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Al Responds To Listeners On The Sexual Misconduct Crisis

A listener writes: I officially entered the Catholic Church shortly after the 2002 scandal. I have had some wobbles in my faith but, in the words of St Peter, “Where should I go?”. HOWEVER I have this sense that we are ALL guilty. Frankly I feel like the laity are also culpable in this scandal. Many of us have stood idly by as clergy have avoided addressing ‘sexual misconduct’ in their homilies and teaching. We are also culpable for failing to pray for the protection of our holy priests.

The list goes on: we expect multiple Masses every weekend to fit our schedules – we fit Mass around our personal lives instead of the other way around. Many of our families are unwilling to “give up” a son to the Church.

I’ve often said that parishes tend to get the priests they deserve. We have all sinned and bear some measure of responsibility for the brokenness and hypocrisy of our parish communities and the world. The majority of self-identified American Catholics have happily listened to homilies that cheer them up rather than call them to live the life of a disciple. The truth is that laity usually don’t complain when priests ignore clear Catholic teaching. They prefer ambiguity. We have rewarded priests who preach a chameleon Catholicism with values that can’t be distinguished from those of the surrounding culture.

When I call for the co-responsibility of the laity I am referring not to all laity. But to those Benedict XVI described as spiritually fit to exercise co-responsibility. They  are those who

  • identify with the mission of the Church,
  • are engaged in the quest for personal holiness,
  • participate in the sacraments,
  • champion the teaching of the Church,
  • actively study Scripture and the Catechism,
  • read the signs of the times in our culture,
  • work for justice in the world and the Church.

We must not be quick to rebuke a brother but to bend over backwards to evangelize the baptized. We need to share the gospel with those who are sacramentalized but not evangelized. We must treat all those who share the Eucharist with us as brothers and sisters. We are commanded to love one another, pray for one another, forgive one another, and encourage one another but also to exhort and admonish one another.

We should be as generous and patient as God is with us. But to those unfaithful priests and laity who actively or passively oppose the teaching of the Church, I say: learn the faith or leave the Church.  Ignorance can be remedied by catechesis. Arrogance can only be remedied by conversion of heart and mind. When priests or laity claim to be Catholic even as they oppose and undermine Church teachings, they compound their own spiritual peril and ultimately bear false witness to the nature of Catholicism. Be honest, leave the Church and associate yourself with a spiritual community that shares your belief. Please stay if you want to learn what the Church truly teaches.

While we should all repent of our sins, I think it is a mistake to lay the sexual misconduct crisis among clergy at the feet of the laity because of our particular sins of omission and commission. By deliberately breaking their promise of celibacy, these priests and bishops have betrayed the people of God and offended the very Lord who configured their souls to his in the sacrament of Holy Orders. They can repent and be forgiven; they should not be restored to public ministry. Thank you again for your fidelity to the Truth in an era of lies.

Peace in Jesus,



A listener writes: “I agree with what you said in today’s program about not generalizing bishops. They are not all like McCarrick or the late Cardinal Bernard Law. Each one is an individual in God’s eyes. It is dangerous to generalize. This applies in the political realm as well. After all, in all likelihood the decent Christians outnumber the bad ones in both parties! Please be consistent in all arenas of discussion.

Thank you. Your exhortation and encouragement is needed.  So stick with me while I respond with a polarizing statement. One cannot be a champion for abortion rights and be a decent or consistent Christian. Support for the shedding of innocent blood is simply outside the acceptable range of Christian opinion. Champion adultery or champion abortion and you are not a decent or consistent Christian. Why? Because Christians cannot champion that which directly contradicts God’s will for the human person which is abundant life, human flourishing in this age and in the age to come..

There is a time for polarization. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Mt 10:34, 35).   Just as good and evil are polar opposites those who support good and those who support evil will be polarized. In a world in which every individual is told to invent his own reality and form his own moral code, those who proclaim that moral absolutes exist will be seen as divisive figures.

Why have Supreme Court confirmations become so acrimonious and dispiriting? Because those who want to preserve the right of the stronger to kill the weaker will lie and engage in the politics of personal destruction to protect the right to kill.

Not all political issues involve moral absolutes. Your position on the size of the Federal budget is not based on adherence to or rejection of a moral absolute like “You shall not kill.” Most political issues don’t involve great moral conflict and we should resist the tendency of ideologues and conspiracy theorists of turning every political judgment into a litmus test of fidelity to God.

