Category Archives: Clergy Sex Abuse
NEW CATHOLIC BISHOPS TOLD THEY DON’T HAVE TO REPORT SEXUAL ABUSE TO POLICE
BYON 2/11/16 AT 10:11 AM
From the Link: http://www.newsweek.com/bishops-no-obligation-report-sexual-abuse-425509
A Vatican official has told newly appointed bishops that they have no obligation to report instances of clerical sexual abuse, as it’s the responsibility of the victims and their families.
Updated | New Catholic bishops have been told that they have no obligation to report clerical child abuse, according to reports.
During a presentation for newly appointed bishops, French Monsignor Tony Anatrella said they don’t have a duty to report abuse because it should be the responsibility of victims and their families to go to the police. The comments were first reported by John L. Allen at the Catholic news site Cruxnow.com earlier this week.
Anatrella, a psychtherapist and consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, is known for his controversial views on homosexuality, including that the acceptance of homosexuality in the West is creating “serious problems” for children. He also helped to write a training document for newly appointed bishops that further spells out the church’s stance on clerical sexual abuse.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document, which was released by the Vatican earlier this month, reads. The document says bishops are required only to report the suspected abuse internally.
A Vatican source told Newsweek that the comments made during the presentation are Anatrella’s opinion and not an official Vatican position. The source added that in some countries it is difficult for clergy to report abuse to authorities due to the “quite hostile” relationship between church and state. In countries with corrupt police forces and hostile governments, for example, there is greater risk of not having a presumption of innocence and a fair trial, he said.
“What would that mean in communist countries that throw priests and bishops into jail just for mentioning the pope’s name?” the Vatican source said. “To turn over the investigation of an accusation that could be false in such a situation is something that must be weighed.”
The Catholic League, a Catholic civil rights organization, also said the comments made by Anatrella were solely his opinion, and a Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said they were “not in any way—as someone has mistakenly interpreted—a new Vatican document or a new instruction or new ‘guidelines’ for bishops.”
Anatrella’s comments appear to be at odds with efforts made by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which held a week-long meeting earlier this month. The proposals from the commission, which will be sent to Pope Francis for his consideration, include “a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach him,” the Vatican said in a press release.
Allen notes that the commission was not involved in the training session given by Anatrella amd wonders why the commission is “not entrusted with making such a presentation to new bishops.” The next course for new bishops will be held in September, Allen reports.
“In one sense, this isn’t surprising. As BishopAccountability.org has pointed out, ‘zero tolerance,’ while often uttered by Catholic officials, isn’t even the official policy of the global church,” Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement emailed to Newsweek.
“But it’s infuriating—and dangerous—that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary—like this disclosure by Allen—emerges,” she said.
The commission was set up in March 2014 with the explicit goal of proposing initiatives for “protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.” Futhermore, the commission “is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”
This story has been updated to include comments from SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Comments from the Vatican have also been added
Brazilian archbishop resigns after paedophile ‘cover-up’
6 July 2016
- From the sectionLatin America & Caribbean
From the Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36723117
A Brazilian archbishop has resigned after being accused of covering up actions of paedophile priests in his diocese.
Pope Francis accepted Bishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto’s resignation.
In a statement (in Portuguese), Mr Pagotto said he had committed some “mistakes” while trying to give shamed bishops a second chance.
Last year he was investigated and barred from appointing priests in his home state of Paraiba.
Mr Pagotto was accused of letting priests into seminaries in his diocese that were rejected elsewhere for suspected paedophilia.
In his statement, he said: “I welcomed priests and seminarians with the intention of offering them new opportunities in life.
“Some were later suspected of committing serious wrongdoings… I made mistakes by trusting too much, with naive mercy.”
Last month the Pope said bishops who had been negligent over sexual abuse allegations could be removed from office.
Mr Pagotto resigned under a portion of canon law that allows for early retirement for “grave cause or illness”.
From the Link: https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/08/20/key-papal-adviser-accused-mishandling-abuse-allegation-2006/
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany, a key papal adviser and a leading voice for progressive positions during the recent Synods of Bishops on the family, faces accusations of mishandling an abuse allegation against one of his priests in 2006.
TRIER, Germany – Accusations have been raised in a number of German media that Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising failed to remove from office a priest accused in 2006 of sexually abusing a minor.
The alleged abuser, it appears, was allowed to stay on as parish priest for a number of years, even going on overnight excursions with youth.
A spokesperson for Marx has said that the prelate had acted in accordance with relevant guidelines that were in place at the time.
Saarland public broadcaster SR reports that Marx, who was then Bishop of Trier, knew authorities were investigating a parish priest – identified only as “M” – for allegedly sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
Citing the victim’s legal counsel as a source, SR reports that “M”, who was then 52, had partially confessed the crime to authorities. However, he appears to have avoided prosecution because the alleged crime fell just outside the statute of limitations.
The Church was duly informed by authorities of this in 2006, but never requested the case files, several media report.
When nonetheless questioned by the diocese, “M” denied the allegations, SR reports, and then-Bishop Marx closed the matter and moved on.
It appears the accused continued to serve as parish priest in the community where the alleged abused took place until 2015.
According to the German news magazine “Focus”, state authorities initiated two further investigations into the priest’s conduct, in 2013 and 2015. Both times, the lines of inquiry stalled and finally were abandoned due to a lack of evidence.
Only as of May 2015, the alleged abuser is no longer allowed to be in contact with minors or to publicly say Mass, Focus reports, as both civil authorities and the Trier diocese are yet again investigating the matter under both legal and canonical auspices.
Marx, who was Bishop of Trier from 2001 to 2007, has not yet spoken about the accusations leveled against him. Spokespersons for both the Diocese of Trier and for Marx have confirmed that the then-Bishop of Trier knew of the case in 2006.
However, the spokesperson for Marx emphasized that he “had acted in accordance with the guidelines of the German Bishops’ Conference”. These guidelines were reformed in 2010, and then again in 2013.
“Such a case would be dealt with differently today; the Church would conduct her own investigation”, the spokesperson said. “The German bishops have acted on the bitter experiences, and introduced new guidelines that apply to all dioceses”.
Marx is also president of the German bishops’ conference, a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia, and coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.
Vatican finance minister accused of child sexual abuse
From the Link: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/faith_and_values/2016/07/29/vatican-finance-minister-accused-of-child-sexual-abuse.html
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, has strenuously rejected the latest claims that he sexually abused children many years ago as a priest.
Pell, an Australian who is third in the Vatican hierarchy after Pope Francis and Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to be accused of sexually abusing children.
“The allegations are untrue. I deny them absolutely,” the 75-year-old Pell said from Rome on Thursday.
This week, a TV report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said police in the state of Victoria were investigating claims that Pell had touched boys inappropriately and, in a separate incident, appeared naked in front of three boys at a surfing club locker room in the late 1980s.
“Untested allegations should be put through the proper procedures,” Pell said. “I’m quite prepared to cooperate. … I won’t cooperate with trial by the media. I think it’s unjust and inappropriate.”
It’s not the first time Pell has faced similar accusations.
After an internal church investigation, Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, was cleared of an allegation that he had abused a 12-year-old boy at a camp in the 1960s.
The Vatican declined to comment on these most recent claims.
SNAP — the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — urged anyone “with suspicions or knowledge” of any alleged wrongdoing by Pell to speak to secular authorities, not church figures.
“After a lengthy investigation, police have deemed eight accusers’ accounts are credible enough that they’re giving the evidence to prosecutors,” said David Clohessy, SNAP president, in a statement. “That speaks volumes.”
