We warned them back in 2002, but no one listened

I’m perplexed, too, but not for the same reason. The Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday published a joint expose on all the US bishops who have failed to respond adequately to sexual misconduct in their dioceses and they say they’re perplexed. Meanwhile, Cardinal Seán is also perplexed too.

More than 130 bishops – almost one-third of all living bishops – have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to an examination of thousands of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.

“I’m shocked by that number,’’ O’Malley said in an interview at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, responding to the two organizations’ report. “It raises a lot of questions in my mind.’’

As I said, I’m perplexed, but not that 130 of the living bishops (note: that includes retired bishops) have themselves failed to respond adequately. It’s that this is news to anyone.

Because back in 2002 when the Dallas charter was first advanced in the midst of the explosion of the Scandal, both Phil Lawler and I were pointing out that while the charter focused on the tiny percentage of all priests who ever abused a child, the bishops at the time (and ever since) failed to act against the bishops who shuffled them about and ignored the complaints of victims and hushed up lawsuits and paid off families under secrecy shields and all the rest.

In fact, if anything the problem is much less worse because at the time it wasn’t one-third of living bishops who were culpable, but two-thirds of bishops. But time and the Holy Spirit have winnowed that number down through the ultimate means of having them die off.
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Desperately Seeking Bishops

It’s no surprise we have a crisis in leadership in the Catholic Church. Apart from the Scandal that took off in the public consciousness in 2002, the past few months have re-emphasized for us that we lack effective leadership at all levels of the Church, from top to bottom. Wherever you look are men who are often, at best, personally faithful but lacking in other necessary skills.

If we were to start fresh today, what would we need in a Catholic bishop? If we were to look at our seminaries, what should we cultivate in the our future priests and bishops?

First and foremost, they should be faith-filled and holy with a zeal for Christ. That should be a given and really ought to be the minimum we expect from our priests. And in their holiness and zeal, they would strive to follow Christ in the Church’s laws, doctrines, and disciplines.

Second, our bishops need to be leaders, not managers. We need men who will have the ability to lead their priests and laity, to energize them, to marshal them, to impassion them. We don’t need managers, fundraisers, or bureaucrats. We don’t need glad-handers or movers and shakers. We need men who are charismatic and impassioned, who have backbone, and who have clear vision and focus on a singular mission and priority: the salvation of souls. Everything else must serve that goal.

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A Time for Prayer and Fasting

“Prayer and fasting is all well and good, but what can I do that is really effective?” I’ve been seeing variations on that sentiment in recent days, accelerated by the revelations in Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s testimony as released last week. His earth-shaking accusations against many top Vatican and US bishops, including Pope Francis, who he called to resign, because of their alleged complicity in covering up immorality and abuse, has left many Catholics reeling.

Social media has been awash in hand-wringing and people asking, “What can we do?” Because we don’t want this all to be swept under the rug to disappear in the next news cycle. We want our Church to be cleansed and the rot to be cleared out. We want the truth to come out and allegations examined. If the Pope is innocent of these accusations, we want to know it. If he’s guilty, we want him to make reparation.

Some have called for the withholding of donations to dioceses or parishes, which has some consequences. The assumption is that it will cut down on bishops’ lavish lifestyles. For one thing, by and large, most bishops don’t live lavishly. And for those who seem to have cushy perqs, they often get those from specific donations from large donors and foundations. The people who get hurt in that scenario are people like the director of religious formation or the diocesan accountant or the receptionist at the chancery or the person who goes around teaching confirmation kids about the Church’s message of chastity because they’re the low hanging fruit in the budget. “Fine,” they say, “I will direct my donations to my parish.” Well, the bishop will just demand a tithe from your parish to support his ministry. “Then I will put restrictions on my parish donation, so that it can only be used for local things.” The person you’re hurting in that scenario is your pastor who still has to pay the bills and satisfy the parish’s obligations while juggling all these restrictions and the bishop’s demands.

What’s really behind this desire to withhold money is a desire to be effective. As regular laypeople in the pew we don’t feel like there’s anything we can do to fix the Church or hold misbehaving bishops accountable. Read More and Comment

New Bishops for Boston

Pope Francis today appointed two new auxiliary bishops for Boston, priests I have worked closely with in my years with the Archdiocese. Bishop-elect Robert Reed will be most well known as he is the director of CatholicTV, which is seen in many dioceses across the country. He is also head of the Catholic media secretariat for the archdiocese, which includes the newspaper and bulletins and radio. (It once include new media, but no longer.) I’ve known Fr. Reed for many years, though, as he was assigned to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood, when I was attending Mass there in the early 90s, and is a friend of my brother. In fact, he’s my nephew’s godfather.

