Archbishop Lori Investigates Bishop Bransfield’s Mess and Ends Up With One of His Own

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 8, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Scandals, Sex

Bishop Bransfield’s lifestyle was too transparent.  Archbishop Lori’s investigation of him wasn’t transparent enough.

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield is the retired bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia diocese. He currently lives near Philadelphia, PA. Pope Francis accepted his resignation eight days after he turned 75 in September 2018.  Bransfield was appointed bishop by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.  West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the U.S., and has very few Catholics, about 78,000 or just 4% of the population.  Before he was named bishop, Bransfield was the rector of the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC from 1990 to 2005.  He arrived in West Virginia with a reputation for enjoying a “party atmosphere” from his time in Washington. Bishop Bransfield was a regular visitor to the Vatican.  In 2010 he presented a cake to Pope Benedict for the pope’s 83rd birthday.  He was elected president of the Papal Foundation by his fellow clerics.  This nonprofit distributes millions of dollars to charitable projects on the pope’s behalf.

A few days after Bishop Bransfield’s retirement Pope Francis appointed Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Maryland as apostolic administrator, with a mandate to investigate allegations of sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties by Bishop Bransfield.

Archbishop William E. Lori is the archbishop of the Baltimore, Maryland archdiocese and metropolitan for the region. He was appointed archbishop of Baltimore by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.  In the 1990s, he served as secretary, chancellor, moderator of the curia, and vicar general to James Cardinal Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, DC who was a rabid tormenter of New Ways Ministry, a positive LGBT Catholic ministry.  In 2001, Lori was appointed bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut. While serving in Bridgeport, Lori fought against releasing the names of diocesan priests who were being sued for sexual abuse. Since then, he has gone up the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops career ladder rung by rung. He is the former chairman and current member of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine; Ad Hoc Committee on Universities and Colleges, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

I encountered Bishop Lori in 2007, when he was still in Bridgeport but serving as the chair of the USCCB committee on Doctrine.  The Vatican had recently published Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care.  This document was extremely hurtful and negative to lesbian and gay Catholics.  Along with another couple, my wife and I sent a letter to Bishop Lori describing our feelings about it and expressed a wish to meet with him face-to-face to discuss our lives as Catholic lesbians and mothers.  We received a terse letter in reply, very dismissive and cutting in tone, telling us to reread the document and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Lori’s Investigation

Archbishop Lori’s investigation was probably sparked by an 8-page letter with supporting documents he received in August 2018 from Monsignor Kevin Quirk, Bransfield’s own judicial vicar.  The letter detailed Bransfield’s monetary gifts. “It is my own opinion,” Quirk stated, “that (Bransfield) makes use of monetary gifts, such as those shown above, to higher ranking ecclesiastics and gifts to subordinates to purchase influence from the former, and compliance or loyalty from the latter.”  Besides documentation on cash gifts, the letter details prescription drug and alcohol abuse by Bransfield, and explosive testimonies from young priests who worked as assistants to Bransfield, along with a third priest who had been offered the job, describing unwanted sexual advances, groping, and sexual abuse.

Shortly after Bransfield’s retirement, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Lori to oversee an investigation into the charges. He and his team of five lay people completed a 60-page report of their findings in February 2019.  It was forwarded to the Vatican for review and action. The report was made public on March 11, 2019 by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  The team examined multiple allegations of sexual harassment and suspicious financial records.  They interviewed more than 40 people, including Bishop Bransfield.  After the report was released Archbishop Lori announced restrictions on Bishop Bransfield’s ministry.

But it wasn’t over.  Archbishop Lori made a few serious mistakes, and the investigation of Bishop Bransfield, already messy and potentially embarrassing, snowballed into a genuine financial and sexual scandal.

Archbishop Lori’s First Mistake

 Archbishop Lori edited the final report to the Vatican, omitting the cash gifts given to him by Bishop Bransfield and 11 other high-ranking Vatican and U.S. clerics.  His reasoning: the list of recipients would be a “distraction.”  His edits came to light as part of a June 5, 2019 story by The Washington Post into the Bransfield case.  Reporters were able to obtain both the original and final drafts of the report and a comparison of the two revealed the deletions.  The investigators on Lori’s team did not raise any objection to his request to exclude mention of the gifts to cardinals and other church officials.  After the redaction was published by The Washington Post, Archbishop Lori had a change of heart.  He said, “looking back on this in hindsight, I would say this judgement call was a mistake.”

Also noteworthy, only after publication of The Washington Post expose did Archbishop Lori refunded $7,500 of the $10,500 he received from Bishop Bransfield to Catholic Charities of the Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia diocese.

Archbishop Lori’s Second Mistake

Archbishop Lori, as metropolitan of the region, had received complaints from Catholics in the diocese about Bishop Bransfield for six years prior to his investigation.  He never did anything about them and didn’t mention them in his report.

On July 3, 2019 The Washington Post reported that concerns about Bishop Bransfield’s profligate spending were raised with senior Church authorities in the United States and Rome as early as 2012.  Catholics in the diocese sent letters and emails to Archbishop Lori and the former apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano asking them to investigate Bishop Bransfield’s lifestyle and leadership. They were ignored.

Archbishop Vigano—whose histrionics about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuse of young priests and seminarians made the news repeatedly in 2018 and 2019—also received complaints about Bishop Bransfield.  One parishioner, Linda Abrahamian from Martinsburg, West Virginia, wrote to him in 2013: “I beg of you to please look into this situation.” Vigano confirmed to The Washington Post that he had heard “rumors” about Bransfield’s sexual misconduct, but that they had never been “substantiated.”  “Unfortunately, I do not recall having received any letter of this nature,” Vigano said, “which I would certainly remember and which I would have followed up on.  That being said, the Nunciature receives many complaints every single day about all sorts of things, and it is probable enough that unfortunately this letter was not considered to be serious enough to be brought to my attention.  However, the letter, if it was received, is probably filed in the archives of the Nunciature, thus it may be verified.”

I bet.  Vigano is the same official who tried to quash an investigation into Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, who also had a predilection for seminarians and young priests.  In 2014 Vigano ordered that documents implicating Nienstedt in an independent sex abuse investigation be destroyed.

Bishop Bransfield’s Gifts

In his 13-year reign Bishop Michael J. Bransfield gave cash gifts to fellow clerics totaling $350,000. He wrote personal checks and was reimbursed with church money.  Bransfield sent the checks, many for amounts in four figures, to 137 clergymen, including two young priests he is accused of sexually harassing and more than a dozen cardinals. Some of the “gifts” were for delivering sermons or speeches, other checks were for birthdays or Christmas. Many did not have a notation. The recipients of the largest amounts were among the most influential men in the church in the U.S. and Rome.  They included:

Archbishop William E. Lori (archbishop of Baltimore) – $10,500

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano (former papal nuncio to U.S.) – $6,000

Cardinal Raymond Burke (former Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura) – $9,600

Cardinal Donald Wuerl (former archbishop of Washington, DC) – $23,600 ($10,000 for a church in Rome)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (archbishop of New York)-

Cardinal Kevin Farrell (Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life)- $29,000 (for renovations on Rome apartment)

Cardinal Bernard Law (former archbishop of Boston, Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore)- $4,800

Archbishop Peter Wells (former official at the Secretariat of State)

Rev. Michael Weston, Monsignor Walter Rossi, Monsignor Vito Buonanno – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Rossi succeeded Bransfield as rector) – collectively $10,800

Monsignor Kevin Irwin (former head of the theology department, Catholic University of America) – $6,500

Rev. Pietro Sambi (former apostolic nuncio to U.S.) – $28,000

Rev. Richard Mullins (priest in Washington, DC)

Rev. Sean Bransfield (nephew, vice chancellor of the archdiocese of Philadelphia) – $9,175

Monsignor Brian Bransfield (nephew, general secretary, US Conference of Catholic Bishops) – $1,350

Cardinal Edmund Szoka (top Vatican official) – $500

Bishop George V. Murray (Youngstown, Ohio diocese) – $3,000

Men who accused Bishop Bransfield (during and after alleged sexual misconduct) – $50-$300

Rev. Frederick P. Annie, Vicar General, Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV (Bransfield’s most senior aide) – The three men who held the role received a total of $38,000)

A breakdown of Archbishop Lori’s gifts showed he was given $5,000 when appointed archbishop of Baltimore, $3,000 for travel expenses and honoraria for preaching at two Red Masses in the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston (an annual event to pray for those in the judicial and legislative branches of government) and the rest as $500 gifts given on the holidays.

Even though it is not common practice for bishops to give cash gifts, “usually, if anything, it’s a poinsettia at Christmas or lilies at Easter,” Lori said, he “simply (thought) Bransfield was being generous and kind” when he gave him money. “I didn’t think much more about it than that.”

Nary a thought flickered across his mind…a $5,000 gift from the bishop of one of the poorest dioceses in the U.S.?

Bishop Bransfield – Where the Money Came From

Bishop Bransfield had his own cash kitty to play with – an endowment to the diocese of oil-rich land in Texas that generated an average of $15 million annually.

The roots of this unusual wealth for the diocese date back to the late 1800s, to a friendship struck on a transatlantic cruise ship between a bishop from Wheeling and a New York heiress.  When she died in 1904, Sara Catherine Aloysia Tracy left most of her estate to the diocese, including a large tract of land in west Texas.  Oil was discovered there decades later.

The income generated from mineral rights generates an average of $15 million a year, funding an endowment of nearly $230 million. Bishop Bransfield wrote checks from his personal account and had the endowment reimburse him.  He used over $2.4 million on travel, much of it personal, flying in chartered jets and staying in luxury hotels. He had a private chef. He also used $324,000 for clothing, jewelry and “personal services.”  The diocese paid $4.6 to renovate his residence.

According to the report, Bishop Bransfield and several subordinates spent an average of $1,000 a month on alcohol.  When Bransfield was not traveling, fresh flowers were delivered daily to the chancery, at the cost of $100 a day, almost $182,000 in total. Bransfield’s spending reminds me a lot of the former archbishop of Newark, NJ, John J. Myers, another pleasure-loving prelate in a poor diocese.  A contemporary of Bransfield, Myers also enjoyed destination vacations and lavish spending on his residence.

Why was Bishop Bransfield able to get away with it for so long?  He was nasty, vindictive and intimidating. The men around him were afraid for their positions and careers. They did nothing and said nothing.

A partner at the auditing firm hired by Bransfield told investigators he was “afraid to challenge Bishop Bransfield’s decisions because of the bishop’s position and his overall demeanor.” The diocesan staff said and did nothing out of fear of retaliation and retribution. They opted to protect their positions and careers. Bishop Branfield’s two top aides, Monsignor Kevin Quirk, the judicial vicar, and vicar general Rev. Frederick P. Annie, discussed concerns about the bishop’s conduct with young men but did nothing to stop it, the report said.  “Tell it to the Nuncio,” Annie said when Quirk raised the issue.  Annie acknowledged to investigators that taking a complaint about the bishop to the nuncio would have been “career ending.”

