James Still Deserves an Amanuensis + Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

from the “When Will the Scandal Be Over?” file…

Abraham Lincoln faced defeat in the election in 1864. But then General William T. Sherman took Atlanta (as recounted in Gone With the Wind). The victory restored the voters’ faith in the war effort. Lincoln won re-election and gave a second inaugural address in 1865, as the war neared the end of its fourth year.

lincoln-readingLincoln kept his second inaugural speech blessedly short. He quoted, or alluded to, the Holy Bible at least six times. His theme: the workings of Divine Providence.

Lincoln meditated on the preceding four years. Civil war had come shortly after his first inauguration. Neither side imagined that the war would drag on as it had, with 600,000 dead. But God had willed it so.

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

In other words: The U.S. owed the Civil War to Almighty God, as a kind of debt for centuries of chattel slavery. Lincoln prayed that the war would soon end, but then continued:

If God wills that it continue until… every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, …the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

…The bishop of our sister diocese in West Virginia recently wrote in a letter to his people:

As some of you have told me, we need to put the Bransfield saga behind us and move on.

But at least one of Bransfield’s victims does not agree.

On August 20, Bishop-Emeritus Bransfield published a “Letter to the Faithful” of our sister diocese, in which he wrote:

I am writing to apologize for any scandal and wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me… There have been allegations that by certain words and actions I have caused certain priests and seminarians to feel sexually harassed. Although that was never my intent, if anything that I said or did caused others to feel that way, then I am profoundly sorry.

Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan, current bishop of Wheeling-Charleston WV.

One of those seminarians that Bransfield harassed goes by the initals VGD. After Bransfield published his letter, through diocesan channels, VGD issued a statement, pointing out that…

1. Michael Bransfield’s attempt at apology and reconciliation is, in our Catholic Tradition, inadequate and unsatisfactory… We Catholics do not apologize for ‘actions attributed to us,’ or for hypothetical ‘ifs.’

2. Sitting Bishop Brennan had suggested to the public that Bransfield had privately apologized to his victims. VGD notes: Michael Bransfield did not reach out privately to apologize to me or other victims of his with whom I exchange support. [emphasis added]

3. VGD filed a lawsuit, after he had tried to meet with Archbishop William Lori, and with Lori’s investigators, and got rebuffed both times. The lawsuit outlines the web of cronyism involved in the situation. The suit also describes the sexual harassment VGD suffered at Bransfield’s hands. VGD writes, about his lawsuit:

I would not be seeking legal recourse if justice would be done by my church. The bishops in charge…delay, draw out, and stay my case…while at the same time telling us to “move on.” That is the language of perpetuating abuse, it is the language of cover-up.

Let’s just briefly recall the facts. Bransfield was about to reach mandatory retirement age, after decades of abuse of power–abuse that had been reported to Church authorities repeatedly, over the course of those decades. When it was all about to end anyway, with the malefactor’s retirement, one of Bransfield’s chancery priests denounced him to the Archbishop of the province, Lori.

Lori then received a mandate from the Vatican to conduct a secret investigation. Someone on the inside of that investigation apparently ran out of patience with the endless secrecy of the ecclesiastical cronies and leaked the whole report to the Washington Post. This gave the world access to the stunning details of Bransfield’s abuses of power. One of those details: Bransfield had given Lori cash gifts.

Archbishop William Lori
Archbishop William Lori

Lori suppressed that fact from the final version of the report. (Lori’s deception there may be what pushed the leaker over the edge.)

The investigators’ report recommended punishments for Bransfield, most of which have never happened. As someone Bransfield sexually harassed, VGD asked:

Are we supposed to simply sleep well at night crossing our fingers and just hoping that the re-empowered “bishop” Bransfield doesn’t get drunk and call us in the middle of the night, again? Or text us in the middle of the night, again?

VGD went on:

We can keep waiting for a scrubbed McCarrick report, or we can simply watch Bransfield unfold. We can watch our bishops demonstrate how to give gifts, how to make payments, how to promote your proteges, auxiliaries, and successors, how to bury and defy an abuse report, how to redact your own names, how to get away with it.

…A few weeks ago, a group of clerical sex-abuse survivors in Buffalo NY wrote to Pope Francis. They lamented that they had tried to communicate with the Apostolic Administrator currently running their diocese, without any success.

From the time the apostolic administrator, Edward Scharfenberger. came to Buffalo, he stated on numerous occasions his willingness to meet with any Survivor and offered the opportunity to see the files of our offenders. To this date, even with our reaching out to him, he has never personally followed through to contact any of us, making his words as a representative of the Catholic Church ring hollow. As Survivors, we are forced to relive our past experiences of sexual abuse, and being ignored re-traumatizes us.

pope francis head rubThe sex-abuse survivors asked the pope:

Why have you not taken swift and decisive action in putting and end to the sexual abuse of children and punish the perpetrators under your authority?

