noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the
Latin cor, meaning heart.
Wolves in Shepherds Clothing
Perfidious Priests and What Must Be Done About Them
In fact, the diseases of consciences,
their indifference to good and evil, their errors, are a great danger to man.
They are indirectly a menace to society as well, because the level of societys
morals depends in the ultimate analysis on the human conscience. A man who has
a hardened heart and a degenerate conscience is spiritually a sick man,
even though he may enjoy the fullness of his powers and physical capacities.
Everything must be done to bring him back to having a healthy soul. (Pope John Paul II,
March 15, 1981)
I concluded last
time with the idea that men and women, on the Churchs payroll,
whose writings and speeches and work tend to effectively render the Catholic
faith and life indistinguishable from the secular milieu ought to be recognized
for what they are: subversive traitors. And the moral authority
of the bishops, in particular, and of the Catholic Church more generally, cannot
be restored until unless subversive traitors are expunged from
Oh... listen.... I can almost hear the hysterical charges being aimed at me
now: You are an Inquistionist, a pogromist; you would really like to be
able to set the fires ablaze beneath anybody who disagrees with your own version
of Catholicism. And hysterical charges they would be, in more ways than
one, especially in the United States of America. Catholics whose alleged conscience
supposedly cannot allow them to believe the Catholic faith are entirely free
to leave the Catholic Church. And, were they honest men and women, that is what
they would do. They can become Episcopalian, or Presbyterian, or Baptist. Or
Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu. Or atheist or agnostic. They can start their own
denomination, or a brand new religion to their self-satisfied hearts content.
Now, part of the on-going problem with pedophile priests
and with the far more numerous, though still rare, ephebophile priests
(homosexuals who abuse male adolescents) part of the problem is that
almost nobody in authority has been willing to name names, thus allowing the
immoral priests to continue their predations. I think that the problem of pedophiliac
and ephebophiliac priests could not have taken root and grown to bear poisonous
fruit except in the prevailing climate of moral confusion, abetted by the initial
collapse of the bishops moral authority in 1968; this climate
of moral confusion in the Catholic Church has been, I believe, caused largely
by the widespread influence of subversive traitors in the bosom of the Church;
and, getting rid of their predations, of quite another kind, is necessary
to restore the health of the Church: so, I myself must be willing to name names.
Rev. Richard McBrien
Fr. Richard McBrien is most famous, perhaps, as the author of a book called
Catholicism. Before taking a look at what some folks have had to
say about his book, I would like to note that he has been quoted recently, and
probably far more often than I have discovered; for instance, in an Associated
at Yahoo! News, Mar. 13:
A handful of bishops already have made changes, ousting dozens
of priests accused of molestation and working more closely with prosecutors.
However, some Catholics particularly liberals say reform is
needed beyond how the church addresses misconduct in its ranks. The
old system is dead, said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the
University of Notre Dame. Its just a matter of how long it takes
before it completely implodes. The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a conservative
and editor of the religious magazine First Things, disagreed.
He predicted the church will emerge from this trial with a renewed commitment
to its most basic values. The problem is not with celibacy. The problem
is with priests who arent celibate, Neuhaus said. The problem
is not with the teaching of the church. The problem is with the people who
dont live the church.
(Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor, stated quite succinctly what I am trying
to make the case for: The problem is with the people who dont live
the church. Viewed from another angle, though, as Im trying to get
across, the problem is with the people who dont leave the Church
but remain in its bosom, trying to purge it of everything that is
actually, really, distinctively Catholic.)
McBrien was also quoted in an article
in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 16:
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, chief spokesman for Pope John Paul
II, asked about the Boston scandal earlier this month, told the New York Times
that the solution was for the church to ban gays from becoming priests. The
comment outraged experts who noted an absence of data linking homosexuality
to pedophilia. Most studies show that heterosexual and married men are as
likely as gays to abuse children. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at
Notre Dame, said Navarro-Valls statement also ignored the reality that
gays make up an increasing percentage of the priesthood. Its one
of the most bizarre, absurd and irresponsible statements Ive ever heard
from the Vatican, McBrien said. If that became policy, wed
have to evacuate the seminaries. McBrien went on to say, however, that
cultural, social and even religious changes in attitude toward sexuality
and marriage had dramatically reduced the pool of potential priests.
