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Welcome to our newest project. The Dr. J Show is a weekly broadcast with an interview segment that features some of the foremost leaders and thinkers on issues relating to marriage, family and human sexuality. New episodes come out every Friday; catch them here or over at our YouTube channel.
Phil Lawler is the editor of Catholic World News, the first English-language Catholic news service operating on the internet, which he founded in 1995. CWN provides daily headline news coverage for the Catholic Culture site, where Phil Lawler also offers regular analysis and commentary.
Phil attended Harvard College and did graduate work in political philosophy at the University of Chicago before entering a career in journalism. He has
previously served as Director of Studies for the Heritage Foundation, as editor of Crisis Magazine, and as editor of the international monthly
magazine Catholic World Report. Transcript provided below.
Lawler is the author or editor of ten books on political and religious topics. His essays, book reviews, and editorial columns have appeared in over 100 newspapers around the United States and abroad. A pro-life activist and veteran of many political campaigns, Phil was himself a candidate for the US Senate in 2000, running against the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Married since 1979 to Leila Marie Lawler, Phil is the father of 7 children, grandfather of 9, and a Red Sox fan.
Topics discussed is this episode of The Dr. J Show include:
Dr. Morse: Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute. Thank you so much for joining me today on this episode of the Dr. J Show my guest today is Catholic journalist Phil Lawler. You can read all about his bio in the notes to this video. And I want to say a special word to some of our followers here. First of all we're going to be talking about issues relating to clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, so this is not an episode for young ears. So, keep that in mind be as you turn it on.
And I want to also emphasize why we're talking about something that's it's going to seem like Catholic inside baseball to a lot of you guys because I know not everybody's Catholic, but here's why we're doing this: as you know the Ruth Institute is an interfaith international coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love, we're combating the sexual revolution all day long, and one of the big factors in the success of the sexual revolution has been the Catholic Church's failure to confront it and so that's why what happens in the Catholic Church turns out to be important to everybody.
The second reason we're doing this is that sexual abuse has turned out to become an issue that we deal with at the Ruth Institute. When I started the Ruth Institute in 2008, I never thought I’d be dealing with this kind of topic, but I’ve come to see that it really is an important aspect of how the sexual revolution has harmed people because this ideology disarms victims of sexual abuse, and it empowers and emboldens predators, and so therefore it's become part of our mission to deal with that.
I’m also going to mention to you when we're recording this no matter when you may come in to watch it you should know we're recording this on November 12, 2020. We still don't know who the president of the United States is, and the McCarrick Report was just issued two days ago and so we also still don't know very much about Theodore McCarrick and what he's been up to. So if you listen to this a year ago a year from now a lot of those issues, hopefully, will be resolved in one way or another but this is the context in which we're having this particular conversation.
Phillip Lawler thank you so much for being my guest on the Dr. J Show.
Phillip Lawler: Well it's my pleasure to be with you on your birthday
Dr. J: oh well thank you that's very kind. So, um, there have been so many issues that have been happening in the Church recently that are that are on people's minds that are troubling people. One of them is the recent statement that the Pope made that Pope Francis allegedly sort of made about same-sex unions, civil unions for same-sex couples, and this was the thing that put in my mind well I should really talk to Phil about this. So what do you think about what can you say about that statement the little controversy that um that sprung up around that film that was made.
PL: Well it wasn't you know it wasn't a mistake. We learned after the fact that this was the film was sort of patched together from comments that the Pope had made earlier and that there was at least arguably some, uh, confusion in his mind or in the minds of his handlers as to when how this would be used, but then the day after it was released the filmmaker was given an award and the presentation was in the Vatican gardens. Now that to me, that is a pretty clear indication that somebody at the Vatican had a very good idea that this film would be used for purposes of furthering the homosexual agenda, of suggesting that the Pope was changing what the Church taught about, uh, homosexual unions, and of course the Pope wasn't changing Church doctrine, he can't change Church doctrine.
Dr. J.: Right
PL: But he was certainly throwing open that doctrine to questions he was certainly providing an opportunity for journalists around the world, who don't know the Catholic Church so well, to say that the doctrine is changing. And it's one of so many incidents with Pope Francis that I just can't write it off to happenstance or, or, to you know misunderstanding they all the misunderstandings seem to go in the same direction. And at some point you have to tell yourself this isn't misunderstanding this is intentional.
Dr. J: That's right and then the an additional thing that took place that's not about Pope Francis but about the hierarchy here in America, uh, was Archbishop Gomez made a statement um congratulating Joe Biden as the next president of the United States and at the time he made that statement the election still hadn't been resolved and so it, it, made it sound like he was, well I what do you think of that statement? What do you think of Archbishop Gomez's statement? The Ruth Institute has made a statement about it. We've reacted we have reacted to it. But what did you make of that statement?
PL: Well the first thing that I would say is there was no need for Archbishop Gomez to say anything.
Dr. J: Exactly! Exactly! He could have kept his mouth shut!
PL: So why did he say something?
Dr. J.: That's right!
PL: and why there's really only one logical answer to that question. He said it because he wanted to carry favor with man he assumes it's going to be the next president.
Dr. J: mm-hmm
PL: and why, right?
Dr. J.: Right. So, so, he's, and when we made our statement about it we basically, we, we did not assign any motive to him we didn't speculate we just said you know this is unseemly to make this statement. It was incorrect to suggest that the Virgin Mary should, uh, to invoke the Virgin Mary that we may become a country that honors life and religious liberty, when we know perfectly well that that's not what Joe Biden has in mind. This was really unfortunate. And it's also unfair to the to the Catholics who live in states where the votes haven't been counted yet, you know, to ask people to, um, have reconciliation and brotherhood and forgiveness and stuff at that point, that's not that's not appropriate at that moment. At that moment those people have every right, uh, to insist on all the legal proceedings going through.
