Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Interesting News From The Vatican Insider

An anonymous poster brought some interesting news published by the Vatican Insider in Rome.  His/her comment can be found here.  The news report is written in Italian.  However, I have found the English version.  The English version is found here.  Apparently, someone in the Vatican Insider has been doing some research on the Apuron case and even collected documents and testimonies from witnesses.  This is worth reading!     

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The Guam problem, a diocese rocked by financial and sexual scandal 

Vatican Insider reconstructs the story leading up to the trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, now awaiting his verdict by the Tribunal presided by Cardinal Burke in the coming days. An island in the midst of corruption, intrigues, abuses, and power plays


VATICAN CITY

Corruption, revenge, lobbies, financial scandals, and sexual abuses. Everything seems to intertwine in Guam, the largest island of the Mariana Archipelago in the Western Pacific Ocean, most recently under the international spotlight because of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s threats to bomb the island’s US military bases. The threat of nuclear annihilation is one more worry to be laid on the faithful of Guam, a flock already deeply disturbed by the scandals engulfing the Archdiocese of Agaña—scandals which have paralyzed a church which in the landscape of the Pacific distinguished itself for its liveliness, making up about 85% of the island’s 160,000 inhabitants: a data not irrelevant in a part of the world where every trace of Catholicism is gradually disappearing. 

Right now, the island is awaiting the verdict of the canonical trial of their archbishop, seventy-two year old Capuchin Anthony Apuron, who has suspended himself from any office after being charged with sexual abuses of minors following allegations relating to his time as a priest over forty years ago. 
  
But what might seem at first glance like another sad story of a pedophile priest on closer inspection becomes a much more complex account of rivalries, plotting, power games, and sex scandals (real or invented) and media campaigns. All this played out on a tiny island where most of the population is related by blood. It is, in short, a feuilleton much darker than what up to now has emerged on the media, which Vatican Insider has sought to reconstruct in details through statements gathered by local witnesses, records, and documents which we have been granted access to. 
  
Guam and the project to transform it into the "Las Vegas of the Pacific" 
Everything began in 2002, when a group of Chinese entrepreneurs first laid eyes on the Accion Hotel in Yona, built as a Japanese resort in 2000 but soon ended up in bankruptcy and set among 20 hectares of seaside property. When it first opened, the property was valued at between $60-80 million. David Lujan, their local lawyer, was authorized to offer $5 million for the site. The idea was to transform the hotel into a grand casino; this was part of a larger strategical project aiming at turning the island of Guam into a “Las Vegas of the Pacific” which would attract gamblers from China, Russia, Japan and Korea. It was an ambitious project, one which came to involve Mark Anthony Brown, the former Chairman of Trump Hotels & Casinos Inc., which would have produced millionaires earnings but also would have imported into the island crime, prostitution, and drugs, as Archbishop Apuron said and who always opposed the project because casinos “don’t bring money but moral misery.” 

The Japanese owners refused Lujan’s offer. Meanwhile Archbishop Apuron, under advice of close collaborators, bid $2 million (raised from donations) for it, to turn the bankrupt Hotel into a Redemptoris Mater seminary, whose vocations and formators would come from the Neocatechumenal Way, an ecclesial reality widely present on the island since 1996 and of which Apuron was a strong supporter. The Archbishop’s hope was to offer a point of reference for the formation of young future priests for the area of the Pacific to solve the crisis of the religious orders traditionally present in the different and serve as a bulwark against the increasing investments of people and resources being poured into the Pacific by the Church of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

The Birth of the Redemptoris Mater and the Theological Institute  
Apuron’s offer for the property was accepted. After signing a contract establishing the restriction of usage of the premises for a educational purposes, the new Redemptoris Mater Seminary formally opened in 2004. One year later, the “Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores S.J.” Theological Institute was born. It was sponsored by 31 bishops of the Pacific and affiliated with to he Pontifical Lateran University by the decision of its former rector, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, and its dean of the Faculty of Theology, Ignazio Sanna. The birth of the Institute—which houses a library with over 30,000 books, was greeted with enthusiasm by many Australian, Filipino and American prelates who visited it over the years. The seminary was home to more than forty students who came from all over the world to train for service in the Pacific. Seventeen of these men were ordained to the priesthood and entered ministry in Guam or served as missionaries on the nearby island of Saipan, China, and the mainland United States. But today, both the seminary and the theological institute are going to be shut down by Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, who has been serving as coadjutor archbishop of Guam. 

A Very Powerful Monsignor 
But to understand the decisions taken in recent months, it’s necessary to take a step back and consider the figure of the influential Msgr. James Benavente, known in Guam for his threefold role as rector of the Cathedral in Agaña, chief administrator of the archdiocesan cemeteries, and director of the prominent St. Thomas Catholic School. Benavente, who boasts a close friendship with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, has been the subject of considerable criticism (and more than a little speculation) for some of his behaviors and especially for the luxury with which he surrounds himself, including cars, houses (three acquired for himself) and a whole compound for his family, first-class air travel, expensive restaurants and exclusive parties. Among the official archdiocesan documents shown to Vatican Insider, invoices and receipts are kept ranging from $9,000 to $17,000 for accommodations in five-star resorts and hotels like the Saipan World Center and the Makati Shangri-La in Manila. 

Benavente is also head of the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Agaña, which in 2002 was overwhelmed by a super-typhoon causing millions of dollars in damages. Under Apuron’s management, the debts incurred by the Archdiocese following the disaster had been reduced to a manageable level. However, several financial holes emerged in three archdiocesan entities: the cathedral, the archdiocesan cemeteries, and St. Thomas Catholic School. These three institutions accounted for outstanding debts of $7 million and a half, as documented by the Agaña Archdiocese’s Finance Council report. 

In 2011, these issues were submitted to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Vatican department responsible for Guam. The Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, asked for a full audit to clarify the matter but the audit was blocked. There were “significant accounting deficiencies” and difficulty detecting income and expenditures in the entities managed by Monsignor Benavente. 