Intervention would also have ended their cash gifts. Vicar General Annie, and the two other men who served in the position, received $38,000. Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio from 2005-2011 took in $28,000 over the years.  Carlo Maria Vigano, papal nuncio from 2011-2016 got $6,000 during that period.  There is no mention of Pope Francis’ appointee, Archbishop Christophe Pierre (2016-present).  Perhaps he didn’t take the bait.

Bishop Bransfield – Life as a Gay Bishop

Archbishop Lori outlined details of what the investigation had found about Bishop Bransfield’s piggish behavior: “The team uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo and covert suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority.”

The report cites nine men in the Wheeling-Charleston diocese who accused Bransfield of running his hands over their genitals, kissing them, exposing himself, and commenting on their sexual attractiveness.  Diocesan officials witnessed Bransfield’s “predatory” behavior toward altar servers, a tendency troubling enough that Monsignor Quirk tried to make sure that no altar server was left alone with him.

One seminarian recalled sitting on Bransfield’s lap, being kissed by the bishop and thinking, “I either do this or completely reinvent my life.” Bransfield asked him to take his pants off.

Seminarians and young priests asked for help.  They were instructed instead to “make your boundaries clear,” or told they had no choice but to join Bishop Bransfield on trips or sleepovers at his residence.  Bransfield used alcohol, oxycodone and other prescription drugs, which “likely contributed to his harassing and abusive behavior,” the report states.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Bishop Bransfield disputed the allegations, saying “none of it is true,” but declined to go into detail since his attorneys had advised him not to comment.  “Everybody’s trying to destroy my reputation,” Bransfield said without elaborating. “These people are terrible to me.”

In his June 5, 2019 letter to priests and lay faithful of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese, Archbishop Lori remarked: “I am deeply pained by and sorry for the harm that the former bishop caused to those he was charged with shepherding in a spirit of Christ-like humility, service, pastoral care and charity.  There is no excuse, nor adequate explanation, that will satisfy the troubling question of how his behavior was allowed to continue for as long as it did without the accountability that we must require of those who have been entrusted with so much – both spiritual and material – as bishops and pastors.”

Archbishop Lori’s words are strong and clear. Now, the hard part. Bishops need to get tough with rogue bishops—thieves, liars, sexual abusers and men who don’t practice what they preach.  They need to confront them, and they need to eliminate them from their ranks.  No more live and let live and looking the other way. Starting with you, Archbishop Lori!  This is also true for diocesan officials. All too often the desire for a cushy career outweighs their sense of decency. Get some backbone.  Blow the whistle on corrupt prelates that are a cancer and rot on the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 21, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Faith, History, Politics, Popes

On October 15, 2017 Pope Francis announced a special synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region to take place in Rome.  It is scheduled for October 6-27, 2019. 

The synod arose out of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, “Caring for Our Common Home,” which called for action on global warming, environmental pollution and pinpointed the Amazon region as a chief area of concern.

The Pan-Amazon region spans over two million square miles within nine countries, including Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana. It is home to 33 million people, among them 3 million indigenous people representing 400 different tribes.  It is the source of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, one-fourth of all oxygen and more than one-third of global forest reserves.

Taking part in the synod will be bishops from the nine countries encompassing Amazonia, presidents of the seven bishops’ conferences, and representatives of non-governmental organizations that work in the region.  Chief among them will be REPAM, or Red Eclesial PanAmazonica, an ecclesial network of bishops created in 2014 to promote the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon. It is backed by CELAM, the Latin American Bishops’ Conference. Caritas Internationalis is a founding member. REPAM embodies the promise Pope Francis made in the Amazon town of Maldonado, Peru to affirm “a whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures.”

The 16-page preparatory document for the synod was published on June 8, 2018. It is titled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.”The document was written by the Vatican’s office for the synod with the help of an 18-member council appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the 2019 meeting.  The synod council included three cardinals, 13 bishops, one nun and a layman.  Most members are from countries in the Amazon region.  The document is organized as a Preamble, Section I – Seeing, Section II – Discernment, Section III – Action, and Questionnaires that were widely circulated to provide material for each of the three sections.

The synod’s preparatory document makes clear that central issues will focus on environmental protection, the rights of indigenous people, and evangelization. But what is articulated within these issues will ignite change not only in the Amazon, but throughout the Catholic Church.

It is obvious that most pundits from Europe and North America who follow church happenings did not read this document carefully. If they did, they would be shocked. This synod is not about a group of natives in the Amazon rainforest with a few mentions of climate change thrown in. Pope Francis and the Synod Council are attempting to shift Catholic culture and religious practice from the Eurocentric and clerical sub-culture model to one drawn from values and cultures based in the Southern Hemisphere, with ripples extending to Africa and Asia. Europe’s domination of 1,000 years is ending. 

The clash of values that dominates so much of the Eurocentric Church today will be subsumed into other cultural debates. There, they may find a new voice, fade away or be viewed as irrelevant. How important are religious liberty, same-sex marriage, denying communion to pro-abortion politicians, sex abuse and cover up, women priests, married priesthood, conscience rights, “authentic” Catholic definitions, and “reform of the reform” of Vatican II in Amazonia?  Newer issues like racism, rights of indigenous people, migrants and immigration, gender theory, LGBT civil rights, lay involvement, habitat protection, and economic equity should get more traction, but the results will be a mixed bag of blessings for both progressives and conservatives.

Here is what I see emerging from the Amazonia Synod:

  1. A new emphasis on “Integral Ecology” – everything is connected and environmental abuse as sin
  2. Evangelization to where people are physically and spiritually–however remote
  3. Older married men ordained as priests to administer the sacraments
  4. Increased role in ministry and governance for women
  5. A cultural and spiritual sift away from a Eurocentric Catholicism

Each of the sections of the preliminary document has markers and flash points intimating where Pope Francis and the Church are heading with this Synod.

  1. Identity and Cries of the Pan-Amazonia

“Nonetheless, the wealth of the Amazonian rainforest and rivers is being threatened by expansive economic interests, which assert themselves in various parts of the territory. Such interests lead, among other things, to the intensification of indiscriminate logging in the rainforest, as well as the contamination of rivers, lakes and tributaries (due to the indiscriminate use of agro-toxins, oil spills, legal and illegal mining, and byproducts from the production of narcotics.) Added to this is drug trafficking, which together with the above puts at risk the survival of those peoples who depend on the region’s animal and plant resources.” 

“For the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin, the good life comes from living in communion with other people, with the world, and with the creatures of their environment, and with the Creator.  Their diverse spiritualities and beliefs motivate them to live in communion with the soil, water, trees, animals, and with day and night. Wise elders – called interchangeably “payes, mestres, wayanga or chamanes”, among others – promote the harmony of people among themselves and with the cosmos. Indigenous peoples are a living memory of the mission that God has entrusted to us all: the protection of our common home.”

2. Toward a Pastoral and Ecological Conversion

 “This social – and even cosmic – dimension of the mission of evangelization is particularly relevant in the Amazon region, where the interconnectivity between human life, ecosystems, and spiritual life was, and continues to be, apparent to the vast majority of its inhabitants.”

“Integral ecology, then, invites us to an integral conversion. This entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults, failures and omissions by which we have harmed God’s creation and leads to heartfelt repentance.  Only when we are aware of how our lifestyles – and the ways we produce, trade, consume, and discard – affect the life of our environment and our societies can we initiate a comprehensive change of direction.”

3. New Paths for a Church with an Amazonian Face

 “The Church is called to deepen her identity in accordance with the realities of each territory and to grow her spirituality by listening to the wisdom of her peoples. Therefore, the Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazonian Region is invited to find new ways of developing the Amazonian face of the Church and to respond to situations of injustice in the region, such as the neocolonialism of the extractive industries, infrastructure projects that damage its biodiversity, and the imposition of cultural and economic models which are alien to the lives of its people.”

“In this sense, Vatican II reminds us that all the People of God share in the priesthood of Christ, although it distinguishes between common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood.  This gives way to an urgent need to evaluate and rethink the ministries that today are required to respond to the objectives of “a Church with a native face.”

“It is necessary to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian Church. It is also necessary to foster indigenous and local-born clergy, affirming their own cultural identity and values.  Finally, new ways should be considered for the People of God to have better and more frequent access to the Eucharist, the center of Christian life.”

The Synod’s preparatory document cites a wide swath of church documents, three provide the biggest stamp:

1. Laudato Si – (“Praise Be to You”) The 2nd encyclical of Pope Francis has the subtitle, “On Care for Our Common Home.” In it, Pope Francis critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, and laments environmental degradation and global warning. It calls on the peoples of the world to act. The encyclical was published on June 18, 2015.

2. The Aparecida Document – This document summarized the 2007 meeting of CELAM—the regional Episcopal Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting was held in Aparecida, Brazil, and was chaired by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis.  In the document, the Latin American bishops expressed what they believed to be keys in keeping Catholicism alive and relevant in Latin American.  Those “keys” included a preferential option for the poor and marginalized, and a serious concern for the environment.

3. Pope Francis’ January 19, 2018 Address to the Indigenous People of Amazonia at Maldonado, Peru – During his trip to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis met and addressed thousands of native Amazonians in an indoor stadium at Puerto Maldonado, a city on Peru’s Amazon frontier. It is the capital of Madre de Dios, a region plagued by illegal mining and human trafficking. In his remarks, the pope noted that the “native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present.”  He spoke about threats from extractive exploitation, environmental contamination and illegal mining. He also addressed the oppression of native people by certain policies and movements under the guise of preserving nature that deprive them of their land, natural resources and livelihoods.  Pope Francis promised participants to affirm a “whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures.”

There are several key players in the development of the Synod Council and preparatory document. Since I don’t read Spanish, and there is very little coverage of South America by U.S. journalists, I may have missed a few names but I believe I netted the biggest fish.

Pope Francis

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, when he was named 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Bergoglio, the first pope from South America, took his papal title after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy.  The first Jesuit pope, Bergoglio was ordained in 1969, and from 1973-1979 was the provincial superior for Argentina.  Prior to his election as pope, Bergoglio served as archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998-2013.  He was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.  In his six years as pope, Francis has championed the world’s poor and marginalized people, emphasized mercy over rules, and been actively involved in environmental advocacy and political diplomacy.

