The Sunday Obligation


The Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostles on Easter Sunday. Then He appeared to them again on the following Sunday. We can read something into this.

If believers are not to be overwhelmed, they must be able to count on the support of the Christian community. This is why they must be convinced that it is crucially important for the life of faith that they should come together with others on Sundays to celebrate the Passover of the Lord in the sacrament of the New Covenant. (Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini 48)

I think we can all feel the page turning on the coronavirus. Praise God. Which means that all of us Catholics must now consider again the duty of attending Mass on Sundays.


On the one hand…

The Last Supper did in fact happen. The God-man Jesus Christ did in fact establish the Most Holy Eucharist and the sacred priesthood. He did offer His Body and Blood for us on the cross; He did die; He did rise again, and then ascend into heaven. He does abide with His people in the Holy Mass celebrated by ordained priests on our Catholic altars.

None of this involves a conspiracy of disinformation. These are all solid facts that anyone can take to the bank. The Holy Mass is–at its invisible, burning core–Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ living, loving, gathering, sustaining, carrying us to heaven.

Christians need each other. Christians need the grace of the sacraments. Sunday Mass gives us hope, support, and the chance to love our brothers and sisters, and to be loved. We need it.

On the other hand…

How can self-respecting, conscientious people participate in the rituals of an institution that so manifestly lacks integrity? Doesn’t that make me an accessory to the crime?

Theodore McCarrick stood in front of the cameras on behalf of the American bishops, precisely when the credibility of the institution hung completely in the balance, in AD 2002. He lied through his teeth.

McCarrick NBC screen shot

Popes and fellow Cardinals knew it. For decades they did what they always try to do: sweep the criminal case under the rug. Sixteen years later, the truth came to light, no thanks to the Church mafiosi who knew about it before then.

The Vatican then produced a “report” that exonerates every living Catholic official of any responsibility. The worst betrayal of trust by Church leaders since the sixteenth century occurred right before our eyes. But according to the Vatican, no one is really responsible for it.

McCarrick’s victims still have pending cases. The victims of thousands of other priest pederasts still have pending cases. Dioceses routinely conduct “reconciliation programs,” then declare bankruptcy–all for one reason: to keep the criminal cases safely under the rug. All this continues apace.

The Boston Globe did its Spotlight investigation–which itself came over a decade after an earlier investigation in Louisiana. Then, over a decade after the Globe reports, they made a movie about it, which won the Best-Picture Oscar. Now, a half a decade after that–well over a generation since this problem emerged–nothing in our lost and clueless Church has really changed.

Yes, we have criminal background checks for everyone who works or volunteers at our parishes. Yes, we have on-going “safe environment” education. But where the rubber actually meets the road, in the adjudication of actual individual criminal cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, things have not gotten better. If anything, they have gotten worse.

Sacrificed Chris O'LearyIn the “old days,” the bishop would deal with you personally to orchestrate the cover-up of crimes committed against you. Now, the lawyers run the whole show, and the bishop treats you as if you don’t exist.

Meanwhile, the pope sends carefully crafted communiques to conferences and symposiums. He makes promise after promise. And criminal cases by the hundred languish, under the rug–where the pope himself clearly believes they belong.

Seminarians say, “We want to be part of the solution.” Brothers: that’s what we said. Twenty years ago. The mitered mafia was living a lie then, and they are living a lie now, too. Don’t comfort yourselves with the idea that things will be better in twenty years. I comforted myself with that idea, too.

…How can a decent person be a party to all this? Isn’t it actually more religious, more genuinely honest, to disassociate oneself from this perpetually benighted Catholic mess?

I find myself in an unusual situation, when it comes to confronting this question of conscience. Because of the bishop’s decree, the only way I can participate in Mass is to celebrate by myself.

I’m like a husband whose wife has been taken away from him by some cruel twist of fate. I keep living our married life, but alone. I come to the table, but my companion is no longer there.

I don’t say, “The Lord be with you,” when I celebrate the Eucharist. Because there’s no one there to say, “And with your spirit.”

I don’t pretend to have the answer to the “being Catholic now” dilemma. But I think we can eliminate these two possible solutions:

1. “Screw the Catholic Church. It’s just an empty cult, fit only for sex-abuse enablers.”

No. It’s the religion of Jesus.

2. “The institutional problems in the Church are above my pay-grade. I’ll just live my little Catholic life, in my personal spiritual cocoon.”

