What Did the Catholic Church Know, And When Did the Church Know It?

8/24/18, by Professor John Frary,

An August 1 Associated Press report describes how Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s Family and Laity Office, is having a hard time defending the hierarchy from harsh attacks. The attacks do not originate with Freedom from Religion cranks, crusty Baptists, Marxoid zealots, or Planned Parenthood donors living in fear of retribution. They come from faithful Catholics who believe their Church belongs to the whole community, not just the clergy, prelates, and theologians.

Not being a member, I can’t take it upon myself to speak for this community. But I do know Catholics who, having contributed to their Church for years, are severely vexed to learn that their donations are paying huge legal fees and payments to settle sexual abuse cases. From 2004 to 2011 eight Catholic dioceses have declared bankruptcy due to sex abuse cases.

By 2017 BishopAccountability.org calculated the clerical sexual abuses had cost $3-Billion. Their website gives access to an “online archive established by lay Catholics to provides a mass of files and articles.”

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is facing charges of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Farrell faces hard questions about his knowledge of the Cardinal Theodore McCarrick case. Pope Francis has expelled McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to live a lifetime of penance and prayer pending the outcome of a canonical trial. This is far from sufficient for many faithful laymen.

Some call for a denial of donations to the church until there has been a proper investigation of any prelates who connived in cover-ups. The accusers argue that Farrell must have heard the same rumors about McCarrick’s sexual escapades that Catholic laity, students, and professors at Catholic University in Washington had heard. After all, the two cardinals resided with lesser clergy in the same converted school building.

Farrell claims that “At no time did anyone ever approach me and tell me. And I was approached by over 70 victims of abuse from all over the United States after 2002…Never once did I even suspect. Now people can say ‘Well you must be a right fool that you didn’t notice.’ I must be a right fool, but I don’t think I am. That’s why I feel angry.”

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s family and laity office, denies knowledge of Cardinal McCormick’s alleged sexual abuses.

The year 2002 is foremost in Farrell’s mind because that was the year the Boston Post published a ruthless expose of the Boston Diocese cover-up and, in effect, facilitation of clerical sexual abuse. This opened the floodgates holding back news of similar scandals all across the country and decades in the past.

Clerical misconduct is not one of my primary interests, yet I now see, looking back, that I had been well prepped for the McCarrick expose. When I attended a National Association of Scholars conference in Chicago in the early ‘eighties, I became friendly with Jim Bowman, a member of the Jesuit order between 1950 and 1968.

After discovering that he was better suited to be a husband and father than a cleric he left the Order but remained devout. He told me that scandals were building beneath the surface and recommended a book by a priest he knew that provided details.

I forgot the title and author, but remembered Jim and a long time later I bought his autobiographical “Company Man. My Jesuit Life, 1950-1968.” His memoir cited only one homosexual problem in the Order during his time as a Jesuit. According to his memories alcoholism was the most common problems for priests in those days. There was no hint in his book of how rapidly and widely the sexual misconduct spread.

Later on, in the eighties, I became friendly with a retired construction worker who held an Eastern Orthodox clerical title. There are a number of Eastern denominations which have negotiated a deal with the Vatican over the years. Under its terms, they accept the authority of the Pope while retaining most of their traditional practices. This man had entered the Roman Catholic clergy as a married man under this special dispensation.

He had found the effeminate atmosphere of the seminary he attended alarming and wondered why the authorities seemed indifferent. He predicted problems ahead. I noted what he said but drew no conclusion.  I never got into details. For all I could tell on a brief acquaintance he may have been one of those bigots who believe that anal sodomy is painful, unhygienic, and smelly.

This fellow introduced me to a genial and learned history professor who taught history at a southern state university. The professor, let’s call him Don Filippo, had trained in Rome and was administratively attached to the Diocese of Metuchen (NJ). When we met he told me he had recently performed an exorcism. After the victim had been freed from his demonic burden he asked his benefactor if he had sensed the presence of evil. Don Filippo replied that he had, but nothing as evil as the Bishop of Metuchen.

I sensed then that Don Filippo had a distinctive sense of humor. This was confirmed sometime later when he told me about a circular sent to all priests under the authority of his Diocese. They were asked to send copies of their wills, with the assurance that this was only for the record and confidentiality would be observed. Don Filippo immediately went around to his lawyer and had a codicil added to his will leaving his last bowel movement to Theodore McCarrick, Bishop of Metuchen. Yes, that same McCarrick.

I infer from all this that Don Filippo knew more than he disclosed to me. I infer no further, but I suspect that the head of the Vatican’s Family and Laity Office may have known more about this house-mate than he is now willing to remember. How could I, a mere layman with heathenish tendencies, have inside knowledge of Ted’s creepiness while he knew nothing?

John Frary is a retired college professor of 32 years, a well-known conservative columnist and activist, a former Maine congressional candidate and a contributor for Maine First Media.

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