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Card Aviz

In the previous post titled: The Confused Cardinal, (see here) I outlined the situation in which Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in Missouri finds himself and the “careless” responses given in the 60 Minutes by Cardinal O’Malley with respect to Bishop Finn. I have also implied that Cardinal O’Malley could have provided a “less confusing” response in the interview since he has been appointed to head a new commission to combat the problem that the post Vatican II church has with its’ more modernist clerics in this area (see here). Not wanting to judge assess whether Cardinal O’Malley’s responses were the product of disingenuousness or simply ignorance of the facts, which was immaterial to my post, I presented how the scope and severity of whatever actions Bishop Finn was accused of, in no way merited the scale or the severity of the response from the Vatican. Just to remind the reader, an Apostolic Visitor was called in to make a report to the Congregation for Bishops in the Roman Curia as to whether to remove Bishop Finn. The below post, follows this theme of the dichotomy of responses from the Vatican, which are independent of the severity of the transgression allegedly perpetrated, but rather are dependent on the degree to which the underlying target is conformant with the Catholic Faith. The below material should bring this situation into sharper focus.


As the takeover of the Franciscans of the Immaculate through the Francis approved decree dated 11 July 2013 and signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, João Card. Braz de Aviz and the Secretary Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, which appointed the “Commissario Apostolico”, the Capucin Fidenzio Volpi, over all of the FFI (see here), drags on into its 17th month a n d the takeover of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate through the appointment of the Dorothean Sister Fernanda Barbiero (see here) as the Apostolic Visitation enters its 7th month, it is beginning to dawn on the casual observer that it might be time for the church hierarchy to begin to consider re-ordering some of its priorities. And since 2015 has been called for by Francis to be the Year for Consecrated Life, and information of the closing of more religious communities appears now on a monthly basis, it might also be a good time for the Church hierarchy to take stock of the present situation as it relates to the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.


A natural starting point for the discussion of the re-ordering of priorities, as they relate to an institution of consecrated life, such as the Franciscans of the Immaculate, would be to start at the top, i.e. at the Roman Curial level. The congregation responsible for this area of the Catholic Church’s affairs is the Congregation of the Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Cardinal Prefect of this congregation is the Brazilian Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz. Cardinal Bráz de Aviz was appointed on the 4th of January 2011 by pope Benedict XVI. And just for the record, with respect to where cd. Braz de Aviz lies on the HOT/COLD Christian continuum (see here), the good cardinal appears a solid HOT CHRISTIAN (see here). The secretary of this congregation is the Spaniard Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, (see here) who is also the head of the Franciscan Capuchin order, i.e. the superior of one Fidenzio Volpi, the apostolic commissioner of the FFI and just like in the case of Ilson de Jesus Montanari at the Congregation for Bishops, is one of the first appointments that Francis made after he ascended to the Throne of St. Peter.

Relevant Definitions

Before we go to the subject at hand, just so that we are clear about what we are speaking about when we refer to the mandate of the Congregation of Consecrated Life, being familiar with the following definitions are in order.

The description the area of Church life that this Congregation is responsible for is defined as follows:

to promote and supervise in the whole Latin Church the practice of the evangelical counsels as they are lived in approved forms of consecrated life and, at the same time, the work of societies of apostolic life. (see here)

As to the definition of consecrated life, it is as follows:

The Code of Canon Law defines it as “a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to his honour, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory.” (see here)

What makes the consecrated life a more exacting way of Christian living is the public vows or other sacred bonds whereby the consecrated persons commit themselves, for the love of God, to observe as binding the counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience from the Christian Gospel, or at least, in the case of consecrated virgins and widows/widowers, a vow of total chastity. The Benedictine vow as laid down in the Rule of St Benedict, ch. 58:17, is analogous to the more usual vow of religious institutes. Consecrated persons are not part of the Catholic Church hierarchy, unless they are also ordained bishops, priests or deacons.

As to the definition of societies of apostolic life, this is defined as follows:

A society of apostolic life is a group of men or women within the Catholic Church who have come together for a specific purpose. Unlike members of an institute of consecrated life (religious institute or secular institute), members of apostolic societies do not make religious vows. This type of organisation is defined in the Code of Canon Law under canons 731-755. Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which preceded the current one, this manner of life was referred to as a society of common life. (see here)

While members of apostolic societies have some community life, the mission of the community is given emphasis; with the exception of the Oratorians, members can be reassigned among the various communities of the society as needed, and this lack of stability distinguishes this kind of society from some religious orders, such as the Benedictines, Poor Clares or Cistercians.

So those are the basics.

Hey, who’s up for a road trip?

