“I have been asked over and over again by lay Catholics,” writes Fr. Gerald Murray a recent column for The Catholic Thing, “‘What can I do to help resolve the crisis in the Church?’ My answer is: ‘Pray and act.’ By action, I mean: make known your dissatisfaction to the American bishops, to the Holy See, and to your fellow Catholics.”
Discouragement over the long history of sexual crimes and episcopal cover-ups is widespread. This is understandable, but something to resist, because discouragement can become an excuse for inaction.
Ordinary lay people have great power to influence their shepherds at the present moment. Bishops depend upon the support of their people and on the goodwill of the civil authorities who are sensitive to whether the Catholic people as a whole support their bishops. If those authorities sense that the flock is angry with the shepherds, then they will use their power to hold those shepherds accountable to the law.
It has been difficult for most of us to figure out the most effective way to hold our shepherds accountable. To let them know just how angry we are. While platforms like this give us an opportunity to raise our voices, we are nevertheless left to wonder if they will be heard. Or for that matter, if anyone will care.
In an interaction with Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Christine Niles of Church Militant got a taste of just how little some of the Church’s most powerful and influential prelates care about what the faithful think.
Niles pressed Levada on the accusation, made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that even the pope was involved in the coverup of former-Cardinal McCarrick’s abuse. Levada dismissed Viganò’s concerns, saying that he questioned the former nuncio’s motives.
“The laity have lost confidence,” Niles fired back, “that the Vatican is trustworthy on this, and are tired of the complicity and cover-up”.
“Oh, the laity,” Levada replied, with what Niles describes as “a dismissive wave of the hand.”
“I’ve met so many laity throughout my life, and they’re all over the spectrum.”
“The tone of disdain in his voice,” Niles reports, “was unmistakable.”
Levada went on to take a swing at the media and their calls for transparency. And this indeed seems to be a new focus of the pope and his allies in repelling mounting criticism from all sides. As I told you last week, paragraph 146 of the final Youth Synod document produced last month takes aim at Catholic media that is not on board with the agenda of “reform”. It describes a desire for the Church to “develop adequate tools” that could include “certification systems of Catholic sites, to counter the spread of fake news regarding the Church”.
Earlier this week, NBC News ran a piece that seems torn straight from the pages of the Church’s new playbook on silencing dissent from their dissent. “Many Catholics say they are worried,” the report states, about “a new offensive by ultra-conservative Catholic groups that see the growing acceptance of LGBTQ Catholics by Pope Francis and other reformers as a mortal threat to their church.”
The report goes on to name Church Militant, LifeSiteNews, and the Lepanto Institute as examples of those “ratcheting up the rhetoric while replacing polite and prayerful discourse with personal attacks on supporters of gay Catholics, they say.” (These three outlets were accused of inflicting “physical and emotional violence” and outing the personal information of a partnered gay man working in a California parish earlier this year.)
Jason Steidl, a “theologian” from Fordham University, has borrowed a pejorative term for independent Catholic media outlets from the popular culture: “I call them the ‘Catholic alt-right,’” Steidl said to NBC News. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.”
Fr. James Martin, SJ, arguably the Church’s most active promoter of LGBT ideology and a part of the Vatican’s official communications apparatus, also weighed in:
“Some bishops promote sites like LifeSite,” he said. “I know some people read them in Rome. … These groups are very small, but they have an outsize influence and a very big voice. Fear and hatred are remarkably motivating for some people.”
The good news about these attacks is that there’s no greater evidence that independent Catholic media have been effective. They have tried for years to ignore us, and it has cost them the battle for public perception. Now, they’re desperate, and looking for any way they can to discredit us.
NBC News says that they made “repeated requests for comment” to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and finally received a statement from spokesman Bishop Coyne:
“The promotion and defense of the faith should invite an encounter with the merciful love of Christ and contribute to a more civil and peaceful dialogue in our church and society,” he said. “I urge my brothers and sisters to exercise extreme caution before giving credence to anyone who instigates shameful, digital stoning as a way to defend the Church. Catholic participation in the public square should be marked by both fidelity to the Gospel and to charity toward all our fellow citizens.”
Digital stoning? That’s a hell of a reach. But I suppose after all the crybaby victim signaling we got from the pope after Viganò cut his legs out from under him in August (and after), we shouldn’t be surprised.
It appears that the papal cabal and its allies in the American Church are courting a powerful ally: the secular mainstream media. They have taken advantage of the pro-homosexual bias of progressive journalists to wage war against critics of their larger agenda, since those critics are often the loudest opponents of the “ideological colonization” of the Church by pro-homosexual forces. Secondarily, the willful blindness of the correlation between homosexuality in the priesthood and clerical sexual abuse found in most modern commentary works well as a cover for the Church’s mishandling of the abuse crisis – and the epidemic of homosexuality in the priesthood that is the cause of so much of it. The mainstream media is far too wedded to the idea that there is no connection between the two issues, and they’ll do whatever mental gymnastics are required to avoid looking at the evidence head on.
But the evidence exists. Evidence like that found in a new study issued this month by the Ruth Institute, which found that “The concentration of homosexual men in the priesthood rose from twice the concentration in overall population in the 1950s to eight times the general population in the 1980s.”
