Like tears from Heaven, heavy rains poured down on Newark the afternoon of September 29. Undaunted, a small group of families gathered behind the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, across the street from the offices of the Archdiocese. On this feast of St. Michael the Archangel, they have come to do penance for the obscenities flooding the metropolitan area – and beyond – from WSOU, the radio station on the campus of the Archdiocese’s flagship university, Seton Hall.
With all the controversies swirling around the Archdiocese, not least of which being the cover-up of the crimes attributed to former archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, why did they choose spiritual battle on this issue? Simple – pulling the plug should be a no-brainer for the current Archbishop, Joseph Cardinal Tobin. There is absolutely no way any honest person of goodwill can square the soul-saving mission Christ entrusted to His Apostles with lyrics like those that aired the previous Sunday: Machine Head’s “Old,” which bragged “With a grin I drank the blood of holy swine, impurity made the blood turn into wine,” is just one example. One has no need to look beyond titles like “Hammer Smashed Face” to see that something is terribly amiss at the radio station, the college, and the archdiocese, despite their numerous protestations that they have “vetted” these selections against the educational and spiritual goals of the Catholic university.
“Cardinal Tobin [is] like the father of a household whose kids are playing with matches and lighting fires in the basement,” said Beth, one of the Rosary warriors that afternoon. “It’s [his] job to march down, take away the matches and say ‘You’re done. Knock it off. It’s over.’ The lives of [his] spiritual family are at stake.” Rose said the double standards exposed by recent lockdowns were beyond the last straw. “How could the Bishops ban singing God’s praises in church while continuing to broadcast music celebrating paganism and violence directly into people’s homes?”
Armed only with their rosaries, a few signs, and their tears, the families came to battle this evil that has been festering for too long, thirty-four years too long. The fathers, mothers, and the older children of the families wore simple burlap cloaks over their shoulders, emulating the sackcloth worn by the Ninevites, who were called to repentance by Jonah after three days of darkness inside a large fish made him see the light of doing God’s work. Some of the women invoked memories of the brave Jewish queen in the Book of Esther, who saved her people from execution by the unjust decree of a corrupt government official. Huddled under umbrellas, the families knelt and prayed in reparation for the spiritual horrors broadcast from the very same property as the Archdiocesan seminary. Their signs begged Cardinal Tobin to be a great saint and put an end to this nightmare.
Some passers-by honked and gave them the thumbs up in approval. Most, however, just looked with quiet curiosity. This is Newark, after all.
The families, however, know that Almighty God will likely see their action quite differently. After all, how many times in Scripture and in the history of the world had the Lord brought great salvation from seemingly tiny efforts? Jesus told us to be the salt of the earth, to be like the tiny grains that season a large dish. In another passage, He taught that the Kingdom of God is like a small amount of yeast that leavens a whole measure of flour. Juan Diego, obeying the Blessed Mother and his bishop, obediently ran simple messages between the two. Yet his efforts resulted in the miracle of roses blooming in December and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe inexplicably appearing on his humble tilma, miracles that triggered the conversion of thousands in a region of the New World where great human effort had previously borne little fruit.
On that rainy Michaelmas afternoon, on a hard city sidewalk, families who had long nurtured the candles of faith in their homes hoped to co-operate further with God’s plan by bringing His light into a dark corner of His vineyard.
What could possibly hold back the Cardinal from taking action when the Papal Nuncio, the Pope’s own ambassador to the United States, had notified the Cardinal about the dire situation a year ago? At that point, Tobin had been in office three years, but despite numerous complaints, had done nothing about this 34-year-old problem that is practically in the backyard of the archdiocesan residence. Because the complaints to the Newark chancery had gone unheeded, the faithful had gone up the chain of command to the ambassador’s office.
“A situation like this calls into question the very credibility of the institutional church,” said Richard, a father who was unable to travel there that day but nonetheless offered prayers of repentance at the same hour.
The urgency for Tobin to act is greater today than ever for several reasons. One: with every passing year, the music has become ever more aggressive and the lyrics ever more explicit, detailing scenes of brutal violence and taking direct aim at truths of the Catholic faith. For example, the Lepanto Institute reported on a song called “Blacken the Cursed Sun,” by a band blasphemously called Lamb of God. Lepanto says it “definitively denies and rejects God’s promise of salvation and the forgiveness of sins for those who repent and eternal damnation for those who refuse.” Take a look for yourself:
“Can we still be saved?
Does your God hold a place for us?
