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.



In My Dreams

the Apostolic See of Rome, having conducted a thorough trial of Theodore McCarrick, publishes all the documents of the case, for the world to read (with the names of abuse victims redacted, if they so request).

scales_of_justiceWhat would the .pdf file look like?

It would include a document outlining clearly the criminal charges, like:

1. Gravely violating the Sixth Commandment by engaging in acts of sodomy with those under his spiritual care, including with at least one boy too young to consent to sex.

2. Profaning the Sacrament of Penance by soliciting sex from a minor during Confession.

3. Betraying the trust of the Christian faithful by knowingly withholding the truth about his crimes when asked by the pope to hold office as a bishop, archbishop, and Cardinal-Priest of Rome.

(And other charges, as the accusations given under oath might indicate.)

The .pdf file would also include: All the documents produced during the investigations into McCarrick’s crimes by the review board of the Archdiocese of New York (in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018). Also, all the correspondence between New York and Rome.

And McCarrick’s responses regarding that investigation.

The .pdf would include all the sex-abuse settlement documents from 2004 and 2007. And all the correspondence among American prelates and Roman officials pertaining to those settlements.

It would include the entire sworn testimony of Mr. James Grein, as well as any other sworn testimony that has been taken.*

Also the entirety of McCarrick’s response to the accusations in that testimony.

The .pdf would include a detailed finding of corroborated facts. It would clearly lay out any disputes regarding facts.

A carefully reasoned legal document would then spell out precisely the principles according to which McCarrick should be judged, guilty or innocent.

Then a document giving the judgment, with careful reasoning, and the sentence imposed.

…I could well imagine that such a .pdf would run 200 or 300 pages at least. I would use up all my toner to print it out. I would read it through completely during the night. And write a summary of it for you, dear reader.

Then I would be able to sleep again, like I haven’t slept in many months. Because we could start over again. We could believe again. Believe that the Church can handle something like this, live in the truth, and step forward into the future as Herself.

…I know that, at this point, this seems like nothing but a pipe dream. That the Apostolic See could manage this in 2019. That is, manage to conduct a trial of Theodore McCarrick, and do it in such a way that the entire proceeding could be laid open to the eyes of the world, and we would see that justice had been done, with only blind zealots on either extreme end of the liberal/conservative-tribe spectrum trying to poke holes in it.

It’s a dream. But as far as being able to sleep again–those of us whose relationship with God has relied in one way or another on Theodore McCarrick–I don’t see any other way to get there.

Granted, no human judicial process ever achieves total clarity about everything, like the Divine Judgment will. But that doesn’t mean we humans shouldn’t try.

Human fallibility does not mean that Holy Mother Church should dispense with having laws against crimes, and judges and inquiries and court cases. As in any community of people, someone has to mete out punishments intended both to bring about the repentance of the damnable law-breakers, and for everyone else: to restore trust in the integrity of the institution.

* As we noted here, James Grein testified last week in an ecclesiastical “court.” (Church law cases do not take place in a courtroom; the process involves documents; James’ testimony will be entered into evidence as a written document.)

Reports have circulated since, in various communications media, about the nature of James’ testimony, and how it fits into the case. James himself, and his lawyer, appear to be the sole sources for those reports.

James gave another extended youtube-video interview with Dr. Taylor Marshall. As in the case of James’ previous interview with Dr. Marshall, it seems to me that the wise viewer, who separates clear facts from wild speculations, will wind up with just a few nuggets of actual information. (A man can be both a brave sex-abuse victim speaking the truth about what happened to him, and a bit of a kook at the same time.)

Those nuggets of information about McCarrick’s crimes are precisely what the judge of this case must weigh.


The Cover-Up of the Cover-Up of the Cover-Up + James Under Oath

Vatican synod hall empty

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, recently published an article about sexual abuse of minors in the magazine La Civiltà Cattolica.

Father Lombardi enjoys close familiarity with Pope Francis, and the Holy See publishes the magazine. So we can assume that it expresses the Vatican’s thoughts at this point in time. About the upcoming Big Meeting in Rome.

In his article, Father Lombardi misrepresents the history of the McCarrick case. In reviewing the events of 2018, which gave rise to the February 2019 meeting, Lombardi writes:

The former Archbishop of Washington was accused of sexually abusing a minor, an allegation that was found “credible and substantiated” by the review board of the Archdiocese of New York, and of molesting seminarians, and the pope removed him from the College of Cardinals.

First of all, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope accepted his resignation. Second of all, McCarrick’s resignation came not after the finding of the Archdiocese of NY review board, but after the publication in the NY Times of James Grein’s allegations.

