Book Update

resurrectionThe Lord Jesus Christ conquered death and gave us divine love. He entrusted His doctrine and His saving mysteries to His Apostles.

The Apostles’ successors in office–the pope and bishops, with priests as their co-workers: they govern the Church. They teach and sanctify in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church.

To deny this is to deny a truth about the Christian religion. It would make you a heretic or schismatic, to deny it.

At the same time, though: Among the men in collars, there have been many criminals. Criminals who have gravely harmed innocent people. And among the men in miters: Also quite a few genuine criminals.

One criminal who wore a miter is Theodore McCarrick. This year he may very well finally plead guilty–or be condemned as guilty–in a civil criminal court, and be sent to jail.

As we covered in March, another criminal bishop is Gustavo Zanchetta. He languishes in an Argentine prison now.

pope francis mccarrick

McCarrick and Zanchetta have this in common: Pope Francis abused his ecclesiastical authority to cover up their crimes. In McCarrick’s case, the cover-up succeeded for many years, and it involved Popes Benedict XVI and John Paull II, as well. In Zanchetta’s case, the cover-up lasted for a few years of the Francis papacy.

In both cases, the cover-ups ended because of the courage of laypeople. Both cover-ups would still be in full swing, if the whole thing had been left up to the pope.

Having the authority of an Apostle–even having the authority of St. Peter–does not give a man the right to silence someone who is trying to tell the truth about criminal acts.

Francis and Zanchetta

The cover-uppers in the hierarchy tell themselves that they must silence such truth-tellers, in order to preserve the good name of the Church. But this is a self-serving lie.

What the bullies are trying to protect is actually just their own personal reputations. The cover-ups involve not real churchmanship, but pure worldliness–worldliness masquerading as zeal for Christ.

Christ crucified shows Himself in the victims of the crimes. The cover-up machine of the mitered bullies serves only to obscure Him from view. But the bullies nonetheless will stop at nothing, so that they can retain their sinecures.

McCarrick ordination

My book Ordained by a Predator explains all this, with the necessary concrete evidence.

I wrote the first draft in August of 2020, and I submitted the final text to the publisher in August of 2021. The first edition will become available from St. Michael’s Media in August of this year.

The publisher sent me the final typeset draft recently, so that I could prepare an index, as well as find a couple prominent people to endorse the book. I am honored that two clerical sex-abuse survivors, and leaders of the community, have agreed to do so.

A lot has happened with me since I wrote the book, so Book #2 is very much in the works. But the situation in the Church has hardly changed since August 2020.

So I believe Ordained by a Predator will offer something that the world still does not have, even four years after the notorious Summer of Shame, 2018.

Namely: A thorough account of the ordeal that McCarrick’s victims have faced, in their dealings with the Vatican cover-up machine. This includes, also, the bullying that I myself have endured.

May it please God, let’s get together in person when the book becomes available. We will work on organizing gatherings in various parts of Virginia, across the USA, and maybe even abroad as well.

More to come on this.

Seminarians Suffer, and the Pope Does Not Care

When you come to the seminary to seek God’s will, you do not expect…

1. that the bishop will develop a lustful crush on you, and

2. give you love-bird type gifts, like cologne, and

3. ask you about your sexual history and penis size, and then

4. sneak up behind you in the seminary kitchen, grab your crotch, kiss you on the neck, and thrust his pelvis into your buttocks,

and then, for years, repeatedly

5. demand, under “obedience,” with threats of expulsion, that you massage his, neck, back, and buttocks, while he groans in sexual pleasure, as you grudgingly submit, and then

6. you wake up in your dormitory bed with him sitting next to you, his hand on your upper thigh.

When you think the Lord might be calling you to the priesthood, you have to go to seminary, because the alternative would be a life estranged from your Maker.

When you go to seminary, you have to please the bishop, because he alone–a successor of the Holy Apostles of Christ–can make you a priest.

