The Case of Mike Moroski

The case of Mike Moroski[1]

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages.  Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that has been imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th [2014] I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job — or, resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . .   What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience[2] so that I could keep my job for four months?

I refused to agree to the Archdiocese’s terms BECAUSE OF my faith formation at Catholic schools and relationship with Catholic family members & clergy — not in spite of it [. . .]

If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner.  I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . .   As I always tried to teach you — NEVER compromise who you are for someone else — and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be.  Be strong and take care of one another [. . .]

The “Morality Clause” in Teacher Contracts

After the dismissal of Mike Moroski and after the Archdiocese was successfully sued in court by a fired teacher for $171,000,[3] it appears that Archbishop Schnurr met with his lawyers and was advised to include a “morality clause”[4] in all teacher contracts so as to better protect the interests of the Archdiocese in future court cases.[5]  This “morality clause,” would make it perfectly clear that teachers acknowledged certain ways of acting as incompatible with their employment in the Archdiocese.[6]

The “morality clause” of the new teachers contract for the 2014-2015 school year permits not only for the firing of gay and lesbian school employees, but also for anyone supporting of the “homosexual lifestyle” [which presumably includes same-sex marriage] as grounds for dismissal.

In response to Archbishop Schnurr’s “morality clause,” Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign published the following analysis:

At a time when Pope Francis is talking about support of civil unions, the Cincinnati Archdiocese, in a throwback to past times, is talking about firing gay and lesbian teachers and silencing their straight supporters.  This isn’t in keeping with the olive branch Pope Francis has extended to LGBTQ people around the world, but even more importantly, it’s not in keeping with the living message of God’s love of all people.

The majority of Catholics and people of faith believe LGBTQ people deserve dignity, respect, and equal protections under the law,[7] and at the same time leaders of the Cincinnati Archdiocese are determined to weed out supporters of LGBTQ equality.  This must stop.

The new contract also prohibits membership in an LGBTQ equality organization, such as the Conference of Catholic Lesbians or DignityUSA.  Creating a safe space for LGBTQ young people, by placing a multicolored-rainbow sticker on your car bumper, for example, could [presumably] be grounds for dismissal.[8]

I had the opportunity to interview some Catholic teachers perplexed by this change in policy.  All of them were angry at the heavy-handed coercion involved in the imposition of the “morality clause.”  One teacher noted that “signing this new contract effectively meant that we [the teachers] would lose our civil liberties outside the classroom as the price for continuing to teach inside the classroom.”  In contrast, Paul Kindt, a high school religion teacher, reported that he proudly signed the contract because he believed that the Catholic Church has “THE TRUTH” about love and marriage and that is precisely what he presents to his students—”no human opinions,” he emphasized, “just God’s point of view.”[9]

Another teacher I interviewed was much more personally distressed by the “morality clause”:

My own brother has just recently come out that he is homosexual.  I personally want to listen to him deeply but also to publicly support him in the changes that this will produce in his life.  In signing this contract, I feel that I am endorsing a Catholic education that forces young people to suppress or deny any homosexual leanings because they are indoctrinated from their earliest years that such a condition leads to serious sin and the threat of eternal hellfire.  This was what my brother was saying to our family.  That he was scared out of his mind to even admit the truth to himself while he was in Catholic schools.

“So how is this to be resolved?”, I asked.  She continued:

I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t.  I love teaching and I had made the choice of Catholic schools because they give kids a challenging moral code.  But on this issue of homosexual unions, I’m completely at a loss.  If I sign, I will feel that I am betraying the best interests of my brother.  If I don’t sign, there is no way in hell that I could find a full-time opening in a public school this late in the summer.[10]

My third interview was perhaps the most critical one:

Our pastor gathered us in the rectory and heard some of the grievances surrounding the “morality clause” in the new contract.  By way of an action step, he proposed the following:

“I have no investment in policing your private lives or in scrutinizing those causes you are supporting in our society.  In fact, I detest the Archbishop’s senseless meddling.  I’m more concerned with our ability, as a parish, to welcome with dignity all the diverse sorts of families that we have in our midst.  When we celebrated the baptism of the twins adopted by Karl and Adam, I was proud of the diversity of our parish and proud of the way that everyone accepted gay parents with enthusiasm.

“This is the kind of worshipping community that Jesus would have championed had he been present.  So, I don’t see any reason to mount a protest in the face of the Archbishop’s senseless meddling—it would only put us in the limelight and give him a reason to begin disrupting the excellent ministries that we already undertaken.  Hence, I trust you and our parents trust you with their children.

“I would, accordingly, ask you to sign the contract for this greater good and to let go of your anxieties.  Be not afraid.  I will stand behind you.  How many would be able to live with this?”

Everyone gave a visible sign of relief.  Not a single voice opposed the resolution this pastor proposed to his teachers.[11]

This interview illustrates how a local pastor had compelling reasons to take the side of his teachers and, for grave pastoral reasons, to deliberately subvert the intentionality of Archbishop Schnurr to purge the ranks of the 2,200 teachers employed by the Archdiocese.

Molly Shumate, a first-grade teacher, was directly touched by one of the newly highlighted restrictions because she has a son who’s gay.  She’s ending her career teaching at her childhood school rather than agree to the restrictions spelled out in the “morality clause” that she says “could restrict her from publicly supporting her son.”[12]

“In my heart, I know I need to go.  I need to find another avenue because I am going to support my son,” Shumate told CNN.  “If in five or ten years he finds a partner and he wants to be with that person, I’m going to be in the front row with the biggest bouquet.” [13]

The Cincinnati Chapter of the Voice of the Faithful mounted a campaign in support of teacher rights.  They petitioned to be able to discuss this issue with Archbishop Schnurr, but he declined to meet with them or with representatives of the 2,200 teachers.

The situation in the archdiocese of Cincinnati is not unique.  Toughening up teacher contracts and getting rid of persons in same-sex unions or persons visibly supporting same-sex unions is growing.[14]


Archbishop Schnurr is in a real bind.  He believes that his divine mandate is to be a courageous shepherd and “to protect the faith of his flock” in the face of doubters on the inside and critics on the outside.  Archbishop Schnurr argues quite correctly that those parents who send their children to Catholic schools do so in the good faith that their teachers themselves affirm that faith in both their hearts and in their conduct.  What is in the heart of a believer cannot be seen or judged.  The conduct of their lives, however, is very much open to public observation and public judgment.  This is why the “morality clause” deals with issues of conduct that is to be expected of exemplary Catholic teachers.  “By their fruits, you shall know them” (Matt. 7:16)

So far, so good.

Needless to say, Archbishop Schnurr has not called for workshops designed to persuade his teachers that the Vatican has “the truth and the whole truth” regarding sexual morality.  Moreover, notice also that Archbishop Schnurr has not called for open dialog or for further research or for sensitive listening groups with gays and lesbians present precisely because he takes for granted that it is too late for such “soft measures.”  In his mind, these issues have already been investigated and authoritatively settled by virtue of the Cardinal Ratzinger decrees (all approved by John Paul II) that were sent out to all bishops by the Vatican.

This is also the reason why Archbishop Schnurr deliberately avoids meeting with “distressed teachers” or their supporters.  As the Archbishop sees it, these distressed teachers have signed on to be “Catholics,” so let them step up to the plate and deliver the goods.  If they cannot, perhaps their gift as teachers needs to be used elsewhere.

In this instance Archbishop Schnurr has adopted an authoritarian leadership style.  He is committed to purging Catholic schools of teachers unwilling to accept his “morality clause.”  But does that go far enough?  In the face of any call for open discussions among the parents and maybe even mild protests from among the students, does Archbishop Schnurr expect to play the authoritarian card when dealing with parents and students as well?  You can bet he does!

Did Archbishop Schnurr act justly?

While it may be the case that Archbishop Schnurr has the right to hire and fire whomever he wishes, this does not mean that he can act arbitrarily.  In other words, he must act justly.  Here are some reasons to think that he did not.

Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.  When Archbishop Schnurr formulated a “morality clause,” he effectively barred the way for any qualified gay or lesbian faculty member from teaching in Catholic schools.  Their only crime would be their sexual orientation.  And since “sexual orientation” is never a sin; it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to fire someone solely on the grounds of their sexual orientation.  Hence, the morality clause is prejudicial and a direct violation of the Vatican ruling that Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.