“We are not faced with two separate crisis, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

 Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri

Cardinal Baldisseri has served as general secretary of the Synod of Bishops since September 21, 2013.  He introduced and explained in depth the Amazonia synod’s preparatory document during the Vatican press conference on June 8, 2018.  Hand-picked by Francis to reorganize the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Baldisseri is a veteran of the Vatican diplomatic corps.  He has served as apostolic nuncio to Paraguay, India, Nepal and Brazil (2002-2012). In Brazil, he negotiated an agreement regulating the juridical status of the church.

“Although the theme refers to a specific territory, such as the Pan-Amazon region – and this is why we speak about the “Pan-Amazon Synod” – the reflections that concern it go beyond the regional context, because they regard the whole Church and also the future of the planet. These reflections are intended to bridge to other similar geographical realities such as, for example, the Congo basin, the Central American biological corridor, the tropical forests of Asia in the Pacific, and the Guarani aquifer system. This great ecclesial, civic and ecological project allows us to extend our gaze beyond their respective borders and to redefine pastoral lines, making them suitable for today’s times. For these reasons too the Synod will be held in Rome.”

 Cardinal Claudio Hummes

Pope Frances chose Brazil’s Cardinal Claudio Hummes to serve as regulator general of the October synod on Amazonia.  The nomination of the 84-year-old retired archbishop of Sao Paulo was announced at the Vatican on May 4, 2019. The regular is responsible for providing a comprehensive outline of the synod’s theme at the beginning of the meeting and for summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.  Cardinal Hummes was a former perfect of the Congregation for Clergy and has been a close friend of the pope since Jorge Mario Bergoglio was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Hummes currently serves as president of REPAM, or the Red Eclesial Pan-Amazonica (or Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network.)  Founded in 2014, REPAM is a network backed by the Latin American Bishops Conference to promote the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon.  Caritas Internationalis is a founding member.

“Back in 2015 the pope started to tell me, “I’m thinking of convening a meeting of all the bishops of Amazonia. As of yet, I don’t know what type of meeting or assembly, but I think that it could even be a synod.” He said to me, Let us pray about it together, and he began to speak to the bishops, to the episcopal conferences of the Amazonian region, about how to have an assembly, and so in his heart there grew the idea of a synod, and eventually in 2017 he convoked it.  We have worked hard for the synod, and we will continue to do so in this very important service for the future.  The synod serves to find and trace new paths for the Church.”

“We know now there is another step to take: we have to promote an indigenous Church for the indigenous peoples, to help give birth to and nurture the growth of an indigenous Church. The aboriginal communities that hear the Gospel proclamation in one way or another, and that embrace it, which is to say, they welcome Jesus Christ, have to be able to ensure that, through an opportune process, their faith can become incarnate and inculturated in their traditional reality.  Then, in the context of their culture, identity, history and spirituality, an indigenous Church can arise with its own pastors and ordained ministers, always united within itself, and in total communion with the universal Catholic Church, but inculturated in indigenous cultures.”

Cardinal Ricardo Barreto Jimeno

 A Jesuit, and archbishop of Huancayo, Peru since 2004, Cardinal Barreto is vice president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference.  He is also vice president of REPAM (Red Eclesial Pan-Amazonica).  According to Cardinal Barreto, “new paths” will be defined during the synod, directed toward care for creation and evangelization.

Cardinal Barreto has long been a proponent of environmental protection.  Back in 2005 he told his brother bishops during a synod that bread and wine offered at the altar were no good if the land they came from was not properly cared for. “I said that if we offer bread from land that’s contaminated, we are offering God a contaminated fruit. And the same for wine…I remember that the bishops looked at me as if they were saying, ‘What does the Eucharist have to do with ecology?’”

“Too many people think the indigenous in the Amazon are savages with nothing to teach us. ..as one Amazonian indigenous person told me, the savages are the ones who wear suits and ties and have money because they not only exploit natural resources irrationally but also expel (the indigenous people) from their territories and allow those from the outside to attack their culture simply to profit.”

 General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira

 Augusto Heleno, 72, is a Brazilian politician and retired general. He was military commander of the Amazon and chief of the Department of Science and Technology of the Army.  He was chosen by Brazil’s newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, to head the Institutional Security Cabinet, an executive level office of the federal government responsible for assistance to the president on matters of national security and defense policy.

Bolsonaro campaigned on promises to end protections of the Amazon rainforest and limit Brazil’s indigenous peoples’ rights to designate land in the river’s sprawling basin as preserves.  In one of his first acts as president, he gave responsibility for indigenous preserves to the Agriculture Ministry, which is seen as heavily influenced by agribusiness interests.

A major Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo, reported on February 10, 2019 that the synod has become a national concern for the Brazilian government. General Augusto Heleno was quoted in the story as saying, in reference to the synod, “We are worried about it and want to neutralize it.” The government’s strategy for neutralizing the Amazonia synod reportedly includes planting intelligence agents to monitor preparatory meetings and putting diplomatic pressure on the Italian government to intercede with the Vatican to avoid, or at least tone down, criticism of Brazil’s Amazon policies.

“There are foreign (non-governmental organizations) and international authorities who want to intervene in our treatment of the Brazilian Amazon…I’m worried that this Synod is going to interfere in our sovereignty.  We know what we have to do.  We know how to do sustainable development, to stop deforestation.”

 Mauricio Lopez

Mauricio Lopez is the executive secretary of REPAM.  He was the one lay person appointed to the Synod Council by Pope Francis. Lopez grew up in Mexico and was educated in Jesuit schools.  He and his wife, who is Ecuadorian, moved to Ecuador over a decade ago.  In 2009, he took a trip to the part of the Amazon basin that sits on Ecuador’s eastern borders.  “I came by bus from the highest mountains with snow,” he described, and suddenly I entered this beautiful place, where I saw the biggest river, the entrance into the Amazon, and how the flora and fauna were always changing as we went down, down, down. The temperature changed radically, and I felt, too, a change within me,” he said.

“The Amazon reality requires us to be a braver and more prophetic church.”

The Amazonia initiative brings back an echo of my own past. 

Back in the mid-1970s, as a young woman in Alaska, I fought for large tracts of Alaskan lands to be preserved as wilderness areas–national parks, refuges and monuments. I wanted government agencies to insist on environmental protections for areas that were mined, logged or slated for oil and natural gas extraction. The native peoples of Alaska—Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Athabascan, Aleut, Inupiat and Yupik were different, but each group was deeply connected to the land by a deep love for it, cultural heritage and identity.  One connection was through the subsistence lifestyle—fishing, trapping, hunting and harvesting on their ancestral lands.

During that time, I never heard a religious person—priest, religious sister, bishop, pastoral associate, anyone—speak up for Alaska natives or for wise natural resources management.  At that time, the Catholic church made no connection between Nature and Faith.  I missed having my faith strengthen my environmental activism and support for native land rights; and my love for the land and forest strengthen my spirituality and religious conviction.

It now seems like a dream come true; one I have waited almost 40 years to see. Thank you, Pope Francis, and everyone who is making the Amazonia Synod happen.  I’ll be praying for you and us.

 

 

 

The Suicide of Wm. L. Toomey and the Murders of Fr. Ryan and Fr. Ben

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 19, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

Wm. L. Toomey’s Suicide

On Saturday evening, December 4, 1982, a man walked into Sacred Heart Church in Boise, Idaho.  It was wet and chilly. The stranger was blond, tan and stocky. He appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s. He wore a brown leather belt with a large buckle displaying a Mexican 100-peso coin, and a silver and turquoise bolo tie.  From the tan and the clothing, he appeared to be from the Southwest.

The stranger wanted to go to confession, but it was occupied at the time. As parishioners entered for the 6 PM Mass, one of them, a 91-year old woman named Grace Leeburn, found the man on his back, dead. Blood and drool formed a thin stream by his head.  He had swallowed cyanide tablets. In his pockets he had a wallet with all ID removed but containing $1,900.  There was also a typewritten note: “In the event of my death, the enclosed currency should give more than adequate compensation for my funeral or disposal of my remains (prefer to be cremated) expenditures. What is left over, please take this as a contribution to this church.  God will see to your honesty in this.” Signed – Wm. L. Toomey 

The dead man was never identified.  No fingerprints turned up from law enforcement databases.  “Wm. L. Toomey” is similar to “R. J. Toomey,” an apparel manufacturer for priests.  A clue?

There were several theories about who he was and why he committed suicide in a Catholic church. He may have intended to die shortly after confession, but miscalculated how long it would take for the cyanide to kill him. He may have decided to end his life in church so he could make peace with God, and have his body taken care of respectfully. Or, out of anger, despair or some other emotion, he decided to commit a grave sin in a sacred place.  Investigators believed he had a strong connection to Catholicism. A few speculated he could be a priest or former priest. To this day, no one has been able to identify the man, or why he had come to the church to absolve himself of his sins.

The pastor of the church, the Rev. W. Thomas Faucher, said the funeral Mass for Wm. L. Toomey, and said the Mass was for all those who have died in despair during the holidays.  The stark grey coffin was adorned with fresh flowers. “He came to us to die,” Faucher said. “We don’t know who he is, but we come here in faith to pray for him, whoever he may be, and to pray for ourselves.”

Later on, investigators started looking into the possibility that Wm. L. Toomey’s suicide might be connected to the murders of two or more Catholic priests.  There were a string of murders of priests from Texas, New Mexico and up through Arizona to the Pacific Northwest in the years before Toomey’s death. Some cases produced viable suspects, but many others did not.

The Murder of Fr. Ryan

On December 22, 1981, the nude body of 49-year-old Fr. Patrick Ryan was found inside Room 126 at the Sand and Sage Motel in Odessa, Texas.  Fr. Ryan was the pastor at St. William’s Church in Denver City, located over 90 miles away.  He had checked into the motel the previous night under a false name. 

When a cleaning woman opened the door to Room 126 the next afternoon the place was in shambles.  There was dried blood everywhere, some of it in and around the gaping holes that had been punched through the walls.  The air conditioner was broken and dangling from the wall.  There were clothes strewn around the room, along with several beer cans and cigarette butts. The phone had been ripped from the wall, and the television smashed. The bed was overturned, and the frame broken. A naked, bloody man lay face down, his hands tied behind his back with a sock, his body covered in abrasions, across his buttocks was a long, superficial wound.

By way of background, Fr. Ryan was an Irish-born priest who reportedly spent a decade in Africa as a missionary before being assigned in 1979 to St. William’s Church in Denver City, Texas.  How he got from Africa to a tiny panhandle town in Texas near the New Mexico border is anyone’s guess.

Fr. Ryan often picked up hitchhikers on the 40 mile stretch of road connecting Denver City to Hobbs, New Mexico. On December 8, 1981, Ryan picked up James Harry Reyos,  who was on his way to Hobbs to look for work. The two men drove into town and spent the evening at a bar drinking beer and vodka, before Ryan drove them both back to Denver City. Ryan introduced himself only as “John.”

