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Newsletter construction, JD's quest, and the news

Hey everybody,

Happy Easter! 

This newsletter is coming to you a little bit late, and here’s why — construction!

The 13-minute drive from our house to our son Daniel’s kindergarten normally takes us 13 minutes.

But this morning the same drive took us some 45 minutes, because of two separate construction projects along the route. While I really enjoyed spending some extra time in the car with my son, it took me a good bit longer to complete drop-off and write the newsletter.

Why don’t I write the newsletter on Monday afternoon? Well, usually I do. But yesterday Ed and I spent a couple of hours on the phone with our accountant, trying to iron out a last-minute tax question that had arisen at The Pillar — largely because of our own, shall we say, novice status with the finer points of bookkeeping. 

And then yesterday I also had to complete something of a quest, which ended at a furniture store in Denver’s western suburbs. I’ll tell you about that at the end of the newsletter.

But, readers, here’s the really important thing — 

By way of reminder, Lent is 40 days long, and Easter is 50 days long; the season takes us all the way to Pentecost, at the end of May. 

So if you made it a point, as most of you did, to observe the penances and fasting of Lent for 40 days, well, you ought to make it a point to observe the season of feasting just as well. 

It always strikes me as a shame that Easter, the highest feast in the Christian calendar, gets something of a cultural short shrift in comparison to the penitential season meant to prepare us for Eastertide. 

“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Pietro Perugino. Public domain.

Christ is Risen, and it seems to me that the whole of these Easter weeks should be punctuated by celebration of that. Have some Easter parties, some Easter cocktails on the front porch, some Easter day trips to cool places. 

Really, the Church gives us this season as much as she gives us Lent, so there seems no reason not to live it.

Happy Easter!

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The news

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was charged criminally in Wisconsin last week with one count of fourth-degree sexual assault, reportedly committed against an 18-year-old in 1977.

The alleged victim of the assault was James Grein, a man who alleges that he was frequently abused as a teenager by McCarrick, a family friend — including the alleged act of abuse in Wisconsin, which reportedly also involved an unnamed second perpetrator, according to the criminal complaint. 

Grein, who has become an outspoken public figure, has previously claimed that during a trip to Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva, he was sexually assaulted by both McCarrick and the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin — ostensibly the second man named in the Wisconsin criminal complaint. 

But while charges are filed, it is not likely that the allegation will be subject to a criminal trial. 

McCarrick, 92, has argued in Massachusetts that he is not mentally competent to stand trial on other criminal assault charges, and will likely argue the same thing in Wisconsin. 

The back-and-forth could take years. 

It is worth noting that in Wisconsin, officials have announced that the charges against McCarrick stem from a probe launched in 2021 by the state’s Attorney General Josh Kaul. That probe has faced criticism both from Catholic officials in the state, who say it’s targeted anti-Catholicism, and from some victims’ advocates, who say it doesn’t go far enough to get at the truth. 

It is not clear how either of those groups will respond to the McCarrick charges, especially given the improbability that they will end in a conviction. Whether the charges are seen in Wisconsin as a sign of progress, or as a kind of window-dressing over a flagging investigation, remains to be seen.

In either case, you can read this story, which breaks down both the criminal charges and the context, right here.


The Archdiocese of Chicago is expected to restrict the exposition of the Eucharist during a national Eucharistic pilgrimage that will traverse the Chicago region next year, ahead of the Eucharistic Congress scheduled for next July.

The Pillar reported on Friday that the Chicago archdiocese has told organizers of the national Eucharistic pilgrimage that, while pilgrims may travel through the archdiocese during their processional walk to Indianapolis, they are expected to reserve the Eucharist in a ciborium, rather than process with the Eucharist exposed in a monstrance, as the pilgrimage will do in other areas of the country. 

The pilgrimage is part of the National Eucharistic Congress project.

And restrictions on processing in Chicago with the Blessed Sacrament come amid differences of theological approach among U.S. bishops over the Church’s Eucharistic revival process.

While Cardinal Blase Cupich has argued that an emphasis on adoration could distract from catechesis about the importance of the Mass, Bishop Andrew Cozzens has stressed a unified vision between Eucharistic adoration and the worship of God in the Mass.

Here’s The Pillar’s breaking news report on the procession in Chicago

The Institute of Catholic Culture is now enrolling new students in our upcoming free, online course: Sacred Liturgy: History & Principles of Christian Worship. Join us for a deep dive into the rich symbolism and meaning of the Mass, the Sacraments, sacrifice and worship, the liturgical calendar, and more!

Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow is on a visit this week to the Archdiocese of Beijing — the first time a bishop of Hong Kong has officially traveled to mainland China in some 30 years.

The visit comes amid escalating tensions over the Vatican’s deal with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, which has arguably broken down irreparably in recent weeks, with the Vatican even going so far as to acknowledge there are problems — a big step!

So in that context, what does it mean that Bishop Chow is in Beijing? Is he doing PR on behalf of the state apparatus? Is he in Beijing to ruffle feathers?

Ed Condon suggests a more nuanced narrative — and his analytical insights on the trip are worth reading.

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Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, is back in the news, as the Knoxville diocese admits in a litigation brief that Stika told priests publicly that a seminarian accused of sexual assault was actually the victim, and not the aggressor.

Stika told The Pillar the same thing in 2021. 

The tricky part of that is that the seminarian has faced several other allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, and was actually dismissed from his seminary studies because of those allegations. 

Furthermore, The Pillar has confirmed that Stika gave the former seminarian thousands of dollars in unusual cash payments and gifts during his time with the diocese, and even recently, has continued to solicit financial support for the young man. Further, Stika confirmed this week — as The Pillar reported at the time — that he took the young man on a 2021 summer vacation with Cardinal Justin Rigali, after the former seminarian had been accused of multiple instances of sexual assault, in several contexts.

Stika has said both that he “know[s] in [his] heart” that the former seminarian “is innocent,” and has said that The Pillar’s reporting on the prospect of a cover-up is “fake news” — even while the bishop’s legal filings confirm or admit key elements of The Pillar’s reporting.

For a lot of people, the lingering question is about Stika’s tenure in the diocese. Amid a profound scandal, and pleas from his presbyterate for Vatican aid, how has Stika remained the Bishop of Knoxville?

It’s worth asking — especially after two Vatican inquiries into the diocese, and multiple reports passed on to Rome. But it’s also worth noting that there’s a new prefect on the scene — and that Archbishop Robert Prevost, new head of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops, has given some indication he’ll look into the matter.

While the Vatican moves slowly, scandal is compounding in East Tennessee. 

Read the latest here.

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The Vatican released Monday a document summing up Europe’s experience of the global synod on synodality process. The concluding dossier of the European synod on synodality meetings, which concluded two months ago in Prague, boldly proclaims that the course of the synod on synodality was:

“...the first time in Europe that the People of God — bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, lay men and women — gathered to listen to one another and dialogue in an atmosphere of prayer and listening to the Word of God.”

That is quite a claim, of course. 

If you’d like to know what the European church has actually to say on synodality and the life of our Christian communion, you can read our breakdown of the document, right here

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And finally, former German bishops’ conference chairman Archbishop Robert Zollitsch is facing a Vatican investigation into claims that he covered up abuse.

Zollitsch was heavily criticized in a report published Tuesday on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Freiburg, which he led from 2003 until his retirement in 2013.

The archbishop has acknowledged that he mishandled abuse cases, and said that he is “personally responsible” for administrative misconduct.

It remains to be seen how the Vatican will respond - or what sanctions he might face - especially since Zollitsch is already retired from diocesan ministry.

Read all about it.

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Every great quest begins with a bar tab

I mentioned at the top of this newsletter that I went on a little quest yesterday, and it was actually quite an adventure. It was the pursuit of my Visa card.

And here’s what happened:

On Saturday, we went to the wedding of a friend, and had a great time. The Mass was beautiful, the reception was fun, the music was great — our kids had a raucous time dancing for hours with their friends, and we enjoyed drinking cocktails and catching up.

We actually had a big success, because our son Max has some sensory issues, and loud environments are usually a bit too much for him. We really wanted to enjoy this wedding, so we’ve been practicing at home with several sets of headphones, some noise-canceling, some just big, industrial-strength construction-site ear protection. 

The headphones worked, and Max made it through the night really well.

To our surprise, our daughter Pia felt comfortable enough at the wedding to request from the DJ the microphone, and to offer her own toast to the bride and groom, both unsolicited and unprompted. She was a flower girl, so I guess that was her right.

As these things often do, our evening ended in haste, when Max and Davey damn near fell asleep at the table, and Pia pitched a fit at the notion that we should leave.

The headphones worked, but - as you can see - Max was ready to go.

Our exit was, to be clear, hurried. In our haste, I forgot to close out my bar tab. I left my Visa card at the bar.

No problem, right? I should stop by the Knights of Columbus hall where the reception was the next day, and just retrieve the card, right? Happens all the time, right?