Road Trip

As Archbishop Terrence Pendergast was reading the letter notifying him that the Congregation for Bishops was assigning him to make a Visitation to the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the thought of a road trip must have entered his mind. The Archbishop no doubt would have considered traveling by car, driving from Ottawa Ontario to Kansas City Missouri.

And let’s just say hypothetically, that if Archbishop Pendergast wanted to take a very scenic route, he could have easily planned his trip driving west on Canada’’s Highway 11, entering the US at International Falls, then heading south down US Route 71 through the Chippewa National Forest and then down US 10 through St Cloud. And since the Archbishop was driving through St. Cloud Minnesota, he could have decided to get off of US Route 10 and hop onto Interstate 94 for the next leg to Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, the Archbishop would have found the entrance ramp to Interstate 35 for a straight drive down to Kansas City Missouri.

But back to St. Cloud. During the Archbishops drive between US Route 10 and Interstate 94, a rest stop could have been in order. And a very likely place for this rest stop could have been the town of Collegeville Minnesota. And I could imagine that the Archbishop might have wanted to stop in Collegeville, since this is where one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in the US, St John’s Abbey is located. And if the good Archbishop wanted to get some historical information about what he could visit at St. John’s Abbey, a duckduckgo search (the Archbishop reads Mundabor, so he knows not to use google search) would be a good place to start. And if Archbishop Prendergast entered “St. John Abbey into the search engine, he no doubt would have found the link not only to the official website (see here), but also to a number of articles in the local press.

But before we get to the articles, a few words about St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville is in order.

St. John’s Abbey Collegeville Minnesota

According to the official website, St. John’s Abbey belongs to the Benedictine religious order. It was established in 1862 to minister to the German Catholic population migrating into the central Minnesota area. In 1857 the monks opened a school which was known locally as St. John’s College. The full history can be found here.

As for a description of the monks themselves, and just by looking at their website, it would appear that these Benedictine monks can be considered in the vanguard of the modernist movement. If we were to put them on the HOT/COLD Christian Continuum (see here), they would be off the Continuum at the HOT end. As a matter of fact, I think it would be fair to say that it would be hard to find anyone more HOT than them, LCWR and Hans Kung included. Furthermore, it would appear that they were HOT long before Vatican II made HOT cool. These monks were in the forefront of the HOT movement. They are so HOT, that if we inspected all the homilies, speeches and daily musings coming out of the Domus Sanctae Martae, it would be hard to find a better fit for what Francis would like to see in the communities of consecrated life. To drive the point home, they would appear to have created the perfect society using the Francis definition. A Bose community with regular status. (see here)

The Downside of HOT Christianity

As Archbishop Pendergast was searching for information about the HOT Christians of St. John’s Abbey, he no doubt would have found the following linked article as mentioned earlier (see here).

We can also assume that the headline would have caught the Archbishop’s attention since it read: “St. John’s Abbey discloses names of 18 monks suspected of child sex abuse”, and coincidentally, this exact issue was the underlying reason for why he found himself at a rest stop in Collegeville in the first place.

And if the Archbishop read the article, which he no doubt would have, he would have found out the following facts about what has been transpiring at the St. John’s Abbey. According to this article, St. John’s Abbey was forced to disclose the identity of 18 (verbally EIGHTEEN) of it’s monk, who were accused of molesting students at the middle school operated by St. John’s Abbey. The article reads:

St. John’s Abbey has released a list of monks “likely to have offended against minors,” according to a Monday statement from the Roman Catholic monastery in Collegeville, Minn.(see here)

Of the monks listed on the abbey website and released to the media Monday, seven are dead, two have been “dispensed from their religious vows and are no longer connected to the abbey” and nine are living at the abbey under supervision, Abbot John Klassen said the statement.

Allegations against the monks were reviewed either by Klassen or by the abbey’s external review board, the statement said. The board was created in 2003 in a settlement with more than a dozen victims of sexual abuse by monks.

The abbey released a similar list of 18 names in April 2011. It was described as including monks with “credible allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation or misconduct brought against them while they were working in one of the apostolates of St. John’s Abbey, or before they were a member of the abbey.”

And what were these modernist monks accused of and partially admitted to doing? Here is the relevant passage.

Previous news reports contained allegations about some of the monks.

Bik was accused in 1997 of abusing two teenage boys in the 1970s, before his ordination, when he taught at the parish school of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Anoka.

Two men accused Eckroth in 1993 of raping them at a St. John’s-owned cabin near Bemidji in the 1970s when they were boys. He denied raping them but admitted being naked with them.

