Bishop Cary's Official Statements
21 October 2018
In today’s second reading St. James gets to the heart of the worldwide summer of scandal in the Catholic Church: "Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice."
With the "foul practice" of sexual abuse by priests we have grown all too sadly familiar in the past twenty years. But this summer’s shocking revelations brought into focus a different, far more disturbing scandal: "selfish ambition" among bishops has spread the "disorder" of complicity-in-cover-up to the highest ranks of the Church—to the apostolic level, that is to say, because successors of the Apostles have been agents of corruption.
In today’s Gospel Jesus’ question to the Twelve helps us see that the Church He founded has been vulnerable to unhinged Apostolic ambition from the very beginning. "What were you arguing about on the way?" He asked them. They might have been quarreling over a saying "they did not understand" but "were afraid to question Him" about: "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill Him, and three days after His death the Son of Man will rise." There’s plenty in that statement to prompt discussion for many a mile about His future—and theirs.
But no: death and resurrection had not troubled them on the way. "They had been discussing among themselves . . . who was the greatest." And not for the last time.
At table with Jesus the night before He died, St. Luke reports, a "dispute arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest."
This Gospel portrait of persistent Apostolic ambition leaves Christians no room for naiveté: "selfish ambition" on the part of Church leaders is an ineradicable component of each generation’s share in the Apostolic inheritance.
Ambition seems to have tugged at all of the Apostles; betrayal was peculiar to one. The other Apostles, most notably Peter, ran away into the night when Jesus was captured; they abandoned Him. Judas alone betrayed Him; he actively plotted with the priests to hand Jesus over to the Romans; he deliberately gave Him up to the will of His enemies.
Judas has never been forgotten. With the Gospels we inherit the Church’s bitter memory of his Apostolic betrayal. And we need to draw on it now to get beyond our dismay that the unimaginable has become undeniable: cardinals and bishops abused and covered up and advanced their careers in the Church. They betrayed their innocent victims. They betrayed the priesthood. They betrayed the Mass. Didn’t anyone know what they were up to?
Our Lord did. St. John tells us that "Jesus knew from the first . . . who it was that would betray Him." This He made clear well before the Last Supper: "Did I not choose you, the Twelve, and one of you is a devil?" He was referring to Judas, "for he, one of the Twelve, was to betray Him."
Knowing Judas’ duplicity all along, why did our Lord not head off his impending betrayal? Why did He not expose and expel His betrayer?
Because to do so would fatally mislead us. Expelling Judas to save Himself would have taught us that betrayal is a sin beyond the reach of Divine Mercy, a sin too deep for the Fisher of Men to catch in His net of forgiveness, a sin too strong for love to break its hold on the heart of the sinner. Instead, because He "came to save sinners," Jesus followed the will of His Father and died of betrayal in order to overcome it forever with the life-changing love of Resurrection.
Judas, the betrayer, did not live to witness the dark defeat on the Cross which his betrayal brought about nor the bright light of victory which the Father’s faithfulness caused to shine forth from the empty tomb. In stark contrast, Peter, the denier, wept bitter tears of repentance on Good Friday and heard His Risen Redeemer tell him to feed His sheep on Easter Sunday.
Jesus knew going in to His Passion that Apostolic betrayal would cost Him everything—and He kept going, all the way to the end. He drank the cup of betrayal to the dregs for you and for me—and for all those who will come after us if we hand on to them what was handed on to us.
7 October 2018
The Dark Sea of Scandal
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," St. Paul tells us. The Jesus Who taught and healed 2000 years ago is the same Jesus Who teaches and heals today in Gospel and Sacrament. The Jesus Who died and rose 2000 years ago is the same Jesus Who hands over His dying and rising to us in the Eucharist and draws us into communion with the Church He founded there and then for here and now. "Behold, I will be with you all days," He promised, "even to the end of the world."