PL: Sure and you know even if the results had been clear at that point. I would question why such an anodyne statement?
Dr. J: Right.
PL: Biden has promised what amounts to soft persecution of the Catholic Church, to say nothing of what he's what he has promised in terms of legalizing abortion under all circumstances with taxpayer funding. And so you can acknowledge him if you want as the elected president once the votes are cast but certainly as a Catholic leader you should be saying we're in for a rough spell because that's just it's not a wild prediction, it's just a fact.
Dr. J.: Right, right. So let's turn now to the other big thing that happened recently which is the uh, release of the long-awaited McCarrick Report, so-called McCarrick Report, which was an investigation into the into Theodore McCarrick. Now before we get to the McCarrick Report, it seems to me there was something a little odd about the procedure by which he was laicized and I I’m not a canon lawyer so I don't understand, and I don't watch the Vatican all that much so I don't know exactly. but they swept, they kind of swept him away without going through some of the procedures. Am I, am I remembering that correctly?
PL: I think you are! I’m also not a canon lawyer, and to be honest with you, at some point I checked out, because the whole mess is so unattractive. I don't like to pay attention to all the details but I believe you're right there was not a canonical trial
Dr. J.: That's it that's the word I was looking for, right which would have brought forward more evidence and and specific kinds of evidence and so on that that was my understanding
Dr. J: Okay so we may or may not use this little exchange if neither of us is sure, we can't verify it no we don't then we don't need to go there but I thought I had read it in your columns
Dr. J: okay okay we'll do a little investigation and then father mark can just take this little corner of it. Um so, so tell us what, what was your reaction to the McCarrick Report, Phil?
PL: Well someone asked me yesterday was I surprised and I said “No.” Or rather, they asked me, “Was it what I expected?” and I said “Yes,
it was what I expected.” What I expected was a sort of bland, very lengthy report that would avoid all the tough questions and that's pretty much what
we got. We got a report that gave a lot of details, uh, that we didn't know before, but did not give the important, did not even address, the really
important questions that were brought up by McCarrick’s, uh, case by the scandal that he was involved in. To me the two important questions were first:
how did he rise through the ranks who helped him?
Dr. J.: Right!
PL: Who helped him?
Dr. J: Yeah.
PL: How did he influence policy at the Vatican and the Church in this country, and who helped him there and how was he influenced? You know who, who are bishops now because of McCarrick because, frankly, I want to be on the lookout for them that's never addressed
Dr. J.: Yes, yes. And I’ve read about a third of it so far, um, and, and you're right there's lots and lots of detail about his career and the, the paperwork, the official paperwork describing who, um, not so much who nominated him but the Holy Father was considering him for “x”, uh, for this See or that See, and then here are the letters that came in. So there's all the all these official papers are now publicly available so I suppose that's something. But yeah there's all these reports of his all of his accomplishments, and all the countries he's been to, and I’m thinking what is this? Is this his vitae? I mean are we are we canonizing this guy? I mean why are we talking about all the countries he went to and how great he was? You know I found that a little bit jarring to be honest, why that was in there. But anyway you're right the, um, beyond that paperwork there are a lot still a lot of questions.
PL: A lot of questions. There are a lot of salacious details
Dr. J.: Right
PL: a lot of stomach-turning details about just how he went about grooming young men
Dr. J.: Yes
PL: and bedding young men and sort of intimidating them, which is of course abuse even if they're adults. And, uh, taking advantage of his position as archbishop to, uh, molest seminarians and all of that we knew, but the details are the sort of things that that titillate, readers, you know, and might distract readers from the questions those readers really should be asking.
Dr. J.: That's right. That's right. Which are the ones that you mentioned
Dr. J.: Who was, who, um, enabled his rise, and who did he, uh, benefit afterwards. Not a not a word of that. Not a word of that. In fact, you know, looking at those networks is something that that could be done in a systematic manner if you ask yourself, “Well who did he ordain?” It seems like there was a line in there about different people that he, uh, had consecrated. You could use it, wouldn't be too hard to find out who he consecrated.
PL: That's one thing but it doesn't tell you who he promoted in private conversations
Dr. J.: That's right
PL: There's an awful lot of paperwork in this report, as you say, this documentation, but there's the problem is that so much of what goes on. Uh, so much of what should have gone on is private conversation and for instance, the one of the questions that the report does at least address is who knew what about him and when, but it relies exclusively, or almost exclusively, on what's on the written record.
Dr. J: That's right
PL: Well I knew about his shenanigans about 20 years ago, but I never wrote anything about it because I never had any hard evidence. But I knew about it because it was all over the grapevine and, uh, if I knew about it, a lot of other people knew about it. The fact that they didn't write down anything about it doesn't tell me they didn't know.
Dr. J.: That's right. That's right. In fact what they did write down suggests that they, they, they knew something but I think you said this in your column, if they knew this, why promote the guy? You know? This is um, this is, there were plenty of red flags there, right? So what's your thought about why they promoted him?
PL: That's to me one of the really intriguing questions why did they promote him he had red flags. There were these rumors, even if the rumors weren't true, it would be prudent to say, “Well we don't know if it's true, but there are lots of candidates for advancement to become a bishop or archbishop or Cardinal.” Why take the one who has this cloud over his head? and why was he…see that's one of the questions that's not
Dr. J.: That’s right. That’s right. yeah and when you sit there and start to think well what are some possible reasons? I can't think of any that are really good reasons, you know? I mean you can think of blackmail, or influence, or money, or you know. You can think of all kinds of things but I, I can't really think of a good reason you know? He could have been he could have been a bishop there in New Jersey. He didn't have to be promoted to D.C. Now what do you make of the fact it was Cardinal O’Connor who, more or less, blocked him from New York from becoming the, um, the prelate of New York, which I thought was pretty interesting. What do you make of that Phil?