Most Orwellian of all: Father Lombardi indicating that accusations regarding McCarrick’s “molesting seminarians” reached the ears of authorities this past summer. In point of fact, we have documentary evidence that a former seminarian accused McCarrick of abuse in 1994. A quarter century ago.

One thing we need to wake up and realize: The US bishops claim that, in 2002, they straightened their sex-abuse problem out. What they really did in 2002 was: Cover it up.

In 2002, they did not resolve all the outstanding cases lingering in their files. They did not admit that they themselves had failed to enforce the basic norms of human decency that upright people know without being taught. They had heard accusations of criminal abuses, and they had not investigated. They had not applied the Church’s own laws.

They, the bishops of the US, had scandalized the world by their mismanagement–their non-management–of sex abuse cases. That was the Scandal of 2002.

But they covered that up by pretending that the problem was the abusing priests. The bishops invoked the empty slogan “zero tolerance”–as if any sane person could ever have tolerated the sexual abuse of a minor. As if the divine law somehow used to tolerate the sexual abuse of minors, but now it doesn’t. Please.

What the bishops did in 2002 was: cover over the reality that stared everyone in the face. Bishops have a duty of governance that requires the prosecution of criminal cases under Church law. But they have neither the will, nor the expertise, necessary to do that duty. They didn’t have it in the 80’s and 90’s; they didn’t have it in 2002; they don’t have it now.

In February, the pope intends to try to do the same trick that the US bishops did in 2002. In 2002, the Boston Globe uncovered numerous unresolved cases of sexual abuse–situations involving particular individuals, in which the Church had failed to see justice done, under Her own law. Rather than face this, the bishops made the whole thing about policies.

Not the victims. Not the cases. Not their own egregious failures. Policies.

The Scandal of 2018 involves individual cases that no one has ever resolved. Pre-eminent among them: the McCarrick case. But the pope wants to make the Scandal of 2018 about policies. Not about his own failures. Not about victims. Again: Policies, policies. (And hopelessly vague policies at that.)

…Now, did someone savvy in Vatican City State intentionally schedule James Grein’s sworn testimony in the McCarrick case for a week when most of the world’s journalists are on vacation? Hard not to think so.

If so, perhaps that savvy cover-up artist failed to foresee that Mr. Grein would recount something this stunning: McCarrick abused him during confession.

James Grein speaking in Baltimore

May justice be done. But don’t get your hopes up. Apparently, “the Vatican wants this finalized by the second week of February–the entire case.”

Which could conceivably have happened–if someone started the prosecution last summer. If someone took James’ testimony in August.

But if you’re just now taking preliminary sworn testimony? Then conclude a just criminal process in six weeks? Giving the accused all the rights he enjoys under law? (Which everyone, even Theodore McCarrick, deserves.)

I don’t see how that can happen so quickly. So, either: 1. No just resolution to the case. or 2. A rush to unjust judgment. Either way: Same problem we have had throughout this scandal: incompetence at the episcopal level, including the bishop of Rome.

…Happy New Year to you, dear reader. We all know that everyone should be able to go to confession without worrying that the confessor is a pederast. We all know that when someone accuses a cleric of sexual abuse in 1994, his trial should have long since been concluded, without rushing, by 2019.

But the mafiosi running the Church don’t operate according to the basic standards of decency and justice which we all know. They operate according to some other strange calculus–a desperate narcissism, somehow both sinister and pathetic at the same time.

The Unbearable Roman Malaise


Absent a comprehensive and communal response to the abuse crisis facing the Church, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry out the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.

A committee of four is planning the Roman meeting of Bishops’ Conference presidents, scheduled for the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair, in February.

Three of the committee members gave interviews in English-language publications a few weeks ago…

Blaise Card. Cupich interview

Archbishop Charles Scicluna interview

Father Hans Zollner interview

…All three spoke only in vague platitudes. Archbishop Scicluna specifically ruled out the possibility of the February meeting addressing any canon-law matters, much less any specific cases.

Now, we know well that Vatican meetings have long produced mountains of glittering generalities, which have piled up now over the decades.

But the lack of concrete details in this case is especially disturbing, because the going-around-in-circles aspect glares out at us:

The Holy Father personally wrote to all the presidents of the bishops’ conferences almost four years ago. In his letter of February 2015, Pope Francis urged the presidents to implement a circular letter issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011.

The CDF had written to assist the bishops’ conferences in formulating the guidelines necessary for synthesizing the demands of canon law and civil law, in cases of a priest accused of sexually abusing a minor, or using child pornography.

In the meantime, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors designed a template for bishops’ conference guidelines.

My point is: Anyone conscientiously following the “paper trail” knows that precise questions of canon law have remained on the table for years now. Also: Who will judge bishops accused of sexual abuse? That question likewise has sat on the table for years.

