The McCarrick Report and the De Facto Atheism of the Church

Posted by

Several people have asked me to comment on the recently released McCarrick report and so I thought I would offer the following brief comments.  I will return to my series on Vatican II and will have a new blog post on the Conciliar document Dignitatis Humanae by the end of the week.  So stay tuned….

As I have mentioned before, when I was in the seminary at Mount Saint Mary’s (Emmitsburg, Maryland) from 1981-85 I knew several seminarians from the diocese of Metuchen during the time that McCarrick was bishop there.  In fact, one of them was my roommate for a year.  And he and others told me that McCarrick had a habit of inviting seminarians to his beach home at the Jersey shore for little weekend parties wherein McCarrick was constantly drunk and was very prone to groping people inappropriately while drunk and that he routinely selected one of the seminarians to share a bed with him for the night.  Therefore, to say that it was an open secret that McCarrick was a pervert is a gross understatement.  Because it was no secret at all.  Everyone knew about these “rumors” and everybody joked about it.  Indeed, even one of the seminary professors, a priest, upon hearing that McCarrick was going to visit the seminary warned many of us to stay away from “Bishop Howdy Doody” as he called him.  

I eventually left the seminary and moved on with my career as an academic, but I always kept one eye on the rise of McCarrick to high office.  And when he was made Archbishop of Washington, and then later a Cardinal, I just could not fathom, in my naivete, why somebody had not blown the whistle on the guy.  I could not get my mind around how such a manifest sexual deviant and drunken ecclesiastical party boy, had gotten so far.  And I worried that the entire thing was a train wreck waiting to happen – – a fear that was deepened when in 2002 Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, off-camera after I had filmed a segment with him on priestly sex abuse, told me that they were investigating a leading American Cardinal for sexually inappropriate behavior with adults.  I said to him “You mean McCarrick.”  He just grinned from ear to ear, leaned back in his chair and replied, “have a safe trip home Dr. Chapp.”  But nothing ever came of their investigation and so I can only surmise that they ran into the same problem that everyone else had. Namely, that you could not get anyone to go on the record and that McCarrick was being protected by some powerful American prelates who were masters of deflection.

Well, the train wreck did eventually happen and now we have the long delayed “McCarrick Report” which will, most likely, be interpreted through the lens of the various ideological rip currents in the Church.  Liberals will seize the opportunity to criticize Pope John Paul and exonerate Pope Francis with an eye toward delegitimizing John Paul’s papacy as the “last gasp” of the reactionary Church.  Conservatives will see the entire affair as just further evidence of the existence of a “lavender mafia” in the Church that needs to be eliminated by implementing even stricter protocols for weeding out homosexual seminarians.  Less ideologically inclined folks will lean toward an analysis heavy on criticism of the Church’s clerical culture of secrecy, lack of transparency, and its sclerotic bureaucratic  apparatus – – an apparatus that has an inbuilt tendency to chart a trajectory through safe waters and to avoid at all costs any boat rocking by whistleblowers.

There is an element of truth in many of these approaches. It pains me to say it but Saint Pope John Paul II made some egregious mistakes in these matters and his negligence allowed the rise of McCarrick to prominence.  Nor was this a one-off mistake since he also did it with others – – most notably Marcial Maciel.  I think John Paul is a saint and he remains one of my heroes.  But he was human and flawed and does bear a great deal of blame here.  He seems to have had more than a tin ear for this issue.  It is better described as a deaf ear, which is deeply disappointing. Likewise, there are indeed a lot of homosexuals, both celibate and not-so-celibate, in the clerical ranks.  And with all due respect to those good priests who are homosexual but chastely so, the presence of such a critical mass of homosexuals in the clergy has created a large subculture of sexually active gay priests who cover for each other and whose epicurean lifestyle is a scandal.  On that latter point, McCarrick and Bishop Bransfield are “exhibits A and B.”  Finally, there is, of course, a need to institute new protocols for greater accountability and transparency in the Church in order, at the very least, to bring justice to the victims of sexual abuse.

