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When The ‘Alter Christus’ Is A Degenerate

Bishop Malone is accused of protecting a gay priest who sexually harassed young adult men WKBW-TV screengrab

A television station in Buffalo, NY, has been riding hard on a story about the local Catholic bishop covering up for gay priest who came on to young men — not minors — he was counseling. :

In both cases, the diocese called [Father] Yetter in for a meeting with Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, who is Bishop Malone’s point man for handling the sex abuse crisis in the diocese.

According to internal memos obtained by the I-Team, Yetter admitted to the touching in the movie theater but said he didn’t remember the incident in the casino.

Grosz’s solution was to give Yetter, who is in his 70s, a lecture on sexual harassment. Memos show he referred Yetter for counseling at the Diocesan Counseling Center, which is run by another priest. In both cases Grosz also reviewed the file with Lawlor Quinlan who, along with Terry Connors, does legal work for the church.

Soon after the allegations and after reviewing the files with Quinlan, Grosz used his typewriter to write that the cases were “considered closed.” He then put his handwritten initials on the documents.

As for punishment, Yetter wrote to Grosz in September 2017 to say that he planned to travel to Haiti on a mission trip “as part of my penance.”

In case the diocese had any thoughts about removing him, Yetter ended the letter with a veiled threat: “Any pastoral changes at St. Mary’s would be sensitive, I think, as parish is number 2 in the diocese for contributions to Upon this Rock [the diocesan capital campaign], 2 or 3rd in assessments [the annual tax parishes pay to the diocese], and 7th in [fundraising for] Catholic Charities.”

So, those are the priorities of the Buffalo diocesan leadership: give a dirty old man in a Roman collar a lecture. Meanwhile, he threatens them with a loss of funds. Sounds like Father Yetter knows what talks in Bishop Richard Malone’s diocese.

It appears that someone inside the diocese disgusted with the cover-up leaked secret files to the TV station. Good. That’s the only way any of this is going to get cleaned up. The church’s leadership itself has proven itself incapable of coping with the problem. Even the Pope can’t bring himself to talk straight about this stuff.

Catholic theology holds that when a priest is celebrating the holy mass, he is an “alter Christus” — another Christ, meaning that he stands in the place of Christ. It’s not that the priest is sinless, but that as a validly ordained priest, he fulfills a sacramental role in the place of Jesus Christ. It is an awesome and terrible responsibility. In the gay priests comments thread today here, a reader summarized pithily one effect of the Catholic Church’s problem with sexually corrupt priests:

“Listen son. The man in the white robe is the only one who can make the bread into Christ’s flesh. That man was called by God to be His intermediary on earth. Oh, and by the way, there’s something like a 50% chance he’s a total degenerate. No one knows exactly because none of the other priests have the guts to say. So stay away from him. He’s dangerous. But you have to revere the man too. Remember, he was called by God. Got that?”

The cognitive dissonance would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. If souls weren’t at stake. Please understand that I’m not trying to make a snarky point here. I’m dead serious. In an age of radical transparency, one can’t rely on the Roman collar and seeming holy. One actually has to be holy, or try awfully hard.

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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