Your Holiness Emeritus, I Disagree

pope-benedict-saturno-hat

Pope 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?

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The McCarrick Report

Just put a letter to Archbishop Gregory into the mail…

St Matthews Cathedral

Your Excellency,

In 2001, when Theodore McCarrick took possession of the Archdiocese of Washington, he did so as a criminal fleeing justice. He had sexually abused seminarians and at least one minor.

By late 2004, Donald Wuerl and Joseph Ratzinger, among others, knew beyond any reasonable doubt that the sitting Archbishop of Washington was a criminal. No written law explicitly condemned what they knew McCarrick had done to some of his seminarians. But every honest churchman would have recognized the criminal acts. As Pope John Paul II so famously put it, in 2002: “There is no place in the priesthood for those who would harm the young.”

The Apostolic See had a clear duty: put McCarrick on trial. Didn’t happen.

By this time of year in 2006, McCarrick had turned seventy-five, Ratzinger had become Pope Benedict, and the nuncio called Donald Wuerl. Everyone involved entered into a dishonest pact.

Just a few years earlier, Wuerl had participated in the common promise of the American bishops never again to cover-up clerical sexual abuse. Pope Benedict had been a party to that promise as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But in the case of Theodore McCarrick, they broke their recent promise. Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, and Donald Wuerl proceeded to cover-up the crimes of Theodore McCarrick for the ensuing twelve years. They ended the cover-up only when forced to do so, by circumstances beyond their control.

If Donald Wuerl were an honest man, he would have told Pope Benedict back in the spring of 2006: I will not accept the Archdiocese of Washington as my pastoral charge until we make good on our promise and deliver public justice against McCarrick. Had that happened, Wuerl could have entered St. Matthew’s cathedral without dishonesty. As it was, he sat on the throne in Washington with a lie under the cushion for twelve years, complicit in that lie with two popes.

Sir: Do not enter St. Matthew’s with this same lie burdening you. Insist that the pope acknowledge these known facts. Recognize that the Apostolic See has grievously wronged the faithful of Washington. From at least 2004 until 2018, Rome failed to exercise due vigilance over Theodore McCarrick. Pope Francis must openly acknowledge this, and Donald Wuerl must openly acknowledge his complicity in it. Neither of these men deserve anyone’s trust until they publicly acknowledge these known facts.

Until these admissions take place, do not enter St. Matthew’s in the company of Donald Wuerl, and do not accept the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis. I know you didn’t ask for my advice. But I advise you as a brother, anyway.

Christ always offers us a fresh start. But we have to live in the truth. The truth: McCarrick entered St. Matthew’s a dishonest criminal. Donald Wuerl entered a liar. Two popes lived in this lie for years.

Don’t walk in as another liar.

 

Yours in Christ, Father Mark White

The New Donald Wuerl

mccarrick and wilton gregory

Archbishop of Atlanta to be transferred to: Archbishop of Washington.

Seems like a demotion. Fewer Catholics in Washington than in Atlanta. Fewer parishes. The Metropolitan of Atlanta exercises vigilance over three entire states–Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; the Metropolitan of Washington, D.C., presides over part of one state, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But for whatever reason, the ecclesiastical mafia will view Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s transfer as a promotion. Meanwhile, blind Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, or those who listen only to the radio or to podcasts, will not notice any change, from the old Archbishop to the new one.

I re-read Archbishop Gregory’s statement regarding Theodore McCarrick, from last August. The incredible thing: Nothing has changed since then. Seven long months have passed. McCarrick still lives the same life, in the same place. If we know more about the hidden evils of our bishops now than we did then, no one currently serving in the hierarchy did anything to enlighten us.

But, wait, Father! The pope defrocked McCarrick!

Okay. But: Why? According to what evidence, and according to what legal criteria? [crickets]

Meanwhile, in Australia, the court of the State of Victoria also convicted a Cardinal of sexual abuse. Why? According to what evidence? According to what legal criteria? The judge spelled it all out, in detail, for the public to understand.

Some have argued that George Cardinal Pell never abused anyone. Perhaps he did not. He has appealed the ruling against him.

But the legal procedure according to which George Pell was found guilty and sentenced–there is no question of that procedure’s fundamental soundness. We know what happened. The jury believed the accuser and convicted Pell according to clear laws.

What happened in the Vatican trial of Theodore McCarrick? What laws? What facts? We have no earthly idea.

pope francis head rub

…Yet a third Cardinal was convicted in court. In a civil court in Lyon, France. Not for criminal abuse, but for failing to report criminal abuse, in accordance with the law.