But without the one Church He founded, no one would remember this Jesus; within a century of His death His promise would have been forgotten. Without the one Church He founded, history would have no record of His words and deeds in the Gospels which His Spirit inspired the Church to hand down as her own. Without the one Church He founded, the "living water" of sacramental life would not flow into our lives again and again to wash away our sins and set us free.
But the saving waters do flow; His saving Word does resound; we continue to break bread in memory of Him. Jesus is true to His promise to be with us always. In every succeeding generation His Spirit has never let the Church forget her Lord’s leave-taking words: "Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
But from Judas’ dark dealings in the first century to Theodore McCarrick’s in the twentieth, scandalously unfaithful Apostolic self-seeking has betrayed faithful transmission of the Gospel time and again. Five hundred years ago, it was no secret that long-standing, deeply entrenched corruption permeated the highest levels of Catholicism. Protestants surveyed the damage and concluded that the Church was incapable of reform and recovery; so they broke away from Catholic unity to establish new churches free from scandal. But breaking Catholic unity did not suffice to fashion Protestant unity. Divisions multiplied and hardened among the baptismal heirs of the Lord Who willed all to be one.
This deeply saddening development had been foreseen long before in the Gospel of John. When Jesus said He would give His Body to feed us and His Blood to be our drink, many of His disciples reacted sharply—"How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"—and many of them "drew back and no longer walked with Him." From that day to this the Mystery of the Eucharist was a deal-breaker. "Will you also go away?" a disappointed Jesus asked his Apostles. From that day to this the Church has found its voice in St. Peter’s response: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Peter’s question confronts every Catholic who comes under pressure to "go away" from Jesus’ unsparing demands on our minds and hearts, to depart from communion with Him in the Church He empowered His Apostles to build. But when we walk away from communion with the Church, what are we saying to the Jesus Who entrusted His words and His sacraments to her bishops and saints? Has His promise to be with His Church to the end of the world ceased to be true? Can He Who is The Truth be entangled in a tissue of lies?
As we sail into the dark, storm-tossed sea of the scandal of episcopal betrayal, we do well to bear in mind Jesus’ promise in the Gospel of John: "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
27 August 2018
As the secret life of ex-Cardinal McCarrick has come to light these past two months, a number of you have written me to express outrage, anger, and pain at his scandalous behavior--soon eclipsed in the headlines by news of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s naming hundreds of priests as child abusers and more than a few bishops as their protectors. "My mind is still reeling," one of you wrote; "and every time I spend any amount of time thinking about this I feel fatigued. The weight of it is enormous." Indeed it is.
It gets heavier still, I’ve found, the more one tries to understand the extent of the disaster. What can be done to lighten the load of mounting frustration over unkept promises and failed episcopal leadership?
This past week Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, proposed a path to an answer. In a letter to American Catholics, the President of the Conference of Bishops outlined essential changes being developed by the Conference’s Executive Committee "to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past."
Toward this end the Committee has set three goals for the Conference of Bishops. The first is a thoroughgoing investigation into the case of Archbishop McCarrick, and it necessarily calls for cooperation with the Vatican. For we bishops have no authority to discipline or remove other bishops. Only the pope can do that. Therefore, Cardinal DiNardo says, the Bishops’ Conference will "invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation . . . in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act" on what they find by virtue of the Pope’s apostolic authority.
The second goal is to develop confidential and reliable third-party channels for reporting complaints of abuse and misconduct on the part of bishops--a task left undone in the first wave of child protection reform 15 years ago. This change would advance "the overarching goal" to put in place "protections that will hold bishops [just as much as priests] to the highest standards of transparency and accountability."
The third goal is to bring about changes in Church law to make canonical procedures to resolve complaints against bishops "more prompt, fair, and transparent."
The pursuit of these three goals, Cardinal DiNardo says, will be guided by three criteria: independence, authority, and lay leadership. Whatever structures or mechanisms we adopt "must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution."
