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Wuerl Lied

Ed Condon and J.D. Flynn have been doing fantastic reporting over at the independent Catholic News Agency. When I think about Archbishop Georg Gänswein last fall praising the independent Catholic media’s truth-telling on the scandal, one of the first news organizations I think about is CNA, which is owned by EWTN.

Tonight they report that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, in his previous post as Bishop of Pittsburgh, was informed about Cardinal Ted McCarrick’s sexual predation in 2004. [1] Excerpts:

An allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was reported to Cardinal Donald Wuerl in 2004, despite Wuerl’s insistence he knew nothing about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct until 2018.

Wuerl forwarded the report to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said Thursday.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington confirmed to CNA that an allegation against McCarrick was presented to Wuerl while he served as Bishop of Pittsburgh, as part of a complaint made by laicized priest Robert Ciolek.

In a statement, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said Jan. 10 that laicized priest Robert Ciolek appeared in November 2004 before its diocesan review board to discuss an allegation of abuse Ciolek had made against a Pittsburgh priest.

During that meeting, “Mr. Ciolek also spoke of his abuse by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This was the first time the Diocese of Pittsburgh learned of this allegation,” the statement said.

“A few days later, then-Bishop Donald Wuerl made a report of the allegation to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.”


The news that Wuerl received a formal complaint against McCarrick as early as 2004, and forwarded it to the apostolic nunciature in Washington raises serious questions about the intended meaning of Wuerl’s 2018 statements concerning McCarrick.

Wuerl wrote in a June 21 letter that he was “shocked and saddened” by allegations made against McCarrick.

In the same letter, Wuerl affirmed that “no claim – credible or otherwise – has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.”

Well, that’s technically true, isn’t it? “During his time here in Washington.” Of course Donald Wuerl was dissembling. He knew. They all knew about Uncle Ted. McCarrick and Wuerl were among Pope Francis’s top American advisers. Pope Benedict XVI had put McCarrick out to pasture, but Francis brought him back.

Who among these senior prelates can you believe? Any of them?

Michelle Boorstein also is reporting this story at the Washington Post. [2] I don’t know which source had it first. I saw it first at CNA. Boorstein recalls in her piece a lie Wuerl told to the Catholic Standard last year:

In some cases his denials were broader, such as in a July 31 interview in the archdiocesan paper Catholic Standard, in which Wuerl said:

“There have also been numerous stories or blog posts that repeated long-standing rumors or innuendos that may be out there regarding Archbishop McCarrick… In the past month, I have seen some of those new public reports. But in my years here in Washington and even before that, I had not heard them. With rumors – especially old rumors going back 30, 40, even 50 years – there is not much we can do unless people come forward to share what they know or what they experienced.”

So, now we know for sure what Donald Wuerl is.

In a piece he wrote for the Washington Post, Ed Condon, who is also a canon lawyer, points out that the Vatican is expediting the McCarrick case, [3] and is said to want it wrapped up before the big Rome meeting in February on sex abuse. Condon says this could be a bad idea for the cause of reform. Here’s why:

But what about the seminarians whom McCarrick is alleged to have abused over the decades? Any decision against the former cardinal that leaves their cases unresolved will be incomplete. So too will be any conversation in February that doesn’t take account of adult victims of abuse, or any effort at reform that ignores their legitimate demands for justice.

In a typically thorough take on media coverage of the McCarrick case [4], Terry Mattingly writes:

So what will reporters, and thus ordinary Catholics, learn about the sins of McCarrick, as opposed to the sins of [Opus Dei priest C. John] McCloskey? In particular, what will Vatican insiders allow to surface on this critical question, linked to the McCarrick abuse of seminarians and priests: Who protected McCarrick from investigations of the rumors that surrounded him for decades and who profited from his favor during that era?

Keep watching the headlines and look for crucial gaps in the secrecy.

To put it in the simplest possible terms: if Rome puts Uncle Ted away for abusing minors, and doesn’t talk at all about what he is alleged to have done to seminarians, you should be very, very suspicious of the game being played here.

(A side note: I’m leaving on Friday morning for Spain, but I will probably be able to blog some in the airport waiting for the connecting flight. I’ve got to pack now, but I’ve just started reading Peter Steinfels’s 11,000 word piece in Commonweal laying out his case for why the Pennsylvania grand jury report was a deeply flawed document that misled people and even slandered the Church.  [5] I am sure that I won’t have time to give a piece so big and so controversial the analysis that it deserves, given my travel schedule, but I’m going to do my best tomorrow. Steinfels, a Catholic, is a veteran religious journalist, and anything he writes has to be taken seriously. Whatever the piece says — and I haven’t read it yet, only the introductory paragraphs — you cannot accuse Peter Steinfels of shilling for the Church. I bring it up here because Donald Wuerl is a big part of that grand jury report, and if Steinfels has uncovered injustice to Wuerl — and anybody else — in that bombshell report, you need to know it, and we all need to consider what Steinfels says with utmost gravity. Again, I doubt very much I’ll be able to do the long essay justice in the short time I’ll have online tomorrow, but I want to make you aware of it now, and encourage you to read it [5].)

UPDATE: Folks, I’m not defending the Steinfels piece. I haven’t read it! I am simply saying that Peter Steinfels is a serious journalist, and whatever he writes should be taken seriously. He may be wrong, though!