Apuron Reforms the Archdiocesan Finance Council 
Following the unsuccessful audit, Apuron summoned the six members of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, asking them for an explanation and solutions. Benavente—regarded as a “godson” of lawyer David Lujan—submitted a proposal to sell the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and use the proceeds to cover the financial holes and thus avoid public scandal. “Over my dead body,” Apuron replied, dismissing the plan from further consideration. Despite the decision of the archdiocese ‘s head, members of the council attempted to pass the plan. In response, Apuron dismissed the Council already out of term, ousting member such as Richard Untalan—whose presence on the council was expressly requested by Benavente—a lawyer disbarred in the late 1980s for “moral turpitude” after he was condemned by the Washington DC Court of Appeals for “criminal facilitation of a felony of second degree, theft by deception.” One of Apuron’s collaborators—present at the time of the events and a direct witness—reported that the archbishop, his vicar general and his chancellor received threats following this decision by Msgr. Benavente, who claimed to have important friendships within the FBI and powerful figures in the Vatican. 

Deloitte & Touche fail to produce a financial report 
In 2012, a blog called “Jungle Watch” was created online, attacking Archbishop Apuron and the Neocatechumenal Way, accusing them of manipulating the prelate and “colonizing” the entire Agaña diocese. The site is managed by Tim Rohr, a real estate agent employed by Msgr. Benavente and involved in the projected sale of the seminary. The online attacks became more and more violent; Apuron again appealed for help to the Congregation to the Evangelization of Peoples, which commissioned well-known independent auditing service Deloitte & Touche to conduct a review of the disarrayed finances of the Guamenian church. Also this time it is practically impossible to conclude the audit, as stated in a document from Deloitte & Touche dated January 8, 2014, declaring it was impossible to draw “satisfactory results” from the financial statements that were analyzed. Some documents have disappeared. According to witness testimonies collected by Vatican Insider, the documents relating to Benavente’s financial administration were promptly destroyed to avoid any verifications or findings. 
  
Heavy accusations against Monsignor Benavente 
Some details are still emerging, of which civil lawyer, Jacque Terlaje, former secretary of the Finance Council of Guam Catholic Cemeteries tells Vatican Insider: “As an official member of a non-profit company, I have seen countless abuses of cemetery funds that have led to great injustices against the dead and their families,” she says. “For example, in cemetery funds there was no presence of ‘perpetual care’, responsibility in the long term to finance the care of niches sold. During the change of administration, it was discovered that there were undue appropriations and thefts that occurred within the Catholic Cemeteries. For example, unauthorized donation of 380 thousand dollar lands of cemeteries for families and friends of Monsignor James Benavente. One of them is back to repay the amount received. Benavente also used 13,000 dollars of the institution's own funds to pay for the celebrations of its 20th anniversary as a priest in July 2014.” 
  
Not only, “The review of funding from the period of 2009 to 2014 - again emphasizes the lawyer – showed that a credit card was issued to the Board of Cemeteries but intended solely for the use of Monsignor Benavente for expenses of meals in luxury restaurants, first class airfares, overnight stays in 5-star hotels. A further $23,000 expense was tracked onto another credit card, always using cemetery funds. In a period of five years, Benavente also paid himself sums of $326,913.61, mixing and transferring funds between the Cemeteries and the Basilica "Dulce Nombre de Maria" (the entities of which he was director) without complying with restrictions; in the sense that cemetery funds were used to pay salary employees of the Cathedral or to pay Basilica loans, or, worse, to repay personal credit card payments. This made it impossible for Deloitte & Touche to conclude the audit. " 
  
The accusations of the legal - immediately removed from the Financial Council and has ended up in the midst of threats and complaints - have been made public on the website of the Archdiocese also www.aganaarch.org (currently, the page was obscured). 
  
Benavente is then dismissed from his post and Archbishop Apuron forms a new board for the management of the funds of the Cathedral and Cemetery (the school has since gone bankrupt). 
  
Propaganda Fide intervenes again 
  
To avoid the worsening of tensions, Cardinal Filoni intervened again by sending the secretary of the Dicastery, Salesian archbishop and Hong Kong native Savio Hon Tai-Fai on an “information-gathering visit” in January 2015. The prelate remained on the island for fifteen days. In these two weeks, he made several changes in the Church of Guam and carried out interrogations on his own initiative in collaboration with the Apostolic Administrator of the Pacific and nuncio Martin Krebs, a German from Essen. 
  
In the meantime, while the online accusations against Monsignor Apuron continued, Deacon Steven Martinez, a member of the Financial Council, created together with other fellow members a group called Concerned Catholics of Guam whose main goal—among other things—was to “monitor the corruption” of the Archbishop. To this end sit-ins were organized in front of the Cathedral through a website updated in real time, where signs were shown asking for Apuron’s resignation or his dismissal from the clerical state. The leaders of the group were Gregory Perez, president, and David Sablan, vice president, whose name has recently made headlines for an embezzlement case currently being investigated by the US Federal Government.   
  
Sexual abuses 
After a brief respite of a few months, in May 2016 an ad by Tim Rohr appeared in every newspaper on the island inviting anyone who had been a victim or had knowledge of abuse perpetrated by Apuron in the years 1976-77, when he was pastor of Our Lady of Mount sCarmel parish to “come forward”. The ad appeared over the course of a month in every newspaper. After a few days, four people came forward, among them Roy Taitague Quintanilla, who alleged having been abused forty years earlier when, at the age of 12, he was an altar boy for Father Apuron who, according to his allegations, had taken him by night in his own home to rape him. However, Vatican Insider has learned that statements were made by multiple former altar boys to the tribunal who maintain that they had never seen Quintanilla in the parish and that the parish activities were always carried out in groups and never alone. 
  
Together with Quintanilla other people came forward who, crying in front of the cameras, claimed to have been molested. Tim Rohr, as heard in the recording of an interview by Patti Arroyo on the K57 Newstalk radio, publicly boasted, “it took me four days to publish an ad to find Roy and to pay a ticket for him from Hawaii” and to coordinate the group of victims and relatives suggesting to them “what to say and when to cry”, as well as encouraging them to hire David Lujan as their lawyer.  
  
“Your Holiness, I am innocent” 
Not even five hours after the release of the accusations, Nuncio Krebs called Apuron from abroad—as he kept doing for the entire following week—to ask him to tender his immediate resignation at the behest of the Pope. However, it is precisely to the Pope to whom Apuron wanted to turn to in order to discuss the situation. He left for Rome to ask an audience to the Pontiff and met him in St. Peter’s Square at the end of the General Audience of May 24th, 2016. During the kissing of the hand, Apuron told Pope Francis: “Your Holiness, I am innocent; I would like a private audience with you.” Bergoglio called an aide asking to set a date. That audience though, would never take place.  
  
