Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. I don’t see this list as very constructive, and some of the choices are downright baffling. For instance, I have a great deal of respect for Bishop Loverde in Arlington, Va. A bishop who personally marches outside abortion clinics, and writes series on the danger and prevalence of pornography; who sends his future priests to good seminaries. Why is it that we are eager to see him resign?

    The same could be said for many of the bishops on that list, I am sure, although I am not familiar with all of their work. I don’t understand why we would speak so uncharitably about so many dedicated bishops, and I think this type of flippant derision is in tension with the Catholic mission of this site.

    It’s not that I think the bishops are beyond reproach. I just think our criticism of the bishops should be more measured. As it is, I have no idea why most of those bishops are on the list.

  2. I hadn’t heard about the Father Haley case (not sure how I hadn’t). At the same time, I notice you, like a good litigator, have changed the subject. The question is not whether bad bishops should have to endure the criticism of irrelevant bloggers, but whether you have evidence that every one of these bishops is, in fact, a bad bishop, and whether the type of flippancy displayed in your post is a constructive way to address the (admitted) problem of bad bishops.

  3. How many people actually PRAY for their Bishop?

    Oh, it’s true that I can’t stand liberal Democrat clergy (bishops or priests) who place the false gospel of social justice and peace at any price ahead of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    But that said, how many of us lift our priests and bishops up in prayer? If we have time to criticize them at a blog site (I confess my guilt!), then surely we have time to pray for them.

    PS, I think the Bishop for my Diocese (Raleigh, NC) is absolutely great and I pray for him every night, but I would do that even if he were a liberal Democrat – perhaps more so if he were.

    I won’t mince words: CCHD and much of the USCCB is biased towards that stupid liberal Democrat idea that we can somehow create peace on Earth by social justice programs. Horse manure. Only the Second Coming of Christ will do that.

  4. In regard to each of the bishops mentioned on the list John Henry I believe they are bad bishops and I would be happy to give chapter and verse as to each bishop noted as time allows. Flippancy and humor can often be important tools when pointing out that authority has been abused. Heaven knows that silence and polite criticism seems to have been little good in bringing reform to the “hapless bench of bishops”, in Bishop Bruskewitz’s ringing phrase.

  5. I understand where John Henry is coming from.

    Granted I may not have taken the same approach as that website, but our bishops are not above criticism.

    Decades of inaction and gross display of horrible management have boiled to the top in the form of blogging.

    Now the faithful have a forum to express their joys and displeasures of our Catholic faith.

    A bishop that not only does nothing, but does things that tear down our faith, for example the terrible bishop from LA, Cardinal Mahony, are leading thousands astray with their form of leadership.

    To stand by and do nothing probably falls under the sin of omission.

    My two cents worth.

  6. I would be happy to give chapter and verse as to each bishop noted as time allows.

    Right. But you haven’t. I don’t mind criticism, but the person criticizing bears the burden of proof. If I put you on a list of ‘bad Catholic bloggers’ (which I would not do), I doubt you would be particularly impressed by the assurance that I could cite chapter and verse about why you’re a bad Catholic blogger.

    You’d want to see the evidence prior to being placed on the list, or at least at the time you were placed on the list. And blogging isn’t nearly as hard as being a bishop. Given the difficulty of the job, I think we owe a little more upfront courtesy to bishops.

    And, notice, you’ve said that ‘flippancy and humor can be important tools when pointing out authority has been abused,’ but you’re not pointing out any abuse here; just highlighting a ‘bad bishop’ list and saying you hope they retire. We should at least provide reasons if we’re going to be rude enough to compile a list of who we’re hoping will retire soon. And, really, the list seems unconstructive anyway, even assuming arguendo that humor can sometimes be constructive, and that these are bad bishops.

  7. There are some Bishops on this list that really shouldn’t be on here. My own Bishop – Donald Wuerl – made the list, and I don’t think he belongs in the company of Trautman and Clark. I think he’s been too weak when it comes to the issue of dissident Catholic politicians, but he’s more outspoken than his predecessor, and is generally a very Orthodox and good Bishop.

  8. Phil – I think that’s hilarious. There were two dioceses in the country that didn’t permit altar girls. Loverde changed the policy to allow them. I have my own criticisms of Loverde (and I’m shocked by the Fr. Haley case), but if altar girls is one of your main criticisms of any bishop I’d say he’s doing a great job. I’d also agree with Paul on Wuerl – again, criticisms can be made, but he is no Mahoney.

