Wednesday, September 12, 2018
“The Lord told us that the Church would always be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world. […] As for the news that we can discover today (in this Third Secret of the Fatima message), there is also the fact that not only are the Pope and the Church attacked from outside, but the sufferings of the Church come from interior of the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a truly terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but arises from sin in the Church.” —Pope Benedict XVI, on the flight back to Rome from Fatima on May 11, 2010, cited by Archbishop Georg Gänswein yesterday in Rome, during a presentation of the book by Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option, which he said caused him to recall the words of Pope Benedict on that occasion
Today is the 19th day since the publication of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s “Testimony.” (The full text is here; it was made public on the evening of August 25.)
Letter from a reader
Dear Mr. Moynihan,
I really admire your productivity and clear thinking and feel sorry for the fact you are in the middle of all this fiasco.
I am afraid that it is true this whole thing is, like every attack on the truth, a thing of the Devil and that there is no winner here.
The problem is that the real loser is the Church herself.
The Secularists (and maybe some Church members) want blood and there is not enough Bishop’s blood in this world to pacify them.
The Devil wants souls and every soul that leaves the Church will have a negative effect on all their descendents for generations to come, and the Devil smiles.
Bishops come and go, the Church needs to remain for our salvation.
Even though the problem at hand is tremendous, inexcusable and needs resolution, I am afraid the whistle blowers, all involved, went into all this the wrong way, even if they may have thought they were doing the right thing. They did not stop to think of the negative consequences that may prove to be worse and longer-lasting than the problem at hand.
We need to unite with Saint Faustina and pray for the salvation of all souls.
—A. Santin, Great Falls, Montana
The signs of the times
So where are we?
The stage is now crowded with players, and it hard to follow the plot, and to know who are the heroes, who the villains.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano spoke (wrote) his piece, and now has fallen silent.
Still, “scripta manent,” (“the words, having been written, remain”) and echo continually outward, to the four corners of the earth.
Pope Francis, too, is silent — regarding Vigano’s charges.
And yet, he speaks daily, delivering homilies and reflections in which his observations do seem to refer, obliquely, to… Archbishop Vigano.
So the protagonists are both silent, yet speaking.
Their silence is like the silence before a storm…
During these days, both Vigano and the Pope have been attacked with fury, and defended with passion. Many journalists and commentators have been writing and commentating.
(My modest proposal: that Pope Francis surprise everyone by appointing Archbishop Vigano as his “Apostolic Vicar for the Much-Too-Long-Delayed But Now-Critically-Important-And-No-Longer-Delayable Reform of the Roman Curia for the Wise, Prudent and Efficient Government of the Universal Church,” and back him with his Petrine authority in cleaning up a Roman Curia that Vigano arguably knows as well as, or even better than, anyone else).
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is totally silent.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor as Archbishop of Washington, had been “more or less” silent on the long-standing accusations that he was partly to blame for “cover-ups” of abuses while he was in Pittsburgh, but he has just issued a statement which suggests that he has, in the end, decided to resign his post as Archbishop of Washington. He says he will soon fly to Rome to discuss his decision directly with Pope Francis…
Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo of Houston, Texas, head of the US bishops’ conference, has been asking to meet with Pope Francis for more than two weeks. Suddenly, tomorrow, the request will be granted: he and several others will meet with Pope Francis. But just as this long-sought meeting is finally about to occur, with the hope that Francis and this delegation of US bishops will begin to hammer out how, finally, to put an end to this horrifying, endless cycle of abuse and cover-up, it is being reported that Di Nardo, too, is under a shadow for allegedly not acting on two cases of abuse by one priest… (link)
Finally, in a kind of “can you top this” moment, American businessman and political strategist Steve Bannon has (metaphorically) just parachuted in to Rome to join this cast of characters… Bannon, the man who more than any other in 2016 helped elect Donald Trump president of the US… Bannon, who then became Trump’s close adviser… Bannon, who then fell out of favor with the new president and left Trump’s administration… that same Bannon was in Rome over the weekend, urging, via reporters, all Catholics everywhere to “cease and desist” in calls for Francis to resign the papacy because such a resignation would (Bannon argued) cause a disastrous “de-stabilization” of the Petrine office, resulting in a chaotic “de-stabilization” of the Church herself.
But then, as is to say, “yes, you can top that,” Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, the personal secretary of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who retired under still mysterious circumstances to the Vatican Gardens five and a half years ago, appeared at a book presentation in Rome and announced to the world, while presenting The Benedict Option, authored by Rod Dreher, that Vigano’s release of his “Testimony” and the revelations about the sexual scandals in the Catholic Church have been the “9/11” of the Catholic Church — and suggested that Emeritus Pope Benedict thinks this as well. (See Gaenswein’s full text below.)
In the meantime, the Orthodox world in these last few days has been heading directly toward its own tragic schism, with Moscow (the “Third Rome”) threatening to excommunicate Constantinople (the “Second Rome”) over Constantinople’s support for a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church based in Kiev, sought for above all by Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, the creation of which will mean breaking apart of the present Russian Orthodox Church in both Russia and Ukraine.
So what we have is:
—the revelation of hidden faults, sins and crimes, with all the horror that revelation causes
—the spectacle of powerful men humbled
—the spread of confusion, doubt and division and
—no consensus or clarity yet about what the best course for the Church is or ought to be.
All of this suggests that… the mystery of Fatima is still unfolding, mysteriously, 101 years after the six apparitions to the three shepherd children in 1917.
The time seems to be drawing near for a much-needed and long-delayed… consecration — to return each of our individual lives and the life of the whole of humanity to an ancient yet ever-new path in search of… in seeking… God… in devotion to… what is good, what is noble, what is just, what is holy… so that a world gone mad in the never-sated desire for self-glorification, self-gratification, leading inevitably, unavoidably, to frustration and misery, might be… made new.
That time will come, and when it does, a healing supernatural wind, a spiritual light, will illumine the hearts and souls of men, and they will understand that they have been chasing in vain illusions and shadows that gave them nothing of what their hearts desired, but only enslaved them, and there will be a new time in the Church and in the world, a time of the gentle breeze, of true freedom, of integrity, of the Logos, and of peace.
Eight facets of a story
1) A delegation of American bishops will be received tomorrow, September 13, by Pope Francis. The meeting was requested more than two weeks ago by the president of the US Bishops’ Conference, the Archbishop of Houston, Texas, Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo. Many observers had wondered at the long delay by the Pope in agreeing to receive the U.S. bishops.
But just as the meeting was being announced, a story broke in Texas alleging that Cardinal Di Nardo himself had not acted effectively after learning of allegations that a priest had sexually molested two young people. Here is that story:
Abuse scandal hits diocese of cardinal set to meet with pope
BY NOMAAN MERCHANT
September 12, 2018 05:53 PM
As U.S. Catholic leaders head to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis about a growing church abuse crisis, the cardinal leading the delegation has been accused by two people of not doing enough to stop a priest who was arrested this week on sexual abuse charges.
