Itching Ears Redux

As we discussed a week ago, now that the Magisterium is saying things Reactionaries don’t like to hear, they are constantly casting around for celebrity mini-popes to tell them what their itching ears want to hear.

So, for instance, we find absurd attempts to declare that Francis is not really the Pope (a beloved tactic stretching back to fantasies that the last real pope was Pius XII (cuz that would make Vatican II go away in the minds of Reactionary fantasists). The latest person to embrace that particular piece of nuttery is James Altman, a popular celebrity priest with Reactionaries who checks all the boxes from Jew-hatred to wack conspiracy theories to “vote Democrat and you will go to hell” kookery to “Bergoglio is a satanic false pope” madness.

None of that matters to the Francis-hating sect, it seems. Indeed, they seem amazingly well-disposed to the most frail reeds in their eagerness to find somebody–anybody–who will stoke the fires of their hatred of the Church as it actually exists in order to burn it down and replace with the Fortress Katolicus of their fantasies.

Here, for instance, is Reactionary MAGA cultist John-Henry Westen of Lifesite News, a rag that long ago died of severe mission creep and abandoned all pretense of interest in the unborn in favor of wielding them as human shields for sundry MAGA culture war agenda items, articulating his real (and now memory-holed) contempt for the Magisterium:

Given that Westen and Lifesite‘s real goal is now to destroy the Magisterium of the Church in favor of his vengeful right wing obsessions, he needs to find (or manufacture) celebrity sock puppets to act as alternative magisteria. And so, he runs around finding vainglorious heroes (like Altman) to beat their chests and bravely face the applause of his sectarian MAGA kooks as they attack the Church for not being vengeful to struggling people they hate and want to punish for existing. Case in point:

Priest to Pope Francis: ‘You are hurting my parish’ by promoting homosexuality

In this particular screed, Lifesite tries to puff up another Altmanesque figure named Fr. Joseph Illo, who rails at the Holy Father for not treating LGBTQ persons like vermin (a favorite word of James Altman’s in describing LGBTQ persons). All this is, of course, treated as the last word in Correct Catholicism vs. the Holy Father’s alleged assault on the Faith. No vetting is done on Fr. Illo by the sect, just as it was never done on the now clearly deranged Altman:

Result: Yet again, the subculture that has been so wrong about so much so many times for so long demonstrates yet again why only an utter fool would trust their judgment about anything in the whole wide world, as this story on Fr. Illo’s pastoral prowess makes clear why he, like the venomous Altman, is not the guy any sane person would turn to as a guide to shepherding souls:

Canonical and court documents from 2003 and 2005 that cast a negative light on the ministry of Fr. Joseph Illo during his time in the Stockton, Calif., diocese — including a court ruling that he inflicted “intentional emotional distress” on an 11-year-old girl — have further enraged parents at Star of the Sea School who have sought the priest’s removal as Star of Sea Parish administrator.

A San Francisco Examiner story posted Thursday reports that a civil case settled in San Joaquin County Superior Court in 2005 ruled that Illo emotionally abused the child when he was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Modesto and that “the girl was ultimately awarded $20,000 in damages.”

According to court documents provided to NCR, the event took place Sept. 11, 2001. The girl reportedly went to Illo to tell him of alleged sexual misconduct against her and her sister in their home about two months earlier by associate pastor Fr. Francis Arakal.

According to a “settlement conference statement” filed in February 2005 by attorneys of the girls’ guardian ad litem and mother, Kathleen Machado: “Rather than protect and minister to the 11-year-old … Fr. Illo breached the child’s confidences by forcing the child to confront the offending priest. The pastor and offending priest then called the child a ‘liar,’ yelled at her and defamed her mother by insinuating to the 11-year-old that her mother was ‘fabricating’ the allegations … because ‘all [Machado] wanted to do was have sex’ ” with Illo.

The statement alleges a strong relationship between Machado and Illo, saying, “Fr. Illo wrote Kathleen reciprocating letters as well, and it is crystal clear that he harbored some strong feelings for Kathleen. The mutual strong attachment was noticeable to others.”

A Jan. 6, 2003, canonical investigation into “Allegations of Harassment and Defamation of Character Raised by Ms. Kathleen Machado against Reverend Joseph Illo” stated: “Fr. Illo’s handing of the incident with the child, and … other incidents, indicate a need for improvement of his pastoral management skills.”

“There is sufficient testimony to indicate that Fr. Illo on occasion can exhibit two opposite facets of a personality — on the one hand kind and helpful and sensitive and on the other hand dictatorial, manipulative and insensitive.”

“Perhaps counseling for Fr. Illo in gender boundaries and pastoral care of women would be appropriate,” the investigation report said in its “conclusions and recommendations.”

The report, submitted to Stockton Bishop Stephen Blaire, also said: “The Petitioner [Machado] needs to be aware of her own vulnerability as a woman suffering the trauma of divorce. She needs to be aware of how this vulnerability drives her into continued and frustrating attempts at establishing relationships.”

