Visiting St. Thomas II: Montecassino

The ancient* abbey where St. Thomas studied as a boy looms above the sweet little city of Cassino.

* That is, re-built…

…ater being destroyed completely by US bombs in February, 1944.

St. Thomas prayed at the tombs of Saints Benedict and Scholastica, which are now in a chapel below the high altar of the basilica.

The young student from nearby Aquino may have read this very biography of St. Benedict…

And this textbook of science…

He probably walked through this doorway (now preserved in the abbey museum).

And trod these floor tiles.

…In his treatise on justice in the Summa, St. Thomas considers some questions about criminal trials, including how many witnesses are required to establish a fact.

In the third objection in II-II q70 art2, St. Thomas quotes a medieval canon which decrees that, to establish a fact against a Cardinal, sixty-four witnesses are required.

This is of particular interest, considering:

St. Thomas approves of the (practically insuperable) requirement, with this argument:

The rule protects the Roman Church [that is, the College of Cardinals], on account of its dignity: and this for three reasons. First because in that Church those men ought to be promoted whose sanctity makes their evidence of more weight than that of many witnesses. Secondly, because those who have to judge other men, often have many opponents on account of their justice, wherefore those who give evidence against them should not be believed indiscriminately, unless they be very numerous. Thirdly, because the condemnation of any one of them would detract in public opinion from the dignity and authority of that Church, a result which would be more fraught with danger than if one were to tolerate a sinner in that same Church, unless he were very notorious and manifest, so that a grave scandal would arise if he were tolerated.

A lot to consider here; I promise to come back and discuss this thoroughly when I get back home.

In the meantime, though, we can say for sure that the judge in Massachusetts will not have such a high threshold, when it comes to allowing testimony. (Plus, McC is no longer a Cardinal anyway, as of summer 2018.)

In this case, I believe it will actually benefit the Holy See in the long run, that the word of one accuser–with plenty of circumstantial evidence to support what he has to say–will be allowed against this particular accused criminal.

There are a lot of facts that need to come out, and getting them out will, in the end, help the Church.

If you can hang tight until March, you will be able to read about many of those facts in Ordained by a Predator. Good Lord willing, the book will see print then.

Assumption Day, 2021

El Greco Virgin Mary

Today, some 1,978 years ago, our Lady finished her earthly pilgrimage, and the Lord took her to Himself. Mary went to heaven, body and soul.

Thirteen years ago today, this little weblog began. And right around three years ago, it became… controversial. Controversial, at least, in the eyes of the Catholic bishop of Richmond, Virginia.

In a couple weeks I will make a pilgrimage to visit some holy sites in Italy.

Good Lord willing, I will pray at the birthplace of St. Thomas Aquinas, his childhood school (which houses the tombs of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica), and also at the abbey where the Angelic Doctor died. Near there, they keep his skull in a reliquary, in the ancient cathedral of Priverno.

Also, good Lord willing, I will visit the duomo in Florence, where they keep relics of St. John the Baptist, the Apostles Andrew and Philip, and St. John Chrysostom. Near there is the Shrine of St. Mary Magdalen de’Pazzi. Also I will visit the tomb of St. Gemma Galgani and the grave of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton’s husband. (After he died, she embraced the Catholic faith.) I will return just in time for Becky Ianni’s talk in our speakers’ series.

I am trying to get the manuscript of my book Ordained by a Predator ready to send to a potential publisher before I leave.

McCarrick Bootkoski Checchio
Two former bishops of Metuchen NJ, Paul Bootkoski and Theodore McCarrick, with the current bishop, James Checchio

As I edited my chapter on McCarrick’s career, I realized that I had two unanswered questions pertaining to the first diocese that he governed as a bishop, namely Metuchen NJ.

Question 1:

On December 5, 2005, McCarrick’s third successor in office in Metuchen, Bishop Paul Bootkoski, called the papal nuncio to tell him about two of McCarrick’s seminarian victims.

One of these victims had formally complained about McCarrick over a year earlier, in August of 2004. The other victim had first complained well over a decade before that. (The Vatican had actually received a report about this seminarian’s abuse in 1997.)

Why, then, did Bootkoski choose to communicate with the nuncio about this on December 5, 2005? Why that particular day?

It just so happens that, earlier that same day, the Vatican official in charge of bishops had told McCarrick that he would have to resign as Archbishop of Washington.