Perhaps one reason why Cardinal Barbarin did not report the abuse: The Cardinal Prefect in Rome (the same one who presided over McCarrick’s Vatican trial) had written to Barbarin, telling him to avoid scandal. The court had subpoena’d the Vatican Cardinal who wrote the letter. The Vatican refused to deliver the subpoena. Barbarin took the fall.

shakespearebetterAfter his conviction, Cardinal Barbarin traveled to Rome to offer his resignation–like a man of some honor might do, under the circumstances. The Pope refused to accept it, citing “the presumption of innocence.” (The Cardinal had already been found guilty.)

…I had a chance conversation with a Mexican friend the other day and learned this: Six years and four months ago, in a diocese northeast of Mexico City, the civil court found a priest guilty of pederasty. They put him in jail. The bishop had tried to cover the whole thing up; Pope Francis promoted the bishop to a larger diocese anyway. The priest will soon finish his jail term, and he will receive a new pastoral assignment…

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we find a commentary on the relative speeds of youth and old age. Regarding her dear, old nurse, Juliet says:

Had she affections and warm youthful blood,
She would be as swift in motion as a ball…
But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead. (Act II, scene 5)

The irony is: Pope Francis has just written a long letter to “young people.” He addresses the sex-abuse scandal. He writes:

The irresponsibility and lack of transparency with which so many cases have been handled have to be challenged. (para. 98)

Indeed, Your Holiness. They must be.

 

Count the Holy See Among the Abusers

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when 
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
or rats’ feet over broken glass

(from T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”)

Cupich Scicluna Zollner Vatican summit

If I could have entered the Vatican building, I would have asked:

How could His Holiness have done it?

After he knew about McCarrick making his seminarians put on sailor suits and give him nighttime back rubs? After the pope knew that McCarrick made them masturbate him and forced them to submit to his masturbating them?

Knowing all this, the pope let McCarrick (among other things) concelebrate the Archdiocese of Washington jubilarian Mass last year. McCarrick celebrated his 60th jubilee. The then-Cardinal spoke and received a standing ovation from all the bishops and priests.

May 2, 2018.

At that point, Pope Francis had known about the sailor suits, the back rubs, and the forced mutual masturbations for at least four years and ten months.

What does the consecrated celibacy of priests, nuns, and monks mean? Our renunciation of something so lovely as the marital embrace?

One thing it means is this: On the other side of death, a more wonderful embrace awaits us. The divine embrace (please God we get there) will make even the holy joy of matrimony seem like small, passing potatoes by comparison.

Consecrated celibacy in the Church focuses us all–all Christians, young and old–on: the great hope we look for in the life to come.

When our young ladies and gents live through their period of temporary celibacy with this hope as the basic reality of life, then they can make a genuinely free choice about marriage.

The pope’s meeting in Rome these past four days completely missed the true meaning of what happened last July and August. When James Grein finally felt free to tell the world the truth about Theodore McCarrick, Jesus Christ won a great victory. When the still-living victims in Pennsylvania had the opportunity to stand tall, in the full light of day, and denounce as dreadfully wrong what had happened to them, Christ won.

The cruelest part of sexual abuse is: The abuser confuses the victim’s conscience.

My conscience is saying: Wait a minute. Something terribly wrong here.

Meanwhile, the abuser acts authoritatively as if: This is normal. This is how people do. This is what sex is.

What happened last July and August: In these particular cases, conscience finally won. The truth finally won. No, this is not what sex is like. We know what sex is meant to be from Jesus in heaven. He fulfills everything at the wedding banquet of the Lamb. We start to know what sex is really like by: believing that God loves me enough to make me happy forever, whether I marry or not.

I get to choose. To live a life of holy celibacy until I die. Or marry. My choice. God alone owns by body. And He has entrusted it 100% to me, to give to a spouse if I so choose.

Theodore McCarrick does not own my body. Or Father George Koharchik of Altoona-Johnstown. Or Father Gale Leifeld of the Capuchins. Or Father John Joseph Munley of the Diocese of Richmond. If I have to walk out alone into the a strange street to get away, I will–God will protect me.

The abusers had stitched together little secret shadow worlds, in which sexual slavery was normal. Last July and August, Mr. James Grein, Mr. Shaun Doughtery, Mr. Peter Isely, and many others, stepped out of those worlds, into the sunlight of Gospel truth. Christ won.

“The Catholic Scandal” = when pope and bishops don’t see the victory in situations like this. When the pope or the bishop does not celebrate with the liberated captive, and then turn around and punch the abuser squarely in the face.

