Category Archives: Catholic Whistleblowers Organization
Church whistleblower says she ‘didn’t do enough’
By Amy Forliti of Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. — After she made her First Communion as a little girl, Jennifer Haselberger was distraught to learn the Catholic church had no saint Jennifer, and she had no saint to call her own. So her mom opened up a book and pointed to Joan of Arc.
“There. That’s yours,” she said.
Years later, Haselberger is in a fight of her own after going public with claims that archdiocese leaders in St. Paul mishandled allegations of clergy sexual misconduct. Turns out, Haselberger may have borrowed a little bravery from the headstrong French heroine she has long admired.
Haselberger, a former canon lawyer for the archdiocese, took on leaders of the church she loves after she felt her warnings about troubled priests were being ignored, setting off a firestorm in the local church.
“If a child was hurt, Jenny would do everything within her power to stop that. The lengths that she went to were probably heroic,” said Anne Maloney, Haselberger’s former college adviser.
Haselberger resigned in April after she says Archbishop John Nienstedt and others did not respond appropriately when she found pornography, including images of possible child pornography, on computer disks that once belonged to a priest who was still in ministry. This came after she says church leaders ignored her repeated warnings dating back to 2008 about another priest who went on to molest two boys in his camper in 2010.
“I can never undo what happened to those boys, and that hangs incredibly heavy on me,” Haselberger told The Associated Press. “I didn’t do enough.”
Haselberger said she resigned because church leaders weren’t listening, and she went to authorities and to the media because they wouldn’t change. Since then, Nienstedt’s top deputy has stepped down, and the church set up an independent task force to review its policies. Police are also investigating.
“I came to the conclusion that I was going to do whatever it took, that this was not acceptable … and let the chips fall where they may,” she said.
Haselberger has gone to law enforcement about two priests, and she says she had brought concerns about others to church leaders. She declined to elaborate, but said she expects more details will emerge.
Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said he could not comment on Haselberger or her resignation because it is a personnel matter. Accurso has said the information portrayed in the media is incomplete because it has been presented without context.
Tom Doyle, founder of the Catholic Whistleblowers group, said it is still rare — and risky — for someone from within the church to come forward and challenge bishops, who he likened to absolute rulers.
“Everyone I know of who has been a whistleblower has sacrificed their career,” said Doyle.
Haselberger, a Minnesota Wild fan and equestrienne, grew up in a Polish-Catholic family with a great uncle and a great aunt who both went into religious life. While she never considered that herself, she calls the church her “home,” and still stands behind it and the many clergy she respects and considers heroes.
While an undergrad at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy. She also became a leader of a student group that opposed abortion and advocated for valuing human life, Maloney said.
“I never once saw Jenny back down from a conversation or dispute,” Maloney said. “She believed being anti-abortion was the best way to be a feminist.”
Inspired by a religious sister, she also began writing to a man on death row in Angola, La. She is against capital punishment and became his spiritual director. The man’s death sentence was vacated when Hurricane Katrina destroyed prison records, but she said the experience taught her about striking a balance between caring for offenders and protecting the innocent, something she says could also apply to accused clergy.
“I despise the acts that they committed, but I don’t hate them,” she said.
Haselberger earned her doctorate of philosophy at the University of London. While waiting to defend her thesis, she began taking classes at Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, where she earned her licentiate in canon law and graduated with highest honors in 2004.
While living in a prestigious academic community in London, Haselberger organized a lecture about a woman who went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated atrocities committed during the apartheid era, to seek amnesty not for violence or any other crimes — but for her apathy in apartheid-controlled South Africa. Her example inspired Haselberger.
“That really resonated with me at the time … it’s such a phenomenal example of personal accountability,” Haselberger said.
When Haselberger began working for the archdiocese in 2008, Nienstedt called her “studious” and “thoughtful.”
That contrasts with statements made after her allegations. Archdiocese attorney Tom Wieser said in a recent court hearing that Haselberger was a “disgruntled former employee” who was unauthorized to investigate allegations of child pornography but did so anyway, something he called “unsophisticated and imprudent.” According to a court transcript, Wieser said Haselberger decided for herself that the images were illegal, and went to authorities, who found no evidence of child pornography. St. Paul Police have since reopened their investigation.