PL: I was delighted to learn that. That was news to me. That's, that's one of the tidbits that I did not know and I knew Cardinal O’Connor. I had a soft spot in my heart for him. uh, and I was delighted to hear that he was the one, one of the few who raised the flood the red flag and informed the Vatican that this man had problems and would not be an appropriate archbishop of New York or Chicago or Washington. He was finally overruled but he was fighting the good fight there.
Dr. J.: Yes, yes that was that that was news to me too. Now another thing in the in the category of news/non-news, um, was the way that some of the headline writers so far have been trying to spin this thing as, “Oh it all happened on John Paul's watch.” There's all this detail about who John Paul asked and all the letters to John Paul and so on and so forth. So, but we knew that already. I mean, there's nothing, and as far as that material is concerned about John Paul or Benedict, there really isn't anything new that I could see. Phil did you see anything there about Pope John Paul or Benedict?
PL: There was, there was something new about Pope John Paul and it raised more questions to me than it answered because we already knew obviously we knew it was Pope John Paul who appointed him, McCarrick, as archbishop of Washington in, uh, what was it 2002, uh, was that right or was it 2000?
Dr. J.: It was earlier than that it was earlier than that because, remember when the Dallas Charter came out he was already arch…wasn't he already archbishop? And they put him in front of the camera that's another
PL: That's right
Dr. J: That's another there's another issue there right there but anyway the thing about John Paul that we didn't know share that.
PL: Yeah, well what I didn't know at least was that John Paul overrode, overrode a decision by the Congregation for Bishops. At that point the Congregation for Bishops which is the, uh, Vatican agency that helps the Pope, ultimately the Pope appoints a bishop, but it's the Congregation for Bishops that does the selection and presents candidates for his approval. And the congregation had decided that McCarrick was not an appropriate archbishop of Washington and Pope John Paul overrode them. Now immediately, you ask why did he do that
Dr. J.: Right
PL: and you plow through this report and you see that, uh, the Vatican had been informed about the rumors about McCarrick and the reports, and the mounting evidence of miss sexual misconduct. We don't know how much of that information got to Pope John Paul. We do know that Pope John Paul, having seen how communist propaganda artists would smear Catholic clerics with this sort of accusation, he was skeptical about accusations against Catholic priests and that's an unfortunate truth and it's come out many times that he just slow to pick up on, on what he should have, but when the information against McCarrick came to Rome, uh, McCarrick made a plea. He was obviously campaigning
Dr. J: Yes, yes.
PL: That letter was really something
Dr J.: Yeah tell people about that!
PL: Yeah well he made, he wrote a letter, and he insisted he had never had sexual relations with anyone.
Dr. J.: That sounded like Bill Clinton. That sentence sounded straight out of Bill Clinton, didn't it?
PL: Well they were friends and
Dr. J.: Oh yeah, ooh.
PL: and McCarrick was he was a very successful con man. He was very convincing. He conned a lot of people
Dr. J: Right, right.
PL: but what's intriguing to me is he wrote to the Pope a lot. He was a Cardinal. Cardinals write to the Pope. He wrote to the Pope a lot, that came out in the report too, frequently long letters, uh, self-promoting in this case he didn't write to Pope John Paul he wrote to Pope John Paul's private secretary now Cardinal Dziwisz and we don't know how much of what went to Cardinal Dziwisz, got through to Pope John Paul. All we know is that he concluded, he the Pope, concluded that the rumors against McCarrick were false. At that time there was no hard evidence. There was a lot of soft evidence, a lot of circumstantial evidence. We don't know how much of it got to the Pope, but maybe it was portrayed to him as nothing more than rumors.
Dr. J.: Right
PL: and that's a sort of thing he would reject. We don't know, in any case, was he at fault here? I would say, frankly, yes
Dr. J.: Yes.
PL: He made a mistake and this isn't the only mistake he made on sex abuse issues. I mean most famously, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Maciel, Maciel was also a man with who was leading a double life. Pope John Paul apparently never believed it and guess what? Father Maciel was very friendly with Cardinal Dziwisz. So I don't know how much to blame Cardinal Dziwisz, how much to blame Pope John Paul? Anyway there's the history. He, nobody's perfect.
Dr. J.: Right, right. But, but here's the thing about the whole spin cycle that's going on, and I just want to point this out because Phil and I, listen people. Phil and I are going to be talking a lot about what's not in this report okay and so one thing that's not in this report Phil is any new hard evidence that John Paul knew. There, and believe me, if there was hard evidence that John Paul knew, they would, it would, that would be all over the paper! That'd be all over the report, okay? So they got nothing. They got there's, nothing new in a sense, uh, on John Paul or Benedict. There's nothing new on them, but nothing, you agree with that? You could…
PL: Let me amplify on that point because it's a good one. I think this report was written, the way it was crafted, it gave journalists who don't know, who have not been following this as we have, it gave them an opportunity to say oh it's all John Paul's fault.
Dr. J.: right
PL: and I don't think that's entirely a mistake. I think they’re,
Dr. J.: right
PL: They’re deflecting they're deflecting attention from Pope Francis. The other thing I want to say is it really doesn't ring true to say, “Oh you can't blame Pope Francis because he didn't have, the Vatican didn't have any hard evidence. It's all the fault of this other Pope 20 years earlier when there was much less evidence.” So come on.
