Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom
There is a darkly comic scene in the recent blockbuster Skyfall where the psycho-villain flies in to obliterate James Bond's hideout. He announces his arrival through the loudspeaker of his military-grade chopper, blasting out a great track by black blues man John Lee Hooker, simply titled “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom”; as in “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, gonna shoot you right down….”
The song reminded an American columnist of the great and not-so good shot down in last year's super scandal that swept the U.S. (involving sex, lies, cover-ups, cyberstalking, an ambitious media babe, twin sister socialites, the FBI, Pentagon, CIA, the President, his Attorney General, two real Generals, ...)
The same thought struck me as some of our own big guns and assorted offsiders and functionaries bit the dust at home and abroad, amid ongoing strife which only underlines and amplifies our 2012 series Chronic Convergence: On Scandals and Mafias in Church and State. “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” it just gets bigger and bigger.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” we were left rudderless when the Vicar of Christ abandoned his watch in February amid rumours and recriminations: poor health, the ungovernability of the Church, inscrutable pressures, a curial "dossier" containing "sensitive" information about homosex, lies, cover-ups.... And we are supposed to believe that this mélange of motley excuses for jumping ship does not humanise and secularise the papacy? That the idea that a weak and tired Pope abdicating is a supranatural view and not a naturalistic one? Seriously?
Do you think that spin might have emanated from the creepy Curia? “Hey, let's say that an infallibly enlightened Benedict is renouncing the papacy to save the Church. And that it does not deny the decisive help of the Holy Ghost or imply that He is being improperly invoked. Then say that those who suggest otherwise and even allude to a whiff of medieval intrigue are the real scandalmongers. And then we'll bring in that shambolic Jesuit Bergoglio we nearly landed in 2005, and sow pre-conclave seeds about a team of advisors to help him sort us out (hearty chuckles). And we'll have him sign off the Wojtyla/Roncalli Vatican II-canonisation first thing. That'll set those anti-Modernists back on their heels!” ... I'm just saying....
I'm just saying that plots, bribes, threats, poisons and even bloody murder are not unknown in Curialand. And that Supreme Pontiffs are not beyond being pushed and shoved around their Barque, even nudged off the bow, while their curial crew plays spin-the-Holy-Ghost to justify all. It sometimes works a treat. But it can backfire, too.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” within weeks Keith Cardinal O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh was felled by allegations of sexual abuse (by three priests and a former priest) stretching back decades. We were supposed to believe that he "doesn't know who his accusers are and doesn't know what they're accusing him of." But from the moment Cardinal Murphy O'Connor planted his trademark kiss of death, commending this "very honest man," the game was up. "I admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me," O'Brien added within days, amid spiralling accusations of "lewd behaviour," "drunken fumblings" and the "grooming," "manipulation" and "poisoning" of souls in his care.
"To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologize." Are you kidding me? Not that his physical victims and the collateral damage didn't warrant an apology. But what of the decades of spiritual, liturgical, doctrinal, moral, catechetical, pastoral and false-ecumenical abuse of the Scottish faithful? Therein lay the real story: the missing contrition that flagged the insincerity behind the faux apology that mirrored his faux transformation from Chief Dissident to Defender of the Faith on 7 October 2003. That was the day Rome hastily hedged its calamitous mistake of handing O'Brien a red hat by having him recite a public profession of faith in his own cathedral; ushering in the "conservative cardinal" press tag they pinned to his periodic bursts of orthodoxy. It was all contrived. As a cleric asked in these pages at the time: "Would you buy a used car from a man like this let alone entrust him with over a hundred thousand souls? I think not."
Yet that's exactly what they did. And even as it emerged that a male "lover" he set up on the continent (that was interesting) had been in regular touch until very recently, the papal Nuncio was telling himself and anyone who would listen that "notwithstanding his mistake" (singular!) the cardinal had done "a lot of good for the Church." This was news to our Scottish readers, one of whom felt such "blank cold darkness" in his journalistic dealings with O'Brien that he emailed John Paul II begging him not to grant him a red hat since "it would, could, only cause scandal." Contrast that prophetic assessment with the rationalising of another Catholic journalist who does not take CO. "He's very kind, very pastoral, a very good priest," she gushed, blithely unfamiliar with his role in endless scandals and cover-ups (CO passim). At the end of a meeting he even insisted on driving her editor to the station to catch her train. Well that's all right then. Catholic academics were at it too. "He is actually a very sociable, jovial man," proffered one who should know better. "He says everything with a smile." And John Knox was good to his mum. And they wonder why we're in meltdown....
