Posted in category "Accountability"

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?  

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 28, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Politics, Popes, Scandals

Amid the summer’s disgusting and disheartening clergy sexual abuse revelations comes a new twist–an 11-page “testimony” by former Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, 76. This August 25, 2018 letter, predictably, was published on LifeSiteNews.com. This faithful Catholic media site is a twin of the National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid known for  its titillating sex items and outrageous claims.

Archbishop Vigano’s letter is full of gossip and veiled sex stories. It names names, but curiously many of the ones he targeted are not conservative bishops or cardinals–just liberal and moderate ones, and Archbishop Vigano’s rivals and political enemies in the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic service.

Vigano’s testimony has three problem areas; four if you count all the stilettos out for him now.

  1. Most of the actions he described happened during the papacies of St. John Paul II the Great and Pope Benedict XVI. They will both be slimed in any investigation.  If this story snowballs, Pope Benedict will be pressed to discuss Archbishop McCarrick and other sex offenders during his reign and that of his predecessor. That will be a stinker exclamation mark to his papacy.
  2. The basis for Archbishop Vigano’s call for Pope Francis to resign is his claim Pope Benedict “secretly sanctioned” Cardinal McCarrick for his immoral behavior and Pope Francis looked the other way.  He let McCarrick travel, be admired, and have all kinds of influence in appointing U.S. bishops, much to Vigano’s fury. Vigano said that Pope Benedict disciplined Cardinal McCarrick in 2009 or 2010–he wasn’t sure which year since no Vatican official responded to his memos.  There are a lot of gaps in his story, including why Pope Benedict said nothing in the remaining four years of his papacy while Cardinal McCarrick continued his public ministry and high profile.
  3. Archbishop Vigano claims that his motive in all of this is to “stop the suffering of the victims, to prevent new victims and to protect the Church: only the truth can make her free.”

Is that true?  Really?

In 2014, Vigano, as papal nuncio to the United States, ordered officials of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to end an investigation into sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop John Nienstedt even after two auxiliary bishops explained that the investigation was far from complete.  He also ordered those bishops to destroy a letter they sent to him on the investigation. The bishops objected and told him “this would rightfully be seen as a cover-up.” The document Vigano asked them to destroy explored allegations that Archbishop Nienstedt engaged in sexual misconduct with adult males, including seminarians.

Why would Archbishop Vigano be incensed about Archbishop McCarrick but not about Archbishop Nienstedt?

In contrast to McCarrick, Archbishop Nienstedt is a very conservative bishop who actively opposed gay marriage in his state and admitting gay men to the priesthood. Nienstedt protected a predator priest, Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, whose 2010 sexual abuse of three minors sparked criminal charges and civil petitions against the archdiocese. Fr. Wehmeyer was a regular at gay cruising areas in local parks. He also enjoyed a social relationship with Archbishop Nienstedt.

In an August 27, 2018 interview with Slate.com, an online magazine that covers current affairs, politics and culture, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and a contributor to Commonweal magazine offered this assessment:

“Vigano is just using the Western church, and American Catholicism, and the shock caused by the revelations against Cardinal McCarrick, to make his own personal case against the Vatican, which expelled him and didn’t make him a cardinal. That is a very cynical operation, because Vigano has no interest in the American church. The American church is in big trouble, because we don’t know how it will survive when many of the bishops are hated by many Catholics. We don’t know what kind of church this will be.”

“But remember, in 2011 (Vatican Leaks Scandal), Vigano tried to smear people in the church with accusations that were unfounded. He was working in the institution that oversaw the governance of the Vatican city-state, and when he was told he was not going to become president of the institution, and therefore not a cardinal, and be sent away from the Vatican, he became disgruntled and angry at the second in command, Cardinal Bertone, the right hand of Pope Benedict, and made other accusations against people working in the office he was in, and said they were guilty of conflicts of interests and so on.  There was an investigation, and they found nothing that was credible. But that never stopped them from sending him to Washington, DC.  So what he published 24 hours ago is not the first time he has done this kind of thing. This time he went for a big target, Pope Francis, even though his real enemies are Pope Benedict’s people.”

