Ever Attend A Weekday Morning Mass?

If you ever wondered what experiencing a Catholic Mass might be for a nun or a priest should do yourself a favor and get up early during the week and attend an early morning Mass.  In fact, to get the full experience, you should attend a very early morning Mass on Mondays, preferably at a Catholic Church run by a religious order such as the Jesuits or the Dominicans.  After Mass, you can proceed on to work where I think you will find your day different from other days.

First of all, you should go within the next month or two when the sun still rises late in the early morning hours.  The sky’s color goes from dark blue to a light yellow as it stretches its light rising over the eastern horizon.  During these days of winter, there is still a bit of a chill in the air, but you don’t worry because your memory reminds you that a caretaker has already awoken and fired up the boiler to warm the church.

As you begin to pull open the tall, heavy wooden doors, you can see the flickering of light from candles which burned throughout the night.  As you cross over the threshold, your mind suddenly reminds you that you are stepping away from the craziness of the secular world into the sanctity of sacred space.  With each step, you begin to feel yourself letting go of the trials and tribulations brought by the material world.  There is a sudden calmness.  Still making your way over the threshold, you see out of the corner of your eye, a tiny baptismal font.  Your instincts have taken over as you dip your finger into the holy water, flick the excess water from your finger that you don’t want to fall on the floor.  Without thought, you raise your hand to touch your forehead, then your left shoulder, and finally your right shoulder.  Making the sign of the cross is the most natural part of the Mass.

As the doors give way to the inside of the Church, you can feel the warmth and smell the non-flavored scent emanating from the heated wax of the candles.  You gaze from one side of the church to the other side.  There are less than two dozen attendees, half with their eyes closed, the other half with their eyes fixed on the crucifix behind and above the altar.

Throughout the Mass, everyone knows the responses to the priest’s commands; everyone knows when to stand, sit, and kneel.  Other than the voice of the priest or the other churchgoers, there is absolute silence.

Weekday Mass has an Old Testament reading, a responsorial psalm, and a Gospel reading.  Unlike Sunday Mass readings, these scripture passages are not printed.  Unlike Sunday Mass readings, you pay strict attention to what is said, especially the priest’s homily because it never extends beyond five minutes.  Your active listening somewhat excites you because for the first time in a long time you understand the message the scriptures are teaching you.  Each part of the Mass is accentuated.  The messages from the Liturgy of Word are clearly understood; in other words, you know how you are supposed to act with other people.  The Liturgy of the Eucharist has taken on a new level intensity.  Rarely is there a crying infant or the rustling of feet of a bored child to distract you in the least bit.  The bread has become the body, and the wine has become the blood of Jesus.

Perhaps the most significant change from a Sunday Mass can be experienced in the exchanging of the sign of peace.  No back-slapping, high fiving, or jumping over someone else to pay one’s respects.  None of this takes place during a weekday Mass.  A simple turn, a simple smile is all that is necessary.  Everyone can see the look of fatigue on the other person except their smile which is bright as the sun will soon sign after Mass.

Communion is a reverent exercise where there is no hymn to sing or music to play.  One cannot be distracted when receiving the body and blood of Christ.  Following communion, you return to your pew to kneel one more time before the Lord our God.  The priest’s final blessing is actually a command from God that you can actually hear which is to go out at spread the good news in word and in action.

The celebrant departs the altar silently, and so does everyone else.  Suddenly, you feel charged with the responsibility to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  As you open the door to the outside world, you remind yourself that you are leaving the sacred world to re-enter the secular world which is a broken place with problems too grand to fix by oneself.  Today, however, is different because you understand clearly that you have been given the responsibility to make your part of the world better – for yourself and for those in your community.  Amen!

The Catholic Mafia

Just when you think that a bishop in the Catholic Church has done the right thing by stating unequivocally that he will release the names of priests and bishops involved in abuse cases, the bishop cowers.  This latest case involves the Rev. Michael Barber, S.J., Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, California.

Barber announced on October 8, 2018, that the diocese would publish the list of names within 45 days, or to be specific, on November 22, 2018.  November 22 came and went, and the names were not released.  On Sunday, November 25, the New Year’s Eve so-to-speak of the Catholic Calendar, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Diocese of Oakland issued a statement delaying the release of names until after the first of the year. Why?  Who got to Barber and told him to delay?

My guess, the Catholic Mafia.  Think about it…you have the Godfather, the Boss of all Bosses; then you have the Underboss or Lieutenant; then there is the consigliere, who is not officially part of the hierarchy of the Mafia, but he is very powerful in the organization.  Then you have the Capo, the Captain of the crew.  Let us not forget the attorneys who defend these scumbags.

With an understanding of the hierarchy of the Mafia, here are some names to consider:  Pope Benedict XVI is the Godfather who according to a December issue of the Vanity Fair, lives is a remodeled monastery he remodeled after throwing out a group of nuns and spending $45 million to renovate.  Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, current Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the Underboss or Lieutenant, based in the United States.  Although DiNardo has also been one of the most vocal critics of the church’s handling of its sex abuse scandal, he is accused of protecting two priests who are known child abuses Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, a priest whom DiNardo promoted, was arrested for allegedly molesting two children this past summer and Rev. John Keller whom DiNardo allowed continuing to preside over one of the largest Catholic churches in Houston despite having molested John LaBonte when he was 16 years old.  CBS News reported that in 2002 LaBonte spoke out about being molested by Keller who acknowledge in a letter from the archdiocese he held “[LaBonte] in a manner inappropriate for a priest,” but “[denied] any sexual intent.” Ultimately, the church “could not conclude that” what happened “constituted sexual abuse.”  Keller remains the pastor at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Houston, Texas.

The Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, currently the Archbishop of San Francisco, and the wannabe Cardinal is the Capo, the Captain.  Appointed by Benedict XVI, Cordileone was the architect of Proposition 8 which passed in 2008 defining the marriage is between a man and a woman.  In 2010, however, the law was ruled unconstitutional, and same-sex marriage continues to this day.  In 2014, Cordileone, Chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, took part as a featured speaker at the June 2014 March for Marriage in Washington, D.C.  Critics of Cordileone baled the gathering as anti-same-sex marriage and defamatory of the LGBT community.

There is Cardinal William Levada, former Archbishop of Portland and San Francisco, and Prefect emeritus for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith.  Since Levada is retired and not in the day to day operation, he is the consigliere.  As Archbishop of San Francisco, Levada found a way of implementing gay rights issues with employees of Catholic organizations such as Catholic Charities and he publicly opposed same-sex marriages and while instructing priests to seek the guidance of bishops to determine whether a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights should be denied communion.  Levada was Archbishop of Portland from 1986 to 1995.  In 1992, Levada removed the Rev. Joseph Baccellieri after learning about 20-year-old complaints involving teenage boys.  Two years later, Levada allowed Baccellieri to return on a limited basis under close supervision.  The problem for Levada is that he never told the parishioners he brought back Baccellieri.  Ultimately, the Portland archdiocese settled its sex-abuse lawsuits for more than $50 million in 2007, which resulted in the Diocese becoming the first Roman Catholic diocese in the nation to declare bankruptcy.

The attorney for the Archdiocese of San Francisco is Larry Jannuzzi who is employed by the Archdiocese and by Weintraub Tobin.  Jannuzzi reminds me of the character portrayed in the movie Untouchables; someone who hides behind the scarlet colored robe and yes socks, of the Archbishop.

Extortion money is the last item to associate the mafia with the Catholic Church.  It is well worth mentioning because the Bishop’s Annual Appeal is a perfect metaphor for the collection of monies from each Church.  It is extorted money because if a parish church does not reach its revenue goal, (arch)diocesan officials will mandate parish or school programs be abolished and the money allocated for that particular program be given to the Annual Appeal fund.  It is despicable to think that parishes and schools in poor neighborhoods get their programs removed and lose the money allocated for these services, such as providing education for the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults) program, confirmation classes for teenagers, or any other educational program.

We now have a choice and the question is do we want to be part of the law enforcement group that concentrates on organized crime?  Do we want to take on the Catholic mafia? Do we have the resources in terms of having enough people to stand up to against the Catholic mafia?  I will take my lead from Pope Francis who on September 18, 2018, told the Mafia in their own backyard in Palermo “You cannot believe in God and be mafosi.”

DiNardo, Levada, Cordileone, if you are listening, “You cannot believe in God and be mafosi.”


Whose Catholic Church is this?

For 72 hours, from Monday, November 12, 2018, through Wednesday, November 14th, (Arch)bishops from all over the United States gathered in Baltimore, Maryland for their Fall General Assembly (FGA).  For many of us practicing lay Catholics, all we wanted to learn from their meeting was their solution to resolving the clergy abuse cases and their cover-up by bishops.  So what happened at this meeting?

Well, if one looks at the FGA’s three-day agenda, one would see that it was not until the afternoon of the second day that 3 1/2 hours was allocated to discuss the Clergy abuse. Three topics were discussed:  (1) The Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, chaired by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR talked about the Standards of Accountability for Bishops; (2) The Executive Committee led by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron discussed the proposal to establish a Special Commission for Review of Complaints Against Bishops for Violations of the Standards of Accountability for Bishops; (3) The Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance led by Bishop Robert P. Deeley shared their thoughts about the Protocols Regarding Restrictions on Bishops who were Removed from or Resigned their Office due to Sexual Abuse of Minors, Sexual Harassment of or Misconduct with Adults, or Grave Negligence in Office.  

As insightful as the three above topics are, there was no mention of what steps will be taken to ensure all bishops release the names of their accused colleagues. The only good that came out of this as far as I am concerned was the Vatican’s intervention to delay approving any element of their proposals to strength the USCCB’s policies on clergy sex abuse.  Mark Pattison of Catholic News Service reported that the Vatican asked for the delay “until they can be reviewed for their conformity to canon law and until after the February meeting at the Vatican for presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide.”

Pattison reported that CNS obtained a document listing the seven standards currently in place with the USCCB that includes an acknowledgment statement all bishops must sign:

There are seven standards, which deal with: diocesan and eparchial codes of conduct; protection of children and young people; sexual misconduct with an adult by a bishop; sexual harassment of an adult by a bishop; responding to allegations of sexual abuse of minors, or of sexual misconduct with or harassment of adults by priests or deacons; reporting and resolving complaints against bishops; and further commitments to ensure integrity.

CNS also published a photo of the FGA, and two faces stand out: Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordeleone.  Levada and Cordileone are both Pope Benedicts’ appointees and god knows what else.  Cordileone has yet to publish the name of priests and bishops accused of abuse and cover-ups.  Gee, I wonder why?  Both of these supposed servants of the flock should be defrocked because they believe we lay Catholics are here to serve them.  All I can say, judgment day is waiting and it won’t be when both are facing their maker in heaven but their leader here on earth.

