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Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, speaking here at the U.S. Bishop fall general assembly in 2014, has been a prominent liberal voice in the U.S. Church. Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews
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Catholics rebuke bishop’s defense of fellow prelates amid McCarrick abuse scandal

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PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, July 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – After a week in which Catholic laity again reeled with horror at learning of more sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin did not strike the right note.

In a tweet he posted on July 19, Bishop Tobin slapped many undeserving episcopal backs.

“Despite the egregious offenses of a few, and despite the faults and sins we all have, I’m very proud of my brother bishops and I admire and applaud the great work they do everyday for Christ and His Church,” he wrote.

This was not well-received by Catholics who, after suffering from almost thirty years of revelations about clerical sexual abuse – if not the actual abuse – are now smarting from The New York Times’ disclosures that Cardinal McCarrick abused not just seminarians but minor children. At press time,there were 126 responses to Bishop Tobin’s tweet, almost all of them negative.  

“Bishop, I understand your pride for the service of the Church. However, abuse of power and corruption cannot be tolerated. Cover up after cover up using donated monies to pay settlements is just not prudent,” tweeted Stephen Cobain. “The Church will remain damaged until it fully addresses this issue.”

“This tweet is like playing violin while Rome is burning,” declared Christian Roy. “Delete.”

“With all due respect, Your Excellency, this is a time for forthright condemnation of those who committed such abominable crimes and those who provided cover for them. ‘A time for peace, and a time for war,’ &c,” tweeted Sandra Diaz. “Time to wage war on the homosexual mafia in the Church.”

Blogger Laurence England wrote: “Not an appropriate tweet, given the questions over [Cardinal] McCarrick and what bishops knew and what was covered up. Today is not a display of pride and congratulation in the Hierarchy but, rather, shame.”

Some critics gave Tobin advice for winning back the trust of the faithful.

The Catholic blog Creative Minority Report demanded an episcopal rebuke to Father James Martin, whose controversial pro-LGBT advocacy has been endorsed by at least four American bishops, including Cardinal Cupich and McCarrick protégé Cardinal Kevin Farrell. The latter is now in charge of the Vatican’s life and family dicastery.

“How about you publicly denounce @JamesMartinSJ and any of your ‘brother bishops’ that continually allow him a forum,” he tweeted. “Then maybe we’ll believe you more.”

Hilary White of the “What’s Up with Francis-Church” blog suggested Bishop Tobin try to get Cardinal McCarrick demoted.

“Perhaps it would be more helpful, and fly a lot better with the now completely fed up laity, if you would petition the Holy Father to have McCarrick's red hat status rescinded,” she tweeted. “By remaining a cardinal, he remains a monstrous source of scandal.”

She included other ideas for “good bishops” like Thomas J. Tobin on her blog. These include “publicly denouncing – BY NAME – bishops whom you personally know are homosexuals and/or sexual predators. But not the ones we already know about from the press. Let’s hear about the ones who haven’t been outed yet that are known to you personally.”

White also suggested a “zero tolerance” policy for “preaching sexual heresy.”

Wanderer columnist Dr. Christopher Manion advised Bishop Tobin that the laity have noticed that, while priests are now swiftly punished, no bishop involved in abuse or a cover-up has resigned.  

“Unfortunately the laity see cover-up after cover-up, circled wagons instead of open ‘dialogue’, and no resignations by prelates while the slightest accusation can ruin a priest for life,” he tweeted. “A  majority, alas, of bishops covered up. Not one quit. How can the laity persuade them to?”

Responding to Manion, writer John Zmirak of The Stream suggested that the laity’s powers of persuasion are in their wallet: “Maybe an escrow fund should be set up in every scandal-plagued diocese, where laymen deposit the funds they would have donated to local church, until new bishop appointed…”

‘You have all failed us’

Author Christopher R. Altieri wrote an “open letter” in response to Bishop Tobin’s tweet. Appearing yesterday in Catholic World Report, the letter doubts that the scandalous bishops are but “few” and declares that the bishops have betrayed their flocks.

“You have all failed us,” he wrote. “You, personally, and all your brother bishops have failed Christ’s faithful. You have failed our children. You have failed our clergy. You have failed the people searching for the Lord, who have a right to the Gospel and therefore a right to the Church as Christ intends her to be, rather than as you have made her; you have failed us all.”

“A bishop’s duty is to know and to act,” Altieri informed Bishop Tobin. “It says so right in the name of the office you hold: episkopos. You episkopoi are the curators, the guardians, the superintendents – in a word, the overseers – of the Church.”

“...[It] is your duty to see that the Christian faithful of every age and state of life in the Church are safe from every possible bodily, psychological, and spiritual harm,” the author continued. “If you bishops cannot do that, you cannot hope to help us grow in the holiness to which Our Lord calls us, and for which he has placed us in your charge. It simply will not do for you to tell us that you did not see, hence that you did not know, what was before you.”

“If it were not an insult to our intelligence, it would still be gravely unsatisfactory.”

Altieri told Tobin that it was his duty to ensure that his brother bishops and the clergy under his care live virtuous and orderly lives. WIthout mincing words, the author informed the bishop that corrupt seminaries, chanceries and chapters lead to parishes and schools becoming “playgrounds for perverts.”

“I say again: it is your duty to see, and to act – even to see and to denounce your brother bishops’ failures and misdeeds and miscarriages of duty when and where you do see them,” he said.

Altieri told Tobin that he will never see the end to the ruin that the bishops have caused lives and souls but that he has a chance to do some good.  

“...If you open your eyes and act now, you may be in time to arrest the destruction. You may even be in time to take such steps, as may begin to repair the damage,” the author said.

He then made a heartbreaking pledge of loyalty:

“I believe I speak for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, when I say that we will not fail to support any shepherd who proves his willingness to toil and to suffer in this cause for our sake and Our Lord’s.”

Nevertheless, he told the bishop that the patience of the laity with bishops who refuse to see what a mess has been made is over.

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