Category Archives: Prayer

McCarrick’s “Revelations” about John Paul

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?

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Tomb of Elizabeth Ann Seton, First Native-born American Saint; Shrine of Mother Seton; Emmitsburg, MD

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.

Dirtbag.

More to come (including the “difficult” post I promised).

Pray for the Church.

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A Frat House with a Chapel: My Time in the College Seminary

Let’s return for a moment to my time in the college seminary…

I’m going to talk about those three years (I finished early so I could get the hell out) because of who the boss was – Uncle Ted.  When I talked about the fish rotting from the head down; this is another example of that.

The college seminary was located about six blocks off the main campus of Seton Hall University in a building that had once served as the parish hall of an Episcopal church.  There was an expansive front lawn owing to the fact that the church building itself had burned to the ground in the early 1980’s before the Archdiocese acquired the property.  It is my understanding that, prior to that time, the college seminary was in fact merely a discernment “program” where young men who were college students would participate in communal prayer a few times a day but other than that there wasn’t much difference between them and other students.  In fact there was no residency requirement until the later 1980’s.  Many men I know had actually bypassed the college seminary even though they knew they had priestly vocations simply because they wanted to study at a different college or didn’t want the hassle of living in the residence.  After three years there myself I can’t say I blame them.

In years past many men might begin priestly formation at the high school level.  Cathedral Prep in New York was one such example.  We could argue the merits of accepting into formation a young man of 14 but that’s not my point.  Very few high school seminaries exist anywhere in the world these days.  And I’m not convinced that college seminaries should exist either.  Under canon law a seminarian is a man studying theology.  The benefit of a college seminary program is to discern a little more deeply while also completing courses in philosophy.  This way, if upon graduation the man still feels called to priesthood he can transition into a major seminary with ease.  Yet, the men I knew who did not go through college seminary had no problem adjusting to major seminary life.  At best they may have had to do an additional year of studies to cover the philosophy.

My college seminary was rather like a frat house with a chapel.

The first year and a half I was there our rector was actually a very capable administrator.  Between him and the spiritual director (a wonderful man and a truly good priest) they kept the appearance of order and everyone seemed at peace.  There was an incident that stands out involving another seminarian who had used computers in the common area to access and download porn.  That was dealt with.  Otherwise, nothing major comes to mind.

The other year and a half we were given a new rector who really didn’t seem to know how to control the crowd.  There were two guys in particular who literally hated each other.  Unfortunately they had been assigned to room together.  What was really unfortunate was that they were the only two who had to share a room.  Believe it or not there were seventeen guys and sixteen rooms that year.  They were constantly at each other’s throats, even fist-fighting on occasion.  At the end of the year one of the two decided to check out in grand style.  He moved every piece of furniture to the middle of the room, incorporating booby traps (comical in nature, not deadly), and erecting a mock altar at the entrance to the room complete with burning candles and a sign that read “La commedia e finite.”  Fun times.

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Mary Washes Jesus’ Feet, stained glass St. Patrick’s Cathedral Harrisburg, PA

One other bizarre incident that stands out to me happened a few months into my first year.  That year everyone had to share rooms because we were full.  My roommate never spoke more than three words together.  One night I walked into the room around 11, switched on the TV to watch the news, and got into bed.  We had two closets on either side of the bedroom door – the kind with bi-fold panel doors on them.  After the news ended I went to turn off the TV.  The closet door opened.  My roommate stepped out without saying a word, walked past me, and climbed up into his bunk.  He had been in there for 35 minutes at least.  It was perhaps the weirdest thing I have ever witnessed.  On a side note, a few years later I share that story with a classmate in the major seminary who had apparently known this guy.  “Who was your roommate?” he asked.  I told him the name.  “Oh!  That makes perfect sense…  The mad masturbator.”