Three men filed lawsuits alleging abuse by Schulte when he served in Raleigh, N.C., in the mid-1980s, and at a Puerto Rico boarding school operated by St. John’s. One of the men from Raleigh said Schulte recruited him to come to St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville.

McDonald, Maiers, Moorse, Tarlton, Hoefgen and Kelly acknowledged wrongdoing and sought treatment, Klassen said in 2002.

Dahlheimer denied the allegations, Klassen said.

So those are the facts, as reported by Pioneer Press’s TwinCities.com, and confirmed by the official website of St. John’s Abbey.

Thoughts that would have ran through the Archbishop’s mind.

One can imagine some the thoughts that would have run through Archbishop’s mind upon reading this article.

One of the thoughts could have been that he is being sent to Kansas City, at the behest of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to investigate a bishop who was accused of and convicted of one count of not reporting a priest who had pornography on his computer, while the religious community just up the road from where he is sitting, has had to release names of 18 (verbally E I G H T E E N) of its monks accused of, and partially admitting to sex offenses with minors.

W inning T he F uture!

The second thought that could have entered the Archbishops mind is that in Kansas City, bishop Finn’s situation dealt with ONE priest who is reported to have done the following (see here):

The 47-year-old priest pleaded guilty in August 2012 to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child porn, one count for each of the five victims.

Ratigan was charged in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from his computer containing hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas. Ratigan apparently attempted suicide after the pictures were discovered.

while here at St. John’s Abbey, the reported incidents are as follows:

Previous news reports contained allegations about some of the monks.

Bik was accused in 1997 of abusing two teenage boys in the 1970s, before his ordination, when he taught at the parish school of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Anoka.

Two men accused Eckroth in 1993 of raping them at a St. John’s-owned cabin near Bemidji in the 1970s when they were boys. He denied raping them but admitted being naked with them.

Three men filed lawsuits alleging abuse by Schulte when he served in Raleigh, N.C., in the mid-1980s, and at a Puerto Rico boarding school operated by St. John’s. One of the men from Raleigh said Schulte recruited him to come to St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville.

McDonald, Maiers, Moorse, Tarlton, Hoefgen and Kelly acknowledged wrongdoing and sought treatment, Klassen said in 2002.

A further though that could have crossed the mind of the Archbishop is the different ways in which the Bishop of Kansas City and the Abbot of St. John’s Abbey handled their respective situations. What must have also struck the Archbishop is the fact that a prosecutor was able to secure a conviction against the Bishop for a act much less severe, yet there were no such actions, from what he read taking place against the head of the Abbey.

And finally, the Archbishop must have thought that he should be grateful that he was sent to Kansas City to investigate Bishop Finn, since if he was sent to St. John’s Abbey as the Apostolic Visitor, he would most likely reach retirement age while still investigating just the reported incidents.

He would no doubt have also thought about how it was that these sorts of incidents have been reported  to have been going on for at least the last 40 years, or during the entire New Springtime of the Spirit of Vatican II, and he has never heard about them.

A followup thought must have also crossed Archbishop Pendergast’s mind and that is this: he must have wondered what the Prefect for the Congregation of the Consecrated Life and his Secretary were thinking about this situation. Surely they must have been notified by the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in Washington DC. [Again, Remember that name]

Summa Summarum

The above situation is obviously a hypothetical construct. However, it in no way lessens the gravity of the situation of the dichotomy between the facts of these two cases, i.e the case of the Visitation to the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and the lack of a Visitation to St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota.

Furthermore, what the above text demonstrates is the “selectivity” with which the Francis Vatican exacts Justice and Mercy against different religious bodies. We see that in the case of Bishop Finn, the FFI, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Bishop Livieres, Bishop Oliveri and Bishop Elst, “Justice” was meted out swiftly and Mercy was nonexistent, while in cases of St. John’s Abbey, the nuncio to the Vatican, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano will not even respond to complaints lodged by victimized parties of the modernist monks. But more about this situation in a future post.

The differences in how these various religious communities are treated is simply stunning. Yet it is not surprising.

A further thought, I wonder if the President of the new commission that Francis created to combat child abuse, the Archbishop of Boston, is aware of what is happening at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota?

And lastly, as we observed in the Confused Cardinal post (see here), that the Cd. Danneel incident provided an excellent insight into what is of real importance in modernist Rome (see here). We observed the following:

It is plain for all to see that the sex abuse scandals are really of a secondary importance. What is important is the power and prestige that comes with the positions. And in these time, with a pontiff like the present one, it appears that what’s important is whatever Francis fancies on any given day.”

Adding the material discussed in this post, only adds weight to this above observation.

And it makes the dichotomy in responses by the Vatican to these two situations shocking, but not surprising.