Did McCarrick call his old friend Bootkoski and tell him that there was no use trying to keep the matter secret from the Vatican anymore? That seems like the most reasonable explanation for Bootkoski calling the nuncio on that particular day.

A second Metuchen question:

When the Vatican released its McCarrick Report last fall, the Diocese of Metuchen issued a statement which claimed: “The first allegation against McCarrick was received by the diocese in 2004.”

In point of fact, McCarrick’s successor as bishop of Metuchen received his first complaint about McCarrick’s abuses no later than 1989. And before then, the Vocations Director of the diocese of Metuchen received complaints about McCarrick from seminarians while McCarrick was still in office as the bishop there (1981-1986).

How, then, can the diocese claim that the first allegation against McCarrick came in 2004?

A few days ago, I submitted these questions to the Office of the Bishop in Metuchen. I have not received any response yet, but I hope to get honest answers soon. After all, Bishop Checchio wrote in his letter about the McCarrick scandal: “We must forge forward, penning the future chapters of our Church’s history with integrity and transparency.” Seems like that means you answer the questions of a researcher trying to put together a fair historical record.

Vatican II stalls…All this moves me to reflect on two little passages from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which the Fathers of the Vatican II gave us. The first passage comes from Gaudium et Spes para. 37:

Sacred Scripture teaches the human family what the experience of the ages confirms: that while human progress is a great advantage to man, it brings with it a strong temptation. For when the order of values is jumbled and bad is mixed with the good, individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests, and not to those of others.

Certainly this insight helps us understand corruption in government, generally speaking. It also helps us to understand corruption in the government of our Church.

What I have seen, in my experience as a priest, is a cadre in the hierarchy that has paid attention solely to their own interests, and not to those of others. Theodore McCarrick created a huge spiritual problem for all of us whose lives he touched. Instead of confronting that problem honestly and bravely, those who knew about the problem sought to hide it, to protect themselves from having to deal with it. Now that we all know about the problem, those same leaders try to pretend the problem is solved.

To be clear: the compromised individuals here include the pope himself, the pope’s closest advisors and co-workers, the ecclesiastical governing apparatus of Washington DC and New Jersey–which includes our own bishop here in the diocese of Richmond VA (an alumnus of McCarrick and Donald Wuerl’s chancery in Washington), the Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore (who knew about McCarrick long, long ago), and quite a few other prelates as well.

I see us mid-Atlantic Catholics stuck in a near-total malaise. The true spiritual mission of the Church cannot advance with any vitality under our current compromised leadership.

I entertain no delusions that the malaise will lift anytime soon. That, however, does not mean it’s all over–our life as Catholic Christians. It doesn’t mean that at all.

Here’s part of Gaudium et Spes 38:

For God’s Word, through Whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh and dwelt on the earth of men. Thus He entered the world’s history as a perfect man, taking that history up into Himself and summarizing it. He Himself revealed to us that “God is love” and at the same time taught us that the new command of love was the basic law of human perfection and hence of the world’s transformation. To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, He gives assurance that the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one.

Our Church can and will be Herself again, someday. It’s not hopeless. I, for one, am not giving up.

The McC Criminal Case: Two Receptions

St Matthews Cathedral

Theodore McCarrick began his ministry as Archbishop of Washington DC in January of 2001.

After a ceremony at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, there was a reception in a banquet hall at the Capital Hilton, a few blocks away. The victim in the upcoming Massachusetts criminal case against McCarrick was at that reception. So was I.

We did not meet then. I have since had the privilege of getting to know the victim, and he has shared some of his experiences with me. His identity will become public on September 3.

I learned from my friend that there were, in fact, at least three of McCarrick’s victims at that Capitol-Hilton reception in early ’01. All three were members of devout Catholic families, families that McCarrick had befriended in his early years as a priest.

The three had shared their experiences with each other before then. That day, they spoke privately among themselves outside the reception, taking counsel with each other about the situation. The man who had sexually abused them, when they were teenage boys a quarter-century earlier, had just become the Archbishop of the capital city of the United States. The criminal would soon become a Cardinal, a potential pope. They had to do something.

Connie ChungThe men agreed that one of them would try to speak to a prominent journalist. The deputized victim called the ABC News reporter Connie Chung. He told her their story. Chung did not believe it.

A year later, after the Boston sex-abuse scandal, McCarrick told a group of reporters that he had been “falsely accused” during the 1990’s. In Rome, Chung interviewed McCarrick. She asked, “Would you address the question of sexual conduct on your part?” McCarrick answered, “I have never had sexual relations with anybody.” Chung: “End of story?” McCarrick: “End of story.”

