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.

 

 

 

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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.

Guest Post: Seminarian Jack Shanahan

Jack gave the following talk after Sunday Masses, shortly before returning to the seminary for his sophomore year of college…

Jack Shanahan pic

Being a Seminarian in a Church in Crisis

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:16-20)

God is with us always, even until the close of the age. On April 21st, 2018 I received a call from Father Michael Boehling, who was Vocation Director of the Diocese of Richmond at the time, and he informed me that I would be a seminarian for the Diocese of Richmond. In fact, he called me when I when I was in the car with my mom coming back from my interview with the diocese. My mom actually pulled the car over to the side of the road, and I think she recorded me while I was on the phone talking to Father Michael, and it was a surreal moment!

Little did I know the bomb that was about to drop on our beloved Church…

On June 20, 2018, now former-Cardinal McCarrick was suspended from ministry by the Holy See due to an allegation of sexual abuse.

mccarrickMy first reaction to the news was, ‘Who is Cardinal McCarrick?’ Then on July 28th, 2018, Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

And now I’m asking the question: How could you do this? You are supposed to be an example of Christ to others!

When I arrived at the seminary, we began with orientation, as you would expect. For that first weekend we went to Loyola retreat center for a weekend of recollection. It’s a good time for prayer and reflection as we began the year. On the last night of the weekend, a letter was released.

On August 28, 2018 Archbishop Viganò releases a letter, on the day when Pope Francis spoke about sex-abuse in Ireland. (This gave the pope the opportunity to respond on the plane flying home to the Vatican). In Archbishop Viganò’s letter, he tells detailed information about his knowledge regarding Cardinal McCarrick’s abusive practices and his actions in response, and he also informs the people of God about those who had knowledge of McCarrick’s wrongdoings. He included the Cardinal that built and oversaw the seminary I had just moved into, Cardinal Wuerl.

I have not seen a group of men more defeated than what I saw that night. A lot of men who would later become some of my best pals were sobbing in the chapel, unsure as to what the future held for them and the Church.

The next four months of my life would be totally consumed in following the scandals that would come out seemingly every day.

I was so consumed in the crisis that I would print out articles and bring them to my Holy Hour, when I should have been praying.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was falling apart. I was questioning my vocation and if God was honestly a good loving God.

I hit rock bottom when I came home for the winter break and questioned if I should even go back to seminary. By God’s grace I did, and thank God I did.

We began the second semester with a five-day silent retreat, and it was there that I was able to have some semblance of a prayer life again! And I prayerful discerned this question: Why did you come to seminary?

holymassIt all came back to me–the proposition that I may be set apart, called by God to be His priest, so that I could draw souls, including my own, to the glory of heaven. The proposition that I may be called to be in the person of Christ at the Altar of God, drawing all into the Glorious Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The proposition that I may be called to be there for the people of God when they need the Lord most, both in good times and in bad.

Eventually the crisis that we were in–and are still in–became the extra push I needed to help me stay on the path to priesthood. This crisis that caused me so much sadness and anger became my motivation. Today, more than ever I want to be a priest, should it be God’s will.

…Does anyone remember the New England Patriots playing the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI? It was February 5, 2017. In case you didn’t know, I am a die-hard New England Patriots fan, and that game is considered by us Patriots fans–and by most people–one of the most improbable Super Bowl victories ever.

The Patriots were slight underdogs heading into the game, because the Falcons’ offense was so superior.

It was a blood bath; the Patriots were being dominated by the Falcons, and before you could even blink, the Patriots are down 28-3, with 2:12 left in the 3rd Quarter.

The Patriots at that point had a 0.01% chance of winning.

Of course, the Patriots would end up prevailing, relying on heart and mental toughness.

I bring this up because, when looking at our Church, it kind of feels like we’re down 28-3. In fact, I would argue it feels like were down 100-0.

And I’ve got to ask: Why are you even here? Why are you still Catholic?

It can’t be the coffee and donuts. You could get that any church.

Why are you here?

People outside the Church must think we’re crazy!

Tom Brady

…The gospel this past Friday was from Matthew Chapter 16. It’s one of my favorite illustrations from Our Lord.  Jesus is speaking to his disciples and says to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

He must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Being a Catholic at this time in the Church, and in our culture, is like bearing a cross. Actually, being Catholic today is a heavy cross to bear.