49 Comments (Open | Close)

49 Comments To "Wuerl Lied"

#1 Comment By charles cosimano On January 11, 2019 @ 12:58 am

Have a good trip to Spain, avoid the unexpected Spanish Inquisition whom no one is expecting, and try not to disappear for days on end.

As far as the Scandal goes, just when on thinks the final shoe has dropped another one follows.

My personal instinct is to believe the grand jury report and disbelieve Steinfels but not having the knowledge to comment on that I won’t until someone gives me some good joke material.

#2 Comment By Jefferson Smith On January 11, 2019 @ 3:51 am

Steinfels, a Catholic, is a veteran religious journalist, and anything he writes has to be taken seriously.

Yeah, and he says what I’ve been saying. Steinfels:

….the investigation’s span of more than seven decades—and gaps of half a century between likely abuse and the first word of it to reach church officials—raise questions about the report’s concept of accountability.

Nowadays the consensus is that, given the trauma and shame connected with such experiences, most people alleging being molested in their youth are telling the truth. The burden of proof, pace pronouncements to the contrary, has been reversed. Anyone forcefully accused is now presumed guilty, or at least very probably guilty, until proven innocent. Among the offenders listed in the report, a good number have had little chance to defend themselves, certainly not in court, and no chance at all when accusations emerged only after their deaths. ….

Yet virtually no one has raised questions about a grand jury, an attorney general, or a diocese authoritatively pronouncing so many priests and bishops guilty of awful crimes, many without any hearing or opportunity for defending themselves.

I made this very same point on two or three threads here in October. It didn’t take more than a quick look at a few of the cases the report itself highlighted to see the problem: The grand jury seemed to treat any claim as obviously true regardless of when it was first reported, no matter how long past the events were (I saw the ’50s and ’60s featured, but apparently the report ranges even further back than that), regardless of whether it heard directly from the claimants, and in spite of some of the accused priests being long dead and having had no chance to respond or defend themselves.

The trick that fooled a lot of readers was framing this as a “grand jury report” instead of that of an ambitious politician. That made it sound like there was some kind of orderly, judicious trying of facts aimed at individually reliable conclusions. Instead, while it appears that there were friendly (i.e. non-cross-examined) depositions taken from a few claimants, basically what the PA attorney general did was just subpoena the diocesan records — which themselves were, as Steinfels says, often evidence that the church had taken the claims seriously, not ignored them — and then compile that unverified hearsay into one massive report that was meant to be scary for its sheer size. Apparently the theory was that volume would substitute for depth.

And here’s Steinfels on another point I’ve been making, about recent history. Referring to a summer camp he once worked at where he discovered an abusive priest, he writes:

That experience in the summer of 1958 sensitized me to the radical and welcome changes in societal responses to sexual abuse since the hush-hush attitudes that then prevailed among parents, victims, health care professionals, and law enforcement officials as well as Boy Scout authorities. It took time to recognize that child molestation, once portrayed as a threat from lurking strangers in raincoats, could be the work of family friends, doting uncles, Scoutmasters, physicians, fathers and stepfathers, or even an admired clergyman. It took even longer for therapists, judges, and legislatures to decide what to do about it.

Perhaps this point will now will begin to crack through the conservative resistance since it’s coming from a source you folks respect. (I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.) In recent decades, society has changed for the better — in all kinds of ways, in fact, but especially with regard to concern about abuse of minors and other vulnerable people. “Radical and welcome changes,” Steinfels rightly calls them.

We’re constantly being told that we live in a time when moral values have been overthrown in favor of untrammeled libertinism and worship of the Self. That is just not so. In many ways, moral concern has been greatly heightened, and evils that used to be shrugged off are now at least recognized, named and seriously fought. The 1950s were not morally superior to the present. That time had its nice features, but also a lot that was badly in need of reform.

#3 Comment By Anon Mathematician On January 11, 2019 @ 4:00 am

Having read the Commonweal article in full, I can definitely recommend it as well. The article more or less argues that the grand jury report does very little useful fact-finding to help prevent child abuse in the future, and provides no new information about the prevalence of child abuse in the past. It provides anecdotes of the diabolical behavior of certain priests, but no data that might enable better public policy against child sexual abuse.

The obvious implication of the article is that the Catholic church is about to become the punching bag of prosecutors and legislators determined to punish it for its terrible past sins. If the reaction is sustained (and this is a BIG IF in the age of the 3-second news cycle), it is likely that significant swathes of the American Catholic Church will be bankrupted by private lawsuits (made far easier by altered civil laws) and overwhelmed with subpoenas for documents and testimony by grand juries.

This is for the best. The reduction of the church to poverty would be a very sad thing indeed, but it would drive out the careerists and the money-grubbers who still seem to dominate the church. Right now, the money is propping up leaders who are actively chasing away younger generations. The loss of its wealth would force the church back into reliance on grassroots, and the only way to do that consistently in our world will be through the Benedict Option.

That said, the next 15 years are likely to be exceedingly painful for Catholics. May you find strength in these trying times (and, as Rod suggests, find ways to withhold your tithes from corrupt institutions within the church, you want your earnings going to support a Catholic Benedict Option, not mafiosos in robes).

(On a personal note, I want to thank Rod for the blog and say that as a convert to what I can best describe as neo-Stoicism, I am working on building my own personal Benedict Option.)

#4 Comment By Uncle Billy On January 11, 2019 @ 8:03 am

Weurl was an insider from early on in his career. McCarrick forced himself on many seminarians over the years. I think that Wuerl knew plenty and knew it very early. Wuerl is far from a stupid man, so playing dumb is very disengenous.

