Posts Tagged “catholic clerical abuse scandal”

Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles / Los Angeles Times photoThere’s been some fallout over the release of documents a few days ago by the archdiocese of Los Angeles showing its complicity in the abuse of children, going back decades. The Los Angeles Times reports the current archbishop, José Horacio Gómez, has handed down punishment to his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony and one of his lackeys (WebCite cached article):

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez on Thursday announced dramatic actions in response to the priest abuse scandal, saying that Cardinal Roger Mahony would no longer perform public duties in the church and that Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry has stepped down.

Gomez said in a statement that Mahony — who led the L.A. archdiocese from 1985 to 2011 — “will no longer have any administrative or public duties.” …

Gomez wrote in a letter to parishioners that the files would be disturbing to read.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” he wrote. “We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”

Mahony and Curry were in this scandal right up to their eyeballs, as the records make evident:

The records contain memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases. In the confidential letters, Curry proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they had abused young boys.

Curry suggested to Mahony that they prevent the priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators. Mahony, who retired in 2011, has apologized repeatedly for errors in handling abuse allegations.

I’m sure Mahony and Curry have both forgotten this, but Jesus had a bit to say about children, according to the gospels:

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:13-14)

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10:13-14)

And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Lk 18:15-16)

While this kind of ecclesiastical discipline of a Cardinal is rare and remarkable, it’s not much of a punishment. Mahony’s life won’t change appreciably, as the L.A.T. explains in an update to the original story:

An archdiocese spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that beyond cancelling his confirmation schedule, Mahony’s day-to-day life as a retired priest would be largely unchanged. He resides at a North Hollywood parish, and Tamberg said he would remain a “priest in good standing” and continue to celebrate Mass there.

So in the end, Gómez’s “slap down” of his predecessor, is really more of a light tap that carries no significant weight. It seems Gómez merely wished to appear to throw Mahony under the bus, without actually doing so. I have to congratulate the Archbishop for contriving the appearance of punishing Mahony without actually punishing him at all. Well done!

What’s more, keep this in mind: Gómez has been archbishop of L.A. since early 2011. He’s had nearly 2 years to read the documents in question and become outraged over Mahony and Curry’s behavior. But he didn’t choose to do so, until now — when the documents went public. Pardon me for being completely and thoroughly unimpressed by this useless show of inadequate piety.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times.

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FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2007 file photo, Cardinal Roger Mahony speaks during an annual multi-ethnic migration Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Cardinal Mahony and other top Roman Catholic officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files. Mahony, who is retired, issued a statement Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been "naive" about the lasting impacts of abuse. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)Over the last 10 years or so, a lot of civil cases against Catholic dioceses have been launched and played out in courts around the country. A side-effect of these has been the sporadic release of administrative documents showing the Church’s complicity (usually after-the-fact) in child abuse committed by its clergy. This happened in San Diego a couple of years ago. A little to the north, as the Associated Press reports, the archdiocese of Los Angeles recently loosed its own trove of documents that reveal its own guilt (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors who have been stymied for years in their attempts to build a criminal conspiracy case against retired Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders said Tuesday they will review newly released internal priest files for additional evidence. …

Thousands of pages from the internal disciplinary files of 14 priests made public Monday show Mahony and other top aides maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark.

Some of the documents provide the strongest evidence to date that Mahony and a top aide worked to protect a priest who acknowledged in therapy to raping an 11-year-old boy and abusing up to 17 children, many of them the children of illegal immigrants.

These documents finally came to light — and they will be followed by more — due to a settlement over 5 years ago, whose terms the archdiocese only just now decided to obey:

The files of dozens more accused priests are expected to be released in the coming weeks as part of a 2007 settlement agreement with more than 500 alleged victims. A judge recently ruled that the church must turn the files over to attorneys for those people with the names and titles of members of the church hierarchy blacked out after The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times intervened.

The documents released Monday and the additional 30,000 pages expected soon raise the possibility of renewed criminal scrutiny for Mahony and other members of the archdiocese hierarchy. Mahony retired in 2011.

Despite the fact that these documents might reveal criminality, and even in spite of their own stated interest in them, prosecutors are still hedging, and aren’t promising much:

In a 2010 memo, a lead prosecutor in that eight-year investigation [launched in 2002] said the documents he had showed “the possibility of criminal culpability” by members of the archdiocese leadership, but a criminal conspiracy case was “more and more remote” because of the passage of time.

Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman said investigators had insufficient evidence to fill in a timeline stretching over 20 years and were, even then, hampered by the statute of limitations. He did not return a call or email seeking comment Tuesday.