Very few political issues are black and white. We cannot trash our neighbor because we disagree with his politics.  Yes, God commands me to protect the innocent. He also commands me to treat my neighbor, regardless of his political commitments, as a person made to image God. Even when a person champions the destruction of human life, they are usually doing so for reasons they perceive as good: “freedom of choice” for example. We may rightly think our political opponents are wrong or muddleheaded on the issues. But we cannot think them devils or moral reprobates who are less than human.

I disagreed with President Obama over many things, including his extreme views on abortion. But, in his personal life, he appeared to uphold many of the “family values” of which I heartily approve. There was no hint of scandal in his marriage or his fathering. I may reject a person’s political agenda. I may not personally like him or even suspect him of conspiring to do wrong. Yet I must continue to treat that person as one for whom Christ died. Jesus doesn’t write us off before the Day of Judgment. Neither should we treat our political opponents as though they are predestined to hell and unworthy of common decency.

 We must do our politics as unto the Lord as St. Paul teaches. Are we part of the Satanic or Samaritan strategy? The Satanic strategy seeks to trivialize, cheapen or destroy the image of God. By attacking God’s image, it hopes to render the existence of God implausible. Kill God in effigy often enough and eventually you cease to believe in the reality reflected in the image. The Satanic strategy is at work in abortion, attacks upon non-combatants in war, in all those social processes and philosophic ideas which cheapen the human person. We

In contrast, the Samaritan strategy answers the question “Who is my neighbor?” It is ever expanding the circle around those we will love and take responsibility. By cherishing and protecting God’s image, we render the existence of the Triune God ever more plausible. Treat people like they deserve, in spite of their political opinions, and you will find God’s existence increasingly plausible.

Thanks again for caring enough to commit your thoughts to writing and share them with me.

Peace in Christ,



A listener writes:

I regularly attend Mass at two different parishes and I am glad to say that I have noticed a considerable increase in attendance at both. I hope and pray that this is a sign of a more concerned and active laity.

No matter how tough the path, good will come from this crisis. My major concern is the seminaries. This is where everything starts. Are there any concrete steps being taken to monitor those who have the authority to decide if a candidate can be ordained? Does the seminarian have a third party to go to if he feels he is being threatened for his orthodox views or refusal to take part in certain activities and if he has exhausted his appeals to his superiors? This is an opportunity for the Church to be proactive instead of reactive.


I am heartened to hear of increased church attendance. Hallelujah.

Seminaries in the United States have been improving steadily since around 1984. There was a period after the Second Vatican Council when seminaries were not reliably faithful in doctrine or morality. How that happened is a confusing and heartbreaking story. A later report found that “a false sense of freedom was sometimes cultivated, which led to the throwing off of centuries of acquired wisdom in priestly formation.” Most of the horror stories we hear go back decades, primarily from the 1960s to 1980s. From 1981-1987 John Paul II initiated an apostolic visitation of all major seminaries and religious houses of priestly formation in the U.S.A.  Changes followed. Another apostolic visitation to U.S. seminaries occurred in 2005-06. That report found that “since the 1990s, a greater sense of stability now prevails in the U.S. seminaries…the diocesan seminaries are, in general, healthy.”

Seminaries operated by arch/dioceses were generally healthier than those operated by religious orders. Problems in moral theology and governance, were found most often in religious institutes. Homosexual activity appeared more in religious rather than diocesan seminaries.  Some great seminaries include  Sacred Heart in Detroit, St. John Vianney in Minneapolis, Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg MD, Dunwoodie in New York, Holy Apostles in Cromwell, CT, St. John Vianney in Denver, CO.

Gerard McGlone, S.J., a psychologist and the associate director for the protection of minors at the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, said that he believes most dioceses in the United States have guidelines for how a seminarian should report allegations of sexual misconduct to a spiritual director or a rector. Since these positions are often filled by church officials who have power over the seminarian, he may still have to find outside, independent help.  Independent Catholic media, priests and spiritual directors, law enforcement if appropriate. Vigilance is always necessary.

In all spheres of Catholic catechesis, including seminary education, a new clarity of doctrine has emerged. In a study initiated in 1997, the U.S. Bishops discovered that 80% of textbooks used in catechesis had serious doctrinal deficiencies.  When I was in seminary, it wasn’t uncommon to have the Church’s magisterial teaching presented alongside other theologians’ viewpoints as though all were equally responsible choices. This has changed. Also, many seminaries have returned to requiring philosophy. Both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have prohibited men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from attending the seminary.

