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In preparation for Cdl. Joseph Bernardin's funeral, I was personally selected by John Canary, the rector of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, to take Theodore McCarrick — who was then the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey — from O'Hare Airport to his lodging downtown.
Pre-9/11, when you were given a charge like picking up an archbishop at an airport, you met the man at the airport gate and offered to carry his briefcase as soon as he emerged from the jetway. This, of course, I ended up doing, and I led McCarrick back to baggage claim, where Abp. John Quinn from San Francisco was waiting not so patiently.
As it happened, his designated escort, another seminarian, had been a no-show. After retrieving McCarrick's bag from the claim whirlabout, I walked both archbishops to my car, where I did a coin toss to see which prelate would ride shotgun. McCarrick, with tails, ended up in back.
The trip to the Sheraton Grand Chicago on the river took about 45 minutes, as was typical for an evening commute from O'Hare to the Loop. We spent the time in lively conversation.
The conversation was jovial, but in retrospect was way too personal, and just fundamentally off. Both men were pelting me with personal questions, neither showing any real emotion over having come to bury their fellow bishop, Cdl. Bernardin.
Later that evening, when I was back in my room at the seminary, I thought of the famous line from the movie Funny Girl, in which Fanny's mom advises — in the context of a neighborhood party at which a handsome man arrived unexpectedly — "A stranger ought to act a little strange." In hindsight, both prelates who rode with me were strange — both way too happy for a funeral.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I toted the archbishops' belongings into the lobby. After McCarrick checked in, he came back to where I was standing and invited me up to his room for a drink. At 37 (and overly cognizant of how this world works) I declined, but not soon enough to remove myself from McCarrick's reach. He palmed two twenty-dollar bills into my hand, which in 1996 was more than the cab fare downtown.
Looking back, individuals like Fr. Canary, my then-rector, was particularly naïve — or complicit. Why on God's green earth would anyone set up something as sketchy as having young men cart around old strangers? "Imprudent" does not quite capture it.
There was a lot more going on than meets the eye.
Recently I had the pleasure of dining with Gene Gomulka at his residence in Southern California, Gene is a retired Navy chaplain/captain, and over the past three years since I have come to know him, we have become good friends. Both of us routinely put our heads together in the ongoing fight to publicize and end the homosexual predation going on behind the veil in the Church.
Over the course of the last three years, one of our ongoing conversations concerns the great contribution the now-deceased Richard Sipe made in bringing awareness and clinical expertise to the crisis of homosexual predation within clergy. To Richard's credit, in 2008 he wrote a phenomenal open letter to Pope Benedict XVI. Sadly, in large part, this seminal letter to Pope Benedict was ignored.
But Sipe's "open letter" to Benedict blatantly records how absolutely everyone in the upper level of the Roman Catholic hierarchy knew about McCarrick, if not from personal encounters with the predator — up close and ugly — then from the numerous reports of his victims. As Sipe wrote to the pontiff:
Catholic journalist Matt C. Abbott already featured the statements of two priests (2005) and one ex-priest (2006) about McCarrick. All three were "in the know" and aware of Cdl. McCarrick's activities in the same mode as I had heard at the seminary. None of these reporters, as far as Abbott knew, had sexual contact with the cardinal in the infamous sleepovers, but one had firsthand reports from a seminarian/priest who did share a bed and received cards and letters from McCarrick. The modus operandi is similar to the documents and letters I have received from a priest who describes in detail McCarrick's sexual advances and personal activity.
In 2018, 10 full years later, Cdl. Donald Wuerl would make a name for himself blatantly lying to the press about McCarrick, as if by 2018 there were not hundreds of documented pages collected worldwide describing exactly what type of man McCarrick was. Albeit most of these documents were and are still unavailable to the public, well-documented "papal secrets" for years have continued to cover up the homosexual predation and/or complicity of the hierarchy.
To understand the insidiousness of it all, consider an experience I had in the fall of 1979.
Just 17 years old at the time, I joined the Franciscan Friars based in Cincinnati, Ohio. I began my postulancy with this community that fall and began college studies at the University of Detroit Mercy. I lived at Duns Scotus, a large Franciscan friary in Southfield, Michigan.
One of the principal formators I had the first couple of years was Brother Brad. As a formator he was an OK guy. He was also a clinical psychologist, and early on, from his instruction, I came to have a great love for the study of psychology. But one peculiar thing happened that I wouldn't understand fully until years later.
As a college student, I was still very naïve. So I didn't think twice when Brother Brad approached me to see if I wanted to take a trip to Cincinnati with him as part of some business for the order and to see the community's motherhouse. "For sure! Why not! I have never been to Cincinnati," I replied.
The weekend in Cincinnati was largely uneventful, but Brother Brad made it a point to take me to the Cincinnati Cathedral to attend a Mass that then-archbishop Bernardin officiated. When it ended, Brother Brad introduced me to the prelate. I was still a little shy, and on a gut level not too keen about talking to a bishop, let alone an archbishop. But I found Bernardin friendly, inquisitive and personable. Nothing happened between the three of us other than talk, and after 10 minutes or so, the conversation ended.
It was not until a couple of years later, when I was a few years older, starting graduate courses at Catholic Theological Union — and after being sexually abused by another priest — that I got the word about Brother Brad. As the story went, Brother Brad decided to leave the Franciscans and "marry" one of his friends, another former Franciscan brother.
So much for his vow of celibacy and leading a life like St. Francis! So much for Brother Brad being a sincere friend! With the passage of time, my naïvety of youth was gone, and the full ugly picture of what played out my first year of postulancy was acutely clear. Brad was grooming me for something more than just friendship. And the meeting with Abp. Bernardin was perhaps for something more than just friendly chatter.
Grooming, seduction and breaking in a future generation of homosexual priests has been part of the routine for decades now in the Roman Catholic Church. As my friend Gomulka cites in a forthcoming publication:
Richard Sipe, one of the country's foremost experts on clergy sexual abuse, wrote that he had heard "from many priests about their seduction by highly placed clerics and the dire consequences in their lives that does not end in their victimization alone ... This abuse paves the way for them to pass the tradition on — to have sex with each other and even with minors."
These demonic rites of passage will not stop until the laity demands they end once and for all.
Just the other day, I was chatting with a family member, and she was telling me how her new bishop had just taken under his wing a young priest whom she at one time taught in religious education classes. The bishop had just offered him a role as his "personal secretary." My immediate response was to urge her to call her priest friend and beg him to renege his new job.
Recall how in the TV series Blue Bloods, Frank Reagan, the chief of police, has veteran policemen his own age working in his inner office? Likewise, a bishop should be selecting as assistants veteran priests of his own age who know well the priesthood and the Faith — not pretty, young boys to accessorize the chancery.
At one point I too would not have smelled a rat. But this is how off guard we are when we presume we are among people of God. This is precisely how grooming works.
My family confidant immediately took to heart my sincere admonition and called the young priest that afternoon. If only more lay people had the courage to stop this psycho/sexual/demonic dynamic! Unfortunately, it occurs just out of sight, or in ways that don't set off alarm bells.
I share this with you to create alarm in the hopes that one day, all of this will end. Use the resources available within your church and from laity to join me in making it stop.