Showing posts with label child abuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label child abuse. Show all posts

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Several nights ago, I watched the film Spotlight, which was riveting and all around excellent.  The movie earned its well-deserved Academy awards in Best Picture and Best Screen Play categories.  Though I followed the story of child abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston in the newspaper from the beginning, the story as told from the point of view of the newspaper reporters and editors kept me in full suspense mode throughout.  I'd be hard put to single out particular actors for fine performances, because the principals were all outstanding.

The child abuse scandals in Louisiana broke earlier than the Boston scandal, but there was only spotty coverage by the national media.  South Louisiana is heavily Roman Catholic, and I now realize how courageous the reporters and editors in the local newspapers, the Daily Comet and the Houma Courier, were in publishing their stories.  No doubt, they took a great deal of heat from diocesan leaders and lawyers at the time.

The Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux is small, and I knew some of the people involved.  When I learned of the child abuse, the hush money paid to victims, and the attempts to cover up by supposedly moral and psychologically sound leaders, I left the church at age 60.  Though my alliance with the church had been uneasy for quite a while, my decision to completely break the ties was difficult.

Night before last, I watched Spotlight again before I sent the DVD back to Netflix. I wanted to enjoy the fine artistry on display in the film without being overwhelmed by suspense.  Upon seeing the movie the second time, I remembered the light-bulb moment when, after hearing the stories about more than one priest in more than one diocese in Louisiana, I concluded that the abusive priests didn't simply slip through the cracks, but that the actual policy of the church was to shift abusive priests from parish to parish, perhaps after a leave of absence, where the abusive behavior continued in their new placements.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The other evening, I watched the film Calvary written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson, as Fr James, a good Roman Catholic priest serving in a small church in the north of Ireland. Gleeson's performance is riveting, comparable to Mark Rylance's work in Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, it was Rylance's eyebrows and silences that so often communicated without words.  Gleeson, who is a large bear of a man, appears in nearly every scene in the film, and his rough, mobile facial features speak volumes without words.

McDonagh's script doesn't flinch as it takes us through the via dolorosa, which is Fr James' everyday life and most surely tests his faith to its limits. The good priest has the heart of a pastor and goes about his parish work shouldering the burden, as many priests do, of the aftermath of the child abuse scandal.   A dark comic thread runs through the movie but does little to relieve the sadness and gloomy portent that pervade the film.  Though I was completely caught up in the story throughout the course of the film, I found it difficult and disturbing to watch, but, at the same time, it was impossible for me to turn away. Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal came to mind.

The movie was filmed in and around County Sligo in the north of Ireland.  Though the beach scene settings and recurring views of the impressive Benbulbin rock formation are picturesque, I could not help but think of the town and the surroundings as relentlessly godforsaken places.

Writing about Calvary was probably the most difficult review of any I've ever done, because I admire the film greatly, and I wanted to get the words right.  Gleeson is magnificent in his role, and, though he dominates the film, the supporting cast of characters are intriguing and talented enough to hold their own.  In his script and direction, McDonagh resists any temptation to cater to the audience or take the easy way out in tackling difficult and controversial subjects in this splendid and powerful film.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The other night, I watched the movie, Blue Jasmine, which was highly recommended to me by several people. If I ever knew, I'd forgotten the movie was written and directed by Woody Allen. Though the film was very good, I can't say I enjoyed watching, because the story was emotionally wrenching. Cate Blanchett was outstanding, and the movie included very fine acting by others in the cast.  The choice of music in the soundtrack is excellent, as is usual for Woody Allen's movies, which, for me, adds a great deal to my enjoyment.

Even if I'd known the movie, an homage to Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire, was written and directed by Allen, I'd forgotten the lurid details of the custody trial after Mia Farrow and Allen separated.  After I finished watching, I went online and happened to see the link to Dylan Farrow's open letter in the NYT. After reading it, I felt sick. Later, I read the transcript of the custody ruling.

The world of celebrity so often seems in a different universe. The family of Mia Farrow and Allen, unusual though it may have been, was a family, and Allen seemed to have little knowledge or skill in parenting and no concept of proper boundaries within a family. His view that adopted children are not "real" children is seriously out of whack. 

