“Rumors that a certain prelate threatens his orthodox priests with institutionalization or laicization are not rumors… they are truth”

Back in August 2018 I posted one of the hardest things I’ve ever written for this blog.  HERE

This just came from a reader.  I’ve anonymized it a little.

Dear Fr. Z.,

I hope these days find you better in body and soul. Years ago you saw my blog comments under the moniker___. These days I live in ___ and, having just read your powerful post, wanted to respond to you personally.

When the Pennsylvania report broke for reasons only He knows, God willed that several “whistleblower” priests from across the country cross my path in their moments of extreme need and vulnerability. Persecuted, frightened, alone, cutoff by the episcopacy from their brethren, their natural families, the people of God they served… some literally with no place to stay, no money, no transportation, not even food.

And rumors that a certain prelate threatens his orthodox priests with institutionalization or laicization are not rumors… they are truth. I was called to the assistance of two priests facing this threat that has become the M.O. of this prelate. That’s the thuggery of how the Church under the influence of lawless men has treated its faithful, orthodox priests.

I have listened to faithful priests cry in fear and isolation. And I have tried to get them better help than me through godly priests. But when I sought help for them from religious orders or other orthodox parish priests, every last one refused. Some said they refused for fear of losing their ministries, but worse, some refused for fear of eternal damnation for not keeping quiet and staying out of it in some twisted notion that to aid their brothers is disobedience to the Pope and therefore disobedient to – or even wounding – Christ. I was told my assisting whistleblowers was grievously adding to Christ’s wounds. Spiritual extortion. How unbearably painful to see good priests struggle against it, and other good priests succumb to being compromised by it.

In fact the only men of God who were willing to come to the aid of priests immediately, without hesitation and without agenda were Protestant ministers. Let that sink in for a moment. Only those free from the perverted imposition of “obedience” were free to serve their Catholic brothers in the Name of Jesus.

For myself, Fr. Z., my aid to these good men has come at a price. I left my ___, ___ and the ___ with which I was associated not to bring down the heat of scandal upon them, to be a stumbling block to their “obedience,” or to be myself compromised by the heat of a villainous cadre within the episcopacy. Anyone who walks this path, priest or laity, is likely to walk it alone.

“Remember, they killed the prophets,” one Evangelical pastor told me. So they did. But, sir, I would see Jesus, just as the prophets longed to do.

Please pray for the whistleblowers. I pray for you. You are welcome to use any part of my email but I ask not to be named so I may continue to help these good men.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. monscarmeli says:

    1. I have heard it said that even FSSP priests will at times shy away from dealing with lightning-rod issues (whether personally or homiletically) for fear of upsetting the local ordinary at whose behest they have their positions. Is this true to any degree, or is that more a sedevacantist smear?

    2. Seeing more and more every day the draconian grip the perverts have on the diocesan hierarchy, how will this get cleared up, short of direct Divine intervention? In times past, there were isolated dioceses or monasteries that had to be purified; but this, it’s worldwide, from top to bottom. Could it realistically just “fade away” like Arianism eventually did?

  2. Gab says:

    My heart hurts for them. I wish I could do something material to help them. This problem is something I cannot solve. Humbly and in hope I will appeal to Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena and the Rosary.

    When will this all end, Lord?

  3. THREEHEARTS says:

    I have written and I will hold fast to my belief that the rot set in when the priestly vow to protect the church from modernity to one foolish obedience to the bishop. I too have tries to help priests. My great sorrow is that priests now lack trust. Many do not have men in their parishes they can trust and vapid women described as Jezebels in revelations, Try letters to angels in the first chapters. I too have had a priest cry on my shoulder. because of my situation I asked him to be my spiritual guide as my circumstances called for one. He told me I could go to confession with him any time. I went to him weekly, He told me he would have to notify the local ordinary but after two weeks he assured me the bishop would order him to silence me. He was so upset as he admitted I put my hands into the bishop’s hands on Maundy Thursday and promise to obey him. Another priest whom I asked why priests never reported wrong doing priests to the bishop told me if he did this bishop would discuss it withe the errant priest and give the complainers name . The whistle blower would then be taken before the local signatura and have the whistle blower severely censured. Now do I handle this problem I pray Psalm 108 douai rheims version for the persecutors, using that word as a name, and finishing with “not will be done but yours’. Jesus has always for me corrected for me the right one, the right person. Another priest told me when I asked if he went to confession often, maintained he could not go because he knew of priests locally but not which ones gossiped

  4. Dismas says:

    My advice to orthodox priests and seminarians: wear a wire. Record your interactions, even the innocuous ones. Get to know lawyers that handle employment law. Do all this now, so when the time comes, you are not unprepared.