Anthony Fisher, the archbishop of Sydney, told reporters the claims did not correspond with the Pell he knew.
“He has a record of leadership in the fight against child sexual abuse, and was the first bishop in the world to implement a process under which such claims would be investigated by an independent commissioner,” Fisher said.
Pell has wielded significant power since he was appointed prefect of the secretariat for the economy by Pope Francis in 2014.
Pell has long been accused of shielding predatory priests in Australia. Earlier this year, he gave lengthy evidence by video link to an Australian inquiry into clerical sexual abuse from Rome after doctors said he was not well enough to testify in Sydney.
At the end of his hearing, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi praised Pell for his “ dignified and coherent” testimony.
Former Ballarat priest found guilty of historic indecent assault charges
23 Aug 2016, 5 p.m.
From the Link: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4115070/former-priest-found-guilty/
A former Ballarat priest has been found guilty of indecently assaulting a young girl in her own bed more than 40 years ago.
Leslie Sheahan, 85, who was an assistant priest of St Columba’s Church at the time of the offence, will return to the Ballarat Magistrates Court next month for sentencing over the historic indecent assault.
The woman assaulted as a young girl by the former Ballarat priest while she slept told the court the traumatic experience still haunted her.
The woman, who was aged nine or 10 at the time of the incident, gave evidence she woke one night in the 1960s to find Sheahan in her bed with his hand down her pants while he forced her hand on his penis.
“He kept telling me how nice it felt for me and I kept thinking no it wasn’t nice at all,” she told the court.
Left feeling ashamed, she said Sheahan, who would visit the house often with other members of the clergy including Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and Cardinal George Pell, told her “that’s our secret” and not to tell her parents.
“I just curled up in a ball and cried,” she said.
“I remember it as if it happened last night.
“It’s a shadow that stays with you and hangs over you for the rest of your life.”
It was decades later before she told anyone about the night.
She told the court she originally wrote a letter to Bishop Mulkearns advising him of what happened because she wanted to make sure Sheahan was not working around children, but she never followed up on an invite to talk about the complaint.
She added a number of years later she found out Sheahan was still working in a Victorian parish and out of shock decided to ring him.
“He denied the incident and started to cry … but he didn’t respond to questions about why he was crying,” she told the court.
But it was not until seeing Sheahan at a funeral she decided to make a complaint to police.
Sheahan denied the allegations and made a no comment interview to police.
Sheahan’s defence lawyer, Raymond Alexander, put to the woman she had fabricated the incident in which she responded “I had absolutely no doubt it was Father Sheahan in my bed.”
He also asked if the complaint was born out of desires to gain compensation, to which she told him she had not lodged for any compensation by the Catholic Church.
Mr Alexander argued Sheahan never groomed the young girl, which the woman also agreed never occurred, and said Sheahan risked the girl screaming or telling her parents if he had molested her.
“The likelihood of someone exposing themselves to that great of risk is unreasonable,” he said.
He added if the assault had occurred, it may have been another priest, as many frequently visited the Ballarat property.
He told the court no evidence of the letter could be found, and no diary notes were made by the woman which could support the allegations.
After the one-day contested hearing, Magistrate Cynthia Toose ruled Sheahan was guilty of two counts of unlawfully/ indecently assaulting the woman.
Ms Toose, who indicated Sheahan was looking at a period of imprisonment, said in her view there was clear identification by the victim of Sheahan on the night.
The matter was adjourned until September 28 for a plea hearing.
Fugitive Catholic priest at centre of five-year manhunt arrested in Britain over historic sex abuse
22 AUGUST 2016 • 1:04AM
From the Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/fugitive-catholic-priest-at-centre-of-five-year-manhunt-arrested/
A Catholic priest who skipped bail five years ago has been arrested on suspicion of nine counts of historic sexual assaults.
Father Laurence Soper, 72, the former abbot of Ealing Abbey, was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant over allegations of child abuse.
The accusations date back to when he taught at St Benedict’s School, a private independent Catholic school which is part of Ealing Abbey in west London.
In March 2011, Fr Soper was believed to have been living in a monastery in Rome and was due to return to London to answer bail but he failed to show up, sparking an international search.
After spending five years living as a fugitive, he was arrested in Kosovo in May.
However, attempts to bring him back the UK to face charges were thwarted when a Kosovan judge blocked the extradition order on the basis that his alleged crimes have expired in Kosovo, which has a 30-year statute of limitation.
On Sunday night, Scotland Yard announced that Fr Soper was arrested as he arrived back in the UK at Luton Airport from Kosovo.
A spokesman said he was “arrested on suspicion of nine offences of sexual assault committed over a period from 1972 to 1986”.
In 2011, Lord Carlile of Berriew stripped monks of control at St Benedict’s School, which offered a “heartfelt apology for past failures”.
The peer said he hoped his decision to take powers away from Ealing Abbey would “set a template” for other schools.
In his inquiry into the sexual abuse, Lord Carlile outlined a catalogue of failures by the abbey to intervene as allegations of abuses came to light.
“I have come to the firm conclusion … that the form of governance of St Benedict’s School is wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable,” he wrote.
“The abbot himself has accepted that it is ‘opaque to outsiders’.”
The report added: “In a school where there has been abuse, mostly – but not exclusively – as a result of the activities of the monastic community, any semblance of a conflict of interest, of lack of independent scrutiny, must be removed.”
Chargesheet ready against defrocked priest for teen’s rape and murder
Published: 23rd August 2016 12:58 AM
Last Updated: 23rd August 2016 12:58 AM
From the Link: http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Chargesheet-ready-against-defrocked-priest-for-teens-rape-and-murder/2016/08/23/article3592282.ece
PALAKKAD/COIMBATORE: AS the charge sheet is being readied against defrocked priest, H Arockiaraj, accused in the suspicious death of a teenage girl at the pastor’s residence attached to the St. Stanislaus church in Walayar in 2013, the Coimbatore Bishop and three members of the clergy are likely to be made approvers.
According to police summons might be issued to Bishop Thomas Aquinas and the priests, Fr BF Madalaimuthu, Fr Kulandairaj, Fr Lawrence Melcure arrested and later released on bail for withholding information, to give a statement under section 164 before the Magistrate. If they supported the prosecution, they are likely to be made approvers. The Bishop and the three priests would have to give a statement to the Chief Judicial Magistrate which will determine the course of the case.
On July 23, 2013, the body of Fathima Sofiya was found in the living room of Fr Arockiaraj’ residence attached to the St. Stanislaus church in Chandrapuram. She was then 18 years and 4 days old. Subsequently, four weeks after the ‘murder’, a canonical court was set up by the Coimbatore Bishop, which found that Fr Arockiaraj guilty. He was suspended from the diocese and defrocked.
Sources, privy to the investigation, said the post mortem report by police surgeon Dr PB Gujral has clearly stated that rape had been committed on the girl while ruling out ligature strangulation. However, Shanthi Roselin, the mother of the girl, continued to maintain that her daughter was strangulated. As such, investigators are learnt to have sought medico legal opinion on whether under these circumstances Section 302 (murder) could be included in the chargesheet.
On a petition from Shanthi Roselin, the Additional Sessions Court I, Palakkad had issued warrants against the Bishop and the four priests. They were charged under section 201 and 202 of the IPC for withholding information about Fr Arockiaraj from the police.
On August 12, Bishop Thomas Aquinas, Fr Madalaimuthu, Fr Kulandairaj, Fr Lawrence
Melcure had appeared before the investigation officer MK Zulfiquer at the Palakkad South police station and their statements were recorded. They were later let off on bail.