A few months earlier, I watched  Midnight in Paris and enjoyed it very much. Allen is immensely talented, but he's also creepy, at best, and a pedophile, at worst, but I confess that I'd rather have seen the two films than not.  The only firm conclusion I've reached is that I do not believe Dylan Farrow is lying.

Is it possible to separate the art from the artist?  I ask because I struggle with the question.  What do we make of other gifted artists such as Lewis Carroll and his relationship to Alice Liddell? His photographs of Alice would quite likely be considered child pornography today.  I suppose I will know when the next Allen movie comes out whether I'll choose to watch or not. I'm not crazy about all of his films. Some I just don't get, plus, in others, I sense a misogynistic undercurrent that makes me uneasy.

Then there's Alfred Hitchcock, who apparently had a conventional private life, but who displayed a propensity for putting beautiful women, especially blonds, in dangerous and frightening situations.  Even as I enjoyed the chills and thrills, Hitchcock's treatment of the women seemed rather creepily sadistic to me.

After I'd written the words above, I read , which sheds more light on child abuse and memories and leads me to consider Dylan Farrow's account even more credible. Zoe was abused by a family member when she was a very young girl.  She's writing a book about her experience and has done quite a bit of research on the subject.
People who do like, or love, Allen’s work often argue that we should separate the art from the artist. I don’t disagree; especially if we are able to do the reverse, and separate the artist from the art, not grant him any greater benefit of the doubt than we would another human. But we have to acknowledge that this is difficult, just as it’s difficult for us to recognize warning signs or baldly stated declarations of inappropriate behavior when they concern someone we know, trust, love, admire, or depend on to pay the bills and keep things running smoothly. If we like the art, if we like the love or the family unit or the school community or just generally the way things are, we can feel guilty if the person at the center of it has committed a heinous crime.
Research also shows that children are not nearly so suggestible on the topic of sex abuse as previously believed, especially school-aged children. In the past 40 years, children’s testimony has gone from being inadmissible in a court of law to being not only allowed as evidence but sometimes used as the sole evidence in cases involving sex abuse, which is notoriously difficult to prove (physical proof is rarely present even in cases of vaginal penetration).

Monday, February 11, 2013


Pope Benedict XVI's abrupt resignation on Monday heralds the end of a sad and storm-tossed seven-year papacy.

The former Joseph Ratzinger came to the highest office in the Roman Catholic church with a reputation as a challenging, conservative intellectual. But the messages he sought to convey were all but drowned out, first by a string of controversies that were largely of his making, and subsequently by the outcry – particularly in Europe – over sexual abuse of young people by Catholic clerics.
So far as I can remember, child abuse and cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church were first revealed in south Louisiana even earlier than the exposure in the Archdiocese of Boston, but the national media gave the story little attention. I suppose the newspeople thought the abuse was confined to the backward crazies in the Dioceses of Lafayette and Houma/Thibodaux in Louisiana. I left the church, not only due to the many instances of child abuse, but especially because of the cover-up. If the matter of child abuse had been handled properly from the beginning, the RCC would have saved itself a load of grief.  The Diocese of Houma/Thibodaux is small, and I knew too much about the cover-up and paying victims to keep silent be able to stay in the church in good conscience.  Since then, I have not looked back, for if I had not left in 1996, the more recent actions and words of the leadership of the RCC would have caused me to make my departure many times over.

Having said that, I am shocked at the resignation. John Paul II carried on long past the time he should have stepped down, and I thought Benedict would do the same.  Popes don't resign; it's been a long, long time - 600 years - since a pope did so.

One of Benedict's goals was to re-evangelize Europe.  We see how well that worked out.  Since the two popes, John Paul II and Benedict, served respectively for 27 and 7 years, each had many opportunities to appoint cardinals of the conservative persuasion, therefore I do not expect the next pope will be a flaming liberal.  In fact, if the successor turns out to be a moderate, I will be greatly surprised.  But then, God often surprises us, so we shall see.

Update from MuckRack: The journalist who scooped all the reporters on the story, Giovanna Chirri, a reporter for Italy's ANSA news agency, heard the pope's announcement of his resignation in Latin and understood what he said, which shows that Latin is not a completely dead language.

