Big news for Memphis Catholics: Pope Francis has removed Bishop Martin Holley without explanation.  More:

The decision comes from Pope Francis himself, who made clear the forced retirement was owing to Holley’s refusal to resign of his own accord.

Church Militant broke the news in June that the Memphis diocese was the subject of an apostolic visitation, led by Abp. Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Georgia and Abp. Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The investigation was triggered by specific allegations and grave concerns surrounding Msgr. Clement J. Machado, Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia and Chancellor.

Complaints involved various financial discrepancies as well as purported violations of canon law committed by both Machado and Holley. Among Holley’s actions was the sudden closure of 11 schools as well as the abrupt removal and transfer of more than half the pastors in his diocese, leading to a sharp drop in donations and widespread anger and frustration from Catholics.

Only days after the end of the visitation, Machado resigned. The diocese told Church Militant at the time his resignation was owing to his decision to return to school to obtain his licentiate in canon law and to help his ailing mother, and that he was expected to return to the diocese after graduating. The diocese claimed Machado’s decision had nothing to do with the Vatican investigation.

Pierre’s Oct. 22 email makes clear Holley had been asked to resign owing to reasons connected to his “pastoral governance” and refused to do so, leading to Pope Francis’ decision to force him into early retirement.

Holley had previously been an auxiliary bishop in Washington DC, under Cardinal Wuerl.

An Archdiocese of Washington source e-mails:

Holley and his diocese underwent an apostolic visitation of sorts this past Spring by two American archbishops, in response to widespread clergy unrest. It is striking that he faced such a visitation only about 18 months or so after his appointment. Things must have gone very bad very fast. Here’s a summary of events:

https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/2018/10/24/memphis-bishop-martin-holley-removed-catholic-diocese-5-things/1748851002/

No reason has been given for his removal. It could well be just a case of gross episcopal malpractice and incompetence, perhaps mixed with personal difficulties (e.g., mental health, addiction). Who knows? For instance, about five-seven years ago, he celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass at our parish and seemed somewhat drunk and/or incoherent at times. Something was definitely off. It was weird.

BUT, I wonder about whether there’s a sexual element at play. One of the bones of controversy at play in the visitation was the role of his vicar general, the second-in-command. That priest, Msgr. Clement Machado, was Canadian; it is extremely unusual that any bishop, especially one new to a diocese, would pick a VG from outside his diocesan clergy–let alone from another country. Msgr. Machado resigned his office only a week or so after the visitation this past Spring.

Furthermore, here is a blog post from nearly ten years that speaks about widespread, open homosexuality in the 1980s at Theological College, the seminary at Catholic U., and also alleges that +Holley sexually preyed on a fellow seminarian: http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/24723

Here’s the relevant passage:

“I got to Theological College in Washington DC a few months later. It was a big relief. Life at TC was much freer. It was there that I started to have sex regularly. Theological College was just a very gay place, and anyone who tells you different is just lying. There were lots of couples. In my second year a guy who had previously attended TC came up for visit. His name was Marty Holley, a tall black guy. I met him in the refectory, and he asked me where my room was. A bit later he showed up. Though I had a bit of sexual experience by then I had not yet experienced the real predator type. Of course later in life I could spot them a mile away. But at twenty one Deacon Martin Holley caught me unawares . He used all the creepy predator tricks to get me to give in to him sexually. It was gross. Now he is a bishop here in DC. Gross, again.”

It should be noted that the blog’s author (Peter Fuchs) was a seminarian in the Miami Archdiocese, and is quoted in Gawker’s expose of clerical homosexual corruption in that archdiocese. I also note that Holley, originally a Florida priest, was named a Washington DC auxiliary under McCarrick and continued under Wuerl until he was promoted to Memphis in 2016.

Ah! Holley became a bishop thanks to Ted McCarrick, the lavender mafia godfather. Figures.

In Commonweal, veteran religious reporter Kenneth Woodward writes about the “double lives” of churchmen like McCarrick. Excerpts:

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

But what about all the young men with whom the bishop shared a bed at his beach house and elsewhere? Some were surely coerced, some seduced. They were all initiated by a powerful church figure into a sexual double life to which McCarrick, as a bishop and cardinal, gave sanction by his acts. How many are still living that double life? We’ll never know, and the main reason we won’t is that when a priest violates his promise of celibacy, he is not subject to anything like the sort of clear canonical procedures available in cases of child abuse.

More:

Among those issues [raised by the Viganò letters] is one that no one in the Catholic hierarchy seems eager to investigate: the extent to which there are gay networks operating within the American priesthood, its seminaries and chanceries, and within the Vatican itself. And to what ends? Perhaps the hierarchy is afraid of giving aid and comfort to right-wing zealots who would like to use the McCarrick scandal as an excuse to out and purge all homosexual priests and bishops. There can be no excuse for such a purge. We have all met gay priests who live chaste lives and honor their vows of celibacy, just as we know there are more than a few heterosexual priests who fail to honor theirs. But it wasn’t just clericalism that allowed McCarrick to abuse seminarians and young priests for decades, even though his behavior was widely known within clerical circles. And it wasn’t just his ecclesiastical clout that provided him protection. It was networks, too.

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

During the nearly four decades I spent writing about religion for Newsweek, I heard numerous tales of “lavender lobbies” in certain seminaries and chanceries, told mostly by straight men who had abandoned their priestly vocations after encountering them. At one time or another, the whispering centered on networks in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, among other dioceses. One of the few priests to complain in public was the late Andrew Greeley, who spoke of gay circles operating in the administration of Chicago’s Joseph Bernardin, a cherished friend of his. As far back as 1968, I heard similar rumors about priests serving in the Roman Curia, mostly from Italians, who are generally more relaxed about homosexuality than Americans and unsurprised when those leading double lives are outed. What concerns me, though, is not simply personal hypocrisy, but whether there are gay networks that protect members who are sexually active.

