Fiddling while America – and Rome – Burn?

Fiddling while America – and Rome – Burn?

7/25/18: Robert Royal reviews the stories of abuse and cover-up in the American hierarchy. We can no longer afford “business as usual,” because bankruptcy looms.

he famous political philosopher Leo Strauss is reported to have once said that modern political theorists are worse than the ancient Roman emperor Nero. Because contrary to the old saying, they know neither that they are fiddling nor that Rome is burning.

The U.S. bishops held their annual June meeting in Fort Lauderdale a few weeks ago and, to judge from reports, largely spent their time together discussing current politics and changes to a voters’ guide for the Fall midterm elections.

In Rome, just last week, Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J., editor of the semi-official Vatican publication La Civiltà Cattolica, along with Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian chosen by Pope Francis personally to be editor of the Argentinean edition of L’Osservatore Romano, released another long essay attacking an American religious phenomenon: “The Prosperity Gospel: Dangerous and Different.”

Unlike their previous effort, which argued that collaboration between conservative evangelicals and Catholics was an “ecumenism of hate,” this article drew little attention. Which is no surprise.

Though peddlers of the prosperity gospel have connections to President Trump – who seems to be the real target of the essay – few familiar with religion in the United States would regard that slice of our varied faith groups as particularly prominent. In fact, among most religious people, both Left and Right, it’s regarded as a kind of eccentric Christian sect.

Meanwhile, an international threat to the Church is emerging, in several countries simultaneously, a crisis of confidence in Catholic leadership and the Church Herself that could make these other concerns, which are after all rather peripheral to the Church’s life and mission, seem mere fiddling.

In America, many people have been shocked by revelations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the most prominent U.S. Catholic prelates over the past two decades and the public face of the Church after the 2002 exposure of the priestly abuse crisis, was himself an abuser.

At first, stories emerged of his relationships with adult men, two of whom received monetary settlements from the Metuchen and Newark dioceses, where McCarrick had served as bishop and archbishop. Those stories confirmed what had been widely rumored for many years, that “Uncle Ted” had made a practice of pressuring seminarians and others into sexual situations.

But now a man has come forward with stories of abuse by McCarrick that began when he was eleven. And no doubt there are many further eruptions to come, to judge from what we already know.

This has led to further disclosures by others who were abused by priests and bishops, some in shocking fashion, and the sickening fact that virtually no one in a position of authority took action, especially where bishops were involved. If you can stomach the details, which are sometimes outright blasphemous and literally diabolical, you can get an idea of the nature of the problem hereherehere, and particularly here.

atan Sowing Darnel by Pieter Jalhea Furnius, c. 1571 [The Met, NYC] The engraving is from a series, The Parable of the Sower and the Seed.

It’s no surprise that a wave of outrage is building in America just now, even among faithful Catholics. To judge by many of the people with whom I’m in contact on a regular basis and who know these matters quite well, we may well be just at the beginning of another wave of soul-searching in the Church, this time not so much over complaints about priests, but about bishops who should have done something about other bishops and people in positions of authority.

We saw how mishandling of similar charges about the past in Chile soured the pope’s trip to that country earlier this year. Two Chilean cardinals, one on the pope’s own handpicked council of nine, are implicated in the cover-ups and perhaps the misinformation that was passed along to Francis. Just yesterday, Chilean authorities announced that they are investigating 158 members of the Church who are suspected of being abusers or of having covered up abuse.

Another of the pope’s top advisors Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez Maradiaga of Honduras has been accused of financial corruption. But potentially even more serious is that his subordinate, Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, who runs the archdiocese during Maradiaga’s many long absences, has had to resign after revelations of multiple instances of sexual abuse of seminarians, similar to McCarrick’s.

But the McCarrick case is unusual in that we have a sitting cardinal now judged by proper authorities to have committed offenses over many years who remains a cardinal. Pope Francis has to do something about this – and about those who enabled McCarrick.

Because despite denials, many American bishops received complaints about McCarrick and did nothing about them. Rome itself had to have been informed about the payouts for earlier abuses (we know that a lay delegation went to Rome to try to stop McCarrick’s appointment to Washington precisely because of his known sexual proclivities).

