The Elephant in the Room

October 19, 2018, Friday, #2

“On the other hand, you can choose to speak.” —Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, appealing in a new open letter, his “Third Testimony,” released this morning in Italy, to his “brother bishops and priests who know that my statements are true and who can so testify, or who have access to documents that can put the matter beyond doubt.” Full text of this new “Third Testimony” here in Italian and English, and below

“Stunning, measured, clear response to Cardinal Ouellet, and through him, to Pope Bergoglio (I dare not use the name of St Francis in referring to him). A clear response from the Holy See is now necessary, yet I’m sure a ‘conspiracy of silence’ will continue. Should actions be taken against Vigano, the Church will, I predict, enter into full schism, demanded by the laity. Bergoglio reportedly said himself he may be the Pope that brings the Church into schism. The corrupted leadership controls the buildings, lands, administrations, and the hierarchy, but the faithful control the money and the manpower. In the end, there is no Church without the faithful. The US Dept of Justice (link) has now entered the fray after the Vatican’s lack of response and actions (other than the upcoming February meeting of Episcopal Conference presidents). Bergoglio has brought this on the Church. As God used secular powers to punish Israel, perhaps the Holy One will further use secular powers to cleanse corruption in the hierarchy. How many more buildings, lands, monies and faithful must be lost before the hierarchy repents in sackcloth and ashes? May God protect His Bride, the Church, and cleanse her of corruption. May God give us a truly Holy, Father, in the Chair of Peter, no matter what it takes. May God purify all our hearts and lead us into righteous lives for the sake of the lost. May we all be salt and light. May He protect and give wisdom to Archbishop Vigano and all the hierarchy. ‘For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?’ (1 Peter‬ ‭4:17‬). ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ (Galatians‬ ‭6:7‬)—Letter received this morning from a reader, Jack Carter, who had just read Archbishop Vigano’s “Third Testimony”

“I just finished a rosary… we are only ones here… I don’t think dad will make it through the night…” —Email from a friend sitting at the bedside of a dying father. Such vigils are kept by many of us, before the end. But we also often keep a similar vigil before new births…

“Master, do you not care that we are about to die?” Meanwhile the apostles, terrified, look each in a different direction and do not realize that Jesus is standing behind them, blessing them and assuredly in command of the boat: “He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still’ … then he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mk 4:38-40). —A passage from the 2nd Testimony of Archbishop Vigano from September 27 (text), which describes how, in the Gospel of Mark, 4:38-40, the disciples, sailing on the Sea of Galilee, see a violent storm approaching and fear they may die, and do not at first realize that Jesus is still with them and still in command of the boat

Total silence

The strange thing about death is its total silence.

The wind of life — simply, abruptly, gone.

The body quickly grows cold. The hands grow cold. The fingers stiffen. There is no breath. The chest does not heave. The lips do not purse in a struggle for air. The eyes, open, simply stare out, motionless. The abyss that is the person, that incomprehensible depth which is another soul, is abruptly a flat surface without depth, a mask, not a face, without movement, without warmth.

Silent.

Life is not silent.

There can be moments of near silence, pregnant pauses, moments where one holds one’s breath in wonder, or in fear. But most of the time there are moments of sound — breathing, exclaiming, gasping, acclaiming, explaining, laughing and, at times, moments of falling tears, moments of wracking sobs. Inconsolable.

Life is breath, movement, noise.

A conspiracy of silence bears the stink of death.

Silence = death.

Truth is life, declares itself, shouts from the housetops, is not silent.

What Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has brought about with his three “Testimonies” —

(1) the initial or “1st” Testimony (complete text also found here) released on the evening of August 25 (many people date it to August 26, the next morning, when it was seen by people as they awakened on that Sunday morning; the text itself is actually dated to August 22, Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary); this is the text that denounced a “culture of (systematic) coverup” of clerical sexual molestation and abuse reaching all the way to the Vatican, and even touching Pope Francis himself, in the case of inaction on maintaining restrictions on the pastoral activity of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick;

