The June 1998 resignation of American Bishop J. Keith Symons of Palm Beach for paedophilia and reliable reports that "a major expose of a homosexual pedophile ring in the [U.S.] clergy and episcopacy is imminent," only serves to confirm the general state of play right across the Western Church. A Church, as one globe-trotting cleric recently confided, "now in total chaos."
"We Are All Immensely Proud..."
The modern Church decries triumphalism. But lapses from its newly forged credo commonly serve, as we shall see, to demonstrate the contradictory nature of the beast. One such lapse occurred in the beautiful Church of St. Mary Star of the Sea, Melbourne, Australia, on 21 March 1996.
The Fasciale Funeral
A huge procession of priests from Victorian dioceses gathered around their bishops to pay tribute to a recently deceased member Fr. Nazareno Fasciale. Programs distributed prior to the Pontifical Concelebrated requiem Mass indicated that this would be no ordinary event. Visually and aurally all was spectacular, from the magnificent floral arrangements to the superb choral performances. Only the trumpets, so to speak, were missing. Every part of the ceremony bore the mark of meticulous and lavish planning. Here was grandeur befitting a soul of the highest repute,
And the words spoken eulogizing the deceased by Bishop Peter Connors were clearly meant to confirm the impression that here lay a priest of irreproachable character - a man of honour and integrity. "This," intoned the Bishop referring to Fr. Fasciale, "is our brother priest of whom we are all immensely proud..."
The obituary message that followed this great performance was also crafted to impress. It appeared in the Diocesan journal Kairos (7 April 1996). Fr. Fasciale's ministry was referred to as "special" and he was described as one who had been "totally committed to the spiritual and pastoral needs" of his people, in the Church "which he loved."
Few in the congregation appeared to know that Fasciale had been summoned to appear in court on multiple sex abuse charges on 28 March 1996. For the Church hierarchy who had moved him about for many years had taken care to conceal the fact that he had used his position within the Church to prey on and molest innocent children. Despite the criminal nature of Fasciale's acts those involved in the disgraceful spectacle at St. Mary's showed a willingness to use their power and the Church's vast resources to deceive the faithful. But to those who knew the facts the whole spectacle was most shocking. Scores of sycophantic clerics acquiescing in the stunningly brazen sentiments of pride and solidarity spoken on their behalf by their bishop. None demurred. Clerics en masse lent weight to the lie.
But not all were fooled. For also present at St. Mary's at the Fasciale funeral were a number of his victims and their advocates from the support group Broken Rites [Note: Broken is a non-denominational organization formed to support victims of abuse by clergy]. As a writer who had contributed articles for the Broken Rites newsletter I was asked to report on the Fasciale funeral.
In the early 1990s, as the law closed in on a number of clerics involved in sexual abuse of minors, investigative journalists exposed what now appears to have been a conspiracy of silence at the highest levels within the Church in Australia. The hierarchy responded with a set of initiatives designed to deal with their problems and restore their credibility. The cover-up was pronounced to be a thing of the past. But the farcical funeral services prepared for Fr. Fasciale and other offending clerics told the real story. As one distraught and disbelieving victim said to me, they know of Fasciale's crimes yet "they've sent him off in a blaze of glory." They did indeed! And the victims who brought charges have been left to face society with their credibility in tatters.
That Fasciale's crimes were known to his brother priests is beyond doubt. Victoria's largest daily newspaper the Herald-Sun (23 May 1994) covered the story under the headline "Molester priest forced to retire." The article stated that victims were "angry that despite their complaints in 1954 and 1960 the Church kept providing the priest with access to children for 40 years." Of greater significance still is the fact that Church spokesman Mgr. Gerald Cudmore finally confirmed that the priest had admitted his crimes but a decision was made by the Church hierarchy to "keep the issue quiet."
At the time of Fasciale's death nine victims had brought charges. One victim revealed that the sexual abuse had continued over a period of three years; another describes being plied with alcohol before being molested.
The Fasciale funeral then, was a great act of deception - a monumental lie and a gross act of injustice to victims already traumatised by Fasciale's crimes. And all of these "proud" and treacherous clerics, together with the present Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell, who participated in the sham proceedings, polluted the Church of St. Mary on that day.
The Enemy Within
One acute observer has described the mainstream Christian Churches as "fraying at the seams" and "haemorrhaging dramatically from the pews." We should not be amazed at such disapprobation, for the scandal of these concelebrated extravaganzas concealing clerical crimes by no means exhausts the faithlessness of those working malevolently within the Catholic Church. New church triumphalism celebrates, not the truth revealed to us by Christ, Our Lord, but rather the novelties and perversities of apostates, heretics and other misfits.
The polluting of our churches continues apace with the increasingly common trend to include Aboriginal pagan rituals in what is supposed to be Catholic worship. An example of this occurred at the televised funeral of the late Dr. H. C. Coombes at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, obviously with the pemission of the Church hierarchy. This, of course, follows the precedent set by the pagan "smoking ceremony" performed by Aborigines that began the Mass said by John Paul II for the beatification of Blessed Mary MacKillop at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney, in 1995.
Another violation of the truth is evident in what masquerades as the "Catholic Bookshop" centrally located on the site of the once beautiful church of St. Francis, in Melbourne. For years now this shop has operated as an outlet for the works of the most notorious dissenters. To my knowledge no clerical voice has been raised in protest against the continuing supply of the works of authors such as Hans Kung, Anthony Wilhelm, Rosemary Haughton, Richard McBrien, Edward Schillebeeckx, Rosemary Ruether, Monika Hellwig and scores of others.
