I’ve been sitting at my desk for the better part of three hours, skimming through news and social media, trying to get a sense of things this week.
It’s not entirely clear to me what I should say. In my entire lifetime as a Catholic, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or felt anything like this. There is a groundswell building in the Catholic world, like the beginning of a scream that starts deep in the gut and begins forcing its way upward. It is a feeling of countless voices beginning to rise in pure, unmitigated outrage.
This afternoon, I spoke to someone who has been in Catholic media far, far longer than I have. He echoed this sentiment, saying that he, too, had never seen anything like it.
I am searching my mind for an analogy that fits, and what comes to mind is the kind of thunderstorm one gets on a late summer afternoon, where the bright sun begins to give way to thick, dark, roiling clouds that nearly turn the day into night. The kind of sky that tells you on an instinctive, primal level that you’d best get indoors. The lightning hasn’t broken loose, but the early deep-throated growls of thunder can be heard from afar. The hail and drenching downpour haven’t begun pelting everything in sight, but the air is electric with their promise. What will become tree-bending gusts of winds are for the moment only hinted at, the tips of branches rustling gently, leaves turned up to show pale undersides.
We are in the moment before the storm.
More accusations against McCarrick — and others — are beginning to come forth like the first fat droplets of rain. In a new story I read this afternoon about the accuser going only by his first name, James — the boy who claims he was molested by a young Fr. McCarrick when the child was only 11 — there was a heartbreaking passage:
It was the start of an abusive relationship that lasted well into James’s adulthood, said James, whose story was first reported by the New York Times. He said it drove him to alcoholism as a teen. He is now long sober but said the abuse has haunted him since.
“What he did to me was he ruined my entire life. I couldn’t break the hold. I couldn’t live up to my ability — to stay employed, married, have children. I lost all those opportunities because of him,” James said. Breaking into tears, he said, “I try to be a really good kid every day.”
Imagine it: a 60-year-old man still thinking of himself in terms of trying to be “a good kid” because the abuse he began suffering at age 11 never allowed him to escape that moment in time. My heart aches for that child.
You know who it doesn’t ache for? The papal henchmen:
Vatican representatives Greg Burke and Paloma García Ovejero did not respond to several requests for comment.
I wonder what it feels like to sell your soul. It can’t be pleasant.
Meanwhile, the Honduran Bishops, rather than addressing the concerns of nearly 50 of their seminarians alleging serious problems with homosexual activity in the major seminary at Tegucigalpa, have chosen to attack them – even in the immediate wake of the resignation of the sexually abusive auxiliary bishop of that diocese, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, CMF. According to a report from CNA, the Honduran bishops issued a statement yesterday attacking those who came forward, saying that “it is evident that there are weeds and evil, especially, in making ‘anonymous’ reports;’ in airing them, mixing in facts, suspicions and interpretations; while ignoring the monitoring given to the challenges that arise.
And further, they asked everyone to “increase your prayers for our Major Seminary and avoid any kind of speculation which fails to respect the dignity of bishops, seminarians, the formators, and that of all of us who with limitations and failings seek to carry out the Lord’s work.”
It has the fingerprints of the villain, Cardinal Maradiaga, all over it.
And considering his pull in Rome, perhaps it should be unsurprising that even the Spanish section of Vatican News got in on this, joining the Honduran bishops in accusing “American media” of publishing “a series of news attacking the Honduran church, and the cardinal” and spreading “infamies against the Major Seminary in Honduras”. It sells the line given by the Honduran bishops, which asserts, “With complete certainty and truth, we affirm there does not exist, nor has there existed, nor ought there exist in the seminary an atmosphere as presented by the aforementioned National Catholic Register report, in which the impression is given that [the seminary] institutionally promotes and sustains practices contrary to morality and the norms of the Church, viewed with complacency by the bishops”.
Clericalism. Clericalism again and again. Not the good kind of clericalism, that constitutes a reverence for the sacramental priesthood and its sacred functions, but the kind that makes moral monsters feel superior and untouchable because they have been ordained. The kind of clericalism that buries abuse and misconduct.
Meanwhile, the Farrells and Wuerls and Tobins of the Church continue to deny everything they almost certainly knew about McCarrick. In an interview with the Catholic Standard — the archdiocesan paper for Washington, DC — Wuerl also says:
There is understandable anger, both on a personal level due to the charges, but also more broadly at the Church. Our faithful have lived through such scandals before, and they are demanding accountability. I believe the actions taken by Pope Francis clearly reflect an understanding that we must move swiftly to address claims of any form of abuse or serious breach of trust by ministers of the Church, no matter who they may be or what position they may hold. Acknowledging such grave breaches of trust and seeking forgiveness open the doors for healing.
Understandable anger? No, Your Eminence. You don’t understand the anger. You don’t know what’s going through the mind of every Catholic mother and father who have to consider leaving their child alone with a priest, not knowing if he’s part of the “network.” Altar boy practice? Summer camps? The confessional? Are they ever safe?
And what about the priests who have nothing to do with this? How angry do you think they have a right to be for being associated with this and under suspicion because the bishops either refused to rein in the perversity in their dioceses or were actively involved in it? How many of them have spent their priesthoods dodging unwanted advances from fellow priests and wary glances from parishioners at the same time? How many have faced retributive action from active homosexuals higher up the ecclesiastical food chain because they won’t play along? Maybe they’re past anger. Maybe they’re just despondent. Maybe a number of them have even sought solace in other things that do not build up their priesthood or the Body of Christ because they are completely isolated and powerless and ready to give up hope.
And lets not pretend the “actions taken by Pope Francis clearly reflect” anything except that he continues to be willing to protect his own. We’ve covered the cronyism on this here before. We’ve been doing it for years. I won’t repeat it now.
The doors aren’t going to open for healing, Your Eminence, until the entire Church has been gutted and the infestation cleansed with fire.
And this is all before the interim grand jury report drops next month from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court – a report that will reveal information regarding findings about sex abuse in six out of eight Catholic dioceses in the state.
A report that is supposed to identify THREE HUNDRED “predator priests” – although some are fighting to have their names redacted. The Pennsylvania Attorney General is asking Pope Francis to help the truth come to light.
Does anyone really think he will? Do we think the “healing” can start while the wounds are still being inflicted? This has only just begun.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see churches torn down stone by stone and be forced to worship in someone’s basement than to allow a single one of these predators another moment of cover.
The storm is almost here, and its ferocity will be a marvel to behold.
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.