The two people told The Associated Press that they reported the priest and met with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
One of them says she was promised in a meeting with DiNardo, several years after she first reported abuse, that the priest would be removed from any contact with children, only to discover that the priest remained in active ministry at another parish 70 miles away.
The priest, Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, was arrested Tuesday by police in Conroe, Texas. Both people who spoke to the AP are cooperating with police.
The priest’s arrest and allegations that DiNardo kept an abusive priest around children cast a shadow over a Thursday summit at the Vatican between Pope Francis and American bishops and cardinals.
LaRosa-Lopez, 60, is accused of fondling both people when they were teenagers and he was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe. He is charged with four counts of indecency with a child. Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
LaRosa-Lopez is now the pastor at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond while also serving as the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for Hispanics.
The archdiocese issued a statement Wednesday confirming that both people had come forward to report abuse by LaRosa-Lopez, one of them in 2001. The archdiocese said it reported both allegations to the state Child Protective Services, and said it was unaware of any other “allegations of inappropriate conduct involving minors” against the priest. A spokesman for CPS on Wednesday declined to comment, citing confidentiality of the reports. LaRosa-Lopez did not immediately return a phone message left Wednesday.
“To anyone affected by any form of abuse by anyone who represents the Church, the Archdiocese deeply regrets such a fundamental violation of trust, and commits itself to eliminating such unacceptable actions,” the archdiocese said.
Both accusers who say they went to DiNardo are now in their 30s.
The Associated Press typically does not identify victims in sexual abuse cases, and both people asked that their names be withheld.
One was flown by the church from the West Coast to Houston to meet with DiNardo and the victims’ assistance coordinator for the archdiocese.
They met at the archdiocese on the afternoon of Aug. 10, just as he was taking on a greater role nationally in responding to the McCarrick saga.
The man wrote down notes from the meeting quickly after leaving, and shared a copy of the notes with AP.
“Cardinal seemed dismissive of situation,” the notes read. He also wrote down what he says is a quote from DiNardo: “You should have told us sooner.”
“It was a dismissive tone,” he recalled. “In the back of my head, I was thinking about his comment. I was so mad afterward.”
The male victim said he became interested as a teenager in joining the clergy and going to seminary. He started to attend Mass and got to know LaRosa-Lopez. Eventually, he got a job where he worked nights at Sacred Heart as an assistant.
He remembered LaRosa-Lopez being known as “touchy-feely,” and that the priest’s contact with him became more physical over time: first touching on the arm, then hugging, then a kiss on the cheek.
One night, he said, the priest showed him pictures of young seminarians that “he had a lot of fun with,” and tried to take the teenager’s clothes off and put his hands down his pants. He pushed back and quickly left the residence. He said he reported the incident to church authorities last year.
The archdiocese said Wednesday it was “formally presented” with the allegation in August.
2) The Vatican has issued a statement on September 10 announcing that a response to Archbishop Vigano’s “Testimony” is presently being drafted and will “soon” be made public.
This marks the end of a period marked by official Vatican silence with regard to Vigano’s charges.
So this will give us the first outlines of a Vatican response to the charges, and indicate whether that response will be to accept and take action on what Vigano has so forcefully denounced, or to deny that what Vigano has alleged is true, or some more nuanced position intermediary between those two positions.
Here is a story about this planned Vatican response.
Vatican prepares response to Vigano (link)
The Tablet / 10 September 2018 | by Christopher Lamb
The Vatican is preparing to issue a response to an explosive dossier of allegations that Pope Francis covered up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of priests and seminarians.
A statement released by the Pope’s council of nine cardinals said it was “aware that in the current debate” of recent weeks the Holy See is about to issue “necessary clarifications”.
The council also expressed their “full solidarity” with the Pope after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released an 11-page dossier calling on Francis to resign and accusing him of being informed about McCarrick’s behaviour.
The former papal ambassador to Washington claimed he was told Francis knew about sanctions placed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI in 2009 or 2010.
But the document – an unprecedented attack on the papacy from inside the Vatican – was coloured by claims about “homosexual networks” inside the Church and included a slew of accusations against Francis’ allies. Furthermore, the restrictions placed on McCarrick were unenforced, and Archbishop Viganò has admitted they were “private”.
When asked about the allegations, Francis said he would not say a “single word” about them, but that did not rule out an institutional response from the Holy See.
Archbishop Viganò writes that the Vatican was aware of McCarrick allegations in 2000, but despite that was named Archbishop of Washington and made a cardinal in 2001. He continued to be an influential power-broker in the Church after his retirement in 2006.
The statement from the C9 today also said it had asked the Pope to reflect on the “work, structure and composition” of the council given the “advanced age” of some of its members.
Five of the council include cardinals who have reached or passed the retirement age of 75: Francisco Errázuriz Ossa, 84, Laurent Monsengwo, 78, George Pell, 77, Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, 75, Giuseppe Bertello, 75.
After allegations that Archbishop McCarrick was accused of abusing a minor emerged this summer, Francis authorised McCarrick’s removal from ministry and the removal of his red hat.
3) The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will convene the heads of all the world’s episcopal conferences in Rome from February 21 to 24, 2019, to discuss and craft a global Catholic strategy for dealing with the problem of clerical sexual abuse. This suggests that Francis has no plans to resign in the near future. (link)
Here is a story on this initiative (the story also has informationa about a new Apostolic Constitution the Pope is working on to reform the work of the roman Curia):
Pope to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops’ leaders (link)
By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
9.12.2018 8:48 AM ET
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops’ conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
The Vatican made the announcement Sept. 12 after the pope and members of his international Council of Cardinals wrapped up three days of meetings.
After hearing from his council, the pope “decided to convoke a meeting with the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the protection of minors,” the council said in a written communique.
The members present “extensively reflected together with the Holy Father on the matters of abuse” during their deliberations Sept. 10-12. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also updated those present with the commission’s ongoing efforts.
Three of the nine council members were absent for the meetings: Cardinal George Pell, 77, who currently is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 85, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October.
The six present for the September meeting were: Cardinals O’Malley, 74; Pietro Parolin, 63, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 75, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Oswald Gracias, 73, of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, 64, of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, 75, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
The papally appointed group of nine cardinal members, the so-called C9, has been tasked with helping advise the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance.
The council said in its communique that, concerning work on the reform of the Curia, it finished “rereading the texts already prepared (and) also called attention to the pastoral care of personnel who work there,” in the Roman Curia.
Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that a major part of the council’s work was making final changes to the draft of the apostolic constitution that would govern the Curia.
The document, provisionally titled “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), is still set for further “stylistic editing” and canonical review, she said.
Pope Francis reviewed for his considerations the finalized draft at their last meeting in June.
The draft document emphasizes four points: the Curia is at the service of the pope and the local churches throughout the world; the work of the Curia must have a pastoral character; the new section in the Vatican Secretariat of State would oversee the training, assigning and ministry of Vatican nuncios and diplomats around the world; and the proclamation of the Gospel and a missionary spirit must characterize the activity of the Curia.