The archdiocese tries to defend its bishop 
In the meantime, the archdiocese tried to intervene in defense of its bishop and contacted the Denver based law firm “Lewis Roca”, one of the most important in the US in the field of sexual abuses related to the Catholic Church, often consulted by the US Bishop’s Conference. The firm “Lewis Roca” accepted to represent the archdiocese and Apuron for free, agreeing on a potential percentage of the damages just in the case of a judicial victory.  At the same time Mr. David Lujan, Esq. filed suit against the bishop and the archdiocese for slander because they declared that the abuse accusations were false.  
  
Apuron suspends himself, Hon Tai-Fai arrives as apostolic administrator “sede plena” 
At this point Apuron decided to suspend himself from all his duties and asked the Holy See to name an apostolic administrator to bring back peace and order on the island and give him the possibility to defend himself from the accusations. The Vatican granted the request and on June 6, 2016 a bulletin of the Vatican Press Room announced the appointment of the secretary of Propaganda Fide, Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai, as apostolic administrator sede plena of Guam. For the moment Apuron has been kept in his post as archbishop, although deprived of any authority. He sent a video message to the faithful in which he reaffirmed his innocence and announced the imminent changing of the guard by inviting them to receive “with open arms” the new apostolic administrator representing a sign on the part of the Pope of his will to “reestablish the truth” and which would “allow me to defend myself from the false allegations made against me.” 
  
The general restructuring  
Monsignor Hon arrived in the Marianas a few weeks after his appointment and in his first move asked that all priests, especially those formed in the Redemptoris Mater seminary, to resign as “proof of loyalty to me and to the Church.” Some accepted, others resisted. Accusations began to be thrown against those who didn’t give in immediately, some even of sexual nature, or else they were sent back to their countries of origin. Two Samoan bishops were forced to recall the seminarians they had sent to study in Guam. David Quitugua, the vicar general who was appointed by Apuron rector of the cathedral in place of Benavente, was removed. The same fate befell then-chancellor Adrian Cristobal (a Chamorro, native of Guam) and his deputy Alberto Rodriguez. The pastors of the four biggest and most populous parishes of the archdiocese of Agana lost their posts. Among them was Monsignor Brigido Arroyo, old and already near retirement, much loved by the parish community of St. Anthony which knew him as “Father Bibi.” Hon also altered the board charged with sorting out the cemetery funds and in place of Quitugua, entrusted the cathedral to Fr. Paul Gofigan, who had been removed two years earlier.  
  
Father Gofigan and the convicted felon 
  
At this point we need to take a step back and recall that Archbishop Apuron had dismissed Father Gofigan after having received complaints and pressure regarding the fact that the priest was living in the parish together with a former convict, Joseph Lastimoza, 54, who had been sentenced to life for raping and killing a 25-year-old flight attendant from New York in 1981 and to have tried to do the same with other women. Released on parole in 2002, Lastimoza had the keys of the neighboring kindergarten “Santa Barbara Catholic School” where he was head of maintenance. Several parents had voiced to Apuron, in person, by letter or email, their objections to the fact that a convicted felon had such freedom of movement in a place attended by women and children. Moreover, it is the same law of Guam that states that any person convicted of serious sexual crimes “cannot be employed, directly or through an independent contractor” in a sector such as “a school or an education institution while children are present.” 
  
In 2004 Lastimoza’s name had been entered for life in the first level of the Sex Offenders Register of Guam’s judicial system, following an impassioned letter written to the local press by military veteran David Mills, now living in New York, who had followed the case at the time. At that point Apuron, after having given a warning already two years earlier, asked Gofigan repeatedly to send off Lastimoza, given that his presence was in violation of current laws. The priest did not comply with the bishop’s indication and hence, under counsel of Archdiocese’s lawyer Edward Terlaje, decided to remove him.  
  
The removal of this priest, who was also the founder of the movement “Rainbow Mercy” for young gay Catholics, has often been characterized by “Jungle Watch” commentators as an outcome of the Neocatechumenal Way manipulations.  
  
Hon’s “reform” 
Meanwhile, even before the trial was set in motion, Hon granted interviews and issued declarations in press conferences declaring Apuron guilty even before trial began(insert link), and accusing the archbishop of being a “liar” for denying the abuses. Then he publicly rehabilitated Benavente and reinstated him as pastor of the most populous parish in Guam, member of the Financial Council (with him also Richard Untalan is reappointed) and as member of the committee for cemetery funds. Furthermore, the Apostolic Administrator sede plena rescinded the contract with the Lewis Roca and in its place hired “Swanson & McNamara”, a very expensive law firm from San Francisco. He also started a series of interrogations of priests and seminarians from the Redemptoris Mater during which seminarians were placed before a crossroads: to obey Apuron or “an archbishop invested by the powers of God.” As a consequence, the Redemptoris Mater underwent a dramatic reduction in numbers: from 40 to little less of 15 seminarians. 
  
Hon Recalled to Rome, Replaced by New Coadjutor, USA Byrnes 
During Hon’s five month stay in Guam, Pope Francis received three letters updating him on the situation. They never received a direct response. But on October 31st of 2016—after having asked Filoni to quickly find a candidate to replace him—Francis recalled Savio Hon to Rome and appoints an archbishop coadjutor, American prelate Michael Jude Byrnes, then auxiliary bishop of Detroit, to guide the diocese, which was by now falling apart. Before departing, Hon gave a lengthy interview to Pacific Daily News suggesting the course of action his successor should take. Four days before Byrnes’ arrival on the island, he also submitted a packet containing a series of documents on the island’s finances and a letter insisting that the Redemptoris Mater’s statutes be modified and that the restriction of use be eliminated. This choice, which was taken to safeguard a diocesan good, but which instead, according to its detractors, would take away any right Apuron had over the property (accusations disproved by the fact that with a simple signature, Byrnes has eliminated the restriction of use). 

The Redemptoris Mater is going to be closed, the Theological Institute affiliated to the Lateran suspended  
In Rome monsignor Savio Hon went to the Congregation for Catholic Education – according to the Congregation’s officials account – to ask for the suspension of the renewal of the affiliation of the Theological Institute with the Pontifical Lateran University, which had been already renewed for another ten years. Last news report that on August 29, 2017, Byrnes announced the closure of the Seminary and the Institute. Again, in the last few weeks Byrnes has removed four priests from the diocesan Presbyteral Council accusing them of insubordination for having written a letter to cardinal Filoni informing him of the intention to sell the building in Yona, an information requested by the same cardinal. Monsignor Benavente instead was given all previoiusly held assignments with an added appointment as delegate for the Archdiocese Patrimony. 