Well, not so much.

I did go to the hall, but it was closed. So I dialed a number I found online, and a very kind Knight — and a Pillar reader (in a good way), as it happens — gave me the keycode to get in the building. I went in, went behind the bar, looked for my card, and well, I didn’t find it. 

I called the kind Pillar reader. He then called his brother, who’d closed the bar that night. He called me back to say that my card had been — apparently — taken by the father of the groom, who’d promised to get it back to me.

Now readers, that was very kind of him. But I don’t actually know the father of the groom. At least I didn’t.

I got his number Sunday night, called him up, thanked him for a great party, and asked him for the card. I hoped to meet him before he left Colorado to head back home to the east coast.

He did not have the card. 

In fact, he had no idea what I was talking about. 

In a great East Coast accent, he asked the right question: “Now, come on — why would I take your credit card, huh?”

Why indeed?

So, having disturbed his evening, I called the Knights of Columbus Pillar reader, again. He called his brother, again. Then he called me. 

It turned out that my card hadn’t actually gone to the father of the groom, but to the father of a couple of groomsmen — Ah ha! 

As I heard the story, this father-of-some-groomsmen heard that someone hadn’t closed out their tab, and in the general merriment of the evening, had decided he could get the card back to its rightful owner. 

Very kind of him. 

The only problem, readers, is that I don’t actually know the father-of-the-groomsmen. At least I didn’t. 

The Knights of Columbus Pillar reader suggested sagely that perhaps I ought call the bride and groom to get the phone number of the father-of-the-groomsmen in possession of my credit card.

I didn’t want to do that. 

It was the day after their nuptials, and it seemed to me entirely unfair that they should become involved in the quest of a guy who didn’t close out his bar tab. 

So instead, Mrs. Flynn and I started working the phones.

Now, I should be clear. The bride at this wedding is a very good friend of ours. She worked for two years as our daughter’s aide in school, and she subsequently has become a regular fixture at our dinner table, and a sometime pal on family outings, and she is Pia’s confirmation sponsor. We think the world of her. But we don’t really know her friends. We are old, after all, and they are not.

Still, we really didn’t want to call her on her honeymoon. 

So we leaned on the small world of Colorado Catholicism to start calling around, looking for the phone number of the father-of-the-groomsmen. 

At first it was tricky, because we’d gotten his first name wrong. Of course we had.

But eventually that got sorted. We learned his name, and in due time, my wife even learned his phone number.

Mrs. Flynn texted him, explaining that her husband’s credit card was likely in his possession, and we’d like to retrieve it. Simple enough.

Readers — He didn’t have my credit card.

He did, for some reason, have a photograph of my credit card, which he texted to Mrs. Flynn — both helpful and ominous.

It is a strange feeling to spend a couple of hours tracking a man down, and then to get from him a text message photo of your financial data.

The good news is that he turned out to be a good man.

He had taken the card (I suspect after a few spirits himself) with the belief that he could track me down at the wedding. Eventually, he decided he couldn’t — because I’d left the wedding several hours before last call. 

He might have returned the card to the bar, where I would have retrieved it the next day. Instead, he gave it to a groomsman whose father I do know, with the thought that maybe he could get the card to me.

The-father-of-some-groomsmen told Mrs. Flynn that the groomsman-whose-father-I-know had the card.

It took us a little while to track down that young man’s telephone number — I texted his father, who proved unreachable — but once we had the number Monday morning, the young man told me that he’d placed the card in the safe at a West Denver suburban furniture store where he works, as one does, and I could retrieve it there.

Hence my quest.

The card, it sounds like, had quite an adventure. It passed through, it sounds like, a lot of hands. There are a few parts of its journey that still don’t add up. 

But it’s back in my possession, no worse for the wear, and not having been used at all. That shows me that people are basically good, and can be counted on to do a good deed, even by a route that would make Rube Goldberg get dizzy. 

All’s well that ends well. 

Still, I’ll probably get a new card.

Happy Easter guys.

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And more important, please join in rooting tonight for a New Jersey Devils’ playoff victory against the hated Broadway Blueshirts, the repugnant New York Rangers.

Please be assured of our prayers. And please pray for us. We need it.

In Christ,

JD Flynn
The Pillar

The Institute of Catholic Culture is now enrolling new students in our upcoming free, online course: Sacred Liturgy: History & Principles of Christian Worship. Join us for a deep dive into the rich symbolism and meaning of the Mass, the Sacraments, sacrifice and worship, the liturgical calendar, and more!

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