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Not another “Why I am (still) Catholic” article

The ones who decide to stay and fight mostly made their decision despite the bishops, rather than because of them.

A bishop reacts on the first day of the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore June 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

I haven’t written one of those, “Why I am (still) Catholic” pieces, and I don’t intend to. Mostly, that’s because my reason for being Catholic remains unchanged from the one time I did address the question publicly, and in any case can be stated in too few words to warrant anything like an essay. I’m Catholic because the Catholic Church is true. That’s pretty much all I’ve got.

Bishop Barron recently wrote a small book, urging the faithful not to leave, but to stay and fight for the Church. That’s right, but it strikes me also as largely unhelpful. There don’t seem to be many fence-sitters, these days. Even if they are, the ones who do decide to stay and fight mostly made their decision a long time ago, and despite the bishops, rather than because of them or any one of them.

Declan Leary put it in a brutal and heartbreakingly accurate piece for the National Review, describing the recent assembly of the US bishops: “If there’s one thing that’s tempted even the most faithful of Catholics to leave the Church, it’s the manifest incompetence of her leaders.”

I thought about taking a swing or two at Bishop Barron when his Letter to a Suffering Church first appeared. I’m glad I didn’t. I mean, his letter is fine, as far as such letters go: sincere as any such document can be, coming from the pen of a zucchetto; what it says is right on, in the main. What it doesn’t say—which is what Bishop Barron knows or reasonably suspects regarding particulars of the crisis—is far more interesting, and would be genuinely helpful. “Put not your faith in princes,” the Psalmist warns us.

For people who have decided to stay, but aren’t much for fighting—not yet—because they don’t know how to fight, or what specific goals for which to fight, there is another book I read recently. Adam DeVille’s Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power is the book for anyone desirous of getting in the fight, but at a loss for how to get in it.

I’d like to do a full review of Everything Hidden. Here and now, suffice it to say it is the sort of book from which readers just coming to the arguments it engages will learn much, and also the sort of book with which initiates and veterans of many campaigns will argue—in the good sense of the word, and profitably—on almost every page.

DeVille—not himself a layman, but a sub-Deacon in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and a theology professor at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, In —builds from the ground, up: taking us from parish structures, to the diocesan level, to bishops’ conferences. Even when he turns to consider the possibility of introducing—actually, re-introducing—married priests and bishops into the ecclesial mix, he bases his work on the principle, “Nobody in any context for any reason at any point in human history deserves to have a monopoly on power of any sort.”

“What about the Pope?” one might urge. What about him? Sure, the Fathers of Vatican Council I taught that the Bishop of Rome has direct, immediate, and supreme authority over the whole Church and all the faithful. That’s papal supremacy, in a nutshell. It doesn’t mean that the Christian faithful of other ranks and states of life in the Church are utterly destitute of rights the Roman pontiff is bound to respect.

What’s true for the Bishop of Rome is true for the Bishop of Podunk, and for the pastor of St. Mary’s on the corner, and for every chancery official and curate with whom one’s path may cross. Folks have gotten the impression that these guys need to be taken down a peg (or six), and have begun to act on it. If one thing is certain, no bishop is going to embarrass a “brother” by public criticism. Ask Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, whose numerous and well-documented failures of leadership have garnered exactly zero public criticism from his fellows in the US episcopacy.

Bishop Malone recently walked back a decision to assign a priest who had made sexual advances on adults to a parish with an elementary school. After suspending Father Joseph C. Gatto and Father Samuel T. Giangreco, Jr. last year, and ordering “professional evaluation and remedial measures,” Malone decided to give the two priests new assignments, despite their “improper conduct”: Father Gatto to St. Christopher’s and Father Giangreco to Our Lady of Charity. The diocesan review board, it seems, considered that “the improper conduct did not rise to the level that would require removal from active priestly ministry.”

Following an uproar from parishioners at St. Christopher’s, Bishop Malone announced that he is putting Father Gatto’s assignment on hold. The decision is, the diocese said in a statement, “the result of continued thoughtful evaluation and discernment of the parish’s needs.” Maybe this will be the thing that finally moves Rome to act. Though Malone has been careful to couch his reconsideration in terms of ongoing discernment, it is clear he bowed to public pressure, and neither the US bishops nor Rome can afford to have one of the boys go wobbly over a few bad days in the press. Meanwhile, there’s no further word on the status of Father Giangreco’s assignment to Our Lady of Charity.


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About Christopher R. Altieri 102 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, writer, and editor based in Rome, Italy. He spent more than a dozen years on the news desk at Vatican Radio. He holds the PhD from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

14 Comments

  1. Faith will save us. C Altieri’s Apologia comes down to, “Put not your faith in princes” Ps 146:3. The text reads “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help that God may have the whole praise”. Faith a gift of the Holy Spirit if fired and living puts complete trust in that Son of Man who is God. It can be lost as Altieri correctly argues by placing undue trust in clergy. Including the Pontiff, the error that mistaken fidelity in the Prince called Ultramontanism. That anything the pope utters must be valid and to be followed. Thankfully the Pontiff has not formally changed one iota of doctrine [my conviction God will not permit it]. Why the Apostasy? The Apostate victims are beguiled. There is a real Apostasy recognized by Christopher Altieri, Bishop Barron, Roberto de Mattei, Josef Siefert, Cardinals Burke, Eijk, Brandmuller and others. Good men and women who are beguiled in believing what is untrue is true. Rather the real change, at least its deleterious effect has occurred in the misinformed consciences of the faithful duped by furtive means already much discussed in Open Letters and so forth. Faith, a living faith in Christ compels us to stand fast and fight. Sorry to disappoint there are no wise magical formulas wonderful insightful books to eradicate sin within the Church. The weapons are already chosen for us and supplied. Faithful witness to the truth of Christ, prayer, sacrifice, willingness to suffer, and most of all Love.