  9. Don,
    You’re familiar with Bishop Lucas, I would assume. What are the criticisms of him?

    Regarding Fr. Haley, we have only ever heard his side of the debate. Arlington is by far the most conservative and traditional (politically, liturgically, morally) diocese I’ve lived in (Chicago, Green Bay, Peoria, and Washington D.C.). Regarding female altar servers (hardly an essential issue, I would think), he’s made it optional – up to the pastor’s discretion. Neither my current parish nor the one I worshipped in when I first moved here has them.

    I think the people who run that website are in for some disappointment when some of the Bishops are moved to more prominent assignments, as recently happened to Lucas and is likely to happen to Gregory and Kicanis. That the Pope selected Wuerhl for DC and made O’Malley a cardinal when the previous cardinal was still under 80 (which he hasn’t done for any other archbishop in the US, and not for many elsewhere) seems like has confidence in them too.

  10. Cute. Two things.

    First, if you’re going to time things down to the hour, minute, and second, the least one can do is correct for the proper time zone in which these bishops live.

    Second, I love the emergence of political correctness in the Catholic Right. “Bad bishop” has suddenly come to mean “a bishop who insulted me by some subtle or significant dig at my own very special and excellent personal faith.”

    The time zone error belies the narcissism behind this kind of an effort and its support.

  11. “Right. But you haven’t.”

    But I shall. As a matter of fact a “bad bishops” series of posts is taking shape. Thank you for the inspiration!

    “And blogging isn’t nearly as hard as being a bishop.”

    By the “fruits” of many bishops over the past few decades I doubt if hard work necessarily equals productive or good work.

  12. “I don’t see this list as very constructive…” I have to agree w/ John Henry. And your claim that this list was “Something cheerful for a Thursday morning!” proved false. Wasn’t it St. Francis who always knelt upon seeing a priest no matter how scandalous that priest’s behavior? And as a rather well-known priest and preacher to millions has said, if we spent as much time praying for our bishops as we do criticizing them…

  13. I think John Henry is correct on this one. Even if you have qualms with the Bishops, this might not be the best avenue or way of expressing it. I’m not sure that one can quite so easily create a list of “bad” bishops and for it to be entirely accurate. Obvious mishaps aside, one does not live in every diocese and observe every move and action of a Bishop. A lot of it has to hearsay and even then, some conceptions are inevitably biased. There is much a Catholic can be doing to promote God’s reconciling action in the world, being an actual agent, rather than compiling a list of Bishops you can’t wait to see gone retired from their office.

    In any event, I think the list is absurd. I’ll pray for the Bishops and the whole church and for everyone who has no qualms with this list.

  14. I would disagree with some of the bishops on this list. I would also add my bishop who just directed the local Catholic Charities not to do any work on behalf of pro-life issues in the coming Legislative session. Only economic issues are to be pursued. Pro-lifers have been advised, essentially, to find other means and resources to pursue pro-life legislative progress. No help from the diocese.

    I would disagree somewhat with saying bishops are above reproach. I agree with praying for them. This first and foremost. But when they enter the political arena, then criticism is fair. When there is outright dissent from Church teaching – even more so. Life’s tough, they’re not babies and I do have a voice.

  15. “Wasn’t it St. Francis who always knelt upon seeing a priest no matter how scandalous that priest’s behavior?”

    Mary Beth I think it is precisely that type of attitude, and I was guilty of it, that unknowingly aided and abetted predatory priests and the bishops who concealed their crimes. I will never give a priest or a bishop a pass on criticism simply due to their office, but rather hold them to a higher standard than I would a member of the laity.

  16. One recalls Erasmus’ “In Praise of Folly.” Rather cutting critique of the clergy of the day. Perhaps Donald can name his bishops list after that.

  17. John Henry,

    You can laugh all you want. It is as laughable as people who say that single issues should not determine how people are going to vote. We, who oppose abortion see it as laughable. Here’s what is not laughable to me, a Virginian from the diocese of Arlington:

    While Loverde scores well with the abortion issue, he has failed miserably when it comes to protecting the sacred liturgy. Any bishop who cannot understand how promoting girl servers leads to a road we all hope we won’t end up on (women ordinations) is either blind to the mysticism of the sacraments or just doesn’t care about the historic fabric of the Church.

    When a bishop decides to invites girls to serve, because he feels backed up in the corner by the Vatican into permitting the Latin mass for people who want it, that is not good leadership. That is plain politics.

    When a bishop tells a woman she cannot receive the precious Body on her knees because of his misunderstanding or his misinterpretations of written documents, that is leadership gone astray.

    Where are the boys lining up to jump at service to the Lord on His altar where the priests have taken Loverde’s words into action?

