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Pope Francis, McCarrick, Maciel

Two new cardinals named today signal papal indifference to sex abuse legacy
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Pope Francis this morning announced the creation of 21 new cardinals, most of whom will be eligible to vote in the next papal conclave. One of them is Robert McElroy, the ultra-progressive bishop of San Diego. For Catholics who actually believe what the Catholic Church teaches, this is terrible news.

And for Catholics who would like their Church to be run by men who can be trusted to do the right thing on sex abuse — well, Francis long ago showed (e.g., the Zanchetta affair) that he cannot be trusted. And here he goes again. Here’s a link to a 2016 letter that Richard Sipe, the (now-deceased) psychotherapist and foremost expert on the sexual habits of the Catholic clergy, sent to McElroy back in 2016. Excerpts:

It was clear to me during our last meeting in your office, although cordial, that you had no interest in any further personal contact. It was only after that I sent you a letter copied to my contacts in DC and Rome.

The new Nuncio, Archbishop Pierre, told my colleague he is interested in the care of and reaction to victims of clergy assault: and I am assured that the Papal Commission for the Prevention of Abuse is also dedicated to this aspect of the crisis.

I will as I was asked, put my observations in the form of a report. Your office made it clear that you have no time in your schedule either now or “in the foreseeable future” to have the meeting that they suggested. Bishop, I have been at the study and research of the problem of clergy abuse since 1960. In 1986 I wrote to Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, president of the USCCB at the time, with my preliminary conclusions. His response was negligible, although he passed the substance onto the USCCB office who gave my figures to a NEWSWEEK reporter.


Sooner or later it will become broadly obvious that there is a systemic connection between the sexual activity by, among and between clerics in positions of authority and control, and the abuse of children.

When men in authority—cardinals, bishops, rectors, abbots, confessors, professors—are having or have had an unacknowledged-secret-active-sex life under the guise of celibacy an atmosphere of tolerance of behaviors within the system is made operative.

Many of the sexual patterns are set up during seminary years or in early years after ordination when sexual experimentation is initiated or sustained.

The 2009 Vatican Report (in English) on American seminaries invented a new term—transitional homosexuality. I believe this is due to the awareness of the frequent activity in the homosocial structure of seminary and religious life.

I was on the staff of three major seminaries, one Pontifical, from 1967 to 1984. I served as a consultant for seminaries from 1966 to 1996. That gave me a broad contact with several other seminaries, their Rectors and staffs.

I was aware, from information shared by their partners, that a number of rectors (at least three) and also some staff members, were having periodic sex with students.

At one seminary fully one-fourth of the professors had ongoing sexual contacts with men or women in more or less consensual arrangements.

It is credibly established that thirty percent (30%) of U.S. bishops have a homosexual orientation. This is not a condemnation nor an allegation of malfeasance. The list of homosexual Popes and saints is long and illustrious.

A serious conflict arises when bishops who have had or are having sexually active lives with men or women defend their behavior with denial, cover up, and public pronouncements against those same behaviors in others.

Their own behavior threatens scandal of exposure when they try to curtail or discipline other clerics about their behavior even when it is criminal as in the case with rape and abuse of minors, rape, or power plays against the vulnerable. (Archbishops Harry Flynn, Eugene Marino, Robert Sanchez, Manuel Moreno, Francis Green, etc.)

Here’s a passage about McElroy’s immediate predecessor:

Bishop Robert H. Brom: I have talked with the man who made allegations of misconduct against Brom and with whom he made a $120,000 settlement. The history is well recorded by several responsible reporters.
(https://www.awrsipe.com/brom/bishop_brom.htm) Significant here is the operation of the National Conference of Bishops who in their 2002 Dallas Charter made provision for “zero tolerance” of clergy abusing minors but neglected to address violations by bishops. Instead they appointed Brom, when allegations were known, to make “Fraternal Correction” to other bishops accused.

This type of operation is typical of the pattern of cover up from the top of the institution. (Reflected in the destruction of documents by the Papal Nuncio in the Neinstedt case. Cf. Documentation provided by the Ramsey County District Attorney)

And here, crucially, is a passage in which Sipe told the bishop about the abuse of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, two years before it was exposed in The New York Times:

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been reported by numerous seminarians and priests of sexual advances and activity. A settlement with one priest was effected by Stephen Rubino, Esq. In that record the operation of McCarrick in sexual activity with three priests is described. Correspondence from “Uncle Ted” as he asked to be called, is included. One of the principals is now a lawyer who left the priesthood, two men remain in the priesthood, but refuse to speak publicly despite the fact that the settlement document is open. One priest was told by the chancery office, “if you speak with the press we will crush you”. Priests or seminarians who speak up about a sexually active superior are threatened with the loss of everything—employment, status, etc.

Those 8 who report are greeted with disbelief or even derision if they know but were not personally involved. If they were a partner in the sexual activity and “come out” they become a pariah and labeled a traitor. I have interviewed twelve seminarians and priests who attest to propositions, harassment, or sex with McCarrick, who has stated, “I do not like to sleep alone”.

One priest incardinated in McCarrick’s Archdiocese of Newark was taken to bed for sex and was told, “this is how priests do it in the U.S.”. None so far has found the ability to speak openly at the risk of reputation and retaliation. The system protects its impenetrability with intimidation, secrecy and threat. Clergy and laity are complicit.

I remind you that many, many people inside the Church knew about McCarrick, many years ago. Some would call me in 2002, as a writer at National Review, telling me that I have to “do something about this.” I would tell them that I can’t do a damn thing about it unless they are willing to make on the record accusations, or provide documents. Otherwise it’s just gossip, and potential libel. Nobody ever came forward — not a cleric, not a layman, though I spoke to both kinds of sources. Sipe was almost certainly not telling McElroy anything he didn’t already know, but at least we have on record that the man who knew more about the sex lives of US Catholic clergy than anyone else alive informed the new San Diego cardinal-designate about Uncle Ted — and the bishop did nothing.