Let me urge you and all engaged laity to be attentive to our seminaries. Letting the “professionals”, i.e., the priests and bishops run the institution while we raised families, pursued business, went on vacations, helped produce a sick, ingrown ecclesial culture. The light of the lay faithful must be shone on every aspect of Church life. After all, the engaged and generous laity fund these institutions. So exercise co-responsibility over them. Demand accountability. Expect great seminaries. If we acquiesce in consumerism, gorge on perpetual sports programming and sitcoms, desire retirement more than heaven and our complacency will get the complacent institutions we deserve. Then expect mediocre teachers, ill-formed priests and spiritual directors who can’t distinguish between Carmelite mysticism and Buddhist meditation. So pray for our seminarians.

O Lord Jesus, great High Priest, we entrust our seminarians to You. Enlighten the faculty in their guidance, spiritual directors in molding them, and professors in instructing them. Lead our seminarians daily in Your footsteps; so that they may become priests who are models of purity, teachers of wisdom, and heroes of sacrifice. Fill them with humility and love for God and man. Transform them into apostles of Your glory and sanctifiers of souls. Holy Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for them and obtain for us many more.


In response to Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico’s call for dioceses to release the names of credibly accused priests, a listener writes “It seems to me that we run the risk of panicking into rash and sinful behavior due to the intense fervor attached to this issue. Innocent lives can be torn into terrible shambles for our Lord. Surely to release the names of individuals whom we must presume innocent until proven guilty is mortally sinful in nature.”

Your concern is wise; we need our good priests more than ever and no innocent man should have his character destroyed and ministry hampered by false accusations. In this interview with Our Sunday Visitor  Bishop Persico calls for other dioceses to follow his lead in releasing the names of alleged perpetrators. Our own Diocese of Lansing announced plans to do so last week and the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend released names this week.

In each of the reports mentioned above, as well as in Persico’s Diocese’s own release the word “credible” is used. We are not listing accused, but credibly accused. That’s the key word here, and it’s unfortunate that it was left out of Bishop Persico’s OSV interview.

Canon Law provides no definition for “credible,” but the Diocese of Ft. Wayne defines a credible allegation as one that “after a thorough investigation and review of available information, appears more likely true than not in the judgement of the Diocesan Review Board, and is accepted as credible by the Bishop.” This is similar to the criteria used in civil lawsuits, where guilt or liability is determined by a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, the priests on these lists may not be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They are only listed after the allegation has been determined to be “credible.”

Thank you for your thoughtful letter and ongoing prayer for our church.

Peace in Jesus,



After one of our Direct to My Desk segments, a listener writes: I was disappointed to hear you and your caller agree that a chaste homosexual priest should remain in ministry. How can you go against what the church teaches in regards to the subject?

Show me anywhere in any Church document that celibate, faithful same-sex attracted priests should be identified and eliminated from the priesthood. You are confusing two different classes: those who are already ordained and those who are currently seeking ordination.

“…the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question[ cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture” (Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders and recently quoted in Francis’ Congregation of the Clergy’s The Gift of Priestly Vocation)

This should settle it: Those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be ordained. But there are two other areas of concern: What about those with so-called transitory same-sex attraction? and what about those in priestly ministry who currently experience same-sex attraction but have not acted on it in a way to bring scandal to the Church or to create victims?

Only pastoral discernment can determine the difference between deep-seated homosexual tendencies and transitory same-sex attraction. Let pastoral authorities do their work distinguishing who qualifies according to these criteria.

Regarding those in priesthood who are same-sex attracted: How would you even know they are same sex attracted unless they participate in “gay” culture or perform acts which indicate their homosexuality? In other words, if a priest today is same-sex attracted I wouldn’t know it unless he has done something that violates his priesthood. Then, he is disqualified from priestly ministry.

What about those who “come out of the closet” as did Fr. Gregory Greiten at St. Bernadette Parish in Milwaukee. He has identified himself as an advocate of “gay” culture. Listen carefully and you will hear that Fr. Greiten has adopted a “gay” narrative about the institutional Church, straight culture, and his own “deception.” Now by coming out he is liberating himself from lies. He needs to associate with “Courage”, the only Vatican approved group that offers support to same sex attracted men and women. Members of Courage adopt the Church’s teaching and live chaste lives. They do not identify with “gay” culture or the “gay” narrative about life. My friends in Courage dislike the term “gay” because it is a propaganda term intended to mask the severe behavioral and attitude problems that plaque America’s homosexual communities.

I have spoken on Fr. Greiten’s “coming out” talk and Fr. Jerry Polokorsy has written well on it.


