Sunday Afternoon at the Cathedral

Cathedral mask

Cathedral bullhorn and sign

Enrique Rangel-Rodriguez (aka @EnRanRod) had the idea. Greet the students returning to campus at Virginia Commonwealth University, in front of our cathedral.

We talked to a couple dozen students, we chanted, and we prayed. Mindy did great with the video.

Cathedral stroller

Cathedral dialogue

Cathedral wide angle

Cathedral bumper sticker

Two Next Steps

old-booksNumber One

With the Lord’s help, I will write a book. Tentative working title: Ordained by a Predator.

I plan to write five chapters:

1. Summer 2018

2. What I Think Happened with McCarrick

3. The Church We Believe In

4. The Bishop-Knestout Affair

5. “Justice for Father Mark?”

May the good Lord give me two weeks of peace and quiet to write a draft. May He send me a book agent who could help me get it published. (Please let me know, if you know someone.) May He guide my mind and my pen.

Send thoughts and ideas, if you have them. (I may or may not be able to answer, these next couple weeks, but I promise to read any ideas I get.)

Richmond Cathedral WRIC screenshot2

Number Two

This Sunday, we will keep another prayerful vigil in front of the Cathedral in Richmond, beginning at 4:00pm. 823 Cathedral Pl, Richmond, VA 23220.

Please come. We have seats available on vans from Rocky Mount and Martinsville. Call or e-mail Joe Kernan: 540-263-1516 or 276-632-9941 or

O God, who crowned the Blessed Virgin Mary with surpassing glory, grant, through her prayers, that we may merit to be exalted with you on high, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son.

(from the Collect for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption)

El Greco Virgin Mary

Happy 12th anniversary of this little weblog ❤️

Outside the Richmond Cathedral


Richmond Cathedral WRIC screenshot2

Richmond Cathedral WRIC screenshot

Richmond Cathedral WRIC screenshot3

Richmond Cathedral pics

Not sure the last time 48 people gathered outside a cathedral to pray for justice and openness in the Church.

…I never thought I would find myself unable to concelebrate the annual Chrism Mass or the ordination Mass. I never thought I would be suspended unjustly from exercising the priestly ministry.

But: It is an honor to have friends like those pictured above, and everyone who prayed from afar…

May the Lord shower down His blessings and His mercy upon us. We mark 200 years as a diocese today–and rejoice in the ordination of two new priests this morning.

(May you never be unjustly suspended, dear new brothers.)

Richmond Cathedral plaza

…We prayed hard yesterday outside. We will fight on.

Peaceful Demonstration: Plan to Join Me

Justice Demonstration

Every year, the bishop and priests gather to celebrate Mass together. We priests re-affirm our solemn promises. It’s called the Chrism Mass, after the holy oil consecrated during the liturgy.

sacredheartcathedralrichmondThis year, our Chrism Mass will occur in the evening of Friday, July 10, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 823 Cathedral Place, Richmond VA 23220.

On May 5, Bishop Knestout prohibited me from publicly celebrating the sacraments, so I cannot participate. The injustice cries to heaven.

I will stand in silent vigil on the sidewalk immediately outside the Cathedral, beginning at 5:00pm.

Please stand with me. Acompañame, por favor.

Plan to take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Justice for Father Mark will offer free transportation by van from both Rocky Mount and Martinsville, departing at 11:45am and returning about 11pm. Join the facebook group page to receive further information.

Pentecost Homily

[If I could preach on Pentecost, I would say this…]


I believe in the holy Catholic Church.

We say this in the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in the holy Catholic Church.” What do we mean, when we say this? [Spanish]

The Acts of the Apostles ends with an account of St. Paul’s legal battles in Israel. The Roman governors hardly knew what to do with the case. One of them tried to explain it like this: ‘I thought the Jews had an accusation against Paul of some real crime. But it turns out, the whole thing has to do with this Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews say He’s dead. Paul says He’s alive.’

Jesus appeared to His Apostles. Wounded in the flesh, but risen from the dead. His resurrection made the Eucharist the Eucharist.