The Walayar police who investigated the crime had collected the shawl in which the body was reportedly found hanging. But this crucial piece of evidence was now missing after the police had closed the case within two weeks after writing it off as suicide.
It was in July 2015, after two years, Shanthi Roselin after recovering a letter Fr Arokiaraj had written to Sofiya and based on the photographs showing bruises on the face of the deceased, had approached the police for a reinvestigation. By then, Shanthi had also recorded many telephonic conversations she had with Arokiaraj in the background of her daughters death.
Later, Fr Arockiraj was arrested on charges of rape and under Posco for abusing a minor. He is now out on conditional bail.
Shanthi had also approached the Kerala High court and met the DGP of Kerala seeking justice.
She admits that her family had known Fr Arockiaraj since 2007 when her daughter was in Class VI. He was the Assistant Vicar of the St. Michael’s church in Coimbatore. The family kept in touch after he was transferred to Valparai in Tamil Nadu and later to Chandrapuram in Walayar. He used to visit Shanthi’s house Coimbatore and bring Sofiya in his car to Walayar, located 35 km away, for an eye treatment, counselling and catechism classes. It was during one such trips that the body of Sofiya was found in the living room of Fr Arockiaraj
Meanwhile, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Coimbatore, speaking to Express, clarified that the question of hiding evidence from the police by four members of the clergy, never arose as the Kerala police had never sought any information from them in the first place.
Bishop Thomas Aquinas, and the three priests, Kulanthai Raj, Madalai Muthu and Lawrence Melcure, were part of the canonical commission that inquired into the issue. Despite Arockiaraj having confessed to have “used” the girl, to the canonical court, the information was not divulged to the Kerala police.
“The inquiry was conducted in 2013, and Arockiaraj was defrocked. We did not divulge information to the police as they did not seek it from us,” said Father John Joseph, Vicar General.
“At the time the girl was supposed to have died, the Bishop was away on ecclesiastical duty. The police had already conducted an autopsy into the teens death and were proceeding with the investigations,” he added.
Following the arrests of the four priests for concealing evidence, the church has submitted documents relating to the inquiry to the Kerala police, officials confirmed
Haunting BBC documentary exposes 50-year scandal of baby trafficking by the Catholic church in Spain
Haunting BBC documentary exposes 50-year scandal of baby trafficking by the Catholic church in Spain
From the Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2049647/BBC-documentary-exposes-50-year-scandal-baby-trafficking-Catholic-church-Spain.html
Up to 300,000 Spanish babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a period of five decades, a new investigation reveals.
The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties.
Hundreds of families who had babies taken from Spanish hospitals are now battling for an official government investigation into the scandal.
Several mothers say they were told their first-born children had died during or soon after they gave birth.
But the women, often young and unmarried, were told they could not see the body of the infant or attend their burial.
In reality, the babies were sold to childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents.
Official documents were forged so the adoptive parents’ names were on the infants’ birth certificates.
In many cases it is believed they were unaware that the child they received had been stolen, as they were usually told the birth mother had given them up.
Journalist Katya Adler, who has investigated the scandal, says: ‘The situation is incredibly sad for thousands of people.
‘There are men and women across Spain whose lives have been turned upside-down by discovering the people they thought were their parents actually bought them for cash. There are also many mothers who have maintained for years that their babies did not die – and were labelled “hysterical” – but are now discovering that their child has probably been alive and brought up by somebody else all this time.’
Experts believe the cases may account for up to 15 per cent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989.
It began as a system for taking children away from families deemed politically dangerous to the regime of General Franco, which began in 1939. The system continued after the dictator’s death in 1975 as the Catholic church continued to retain a powerful influence on public life, particularly in social services.
It was not until 1987 that the Spanish government, instead of hospitals, began to regulate adoptions.
The scandal came to light after two men, Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, discovered they had been stolen as babies.
Mr Moreno’s ‘father’ confessed on his deathbed to having bought him as a baby from a priest in Zaragoza in northern Spain. He told his son he had been accompanied on the trip by Mr Barroso’s parents, who bought Antonio at the same time for 200,000 pesetas – a huge sum at the time.
‘That was the price of an apartment back then,’ Mr Barroso said. ‘My parents paid it in instalments over the course of ten years because they did not have enough money.’
DNA tests have proved that the couple who brought up Mr Barroso were not his biological parents and the nun who sold him has admitted to doing so.
When the pair made their case public, it prompted mothers all over the country to come forward with their own experiences of being told their babies had died, but never believing it. One such woman was Manoli Pagador, who has begun searching for her son.
A BBC documentary, This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies, follows her efforts to discover if he is Randy Ryder, a stolen baby who was brought up in Texas and is now aged 40.
In some cases, babies’ graves have been exhumed, revealing bones that belong to adults or animals. Some of the graves contained nothing at all.
The BBC documentary features an interview with an 89-year-old woman named Ines Perez, who admitted that a priest encouraged her to fake a pregnancy so she could be given a baby girl due to be born at Madrid’s San Ramon clinic in 1969. ‘The priest gave me padding to wear on my stomach,’ she says.
It is claimed that the San Ramon clinic was one of the major centres for the practice.
Many mothers who gave birth there claim that when they asked to see their child after being told it had died, they were shown a baby’s corpse that appeared to be freezing cold.
The BBC programme shows photographs taken in the Eighties of a dead baby kept in a freezer, allegedly to show grieving mothers.
Despite hundreds of families of babies who disappeared in Spanish hospitals calling on the government to open an investigation into the scandal, no nationally co-ordinated probe has taken place.
As a result of amnesty laws passed after Franco’s death, crimes that took place during his regime are usually not examined. Instead, regional prosecutors across the country are investigating each story on a case-by-case basis, with 900 currently under review.
But Ms Adler says: ‘There is very little political will to get to the bottom of the situation.’
There are believed to be thousands more cases that will never come to light because the stolen children fear their adoptive parents will be seen as criminals.
Many of the families of stolen babies have taken DNA tests in the hope of eventually being matched with their children. Some matches have already been made but, without a nationally co-ordinated database, reuniting lost relatives will be a very difficult process.
Unholy Secrets: The Legal Loophole That Allows Clergy To Hide Child Sexual Abuse
From the Link: https://thinkprogress.org/unholy-secrets-the-legal-loophole-that-allows-clergy-to-hide-child-sexual-abuse-9a6899029eb5#.73nfch55c
It was 2008, and Rebecca Mayeux was living a nightmare.
Just 14 years old at the time, she was being sexually harassed and abused by a member of her church, 64-year-old George Charlet Jr. According to Mayeux*, Charlet bombarded her with emails “laced with seductive nuances” over the course of a summer, slowly escalating his inappropriate advances before ultimately kissing and fondling her.
As if the abuse wasn’t enough, Mayeux had to sit in the same pews as Charlet every Sunday at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, a tiny country parish about 35 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Shaken and afraid, Mayeux, like so many children who endure sexual abuse, felt too ashamed to tell her parents about her ordeal, fearing they would judge her.
Instead, she fled to the person she thought she could trust the most: Father Jeff Bayhi, her parish priest.
Mayeux says she visited Bayhi on three occasions to reveal intimate details about her abuse, always meeting under the context of Catholic confession. She says she told him about her unsettling experience, which included an avalanche of suggestive emails, “obsessive” phone calls, and Charlet saying he “wanted to make love to her” before inappropriately touching her.
“Rather than help Mayeux, her lawyers say the priest told her simply to move past the abuse, suggesting she ‘sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.’”