This segregation of power points to a problem within the Catholic Church, and that is ownership.  The USCCB thinks they own the Church in America, and we lay Catholics are to serve them.

As a layperson, I have studied many different types of leadership styles; from democratic to transformational, from bureaucratic to autocratic, but the one that I employ is Servant leadership.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says to his disciples, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”  Perhaps the bishops should have had a session on this Gospel quote from Mt. 20:28.


The Hypocrisy Of Archbishop Cordeleone

A few weeks ago, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordeleone sent a second letter to all parish pastors calling for an investigation and resignation of Pope Francis.  Cordeleone has a lot of nerve calling for Francis’ resignation.  After all, this is the same archbishop who refuses to release the names of priests who are accused of abusing young children.  This is also the same archbishop who condoned a bogus investigation into the immoral actions by a principal at a local Catholic high school by Maureen Huntington, the former superintendent of Catholic schools.  This is also the same archbishop who dismissed a female teacher’s complaint about her students taking pictures underneath her skirt and the skirts of other female teachers.  Ultimately, both cases resulted in lawsuits and both were settled out of court.  In addition, Cordeleone continues to permit Deacon Brian Bromberger, an openly gay deacon to write for the Bay Area Reporter, a free weekly newspaper serving the LGBT communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Lifesitenews.com reported that Bromberger’s articles “have included numerous positive reviews of sexually explicit movies depicting homosexual acts.” My concern isn’t about who is gay and who is not because I have wonderful family members who are gay and devout Christians.  This is solely about Cordeleone and that his actions are the essence of hypocrisy.

One example is how Cordeleone promotes the San Francisco Archdiocesan Annual Appeal.  If you go to the Archdiocese’s website you will find that Parish Ministry and Schools is positioned at the top of the four components where money is supposedly allocated.  Sadly, Parish Ministry and Schools receive the least amount of money, and all one has to do look at the back page of the annual appeal pamphlet and look at the pie chart which illustrates four areas where the money will be distributed and the goal amounts.  The four areas include: (1) Clergy Support – $2,220,000; (2) Universal Church and Communications – $1,800,000; (3) Social Ministry – $1,430,000, and (4) Parish Ministry and Schools, which receives $1,370,000.

No one should be surprised by Cordeleone’s hypocritical behavior, after all, it is learned behavior.  According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “priests who belong to a religious order, for example, Dominicans, Benedictine, and Franciscans, all take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Diocesan priests make two promises – celibacy and obedience.”

In addition to making promises instead of vows, America Magazine reported in their September 17, 2017 issue that “The national median total taxable income for priests is $45,593.” Despite receiving a salary and allowed to have a bank account and make investments, such as purchasing a house, the greatest percent of the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal for 2018 is earmarked for “Clergy support.”  Perhaps even more disappointing is that not one penny of the monies collected goes to assist religious women (nuns).  My question is why does a parishioner have to pay the expenses to care for a retired diocesan priest when these priests were earning money their entire life?

The most troubling thought is what happens to a parish if they do not meet their Annual Appeal Goal? According to the Diocese of Oakland, “These goals are simply that – goals, not assessments, however, under the “Good Faith Effort” policy, if it is determined that parish leadership did not make an effort to succeed, the goal amount could be assessed to that parish.”  In other words, the (Arch)bishop can eliminate programs allocated for parishes and schools to make up the difference.   One would think there must be another way the Archbishop can raise money without continuously laying a guilt trip on parishioners?

Here is an idea: perhaps the Archbishop can sell off pieces of land at the Saint Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park, CA.  In a January 25, 2018 memo from Catholic San Francisco, Saint Patrick’s sold one acre of its land to the Menlo Park Fire Department for $6.6 million.  The memo also says “In need of money in 1998, the seminary sold 43 acres to a land and housing developer for $22 million. (Jane Knoerle, “Marking a Century: St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park Begins a Year of Centennial Celebration,” The Almanac (Menlo Park), Sept 16, 1998.).”

All one can say is that Cordeleone has a lot of nerve sending out his second letter to all parish pastors calling for the investigation of Pope Francis.  If there is one person in the Catholic Church that needs to be investigated it is Archbishop Cordeleone.  What additional evidence does Pope Francis need to replace Cordeleone with a real shepherd to lead a flock of dedicated Catholics in San Francisco?



Case Closed: Catholic Attorneys Should Not Defend Catholic Priests Involved In Abuse Cases

As a practicing Catholic and former Catholic educator, I am sick to my stomach reading and watching about the continuing pathetic saga of Catholic priests abuse cases.  When will it ever stop?

As someone who is devoted to my Catholic faith, I have read most of the report filed by the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. The report confirmed what we Catholics already knew, that there are many names of priests which never surfaced to the public but whose names are etched their victim’s hippocampus.

As of October 4, 2018, a total of 13 states are investigating clergy sexual abuse cases. While it took an attorney general from Pennsylvania to publicly state the obvious, what remains anonymous are the names of the law firms and attorneys who to this day, continue to defend these evil priests.  Why aren’t the names of these law firms made public? Why aren’t the names of attorneys who handled these cases for (Arch)dioceses made public?