It might have been the end of the story. But the victims of McCarrick’s crimes did not give up.

— 

Wellesley College Boston Marathon

The course of the Boston Marathon takes you past the campus of Wellesley College. The year that I ran the race, the college choir greeted us runners with an encouraging serenade.

In 1974 Monsignor Theodore McCarrick served as priest-secretary to the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. McCarrick had been friends with one particular north-Jersey Catholic family for decades. That summer he officiated at the wedding of one of the sons. The couple had met when the groom was studying at Boston University and the bride at Wellesley. In the summer of 1974, Wellesley offered itself as an inexpensive venue for wedding receptions.

The victim–the younger brother of the groom–will testify, in person, in court, in Massachusetts. He will tell the jury what happened at that wedding reception. McCarrick had been regularly sexually abusing the boy for five years, beginning at age 11. McCarrick abused him every chance he got.

McCarrick had convinced the young man that he, Uncle Ted, was the only person on earth who could keep the boy connected to God. McCarrick would fondle and kiss the boy’s penis during confession. The previous winter (February 1974), McCarrick had gotten the boy drunk at a hotel bar. McCarrick took the boy up to a room, with only one bed, and proceeded to [Rated R] ejaculate on the boy’s chest. At the wedding reception, McCarrick pulled the boy outside and fondled his penis. Later, McCarrick pulled him into a coat closet, told the boy to confess his sins, and fondled his penis again.

If you have seen the move Spotlight, you know about the Armenian Boston lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci in the movie.

Spotlight movieIn January of this year, Garabedian sat at his desk, poring over all the incidents of criminal abuse that the victim had suffered at McCarrick’s hands over the course of the boy’s teenage years. Garabedian wanted to find a way to get some justice, in a criminal court room, even now. As he went over the list of incidents for the umpteenth time, an idea struck him out of the blue.

At that wedding, McCarrick criminally abused the boy in Massachusetts. McCarrick never lived in Massachusetts. Garabedian remembered that Massachusetts has a provision of law that prevents criminals from escaping justice by fleeing the state. If a criminal leaves Massachusetts, the statute-of-limitations clock stops ticking, until such time as the criminal returns to the state. So, even though nearly fifty years have passed since the crime, the six year statute-of-limitations period has not expired.

The victim then spoke to the Norfolk County MA District Attorney, under oath. A Wellesley MA detective investigated the accusations and concluded that they are more likely true than not. The matter now sits before a judge at the county courthouse in Dedham.

McCarrick belonged in jail on the day that he ordained me, and eight other young men, to the sacred priesthood. That day was over eighteen years ago, and it was nearly thirty years after the two crimes that McCarrick committed at that wedding reception at Wellesley College.

Justice has moved slow. But the victim said to me today: “Father Mark, finish your post with this: God is never late.”

God is never late.

 

Disturbing 35-Year-Old Echoes

letters

The following quotations come from a series of letters sent to Church officials, beginning 35 years ago. They all came from people who knew that Theodore McCarrick was a criminal…

McCarrick has an attraction to children. I have seen him touching 13- and 14-year-old boys inappropriately. (from a 1986 letter sent to all the Cardinals in the U.S., as well as to the pope’s ambassador to the US, the nuncio)

Civil charges against McCarrick include pedophilia… The charges are substantial and will shatter the American Church. The court of public opinion will question the private morality of all ecclesiastical authorities. (from a 1992 letter sent to the Archbishop of New York)

Though he postures as a humble servant, as an advocate of family life and family values, Theodore McCarrick is actually a cunning pedophile. McCarrick will be exposed for the sick bastard that he is! The reputations of all in priestly ministry are on the line. (from a February 1993 letter sent to the Archbishops of Chicago and New York)

Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct will be revealed. He will be exposed as an ephebophile. (from a March 1993 letter to the nuncio)

McCarrick uses the priesthood for opportunity and access to young boys by ingratiating himself with their families, by openly displaying these fake nephews, by sexually exploiting them while their trusting families genuflect before him. The number of incidents and their occurrence over twenty years foreclose any credible claim of a simple indiscretion or lapse of judgment. His conduct is not ambiguous. He is a consummate sex offender. He is psychologically unfit to serve as a shepherd. Under our penal code, he is a criminal. (from a March 23, 1993 letter to the nuncio)