Monday, June 6, 2011


From Maureen Dowd at the New York Times:
THE archbishop of Dublin was beginning to sniffle.

He could not get through a story about “a really nasty man” — an Irish priest who sexually abused, physically tortured and emotionally threatened vulnerable boys — without pulling out his handkerchief and wiping his nose.

“He built a swimming pool in his own garden, to which only boys of a certain age, of a certain appearance were allowed into it,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told me recently. “There were eight other priests in that parish, and not one of them seemed to think there was something strange about it.”

Two years after learning the extent of the depraved and Dickensian treatment of children in the care of the Irish Catholic Church — a fifth circle of hell hidden for decades by church and police officials — the Irish are still angry and appalled.

The only church leader who escapes their disgust is the no-nonsense, multilingual Martin. He was sent home to Dublin in 2003 after 27 years in the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic corps and found the Irish church in crisis, reeling from a cover-up that spanned the tenures of four past Dublin archbishops.

In February, Martin held an unprecedented “Liturgy of Lament and Repentance” at a Dublin cathedral, where he asked forgiveness from God and victims of abuse and praised the courage of those who had come forward.

Wearing a simple black cassock, he helped wash the feet of eight victims and conceded that the church “will always bear this wound within it.”

In return for doing the right thing, he has been ostracized by fellow bishops in Ireland and snubbed by the Holy See.

Yet Martin, famous protector of victims, is an outlier of the club, while Cardinal Bernard Law, notorious protector of pedophiles, has a cushy Vatican sanctuary. And Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was in league with the notorious abuser of seminarians and inseminator of women, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, is the dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome.

Garry O’Sullivan, the managing editor of The Irish Catholic in Dublin, told me that Martin “has had a prophetic role in the church.”

I really don't get it. Cardinals Law and Sodano are rewarded for their roles in covering up child abuse. Because of the decades long cover-up, I left the Roman Catholic Church in 1996. I knew that a portion of the tithe I gave to my parish church went to the diocese, a portion of which went to fund the cover-up of child abuse, and I could no longer write a check. I'm not saying all Roman Catholics should do what I did. I respect those who remain to fight the good fight.
When he [Archbishop Martin] was growing up, his mother always told him “go serve your Mass but don’t hang around with the priest.”

In his brusque way, he rejects the appellation of hero.

“Nobody could have read what I have read and not did what I did,” he said as he walked me out into the windy spring day. “If I didn’t react to the stories I heard, there would be something wrong.”
(My emphasis)

Yes indeed, there would be something wrong. There is still something very wrong when a prophet and a hero is "ostracized by fellow bishops in Ireland and snubbed by the Holy See", and others in high places who participated in the cover-up are rewarded.

Thank God for Archbishop Martin!

Thanks to Ann for the link.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Did you watch PBS Frontline's "The Silence" on child abuse last night? I did, and it was one of the most difficult shows to for me to sit through ever. The show focuses on years of abuse committed by a Roman Catholic priest, Fr George Endal, and a "volunteer", Joseph Lundowski, on Native American children in the small village of St Michael in Alaska. I wanted to turn away from the horrifying stories of the abuse by the adults who suffered at the hands of the two men when they were children. To say I was shaken is an understatement.
"I was just a kid," Ben Andrews tells FRONTLINE of the years of abuse he suffered at the hands of Father George Endal and Joseph Lundowski, a layman who was training to be a deacon. "Father Endal and Joseph Lundowski, they couldn't stop molesting me once they started. It was almost an everyday thing. Father Endal kept telling me that it would make me closer to God."

"I'm still having nightmares of Joseph Lundowski molesting, having sex with me," says Peter "Packy" Kobuk. "I get up sweating, angry, feel like I could hurt somebody, but I never meaned [sic] to get angry at my children, but the anger went on my children also."

Since some of the victims of abuse have not come forward, no one knows the number of children who were molested over the years, but the estimate is as high as 80% of the children in the small village.

After the litigation settlement, when he was free to talk to the survivors, the present bishop of the Diocese of Fairbanks, Donald Kettler, finally met with the group of people in St Michael who had come forward. When he heard the stories and saw their suffering, he seemed to grasp the grave harm done to the people. In some cases, the abuse continued into the next generation, as those who were abused, abused their own children.

