Posts Tagged “roman catholic”

In 2011, Rev. Gerald Robinson tried to get his conviction overturned. He failed. He is eligible for parole in 2016. / Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily NewsPope Francis has named Leonard Paul Blair, the incumbent bishop of Toledo, OH, to replace the retiring Henry Mansell as the archbishop of Hartford. As appointments go, this one might seem unremarkable. Making a midwestern bishop into a northeastern archbishop is a normal promotion process within the Catholic hierarchy in the US, and an expected feather-in-the-cap of a man who declared ecclesiastical war on America’s Catholic nuns.

But it turns out there’s a lot more to this story than might appear at first glance. The Hartford Courant‘s Belief blog reports that Blair might have helped interfere with an investigation into a murder (locally-cached article):

The morning after Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named to take over the Hartford Archdiocese, a Connecticut representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was on the front steps of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford to air the organization’s concerns about the appointment.

The SNAP member, Gail Howard of Redding, said she was there with her husband Wednesday in part to draw attention to Blair’s behavior regarding the nationally publicized case of the Rev. Gerald Robinson, a Toledo diocesan priest, who ultimately was convicted in 2006 of killing a nun 26 years earlier.

SNAP has asked why Blair, bishop at the time of the trial, wasn’t more forthcoming with documents that the group says might have helped prosecute the case. The organization has also argued that Blair should have worked harder to get the priest, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, defrocked. The organization has called on Blair to explain his actions.

I looked into the the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71 years old at the time. You can, too; articles on it are available from sources such as the (NY) Daily News and in a series of articles in TruTV’s Crime Library.

Sr Pahl’s murder went unsolved for over 2 decades, until prompted by another woman’s allegation in 2003, detectives re-examined the cold case. The following year, Fr Robinson was finally charged with murder. As the Daily News explained:

What changed? In a book about the case, the Blade’s David Yonke wrote that the Catholic Church had Toledo “wrapped around its little finger” in 1980. Officer Dave Davison told Yonke that all five detectives who investigated the homicide were Catholics.

“They sat on it as a courtesy to the church,” Davison said.

Fr Robinson had killed her, it turns out, because she’d repeatedly complained about his conduct as a priest.

As for where Blair comes into this … SNAP reports on their own Web site with references included (cached), Blair worked diligently to prevent the release of documents police had needed when they were prosecuting Fr Robinson. This resistant behavior is entirely consistent with how Roman Catholic hierarchs have dealt with other allegations against clergy, so it’s not surprising nor out-of-character for a bishop.

You see, the R.C. Church still believes it’s entitled to the medieval notion of privilege of clergy — that is, the idea that clergy are immune to secular criminal authorities — and never willingly allows its priests to be prosecuted; cooperation always has to be dragged out of them.

Of course, they have no objection to priests being prosecuted when the Church itself is the victim. But, like most Christians, the R.C. hierarchy has elevated hypocrisy into an artform, in spite of Jesus’ clear and unambiguous injunction against it. It would be nice if they’d obey their own Jesus for once, but that’s asking too much of the poor little things, I guess. (Yes, I know: How horrible of me to expect that avowed Christians actually live according to Christ’s teachings!)

Photo credit: Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily News.

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05354 Palm Sunday in SanokThe litany of bogeymen whom the Roman Catholic hierarchy blames for the priestly-pedophilia scandal continues to grow. Earlier this month, a Polish hierarch identified a sequence of villains whom he thinks forced a bunch of otherwise-totally-innocent priests to abuse children. It all started, as Polskie Radio reports, when the archbishop of Przemysl wandered stupidly into “victim-blaming” territory (WebCite cached article):

The archbishop of Przemysl made the controversial remarks after being asked about the problem of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. “Many of these instances of abuse could have been avoided if the relations between parents had been healthy,” the archbishop said. “We often hear that this wrong behaviour, or abuse, occurs when the child is searching for love,” he added. The archbishop suggested that children from broken homes can “cling on” to priests, hence creating the problems.