    I tell you, I worked at a parish where I had to instruct girls on how to serve and never have I felt more confused at the lack of honor and commitment by both sexes who decided to stay on and serve at the altar.

    When a bishop gives in to pressure from groups that don’t desire holiness from the liturgy, but some sort of political correctness, then we have failed leadership.

    OK..let’s talk about Fr. Haley now

  18. Bret,

    He officiated a “balloon” Mass in Vienna, and then had the audacity to claim that it wasn’t really a balloon Mass.

    Then yesterday he took a month-long vacation to Medjugorie.

    He’s a big fan of those fake apparitions.

    Regardless of where you stand on Medjugorie, a bishop is not allowed to violate another bishop’s ruling on matters such as these. His mere presence is already causing a scandal.

    He’s lost all credibility in my eyes.

  19. I’m with John Henry on this one.

    I’ve been critical of particular bishops in the past, but I never thought anything of it until I started looking at some nasty “progressive” Catholic sites. I was able to recognize their contempt where I’d never noticed my own. (That’s how sin usually is, isn’t it?)

    Donald McClarey is right about the danger of undue respect. Personally, I’m afraid that I’m off-the-charts erring in the other direction. There’s got to be a way of showing respect, obedience, and suspicion. I haven’t figured it out.

  20. When criticizing bishops or priests, one must ask if it is criticism aimed at improving the Church, or at settling scores. Much of the criticism I see online seems more of an exercise in amusing or gratifying the like minded rather than actually doing anything constructive. The website linked above seems like a perfect case study of this sort of sniggering attitude.

    Just my five cents.

  21. I’m old.

    I remember when I could buy a small round bubble gum in one of those glass globes at the supermarket for a penny!

    Or was it a dime?

    Anyhoo, I pretty much put all my pennies in a jar labeled “retirement fund”.

  22. Any bishop who cannot understand how promoting girl servers leads to a road we all hope we won’t end up on (women ordinations) is either blind to the mysticism of the sacraments or just doesn’t care about the historic fabric of the Church.

    Maybe if the Right-wingers didn’t spend so much time in the 1940s telling everyone there was no need for the Dialogue Mass because the altar server making the responses represented the laity of the congregation, people today might buy the Right-wing new assertion that the altar servers are “little priests”.

  23. Don, I have lived in the Springfield diocese for the past 4 1/2 years, and I didn’t see what was so awful about Bishop Lucas. He inherited a real no-win situation and while he could have done better cleaning up the mess Bishop Ryan left behind, he also could have done a whole lot worse. (At least he didn’t leave the diocese bankrupt from sex abuse lawsuits.)

    It’s true he didn’t come out publicly swinging against pro-abort pols like Springfield’s own Dick Durbin; but maybe it wasn’t necessary. When the pastor of the parish Durbin attended, or used to attend (Msgr. Kevin Vann, now bishop of Fort Worth, Texas) said he wouldn’t give Communion to Durbin, Bp. Lucas didn’t publicly say anything, but did he really have to? He simply let the pastor’s decision stand, and to this day (according to a conservative Catholic blogger of my acquaintance) Durbin attends Mass in Chicago or D.C. whenever possible, since he knows he can’t go to Communion at home.

    Needless to say his successor will still have a tough job ahead of him. Until further notice, on the last weekend of every month, all parish Masses in the diocese are offered for the intention that God send us a good and holy bishop. Hopefully those prayers will be answered.

    The episcopal rumor mill, such as it is, has been pointing to Auxiliary Bishops Paprocki and Perry of Chicago as possible contenders, but we shall see. (If new bishop rumors reported by local media were infallible, your bishop’s name right now would be Vigneron!)

  24. Also — Tito, what the heck is a “balloon Mass”? When I Google that phrase all I get are results related to mass balloon launches and/or balloon events in Massachusetts!

  25. In regard to Bishop Ryan, he might have remained Bishop of Springfield but for the agitation of a small group of lay Catholics who were widely denounced as nuts. I thought they were nuts at first. How foolish I was.

    These people knew what was up in the nineties. I find it impossible to believe that Bishop Lucas didn’t have precisely the same information from the moment he took over in 1999.

  26. Don, the story you linked to is from 2005. Since then there have been no further scandals or revelations of past scandals, and no new multi-million-dollar lawsuits — which is more than can be said for some other dioceses. It appears that the Msgr. Costa incident (which occurred just before I moved to Springfield) might have been the catalyst that finally got Bishop Lucas to act. The investigation mentioned in the story finally wound up in 2007, and confirmed what everyone already knew about Bishop Ryan, Msgr. Costa, et al.