(2) the “2nd Testimony,” entitled “Scio cui credidi” (“I know whom I have believed”) a call by Vigano to Cardinal Marc Ouellet to speak out and confirm the truthfulness of his Testimony, dated issued on September 27 on the Lifesitenews website (text here). The text is officially dated September 29, Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. Ouellet responded to Vigano’s appeal with his own letter, where he acknowledged that “restrictions” were placed on disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s public activity, but denied that these could be considered “sanctions;” Ouellet’s text may be found here; a sharp critique of Ouellet’s text by journalist Rod Dreher may be found here; it contains many interesting links and is well worth reading if you would like a quite complete overview of the matter); and

(3) the “3rd Testimony,” issued this morning through Italian journalist Marco Tosatti (text here both in Italian and, further down, in English; the entire text was just emailed in my previous letter) —

is a refreshing splash of life, and truth — even if one might quibble about the precise meaning of one or another term among his many statements — in an ecclesial situation that has become sclerotic, dark, stuffy, closed, neurotic, silent — in the odor of death.

Are Christian men and women so cowardly as to keep silent in the face of scandals that touch the life and souls of children?

Is there something so craven in our piety that we fear to speak the truth to our own spiritual fathers — who have told us openly that they wish us to be mature in the faith, and to help them as they wrestle with the dangers and temptations facing the Church?

Where is our dignity?

Is Vigano alone in the entire Catholic hierarchy?

Are all quivering cowards?

Yes, it appears, total cowardice all around.

Everyone afraid to be reprimanded, removed, fired… everyone afraid to die.

Or rather, everyone afraid to live, really.

Have we forgotten that we are mortal men and women, and we too will have to die?

Have we forgotten that, despite that very real fact of our inevitable mortality, we have the opportunity — the grace! — before we die, to stand up and speak our truth without fear, as Christ did.

Apparently, we needed to be reminded of this — that speaking the truth with courage is our heritage and sacred duty, not something alien and strange to us.

This is what Vigano, by speaking out, has done for us.

This is his greatness, which is really such an ordinary thing.

He is showing us the way to speak up, to end a culture of silence and death in the Church, to begin, very humbly but firmly, to replace that oppressive, sinful, enslaving culture with a culture of life and truth.

And that means making some noise.

He has done that, and continues to do so.

 

Woodward’s Testimony

In this context, I found it useful to read a recent essay by Ken Woodward, a longtime colleague and friend.

I do not agree with everything Woodward writes.

But, I respect him. He has been a hard-working, truth-telling journalist for four decades. His book Making Saints (1996) is thoughtful, informative, and important, for many reasons.

And the essential point of Woodard’s essay — for my purposes here — is that there are (perhaps) hidden “networks,” whether homosexual or otherwise (yes, this “otherwise” could refer also to freemasons, but also to political and economic interests of various types), which exercise “control” in the Church.

Woodward argues that these networks ought to be revealed, and dismantled, in order for the Church to be free and faithful to her mission.

He says it is the existence of these networks which is “the elephant in the room.”

The key fact which is too often not mentioned.

I agree with him.

With that said, here is his essay, published today, October 19, in Commonweal magazine

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/double-lives

Double Lives

By Kenneth L. Woodward

“Anger, shock, grief, shame.” These were the opening words of Cardinal Blase Cupich’s August letter to Chicago Catholics after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical abuse in that state.

Cupich, who headed the Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children, wanted readers to know he understood their feelings—indeed, that they had every reason to be angry, shocked, and ashamed.

This was the second abuse scandal American Catholics had to digest this last summer, coming not long after the revelation that ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had abused minors and young adults for decades.

Soon there would be a third scandal: a letter from a former papal nuncio charging that Pope Francis himself was complicit in covering up McCarrick’s sexual transgressions and demanding that he resign. And so began another round of Catholic anger, shock, grief, and shame.

Strong feelings can be a spur to action. But they can also foster misreadings of the facts, blur judgment, and trigger rash reactions.

Unfortunately, in too many instances, that is what has happened. For example: we’ve all read newspaper articles, editorials, and op-eds in which it is claimed that the Pennsylvania grand jury found that three hundred priests had sexually molested at least a thousand children over seven decades. In fact, what the panel found was enough evidence to indict the clerics and other church personnel named.

While I have little doubt that most of the accused are guilty, the fact remains that the grand jury did only what grand juries are supposed to do: find evidence to make formal allegations. Which is why the relatively small number of the accused who are still alive and able to defend themselves demanded that their names be blacked out on the published report. Until found guilty, they have a right to their good names. But a great many lay Catholics are too shocked, angry, and ashamed to acknowledge this.