It looks as though California prosecutors’ longstanding habit of giving the Church a “pass” is continuing; they have their rationale for not going after the archdiocese, and I expect they’ll stick with it. As usual.

One final note: Cardinal Mahony claims he’d been ignorant of the fact that child abuse is bad:

Mahony was out of town but issued a statement Monday apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been “naive” about the lasting impacts of abuse.

Of course, his claim of ignorance is no excuse. Child abuse has been illegal — in California and lots of places — for a very long time. Mahony and his archdiocese was subject to a mandatory-reporting law beginning in 1997. Child abuse was wrong in the 1980s. It was wrong in the 1990s. And it’s wrong now. So he can’t credibly and rationally say he had no idea that child abuse wasn’t something he ought to try to prevent. Of course he knew it.

Note this is not the first time we’ve heard this sort of claim from a Catholic hierarch, in spite of how inexcusable it is. Former Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland made a similar admission, a few years ago. Other hierarchs have expressed a flippant, dismissive attitude toward abuse allegations. Really, this is an old story. The hierarchs’ lack of anything remotely resembling morality has been on the record for many years. Yet, millions of Americans still cling to the Roman Catholic Church and continue to do the hierarchs’ bidding. Sad, really.

Photo credit: Reed Saxon / AP photo.

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Hessen/ Bischoefe stehen am Dienstag (25.09.12) in Fulda waehrend des feierlichen Eroeffnungsgottesdienstes der traditionellen Herbst-Vollversammlung der Deutschen Bischoefe im Dom. Die 67 Mitglieder der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz kommen von Montag bis Donnerstag (27.09.12) zusammen. Themen sind unter anderem die Vermittlung des Glaubens und der Stand des Gespraechsprozesses im Missbrauchsskandal in der katholischen Kirche. (zu dapd-Text) Foto: Thomas Lohnes/dapdOne of the things I dislike about entities that commission independent investigations into their own affairs, is that all such probes can never be truly “independent.” No one ever can be sure the results of any such investigation won’t be subverted by the people who paid for it.

For example, here in Connecticut, this past summer we were treated to precisely this sort of debacle when state House Speaker Chris Donovan, then running in the Democratic primary for Congress in the 5th District, hired lawyer Stanley Twardy to “investigate” allegations that his campaign staff took campaign donations (otherwise known as “bribes”) in exchange for Donovan manipulating the legislative process on behalf of those donors. Not surprisingly, Twardy quite happily declared Donovan innocent of all wrongdoing. Quite laughably, he and Donovan expected the people of the Nutmeg State would swallow their steaming load of bullshit — but they didn’t, he lost the primary, and is now out of office.

Last year, the Roman Catholic Church in Germany commissioned just such a report into their own affairs. They pledged to allow their records to be culled to see how deep the clerical child-abuse scandal ran, in that country. But as Der Spiegel reports, they abruptly pulled the plug on this investigation (locally-cached version):

It was a major promise after a major disaster: In summer 2011, the Catholic Church in Germany pledged full transparency. One year earlier, an abuse scandal had shaken the country’s faithful, as an increasing number of cases surfaced in which priests had sexually abused children and then hidden behind a wall of silence.

The Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute (KFN) was given the job of investigating the cases in 2011. The personnel files from churches in all 27 dioceses were to be examined for cases of abuse in an attempt to win back some of the Church’s depleted credibility.

But now the Church has called off the study, citing a breakdown in trust. “The relationship of mutual trust between the bishops and the head of the institute has been destroyed,” said the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, on Wednesday morning.

The director of the KFN, Christian Pfeiffer, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the Church had refused to cooperate. At the end of last year, he contacted the dioceses twice in writing. He reminded them of their promised transparency and cooperation. He also asked them whether there was any indication that in some dioceses files had been actively destroyed.

The Bishops’ Conference, the country’s official body of the Church, was apparently unable to agree on any form of cooperation with the KFN.

Yes, you read that right: The bishops refused to comply with terms they dictated for how the investigation was to be conducted. They refused to communicate with, and cooperate with, a team they themselves hired for this task.

One can’t help but assume Prof Pfeiffer wasn’t turning out to be the obedient puppet they’d expected him to be, so after wasting his and everyone else’s time for a while — long enough time for them to destroy a lot of relevant documents, I’m sure — the bishops finally shut the “investigation” down entirely. Their pledge of transparency ultimately proved non-existent.

What person with half a brain is really surprised? I wasn’t, I hope you weren’t either.

