Catholic high school teacher returned to classroom after abuse claim

The Attorney General’s report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore includes 37 redacted names of officials, clergy and non-clerical members of the Archdiocese.

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The parents never saw the Catholic brother as a threat to their son.

They encouraged his relationship with their boy, allowing him to take the child to baseball games and on overnight trips. They hoped he would inspire the boy to pledge his life to the church, as the man had done.

One night, while the two were sleeping in the same bed, the family friend fondled the boy’s genitals, his sister later reported to authorities. The allegation appears on Page 443 of the Maryland attorney general’s report on child sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The survivor himself described the abuse when contacted by the archdiocese in 2003, according to the report.

He felt responsible for what had happened, the report states, and for 10 years “guilt ate him alive.”

The report refers to the accused man only as “No. 153”; his name and the names of nine others accused of abuse are redacted under an order from the courts.

The Baltimore Banner has identified No. 153 as Ronald Nicholls, 74, of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, who taught social studies at the old Cardinal Gibbons High School in Southwest Baltimore in the 1970s. More recently, he served as a youth mentor and English language teacher at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Rehoboth, WRDE Coast TV reported.

Banner reporters matched details in the attorney general’s report to news articles, school yearbooks, property records and church directories to identify him.

Nicholls has not been charged with a crime. He is part of a cluster of eight men accused of child sexual abuse who taught at Cardinal Gibbons or lived in the school’s faculty residence in the 1970s. The archdiocese opened the all-boys school in 1962 and closed it in 2010 after years of declining enrollment.

Reached by phone, Nicholls was asked if he knew the attorney general’s report included one allegation against him.

“This is a personal issue. I’m not going to discuss that. Thanks,” Nicholls told a reporter before hanging up.

Four days later, an attorney sent an email to notify The Banner that Nicholls “reserves his right to pursue any and all defamation lawsuits if you or your company publish any article identifying his name.” The Banner asked the attorney four times if Nicholls denies being No. 153 in the report. The attorney did not respond to phone messages or emails.

The other church figures include the Revs. Joseph G. Fiorentino, No. 148; John Peter Krzyzanski, No. 151; Samuel Lupico, No. 152; and Joseph O’Meara, No. 155. The Banner also identified No. 156 as Michael V. Scriber, who attended a seminary and intended to join the clergy, according to the report, but who dropped out for academic reasons.

Spokespersons for the attorney general’s office and the archdiocese declined to comment for this article.

Also redacted are the names of five church officials who handled allegations of abuse. “Official C” has been identified as as W. Francis Malooly, the retired bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington. That identification was made last month by Terry McKiernan, the founder of, a Massachusetts nonprofit that collects documents related to clergy sexual abuse cases. The Baltimore Sun identified four additional redacted church officials and late Wednesday named the Rev. Thomas J. Hudson of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Western Maryland as alleged abuser No. 150.

Nicholls first came to the attention of the archdiocese in 2003 when the woman reported that he sexually abused her brother, the report states. The document describes the boy as 10 to 12 years old and does not specify the year the alleged abuse took place. His sister decided to speak up after Nicholls contacted her on social media in an attempt to reach him.

“She felt he did so because of the large volume of sexual assault allegations coming to light at the time and was worried about liability for his own abuse,” investigators wrote in the report.

The church reported the allegation to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, an archdiocesan spokesperson said without specifying that No. 153 was Nicholls. The church also notified the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, writing that the “allegation appears to be credible,” according to the report. That’s because Nicholls had moved to Philadelphia by that time. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia did not respond to messages.

The sister said that she was told by the state’s attorney’s office that prosecutors will not do anything “because of the age of the victim,” according to the report. He was an adult when she reported the allegation. The office today could not find records of the allegation or any investigation. Legal experts say the act as described in the report would have been a misdemeanor at the time and subject to the misdemeanor statute of limitations, typically one year. Prosecutors are bound by the law as it existed when the abuse happened.

