Canon 212: Some People’s Worst Nightmare


Wealthy Catholics to target Cardinals with ‘Red Hat Report’

Christopher White Oct 1, 2018 NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

The title? It’s Crux. Not sure what else you’d expect. The only good Catholic is a poor Catholic, I suppose? I would like to say that I know of some of the people who went (or at least they told me they were there after I gleefully sent them the story).  I think influential might be the better word, but that would ruin the Crux narrative.  Just so you know, I don’t engage in the class war so I DON’T CARE WHO GOT THIS BRILLIANT IDEA OFF THE GROUND.  My Facebook and Twitter followers might remember, after the McCarrick investigation request was shot down, that I posted this:


 Thank you to whoever is responsible for my prayer being answered!!!

ROME – As U.S. bishops work to formulate an official response to clerical sexual abuse and cover-up, a new watchdog group backed by wealthy Catholics is seeking to take matters into their own hands.

A new organization, which held an RSVP-only event on Sunday evening, plans to spend more than $1 million in the next year investigating every member of the College of Cardinals “to name those credibly accused in scandal, abuse, or cover-ups.

First of all, there were invitations and I didn’t get one?  Whatever.  

Next, hellooooo!!!!  The U.S. bishops have ZERO authority over the cardinals.  The guy who did have authority turned down the request to investigate them, so what is the laity left to do??? They have to take matters in their own hands, as is their right and DUTY. See Canon 212.

Like I said, I know some of these people and they are not the “take down cardinals they don’t like” kind of people.  My gosh!  Who in their right mind wants to see any of our cardinals go down for an unwarranted reason? This whole thing is scandalous.  We (and I mean the laity) want our house clean of immorality and these heinous crimes.  Those of you not liking this “Red Hat Report” idea, don’t you, too?

“The Better Church Governance Group” held its launch on the campus of the Catholic University of America (CUA) with the stated intention of producing its “Red Hat Report” by April 2020.

The U.S. bishops founded the Catholic University of America, and all six residential U.S. cardinals are members of its Board of Trustees.

And? If they have nothing to hide, then there will be nothing to find. By the way, in case anyone would like to know who the six residential cardinals are, they are Cardinals Dolan, Cupich, Tobin, DiNardo, Farrell and O’Malley. I guess they’ve accepted Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation even if the Holy Father hasn’t? Four of them are mentioned in the Vigano testimony, so do we really think they’re going to investigate themselves?

In a statement to Crux, a CUA spokesperson said, “A space on campus was reserved by a student in accordance with our space reservation procedures. The event was not sponsored by The Catholic University of America nor a university-sponsored organization.

The organizers of the Better Church Governance group confirmed that it was a private event, and in an e-mail to Crux said there was no association between the university and the organization.

As if this has ANYTHING to do with ANYTHING. 

The Red Hat Report, dubbed as the group’s “flagship project,” is designed to audit all 124 current papal electors. Organizers say it will be conducted by a team of, to date, nearly 100 researchers, academics, investigators, and journalists, with the aim “to hold the hierarchy of the Catholic Church accountable for abuse and corruption, and to develop and support honesty, clarity, and fidelity in Church governance.”

What? Honesty, clarity, and fidelity in Church governance?  Beastly!

In an audio recording obtained by Crux of the event’s launch, Better Church Governance’s Operations Director, Jacob Imam, said the organization was not meant as an attack on Pope Francis, though he asked the crowd of nearly forty attendees: “What if we would have had someone else in 2013 who would have been more proactive in protecting the innocent and the young?”

“Had we had the Red Hat Report, we may not have had Pope Francis,” stated one of the slide presentations accompanying his remarks.” 

Kind of a valid question. What if we’d known about McCarrick, Chile, Ireland and, here’s a big one, Argentina?

Imam, who is currently a Marshall Scholar of the University of Oxford and converted to Catholicism from Islam three years ago, alleged that following the 2013 conclave that elected Francis, many major news outlets based their knowledge of the newly elected pope on what they could find on Wikipedia.

While insisting that he wasn’t maligning the pontiff, he added: “I think it’s fair to say that a defender of traditional values is not something he would identify himself with.”