Do you wonder how any sane man could make it through such a place?  So many didn’t.  My best friend and I met the first day I was there.  We’re both married with beautiful families.  We laugh about those days now but they were pretty harrowing.  Imagine you’re a young guy.  You feel that God has called you to give up everything so that His people have someone to offer sacrifice and forgive their sins.  You know full well how much you’d really enjoy family life and all that entails and yet you’re willing to discern and give this thing a shot.  Then you’re met with lunatics and predators.  After a while you begin to wonder if you’re not the crazy one.  And at the top of the ticket is perhaps the worst criminal in the history of the Catholic Church and you didn’t even know it.

Reading recent published reports recounting the experiences of other men in various seminaries around the country now I certainly feel a connection.  Was there rampant drinking?  Sure, although I didn’t perceive too many guys had a “problem” with it.  There appeared to be at least a handful of gay men.  I didn’t have my eyes open that far back then but looking back I realize that some of them were actually couples.  There were the guys saw it for what it was – a house of discernment.  They had made no commitments and were also discerning other callings.  More than a few of my friends were spotted a local bars with their girlfriends.  Again, I don’t really have a problem with this in the discernment process.  What made me uneasy was the secrecy.  No one was really quite sure what the rules were.  McCarrick would brag about the place that he had “not one seminary but three!”  But it really wasn’t that.  Of course, he also had the mission seminary I mentioned in a recent post.  I really think he kept the place open for the appearance of having another seminary because I only know a small handful of priests who survived that place with a vocation.

One man in particular I’d like to mention, who didn’t survive, was a guy named Steve.  Steve was in his late 30’s.  He was from another diocese.  He was in his last year when I was in my first.  We had a few classes together.  He was a fun guy to talk to; although I must admit I didn’t know him well.  The summer after his graduation I got a call from another friend that Steve had taken his life.  We never talked much about it.  I tried to ask around but no one ever really had an answer.  As near as I could tell he had overdosed on heroin.  We had a mass for his repose sometime that fall.  I don’t know what demons tortured his soul but I still get a chill when I think about it – how it was never spoken of.

Pray for his soul.

Pray for the Church.

PS: I have another story I need to tell and it will probably be the hardest to write for me.  Thanks to all of you who have been reading and sharing.  I do appreciate it.

McCarrick and the Chi-comms

I am still sick from this one.

Teddy McCarrick, AKA “Uncle Ted” was apparently behind the recent actions of the Holy See to “normalize” relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Here’s what it means in a nutshell.  The Vatican will recognize those men as valid bishops who were selected by the PROC/Communist Party.

Great.

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Blessed Mother, Christ Child, and Zechariah Church of St. Anne, Kaufman, TX

To say nothing of the underground Catholic Church in China and the sacrifices so many of these good and faithful sons and daughters of the Church have made; we can chalk this up to another of the consequences of Francis being “advised” by the former cardinal and current reprobate McCarrick.

I have a niece who was born in Beijing.  The one-child policy of that evil regime led to her being abandoned.  My sister adopted her.  She has brought love and joy into our lives for these past 20 years and I cannot imagine not having her around.  She learned the Catholic faith in the United States.  McCarrick was archbishop when my sister brought her home to us.

But these are the people we trust to appoint OUR bishops.  And this sort of begs the question; if a government (an officially atheistic communist one at that!) can choose our bishops, why can’t the people of, say, Newark have a say in who should shepherd them?  If a few of my boys on Bloomfield Ave. got together and selected one of our hometown priests and sent the name to Francis; do you think he’d approve?

My niece did NOT crawl out of mainland China for this nonsense.

More betrayal from the political pope and his cronies.

When will it end?

Side note: I started a “shred” diet this morning.  I’ve been working out like a beast the past year or so.  It’s both a hobby of mine (similar to writing) and a health-quest.  After two spinal fusion surgeries, this 40 year-old dad wants to be around and in good shape for his wife and kids for a while.  Maybe I’ll even attempt quitting smoking again.  Some day.  In the meantime, my second meal of the day (out of 6) was a piece of baked tilapia and a bowl of unflavored oatmeal.

Lucky me.