Garcia Ovejero reiterated the council’s last written statement from Sept. 10 in which the members asked Pope Francis for a reflection on “the work, structure and composition of the council itself, also taking into account the advanced age of some of its members.”
The six again “expressed full solidarity with Pope Francis for what has happened in the last few weeks,” she said.
In response to questions, she said there was no word yet on the expected release of the “possible and necessary clarifications” the council said were being formulated by the Holy See given the current debate on abuse in the church.
The council will meet again Dec. 10-12.
4) A new report in Germany, to be discussed publicly by the bishops of Germany on September 25, has been released detailing more than 3,000 cases of clerical sexual molestation, most involving young boys, over the past half century in Germany. (link)
Here is a Reuters story on the matter:
SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 / 8:22 AM / UPDATED 13 HOURS AGO
Catholic Church admits ‘shameful’ legacy of abuse after study leaked (link)
By Riham Alkousaa
BERLIN (Reuters) – The Catholic Church in Germany acknowledged a “depressing and shameful” legacy of sexual abuse on Wednesday after a leaked study said clerics had abused thousands of children over a 70-year period.
The document, commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, revealed that 1,670 clerics and priests had sexually abused 3,677 minors, mostly males, in the country between 1946 and 2014, Der Spiegel said.
The news magazine quoted a leaked copy of the study, which was compiled by three German universities.
Bishop of Trier Stephan Ackermann said the Church was aware of the extent of abuse demonstrated by the study’s results.
“It is depressing and shameful for us,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
The leaked study was published on the day that Pope Francis, who has made several attempts to tackle a spreading sexual abuse crisis that has badly tarnished the Church’s image, summoned senior bishops from around the world to the Vatican to discuss the protection of minors.
The Vatican had no immediate comment on the Spiegel report.
The magazine said the study, which examined more than 38,000 files from 27 dioceses, showed more than half of the victims were aged 13 years or under when they were abused.
5) A new piece of precise evidence on the timeline of when the Vatican learned about the Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual molestations.
Here is a story on the matter:
Letter confirms Vatican officials knew of McCarrick allegations in 2000 (link)
September 7, 2018
By Robert Duncan and Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A top official from the Vatican Secretariat of State acknowledged allegations made by a New York priest in 2000 concerning Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, according to a letter obtained by Catholic News Service.
Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church Yorkville in New York City, told CNS Sept. 7 that he received the letter dated Oct. 11, 2006, from then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs, asking for information regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was being vetted for a post at a Vatican office. He made the letter available to CNS.
Then-Archbishop Sandri wrote to Father Ramsey, “I ask with particular reference to the serious matters involving some of the students of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, which in November 2000 you were good enough to bring confidentially to the attention of the then Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, the late Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.”
Father Ramsey had been on the faculty of the seminary from 1986 to 1996 and had sent a letter in 2000 to Archbishop Montalvo informing him of complaints he heard from seminarians studying at the seminary, located in South Orange, New Jersey.
In the letter, Father Ramsey told CNS, “I complained about McCarrick’s relationships with seminarians and the whole business with sleeping with seminarians and all of that; the whole business that everyone knows about,” Father Ramsey said.
Father Ramsey said he assumed the reason the letter from then-Archbishop Sandri, who is now a cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, only mentioned “serious matters involving ” seminarians and not McCarrick’s behavior was because accusations against the former cardinal were “too sensitive.”
“My letter November 22, 2000, was about McCarrick and it wasn’t accusing seminarians of anything; it was accusing McCarrick.”
While Father Ramsey has said he never received a formal response to the letter he sent in 2000, he told CNS he was certain the letter had been received because of the note he got from then-Archbishop Sandri in 2006 acknowledging the allegations he had raised in 2000.
The 2006 letter not only confirms past remarks made by Father Ramsey, but also elements of a document written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016.
6) A new reconstruction by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, a strong supporter of Pope Francis, of the timeline of when the Vatican acted on reports of former Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual molestations. His main point is that there were no true “sanctions” placed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict, so the charge made by Vigano that Pope Francis “rehabilitated” a “sanctioned” McCarrick was not true. In fact, the precise truth about all of this still remains unclear. Still, even if Benedict only placed “mild sanctions” on McCarrick, none at all remained — seemingly — under Francis.
Here is Tornielli’s piece:
McCarrick, Benedict’s first request (and not sanction) in 2007 (link)
A source in the United States reveals that already at the end of that year  the nuncio recommended the cardinal-harasser to keep a “low profile” and retire to live in prayer. Sambi urged the cardinal several times, but never gave him formal orders
September 11, 2018
By ANDREA TORNIELLI, SALVATORE CERNUZIO
That of Benedict XVI on Theodore McCarrick was not a “sanctionˮ, nor a formal order: it was a request, an authoritative recommendation most likely communicated to the interested party on behalf of the Pope already at the end of 2007.
McCarrick took a year to comply with Pope Ratzinger’s request to leave the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Washington, and never really took seriously the “keep a low profile” request nor that to retire to live in prayer.
Certainly the nuncio Pietro Sambi, a faithful executor of the papal will as well as an example of an obedient diplomat, made several attempts before convincing McCarrick but never succeeded in obtaining his adherence to the Pontiff’s will.
This is what emerges from the latest statements of a new source that has had direct knowledge of the events that took place between 2007 and 2011 in Washington.
The Viganò affair, which has brought to light the underestimations and mismanagement of the McCarrick case over the last twenty years, is slowly becoming clearer: it is clear that the former nuncio to the United States has cited dates and documents in his possession (or that have passed before his eyes) on which there is no reason to doubt. But it is now equally evident – and this is proven – that the author of the “memorandumˮ has been selective in recounting his memories.
When Viganò in fact organizes his memoirs, they appear unilaterally formulated to damage Francis, shifting all responsibility onto him, even at the cost of making Saint John Paul II pass for a Pope unsound of mind already in 2000, or to justify Pope Ratzinger’s lack of sanctions against McCarrick for of his “mild” character.
The biased use of half-truths and a careful dosage of omissis seriously compromise the accusatory structure of the former nuncio’s memorial: it is a fact.
Let’s take time to analyze two of the most striking examples: according to Viganò’s communiqué Benedict XVI would have “sanctioned” the US cardinal, and that those same sanctions would have been removed after the election of Francis.
Since the falsehood of the assumption has been proven (McCarrick did not change his life, except for a short time when he only pretended to have changed his life, to then continue to travel and even meet Pope Ratzinger several times in Rome), Viganò was forced to correct himself, claiming that Benedict’s sanctions did exist, but McCarrick did not obey to them and the Pope did not enforce them.
Everything suggests, however, that it was not a matter of sanctions and that, therefore, Francis did not remove anything.
