For many Catholic conservatives, it seemed that the Cardinal Bernardin Era was coming to a close, and soon the “spirit of Vatican II” was going to be exorcised from the Church in America.
With the Windy City Gay Men’s choir sending his soul a bon voyage to the other world, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was laid to rest on November 14, 1996.
Bernardin had been the most powerful force in America for over two decades, setting the pace of Catholic life in the US. Everything from felt bannered “gong show” Novus Ordo Missae to the decline of vocations and the leftward drift of American Catholic politicians who took the gauchiste The Challenge of Peace (1983), Economic Justice for All (1986), and Cardinal Bernardin’s 1983 “Consistent Ethic of Life” or “seamless garment” as the model for their New Left politics, all bore the mark of Joseph Bernardin.
Cardinal Bernardin’s entire clerical life had been marred with accusations of abuse and scandal; however, despite a number of close friends being found guilty of sex crimes, Joseph Bernardin died with a clean slate, for all of these accusations against him were either recanted or ignored. At the same time, sexual abuse and rumors of sexual of male minors by homosexual clergy and even bishops shaped in the Bernardin model smudged the reputation of the good cardinal from Columbia, South Carolina. However, those who suggested that Bernardin was the head of a powerful network of sex offenders and deviants were ridiculed as rad trad conspiracy theorists who spent too much time attending clandestine hotel conference room Latin Masses and reading the nineteenth century reactionary Catholic literature.
As the soul of Joseph Bernardin went to meet his eternal judgement, a new crop of “JPII” bishops began to eclipse the old liberals who had, for all intents and purposes, destroyed the faith of millions of American Catholics.
In 1986 Pittsburgh native Donald Wuerl was consecrated in Rome by John Paul II himself and then appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle where he would serve as an allegedly conservative counterweight to the left wing Bernardin crony Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, famous for calling the Trident missiles stockpiled in Washington the “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”
Appointed Bishop of Pittsburg in 1988, Wuerl, like many John Paul II appointees turned out to be a tremendous disappointment, tolerating dissent and heresy in his diocese, having an ambiguous relationship with the “gay community” in Pittsburgh, and even overseeing the implementation of a children’s sex ed. program titled “A Catholic Vision of Love.”
However, many conservative Catholics clung to prelates such as Charles Chaput who had grown the diocese of Sioux Falls into a conservative powerhouse and, who riding on the wave of youthful conservative Catholic piety inaugurated at the 1993 World Youth Day, took the helm of the Denver Archdiocese in 1997. Unlike the wishy washy approach of Wuerl and other JPII disappointments, Archbishop Chaput was unabashedly prolife and was opposed to sexual deviancy that was gaining an increasingly militant political voice in the “gay 90s.”
Chaput’s seemingly conservative voice would be joined by Bishop Timothy Dolan in St. Louis in 2001, who later would become Archbishop of New York in 2009. Bishops Dolan and Chaput were accompanied by a host of American bishops and a new generation of conservative priests who advocated (at least some) traditional Catholic pious practices such as the Rosary and Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, said a reverent Novus Ordo, dressed in clerical garb (at least most of the time), and professed what they believed to be conservative theological positioned tempered by the liberal documents of Vatican II and the writings of John Paul II.
Among the many prelates that attracted flocks of these JPII generation priests and drew families from around the country to his diocese was Bishop Fabian Wendelin Bruskewitz of Lincoln Nebraska.
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Under Bishop Bruskewitz’s tenure, the Lincoln diocese became a mecca of not only conservative Catholic piety and politics, but even the traditional Latin Mass, which His Excellency would himself publically say long before Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Summorum Pontificum.
Throughout much of the Catholic world, Bishop Bruskewitz garnered the reputation of a fierce Polish-American traditionalist who was not afraid to drop the book on Masons, Call to Action, and Catholics for a Free Choice , dosing these groups with the strong medicine of excommunication, something even his conservative, JPII-appointed peers feared doing.
With a take no prisoners, Rambo: First Blood mentality, His Excellency appeared to stand as one of the few authentically Catholic Bishops in the United States who would bring about John Paul II’s prophesized “New Advent” at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
One of Bishop Bruskewitz’s sticking points, however, was that he, for some reason, denounced the implementation of the USCCB’s 2002 child protection policy; in fact, His Excellency was the only bishop to do so.
Bishop Bruskewitz’s initial explanation was that the child protection policy was implemented and then audited under the direction of a board of people who, according to His Excellency, were “unfamiliar with Catholic teachings, Catholic ecclesiology, and even the basic rudiments of the Catholic Catechism.”
Since the Diocese of Lincoln had a remarkably clean record in regard to clerical abuse of minors, and Brukewitz’s reputation among Catholics was one of apparently impeccable orthodoxy, the matter was dropped.