Pray for the Church (and for me).

They’re Everywhere: More of the McCarrick Mess

One of the things that has been bothering me this past “Summer of Hell” for the Catholic Church – my Catholic Church – is the utter mischaracterization by many in the mainstream press of the true nature of the problem.  Noted psychotherapist (former priest) Richard Sipe nailed it.  He identified the problem long ago as a problem of homosexual predation – that is, sexual predation on young men, post-puberty, by priests and, very importantly, bishops, of a homosexual nature.  The data is clear.  The sexual crimes and sins being committed are rooted in same-sex attraction.  YES, there are priests who have abused women.  YES, there are abuse victims who are under the age of legal majority.  But the overwhelming majority of victims have been post-pubescent males.  We’re talking about physically mature men being sought out by older men.  I would say let’s take the criminal element off the table but we can’t.  ANYTIME someone abuses another person of any gender should be considered criminal, though the law has not always treated it as such.  But to get to the root of the problem we face now we must have the courage to admit that the victims are mostly the same sex as the predators.  When we admit this we can then see that the there is a pool of potential victims in the seminaries of the Catholic Church.

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The Seven Sacraments. Stained Glass, Cathedral Basilica of St. Dunstan, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

At this moment I could identify to you several priests who are actively engaged in homosexual relationships with other men – priests and laymen.  If the “partners” are over 18 and have consented then there is no crime.  The hierarchy hide behind this. Even if there is a crime they run out the clock on the statute of limitations. This is why the bishops are careful to craft their “response” as dealing with sexual abuse of “young people and vulnerable adults”.  Do they ever consider seminarians “vulnerable”?  Nope.  Look, there’s so much going on here that it’s hard to sort it out.  And yet it always comes back to this.  There has been for at least fifty years a cadre, a cabal, a current of same-sex-attracted men engaging in homosexual acts with other men and doing so from the other side of a Roman collar.  This ought to concern every faithful Catholic.  While the Western world currently holds as a bigot anyone who dares to claim the thousands’ year old belief that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered condition; the Catholic Church has always held to this belief.  I’m not asking you to believe what I just stated at its core.  But you cannot deny that the Church has always taught this.  Moving on from here we encounter brazen hypocrisy at best.

Sipe, who died literally as this summer was breaking open with its ghoulish revelations of the McCarrick’s and Wuerl’s of the world and their “misdeeds”, believed it.  He knew what the problem was.  His answer, his solution, was not the one I would have proposed.  He thought that things would be better if we just got it out in the open and allowed priests and laymen to be practitioners of a “normalized” homosexuality.  But he never denied that the problem in the Church was rooted in the same homosexuality.

So let’s talk about that school where I worked.  Remember that I’m not using names.  Here’s the story.  From the time I was in college seminary I belonged to the Knights of Columbus.  I had been told by my rector that it was a good thing to belong because they gave financial support to seminarians.  Indeed, over the few years I was active I did receive a few hundred dollars and I was most appreciative.  In my time at this particular council I had the opportunity to bring my dad and several brothers-in-law into the group.  For Dad, just having retired, it was a great social group and he would bring me with him on occasional Friday nights to have a beer at the bar with the guys.  During our conversations the members, who all belonged to the attached parish, talked frequently and in very hostile tones about one of the young priests who had recently been assigned to that parish.  The long and short of it?  This guy was bad news.  They all knew he had abused a few young men. They knew he had been removed from the parish.  They knew that he came from a wealthy family.  And they knew that the whole thing had been hushed up by the archdiocese.

When I say “they knew” I’m using their words.  I had no proof nor did they except what everyone had heard.  Remember how when the McCarrick mess first broke everyone said “we all knew”… but no one would tell.  Enough of that bullshit.

These men were typical in many ways.  When you think of blue collar, Jersey guys you’d think of them.  They were mad as hell when they talked about this priest.  And they were mad as hell that nothing could be done about him.  They spoke as if they knew the victims because they probably did.  They wanted to fight but couldn’t.