Nicholls is not the only former Cardinal Gibbons teacher accused of abuse. By 1969, three people who were later accused of child sexual abuse were teaching there, and a fourth lived in the school’s faculty residence, according to the report and a database maintained by

One of the men was accused of soliciting sex from and fondling several teenage boys who attended Mount St. Joseph High School, where he worked in the 1980s after leaving Cardinal Gibbons. Another alleged abuser who taught religion at Cardinal Gibbons was accused of repeatedly molesting twin brothers while serving as pastor of a Connecticut church.

The third person, the Rev. Kenneth Farabaugh, worked at Cardinal Gibbons for more than a decade and overlapped with Nicholls.

Years later, Farabaugh drove his car into a tree and was killed shortly before he was scheduled to speak with police about an allegation that he sexually assaulted a John Carroll High School student. Before his death, Farabaugh denied the allegation, but the archdiocese “questioned his credibility,” according to the report.

The other men accused of child sexual abuse who were associated with Cardinal Gibbons in the 1970s include the Rev. Robert Lentz, the Rev. John J. Sheehan and Brother Bob A. Lindemann, who was the high school’s assistant media director the same academic year Nicholls joined the staff.

The Banner identified No. 153 as Nicholls by matching details in the report to descriptions of Nicholls’ background and work history in a 2016 article from Camp Rehoboth Inc., a nonprofit community service organization dedicated to supporting the beach town’s gay and lesbian visitors.

The report describes No. 153 as a member of the Marianist religious order who left the group and was released from his final vows in 1980. Nicholls, the article states, left the Marianists in 1980 because he felt “too constrained by the order,” which requires members to pledge vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience.

The article’s description of Nicholls’ work as a teacher at Cardinal Gibbons in the mid-to-late 1970s matches the assignment history for No. 153. Yearbooks from that time show that Nicholls worked at the school as a social studies teacher for six years, starting in the 1975 school year.

Nicholls and Brother Matthew Betz both left the Cardinal Gibbons staff after the 1980 school year, as No. 153 did. But Betz was never released from his Marianist vows. He remained an active member of the religious order until his death in 1982, according to an obituary. He also joined the Cardinal Gibbons staff more than a decade before No. 153′s first known assignment in Baltimore.

Property records further connect Nicholls to the Marianists and to the report’s description of No. 153. Nicholls previously lived on Beechwood Avenue in Baltimore at an address listed in the Official Catholic Directory as a residence for Marianist brothers. Nicholls later moved to Philadelphia, according to property records and the Camp Rehoboth Inc. article. The report states that No. 153 also lived in Philadelphia.

The article goes on to describe Nicholls’ various jobs in New Jersey and Philadelphia after leaving Cardinal Gibbons. He taught elementary grades at a parochial school, drove a laundry truck and worked in catering as well as briefly for the Internal Revenue Service.

Nicholls’ name does not appear on the archdiocese’s list of credibly accused priests and brothers, nor does it appear on a similar list maintained by the Marianists.

Asked by the author of the Camp Rehoboth Inc. article what he wants as his legacy, Nicholls said he wants to be remembered well for the things he’s done.

“Especially, by the kids I taught and mentored,” he added. “I want to be regarded as having been a good influence.”

Complete Article HERE!

Area Catholic clerics on newly released state list

More than 20 abusive clerics who once served at area Catholic churches and schools were named in a state report released Tuesday.


More than 20 abusive clerics who once served at area Catholic churches and schools were named in a state report released Tuesday.

The six dioceses in Illinois failed to disclose hundreds of abusive clerics before the state opened what would become a yearslong investigation into sex abuse within the church, Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Tuesday.

A 2017 law eliminated Illinois’ prior statute of limitations for child sex abuse, under which a 20-year clock began ticking on a victim’s 18th birthday. But that law was only prospective; a 2009 Illinois Supreme Court decision affirmed that attempts to alter the statute of limitations retroactively violated the due process rights of the accused.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Diocese said he supports the investigation and feels it is time to bring all the crimes out into the public.