Not only do we live in a culture focused on short-term pleasures and the joys of this life–without considering the eternal joys of Heaven. We also have leaders in our Church who have failed to be good shepherds! In fact, they have been everything-but-good to the people of God!

So for Catholics, not only are we battling a secular culture that promotes evil for the sake of their own happiness, but we also have bishops who have continued to let us down over and over and over again!

Yet you are still here?

Why? Why put up with all of this?

It seems to me you believe, and have hope, in the truth of Jesus Christ!

Clearly, you wouldn’t still be Catholic at this point, unless you truly believed this Church that is visibly hurting was the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Although the battle continues, although we’re down 100-0, we know the outcome. We know who will prevail in the end. Jesus Christ and His blessed Church.

We, the people of God, must keep a supernatural outlook. There is a weakness in many, but we know that this is the Church founded by Christ himself. If we do not follow the Church, we’re Protestants!

You and I can and should help the Church in this difficult time.

We need to pray for the Church! We need to pray for our bishops, that they will follow the example Christ has given as The High Priest. If you don’t pray for these men, you have no right to judge them, because you would be part of the problem, not the solution. Should we be disappointed in them, or even mad? Absolutely! But we Christian Catholics know that there is more beyond this short pilgrimage on earth.

We need to pray for our priests during this difficult time. Especially for those priests who have been ordained into the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ by bishops who have abused others, or have covered up abuse.

We need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and seminarians. Eventually the seminarians in seminary today will be our future priests and bishops. Prayerfully ask Mary our Mother to intercede for them so that they may give themselves fully to the mission of Jesus Christ and His Church. We seminarians so desperately need your prayers.

We need to be saints. We must deny ourselves, carry the cross, and follow Him.

Most importantly we cannot give up. We cannot give up because Christ has never given up on us. He died for us, so that we may have life eternal. Although the scoreboard might look like 28 to 3, or 100 to nothing, we continue to fight. We don’t give up, because some bishop abused seminarians, or this priest abused a parishioner. We fight! We don’t give up, and why would we? We’ve already won.

Spotlight Continues

Spotlight movie

The possibility of his returning to lawful courses and restoring to his fellow citizens their freedom and their rights was no longer open to him: because during the thoughtless days of his youth he had entangled himself in such terrible crimes and committed so many guilty acts that he could only return to sanity at the cost of his own destruction.

The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero’s description of Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse. Or maybe his unwitting prophecy of McCarrick and his confederates.

Where do we stand now? A year after the most painful and confusing August in the history of the Lord Jesus’ Church?

1. In a December report on the dioceses of Illinois, the state attorney general pointed out that the terms “credible allegation” of abuse, or “substantiated allegation” do not have a clear, standard definition in the Catholic Church in the United States.

Even though the disciplinary procedures of the bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People utterly rely on these terms.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore

2. No state outlaws inappropriate attentions that could constitute “grooming” for sexual abuse. Grooming, in and of itself, involves no civil crimes. But grooming certainly involves a profound betrayal of any priest’s–or any adult’s–duty.

Over the course of the past year, no ecclesiastical official has so much as attempted to define what constitutes grooming.

3. Earlier this month a former member of the bishops’ National Review Board published a list of myths about the Catholic sex-abuse crisis. He defended the decade-and-a-half-long record of the large administrative and educational apparatus that the 2002 Charter erected.

Dr. Plante insists that the bishops can reasonably claim: they basically fixed this problem in 2002.

But, doctor: What about the fact that most victims do not find the courage to speak out for many years? Couldn’t many cases of as-yet-unreported abuse since 2002 still come to light, thereby altering your statistics?

Dr. Plante insists: That’s outdated thinking. It used to be difficult for victims to come forward, but now it’s easy.

I think most sex-abuse victims would strenuously disagree.

4. Last August, Carlo Maria Viganò reported that he had informed Pope Francis about McCarrick’s thick Vatican file, which included testimony about McCarrick’s sexual abuses.

Viganò wrote that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick at a meeting they had in June of 2013. That is, well over four years before two lawyers in New York uncovered evidence against McCarrick, more or less by accident–leading to his eventual downfall.

A reporter asked the pope about Viganò’s claim, later that same day, last August. The pope would not answer.