I am so weary of the playing dumb defense by people in authority. Wuerl is a very shrewd man and probably knew about McCarrick thirty years ago.

The Catholic Hierarchy seems incapable of telling the truth. Even now, after everything that has happened, they just cannot tell the truth.

#5 Comment By Adam X On January 11, 2019 @ 8:33 am

The February meeting will be a sham. I would bet a pretty penny that most of the final documents and reports are already written. Most of the bishops are company men who have risen to their incompetence (the Peter Principle in action), so the pushback will be feeble at best.

#6 Comment By WK On January 11, 2019 @ 8:52 am

The Steinfells essay is very good, perhaps a bit too long at the beginning. It spends a lot of time explaining why it’s ok to question the report, I think more time than was necessary.

He may also put too much faith in a report commissioned by Erie’s Catholic leaders, but, on the whole, he presents a very convincing argument that the grand jury report paints with a broad brush and doesn’t recognize change over time or differences between bishops. He makes a number of good points related to when abuse was first reported as well.

#7 Comment By Geoffrey On January 11, 2019 @ 9:15 am

Why should we trust that Peter Steinfels isn’t shilling for the Church? There’ve been so many lies at this point from allegedly credible people, I’m disinclined to listen to anyone trying to defend the Roman Catholic Church. All defenses have thus far proven hollow, so simply on the basis of probability, it seems prudent to assign Steinfels the burden of proof rather than tilt at some make-believe responsibility to keep things “fair and balanced,” whatever that even means anymore.

#8 Comment By Nick On January 11, 2019 @ 9:25 am

Just saw this an hour ago via Catholic Herald. God bless Flynn and CNA.

#9 Comment By Elijah On January 11, 2019 @ 9:33 am

I read Steinfels’ piece. He notes some very real discrepancies in the PA report, no question.But I don’t think anyone uncritically accepted every word of the PA report as true or definitive in the first place.

And I have no doubt that some of the treatment that the Church received in the PA report in unfair – such is the nature of any investigation that doesn’t look at every single angle from every single perspective. No report could ever be produced by that standard!

But is the whole PA report grossly unfair and misleading? Not, I confess, based on my reading of Steinfels’ piece. To take but one example: he notes action taken by bishops in the Erie diocese against priests accused of misconduct/abuse by sending those priests for treatment and banning them from being alone with children. Fair enough. But Steinfels offers no evidence that there was any effort made to monitor those priests or to ensure that restrictions were adhered to. Based on the extensive written record of abuse cases where bishops pronounced this or that and absolutely nothing changed, I think we have every right to be suspicious.

Lee Podles makes a very important observation in “Sacrilege”, that in many quarters of the Catholic Church it is believed that when a bishop says something – declaring a priest cannot have contact with minors, for example – that bishop has actually done something, has taken action. I am less credulous.

“But the critical point regarding the Pennsylvania report is that it has been designed to be a weapon in the debate. Its impassioned, graphic style; its characterization of church leadership as no better, perhaps even worse, than the abusers; its refusal to make distinctions between dioceses or between periods of time like pre- and post-Dallas Charter: all are aimed at mobilizing public opinion behind legislation suspending the statute of limitations for civil suits…”

Possibly true. But the question is why? Why have states been forced to use the power of (flawed) grand juries to get at information? Why does everything have to be pried out of the Church by subpoena? It is simply because the Catholic Church in the USA, in terms of sexual abuse, will use any means and methods at its disposal to suppress or obfuscate the truth. The evidence speaks for itself.

I do not doubt the bona fides of Steinfels, but even without anything contained in the PA report, the history of lies, deceit, cover-up, obfuscation, and bullying of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania on the subject of sexual abuse is simply beyond question. Philadelphia, Johnstown-Altoona, Scranton, etc. have all had very public histories. The records are out there.

It doesn’t seem to me that this “takedown” by Steinfels is going to garner much public sympathy for the Church after all that has passed in the last several decades.

#10 Comment By ginger On January 11, 2019 @ 9:50 am

“With rumors – especially old rumors going back 30, 40, even 50 years – there is not much we can do unless people come forward to share what they know or what they experienced.”

One does not have to look too far to uncover rumors that Cardinal Donald Wuerl himself was having sexual relations with seminarians during his Pittsburgh days. If the rumors are true, let’s hope that people start coming forward to share what they know.

#11 Comment By Fr Martin Fox On January 11, 2019 @ 9:55 am

All I can say is, keep the pressure on. I say that to everyone. The stonewalling has to stop.

#12 Comment By ginger On January 11, 2019 @ 10:00 am

Rod: “To put it in the simplest possible terms: if Rome puts Uncle Ted away for abusing minors, and doesn’t talk at all about what he is alleged to have done to seminarians, you should be very, very suspicious of the game being played here.”

If Rome puts Uncle Ted away for abusing minors and DOES talk about what he did to seminarians, one should still be very, very suspicious of the game being played here.

What reason do we have to believe anything coming from this meeting will be more than the typical lip service? Expect to continue being played, no matter what some clerics might say at the February meeting.

#13 Comment By A On January 11, 2019 @ 10:09 am

As I think Archbishop Vigano wrote, “He lies shamelessly.”