Vatican synod hall empty

And yet the organizers of the vaunted February meeting have ruled out the consideration of these concrete questions.

The organizing committee released a letter this morning, from which I have taken the ominous quote above.

My first question upon reading the organizers’ letter is: Has the Holy Father himself written to the bishops’ conference presidents, inviting them to Rome for the February meeting?

I ask this innocent question because: Can anyone reasonably assume that every bishops’ conference president reads the daily Vatican Press Office briefing? I don’t think they do. In fact, I would wager that if you or I called every bishops’ conference president on earth, tonight, and asked him (in his native tongue), “Are you going to Rome in February?” quite a few of them would respond (in their native tongues), “Huh?”

Be all that as it may. Today’s letter from the organizers goes on to ask the bishops’ conference presidents to make sure they “reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries” before February.

Now, at first blush this request seems unobjectionable. But if we put ourselves in the shoes of some imaginary bishops’ conference presidents, the request starts to rankle.

Every conference president has, after all, a prior, more fundamental duty. Namely shepherding and governing his own diocese.

Let’s assume one case: The dutiful bishop who has diligently followed the guidelines as they have come from the Holy See over the course of the past seventeen years. (The procedure for clerical sex-abuse cases was altogether revised in 2001).

If the bishop had diligently followed all the rules, then he would already have had interaction with abuse victims–if such cases had occurred in his diocese. He would have interacted with them as he did his duty to see justice done for them. So he could rightly ask, upon receiving today’s letter: ‘Which victims do you want me to reach out to again, o organizers?’

Now let’s assume a different case: The bishop who neither knows nor cares about the rules. Maybe the organizers are backhandedly trying to “guilt” such bishops into paying attention to sex-abuse victims? If so, is that the right way to do things?

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Next question: What lies behind all this spinning around in circles, to no purpose? There is an answer.

A lot of English-speaking Catholics still wonder why Pope Francis has never addressed the specific allegations made by Archbishop Viganò in his August testimony. Namely that Pope Francis knew about Theodore McCarrick abusing seminarians, but did nothing, The pope knowingly allowed a sexual predator to continue to represent the holy Catholic Church as a Roman cardinal.

The pope apparently gave some homilies at his daily Masses in early September, in which he seemed to equate Viganò with the “Great Accuser” intent on destroying Christ’s Church. But the pope never mentioned Viganò by name.

A fulsome exposition of the pope’s thinking–with names attached–can be found, however, in the last ten chapters of Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente’s book. (Click here to read about the first four chapters.) The whole answer to the great question, What is the Pope Thinking? is readily available to anyone who can read Italian.

I say this because: Vaticanisti know Tornielli as an inveterate ‘chameleon,’ perfectly willing to change his own ideas in order to maintain access to the reigning pope. Today Tornielli received a reward for this quality of his.

So we must presume that the apologia offered in Il Giorno del Guidizio is not Tornielli’s apologia for Pope Francis, but is the pope’s apologia for himself. The Holy Father’s thinking, as expressed in Tornielli/Valenti’s book, explains his otherwise inexplicable letter to Cardinal Wuerl. The pope accepted the resignation of, and simultaneously praised to the skies, a prelate he regards as an innocent scapegoat, done-in by a nefarious American internet campaign.

So, allow me to schematize the pope’s thinking about Viganò for you, dear reader:

Viganò’s memo belongs to a co-ordinated media attack, which emanates from wealthy American conservative Catholics. The attack comes at the pope for two reasons:

1. Conservative American Catholics misidentify Christian doctrine with Christianity itself.

2. The pope has criticized the international capitalist economy.

Now, we cannot dismiss these assertions out of hand. The pope rightly laments any tendency on the part of us American Catholics to deputize ourselves as Guardians of Purity and Orthodoxy. We have no right to use phrases such as “real Catholics” versus “fake Catholics.” The very Christian doctrine that we cherish teaches us: all baptized people belong to the Catholic Church. And every last one of us relies on God’s mercy for any hope of salvation.

I think we can all agree: Nine times out of ten, the most evangelical thing any zealous Christian can do at any given moment is: Be kind.

I gladly kiss the pope’s hand for reminding us all of this.

earthAlso: The global environmental crisis does threaten future generations. Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ resounds with wisdom. The Paris Agreement took a baby step in the right direction. The pope righly laments our apparent American indifference to the future fate of Mother Earth.

In other words, the pope has managed successfully to convince himself to blow off Viganò’s testimony precisely because: his rationale for blowing it off has some truth to it.

The pope thinks Viganò and the American right wing attacked him in the style of a hostile corporate takeover. Borrowing from the Wall Street playbook, you try to present an unflattering a picture of the CEO, in order to get the stockholders to demand his resignation.

