A well-funded lay watchdog group to investigate all the Cardinals. All of them.



I received an email from the operations director of this new group.  His corrections to the CRUX piece are worth noting:

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.

Originally Published on: Oct 1, 2018

If bishops – God’s chosen successors of the Apostles – won’t clean up the Church, then someone else will. It’s necessary that this be so, if this is not the end of the world, because the Church is indefectible.

Of course the Lord didn’t promise that the Church would be a great shape when he returns.

So, a group of the faithful is taking matters into their own hands.

From Crux:

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.”

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.


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.

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.


“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.”


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.

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.

“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.”

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.


There is a lot more.

You should read it for yourself.

These are complicated times.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Hard-Identity Catholicism, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. philosophicallyfrank says:

    Is there a link to the audio?

  2. maternalView says:

    Yes. So it must be.

    And that they held their meeting at CUA tickled me. I think they mean business.

  3. Rob83 says:

    Is the best of all possible ideas? Probably not, but the bishops and cardinals in most of the Western world have lost all credibility on the issue, and where there is a leadership vacuum, something will fill it. Hopefully the Cardinals will take the hint and opt for transparency before someone else does it for them.

    The delay of the bishops in responding has likely already taken a heavy price in souls, as the news on returning for fall’s religious education was a precipitous decline in Mass attendance and contributions the last several months, and far fewer kids being enrolled (the PA grand jury report seems to have been a last straw for many). Even among the kids present, not a single one of nearly 2 dozen had been at Sunday Mass.

  4. roma247 says:

    I would be more than happy to donate to such a cause.

    However, in more short term, I feel that we really need to make sure that thousands show up to protest outside the meeting of the USCCB in November. We send thousands to DC every year for the March for Life. We need to manage a similar turnout for this, to force the bishops and the media to realize just how many Catholics are demanding answers!!!

    Even if they don’t change a thing, they cannot pretend that they did not see thousands and thousands outside, chanting “Vigano! Vigano!” Rome will hear the message, even if they ignore it.

    If only a few hundred show up, what message will that send?

    We need a massive number of people! We must make the sacrifice to be there!!!

  5. Malta says:

    I’m certain, but if we are seeing Our Lady’s words at Akita unfolding before our eyes we are in BIG trouble: https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/bishop-against-bishop

  6. Fr_Sotelo says:

    It seems like a traditional version of SNAP or Voice of the Faithful. Without access to chancery archives, “reports” will be educated guesses of what’s going on with press releases that most don’t listen to. Maybe they should just team up with Church Militant.

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Gathering information – nothing wrong with that.

  8. Gabriel Syme says:

    While there is obviously a lot of corruption, criminality and ‘ivory tower’ arrogance among the Cardinals, which must be addressed, I shudder at the idea of a lay group policing them.

    In my opinion, such a lay group would quickly be subverted by prominent “progressive” Catholics (ie people who are not Catholics at all). We would then see objections to Cardinals being given posts, or even appointed Cardinal at all, because of them being “too conservative” or “non-inclusive” or for having a “pre-conciliar outlook”.

    Of course, shoddy clerics like James Martin and the McCarrick Cardinals would cheer them on: “oh, we must be humble and listen to the laity, blah blah blah”.

    Many contemporary lay people are so poorly catechised they would swallow almost anything they were told about the Church and what it needs- especially if a powerful lay group was promoting it. This is – of course – precisely the reason behind their poor catechesis: to ensure they are ignorant and therefore malleable and easy to deceive regarding the Catholic faith.

    Before finding tradition in 2012, I was part of a Jesuit parish where the aging priests handed much responsibility to the lay people for running the place and its initiatives. And while they were many sincere and hard working lay people there, the results of this parish dynamic were often akin to the old jokes about how things turn out when they are designed by a committee.

    In the modern Church, lay involvement inevitably means everything becomes dominated by rival cliques of elderly ladies. The knock-on effect on male attendance and involvement at Church is akin to sunlight’s effect on vampires.

    Instead of lay people, why not bring back the Roman Inquisition for this purpose? It could have sweeping powers to investigate and arrest clerics, including Cardinals. it could control the Vatican Gendarmerie. Start jailing the criminals and the corrupt who wear red – the Vatican has a functioning, but under used, prison I believe.