…The pattern has long since gotten familiar. Promises made by prelates of personal interactions with survivors that will bring about reconciliation. Then it never happens.

Reminds me of one fact recounted in the Minnesota Public Radio series Betrayed by Silence, which won a prestigious journalism award in 2014. The series exposed the duplicity of  three Twin-Cities Archbishops, including the late Harry Flynn, who had previously served as bishop in Lafayette LA.

(Flynn also chaired the committee that drafted the Dallas Charter of 2002, sharing the limelight on that occasion with Theodore McCarrick.)

The Scandal began in Lafayette, with the predations of Father Gilbert Gauthe. The MPR reporters found one of Gauthe’s victims, Mr. Scott Gastal. They told Gastal how Flynn had said he met with Gauthe’s victims. “Did he meet with you?”

“That’s the first I’m hearing of anything like that,” Gastal replied.

Betrayed by Silence also recounts how Mr. Tom Mahowald sought justice and reconciliation by seeking an encounter with a diocesan official, Father Kevin McDonough–only to have Father Kevin slam the door in his face:

…My point is: President Abraham Lincoln recognized that he had no right to exhort anyone to “move on.” If the Civil War was to drag on longer, with all its misery, so be it. The nation owed God all that misery and more, in exchange for the misery that slavery had cost the slaves.

In our Church, a huge debt of pain remains. If every ounce of suffering drawn by acts of clergy sexual abuse shall be paid by another ounce of suffering drawn from the institution, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore
Mr. James Grein

…You may remember that, 26 months ago, I committed myself to the task of collecting all of James Grein’s public statements. James recently spoke on a “Catholic Project” podcast called Crisis. He recounted the abuse he suffered at the hands of Theodore McCarrick.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick last year. But the malefactor still has the ear of at least one high-ranking Vatican cardinal. And the web of deceit involved in covering up for McCarrick remains very much in place.

Don’t give up hope on my book about this, dear reader. I actually have almost all of it written, but it needs editing and emendations. I will post the draft of chapter three soon.

A Ghost Speaks

McCarrick Report? Let’s hear from the man himself…

McCarrick sofa

From the Washington Post, April 17, 2002:

McCarrick discussed the [Spotlight] scandal and his recommendations for the church’s response at a luncheon with editors and reporters of The Washington Post. Few other prelates of his rank have spoken so extensively on the issue to the media.

…More than 10 years ago, while he was bishop of Newark, McCarrick said, he was accused of pedophilia “with my own family” in a letter sent to some of his peers in the church hierarchy.

“I immediately did two things,” he said. “I wrote a response and sent it to the nuncio [the pope’s representative in the United States] because I figure everything’s gotta be clear. And then I brought it to my Presbyter Council, the council of priests in the diocese. I said, ‘This is what I got. I want you to know it.’ Because I think light is what kills these things. You gotta put them in light. And then nothing ever happened. He never wrote another letter or anything.”

McCarrick’s spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said later that the unsigned letter implied that he had sexually abused his nieces and nephews but it had “no specific allegations, no names, no nothing . . . just rumor.”

After telling this story, the cardinal added, “If there’s any interest with anyone here, I can say I’m 71 years old and I have never had sexual relations with anybody — man, woman or child. And that can go on the record.”

Asked what he thought might be the long-term impact of the scandal on the church, McCarrick predicted that it would “cause a greater openness on the part of all of us, and that has to be good, because the church is supposed to be a family and you can’t have a family if only half the people know what you’re doing. The sunshine should come in.”

Church leaders, he added, “will have to be . . . more open in our financial dealings, more open in our personnel practices, more open in how we train our seminarians . . . I think people are going to look [more closely] now, and they have a right to.”

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick will be among 11 U.S. cardinals going to Rome to meet with Pope John Paul II next week.

I stumbled across this, in my book research. It took me up short.

1. The dishonesty of the man makes you want to spit, then break something, then spit again, then holler like a banshee.

2. The ’02 scandal should “cause a greater openness on the part of all of us. The Church is supposed to be a family, and you can’t have a family if only half the people know what you’re doing.” Church leaders “will have to be more open. People are going to look more closely, and they have a right to.”


3. The Washington Post owes us soul-crushed Catholics an apology, too. For letting themselves get enchanted by the devious imp. The vaunted Post journalists failed abysmally to scrutinize McCarrick’s ’02 prevarications.