In October, one of the pope’s assistants, in an open letter to Viganò, insisted that Pope Francis could not possibly be expected to remember such a detail. (Namely, that a sitting papal nuncio to the US informed him of a file on a Cardinal, containing information about the sexual abuse of seminarians.) How could His Holiness remember everything he deals with, in the rush of events that a pope confronts every day?

Archbishop Vigano

In May, the pope himself echoed that sentiment, in an interview with a Mexican journalist. He could hardly have remembered what Viganò told him.

In other words, no one ever has denied the truth of what Viganò said about his June 2013 meeting with Pope Francis. He told the pope about McCarrick. Pope Francis did nothing until five years later, when he had no choice but to act. He hadn’t acted previously because he “forgot.”

5. Last September our bishop promised his “full co-operation with any independent, lay-managed, authoritative investigation into the scandal of Theodore McCarrick.” As far as we know, no such investigation has occurred.

I hate to quote myself. But, at that time, when the Catholic airwaves coursed with prelates promising a thorough McCarrick investigation, I predicted:

“Maybe sometime next year we will learn that the pope quietly laicized McCarrick. And that, supposedly, will satisfy justice. When the good faith of thousands of American Catholics has been cruelly mocked.”

I take no pleasure in pointing out: time has proven me right.

Lying, self-interested mafiosi make lots of promises of future disclosures of information. But then they never disclose any. They make endless pledges to study and solve problems. But they never solve them.

mccarrick and wilton gregory

These problems did not emerge for the first time last summer. At the time when McCarrick preyed on his victims–back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s–all these issues of Church governance already sat squarely on the table:

How do you foster an environment in which sex-abuse victims feel free to accuse the criminals? How do you verify accusations of sexual abuse? How can the Church give justice to victims in situations where the civil authority cannot, or will not, act? What rules must we have for priestly life that would prohibit interactions that could lead to sexual abuse?

These questions hardly arose out-of-the-blue last summer. If you want to blow your mind, dear reader, click this link and read the report submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by Thomas Doyle, Ray Mouton, and Michael Peterson. In 1985. 1985.

Among victims’ advocates, that report came to be known at “The Manual.” The report raises dozens of disciplinary, legal, and pastoral questions. Questions that the prelates of the Church must find a way to answer.

Over 34 years later, most of the questions remain unanswered.

A lumbering, multi-generational mafia of incompetent frauds runs the Church. It’s a sad and evident fact, with no short-term hope in sight.

A couple weeks ago, a West-Virginia theologian named Michael Iafrate published an essay in the Washington Post about the crisis of leadership in the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

If you’ve followed my posts about Bransfield and Lori, you know the saga. Bransfield did wrong, and nobody paid attention for over a decade. Then everyone panicked last August. Archbishop Lori of Baltimore “investigated.” Bransfield got “punished.” New bishop installed. Case closed.

Iafrate concludes his essay:

From the start, some West Virginia Catholics including myself were suspicious of the investigation because Lori wouldn’t reveal the investigators’ identities and other basic details of the probe. We felt justified when The Washington Post report came out in early June showing that Lori was among the recipients of Bransfield’s gifts — using funds for which Bransfield was later reimbursed by the diocese. Lori received $10,500 in checks from Bransfield, The Post reported, and then redacted the names of gift recipients, including his own, from the report before it went to Rome.

The archbishop later apologized for the decision, but he told a West Virginia newspaper, “As you can see, it didn’t prevent me from authorizing a no-holds-barred report.” “As you can see” is funny language to use in reference to a report that remains hidden from the public.

Now that Rome has issued its sanctions on Bransfield, church officials want us to trust that the punishment fits the crime and that healing can now begin. But Lori’s tight control of the report and his misrepresentation of its contents still prevent us from knowing the truth about the crimes in the first place.

All of this suggests that the new system of bishops investigating bishops is simply a new face of the church’s textbook protectionism. At some point, the bishops could very well convince us that they are capable of investigating one another, and that justice has been done in West Virginia.

The only way to do that, though, is by atoning for Lori’s sins of omission through real transparency, including the release of the full Bransfield report and a full accounting for what happened in Philadelphia [Bransfield’s hometown, where he stands accused of sexual abuse, a diocesan “exoneration” notwithstanding]. Short of that, welcome to the same old story.