Photo credit: dapd, via Der Spiegel.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and PaulPennsylvania courts made history a few months ago when an official of the Philadelphia archdiocese was convicted for his involvement in covering up abuses of children committed by other clergy in his administration. About six months after the sentencing, the Philedelphia Inquirer reports, the trial of a couple accused abusers in R.C. Church service is underway (locally-cached version):

It’s been almost two years since a Philadelphia grand jury probe of Catholic clergy sex abuse of children resulted in charges against four priests and a teacher.

On Monday — after last year’s landmark, three-month trial ended in the first criminal conviction of a church administrator for covering up the crimes of deviate priests — the last two defendants, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former parochial schoolteacher Bernard Shero, are to go to trial.

Prosecutors, defense lawyers, and Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler will begin winnowing a large group of candidates down to a jury of 12 plus several alternates.

The article lays out the case against the two priests:

The case against Engelhardt and Shero involves one of the first trial’s most salacious episodes: the serial sexual assault of a 10-year-old altar boy from Northeast Philadelphia in the late 1990s.

Identified in the grand jury report as “Billy Doe,” the boy was a fifth-grader at St. Jerome’s parish.

According to the grand jury, Billy was first abused by Engelhardt after serving at an early-morning weekday Mass at St. Jerome’s.

Over the next couple of weeks, Engelhardt abused “Billy” a couple more times. “Billy” was then abused some months later by another priest, the Rev. Edward Avery, who was charged with the others but pled guilty to the rape. And the boy was again assaulted, later still, by his then-teacher Shero.

It’s clear from the case of “Billy Doe” that abusers within the Philadelphia archdiocese — including non-diocesan religious clergy like Engelhardt and lay teachers like Shero — must have been passing information around amongst themselves over who the more desirable or pliant victims were. It’s not a coincidence that the same boy was assaulted multiple times by multiple abusers. Words like “sickening,” “putrid,” “vile” and “disgusting” leap to mind, but they hardly do the situation justice.

Again, I have to wonder when American Catholics intend to get up off their cowardly little asses and actually do something about the organization to which they belong. How much more of this do you need to hear, before you’ll accept there’s a problem lurking somewhere in your Church? A problem that needs to be solved, but won’t be, until you take action to solve it? What are you waiting for? How many more lives need to be destroyed before you’ll take responsibility for your own Church?

Photo credit: Bruce Anderson, via Wikimedia Commons.

Update: Justice has been done, both defendants have been convicted (cached).

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Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal order, is shown in this undated photo. Via ABC News..Over two years ago I blogged about a letter to the Irish Times in which the victim of a Roman Catholic priest’s abuse recalled the priest blaming him for his own heinous actions. I’ve also blogged many times about how the Roman Catholic considers the clerical child-abuse scandal that has spread like wildfire around the world for a decade or more, is not its own fault, but rather a vile attack upon God’s unwaveringly holy Church by Satan and the Forces of Darkness. These are in addition to the litany of other slimy excuses they’ve trotted out over the years.

Of course, Church officials haven’t often overtly blamed the victims for the abuse. They’re more likely to imply such a thing by their behavior, than say it out loud. Even so, every once in a while, some cleric or other lets it slip. ABC News reports on one recent example of it (WebCite cached article):

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, 79, who hosts a weekly show on the Catholic television network EWTN, originally made the comments in an interview with the National Catholic Register. He also referred to convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky as a “poor guy.”

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer,” Groeschel was quoted as saying in the interview, which is no longer available on the paper’s website.

Groeschel even offered his own pet theory as to why these kids “seduce” pedophiles:

“Well, it’s not so hard to see. A kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping, but not having intercourse or anything like that. I’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers,” Groeschel was quoted as saying.

Now, all of this is bad enough. But in the wake of the shitstorm this creature’s remarks have kicked up, Groeschel and the National Catholic Register took it all back. Sort of. They yanked the interview off their Web site and replaced it:

The interview has now been replaced by a statement from Fr. Benedict:

“I apologize for my comments,” it said. “I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.”

Jeanette R. De Melo, the site’s editor in chief, included her own apology for posting the interview.

“Child sexual abuse is never excusable,” she wrote. “The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

These apologies are pathetic, however. Groeschel denies having said something which — in fact — he very clearly said, having elaborated on it with hypothetical scenarios to explain his position. He might not have “intended to blame the victim,” but he actually did do so … undeniably! And the NCR’s apology amounts to, “We’re sorry we got caught running something we shouldn’t have,” which is basically no apology at all. By removing the article, they tried to make it seem as though Groeschel hadn’t said anything heinous. Well, he has … and the Internet has taken notice.