A listener asks: “How do you have so much faith in the Laity to address these problems?   The Laity is all non-ordained Catholics right?  If so how many of the Laity do not attend Mass regularly?  How many do not believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? How many are themselves involved in pornography, in sexual scandals both heterosexual and homosexual, in misdeeds of so many types.  How can “we” be a judge when we have so many issues?” 

When considering the entire Catholic laity, you are right. In two independent surveys taken in the last few years, less than ten percent of American lay Catholics consider themselves to be engaged, dynamic disciples of Christ. Benedict XVI had this in mind when he discussed the co-responsibility of the laity.  He and John Paul II were aware that many, many Catholics had been sacramentalized by not evangelized. In fact, what is “new” about the New Evangelization is who is targeted: the baptized. See Benedict XVI’s quote below for a description of those qualified to take co-responsibility.

But take heart. The inertia of so many Catholics is being challenged right now. Our parishes will be smaller but better focused on demonstrating a Catholic way of life. Those who do not want to grow into maturity and be conformed to Christ Jesus will have departed. They will not be able to endure the world’s derision and will not take up their cross and pursue discipleship. It is only by the grace of God that any of us respond to Christ’s call. We certainly aren’t perfect but we can’t deny the reality of his presence in Scripture, Sacrament and the gathered assembly. Those who remain will be fewer but will recognize that they are called and gifted to build up the body of Christ and reproduce Christ’s character in their lives.

Over the last 20 years we’ve seen the effects of a dynamic laity: the rise of Catholic Radio, countless excellent catechetical materials, new priests who see themselves as missionaries rather than chaplains, a surge in Catholic men’s movements, a growth in Catholic community Bible study, resurgence of pilgrimage, and more. There are positive signs all around even as we see the old, dead wood being pruned away. So, I am not discouraged. I am disappointed that it has taken this long to address an obvious problem and I’m not sure all of our bishops get it yet. But I am in no doubt about the solid core of lay faithful that are taking co-responsibility for the Church.

Peace in Christ,


“May you feel as your own the commitment to working for the Church’s mission: with prayers, study and active participation in ecclesial life, with an attentive and positive gaze at the world, in the constant search for the signs of the times. Through a serious and daily commitment to formation never tire of increasingly refining the aspects of your specific vocation as lay faithful called to be courageous and credible witnesses in all social milieus so that the Gospel may be a light that brings hope to the problematic, difficult and dark situations which people today often encounter in their journey through life.” Benedict XVI, August 2012, Sixth Assembly of International Catholic Action Forum

“Co-responsibility requires a change in mentality, particularly with regard to the role of the laity in the Church, who should be considered not as “collaborators” with the clergy, but as persons truly “co-responsible” for the being and activity of the Church. It is important, therefore, that a mature and committed laity be united, who are able to make their own specific contribution to the Church’s mission.” Benedict XVI, August 2012, Sixth Assembly of International Catholic Action Forum



A listener writes:I have been at several Archdiocese events where the Archbishop was in attendance. He was shuttled around, ate separately from the group and hurried out afterwards.   I understand he is busy, but on one occasion when I met him face-to-face he barely said hello. He was like a deer in the headlights. I’m nearly 60 years old, and have always known that there is this upper echelon in our Church and never the two shall meet. It is very hurtful and un-Christ like.  I’ve been a lifelong Catholic so I’m used to it, but have struggled to explain it to friends entering the Church.”

Your observation is, unfortunately, too common. Our bishops are human too and everyone has off days, but that doesn’t sufficiently explain the trend you have observed. Look, if you’re a public personality of any sort, not to mention a Catholic shepherd, you’re obligated to “meet & greet” when you are in public.  If actors, musicians, politicians, etc., understand this then why shouldn’t our priests and bishops?

I have had warm, personable conversations with bishops. But I have also had too many stiff, impersonal, pro forma interactions over many years with men who supposedly represent the fullness of the priesthood but more closely resemble cardboard cut-outs of real people.

Father Jay Scott Newman of Greenville, SC wrote a fine essay “The End of the Imperial Episcopacy.” Read it here and listen to our interview here.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, from Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

That’s what we’ve seen from countless laity all over the country since this mess began. Catholics are exercising a form of fraternal correction. They finally expect their bishops to act like fellow Christians. By holding our priests and bishops accountable, we are treating them the way we should as Christian brothers, just as we do for our own family and friends.

Venerable Fulton Sheen: Ora Pro Nobis!