A full accounting for what happened with McCarrick? Looks like we will have to wait for Judgment Day for that. Because the mafiosi can only return to sanity at the cost of their own destruction.

James Grein and Steven Cook

[this post rated PG-13]

First, watch the movie A Civil Action. (One of the best ever.) John Travolta portrays an ambulance-chasing lawyer with a Porsche, who becomes an impoverished, contrite, compassionate human being–through his interactions with the victims of a New-England environmental disaster.

Robert Duvall portrays Travolta’s legal adversary. Duvall to Travolta: “If you’re looking for the truth, look for it where it is. At the bottom of a bottomless pit.”

Second, recall that your humble servant nominated myself Mr. James Grein’s official amanuensis last August. Mr. Grein’s testimony apparently led to Theodore McCarrick’s defrocking by Pope Francis.

We have to say ‘apparently,’ since the ecclesiastical justice system remains 99.9% opaque, despite the endless church-mafia propaganda about ‘transparency.’ What we know: James spoke to reporters after he gave secret testimony under oath in December, and told us what he said. Shortly thereafter, the Vatican punished McCarrick.

Third, consider: Mr. James Grein has now accused the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of groping him.

Now, Cardinal Bernardin died almost 23 years ago. But James’ accusation against Bernardin nonetheless reverberates with enormous significance.

Bernardin, then the sitting Archbishop of Chicago, endured protracted public scrutiny in the mid-90’s. Because of another accusation against him, leveled by Mr. Steven Cook. As Jason Berry and Gerald Renner meticulously outline in their 2004 book Vows of Silence, Cook’s eventual retraction of his accusation—and the press’ conclusion that Bernardin was innocent—played a huge role in the public’s understanding of the Catholic sex-abuse problem.

At that time, the sex-abuse victims of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionnaires of Christ, sought a hearing from anyone who would listen–in Mexico, the USA, or Europe. But public sympathy for Bernardin crescendoed after Cook withdrew his accusation. For most journalists, the story became: Sketchy, unreliable money-grubbers go after innocent churchmen, who handle it all like Christian gentlemen. No one wanted to believe Maciel’s victims. It took another decade for justice to be done for them.

Bernardin Time magazine

Now, I don’t know enough about the late Cardinal Bernardin to write any more about him, at least right now. But I would like to point out the following spider-web of a situation.

Either James Grein’s assertion that Bernardin groped him is true, or it isn’t.

If it is true, then Bernardin was a second McCarrick—or worse. And the necessary correction regarding how Bernardin is remembered: it will critically wound the faith of even more people. Bernardin ordained more priests than McCarrick, confirmed more young people, played a far-more significant role in leading the bishops’ conference. McCarrick never appeared on the cover of Time magazine, or Newsweek; Bernardin graced the cover of both.

Bernardin Newsweek.jpg

On the other hand, maybe James’ assertion about Bernardin is not true.

Last summer, your humble servant offered you a link to themediareport.com website, where Mr. David Pierre raised some real questions about the reliability of James Grein’s testimony. Since then, James has shown us that he has some kooky theories about communist infiltration of the Catholic Church.

As I have repeatedly noted, you can be a sex-abuse victim telling the truth and a kooky conspiracy theorist—they’re not mutually incompatible. But Mr. Pierre has written again about James, mounting a case against his believability. Pierre argues that James must be working with a dishonest “recovered-memory” therapist. I don’t find that argument very convincing; it’s pure speculation on Pierre’s part. But, by the same token, the militant “journalists” who have publicly interviewed James have never pressed him with any tough questions, and his accusations have unfailingly served their ideological agendas.

pope francis head rubSo: our pope may very well have convicted McCarrick on false testimony. Which would mean that: McCarrick Monster isn’t exactly real. Just a convenient scapegoat among the many, many episcopal mafiosi–who pretty much all suck equally, in reality.

Pope Francis said in the interview he gave a month ago that McCarrick’s guilt was “obvious;” no need for a full trial. But if McCarrick’s guilt is so “obvious,” then is Bernardin’s guilt obvious, also? The same man now has accused them both.