When we re-read McCarrick’s patter about what happened in Newark in the early 90’s with the knowledge we have now, something jumps off the page.

He never explicitly denied it. He never explicitly denied what we now know he spent decades doing, to the ruination of many souls.

He denied “having sexual relations” with man, woman, or child. One imagines that this predator defines “sexual relations” in the strictest possible sense. WARNING PG-13 He had his fingers crossed, when it came to: ogling, stroking, fondling, and masturbation.

And it was the abuser himself who called his victims his “nephews.” Excuse me while I barf, dear reader.

“Light is what kills these things.”

Yes it is, you poor devil-twisted soul. Yes, it is.

Please, dear reader, keep praying that my muse will continue to accompany me with gentle kindness in my scribbling. I will share some chapter drafts with you soon.


Two Next Steps

old-booksNumber One

With the Lord’s help, I will write a book. Tentative working title: Ordained by a Predator.

I plan to write five chapters:

1. Summer 2018

2. What I Think Happened with McCarrick

3. The Church We Believe In

4. The Bishop-Knestout Affair

5. “Justice for Father Mark?”

May the good Lord give me two weeks of peace and quiet to write a draft. May He send me a book agent who could help me get it published. (Please let me know, if you know someone.) May He guide my mind and my pen.

Send thoughts and ideas, if you have them. (I may or may not be able to answer, these next couple weeks, but I promise to read any ideas I get.)

Richmond Cathedral WRIC screenshot2

Number Two

This Sunday, we will keep another prayerful vigil in front of the Cathedral in Richmond, beginning at 4:00pm. 823 Cathedral Pl, Richmond, VA 23220.

Please come. We have seats available on vans from Rocky Mount and Martinsville. Call or e-mail Joe Kernan: 540-263-1516 or 276-632-9941 or joekernandc9@yahoo.com

O God, who crowned the Blessed Virgin Mary with surpassing glory, grant, through her prayers, that we may merit to be exalted with you on high, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son.

(from the Collect for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption)

El Greco Virgin Mary

Happy 12th anniversary of this little weblog ❤️

McCarrick Articles

Conscientious people recognize that the Church in the United States cannot live Her life in any kind of healthy manner without coming clean regarding the decades-long McCarrick Cover-up.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike realize this. Conservative Catholics and liberal Catholics all realize this.

Two weeks ago, the “conservative” National Catholic Register editorialized about it:

Yesterday, the “liberal” National Catholic Reporter did the same:

When the Register and the Reporter have the same editorial position on something, that’s what you call an “American Catholic consensus.”

Non-Catholics also recognize the imperative. Journalists, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have helped us by doing thorough investigations.

Two days ago, two reporters in New Jersey published a record of the McCarrick Cover-up. They based their report on extensive research and interviews.

The article comes as a great gift to the Church, helping Her do what the pope and bishops have not had the will or clarity of mind to do.

Here’s a full, easily readable and print-able .pdf file of the article.

It’s a heartbreaking read. But we believe in something called reconciliation. That is, getting the grace of God back, by living in the truth. No one enjoys confessing your sins. But you sure feel lighter when it’s over.

Some quotes and summarizations from the New Jersey Herald article…

In 2002, McCarrick had taken a leadership role among American cardinals, becoming the face of the church as it promised to reform itself in the wake of allegations that bishops had been covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.

But NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey has learned through interviews and shared documents that McCarrick overlooked abuse allegations made against several priests in the Newark Archdiocese. And the former cardinal is now accused of abusing children himself in three New Jersey lawsuits — including one filed last month alleging he shared children with other priests at the Jersey shore.

In 1997, an aspiring seminarian met with McCarrick to tell him that a Newark priest had sexually abused the young man’s brother and had beaten him. McCarrick promised action. But he did nothing.

So the aspiring seminarian wrote to the Cardinal Archbishops of Boston and Los Angeles, begging them to intervene.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles wrote back:

“Archbishop McCarrick is greatly concerned about all these problems and issues, and I know that you can rely upon him to be attentive to these pastoral needs.”

And the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston:

“Your pain and frustration is familiar to me because I have had to deal with the problem of sexual misconduct by clergy. Pray for the leaders of the Church, that we might do God’s will whenever this awful problem occurs.”


The aspiring seminarian got the message. He told the New Jersey reporters:

It was, ‘this isn’t our problem.’

(Both those Cardinal Archbishops later got exposed as serial cover-up artists. But the one received a Vatican funeral with full honors. The other continues to present himself as an elder statesman of the American Church.)

You may remember my mentioning another priest ordained by McCarrick, who has tried to contribute to the public record, Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo. He spoke with the New Jersey reporters.