After I left the seminary and subsequently left the TV industry I started teaching in a Catholic high school.  Guess who I encountered.  Right there.  Teaching.  As a priest amidst 800 boys between the ages of 14 and 18.  If I told you that the diocesan administrator of schools was of a similar ilk would you be surprised?  We know the archbishop was into dudes.  The head of the schools office, if he wasn’t gay, was a very convincing actor.  And I am NOT trying to imply that every gay man wants to rape teenage boys.  What I am trying to do is draw the picture for you.  These men entered priesthood knowing they were gay, hiding that fact, and, never intending to live their commitment to celibacy, established a network where they would get their jollies and cover for each other.  They protected each other.  They lied.  They committed demonic acts.  They abused everyone in their path who didn’t agree with them and that went for those who favored more traditional liturgical practices as well as those who’s view of marriage and family stopped at mother/father/children.  Are you starting to understand what the term “Lavender Mafia” means now?  And no, lifting the celibacy requirement for Roman priests will not address this problem.  When was the last time that encouraging a gay man to marry a woman changed his orientation?

Look, draw your own conclusions.  I know what I heard.  I remember the things I saw.  And I will no longer pretend it didn’t happen/isn’t happening nor will I remain silent out of fear that people wouldn’t believe.

Pray for the Church.

By Extension: How Other Areas of Church Governance were Affected by the Evil McCarrick

I feel like a dam that has just burst.  Things I have been holding in the back of my mind for years are suddenly finding themselves in need of being spewed forth.

In the coming days I will be recounting how the evil that was tolerated and even encouraged by Teddy McCarrick extended itself to other areas of the Church.

Do not think, though, that McCarrick was an isolated incident.  The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report showed us the depths of diabolical depravity in but one state, or rather “commonwealth” in deference to my family and friends in the Great Keystone.  PA is one out of 50 states.  Donald Wuerl still clings to power in the “51st”, that is, in the District of Columbia.  I noticed today on Twitter that my hero-reporter George Neumayr is following some kind of lead involving RICO violations…  Go, George, go!  PLEASE, consider donating to help fund his cause.  I have, and it is well worth it.

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Pieta, the Mother and her Son; Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Denver

But let’s return to the Archdiocese of Newark for a moment.  And let’s return to me where I left off.  After I was booted from the seminary I had no earthly idea what I was going to do.  I simply knew that this was, in some peaceful way, God’s will for me.  It was awful and it was terrible the way they did it but somehow I felt that I would be OK.  Unfortunately I also felt extraordinarily lost.  I had majored in Religious Studies in college and was now a few credits short of a Master’s Degree in Systematic Theology.  Not thinking I would ever do anything other than be a Catholic priest, I was at a complete loss as to how to go about finding work.  My parents, God bless them, took me in and supported me until I got on my feet.  For a few months I wasn’t sure when that would be or even how.  Finally I landed a job as a trainee in the newsroom of the local Fox station in New York.  Before I wanted to be a priest I wanted to be a news anchor.  This, despite the minimum wage pay and long hours, was a dream come true for me.  I got to work alongside real New York news anchors who knew my name and liked my work.  I got to show my skills in writing and producing features segments.  I got to forget about the seminary for a little while.

And I continued in that field on and off for the next few years.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw my name in the credits of a TV show.  It was so exciting.  But that’s a completely different story.  We’ll leave that one for the book.

There came a time when I realized, through Mom’s gentle guidance, that I wanted to be a teacher.  I remember her saying one day “Hey, you wanted to be a teacher, right?” and me replying “Lady, I thought I asked you to quit smoking crack.”  Unfazed, she said in return “Good, there’s an opening at a local Catholic high school.”  I figured “why not?” and faxed a resume.  No one was more surprised than I to receive a phone call twenty minutes later requesting an interview the next day.  I was even more surprised when I walked out of that interview with a signed contract.

