Southern Religion

Judgment Day (at last) for Cardinal Mahoney? [updated]

R. Stephenson-Padorn (via Wikipedia)

Cardinal Mahony

“It took way, way too long, but the U.S. attorney has finally launched a grand jury investigation into the actions of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony when dealing with rapist priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, ” wrote William Lobdell.

For eight years Lobdell covered the religion beat for the Los Angeles Times, and specifically the priestly sex abuse scandals. He has a written a book which among other things chronicles how interviewing the victims broke his heart. Commenting on the grand jury investigation, he went on to say:

Reading the initial story, the legal tactic seems a bit of a long shot, but why not try–especially if it can be used to punish other bishops, archbishops and cardinals who covered up and hid rapist priests, many of whom went on to commit sex crimes on other children?

To review just a few of Mahony’s sins (click here to see them all), he quietly kept two convicted child molesters in ministry. A priest who admitted to Mahony that he had molested two boys was allowed to keep his job, the authorities weren’t told, parishioners weren’t warned, and (you guessed it), the priest went on to molest others. Mahony’s handling of serial rapist of little children, Oliver O’Grady, was laid out with sickening beauty in the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Deliver Us From Evil.” As late as 2002, Mahony had at least eight known molesting priests working in his diocese, and only removed them when forced to do so by a legal settlement.

You can see, then, why victims responded with quiet strength to the news of the Mahony investigation. The video snipped from their news conference (below) is, we think, clear enough (the archdiocese released a statement calling the group “an angry mob”):

Transcript here.

Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating resigned as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board examining sex abuse by Catholic Priests after Cardinal Mahony criticized him for comparing some church leaders to the Mafia.

In his resignation Keating wrote:

My remarks, which some Bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology . . . To resist Grand Jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.

The Honest Services statute was passed to overcome “conspiracies to deprive others of honest services.”

Was that, or was that not the kind of problem Keating was describing? The answer is unclear to legal scholars. But L.A. Now was optimistic:

One federal law enforcement source said such a prosecution could be brought under a federal statute that makes it illegal to “scheme … to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” In this case, the victims would be parishioners who relied on Mahony and other church leaders to keep their children safe from predatory priests, the source said.

Your thoughts? Louder please, so they can hear you in Los Angeles.


January 31, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Crime, Law, Religion | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Black, Catholic, RNC chairman Steele

The Republican religious right lost and put its own decline on display when big-tent former lieutenant governor of Maryland Michael Steele was elected the first black Republican National Committee chairman in history, Friday.

Underlying party direction didn’t change and the Culture Warriors will still get plenty of attention. But Ken Blackwell was the candididate of the James C. Dobson wing of the Republican Party, as you can see from a quck look at his list of endorsers.

Steele, a former Catholic seminarian, promised immediately to upend the public perception that the Republicans are “a party unconcerned about minorities, a party that’s unconcerned about the lives and dreams of average Americans.”

Good as he is, that’s unlikely, but things have unmistakably changed. Calling Steele a “moderate,” however, would be a miscategorization.


GetReligion notes with justified puzzlement that major newspapers led with the race issue and ignored the fact that Steele is a former seminarian.

Tmatt wrote:

I am not, let me stress, saying that the racial issue is not important. I am saying that it is very, very strange — when everyone knows the importance of centrist Catholics in American politics — to offer no information on the religious element in the story of the new leader of the Republican Party.


January 31, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Black, Catholic, RNC chairman Steele

Atheist bus runs into heavy Italian traffic

Italian Atheist Bus

Italian Atheist Bus

Booted off Genoa, Italy, buses earlier this month after heated Catholic and Muslim protest, the atheist bus ads will run in drastically toned-down form on perhaps one bus for two weeks in February.

The new ad approved by advertising licensing agency IGP Decaux, reads: “The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression.”

Originally the message was “The Bad News Is God Doesn’t Exist, The Good News Is You Don’t Need Him.”

The secretary of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (UAAR), Raffale Carcano, said the UAAR was working to get the original message approved in cities where IGP doesn’t control advertising.

Heaven only knows whether they’ll succeed.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Puzzled’ L.A. Cardinal gets 0 sympathy

“Mystified and puzzled” Cardinal Roger Mahony got no twitter love in his efforts to comprehend a federal grand jury investigation into the handling of alleged clergy child molestation cases by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was stunned but gladdened by the report.

The LATimes said the prosecutors are applying an honest services legal theory in an apparently novel way” by trying to determine whether church officials’ actions constituted a fraud against parishioners. The applicable federal statute bars conspiracies to deprive others of honest services, and in this case, the victims would be parishioners who entrusted the safety of their children to church leaders.

If the approach is “novel,” it’s an interesting novel. One wonders whether other denominations might yet find their own pages in it. Others whose conspiratorial silence contributes to the serial abuse of young parishioners.


Judgment Day for Cardinal Mahoney: Long-time observer and victims comment.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Law, Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

How many clerical predator ‘hush money’ agreements?