Archbishop Schnurr went even one step further.  He fired a teacher solely because he was unwilling to cover up his advocacy of “same-sex marriages.” Yes, I want to make clear that Archbishop Schnurr never met with Mike Moroski to see whether he could change his mind.  And why not?  Was he too busy to do so?  Was he aware that open dialog on this point had little promise of success?  Was he aware that even Pope Francis had argued that “civil marriages”[15] would be of benefit for same-sex couples?

We will never know the answer to these questions.  What we do know, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr was clear that if Mike Moroski removed his online post then the Archbishop would allow him to continue as a teacher in good standing.  Sad but true.  Archbishop Schnurr goal was to silence Mike Moroski.  Then Archbishop Schnurr could go back to that person or those persons who originally objected to Mike Moroski’s post and say, “Mike Moroski has withdrawn his statement.  I, accordingly, have removed my threat.”

But make no mistake here.  Archbishop Schnurr was party to creating a public deception. He was effectively saying to Mike Moroski, “I know and you know that your mind is made up in favor of same-sex marriages.  When you remove your online post, this will not change.  What it will do, however, is to remove you from being in direct violation of the ‘morality clause’ in your teacher’s contract.  Your private views are of no consequence.  It is only your public advocacy that is troublesome and punishable.”

Mike Moroski was correct in understanding that “marriage” would help to protect the civil rights afforded “same-sex unions.”  Dozens of high-ranking bishops and cardinals have already gone on record to advocate the civil protection of “same-sex unions.”  Pope Francis himself has favored for a long time the legalization of “same-sex unions” while reserving the term “marriage” in its traditional meaning.

All in all, Archbishop Schnurr’s decision to dismiss Mike Moroski on this issue alone is a gross violation of justice.  The Catholic Church has made it clear . . .

  1. That no one ought to be coerced to act against their conscience;
  2. That since the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has already made room for a diversity of views[16] respecting how the rights of gays and lesbians are to be best protected, it follows that Mike Moroski was entirely justified to express his opinion on this matter;
  3. That a just punishment must always be measured by the gravity of the crime committed.

Archbishop Schnurr thus acted rashly and unjustly.  Instead of honoring Mike Moroski’s rights, he effectively trampled over them.  He imposed grave harm on Mike Moroski and on his family.  He deprived Purcell Marian High School of a capable, dedicated teacher and administrator. Even beyond this, Archbishop Schnurr betrayed the trust that he has as an administrator—he has given grave scandal by mismanaging the affairs of the Church.

Furthermore, Archbishop Schnurr acted against the interests of gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church by lashing out at Mike Moroski.  Archbishop Schnurr has the obligation to honor and protect gays and lesbians as loved by God and as deserving the pastoral care of his office.  He also has the obligation to “act justly” as an employer and not to punish Mike Moroski by imposing a “gag order” designed to hinder his well-intentioned and legitimate support for same-sex civil marriages.

In Boston, meanwhile, this very issue was being discussed by Cardinal O’Malley:

At the end of the event [a panel discussion on Pope Francis held in Boston on 14 Sept 2014], after the crowd had dissipated, I [Francis DeBernardo] had the opportunity to thank Cardinal O’Malley one-on-one for his compassionate remarks earlier in the evening about the LGBTQ community.

As we spoke, the cardinal told me that we must first convince people we love them before talking about the Ten Commandments. I pointed out that it has been hard to convince LGBTQ Catholics and their allies of this love when so many church workers have had LGBT-related employment disputes with Catholic schools and parishes. Responding to my comment, Cardinal O’Malley said this trend was a situation that “needs to be rectified.”[17]

Meanwhile, in far-flung Australia, another voice sounds that upholds the “deviance” of Mike Moroski and pushes against the forces of oppression in the Church represented by the Archbishop:

Australian Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen has said that it is not good enough for the Church to treat gay people with compassion and then define their lifestyle as “intrinsically disordered,” “We cannot talk about the ­integrity of creation, the universal and inclusive love of God, while at the same time colluding with the forces of oppression in the ill-treatment of racial minorities, women and homosexual persons,” said Bishop Long of Parramatta diocese in western Sydney.

“It won’t wash with young people, especially when we purport to treat gay people with love and compassion and yet define their sexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered.’ This is particularly true when the church has not been a shining beacon and a trailblazer in the fight against inequality and ­intolerance.”[18]

The position of Archbishop Schnurr

Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some to join himself with those parents who rashly disown their own children when they “come out” as lesbians or gays.  These are the children who are forced to live on the streets and who are forced to commit petty thefts and sometimes even to sell their own bodies in order than they might stay alive.  These are the children who, despairing of ever being truly understood and loved, are tempted to cut themselves and to bring their misery to an end.

Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some as joining himself with those parents who hate “queers” and who send their children to a Catholic high school because they mistakenly believe that teachers openly condemning the lifestyle of “queers” offer their children a measure of immunity from ever being “queer.”  The parents who took notice of Mike Moroski’s website and who reported him to the Archbishop Schnurr might indeed have had this frame of mind.  They might even have threatened to withdraw their children if appropriate action was not taken.

If Archbishop Schnurr was concerned about protecting the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians enrolled in Purcell Marian High School, do you not think that he might have included in his morality clause a warning against “those teachers who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians”?  And what if a teacher would post a blog that includes this: “I hate gays and should any child of mine admit to being gay, I would immediately disown him”?  Would Archbishop Schnurr take quick action here as he did in the case of Mike Moroski?

Sad to say, I expect he would not.

On the other hand, Catholic teaching distinguishes between the person, the inclination, and the act. Persons with homosexual inclinations are not to be condemned or excluded from the Church. On the contrary, they are children of God who have an equal dignity with every other human being.  If they yield to the inclination to homosexuality, they might commit a serious sin.  But just as in the case of any other Catholic who gives in to the temptation to sin, they are urged to trust in God’s mercy, to confess their failings, and to reform their lives. At no time do they become unlovable or unforgiveable in God’s eyes or in the eyes of the Church.  This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the inclination toward homosexual acts as “objectively disordered” while, at the same time, insisting that persons with such inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

This is why administrators must weed out teachers who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians.  They are excluded for the very same reason why racists were excluded from the ranks of teachers in the 1970s.  The same goes for the teacher who claims that he would disown his own child should they identify themselves as gay or lesbian.  This is an unnatural and unchristian impulse that must be challenged rather than championed.  And I would fully expect Archbishop Schnurr to remove any teacher who would make such menacing claims in his private blog.

What is troubling, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr is so decidedly one-sided when it comes time to disqualifying teachers.  Anyone who supports same-sex unions or who enters into a same-sex civil marriage has to be excluded.  Okay.  One can allow that this issue is important for the Archbishop.  But why then does the Archbishop not be consistent by excluding anyone unable or unwilling to accept gays and lesbians with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”?[19]  Is this not the greater sin?  Is this not the far greater danger to our youth?

When students at risk have nowhere to turn

It is the lack of compassion and sensitivity that drives young people to acts of desperation.  Some feel alienated from their own school chums because they feel left out by their dating games.  Some even despair that God cursed them with the abnormality of being “queer.” Many run away from intolerable situations at home and live, vulnerable and exposed, in the dark alleyways and flop houses of our urban jungles.  Many resort to cutting themselves or overdosing on drugs.  Here are the essential facts to guide us on our way:

  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.[20]
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.[21]
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.[22]
  • Each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.[23]

Providing a safe environment in Catholic schools

With this in mind, does Archbishop Schnurr understand that, within the student body at his high school, there are cliques ready to extend “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” to those with a LGBTQ orientation?  Other cliques, meanwhile, may be mildly or brutally antagonistic to anyone they brand as “queer.”  Members of these latter cliques take relish in verbally and physically badgering “queer” students who do not know how to defend themselves.  This is sometimes called “bullying.” It shows up everywhere, even in Catholic schools.

Does the Archbishop know which members of the faculty and staff are prepared to effectively intervene when queer baiting or bullying takes place?  Are students given training programs that use role-playing and peer-on-peer counseling such that every student at Purcell Marian High School might feel safe, secure, and accepted within whatever color of the rainbow our loving Creator assigns to them?