The second example relates to the famous first flash encounter between the then nuncio to the United States and the new Pope, on 21 June 2013: Viganò writes that Francis did not even let him introduce himself and proved aggressive with him.
But even on this, the prelate does not remember correctly and is denied by the television images.
The question is: if Viganò has imprecise and unilaterally-addressed memories against the current Pope such as in the two cases mentioned above, can he be considered fully reliable when he reports on the conversation he had with Francis during the first audience, on 23 June 2013?
Were the words used really those that Viganò refers to, or, as in the two cases cited above, has the former nuncio been biased?
Let us go back to Benedict XVI “private request”.
In his “communiqué”, Viganò gives a hypothetical date, 2009-2010 – on the grounds that since the matter had not come to his knowledge as Delegate for the pontifical representations – therefore assuming that these decisions were taken (with inexplicable delay) only after his transfer from the Secretariat of State to the Governorate.
But actually, a new witness — who asks for anonymity — reveals to Vatican Insider that the first communication to McCarrick with the invitation to leave the Redemptoris Mater seminary and the recommendation to live withdrawn in prayer took place in December 2007.
“I can assure you that this happened in December 2007. The then nuncio to the United States, Pietro Sambi, transmitted to Cardinal McCarrick this disposition communicated to him by Rome, by the then Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re”.
Let’s pay attention to the dates: we are at the end of 2007, two and a half years after the election of Benedict XVI.
At that moment, giving credit to the reconstruction of the former nuncio’s “memorandumˮ , a year before the Vatican received former priest Gregory Littleton’s memorandum, transmitted to the Secretariat of State by the nuncio Sambi.
If the American source consulted by Vatican Insider who had a direct knowledge of the facts remembers exactly, we must assume that Pope Ratzinger’s request-recommendation is transmitted for the first time to McCarrick after the Littlelton case but before Richard Sipe’s online publication of the “Statement for Pope Benedict XVI about the pattern of sexual crisis abuse in the United States”, in which reference is also made to McCarrick’s improper behavior and abusive attitude with seminarians, dated 23 April 2008.
In 2007 McCarrick had resided for over a year in the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Washington, which is part of the Neocatechumenal Way but is owned by the diocese.
He moved there in July 2006, a month after the completion of this enormous complex, which is more like a campus rather than a diocesan institute, built by the will of the same cardinal.
The project of the Redemptoris Mater, which stands on a property previously belonging to the order of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Lasallians), included a wing reserved exclusively for the cardinal where he could live, eat and sleep. An area separate from the rest of the seminary, accessible only through a personal electronic code. In short, McCarrick did not attend the seminary, nor did he have contact with the seminarians.
It is worth recalling, moreover, another aspect little emphasized in the chronicles of these days: there does not seem to be any formal or informal complaints, rumors or suspicions – at least as far as we know up to now – that attest or even leads to the assumption of McCarrick’s inappropriate behavior during his episcopate in Washington and in the years following his withdrawal.
Which should come as no surprise: it is highly probable that the new archbishop of Washington, immediately created cardinal, realized the enormous visibility that the new position entailed, as well as the closeness to the political power and to the White House, which certainly put him under observation.
Moreover, as this article in the Washington Post attests, the cardinal harasser was at the time considered in public opinion as a champion of the “zero-toleranceˮ policy against child abuse.
From the testimonies gathered so far on McCarrick’s attitude after he left the leadership of the diocese, it only emerges that the cardinal was a “heavy” and not easily manageable presence.
Let us return to the indication of the nuncio, transmitted orally to McCarrick at the end of 2007.
An indication directly attributable to the will of Benedict XVI and probably transmitted by him to the Secretary of State Bertone or directly to the Prefect of the Bishops, Cardinal Re.
If Pope Ratzinger decided to communicate this request to McCarrick it means — obviously — that he had become aware of the accusations against the cardinal, even though he preferred a mild form of measure, motivated by the fact that the former archbishop of Washington was already old and emeritus, as well as by the fact that the denunciations and the reports that concerned him were related to the past and did not concern reports of child abuse.
Benedict therefore chose this mild and not too restrictive path for McCarrick because he “did not want a public scandal”, as reported by the National Catholic Register citing a source close to the Pope Emeritus.
That Benedict had been warned of the cardinal’s problematic behavior could also be deduced from the fact that, in 2006, he had accepted the resignation of the cardinal archbishop, who had turned 75 the previous year but was in good health and it was plausible he could remain in office for at least another year.
The fact that in 2007 Viganò, at the time Delegate for the Papal Representations, did not receive any written note or any report (if that had happened, he would have declared it in his press release, and would not have indicated an alleged and later date) attests to the confidential and private nature of Benedict XVI’s recommendation.
What happens then?
Several months passed before the cardinal decided to abandon the seminary.
So much so that Sambi himself would have asked for help from some of his close collaborators to convince McCarrick to leave and retire to private life.
The nuncio, with the people to whom he had addressed himself, would not have made any explicit reference to abuses of seminarians, but would still have alluded to “serious accusations”.
Only after the end of the summer of 2008 did the cardinal begin his move to the parish of St. Thomas.
To those who, inside or outside the Redemptoris Mater seminary, asked him the reason for the transfer, McCarrick answered laconically: “Rome asked me to leave the seminary”, without giving further details.
Another detail that should not be overlooked: the visit of Benedict XVI to the United States, in April 2008, that touched the cities of Washington and New York.
At the meeting with the bishops of the country, which took place in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on 16 April, McCarrick was sitting in the front row among the cardinals.
What happens between the end of 2007 and July 27, 2011, the date of nuncio Sambi’s death?
In his “testimonyˮ Viganò writes that “Pope Benedict imposed the above canonical sanctions on McCarrick and that they were communicated to him by the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Pietro Sambi. Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, then first Counsellor of the Nunciature in Washington and Chargé d’Affaires a.i. after the unexpected death of Nuncio Sambi in Baltimore, told me when I arrived in Washington and he is ready to testify to it about a stormy conversation, lasting over an hour, that Nuncio Sambi had with Cardinal McCarrick whom he had summoned to the Nunciature. Monsignor Lantheaume told me that “the Nuncio’s voice could be heard all the way out in the corridor.”
Viganò’s words show that Sambi’s interventions on McCarrick were more than one, and took place at different times.
It should be noted in fact that Monsignor Lantheaume – who today has left the diplomatic service of the Holy See – arrived at the Washington nunciature no earlier than the middle of the year 2010 (in fact he appears for the first time in service in Washington in the 2011 Pontifical Yearbook).
Since he refers to a fact that he would have witnessed in person, in agreement with the new American source we must assume that the meetings between Sambi and McCarrick were more than one and that at a certain point the nuncio lost his temper because of the lack of obedience on the part of the cardinal, not at all willing to change his life in the face of what evidently was “just” a request of the Pontiff and not an absolute order, let alone a real canonical sanction.
It should not be forgotten that from the first communication at the end of 2007, until the end of Ratzinger’s pontificate, more than five years had passed.