#14 Comment By Eleanor On January 11, 2019 @ 10:09 am

“When I think about Archbishop Georg Gänswein last fall praising the independent Catholic media’s truth-telling on the scandal, one of the first news organizations I think about is CNA, which is owned by EWTN.”

Absolutely, and there are the National Catholic Register home site and others, as well, which do an excellent job of reporting with unsparing honesty. I have often seen these sites report the same news as this blog, and they often do it first. I prefer the Catholic web sites. Besides honest reporting, the commenters, almost all of whom appear to be faithful Catholics, are grieved, informed, and highly critical of the clerical sexual immorality, its cover-up, and the Pope’s reactions, But they comment out of love for the Church, and not for other motives.

#15 Comment By BF On January 11, 2019 @ 10:33 am

Shorter Peter Steinfels:

1. The Bishops’ settlement in 2002 worked. Most or all. accusations in the Grand Jury report are antiques.
2. Erie was and is an exemplary diocese.
3. Lots of institutions (like schools and summer camps) were as bad or worse than the Catholic Church on the matter of the sexual abuse of minors.

This is the only passage I could find on Wuerl:

“This claim culminates in a half-page full-color chart illustrating this “circle of secrecy.” The phrase “circle of secrecy” and the corresponding analysis are attributed to then-Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl, who went on to serve as cardinal archbishop of Washington. (He recently resigned.)

“If curious or determined readers turn to page 1,124 of the report, they will discover that the words “circle of secrecy” are (a) not Wuerl’s and (b) have nothing to do with the way that the report uses them. Scribbled on a 1993 request from an offending priest for a return to ministry, the phrase signaled that despite his apparent recovery, the priest could not have an assignment without full public disclosure of his past conduct and treatment. As it happens, the priest’s request was refused. And the jotting wasn’t Wuerl’s. Before the report was issued, Wuerl informed the attorney general of this. His correction was ignored. The “circle of secrecy” concept and impressive chart appear to be entirely the concoction of the report’s writers.”

The current scandals, which deal largely with the behavior of bishops like McCarrick, and the knowledge of that situation by Wuerl and others, including the Pope, are not addressed in this very lengthy article.

Rod says Steinfels cannot be accused of shilling for the Church. OK. I guess.

#16 Comment By York On January 11, 2019 @ 10:54 am

Steinfels piece is very interesting. First, it was funded by something called the Paul Saunders fund. Not sure where that fund might stand politically or religiously, but Saunders is a hedge fund manager that had to pay out a very large fine to the government for dishonesty of one sort of the other.

SECOND – Steinfels piece does not really say anything more than what tuned in Catholics already realized. The PA report merely went over accusations from years ago. After 2002, things got infinitely better in regards to CHILD abuse. However, the PA Democratic Party attorney general, who gets large amounts of LGBT support, wanted to try to pretend that they had uncovered new cases when in fact these were all old cases, already reported in the media.

So given that the Steinfels article, which is good as far as it goes, was in Commonweal, the question is, why? Why now? I am not sure. It might have been a totally legit piece of corrective journalism, used to disrupt false impressions left by the PA attorney general.

Then I saw Father James Martin was playing it up on social media. So I wonder. Was this the first blast in an attempt to rehabilitate Wuerl? Was this a Vatican ordered program to tell us that Wuerl really did nothing wrong. Wuerl was taken down primarily because of the PA report. Discredit the PA report, and Pope Francis can bring Wuerl back? This is the most likely scenario

#17 Comment By York On January 11, 2019 @ 11:12 am

One more comment. I will indulge in some pure speculation, just to exercise our minds a bit.

It has long been alleged that the lavender mafia would do dreastic things if exposed. Well, they were being exposed after Mccarrick. People were realizing that homosexuals ran large parts of the church, and that they were responsible, in large part, for the child abuse crisis. The McCarrick thing was uncovering the extent of homosexual control of the church. Ordinary people were coming to realize that McCarrick was able in 2002 to essentially cover up the homosexual angle of the abuse crisis. People were beginning to realize that “hey, maybe its true that half of our bishops are homosexuals”.

So the lavender mafia was going to strike back. Using its political connections, which are not insignificant and run through major political LGBT organizations, they were able to threaten by getting “Grand Jury” investigations started in several states. “See? We will destroy the church and create an impression in the public mind as the Church being nothing more than child abusers if we are exposed”.

They expected the Catholic laity to recoil in horror from this prospect of being tarred unceasingly in the media. However, the opposite happened. Catholics cheered, and encouraged grand jury investigations because they would uncover the truth when the church itself would not.

The lavender mafia suddenly realized they had a problem. The result of the McCarrick report and the PA report resulted in a huge number of people becoming aware that 80 percent of the abuse was of a homosexual nature. Therefore, these grand jury investigations were having the opposite effect from what they desired. They were leading more people to realize that a crisis of homosexuality in the church was the root cause. The lavender mafia had actually only exposed themselves even further.

Now they have to somehow stop all these investigations. They have to undercut the efficacy of the report. Sehd in our reliably liberal reporters from Commonweal and try to change the narrative.

This is speculation. I may be wrong in many respects. But we have seen the power of these secret networks of homosexual prelates. So parts of it might be true, and might shed some light on this affair

#18 Comment By Rob G On January 11, 2019 @ 11:29 am

“We’re constantly being told that we live in a time when moral values have been overthrown in favor of untrammeled libertinism and worship of the Self. That is just not so. In many ways, moral concern has been greatly heightened, and evils that used to be shrugged off are now at least recognized, named and seriously fought.”