However, even after taking all of that into account, I also think such analyses fall short of the mark because they do not analyze the actions that were taken with regard to McCarrick by his fellow prelates through the lens of a performative reduction.  And by that I mean that our tendency is to analyze such things too abstractly and our questioning never rises to the level of asking the concrete question of what the performative actions of the prelates in question tells us about what it is they truly believe – – or, as the case may be, what they do NOT believe.  Because if we know one thing for certain after the revelations of massive priestly sexual abuse and its cover up, it is that this is not a problem peculiar to either liberals or conservatives and it cuts across the ideological spectrum like a hot, searing, scalpel that lacerates to the bone.  Nor is it reducible to the inaction of a single pope or popes, who failed to “govern” the Church with due diligence.  Nor is this an issue that is largely a matter of “bad policies” that can be fixed with “charters” and absurd “Virtus training programs” for lay people who, for crying out loud, are not the core of the problem. In fact, the presence of Virtus training programs is actually a symptom of the problem insofar as it represents nothing more than a nod to the lawyers and insurance companies.  It is also a cynical exercise in deflection.  Cynical, because they don’t really think it will work (nor do I think that they care if it does or does not).  And “deflection” because it is merely an attempt to foster the illusion that “something is being done.”

My claim is actually more shocking – – some would even say “dark”. My claim is that the concrete actions taken with regard to McCarrick in particular, and the entire sexual abuse issue in general, tells us that many (most?) of our priests and bishops are de facto atheists.  They may overtly give public statements of faith, perform the Sacraments, kneel dutifully before the Blessed Sacrament, bless boats and homes and pets, all the while being “men without chests” as C.S. Lewis puts it. I would further add the following: most lay people in the American Church today are also de facto atheists who, therefore, swim in the same cultural soup of cultivated spiritual mediocrity.  “My parish is bored” says the young curate in The Diary of a Country Priest, which was Bernanos’s way of saying that nobody really believed anymore.  Because the boredom being described in the novel, and against which the non self-aware holiness of the curate is in contrast, is not the everyday boredom one feels at eating the same leftovers three days in a row or doing the same tasks every day, but rather is the deeper existential boredom of acedia.  And as the novel makes clear, it is a spiritual rot, a form of atheism, that pervaded the entirety of the French Church, both lay and clerical.  

Isn’t all of this rather judgmental you might ask?  Well… perhaps.  But in reality I think it closer to the truth to say that this claim of mine represents not a judgmental finger-wagging at those “others” whose faith does not rise to the purity of my own, but rather represents an extrapolation from my own de facto atheism.  I sense it in others connaturally since I have already experienced it in my own attenuated modern soul.  Ours is not an age of faith.  Our cultural horizon rarely stretches further than the local Vape shop and focuses our attention almost exclusively on the pursuit of worldly ends.  And many of those worldly ends are perfectly fine, but our cultural tendency is to stop there.  Like the old Irishman I once met at a pub in Galway who marked his whisky bottle with his ring in order remind himself, as he put it, to drink “thus far and no further”.  And just as with his pursuit of sobriety, our stopping short at perfectly legitimate worldly ends, without ever pressing further into the “deep waters” of supernatural faith, is our Lockean hangover wherein we deem such deeper pursuits to be fraught with the dangers of an inebriated fanaticism that is best nipped in the bud.  

Nor am I talking here about something akin to Newman’s distinction between notional and real assent. Because my claim is that even our notional assent is deeply lacking even “notional” levels of conviction and is riddled with the kinds of doubts that paralyze any growth in the spiritual life and which lead, as Augusto del Noce points out, to the accommodating compromises we have all made with our bourgeois culture of well-being.  And as del Noce further notes, at the core of our culture today – – a culture that affects and afflicts believers as well, in almost equal measure to the non-believers – – is a nihilistic soul the likes of which the world has never seen before. We live in an era of metaphysical negation which is marked by a degraded reductionistic naturalism that considers all previous ages to our own to have been mere infantile and adolescent stages of intellectual growth, but which we have now surpassed as we have moved into the “adulthood” of science and secular atheism.  From Feuerbach and Auguste Comte through Freud and on up to Noam Chomsky this narrative of “progression” from our infancy in myth to our adulthood in reductionistic nihilism is the coin of our secular, atheistic realm.  