Given the lack of knowledge many electors have about each other, Imam argued, it is an “extremely precarious situation…when the doors of the Sistine Chapel close.”

The appointments of Cardinals Cupich, Farrell, Tobin, Bishop McElroy, and a myriad of others might make that arguable now.  One or two of them, maybe. 

According to its prospectus, the Better Church Governance Group aims to produce its report before the next papal conclave. The estimated first-year expenditures are listed at $1,126,500.

“Many of us who were raised in a liberal democratic society don’t always know how a hierarchy can be reformed,” Imam told attendees. “But there are many tips and tricks that history gives us, and we at Better Church Governance started to systematize some of these strategies. We are here to help create transparency in the Church and we’re here to help support integrity.”

There are definitely strategies to getting around the gatekeepers. All it takes is a little creativity, and I’m sure that $1,126,500 will help with that!

At present, the Report’s organizers are seeking graduate students to serve as research assistants with plans to offer an hourly rate of $25, working alongside a team of academic researchers and investigators.

Yay for the grad students!

The launch of the organization comes after a brutal summer of sex abuse fallout in the United States. The downfall of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned from the College of Cardinals in August after revelations that he serially abused seminarians and at least one minor, has led to calls from numerous individuals for greater lay leadership in holding bishops accountable for cover-up.

Why does everyone want to limit this to bishops?  I want anyone who participated in cover-up gone. Doesn’t everyone?  There have many calls for lay leadership.  I’m reasonable sure this ain’t what they were going for but, as shown when the Papal Commission for the Protection of Minors called for a release from Pontifical Secrets, the laity has no authority and are ignored.  Even Crux admits there is zero authority to make the four dioceses they want to investigate comply as shown here:

Such an investigation, however, will be limited to the voluntary cooperation of the four dioceses involved as the USCCB does not possess canonical authority to mandate compliance. 

All the laity can hope for is to shine a light on the abuse and keep it on until somebody does something!  I can tell you from experience that tenacious lay people can only be ignored for so long.

Further, the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing seven decades of abuse by more than 300 abuser priests has resulted in a pledge from the U.S. bishops for a full review of their policies on reporting and accountability.

Imam said that report revealed that local individuals were aware of ongoing abuse and cover-up, hence the Red Project Report will seek to, whenever possible, carry out its research where each cardinal is based.

Local individuals were aware?!? More like EVERYBODY WAS AWARE!  More proof the laity isn’t going to be listened to by the people who find us inconvenient.  You’d think preventing abuse could possibly be a common ground in the so-called liberal/conservative divide, but nope. We say, “Hey!  You might want to look into these people!”, and the liberal hierarchy says, “You just don’t believe in being welcoming!” They condescendingly pat people on the head, tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about, that they are spreading scandal, that they aren’t building bridges, and then send them on their merry way.  You’d think the voluminous amount of money they have to pay out might make them pause, but nope again.  So why in THE world would anyone think the dirty-dozen (I wish there were only a dozen) would ever give up their pet peeves until they are caught dead to rights?

He went on to describe the two-fold purpose of their report: to provide information to every cardinal in hopes of better informing them about their fellow papal-electors, as well as to make the information available publicly so that lay Catholics can have access to it.

That sounds a bit like transparency!  I’m not sure, though, because I haven’t seen it very often this millennium.

“Cardinals need to be held accountable publicly, so there has to be some sort of culture of shame,” he said. “They know if they vote for this person…the people that they shepherd, and their pastors, will know about it.”

“This is difficult. There is a dark side to this decision. We recognize that,” he added. “We are willing to take this on with prayer and fasting…because we can’t allow people to continue to allow our kids, the innocent, the young, seminarians to be devoured the ways that they are.”

Well, in fact, they won’t know who votes for whom, because what goes on in the Sistine Chapel stays in the Sistine Chapel.  That said, what it should foster is an awareness that we will do what we must to protect the vulnerable if they will not.  They, hopefully, will fear repercussion should they “scandalize one of these little ones.”  