Cardinal Burke’s Investigation 
Regarding the sex abuse allegations against Apuron, the world awaits the verdict from the “First Instance Tribunal” presided by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke— an outspoken critic of Pope Francis and one of those who signed the so-called “dubia” published in the wake of Amoris Laetitia. When on February 17 of this year Francis sent the cardinal to the Marianas to investigate the Guam case, many read the move as a “punishment” or “exile.” But in light of the facts, it seems more likely that the Pope’s pick was actually rooted more in the cardinal’s remarkable competence shown over the years as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura. In about two weeks’ time, the American prelate gathered the documents and statements to be submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, personally travelling not only to Guam but to Hawaii, San Francisco, Phoenix and the East Coast to listen to alleged victims, many of whom—as reported by local media at the time—refused to meet the cardinal if not in the presence of their lawyer David Lujan. 

Waiting For The Verdict 
Burke and four other judges—all bishops—are expected to issue the verdict on Msgr. Apuron’s innocence or guilt soon—a decision which should have been issued last August 4th but which appears to have been delayed. Maybe because of the outside pressures on the cardinal himself, who is said to have privately expressed surprise at the influence of external lobbies on the island. If Apuron were declared guilty, the decision will have canonical—not civil—consequences. “The fact that the Pope granted this process to a bishop indicates that the Church wants to reestablish due process,” explains one canon lawyer to Vatican Insider. If he is declared innocent, it won’t be easy for him to return to the head of Guam’s archdiocese, given the damage to his public image. Nevertheless the archbishop has privately confided his willingness to do so, albeit with the help of an auxiliary bishop. In any case, it’s hard to imagine the words “The End” marking any kind of conclusion to this turbulent story.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Papal Letter To Japan

Pope Francis sent a letter to the Bishops of Japan in preparation for the visit of Cardinal Filoni.  What caught my attention was the last paragraph of the Pope's letter.  According to the Vatican Insider:
The Pope then spends "a word on the ecclesial movements approved by the Apostolic See", stating that with their "evangelizing drive and commitment to testimony, they can help the pastoral service". In recent decades, "in fact, the Holy Spirit has stirred and aroused men and women in the Church who intend, through their participation, to enliven the world in which they work, and not infrequently, involving priests and religious, also members of the People whom God calls to live their missionary life to the fullest". These realities "contribute to the work of evangelization", therefore "as Bishops we are called to know and accompany the charisms they bear and have them participate in our work in the context of pastoral integration". With these words the Pope is referring to the difficult relations between the episcopate and the Neocatechumenal Way in Japan. 
This letter could have also been written to Archbishop Byrnes.  In response to the Pope's letter, Bishop Isao Kikuchi had this to say (the bold is mine):
I am also delighted to read that Holy Father correctly pointed out our challenges in Evangelisation in Japan as a small minority community in the society. We quite often think these challenging situation in the society against Evangelisation is too huge to change, but the message of Holy Father is encouragement for all of us, not only for Bishops but for all of us in the Church community in Japan to re-consider our attitude towards to the mission ad gentes.

 Indeed, the Bishops of Japan need to "RETHINK" their attitude towards the Neocatechumenal Way.  Statistics have shown that there is an increase in Catholicism in the continents of Asia and Africa.....continents that are predominantly non-Christians....while there is a decline in the U.S. and western Europe.  Even the number of Catholic priests continue to grow in Asia and Africa.  Therefore, if seminaries are closed in this part of the world, how does one expect the growth of priestly vocations?  How does one expect to bring the Gospel of Christ to non-Christians?  Missionary work is not only about witnessing to your family at home.  It is also about announcing the Gospel to the ends of the earth......just as Christ commanded his disciples, bishops, and priests to do.  Bishop Isao Kikuchi expressed the challenges in evangelization; yet, he cannot see the statistics. In other Asian news:

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The Church in Japan must constantly renew its choice for Christ’s mission and be both salt and light": This is the appeal that Pope Francis addressed to the bishops of Japan in a letter issued yesterday by the Holy See Press office, marking a visit by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Card. Fernando Filoni, to the Land of the Rising Sun. In the letter which the Cardinal read yesterday to all bishops gathered in the nunciature, the pontiff asks them to redouble their "missionary enthusiasm" and not to fear the "shortage of workers" that characterizes the Japanese Catholic community, about 600,000 faithful out of a population of over 120 million. 
Warning against  an "irenic and paralyzing dialogue" with society, the Pope asks them not to resign themselves to "the high rate of divorce, suicide among young people, people who choose to live totally disengaged from social life ( hikikomori), religious and spiritual formalism, moral relativism, religious indifference, obsession with work, and gain, as well as the material and spiritual poverty of the Japanese people. He also asks them to "go against the trend and trust in the Lord" 
Finally, Francis exhorts them to collaborate with ecclesial movements. The Japanese bishops resist the presence of different ecclesial movements. In particular, in the past, there have been many questions about the evangelization style of the Neocatechumenal Way, judged by them too overwhelming and "sectarian". For this reason, the bishops wanted to close a "Redemptoris Mater" seminary in Takamatsu, which prepared missionary priests for the far east and that the work of neocatechumenals for at least five years was stopped. Pope Benedict XVI deliberated against this decisionThe bishops demanded greater dialogue between the two sides.
The full letter of Pope Francis can be found here. 
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, 
the pastoral visit of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples gives me the opportunity to extend to you my cordial greeting, remembering our meeting on your visit ad Limina in March 2015. 
I wish to entrust to you that, whenever I think of the Church in Japan, my thoughts return to the witness of the many martyrs who have offered their lives for the faith. They always have a special place in my heart: I think of St. Paul Miki and his companions, who in 1597 were sacrificed, faithful to Christ and the Church; I think of the innumerable confessors of faith, Blessed Justus Takayama Ukon, who at the same time preferred poverty and the path of exile rather than recanting the name of Jesus. And what about the so-called "hidden Christians", who from 1600 to the mid 1800s lived underground, not to recant, but to preserve their faith, and of which we recently remembered the 150th anniversary of the discovery? The long line of martyrs and confessors of faith, by nationality, language, social class and age, shared a profound love with the Son of God, renouncing either his civil status or other aspects of his social condition, all " in order to earn Christ "(Phil 3: 8). Remembering that spiritual heritage, I turn to you dear brothers who have inherited it, and that with gentle solicitude continue in the task of evangelization, especially taking care of the weakest and favouring the integration into the communities of faithful from various backgrounds. I would like to thank you for this, as well as for the commitment to cultural promotion, interreligious dialogue and the care of creation. In particular, I would like to reflect with you on the missionary mission of the Church in Japan. "If the Church is born Catholic (that is, universal) it means that it was born" outgoing ", that it was born missionary" (General Audience on 17 September 2014). In fact, "the love of Christ pushes us" (2 Cor 5,14) to offer our life for the Gospel. Such dynamism dies if we lose our missionary enthusiasm. For this reason life is strengthened by giving it and it weakens itself in isolation and agitation. In fact, those who make the most of the chances of life are those who leave the safe shore and are passionate about the mission of communicating life to others "(Evangelii gaudium, 10). 
I would like to dwell on the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus says: "You are the salt of the earth; [...] You are the light of the world "(Mt 5: 13-14). The salt and the light are in service. The Church as salt has the task of preserving from corruption and giving flavor; as light prevents darkness from prevailing, providing a clear vision of the reality and the end of existence. These words are also a strong appeal to fidelity and authenticity: it is necessary, that salt really gives flavor and light conquers darkness. The Kingdom of Heaven - as Jesus speaks of it - initially appears with the poverty of a little yeast or a small seed; this symbology reproduces well the present situation of the Church in the context of the Japanese world. To her, Jesus entrusted a great spiritual and moral mission. I know that there are no small difficulties due to the lack of clergy, religious and a limited participation of lay faithful. But the shortage of workers can not diminish the commitment of evangelization, indeed, it is an occasion that stimulates us to look for them incessantly, as the master of the vine leaves at all hours to look for new workers for his vineyard (cf. Mt 20: 1 -7). 
Dear Brothers, the challenges that present reality places before us cannot allow us resign ourselves or even give way to an irenical and paralyzing dialogue, although some problematic situations create concerns; I mean, for example, the high rate of divorce, suicide among young people, people who choose to live totally devoid of social life (hikikomori), religious and spiritual formalism, moral relativism, religious indifference, obsession with work and earnings. It is also true that a society chasing economic development also creates among you the poor, marginalized, excluded; I think not only of those who are materially so, but also of those who are spiritually and morally so. In this particular context, it is urgent that the Church in Japan constantly renew the choice for the mission of Jesus, both in salt and light. The genuine evangelizing force of your Church, which also comes from being a Church of martyrs and confessors of faith, is a great asset to be guarded and developed. 
In this regard, I would like to emphasize the need for a solid and integral priestly and religious formation, a particularly urgent task today, especially because of the propagation of the "culture of the provisional" (Meeting with seminarians, postulants and novices, July 6, 2013). Such a mentality leads above all to young people to think that it is not possible to really love, that there is nothing stable and that everything, including love, is related to the circumstances and needs of feeling. A major step in priestly and religious formation is, therefore, to help those who undertake such a journey to understand and experience in depth the characteristics of Jesus' love which is free, involves self-sacrifice and which is merciful forgiveness. This experience makes it capable to go against the predominant trends and trust the Lord, who does not disappoint. It is the testimony of which Japanese society is so silent. 
I would like to also say a word about the ecclesial movements approved by the Apostolic See. With their evangelizing impulse and testimony, they can be of help in pastoral service and in the ad gentes mission. In fact, in the last decades, the Holy Spirit has aroused and inspired in the Church men and women who, with their participation, intend to nourish the world in which they operate, and not often, involve priests and religious, also members of that people that God calls to live fully his missionary life. Such realities contribute to the work of evangelization; as bishops we are called to know and accompany the charisms they are carrying and to make them part of our work in the context of pastoral integration. 
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I entrust each of you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and assure you of my closeness and prayer. May the Lord send workers into his Church in Japan and support you with His consolation. Thank you for your ecclesial service. I extend my Apostolic Blessing upon you on the Church in Japan and on your noble people as I ask you not to forget about me in your prayers.  
FRANCIS 
From the Vatican, September 14, 2017Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Opus Bono Sacerdotii: Heroic Witness to a Heroic Vocation

I apologize to my readers for not writing in a while.  The world tends to keep us busy at times.  What is Opus Bono Sacerdotii?  It is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help priests who are experiencing difficulties in their personal life and priestly ministry.  

The Church should always be a mirror of justice and stand by the truth.  If it has stood by the truth, the sex abuse scandal would not have been covered up as some Bishops had done.  Archbishop Flores should never have covered up the sex abuse committed by Father Broulliard.  As a result of the cover-up, many more boys were sexually molested.  By the same token, there should also be no cover-ups of the financial mismanagement done by priests.  The following article was written by Father Gordon MacRae: 
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I recently received a letter from a 25-year-old reader in Washington, D.C. who wrote that since discovering These Stone Walls he has been reading intensely. “At times,” he wrote, “it has brought me to tears.” This was followed by the unexpected and ironic statement: “It makes me want to be a priest.”
The writer went on to describe his decision to continue reading past and future posts, and to explore more deeply his growing awareness of a summons toward a priestly vocation. The irony was that on the same day I received his letter, we posted “Saint Maximilian Kolbe and the Gift of Noble Defiance.”
The latter half of that post was about a priest of my diocese, the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, who was accused, tried, imprisoned, laicized without due process, and abandoned by our bishop and successors. He is now dying of cancer out of sight and out of mind of our bishop and brother priests.
I hope you will read that post if you missed it, but I found myself wishing that the letter writer would not read it. I do not want to discourage him, but if what he has read thus far on These Stone Wallshas not already done that, then I should not underestimate his own heroic witness.
This was not the first time that I have received mail from readers who felt called to priesthood and found that reading TSW pushed them closer to a response. And the response has never once been to flee in the opposite direction.
What could possibly be found in the writings of a falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned priest that would spark life into a dormant priestly vocation? I know priests my age and older who say that they would not foster a young man’s inclination toward priesthood given all that has happened over the last two decades. They assume that I must share that sentiment. I do not.
In “Thoughts Upon My 35th Anniversary of Priesthood Ordination” recently, I wrote of what I imagined my sister to be thinking as I lay prostrate on the floor during the Litany of the Saints at my 1982 ordination:
“I could only imagine her thoughts then: ‘Get up, you fool! Flee!’ Years later, my sister confirmed for me what I had suspected. I asked her if she recalls that moment. Her response: ‘I was thinking that they took my brother from me, and now look at what they’ve done to him!’ But such thoughts could not have swayed me then. They do not even sway me now.”
ORDINARY HEROES MAKE EXTRAORDINARY PRIESTS