And to think that that cultural tide hasn’t also swamped the Church in the storm surge of the modern hurricane is sociologically naïve in the extreme. Karl Barth once observed that Vatican II opened the windows of the Church to let in fresh air, and a hurricane blew in instead.  I am a big defender of Vatican II, as my next blog post will make clear, but if the Council can be faulted for anything it is precisely, ironically, in its false reading of the signs of the times.  And in its overly simplistic – – indeed amateurish – – sociological analysis of our times it seemed oblivious to the fact that if the Church could “go out” to the world then the world could, in its turn, come into the Church, and not in a good way.  The Council overestimated the vitality of the Church’s faith life – – an overestimation that is proven by the fact that that same Church came unraveled immediately after the Council – – and underestimated the toxic nature of modernity for any kind of genuine faith. And the tragedy is that it isn’t as if it did not have fair warning, as many of its deepest thinkers, from Claudel, to Guardini, to Bernanos made it clear that all was not as good as it seemed exteriorly.

Nevertheless, there are, of course, still pockets of holiness and true belief in the Church.  In my analysis here I am speaking in obvious generalities and am attempting to delineate broad trends and widespread attitudes.  I am attempting to engage in a performative reduction wherein I submit the current malaise in the Church to a concrete analysis of what the internal logic of that malaise implies.  And from where I sit it implies a deep crisis of faith.  And I am not talking here of a general lukewarmness such as the Church has historically, from time to time, fallen into.  In this regard I am echoing the analysis of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict who has also identified a deep crisis of faith as the chief cause of the sexual abuse problem.  

Viewed in this light, the sexual abuse problem in general, and the “McCarrick affair” in particular, cannot be dealt with in isolation from all of the other symptoms of this crisis of faith that afflicts the Church in the West.  To take one example – – an example that bears directly on the abuse crisis – – the practice of mandatory celibacy in the Western Church has become profoundly problematic, as one might expect in a Church besotted with a secularizing unbelief.  We are all of us sexual beings, and our natural instinct is to seek an overt expression of that reality through physical, sexual intercourse.  This instinct is a powerful one, instilled in us by the Creator, but also radically distorted by sin.  Thus, any decision in favor of celibacy, particularly among the young, is going to present enormous challenges (especially in our pornified culture) and will be possible only to the extent that there is a deep faith present which is open to the movement of Christ’s transformative and elevating grace.  And any attempt to live this life without faith, grace, and a deep prayer life, will eventuate in a white-knuckled repression that breeds frustrated resentment and the seeking out of surrogate material pleasures such as booze, food, trips, and vapid entertainments at best, and pornography and sexual relationships at worst.  Furthermore, without faith, celibacy just creates a clerical class of professional bachelors often locked in a depressive and lonely isolation devoid of any form of chaste intimacy.  And if you add into that witch’s brew of factors the sad fact that a certain statistically significant subset of men are drawn to the seminary precisely because they are emotionally immature and psychosexually dysfunctional, then you have the seeds of a crisis on your hands. What you end up with are priests who are desperately seeking intimacy and who do so with minors who are just vulnerable enough to be pliant.  Or you hire a dominatrix and make a porno movie on your Church’s altar.

I support mandatory celibacy and do not make these remarks in order to argue for its elimination.  A married clergy does not alleviate all of these issues, as all of the pertinent evidence makes clear, and brings as well a new set of different, but related problems.  And there is just as big of a crisis in marriage in the Church as there is among the celibate clergy.  It should be noted in this regard that there is more sexual abuse of minors at school at the hands of married teachers, and in households at the hands of married relatives and even parents, than among priests in a rectory.  This crisis in marriage, evident to any priest who hears confessions, is yet another symptom of the crisis of faith as couples enter into the Sacrament with a purely secular notion of marriage as nothing more than a civil, contractual arrangement that can be broken at will when the relational bargain the contract enacts is deemed to be “unfulfilled”.  The explosion of annulments in the United States is not, therefore, an abuse of the process where a wink and a nod are given to divorce and remarriage by another name, but a real acknowledgment of precisely the crisis I am talking about.  Finally, despite the ham-handed manner in which it has been carried forward, I think the Pope’s “concessions” in Amoris Laetitia on issues relating to divorce and remarriage are, at the very least, yet another indication that we have a problem and that the Pope knows it. And so we really need to stop the polemics with regard to Amoris because no less a light than Pope Benedict also noted that the Church is faced with a huge crisis here – – a crisis of faith among those seeking marriage in the Church – – and that the Church had to do a better job of recognizing this fact.

