What Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Little Red Hen restaurant, did to White House press spokesman Sarah Sanders and her party was appalling — but she’s not backing down:
As she made the short drive to the Red Hen, Wilkinson knew only this:
She knew Lexington, population 7,000, had voted overwhelmingly against Trump in a county that voted overwhelmingly for him. She knew the community was deeply divided over such issues as Confederate flags. She knew, she said, that her restaurant and its half-dozen servers and cooks had managed to stay in business for 10 years by keeping politics off the menu.
And she knew — she believed — that Sarah Huckabee Sanders worked in the service of an “inhumane and unethical” administration. That she publicly defended the president’s cruelest policies, and that that could not stand.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson said. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Wilkinson had no regrets about her decision.
“I would have done the same thing again,” she said “We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”
One thing I learned on that story: Sarah Sanders was not the one who broke the news about her eviction from the restaurant. An employee of the restaurant did, on his Facebook account.
If you are someone who believes that Masterpiece Cakeshop ought to have been forced to bake a cake decorated for a gay wedding, but you think that Stephanie Wilkinson was right to kick Sarah Sanders out of her restaurant because she hates Sanders’s politics, then you are an unprincipled hypocrite.
I believe that Masterpiece Cakeshop has that moral right, and I believe that the Red Hen has that right too. Whether they have that legal right is a different question, and whether they should act on that moral right is another. But there’s an important distinction here.
Masterpiece did not try to deny service across the board to gay customers. Its owner only wanted to deny them a custom-made wedding cake, because it violated his religious beliefs. Red Hen denied service across the board to Sanders and her party because they hate her politics. If Sarah Sanders had asked the Red Hen owner to cater a Trump party, that would have been a closer analogy. And if the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner had refused to serve gays at all, that would be a closer analogy.
Are we really going to be the kind of country in which businesses drive those whose politics offend them out of their premises? Are we really going to be the kind of country in which activists enter restaurants and drive particular customers out, because of their politics?
Who does this help? I’ll tell you who: Donald J. Trump. Conservative people see this, and they imagine themselves being thrown out of a restaurant, either by the owner or by left-wing protesters, because they are conservative. They see themselves being driven out of the public square by the left — which all the while congratulates itself on its superior morality — and it makes them furious. For the woke left, even trying to eat out with your spouse and your friends at a restaurant is now political, and must be punished.
A Washington Post caption under a photo of the restaurant reads:
A placard quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” — sits in the window of the Red Hen, which opened in Lexington in 2008.
They don’t believe that at the Little Red Hen. They like to think they do, but they don’t. I wonder how things might have gone if Wilkinson had asked Sanders for a private word after dinner, or had sent over a round of dessert, and come by the table to talk. I don’t think it’s a restaurant owner’s place to address the politics of their customers, but at least that would have been better than throwing them out. (And yes, I would feel exactly the same way if a right-wing restaurant owner had treated Hillary Clinton’s staff so rudely.)
The first time I ever heard the truth about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., finally exposed as a sexual predator years into his retirement, I thought I was listening to a paranoiac rant.
It was the early 2000s, I was attending some earnest panel on religion, and I was accosted by a type who haunts such events — gaunt, intense, with a litany of esoteric grievances. He was a traditionalist Catholic, a figure from the church’s fringes, and he had a lot to say, as I tried to disentangle from him, about corruption in the Catholic clergy. The scandals in Boston had broken, so some of what he said was familiar, but he kept going, into a rant about Cardinal McCarrick: Did you know he makes seminarians sleep with him? Invites them to his beach house, gets in bed with them …
At this I gave him the brushoff that you give the monomaniacal and slipped out.
That was before I realized that if you wanted the truth about corruption in the Catholic Church, you had to listen to the extreme-seeming types, traditionalists and radicals, because they were the only ones sufficiently alienated from the institution to actually dig into its rot. (This lesson has application well beyond Catholicism.)
What a great point that is. The truth is, if you wanted to get a clearer picture of what was actually happening inside the Catholic Church regarding the scandal, you’d have been better off reading trad sources. A long time ago — back at the beginning of the scandal — a tiny outfit called Roman Catholic Faithful exposed the “St. Sebastian’s Angels,” (NSFW) a group of gay priests who shared nude photos and engaged in pornographic banter. Here’s what Catholic World Report had to say about RCF’s work:
By autumn of 1999 the St. Sebastian’s Angels site had attracted the participation of 55 active members. At that point the site was brought to the attention of Steve Brady, the founder of a group known as Roman Catholic Faithful, based in Springfield, Illinois. Brady copied material from the Angels site–including six web pages and thousands of email messages–onto his own computer files. On January 14, 2000–after his series of appeals to the American hierarchy had failed to produce any response–Brady brought all that material from the Angels site into public view, by copying it onto his own Roman Catholic Faithful site.
As the news about the homosexual priests’ web site quickly spread through the American Catholic Church, the reaction was decidedly mixed, with opinions breaking down along predictable liberal/conservative lines. A few US bishops, presented with clear evidence about the nature of the site, took prompt corrective action.
I corresponded and spoke with Steve Brady in 2002, and met him at the national bishops’ conference in Dallas that year. He was just an ordinary Catholic who was sick and tired of the sexual corruption in his church, and the lies from the hierarchy. One of the members of the St. Sebastian’s group was a South African bishop:
By virtue of his rank, Bishop Reginald Cawcutt is the most visible of the 55 regular members of the Angels site. In part because of his rank, and in part because of his adamant defense of the site and criticism of Steve Brady, the bishop has been the main focus of media attention. In an email response to this reporter’s January request for an interview, Bishop Cawcutt said that his involvement in the Angels site was an outgrowth of his work as chairman of the South African bishops’ committee on AIDS. He explained:
Naturally enough this got me involved with ministry also to gay people. Both of these ministries are totally known and quite public–to my fellow bishops as well as to the general public. Somehow the group of gay priests heard about me and invited me to discuss gay related matters with them–hence I joined the “newsgroup”–quite openly letting the members know I was a bishop. I did not try to hide anything.
Bishop Cawcutt declined to interviewed, however, because he claimed that Roman Catholic Faithful had been guilty of “quite an illegal action of someone breaking into this confidential group’s support of each other.” He charged that Brady had “picked out only the spicy bits” from the material on the Angels site. The bishop lamented that the public exposure of the site would probably lead to “gay-bashing,” and refused to be “an accomplice” to that campaign.
“I have consistently promoted celibacy in the group,” Bishop Cawcutt claimed in his email message to this reporter. But that claim is difficult to reconcile with the tone and content of some of his email postings on the site. In October 1999, for example, the bishop wrote: I suppose the issue really is celibacy and not gay sex. I am off the belief that we have all been screwed up by holy mother church. I do not think that sex is the ultimate in sin anyhow–and not always a matter for confession either–even for celibates–come on–the good old book also says dirty thoughts are grievous stuff and always matter for confession–come come now!!!
If you look at the site, which is archived, be prepared to be revolted. You will see that Cawcutt was lying in his public response, and trusting that people would assume the best about him and his intentions, and wouldn’t think the worst about a bishop. But Steve Brady had proof.
Notice too that Bishop Cawcutt was worried that people learning what he and his fellow gay priests in the group were actually doing would lead to “gay-bashing” — and that Brady, by telling the truth in public, would be aiding and abetting gay bashing. If Uncle Ted’s #MeToo moment starts producing other stories about closeted gay bishops using their power to sexually abuse or harass other priests and seminarians, you will start seeing liberal commenters, in both the Catholic and secular media, telling us that the real problem here is gay bashing.
If they report on it at all, that is.
Catholic World Report‘s account of the St. Sebastian’s affair highlighted the official Catholic media’s attempt to cover Cawcutt’s shame:
In a March 19 column entitled “Bigotry is an affront to our faith,” Gunther Simmermacher, the managing editor of the Cape Town archdiocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross, wrote:
A South African bishop seems to have an outfit of right-wing US Catholics running scared. How else would one account for the deviousness of the Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF) which disseminated what amounts to slanderous innuendo about Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, auxiliary in Cape Town, and in doing so employed illegal means. To accomplish this, they hacked into an internet forum on homosexuality in which Bishop Cawcutt, at the request of an Australian priest, participated as part of his ministry.
The CWR piece has a long section about how the American Catholic media spun the story too. And look at this:
Brady said his decision to publicize the Angels site was made two months after the papal nuncio in the United States declined to look into the matter, and after five cardinals rebuffed his efforts.
“The papal nuncio is the first official I contacted, in November 1999,” Brady said.
I talked to a priest in the nuncio’s office and I explained exactly what we had, and that were looking for assistance and guidance. He said he’d pass it on to the nuncio and reminded me that what they (the Angels) were doing was legal. I never heard from him again. He said he’d get back to me if the nuncio was interested. They weren’t interested.