Why do you keep repeating this lie? It’s been said on here dozens, if not hundreds, of times by a great number of commenters that modernity has produced lots of good things, and that moral advances have been made in many areas.

But you do realize that these advances are not necessarily either contradictory to or supportive of libertinism and self-worship, right? They may be completely unrelated. It’s not like there’s some moral zero-sum game being played. Even the most pessimistic declinist would never say that everything has gotten worse.

“The 1950s were not morally superior to the present. That time had its nice features, but also a lot that was badly in need of reform.”

Who here holds up the 50’s as a Golden Age? Can you quote one single commenter here who is a 50’s idolater?

#19 Comment By Geoffrey On January 11, 2019 @ 11:34 am

@BF: “Rod says Steinfels cannot be accused of shilling for the Church. OK. I guess.”

Rod locuta, causa finita. Except it’s patently obvious that Steinfels is shilling for the Church, whether it’s fully conscious or not. He’s definitely focused on the past rather than the present cover-up scandal.

#20 Comment By Muad’dib On January 11, 2019 @ 11:35 am

Visit the Sagrada Famila in Barcelona if you get the opportunity, best looking cathedral in Europe as far as I am concerned.

And I say that as an agnostic.

#21 Comment By Windswept House On January 11, 2019 @ 11:44 am

Think of the Steinfels article from different points if view. Like the Lavender Mafia, Pope Francis, US Bishops, PA Attorney General etc. One clue will be the responses of Father James Martin.

#22 Comment By Lance On January 11, 2019 @ 12:08 pm

“everybody knew”…

The only way to check if these professional functionaries living as princes (to include decadence) is lying is to carefully study their mouths…
Are their lips moving?

#23 Comment By BF On January 11, 2019 @ 12:17 pm

Thank you Geoffrey.

Mostly the article in Commonweal deals with the past, and claims that everything has been cleaned up now. Only by ignoring a whole herd of elephants in the living room can anyone claim any such thing. (Now I’m quietly congratulating myself on making an oblique reference to the weight of the various bishops involved.)

If this isn’t shilling for the Church I’d like to know what it is.

#24 Comment By Lance On January 11, 2019 @ 12:18 pm

and, Rod, there are still about 30-40% honest God fearing prelates, going by Synod votes on paragraphs seen as problematical.
Just like there are good priests…

Do I trust any local? Not at the moment, but then, I am willing to relocate as required to keep the Faith, baby.

Most “religious” Americans are not willing to do so, because their Faith is not something they attempt to live. And their bishops and priests came from their midst.

#25 Comment By Adam X On January 11, 2019 @ 12:27 pm

Elijah’s analysis is very good. I could not force myself to finish reading the Steinfels article, but I want to point out this “gem” from it:

“Omitted, too, is the fact, according to Trautman, that “none of these priests is known to have reoffended.” Whatever the wisdom, in retrospect, of maintaining these priests even in restricted and monitored ministries, that fact seems pertinent and deserving of mention.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that it’s in the nature of a grand jury’s report to chronicle all the times that a rapist isn’t raping. It’s also not as if every person abused by a priest comes forward to tell their story. The fact that Steinfels published the paragraph above is appalling.

#26 Comment By Ted On January 11, 2019 @ 1:03 pm

I know Steinfels’s writing of old in the Times and elsewhere, and if you can drag your eyes across the screen to finish the piece, you’re a better man than I.

But Steinfels’s piece is on its face a smokescreen. The strength of its evidence and its argument is in that sense irrelevant.

If Pennsylvania is a put-up job, what does that do to the situation on the ground? A U.S. hierarchy dominated by a sodomite clique (and those who are afraid of them), which couldn’t happen unless Rome was in a similar predicament. THAT’S the story. THAT is what must be addressed in Rome next month and won’t be.

#27 Comment By LFM On January 11, 2019 @ 2:54 pm

Geoffrey says “it’s patently obvious that Steinfels is shilling for the Church, whether it’s fully conscious or not.” Perhaps. Does it not occur to you, after reading the rather wide range of Catholic opinions here, that the Church today consists of many factions? Rather than saying that Steinfels is shilling for the Church, ask which faction in the Church he might be shilling for, and what the goal of such a move might be.

#28 Comment By Darrick On January 11, 2019 @ 3:04 pm

After having read Steinfels’s essay, I think makes some important points about the nature of the grand jury report–that it is inflammatory and misleading. And it is important those who would hold the bishops accountable–whoever they might be–need to be fair and accurate when assigning blame.

That being said, I tend to agree with most of the comments on this post, which lay blame on the bishops. Steinfels rightly points out that the grand jury report lumps together all the dioceses, without distinguishing between the records of different bishops. He claims, plausibly, that this was done to sensationalize the report and make it appear as if ALL of the bishops were responsible for this type of behavior, over the entire period covered by the report.

However, this same problem–lumping all the diocese together–exists in the report the bishops themselves commissioned to study the problem–the John Jay report. Though the report provided mountains of statistics, it doesn’t breakdown the numbers on abuse by diocese, only as average percentages by region. Thus you can’t tell how much abuse occurred in which diocese, under whose leadership. In short, it lumps the abuse together as if all the bishops were equally culpable, much like the PA Grand Jury report. The those bishops who commissioned it (among whom must have been McCarrick) did this because they wanted to avoid holding each other accountable.