And so as I read the summaries of the McCarrick report and skim through its many pages my overall reaction is a mixture of anger (as I said at the beginning, everyone knew.  EVERYONE), sadness (for McCarrick’s victims, some of whom were my friends, and for the Church) and disappointment that the deeper issue that what really afflicts the Church is a deep, deep loss of faith was never addressed.  I get that the report was not meant to delve into such deeper issues, and yet … damn it, it should have since without it the entire report just becomes a cataloging of failures without a point.  This is, after all, a document of the Church and not the cold analysis of a corporation inquiring after why its market share has gone down.

And don’t tell me that the reason why it ignores deeper spiritual causes is that it is just trying to ascertain facts in order to better develop policies to avoid such things in the future.  Because that is the whole dadgum point I am making:  we will most definitely not avoid such things in the future if our focus is purely forensic, mechanical, and clinical.  There is no “policy” change that will make the sins caused by unbelief go away.  Personnel is policy and in this case we are talking about sins committed by faithless men, who were aided and protected by other faithless men, in a Church (in this case the American Catholic Church) grown cold in the faith owing to its flaccid bargain with bourgeois modernity.

Furthermore, even on the level of a purely forensic analysis of the facts, the report is open to the charge that it is trying to paint the problem as something that was done in the past, with Pope Francis exonerated of any wrong doing, and so we should just all move along now since “there is nothing to see here.”  It is like an automobile accident that has been cleared from the street, with the cops telling us we can stop our rubbernecking now as we slow down to stare at the bits of glass remaining on the road.  I just find it interesting that the main culprits identified in this report are either dead or very old. The report contains a wealth of detail and does shed light on how this all came about. Nevertheless, it really does read like an attempt to just move us along and to put the matter behind us. There just doesn’t seem to be any seriousness in the report on the level of a real theological and spiritual analysis of how the powers that be in the Church came to enable child rapists. And the very lack of such an analysis screams out that the Church still doesn’t get it and is further evidence of my thesis.  Because only a Church that doesn’t really believe anything anymore would treat the spiritual causes of the crisis as a triviality not worth discussing and as something that would be “distracting” from our “real, empirical analysis of causes.”

Raping children is a sin. Enabling and covering up for people who rape children is also a sin.  And they are sins of such magnitude that one is safe in assuming that no one who possesses a genuine faith would commit them.  These are the actions, the sins, of faithless men.  So the deeper, unaddressed question is: how did the Church come to be dominated by such men? And until that is answered no amount of policy changes will suffice. One reader of this blog, John Miner, has pointed out succinctly and with great insight the following, which is a wonderful summary of where we need to go. Therefore I will give him the last word:

“It is clear that Garrigou-Lagrange’s (and many before him incl. Aquinas) opinion that a man should be in the illuminative way prior to being ordained a priest, and in the unitive way prior to being a bishop has been either cast aside or ignored in the first place. How is it possible for any man to confront the challenges of the priesthood without first striving for spiritual perfection?”


  1. This analysis is excoriating and plaintive in equal measure and, dare I say, a real “wake up” call to each of us to acknowledge such hard truths and act on them, finally, whatever our station and standing. But just how deep is the slumber from which we need such rousing, and for how long?


  2. The way I have recently put it with regard to a similar case of cover-up for a high-ranking clergyman by a recent pope: they talk as if God exists but then act as if God does not exist… Thank you for your reflections on this painful matter. Dr. Maike Hickson


  3. Thank you for this excellent analysis. THIS is what has been lacking in the discussion. THIS is the question that the laity want and need to have answered. How could men of faith, the inheritors of the apostolic succession, conduct themselves in such a heinous fashion? I’m a 64 year old woman who volunteers at my local church. At one point, I was helping to lead rosary sessions with some of the high school students at our church–in an open door boardroom, across the hall from the open-door headmaster’s office. And, yet, I could not lead the session alone. Another adult had to be in the room with me, as per policy. And then there’s the police background check I had to go through to lead some prayers and serve as an usher (no contact with money). And this the answer to the abuse scandal? Making every volunteer, no matter how they serve, go through stringent background checks? It all comes under safe church protocols handed down by the diocese, and seem utterly beside the point. It feels like theatre more than anything else.


