was sharing with us his insights from decades of experience as a Washington cabbie.

“You want to talk up your fare a little, to see if they want to chat or not. No politics. Too controversial. Could lead to an argument, then you lose your tip.

“What’s the best subject to bring up? The least controversial?”

An eager Pakistani raised his hand, “The weather?”

“No. That’s too controversial, too. Some like it when it’s hot. Others prefer the winter. No. The one thing you can always bring up, to see if they want to start a conversation is… the Redskins.”

The word Redskins stirs some of my earliest memories.  The sound of my father saying the word rests in the part of my mind where I first learned the distinctive intonations of his voice.

The sound of of him saying words like “Mark,” “bedtime,” “dinner,” “ice cream,” “your little brother,” “mom,” and “Redskins”–all those sounds linger in the dreamy realm of my mind, with all the earliest sensory impressions. My father said those words over and over and over again, while I was learning how to use my ears.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, Washington, D.C., was a city of black and white. Mostly black, some white. We had the Redskins in common.

We all loved both Joe Theismann and Art Monk; we all rooted equally for Doug Williams and Mark Moseley. In case you don’t know: white, black, black, and white, respectively, those players.

We had race problems in our city, serious ones. But the Redskins allayed them, soothed them. We had political problems, big time. The Redskins eclipsed them.

(Not to be overly rosy about this: My parents had marital problems, and the Redskins certainly exacerbated those. They weren’t alone in that, among Washington couples.)

Capitol Cab

In those days, the Redskins managed to win games with some regularity. They went to Superbowls, and even won them.

So this is not an exaggeration: In Washington, D.C., in the 1970’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, the word Redskins was the #1 touchstone for bringing people together in casual communication. Number one. The word Redskins had unrivaled preeminence as the common coin of our little realm, when it came to friendly exchanges and relationship building.

And now we must say goodbye to that precious old heirloom. Why bother pointing out facts like: In its original nineteenth-century usage, Redskin did not have a pejorative connotation. To demean a native American, you used the word Injun. Redskin referred to an enemy, to be sure. But a formidable, brave, and crafty enemy.

Or: To this day, the majority of native Americans polled on this question take no offense at the name.

No point bringing any of that up. I’m not arguing here. The argument, apparently, is over.

This is a eulogy. For one of the oldest, dearest friends my family has had, and many families like ours. A eulogy for a friend that the whole city had, back in far-happier Redskins days. Under the previous owner.

Those of us who remember those days: we have kept hoping for their return. Even through the painful two decades we have recently suffered. We hoped for good Redskins seasons, someday. And we held onto that hope for good reason.

To have known the sweet familiarity of the word Redskins then, exchanged by people of different races, from back seat to front seat, in a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, serving comfortably as a DC cab; to have known the word as the touchstone of friendliness it was: that has meant never giving up hope that the Redskins could get good again. That the Redskins could cheer us up again. Bring us together again.

It hurts an awful lot to have to give up that hope now. Goodbye, Redskins. Farewell, old friend. We aging Washingtonians will never meet your like again.

The Basis of Psychological Health

[written 2/3/20]

The good Lord wills our integrity as human beings, our physical/spiritual health, our interior unity—however you want to put it.

The angels and demons perceive the divine power of Christ by some means of perception that we don’t have. For us, it’s a matter of… Faith.

El Greco crucifixion Cristo sulla croceInterior unity, genuine psychological and spiritual integrity, human virtue; a reasonable, honorable, and steady life–it all starts with faith in the Incarnation, in the divine love of the triune God.

We don’t wear red vestments today in honor of the Kansas City Chiefs. Much as they deserve congratulations. The red represents the blood of the martyr St. Blase.

Christ died in utter physical degradation, but with perfect interior virtue, total loving communion with the eternal Father. The martyrs have died likewise: Physically crushed, but interiorly as healthy as a human being can be. That is, united with God by faith in the Christ.