    If Bishop Ryan’s actions inflicted potentially fatal wounds upon the Church in the Springfield Diocese, Bishop Lucas at least stopped the “bleeding” and got things stabilized; it will be up to the next bishop (and probably one or more after him) to make it healthy again.

  27. Oh by the way Tito — never mind — I found pictures of the balloon Mass, which is exactly what I suspected it was… a Mass with lots of balloons, and Eucharistic bread that looks like it was picked up at a 2-for-1 sale on pita pockets at the local supermarket. Has Cardinal Schonborn gone off his rocker or what?

  28. I am sorry that many folks do not see the crassness of this website. I am also sorry for the coy sophistry with which the owner denies detracting from them. Some of the men on the website could have done truly disturbing things. Some of them were favorites of mine until I heard about one scandal or another – filthy art exhibits in the cathedral, Holy Communion knowingly given to Protestants, and so on.

    In private and personages are the key phrases, though.

    In private we may feel how we feel, and may share our feelings with others privately. But to publicly broadcast our misgivings does little to help the Church. Moreover, if we join our adversaries in hostility to our leaders, whose side, exactly, are we on? I do not see how this website can possibly be said to build up the faith, hope, or love of the Catholic faithful.

    Personages is precisely not what these persons are. They are not primarily “famous people,” even if they themselves have gotten too comfortable in their role as “really important.” They are primarily human beings, individuals with souls every bit as much as you or I. They are not cardboard cut-out supervillians, but real people with shoes and socks, stains on their shirts, bad stomachs or consciences, nieces and nephews who think they’re “the best,” and anxieties or regrets about the future and about their mistakes. Those bloated with pride have unfortunately become so as a consequence of their position. All the more reason for us to remember that they are just who they are – damaged souls in need of their Savior.

    To be frank, the solicitation for prayers on their behalf rings tinny and hollow given the clear intent of the website. I wonder, sometimes, what scandals I might cause if put into such a strong limelight. What scandals, brothers and sisters, do you think you might cause if your peculiar vices and foibles were magnified by greater opportunities to sin than you yet possess? These men are not unique in experiencing or capitulating to cowardice or lust, to greed or sloth.

    The site is clever and well-designed. I wonder whether it is of any benefit to souls out there, or whether it is rather only a misplaced outlet to really very legitimate anger over the mis-shepherding of the Church in so many places. A better outlet might be prayer and fasting for our shepherds, and encouragement to others to model for our bishops the sort of calm, strong love that they wish to receive from them. Needless to say, this site does not in any way model for us the sort of respect and obedience we are supposed to demonstrate for our bishops.

    God bless.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  29. Mr. McClarey,

    “Mary Beth I think it is precisely that type of attitude, and I was guilty of it, that unknowingly aided and abetted predatory priests and the bishops who concealed their crimes.”

    No, sir, deference to the office of priest is not to be confused with complicity in the crimes of one. A petty example to make my point. Today I sat in line for sometime to make my confession at a large church in the area with several, often long, lines. Only one line was in use until a man, dressed entirely in black with a sweater zipped up to his chin (and so without a visible Roman collar, if he wore one) decided to leave the line and stand in the second, vacant line for the same set of confessionals, thereby perhaps intending to bypass those of us in the first line. I said to him, “Excuse me, sir. There is only one line in use right now; we have been waiting.”

    The man in line next to me whispered, “He might be a priest.”

    I responded, “I don’t know if he’s a priest, but I do know that there’s a line.”

    There is no call to “give a pass” on criminal or immoral behavior. At that moment, I would not have fought the man in black for my place in line, but I took sensible measure to ensure that everything was on the up-and-up.

    If I personally know of criminal or immoral activity going on, I will do what I can to stop it. Publishing a list of bishops I do not like and the times at which they are projected to retire hardly accomplishes – or even advances – this goal. Moreover, a number of the men on that website have not actually even been accused of anything miscreant or malfeasant. They are only managing their diocese in a way that somebody else does not like.

    It is a funny thing, how much their detractors feel they know about most of these bishops and their circumstances, compared to how little they probably actually know about either.

    If one of these bishops intervened in my family and said, “Hey, look, you’re not raising your daughter right!” I’d be right to ask what the heck he knows about my daughter. It’s very much the same situation. There is so much going on even in a parish that only the pastor knows about. So many of his decisions are based on factors of which I am totally unaware – of which I must, for good reasons, remain totally unaware. I am not here speaking about gross criminality, like child abuse; but about decisions I do not understand, like who excommunicates or does not excommunicate whom.

    It is very easy to stand back and carp at Catholic bishops, but on precisely whose side does such ugliness place us? Are we then advocates for Christ and His Church, or are we playing the Devil’s advocate?