It was all of a neo-con/liberal piece as the dissidents joined the complicit chorus. Eureka Street, Australia's Tablet, pleaded to stop "the lynching" and recall, instead, "his passion for the poor, evidenced by his frequent visits to El Salvador and Mexico's Chiapas; his courage in having week-long workshops in Catholic schools in his Archdiocese on HIV/AIDS, and, at the final Mass, allowing pupils to question him rather than giving a homily; his support for married clergy, which he recently reiterated." The Social Gospel behind the Smiley Face....
After a prompt resignation and promise to "play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland," they said he left the country. Did he get as far as Hadrian's Wall? For he was soon back and photographed moving house to a cosy coastal town. Shameless. Only after his outraged brethren appealed to the Vatican was he finally sent away "for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance." How about permanent exile to La Grande Chartreuse?! A snip for his sins. Or "several years"? Or even twelve months? ... No chance. When O'Brien sought "clarification" over the Vatican investigation the Nuncio "reportedly told him no decision has been made to remove or demote him from the clergy."
But not to worry, "Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See." Are they really sure we are that stupid? That we don't recognise bogus collegial shorthand for letting derelict bishops repair their images and preserve their privileges at the expense of the Church’s common good when we hear it? That we've forgotten Rembert? "The Milwaukee Mutineer" used diocesan funds to pay off his boyfriend, resigned only when loverboy went public, then wrote a tell-all autobiography, yet remains "in good standing" and still has Church monuments and buildings dedicated to him in the diocese he left divided and chaotic. And bankrupt into the bargain due to fellow miscreants who ran amuck with him. So do you think O'Brien's penitential wrist-slap might come to nothing? That several months on we'll see a self-justifying autobiography á la Weakland? As he regroups with even greater freedom to push his liberal hobby horses?
More pressing are the diabolic ripples.
The Congregation for Bishops announced that no new bishops are to be appointed to Scotland's five vacant sees (out of eight) until its investigation is completed. A belated bout of clerical cleansing? "There must be questions over those Bishops who are in place and whose nominations were endorsed by Cardinal O'Brien," blogged the doughty Fr Ray Blake of Brighton, "as well as priests and others who were promoted by him." Spot on.
But how about broader terms of references still? Like 'all close associates within his sphere of influence'? His friend Fr Ed Hone, for instance, who served in his diocese for most of the past decade. Amid revelations of rampant homosexuality at St Andrew’s seminary when Spiritual Director O'Brien was doing dirty deeds ("At a conservative guess, at least a third of my peers had gay feelings for other seminarians during their time at St Andrew’s," said one alumnus, ordained in 1982), Fr Hone saw fit to treat inclinations to "intrinsically disordered acts of grave depravity" (Catechism 2357) with a big yawn.
Reportedly, he claimed that about a quarter of newly ordained Catholic priests are homosexual. But don't panic because that's "in line with most caring professions." Besides, he added, "If you compare [the seminary] to any other all-male environment, such as the army or prison, where men are cooped up, you get strong friendships or crushes. At seminary, that’s part of the experience: how you cope the first time you get a crush on someone'."
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” across the Atlantic another Prince of the Church dropped like a sack of spuds under a deluge of incriminating evidence and a public slapping down by his successor. Thirty thousand documents released under court order revealed that Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles had engaged in a systematic cover-up of clerical molestation/homo-rape of boys and young men in the late 1980s.
"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," winced Archbishop Gomez in a statement of 31 January. "The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed. ... Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” and his collaborator went down with him. "Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy," announced Gomez. "I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara."
