By Charlie Johnston
Ironically, the Inspector General’s (IG) Report released yesterday had profound echoes to former FBI Director James Comey’s exoneration press conference for Hillary Clinton: it is brutal in its list of devastating evidence but modest in the conclusions it draws from those stark facts. Unlike Comey’s press conference – and contrary to many press reports – it does NOT exonerate either the FBI or the Justice Dept. Rather, it leaves it for those Constitutionally charged with making such judgments to make them. It actually does what Comey’s press conference two years ago should have done: lays out the facts and leaves it for proper authorities to draw appropriate conclusions – and then let the people of this country hold those authorities to account for the judgments they make.
I was disheartened at press and conservative reports on the IG Report. Almost all said it did not find any evidence of political bias – after listing a mountain of specific evidence of it. Ah, but that is not what it said. Rather, it said it did not find that such bias “directly affected investigative decisions.” All that means is that they found no specific instance of FBI officials baldly saying they must enter into a conspiracy to protect Clinton and take down Trump.
I have watched with dismay as solidly conservative and civil libertarian Congressmen, over the last year, have repeatedly looked to the (then) coming IG report to settle the matter. That is as feckless and evasive as former Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch’s delegation of the charging decision on Clinton to the FBI Director. Congress is Constitutionally charged with oversight over the Justice Dept. and FBI, not the IG. The IG is an investigative arm charged with finding the facts. Congress is charged with drawing the conclusions and acting. I am sick to death of officials desperately trying to find someone else to take the fall for actually doing the job they were elected to do. The IG Report gives them the evidence. It is time for Congress to (as we like to say on this site) “Joan up” and do its job.
The one thing I would like to see the president do right now is fire FBI Director Christopher Wray. After this report, chronicling a horrifying culture of extensive and systemic corruption at the top levels of the FBI, Wray’s press conference should have soberly explained how he was going to correct these abuses. Instead, he pretended the report exonerated the FBI. If he is too stupid to know what a terrible indictment this report was, he should go. If he is too corrupt to acknowledge the plain facts, he should go.
I was angry to find that several Bishops at the annual Conference of Catholic Bishops in Ft. Lauderdale suggested the imposition of “canonical penalties” against those Catholics who disagree with them politically on how best to defend human rights, specifically on matters of immigration. Canonical penalties include denial of the sacraments or excommunication.
Many Bishops are “open borders’ advocates. Despite the disreputable unseemliness of Vatican officials calling for the tearing down of walls on national borders while carefully maintaining the wall that completely surrounds Vatican City, that the powerful and wealthy should make provisions to protect those who are in need or under persecution is a matter of faith and morals. But ‘open borders’ is simply a political means advocated to accomplish that end. It is a political means that I think is short-sighted and counter-productive. I do not think a nation must destroy its borders and all laws protecting them to help the downtrodden any more than I do that the wealthy have the obligation to house homeless people in their children’s bedrooms to solve that problem. It is even more troublesome that so many Bishops look favorably on the sort of autocratic and corrupt societies that create conditions which cause their people to want to flee. That the Vatican plays footsie with Communist Chinese authorities, while undercutting Catholics in China who have endured torture and martyrdom for defending the faith disgusts me. Too many (though it is still a minority) Catholic authorities are servile before real brutal nations – while imperious in their comments to free nations. It makes for empty virtue-signaling photo ops, but does NOT make for effective witness. I have what I think to be better political means: lobby brutal countries to respect religious and other human rights, forge alliances with nations that can give culturally compatible asylum to refugees from brutal nations, then support those efforts both financially and logistically. Have liberal lawful immigration policies that recruit financial sponsors – so that the virtue signalers don’t do all their “good” works with other people’s money. It is possible that the Bishops are right in their preferred means and it is possible that I am right – but both sets of means are directed to the same end, so they are merely political. Ah, but if some of the Bishops at the U.S. Bishops Conference have their way, no matter how effective my preferred political means, I could suffer canonical penalties for not doing it their way.
This comes at a time when the Church is roiled because too many of its officials are either flaccid in defending defined doctrine in the Magisterium or are openly opposed to it – which is a big part of their actual job and authority. To have them thunder and threaten canonical penalties on matters of politics, which is not part of their authority, is particularly disheartening. It does not enhance their authority, but dilutes it. The fact is that excommunication and other canonical penalties are matters of discipline that are never infallible; they can be reversed, even after death, as with the case of St. Joan of Arc. When a Bishop excommunicates someone from the Church Militant on political grounds, it may or may not stand the test of time – but, in the process, he risks his own excommunication from the Church Triumphant unless he repents of abusing his spiritual authority for mere political means.
We are at a perilous moment. As public officials desperately try to shift responsibility away from themselves on duties that are dangerous, and religious authorities desperately try to conform to the world rather than evangelizing it, public confidence in foundational institutions is in precipitous decline. This is why, though slowly, I am talking about the Ballad of the Ordinary Man. I do not think, this time, that authorities are going to lead the way out of troubles. Rather, I think that those leaders will end up following ordinary men to courageous ends that the elite cannot yet fathom or even seriously contemplate. Every day, I think and pray in terms of how best to boldly Proclaim the Kingdom with clarity and conviction that may inspire people to new hope and new resolve. I fail repeatedly, but this is always where my thoughts and intentions lie. There is a great artificiality that has settled over Western Culture. Leaders rarely proclaim what is in their hearts or take responsibility for what is their actual duty. Instead, they vie with one another for how they can show themselves to be more virtuous than thou. People sense the strained imposture of it all.
This site’s old friend, Dan Lynch, is rallying ordinary people to take the lead in restoring fidelity throughout the faith. In the final paragraphs of a recent piece, he gives a challenge and a call to all:
“…Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, said that the faithful not only have the “right of free speech” in the Church, based on “the sense of faith and love,” but also that they – according to their knowledge, responsibility, and prominent positions – “sometimes even have the duty to communicate [their opinion] to their spiritual shepherds when it is about the well-being of the Church.” He therefore concludes, “It would be time for the Magisterium to pay appropriate attention to this witness of Faith.” Read more here.
I am calling upon all faithful Catholics to make a Pledge and Petition to pray at least one rosary per week, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe named Protector of the Pontiff by Pope Benedict XV, for the intention that the truths listed in the Pledge be affirmed, supported, obeyed and taught by priests, bishops and the Pope, and all religious and laypeople united in the one, true, holy and apostolic Catholic faith and to petition them to do so.”
In the movie, Braveheart, Robert the Bruce, the rightful heir to Scotland, was uncertain, weak and vacillating. It was the valor and fortitude of William Wallace, a commoner, that recalled the Bruce to his proper duty. Now is the time for the rise of a battalion of William Wallaces – not to overthrow lawful authority, but to recall officials to their rightful duty.
It is a little thing, but a small prayer I say frequently to Our Lady is, “O Lady, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee. Make haste to befriend me and, from the hands of the enemy, heartily defend me.” It heartens me. Maybe it will be helpful to you.