We are drawing from an ever thinner slice of the population in recruitment
of priests, he said.
(Note how casually, yet deliberately, the Post-Dispatch writer distracts the
reader from the reality: most of the sexual immorality committed by priests,
for which the Church is now under fire, has not been pedophilia,
the sexual abuse of children; it has been ephebophilia, the sexual
abuse of adolescents almost invariably boys.
Remarkably, a recent Boston Globe article
has noted this: It has become the shorthand label for a sex abuse scandal
that now haunts dioceses around the nation: the pedophile priest crisis. But
the vast majority of priests who sexually abuse minors choose adolescent boys
not young children as their targets....)
Catholic theologian Robert Fastiggi has analyzed McBriens book Catholicism
and shown how McBrien so cleverly, so subtly, distorts the Catholic faith in
fundamental matters thus betraying the Church, whose doctrine he is paid
to preach, by engaging in what C. S. Lewis has likened to prostitution.
in Pastoral and Homiletic Review, June 1996, begins thus:
If one were to judge a book by its (back) cover, the newly
revised edition of Richard McBriens Catholicism would have
all the appearances of a clear, competent and complete guide to the teachings
of the Catholic Church. With praises from diverse authorities, ranging from
the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to theologians from Fordham, Boston
College and the Gregorianum, this impressive-looking volume seems to possess
all the academic credentials needed to be considered the book on Catholicism.
As is well-known, though, we cannot judge a book by its cover,
and the question that must be asked is whether Fr. McBrien has presented Catholicism
as it really is or Catholicism as he would want it to be.
Of course, credit should be given where credit is due. Any book of over 1200
pages surely deserves some recognition for the work that went into it, and
if one is looking for a quick summary of the thought of theologians like Edward
Schillebeeckx, Hans Küng and Johannes Metz, McBriens book is certainly
useful. However, if one is looking for a clear and faithful exposition of
authentic Catholic teaching, one would be well-advised to steer clear of McBriens
opus and concentrate instead on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In reading McBriens text, it is clear that the author
has mastered Catholic vocabulary and knows how to give the reader the impression
of being rooted in the Catholic tradition. It is here, though, that a disturbing
tendency emerges. What one often finds is a discussion of a traditional Catholic
dogma cast in ambiguous terms by a skillful turn of phrase or a clever sleight
of hand. Thus, the uncritical reader is given the false impression that McBriens
discussion of the dogma is safely rooted within the parameters of Catholic
orthodoxy without realizing that the author has frequently undercut the full
meaning and authority of the dogma itself.... (emphasis added)
He concludes as follows:
McBriens Catholicism is a dangerous book
dangerous because it cloaks dissent in the vocabulary of the language
of Catholicism itself. Its methodology is one of deliberate ambiguity in which
many teachings of the Church are either obscured or so qualified that they
lose their full significance and authority. The potential impact of this text
on the faithful is frightening.
Fastiggi closely examines McBriens discussion of the theology of the
Church, salvation, infallibility, Marian dogmas, and conscience. His opinion
of McBriens view of the role conscience plays in making moral decisions
is worthy of special note:
McBrien ultimately undercuts the Churchs authority
as a moral teacher by asserting that the Church has never claimed to
speak infallibly on a moral question, so there is probably no instance as
yet of a conflict between an individuals fallible decision in conscience
and a teaching of the Church which is immune from error (p. 973). The
net effect of this view is an atmosphere of moral ambiguity
in which a Catholic can clearly differ with an official moral teaching
of the Church as long as there is antecedent attention and respect
to such teachings (p. 980). [emphasis added]
Even the Committee on Doctrine of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops
has published a general
review of the book, from which I quote the conclusion:
Catholicism poses pastoral problems particularly
as a textbook in undergraduate college courses and in parish education programs.