Now outside the chancery walls, Haselberger is a consultant, available to help victims of abuse, or others, navigate the ins and outs of canon law.
She knows she’ll likely never work for the church again, and her eyes get watery when she talks about how much she would have loved serving in the church of Pope Francis. But she said her only regret is not speaking out sooner.
“I certainly always attempted to make my points using facts and reason and to do so respectfully,” she said. “But I would hope that people would say that ‘She was incredibly passionate about this.’ Because I would be disappointed in myself if I wasn’t.”
Catholic Whistleblowers Letter to Pope Francis
P.O. Box 279
Livingston, New Jersey 07039
His Holiness Pope Francis
Bishop of Rome
Vatican City State, Europe
April 29, 2013
Feast of St. Catherine of Siena
From the convictions of our conscience we wish to make known for the good of the Church, you and the Christian faithful the experience we have lived regarding the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis and scandal.
Pope Francis, like the beggar whom the Lord passed by on the street (Lk18:35) but who nonetheless called out for healing, we call out to you. The beggar was shunned by the apostles who attempted to silence him, to hide his hideous disfigurement from the Lord as if he might disfigure the one who created him. The beggar refused to be cast into silence for he knew his healing could only come from the dispenser of the divine mercy. Like this poor disfigured beggar we call out to you from the side of the road, we who have been cast off, the apostles telling us to be silent. Please, Pope Francis, do not pass us by.
From the start, the apostles had the duty to sanctify and heal the faithful in their journey as companions of Christ. In other words, throughout the Church’s history the pope and the other bishops, as successors to Saint Peter and the apostles, are to be spiritual leaders who strengthen all of the faithful in their missionary efforts. The faithful trust that the pope and the other bishops will fulfill that responsibility.
During the past decades this previously embraced level of trust has been severely damaged, although not irreversibly so, by the crisis of clergy sexual abuse of children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults. This damage has grown into a full-blown scandal because of a self-righteous spirit of injustice, and the commitment to secrecy that many bishops and other Church leaders have demonstrated. This behavior has adversely influenced the religious practice of many persons, a scandal that hinders the mission of the Church.
In this letter we speak to the damage inflicted by clergy sexual abuse and present some recommendations that would contribute positively to rebuilding trust among the Christian faithful.
Whether committed by force or by seduction, every act of sexual abuse of a child, an adolescent, or a vulnerable adult by a priest is a crime, both in civil law and in Church law. We must speak about these actions first as crimes against the dignity of the human person. This must be the starting point for addressing this crisis.
Moreover, it is wise to keep in mind the injury caused by sexual abuse: that for many victims/survivors their lives have been changed and reaching their full potential has become more challenging, especially as the trauma of the violence and the countless hours of tears and depression are recalled; that the voice to speak about the assault so as to seek help and to demand justice frequently has been stymied by the perpetrator and silenced by Christ’s Shepherds. Their ability to trust has been deflated, at times resulting in a reduced ability to enter meaningful adult relationships; and their participation in the Church can become limited or even lost. Many have become lost sheep and yearn for the shepherd to find them and carry them home.
We can never forget those overcome by despair; we speak of those victim/survivors who abuse drugs and alcohol and those who tragically became victim-suicides.
While some people believe that the Church leadership has responded well to the crisis, many victims/survivors strongly disagree. Actually, they say that reaction of the Church to the abuse has been more painful than was the pain caused by the sexual assault itself. Ponder that point! In so many ways the Church that the victims loved and participated in has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear towards them, and at times has tried to make the victims be seen as the villains, with the bishops and other Church leaders sympathetically proposing themselves to be seen as the victims. No, the victims of clergy sexual abuse are the victims – not the bishops or Church leaders. For this reason, without a doubt, the Church’s sexual abuse crisis and scandal live on today as strong as ever.
Pope Francis, do not pass us by on the Camino. Throughout the years we and other people like us have encountered apostles chastising us to silence, and we have been unable to penetrate the will of decision-makers in the Church so that they would resolve this crisis and scandal. You can make a difference: do not pass us by but elect to show us mercy. You can change the Church’s response. You can rebuild trust and begin to bring about the necessary healing of the Body of Christ. Walk with us and allow us to participate in the re-building, and together on the Camino we can make a great witness.
