In December of 2019 the Catholic Virginian included an article congratulating Virginian priest Father Walter Lewis on the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. We had heard less than favorable bits of information about Fr. Lewis from his former parishioners, and that some parishioners left the Catholic Church, at least for a while, until Lewis was transferred out of that particular parish. Some of those bits of information included his brash personality, his obvious homosexual lifestyle, his overt alcoholism, his DUI convictions and imprisonment for those convictions, his purchase of a beach house along Virginia’s coast which he shared with a fellow priest, and the subsequent questions as to how he obtained sizable amounts of money, and why he wasn’t defrocked.
My husband and I wrote to Bishop Barry Knestout about our concerns that, in light of the many sex and financial scandals within the Catholic Church, the Catholic Virginian — of which Knestout is its publisher — would publish such a glowing article about such a controversial and troublesome priest. In our letter we pointed to Fr. Lewis’ convictions and imprisonment for DUIs, especially in light of the fact that Knestout claims to be pro-life. How pro-life can someone really be when he keeps in active service a priest who endangers people’s lives by driving while under the influence?
Knestout’s response was pathetic and typical of all the self-righteous, manipulative, weaselly scripted reactions all previous and current corrupt religious leaders have so shamefully, yet shamelessly, vomited back on those with legitimate reports of misconduct and crimes. In Knestout’s letter dated January 14, 2020, nearly a month after we mailed him our letter, Knestout accused us and Fr. Lewis’ former parishioners of spreading “rumors and gossip” and admonished us to follow “our Holy Father” (Jorge Bergoglio, aka “Pope Francis”) in his “shining example of virtue, integrity and holiness.” Right. We responded in a second letter that DUIs and convictions are public record and are therefore not “rumors and gossip,” and we again asked that he initiate an immediate investigation into the very serious issues concerning Lewis’ actions. Knestout ignored our second letter. There’s a manly response.
Fast forward a few months later to the spring of 2020. Bishop Knestout defies canon law and suspends Fr. Mark White, priest for both Martinsville and Rocky Mount, Virginia, out of retaliation for even-handedly and honestly addressing the clergy sex scandals, especially the crimes committed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Well before the scandals came to light, Fr. White was ordained by Cardinal McCarrick. Fr. White’s intention in blogging about the sex scandals and about McCarrick in particular was to call the Church to do better in screening out unstable men from the priesthood, provide comfort to victims, and keep current parishioners and their children safe from predators. But Knestout — who was formerly McCarrick’s personal secretary and roommate — acted like a knight in shining armor defending the honor of his Cardinal (paramour?) McCarrick by ousting Fr. White from his parishes. Nonetheless, Fr. White’s parishioners stood by their priest, despite Knestout’s zeal in slashing and burning Fr. White in his attempt to stop him from speaking out against McCarrick and the abominable mishandling of the entire sex scandal (https://frmarkdwhite.wordpress.com/bishop-knestout-letter-to-parishioners/). Knestout’s actions against Fr. White are quite revealing, and as the expression goes, his Freudian slip is showing. First of all, Knestout reacted to Fr. White’s truthful reporting and commentaries in the exact same way other power-lusting bishops and cardinals have responded to victims wronged and damaged by pervert “pastards,” as I call them, as evidenced by how desperately and zealously he sought to silence Fr. White’s legitimate complaints and calls for accountability. Secondly, Knestout proved the adage regarding guilt, “Thou dost protest too much.” I for one have a very difficult time believing, as Knestout has vehemently insisted, that he had no knowledge whatsoever of McCarrick’s aggressive and pervasive sexually predatory behavior despite Knestout’s position as McCarrick’s former personal secretary and roommate. In a costly maneuver — paid for out of parishioners’ donations to the Richmond, Virginia diocese — Knestout took out full page ads in Virginia’s newspapers giving the appearance he cared about victims of clergy abuse, while he was at the same time abusing his power and violating canon law against Fr. White. Knestout also oversaw paying out $6.3 million from parishioners’ donations and the diocese’s assets to victims of clergy abuse, on condition that they not file suit against the diocese.
Fast forward again, this time to July of 2023. The media report that someone from one of Fr. Walter Lewis’ previous parishes has filed a credible complaint that Lewis committed sexual assault against this person in the 1980s when this person was a youth. Lewis’ brazen violation of his vows of celibacy, his endangering the lives of people in the general public every time he got behind the wheel of his car while he was under the influence, his apparent financial unaccountability, all provided plenty of reasons for both Bishop DiLorenzo and his successor Bishop Knestout to investigate, suspend, and even laicize Lewis before he could do any more damage in and to the Name of Jesus. But no, when these bishops should have defrocked Lewis — a truly dangerous man — Bishop Knestout especially preferred to obsessively conduct a rampage against Fr. Mark White as he wrote and spoke truth about clergy sex scandals and who has truly ministered to souls damaged by religious frauds who have physically, psychologically, and spiritually raped their victims. A faithful, caring bishop would have commended and supported Fr. White. Instead, Knestout violated canon law, violated Fr. White’s First Amendment right, and maniacally murdered Fr. White’s reputation.
The year 2023 has also seen Knoxville, Tennessee Bishop Richard Stika being “asked” by Bergoglio to resign amidst horrific sex scandals. Stika finally resigned after numerous complaints by priests and seminarians alike against his totalitarian rule and in the midst of ongoing lawsuits filed by victims of sex crimes committed by clergy and by an ex-seminarian whom Stika invited to live with him in his mansion in Knoxville. Stika lied on federal forms stating that this ex-seminarian from Poland was legally in the US attending seminary, when in fact he had been expelled from yet another US seminary for sexually harassing and assaulting other seminarians and was residing in the mansion that Stika shared with retired cardinal Justin Rigali. This ex-seminarian then raped an organist in one of the diocese’s parishes. Stika responded by exerting intimidation tactics against the victim (https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2023-06-27/embattled-tennessee-bishop-resigns-after-priest-complaints-abuse-related-lawsuits).
The rot of spiritual abuse goes all the way up to the head of the snake, Bergoglio. It’s been just over 10 years since Bergoglio was elected to take over the Chair of Peter. His words and actions ever since have been one betrayal after another of his office, and by that fact he is no legitimate pope, or “papa” to those who comprise the Church. Knestout, Stika, and other power-abusing prelates, have copied their leader Bergoglio, instantaneously axing good shepherds and true spiritual fathers — such as Bergoglio did to Puerto Rico’s former bishop, Fernandez Torres — while promoting, protecting, and defending sexual assailants and their enablers — such as Argentina’s Bishop Zanchetta and Slovenia’s Fr. Rupnik (https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/zanchetta-case-fatal-blow-to-popes-reputation-as-reformer/ ; https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-ignored-letters-from-nuns-allegedly-abused-by-fr-rupnik-report/).
There have been some notoriously bad popes in previous centuries, such as Alexander VI. These bad popes generally ignored Christ’s teachings. But for the first time in the Church’s history, Bergoglio, like left-leaning leaders of some Protestant denominations have already done, is rapidly changing not only 2,000 years of basic Christian doctrine but also 4,000 years of basic Judeo-Christian moral teachings. This major branch of Christianity is being destroyed not only by Heretic Jorge and his henchmen but by the few remaining orthodox prelates who have spent 10 years cowardly wringing their hands instead of holding a conference to oust Bergoglio and his fellow power-abusing heretics and elect a faithful pope who will clean up this hot mess. And if people object to my use of the word “heretic,” try proclaiming yourself to be a staunch vegan but then presenting to a truly committed vegan a big whopping roast beef sandwich and then gaslighting them with arguments that it’s really vegan because the cow ate grass. Outrage and repulsion don’t even begin to describe the justifiable emotions. As I wrote in my book, believe anything you want to, but when your chosen beliefs directly contradict the basic historical beliefs of any given religion then don’t insult people’s intelligence by hijacking the name of that religion and claiming you’re one of its adherents. Though I may disagree with your beliefs, I can respect your honesty if you don’t claim to be an adherent of a religious belief system that is starkly different than your stated beliefs. Simply put, you have zero credibility or respectability insisting you’re a vegan as you brazenly justify chowing down roast beef sandwiches in front of everyone.
The spiritual vacuum left by abusive heretics and shameless hypocrites can set a person up to be deceived and manipulated by high-control religious frauds like my brother Ken Parks (aka, “Pastor Max”, “Pastor Ken Max Parks”, “Pastor Ken,” etc.). Public menaces like my brother seek to attract those who are disillusioned and vulnerable. People in such states can easily fall prey to trying to fill the God hole in their soul with what they think is spiritual nutrition yet is really deceptive poison. This reality, in part, can explain the explosive rise and success of cults or high demand groups.
If you’ve been wounded by spiritual abusers, be kind to yourself, give yourself time to heal and recover, and focus on self-care to prevent yourself from being ensnared by what may initially sound good and safe but is yet another abusive situation. With appropriate and competent counseling, supportive and healthy-minded friends, giving yourself time to reflect on your experience, and reading good books on the topic of spiritual abuse (or any other kind of abuse), you can recover and protect yourself from the harm of yet another abusive situation. Those of us who’ve been burned can learn to differentiate the scent of a warm, safe camp fire from the stench of a crematorium.