“The Catholic Scandal” has never meant: O me! A priest committed sexual abuse! O my! Most adults recognize soberly that priests can and do commit sexual abuse. Sure, it makes sense to try to prevent it. Makes sense to do criminal background checks. Makes sense to train everyone to keep on the lookout for warning signs. But we cannot outsmart the devil.

The Catholic Scandal = when the institution that carries the secret of genuine sexual freedom in Her holy bosom does not react to the revelation of sexual abuse like Herself. The scandal is when higher-up shepherds (bishops, pope) do not react like fathers.

Fathers rejoice when they learn that a child has escaped slavery and lived to tell the tale. Then they go after the slaver with a baseball bat. The Scandal = bishops and pope hemming and hawing, shifting and mumbling, then sidling away.

Points of ecclesiastical procedure remain squarely on the table.

Is “grooming” for abuse itself an actionable crime in the Church? What must a diocesan bishop do when the civil authorities cannot, or will not, do anything? When will the Roman tribunals…

a. resolve the large backlog of abuse cases?

b. make their proceedings intelligible to the victims and to the public?

c. establish a means for trying, and punishing, not just bishops who abuse, but also bishops who have failed to react to abuse cases with the Church’s loving zeal for chastity, sexual integrity, and freedom?

The pope’s meeting addressed none of these questions. Instead: “a program very carefully stage-managed to keep the most troubling questions at a distance from the Vatican itself” (as Robert Royal put it).

This Roman meeting was no holy gathering of the successors of the apostles at the tomb of St. Peter. No. They didn’t even manage to use one of the Vatican’s many consecrated places to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy. They had Mass in a reception hall.

This meeting = the attempted construction of a little abusive shadow-world of its own.

Here’s what I mean. A true father does not rely on his children’s approval. Rather, when bad things happen, he deals with the bad things as best he can, according to his best lights. And his children get to lean on him.

In our Church right now, the whole thing goes the other way. We don’t have real fathers right now. Instead, the pope and his minions desperately seek approval. From somewhere. They put on shows to try to manipulate us into congratulating them for “doing the right thing.”

Everything they said in Rome these past four days has been said many times before. Over and over and over again. In 2002, Pope John Paul II said: We face the mystery of evil here. This morning Pope Francis said: We face the mystery of evil here.

In 2002 they said: Bishops’ conferences will get a grip on this problem. This morning they said: Bishops’ conferences will get a grip on this problem.

People who know me know that I am fundamentally an easy-going dude. I was happily doing my little thing, trying to give halfway-decent pastoral care to my lovable cluster-parish flock, until this latest chapter in our Catholic life together began last June 20.

I used to tell a lot more jokes in my sermons. But I have to get deadly serious right now.

I despise everyone involved in the pope’s Roman meeting. I despise them all.

In my book, the only respectable place to stand was outside. Outside the manipulative little show. Out in the Roman sunshine–where the victims’ groups stood.

Everyone inside; everyone in the Synod Hall; all the journalists with credentials in the briefing room; the whole distorted communication apparatus, that can’t see what a colossal, manipulative charade the whole thing was: I despise.

What’s the answer to the question that no one had the courage to ask? Namely: Why, when Pope Francis first learned about the way that McCarrick had abused his seminarians–why did the Pope not immediately act? Why didn’t he do anything to try to save our faith from the corrosion it has suffered these past eight months? Why did he learn about the sailor suits, the back rubs, and the mutual masturbations–and then just hang loose with it, until forces beyond his control made him change course?

What’s the most-reasonable answer? Using Ockham’s razor, to remove all superfluous abstractions, and try to get to the simplest explanation?

Jorge Bergoglio is a McCarrick himself. Either a McCarrick manqué (never did, but wanted to) or a full-blown McCarrick. A despicable McCarrick.

May God help us.

The Book We Desperately Need Jon Krakauer to Write

McCarrick and James
Theodore McCarrick and James Grein

 

All the following people have something in common.

 

Mr. James Grein

former priest Gregory Littleton

former priest Robert Ciolek

confidential secretaries who worked for Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen, New Jersey, who died in 2013 (He succeeded McCarrick in office.)

secretaries and assistants who worked with Msgr. Michael Alliegro of the diocese of Metuchen, who died in 2009

the confidential secretary who typed then-Archbishop of New York John Card. O’Connor‘s 1999 letter to Pope John Paul II, about Theodore McCarrick (O’Connor died the following year; John Paul II died in 2005)

Stanisław Card. Dziwisz, who likely opened O’Connor’s letter, and all the secretaries who worked with him

all the lawyers, private advisors, and confidential secretaries who worked for Bishop Vincent dePaul Breen, Hughes’ successor as bishop of Metuchen, who died in 2003

