The Tears of the Virgin Mary – a “Spotlight” Ignored – The Incredible Connection of Weeping Statues in Northern Virginia and Clergy Sex Abuse

The Tears of the Virgin Mary – a “Spotlight” Ignored – The Incredible Connection of Weeping Statues in Northern Virginia and Clergy Sex Abuse March 10, 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows

by Stephen Ryan Author of The Madonna Files

“When tears shed by Marian images are declared miraculous by the church, they take on an almost cosmic significance. They show concern for events past and forewarn of dangers to come.” Agostino Bono -The Catholic Herald.

After the film “Spotlight” won the Oscar for Best Picture,  I wanted to return to a great mystery that took place in 1992 that may have been a supernatural prelude – a silent clarion call – to the child sex abuse crisis that would erupt inside the Catholic Church. At no time in the history of the world did Our Lady weep as She did in 1992 . This event took place in the suburbs of Washington, D. C., the capital of the most powerful nation in the world.

Is it possible that Our Lady wept at the sins that were taking place inside the Church just months before the child sex abuse scandal would begin its slow and painful march to becoming known to the world?

The film  “Spotlight”  follows The Boston Globes investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests.  The story has its origins based on a list of 20 pedophile priests in 1993 that the Boston Globe editor had in his possession but never followed up on.

Here is my story about the Virgin Mary’s own encounter with  clerical abuse.

In 1992, the Washington Post published an article titled “Mystery of Weeping Statues”:

“Uh, see that one’s crying now,” he says. “The one on the bookcase.”

Okay, yeah, Father Bruse, let’s just get on with the interview.

“That one over there,” he says quietly, pointing to a foot-high statue of the Blessed Mother.

It’s an optical trick. They’ve rigged the lighting in here.

“No, go ahead, go over and look at it,” he says with a kind of small weariness.

“You can pick it up. Go ahead, taste it with your finger. Turn it around, look under it,” he says.

There are four people in this room. The door is closed. There are at least half a dozen statues of Mary in here. The four people present are a priest and three journalists. The print reporter is the first to put his pencil down and approach the bookcase. It’s about seven feet away.

Then a reporter from Channel 5 moves towards the statue. There’s something entirely new in his demeanor.

The statue, which has a halo and seems to be made of plaster, is on a fake wood bookcase. There are no visible wires. No battery-operated tear ducts like a religious Chatty Cathy with a hole in her back where you put in the size C’s. This statue seems actually to be producing water. The water, from what the naked eye can tell, is forming at the corner of the right eye. But the eye is very small and so it is hard to know for sure. The Washington Post reporter is standing maybe four inches from the Blessed Mother’s nose. There’s gotta be a trick here. It’s as if the water is just appearing right out of the plaster and then rolling downward.

A bead forms under the alabaster-pink chin. It swells. BLOP, it falls. There are four tiny puddles of water at the statue’s base now. Proof positive you can be seeing something and still not believe you’re seeing it.


The Mystery

For years, many close to the Church, clergy and lay, had speculated on how an Evil – the Smoke of Satan – would manifest itself inside the Catholic Church – inside “certain chanceries” and then on a hot summer day in August – a clue.

On August 11, 1992, the long time Chancellor to the diocese of Arlington in Virginia, 53-year-old Monsignor William Reinecke, walked into a non-descript cornfield in Berryville, Virginia, near the Holy Cross Trappist Monastery with a loaded shotgun and killed himself. His death would leave behind a long shadow of untold secrets – secrets of both good and evil- secrets whose scope, decades later, are today just beginning to be fully understood.

During an implausible six months in 1992, Chancellor Reinecke would quite literally come face to face with both the divine and the damned.

Before the Chancellor’s death, five months earlier, on March 6, 1992, a local television affiliate of CBS news aired a story, initially without much fanfare, about mysterious occurrences of weeping statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary taking place in Lake Ridge, Virginia, a quite suburb twenty miles south of the Nation’s Capitol. The extraordinary events were mostly occurring at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church (SEAS) and its rectory.