A listener wondered: “What took you so long to begin talking about homosexual bishops? I’ve watched videos for years of people claiming that various bishops were active homosexuals. I have not heard from your station about this MASSIVE MASSIVE CRISIS!!!!!”

1.  We have consistently carried news of clergy arrests and episcopal resignations.  Often we have personal suspicions about particular clergy because we’ve heard rumors or friends have witnessed a priest go into a gay bar. But our suspicions are not “news.” Nor is Ave Maria Communications called to launch a crusade against suspected corrupt bishops and clergy. Our mission is catechesis, cultural analysis and evangelization.  If we went after internal church problems we would not be able to do much catechesis or evangelization. This leads to my second point. These accusations are not as easy to deal with as one might think.

2.  Over the last seventy years, around forty U.S. bishops have been accused of sexual misconduct or covering for the perpetrators. These accusations are handled in many different ways and independent of one another. In some cases, the accusation is made after the bishop is dead.  Not much can be done. In others, a lawsuit is filed but a settlement is reached before it goes to court.  Sometimes a condition of the settlement is that the accuser retract the accusation. The police, then, have nothing to build on. Some bishops admit their homosexual or heterosexual misconduct and resign. Accusations are sometimes found to have no credible evidence. The accusation might still be true but not enough public evidence is available for a criminal charge or a civil case. The Church might still consider the evidence credible and take action. Other cases are tabled because of the statute of limitations.  

3.  If dealing with these individual cases is so time consuming, why spend so much time on McCarrick?The resignation of former Cardinal McCarrick and the 11 page testimonial of Archbishop Vigano changes everything. This isn’t just one renegade bishop failing to live faithfully. Earlier, evidence was ambiguous. The relationship between the police, the lawyers in the civil suits, the bishop and the accused was often unclear. These cases might go into long litigation or investigation. This was done behind a wall of secrecy that most investigative reporters couldn’t get behind. We often have rumors, stories, personal hunches but not the kind of public evidence that would even satisfy the National Enquirer. With McCarrick, we now have public evidence that high placed officials in the Catholic Church apparently tolerate and approve of sexual misconduct. That is the only way to explain McCarrick’s continued rise in the Church hierarchy in spite of his long history of sexual misconduct. This isn’t mere suspicion coupled with a few odd stories. Vigano claims that two secretaries of state and Pope Francis himself neglected to properly discipline McCarrick. According to Vigano, Pope Benedict XVI placed McCarrick under some regulations that were ignored by Pope Francis.

4.  Now go back and review those videos that claimed to have “knowledge” of a gay mafia among the bishops with a critical eye. Are you witnessing a presentation of public evidence or a clever hodgepodge of innuendo, guilt by association and speculation? Are you hearing suspicious stories with an over-reliance on anonymous sources that no self-respecting journalist or editor would permit to be broadcast or put in print without further confirmation?

People make careers out of rumormongering while posing as great crusaders. Senator Joseph McCarthy was right in his general suspicion that there were some communists in government. But he failed to uncover particular communists. He was reckless in his handling of evidence. He overpromised and under-delivered. He claimed to have a list of names. But they couldn’t be verified. He relied on mysterious “anonymous” sources whom we now know were settling personal scores.  Anti-communism was given a bad name. “McCarthyism” has made it almost impossible to raise questions about communist influence in government. If tried, accusations fly that you believe there is a communist under every rock. If we aren’t careful, those concerned with sexual misconduct will be accused of seeing a homosexual bishop under every bed.  The real test for those posing as crusading journalists is: Do they actually break original stories? That is what investigative journalists do. Suspicions drive investigation but discovery drives reporting.  When suspicions fall short of discovery, a wise man keeps looking for more evidence.

McCarrick was pursued for years by reporters at the Washington Times, National Review, New York Times Magazine and the Boston Globe. The Archdiocese of New York finally did an ecclesial investigation. He was guilty and then was found to have paid off two seminarians to keep them quiet. And then there was Vigano. We now have a new day and the possibility of purification, renewal and reform.

5.  This brings us back around to our central mission: teaching and applying the Catholic Faith. This new pubic evidence gives us the opportunity to teach on the co-responsibility of the lay faithful.  Take a read from a statement from Canadian bishops.  And that has always been our mission.



A listener writes: “What are we to believe about our past Popes and their involvement in the abuse crisis, especially John Paul II?”

At the moment, our information is partial and incomplete. Vatican officials like Cardinal Battista, who was opposed to the McCarrick appointment, remains unwilling to speak even though Pope Francis called on  journalists to investigate Vigano’s allegations. Ed Pentin has written about it here.