“I think Vigano represents the part of the right wing of the church that sees the LGBT issue as the defining issue of this millennium, or this century, and this pontificate. They think that anything can and should be done to stop Pope Francis from ushering in a more welcoming church for LGBT people. So in this there is a convergence between Vigano, who has always been obsessed with the gay lobby and gay conspiracy, and the American Catholic right.”

Hell hath no fury…….

 

 

Sr. Gorgeous

Posted by Censor Librorum on Aug 14, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

There was a professor at my college everyone called Sr. Gorgeous. Unlike many of the other resident sisters, she was young (in her 30s), vibrant and good looking. A few gray streaks at her temples gave her an air of distinction. She made the transition from habit to lay clothes stylishly. She was approachable, engaging and well-liked. Her classes were always full. Like most of the students, I adored her.

When I was a junior I took one of her wood sculpture classes. I wasn’t a natural talent, but I loved sculpture and looked forward to class and studio time. Sr. Gorgeous would spend some class time walking around the studio, encouraging students and watching them work. A couple of times I thought she pressed too closely against me looking over my shoulder. Uncomfortable, I broke it off by turning around to talk to her.

But one time, when I was intent on my work, she came up behind me and put her hand between my legs. I froze. I didn’t look up. I was in shock. She moved off, but everything had changed. I avoided being alone in the studio. I always turned around to face her if she came around to observe.

I suspected one of the other art teachers knew about Sr. Gorgeous, but she didn’t say anything to me. I got an “A” in her painting class, which I felt I didn’t deserve.  Perhaps it was to balance the “C+” I received in sculpture. “Not enough studio time” was the comment. It had a grain of truth–I didn’t spend much time in the studio because I didn’t want to be alone there. I swallowed my disappointment and anger and accepted the C+ without any protest. I never took another sculpture course, but I couldn’t give away my tools. I told myself I would go back to sculpture someday. They have sat in a wooden box for over 40 years.

A year later, when I was a senior, an underclassman I knew found me alone in Social Hall and sat down to talk. I liked her. She was a pretty, confident girl with a ready smile. She confided that she was having a relationship with Sr. Gorgeous and was very happy, but had no one to talk to about it. She thought I would understand. They met secretly. They used her office as a rendezvous point. I listened, nodded, and said nothing. I pretended to be dumb about Sr. Gorgeous’ lesbian interest in students.  

I felt a little shocked that Sr. Gorgeous would go so far, a little fearful that someone would walk into Social Hall and hear us.  I told the girl I was happy for her, but to be careful–for herself, and to not get caught. I know when she stood up to go she said she hoped we could talk again, but I made sure that it didn’t happen. I would wave at a distance and avoid going into the same room. I did not want to be involved. I was homophobic and fearful because I had my own big secret to keep: I was madly in love with one of my classmates.

About a decade later, I met another alumna at a lesbian party in New York. She brought up Sr. Gorgeous. I asked her if she was still with —. The woman said no, they had broken up long ago.  But Sr. Gorgeous had been caught with another girl, or had been reported, and the school quietly dismissed her as a professor. She had left DC, and was living someplace else–Philadelphia, upstate New York, she wasn’t quite sure.

I used to wonder what I would do if I ever ran into Sr. Gorgeous at a party.  Say hello and move on? Avoid her? Deck her with one punch?

As a Catholic lesbian activist, I have met hundreds of lesbian nuns and ex-nuns over the years. Crushes were common, especially when they were younger. Many had at least one sexual experience. Some were or had been partnered. Some ex-nuns left their communities because they were in love with a woman, usually another sister.  Many older sisters, who entered their communities pre-1960s, had their sexuality so buried and suppressed they didn’t know if they were straight or gay.