We believe in the Church with the wounded, risen Body, and the living, divine Blood, of Jesus Christ. We believe in the Church where Jesus encounters us, on the altar. We believe in the Church where He offers Himself as our sacrifice, where He feeds us with Himself and unites us in Himself.

We belong to the Church that began in the Upper Room, with the Apostles as the first priests. God gave mankind something in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. God gave mankind His Christ, as a perpetual, mystical gift. We believe in the Church that has received, cherished, and disseminated this inexhaustible gift.

Trinity Shield“Gift” is one of the titles of the Holy Spirit. God gives Himself. God gives eternity, everything, infinite goodness and beauty. The Father gives that divine Gift to His only-begotten Son. From eternity unto eternity, He gives Himself.

There is no true Church without the eternal Love that binds the Father and the Son. When the Son became human in the womb of the Virgin, the divine Love began to show itself as Jesus’ religion, Jesus’ humble adherence to the will of the Father.

We believe in the holy Church of Jesus’ religion. The religion of Jesus reveals the eternal divine Love, the eternal Gift of everything. Jesus receives the Gift, and, with piety, He returns Love for Love. He receives the eternal infinite Gift. And He gives the eternal, infinite Gift.

We believe in the Church only because we believe in the Holy Spirit of Christ, the Gift of the eternal Father. We believe in the holy Catholic Church only because we believe in the Incarnation of the eternal Word, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

But the thing is: We do believe in the Trinity, and in the Incarnation, since that’s what believing in Jesus means. And so we also believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

pentecost_with_maryGod founded our Church. Not us. We belong to our Church not like good citizens belong to a Rotary Club. Or even like lawyers belong to the bar association. We belong to the Church like children belong to their mother. We owe holy Mother Church our hope for heaven. She alone has given that hope to us. And She has given it to us with consummate humility, since She does not hesitate to admit that She Herself received it as a gift, from Jesus.

“I believe in the holy Catholic Church.” The situation involving the bishop and myself has a lot of us hanging on the edge of this particular article of the Creed. ‘Father, this is testing my Catholic faith. What if you don’t get justice?’ All I can say to this is: “I know the feeling.”

We have to wait and hold on. God rewards the patient.

After all, the holy Catholic Church is one enormously big and mysterious thing. It is an enormously big and mysterious bureaucracy, yes. But even the strange, cappuccino-fueled bureaucracy of the Vatican in AD 2020—even that bureaucracy sits as only a little toenail on the mysterious giant that is the holy Catholic Church.

The virus has interfered considerably with our commemoration of the bicentennial of our diocese. Pope Pius VII erected the Catholic diocese of Richmond, Virginia, in 1820.

The Vatican bureaucracy had its flaws then. An American churchman happened to find himself in Rome the preceding August, 1819, on the day when the Vatican made the final decision about establishing our diocese.

The Cardinal in charge of missionary dioceses gleefully told the American: ‘Guess what? The pope will establish a diocese in Virginia! The diocese of Hartford.’

The American had to produce a map. To convince the Cardinal that Hartford is the capital of Connecticut. The capital of Virginia is Richmond. Oops. The map finally convinced the Cardinal to re-word his memo to the pope.

Anyway, Pope Pius had a more-competent Cardinal serving as the Vatican Secretary of State at the time. Ercole Consalvi. A few years earlier, Cardinal Consalvi had a famous conversation with Napoleon Bonaparte.

“I will destroy the Church!” the French emperor had stormed. Consalvi replied: “That is unlikely. In 1800 years, the clergy has not succeeded in destroying it.”

I think we’ll survive these confusing days. Our precious Catholic faith will survive. May the Holy Spirit come. To give us all patient, persevering faith.

The Election of Pius VII

[another from the ‘God always has a plan’ file…] [also from the diocesan bicentennial file]

Claude Monet San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggiore, by Claude Monet

In Venice, Italy, across the water from the Doge’s Palace and the campanile of San Marco, the little island of San Giorgio Maggiore broods quietly.

Benedictine monks retired from the world to this island, for centuries. The famous Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio built the great church. Nowadays, you can ride a water taxi there, buy one of Venice’s more-expensive sandwiches in the café, and look out across the water at the entrance to the ancient naval arsenale.