Moreover, the way Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, presented the report—and the way it was often described in the press—made it easy to assume that the grand jury had unearthed three hundred new clerical abusers, when in fact most of the abuse covered in the report occurred in the last century and roughly eight out of ten of the alleged abusers are dead. It was easy to overlook the good news in an otherwise disheartening report—namely, that since the U.S. bishops established stringent new procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse in 2003, only two priests from the seven dioceses studied have been accused.

None of this diminishes the horror of child abuse or the guilt of priests who have committed such crimes.

If anything, the sickening stories recounted in the Pennsylvania report are vivid reminders of how little those bishops who covered up these crimes understood or cared for the victims.

Yes, they sought to protect the church from scandal—only to produce a far greater scandal—and yes, they sought to maintain the image of the priesthood, only to see it turned into a metaphor for pederasty.

But the real horror is that, unlike most human beings, too many bishops simply could not identify with the youthful victims of predatory priests, or with their outraged parents.

And yet, as I read the grand-jury report, there was very little in its nine hundred pages, apart from some appalling details and the names of specific priests, that Cardinal Cupich or anyone else over the age of forty hadn’t already learned from the Boston Globe’s investigative stories in 2002 and from the two-year investigation by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, published in 2003.

And again, apart from specific details about specific cases, we are not likely to learn much new if other state attorneys follow Pennsylvania’s lead. Such reports remind us of something we cannot afford to forget about the U.S. church’s recent history, but they should no longer surprise us.

One cannot deny that homosexuality has played a role in the abuse scandals and their coverup, and to dismiss this aspect as homophobia one would have to be either blind or dishonest. [Emphasis added—RM.]

The unmasking of ex-Cardinal McCarrick as a sexual predator is a far more consequential event. [Emphasis added—RM].

I say this for several reasons.

First, his outing was the result of a church investigation, instead of a journalistic exposé.

Second, the McCarrick case has prompted demands that cardinals and bishops who are sexually abusive, or who cover up for any other cleric guilty of such crimes, be subject to automatic procedures similar to those the American hierarchy has already imposed on abusive priests, including dismissal from the ministry. The creation of such procedures would necessarily involve decisive action by the pope and require changes in canon law. Any outcome short of this would be a huge betrayal of the people of God, not to mention an invitation to civil authorities everywhere to press for further investigations into possible cover-ups by bishops past and present.

Third, McCarrick’s history of sexual abuse raises in a very concrete way the issue of homosexuality within the Catholic priesthood—although not in the way that many conservative Catholic writers suggest.

To begin with, McCarrick doesn’t seem to fit the standard profile of a pedophile. In clinical terms, a pedophile is any adult who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children. According to the John Jay Report, only about 5 percent of cases of clerical sex abuse in the past seventy years involved prepubescent children.

McCarrick’s abuse of adolescent seminarians, dating back to a time when the church still maintained special seminaries for students of high-school age, does fit the clinical profile of an ephebophile—that is, someone who is sexually attracted to postpubescent minors, typically between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Here again, we are often dealing with sick, sexually maladjusted adults.

Those too angry or impatient for such a distinction should pay heed, for it turns out to have great practical importance.

Therapists have found that children who have been sexually abused before puberty—and before their brains are fully developed—have very little chance of establishing a normal psychosexual life. Similarly, those who abuse such children can never again be left alone with children for the remainder of their lives.

But therapy can help ephebophiles control their sexual impulses, and it can help their adolescent victims establish a normal life, including normal adult sexual relationships. And this holds true whether the abuser is heterosexual or homosexual, male or female.

In a recent television interview, Cardinal Cupich said that the data from the John Jay Report does not support the conclusion that the presence of homosexuals in the priesthood is the root cause of the church’s abuse scandal. It isn’t. Nonetheless, it is true that eight out of ten reported abuses by priests over the past seventy years were cases of males abusing other males. What accounts for this?

In part it can be explained by the fact that in the fifteen years or so between the late 1960s and the early ’80s, when most of the abuse took place, male adolescents were more readily available to priests in Catholic schools and seminaries than female adolescents. An even better though still incomplete explanation is that men who discover that they are sexually attracted to pre- or post-pubescent males are naturally drawn to occupations like the priesthood—and teaching and coaching and scouting—because of the trust accorded the members of these occupations, as well as the access to boys all these occupations provide.

