from the “When Will the Scandal Be Over?” file…
Abraham Lincoln faced defeat in the election in 1864. But then General William T. Sherman took Atlanta (as recounted in Gone With the Wind). The victory restored the voters’ faith in the war effort. Lincoln won re-election and gave a second inaugural address in 1865, as the war neared the end of its fourth year.
Lincoln kept his second inaugural speech blessedly short. He quoted, or alluded to, the Holy Bible at least six times. His theme: the workings of Divine Providence.
Lincoln meditated on the preceding four years. Civil war had come shortly after his first inauguration. Neither side imagined that the war would drag on as it had, with 600,000 dead. But God had willed it so.
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?
In other words: The U.S. owed the Civil War to Almighty God, as a kind of debt for centuries of chattel slavery. Lincoln prayed that the war would soon end, but then continued:
If God wills that it continue until… every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, …the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
…The bishop of our sister diocese in West Virginia recently wrote in a letter to his people:
As some of you have told me, we need to put the Bransfield saga behind us and move on.
But at least one of Bransfield’s victims does not agree.
On August 20, Bishop-Emeritus Bransfield published a “Letter to the Faithful” of our sister diocese, in which he wrote:
I am writing to apologize for any scandal and wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me… There have been allegations that by certain words and actions I have caused certain priests and seminarians to feel sexually harassed. Although that was never my intent, if anything that I said or did caused others to feel that way, then I am profoundly sorry.
One of those seminarians that Bransfield harassed goes by the initals VGD. After Bransfield published his letter, through diocesan channels, VGD issued a statement, pointing out that…
1. Michael Bransfield’s attempt at apology and reconciliation is, in our Catholic Tradition, inadequate and unsatisfactory… We Catholics do not apologize for ‘actions attributed to us,’ or for hypothetical ‘ifs.’
2. Sitting Bishop Brennan had suggested to the public that Bransfield had privately apologized to his victims. VGD notes: Michael Bransfield did not reach out privately to apologize to me or other victims of his with whom I exchange support. [emphasis added]
3. VGD filed a lawsuit, after he had tried to meet with Archbishop William Lori, and with Lori’s investigators, and got rebuffed both times. The lawsuit outlines the web of cronyism involved in the situation. The suit also describes the sexual harassment VGD suffered at Bransfield’s hands. VGD writes, about his lawsuit:
I would not be seeking legal recourse if justice would be done by my church. The bishops in charge…delay, draw out, and stay my case…while at the same time telling us to “move on.” That is the language of perpetuating abuse, it is the language of cover-up.
Let’s just briefly recall the facts. Bransfield was about to reach mandatory retirement age, after decades of abuse of power–abuse that had been reported to Church authorities repeatedly, over the course of those decades. When it was all about to end anyway, with the malefactor’s retirement, one of Bransfield’s chancery priests denounced him to the Archbishop of the province, Lori.
Lori then received a mandate from the Vatican to conduct a secret investigation. Someone on the inside of that investigation apparently ran out of patience with the endless secrecy of the ecclesiastical cronies and leaked the whole report to the Washington Post. This gave the world access to the stunning details of Bransfield’s abuses of power. One of those details: Bransfield had given Lori cash gifts.
Lori suppressed that fact from the final version of the report. (Lori’s deception there may be what pushed the leaker over the edge.)
The investigators’ report recommended punishments for Bransfield, most of which have never happened. As someone Bransfield sexually harassed, VGD asked:
Are we supposed to simply sleep well at night crossing our fingers and just hoping that the re-empowered “bishop” Bransfield doesn’t get drunk and call us in the middle of the night, again? Or text us in the middle of the night, again?
VGD went on:
We can keep waiting for a scrubbed McCarrick report, or we can simply watch Bransfield unfold. We can watch our bishops demonstrate how to give gifts, how to make payments, how to promote your proteges, auxiliaries, and successors, how to bury and defy an abuse report, how to redact your own names, how to get away with it.
…A few weeks ago, a group of clerical sex-abuse survivors in Buffalo NY wrote to Pope Francis. They lamented that they had tried to communicate with the Apostolic Administrator currently running their diocese, without any success.
From the time the apostolic administrator, Edward Scharfenberger. came to Buffalo, he stated on numerous occasions his willingness to meet with any Survivor and offered the opportunity to see the files of our offenders. To this date, even with our reaching out to him, he has never personally followed through to contact any of us, making his words as a representative of the Catholic Church ring hollow. As Survivors, we are forced to relive our past experiences of sexual abuse, and being ignored re-traumatizes us.
The sex-abuse survivors asked the pope:
Why have you not taken swift and decisive action in putting and end to the sexual abuse of children and punish the perpetrators under your authority?
…The pattern has long since gotten familiar. Promises made by prelates of personal interactions with survivors that will bring about reconciliation. Then it never happens.
Reminds me of one fact recounted in the Minnesota Public Radio series Betrayed by Silence, which won a prestigious journalism award in 2014. The series exposed the duplicity of three Twin-Cities Archbishops, including the late Harry Flynn, who had previously served as bishop in Lafayette LA.
(Flynn also chaired the committee that drafted the Dallas Charter of 2002, sharing the limelight on that occasion with Theodore McCarrick.)
The Scandal began in Lafayette, with the predations of Father Gilbert Gauthe. The MPR reporters found one of Gauthe’s victims, Mr. Scott Gastal. They told Gastal how Flynn had said he met with Gauthe’s victims. “Did he meet with you?”
“That’s the first I’m hearing of anything like that,” Gastal replied.
Betrayed by Silence also recounts how Mr. Tom Mahowald sought justice and reconciliation by seeking an encounter with a diocesan official, Father Kevin McDonough–only to have Father Kevin slam the door in his face:
…My point is: President Abraham Lincoln recognized that he had no right to exhort anyone to “move on.” If the Civil War was to drag on longer, with all its misery, so be it. The nation owed God all that misery and more, in exchange for the misery that slavery had cost the slaves.
In our Church, a huge debt of pain remains. If every ounce of suffering drawn by acts of clergy sexual abuse shall be paid by another ounce of suffering drawn from the institution, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
…You may remember that, 26 months ago, I committed myself to the task of collecting all of James Grein’s public statements. James recently spoke on a “Catholic Project” podcast called Crisis. He recounted the abuse he suffered at the hands of Theodore McCarrick.
Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick last year. But the malefactor still has the ear of at least one high-ranking Vatican cardinal. And the web of deceit involved in covering up for McCarrick remains very much in place.
Don’t give up hope on my book about this, dear reader. I actually have almost all of it written, but it needs editing and emendations. I will post the draft of chapter three soon.