Imam also said that 10 former FBI agents are involved in the investigation, with two individuals being the agency’s former lead investigators on ecclesiastic matters.

Geez! I didn’t even know the FBI had an ecclesiastic division.  How sad is that?

In an e-mail obtained by Crux, sent by the managing editor of the Red Hat Report, Philip Nielsen, to potential interested individuals last month, he outlined how each cardinal will be investigated.

“Each dossier will have a rating at the top for the cardinal’s connection to scandal and abuse, such as ‘severe guilt, credible accusations of guilt, clean.’ This final verdict on each will be based on our best evidence and the recommendations of best experts,” he wrote.

A revised rating system was distributed on Sunday with Cardinals receiving a rating based on “Strong Evidence of Abuse/Corruption, Some Evidence, Positive Evidence Against Abuse/Corruption.”

One would hope that the evidence for the findings will be in the dossier.

Imam said that, in time, they hope to expand to provide a full audit of bishops as well. He told those in attendance on Sunday that the organization did not seek to further an ideological agenda but will seek to answer how each cardinal is in “agreement” with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog.

When asked by one attendee if the report would note whether cardinals are homosexual, he replied that the report would follow civil law as necessary, but it would also follow the Church’s moral law, adding: “If there is a rumor of him being homosexual, it will be noted very carefully…but we need to be sure.”

It’s not a witch hunt, but I’m sure the likes of Austen Ivereigh already have that article all teed up and ready to go.

Although the organization’s official materials maintain that it does not intend to attack any of the cardinals, the Nielsen e-mail seems to suggest otherwise.

“For example, Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin, the very corrupt Vatican Secretary of State’s wikipedia page is currently very benign, with no links to scandal included, despite the fact that he has repeatedly been linked with banking scandals and was named in the Viganò letter,” he writes.

Umm, the citation is bad here, but am I to understand there was more to an email they cited earlier?  If you’re going to quote it, why not quote the whole thing so we can see it in context?  We know the group intends on investigating all voting cardinals.  We already know that some of them have problems.  And, quite presumably, the names in the Vigano testimony will get attention.  And?  I think that’s the whole point!  Stop acting like someone’s trying to hide something.

The reference was to an 11-page letter from Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal ambassador in the U.S., alleging that he briefed Francis in 2013 on misconduct concerns surrounding McCarrick, but the pontiff failed to act.

Whew!  Hadn’t heard.  So glad they cleared that up.

“We can change that … by the next conclave, he needs to be known, worldwide, as a disgrace to the Church. Our plan would be to make sure that his Wikipedia page shows “Church Watchdog The Better Governance Group, names Parolin, ‘Extremely Guilty of Abuse’ etc. with a link to the report. At the same time, we would add all the pull-quotes from other sources that connect him to all the financial corruption, etc.,” Nielsen continued.

So, this is a good example of what they will do if they find evidence to abuse.

<Snipping, frankly, boring info that doesn’t have much necessity.  See link above for full piece.>

In addition, three individuals are named as research editors for the Red Hat Report: Professors Jay Richards of Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Economics, and Michael P. Foley and Melinda Nielsen of Baylor University.

While the organizational materials insist “we are not a faction or a lobbyist group,” Richards has previously worked for the Acton Institute, a libertarian think tank, and has been a vocal critic of Francis. Foley and Neilsen have also been associated with a number of conservative institutions and publications, including Hillsdale College, Crisis, The Catholic Thing, and First Things.

Oh, the horrors! Are they faithful Catholics or not? That’s all I need to know.

In addition, the organizational materials list the Center for Evangelical Catholicism (CEC) as its “fiscal sponsor,” which is currently collecting donations until the organization is granted official non-profit status. According to its website, the CEC is a not-for-profit corporation in South Carolina that “seeks to advance the New Evangelization by forming Evangelical Catholics equipped to fulfill the Great Commission.”

OK, I’m just thinking that someone at Crux would actually love the idea of “Evangelical Catholics”, but I guess it’s not their type of Evangelical Catholicism?

Nielsen told Crux that while many participants working at certain Catholic universities would not want their affiliation made public, the larger network is much broader than conservative allies.