Via email, Illo declined comment. “I’m sorry but Archbishop [Salvatore] Cordileone has asked me not to respond to questions from the media. I refer you to our legal counsel, Larry Januzzi,” he wrote.

Star of the Sea School parent Christy Brooks told NCR that she and other parents want answers about the vetting process used before Illo was assigned to the parish not only as administrator but as initiator of transforming the parish into what is known as an oratory.

“Did Archbishop Cordileone know about this?” she asked. “If he did, why weren’t we told? If he didn’t, he should have.”

School parent and vice chair of the archdiocesan Board of Education Scott Bialous agreed. “We have seen Fr. Illo in repeated patterns of inability to deal well with women and children, especially children. We have questions about whether he followed through on the recommendations to undergo counseling. At this point, we have a hard time trusting him.”

Requests for comment from the archdiocese had not been acknowledged by late Thursday morning, but the Examiner story quoted archdiocesan spokesperson Larry Kamer as saying parents are encouraged to express any concerns with the parish or archdiocese.

“Any matter concerning even the allegation of abuse is something the church takes quite seriously,” Kamer told the Examiner. “In this particular case, the police and the jury both found that there was never any abuse and the matter was resolved on other issues.”

Parents did express concerns to Auxiliary Bishop William Justice and vicar for clergy Fr. Raymund Reyes at a March 25 meeting attended by about 200 people at the school auditorium.

Sixteen parents delivered brief statements describing the changes instituted by Illo and the impact on their children. Most of the speakers concluded, “We respectfully ask that Fr. Illo and Fr. Driscoll be removed from Star of the Sea.” Fr. Patrick Driscoll is associate pastor.

Justice told the audience he would convey the parents’ concerns to Cordileone. Bialous told NCR that no response has yet been provided to the parental group.

Vivian Dudro, who told the Examiner she has known Illo for 25 years, defended the priest. “He’s a very dynamic and vigorous guy. If there’s anybody who can pump new life into this church, it’s Father Illo,” she told the newspaper.

Dudro told the Examiner that the civil case against Illo is “an unfortunate situation” in which there was no misbehavior by Illo.

“I’m a mother, and I don’t doubt that the child would have felt at the very least uncomfortable and intimidated in a situation like that,” Dudro said. “However, I believe from the bottom of my being that Father Illo would have never intended harm of a child, ever.”

According to the Examiner, “hundreds of parishioners are voicing support for Illo, who they say has revived the Star of the Sea Parish since arriving in August. In fact, within the past month a petition with more than 500 signatures was delivered to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone urging that Illo be kept in the parish.”

In a yes-or-no checklist of accusations against Illo and Arakal accompanying its “Judgment on Special Verdict in Open Court” filed April 4, the court clears Arakal of “intent to harm or offend” the 11-year-old and of acting “with the intent to cause harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part” of her.

Arakal was also ruled not to have caused “intentional infliction of emotional distress” to either of the sisters.

Illo, however, was confirmed to have purposefully emotionally abused the 11-year-old and acted “with reckless disregard of the probability” of causing emotional harm.


5 Responses

  1. Yesterday my sister-in-law sent me a Youtube from the shrine of Divine Mercy. At first I thought he would throw the pope under the bus, but he didn’t. It’s like some of the right-ish are hanging on by a thread. I was so relieved. Let’s keep praying for everyone whenever the Holy Spirit wakes us up to do it. For me it has been like 5 am everyday.

  2. I recently saw another blogger talk about that priest and his open letter, but from the opposite perspective: the article was elevating and promoting him.

    “An Open Letter to Pope Francis” from a Priest in the Trenches

    At some point, one of the commentators did a little digging and came up with a lot of the things you’ve pointed out here. Shockingly, but in retrospect not surprisingly, both the blogger and the right-leaning regulars started to circle the wagons and defend the guy. As I read through all the rationalizations and minimalizing of the priest’s behavior, I felt as if I was observing a case study on how the defense and cover-up of abuse within the Catholic Church can play out in real time.

    1. When you are among the Greatest Catholics of All Time, you enjoy the serenity of knowing that God has sent you into the world to tell everybody to repent, secure in the knowledge of your own moral perfection. All attempts to remind you that you are a sinner too and might be wrong are assaults from Hell. It is not possible for you to be wrong.

  3. I remember that priest from Star of the Sea in SF. Way back when I was on the right side of the political spectrum, I though his moves to reject altar girls was weird and attention getting. It didn’t sit well with me. Pope SAINT John Paul gave the go-ahead and the right wouldn’t accept it. I had friends that invited me to go to mass there. It never smelled right even when I was on the right. :(. That was a long time ago.

    They don’t move these little princes from their citadels anymore because they threaten to leave. That happened with our pastor in Mill Valley too.

  4. “Perhaps counseling in pastoral care for Father Iilo would be appropriate”

    I think three dozen lashes with a steel tipped cat o nine tails would have answered the situation better.

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