The letter is long and detailed, with exactly the kind of information a Christian bishop, if he were any kind of man, would want to know. Sipe ends:

These and myriad other stories are to be told from documents and records. These records show [Los Angeles Cardinal Roger] Mahony’s, and other bishops pattern and practice that reflect institutional defenses of its ministers’ sexual behaviors.

I will not belabor the more than 250 abuse cases of clergy abuse I have served on as an expert witness or consultant.

I served the Attorney General of Massachusetts in the formation of their Grand Jury investigation of clergy abuse in that State (2002). And I was an expert witness to the first of three Grand Juries empaneled in Philadelphia and I reviewed 135 clergy abuse files then. Since that time I have been able to follow the working and operation of the Archdiocesan offices dealing with victims of clergy abuse. That is a paradigm of the malfunction of the American church in response to clergy.

You are well aware that your diocese has settled with many victims (144 in 2007 alone).

I have tried to help the Church understand and heal the wounds of sexual abuse by clergy. My services have not been welcomed.

My appeal to you has been for pastoral attention to victims of abuse and the long term consequences of that violation. This includes the effects of suicidal attempts.

Only a bishop can minister to these wounds.

Enclosed you will find a list of bishops who have been found wanting in their duties to the people of God.

(Interestingly, Sipe mentions the case of Father Paul Lavin, who in the 1990s was pastor of St. Joseph’s, a prominent parish on Capitol Hill. He was my parish priest when I first became a Catholic. I quit going to confession to him early on, though, because he didn’t seem interested at all in helping me struggle to learn how to be chaste in obedience to Catholic teaching. Now we know that Father Lavin was a child rapist.)

Read the whole letter. No wonder Bishop McElroy didn’t want to meet with Sipe. Sipe had his number. Sipe had the number of the entire lot of them.

So, Pope Francis named to the College of Cardinals a pro-gay ultra-progressive who turned a blind eye to sex abuse, but he also named today a longtime curial official — he runs the Vatican city-state — and senior member of the disgraced ultraconservative Legion of Christ.

You will recall that the LC was founded by the late Father Marcial Maciel, a grotesque pedophile who had a secret family, among many other horrendous sins, and who ran the wealthy, militantly conservative religious order like a cult. There are a number of conservative, orthodox Catholics who cannot understand why the Vatican did not dissolve the Legion after Maciel’s evil was exposed. And now Pope Francis, the progressive pope, has elevated one of their own to the ranks of Cardinal.

McCarrick and Maciel: the indifference of this Pope to the reality of what abusive priests, including senior clerics like McCarrick and Maciel, did to victims is beyond my ability to explain, other than utter vanity and vainglory.

Can the Catholic Church really be reformed? Or is it the case that its leadership class is too fatally compromised? I ask this as an ex-Catholic, but also as a friend of the Catholic Church, which is the institution on which the fate of Western civilization — my civilization — rests. I no longer believe what the Catholic Church teaches is entirely true, but I recognize its incomparable importance for the civilization of which I am a member. These are apocalyptic times.

(And lest you think I am indifferent to the mess in the broader Orthodox communion, Vladimir Putin and his ally Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow, have now forced a total schism with the Church in Ukraine; even the faction that stayed loyal to Moscow has just now broken with the Russian Church, in a world-historical blow to Russian Orthodoxy. With this war, Putin and Kyrill lost Ukraine to Russian Orthodoxy. It is hard to overstate the significance of this within world Orthodoxy, and Russian history.)

Read this chapter from historian Barbara Tuchman’s The March Of Folly, in which she talks about how six Renaissance popes provoked the Protestant Reformation by their poor government. Tuchman wrote:

Their three outstanding attitudes — obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constitutents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status — are persistent aspects of folly. While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship.

Nobody is saying that either McElroy or Fernando Vergez Alzaga, the LC cardinal-designate, are or ever have been sex abusers. But they are both tainted by the scandal, to an extent that it is hard to comprehend why the Pope would elevate them, except that protecting the good ol’ boys network is the most important thing. I’m beginning to think that the Uvalde cops are a metaphor for a number of our elites, across institutions, including (but by no means limited to) the Catholic Church: standing around with the authority to respond effectively to crisis, but too afraid and bound by bureaucratic procedure to do a damn thing.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that this is Pope Francis stacking the College of Cardinals in advance of the conclave to choose his successor. I spoke recently to a Vatican insider who said that neither conservatives nor liberals had a clear majority, so the successor to Francis is likely to be a compromise candidate. Unless the conclave happens before these new cardinals are installed in August, Francis has tipped things in his favor.

UPDATE.2: James C., one of my dearest friends and one of the most faithful Catholics I know, comments:

Bergoglio is a mafia boss, not a pope. He rewards his friends and punishes his enemies. Remember when we saw ultra-progressive Cardinal Danneels on the loggia by him the night he was elected? The same Cardinal who had been put out to pasture after he was caught on tape bullying a man into silence after the man told him of being abused as a boy by the bishop of Bruges, one of the Cardinal’s friends? https://uploads.disquscdn.c…

Remember how he appointed Cardinal Maradiaga as his right hand man in the curia, the same Maradiaga who blamed the Catholic sex abuse scandal on Jews in the media?

Remember how he rehabilitated Ted McCarrick, and how he has been filling the College of Cardinals with members of McCarrick’s lavender mafia (Farrell, ‘Nighty-night Baby’ Tobin, Cupich, now McElroy)?

The fix is in. These are enemies of Christ and his Church. And I despair, save for radical divine intervention or near-total institutional collapse.