What all lesbian nuns said–to a woman–was that they regretted that they did not have someone they could talk to openly, honestly, about their feelings for women. Instead, they had to carry the feelings alone, in silence, with no way to discuss them without fear of reprisal, or drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

Religious communities have always been aware of homosexuality in the ranks–think about the admonition to avoid “particular friendships;” but none have ever been good about addressing the sexuality of their members in a healthy and understanding way. Good counseling could have helped and supported many of these women in their vocations.

An ex-nun friend of mine told me that she had tried to talk to her superior about her feelings and was continually brushed off. The build-up of feelings finally broke out and she ended up in an inappropriate relationship. She felt very guilty about it, which only compounded her emotional anguish.

Is being a lesbian nun any more challenging than being a heterosexual nun?  Perhaps, given the bonding in single-sex communities, and the proximity to women not drawn to heterosexual marriage and children. But over the course of their vocations both groups will face challenges in managing sexual desire, and needs for intimacy and comfort. Lesbian desire carries a stigma that makes it harder to discuss and encourages silence.

I think this is what happened to Sr. Gorgeous.  How could she not be affected by the presence and attentions of so many vital young women? When she found herself sexually attracted or aroused, who could she go talk to about her feelings? No one…and that was the problem.

She did sexually harass me, and whatever her situation with her community and herself that was wrong. Like most other people who have been groped by a priest or nun, I chose to be quiet about it. Part of my decision was knowing what a mess it would create with school, classmates and family; and part of it was fear of exposure of my own lesbian desire. I wanted that hidden away from others and myself, too. I wonder how often abusers can sense that their prey shares the same inclinations? I thought this was the case for Sr. Gorgeous. I believed she could sense my feelings for my friend. The fear of that discovery would make me a perfect target–one who would keep her mouth shut.

Two parts of myself look back on Sr. Gorgeous.  The older me has experienced her own times of temptation, weakness, moral failure and isolation. Her own experiences, plus hearing 1,000 similar stories, have given her understanding, if not a glimmer of compassion. The younger self is sad and bitter. She lost an art she loved, and a person she admired.

 

Vatican Shocks Consecrated Virgins With New Ruling On Virginity

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 22, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, History, Humor

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins (USACV) said it is “deeply disappointed” at new rules issued by the Vatican that appear to say consecrated virgins don’t need to be virgins.

The 39-page document, Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, published on July 4, 2018 by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, serves as a new instructional on consecrated virginity.

The group has taken umbrage with Section 88 of the document which states: “The call to give witness to the church’s virginal, spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity,” it says. “Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”

The USACV responded it was “shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity no longer will be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.” “When a virgin offers her virginity to Christ, she offers her integral virginity–physical and spiritual. A woman who does not have the gift of virginity to offer may offer a complete gift of self to Christ, but she is not offering a gift of virginity,” the USACV stated. “A gift of one’s integral virginity to Christ is a gift of both body and spirit, and one cannot offer to Christ what one does not have to offer.”

They said that the new rules do not change the prerequisites for consecration as stated in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which says: “In the case of virgins leading lives in the world it is required that they have never celebrated marriage and that they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity.”

The group noted that “some egregious violations of chastity” while they do not violate virginity, do disqualify women from receiving consecration.

A consecrated virgin is a woman who pledges perpetual virginity and dedicates her life to God. Unlike a nun, she does not live in a community and leads a secular life, providing for her own needs. There are around 5,000 consecrated virgins in 42 countries, including 250 in the United States.  Orders of virgins were present in the early Church, but they petered out by the medieval era. The vocation was revived in 1970 under Pope Paul VI.

“Without virginity, there’s no vocation to the Order of Consecrated Virgins anymore,” said Therese Ivers, an American canon lawyer as well as a consecrated virgin.  “For Catholics, virginity is not defined as the ‘physical integrity’ (of the hymen),” she said. “Virginity is lost only when there is willed genital activity. Whether this willed genital activity is done alone or with another, then virginity is irreparably lost.”

A source within the Order of Consecrated Virgins who spoke under the condition of anonymity told Life Site News that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might not uphold the Instruction.