The idea that victims are to blame for abusive clerics’ action is not new at all, as I’ve blogged before. It’s actually a rather old notion that trickles far beneath everything the R.C. Church has said and done about the scandal. So I don’t consider this unusual, nor do I buy that there aren’t more hierarchs (possibly many more!) who think this way.

Michalik ostensibly apologized for these comments, as the article states. However, he wasn’t sincere about his “apology.” As Polskie Radio again reports, Michalik later doubled down with his blame-game (cached):

Head of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop Jozef Michalik has claimed that abuse of children is caused by pornography, feminism and a “selfish love” undermining the family.

“The shameful abuse by adults towards children results from the acceptance of pornography […] and the promotion of a false, selfish love between people,” Archbishop Michalik has told a Mass in Wroclaw Cathedral, south west Poland.…

During the Mass in Wroclaw on Wednesday, however, Archbishop Michalik said that though the family has always enjoyed respect as an institution in Poland, larger family units “have become stigmatised”.

“You have heard of adults abusing children and this kind of evil is not to be tolerated, but no one asks about the causes of this,” he said, blaming TV networks broadcasting “pornography and a selfish love”

“Nobody stands up for children suffering from a lack of love from divorcing parents, which leaves painful and permanent injuries”.

The archbishop also mentioned the “new ideology of gender” with universities offering gender study courses and “the most aggressive Polish feminists who scoff at the Church and years of traditional ethics, who promote abortion and struggle against the traditional model of the family and marital fidelity”.

“The ideology of gender raises legitimate concerns, because it goes against the laws of nature, promotes marriage between persons of the same sex and fights for the right to legalize adoption of children by these couples,” the archbishop said.

Michalik’s complaint about a “new ideology of gender” forcing priests to abuse children mirrors the Church’s assertion a couple of years ago that “society” caused priestly pedophilia.

Oh, and don’t assume Michalik is just some fringe lunatic lurking at the edge of the Catholic hierarchy who has no influence elsewhere. He’s not merely the archbishop of Przemyśl; he’s the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, the collective of hierarchs in Poland (that country’s cognate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). An equivalent situation would be if Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, had made such comments. Michalik is that authoritative. His remarks — which he very clearly stands by, in spite of his supposed “apology” — are neither trivial nor meaningless.

If it’s not clear to anyone by now, let me lay bare the fact here: There’s a nasty psychopathology festering deep within the R.C. hierarchy. It’s not going to go away on its own, because that same hierarchy grooms its own membership and shapes those who are initiated into it. The sooner lay Catholics admit their Church is criminally dysfunctional, and not going to reform itself, the sooner they can get off their sorry, cowardly, sniveling little asses and repair it, fercryinoutloud.

But of course, we know they never will, so why do I even bother saying it any more … ?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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St Paul Cathedral 2012Once again, the R.C. Church comports itself as it always has, with regard to allegations of child abuse against its clergy. They repeatedly delay, deny, and obfuscate, often to the point of absurdity (as when lawyers for the archdiocese of Hartford actually argued in open court that the minor victims of a priest “liked it,” so no crime was committed, in direct contradiction of the law). They’ve been playing this game so long, it’s become a habit for them … one they refuse to break. Even when direct, unassailable evidence is slammed down in front of them.

The latest example is reported by the (MN) Star Tribune, and involves an archdiocesan official who was forced to quit (WebCite cached article):

A top lieutenant of Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned suddenly Thursday, saying his departure was necessary following an explosive court development that suggested the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis may have covered up a priest’s possession of child pornography.

The Rev. Peter Laird had served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese, making him junior only to Nienstedt in the hierarchy.

His resignation came shortly after allegations emerged in a St. Paul court that church officials knew a priest had been in possession of child pornography but continued to assign him to parish duties that brought him into contact with children. The allegations were contained in a St. Paul police report made public Thursday in Ramsey County District Court.

What happened here is hard to discern, and the story takes a couple of turns. But the bottom line is, the archdiocese destroyed a computer that might have held evidence of child pornography. What was available to police, by the time they investigated, were some “discs” (I have no idea if these were hard drives, or optical media such as CDs or DVDs); the computers in question had, by the archdiocese’s own admission, been “destroyed.”

