Guest Post: Alex McMurtrie

From: Alex B. McMurtrie III
Date: Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 8:38 AM
Subject: Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout & Fr. Mark White
To: archbishop@archbalt.org

Your Excellency,

My name is Alex McMurtrie.  My family and I have a vacation cabin in Franklin County, Virginia, and attend St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Rocky Mount, Virginia, which, until recently was pastored by Fr. Mark White.

We have known several very fine pastors at St. Francis over the years, all of which have been excellent shepherds, who have faithfully instructed the laity, adhering to the principles and sacred doctrine of Holy Mother Church. I have never once been scandalized nor found any teaching given by any priest presiding there to be in conflict or contrary to what is held true by Holy Mother Church.

St Francis of Assisi Rocky MountI can say without hesitation that one priest in particular stands out to me as the embodiment of a “good shepherd” and that was Fr. Mark White. Unfortunately, I must refer to Fr. Mark’s position as pastor of St. Francis, and St. Joseph in Martinsville, Virginia, in the past tense, due to Fr. Mark being suspended by our bishop, Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, as I am sure Your Excellency is painfully aware.

I could go on and on about how selflessly and faithfully Fr. Mark has served ever since I have known him, which is approximately eight years. I could list example after example of his love for us the faithful, but more importantly his love for Jesus Christ, especially in the Blessed Sacrament. Never have I seen a priest offer the holy sacrifice of the mass with more reverence and adoration to Dear Jesus. Never have I seen a priest more scrupulous in the handling of Our Dear Lord in the consecrated Host, and I can safely say that Jesus is at home in the hands of such a priest son as Fr. Mark.

Your Excellency, at the risk of sounding a bit extreme and even braggadocious, which is not my intention, I will say that I am a very prayerful man. I pray many rosaries every day, for various people, and have done so for many years, and with God’s grace I will continue to do so.

One rosary I pray each day is for priests and the church hierarchy. I pray for priests for selfish reasons. I pray for priests because I know that without you my soul will certainly perish. I pray for priests because I know that Satan never gives priests a moment’s rest from his various and insidious torments. I pray for priests because I love Jesus and Holy Mother Church, and I am so blessed to be Catholic. I also pray for priests’ families, because they too suffer more, I believe, due to their relative’s vocation.

Your Excellency, I am praying now for justice. I am praying now for God to purge Holy Mother Church from within of any and all who have agendas that are contrary to Jesus’, and especially those priests who are evil in thought, word, or deed, and bent on Her destruction.

I’m tired of asking God for conversions of heart. Souls are at stake here, as you well know, Your Excellency. This situation between Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout and Fr. Mark White is pure madness and is extremely detrimental to Holy Mother Church and we faithful. It must stop.

I don’t pretend to begin to understand what it must be like to have such responsibilities as are upon you Your Excellency. I am a simple man who loves simplicity. The last thing I want to do is add to your “plate,” but, Your Excellency, a grave injustice is occurring here, and I ask your intercession on behalf of we faithful.

Please, I beg you to do all in your power to see that Fr. Mark be given the chance to defend himself, and I am confident that if he is given that opportunity, this situation will be resolved. Pride is the root of this issue, and I pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten the hearts of all involved so that the balm of humility may heal this terrible wound.

Your humble servant,
Alex B. McMurtrie III

Guest Post: Patricia Gurley

latrobe-basilica

From: Patricia Gurley

Subject: Father Mark White

Date: June 29, 2020 at 8:11:12 PM EDT

To: archbishop@archbalt.org

 

Good Evening Archbishop Lori,

 

My name is Patricia Gurley and I am a member of St. Joseph Parish in Martinsville, VA. I am writing to ask you to  please open your heart and help Father Mark White remain as our pastor. I have been a Catholic all my life and have seen many priests come and go.  Some were wonderful, but of all Father Mark has had the greatest impact on my spiritual life.

Being at Mass and seeing the look of love and joy on Father’s face as he celebrates Mass is so inspiring. I find myself opening my heart to welcome God more fully into my life.  My husband, who is not Catholic, comes to church with me and finds Father’s homilies so inspiring and intelligent. We discuss them on the way home and while we have lunch I bring the homily up on the computer so we could read it again. That is the impact he has on us. During this difficult time in our lives while we are not able to attend church because of covid 19 we look forward to his writings on his website. They keep me connected to the church and increase my love of God.