Msgr. Figueiredo translated McCarrick’s letters to the Vatican into Italian, so he had a lot of correspondence which shed light on what happened. In late 2018, Figueiredo offered to go over all this correspondence with the current Archbishop of Newark, Joseph Card. Tobin. Tobin refused. Tobin said, “this is not the time to discuss that.”

A few months later, in May 2019, Figueiredo posted some of the letters on a public website. Tobin then attacked Figueiredo for failing to “disclose these grave facts earlier.”

When the New Jersey reporters asked the Newark Archdiocese about this, the press office replied:

“Cardinal Tobin has not seen the contents of the letters to which you refer, and it would be inappropriate to comment on them without seeing them. Information and correspondence publicly released or information still not made public by Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo properly belong to the Holy See to investigate.”

In their report, the New Jersey reporters reproduce one of the McCarrick letters to the Vatican that Figueiredo gave them, from 2008.

McCarrick claimed in that letter what he had told us priests and seminarians of Washington, in 2002: “I have never had sexual relations with anyone, man, woman, or child, nor have I ever sought such acts.”

McCarrick and James

The courageous testimony of Francis M., reported last month by the New York Times, gives the lie to McCarrick’s claim. Not to mention the previous testimony of James Grein, one-time St. Patrick’s Cathedral altar boy Mike, the Nathans, John Bellocchio, and John Doe 14, among many others.

The New Jersey reporters also include the disclosures of Father Boniface Ramsey, which you read about here almost two years ago.

Father Ramsey tried to blow the whistle on McCarrick the day after the Vatican announced that he would be the new Archbishop of Washington. In December 2000, Ramsey called, and then wrote to, the Apostolic Nuncio to the US.

Ramsey told the New Jersey reporters: “They knew about it. They didn’t do anything.”

The reporters conclude with Michael Reading’s painful story, which Elizabeth Bruenig told two years ago, while she still worked at the Washington Post. McCarrick abused Reading at the now-infamous Sea Girt NJ beach house.

He went to an upstairs bedroom to change and said McCarrick stood there watching. He finally realized the prelate wasn’t going to leave until he changed into his bathing suit. Later, on the beach, he said McCarrick stuck his hand under Reading’s swimsuit in front of other seminarians. He said they didn’t talk about it and he didn’t know what to do.

The New Jersey reporters add details about what happened after Michael Reading reported the abuse. (This part is a little confusing, because it involves two men named Reading, who are not related. McCarrick abused Michael Reading, who then reported it to Ed Reading, a priest of a neighboring diocese.)

The Rev. Ed Reading, a priest of the Paterson Diocese, was alarmed when the seminarians told him they felt pressured into sharing a bed with McCarrick and having to undress in front of him… Reading reported it to his bishop, who indicated he would contact the Vatican’s U.S. representatives.

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

“Something had to be done,” said Reading, who now works as a substance abuse counselor outside of the Paterson Diocese. “It’s emotional abuse and it’s a power problem.”

About two weeks later, Newark priests told Reading that church officials made an unannounced visit to the archdiocese, apparently to clamp down on use of the beach house. It was perhaps the first attempt to curtail McCarrick’s activities. But like some other actions later taken by priests and church officials, there were either no consequences or they were fleeting, as McCarrick took seminarians to the shore home for years afterward.

The New Jersey reporters missed one important source of information, the Italian book Il Giorno del Guidizio, which I summarized for you in November 2018. I wrote to the New Jersey reporters yesterday, to alert them to this additional source of information.

Because they don’t know the book, the New Jersey reporters write:

The allegations against McCarrick remained an open secret in the church even after the Newark Archdiocese and Metuchen Diocese paid two seminarians to settle claims against him in 2005 and 2007… McCarrick retired as head of the Washington Archdiocese in 2006, when he turned 75, the Vatican’s required age of retirement. It is not known whether his departure was connected to the payouts.

It actually is known that McCarrick’s departure from Washington came so suddenly because of the payouts. A Vatican official spoke off the record about it, back in the fall of 2018. The official revealed this chain of events:

McCarrick turned 75 three months after Benedict XVI became pope.

Years earlier, while he was still Card. Ratzinger, Benedict had concluded that McCarrick posed a danger to the good name of the Church. The Vatican became aware of the first McCarrick settlement in December 2005, apparently.

The pope then rushed the replacement process for McCarrick. (Healthy sitting Cardinal Archbishops usually remain in office until age 80.) Donald Wuerl became the new Archbishop of Washington well before McCarrick turned 76.

Then the McCarrick-retirement phase of the cover-up began. The details of that phase, once they all come to light, will likely serve to explain why your unworthy servant languishes in unjust suspension from ministry.