McCarrick is a pedophile. By saying youths are his nephews, he has facilely explained overnight trysts with them in hotels and in homes of benefactors over twenty years. (from an April 1993 letter to the nuncio)

Bishop McCarrick is a pedophile. Church hierarchy and priest associates have long known of the bishop’s propensity for young boys. Monsignor Dominic Turtora lived with McCarrick at the Metuchen cathedral and knew of McCarrick’s misconduct. He knew the Bishop’s young guests never stayed overnight in guest rooms, but spent the night with the Bishop. (from a August 1993 letter to the nuncio)

Apparently, the authors of the letters were afraid of reprisals if they included their names. In one way or another, McCarrick exercised power over their lives.

The nuncio who received these letters, Agostino Card. Cacciavillan, disregarded them “because they were anonymous and lacked substance.”

These written denunciations of McCarrick that have survived until now–they are only the tip of the iceberg. McCarrick’s victims and their families tried; they tried over and over and over again. Priests who knew the truth tried. They tried to get the leaders of our Church to listen.

They refused to listen.

McCarrick and Gerety
Theodore McCarrick’s installation as Archbishop of Newark, NJ, 1986. Outgoing Archbishop Peter Gerety stands second from the right. (Photo by D.J. Zendler.)

The quotations echo now in a new way, since police have finally charged McCarrick with the crime of sexually abusing a minor.

Thirty-five years after Church authorities first heard about it.

[NB–All the information recounted here about the letters can be found in the Vatican McCarrick Report.]

 

Grand-Jury Reports + McCarrick Charged with a Crime

PA Grand Jury victims

Soon we will mark the third anniversary of the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clerical sex-abuse and cover-up. The report offers the public a window into the corrupt way that the hierarchy of our Church has dealt with these crimes.

When the grand jury published its report, the pope and bishops reacted with embarrassment and dismay. We rank-and-file Catholics, on the other hand, recognized the report for what it was: a gift to our community.

Finally the survivors had their chance to tell their side of the story. Finally we gained a clear insight into exactly how our upper leadership has handled this. That is, very badly.

Mark Herring

Shortly after the publication of the Pennsylvania report, our Attorney General here in Virginia announced an investigation into clergy sex abuse in our state. He established a hotline for survivors to call, and his office has worked on mounting criminal prosecutions based on the information they have collected.

I know that a number of clergy-sex abuse survivors, as well as we Catholics in general, have wondered when the A.G.’s office will produce a report like they did in Pennsylvania.

The fact is, however, that we will likely never have a similar report here in Virginia. I did some research to try to understand this.

A state law in Pennsylvania empowers grand juries there to publish their findings, to inform the general public about problems in the community. The investigation conducted by the PA grand jury did not lead to many criminal indictments, since many of the offenders had died. But the investigation exposed the reprehensible conduct not just of abusers, but also the dioceses.

The grand jury recommended changing the statute of limitations for civil suits. Regrettably, that pro-survivor reform has yet to occur in Pennsylvania.

The PA grand jury produced its report because Pennsylvania state law empowered it to do so. It is a legally settled matter there that the damage done to the reputations of malefactors named in grand-jury reports (but never charged with crimes) can be offset by written responses appended to the report. The PA report includes such responses by Church officials.

Jake Tapper grand-jury reportHere in Virginia, we have no similar law. Grand juries here are not empowered to release reports to inform the public. To the contrary, grand jury investigations conducted in Virginia remain sealed. Their findings can only become available to the public as part of a trial.

For example, this past May, a VA grand jury indicted a former priest on two felony sex-abuse counts. When the accused stands trial, prosecutors will likely introduce some of the grand jury’s findings as evidence.

I know that the VA Attorney General’s office eagerly seeks clergy sex-abuse survivors who want to press charges. There is no criminal statute of limitations in Virginia for the sexual abuse of a minor. The hotline # is (833) 454-9064, or you can click HERE.

(If you have any problems reaching someone through the AG office’s intake system, please contact me directly by making a comment below, and I will help facilitate things.)

Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros
Camille Biros and Ken Feinberg

The “Reconciliation Program” that our diocese ran last year was tailor-made to short-circuit criminal prosecutions. Our diocese used $6.3 million given by faithful Catholics over the years, to pay settlements to survivors, in order to reduce their incentive to go to the Attorney General. (That is, in those cases where the perpetrator is still alive.)