Again, if the bishops had just done this in the first place–come clean with who was responsible for what abuses–there would be less temptation to sensationalize it. Covering up always makes the crime worse, but I guess some people never learn. Now they are reaping what they have sown.

#29 Comment By Stargazer On January 11, 2019 @ 3:45 pm

Rod, We’ve heard for decades now about the shortages of priests, how much has the actions of these Pharisees in ecclesiastic clothing pretending to be priests contributed to this by driving good men away from seminaries?

#30 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 11, 2019 @ 3:58 pm

I had no idea what EWTN stood for. I had to search: Eternal Word Television Network?

#31 Comment By Mac61 On January 11, 2019 @ 4:04 pm

I welcome any truthful, factual attempt to put the abuse crisis in context. Steinfels has a point. Still, why did it take a secular organization to get us the facts on felonty crimes committed by priests and covered up by bishops, some of whom have risen to the highest levels of church leadership? It’s as though felony sexual violence and rape is still a private concern between the Church and former litigants. There is still an appalling defensiveness among the episcopate. The moral numbness and failure to actually care is still on display today, and in February we will all be treated to more florid rhetoric, self-serving grandstanding and cynical PR gimmicks. I am still waiting for someone over there to actually get it. Not holding my breath.

#32 Comment By Anne On January 11, 2019 @ 4:57 pm

Wuerl will forever be accused of lying on this score because he responded in the negative to a reporter asking if he knew about sex allegations against MacCarrick just shortly after the June 2018 disclosure that MacCarrick had been “credibly accused” and suspended from ministry for abusing a minor. He’s said since that he was talking about accusations of minor abuse, which now requires immediate suspension. If he were perfectly honest, he’d have to admit that the accusations of sexual harassment made by a former seminarian, the accusations he had indeed known about and passed on to the Vatican in years past, had seemed to him — and to most of those in positions of power who are believed to have heard about MacCarrick’s behavior with seminarians — less grave or portentous than the sex abuse of children they’d been criticized for dealing with so poorly. When the cases involving minors came to light, the shock was real and the excuses hard to come by.
Our bishops learned another lesson too late to catch a break before the Pennsylvania grand jury report came down and wiped out any hope of that.

Re Steinfels and that grand jury report: Anybody who thinks Peter Steinfels is capable of shilling for bishops clearly has no idea of who or what they’re talking about (!). I’ve read what he wrote, and it seems characteristically fair, if a bit out of synch with the late-blooming outrage of some Catholics. Steinfels has decades of creds when it comes to criticizing the Church’s powers-that-be, including on this very issue, yet he’s never been one to display the animus or emotional abandon too often on display today. If any church critic would have the grace to notice injustice even here, it would be him.

#33 Comment By Ron Chandonia On January 11, 2019 @ 5:24 pm

Strikes me that commentator BF pretty well summarized and critiqued the Steinfels piece. I am wondering who paid for it.

#34 Comment By Ted On January 11, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

LFM: “Rather than saying that Steinfels is shilling for the Church, ask which faction in the Church he might be shilling for, and what the goal of such a move might be.”

Factions? Fat Tim Dolan has a reputation for orthodoxy, while Nighty-Night and Cupich, say, do not. But you couldn’t say they represent different factions, could you? There are I suppose factions, far left Jesuits, and the Trads, the Rad Trads, the “conservatives”, who are separate from the Dolans, etc., etc. But they are marginal.

Fat Tim, Nighty-Night, George Weigel–they all have on thing in common. Securus judicat orbis terrarum: if you leave the real factions, the Trads, say, out, and they’ll thank you for that, the church that Steinfels is shilling for is The Church, the post-Vatican II mess we’ve all put up with for 50 years. The social justice (as opposed to charity), existentialist, illiterate, ignorant, philistine, legalistic zoo without a keeper. Steinfels, like JPII, and very much like Francis, LIKES this church, wants to keep it as it is, and so wishes to defend it. I must admit, however, that going to mass for the past 20 years has been torture for me, so I don’t do it any more.

The only glimmer of hope I can see is that Steinfels really thinks this jerry-built thing might collapse in on itself thanks to the scandals. I don’t think it will, but if he thinks so, that’s a good sign.

#35 Comment By Jefferson Smith On January 11, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

@Rob G:

If you’re right that conservatives recognize all the excellent and humane improvements in society in recent decades, and are just, for whatever reason, happening not to dwell on them, OK, well and good. I don’t think that’s the case, though. At best, if they are aware at some level of the reforms I’m referencing, they assign them no salience; that recognition is muted and in the background to the point of inaudibility, which to me means that it never hurts to remind people of these things. Steinfels himself, in the passage I quoted above, seemed to think that they bore mentioning, for some reason.

I’ve responded over the months and years to many specific instances, but to take the most recent, I just debated these questions with three other regular contributors here on the Fortnite Addiction thread two weeks ago. One of them had written,

So many people seem to have no desire to seek balance in any aspect of their lives, just going hell-for-leather after everything which, as we all know, is a recipe for burnout and despair.

I took issue with that as a general characterization of “so many people,” and was then instructed by another commenter that people used to be a lot more polite in the past than they are today — a claim so silly, at least as broad cultural analysis, that refuting it is child’s play. Even one of our most mild-mannered and irenic commenters, who didn’t dispute my counterexamples, seemed (initially, at least) focused on things that seemed to have changed for the worse, without any urge to note what had changed for the better (though again, he didn’t dispute that point once it was offered).