Bishop Paul Bootkoski, emeritus of Metuchen, Breen’s successor

all the lawyers, private advisors, and confidential secretaries who worked with Bootkoski

John Myers, Archbishop-emeritus of Newark, NJ (McCarrick’s successor in office there)

the members of the Pittsburgh diocesan Review Board, which met in November 2004, and heard Robert Ciolek’s claims about McCarrick

the lawyers who arranged for the settlement payments to Ciolek and Littleton

Father Boniface Ramsey, former professor at the seminary at Seton Hall University in Newark

the confidential secretaries of Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Apostolic Nuncio to the USA, who would have opened the dossier Bishop Bootkoski sent to the nunciature on December 6, 2005 (Montalvo died in 2006)

Pope Benedict XVI

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary to Benedict XVI

Pope Francis

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano (the Vatican whistleblower)

the confidential secretaries who have worked in the Roman offices of the previous and current Cardinal Prefects for the Congregation of Bishops (Giovanni Battista Re and Marc Oullet) and Cardinal Secretaries of State (Tarcisio Bertone and Pietro Parolin)

confidential secretaries, advisors, and lawyers who worked with Theodore McCarrick during his various tenures

Mr. Theodore McCarrick

 

All these people had a part in “The McCarrick Affair”–the long-term cover-up of his sexual abuses, which has left the Church in this region in a death spiral. They all likely have strained consciences over this.

Which means: We can safely imagine that many of them would talk to a skilled journalist, one without a Church-politics ax to grind. They would tell their stories to someone who could put the whole business together into a unified, fair account.

jon krakauer
Jon Krakauer

All of these people also likely know others who know things–things about which the public as yet knows nothing.

We need a straightforward narrative, sir.

The English-speaking world’s access to facts has suffered because Andrea Tornielli’s Il Giorno del Giudizio has not appeared in our language. Yes, Tornielli undertook a blatantly biased attempt to discredit Archbishop Vigano. But the book nonetheless contains a great deal of solid information.

The Vatican brass talked to Tornielli, thinking that he would put together a book defending them from Vigano’s charge that they conspired in a cover-up.

But these men have long grown accustomed to having people think as they order them to think. They completely misunderstood what they were doing. They revealed to the Italian-speaking world many previously unknown details about: The cover-up that they had in fact conducted.

Please, Mr. Krakauer! Tackle this project!

If you need a $100,000 or $150,000 book-grant to get started–perhaps to hire an Italian translator, if you don’t know the language yourself–I will find the money. No problem.

Please.

[Click here for links, if you want more background information.]

 

 

Church in Rome

Michelangelo Flood Sistine Chapel

After the Flood, when Noah’s ark rested on land again, Noah built an altar and offered a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.

The Flood represents our baptism and salvation in Christ. Noah’s sacrifice represents our celebration of Holy Mass. The moment of peace and hope after the Flood, when God and Noah entered into a covenant of perpetual stability of life: that represents us–the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, reconciled with God through a purification of conscience, living in communion with divine love.

I printed out the list of all the participants in the Roman meeting of Bishops’-Conference presidents, and prayed for all of them by name.

This isn’t Vatican III. The Pope has not gathered a holy synod. It’s another kind of meeting. Looks a lot more like some kind of corporate “in-service.” With ugly, painful subject matter.

st_peter_basilica_vatican_01But nonetheless we should behold and rejoice in the real beauty of the moment. The living, world-wide Church, in the person of these particular prelates, converging at the tomb of St. Peter.

The P.R. about the meeting has focused on how the “experienced” churches—USA, Ireland, the Holy See—will share all our “child protection” insights with the “undeveloped” churches.

I, for one, pray for a miracle: that something quite different would occur. Instead of a lot of feel-good bureaucratic nonsense, I pray that bishops who risk their lives daily for the Gospel, in the dangerous and poor parts of the world, might actually get a chance to talk.

And maybe raise questions like: What business does the American Church have lecturing us? You, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the USCCB, remain personally implicated in a recent sex-abuse cover-up in your own diocese, involving your own Episcopal Vicar for Spanish speakers. You have yet to explain yourself.

The American bishops have lost the confidence of their people. Why should we listen to them?

And what business does the Holy See have lecturing us? You, Holy Father, covered-up for at least one sex-abuser for years—McCarrick—and you have never acknowledged it. When will you give us the full truth about this?

That would be real “synodality” in action. The things that really need discussing–getting them out in the open. Trusting, like Noah, in the faithfulness of God.

Seeds and Bubbles and Lists

The farmer sows the seeds. Then he proceeds to continue living in his own little bubble of life—eating, drinking, sleeping, laboring appropriately. Over time his plants grow. The farmer doesn’t know how.

We all live in our own little bubbles of life. What makes the farmer in the parable pious and fruitful? He knows he lives in his own little bubble. He knows that, outside the limits of his puny perceptions, God does great things.

alanis-morissette-27121At mid-day every day he pauses and declares: ‘Here are the crops God gives me, growing in the soil He gave me, thanks to the sun and the rain He has given me. All according to His design, and by His power! Praise Him! Now: time for lunch.’

The trend among American bishops these days is: Release a list of all the priests accused of sexual abuse in my diocese. In the ‘American bishop bubble’ this amounts to major drama these days. ‘Look! Openness! We’re actually willing to discuss these things! See!’

Meanwhile, outside the highly insulated bishop bubble, the rest of us are like: ‘Okay. Fine. Good for you. Do your thing. Let’s hope it’s all fair and true. Let’s hope it does more good than harm.’

Sexual predators try to create an impenetrable bubble, to swallow up the victim. Alanis Morissette completely nailed it in her song “Hands Clean.”

If it weren’t for your maturity, none of this would have happened. If you weren’t so wise beyond your years, I would have been able to control myself… This could get messy… Don’t go telling everybody. Overlook this supposed crime.

There’s more. It’s agony to listen to. Because it is so real.

Jesus Christ came and died to liberate us from such bubbles of enslavement and degradation. He came to free us, and unite us again with the indomitably life-giving mystery of God.

Christ’s grace comes from heaven to pop the noxious bubbles and get us out into some clean air. We still live in our bubbles of highly limited perception. It takes a lifetime to get free of them completely. But at least, with the grace of Christ, we can live like the steady farmer. We can see that God has plans of love and growth for us, even though we don’t always understand those plans.

The Opaque “Transparency” of the Richmond Diocese

cartoonvillainLet’s use our imaginations. A couple of fairy tale characters.

One: A hard-hearted scheming bishop. He hates some of his priests. He wants to see them suffer. So he includes their names in a published list of sex abusers.

Two: A princely, zealous, loving bishop. He longs for the faithful people of his diocese to live in open, pure chastity. Free of sexual abuse.

The princely bishop carefully studies all the clergy files, to determine if any contain information that would help the public. When he finds something against a priest, he gives the accused the chance to answer.

Then he publishes a list. It helps people heal. And it puts fear into the hearts of potential predators.

Trick is: How to tell these two characters apart, in real life? In a fairy tale, the one would wear a black cape and twiddle his fingers together maniacally. The other would look like Tom Brady in a Roman collar.

But we don’t have the luxury of type-casting. Here in the real world, we must seek evidence, in order to distinguish villain from prince.

The bishop of our beloved Diocese of Richmond summoned us priests to a mandatory meeting. Last week, his Vicar-General wrote us:

“Bishop Knestout will provide pastoral resources to assist in responding to questions and concerns relating to the release of a list of the names of priests who have served in our diocese and have a credible and substantiated accusation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

His Excellency himself did not attend the meeting today. Too busy.* He provided us with the “resources” via certain members of his staff.

Tom Brady

If you’re like me, dear reader, you would arrive at such a meeting with questions, like:

When will the diocese publish the list?

What information will it include? Just names? Summaries of specific cases? Will any additional documents accompany the publication of the list? Legal proceedings, etc?

Why did His Excellency decide to publish this list? And why now?

Guess what? Nope. No answers to any of these!

Okay. So the prince won’t tell us: when, what, or why. How about: Who or how?

Who exactly is working on the compilation of this list? The Vicar for Priests? No.

Who then? Some skilled people.

Will the diocese’s list include only those clergymen tried and convicted in a court of law (or admittedly guilty)? Or will it include any priest accused by anyone ever? Or is there some clear criterion in between, which will settle the question of what names appear?

Answer:

Does “sexual abuse of a minor” include “grooming” activities?

Answer:

Will the diocese’s list correspond to the list already available at bishop-accountability.org?

Answer:

Have we asked victims whether they want to see this list published?

Answer:

Actually: Some victims say that publishing lists can help heal souls. Others say that it’s just a publicity stunt that only makes the victims feel worse. Do we have any evidence to go on, to try to settle that dispute?

Answer:

Mark Herring

…Dear reader, you may remember that our Virginia State Attorney General recently opened an investigation into the dioceses of Virginia. And he published a hotline for victims to call.

Has that hotline received calls? A lot of calls? Involving new cases or old ones?

Has the diocese even asked the Attorney General about that?