He added that the group seeks to make its “aims and objections something everyone can agree with,” adding that some of the worst cases of abuse dating back to the founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, were among groups or individuals typically identified as conservative.

Like I said, you’d THINK this effort would be “non-partisan.”  I knew a priest I thought to be very holy and what Crux would call “conservative”, but when we heard the evidence, he was very clearly not.  I have no trouble saying that at all. This isn’t “my guys vs. your guys.” It’s good vs. evil. If it happens to be “my guy” who did the evil, then I will be first to vociferously call for him to be locked away where he can do no more harm.

When asked by an attendee for the full timeline for the project, Imam replied “this project never ends.”

“We always have to be ready for a conclave,” he warned.

Sadly, this is the new normal. As I said before, if a cardinal or bishop has nothing to hide, they shouldn’t care if they are being investigated.C I’m sure many will have no trouble sleeping, but too many will lie awake at night wondering if they will be caught. #ResignNow

8 thoughts on “Canon 212: Some People’s Worst Nightmare

  1. How will this all end, I wonder? I am thankful for this group working on the Red Hat Report. I wish the report could be out sooner. Like tomorrow.


  2. As usual Crux was wrong. I do not recommend ever using them as an unbiased source. The Operations Director contacted Fr. Z and issued a correction. See here and below;

    Dear Fr Z,

    My name is Jacob Imam and I’m the operations director of Better Church Governance. I’m thankful for your attention to your cause. If you’d like a more accurate acccount, could I recommend Dan Hitchen’s article in the Catholic Herald?

    The Crux article proved inaccurate in a number of fronts.

    First, we are not at all well-endowed. We are in debt! We are Catholics in love with Jesus and His Church willing to risk a lot for the visible purity of the Church.

    Second, we are not against homosexuals and will not note cardinals who are. Where the ellipsis is in the quotation is me clarifying that they have to be sexually activate (which, of course, goes for those heterosexually involved as well).

    Third, our attempt is to be above reproach. That means that we do not favor or negatively target any one prince. We hope to find an immaculate record for every single cardinal!

    Fourth, we do not intend to change a conclave. I stated that we will not publish the report if a conclave is already called so as not to risk that appearance. The goal of Better Church Governance is to help the hierarchy help itself. By dispassionately scrutinizing the records of spiritual leaders, we hope to vindicate those unjustly accused on one hand and, on the other, draw attention to those who have credible accusations made against them. It is then the job of the hierarchy to do what it wills with the information.

    Fifth, I converted from Islam a decade ago(!)

    There are a number of other critiques but I won’t take more of your time.

    We are compelled by love and by hate: love of Christ and of His children; hate of sin and abuse.


    1. I like that idea but I do think the focus needs to be narrow. Also, if you notice, the people who treat pro-lifers in a bad manner and the people who do try to cover-up evil deeds tend to be the same people.


  3. As for this group having “no canonical authority”, neither did the Pennsylvania AG. DA’s and AG’s across the country are proceeding without “canonical authority”. They will be able to get past some roadblocks that would stymie laity who are merely private citizens.

    And let’s be clear: what is really needed is honesty, professionalism, and thoroughness. If the investigators are good Catholics, so much the better, but that is much less relevant here than you seem to think. Vigano aside, none of the major revelations so far have come out of anyone being “a good Catholic”. They have come from journalists and prosecutors doing their jobs well.

    Meanwhile, look at what what is happening in Australia: Just 2 years ago, there was a less thorough push in the same direction in Louisiana: In 1996, Oregon secretly recorded a Confession for criminal evidence: If anyone thinks that the current scandal is not going to make it harder to defend the Seal of the Confessional, he needs to lay off the drugs. Meanwhile, the posturing and stonewalling by Pope Francis is, to say the least, unhelpful.

    One last thing: I cannot help but notice that the total amount needed to investigate ALL of the cardinals is quite a bit less than payouts to victims from some individual dioceses. If only the Papal Foundation would redirect a fraction of the money it is withholding from Vatican misuse right now, it would even make ECONOMIC sense.


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