And if Bernardin’s guilt is “obvious” then shouldn’t the Cancer Center at Loyola University Chicago be re-named? (Currently named for Bernardin.) And the awards named after him–given by the USCCB and the Catholic Common Ground initiative? Won’t the Chicago and Cincinnati diocesan archives have to be thoroughly examined by outside investigators? Not to mention the archives of the Bishops’ Conference itself, and the papal nunciature?

All of these offices co-operated in Bernardin’s vindication back in 1995. If that much-celebrated “vindication” was itself dishonest, just like the 2002 American Church “reform,” led by McCarrick, was dishonest, well: another wing of the American Catholic Church burns to the ground.

The right thing to do is: Pray. Come, Lord Jesus! This world is old enough. Give us all the grace to repent of our sins, and come. Judge everything, with your infinite Light. Sort all this out. We will gladly be done with the nonsense of this world.

The second right thing to do is: While we still await His coming, never give up on getting to the bottom of the bottomless pit called the truth.

[PS. Click HERE for a compendium of all my posts on the Great Scandal of 2018-2019]

Guest Post: Praying for a Catholic Separation of Powers (by a non-Catholic)

Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals possess unchecked power. This means that they can do whatever they please.

momThus, W. Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield gave hundreds of thousands of diocesan dollars in gifts to cardinals and to young priests he was accused of sexually abusing. He spent millions of diocesan dollars on travel, millions on renovating his church residence, and $1000 a month on alcohol. This man, this supposed church leader, was head of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for fifteen years and Bishop of West Virginia for thirteen years — a church leader for twenty-eight years — and no one did anything to stop him until last year.

Don’t tell me he’s “just one bad apple.” The entire orchard of the Catholic hierarchy is rotten: bishops who ruin the careers of priests who serve under them without offering a single reason for doing so; bishops who punish other clergy without trial, without showing that wrongdoing exists; bishops who hold secret trials, reporting neither the evidence nor the results; bishops who hear a young seminarian say about his priest, “He ran his hands over my genitals,” then send the priest for counseling and then back into a parish, either keeping no record or hiding the record in a broom closet.

Roman Catholics: if you’ve been paying attention, if you’ve been reading, and if you do not pretend to yourself that the church is okay, you know these things. Someone has to have the power to say yes or no to all-powerful bishops. Don’t tell me it’s the pope. Obviously he’s done nothing about the problem.

A Catholic historian has shown that in medieval and early-modern times, local aristocrats and monarchs restrained bishops for their own purposes. No longer. Today’s presidents and dictators don’t give a fig about Roman Catholic bishops.

Today the church needs a “separate power” to check the bishops’ power. For the U.S. church, I propose a Senate of Priests, a group of priests elected by all U.S. priests for a specified term, to meet regularly to review and correct the work of U.S. bishops. Individually, in the church hierarchy, priests are subject to bishops. With this separation of powers, bishops are subject to priests when priests act collectively as the Senate of Priests.

Is such a separation of powers un-Catholic? No doubt. Does it seem like pie in the sky? No doubt. Is it necessary for the church? Yes, without the slightest doubt in the world. The church needs it desperately.

Ann White (Father Mark’s dear mother)

The College of Lying Cowards

Gregory installation

“I have called you friends,” says the Lord. (John 15:15)

Sixteen years ago today, I had an explanation in my mind for the state of the Church in America. Over the course of last summer, 2018 quickly became the worst year in the history of American Catholicism. But before that, 2002—the year before my ordination—held the title.

We had learned just how many millions upon millions upon millions of dollars the Catholic bishops of the USA had paid out in hush-money, to cover up crimes.

As I knelt to be ordained, I thought I had a plausible explanation for this. A Romanian-priest friend of mine had pointed out to me: In Romania, people would never hold the diocese responsible for the crime of a single priest. They would hold the priest himself responsible.

In America, my thinking went, dioceses had to contend with the deep anti-Catholic prejudice of our country. The typical American conceives of the Catholic Church as a suspicious foreign enterprise. So American courts treat the Church unfairly. The bishops really had no choice but to pay big settlements.

After all, we all knew too well how much anti-Catholicism this country harbors. During 2002, the lampoonists of press and screen had open season on Catholic priests. Everyone refrained from any caricature of Muslim leaders, for fear of a cruel backlash after 9/11. But you could mock Catholic priests en masse, as twisted sexual perverts, with total impunity. Just like you can now.