Criminal prosecutions do not fully address the need for accountability that hangs in the balance here. Just like in Pennsylvania, we Virginia Catholics who believe in honesty and justice want to see our institution held accountable for the decades of systematic cover-up. We know that the cover-up has caused as much pain as the original abuse. The crimes are one, very ugly thing. The cover-up is another thing, and equally ugly.

I hope that our Attorney General can figure out a way to give the public something like the PA grand-jury report. Even if it takes some creativity to find a legal way to do so, in our state.

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

…As I sit writing this, my phone has blown up, as they say.

Theodore McCarrick has been charged with a crime. By police in Massachusetts. Criminal sex abuse. The incident took place in June, 1974.

McCarrick molested the anonymous victim when he was a teenager, at his brother’s wedding. It was not the only time McCarrick sexually abused the boy. The court has summoned McCarrick to appear on August 26.

Wow.

It is likely that the Vatican has known about this crime, and many others like it, for at least three years, and has kept it all secret. (They could have known about it thirty years ago, if they had gone to the trouble to investigate the charges that made their way to them back then.)

All the evidence that Pope Francis had before him, when he defrocked McCarrick in February 2019, has remained secret. Until now. Now, at long last, the survivors of this predator’s abuse might actually get some real justice. Praise God.

McCarrick paten chalice

Theodore McCarrick ordained me a priest. I am forever grateful for the gift of the priesthood. And I pray for mercy for all of us sinners. But justice must be done, as far as the law allows.

The Cult of Secrecy

On November 21, 2019, Bishop Barry Knestout appeared unexpectedly at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Rocky Mount, Virginia. He insisted on meeting privately with me. (The bishop had the Vicar General with him.) The bishop then ordered me to turn off my cellphone.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount
St. Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount, Virginia

The bishop then read a document aloud to me, a “decree” he had written about my blog. As he read, I struggled to take it all in. The circumstances had jarred my nerves. I did not panic about missing some of what he read, however, because I assumed I would be able to read the document later at my leisure.

After reading the document aloud, the bishop rose to leave the premises. He informed me, to my great surprise, that I would not receive a printed copy. He said something about how I might be able to read it, but I didn’t catch what he said. All I remember is that under no circumstances whatsoever would I be allowed to make a copy.

It has been over a year and a-half since that visit. I have never laid eyes on the document the bishop read.

On May 5, 2020, Bishop Knestout suspended my priestly faculties. He forbade me celebrating the sacraments publicly.

In his letter to me that day, the bishop threatened me with an “interdict” if I published his correspondence to me. I’m not sure what that threat even means, to be honest. Nonetheless, he threatened it. If you publish my letters, you will be punished severely.

confessional

A penitent sinner going to confession has a right to expect secrecy from the priest.

Most sins are private. Only rarely in my priestly life has anyone confessed a sin to me that was also a crime. Under those circumstances, when the situation called for it, I told the penitent before absolution that he or she must do something to restore public justice–including submitting to the criminal justice system, in one case I remember.

Because a crime not only damages the soul of the sinner, it also disturbs public justice. A crime is not a private thing. That’s why “The People” or “The Country” or “The State of…” or “The United States” prosecutes crimes in court. Sins may be private, but crimes affect everyone.

Also not a private matter: the question of who will serve as the pastor of a parish, or whether a not a priest can celebrate the sacraments publicly.

Why would Bishop Knestout imagine that his removing me from office or suspending my faculties is a private matter? I was the pastor of two busy, medium-sized parishes. I celebrated the sacraments with people dozens of times a week. His removing me from office and suspending my faculties affected the lives of hundreds of people.

I bring all this up because Mr. Kieran Tapsell has written a helpful, concise analysis of the Vatican’s recent revision of the Code of Canon Law. Tapsell participated in the the Australian Royal Commission report on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which made recommendations about revising canon law.

canon law codex canoniciAs Americans we tend to take for granted that legal proceedings–especially criminal prosecutions–are public. It’s hard for Americans even to grasp how inherently secretive the Church’s canonical process actually is.

In our country, and countries like ours, trials take place in open court. Many take place in front of cameras. Reporters tell the public what happened. The general public has the right to read the final decisions, with attendant documents.

We take all this for granted because we think of court business as something that pertains to us, the body politic. We think that it pertains to us because it does.