The principal difficulties with the book lie not only in the particular positions
adopted, but perhaps even more in the cumulative effect of the book as a whole.
The method is to offer a broad range of opinions on every topic with the apparent
intention of allowing or stimulating the reader to make a choice. This places
a heavy burden on the reader, especially since some of the opinions described
do not stand within the central Catholic tradition. The reader who is a theological
beginner could easily assume that all the authors cited are equally a part
of the mainstream Catholic conversation, whereas some of the authors are closer
to the margins. While the book could be a helpful resource to theologians
looking for a survey of opinions on some question, it might well be bewildering
and unsettling for Catholics taking undergraduate courses in theology. For
some readers it will give encouragement to dissent.
The problem is further aggravated because Catholicism
gives very little weight to the teaching of the magisterium, at least where
there has been no explicit dogmatic definition. At many points the book treats
magisterial statements on the same level as free theological opinions. On
a number of important issues, most notably in the field of moral theology,
the reader will see without difficulty that the book regards the official
church position as simply in error.
This review has focused exclusively on the problematic aspects
of Catholicism. Certainly, as the 1985 statement of the Committee
on Doctrine affirmed, there are many positive features to be found in the
book. Nevertheless, this review concludes that, particularly as a book for
people who are not specialists in theological reasoning and argumentation,
Catholicism poses serious difficulties and in several important
respects does not live up to its ambitious title. (emphasis added)
(McBriens book must be wonderfully self-serving. Indiscriminately citing
the opinions of theologians as authoritative fosters the perception
of theologians as having authority: that is, it fosters the perception
of McBrien himself as having authority.)
Alas, this general review by the bishops committee may actually
be counter-productive. What was called for, in defense of the Catholic faith?
Clear, ringing denunciations of McBriens deceptions. What did Catholics
get? Criticisms that are too often circuitous and mealy-mouthed; helpful reminders
that there are many positive features to be found in the book; and
complaints that some readers may be overburdened.
Moreover, the newspaper articles quoted above, in which McBrien had been quoted,
were not in error: he is, indeed, a priest in good standing and a professor
of theology at Notre Dame University.
There, he continues to misrepresent the faith he is paid to uphold.
There, at Notre Dame, reporters can find McBrien and can refer to him, correctly
and accurately, as being a priest and a professor of theology at a Catholic
And the American bishops publish general reviews that nobody reads.
Most Rev. Thomas Gumbleton
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, as far as I know, has written no tome the likes of
McBrienism... er... I mean, the likes of McBriens Catholicism.
Perhaps he thinks McBrien has said all that needs to be said.
The auxiliary bishop of Detroit is quite happy, though, to use his mitre and
crosier to lend a gaudy but quite false sense of authority to any gathering
of Catholic malcontents. Especially when the promotion of homosexuality is involved.
For instance, as reported in a recent article
at World Net Daily, Gumbleton spoke at the New Ways Ministry Fifth National
Symposium, in Louisville, Mar. 8:
Pro-gay Catholic speakers and workshop leaders, including
two U.S. bishops, offered ideas for creating a more homosexual-inclusive Church
at the New Ways Ministry Fifth National Symposium, titled Out of Silence
God Has Called Us, March 8-10 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville,
Ky.... Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told parents,
The first thing that I think needs to be said thats very, very
important if were going to love our children is simply to recognize
that homosexual people are not disordered people. They are psychologically
healthy people. ... Homosexuals are as healthy as anyone else.
Gumbleton added, Homosexuals are able to function and
grow at least as well as heterosexuals. They are able to be creative, put
in a hard days work, act as citizens, help their neighbor. Somewhat
surprisingly, they make love more humanely, largely because they are better
able empathetically to feel what their partner is feeling. .... On
Saturday evening, retired Bishop Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo, Texas, celebrated
Mass wearing a rainbow stole on a ballroom stage decorated with rainbow banners.