Is there time to repent?
Will we rise from the dead?
Can these sins even be forgiven?
Is there still hope for us?
Two: the college station’s own website admits that the core demographic for their metal programming is aged “12 to 34 years old, followed by listeners 35 to 54 years old. This audience is more male than female.” Ironically, this can also describe the victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal. The defrocked Theodore McCarrick, arguably the poster boy of this scandal, took office as the Archbishop of WSOU’s archdiocese in the summer of 1986, just months before WSOU first began broadcasting the heavy metal format.
Three: It is bad enough WSOU can be heard by this young audience in a large part of the Archdiocese of Newark and neighboring dioceses (including Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s Archdiocese of New York), which is one of the most densely populated listening areas on the planet. Today it can broadcast digitally around the world via the Internet. Users of a home computer or mobile device can jump on the iHeart Radio web site or mobile app and not only listen to WSOU’s obscenity, they can view the often vulgar and violent album artwork on the iHeart home screen. Then, with a tap of the screen, they can also read the lyrics. You know, just in case they weren’t sure they just heard words like “Chop the heads off little girls and hang them on my walls.”
“There’s a lion in [my] heart,” said Maria, one of the mothers who prayed in the rain, as she reacted to these aggressive broadcasts. “Don’t you dare come near any of us with any of this.”
Not Just One Battle, But a Long War
The group understood from the outset that this is probably not going to be a one-and-done battle, but a protracted war. They know that, in the last three decades, at least two previous attempts to stop the station’s brutal broadcasts came to naught.
In 1988, a young male listener in the broadcast area committed suicide. A cassette tape of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Blizzard of Ozz” album was found in his jacket pocket. It included the track “Suicide Solution,” which was also connected to teen suicides in Georgia and California. The local tragedy prompted the University administration to pull 300 vinyl albums from the station’s playlist –but a CNN report showed that they were merely placed in a metal school locker. They soon found their way back on the air.
Thirteen years later, another University administrator ordered the station to abandon its hard rock and heavy metal format for one that “will better reflect the diversity and values of the university.” But even that attempt lacked any real teeth: Media reports said that the station was given three months to comply with an order that didn’t completely ban heavy metal; it would just “no longer be the station’s signature format.” The university then proceeded to hire a research organization to survey the campus, its alumni, and the community about what kind of music they would like to hear! The same dean who had filed a complaint about the station told the New York Times that ”The students do a very good job at monitoring their own standards for what lyrics will be acceptable to play and what lyrics will not.” He made this concession even as the “newspaper of record” reported the assistant program director admitted that one of the songs aired included the lyric, ”If you’re a 5-5-5, then I’m a 6-6-6.”
Knowing this history, the prayer warriors returned to Newark a week later on a fresh October day. This time, they decided to advance closer to the doorstep of the Archdiocesan offices. Apparently, lining up along the curb was too close for the comfort of the Newark administrators, and a plainclothes security guard emerged from the tinted glass doors. Almost apologetically, he asked them to leave the wide sidewalk for another location. Nonplussed, the group of families held their ground. One by one, they cheerfully called his bluff:
“There’s no law that says we cannot be on a public sidewalk.”
“It’s not like we’re blocking the doors.”
His sidewalk-clearing operation turned into a slightly-better-than-futile evangelization encounter, as they tried to make him understand the problem the broadcasts pose to souls. Unfortunately, the ex-city cop kept reducing their concerns to a matter of taste: “Yeah, it’s not my cup of tea either. I like Sinatra.” The group exchanged glances. One of the mothers gave him a Miraculous Medal and thanked him for serving society as a police officer. He thanked her for it and returned inside. It was a draw.
Later, the Cardinal’s secretary emerged, headed for the parking lot. He was kind enough to entertain their concerns for a few moments on his walk to the parking lot. Nonetheless, he dismissed them as outside the Cardinal’s purview: It’s not that Cardinal Tobin doesn’t care. Not at all. It’s because issues of “tenure” are at play.
For a moment the group is speechless as the meaning of the secretary’s words sink in: He just admitted that the Cardinal, a Prince of the Church, a member of the Pope’s cabinet of advisors, KNOWS that the flagship Catholic university of his archdiocese has been continuously promoting Satanism and the occult to 120,000 listeners for 34 years. Yet he is now claiming – through his secretary! – that there’s nothing he can do about it. Silent for only a breathless moment; they wouldn’t let him get away with such a response.