James Harry Reyos was a 25-year-old Jicarilla Apache, lonely and out of work. He was uncomfortable and ashamed of being gay. He turned to alcohol to cope.  By the time Ryan picked him up Reyos had been arrested 30 times on alcohol related charges. 

On December 20, 1981, the day before the priest was murdered, Reyos accepted an invitation to visit Ryan at the rectory at St. William’s Church. They began drinking, flipping through a photo album of Reyos’ childhood on the reservation.  Suddenly, Reyos said, the priest grabbed him by his shirt collar and push him down to perform oral sex.  After that Reyos fled into the night.  “I didn’t even grab my stuff,” before hurrying out of the rectory.  I was walking down the street thinking, “That didn’t happen, that couldn’t happen with Father (Ryan).”

Several months later, flooded with alcohol, confusion and feelings of guilt, Reyos called police and confessed to the murder. Even though he recanted when he sobered up and had receipts and a speeding ticket to prove he was near Roswell, New Mexico when the murder occurred, he was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison.  He served 20. Reyos is working to clear his name and is being helped by public prosecutors and a state representative who believe him and are sympathetic to his cause.

The Murder of Father Ben

In the middle of the afternoon on November 10, 1982–three weeks before the suicide of Wm. L. Toomey–a 54-year-old man was found dead at the El Rancho Motel in Yuma, Arizona. When the police arrived they found the man face down on the bed.  He was naked. His hands were bound behind his back with black electrical tape. The victim was identified as Father Benjamin J. Carrier from Our Lady of Light Church in San Diego, California.  He priest had been strangled. 

References to “Father Ben” as he was called, can be found in California newspapers from 1967 through the early 70s. He had a reputation for trying to help the homeless and the down and out. 

It appears the priest was killed by two hitchhikers he had picked up. One witness said she saw Father Ben with two young men at the motel pool the day before he was killed. The motel manager said a young man with light facial hair was in Carrier’s truck when he arrived at the motel. Carrier paid for two people to stay the night. The priest’s truck was found abandoned in Las Vegas a few weeks later.

A week after the murder, The Southern Cross, the newspaper of the San Diego Archdiocese, published an article about Fr. Ben. Maudlin and dramatic, the article was ironic in a way it wasn’t meant to be: “..Father Ben was not a cautious man,” the writer said. “He took the scriptures very seriously, and so he lived dangerously, risking himself not wisely, not sensible, but in the only way he could. And in his imprudence, his foolishness, he shamed us in our comfortable self-protection…It is a heavy burden, and few of us could heft it with the same dogged self-immolation that he did. But we can all give a little more of ourselves, drop a few more defenses, mortgage a little more comfort and safety, to carry Christ’s mission into danger zones of unbelief.”

Murder Theories

One of the investigators in Wm. L. Toomey’s suicide felt there was a connection between the unknown man and the unsolved killings of several priests, including Fr. Ryan and Fr. Ben.  He thought Toomey was a priest or a former priest, and probably a victim of sexual abuse himself.

I think whoever killed Fr. Ryan and Fr. Ben was a victim of sexual abuse.  The savagery and violence in the murders point to a very deep anger and rage. But whether the murder was the same person isn’t clear. Was each killing random, or was it a serial killer? Were the killings personal revenge for sexual abuse, or an opportunistic killing during a sexual encounter? 

What is clear to me is that church officials and local police never tried very hard to catch the killer. There is no mention of accumulated evidence–motel records, phone calls, witness statements, fingerprints, sketches, blood and semen analysis, sexual activity or assault. The police, parishioners, friends and others found it hard to believe–didn’t want to believe–a Catholic priest was killed after bringing another man to a motel for sex.

Wm. L. Toomey was buried in Dry Creek Cemetery in Boise, Idaho.  Fr. Ben was brought back to San Diego to be buried. Fr. Patrick “Paddy” Ryan’s body was flown back to Ireland, and interred in St. Fintan’s Cemetery in Doon, Co. Limerick.  Bishop Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo and Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of San Angelo presided at Ryan’s funeral on December 29th, a week after his murder.  Bishop Matthiesen called Fr. Ryan “yet another martyr.”

That was a curious choice of words.  I wonder why kind of martyrdom he had in mind.

 

 

 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Essay on the Sex Abuse

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 7, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, History, Popes, Scandals

On April 10, 2019 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released an essay, The Church and the Scandal of Sex AbuseIt was published in an obscure Bavarian priests’ newsletter.  Almost immediately ultra-conservative North American Catholic news outlets published an English translation.  Benedict said he began drafting the essay shortly after Pope Francis announced that the world’s bishops’ conferences would meet in Rome in February 2019 to discuss the sex abuse crisis, and how to protect minors and vulnerable adults.

“Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it,” Benedict writes, “I had to ask myself – even though as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible – what could I contribute to a new beginning.”

Benedict’s 6,000-word essay did not address many key questions:  How much did he know and refuse to say about how these issues were handled in his pontificate and that of Pope John Paul II? Why didn’t he do more about clerical sex abuse and its cover up in his three decades as a high official in the Vatican? Why was all his anti-gay rhetoric never applied to Vatican prelates and bishops, only to homosexual men and women in secular society?

A woman who is internationally known for her support of LGBT Catholics, and one who was persecuted for her views by the future Pope Benedict XVI, spotted him on a commercial flight to Rome.  Cardinal Ratzinger had refused every one of her requests to meet.  Seeing an opportunity, she waited until a seat opened up next to him and went over and sat down. He was stuck. She tried every which way to get him to talk to her about the love and faith of gay and lesbian Catholics. She said he was a gentle man, polite and soft-spoken, but not for one minute would he entertain any view other than his own. The supremacy of the Church and its teachings did not leave room for discussion or doubt.

“Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict blames the cultural upheavals and sexual revolution of the 1960s for most of the problems in the Catholic Church.  In his view, the roots of the sexual abuse crisis lie in a steep decline in public “respectability,’ and theologians who challenged the Church’s opposition to birth control.  Together they opened the floodgates to other sexual sins, dissent and the abandonment of God. But, there are some gigantic holes in Benedict’s reasoning. How is secular society to blame for the cover up of clerical sex abuse by bishops, Vatican officials and popes? How did the Legionaries of Christ founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a serial rapist and molester, operate freely and without fear at he highest levels of the Vatican?  He was protected and his victims were ignored and harassed.

Was the Church swept away with all the sexual taboos? No, it was The Pill.  A bitter pill for many Catholics who turned away from the Church after Humane Vitae.  I was a teenager in the 1960s, and I recall talking to my parents at the dinner table about the Pope Paul’s decision.  My parents felt the church had made a terrible mistake.  Humanae Vitae, while a beautiful document, wasn’t based on common sense.  The church lost a lot of credibility with ordinary Catholics and their children.

“The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers.”

What! I never knew they showed dirty movies on airlines! When was that?! Passengers would see the dirty movies and start a riot on the plane! Wow!

“Faith is a journey and a way of life.”

That is a very Vatican II statement on the progress of faith.  I was surprised.

“In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in seminaries. In one seminary in Southern Germany, candidates for priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of pastoral specialist lived together.  At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely.”

This is a very strange passage. The sentence about “homosexual cliques” is Benedict’s one reference to homosexuality in his essay. If he feels that homosexuality is a major reason behind the sex abuse crisis, why does he only allude to it in one sentence about a few seminaries? If the Vatican felt that “homosexual cliques”–especially ones who were open and active–were changing the character of the seminaries, why didn’t they do anything about it? What is also odd, given Benedict’s fixation on homosexuality as a root cause of everything bad, is why he objected to the presence of women and children having dinner with seminarians? Why was this “climate” (mixed company–married men, women, children, lay ministers) inappropriate for priestly candidates?  As priests, wouldn’t they work and socialize with a variety of people? Or, is it the notion that seminarians should be separated from lay people, to give them the feeling they are special, set apart, above the law and other norms? 

“There were–not only in the United States of America–individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern “Catholicity” in their dioceses.  Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.”

What a whiny, self-pitying remark from a man that spent his career rooting out and punishing free-thinkers and Church critics. Hans Kung, Leonardo Boff, liberation theology, feminist theologians, Elizabeth Johnson, U.S. women’s religious communities, Jeannine Gramick, Bob Nugent, and many others all felt his disapproval and heavy, censoring hand.  They handled themselves with more dignity.

“The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.”

Is pedophilia in the Church only an issue when it’s acute? “Acute” in this instance means the number of cases and accusations coming to the attention of the public. Why did the Vatican delay in addressing the inadequacy of canon law to investigate, judge and impose significant ecclesiastical sanctions on credibly accused clergy and religious? Benedict knew about thousands of sexual abuse cases and accusations, but his highest priority was to protect the Church from scandal, not children or teenagers.

One of the most stomach-turning incidents in his tenure is the case of the Wisconsin priest, Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. (See my comments on the case in this post.) Murphy molested around 200 boys during his time at the school.  Nowhere in his essay does Benedict express any shame or regret for his role in the Murphy case, or apologize for official delays or inaction in other cases. His silence is instructive to his frame of mind, priorities and values.

“A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’ message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset.”

This “double guarantee” is missing a provision.  It protects the rights of the accused. Fine. It protects “the Faith” as a “legal asset.” Good. But he never mentions justice or mercy for the victims and bereaved–certainly an integral part of Jesus’ message.  It appears this part is missing in the canon law Benedict cites.  In John’s Gospel Jesus protected a woman accused of adultery by suggesting a man without sin cast the first stone.  But in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, Jesus is very clear that if anyone harmed children their punishment would be dire–“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately the reason is the absence of God.”

The absence of God in men with personality disorders and mental health issues which incites them to sexually molest children; or just the absence of God?  Does Benedict believe pedophilia is ultimately a spiritual evil that we can pray to God to purify away?

“A young woman who was a (former) altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing against her with the words: “This is my body which will be given up for you.” It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her abuse.  Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of his suffering, His sacrifice. And we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.”

What exactly is Benedict saying?  Is he implying a connection between the abuse of the liturgy and sexual abuse? If people would only approach communion in a reverent way most of the problems in Catholicism will clear up? Why do “we” need to implore the Lord for forgiveness, when “we” have not committed this terrible sin and violation?  The priest in question, and his superior if he protected him, are the people who need to beg for forgiveness.  Not only to our Lord, but first to the girl, her family, and all the people whose faith he has ruined by his terrible actions.  Of all the sections in the essay, this passage is the most emotionally remote and bleak. It horrified me to see such a distance between our highest spiritual leader and the people he was supposed to serve.

“Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow in almost exclusively in political terms.”

