Extended Interview

Mr. Dale Thompson had the kindness and patience to conduct an in-depth Zoom conversation with your unworthy scribe.

Pop some popcorn, and kick back for the ten segments. Total running times comes in shorter than Gone with the Wind, Dr. Zhivago,Titanic, or War and Peace.

Gulag Dispatch #6: What Does ‘Justice for Father Mark’ Mean?

On March 19, Bishop Barry Knestout wrote to the parishioners of Rocky Mount and Martinsville. The bishop indicted your unworthy servant for the crime of “working against the unity of the Church,” “pushing the faithful to animosity against the Apostolic See and the bishop,” and “injuring the good name of the Holy Father.”

The bishop accused me of “inflammatory and contemptuous comments” about the pope and the hierarchy of the Church. No matter what my intent, the bishop wrote, I have acted in an inappropriate and unbecoming manner for any pastor or priest.

Mr. Mike Lewis called Bishop Knestout’s letter “very transparent.”

On the other hand, my canon lawyer, Michael Podhajsky, promptly wrote to the bishop, pointing out some shortcomings in his letter’s ‘transparency.’

Michael pointed out:

  1. The very blog posts which the bishop’s letter cites as divisive were clearly written with love for the Church and desire to build up the Body of Christ.
  2. The bishop asserted that I had led Catholics away from unity of faith, without actually consulting any Catholics about whether that had, in fact, happened.
  3. The bishop wrote that I refused to meet with him, when I had in fact met with him twice. I had asked for specific information about his problems with my blog, and he had never offered any such information–until the publication of this letter to the parishioners.
  4. Bishop cited headlines and quotes from the blog, without providing any context, or engaging the arguments laid out in the posts.

Michael made some other points, too. But for now, I would like to focus on this paragraph of His Excellency’s letter to the parishioners:

Lest one believe that the wrongs in the Church have not been addressed in our diocese, I note that I have met personally with victims of clergy sexual abuse, held listening sessions throughout our diocese, celebrated Masses of Atonement, addressed this topic in a pastoral letter, published the names of clergy against whom there were substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, increased our staffing in the Office of Safe Environment and the hired a full-time Victims Assistance Coordinator, and, most recently, established an Independent Reconciliation Program.

mccarrickA lot to consider. But let’s focus on: the pastoral letter. In that pastoral letter, Bishop Knestout wrote:

I support and promise my full co-operation with any independent, lay-managed, authoritative investigation into the scandal of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.

He wrote that sentence in September 2018. At that time, a number of American bishops had proposed that lay men and women, outside the ecclesiastical hierarchy, ought to investigate the McCarrick scandal.

The hierarchy, however, never put such an investigation into motion. Instead, the Vatican promised “to study all relevant documentation” and “make known the conclusions.” This promise, made in October 2018, gave rise to the ever-elusive dreamchild: the McCarrick Report.

I spelled out my concept of a McCarrick Report, as best I could, back on May 1. Longtime readers here know: my desire to understand the facts about McCarrick’s career has motivated the blogging that has gotten me into trouble.

One of our heroes, Nathan Doe, a victim of McCarrick’s, encouraged us last month to wait patiently for the Vatican’s report. Well over a year ago, Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, one-time priest secretary for McCarrick, published documents pertaining to the McCarrick cover-up. Speaking with a journalist this past Thursday evening, Msgr. Figueiredo also urged patience:

Monsignor notes “a priest does not have the obligation to remain silent.” “Priests are legally obliged to speak out about abuse.”

Monsignor says, of the Vatican’s McCarrick Report: “It will come out. It’s at a good stage at the moment. I think it’s going to show exactly what happened.”

For now, however: I do not want to brag, but I think it’s fair to say this. The closest thing the world has to a ‘McCarrick Report,’ available to the general public, is the collection of links available on my post of May 1.

Should a bishop persecute a priest for sharing this kind of research with the public? Justice for Father Mark means: No. Persecuting a priest for seeking the truth does not serve the best interest of the holy Catholic Church that we all love.

Two questions remain.

  1. Will the Vatican ever actually produce a comprehensive report which discloses fully the McCarrick cover-up?
  2. Will everyone involved in the McCarrick cover-up acknowledge their role, face honestly the extent to which they have betrayed the public trust, and resign from positions of leadership in the Church?

We shall see. God’s will be done. Happy Independence Day, dear reader.

The Parish Church, Viganò, and Nathan Doe

A parish = part of the earth. A part of the earth, with a church.

A parish church = a building with a baptismal font, a confessional, a pulpit, an altar, a tabernacle, an ambry for the holy oils, and a priest. The building, and everything in it, lifts the mind to heaven.

church_drawingThe overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians receive and live the faith in a parish church. Someday, we will emerge from the coronavirus crisis, and the parish churches of the world will function normally again.

The most fundamental task of a bishop, and most sublime: provide the parishes of his diocese with priests.

The more invisibly the bishop does this task, the better. Because the goal clearly is: That everyone who enters the parish church does so with the safe and true assumption that they will find a priest there they can trust. A priest who honestly represents the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ.

I think we all know that, a generation ago, a tidal wave began to wash away that trust, here in the USA. It started to wash across the land in Louisiana, thanks to the work of the journalist Jason Berry.

Catholics had to face the fact: you might not find a priest you can trust in your local parish church. You might find a criminal sexual abuser, fleeing justice. Because Catholic bishops do not know how to deal with criminal sexual abuse.