Ben Andrews told of the occasion when he told his father of the molestation. His father beat him, went out and got drunk, came home and grabbed a gun which he pointed at his wife, and shot and killed another son who was standing near his mother. Ben sees himself as responsible for his brother's death because he told his father about the abuse.

What a wrenching 30 minutes! If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the segment from the link above.

Endal and Lundowski were not the only representatives of the RC Church who were molesters. It seems that the Diocese of Fairbanks may have been one of the chosen locations to send priests who had been in been in trouble elsewhere for abuse of children and young people.

Lord, have mercy! I know that other denominations, including my own, have their share of clergy who abused children, but the appalling policy of the RCC of covering up to protect the institution, rather than moving to protect the children, allowed widespread abuse to take place over so many years.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


From the Telegraph:
Roger Vangheluwe, 74, the former bishop of Bruges, said the abuse he committed was only "superficial".

"I don't have the impression at all that I am a paedophile. It was really just a small relationship. I did not have the feeling that my nephew was against it, quite the contrary," he said.

Vangheluwe admitted abusing one of his nephews over a 13-year period, until the boy was 18, and a second nephew for a period of 12 months.
(Huff Post says 2 years below.)

More from The Huffington Post:
A former bishop's televised admission that he sexually abused two of his nephews caused an uproar in Belgium on Friday, with the prime minister, senior clergy and a prosecutor expressing shock at the way the ex-prelate made light of his offenses.

In an interview that aired Thursday Roger Vangheluwe, the former bishop of Bruges, spoke of his sexual abuse as "a little game," that involved fondling, but no "rough sex."

"I was never naked" and the abuse was never about "real sexuality," said Vangheluwe, 74.

Bruges Prosecutor Jean-Marie Berkvens said Friday the abuse of the second nephew lasted for two years. The victim was younger than 8 at the time.

The interview took place in a wooded Catholic retreat in Ferte-Imbault in central France, where Vangheluwe has been sent by the Vatican.

Throughout the interview, he sat relaxed, sometimes smiling and at times shrugging his shoulders as if to signal that the events he spoke of were not very serious.

Oh well. The abuse was only "superficial", only "a little game", with no "rough sex", and "never about real sexuality". And the one nephew did not object. Move along. Nothing to see here.

One of the tragedies of this story is that Vangheluwe is probably not lying. Very likely, he saw what he was doing exactly as he describes it. And the nephews whom he abused? What do they say? How were they affected by the "superficial" abuse? Ah, we don't know, but, from the stories of others who were abused, we can surmise that they were harmed, probably seriously, by abuse from the adult relative whom they trusted.

So. Vanghelhuwe has been sent to a French monastery, while the Vatican decides what to do with him.

The abuse started when the nephews were 5 years old and 8 years old and continued for years. I thought I could not be surprised further with stories about child abuse and denial, but it seems I can. The old mind is boggled.

Thanks to Lapin and Ann V for the links.

Friday, March 11, 2011


...who no longer knows me very well.
The Catholic Church is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by a small number of wayward priests that have probably been totally weeded out by now. (My emphasis)

Walk with your shoulders high and you head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non-governmental agency in the United States ... Then remember what Jeremiah said: 'Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and find rest for your souls'. Be proud to speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions. Be proud that you're a Catholic."

Please pass this on to every Catholic on your e-mail list.

The church is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds all right, but the following statements in bold print are nothing more than propaganda. Just 2 days ago, I posted on the story from Philadelphia of 21 wayward priests who had not been weeded out until now. Who is responsible for their remaining in ministry if not the "Church", the one, true Roman Catholic Church? Tell me. Who?

Thursday, March 10, 2011


With respect to the alleged continuing cover-up of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, the hierarchy seems to fear that acceptance of their own humanity and full admission of responsibility for their mistakes in response to child abuse will result in the collapse of the entire edifice of their church.

(Thanks to Wade, who inspired the thought by his words in an email.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


From CNN:

Twenty-one priests have been placed on administrative leave following a review of suspected child sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, according to a statement from the city's archbishop.

The church investigated 37 priests identified in a grand jury report as remaining in "active ministry with credible allegations of child sexual abuse," according to Cardinal Justin Rigali.