“I know hundreds of consecrated virgins who weren’t consulted, but I also know the two who work in the Vatican who were presumably consulted and don’t believe virginity is possible,” the source said. “One wrote in Sequela Christi (a Vatican publication) that a one-night stand is acceptable (in the past of a candidate) as long as it’s not publicly known.”

The source described the new guidelines as an attack on her order, on marriage, and on the Church itself. She was particularly anguished by a passage stating that a consecrated virgin can be dispensed from her obligations, which means that human marriage and sex is still an option.

“Consecrated virgins are living embodiment of the Church,” she said. “To be a consecrated virgin means to be a bride of Christ. This is the only vocation that claims to have an indissoluble nuptial bond with Christ. Now we are saying that Christ can have a divorce.”

All this brings us to several questions:

  • What is a virgin?  Is it a woman who has never had any kind of “willed” sexual activity with anyone, including herself? Is she a woman with an intact hymen? Or, can a virgin be a woman who has experienced sexual release–even intercourse–so long as it is not publicly known, i.e., “they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity.”
  • What “egregious violations of chastity” would disqualify a woman with an intact hymen from becoming a consecrated virgin?
  • Why isn’t  the Order of Consecrated Virgins open to men?  Couldn’t a man pledge his virginity or chastity to Christ?

What troubles me beyond the legalistic nit-picking, is the notion that if a candidate has experienced sex with a man, and she’s kept it secret or others haven’t found out or known about it, her membership in the order is OK.

Is anything hidden from Christ, including our secrets?

This double standard of sex–whether it’s known or hidden–has gotten the Catholic Church in a lot of trouble in recent decades.  Bishops and cardinals pressuring seminarians and priests for sex; gay priests with active sex lives who pretend they’re straight; well-liked, long-time lesbian or gay employees that get married and are subsequently fired. Everyone knows what’s going on, but so long as it isn’t “known” everything is fine.

A woman’s gift of her virginity is a beautiful gift.  The church or its leadership shouldn’t sully it with nuanced valuations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) – An Updated Call to Holiness

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 9, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Faith, Politics, Popes

Ultra conservative Catholic Wall Street Journal readers choked on their toast and scrambled eggs this morning when they read the headline of an article by Francis X. Rocca: “Pope Says Fighting Poverty Is as Essential as Opposing Abortion.”

Here is the article in full –  

“Pope Francis criticized Christians who emphasize opposition to abortion above social causes such as poverty and migration, in his latest effort to readjust the priorities of Catholic moral teaching from what he has characterized as an overemphasis on sexual and medical ethics.

“Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate,” the pope wrote in a document released by the Vatican on Monday. “Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born,” including the neglected elderly and victims of human trafficking.

The pope’s words appeared in “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), a reflection on “holiness in today’s world” that includes advice on resisting the “verbal violence” of social media and achieving spiritual concentration amid a “culture of zapping.”

 Pope Francis has repeatedly called for reducing the emphasis on certain moral issues and increasing attention to social and economic justice.

That approach stands in contrast with that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who specified opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage among a handful of “nonnegotiable” values for the church.

In terms of ethical priorities, Pope Francis wrote in the document released Monday that an exclusive focus on abortion reflects a “harmful ideological error” of those who play down the importance of social action or denigrate it as “superficial, worldly, materialist, communist or populist.”

“We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice” in the form of economic equality, the pope added.

The pope also criticized what he characterized as an exaggerated focus on moral relativism, a concept closely associated with the teaching of Pope Benedict, who famously denounced what he called a “dictatorship of relativism” in contemporary culture.

“We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian,” Pope Francis wrote.

He also warned against the danger of seeking social change while neglecting personal piety through prayer and Bible reading.

“Christianity thus becomes a sort of NGO stripped of the luminous mysticism” exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the pope wrote.”

Catholics are now called to do more than be against a handful of sexual sins and sinners to declare themselves “Faithful Catholics.”

