Not Sorry, Father McCloskey!

January 13, 2019

In a horror movie, the vampire's spawn, those he has bitten, are set free when a stake is driven through the bloodsucker's heart. I have no hope or delusion that a sliver of wood is being pounded into the chest of Opus Dei or that its victims will awaken to a Catholicism of sunshine, undarkened by a long-dead Spanish weirdo's insecurity and idiosyncracies.

One afternoon in 2009 an email from McCloskey appeared in my inbox.

However it's nice to see the parallel church squirming when the Catholic #MeToo movement breaks into its crypt bringing unwelcome daylight. My apprehensions about a lay commission investigating the U.S. bishops for abuse and cover-up is that such a commission will be packed with members of -- or sympathizers with -- Opus Dei and the bugger-founded Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi.

Members of these "institutes" are the ultimate clericalists. They believe that it is sinful detraction to tell even the negative truth about priests. And if anything is telling the negative truth about priests, it is publishing the names of miscreant priests, or reporting them to the authorities.

Thus said members or sympathizers would obstruct any commission's investigative paths that lead to parallel church involvement in the scandal. Worse, they would aid and abet the parallel churches in posing themselves as the solution to all problems. The revelation about Rev. C.John McCloskey III groping women makes that obstruction harder to pull off. Their own #MeToo problems keep them off balance.

Opus Dei, someone who knows inside baseball told me, was hit hard by Dan Brown's ridiculous lies about the institute in The DaVinci Code (A former Regnum Christi member quipped, "Dan Brown got the wrong group!"). The serious truth is just as bad, if not worse. Following The DaVinci Code fewer young people wanted to join Opus Dei. However The Work merely had to wait ten years. Another crop came along who were under the Harry Potter spell during The DaVinci Code craze.

The institute met the decline by doubling down on making members feel guilty if they wanted out. It started new educational programs aimed at its target-recruiting group: young urban professionals with money to burn. It has its jewel on K St. in Washington, DC, The Catholic Information Center, obtained by The Work from a dubious priest and built up by Fr. McCloskey, himself, from a hole-in-the-wall to a bookstore with a fancy chapel. The CIC is where bigshot Catholic writers have their DC book signings. Every director of the center since McCloskey has gotten nice editorial mention, or even a book about himself, from one Catholic scribe or another.

"Spiritual direction" etc.

While I expected something to come out about Opus Dei during these days of scandal, I was surprised that what came out was word of credible woman-groping by McCloskey. One case highlights three aspects of Opus Dei's perniciousness. Not included is covering up. Everybody does that.

The first is "spiritual direction." Few people need "spiritual direction." Mother Angelica would have told you that spiritual direction is only for priests and nuns. I will tell you that "spiritual direction" is a way of a) manipulating people and b) getting information out of them. People who think they need "spiritual direction" are likely to be dependent, indecisive personalities who, without the Catholic habitus, would be running to psychics or therapists and blabbing all the family business to their friends. And indeed, McCloskey's victim is reported to have been "depressed."

Every parallel church has "spiritual direction," often undertaken by laypeople. It always, always, always leads to abuse. Always.

Everything a lay Catholic needs for direction is found in the church's sacraments (including a good examination of conscience), its treasury of prayers, the Ten Commandments, the Catechism, the Bible correctly understood, the writings and examples of saints (except for the bought-saint Escriva) and the examples of genuinely holy people.

The victim also said that McCloskey asked her to reveal intimate details of her sex life with her husband. Why? Well, if you can get a woman to give you all the lowdown on her whoopee-making, it's no problem to get her tell you how much hers and Mister's portfolio is worth. An ex-stockbroker like McCloskey can determine if the couple are HNWIs ("High Net Worth Individuals") aka "accredited investors."

The second is Opus Dei's misogyny. In Opus Dei, it's the woman's fault. Women are temptresses. This is the reason Opus Dei men and women are kept separated (except in McCloskey's case) even with separate entrances to their joint residences. Too much contact and they might fall in love, get married, have sex and children, all stuff that the founding weirdo Escriva found abhorrent. If Opus Dei and the like had their way, nobody would get married. Being celibate is holier.

It is reported that after groping the victim, McCloskey convinced her that it was her fault, got her to confess and gave her absolution. If true, this is a violation of Code of Canon Law 977:

"The absolution of a partner in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid, except in danger of death." Such a violation may result in automatic excommunication.