Police chose to do nothing about this destruction of evidence; I can only assume this is because, as in so many other places, they simply deferred to the Church, because it’s the Church, after all. If you or I, Dear Reader, had dared destroy a computer belonging to a suspected child-porn collector, we’d have been thrown in jail, for sure. But the normal rules, you see, just don’t apply to God’s Holy Church. Archdiocesan officials are free to get away with crap like that.

In any event, the archdiocese denies Laird’s resignation had anything to do with this revelation (cached). Riiiiiight. As though anyone could possibly be stupid enough to believe that. What idiot truly believes the archdiocese when it says Laird’s resignation, immediately after this revelation, was merely a coincidence?

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Pope John Paul II at Madame Tussaud's in New YorkThe canonization of Pope John Paul II has zoomed along at record speed. He was formally beatified in 2011, a mere — and record-setting — six years after his death. It’s a campaign begun by his successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Just this past summer, a second miracle attributed to him was approved by the current Pope Francis; at that point, John Paul’s canonization was virtually a “done deal.” As CBS News reports, he will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2014, along with the reformer Pope John XXIII (WebCite cached article):

Two of the most-loved leaders of the Catholic Church, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, will be raised to sainthood together in a joint canonization ceremony — the first such ceremony in the church’s history.

At a consistory in the Vatican, Pope Francis announced Monday that the joint canonization will be held on April 27, the day on which the Catholics celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, marking the feast day of Divine Mercy.

Not only have the rules been bent in order to speed up John Paul II’s canonization, so too have they been bent in favor of John XXIII:

Normally two miracles are required for someone to become a saint, but in a rare (though not unprecedented) break with the rules for canonization, Pope Francis waived the requirement of a second miracle for John XXIII. This means that the man who led the church from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council, will be declared a saint despite having had only one official miracle attributed to his intercession.

The plan to canonize John Paul on Divine Mercy Sunday is no coincidence. This solemnity is based on the “visions” and writings of John Paul’s fellow Pole St Faustina. John Paul canonized her in 2000, and at the same time put her Divine Mercy solemnity on the Catholic calendar, the Sunday after Easter. Moreover, as it turns out, John Paul died on Divine Mercy Eve (i.e. April 2, 2005).

At any rate, that Pope Francis wants to canonize both these men on the very same day … one in exceptionally-little time (an unprecedented 9 years after his death), the other in exceptional fashion (without the required second miracle), suggests he’s sending a very intentional message. Vatican-watchers interpret it as Francis’ affirmation of the two tracks that Catholicism followed during the latter half of the 20th century: a reform effort, championed and personified by John XXIII, who’d convened II Vatican; and a reactionary effort, championed and personified by John Paul II, a fierce ecclesiastical conservative.

While this sounds reasonable on the surface, I’m forced to ask what the point of that would be? Is he trying to say he supports both enacting reforms and rolling them back? How does that make any sense? I can’t figure out what the hell the new Pope is doing.

Photo credit: mharrsch, via Flickr.

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Roma, sant'Anselmo all'Aventino, via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve blogged about the release of documents by the Catholic Church in Los Angeles. This was the result of a lawsuit settlement back in 2007. That’s right … 6 years ago, the Church agreed, presumably in good faith, to release these documents, but resisted doing so until this year. I admit I don’t really understand the logic of agreeing to release some documents, yet staunchly refusing to release them — but hey, I’m just a cynical, godless agnostic heathen, so what could I possibly know about such things?

At any rate, over 6 months after the archdiocese coughed up its records, some of the religious orders of L.A. released their own, and as the Los Angeles Times reports, they reveal how evasive and dodgy the Church hierarchy was (WebCite cached article):

Confidential personnel records from five Catholic religious orders were turned over to victims of sexual abuse Wednesday in the first wave of a court-ordered public disclosure expected to shed light on the role the groups, operating independently of the L.A. Archdiocese, played in the region’s clergy molestation scandal.