Mahony spent over one billion dollars in legal fees and settlements to protect himself from testifying publicly in court. No surprise, then, that rather than accept the mild reproach, he filled the blogosphere with self-pity and self-righteous finger-pointing at the innocent Gomez. "Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors." The Billion-Dollar Victim! A movie of the book beckons: cue the Hollywood Prince, perched in a sedan chair carried by Philippino maids, firing red-hot rebukes into cyberspace from a blazing golden laptop powered by the breath of unicorns....
I exaggerate. But not much. A poster boy for the diabolic "pride which fills Modernists with that self-assurance by which they consider themselves and pose as the rule for all" [Pius X, Pascendi], Roger makes Keith and Rembert seem humble and demure by comparison. Again, I jest. But at least the Scot didn't push his own victimhood. (He left his friends to to do it for him; to label him a "vulnerable adult." LOL.) And he also gave the conclave a wide berth and did not resort to blogs. Mahony not only spewed excuses, defending the indefensible, he attended the conclave, where he posted gloating "tweets" and absolved his sinful critics between ballots (whatever happened to the conclave oath?).
With Rome variously tolerating and facilitating Mahony it is hard to blame Archbishop Gomez for backsliding. Shortly after the public excoriation, his spokesman announced that beyond cancelling his Confirmation schedule, the retired cardinal would continue to offer Mass at his residence in a North Hollywood parish and remained "a priest in good standing."
So, just to be clear, that's: "Zero Tolerance for anyone who has ever abused a minor child" (Cardinal George); but Total Tolerance for one who enabled, protected and even promoted them. All those damaged souls and bodies, all that heterodoxy, heresy, sacrilege and LGBT infiltration fuelling crimes that cost the LA archdiocese its hard-earned patrimony, so much sin, filth and complicity — and Mahony doesn't even get fired. Not even asked join his deviant brother Keith for several relaxing months of reflection. Still "good," still " standing," he returned to LA fresh from his shameful conclave theatrics to give a final middle finger to Rome, his successor, and some outraged parishioners: daring to resume his supposedly cancelled Confirmation schedule. "I've been doing them every week," he bragged, "and I'm going to be doing them every week." I'll bet. And no collegial questions asked. Hmm. How to account for this Hollywood treatment (pun intended)? Do you think Roger the Dodger might know where the bodies are buried? Just askin'...
Then suddenly, like Satan, the wages of sin fell "like lightning from the sky," exploded over Vatican City, and left the Church choking and spluttering under yet another sulphurous cloud.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” a senior accountant in the Vatican's financial administration, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an Italian secret service agent, and a financial intermediary were arrested in a Vatican Bank-"connected" money smuggling tale that read like a Bond screenplay. Police wiretaps, a private plane rented to collect the cash, burned cell phones, an allegedly corrupt secret service agent who promised to get the money past customs...
Nicknamed "Monsignor 500" inside the Vatican for flashing wallets filled with €500 banknotes, how did they miss Scarano?! The holder of several accounts at the Vatican Bank for "personal reasons," he is accused of taking €560,000 in cash out of his account and giving various amounts to friends who gave him cheques in exchange, which he deposited in an Italian bank account to pay off his mortgage. All to do with building a home for the terminally ill, claims his lawyer. I guess that's why he philanthropically plotted to help rich friends smuggle €40 million in cash into Italy? And engaged a paramilitary Carabiniere on loan to the secret services to help him get the money out of a Swiss bank, paid him two cheques totalling €600,000 but blocked the second before it could be cashed, filing a false report that it was lost? ... He's a really interesting guy. In the same way that Archbishop Marcinkus was "interesting." Yet without the papal clout that saved the American's hide, Scarano is now cooling his heels in Rome's Queen of Heaven jail.
Of course it's all about Mammon and 1 Timothy 6:10; calling us back to the simple life of devotion emphasised by Pope Francis. But the longer Rome fails to act, the more one shares the worldly cynicism. "I've already heard people say that the Church is 'just as slimy, grasping, bent and corrupt as any other multi-national corporation out there'," a subscriber lamented. "And that the Church is therefore 'in no position to dictate how people should be living their lives' etc. God help us, I'm inclined to agree!" Just as I'm inclined to query the timing of the resignations of the director and deputy director of the Vatican Bank, "in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See," on Monday, 1 July, the day after Peter's Pence. Thrifty coincidence?