Does every student and faculty member know the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386)—The only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people[24]?  Does the Archbishop recognize his own limitations when it comes to counseling a youth in crisis?  Would he be prepared to recommend the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386) as a vital resource for those at Purcell Marian High School who will inevitably be approached by troubled youths?

My purpose in posing these questions is not to embarrass Archbishop Schnurr but to alert him and my readers to the sorts of questions that parents need to be asking of the administrators of any school to which they intend to send their children.  Our children are too precious and too vulnerable to figure these things out for themselves.  As a parent, I am responsible for assuring myself and my child that “yes, this is a safe place for you to learn and to grow.”

As for Archbishop Schnurr, I would expect that he is intelligent enough to recognize that when he fires someone like Mike Moroski, he effectively removes a man extraordinarily capable when it comes to taking the steps to ensure that everyone at Purcell Marian has a safe place to grow up and discover their sexual orientation.  For the moment, let’s imagine a dangerous scenario.  What would happen if Archbishop Schnurr hired private detectives who extended his witch-hunt?  Let’s further imagine that these detectives were able to identify everyone who was “soft” on homosexuality and “prone” to support same-sex marriages.  Then, let’s imagine that every one of these administrators and faculty were fired.  Would everyone then feel that Purcell Marian was entirely compliant with the Vatican norms and that every student was safe to grow into the sexuality that the Creator assigned them without being shamed, taunted, or coerced by faculty or students?

Hardly!  The successful witch-hunt and purge would have the effect of insuring an outward compliance but, at the same time, such dismissals would invariably diminish the availability of that “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” whereby those with a LGBTQ orientation are to survive and thrive.  In this atmosphere, cliques that enjoy queer bating would most probably become more brazen because they would be expected to be rewarded by faculty members rather than challenged and redirected.  Then “queers” would cringe in abject misery and have no one to turn to for a sympathetic ear or a word of support.  Programs for “reparative therapies”[25] would again flourish.  When they failed, as they most certainly must, despairing “queers” would be tempted to resort to cutting and suicide in order to relieve their abject misery.  But now no faculty member or student would even be aware of any crisis intervention or suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people.

Public support for the homosexual lifestyle

While I admit that I am presenting here a worst-case scenario, it does, nonetheless, have the benefit of showing how Archbishop Schnurr’s taste for purging the faculty of “deviants” has the ugly side-effect of putting LGBTQ students at risk.  Archbishop Schnurr might explain to his close friends that the firing Mike Moroski had the good effect of silencing parents who suspected that he had gone soft on deviant faculty.  And, since Archbishop Schnurr is quite intelligent, he might also tell his lawyers that by firing Mike Moroski he sends a loud and clear message to all other faculty that he will not brook even the slightest “deviance”[26] from the “morality clause” that is written into their contracts.

The text of the “morality clause” clearly focuses upon a list of sexually deviant behaviors:

“Public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or [publicly living a] homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination” (excerpt from Teacher’s Contract for 2014-2015).

One can see here that broad sweeping categories are named but not clearly defined.  Does a mother who attends the civil marriage ceremony of her son and his male lover fall under this rule that prohibits “public support”?  Does she fall under this rule by merely sending out invitations (even if she herself does not attend)?  Does the blog of Mike Moroski constitute “public support”?  Does the public reception of same-sex couples by Pope Francis constitute “public support”?  Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston says that the recent trend of firing gays and lesbians from Catholic jobs because they decide to enter into legal same-gender marriages “needs to be rectified.”  Does this constitute “public support”?

Notice what is absent from the Archbishop’s list of unacceptable conduct: “public support of or the use of hate speech against gays and lesbians, public support of or the use of mob action to provoke acts of hatred directed toward gays or lesbians.”

In sum, here is where we have come and where we are going:

  • Archbishop Schnurr unlawfully dismisses Mike Moroski because he supports same-sex marriages.  Nearly a hundred bishops and cardinals have gone on record for supporting same-sex marriages.  No matter.
  • Archbishop Schnurr, in his “morality clause,” gives no evidence that faculty members need to create and maintain a safety zone wherein students of all sexual orientations can survive and thrive and be mutually supportive.  His “gag order” shows that all he was interested in was outward compliance.
  • Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based upon informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-made decisions are the necessary substitutes for the demanding skills of respectfully entering into free and open discussion of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to substituting “mindless conformity” for open discussion and informed consent.


It is to this last point that our attention must now turn.  I decided to join and to sponsor a petition asking Pope Francis to investigate and to rectify the injustices imposed on Mike Moroski.  My petition was formulated as follows:

Justice for Catholic high school teacher fired because he supported same-sex marriages

Dr. Aaron Milavec started this petition to Pope Francis

The Case of Mike Moroski   

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages.

Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that was imposed upon him:

On Monday, February 4th [2014] I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job — or, resign.

After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”

If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . .   What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience so that I could keep my job . . . ?

If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner.  I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . .   As I always tried to teach you — NEVER compromise who you are for someone else — and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be.  Be strong and take care of one another [. . . .]

Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he saw himself as responsible for insuring the parents who sent their sons and daughters to Purcell Marian High School that they would encounter teachers entirely supportive of the official Vatican norms that oppose granting civil “marriages” to same-sex couples. Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, civil same-sex marriages would provide gays and lesbians with a measure of dignity and the protection of their civil rights as “married partners.”

According to Archbishop Schnurr, it would appear that free and open discussion of the merits and liabilities of granting civil marriages cannot take place within Catholic schools.  The case here does not imply that Mike Moroski ever promoted any such discussions of this issue among his students. Rather, the issue turns entirely on the unwillingness of Mike Moroski to accept the “gag order” mandated by the Archbishop.

The “gag order” of Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based on informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-existing decisions substitutes for the free and open exploration of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to becoming a coercive indoctrination in the service of a false piety.

By signing this petition, you are calling upon Pope Francis to intervene in this case (a) by exonerating Mike Moroski of all charges against him, (b) by praising him for his exemplary fortitude in resisting unjust oppression, and (c) by reinstating him with a ten-year teaching contract [should he be willing to accept this].

Furthermore, at a time when free and open discussion is the necessary landscape whereby Catholics everywhere might hope to arrive at an informed understanding of the issues surrounding same-sex marriages, signing this petition urges Pope Francis to challenge Archbishop Schnurr to mend his ways and to reverse the damage he has done by publicly acknowledging to Mike Moroski and the students of Purcell Marian High School that he failed as a Christian and as an Archbishop when he imposed a “gag order” on Mike Moroski.

Please sign this petition and join in the discussion:

As a long-time teacher in Catholic schools, I have felt the silent terror of working in an authoritarian environment.  Not a week passes when I don’t hear of another dismissal of the kind reported above.  A single intervention on the part of Pope Francis would give hope to tens of thousands of teachers who face dismissal should they support same-sex marriages.  Pope Francis’ intervention would send a clear signal: “Indoctrination is not the heart and soul of Catholic education.”  This intervention would alert administrators everywhere that “mindless conformity” is the toxic authoritarian substitute for the hard work of developing skills for sensitive listening and compassionate acceptance that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When teaching is reduced to indoctrination

No learning can take place if the experiences and the thoughts of students cannot be acknowledged and explored.  Authoritarianism may succeed in forcing teachers to toe the line, but any successful teacher knows that authoritarianism in high school inevitably leads to indoctrination, intimidation, and quiet conformity.  As soon as students are free of the school atmosphere, they say what they really think among their chums and, in some cases, they also discuss their “doubts” with their parents as well.

If parents blindly enforce the authority of the Archbishop, then these parents effectively “bully” their own children by “setting them straight” and, wittingly or unwittingly, collude with the Archbishop who demands submission of mind and heart.  This, of course, has limited results because it sets children on the road to rebellion and prepares them to throw off everything that has been “crammed down their throats” the moment that they leave home.

But let’s face it.  When Archbishop Schnurr plays his authoritarian card, he effectively treats his own teachers much like the authoritarian parents that unwittingly alienate their children and set them on the road to rebellion.  If children need acceptance, trust, and openness to their grievances, then, with an even more urgent care, even an archbishop needs to do the same when it comes to teachers.  Vatican II makes this abundantly clear:

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth.  They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.  However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom.  Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature (Declaration on Religious Freedom = Dignitatis Humanae, §2).