But rather than help Mayeux, her lawyers say the priest told her simply to move past the abuse, suggesting she “sweep it under the floor and get rid of it” because “too many people would be hurt” if she brought it out into the open. He reportedly took few if any steps to stop the mistreatment, and the crimes she claimed went unreported.
Mayeux’s alleged abuser died one year later, but the emotional scars remained. After she finally informed her parents about her ordeal, the family immediately filed a lawsuit in 2009 that implicated Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge. They charged that Bayhi was negligent in allowing the alleged abuse to continue and that the diocese had failed to inform him that clergy are listed as “mandated reporters” in the state of Louisiana — that is, people in leadership positions who are legally required to report knowledge of child abuse to authorities.
But the diocese, which declined to comment for this story, did not accept blame or even move to condemn Bayhi’s behavior; rather, they rushed to his defense. They pointed to an obscure exemption in Louisiana law: According to the state Children’s Code, clergy do not have to disclose information about child abuse if it is revealed during church-sanctioned “confidential communication” — in other words, confession. They argued that not only was the priest exempted from reporting the abuse, but also that he could not be forced to testify about what he heard during confession, as it would broach the Catholic belief in the “seal of confession” and violate his religious liberty. In fact, he could not even confirm that a confession happened, as doing so would also violate the seal.
Moreover, they contended that Mayeux should also not be allowed to testify about the cloistered conversations, as Bayhi — bound by his priestly vow to never reveal what is discussed in confession — would be unable to testify in his own defense. To do so, they said, would mean his automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.
Mayeux’s lawyers insisted they were not trying to force Bayhi into the witness stand, but maintained that the priest was required to report and that Mayeux should be allowed to testify. The ensuing legal battle has lasted years, with attorneys vigorously debating the limits of confession carve-outs — that is, legal protections for religious conversations in the case of child abuse. The case effectively pits religious liberty advocates against supporters of mandated reporting laws, or rules designed to assist abuse victims by upping the chance their ordeals — which are often never reported — will be conveyed to authorities.
The dispute is equal parts legal and theological, and has major implications for the more than 30 states with similar “religious liberty” laws exempting clergy from mandatory reporting during confession. At a time when star-studded films such as Doubt and Spotlight keep the Catholic child sex abuse scandal in focus, many in Louisiana and elsewhere are beginning to raise questions about the ethics of such exemptions, with some asking out loud why confession carve-outs for child abuse exist in the first place — and if they should be changed.
The uneven history of ‘clergy-penitent privilege’
Mayeux’s case resurrects an old debate over a little-known — but heavily protected — legal concept known as “clergy-penitent privilege.” Similar to confidentiality guaranteed to clients of doctors and lawyers, the privilege allows certain conversations between a clergy member and a parishioner to remain private, meaning a faith leader cannot be forced to reveal the information in court. Thus, Bayhi’s attorneys posited that any law forcing Bayhi or other priests to reveal things said in confession — even if it includes child abuse — “gravely violates” the principle of religious freedom, specifically Louisiana’s understanding of clergy-penitent privilege.
They certainly have precedent on their side. In the United States, clergy-penitent privilege, sometimes called “priest or pastor-penitent privilege,” dates back as far as 1813, when the Court of General Sessions of the City of New York refused to force a priest to testify. Its importance has even been championed by the nation’s highest court, with former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger declaring in 1980 that certain clerical conversations are off limits.
“The priest-penitent privilege recognizes the human need to disclose to a spiritual counselor, in total and absolute confidence, what are believed to be flawed acts or thoughts and to receive priestly consolation and guidance in return,” Burger wrote.
Indeed, shields for clergy-penitent conversations are typically more “absolute” and robust than those for other professions. Whereas doctors, lawyers, and therapists in many states are compelled to inform authorities about serious crimes they hear about in their work, religious professionals are often not held legally accountable for similar things told to them during pastoral conversations.
The concept began to impact child abuse as early as 1990, when Californiapassed a law that named clergy as mandated reporters for child sexual abuse but also included an exception for information learned during a “penitential communication,” or conversations in which a religious leader “has a duty to keep those communications secret.”
“Clergy, like social workers and teachers and doctors, if they see abuse anytime, anywhere, it ought to be disclosed.”
Although trailblazing at the time, California was eventually joined by several other states after the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team published their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into Catholic Church abuse scandal in 2001. Horrifying details of predator priests and complicit bishops shattered trust in men who wore the collar, and Massachusetts lawmakers scrambled to pass legislation that could quell public outrage and prevent any future abuse of children by priests.
By early 2002, they had found a possible solution: crafting their own version of California’s law naming clergy as mandated reporters. But the bipartisan effort suddenly stalled when it became clear that lawmakers had differing opinions on the exemption for confession. Some state house members and senators supported it, some wanted it to be less broad, and others wanted it cut entirely.
“Clergy, like social workers and teachers and doctors, if they see abuse anytime, anywhere, it ought to be disclosed,” then-state senator Cheryl A. Jacques said at the time.
Some faith leaders also spoke out against the bill, essentially predicting the kind of hellish experience Mayeux describes in her lawsuit. In a letter sent to the state’s House of Representatives in January 2002, Nancy S. Taylor — president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ — urged legislators to vote against it.
“While upholding confidentiality as a general principle, it should not be used to protect criminals, or criminal behavior, at the expense of innocent victims,” she wrote, according to the New York Times.
But other, more influential clergy from the Massachusetts Council of Churches and elsewhere ultimately convinced lawmakers that a law without exemptions for religious conversations would result in lawsuits from faith groups. The carve-out was defended as necessary to maintain religious freedom, and the governor eventually signed the bill into law later that year — with the exemption intact.
Dozens of other states soon followed suit, passing laws listing faith leaders as mandated reporters while also providing various permutations of California’s confession carve-out. As of 2015, at least 31 states, including Louisiana, now name clergy as mandated reporters but include an exemption for information learned during certain religious conversations. Several other states have laws that are less clear on the subject, and only six states (and Guam) require clergy to report child abuse without exception.
Ironically, these exemptions appear tone deaf to a crucial detail of the “Spotlight” article that triggered their creation: Many of the abuses doled out by priests in Massachusetts happened during confession.
Mitchell Garabedian, a legendary child abuse lawyer who played a key role in helping the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team unearth the horrifying scope of the Catholic abuse scandal coverup, knows this all too well. Garabedian told ThinkProgress he has defended clients who were abused during confession “on multiple occasions.” Victims were almost always told to keep their ordeal to themselves, and in one case, a child was forced to perform oral sex on a priest while the cleric heard the confession of another parishioner.
“The crimes are endless,” Garabedian said.
When asked about Mayeux’s case — where the abuser wasn’t a priest, but was allegedly protected by a priest who refused to violate the seal of confession — Garabedian was unequivocal: The child’s safety should come first.
“When children are at risk of being abused in any instance, confessional should not be used as a shield to protect the abuser,” he said. “The safety of children should take priority.”
‘Religious liberty’ vs. anti-abuse advocates
Despite early warning signs, confession carve-outs have gone largely unchallenged since the early 2000s. But the dramatic nature of Mayeux’s case exposed potential flaws, and jump-started a conversation about pastor-penitent privilege in instances of of child abuse. For their part, the Church rehashed much of the same rhetoric used during other political disputes over same-sex marriage, tweaking parts of it for a modern context. The diocese even cited the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, a Louisiana law passed in 2010 that many saw as an early attempt to push back against the coming legalization of same-sex marriage.