But something quite unusual happened on the Venetian isle of San Giorgio Maggiore in late 1799 and early 1800.

San Giorgio Maggiore from Piazzetta San Marco John Henderson
Looking out from St. Mark’s square across the water to San Giorgio Maggiore (Photo by John Henderson)

Napoleon had conquered the city of Rome and expelled all the Cardinals. He took Pope Pius VI into exile in France, where the old pope died.

Now, Pius had foresight. The year before, he laid down a rule about what should happen, if a conclave could not occur in the Sistine Chapel. The Cardinals were to gather in the city which had produced the largest number of them.


Thirty-five Cardinals gathered at the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio. They took their votes in the monks’ night chapel.

It took three and a half months, with multiple apparent deadlocks in the voting. (At that time, the 2/3-majority requirement stood as an absolute rule.) Then they finally elected Pope Pius VII.

The last pope elected outside the city of Rome.

Twenty years later, that very pope–the one they elected in Venice–erected our humble Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.

Virginia & Tennessee

Mr. Tom Lee recently wrote an e-mail to all the priests of our diocese of Richmond, about the situation we face here. Tom made an interesting point in his e-mail: the late Bishop Carroll Dozier served for a time as a prison chaplain.

Carroll Dozier mural
mural of the founding Catholic bishop of Memphis, removed last September, thanks to Mr. Tom Lee’s efforts

You may remember, dear reader, that Carroll Dozier ministered as a priest of the Diocese of Richmond. Then he became the first Catholic bishop of Memphis, Tennessee.

When our diocese of Richmond last year released a list of priests ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing minors, Dozier’s name appeared on it. At the end of this past February, the Diocese of Memphis released a similar list, with the name of their founding bishop on it.

The Diocese of Memphis credits us with having provided the information about Dozier. The current bishop of Memphis insists that their records contain no information at all about the crimes of Carroll Dozier.

Information about the crimes of Carroll Dozier, however, certainly exists. Fairly copious information. The man victimized multiple young people. The diocese of Richmond paid at least two settlements, decades ago. (Dozier’s brother served as a lawyer for the diocese.)

So, with all due respect to both bishops involved in disclosing that Carroll Dozier “has credible accusations” against him–that is, the sitting bishops of Richmond and Memphis–a question arises. Why not actually give the public all the information available? And if only the Vatican has the information, why not publicly ask the Holy See to disclose it?

At least one victim of Dozier’s still lives. The Attorney General of Virginia has a substantial amount of information about Dozier’s crimes. Why not take responsibility as churchmen, now, for the outrageous cover-up perpetrated by your predecessors?

Why remain silent? It only exposes the Church to yet another catastrophic public-relations blow. That is: the blow that will inevitably come, whenever the information the Attorney General has about Dozier ultimately comes to light?

Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:21, which we read today at Holy Mass)

…Meanwhile, at the other end of Tennessee: Apparently, the Diocese of Knoxville violated the vaunted Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

According to Mr. Michael Boyd: a former bishop of Knoxville, along with the Vicar General, sexually abused Michael while he was in school. Mr. Boyd reported the abuse to the diocese in 2018. Getting nowhere, he proceeded to sue the diocese in 2019. Then the diocese’s lawyers tried to get Mr. Boyd to agree to a non-disclosure agreement.

The rules governing the Catholic Church in the United States clearly prohibit such agreements, unless the victim requests it. When Mr. Boyd’s lawyers pointed this out, the diocese changed it to a “non-disparaging agreement.” The victim thereby promises “not to make any disparaging remark” about the diocese.

Boyd agreed, apparently hoping for peace and quiet after the agreement got reached. But after the ink dried, the diocese turned around and disparaged Mr. Boyd. The bishop insisted that he “personally feels” that Mr. Boyd is not telling the truth.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests complained to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops about this rule violation. Mr. Tom Doyle, about whom we have talked before, wrote a memo supporting the complaint.