I asked a relative how is it possible that a mutual friend who is Catholic, who graduated from a Catholic elementary, secondary, university, and law school continue to defend cases on behalf of the Archdiocese of San Francisco? My relative responded: “that’s his job.” I was stunned by this response.  If a Catholic attorney defends an (Arch)diocese in cases involving alleged clerical abuse, then the attorney should reject handling such cases. Would these same attorneys defend a member of Hitler’s army who gassed thousands of children in concentration camps knowing there is a big paycheck waiting for them at the end of the day?

The Archdiocese of San Francisco’s website list Larry Jannuzzi as their “Legal Counsel.” The website also lists Paula Carney as “Assistant Legal Counsel.” In addition to his normal daily activities, Jannuzzi is also responsible for working with outside counsel on matters such as priest abuse cases.  The Archdiocese’s preferred law firm for such cases is Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin Law Corporation.  Prior to merging with Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Law Corporation in 2011, Tobin & Tobin, San Francisco’s oldest law firm, was the Archdiocese’s preferred outside counsel.

Although there are far too many cases to address the horrendous comments by attorneys litigating on behalf of the Catholic Church, there is one exchange worth noting by the attorney for the Archdiocese of San Francisco which exemplifies the sheer arrogance of lawyers. Jean Guccione writes in her March 29, 2005 article for the Los Angeles Times:

The San Francisco case involves Father Joseph T. Pritchard, now deceased, who is accused of molesting at least 22 children throughout the 1970s. In a statement read by a judge Monday to prospective jurors, the archdiocese admitted that it did not investigate “thoroughly enough or do enough at that time to protect the children.”

The statement also acknowledged that three fellow priests “sometimes walked into the room where sexual molestation had been taking place and should have seen enough circumstances to make them suspicious of Father Pritchard’s behavior” and reported it to his superiors.

A jury last week awarded one of Pritchard’s earliest victims $437,000. Jury selection began Monday in the case of four other victims who have brought civil suits.

Attorney (Name Withheld), who represents the archdiocese, warned not to read too much into the statement. “It’s an acknowledgment of negligence, nothing more or less,” he said, declining on elaborate about why the archdiocese made the admission.

But attorney Laurence Drivon, who represents hundreds of people suing the church in California, including one whose case is among those being tried in San Francisco, said the statement is significant.

Drivon said the sexual abuse contributed to his client becoming “a full-blown drug addict by the time he graduated from high school” and living on the streets for months at a time when he was unable to hold down a job.

I cannot fathom why any attorney defending the Catholic Church would use such callous, insensitive language involving a legal case of sexual abuse of a minor.  How troubling it is to know that despite the outcome of the case, an attorney will receive his paycheck irrespective of the outcome of the case.

I think it is only fair that the names of the legal firms defending the Catholic Church are made public; this will at least make such law firms insignificant to those individuals who would otherwise have hired such firms because of their legal acumen.

The moral fiber of our world is shredding.  Decisions such as which legal cases to take should matter.  Catholics who defend the Church in alleged abuse cases should recuse themselves – case closed!

Catholics Are Not Evangelical Christians?

I don’t know about you but as a faithful Catholic layperson, I do not want to be associated with evangelical Christians.  When I think of evangelical Christians, I think of people who are members of Protestant religions such as Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopalians who are extremely vocal about professing their faith.

I have many friends who are Protestants; in fact, I have been to two Episcopal services in the last six months, and I only saw were well-mannered adults and children.  I have never encountered someone who is Protestant who can be described as an evangelical Christian.   So, who is an evangelical Christian?

Danielle Kurtzleben writes in a December 19, 2015 article for National Public Radio (NPR):

According to the Pew Research Center, around 35 percent of American adults (that is, roughly half of all Christians) consider themselves evangelical or born again. So when reporters and politicians talk about “evangelicals,” it can sound like they’re talking about a huge chunk of the population — more than a third.

But then, other national political pollsters, like CNN/ORC, add a modifier onto most of their evangelical polling, focusing on white evangelicals. (And this is the group most pundits are talking about, particularly when it comes to Republican primary politics.

Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center told Kurtzlebun:

White evangelical protestants are some of the most reliably conservative and Republican voters in the electorate, African-American protestants, on the other hand, are some of the most strongly and consistently Democratic voters in the electorate.

In a May 4, 2018 report for ABC7 News Denver, reporters Phil Pruitt and Chance Seales identified four core beliefs of evangelicals as described by the National Association of Evangelicals:

  1. Conversion: Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice able to wipe away sin. This is the “born again” experience.
  2. Biblical supremacy: The Bible is the highest moral authority.
  3. Evangelizing: Taking the gospel to the ends of the Earth, converting sinners.
  4. And then, exclusivity: Only those who’ve been “saved” through Jesus are granted eternal salvation

As a member of the Catholic faith, I take issue with each of the above four core beliefs.

First, no one needs to experience a “born again” experience to gain eternal salvation.

Second, the Bible is not the highest moral authority.  The Bible gives many examples of good and bad moral behavior.  A key element to exhibiting good moral responsibility is forming a good conscience.  “Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1796)  In addition to forming one’s conscience, there is the responsibility of understanding and living a virtuous life.  For Catholics, there are four Cardinal Virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance and three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Third, regarding the issue of converting sinners, I am in agreement with evangelicals, however, I prefer a softer approach.  For example, Father Ed Broom, OMV writes in his article on March 28, 2017, for Catholic Exchange, “One of the greatest desires of Almighty God is the conversion of sinners.  That poor sinners will leave their sinful lifestyles and turn back to the love of God is high on the list of God’s desires.”