Did Benedict have the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in mind?  We have a hard core of loud conservative bishops and some liberal bishops.  With the election of Pope Francis, the demographics have sifted slightly, as more moderate, pastoral bishops have been added. Early in his pontificate, Francis scolded the USCCB for their preoccupation with gay marriage and abortion.  For the last two decades, a conservative subset of U.S. bishops has focused on abortion and religious liberty (freedom to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, women who use birth control) to the marginalization of many other social and economic issues. They were comfortable in the Republican party tent. The smaller minority of liberal bishops promoted government support for the poor, immigrants and health care. They tended to line up with the Democratic party. Some conservative bishops urged people not to vote for pro-choice politicians, or politicians that supported gay marriage–no matter what their views and voting record on other issues.  They also obliged the Republican party by torpedoing any moderate or liberal Catholic presidential and congressional candidates. If Francis continues to appoint bishops with a more pastoral vs. conservative political focus, the USCCB’s activity in the public square will be less politically polarizing.

“The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped.”

Should Catholicism be a smaller and more tradition-minded community or a larger and more inclusive church of imperfect believers at various stages in their spiritual journey?  Who does a smaller, purer church exclude?  People who reject libertarian economics and individualism in favor of the poor and marginalized; or people who are concerned primarily with sexual morality?  I am not immune to this feeling.  How many times have I longed for a church of like-minded believers.  But I also recognize that making the church an ideologically purer place will inevitably extinguish it.  We can help shape it, but we cannot remake it. It is not ours to remake.

In 2016, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a speech delivered at the University of Notre Dame that the Church should “do everything we can to bring tepid Catholics back to active life in the church.”  But, he continued, “we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, in  a 2018 talk at Villanova University, urged Catholics to resist allowing “the individualism that permeates our culture” to infect the church. “Even from ancient times, there have been individuals and movements who have tried to define and delimit what it means to be a Catholic Christian,” the Newark, NJ archbishop said. “Nevertheless, the universal church has always repudiated such attempts. It is only the Lord who ultimately judges who belongs and who does not belong.”

Domine, quo vadis? 

In the meantime, Pope Emeritus Benedict needs to put down his pen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Rykener’s Confession

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 13, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Humor, Scandals, Sex

Many conservative Catholic pundits–and our former pope, Benedict XVI–are quick to blame Vatican II and secular society for loosened sexual morals, and fluid notions of gender and gender roles. Influenced by this permissive culture, they argue, clergy and religious began to relax their own attitudes on sex and homosexuality. But is this situation as “new” as the pundits and pope suggest?

In London in December 1394, John Rykener was arrested for having sex with another man. He was dressed like a woman when he was caught in the act of “committing that detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice.” In his confession, he said that he had been cross-dressing for months, and worked as a prostitute, servicing both men and women. He called himself “Eleanor.”  In addition to prostitution, he supported himself by working as an embroideress.  The woman who taught him to embroider also introduced him to prostitution. 

John Rykener worked as a prostitute in London, Oxford and Burford. He confessed to having sex with many people, including nuns and married and unmarried women. He said that he did not charge women for sex.  He also had sex with lots of men: students, married men, clerical officials, priests, Franciscans and Carmelites.  Rykener “accommodated priests more readily than other people because they wished to give him more.”  In addition to money, one Franciscan brother gave Rykener a gold ring.  He “also confessed that after (his) last return to London a certain Sir John, once chaplain at the Church of St. Margaret Patterns, and two other chaplains committed with him the aforementioned vice in the lanes behind St. Katherine’s Church by the Tower of London.”

Sound familiar?

There is no record of what became of John Rykener, or if he was prosecuted for sodomy in Church courts.

The the entire confession here.

John Rykener appears in Bruce Holsinger’s 2014 novel, A Burnable Book.

John/Eleanor Rykener’s confession was listed in the Plea and Memoranda Roll for the Corporation of London in 1395. The document was unearthed by Sheila Lindenbaum and edited by David Lorenzo Boyd and Ruth Mazo Karrar in 1995.  It was published in A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 459-465.

 

Did Frederic Martel Just Out Cardinal Raymond Burke?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 26, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Celebrities, History, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Popes, Scandals

I think he did. 

Cardinal Raymond Burke is featured prominently in Martel’s new book, In the Closet of the Vatican – Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy. A central thesis of the book is that cardinals and bishops who make the strongest condemnations of homosexuality are more likely to be gay themselves; Martel describes this as part of their attempt to cover up who they really are.

Chapter 2, “Gender Theory” focuses on Cardinal Burke’s flouting of his extravagant liturgical regalia–the 12 metre/39 ft. red moire silk cape, the “cappa magna;” the velvet gloves, lace and vivid colors. His nickname in the Curia is “The Wicked Witch of the Midwest.” The cardinal’s assistant refers to him in the feminine:  “His Eminence has no office,” the young priest tells me. ‘Elle travaille chez elle.’ (She works at home.)  Julian Fricket, a drag artist the author interviewed, commented on Cardinal Burke’s “Liturgy Queen” appearance:  “What strikes me when I look at Cardinal Burke’s cappa magna, robes or hats topped by floral arrangements, is its overstatement. The biggest, the longest, the tallest: it’s all very typical of drag queen codes.” 

On page 28, Martel describes Cardinal Burke holding court: “How often we see him surrounded by young seminarians kissing his hand–also magnificent in that our Hadrian seems to follow the cult of Greek beauty, which, as we know, was always more male than female.  Winning both the admiration and laughter of Rome, Burke always appears surrounded by obsequious chaperones, Antinous-like figures kneeling in front of him or page boys carrying the long red train of his cappa magna, as choirboys might for a bride.”

“Cardinal Burke is the very thing he denounces,” a cleric close to (Pope) Francis states starkly. The same man believes the pope might have had Burke in mind in October 2017 when he denounced “hypocritical” priests with “make-up” souls. “On the outside,” Pope Francis stated, “they present themselves as righteous, as good: they like to be seen when they pray and when they fast and when they give alms. (But) it is all appearance and in their hearts there is nothing…they put make-up on their souls, they live on make-up, holiness is make up for them…Lies do a lot of harm, hypocrisy does a lot of harm: it is a way of life.”

I thought Pope Francis’ use of “make up” was an interesting choice of words.  Is that “make up” the way a woman will put on make up to make herself more attractive; or is it a clown? an actor? transvestite? Halloween costume? drag queen? They all might apply.

Cardinal Burke was described as “unstraight” in the book (page 29).  This definition describes a person who is a non-heterosexual or one who is sexually abstinent.  I don’t think Burke is sexually active, but I find the absence of females in his life, and his fixation with the sexual morality of homosexuality a little fishy.

In the Closet of the Vatican is the latest in a series of books, articles and published letters to attempt to name without naming closeted prelates in the Vatican and U.S. hierarchy. The authors flesh out their tales with stories of intrigue, corruption and hypocrisy among the cardinals, bishops and Vatican officials.  Some of the most notable include:

2019: In the Closet of the Vatican – Power, Homosexuality, HypocrisyFrench writer Frederic Martel tries to explain why the Catholic Church is filled with closeted, and mostly self-hating, gay men. If I were a gay Catholic man I would be very depressed reading this book.  A few dead prelates are identified, but most in the “Ring of Lust” around Pope John Paul II remain unnamed since they are still alive and politically lethal. The book is rich in rumor, gossip and innuendo. The publication date coincided with the Vatican’s sex abuse summit, officially the “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church”, that was convened by Pope Francis and ran from February 21-24, 2019. You can bet this book was one of the main sideline conversations. 

2018: “Testimony” – A series of poison pen letters by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (2011-2016). These letters were released via several U.S.-based and conservatively  biased news outlets on August 22, September 29 and October 19, 2019.  Vigano focused on liberal or moderate prelates insinuating they were gay or soft on homosexual priests.  Vigano blamed the sex abuse crisis on gay priests and bishops.  He accused Pope Francis of protecting homosexual predators–particularly the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and called on the pope to resign. Archbishop Vigano’s first letter was released during the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in Ireland; and the 3rd on the observance of the North American Martyrs. The last date struck me as very dramatic and is probably key to Archbishop Vigano’s character.

2013: “The Vatican’s Secret Life, was published in December 2013 in Vanity Fair magazine by Michael Joseph Gross. The opening scene is in a sauna.

2012: His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI by Gianluigi Nuzzi was published in May 2012.  The title of the English ebook is Ratzinger Was Afraid: The Secret Documents, the Money, and the Scandals that Overwhelmed the Pope.  The book is based on confidential memos between Pope Benedict XVI and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein. The leaked documents ignited the “VatiLeaks” scandal.  The book is full of fractional infighting, jealousies, and bribes and donations made to procure a papal audience. VatiLeaks was also the source for homosexual scandals, including a claim that Gian Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, manufactured evidence that Dino Boffo, editor of L’Avvenire, had an affair with a married man and harassed his wife.  Boffo resigned, but later claimed his ouster was part of a power struggle in the hierarchy.  The fact-finding mission Pope Benedict XVI organized to investigate VatiLeaks produced a 300-page dossier describing a powerful network of homosexual prelates, some of whom were being blackmailed.  The report ultimately led to Pope Benedict’s resignation on December 17, 2012.  He was the first pope in 600 years to resign.

2006: The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church was written and published by conservative writer Randy Engels.  This 1,282 page tone focuses primarily on dead homosexual bishops and cardinals in the American hierarchy before 2000.  There is a lot of material on John Cardinal Wright and Francis Cardinal Spellman.

2004: Vatican II, Homosexuality and Pedophilia by Atila Sinke Guimaraes.  Guimaraes is a traditionalist Catholic and manages the website Traditional in Action.  The book blames Vatican II and homosexuality for the downfall of Catholicism. He makes some points about the cover-up culture in the Vatican, and the alleged homosexuality of Pope Paul VI.

2003 – BishopAccountability.org – This site is dedicated to the victims and loved ones of clergy sex abuse. Constantly updated with new information, it is a good source of identifying homosexual cardinals, bishops, priests and other religious who were credibly accused of sex abuse or protecting abusers.

2002:  The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism was written by theologian Mark D. Jordan.  This book was published at the time the sex abuse crisis began to break in the U.S. It was also the period when Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) issued hostile and degrading statements about homosexuals, and their visibility in the church and society. In response, Mark Jordan set out to discover why a church filled with gay men was so homophobic and duplicitous. Jordan coined the term, “Liturgy Queen.”

1999: Gone with the Wind in the Vatican was originally published under the pseudonym “Millenari.” Monsignor Luigi Marinelli eventually admitted his involvement and said he had nine or ten other co-authors. The book was published in 200o in English with the title Shroud of Secrecy: The Story of Corruption Within the Vatican. The book offers an insider’s account of sex, corruption and intrigue. This steamy 288-page book describes all kinds of sexual scandals, and a Vatican culture dominated by favor swapping, careerism and back-stabbing. The main characters in the book were given pseudonyms from Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind (1936).