The documents pertain to a dozen priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexual misconduct in the landmark 2007 settlement with hundreds of people who filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles. An additional 45 religious orders will release the personnel files of their accused clergy by this fall, completing what is believed to be the fullest accounting yet of the abuse crisis anywhere in the Catholic Church.

The orders’ officials used some rather novel strategies in order to avoid revealing anything or creating any sort of audit trail:

For the most part, the files have little or no reference to abuse allegations that surfaced in lawsuits a decade ago, suggesting the orders were either unaware of molestation claims or opted not to document them.

When matters of abuse were referenced, officials sometimes seemed reluctant to commit the ugly details to paper. In the case of Benedictine priest Mathias Faue, one supervisor wrote vaguely [cached] of “his problem” or “difficulty.” In the file of Oblate Father Ruben Martinez, an order official repeatedly switched to Japanese characters [cached] to note sensitive subjects, including his admissions of “homosexuality” and “relations with boys.”

This official must have thought he was really clever. As though no one could possibly have thought he was covering something up, or that no one who ever saw one of these documents might recognize Japanese characters.

Setting this revelation apart from many others, is that this one includes the records of abusive nuns:

Wednesday’s release also covers the Marianists, the Benedictines, the Oblates and two orders of nuns. The disclosures by the Cabrini Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet mark the first time in the L.A. litigation the files of women have been made public. The two nuns, who are deceased, were accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing students decades ago. Their files contained no information on misconduct allegations.

All by itself, strategies like writing comments in Japanese characters reveal, conclusively, that Catholic officials knew they were dealing, at best, with unsavory characters doing things that weren’t allowed; or at worst, with criminals committing crimes; and that they didn’t want anyone else to know about them. Even so, I’m sure the Catholic Church’s defenders will continue blaming others and making ridiculous excuses for this behavior, just as they’ve been doing all along. The cold fact, though, is that there is no reasonable excuse for this. Not one.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Monsignor Battista Ricca with Pope Francis. Credit: Catholic Press Photo, via L'espressoNote: There’s a recent cringe-worthy update to this story appended to this post.

I blogged a short time ago about the most recent Vatican Bank scandal. Things are heating up, what with some arrests, a number of firings/resignations, and the Pope’s appointment of a supposed review panel to examine that institution. But now, it’s taken an extremely odd turn. The Italian magazine L’espresso reports that this Vatican Bank scandal has now intersected the rumored, elusive “Vatican gay lobby” (WebCite cached article):

“In the curia there is talk of a ‘gay lobby.’ And it is true, it’s there. Let’s see what we can do,” Francis said on June 6 to Latin American religious received in audience.

And again: “It is not easy. Here there are many of the pope’s ‘bosses’ with great seniority of service,” he confided a few days ago to his Argentine friend and former student Jorge Milia.

In effect, some of these ‘bosses’ have hatched against Jorge Mario Bergoglio the cruelest and most subtle deception since he was elected pope.

They kept in the dark important information that, if he had known it before, would have kept him from appointing Monsignor Battista Ricca “prelate” of the Institute for Works of Religion.

With this appointment, made public on June 15, Francis intended to place a trusted person in a key role within the IOR. With the power to access all of the proceedings and documents and to attend all of the meetings both of the cardinalate commission of oversight and of the supervisory board of the disastrous Vatican “bank.” In short, with the task of cleaning house.…

Before the appointment, Francis had been shown, as is customary, the personal file on Ricca, in which he had not found anything unseemly. He had also heard from various personalities of the curia, and none of them had raised objections.

Just one week after appointing the “prelate,” however, during the same days in which he was meeting with the apostolic nuncios who had come to Rome from all over the world, the pope became aware, from multiple sources, of some episodes from Ricca’s past previously unknown to him and such as to bring serious harm to the pope himself and to his intention of reform.

L’espresso goes on to chronicle a number of incidents in Ricca’s checkered history working in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps — see page 2 and page 3 of the report (cached and cached) for all the details. There are enough of them that it’s inconceivable nothing untoward could have shown up in his file at the time Pope Francis reviewed it.

