Recent News

The Elephant in the Sacristy, Revisited

Sixteen years ago, at the height of the 2002 clergy sex scandals in the Catholic church and on the eve of a meeting of bishops in Dallas, The Weekly Standard published an essay of mine called “The Elephant in the Sacristy.” It included an in-depth look at some of the most notorious clergy abuse cases of the time. Back then, like today, the plain facts of the scandals were submerged in what we now call whataboutism. According to these evasive maneuvers, the wrongdoing was supposedly explained by reference to clericalism, celibacy, sexual immaturity, and other attributes invoked to avoid the obvious. I examined and dismissed those analyses, offered up an alternative, and made several recommendations for cleaning up the Catholic church of the future. The scandals, I wrote, were:

a cluster of facts too enormous to ignore, though many labor mightily to avert their eyes. Call it the elephant in the sacristy. One fact is that the offender was himself molested as a child or adolescent. Another is that some seminaries seem to have had more future molesters among their students than others. A third fact is that this crisis involving minors—this ongoing institutionalized horror—is almost entirely about man-boy sex.

Like most people, I could hardly bear to read what needed to be read about the cases. As well, anyone back then who described the facts in unadorned English was guaranteed vituperation, and got it. But I wrote it anyway because of the conviction that “the most important mission facing the bishops and, indeed, all other Catholics . . . is the responsibility of doing everything in one’s power to prevent this current history, meaning the rape and abuse of innocents by Catholic priests, from ever being repeated.”

That was then. Here we are now.

Click here to read the rest of Mrs. Eberstadt’s column at The Weekly Standard . . .

Drowning Man

“Where’s Watanabe?” Louis Zamperini asks of an American officer standing next to him. Kneeling on the floor in front of them are several dozen haggard Japanese men, guards from the prison camp where Zamperini had been held, harassed, and tortured by one particular guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe.

So begins director Harold Cronk’s Unbroken: Path to Redemption, a prequel to Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film of author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book about Olympic runner Zamperini’s experiences as a WWII POW in Japan. The film’s main title card says: “A True Story.” Well, maybe so by Hollywood standards, but whereas Zamperini would return to Japan to seek out Watanabe, he did not do so circa 1950 as the film suggests.

Louis Zamperini was raised in California (Torrance) by very Catholic parents, immigrants from Verona. In high school, he took up running, at one point setting the world scholastic record for the mile. At the Olympic Trials in 1936, he tied for first in the 5,000-meter race and headed to the Games in Berlin, where he finished eighth.

In World War II, he became an Army Air Force bombardier and ended up surviving a 1943 crash in the Pacific Ocean, floating on a raft for forty-seven days before being captured by the Japanese.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review at The Catholic Thing . . .

Church, Clericalism, Corruption

Ezra Pound, the American poet, once wrote of the Catholic Church: “Any institution that could survive the picturesqueness of the Borgias has a certain native resilience.” True, but cold comfort. Survival is one thing – even assured by Jesus Himself. But at this moment, everything beyond mere survival seems in doubt.

To shape the future, we need to understand the past, but in a Catholic way. And for that, we should follow Dr. Johnson’s advice to “clear your mind of cant.” It’s cant, he told Boswell, when we say things not quite true in public: “You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society; but don’t think foolishly.”

There are three “Cs” in our discussions about the abuse crisis that must be cleared of cant: the Church, clericalism, and corruption.

It’s cant, in my view, when we say “the Church” failed in handling abuse. Still worse, that “we’re all responsible.” The “Church” did not fail.  Specific individuals committed specific acts. Other specific individuals either passively ignored what they knew or actively covered up. They failed, sometimes aided by networks, formal or informal. Not “the Church.”

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Unknown Caller: a Review of “The Apparition”

French director Xavier Giannoli has been making feature films for a dozen years. L’Apparition is his latest, and it’s likely to follow his other films in garnering a best picture nomination in next year’s César Awards, the equivalent of our Oscars.

The Apparition, which opens this week in a limited American release, is a very Catholic film, although not along the lines of Henry King’s Song of Bernadette (1941) or John Brahm’s The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952). Those films told the stories of the two most famous apparitions of Our Lady – 1858 in France and 1917 in Portugal – and they depicted actual events. Giannoli’s film is wholly fiction, and – as you might expect from any 21st-century movie – it expresses skepticism.

Or does it?

In a village in France, a teenage girl named Anna Ferron (Galatéa Bellugi) claims to have seen the Blessed Virgin, who has spoken to her and also given her a mysterious bloodstained cloth. Such claims must be taken seriously, and they are.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

A Cleansing Fire

As virtually the whole world now knows, Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has published a blockbuster 11-page letter, naming names of people involved in sexual abuse and cover-ups in America, and their enablers in Rome, up to the very highest levels, including Pope Francis. He provides dates and details and information on where the relevant documents may be found; speaks of persons who can corroborate his story; and has called on everyone implicated, including the Holy Father (who already knew about McCarrick in 2013 and did nothing, he says), to respect the Church’s Zero Tolerance policy, become an example to others, and resign.

I knew Viganò somewhat in Washington and always liked him; he was the best Vatican ambassador we’ve had in recent years. My esteem had grown, even prior to this letter. At Rome’s Marcia per la Vita (March for Life), bishops do not participate (the Italian bishops’ conference, displaying deeply misplaced faith, thinks it should work through elected politicians, not public demonstrations). At the last one, I saw Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider; as for other bishops – only Viganò.