No. The Church belongs, above all, to Christians of conscience who live in solidarity with the desperate. The Church doesn’t belong to chancery bureaucrats, or Vatican bureaucrats, either. It belongs to the brokenhearted souls who cling to Christ for dear life, and love Him in the wounded neighbor.

We have to act. We have to lead. We have to own this screwed-up situation and do our best to improve it.

The One Who Sees Us Through Disaster

Happy Transfiguration Day. This coming Sunday, at Holy Mass we will read…

The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

(Matthew 14:24-31)

Christ at the Sea of Galilee, School of Tintoretto

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

The God-man walked on water. He can overcome gravity, since He invented gravity. This man stands at the center of the life of His Church. He remains with us, offering us the same strong hand He offered St. Peter.

We need it. Not just individually, but as a community of Christians. Because gravity does not appear to be on our side.

What has happened here? With our communities already deeply compromised by the virus, our bishop has intervened in the life of our parishes–not help them, but to wreck them. He takes a priest—admittedly kind of an annoying goofball, but who nonetheless can show up for work every day—he takes me and throws me in the dumpster. We try to reason with him, and with his superiors, and we get absolutely nowhere.

What is going on?

It’s actually not that big a mystery. Over the second half of the twentieth century, an incredibly talented New Yorker with a moral blind spot the size of the Sea of Galilee became a highly prominent Church politician. He connived his way into becoming the pope of New Jersey. Then he maneuvered himself into the College of Cardinals and became the confidante of three popes.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky Mount

Meanwhile, Theodore McCarrick left behind him a wide trail of broken souls. Every time the man celebrated Holy Mass, surrounded by sycophants trying to please him, he delivered another painful blow to his victims.

Wait. Every time he celebrated Mass. But isn’t this Jesus Christ’s holy Presence with us? The Mass?

We need big, big faith. Because Yes, it is His Presence. Yes, Jesus Christ does stand at the center of the life of His Church. Jesus can lead us through this disaster. We need to have enough faith to believe that. Because this disaster is bigger than what we think we can deal with.

We little Rocky Mounters and Martinsvillians find ourselves caught up in a heavy drama. The man who ordained me had made it basically impossible for the people he hurt to continue to believe in the Holy Mass. And to continue to believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that celebrates the Mass.

They went to Pope John Paul II for help, and he did not believe them. Benedict XVI believed them, but he wanted to keep the whole thing hush-hush. Then Pope Francis chose mercy for his friend, Theodore McCarrick, over justice and healing for McCarrick’s victims.

McCarrick was not the only one with a moral blind spot the size of Lake Como. They had a blind spot in the Apostolic Palace in Rome, also.

The thing is this: Every time a priest who abused you says Mass, and no one stops him, and everyone acts as if everything is holy and normal, you feel something far worse than a five-fingered death punch to the face. You feel like a demon-sized lie has pinned your truth to the mat on the lowest floor in hell, like a sumo wrestler crushing your ribcage.


God must not care.

But He does. The Mass is the Holy Mass of Christ crucified.

We will have to face the fact that three popes presided over a colossal institutional failure. The institution failed so magnificently that we will have to admit that we never knew Satan was so smart. We never knew anyone, even Satan, could orchestrate something so damaging to the Christian faith.

Here in the U.S., a lot of us thought the Church saved Her credibility with the bureaucratic maneuvers of 2002, after the Boston Globe blew the lid off decades of priestly sex-abuse cover-ups. But we will have to face the fact that the lies just moved farther up the chain-of-command that year. After all, the man who called the shots in 2002 was Theodore McCarrick.

All this horribleness has now rained down pain and confusion in our little bucolic corner of southwest Virginia. It will get worse before it gets better, uglier before it beautifies.

We will have to remember that the Lord Jesus endured a series of unimaginably agonizing hours. He suffered blows and lashes and wounds all over His sacred Body. He bled from everywhere. He has drawn us into this, in our interior lives.

But He lives. We need big, big faith. He conquered all that agony, and He will reconcile us all to Himself. Truth can seem to wound. But, in the end, it heals, restores, and brings real peace.

Jesus Christ, brutally tortured and crucified to death, risen again from the dead, and present with us. The man Who pulled St. Peter out of the water. He stands at the center of the life of His Church. He stands there, immovable, full of love.