  5. Ellen says:

    Well I know what my Lenten prayers and fasting are going to be for.

  6. JARay says:

    I am deeply shocked and appalled.

  7. Jim Dorchak says:

    As someone who lives 5,000 miles from most people in the former USA, I can offer a free place to stay to any Priest who wishes to help with the chores on our little homestead, and who will say daily traditional Mass for my family.
    Really. I can do this. Fr Z has my contact data or you can click on my name and do a search. You will find me. The invitation stands.

  8. sggreener says:

    Could we have a post on the limits of obedience,?

  9. tho says:

    During the Nazi regime I remember reading about a Bavarian Catholic whose conscience would not allow him to serve in the Army, he was beheaded. When they put into effect the Nacht und Nebel many a resister was imprisoned or murdered, without letting any of his relatives or friends know what happened.
    I know this is a drastic example, but many long serving priests are truly alone, without resources or family. And consider that they have lived a life of unstinting, honesty and holiness in the service of God. What are they to do? I think all Catholics, especially Traditional ones, should start a charity, like “go fund me” to relieve this outrage. In fact many conservative diocese should have a special collection.

  10. Hb says:

    This is indeed a sad post to read, even more so when priests turn their back on a brother priest.

    In my diocese many priests have a very immature understanding of obedience, extending far beyond what the Church intends. Even worse, some will do whatever is ordered regardless of whether it is legal (civilly or canonically) and regardless of whether it is morally acceptable.

    Even worse, I’ve been told that my bishop is refusing to restore priests to ministry despite the fact that Rome has cleared said priests and has ordered it.

    Regarding one comment above this post, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania clerics cannot sue their respective churches, so gathering evidence of abuse or harassment would not help us. It is a law that probably came from a desire to keep the government out of fights over church doctrine and the like which would affect employment. However, the situation has changed greatly over the decades and I think someone should challenge it.

  11. Kathleen10 says:

    I can’t speak to the clerical state, I’m not a cleric. But I do know what it is like to have to make a decision about being gainfully employed versus being mistreated at one’s place of employment, and many seem to look at being a priest as employment, and it is, as well as hopefully a vocation, primarily.
    There should be a limit on how much abuse someone will take. Personally I would not live in a situation where there was a threat hanging over my head, not deserved. It would be better to leave the priesthood, work during the day at Home Depot and at night dishing out Dunkin Donuts than live that way. You can still be a holy person and bring others to Christ, your actual vocation. But let some pretender threaten to put me in an institution for being faithful? Never. The priests or bishops who will not help, all pretenders, cowards.
    Do we have the courage of men who have suffered and died for the faith? Are all those men gone forever. We could name hundreds of men who gave it all for Christ and suffered mightily for it. Take the martys, the men who were beheaded by Isis on a beach not long ago. They could have renounced to save their lives and avoid beheading. None did. All were construction workers, one not even a Christian, but who would not renounce Christ and save his life, knowing he would be beheaded. Even he did not renounce. What do these men have that we do not have.
    I am not minimizing the suffering these priests are going through, and I don’t claim to know the depth of this situation at all, what I am saying is that all the way around these situations are hardly inspiring, and illustrates in how many ways our understanding of things may be warped.
    We worship Christ and Him crucified. As much respect as we give the office of Peter, he is not the church nor the faith nor Jesus Christ. When priests claim to fear damnation, yet not one priest I can recall has preached on damnation for decades, I think that is a dodge for servile fear of this papacy, this pope, this Vatican, this cabal. I’m sure it’s well deserved, which is why it would be better to be at peace selling hammers at Home Depot. At least that’s how I believe I would look at it.
    An elderly priest of course, is a different story. There is no easy answer for that.