  9. chesterton63 says:

    Sadly, this is urgently needed.
    I am surprised nobody did this before.
    And, I add, it should not just be a matter of clerical abuse (or abuse cover-up) of minors, but, at least at “bishop level”, there should be a serious check on observance of the vote of chastity, with particular focus on homosexuality.
    A bishop having sexual relation(s), in particular with men (but also with women) should be immediately returned at lay state, even if he didn’t commit or cover-up any abuse on minors.

  10. Ivan says:

    Indeed. It is not simple (to do). It is well simple to explain… that we so badly need some kind of Militia Jesu Christi forces! Or simply the Holy Inquisition back!

  11. crownvic says:

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  12. rtjl says:

    Yup – if the bishops have no ability to thoroughly investigate one another without the Holy Father’s authorization, lay people do. And so do the civil authorities. I happen to believe the American Bishops sought the authority to conduct a proper investigation and were denied it by the Holy Father. Oh well, he will now have to deal with the laity and quite probably with civil authorities. We’ll see how that turns out.

    And as for access to chancery records, lay people will not need to gain access themselves, they just need to collect evidence sufficient for civil authorities to be able to obtain subpoenas.

  13. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Supposing this investigation yields results, will it be used only to assist cardinals in their voting choice at the next conclave, or will it be used as a way to encourage the Pope to debar offending cardinals from participating in a future conclave at all?

  14. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    What’s the likelihood that certain members of the hierarchy might retaliate, such as by excommunicating members of this group? Or threatening to do so? If, for example, they make public their findings?

  15. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    Fr. Z. highlighted/bolded some very, very important factors. It seems necessary to be skeptical of this group due to at least one factor that he highlighted twice.

    Remember: entities that were once trying to destroy the Church from the outside have determined that it may be easier to destroy or damage the Church from the inside. (They have also probably determined that it is easy to gain control of the “money bag” while within the Church. There are far too many trusting people who just throw their donations to anyone who is a smooth talker.)

    That is, those groups that were once trying to destroy the Church while they were not “members” of the Church have determined that it is easier for them to pretend to be members and subvert the Church from within.

    It is quite sad that I would even have to write that. However, there is vast amounts of evidence of wolves appearing as sheep. The New Testament makes multiple references to false prophets, wolves in sheep clothing, those who are perverting God’s Church, etc.

    This commentator is fully aware of the grave situation in the Church and the need for transparency from Cardinals, bishops, priests, and especially the bad deacons who have infiltrated the Church. But this commentator has also witnessed first-hand the diabolical frauds that are currently subverting the Church from within, those people who are attempting syncretism with false religions with the ultimate goal of destroying/conquering the One True Church.

  16. Hidden One says:

    Fr_Sotelo, this group does seem to resemble SNAP and VotF in some respects, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find it both more effective and more professional in its research than you hypothesize. Even if this group were to achieve nothing more than an accurate and comprehensive multi-lingual synthesis of everything relevant that’s already public (in one language or another), it would be providing vastly more than is presently available. Even when it comes to Vigano’s Testimony and subsequent communications, or about the Philadelphia report, I am regularly seeing errors and omissions in news and opinion articles published by serious Catholic news outlets and competent Catholic commentators simply because there have been too many things publicly published even just in English for everyone whose job (actually or self-appointed) it is to stay on top of this stuff.

    His dictis, I do have my concerns about this group, especially its apparent direct and primary intention of influencing the next conclave. I would prefer if it seemed that their primary intention was simply to present the cardinals accurately to the world, so that those who have been acting righteously would not be tarnished, and any who have not would more easily be held accountable in this life, for the sake, in part, of their own future experiences of the next.

    I also wonder what they will do with information, already public or otherwise, that they might receive about other clergy, about religious, and about lay people.

    I wonder, too, as I think you also do, about their treatment of the moral and canonical rights of the Christifideles (and others) to a good name. Some very effective investigative reporters and news outlets have been compromised in more ways than one by what perhaps may have been failures in this regard.