The One Who Sees Us Through Disaster

Happy Transfiguration Day. This coming Sunday, at Holy Mass we will read…

The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

(Matthew 14:24-31)

Christ at the Sea of Galilee, School of Tintoretto

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

The God-man walked on water. He can overcome gravity, since He invented gravity. This man stands at the center of the life of His Church. He remains with us, offering us the same strong hand He offered St. Peter.

We need it. Not just individually, but as a community of Christians. Because gravity does not appear to be on our side.

What has happened here? With our communities already deeply compromised by the virus, our bishop has intervened in the life of our parishes–not help them, but to wreck them. He takes a priest—admittedly kind of an annoying goofball, but who nonetheless can show up for work every day—he takes me and throws me in the dumpster. We try to reason with him, and with his superiors, and we get absolutely nowhere.

What is going on?

It’s actually not that big a mystery. Over the second half of the twentieth century, an incredibly talented New Yorker with a moral blind spot the size of the Sea of Galilee became a highly prominent Church politician. He connived his way into becoming the pope of New Jersey. Then he maneuvered himself into the College of Cardinals and became the confidante of three popes.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount

Meanwhile, Theodore McCarrick left behind him a wide trail of broken souls. Every time the man celebrated Holy Mass, surrounded by sycophants trying to please him, he delivered another painful blow to his victims.

Wait. Every time he celebrated Mass. But isn’t this Jesus Christ’s holy Presence with us? The Mass?

We need big, big faith. Because Yes, it is His Presence. Yes, Jesus Christ does stand at the center of the life of His Church. Jesus can lead us through this disaster. We need to have enough faith to believe that. Because this disaster is bigger than what we think we can deal with.

We little Rocky Mounters and Martinsvillians find ourselves caught up in a heavy drama. The man who ordained me had made it basically impossible for the people he hurt to continue to believe in the Holy Mass. And to continue to believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that celebrates the Mass.

They went to Pope John Paul II for help, and he did not believe them. Benedict XVI believed them, but he wanted to keep the whole thing hush-hush. Then Pope Francis chose mercy for his friend, Theodore McCarrick, over justice and healing for McCarrick’s victims.

McCarrick was not the only one with a moral blind spot the size of Lake Como. They had a blind spot in the Apostolic Palace in Rome, also.

The thing is this: Every time a priest who abused you says Mass, and no one stops him, and everyone acts as if everything is holy and normal, you feel something far worse than a five-fingered death punch to the face. You feel like a demon-sized lie has pinned your truth to the mat on the lowest floor in hell, like a sumo wrestler crushing your ribcage.


God must not care.

But He does. The Mass is the Holy Mass of Christ crucified.

We will have to face the fact that three popes presided over a colossal institutional failure. The institution failed so magnificently that we will have to admit that we never knew Satan was so smart. We never knew anyone, even Satan, could orchestrate something so damaging to the Christian faith.

Here in the U.S., a lot of us thought the Church saved Her credibility with the bureaucratic maneuvers of 2002, after the Boston Globe blew the lid off decades of priestly sex-abuse cover-ups. But we will have to face the fact that the lies just moved farther up the chain-of-command that year. After all, the man who called the shots in 2002 was Theodore McCarrick.

All this horribleness has now rained down pain and confusion in our little bucolic corner of southwest Virginia. It will get worse before it gets better, uglier before it beautifies.

We will have to remember that the Lord Jesus endured a series of unimaginably agonizing hours. He suffered blows and lashes and wounds all over His sacred Body. He bled from everywhere. He has drawn us into this, in our interior lives.

But He lives. We need big, big faith. He conquered all that agony, and He will reconcile us all to Himself. Truth can seem to wound. But, in the end, it heals, restores, and brings real peace.

Jesus Christ, brutally tortured and crucified to death, risen again from the dead, and present with us. The man Who pulled St. Peter out of the water. He stands at the center of the life of His Church. He stands there, immovable, full of love.

Gulag Dispatch #8: Canonical Arguments + the Secret McCarrick Report

Just over a month ago, on June 29, my dear canonist wrote to Bishop Barry Knestout, submitting a petition under Church law.

Michael asked that the bishop revoke his decree suspending me from public ministry. Michael pointed out that no canonical process had determined any reason for the suspension.

Michael also asked Bishop Knestout to revoke his decree removing me as pastor of the parishes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph. Michael pointed out that no canonical process had ever established that my ministry had become “harmful or ineffective,” as Church law would require.