Brady then contacted Cardinals John O’Connor of New York, Bernard Law of Boston, James Hickey of Washington DC, Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, and Francis George of Chicago. He reports the results:
Cardinal George is the only one who responded. He faxed to me a response and then I had a phone conversation with him and told him how to access the site. He said he thought that it might be an occasion of sin if he looked at. That really bothered me. How can our moral leaders deal with stuff like this without looking at it?
Brady and his colleagues at Roman Catholic Faithful say that the 1998 pedophilia case involving Father Rudy Kos in Dallas–and the response of the diocese to that case–played a role in convincing them that the American hierarchy would not be willing to deal directly with actively homosexual priests. “The Rudy Kos case said it all,” Brady says. The Dallas diocese gave clerical faculties to a sexual predator, he recalls, and then sought to divert attention from reports of his transgressions. “And the victims were treated as enemies of the Church.”
“You would think some bishop somewhere would have stood up and said the cover-ups have to stop,” says Brady. “Everyone knows the cover-ups are going on, continually. You’ve got to laugh or cry.”
There you have it: Everybody knows. Stephen Brady said those words in a September 17, 2001, article in Catholic World Report. This was about four months before the scandal broke big out of Boston. And here we are, 17 years later, with Cardinal Ted McCarrick exposed at last, and people saying yeah, everybody knew.
To a lot of people, Steve Brady was a crank. He was definitely on the edge. He closed RCF in 2010, and not long before he did, he urged his fellow Catholics to start attending Society of St. Pius X chapels. But Steve Brady, whatever he lacked in theological sophistication or smooth prose, was right about the things he saw, and he was onto this story for the reason Ross Douthat points out today: because he was alienated enough from the institution to actually dig into its rot.
Douthat explains why it will be harder for more #MeToo stories about bishops, officials in monastic orders, seminary heads, and other power-holders in the Catholic institution to come out.
But that makes it incumbent on everyone else in the “everyone knows” orbit — meaning not just journalists covering Catholicism, but bishops and priests and church officials who are tired of being tacitly compromised themselves, as so many people around McCarrick must have been — to make it as easy as possible for these stories to be told. And without worrying, either, about whether the stories make either side of Catholicism’s civil war look good (McCarrick was a famous liberal, but the next case might be a conservative), or what the revelations mean for debates about gay men in the priesthood or priestly celibacy or anything else.
The first thing is the truth. And the way out of purgatory is through.
I was surprised and heartened to see this response to the column:
I agree with @DouthatNYT. No matter what it means for conservatives or liberals, or for gay or straight priests, we must face up to the truth that some clerics have used their positions of power to prey on younger priests and seminarians. 1/ https://t.co/QW4H2KajWO
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) June 23, 2018
Surprised, not because I think Father Martin would in any way approve of what McCarrick and others have done, but because if these stories start being told publicly, truthfully, and completely, it is going to be devastating for church liberals who want the Catholic Church to affirm homosexuality. You can’t properly tell the story of abusers like McCarrick without telling the story of how networks of sexually active gay priests — who haven’t been coerced into sex — work together within the institutional Catholic church.
In a 2003 lecture, sociologist Richard Sipe said that the culture of clerical sexual secrecy — and not just homosexual secrecy — is part of what gave rise to the child-abuse cover up:
Sexual activity between an older priest and an adult seminarian or young priest sets up a pattern of institutional secrecy. When one of the parties rises to a position of power, his friends are in line also for recommendations and advancement.
The dynamic is not limited to homosexual liaisons. Priests and bishops who know about each other’s sexual affairs with women, too, are bound together by draconian links of sacred silence. A system of blackmail reaches into the highest corridors of the American hierarchy and the Vatican and thrives because of this network of sexual knowledge and relationships.
Secrecy flourishes, like mushrooms on a dank dung pile, even among good men in possession of the facts of the dynamic, but who cannot speak lest they violate the Scarlet Bond.
I have interviewed at length a man who was a sexual partner of Bishop James Rausch. This was particularly painful for me since Rausch and I were young priests together in Minnesota in the early 60s. He went on to get his social work degree and succeeded Bernardin as Secretary of the Bishops’ National Conference in DC. He became Bishop of Phoenix.
It is patently clear that he had an active sexual life. It did involve at least one minor. He was well acquainted with priests who were sexually active with minors (priests who had at least 30 minor victims each). He referred at least one of his own victims to these priests.
What was his sexual genealogy? What are the facts of his celibate/sexual development and practice? Did those who knew him know nothing of his life? Perhaps so! But he was in a spectacular power grid of bright men. He was Bernardin’s successor at the US Conference. Bishop Thomas Kelly at Louisville was his successor. Msgr. Daniel Hoye and Bishop Robert Lynch, among others, took over his job.
Let me be perfectly clear. I am not saying or implying in any way that these men were partners in “crime” with Jim Rausch. But I am saying that anyone who sets out to solve a mystery has to ask people who knew the principal, “What, if anything, did you know or observe about the alleged perpetrator?”
After all, the Church’s hardened resistance to dealing honestly with the problem of sexual abuse on their own has compelled the civil authorities to move in, ask the questions, investigate allegations. The Church in America has been its own worst enemy – creating mysteries and doubts, rather than clear answers that inspire confidence.
Even bishops innocent of sexual violations themselves, by their silence, concealment of facts and resistance to effective solutions, choose to be part of a genealogy of abuse and reinforce a culture of deceit.
One reason the work of the Boston Globe has been so effective is because they have sought out the facts. Every member of the original five-member Spotlight Investigative team is a Catholic. (Not anti-Church, not anti-Catholic, not anti-celibacy). Their agenda was a search for the data – facts – beyond emotion or prejudice.
That speech was delivered 15 years ago. Think about that.
How different would things be today if back then, Catholics and journalists had committed to telling the whole truth, without regard to whether or not it gave aid and comfort to whoever they believed to be the enemy? Remember that scene in the film Spotlight, when the anxious, shaky guy who had been abused as a kid turns out to have been a source of important information to the story — and that the reporters had to face the fact that they had dismissed him years earlier because he seemed like a weirdo?
Maybe the media should start listening to the weirdos. And maybe the more Respectable insiders should start valuing the truth more than respectability. For example, what if the conservative Catholic I phoned in 2002 who had gone on that trip to Rome to warn the Vatican not to appoint McCarrick to the Washington see, because he was a pervert who forced himself sexually on seminarians — what if that man had been willing to go on the record with me instead of saying “if it were true, I wouldn’t tell you for the same reason Noah’s sons covered their father in his drunkenness”?
What good did keeping Uncle Ted’s secret do for the Catholic Church? Now it’s out, and you have a lot of Catholics who thought the scandal was behind them wondering who else in their hierarchy has a sordid secret sex life, and who’s covering up for whom?
Douthat is right: the way out of this purgatory is through it. And the only thing that cuts through the fog is the sword of truth.
I have never been seasick in my life. There is a first time for everything, though … and today was that time.
I’ve been struggling with serious back pain all week here in the Azores, but this morning, I woke up and felt like I had turned a corner. We checked out of our hotel in Ponta Delgada, and walked to the ferry landing to catch the boat to the island of Terceira, 125 miles to the northwest. I was looking forward to the ferry ride on the open sea, which, note well, is calm today.
Twenty minutes out of port, I lost my cookies. Violently — so violently that it strained my back again, and put me back at square one. Thank heaven the ferry line left barf bags generously scattered at tables in the cabin. I filled one. And then, despite multiple Dramamine pills, in a second round of enthusiasm, I filled three more.
It was a sweet time.
I tried to go out on the deck to get fresh air and see the horizon, hoping that would steady me, but that did no good. I staggered back inside the warm, humid cabin and hunkered down in a seat against the window, trying to sleep. That worked decently well, until some sort of folk troupe headed to Terceira for a festival, broke out their accordion and their tambourines, and began singing folk songs at the top of their lungs.
I don’t speak Portuguese, but my guess is they sang old favorites like, “The Sheep and the Lonely Shepherd,” “My Baby Farts Like A Steam Vent In Furnas,” and “The Upchucking Yank Sea Shanty.” And then, I swear to you, they burst into a robust rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”
I wanna weesh you a Merry Chreesmas! I wanna weesh you a Merry Chreesmas!” Crap on a crapstick, it was brutal.
I wanted Shelley Winters to waddle over and sit on me to put me out of my misery. Odysseus never had a day like this.
But — we are here on the island now, and the ground is solid beneath my feet, and the weather is glorious, so … onward!
Below, the far edge of the singers, in yellow shirts. There were about 30 of them, and they were carrying watermelon placards on long sticks, for some reason. Bless their hearts, they were so happy, and I wanted to be happy with them. I’ll probably see them in the parade tonight in Angra. I’m going to shout at them, “Merry Christmas!”
Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail that came to me yesterday from a Catholic priest. This is typical of what I heard from many of them back in the early 2000s, when I was writing about the abuse scandal often. You will not see this reported in the mainstream press. It has its preferred narrative too:
I have certainly seen the homosexual element most widely in effect within the culture of bishops and priests. I think you are correct about the blackmail element. While there’s not doubt that protecting children is of primary importance, the lost story is how often priests have been victimized, and continue to be by their own bishops. Whether that be through personal exploitation, or to protect the church, or simply through abuse of power. I have come to believe that the real root of the problem isn’t the priests, it is and always has been the bishops and their unchecked power. The only limit on a bishop’s power today is liability, however this problem is passed on to the priests and laity. So the people and clergy are treated like potential liabilities because bishops won’t and haven’t been responsible.
The reason priests probably won’t speak out even on Uncle Teddy is because they fear reprisals, not from him, but from their own bishops. Because their own bishops see it as unfaithful to ever criticize any other bishop or the church as a whole. If a priest were to speak out he would be immediately seen as suspect and problematic, unhappy with his priesthood, unhealthy or “troubled”. The culture that is promoted is to be a company man and not deviate. If you do you get screwed. Kind of like me in my current assignment.
You wouldn’t believe all the “thank you” notes I’m receiving from Catholic priests, for highlighting this story. Aside from actual victims of abusive priests and the bishops who covered up for them, parish priests are the ones who suffer the most from this kind of corruption. They often know what’s going on in the upper reaches of the Church’s administration, but feel that they can’t say anything. Many also fear that their people — the laity — believe that they are complicit in the corruption, even though they aren’t.
One former priest who left the priesthood in disgust over the constant gay sex among other priests, and the adamant refusal of his bishop — who is today a cardinal — to do anything about it, wrote me, using his name, and providing details. He says this cardinal was part of a gay clique before he became a bishop, and therefore had no reason to act on the information he (this priest) and others provided him — including information about a gay priest whose sexual crimes landed him behind bars. I’m going to ask that former priest if he’s willing to go public, and name names. I’ve heard rumors about this cardinal, but never details like this. He needs to have a #MeToo moment.
A lay Catholic also writes:
I’ve greatly appreciated your reporting on the Cardinal McCarrick story over the last two days, especially the dimension of his abuse being an “open secret” among many. It’s bringing to light many disturbing aspects of some crises and cancers that continue to plague the Church.
We’d fooled ourselves into thinking “it’s all over now, it’s been taken care of, we had the ‘Long Lent’ but now we have the Dallas Charter, etc.,” but your reporting on the “stories that might have been” illustrates the sort of people that slipped the nets before and the structures in place that protected them. It’s shocking but needed, like a splash of cold water to the face in the morning.
I work at a Catholic parish and have grown increasingly disillusioned with this work by the way the ugly sides of human nature infect the Church’s activity, from petty ecclesial politics to cynical priests to similar sorts of rumors swirling around about clergy and prelates. I love the work I get to do with parishioners, and am grateful for the small ways in which I can serve Christ in building up his kingdom, but it was simply surreal to lead Bible study yesterday with all of this rattling around in my head, or to think of just what might come up in our next round of Open Q&A in RCIA.
I don’t know if what I’m about to say will be a comfort to you, but I hope so.
As regular readers know, I’m traveling right now in the Azores islands. One of my party is a faithful Southern Baptist layman. His confession is going through its own scandals now. Plus, though he’s a theological and political conservative, he’s sickened by the way tub-thumping Trumpian nationalism has taken over so many precincts within the Southern Baptist Convention. He and I were talking about Uncle Ted last night. He’s not gloating at all. Nobody should gloat. Whatever your church, if the sins of its leadership were brought to light, it would surely be a shock.
Now that the McCarrick story is out, maybe some of you Catholics who couldn’t understand why the scandal broke my Catholic faith, and made it impossible for me to continue, understand better why that happened. McCarrick was a major bone in my throat. Take a look at this story from the Boston Globe, dated April 20, 2002:
Over the last several days and weeks, prominent church opinionmakers, including two cardinals, have suggested that the clergy sexual abuse crisis is a relatively minor phenomenon that is being turned into a major scandal by the media and others with an ax to grind.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, for example, told The Washington Post this week that some newspapers are having a ”heyday” with the issue.
”Elements in our society who are very opposed to the church’s stand on life, the church’s stand on family, the church’s stand on education … see in this an opportunity to destroy the credibility of the church,” he said. ”And they’re really working on it – and somewhat successfully.”
What did Cardinal McCarrick’s successor in Newark say?
Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said in a homily last month, ”I just think a line has been crossed. The media seems to go through certain frenzies, in which they don’t let go. And I just think that having some bad story about the Catholic Church on the front page, or prominently repeated in newspapers and electronic media every day, is just inappropriate.”
Imagine seeing and hearing things like that from the likes of McCarrick, knowing that he was a serial sexual abuser of priests and seminarians — and knowing, obviously, that he knows it. He was playing a role. A completely disgraceful hypocrite. And knowing too that Myers, as his successor in Newark, had to know the truth about him. The stories about Uncle Ted were rampant on the East Coast, among priests. I know this because they told me. These weren’t just rumors; these were often stories from priests who had direct personal knowledge. Here’s the Catholic journalist Phil Lawler, on how Uncle Ted’s secret lasted so long:
At least fifteen years ago, I wrote a confidential email message to a few trusted friends, telling them to brace themselves. Within a few days, I said, a major secular newspaper would break a sensational story about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. To my surprise, the newspaper never ran the story—which finally came out today.
At the time, several reporters had spoken with me about the cardinal. Most had been unable to find anyone willing to go on record with complaints. Rod Dreher, one of the journalists who was investigating the rumors, now writes about the frustration he felt when witnesses refused to go public. I ran into the same brick wall; while I heard multiple accusations, without a willing witness I had only hearsay evidence. But at least one reporter found a former seminarian who was ready to tell his story—or so I was told. Yet that story never emerged— at least not in the mainstream media.
The two letters I quote above — one from a priest, and one from a layman — go a long way towards explaining why and how Uncle Ted’s secrets stayed within the family. Pay attention — this is important.
For one, those keeping the secrets were priests. Those lower down the hierarchy were vulnerable, for the reasons the anonymous priest above explains. (You might ask why it is that someone who has vowed to serve Jesus Christ sacrificially would be afraid of being punished by his bishop, but there it is.) Some bishops were part of a gay cabal who looked out for each other, and made sure their secrets stayed safe. Many other bishops were neither gay nor sexually active, but had a strong sense that the Church’s image must be protected at all costs.
This is how a dysfunctional family works. Nobody notice that Uncle Ted has his hands down Cousin Bobby’s pants. If we don’t talk about it, maybe it’s not happening, and maybe we’re all okay.
Which brings us to the laity. The reader wrote, with admirable self-recognition, that “we’d fooled ourselves into thinking” that the crisis was over. This is human nature. People cannot bear very much reality. This is why actual sex abuse victims stayed silent about their abuse: because they knew that people wouldn’t believe them, because they didn’t want to believe them. In 2002, I pitched a book about the abuse scandal to a major New York publisher. She rejected it with characteristic bluntness: “Nobody wants to pay $27 to read about priests f**king little boys.” Harsh, but true: a book like that wouldn’t sell well, because it’s a horrible thing to read about, much less to confront in your own parish or diocese. This is why Cardinal Law in the past, and McCarrick, Myers, and others in 2002, blamed the media’s anti-Catholic bias: because they knew it would play well with the people in the pews, and because they wanted to manipulate ordinary Catholics into looking outward, not inward.
Again, think of a dysfunctional family. When I blew the whistle on a priest in my own parish in 2005, a friend of mine who was on the parish council reproached me bitterly. Of course we all knew what Father had been accused of, and that he wasn’t supposed to be in ministry, he said. But we kept it from the parishioners for their own good.
This man was not a priest or a deacon. He was an ardently conservative layman. But he had secrets to keep, and he kept them.
I also want to mention that some pretty nasty characters — including Cardinal McCarrick — benefit from the media’s biases too. Ordinary Catholics (and others) have a hard time understanding this, because they have this fixed idea that the media hates the Catholic Church, and will go after it on any pretext whatsoever. That’s not entirely true.
Yes, the media, in general, does despise the Catholic Church, and any church that it considers to be on the Wrong Side Of History™ (that is, opposed to feminism, abortion, homosexuality, and liberalized sexuality). But you’d have to have been the world’s worst reporter on the church abuse scandal beat not to recognize the role that clandestine networks of predatory homosexuals in the Catholic clergy played in creating and sustaining a culture of abuse. It was everywhere. There were some very, very good reporters on these stories, but they didn’t tell those particular stories. They were off limits, owing to political correctness.
As of this writing, not a single mainstream media outlet — at least none that I have seen — has said one word about Uncle Ted’s molestation of adults under his ecclesial authority. It may be that they haven’t yet done the reporting, and that they have their reporters out now gathering that information. If mainstream media do report these stories, it will be a sign that #MeToo has really changed things.