I don’t understand why the Bishop has decided to treat Father Mark so terribly. Why he is silencing Father Mark is beyond me, unless he is hiding something.  Father Mark hasn’t said anything that most everyone else had thought or talked about. The church needs to come clean about the scandal and get their house in order. Only then will those folks who have walked away from the church think about returning. I personally know people who feel that way.  This Bishop in my opinion is a vindictive person and doesn’t want to work things out with Father Mark. If Father isn’t reinstated as our pastor it will devastate two parishes who love and support him. It will also create a split with the Bishop that will never be repaired.

Thank you for your time.

Patricia Gurley

Dialogue on Carousel Lane (Imagined)

Dear Reader, I know that I still have not fully explained my point-of-view on the ecclesiastical suppression of this blog, from late November of last year to the middle of March.

I had something written months ago, to share with you once I could. But what I wrote seems self-pitying and out-of-place now, as we all struggle to maintain our connections with each other, by any possible means.

So, for what it’s worth, I present this imagined dialogue, which I wrote on the eve of my February 5 meeting with Bishop Knestout. The meeting itself proceeded nothing like what I imagined. (I knew it wouldn’t.) But it turns out that I did manage to anticipate some of the thoughts Bishop K revealed in his letter of March 19.

From the unpublished-post mailbag

[written 2/4/20]

Vatican II bas relief

The bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church. He who hears them, hears Christ. He who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 20)

Good Lord willing, tomorrow your unworthy servant will meet with Bishop Barry Knestout. [February 5, 2020] I imagine the following conversation… (I imagine it. This is a reflective exercise, not a report.)

 

Bishop: Mark, you wrote that you despised all the prelates and journalists gathered at the Vatican meeting last February. You evidently despise Pope Francis, Donald Wuerl, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. You therefore run afoul of this solemn teaching of the Church (quoted above), itself based on the Lord Jesus’ clear words in Luke 10:16.

Explaining this teaching, Pope Leo XIII wrote in Est Sane that individual Catholics do not have a mandate to criticize prelates. Pope Leo explicitly denounces the supposed defense you have offered me. Namely, that the individual Catholic may limit his obedience and submission solely to maters of faith, and enjoy freedom of speech in other, practical matters.

No. You must refrain altogether from judging the actions of your superiors. Judgments of that kind lie solely in the hands of the Supreme Pontiff.

Me: First, I believe that I deserve some consideration when it comes to the use of literary devices in my writings. You don’t get a readership if you don’t have an edge. I think fairness demands that the reader consider all my scandal-related blog posts as a whole, when deciding if I have demonstrated genuine love for the Church.

I did despise the prelates at the Vatican meeting–for an impassioned moment. And I do despise the situation we find ourselves in. We meaning the Church as a whole, pope, bishops, priests, people.

The situation I see is: most people in our country see our Church as far from holy, far from organized according to admirable principles, but rather they see a lawless, apparently ungovernable mess.

I believe that human beings naturally distrust–and learn to despise–leaders that do not communicate honestly. I despise the evident dishonesty of Pope Francis, Cardinal Wuerl, and Archbishop Lori, among other prelates. But I do not believe that means that I despise the episcopal college shepherding the Church, considered as a sacred whole.

To the contrary, I think that I despise the dishonesty as much as I do, precisely because I love the Church. I have written my blog posts in accord with Canon 212.3. I’m sorry for any failures on my part to observe due reverence.

Bishop: Wait a minute. What ‘evident dishonesty’ of Pope Francis?

Me: In August, 2018, Archbishop Vigano testified that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s abuses of seminarians in June of 2013. If what Vigano claimed has even some truth to it, then Pope Francis knew about McCarrick for five years before doing anything about it. And the pope only acted in 2018 because he had no choice but to act.

Pope Francis has never denied what Vigano said. The only thing the pope has said publicly is, basically: ‘You can’t expect me to remember anything about that.’ That is manifestly dishonest, since an honest prelate, learning of abuses done by a sitting Cardinal, would act in the interest of the suffering victims.

wuerl loriThe Church owed McCarrick’s victims at least this: to discipline McCarrick in such a way that they would not have to see him say Mass. Instead, they had to watch him represent the Holy See as an unofficial ambassador for years.

Last year, Pope Francis refused to engage the question of what he should have done about McCarrick in 2013. That refusal is dishonest, considering the fact that the Church–at least in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.–certainly deserves clarity about this.

Bishop: And Cardinal Wuerl’s dishonesty?

