May 21, 2002
volume 13, no. 93

Pulling the Plug

As the recent “pedophile summit” in Rome demonstrates, the decadent Novus Ordo establishment cannot and will not reform itself. Catholics should simply allow the thing to die.

By Christopher A. Ferrara
Part One

    Reprinted with the gracious permission of editor Michael J. Matt of The Remnant.

    The international press corps that gathered in Rome to attend the "little synod" on the homosexual priest scandal (persistently mischaracterized as the "pedophile summit") was full of cynicism about the event. And why not? Cynicism is the only reasonable attitude toward the American hierarchy's professed rationale for the cardinals' "emergency" trip to Rome. To quote Cardinal Stafford: "The American bishops indicated it would be helpful to have the wisdom of the Holy Father, so the response was, 'Let's have a conversation'..." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 19, 2002) Oh sure. After forty years of ordaining homosexuals in defiance of the Vatican's never-enforced instruction that "those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination," the American bishops suddenly yearn to sit at the feet of the Holy Father to receive his wise prescription for all the crimes committed by all the homosexual priests they illicitly ordained. Let us examine this amazingly disingenuous claim.

A Roman Luncheon

   What "wisdom" did the cardinal representatives receive from the Holy Father in Rome? As Bishop Wilton Gregory (head of the USCCB) reported, he and the cardinals had "a wonderful conversation" with the Pope. A wonderful conversation about an entirely preventable epidemic of homosexual molestation by priests. After this wonderful conversation, "His Holiness invited the American Cardinals and Bishops to lunch, to continue their discussion of some of the themes raised at the meeting." (Final Communiqué, April 24, 2002)

   A wonderful conversation. Lunch with the Pope. A discussion of themes. And what theme, exactly, did the Holy Father settle upon for dealing with the homosexual infiltration of the clergy and the resulting explosion of indictable sex crimes against altar boys and countless other innocent victims? Apparently the theme adopted was the old familiar one: "Let the bishops handle it." It's their problem, not the Pope's. In fact, at the disastrous press conference of March 21, Cardinal Castrillón sniffed that the Pope could hardly be expected to spend time issuing statements condemning the scandal because "The Pope is worried over peace in the world." (New York Times, March 22, 2002)

   But God has made the Pope custodian of the Catholic Church, not the world. What about peace in the Church? During the "little synod" the Pope condemned the sexual abuse of children as a "crime," but avoided even the slightest rebuke or discipline of the bishops and cardinals who allowed these crimes to occur and then attempted to hide the evidence. Instead, he invited the cardinals to lunch to discuss "themes."

   The wisdom of the Holy Father, then, was to leave the matter right where it had been before the Roman luncheon: in the laps of the same feckless hierarchs who have presided over the scandal and tried to cover it up for decades. The Pope would not even mandate the token gesture of an apostolic visitation of American seminaries. The Final Communiqué merely states that at the USCCB meeting in June "we [the cardinals] will propose an Apostolic Visitation of seminaries and religious houses of formation, giving special attention to their admission requirements and the need for them to teach Catholic moral doctrine in its integrity." After forty years of scandal, heresy, corruption and cover-up, the cardinals now propose that the bishops vote on whether to invite Rome to investigate the moral and doctrinal integrity of American seminaries. But since when do the bishops propose to Rome an apostolic visitation, as opposed to being ordered by Rome to submit to one? Yet again we see how the conciliar notion of "collegiality" has turned the Catholic Church upside down: the bishops propose and the Pope disposes.

The Real Point of the Roman Junket

   For this the cardinals were "summoned" to Rome? The same non-result could have been achieved at a "little synod" anywhere in the United States. What, really, was the point of the "emergency" trip to Rome? In a word, the point was drama - drama for the delectation of the press. If you were there, as I was, you would know this to a certainty.

   For the bishops, you see, the real crisis in this matter has never been the profusion of sex crimes committed by homosexual priests, or the irreparable harm done to thousands of victims and their families, or even the multiple RICO suits alleging an interstate episcopal conspiracy to obstruct justice by covering up the evidence of the crimes and spiriting off the perpetrators to new assignments. The bishops had no problem hard-balling their way through all that stuff, litigating and approving payouts and confidentiality agreements that (so they hoped) would ensure perpetual silence. Sex-scandal management is just part of the job description for bishops of the conciliar renewal. No, it was one thing and one thing only that drove the cardinals to Rome: the recent unrelenting press coverage of the scandal. From the bishops' perspective, the real crisis was the continuing public exposure of their revolting misdeeds.

   Thus, the whole Roman junket - the wonderful conversation with the Pope, the papal luncheon, the "themes" for discussion, the "working group" with its "work sessions", the daily press briefings at the North American College and the Vatican Press Office, the unveiling of the laughable "Final Communiqué" to a room packed with reporters - all of it was intended to sate the media beast with a moment of high drama, a fitting conclusion to the long story arc of the scandal. Perhaps if the bishops could shovel enough audio and visual drama bites into the satellite dishes, video lenses and tape-recorders gathered together in Rome like so many hungry maws, the many-headed beast would eat its fill, push away the plate and move on to the next feast of scandal.

   Is this too cynical an assessment even where cynicism is warranted? Not at all. Consider that the momentous deliberations of the "little synod" produced exactly one semi-specific proposal for actually dealing with all the homosexual predators the bishops have loosed upon the Church. To quote the Final Communiqué:

    We will propose that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend a special process for the dismissal from the clerical state of a priest who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.