“The diocese argued that this statute requiring Father Bayhi to be a mandatory reporter infringes on his free exercise of religion,” Brian Abels, Mayeux’s lawyer, said.
But child rights advocates say mandatory reporting laws are needed to protect children, and that community leaders — especially clergy — should take their responsibility seriously. Cathy Townsend, the National Strategy Manager for Darkness to Light — the largest anti-child abuse advocacy organization in the country — told ThinkProgress the efficacy of mandatory reporting laws is still a matter of dispute, but insisted their existence is rooted in a painful truth: Only 33 percent of child abuse victims report their abuse in a timely fashion, with an additional 33 percent waiting years to disclose. Many never disclose at all, and those who do often only tell childhood peers who are rarely equipped to offer much-needed assistance.
“Reporting abuse is very traumatizing for many children — particularly when it’s not handled well,” she said. “It just compounds the problem.”
If true, Mayeux’s story is a textbook example of how failure to report can not only traumatize victims, but also cause more harm.
“After the first time she went to confession, there were more instances of abuse after that,” Abels said. “One of the worst instances of the abuse happened after she went to confession.”
Mayeux’s case even has some Catholics calling for an end to confession carve-outs. In 2014, Julie Love Taylor, a Catholic lawyer who grew up in Baton Rouge, published a lengthy blog post for the Louisiana Law Review blasting the clergy exemption in Mayeux’s case and suggesting an amendment to the Louisiana constitution. She argued any residual impact of the change on Catholic confession “is merely an incidental effect of the law.”
“I understand it’s within the Catholic confessional, but when a child comes forward with that sort thing, you can’t just ignore it. You have a moral compulsion to take some kind of action.”
She repeated her position earlier this year in an interview with ThinkProgress.
“When you have a child who has been abused — they feel a lot of shame,” Taylor said. “It takes great courage to tell anybody what’s going on. I understand it’s within the Catholic confessional, but when a child comes forward with that sort thing, you can’t just ignore it. You have a moral compulsion to take some kind of action.”
“I completely understand the other side — this is not an easy issue,” she added, noting that two of her uncles are priests. “It certainly would create problems within the Catholic Church. But I also think that the protection of children who are being abused — the worst thing you can imagine — needs to take priority over that.”
This same argument — that protections for religion should have limitations, at least in cases of sexual abuse enacted against minors — was also voiced by Mayeux’s lawyers.
“We understand [religious freedom] is a constitutionally protected right, but all of our rights give way in certain circumstances — there is always a limitation, especially regarding child sexual abuse,” Abels said.
A (false) theology of secrecy?
Mayeux’s case has been waged in the courts, but it has also sparked a debate among Catholic theologians. Bayhi’s lawyers hold, for instance, that he cannot testify even if Mayeux does, because doing so would violate the seal of confession and leave him automatically excommunicated. After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the seal “admits of no exceptions.”
Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor-in-chief of the Catholic magazine America, explained to ThinkProgress the Catholic dedication to confession by recounting a story of a clergyman forcibly apprehended by the mafia. Even as his captors held him at gunpoint, the priest reportedly refused to reveal information he learned during confession, choosing Godly duties over his own life.
“If a priest broke the seal of confession, he would not be allowed to act as a priest,” Reese said. “He would be charged with a canonical crime. It’s the greatest ecclesiastical crime he could commit.”
Bayhi echoed this sentiment while being questioned by one of his attorneys. When asked whether he would ever violate the seal of confession, he seemed shocked, arguing that confession is only valuable if parishioners believe it to be completely secret.
“Knowingly? Absolutely not,” Bayhi said. “If that’s not sacred, no one would ever trust us.”
“If the penitent says the priest can reveal what he heard in confession, then he can.”
But Reese and other canon law experts say the problem isn’t so cut and dry. Reese penned an extensively researched article for the National Catholic Reporter in February 2015 arguing that “the weight of theological and canonical opinion supports the right of penitents to allow their confessor to reveal what they told him in confession.”
In a separate interview with ThinkProgress, Reese explained that while the issue of whether a priest can be released from the seal of confession is “a disputed question,” most canonists believe clergy should be free to testify if the penitent wants to publicly discuss the content of a confession.
“The majority of canonists appeared to side with the idea that confession is to protect the penitent,” he said. “Therefore, if the penitent says the priest can reveal what he heard in confession, then he can.”
The debate makes it difficult to discern whether the Diocese of Baton Rouge is alone in its belief that a priest cannot be released from confession, or if the lawsuit is the new norm for American Catholicism (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return ThinkProgress’ requests for comment). But as Reese pointed out in his article, even if a priest is allowed to testify, problems remain: the ironclad silence of confession — where bishops and other superiors aren’t allowed to know what transpired in a priest’s confession booth — makes the practice extremely difficult to police.
“Here again the church faces an impossible dilemma: How can it supervise the work of confessors without knowing what is said in confession?” Reese wrote.
The closed-lipped nature of confession also allows it to be used as a manipulative tool. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said laws protecting information gathered in confession can be used by abusers to silence other well-meaning clergy members.
“We’ve heard rumors over the years,” Clohessy said. “Say ‘Father A’ molests kids, but fears that ‘Father B’ has suspicions. Father A then asks Father B to hear his confession, so that Father B is constrained and unable to say anything to anybody.”
Not just a Catholic problem
The 2001 “Spotlight” report drew national attention to child abuse enacted by priests, but the issue is hardly unique to Catholic clergy. Advocates report that instances like the Mayeux case — where a parishioner, not the priest, is the perpetrator — are common. In addition, abuse levels may even be higher among Protestant Christians.
“Some preliminary studies have indicated that more children are sexually abused within Protestant faith communities than Catholic faith communities,” said Basyle Tchividjian, a Liberty University Law School professor and founder of Protestant-focused anti-child abuse organization Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).
Unsurprisingly, Protestants and other faith groups are also impacted by confession carve-outs, although usually in different — but no less problematic — ways than Catholics. Many state laws have been written to protect private conversations with a wide range of religious professionals, for instance, and many explicitly name Protestant pastors. But some states do not appear to protect Protestant faith traditions that lack an “official” doctrine resembling Catholic confession, and others are simply too vague to draw conclusions either way.
“It’s not just Louisiana that is having a problem,” Townsend said. “Other states also aren’t quite sure how to handle it either. A lot of the legislation is just not particularly well-written.”
“I’ve talked to pastors who were told about abuse by a victim [or perpetrator] and they felt like, ‘Well that confession is privileged so I can’t report it.’ Which is crazy.”
Tchividjian explained this minefield of unclear laws is further complicated by widespread ignorance among clergy regarding mandatory reporting laws, leading to instances where pastors fail to report because they believe — falsely — that they aren’t required or even allowed to.
“I do think there are a lot of situations where offenders could be identified and stopped, and they haven’t, because too many pastors are under the mistaken belief that clergy privilege prevents them from reporting the offense to the police,” Tchividjian said. “I’ve talked to pastors who were told about abuse by a victim [or perpetrator] and they felt like, ‘Well that confession is privileged so I can’t report it.’ Which is crazy. Such a misunderstanding of the law can contribute to the revictimization of vulnerable children.”
Tchividjian also said abusers can often manipulate this legal confusion to their advantage, transforming churches and other faith communities into a “very safe place for offenders.”
“All they have to do is communicate to the pastor, and the pastor believes that his or her hands are tied,” he said.