Me: Cardinal Wuerl learned of McCarrick’s abuses of seminarians in 2004. When Wuerl came to Washington in 2006, he knew that his predecessor had abused young men under his authority. Even though Wuerl had committed in Dallas in 2002 to an end to sex-abuse cover-ups, he participated in the McCarrick cover-up from 2006 to 2018.

Then, when circumstances beyond his control forced the public disclosure of the McCarrick sex-abuse settlement that he had known about for over thirteen years, Wuerl did not come clean. He hid behind spurious distinctions between McCarrick’s abuse of minors and his abuse of seminarians and young priests.

In the eyes of the general public in Washington, and in the eyes of McCarrick’s victim in the 2004 settlement, Donald Wuerl is a disgraced, discredited liar.

Bishop: You cannot prove that our Archbishop is dishonest.

Me: In 2013, William Lori received three written complaints about Michael Bransfield’s profligate spending. The complaints appeared in a 2013 Charleston, West Virginia, newspaper article. But Lori deemed those complaints “speculative in nature.” Lori phoned Bransfield and accepted Bransfield’s mischaracterization of the situation.

In 2018 Lori received a mandate from Pope Francis to investigate Bransfield. The investigators uncovered the fact that Bransfield had given Lori $7,500 in gifts, plus $3,000 in stipends and travel reimbursements.

Lori had that detail removed from the report.

Lori never would have acknowledged any of this, if someone hadn’t leaked it all to the Washington Post, forcing Lori to backpedal and apologize. In July of 2019, Lori promised that an independent financial audit of the West-Virginia diocese would be undertaken and then published. Nothing so far. [The report has subsequently been released. I will have more on that in an upcoming post.]

Seems like a reasonable observer would question Lori’s capacity for forthrightness. Which is exactly what the editorial board of the Notre Dame University student newspaper did, when Lori came to campus to speak. And Judge Anne Burke, formerly of the USCCB sex-abuse Review Board, told the Washington Post that Lori “paid only lip-service to the concept of episcopal accountability.”

Bishop: Even if all that you say is true, you sin against charity by making it public.

Me: If I myself fell into habitual self-justifications for speaking in endless half-truths, I would hope that someone would love me enough to point that fact out to me.

Regional Church Scandal Update

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

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

Number of answers actually given: Zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer: One.

Who? William Lori.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Edifice of Lies + Pope Gaslights Again

For decades, Mr. Phil Lawler has written about the problems in the Catholic hierarchy. He just announced solemnly that he cannot do it anymore. Combat fatigue.

The straw that broke his camel’s back? The appointment of a new bishop for West Virginia. From within the Wuerl-Lori-McCarrick-Bransfield Edifice of Lies. An institution some of us call ADW, Inc. (ArchDiocese of Washington)

Mark Brennan.jpg
His Excellency Mark Brennan, new Catholic bishop of West Virginia

To reply to Mr. Lawler:

On the one hand, we understand and sympathize. His Excellency Mark Brennan certainly arrives in West Virginia already compromised.

How? Allow me, dear reader, to explain what I mean.

At some point in April or May, someone on the inside of the ecclesiastical Bransfield investigation went to the Washington Post with two sets of scandalous revelations.

1. Details about former-WV-bishop Bransfield’s lavish spending.

2. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori’s active suppression of the fact that: some of that spending was bribes paid to him.

(“Wait!” Mr. Aw-shucks by-gosh Bill Lori says, “I told you they were not bribes!” To which the reasonable people of Planet Earth reply: Sir, the recipients of bribes rarely recognize the unreasonable gifts they receive as bribes until after the briber’s wrongdoing gets exposed by someone else–the wrongdoing that you ignored, because it was your ‘friend’ doing wrong.)

wuerl loriAnyway: the leak blew the lid off the church-mafia’s attempt to scapegoat Bransfield quietly, without any public airing of details.

Now, where did Mark Brennan sit when the leaker leaked? At the table in the backroom meeting where everyone “agreed” to remove the list of bribes from the Bransfield report? Only God and the insiders know the answer to that.

But: wherever he sat exactly, His Excellency Mark Brennan had an obligation to do something as soon as he became aware of Lori’s dishonesty. Namely to denounce it openly.

He did not do that; he has not done that. Brennan sang Bill Lori’s praises to assembled reporters in Wheeling on Tuesday morning.

So: Mark Brennan sits on his throne, compromised. Just like Wilton Gregory sits utterly compromised on the throne in Washington, smiling endlessly at the exposed liar Donald Wuerl.

But, Mr. Lawler: Please take this on board. You acknowledge that you do not know Mark Brennan. I do.