The rainbow has become a universal symbol of the homosexual advocacy movement.
(Ah, yes. Life, somewhat surprisingly, would have always been so much better
for the human race if only all our parents had been homosexuals in same-sex
Remarkably, the WND writer provides the reader with all that is needed to show
that Gumbleton and Matthiesen misrepresent the Catholic faith, which their vows
and their position in the Church require them to uphold:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: The number
of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.
They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.
They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
However, the Catechism also states: Homosexual acts
[are] acts of grave depravity, and homosexual acts are intrinsically
disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act
to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual
complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. [The quotations
are from ## 2358 and 2357.]
It needs hardly to be said, among honest men, that the Catechism does little
more than restate the ancient, unchanging teaching of the Catholic Church: homosexual
acts are always invariably and without exception sinful.
Now we can see why there is no need for a Gumbletonism book: we
can be confident that it could be said of a book, if written by Gumbleton and
called Catholicism, that On a number of important issues,
most notably in the field of moral theology, the reader will see without difficulty
that the book regards the official church position as simply in
The Corrupt American
As the example of Gumbleton and Matthiesen shows, there is much more to the
collapse of the bishops moral authority than failure to remove
predators from the midst of Catholics, be the predators sexually immoral priests
or otherwise subversive traitors.
The American episcopacy has become corrupt. Not the individual bishops. Well,
not all of them. But the episcopacy itself has become corrupt: the group, the
organization, the body. It no longer has the will it has not had the
will for a generation or more to remove subversive traitors from positions
of trust, nor to appropriately discipline sexually immoral priests, nor to cause
perfidious bishops to be removed from their very midst: all this, I believe,
a long-time-coming result of the bishops Munich Pact, Norms of Licit
Theological Dissent, November 15, 1968.
Fr. Paul Shaughnessy wrote about this, with keen insight, in the Essay
in the November 2002 issue of Catholic World Report:
I define as corrupt, in a sociological sense, any institution
that has lost the capacity to mend itself on its own initiative and by its
own resources, an institution that is unable to uncover and expel its own
miscreants. It is in this sense that the principal reason why the action necessary
to solve the gay problem [in the Catholic priesthood in America] wont
be taken is that the episcopacy in the United States is corrupt, and the same
is true of the majority of religious orders. It is important to stress that
this is a sociological claim, not a moral one.
If we examine any trust-invested agency at any given point
in its history, whether that agency be a police force, a military unit, or
a religious community, we might find that, say, out of every hundred men,
five are scoundrels, five are heroes, and the rest are neither one nor the
other: ordinarily upright men who live with a mixture of moral timidity and
moral courage. When the institution is healthy, the gutsier few set the overall
tone, and the less courageous but tractable majority works along with these
men to minimize misbehavior; more importantly, the healthy institution is
able to identify its own rotten apples and remove them before the institution
itself is enfeebled. However, when an institution becomes corrupt, its guiding
spirit mysteriously shifts away from the morally intrepid few, and with that
shift the institution becomes more interested in protecting itself against
outside critics than in tackling the problem members who subvert its mission.
For example, when we say a certain police force is corrupt, we dont
usually mean that every policeman is on the take perhaps only five
out of a hundred actually accept bribes. Rather we mean that this police force
can no longer diagnose and cure its own problems, and consequently if reform
is to take place, an outside agency has to be brought in to make the changes.
By the same token, in claiming the US episcopacy is corrupt,
I am not claiming that the number of scoundrel bishops is necessarily any
higher than it was when the episcopacy was healthy. I am simply pointing to
the fact that, as an agency, the episcopacy has lost the capacity to do its
own housecleaning, especially, but not exclusively, in the arena of sexual
turpitude. Should someone object to this characterization, I would reply in
these terms: Excellency, lets look at the American bishops who have
been deposed in recent years as a consequence of sexual scandal: Eugene Marino
of Atlanta, Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, Keith Symons of Palm Beach, Daniel
Ryan of Springfield, Illinois, Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa. Can you name
a single instance in which the district attorney or the media did not get
there first a single case, that is, in which you yourselves identified
the scoundrel in your ranks and replaced him before the scandal aired on CBS
or before the police came knocking on the door?