Even The Washington Post, previously uninterested in the rumors about McCarrick, has observed: “Many church-watchers think this is a make-or-break moment for Francis because of McCarrick’s stature and the fact that Catholic clerical sex-abuse crises are exploding in Chile and Honduras.”

Our friend Phil Lawler wrote an essential essay, which appeared yesterday on the First Things website. Inquiring into how McCarrick was able to abuse children and adults for so long, he says, is an important question to protect future victims, but:

is less critical than the question of how his rise through the ecclesiastical ranks continued, even while rumors about homosexual activities swirled around him. Why was McCarrick named archbishop of Washington, and given a cardinal’s red hat? Why was he allowed to promote his protégés, to serve special diplomatic assignments for the Vatican, to influence the selection of bishops and even of a Roman Pontiff, after his beach-house antics had become a matter of common knowledge?

Finding out how this was possible is going to call for some painful self-examination, both here and in Rome itself. But the alternative is business as usual. And that business is now in danger of bankruptcy.




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2 comments on “Fiddling while America – and Rome – Burn?

  1. This nonsense of theses bloggers, writers, church intellectuals, being “shocked “ is pure balderdash or incompetence. This has all been out there for a long time. I have an autograph copy of the Randy Engles, book, saw all this going on almost 60 years ago before Vatican 2 when I was at a Diocesan College in the early 60s ! The reason these buggers got away with it for so long, was because they all did it and were covering up for each other for the last 60 ++ years ! They could blame some priests before, but not now the real enablers, have been outed ! The Pope and his Cardinals! Critical Mass has been reached and the cesspool is bubbling over !

  2. Whoever is shocked by this hasn’t been paying attention to what has been going on in modernist circles for quite some time. Decades. I don’t know why stuff like that gets written. While there are a lot of uninformed and disoriented converts that doesn’t quite explain all of it.

    Did Rod Dreher talk to any educated adult Catholics before he converted? I could have warned him about the queer insurgency among modernist clergy. You should be careful and cautious around all modernists pushing fake liberal pseudo-Catholicism.

    OK, we’ll try one more time. The confusion surrounding Vatican II and the social upheaval during the Vietnam war in the 1960’s sent a lot of fruitcakes seeking escape in modernist seminaries since it was then easier to become a Catholic priest after Latin was tossed out the window. The spike among predator homosexual priests occurred among the seminary classes of ’69, ’70, and ’71. Got that so far? Then the modern American gay movement swept through in the ’70’s, encouraging homosexuals to act out their fantasies and orientation virtually at the same time that the Catholic priesthood was refashioned as liberal social protests activism in the model of the Berrigan brothers (i.e., Social Justice). This made the priesthood a more attractive escape route for disturbed homosexuals.

    John Paul II, a native of Poland, was apparently very naïve about sexual issues and had a tendency not to believe reports of homosexual misconduct by clergy because that was a Communist tactic in Easter Europe. He was aging and suffering from Parkinson’s by the point McCarrick was being considered for a cardinal’s hat. Whoever among the American hierarchy and the modernist bureaucracy of the USCCB was involved in recommending cardinal and bishop appointments at the time is who you are looking for and who has some explaining to do.

    Further, if the allegations by Bella Dodd in the 1950’s had any degree of accuracy, the hierarchy had already been infiltrated by Communist homosexuals. Now this isn’t rocket science and there is no reason for anyone in the Catholic blogosphere to be writing nonsense which indicates ignorance of these facts.

    How many more Lavender Mafia fruitcakes and predators were sponsored by modernist handlers to infiltrate the Catholic Church after Bella Dodd’s era and the spike in predators among the clergy in the late 1960’s and 1970’s? Do the math.

    This isn’t just the scandal of the queer insurgency among the clergy. It directly relates to the modernist heresy and the new model of the priesthood as political agitators for social protest activism and progressive totalitarian politics (which came out of the Spirit of Vatican II and the Vietnam era).

    Anyone claiming to be shocked about the McCarrick allegations has had their head in the sand. There is an elephant in the room. Stop playing stupid.

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