Such a violation also raises the question: How much abuse of the Sacrament of Confession has been occurring in the Catholic church? One of Theodore McCarrick's victims testified that McCarrick extorted him with what he had told McCarrick in confession. Former seminarians report that similar blackmail, perhaps of careerlong extent, occurred in abuse-prone seminaries. It's another to be added to an overwhelming heap of church problems.

No Catholic, however, should worry about abuse of Confession if a) he stays away from groups that offer both confessors and spiritual direction, b) remains anonymous from confessors by confessing to a variety of priests and stays beind the screen. He should run from any priest who tells him that he should only confess to that priest and who asks for "too much information." Canon Law 979 prohibits priests from even asking the names of partners in sin, so contrary to what many penitents think, detail is not necessary.

Such a violation also raises the question: How much abuse of the Sacrament of Confession has been occurring in the Catholic church?

Lastly the McCloskey case highlights Opus Dei's practice of deception. Even after McCloskey became debilitated by Alzheimer's -- so Opus Dei claims --, the institute continued to publish articles etc. ghost-written in his name as late as 2018. One wonders if they so answered letters and email. Why? As a member of Opus Dei once asked in a column critical of U.S. Bishops: Would you buy a used car from these guys?

While, in the era of #MeToo, Sam Brownback may not return calls for comment about McCloskey, a lot is going to be megaphoned about how wonderful McCloskey was and how great Opus Dei is. But this outfit's culture of deception turns many of its members into habitual and gratuitous liars, even about the most inconsequential things. Let's not talk about the mercurial mood swings and other symptoms of being messed up.

Behold the man

Rev. C. John McCloskey III is from my neighborhood. His father and mine were members of the same Knights of Columbus council. McCloskey went to the same Catholic grade school I did. One of his younger siblings, whose name I have forgotten, was in my class.

Around 2002 I went to hear McCloskey speak at some young-adult event. I arrived early, finding McCloskey to be alone at the venue. I approached him, ready to introduce myself and talk about our parents' friendship, the parish. Do you know what that bastard did when I got about three feet from him? He lowered his eyes like a shy peasant, turned his back on me and stepped away. This, the Man of The World, so wise, so cultured with his lifetime reading plan, so "in-your-face" about the faith, the bringer of Sam Brownback, Bernard Nathanson and Robert Novak to Holy Church, could not look another guy in the eye, shake hands and exchange a couple courteous pleasantries. His presentation that evening revealed him to be shifty-eyed and effeminate. He spoke in a thin, nasal voice.

Bob Novak didn't eat this guy as an appetizer for lunch?

I noted all this in an early posting on this web site, adding that McCloskey had been a stockbroker and that Opus Dei only cares about ministering to the rich and powerful. Several years passed. Came 2009. Note: 2009 was six years after McCLoskey had been removed from the directorship of the Catholic Information Center because of the groping complaint. By 2009 he was supposedly restricted in his activities and on an odyssey out of and around the country, mostly in the midwest.

One afternoon in 2009 an email from McCloskey appeared in my inbox. He had read my post of years earlier about him. "Well," the email began in Jack-Benny fashion and then went on indignantly about how I had no idea of what he might have been going through when he failed to greet me politely. He then bragged about all the work he had done in missions to the poor, even unto South America.

Now we have some idea of what Fr. was going through. However I bet he could have collected himself to be gracious were I a Senator or somesuch.

In light of what has been lately revealed, McCloskey's email witnessed no contrition or humility in the man. Nevertheless I felt sorry, removed the web posting and apologized. He emailed back forgiveness saying that "We St. Jane's people need to stick together." As atonement I created the web site Daily Roman Catholic Mass in Downtown Washington, DC. It includes -- and still includes -- the Catholic Information Center. I sent him the link, hoping he would like it. He never responded.

I've been remembering Fr. McCloskey in my prayers every day. It doesn't cost anything or hurt to do so. Perhaps the Alzheimer's he is now suffering -- so Opus Dei reports -- is the beginning of his purgatory. However I am no longer sorry.

For Further Reading

Parallel Churches and The Benedict Option: My Experience With Cult-like Institutes in Washington, DC

About Neal J. Conway