Home/Rod Dreher/‘Listening’ To Bishop Robert McElroy

‘Listening’ To Bishop Robert McElroy

Reader Daniel Cruz has given me permission to share this e-mail with you:

Dear Rod,

Last night I went to one of the “listening” sessions put on by Bishop McElroy in San Diego. It was a clarifying experience. I had e-mailed you awhile back a plan of action for lay people to create on the parish level. It was written angrily and in haste on my part but I strongly believe that the structure of the plan can be a foundation for creating BenOp parishes within a diocese as the Catholic Church in America pivots to a new era of the Church. I have attached an updated, more thought out version that is an ongoing working document.

I had printed out about 25 copies of the plan to share with interested fellow Catholics at the event. Upon entering the community center, there were three security guards with metal detector wands, who informed me I was not allowed to bring any documents for distribution in the building. I placed all but one outside and entered. At some point Bishop McElroy was walking around the hall and I got up and introduced myself. I handed him the document to which he responded that he had already read it which I assume somehow somebody picked up the copies outside and gave him one. I know he at least read it in part because he immediately said he disagrees with the plan because he said who are the laity to decide what heresy is?

Fair enough point, but I fear the time is arriving where local communities will have no choice but to defend the Catholic faith without the help of the local Bishop. He wasn’t very interested in discussing it further and the meeting was close to starting so that was that.

It was clear from the onset that the listening session was not a listening session but rather a controlled public relations tour. Tables were set up with about 8 per table and a facilitator. The facilitator was tasked to jot down one question from the table to ask the Bishop. A moderator who held the microphone to the facilitator’s mouth, ready to pull it away if need be, walked from table to table so we could ask our question. Most people complied with this arrangement which didn’t give the laity any chance to tell the Bishop what they thought or what they thought should be done as it was staged as a Q&A where we ask then listen.

I shared my plan with the table and it was well received, nobody trusted the diocese to handle future abuse but there was no way to share the idea to the larger group. For instance, one man violated the arrangement by standing up on his own and saying the facilitator did not ask the question the table came up with. He started his question and as soon as he said the word “Vatican”, Bishop McElroy shut him down and three security guards rushed him and physically removed him from the building. The guy was a little ridiculous and was trying to make a scene, but the message was clear. Security guards lined the walls of the hall and if you went outside the rules you will be handled physically if need be.

Later on, a question about Richard Sipe came up and essentially asked the Bishop to explain the situation. Bishop McElroy seemed happy to do so and it was perhaps his longest answer of the night. His answer was more or less a smear of Sipe, painting his accusations as gossip and outlandish. He highlighted one particular claim of Sipe about a priest and a Bishop having sex in a casket as a way to show how ridiculous some of the claims Sipe was making. I had an obvious question on my mind, as McCarrick was one of the accusations Sipe brought to McElroy, and obviously he was correct about that accusation. So when McElroy was finished I yelled out “was that the first time you heard about the McCarrick accusations?” He did not answer, looked down and a security guard stood next to me. Moderator moved on to the next facilitator. That’s pretty much how the night went.

If he was truly listening to the questions last night and at the other sessions he would understand what many are slowly realizing. The traditional forms of information and the middle of the road Catholics are being replaced by ideological religious sites and divisive groups ready for a civil war in the Church. If he was listening, he would realize he has no control of this. I think what is occurring in the Church is analogous to what is occurring in the broader society. The internet has disrupted the ability of the intellectual elite and authority figures to control the narrative. 30-40% of the questions surrounded homosexuality, and it was clear that this was the main concern of the people — including the loudest moment of the night when the Bishop was called out for employing a “married” homosexual man and letting him run the Young Adults & Pastoral Outreach ministry at a local church. His defense was met with jeers. Other questions mentioned Vigano, McCarrick and the high percentage of homosexual priests.

Where are people getting their information from? Not from the Vatican. Life Site News, Church Militant, One Peter Five, your website, parts of NC Register and others are now feeding the narrative. It was evident that many in the room were aware and believe in these narratives. The only people listening to Vatican press releases are people like McElroy who are waiting for their cue from on high as to how they should be approaching this scandal. It’s delusional because like ABC, NBC and CBS, the Church’s fluffy politically correct responses to what’s going on in the world is reaching fewer and fewer ears.

