The Edifice of Lies + Pope Gaslights Again

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)

Mark Brennan.jpg
His Excellency Mark Brennan, new Catholic bishop of West Virginia

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.)

wuerl loriAnyway: 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.

Ecclesiastical Discipline in Our Province

Knestout Lori

The discipline of Catholic bishops relies on the oversight of Archbishops, and the pope. If our bishop did something wrong–like, for instance, suspending the ministry of a priest without a commensurate cause–the wronged person must seek justice from the Metropolitan Archbishop of the ecclesiastical province, or from the pope.

Here in Virginia we find ourselves in the ecclesiastical province of Baltimore. If Bishop Knestout does wrong, we appeal to Archbishop William Lori, or to Pope Francis.

We would appeal to them, that is, if we thought we could trust them. I have pretty thoroughly documented for you, dear reader, why no reasonable man can trust Pope Francis to do justice. What about this question: Can a reasonable person trust Archbishop William Lori?

Long-time readers might remember my noting last September that Archbishop Lori made a public statement about another one of his suffragan bishops, Michael Bransfield. Bransfield had just retired as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. Lori referred to “troubling allegations” against Bransfield.

Now, what I found most troubling about Lori’s statement was: We, the general public, had no idea what these ‘troubling allegations’ were.

A decade earlier, Bransfield had been accused–by a convicted pederast–of sexually abusing minors in Philadelphia (Bransfield’s hometown). Bransfield had been exonerated.

And Catholics in West Virginia had gone to their local press with complaints about Bransfield’s apparently profligate spending.

They went to the press in 2006, a year after Bransfield became West Virginia’s shepherd. And they went to the press again in 2013, shortly after Pope Francis became pope–and supposedly set a new standard of simple, poor living for bishops. (Even though the pope actually lives in a $20-million Vatican hotel, paid for by a donor-friend of Donald Wuerl.)

Archbishop William Lori

Anyway, no Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore had so much as acknowledged those earlier complaints about Michael Bransfield. No churchman had ever referred publicly to any ‘troubling allegations.’ Not a word.

So what in the world was William Lori talking about, last September?

Actually, it was not difficult to see through the smokescreen. The long-slumbering hand of ecclesiastical discipline had bestirred itself to imitate action. The McCarrick Affair had exposed to the world the utter paralysis of the prelates of the Catholic hierarchy, when it comes to disciplining each other. So Lori–and Pope Francis–had something to prove.

Of course they had no trouble finding “troubling allegations” against Bransfield. All they had to do was search their own files, where repeated complaints had languished for years. (Probably in the same Vatican drawer as the McCarrick sex-abuse settlements from a dozen years ago.)

Anyway, Archbishop Lori proceeded to announce this past March that a ‘preliminary investigation’ had run its course. Bransfield should no longer minister as a bishop or priest. At least not in Lori’s territory.

That would have been the last anyone ever heard about any of this. Except: Someone on the inside had gotten fed-up with William Lori’s endless self-serving nonsense. Some insider(s) decided to provide the Washington Post with extensive documentation of the case.

Question #2: Why had the complaints against Bransfield gone unaddressed for over a decade? Maybe because Bransfield had greased the palms of his ecclesiastical superiors? (Using diocesan funds.) Including, of course: the palm of William Lori.

Investigators found that Bransfield had given Lori checks totalling $7,500. In February, Lori privately attempted to suppress that information. In June, it leaked.

Lori had known about the allegations against Bransfield for years. Lori attempted to suppress that piece of information. This month, it leaked.

mccarrick…An old, familiar pattern, my dear ones:

During the 80’s and 90’s, aggrieved individuals went to the Metropolitan Archbishop, and to the papal nuncio, seeking justice. They reported the wrongdoing of then-bishop (and later Archbishop) Theodore McCarrick.

Nothing happened.

(Until investigators from outside the hierarchy uncovered something. In the fall of 2017.)

During the 00’s and 10’s, aggrieved individuals went to the Metropolitan Archbishop, and to the papal nuncio, seeking justice. They reported the wrongdoing of bishop Michael Bransfield.

Nothing happened. Bransfield retired. Then, because the McCarrick Affair rattled the cage: An investigation!

Which led to: Lori getting caught covering up his role in the earlier cover-up.

…The mafia of self-righteous tinpot dictators that reign over our Church do not realize how corrupt they are. They always have some cockamamie rationale to try to paint themselves as angelic. William Lori styles himself a thoroughgoing Boy Scout. But I would rather seek justice from Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall.

We live in a windswept wilderness when it comes to ecclesiastical discipline, my dear ones. We might as well face that fact. We will need another Council of Trent, and an ensuing century of saintly self-sacrifice, to recover from the reign of these prissy, dishonest a-holes. But God will provide.

A Dishonest Archbishop of our Very Own

We touched briefly on the Bransfield affair last September. The bishop of Wheeling-Charleston WV turned 75, had his resignation swiftly accepted by Pope Francis, then found himself the subject of an investigation led by the Archbishop of our province, William Lori of Baltimore.

Turns out that Bishop Bransfield spent freely, drank heavily, and groped while in his cups.

How do we know this?

Your humble servant, as well as anyone else who spent any amount of time in the sacristy of the National Shrine during Msgr. Bransfield’s nineteen-year tenure there as rector, could have told you: that’s what the man is like.

Another person who could have told you that, at any point during the 1990’s: William Lori.

I daresay that everyone involved in putting Michael Bransfield’s name on the list of candidates for an episcopal see with a $200 million+ endowment (thanks to a nineteenth century heiress)–everyone knew perfectly well what their old friend Monsignor Bransfield was like.

Yesterday, Archbishop Lori, wrote to the people of our sister diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. His letter highlights some of the grievous shortcomings of Michael Bransfield’s free-spending, free-drinking “normal.”

Now, what moved Archbishop Lori to write to the Catholic people of West Virginia yesterday?

If you answered, Zeal for their souls! you missed an important simultaneous event. Someone on the team that had investigated Bransfield sent two copies of their secret report (completed in March, and heretofore unremarked-upon by Archbishop Lori) to a reporter for the Washington Post.

Someone on that investigative team had run out of patience with the feckless dithering of Archbishop Lori.

One copy of the report that the reporter got included a list. A list of prelates who had received large cash gifts from Bransfield over the years. The other copy did not include that list.

The first copy was the original report. The second was the modified version which Lori sent to the Vatican.

Lori’s name was on the list.

We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men, headpiece filled with straw. Alas.

… We poor Catholic peons find ourselves passengers on the ecclesiastical-history version of United flight 93, my dear ones. Hold on and pray.