McCarrick NBC screen shotThe tidal wave crashed down over me in the summer of 2018, when I learned that I received Holy Orders from a criminal fleeing justice. I received Holy Orders from the very man who convinced America, in 2002, that the bishops had finally figured the thing out. Turns out he did that con-job on us as a criminal fleeing justice himself.

As you know, Bishop Barry Knestout threw your unworthy servant into the ecclesiastical gulag for the ‘crime’ of pointing out this evident fact.

My friend Bob Hoatson runs “Road to Recovery,” a non-profit that helps victims of sexual abuse. Last week, Bob mailed the same package to both Bishop Knestout and myself, a copy of Carmine Galasso’s book Crosses.

Bob mailed me a copy because of our friendship. He mailed Bishop Knestout a copy because the bishop serves on the Bishops-Conference Committee for Child and Youth Protection.

Crosses is an incredibly painful book to read. Also enormously illuminating. Catholic sex-abuse survivors tell their stories, in the first person. Galasso captures their world with haunting photos. The late A.W. Richard Sipe, expert in clerical sexual abuse, wrote of Crosses, “This book is a triumph of making sexual abuse by religion understandable.”

Now, speaking of trusting bishops…

Two weeks ago, a retired titular Archbishop,* Carlo Maria Viganò, wrote to the priests and laypeople of the Archdiocese of Washington. advising them to distrust their sitting archbishop, Wilton Gregory.

Why should they distrust him? Archbishop Viganò’s letter does not explain. Rather, Viganò simply takes for granted a certain interpretation of a number of unclear facts.

The White House apparently organized a visit by President Trump to the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, and invited Archbishop Gregory. Gregory, it seems, begged off.

Then, the night before the visit, White House security forces used some violent tactics to remove peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square, the lovely park just north of the White House.

Archbishop Gregory chose to condemn those tactics, in the form of a statement about the president’s visit to the JPII Shrine, which occurred the following day.

Crosses Galasso HoatsonDoesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Criticizing one thing by expressing bafflement about another. On the other hand: the police did, in fact, forcibly remove peaceful protesters from a place where they had lawfully assembled, without proper warning.

Let me simply note the following:

I wrote to Archbishop Gregory myself in April, 2019, while he was still Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia. I gave him some unsolicited advice. I recommended that he insist on full public disclosure about the McCarrick cover-up, before agreeing to take office in Washington.

I pointed out to Archbishop Gregory that, had Donald Wuerl done this–insisted on honesty about McCarrick–then the cover-up would have ended fourteen years ago.

We would have a much-larger reservoir of trust and good will in our Church, had either Wuerl or Gregory insisted on full disclosure of McCarrick’s crimes, prior to taking office as McCarrick’s successors.

What do we have instead? Well…

…Remember “Nathan Doe,” abused by Theodore McCarrick? Nathan moved me to tears with his loving solidarity last October. He told a reporter:

“McCarrick was charming. He was self-effacing. He was completely disarming. And he ran that game on everyone. He ran it on his colleagues, donors and on young boys. Everyone around this guy is just a different shade of victim.”

Nathan reported last fall that Vatican investigators had spoken with him. Nathan expressed his confidence that a healing ‘McCarrick Report’ would see the light of day.

Nathan kindly wrote to us again ten days ago, to offer an update. He remains hopeful. In spite of everything, Nathan trusts Pope Francis. He trusts the pope to give us a painful but soul-cleansing McCarrick Report.

After all, the pope has a most-important, most-sublime task, too. To provide bishops we can trust to give us parish priests people can trust.

I, for one, wonder why the duty of encouraging trust in the hierarchy falls to this particular anonymous sex-abuse victim. Nathan’s public hopefulness about full disclosure only makes the long, dull silence of the miters all the creepier.

…Nathan insists that earnest Vatican investigators have collected a huge amount of information. Presumably facts about McCarrick’s abuses of minors and young men, during the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

Tornielli Giorno GiudizioGetting all those facts on the table someday will certainly help to clear away the tidal-wave waters of American-Catholic disillusionment. Thank you, Nathan, and all the victims who have spoken to these investigators.

But certain facts already sit squarely on the table. In August of 2018, Archbishop Viganò revealed a great deal of theretofore-secret information. Anonymous Vatican sources confirmed a large chunk of that information, in Andrea Tornielli & Gianni Valente’s book Il Giorno del Giudizio, which I summarized for you, dear reader, in December 2018.

Let’s call the consensus of Viganò and Tornielli/Valente the “common ground” facts. (That’s what judges call the facts acknowledged by both sides in a court of law.) The common ground facts include: The pope, the heads of the Roman Congregations, and Donald Wuerl all knew something about McCarrick’s crimes. In 2005.

I pointed out those “common ground” facts in my letter to Archbishop Gregory last year. Archbishop Gregory never answered me.

…A few days after writing to the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Viganò then wrote to President Trump.

In this letter, Viganò paints two pictures. The first: a contest between good and evil in politics. I certainly cannot agree with the archbishop’s analysis there. He sees the protests over George Floyd’s death as purely theatrical, the result of behind-the-scenes manipulation. I don’t see that. To the contrary, I fear disastrous riots–all 100% sincere–if the prosecutors in Minnesota do not obtain guilty verdicts for the officers who killed George Floyd.

But Archbishop Viganò’s second picture touches our theme here: There’s a “deep Church”–a corrupt, hidden bureaucracy, hostile to the cause of Christ. This “deep Church” wages a vicious battle against the “good shepherds.”