At least one more bishop can be added to Shaughnessys list, as reported
in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Mar. 9:
Three years ago, the pope tapped him to heal a Palm Beach
Catholic Diocese reeling from a sex scandal that forced its trusted bishop
from the pulpit. On Friday, Bishop Anthony J. OConnell, 63, stepped
into the spotlight with his own secret. Describing what he called a misguided
attempt to counsel a troubled seminary student, OConnell acknowledged
he had inappropriately touched the boy about 25 years ago while a rector in
Missouri and had a similar relationship with another teen. At a news
conference at the Palm Beach Gardens church that has served as his main parish
since 1999, the well-regarded OConnell said he has offered his resignation
to the pope and will go to a quiet place to pray and await his fate.
The pope accepted OConnells resignation within a few days. (A remarkably
quick turnaround time, I understand.)
Moreover, as the Boston Globe reports,
Mar. 22, it looks as if several other American bishops are about to be
engulfed by an old transgression erupting as a new scandal:
Two Roman Catholic archbishops confirmed yesterday that in
the mid-1990s they were involved in a legal settlement of a claim that San
Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom coerced a seminarian into having sex when Brom
was bishop of Duluth, Minn. However, the former seminarian who leveled the
charges retracted them after reaching the settlement that provided him with
a sum that was less than $100,000, Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz of Anchorage
said in an interview. At the time of the agreement, Schwietz was bishop of
Duluth. Brom, in a statement last night, denied the allegations, which stemmed
from the 1980s. Brom said the charges against him and three other bishops
and several priests had been disproved by an investigation and retracted
by the former seminarian....
However, according to an affidavit filed last week in an
unrelated case in San Diego Superior Court, the former seminarian told a friend
that he only recanted the charges so he could receive his settlement money.
The friend, Mark Brooks of San Diego, another former seminarian, said in his
affidavit that the former seminarian told him his retraction letter was false.
Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland, Ore., said in an interview that the
retraction by the seminarian was a condition insisted on by the Duluth diocese
in return for the settlement. At the time the case was settled, Vlazny was
the bishop of the Winona diocese in southern Minnesota, where the seminary
More and more evidence comes to us that more and more American bishops are
more and more compromised. If a lawsuit being filed as I write is any indicator,
much more evidence may be coming to light in the future; as reported
in the Miami Herald, Mar. 22:
An ex-seminarian will make sweeping sex abuse and racketeering
claims today in Missouri against the former bishop of the Palm Beach diocese
and two other dioceses, employing a far-reaching federal statute [RICO] most
commonly known for its use in organized crime prosecutions. The
man, the third to come forward with sex abuse allegations against the ex-bishop,
is charging Anthony J. OConnell and the dioceses of Palm Beach, Knoxville,
Tenn., and Jefferson City, Mo., of falling under racketeering laws in their
coverup of sexual abuse cases, according to Pat Noaker, one of the team of
Minnesota attorneys representing the alleged victim. The
lawsuit also names other American bishops as co-conspirators, according to
a news release issued by the lawyers.
(OConnell is not an ex-bishop: he is a retired bishop.)
Now Elden Curtiss, the archbishop of Omaha, has put his foot in it. Though
Curtiss has provided
an analysis of the vocations crisis that I believe is revealing
and accurate, his response to the current sex scandals reveals how a bishop
can cause harm by acting on incidental matters without understanding the nature
and magnitude of the problem.
in the Omaha World-Herald, Mar. 19, Curtiss wrote to two members of his
diocese, scolding them for having written to the secular press to criticize
and question Curtiss recent handling of two cases of priestly immorality:
Two Roman Catholics have received written rebukes from Omaha
Archbishop Elden Curtiss after publicly criticizing his decision to reassign
a priest who had viewed Internet child pornography.... The archbishop sent
copies of the letters to the writers pastors. And he instructed both
people to say one Hail Mary prayer for him as penance. Typically
in the Roman Catholic Church, priests assign such prayers as penance to church
members who have confessed sins. Curtiss could not be reached for comment.