They’re like cockroaches explains Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators:

It is the very nature of such agreements that they hide in the dark. That’s the reason for them. By design and function, they keep troubling news quiet. Most of the time, they work. The people never talk, and you never hear about the hush money or the reason for it.

She discusses the New Life Church claims with regard to Ted Haggard:

After all, this is a church whose leaders not only paid a young man to keep quiet, but then they effectively denied doing it. Instead, they had the sickening gall to claim they were trying to help the young man. “Compassionate assistance,” said Brady Boyd, the senior pastor.

She proceeds to document how the Baptist General Convention of Texas has offered hush money to clergy sex abuse victims, and having purchased the victims’ silence, denied having done so.

Read the entire post here. Hush money agreements are like cockroaches. Yes. The piece is well worth reading.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on How many clerical predator ‘hush money’ agreements?

Grand Jury Could Charge Mail or Wire Fraud In L.A. Clergy Sex Abuse Cover-Up

Religion Clause reports:

The Los Angeles Times reported today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles has begun a grand jury investigation into the responses by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and possibly other top Catholic Church officials, to reports of sexual abuse by priests.

The rest is here.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Crime | , , , , | Comments Off on Grand Jury Could Charge Mail or Wire Fraud In L.A. Clergy Sex Abuse Cover-Up

Inaugural Jesus

In The inaugural Jesus, Martin E. Marty writes:

We should devise some signal by which those who pray particular prayers (as I believe all are) let everyone know that while praying in their own integral style and form, they are aware and will at least implicitly assure their audiences that they are not speaking for everyone. They can then encourage others to translate what is being said into contexts they find congenial, and still share a communal experience.

Take the altogether worthwhile walk to that conclusion, starting here.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | | Comments Off on Inaugural Jesus

Need one another

From Texas comes the Spiritual Samurai to remind us that in these hard and getting harder times:

Those of us who are called have all be socialized some way into the ways we think and act. If only we could bring an empty slate to the Lord, but we cannot. Besides, We are called not for our strengths or talents or connections. We are called because of what God wishes to do through us. Fame or failure matter not for they both can bring God glory. We need be careful to always remember this.

He goes on to write about how Christians occur in communities of people who care about, need and support one another:

Jesus gave us a secret sign for times like these. He said they (the world) will know we His followers by the way we love one another. He was talking about our clan, our community, which is for us the Church (the presence of Jesus). Relational theology must be included in relational evangelism. We must look to need one another (not in the bureaucratic manner of the past, but through networks of trust that are also relational in nature).

Agree or not, the entire entry is here. And worth the visit.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Help, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Need one another

Trample freedom of speech but not sexual predators?

How ironic for Richard Land to mourn the death of the unconstitutional, technologically ineffective Child Online Protection Act without having raised his voice for a pedophilia database to help protect young Baptists from clerical sexual predators.

Land is head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He decried the high court’s decision on Jan. 22 as follows:

Unfortunately, our Supreme Court has concluded that an adult’s supposed ‘right’ to see anything he wants to see trumps society’s obligation to protect children from exposure to such spiritual toxic waste. Untold human suffering will be the result of this stupefyingly wrong decision.

As if parents were unable to take measures to protect their children.

It would be irrationally optimistic to expect Land and other COPA supporters to note that it:

  • Would have imposed serious burdens on constitutionally-protected speech — anything conceivably “harmful to minors.” That standard proved impossible to effectively define.
  • Would have failed to prevent children from seeing inappropriate material originating from outside of the US, or available by means other than the World Wide Web.
  • Did not represent the least restrictive means of regulating speech. Parental supervision assisted by individually applied filters appear to be that.

A study commissioned by 49 state attorneys general, and released on January 14, noted that parents set their household standards and are the true enforcers of them. As a result:

Parents and caregivers should: educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which their children use it, as well as about technology in general; explore and evaluate the effectiveness of available technological tools for their particular child and their family context, and adopt those tools as may be appropriate; be engaged and involved in their children’s Internet use; be conscious of the common risks youth face to help their children understand and navigate the technologies; be attentive to at-risk minors in their community and in their children’s peer group; and recognize when they need to seek help from others.

May we turn now to dealing with the large number of Baptist clerical sexual predators?

Last year the SBC failed to implement an obvious solution that would help, thus earning itself sixth place on Time Magazine’s Top 10 Underreported News Stories of 2008:

Facing calls to curb child sex abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church — urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors.

Certainly the SBC cares enough about children to implement a solution that would actually help remedy a devastatingly destructive problem which burns like a wildfire through its midst?

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Law, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pentecostal pastor Joshua DuBois tapped to head faith-based initiatives

From the New York Times:

President Obama plans to name Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and political strategist who handled religious outreach for the Obama campaign, to direct a revamped office of faith-based initiatives, according to religious leaders who have been informed about the choice.

He was the religious affairs director for the Barack Obama campaign.”

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | 1 Comment