One cannot deny that homosexuality has played a role in the abuse scandals and their coverup, and to dismiss this aspect as homophobia one would have to be either blind or dishonest. This is one reason the McCarrick case is so important. McCarrick’s targets were young adults as well as adolescents, which fits the definition of homosexual abuse and rape. Like most middle-aged men, whether heterosexual or homosexual, he was attracted to younger bodies. (If this were unusual, advertising, television news, and even sideline football reporting would look very different.) Because some of his victims were minors, including one or two boys who were possibly pre-pubescent, McCarrick is now open to criminal charges. This is why he has been dismissed from the priestly ministry.

But what about all the young men with whom the bishop shared a bed at his beach house and elsewhere? Some were surely coerced, some seduced. They were all initiated by a powerful church figure into a sexual double life to which McCarrick, as a bishop and cardinal, gave sanction by his acts.

How many are still living that double life? We’ll never know, and the main reason we won’t is that when a priest violates his promise of celibacy, he is not subject to anything like the sort of clear canonical procedures available in cases of child abuse.

As the Catholic journalist and canon lawyer J. D. Flynn put it in a recent column in the Catholic Register, “Church law does not expressly establish that sex between a cleric and an adult is a canonical crime. As a consequence, bishops everywhere find themselves vexed, and frequently, about how exactly they should handle allegations of clerical misconduct involving adults—even in cases like Archbishop McCarrick’s, where coercion is an operative factor.”

A final suggestion: stop treating cardinals and bishops as royalty rather than, as Francis has preached, as servants of the church.

Which brings us to the two letters of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal nuncio to the United States, charging that Pope Francis had lifted sanctions on McCarrick that had been imposed on him “in private” by Pope Benedict XVI—charges that Francis has so far refused to discuss in public.

The nub of Viganò’s first letter is that Francis knew of McCarrick’s history of abuse—that he had to have known because Viganò himself had documented that history for his superiors at the Vatican—but that the pope chose to ignore it and even took McCarrick’s advice about the selection of new bishops in the United States.

Viganò’s second letter, written a month later from his place of hiding, attacked the pope for not responding to his accusations, claimed that the pope had slandered him (though without mentioning his name), and—most important—demanded the release of the documentation on McCarrick that he had supplied to Vatican officials.

Finally, Viganò asked Francis to tell the rest of the church how he had responded to a request by a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a thorough investigation into the Vatican’s handling of the McCarrick case.

This is one place where liberals and conservatives can and ought to join forces, demanding release of these documents and an explanation of how the ex-cardinal’s case was handled. [Emphasis added—RM]

Even so, I doubt we will ever really know what happened: anyone who has ever spent much time covering the Vatican knows the Curia is a honeycomb of rival factions—the Holy See, after all, is the last Renaissance court—where popes rule but do not necessarily get their way.

Viganò’s letters reinforce the notion that there are no uniform procedures for dealing with misbehavior, sexual or otherwise, by high-ranking church officials. As we saw when John Paul II delivered Cardinal Bernard Law to the safety of a plush Roman sinecure, popes create cardinals and, like God, are free to do with them as they will.

Viganò did not help his cause by entrusting the publication of his letters to various American media outlets representing this country’s disgruntled Catholic right. In doing so, he made their disaffection with Francis his own, and his theirs, thereby blurring the lines between the messengers and the message. Cardinal Cupich was not alone among Francis loyalists who found it easy to dismiss Viganò’s first letter in part because of where and how it was made public. Not long before the second letter appeared, however, Cupich publicly apologized for the words he had used in dismissing the importance of some of the issues raised by Viganò’s letter.

Among those issues is one that no one in the Catholic hierarchy seems eager to investigate: the extent to which there are gay networks operating within the American priesthood, its seminaries and chanceries, and within the Vatican itself. [Emphasis added—RM]

And to what ends? Perhaps the hierarchy is afraid of giving aid and comfort to right-wing zealots who would like to use the McCarrick scandal as an excuse to out and purge all homosexual priests and bishops.