West-Virginia Update

During the four-month period when I didn’t publish any blog posts, our sister diocese in West Virginia experienced some notable developments. Here’s the update that I promised, from the old-post mailbag

(written 1/26/20)

Bishop Michael Bransfield governed the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, from 2005 to 2018, sexually harassing numerous seminarians and young priests, and spending multiple millions on himself.

Bransfield reached retirement age a few weeks after the truth about Theodore McCarrick began to become public, in the summer of 2018.

Remember: truth about McCarrick did not become public owing to the honesty of any sitting bishops or popes. It became public thanks to the work of two lawyers in New York and the courage of Mr. James Grein.

If McCarrick had not been “outed” by circumstances outside the hierarchy’s control, we can well imagine that Bransfield would have retired quietly and uneventfully to the plush West-Virginia digs he had prepared for himself.

But, as we know, panic mode had struck the halls of ecclesiastical power in late summer, 2018.

We have previously covered what happened:

The Archbishop of Baltimore came to “rescue” the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

–An insider grew impatient with the dubious “rescue,” and revealed to the Washington Post that: 1. Archbishop Lori had commissioned a report, which found, among many other things, that Bransfield had given Lori thousands of dollars. 2. The report went to the Vatican with the information about Bransfield’s gifts to Lori expunged.

–Then it turned out that: The Archbishops of Baltimore, and the Vatican, had long known about Bransfield’s profligate ways. The faithful had complained repeatedly, through two papacies. The higher-ranking prelates just ignored all the complaints.

We traced the eerie similarities between how people complained up the ecclesiastical chain-of-command about McCarrick for over a decade, and got nowhere. And how they complained about Bransfield for over a decade, and got nowhere.

–In mid-summer of last year, Lori yielded to pressure applied by laypeople in the diocese. The Archbishop promised that an independent audit of the diocesan finances would be commissioned and made public. In November, the diocesan spokesman promised that the audit would come out “early next year.” Nothing so far.

[That is: nothing as of January 26, when I originally wrote this. On February 21, 2020, the diocese released a financial report. I discuss the contents of that report in an addendum below.]

–In late July, Pope Francis announced the “punishment” of retired Bishop Bransfield–even though no Church official had ever publicly spelled-out Bransfield’s crimes.

–Mark Brennan became bishop of West Virginia in August. Pope gave Brennan an impossible mandate. Then Archbishop Lori went to talk at Notre Dame University.

–In November Bishop Brennan announced a “plan of amends.” He went to Rome and discussed it with Marc Card. Ouellet. But Brennan said nothing publicly about the outcome of that meeting. Meanwhile, a former seminarian, abused by Bransfield, discussed the plan with a journalist. In the interview, the young man had some inspiring things to say, and cut through an ecclesiastical lie or two.

–Then the Washington Post stepped into this swirling nebula of feckless non-disclosure of facts. They went ahead and published the entire internal investigative report that someone had leaked to them in June.

Here’s one of our heroes, Michael Iafrate, commenting after the Post published the report:

Your humble servant read every word of the report. It illuminates the way that bishops can abuse their authority. The report has these shortcomings:

1. The Post published the edited version. That is, the version without the precise details of Bransfield’s apparent bribes to higher-ranking prelates, including Lori.

2. The report does not recount the efforts that good Catholics in West Virginia had made for years, to alert authorities about Bransfield. As noted above, West-Virginia Catholics had complained repeatedly to the Metropolitan Archbishops of Baltimore, and to the Apostolic Nuncios of Popes Benedict and Francis.

3. The Post has in its possession, but has not published, the letter that gave rise to the report. In August of 2018, the Judicial Vicar of West Virginia, Monsignor Kevin Quirk, wrote to Archbishop Lori to raise the alarm about Bransfield.

The Post has quoted Msgr. Quirk’s letter, but has not published it in its entirety. I can only imagine that someone attuned to the subtleties of the communiques of ecclesiastical officials could understand things about that letter that Post reporters probably cannot grasp.

At this point, a year and a half later, it seems to me like the Post really ought to publish the whole letter. Given the extensive consequences that the document produced, the public has a right to see it. (With names of victims blacked-out, as necessary, of course.) But maybe there are reasons not to do so.

What does the Bransfield Report teach us? Independent investigators ought to subject every diocese to the same scrutiny. Every diocese ought to have a similar report done, with the findings published for the world to see.