I am personally aware of a case in which a conservative superstar priest, the late Father Benedict Groeschel, manipulated the conservative Catholic public’s suspicion of the news media to hide from legitimate questions about his own role in covering up abuse. I wrote about it here. In brief, Groeschel, a psychologist, ran a factory that recycled sexually abusive priests. In 2002, or perhaps early 2003, Brooks Egerton, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, tried to contact Groeschel to ask him about some of these cases, Groeschel refused to speak to him. Egerton called me at National Review, asking me why Groeschel wouldn’t return his calls, and asking if I knew any way to reach him. Eventually, Egerton published a story … which Groeschel promptly denounced as filled with lies and distortions. He said, in particular:
Mr. Egerton’s article is a prime example of the hostility, distortion and planned attack on the Catholic Church in the United States by certain segments of the media.
Groeschel’s words were disgraceful. Again, Egerton tried multiple times to get Groeschel on the phone to explain his side of the story. Groeschel refused to talk to him, and then when the story came out, denounced it as a “planned attack on the Catholic Church.” It was a lie, but a lot of people wanted to believe that lie. That’s how aiders and abetters of the scandal, like Benedict Groeschel, got away with it.
(And do you want an added twist on the darkness here? Egerton, a former colleague of mine at the News, is a good man and a highly ethical journalist. He is also openly gay. Back in 2002, when he began reporting in earnest about the abuse scandal in the Diocese of Dallas, which was an epicenter of it, the then-bishop tried to discredit his work by emphasizing to local conservatives that he is gay — as if that had anything to do with the truth or falsity of his (excellent and fair) reporting! See, there are layers and layers and layers of deception in this scandal. It is very difficult to know who can be trusted.)
Despite all that, I must tell you: this Uncle Ted story is all very good news. I mean that sincerely. Everything that was hidden, and foul, and corrupt, and that thrived in the darkness, is being exposed. My Catholic faith was not strong enough to withstand knowing that Uncle Ted, and those like him, were getting away with this injustice. My problem was that I had placed too much faith in the integrity of the institutional Church. I kept thinking that there was bound to be a bottom to this scandal, and kept finding out otherwise.
Here’s something I wrote in 2006 about how I lost my Catholic faith, and became an Orthodox Christian. You will not find anything triumphalist in that account, and I am pretty sure you will not be able to find anything triumphalist about my writing regarding Orthodoxy and Catholicism since then. I was a prideful, triumphalistic Catholic, and that set me up for a big fall. I cannot be a triumphalistic Orthodox Christian. As I say in the piece, a Russian told me when I was coming into the Orthodox faith that there are so many scandals in the Orthodox Church than on Orthodox has the right to look down on Rome.
One of you readers wrote to me yesterday to say that the McCarrick revelations were the final straw, and that you were going to leave Catholicism for Orthodoxy. I know that feeling, and you have my prayers and welcome, if that is where God is leading you. But under no circumstances should you think that you are escaping sin and brokenness in the Church. And don’t think that the sin and brokenness is only in the clergy. We are all caught up in it. If you are a Catholic who leaves for Orthodoxy or Protestantism over scandal, do not lie to yourself about what you are going towards, and the sins and failings you bring with it. In that 2006 piece, I wrote about how I bore some responsibility for losing my Catholic faith because of my own pridefulness. If I had been the same kind of Orthodox Christian, my Orthodoxy would have been at risk.
If you are committed to remaining a Catholic, I strongly urge you to remind yourself that God allows chastisement to fall upon his people for the sake of their repentance. Maybe you have been the kind of Catholic who was going through the motions. Maybe you’ve been the kind of Catholic who depended on a certain vision of the Church to keep going, and who turned a blind eye to its problems. Maybe you’ve fallen so in love with the institution that you’ve forgotten the One who is supposed to be at its center. That happened to me once.
This is an opportunity to repent.
This is what judgment means. This is what purification is. Do not be the sort of person who blames Uncle Ted for your spiritual failure. Believe me, I’m certainly not making excuses for him, or any of them. May the light of truth shine in every dark corner! I’m simply saying that that same light will shine into the dark corners of your soul and mine, if we let it — and bring healing.
We need to let it. All of us — Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants too. The days of easy Christianity are over. If your faith depends on believing comforting lies about the Church — all churches, not just the Catholic Church — then your faith is not going to be strong enough to withstand the testing yet to come. As a Catholic, I always imagined that one day I might have to suffer for the Church. I never imagined that I would have to suffer from the Church. Losing my Catholic faith was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but honestly, I thank God for it. It broke me, and I needed breaking. I was ideological, I was triumphalist, I was sentimental — and I was much weaker in my faith than I realized. Even if I had remained a Catholic, I would have been a very different kind of Catholic because of that horrible experience.
Please don’t despair of the faith because of scandal. I’m telling you, the fact that Uncle Ted’s secrets are coming out now, after all these years, is cause for hope — if you allow yourself to see it in the right light. It’s hard. But we cannot afford to be the the kinds of Christians who need a Dostoevskian Grand Inquisitor figure to be at peace. That is, we cannot allow ourselves to maintain our sense of religious well being by preferring to shirk the burden of painful knowledge about the corruption of religious figures and institutions. That is peace at too high a price. In fact, it’s a form of bondage.
Uncle Ted’s secrets stayed hidden because a lot of people in the Church — and even some people in the media — wanted to keep them kept. Some because they themselves were guilty. Many more because they wanted to preserve the Church’s image. Far more because they don’t want to believe things like this about the Church. In the media, some who tried to write about it (Phil Lawler, Julia Duin, and me, among others) could not get people to talk on the record about it. Others in the media didn’t want to know, because that was a side of the Catholic abuse scandal they too preferred stayed hidden.
It’s long past time for the lies and the denial to end. And know this: the moral gangrene that is destroying the moral authority of the Catholic Church will not be healed until and unless these networks of sexual exploitation are exposed and rooted out.
UPDATE: This e-mail just came in. This is a perfect example of the role the laity has played in perpetuating the scandal. Minimizing Uncle Ted’s predation to own the libs — beautiful:
I simply don’t understand your eagerness with this prosecution of McCarrick. I support the legal ramifications, but not your public dancing on his grave.
You have to understand the intense hatred that the media (entertainment and news) have for Catholicism.
We MUST protect our brand, our shield, our faith!
I fully support Pope Francis and his softened tone, and even swipes at capitalism because the media love him. And image is everything. Similarly with Cardinal Dolan, I will fight to the death to defend him, and would go to extreme lengths to protect him because he is so well liked in the leftist NYC media.
In short, we must handle these issues swiftly, legally, but privately! As a successful advertising executive in NYC I am looked up like an alien because I am a weekly mass attender, and a conservative. I am respected by my liberal media friends because I loathe the Trump-Palin-Brietbart wing of my party, and trumpet my cause in a more Bill Buckley.
Image is everything, and when it comes to the One True Church we MUST protect her!
That’s inside at the tea tasting room. The old-timey factory smells sweetly of drying tea leaves. Here’ what it looks like from outside:
And here are their gorgeous fields:
The natural beauty of this island, São Miguel. is breathtaking. We also went today to the top of Lagoa do Fogo, so high up you can see the island’s north coast on one side, and the south coast on the other. Here is me there, looking not at all dependent on a major painkiller to get that bad back moving:
We went to lunch at the restaurant of the Agricultural Association, where it is said the steak is among the best on the island. I can believe it. They brought us some of the best cheese I’ve had here, then took our orders. I don’t know the metric system, so I ordered a 400gr steak, medium rare. This is what came out:
That’s not ketchup; that’s a grilled pepper. And garlic cloves, and a fried egg. I couldn’t finish it, but oh man, was it good.
We visited a small ceramics shop where you could watch artisans made the things for sale. This is on the wall behind the potters. It contains a theology of creation:
Here the woman are at work:
Later, after a cocktail at the hotel pool, we decided to get take-out pizza for everybody. We chose the worst pizza parlor on the entire island. Surely it must be. It took us 90 minutes to get our simple order. I won’t tell you the place’s name, out of sheer mercy. By the time we got the pizza back to the room, people were ravenous. I had half a piece, but could continue no more. It tasted like the kind of pizza you would get if you had ordered it from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, or if you had given Bisquick, cheese, and tomato sauce to a traumatized elderly woman, and told her to cook pizza in an Easy Bake Oven,
It was horrible, horrible pizza:
Tomorrow morning we catch the ferry to the island of Terceira.
Remember how, after Harvey Weinstein was busted as a serial sexual abuser, it emerged that a whole lot of people knew this about Weinstein, but never said anything about it? The same thing is true about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was outed today (by the Catholic Church) as having sexually abused a minor years ago.
I had never heard that McCarrick abused minors, but I heard from many sources that he would go after seminarians. He had a habit of inviting them to his beach house, and always inviting one more young man than there was bed space for. The unlucky mark had to bunk with the Archbishop, who loved to snuggle.
