Since writing last week about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual predation (see especially here), and how widely known it was, but nobody dared to speak out against it, I’ve had a lot of correspondence, from both laity and priests. The best are the e-mails from priests — usually younger ones — who say that this stuff is true, and it needs to be exposed and rooted out in the Church. I say the “best,” because it confirms to me that those best positioned to know about the situation behind the façade.
I received a long, very detailed e-mail from a priest in administration in an archdiocese. I’m trying to figure out how to help him. It’s a complicated story, but basically he’s trying to help another priest who has been victimized by a cabal of older gay priests with political power within the Church. As my informant frames it, I can genuinely see why he doesn’t have a lot of options (he was reaching out to me for advice, and also to say that it helps to be able to talk to someone who knows he’s not making it up). I said in one of my previous posts that I don’t understand why priests who see this evil stay silent about it. Well, given the circumstances my informant presents — circumstances that he’s trying to overcome to help the victim — I can understand why he’s paralyzed.
Many bishops know this stuff is still going on, and don’t care, either because they are personally compromised, or because they don’t want to upset the system for whatever reason. Even after all that the public has learned since 2002 about what’s behind the façade of the Church, it’s hard to get people to accept that these corrupt, often abusive, structures are still in place (though several of my clerical correspondents say that they have been broken up in some locales). Back in 2002, I interviewed a seminarian who told me that his own parents refused to believe him when he told them about all the open gay sex at his seminary, and how normal it was. It was easier for them to believe their own son was lying than to believe that the Church was so corrupt.
My guess is that a lot of that hasn’t changed. People can’t bear too much reality.
A reader also sent me this long 2004 piece from The Washington Times (which has a truly terrible website, so good luck with that) about the fate of Father James Haley, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington whose career was ruined when he tried to speak out about sexual corruption in the priesthood. The reader was trying to get me to understand the cost to priests of telling the truth in public. Another reader — a priest, I think; I can’t recall now — told me that priests who want to blow the whistle face the prospect of losing everything, which would be worth it to stop a child abuser, but not necessarily to stop networks of sexually active gay priests, even if they prey on seminarians and vulnerable priests.
Think about it: McCarrick carried on this way for years and years, and nobody outed him, even though it wasn’t exactly a secret.
At this point, to be totally honest, I think modern American society does drive people to become Christians. Which is different from “helping” them to be Christians, I suppose. At the same time, I’m nearly despairing of the Church’s ability to keep men Christians. I can’t quite shake the anger I feel when I read about the now-acknowledged depredations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
I thought I was already inured to the moral rot in the Catholic clergy. I’ve been briefed about the machinations in some important urban dioceses, where bishops subtly encourage the death of the parishes located on prime real estate so that the Church can close them and sign lucrative 99-year leases with property developers. My family knows of the parishes that have an internal reputation so notorious that they get nicknames. A certain St. Matthew’s becomes “St. Mattress.” And so on.
The moral corruption is so deep and pervasive it becomes almost invisible by its omnipresence.
A friend who left the seminary — too morally compromising, he thought — once told me of a legendary story in his diocese. A recently ordained priest was assigned to a parish with a pastor who liked putting on rather decadent parties in the parish house. This new priest complained to his bishop about it. The bishop brushed him off. But word of the complaint leaked around the diocese, and the pastor retaliated by having the newly ordained priest’s bed removed from his room and replaced with a Jacuzzi tub. The young priest called the bishop again. “I’m leaving,” he said. “Fine, fine,” the bishop relented, saying that he could give him a new assignment. “No,” the priest responded. “I’m leaving the priesthood.” That bishop has had a major promotion since, and is considered a stalwart conservative, with extensive contacts among conservative politicians. It’s a real possibility that he reads this website. I hope he reads this and for the first time in a long time really feels the cold grip of quiet panic.
The moral corruption is so deep and pervasive it becomes almost invisible by its omnipresence. It just flashes its icy look and smile on different faces. We see it in Pope Francis inviting Cardinal Godfried Danneels to participate as an elder statesmen in the Synods on the Family, though Daneels had helped cover up the abuse of a young man by Father Roger Vangheluwe, the victim’s uncle. We see it in the way disgraced men such as Cardinal Roger Mahoney are still allowed to haunt their diocese. Even Bishop Rembert Weakland, who embezzled funds from his diocese to pay off his lover. We see it in Miami, where the former archbishop had a side business selling Spanish fly. And this is just the most basic sexual and financial corruption. Undergirding both is a spiritual and intellectual corruption.
There is an undeniable psychological tension between my religious belief that I cannot have hope for salvation outside the visible, institutional Church and my honest conviction that of all the institutions and societies that intersect with my life, the Church is by far the most corrupt, the most morally lax, the most disillusioning, and the most dangerous for my children. In that tension, personal prayer will dry up like dew at noon.
Where do I find hope?
He tells you. Read the whole thing.
MBD concludes by saying that the corrupt, worldly, lecherous bishops and priests will not endure a world that will strip them of their comforts, and make them suffer for their faith. He’s right about that, but this kind can only be driven out with prayer and fasting.
UPDATE: Reader Brother John, a Catholic religious, recommends this Catholic World Report interview with Cardinal Müller, who was until Pope Francis sacked him recently the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office. It’s really something. The cardinal, who was until his ouster close to the very top of the Roman church, is sounding the alarm about the battle within the Catholic Church. Excerpt:
CWR: How would you assess, first, the health of the Catholic faith in Germany and then, secondly, in Europe overall? Do you think Europe can or will recover a sense of its previous Christian identity?