Viganò provides no facts to substantiate this assertion. Which makes it sound more like Donatism than like orthodox Catholicism.

The truth–the ugly, detailed, tedious facts: they will help to purify our Church. On the other hand, broadside condemnations, unsupported by evidence, do more harm than good.

What I see is this:

The “corruption” causing such widespread disillusionment among Catholics involves, above all, unexamined self-righteousness.

I think we, the victims of the deception, could pretty easily forgive all the conspirators in the 21st-century part of the McCarrick cover-up, the “Washington phase.” If only those conspirators had the humility to acknowledge their culpable cowardice in failing to bring the malefactor to justice.

(Indeed, the “great” Viganò seems to have a hard time facing the fact that he himself was, for years, one of the conspirators in the 21st-century phase of the McCarrick cover-up.)

We could pretty easily forgive, if only there was some ‘fessing up. But the obdurate self-righteousness of the conspirators has stalled the whole process. And made the situation ten times worse than it ever had to be. (With a well-meaning parish priest in southwest Virginia languishing in an outrageous ecclesiastical gulag, with his people suffering needlessly.)

Instead of lining up on two teams, let’s remind ourselves:

Why do we enter a parish church in the first place? In order to take our rightful place on the “true Church” team?

Speaking for myself, that’s not my reason. I walk into the parish church because: I fear winding up on the other team, in the end. I fear I’m on the other team right now. I need every bit of divine mercy to help me. And we find that mercy in the ministry of priests.

I violated Bishop Knestout’s “no trespass” order against me on Saturday. I entered St. Francis of Assisi parish church in Rocky Mount. (I had violated it the preceding Sunday, too, at St. Joseph’s in Martinsville, for the same reason.)

To go to confession.

* Higher-ranking officials of the Holy See of Rome generally become archbishops of places that no longer have Catholic populations, or of dioceses that have gotten absorbed by other dioceses during the course of history. A “titular” archbishop, therefore, has great responsibility in assisting the pope, but does not actually govern an archdiocese.

Gulag Dispatch #2: Donald Wuerl, Please Recuse Yourself

A few weeks ago, I wrote about priestly obedience and appealing a superior’s decision. In the Church, we call such appeals hierarchical recourse.

Father John Coughlin wrote a ten-page article outlining the idea, which you can read by clicking HERE.

Caravaggio The Musicians
The Musicians by Caravaggio

Perhaps you ask, dear reader: Whither goes my appeal of our bishop’s decree removing me as pastor of the parishes here? To a Vatican tribunal called the Congregation for the Clergy.

St. Charles Borromeo founded this particular Roman congregation in 1564, at the behest of Pope Pius IV. Originally, this “department” of the Vatican served to interpret the decrees of the Council of Trent.

A later prefect of the Congregation supported Michelangelo Caravaggio financially. Cardinal del Monte originally owned “The Musicians.” The painting now resides at the Met, in New York City. (Currently in storage, unfortunately.)

The late John Card. Wright, one-time bishop of Pittsburgh, Pa., also served as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. Holding that post made Cardinal Wright the highest-ranking American in Rome, at the time of Pope St. John Paul II’s election to the papacy. Who served Wright as priest secretary? Father Donald Wuerl.

st-peters-sunrise

Who sits on the Congregation now? Hard to say.

We parish priests dutifully publish the names of the members of our pastoral and finance councils. But the Holy Father in Rome does not see fit to make available to the general public the full roster of the members of the tribunal that will consider my appeal.

Beniamino Card. Stella currently serves as prefect. The ‘star,’ so to speak 🙂 Stella means star in Italian.

Archbishop Joel Mercier serves as secretary. Father Andrea Ripa, under-secretary. Archbishop Jorge Patron Wong, of Mexico, also appears to be a member of the Congregation.

According to googled news articles, in 2014, Pope Francis appointed Rainer Card. Woelki of Berlin, Giuseppe Card. Betori of Florence, and Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania.

They joined the nineteen members already serving, which include: Marc Card. Ouellet, Sean Card. O’Malley. And Donald Card. Wuerl.

wuerl miter

Googled news reports mention a total of 22 members. But it doesn’t seem possible to know for sure, without inside knowledge. No one ever said our Church was a “transparent” organization. (Or if they did say that, they lied.)

We have discussed Donald Card. Wuerl here before. In 2011, he helped me fulfill my dream of serving in a diocese more priest-strapped than my hometown. He and the late Francis Xavier DiLorenzo made it possible for me to transfer to Richmond. For that I am grateful.

From 1988 to 2006, Wuerl served as bishop of Pittsburg, Pa. In August of 2018, many Pennsylvania Catholics found themselves scandalized by revelations about him in the famous Grand-Jury Report.

Not a Pennsylvanian myself, I don’t know much about that. I do, however, know:

Donald Wuerl failed the clergy and the people of the Archdiocese of Washington that August. His inability go grasp the widespread sense of betrayal left the decent people of his city speechless.

He had to resign as Archbishop.

Robert Ciolek New York Times
Robert Ciolek (New York Times photo)

But things actually got worse from there. Wuerl remained as “Administrator” of the Archdiocese for eight months. During that time, the Vatican convicted and defrocked Theodore McCarrick, without disclosing any information about the case.