  12. Amateur Scholastic says:


    There is a fascinating article on the un-Catholic understanding of obedience here (also contrasting this with St Thomas’s teaching):


    I don’t have anywhere near the knowledge to endorse it, or agree with every word of it, but it was certainly illuminating.

  13. Malta says:

    I like the idea of wearing a wire. Every state has whistleblower laws; but document everything: record in person or by phone. Wear a camera if in person, and, of course make sure it has clear audio: https://www.brickhousesecurity.com/hidden-cameras/bodyworn-cameras/

  14. Malta says:

    But make sure you are in a “one party” recording state (meaning you can record without the other person’s knowledge or consent: “Eleven states require the consent of every party to a phone call or conversation in order to make the recording lawful. These “two-party consent” laws have been adopted in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.”

  15. happyCatholic says:

    Is there any way to materially help these priests? I already pray for the clergy in my rosaries.

  16. GrandmotherTeresa says:

    “In fact the only men of God who were willing to come to the aid of priests immediately, without hesitation and without agenda were Protestant ministers. . . . .”

    This is both a scandal and a beacon of hope.

    The Catholic homeschool co-op in our diocese is large and thriving. It meets in the basement of a Protestant Church, with the full support and encouragement of the Pastor and all his staff. I do not want to place blame or disparage diocesan leadership for this obvious embarrassment because the worst problems are historical, and the current bishop has permitted priests to visit us there to offer sacraments.

    I pray every day, not just for a resolution to the current crisis in the Church but for the long-standing crisis of disunity among Christians. What is certain is that the humiliation of our leadership it a glaring problem visible to all Christians of good will.

  17. Michael says:

    If a priest did feel like sticking his neck out even more to defend his rights, he could have recourse to assistance from the St. Joseph Foundation: https://stjosephcanonlaw.com

  18. Andy Wright says:

    Re: The gates of Hell shall not prevail. I know in the past it’s been mentioned that the guarantee wasn’t that individual churches would be guaranteed to last. In these days, with the confusion so widespread and seemingly to the top, what’s the best way to take comfort in this?

    Do we look at past crises (Arianism) for hope? Interested in what others think as I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

  19. Emilio says:

    @Dismas: To record someone without their knowledge or consent in some states is a crime. I am guessing you didn’t know this before giving this advice. A vindictive bishop or religious superior who would persecute a priest for his orthodoxy and even institutionalize him would not think twice about sicking the local authorities on him too. I would never EVER allow myself to be institutionalized against my will, and I would sick the local authorities upon any bishop or superior who ever tried that… kudos to the priest who absconded before allowing ++Cupich to do this to him.

  20. Maureen M says:

    I will be praying! Are there any other ways we can help?

  21. Spinmamma says:

    How dismaying, and even frightening, for the sheep to see their good and faithful shepherds dispatched by the wolves. Beyond disheartening to see the errant priests of the, say, homosexual abuser kind “walked with” and given chance after chance by their superiors without any apparent concern for the ravaging of the flock, while a sincere and dutiful one is dismissed on such a flimsy pretext. May more bishops come out in support of the beautiful offering of Cardinal Mueller. And thank you, Amateur Scholastic, for the link to that very interesting article on the etiology of the current understanding of “obedience.”

  22. RichR says:

    If bishops would start standing up for orthodoxy they would have conservative Catholics lining up behind them ready to take a bullet for them. But there is a temptation amongst the episcopacy to please the liberal, anti-Christian media for short term glorification. The reality is that this shallow alliance can shatter the moment a Bishop stands up for Christ. Liberals will shout you down if you speak up for God’s holy law and rattle people’s safe spaces. Why do bishops continue to alienate those who are willing to make sacrifices for the Church? Why do they compromise with those who would easily turn on them and slit their throats? Try orthodoxy for a change and see where that gets you.

  23. Rob83 says:

    To think we need the priest holes back in this time to protect good priests from their own bishops.