In the photo above, he stands in front of the doors to St. Martin of Tours parish in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He served there as a genuinely generous shepherd for thirteen long years. I have admired Mark Brennan ever since I first met him, in 1997.

So your unworthy scribe can say, with some insight: Among the made men of the ecclesiastical mafia, Mark Brennan stands out as an extraordinarily humble and honest person. He actually knows how to put in a hard day’s work, as opposed to just talking endlessly about doing so. Mark Brennan has more intellectual curiosity in his little finger than a banquet-room full of Loris, Wuerls, McCarricks, and Bransfields all nervously slapping each other on the back.

Problem is: This relatively honest and fatherly mafioso has managed to let Pope Francis gaslight the living daylights out of him.

Allow your servant to try to imagine a bishop tasking me, as follows:

‘Er–Father White: You will succeed a pastor of thirteen years incumbency. He retired ten months ago. After he retired, I determined that he did some real bad things and launched a ‘probe.’ But the details are all top secret.

‘You, Father White, will: Take over the parish. And you will negotiate your predecessor’s penance with him. And enforce it.’

Now, hearing such an assignment put to me, I think I would say: ‘Hold the phone there. You expect me simultaneously

a) to sympathize with and comfort the poor, faithful people who my predecessor harmed, and

b) sympathize with and comfort the poor, faithful people who found a way to love him anyway, for thirteen long years, and

c) serve as my predecessor’s impartial judge, jury, bail bondsman, and baseball-bat-wielding repo man?

Instead of replying brainlessly, “Thanks for your trust in me, chief!” I think I might say something that rhymes with Duck Crew.

“Shouldn’t you, Excellency, our superior, take care of judging and punishing my retired peer? Shouldn’t you do your job?”

What honest person can simultaneously embrace the flock left behind as a shepherd and give a fair trial, and impose a fair punishment, on the accused malefactor? Not possible for one person to pull off. This is why professional jurists do things like recuse themselves from cases in which they have a personal interest.

Bransfield does, after all, have a right to a fair trial, like anyone else. He may be guilty of serious wrongdoing. But not a whole lot more guilty than most bishops. He’s hardly one black sheep in a flock of whites. He’s a gray among grays, when it comes to spending faithful Catholics’ donations on nouveau-riche creature comforts for themselves.

I would feel sorry for my old diocesan brother Mark Brennan. If it weren’t for the fact that he owes it to the world to speak the truth. Bransfield is hardly the only straight-up fraud and liar on the stage right now. Lori, Wuerl, and Bergoglio are all straight-up frauds and liars, too.

Ecclesiastical Discipline in Our Province

Knestout Lori

The discipline of Catholic bishops relies on the oversight of Archbishops, and the pope. If our bishop did something wrong–like, for instance, suspending the ministry of a priest without a commensurate cause–the wronged person must seek justice from the Metropolitan Archbishop of the ecclesiastical province, or from the pope.

Here in Virginia we find ourselves in the ecclesiastical province of Baltimore. If Bishop Knestout does wrong, we appeal to Archbishop William Lori, or to Pope Francis.

We would appeal to them, that is, if we thought we could trust them. I have pretty thoroughly documented for you, dear reader, why no reasonable man can trust Pope Francis to do justice. What about this question: Can a reasonable person trust Archbishop William Lori?

Long-time readers might remember my noting last September that Archbishop Lori made a public statement about another one of his suffragan bishops, Michael Bransfield. Bransfield had just retired as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. Lori referred to “troubling allegations” against Bransfield.

Now, what I found most troubling about Lori’s statement was: We, the general public, had no idea what these ‘troubling allegations’ were.

A decade earlier, Bransfield had been accused–by a convicted pederast–of sexually abusing minors in Philadelphia (Bransfield’s hometown). Bransfield had been exonerated.

And Catholics in West Virginia had gone to their local press with complaints about Bransfield’s apparently profligate spending.

They went to the press in 2006, a year after Bransfield became West Virginia’s shepherd. And they went to the press again in 2013, shortly after Pope Francis became pope–and supposedly set a new standard of simple, poor living for bishops. (Even though the pope actually lives in a $20-million Vatican hotel, paid for by a donor-friend of Donald Wuerl.)

Archbishop William Lori

Anyway, no Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore had so much as acknowledged those earlier complaints about Michael Bransfield. No churchman had ever referred publicly to any ‘troubling allegations.’ Not a word.

So what in the world was William Lori talking about, last September?