Read the whole thing. You will not want to miss what Woodward says about Cardinal Wuerl. How any of this got into a liberal Catholic journal like Commonweal I have no idea, but I’m glad they published it.

Meanwhile, from the Youth Synod in Rome, one of the successors of the Apostles has issued a ringing defense of Scriptural teaching:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men.

Oh, sorry, that was St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (6:9). My mistake. Here’s what the primate of Germany said in Rome today:

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Are you sensing a trend here? A Catholic reader sends along this missive that went out to everyone at New York’s Jesuit university (which, by the way, is home to an Orthodox study center working to mainstream acceptance of homosexuality in Orthodox Christianity):

From: Office of Mission Integration and Planning
Date: Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 11:38 AM
Subject: Fordham’s Drag Fashion Show
To: [Deleted]

Dear Members of the Fordham Community:

As many of you may know, Fordham’s first drag fashion show and its participants have been the subject of cruel and dehumanizing statements by outside organizations. Those statements neither reflect a spirit of care, nor are they consistent with the kind of discourse we promote at a Jesuit, Catholic university.

It especially pains us when students are hurt by the words of outside organizations. If you are struggling with such issues, we encourage you to reach out to members of the Fordham community in one of the many departments, offices, and organizations that are here to support you, including Faculty, Campus Ministry, the Center for Community Engaged Learning, Student Affairs, Residential Life, or Counseling and Psychological Services.

The University’s position is that part of Cura Personalis is honoring the individuality of all our students, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. As a global university in the heart of New York City, Fordham is committed to diversity and inclusion. Integral to that commitment is giving students space for self expression.

The Drag Fashion Show sponsored by the student groups Rainbow Alliance and Fashion for Philanthropy, in conjunction with LGBTQ History Month, is a channel for that self expression.

Jonathan Crystal
Interim Provost

Jeffrey Gray
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs

Michael C. McCarthy, S.J.
Vice President for Mission Integration and Planning

There you have it: lay leaders of a Jesuit university, and a Jesuit priest himself, defending the university’s staging of a drag show as an act of public virtue.

So, look. Earlier today, I e-mailed with a reader who is studying for conversion to Catholicism. I don’t have his permission to post excerpts from our conversation, but we talked a bit about the issue of Catholic integralism — the best short explanation and defense of which can be found in this essay by Thomas Pink. My belief is that Catholic integralism — the idea that the state should be affirmatively Catholic — may be an interesting idea, but it is nothing more than an intellectual game in the 21st century West. For one thing, most Americans are not Catholic. For another, only about four in 10 US Catholics even bother to go to mass, meaning that most Catholicism in this country is nominal — and the number is declining. Before you can create a Catholic state, you have to hold on to the actual Catholics you have, and create more. Until and unless the Catholic Church can do that, integralism will be a second or third-order concern.

Here’s the thing: how seriously should the rest of Christianity take the claims of the Catholic Church to authority (spiritual and otherwise) when it can’t even prevent its own hierarchy and leading institutions from being homosexualized? It gives me no satisfaction to ask that question. When I became a Christian in adulthood, and sought confirmation as a Roman Catholic, I saw the Roman church as a mighty bulwark against the excesses of liberal modernity. It was 1992, and John Paul II and the Magisterium were solid rocks.

What I did not know at the time, so idealistic was I, was that the Catholic Church in America was not that different overall than Mainline Protestantism. That reality has accelerated over the past 25 years. The public now knows that a man made cardinal by John Paul II, Ted McCarrick, who went on to become a kingmaker in the US Catholic Church, was a serial molester and a sex criminal, and that that knowledge was shared by more than a few people in the Catholic Church at the time. The public now knows that Catholic bishops everywhere routinely covered up for sexual crimes against children and minors, committed by priests and bishops. Though many try to deny it, the public now knows that homosexuality is not uncommon in the Catholic priesthood, and that it’s not uncommon in the episcopate either (Archbishop Viganò alleges that a gay cabal runs things in the Vatican.)

The public also knows, or should know, that many bishops who aren’t gay or otherwise sexually compromised won’t take risks to defend the integrity of the Catholic Church’s teachings and institutions. I don’t understand it. I have never understood it. But there it is. There it is despite the catastrophe of 2002.

It remains true that if the Catholic Church is what it claims to be, then it remains that despite corruption in its clerical ranks. I understand the intellectual argument, and am not challenging that argument here (so don’t you bring it up). My only point is to voice incredulity at how the Catholic hierarchy and corrupt clergy is destroying the Church’s authority in the hearts and minds of people — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — all for the sake of gay sex, and protecting the Church’s false image.

UPDATE: A reader sends this:

Huh. I had not realized that “extreme masculinity” was such a problem in the clergy. Shows what I know.

UPDATE.2: J.D. Flynn has a new interview with Bishop Holley, who alleges that he was fired for having crossed Cardinal Wuerl. And more:

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UPDATE.3: Reader Patrick comments:

Rod, did you even read the CNA article? Holley states that he was made auxiliary bishop in DC *against* McCarrick’s wishes, not due to McCarrick’s influence, and that as an auxillary, he spoke against Wuerl getting a Vatican post. Any bishop who rocks the boat with his priests who are comfortable with the status quo and announcing the closing of schools (whether they’re financially impossible to maintain or not) is going to become public enemy #1. Getting a visitation from a pro-homosexualist bishop like Gregory when Wuerl is on the Congregation for Bishops smacks of revenge.