Mr. Doyle points out:

The non-disparaging clause is a poor attempt at intimidating the victim from discussing the abuse he suffered as well as the agreement he signed. It is clear that if he relates the facts of his case as well as the identity of the perpetrator that this is clearly not disparaging or slanderous toward the diocese.

Nonetheless, Doyle notes:

How the bishop and his attorneys would interpret the agreement is another matter. It is entirely possible that should Mr. Boyd make a statement, especially a public statement, that the bishop believes violates the agreement, Mr. Boyd could be drawn into further civil court action and thereby re-victimized.

Knoxville cathedral nave
Knoxville cathedral

Doyle goes on:

It is clear the bishop is trying to deny that the plaintiff’s claims are true, which is thinly covered re-victimization. The press release from the diocese insults and demeans Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd’s attorneys thought a mutual non-disparaging agreement would stop the diocese from doing this. It did not.

Doyle makes a solemn charge:

The on-going attempts by the USCCB and by individual bishops to create the impression that they sincerely care about and are concerned for the pastoral welfare of the many victims of sexual violence by clerics are trivialized by the actions of Bishop Stika and any other bishops who follow similar policies.

The SNAP complaint asks that the diocese of Knoxville not receive a letter from the bishops’ body that certifies compliance with the Dallas Charter.

If the office does certify Knoxville, Doyle argues, the certification “practice is not only meaningless but insulting not simply to victims but to the Catholic people who have been asked to trust that their bishops have turned a corner.”

…I asked Tom if the USCCB office that received the complaint in January had responded. Answer: they have not even acknowledged receipt of the complaint.

Homily for Bicentennial Sunday

(written 1/17/2020)


Who founded our Church? Right. The Lord Jesus Christ, eternally begotten of the eternal Father, Who became man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, and Who rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. [Spanish]

He founded His Church on the twelve… Apostles. And the original Apostles saw to it that the Church continued, by consecrating successors for themselves. We call the successors of the Apostles… bishops.

Among the original Apostles, one held pre-eminent authority. Namely, Saint… Peter. How many successors in office has St. Peter had? Right: 265. Pope Francis is the 266th pope.

Who was the 251st pope?

Father, why do we need to know that?

Well, that particular successor of St. Peter did something highly significant for us. He erected our diocese. That is, he sent a brother bishop of his, a fellow successor of the original Apostles, to preside over the Church here in the state of Virginia. In 1820 Thomas Jefferson still lived, 77 years old. That year, Pope Pius VII made the state of Virginia a diocese in the Roman Catholic Church and appointed the first Catholic Bishop of Richmond.

Now, that bishop was not the first priest in the diocese. Catholics first came to what is now Virginia in 1570, to try to evangelize the Native Americans. The first missionaries suffered terrible martyrdom here. Then the laws of British colonial rule prohibited Catholicism in Virginia from 1607 to 1786.

In 1820, Virginia became the seventh diocese in the still pretty-new United States. Anyone know which American city had the first American bishop? Correct. Baltimore.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond had it rough in the early years. One of the first bishops wrote to a seminary in Ireland, trying to recruit men to come to Virginia to serve as priests. But the Richmond bishop warned the candidates:

If you come to Virginia to serve, you must expect a life of great labor and fatigue, much exposure to cold, heat, and rain, bad roads, very indifferent diet and lodging, and but little respect for your dignity. You will find few Catholics, little of society, and compensation barely adequate to support you in the plainest and most economical manner. There are places much more desirable elsewhere. If you choose my diocese, I will regard your character and honor as compromised if afterwards you flinch. You must come fully prepared, certain that your recompense is not to be expected here, but hereafter.

In those early years, our local church experienced not just material hardship, but also some serious moral confusion. The pope stood against slavery, as did pretty much all of Catholic and Protestant Europe, especially Ireland. But here in Virginia, our Catholic leaders did not have the courage to take a stand against the overwhelming social pressure in favor of slavery. To the contrary, our leaders knuckled under completely.

Pius VII
Pope Pius VII

In 1834, in the cathedral of our diocese, a preacher lashed out against “wicked would-be philanthropists,” with whom, “only madmen and traitors” would co-operate. “The Catholic in Virginia will shrink from the shaking the polluted hand” of such people. What wickedness was he condemning? The anti-slavery movement. Our cathedral preacher declared in 1834, “Abolitionism is a profanation of the Gospel.”