The study found that “Four out of five victims over age 7 were boys; only one in five were girls. Ease of access to boys relative to girls accounts for about one fifth of this disparity. The number of homosexual priests accounts for the remaining four fifths.”
The authors conclude that “Estimates from these findings predict that, had the proportion of homosexual priests remained at the 1950s level, at least 12,000 fewer children, mostly boys, would have suffered abuse.”
That’s not a narrative that can be allowed to flourish. There’s simply too much ideological capital on the line. This is why we are fighting an uphill battle. When it comes to the war of ideas, we are working against both the World, and a Church that has co-opted its agenda.
And that’s why the second piece of the “action” in the “pray and act” strategy has to go to the root. We must find every way possible to deprive them of funding.
I’ve written before about just how much cash the U.S. Bishops receive from the Federal Government for programs like “refugee resettlement”. From 2008 to 2015, the amount was in the billions of dollars. There is evidence that since Trump has taken office, a reduction in the number of refugees authorized for admission to the United States has dropped, and the funding along with it – but just how much is unclear. According to a report earlier this year in Crux, “Catholic organizations charged with resettling refugees have laid off or transferred as many as 300 employees as a direct result of the reduced numbers”.
Whatever the current state of the financial take from sources other than donations from the faithful, the U.S. Bishops have done a good job diversifying their income. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make them feel it.
And perhaps more importantly, we can make the Vatican feel it.
That’s exactly what Legatus, an international organization of Catholic business leaders led by former Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan has done. According to a report in the National Catholic Register:
Nearly $1 million in funds which had been earmarked for the Holy See will now be withheld, following the Vatican’s action to delay the U.S. Bishops’ vote on a plan to end the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.
On Friday, Nov. 16, following the Vatican’s unexpected intervention into the USCCB’s General Assembly in Baltimore and its demand that the bishops delay voting on a plan which could bring closure to the sexual abuse crisis, Legatus’ Board of Governors took the next step and formally revoked the organization’s 2019 tithe to the Holy See. Members who have already submitted their dues for the 2019 year will receive a refund of that portion (10 percent) which had been earmarked for the Holy See; and members who have not yet remitted their dues will receive a new, revised invoice.
And the Vatican is not a position to lose cash. Take a look at recent actions by the Vatican through the lens of finance, and you’ll see indications that money has become quite the priority:
- Cardinal Pell found over a billion euros improperly hidden away during his audit of the Vatican Bank. Almost immediately, he wound up being called back to Australia to face 40-year-old allegations of abuse, while Archbishop Becciu, one of the pope’s ranking hatchet men, made sure the financial reform died.
- At the heart of the Vatican-led coup within the Sovereign Military Order of Malta was a battle over a significant bequest to the order — to the tune of 30 million Swiss francs. During the coup, the brother of key figure Albrecht von Boeselager was appointed to a position on the Vatican bank. (Recall that here, too, Becciu took over Cardinal Burke’s role within the Knights of Malta following the coup.) Where is that money now?
- It is widely believed that the suppression of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate has been over their considerable assets. According to at least one report, assets totaling roughly 30 million Euros — assets which the Vatican has been said to have tried to seize control of.
- A $25 million grant to the Vatican this year was made through the Papal Foundation, and the money is “unaccounted for”. The hospital designated as a recipient of the grant claims not to have received it. (It was Cardinal Wuerl, incidentally, who “spearheaded” the grant.)
If the Vatican is having money problems, they’re about to get worse. Just this month, The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgment ordering Italy to recover five billion euros worth of property tax from the Vatican, throwing out an earlier exemption. It has been reported that the Vatican Bank only controls about 6 billion Euros in assets, so one can only imagine how this ruling will affect their position.
In addition, a U.S.-based class action lawsuit has been filed against the Holy See and the USCCB by six men who claim to have been victims of clerical sexual abuse. (The USCCB has also been targeted in an additional, separate suit.) As the US Department of Justice begins investigating cases in New York and Pennsylvania, it is looking increasingly likely that an investigation under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) could happen on a national basis. And the class-action suit is seeking to use RICO provisions to “triple” the “financial damages”. Any hope that the Vatican could distance itself from an international lawsuit was dashed at the USCCB meeting in Baltimore this month, when Rome demonstrated just how much control it has over the actions of US bishops. According to the Washington Post:
The suit filed in the District notes that the Holy See has successfully avoided liability in the United States by claiming it did not have direct authority over priests. But then on Monday, as the bishops were meeting at their national conference in Baltimore to address the issue, they were directed by a letter from the Vatican to stop the discussion, and did. “If that’s not command responsibility, I don’t know what is,” said Mitchell A. Toups, one of the lead attorneys in the class-action case.
The situation in the Church is both scandalous and challenging, but the faithful are not without power. As the walls close in ever more tightly against a systemically corrupt hierarchy, it’s anyone’s guess how things will turn out. But however protracted, the tide will turn in this battle for control of the heart and soul of Catholicism, and we know which side will win.
Until then, chickens are finally coming home to roost. As Msgr. Charles Pope so succinctly put it in a recent column, “The pope owns this.”
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.