In addition to the 21 announced Tuesday, three other priests have already been placed on administrative leave after the report was released in February, Rigali said.

Last week, three Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher were charged with raping and assaulting boys in their care, while a former official with the Philadelphia Archdiocese was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children, the city's district attorney's office said.

CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen said the charges against the former church official appeared to be unprecedented and could have national implications.

Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the secretary for clergy for the under then-Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults, Williams said.

The church investigated after the names of the priests were released in a grand jury report. And before the report from the grand jury, did the church know nothing of the allegations against the priests?
The grand jury believed that more than 30 priests have remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse, Williams said.

Rigali had initially challenged that claim.

The charges against the three priests are sickening to read. And finally someone who participated in an alleged cover-up is charged. It's about time! It's way past time! I'd imagine that right about now, a number of people who participated in cover-ups around the country are running scared.

What led me to leave the Roman Catholic Church was not the crimes of abuse, horrific as they were and are, but the cover-up by presumably sane leaders who believed protecting the institution from scandal was more important than protecting innocent children and teenagers. And it seems the necessary lessons have not yet been learned even today, which nearly makes my head explode.

Lord, have mercy.

H/T to Ann Fontaine at The Lead for the link.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Last Saturday, I posted a link to a story in the Guardian about an article that would appear today in a German news magazine on the child abuse scandal in the pope's former archdiocese. The excerpts below are from Der Spiegel.

Catholic Church officials assigned full responsibility for the reassignment of a known pedophilic priest to retired vicar general Gerhard Gruber who served as deputy to Joseph Ratzinger when he was archbishop. Gruber is now challenging a Church statement that he "acted on his own authority," a claim he says was never discussed with him.

Gruber's friends say that the old man was only familiar with parts of the statement, that he was apparently being used as a scapegoat and that he was also under additional emotional pressure. To everyone's surprise, Gruber wrote an open letter in which he qualified the archdiocese's statement, writing that he did not sign any documents over which he had no influence. He also noted that he was "very upset" about the "manner in which the incidents were portrayed" by the archdiocese. "And the phrase 'acted on his own authority' also wasn't discussed with me," he wrote.

The archdiocese was unwilling to comment on the accusations, except to state it continued to believe that the former vicar general had acted on his own authority in the case of Peter H., and that he had admitted to having made mistakes. Gruber has gone on a trip to recuperate from "weeks that have been very stressful for me." His loyalty is greatly appreciated in Munich. Archbishop Reinhard Marx, Gruber writes, has sent him his best wishes and "expressed his appreciation for my 'participation'."

I report on the Guardian's report on Der Spiegel's report, and you decide.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Please read John Chilton's piece at The Lead titled An occasion for gay bashing and scapegoating:

Ordained while gay -- it's the new driving while black.

In a revealing campaign, Anglican Mainstream seeks to persuade you that sex with children reveals whether you are gay. And it's using the Catholic sex abuse story to make its claims. (And also is an apologist for that church's handling of sexual abuse.) Anglican Mainstream claims the problem is not with the church, but with homosexuals in the priesthood. According to its website, the "Primatial Adviser" of Anglican Mainstream is The Most Rev Drexel Gomez, former Archbishop of the West Indies who chaired the committee that drafted the Anglican Covenant.
(My emphasis)

John lists articles in Anglican Mainstream which attempt to demonstrate that sex with children shows whether a person is gay. The list is long.

The Draft Committee for the Anglican Covenant tilted in an anti-gay, anti-North American direction from its inception.

Friday, April 16, 2010


About a week ago, I added Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish to my Google Reader. New posts appear on his blog with amazing speed. I haven't counted the average number of posts in a single day, but I'm sure it's quite high. His blog is exhausting but worth reading. I wonder - does Andrew even take bathroom breaks?

His post today titled Our Screwed Up Priests is spot on. I know that a good many of you disagree that celibacy and child abuse are related, but I stand by my opinion that there is a connection. By no means am I saying that mandatory celibacy is the sole cause of the abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church - just that enforced celibacy is in the equation.

Sullivan quotes from an interview on NPR with "Dr. Leslie Lothstein [who] has treated more than 300 Catholic priests" at one of the psychiatric centers to which priests were sent for treatment.