Dear reader, do you know that the earth is littered with wounded men who tried to follow a vocation from God, but ran into an insecure, power-mad, sexually abusive predator with authority under the seminary roof?

Many of my dearest friends belong to this suffering class of men.

pope francis mccarrick
September 23, 2015

Theodore McCarrick left his trail of broken lives. My book, Ordained By a Predator, will soon see print. It attempts to document McCarrick’s spiritual war crimes. I present my work to the great International Criminal Court in heaven, where justice always prevails.

But my book hardly scratches the surface of McCarrick’s crimes against humanity. Yes, a great deal of documentation has become available these past four years. But most of McCarrick’s collateral damage remains hidden, because the powers-that-be in the Church continue to keep most of McCarrick’s secrets.

Ordained By a Predator also tries to document the crimes of McCarrick’s crony Michael Bransfield.

Again, the mitered mafia did everything possible to bury all the evidence. But, as long-time readers here remember, a brave soul on the inside leaked a secret report in the spring of 2019, and the Washington Post published the whole thing in December of that year.

Because of the courageous leaker–and also a Bransfield victim who spoke out–we learned the truth about how the bishop of West Virginia destroyed priestly vocations by endless drunken abuses of power, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. (Not to mention sexual abuse of minors, of which Bransfield is likely guilty, though it has never been adequately investigated.)

We sadly know that the ecclesiastical system as it now exists does not have a mechanism to deal with this problem. Pope Francis seems not to understand the problem. Or, rather, perhaps he understands it all too well.

The six-step ordeal that I outlined above: At least a dozen seminarians in northern Argentina suffered it, between 2013 and 2017, at the hands of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta.

As we mentioned earlier this month, Pope Francis has known Zanchetta for years. The pope heard numerous complaints about Zanchetta, from Catholics whose faith Zanchetta had gravely wounded. But the pope protected his old friend.

McCarrick, Bransfield, Zanchetta: similar m.o.’s. But here’s the difference, which we will explore in some detail today:

McCarrick and Bransfield have suffered nominal ecclesiastical discipline, with most of their secrets kept.

Zanchetta has never been censured by the Church in any way. But an Argentine court has now thrown him in jail. And the court has produced thorough documentation of the case.

Zanchetta verdict
Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, hearing the verdict in his case, in a courtroom in Salta, Argentina

The Spanish-speaking public can read the document published by the court at the conclusion of the criminal case. Gustavo Zanchetta convicted of sexual abuse.

Argentine law defines the crime in article 119 of the Criminal Code. Sexual abuse = violating the sexual integrity of anyone under 13, or anyone who cannot freely consent to sexual contact, as a result of a relationship of authority and/or dependence. If the crime is committed by a minister of religion, that aggravates it and calls for a stiffer sentence.

In their legal analysis of the case, the three-judge panel outlines carefully how the crime of sexual abuse is understood in Argentine law. (See pages 88-91 of the court doc.)

The “legal good” protected by the law is: personal sexual integrity. That is, free sexual self-determination as a person. As the judges explain it, Argentine law requires everyone to respect the dignity of other persons, which includes the freedom to accept, or to reject, sexual contact. To treat a person as a thing, used for sexual gratification without free consent, is a crime.

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurchNow, it so happens that the judges’ explanation of Argentine law echoes the definition of chastity found in the Catechism (para. 2337).

The judges go on, in their explanation of the law as it applies in the Zanchetta case:

Groping, unchaste embraces, kisses with sexual significance, touching under duress, or compelling the victim to touch–these all violate the law, when the victim cannot consent, owing either to surprise, or to the relationship of authority. Or in this case, both of those.

I’m no lawyer, of course. But it seems to me that Argentine law reflects our Catholic understanding of sexual integrity more comprehensively than our U.S. law does.

Maybe some states have laws like the Argentine law; I don’t know. But I’m afraid that the former seminarians who denounced Zanchetta to the Argentine D.A. would not have gotten anywhere with a criminal prosecution in the U.S. They would have had to hire their own lawyer and undertake a civil case, and Zanchetta would not have faced the prospect of imprisonment.