I find much hope in young men like Michael, the author of the recent letter I received. There is hope for the priesthood in the strength of the Holy Spirit’s divine summons when men like Michael can look at where priesthood has taken me, and yet find in These Stone Walls something that fosters their own vocation. Not a lot makes me happy these days, but that does.
I found another sign of hope that same week when I opened a copy of The Wall Street Journal after it arrived in the mail. This is by far America’s finest newspaper. It’s pricey for a prisoner, but friends chipped in for a subscription. I never find in its pages even a hint of the contempt for the Church and priesthood that has become daily fare in The New York TimesUSA Today, and, sadly, even the National Catholic Reporter.
But even my high regard for the Journal did not prepare me for the counter-cultural shock of this headline on its Editorial Page on August 11, 2017: “The Priesthood Is a Heroic Vocation” by Matthew Hennessey, an associate editorial features editor at the Journal. Here is an excerpt:
“Catholics around the world will celebrate the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe on Monday. [August 14]. His story is one of the Church’s finest, though too few people – Christian or not – have heard it… One thing hasn’t changed. Young men still want lives of heroic virtue and the priesthood offers that in abundance.”
It came for me as a sign of much hope. At a time when most of the secular news media views the Catholic priesthood as little more than a source of lurid headlines, The Wall Street Journal published this outstanding tribute, not only to a Patron Saint of both priests and prisoners but to priesthood itself. It is remarkable to read this in the nation’s largest newspaper.
Matthew Hennessey did not overlook the priesthood’s recent darker days. His op-ed pointed out that vocations to the priesthood have suffered at a time when “the sexual abuse scandal dealt a considerable blow to the priesthood’s once-sterling reputation.” With help, I was able to post a comment on the column at WSJ.com. It was comment number 100, posted amid some virulent anti-Catholic rhetoric.
But the wound on the priesthood’s reputation has only deepened through the one remedy – amputation – employed by the Church’s leaders in their time of crisis. Amputation of the accused has not appeased lawyers and insurers, but it has only deepened the wounds. Its legacy is a legion of stories like that of the priest whose plight I described in “Saint Maximilian Kolbe and the Gift of Noble Defiance”:
“I was with him early in the morning as he left prison a few days ago, and went home to his sister to die. I like to think that [Pornchai Moontri and I] managed to fill in some of the cold abyss in which our Church let him wander alone in exile these twenty years. I cannot imagine, even in my most vengeful thoughts, that such alienation and abandonment are what Christ summons forth from the Apostolic witness of His Church.”
I was very proud of the readers of These Stone Walls for their responses to that post. Readers focused – as Saint Maximilian would; as Christ would – not just on the wounds of the innocent, but on the spiritual wounds of one whose sin had caused him to be cast out, alienated, ostracized as a leper.
With no path to redemption, the Prodigal Son stands at a door bolted from within. Readers rejoiced with me over one simple sentence in that post as we stood waiting to enter the prison chapel for Mass after his 16-year absence: “He was reconciled, and we sat with him.”
OPUS BONO SACERDOTII
Our readers should then rejoice all the more at the presence of some real heroism and spiritual leadership in our Church. It emerged at a time of crisis in the priesthood, not from the chancery offices, but from the pews. It is described on the “History” page at the website of Opus Bono Sacerdotii.
“In April 2002, when the Detroit police arrested one of his parish priests on rape charges, Joe Maher did not think twice. Along with his business partner, Pete Ferrara, he drove out to the county jail and paid the bail…”
I wonder how many people, having read that far, would form a spontaneous judgment. It’s easy to do so. It is human nature and the printed word lends itself to that. But accusations are not evidence, and the Church must stop treating them as such.
When he involved himself in the case in Detroit, Joe Maher and his business partner and others obtained competent legal counsel for the priest, assuring an adequate defense. Truth prevailed and the priest was acquitted of the false charges.
After this, recognizing the absence of advocacy for the rights of priests in 2002, Joe Maher and Pete Ferrera founded Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a non-profit corporation whose mission is:
“To find solutions to the problems confronting priests in accordance with the authentic teachings of the Church and the Holy Father and his predecessors. In fulfilling our mission, the priests and staff of Opus Bono Sacerdotii facilitate care for Catholic priests who are experiencing difficulties in their personal life and priestly ministry.”
Opus Bono did not exist before my trial and imprisonment. I do not write that in a spirit of dismay, but rather of urgency for the Church and priesthood going forward.
At the time of my arrest and trial in 1994 – for false charges that were then almost a dozen years old – my bishop and diocese sought only my immediate amputation They embraced in a panic the advice of lawyers who assisted them in drafting a pretrial statement that condemned me as guilty before a trial even began.
With no other evidence in the case, there was little left for a jury to do. I was condemned after just ninety minutes of jury deliberation. Had an organization like Opus Bono existed then, such knee-jerk reaction might have been prevented. This travesty of justice must not be allowed to happen to other priests.
That has been my primary purpose in writing. But I can tell you that since then, this voice in the wilderness called These Stone Walls could not exist without the moral and spiritual support of Opus Bono Sacerdotii. And as my efforts at appeal grew, Opus Bono assisted financially with a fundraising effort.


WHEN THE CHURCH DEFAMES HER PRIESTS
Seven years elapsed between the time Opus Bono came into being and the time in which we launched These Stone Walls. In the interim, I was contacted by individuals, organizations, and even media outlets offering to take up my cause, but with an implied expectation that I would in turn cast the Church, the bishops, and the priesthood in the worst possible light.
Even representatives of the legal profession came to me in 2002 with a suggestion that all might go better for me if I would join other accused priests in throwing priests and bishops into the fires of a witch hunt. Whether true or not never seemed to matter to some of the serpents ready to take my side.
In all that time, I was aware of and inspired by the faithful witness of Joe Maher, Pete Ferrara, and Opus Bono Sacerdotii. But the strongest influence Opus Bono has had on me and on These Stone Walls is the powerful witness of fidelity to the Church while working for the good of the priesthood. Their work very much shaped the tone and substance of These Stone Walls.