One of the biggest challenges in treating priests, Lothstein says, is that they don't have the same kind of sexual experiences -- or history of talking about such experiences -- that an ordinary adult may have. "Many of the priests tend to be psychosexually immature," he says. "They've never taken a course in healthy sexuality."

He says some of them have gone into minor seminary at age 14 and developed "a sense of self without having appropriate lines of dating, meeting other people, experimenting with touch, kissing, ordinary sexuality."

Back in the day, some boys entered seminary at age 13, when they finished elementary school, however I gather that now one must be 18, at the youngest, to be considered as a candidate for seminary.

Sullivan says:

If celibacy is a mature choice, it can be a wonderful act of self-giving. But when mandatory for all, it prevents many healthy men from entering the priesthood, offers a cover for those terrified of their own sexuality and thereby creates a priesthood dominated by the emotionally immature.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


From by Bruce Nolan:

Jason Berry, the New Orleans writer, reported this week that the founder of the Legion of Christ, a global order of Catholic priests, for years deployed lavish gifts and envelopes of cash to powerful Vatican cardinals and other officials to win support for his work before his eventual exposure as a predator.

Berry said the gifts help explain why the Rev. Marcial Maciel Delgollado and his fast-growing order enjoyed powerful allies at the Vatican, even after nine men filed formal charges in the late 1990s that he had sexually abused them as young seminarians.

The two-part report on Maciel’s gifts, published last week and Monday in the National Catholic Reporter, comes after the Legion’s admission last year that the charismatic Maciel led a secret life, fathered a daughter in his native Mexico and supported her and her mother with donations diverted from the Legion.

The order has also acknowledged that Maciel molested the seminarians. And it has not disputed the claims of two men in Mexico who said they are his sons by a second woman, also supported by donations to the Legion.

Jason Berry covered the child abuse stories in south Louisiana back in the 1980s. Links to stories by Berry from 1985 in the Acadiana Times on Gilbert Gauthé, a notorious priest-abuser are here and here.

Berry has also published books on the subject:

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Vows of Silence


In an essay at the Daily Episcopalian, Ann Fontaine addresses the recent history of child abuse in the Episcopal Church and the policies which have been put in place to prevent further abuse and to address current allegations of abuse.

General Convention began to act. In 1985, a resolution passed to request Dioceses to conduct workshops on recognizing child sexual abuse. In 1991, a Committee on Sexual Exploitation was established. During this period several women clergy and some attorneys who had been providing legal counsel for abuse victims/survivors developed training for Bishops and other leaders to teach the church about the issue and how to deal with perpetrators and victims/survivors. It was clear that TEC did not have canons or procedures to guide this work, so several of us proposed a resolution for the next General Convention.

The bishops did not think the time was right for this action but we pressed ahead. The women of the Episcopal Church – Episcopal Women’s Caucus, Episcopal Church Women, Daughters of the King, and others mobilized to lobby both Houses and to talk their bishops about the importance of immediate action by the church. Abuse victims/survivors came to testify, often the first time they had told their stories in public. 1997 saw a number of resolutions including the revision of Title IV (disciplinary canons) passed. (The history of resolutions is here.) The Bishop’s Pastoral Office led by the Rt. Rev. Harold (Hoppy) Hopkins was a key supporter of funding, education, developing training and facing the issues of abuses and exploitation.

How refreshing to read that the influence of the women's groups in TEC sped along the process of getting workable resolutions passed. Rome, are you listening?

Ann's entire essay is well worth a read.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


From San

A Catholic priest from a rural parish west of San Antonio is accused in a lawsuit filed Thursday of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy at gunpoint and during private catechism sessions two years ago.

The suit, which names outgoing Archbishop José Gomez as a defendant and claims he sought to conceal the matter, comes three days after the Vatican named Gomez as the next archbishop in Los Angeles.

He is transferring to California next month. Gomez said recently through a spokesman that his five-year tenure involved no new sex-abuse allegations.

The suit claims that Father John M. Fiala repeatedly assaulted the youth from January to August 2008 while Fiala was working as administrator at Sacred Heart of Mary in Rocksprings.

Archbishop José Gomez takes up his office in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles under a cloud of litigation.