There can be no excuse for such a purge. We have all met gay priests who live chaste lives and honor their vows of celibacy, just as we know there are more than a few heterosexual priests who fail to honor theirs.

But it wasn’t just clericalism that allowed McCarrick to abuse seminarians and young priests for decades, even though his behavior was widely known within clerical circles.

And it wasn’t just his ecclesiastical clout that provided him protection.

It was networks, too.

By networks, I mean groups of gay priests, diocesan and religious, who encourage the sexual grooming of seminarians and younger priests, and who themselves lead double lives—breaking their vows of chastity while ministering to the laity and staffing the various bureaucracies of the church. [Emphasis added—RM]

During the nearly four decades I spent writing about religion for Newsweek, I heard numerous tales of “lavender lobbies” in certain seminaries and chanceries, told mostly by straight men who had abandoned their priestly vocations after encountering them.

At one time or another, the whispering centered on networks in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, among other dioceses.

One of the few priests to complain in public was the late Andrew Greeley, who spoke of gay circles operating in the administration of Chicago’s Joseph Bernardin, a cherished friend of his.

As far back as 1968, I heard similar rumors about priests serving in the Roman Curia, mostly from Italians, who are generally more relaxed about homosexuality than Americans and unsurprised when those leading double lives are outed.

What concerns me, though, is not simply personal hypocrisy, but whether there are gay networks that protect members who are sexually active. [Emphasis added—RM]

Here it is worth revisiting the career of Cardinal John J. Wright (1909–1979) who, like McCarrick, was the subject of numerous stories about his own sexuality. Again, these came mostly from former seminarians and priests of the Pittsburgh diocese, which had a reputation during Wright’s decade there as a haven for actively gay clerics. That was especially true of the Pittsburgh Oratory, which Wright founded in 1961 as a religious center ministering to Catholic students attending the city’s secular universities.

Wright was an intellectually gifted churchman whose reputation as a liberal in the Spellman era rested chiefly on his interest in literature and the arts and his voluminous essays on those subjects and others published in liberal Catholic magazines, including this one.

In 1969, at the age of sixty, Pope Paul VI chose Wright to head the Congregation for Priests in Rome and elevated him to cardinal. It was there, in the frenzied initial years of the post-council era, that I first heard stories of his leading a double life rather openly with a younger lover.

What interests me now is not the private details of this double life, but whether it influenced how he ran the congregation overseeing the selection, training, and formation of the clergy.

Donald Wuerl, who recently resigned as archbishop of Washington D.C., would surely know the truth about Wright. Wuerl’s first assignment after ordination at the age of thirty-one was as secretary to then Bishop Wright of Pittsburgh in 1966. The younger priest was said to be closer to the cardinal than the hair on his head. He became Wright’s omnipresent full-time personal assistant when the latter moved to Rome, even sitting in for him during the papal conclave that elected John Paul II.

The question of how networks relate to cases like McCarrick’s is one that veterans in the hierarchy ought to summon the courage to air.

The laity has a right to a greater degree of transparency in these matters.

Total transparency is probably too much to expect.

But if structural reforms are necessary to protect the young from abuse, the scandals of the summer of 2018 ought to be seen as spurs to thoughtful action, not occasions for fruitless displays of anger, shock, shame, and despair. The danger of clerical double lives—of secrets that can be used as weapons to protect other secrets—should now be clear to everyone. There will be clerical hypocrisy as long as there is a church, but we can and should do more to combat it.

A final suggestion: stop treating cardinals and bishops as royalty rather than, as Francis has preached, as servants of the church.

This is a particular failing of wealthy, politically conservative Catholics favored by outmoded organizations like the Knights of Malta that are basically in the business of trading hefty donations for face time with Catholic hierarchs.

It came as no surprise that Viganò’s letters were shepherded into print by wealthy right-wing Catholic funder Timothy R. Busch, cofounder and host of the Napa Institute, which—for $5,000 a pop—brings disgruntled conservative Catholics together with like-minded American bishops for Latin-language liturgies, George Weigel lectures, and “after dinner cigars” with the archbishop of San Francisco. For invited prelates, the week is free.

Kenneth Woodward was for thirty-eight years religion editor of Newsweek.

(to be continued)

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By |2018-10-27T19:16:47+00:00Oct 24th, 2018|Categories: The Moynihan Letters|