Posts Tagged “child abuse”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)In one of the most laughable examples of “spin” that I can think of, the archdiocese of New York actually bragged about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s deposition concerning his time as archbishop of Milwaukee. CNN reports on their ridiculous claim (WebCite cached article):

“Today Cardinal Dolan had the long-awaited opportunity to talk about his decision nine years ago in Milwaukee to publicize the names of priests who had abused children and how he responded to the tragedy of past clergy sexual abuse of minors, during the time he was privileged to serve as archbishop of Milwaukee,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a written statement.

“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could, and he was looking forward to talking about the good work and progress that took place to ensure the protection of children and pastoral outreach to victims.”

You may remember, while he headed the Milwaukee archdiocese, Dolan bribed abusive priests $20,000 a piece to walk away from the Church, rather than defrocking them and then handing them over to the authorities for prosecution. The stated reason for paying the abusers was that defrocking is a long, arduous process, so paying abusers to quit was easier. That may be true, however, the defrocking process (or “laicization”) is something the Church’s hierarchs — Dolan among them — control. If they find it too difficult, they can change it to make it more efficient. This excuse also does not explain why Dolan didn’t forward accusations he thought were solid enough to merit bribing a priest to quit the Church to the police. It’s an idiotic pretense that I am nowhere near stupid enough to buy into.

As for Zwilling’s claim that his boss “was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could,” well … most folks who are “eager” to be deposed, don’t spend something like two years dodging and swerving away from them. Rather, they call the lawyers and stenographers together and they get it the hell over with — immediately. They don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table as Dolan was.

Their disingenuousness places Dolan and his spokesman into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times.

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Roger MahonyI’d hoped I was done blogging about retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, former Archibishop of Los Angeles. If you recall, he claimed to have been blissfully unaware of the fact that child abuse was a bad thing. After blogging about how his successor managed to “punish” him without actually punishing him, I’d expected that’d be all that needed to be said about the creep.

But I was wrong. Mahony, apparently, refuses to let go of the matter. He took to his personal blog to proudly declare to the world that he forgives the insolent folks who dare criticize and rebuke him (WebCite cached article):

From our earliest catechism days we learn about the virtue of humility. We study it, we think about it; but we don’t embrace it.

And why? Because humility is all about self-effacing, about seeing ourselves as far more diminished than we had hoped. As a result, few of us set out to embrace humility for Lent or as a pattern for our lives. Most us us accept a few affronts and neglects as humility, and then move on.

But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are actually called to the fullness of humility: humiliation, and publicly. …

In the past several days, I have experienced many examples of being humiliated. In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people. I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage–at me, at the Church, at about [sic] injustices that swirl around us.

Thanks to God’s special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them.

There are so many things wrong with this, I hardly know where to begin. Nevertheless, I’ll dive in and point out the following:

  • Mahony punctuates this lecture on “humility” by declaring — as publicly as he can, by posting it on the Internet — that he’s been humiliated. Excuse me? That’s the opposite of “humility.” True “humility” would be taking the criticism and keeping it to himself. Not broadcasting it to the planet.
  • It’s not up to Mahony to “forgive” his critics. Any criticism Mahony has taken, is something that, by all rights, he actually earned, by virtue of his behavior. If anyone should be doing any “forgiving” here, it’s the child-abuse victims. Not him.
  • In these remarks, Mahony reveals that he views himself as a victim of the “priestly pedophilia” scandal. This isn’t unusual, since most Catholic hierarchs think that way. They blame anyone and everyone but themselves for it. Truthfully, neither Mahony nor any other hierarch is a victim here, and not one of them has any right to claim to be one.
  • Another revelation of this childish screed is Mahony’s egotism and self-centeredness. He views the scandal as being all about him. No one else really matters. This is about as un-Christian an attitude as one can have, which is surprising in a man who’s supposed to be Christ-like and act as Jesus’ representative.
  • Mahony says he is “being called to … be humiliated.” In other words, this is something that was inflicted upon him from outside … sort of like Job being used as a pawn by God and Satan. He refuses to acknowledge that he, himself, did anything to be criticized for.
  • And what’s up with his blog being hosted on a Blogspot domain in the UK? Huh? What does a blog about Los Angeles (according to its name) have to do with the UK? I don’t get it.

It’s long past time for Cardinal Mahony — and the rest of the sniveling crybaby hierarchs — to stop whining and bellyaching about what’s happened to them as a result of a scandal which they, themselves, worked diligently and for decades to manufacture. What childish fucking bullshit. When are they going to grow up and act like grown adults. Oh, and when do lay Catholics plan to understand their Church is run by a cabal whose ethics and morals are little different from the Mafia? Remember … what you refuse to correct, you condone.

P.S. For anyone who plans to pontificate on the virtues of humility: It’s best to begin by actually being humble and contrite. Mahony clearly hasn’t gotten there yet, and is in no position to tell anyone about “humility.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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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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The retired bishop Peter Ball, pictured with Prince Charles in 1992. Photograph: SWNS.com, via (UK) Guardian.I’ve blogged about the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal repeatedly over the last few years, and more than a few correspondents have complained that I seem to be targeting only Catholic abusers, and not those in other churches or faiths. (As though this somehow absolves abusive Catholic clerics of their guilt … to be honest I have no idea how that works, but it seems to be a common presumption among Catholic apologists.)

That said, it’s just not true that I’ve solely blogged about Catholic child abusers. I’ve stated explicitly — and repeatedly — that child abuse at the hands of clergy is not only a Catholic problem, and have highlighted this in lots of other blog posts on the matter.

This time, it’s my sad duty to report this scandal has hit the Anglican Church in its homeland. As the Guardian reports, a retired English bishop has been arrested and charged with abuses a couple decades ago (WebCite cached article):

The arrest of Bishop Peter Ball on suspicion of sexual offences against boys and men at addresses in East Sussex and elsewhere is the latest development in a wide-ranging and often contentious series of official inquiries into decades of alleged child protection failures in the diocese of Chichester on England’s south coast.

Sussex police said on Tuesday that Ball is suspected of committing offences [cached] during the late 1980s and early 90s, when he was Bishop of Lewes, with responsibility for most of the parishes of East Sussex.

As big a “catch” as this is, it seems to be merely the beginning of this case:

Ball is the highest-profile church figure yet to be arrested, but the attention the scandal is likely to receive is only set to rise. Between now and next April, three separate child abuse cases against priests in the diocese of Chichester will be heard at Lewes crown court.

It’s not as though this diocese hasn’t been investigated. The Guardian explains that there had been prior reviews of child-abuse cases there, and some of them had concluded there were failures. But, until now, there hadn’t been any arrests. There might be more, this time.

Once again we see similar behavior to what we’ve seen in other churches and faiths: A reflexive desire to protect the reputation — and wealth — of the organization, even at the cost of allowing children to be abused. To what degree the civil authorities went along with this desire, remains to be seen … but the multiple reported cases, over a few decades, had to have alerted them to the fact that someone unsavory was going on. Why they waited until now to take action, is incomprehensible.

Photo credit: SWNS.Com, via (UK) Guardian.

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