Dr. J.: Right
PL: If there was a lot of evidence in 2000 and Pope John Paul made a mistake, which I will accept
Dr. J.: Yeah
PL: Don't tell me Pope Francis is innocent because there's so much more evidence that came to him.
Dr. J.: Right. So let's talk about that aspect of it because this this I think it will be interesting to people all across the religious spectrum, is how should people interpret the news around this report and the news around, uh, clergy sex abuse and who’s, who’s the good guys, who's the bad guys. It turns out I don't think there's any real super good guys, um, but this the report is being spun in a particular way to downgrade the importance of John Paul II’s pontificate, um, and to upgrade the importance of Pope Francis's pontificate.
Dr. J.: Okay and so if, if you would, say a little bit about that because this term “deflection” is an important term, but there's a there's a larger, um, um inter inside the Church conflict that's at play here that people might not be aware of. So tell people about that a bit, Phil.
PL: Well yeah there's a conflict between um the supporters of Pope Francis and the supporters of previous Popes who are appalled by what Pope Francis has done
Dr. J.: yeah
PL: and if you are, uh, at this point, if you're supporting, it's, it's a really, it's a sick situation from a Catholic perspective, you know? That, that it's so easy for people to start choosing sides one Pope from another.
Dr. J.: Right
PL: I mean we never did this before. We never said, “Oh this, I’m on Pope Benedict's side. I’m not on Pope John Paul's side.” because they were on the same side.
Dr J.: That's right where they belong they were on the correct side, they were on the side of Christ and his Church, in the deposit of faith.
PL: Right and even other previous Popes who, who you might have been unhappy with some of the way some of their policies, you never thought of it as an opposition.
Dr. J: Right.
PL: I certainly never did. I thought of it as well, “This one has, has more, uh, liberal leanings but we're on the same team” and it's been very um, disconcerting and discouraging, I think, for a lot of people to see. Uh, Pope Francis and his supporters fairly openly questioning the ideas of their predecessors.
Dr. J: Yes, all the way down to, and including removing Pope John Paul II’s name off of institutions that he founded to, to promote certain aspects. I’m thinking of the institute for, for family life, or you you, you tell people some of these institutes that they've removed.
PL: Well yeah I mean the institute that what is it the, uh, ins, now you've got me wondering the Pontifical Institute for the Family
Dr. J: Yes, I think that's what it's called.
PL: Uh, which as you say Pope John Paul founded and Pope Francis got it.
Dr. J.: right, right
PL: Essentially removed everybody and put in his own people who have a very different outlook on what's important for the family. Uh, and rather than emphasizing questions of family integrity, marriage, and defense of human life, they're focusing instead on questions like climate change.
Dr. J.: Right, right which will be which that dichotomy between traditional Catholic sexual morality on the one hand, and sort of you know what you might call trendy liberal issues on the other hand and saying these are all life issues, uh, and so therefore, uh, we're gonna talk about our life issues you guys you know you can kind of go over there but, but that's not, that doesn't really count. That dichotomy is very familiar to American Catholics because we see that all day long in our in our Church here right,
Dr. J.: and I also want to say to Ruth Institute followers who may be new to this kind of controversy the, the institute that John Paul started was to promote his, uh, particular innovative ways of teaching the ancient teaching of the Church: the, theology of the body and many of the insights that he acquired in his pastoral and Philosophical works before he was ever even a bishop. And that's very powerful work. We've interviewed a few people, um, who have some expertise in the, Theology of the Body, as well as some Thomist, uh, scholars and so on so you know you may be familiar with some of that work. So that John Paul was really trying to get the Church engaged with the modern world to try to confront some of these toxic things that you know, that he foresaw a long time ago, were going to be bigger and bigger problems. And so for, for Pope Francis essentially to come along and gut those institutions, it's a very significant um, what shall we say, um, strategic loss, uh, in the culture wars to, to have that happen. It's like somebody took out an ammunition dump or something, you know, that that this is a potential source of firepower, um, and it's now it's now been captured by the enemy you know? You could you could put it that way.
PL: In fact, I’d say that that's, that's the overarching problem that I see and for your non-Catholic, uh, viewers that I would say the, the overarching problem that I’ve tried to expose in the Catholic Church is this willingness to play by the rules of the secular culture. To try to make nice with the secular culture rather than to confront the culture and the idea, I understand the idea behind it, is the idea is oh then it will be easier to evangelize and that idea turns out to be wrong. Because when the Church, and now I’m speaking of any Christian body, when the Church conforms itself to the secular culture it's no longer influencing the culture, that you know, the Church should define the culture that's where the word culture comes from, from cult. And if the Church is rather adhering to the culture it loses all its influence. You, you try to, uh, you try to make yourself more palatable to the secular world by conforming and you think that that way you'll have more influence and you have less influence and less integrity.
Dr. J.: I think that's right and again I think our non-Catholic friends can relate to that because there are numerous examples of evangelical pastors who have, you know, somehow recanted their views and said, “well I’ve grown on gay marriage” or “I’ve grown on abortion”, “I’ve grown on this topic” and, basically, they've been captured. Those are like resources that the enemy has taken into his camp and are no longer really available, uh, to do what needs to be done so the, the we have our own our institutions have been corrupted, the Churches that are congregational Churches where there's kind of one guy and a leader and that kind of thing, um, the individuals get corrupted, you know, and kind of picked off one by one. For us, for us, and for the Anglicans and for the Lutherans, you know, is it's the Church structures and institutions that that become corrupted. But I’d like to get back to the to the McCarrick Report and let's talk about a few other things that you think are missing or misleading. One thing that jumped out at me is that there was a statement at the beginning that he was never an official envoy, or he was never an official, um, representative of the Vatican to foreign countries, and yet I thought he'd been all over the world and I thought he went and did, did this deal with the Vatican deal with, with China. Tell us something about that. It does, this looked like, I, I didn't understand what I was being told there that he never represented the Vatican. What is that about?