Pope Francis regards this as a tragic, Judas-like betrayal. The pope insists that no true Catholic could ever suggest that the pope resign. The pope is not the CEO; the pope is The Holy Father.

Now, since this is the logic that I myself applied to justify my weeping and whining when Pope Benedict XVI abdicated, you might wonder how I could credibly take a different position now.

But, let’s remember:

Absent a comprehensive and communal response to the abuse crisis facing the Church, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry out the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.

The pope has gotten the whole thing quite wrong. An “American corporate mentality” has not caused the current crisis of confidence in the Church’s hierarchy.

No. We observers–laymen, laywomen, parish priests in the trenches, all of us struggling to live honest Christian lives–we have seen with our own eyes the crushingly disillusioning fact. The current hierarchy of our Church is incompetent.

Neither divisiveness, nor political prejudice, nor fussiness about doctrine, nor malice of any kind leads us to such a conclusion. The conclusion arises from the facts disclosed to the public this year.

What has been revealed? The incumbents of practically all the episcopal thrones that we are familiar with–namely, the American bishops and the pope of Rome–all of them have managed to bring scandal upon our Church by failing to address sex-abuse cases that had languished for years in their own files.

How would an honest Christian react to this revelation, if he sat on one of these thrones? He would say to himself: I clearly do not have the personal intellectual and moral resources necessary to execute the duties of this office. Let me abandon it, so that someone more competent than myself can take over.

But the mafiosi running the Church do not think that way. They think only of protecting their own position, no matter what the cost. Yes, like a father–a father who should go away, for drug rehab or some such thing, but refuses to go.

Like Vincent Card. Nichols of London. Rather than accept the blame for bringing shame and scandal upon his people, he blamed his lawyers for not reminding him that he had a duty to communicate with sex-abuse victims. (Maybe that sounds to you like a Trump tweet about Michael Cohen. But I am not making this stuff up for giggles.)

Or like Pope Francis. Rather than acknowledge that he has failed his people, he blames conservative American priest bloggers.

Like me.

Scandal Compendium


If you find yourself at a loose end, dear reader:

Compendium of My Posts So Far on the McCarrick Case and the PA Grand-Jury Report, in reverse chronological order

The Vatican Spills the McCarrick Beans (Off the Record) December 4

More From James’ Amanuensis (with a could-have-been/was comparison) November 21

Guest Exhortation from Dr. Ann White November 17

Tornielli Giorno GiudizioThe Fantasy of the February Vatican Meeting November 15

Proposed USCCB Letter November 14

USCCB 2002: A McCarrick Memory November 13

Non-Persons to the Mafiosi November 10

Journalists and Bishops November 6

The Need a Miracle November 5

Rally in Baltimore; Buffalo Whistleblower; Sioux City and New York City November 2

Here come the Feds: Part I, Part II October 25

Priests’ Convocation: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

Pope a Gaslighter? Two Books

Commentary on Marc Card. Ouellet Open Letter to Viganò

Oct. 6 Vatican Communique on McCarrick: Commentary

Archbishop ViganoMafiosi Run Our Church: The Evidence

Holy Father on the Cardinal Wuerl Train

To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 20

When Will the Scandal End? (McCarrick Settlements Edition)

September 2018 Exchange between Bishop Knestout and Your Humble Servant

Being Catholic Now Q1 a2

Another Open Letter to His Holiness, about Severity

Increasing Sense of Helplessness

How to be Catholic Now, Q1 a1

In Love with a Tattered Scarlet Rag

Transparent and Unfathomable

The Corrupt Conspiracy September 7

Open Letter to the Holy Father September 1 [NB. I have removed this post from my weblog at the request of Bishop Knestout]

Caso Romanones August 31

Should the Pope Resign? August 29

Believing Viganò August 28

Pontifical Prevarication August 27

Late Night with Viganò August 26

The Church’s Center of Gravity August 24

Pope Francis mate.jpgWe Think You’re Incompetent August 22

More about the PA Report August 22

Me and Jake Tapper Hate the Bishops August 20

The Good PA Catholics August 19

Victims Crucifix + Wuerl Fail, Part II August 17

PA Grand Jury Report: Not Bad, But Good August 16

Wuerl Fail August 14

The Teaching that Convicts August 12

Checchio Fail August 10

Our Vichy Regime August 9

James w McCarrickTottering Church August 8

Priesthood Ex Opere Operato August 5

Burbidge Fail August 4

Open Letter to Theodore McCarrick August 1

St. Alphonsus, Pray for Newark and Washington August 1

Going Backwards July 31

James’ Amanuensis July 30

James the Man of the Hour July 30

No Longer His Eminence July 28

New Scandal, Worse than the First July 26

Scandal of 2002 Painfully Revisited June 29

The Spider Web June 20

Vatican Spills the McCarrick Beans, Part II

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Anyone watching the work of the American bishops meeting in Baltimore three weeks ago knows that they voted on this:

Be it resolved that the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops encourage the Holy See to release all the documentation that can be released consistent with the canon and civil law regarding the misconduct of Archbishop McCarrick.