Part II deals with how nonviolent resistance applies to the Moroski Case.



[1] Mike Moroski served at Moeller High School for 10 years as a teacher, service learning coordinator, and House Dean. Concurrently, he ran a nonprofit, Choices Cafe, that bridged the gap between those with means and those without. Mike finished his time in secondary education as the Assistant Principal at Purcell Marian. He was terminated from his post at Purcell Marian by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for his public support of marriage equality. Mike earned his B.A. & M.A. in English from Xavier University, and an M.B.A. in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame (M.N.A.). Currently, in addition to his role as executive director of UpSpring (working to keep children experiencing homelessness connected to their education), Mike is a trustee on the Southwestern Ohio Workforce Investment Board, a member of Cincinnati’s Human Services Advisory Committee, and a member of Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Steering Committee. ( For an interview with Mike Moroski, see

[2] The appeal to “conscience” takes priority over all other sources for discerning “what is truly right and just by God’s standards” as opposed to following “a political ideology.”  Archbishop Schnurr clarifies this point as follows:

The answer is to consult our conscience, which is a judgment of reason about the good to be done and the evil to be avoided in a concrete situation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1778 & Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 17). A conscience must be well-formed by using reason to discover the natural law and faith to understand Sacred Scripture and official Church teaching.  We then submit our judgment to God in prayer, striving to discern His will. By humbly committing ourselves to the lifelong journey of developing our consciences, we more clearly distinguish the Truth of God in a complex, sometimes manipulative world, and make choices that promote the life and the dignity of all.  (

In effect, therefore, both Archbishop Schnurr and Mike Moroski both appeal to “conscience” by way of justifying how they acted.  Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he was responsible for insuring that teachers in his Catholic schools both teach and live according to the norms published by the Vatican.  Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, the Vatican had arrived at a defective judgment when it came to same-sex unions.  When such differences arise, the expectation might be that open dialog must begin and to continue until they can work out some middle ground between them.  Both are Catholic pastors; yet, due to the authoritarian modality preferred by the Archbishop, he decided against any dialog.  He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office by a police escort.

[3] “Jury awards Christa Dias $171K in suit against Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Associated Press 03 June 2013 (

[4] The term “morality clause” has been used by newspaper and television reporters and is not the language of the contract itself.  The “morality clause” is on page 6 of the contract.  A complete contract can be found here:

[5] If interested, see news video here:

[6] Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has initiated a course of action that is quite similar to that of Archbishop Schnurr.  The teachers and their supporters in San Francisco, however, were much more pro-active in confronting Archbishop Cordileone on his presumed “orthodoxy” in representing Catholicism.  Jim McGarry, a retired educator who taught Catholic theology for twenty years at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit Catholic high school in San Francisco that his children attend, supported student protestors saying:

“[The archbishop] is not in compliance with Catholic teaching,” McGarry said. “He is very selectively choosing a small number of doctrines and putting them forward in a selective way and, I think, distorting the tradition . . . in a way that first of all endangers the health and well-being of our children.” McGarry argued that Cordileone’s hardline stance on homosexuality, which would permit the firing of teachers who wed same-sex partners, directly contradicts a line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that reads, “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against homosexuals] should be avoided.” He also noted that Catholic teaching is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of conscience, allowing Catholics to disobey their government—or each other— when they feel that their morals have been violated.

For details, see

[7] Recent polling found that 86 percent of Christians believed the very tenets of their faith compelled them to support protections for LGBTQ people under the law and 59 percent of lay Catholics support marriage equality.

[8] Archbishop John Nienstedt refused Communion to about twenty people wearing rainbow buttons and ribbons at a mass at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, in 2010.  See Madeleine Baran, “Archdiocese: Communion too sacred to be used as protest,” MPRNews, 06 Oct 2010 (

[9] Paul Kindt, “I’m Signing the Contract — in Sharpie,” The Catholic Beat, 30 April 2014  (

[10] The teacher interviewed wished to remain anonymous.

[11] The teacher interviewed wished to remain animus.

[12] Notice how this mother is being torn by her love for teaching and her determination to support her son.  The 1986 statement to parents in “Always Our Children” makes the point that parents have a primary role in walking with their children as they explore their sexual identity.  See Appendix 1 for details.

[13] Source for this paragraph is Susan Candiotti and Chris Welch, CNN, “A litany of ‘thou shalt nots’: Catholic teachers challenge morality clause,” 31 May 2014 (

[14] A survey of firings and “morality clauses” can be found here:

[15] The New York Times reported that “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio . . . spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples” (

[16] See Appendix 4: Catholic Church Leaders Who Made Positive Statements about Civil Unions and Same-Gender Marriages

[17] Francis DeBernardo, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley: LGBTQ Church Worker Firings “Need to be Rectified,” New Ways Ministry 15 Sept 2014 (

[18] Global Pulse staff, “Australian bishop challenges Church on homosexuality,” 16 Sept 2016 (

[19] If this is true, then the Catholic teachers of Cincinnati should expect Archbishop Schnurr to provide them with a much more balanced “morality clause” in their future employment contracts.

[20] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[21] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[22] Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults [Pediatric, 123(1), 346-52].

[23] IMPACT (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.

[24] For the online life-saving and life-affirming resources of the Tervor Project, go to

[25] Reparative Therapy (also known as Conversion Therapy) claims that adolescent homosexuality may arise from traumatic events in the past and that, with careful psychological counseling, part or all of same-sex attraction can be dispelled.  For a strong and persuasive advocate, see Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., What Is Reparative Therapy? Examining the Controversy (  Please be aware, however, that this form of therapy has been widely shown to be non-productive and even harmful to the degree that even the American Psychiatric Association warns against crediting its claims.  See “The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” (

[26] The text of the “morality clause” clearly focuses upon a list of sexually deviant behaviors: “public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or [publicly living a] homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination” (excerpt from Teacher’s Contract for 2014-2015).  One can see here that broad sweeping categories are named but not clearly defined.  Does a mother who attends the civil marriage ceremony of her son and his male lover fall under this rule that prohibits “public support”?  Does she fall under this rule by merely sending out invitations (even if she does not herself attend)?  Does the blog of Mike Moroski constitute “public support”?  Does the public reception of same-sex couples by Pope Francis constitute “public support”?  Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston says that the recent trend of firing gay and lesbian people from Catholic jobs because they are in legal same-gender marriages “needs to be rectified.”  Not all church jobs require church marriages, he added.  Does this constitute “public support”?

Notice what is absent from the Archbishop’s list of unacceptable conduct: “public support of or the use of hate speech against gays and lesbians, public support of the use of mob action to provoke acts of hatred directed toward gays or lesbians.”

Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap

Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap — Catholic Teaching on Sexuality Gone Beserk
Aaron Milavec

Two years ago I discovered Kevin Kukla’s claptrap on his website, At first, I was just annoyed. Then I realized that Kevin represented an educated, upwardly mobile Catholic Fundamentalist who is intent upon upholding and defending the entire Vatican ideology regarding the sexual issues of our day. Moreover, Kevin imagines himself to be a crusader bent upon bringing to young people the sure and unchanging truths of Catholic sexuality that even most priests are embarrassed to teach.

Kevin is not a lightweight. When I take issue with Kevin, I am taking issue with a Catholic who takes a secret delight in basking in the absolute certainty that is given to those who maintain an ideological conformity with the Vatican in all areas of sexual morality. In Kevin’s understanding, the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket, and only a slim minority of Catholic Fundamentalists like himself has a secure foundation in God’s truth.

Like Kevin Kula, I am a cradle-Catholic. I grew up in Euclid, Ohio, and my parents made certain that I attended a Catholic grade school and Catholic high school. Then I went on to attend a Catholic university and two Catholic graduate schools in theology. I was an altar server for fifty years and gained a robust gratitude for the power of Holy Orders and for the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I mastered Theistic theology and then went on to master the Neothomism and revisionist theologies that erupted following Vatican II. I trained future Catholic priests and lay ministers in three different seminaries for twenty-five years.