  2. AMEN times ONE THOUSAND.

    My Archbishop, Bishop Lori, has been revealed to be a money-changing “prince,” whose “ethics” emerge only if exposed by journalists for taking his pay-off by the sex predator and pal Viceroy Bransfield.

    Well, I can truly say that I gave him the benefit of the doubt last year when my child was confirmed, and she, bless her heart, expressed dismay at whether to trust him.

    Now, after his repulsive Bransfield $8K pay-off and his horrible betrayal of the Covington high school Catholic young men, he will get no trust from me or my children…ever.

    We have no need of Bishops like Archbishop Lori…who are McCarrick Establishment Bishops.

  3. People who stay are de facto enabling, and likely financing, the institutional and individual bishops in their cover-ups of abuse.

    If the money keeps flowing and the pews remain occupied, there is no reason for the institution or the bishops to change beyond sops to satisfy for a short while.

  4. IMHO the 4th Commandment exhorts us to “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”. In honoring these Prelates and Clergy we must hold fast to this particular commandment to admonish them when they lead us or others down a the path of sin… the sins of the 6th and 9th Commandments. We also have the right not to listen to them or abide by the malfeasance of their actions, thoughts, and words, to take over their position, until they reform. Respect their office , yes, respect them enough to show them and ask them “What have you become?” They need to be held accountable for everything as we all are in Christ. We fight against them in that way, and fight also for them, to offer up prayers of reparation and acts of penance for them in their weaknesses. I would also ask the Exorcists, who are also aware of priests who practice satanism under the guise of Roman Catholicism, to confront these errant and rogue priests in the same way under the guidance of Our Lady of Sorrows, and Our Lord, to admonish them for their sins against all of the Commandments, as they have particular knowledge and know, because they “clean up their messes” through exorcism.

  5. Linda Burdick IMHO the 4th Commandment exhorts us to “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”. In honoring these Prelates and Clergy we must hold fast to this particular commandment to admonish them when they lead us or others down the path of sin… the sins of the 6th and 9th Commandments. We also have the right not to listen to them or abide by the malfeasance of their actions, thoughts, and words, to take over their position, until they reform. Respect their office, yes, respect them enough to show them and ask them “What have you become?” They need to be held accountable for everything as we all are in Christ. We fight against them in that way, and fight also for them, to offer up prayers of reparation and acts of penance for them in their weaknesses. I would also ask the Exorcists, who are also aware of priests who practice satanism under the guise of Roman Catholicism, to confront these errant and rogue priests in the same way under the guidance of Our Lady of Sorrows, and Our Lord, to admonish them for their sins against all of the Commandments, as they have particular knowledge and know, because they “clean up their messes” through exorcism. Here we can fight as we pray along with the Exorcists and utilize Spiritual Warfare Prayers and the Rosary I. God has given us the ways to fight. It’s simple enough for us all to understand and undertake: there is no reason to leave the Roman Catholic Church.

    • In point of fact, it is the highest of the Minor Orders in the East. Before Pope St Paul VI suppressed it in the West, the subdiaconate was the lowest of the Major Orders. Ordination to the subdiaconate is not a sacrament, but it does – as the word says – put one in Orders. Subdeacons are not laymen.

      • If you’re not sacramentally ordianed, you are a layman, and are regarded as such by all normal people. When people think about clergy and clerical abuse, they don’t have in mind glorified altar servers.

  6. My current wife and I were Catholics during our formative years. My wife attended Catholic schools while I practiced my Latin as an altar boy, later a lector. Then the church went south. The onslaught of pedophiles was overwhelming to the faithful. My Fourth degree Knight brother insisted that there were only a few priests involved and it would blow over. 10 years later the floodgates opened. The reason I no longer attend Mass is twofold. Trust and discouragement. The homily is mired in pointless jibber, the Vatican and the Bishops are conflated and confused, and there is little trust. Marcus Grodi has an EWTN show called “Welcome home”. Michelle Bachmann has a “clinic” in Minneapolis entitled “pray the Gay away”. Grodi’s home’s roof is leaking and Bachmann’s attempt to evangelize queers is futile.

    Now you know why I am a CINO.

  7. Interesting that Cardinal O Brien was the ONLY Bishop in Great Britain to go after the BBC ( British Brodcasting… ) for their consisting anti-Catholic program content. I remember being proud of him for that. He could have done so much good but for his sexual weakness. Unlike Cardinal Mahoney Cardinal O’ Brien had the decency to resign. If only he had named his fellow bishops – ALL guilty of sodomy like himself.

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