Answers from the diocese at today’s mandatory priests’ meeting:

[crickets]

…Now, the fact is: good people have already worked hard to give the public a great deal of information about sexual abuses that have occurred in our diocese. The bishop-accountability list I mentioned above has links to newspaper articles. And you can go to the “tapatalk” of the Survivors’ Network, and search the names on the bishop-accountability list. Lots of information.

But information is only as good as the trustworthiness of the person who provides it. Who can we trust? Do we have a supreme judge in our diocese whom we can trust to do the right thing? About criminal violations of the Sixth Commandment?

Forgive me for slipping into cynicism. But the entire exercise of today’s mandatory meeting, and the imminent release of the list–it all seems to me like a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from something else.

Sacred Heart cathedral Richmond.jpg

Our bishop came to us a year ago. In our cathedral, he sang the praises of his mentor, the prelate who had ordained him to the episcopacy. Donald Card. Wuerl.

Turns out: That mentor has participated in the on-going cover-up of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians. Turns out that Donald Wuerl lies. Shamelessly. He lied to one of Theodore McCarrick’s victims two weeks ago.

We Catholics desperately want to trust our shepherds. We want to trust that they know what they do. And do it honestly.

But today’s mandatory meeting? I would sin against honesty if I did not report this: It consisted of morale-sapping groupthink propaganda. I left the meeting as dispirited and angry as I have ever been in my life.

This is “transparent?” If so, what does opaque look like?

—–

* Bishop’s brother died today. May he rest in peace.

Dose of Reality for February Vatican Meeting

tu-es-petrus-st-peters-dome

We Catholics generally want to believe that our hierarchy possesses the skills necessary to respond to crises. We want to think that the meetings they have, and the documents they produce, will “move things forward.” We foot-soldiers for the kingdom of God want to find something that justifies optimism about the institution.

But we must recognize these emotions for what they are: Pointless and distracting fantasies.

In a month, the leaders of the bishops’ conferences of the world will meet in Rome. A kind of mini-three-day ‘Vatican III.’

Why? Ostensibly to address the sex-abuse crisis.

Reason #1 Why We Can Hope for Nothing Good

The Vatican itself remains hopelessly mired in at least one major sex-abuse cover-up. To be sure, other corners of the globe may know of others. In our little mid-Atlantic corner, we know of this big one:

Theodore McCarrick sexually abused seminarians during the 1980’s. At least two of his victims notified neighboring bishops, during the 90’s and early 2000’s. The Vatican knew of the accusations.

McCarrick sofa

The two currently living popes, multiple living Cardinals, former and current heads of Roman dicasteries–all have participated, and continue to participate, in the cover-up of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians.

None of the churchmen who know the truth about this have reckoned with it at all, except anonymously. (The one exception, of course: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.)

The facts are indisputable; none of the churchmen involved in the cover-up have ever disputed them. But no one has acknowledged anything. That’s what you call an on-going sex-abuse cover-up. Involving the former and current popes.

To be sure, the McCarrick case is not the only one that fits into this category. It just happens to be the one that your humble servant knows and understands well enough to write about.

Reason #2

The very villain of this on-going cover-up, Theodore McCarrick, personally presided over the USCCB Cover-up of 2002. Which the organizers of next month’s Vatican meeting have the self-serving audacity to envision as a kind of model.

The idea peddled by meeting-organizer Blase Cardinal Cupich is this:

The Church in the USA accomplished a “breakthrough” in child protection with the Dallas Charter of 2002. Let’s break that down…

i. Education in chastity and in recognizing potential abusers

(I’m going to have to write a book on this. But, for now, let’s say:) We know that sexual abuse is sexual abuse because we know what chastity is. When you don’t know what chastity is, sexual abuse seems like just another form of interpersonal relations.

Because Christ is chaste, and because He gives the gift of true happiness in chastity to the beloved children of His heavenly Father, we can recognize sexual abuse for the heinous crime that it is.

Teaching this pertains to the perpetual duty of Christ’s Church. Experienced counselors can help in this educational effort. To some extent, lay experts have helped to supply the grave deficiencies in education of this kind, which bishops and clergy have failed to offer. And continue to fail to offer. The Dallas Charter has, to some extent, facilitated this education.

ii. Preventing convicted felons from working or volunteering in Catholic institutions

The Dallas-Charter rules about fingerprinting and background checks probably have prevented some potential predators from gaining access to our young people. Praise God for that.

iii. The idea that our young people are “safer” now, thanks to our bishops and what they did in 2002

No honest professional who has interacted with sex-abuse survivors would ever claim to know this. We cannot honestly maintain that we have had fewer instances of sexual abuse during the past sixteen years than we had before.