Here are excerpts from an “open letter” to Pope Benedict XVI, written a decade ago by the sociologist Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who specializes in studying the sexual behavior of Catholic priests:
While I was Adjunct Professor at a Pontifical Seminary, St. Mary’s Baltimore (1972-1984) a number of seminarians came to me with concerns about the behavior of Theodore E. McCarrick, then bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. It has been widely known for several decades that Bishop/Archbishop now Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick took seminarians and young priests to a shore home in New Jersey, sites in New York, and other places and slept with some of them. He established a coterie of young seminarians and priests that he encouraged to call him “Uncle Ted.” I have his correspondence where he referred to these men as being “cousins” with each other.
Catholic journalist Matt C. Abbott already featured the statements of two priests (2005) and one ex-priest (2006) about McCarrick. All three were “in the know” and aware of the Cardinal McCarrick’s activities in the same mode as I had heard at the seminary. None of these reporters, as far as Abbott knew, had sexual contact with the cardinal in the infamous sleepovers, but one had first hand reports from a seminarian/priest who did share a bed and received cards and letters from McCarrick. The modus operendi is similar to the documents and letters I have received from a priest who describes in detail McCarrick’s sexual advances and personal activity. At least one prominent journalist at the Boston Globe was aware of McCarrick from his investigation of another priest, but until now legal documentation has not been available. And even at this point the complete story cannot be published because priest reporters are afraid of reprisals.
In 2012, I was approached by a freelance journalist working for The New York Times Magazine on this story. Someone had told him to contact me, that I might be able to help him. It turns out that he didn’t need my help. This journalist had done what no others had been willing or able to do: found court documents about Uncle Ted’s settlements with adult men he had forced himself on, and land at least one on-the-record interviews with a victim.
The man, I was told, was an unwilling victim, but allegedly let McCarrick get away with it because as a bishop, McCarrick was in a position of total power over his future as a priest. It was the exact same reason that actresses submitted to Harvey Weinstein.
Why did this story never get published? That’s a good question. When I first spoke to the reporter, he was on the verge of publishing. Weeks, then months, went by, and no story. When I contacted him again, he told me he had no idea. The editor on the story had changed, and the new editor kept making him go re-report things he had already nailed down. This was a mystery to him.
Mind you, this reporter was coming at the story from an abuse of power in the workplace angle. He was not a Catholic, nor did he understand the intra-church dynamics of the scandal. I asked him for the name of the editor. He told me. I looked it up. The editor was a gay man whose marriage announcement had recently been in the Times.
Did that fact have anything to do with the fact that the McCarrick story was killed by the Times magazine? It is impossible to know at this point, but if I were Times executive editor Dean Baquet, I’d want to know why my newspaper had a good story about a Catholic cardinal using his power to sexually exploit his employees, but did not publish it.
But I can tell you this: back in 2002, a liberal Catholic journalist and I were trading stories about covering the abuse scandal, and the obstacles to covering the story that we found on our own ideological sides. I told him that on the Catholic Right, I found a strong unwillingness to contemplate the possibility that mandatory celibacy played a role in creating a culture of secrecy and abuse. Also, there was a deep reticence to think critically about the role of authority within the Catholic hierarchy, and how that played into a culture of abuse and cover-up. We conservative Catholics had made such a big deal about the loss of authority within the Church, and had developed within ourselves a chronic reluctance to confront facts that called the integrity of the system into question.
Father Richard John Neuhaus, for example, once upbraided me angrily on the phone for publishing a story about Bishop James Timlin’s handling of the Society of St. John situation.
“The bishop told you there was no story there!” he growled.
I pointed out to Father Neuhaus that I had quoted the bishop saying that in the story. Neuhaus was aghast that I had published the story at all, given the bishop’s words.
“Father Neuhaus, why should I believe Bishop Timlin?” I said.
“Because he is a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church!” Neuhaus shouted.
Really, he shouted. Remember, this was February 2002, only a month after the scandal broke big in Boston. Churchmen like Father Neuhaus would come to learn in time how very wrong they were. I seem to recall Neuhaus writing about this, eventually. I bring it up here to point out how the scandal radically challenged fundamental views conservative Catholics had about the Church and how it works — so much so that they didn’t see what they didn’t want to see, in many cases.
That’s the kind of thing I told my liberal Catholic colleague. For his part, he told me that on the Catholic left, nobody will deal with the homosexual aspect of the scandal, in particular the gay networks within the Catholic Church. It was a third rail. They had an ideological commitment that this kind of thing was nothing more than a trumped-up fantasy of homophobic right wingers. The Catholic left was as committed to that view as the Catholic right was to its own shibboleths.
The thing is, you couldn’t really understand the Catholic abuse scandal without taking into account the homosexual networking, as well as the celibacy rule, and the culture of authority within the Church. None of these factors were or are complete explanations, but a complete explanation was impossible without taking them all into consideration. This was exactly what many Catholic partisans on both sides did not want to do. They only wanted confirmation of their prior beliefs. The facts of the scandal made fools of us all, eventually. My own foolishness was exposed when I accepted the lies told by a conservative Catholic priest in 2005 — that he had been driven out of Pennsylvania by church liberals — because it played into my own prejudices, and besides, I was sure that I could tell who was lying and who wasn’t.
I was wrong. And I was a fool.
Now, the secular media has its own biases when it comes to covering the Catholic Church. Among them, in my experience, was a refusal to examine the role of homosexual networks within the Catholic priesthood in creating and protecting a culture of abuse within the Church. I do not know the extent to which these are still active, but this is what Richard Sipe told me for National Review in 2002:
One disturbing facet of this willingness to overlook serious sexual sin, say a number of priests and seminarians, is the existence of a discreet but powerful homosexual network within seminaries and chanceries. A. W. Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist and former Benedictine monk who has treated scores of sexually abusive priests and has written extensively about the phenomenon, says that the reality of the gay network is well known to clerics and others closely familiar with the workings of the Catholic Church, though difficult to prove from public sources.
“I’ve reviewed over 100 cases of sexual abuse by priests. In there you get the documentation, which unfortunately often gets sealed by the Church after they settle the cases,” says Sipe, who is an expert witness in abuse cases. “It’s very clear that you can trace [the network], one person to another, through a sequence of appointments, the sequence of who follows whom in what position, and how they got there. It is a fact, and nobody can sincerely deny it.” A typical pattern involves a priest becoming sexually involved with a seminarian or younger cleric, and then the junior man following his elder up the diocesan hierarchy. Sipe and others interviewed say this “bond of secrecy” introduces the possibility of blackmail: Those in positions of authority are prevented from acting against others because they themselves are compromised. It’s a form of mutually assured destruction.
Richard Sipe is not a conservative. He’s a social scientist who was telling me how the system works. When I was working on these stories, I learned that most gay priests who are sexually active do not molest children or adolescents. The problem is that they — as well as straight priests who are sexually active — have secrets, and learn to keep their mouths shut as part of an informal system of self-preservation.
And the psychological pressure they put on those who are relatively powerless within the system is enormous — or, I should say, was enormous. I haven’t reported on this stuff in over a decade. I don’t know to what extent any of this is still the case. I’m remember now a series of abuse stories I was working on in 2001 for the New York Post, before things blew up big out of Boston. A source — a devout young Catholic man — had been telling me that he left seminary because he couldn’t stand the constant pressure from priests there to have sex with them. One of the seminary leaders told him that if he’s not gay, fine, but to go get a girlfriend. To me, it was clear that the priest-professor was trying to lead the kid into his own web of corruption, one way or the other. This young man was stricken and confused.
We had set up a time to meet to have an on the record conversation for my column. That morning, he phoned me, crying. He told me that he had e-mailed his professor the night before, telling him that he was going to sit down with me and spill his guts. The priest-professor asked if he could come over. The young man said yes. The priest-professor convinced him that if he went public, he would hurt the Church terribly. Is that really what the young man wanted to do? No, the kid said, it wasn’t. The kid — I say “kid,” but he was in his early 20s — wept on the phone with me, and said he was cancelling our meeting. He couldn’t do that to the Church. Nothing I said changed his mind. That devil had gotten inside this devout young man’s head, and done a number on him.
Are Catholics today, in 2018, less susceptible to that kind of manipulation? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but I don’t know. Believe me when I tell you that a lot of people in the church knew about Cardinal McCarrick’s sex life. How many of them have gone public with it? Not Cardinal McCarrick’s successors in Newark, Archbishop Myers (a conservative) and Cardinal Tobin (a liberal), who knew about at least two settlements with McCarrick’s victims. I just found this posted in 2010 by Richard Sipe. Excerpt:
There is documentation that records McCarrick’s sexual activity and sleeping arrangements with seminarians and young priests even when he served as the first bishop of Metuchen after serving as an auxiliary bishop in New York. On file are the unsealed “MEDIATION DOCUMENTATION FOR FR. G.” that involved McCarrick, the dioceses of Metuchen and Newark, NJ. (2006) A financial settlement was reached. The case was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, but it has not yet responded. Documents include the history of McCarrick’s initial sexual gesture and approach to the victim then a seminarian, in the bishop’s Metuchen residence in 1986.