    1. Vanessa, it is obvious that the church behaves like it does because it is a huge corporation and when things go wrong those at the top or even middle management protect themselves and their organisation before thinking about their customers or workers like you. Think tobacco companies in the fifties onwards or the oil industry in the age of global warming. Those organisations know what is morally right and proper but fight to protect their privileges and positions. Think of the Vatican or the bishops as the board of William Morris when faced with the knowledge that what they lead is corrupt.
      And don’t think that sexual deviancy is a new thing in the church. It’s just that a secular society now no longer can allow religious organisations to police themselves and have no fear of that morally corrupt organisation.
      Perhaps allowing good and honest women like you into positions of management and decision making would help.


  4. Dr. Chapp, this is the most directly on-target expression of the deepest crisis in the Church I have read to date (not that I’m particularly well read). Thank you.

    Given this, I want to share a bit from my own experience. I am a convert, having become Catholic (praise God) in 1995. Until then I had been agnostic as an adult (though baptized Methodist and raised a generic, lukewarm Presbyterian). When I became Catholic and began attending Mass and going to Church regularly, I noticed immediately that something was horribly wrong on a massive scale.

    As you say, it can sound awfully self-aggrandizing to say such a thing. I am in so many ways, terribly weak and poor in my own practice of the faith. And yet, I have to say in truth, that from the very start of my life as a Catholic I have often been very disturbed by the general spirit of things when Catholics gather together. Especially Mass.

    Not to go on for too long or assume that I have some sort of special spiritual intuition. But when I began attending Mass, I would often have the experience of wondering, “Does everyone here–or just most–truly believe?” It so often seems, in so many small and subtle ways all adding up to something larger, that so many Catholics at Mass do not have any particular special regard for Christ in the Eucharist. And to me, as a new Catholic, this was (and is) deeply disturbing. And then, as I went to confession and attended Mass at multiple places, it became obvious that Catholics do not, by and large, go to the sacrament of Reconciliation. And yet, everyone receives at Mass. How could it be that the majority of the congregation actually believes what the Church believes, such being the case?

    And then I wondered, how can priests and bishops let this happen right under their noses? Clearly, it is plain to see, in so many parishes (with beautiful exceptions, for sure), that at so many Masses, many many Catholics are receiving Christ in a state of mortal sin, and, possibly, without faith in His real presence. It takes no great effort to know this very plainly. How could priests not know this–more acutely than anyone? It is a horrendous disaster for the faith. Instead of giving people healing and grace and food for their souls, people are (at best) not getting the grace of the Eucharist, and at worse, could be actually harming their souls by receiving Jesus, not in a state of grace. It’s been this way for a long time, on a massive scale. And yet, so many pastors seem to carry on like things are fine; as though a spiritual disaster of massive proportions is not happening right under their noses. It’s truly horrible. Only a serious crisis of faith among clerics as much as for lay Catholics, as you describe, would seem capable of explaining this massive debacle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I cannot thank you enough for this article. The fact that you didn’t sugar coat any of your salient points is most appreciated. Your analysis is on point and so relevant for the Church of today that I wish all concerned would be graced with your line of thought. Even here in Africa,we already have a myriad of problems borne from socio cultural influences already taking root in the Church. A priest in my Diocese blamed it on poor formation but I query that because even the lay faithful sometimes act with more restraint.
    The Church is really in need of prayers and a spiritual reawakening. May the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with love,fervour for all that pleases God and the will to act. Amen.


  6. Many thanks & there are many things I could say but to focus on the issues like a laser, I’ll put this proposal:

    Accepting your point that the answers to this evil cannot be “purely forensic, mechanical, and clinical”, even so, given that breaking the Seal of the Confessional (a cognate issue) incurs excommunication latae sententiae, is there any reason why the mortal sin and indictable crime of raping a child or concealing such sin/crime (by either lay, religious, clerical or any other sort of Catholic) should not incur the same sentence? If there is not, could not the lifting of the state of latae sententiae (for re-entry to the Church) be, by obligation of the satisfaction of absolution, an irrevocable duty on the penitent to report one’s crime to the relevant legal authority (and in the case of those in the clerical or religious state, also to one’s superior or local ordinary)?