Actually, that sermon was a profanation. And there were plenty of other sermons like it, given by many Catholic priests and prelates in the South. But we learned our lesson, thank God, in time to take a leading role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Our forebears among Richmond-diocese Catholics conscientiously broke Virginia segregation laws. In 1947 we had non-segregated Masses and church meals, with black and white Catholics receiving Communion together, then eating together.

Yes, that was illegal in Virginia in 1947. But the pastor of St. Paul’s in Richmond declared, “No true American can defend the barriers imposed by legal segregation.” The priest referred to our soldiers in World War II, which had ended just a couple years before: “Black and white have fought together to defend a common flag. All have the right to the liberties symbolized by that flag.” The words of a Richmond-diocese priest, years before Martin Luther King, Jr., began his work.

I could go on with anecdotes, but let’s leave it like this for now. We have had shameful moments and proud moments, over two interesting centuries of Catholic history here. May God have mercy on us for the failures. And may He continue to inspire us to acts of genuine Christian heroism.

There’s only one way, that we know of, to keep a vital connection with Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world. You cannot do it by phone or over the internet. You have to participate in the sacramental life of a local parish church in communion with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Thanks to the generosity and self-sacrifice of those who have gone before us, we find that vital connection with Christ open to us, right here, right now. Praised be God. May He give us many graces during this bicentennial anniversary year.

Independent Reconciliation

We meet a grim St. Patrick’s Day. May he intercede for us. This year we remain altogether sober in his honor.

The Church and Western world suspended human gatherings to contain the virus yesterday, but other things happened, too…

A member of the Washington, D.C., City Council released a stunningly brave statement about the abuse he suffered as a minor at the hands of a priest, in the state of Virginia. The authorities have, after all these many years, finally apprehended the offending priest.

Councilman Grosso writes in his statement:

Though the deep scars remain, I largely believed this incident was behind me, especially after I underwent intensive therapy in the 1990s. However, state authorities in Virginia recently obtained the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s internal file on my case. Consequently, law enforcement contacted me regarding the case several times over the past year. 

This new investigation into a crime the Diocese attempted to bury for decades has ripped open old wounds, stirred dark memories and caused fresh trauma as I have been forced vividly to relive the tragic events of my childhood. I have again received therapy and made difficult decisions to advance my recovery… State authorities asked me to provide testimony to the grand jury, and I did so, only to prevent Mr. Asalone from ever hurting another child.

In other words: For the first time since he initiated his investigation of clergy sexual abuse in our state, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has indicted a priest for a felony. The crime took place 35 years ago, but apparently there is no statute of limitations, when it comes to the felony of carnal knowledge of a minor.

This casts a new light on a little dialogue I had with Bishop Knestout a month ago. So here comes another “letter from Mr. Bates’ mailbag.”

[written 2/15/20]

Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros
Camille Biros and Ken Feinberg

Last spring New Yorker magazine published a report by Paul Elie. Elie explained the Independent Reconcilation and Compensation Program of the Archdiocese of New York.

The Archdiocese had hired the lawyers Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros to hear the claims of clergy sex-abuse survivors in archdiocesan territory, and to dispense money. Feinberg and Biros had already gained notoriety for administering the post-9/11 compensation fund.

To receive a payment through the IRCP of the Archdiocese of New York, the sex-abuse survivor had to forswear any future legal action.

Elie wrote an utterly masterful essay about all this. I re-read it yesterday because: We priests have learned that our beloved diocese of Richmond will have the law firm of Brown & Greer (of Richmond) do the same thing here. An “independent” “reconciliation” program, for clergy-sex-abuse survivors in the territory of the diocese of Richmond.

When the Archdiocese of New York started their program, the lion’s share of eligible applicants had no legal avenue to sue the Church. The statute of limitations prevented lawsuits about abuse that occurred decades ago. Elie quoted a lawyer: “The New York statute of limitations was as solid as the granite those old city churches were built with.”

“Until it wasn’t.”