  24. JustaSinner says:

    The Dark One loves the dark… and as long as orthodoxy priests remain quiet, they are feeding the darkness. Did not Jesus say to take up your cross daily? Too many priests worry about what the bishop will do or say if they cross him. Well, shed some light on his evil ways! All this talk about eternity in Heaven with God is just talk if you don’t put belief in action.
    And Father, the priesthood is unaspiring on this point currently. I would hate to see a REALLY trying time (Early Chtistians and lions, Pol Pot-ish, Lenin-Stalin, Hitler-Nazis) descend on Christ’s Church at this time. With a Pope that is coddling Communist China, Bishops that run from LATE TERM ABORTION activism, all to appease secular press/society, and these are ‘good times’? Sheesh, there won’t be anyone left if it gets tough…

  25. HvonBlumenthal says:

    The Church is not exempt from the law of the land. What the bishop is doing is blackmail, harassment and discrimination. I suggest his victims get a good lawyer and sue, prosecute or both.

  26. Man-o-words says:

    Fr Z, please keep us posted and let us know if and how we can help these priests who are being persecuted. I think you would find significant material, financial, and moral support out there if you can find someone to coordinate this. Perhaps one of these priests can organize a solution for their brethren, just point us to the appropriate “gofundme” type of page. . .

  27. Fallibilissimo says:

    I remember reading Fr Z’s article from a few months ago. I must admit, coupled with the revelation of scandal after scandal, I did feel shaken in my core. Not my faith in God, the Catholic Church etc, but in the idea that this will get resolved by force of the news cycle and that in enough time we can finally find a decent reform. No, time will not solve this and it hasn’t. Something has to change now.

    Transparency in the governance of the Church is an absolute sine qua non. There can be no compromise on this point, and if the leaders will not commit to it seriously then we need to prepare a massive effort for hardcore investigative journalism. CM says a bunch of things that I may not like, but the fact that they are exposing and covering news makes them worth their weight in gold. The secular news is a total fail on all fronts including this one. They don’t do any serious journalism and won’t commit to doing hard work when easy clickbait pays the bills and more.

    We are an institution which puts an enormous premium on obedience and rightly so. The mass, the substance of our most precious summit and fount of life is one great act of obedience so it only makes sense, aware of the frailty of man, that we have mechanisms that prevent any abuse of obedience. Acton said (it was in the context of the definition of infallibility), how power tends to corrupt. He was wrong about infallibility but he was right about power. We need safeguards.

    @Dismas: about wearing a wire, I’m afraid I couldn’t agree more because at the moment trust is shattered. I think I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but it’s funny with these smartphones and crazy gadgets, sometimes they just happen to be recording without me even realizing. How clumsy of me…

  28. Dismas says:

    1. I am not as familiar with the legal matters of employment law and recording in other states.

    2.There are three sets of bishops in the US: courageous and orthodox, cowardly and orthodox, and the unorthodox. Of the first group, perhaps there are as many as there were righteous souls in Sodom (4), of the second, less than half, and the third is in charge.

  29. Robert_Caritas says:

    God bless this man. The poison of false obedience (obeying when it is sinful to do so) has effectively been imposed on most clergy…

    Father Z, could you try and discretely put this man in contact with others who might be able to help materially, financially or spiritually ?

  30. deaconjohn1987 says:

    Mission Statement:
    To find solutions to the problems confronting priests in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Church and of the Holy Father and his predecessors.

    Opus Bono is a highly labor intensive mission. The majority of the work of the Opus Bono staff is in consulting, caring, and facilitating specialized assistance, for priests who are experiencing acute difficulties, which may even be life and ministry threatening.

  31. oldCatholigirl says:

    The horror of transparency, letting it all hang out, blowing the whistle….is that some things should be kept, not exactly private, but between concerned parties, so that wrong doers can repent, pick up the pieces, and go on from there. The seal of Confession allows for that. Also, there are different levels of guilt–being quiet about something you only have a hunch about is not the same as having done wrong yourself and not having the guts to ‘fess up, or not exercising proper authority out of temerity. And what about a person who really did something wrong once years ago, repented, and later finds his lifework wrecked because someone digs it up? And then there’s the ages old temptation of being so excited to catch someone with a mote in his eye, so we can forget, temporarily, that pesky beam in our own. I have seen so many good people hurt, so many good projects jettisoned, so many children and non-Catholics scandalized by the fury with which good people turn on anyone who says–or doesn’t say–the right thing according to their particular formula for saving the Church, that I’m gun-shy about pointing fingers.
    That said, since the 80’s, I’ve also seen, or known on credible authority, lots of cover-ups by Church officialdom; worse: smearing of whistle-blowers; even worse, seminarians being turned away for orthodoxy; worst, good priests led astray. I’ve also learned so much history, and lived so long, that I’m deprived of the consolation of looking back on a Golden Age, the restoration of which will be the cure of all present evils. Power does indeed tend to corrupt, whether it be bureaucratic or individual, clerical or lay, monarchic or democratic. Darn. What I want is a peaceful, happy life. The funny thing is, I’ve had it more than most people, in spite of my faults and sins. Maybe I should be glad that “there is no justice”. And maybe I must remember that there will indeed be justice–only, often,not here and now.
    My true friends keep assuring me that life is a battle to the death, so, I guess that makes you a friend, too, Father Z. But we need to choose our weapons, use them judiciously, keep getting up when we fall, and give our enemies a chance to do the same. No scorched earth policies. Just “Light and Air” for scandals, their revelation and prevention. Right now, some people still think “Smiiiling” and Hugging solve everything, while others shriek if an avuncular hand inadvertently brushes a shoulder. And then there’s those who get their jollies by getting others into trouble. And the genuinely evil schemers who take advantage of all weaknesses. So: Pray constantly. Let the Holy Spirit do the talking. Tell the truth in season and out of season. Fight the good fight. (Reading sound Bible translations is also a help.) Borrow some worldly wisdom: Think before you speak. Pick your battles. Stop to smell the roses. Sing–Chant (or let it sing you), good rousing hymns (some of them originally written by Methodists and Anglicans and Baptists, but universal, and, therefore, Catholic). If you’re downhearted, sing louder (a purportedly Irish custom). Nor all truisms are untrue. And, of course, look in the mirror, and then, as Father Z. says, Go to Confession.
    Climbing down off my soapbox, so someone else can climb up.

  32. Liz says:

    It’s so horrible read things like this. We do pray for suffering priests in all of our rosaries. I hope people support organizations like Opus Bono Sacerdotii https://www.opusbono.org who help priests in need when nobody else will. They aren’t necessarily traditional but a good solid organization run by good people.

  33. Benedict Joseph says:

    This is an easy piece of advise, not so easy to put in practice. The consequences could be initially catastrophic. Put in such a corner the alternative is to go boldly public. In the current climate there is not a secular newspaper that would not publish an account of an honest priest being threatened by his bishop for nefarious purpose.
    Remaining silent supports the abusers sense of inviolability. Abuse of power. Abuse of theology. There are all kinds of abuse, but only one is getting any attention, and that one would not be operative if these other two weren’t out of control as well. The episcopate has some bad actors operative. They must be exposed.

  34. TonyO says:

    Regarding one comment above this post, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania clerics cannot sue their respective churches, so gathering evidence of abuse or harassment would not help us.

    @ Hb: I don’t know PA law, so I may be shooting in the dark, but: have you checked this out with a good attorney?

    The reason I ask is that in spite of the fact that some states have special rules regarding the relationship of pastors and their churches, by and large these rules do not foreclose ALL avenues of redress when there are wrongful acts, such as (just to pick a couple) breach of contract, or sexual harassment. The laws may make it more difficult to prove, or limit the remedies available, or change the venue from one form to another, but typically there is still SOME sort of redress potentially available.

    Also, there is always the possibility of getting a few small crumbs of justice merely by posing as a potential suit in the making – many bishops won’t want even the publicity of “former pastor’s case rejected by court” headlines. It takes guts to accept that, and guts is just what many of those old ladies lack.

  35. Louis Mountbatten says:

    The Clergy should not have to obey orders that involve them being forced to take harmful drugs, or be prescribed treatments/ therapies that might cause additional harm. The Church, instead of attaching itself, needs to be on the assault for all enemies.

  36. LauraL says:

    I want a way to help. I can only give $10, $25 at a time, here and there, but I want very much to do that.

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