Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò published his “Between the Lines” of the McCarrick report last week. He included this sentence about persecuted whistleblowers, with a hotlink embedded. The link takes you to the interview Michael Voris did with me. I appreciate the compliment, Excellency.
The Vatican McCarrick report contains some information about the year 2006. That’s when then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick got rushed into retirement.
We knew something weird had happened. We just did not know why.
Healthy Cardinal Archbishops customarily serve well beyond their 75th birthdays. In the spring of 2006, the sitting Cardinal Archbishop of Washington remained stunningly energetic. Only a few months earlier, McCarrick had publicly declared that the pope wanted him to continue to serve as Archbishop for at least two more years.
In other words, McCarrick’s removal from office in May ’06 embarrassed him enormously. Also, as the subsequent years unfolded, a certain person almost never turned up at diocesan liturgies: the Archbishop emeritus.
The question was: Why?
We know the answer now: Because McCarrick belonged in jail. But no one in the Vatican had the guts to deal with that fact. They tried instead to keep the miscreant out of public view. (More on this foolhardy conspiracy in a subsequent post.)
Bishop Michael Fisher and Bishop Barry Knestout have these things in common:
Both were appointed to career-track jobs in the Washington archdiocesan office by Theodore McCarrick. Both held those positions when the unsettling 2006 Archbishop shuffle occurred. Both moved up into positions of even greater responsibility during the subsequent couple of years–when the Vatican was orchestrating its campaign to keep the McCarrick situation hidden from the public.
What did these two men know about McCarrick at that time? Did they know things that the rest of us did not? Did they know the real explanation for the sudden changing of the guard and the attempted sequestration of the Archbishop emeritus?
If the Vicar for Administration (Knestout) and the Vicar for Clergy (Fisher) did not know the reason for the strange situation, why didn’t they ask their new boss, Donald Wuerl? He had known for two years that McCarrick had sexually harassed at least one seminarian.
From 2006 on, the McCarrick situation in Washington clearly demanded an explanation. Did Knestout and Fisher not want one?
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.
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.
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:
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.
When allegations came to light last year  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  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.
For decades, Mr. Phil Lawler has written about the problems in the Catholic hierarchy. He just announced solemnly that he cannot do it anymore. Combat fatigue.
The straw that broke his camel’s back? The appointment of a new bishop for West Virginia. From within the Wuerl-Lori-McCarrick-Bransfield Edifice of Lies. An institution some of us call ADW, Inc. (ArchDiocese of Washington)
To reply to Mr. Lawler:
On the one hand, we understand and sympathize. His Excellency Mark Brennan certainly arrives in West Virginia already compromised.
How? Allow me, dear reader, to explain what I mean.
At some point in April or May, someone on the inside of the ecclesiastical Bransfield investigation went to the Washington Post with two sets of scandalous revelations.
1. Details about former-WV-bishop Bransfield’s lavish spending.
2. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori’s active suppression of the fact that: some of that spending was bribes paid to him.
(“Wait!” Mr. Aw-shucks by-gosh Bill Lori says, “I told you they were not bribes!” To which the reasonable people of Planet Earth reply: Sir, the recipients of bribes rarely recognize the unreasonable gifts they receive as bribes until after the briber’s wrongdoing gets exposed by someone else–the wrongdoing that you ignored, because it was your ‘friend’ doing wrong.)
Anyway: the leak blew the lid off the church-mafia’s attempt to scapegoat Bransfield quietly, without any public airing of details.
Now, where did Mark Brennan sit when the leaker leaked? At the table in the backroom meeting where everyone “agreed” to remove the list of bribes from the Bransfield report? Only God and the insiders know the answer to that.
But: wherever he sat exactly, His Excellency Mark Brennan had an obligation to do something as soon as he became aware of Lori’s dishonesty. Namely to denounce it openly.
He did not do that; he has not done that. Brennan sang Bill Lori’s praises to assembled reporters in Wheeling on Tuesday morning.
So: Mark Brennan sits on his throne, compromised. Just like Wilton Gregory sits utterly compromised on the throne in Washington, smiling endlessly at the exposed liar Donald Wuerl.
But, Mr. Lawler: Please take this on board. You acknowledge that you do not know Mark Brennan. I do.
In the photo above, he stands in front of the doors to St. Martin of Tours parish in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He served there as a genuinely generous shepherd for thirteen long years. I have admired Mark Brennan ever since I first met him, in 1997.
So your unworthy scribe can say, with some insight: Among the made men of the ecclesiastical mafia, Mark Brennan stands out as an extraordinarily humble and honest person. He actually knows how to put in a hard day’s work, as opposed to just talking endlessly about doing so. Mark Brennan has more intellectual curiosity in his little finger than a banquet-room full of Loris, Wuerls, McCarricks, and Bransfields all nervously slapping each other on the back.
Problem is: This relatively honest and fatherly mafioso has managed to let Pope Francis gaslight the living daylights out of him.
Allow your servant to try to imagine a bishop tasking me, as follows:
‘Er–Father White: You will succeed a pastor of thirteen years incumbency. He retired ten months ago. After he retired, I determined that he did some real bad things and launched a ‘probe.’ But the details are all top secret.
‘You, Father White, will: Take over the parish. And you will negotiate your predecessor’s penance with him. And enforce it.’
Now, hearing such an assignment put to me, I think I would say: ‘Hold the phone there. You expect me simultaneously
a) to sympathize with and comfort the poor, faithful people who my predecessor harmed, and
b) sympathize with and comfort the poor, faithful people who found a way to love him anyway, for thirteen long years, and
c) serve as my predecessor’s impartial judge, jury, bail bondsman, and baseball-bat-wielding repo man?
Instead of replying brainlessly, “Thanks for your trust in me, chief!” I think I might say something that rhymes with Duck Crew.
“Shouldn’t you, Excellency, our superior, take care of judging and punishing my retired peer? Shouldn’t you do your job?”
What honest person can simultaneously embrace the flock left behind as a shepherd and give a fair trial, and impose a fair punishment, on the accused malefactor? Not possible for one person to pull off. This is why professional jurists do things like recuse themselves from cases in which they have a personal interest.
Bransfield does, after all, have a right to a fair trial, like anyone else. He may be guilty of serious wrongdoing. But not a whole lot more guilty than most bishops. He’s hardly one black sheep in a flock of whites. He’s a gray among grays, when it comes to spending faithful Catholics’ donations on nouveau-riche creature comforts for themselves.
I would feel sorry for my old diocesan brother Mark Brennan. If it weren’t for the fact that he owes it to the world to speak the truth. Bransfield is hardly the only straight-up fraud and liar on the stage right now. Lori, Wuerl, and Bergoglio are all straight-up frauds and liars, too.