 

 

 

 

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae – A Curious Silence

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 17, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Popes, Scandals

Conservative Catholic publications and bloggers love gay marriage and romance stories.  They are  fascinated and obsessed by them. They are reported with relish, in gleeful, triumphant detail, especially when a Catholic school teacher or long-time parish volunteer loses his or her position after marrying their partner.

Conservative Catholic morality watchdogs have been all over Fr. James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of  Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.”  The often anonymous complainers about the book and Fr. Martin’s speaking appearances protest his lack of condemnation for homosexual relationships, and that he does not use the term “intrinsically morally evil” to describe them.

It’s curious, given their obsession with gay and lesbian sex, that no conservative Catholic publications have covered the story on Sodalitium Christianae Vitae beyond one or two mentions.  There has been no accompanying editorial on “homosexual agendas,” or “homosexual networks” out to undermine traditional Catholic moral teaching. An extensive web search could not produce one conservative Catholic blogger who posted about it.  There is a curious silence from the ranks of the ultra conservatives and self-described “orthodox” defenders of faith and “truth.”  Why is that?

Here’s a simple answer: conservative Catholics don’t condemn one of their own.  Luis Fernando Figari was exposed as a closeted homosexual who is also a liar, hypocrite, molester and rapist.  But he didn’t try to change church teaching; he just went around it. He’s a sinner, not a subversive.  

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, or Sodalitium of Christian Life as it’s known in the U.S., was established in Lima, Peru in 1971 by Luis Fernando Figari, a law student.  Sodalitium was set up to inculcate teenage and young men from the Peruvian elite with a conservative strain of Catholicism, shaping them to champion these values as adults.  In 1997 Pope John Paul II approved it as a lay society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, under the supervision of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

By 2010 abuse allegations began to seep out.  In May 2011 a man filed a complaint with Peru’s ecclesiastical court that was forwarded to the Vatican.  More complaints were filed in 2013 and 2014.  But it wasn’t until 2015 that the lid blew off Sodalitium’s secrets with the publication of a book, Half Monks, Half Soldiersby Pao Ugaz and Pedro Salinas.  The journalists chronicled years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse by Figari and other leaders in the community, including Figari’s #2, German Doig Klinge, the former Sodalitium vicar general who died in 2001.  Presumably German Doig’s cause for canonization–promoted by Figari and Sodalitium–will now die a quiet death.

When Peruvian prosecutors began investigating the abuse allegations in 2015, Figari left for the Vatican.

Both the Vatican and Sodalitium have commissioned their own investigations.  The 2016 Sodalitium report says Figari and other members sexually abused at least 19 minors and 17 adults starting in 1975. A former member said when he was 15 Figari had anal sex with him several times.  The report also said he instructed a man to kiss his penis, and touched and hugged members while naked. Figari also knew of three adult members who sexually abused minors.  

How could this go on for so long?  No one in the organization reported the abuse, or apparently, tried to stop it. The shepherds looked the other way and ignored complaints.  They include the last two popes, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Vatican bureaucrats, and bishops who agree with the mission of conservative groups like the Legionnaires of Christ and Sodalitium uber alles.  It might also include some members of the closeted “Lavender Mafia” in the Vatican who protect their own.  

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, the ultra conservative archbishop of Lima and a member of Opus Dei, had an ambiguous response to the scandal. He ignored it until commenting became unavoidable.  But he also gave a warning in a homily that he would not accept criticism from “false moralists who want to mistreat the Church.”

Cardinal Cipriani wasn’t so discreet in 2013, when he outed a Peruvian legislator, Carlos Bruce, on a radio program. The reason for his fury: Bruce had sponsored a bill to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. ‘If a person has made some alternate choices, that’s their problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own. But I don’t think that we’ve elected congresspeople just so they can justify their own life choices. I don’t think that’s right.”  Bruce, who is divorced with two sons, later told news media that he would not dignify such comments with a response. The cardinal’s comments resulted in Peruvian tabloid La Razon to run the headline “Cipriani pulls Bruce out of the closet” on its front page.