The Australian Royal Commission recommended to the Vatican that canonical cases involving child sexual abuse be published, for the general public to read, with the identity of the victim(s) omitted.

mccarrickI made a similar plea early in 2019, regarding the McCarrick canonical case. I argued: the criminal ecclesiastical prosecution of a Cardinal Archbishop is not a private matter. The crimes involved affected the lives of thousands of Catholics.

When the pope defrocked McCarrick, the Vatican published less than one full paragraph of information about the case. To this day, we do not know on what evidence McCarrick was convicted and dismissed from the clerical state.

And the Vatican has rejected the Australian Royal Commission recommendation about child-sex abuse cases in general. The revised Code of Canon Law does not make any provision for giving the public any information about ecclesiastical criminal cases.

Tapsell laments:

The Vatican spokesman said, “Today the atmosphere is different, [when it comes to actually punishing criminal priests.]”

But it remains to be seen whether the Church’s courts actually agree with the spokesman’s claim. As the Church has not adopted the Royal Commission’s recommendation as to the publication of canonical court decisions, we will probably never know–until the next time the Church is required to hand over its records by another civil inquiry, or the United Nations.

The maintenance of secrecy over the Church’s disciplinary actions will not restore its reputation.

My friend Mark Vath has written an open letter to law enforcement officers in Louisiana. The occasion for Mark’s letter is this:

In December of last year, lawyers questioned a serial pedophile priest in a court deposition. The judge then ordered the deposition sealed, in deference to the bankruptcy proceedings of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Since law-enforcement agents have the right to look at the sealed deposition of Father Lawrence Hecker, Mark urges them to do so. Assess whether a felony cover-up has occurred. Make the information public.

Mark asks:

How can the public make an objective, logical, and rational decision as to the level of corruption involved, if the documents and testimonies remain sealed and locked away from public view?

Mark will speak, along with Richard Windmann, here in Virginia next month. They will speak in Martinsville on Sunday, July 25th and in Richmond on Monday, July 26th.

More details to follow, and don’t forget Chris O’Leary’s talks in Martinsville and Roanoke this coming Sunday and Monday 🙂

You’re Welcome, Your Holiness

pope francis mccarrick
September 23, 2015

In 2015, Pope Francis declared a “Year of Mercy.”

The following year, the pope published a book, The Name of God is Mercy.

On Ash Wednesday, 2016, the pope dispatched “Missionaries of Mercy.”

Shortly thereafter, the Vatican Secretary of State received a letter from then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick referred to his dealings with the Holy See over the course of the previous decade. The Vatican had attempted to get McCarrick to disappear quietly from the public stage. McCarrick had not co-operated with the cover-up scheme.

But in his March 8, 2016, letter to Cardinal Parolin, McCarrick offered to “retire to a holy place and pray for the salvation of my soul, instead of wandering around the world.”

Cardinal Parolin mentioned McCarrick’s letter to Pope Francis.

The pope already knew that McCarrick stood accused of abusing his authority to force seminarians into his bed. Archbishop Viganò, as well as Cardinal Becciu, had alerted the pope to McCarrick’s predations. The Vatican file contained testimony about McCarrick forcing a seminarian to put on a sailor suit and get into bed with him.

Pope Francis told Cardinal Parolin not to accept McCarrick’s March, 2016, offer to disappear.

“Maybe McCarrick could still do something useful,” the pope said.

[All of this is documented on pages 429-430 of the Vatican McCarrick Report.]

In September of 2018, I published an open letter to Pope Francis. (Before McCarrick was laicized through a secret procedure.)

I wrote:

Holy Father, you have spoken over and over again about the primacy of mercy. You misinterpreted what the moment demanded. For over a generation, no one has had any doubt that the Church knows how to act with mercy. The obvious problem we have is: the Church has forgotten how to act with severity. How can you not see that your former-Cardinal-Priest Theodore McCarrick has–in his brazen recklessness–exposed this colossal weakness?

What did the moment demand, when the first of McCarrick’s brother bishops learned of his predations? Mercy? Hardly. What did the moment demand, when you learned of it? Mercy? No. The moment demanded the just application of strict rules.

Do you not see how desperately the Church needs a severe father right now? A fearless and exacting enforcer of rules. A man whom sinners behold, and tremble.

Pope Francis Annuarium pontificum

Last week, the Holy Father published a decree revising the Code of Canon law.

In his letter announcing the change, the Holy Father wrote.

In the past, great damage was done by a failure to appreciate the close relationship existing in the Church between the exercise of charity and recourse — where circumstances and justice so require — to disciplinary sanctions.