Because: Bransfield engaged in some conspicuous excesses of self-indulgence, to be sure. But, when it comes to excessively exercising mind-controlling authority over subordinates, Bransfield did not stray far from the norm. If anything, he was less severe than many others.

It’s the same playbook, followed far and wide: Demand unqualified, irrational obedience. Demand that everyone around you see the world precisely as you see it. (After all, if they don’t, they can’t be good Catholics.) Demand that they accord you the center-of-the-universe dignity that accrues to every man with a miter.

Make these demands capriciously, unexpectedly. But insist on immediate satisfaction. Punish anyone who refuses to submit. With the greatest possible severity.


On February 21, 2020, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston published the promised financial audit. It covers only fiscal year 2019.

Last October, reporters raised questions about former-bishop Bransfield diverting Medicare and Medicaid money for diocesan use, possibly committing a federal crime by doing so. As far as I know, those questions remain unaddressed by the diocese.

The report released on February 21 does not disclose the lavish spending made by Bishop Bransfield during his tenure, which ended just as the fiscal year 2019 began. Genuine transparency would seem to call for a full disclosure, by the diocese, of all those expenditures over the Bransfield years.

The published report does disclose the amount that the diocese had to pay for the investigative report that the Washington Post obtained and published.

Over a year has passed since the secret investigative “Bransfield Report” landed on the desk of the Archbishop of Baltimore. It resulted in “punitive measures” taken by the Holy See. Those measures amount, at this point, to a reduction in Bransfield’s pension.

The Church never released any of the specific information contained in the report. An insider (or insiders) leaked it to the press. That provided the people of the diocese with a window inside a dysfunctional situation–a situation they had long known from the outside.

The Church still has not found Bransfield guilty of anything in particular.

Which means the hierarchy found him guilty, basically, of being a dangerous, self-serving autocrat who had the bad fortune of getting caught at being one.


McCarrick-Report Fable vs. Streetside Press-Conference Preachers

Aesop sculpture
The fabulist Aesop

Before the virus engulfed Italy a fortnight ago, the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc. expected the imminent release of the Vatican’s “McCarrick Report.”

Let me explain.

Aesop, the ancient Greek fable teller, spun a yarn about something dubbed “The McCarrick Report.” He told the tale way back before anyone on earth ever heard of coronavirus.

Amazing as it is, many journalists who butter their bread with ecclesiastical money still actually believe the fable.

In the story, the Vatican has a “huge document” that will someday “cast light” on: How a serial destroyer of young lives succeeded in deceiving an entire generation of trusting Catholic people. While popes, Cardinals, and bishops all swallowed it down their gullets without saying anything.

Aesop concludes the fable with this: The McCarrick report will show Pope Francis’ true “commitment” to “transparency and accountability.” The report will also contain the chemical formula for the cure of COVID-19. And the exact geographic co-ordinates where the Ark of the Covenant lies buried in Ethiopia.

A Vatican Cardinal will appear at a press conference with Jim Morrison, James Dean, and Jimmy Hoffa to release the report to the public. Then the opening soccer match of the 2020 Olympic Games will proceed in St. Peter’s Square, followed by all the canceled NCAA basketball games.

…From Mr. Bates’ mailbag, dear reader:

(written 1/25/2020)

On Her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the discrepancy existing between the message She proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted. Only by taking the way of penance and renewal, the narrow way of the cross, can the People of God extend Christ’s reign. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 853)

Over two months ago, we noted the speech of His Eminence Sean Card. O’Malley to the American bishops assembled in Baltimore for their annual meeting there. The Cardinal assured everyone that the long-promised Vatican report about Theodore McCarrick would soon see the light of day.

A month later, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, spoke similarly:

The report has not seen the light of day.

Reasonable people gave up long ago. The Vatican produce a document that cast real light on the McCarrick Cover-up? The soul-destroying mess that has now lasted for an entire generation?

One of our heroes, “Nathan”–anonymous McCarrick victim, who wrote to us at the one-year anniversary of the Vatican’s original promise of a report–he urged patience. Nathan said, Wait for the report. It will come. They have a huge amount of information to synthesize. Honest brokers are at work.

I could not bring myself to believe this, even back in October. Now, three months later:  Two prelates, long implicated in the McCarrick cover-up, just became Dean and Vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

This makes me conclude: Only Stockholm-Syndrome sufferers can continue to indulge in fantasies about a “McCarrick Report” coming from Rome. The Vatican does not have the capacity for self-reflection which could produce a credible McCarrick Report. At least not right now.

