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

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

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

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

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

Michael pointed out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two questions remain.

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

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

Thank You, Nathan Doe

McCarrick sofa

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

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

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

Nothing but Church politics.

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

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

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

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

Mr. Doe writes:

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

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

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

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

Indeed. Just a different shade of victim.

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

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

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

And Nathan perceives the significance of what McCarrick has done.

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

McCarrick and James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May he be right.

I don’t think he is.

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

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

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