“But doesn’t Cardinal Tobin chair the Board of Trustees, which sets the university’s policies? This is a private university. It’s HIS diocesan university – why not?” they called as he turned away.”
Before he escaped into his car, they requested a meeting with the Cardinal.
“Send me an email.” The car door slammed shut and he pulled away.
These seasoned agents of reform aren’t holding their breath, of course, though they did send that email. They know, as any faithful Catholic knows from living on planet Earth in this past half century, and from reading the Bible and the lives of the saints with their children, that the fight for souls is only won by the heroically persistent.
Still, one of the group wondered why they had come, only to literally get doors slammed in their faces.
“I think we have an obligation because of our Confirmation,” Maria replied. “When I see abortion and any of these [evils] in the world, I wonder, ‘Where was the fight?’ I can’t complain if I’m not willing to stand up and fight. We’re called to be soldiers for Christ, so it’s game on, battle on. We’re at a point in history where you’re either for Christ or against Christ. That’s always been the case, but it’s coming before us so clearly now. Either you’re all in, or you’re not.”
“It’s like Edmund Burke once said, evil flourishes when good men do nothing,” agreed Marilyn. “In my opinion, there has never been a time of greater evil. I want to know that when I stand before the Lord, I want to say I did everything I could.”
Iron sharpened iron, as the Lord promised it would. Encouraged by each other’s resolve, they planned for their next act of reparation and petition.
The First Day on Our Summer Vacation, We Destroyed Catholic Higher Education
The roots of today’s problem seem to trace back to late July 1967, when Notre Dame’s Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., gathered his peers at his order’s retreat house in Wisconsin. Among his guests were the future Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick, who was then president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, ten Jesuits, among them a future Vicar General of the order, (which today is clearly off the rails and has been for decades), and, oddly, a layman named John Cogly. A principal writer of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech advocating the separation of church and state (in the Marxist sense, not the Jeffersonian sense), he later dissented from Humanae Vitae and became an Episcopalian.
Patrick Reilly, writing for National Catholic Register, identified the resulting “Land O’Lakes Statement” as the point when Catholic universities momentarily lost the “moral struggle with the temptation to pride and prestige at the expense of Catholic identity.” Hesburgh told the New York Times that without this declaration of independence from the Catholic Church, the US Supreme Court might rule that Catholic colleges could not receive public funding. (In fact, the Supreme Court ruled just the opposite.) Nonetheless, twenty years later, Sister Brigid Driscoll, former president of Marymount College in New York, defended Hesburgh’s 1967 reasoning: Those decisions meant a windfall for the schools a few years later when the federal government offered financial aid to independent colleges, she argued. Ironically, smaller Catholic colleges who severed ties with the Church ended up struggling to compete against state universities that provided the same job training for less. Meanwhile, Notre Dame itself is still legally under the control of the Holy Cross Fathers, yet like other colleges that retained close ecclesiastical ties, participate freely in federal student aid programs. Thus, the Land O Lakes statement ended up not even accomplishing its claimed objective, but achieving something far worse.
Any notion that this L.O.L. statement wouldn’t lead to apostasy on a massive scale is completely refuted by the current situation at Seton Hall, and at many other Catholic colleges. It is painfully refuted by the tragedies experienced daily by so many Catholic families, whose children have wandered away from the faith and a holy life due to their experiences at what their parents thought were Catholic institutions.
Are the Archbishops of Newark selling the souls of their flocks for thirty pieces of government silver? It sure seems that way, when they have apparently adopted a persistently hands-off policy toward a Catholic college that not only resides in their see, but whose Board of Trustees they chair. They have the power to change the situation for the better, yet they do nothing. They merely stand by as the Catholic universities in their dioceses have become doorways out of the Church for their students.
The families praying at the Newark offices, like so many Catholics today, have struggled mightily against a disintegrating civilization and against Catholic schools that have long since lost their Catholic identity. They actively sought out spiritual and educational experiences for their children’s formative years. They worked so hard, only to see (for some of their children, thankfully not all, but some) their efforts undone by colleges that turned out to be Catholic in name only. One father in the prayer group commented, “Too often we look back and say ‘What else could I have done?’ Instead we must look forward and say, ‘What else can I do now?’ We have to keep fighting for our children, against the horrifically sick and sinful ‘new normal,’ both the secular and Catholic new normal, that drives our children away from God.”
How Many Bodies – And Souls – Have to Pile Up Before We Admit We Have A Problem?