Bishop McElroy was trying to appeal to a middle ground that no longer exists. It’s unfortunate because I believe that Catholic teaching is in fact a middle ground and for the most part I share his sentiments about being compassionate to those with same sex attraction and to not single them out as if the rest of us aren’t equally debased with disoriented sexual desires that we act out on as well. The problem is that it is becoming obvious that their appeal to Catholic teaching is a front to their real desires and agenda which are progressive and heretical. The middle is breaking because they do not trust the messengers any more. When the middle breaks there is no room for dialogue; it is a civil war.

The line is being drawn and the rhetoric is only going to increase. That line is clearly between those that are for or against the LGBT community. Both sides will turn on McElroy eventually if he tries to appeal to a middle ground because both sides sense the agenda from the other side and realize this is a war not a communal discussion. This all stems from the internet breaking the shared narrative, giving lay people authority to judge the message and the messenger as opposed to turning to authority for answers.

The same thing is occurring in American society around politics. The obvious result is that the intellectual elites and authority figures will eventually all realize they have no way to control the narrative for the middle and they will then appeal to their side with war like rhetoric. Trump realized this first and won, now the rest of the dominoes are falling. I recognized the shift amongst average family members during the Kavanaugh hearings. Average run of the mill Democrats were throwing away objectivity and joining in the mobbish backlash that cared not about truth but for beating the other side even if it meant destroying an innocent man’s career and good name. And who am I to scold them, as I voted for Trump, which signaled to them I did not care about decency and truth as long as the other side was defeated.

Underneath our politics is a violent reality of our society and a disgraceful truth that we kill the unborn by the millions. That’s what the initial backlash to Kavanaugh was about and I believe societies do come to breaking points when truly evil and violent realities persist for too long. Like slavery and segregation before it, abortion will ultimately break us and when Trump replaces Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Amy Coney Barrett in the next 6 years, the country will face the same battle of the past between good and evil which will become violent.

As for the Church, I believe that the next step will be a divide between BenOp parishes and non BenOp parishes. Those that affirm the LGBT community and those that do not. I see my plan as a first step in creating a BenOp parish that takes financial control away from the diocese. It’s a way to say we are Catholic, and if the Bishop refuses to support Catholicism or refuses to correct abuse, we will cease to support the Bishop financially. Not all communities will take that stand but people will be allowed to choose their Parrish based on what side of the line the Parish falls on. These local communities will have the freedom to stop pandering to non-Catholic beliefs and openly live an authentic Catholic life supported by their fellow parishioners. Those that disagree will likely move to other churches and the divide will be clear. BenOp parishes may eventually be poor but rich in faith.

I have no idea how quickly this clear divide will come but I am pretty sure it will happen in my lifetime. I also do not know how successful we will be at defending against the modern push to affirm LGBT Catholics but I am willing to try for the sake of the Church. I am confident in God and that Jesus Christ will not allow the gates of Hell to prevail against the Church so there will be victory in the long run and perhaps suffering in the short term. I am very happy I am Catholic today in what feels like a battle that will help me purify my soul and my family as opposed to a Catholic growing up in the 60s unaware of the massive sea change when the beginning of the battle was being waged and souls were being taken.

Thanks for all your work Rod! God chose us for this time, God knew the internet would come and God chose you for your work!

I am trying to get the idea of a local response out and will continue to do so. Next step is to the local priests in my community then to the Knights of Columbus. I share with you for your own thoughts and if you wish to share to a broader audience. God will decide if the idea takes hold, I just felt called to write it and promote it.

Below is the text of Daniel Cruz’s plan. To be clear, as a non-Catholic, I neither endorse nor condemn it. I’m only putting it out there for discussion.


In light of the continuing revelation that many members of the clergy in the United States have failed to live up to their priestly calling to shepherd our Church and have instead served their own self-interests and deviant, even criminal, sexual desires, we the Church must commit ourselves in purging the Church of those who scandalize the Body of Christ.

Further, given the failure of some Bishops and Cardinals of the Church, who have either committed similar perverse acts or were complicit in the cover up of fellow clergy members, the laity must be committed to accomplish what some shepherds have failed to do. The following is an outline and a call to action for every parish to use to create a system in their local parishes and diocese to protect our Church from Priests and Bishops who continue to commit or cover up either of the two gravely sinful acts listed below:

1. Sexually abusing children, minors or adults and the habitual, unrepentant breaking of the vow of celibacy.
2. Teaching heresy or failing to uphold Catholic Doctrine.