Actually, it was not difficult to see through the smokescreen. The long-slumbering hand of ecclesiastical discipline had bestirred itself to imitate action. The McCarrick Affair had exposed to the world the utter paralysis of the prelates of the Catholic hierarchy, when it comes to disciplining each other. So Lori–and Pope Francis–had something to prove.

Of course they had no trouble finding “troubling allegations” against Bransfield. All they had to do was search their own files, where repeated complaints had languished for years. (Probably in the same Vatican drawer as the McCarrick sex-abuse settlements from a dozen years ago.)

Anyway, Archbishop Lori proceeded to announce this past March that a ‘preliminary investigation’ had run its course. Bransfield should no longer minister as a bishop or priest. At least not in Lori’s territory.

That would have been the last anyone ever heard about any of this. Except: Someone on the inside had gotten fed-up with William Lori’s endless self-serving nonsense. Some insider(s) decided to provide the Washington Post with extensive documentation of the case.

Question #2: Why had the complaints against Bransfield gone unaddressed for over a decade? Maybe because Bransfield had greased the palms of his ecclesiastical superiors? (Using diocesan funds.) Including, of course: the palm of William Lori.

Investigators found that Bransfield had given Lori checks totalling $7,500. In February, Lori privately attempted to suppress that information. In June, it leaked.

Lori had known about the allegations against Bransfield for years. Lori attempted to suppress that piece of information. This month, it leaked.

mccarrick…An old, familiar pattern, my dear ones:

During the 80’s and 90’s, aggrieved individuals went to the Metropolitan Archbishop, and to the papal nuncio, seeking justice. They reported the wrongdoing of then-bishop (and later Archbishop) Theodore McCarrick.

Nothing happened.

(Until investigators from outside the hierarchy uncovered something. In the fall of 2017.)

During the 00’s and 10’s, aggrieved individuals went to the Metropolitan Archbishop, and to the papal nuncio, seeking justice. They reported the wrongdoing of bishop Michael Bransfield.

Nothing happened. Bransfield retired. Then, because the McCarrick Affair rattled the cage: An investigation!

Which led to: Lori getting caught covering up his role in the earlier cover-up.

…The mafia of self-righteous tinpot dictators that reign over our Church do not realize how corrupt they are. They always have some cockamamie rationale to try to paint themselves as angelic. William Lori styles himself a thoroughgoing Boy Scout. But I would rather seek justice from Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall.

We live in a windswept wilderness when it comes to ecclesiastical discipline, my dear ones. We might as well face that fact. We will need another Council of Trent, and an ensuing century of saintly self-sacrifice, to recover from the reign of these prissy, dishonest a-holes. But God will provide.

A Dishonest Archbishop of our Very Own

We touched briefly on the Bransfield affair last September. The bishop of Wheeling-Charleston WV turned 75, had his resignation swiftly accepted by Pope Francis, then found himself the subject of an investigation led by the Archbishop of our province, William Lori of Baltimore.

Turns out that Bishop Bransfield spent freely, drank heavily, and groped while in his cups.

How do we know this?

Your humble servant, as well as anyone else who spent any amount of time in the sacristy of the National Shrine during Msgr. Bransfield’s nineteen-year tenure there as rector, could have told you: that’s what the man is like.

Another person who could have told you that, at any point during the 1990’s: William Lori.

I daresay that everyone involved in putting Michael Bransfield’s name on the list of candidates for an episcopal see with a $200 million+ endowment (thanks to a nineteenth century heiress)–everyone knew perfectly well what their old friend Monsignor Bransfield was like.

Yesterday, Archbishop Lori, wrote to the people of our sister diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. His letter highlights some of the grievous shortcomings of Michael Bransfield’s free-spending, free-drinking “normal.”

Now, what moved Archbishop Lori to write to the Catholic people of West Virginia yesterday?

If you answered, Zeal for their souls! you missed an important simultaneous event. Someone on the team that had investigated Bransfield sent two copies of their secret report (completed in March, and heretofore unremarked-upon by Archbishop Lori) to a reporter for the Washington Post.

Someone on that investigative team had run out of patience with the feckless dithering of Archbishop Lori.

One copy of the report that the reporter got included a list. A list of prelates who had received large cash gifts from Bransfield over the years. The other copy did not include that list.

The first copy was the original report. The second was the modified version which Lori sent to the Vatican.

Lori’s name was on the list.

We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men, headpiece filled with straw. Alas.

… We poor Catholic peons find ourselves passengers on the ecclesiastical-history version of United flight 93, my dear ones. Hold on and pray.