Wuerl had known about one of McCarrick’s victims, Mr. Robert Ciolek, since the fall of 2004. Ciolek wanted to understand why Wuerl covered-up for McCarrick all those years. Ciolek tried to have a conversation with Wuerl, to no avail. So Ciolek went to the Washington Post. Here’s a quote from the report:

Ciolek shared his story with The Post with regret, he said, because he had first asked repeatedly to meet with Wuerl and was ultimately rebuffed, after being given a list of proposed restrictions by the D.C. archdiocese’s chancellor and general counsel. Among them, he said: If he met with Wuerl, he could not take notes, record, or ask questions.

Ciolek went on to say:

It’s belittling to me as a victim of abuse to have him as a priest and leader of the church to overlook, ignore, or lie about what he knows I shared. It’s just beyond disrespectful in terms of what he signals to me… It’s as if I don’t exist. It belittles the significance of the events themselves.

The situation scandalized the conscientious people of the Archdiocese. The Washington Post editorialized about it on January 13 of last year:

When allegations came to light last year [2018] of sexual abuse and inappropriate conduct involving children and seminarians by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who succeeded Mr. McCarrick as leader of the Washington archdiocese, expressed shock and denied prior knowledge.

Now it turns out Wuerl was presented in 2004 with an account of Mr. McCarrick’s alleged misconduct, which he relayed to the Vatican. Then: nothing.

In the ongoing tsunami of revelations about the Catholic Church’s willful blindness, conspiracy of silence and moral bankruptcy on clergy sex abuse, this particular revelation encapsulates characteristics that continue to dog the church: callousness directed at victims; an insistence on denial and hairsplitting; and the hierarchy’s preference for treating allegations as internal matters, as if the world’s 1.2 billion lay Catholics were an irrelevance.

In response to the revelation that Wuerl was fully aware of, and handled, an allegation from a former priest about Mr. McCarrick’s misconduct more than 14 years ago, the Washington archdiocese issued a statement suggesting that his previous flat denials were merely “imprecise.”

In fact, the cardinal’s comments last summer [2018] were unequivocal. In response to a broad question about “long-standing rumors or innuendos” posed by a reporter, he said, “I had not heard them” before or during his tenure in Washington. That was untrue.

As it happens, Wuerl, then-bishop of Pittsburgh, not only was presented with allegations of Mr. McCarrick’s misconduct by a former priest named Robert Ciolek. To his credit, he also swiftly brought that information to the Vatican’s attention in a meeting with the pope’s ambassador in Washington.

Yet Mr. McCarrick remained as archbishop of Washington for nearly two more years and suffered no discipline until last year.

Understandably, Ciolek is outraged that Wuerl, having known of his allegations for years, denied knowledge of them last year.

On my ordination anniversary last spring (May 24), I wrote about the disenchantment many of us felt about all this. The office of Archbishop of Washington seems mired in perpetual dishonesty. Here’s a quote:

Donald Wuerl knew fifteen years ago that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and young priests. This past Tuesday, Wilton Gregory, the newly arrived successor in Washington, praised Donald Wuerl as “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

But let’s imagine a true Christian gentleman, reading the sworn testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims, in the fall of 2004. Wouldn’t a true Christian gentleman, in Donald Wuerl’s place, think to himself: I need to see justice done here. I have a duty to this poor soul. May God help me to do right by him.

Instead, Wuerl obsequiously sent the whole thing to Rome and washed his hands of it. In the Vatican, they masterminded the McCarrick cover-up. And Wuerl has hidden behind the supposed virtue of filial obedience to the pope ever since.

As I have mentioned before, over the course of five months, I repeatedly asked Bishop Barry Knestout to identify which posts here he disliked. He would not do so.

But then Bishop K wrote to the parishioners of the parishes. He identified some objectionable posts. Prior to the Decree of Removal itself, I never received a single document about my “case,” other than that letter to my parishioners.

In his letter to the parishioners, Bishop Knestout identifies the post I just quoted as one of the five I have written that have damaged ecclesiastical communion.

Seems to me, therefore, that the integrity of the judicial process would demand: Donald Wuerl should not sit in judgment of this case, whenever the Congregation considers it. He has a personal interest in the evidence at hand. He cannot remain impartial. An honest judge would recuse himself, under these circumstances.

If they need a substitute, I nominate Robert Ciolek.

The Idea of the McCarrick Report (with Compendium)

McCarrick NBC screen shot

Want to know about the criminal case of George Cardinal Pell of Australia? Fallen by Lucie Morris-Marr documents it, in detail. (Perhaps with an unfair bias–we’ll come back to that, dear reader.) Or you can read the extensive court documents available to the public.

In other words, if you want to know the facts of the Pell case, all you have to do is read.

Want to know the facts of the Father Mark White case? (Which I recommend, before giving me advice, much as I prize good advice.) Again, all you have to do is click above, and read. All the documents (so far) are there.

Meanwhile, Theodore McCarrick. He ordained hundreds of priests. Confirmed thousands of young people. Presided, as the face of the American Church, during the 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight scandal. Then, sixteen years later: found guilty by a Vatican tribunal of grave crimes of sexual abuse. And defrocked.

McCarrick ordinationThat reckoning with justice occurred decades after the original crimes were committed. What happened between the 1970’s and 2018? A sexual predator exercised truly enormous power and influence in the holy Roman Catholic Church. Over the course of forty years, dozens of ecclesiastical officials became aware of McCarrick’s predations, and kept them covered up.