Each parish will set up a laity run committee comprised of 5-10 members who will volunteer and be voted on by fellow parishioners. This committee will have the following primary duty:

1. Serve as a sanctuary for local priests and parishioners to anonymously contact and report any committing of the sins listed above. This committee will be responsible for
establishing an abuse hot line and assisting accusers in properly addressing the abuse.

The committee will take the following steps upon receiving reports:
A. When the accusations are criminal in nature:
 Inform the local authorities.
 Inform the local press.
 Inform the diocese.

B. When the accusations are non-criminal immoral actions or of heretical teaching:
 Confront the accused clergy member as a committee, demanding repentance
or clarification on the accusation.
 If unrepentant, take it to the Church by informing the superior of the accused
and/or the Bishop and suggesting appropriate action.
 If the Church fails to respond, inform the parishioners and fellow committees
of other parishes in the diocese that appropriate action has not been taken
and disclose the nature of the accusation.
 Inform the parishioners of an alternative donation option that does not give a
portion of money to the diocese. This option will be made available until the
Bishop takes appropriate action.

2. Serve as a group of prayer committed to praying specifically for the local priests and
Bishop and for the end to the sexual abuse of children, minors and adults.

Committee Responsibilities: The following is an example of a structure for the committees.

A. Ten elected members – each year, all parishioners are invited to vote for the ten members on the committee as well as volunteer themselves to join.

B. Head of the Committee – The committee will internally determine the head of the
committee that will lead the group and establish the structure.

C. Head of Finance – The head of finance will work with the parish to determine the amount of money being sent to the diocese as well as other parish and local needs. They will be responsible for devising the reorganization of money if a situation were to arise.

D. Three Assistant Committee Members – Three members will serve in an assistant role in
helping with the functions of the committee headed by the leader and head of finance. They will be part of the five members who participate in addressing the abuse.

E. Five prayer members – Five committee members will be responsible for organizing the
prayer efforts that will remain on going throughout the year. They will not participate in
the steps addressing abuse but will be committed to prayer intentions.

Informational Action:

The committee will not have power to shut down funding for anything. The main functions of the committee will be to inform the local parishioners of abuse and provide options for
parishioners to respond as well as serving as a support group for the victims. If the committee recommends shutting down diocese donations, they will inform parishioners at every Mass and give people the option to redirect their charitable giving. The best outcome for the committee would be to simply be a prayer group that never has to act but is ready to do so if need be.

Concluding thoughts:

Sadly, the Church has experienced a hostile takeover from a few diabolical Priests and Bishops who have been instruments of the devil in a futile effort to destroy our mother, the Church. We continue to pray for their souls that they may repent and become instruments of God instead, to bring healing. We recognize the difficulties ahead and understand that protecting the Church might require a hostile takeover from the faithful and we should all understand that some forces in the Church may try to halt any effort that undermines their power. The Bishops are representatives of the Church that demand our respect. At the same time, they are servants to the faith and as such do not have supreme power over the laity. We are the Church and we have the power to make these changes and we will do so with the help of our spiritual mother, Mary, who through the power of Jesus Christ will crush the serpents head once again.

For any follow up thoughts or discussion, feel free to contact me at decruz1988 [at] gmail.com.

This e-mail came to me from a woman who sent it first to Daniel Cruz:

Greetings in Jesus Christ,

I am writing because you mentioned the man in the article standing up to state that the facilitator did not ask the question the table had agreed upon. This man was my husband and you state that he was ridiculous and making a scene. Something I do not appreciate or deem necessary to your article – seeing as my husband is a moral theologian, a very gentle man, and completely faithful to the magisterium of Holy Mother Church. In charity I am expressing the wish that when writing about the actions of others, you would refrain from stating their motives. If you would like to know, my husband raised his voice in order to be heard above those silencing him, using microphones.

He is currently in the emergency room having xrays of what may be a broken rib and back injuries from this assault. Your prayers would be appreciated and if you deem it appropriate, I would like you to remove your assumptions about my husband’s motives. Thank you and God bless you. Prayers are yours.

In Christ,


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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