RIP Kobe Bryant

(written 1/27/20)

kobe-smiling1

I wrote about Kobe Bryant in one of the first posts I ever published on this little blog. (I wrote about him here, too.)

In 1992, NBA players competed in the Olympics for the first time. The USA squad earned the nickname “Dream Team,” because it included some of the finest basketball players ever–Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and other greats.

Then, in 2004, the USA won the bronze medal. Yes, you read that right. The bronze.

So, in 2008, we called our team The Redeem Team. We needed redemption. They delivered. They brought the gold back home.

On Sunday, August 24, 2008, I wrote:

I am a little delirious this evening, since my alarm woke me up at 2:20 this morning.  Like any self-respecting basketball-fan patriot, I got up to watch the Redeem Team do the work of basketball redemption.  Then I spent my priestly Sunday carrying out the work of the Redemption (of the world—basketball players and everybody else) at the Holy Altar.  So I am seriously bushed.  But the game was worth getting up early for, and not just because it was a surprisingly competitive game.  (Hats off to Spain for fighting tough to the end.)

Anyway, the NBC announcer Mike Breen said this about the smiles on the faces of Bryant, Wade, James, and Co. when the last seconds of the fourth quarter were ticking down and American victory was finally assured:  “These guys are all multi-millionaires.  But these smiles are something special.  The gold medal is worth more to them than all the money in their NBA contracts.”

Kobe Bryant memorial

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Ad Limina-Gift Jersey Curse?

(written January 16)

Last month, Archbishop Lori of Baltimore presented Pope Francis with a Lamar Jackson Baltimore-Ravens jersey, signed by Jackson and coach John Harbaugh.

Pope Francis Ravens jersey

The Tennessee Titans proceeded soundly to beat the Ravens in a stunning playoff upset, putting Baltimore to grief.

As of today, Holy Father has a Kansas-City-Chiefs jersey, signed by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, courtesy of Bishop James Johnston.

Pope Francis Chiefs jersey

The Chiefs face the Titans on Sunday. We’ll see if the curse holds.

[written 2/2/20: Guess not.]

Endurance

At Sunday Mass, we hear St. Paul pray that the Lord would direct our hearts to the endurance of Christ. And we hear a passage about the endurance of the Maccabean martyrs. Not to mention the poor widow we hear about in the gospel reading. She had to endure not just one husband, but seven. [Spanish]

brooklyn-bridge-1a

Last Sunday morning, they ran the New York City marathon. It’s a hard one. Involves all five boroughs of the city. In Boston, they have Heartbreak Hill. In the New York marathon, the hardest hills are the bridges—over the Verrazano Narrows, over the East River, the Harlem River.

Sometimes people reach a phase of foggy, desperate fatigue, at the outer limits of their strength. Muscles simply refuse to continue to operate in the usual manner. “Look, buddy, you have depleted every reserve of cellular oxygen I have. I cannot carry you any further. You own this cramp, my friend.” Or normal digestion and water absorption cease. I don’t mean to get too graphic here, but they line up a lot of porta-potties at Mile 20 for a reason.

abraham_stars721x597

We hear the Lord Jesus speak of the patriarchs–the original fathers of the nation of Israel, with whom our covenant with God began. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob endured. They made some huge mistakes, to be sure. Chapters 12-50 of Genesis tell their story, and that part of the Bible hardly reads like a moral instruction manual.

But the patriarchs of Israel endured in faith. They never gave up on the original divine promise. Wars and famines came their way, confused them, and obscured God’s plan from their eyes. They struggled with dishonesty and treachery in their own families—and in their own souls. Jacob lost his beloved son Joseph, apparently forever. Jacob nearly despaired.

But one thing remained a given, through every ordeal. Almighty God has a plan. The patriarchs of Israel knew that God had chosen them as instruments in His mysterious plan to send a Messiah.

Now, some of us old people can remember back as far as 2002. The Boston Globe began exposing the hypocritical corruption of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in articles published almost 18 years ago. And those weren’t the first articles which an American newspaper had published on the topic.  People in Louisiana had known about it for fifteen years before that.