It may be a bit of a leap to suggest (as L’espresso does) this set-up of the new Pope (which is certainly what it appears to be) was done the “gay lobby” that’s rumored to be embedded deep within the machinery of the Vatican. Even so, this attempt to drive a wedge between the Pope and other Vatican officials who’d no doubt known about Ricca’s past, must have been the work of people with authority in Vatican offices and extremely close to the Pope; having the ability to doctor a prelate’s personal file, and to prevent the Pope from speaking with those who might have warned him against appointing Ricca.

I can’t help but view this as additional evidence — as though anyone needed more! — that the R.C. Church is pervasively and inherently dysfunctional. It may seem I’m sympathetic to the Pope here, but I’m not. He’s been part of the Church’s global machinery more than long enough to have been aware of the nature and extent of its dysfunction. Maybe he’s working to change it … or maybe he’s not … but when he took the job of Pope, he made himself its caretaker, and thus accepted responsibility for the dysfunction. Having been the target of a set-up, he now has a choice: To face this matter head-on and undertake to rid his Church of the dysfunction; or to allow it to continue simmering and festering, even at the risk of undermining his own reign. If he’s anything like previous Popes, his choice will be the latter. Which is precisely why things have reached this point in the first place.

Update: The (UK) Independent reports Ricca was found stuck in an elevator a couple days ago (cached), with a “rent boy” known to police. Talk about your “facepalm” moments!

Photo credit: Catholic Press, via L’espresso.

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Archdiocese of Hartford / Parishes / St. Philip ChurchNote: See below for a couple updates on this story.

A couple years ago, America’s Catholic bishops commissioned a report on child sexual abuse among its clergy, which concluded that it was a “historical problem” (in other words, something that had happened “historically,” but had stopped occurring). Unfortunately for the bishops and their sycophants who wrote this report, the reality is that child abuse by R.C. clergy is anything but “historical.” Here in Connecticut, just within the archdiocese of Hartford, it’s been an issue a few times within those past two years.

As one would expect — given that this is the archdiocese that dared use the “but the victims enjoyed it” defense in court during a lawsuit — the Hartford Courant reports on yet another example of this “historical problem” that won’t seem to go away (WebCite cached article):

An East Windsor priest has been placed on leave by the Catholic Church after being accused of sexually abusing a minor, the Hartford Archdiocese said Monday.

The Rev. Paul Gotta had earlier come to public attention in June when he told police about an 18-year-old who had told him he was planning a memorable prank for his graduation ceremonies. Police later charged the teenager with attempting to make a bomb, possession of explosives and other charges.

The state Department of Children and Families has received a complaint of sexual abuse of a minor involving Gotta, who is administrator of St. Philip and St. Catherine churches in East Windsor, said Maria Zone, spokeswoman for the archdiocese. Police are investigating the allegation, she said in a written statement.

Note, this revelation didn’t reach police attention because of anything the archdiocese did. It appears — somehow — to have been a side-effect of Gotta having reported a teen’s threat of violence against his school. The Courant article itself is strange reading, since it doesn’t connect the child-abuse allegation with the bomb threat. The article, as written, is basically a single report of two different incidents. A pretty substantial amount of information is completely missing from the story. Given the decline of journalism, this isn’t really surprising … sorry to say.

At any rate, the bishops’ contention that child abuse by its clergy is merely “historical,” is a lie. And they know it.

Update 1: Things just got a whole helluva lot worse for the Rev. Gotta. The Courant reports he was just arrested on federal charges (cached). The ATF and East Windsor police accuse him of helping a juvenile get firearms. It also seems the Reverend may have helped him make a gun:

The warrant also states that Bass said he and Gotta had discussed making a shotgun, which he tested in the backyard in the presence of the priest.

This is one seriously bad situation for a priest — of all people! — to have gotten himself into.

Update 2: Back in November most of the charges against Rev Gotta were dismissed, and he pled guilty only to a minor count (cached). Yes, this latest news is 2+ months old, but I only just became aware of it.

Photo credit: Archdiocese of Hartford.

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