The bishops voted that resolution down.

Meanwhile, laughter in Rome. Why? Because Rome had already released all the info. By talking secretly to two journalists. The book was published November 6.

“Don’t these silly Americans understand how we do things here?” the Roman cardinali thought to themselves. (Among the Roman cardinali, I include Donald Wuerl, certainly one of Tornielli & Valente’s anonymous sources.)

Meanwhile, we American men wonder: Really? Talking off the record to a sympathetic journalist counts as “accountability?”

Anyway, click Part One of my summary of the book, if you haven’t read it already. We continue now with:

Facts about Theodore McCarrick revealed by the unwitting accountability team of Vigano-Tornielli-Valente…

In December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians.

McCarrick turned 75 in July, 2005, still healthy and energetic. I remember it as if it were yesterday; all us Washington priests had to attend a 75th birthday party held in a fancy new dining hall at Georgetown University.

Even though canon law requires the resignation of all bishops at 75, sitting Cardinal Archbishops generally serve at least two extra years, if not four or five.

But McCarrick did not. Having concluded that McCarrick posed a grave danger to the good name of Holy Mother Church, Pope Benedict rushed the replacement process, hastily naming Donald Wuerl as McCarrick’s successor. Well before McCarrick turned 76.

crozier wuerl

Meanwhile: two things…

1. Everyone knew that Pope Benedict was embarrassing Theodore McCarrick. But we all thought it had to with a fast one that McCarrick had pulled on then-Card. Ratzinger in 2004. Ratzinger had explained that priests could and should withhold Holy Communion from politicians who voted in favor of abortion. McCarrick did not communicate that instruction to his brother American bishops.

We priests in the trenches thought McCarrick got relieved early because of that. Little did we know…

2. The second settlement of an abuse claim against McCarrick ran its course during 2006. Rome got the word.

Vigano wrote about “sanctions” against McCarrick. Vigano supposed that the sanctions began in 2009, after Dr. Richard Sipe published selections from the McCarrick abuse-claim settlement documents.

But the ‘sanctions’ actually began in December of 2006.

Vigano wrote that Pope Francis “lifted” them in 2013.

He did not. Because they had never been enforced at all.

The history recounted in this book–of nuncios and cardinals trying to enforce Pope Benedict XVI’s order that Theodore McCarrick live a retired life of prayer and penance–it reads like the slapstick farce that it was. McCarrick outmaneuvered them all.

Tornielli and Valente document it, in excruciating detail. They propose to contradict Vigano, insisting that Vigano painted an inaccurate picture of a McCarrick effectively punished by Benedict XVI, then liberated by Francis.

But: I don’t remember Vigano insisting that Benedict’s sanctions were effective. As Tornielli and Valente point out, Vigano himself proved utterly inadequate to the task of enforcing them.

Tornielli and Valente try to cast doubt on Vigano’s utterly crucial assertion that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s abuses in June of 2013. But Card. Ouellet, prefect of Bishops, has already acknowledged that Vigano probably did tell the pope about McCarrick. (Oullet preposterously claimed that we could hardly expect the pope to focus on such information).

And even if Vigano never told Pope Franis anything about McCarrick, Tornielli and Valente effectively inform us that they all knew anyway–all the Cardinals around the pope. Pope Francis didn’t need Vigano to tell him that McCarrick was a ticking time bomb of scandal that could explode and destroy them all. The pope already knew. He just did not appear to care.

McCarrick sofa

The picture from this hit-piece book against Vigano is manifestly not: Vigano wrong. The picture that emerges is: The people who run our church really, really do not know what they are doing.

I will likely have more to tell you about what I have read, dear reader, but let me close now with:

My Analysis

In 1994, Bishop Hughes of Metuchen, NJ, could have insisted on a church trial of his predecessor, even though that predecessor was his ecclesiastical superior. Trials are ugly, but they do attain the kind of certitude that we can have in this life, about an accused man’s guilt or innocence.

It would have taken a great deal of courage for Hughes to denounce the Archbishop of his province. But the alternative was: Slip into the shadow world of the mafiosi

In 1999, Cardinal O’Connor could have insisted on a trial of Theodore McCarrick, for violations of the Sixth Commandment with his own seminarians. But he did not. O’Connor wasn’t hung up about guilt or innocence, either; he only cared about whether or not McCarrick got promoted.