Cardinal Müller: There are a great many people who live out their faith, love Christ and his Church, and set all their hope on God in life and in death. But among them there are quite a few who feel abandoned and betrayed by their shepherds. Being popular in public opinion is nowadays the criterion for a supposedly good bishop or priest. We are experiencing conversion to the world, instead of to God, contrary to the statements of the Apostle Paul: “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of God” (Gal 1:10).
UPDATE.2: A Catholic reader passes along this profane (NSFW) 2011 video of the Rev. Ignatius Kury, a Ukrainian Catholic priest under the influence of the spirit (vodka, most likely), delivering a jailhouse sermon after cops arrested him for drunk driving:
The Smoking Gun has highlights, including his apparently propositioning cops while cuffed to the wall. And there’s this immortal line: “I’ll give you the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is this: Get these f**king [handcuffs] off me because I’m getting a rash!”
He’s a veritable St. Paul, that one.
I commend to you especially the segment beginning around 9:30, in which Father Kury delivers a monologue addressed to schoolchildren, explaining how he is the victim of a police state that answers to Khruschev. It is pure Corky St. Clair meets Blanche Du Bois. “And I will say, like Johnny Weir, ‘my people have been oppressed for TOO LONG! … We are the TRUE ROYALTY! I am the viscount!” , etc.
In part two, the blotto Fr. Kury, thickening his fake Southern accent, pours on the Tennessee Williams, pleading for a savior to break his shackles: “Big Daddy! Big Daddy! Where’s mah Big Daddy? Big Daddy, come!”
Now, why do I show you this? That drunk driving arrest was Fr. Kury’s fourth since 1996.
The Ukrainian Eparchy lists Fr. Kury as on leave of absence now, but as recently as 2014, he was pastoring a parish. Can you imagine your son serving as an altar boy for this creep? This from a Ukrainian Catholic newsletter shows that he once served as vocations director for his eparchy [diocese]:
Ask yourself: how many healthy young men would Father Kury attract into the priesthood as a vocations director? With Father Kury as gatekeeper, what kind of men do you think would make it to seminary? How does a man like Father Kury, a chronic drunk who makes Charles Nelson Reilly look like Charles Bronson, rise so high in the esteem of his hierarchy.
And: why is this Father Kury still on the Eparchy’s list of approved youth ministers?
You see the problem.
UPDATE.3: From an e-mail that a Catholic priest sent me today (with his name attached; I’m withholding it to protect him). He’s talking about a recent private gathering of young priests, in which the priests spoke of the homosexual networks within the Church:
We talked about how bad everything is in the church and all of us are in agreement that everything needs to be exposed. It is going to shake the faith of many people. Nobody wants to do this. While my bishop is genuinely supportive, I am also aware that I am limited in what I can say without suffering reprisals. It is going to take an awful lot of people standing up and saying “no more!”
Things will not change in Rome until a new pope is elected who will not be afraid to expose everything. Until then, these scandals will predictably happen. As a priest, it pains me deeply to know that people have lost their faith over these scandals. The bishops have to know that they are sitting on a powder keg. One day, it will all blow up. Nobody wants to be the one who will do it. And so, the Church will limp along until the day that she is finally purified.
One of my mentors as a priest has told me that the media are doing us a favor. As painful as it is to admit, it is true. I heard rumors about Cardinal McCarrick as a seminarian. I’m only saddened that it took so long for this to be brought to light.
May men (qnd women) like this find the strength to speak out, and to support those who do speak out.I am reminded of this excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s New Year’s 1943 reckoning, on the 10th anniversary of Hitler’s ascent to power:
We have been silent witnesses to evil deeds. We have become cunning and learnt the arts of obfuscation and equivocal speech. Experience has rendered us suspicious of human beings and often we have failed to speak to them a true and open word. Unbearable conflicts have worn us down or even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? Geniuses, cynics, people who feel contempt for others, or cunning tacticians, are not what we will need but simple, uncomplicated and honest human beings. Will our inner strength to resist what has been forced on us have remained strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves blunt enough, to find our way back to simplicity and honesty?
Another Catholic priest writes:
My question to you is, with reference to what happened to the bishops of Chile, it would seem that a good number of priests and bishops knew of McCarrick’s improprieties. If they were in positions of power (priests like Vicars General or Vicars of Clergy or bishops) and they came across credible information that McCarrick was using his power to exploit priests and seminarians (there were two settlements on the books if I remember correctly) should they not be held accountable as well? Should there not be a call for the Nuncio to investigate the situation and determine what was overlooked and who looked the other way? And, yet, I don’t know how such a thing would be affected except if a certain number of bishops themselves asked for such an investigation. Yet they are the ones who could be implicated.
UPDATE.4: A couple of readers have sent to me this story from Ireland. A videotape has emerged showing a Catholic parish priest having sex with another man on the altar of his church, while wearing vestments. His bishop defrocked him at once, saying that a man capable of doing that has no place in the priesthood.
No, actually, that’s not how his bishop responded. According to someone quoted in the story:
“When the video came to public attention he suffered a lot of adverse attention and in discussions with his bishop it was decided he would take time out.
Which brings to mind a story from May about an Irish priest who bumbled while doing a school presentation with his laptop, and ended up showing gay porn to schoolchildren. He professed to not knowing how on earth those images found their way onto his memory stick. His bishop, the cardinal, decided that he should remain in the priesthood.
Why do you suppose that is?
The story is not really about that, though. The story is about how angry Irish parents became in May when this same priest, in a class preparing children for First Communion, started talking to them about the upcoming Irish abortion referendum. Granted, it does seem inappropriate to bring that up in context of a First Communion class for children. For me, the salient point is the complete absence of moral authority priests like Father Gayporn have when it comes to defending the Church’s basic teachings. If the Cardinal who allowed Father Gayporn to remain a priest had the slightest sense of what his organization — the Church — is, and is for, he would have recognized this. But these guys are blind.