Thirty days have passed since the bishop’s receipt of Michael’s petition. Bishop Knestout has not answered. According to Church law, that means we must consider the bishop’s response to be: No.

canon law codex canoniciSo yesterday Michael sent a seven-page letter to Cardinal Stella of the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, petitioning that his Congregation intervene.

We made the following arguments to Cardinal Stella:

1. His Eminence had written in June. He identified a technical problem with our original petition. He added that, since the time limits to appeal had elapsed, I must go to my new assignment.

Michael pointed out in his petition yesterday that a subsequent exchange of letters between Bishop Knestout and myself put me in a new and different situation. The bishop stipulated in writing that I could not minister in any capacity while continuing to publish this blog you now read.

Our appeal of this stipulation has come within the required time limits, with a mandate for Michael to serve as my procurator.

2. In yesterday’s petition, Michael cited a number of facts about the state of affairs at St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph during my tenure as pastor. Namely, that the financial situation of St. Joseph’s improved significantly during that time, from indebtedness to liquidity. And the number of First Communions and Confirmations in both parishes increased four or five-fold.

The evidence points, therefore, to a fruitful tenure. Not “harmful or ineffective ministry,” as the law requires to justify removing a pastor.

3. We see, therefore, the only reason Bishop Knestout has for removing me as pastor: this weblog.

No evidence indicates that this blog constitutes ‘harmful and ineffective ministry,’ in and of itself. Rather, I have tried to help you, dear reader, by publishing this blog. My efforts have fallen far short of perfection, to be sure. But not without some fruit along the way.

Michael outlined all the ways in which I have sought guidance from the bishop on how to make this blog more amenable to his liking. The bishop has never engaged those efforts. Rather, Bishop Knestout has “chafed against the truths published herein” and has stipulated my total silence.

Anno Fidei inauguration Benedict XVIThese arguments lead to the conclusion that the decree removing me as pastor is invalid.

4. Michael then addressed Bishop Knestout’s decree removing my authorization to minister as a priest. Michael explained why the continued publication of this weblog cannot justify the suspension of my faculties.

The solemn magisterium of the Church has urged the Christian faithful to make use of all the means of social communication to spread the Gospel. The magisterium has also declared that, for shepherds of souls, using the means of social communication constitutes a duty, connected with the office of preaching. Pope Benedict XVI explained that this includes “the world of digital communications.”

mccarrick5. The right to use the means of social communication to spread the Gospel is not absolute. Everyone must exercise this right properly, in accord with sound Christian doctrine. A bishop has the responsibility to correct unsound teaching. I have repeatedly sought guidance from Bishop Knestout on this. But I haven’t received any.

6. Michael concluded our petition by pointing out: the Bishop’s demand that I completely remove this weblog from the internet goes against my basic human freedom, recognized and guaranteed by the teachings and law of the Church. It also goes against the duty I have to use the internet to try to spread the Gospel.

Therefore, I cannot abide by Bishop Knestout’s stipulation that I remove this blog completely. The Congregation in Rome must intervene, because “the injustices in this case cannot be left to stand.”

Also yesterday, Bishop Knestout wrote to us Catholics here in the his diocese. He noted that we “await the report from the Vatican on Theodore McCarrick.”

St. John Vianney

In fact, not everyone “awaits” the report.

Your humble servant has it on very good information that senior prelates in the U.S. already have the report.

The report confirms what you have read here, over the past two years. A high-level conspiracy in the Church covered-up the truth about McCarrick for at least two decades.

Does something in the report explain the apparently irrational ecclesiastical destruction wrought here in Rocky Mount and Martinsville, Virginia?

Our bishop has wrecked the lives of two parishes and has tried to railroad a serviceable priest out of the ministry. Hundreds of aggrieved people have appealed to higher authorities in the Church to stop this destruction. But no one has intervened.

What can explain this?

Is the answer somewhere in that secret report which now sits on the desks of some senior prelates in the U.S.?

Today we keep the 161st anniversary of the holy death of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests. St. John Vianney, please pray for us.

I have also started praying to Katharina von Hohenzollern, who sought justice in the Church, in Rome, just as the Curé of Ars lay dying in France.

No pope has canonized Katharina, so we have to pray for her, also.

But please, dear reader, pray to St. John Vianney and to Katharina that a miracle might occur to bring peace back to our lives here.




John Doe 14 on the Jersey Shore

Bruce Springsteen played a beach bar called The Stone Pony in the 70’s and 80’s, in the New Jersey town of Asbury Park. The Jersey Shore shimmers with the beauty of The Boss’ poetry.

Bruce SpringsteenWhich makes it even more excruciatingly painful to contemplate the sufferings of Mr. John Doe 14. Victimized by Theodore McCarrick, a couple of towns down Ocean Avenue from the Asbury Park Convention Hall (where Springsteen saw the Doors, when he was nineteen).