How could this have happened? We have a right to know, we believing Catholics touched by this man’s extensive ministry. We have a right to know the facts about the colossal breakdown of institutional integrity. We have a right to hold to account all the conspirators involved.

On October 6, 2018, the Vatican issued a communique notifying the world that someone (not identified) would ‘study’ all the documents of the McCarrick case. The communique made no explicit promise about publishing anything. Rumors have abounded for many months that a written report of some kind exists, somewhere in the Vatican offices.

But May of 2020 has arrived. And still no accountable, public word about this. From any ecclesiastical official. Nineteen months later.

Does the hierarchy not owe us an account of what happened? Over those four decades when McCarrick ruined lives; bishops and popes knew; and yet McC. got away with it?

We know that James Grein and John Bellocchio have lodged lawsuits about McCarrick abusing them; others may have as well. Perhaps some genuine, non-craven legal reason exists to withhold the information until those suits run their course. If that is the case, though, some competent ecclesiastical official could announce that, and indicate the hierarchy’s willingness to come clean about the McCarrick scandal, as soon as possible.

Instead, silence. If you study the documents under the tab above (about my own case), you will note that Bishop Knestout admonished me in September 2018. Wait to comment about the McCarrick situation until such time as all the facts become known.

By September of 2018, Bishop Knestout had written at least twice about participating in the study that would lead to the full disclosure of the facts about the McCarrick cover-up. Babies born then have learned to talk since. Meanwhile: nothing, by way of a report.

Not to brag, dear reader, but in fact your humble servant has actually produced a pretty extensive “McCarrick Report.” Extremely sketchy, since I don’t have access to the file cabinet in the Vatican. But, for what it’s worth, here’s a little compendium of the posts…

April 6, 2019 open letter to Archbishop Gregory, of Washington.

February 21 McCarrick book proposal for Jon Krakauer.

February 16 McCarrick Verdict.

January 5 McCarrick-case pdf of my dreams.

December 4, 2018 The Vatican spills the beans on McCarrick (off the record).

October 8. Commentary on Marc Card. Ouellet Open Letter to Viganò.

August 28 Believing Viganò.

July 30 James, the Man of the Hour + James’ Amanuensis.

July 26 New Scandal, Worse than the First.

 

 

My Why

McCarrick and James
McCarrick and the young James Grein

On May 24, 2003, Theodore McCarrick ordained me to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ. Over a few decades, McCarrick ordained a couple hundred men, including many of my oldest and dearest friends and spiritual brothers.

Turns out: McCarrick should have been in jail. For ruining a large number of young lives. And the hierarchy knew it, and covered it up.

Was James Grein at my ordination Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine? Or John Bellocchio? Or any of the “Nathans?”

Don’t know. But likely at least one of them sat there, among the 2,000 people present. Watching the man who had caused him personal spiritual ruin ordain me and my brother ordinands to the holy priesthood.

For two years I have tried, with all the little brainpower I possess, to see the whole business from that person’s point-of-view. To interpret all the actions of the Catholic hierarchy from James’, John’s, or Nathan Doe’s point-of-view.

McCarrick ordination
McCarrick ordaining me

I have at times lapsed into intemperate rhetoric. I apologize, again, for that. Please forgive me, dear reader.

I will not, however, stop writing my way through this spiritual crisis. Bishop Knestout has accused me of “choosing my blog over my parishes.” I find that wrong and unfair.

The bishop has threatened to suspend me from ministry and seek to have me dismissed from the clerical state. If he suspends me, that will separate me from my parishioners, at least for a time, since I cannot legally disobey a suspension order. My lawyer and I will of course fight such an order, through the canonical process.

But the fact I have to deal with is this: I cannot minister honestly as a Catholic priest if I do not try to connect my mind with the mind of the clergy sex-abuse victim sitting in the pew. I have no choice there.

I was ordained by a predator. Doesn’t make my ordination invalid, of course. And it places no particular burden on anyone else ordained by McCarrick. But for me personally, I have no choice about this.

I wish none of the disturbance we experience as parishes right now. I want only a tranquil life for us all, praising God and making our way to heaven. I am sorry for the offensive things I have written over the years.

But I cannot say that I am sorry for appointing myself James Grein’s amanuensis and running with it. If I were sorry for that, I would have to be sorry for being the Mark White that God made in the first place.

And for that I am by no means sorry, praised be the Lord Jesus Christ.

McCarrick-Report Fable vs. Streetside Press-Conference Preachers

Aesop sculpture
The fabulist Aesop

Before the virus engulfed Italy a fortnight ago, the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc. expected the imminent release of the Vatican’s “McCarrick Report.”

Let me explain.

Aesop, the ancient Greek fable teller, spun a yarn about something dubbed “The McCarrick Report.” He told the tale way back before anyone on earth ever heard of coronavirus.

Amazing as it is, many journalists who butter their bread with ecclesiastical money still actually believe the fable.

In the story, the Vatican has a “huge document” that will someday “cast light” on: How a serial destroyer of young lives succeeded in deceiving an entire generation of trusting Catholic people. While popes, Cardinals, and bishops all swallowed it down their gullets without saying anything.

Aesop concludes the fable with this: The McCarrick report will show Pope Francis’ true “commitment” to “transparency and accountability.” The report will also contain the chemical formula for the cure of COVID-19. And the exact geographic co-ordinates where the Ark of the Covenant lies buried in Ethiopia.