Regarding Pope Francis, only a thorough investigation of Archbishop Vigano’s claims will settle his complicity.  He did eventually spank McCarrick.

On Benedict XVI, read Matthew Bunson and Greg Erlandson’s Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal. He did eventually spank Maciel. Was it too little, too late?

Many people have a devotional piety toward all popes who they imagine are elected by the Holy Spirit. I wish. Some popes should never have been elected. Even Cardinal Ratzinger, said “I would not say…that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope… He doesn’t dictate the candidate for whom we must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.” Look at our own history:  “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would not have picked.” Try Benedict IX on for size.  Some popes were so busy sinning they, thankfully, didn’t have much time to teach. There is a small rogue’s gallery of popes.

Papal teaching can be counted on; papal virtue cannot. On occasion, popes must be confronted. Peter Damian, Catherine of Siena, even St. Paul had to confront the first pope, St. Peter to his face as a hypocrite (Gal 2:11-21).

Did John Paul II know that Legionaries founder, Marciel Maciel engaged in chronic sexual misconduct?  Maciel fathered six children by three women. His abuse involved at least thirty boys over three decades. Nine men formally charged him in 1998. Yet John Paul II’s approval expanded his ministry.  Can that be explained? I’ll try.

  • First, a saint is not necessarily a great judge of character. John Paul II witnessed the Nazis and the Communists discredit innocent priests. Did he discount suspicion of Maciel for similar reasons?
  • Second, the Legion was successful. I discounted reports of Maciel’s corruption until 2000 by saying “Maybe he had a problem or two in the distant past but look how fruitful his ministry has become.” Did John Paul II have his own version of my fantasy?
  • Third, the Pope is not omniscient. He needs accurate information. Maciel curried favor with Secretary of State Sodano, the Vatican’s second most powerful man. Did Sodano avoid passing along suspicions?
  • Lastly, those who advanced John Paul II’s cause for sainthood knew the Maciel question would come up. I assume they did due diligence to avoid enormous embarrassment.

A Catholic should demand that our priests and teachers, according to St. James (Jas 3:1), be held to a higher standard than school teachers, military personnel and politicians. But we must remember that the lips of Judas and Peter both carried the words of Jesus to the world.  Their destinies, however, were radically different. Judas despaired and filled with remorse committed suicide; Peter repented, returned to Jesus and became the rock upon which Christ would build his Church. Jesus had his Judas, we have ours.

Show us your mercy, Lord; our misery is known to us. May no evil desires prevail over us, for your glory and love dwell in our hearts…. Let the light of your face shine on us.



A highly visible member of Washington’s Catholic clergy, Deacon James Garcia, Master of Ceremony for Cardinal Donald Wuerl has now said he refuses to assist in any Mass led by Wuerl again.  Since deacons vow obedience to their bishop, it is a bold gesture.  (Click here for the story and here for analysis from Deacon Greg Kandra)

A listener wrote that “actions, including prayer, have more positive effect than the all too frequently used phrases: “—- should resign” or “we should impeach”….. These phrases, easily tossed to the press, all say I am either too lazy or not invested enough to really try and do something about a problem myself. An action generated with a personal cost or risk of a personal cost shows sincere feeling and puts force into the message.”

Others have asked what I think of Deacon Garcia’s actions.

When people have evidence of wrongdoing they must act. We won’t always agree on the best way to respond but our problem in American Catholicism is not an overly active membership. Most self-identified Catholics (not most listeners) are ignorant and apathetic.

So I prefer Deacon Garcia’s way of doing it to most people’s way of not doing it.

I will let Canon Law deal with whether or not this is formally an act of disobedience.  Normally, acts of this sort serve the good purpose of creating a climate which says to those in authority and power: “You are not above the moral judgment of those who serve with you.”

I do not know exactly what evidence led Deacon Garcia to the moral certitude necessary to take this action. I assume it is because of the 200 times Wuerl is discussed in the PA Grand Jury report. Wuerl is a more difficult figure to deal with than other bishops. On the one hand, he flew to Rome to stop the reassignment of a perpetrator. On the other, he frequently shifted other perps around. I’d personally like to hear him explain that.

Let’s hope Deacon Garcia’s message is read as well as observed: “The time for cowardice and self-preservation is long past. Victims cry out for justice and the faithful deserve shepherds who are not compromised. Apology and accompaniment are critical. But no amount of apology will suffice unless and until bishops and other complicit clergy are removed or resign.”

Peace in Christ,


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