You probably had no particular reason to pay attention to this story, but three weeks ago a former bishop of Fargo, North Dakota was outed as a child molester.
That is, His Excellency James Sullivan was “credibly accused” of inappropriately touching and carrying on sexual conversations with a boy in 1964, and one instance of inappropriate touching of another boy in 1966. Sullivan died in 2006 and obviously cannot rebut the charges. But then again, no one could defend himself against 55 year-old claims. This doesn’t matter. His name has been removed from a local middle school. (The diocese keeps the name of John Paul II associated with its schools, notwithstanding the fact that his culpable negligence undoubtedly enabled the rape of children. But John Paul is one of few marketable Catholic names of the past 50 years, so the name stays.)
Bishop Sullivan’s unpersoning was quick and surprising. He was, from what I can tell, a popular bishop, and was never accused of any untoward behavior in Fargo. He is buried alongside Fargo’s five other deceased bishops at Holy Cross Cemetery, men who helped establish an institution which is the true height of Western civilization in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Bishop Sullivan lived through the greatest collapse of that institution in history, but kept the diocese from the kinds of travesties which are legion in the neighboring dioceses.
Does he not deserve a defense to the charges of pedophilia? No, not in the modern (and modernist) Church. In the civil realm, “credible accusations” are where the juridical process begins, not ends. But in the 2021 Catholic Church, accusations are enough to unperson the bishop: All priests know that a single “credible accusation” can derail their careers, where all “credible” means is that the accusation is not a manifest lie on its face. The Church does not fight these accusations (I know of one orthodox priest whose criminal bishop has used a bogus “credible accusation” to keep him from practicing his vocation, and maybe you do too).
The institutional Church is happy to accept these allegations at face value because, well, the 1960s were a long time ago, there admittedly were a lot of pedophile priests back then, and the Church’s claim to have rooted them out in the present day is one of the few claims it has to progress. But more importantly, there is no reason for the Church to put up a defense. If you have ever served on a parish council, you probably know the extent to which insurance companies and government regulators decide how the Church does her business.
What is a fatal blow to Bishop Sullivan’s reputation is just an insurance write-off to his successors. A defense would fare even worse in the court of public opinion. “Church continues to defend child molesters” (even as part of basic due process) is not a headline any bishop wants to see. The good names of men like Bishop Sullivan can be tossed in the mire and literally no one in the institutional Church will defend them. The Church used to appoint devil’s advocates; now she cannot find anyone to advocate for its own bishops.
This is the state of the modernist Church, the one she chose for herself at Vatican II. The hierarchical Church still exists, but they do not enforce their own rules. They opened the windows of the Church and now find themselves governed by Attorneys General departments. They have no moral credibility, and cannot defend themselves against the most manifestly bogus claims, let alone defend a man accused of child molestation. The absolutely asinine stories about mass graves in Canada is an instance of this. No institution has ever done more to civilize the natives of Canada than the Catholic Church, but the Church cannot muster the courage to defend her apostolic mandate either now or in centuries past.
Is there any reflection from churchmen on this pathetic state of affairs? That black legends are leading to the torching of churches? That bishops can be besmirched as pedophiles without any possibility of defense? Do the current bishops know that their own names might one day be run through the mud, or their own parishes might soon be set up in flames? Do they care?
I suspect they do, the decent bishops at least. The problem is that the Catholics who would defend the names of bishops solely because they are bishops, who would stand armed around parishes and face down communist thugs–these people are often “trads” or “trad friendly.” They are men who question the benefits of the Vatican II revolution on the Church, who notice the bishops have abrogated their teaching and leadership responsibilities, who notice that everything in the Catholic world has fallen apart. These are men who would love to fight and perhaps die for the Church and her pastors—if only those pastors would act like the Church was something worth fighting for.
But now, the revolution is more important than the Church. Pope Francis’s recent encyclical proves this. Vatican II was a manifest failure back in the 70s, but the revolutionaries were in charge then and are in charge now. No one can long embrace Catholicism without admitting Vatican II was a failure, but the reformers keep repeating the mantra “the real Vatican II has never been tried.”
This idiotic and quixotic pride guarantees that the decline of the institutional Church will continue, if the Church does not fracture in actual schism. For the bishops, it all but guarantees their parishes will be shuttered, possibly torched in the future (maybe based on untested charges like those against Bishop Sullivan). These churchmen can turn their backs to the past all they want, but the future is stalking them, ready to wipe out all their work like a French Republic. But they have the mindsets of true revolutionaries: They must promote the revolution at the expense of even their own wellbeings, and certainly the expense of yours.
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