This "Catholic" bookshop also continues to be a major distributor of the works of two Australian authors whose blatantly anti-Catholic pronouncements have been endorsed and promoted by the Catholic hierarchy. The first case involves Fr. Maurice Shinnick of the Adelaide Archdiocese. Fr. Shinnick was granted, study leave" by his Archbishop to write his book This Remarkable Gift: Being Gay and Catholic, in which he redefines sexual ethics to accommodate lesbian and homosexual practices. The book was examined and endorsed by Archbishop Leonard Faulkner and funded by the Catholic Church.
Shinnick describes the Church's teaching on homosexual activity as "ridiculous and cruel." He calls on Church leaders to honour and bless relationships in which homosexual and lesbian acts take place. According to Shinnick homosexuality should be "recognized as a God-given gift." Far from being disciplined for his perverse ravings Shinnick and his works have been promoted. At the time of writing several copies of this book are available in the Melbourne "Catholic" bookshop.
Another false prophet cosseted and feted by the Australian Catholic hierarchy is Fr. Michael Morwood MSC. Heretics commonly deny just one doctrine of the Faith. In his first book God is Near, produced in 1992, Morwood openly denies three Catholic doctrines and casts into doubt many more. The book bears the Imprimatur of Bishop Hilton Deakin. The Nihil Obstat is supplied by Rev. Fr. Peter Kenny. It was launched by Bishop Peter Connors. One Melbourne priest who did draw attention to Morwood's errors was ordered by Connors to "desist."
The blurb on the cover of Morwood's book indicates that its circulation is a major archdiocesan initiative. And since 1992 it has been used extensively in parishes and dioceses throughout Australia. This book has been available from the "Catholic" bookshop for years. Morwood also claims to have had full episcopal support for his numerous lecture tours.
After establishing himself on the lecture circuit, even speaking in Catholic Colleges, Morwood produced another book, Tomorrow's Catholic. Published in 1997 it was also offered for sale at the "Catholic" bookshop. The public outcry from scholars, both clerical and lay, following this latest atrocity, obviously was something the hierarchy could no longer ignore. So emboldened by Church patronage has Morwood become that his works are now blatantly anti-Christian. One priest notes that Tomorrow's Catholic makes for "very sad reading;" another describes it as "an all-out onslaught on fundamental Catholic doctrines of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ"!
Winking at Heresy
Though Tomorrow's Catholic has been in print for nearly a year the hierarchy remained silent. Finally, however, they have been forced to admit that Morwood's work cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church. Following certain restriction on the distribution of the book now imposed by Archbishop George Pell of Melbourne, the Bishop of Ballarat, Peter Connors, who launched Morwood's first book, has also been forced to act. Morwood has now been advised that his latest book is not to be used as a school "textbook;" nor is it to be "sold or given away in any Catholic Church building."
However, a recalcitrant Morwood, who retracts nothing, remains in good standing in the Church and is to be permitted to continue his lecture tours. Bishop Connors explains: "the subjects which Fr. Michael Morwood will address during his course of lectures this year (1998) lie outside the parameters of his book, so I do not anticipate that the presentations which he will give this year will cause any undue disquiet."
What faithful Catholics everywhere must find so repugnant about the handling of such issues is that they are being treated with contempt. In this case, we have a priest who denies doctrines concerning Christ's divinity, the Trinity and Redemption, and the Australian hierarchy responds with a mild censure, six years too late! Such feeble efforts to shut the stable door after the horse has well and truly bolted should be met with the derision they so richly deserve.
The constant flow of letters (mostly from renegade priests and nuns) published in secular and religious magazines in Morwood's defence shows just how comfortable he and his chums have been made to feel in the new church. Thumbing their noses at any authority that could and should call them to order, they demonstrate that in fact they have little to fear by way of strict censure with regard to their dissent. Archbishop Pell shows an unwillingness to exercise strict sanctions in accordance with Canon Law against these dissenters.
And finally when we move away from the local scene we find ourselves still in the grip of incomprehensible madness. Take for instance the award of a papal knighthood to media mogul Rupert Murdoch which has prompted international criticism. Mr. Murdoch, a non-Catholic, was named a Knight Commander of St. Gregory during a 90-minute Mass at St. Francis de Sales in Los Angeles.
A "flattered" and "surprised" Murdoch, it is reported, took Communion in both forms during the Mass said by Cardinal Roger Mahony. Bestowing the papal honours, Mahony said members of the Order of St. Gregory are regarded by the Church as "outstanding witnesses of the Gospel" whose honour "comes directly from our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II." The Church advises that membership of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great is granted to people of unblemished character "who promote the interests of society, the Church and the Holy See".
Mr. Murdoch's media holdings include tabloids The Sun and News of the World. Steve Rendall, senior analyst at the New York-based media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said Murdoch is "famous for featuring bare-breasted young women in his British tabloids." English priest Fr. Michael Murphy said "the content of the News of the World is almost exclusively sexual." However a spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, less concerned with the lurid, defended Murdoch as "having done a great deal of good through his charitable works and through his philanthropy." God help us!
We are members of a Church that now lurches from one scandal to another. For we have leaders who now appear to cultivate a diabolical pride in their own folly and falsehood. But then we are a lukewarm lot who never really demanded our right to know, for instance, why the likes of Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee and so many others of his ilk are still "in good standing" in what passes for the Catholic Church today.