“The attorney general’s inquiry into the history of clergy sexual abuse of minors in this diocese has served as a reminder that some clergy in the Church committed shameful and disgraceful sins against innocent victim survivors and did damage that simply cannot be undone,” Paprocki said. “As bishop of this diocese, I cannot undo the damages of the past, but I have been and continue to be fully committed to ensuring we do all we can to prevent abuse from happening again.”

Raoul’s report, however, suggests Paprocki could have done more. It states that the diocese didn’t list substantiated child sex abusers placed online until November 2018 and it was not until September 2022 that Paprocki authorized the diocese’s homepage to include a link to a “List of clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The 700-page report was issued following a four-and-a-half-year investigation. It includes the names of 451 Catholic priests and religious brothers statewide who abused nearly 2,000 victims since 1950. It also named 32 Catholic clerics who had served in the 28-county Springfield Diocese that includes Madison, Macoupin, Jersey, Greene and Calhoun counties.

Named in Raoul’s report, along with their assignments and number of abuse survivors, were:

• Alvin Campbell (died 2002) with 34 survivors. Assignments included 1982, Mother of Perpetual Help in Maryville.

• Joseph Cernich with 4 survivors. The abuse was listed as occurring in 1983 at Saint Ambrose in Godfrey.

• Victor Lucien Chateauvert (died 1999) with at least 2 survivors. Assignments included 1978-1981 at Saint Joseph in Granite City.

• Garrett Neal Dee with 4 survivors. Assignments included 1968-1971 at Immaculate Conception in Alton, 1968: Dominican Sisters at Bethalto, 1973-1976 at Saint Boniface, Edwardsville, and 1980-1981 at Saint Elizabeth in Marine.

• Robert Degrand with 1 survivor. Assignments included 1991-1996 at Saint Elizabeth in Granite City.

• Robert Dodd (died 2018) with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1964-1968 at Saint Paul in Highland and 1968 at SIUE Newman Catholic Community in Edwardsville.

• Robert Eagear (died 1984) with 1 survivor. Assignments included 1928-1934 at Saint Bernard in Wood River and 1958-1970 at Saint Peter and Paul in Collinsville.

• George Faller (died 1975) with 3 survivors. Assignments included 1918-1919: Saint Paul in Highland, 1919 at Saint Simon and Jude in Gillespie, 1919-1922 at Saint Mary in Alton, 1922-1924 at Saint Anseim in Kampsville, 1954-1961 at Saint Boniface in Edwardsville and 1961-1969 at Saint Joseph in Benld.

• Ray Frazen (died 1987) with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1940-1942 at Saint Patrick in Grafton.

• Joseph Havey (died 2017) with 14 survivors. Assignments included 1970 and again in 1974 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City, and 1975-1976 at Holy Ghost in Jerseyville.

• George Kromenaker (died 2010) with 1 survivor. Assignments included 1952-1954 at Saint Mary in Alton.

• Thomas Gregory Meyer (died 2012) with at least 1 survivor. Assignments included 1990-1998 at Saint Peter and Paul in Alton.

• Orville Lawrence Munie (died 1993) with at least 1 survivor. Assignments included 1981-1983 at Saint Isidore in Bethany.

• Joseph Cullen O’Brien (died 1978) with 14 survivors. Assignments included 1942-1945 at Saint Peter and Paul in Collinsville, 1945 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1948-1950 at Saint Joseph in Granite City, 1968-1970 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton and 1968-1970 at Saint Patrick in Alton.

• Frank O’Hara (died 2006) with 5 survivors. Assignments included 1959-1985 at Saint Kevin in Rosewood Heights.

• Daniel L. Ryan (died 2015) with 5 survivors. Assignments included 1984-1999 as Bishop of Springfield Diocese.

• Aloysius Schwellenbach (died 2000) with 4 survivors. Assignments included 1945 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1951-1952 at Saint Joseph in Granite City, 1964-1969 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City, and 1969-1970 at Saints Simon and Jude in Gillespie.

• Louis C. Shea (died 1996) with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1951 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton and 1954 at Saint Anselm in Kampsville.