PL: The only way to look at that is that it's lawyerly language. He was never an official Vatican diplomat. He was he was never traveling to another country with a portfolio from the Vatican saying, “This is the official representative of the Vatican.” He was, however, traveling to other countries, including China with the blessing of the Vatican secretary of State. He was telling them about his talks with government leaders in other countries. He was briefing them and being briefed by them. So to say he was never an official diplomatic representative of the Vatican is just really an attempt to, again, to deflect responsibility. He was he was an unofficial that diplomat, okay? Is you know, is that good enough?
Dr. J.: Right, right, right, right, and, and that brings us to one of the points about Pope Benedict versus Pope Francis; that Pope Benedict, you know, you can say he should have done more, and you you'd be right, he probably should have done more, but what he did do was undone by Pope Francis. So spell that out for people a little bit, because this is this is really interesting point.
PL: Well it was undone by Pope Francis, but to be fair it was undone before Pope Francis came along.
Dr. J.: Okay tell people about that, Phil. Let's start from the beginning. Let's start from the beginning. Benedict becomes Pope in 2005 and he's got, you guys, have you ever had to clean up someone else's mess? Okay, Pope, just picture this Pope Benedict becomes, Joseph Ratzinger—world-class scholar and intellect—becomes head of the Catholic Church, which is a mess, right? And now this dear scholar is supposed to do something about it. So what did he do in 2005 or around that period of time? What happened, Phil?
PL: Well one of the things he had to do fairly early on is, uh, Cardinal McCarrick was turning 75 years old and, uh, under canon law a 75 year old bishop is supposed to submit his resignation and the Pope is free either to accept it or not and McCarrick went to Rome with his resignation and of course, uh, with his self-promotion, and he persuaded Benedict to let him stay on. About within a few months Benedict said, “Wait a minute!” he had heard more in the interim. He'd been filled in on the stories about McCarrick and he said, “I want his resignation now.” As I recall that was in November. The resignation was announced the next May. So that that tells you something about the clout that McCarrick had that he was able to postpone you know, to, to work with the Congregation for Bishops, to postpone the acceptance of his own resignation. Then, once he had resigned, and the evidence of his misconduct did continue to pile up, Pope Benedict sent a message through the Congregation for Bishops that he wanted a McCarrick to withdraw from public life. McCarrick got that, uh, request or directive. It was not formal, unfortunately, it was informal. He was asked to do it, uh, and he said, “Oh yeah, I will do whatever the Pope wants but of course there's this important thing that I have to do, and then there's the speech that I’ve already agreed to give, and then there's the tour of the Southeast Asia that I’ve already committed to. So you understand, I'll do those things.” And he was given permission by the Vatican, this, you know the second-tier Vatican bureaucrats. So, um, this is McCarrick we're talking about, this is a self-promoter, a world traveler, a mover, and shaker, and fundraiser, and within a matter of months, he was back to his usual schedule; just globe-trotting, making all sorts of public appearances. He, the directive from Pope Benedict was essentially a dead letter.
Dr. J: Wasn't there something though, where somebody used it to keep him out of something that had to do with seminarians?
Dr. J: It seems like it did get involved. The fact, the fact that that thing existed meant that somebody could invoke it if they wanted to
Dr. J: And which wasn't very often but somebody did. Tell that, little,
PL: Yeah, it was, unless I’m mistaken, it was Cardinal Wuerl in Washington, his successor, uh, who was advised not to have him at an event for seminarians. It would be unseemly, particularly because the controversy involved his molesting seminarians. So, as you say, yes, there was clear indication that people knew that he was acting, he was supposedly under restrictions and yet nobody was enforcing those restrictions. And the entire hierarchy was cooperating with McCarrick. How many of them knew he was defying the Pope? I don't know some of them apparently did. The Congregation for Bishops did, and this is another one of those question marks. Why is it that he was able to get away with defying the Pope's wishes, because there were people who knew about it. There were people in the Congregation for Bishops. There are people in the Secretariat of State. There was the Apostolic Nuncio, which is the equivalent of the Pope's ambassador in Washington. They all knew about these restrictions. None of them enforced it.
Dr. J.: So then bring us up to the, um, to the Pope Francis Pontificate and the character whose name we haven't met mentioned yet but will be familiar to many people and that's Archbishop Vígano. Um, where, where does Archbishop Vígano fit into the next phase of the story.
PL: Archbishop Vígano, first of all he, he shows up earlier before, uh, Pope Francis when he was working in the Secretariat of State and he twice, twice blew the whistle. He twice called attention to the potential for scandal with McCarrick and was ignored or, you know, brushed aside
Dr. J: Right, right
PL: Then he was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio in Washington and he got to Washington and there he was in the same city with McCarrick who was busily ignoring the Pope's directives and Vígano knew about those directives and I have to say he did not enforce them either. He a few times mentioned them. It's not clear how far he went to try to enforce them to try to get McCarrick back out of public view. Uh, and then there's a large chunk of this McCarrick Report is devoted to impugning Archbishop Vígano's character, to suggesting that he was dishonest when he made his shocking public statement a couple of years ago and said that Pope Francis was aware of this, Pope Francis revived McCarrick’s career, Pope Francis undid what Benedict had done. Uh, It's intriguing to me that this report has one real bad guy, and that one real bad guy is the whistleblower.