Many call him a man of honesty and integrity. This comes through clearly in passages from his letter such as this:

My conscience requires me also to reveal facts that I have experienced personally, concerning Pope Francis, that have a dramatic significance, which as Bishop, sharing the collegial responsibility of all the bishops for the universal Church, do not allow me to remain silent, and that I state here, ready to reaffirm them under oath by calling on God as my witness.

Defenders of the pope have already raised questions about specific details of the letter

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

O Ireland

Ireland seems to have two kinds of weather. Either it’s raining, or it’s about to rain. At least that’s how it’s been the past week as the residual wind and water from Hurricane Ernesto made landfall in the West.

I’ve been hiking there – my annual summer strategem to come down to earth is to spend some strenuous days outdoors, as far away as possible from the news cycles and turmoil in the Church and the world. The skies held off enough that we got in a great long loop through the high rocky hills known as the Burren and a simple walk along the Cliffs of Moher. Today it will be the walking pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick.

Geologic time isn’t eternity, of course, but when you put yourself in vigorous contact with natural features that have taken hundreds of millions of years to form, it puts human things in different perspective.

A very good thing, too, because all this is prelude to the events that will take place later this week in Dublin and Knock. Events (plural), because in addition to the ill-timed and partly ill-conceived World Meeting of Familes (WMOF), there are also various “alternative” gatherings.

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .


I came across an advertisement for a financial institution recently that, sad to say, displayed more wisdom than we usually find today among many people, including many Catholics: “Trust is binary. Either you have it or you don’t.”

A bold statement these days, by anyone. For the politically correct, “binary” distinctions are not only stupid and simplistic but hate-filled – most notably as in “male and female He created them.”  There are even “Catholic” theologians who argue that such binaries are a mere glitch in our brains.

Cdl. O’Malley: serious about restoring trust


Forget that itinerant Palestinian preacher who said, “let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” We’re much taken just now with gray areas, our superior moral awareness to previous ages, recent changes in public understanding, stylish deliverances of “conscience.”

But that is going to change now, if only because it must. Revelations about the Church leadership in several countries and in the Vatican itself have led us to the point that we wonder whether we can still trust what our own religious leaders say and do. To judge by what I hear from Catholic leaders and lay people, our bishops need to wake up to the sheer magnitude and intensity of the anger out there. Fast.


Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Home Free

In an April 2nd column I wrote about my pending “battle” with cancer. I wrote then that I didn’t consider myself engaged in conflict against the disease:

If I had sorcerers instead of physicians, and if those wizards could conjure and embody cancer to stand before me, fists raised, then I’d fight – if that were the way to a cure. But I’m simply cooperating with the protocols. And may God’s will be done.

A couple of weeks later I was saying, “There’s nothing like being treated for cancer to finally make you feel sick.”

Before chemotherapy and radiation began on March 19, I hadn’t felt the least bit sick. But after seven Monday sessions of chemo and thirty (Monday thru Friday) sessions of radiation, I was sicker than I’d ever felt in all my 70 years: worse than the worst flu I’d ever had; worse even than the bad reaction I had when I got both cholera and smallpox vaccinations before an ill-fated trip to Asia in 1969.

But being “cured” of cancer is a tricky business because the disease has a way of “hiding,” which word I put between quotation marks because cancer has no conscious agency. It’s a dumb thing, although it’s not wrong to say it continues to stump some of the best scientists on earth.


Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

More Fiddling While the House is Burning

Last week, a highly influential Italian magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, put on its cover Matteo Salvini, the head of one of the two major parties now jointly running the Italian government. Both parties – one Right, the other Left (actually a vaguely anarchic creation of comedian Beppe Grillo) – advocate sharp controls on illegal immigration. As do the majority of Italians and people in other European countries where illegal immigration has become overwhelming. For that, Salvini – a professed Catholic – was compared to Satan in a blaring headline: “Get behind me, Salvini!”

This is neither a personal nor an ideological attack, says the cover: “It’s a question of the Gospel.”

One may be forgiven for thinking, rather, it’s a question of profound unseriousness on the part of a Catholic magazine that ought to know better, the very same unseriousness that continues to distract large parts of the Church from something diabolically serious – and contrary to the Gospel – just now.

Like other political questions, immigrants and refugees present a serious issue, on which several different Christian approaches are perfectly compatible with the Gospel. You may, as Pope Francis has done, argue that we have an obligation to accept as many refugees as we can, prudently (his word).


Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

For the Sake of the Church

A prediction: The McCarrick revelations will turn out to be a good thing. How so? Well, a part of the priest sex-abuse fairy tale is the cover-up.  We know this – and that the cover-up always magnifies the crime.

When a good priest has discovered the homosexual sins of a bad priest (let alone of a bishop), and if that good priest has gone to his pastor or to a bishop (let alone an archbishop), it’s likely that he will hear a version of this:

Thank you, Father. We must do something about this, and we will! But, for the sake of the Church, you must tell no one else. The media will pounce on such a story to discredit Catholicism itself. You’re brave to come forward. But I wouldn’t want you to risk your career by becoming the focus of an ongoing and sensational investigation.

That’s a high hurdle to jump in a Church that values hierarchy and discipline. But my prediction is that a great many priests who know of homosexual (and instances, too, of heterosexual) sins by priests (let alone bishops) will now begin to come forward.

I hope they will – every last one of them. Because the drip, drip, drip of scandal is really hurting the Church. If there’s a levee that needs bursting, we should welcome that: a torrent to cleanse the swamp.


Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .