“Nothing” bishop gets frank on married priests, Vatican under Francis

February 20, 2020
Posted in Blog
February 20, 2020 Editor

“Nothing” bishop gets frank on married priests, Vatican under Francis

Please click on audio of post. NOTE: only main text read; no links, text markings, images, videos, footnotes, etc. read aloud.

“Nothing” bishop gets frank on married priests, Vatican under Francis

Feb 19, 2020

by Joshua J. McElwee

photo above: Bishop John Michael Botean of the Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St George’s in Canton, Ohio, returns to his seat after receiving Communion as bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in the U.S. concelebrate a Divine Liturgy in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 18. (CNS/Paul Haring)

WN: What a breath of fresh air! Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy (see below) wrote me some years ago about only one American Bishop who had opposed the U.S. going to war against Iraq. This was he! By tragic stark contrast, see: “Bishop Thomas John Paprocki“.

As to Bishop Botean’s commitment to nonviolence, the recent critically acclaimed film, A Hidden Life, underscores the isolated plight of those who take Christ’s nonviolence seriously. Another Catholic priest, Father George Zabelka, on the American side of the same war above, who had blessed the crews that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that instantly murdered 125,000 victims; and had also blessed mass murder in carpet bombing over 60 cities in Japan including Tokyo, where in one night of conventional bombing, 100,000 civilians were slaughtered, finally reversed what he called his country’s and his Church’s brainwashing, and committed the rest of his life to nonviolence. We read in the Wikipedia article highlighted above:

In 1973, Rev. Zabelka attended a three-day workshop given by his Diocese for the priests of his Diocese on Gospel Nonviolence directed by a layman [later a priest as seen above and below], Emmanuel Charles McCarthy. In the following two years, he attended the same workshop on two other occasions in different locations. Then, in his 1975 Christmas letter to his friends, he wrote this: “I do not want to lose any of you as my friends and I certainly do not want to offend any of you, but I must do an about face. I have attended this workshop on Christian Nonviolence several times and have read the books that were recommended at it. I have come to the conclusion that the truth of the Gospel is that Jesus was nonviolent and taught nonviolence as His way.

In February 1976, he retired from the life of an active parish priest in the Diocese of Lansing and dedicated the remainder of his life to teaching the centrality of the nonviolent Jesus Christ of the Gospels and His Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies for peace of soul, for peace among people and for the eternal salvation of all. He began and continued to ceaselessly insist that all the Churches of Christianity, by which he meant all Christians within all Christian churches, regardless of the rank each held in his or her Church, must begin to or return to following the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and His Way of Nonviolent Love of all under all circumstances: “Until the various churches within Christianity repent and began to proclaim by word and deed what Jesus preached with relation to violence and enemies; there is not hope for anything other than escalating violence and destruction.

In his homily at a 1991 Mass celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the Catholic priesthood, Fr. Zabelka said, “I looked in the Catholic Bible. I looked in the Protestant Bible. I looked in the Orthodox Bible. And, in every one of them, there it was in no uncertain terms. Jesus saying ‘Love your enemies.’ ”

Love your enemies! One must ask emphatically: Just what in that statement is so hard to understand?!  Just where is the exception clause in that?! The problem is of course neither a matter of understanding, nor a matter of discovering “loopholes” (W. C. Fields). It boils down to one “matter” only: faithfulness.

Please see my reflection on this: “WAR AND HELL – and Exception-Clause Footnote Theology“.

Pete Seeger wrote in the anti-war song, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?“: When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn? . . . Amen!


Rome — If you believe Bishop John Michael Botean’s description of himself, he’s “a nothing bishop from a nothing diocese.”

If so, that self-described identity appears to have bestowed on the Ohioan a rather unusual level of candor for a U.S. prelate.

At different points in an hourlong interview Feb. 18, Botean, who leads the only Romanian rite Catholic diocese in the U.S. and Canada, warned that one of his comments might “curl some hair,” spoke frankly about how other American bishops see Pope Francis, and asked if he could take back referencing a recent visit to the “Holy Office of the Inquisition.”

Also coming in for frank talk: bishops’ inability to speak adequately about the long-lasting effects of clergy sexual abuse, and retired Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah’s recent book starkly defending the practice of clerical celibacy.

On the last subject, Botean was not only blunt, but somewhat emotional. He mentioned that most of the about 25 priests he has to serve a diocese that spans nearly a dozen states and provinces, are, like many other Eastern rite clergy, married.

“I haven’t read the book, but the assertion that celibacy is somehow ontologically connected to the priesthood is something that I will leave to other cardinals and higher-ups to dispute,” said the bishop. “And I believe they will.”

“But it is painful for us to hear, and it’s painful for our priests to hear that kind of stuff,” he added.

Botean, who has served in his role since 1996, is among a small handful of U.S. bishops to have made four of the approximately once-a-decade ad limina visits — twice under John Paul II, once under Benedict XVI, and now once under Francis.

Echoing what prelates from other regions have said, Botean described a noticeable difference in meetings with Vatican officials under the first Argentine pontiff.

“Last time, one thing I realized after we came here is, ‘Oh my God, they can yell at all of us all at once,’ ” the bishop joked, before adding: “Not now. It’s been wonderful.”

“Our last ad liminas as bishops was [under] Pope Benedict, of course, and it was a different atmosphere,” the bishop added later.

“To hear the leaders of the [Vatican] congregations now encouraging us to get deeper into the Christian mysteries and reflect the openness and joy the Gospels are supposed to provoke, instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of disciplinary issues, has been really, really refreshing,” he said.

Botean recounted Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the head of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, telling the Eastern rite prelates: “The church is beautiful. We have to tell the story of the beautiful church.”

“Coming from the … Holy Office of the Inquisition, as it used to be known, that’s a great thing to hear,” said the bishop, before correcting his century-old reference with a deadpan: “It’s a venerable institution in the church, with a history that one cannot forget.”

“What’s going on now is vastly different,” he continued. “It was about control. I don’t think that’s the emphasis as much.”

Asked what he’s planning to say to Francis in their meeting, Botean responded: “What I’m mainly going to want to say is thank you.”

“I wish that was a little more of a common sentiment I would hear among bishops in the U.S.,” said the prelate.

“But I don’t hear too much, and I keep my own counsel,” he quickly added. “That’s another advantage of being a nobody bishop of a nothing diocese.”

Nonviolent witness

For a certain segment of the U.S. Catholic population, especially peace activists, Botean is something of a folk hero. In 2003, shortly before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he was the only American prelate to speak out directly against the instigation of conflict, calling it an “objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin.”

Talking about issues of war and violence during the interview, the bishop started with some more frank talk.

Asked about what he hopes Francis understands about the U.S. political environment, Botean responded: “To have any leverage with the administration or with the U.S. government in general … the U.S. bishops have to have his back, big time.”

“I don’t want to judge what the situation of that is, but I don’t suppose it’s what it could be,” he added.

But Botean then spoke much more introspectively, reflecting on how he understands nonviolence teachings in light of Christian, and specifically Byzantine, spirituality.

Referencing the number of Christians who have died in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq, the bishop said: “What we are experiencing now is a new era of martyrdom, and I think that has yet to bear the fruit that God wants it to bear in the church.”

“I think that will perhaps give us the boldness that we need to say … ‘Christ disarmed Peter, he disarmed every Christian,’ ” he said.

“By little and by little, as Dorothy Day would say,” he continued. “We keep planting the seeds. And we keep watering, we keep weeding. It really becomes an exercise of faith.”

Several times, Botean mentioned that his own interest in nonviolence teachings was sparked by his friendship with Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a Melkite Greek Catholic, peace activist and author whom the bishop called his “spiritual father.”

Botean said that during one of his previous ad limina visits under John Paul II he had brought copies of a book by McCarthy focusing on the nonviolent aspect of the Eucharist to share with the pontiff and some of his advisers, including Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, who has served as the preacher of the papal household since 1980.

Botean said he later saw Cantalamessa appear to reference McCarthy’s writing in some of his talks. “There is openness,” said the bishop. “I think where there’s openness to the Spirit, there’s openness to nonviolence.”

But the Eastern rite prelate said that even he has trouble raising the issue sometimes. He said that one of the members of his cathedral parish is the local sheriff, who comes into the church wearing his firearm.

“He’s the sheriff,” said Botean. “I think he’s required to be armed all the time. He’s very discreet about it. But I don’t feel I can bring that up yet.”

“It’s easier to speak boldly in front of cardinals and popes, I suppose, than your own people,” he joked.

[Joshua J. McElwee (jmcelwee@ncronline.org) is NCR Vatican correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

* After publication of this article, Botean clarified that while he estimated there to be 50,000-75,000 Romanian rite Catholics in the U.S., that is not an official tally. During the interview, the bishop had said he hopes to be able to take a new count of U.S. Romanian rite Catholics in the future.

Please click on: ‘Nothing’ bishop

  1. [1]Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.
  2. [2]It continued:
    ‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”   The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed.  It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.  He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions.
  3. [3]Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
    Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).
    What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
  4. [5]
  5. [4] The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". [5]He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
    Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
  6. [6]A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
    In June [2017], the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
    It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
    Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
    The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.
    To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.


Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five + 1 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Care to follow posts?

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox (unsubscribe any time):