In any event, with the magistrate insisting that "This is just a piece in a much larger mosaic," the Holy Father dutifully established a five-man commission to review Vatican Bank operations. But corporate "best practice" is a secular band-aid wholly inadequate for patching up the underlying moral and spiritual degradation, which immediately resurfaced.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” in late June, angry at being refused reinstatement by the Vatican after five years in a Roman jail for sex abuse committed fifteen years earlier, former priest Patrizio Poggio handed police "grave information harming the integrity of the Church." This reportedly comprised documentary and photographic evidence exposing a homosexual prostitution ring run out of a "gay" bar near Rome's Termini railway station, where "starving and desperate" teenagers were secured for 10-20 Roman clergy and several bishops (when they weren't providing services "in church premises across the capital.") One of the former rentboys was offered as a corroborating witness. Two senior Vatican clerics are also said to have vouched for his testimony. Oh, and a former Carabinieri who pimped boys for nine clerics was accused by Poggi of selling consecrated hosts for satanic rites in and around Rome.
Why not start translating papal intentions into deeds by taking on the Lavender Mafia website operating on the papal doorstep? The Venerabilis "fraternity" offers chat rooms in five languages, including German, a CINO Twitter service and some news from a homo-sensitive viewpoint. Anyone who registers a personal ad or responds to one, seeks sexual contact. The Italian chatroom is the most visited, followed by Spain and France. Renowned journalist Vittorio Messori has no doubt it is run by clergy. Typical posts include, "Seeking contact with like-minded men (priests)"/"I'm looking for a friend. A priest like me." You get the sordid gist. Noteworthy, however, is the fact that the site has recently transitioned from a virtual to real-life operation:
Since the 1st of May the aberro-brotherhood, which calls itself Fraternitas Sacerdotalis, is a "meeting place" in order to meet "personally" and at "no risk." And in fact, Rome Feltrinelli bookstore has a "6-8pm" at the cafeteria or in the "Philosophy and Religion" department. "For the seminarians of the Jesuit Gregorian University and the Dominican Angelicum from 11 to 12 o'clock in the same place."
“Boom, Boom, Boom, ... fizzle?"
Voilà: a "zero tolerance" papal opportunity on a plate. Venerabilis,however,is an Italian version of the notorious Sebastian's Angels site which Rome so signally failed to tackle. And since even one "conservative" member of the Pope's council of advisors (Cardinal Pell) is a long-time patron-protector of "gay Mass" blasphemies, we should expect to see more effete guidelines before any serious challenge to the lavender menace.
The kid glove treatment afforded Mahoney, O'Brien and Weakland typifies this recurring failure to seize the scandalous moment and doggedly pursue righteous reform. “Boom, Boom, Boom, .... fizzle.” Even post-O'Brien, will the five vacant Scottish sees now be filled with men made of the right orthodox stuff and up for a fight? Leaders full of that faith which can move mountains of heresy, lukewarmness and sleaze? We have no realistic reason to be confident.
And what about the bunker-busting assaults down south? Will promising counter-attacks led by new boys on the English episcopal block also peter out? The February explosion north of the border drowned out these southern bombs raining down on the enemy within. True, the fabulous train-wreck known as the English Church continues along its suicidal track. In April, Bishop Lang of Clifton for one hosted a three-day New Age workshop on the Enneagram, while also meeting with egregious Call to Action dissidents. Nonetheless, ecclesiastical functionaries have suddenly found their cushy liberal fiefdoms under orthodox demolition orders.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” in February the former Neo-Modernist Republic of Portsmouth published "Changes to the Governing Structures," wherein Bishop Egan and his Trustees notified "a theological and practical shift [KABOOM!] to a more dynamic administration by being totally focused on Christ and his three-fold ministry of sanctifying, teaching and shepherding." That's the Big Bang of a Shepherd reclaiming his authority, and his flock, from the sort of bloated lay bureaucracy through which the hapless faithful have long funded their own Protestant demise. Suck up some joyful snippets (my italicised decoding):
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” as Portsmouth clergy returned to "key roles in the [bureaucracy] where their priestly ministry and diaconal ministry add value," and resumed "responsibility for the development of music and liturgy," grenades were lobbed:
Not satisfied with mere bureaucratic reform, His Lordship set liberal teeth further on edge with a Laetare Sunday Pastoral refuting the "false idea ... that envisages the Mass as something we do"; proclaiming that "the Mass is not ours; it is God’s work." He invited "everyone to review their attitude towards the Mass, to celebrate Mass authentically, to focus at Mass on Christ, not on ourselves as priests or people. It is important... that we abide diligently by the rubrics.... [M]any of our communities are now international, and so I wish to ask each parish and school to ensure, as Vatican II called for, that everyone knows the Latin prayers and the Latin chants of the Mass... important in itself and for the young, but also as a work of evangelisation: that any visitor will know they have reached the universal 'Church of the Ages'."