But hope is by no means lost. The mafia of obtuse narcissists steers the Barque of Peter towards the iceberg, but sex-abuse survivors nonetheless try to save the Church.

What has happened over the last couple months is this:

1. New Jersey, New York, and California temporarily removed statutes of limitations for sex-abuse claims. The bishops of Mexico publicly called for their government to do the same.

2. Theodore McCarrick abused Mr. John Bellocchio of New Jersey in 1995. This past November and December, Mr. Bellocchio filed two lawsuits, using his own name, and publicly announcing his intentions. In New Jersey, he sued the Archdiocese of Newark.

In federal court, he sued the Holy See.

Mr. Bellocchio’s eloquence deserves the widest possible audience. His words in these press conferences inspire me like a great sermon. Does our Church have a future? With people like John Bellocchio leading Her–yes.

Also, as you can see in the second video above, Ms. Siobhan O’Connor came to support Bellocchio, along with Mr. Michael Whelan of Buffalo. O’Connor had some eloquent things to say, too, which you can hear by clicking this link.

In his lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, Bellocchio highlights this fact: The Holy See signed the United Nations Charter for the Rights of Children in 1989. The U.N. has repeatedly cited the Vatican for serious violations of the treaty, over the course of the past couple decades. Mr. Paul Moses published an article outlining this in Commonweal magazine last summer.

Non-Catholic-media journalists also seem to care about the integrity of the Church more than our bishops do. Thank God someone does.

We learned right after Christmas that the Washington Post had uncovered information about large sums of money that McCarrick had given to other churchmen over the years, out of a fund intended to help the poor. This included a $200,000 gift to Pope Benedict XVI, shortly after Benedict became pope.

Let’s remember the situation then:

Cardinal Ratzinger knew about McCarrick’s predations, but Pope John Paul II refused to believe the accusers.

Spring, 2005. McCarrick sat as Archbishop of Washington. John Paul II dies. Ratzinger becomes pope. McCarrick sends the new pope $200,000.

Looks a lot like a hush-money bribe, doesn’t it, dear reader?

James Faluszczak and Paul Barr Buffalo
James Faluszczak, left, and attorney Paul Barr, right

Another agent of renewal for Holy Church is Mr. James Falusczak. He spoke out last month to try to deal with the web of cronyism and half-truths that rules in the ecclesiastical province of New York.

On December 10, Falusczak spoke in Brooklyn about the dishonesty of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and former Brooklyn priest, now Albany Bishop and Buffalo administrator, Edward Scharfenberger. Click THIS LINK to listen to some excellent preaching of the Gospel.

Brooklyn Bishop DiMarzio stands accused of sexual abuse, but he nonetheless remains firmly in office. He had to cancel a scheduled visit to a Catholic school, because parents objected. Parents objected to the sitting bishop visiting a Catholic school. The National Catholic Reporter yesterday published an editorial pointing out the cronyism of Timothy Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio.

Faluszczak spoke in Buffalo on Dec. 13 about Scharfenberger’s dishonesty regarding the Vatican investigation of Buffalo. Click THIS LINK to listen some more more excellent preaching.

They’re preaching healing. Yet, how do we heal when we don’t have a full accounting, when we don’t have a full report?

Amen, brother.

…If the good Lord Jesus could, by His grace, convert the persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul, He can save us now, too. The Truth can, and will, renew His Church.

Even if the truth about the misgovernment of the Church can only shine out in secular courtrooms right now.

Letter from the Camp

This year the diocese ordered-up a stale corporate-management-inspiration package for our convocation of priests. Delivered by a well-meaning “executive coach.”

The PowerPoint included Viktor Frankl, confined at Dachau. And his inspiring words about selflessness.

Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl

To be honest, being here at this diocesan priest conference feels like some kind of brainwashing camp. Back before the world learned about the McCarrick affair, I had some tolerance for churchy platitudes and bad Catholic jokes, on occasions such as this. But of course all that tolerance went out the window in the summer of 2018.

Last October’s priest convocation felt surreal and shameful–the priests of the diocese spending three days together, with no open discussion of the elephant. Namely, our disillusionment, and the disillusionment of our people.

This year, doing the same thing–carrying on, as if there were no bankruptcy of Catholic credibility–it feels like we have fallen to the Kool-Aid-drinking-cult level.