I’ve also worked with Bishop-elect Mark O’Connell, not in his role s judicial vicar for the archdiocese, but when he was a co-host on our radio program The Good Catholic Life. Fr. Mark was always fun to work with because he’s a very funny guy and was so laid back. One of the funniest moments on the show was when his best friend, Fr. Paul Soper, outed him on air as a World of Warcraft player whose character was an anthropomorphic panda.

During the press conference this morning, Bishop-elect Reed said he’s talked with Cardinal Seán about retaining some role in CatholicTV after his ordination in addition to his duties as an auxiliary bishop, so I’ll be interested if a new priest is assigned there as director or if the day-to-day responsibilities shift to the general manager.

It’s very interesting that with Bishop Christopher Coyne in Vermont, Bishop Robert Barron in Los Angeles, and now Bishop-elect Reed in Boston, we have more and more bishops who are experts in communications and media being elevated to the episcopacy in the US.

And this busy day for bishops in Boston isn’t over because there’s an episcopal ordination at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this afternoon for Archbishop Paul Russell. He has been appointed by Pope Francis to apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Sacred Heart Church, Newton

We attended a baptism of some friends’ daughter at Sacred Heart Church in Newton on Saturday. It is a beautiful church built in an Italianate style. I’m no architect expert, but it had the feel of architecture around Assisi.

The church has a fascinating history. At the front, to the left of the sanctuary is a portrait and a bronze plaque with text of a letter from Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State, in the 1930s, thanking the parish for its hospitality in hosting him for a brief stay. Beside the plaque is a very large, very old paschal candle from the Vatican, which was obviously a thank-you gift. Cardinal Pacelli would go on to become Pope Paul VI Pius XII.

Speaking of bishops, the parish has a history of pastors who became bishops. Cardinal Spellman of New York was its pastor at the time he received his episcopal appointment and then Cardinal Cushing was pastor before becoming archbishop of Boston. He was followed by another pastor who became an auxiliary. How you’d like to be the guy who followed him and didn’t become bishop?

In persona Christi

(Photo credit: George Martell/The Pilot Media Group) May not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. (Photo credit: George Martell/The Pilot Media Group) May not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved.

My colleague, George Martell, took this photo of me and Cardinal Seán after an adoration and prayer service with him and other Pastoral Center employees to pray with and for him as heads to Rome for the conclave.

I asked Anthony who he saw in the picture.

“Daddy,” he said.

“And who else?”


Job #1 accomplished, Your Eminence.

Bishop speaks the truth in love to NADLGM conference

Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto, who will become the ordinary of Sacramento, California, at the end of November, was invited to speak to the conference of the National Association of Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries. These are people who work directly for bishops.

Bishop Soto simply repeated the Church’s teachings.

“Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals, but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all,” Bishop Soto said. “For this reason, it is sinful. Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression.”

At least five audience members walked out during his remarks and afterward he endured a group of audience members who berated him for what he said. A board member of the organization was overheard telling one of the tables in the room: “On behalf of the board, I apologize. We had no idea Bishop Soto was going to say what he said.”


Follieri revisted again


The FBI has arrested Raffaello Follieri and accused him of fraud for claiming Vatican connections in a scheme allegedly to buy mothballed properties from US Catholic dioceses and re-develop them. (Follieri was allegedly making false claims of close ties to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, right.)

According to the FBI, Follieri claimed the Vatican had formally appointed him to manage its financial affairs and that he had met with the pope in person in Rome.

He is accused of keeping various ceremonial robes, including the robes of senior clergymen, in his Manhattan office, and of hiring two monsignors to accompany him during his business dealings.

Once, according to the complaint, he even asked a monsignor to change out of his robes and put on the robe of a more senior clergyman to create the false impression that Follieri had close ties to the Vatican.

Follieri, Follieri, why does that sound so familiar? Oh yeah! Because I wrote this back in January 2005:

This has at least the appearance of improriety. If [they’re] smart, they’ll keep the Follieri Group at arm’s length, and other dioceses should too.


And this in 2006:

Interesting. I just got an email this morning from a high-end private investigation firm looking for more information on the Follieri Group for a client. I wonder who’s doing the asking and why.

I wonder if it was really a private eye or if it was the FBI. If it was really a private eye, maybe they were representing “supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos.” who sued Follieri after accusing him of misappropriating more than $1 million.

Wow, it’s funny to be caught up in the middle of all this, especially since I really don’t know anything about it.

Photo of Cardinal Angelo Sodano is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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