Anyway, the broad narrative here is clearly declinist. Our host wrote a book called The Benedict Option that speaks of “cultural decline,” of “the radical individualism and secularism of modernity,” of “the ever-changing Self that is seeking liberation from all limits and unchosen obligations,” and of “these darkening days.” That’s the exact phrase, “these darkening days” — not, these days that are darkening except for all the many new bright spots; not, the Self that is seeking liberation from some old restrictions (like those against gay relationships) while accepting and even agitating for plenty of new ones (against spousal and child abuse, against discrimination, against sexual harassment, against needless inconveniences for the disabled, even against things like endangering others by driving drunk or rudely inflicting secondhand smoke on innocent bystanders). The very title of the book, as you know, is based on an explicit analogy between today’s society and that at the onset of “the Dark Ages.” It’s hard to be more declinist than to warn of a coming Dark Age.

As to the 1950s, well no, they’re not always mentioned explicitly — but if these days are darkening, they’re darkening compared to something. What’s that baseline of comparison? Very often, the 1960s. That decade is identified in The Benedict Option (and innumerable posts and comments here) as a key “turning point,” one that led to “loss” and “unraveling.” Well, OK, when were things still “raveled,” then, and not yet lost? Apparently, before the 1960s. So when would that have been? Do the math.

Again, if you’re saying that everybody knows all this already, and that the constant harping on what’s (allegedly) wrong today — without any acknowledgement of what’s obviously (and newly) right — is just some kind of conservative rhetorical tic, that it shouldn’t really be taken seriously, then great, I’m pleased to hear it. In that case, consider my comment just an effort to reinforce what people already know but might not always call to mind when they should.

#36 Comment By Dimitri Cavalli On January 11, 2019 @ 6:59 pm

An old joke says that grand juries could “indict a ham sandwich.”

How many ham sandwiches, priests, or bishops did the PA grand jury indict?


This doesn’t mean that what the report describes didn’t happen. However, there are about 13 priests who won a court case that had their names had to be redacted from the report, and they claimed they never got a chance to chance to challenge the allegations against them.

Does anyone think that PA should finally unseal ALL past grand jury reports regardless of subject or the result?

Again, how far should we go? Anyone on board with amending the Constitution to repeal double jeopardy?

#37 Comment By Jefferson Smith On January 11, 2019 @ 7:14 pm

@RobG, I should add that my comment was also aimed at the brain-dead attacks on “liberals” and “liberalism” that we are regularly treated to in these threads. Peter Steinfels praises “the radical and welcome changes in societal responses to sexual abuse since the hush-hush attitudes that then prevailed,” with “then” meaning in the late 1950s. Well, did these “changes” just spontaneously happen? Who brought them about?

The answer is liberals. One of the important early books on child sexual abuse and domestic violence was written by a Harvard professor who credits her interest in these topics [6] of the ’60s and ’70s. The principal sponsor of the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which established the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, was liberal Senator Walter Mondale, later Vice President and the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1984. (I followed that campaign and don’t recall his opponent, Ronald Reagan, praising Mondale for his groundbreaking work in combatting sexual abuse.) The term “sexual harassment,” nowadays used even by conservatives here to describe the wrongs perpetrated by (for instance) Cardinal McCarrick, was first coined and publicized by various feminists and feminist groups in the 1970s.

And yet we’re continually told that “liberalism” is about nothing but the promotion of immorality, particularly sexual immorality. This is just ridiculous. And no, I’m not lying about it, the liars are the people promoting that stupid smear.

#38 Comment By Edmund Charles On January 11, 2019 @ 11:16 pm

mac61 is right. February is Cynical Vatican PR month.

Assuming this is the case, what then, do we do?

#39 Comment By A faithful son of St. Dominic On January 12, 2019 @ 2:44 am

Why would the bishops at the February meeting in Rome address the abuse of seminarians when Cupich is one of the principal organizers and moderators? Cupich himself has skeletons in the closet from his days as rector at the Josephinum in Ohio. And his proposal that sexual misconduct allegations against bishops be handled by their metropolitan archbishops while those against archbishops be investigated by suffragan bishops absurdly institutionalizes group think. Contrary to te USCCB’s two original proposals, Cupich’s idea is designed to the preserve power of networks with secrets rather than uncovering the truth and achieving accountability. Apparently, Cupich’s role is to limit reform and circle the wagons. Pope Francis’ call to solidarity in the episcopacy will prove unhealthy and inauthentic unless unity among the bishops is based on truth. Without serious fraternal correction of wayward, unrepentant, hypocritical prelates like BCupich, JTobin, KFarrell, RMahoney, and DWuerl (just to name guilty Americans in the hierarchy), the meeting will be just a flashy show with little substance. Where is Pope Francis’ vaunted Jesuit discerment that he boasts about? Can’t he smell the smoke of Satan emanating from his careerist appointees and favorites?

#40 Comment By Anne On January 12, 2019 @ 2:51 am

For the record, Steinfels hasn’t now, nor has he ever, defended the once widespread bad behavior of US bishops towards victims of clerical sex abuse and their families. As I noted before, he’s been a church critic since the days when that cost something. All he’s really saying here is that the PA grand jury report gave a false impression of the current situation re child safety in the Church by lumping together clerical crimes from 40 and 50 years ago with newer accusations against the very same priests who perpetrated those crimes, making it appear that no real progress has been made. In reality, most of the perpetrators and the bishops who covered for them are dead, defrocked or retired, and many of the bishops who’ve taken over from infamous predecessors are being given a bum rap. He also notes that the new reporting rules and protocols established in 2002 have proven more successful than it had ever seemed wise to expect, a fact that might be advantageous to recall at the upcoming Vatican meeting on child safety in February.

