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Photo: Jonathan Newton, The Washington Post via AP, Pool
By John Zmirak, The Stream, September 30, 2018
What does a priest have to do in today’s Church to get in really serious trouble? Recent events have made that clear. If you’re a Catholic priest, you’re courting doom if you try any of the following:
Give a sermon criticizing the pope’s handling of sex abuse. That might get you thrown out of your parish at a moment’s notice, then ordered out of town. That happened to Juan Carlos Gavancho, a priest in Santa Barbara. CA.
Refuse Holy Communion to a vocal, self-styled “Lesbian Buddhist.” Doing that won Fr. Marcel Guarnizo a suspension from the priesthood, ordered by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and enforced by (now-bishop) Barry Knestout.
Take down and burn the blasphemous banner linking the cross and the gay “rainbow” flag which the priest before you hung in the church’s sanctuary. That was before the previous priest died by auto-erotic asphyxiation when attached to a “sex machine.”The Chicago Archdiocese told parishioners he’d had a heart attack, and threw him a hero’s funeral. Fr. Paul John Kalchik allowed his long-suffering parishioners to burn that banner. (The archdiocese had already removed and burned that pastor’s “massive gay porn collection.”) That lost Fr. Kalchik his parish and got him a visit from two menacing Church officials, who made vague threats against his life, and tried to bundle him off to the booby hatch. Convinced they’d use the police to have him committed against his will to an apparently gay-run Catholic psychiatric institute, Fr. Kalchik fled the scene and remains in hiding.
Okay, so you know to avoid all that.
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What’s a safer course of action? Let’s say that you’re homosexual, with a taste for young seminarians and even the occasional teenage boy…. If you rise in the ranks, keep copious files on other gay clerics so they won’t rat you out, and rise to the rank of cardinal, you’re probably pretty safe. That’s the lesson of the fate of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He was widely known to be a practicing homosexual for decades. To single out handsome seminarians and bring them into his bed. Then promote their careers, and stymie the men who’d turned him down.
Some bishop might end up hanging from a bridge, like one-time Vatican banker Roberto Calvi.
But none of that stopped McCarrick’s rise to the most prominent position in the U.S. Catholic Church: Archbishop of Washington. And none of his flaws might have mattered, if it hadn’t come out that he molested a teenage boy whom he’d baptized himself. That really did cross the line.
Because, and only because, that fact got out to the press, Pope Francis cancelled McCarrick’s status as cardinal. But he still remains a priest. Indeed, he’s still an archbishop. He still lives in comfort with a Church stipend, free healthcare, free housing, and presumably free legal counsel. Church authorities just moved him to a well-appointed monastery in walking distance of a grammar school. And locked away from reporters.
The Molester Protection ProgramNow you might be a little confused as to why a known molester is getting such kid-gloves treatment. I know I was. Why not follow Canon Law and remove him from the priesthood? Cut off his cash, cancel his insurance, and drop him off by the side of the road like a convicted sex criminal who just got out of prison?
I think have the answer. It comes in the form of a really fine piece of journalism over at First Things magazine. Allow me a short digression here.
There’s a journalism deficit. No, not the breathless recycling of half-baked partisan rumors you see in the mainstream media. (That goes all the way up the feeding chain nowadays to The New Yorker.) Nor the lackluster pabulum of press releases from bishops that makes up most of the output in the “mainstream” Catholic press. Nor even well-crafted opinion columns like those by … well, let’s not name any names. We’re all stocked up on those.
I mean the real deal, the slow-worked, carefully researched reporting pieces that outfits like the New York Timesused to boast of. Stories that take weeks or months to finish. Done by reporters who talk to dozens of sources. Sift through hundreds or thousands of documents. Coax unwilling sources to tell the truth. Not many outlets are paying people to do that anymore, so not many writers do it. I’ve done it just a few times myself, and let me tell you: it’s grueling labor. The kind of thing nobody does for fun. You’re essentially doing the kind of work an FBI agent should. But you have no power of subpoena, no access to search warrants, no jail time to threaten liars with.
The Papal Slush FundBut God bless him, Matthew O’ Brien did just such work over at First Things. (I hope he was well-compensated.) And he gave us, I think, the answer to why McCarrick was given a lavender velvet parachute. McCarrick knows too much.
It turns out that Theodore McCarrick, when he wasn’t treating future priests like rent boys and slurping daiquiris in the hot tub, was running the $200 million Papal Foundation. And apparently that Foundation served as a secret slush fund for corrupt Vatican enterprises, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. The Foundation’s records are shoddy and full of holes. Its directors could face legal trouble for allowing things to get that bad.
Meanwhile, there’s a Catholic dermatological hospital in Italy that keeps mysteriously losing vast sums of money. (To whom, one wonders? Maybe organized crime figures?) Pope Francis demanded that the Papal Foundation bail it out. (What would we do without specifically Catholic dermatological hospitals, that offer Christian answers to ethically fraught issues like skin peels?)
And over the protests of laymen on the Foundation’s board, it duly paid up.
If the Church gave McCarrick the kick to the curb he deserves, he could bring down other bishops. Cardinals. Officials inside the Vatican. Clerics from the Papal Foundation’s board. And that might earn the ire of Mafia figures who lurk behind the scenes. Some bishop might end up hanging from a bridge, like one-time Vatican banker Roberto Calvi.
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I won’t try to unpack O’Brien’s dense, scrupulously reported story on the Papal Foundation. Please go read it yourself. It’s dense with carefully vetted, unsettling facts. It helps explain why well-connected, corrupt priests like McCarrick get sweetheart deals from cardinals like Donald Wuerl. It’s the Lavender Mafia’s version of the Witness Protection Program. In return for a cozy retirement, they’re protected from being witnesses.
McCarrick needs a golden cage to stop him from singing.
This article has been updated.