Years during which McCarrick continued to participate in public events, to travel to Rome, to meet Benedict XVI himself.
It is also confirmed that, while Sambi appears to be insisting, and even shouting, raising his voice in front of the cardinal, in the period when Viganò was nuncio to the United States during Benedict XVI’s pontificate (November 2011 – February 2013) he tells us in “testimonyˮ that he only spoke once with McCarrick to transmit again the recommendations of Benedict XVI.
He, unlike Sambi, does not seem to have insisted.
Viganò actually praises publicly McCarrick as happens in May 2012.
In short, the former nuncio seems to have a more positive attitude towards the cardinal harasser than that of Sambi.
Finally, looking at the more general context of the political-media operation put in place on the day on which Francis celebrated the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, several of the supporters of Viganò today tend not to emphasize the request for resignation made by the former nuncio.
A request that demonstrates from the part of those who conceived it, those who signed it, and then publicly supported it, a singular conception of the nature of the Church, reduced to a mere corporation, with the managing director subject to the vote of no confidence of the shareholders.
It is interesting to note that from the American conservative front, the voice of an influential ideologist of the Trump era and of sovereignty has emerged precisely on this point: Steve Bannon, certainly not suspected of having sympathy for Pope Francis, he told Reuters: “This is as serious as it gets. We can’t have memos and letters and accusations. The pope is from an unbroken chain the Vicar of Christ on Earth. You don’t just sit there and say, ‘I think you should resign’”.
Catholic words, which did not resonate in the statements of the American bishops who intervened immediately after the publication of Viganò’s “memorandumˮ to support the credibility of the former nuncio.
7) And a report by American Orthodox (formerly Catholic) journalist Rod Dreher about the presentation in Rome yesterday of his book The Benedict Option in Rome yesterday. At the presentation, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, personal sectretary of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, made astonishing comments which have raised eyebrows around the world.
Here is Dreher’s report, followed by the full test of Gaenswein’s comments
Benedict XVI & The Benedict Option (link)
By ROD DREHER • September 11, 2018, 3:36 PM
Hello from Rome, where there was something of an earthquake this morning.
The De Gasperi Foundation held an invitation-only conference in Rome’s House of Deputies this morning, to discuss The Benedict Option.
I gave a talk, and then gave the floor to Archbishop Georg Gänswein. He is the prefect of the papal household, but more importantly, is the longtime personal secretary to Benedict XVI.
I was extremely curious to know what he would have to say about my book, as I have not hidden the fact that Benedict XVI is “the second Benedict of The Benedict Option.
What Monsignor Gänswein said was nothing short of astounding. An Italian journalist just texted me to say:
I assure you that a lot of people in Rome and all over the Catholic world are stunned by those remarks. Exactly because it clearly means approval [of The Benedict Option] by BXVI …
Here are highlights from the Italian original [of Gaenswein’s text], translated with Google and with the help of Italian-speaking friends:
1. It is “an act of Divine Providence” that we are having this conference today, on September 11, because the sex abuse scandal is the Catholic Church’s own 9/11.
2. No churches have been destroyed (so far) by terrorists, but symbolically, US churches (“all the churches of Pennsylvania, along with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington”) have “collapsed” because of the “mortal wounds” delivered to souls by “priests of the Catholic Church.” [The basilica cite might be a reference to Cardinal Wuerl]
3. “I remember as if it were yesterday when on April 16, 2008, accompanying Pope Benedict XVI right in that National Shrine of the Catholic Church in the United States of America, he touchingly tried to shake the bishops convened from all the United States: he spoke bent over the ‘profound shame’ caused by ‘the sexual abuse of minors by priests’ and ‘the immense sorrow your communities have suffered when men of the Church have betrayed their priestly duties and duties with such grossly unethical behavior.’ But evidently in vain, as we see today. The lament of the Holy Father was not able to contain the evil, nor the formal assurances and the commitments in words of a large part of the hierarchy.”
4. Mons. Gänswein said that reading The Benedict Option, he thought a lot about the following words that Benedict XVI said on the flight back to Rome from Fatima on May 11, 2010:
“The Lord told us that the Church would always be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world. […] As for the news that we can discover today (in this third secret of the Fatima message), there is also the fact that not only are the Pope and the Church attacked from outside, but the sufferings of the Church come from interior of the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a truly terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but arises from sin in the Church.”
5. Talking about the collapse of churchgoing in his home country, Germany, Mons. Gänswein contrasted that to the picture BXVI gave in these 2005 remarks to a meeting in Bari.
The pope talked about the arrest in the year 304 of a group of Christians as they prayed in church.
The Emperor Diocletian had forbidden them from gathering on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist, and to build churches.
In the North African town of Abitene, 49 Christians were arrested during Sunday worship. They told their captors that they could not live without the Eucharist — and they were all martyred for their faith.
Today, though, very few Catholics in Germany can bother to get out of bed on Sunday to go to mass.
6. Speaking in a frankly apocalyptic vein, BXVI’s secretary — think of that! — said these days make him think of the Bible’s warnings that in the Last Days, believers will see “the abomination of desolation in the holy place.” He said that he wonders, along with Cardinal Eijk of the Netherlands, if the Church is facing its final trial before the Second Coming.
7. Mons. Gänswein praised my coverage of the Catholic abuse scandal, saying that I am “a man who completely corresponds to the desires and tastes of Pope Francis, because no one else in Rome knows better than he that the crisis of the Church, in its core, is a crisis of the clergy. And so the time has come for the strong and determined laymen, especially in the new independent Catholic media, as embodied by Rod Dreher.”
8. He said that since his retirement, BXVI has considered himself to be an “old monk” spending all his time praying for the Church and the world.
Mons. Gänswein offers as BXVI’s response the Pope Emeritus’s 2008 lecture to the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.
The entire point of the Benedictine mission, the pope said, was “quarere Deum” — to search for God. Everything else followed from that.
Along those lines, the archbishop highlights The Benedict Option’s claim that this general crisis of disbelief roiling the Christian world — not just the Catholic one — may actually save our souls by forcing us to draw nearer to God.
Mons. Gänswein said, of the book:
…it does not contain a ready answer. In it you will not find an infallible recipe or a master key to reopen all those doors that until now were accessible to us but that are now slamming shut again. Between the first and the last cover you will find, however, an authentic example of what Pope Benedict said 10 years ago about the Benedictine spirit of the beginnings. It is a real “Quaerere Deum”. It is that search for the true God of Isaac and of Jacob who, in Jesus Christ, has shown his human face.
9. Many people are saying today that the Church is finished, that she cannot recover, said Gänswein. However:
And this is the hour when Rod Dreher from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, presents his book near the tombs of the Apostles; and, in the midst of the eclipse of God who is terrifying all over the world, he comes among us and says: “The Church is not dead, but only sleeps and rests”.