I know and I love the Church, warts and all. However, I also learned that our Holy Mother the Church can be calloused and mean-spirited when it came time to consider issues of sexual conduct. Contrary to the orientation of Kevin Kukla, I am persuaded that the Catholic hierarchy has “almost never gotten it right on issues of sexual ethics.” For me “to serve the Lord,” therefore, I need to expose and challenge Kevin’s historical ignorance, his defective biblical interpretations, and his philosophical errors.

Kevin Kukla is inclined to judge me to be a deviant Catholic. I ask too many embarrassing questions and point fearlessly to the harm that the official Catholic teaching on sexuality has inflicted upon me and my generation of Catholics. This is hard to swallow.

This book is not about an academic debate. Rather it represents the opportunity to listen to two committed Catholics passionate about clarifying and improving upon the sexual morality of our Church. More often than not, Kevin and I began by trying to show the weakness and folly in the other’s positions. Gradually, however, we eventually decided to leave aside rigid positions in order to explore together how we can best serve young Catholics looking for moral guidance and prophetic joy in the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we cannot speak intelligently and civilly to each other, our young people have much to lose and our Church will remain incapable of listening to and addressing their urgent concerns.


If you know anyone who would appreciate a book like this, please consider forwarding them a link to this page =, or, better yet, forwarding to them your review.

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Peace and joy in learning and in-depth understanding,

Aaron Milavec, BS physics, STB, ThD, theologian, poet, advocate, public speaker

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The shame of John Paul II: Pope Benedict allows cover-up in canonization

The Shame of John Paul II: How the Sex Abuse Scandal Stained His Papacy

The pope failed to take decisive action in response to clear evidence of a criminal underground in the priesthood.

The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute assisted in a section of this article, drawn from Jason Berry’s Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, to be published June 7 by Crown.

On May 1, Pope Benedict XVI will beatify his predecessor, John Paul II, at a huge ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Beatification, the final step before canonization, or sainthood, ennobles the deceased as “blessed,” or worthy of veneration. Authorities have prepared for a million visitors to the weekend events.

Most beatification cases are decided decades after the person dies—a sign of Vatican probity on whether a life achievement, nominated by religious colleagues, merits a path to sainthood. The timetable is at the pope’s discretion. In this case, Benedict’s decision to fast-track John Paul’s case has drawn a chorus of criticism from prominent Catholics and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.

Should a pope who turned his back on the worst crisis in modern Catholic history be exalted as a saint? Lawsuits by victims, numerous prosecutions and news coverage of bishops who enabled abuse are the shadow story of John Paul’s twenty-six-year pontificate, during which time he responded to continuing allegations of clergy abuse with denial and inertia. American dioceses and religious orders alone have spent nearly $2 billion on legal actions and treatment of sex offenders, an aching scandal at incalculable cost to the church’s stature.

John Paul II has been widely hailed as a commanding figure on the global stage, a catalyst in the fall of Soviet Communism and a champion of human rights. His stirring homilies on freedom in his first papal trip back to Poland in 1979 galvanized the Solidarity union movement. On his 1987 trip to Chile, during the Pinochet dictatorship, John Paul said Mass for a vast throng and “presented speaker after speaker who complained of censorship, torture, and political murder,” wrote Jonathan Kwitny in his 1997 biography Man of the Century. John Paul’s trip was a turning point in Chile’s transition to democracy. On the other hand, the pope looked askance at liberation theology, believing the Latin American grassroots movement to be an extension of the Marxism that had subjugated Poland. And he was conflicted on the role of progressive Latin American clergy who were allied with the poor and resisted persecution by death squads.

Moreover, on the greatest internal crisis facing the church, the pope failed, time and again, to take decisive action in response to clear evidence of a criminal underground in the priesthood, a subculture that sexually traumatized tens of thousands of youngsters. Despite a 1984 warning memo from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, then a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy in Washington, and a ninety-three-page report on the problem co-written by Doyle in 1985, which was sent to every American bishop, John Paul ordered no outreach to victims, no binding policy to rid the priesthood of deviants. In 1989 the US conference of bishops sent experts in canon law to Rome, seeking a streamlined process for defrocking child molesters rather than waiting for the byzantine Vatican bureaucracy and final word from the pope. John Paul refused. Litigation and prosecutions spread, but the pope remained passive.

As victim-survivors found their way to lawyers, a train of legal discovery in the United States, Ireland and other countries yielded documents linking complicit bishops, religious-order superiors and Vatican officials in the concealment of sex offenders. On April 21 in an important lawsuit against the Vatican by a man who was abused by a predator priest, a federal district court in Portland, Oregon, ordered church officials in Rome to turn over documents for discovery. District Judge Michael Mosman said, “Plaintiff has proffered evidence that tends to show the Holy See knew of [the priest’s] propensities and that in some cases, the Holy See exercised direct control over the conduct, placement, and removal of individual priests accused of similar sexual misconduct.” The US Supreme Court declined to hear the Holy See’s appeal for dismissal, which was based on a claim of sovereign immunity.

On John Paul’s role in the church’s long nightmare, the Rev. Richard McBrien, a distinguished University of Notre Dame theologian, wrote, “Indeed, he had a terrible record, full of denial and foot-dragging, on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century.”

John Paul’s beatification may give a media boost to the Vatican, but Pope Benedict’s negligence earlier in his career has also done severe damage to the papacy; media coverage last year spotlighted how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict was then known, failed to dismiss several known abusers. How can any pope be a voice for peace, proclaim the sanctity of life and speak for human rights while giving de facto Vatican immunity to bishops and cardinals who concealed child molesters? John Paul bequeathed a quagmire to Benedict: an archaic tradition of Vatican tribunals subservient to bishops and high church officials.

* * *

Indeed, the Vatican has a dysfunctional justice system. Consider the case of Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as Boston archbishop in 2002 amid a Boston Globe investigation reporting allegations of more than ninety clergy perpetrators under his authority. That number has grown to 204, according to, an online archive on the church crisis. In May 2004 the archdiocese, facing a $4 million deficit and a $37 million loan to repay, announced a wave of parish closings to make up the shortfall. The next day came news that Law was bound for Rome to become pastor of the historic basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with an estimated $12,000 monthly salary, according to the New York Times. He now sits on the Vatican’s board of the Congregation for Bishops, which chooses new bishops.

In a subtle, indirect way, the Vatican signaled its realization that the abuse crisis would have posed serious problems for John Paul’s beatification if his overall record had been considered. On April 1 the Catholic News Service reported from Rome, “Pope John Paul II is being beatified not because of his impact on history or on the Catholic Church, but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

What thick irony. Clearly, John Paul was one of history’s great popes. As an evangelist he visited 129 countries, more than all previous popes combined. He canonized more saints than all of his predecessors. A staunch traditionalist on sexual issues and theology, he nevertheless emphasized human rights as a political value. In making personal piety a standard for sainthood, the Vatican is restricting scrutiny of John Paul’s record in order to whitewash embarrassing information about his greatest failure.

John Paul is not the only former pope about whom this is a burning issue. Many Jewish leaders as well as Catholics oppose a Vatican move to canonize Pius XII, citing his wartime reticence on Nazi atrocities. Although recent scholarship has found that Pius took some initiatives to help Jews avoid death camps, his silence in the face of Hitler’s crimes is a human rights issue. Moral justice is a force in historical memory; we cannot change the past, but we must account for those who had power yet failed to forcefully resist great evil.

In the 1990s John Paul began to make a famous series of apologies for past church sins, particularly anti-Semitism, calling for “purification of the historical memory.” He apologized for church racism, the Inquisition, the Crusades, to Galileo, and to Indians—a stirring line of atonement. But he did not include children abused by priests. Finally, after extensive media coverage in the United States, Canada, Australia and Ireland, he did voice concern for victims—but he also scolded the media, accusing them of sensationalism. John Paul’s myopia stemmed from a chivalrous idea of religious life, born of his years as the leader of a Polish church that functioned in opposition to the Communist regime. Under such harsh conditions, he considered church unity paramount, and he saw that unity vindicated when the Iron Curtain fell.

In April 2002, as coverage of the scandals hit critical mass, an ailing John Paul, bloated from treatment for Parkinson’s disease, summoned the American cardinals to Rome. Reading a statement for cameras, the pope called clergy abuse “an appalling sin” and said the priesthood had no room for such men; he also called on “the power of Christian conversion,” implying redemption for sex offenders. Instead of promulgating a clear policy on defrocking abusers, he absolved the bishops of their “generalized lack of knowledge,” faulting “the advice of clinical experts.” He thus put the blame on therapists rather than on the bishops who recycled child molesters.