  30. One last note before going off to bed, Mr. McClarey. I note your case for Fr. Haley comes from the Washington Times. While we are perhaps more sympathetic to that paper’s overall bias than we are to its competitor’s, I still wonder how reliable on religious matters a source may be that is owned by the Moonies. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon believes that he is Jesus Christ, and in true ecumenical spirit presided over the marriage of (Catholic) Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo to a Korean acupuncturist.

    I know something of Fr. Haley’s case through personal contact with some people directly involved, and know that it is not as clear-cut a case of the mean bishop persecuting the orthodox priest as it the WT makes it sound.

    All this illustrates a point I made in my previous post – there is a LOT of information a bishop considers in some of his decisions that we just do not know. It is dangerous to think that we know more than we do, and to make rash judgments as a result.

  31. Ryan, the Father Haley story has been all over various media sources, and the fact that I cite the Washington Times is completely irrelevant as to what happened to Father Haley.

    In regard to priests and bishops, I think an exaggerated deference to them did cause too many Catholics to turn a blind eye to manifest corruption among the clergy. I know that was certainly true in my case, and it is an error I am not going to be guilty of again. I respect the priesthood and the bishops, and I will follow their lead as shepherds of the church. However, when they act like fools or corrupt shepherds I believe it is the duty of the laity to point this out.

  32. Not to get off topic but is this assertion accurate?

    “Maybe if the Right-wingers didn’t spend so much time in the 1940s telling everyone there was no need for the Dialogue Mass because the altar server making the responses represented the laity of the congregation, people today might buy the Right-wing new assertion that the altar servers are “little priests”.”

    And even if it is, how many Catholics are still around that remember or paid attention to what “right wingers” were saying in the 1940s about the server taking the place of the laity? (One would have to be past age 70 to fall into this category.) So how is it relevant to the current situation?

  33. I agree with Donald’s last post.

    Too many times have these bishops and priests been given a pass.

    Many of them may have been alerted of their behavior and mismanagement, ie, as in Cardinal Mahony, yet they still continue to abuse their positions and the faith.

  34. Right, but it’s a red herring, Donald and Tito. I said right off the bat that I was setting aside criminal and grossly immoral behavior, about which we have a duty to challenge anyone, and publicly if the behavior is public.

    Many of the bishops listed on the website aren’t even accused of anything criminal or grossly immoral, but only of running their diocese in a way that others don’t like. That’s a whole different question.

    That’s a whole different question.

    Moreover, the point remains that the WhenWillTheBishopRetire website is crass and uncharitable. It will help, as far as I can tell, precisely zero souls grow in faith, hope, or charity – and that is supposed to be the work of every Christian.

  35. Katharine,

    If you are still reading this post and its comments, what the heck is a right-winger, and what has one got to do with liturgy? Is a right-wing liturgy one with swastikas? What? I don’t get it.

  36. Ryan,

    I see where you are coming from.

    But the website can serve as a warning to the faithful. The faithful can take the knowledge that they may be in the diocese of one of these bad bishops and not be led astray from Christ.

    Jesus will take care of the rest of them as he fashions millstones for each one of them.

  37. Tito,

    A well-formed conscience smells a rat a mile away. We do not need to weigh in on every battle over whether people in a diocese are kneeling or standing during the consecration.

    The simple fact is that the website in question does not build unity in our Church, but rather suspicion and discord. A website devoted to catechesis would very likely accomplish the same effect of fortifying souls, without the deleterious effect of setting flock against shepherd. That is my chief objection to Michael Rose’s book, “Goodbye, Good Men,” which is mentioned on the website’s FAQ. I spent 3 1/2 years in seminary, and before I “shipped out,” I had dozens of well-meaning but entirely ignorant people ask me if I was being sent to a “gay seminary,” (I was not) and even telling me that I should, “tell the bishop to send me only to a good one.” The real problems with the book were numerous; first and foremost, that Rose was a day late and a dollar short. The problems cited were mostly eliminated as far as 10-20 years before the book went to press, and he knew it when the book went to press.

    This website will have only one effect: it will increase people’s the distrust of their bishops. It is a vent for (legitimate) anger, but it is not a legitimate or productive vent.

    Again, I am not talking about criminal behavior or gross immorality (like breaking vows of celibacy). I am talking about the management (or lack thereof) of a diocese. When we begin to criticize without knowing the full story, and we rarely know the full story, we are treading on thin, thin ice.

    Saints have upbraided popes; they have not publicly maligned them.

    It would be good to remember that not only bishops will have millstones about their necks in the life to come.

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