Southern Religion

After the Philadelphia Indictments

The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters responded to the first “filing criminal charges against a high-ranking Roman Catholic official for allegedly failing to protect children” by concluding:

When the scandal broke in 2002, I wrote these words: “The Church’s lack of credibility on questions of sexual ethics is especially disheartening because the Church has a lot to say to a culture in which sexuality is dehumanized, commodified, and generally seen as less than the beautiful thing the Catholic Church’s best theology insists it is. It is more than a little ironic that a culture awash in images of underage sexuality–the same culture that gave Oscars to American Beauty and where Britney Spears albums go multi-platinum–is now struck with horror at the revelation of priestly molestation. The irony, however, is grim. When the Church is most needed to remind our culture that sexuality can and should be humanizing, a giving of self in freedom and love, a participation in God’s ongoing creative work, the Church instead finds itself in court.” I would not change a word.

The lesson from Philadelphia is as clear as day: Every bishop in America must do what the grand jury did, investigate the facts and remove those who not only perpetrated the crimes of sexual abuse, which I suspect has been largely done, but also remove those who perpetrated the crime of endangering children by covering that abuse up. They must invite outside scrutiny of the record. If they themselves were a party to any cover-ups, they must resign. The time for prevarications and obfuscations is over. And, at their forthcoming ad limina visits in Rome, the bishops must have the courage to raise the crisis of belief over the Church’s sexual teachings with the Vatican. This crisis will not go away.

You can read the full text of the grand jury report here (.pdf)

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Catholic, children | , , , | Comments Off on After the Philadelphia Indictments

Italian paramilitary police block sex abuse victims from Vatican

Natalie Sherman of the Boston Herald reported:

Two Massachusetts survivors of clergy sex abuse led fellow victims in a march toward the heart of the Vatican yesterday but were blocked from reaching St. Peter’s Square by Italian paramilitary police

Two people of the throng of about 100 protesters— which included 55 Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona, where dozens of students say they were abused by priests — were later permitted to leave letters and a dozen stones near the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square to mark a symbolic path so other survivors might know they have company in their suffering.

“This is the first time that a group of survivors this large has come together, and people have listened in Italy. In Italy! That’s success to me,” organizer Gary Bergeron, a former Lowell resident, told The Associated Press after the march.

Read the rest here.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Crime | , , | Comments Off on Italian paramilitary police block sex abuse victims from Vatican

Roman Catholic Church abuse survivors demand justice

Hilary Whiteman of CNN reports:

Sue Cox was 10 years old when she says she was raped by a priest in her family home on the eve of her Confirmation, a sacrament which signifies the cementing of bonds between baptised believers and the Church.

The attack occurred in her bedroom while her family was downstairs. “I was mortified. I started to self-harm. I was ashamed and guilty,” she said. Her mother told her: “Perhaps it was one of God’s plans.”

It wasn’t one of His better ones,” Cox said.

Cox was interviewed by Ruthe Glendill, religion correspondent for the Times of London. Glendill uploaded the interview to YouTube:

Michael Hirst of BBC interviewed Cox, who told him:

I feel liberated because I am now able to speak out; I believe that secrets keep you sick.

They do.

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime, Pope Benedict XVI | , | Comments Off on Roman Catholic Church abuse survivors demand justice

Catholicism at the “tipping point”

Sheila O’Brien, a cradle Irish Catholic from Chicago cries out, “Excommunicate me please.”

Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic and a man not given to hasty pronouncements, responds:

Why should anyone care about Sheila O’Brien? She isn’t Anne Rice, after all. And her complaints about “an institution off the rails” will surprise no regular follower of the Catholic scene: an unresolved sex abuse crisis, Roman authorities who seem deaf to the aspirations of women and even punitive toward some, a lack of financial transparency. “How can we stay in a church whose leaders protect pedophiles?” O’Brien asks. “Yet how can we leave and relinquish our church to those very leaders?”

But I think who she is and the demographic profile she reflects matters as much as what she wrote: a cradle Irish Catholic, the granddaughter of immigrants, a professional woman, a wife and mother. In other words O’Brien represents the “thick middle” of the American Catholic Church. She’s active in her parish and still contributes to it (but writes “one-time bequest” on every check, she says, so nothing goes to the diocese). She’s a graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, and she even has a degree in pastoral theology. In other words, she’s Catholic with a capital C.

. . .

Catholicism has reached a “tipping point”–initiated by the crisis but perpetuated by other unresolved issues–after which thoughtful Catholics, despite their faith and commitment, finally start to give up.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children | , , | 1 Comment

Smoke enough around Pope Benedict, but a gun?

The case of Stephen Kiesle raises questions about whether and if so why then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delayed for years the action requested to better protect young Catholics from a predator.

Michael Sean Winters, writing for the Jesuit magazine American, excoriates the secular press and defends Vatican handling of the case in which “the priest who tied up young boys and molested them sexually and whose request to be defrocked came before” Ratzinger.

Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal strips Winters’ defense to the bone today. At the heart of the scandal, Gallicho finds damning questions:

So, why shouldn’t we raise questions about Rome’s role in the Kiesle case? Because the local bishop didn’t do enough, and besides Ratzinger didn’t receive a sufficiently detailed description of the priest’s crimes, and besides the process didn’t engage the proper canonical technicality? But we don’t have to choose to be troubled either by the local bishop or Ratzinger. We need not view the [Ratziner-headed Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith] CDF’s shortcomings in indirect proportion to the local bishop’s, so that the CDF is absolved to the extent that the local bishop failed. The same pattern of argument emerged in the Murphy case. “What about Weakland’s responsibility?” Benedict’s defenders asked, as though that swept away the questions that remained about the pope’s role in the case. Yes, why didn’t Weakland restrict Murphy sooner? Why did he wait three years after learning of Murphy’s egregious sins before sending the case to Rome? Why didn’t Kiesle’s bishop restrict him sooner? But they appealed to Rome, so: why did the CDF wait three years after receiving all the information it requested from Cummins to reply? Why was a Vatican official unable to grasp what the Kiesle’s superiors meant when they gently referred to his abuse of minors, even going so far as mentioning his criminal conviction? Why wasn’t the conviction determinative?

And then there are the larger questions: Why was Ratzinger on this case? Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he shouldn’t be blamed for Rome’s failure to address abuse claims promptly because he wasn’t officially responsible for such cases until 2001. Obviously that isn’t the whole story. Why not? Why was Ratzinger not really engaged in the Murphy case, which involved the abuse of as many as 200 deaf boys, but he was directly responsible for the decision not to release Kiesle from the full obligations of the clerical state? When Kiesle was finally fully laicized at age forty, whose decision was that? Ratzinger’s?

Certainly smoke enough to imply a gun as we struggle with questions Benedict could answer but does not.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Pope Benedict XVI | , , , | Comments Off on Smoke enough around Pope Benedict, but a gun?

What did the Rev. Kiesle do while Cardinal Ratzinger delayed?

The Rev. Stephen Kiesle remained a priest for years while then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger “bucked pleas from the Oakland, Calif., diocese to defrock him.” The Associated press has obtained a copy of 1985 letter signed by Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), delaying a decision for “the good of the Universal Church.”

The Contra Costa Times reports:

The letter came five years after Kiesle himself requested removal from the priesthood, and the diocese recommended it to the Vatican, following Kiesle’s no-contest plea in 1978 on a misdemeanor charge for tying up and molesting two preteen boys in the rectory of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Union City.

Kiesle, now 63 and recently released from prison, lives in the Rossmoor senior community in Walnut Creek and wears a Global Positioning System anklet. He is on parole for a different sex crime against a child. A self-described “Pied Piper of the neighborhood,” he is perhaps the most notorious among dozens of East Bay clergy accused of sex abuse over decades.

Numerous accusers have claimed he abused them as children at Our Lady of the Rosary, Santa Paula (now Our Lady of Guadalupe) in Fremont and Saint Joseph in Pinole, where he served in the mid-1970s, then returned in 1985 to volunteer as a youth minister.

What comprehensible “good” was there in delay of a decision on this this?

[H/T: Eric Bugyis]

April 10, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime, Pope Benedict XVI | , , , | 2 Comments

About that ‘smear’ campaign directed at the Pope

Mary Kate Cary, former White House speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, writes in U.S. News & World Report:

For the hierarchy of the church to imply that the controversy is a “challenge” coming from outside the community of believers is just wrong. The people who are most worked up about the charges of sexual abuse are not the so-called enemies of the church, but the young Catholic victims and their families, the lay parishioners and parents of children being raised in the church, and the good priests whose reputations are being tarred by this. At another Easter Mass in my neighborhood, at a parish so full of young families they have overflow seating in the gym every Sunday, the monsignor got a standing ovation after saying he thought the children would have been better protected if women had been in the leadership of the church in the first place, and that the bishops involved should resign. I’ve never seen a standing ovation in church in my life. It’s the community of believers who are as mad as hell. Really, it’s heartbreaking.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Law | , , , | Comments Off on About that ‘smear’ campaign directed at the Pope

Religion story of the decade: Abuse

The decade’s biggest religion story was an abandonment of the dictates of faith in clerical catholic/protestant sexual predation and globe-spanning efforts to conceal it without taking action to heal the victims or prevent further victimization.

Mark Silk wrote:

Unquestionably, the story of how American Catholic bishops, aided and abetted by civil authorities and mental health professionals, had systematically covered up the abuse of children by priests. This was big news locally in every Catholic diocese in the country. It became, because the USCCB was forced to confront it, a major national story. And it sparked rolling international coverage that, as this year’s revelations in Ireland attest, continues to play out. Given the breadth and depth of the coverage, I’m prepared to make the case that there has never been as big a religion story in the history of modern journalism–and that given the parlous state of journalism today, we may never see anything on its scale again

Christa Brown covers that beat for Southern Baptists: the largest protestant denomination. She and Bruce Gorley agree that clerical sex abuse is the decade’s top Baptist story.

Still unrolling is the Irish Catholic coverup of brutal abuse which dates at least to 1940. It involved transfer of a still undetermined number of pedophile and otherwise sexually predatory Irish prists to the United States when parishioner anger made it difficult to place them in Ireland.