Documentation includes hand written correspondence (letters and cards) from McCarrick postmarked between 1987 and 2005. Many of the letters are signed “Uncle Ted.” The names of other priests who were either seen having sex with McCarrick or witnessed McCarrick having sex with another priest are also included in the file. One of the priests is still in active ministry another left the ministry and was assisted by the church and McCarrick to re-educate for another profession. The names of other sexually active priests are also in the reports. Records of McCarrick’s activities with these priests are also included in medical evaluations and records all reviewed by Bishop Hughes of Metuchen already in 1995.
Excerpts from the legal Settlement Documents include firsthand accounts that are also in the Newark Archdiocese records of an incident on a trip with McCarrick, then Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, with a seminarian and two young priests when they shared a room with two double beds, it reads:
McCarrick, wearing just underwear, got into bed with one of the priests: “Bishop McCarrick was sitting on the crotch of Fr. RC As I was watching TV with Fr BL [full names appear in the documents], bishop McCarrick was smiling and laughing and moving his hands all over Fr. RC’s body. Bishop McCarrick was touching Fr. C’s body, rubbing his hands from head to toe and having a good time, occasionally placing his hands underneath Fr. C’s underwear. [I was] feeling very uncomfortable while trying to focus on television, and Fr. B.L., started smiling. As I looked at the bed next to me, Bishop McCarrick was excitedly caressing the full body of Fr. R.C. At that moment, I made eye contact [with] Bishop McCarrick. He smiled at me saying, “Don’t worry, you’re next.” At that moment, I felt the hand of Fr. B.L. rubbing my back and shoulders. I felt sick to my stomach and went under the covers and pretended to sleep.”
McCarrick continued to pursue the young man, sent him notes and telephoned him. Notes reveal that it was the custom the Archbishop McCarrick to call his protégés “nephew” and encouraged his entourage to call each other “cousin” and for them to call him “uncle Ted.” On another occasion McCarrick summoned the young man to drive him from the Newark Cathedral to New York City. He took him to dinner; and after, rather than returning to Newark as anticipated McCarrick went to a one-room apartment that housed one bed and a recliner chair. McCarrick said that he would take the chair, but after showering he turned off the lights and clad in his underwear he climbed into bed with his guest. Here is the account from the documents:
“He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs around mine. Then He started to tell me what a nice young man I was and what a good priest I would make someday. He also told me about the hard work and stress he was facing in his new role as Archbishop of Newark. He told me how everyone knows him and how powerful he was. The Archbishop kept saying, “Pray for your poor uncle.” All of a sudden, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t have my own car and there was nowhere to go. The Archbishop started to kiss me and move his hands and legs around me. I remained frozen, curled up like a ball. I felt his penis inside his underwear leaning against my buttocks as he was rubbing my legs up and down. His hands were moving up and down my chest and back, while tightening his legs around mine. I tried to scream but could not…I was paralyzed with fear. As he continued touching me, I felt more afraid. He even tried several times to force his hands under my shorts. He tried to roll me over so that he could get on top of me, but I resisted, I felt sick and disgusted and finally was able to jump out of bed. I went into the bathroom where I vomited several times and started to cry. After twenty minutes in the bathroom, the Archbishop told me to come back to bed. Instead I went to the recliner and pretended to fall asleep.”
In a letter dated four days after this incident McCarrick wrote a note signed “Uncle Ted” that said in part: “I just wanted to say thanks for coming on Friday evening. I really enjoyed our visit. You’re a great kid and I know the Lord will continue to bless you…Your uncle has great spots to take you to!!!”
There are additional documents that substantiate this particular relationship. One can safely say that now-retired Cardinal McCarrick was same-sex active and can be presumed to have a homosexual orientation. Neither fact has interfered with his career as a cleric in the Roman Catholic Church.
The power position of a cardinal places him above suspicion and makes him immune from criticism; this in defiance of the solid historical record of periodic moral violations of some clerics (and politicians) in high places. The facts are clear, simple, and typical of the heritage of tolerance of abuse and cover-up inculcated by Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Newark (1986-2000). There is documentation that records McCarrick’s sexual activity and sleeping arrangements with seminarians and young priests even when he served as the first bishop of Metuchen after serving as an auxiliary bishop in New York.
The journalist who wrote the spiked story for The New York Times Magazine had all of this information, and the priest he interviewed was the priest who vomited. It’s part of the legal record. Can you imagine having a reporter who had all this information on a Roman Catholic cardinal, and you being an editor who decided not to publish it? On what possible grounds can you justify that? That because it wasn’t minors, it might have been consensual, and that We May Never Really Know?
Bull. I find it far more plausible that it have been the possibility that once you start pulling on the McCarrick thread, an entire sexual underground of gay clerical cruising might have been revealed.
I don’t know, but I hope now, in this era of #MeToo, priests and others who have suffered under this conspiracy of silence find their voice. And I hope that media organizations — secular and religious — who knew about McCarrick, but chose to stay silent, are shamed, and make up for their silence by seeking out victims and reporting on their stories.
The cover-ups have to end. The conspiracies of silence must stop. In its report on today’s news, the Times reports on the sordid details of what the church commission finds that McCarrick did. Note the final quote from the victim’s attorney:
The monsignor, “under the guise of measuring his inseam, unzipped his pants, and sexually assaulted him,” Mr. Noaker said. “The kid had just turned 16, and kind of pulled back, and McCarrick was a little surprised by that.”
“Let’s not tell anyone about this,” the monsignor told the student, according to Mr. Noaker.
Over the following year, Monsignor McCarrick occasionally saw the teenager and told him how good-looking he was. The young man was again selected in 1972 to be a Christmas Mass altar boy, and vowed to be more cautious this time, his lawyer said. Another man did the measuring, but Monsignor McCarrick was there and cornered him in a bathroom, Mr. Noaker said.
“He just came in, grabbed him, shoved his hand into his pants and tried to get his hand into his underwear, and the kid had to struggle and push him away,” the lawyer said.
“These were significant sexual assaults,” Mr. Noaker said. “If someone like that is running an entire archdiocese, what does that mean for predators in the diocese? It probably means that they have secrets that they keep.”
I’m with Michael Brendan Dougherty here:
Here’s the angle on the Cardinal McCarrick story that I wish people would follow up on: All the priests in Newark and DC who have been morally compromised just by knowing the truth about him, and remaining silent about it.
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) June 20, 2018
Every bishop who worked closely with McCarrick should be asked, “What did you know and when did you know it? Can you document expressing your concerns to Rome?”
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) June 20, 2018
Of course, this won’t happen. Because “religion reporters” when they still exist, is expected to write two stories. 1) A human interest stories about religious people adopting trendy causes. 2) A story about bad religious people who failed to adopt those causes.
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) June 20, 2018
Watch to see what happens with the McCarrick story. We are about to find out if #MeToo also covers gay bishops who sexually abused men under their authority, and punished, or threatened to punish, those who might have outed them. Watch especially to see how The New York Times reports on this, given its 2012 failure.
Finally, if there is any justice, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, will not be able to get away with this as his only statement on the McCarrick scandal:
“As clergy in God’s Church, we have made a solemn promise to protect children and young people from all harm. This sacred charge applies to all who minister in the Church, no matter the person’s high standing or long service. This morning was a painful reminder of how only through continued vigilance can we keep that promise. My prayers are with all who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse. May they find healing in Christ’s abundant love. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (http://www.usccb.org/charter) outlines a process for addressing allegations, holding us accountable to our commitment to protect and heal. I express my gratitude to Cardinal Dolan, who has carried forward with clarity, compassion for the victims, and a genuine sense of justice. With him, I express my deep sadness, and on behalf of the Church, I apologize to all who have been harmed by one of her ministers.”
Does that include seminarians and priests, Your Eminence? I find it impossible to believe that Cardinal Dolan, or McCarrick’s successors in Metuchen, Newark, and Washington (including Cardinals Wuerl and Tobin) , knew nothing of Uncle Ted’s Gay Predation. Yet they allowed him to retire with dignity, to play a key role (by his own recollection at Villanova a few years ago) in the election of Pope Francis, and to serve as an envoy of sorts for Francis. What did these cardinals know, and what did they do about it? And who else in power knew, and said or did nothing? Why not? What kind of power did McCarrick have, anyway?
It might surprise you to learn that the person who tried to get me taken off the McCarrick trail back in 2002, was a prominent conservative layman, a closeted gay man who intervened at his dear friend the Cardinal’s request. He did not succeed; I failed to get the story because none of the people who were telling me what they knew about McCarrick were willing to go on the record. Still, you would not have expected a man like this to run interference for a liberal cardinal who loved to force seminarians to share his bed.