What is the Roman Catholic Church? We would say, we priests: This Church is the Church of Christ, founded and sustained by the incarnate Word of God. We would say: In our parishes, we and our people practice the original Christian faith, the original Christian religion. We receive grace from heaven through Jesus’ sacraments.

But: How can we fail to reckon with this fact: Our answer to this question–What is the Catholic Church?–our answer does not correspond with the perception of most reasonable people. Most people with self-respect would not willingly associate themselves with our institution. At all. Because our institution has apparently endless closets full of disgusting secrets and unacknowledged catastrophic failures.

Kool Aid

Perhaps you may ask, dear reader: What should we do at our priests’ convocation, if not carry on as if none of this ever happened?

Well: It’s not just McCarrick. In our own humble ecclesiastical province, a bishop retired uneventfully a year ago, at the appointed age. Now he stands accused of the serial sexual abuse of multiple vulnerable individuals.

How about it we openly acknowledged the courage of the particular victims who have spoken out against Bransfield? And against McCarrick?

Shouldn’t we honor their bravery? Young priests and seminarians tried to blow the whistle decades ago about McCarrick, only to find themselves shushed, muzzled, and treated like dirt. While McCarrick ascended, untouched, to the College of Cardinals.

Now, the pattern repeats itself. Two former seminarians have sued the Church over bishop Michael Bransfield’s abuses over the course of the past seven months. Meanwhile, no one in East-coast Catholic Church, Inc. pays attention.

How about in our own diocese? Have we acknowledged with true gratitude the victims who found the courage to speak about their abuse in 2002? Only to be treated as liars by bishop Sullivan, as pariahs by bishop DiLorenzo, and as an overly emotional special-interest group by bishop Knestout?

So the question remains: have we even begun to solve our institutional problem? We not only haven’t solved it. We continue to pile up wreckage.

Now, a few years back, I would have said about this boring priest conference, underway at a Marriott: The Kool-Aid they’re handing out here tastes bland enough, like Evian or Perrier. Whatever.

This year, the bland Kool-Aid tastes more like milk gone bad. Or maybe poison.

Regional Church Scandal Update

Question 1: How did McCarrick thrive as a predator for decades, until June 2018?

Number of promises made by Cardinals/popes to provide an answer: At least four (Wuerl, Tobin, DiNardo, and the pope)

Number of answers actually given: Zero.

Question 2: How did former-West-Virginia-bishop Michael Bransfield thrive as a predator for decades, like his old friend Theodore McCarrick, until September 2018?

Number of investigative reports selectively edited by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori with information about this: One

Number of such reports made public by Lori and Pope Francis: Zero.

Question 3: How many former seminarians in West Virginia have sued the Church in the past six months?

Answer, provided by the West-Virginia press: At least two.

How many secret settlements of these cases did the diocese reach, under the governance of William Lori? One.

How many of these cases assert that the victim tried to communicate with Lori, but got rebuffed and treated like an enemy? At least one.

Question 3: How many bishops spoke at last week’s Notre Dame University forum on the sexual abuse crisis?

Answer: One.

Who? William Lori.

Forgive me for asking, but is this a joke, Notre Dame?

During the forum, Lori told his usual self-pitying and self-justifying sob stories. And he regaled the world with his typical mind-numbingly tedious tales of his own feckless bureaucratic bumblings.

Notre Dame University: What do you mean by this charade? Glamorizing the machinations of a documented liar and cover-up artist. Are you trying to shove the reputation of our Church even deeper into the bottom of the trashcan? Do you not realize that there are some serious people out here, people who actually know the facts about what has happened in West Virginia over the course of the last year, and who see William Lori for the charlatan that he is?

John Allen and Peter Steinfels: You should be ashamed of yourselves. For playing patsy to William Lori’s endless self-justifying nonsense. You show yourselves to be the hacks that you are, more interested in a secure paycheck than in any kind of real integrity.

The RMS Titanic of Roman Catholicism in our part of the world continues to sink, my dear ones, with bloviating nabobs on the bridge. Men utterly unprepared to deal with the catastrophe that they, and the men they kissed up to when they were younger, have wrought.

Let’s try to hasten to heaven as eagerly as we can. Let’s try to help as many people as we can along the way. Part One of such a business: Living in the truth.