(Even the good guys among the mafiosi are still mafiosi, my friends. O’Connor was convinced that McCarrick had preyed on defenseless young men. But still O’Connor never suggested that McCarrick had no business remaining in the throne in Newark–and had no business saying Mass at all.)

John Paul II could have, and should have, conducted a trial. But he preferred to think the best about the charming snake-oil salesman.

Benedict XVI absolutely had to conduct a trial. But he did not do so. He assumed McCarrick was guilty. Meanwhile, McCarrick regarded Benedict’s attempts to closet him in a monastery as a “persecution.” Because McCarrick denies to this day that he did anything wrong.

There’s no getting around this: Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of covering up for Theodore McCarrick. The pope worried about scandal. He did not appear to understand that McCarrick’s victims needed justice. Nor did he understand that more victims would surely come forward.

But we can well imagine that Benedict is suffering his punishment right now. He himself made the choice that leaves him in the impossibly painful position that he now occupies. He knows everything about all this. He knows he made a terrible mistake, out of weakness of will.

And he can say nothing. He has information that could help resolve the problem–The Problem, that he knows has released termites into the very foundations of the Church. But he cannot say anything. Because of the choice that he himself made, to live as the “contemplative ex-pope.”

Pope Francis inherited a nightmare situation in which one of his Cardinals (an unusually prominent one) stood accused of grave abuses. But his guilt had never been proved; it had never even been put on trial, by anyone.

Pope Francis absolutely, positively had to conduct a trial, to establish McCarrick’s guilt definitively and remove him from the clerical state.

Instead, Pope Francis blew the whole thing off completely.

Until a man came forward accusing McCarrick of abusing him while he was still a minor. And this apocalypse we have lived through, and continue to live through, began.

More From James’ Amanuensis

What could have happened. And should have happened.

Actual facts: Roman characters. Could have/should have: italics.

Late June. The archdioceses of Washington and New York notify the public about an accusation against Theodore McCarrick. The Church publishes a phone#/e-mail/snail-mail address for anyone with knowledge of the case. Also publishes: A clear, thorough explanation of how McCarrick’s church trial will proceed, including the date on which it will begin.

Also in late June: The Holy See releases a comprehensive report about the secret cash settlements between McCarrick and the seminarians he abused. The report includes all relevant documents, with only the names of innocent victims redacted. All bishops and other administrators involved acknowledge their grave mistakes. And resign.

The bishops of Metuchen, Newark, and Washington, D.C. acknowledge the shock and pain of their people. They begin visiting their parishes to help their people cope.

Late July. James Grein comes forward, speaking out about McCarrick through the New York Times. The bishops of Arlington, Virginia (where James is known to reside), Washington, D.C., and New York all reach out personally to James.

Mid-August. The Pennsylvania grand jury releases its report on sexual abuse of minors by priests. The bishops of Pennsylvania, along with all the bishops in the US, acknowledge that they have gravely failed their people. They could have audited their own files, made sure that all sex-abuse victims had been heard, and justice done for them. But instead, the bishops idly sat by, distracted from their duty by their own tender and over-sized egos.

Late August. The USCCB meets in an emergency session and unanimously adopts a resolution. Yes, we have failed you, dear People of God. We will all return to parish ministry and try to learn how to administer the Church’s resources better than we have done. We have developed a five-year process for replacing ourselves with priests currently serving in parishes.

Also in mid-August. The Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C., admits that he made serious mistakes while serving in Pennsylvania in the 80’s and 90’s. He does not get defensive. Instead of focusing on himself, he focuses on his people, who still need a lot of help in coping with the revelations about Theodore McCarrick’s dishonesty.

Late August. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano sees no need to publish a dossier, The public already has all the documents pertaining to the McCarrick cash settlements from 2004 and 2006. The public already knows who covered for McCarrick; they have all resigned.

November. The US bishops hold their annual meeting. The president begins the meeting by announcing the verdict of the McCarrick trial.

Scandal over.

…This is no idle fantasy, dear reader. It could and should have happened this way. Indeed, it would have required a great deal less effort than all the fruitless attempts that Pope Francis and our American bishops have made, trying vainly to justify themselves with pointless abstractions, rather than confront facts.

But, as it is, we find ourselves in a haze.

As I understand the beginning of the EWTN interview which you can watch above, Mr. James Grein is in contact with Church officials. James declines to elaborate about sex-abuse details in this interview, referring to “investigations” now underway. (In July, James willingly gave details.)

Meanwhile, McCarrick continues to maintain his innocence. One of his brother bishops said as much, in Baltimore last week.

mccarrickA trial, therefore, must proceed. In order to reach justice through a contentious process.