Minors rarely report sexual abuse. It takes many years even to begin to find the courage. We won’t know whether the Dallas Charter has led to a reduction in sex-abuse cases until 2045.

Cardinal Cupich and the reigning church mafia loudly insist that Dallas 2002 made children safer. Guess what? That self-serving insistence itself deters victims from coming forward. It’s the same episcopal reaction as before, just under a new guise.

Keep your mouth shut, because what you have to say makes us look bad.

That’s what sex-abuse victims got from bishops in the 1980’s, in the 1990’s, in the 2000’s, in the 2010’s, and now.

2002 was a cover-up of the real scandal. The real scandal was, and is: Our bishops did not have, and do not have, the kind of moral compass that any normal Catholic parent has.

Cardinal Cupich writes:

“Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we report all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, offer support to all who make allegations through our Victim Assistance Ministry, remove archdiocesan clergy from ministry permanently if an allegation of abuse of minors is substantiated and publicize the names of those with substantiated allegations against them.”

What’s missing? The fundamental duty of the bishop: To reckon fully with the truth and see to it that malefactors receive an appropriate punishment. The Cardinal’s litany of swell accomplishments misses the most-important one of all: Finding, and clearly declaring, the truth.

The Attorney General of Illinois pointed out recently that the Dallas-Charter norms do not have adequate clarity and specificity. Over and over again, knowledgeable investigators have pointed out that bishops must formulate clearly–in concrete cases–the precise violations of chastity that have occurred. That’s how justice gets done.

But, of course, that involves hearing a victim’s entire story yourself, rather than shuttling the victim off to some “Victims’ Assistance Ministry” who likely will not even answer the phone.

So, speaking of justice being done:

Apparently the pope and bishops gathered in Rome next month will celebrate a “penitential liturgy.”

st-peters-confessio

With the Holy See itself still implicated in the McCarrick Cover-up, not to mention other similar cover-ups, the liturgical expression of penance at St. Peter’s will ring hollow. The sound of the pope’s and bishops’ crocodile tears will bounce off the inside of Michelangelo’s dome.

If they really want to move God to pity, all the prelates of this mini-sex-abuse Vatican III should kneel at St. Peter’s tomb and cry out as follows:

Lord, we have failed you and your people! Forgive us for presuming to shepherd and govern, when we obviously do not know how!

We will stop talking about policies. We will stop engaging in endless paper-pushing exercises, aimed only at repeating moral truths that are obvious to every mature human being who has ever lived.

Instead, we will make a thorough account of all our own scandalous failures as shepherds. Then we will establish a procedure for choosing our successors by lot.

By this random-selection process, please choose better men than ourselves to take our places, Lord!

Once the lots are chosen, we will ordain our successors as necessary, and then we ourselves will retire to live in quite prayer and penance until Judgment Day.

Pope Francis and Donald Wuerl Contra Mundum

[The information outlined below all comes from multiple reliable sources, although Church officials have made none of it public.]

pope francis donald wuerl

In 1994, then-Father Gregory Littleton wrote to Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen, New Jersey. Littleton described the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of Theodore McCarrick, Hughes’ predecessor, and Archbishop of Newark at that time.

Sometime during the nineties, Cardinal O’Connor of New York learned of this complaint against McCarrick. In 1999, O’Connor wrote to Rome, predicting that the pope’s plans to make McCarrick a Cardinal would bring shame and division on the Church.

When confronted, McCarrick denied the charges. O’Connor died of old age. John Paul II believed McCarrick’s denials and named him Archbishop of Washington.

In late 2000, another complaint: a former professor at the Newark seminary reported to Rome what he had heard about McCarrick preying on seminarians.

In November 2004, Robert Ciolek spoke to the review board of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, governed at that time by Donald Wuerl. Mr. Ciolek accused a Pittsburgh priest of sexual abuse. He also mentioned that McCarrick had put him in some very inappropriate and awkward situations.

That is: McCarrick insisted that Ciolek rub his back and that they sleep in the same bed. McCarrick forced Ciolek to accept nighttime above-the-waist caresses.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Does what Ciolek described amount to sexual abuse? For a superior to treat a subordinate, or for a cleric to treat a member of the Christian faithful, in such a way? I think so. It’s abuse.

holy comforter st cyprianAlso in 2004: McCarrick “punished” your unworthy servant. For giving a series of homilies in a large suburban parish, about the immorality of artificial contraception. McCarrick moved me to what he thought was “the ‘hood.” In fact, the parish lay in the middle of a thriving white/black/gay/hipster neighborhood, where I had two wonderful years.