Thus the pattern which is emerging, despite continuous efforts to obscure it, is of a worldwide Catholic coverup. Ongoing.

While the Southern Baptist Convention still pretends it has no responsibility for the horrors precipitated in its name.

While the little children suffer and some live to grow up, scarred by ministerial torture.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Religion, SBC, torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Gerald Warner: Today’s ‘jump-to-conclusions and cast-aspersions’ award winner

Gerald Warner of the London Telegraph contrived to sneer at Barack Obama and tar Vatican II for the Irish Catholic Church/police clerical pedophilia cover-up.

Warner did so as part of his argument defending Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, whom he admires:

The Most Reverend John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin (1940-1972) was a great Catholic prelate. Under his pastoral leadership, the numbers of clergy and religious increased by more than 50 per cent, he created over 60 new parishes and built over 80 new churches and 350 schools. But he was a Vatican II sceptic who implemented reform conservatively, in accordance with what would now be called the “hermeneutic of continuity”. So he is a bogey figure to radicals.

Warner argues that McQuaid was unfairly maligned because he retired in 1972, and the investigating commission dealt with “the period 1 January 1975 to 1 May 2004.”

Er, yes about the time periods, but the commission came across important cases which the record showed had earlier been presented to and not properly handled by McQuaid. The commission report finds as a result that McQuaid set the pattern of failure to enforce canon law. For example, it found with obvious cause (Part 2, page 191[.pdf]) “that Archbishop McQuaid acted the way he did to avoid scandal both here and in Rome.”

Rather than protect the children.

That case and others (some detailed by Warner’s commenters) involving decisions by McQuaid as archbishop, led the commission to state in its conclusions (Part 2, page 206 [.pdf] – emphasis ours):

This case has a special significance because it was one of the earliest in the Commission‟s remit. The apparent cancellation by Archbishop McQuaid of his original plan to pursue the priest through the procedures of canon law was a disaster. It established a pattern of not holding abusers accountable which lasted for decades. Firmer treatment of this priest might have avoided much abuse in the future. The Archbishop and Bishop Dunne had no doubt that a serious crime had been committed but avoided taking any action as that would have involved Rome becoming involved in the case. The Archbishop appointed Bishop Dunne to investigate the case and, in the Commission‟s view, promptly undermined him in his position.

In the Commission‟s view, Archbishop McQuaid‟s actions fell very short of what should have been done. Given that he was fully aware of the 1922 instruction, there was no justification for his failure to set up a proper canonical process to deal with the matter. In fact, he deliberately manipulated the situation in a manner that did not involve him reporting the matter to Rome.

Lacking compelling evidence that Vatican II either created McQuaid’s pattern-establishing behavior or precipitated Dublin’s fall, we must of course look elsewhere. Less fun than castigating our ideological foes, but if well-pursued, constructive.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Crime | , , , | Comments Off on Gerald Warner: Today’s ‘jump-to-conclusions and cast-aspersions’ award winner

The Catholic Church robbed Irish adults of the ability to tell right from wrong

For The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole writes about the massive, decades long cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by Irish Catholic priests:

But in the case of the institutional Catholic Church we have an organisation with an unusually powerful mechanism of self-protection: the capacity to convince the society it is abusing to take part in the cover-up. The damage the church has done to Irish society lies in the ways it has involved that society in the maintenance of an abusive instrument of control and power.

It is easy to miss a central aspect of this whole scandal. The report is concerned with the actions of the church authorities and describes in damning detail their sense of being above the law of the land. (Cardinal Desmond Connell, for example, told the commission that “the greatest crisis in my position as Archbishop” was not, as might be imagined, his discovery of appalling criminality among his clergy, or even his own disingenuous public claims that “I have compensated nobody”, but the decision to allow gardaí access to diocesan files.) But it is striking that parents, teachers and wider communities seldom went to the police either.

This was not a matter of ignorance. It is clear that some of the paedophiles were not secretive and cunning, but reckless and flagrant. In the early 1970s, for example, Fr James McNamee, who had built a swimming pool in his house into which only young boys were allowed, was so notorious among the children in his Crumlin parish that “whenever the older boys in the area saw Fr McNamee, they either ran away or started throwing things and shouting insults at Fr McNamee. Apparently he was known as ‘Father smack my gee’.” If children were shouting abuse at a priest in 1970s Ireland, adults undoubtedly noticed. They must have known why.

. . .

Yet in most cases, parents who knew their children had been abused went to the bishop, not to the Garda. There may have been a mistrust of the Garda (sometimes well founded), or a fear of exposure in the courts. But, in Archbishop Ryan’s internal notes on the Father X case there is a more extraordinary explanation: “The parents involved have, for the most part, reacted with what can only be described as incredible charity. In several cases, they were quite apologetic about having to discuss the matter and were as much concerned for the priest’s welfare as for their child and other children.”

This was the church’s great achievement in Ireland. It had so successfully disabled a society’s capacity to think for itself about right and wrong that it was the parents of an abused child, not the bishop who enabled that abuse, who were “quite apologetic”.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on The Catholic Church robbed Irish adults of the ability to tell right from wrong