As far as I can tell, Cardinal Cipriani never went on TV, radio or print media, or used one of his homilies to denounce Luis Fernando Figari and the “saintly” German Doig for using their leadership positions to procure and sexually assault teenage boys and young men.

Although the Sodalitium sex abuse scandal did not come up in any of the Pope’s public speeches or audiences during his January 15-21 2018 trip to Peru and Chile, it shadowed his entire stay.  On January 10, 2018, shortly before traveling, Pope Francis essentially took over Sodalitium by appointing Columbia Bishop Noel Antonio Londono Buitrago as papal commissioner.  In addition to sex abuse, Vatican investigators also uncovered financial irregularities.

On the January 21, 2018  return flight to Rome from Lima, Pope Francis said that Figari’s case is currently before the court of appeals in the Apostolic Signatura, and “will be released in less than a month.”  “I am not very informed, but the thing is not very favorable for the founder,” he added. “If the Apostolic Signatura decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense,” he said, “because many, many serious cases are accumulating.”

What will happen to Figari? Will the Vatican allow him to be extradited to Peru to be arrested and face trial; or will it permit him to retire to a “life of prayer and penance” like the disgraced Legionnaires of Christ founder and leader, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado?

I’m sure Cardinal Cipriani would not want the publicity and investigative reporting that would accompany Figari’s return to Lima.  He will fight tooth and nail to keep him in Rome.  

U.S. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadephia, who invited Sodalitium representatives to staff campus and parish ministries, would find it awkward to defend their leadership while castigating moderate and liberal Catholic politicians for defending gay and lesbian civil rights. 

The less said, the better.  

Pope Francis, who inherited this mess, and whose foot-dragging has caused complaint, does get a partial defense from Pao Ugaz, the investigative journalist and co-author of Half Monks, Half Soldiers. 

“The Vatican is set up so that the pope reigns but doesn’t govern,” she said. “Francisco is much more political (than previous pontiffs) and he has more leverage but there is still a lot of resistance and it remains to be seen who will prevail.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinal Law’s Fall from Grace

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 31, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Bishops, History, Politics, Scandals

On December 20, 2017,  Bernard Cardinal Law passed away at the age of 86.  For the last 13 years he lived in Rome, a voluntary exile from the United States.  He will be buried in Rome as well.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and he stepped down on December 13, 2002 after being engulfed and overwhelmed by the sex abuse scandal he helped to create.

Although Thomas O’Connor, Boston College historian, remarked “There’s going to be a lot of good interred with his bones,” the more likely epitaph will be that penned by Kevin Cullen of The Boston Globe: “Bernie Law … one of the greatest enablers of sexual abuse in the history of the world.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, VT, who served as Law’s spokesman during the period before the cardinal’s resignation, said in a statement on his death that like each one of us, Law’s days had their fair share of “light and shadows.” “While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church,” he said.

Sean Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and Law’s immediate successor, also published a statement on December 20th, offering his sincere apologies to anyone who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy.  “As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities. I deeply regret that reality and its consequences.”

But O’Malley also noted that Cardinal Law’s “pastoral legacy has many other dimensions,” including his early commitment to the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, and his work with the ecumenical and interfaith movement following Vatican II.  He was well known for his ministry to the sick, dying and bereaved.

Journalist Mike Barnicle wrote about Cardinal Law in a NY Daily News column published on Sunday, December 15, 2002 — two days after his resignation.  The headline was “The tragedy of Law’s fall from grace.” I clipped out the article from the paper to keep; to remind me of the good and evil one person can do, our complexities of character and motivation, and the nightmare forms our justifications can sometimes become.

The article began – “There was a night in December almost exactly four years ago when the door to the hospital room opened and Bernard Cardinal Law walked in to visit a sick man lying in the bed. The priest barely knew the guy, just dropped by to talk for a few minutes, offer a simple blessing and then he was gone, like a doctor on his rounds.