However, thanks to the detective work of “former” Catholic, Raymond “Rod” Dreher, the “crunchy con,” prima donna of the once proudly right wing, American Conservative, Catholics have now learned that things were no so rosy under the reign of Bishop Bruskewitz.
Amidst a Twitter feed of never-ending “peek a boo”, (Illuminati-inspired?) selfies, Dreher has published a letter on August 1, 2018 from a laicized priest from the Diocese of Lincoln in a very Rod Dreheresque piece titled “Msgr. Kalin & #MeTooConservatives.”
The former priest, Peter Mitchell, who had come to the Lincoln diocese because it had a reputation for “conservative, traditional” formation soon found, as a seminarian, that even in “conservative, traditional” dioceses, there are sexual deviants.
In his letter to Dreher, Mr. Mitchell names Msgr. Kalin, who was the vocation director of the Diocese of Lincoln as well as the priest who served the famously conservative Newman Center at the University of Nebraska for over twenty-five years, as a serial abuser of seminarians.
It seems that Msgr. Kalin, who traveled with “a close circle of attractive, handsome young men around him,” was, like Fr. Marcial Maciel of the Legionnaires of Christ, the quintessential conservative homosexual predator, taking his favorites to Las Vegas and beach house parties on Jersey shore.
Mitchell’s detailed descriptions of sexual abuse and emotional manipulation of seminarians at the hands of Msgr. Kalin do not need to be repeated here, but Mr. Mitchell’s revelations of the extent of Msgr. Kalin’s influence in the diocese of Lincoln is very disturbing.
Mitchell claims that there are “many” “bishops and chancery officials holding power over other priest’s lives” in the diocese of Lincoln who were “intimate friends” with Msgr. Kalin.
Recognizing the deliberate ambiguity of Peter Mitchell’s wording, his claim that many “bishops” and chancery officials in the diocese of Lincoln were close to a pervert is extremely unsettling.
The fact that there might have been some bad apples in Bishop Bruskewitz’s diocese that slipped under the radar is not shocking, and His Excellency is not entirely responsible for every act of every priest under his watch.
However, after publishing Mitchell’s letter, Dreher received a stream of emails and social media correspondence that have confirmed that Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz very well knew all about Msgr. Kalin, but instead of removing the vocations director of the diocese from power, only took limited precautions to limit the damage Kalin could do.
Whatever fault Bishop Bruskewitz might have (if any) in this affair will soon be revealed; regardless, this revelation is extremely troubling to those of us who had looked to Bishop Bruskewitz as a beacon of traditionalism in the American Church
There are, however, three post scripts with which we must end our discussion.
The first is that the Bishop Bruskewitz, despite his many seemingly excellent qualities, was perhaps not the great champion of Catholic tradition that we thought he was. As far back as 1999, the late John Vennari had exposed a number of irregular happenings in the Lincoln diocese under Bishop Bruskewitz, including ecumenical rituals, Seder meals, and charismatic prayer festivals. Moreover, His Excellency, along with his 1996 excommunication of Catholic leftists, had excommunicated members of the SSPX as being “most often” “totally incompatible with the Catholic Faith.”
These actions (and others unmentioned) do not seem like the deeds of a traditional Catholic bishop.
The second postscript is the response of the Lincoln diocese’s response to Dreher’s publication of the Mitchell letter, which was published by Catholic News Agency.
Both the diocese of Lincoln’s response and CNA’s article appear very defensive of the Lincoln diocese and even contain a few barbs for Peter Mitchell.
First of all, the diocese points out that Mitchell himself was laicized for his repeated violations of his promise of celibacy.
As OnePeterFive’s Steve Skojec points out, the diocese seems to be equivocating Mitchell’s (admittedly vile and mortally sinful) violations of celibacy with a woman (or women) with a systematic homosexual abuse of seminarians and its subsequent cover up.
Even more curious is the absence of any mention by CNA of Mitchell’s claim that many chancery officials and “bishops” in the diocese of Lincoln were intimate friends with Msgr. Kalin.
Furthermore, it must be noted that this response was at least approved by if not directly given from current Lincoln bishop James Conley.
Conley, who initially had appeared to be a traditional bishop, has professed his liberal bona fides during the past two years under the Francis regime, implicitly arguing for civil disobedience in defense of illegal immigrants, and, most recently, publically applauding Pope Francis attempt to change 2,000 years of Catholic teaching (and the very Word of God itself) by banning capital punishment.
Finally, Rod Dreher, who despite your author’s trolling of him, has been an invaluable resource to Catholics concerned about the Church, recently sent out a curious tweet, stating that there is much more going on in the Lincoln Diocese than meets the eye, and things are going to get “rough.”
We are thus left hanging with the million dollar question: What the heck has been going on in the diocese of Lincoln?