But then, you wouldn’t expect a New York Times editor to spike a story about a Catholic cardinal who sexually exploited those in his employ. This scandal has made for some very strange bedfellows. In 2001, when I first contacted the heroic Father Tom Doyle for a comment on a sex abuse story I was working on for the New York Post, he warned me that if I continued on the path of investigation, I would “go to a place darker than you can imagine.” He was trying to warn me. He was right. It’s still dark — but on days like today, when the truth finally comes out, there is light.
More light, please.
UPDATE: A reader comments:
Rod, I often chide you for your closed views of gays, but I can understand this from a different perspective. I worked at a gay bar for years and we had many current and ex- priests come in there. (As well as married guys – but that’s a different subject.)
One slow night, I talked to a retired priest about the prevalence of gay priests, and he just nodded his head. “So how many would you estimate?” I asked. He paused: “Seventy percent.” Seventy?? I was flabbergasted.
“But why volunteer yourself for such a thing if you know the Catholic stance on it,” I asked. From his perspective, he said it was guilt and self-loathing. He was raised Catholic, taught gay was bad and thought a self- imposed celibacy would cure him of his feelings. It didn’t.
He never mention an underground but said gay priests were well known in the diocese and even by parishioners, who ignored father so and so’s boyfriend cause “he was a caring priest.”
After the conversation, I rethought a movie I saw in the ‘90s called Priest about the secret life of a gay priest. The film seemed a bit heavy handed at the times, but after this priest, I wondered if there wasn’t more truth to it than I first thought.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., has been removed from public ministry after a credible allegation he abused a teen 50 years ago while serving as a priest in New York Archdiocese.
Innocence? I believe McCarrick is lying, and that he knows he is lying. I have been waiting for this story to break since 2002.
Back then, I received a tip from a priest who had gone on his own dime to Rome, along with a group of prominent US Catholic laymen, to meet with an official for the Roman Curial congregation that names bishops. It had been rumored at the time that Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop of Newark, was going to be moved to Washington, DC, and to be made a cardinal. This group traveled to Rome to warn the Vatican that McCarrick was a sexual harrasser of seminarians. The story this priest shared with me was that McCarrick had a habit of compelling seminarians to share his bed for cuddling. These allegations did not involve sexual molestation, but were clearly about unwanted sexual harassment. To refuse the archbishop’s bedtime entreaties would be to risk your future as a priest, I was told.
Rome was informed by these laymen — whose number included professionally distinguished Catholics in a position to understand the kind of harm this would cause –that McCarrick was sexually exploiting these seminarians, but it did no good. McCarrick received his appointment to the Washington archdiocese in 2000.
In early 2002, though, the priest who tipped me off wouldn’t go on the record. It would have meant the end of his priesthood, quite possibly. He gave me the name of a couple of medical figures who had been on the same journey. I called one, who confirmed it, but wouldn’t go on the record. I called the other, who gasped when I said it out loud, and who said, “If that were true, then I wouldn’t confirm it for the same reason Noah’s sons covered their father in his drunkenness.”
That’s where the investigation stood after a couple of days. For all I knew, these were only allegations. Then a personal friend of McCarrick’s — a closeted gay man, someone whose name you would know — contacted the news organization for which I was working on this story. The caller did so on McCarrick’s behalf, trying to get me pulled off the story. I won’t go into details, but the man who made the call conceded that McCarrick was guilty, but insisted that no laws had been broken, and therefore it wasn’t a big deal. My supervisor on the story, to his great credit, simply said to keep digging, but to keep him informed.
How did McCarrick find out? It turned out that the priest who tipped me off had only told his spiritual adviser, a well-known conservative cleric, who had almost certainly called McCarrick. My informant — remember, this was early 2002 — was still under the naive impression that you could tell the good guys from the bad guys in the Catholic scandal based on where they lined up theologically. Not true!
I never wrote the story about McCarrick, because I could not get anybody to go on the record. That spring, I fielded more than a few calls from Catholic priests from the New Jersey area who had direct personal knowledge of McCarrick’s sexual derring-do with seminarians. They would phone me, tell me what they knew, and then beg me to “do something”! I would tell them that I could do nothing until and unless they provided documents, and/or were willing to put their name to public accusations.
Nobody could or would do that. Whenever I would see Cardinal McCarrick on television that spring, wringing his hands about how terrible the abuse scandal was, and how the hierarchy really had no idea how extensive the crisis was, yadda yadda, I knew that I was looking at a world-class liar and hypocrite. Moreover, I knew for a fact that the Vatican had been warned about “Uncle Ted” before moving him to Washington, and that those warnings had meant nothing, because hey, Uncle Ted was well connected, and he was a champion fundraiser for the Church.
Let me make this clear: The Vatican had been warned in person, by credible Catholic laymen, and a Catholic priest in a position to know, that as Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick would compel seminarians under his authority to get in bed with him and cuddle him. These laymen traveled to Rome at their own expense to warn the Vatican about this man’s sickness. But Pope St. John Paul II, who I assume was not told of the allegations, made him a cardinal archbishop anyway.
Believe me, this single incident from the life of Uncle Ted, fifty years ago, is not the only one. I hope and pray to God that Theodore McCarrick is about to have his #MeToo moment. There are more, many more, stories to be told about Uncle Ted and his “ministry” to young men under his authority in the Church. I am grateful that they will now be coming out while he is still around to face some kind of justice, if only in the court of public opinion.
And there’s this: that Cardinal McCarrick was a sexual predator of some sort was the worst-kept secret among the East Coast media covering the church abuse scandal. Even though the McCarrick allegations, if true, clearly reflected deep moral corruption in a leading American Catholic figure, and were at the very least a matter of a man of great power within an organization using that power to compel those under him within the organization to satisfy his sexual desires. I wanted to pursue the story more deeply, and had an editor who was willing to let me do so, but I did not have the resources at the time to do the deep digging that was necessary. To the best of my knowledge, those journalists who did have the resources turned a blind eye to it. I do not know the reason, but I have my theories.
I do know this much: in 2012, one reporter I know personally nailed the McCarrick story, with on-the-record interviews and having dug up court papers. The major magazine for which he was doing the story killed it at the last minute. To this day he does not know why. Again, I have an idea, but it is only speculation. I do know from my extensive, detailed conversations with this journalist, as well as from my own conversations with sources in 2002, that there is a lot more on this story yet to come out — that is, if reporters and editors are interested in making sure Cardinal McCarrick has his #MeToo moment.
A word for all you Catholic priests and laymen who contacted me 16 years ago about Cardinal McCarrick, and told me what you knew, but who would not go on the record about it — it is time for you to find your voice. Speak up. Tell what you know. The young men who had to suffer this pervert’s attentions all these decades deserve to have their pain acknowledged and vindicated.
UPDATE: A statement from the current Cardinal Archbishop of Newark. Excerpt:
The Archdiocese of Newark has never received an accusation that Cardinal McCarrick abused a minor. In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements.
When did the archdiocese and the diocese receive these allegations? The wording is ambiguous. If settlements were made, when were they made, and why did church officials not disclose to the public that their former leader screwed around?
Why were so many bishops willing to run cover for Ted McCarrick all these years? Why?
New York magazine writer Jesse Singal has for some time been a voice of balance and sanity on the transgender issue. In The Atlantic, he just published a long, thoughtful report about what to do when children say that they are trans. The piece included interviews with “detransitioners” — people who had transitioned to the opposite gender, but who returned to their birth sex. It opens with the story of “Claire,” a teenage girl who came to believe that she was in fact a boy. She began to harangue her parents to get her on hormones and a double mastectomy. They hemmed and hawed. Excerpt:
Claire humored her parents, even as her frustration with them mounted. Eventually, though, something shifted. In a journal entry Claire wrote last November, she traced her realization that she wasn’t a boy to one key moment. Looking in the mirror at a time when she was trying to present in a very male way—at “my baggy, uncomfortable clothes; my damaged, short hair; and my depressed-looking face”—she found that “it didn’t make me feel any better. I was still miserable, and I still hated myself.” From there, her distress gradually began to lift. “It was kind of sudden when I thought: You know, maybe this isn’t the right answer—maybe it’s something else,” Claire told me. “But it took a while to actually set in that yes, I was definitely a girl.”
Claire believes that her feeling that she was a boy stemmed from rigid views of gender roles that she had internalized. “I think I really had it set in stone what a guy was supposed to be like and what a girl was supposed to be like. I thought that if you didn’t follow the stereotypes of a girl, you were a guy, and if you didn’t follow the stereotypes of a guy, you were a girl.” She hadn’t seen herself in the other girls in her middle-school class, who were breaking into cliques and growing more gossipy. As she got a bit older, she found girls who shared her interests, and started to feel at home in her body.
Heather thinks that if she and Mike had heeded the information they found online, Claire would have started a physical transition and regretted it later. These days, Claire is a generally happy teenager whose mental-health issues have improved markedly. She still admires people, like Miles McKenna, who benefited from transitioning. But she’s come to realize that’s just not who she happens to be.