The loyalty and fidelity of the founders and staff of Opus Bono are at the heart of its mandate to support, enlighten, and even challenge our Church in regard to the problems of the priesthood in recent decades. To its great credit, Opus Bono does not confuse fidelity with blind compliance.
As a result, Opus Bono has been the source of some sharp – but ever faithful – witness in the public square. Some of that witness comes as a challenge to bishops, priests, and laity to live up to the spirit and truth of the Gospel. I am very proud of Opus Bono for this.
The most recent example of challenge with unwavering fidelity came in the form of an important article. “When the Church Defames Her Priests” was written and recently published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review by Opus Bono founder and president, Joe Maher, and David A. Shaneyfelt, an attorney in private practice in California and an Opus Bono adviser.
The article addresses a destructive and ill-advised practice adopted by some two dozen dioceses and archdioceses in the United States to create and publish lists of priests who have been merely accused. The Opus Bono authors wrote:
“We take special issue with those dioceses who think that publishing a list of names of clerics who have been ‘credibly’ accused of sexual misconduct is warranted. We disagree for many reasons – canonical, theological, pastoral, and legal. It is this latter reason we wish to address here.”
The article goes on to present a brilliant, even stunning and chilling, explanation of what “credible” means in this context. Joe Maher and David Shaneyfelt present a clear and compelling case for protecting the due process rights of priests who are merely accused. After reading, I could not help but agree with its urgency. The article captured the flagrant injustice here:
“How ironic that a bishop, who aims to demonstrate his concern for one victim of abuse, will thereby create another victim of abuse – and end up paying large amounts of damages to each in the process. How doubly ironic that a bishop who initiates such a policy may someday find himself on the list.”
With this practice, some bishops have created their own private version of “Megan’s Law,” but without the law’s built-in respect for basic civil rights. In American courts, only those convicted in a court of law can end up on such a published list.
But some two dozen U.S. bishops and dioceses have published these lists with no legal entity requiring them, and little recourse on the part of the priests, many of whom are innocent, who have been victimized by them. These published lists replace justice with capitulation to a lynch mob and a scandal-hungry media.
I urge the readers of These Stone Walls to support Opus Bono Sacerdotii, to subscribe to its content, and especially to read and share “When the Church Defames Her Priests.” I have been one of them.
I have also been an eyewitness to the fidelity and courage by which Opus Bono, in its work for the good of the priesthood, has held a mirror of justice before the face of our Church.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Voice In The Wilderness

Father MacRae wrote another article and mentioned Archbishop Apuron in it.  The article is found here.
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Among Catholic Blogs, “A Voice in the Wilderness”