For the record I taught Theology in Catholic high schools for the news 12 years.  I recently got out (another story for the book).  But boy I’d love to talk about some of the strange goings-on in that large archdiocesan high school.  I’m leaning in close now…  Wanna’ hear?

As I wrap this up, it is after midnight on a Sunday.  I’m still a practicing Roman Catholic.  There’s mass in the morning.  Remember that obligation thing they stopped teaching about for a few decades?  Some of us didn’t.  I will pray for each of you as I offer my intentions before the holy sacrifice.  And then we’re taking Mom to a drive-thru safari in East Texas.  She’s heading home in a few days and we’re a little sad but this promises to be a fun day.

Pray for the Church.

More Memories of the McCarrick System: Evil from the Top Down

I have to thank all of you who have read my recent posts and shared your thoughts and comments, showing incredible support.  It is the kind of support I wish I had found years ago.  I always had it from my family and loved ones.  They knew the truth.  Yet we were all powerless.  We would begin to tell but found our words falling on deaf ears.  The mindset that “these priests were ‘nice’ guys” was so pervasive.  Newsflash: ‘nice’ ain’t gonna get you to heaven.  The late Cardinal O’Connor of New York said he wanted to be remembered as a ‘good’ priest.  Would that we had more of them now.  And we do still have many.  I pray that no one reads my accounts and thinks there is nothing but evil and malfeasance in the Church.  But they wanted to protect the image of the Church, they say.  Great.  Let’s start by promoting and protecting the true image of the Church.

First and foremost that image is the crucifix.  The God who created and sustains the universe, in an act of supreme condescension, took on our nature and allowed Himself to be put to death for us.  It’s not surprising that so many in that crowd wanted crucifixes removed from churches.

Then there is the image of a man like Agustine who shows forth God’s forgiveness and mercy.  There’s the image of Anthony who preached emphatically, testifying to the Truth with such grace that even fish in the sea listened to him.  There’s the image of Mary MacKillop who exposed sexual abuse and suffered excommunication for it.  There’s the image of Teresa of Calcutta who cradled the dying leper out of love for Christ.

There’s the image of my mom and dad who brought forth sixteen children despite being derided by men like Bergoglio as “breeding like rabbits”.

THIS is the Church.

But the Church is also the priest who visited me in the hospital at risk to his own future, the priest who serves tirelessly ministering to college students who have not been catechized and seek the Truth in a crazy world, the priest who answers the phone at midnight without hint of being annoyed because your 2 year-old niece has just drowned in a swimming pool.  There are so many more of these priests then there are bad bishops.

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Christ WILL come again… and I think He might be pissed. Window over choir loft, Co-cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Houston, TX

Stand up, then, and fight!  There’s a reason we have a male priesthood.  We men are, by nature, pugnacious.  We want to fight for and die for something greater than ourselves.  God called me to do this for my beautiful wife and our children.  Surely they can take care of themselves.  Anyone who knows my wife knows how lopsided our relationship is in terms of our ability to make a mark on the world and yet this is what God called me to do – to die for them.  Fathers, you love the Church.  FIGHT for her.  Tell your bishop when he is wrong.  Demand he resign when it is clear he let us down and covered up crimes.  Fight, dammit!

I just came from a baptism.  Clearly there are still new members coming into the Church.  In the rite, the deacon prayed that God would open the ears of the deaf and the mouths of the dumb.  We who were baptized possess this grace.  We need to use it.

Another painful memory that came to mind from my time in seminary was this.  In my first three years in the college seminary I had a spiritual director of my choosing.  I selected him because he seemed to me to be, well, pastoral.  He had been a parish priest for years and seemed to know what he was doing.  Toward the end of my three years as I was preparing to move on to the major seminary this man began pressuring me to spend time with him at his trailer up in the woods.  Unlike all those with beach houses, this man had a trailer in the woods in northwestern New Jersey.

Do you know what saved me?

I freakin hate the woods.