That is: Last year, a number of states, including New York, changed the statute of limitations on sex-abuse claims, opening up an opportunity for victims in decades-old cases to sue. This produced an awkward situation for those victims who had participated in the IRCP. They had accepted compensation from the Archdiocese, and forsworn any legal action, when no path of legal action lay open to them.

Now they could sue, with the possibility of greater financial benefit. Not to mention the opportunity to bring to light all the facts in open court. But these victims had promised in writing not to sue, as part of the “reconciliation” program.

Had the Archdiocese pulled a fast one on them? To get them to accept less money than they might have gotten, had they waited, and sued? Did the Archdiocese initiate the reconciliation program as a shadowy enterprise aimed at continuing to keep the facts hidden?

[Bishop Knestout recently wrote that “we have confessed” the sins involved in the “reconciliation” program’s work. But have we? How can we claim to have done that, when countless facts hidden for decades, in our own files, have yet to see the light of day?]

…Back to the history of “reconciliation” programs:

In New Jersey a different situation has unfolded. All the dioceses of the state hired Feinberg and Biros to administer their “Independent Victim Compensation Program.” That program remains underway.

Meanwhile, the state lifted the statute of limitations simultaneously, leaving sex-abuse survivors with a choice: Go to the Church’s lawyers to make a claim, or sue in a court of law. I imagine it will take a few years for us to know about the choices the victims made, and how it turned out.

Manhattan New York

At our Richmond-priest meeting with the bishop yesterday [that is, February 14, 2020], I asked His Excellency about the danger of what happened in New York happening here. What if we offer the victims this avenue, and then the state changes the statute of limitations, leaving them with the impression that we pulled a fast one on them?

He answered: “The statutes of limitations are very strong in this Commonwealth, and they’re in place. These folks have no recourse. That’s a fact.”

Sounds like what they said in New York. A granite-solid statute impeded the victims from suing in court. Until it didn’t.

Reflecting on our meeting with bishop, these questions crowd my mind…

1. The records regarding unsettled clergy sex-abuse cases that our diocese already possesses: how do they fit into the program?

In New York, they divided the program into two phases. The first treated “old cases.” That is, cases in which the victim had previously reported the abuse to the archdiocese. “New cases” involved victims recounting their abuse for the first time.

Now, does our faith include this tenet? The heavenly Father saying to us, “If you want to get to heaven, you have to come up here to get in.”

No, of course. He sent His Son to us. We Christian shepherds are supposed to seek out the lost.

So I wonder: In New York, did Feinberg and Biros seek out the victims in the old cases? Elie, for all his mastery in his article on this subject, does not address that question.

So I checked the information publicly available on their website. It does not appear that they did seek out the victims who had already reported their abuse. In other words, they left the burden of applying for the program on the victim, who had already complained about the abuse to the Church.

Will we improve on that here in Richmond? Will Brown & Greer seek out the victims that the diocese already knows about? Will someone at Brown & Greer call the sex-abuse victims that I know, who reported their abuse to the diocese long ago, to tell them about this?

[Turns out Brown & Greer have made at least a few phone calls. But we don’t know if they have attempted to reach every victim documented in long-buried diocesan files.]

2. In New York, Feinberg and Biros received claims in the two phases I mentioned above. The “old case” phase gave victims four months to apply, and new-case victims could initiate their claims during Phase I also. Then the firm gave new-case claimants another six months to apply. In other words, the new-case claimants had from the beginning of October, 2016, until the end of July, 2017, to make up their minds to pursue this and take action.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Richmond

At yesterday’s meeting, Bishop Knestout outlined a much more restrictive timeframe. He made no mention of two phases. And the total elapsed time from the initial announcement of the program to the final deadline for applications will be: just thirteen weeks.

Why so much less time than in New York? Do we honestly think that we can get the word of this opportunity out to all the eligible candidates in this relatively short period? Especially considering how benighted our diocesan communications apparatus actually is?

And do we think that the survivors, even on the 50/50 chance that they hear about the program in the allotted time, will have no trouble making a quick decision about this?