Image result for father gordon macraeBack in 2010, I was contacted by a noted documentary filmmaker interested in an on camera interview with me. He and his research team had spent many months reviewing my trial and the public record in my regard and were interested in producing a documentary film about the story. Getting camera footage of an interview with me in my present location is no small affair.
But the interview was approved and the camera crew was allowed admission to the New Hampshire State Prison, a very rare event. Only The Wall Street Journal had previously gained such entry for interviews with me. The documentary interview resulted in two hours of camera footage to be edited into a hopeful film project tentatively titled “Perversion of Justice” as my trial and imprisonment had been described by The Wall Street Journal.
Today, the film footage and the entire project sits unfinished on a shelf somewhere. It was not the only project on the film producer’s plate at the time. He was also researching another documentary with the more general topic of Catholic priests falsely accused. The project gained support and an endorsement from the Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights.
The result is a riveting and compelling production with a focus on the Philadelphia cases of Father Charles Engelhardt, who died in prison during production of the film, and Msgr. William Lynn. The finished documentary was stunning in its factual coverage of a fraud that had grown out of control and destroyed the lives of several priests. It further developed a story I wrote about in “The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy on the Cover of Newsweek.”
But that documentary film also sits unused on a shelf next to the one about me. No American broadcast media venue would agree to air it, so the follow-up project about me was also shelved After my recent post, “Will Fr Charles Engelhardt’s Prosecutor Take a Plea Deal” I received this letter from the film producers:
“The ABUSE IN PHILLY film has gone nowhere, which of course has been a big disappointment. As you know, Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams has been under FBI investigation for corruption and has recently resigned [Note: he will be sentenced to federal prison in October 2017]. So there is still hope in getting the film out there as its main argument is the DA’s corrupt prosecution of these priests.”
WHY I WRITE
Whether the news you consume is in America or Australia or anywhere else in the Western World, do not believe for a minute that you are getting the whole story about the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The original story was, sadly, for the most part true. From the licentious days of the 1960s to the 1980s there were true accounts of some Catholic priests behaving very badly.
But in America, three things happened in response. Church officials adopted a practice of mediated financial settlements with lawyers. This meant that virtually anyone making a claim would get a settlement. Activist groups like SNAP use the news media and the scandal to serve their own agendas resulting, in part at least, in a suspected lawyer kickback scheme in which SNAP leaders had allegedly been involved.
Then the U.S. bishops, in a 2002 time of panic, adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and its “zero tolerance” for anyone “credibly” accused. “Credible” in this context means that money has changed hands.
Since then, as is now evident in the “trial by media” endured by Cardinal George Pell in Australia, the news media has the story it wants and passively or actively resists all the rest. The media steers the news, carefully vetting what you see and hear. In direct or indirect cooperation with contingency lawyers and activist groups like SNAP, the news media often creates the news.
Here is a stark example. A few years ago, SNAP, the discredited Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, staged a protest in Rome near the Vatican.- “Staged” is indeed the right word.
That night, a CNN commentator reported that “the Vatican has denied an audience with the Pope for 100,000 victims of sex abuse by priests” who gathered in protest to have their voices heard. It was fake news. It was a lie choreographed by SNAP while CNN was manipulated and used.
There really was a protest staged in Rome that day. It was about an hour long and took place a few blocks from the Vatican. The event consisted of about 30 people, mostly SNAP members. It was 99,970 people shy of the 100,000 that CNN reported were there. Another 20or 30 were reporters who showed up to cover the media event. After being called on it by Bill Donohue at the Catholic League, CNN issued an embarrassed apology for the exaggerations.
As a Catholic writer in the “new media” world, I believe I have a single mandate: to place before you a story that “established” media neglects. When These Stone Walls was first launched in July and August of 2009, my first and foremost intent was to tell you the story of Catholic priests falsely accused and to present the evidence that most in the news media ignore.
THE TURNING OF THE TIDE
These Stone Walls quietly turned eight years old toward the end of July while I was caught up in a series of controversial posts. I never set out to be controversial, but as one writer put it to me in a letter recently, “your very existence among Catholic blogs is controversial.”
Should I apologize for that? I much prefer Ryan MacDonald’s analysis of These Stone Walls as “A Voice in the Wilderness.” The Gospel itself begins with such a voice. My “wilderness” is the abyss of false witness. Having experienced first hand the status of an outcast in both the Church and the world, I cannot remain silent as it happens to others.
In his 2012 book, Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, author Fr. James Valladares, Ph.D. quoted Cardinal Avery Dulles about an article I wrote that began These Stone Walls:
“Your article is an important one, and hopefully will be followed by many others. Unfortunate though your situation is, you are in a position to carry on an effective apostolate on behalf of falsely accused priests. The time is bound to come when the tide will shift and even the bishops will be ready to hear the priests’ side of the story. The change will come, but not before the public is prepared for it by articles such as yours. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound, will be a monument to your trials. – (Card. Avery Dulles, Hope Springs Eternal, p. 274)
That same chapter in Hope Springs Eternal by Father James Valadares includes something presented early on in These Stone Walls about why I write and what I write. It was a response to a letter I received from another falsely accused priest who reacted with bitterness to my call for civility and fidelity.
“It is ironic that this priest is often angry with me because he doesn’t think that I am angry enough. I assure you, he is wrong on that score. But being angry and feeling let down does not excuse me from doing the right thing. It does not excuse me from fidelity to the Gospel, fidelity to the Church, and fidelity to my own sense of right and wrong. At the end of the day, I am still wrongly imprisoned, but I have the freedom to choose the person I am going to be while wrongly imprisoned.” (Hope Springs Eternal, p. 275)
I don’t have a way to measure how I have done on that score, but my aim has been to place These Stone Walls before you with fidelity, not only to the truth but to the Church we serve. To do otherwise is to no longer serve Her.
I am not alone in this goal. This Catholic blog could not be possible without the assistance of four stellar souls from across the globe: TSW’s publisher, Suzanne Sadler in New South Wales, Australia; Father George David Byers who scans and edits my posts in Western North Carolina; Charlene Duline who keeps me in communication with you from Indianapolis, Indiana; and Lavern West in Cincinnati; Ohio who prints and sends me your comments.
A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
After writing and posting “Cardinal George Pell Is on Trial, and so Is Australia,” These Stone Walls had a surge of readers from Down Under. For the first time in our eight years of posting on Catholic blogs, Australia was the second highest country visiting this site over a period of several weeks. Many of the comments on that post were appreciative that I took on the story of Cardinal Pell’s unjust “trial by media.”
But there were also comments that we did not post, and some of them were from Australia as well. One commenter declared that “the evidence against Cardinal Pell is overwhelming.” Then, without describing what that evidence is, the rant went on: “We all know the Catholic Church is a child-raping institution!”
That is indeed evidence, but only of the writer’s blind bigotry. It is not evidence against Cardinal Pell. The truth is there IS no evidence against Cardinal Pell. Accusations are not evidence. This is important. There is more at stake than just one man’s rights, or freedom, or dignity. The integrity of our Church is at stake: not our faith, but our Church, which in the words of St John Paul II, is to be a mirror of justice for the world.
After that post about Cardinal Pell’s “trial by media,” I wrote an article about what is really behind this story as it exists right now. I did not want to publish it on These Stone Walls because it would be like preaching to the choir. I wanted to publish it in a completely secular venue, but no mainstream news media will publish anything that casts your faith or your Church, or especially your priests, in a better light.
So I decided to submit it to an unusual venue, LinkedIn Pulse, the publishing platform of the professional networking site, LinkedIn. The article is titled, “A Weapon of Mass Destruction Catholic Priests Falsely Accused.” Mass destruction, as in the destruction of the Sacrifice of the Mass, really is what is at stake for Catholics if the priesthood’s trial by media continues.
What makes this article so important is the fact that it appears not in a Catholic publication, but in an entirely secular one. Within a single day of being published, it had hundreds of readers at LinkedIn. The article presents hard evidence of how the scandal of sexual abuse in the priesthood turned an even darker corner when the Church was not vigilant about fraud.
While the Church’s leaders were negotiating mediated settlements in decades-old claims against priests, a conspiracy was taking place to undermine your faith and bring down the Catholic Church. The real goal of the conspiracy has been to remove the Church’s moral voice from the public square, and toward that end, the scandal has made many inroads and gained many parasites using it for nefarious agendas.
One of those parasites is the news media, the only profession that currently registers lower than Congress on integrity polls. The news media leans decisively left and leaves “the rest of the story” untold. What has happened to Archbishop Anthony Apuron in Guam is not the end. What is happening to Cardinal Pell in Australia is not the end. The very point of “trophy justice” is that it collects trophies, and each one simply emboldens the next incursion into silencing the voice of Catholic witness.
Those who have used the scandal for agendas of their own – including some claiming to be Catholic – have closed more than just their eyes. There are none so blind as those who will not see. I want to ask you to read and share with others, “A Weapon of Mass Destruction: Catholic Priests Falsely Accused” and pray that the eyes that are opened will in turn help open some minds.
And whether you are new to These Stone Walls or have been reading for eight years, you can help us by sharing links to our posts. If what Cardinal Avery Dulles predicted is true, I thank you for being here with us at the turning of the tide. Your presence here brings hope and meaning to suffering.
“Father Gordon MacRae’s eye-catching, thought-provoking and conscience-grabbing blog, These Stone Walls is deemed by many to be the finest example of priestly witness in the plethora of scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in the course of the past decade.” (Fr James Valladares in Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, p. 274)
“While imparting a side of the abuse scandal that the major media refuses to provide, These Stone Walls is informative, thoughtful, and spiritually empowering… One visit will make anyone reconsider the one-sided hysteria we’ve heard in the media for the last two decades.” (Author, David F. Pierre, Jr., The Media Report)