I continue to wonder why lay Catholics keep swearing allegiance to an institution which is governed by a collection of amoral reprobates. I just don’t get it. Really, I don’t. Obviously there’s a lot more wrong with the Roman Catholic Church, than just the mafiosi who run it. They have legions of followers who apparently have no problem with what they’re doing and are happy to let them continue doing it.

Update: Groeschel is off the air at EWTN (cached).

Photo credit: ABC News.

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St Patrick Cathedral, Norwich CT / K Ripley, via PanoramioFor years now I’ve blogged about the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal. I’ve also said numerous times that Catholic bishops bear a large part of the responsibility for it, since in many cases, they were the ones who got the abuse reports and then moved the priests around in order to protect them. Despite this, there were, it turns out, cases of abuse so egregious that even bishops admitted there was a severe problem and begged the Vatican to act … yet no action was taken. I’ve blogged about such cases from California, Arizona, and Wisconsin. Well, as the Hartford Courant reports, it turns out something similar happened right here in Connecticut too (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican’s refusal to let the Norwich diocese remove an accused pedophile from the priesthood is expected to play a role in the upcoming trial involving a New London woman who says the priest molested her when she was 12.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger received the Norwich request days before being elected pope in 2005. It’s unclear, though, if Ratzinger himself decided against laicizing Father Thomas Shea, who was accused of molesting as many as 15 girls at 11 different parishes throughout the Diocese of Norwich in a career that started in 1953.

Although the request to defrock Shea was very late in coming, it appears Norwich bishop Michael Cote was horrified over what Shea had done:

In an April 8, 2005, letter to Ratzinger, Cote wrote that the “trail of destruction caused by Thomas W. Shea is staggering.” He wrote there were at least 15 credible cases of abuse by Shea of girls under the age of 18, including one girl who tried to kill herself three times before she turned 23.

“The psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage wrought by this man is immeasurable,” Cote wrote. “The people who have been directly affected by his behavior as well as the entire People of God would welcome his involuntary dismissal from the clerical state.”

But the Vatican office — at the time of the letter, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who would later become Pope Benedict XVI — decided to take no action:

On May 12, 2005, less than a month after Ratzinger became pope, the Vatican responded to Cote, denying his request to remove Shea. The letter indicates that the status quo — Shea in retirement with the restrictions not to wear a collar or say Mass — was sufficient.

Once again the Vatican displays its moral bankruptcy for all to see.

Update: Diocesan attorneys have asked the court to delay the trial in question, because of the Penn State abuse scandal (cached). That’s right, folks … the diocese is saying that, because some other institution just got nailed for doing the sort of thing the R.C. Church has been doing, everything has to be put on hold for several months while the hubbub dies down. That, my friends, is just too fucking precious!

Photo credit: Panoramio.

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Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News)A month ago I blogged about Monsignor William Lynn, the manager of clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who was convicted of child endangerment. As the AP reports via NBC News, he was sentenced today to 3 years in prison (WebCite cached article):

The first U.S. church official convicted of covering up sex-abuse claims against Roman Catholic priests was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison by a judge who said he “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children.”

Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, “helped many but also failed many” in his 36-year church career, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said. …

She believed he initially hoped to address the sex abuse problem and perhaps drafted a 1994 list of accused priests for that reason. But when Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua instead had the list destroyed, Lynn chose to remain in the job and obey his bishop – by keeping quiet – as children suffered, she said.

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” Sarmina said.

And that, folks, is the crux of this whole matter. Here you have a man who knew what clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese were doing, and who’d attempted to address it, but then caved in to archepiscopal pressure and proceeded to remain utterly silent on the matter for an entire decade thereafter. He had other options: He could have continued to ask his archbishop to deal with the abusers; he could have turned the abusers in to local authorities but remained at his post; or he could have resigned in protest of the archbishop’s refusal to act and then turned them in. But those actions all required a certain amount of courage. Lynn had no courage, so he took the coward’s way out, silently acquiescing to his archbishop’s disgusting abuse-enablement scheme.

Hopefully this won’t be the only conviction of a diocesan official. Msgr Lynn might not have abused any children himself, but he consented (via silence) to the abuse of children by others, and that’s just as evil.

P.S. As an aside, I find the practice of giving out sentences which are a range of numbers (in this case, “3-6 years”) to be confusing, if not dishonest. I assume the sentence Lynn will serve is the lowest end of that range, i.e. 3 years. Why the inclusion of a supposed extra three years which — in all likelihood — he will never serve? What does that accomplish, except to make it seem as though he’ll spend more time in prison than he actually will?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News.

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