The guy was surprised. He hadn’t really known the cardinal and thought of him as a rather aloof, somewhat cold figure. But Law was accompanied that evening by some warmth, a sense of humor and a capacity for conversation.

“He comes here a lot,” one of the nurses said. “Just shows up. Him and his driver. A lot of the time, late at night. He’s great with the homeless, the drunks, street people who hang around the emergency room to get out of the cold.”

How does a man who was arguably the single most important  member of the Catholic hierarchy in America, a guy who made his bones working for civil rights in the South during the violent ’60s, a priest who began his career speaking for the poor, slowly but surely tumble into such scandal that his life is now littered with subpoenas rather than psalms?  Is it arrogance? Isolation? The sin of pride? Blind ambition? 

Last week, days before Law sat down with the Pope and resigned as leader of the Boston Archdiocese, whatever future he may have had within the church was mortally wounded by the artillery of conscience.  The volleys came in the form of 58 of his own priests who signed a letter urging him to step down and get out of town.  It was more powerful than any editorial clamoring for his resignation.  Now, control and contain–the creed of corporate Catholicism in America–is reeling.  The faithful are taking back the store.

Still, it is astounding to consider what has happened and what might happen yet.

Law, Rockville Centre, L. I., Bishop William Murphy, Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily and many other men who spent most of their lives spreading a gospel of truth and morality actively engaged in a decades-long coverup of priests who preyed on the helpless and the young and then paid out millions in hush money. They have made it possible for every Catholic bashing bigot in the country to find both a voice and an audience. They have made it nearly impossible for parents to lecture their children on the need to attend Mass, go to confession, pay attention to a homily.

In Boston, the cardinal was like a fugitive, running from the secular law, barely able to appear at a cathedral without attracting angry protesters, fleeing his home for Rome to meet with other old men who seem to want to blame this scandal on American culture.

In New York, Edward Cardinal Egan is practically invisible and mute, his voice silenced by the burden of his own bureaucratic mistakes. What went wrong with these guys? Did they ever listen to the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, who spoke out about the problem of child-molesting priests nearly 20 years ago?

Law did an awful lot of good in his life. His tragedy, though, is that when it mattered most, he lied. He lied to his strongest supporters, lay people, who urged him to come clean with every problem priest still on the books. He lied to the people in his diocese when he repeatedly across the years told them that his priest had been removed or that priest would not be allowed to work around children. He lied to other pastors around the country when he would write letters that read like great college recommendations on behalf of men he knew to be sodomists of the young and vulnerable.  Maybe he was lying to himself, too.

Now, in the wake of his departure, he leaves the Catholic Church in this country looking like a religious version of the San Andreas fault.  The fissure between the faithful and the hierarchy–the Pope in Rome and a whole lot of bishops here–is obvious. The shadowy outline of a separate and distinct American Catholic Church is no longer impossible to see. There will be people in parish after parish seeking equal time after each sermon they hear that they feel is foolish and delivered by some remote priest, automatically obedient to an authority that has been compromised and shamed by scandal that could have been avoided if just one man in a red hat had realized there is a huge difference between human weakness–a mistake–and a felony.

Law is history now, in more ways than one. He has been weakened, battered, defeated and made old by his own blindness and inaction.

He looks and behaves a lot differently today than he did that long ago night in December 1998 when he was full of humor, even humility, and took the time to bless a sick man in a hospital bed. I remember him well from that evening because I was the guy he took the time to bless.”

 

Another View on the “War on Religion”

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 20, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Dissent, Faith, Humor, Politics

 

The Notorious Bishop Robert Morlino

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 6, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, Lesbians & Gays, Popes, Scandals

Bishop Robert Morlino was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the 4th bishop of Madison, Wisconsin on May 23, 2003.  The “good news” for Madison Catholics is that he turns 75 on December 31, 2021.  They just need to hang on and run out the clock.

On October 21, 2017, his vicar general, Rev. Msgr. James Bartylla, emailed diocesan priests on “Consideration of Funeral Rites for a Person in a Homosexual Civil or Notorious Union.”  Though it was sent from the vicar general, the communication had the approval of Bishop Morlino. 

