Another Day at Tyburn Tree
Tyburn was a village in Middlesex County in the UK, in what is now present-day London. It was famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for the notorious gallows referred to by the euphemism of "Tyburn Tree." From 1196 to 1783, Tyburn was the site of execution for London's most notorious criminals, including those whose only crime was professing the Catholic faith. The marker where the "tree" used to stand from 1783 onward, had been featured on the masthead of the weblog known as Ten Reasons, authored by one Rich “The Seditious Catechist” Leonardi, a transplant to Cincinnati by way of Rochester, New York. From this vantage point, he reported on the doings (or undoings) of Church officials and operatives in both jurisdictions.
Rich was criticized by many for what they considered a lack of temperance in the tone of his accusations, even by those who agreed with him in principle. In the past week, the forces of moderation were given one less voice about which to worry. What follows is the brief statement he released on Facebook, as carried by Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings:
To net it out, the seminary rector reached out to the head of the Son Rise Morning Show to have me thrown off the program. I called him out on it, and a pissing contest ensued. I shut down my site and intend to withdraw from public Catholic life.
There is obviously much more to this story, but it should be said that Rich's performance on the local Catholic radio station was well within bounds. That he was in a position to speak for himself anywhere at all, was not enough for certain powers that be. And so, while peace and tranquility reigns in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati ...
Ken Overberg will continue to deny the Atonement from the pulpit, and Paul Knitter will air his doubts about the salvific significance of Christ and the historicity of the Resurrection, both undisturbed in the sanctuary of Xavier University. Because doing something about *them* would take a set of clockweights, the willingness to endure media hostility and the turning of a deaf ear to the squalling of local progressives.
More detail on Rich's removal from the airwaves was described by himself, in the comments at Scott W's Romish Internet Graffiti:
Someone close to the archbishop — let’s set aside names, since a surrogate for the likely culprit is denying it — reached out to the Son Rise Morning Show to voice their displeasure over my opposition to Archbishop Schnurr’s support for the scandal-drenched CCHD. This comment in particular was deemed beyond the pale:
“He deserves our respect — and prayers — by virtue of his office. But respect does not mean unthinking obeisance. His Excellency seems to be under the impression that he was elevated to Seminary Rector-in-Chief. Very few aspects of archdiocesan life away from Beechmont Avenue get his attention, and he appears content to let his cabal of inherited malcontents in the chancery set policy.”
The show’s producers, not wanting to run afoul of local leadership, deemed me too hot to handle and eased me out. It’s as simple as that. Never mind that in my four years on the show I never once so much as hinted at local controversies. I took down my site because one of its main functions was the reform of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I do not believe it’s reformable — indeed, I think the world and the Church would be a better place without it — so I don’t see a point in tilting my lance at a self-satisfied and self-perpetuating windmill.
IMAGE: The interior mosaic of Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati, depicting Christ handing the keys of the kingdom to Peter.
Being from Cincinnati myself, I have followed the goings-on there for many years, including as reported by Rich. There are several lessons to be learned from this incident, and not only by those who need it most (and who are most likely to ignore them):
1. Say what you want about his tactics, but years from now, no one will accuse Rich of being a liar. The Archbishop of Cincinnati, whether by accident, design, or unknowingly through his minions, has shut down a voice who told His Excellency what he likely did not want to hear. The history of the Church is rife with prelates who met their undoing by no less. If you read of the work and writings of Saint Catherine of Siena, you would find her far, FAR less polite than Rich on his worst day. (To my knowledge, Rich has never referred to archdiocesan officials, let alone the Archbishop, as “wolves and sellers of the divine grace.”) The lives of many saints make for great stories in catechism class. In real life they're a pain in the ass. Apparently, so was Rich.
2. Those who agreed with Rich in principle, if not for his tactics, may or may not have lost a friend (and we trust in God that time heals what wounds there are here). But most important, they have lost at least one means of keeping themselves honest. The easiest thing in the world to do, when you are less then content with a situation -- you don't have to have been a Federal government employee for over three decades to know this -- is to "get along by going along." The hardest thing to do, in the same situation, is know when this is not enough. There will be one less reminder now.
3. The people who disagreed with Rich, both in principle and in tactics, will find no lasting satisfaction in their victory. Theirs is a generation marked by adolescent rebellion better suited to the junior high lunchroom than to the sanctuary, and a modus operandi of malfeasance better suited for the halls of the Kremlin than for those in the service of God. All that, and getting paid for it too. (Nice work if you can get it.) Theirs is also a generation that is not getting any younger. Their hollowed and rotting sepulchers will be what they leave behind. The next generation, upon witnessing not one stone left upon another, will raise from the ashes that which is ever ancient and ever new, with no tribute to their predecessors.
4. The staff and management at Sacred Heart Radio of Cincinnati made the only choice they could under the situation at present. The true cost of that decision is in the long run. They lost a voice which knew enough to act in moderation while under their auspices. Such prudence, such restraint, cannot be attributed to those ecclesiastical operatives who brought their influence to bear on this apostolate. From their studios in Norwood, they will learn that the price of such appeasement will continue to rise, and continue to be exacted, in one situation after another. They will eventually begin to wonder if such accommodation was worth the price.
5. There is, as this is written, every reason to be concerned with the operation of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The same infrastructure that funded programs which were an offense to the True Faith, many under the guise of ACORN, continue to operate in like manner. Those who would call this claim to question, and who have an aptitude for scrutiny of complex financial matters, need only go to the website for CCHD, and simply follow the money. They would not be the first, or ACORN would still be on the payroll.
6. Rich is mistaken, and terribly so, in one regard; the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is capable of being reformed. For the whole of her two millennia of history, the Church is constantly in need of reform, and out of the frey that marks the darkness before the dawn, many saints have won the crown of "dry martyrdom." So long as God is still in charge of earthly events, we have not seen the last of his plans, least of all in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which is only now beginning to thaw after a long, cold winter. But until then ...
7. The real losers in this affair are the faithful of the Archdiocese. They have the right under canon law -- indeed, the duty -- "to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church." (212§3) It will not be enough to act within the bounds of prudence and charity. Those who intimidated Rich into being ostracized now have a new weapon. They are not afraid to use it, nor have they demonstrated any particular sense of self-discipline by their actions elsewhere, thus are not about to start now. The self-appointed voices of reason will tell themselves that "this could never happen to me." Can they be so sure?
In summation, there are no winners here, save one. Rich Leonardi has one endearing benefit that will eventually prove the envy of the parties involved in this distasteful affair: that of walking away.
“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matthew 10:14-15)
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FOOTNOTE: We want to extend a special welcome to our readers from ThePulp.it, where this story appears in the Monday Afternoon Edition following its publication, as well as to readers of Cleansing Fire. If you want to see more of what mwbh is all about, check out our series on the new Roman Missal. Meanwhile, the response to this story was already overwhelming. Do we hear the murmurings of a sequel in the distance ...?