The tragic results of this precedent were on full display recently at the evangelical Christian Covenant Life Church (CLC), Protestant megachurch outside Washington, D.C. CLC made headlines in 2014 after a 55-year-old church member named Nathaniel Morales was sentenced to 40 years in prisonfor repeatedly sexually assaulting young boys in the congregation. Although Morales’ victims took solace in the ruling, the trial also uncovered a startling fact: In an exchange with a courtroom lawyer, CLC pastor Grant Layman appeared to admit that he was aware of the abuse, but failed to report it.
Attorney: As a pastor, when you become aware of sexual child abuse, did you have a responsibility to report that to the police department? That’s a yes or no.
Layman: I believe so.
Attorney: And you didn’t do it.
Layman: No, sir.
The information seemed to aid a class-action lawsuit filed by several parishioners against seven CLC pastors, accusing them of covering up Morales’ crimes. But the possible admission of guilt likely wouldn’t matter: Although the suit was eventually dismissed on other technicalities, it was also filed in Maryland, where state law includes a confession carve-out for child abuse that extends to Protestant pastors like Layman.
Unanswered questions in Baton Rouge
Eight years after her alleged abuse, Mayeux’s case remains entangled in the Louisiana court system. Lawyers are hopeful they can bring it to trial by 2017, but judges continue to debate the legality and scope of the state’s confession carve-out, bouncing the case between different rungs of the state and federal legal system (the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in January 2015).
The case also suffered a major setback in February. Just one week after the film Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the 19th Judicial District Court declared unconstitutional the provision requiring clergy to report child abuse claims heard during confessional.
“If the story is true, then the priest clearly failed in his duties.”
Frustrated but not defeated, Abels was quick to note that they won a small victory in late July, when a Court of Appeal panel court dismissed the diocese’s argument that Mayeux should not be allowed to testify. He also says they may also appeal the February ruling, possibly by charging that this kind of clergy-penitent privilege violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by unfairly benefitting a specific religious group — or religion in general.
In the meantime, child abuse experts such as Tchividjian remain outraged that these kinds of cases exist in the first place. GRACE and other groups strive to train and educate clergy about mandatory reporting laws, but say the real question should be moral, not legal: Even with the confession carve-out in place, Tchividjian said, a pastor’s faith should compel them to choose the safety of a child over the possibility of losing their own job.
“It may be that the confession cannot be introduced at trial, but that’s not [a pastor’s] concern — because their concern should be the protection of a vulnerable child,” he said. “Even if the case ends up getting dismissed because that confession is deemed inadmissible, your actions of reporting the confession may have very well saved the life of a little one.”
Reese argued similarly that if Bayhi really did, in fact, ignore Mayeux’s pleas, then it’s not just confession carve-outs but priestly duty — and Christian obligation — that is in question.
“If the story is true, then the priest clearly failed in his duties,” he said. “The priest should have encouraged the child to talk to their parents, or talk to the priest outside of confession — or somebody who is required to report this.”
Back in Louisiana, however, Bayhi and the diocese appear to be more focused on defending religious liberty than clarifying spiritual duty. As Bayhi left the courthouse after the judge reaffirmed his exemption from mandatory reporting laws in February, he celebrated his win in front of reporters, declaring the decision a victory for all people of faith.
“We’re just always happy when the court upholds religious liberties,” he said.
* Although ThinkProgress typically does not name possible abuse victims, Mayeux has gone public with her story, and gave our writer permission to use her name in this article.
The Catholic League and Suppression of the Press Today
From the Link: http://churchandstate.org.uk/2012/04/the-catholic-league-and-supression-of-the-press-today/
This chapter from our chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996), provides a survey of the Catholic League’s chilling effect on the American freedom of the press. The book is available at Kindle here, and is available to read for free here.
Chapter 15: The Catholic League and Suppression of the Press Today
The Catholic League was founded in 1973 by Jesuit priest Virgil Blum. William Donohue assumed leadership in July 1993.[260pp1] Since then, the membership has grown from 27,000 to 200,000.[260pp2] According to Donohue, the League has “won the support of all of the U.S. Cardinals and many of the Bishops as well…We are here to defend the Church from the scurrilous assaults that have been mounted against it, and we definitely need the support of the hierarchy if we are to get the job done.”[260pp3] Thus it can be considered an arm of the Church. It supplements or replaces priest-controlled organizations of the past described by Blanshard and Seldes. The League apparently has a single mission: suppression of all mainstream criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Donohue, it is fortunate that, “the Catholic Church is there to provide a heady antidote to today’s mindless ideas of freedom.”[260pp4] He is a strong advocate of the Church’s positions on restriction of the freedoms guaranteed by the American Constitution and condemned by popes for nearly two centuries, especially those regarding the press and speech. He informs us that: “the Catholic League is there to defend the Church against its adversaries.”[260pp4]
There are many recognizable principles governing the behavior of the League. One is revealed in a vicious 1994 attack against the New London newspaper, The Day, for an editorial critical of the Catholic Church: “What is truly ‘beyond understanding’ is not the Catholic Church’s position, it is the fact that a secular newspaper has the audacity to stick it’s nose in where it doesn’t belong. It is nobody’s business what the Catholic Church does.”[260pp5]
A second basic premise is the League’s commitment to canon 1369 of the Code of Canon Law: “A person is to be punished with a just penalty, who, at a public event or assembly, or in a published writing, or by otherwise using the means of social communication, utters blasphemy, or gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.”[260pp6] Canon law is the law of the Catholic Church. All criticism of the pope or the Church is in violation of this law in one way or another. This chapter will make clear that the League follows this canon to the letter and demands that all others conform—or pay the price for their violation.
Another principle is aggressive action. Says Donohue, “I defy anyone to name a single organization that has more rabid members than the Catholic League. Our members are generous, loyal and extremely active. When we ask them to sign petitions, write to offending parties and the like, they respond with a vigor that is unparalleled…We aim to win. Obviously, we don’t win them all, but our record of victories is impressive.”[260pp7] To justify this stance, he identifies with Patrick Buchanan’s resistance to the “Culture War” against the Catholic Church: “We didn’t start this culture war against the Catholic Church, we simply want to stop it.”[260pp8]
Donohue also justifies the League’s aggressive behavior by claiming that it is culturally unacceptable for nonCatholics to criticize the Catholic Church. “Perhaps the most cogent remark of the day,” he asserts, “came from the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, who politely remarked that his mother always advised him not to speak ill of other religions. It is a lesson that apparently few have learned….Non-Catholics would do well to follow the advice of Ed Koch’s mom and just give it a rest. Their crankiness is wearing thin.”[260pp9] This cultural norm is widely accepted in America, to the enormous benefit of the Vatican. What role, one wonders, did the Catholic Church play in its adoption? Certainly, in the case of population growth control, its consequence has been catastrophic.
The Catholic League strongly discourages criticism of the Church, especially attacks by the press. Says Donohue, “It does no good complaining about Catholic bashing if all we do is wait until the other side strikes.”[260pp10] Prevention of such publications is of the essence. Yet Donohue is convinced that this is not censorship: “The press and the radio talk shows asked me if the Catholic League was engaging in censorship by responding the way we did. As always, I informed them that only the government has the power to censor anything.”[260pp11] This is patently untrue.
Another tenet enunciated by Donohue:
“I think it is a gross mistake to give elevation to fringe groups. Our basic rule of thumb is this: the more mainstream the source of anti-Catholicism, the more likely it is that the Catholic League will respond….The mainstream media, after all, have the credibility and influence that the fringe lacks, and they are therefore much more likely to do real damage.”[260pp12]
“When major universities, TV networks and government officials engage in Catholic-baiting, it is a far more dangerous situation than the venom that emanates from certifiably fringe organizations.”[260pp13]
“When an establishment newspaper such as the Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale] offends, it cannot be ignored.”[260pp14]
Donohue goes on to explain the Sun-Sentinel example. On February 9, 1995, it ran an ad, paid for by a Seventh Day Adventist group, which claimed that the Catholic Church is seeking to create a New World Order to take command of the world and that the Pope and the Catholic Church were in a league with Satan.