In addition to the legal reasoning, the Argentine court document contains the testimony of 35 witnesses. Plus Zanchetta’s defense.

The two former seminarians who went to the police in early 2019 offered consistent and coherent testimony.

Their accusations against Zanchetta were corroborated by the eyewitness testimony of eleven other seminarians. Four additional seminarians didn’t see the abuse, but heard it about it from eye-witnesses at the time.

The accusations were further corroborated by the office employee who found gay pornography and naked selfies on Zanchetta’s phone in 2015, as well as by this man’s co-worker, and by Zanchetta’s chauffeur.

Zanchetta had tried to pressure the employees not to testify. On the stand, the chauffeur said this:

Bishop Zanchetta behaved as if he were God… I have worked for the Church for twenty years. I understand the authority structure. But it’s not blind obedience. Sometimes you cannot obey.

Francis and Zanchetta

As we noted before, Pope Francis–while he was still Cardinal Bergoglio–received documentary evidence of Father Zanchetta’s dishonesty, back in 2011.

In 2013, Argentine Catholics spiritually wounded by Zanchetta begged the new Pope Francis not to elevate such a dangerous man to the rank of bishop. And in 2015, Francis received, via hand-delivery by a Cardinal, a thumb drive with the gay porn and naked selfies inadvertently found on Zanchetta’s phone by the office employee.

Zanchetta, however, continued to abuse seminarians with impunity for two more years. He regularly told his victims that he was an untouchable “friend of the pope.” He told the seminarians that he had “talked with the pope about them.” He said, when returning from Rome, that “he had been in the pope’s bed.”

(Apparently Zanchetta used this last expression figuratively, to indicate great closeness, rather than literally. The seminarians took it that way–that is, figuratively.)

The priest in charge of the seminary had become aware of Zanchetta’s crimes and sought relief through ecclesiastical channels. There were also apparently serious financial irregularities–like with Bransfield and McCarrick. None of Zanchetta’s misuses of money have ever been fully disclosed (like with Bransfield and McCarrick). But there is a pending Argentine court case about the money.

Zanchetta suddenly resigned from office in mid-2017, “for health reasons.” Pope Francis transferred him to a position in the Vatican.

In the spring of 2019, the pope gave a long interview that I have cited here before. In that interview, Pope Francis defended how he had handled the Zanchetta affair. He said that Zanchetta had a strong answer to the charges against him. But he conceded that a Vatican trial was needed, and the wheels of justice were turning, and people just needed to be more patient.

More patient? The pope gave that interview three years ago.

In the meantime, Zanchetta stepped away from his Vatican position because of the investigation into his conduct, then returned to his position. The Vatican never censured Zanchetta in any way. Nothing about his Vatican trial has ever been made public–that is, made public by the Vatican itself.

In his defense before the Argentine court, as the court document outlines, Zanchetta maintained that the charges against him all stemmed from a plot, concocted by his enemies among the priests of the diocese. They disagreed with his decisions as bishop, so they conspired to destroy him.

“The accusers have not spoken on their own,” Zanchetta insisted. “There is something behind them.”

Zanchetta accused his ‘enemies’ among the clergy of violating their solemn promise of obedience.

He then added, regarding the charge that he had entered seminarians’ bedrooms without permission, “The bedrooms of seminarians are like the bedrooms of the children in the parents’ house.”

[That’s the sound of steam coming out of my ears, dear reader.]

Zanchetta also told the court:

In the canonical investigation, it became clear that the charges of sexual abuse against me were induced by the angry priests.

Now, regarding this canonical investigation…

1. As noted above, Pope Francis said it was underway three years ago. The following year, Zanchetta’s canon lawyer told a reporter that the process was “almost over.”