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” even liberal bastions smelt cordite as years of lucrative subversion triggered diocesan austerity reviews and social gospel culls. In March, Leeds ditched its "Justice and Peace" worker among other staff and Wrexham was shaping up to do likewise. A hopeful trend set by earlier J&P redundancies in Portsmouth and Salford, as also in Shrewsbury where Bishop Egan's former boss, Bishop Davies, wears the orthodox hard hat. Among the ruins, neo-Mods wailed that "There will be just nine J&P workers left in the 22 diocese of England and Wales if Wrexham decide to do away with the function." Such a loss! A tragedy! Not.
Did you see a mob called National Justice and Peace Network raise its indignant voice? Who the heck are they? Sounding like a self-appointed J&P Council of Trade Unions they whined about these "times of social and economic difficulty" when "areas of real concern should be social justice, family relationships, pastoral formation and community building in a atmosphere of mutuality." Do you think any of that is rooted in Christ, prayer, the sacraments and the catechism? Or in salaried Lutheran notions and the social gospel, with Christ as an added extra lurking somewhere in the background? (Answers on the back of a bus ticket.)
Clearly, the neo-Mods were on the skids and looking down a widening barrel. Too good to be true? In fact, the Nuncio responsible for breaking the liberal choke-hold was already under pressure. "Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Papal Nuncio to Britain, appears to have fallen out with the bishops of England and Wales and especially their leader, Archbishop Vincent Nichols," wrote the Telegraph's Damian Thompson last December. "The Nuncio is ready to break up the 'Magic Circle' of ambitious liberals who twist the Vatican’s arm over senior appointments." Subsequently, CO heard on good authority that episcopal appointments due to be announced just before Christmas had been scrapped with a new batch of bishops (some "Magic Circle") to be announced instead. It seems the ubiquitous Cardinal "Comic" also voiced the hierarchy's displeasure with the Nuncio's reforming handiwork while in Rome. “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” Father Whelan of Southwark shot back:
Has anyone noticed how often Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor appears to push himself forward as a spokesman on this that or the other. He is supposed to be retired..... Now he is putting forward his views on what should be done by the Apostolic Administrator soon to be appointed after Cardinal O'Brien', as well as telling what kind of Pope is needed, and has the arrogance to say he is going to Rome to give others the "benefit" of his views. When I see some of the appointments made when he was a member of the Congregation for Bishops, I feel like saying, "push-off, Your Eminence, and enjoy your retirement. Some of us have had far too much of you." [efpastormeritus.blogspot, 26 February]
Hallelujah! Fr Whelan for Pope! ... But has "Comic" had the last laugh? A veteran campaigner confided that the latest appointment is "Not as good as this Nuncio's last two at Portsmouth and Shrewsbury which is disappointing. Perhaps Cormac's visit to Francis made a difference." Pro-life but "always careful to toe the party line," is Bishop Alan Hopes the head-cracker needed to drive the Modernist money sellers out of the moribund East Anglian temple? At very least robust Catholic momentum has been lost.
... And yet! If the Vatican can somehow find sufficient faith and spine to back the Nuncio by sending more episcopal ammo — to build on the orthodox beachheads established under Bishops Davies and Egan — the gravediggers of the local Church are there for the taking; ready to be shot down, before they bury us.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.”
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!