Accordingly, the Catholic League contacted the radio and television stations in the area, the opposition newspaper, and the nation’s major media outlets registering its outrage and its demands. We demanded nothing less than ‘an apology to Catholics and a pledge that no such ads will ever be accepted again.’ We added that ‘If this is not forthcoming, the Catholic League will launch a public ad campaign on its own, one that will directly target the Sun-Sentinel.’
“What exactly did we have in mind? We were prepared to take out ads in the opposition newspaper, registering our charge of anti-Catholic bigotry. We were prepared to pay for radio spots making our charge. We were prepared to buy billboard space along the majority arteries surrounding the Fort Lauderdale community. Why not? After all, …we are in a position to make such threats….This is the way it works: if the source of bigotry wants to deal with lousy publicity, it can elect to do so. Or it can come to its senses and knock it off. In the event the anti-Catholic bigots want to bite the bullet and stay the course, we’ll do everything we can within the law to make sure that they pay a very high price for doing so.”[260pp15] It goes without saying that anyone critical of the Vatican, or the hierarchy, or the Roman Catholic Church is, by definition, an anti-Catholic bigot—including Catholics themselves.
One final element makes clear the objective of the Catholic League—protection of the papacy against all criticism. Writes Donohue, “It is the conviction of the Catholic League that an attack on the Church is an attack on Catholics.”[260pp16] He offers no rationale to support this theory. Obviously, millions of liberal American Catholics would disagree outright, for it is they who have been attacking the Church.
Throughout American history, the job of combating anti-Catholicism fell to the clergy, and especially to the Archbishops. But times have changed….The type of anti-Catholicism that exists in American society today is fundamentally different from the genre that marked this country’s history from the outset. From colonial times to the election of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States, anti-Catholicism was vented against both individual Catholics and against the Catholic Church itself. But over the past 30 years, it has become evident that most of the Catholic-bashing centers on the institution of the Church…[260pp17]
The hierarchy cannot be effective against criticism of the institution because they are the institution. Thus, the hierarchy has had to call on the laity to protect the institution in this way. In 1971, the League’s founder pointed out, “If a group is to be politically effective, issues rather than institutions must be at stake.”[260pp18] In other words, the laity, if left to their own devices, will not defend the institution but they will defend their interests as individuals. Hence, the League has adopted this principle and has convinced its members that “an attack on the Church is an attack on Catholics.” In this way, the institution is successfully using individual lay Catholics to shield it from all criticism.
The Church and Its Image
The Catholic Church in America has good reason to be intensely concerned about its image and any criticism. Donohue cites a 1995 study, “Taking America’s Pulse,” undertaken by the National Conference (formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews). Despite the almost complete suppression of all criticism of the Catholic Church in America, a majority of non-Catholic Americans (55%) believe that Catholics “want to impose their own ideas of morality on the larger society.” The survey also found that 38% of non-Catholics believe that Catholics are “narrow-minded because they are too much controlled by their Church.”[260pp19] Obviously, there is a highly receptive audience in this country for any justified criticisms of the Catholic Church. If the floodgates ever opened, it is unlikely that the Church would be able to close them again. Only too well understood by the hierarchy, and the Catholic League, this perhaps explains their unmitigated intolerance for criticism.
Methods of the League
Donohue has cited many of the methods used by the League, including some we have already mentioned. “We specialize in public embarrassment of public figures who have earned our wrath and that is why we are able to win so many battles: no person or organization wants to be publicly embarrassed, and that is why we specialize in doing exactly that…”[260pp20] Elsewhere he writes, “The threat of a lawsuit is the only language that some people understand. The specter of public humiliation is another weapon that must be used. Petitions and boycotts are helpful. The use of the bully pulpit—via the airwaves—is a most effective strategy. Press conferences can be used to enlighten or, alternatively, to embarrass.”[260pp21] “Ads taken out in prominent national newspapers are quite effective.”[260pp22]
The Catholic League’s Op-Ed page advertisement which appeared in the April 10, 1995 issue of The New York Times attacking Disney for its release of the excellent film, “Priest,” is a good example. This attack will be described more fully later. But on the Op-Ed page the following advertisement appears: “We’re leading a nationwide charge against Disney, making use of every legal means available—from boycotts to stockholder revolts—all designed to send a clear and unmistakable message to Michael Eisner, chairman of Disney.”[260pp23] This is only one of many staged or threatened stockholder revolts led by the League.
But probably the most effective means of suppressing criticism of the Catholic Church through the press is a constant “in your face” attack of local newspapers. In a 1995 report on the Massachusetts Chapter of the Catholic League, it is noted that the president and the executive director had been on the attack, “appearing in the media more than 600 times” in the previous five years.[260pp24] In a single state, 600 times in five years! It is no wonder that newspapers in Massachusetts are very reluctant to print any criticism of the Catholic Church, no matter how justified, given this constant barrage of punishment.
Intimidation of the media leadership and of our government by the League is achieved through the wide distribution of frequent news releases, its monthly newsletter and an annual report. In an article on the publication of its 1994 report, Donohue writes, “The purpose of the report is to educate the public and influence decision-makers in government, education and the media….The report is being distributed to all members of Congress, the White House…and to prominent members of the media and education.”[260pp25] From an article regarding the 1995 annual report: “It has been sent to every Bishop and congressman in the nation, as well as to influential persons in the media and other sectors of society.”[260pp26] In a February 1995 letter to the membership, Donohue announced that the 1994 report will be distributed to the press, noting “there will be little excuse left for media ignorance of Catholic-bashing.”[260pp27] Individual attacks are often announced through widely distributed press releases which are bound to capture the attention of members of the press.
Success of the League
The Catholic League has been remarkably successful in achieving its goals. Donohue rightfully gloats: “One of the major reasons why people are giving [donations] is the success the Catholic League has had.”[260pp28] As noted earlier, membership grew from 27,000 to 200,000 in the first two years after Donohue took control. He continues, “We have had a string of victories and we have also had an unprecedented degree of media coverage. We don’t win every fight but our overall record is quite good. Our presence on radio and TV, combined with coverage in newspapers and magazines—both religious and secular—is excellent.”[260pp29] “We’ve been featured on the television program ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and received front page coverage from national newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.”[260pp30] The number of apologies and promises it extracts from the nation’s newspapers, TV networks and stations and programs, radio stations, activist organizations, commercial establishments, educational institutions and governments is most impressive.
The suppression of all criticism of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy is the goal of the Catholic League. The visit of the pope to the U.S. in October 1995 was a major media event. Given all the gravely serious problems faced by the Church and the enormous amount of dissent by American Catholics, as well as the growing hostility from non-Catholics as a result of the Church’s interference in American policy making, one would expect wide coverage of these realities in the media during his visit. Instead, it was treated as a triumphant return.
The Catholic League believes that it played a major role in this great public relations success—and with good reason. In August 1994, it launched a campaign to intimidate the press in an astounding advance warning to media professionals preparing for the pope’s visit to New York in late October. A letter signed by Donohue announced a press conference to be held just prior to the pope’s visit that will present “10’s of thousands of petitions from active Catholics” that have been collected over the past year.[260pp31] The petition speaks for itself. What else but intimidation of the press is the intent of this campaign?