WSOU’s station managers, University officials, and Archdiocesan spokesmen have responded to the most recent round of complaints just as they have in the past – by claiming what they broadcast is harmless. Is it really?
Besides the suicides connected to the Ozzy Osbourne track and others, serious spiritual problems plague the band members themselves. Besides Osborne’s famous drug and alcohol problems, take for example Rob Halford, the lead singer of Judas Priest, another band in heavy rotation on WSOU over the years. He was working at an “adult cinema” (porn theater) when the band was founded in 1969. Then, after years of hiding his activities, often in plain sight (as in the lyrics of Raw Deal on the band’s “Sin After Sin album in 1977), he finally came out as “gay” in 1998. He blamed the stress of keeping this secret for his cocaine and alcohol addictions, while crediting the need to perform for heavy metal fans with keeping him sober since 1986. He has admitted in interviews that he was raised in a Christian household. It is not clear what he believes today, but it seems pretty certain that he leans away from the faith he glimpsed as a child. Halford turns 70 next year. What might his life had been had he learned true Christianity, instead of the false gospel of perversion and heavy metal?
Rose, one of the women who prayed in the rain that afternoon, recounted a harrowing experience with a boyfriend who listened to the station faithfully. When she met him at one of the Archdiocese’s Catholic colleges in 1986, he was already deeply interested in paganism and witchcraft. He would often persuade her to join him on pilgrimages to an occult store in Greenwich Village. She finally broke free of his spell three years later, after he attempted to strangle her after an argument. By then he was growing his hair long, and experimenting with wearing nail polish and eyeliner, something fairly common among aspiring glam metal band members at the time. He had already taken up with another young woman whom he likewise drew into the occult, leading her to have at least one abortion, before he finally left her to raise a child on her own. What might the lives of this man, his new woman, and their children – have blossomed into these last 34 years, had they been nourished by the Sacraments and the love of Christ, instead of being stunted and snuffed out by rejecting Him? Rose looked up the other woman on social media, but was disappointed to find that she is still devoted to pagan goddess worship to this day.
Rose often wonders how she herself survived his attacks and thanks God she didn’t die during that difficult period away from the Sacraments. Still, it took her another 15 years to return to the Catholic Church. What might Rose herself have accomplished as a wife, mother, and Christian had she met a young man passionate for the Way of the Lord, instead of one so eager to pursue the “Highway to Hell”?
At WSOU itself, the blasphemous programming apparently did no favors for the career of WSOU’s former general manager Michael Collazo. In 2004, he was fired for embezzling and laundering in excess of half a million dollars in underwriting and subcarrier lease payments for the station. The disgraced executive later pleaded guilty, was convicted, and sentenced to five years in prison. Might he have been less tempted to steal if the programming he heard day in and day out called him to greater heights of holiness, rather than glorifying “sin after sin”?
Similar stories of crime, drug and alcohol addiction, violence and sexual depravity are repeated in too many biographies of the musicians and listeners in the metal genre to list them all here, but even one tragedy is one too many.
When Michael Hichborn of Lepanto Institute heard that Seton Hall officials were issuing denials about three decades of hellish radio broadcasts, he decided to specifically document the explicit lyrics in a video report which he posted to his YouTube channel. A brief glance at the comments – often profane – below the video show that the listeners have been swimming in this filth for so long, they no longer recognize it as such. Like the diocesan security guard, some keep trying to couch their arguments in relativistic terms. Most, however, are very happy to proclaim “Hail Satan!” and mock any concerns raised. They simply refuse to see the incongruity of broadcasting violent and anti-Catholic lyrics from the campus of a Catholic university. Not one of them in their remarks evince any knowledge of the true teachings of the Catholic faith, but rather grossly warped misinterpretations.
If even a top Catholic like a Cardinal can’t see the problem of broadcasting this “music” and take the simple, decisive step to say “NO MORE,” what other conclusion can any sane human being draw, except that the station, the university and the Archbishop and his administration have abandoned Catholicism altogether?
“The Archdiocese of Newark has forgotten its mission,” commented Mary Jo. “It’s abandoned Christ on the Cross, it’s in bed with the world. It makes me cry. You know, I never in my whole life thought I would ever question my church. I have no choice, if I’m faithful to Christ.”
Her friend Maria echoed her sentiments: “You can’t help but think, have our spiritual fathers lost their supernatural faith? Do they not fear judgment? How frightening it is to think of them in that light! No child wants to think like that about the father, or have to correct the father. The father is the provider and protector. But when that isn’t taking place….”
God, help us all.