Another of the many, many memories that have flooded from the back of my mind to the front in recent days…
This evening I was scrolling through Facebook. A friend had posted the following musing:
“I refuse to accept the thesis that St. JPII was a malicious actor in the McCarrick mess. We have every indication that he lived a life of holiness totally inconsistent with that, while we also have reason to believe he could easily in those years have had events around him manipulated by those he trusted.”
We haven’t talked much about St. John Paul II’s involvement in the whole McCarrick affair yet. In fact, I’ve almost been hesitant to do so. If you’re Catholic, have a pulse, and had that pulse at any time between 1978 and 2005 you’ll probably know why.
John Paul II was a great man. In his life he taught us volumes, defending the authentic Catholic faith, speaking truth in the midst of those who literally wanted to kill him. And yet he was the man in charge during a lot of what went on with McCarrick and his ilk. He even appointed many of the bishops who went on to commit crimes and cover them up. How do we reconcile these two facts?
My own supposition is as follows. When Karol Wojtyla ascended the throne of Peter he was willing to trust that the men in charge of the Vatican Curia (like the Congregation for Bishops) were recommending to him decent men to the episcopacy. This explains the evil and twisted Matthew Clark, Bishop of Rochester, NY, who was appointed in 1979 and terrorized his diocese for several decades. I’m pretty sure JPII wised up and began reviewing the appointment process a lot closer after that. Keep in mind, though, that the process of selecting bishops is a complicated thing and any number of men can get their hands on it and steer it in the wrong direction. The pope is last man to see the selection and then generally approves the selection.
But let’s look at the end of his life. It was pretty obvious that from the late 1990’s onward John Paul was seriously ill and very much incapacitated. I have heard (and I heard from seminary sources back in the day) that many things were going on in the Vatican during this time of which John Paul simply was not aware. I’m willing to accept this for two reasons. 1) John Paul personally was a holy man. This fact was obvious during his lifetime. 2) Teddy McCarrick spilled the beans on it to me once.
It was 1998 and the archbishop had come to visit the college seminary on one of his many trips. He had just returned from Rome and wanted to share some news. He had brought a gift. Our rector was to be named a Monsignor. While we all sat around he addressed us and then took some questions. Someone asked “Archbishop, how is the Holy Father’s health?”
In a nutshell, here is McCarrick’s reply.
“The Holy Father is well but not well.” He then went on to detail over the next few minutes the pontiff’s condition, describing his Parkinson’s Disease (which had not been officially divulged yet) and the medicines that were “being given the pope”. He described the pope’s typical day as “being given a certain regimen in the morning so he could be trotted out into the square or on the balcony” I remember thinking at the time how sad this was and that maybe we shouldn’t be hearing it. “Then, he has his meetings with whomever has come to see him, still fortified by his first round of meds. Then after lunch they give him a whole lot more only these medicines basically wipe him out for the rest of the day so he can’t really function.”
The man painted a pathetic portrait of an icon. I look back. I know what McCarrick was doing now. In light of the present I truly believe he was gloating (McCarrick) and relished in the fact that he would be able to get away with anything he wanted. I think he was signaling to us that he could do anything with impunity.
More to come (including the “difficult” post I promised).
Pray for the Church.