Dr. J.: Yeah
PL: And that really tells you everything you need to know about what his report is about.
Dr. J.: Right, right um and so, so bring people up to date with the with the timeline at when Pope Francis became Pope. This is when Vígano had his conversation with the Pope that he recounted in his very first letter. Do they dissect that conversation at all in the in the McCarrick Report?
PL: No, they don't even talk about that. They, they say that that conversation there's no record, no written record of it.
Dr. J.: I believe that that's total, of course. Why would there be?
Dr. J.: Vígano never claimed there was I mean that would be crazy, yeah.
PL: Right. They say it's disputed, Pope Francis doesn't remember it, uh, so it's, it's his word against Archbishop Vígano’s, uh, and the report essentially is giving us to believe that Archbishop Vígano’s account is not accurate and that therefore the Pope knew nothing. It is however, it is, uh, there is a little tidbit stuck into the report that um Cardinal Becciu, who was the sub, the deputy secretary of state at that time, twice spoke with Pope Francis about McCarrick and expressed concern about him. And again there's no record of that, uh, other than Becciu's recollection and again the Pope says he doesn't remember so the, there are at least four different occasions when an Archbishop by his account told Pope Francis about this problem and each time Pope Francis says he doesn't remember it.
Dr. J.: And add to that the point you made earlier, which is that all the evidence that had already accumulated about him that was still already available and what Pope Francis did essentially was remove what the, the even the very nominal restrictions that Benedict had put on him. That all went away, and as far as I know.
Dr. J.: Now how did that happen? Was that was that something official, or was that just another de facto kind of thing? What, how did that
PL: Well see there was nothing there never was anything official enough to do
Dr. J.: That's the problem
PL: Yeah, but I mean Pope Francis was clearly friendly with McCarrick, was aware of his work as a diplomat, as a as an unofficial diplomat in China and elsewhere, uh, was in contact with him. So you know while Benedict was Pope, McCarrick was running around the world, uh, but he was not getting one-on-one recognition from the Pope. When Francis came into power he did and
Dr. J. What do you mean by one-on-one recognition from the Pope?
PL: Well I mean other Vatican officials were dealing with him, Pope Benedict was not singling him out. Pope Benedict himself never violated his own directives in other words he told bennett, he told McCarrick to retire to pub, private life and he did not encourage him in his public dealings. uh, Francis did.
Dr. J.: and so let's talk about the, uh, the, the other elephant in the room as far as I’m concerned which is the China deal, uh, the, there's been some negotiation between the Vatican and the Chinese communist government, and there are a whole bunch of unanswered questions about it. What we do know about it is that the Church in China is facing more restrictions and more persecution than ever before and, uh, the Cardinal Zen um has spoken out very, very clearly about this. There's no doubt that the, the guy closest to the situation is 100% convinced the situation is far worse, uh, than it was before. Phil tell people some of the unanswered questions about that.
PL: Well, I don't know where to begin
Dr. J.: All right, well we have a while, go ahead
PL: Because okay what are the questions about the deal with China? Well, I don't know what the deal with China is it's a secret. You know these the pact that the Vatican reached with the Beijing government has never been made public. We have been told that the essence of the deal is the, um, the Pope selects bishops, but that's the fig leaf. Still it's, just still the Pope's prerogative to select the bishops but he slept selects them from a group of candidates put forward by the Communist Party, so he's not really selecting them. Or, you know he's handed over, the Vatican has handed over that power, and at the same time the Vatican has, uh, persuaded a couple of bishops of the so-called underground Church who were loyal to Rome it persuaded them to resign to make room for bishops who were appointed, illicitly, by the communist regime. So, it's a real setback for the independence of the Church in China. At the same time that the government is tightening the screws on Church, you know taking out pictures of the Pope from Church halls and replacing them with pictures of the chairman of the Communist Party and you know requiring, uh, instead of hymns, singing patriotic songs and, uh, the underground Church is still under heavy pressure we have priests being arrested we have bishops who haven't been seen for several years. And none of this is getting better. So, we don't know we don't know what the deal is, but we do know that it's not helping the Catholics in China particularly the loyal Catholics.
Dr. J.: Yes, yes, that once again we've got a situation of secrecy and lack of transparency and so we're left to guess and read between the lines based on information that's publicly available, and of course what I would like to say to, to everyone watching this on pretty much any topic you can think of, when you're operating in an environment of secrecy and cover-up people's imaginations are going to go. They're going to go all over the place, and some of the places they're going to go are going to be wacky, and some of the places are going to be sound, but if you guys want to yell at us about being conspiracy theorists, listen to me, you have no one but yourself to blame. You need to come clean with a lot more stuff than we have here, and then, then you could say that guy's off the wall. At this point, you know if you're not sure the tie goes to the guy with the tinfoil hat. You know? I mean it just, they have just shredded their credibility with all of this kind of cover-up. So it's no wonder that people's minds go all over the place. So what Phil is saying, he's not accusing anybody, he's just saying the outcome is not good and the fact is we don't know what actually went down. Did the Vatican get something in return that's of benefit to the Vatican? We don't, well one would hope if you're doing a deal that you'd get some you get some benefit if you make all these sacrifices, but we have no idea what that actually is. Is that right Phil?
PL: I think it's right. Cardinal Perolin, the Secretary of State, has indicated that to him the great, uh, benefit of this deal is that the Church in China will be united, rather than split between the underground Church, loyal to Rome, and the official Church that's recognized by the government. Well, first of all that doesn't seem to be happening because the, the underground Church is still being harassed. But secondly actually it goes back to what I was saying earlier. Are you being united because you have, uh, you have accepted the restrictions? Are you being united in the mold of the Communist regime? Because that's no kind of, then you're not united with the worldwide Catholic Church, and then you're not doing your evangelical best
Dr. J.: Right, Right. Yeah you could you can be united by, uh, one side or the other capitulating and, and it looks like it being united, but it's not really the same thing as a genuine reconciliation or meeting of the minds or anything like that. Uh, it's the word “united” being used as a cover, uh, for for something else. Perhaps full-on surrender or perhaps full-on betrayal or fall you know we don't know.