Never suspecting anything, I just kept telling him “No, Father, that’s OK.  I don’t do the woods.”  I can’t stress how much growing up in New Jersey has affected my soul and in this case it saved me.  He’d bring it up again and again.  Finally I said: “Listen, why on earth would I want to hang out at a trailer in the woods?  Mosquitos, heat… gross.  I’d prefer to stay in the city with the concrete and air conditioning and stuff.”  He countered, “I’m hurt.  I thought you liked me.”  I honestly believe I can just leave this story here.  Make of it what you will.  I think we all know where he wanted it to go so I don’t have to say it.  I can tell you that this same priest around the same time asked one of my nephews to come help at the rectory with the parish’s computers.  My nephew was a college student at the time and now works in IT.  During the course of his job that day the priest asked my nephew to look at his personal computer.  According to my nephew it took him all of a minute to discover the computer was running slowly because of the presence of gay porn on the hard drive.  He finished his job and left and NEVER returned.

I didn’t know that story until some time later.  But I think this is indicative of the kinds of things that were simply part of the culture in that diocese under McCarrick.  Did it go on longer than that, after he left?  Probably.  His successor didn’t seem too interested in much more than securing his retirement home.  Look it up.  But a fish rots from the head.  If the head is sane and sound and holy and healthy than the body will follow.  Think about it.

More to come.

Pray for the Church.

My Time in the Seminary of a Disgraced, Vile, and Evil Former Cardinal, Part 5-B

Picking up where I left off in my last post…

A friend suggested to me that I would need to include more autobiographical detail in order to write a book about these events.  Don’t worry.  I never intended simply to take my posts and string them together.  There is a lot to fill in the gaps.  Also, please take note that, other than McCarrick, I have not mentioned any names.  These recollections of mine are a memoir.  I don’t intend to write an expose, not do I intend to write a history.  I am telling the story of things that happened to me.  For now I am simply sharing the most pertinent details of specific events.  Can people investigate or draw their own conclusions?  Absolutely.  But the main point is that for so long faithful Catholics did not know what was really going on in our seminaries nor with our leadership.  I hope to shed light on that by sharing my own account.

So, the vocations director and I had become friends.  As I mentioned this was odd because the previous two men holding that post really did not know me.  The first didn’t even seem to know much about the seminary process at all.  When I first met with him he presented to me a picture of seminary life that represented his time in seminary.  Things had changed. For instance, he told me that I would have to quit my job in order to enter college seminary.  I worked part-time at a shipping company in Hoboken.  The truth is that I could have kept that job and had some spending money.  His information was roundly incorrect.  He was proud of having brought in large numbers because McCarrick was proud of the fact that he ordained more men to the priesthood each year than any other bishop in America.  Think about that for a moment in light of what we now know.  Was there something strange going on?  Well, one year in particular he ordained somewhere around 12 guys yet only one was native to the archdiocese.  The rest were from the mission seminary.  He started out with large classes in the home seminary but they dwindled over four years time.

So here’s some of the biographical stuff…

Am I Dead?

When I was four years-old my family’s home caught fire in the middle of the night.  I was thrown from a second floor porch.  I survived.  My twin sister and two of my brothers did not.  I mention this because when I landed on the icy ground I injured my back.  I recovered almost immediately.  But it turns out that the injury caused lots of little micro-fractures that weakened the discs in my lumbar spine.  It also turns out that as a child’s body grows, such an injury might not manifest itself until the bones stop growing.

I was 21 years old and entering the major seminary when I first noticed sharp, shooting pains in my back.  I saw my doctor and went to physical therapy for a few weeks.  The pain subsided for a while so I did not seek further treatment.

Then one morning at the start of the second semester of Second Theology I got out of bed to get dressed for mass and promptly fell onto my side.  I couldn’t feel my leg.  One of the discs had degenerated to where it was bulging like a flat tire and pressing the sciatic nerve.  I recovered after a few minutes and went right to the doctor.  The diagnosis was to rest at home while we figured this thing out.  I started seeing an orthopedic surgeon who sent me for spinal injections and anything else he could think of.  All the while I had essentially withdrawn from the seminary as I was not able to attend classes.  I remained in touch with the faculty and expressed to them my desire to get this taken care of and catch up to my class.  It would have been difficult but not impossible.