Priests should not mention the name of the surviving partner, nor make any reference to the “unnatural union” if funeral rites are provided for someone in a same-sex relationship. In addition, priests should keep in mind the “attitude” of the family toward the church, whether the deceased or surviving partner was a “promoter of the gay lifestyle,” and whether the deceased person had shown “signs of repentance before death.”

Predictably, this has caused a stink. Even a few bishops weighed in on the opposite direction–something that rarely occurs in their “collegiality” culture.

Bishop Morlino and Msgr. Bartylla have not extended the funeral ban to any other sexual activity the church finds sinful or shameful–rape, incest, adultery, pornography, prostitution, molestation–by clergy or laity to children, young people or adults.  The only ban is to lesbians and gays in a civil marriage.

In this 13 years as bishop of Madison, Morlino has regularly detonated controversy bombs. 

In 2004, six months after arriving in Madison, he came out swinging in the Catholic Herald newspaper.  Morlino stated that Madison existed below a “moral minimum” and that they city had “virtually no public morality.” He specifically cited the city’s StageQ community theater–a lesbian and gay troupe–as evidence of this view.

But the worst episode was his reaction to a March 2010 New York Times expose of the Vatican handling of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy.  Father Murphy is believed to have molested hundreds of boys between 1950 and 1974 while assigned to a Milwaukee area school for the deaf.  In the late ’90s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger–the future Pope Benedict XVI–stopped attempts by Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Cardinal Bertone of the CDF to defrock the priest.

Bishop Morlino, who ripped Madison’s lack of “public morality” rushed to the defense of Pope Benedict XVI’s management of the Fr. Murphy sex abuse complaint–

“As the Church in Europe now uncovers some of the sins committed by its clergy members, the mass media was trying, with every fiber of their being to make Pope Benedict XVI look guilty. Their big line is, ‘what did the Pope know and when did he know it?’ That is, ‘he’s to be treated like any other politician; he’s probably corrupt, and it’s our role to uncover his corruption.'”

And he goes on…

“Of course, many see their role as to destroy the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church. They want us out of the way. So, a very good way to attack the Church is to attack the Holy Father himself. These same people who demand to know what the Pope knew and when he knew it want to place the responsibility for the acts of others (undertaken far away and in different time periods), at the feet of the Pope and make him responsible.”

He chides the “disobedient people” demanding accountability…

“In order to be responsible for something, one has to have the authority to do something about it. And the very people who want to make the Holy Father responsible for everything heinous in the sexual misconduct scandal are the least likely to accept the Pope’s authority in any matter.  They are the most disobedient people, in general. Yet they want to lay all the responsibility at the Pope’s feet. That simply makes no sense and we should not be fooled.”

Bishop Morlino contended it was church officials in Milwaukee, not the Vatican, who controlled what happened with Fr. Murphy. “It is clear the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Cardinal Ratzinger was then at the head, had nothing to do with the criminal case of the sickening abuse by Fr. Lawrence Murphy of several young deaf men.”

According to the New York Times, in 1993, with complaints about Fr. Murphy stacking up, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him.  After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Fr. Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse.

In 1996 Archbishop Weakland sent two letters to Cardinal Ratzinger, and one to the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest court, asking for guidance on whether to conduct a canonical trial of Father Murphy.  Archbishop Weakland wanted Murphy defrocked.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had oversight of the case because Father Murphy was suspected of using the confessional to commit his crimes — a crime that is considered particularly serious under the church’s canon law because confession is a sacrament.
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In 1998, Fr. Murphy, who was dying, wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger asking for clemency.  “I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.  I ask your kind assistance in this matter.”  Cardinal Ratzinger’s office moved to halt the defrocking process.  Fr. Murphy died later in that year. An auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee celebrated his funeral Mass, and he was buried in his priestly vestments.

What moral lesson should we take from all of this?