The granddaddy and most outrageous of all expose writers, French author Roger Peyrefitte, wrote and spoke extensively about homosexuals in the Vatican.  He famously outed Pope Pius XII in his 1955 book, Les Clefs de Saint Pierre (The Keys of St. Peter).  In a 1976 interview with the Italian magazine, Tempo, he commented on a January 1976 homily by Pope Paul VI. Peyrefitte said the pope’s words were hypocritical and made this statement: “The second sin from which I feel I have been freed, after this grotesque papal speech is my homosexuality.  In my last book, Hunting Scenes, and in another, About the French People, I stated with all the respect due a Pope (especially when he is still alive) that he is homosexual. It is amazing that the papal speech (against homosexuality) was published at the same time as my book. Was Paul VI moved by a guilt complex? Buy why should he feel guilty? It is known that a boyfriend of Paul VI was a certain movie star*, whose name I will not give, although I remember him very well. He was an unknown actor when our friend Paul was Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan. (*alleged to be Paolo Carlini)

Lots to ponder.  Especially the stomach-turning notion that most of Catholicism’s anti-gay rhetoric is produced by gay men themselves; with the permission of gay popes, or straight popes that are happy to take the money and men their gay minions raise for their causes. 

 

 

Conservative Catholics Are Obsessed with Homosexual Sex!

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 16, 2019 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Humor, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

When I want material on gay sex in the Catholic Church I know where to go–conservative Catholic media sites.  Church Militant, LifeSiteNews, Catholic Culture, National Catholic Register and EWTN always have a fresh sex story or scandal. Ultra conservative blogs pick up the story and add salacious details.  It snowballs.

In contrast, I rarely find a good sex story on liberal/moderate Catholic media like Commonweal, America or the National Catholic Reporter. Why?

It appears “authentic” Catholics relish good sex stories than other groups, particularly if they involve bishops, priests or seminarians. 2018 was a banner year between Cardinal McCarrick’s beach house and gay seminarians hustling each other for sex.  Disapproving transgender stories and editorials increased, too.  

 Sex Sells! Adultery, clandestine hook-ups, secret homosexuals, orgies!  Just think of the publications in the checkout line in the supermarket. Popular easy-reading (non-intellectual) magazines feature bombshell sexual content to attract readers.

Gay Sex is Titillating.  People are always curious about the taboo and forbidden. They may fantasize about having a sexual encounter with a member of their own sex, or really desire it, and reading about it is a safe vicarious experience.

Spice Up a Dull Sex Life. Married couples watch porn to get aroused.  Women are the biggest consumers of gay male porn. (I was surprised!)  “Lesbian” porn tops the list for both women and men, and “Threesomes” and “MILF” (Mothers/Mommas/Moms I’d Like to Fuck) is high in demand with both sexes.  Sex acts associated with homosexuality like “pussy-licking” and “anal” are popular search terms on Pornhub.com.  Pornhub is a pornographic video sharing website and one of the biggest pornography sites on the internet.  Total visits to Pornhub in 2018 totaled 33.5 billion. The largest consumer country was the United States followed by the United Kingdom.  

According to Dr. Laurie Betito, Director of  Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness Center, “Interest in ‘trans (aka transgender) porn saw significant gains in 2018, in particular with a 167% increase in searches by men and more than 200% with visitors over the age of 45 (becoming the fifth most searched term by those aged 45-64.”  Men looking for women with a dick.

Given the huge number of women and men who love lesbian porn, why isn’t there more specific lesbian coverage in conservative Catholic media?  That’s easy–in the Catholic Church there are no powerful women figures or celebrities, only men. Popes, cardinals, archbishops, Curia heads, bishops, and priests are male only.  The handful of women who are occasionally quoted or trotted out are elderly religious, preferably in a habit.

We may see a small uptick in lesbian coverage later this year, when the Paul Verhoeven film, Benedetta, is released.  The film “explores the simmering, searing tension of forbidden love.”  Based on Judith C. Brown’s 1986 book Immodest Acts, Benedetta follows real-life events. It stars Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century nun in Italy who enjoys visions and a passionate affair with another nun, Bartolomea Crivelli (played by Daphne Patakia). 

I can hardly wait to read the National Catholic Register review!

 

 

Becket 2020

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 8, 2019 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Politics, Popes, Saints, Scandals

The headline read: “Thomas Becket’s bloody tunic returns to Canterbury 850 years after he died. Vatican to send back historic relic worn by archbishop as he was brutally murdered.” In 2020, Canterbury Cathedral will mark the 850th anniversary of Becket’s assassination, and the 800th anniversary of the creation of his shrine.

Celebrating Becket

Canterbury Cathedral, where Becket was killed on December 29, 1170 following a series of bitter disputes with King Henry II, became a shrine after Pope Alexander III made Becket a saint three years following the murder. It drew thousands of pilgrims (think of Canterbury Tales by Chaucer) until the shrine was destroyed by King Henry VIII in 1538.   

Spotting a way to make money and draw visitors, Canterbury Cathedral is set to host a series of celebrations in 2020 to mark the anniversaries, including a joint church service by Catholics and Anglicans.

I wonder how they are going to navigate a potential P.R. nightmare: Archbishop Becket was killed because he refused to permit priests and others claiming clerical status to be tried in the King’s courts for rape, murder, theft and other serious crimes. This sounds a lot like the sex abuse scandals today–cardinals, bishops, church officials and popes refusing to turn criminal clerics over to secular authorities. Their top priority was to shield themselves and their priests from public exposure and civil justice. In the end their stance was about power, privilege and revenues. 

The 1964 film, Becket, starring Richard Burton as Becket, and Peter O’Toole as Henry II gave a sympathetic portrayal of Becket as a principled man standing up to civil authority.  Three decades of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church has ended portrayals of bishops as principled men.  Most people today would clap and cheer to see a bishop knocked down. They prefer to rely on civil authorities for justice, not shifty archbishops or opaque canonical courts.

The King’s Friend

Thomas Becket, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, was born in London in 1119 or 1120. His parents were both of Norman descent. Becket was a self-made man.  Recommended by Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, he was appointed Lord Chancellor in 1153 by King Henry II. They became very close friends. Henry even sent his son and heir, young Henry. to be educated in Becket’s household.  

Some clues can be surmised about Becket’s character from stories about him:  he was proud, vain, sensitive about his prerogatives and authority, but also warm and protective. He faced his death with courage and resolve. He sought to protect his monks from the knights who came to kill him.  Henry’s son said he received more fatherly love from Becket in one day than he did from his father, the king, in a lifetime.  Becket was described as dressing lavishly and extravagantly. While riding together through London on a cold winter’s day, King Henry saw a pauper shivering in his rags. He asked Becket if ht would not be charitable to give the man a cloak.  Becket agreed that it would. The King grabbed Becket’s expensive fur cloak and a tussle ensued.  The King finally succeeded in ripping it away and threw it to the beggar.  Becket was very unhappy and offended.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Everything changed in 1162, when Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury died and his seat became vacant. King Henry immediately saw an opportunity to increase his influence over the church by naming his loyal adviser and friend, Thomas Becket, to the highest ecclesiastical post in the land. The pope agreed on his selection. In preparation for his appointment, Becket was ordained a priest on June 1, 1162.  The next day he was ordained a bishop, and later that afternoon made Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Becket changed on becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. He defended the rights of the church. He exhibited concern for the poor. He became an ascetic. He wore a filthy hair shirt under his vestments.  This change is a great mystery, for which none of the chroniclers agree on an answer. Why did Becket evolve from a greedy and luxury-loving man, a loyal chancellor and friend, to a obstinate and contentious churchman?  Did he take his appointment seriously?  Was it an opportunity to be independently powerful from his friend, King Henry? Or did he really have a spiritual awakening and conversion?  I have no answer, but lean toward the idea he found his vocation.

The Benefit of Clergy

The big fissure between King Henry and Archbishop Becket came over “the benefit of clergy” (Privilegium Clericale). When accused of a crime members of the clergy could claim they were outside the jurisdiction of secular courts and be tried in an ecclesiastical court under canon law instead. This usually resulted in a much lighter sentence or punishment. King Henry was determined to increase his control over the church by eliminating this custom. He wanted clerics convicted of serious crimes to be handed over to civil authorities for punishment. The church hierarchy disagreed, arguing that this would undermine the principle of clerical immunity.  

Two violent crimes brought the problem to a head. A cleric in the diocese of Worcester was accused of mudering a man in order to rape his young daughter. King Henry ordered the man to be tried in a civil court. Becket intervened, commanding the Bishop of Worcester to put the man in an episcopal prison and not allow royal officials to touch him. In another notorious case, Philip of Bois, a canon of Bedford, was acquitted in the court of the Bishop of Lincoln on the charge of murdering a knight. Pushed by the family of the knight seeking justice, the Sheriff of Bedford attempted to re-open the case in a royal court.  He was resisted, and furiously abused by Philip, the Bedford canon.  Henry angrily demanded justice on the charge of homicide and on an additional charge of contempt. Becket attempted to solve the problem by banishing Philip for a few years, but the whole affair merely showed the inadequacy of canon law in punishing murderers, rapists and thieves.  

The rift between the two men grew. King Henry felt betrayed.  Archbishop Becket distrusted the motives of the king. The conflict became bitterly personal.  Becket went into exile in France. Henry finally got to Becket through the archbishop’s pride. On May 24, 1170, the king had his son, Henry the Younger, crowned at Canterbury by the Archbishop of York. Becket could not stand the snub to the prestige of his office, and two months later the king and archbishop agreed to a compromise which allowed Becket to return and re-crown Henry’s son in a second ceremony.

While in France, Becket excommunicated the Bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln for their support of the king. He excommunicated the Archbishop of York for leading the first coronation. He refused to absolve them. More conflicts arose, and Henry, exasperated and enraged, uttered the final, fateful words: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest? What miserable drones and wretches have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!”

Murder in the Cathedral

There are several contemporary accounts of what happened on Tuesday, December 29, 1170.  Edward Grim, a clerk from Cambridge who was visiting Canterbury Cathedral gave an eyewitness description. Grim tried to protect Archbishop Becket, and nearly had his arm cut off by one of the knight’s swords.  He published his account as Vita S. Thomae (Life of St. Thomas) in 1180.

Four knights first entered the cathedral near dusk without weapons. They left them outside by a tree. The knights were escorted in by one of Becket’s monks, Hugh de Horsea, later renamed “Hugh the Evil Clerk.” Becket was informed that four men had arrived to wished to speak with him. He consented to see them. The knights sat for a long time in silence. They confronted Becket and demanded he return with them to Winchester to give an accounting of his actions.  He refused. After that the knights retrieved their weapons, and with drawn swords rushed back inside the cathedral for the killing.