A Vatican Cardinal will appear at a press conference with Jim Morrison, James Dean, and Jimmy Hoffa to release the report to the public. Then the opening soccer match of the 2020 Olympic Games will proceed in St. Peter’s Square, followed by all the canceled NCAA basketball games.

…From Mr. Bates’ mailbag, dear reader:

(written 1/25/2020)

On Her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the discrepancy existing between the message She proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted. Only by taking the way of penance and renewal, the narrow way of the cross, can the People of God extend Christ’s reign. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 853)

Over two months ago, we noted the speech of His Eminence Sean Card. O’Malley to the American bishops assembled in Baltimore for their annual meeting there. The Cardinal assured everyone that the long-promised Vatican report about Theodore McCarrick would soon see the light of day.

A month later, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, spoke similarly:

The report has not seen the light of day.

Reasonable people gave up long ago. The Vatican produce a document that cast real light on the McCarrick Cover-up? The soul-destroying mess that has now lasted for an entire generation?

One of our heroes, “Nathan”–anonymous McCarrick victim, who wrote to us at the one-year anniversary of the Vatican’s original promise of a report–he urged patience. Nathan said, Wait for the report. It will come. They have a huge amount of information to synthesize. Honest brokers are at work.

I could not bring myself to believe this, even back in October. Now, three months later:  Two prelates, long implicated in the McCarrick cover-up, just became Dean and Vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

This makes me conclude: Only Stockholm-Syndrome sufferers can continue to indulge in fantasies about a “McCarrick Report” coming from Rome. The Vatican does not have the capacity for self-reflection which could produce a credible McCarrick Report. At least not right now.

But hope is by no means lost. The mafia of obtuse narcissists steers the Barque of Peter towards the iceberg, but sex-abuse survivors nonetheless try to save the Church.

What has happened over the last couple months is this:

1. New Jersey, New York, and California temporarily removed statutes of limitations for sex-abuse claims. The bishops of Mexico publicly called for their government to do the same.

2. Theodore McCarrick abused Mr. John Bellocchio of New Jersey in 1995. This past November and December, Mr. Bellocchio filed two lawsuits, using his own name, and publicly announcing his intentions. In New Jersey, he sued the Archdiocese of Newark.

In federal court, he sued the Holy See.

Mr. Bellocchio’s eloquence deserves the widest possible audience. His words in these press conferences inspire me like a great sermon. Does our Church have a future? With people like John Bellocchio leading Her–yes.

Also, as you can see in the second video above, Ms. Siobhan O’Connor came to support Bellocchio, along with Mr. Michael Whelan of Buffalo. O’Connor had some eloquent things to say, too, which you can hear by clicking this link.

In his lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, Bellocchio highlights this fact: The Holy See signed the United Nations Charter for the Rights of Children in 1989. The U.N. has repeatedly cited the Vatican for serious violations of the treaty, over the course of the past couple decades. Mr. Paul Moses published an article outlining this in Commonweal magazine last summer.

Non-Catholic-media journalists also seem to care about the integrity of the Church more than our bishops do. Thank God someone does.

We learned right after Christmas that the Washington Post had uncovered information about large sums of money that McCarrick had given to other churchmen over the years, out of a fund intended to help the poor. This included a $200,000 gift to Pope Benedict XVI, shortly after Benedict became pope.

Let’s remember the situation then:

Cardinal Ratzinger knew about McCarrick’s predations, but Pope John Paul II refused to believe the accusers.

Spring, 2005. McCarrick sat as Archbishop of Washington. John Paul II dies. Ratzinger becomes pope. McCarrick sends the new pope $200,000.

Looks a lot like a hush-money bribe, doesn’t it, dear reader?

James Faluszczak and Paul Barr Buffalo
James Faluszczak, left, and attorney Paul Barr, right

Another agent of renewal for Holy Church is Mr. James Falusczak. He spoke out last month to try to deal with the web of cronyism and half-truths that rules in the ecclesiastical province of New York.

On December 10, Falusczak spoke in Brooklyn about the dishonesty of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and former Brooklyn priest, now Albany Bishop and Buffalo administrator, Edward Scharfenberger. Click THIS LINK to listen to some excellent preaching of the Gospel.

Brooklyn Bishop DiMarzio stands accused of sexual abuse, but he nonetheless remains firmly in office. He had to cancel a scheduled visit to a Catholic school, because parents objected. Parents objected to the sitting bishop visiting a Catholic school. The National Catholic Reporter yesterday published an editorial pointing out the cronyism of Timothy Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio.

Faluszczak spoke in Buffalo on Dec. 13 about Scharfenberger’s dishonesty regarding the Vatican investigation of Buffalo. Click THIS LINK to listen some more more excellent preaching.

They’re preaching healing. Yet, how do we heal when we don’t have a full accounting, when we don’t have a full report?

Amen, brother.

…If the good Lord Jesus could, by His grace, convert the persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul, He can save us now, too. The Truth can, and will, renew His Church.

Even if the truth about the misgovernment of the Church can only shine out in secular courtrooms right now.

Cowardice Update

Pope Francis bishop Reed ad limina
Bishop Robert Reed, auxiliary of Boston, and His Holiness, last week

One of our New-England bishops, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, gave a brief speech on Monday. He, and his fellow bishops of that region, had just returned from their ad limina visit to Rome, arriving in Baltimore in the nick of time, for the semi-annual American bishops’ meeting.