2. The Argentine court repeatedly asked for the Vatican’s findings. The judges in Argentina did not want to begin hearing witnesses until they had the Vatican documents, so they waited.

After almost two years of waiting, they finally gave up and started the trial without anything from the Vatican. Then, while the hearings were underway, a portion of the Vatican Zanchetta dossier arrived.

3. The pages that came contained canonical testimony given by seminarians and former seminarians in the aftermath of Zanchetta’s 2017 resignation.

(One of the seminarians who corroborated the accusers in the Argentine court case was actually one of the accusers in the canonical case.)

The Argentine judges found that the seminarian testimony in the Vatican dossier lined up with the testimony they heard in court, so they counted the Vatican pages as an additional proof of guilt.

The Argentine judges rejected Zanchetta’s defense. In their document, the judges point out the numerous implausibilities implied in the defense theory.

Why would former seminarians, who now have no connection with the Church, perjure themselves as part of some intra-Church feud? And how could so many perjuries cohere so well in painting a clear picture of Zanchetta’s sexual abuses?

Also, if the man really needed so many neck and back massages for health reasons, why didn’t he go to a masseur? Or a doctor?

Zanchetta maintained in his defense that the victims waited too long to go to the police. But the judges point out in their analysis: hadn’t the seminarians tried to communicate up the chain of command in the Church, but to no avail? Hadn’t they given testimony in a canonical process, only to see their testimony covered up by the Vatican?

As we noted at the time, the court found Zanchetta guilty and sentenced him to 4.5 years in prison. This happened on March 4.

The incumbent bishop of Orán (Zanchetta’s successor) released a lame ‘apology’ to the victims, full of euphemisms. The Argentine Bishops’ Conference did, too.

From the Vatican: total silence.

The day after the verdict, Zanchetta’s canon lawyer, who had been sent to Orán by the Vatican, gave a press conference. He insisted that there was in fact a plot against Zanchetta, and the bishop is innocent.

So it seems like there is only one way to interpret the total Vatican silence of the past three weeks :

The canonical trial exonerated Bishop Zanchetta. He was found not guilty. (According to canonical rules, that would mean that there would be no further public reference to the case.)

But now the Argentine court has produced a thorough written record demonstrating the man’s guilt, with both overwhelming evidence and careful legal reasoning–itself based on Catholic principles. The soundness of the Argentine court’s work shows clearly how unsound the Vatican’s pretense of justice has been in this case.

Granted, this last part is purely speculation on my part. But if the Vatican had found Zanchetta guilty of anything, we would know. If the canonical trial were still underway, we would know.

No. They exonerated him. A predator guilty of ruining at least a dozen priestly vocations. And guilty of alienating God-only-knows-how-many Catholics from the Church.

Pope Francis mate.jpg

Why has Pope Francis never visited his homeland?

For five centuries, we had Italian popes. When they stepped out onto the St. Peter’s loggia, they were already in their homeland.

Then we had a Polish pope. He went home, to a hero’s welcome, during the first year of his papacy.

Then we had a German pope. He went home, also to a hero’s welcome, within four months of his election.

Now we have an Argentine pope. After nine years, he has not visited Argentina, and has no plans to do so. (He has visited Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.)

When a law firm investigated Pope Benedict’s record in dealing with sexual abuse in his homeland, they found significant ethical lapses and cover-ups.

What, O God, would a team of investigators find in Argentina? Are there enough thumb drives in the world to hold it all?

Indianapolis Talk

Heading to Indy to give a talk on Saturday, sponsored by Corpus Christi for Unity and Peace. Thank you, dear Vicki Yamasaki, for inviting me.

Here’s the text, if you’re interested. I believe the talk will be recorded and made available on YouTube.

noah-covenant

The Scandal in the Church

Everyone familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Near the beginning of the book, the Catechism explains the “Stages of Revelation,” the moments in history when God has “come to meet man,” to “reveal His plan of loving kindness.”

