On the same day that I did a post on how Catholic media are treating the (now former) Cardinal McCarrick affair, Catholic News Agency came up with a bombshell of a story that illustrates the kind of reporting other media should be doing on this scandal.
Upon hearing about how McCarrick’s sexual predilections were well-known decades ago in the Archdioceses of Newark and New York, reporter Ed Condon dug around and found several priests from that era who agreed to talk off the record. The reporter came up with not only killer quotes, but many anecdotes on how Catholic seminaries of that era were male meat markets in every sense of the term.
Recent allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick include reports that he made sexual advances toward seminarians during his tenure as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.
CNA recently spoke to six priests of the Archdiocese of Newark, and one priest member of a religious order who was a seminarian in New York in the early 1970s, while McCarrick was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.
The religious priest who spoke to CNA said when he studied in a seminary in New York, McCarrick, who was then an aide to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, would sometimes visit. ... So well-known was McCarrick’s reputation, the priest said, that when McCarrick would accompany Cooke to visit the seminary there was a standing joke that they had to "hide the handsome ones" before he arrived.
I’m cutting and pasting some of the best parts, but you’ve got to read the whole thing.
Later, there is this:
One priest worked in close proximity to the archbishop in the archdiocesan chancery for a number of years. “There were the ‘nephews,’ for sure,” he said. “He had a type: tall, slim, intelligent -- but no smokers.” …
While the Archdiocese of Newark declined to confirm the name of the accused priest remaining in active ministry, several priests in the archdiocese identified him as Fr. James Weiner, and told CNA that he has a reputation among the clergy, dating back to his time in the seminary, for active homosexuality.
In recent years, several priests said, Weiner is known for hosting cocktail parties in his rectory, which other homosexual priests of the archdiocese are known to attend.
One recalled that he attended a cocktail party, thinking he had been invited to a simple priests’ dinner. “I was led into the room to a chorus of wolf-whistles,” he said. “It was clear right away I was ‘on display.’”
The scene at these parties was something out of “Sex in the City,” the priests said.
All recounted overtly sexual conversation at the cocktail parties. “I was fresh meat and they were trying me out,” one priest said.
All three said they left quickly upon realizing what was going on. “Everyone was getting loaded and getting closer on the couches, I wanted out of there,” a priest told CNA.
You can’t make this stuff up. One case? Maybe. The same testimony from multiple priests?
Even better was the "nothing to see here" response from Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin (who’s technically in charge of what goes on in seminaries under his archdiocese), saying no one told him about a gay subculture among his priests and seminarians. He also expressed disbelief that CNA’s sources were actually his own priests.
Remember now, this is CNA, the conservative alternative to Catholic News Service.
Then again, Tobin’s a bit of an odd one, in that he sent out a tweet earlier this year wishing a “nighty-night” to his “baby.” The cardinal later had the tweet removed, saying it was misunderstood and that it had been addressed to one of his sisters. Even if he’s telling the truth, who calls his sister “baby?”
CNA, by the way, came out with yet another story yesterday, quoting Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley apologizing for not following up on a 2015 report his office received warning them about McCarrick. They’ve a bunch of stories up on their site at the moment.
This is the kind of reporting that media in Newark and New York should be doing. But they sure aren’t in Newark; a July 17 story I found in the Newark Star-Ledger was a rewrite of a New York Times story.
Seriously, folks at the Ledger, is that the best you can do? At least drive down to the coastal town of Sea Girt to check out the famous beach cottage where McCarrick hosted seminarians on weekends during the 1980s. Any real estate agent can look up the address for the place, which was owned by the archdiocese back then.
I'm not sure whether it's the lack of religion beat reporters or whether media just don't want to tackle the gays-in-the-priesthood angle that's the big elephant in the media living room right now, but I'm not seeing a ton of original reporting on McCarrick. Two large newspapers and some Catholic media are all that's out there. Where's USA Today? Where's the Associated Press?
Where is the Charlotte Observer, the closest major newspaper to Greg Littleton, a former priest apparently still living in Hickory, N.C.? He is the other person who received a settlement related to McCarrick; he's got an explosive story and so far, no reporter has gotten him on the record. I've also seen nothing in the Atlantic or the New Republic on this, which is odd, given that these magazines can be quite aggressive in their religion reporting when they want to be.
A lot of media are steering way clear of this story. Publications that are more than anxious to do a zillion evangelicals-and-Trump stories can't put one reporter on the biggest crisis in the American Catholic Church in 16 years (and the seminary angle adds a crucial dimension to the crisis).
Now, the Times definitely led on the McCarrick beat for the first month, but they seem to have scaled back a bit, allowing the Washington Post to pick up the slack.
A lot of the action is in D.C. where the everyone is wondering about Cardinal Donald Wuerl and his troubles. The cleric has been in hot water ever since he began maintaining the barely believable story that he had never heard the rumors about McCarrick, which made him appear as either a liar or someone totally out of touch with his diocese. On Monday, the Post came out with this:
In the week since a Pennsylvania grand jury reported on child sex abuse by Catholic priests, Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s reputation has taken a brutal hit.
Wuerl’s upcoming book has been canceled by the publisher, he abruptly pulled out of his role as keynote speaker at a major global meeting in Ireland, and officials are considering taking his name off a high school in his hometown of Pittsburgh, where Wuerl served as bishop for 18 years before becoming the archbishop of Washington in 2006. On Monday, a vandal got ahead of them — covering his name in red spray paint.
Wuerl, an outwardly mild priest and meticulous manager who picks every word carefully when he speaks, has become for the moment the face of a ballooning crisis in the Catholic Church. And unlike the quiet protests and longings for change of past decades, Catholics in 2018 are demanding accountability -- and fast.
The next part of the article summarized Wuerl’s woes thus far and how some have called for his resignation; a faint possibility in that he’s in tight with the Vatican. But on the home front:
Meanwhile, since the release of the grand jury report, Wuerl is finding himself increasingly embattled in the Archdiocese of Washington. On Monday afternoon, Wuerl called a meeting with his priest council. Several priests in the archdiocese who spoke on the condition of anonymity said opinion on the cardinal is mixed: Some feel his efforts on abuse aren’t being portrayed fairly, while others think they were insufficient.
Critics have complained that Wuerl showed a disturbing tone-deafness after the grand jury report was released Aug. 14. He immediately put out a statement saying he believed the report “confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.” That night the archdiocese posted a website, TheWuerlRecord.com, defending the cardinal. It has since been taken down.
Later that week, Wuerl said on Fox-5DC that he didn’t think “this is some massive, massive crisis.”
The piece ends with quotes from Monsignor John Enzler, president of the region’s Catholic Charities, saying Wuerl was acting within the norms of the time in dealing with abusers and that he should be judged by different standards 30 years later. So here we have a monsignor judging a cardinal. We live in strange times.
I still haven't given up hope more that more media will take an interest in this story but it's been two months, as of Monday, since the McCarrick story broke. Time's a'wasting, folks.