Friday, January 11, 2019

News Continues to Break re: McCloskey + Opus Dei: "Catholic Right … Does Not Want to Grasp the Gravity" of Catholic Church's Sex-Abuse Crisis

As I have mentioned in my several previous postings about this story, I happened to be scanning Twitter right around the time Michelle Boorstein broke the McCloskey story on Twitter this past Monday evening, 7 January. I shared Michelle Boorstein's link breaking the story, and almost immediately, got pushback from a young Catholic whose Twitter profile states that he's connected to the right-wing Catholic publication First Things.

His take on this story — an immediate response to it, unless he had had some foreknowledge that it would be breaking that evening — was that Opus Dei had done admirably by McCloskey's victim, and that she was happy with how Opus Dei had handled the case. In response, I pointed out to him that the Washington Post report stated quite explicitly, in quotation marks citing her own words, that she regretted having beeen part of a "cover up" of the story, and this was why she was coming forward now.

From there, we quickly — or he did, and I watched, mouth agape — wandered down that same garden path that right-wing Catholics always immediately wander, no matter the story: godless secular media are out to get Catholics; no one is so persecuted as U.S. Catholics (!!); the Enlightenment was a big mistake and we need to get back to the pre-Enlightenment world (when democracy did not exist and the church called all the shots) if we want to be pure and holy Catholics.

Blah and more blah. I politely excused myself from the blah and let him continue down that going-nowhere (and honesty-barren) path.

Now I see, of course, one statement after another about this story coming from the Catholic right, and all follow that same boilerplate response, one long since developed by the Catholic right to assure that the abuse crisis in the church will not result in systemic, Vatican-II-grounded changes they want to keep at bay. Lots of invidious comparisons between how this story is being handled and how the McCarrick story has been handled, with astonishing mendacious claims that the media are spilling much more ink on the McCloskey story than they have done on the McCarrick story — since they don't want to delve into a story that is about a Catholic leader who preyed on young males.*

Here's more on this story that has come out in the past few days, illustrating just how off-kilter the right-wing Catholic response to the McCloskey story has been — skewed as it is by homophobia and misogyny and a penchant for siding with rich and powerful secretive groups in the church that have cozy ties to hard-right political leaders:

A Catholic priest and author who belongs to the tradition-minded Opus Dei organization and once tended to the conservative elite in Washington, D.C., later became a fixture in the Chicago area, where he lived and worked for almost nine years, until late 2013. 
Why the Rev. C. John McCloskey left Washington and later was sent to Chicago in early 2005 is only now coming to light: Opus Dei confirmed Tuesday that he faced a "credible" allegation of sexual misconduct against a woman while working in Washington, and Chicago was considered a more structured environment for him.

When a woman who says she was groped by the priest she turned to for counseling reached a $977,000 settlement with the Catholic community Opus Dei in 2005, she was promised that the priest she claimed harassed her — the Rev. C. John McCloskey, a star in the Catholic world who converted prominent politicians to the faith — would be prevented from doing it to someone else. 
On Wednesday night, two days after Opus Dei publicly acknowledged the huge settlement for the first time, the Archdiocese of Chicago said that at least on paper, McCloskey was in fact allowed to minister with no restrictions for years afterward. 
The archdiocese disputed some of the account provided by Opus Dei this week about how the conservative Catholic community handled McCloskey, and provided a 2005 letter from an Opus Dei leader that shows the leader vouched for McCloskey even though he knew about the settlement. 
What emerges, from conflicting accounts, is a picture of Catholic leadership in both the archdiocese and Opus Dei who told the woman they would restrict McCloskey's actions — and then left a paper trail describing him as having an unblemished record.

A prominent Opus Dei priest was sent to Chicago following a sexual abuse settlement in another diocese. Now, survivors and advocates are asking Chicago’s top catholic official to disclose if any other priests, nuns or brothers have been transferred into Chicago following abuse complaints. 
Prior to his transfer to Chicago, Fr. C. John McCloskey was allowed to continue ministering to women in the D.C. area for at least a year after the complaint against him were made. While Opus Dei spokespeople minimize the abuse by pointing out that there has only been one settlement, those same spokespeople acknowledge that at least three allegations have been made.
Abusers often continue to hurt people until they are stopped. We believe it was irresponsible of Cardinal George to have allowed Fr. McCloskey to work in Chicago. In an effort to prevent this from happening in the future, we believe that Cardinal Cupich should disclose if any other priests, nuns, or brothers have been transferred into Chicago following allegations of misconduct.
This information is only becoming public now at the request of Fr. McCloskey's first victim, who hoped to reach out to other victims. We applaud her for doing so. We also hope that this situation encourages other survivors who may be suffering in silence to come forward and report their abuse to police, not church officials. 

Canon law provides for severe penalties for priests who hear the confession of—and grant absolution to—a person with whom they committed a sexual sin. How severe? Canon 1378˜1 imposes "latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See" for any priest guilty of this. 
In layperson's terms, it's an automatic excommunication that only the Pope can lift. 
I have questions, and I want answers. Public answers. First, why was Fr. C. John not excommunicated? If he was, why was he celebrating Mass at my retreat? And if his excommunication had been lifted, why was it? And how in hell did Opus Dei cover it up?  ... 
There is a lot of take-away from this. My main take-away right now is that this shows, again, that the Catholic Right still does not grasp the gravity of the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis. I think it does not want to grasp the gravity. Look no further than Fr. Dwight Longnecker’s Tweet about Fr. C. John, and his snide response to my criticism of it. 
Others use the scandal to go after their favorite scapegoats. My own bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, took advantage of last summer's revelations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s multiple abuses to scapegoat gays, and Catholics who flout the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception (scroll down to the last three paragraphs). 
We must not let them have the final say.  

Opus Dei says McCloskey left active ministry in early 2017 when they say it became clear he was succumbing to "advanced Alzheimer's" disease and could no longer serve the public or, for that matter, comment on the allegations against him. 
According to a statement by Monsignor Thomas Bohlin, the vicar of Opus Dei, published January 7, "Father McCloskey currently suffers from advanced Alzheimer's. He is largely incapacitated and needs assistance for routine daily tasks. He has not had any pastoral assignments for a number of years and is no longer able to celebrate Mass, even privately." 
But The Daily Beast found dozens of complex articles he wrote in 2017 and at least one article he authored as late as 2018—a book review of Aquinas and Evolution titled "How Does St. Thomas Aquinas Approach Evolution?" in National Catholic Register in which McCloskey is identified as a "church historian who writes from Virginia." 
If Father McCloskey is truly incapacitated, as his religious order says he is, it is nothing short of a miracle that he can write about such complex topics. And if he's not, it is nothing short of a lie.

And not in the least unrelated — the following story: 

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Theodore McCarrick and reported them to the Vatican in 2004, church officials confirmed Thursday evening, despite portraying himself since last summer as unaware of any complaints surrounding the disgraced ex-cardinal.

* Please note that I have corrected the final sentence in this paragraph, which stated the opposite of what I actually wanted to say. The sentence as it now stands is a revision of the sentence I first published when I posted this posting. 

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