McCarrick ordinationToday, however—sixteen years later—I know different. We all know that anti-Catholicism does not explain the endless settlements paid by dioceses in sex-abuse cases.

The revelations of the past year have taught us: the bishops did not make all those payments to protect the victims, or the Church—or because prejudice stacked the legal deck against them. The bishops paid the hush-money to protect themselves. They had everything to lose, if the truth about their dereliction of duty came out. The bishops paid to “protect” people from scandal—not scandal about the sins of priests, but scandal over their own incompetence as enforcers of ecclesiastical law.

One bridge spans the sixteen years I have been a priest: the cover-up of the crimes of the very man who ordained me. His successor in office, Donald Wuerl, knew fifteen years ago that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and young priests. This past Tuesday, Wilton Gregory, the newly arrived successor in Washington, praised Donald Wuerl as “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

But let’s imagine a true Christian gentleman, reading the sworn testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims, in the fall of 2004. Wouldn’t a true Christian gentleman, in Donald Wuerl’s place, think to himself: I need to see justice done here. I have a duty to this poor soul. May God help me to do right by him.

Instead, Wuerl obsequiously sent the whole thing to Rome and washed his hands of it. In the Vatican, they masterminded the McCarrick cover-up. And Wuerl has hidden behind the supposed virtue of filial obedience to the pope ever since.

Lord Jesus calls us His friends. Friends don’t let friends betray what they supposedly stand for. Friends don’t let friends cover up crimes of sexual abuse—even if one of those friends is a Cardinal, or even the pope.

On Tuesday, Donald Wuerl strode in last, at the end of the procession, when his successor was to be installed. The end of the procession is, of course, the place of honor. Fitting that Cardinal Wuerl took that place. He presides, with unique distinction, over the College of Lying Cowards that sat there in their miters in the Shrine on Tuesday.

…Sixteen years in, and this is the priest you have, my dear ones! Let’s keep loving God and His Christ together, one day at a time. Jesus reigns. The One to Whom we must answer, when everything is said and done, is He.

Some Problems with the New Rules

PG-13

1. In the preface to Vos Estis Lux Mundi, Pope Francis insists that we cultivate holiness, so that crimes of sexual abuse “never happen again.”

Problem is: this sentiment discourages victims from speaking. Sex abuse not only happens in secret, it involves long-term, merciless brainwashing. The abuser twists reality to make the victim believe: a. there’s nothing wrong going on here at all; it’s actually beautiful love; and b. telling anyone would destroy the beautiful intimacy we have.

A great and marvelous miracle occurs whenever a sex-abuse victim finds the clarity to recognize: I am the victim of a crime that merits imprisonment. I will crawl out from under the cloak of deception that this abuser has thrown over me, and I will speak the truth, holding nothing back, mincing no words. Not sure I can survive the ordeal, but I can’t live in the web of lies anymore.

Sean Connery Macbeth
Sean Connery and Zoe Caldwell as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

The last thing anyone in this situation needs is for the authority that can and must do justice against the abuser to insist shrilly that: ‘Such things must never happen!’ Of coure, they shouldn’t happen. All sane people know that. But, in fact, they do happen.

A victim needs someone to listen–someone who is not sorry that the victim is speaking. Angry that it happened, yes. Ready to right the wrong. But realistic enough to know that, in this fallen world, we need clear procedures and penalties to deal with the crime of sexual abuse–because it happens. It happens all the daggone time. We are a fallen race of sinners, we human beings.

2. In his motu proprio, Pope Francis outlaws sexual acts by clerics and religious with a minor, defining a ‘minor’ as under 18. As far as clerics, this law already stood, defined as ‘the delict against the sixth commandment’ with a minor.

At first glance, both phrases seem clear enough–‘delict against the sixth commandment’ and ‘sexual acts.’ Problem is: it’s actually not anywhere near as clear as it first appears.

A spectrum spans from: a social-media message intended to ‘groom’ a victim, on one end, to: actual sexual penetration, on the other. Where on that spectrum does the proscribed delict begin? Flirty talk? Kissing? Fondling? Of course all of these are wrong. But not every wrong thing is a crime.

McCarrick ordination

A billion-dollar industry has grown up in the Catholic Church in the US to try to prevent sexual abuse of minors. Criminal background checks, training, certifications, etc. A whole professional class has emerged in this area.