Forgive me for saying so, but His Eminence’s speech in Baltimore seemed strangely aimed at answering your unworthy servant. Of course I don’t actually imagine that he, or anyone of ecclesiastical significance, ever reads anything I write; I think I merely managed to express a common sentiment. (And I used, in anger, some language unworthy of a temperate Christian, and for that I apologize, dear reader.)

Cardinal O’Malley said to the assembled American bishops, regarding his and his fellow New-England bishops’ sojourn in Rome:

We were not afraid to bring up [to the Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State] the question of the report on Theodore McCarrick, and we insisted on the importance of publishing a response to the many serious questions of this case. [emphasis added]

I note his protestation of “not being afraid.” I note it with some relish.

His Eminence went on to say:

The long wait [for the promised report] has resulted in great frustration on the part of bishops and our people, and indeed a harsh and even cynical interpretation of the seeming silence.

The “seeming” silence? Let be be finale of seem, your Eminence. The Roman silence has resounded as a genuine worldwide roar. Don’t accuse us of cynicism, when it is we who face reality squarely, not thee.

[Like, for instance: When will our American bishops discuss the findings of the Illinois and Colorado reports on sexual abuse in the Church? Both of these reports pointed out serious shortcomings in the Dallas Charter. Will such a discussion item ever appear on any US-bishops’ agenda? Or shall we continue to think, with good reason, that all the propaganda about putting sex-abuse victims above institutional interests amounts to: the usual mafiosi blah blah blah?]

Anyway. According to O’Malley, the Cardinal Secretary of State in Rome said, regarding the McCarrick report, the very words that my imagination attributed to him. Si, presto, subito. “Yes, soon, very soon.” Then last Friday’s central-Italy earthquake occurred.

So we shall see, dear reader. A full McCarrick report will reach us. Within a couple months. So says the Cardinal.

I do not recommend that anyone hold his or her breath.

…Meanwhile, back here in our humble corner of the world: I have received my annual summons to the principal’s office.

Bishop Knestout letter Nov 19

(His Excellency had reached me via cellphone the night before, as I lay on my couch, suffering laryngitis, and trying to recover from a nasty little head cold I managed to catch.)

Last year, when summoned to show my servility by driving six-hours for no apparent reason, I responded by proposing that bishop and I meet and talk at our annual diocesan priests’ meeting instead. I never got a response to that proposal, and we never had our “dialog.”

Yesterday, I responded by asking which blog posts exactly he means? And why he wants to discuss them? And I asked if we could have our conversation by phone.

I await a response. May God be with us all.

Cowards Ad Limina

Every able-bodied Catholic bishop has a duty to visit the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul–and the pope–once every five years. (Or at least once every eight years, if the pope’s schedule gets full, with important things like endless, confusing month-long Synods.)

In previous centuries, these visits ad limina included an individual meeting with the pope. In this benighted century, the popes have held group meetings with the visiting bishops. Pope Francis meets with as many as twenty bishops at once.

Our American “shepherds” will arrive in Rome in fifteen separate groups over the course of four months. The first group, the bishops of New England, arrived at St. Peter’s yesterday.

Now, let’s briefly anatomize the current Church scandal, here in the U.S. It begins and ends with one name. McCarrick. The Pennsylvania grand-jury report, and subsequent reports in other states, have revealed a great deal of evil and episcopal blundering. But none of that came as “news” to us older Catholics.

We had heard it all before. And we knew that the hierarchy fixed the problem! Under the able leadership of the good guys in miters, in 2002. Especially the Prince Charming of that group. Theodore McCarrick.

In Rome, they knew of McCarrick’s menace. Even then. Viganò revealed that. Subsequent reports confirmed it. The head of the Vatican press office even wrote a book about it, quoting all kinds of Cardinals (off the record, of course).

And the Vatican promised to “make known the conclusions of the matter regarding McCarrick.” Leaving no stone unturned, “following the truth wherever it leads,” even if it proved embarrassing. They made this promise over thirteen months ago. In the meantime, the pope used his authority to defrock McCarrick. Without publishing even one single fact of his case.

st-peter
Caravaggio’s depiction of what put Vatican Hill on the map in the first place

So, it seems to your unworthy servant: The loudest wailing noise in Holy Church right now is the utter silence of the Holy See on the subject of Theodore McCarrick.

We American Catholics want to take a step forward, towards restored confidence in the integrity of our institution. That step involves one thing happening. The See of Peter revealing, in full, everything they knew, and when, about the evil little Irish-American leprechaun.

mccarrickI ask you, dear reader: How does an American bishop–who ostensibly pretends to care about his faithful people back home–how does he not get off the airplane at Fiumicino and immediately do this:

Kneel at the Apostles’ tombs. Walk into the pope’s parlor. Kiss the Ring of the Fisherman. Then ask, “Where is the g.d. McCarrick Report, Your Holiness?! WTF? You are fricking killing us. What in the actual f?” (Or something to that effect.)

But these feminized cowards in miters will do no such thing. Instead they will tweet things like, “Oh, mother, bring me my aqua vitae! I just got to meet the Successor of Peter! And he has such twinkly eyes! And amazing jowls. So cute! I just love him!”

An earthquake shook the Vatican offices yesterday. Maybe it came after one of the New-England bishops actually managed to ask the Cardinal Secretary of State about when they would publish the McCarrick report. “Oh, si. Presto. Subito.

Then the walls shook.

…I, for one, object to our bishops going to Rome solely to fan-girl the pope. I think we deserve more serious shepherds than this.