PL: We don't know exactly right we don't have to argue, you can just agree with me.
Dr. J.: Yeah right, right. That ends the fight right there, yeah. Now there's another whole set of things within the McCarrick Report that I would like to call people's attention to. Because this is more in the wheelhouse of, of the Ruth Institute as we've come, as we normally you normally expect from us. Um, and, and, that is the accounts of how Cardinal McCarrick actually conducted himself with the seminarians, and with the young men and the teenage boys, and so on, and so forth. As I was reading some of those accounts, I realized this is full-on grooming. This is full on grooming, and I think, if you, if if you are a mom, or you're a therapist, or you're a teacher, you should really go look at the, at this report, and you know skim through Cardinal McCarrick’s accomplishments, and all the rest of it, and get to the part where they, where the witnesses are explaining, here's what he did, here's what he said, here's how I felt, I didn't know what to do, because it was so, so, entangling. That is grooming and people at that time, especially in the 1980’s, one lady who wrote in the 80’s, people didn't have the language for explaining what was happening there, but she knew something was wrong. Can you expound on that a little bit, Phil?
PL: Yeah, well as you say grooming is, we didn't have until very recently any hard evidence of actual molestation, but we did have lots of evidence of what you would call grooming.
Dr. J: Right
PL: And that's one of those things where there's a lot of smoke that you get you're going to find a fire. We had clear evidence that McCarrick would routinely have a bunch of seminarians, young men, adults I guess, legal adults but young men out to his beach house and then he would choose a handsome one and say you're gonna share my bed. Now, okay it is possible for two men to be in the same bed and nothing untoward goes on, but realistically if you don't see that as a problem, as a sign of, of something wrong, when it happens all the time, when, by the way alcohol is involved in most of these cases. It's all sorts of red flashing lights should be coming on in your head.
Dr. J.: So there's one particular person that I want to call attention to, and this is a person I had never heard of before as I read this. It looked at priest one and priest two, and so on, some of those stories I recognized from earlier accounts, and I’m pretty sure we could, if we searched the news, we could figure out who those people were, but we need not, their testimony is there and speaks for itself, but there was one person I had never heard of before and this is a person who is identified as mother number one and this is a woman who wrote anonymous letters, uh, to a variety of people in the, I want to say in the 1980’s, saying Monsignor McCarrick was behaving really strangely around her son, or her sons, she had a large Catholic family, her husband was devoted to the Church, couldn't possibly be believed that the priest would do anything wrong, but the mothers just like got these, like you said screaming red flags, “this is not right” and, and, she sat down, she describes how she sat and she went to the public library with the with the directory in front of her, and she hand wrote these letters to the various people that she thought would do something about it, and she was so um frightened, you know, and that no one would listen to her, and so on, and so forth. This woman, what she did was extremely important. Took a lot of courage. If she's watching, if somebody knows her, I would like to, just, you know, give her a high five and a thumbs up, and, and thank her for doing that. Because, um, your evidence, your testimony, turns out to be important. They must have found her. She must be alive, because it looks like they interviewed her and some of her sons. So, if they're out there, you know, thank you so much for what you di. But her account makes it clear, how the kind of con-man aspect of predators operates, right? Because it makes you afraid it makes you feel like you're the crazy one, you're, they're not going to believe you. Are you kidding me? You're a housewife! Are you kidding me? You know that kind that kind of whole vibe. Do you remember this lady do you remember this part of the,
PL: Oh absolutely, and it's very familiar because I’ve been tracking sexual abuse for 25 years or more, and I’ve seen so many cases like this, and I, I can think of, of some really heart-wrenching cases, but hers is one of them, and what's also heart-wrenching is to see in the report how various bishops responded to her, and their response, okay it's an anonymous accusation, so I, you can't convict anybody on the basis of an anonymous accusation, but you can get your antennae up, and instead what they were doing was, they were looking for ways to excuse McCarrick, you know, they were looking for explanations that would be benign, of his behavior. “Oh, it's probably a misunderstanding. Oh, you know, she didn't understand the real situation and we don't want to make poor Cardinal McCarrick, or archbishop McCarrick, we don't want to make him feel bad. We don't want to put him on the defensive.” All of the sympathy is for the predator and none for his prey.
Dr. J: That's right and that's, that's very, that is so common that is so common and, and, uh, the Ruth Institute earlier, earlier episodes of the Dr. J Show we've actually interviewed sex abuse survivors, whether they're clergy sex abuse, or other forms of sexual abuse, survivors. And the issue of having some, um, affirmation, or clarification, or a sense that justice has been done, that's extremely important to people. And many, most, of them don't have don't ever get to have that feeling that something's been done. We have one, Faith Hixley, and I don't know if you know Faith and her story, but her predator ended up in jail, and, and that really meant a lot to her. You know? That was really, really, important to her; that she was taken seriously and she had her day in court and, and all the rest of it. And so all of this woundedness is out there not being dealt with.
PL: And it's, of course, you don't want to convict somebody falsely,
Dr. J: Of course
PL: And there are false accusations out there. On the other hand, you have to have a balance. You have to at least honor the accusation enough to look into it
Dr. J.: Right
PL: Other than to dismiss it right away, and to you know, when you get the accusation if you're immediately looking for excuses rather than looking into the actual situation you're part of the problem.
