FrancisChurch Strains at the Gnat and Swallows the Camel
George Neumayr
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Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1992 (YouTube screenshot)

Earlier this year, James Grein, the primary victim of Theodore McCarrick, reported that he had also been abused by Joseph Bernardin, the late cardinal of Chicago. Grein said the abuse took place in Wisconsin at Lake Geneva. As Grein was swimming, McCarrick pulled down his swimsuit and Bernardin groped him. The accusation received zero coverage in the mainstream media, which continues to treat the politically liberal Bernardin as a canonized figure. But officials at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are familiar with the charge, and they can’t dismiss Grein as a crackpot (after all, it was Grein’s testimony against McCarrick that the Vatican used to laicize him).

In light of all of this, one might have thought that the USCCB would rename its “Cardinal Bernardin Leadership Award,” which honors outstanding youth. But it didn’t. It gave the award out again this year — to a young “immigrant mother” who advocates for amnesty.

As the USCCB was giving out an award named after a credibly accused molester, it received the news that one of its members, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, has been accused of abusing an altar boy in the 1970s while DiMarzio served as a priest in New Jersey. On December 1, New Jersey will give victims of abuse two years to file lawsuits without regard to the statute of limitations. DiMarzio is one of Uncle Ted’s nephews. He served under Theodore McCarrick as an auxiliary bishop in Newark from 1993–99, and was co-consecrated by McCarrick and McCarrick’s corrupt pal, John Mortimer Smith, the late bishop of Trenton.

Even setting aside the recent accusation against him, DiMarzio, given his compromising associations, had no business serving as an investigator of sex abuse claims in Buffalo, an assignment to which he had recently been dispatched by Pope Francis. The tone-deafness of both the USCCB and the Vatican is astounding. To put it in the words of Jesus Christ, they strain at the gnat and swallow the camel. As Uncle Ted’s nephews remain in power — Cardinal Kevin Farrell, his corrupt former roommate, will preside over the next conclave as camerlengo — the Pope and the USCBB rail against “ecological sins,” call for “virtual zero access to guns,” and urge pastors to deliver more “homilies on racism.”

The pope threatened this week to add “ecological sins” to the catechism. “We have to introduce, we are thinking about, in the catechism of the Catholic Church, the sin against ecology, the sin against our common home,” he said.

In his encyclical Laudato Si, he listed as offenses against ecology the West’s reliance on air conditioning and fossil fuels. The pope would like to see you use the bus more, bring home your groceries in cloth bags, and sweat it out during the summer. In 2016, he proposed that green activism be added to the corporal works of mercy. He advised Catholics to confess their sins against “our common home,” if they, for example, don’t separate “refuse,” cook “only what can be reasonably consumed,” and turn off “unnecessary lights.”

The “pope of the poor” somehow hasn’t recognized that the poor are living longer and healthier lives precisely because of these “ecological sins.” Throwing out bad food and keeping air conditioning on helps keep the poor alive.

What doesn’t keep people alive is abortion — a topic Francis’s lobby within the USCCB worked hard to try and deemphasize in Baltimore. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, whom Francis is likely to promote, argued that abortion is not the “preeminent” issue facing the world.

The ghost of Cardinal Bernardin — who was the first to push the idea that abortion is “just one of many” life issues — haunted the conference in more ways than one. His so-called “seamless garment” still hides the heresies of many bishops. Almost a third of the bishops supported the seamless garment-style motion that McElroy represented. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who is retiring and may see his seat filled by McElroy (he is on the short list for Philadelphia), took issue with McElroy’s comment, for which he received applause. Had Pope Francis been in the room, he wouldn’t have applauded. He clearly agrees with McElroy; recall his complaint about a Church “preoccupied” with hot-button moral issues and his emphasis on issues “equally sacred” to abortion.

This is a pontificate that obsesses over trivialities while ignoring the worst catechetical and abuse crises in the history of the Church — an era of payouts to victims and awards named after the perpetrators.

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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