John Doe 14 calls himself by that name because McCarrick first abused him at age 14. I could have known John Doe in school, if I lived up in those parts. John Doe was born three years before your unworthy servant.

In high school, Doe had an apparently ruthless sex-abuser for his Catholic-school principal. This man waylaid ninth-grader John Doe into McCarrick’s Sea Girt, NJ, beach-house sex ring.

Bruce was rocking in his early prime in those years. He had released The River, then Nebraska, and he was cranking out all his Born-in-the-USA hits. Just up the beach.

John Doe filed suit last week in New Jersey. Against all the Catholic institutions that failed him: the school, parishes, and dioceses implicated in the sex-ring. His lawsuit brilliantly seeks to accomplish by external compulsion something that has not happened by way of in-house purification. Namely: genuine accountability for these institutions. If they were secular corporations, they would all have to enter some kind of moral receivership.

The simple fact is this: John Doe got dragged into an organized, far-reaching sexual-exploitation operation, headed by the chief executive of the diocese. Doe names five priests and religious in the lawsuit. But other priests were involved. Doe just never knew their names.

Theodore McCarrick belonged in jail, when the pope’s ambassador came to the new diocese of Metuchen, NJ, to hand McCarrick the crozier. John Doe entered the ninth grade the following year. McCarrick had already committed too many criminal sexual acts against minors for him even to remember them all. He belonged behind bars. Instead, he ran a sexual exploitation operation, victimizing minors, out of the diocesan beach house.

john paul ii theodore mccarrick newark 1995
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newark NJ, 1995

When John Doe was nineteen or twenty, Pope John Paul II made McCarrick the new Archbishop of Newark. John Doe saw the man who had abused him like a sex slave during ninth and tenth grades–he saw him adulated as the new pope of the Garden State.

Shortly thereafter, McCarrick abused Mr. John Bellocchio, about whom we wrote a few months ago.

…On the morning of September 11, 2001, Springsteen went out to the Jersey beach, to look north and watch the smoke rise from lower Manhattan. Songs began to come into his head.

He could write a song about this. About John Doe 14 and the scores of abused brethren he has–high school boys, seminarians, young priests.

The song needs some heavy guitar riffs, to cover us while we punch holes in the wall. Then it needs to resolve into tragic sadness, while we think of the terns bobbing in the seawash on the beach at sunset. And we weep over the colossal desecration that our holy Church has suffered, but still not faced.

In February 2019, the Vatican hosted a meeting on sex abuse of minors. A German Cardinal gave a speech at that meeting, touching on ‘transparency.’

The Holy See had just defrocked McCarrick then. As I noted at the time, the utter secrecy of the case rendered the outcome open to grave doubts about its judicial integrity.

Cardinal Marx spoke on that subject. He said:

Proper legal proceedings serve to establish the truth, and form the basis for imposing a punishment which is appropriate for the relevant offence. People in the Church have also to see how this judge comes to the sentence and what is the sentence; nearly all are secret, we cannot see this.  I think that in our situation it is not good. In addition, they establish trust in the organisation and its leadership. Lingering doubts about the proper conduct of court proceedings only harm the reputation and the functioning of an institution. This principle also applies to the Church.

(I myself had earlier urged the same thing, specifically for the McCarrick case.)

If the Holy Father had taken this advice, Mr. Doe and Mr. Bellocchio might not have had to file their lawsuits. The institutions they have sued might have acknowledged the full truth, back in 2019.

But the pope did not take Cardinal Marx’s advice. To this day, one wonders why.

Guest Post by Ann White: McCarrick the “Cool Kid”

Think about the cool kids in high school. Think especially about the cool boys. Confident that whatever they did was okay, cool boys attracted girls–and they attracted other boys, who wanted to hang out with cool kids and be cool, too.

Dr. Ann White

Theodore McCarrick was a cool Catholic cleric.

He has many talents: charisma, great intelligence, natural leadership ability. He ran the show without appearing to need anyone’s approval. Like a cool high school kid, he exuded confidence that what he did was a good thing to do.

Theodore McCarrick did good things for the church. At least he thought they were good things, he said they were good things–and all the clergymen around him thought that such a very cool person could only do very good things.

Other Catholic clerics were not as cool. They needed the approval of others. Did they decide to become priests because a priest gets automatic approval and attention in his parish?

From the beginning, McCarrick carried himself differently. He wasn’t needy like they were. At least he didn’t appear to be. He just took control—politicking, organizing, giving speeches, seeking and getting the attention of bishops, cardinals, and popes with his wit and easy manner.