It’s never too late! Those governing the Church could right now offer to us a careful, detailed explanation of how the process will unfold.

The fundamental point in dispute: Has James falsely and wrongly accused Theodore McCarrick of grave crimes?

Could be. No one ever reached the truth without hearing both sides.

We considered this question here before. James, sympathetic as he may be in the speech and interview above, has not added to his credibility with the statements he has made this past week. I’m not saying he compromised his credibility, either. He simply added nothing specific to our knowledge of the case.

Perhaps he could have explained better why he refrained from giving details this time around. But it’s not Mr. James Grein’s job to explain such things.

My point here is this: Either the course of justice is moving forward in a way that we can respect, or it isn’t.

If James has testified under oath, and that’s why he won’t get into details on Youtube, then maybe the wheels are really turning.

But, if that is the case, why hasn’t any Church official explained to the public the current state of the process? Why leave us with the strong impression that all any bishop or pope does in the Catholic Church is kick the can down the road, hoping the stupid sheep will forget about all this?

On the other hand, if James has not, in fact, given official testimony, then why not speak more freely in the interview above? EWTN reporter Wyatt Goolsby gave James a wide-open opportunity clearly to spell out McCarrick’s crimes. And if the official Church continues to do nothing, and you say this is “your moment” to speak, why not speak clearly and in detail? Criminals get convicted based on clear details of evidence.

But, again: If James is not to be believed–if he won’t give details because he doesn’t really know what he is talking about–then why won’t someone who knows the facts come to McCarrick’s defense? After all these months, no one has said anything to defend McCarrick from the grave charges James leveled against him in July.

…My old friend Msgr. Charles Pope recently published an essay arguing that Pope Francis now “owns” the crisis.

Would that Pope Francis did own it. The problem we have is that no one appears willing to own the McCarrick case.

And the cowardly refusal to own sex-abuse cases is The Scandal. The Scandal that has brought the pope and bishops of our Church to the state of utter infamy that they now occupy.

Guest Post: Dr. Ann White

mom(My dear mom has a Ph.D. in history and has done extensive research on the Reformation.)

Is the present-day Catholic crisis more dangerous than the indulgence crisis, which led to the Protestant Reformation?

In Catholic teaching, obtaining an indulgence means substituting for penance following genuine confession. This is no problem and caused no crisis.

Problems came when the selling of indulgences became big business. The market opened up after the pope in 1476 declared that an indulgence could be purchased on behalf of another, for example, on behalf of a dead relative suffering in purgatory. In the following decades, cardinals and archbishops led great indulgence-selling campaigns to support the building and rebuilding of churches, the performance of pilgrimages, crusades against the Turks.

A tipping point came when Pope Leo X in 1515 proclaimed the sale of an indulgence for building St. Peter’s in Rome. Martin Luther, a devout priest and monk, posted his 95 Theses because he feared that parishioners – the sheep of his flock and the victims in this crisis – were being taught that their money could buy God’s forgiveness when they purchased an indulgence.

Which is more dangerous to the church – a crisis based on money or a crisis based on the damaged lives of human persons?  The money did some worthwhile good, but absolutely no good comes from Christians damaging lives and covering up the damage.

Will today’s Catholic church escape the church’s 16th century punishment: tens of thousands of church members following the excommunicated Luther out of the church?

Don’t count on escaping similar losses to the church. In 16th century Europe, people were interested in religion; they wanted to go to church. We all know that in our culture there is little interest in religion and quite a bit of scorn for it. Think about the people who will leave the church as this crisis grinds on, and then think about how God’s children who should come into the church in the future will not do so because the image of its leadership is morally repellent.

Dear Catholic brothers and sisters, I’m a Lutheran but I know that this crisis in your church affects all of us Christians. Please fight for your church. By excommunicating Luther, 16th century church leaders dealt with a symptom of their problem, but not with the problem itself, which they themselves had caused.  Today’s church leaders do the same thing. They plan meetings to pretend to cope with the crisis, thus avoiding the crisis itself, which they themselves have caused. They spurn and condemn the very journalists and activists who have given the sex-abuse victims a platform to speak.

Please fight this church leadership. Call your own meetings and ask bishops to testify under oath. Plan mass protests. Attend meetings you’re forbidden to attend and risk arrest. Write letter after letter, blog post after blog post. Fight for the return of truth and morality to your church.

Remember: the 16th century crisis led to the break up of the Catholic Church. The present day crisis is even more dangerous.

Proposed USCCB Letter

James Grein speaking in Baltimore
James Grein speaking yesterday in Baltimore

No one asked me. But if a bishop at the meeting in Baltimore asked me, “What should we do?” I would say:

Circulate the following letter for the signature of all the members of the conference, then send it to Theodore McCarrick…


Dear Brother,


Mr. James Grein has lodged testimony against you. He says you sexually abused him for two decades. Others have also testified that you abused them.

