Elizabeth Scalia is a Catholic writer who has for years blogged under the name The Anchoress. In America magazine today — Pentecost for Christians in the West — she writes about the latest Church scandal in the form of a letter to Jesus. It’s a scorcher. Excerpts:
Well, Lord, here we are again. This crap just never stops coming, and God, I’m getting so disgusted with it all, and if I could not find you in the Holy Eucharist, I wonder if I would find you anywhere else within this church, at least if I look among our “leaders.”
So many of my friends are fed up and leaving, or getting close to leaving, and I get it, I do! I understand how they feel, even as I pray they won’t leave, because…because well, hell, how does leaving an imperfect something to wade into even less perfect nothing end up serving anything but the creature of the voids and the lowness? I worry about my friends who are leaving, distancing themselves from the food you give us. I’m half surprised that our bishops, as they watch the pews empty out, aren’t putting out statements reminding us that to miss attendance at Mass is to risk eternal damnation.
Jesus Christ…my heart feels broken. Sometimes, Lord it is awful being a Christian, you know that? I want to hate these men. I want to hate them and punish them for all the damage they have done to the church, and therefore to you and your body. And to the whole world, because a world without the church—a world where the church becomes irrelevant, in-credible and unequal to the task of balancing the secular world and all of its influences for good and bad—that’s a world where the lights are getting ready to go out, and all the candles snuffed.
But I really am so angry, Lord—with the sexual abuse by clergy and the spending $100 a day on fresh cut flowers for the rectory and the couple hundred thousand in “gifts” to other priests and princes.
All I know, Lord, is that I’m grateful that Pentecost is here. I’ll miss the Easter alleluias at Mass, but I’m good and damn ready for a mighty wind to blow through your church. Maybe, as with the Apostles, it will terrify some too-proud bishops and humble them a bit, and maybe change a few hearts for the good. Lord, that’s what all of this feels like—a chaos and tumult, a roaring strain of noise and destruction bearing down upon us, wrecking everything in sight because the job of the Holy Spirit isn’t to make us comfortable but to shake us up, to send us out of our safe, comfortable places.
Read it all. There’s much more. It’s raw.
This afternoon, I received the letter below from a parish priest. He’s given me permission to use it as long as I don’t name him. He gave me some details at the start of his letter about the kind of job he’s doing now. I’m going to leave that part out, because I don’t want to risk identifying him inadvertently, but let me tell you that he is running a big parish all alone, with no one to help him. There are no fresh-cut flowers in his rectory each day, I can tell you that much. Below, he’s talking about the Vatican investigation of retired Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling, WV — see my post “Bishop Bransfield’s Lush Life” for the details — which was led by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. The parish priest writes:
Lori’s report is striking. He has worked at the highest levels of the officialdom for decades. First, as Cardinal Hickey’s right-hand man and then as bishop himself. He is not Rome educated and did not serve in the curia. His administrative expectations and practices come from working for Hickey, I suppose. No hint of scandal as far as I know. There is no reason to believe he has a secret reason to hide the payments.
Nevertheless, you’d think that out of caution, Lori would have informed the Vatican that he himself had received such misappropriated funds and had personally returned them to the diocese. Or even without notifying Rome, that he would have returned the money since he knew it had been embezzled by the donor. Wait–I just remembered–Lori was named Apostolic Administrator of Wheeling by Pope Francis. He has been canonically responsible for the diocese’s finances and yet he felt no obligation to return money to the diocese he knew was stolen??!! Why wouldn’t he have quietly given it back months ago?
More troubling, he decided unilaterally not to forward information found as part of an official Vatican investigation. Despite his recently expressed concern for transparency, informing the public is not the issue. He failed to report to his superiors the details he was sent to find. He is not known to be a risk-taker. He must have thought it was standard procedure to edit the findings in this sort of way, making personal decisions about what matters and what doesn’t. That he did so in the context of the recent McCarrick revelations and the calls for accountability for “who knew what, when” is revealing. If Lori doesn’t think Rome needs to know everything he finds, other investigators must think the same. (And note that the lay people involved were fine with this editing. In other words, without clear standards and experts involved the presence of laity is no guarantee of a thorough, complete investigation and report.)
Truth to tell, had he left those names off, Rome would probably have been happy not to know and not to ask for details. But that would be part of the problem.
And remember, we only know the basic findings and the fact of the failure to report all information because someone leaked the report that was finished in February. When do you suppose Rome would have gotten around to releasing it? How much information would have been forthcoming? Since “no one can give what he doesn’t have,” we never would have found out from Rome who was receiving checks from the bishop. Transparency won’t help the public if Rome itself is kept in the dark.
So how long will we wait for the McCarrick Report? Do you think it will tell us much? Do you think Rome will be given all the facts that the investigators find? Do you think Rome will be interested in asking deeper questions of the investigators?
Some of these guys will just never get it.
The Vatican has said that it is conducting an investigation of the Cardinal Ted McCarrick case. On May 29, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, spoke again about the matter. Excerpt:
Speaking to the press May 29, Parolin insisted that the Holy See “has said many times that they are making an investigation, which consists of gathering together all of the documentation regarding this case.”
In early October 2018, the Vatican released a statement saying Pope Francis had ordered a “thorough study” of its archives with regard to McCarrick and indicating that results would be released in “due course.” To date, no results of that review have been made public.
The statement came in the aftermath of a bombshell letter published last year by former Vatican envoy to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, insisting that Francis and a slew of other Vatican officials knew of allegations of misconduct against McCarrick.
Parolin offered no clarification about his own awareness of the restrictions or the timeline of the investigation, saying only that “once this work is done, there will be a declaration.”
You think this McCarrick Report will tell the whole truth? Gotta be honest, it’s going to be hard to take it seriously, even if it does tell the whole truth. There’s just no credibility left with these people. Pope Francis has ordered a “thorough study” of a case that implicates him, and almost certainly a number of other senior Vatican officials. Francis has always been cagey about this stuff, but assuming that the Pope genuinely wants to know the truth, how can he trust his own investigators? Archbishop Lori redacted information that stood to embarrass him, and didn’t return the money he got from Bishop Bransfield until the Washington Post found out about it and asked him.
It’s been over 17 years since the Boston revelations, and still, this is how they do. If you read the Post story, linked above, you’ll see that the laymen on the finance committee of the Diocese pretty much rubber-stamped whatever Bishop Bransfield asked for. Lay oversight does no good at all if the laity are too cowed by clericalism to stand up to a corrupt bishop.