We old people remember how, in 2002, the bishops said, “Zero tolerance!” “Child protection!” And we remember how much we wanted to believe. We wanted to believe that our bishops knew how to shepherd the flock.

Mark Herring
VA Attorney General Mark Herring

We wanted to trust “the corporation,” so to speak. Our company, American Catholic Church, Inc. After all, the company had such a charming spokesman back in ’02. The avuncular New York Irishman with the twinkle in his eye. Newly minted Cardinal. Theodore McCarrick.

Then, the summer of 2018. Turns out, McCarrick himself: guilty. And they published a report in Pennsylvania. 900-some pages. The bishops’ promises turned out to have been: more of a cover-up than anything else. Another cover-up.

We endured. We’re still here. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob endured, believing in the living God. Through deserts, through wars, through famines. They found the strength somehow. Us, too. We’re still here.

Guess what? Priests and bishops in states other than just Pennsylvania did grievous wrongs. We will have a report here in Virginia, too. The Attorney General’s office has worked on it for well over a year now. Investigating the clergy files of our diocese, and the Diocese of Arlington. Interviewing survivors. Following threads of evidence. The report will come out, sometime relatively soon. I think we can reasonably assume: the greater the level of conspicuous silence about this report from our diocese, the worse the report will be. Which means: another tidal wave of painful truth will soon crash down on us. Because the diocese basically acts like it isn’t happening.

How can we continue to endure this? Where can we find the strength?

1. Daily prayer to maintain a supernatural point-of-view. Decades of catastrophic incompetence at the highest levels of authority in the Church: Yes, and soon to be proved yet again, here in our state. But it doesn’t touch the realities of faith. God is still Our Father in heaven. Jesus is still the Christ. The Mass is still the Mass; all the sacraments are still the sacraments.

2. Rejoice in the good involved. When the truth comes to light, that is good. When victims have the clarity and courage to call evil evil, Jesus triumphs in them. When a whole community faces facts and longs for justice, the Kingdom of God gets fortified.

Our Virginia Attorney General’s office is actually in the process of doing us Catholics a great service. The investigation is not our enemy. Getting the facts out, to be faced soberly: that is exactly what we need, what the Church needs.

3. One more. I for one will no longer defer to ecclesiastical authority, without an expressed reason. I promised obedience to my superior; I have given it; I will continue to do so, when there’s a clear reason. The bishop sent me to Rocky Mount-Martinsville. Twice. For good reason. I thanked him both times.

But, in my opinion, we have to change one of our American Catholic customs. The custom of assuming that bishops and their staffs are knowledgeable and competent. We have learned the hard way: that ain’t true.

Our Church will endure. The Son of God promised that. But whether or not it will endure in the United States depends on our endurance. Endurance in faith. And endurance in standing up for what is right.

World Series

Some of us remember when the Washington Nationals, newly arrived from Canada, played farther up the Anacostia River–at a dilapidated old multi-use stadium where the ancient Senators had played the last professional baseball game in Washington, in 1971.

I stood outside Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish church on East Capitol street before the home games those first couple seasons, to smile at the fans heading  from Capitol Hill towards RFK. And invite them inside to say a prayer if they wanted.

Some of us remember when Pope Benedict XVI made a special trip from Rome to bless the newly constructed Nationals’ Park at the beginning of the 2008 season. (Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off game-winning homer against the Braves in the first game that year.)

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A goofball you know, hearing a confession before the Papal Mass at Nats Park, April 17, 2008

Some of us remember when Anthony Rendon came up from the minors because Zimmerman had to go on the DL for a few weeks. Then Rendon got sent back to the minors. (Praise Jesus they brought him back up again later that season.)

And some of us remember when the Nationals couldn’t even spell Nationals.

natinals

We’ve come a long way.

May God’s will be done in Houston this evening.


ADDENDUM: They won! Washington Nationals World Champions, 2019!