The Rev. Michael Gutgsell, archdiocese chancellor, declined to comment on
the letters individually or generally. The archbishop considers any
letters hes written as between himself and whoever received them,
Bast and Ayers wrote letters to The World-Heralds Public
Pulse regarding Curtiss decision to assign a priest who had viewed Internet
child pornography to St. Gerald parish in Ralston. Both questioned Curtiss
assertion that children of the parish were in no danger. Ayers wrote that
the archdiocese needed to be more forthcoming with what information it has
about deviant behavior of some priests. He noted that the archdiocese didnt
inform parishioners about either the Rev. Robert Allgaiers viewing of
child pornography or Daniel Hereks sexual abuse of children while he
was a priest until after the news media broke the stories. Bast wrote that
Curtiss owed the people of the archdiocese a public apology for not
being truthful and forthright about this problem from the very beginning.
The letter to Bast read, in part, I am surprised that
a woman your age and with your background would write such a negative letter
in the secular press against me without any previous dialogue. You should
be ashamed of yourself! Curtiss went on to say,
The Church has enough trouble defending herself against non-Catholic
attacks without having to contend with disloyal Catholics.
At first, one is tempted to agree with the archbishop: I do think it would
have been more prudent for the letter writers to have sent letters to the chancery
rather than to the local secular newspaper. On second thought, however, we must
realize the archbishop must realize, all the bishops must realize
that internal complaints from victims and their families, over decades,
went unheeded by those in authority in the Church. So one tends to feel that,
had Bast and Ayers written merely to the archdiocese, their letters would have
probably been fruitless.
Moreover, this story reveals yet another instance of the lack of forthrightness,
and of the unreality, of church officials in handling the current situation.
How could the spokesman say the letters were considered between the archbishop
and their recipients only when copies had been sent to other people by
the archbishop himself? And how dare Curtiss call a Catholic disloyal
and complain about non-Catholic attacks against the Church, when
it is the very misbehavior of priests, mollycoddled by irresponsible bishops,
that have invited the current wave of anti-Catholic fervor?
Another story breaks. A married man had filed a sexual harassment complaint,
last September, against Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg. As reported
in the Tampa Tribune, Mar. 22:
Bishop Robert Lynch Friday denied any wrongdoing in a case
involving a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by the former spokesman
of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. The diocese paid its former spokesman
more than $100,000 after the married man filed the complaint against the bishop
in September, The Tampa Tribune learned earlier this week.... Joseph DiVito,
a lawyer for the diocese, said that when Urbanski decided to leave his job
he was paid a severance package that amounted to about a years salary
and benefits costs. Urbanski was not prohibited from discussing the matter,
he said. The diocese does not buy silence in St. Petersburg, DiVito
Urbanski said in the complaint that Lynch made numerous unwanted
advances toward him, including booking one motel room for the two on trips
and touching him suggestively. Lynch, 60, has not been accused of sexual abuse
by anyone. Lynch characterized Urbanskis allegations as merely a perception,
and implied the more than $100,000 was severance pay.... Lynch said the diocese
conducted a full investigation into the harassment claim. He said the diocese
was satisfied with the results, but he would not say what they were. He said
he has never had similar complaints filed against him.
The diocese conducted a full investigation into the harassment claim? A claim
against the bishop of the diocese? And he tells us the
diocese was satisfied with the results? But he doesnt tell us what
the results were?
I am, for once, speechless.
And maybe I dont get out enough, but I have never heard of a severance
package for somebody who quits his job.
Yet another story breaks. A former all-star professional athlete, and his brothers,
went public with accusations that a lay teacher, who became a seminarian and
eventually a priest, had sexually abused them in the early 1960s. As reported
in the Detroit Free Press, Mar. 23:
The brothers said in a series of interviews that the Rev.