By these criteria, then, the faithful must be able to bring a complaint against a bishop through a channel that is independent of his retaliatory authority. They can do so effectively only if the new process partakes of sufficient ecclesial authority to enforce decisions unfavorable to bishops in cases of sexual abuse or misconduct. "These are not administrative or clerical matters," Jim Geraghty has observed, "they are crimes, and it is stunning that for so long they were treated as something less than that." That’s why the third criterion--lay leadership--is crucial. Backed up with Church authority, experienced criminal investigators and prosecutors have the skills and tools to track down perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Cardinal DiNardo confesses in closing that he has "no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust."
Indeed it will. For trust comes at a price; it must be earned by our proven fidelity to the labor of shepherding souls.
16 August 2018
On June 20th allegations that retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC, sexually abused a 16-year-old boy in 1971 were found “credible and substantiated” by a New York investigative panel empowered by Pope Francis. In quick succession the pope removed the cardinal from ministry, sentenced him to penitential seclusion, and accepted his resignation from the cardinalate. As additional victims stepped forward, it became clear that the long-ago incidents in New York were but the tip of an iceberg of deception in a very dark sea. An underworld of exploitation came to the surface, unprecedented in its nature, extent, and duration.
Astonishingly, the New Jersey prelate made his predatory desires apparent to his associates for decades, cunningly weaving his seminarians and priests into a widening web of complicity. To his beach house he would frequently invite a group of seminarians for an overnight stay—but always one too many for the available beds. Word got around among his future priests that their bishop would make one of them sleep with him in his.
Father John De Celles has described the heavy toll this bizarre behavior took on clergy morale: “I hardly knew Bishop McCarrick, but since I entered the seminary, I and most of my clerical friends knew the accusations against him. There was no evidence—most of his victims were too afraid to go public, and the ones who did were ignored. So nothing could be done: you can’t accuse someone publicly on hearsay. But the thing is—everybody knew.”
Priests like Father De Celles watched “in disbelief” as the Bishop of Metuchen (since 1982) was promoted to Archbishop of Newark in 1986 and to Cardinal Archbishop of Washington in 2000. Even after retirement in 2006 the cardinal’s upward path continued unimpeded as he became an influential advisor to Pope Francis.
It is now known that the McCarrick outreach extended beyond priests and seminarians. In 1969, the then 39-year-old Father McCarrick exposed himself to “James,” an 11-year-old boy whom he had baptized two weeks after his priestly ordination in 1958. The abuse went on for 20 years in hotel rooms across the country. “He had chosen me to be his special boy,” James recounted this summer. “If I go back to my family, they tell me that it’s good for you to be with him. And if you try to tell somebody [as James tried to tell his father], they say, ‘I think you are mistaken.’ So . . . you clam up, and you stay inside your own little shoe box, and you don’t come out for 40 years.”
Reporter Julia Duin tried to get victims like James to come out and speak up, but she “ran into . . . blockages everywhere.” She found “priests and laity alike for whom McCarrick’s predilections were an open secret, but no one wanted to go after him.” Numerous other journalists say the same.
As the enormity of the McCarrick corruption sinks in, question upon question arises about how we bishops consciously or unconsciously played along with this diabolic assault on our apostolic integrity. How did Theodore McCarrick so effortlessly climb the ladder of promotion when “everybody knew” of his brazen homosexual pursuits? Who protected and promoted the scandal maker—and whom did he protect and promote in return?
If we are to restore our shattered credibility as a body of bishops, we must immediately seek to answer these questions and pull up the McCarrick corruption by the roots. To do that, we urgently need to know how wide they run and deep.
In collaboration with Pope Francis we should appoint an independent commission of lay men and women of impeccable reputation and significant investigative experience to track down the truth wherever it leads. Empowered to obtain testimony from bishops and documents from chanceries, the commission would make a public report to the body of bishops of their findings and recommendations. We can hope they would place in our hands a powerful antidote to episcopal corruption. If we administer the medicine well, our lay people and our clergy would have reason to be confident that we are determined to deter.
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19 February 2018
Statement regarding Reverend Thomas Faucher
25 April 2014
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baker
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