Dr. J.: Right, right. And that I think is one sign that is a sign of some kind of growth or progress, is that there are more people who are willing to take the accusation seriously yes and that is very positive. Um, on the other hand there are people who do use these accusations for personal gain or political purposes, which we see in the public sphere all over the place, please see recent Supreme Court nomination processes. You know, um and, and I, I want to say to people who are making false accusations, you need to cut that crap out. You got to cut that out! I mean, that is so damaging to people who actually have been harmed, to pull up something that, or invent something in, in the way, that is sometimes done in the public square, that is really destructive, you know? I’m just, I just gotta, say that.
PL: Unfortunately, it's very hard to prove that an accusation is false.
Dr. J.: That's true.
PL: You almost always are going to be left with questions.
Dr. J.: That’s right. That’s right. And that's one reason why the, the early earlier tradition of the Church, or practice of the Church, was really very important in the earlier part of our social understanding, social norms. You don't, you don't leave people alone together, who, who shouldn't be left alone together. Having co-ed dorms, for crying out loud, you know? Did you really think that there'd never be a sexual assault case happening? Okay, maybe kicking all the boys out of the girls’ dorms at 10 pm, maybe that was a little harsh, you know? Many innocent games of checkers were not played. Many innocent movies were not watched, because you kicked the boys out of the dorm at 10 o'clock. On the other hand, there's a whole, you got a nice big bright line there, a very strong gate there that protects the vulnerable from, uh, from assault. Which then, in the end, if you're going to try to prove did happen, or did not happen, which is a huge problem on campuses, right? Did this guy really do it or, or, what, what, what really happened you can't prove it, but you can prove that he was in the dorm after 10 pm, that you could prove, and if he's not in the dorm after 10 pm, the number of assault cases is going to go down. You guys that's not a bad system when you think about it.
PL: Right, and I, I think of Vice President Pence. I understand he makes sure he's never alone with a woman other than his wife, well that sounds a little extreme, but guess what? There's no accusations against him.
Dr. J: That's right that's exactly right our board member Walter Hoye makes a point of never traveling without his wife, you know? I mean you always see the two of them together. Well, you know, yeah there you go, there you go. And, and within the Church there was aesthetical discipline that was expected of people, and um you know rules of conduct, and how you lived, and how you arranged your living space, and lots, and lots of things were in place to make it harder, not impossible, obviously, but to make it harder. Um yeah, and so, so those, those things served a purpose. Um Phil, is there any, are there any last words that you would like to say to our audience about these, uh, about these issues?
PL: Well, there's one other very big issue that we haven't touched on that I would like to mention
Dr. J.: Okay
PL: When we ask why was McCarrick so successful? Why did he keep getting promoted? One reason is he was a legendary fundraiser and he spread the money around. He gave cash gifts to other bishops, and that is written off in this report as customary. And I say if it is customary for bishops to give five-figure donations to each other as gifts in cash, that's a corrupt custom. That's a corrupt, that's a custom that is asking for trouble. It really has to stop.
Dr. J.: I agree with that. In fact, when you look through the history of these things, it's very common for financial cost, for financial corruption and sexual corruption to be very closely linked. You know. If you look at various cases there are cases of a homosexual bishop or priest giving lots of money to their boyfriend to their gay boyfriend and all of a sudden the, the parish is going what happened to all our money and you look into it and it went to the it went to the boyfriend or whatever it was. And, and that brings me to another question, uh, Phil that, uh, a lot of times I’m asked, and, maybe you're asked this too. “How can you guys stay in a Church that is so corrupt? Why are you hanging around this? Your Church is so corrupt, why are you still there?” Well how do you answer that question, Phil? I’m sure you hear that.
PL: Oh absolutely, uh, because it's my Church and I’m not leaving. I want the corrupt forces out, because the Church is, is the spotless bride of Christ and it's being polluted by these people, by the corruption, and I want them out. I’m not gonna, I wouldn't, I’m a cussed Irishman. I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of leaving.
Dr. J.: Now Phil that's not a very spiritual answer you're supposed to say something about how you love the Eucharist, and the fullness of the Catholic faith
PL: Of course, where else would I go?
Dr. J.: “Lord to whom shall we go?”
PL: Exactly, yeah.
Dr. J.: We do, we do feel that too, you know? One of the things that I sometimes tell our followers is that um that American Catholics, it's on us to deal with childhood sexual abuse because childhood sex sexual abuse it's all over the place. Our whole culture has been corrupted by the Sexual Revolution, by the sexual revolution, including the abuse of minors and the abuse of subordinates, and so on. It's everywhere. So do you think Hollywood is going to clean itself up. Do you think the politicians are going to clean themselves, up?
Dr. J.: The only people who love their institution and who love the truth enough to stay the course and fight it is us American Catholics, American Christians, we love our Church enough to fight for it, and that's why we're not leaving. We're going to fight for it and we welcome anybody who will help us.
PL: Exactly, yes.
Dr. J.: Phil Lawler, I think that's a good place to stop, let me, except for one more thing. I want you to tell people where they can connect with you. Tell people about your website and your various activities so that they can subscribe and get acquainted with you.
PL: Well I’m available every day or my material is available every day on Catholicculture.org and I do a news, news service, or really it's a news compilation service, there and as well as commentary, and then I’m also working these days at the Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture at Thomas Moore College in New Hampshire that's another thing that you can find on the web at Thomas Moore College or the Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture is a bit harder to deal with, but the two the two of those keep me busy.
Dr. J.: Very good thank you so much for being my guest today on the Dr. J Show thank you it's been a pleasure.