Thank You, Nathan Doe

McCarrick sofa

This past summer, an intrepid reporter managed to interview Theodore McCarrick, in the parlor of the Kansas friary where he now resides.

What McCarrick said in the brief interview made me mad. Because I know the man. I know how he is. I know how he lies. I know how he thinks.

In the interview, McCarrick took no responsibility for all the damage he has done. He spoke in the exact same manner that I knew him to speak, back when I was one of his seminarians, when I was one of his young priests.

Nothing but Church politics.

In the interview, McCarrick dealt with the question of his own guilt in precisely the same way that he dealt with me getting expelled from the seminary in 2001. Took no interest whatsoever in: true vs. false, or the trustworthiness of Sacred Scripture, or the holy Catholic faith. He just played Church politics with my own little life.

So: Reading the interview made me hopping mad. But I didn’t write anything about it. Because I had already written McCarrick a letter, over a year earlier, begging him to repent and live in the truth.

But someone else who knows McCarrick read the same interview from this past summer, and decided to write. Not a letter to him, but a few pages for us.

“Nathan Doe” has written an essay that has restored my hope–hope that the truth will heal us. That we will–finally, eventually–get a full grip on this nightmare. And thereby find a way to bring it to an end.

Mr. Doe writes:

By the time then-Cardinal McCarrick stepped in front of the cameras and microphones in 2002 as the face of the U.S. Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, he had already completed a personal campaign of predatory sexual abuse of minors and young adult males that stretched back across four decades. While the national media waxed poetic about this charming and charismatic Cardinal with a twinkle in his eye, they had no idea that McCarrick was using them to send a powerful message to his countless victims that he was untouchable and in complete control. Can you really blame any of us for believing him?

Unfortunately, it would be another 16 years – and an unspeakable amount of spiritual carnage later – before McCarrick was finally stopped. In fact, the only thing that stopped him was the courage of two faithful Catholic men. Those two men did what no one else could do in 60 years.

Nathan here refers to “Mike” and Mr. James Grein. Nathan refers to himself as one of a number of “Nathans”–so called because they finally found the courage to speak the truth about a sex-abuser with power.

“He was charming. He was self-effacing. He was completely disarming. And he ran that game on everyone. He ran it on his colleagues, donors and on young boys. Everyone around this guy is just a different shade of victim.” (From a Washington Post interview with Mr. Doe.)

Indeed. Just a different shade of victim.

The truly selfless kindness of that statement–made by a survivor of sexual abuse, about me and those like me, who suffered no sexual abuse, but who have indeed suffered the crushing disillusionment caused by McCarrick’s web of lies–which we could kinda see through, but did not know the full depth of…

Nathan’s generosity in recognizing how McCarrick has victimized hundreds and hundreds of us priests and seminarians and countless thousands of faithful Catholics, crushing our faith in the crucible of his own egomania: that generosity is the beginning of Nathan’s heroism.

The second part of it: His generosity in writing out the truth as he knows it, for us. Nathan’s anonymity makes it impossible for journalists to “confirm” his account. And of course no civil or ecclesiastical authorities will vouch for his statements, at least not yet. But… for God’s sake: there can be no real doubt that what Nathan Doe has written is true.

And Nathan perceives the significance of what McCarrick has done.

McCarrick was a walking jurisdictional nightmare who has left a wake of physical, emotional, and spiritual carnage that stretches back, at this point, more than 50 years.

McCarrick and James

Mr. James Grein may be a little kooky-sounding, at times. But he spoke the truth about his abuse at the hands of Theodore McCarrick. Nathan Doe has confirmed that.

Which gives rise to this question: Shouldn’t we also believe Mr. Grein regarding Joseph Bernardin? Bernardin: the enormously influential, widely beloved, apparently predatory late Cardinal, who is still revered as a mentor by the sitting Archbishop of Washington.

In his essay, Mr. Nathan Doe urges us to remain patient regarding the “McCarrick Report.” The long-promised full disclosure by the Church. Of all the known facts of the case.

What I can tell you is that if they had completed and issued their report before today, I would be sitting here telling you that they closed the book too soon. Don’t underestimate the sheer volume of information that began coming in last year, the number of different channels that information came in through, and all of the various investigative processes and law enforcement agencies that have been involved with the examination of the information.

I pray that Mr. Doe has it right here. I pray that I have had it wrong, with my cynical doubt about the honesty of the mitered mafia.

Nathan trusts that a fundamental impetus to honesty is at work, behind closed doors. Church officials, as we speak, earnestly labor on the gathering of facts. Patiently, prudently marshaling what they need to produce a full disclosure–at least as full a disclosure as we fallen mortals can come up with, in this shadowy life.

Nathan thinks the pope and bishops will reward our patience with a genuinely honest report.

May he be right.

I don’t think he is.

After all, our chief “shepherd,” the pope, has known everything that Nathan has disclosed in his essay–and much more–for a long time. Maybe the pope learned some of it just within the past two years. But pope has known other aspects of the story for well over six. And yet the pope has said “not one word.” He, and his brother bishops, with their preposterous, extended silence about McCarrick, have forced Nathan to write his essay.

No, I think we will all die before the mitered mafia–who actually have all the information–give us any. They simply do not have it in them to give us anything even remotely as healing as the document that Mr. Nathan Doe gave us today.

For that document, I thank you, sir. May the good Lord be with you. I count you among my heroes.