We believe these charges. You yourself have given us no choice but to believe them. You have not denied them.

We all saw your intelligence and charisma when you led this conference through the sex-abuse scandal of 2002. But, amazingly, you had these crimes on your conscience at that time. How could you manage to stand in the limelight, knowing how dishonest you were?

Your dishonesty at that crucial moment in the history of the Church in America has now scandalized our people–and us–so thoroughly that we hardly know what to do.

We condemn you for what you have done. The debt you owe to James, and to all the people you have wronged; the debt you owe to society, to the Church–it is staggering, terrifying to imagine.

We beg you to go on the record and admit the truth in full. Please do so, under oath, and before suitable witnesses. Admit everything: all your crimes, all your hypocrisy. Acknowledge the damage you have done to others, to the integrity of your office as priest and bishop–the damage you have done to the integrity of our Church.

For our sake, for the sake of those you abused and harmed so deeply, for the sake of all the Christian people, and for your sake: Admit the truth. Repent of your sins. Beg God’s mercy, before it’s too late. Too late for us, and too late for you.


Fraternally in Christ, Your brother bishops of the USA

USCCB 2002: A McCarrick Memory


As you know, dear reader, over these past months, memories from my seminarian days have surfaced, making me wince with pain as I realize what they actually meant.

Our American bishops have their annual meeting in Baltimore this week. The big news is that the Vatican nixed any voting on “policy remedies” to the sex-abuse problem.

The whole thing has me remembering the annual meeting sixteen years ago, when then-Cardinal McCarrick pretty much called the shots. (And when the supposedly “monarchical” Pope John Paul II allowed the bishops conference a lot more leeway than the supposedly “synodal” Pope Francis allows them now.)

Anyway, at that meeting in 2002, McCarrick seemed quite preoccupied with something. He insisted that the scandal of that year meant that any priest who committed sex abuse from then onward would have to suffer “zero-tolerance,” exclusion from ministry for good. But he insisted it wouldn’t be fair to make zero-tolerance retroactive. We can’t give second chances anymore. But we can’t revoke the second chances that we already gave.

At the time, many of us who were paying attention allowed McCarrick to manipulate our minds into seeing this as a fair and equitable solution. Of course it was not: It meant that the victims of abuses that happened before 2002 had to continue to see their abusers stand at the altar, interact with young people, and possibly begin to manipulate and abuse others.

Since 2002, sitting bishops have only addressed pre-2002 abuses when victims have made them do so. It is precisely the outcry of those very pre-2002 victims, who never got justice—their outcry has produced the Scandal of 2018. May God reward them for fearlessly standing up. And forcing us all to face the truth and live in it.

Looking back, we see: Theodore McCarrick desperately wanted to keep the pre-2002 truth hidden. And now we know why: When he spoke with such apparent “equanimity” about old cases, he spoke with pure self-interest. He was himself guilty. He wanted to continue to give a second chance to himself. He couldn’t be bothered to consider his victims, and their having a chance for a decent life. He just wanted to let himself off the hook, in his own tortured mind. He wanted to tell himself: okay, you have to cut it out from now on. But the previous dalliances? They should not face strict scrutiny; they can remain hidden.

…Oh, that McCarrick had actually been honest with himself sixteen years ago! Openly acknowledged the full truth about all the destructive, evil things he had done! Stood before the assembled bishops and admitted the now-known fact. Namely, that he deserved to be defrocked. And deserved to spend some serious time in jail.

If he had just admitted it, and given us all a chance to start fresh back then, in 2002–where would we be now? We would all be part of an institution with a great deal more integrity than it currently has.

Could the our bishops bring themselves to discuss these cold, hard facts right now? Could they examine how Baltimore 2002 had this big lie at the heart of it? (Which made Baltimore 2018 necessary.)

Don’t they see? If they did that–if they reckoned honestly with facts, instead of blah blah blah-ing endlessly on the purely theoretical level–if they studied reality, in other words–the sad reality of how Theodore McCarrick the liar made fools of them all–then they could begin to heal the Church.

They could do this; there’s nothing stopping them. But they won’t. None of them, from the Nuncio on down, even have the courage to say McCarrick’s name.

The haplessness of Baltimore 2018 comes as no surprise. We know perfectly well that, for now, the holy Catholic Church has a hierarchy made up of flimflamming, dithering cowards.

Maybe someday that will change.

In the meantime, we have the Lord, the Christ, the eternal Bridegroom. We belong to the Catholic Church because of Him. I am a priest because of Him. He will see His Church through.