   In other words, these princes of the Church propose that the bishops vote on whether to recommend a process to expel child molesters from the priesthood - but only if the molestation is notorious, serial and predatory. A three-pronged test! Shades of law school and bluebook exams in criminal law! Do I detect a lawyer at work? Indeed, with all the pending RICO suits, both the Vatican and the North American hierarchy have to be careful about the wording of any statements that could constitute a binding institutional obligation or an admission of wrongdoing. It has come to this.

   And what do the bishops propose to do about the seedbed of the whole scandal - the "gay subculture" they have allowed to flourish in the seminaries, chanceries and parishes? Why, absolutely nothing. The cardinals would not even float a proposal to exclude homosexuals from the seminaries and the sacred priesthood. Yet in answer to my question at the first press briefing, Bishop Gregory admitted that "it is an ongoing struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men." Despite this devastating admission by the very head of United States bishops' conference, the Vatican instruction will continue to be ignored. Thus, a new bumper crop of homosexual ordinands is guaranteed - and with it a new harvest of scandal for the Church.

   After his return from the "little synod", Cardinal Bernard Law gave an interview in which he protested that "We were not there to make decisions." There were not even any decisions about what to do in the future with predators like John Geoghan and Paul Shanley, both of whom Law coddled and protected for years. As I write this column, Shanley, who molested dozens upon dozens of boys and publicly advocated "man-boy love" at a homosexual convention, has finally been arrested in San Diego for the rape of a minor - in the confessional. As the whole world knows (thanks only to the press coverage and plaintiffs' lawyers), instead of turning Shanley over to the police, Law reassigned him and gave him favorable recommendations to the Diocese of San Bernadino and the Archdiocese of New York, knowing full well that Shanley was a monster. The Archdiocesan files Law fought so ferociously to keep secret contain many damning documents among the 800 produced so far. These include not only the letters of recommendation for Shanley, but Archdiocesan correspondence with the Vatican itself about Shanley's history, including his advocacy of "man-boy love." The Vatican, like Law, did nothing.

   No, Law never intended to make any decisions in Rome. Neither did the other cardinals. And neither did the Vatican apparatus, which keeps traditionalist priests firmly under its thumb while doing nothing to prevent the crimes of homosexual priests on every continent - that is, until the press got into the act. But all the press scrutiny has produced so far is a dramatic production entitled "The Pope Summons the Cardinals to the Vatican"- a summons solicited by the bishops themselves, as Cardinal Stafford revealed. The Vatican was merely the stage set for this little production, and a rapidly fading, ineffectual pope the principal prop. No one from the Vatican apparatus even appeared on stage during the two press briefings, except the papal press agent, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, and Cardinal Stafford (an American), who heads the completely irrelevant Pontifical Council for the Laity. (I sat there and listened in disgust as Stafford truckled to John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, assuring him that yes, John, of course we want to see more involvement of the laity in Church governance, John.)

   Cardinal Castrillón and Cardinal Ratzinger, the two prelates whose dicasteries actually have jurisdiction over the scandal, would have nothing to do with the briefings. They knew a flop production when they saw one. So did the American cardinals, who left the final briefing to the crafty McCarrick and the clueless Stafford. When members of the press asked why none of the other cardinals, especially Law, was present at the final briefing, they were told that all the other cardinals had unbreakable prior engagements - at 10:00 p.m., when the only reason they had come to Rome in the first place was to attend this very event. Even in Rome, with the whole world watching, the dissembling continued. It seems these men cannot help themselves.

   For Law, there was more dramaturgy back in Boston. During a "special Mass for hope and healing" on April 28, Law had the astounding gall to preach that "These are not easy days to serve in the pastoral role that is mine. All of us are wounded healers." (LA Times, April 30, 2002) Law is a criminally negligent obstructer of justice, who has harbored no fewer than 80 sex criminals in his Archdiocese, according to the list he himself turned over to the police. Between Geoghan and Shanley alone there are at least 500-600 victims. That Law would even attempt to make himself an object of pity - instead of resigning and begging forgiveness from all the victims of his steely determination to conceal criminal activity - is an indictment not only of Law, but the whole Novus Ordo establishment, of which Law is supposed to represent the most "conservative" element.

   No one has more eloquently expressed the righteous contempt the victims have for this establishment than Arthur Austin, who as a boy was abused for years by Shanley. After the court-ordered production of the Archdiocesan files that revealed what Law knew about Shanley and when he knew it, Austin issued this anguished plea for justice:

       And you Bernard, my cardinal, my prince of the church, my shepherd, my father in Christ, how long have I hungered at your indifferent door for a crumb of compassion, justice, or mercy? Or even a crumb of simple honesty?

       You are a liar; your own documents condemn you. You are a criminal, a murderer of children; you degrade the office you hold in the church; you are an affront to Jesus Christ; and I call on Almighty God to bear witness to the foulness and treachery of your behavior, the evil you have nurtured and condoned, and the minds, hearts, and souls you have destroyed. I call on Almighty God to bear witness for those who could no longer shoulder the unbearable cross of their crucified innocence and trust, and took their own lives, because of men like you, the power-brokers of the Roman Catholic Church... (Boston Globe, April 9, 2002)

Next Tuesday: Part two Defending the Regime of Novelty


For past articles in the archives of Traditional Thoughts, see ARCHIVED ARTICLES

Tuesday, May 21, 2002
volume 13, no. 93
Traditional Thoughts