Was McCarrick ever nervous? He never seemed to be. Cool people speak and move and act with great ease.

McCarrick achieved fame, inside and outside the Catholic Church. He became a bishop, then cardinal archbishop. He conferred with popes. He went on diplomatic missions. All the uncool Catholic bishops and priests loved seeing him in newspapers and on TV. They thought he made the church seem cool. Even better, he made them feel cool because they were associated with him.

McCarrick sofaSo maybe we can imagine McCarrick, early in his career as a bishop, sitting with three other priests on the porch of his Sea Girt, New Jersey, beach house. He’s suggesting something about the five bedrooms of that house. What he means is: a priest (including himself) in each bed, and a good-looking, vulnerable boy in each bed, too.

One of his companions gets led into it. “Hey, I could do that.”

Yes, he could do that. He had the inclination, but—before now–he had never actually done it. But now, Mr. Cool Cleric is even organizing the party. Why not?

Another of the McCarrick companions on the porch thinks to himself, “Wait. I don’t know. This stuff he’s talking about–it’s wrong.” McCarrick stares at him for a long silent minute. “Well, okay. You’re so cool. I guess you get a pass on this.”

“A pass on this.” This companion couldn’t bear for the cool kid, McCarrick, to dislike him. So he and all the other Catholic clergymen give McCarrick a pass. And gave themselves one, too, if they wanted it.

The third oceanfront companion then speaks up. “Sure. Nobody will ever find out about this anyway.”

The perennial dynamic of peer pressure. From the “cool” kid. But with life-shattering consequences for the victims.

Eventually the world did find out. But only because victim survivors had the courage to speak out, after years of hidden pain. And whistle-blowers, lawyers, and journalists scoured broom closets to find the hidden skeletons. To this day, state attorneys general wonder if there are still more closets, more evidence of the considered-to-be-cool belief that “Nobody will ever find out about this.”

Criticize McCarrick. He deserves it. But remember who else deserves criticism. All the cowardly, Mr.-Cool wannabes who sucked up to McCarrick as though they were high school rejects sucking up to the cool kid in the group.

They carried on the myth that McCarrick deserved respect. Catholic boys and young men did respect him. Their parents respected him, too, never dreaming that he would use their sons as sex toys.

It took a long time before the uncool clergy got it together to remove McCarrick from the priesthood. They finally had to mete out a token punishment for the cool kid, because they couldn’t completely escape the pressure of an outside world that didn’t quite see the coolness in sex abuse.

But look at what those uncool Catholic clergymen have never admitted about themselves. They haven’t admitted that, with respect to McCarrick the sex abuser, they didn’t behave like adult men able to make sound judgments about a peer.

No, decade after decade, they behaved like high school kids who worshiped the cool kid in their midst. The clergy around McCarrick wanted more than anything else in the world to hang out with cool kid, be like him, and get him to like them.

Report on WUSA9 in Washington, D.C.


After WUSA aired the story, the Diocese of Richmond made a comment. Mr. Leshan dutifully included the diocese’s statement in the on-line, written version of the report:

“As of this writing, this is not just about Fr. Mark’s blog,” Deborah Cox, a spokeswoman for the Richmond Diocese, said. “Fr. Mark continues to refuse to accept the assignment and the new job he has been given.”

I asked Ms. Cox to correct this statement, because it mis-characterizes the situation. As of this writing, to the best of my knowledge, she has not done so.

I very much want to work as a priest. I appealed my removal as pastor in Rocky Mount-Martinsville to the Holy See. Last month, the Congregation for the Clergy dismissed my appeal on a questionable technicality.

In the meantime, Bishop Knestout suspended my priestly faculties–that is, my authorization to minister as one of his priests. I cannot minister in any assignment without that authorization.

Bishop Knestout wrote to me last month to inform me that I cannot have my priestly faculties back while I still have a blog. Bishop Knestout himself made it all about this blog.

I pointed out to him then that his stipulation violates both canon law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to no avail.

If the bishop had not imposed his stipulation, I would have proceeded to my new assignment last month, as instructed by the Congregation for the Clergy. I would continue to fight to return to Rocky Mount-Martinsville, to be sure. But I would do so while working as diocesan prison chaplain, as assigned.

I cannot do this, however, because Bishop Knestout has not lifted my suspension.

I just want to be clear about this, because, at least to me, it’s the difference between being an obedient priest and a disobedient one. Refusing to submit to silencing does not violate priestly obedience. But refusing a legitimate assignment does.

Ms. Cox did me wrong in the way she characterized the situation. She owes me, and the readers of Mr. Leshan’s story, a correction.