In June 2002 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a youth protection charter, declaring “zero tolerance” for any cleric who abuses a child. The charter sparked important preventive training in Catholic schools; bishops removed hundreds of predators who had evaded prosecution. But the charter lacks enforcement teeth, as revealed by recent news from Philadelphia, where twenty-one priests were removed and four others indicted only after a stinging grand jury report. And the charter has no oversight of bishops or cardinals. Despite its flaws the charter does represent progress, and yet the Vatican itself still has nothing comparable to it.

Bishops look to the pope for leadership. But in the worst scandal of his papacy, John Paul ignored serious allegations of abuse against Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the archconservative religious order known as the Legion of Christ. In fact, the pope defiantly praised the long-accused pedophile for six years after a group of Maciel’s victims filed a canon law case in 1998. The group sought his excommunication before Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was gradually assuming control over such proceedings.

Born in Mexico in 1920, Maciel founded the order in 1941. The Legion was based on papal loyalty, and John Paul returned the favor by giving it strong support during his papacy—a natural alliance, given that he shared the order’s militant anticommunism and its struggle to save the church from liberal drift, particularly liberation theology. John Paul saw young Legionaries, marching in pairs with short haircuts and double-breasted coats, as a sign of resurgent orthodoxy, of a church triumphant after the 1930s anticlerical violence in Mexico and postwar Communist persecution of the Polish church.

Maciel did advance work on John Paul’s 1979 trip to Mexico, a year after Juan Vaca, a former Legion priest, sent the Vatican a list of twenty of Maciel’s victims, including himself. Nothing happened. Vaca wrote again in 1989, including a long personal letter to the pope, again to no avail.

The greatest fundraiser of the modern church, Maciel targeted wealthy conservatives, singling out widows and wives of powerful men. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim was a Legion benefactor, as was William Casey, CIA director under Ronald Reagan. Casey and his wife funded a building on the Legion campus in Cheshire, Connecticut. Footage of Maciel and John Paul was pivotal to Legion fundraising, with the Legion sending VHS cassettes to targeted donors. One shows John Paul in 1993 at the balcony above St. Peter’s Square, telling crowds, “You are all sons and daughters of Father Maciel!” A 1994 papal letter the Legion placed in Mexican daily papers called Maciel “an efficacious guide to youth.” Maciel worked his donor base with constant travel. By 2006, with only 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians (the Jesuits had 16,000), the Legion had a $650 million budget, according to the Wall Street Journal, and a network of schools and colleges in Europe, Latin America and the United States—twenty-four elite prep schools in America alone.

* * *

On February 23, 1997, Gerald Renner and I published an investigation in the Hartford Courant of Maciel with on-the-record accounts by two Spaniards and seven Mexicans who accused him of abusing them when they were seminarians in Spain and Rome in the 1950s and ’60s. Boys cut off from family, awed by the charismatic leader called Nuestro Padre, they were stunned by his morphine addiction, bewildered as he whispered claims of his permission from Pius XII for sexual activity because of chronic pain. Maciel refused to be interviewed, but claimed innocence in a statement. The Vatican refused to make any comment.

William Donohue of the Catholic League responded immediately with a letter to the Courant, scoffing at the allegations. The order set up a website, LegionaryFacts, which charged the accusers—and us—with fomenting a conspiracy against Maciel. Father Richard John Neuhaus, an influential Catholic conservative and editor of the journal First Things, called the accusations “scurrilous” and proclaimed Maciel’s innocence “a moral certainty.” William Bennett, a national lecturer on ethics who later became a CNN analyst, also voiced support for the Legion. Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who lectured at the Legion university in Rome, derided the accusations and praised Maciel’s “radiant holiness.” George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul, weighed in for the Legion, too. These conservatives were in the pope’s corner: in the fall of 1997 John Paul had appointed Maciel to an important religious conference in Rome.

In October 1998 José Barba and another ex-Legionary who had been abused by Maciel flew to Rome. After leaving the Legion as a young man in 1962, Barba earned a doctorate from Harvard in Latin American studies and is now a professor at ITAM, a major university in Mexico City. On behalf of the nine men who had gone public in the Courant about Maciel’s abuse of them, Barba hired Martha Wegan, an Austrian canon lawyer in Rome who practiced in Vatican tribunals. Wegan filed a canonical grievance in 1998 seeking Maciel’s excommunication by Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Under the church’s monarchical system, the pope is the supreme arbiter of canon law. He can halt, reverse or remove any proceeding. Maciel had a powerful Vatican ally in Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the secretary of state, an office analogous to prime minister. In a 1999 letter to her clients, Wegan reported that the case had been tabled “for the time being…. In such a delicate situation, time must be allowed to play its role.” Barba explains, “Wegan told me for the first time—and to my enormous surprise—that Cardinal Angelo Sodano had pressed so that Cardinal Ratzinger wouldn’t proceed ahead with our case.”

Ratzinger, a moral absolutist who had persecuted liberal theologians, realized that the absence of a central system to defrock abusers was hurting the church. So in 2001 he persuaded John Paul to consolidate that authority in Ratzinger’s office—a move for which no one in the Roman Curia envied him. But by then, Maciel had spent heavily on favors to Vatican officials to insulate himself from punishment.

Sodano’s nephew, Andrea, worked on construction of a Legion university in Rome. “Cardinal Sodano helped change the zoning requirements to build the university,” says Glenn Favreau, a former seminarian who worked under Maciel before leaving the order in 1997. As I reported in the National Catholic Reporter last year, two priests on the project told Maciel that Andrea’s work was inadequate. “Pay him! You pay him!” Maciel is said to have yelled. Indeed they did.

Maciel approved cash gifts of $5,000 and $10,000 to Cardinal Sodano, according to these priests, former Legionaries who spoke on background for my article. They say Maciel ordered cash envelopes of $2,500 to $5,000 to cardinals who said Mass at Legion events. And they say he offered a Mercedes to the late Cardinal Pio Laghi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, seeking the highest Vatican rank for the new university. Laghi spurned the offer. There has been no rebuttal to these allegations, and neither the Legion nor the Vatican has responded directly to the charges.

Maciel spared no expense in hosting events for church officials at the Legion center. “Sodano came over with his entire family, 200 of them, for a big meal when he was named a cardinal. And we fed them all,” recalls ex-seminarian Favreau, now an attorney in Washington, DC. “When Sodano became secretary of state, there was another celebration.” Sodano declined my interview requests.

The man closest to John Paul was his Polish-born secretary, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz. Dziwisz oversaw the guest list of those given the rare privilege of attending the pope’s early Mass—British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family, for example. Two priests who left the Legion and who requested anonymity for fear of repercussions from the Vatican told me in detailed interviews how Maciel supporters paid Dziwisz for the privilege. “A wealthy family from Mexico,” recounted one priest, “gave Dziwisz $50,000.” This was in 1997, after Maciel was accused by Barba and the other men in the Hartford Courant article. The priest spoke of many such transactions with Dziwisz. “It was always cash. And in dollars,” he said. Maciel pulled out the stops for a grand reception honoring Dziwisz when he became a bishop.

* * *

A second priest who steered Legion patrons’ money to Dziwisz said, “The expression [in Rome] is opere de carità: ‘We’re making an offering for your works of charity.’ In fact, you don’t know where the money is going. It’s an elegant way of giving a bribe.” As the abuse accusations against Maciel became known, the priest told me he “woke up and asked: Am I giving my life to serve God, or one man who had his problems? It was not worth consecrating myself to Maciel.” Both men left the Legion in disgust, though both remained priests. “Maciel wanted to buy power,” said the first cleric. “[Legion] superiors lie about money—where it comes from, where it goes, how it’s given.” Dziwisz, now a cardinal in Krakow, refused to be interviewed.

According to the first priest, Ratzinger gave a theology lecture at the Legion complex but refused an envelope with money.

In 2002 ABC reporter Brian Ross approached Ratzinger in front of his waiting limousine and asked about Maciel. A flustered Ratzinger slapped Ross’s hand and said, “Come to me when the moment is given—not yet.”