#41 Comment By Danno On January 12, 2019 @ 11:56 am

Do these man in these higher positions within the Church somehow feel the have the ability to….. Fool God as well ?

#42 Comment By Anne On January 12, 2019 @ 12:46 pm

“I welcome any truthful, factual attempt to put the abuse crisis in context.”

Me too, but that I suspect will take awhile coming. We’re in one of those transitional periods when change has begun, but the outrage is spreading to segments of the populace that tried to deny there was a problem in the beginning. It’s a mean time to witness, much less live through, when good guys as readily get hung as bad. Steinfels isn’t really addressing the larger picture, just a microcosm as he sees it in the PA grand jury report.

#43 Comment By MRG On January 12, 2019 @ 12:48 pm

Anyone who gets the vapors upon learning Wuerl lied is risibly naive. Forget his position in the hierarchy: look at the man. Look at his history. Look at his friends. Consider who his enemies are.

Then raise your hand if you believed him the first time he denied knowing about McC.

Anyone? Anyone?

Thought not.

#44 Comment By Anne On January 12, 2019 @ 3:25 pm

Historically, America’s Catholic leadership and the Vatican have clashed because, basically, American Catholics are democrats who worship God in a monarchical village. Still, Vatican II seemed to come to terms with all that. Yet here we are again. In 2002, the US bishops assessed the sex abuse crisis that had been “spotlighted” in Boston and decided independently, much to the Vatican’s alarm, that a pragmatic plan bypassing inadequate canon law procedures by promising lay involvement and “transparency” would fix the problem. Somehow, despite being called on the carpet occasionally and needing to coordinate efforts when canon law trials were involved, the Americans got their way, possibly because many in the Vatican had convinced themselves clerical sex abuse was a specifically American (or Irish/American?) problem that Americans had to fix for themselves. But when this second big crisis erupted last summer, and the American bishops proposed once again to bypass canon law by applying a similar pragmatic fix to deal with erring bishops, the Vatican stopped them cold. Why? The reason is probably twofold:

1. This Pope and the Vatican congregations that deal with sex abuse allegations and clerical behavior in general have found themselves overwhelmed by the need to deal with these issues, which are clearly worldwide and not immediately fixable according to American standards alone, and

2. the gap between what needs to be done and what canon law requires is unworkable.

While the MacCarrick case and the issue of seminarian abuse seem the most pressing issues here, determining why it took so long to punish an 88 year-old retired bishop who’s already been driven from the house of cardinals probably looks over there more like the political cause it’s become for the American church than one of the many major sex abuse crises waiting to be fully and properly dealt with from Honduras to India. And while many of these involve seminarians, the younger ones, like most victims, fit the general designation “children.”

Like most Americans, I think the US proposals for a mechanism involving lay oversight and transparency is the smartest away to go and should be allowed to go forward, at least as another prototype here in America. But I also know the Vatican is further along into this problem on a worldwide basis this time, which means they’re probably getting input that differs radically from American opinion, and this time it’s not all from Vatican bureaucrats fighting intramural turf battles. At least not all of it.

#45 Comment By Ron Chandonia On January 12, 2019 @ 4:06 pm

Steinfels’ report was paid for by the Paul Saunders Fund. This is Paul Saunders:


I suppose if you think the Jesuits, Georgetown, the DC establishment, and trial lawyers are on the up-and-up, you’d consider Steinfels an objective critic.

#46 Comment By Bmoney On January 13, 2019 @ 7:58 am

If Bishop Zubik, the current Bishop in Pittsburgh, has known for months that Wuerl was not telling the truth, and that Vigano was telling the truth, why did we not hear from Bishop Zubik until now? In response to Wuerl’s many public statements denying that he had any knowledge of McCarrick’s misdeeds, Zubik could have said that he had evidence that Wuerl and the Vatican were both aware of McCarrick’s behavior as early as 2004 without ever violating the privacy of victim. Is anyone investigating Bishop Zubik’s role in this cover up?

#47 Comment By FoolishEarthling On January 13, 2019 @ 11:07 am

@ the commenters questioning Steinfel’s funding, try reading up on “motive fallacy” or “appeal to motive” and get a clue. After you’ve got that clue, hopefully, try addressing the arguments.

#48 Comment By Ernst Schreiber On January 15, 2019 @ 1:23 am

Wuerl’s official position is he didn’t lie, he [8].

In July, Cardinal Wuerl told WTOP that he had never heard rumors of sexual misconduct regarding McCarrick.

But Cardinal Wuerl’s Jan. 12 letter said that his remarks had only pertained to rumors regarding the sexual abuse of minors.

#49 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 15, 2019 @ 11:12 am

anon mathematician agrees that its a poorly investigated pile of hearsay and collective guilt, then says that’s a good thing because the Catholic Church needs to be bankrupted. That doesn’t fly.

Serious and precise work needs to be done to identify the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and THEN let the chips fall where they may. Bankrupting the upper levels where they really have been guilty of criminal aiding and abetting, while NOT gratuitously penalizing every local parish and snatching money out of the local collection plate, would be excellent.