The Catechism highlights the covenants between God and man that occurred between the creation of heaven and earth and the coming of Christ. Anyone know what those two covenants are?

1. The covenant with Noah, after the flood, and 2. the covenant with Abraham, the forefather of the Israelites.

Pretty important to our Christian faith, these dealings between God and Noah, and between God and Abraham. We read about it all in the book of… Correct, Genesis.

It would certainly seem to pertain to our Catholic faith that we believe that these things really happened, right? Not that we reject the science of geology or paleontology. But we need a way to understand the Holy Scriptures as fundamentally accurate regarding these ancient covenants. Right? After all, they prepared the way for the coming of Christ.

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurchIt seems crazy to some people, but we Christians have the idea that you can read the Bible and learn things, things that make life mean something.

Not that our faith in the Word of God gives us the answer to every question; the Bible doesn’t claim to answer every question. But we know that we cannot understand the meaning of life, without being able to read the Holy Scriptures. And believe what we read.

Now, you may be wondering: Why the heck is this man talking about this? I mean, it sounds great, but.. Why talk about the early chapters of Genesis right now?

One reason I am here is to tell you my story. I thought it might be good to start with December 2001, just over twenty-one years ago, a couple months after 9/11. As Christmas break approached that year, I had managed to pass my comprehensive seminary exams, and I had one semester left before ordination to the priesthood. But then the rector of the seminary told me that I was not welcome back after Christmas. Continue reading “Indianapolis Talk”

Book Update + Talks

20 C+M+B 22

Happy New Year, dear reader.

The publisher sent me a mock-up of the dust cover for Ordained By a Predator: Becoming a Priest in the Middle of a Criminal Conspiracy. We have reached the final pre-publication stages..

…I will give a talk in Indianapolis next week. I’ll post the text here as soon as I finish typing it up.

…Also, Dr. Christine Bacon invited me to speak yesterday with her group of “Standers,” Christian spouses struggling through serious marital problems, holding onto their vows.

Here’s the talk I gave, if you’re interested in reading…

TALK TO THE “STANDERS” January 4, 2022

Christine and I met back in November, at a prayer rally dedicated to restoring the institutional integrity of our church, the Roman Catholic Church. She interviewed me for her podcast, and she told me about you, the Standers. She and I realized that I fit in, even though I have never been married.

I didn’t know the term “Stander” until I met Christine, but in fact I have worked with Standers for years. Faithful Catholic spouses who have been abandoned in their marriages. Also in many cases separated from their children, either completely or much of the time, by the custody arrangement. These Christians have sought out the parish priest (me) for support and guidance under these difficult circumstances. This has led me to meditate on this painful path in life, a living Way of the Cross.

Everyone know about our “Way of the Cross” prayer? Every Catholic church building has fourteen markers along the walls, indicating the Lord’s Jesus’ Way of the Cross through Jerusalem, from Pilate’s judgment seat to Mount Calvary. We pray by going from one station to the next. The whole thing also symbolizes the Christian life, following the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, through suffering and death to eternal life.

Having to follow the Standers’ path, that Way of the Cross: it elevates the natural vocation of marriage into a supernatural one. Christine refers to this in the list of Standers’ practices, #10. I’ll come back to this idea of seeing through the natural to the supernatural.

First let me explain how I fit in with the group. I was ordained a priest in 2003, at age 32, after seven years of preparation for the priesthood. I was in love with the Church; the Church is the ‘bride of my youth.’ Then I served as a parish priest for 17 years–six years as a “parochial vicar,” or associate pastor, helping the senior pastor, then eleven years as a pastor.

It was my married life. We Catholic priests promise celibacy, and I have never regretted doing that. Of course I am well aware that Protestant churches have married pastors. One of my best friends is an Episopalian priest with a wife and young son. He is an excellent shepherd for his people, to be sure. But for me, and for us Catholic priests generally speaking, our pastoral lives are all-encompassing, work life and family life all rolled into one thing. No sex, of course, but lots of love, mutual support, and joy in the Lord.