In late November 2004, with a beaming Sodano onstage, Maciel won praise yet again from John Paul, who had six months to live. By then Ratzinger realized that the next pope, whoever he might be, would be yoked to a scandal if the case languished; he ordered a canon lawyer on his staff, Charles Scicluna, to investigate. Among the many people who gave testimony to Scicluna in Rome, New York and Mexico City, thirty aging men told him about how Maciel abused them in seminary and about his morphine addiction. In 2006, the year after Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, the Vatican ordered Maciel out of active ministry for “a life of prayer and penance.” Maciel went to his birthplace in southwest Mexico—and a reunion with his daughter and her mother, a paramour from Acapulco. Photographs of them surfaced last year in a Mexican gossip magazine, two years after Maciel’s death.

In 2008 upon Maciel’s burial in Mexico—far from the grand tomb he’d built for himself in a basilica he had erected in Rome, anticipating his own canonization—the Legion website announced that the founder had gone to heaven. In 2010, after news of the daughter broke, the Legion apologized to its followers and, finally, to Maciel’s victims. Two grown sons of Maciel also came forward, alleging incest. In a move without precedent in modern church history, Benedict ordered an investigation of the entire religious order. The Vatican has since taken over the Legion in a kind of receivership.

The LegionaryFacts website disappeared after Maciel’s 2006 punishment; none of the conservative ideologues who had so staunchly defended him apologized to the victims, though George Weigel, who has a research chair at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, called for a Vatican investigation of the Legion in 2009.

Weigel got ten interviews with John Paul for his 992-page biography Witness to Hope (1999), which all but ignores the abuse crisis. Kwitny’s 1997 biography faults John Paul on that front, in an otherwise favorable portrait. Weigel’s 2010 sequel, The End of the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—the Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, suggests that the pope had “inadequate” information. John Paul, he intones, was “ill served by associates and subordinates who ought to have been more alert to the implications of [Maciel’s] cult of personality…. Despite the negative implications of John Paul’s reputation that some of [his] critics quickly drew, what was at work in this scandalous affair was deception in the service of the mysterium iniquitatis”—the mystery of evil. That’s it, folks. The pope who took on the Soviet empire was duped by the “mystery of evil.” Nothing about Sodano pressuring Ratzinger. Dziwisz, Weigel concludes, “was “susceptible to misreading personalities.”

“Beatification is a bitter pill for clergy victims because of John Paul II’s record of protecting abusers and neglecting victims,” states Terence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability
.org. “John Paul received many letters from sexual victims which he simply ignored.” But apparently bad times must be forgotten now, as the media machinery focuses on the beatification. Since the 1990s, at least sixteen bishops and one cardinal (the late Hans Hermann Groer of Austria) abused children, “stepped down” and yet remained bishops in title. As Weigel now sings history for NBC, ceremonies will include Cardinal Dziwisz, Angelo Sodano (now dean of the College of Cardinals) and his successor as secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Bertone, while archbishop of Genoa in 2003, wrote a glowing introduction to Maciel’s as-told-to memoir Christ Is My Life. If Bertone wasn’t paid he should have been, since he served as a canon lawyer for Ratzinger in the years when the Maciel case sat stale.

The beatification will include a French nun whose neurological illness was reportedly cured by a miraculous intervention after prayers to John Paul. This is sure to draw derision in some corners, but miracles are embedded in church history, and if the spirit of John Paul has healing power, we are a better world for it. The agony of Catholicism, however, calls for another healing—that of truth brought to bear on ecclesial powers, robed in shame, dripping with hypocrisy.

Saint Augustine put it well in City of God: “Justice is that virtue which gives everyone his due.”  (source)


00Tuesday, January 18, 2011 7:14 PM

The extraordinary and enduring friendship between John Paul II and Benedict XVI provides the already rich drama of the late Pope’s cause for canonization with a unique dimension unheard of in centuries [if ever, since no enterprising journalist or historian has yet cited a precedent], in the history of the Church’s formal recognition of persons who lived in closest imitation of Christ. With his usual insight, Jose Luis Restan sees that…

A friendship beyond flesh and blood
Translated from

January 17, 2011

“You do not have to write the letter at all, for I want to have you to the end”, John Paul II told Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the latter approached his 75th birthday and would therefore have to present a mandatory letter of resignation from active service upon reaching canonical retirement age.

“That was the great and undeserved benevolence he showed me from the very beginning… He had placed a great, very cordial, and profound trust in me. As the guarantee, so to speak, that we would travel the right course in the faith”, Benedict XVI recalls in the recent interview book Light of the World.

And so it was until their final handclasp when Papa Wojtyla could no longer speak [on the eve of his death]. This was a friendship for the history books that deserves to be recalled now that we know that John Paul I will be proclaimed Blessed on May 1.

It was a unity, as the Apostle Paul said, that was not born of flesh and blood, but from their mutual faith. There were so many historical and personal differences that could have divided them.

One was Polish, a man of action, the other German, a methodical intellectual. The first was an extrovert and gifted with a sense of theater for grand gestures, the other reserved and mild-mannered.

But Wojtyla sought to have Ratzinger with him almost from the start of his Pontificate. They knew about each other from Vatican II [though they did not meet at the time] but they got to know each other in Munich during the talks (not always easy) between the German and Polish bishops to seal a historic reconciliation. And when the German cardinal finally agreed to come to Rome in 1982, the Polish Pope made it clear he wanted him nearby to the end.

Personal confidences by Popes are rare [at least until Light of the World!] but John Paul II wrote that Cardinal Ratzinger was more than just a close collaborator but a trusted friend.

Something united them that went beyond any differences: they were both anchored doubly in the Tradition of the Church and in the world they lived in, a world full of tensions in which wide margins of Christianity on both the right and the left were retreating visibly from the great patrimony of the faith.

But neither one stepped back nor were daunted by the harshness of the times, nor did they resign themselves to facile lamentation of the evils of the time and the torments of a Church still seeking to digest the contents of Vatican II.

Both were men acting freely who had forged their intelligence and the courage of their faith in defying the totalitarian monsters of Nazism and Communism. Both loved beauty as an expression of God’s truth and his tender love for man – Wojtyla through the heater and poetry, Ratzinger through music.

Finally, the two shared the mission of revitalizing the tired body of the Church and to bring it into true missionary dialog with the modern world – because that was the great cause of Vatican II, and for their interpretation of it in continuity with Tradition, they both suffered incomprehensions and equivocations from all sides.

This does not mean they agreed about everything, and each knew his place. John Paul II’s overwhelming personality and charisma were unique, and on more than one occasion, Ratzinger expressed admiration for that impulsion, as well as for the simple and direct way in which Papa Wojtyla addressed the thorniest issues.

But he has also described the great patience of the Polish Pope, his willingness to listen, and his humility about accepting contrary opinion. One can imagine their conversations over almost a quarter-century [when they met twice a week, conversing in German], surveying the broad horizons and weighty problems of teh Church!

“Sometimes, we disagreed, but I never disobeyed him”, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says in the interview book Salt of the earth.

This beautiful friendship needs to be put forward because there have been recent efforts that are stupid but poisonous claiming a rupture between their Pontificates.

It is true that Benedict XVI has had to take care of questions left pending, as no doubt the next Pope will when his time comes. A Pontificate is never a finished work, but only one stage in the Church’s pilgrimage through time. And this is an essential claim of modesty that Papa Ratzinger does not fail to mention.

It is also true that circumstances change with growing speed. The Berlin Wall is no longer there, but nihilism has grown in Europe. Liberation theology is no longer a force anywhere, but the global crisis has generated new anthropological challenges. And the fury of Islamist extremist terrorism has erupted in all its violent crudity, along with the rise of anti-Christian persecution in places like India, Pakistan, China and Africa.

The tremendous shake-up that the first part of John Paul II’s Pontificate represented was not always translated into constructive channels nor lasting instruction. These are things that only the perspective of time and that the wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit will allow us to discern.

For instance, the distinct way in which Benedict XVI has addressed the tragedy caused by priestly offenses against minors has much to do with this experience at the CDF, where he had to deal with the bitter consequences of ill-advised decisions made by some bishops about these offenses and the offenders, but also with what modern psychology has to say about the pathology of pedophilia. And, of course, by his own particular intelligence. All this produced a sorrowful maturation in him.