Anyway: Donald Wuerl became aware in November of 2004 that McCarrick had preyed on seminarians. (Maybe Wuerl knew before then. But he certainly knew, as of November 2004.) And Wuerl communicated what he knew to Rome.

In 2005:

1. John Paul II died.

2. The Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton (and the Archdiocese of Newark) paid Mr. Ciolek $80,000 to compensate him for abuse by McCarrick, and by a high-school teacher. Bishop Paul Bootkoski then governed the Diocese of Metuchen, and he reported this to Rome.

3. McCarrick reached the canonical retirement age of 75. (But Cardinals usually serve until 80.)

Apparently in late 2005 or early 2006, Pope Benedict considered the evidence before him and came to this conclusion: I will not judge McCarrick’s guilt or innocence, but I will attempt to restrict his public appearances.

Thus began a cruelly laughable secret seven-year farce: Pope Benedict XVI’s failed attempts to discipline Theodore McCarrick. During that interval, the Diocese of Metuchen paid $100,000 to Mr. Littleton (the first to accuse McCarrick) to compensate him for the abuses he had received at McCarrick’s hands. Everyone kept the settlement secret.

In 2006, Donald Wuerl came to Washington knowing that his predecessor had to leave office prematurely because he preyed sexually on seminarians.

pope-benedict-saturno-hat…Looking back soberly on these turns of events, let’s acknowledge: Pope Benedict presided over a cover-up. The McCarrick Cover-Up. From 2005 to 2013.

Only the pope can judge a Cardinal. The pope should have tried McCarrick for the crime of sexually abusing his seminarians. It may or may not amount to a civil crime. But in the Holy Church, we certainly see what McCarrick did to these seminarians as a damnable crime. The entire proceedings of the trial–the trial that should have happened–should then have been public.

Instead they covered it up. Who? Pope Benedict and quite a few prelates.

The following are certainly complicit: Giovanni Battista Re and Marc Ouellet, Prefects of the Congregation of Bishops. Tarcisio Bertone and Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretaries of State. Gabriel Montalvo and Pietro Sambi (papal ambassadors to the U.S., both now deceased) John Myers, McCarrick’s successor in Newark. Edward Hughes and Paul Bootkoski, McCarrick’s successors in Metuchen. John Smith, bishop of Trenton at the time of the first McCarrick settlement.

And Pope Francis, who knew about McCarrick and the seminarians, as of 2013. And Donald Wuerl.

All knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians. All kept it secret. I think we can safely say: All of them had a Christian duty to speak out on behalf of the victims, regardless of how speaking would have affected their own lives. After all, they are all priests, consecrated to Christ, supposedly free of all attachments to worldly considerations.

But none of them spoke out. All kept silent.

None of them ever would have said anything. We would know none of this, and McCarrick’s seminarian victims would still languish in the painful shadows. But then, in New York City, in the fall of 2017, a man accused McCarrick of abuse, while the man was a minor.

mccarrickThe cover-up conspirators participated in keeping the evil secret of not just any prelate. McCarrick was the public face of the American bishops in 2002. The public face of the organization that supposedly committed itself to openness and zero-tolerance of sexual abuse.

No thanks to any of the men named above, we now know this entire sordid story–we who, trusting in the integrity of McCarrick’s life and ministry, have all been cruelly betrayed. Betrayed by the men listed above, who knew the truth, and owed us the truth.

But, even though all of this now lies out in the open, Cardinal Wuerl continues to insist: We did not engage in a cover-up! Wuerl maintains that zero-tolerance and transparency only have to do with sex-abuse cases involving minors.

Wuerl does not consider McCarrick’s history of abusing seminarians to be a matter of public record. He does not regard McCarrick’s abuses of seminarians as ecclesiastical crimes. He regards everything that took place between McCarrick and the seminarians he abused as purely private.

With this distinction Wuerl justifies his years of silence. Meanwhile, any honest Christian looking at the facts sees something else: A cruel betrayal of McCarrick’s adult victims, and a cruel betayal of all the Christian faithful of this region, who trusted our leaders.

Wuerl has lost the confidence of his priests and of his city. And the Apostolic See is well on its way to losing the confidence of the Catholics of this region, too.

Because we can only assume that Wuerl is insisting on this distinction–the distinction between the abuse of minors and the abuse of adults–a distinction clearly obtuse and spurious in this case–for a reason. Namely: Wuerl insists on it because Pope Francis will use the same distinction to convict McCarrick, while at the same time acquitting himself.

In other words, as of this hour, with McCarrick’s summary conviction for the abuse of minors imminent any day, Donald Wuerl and Rome still want to justify the 2004-2018 McCarrick Cover-Up.

Which means our Church in this part of the world will continue to collapse.