In the meantime, McCarrick had just recently been transferred to Washington and made a cardinal.  We were left with one of the auxiliary bishops running the show for almost a year.  The seminary rector made a show of coming to my parents’ house to visit and see how I was doing but it was obvious to me and my mom and dad that he was only checking up on me.  The man had an air about him that would have iced the veins in an Eskimo.  I spoke to my spiritual director at the time and he and I laughed about the fact that the rector seemed to distrust my diagnosis.  “He’s a doctor?” I said.

Within two months I was being prepped for a lumbar spinal fusion.  If you don’t know what that is here’s a breakdown.  My spine was disassembled and fused back together with a piece of my hip bone that had been broken off.  I woke up in the worst pain imaginable.  That might have been due to the fact that my morphine drip was malfunctioning and I was receiving no painkillers.  When I came to, I noticed my mother on my left side and the vocations director on my right.  He was crying and saying “My friend, what have they done to you?”  I asked him if I was dead.  It was that bad.

I spent the next week in the hospital – a hospital I had chosen because of its proximity to the seminary.  I had reached out to my classmates and told them when I would be there, expressing to them a desire for company while I recovered.

And yet during that week I received visits only twice.  One was from the rector and another priest.  He never traveled alone.  Again, he was checking up on me.  I sensed immediately that this was not a “lift your spirits, hope you get better” visit but a “let me see how bad this is” visit.  The other was from a classmate with whom I have remained close.  In years to come he would officiate at my wedding and baptize my kids.

In the middle of that week I received a letter from the rector informing me in cold terms that it had been decided I was to fall back a year and spend time in a parish.  He sent this knowing that it would be waiting for me when I got home; but my dad had brought it to the hospital as soon as it arrived.  I had done nothing wrong and was willing and able to do the work involved to catch up.  THIS was a punishment.

By the end of the week I spoke by phone with another classmate and asked why he hadn’t come by to see me.  His response shocked me.  He told me that the rector had instructed them all that I was not to receive visitors.

I went home and began my recovery in earnest.  I spent the summer building myself up from immobile to walking 4-5 miles a day at dawn.  When you’re 23 the body can rebuild itself remarkably well.  During that long summer I also heard some news from a neighbor who worked at the chancery.  She had overheard (in her words) a conversation about whether the diocese could cancel my health insurance.  She surmised that I had been too great an expense.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. but I had started to put the picture together that a lot of things were possible.

My Assignment

By the end of the summer I went up to the seminary to meet with the rector.  While there I bumped into the old priest who had once advised me to pass out when confronted with an unpleasant situation.  He, being head of the formation faculty, was unaware that I was being held back.  I’ll never forget the look of shock on his face.  “Is this what you want?” he asked.  “No,” I replied.  “I want to continue on and be ordained with my classmates.”  “Then tell him [the rector] that.”  Then he quickly determined that probably wouldn’t get me anywhere.

rita

Ss. Augustine, Rita, John the Baptist, and Nicholas of Tolentine; Shrine of St. Rita, Philadelphia

The rector told me how I was to be assigned to a parish in a very wealthy enclave within the diocese. Money seemed to matter with this guy.  “I don’t care where I’m assigned,” I said.  “It’s not really what I wanted anyway but I suppose I’ll make the most of it.”  And we left it at that.

Early that September I showed up at my new parish.  Within hours I realized that I had been set up.  Here’s what I learned.  The pastor, who was not to be my direct supervisor, gave me a lecture on smoking telling me I’d have to walk off the grounds to light up.  Then he passed me off to the vicar.  I was given a tour of the rectory.  I had a small room with no bathroom.  “You can use the one down the hall,” he told me.  The only problem is that the building had been converted for use.  It was a former convent that now housed parish offices.  In other words I’d be showering in a room with no lock in a unisex office bathroom.  Then I was asked to go on a hospital visit.  I thought it odd that the vicar asked me to drive.