Lastly, I am troubled by this evangelical notion that “Only those who’ve been “saved” through Jesus are granted eternal salvation.”  This indeed is not the case for Catholics.  Even Pope Francis spoke out on this topic saying that the Catholic Church wants all men and women to be saved.

Bottom line: Catholics are not evangelical Christians.  Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops should be voicing concerns at least to news agencies that the term “Evangelicals Christians” should be changed to “Evangelical Protestants.”

Why does the topic of evangelical Christians irritate me? Because many of Trump supporters are white evangelical Christians.  For the life of me, I cannot believe how it is possible that evangelical Christians, who I assume believe that God creates all of humanity in his image and likeness, can support Trump who spews hatred about other people?  Do evangelical Christians think about what the sons of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford must be thinking each time Trump mocks their mother?  Megan Garber writes in an October 3, 2018 article for the Atlantic magazine, that Dr. Ford was “treated by the president, and by so many other people in power in America—treated as an inconvenience.”

Nicole Wallace, a lifetime Republican is totally embarrassed by the words Trump has used to describe women; words such as Miss Housekeeper, slob, pig, degenerate, Miss Piggy, wacky, low I.Q., not my first choice, Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?  When Trump humiliates women, he is humiliating God.  When Trump bullies anyone, he is bullying God.  Do evangelical Christians believe otherwise?

Tim Morris, a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, says, “Trump pledged during his campaign to defend religious liberty, stand up for the rights of the unborn and appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. And he has done exactly that.”

Is Trump’s pledge to defend religious liberty applicable to Muslims and Hindus?  Is Trump standing up for the child in school who cannot sit still because they inherited an addiction from their mother who was a crack addict?

As for nominating conservative judges to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was not so much about selecting a conservative Republican as it was about choosing a minion who will ultimately bail Trump out from all of his legal problems that will eventually surface.

Each time I am watching a television report mentioning evangelical Christians, I cringe with disgust because of their behavior.  As a practicing Catholic, all I can do is  continuously remind myself of what Jesus told his followers: “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Mt 20:16)






Laity Must Oversee Congregation for Bishops

At 10:30 a.m. on July 30, 2001, Martin “Marty” Baron walked into his first meeting as the new editor of the Boston Globe.  For several weeks before beginning his new job, Baron read the Globe daily to acclimate himself to the style of writing used by Globe reporters and its readership.  The day before he began his job, Baron read an article published in the Globe’s July 29, 2001 edition.  The article Passing the Buck, written by Eileen McNamara, a Globe reporter, was about:

A civil suit brought by 25 plaintiffs who were children when (Reverend) Geoghan allegedly raped them in parishes to which Law transferred him between 1985 and 1993. Geoghan retired in 1993 after a 28-year career in which he is alleged to have molested more than 100 children. He was not defrocked until 1998, two full years after the charges became public. He faces a criminal trial in September.

McNamara’s article was important to Baron for two reasons: (1) the topic of sexual abuse by priests and the cover-up by bishops was disturbing; and (2) The placement of McNamara’s article in the Globe’s Sunday edition.  In an interview with Sarah Larson on December 8, 2015, for the New Yorker, Baron expressed shock that the article was placed “In the Metro section, and at the end of the column, she (McNamara) said something to the effect ‘The truth may never be known because the documents are sealed.’ I was really struck by that.”  Baron believed it was important for the Globe to take on the responsibility of investigating the priest abuse problem, its coverup by bishops, and to unseal the sealed court documents.

The sexual abuse activity and the cover-up compelled Baron to ask the Globe’s editors what was being done to gain access to court records.  In an interview with Susan Gonzales for Yale News, spotlight editor, Walter “Robby” Robinson said: “Everybody said to Baron, ‘What are you talking about? Judges seal records.’”

Later that same day, Baron called Robinson and Ben Bradlee Jr., then an assistant managing editor for the Globe, into his office to ask the Spotlight team to investigate the case involving the claims against Father Geoghan as reported by McNamara.

After a year of searching through decades-old information and meeting with victims of abuse, the Globe’s Spotlight team of reporters Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes, and Robinson published their first article on January 6, 2002.  Gonzales reported that:

The first story in the Boston Globe revealed how more than 100 people had come forward with tales of abuse by Geoghan over a 30-year period. By the time the team completed its series on the church scandal, it reported on sexual abuse involving some 250 Catholic priests in the Boston area.

Once the Spotlight article was published, victims all over the world came forward to talk about how they were abused by priests and no action was taken by their bishops. As the scandal grew, the universal Catholic Church made a solemn promise to its one billion followers that it would investigate all of its dioceses and remove all priests and bishops accused of abusing children and young adults as well as those who had protected the identity of abusive clerics.

The problem for the Catholic Church today is that the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) either lied to the faithful or did a lousy job of investigating its priests and religious men (known as brothers) since this story broke in 2002.

Many American Catholics and non-Catholics ask, “How did the Catholic Church in America get to such a low point in their 2000-year history?”  A closer look at the abuse problem points to the American members of the Congregation of Bishops as a good place to begin.

The Congregation for Bishops is considered to be one of the most important Roman Curial agencies since the Congregation was founded in 1588.  Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and the author of “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church” said in a 2013 New York Times article, “The Congregation for Bishops is the most important congregation in the Vatican. It decides who are going to be the bishops all over the world.”