The reported weeping Madonnas were associated with a local priest named Father Jim Bruse – they seemed to tear in his presence. He was also experiencing the “wounds of Christ” known as the stigmata.

Many eye-witnesses to the events and those who have investigated the incident argue that never in the entire history of the Catholic Church, has there been a greater manifestation of the supernatural or momentous occurrence of weeping statues and other physical signs of God’s presence through the Blessed Virgin Mary than what took place on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. in 1991 – 1993.

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of credible witnesses who saw the statues of the Virgin Mary weep before their eyes, including lawyers, military officers and government employees.

Most significantly the Bishop of the Arlington Diocese, John R. Keating, along with Monsignor William Reinecke, both witnessed the weeping Madonnas . On March 2, 1992 Father Hamilton and Father Bruse met with Bishop Keating at the Chanceryto discuss the case of weeping statues.  All three men statues of the Virgin Mary with them. Bishop Keating had two in his office and Monsignor Reinecke brought one of his own. Father Bruse brought his little Fatima statue with him. During the meeting all the statues in the room began to weep. “Reportedly, this convinced Bishop Keating that the weeping is a genuine phenomenon and should be so treated.” – The Seton Miracles

Our Lady of Medjugorje statue weeping at SEA’s Knights of Columbus meeting March 17, 1992

Within days of the CBS news report, the story of the weeping statues and the priest experiencing the stigmata would become a worldwide media sensation. The Washington Post and a throng of other national and international news organizations descended onto the community to report and investigate the miraculous occurrences. To this day, the spontaneous media frenzy surrounding the unexplained events stands as singular moment in television history in the coverage mystical religious phenomena.

Then suddenly, the Chancery Office of the Diocese of Arlington, headed by Monsignor Reinecke, concerned about the “circus atmosphere” at the Lake Ridge parish coldly shut everything down. The statues of the Madonna, mind you, continued to weep, at times profusely, but as far as the diocese of Arlington and the Catholic Church were concerned, the matter was officially over.

The Chancery stated its position regarding the weeping statues in a formal declaration. In a nutshell, the declaration said that since there was no overt divine message being delivered, there was nothing to investigate and the parish and the clergy from that point forward were forbidden to talk about the events. This decision, to many parishioners was not only profoundly sad but seemed to be an odd determination since only physical phenomena can be investigated. Reports of apparitions and locutions cannot be investigated. They can merely be assessed as to whether they are consistent with Catholic faith and morals.

The Smoke of Satan

Within months of dismissing the tears of Our Lady and silencing the talk of the highly publicized miraculous events, Monsignor William Reinecke, would again make newspaper headlines – this time by committing suicide in the cornfield by the monastery.

After the suicide, at first, shocked priests, parishioners,and friends searched for answers. Many blamed themselves for failing to see Monsignor’s Reinecke quiet despair.

But soon after the suicide a startling report surfaced in the Washington Post. Joe McDonald, a former altar boy from another parish, claimed that Father Reinecke sexually molested him twenty-five years ago and said he had confronted the priest about the incident two days before Reinecke killed himself.

Then another bombshell. After reporting the allegations of sexual molestation, The Washington Post revealed that William Reinecke was also, scandalously, the person in charge of investigating claims of pedophilia for the Arlington Diocese.

On August 30, 1992, after being rebuffed by the diocese of Arlington to discuss Reinecke’s death, Joe McDonald contacted the Washington Post and told his story of his sexual abuse by Father Reinecke. Then, according the Post, Bishop John R. Keating, after reading the story in the newspaper, sought out Mr. McDonald to discuss the matter. In the meeting with the Bishop’s representatives he asked the diocese to establish support groups for victims and priests, but Mr. McDonald said no “concrete proposals” came out of his meeting and was upset that they asked him to “stop speaking out”.