Everyone must watch out for ‘grooming.’ Sexual abuse almost never occurs without a long period of grooming preceding it. So we rightly strive to prevent grooming.

Problem is: ‘Grooming’ does not fall under criminal law. Because a perfectly innocent social overture–one that might even have real Christian charity for its motivation–can look exactly like an act of grooming. It’s not illegal to send someone a facebook message. And yet a facebook message can lead to a misplaced sense of trust, which can lead to a channel of secret communication, which can lead to sexual abuse.

I do not hold myself out as a canonical or safe-environment expert, by any means. I merely intend to point out that the motu proprio not only did not solve this issue, it didn’t even address it.

3. Pope Francis has outlawed: “forcing someone [anyone–even an adult], through the abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts.” [emphasis added]

I guess we could call this “The McCarrick Law.” Apparently, he clearly abused his authority to get sex. After all, the pope convicted him of breaking this law (even before it was on the books) in a summary administrative procedure, without a full trial.

But: If it was as clear as all that, why wasn’t McCarrick convicted by Pope Benedict, back in 2006? We generally regard Pope Benedict as a sober, upright man. Why didn’t he recognize a case of criminal abuse, if the matter was so crystal-clear?

McCarrick ordained me a transitional deacon 18 years ago today. On that day, I thought of him as an amazingly talented, crushingly self-centered, charming tyrant. He gave the Archdiocese of Washington a huge amount of energy that it had not previously had. He appeared utterly uninterested in anything having to do with theology. He was a flawed man. He was no walking demon.

On May 13, 2001, many churchmen, who we then regarded as at least somewhat reasonable–including Pope John Paul II–knew something about McCarrick’s sexual life. They had not concluded that his actions amounted to crimes.

My point is: I think anyone who has ever served in the military knows: The line between criminal abuse of authority in a sexual relationship, on the one hand, and a consensual affair, on the other: by no means crystal-clear.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do grave evils. Who convinced whom to do them? Did Macbeth abuse his authority over his wife? Or did she seduce him into committing murder–to satisfy her ambition? The answer is: Yes.

Criminal laws on paper accomplish nothing without competent investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges–and principles of application of the laws, based on acquired experience. Pope Francis has given us: the paper. We don’t have the rest.

Your Holiness Emeritus, I Disagree

pope-benedict-saturno-hatPope Benedict XVI still lives, and he can still write. He took the trouble to try to explain the sexual abuse crisis, by looking back at his career in the Church. Click to read his essay.

Problem is, His Holiness Emeritus has written things that aren’t really true. He writes, “Only where faith no longer determines the actions of a man are such offenses [sexual abuse of minors] possible.”

But even a cursory examination of the record reveals that faith and sexual abuse can and do often co-exist. Did Theodore McCarrick not believe in God and Christ? I can say with no doubt that he did and likely still does. Many sex abusers have been wracked with bitter remorse and genuine penitence–and have proceeded to offend again.

Pope Benedict suggests that sex abuse spiked after the sexual revolution, which caused moral confusion in the Church. But most people have never been confused at all, regarding the criminality of sexually abusing a minor. In the 50’s, the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, up until now: An overwhelming consensus that sexually abusing minors is a crime. In the ancient world, society tolerated the sexual abuse of minors. But not in the modern West.

For the Pope Emeritus to publish a thoughtful essay on this topic: that could conceivably have helped us enormously. If he had given us the full details of what he knew about McCarrick, and when he knew it–that would really help.

No such luck.

Rather, Benedict XVI has embarrassed himself significantly. He has perpetuated the hierarchy’s standard misidentification of the scandal. The Scandal does not = priests sexually abusing minors. The Scandal = bishops and popes neglecting to discipline criminals.

In his essay, the former head of the the Vatican tribunal dealing with sex-abuse cases–and the former supreme legislator of the Church–laments problems with ecclesiastical law. That’s like Bill Gates writing an essay to lament problems with Microsoft Office.

…How about this, gentlemen of the higher clergy:

Take two hundred men, the approximate size of many presbyterates. Between one and four of them will sexually abuse a minor at some point. What do you do then, when you learn of it?

Isn’t that the question?

Why have four decades passed, since Jason Berry first exposed the case of Gilbert Gauthe–and still: no clear, sensible answer for that question?