Gerald Shirilla molested them in the 1960s when Shirilla was a lay teacher
at Hamtramck St. Ladislaus [sic] and later while he studied for the
priesthood at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Tom Paciorek, in particular,
said Shirilla abused him at least one hundred times from ages 15 to 19. Shirilla,
63, was removed this week from St. Mary Church in Alpena, where he was hired
as pastor in August. He surfaced there nine years after the Archdiocese of
Detroit barred him from active ministry, saying there was credible evidence
in 1993 that he had molested boys decades earlier. Church officials have not
commented on where Shirilla has been since he was released in 1994 from a
sexual-disorder treatment facility in Maryland.
On Friday, the Detroit Archdiocese reiterated that his ban
continues. Shirilla has refused repeated requests for comment, and his attorney
maintains the priest has done nothing wrong and is contemplating legal action
against the church. Bishop Patrick Cooney of the Diocese of Gaylord hired
Shirilla in Alpena, saying four evaluators had proclaimed him safe to return
to ministry. But Cardinal Adam Maida ordered Shirilla removed Wednesday after
reports in the Free Press about his reassignment.
(How Maida has any authority to order Cooney, another diocesan bishop, to remove
any priest from a given assignment is beyond me.)
It is no exaggeration (indeed, it is an understatement) to say that day by
day we are provided with more and more evidence that the American bishops
whether by continuing perfidy, by resignation, by stonewalling, or by plain
and simple what-else-could-it-be-called-but-stupidity the American bishops
are simply incapable of salvaging the moral authority, and restoring
the integrity, of the Catholic Church in the USA.
Shaughnessy continued his Catholic World Report Essay,
already quoted from, thus:
The question will naturally arise, how can Catholics show
respect and obedience to their bishops if they believe the episcopacy is corrupt?
The answer is that a Catholic does not respect his bishop or attend to his
teaching on the grounds that the bishop is holy, but because the bishop, to
the extent that he teaches in union with St. Peter, is supernaturally protected
against teaching error and this holds true whether or not the bishop
is a villain and whether or not his compatriots are institutionally corrupt.
Our duties toward our bishops are the same now as they ever were and ever
will be. Moreover, I have frequently counseled wholesome young men of my acquaintance
to enter religious orders that are corrupt in the sense explained above. No
shame attaches to membership per se in a corrupt institution (all
the ancient religious orders and national episcopacies have undergone cycles
of corruption and reform), and the question of ones vocation to take
up a certain burden is entirely distinct from the contingent circumstances
in which that vocation is lived out. I stress this point in order to make
clear that I am not counseling disobedience or disrespect to bishops, and
I am not denying that religious orders, even corrupt ones, are capable of
working for the good of souls. But lets face facts. When more of your
priests die by sodomy than by martyrdom, you know youve got a problem;
when the man you bring in for the fix comes down with AIDS, you know youve
got a crisis; and when the Pope first gets the facts thanks to 60 Minutes,
you know youre corrupt.
The Catholic Church, being Christs bride without spot
or wrinkle, is indefectible. She is holy because Christ is holy; she is perfect
because Christ is perfect. She can not teach error. Her ministers, however,
have sinned in the past, sin now, and will sin in the future until the second
coming of Christ. She has lost some of her sons to heresy and some to schism,
and those who remained have, in various periods, sunk into corruption. Renewal
comes about, of course. God raises up a St. Francis or a St. Dominic, a St.
Catherine or a St. Ignatius, who not only reject the endemic moral cowardice
of their times, but through their own heroic holiness and passion for truth,
bring about a transformation in the lives of their fellow Catholics, teaching
them by their own example to love sanctity. The current corruption is nothing
new, and reforming saints will certainly appear in our midst. Yet even those
of us who are not reformers need not sit down under our present woes. Each
of us, according to his station in life, can make a modest contribution to
The Pope Speaks
The way the media covered the story, you could have almost thought that Moses
had come down again from the mountain: in his annual Holy Thursday letter
to priests, Pope John Paul II addressed the scandal of sexually immoral priests.