Which includes this fact: The Metropolitan Archbishop of our ecclesiastical province is a careerist fraud. No honest human being should trust him any farther than Lori himself can throw medicine ball.

Still Sailing with the Trent Fathers

At Mass today we hear: Then the door was locked. Sound familiar? From this past Sunday? Someday the Lord will lock the door to heaven, for good. Could be today.

St. Paul consoles us: This is the will of God, your holiness. Holiness gets us inside; God wills us inside. He will lock the door. But He wills us inside first.


Luther Theses by Ferdinand Pauwels

The question of our holiness very much preoccupied the fathers gathered in the lovely town of Trent five centuries ago. They had gathered to try to deal with Martin Luther’s teachings. I am hoping for some grace and insight from a visit there myself, next week.

We can look back at the work of the Council of Trent in two ways.

1. The fathers clarified essential points and saved us from potentially catastrophic confusion about Christianity.

We attain holiness by: believing that salvation comes through our faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the mercy of God. Salvation and holiness come as gifts from on high.

But we still must do stuff. We have to co-operate with the grace of Christ. We have to obey the divine commandments. When we don’t, we have to confess our sins to a priest.

The Church founded by Christ has a life that She must live on earth. That life always falls prey to corruption, which requires a constant struggle for purification. But the baby can’t go out with the bath water. The baby includes: the Mass, the priesthood and apostolic hierarchy, the papacy of Rome, seven sacraments, and venerating saints, especially our Lady.

On the other hand… Here comes Point-of-View-on-Trent #2. The Council defined too much, too precisely. It hardened Catholic-Protestant divisions. And it failed actually to reform the Church. The papacy and the episcopate remained hopelessly overweening and worldly.

Now, we agree with Point-of-View #1. At the same time, I don’t think it makes us Protestants to acknowledge that Point-of-View #2 also has some truth to it.

PA Grand Jury victims
sex-abuse survivors at Penn. grand-jury press conference last August

A year ago, McCarrick, Viganò, and the Pennsylvania grand jury confronted us with a stunning, but hardly deniable, fact. We Catholic Christians sail on a ship that currently lacks competent senior officers. They’re playing Parcheesi on the bridge, while we look out at the sea and realize: We lost sight of land a long time ago.

But this realization has not meant despair for us. Because of the same fundamental insight that the council fathers, gathered at Trent, had.

The Church has Her life. We read and believe the Scriptures. We celebrate the ceremonies Jesus ordered us to celebrate. We strive, by God’s grace, to obey God.

And He is still God, the same God of our ancestors–the God of Abraham, Moses, Our Lady, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Therese. His Son is still His Son, reigning from heaven–and present with us in the Host and chalice. His Holy Spirit still makes us holy.

Gaudium Magnum Out the Window

Something greater than Solomon here. Something greater than Jonah here. The Christ.

We come to Him to find salvation, to find God. Jesus saves the human race; we know no other way. The human race comes to Jesus, gathers around Him, follows Him, unites herself with Him—and thereby finds peace, true religion, and eternal happiness.

That’s the Church. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of the Christ of God.


Six years ago today, the white smoke floated on the Roman evening air, the bells rang out, the eyes of the world gazed at the loggia. Our local tv station came here to St. Joseph’s in Martinsville for comment. Bob Humkey happily talked to the camera.

The joy of the election of a new pope. Six years ago today, it filled the Catholic world. The sense of promise. The comforting continuity. Holy Church renewing Herself again. Habemus papam. Gaudium magnum. Great joy.

I don’t think any of us could have imagined how profoundly compromised that joy would become, six years later. The innocent exhuberance—I remember feeling it even when I was a boy, in October 1978. Then again, as a new priest, in April 2005. Then again six years ago today. Simple, happy confidence in this institution.

Not naivete; we know popes aren’t perfect. We know they are flawed men, like everyone else. The institution isn’t perfect. But when we heard ‘habemus papam’—the vitality, the capacity to start fresh, the fundamental soundness and permanence of the Church: we rightly reveled in it, as our new father in God stepped out to greet us and bless us.

Now? All that seems a million miles away, like a sweet dream that we had. And we have woken up to attorneys general, Royal Commissions of inquiry, and Saturday Night Live legitimately suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church is a crime syndicate.

Luther Theses by Ferdinand Pauwels

The familiar loggia on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica: four centuries old. In the century before it was built, many earnest Christians lost confidence altogether in the papacy. They had their reasons. The beginning of… Protestantism.