But this does not mean that John Paul II was negligently complacent in this regard. He faced the issue squarely when the scandal erupted in the United States [by assigning the primary responsibility for dealing with them to Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF}, starting a process that his successor has been able to pursue in depth.

Some had thought that Benedict XVI would play politics and deliberately slow down the process of beatification for John Paul II if only to avoid inevitable accusations on the past of the media, or even as a way to personally distance himself, as it were, in view of doubts that have been expressed about some of Karol Wojtyla’s personal traits [specifically, the argument that his ‘indifferencee’ to the sex abuse scandal and his friendship with Fr. Maciel cast doubt on his personal holiness].

One has to be blind to think that Benedict XVI would allow himself to be intimidated or influenced by such considerations and the malevolence of some who now praise him after having maligned him in the past and who could just as easily switch again. [For instance, the vitriol from some writers one had previously thought to be diehard ‘Ratzingerians’ over the next Assisi meeting is simply astounding and incomprehensible for anyone who claims to know and admire the Holy Father!]

The cries of ‘Santo subito’ have now been partially fulfilled six years later – enough time for the Church to minutely scrutinize every turn in the life of Karol Wojtyla (including, for instance, the letters he exchanged with his old friend Wanda) and to verify the various wonders that the Lord worked in the world through his life.

It was right to proceed so scrupulously so that the verdict of the Church about his personal holiness does not just arise from the passionate belief of the faithful but from the Church’s own exigencies for certainty.

“Let us be happy”, Benedict XVI said when he added his own personal announcement of the beatification after the Sunday Angelus. One would have to be sick not to rejoice.



Vatican rejects accusations against Pope John Paul II ahead of canonization

Less than a week before former Pope John Paul II is to be declared a saint, critics want answers about an abuse scandal involving an order of priests he had championed for years. The Vatican has refuted the claims.

The Vatican dismissed critics’ concerns over Pope John Paul’s legacy on Tuesday, just days ahead of a highly-anticipated ceremony that will see the beloved pontiff declared saint. The case in question surrounds Legion of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, who was found to have sexually abused both seminarians and children. The order had received strong support from the late pope and his closest advisors, which prompted critics to question whether John Paul II had covered up the scandal during his time at the head of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005.

“There is no personal implication of the Holy Father (John Paul II) in this affair,” Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi told reporters, citing evidence collected while John Paul was being considered for sainthood.

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish priest who has spearheaded John Paul II’s fast-track to sainthood, also rejected the accusations.

“There is no sign of personal involvement of the Holy Father in this case,” Oder said on Tuesday.  (source)


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Vatican Credibility Takes Another Hit

Vatican Credibility Takes Another Hit: Photo of Benedict Letter Intentionally Altered

The Vatican published parts of a letter from Pope Benedict this week, and the Catholic world suddenly lost its mind.

The reason? Because the letter said that “Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation” and that the 11-volume theological work on the theology of the pope “help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates” of Francis and Benedict.

Almost immediately, people concerned by the disaster of the present pontificate began calling the letter a fake.

“Thirty five years,” wrote one breathless Catholic on Twitter, “of reading, analysing and writing about the works of Joseph Ratzinger provides more than enough experience to know he would never resort to such trite inchoate Bergoglian banalities inherent in that letter”. It was a sentiment echoed across social media.

Others speculated about Benedict being a “prisoner” of the Vatican, of the “evil underground of…inernationalists with money and power” responsible for a coup that brought Benedict out of power, and so on. The name of George Soros appeared at least once in my feeds in connection with the latest developments.

Essentially, every unproven theory people have had about why Benedict abdicated, who was behind it, and what he’s now being forced to do has come back to the surface with a vengeance — all in the wake of a simple, brief letter about some books that, as it turns out, the former pope doesn’t even have the time to read.

And that last part is where the story gets interesting. At first, the letter was simply read at the presentation of the books on the theology of Pope Francis by Msgr. Viganò of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, and excerpts were shared without the full text. Some reports say only parts of the letter were read at the presentation, others that it was read it in its entirety. The letter from Benedict, along with the books, appeared in a promotional photo sent to the media on Monday, March 12. Take a look and see if you see anything odd:

The first thing you’ll notice is that the stack of books, on the right, are covering all but the signature of the former pope. There is clearly some text there – we can see the words “la saluto” above the signature line, but that’s all.

But what people did not immediately notice — largely because soft focus around the edges of a photo is a common stylistic technique — is that the two bottom lines of the first page of the letter are blurred to the point that they are not readable.

When Sandro Magister released the full text of the letter, we were given to understand what is being hidden by clever staging and the application of some Photoshop filters. With the real text beside the image, one can make out the shape of the words, “Tuttavia non mi sento di scrivere su di essi una breve e densa pagina teologica perché in tutta la mia vita è sempre stato chiaro che…”

It is the opening line of a paragraph which reads, in English:

Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed.

Despite what nevertheless amounts to fairly hearty endorsement of Francis, the former pope was evidently demurring on a request made that he write something of more significance about the new set of theological texts, saying that he hasn’t had time to thoroughly read the books he’s being asked to help promote, and due to limitations of health and time, doesn’t plan to.

This is hardly a devastating letdown for Vatican PR. The two preceding paragraphs should have sufficed. Nevertheless, someone in the Vatican Secretariat for Communications apparently thought that Benedict’s strongly positive words about his successor weren’t unequivocal enough, and so the photo was doctored, and the less-than-emphatic section physically covered up.

The even more surprising thing is that the Vatican has admitted it. They have conceded that they violated what the Associated Press called, in a report on this story published today, “strict standards that forbid digital manipulation of photos” — standards followed by “most independent news media” .

The Vatican admitted Thursday that it blurred the two final lines of the first page where Benedict begins to explain that he didn’t actually read the books in question. He wrote that he cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis as requested by Vigano because he has other projects to do.

The Vatican didn’t explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released.

Not long ago, my home was broken into by someone known to our family while we were out of town. We had an immediate suspicion, and an arrest was made, which resulted in confession. When asked why he did it, the young man apparently tried to explain, among other poorly-thought-out reasons, that he “didn’t think he would be caught” — as though this somehow mitigated the stupidity of what he did. (You will be unsurprised to learn that this reasoning did not keep him from being convicted and serving time for his actions.)

Essentially, that’s what the Vatican is saying here: “We didn’t plan to release the entire letter, so we didn’t think we’d get caught attempting to mislead the public.” But they were caught, and they’ve damaged their credibility yet again with a once-friendly secular media:

The missing content significantly altered the meaning of the quotes the Vatican chose to highlight, which were widely picked up by the media. Those quotes suggested that Benedict had read the volume, agreed with it and given it his full endorsement and assessment. The doctoring of the photo is significant because news media rely on Vatican photographers for images of the pope at events that are closed to independent media.

There is nothing new in a story about the Vatican lying to the public. We’ve written about this before, here and here and probably other places besides. It is a tragically common theme, and one that has quite serious implications for the Holy See. If they can’t be trusted to tell us the truth about something so small, what about more important things? Why should we accept anything they say — assertion or denial — as anything but another convenient falsehood to help advance whatever narrative they’re trying to promote?

Perhaps more disturbing is the effect all this dishonesty on the faithful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Catholics reach the instantaneous conclusion that something coming out in the name of a pope was a phony — and it’s hard to blame them. It was the reaction I had when Pope Benedict allegedly issued a denial in response to our story about the Third Secret and Fr. Dollinger. (I’ve since come to believe that the denial may, in fact, have been real, but that’s another story.)

In this case, I’ve suspected all along that this letter’s expression of solidarity between the two popes was authentic — read this excellent article by Hilary White at The Remnant if you would like to understand why — but the admission of guilt on the part of the Vatican now removes most of my remaining doubt. Why would they go to the trouble to write a fake letter — and then doctor a photo of it — that doesn’t endorse the thing they were using it to promote?

What isn’t fake is the anger and betrayal many Catholics feel — anger and betrayal that will only deepen because of the events of this week.  (source)

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Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below.  A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.”  To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you.  Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below.  If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines.  The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise.   No need to further explain yourself.  It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes.  All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.

I and others will “thank you” for your contribution.  If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back.  Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning.  This will come after a few days or weeks.

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