Singal reports that the culture surrounding transgenderism — medical, activist, media — marginalizes voices that question whether or not transitioning is the right thing for all gender dysphoric kids:
The leading professional organizations offer this guidance. But some clinicians are moving toward a faster process. And other resources, including those produced by major LGBTQ organizations, place the emphasis on acceptance rather than inquiry. The Human Rights Campaign’s “Transgender Children & Youth: Understanding the Basics” web page, for example, encourages parents to seek the guidance of a gender specialist. It also asserts that “being transgender is not a phase, and trying to dismiss it as such can be harmful during a time when your child most needs support and validation.” Similarly, parents who consult the pages tagged “transgender youth” on glaad’s site will find many articles about supporting young people who come out as trans but little about the complicated diagnostic and developmental questions faced by the parents of a gender-exploring child.
HRC, glaad, and like-minded advocacy groups emphasize the acceptance of trans kids for understandable reasons: For far too long, parents, as well as clinicians, denied the possibility that trans kids and teens even existed, let alone that they should be allowed to transition. Many such organizations are primarily concerned with raising awareness and correcting still-common misconceptions.
A similar motive seems to animate much of the media coverage of transgender young people. Two genres of coverage have emerged. Dating back at least to the 1993 murder of the Nebraska 21-year-old Brandon Teena, which inspired a documentary as well as the film Boys Don’t Cry, a steady stream of horror stories has centered on bullying, physical assault, and suicide—real risks that transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) young people still face.
Singal reports that the experiences of adults who transition is different from that of young people, because young people are so unformed. There could be many different causes for the dysphoric feelings children and teens have, and kids that young are not good judges of what’s best for them. Singal tells the story of Max Robinson, born female, transitioned as a teenager into a male identity (hormones, double mastectomy), but who found that it did not solve her problems:
Max was initially happy with the results of her physical transformation. Before surgery, she wasn’t able to fully pass as male. After surgery, between her newly masculinized chest and the facial hair she was able to grow thanks to the hormones, she felt like she had left behind the sex she had been assigned at birth. “It felt like an accomplishment to be seen the way I wanted to be seen,” she told me.
But that feeling didn’t last. After her surgery, Max moved from her native California to Portland and threw herself into the trans scene there. It wasn’t a happy home. The clarity of identity she was seeking—and that she’d felt, temporarily, after starting hormones and undergoing surgery—never fully set in. Her discomfort didn’t go away.
Today, Max identifies as a woman. She believes that she misinterpreted her sexual orientation, as well as the effects of the misogyny and trauma she had experienced as a young person, as being about gender identity. Because of the hormone therapy, she still has facial hair and is frequently mistaken for male as a result, but she has learned to live with this: “My sense of self isn’t entirely dependent on how other people see me.”
Max believes that the medical personnel who treated her did her a disservice, pushing her towards transition. Singal reports that this is happening more and more, and that within the trans community, one isn’t allowed to have second thoughts, or conflicting thoughts:
Within a subset of trans advocacy, however, desistance isn’t viewed as a phenomenon we’ve yet to fully understand and quantify but rather as a myth to be dispelled. Those who raise the subject of desistance are often believed to have nefarious motives—the liberal outlet ThinkProgress, for example, referred to desistance research as “the pernicious junk science stalking trans kids,” and a subgenre of articles and blog posts attempts to debunk “the desistance myth.” But the evidence that desistance occurs is overwhelming. The American Psychological Association, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Endocrine Society, and Wpath all recognize that desistance occurs. I didn’t speak with a single clinician who believes otherwise. “I’ve seen it clinically happen,” Nate Sharon said. “It’s not a myth.”
Despite this general agreement, Edwards-Leeper worries that treatment practices are trending toward an interpretation of affirming care that entails nodding along with children and adolescents who say they want physical interventions rather than evaluating whether they are likely to benefit from them.
A decade ago, the opposite was true. “I was constantly having to justify why we should be offering puberty-blocking medication, why we should be supporting these trans youth to get the services they need,” Edwards-Leeper recalled. “People thought this was just crazy, and thought the four-hour evaluations I was doing were, too—how could that possibly be enough to decide whether to go forward with the medical intervention? That was 2007, and now the questions I get are ‘Why do you make people go through any kind of evaluation?’ And ‘Why does mental health need to be involved in this?’ And ‘We should just listen to what the kids say and listen to what the adolescents say and basically just treat them like adults.’ ”
And yes, social contagion is a part of this:
But some anecdotal evidence suggests that social forces can play a role in a young person’s gender questioning. “I’ve been seeing this more frequently,” Laura Edwards-Leeper wrote in an email. Her young clients talk openly about peer influence, saying things like Oh, Steve is really trans, but Rachel is just doing it for attention. Scott Padberg did exactly this when we met for lunch: He said there are kids in his school who claim to be trans but who he believes are not. “They all flaunt it around, like: ‘I’m trans, I’m trans, I’m trans,’ ” he said. “They post it on social media.”
I heard a similar story from a quirky 16-year-old theater kid who was going by the nickname Delta when we spoke. She lives outside Portland, Oregon, with her mother and father. A wave of gender-identity experimentation hit her social circle in 2013. Suddenly, it seemed, no one was cisgender anymore. Delta, who was 13 and homeschooled, soon announced to her parents that she was genderqueer, then nonbinary, and finally trans. Then she told them she wanted to go on testosterone. Her parents were skeptical, both because of the social influence they saw at work and because Delta had anxiety and depression, which they felt could be contributing to her distress. But when her mother, Jenny, sought out information, she found herself in online parenting groups where she was told that if she dragged her feet about Delta’s transition, she was potentially endangering her daughter. “Any questioning brought down the hammer on you,” she told me.
Delta’s therapist said that before they jumped into a treatment protocol that would result in irreversible changes to Delta’s body, that they first treat her depression and other things. Result: Delta’s dysphoria resolved itself. Had they rushed into transitioning, terrible damage could have been done.
Singal’s article is quite long and nuanced; read the whole thing. It’s bottom line is this: there’s so very much we don’t know about transitioning, especially about the psychology of children, adolescents, and teens. Therefore, we should slow down, because the consequences for kids who undergo these procedures are radical and irreversible.
Trans activists and their allies are going berserk over the article. A typical tweet from a transgender:
If you wonder if there’s anyone who I dislike more than the Nazis who assaulted me and nearly killed me, there is at least one person and his name is Jesse Singal.
— Emily G kmii (@EmilyGorcenski) June 18, 2018
Why does this guy have such a vested interest in reporting on trans issues, even when so many trans women—including Julia motherfu*king Serano, author of the seminal transfeminist text, Whipping Girl—keep telling him to stop? Why does he insist on covering these stories for no discernable reason? Seriously! What’s his fu*king deal???
Gosh. Trans people are telling this journalist to stop, and HE JUST WON’T STOP DOING JOURNALISM! What is the world coming to?!?
The writer of that Jezebel piece speculates on personal deficiencies that explain Jesse Singal’s inexcusable refusal to conform his journalism to the party line. A note at the end invites anonymous tips about Jesse Singal.
Jesse Singal is a brave man. These fanatics are out to destroy him. Let the rest of us take a lesson from this story — a lesson about this movement, its aims, its tactics, and its useful idiots in the media, whose number does not include the brave and diligent Jesse Singal.
UPDATE: Mrs DK comments:
Parents like those of us going through this, in our ever growing support group, consider this article a real breakthrough.
Think about it. No doctor, no endocrinologist, no mental health professional can tell me that my 19-year-old autistic daughter who is injecting testosterone won’t turn out to be a detransitioner. She says that she’s “really a guy”, since she “prefers male pronouns”. Every parent in my support group says that their daughter says the same thing — a statement that would be unthinkable to every person of common sense not that many years ago. She fits the bill of the 4thwavenow stereotype who is transitioning due to social contagion.
Her voice has already broken, and what testosterone is doing to her internal organs is serious enough that she will have to have a hysterectomy to avoid a higher cancer risk if she continues injecting. She can’t even buy a legal alcoholic drink for another two years, yet her university prescribed these non-FDA-approved hormones so she can be her “true self”, based on no objective tests whatsoever.
I hope many find this article eye-opening. Welcome to our world — and thanks to Rod for continuing the discussion. As he’s pointed out, it’s not Christians and conservatives who have the biggest problem with what’s happening. Almost all the parents I know who are going through this are liberal — and they are also livid at the complete abdication of the educational, mental health, and medical communities (and their fellow liberals!) in the face of this.
Scene 1: Repub Administration adopts inhumane policy separating immigrant children from parents
Scene 2: Repub Senators FINALLY defy President & decide to fix problem
— Justin Giboney (@JustinEGiboney) June 19, 2018
What the hell is wrong with us? The Democrats had the moral high ground here … but now they’ve shown themselves to be just as cynical as the Rs.