Besides which, he is a member of Opus Dei, which some say is a cult. I'm inclined to agree.

H/T to Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish.


The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith posted an online guide for handling allegations of child abuse.

Friday, April 9, 2010


From the AP:

The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the universal church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age." Kiesle was 38 at the time.

Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.

The information in the article sickens me, but I'm running out of words on the pope's role in the cover-up of child abuse. What's next? What sort of revelations will it take before the Vatican stops circling the wagons and hunkering down?

I'd add that there's something very wrong with the criminal laws when a person who ties up and molests young children can plead guilty to a misdemeanor and get off with no jail time and only three years probation.

H/T to Box Turtle Bulletin for the link to the article. Jim Burroway has more commentary there.

Friday, April 2, 2010


From the New York Times:

A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.

Benedict sat looking downward when the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who holds the office of preacher of the papal household, delivered his remarks in the traditional prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Wearing the brown cassock of a Franciscan, Father Cantalamessa took note that Easter and Passover were falling during the same week this year, saying he was led to think of the Jews. “They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms,” he said.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi stressed that Father Cantalamessa’s sermon represented his own private thoughts and was not “an official statement” from the Vatican.

Posted without commentary.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


From E. J. Dionne at

How in the name of God can the Roman Catholic Church put the pedophilia scandal behind it?

I do not invoke God’s name lightly. The church’s problem is, above all, theological and religious. Its core difficulty is that rather than drawing on its Christian resources, the church has acted almost entirely on the basis of this world’s imperatives and standards.

It has worried about lawsuits. It has worried about its image. It has worried about itself as an institution and about protecting its leaders from public scandal. In so doing, it has made millions of Catholics righteously furious and aggravated every one of its problems.

The church needs to show it understands the flaws of its own internal culture by examining its own conscience, its own practices, its own reflexes when faced with challenge. As the church rightly teaches, acknowledging the true nature of our sin is the one and only path to redemption and forgiveness.

But defensiveness and institutional self-protection are not Gospel values. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

The church needs to cast aside the lawyers, the PR specialists and its own worst instincts, which are human instincts. Benedict could go down as one of the greatest popes in history if he were willing to risk all in the name of institutional self-examination, painful but liberating public honesty, and true contrition.

And then comes something even harder: Especially during Lent, the church teaches that forgiveness requires us to have “a firm purpose of amendment.” The church will have to show not only that it has learned from this scandal, but also that it’s truly willing to transform itself.

I don't know about history giving Benedict the title of the greatest pope ever, but if Benedict followed Dionne's directives, he could move the church well forward to recovery. It seems to me that criticism and suggestions for a change of direction from within the fold of the Roman Catholic Church carry greater weight than those from outsiders, which the hierarchy can defend with charges of persecution as it is reported that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, of the Diocese of Brooklyn, did at the Chrism Mass last night.

I do want to take a moment to speak about The New York Times mischaracterization of the role of the Holy Father when he was Archbishop of Munich and then Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The fact is that the paper omitted significant facts with respect to the case of a certain priest in Wisconsin. The reality is that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not have competency over Canonical Trials in 1996 when the case is believed to have first been referred to Cardinal Ratzinger. Moreover, the priest in question, a Father Murphy, was in the midst of a Canonical Trial. He died before a verdict was rendered. The case of the priest in the Munich Archdiocese also is presented as a definite error of judgment when all the facts are not known.

This evening, I am asking you to join me in making your displeasure known to the editors. I might even suggest cancelling our subscriptions to the New York Times, but we need to know what the enemy is saying. Enough is enough! Two weeks of articles about a story from many decades ago, in the midst of the Most Holy Season of the Church year is both callous and smack of calumny. I ask you to stand up with me and send a message loud and clear that the Pope, our Church, and our bishops and priests will no longer be the personal punching bag of the New York Times.

Don't deal with the problems; attack the messenger. The New York Times is the enemy. When you have the poorest of defenses, go offensive and attack the critics. Dionne chooses the better path in confronting the problems head on and suggesting Gospel solutions that just might work to begin the long climb upward to restore the reputation and moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thanks to IT for the link to Dionne's column and to Whiteycat for the link to the article on Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio's sermon.