And not only this: the Church “is young” also seems to tell us, and with that joy and freedom with which Benedict XVI said it in the Mass for the beginning of the Petrine ministry on April 24, 2005.
Recalling once again the suffering and the death of Saint John Paul II of which he had been a collaborator for so many years, addressing each one of us in St Peter’s Square, said:
“It was precisely in the sad days of the Pope’s illness and death that this manifested itself in a marvelous way in our eyes: that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. It carries within itself the future of the world and therefore also shows each of us the path to the future. The Church is alive and we see it: we experience the joy that the Risen One has promised to his own. The Church is alive – she is alive, because Christ is alive, because he has truly risen. In pain, present on the face of the Holy Father on Easter days, we contemplated the mystery of the passion of Christ and together touched his wounds. But in all these days we have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One. We have been given the opportunity to experience the joy that he promised, after a short period of darkness, as the fruit of his resurrection .”
10. His concluding lines:
Therefore I have to confess sincerely that I perceive this time of great crisis, one that is evident to everyone, mostly as a time of grace. In the end, we will be “set free” not by a specific effort, but by the “truth”, as the Lord assured us.
Within this hope, I look at the recent accounts made by Rod Dreher for the “purification of the memory” requested by John Paul II; and hence, with gratitude, I read his “Benedict Option”, as a marvelous source of inspiration. In these last few weeks, nothing else has provided me as much consolation.
Here is a man at the pinnacle of the Catholic Church, a man who loyally served Pope Benedict XVI (and who now serves Pope Francis as head of his household), speaking in apocalyptic terms about the sex abuse scandal and the general loss of faith across the West.
He praised my work on the Catholic scandal, and the work of independent Catholic journalists.
He said that The Benedict Option is a prophetic work, “a marvelous source of inspiration,” and the source of the greatest consolation to him as he grapples with the meaning of the scandals.
Note well: my book is not a counsel of despair, but of hope, real hope! So says the longtime top aide to Benedict XVI. Now will you people who have set opinions about The Benedict Option without having read it actually open the thing?
My gratitude to Monsignor Gänswein — one of Joseph Ratzinger’s closest friends and colleagues — for his words about my book cannot be measured.
The monsignor said in his talk that in reading the book, he got the sense that much of it was written in constant dialogue with Benedict XVI.
Well, he’s right about that — but then, most of what I think and write is in some real sense a dialogue with that old monk living in the Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican.
UPDATE: Here is a translation of the entire speech, courtesy of Catholic News Agency (link):
The “Nine-Eleven” of the Catholic Church
By Archbishop Dr. Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household
Thank you very much for the invitation to this esteemed House, which I accepted gladly, to present this book by the American author Rod Dreher, of which I had already heard a lot.
The great monk from Norcia, who gave the book its programmatic title, made it very appealing for me to come here. But I was also touched and moved by the date on which we are meeting with this daring author here in Rome.
For it is September 11th, which in America – since the Fall of 2001 – has only been referred to as “9/11” in reference to that apocalyptic disaster in which members of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda attacked the United States of America as the whole world watched, in New York and Washington – using fully occupied passenger planes, which they had captured in-flight, as missiles.
The more time I spent reading the book of Rod Dreher during the hurricane of news over these past few weeks, the more I grew to understand our meeting tonight as purely an act of providence, following the publication of the report of the grand jury of Pennsylvania, on which now the Catholic Church too must cast a horrified glance at what constitutes its own “Nine-Eleven”, even if this catastrophe unfortunately is not only occurred on a single day, but over many days and years, and affecting countless victims.
Please do not make the mistake of misconstruing my remarks. I am neither comparing the victims nor the numbers of abuse cases in the Catholic Church with those 2,996 innocent people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 9, 2001.
No one has (to this date) attacked the Church of Christ by passenger plane. St. Peter’s is still standing, as are the cathedrals of France, Germany or Italy, which are still the landmarks of many cities in the western world, from Florence to Chartres, from Cologne to Munich.
And yet, the recent news from America, where so many souls have been permanently and mortally injured by priests of the Catholic Church, is worse than any news could be of Pennsylvania’s churches suddenly collapsing, along with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
And yet I remember, as though it were just yesterday, how I accompanied Pope Benedict XVI on 16 April 2008 to this National Shrine of the Catholic Church in the United States of America, where he so touchingly tried to rouse the bishops of that country by describing to them the “deep shame” caused by the “sexual abuse of minors by priests”, and “the enormous pain that your congregations have suffered as clergy have betrayed their priestly duties and responsibilities through such gravely immoral behavior.”
It was probably in vain, as we see today. The lament of the Holy Father could not stop the evil and not even the lip service of a large part of the hierarchy.
And now Rod Dreher is here, among us, who begins his book with the words: “No one saw the Great Flood coming”.
In the Acknowledgements, he dedicates his book, in a certain way, to Pope Benedict XVI.
And it seems to me that in large parts he wrote it in a sort of quiet dialogue with the silent Papa emerito, referring to his analytical and prophetic power, when he writes: “In 2012, the then-pontiff said that the spiritual crisis overtaking the West is the most serious since the fall of the Roman Empire near the end of the fifth century. The light of Christianity is flickering out all over the West.”
I would therefore, if I may, like to complement the presentation of the “Benedict Option” by Rod Dreher with a few memorable words from the mouth of Benedict XVI during his ministry; words that I was reminded of when I read the book, for instance those of May 11, 2010, when he entrusted the following to the journalists accompanying him on the flight to Fatima:
“The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world. … As for the new things which we can find in this message [the third secret of Fatima, ed.] today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church.”
At that time, he had already been pope for five years.
More than five years earlier – on 25 March 2005 – Cardinal Ratzinger had already found the following words at the 9th Station of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at the Colosseum, before the dying John Paul II:
“Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused!
“What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!
“How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency!
“What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion.
“His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us.”
We had learned earlier, from St. John Paul II, that in our historical hour the true and perfect ecumenism was the ecumenism of the martyrs, allowing us to call, in our need, upon St. Edith Stein next to Dietrich Bonhoeffer as intercessors in heaven.
But as we now know, there is also an ecumenism of need and secularization, and an ecumenism of unbelief and common flight from God and the Church across all denominations.
And an ecumenism of the eclipse of God in general.
We are only now witnessing the watershed of an epochal change that Dreher had already prophesied in the US a year ago. He saw the Great Flood coming!
But he also notes that the eclipse of God does not mean that God no longer exists.
Rather, it means that many no longer recognize God, because shadows have been cast before the Lord.
Today it is the shadows of sins and of transgressions and crimes from within the Church that for many darken His brilliant presence.
In the process of this darkening, the phenomenon of what in German is called the Volkskirche – a “popular church” to which everyone belonged, something which we were still born into, but that never existed in America as it did in Europe — has long since died. Does that sound too dramatic to you?
The number of people turning their back on the Church is dramatic.
Even more dramatic, however, is another statistic: According to the most recent surveys, of the Catholics who have not yet left the Church in Germany, only 9.8 percent still meet on Sunday in their places of worship to celebrate the Blessed Eucharist together.