    I’d be interested in your view on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “If there is not, could not the lifting of the state of latae sententiae (for re-entry to the Church) be, by obligation of the satisfaction of absolution, an irrevocable duty on the penitent to report one’s crime to the relevant legal authority (and in the case of those in the clerical or religious state, also to one’s superior or local ordinary)?”

      I think what you say here is what should happen. There need to be very clear canonical guidelines for what the penalties are for these crimes/sins.


      1. Doesn’t this already happen in cases of fraud or theft, where there is (or should be) an insistence on the part of the absolving priest that the penitent make reparation or restitution? And what about the ‘firm purpose of amendment’ which all who learned their faith from the so-called ‘Penny Catechism’ used to associate immediately with the sacrament of Confession and which seems to have been replaced by the post -Freudian ‘this is ME’ and even, ‘this is how GOD made me’ the unspoken logic behind which being ‘How can it be a sin?’

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha. No. I am done talking about Vigano. He is utterly irrelevant in my opinion. He has made himself so by his increasing radicalization and movement to the lunatic fringe. He should have stuck to being a whistleblower and stopped all of the “demonic Freemason conspiracy” stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am just a simple farmer in Kansas trying to raise my children to have true Faith. I spent some time in seminary as well. Some diocese seemed to prefer emotionally immature and those who had homosexual tendencies. There were sexually active young men amongst the seminarians and amongst the monks. My friend and former roommate joined the monastery and later left when the superior refused to do anything about other monks pursuing my friend sexually. He later took his own life.

    I have at times tried to find answers to this terrible crisis of faith by following this or that movement in the Church. I ultimately saw the naivete in the idea that bringing back Latin or the Oath against Modernism held. What utter foolishness. The crisis is deep and The answer to it is the same as every other crisis: sanctity. It is authentic holiness that attracts and multiplies. Perhaps that will also include martyrdom. I don’t have all the answers. Polemics and analysis lead to nothing. Yet, I keep coming back to the reality of: Be holy for I am Holy.


  8. My head is still spinning after reading this article because there is so much truth that must be digested. I find the summary conclusion that atheism present in the Church to explain much of what I’ve felt was what was wrong, without really wanting to put that name to the crisis. I have one observation that wasn’t a real concern of your piece but I’ve felt that Christianity in the US has been damaged by an attitude of atheism, Catholic and Protestant. Thank you for a great analysis. I have much to pray over.


  9. I thought Michael Warren Davis gave a pretty fair take on the Report at Crisis Magazine:

    It was both disheartening and thought-provoking to read the portion where he talks about Viganò’s involvement in the case, which may (notwithstanding criminal negligence) have included criminal negligence that he was trying to keep the lid on:

    ‘[…] Now, it’s possible that the Vatican forged Priest 3’s testimony for the report. He (or his Vicar General, or his Vicar for Clergy) may come forward tomorrow and say that Viganò did contact him. Viganò himself may be able to produce some evidence to that effect. But he didn’t even allude to the existence of any possibility that he may be formally exonerated. He simply asked that we take him at his word.

    That’s asking too much. We must consider the possibility that, when the McCarrick scandal first erupted in 2018, Viganò realised that his dereliction would become public. He got in front of the story, so to speak, by publishing his ‘testimony’ and calling for the Pope to resign. He gathered a large following of conservatives and traditionalists who were critical of Francis, hoping they would shield him from criticism. […]’


  10. Excellent piece! Someone finally pointing out foundational causes…and pointing to foundational cures. So, to get on with what cries out for doing….How does a layman achieve the Illuminative Way? Find a qualified Spiritual Director? Take up Garrigou-LaGrange oneself? How, in late 2020, does one cast off “bourgeois mediocrity” (guilty!) and get fruitfully serious about the spiritual life?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. And if I had a good formula for spiritual growth I would be a better Christian than I am right now. But seeking after purgation of my vices is the only way I know how to start.


    2. Gary – we all need a director. I was once told that this is qualified by the existence of a pulse. There is a lot of spiritual reading that is beneficial but in the end, we all have an infinite capacity to deceive ourselves and will need a knowledgeable guide to keep us accountable. I am personally acquainted with a number of holy souls, all of whom do not consider themselves so. Truly qualified directors are a treasure, often difficult to identify, but worth the search. Probably not surprisingly, they can be found among the laity – although that can be a minefield in this age of “centering prayer” and “mindfulness.” There is one upside to this age of technology. SD can be effectively done “virtually” even if it is not the ideal. That expands our opportunities to find a good fit.