Cindy Wooden gives a more in-depth explanation of the process and the role of the Congregation in a July 6, 2016 article for Catholic News Service:

Nuncios, or Vatican ambassadors, around the world, conduct the initial search for priests suitable for the office of bishop and forward their names to the congregation. Congregation members review the biographies of potential candidates and comments and recommendations collected by the nuncios before making their recommendations to the pope.

The congregation also advises the pope on the establishment of new dioceses or the consolidation of old ones; advises bishops’ conferences on their work; coordinates the joint activities of military ordinaries around the world; and organizes the “ad limina” visits that bishops regularly make to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses.  The congregation is tasked with supporting the work of bishops in their dioceses, a function regularly carried out with the review of reports prepared in conjunction with the “ad limina” visits. But it also is responsible for organizing apostolic visitations of dioceses where particular tensions or controversies have arisen.

In 2009, America magazine article published an article further describing the Congregation consisting of:

About 30 other cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Bishops, which meets regularly every two weeks. The meetings last all morning, and typically bishops’ appointments for four dioceses are reviewed at each session. Before the meeting, congregation members are sent abundant documentation on the candidates for each diocese, information collected by the apostolic nuncio in the country where the diocese is located. A large part of the packet consists of written evaluations prepared on request by some 30 to 40 people who know the candidate.

The Congregation presents their final recommendations to the pope who rarely questions the final list of names.  Despite the importance of the Congregation’s role and its review process, the general public has little access to the information.  This is precisely where lay Catholics can help minimize problems with clerics.  Sexual abuse is a societal problem and not just one among Catholic priests.  My recommendation is to name a committee of lay Catholics from around the world whose sole responsibility would be to oversee all of the decisions made by the congregation.  How many times have lay Catholics either heard or read about the Vatican’s or USCCB’s desire to involve lay Catholics in the administrative processes of the Church?  I am confident this committee’s role would improve relations between Church officials and the Catholics who no longer attend Mass, those on the fence as to whether or not they will return to the Church and those who never left.

Since 2000 there have been two prefects or leaders of the Congregation of Bishops: Giovanni Battista Re from 2000 to 2010, and Marc Armand Ouellet, PSS who still holds the position which he assumed in 2010.

Re was born on January 30, 1934, in Borno (Brescia), Italy. He was ordained for the Diocese of Brescia on March 3, 1957, and holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.

Ouellet born on June 8, 1944, in La Motte, Abitibi Regional County Municipality, Quebec, Canada. Ouellet is a member of the Society of St. Sulpice religious order. Unlike other religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Dominicans, Marists, Christian Brothers, and Franciscans who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Sulpicians do not profess any vows. They make two promises: to live a chaste life and be obedient to the Church.  This point is emphasized in the Sulpicians website which says the Society is:

Not a religious community but a society of apostolic life, associations in the Church whose members pursue a common mission without taking vows and who live as a community under Church-approved regulations called constitutions. So, when you join the Sulpicians, you remain a diocesan priest—and become a member of a community of diocesan priests dedicated to priestly formation.

Re was appointed prefect of the Congregation in 2000 by Saint John Paul II; Ouellet was appointed in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.  Under both Re’s and Quellet’s leadership, their Congregations of Bishops have provided recommendations to Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI that have raised at least one set of eyebrows – mine.

Under Re’s direction, perhaps more importantly under John Paul II and Benedict XVI papacy, the appointment of Cardinal Timothy Dolan exemplifies just how rigged the system is to ensure the appointments of conservative bishops and archbishops in dioceses across the nation.

In 2001 Re recommended then Monsignor Dolan to become the Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis which Pope John Paul II approved and Dolan accepted.  Dolan’s tenure in St. Louis lasted only one year before John Paul II elevated him to be the Archbishop of Milwaukee, replacing Archbishop Rembert Weakland, OSB, who resigned on May 24, 2002 after “it was revealed that he had given $450,000 in 1997 to a man with whom he’d had an “improper relationship” in 1978.”  This little nugget of information was found in the publication Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy.  As bad as Weakland’s actions were, Laurie Goodstein writes in a July 2013 article for the New York Times editorial board that:

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday revealed that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.

Goodstein went on to say:

Milwaukee harbored some of the nation’s most notorious priest pedophiles, including the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, whom a church therapist assessed as having molested as many as 200 boys during his two and a half decades teaching and leading St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wis., and Sigfried Widera, who faced 42 counts of child abuse in Wisconsin and California. Father Murphy died in 1998, and Father Widera committed suicide in Mexico in 2003.

The act of transferring money shows Dolan’s compassion for victims abused by priests is a lie.  Perhaps Dolan’s actions for saving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee money resulted in Benedict XVI approving Dolan in 2009 to be the Archbishop of New York; and a year later, Dolan was elected to serve a three-year term as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) while maintaining his job as Archbishop.  To this day, Dolan still serves as the chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.  Dolan’s good fortune continued into 2012 when Benedict XVI announced he was appointing Dolan to the College of Cardinals, the group that appoints new popes.

In 2011, the Congregation of Bishops included Americans cardinals: Bernard F. Law, Raymond L. Burke, William J. Levada, and Justin F. Rigali.  The information in the paragraphs should make every Catholic publicly voice their concerns about the process for appointment to the Congregation of Bishops.  How these four cardinals were members of the Congregation of Bishops at the same time is disconcerting.