This brings to mind Pope Benedict’s very first journey after his election. On May 29, 2005, on the banks of the Adriatic Sea, he reminded the predominantly youthful audience that Sunday is a “weekly celebration of Easter”, thereby expressing the identity of the Christian community and the center of its life and mission. However, the theme of the Eucharistic Congress (“We cannot live without Sunday”) goes back to the year 304, when Emperor Diocletian forbade Christians under death penalty to possess Holy Scripture, to meet on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist, and to construct rooms for their meetings.
“In Abitene, a small village in present-day Tunisia, 49 Christians were taken by surprise one Sunday while they were celebrating the Eucharist, gathered in the house of Octavius Felix, thereby defying the imperial prohibitions. They were arrested and taken to Carthage to be interrogated by the Proconsul Anulinus.
“Significant among other things is the answer a certain Emeritus gave to the Proconsul who asked him why on earth they had disobeyed the Emperor’s severe orders. He replied: Sine dominico non possumus: that is, we cannot live without joining together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. We would lack the strength to face our daily problems and not to succumb.
“After atrocious tortures, these 49 martyrs of Abitene were killed. Thus, they confirmed their faith with bloodshed. They died, but they were victorious: today we remember them in the glory of the Risen Christ.”
In other words, what we, as children of the so-called “popular church”, have come to know as the “Sunday obligation” is, in fact, the precious, unique characteristic of Christians.
And it is much older than any Volkskirche.
Therefore, it is truly an eschatological crisis that the Catholic Church has been in for a long time now, just as my mother and father reckoned they could perceive it in their day – with “horrors of devastation in holy places” – something perhaps every generation in church history recognized from a distance on its own horizon.
Finally, however, some days I felt myself transported back to the days of my childhood – back to my father’s smithy in the Black Forest, where the hammer struck the anvil without ceasing, but did not do so without my father, whose safe hands I trusted like I trust the hands of God.
Obviously, I am not alone in this. In May, the Archbishop of Utrecht in Holland, Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, confessed that the present crisis reminded him of the “final trial” of the Church, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it in paragraph 675, which the Church must undergo before the return of Christ, as a trial that ” will shake the faith of many believers”. The Catechism continues: “The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity.’”
Like an exorcist, Rod Dreher is also familiar with this “mysterium iniquitatis”, as he has proven with his reports over the last few months, in which he also promoted the enlightenment of the scandalous history of the former archbishop of Newark and Washington like perhaps no other journalist.
Yet he is not an investigative reporter.
Neither is he a fantasist, but a sober analyst who has been following the state of the Church and the world alertly and critically for a long time whilst nonetheless retaining an almost childlike, loving view of the world.
That is why Dreher does not present an apocalyptic novel like the famous Lord of the World, with which the British clergyman Robert Hugh Benson shook the Anglo-Saxon world in 1906.
Rather, Dreher’s book resembles a practicable guide to building an ark, because he knows that there is no dam to stop the Great Flood that has been flooding the old Christian Occident since long before yesterday, and to which America belongs for him as a matter of course.
This also makes for a threefold difference between Dreher and Benson: As a typical American, Dreher is firstly more practical than the somewhat eccentric Briton from Cambridge in the period before the First World War.
Secondly, Dreher, as a citizen of Louisiana, has experience with hurricanes.
And thirdly, he is not at all a clergyman, but a layman who does not speak on behalf of others, but out of his own will and zeal for the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ proclaimed for us.
In this sense, he is a man who is entirely after the flavor and taste of Pope Francis, who knows like no one else in Rome does that the crisis of the Church is at its core a crisis of the clergy.
And that now the hour of the sovereign laity has struck, especially in the new and independent Catholic media, as almost embodied by Rod Dreher.
The ease of his portrayal probably has to do with the noble narrative traditions of the southern states of America, which Mark Twain once helped achieve global recognition.
And when I said earlier that I last saw myself again and again as a child in the forge before my father’s hammer blows on the anvil, I must confess that the uncomplicated reading of this weighty book took me again and again into the adventure world of my childhood, where I daydreamed about Tom Sawyer and his friend Huck’ Finn.
Rod Dreher, on the other hand, is not about dreams, but about facts and analyses, which he condenses into sentences like these:
“Psychological Man won decisively and now owns the culture—including most churches—as surely as the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, and other conquering peoples owned the remains of the Western Roman Empire.”
Or this one: “Our scientists, our judges, our princes, our scholars, and our scribes—they are at work demolishing the faith, the family, gender, even what it means to be human. Our barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears of the past for designer suits and smartphones.”
Chapter 3 of his book begins with the words: “You can’t go back to the past, but you can go to Norcia.”
Shortly thereafter he continues – prophetically on topic, but in no way gloatingly – as follows:
“Legend has it that in an argument with a cardinal, Napoleon pointed out that he had the power to destroy the church.
“Your majesty,” the cardinal replied, “we, the clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last eighteen hundred years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”
Four years after sending the Benedictines away from their home of nearly a millennium, Napoleon’s empire was in ruins, and he was in exile. Today, the sound of Gregorian chants can once again be heard in the saint’s hometown…”
In the same Norcia, however, more recently was heard the roar from the depths of that great earthquake that shook the city in August 2016 and ruined the Basilica of St. Benedict in just a few seconds, right down to the front façade.
At about the same time, cloudbursts also flooded the hometown of Rod Dreher on the upper reaches of the Mississippi.
These two dramatic key scenes now stand at the beginning and end of his book, as though based on a divine script – and as if to illustrate a thesis Dreher formulated in Chapter 1: “The reality of our situation is indeed alarming, but we do not have the luxury of doom-and-gloom hysteria. There is a hidden blessing in this crisis, if we will open our eyes to it… The coming storm may be the means through which God delivers us.”
In recent days, the term earthquake was often used to describe the collapse within the Church, and of which I am now saying the Catholic Church has also experienced its “Nine-Eleven.”
Rod Dreher describes the response of the monks of Norcia to the catastrophe that destroyed their abbey in the birthplace of Saint Benedict, in but few words that I must read to you because they are so eloquent:
“The Benedictine monks of Norcia have become a sign to the world in ways I did not anticipate when I began writing this book. In August 2016, a devastating earthquake shook their region. When the quake hit in the middle of the night, the monks were awake to pray matins, and they fled the monastery for the safety of the open-air piazza.
“Father Cassian later reflected that the earthquake symbolized the crumbling of the West’s Christian culture, but that there was a second, hopeful symbol that night. ‘The second symbol is the gathering of the people around the statue of Saint Benedict in the piazza in order to pray,’ he wrote to supporters. ‘That is the only way to rebuild.’”
Given Father Cassian’s testimony, I would like to tell you that Benedict XVI, since his resignation, has understood himself as an old monk who, after February 28, 2013, is committed above all to prayer for Mother Church and his successor, Pope Francis, and for the Petrine ministry founded by Christ himself.