• Francis Tebangura with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1980-1988 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City, 1988-2001 at Saint Elizabeth in Granite City,  2001-2002 at Our Lady Czestochowa in Madison, 2002-2006 at Saint Mark in Venice, IL (sacramental priest) and 2002-2006 at Saint Mary in Madison (sacramental priest).

• Walter Weerts with 22 survivors. Assignments included 1955 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1957 at Camp Pere Marquette in Grafton, 1961-1963 at Saint Ambrose in Godfrey, 1963-1967 at Sacred Heart in Granite City, 1972 at Saint Paul in Highland, and 1979-1980 at Saint Boniface in Edwardsville.

• Frank Westhoff (died 2006) with 3 survivors. Assignments included 1959 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1961-1964 at Saint Patrick in Alton, 1980-1985 at Camp Pere Marquette in Grafton and 1984-1985 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City.

Complete Article HERE!

Bolivia’s Catholic Church acknowledges being ‘deaf’ to sex abuse victims

People protest with signs against sexual abuse by a priest outside the Bolivian Archbishopric office in La Paz, Bolivia, Friday, May 19, 2023. Milton Murillo, a Bolivian priest, has been remanded in custody on suspicion of abusing seminarians a decade ago, shortly after news broke of what has turned out to be the largest pedophilia scandal in the Andean country’s history, involving the deceased Jesuit priest.


Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Bolivia acknowledged Wednesday that the church had been deaf to the suffering of victims of sexual abuse, commenting as a pedophilia scandal involving priests is rocking the country.

In a statement, the Andean nation’s Catholic bishops said that “as a church, we are facing a painful moment … because we are certain that we have been directly or indirectly involved in the deep pain caused to innocent victims.”

The statement comes amid the fallout from the case involving a late Spanish Jesuit priest, Alfonso Pedrajas. According to a private diary accessed by the Spanish newspaper El País, Pedrajas allegedly abused dozens of minors in Catholic boarding schools in Bolivia in the 1970s and 1980s. He died of cancer in 2009.

Earlier this week, Jordi Bertemeu, one of the Vatican’s top sex crimes investigators, arrived in Bolivia.

The bishops said that while “we know there is no way to compensate for the damage caused, we are committed to do everything possible to … seek a reparation, with the support of professionals who provide assistance and help heal wounds and scars.”

The Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation — which remains confidential — and has called on the victims to testify. New cases of sexual abuse have been uncovered as a result of this probe and one priest was sent to pre-trial detention for three months earlier this month.

Bolivian President Luis Arce sent a letter to Pope Francis earlier this week, requesting that the church release any documents about sexual abuse by priests in Bolivia.

In the letter, Arce calls on church authorities to “move from pronouncements to concrete actions to prevent impunity.”

In their statement, the Bolivian bishops said the church would set up two commissions to “determine responsibilities.” They promised to provide updates, saying they would “contribute to a transparent investigation” by the justice system.

The Jesuit Society in Bolivia previously apologized to victims and pledged to support the investigation while denouncing Pedrajas’ superiors for an alleged cover-up. Many of the people singled out are no longer in office or have died.

Complete Article HERE!

Sexual abuse allegations made against priests in 19 Catholic diocesan colleges throughout State

— Protestant-run boarding schools declined to respond to request for details from The Irish Times

St Muredach’s cathedral in Ballina, in Killala diocese. St Muredach’s Diocesan College paid out a settlement of €100,000 following an allegation of child sexual abuse against a priest.

By Patsy McGarry

The sexual abuse of boys at boarding schools in Ireland was not confined to those run by religious congregations such as the Spiritans, Jesuits, Dominicans, Vincentians, Carmelites or Benedictines. Such abuse has also taken place in diocesan colleges run by local Catholic clergy, or junior seminaries as they were also called. Run by almost every Catholic diocese in Ireland, such colleges were usually where its priests and bishops were recruited. In recent years however, due to the clerical child sex abuse crisis, it has become practice to appoint new bishops from outside each diocese as it was felt familiarity with abuser priests encouraged cover-ups in the past.

It is unknown how many boys were sexually abused in these boarding schools, but The Irish Times, with the co-operation of Catholic Church authorities, has established that in this jurisdiction 19 such diocesan colleges have faced sexual abuse allegations against a total of 44 priests. Some 33 of these directly involve the local diocesan college, with similar allegations against a further 11 diocesan priests at other schools in the dioceses.

There are 26 Catholic dioceses on the island of Ireland, with the diocesan colleges of Derry, Armagh, Down and Connor, and Dromore in Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, neither the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, nor the diocese of Waterford and Lismore had diocesan colleges.

Of the 19 remaining dioceses contacted for relevant details by The Irish Times, only Cloyne failed to supply details as to whether abuse allegations were made against priests at its diocesan college, St Colman’s in Fermoy, Co Cork. However, it is known that at least one priest at St Colman’s College faced abuse allegations, which led to High Court proceedings in 2008. The case was settled when St Colman’s College paid damages to the former pupil.

Survivors of abuse at fee-paying schools invited to come forward ‘without fear’ to scoping inquiry ]

In the diocese of Galway, eight priests faced sexual abuse allegations at its schools, of which five faced allegations from their period teaching at St Mary’s Diocesan College in the city. There were also allegations against three further priests at other schools in the diocese. All allegations were reported to civil authorities.

None of the accused priests in Galway faced prosecution while “some” were sanctioned by the Church. “Total costs in relation to all school-related cases was under €100,000. This was paid from non-parish related monies,” the diocese said.

The associated Clonfert diocese has received no allegations against priests who taught at its diocesan college, St Joseph’s, Garbally, in Ballinasloe.

Dioceses of Ireland
Dioceses of Ireland.

In Elphin diocese’s Summerhill College, Sligo, and St Aloysius College, Athlone, child sex abuse allegations were made against three priests. In four other cases allegations was either withdrawn or not sustained. All allegations were reported to civil authorities with no prosecutions following. No financial settlements were made by the diocese arising from any allegations.

In Ferns diocese, allegations of child sexual abuse were made against three priests concerning their time as teachers at St Peter’s College, Wexford, with allegations also against two priests at other schools in the diocese. All allegations were reported to civil authorities with one priest convicted in the courts, while two of the priests were laicised (dismissed from the clergy) by the Church.

Settlements were reached with 15 people who made allegations of sexual abuse by the Ferns priests, 12 following their abuse at St Peter’s College. The amounts involved were not made available by the diocese.

In Kilmore diocese, three priests who were teachers at St Patrick’s College, Cavan, were accused of child sexual abuse and another priest/teacher there was accused of unspecified abuse. He was also accused of unspecified abuse at another school in the diocese. All accused priests are deceased.

All cases were reported to civil authorities, but just one was fully investigated and it did not lead to a prosecution. The priest under investigation left the priesthood. One priest had died before an investigation could take place and the other died before an investigation was completed. There were no settlements in any of the cases.

The diocese of Cork and Ross recorded allegations against three priests who were on the teaching staff of St Finbarr’s Diocesan College, Farranferris, and against two other priests on the staff of two other schools in the diocese. All allegations were reported to the civil authorities.

One accused priest was prosecuted and convicted in relation to abuse in a parish before he was also accused of sexual abuse at St Finbarr’s. He was laicised and is deceased. No criminal prosecutions were initiated in connection with allegations at St Finbarr’s College or at the other schools. There have been no settlements in any of the cases.

Three priests at St Jarlath’s, Diocesan College of Tuam Archdiocese, faced abuse allegations; while one priest did so involving another school in the Archdiocese. All were reported to civil authorities. One of the St Jarlath’s priests was convicted in the courts while all three accused there faced sanction by the Church. Settlements of €60,000 were made with two men arising from the abuse allegations at St Jarlath’s.

At St Macartan’s in Monaghan, Diocesan College of Clogher diocese, two priests were accused of sexual abuse. Both were reported to the civil authorities with no prosecutions arising and no settlements were paid by the diocese.