To do so, your priority must be increasing the knowledge of the truth and the doing of justice so as to bring forth healing and peace. Compromise or popularity must not be a concern.
Here are six recommendations concerning increasing the knowledge of the truth and the doing of justice:
1) Most importantly establish within the Holy See an international body composed of Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse, lay professionals and clergy who will be responsible for the facilitation in all dioceses of a dialogue between the Church and victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse, so as to nurture understanding. No one understands victims/survivors better than victims/survivors. Do not pass us by but elect to show us mercy.
2) Revoke any oaths or pledges to secrecy by Church leaders while requiring them to provide thorough public explanations of all incidents of clergy sexual abuse.
3) Require all those who shepherd the flock of the Lord to make accessible to public scrutiny all documents and files related to clergy sexual abuse.
4) Remove from ecclesial office all Church leaders who facilitated the commission of clergy sexual abuse, obstructed justice regarding clergy sexual abuse, and/or destroyed information of any sort that could have served the cause of justice in clergy sexual abuse matters.
5) Require zero tolerance so as to remove from the ranks of the clergy and professed religious all those who in fact have committed sexual abuse of a child, an adolescent, or a vulnerable adult.
6) Compel all in Church leadership to the doing of justice. The common good of the Church and of the society must be taken into account, along with the equity between the parties that must include restitution and reparation.
Finally, Pope Francis, as the increased knowledge of the truth leads to justice, and justice in turn enhances healing and peace, the sexual abuse crisis and scandal will subside, trust by the faithful in the bishops will return, and the ability for the faithful to fully participate in the mission of the Church will be strengthened. Like the beggar on side of the street we call out to you. Do not pass us by but show us your mercy. We make our prayer through the intercession of Our Lady Undoer of Knots.
We have the honor to be, Your Holiness,
Catholic Whistleblowers represented by: Rev. John P. Bambrick (Jackson, NJ), Sr. Sally Butler, OP (Brooklyn, NY), Rev. Patrick Collins, Ph.D (Douglas, MI), Rev. James Connell (Sheboygan, WI), Rev. Thomas Doyle, OP (Vienna, VA), Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D. (West Orange, NJ), Rev. Msgr. Kenneth E. Lasch, J.C.D. (Morristown, NJ), Rev. Ronald D. Lemmert (Peekskill, NY), Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish, SNDdeN (New Castle, DE)
Fr. Jim Connell of Sheboygan, other clergy “whistleblowers” launch new national campaign today
Fr. Jim Connell of Sheboygan, other clergy “whistleblowers” launch new national campaign today
Group formed to support clergy, others in coming forward on abuse and cover up
Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee)
As featured in today’s New York Times, Fr. Jim Connell of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and other clergy who have come forward on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church have launched a national “whistleblowers” website to invite and help others to do the same. The group’s website is http://www.catholicwhistleblowers.org/.
The group sent a letter today to Pope Francis asking him to take necessary steps to restore the church’s credibility, revoke all oaths of secrecy, open the files on abuse cases, remove from office any bishops who obstructed justice and create an international forum for dialogue between survivors and church leaders.
Connell is also a founding member of a pioneering group of clergy and survivors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who over the last two years have been working publically and privately together to end clerical sexual abuse in the local church, bring offenders to justice, and insist on full institutional accountability and transparency.
Connell and the other clergy in today’s Times story are demonstrating what real leadership looks like by Catholic clergy. By coming forward they have followed the path, difficult, necessary, and ultimately liberating, of the many clerical survivors around the country who preceded them. They have earned the trust and respect of survivors, the public and the church.
The clergy whistle blowers is a hard won beginning of, one can only hope, of how the sexual abuse crisis in the church will be resolved. It certainly cannot be done without clergy like Connell and others. And if clergy and other Catholic leaders finally come forward on this crisis, speak out, demand justice, then the longed for day may come when survivors will no longer need to.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPwisconsin.com and SNAPnetwork.org.