From the monastery Mater Ecclesiae behind the Basilica of St. Peter, the old monk would therefore, considering Dreher’s work, likely point to a speech he gave as acting Pope on 12 September 2008 in the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, in front of the spiritual elite of France.
That was exactly 10 years ago tomorrow, and I would therefore like to briefly present excerpts of this speech to you once again:
“In the great cultural upheaval of the migration period of the Völkerwanderung and the emergence of new structures of state, the monasteries were the place where the treasures of the old culture survived and at the same time a new culture was slowly formed by them,” said Benedict XVI at the time and asked:
“But how did it happen? What motivated men to come together to these places? What did they want? How did they live?
“First and foremost, it must be frankly admitted straight away that it was not their intention to create a culture nor even to preserve a culture from the past. Their motivation was much more basic. Their goal was: Quaerere Deum.
“Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential – to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is…they were seeking the definitive behind the provisional…
“Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times. A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences.
“What gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture.”
These were the words of Pope Benedict XVI on September 12, 2008 about the true “option” of Saint Benedict of Nursia.
Qfter that, all that remains for me to say about Dreher’s book is this: It does not contain a finished answer. There is no panacea, no skeleton key for all the gates that were open to us for so long and have now been thrown shut again. Between these two books covers, however, there is an authentic example of what Pope Benedict said ten years ago about the Benedictine spirit of the beginning.
It is a true “Quaerere Deum”.
It is that search for the true God of Isaac and Jacob, who showed his human face in Jesus of Nazareth.
For this reason, a sentence from chapter 4,21 of the Rule of Saint Benedict comes to my mind, which also pervades and animates the entire book of Dreher as Cantus Firmus. This is the legendary “Nihil amori Christi praeponere”.
That means translated: the love of Christ must come before all else.
It is the key to the whole miracle of occidental monasticism.
Benedict of Nursia was a lighthouse during the migration of peoples, when he saved the Church through the turmoil of time and thus in a certain sense re-founded European civilization.
But now, not only in Europe, but all over the world, we are experiencing for decades a migration of peoples that will never come to an end again, as Pope Francis has clearly recognized and urgently speaks about to our consciences. That is why not everything is different this time, as compared to how it was then.
If the Church does not know how to renew itself again this time with God’s help, then the whole project of our civilization is at stake again. For many it looks as if the Church of Jesus Christ will never be able to recover from the catastrophe of its sin – it almost seems about to be devoured by it.
And this is precisely the hour in which Rod Dreher from Baton-Rouge in Louisiana is presenting his book today near the tombs of the apostles. And during the eclipse of God, which is frightening us all over the world, he steps before us and says: “The Church is not dead, it only sleeps and rests”.
And not only that. The Church is “young”, he seems to say, and he says it so joyfully and freely, as Benedict XVI said when he took over the Petrine ministry on April 24, 2005, when he recalled the suffering and death of Saint John Paul, whose collaborator he had been for so many years. He called out to all of us in St Peter’s Square:
“During those sad days of the Pope’s illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future. The Church is alive, and we are seeing it: we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised his followers.
“The Church is alive – she is alive because Christ is alive, because he is truly risen. In the suffering that we saw on the Holy Father’s face in those days of Easter, we contemplated the mystery of Christ’s Passion and we touched his wounds. But throughout these days we have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One. We have been able to experience the joy that he promised, after a brief period of darkness, as the fruit of his resurrection.”
Even the satanic “Nine-Eleven” of the Universal Catholic Church can not weaken or destroy this truth, the origin of its foundation by the Risen Lord and Victor.
I must therefore honestly confess that I perceive this time of great crisis, which today is no longer hidden from anyone, above all as a time of Grace, because in the end it will not be any special effort that will free us, but only “the Truth”, as the Lord has assured us.
It is in this hope that I look at Rod Dreher’s recent reports on the “purification of memory” which John Paul II entrusted to us, and so I also gratefully read his “Benedict option” as a wonderful inspiration in many respects. In recent weeks, few things have given me so much comfort.
Thank you for your attention.
Translated by Anian Christoph Wimmer
8) American Catholic businessman and media strategist Steve Bannon, a former close advisor of US President Donald Trump (the two have since parted ways) but arguably the single most important figure in assisting Trump in a Catholic, has emerged in Rome to declare that calls for Pope Francis to resign are unwise, as such an action would be destabilizing for the entire Church at a time when the Church needs to be re-stabilized, not de-stabilized. (link)
SEPTEMBER 9, 2018
Pope should not resign, but church abuse tribunal needed: Bannon
By Crispian Balmer
ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis should not resign over allegations he mishandled a sexual abuse scandal, said Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former political strategist who is close to prominent Catholic conservatives.
However, Bannon told Reuters he was working on setting up an independent, non-partisan tribunal to investigate decades of scandals within the U.S. Church, warning that dioceses across the country faced financial ruin because of the wrongdoing.
In a statement that stunned the church, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said last month that Pope Francis should stand down for allegedly covering up for a former U.S. cardinal who was accused of sexually molesting children and adult seminarians.
Some media saw the hands of fierce conservative critics of Francis behind the unprecedented attack on a living pope, including U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is close to Bannon.
Burke told reporters in Rome last week that he was “deeply shaken” by Vigano’s accusations and called for an investigation. But Bannon, himself a Catholic, clearly distanced himself from Vigano, saying a papal resignation was not appropriate.
“This is as serious as it gets. We can’t have memos and letters and accusations. The pope is from an unbroken chain the Vicar of Christ on Earth. You don’t just sit there and say ‘I think you should resign’,” said Bannon during a visit to Rome.
Instead, he said an independent tribunal had to be created to look into every aspect of the multiplying scandals.
“Until we do that, I don’t think people should be snapping to judgments. This is so serious. This is an existential threat to the heart of the institution of the Catholic Church. It is not about doctrine or dogma of the Church,” he said.
Pope Francis has refused to comment on Vigano’s attack, which was the latest blow to the credibility of the Church.
Last month, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years. Other U.S. states have also launched wide-ranging investigations of their own.
Bannon predicted the Church would have to pay millions of dollars in damages, compensation and legal fees.
“You are going to see a tremendous financial liquidation of the Church over the next 10, 15 or 20 years predicated on this scandal,” he said.
Since his election in 2013, conservatives have sharply criticized Francis, saying he has left many faithful confused by pronouncements that the Church should be more welcoming to homosexuals and divorced Catholics and not be obsessed by “culture war” issues such as abortion.
During his time in Rome, Bannon met the head of Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) — a conservative, Catholic-inspired group based in Italy that he supports.
He said he was in contact with “prominent people” in the United States to set up a tribunal and believed it was too important to leave the Church itself to review its failings.
“This has nothing to do with whether you are a liberal Catholic or right-wing traditionalist … It can’t be seen as a political witchhunt.” he said.