“The bell for vespers began to sound, and the archbishop, with his cross borne in front of him, made his way as usual into the cathedral. Hardly had he reached the ascent to the choir than the noise of armed men and the shout of the knights announced that the pursuers were at hand. “Where is the archbishop, where is the traitor!” resounded through the hollow aisles, mingling strangely with the recitation of the psalms in the choir.  Becket, hearing this, turned back a few steps, and calmly awaited their approach in the corner of the northern transept before a little altar of St. Benedict. “Here,” he cried, “is the archbishop, no traitor, but a priest of God.” All the clergy present abandoned Becket and fled the cathedral. Only the young clerk from Cambridge, Edward Grim, stayed with him.

The knights surrounded him. “Absolve,” they shouted, “and restore to communion those you have excommunicated and restore their powers to those whom you have suspended.” He answered, “I will not absolve them.”

“With rapid motion they laid sacrilegious hands on him, handling and dragging roughly outside the walls of the church so that there they would slay him or carry him from there as a prisoner, as they later confessed.” Becket struck the incendiary spark. He pushed against the most aggressive of the knights, Sir Reginald FitzUrse, calling him a pimp or panderer, and chiding him saying, “Don’t touch me Rainaldus, you who owe me faith and obedience, you who foolishly follow your accomplices.” The rebuff was too much for an enraged FitzUrse. He swung his sword at Becket, but only knocked off his skullcap.  Sir William de Tracy struck next, cutting off the top of Becket’s head, and with the same blow cutting deeply into the arm of young Edward Grim, who was holding Becket protectively. Becket received a second blow on the head from FitzUrse and fell to the stone floor. Then the third knight, Sit Richard de Brito (or Sir Richard de Breton) “inflicted a grave wound on the fallen one, with this blow he shattered the sword on the stone and his crown, which was large, separated from his head so that the blood turned white from the brain yet no less did the brain turned red from the blood; it purpled the appearance of the church with the colours of the lily and the rose, the colours of the Virgin and the Mother and the life and death of the confessor and martyr…” Sir Richard de Brito cried, “Take that, for the love of my lord William, the King’s brother!” when he delivered the fatal blow. William FitzEmpress, the count of Anjou, was Henry’s youngest brother. It was believed by William’s friends that he died of a broken heart after Thomas Becket refused to allow his marriage to Isabel de Warenne, Countess of Survey.  

The fourth knight, Sir Hugh de Morville, drove away onlookers who were gathering so the other knights could finish off Becket. The fifth man, Hugh de Horesa, a Canterbury monk, “placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr and, horrible to say, scattered his brains and blood over the floor, exclaiming to the rest, “Let us away, knights; he will rise no more.”

Becket’s body lay on the floor for several hours. Sometime before midnight, Gilbert, the chamberlain, entered the church and tore off a strip of his surplice to cover Becket’s mutilated head.  The monks collected the scattered brains and placed the body on a bier in front of the high altar. They also cordoned off the area to block a growing crowd of onlookers, who were tearing off pieces of their garments and dipping them in Becket’s blood.

Cures and Pilgrims

Miracles attributed to Becket’s blood began almost immediately. On the night of the murder, one man took home a piece of bloody cloth to his sick wife who was instantly cured. Reports of similar cures followed in the next few days, mostly involving poor and sick local women.

In the following months, as people came to the cathedral to offer thanks, two monks wrote down the reports of cures. They were Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury. Each man took a different approach. Benedict recorded many cases of poor women, widows and the sick, most of whom lived in the area. William began writing in 1172, when the shrine was becoming fashionable, and focused on wealthy and powerful men. He grouped miracles into types (healing, driving out demons, finding lost items) and the stories became increasingly fantastic. He claimed a Breton woman taught a starling to invoke St. Thomas, and when a kite seized the bird it repeated this phrase and the kite dropped dead, releasing the starling.

The Fate of the Knights

King Henry II did not punish the knights for the murder. He advised them to flee to Scotland.  After a short stay, they went to Sir Hugh de Morville’s castle of Knaresborough in Yorkshire. All four were excommunicated by Pope Alexander III on Holy Thursday, March 25, 1171–three months after Becket’s murder.

The knights traveled to Rome and sought an audience with Pope Alexander, who despite their penitence, declared they should be exiled and fight in Jerusalem “in knightly arms in The Temple for 14 years.” After their service was completed, the pope instructed them to visit the holy places barefoot and in hair shirts and live alone for the rest of their lives on the Black Mountain near Antioch, spending their time in vigil, prayer and lamentation.  The pope meted out a pretty harsh punishment to the four knights, considering they all had expressed contrition and made amends through various donations and endowments in Becket’s name.  No one seems to know exactly what happened to the knights. According to one account, they went to Jerusalem and never returned.  They were buried under the portico in the front of the Knights Templar Round Church built on the Temple of Solomon.

In other accounts, Sir Reginald FitzUrse fled to Ireland, where he fathered the McMahon clan. Sir William de Tracy died of leprosy in Italy on the way to the Holy Land. Sir Richard de Brito may have gone to the island of Jersey. Horsea the Evil Clerk disappears from history. Sir Hugh de Morville’s story has two possible endings.  He went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and died in 1173. In 1174 his lands passed to his sister, Maud.  He was owner of Pendragon Castle, which according to legend, was built by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur. A Hugh de Morville also appears in the service of King Richard I, or Richard the Lionheart as a crusader. De Morville was named the king’s hostage in 1194 when King Richard had been captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. This Hugh de Morville provided an Anglo-Norman poem to lay priest and author Ulrich von Zatzikhoven for his romance, Lazelet. Nothing more is heard of de Morville.  His sword was said to have passed to Carlisle Cathedral and was displayed for hundreds of years as The Becket Sword.  The sword disappeared during the Reformation.  Ironically, it was the only sword not used on Becket.

Becket 2020

Canterbury Cathedral will be celebrating the 850 years of Becket’s martyrdom in 2020. They have a special section o on their website – Becket 2020 – detailing events, resources, partner institutions and branding requirements.  Becket’s bloody vestments will undoubtedly be the most popular attraction.  

2019 and 2020 will see continuing stories in Great Britain and elsewhere on cardinals and bishops who protected sexually abusive priests and “criminous clerks” (to use King Henry’s phrase); or indulged in sinful and criminal behavior themselves with few or no consequences.  800 years ago, King Henry attempted to try clerics charged with serious crimes in civil courts but failed.  The cultural and political power of the Catholic Church was too strong.

The ethic of clerical immunity has remained in the institutional Church to this day; but their most potent weapons of excommunication and ban of the sacraments have no impact on today’s public prosecutors, appointed or elected officials.  The Catholic Church is not the church of Christendom anymore and has lost much of its moral authority in Europe, as well as the Americas–home to most of the world’s Catholics.  The Benefit of Clergy culture has brought the global church to such a crisis ta the pope has had to intervene to save it.

On February 21-24, 2019 Pope Francis will be convening a meeting at the Vatican of the heads of all the bishops’ conferences around the world to discuss the clerical sex abuse scandals and the importance of child protection.  One of the action plans will be on the process of turning over bishops and clergy to secular authorities when they have been credibly abuse of abuse, or hindering investigations of abuse.  Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, one of the meeting’s organizers observed:  “Pope Francis is calling for radical reform in the life of the Church, for he understands that this crisis is about the abuse of power and a culture of protection and privilege, which has created a climate of secrecy without accountability for misdeeds,” he said, adding that “all of that has to end.”

I wonder what the martyred Archbishop Becket would have to say about that?  

 

 

Too Late for a Christmas Card

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 24, 2018 | Categories: Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays

Every year for 20 years or so we received a Christmas card from our friend, Peggy C. By the time we received the last one we hadn’t seen one another in years, but Peggy was faithful and we always heard from her during the holidays. When I didn’t hear from her after a year or two I pulled out my address book and sent her a card. No response. In 2014 my card came back–no one at that address. I wanted to try again this year and googled her name and last address. In the results I saw Peggy’s executrix sold her apartment in 2014. That was it. Too late for a Christmas card.

I wasn’t as faithful as Peggy about sending Christmas cards. For many years Christmas was little but a mountain of stress: the year-end rush of work, shopping, dinner, managing emotional expectations, a constant blare of noise and rushing around and piped in holiday music. I got to hate Christmas and could hardly wait for it to be over. Christmas cards were at the bottom of the list. Too often I ran out of energy or enthusiasm to do them.

But I always liked to get them, and really appreciated the little notes sharing a happy memory or the latest news. I also appreciated Peggy’s constancy. I heard from her every year.

I started to think about Peggy as I made up my Christmas greeting list this month. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in almost 25 years, but she is so present for me every Christmas. I remember Peggy as a tall, very nice, refined and poised woman. She had dark blond year. One year she legally changed her name from her father’s to her mother’s–some unhappy story there. Peggy was quiet and had a very calm personality. She lived in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan for decades. When I asked a friend about her memories of Peggy, she said Peggy taught deaf students in the public school system. After she retired, she studied at the Interfaith Center on Riverside Drive. She was also a heavy smoker. Perhaps this had something to do with her death.

I met Peggy at a meeting of Catholic lesbians at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center on West 13th Street. The CCL-Center Group met monthly from 1985 to 1995. Peggy took over the mailing list from me when I had to choose between lesbian activist and hockey mom. Peggy was there at every meeting whether two or twenty women showed up.

What I learned from Peggy is the value of faithfulness. There was a card from her every year whether I reciprocated or not. She is my inspiration when I pick up my pen to write a note in each Christmas card, letting someone know I am thinking of them with love and affection, and they are remembered in this happy and holy time of year.

 

 

Lip Service: John Cardinal Wright Gives Himself a Celibacy Dispensation

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 21, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

“Relations between (Cardinal) Cushing and (Bishop) Wright were not always smooth. When Cushing was told Wright had his eye on the episcopal throne Cushing growled, “He may have his eye on it, but I’ve got my ass on it..” And Wright suffered from another major liability; among insiders he was believed to be a homosexual, a trait tolerated in cosmopolitan Rome, but a severe handicap in puritanical Boston.” Anthony Lukas, Common Ground.

“Here it is worth revisiting the career of Cardinal John J. Wright (1909-1979) who, like (Cardinal Theodore) McCarrick, was the subject of numerous stories about his own sexuality.  Again, these came mostly from former seminarians and priests of the Pittsburgh (PA) 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.” Kenneth L. Woodward, “Double Lives-The Peril of Clerical Hypocrisy” Commonweal

The life and career of John Cardinal Wright is a perfect example of how a sexually active homosexual priest or bishop can rise to the top and stay there:  an entrenched protective brotherhood (much like police departments) and a tacit understanding that whistle-blowing is a career killer.