I got back to the rectory and made some calls.  One was to a friend who had previously been assigned this parish over the summer.  He informed me that the vicar was a friend of the rector and that he had his license revoked by the state.  He alluded to a reason about a drunk driving incident but didn’t say more.  “They didn’t tell you? You’re there to be his driver,” he told me.  The other call was to the vocations director.  I called him as a friend and asked his advice.  He shared with me a story of a parish assignment he had when he was in seminary.  “The pastor was a drunk,” he said.  “One night I walked past the dining room of the rectory to find the guy passed out and completely naked.  I complained about it but was told to just move on.”  Then he gave me his advice.  “Get out of there.”  We agreed that it would not be in the interest of my safety or sanity to remain in this parish.  At the very least I should be able to request a different assignment.  The only problem was that neither of us could reach the rector.  I was told he had gone to his beach house for the weekend and was unavailable.

Who knew they all had beach houses?

I asked a few other priests for advice.  To a man they all said: “Don’t stay in a dangerous situation.  Go with your gut. Get out.  Turn in the key and request a meeting with the rector when he returns.”

And that’s what I did.

The following Tuesday was 9/11.  Yes, that one.

On September 12th I received a call that the rector would have that meeting with me the next morning.

Bye, Felicia

On Thursday September 13, 2001, with smoke still rising in the near distance, I walked into the rector’s office and was told to sit.

“We want you to resign as a seminarian,” he said.

I started to quip “I didn’t know I was working for you.”  To this I was immediately cut off.

“Do not speak,” he said.

He told me that I had refused an assignment and been disobedient.  “If you ever hope to be a priest anywhere else you’d better write a nice letter of resignation.  You’ll never be one here,” he said.

I tried once again to interject.  “You need to know that I acted on solid advice and…”

Once more I was silenced.

I can still remember that it took all of five minutes.  I stood up and walked out, not shaking his hand, and left.  Oh, and I had been told to leave right away, not to gather any of my things.  “We’ll pack them and call you when they’re ready.” On my way past the front desk a fellow seminarian told me that a group of them had been using my room as a drinking spot in my absence.

“Keep using it,” I said as I walked out the door.

That was it.  It was over.  Five years of my life, of my youth.  I wasn’t allowed to mount a defense.  All I had wanted was to request a different assignment.  I really wanted answers about why I was sent to that parish in the first place.  Instead I got mafia treatment.  “Don’t speak or else.”

I called the vocations director and told him what had happened.

“I kind of figured that might,” he said.  “Really?  And you didn’t warn me?”  I asked him where we could go from here.  He actually suggested I write to McCarrick.  “He’ll take anyone.”  But he signaled that he was powerless against this rector and with no bishop in place I had no options. I expressed to him my disgust at how everything turned out and he agreed that I had been wronged..  Then he offered up some BS solution that “this is just how things are…”  And I didn’t hear from him again until years later when one of my nephews bumped into him.  He was now chaplain of a local Catholic college. Perhaps I was no longer of use to him. Perhaps he was too afraid of the system.

But at that point I had had enough.  Who wants to be part of a system like that?  For five years I had been surrounded by strange men, people working through neuroses and sexual dysfunction, priests with no parish experience, and a wall of silence I only know realized I had slammed into for daring to ask a reasonable question.

In time I would come to forgive.  It still hurts to think about that day.  I never would have expected to encounter that treatment from priests.  But I had to let go or would destroy me.

I did write that resignation letter.  And I did NOT write it “nicely”.  The bridge had been burned but not by me.  I was just going to clear the rubble.

I never received a reply.

Postscript:

To my friends who were part of this system…  You know the men involved.  You know how he acted and you know the rumors that surrounded him.  Thank you for your private messages which have served to reassure me that other people saw these things too.