Two priests at St Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, Diocesan College of Achonry diocese, faced allegations of child sexual abuse, as did a priest at another school in the diocese. Both priests accused of abuse at St Nathy’s were deceased when allegations against them were received by the diocese. All cases were reported to civil authorities.

Two child sexual abuse allegations were received by the diocese concerning the priest accused of abuse at another school in the diocese. A “substantial figure” was paid out by the diocese as settlement in relation to one of the allegations while a settlement was also paid by the Redress Board.

Allegations were received against one priest who worked at St Finian’s College, Mullingar, Diocesan College of Meath diocese, after his death. Allegations concerning another priest there were found by An Garda and Tusla to be “completely untrue and without any foundation whatsoever”. A settlement of €50,000 was agreed in the former case.

At St Brendan’s Killarney, Diocesan College of Kerry diocese, one priest was accused of child sexual abuse. He was reported to the civil authorities but did not face prosecution. He was sanctioned by the Church. No settlement was involved. No allegations about priests had been made at St Michael’s College, Listowel, also a Diocesan College of Kerry diocese.

Two priests were accused of child sexual abuse at St Munchin’s Diocesan College in Limerick. Both were reported to civil authorities, with one prosecution. One was removed from ministry. There were no settlements in these cases.

One priest was accused of child sex abuse at St Mel’s, Longford, Diocese College of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise diocese. He was reported to civil authorities but faced no prosecution or Church sanction.

At St Muredach’s in Ballina, Co Mayo, Diocesan College of Killala diocese, one priest faced child sex abuse allegations. He was reported to civil authorities but was not prosecuted, nor was he sanctioned by the Church. The diocese paid out €100,000 in settlement due to the abuse.

Similarly, one priest at St Kieran’s in Kilkenny, Diocesan College of Ossory diocese, faced abuse allegations. He was reported to the civil authorities but there was no prosecution, nor was he sanctioned by the Church.

At St Flannan’s in Ennis, Diocesan College of Killaloe diocese, one priest faced abuse allegations. He was reported to civil authorities but, as he was deceased by the time the allegations emerged, he faced no prosecution or sanction by the Church. A settlement was agreed in this case but details were “not specified for GDPR reasons”.

No priest at St Eunan’s in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Diocesan College of Raphoe diocese, faced abuse allegations but one priest faced accusations of abuse at another school in the diocese. These were reported to civil authorities, with no prosecution. The priest was sanctioned by the Church.

There have been no allegations of child sexual abuse against priests who taught at St Mary’s Knockbeg College, Carlow, Diocesan College of Kildare and Leighlin diocese.

No response from Protestant boarding schools

Repeated attempts over recent months by The Irish Times failed to get any response to a request for details surrounding allegations of child sexual abuse at what were or are Protestant boarding school for boys in the Republic.

The schools contacted were Bandon Grammar School Cork, Kilkenny College, Dundalk Grammar School, Rathdown School Dublin, Midleton School Cork, Wilson’s Hospital Westmeath, Villiers School Limerick, King’s Hospital School Dublin, Sligo Grammar School, St Columba’s College Dublin, Wesley College Dublin.

It is not as though sexual abuse was unknown in such schools. In his autobiography Full On, broadcaster and former government minister Ivan Yates describes his years at the since-closed Protestant boarding school Aravon in Rathmichael, Co Dublin, as “unremitting torture”, where he was sexually abused by the owner and headmaster, Charles Mansfield.

In 2016 eight pupils were suspended pending the outcome of an investigation at King’s Hospital School in Dublin into allegations that a teenage boy there had been sexually assaulted.

In 2008 King’s Hospital was party to six figure settlements, along with Swim Ireland, involving 13 female victims of convicted sex abuser Derry O’Rourke, who had been employed by the school as a swimming coach. The victims claimed O’Rourke was allowed remain there despite several complaints about him to the school from 1973.

Complete Article HERE!

In rare move, Vatican official chastised Texas Bishop Strickland at conference

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland

by Religion News Service

If Texas Bishop Joseph E. Strickland is known outside of his diocese for anything, it’s for controversy.