Dear Priests! Know that I am especially close to you as you
gather with your Bishops on this Holy Thursday of the year 2002. We have all
experienced a new momentum in the Church at the dawn of the new millennium,
in the sense of starting afresh from Christ (Novo Millennio
Ineunte, 29 ff.). We had all hoped that this momentum might coincide
with a new era of brotherhood and peace for all humanity. Instead we have
seen more bloodshed. Once again we have been witnesses of wars. We are distressed
by the tragedy of the divisions and hatreds which are devastating relations
At this time too, as priests we are personally and profoundly
afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace
of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the mysterium
iniquitatis at work in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result
that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who
perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice.
As the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in
truth and justice to each of these painful situations, all of us conscious
of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace
are called to embrace the mysterium Crucis and to commit
ourselves more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in his Providence
to prompt a whole-hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving
to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry.
It is precisely our faith in Christ which gives us the strength
to look trustingly to the future. We know that the human heart has always
been attracted to evil, and that man will be able to radiate peace and love
to those around him only if he meets Christ and allows himself to be overtaken
by him. As ministers of the Eucharist and of sacramental Reconciliation, we
in particular have the task of communicating hope, goodness and peace to the
Some had hoped for more from the pope, much more. But given the venue of his
approach an annual letter that had probably been in the works for many
months I think the remarks were appropriate. And we need not conclude
in haste that nothing further will be said. Or that nothing will be done.
Some suspect that John Paul II, nearly 82 years old, having worn himself out
in the service of the Lord and His Church, and living with physical ailments
now, may be too old to deal with this morass. But he has been counted down and
out before, many times, so nobody should be surprised if he rises to the occasion
Significantly, the pope did not adopt the language of American church bureaucrats,
psychological experts, or mainstream media: he didnt call
immoral priests sick, and he didnt excuse bishops for having
made mistakes. Noticing this, Peggy Noonan has voiced
the heartfelt hopes of many, Mar. 22:
This week an old giant returned to speak of what roils us.
His words were welcome, heartening and necessary. But they were not, I think,
sufficient. In Rome John Paul II, our warrior-saint of a pope, addressed,
finally, the sex scandals that continue to rock the American Catholic Church....
So, the pontiff said that the priests who have abused and seduced teenage
boys and adolescents had given in to the most grievous forms of the
mystery of evil. He did not call the guilty priests only disturbed or
in need of therapy; he said they had done evil and betrayed Gods gift
to them, the gift of the priesthood.... And yet, one must hope the popes
letter was only a beginning, only a prologue to action more grave and definitive....
It was heartening that the pontiff broke his silence, heartening that he did
not say that priests who prey are only sick, which is how the American cardinals
have treated them in the past....
For the first time in my lifetime ardent Catholics, or perhaps
I should say orthodox Catholics, no longer trust their cardinals and bishops
to do whats right. They have pinned their hopes on the Vatican, and
on the old warrior saint, JPII. They want him to hold up his silver crosier
with the crucified Christ on the top and demand that priests who seduce teenage
boys or who sexually abuse, molest or seduce anyone be thrown
from the church, and that their protectors, excusers and enablers be thrown
from it too.... The church does so much good! So much of what it is should
be protected. But not, of course, at the price of betraying what the church
stands for. The Catholics I know, and I know all kinds, left, right and center,
would rather see the cathedrals sold for condominiums than see the decay continue.
Which is where the old pope the mover of mountains,
defeater of tyrannies, killer of communism, holder to the faith whose most
special gift has been his power to show the powerless of the world, the peasants,
the workers with grim hands, that he was their protector, that he loved them
in the name of the church comes in. The powerless need his protection
now. They need that old crosier held up again, to tell the dirty wave to recede.
Which is why so many of us are hoping that what we heard this week will not
be remembered by history as the popes statement but as the
popes first statement the one that led to a great shaking of
the rafters in 2002.