This protective ethic applies to heterosexual bishops/cardinals, too:  the Chicago Sun-Times detailed financial and other scandals associated with John Patrick Cardinal Cody of Chicago (1965-1982).  A contemporary of Cardinal Wright, Cody was alleged to have a mistress, a step-cousin he grew up with, Mrs. Helen Dolan Wilson. Over a million dollars went missing from the Chicago Archdiocese from accounts Cardinal Cody controlled; and four million in a single year when he was  treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  A chunk of money is believed to have been diverted to Helen Dolan Wilson for furs, a house in Boca Raton, Florida, a luxury car, expensive clothes, holiday cash presents and loans to her children.  When Cody died the investigations were dropped.

John Cardinal Wright was a controversial figure because of his strong espousal of social justice causes such as the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam war; and his steely resistance to other causes, including married priests, the ordination of women, and birth control.  He felt being a “social liberal” was entirely compatible with being a “theological conservative.”  

As a child, he became a Francophile after hearing World War I soldiers talk about France, and he began a collection of books about Joan of Arc that eventually ran to 6,000 volumes.  He memorized French folk songs and poetry and became enamored of Debussy’s music.  Because of his intellectual background, Cardinal Wright always felt himself to be apart from the American tradition.  “I joined the body of bishops but went my own way,” he once said.  “For instance, I never went to funerals or played golf.  I’m still a little bit of a maverick.”

In 1950, at the age of 43, Wright became the first bishop of a new diocese in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Prior to his appointment he had been an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston.  His clerical career climb had started, and so did the sillage from his episcopal sex life.

On March 30, 2005, a lawsuit was filed against the Dioceses of Springfield and Worcester, MA by William E. Burnett, 64, accusing five priests and two bishops, all deceased, of sexual abuse.  The abuse took place from 1950-1959.  According to Burnett, his abuse by Bishop Wright occurred mainly between 1952-1955, when he was 11 or 12 to his early teens.  The sexual encounters took place at a private lakeside retreat owned by Burnett’s uncle, Monsignor Raymond Page, who served as a priest under Bishop Wright in Worcester.  In her 1,318-page tome, The Rite of Sodomy – Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, Randy Engels details the sexual threesomes in the chapter, “The Secret Life of Bishop John Wright.”

“Burnett stated that the abuse ritual began with drinks, a coke for him and coke and alcohol for Page and Wright. Wright would then undress him, fall on his knees before the standing boy and cover him with kisses–feet, penis, nipples and lips.  He and Page would then undress and while the later stimulated Wright from behind, Bill would fellate the bishop.  When Wright neared ejaculation, he would turn Bill around and sodomize him.  Then Page took his turn raping his nephew.  On another occasion, Burnett said, Bishop Wright and Page engaged in simultaneous oral copulation.  While Bill looked on, he was told to begin masturbating.  Then Wright turned to Bill and said he wanted to “drink me in.” Wright then fellated him to orgasm.  Bill said he never forgot those words.  Burnett said Bishop Wright encouraged him to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Worcester when he graduated from high school.”

Bill Burnett was described as a “schoolteacher turned bank robber” in a July 16, 1991 article in the Houston Chronicle. He was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Kenneth Gardner, a retired businessman, in a Houston motel on September 23, 1989. Burnett was 48 at the time of the murder and living in Texas.  He had already served time in federal prisons for seven bank robberies.  During some of those robberies he pistol-whipped or sexually molested women tellers.

Burnett passed two polygraph tests on his allegations.  The Diocese of Worcester said it had been made aware of Burnett’s claims “several years ago and had investigated the claims with members of his family and by a thorough investigation of diocesan records.”  Family members cast doubt on Burnett’s story, and the Diocese could not find anything to deem it credible.  The Springfield Diocese said nothing in its records corroborated the allegations.

Bishop Wright arrived as the new bishop of Pittsburgh in 1959.  He was closely involved with cutting-edge social and religious issues of the day.  He encouraged his priests to be active in promoting civil rights for African-Americans.  He advised President John F. Kennedy on ecumenical issues and relationships.  During the Second Vatican Council Bishop Wright strongly supported the statement on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, which was seen by many as a departure from Church tradition.  He also urged the Church to take a clear stand against racism and for ecumenical dialogue.  

In 1962 Bishop Wright released a joint statement with Episcopalian Bishop Austin Pardue condemning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Engel v. Vitale to eliminate prayer in public schools.  “A powerful, aggressive spirit of secularism is abroad in our land,” they wrote.  “It filters through all levels of society for the purpose of eliminating God from our national life.”  The specter of secularism would be raised again decades later by conservative bishops in Catholic culture wars in the United States and Europe.

Many observers of the U.S. episcopal scene expected Bishop Wright to succeed Richard Cardinal Cushing as Archbishop of Boston, who was due to retire on his 75th birthday.  Instead, in May 1969, Pope Paul VI appointed Wright as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and named him a cardinal.  Kenneth L. Woodward, the former religious editor for Newsweek (1964-2002), reflected on the appointment in his October 26, 2018 article in Commonweal, “Double Lives – The Peril of Clerical Hypocrisy.”

“In 1969, at the age of 60, Pope Paul VI chose Wright to head the Congregation for Clergy 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.”  

Wright enjoyed the trappings of his post in the Vatican.  He shared his fifth-floor apartment with his secretary, the Rev. Donald Wuerl, who he brought with him from Pittsburgh.  The apartment was said to be crammed with stereo equipment and many books.  Cardinal Wright enjoyed long conversations over a large dinner of pasta and said he “confessed to Romanitis.”

One of the first things he did at the Vatican was to suggest that all priests renew their vows of celibacy and ecclesiastical obedience each year.  On February 9, 1970, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a circular letter on priestly renewal that said: “It is desirable that every priest should make an act of renewal on Holy Thursday morning.” This act of renewal, it stated, “should be a reaffirmation of the act by which he consecrated himself to Christ and has undertaken to fulfill the obligations of his priesthood, particularly celibacy and of obedience to his Bishop or religious superior.”  Few priests or bishops responded to his request.  The Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York was attended by only 35 of about 1,200 priests who had been invited.  The meager response was regarded as an embarrassment to the Vatican.  Numerous other dioceses in the U.S. and Europe ignored the request, not wanting to stir up controversy in the face of mounting criticism of mandatory celibacy. The Rev. Charles Curran, a theologian at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., was quoted as saying, “Why is it that when they want to test us, it’s always about celibacy and obedience – never on anything basic like faith, hope and charity.”

The Fr. Ginder sex scandal broke at the end of Bishop Wright’s watch in Pittsburgh.  A native of Pittsburgh, Fr. Charles R. Ginder had been a priest of the diocese since his ordination in 1940. According to his semi-autobiographical novel, Binding with Briars – Sex and Sin in the Catholic Churchhis homosexual activities began in 1949.  From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, Fr. Ginder was a popular syndicated columnist and writer.  He contributed a weekly column, “Right or Wrong” to Our Sunday Visitor, a weekly Catholic publication with over a million subscribers. He also served for several years as the dioceses’s Censor Librorum.  

In 1969 police officers raided Fr. Ginder’s apartment in the Squirrel Hill district of Pittsburgh, and found photographs of teenage boys performing sex acts with each other, Fr. Ginder, and other men, possibly other priests from the diocese. They also took Fr. Ginder’s diaries, which chronicled his sexual encounters.  Diocesan attorneys interceded for Fr. Ginder and he was released from jail and put on ten-years probation.

Fr. Ginder’s name pops up on BishopAccountability.org, a website that logs clerical sex abuse charges and convictions; and in the August 14, 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clerical sexual abuse and cover up in all the state’s dioceses.  Of the 301 credibly accused priests in the report, the highest number, 99, were from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  The resulting public firestorm was to bring down Cardinal Donald Wuerl–Cardinal Wright’s secretary, protege and a former bishop of Pittsburgh–two months after the report’s release.

After a long illness, John Cardinal Wright died on August 10, 1979.  He was 70 years old.  At the time of his death, he was the highest ranking American prelate in the Vatican.  His funeral Mass, at Holy Name Church in the West Roxbury section of Boston, was attended by 11 cardinals, countless bishops, priests, dignitaries, government leaders and friends. Archbishop Jean Jadot, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, was one of several concelebrants.  The principal celebrant was Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, the Archbishop of Boston, who returned from a trip to Ireland for the funeral.  John A. Volpe, former Governor of Massachusetts and Ambassador to Italy, read one of the epistles at the service.

Bishop Vincent M. Leonard of Pittsburgh, eulogist at the funeral, emphasized Cardinal Wright’s scholarship and love of teaching.  “Every opportunity to teach he accepted,” Bishop Leonard said. “And when his legs could no longer carry him to the podium, pulpit or altar, we has satisfied to use a pen and rely on the mails and printed word.” He went on to describe Cardinal Wright as a “great priest in the biblical sense of the word, a devoted shepherd of the flock committed to him in Worcester and Pittsburgh and a loyal and obedient son of Holy Mother Church.  His death is a great loss to church and community.”  Pope John Paul II sent a message praising Wright for “loyal service to the church and fidelity to the See of Peter.”  The pope said, “He will long be remembered with admiration and gratitude.”

Cardinal Wright has been buried almost 40 years, but his lifestyle as a closeted, sexually active prelate still exists and causes problems today.  Here’s why:

Blackmail – Pederast priests, or priests who seduce, pressure or have sex with teenagers, students, young adults and others take their cue from the example set at the top.  If a priest had sex with the bishop, or knows about priests, seminarians, youngsters or rent boys the bishop has used for sex, he can be confident the bishop won’t crack down on him when gossip about his sex life makes the rounds.  In addition, illicit sex opens the cleric up to blackmail by criminals, tricks, past lovers and others.

Hypocrisy – How can a cardinal or bishop preach celibacy and chastity but also engage in sexual activity? Obviously, they have worked it out in their own minds that it’s OK for them to have sex.  However, the laity–especially gay and lesbian Catholics– must stay within the boundaries of Catholic conventional morality.  This hypocrisy destroys their credibility, the credibility of their teaching and office, and negatively impacts the authority and perception of bishops as a group.

Stupidity – Rather than complain about the large numbers of homosexuals in the priesthood, why not change it and permit women deacons and ordain married men? In his position in the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Wright knew how many priests left to marry–hundreds of thousands of them.  Enforced celibacy is the reason many men do not pursue a vocation.  Continuing with a limited pool of candidates for the priesthood will draw what they fear most: immature, fearful homosexuals who secretly pursue their desires.

Delusional – In this age of cellphone cameras and text message trails, digital news and opinion, aggressive public prosecutors, angry and skeptical coreligionists, and editors and publishers who won’t be cowed—nobody is getting away with anything.  To think a secret life is safe is delusional.

Modern day Cardinal Wrights should not be giving themselves special dispensations to indulge in homosexual sex that they heartily condemn in others.  Liberal or conservative, we need to drag them out in the open.  The trouble is..will there be enough left to run things?