This manner of thinking — as we have learned from experience — risks leading to tolerating immoral conduct, for which mere exhortations or suggestions are insufficient remedies. This situation often brings with it the danger that over time such conduct may become entrenched, making correction more difficult and in many cases creating scandal and confusion among the faithful.

For this reason, it becomes necessary for bishops and superiors to inflict penalties. Negligence on the part of a bishop in resorting to the penal system is a sign that he has failed to carry out his duties honestly and faithfully.

You’re welcome, Your Holiness. For the idea.

Allow me to point out, however, that you accuse yourself with your own words.

You were McCarrick’s bishop, his priestly father in God. From 2013 onward, only one man on earth had authority over Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

You.

You were negligent. You failed to carry out your duties honestly and faithfully, just like Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II failed to do, before you.

canon law codex canonici

Another person who deserves a big apology from the mitered mafia: Father Lauro Sedlmayer.

McCarrick abused his authority over Father Sedlmayer during the 1990’s, to obtain sexual gratification from the young, naive, foreign-born priest.

Sedlmayer tried to denounce McCarrick for his crimes. In response, the Diocese of Metuchen NJ and the Archdiocese of Newark proceeded to sue him in court.

On May 17, 2013, two months after Francis became our pope, the then-Bishop of Metuchen Paul Bootkoski wrote to Father Sedlmayer. The bishop insisted that Father had “violated Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s rights.”

According to Bootkoski, Sedlmayer had “calumniated” McCarrick, because Sedlmayer publicly referred to McCarrick as a “predator.”

Bootkoski went on to stipulate in his letter: Sedlmayer could not continue in ministry as a priest unless he underwent intense supervision, therapy, and “spiritual direction.”

Meanwhile:

The Vatican knew perfectly well that calling McCarrick a “predator” did not involve calumny, or a violation of McCarrick’s rights. When Father Sedlmayer blanketed a parish parking lot with fliers calling McCarrick a predator, he spoke the truth, with justice.

The Vatican had more than enough evidence in hand to vindicate Father Sedlmayer in his accusations against McCarrick.

What did they do?

In the Vatican.

While a bishop mercilessly persecuted a priest who spoke the truth about Theodore McCarrick, the truth that they knew full well?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

In 2016, Bishop Bootkoski reached the normal retirement age, and the pope accepted his resignation, without any reference whatsoever to McCarrick, or to Father Sedlmayer’s decades of suffering at the hands of prelates who abused their authority.

Kinda makes you wonder:

Would they be doing anything at all at the Vatican, about McCarrick, now? Except that circumstances outside their control forced them to do something?

Last week’s revision to the Code of Canon Law changes canon 1395.3, which defines a crime, namely: A clergyman forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts by force or threat. The revised law adds the phrase “or by abuse of his authority.”

The pope first introduced that phrase into the rules in May of 2019.

I pointed out then:

I guess we could call this “The McCarrick Law.” Apparently, he clearly abused his authority to get sex. After all, the pope convicted him of breaking this law (even before it was on the books) in a summary administrative procedure, without a full trial.

But: If it was as clear as all that, why wasn’t McCarrick convicted by Pope Benedict, back in 2006? We generally regard Pope Benedict as a sober, upright man. Why didn’t he recognize a case of criminal abuse, if the matter was so crystal-clear?

McCarrick ordained me a transitional deacon 18 years ago today [May 13, 2019]. On that day, I thought of him as an amazingly talented, crushingly self-centered, charming tyrant. He gave the Archdiocese of Washington a huge amount of energy that it had not previously had. He appeared utterly uninterested in anything having to do with theology. He was a flawed man. He was no walking demon.

On May 13, 2001, many churchmen, who we then regarded as at least somewhat reasonable–including Pope John Paul II–knew something about McCarrick’s sexual life. They had not concluded that his actions amounted to crimes.

My point is: I think anyone who has ever served in the military knows: The line between criminal abuse of authority in a sexual relationship, on the one hand, and a consensual affair, on the other: by no means crystal-clear.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do grave evils. Who convinced whom to do them? Did Macbeth abuse his authority over his wife? Or did she seduce him into committing murder–to satisfy her ambition? The answer is: Yes.

Criminal laws on paper accomplish nothing without competent investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges–and principles of application of the laws, based on acquired experience. Pope Francis has given us: the paper. We don’t have the rest.