  17. Dad of Six says:

    roma247 says: “I would be more than happy to donate to such a cause.”

    So would I!

  18. TonyO says:

    What’s the likelihood that certain members of the hierarchy might retaliate, such as by excommunicating members of this group? Or threatening to do so? If, for example, they make public their findings?

    Virtually nil. While a bishop can excommunicate a member of his own flock, he cannot excommunicate a whole group which consists of members of many other diocese. If the group is smart enough not to create a specific location as its headquarters, it will not be “under” any bishop.

    The initial review should be of all the cardinals, but after that they should extend it to all bishops. This is equally needed.

    One additional feature should be added: A new group (call it “Hold Funds Until You Become Transparent, HFUBT) should be created to create financial pressure on the bishops to support the Red Hat Report by the Better Church Governance Group (BCGG). The BCGG should ASK bishops for access to records, and when bishops say no, BCGG should publicize this fact. Then people should write to the bishop saying “I am not going to contribute to the diocese while you refuse to cooperate with BCGG. I am instead going to take the donations that otherwise would have gone to you, I will send them to HFUBT to hold until you do cooperate with BCGG. When you finally do cooperate, then you will get the funds designated in the diocese’s name. (HFUBT will subtract a 2% per month management fee / penalty on those funds, so don’t delay too long!) In addition, I am reducing my contribution to my parish by the 11% that the parish sends to the chancery automatically, and I will contribute that 11% in kind to parish needs that will not make it to the balance sheet.”

  19. LarryW2LJ says:

    “Beans” is going nuts over this over on Twitter. So I reason that if that is the case, it is probably a good idea.

    Unfortunately, even some good bishops seem reluctant about efforts to shine a light on the filth. Church Militant is increasingly becoming a punching bag and “boogie man” to many members of the hierarchy. If it wasn’t for CM, though, the bishops would just be getting another pass. Someone has to keep their feet to the fire until this mess gets cleaned up.

    In the meantime, I’ll continue my daily rosary on the ride home from work for the cleansing of the Temple. I think we need some overturned tables and the Master slapping people upside their heads again, Not only to get rid of what needs to be gone; but also to awaken those who choose to sleep through the crisis.

  20. Dismas says:

    Internal documentation will be out of reach, but cameras trained on all exits of the Chanceries, residences, etc. after hours would net some interesting information. Likewise, parabolic recorders trained on bedroom windows may also be useful.

  21. tho says:

    The hierarchy cannot investigate themselves. We need a thorough look at what has gone on since Vatican II, and in some case even prior to VII. Ground zero should be the reign of Pope St. Pius X, the last Pope to clearly identify our problems. Someone, like myself, who thinks that VII opened the doors to chaos, would not be a good choice, I am prejudiced in that regard. We need a man of character like Justice Scalia, above reproach, and willing to call anyone and everyone to the bar of justice.
    Our love of Jesus Christ should not be tampered with, His teaching from birth to death should not be mitigated to appease the modern world. Our traditional rites have set an example of how our Lord should be worshipped. Whoever thinks they know better, than saints similar to St. Thomas of Aquinas should sit down and write their own Summa.

  22. Kerry says:

    Much speculation in these comments; what will happen, what might happen, what ought to or ought not be done, which useless or useful, this information and that documentation will or will not be accesible, and so on.
    However, knowing what questions to ask, “Aye, there’s the rub”. Go to Father Hunwicke’s site today for an entire stable, (on a different matter) of very astute questions,. None of them were, “Well, duh, of course!”.

  23. Thorfinn says:

    Similar things have been done in the past. There was a group of faithful in the Miami archdiocese who compiled a large binder to be sent to the Vatican about the rampant corruption of the clergy there, I believe using private investigators. A reporter found out about it and published part of it online. The archbishop retired early and the new archbishop cleaned things up.

    It’s a delicate business but the laity has appropriately raised their voices against unfaithful shepherds many times & places in many ways in the history of the Church.

  24. TKS says:

    Since only a tiny fraction of Church leaders will stand up and say that homosexual acts are gravely sinful, that leads me to believe they don’t think those acts are wrong. So it’s no surprise to me that they don’t do anything about it.

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