The conservative firebrand, who oversees the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, has sparked backlash from critics for everything from voicing support for priests who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to offering a prayer at a “Jericho March” event in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. More recently, Strickland challenged Pope Francis, announcing on his Twitter feed that he believes the pontiff is “undermining the Deposit of Faith.” His efforts have inspired some detractors to call for Strickland’s resignation, while others have urged Vatican intervention.

But according to multiple sources, Strickland has already been on the receiving end of the Vatican’s ire for more than a year: He was chastised by a representative of the Holy See in 2021, they say — a move that simultaneously signals the potential for formal Vatican disciplinary action and exemplifies the difficulty of reining in a controversial cleric.

“(Strickland) doesn’t really care,” Barber said of the alleged encounter. “It’s the truth that sets us free. If he goes down because he’s speaking the truth, oh well.”

A separate source who is familiar with the meeting but who chose to remain anonymous, as they have not been given permission to discuss the matter publicly, told Religion News Service the incident took place in November 2021 at the annual USCCB meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The source said the nuncio specifically confronted Strickland about his Twitter feed, which had garnered controversy at the time for, among other things, posts that opposed the three major COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the U.S. at the time.

Asked about the encounter via email this week, Strickland said he would “prefer not to comment.”

The nuncio’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

For his part, Barber told RNS he did not wish to speak further about the incident and would not name the source of his information. Instead, he criticized Pope Francis, accusing him of being ambiguous about important moral questions and calling the pontiff a “disaster for the Catholic Church.”

Strickland would hardly be the first cleric in U.S. history to be reprimanded by the Holy See. In the 1980s, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI — launched an investigation into Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, an outspoken liberal cleric and critic of nuclear power, who oversaw the Archdiocese of Seattle at the time. The Holy See ultimately appointed an auxiliary bishop to the region who shared authority with Hunthausen.

But it’s highly unusual for the public to learn about less formal admonishments doled out to bishops by Vatican officials behind closed doors. What’s more, Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and an expert on U.S. Catholicism, said a nuncio privately dressing-down a U.S. bishop at a conference is particularly rare, and showcases the delicate situation facing modern popes when it comes to cowing outspoken, media-savvy clerics who buck the party line.

Strickland has become a popular figure in right-wing Catholic circles for his criticism of President Joe Biden and oppositional stance against COVID-19 vaccines, which includes expressing support for priests who have challenged their own bishops by refusing to get vaccinated. (Strickland’s position contrasts sharply with that of Pope Francis, who has advocated repeatedly for the use of vaccines, even calling them an “act of love.”) In addition to the Terry and Jesse Show, Strickland has appeared on a number of conservative and far-right Catholic websites, ranging from EWTN to Church Militant.

Church Militant also organized a protest outside the same November 2021 USCCB meeting where the nuncio is alleged to have confronted Strickland. Speakers at the event, where some participants waved anti-Biden “Let’s go Brandon” flags, praised Strickland from the stage. He also posed for photographs with staffers from Church Militant, an outlet that has railed against other bishops using language critics have decried as homophobic and racist.

Church officials wishing to curtail Strickland’s influence could take dramatic steps like they did with Hunthausen, Faggioli said, but “there’s no measure that can deprive him of the access to these various blogs or influencers” the bishop often utilizes to amplify his message.

“I believe that the fear is that, if he’s removed, his visibility will be amplified,” Faggioli said.

What’s more, if the alleged scolding was meant to cow Strickland, Faggioli said, it doesn’t appear to have had much of an effect. Since the 2021 meeting, the Texas bishop has been embroiled in multiple controversies over challenging the authority or rhetoric of church officials — be it his fellow bishops or the pope. And while Strickland’s much-maligned tweet about Pope Francis earlier this month was an attempt to distance himself from a podcaster who questioned whether Francis is, in fact, the pope, his effort still resulted in controversy.

“I don’t know how much that dressing down worked,” Faggioli said.

Complete Article HERE!