I spent my thirties and forties living that life, and I got pretty used to it. Celebrating the Masses, the baptisms, weddings, and funerals, preaching and teaching, hearing Confessions, visiting the sick, and families in their homes, running the parish office. A full, happy life. I had hit my stride, so to speak, as a Father.

Then it all came to a sudden, abrupt end.

Let me explain how. It’s a little complicated, so bear with me. I’m sure you can relate to the complicated aspect. I don’t imagine anyone ever winds up being a Stander without something complicated happening.

Almost four years ago, I learned–and the world learned–a terrible secret about the Cardinal Archbishop who had ordained me a priest. He was a sex abuser. A criminal. He and his confederates had managed to cover up his crimes for thirty years. He sexually abused pre-teen boys, teenage boys, and young men in their twenties and early thirties. He had abused people that I knew. But I knew nothing about it until almost twenty years later.

I learned this stunning truth about the man who ordained me, as well as the even-worse truth about how other bishops and the Vatican covered it all up for decades. All while he himself, and other Cardinals and bishops, were promising the public that all the Catholic sex-abuse cover-ups were over.

I was devastated to learn all this, as were many, many other Catholics. I’m a writer, so something in me realized that I had to write my way through the interior crisis I was going through. I had to find a way to plow forward as a parish priest and keep giving my people what they needed to be getting from me. Again, I think some Standers will relate. Shattering crises can occur in family life. But the kids still need to be fed, and helped with their homework, etc. Children deserve stability, right?

I already had a weblog, had had one for ten years. I put the texts of my sermons on it, for people to read, if they wanted to. I began using the blog as my forum to deal with what I was going through, with the sex-abuse crisis in our Church.

I won’t lie. I said some pretty angry things, in some posts over the course of the following year, as more and more of the truth about the cover-up came out. I published at least one post that I wish I had toned down before I put it out there.

But generally I tried to be reasonable and calm. I admitted that I knew little of the facts that I was trying to understand. Plus, I assumed that I was using an appropriate forum of free speech to express myself. I certainly never told anyone in the parishes that they should read my blog; I never even mentioned it. Most of the people I dealt with on a day-to-day basis knew nothing about it.

That is, until the bishop stepped in. Turns out that he, or someone reporting to him, had been paying careful attention to everything I had written, and had found some of it inappropriate. Without any discussion of the subject matter of the posts, the bishop ordered me to remove my blog from the internet altogether, the whole thing.

We priests promise obedience to our bishops, so I initially complied. I hoped that we could find a compromise, if we could talk the whole thing over. But as time wore on, and the bishop never responded to me, I found that I could not live with myself under the circumstances. After all, the bishop here is himself a protégé of the Archbishop who ordained me, the criminal.

Within days after I turned my blog back on, the bishop removed me as pastor and then suspended my public priestly ministry completely. He has the authority to do this, and he used it. I could hardly believe it; still can hardly believe it, that he reacted like this. But he did. I appealed to the Vatican, and got nowhere.

Almost two years have passed since then. Now I have a completely different kind of life. Much more solitary than before. I have become a kind of Stander, holding onto the priestly life, but without a flock, without any ministry. The praying that we Catholics generally do as a community–Sunday Mass, Christmas Mass–I do alone. Or rather: I celebrate with the Lord, the angels, and the saints for company.

After all, I am a priest, and I will always be one. That’s what we Catholics believe about Holy Orders. Even if the bishop who ordained me should have been in jail that very day. Even if one of his protégés has isolated me from the Church community. None of that changes the supernatural reality. I remain a priest.

Again, like you: I hope and pray for reconciliation, to be able to go back to “family” life as a priest. But, at least for now, I am powerless to do anything about it. Only the Lord knows how long this situation will continue.