What if it takes some of them a little longer to make up their minds to report their abuse?  Will we say to eligible candidates who call Brown & Greer on the day after the deadline: “Sorry, we’re closed”?

In response to another priest’s question at our meeting, Bishop Knestout revealed that he estimates that there are “about 100” eligible victims out there. I know of the 101st, who died of a drug overdose before his thirtieth birthday, a quarter century ago. Do his living relatives have a right to make a claim on our reconciliation program? Bishop did not answer that question when I asked it. [Turns out, they do not.]

Nor would bishop tell us the date on which this program will be made public. He would only say “during this winter.” [Turned out it was the next working day.]

3. The Virginia Attorney General continues his probe of clergy sex abuse. The bishop’s only words about that fact were: “That has yet to fully play itself out.”

Is that really all we know about the Attorney General’s work? Didn’t we turn over all our clergy files to his office? And why, oh why does the diocese play the weird game of behaving as if the records that have lingered in our files for decades are not our responsibility to study carefully ourselves? [This is a subject to which we will soon return, dear reader.]

4. Even though the diocese solemnly enjoined us priests to secrecy about this business until “announcement day,” I immediately contacted all the sex-abuse survivors I know, to let them know about the bishop’s plan. They have more right to know about it than I do, after all.

None of them found the plan satisfying. “Well, it’s something,” was the highest praise I heard. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to deal with this,” emerged as the basic theme.

By design, the Church will not “own” the determinations made by Brown & Greer. By initiating this program, the diocese renounces any duty to speak the truth about these cases. The bishop would only put it like this, speaking of the victims of the crime of clergy sex abuse, “With this program, we acknowledge that they may have been injured.”

5. Bishop indicated that this program amounts to our “act of penance” as a Church. But how does this count as an act of penance on our part? The CFO of the diocese explained to us that we would finance the compensation fund by selling excess property and borrowing money. Which means: not us, but the next generation of Catholics, will actually have to do the penance.

In his speech to us, bishop said that it falls to us priests to “make this program known to everyone.”

We will have a hard time doing that. Bishop himself communicated to us absolutely no urgency about beating the bushes for the eligible candidates. I guess he assumes that enterprising lawyers will take care of that.

Bishop did nothing to help us understand why he chose this particular route. Who recommended to him this course of action, and why? With whom did he consult to choose this path? Why does he think that farming out the work of reconciliation to lawyers will succeed in bringing about genuine spiritual reconciliation with the Church and Her priests?

McCarrick sofa

For me the most illustrative fact about this situation is this:

The New York reconciliation program “got” McCarrick. One of his victims told Camille Biros about how McCarrick reached through his altarboy cassock and grabbed his thirteen-year-old penis. On Christmas Eve. Twice. Two consecutive Christmas Eves, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

If that gentleman (who we know only as “Mike”) had not told Ms. Biros that story at some point in 2017, then McCarrick would still wear his scarlet robes and enjoy all the privileges appertaining thereto. Even though three popes and at least a score of bishops had known for decades that McCarrick had ruined many young lives.

So Feinberg and Biros “got” McCarrick, all these many years after he did his crimes. But that “getting” of McCarrick has not, as yet, produced genuine reconciliation with, or in, the Church. The victim who went to Biros got some money. And Elie learned, in his reporting, that other McCarrick victims got money the same way. Then the New York reconciliation program closed up shop, over two years ago.

But the McCarrick case remains very much open, with no honest resolution in sight. [Much more to come on this, too, of course, dear reader.]

We covered here the removal of New-York auxiliary Bishop John Jenik in the fall of 2018, because of charges of sexual abuse leveled by Mr. Michael Meenan.

In working on his article for New Yorker, Elie interviewed Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. Elie wanted to know what Bishop Jenik had done. He asked Cardinal Dolan:

“Can you tell me, what did Bishop Jenik do that led to his removal? You can’t say in plain English what he did?”

Dolan replied:

“No. Well, I could, but I’m not going to.”

In a nutshell, that is our problem. The mitered mafia of holy mother Church will not speak truth about sex abuse by priests.

That remains our problem. And will continue to remain our problem well after the Richmond reconciliation program has come and gone.