  11. Dear Dr. Chapp,
    Coincidentally, I was reading your “Introduction” to the volume “How Balthasar Changed My Mind,” when a friend sent me the link to your challenging and perceptive reflection.
    I have recently been writing about “the Christological apostasy” that inflicts some/much? of Catholic theology and pastoral practice.
    One of the most haunting phrases of Jesus is: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t thought of that book in years! I am glad it is still being put to use. It has some very interesting articles.
      Thanks for the words of encouragement with regard to my blog post. It is an issue near and dear to my heart. And I agree about that haunting quote from Christ. It certainly seems to apply to our own times. Where do you teach now?


      1. I have been retired from Boston College for four years now, and am living in the Priests’ Retirement Residence in the Bronx, but still gratefully helping on Sundays in a parish and doing some writing. I have a piece in the Summer issue of “Nova et Vetera,” entitled “No Decapitated Body” in which I speak of “Remembering and Misremembering Vatican II.”
        In that book that you edited on von Balthasar, among the “interesting articles,” is a fine piece by Robert Barron (clearly never read by Michael Voris!).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I got my doctorate at Fordham. It was interesting. I look forward to reading your article on Vatican II. Sounds fantastic. And yes, that Barron essay is the best one in the book, in my opinion. Take that Voris!


  12. Dr. Chapp, your bold candor is utterly refreshing. Teaching Mariology this semester, I’m reminded of a line from von Balthasar, which sadly identifies the precise place we have arrived at within the Church.

    “Without mariology Christianity threatens imperceptibly to become inhuman. The Church becomes functionalist, soulless, a hectic enterprise without any point of rest, estranged from its true nature by the planners. And because, in this manly-masculine world, all that we have ins one ideology replacing another, everything becomes polemical, critical, bitter, humorless, and ultimately boring, and people in their masses run away from such a Church.”

    On a personal note, I was introduced to your work by the late Fr. Ray Gawronski and met some of your crew at a VB conference last fall (Rodney Howsare and Co). I’m indebted to your insights in these posts and hope to cross paths sometime.


  13. Great read, I arrived here via Dreher’s article. Made me think of this piece I recently was tipped off to from 2003 by Fr. Mankowski about the crisis:
    in which one of the points made is “the clerical life provided high grass in which many villains and disturbed individuals could seek cover.” Chilling thought.

    I wonder also about McCarrick’s hand in the China deal, and if that will end up being Francis’ great scandal, the treatment of Catholics in China, the snubbing of Cardinal Zen, etc. Any thoughts on this?


  14. Yes!
    Thank you! As I have said since our priest was arrested last year….this church needs Christ, not cover up!


  15. Re: “a man should be in the illuminative way prior to being ordained a priest, and in the unitive way prior to being a bishop” How is anyone able to judge this? Not myself, of course, but how does a bishop or a seminary director judge this. After all, if anything is an indicator of virtue, there is someone working out how to fake it…


    1. You raise valid points. It would indeed be difficult to ascertain. But seminary teachers who are good at formation could, at the very least, push guys in that direction. You will never completely eliminate the fakers and frauds, but you can at least push the seminarians in this direction which would lead, I think, to better results than we are seeing now.


    2. There are some prominent indicators of sanctity, one of the most important being an obvious humility, often characterized by a strong sense of obedience. A good spiritual director is likely to discern this, and alternatively, to spot deception if given a long enough period of observation and interaction. After spending only a year in the seminary with no training in spiritual direction, I could tell you which men I considered serious candidates (a minority) and those who had a lot of work to do (the category into which I fell). It’s exceedingly difficult to fake holiness in a setting where one is eating, praying, studying, and recreating with others on a constant basis. Some could slip through the cracks, but not many.

      The problem is, there doesn’t even seem to be the standard anymore, much less making it the top priority. Even the admissions process in the seminaries is sorely deficient. I am personally aware of a case where a woman “identifying” as a man was admitted to and spent a year in a major seminary undetected until someone from outside blew the whistle. “Holy,” hell, you don’t even have to be a man anymore to slip in!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s