The supernatural reality. Maybe a few verses from the first letter of St. John will help us connect with it. St. John, who stood at the foot of the cross, and then saw the Lord risen from the dead. He writes:

We have gazed upon the Word of life, and have heard Him… To you we proclaim this, so that you may share our treasure with us. That treasure is union with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

…Abide in Him, so that when He appears, you may have assurance and not shy away from Him in shame. You are well aware that everyone who lives a holy life is a child of God… The world does not recognize us, because it has not recognized Him. Now we are children of God; what we shall be has not yet been manifested. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is…

…We know what love is from the fact that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us… Let us not love merely in word or with the tongue, but in action, in reality. By that we shall know that we are born of truth, and we shall calm our consciences in His presence.

…This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is victor over the world, if not he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Three Years Later: What Happened to the “Independent Commission?”

Mr. James Grein

In November 2018, James Grein spoke at the Church Militant rally in Baltimore, outside the annual meeting of American Catholic bishops.

James’ courage moved me and inspired me. Theodore McCarrick had done everything possible to destroy James’ life. But James stood up and fought back.

Earlier that year, the Catholic world had learned:  McCarrick systematically abused seminarians and young priests under his authority. He did this over multiple decades. Scores of Church officials knew about it.

The big problem was: We Catholics are supposed to appeal to our bishop for justice, when someone violates our sacred rights. But who do you go to, when it’s the bishop himself violating those rights? Archbishop McCarrick’s victims had no one to whom they could appeal. (Except the Vatican, of course, which ignored them.)

Theodore McCarrick’s installation as Archbishop of Newark, NJ, 1986. (Photo by D.J. Zendler.)

So the hue and cry in the fall of 2018 centered around this concept: We need an authoritative body, made up mostly of lay people–an independent commission–to which Catholics can turn for justice, when the malefactor is the local bishop.

That fall, the winner of the Canon Law Association’s annual award gave a speech endorsing this idea. Our local bishop here supported the idea, in a pastoral letter.

The establishment of just such an independent commission–to investigate the wrongdoing of bishops–sat squarely on the agenda for the Baltimore meeting that fall. Many, if not most, of the bishops arrived at the Inner Harbor expecting to vote in favor of establishing the independent commission.

That is, until the item wasn’t on the agenda anymore. James Grein gave the world a glimpse of soaring courage in the November cold. Meanwhile, inside the adjacent hotel, the American bishops gasped when the then-president of the conference announced that the Vatican had insisted they not vote to establish the independent commission.

The rationale: A few months later, the pope would host bishops-conference presidents from all over the world in Rome, to discuss the sex-abuse scandal. So the American bishops should hold off, until after that meeting.

They did. No independent commission to investigate bad bishops got established. The Vatican meeting occurred the following February. That meeting gave rise to a document published by the pope the following May, providing some temporary rules for how to deal with sex-abuse. Those temporary rules themselves gave rise to some revisions to the Code of Canon Law, set to go into effect in a week.

Things came full circle earlier this month, at the 2021 US bishops’ meeting in Baltimore. A Vatican official explained the revision of Canon Law to the American bishops. Cases of abuse involving seminarians, and other vulnerable Catholics preyed upon by Church officials, are to be handled by…

The local bishop.

Quite a way to conclude the process of “addressing” the McCarrick crisis.

Fall 2018: American Catholics urge the bishops to establish an independent commission, which would stand ready to deal with the next McCarrick.

Fall 2021: A Vatican official explains to the American bishops that the person who will handle the next McCarrick will be the next McCarrick himself.

Problem (resoundingly not) solved.

2018-19: McCarrick, McWilliams, and Me

Father Robert McWilliams
Father Robert McWilliams of Cleveland

Can you have a relationship with God without the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, governed by Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, and the bishops in communion with him?

God gives us all existence and life. We exist and live at this moment only because He gives us our share of His pure, infinite existence and life. This establishes a relationship. So, to answer the question above: Yes, you can. But…

What about God revealing something about Himself, like a friend would? Giving us insight into Himself? Showing us His will, His plan–His loving plan? Saving us from our ignorance, and our evil, so that we could find true, everlasting happiness?

God sent His Son, to save us all, to enlighten us all, to give us grace from heaven. Jesus Christ saves and redeems the whole world. He founded His Church, giving us the Holy Eucharist of His Body and Blood, through the priesthood that continues from the Last Supper till now by the laying on of hands.

McCarrick ordinationTheodore McCarrick made us–my classmates, myself, all the couple hundred men he ordained–he made us ministers of the Body and Blood of God Incarnate. Can I have a relationship with God without the Church and the Holy Mass? Me, Mark White, Father Mark White–can I? No, I don’t believe so.

McCarrick’s criminal trial in Massachusetts will unfold in 2022. May it be God’s will, the world will hear for the first time, in open court, the testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims. A man who first appealed to Church authorities for help over 30 years ago. May justice be done, in that Massachusetts courthouse, next year.

We have come a long way since the initial public revelation of McCarrick’s crimes, back in the summer of 2018. Through 2018 and 2019, I experienced intense anger about the situation, and I wrote a great deal about it, with an angry edge.

In the spring of 2020, the bishop here intervened in the life of the parishes of which I was the pastor. By the grace of God, my anger turned into something else then. A clearer vision of why I find myself in the situation I find myself in.

I just learned this morning some details about the crimes of Father Robert McWilliams of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. (One of his victims and the victim’s mother both spoke bravely to a skilled reporter; read the article on the other end of the link only when prepared to deal with a vision of malice that will make you ill to contemplate.)

During the very period of time when I struggled through the throes of my initial anger over the McCarrick cover-up, Father McWilliams was in the process of sexually exploiting and spiritually torturing teens and pre-teens. Children of families that he had first gotten to know while still a seminarian. The families went to the police in October 2019. A judge has now sentenced McWilliams to life in prison.

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick with the young James Grein

The McCarrick situation has progressed since 2019. Much of what I wrote in 2018 and 2019 no longer reflects the current state of affairs. Also, I believe that a careful, private study, on my part, of those old posts will help me understand the inner workings of my soul better. For that reason, the “Scandal Posts” tab above will provide access only back as far as February, 2020–at least for the time being.

Injustice moves us to anger. The emotion is not inherently evil. Only the foolishly proud, however, indulge themselves in believing that their anger is always just. Or even half the time. The perfectly pure-hearted Lord Jesus righeously drove the money-changers and pigeon-peddlers out of the Temple. But I know that my heart is far from perfectly pure. Calm reflection gets me a lot closer to the truth than righteous indignation does.

The battle, however, is only just beginning. If any of us could calmly say that McCarrick and McWilliams have nothing to do with each other; if any of us could scrutinize both situations and see nothing in common, other than incidental aspects–well, then I would have to bow my head and say, ‘My 2018-2019 anger was perhaps understandable, under the circumstances, but now it’s time to move on. After all, I didn’t know anything at all about McWilliams at the time, so it’s a pure coincidence that I vented some anger appropriate to that case, as it unfolded secretly in the hidden recesses of homeschool-Catholic-family Ohio. That’s just a fluke, that I wrote some jeremiads appropriate to the situation, as it happened.’

That would be what I would have to conclude, if we could all look at our beloved Catholic Church right now and say to ourselves, “Yes, the system is sound. This is a tragic, isolated case, just like McCarrick’s was.”

But can we say that?

Didn’t structural problems in the Church enable both these criminals? Problems that persist: unchecked clerical authority and secrecy, protecting the institution instead of souls, thinking about lawsuits instead of the Final Judgment?

One of the intentions I pray for at the holy altar, with the angels for company, is this: May I be spiritually ready to respond to God’s call, as the scandal involving the prelate who ordained me enters its next phase, in 2022. May I have the courage to examine myself honestly. May we all respond with generous love to God’s gift of being who He made us to be, here and now.

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.