In 2006 Becky Ianni came forward saying that in the late 1960s, when she was ten years old, Father Reinecke gave her family their first color TV. Afterwards while watching the brand new TV the molestation started in the basement of her home and in the vestry of the church. “I didn’t tell anyone what happened,” she said. “I was basically told that I’d go to hell if I did.” Ianni said she no longer considers herself a practicing Catholic.”I became so disillusioned,” she said. “I realized I couldn’t be a part of a church that wouldn’t deal appropriately with these victims.”

Five months earlier Bishop Keating and Monsignor Reinecke had also asked the parishioners of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to stop speaking and the diocese has rebuffed all inquires to investigate the mysterious events of the weeping Madonnas for nearly twenty years.

Did Our Lady’s unprecedented tears in 1992 forewarn of the great Catholic priest sex abuse crisis? Of course nobody on that tragic day would hear the gun go off that killed Monsignor Reinecke. But now, looking back on the events of 1992, as Our Lady was weeping like never before in history, perhaps the gunshot was the “shot heard ’round the world” because within months of the accused pedophile’s suicide – a man in charge of pedophilia investigations for the diocese, the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crises would begin to unfold.

In the 2004 John Jay Report on sexual abuse, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it stated that “prior to 1993, only one-third of sex-abuse cases were known to church officials,” The sex abuse catastrophe, as we now know, has become, arguably, the single greatest challenge to the hearts, minds, and souls of the Catholic faithful – many have left the faith because of it – and to this day the Vatican continues to endure the ramifications of what Pope Benedict XVI has described as a “wretchedness” inside the Church. The Smoke of Satan had indeed entered the Church and the Blessed Virgin Mother wept for the loss of so many souls.

One now wonders if Monsignor Reineke, at the moment before pulling the trigger, saw the tears of Our Lady one more time just before coming face to face with Satan.

The Aftermath

Bishop Keating and Monsignor Reinecke’s decision to ignore the miraculous events of the weeping statues continues to be an unsolved mystery and to many a very unfortunate one. The decision to ignore the events did not leave a neutral opinion in its wake. It left a negative implication, some even believe the events have been condemned by the diocese of Arlington.

The bishop’s apparent disinterest suggested that he must know something negative about the cause of the phenomena.

The tragedy of this situation is that the local bishop, then Most Rev. John R. Keating and now Most Rev. Paul Loverde, have refused to even acknowledge the events much less investigate them to determine whether they constitute a true sign from God that the faithful could consider as miraculous.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect to all of this is that the point man in charge of silencing talk of the Seton Miracles, a man who was also overseeing investigations into claims of sexual abuse by clergy, may well have been a pedophile.

Recently the bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, just recognized the first official apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States to a nun in 1859. The church is the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, just east of Green Bay near Lake Michigan. For purposes of the Seton Miracles, it demonstrates that it is not too late to conduct this investigation and make a determination of validity.

Indeed it is never to late to investigate the miraculous and to be sure prominent people still seek answers and guidance from the diocese of Arlington. Citing the weeping statues and miracles that took place in the outskirts of Washington D.C., Justice Scalia recently argued that “It isn’t irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses to miracles. What is irrational, is to reject a priori, with no investigation…which is, of course, precisely what the worldly wise do. Why wasn’t that church absolutely packed with nonbelievers, seeking to determine if there might be something to this?” The answer was obvious, he said with disdain: “The wise do not investigate such silliness.”

The words of a Supreme Court justice leave us asking why indeed was the church not packed with officials of the diocese of Arlington to investigate the mysteries that obviously haunted Justice Scalia. Clearly, he had not heard evidence to his satisfaction to make a ruling in the extraordinary case of the weeping statues of the Blessed Mother.

If an honest investigation determines that there were natural causes for all of the strange things that happened around Father Bruse in Lake Ridge, Virginia, great! The matter could then be put to rest. But we don’t believe that will be the outcome of a true investigation. We don’t see how such a conclusion would be possible. But, that’s the purpose of investigating.

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