Faith

Thousands Protest American Bishops Conference in Maryland Over Sex Abuse Scandal

A woman prays the rosary at a rally organized by a coalition of conservative Catholic groups near the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A large crowd of Catholics met in Baltimore, Md., on Tuesday outside the hotel where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was meeting to discuss the sex abuse crisis in the Church. At the last minute, orders from Rome forbade the bishops from voting on their planned changes to protocol in dealing with predatory bishops. Some, like modernist Cardinal Blase Cupich, claim this shows the pope’s dedication to the cause, while others, more orthodox, see it as more foot-dragging and time-wasting from the Holy See.

Thousands of Catholics rallied under the #SilentNoMore banner to hear speakers ranging from victims to theologians discussing the sex scandal in the church. James Grein came out, for the first time using his whole name, as a victim of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal of the Church.

As the crowd listened to speakers such as Alan Keyes and Elizabeth Yore, they could be heard chanting, “SILENT NO MORE.” Speakers referenced “Drain the Swamp” and “Resist,” perhaps signaling that the division that has hit the Church is as deep as the political divide in the nation. Popular columnist and faithful Catholic Matt Walsh gave one of the most memorable speeches at the event. He had promised earlier in the week that he would be “taking off the gloves” and he didn’t disappoint. Walsh came out swinging at the current leadership in the Church and landed every punch.

“Our Lord himself selected twelve apostles,” he said. “One betrayed him and eleven abandoned him at the cross. Even our Lord’s batting average wasn’t so great when it came to the first apostles,” Walsh quipped. “So if cowardice or treachery could delegitimize the church then it was never legitimate in that case because there has been cowardice and treachery all along.” Walsh continued, “We know it takes angels to make demons. It takes a bishop to make a McCarrick.” Theodore McCarrick allegedly abused minors and seminarians over his entire career and still managed to be promoted to the highest office in the Church, save one.

“If you weren’t already a Catholic, would you become one today? Ask yourself that question,” asked Walsh. “It devastates me to answer, I don’t know. If I had no sense of history, if I was not raised to love the church, and if I was looking at the church as most people look at it today in the West as it currently runs, as it currently functions, as it is currently led, would I see something sacred, holy, and timeless? Or would I see a merely human institution run by pencil pushers and PR managers which seems to exist purely to provide career opportunities to vaguely religious bureaucrats?”

At least one bishop was seen speaking to protesters at the event.

Walsh’s comments were met with thunderous applause at many moments. He continued, “Aside from the great trauma inflicted on the victims of horrific sex crimes, even more widespread is the alienation of those outside the church, those who have now been given a reason not to listen to the church, not to take it seriously, not to believe what it says.”

Walsh’s comments reflect so many of the feelings of laity across this nation who look on in helpless disgust at what their bishops have been up to as evidenced by the Pennsylvania grand jury report that released the names of hundreds more abusers and outed complicit bishops, including now disgraced Cardinal Wuerl. The Pennsylvania report spurred several other states to open their own investigations into the Catholic Church in America.

“This is a crisis,” pleaded Walsh. “This is an emergency situation, so we ask the bishops and we ask the pope, where is the urgency? Think about how many millions of people will never become Catholic now because you, the bishops, have given them a reason not to be!”

Reports of dwindling mass attendance throughout the country can be laid directly at the faithless bishops’ doors. Priests on Facebook in private groups of concerned Catholics beg for the faithful not to withhold their funds. Those pleas are now falling on deaf ears.

“What about those who remain in the church loyal and faithful in spite of it all? What are they supposed to do with all of this?” asked Walsh. “How are they supposed to feel? It’s hard enough to be a Christian in this culture. It’s hard enough to strive for holiness. It’s hard enough to live by the edicts and commands that God has laid down for us. How much harder it becomes, how much more hopeless the pursuit of holiness feels for  Catholic laypeople when many of their priests and bishops, to include the bishop of Rome, seem to be against them, seem to mock them, seem to be embarrassed by them?”

Pope Francis has been particularly cagey since this latest round of scandals broke, including seeming to call the faithful who want answers agents of Satan.

“Pope Francis has scarcely been able to contain his contempt, his scorn for orthodox Catholics,” continued Walsh. “And he would dare to say that young people like myself, who love the tradition of the Church, he would dare to call us ‘rigid’ and ‘insecure.’ He gives us mockery and contempt and confusion. And when we ask for clarity, when we ask for direction, when we ask for answers, when we plead for leadership, what do we get then? Silence. And that silence is cowardly and indefensible.”

When Archbishop Vigano’s claims that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick for many years were made public, the pope made headlines by saying that he would “not say a single word,” choosing instead to allow the press to do their own digging. Over fifty thousand lay Catholic women and close to the same number of lay Catholic men sent separate letters begging the pope to break his silence. He refused.

Walsh added, “And as you’ve heard, to this day, of course, Pope Francis has not responded to the claims by Archbishop Vigano that he, Francis, was personally involved in ignoring and covering up the predations of Cardinal McCarrick. Instead, he has essentially said that those asking for an explanation are in league with the devil.” Walsh continued, visibly indignant, “Well, it is the lay faithful asking for an explanation. We are not devils, Holy Father, we are Catholics and we deserve answers!” At this point, the crowd burst into cheers. “And it is your obligation to answer and if you will not fulfill that obligation, shame on you,” chastised Walsh.

Walsh had a great response to those trying to silence the laity by pointing to their shortcomings, a popular tactic by apologists for the bishops. “To any who would claim… that we as lay people commit sin by publicly criticizing the pope, and that is what defenders of the pope have said, let me respond,” continued Walsh, “that we have a moral right and a moral obligation to call out corruption and lies and wickedness wherever we see it. We commit no sin by doing so. Those who remain silent, they are the ones who will answer to God, they are the traitors.”

In perhaps the best moment of his speech, Walsh reminded the bishops what remedy Jesus prescribed for those who harm children. “It was for wicked spiritual leaders that Jesus reserved his most startling warning,” said Walsh. “That it would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the depths of the sea. I say this to any bishops who are here in the city who will not defend the innocents: there’s the sea, right there,” said Walsh, pointing to the bay behind the protest. “I’ll leave it up to you to find the millstone. You could check Home Depot, they may have them.”

Walsh explained that Catholics understand the Church is filled with human people who all sin. “We expect weakness, we expect sin, and boy do we get it!” he said. “But we can and must still expect moral leadership from our church. We can and we must expect fortitude and clarity and purity and prudence. Our fallen nature as human beings is an explanation, it is not an excuse.” Walsh insisted that “the church must elevate us above our fallen nature not fall down to its level. She has to light the way towards holiness, and the laity must expect and demand this.”

Walsh ended his speech with the clarity of the faith not often heard or understood by non-Catholics who believe that we worship the pope. “We are called to be obedient and loyal to the one true God. Our allegiance is to Him and to the Church He established,” said Walsh. “Our allegiance is not to the whims of corrupt and self-interested men. We respect the offices that the bishops hold, but we tolerate evil and scandal from no one, and there comes a time when we must defend the dignity of the office against the men who hold it.” The crowd cheered uproariously in agreement as he continued, “There does come a time in the history of the church, and we are at such a time, when those of us in the church who have no power and no authority and no prestige must nonetheless raise our voices in defense of what is true and what is right and that time is here. It is right now today and that is why we are silent no more. ”

You can see Walsh’s entire speech at the link below.