We have our reasons, too. Martin Luther’s nemesis Pope Leo X reveled in processions with elephants through the streets of Rome. And the doctrine of indulgences was an utter mess. But, as far as we know, Pope Leo did not have two Cardinals publicly convicted of sexually abusing minors.

In other words, we Christians of the early 21st century hardly have less reason to lose faith in the Roman Catholic hierarchy than the Christians of the early sixteenth century did. We would seem to have a great deal more reason.

But it also seems to me that we have to dig deeper. There is something greater here, something greater than the current incumbents of the episcopal thrones. This is the Church of Jesus Christ.

I have a little plan to steal away for a few days in September and make a personal pilgrimage to the cathedral in Trent, Italy–to pray for myself, and all of you, and Pope Francis, and the whole Church.

Everyone know what happened there, five centuries ago? A miracle of doctrinal precision and clarity, to answer Protestant objections. And a miracle of new resolve and spiritual discipline in the Catholic clergy.

The Council of Trent

On our pope’s sixth anniversary, the gaudium magnum of the St. Peter’s loggia eludes us altogether. But the Lord will not fail us. He will not fail His Church, built on Peter.


Integrity of the Womb and the Confessional

confessional“Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mark 2:7)


Sin involves corrupting the pure integrity of God’s beautiful plan. A plan for the salvation and glorification of all things.

We pray for the marchers up in Washington. We share their zeal. In the womb, God knits together an unfathomable plan. It’s like a little Garden of Eden. May no hand of violence ever desecrate that garden.

God, the pure One, can forgive the sins of us impure ones. He even uses some of us impure ones as His instruments of mercy. The Son of God entrusted “the power of the keys” to His Church. He gave His Apostles and their successors in office the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. To continue the Incarnation, so to speak. Jesus, when He walked the earth, had the authority to forgive sins. Bishops and priests have that same authority, as ministers of Christ.

But a profound responsibility accompanies that authority, doesn’t it? When we go to confession, we go with faith in the power of the keys. But we also need to have confidence in the human integrity of the confessor. We have to trust that the priest who hears my confession will respond according to true discipline, guided by holy teaching.

That is: He won’t distort my own conscience by calling good evil or evil good. He won’t betray God’s mercy by being too hard on me, or betray God’s justice by being too easy on me.

My point is: The supernatural grace of Holy Orders means that even a sinner can offer Christ’s sacraments. But in the confessional, our faith in that supernatural grace has to meet a representative of a human institution with integrity. Yes, all priests are sinners, too. But a confessor receiving penitents cannot be a liar. He cannot be a swindler or a sodomite. He cannot be an atheist or a heretic.

unborn…On March-for-Life Day, the young Catholic Church in America takes Her vigorous stand. Faith, hope, and love show up on Constitution Avenue.

But She limps this year. Her faith God invigorates Her as always. But Her inability to trust in the fundamental integrity of the clerical hierarchy saps Her strength.

Our faith in the triune God does not contradict reason. But, at the beginning of 2019, we cannot rationally claim that our clerical hierarchy has integrity. If we did claim that, reasonable non-Catholics would make arguments to the contrary. And we would have no answers.

May God send us leaders to get our footing back. It will take a long time. But we can do it, if we hold on. We sinners, who want to live honest lives.

Divine Law of Unconditional Love (Part III)

What is the divine law?

God loves. He loves without limit, without condition. To obey God’s law is to love generously, unconditionally. Whenever anyone acts in the name of the Church, this law must be the guide.

If someone asks me to baptize his child or to help him find a way to feed his family, can I refuse by saying, “I’m sorry, I only serve U.S. citizens?”

If a young lady comes and says, “My boyfriend wants me to…” Could I, with genuine love, hand her a little package and say “Just be careful?” Or doesn’t love demand something else? Like: “God loves you more than that.”

The law of divine love binds the Church in all Her works. This is our fundamental thesis in these four sermons about the sentence: We cannot co-operate with evil, even if the civil law stipulates that we must.

Now, we can hardly discuss the moral obligations of the Church in American in 2012 without reflecting for a moment on some of the agonizing failures we have suffered through, in a number of dioceses, during the past decade.

When any adult abuses a young person, God gets mad. Angels cry. The law of love gets violated in a uniquely cruel and dastardly way.

Continue reading “Divine Law of Unconditional Love (Part III)”