Law is the infamous Archbishop of Boston who was at the heart of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigation.  The Globe’s reporting confirmed Law covered up abuse cases for years, allowing priests to be transferred from parish to parish.  In April 2002, CNN reported that Law attempted to resign his position as Archbishop of Boston, but John Paul II rejected his resignation.  CNN went on to report that on December 9, 2002, 58 priests signed a letter requesting Law resign.  Two days later, Law resigned as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic University of America, and on Friday the 13th of December, Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston.

The remaining years of life for Law were nothing in comparison to the victims of abuse. In April 2004, Law was made archpriest of the Patriarchal (now Papal) Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, earning a $12,000 a month stipend and all the while maintaining his position as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.

From 1986 to 2005 then-Archbishop William Levada oversaw the archdioceses of Portland and San Francisco respectfully.  Jeff Anderson and Associates, attorneys for victims of sexual abuse wrote on their website:

As of January 2004, the Archdiocese of San Francisco had 66 pending child sexual abuse lawsuits against it, all of which were filed during the one-year legislative window allowing survivors of sexual abuse to bring claims which were otherwise time-barred by the statute of limitations.

On May 13, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI appointed his good friend Levada as his own successor as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  One of the duties of this position is to oversee cases of sexual abuse.  In 2006, Benedict XVI elevated Levada to the College of Cardinals.

New York Times reporter Michael Luo writes on May 5, 2010, that when Levada was in San Francisco on leave from Rome:

For eight strenuous hours, the cardinal was pressed to explain why he had decided to return priests who were confirmed sexual abusers back to ministry. He acknowledged that he had failed to notify the authorities of allegations of abuse. He struggled to recall why he had chosen not to share information with parishioners.

The irony as Luo points out is that since Levada was in the position of Prefect:

That put him in charge of adjudicating sexual abuse cases involving priests worldwide, as Benedict had been before him. And like Benedict, whose handling of delicate cases before he became pope has come under scrutiny, Cardinal Levada often did not act as assertively as he could have on abuse cases.

Justin Rigali was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia by John Paul II on July 15, 2003. Not even two months into his position Rigali was named a Cardinal.  In 2007 Benedict XVI appointed Regali to the Congregation of Bishops.  On the surface, Rigali looked as if he was doing a good job.  Michael Sean Waters, a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, contradicts this assessment when he writes on December 16, 2013:

He (Regali) has ruined everything he ever touched, as one archbishop reportedly said to a friend of mine. He left Philadelphia a mess, a string of Grand Jury reports detailing malfeasance in dealing with clergy sex abuse that rivaled the pro-Dallas Charter days. Rigali left St. Louis a mess.

National Public Radio’s Barbara Hagarty reported in July 2011 that:

In February, (2011) a grand jury report alleged that as many as 37 priests who had been accused of abuse were still in active ministry (under Regali). The report also charged several other priests or former priests in a sex abuse scandal.

Hagarty went on to say:

Initially, Rigali said none of his priests had been credibly accused of abusing children, but a few weeks later, he suspended a record number of clergy, 21. On Tuesday, he announced that the Vatican had accepted his resignation, and he sounded almost relieved.

On the day Rigali was removed by Pope Francis from the Congregation of Bishops so too was another controversial character, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke who was nominated to serve on the Congregation by Benedict XVI.  During Benedict’s papacy, Washington Post reporter Justin Moyer writes in 2014:

Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke was riding high. A conservative leader in a conservative Catholic Church under a conservative pope, he seemed to fall into the Vatican’s favor after taking a few high-profile stands against the godless.

In 2008 Benedict XVI appointed Burke as head of the Vatican’s Supreme Court.  Two years later Benedict XVI makes Burke a cardinal.

Burke’s appointment is interesting because everyone seems to have issues with him. For starters, Burke is the most publicly outspoken cleric against female involvement in the Catholic Church.  Burke is so adamantly opposed to women having any role in the Church that he blames them for preventing men from getting involved in the Church.  Burke is quoted by Madeleine Teahan in a blog she writes for Catholic Herald on Thursday, 8 Jan 2015:

Women are wonderful, they are ubiquitous in the Church: Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.

Even today, Burke was among the first of a small number of bishops to come out publicly in support of Archbishop Viganò’s denunciation of Pope Francis. Burke is a guy who believes the priest abuse situation is caused by homosexual priests and the culture of today.  Burke never takes any responsibility, instead, he places the blame directly on Pope Francis.  As Thomas McKenna, a reporter for Catholic Action for Faith and Family writes:

It is the Roman Pontiff, the Holy Father, who has the responsibility to discipline these situations, and it is he who needs to take action following the procedures that are given in the Church’s discipline. This is what will address the situation effectively.

Burke’s suggestion that Pope Francis alone must address the sexual problem is self-serving because Burke was responsible for placing many controversial bishops in dioceses.  In a December 16, 2013 article in the New York Times, reporters Jim Yardley and Jason Horowitz write:

The pope’s decision to remove Cardinal Raymond L. Burke from the Congregation for Bishops was taken by church experts to be a signal that Francis is willing to disrupt the Vatican establishment in order to be more inclusive.

Unfortunately for Francis, his decision to replace Burke with Cardinal Donald Wuerl was a decision that did not turn out well.  Yardley and Horowitz describe Wuerl as “an ideological moderate with a deep knowledge of the Vatican but also with pastoral experience.” Although it is unknown at this time whether Francis knew that Wuerl played a role in the abuse scandal, the Associated Press reported on August 14, 2018, that:

Wuerl approved transfers for priests instead of removing them from ministry, oversaw inadequate church investigations and concealed information when priests were reported to law enforcement. The report also says he advised parishes not to publicly announce or acknowledge complaints and offered financial support to priests who were accused and later resigned.

Even Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who was elected in 2016 as president of the USCCB and retains his position as Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, has been accused of covering up abuse cases.  Lee Rood with the Des Moines Register wrote in a September 27, 2018 article:

Daniel Nash, a Jefferson, Iowa, native now living in Ithaca, New York, told Reader’s    Watchdog that DiNardo has failed to stop or defrock priests who have faced multiple  allegations of abuse — starting with his early days as a bishop in Sioux City, Iowa, all the way to his present work as a top church leader in Texas.

In 2002, Nash told the Register he was molested at least 30 times when the Rev. George McFadden served at St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson from 1969 to 1972.

McFadden served in Jefferson and four other western Iowa parishes from 1953 to 1992.   He was accused of abuse by dozens of victims, McFadden was never defrocked.

McFadden admitted committing “harmful acts,” but he never made a public apology. He continued to receive a pension and to celebrate Mass daily in Sioux City’s largest church after he retired in 1991.

“The people of Jefferson still have not forgotten DiNardo lying to them there,” said Nash, now 60.

Matt Stevens reported in the New York Times on September 14, 2018:

The cardinal, Daniel N. DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, has been accused of knowing about at least two episodes of sexual abuse by a priest, who was allowed to remain in ministry for years.

During the course of more than a decade as pastor of a Texas church, the priest, Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, was also appointed by Cardinal DiNardo to a leadership role in the archdiocese as episcopal vicar for Hispanics.

The scrutiny of Cardinal DiNardo comes after Mr. La Rosa-Lopez, 60, was arrested on Tuesday night by the police in Conroe, Tex. — a city roughly 40 miles north of Houston. He is accused of sexual misconduct by a man and a woman who were children at the time. He faces four counts of indecency with a child; each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

On August 24, 2018, I wrote an email letter to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Cardinal DiNardo, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.  I received a letter from O’Malley on October 3, 2018.  He writes expressing condolences for the emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse I endured in a high school where I taught theology.  O’Malley also writes that he was not aware of the problems at the high school.  Initially, I thought O’Malley was not telling the truth, but further research confirmed that it is very possible that O’Malley did not know what was occurring at the high school.

My colleague wrote to O’Malley on April 23, 2015, describing the retaliation my colleague and I were facing because we went to the Superintendent of Education to the Archdiocese of San Francisco to inform the superintendent of immoral behavior on the part of the principal.  On July 8, 2015, Reverend Robert T. Kickham, O’Malley’s secretary addressed a letter to my colleague advising him to address our concerns directly with Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco.

On July 26, 2011, Boston Catholic Insider, an anonymous blog by authors closely associated with the Archdiocese of Boston reported:

Most people are aware that Fr. Robert Kickham is one of two priest-secretaries to Cardinal O’Malley, and he plays an important behind-the-scenes role as gatekeeper to the Cardinal. That means he controls a) Information that either makes it to the Cardinal for his review and action or does not make it to the Cardinal and b) Access to the Cardinal,   meaning some people can get time with him and some people cannot get time with him.

Cordileone is super conservative. Appointed on March 23, 2009, by Benedict XVI as Bishop of Oakland then three years later, on July 27, 2012, as the Archbishop of San Francisco.  Cordileone was a key force behind California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage.  Cordileone’s dislike for the gay and lesbian community was documented in a June 4, 2015 article in the Huffington Post which said: “Those initials keep getting longer and longer,” he added, referring to debates over whether the LGBT acronym — for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — should include other categories.”

I am holding out hope that O’Malley will be the voice of change and at least begin having a dialogue about involving the laity with the Congregation of Bishops.  O’Malley is the chair of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors and he appears to be one of the few Archbishops in the United States with immense credibility.  As a member of the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin Order, O’Malley takes a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  O’Malley is highly regarded in the Catholic Church, especially by Pope Francis and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  In 2015, the Jesuits presented O’Malley with the Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God) Award.  As noted in the Jesuit Magazine Spring, 2015:

He (O’Malley) and the Holy Father are kindred spirits. Cardinal Seán has a deep concern for the poor, the neglected, those on the fringes, for life at the peripheries. He regularly celebrates Mass at local prisons, visits shelters for the homeless and he has even distributed Communion through a wall at the Mexican border.

In conclusion, it is very hard to be a member of the Catholic faith today.  This paper if anything exemplifies the problems many Catholics are facing today in terms of who to believe?  Does the priest give a homily truly believe what he is saying?  Is the priest offering the body and blood of Christ during communion carrying the sin of abusing children?  I am broken hearted because no one has an answer how to piece the Catholic Church back together.  I hope I have offered one possible solution by involving lay Catholics as an oversight to the Congregation of Bishops.

As someone who changed careers to be a Catholic educator, who spent a lot of time and a great deal of money getting a master and doctoral degree in order to teach and hopefully one day be an administrator in a Catholic school, I pray things to change, otherwise, I guess it will be shame on me.  I have put my name out there to help heal the Church on my own dime no less, but no one has taken up my offer?

Abraham Lincoln once said in a speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Catholic Church is a divided house, and if Catholics both lay and religious cannot come together to reinforce its foundation then there will be a schism in the Catholic Church and what a sad day that will be for everyone.