The November 1995 issue of the League’s journal, Catalyst, is headlined, “Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score.” Donohue writes, “By all accounts, the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was a smashing success. Media treatment of the papal visit was, with few exceptions, very fair. Protesters were few in number and without impact. From beginning to end, this papal visit proved to be the most triumphant of them all.”[260pp32] A month later he writes, “The relatively few cheap shots that were taken at the Pope by the media in October is testimony to a change in the culture.”[260pp33] And of course the desired “change in the culture” is the elimination of criticism of the pope and his hierarchy. The Catholic League is succeeding on a grand scale far beyond what all but a handful of Americans realize.
Intimidation Prevents Criticism
It is clear from Donohue’s own words that prevention of any criticism is the goal of the League and that intimidation is its means of achieving this end. In a fund-raising letter mailed in December of 1995, Donohue appeals for funds to hire more staff: “We could have done more….We could have tackled other issues, thereby adding to the number of people who will think twice before crossing Catholics again.”[260pp34] From the League’s 1995 Annual Report: “It is hoped that by …[attacking critics], potential offenders will think twice before launching their assaults on Roman Catholicism.”[260pp35] This statement also makes it clear that it is the protection of the institution that is the goal, not protection of individual Catholics.
It appears that the most aggressive and extensive attack in League history was one directed at Disney for its release of the movie, “Priest.” In an editorial, Donohue forthrightly says that the purpose of the intensive attack on Disney is the prevention of the production of such critical movies in the future: “Our sights were set on what might be coming down the road, not on what had already happened.”[260pp36]
The advice given by Ed Koch’s mother—do not speak ill of other religions—has been a national ethic for nearly all of this century. This ethic, inherent in our culture, has served to suppress nearly all criticism of the Catholic Church. As a result, until its political activities were unveiled with the implementation of the bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities in 1975, the Church had been relatively immune from mainstream criticism. Because this ethic has served the Catholic Church so well, the Church may very well have played a major role in its inculcation into our culture. With its political activity becoming increasingly evident, critics are more than ever convinced of the need for public criticism of the Catholic Church.
However, this ethic does not protect the Church from dissent within its confines which has been growing since Vatican Council II in the 1960s, and most remarkably in recent years. The American media, to avoid flying in the face of American culture by ignoring this dearly held belief, have occasionally provided a forum for this protest. The dissenters have been a significant source of criticism. The Catholic League has not overlooked this problem—indeed, it takes it very seriously. All criticism is targeted from whatever source, including members of the Church.
For example, on January 22, 1995, CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast a segment by Mike Wallace on the Catholic dissident group Call to Action. The Catholic hierarchy did agree to appear but dictated terms that were unacceptable to CBS. Then, according to Donohue, the Catholic League sent two letters to executive producer Barry Lando and issued the following press release on January 25:
The entire Call to Action segment was, from beginning to end, an exercise in intellectual dishonesty and journalistic malpractice. The decision to give high profile to the Catholic Church’s radical fringe was pure politics, and nothing short of outrageous….Allowing extremists an uncontested opportunity to rail against the Catholic Church distorts the sentiments of most Catholics and provides succor for bigots. There is a difference between reporting dissent, and promoting it….’60 Minutes’ made clear its preference, extending to the disaffected a platform that they have never earned within the Catholic community….This is propaganda at work, not journalism.[260pp37]
This press release, of course, was received across America as a powerful warning to others to steer clear of Catholic dissidents. The Catholic League then launched a national postcard mailing campaign directed at Lando personally: “…we are angered over the way you continue to present the Catholic Church….We are tired of having our Church viewed from the perspective of the disaffected.”[260pp38]
In another example, the League attacked the October 5, 1995 edition of “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw for providing a platform for Catholics for a Free Choice and Dignity. The League’s press release included the following:
The media do a great disservice to Catholics and non-Catholics alike when Catholics for a Free Choice and Dignity are presented as though they were genuine voices in the Catholic community. The effect of such misrepresentation is to promote dissent rather than to record it. As such, it is irresponsible for the media to allow itself to become willing accomplices to public deception.[260pp39]
The continuous intimidation is bound to have its desired effect. The April 22, 1996 issue of theNew Republic magazine criticizes the League’s annual report as indicative of the League’s “paranoia.”[260pp40] The New Republic completely misses the point. One need only look at the language used in the League’s attacks. It is not defense. It is intimidating language. The report is an offensive weapon used to silence critics of the Catholic Church.
Specific Examples of the League’s Intimidation
The Catholic League focuses it attention on five types of institutions: media, activist organizations, commercial establishments, educational institutions and governments.[260pp41] Donohue attributes the League’s success, in part, to its ability to stay focused.[260pp42] The League’s 1994 and 1995 annual reports alone offer 350 examples of League attacks. The numerous stunning examples from which to choose make selection for presentation difficult. These were all reported during the period from July 1994 to June 1996.
Newsday—On June 1st and June 3, 1994, the Long Island daily, Newsday, published Bob Marlette cartoons which, according to the Catholic League, “raised pope bashing to a new level.”[260pp43] An apology from Newsday published in the form of a “Memo to Readers” failed to satisfy the Catholic League and a petition was distributed to Long Island pastors. On July 15, Donohue met with Newsday publisher Anthony Marro to discuss the paper’s coverage of Catholics. At the meeting, he presented 76 petitions signed by Long Island pastors expressing their concern for the way Catholics have been portrayed by the newspaper.[260pp44] This was not enough. On August 25, 1994, Donohue met with the editorial board ofNewsday on the newspaper’s coverage of Catholics. Donohue complained that the absence of practicing Catholics on the editorial board resulted in an insensitivity toward Catholics.[260pp45]
Philadelphia Inquirer—An article in the September 1994 issue of the League’s journal is headlined, “Cardinal Bevilacqua Scores Philadelphia Inquirer for Church Coverage, Declines Interview”. The Inquirer had requested an interview for a major story on the Archdiocese. The Cardinal refused: “I have declined your request for an interview due to your unfair and unbalanced coverage of the Archdiocese in the last year….This view is based on a review of Inquirer articles from May 1993 to May 1994. This review included 23 articles written about the Catholic Church. Of these 23 articles, eighteen were considered to be unfair and unbalanced. The unfairness and imbalance occurred in five areas including the selection of negative topics, a disregard for positive news, the use of unqualified experts, the use of negative language and a consistent omission of factual information…It is particularly frustrating to continue to read negative characterizations of the Roman Catholic Church with no regard for our role as the largest provider of social services in Southeastern Pennsylvania and our role as the most visible religious organization in the poorest areas of our city.”[260pp46] The Cardinal makes clear that he feels he should be permitted to dictate what is written about his church to the letter, revealing an arrogance that could never coexist with a free press. Furthermore, that he would bring up the provision of social services by the Church, fully knowing that these services the Church provides are almost entirely funded by local, state and federal tax monies, is deceptive.
Associated Press—On March 10, 1995, the Associated Press (AP), in a story on a court ruling upholding a law barring doctors from engaging in assisted suicide, disclosed that the federal appeals court judge was a Catholic. (The judge’s ruling was in line with his pope’s teaching on this matter.) Donohue took great offense to the AP’s identification of this judge as a Catholic and sent a letter to AP executives asking for a copy of the AP policy on the matter. The League also sent a related press release to other news outlets to inform them of this offense. Darrell Christian, AP’s Managing Editor wrote an apology. “The League is satisfied with AP’s quick response,” writes Donohue in the League’s Journal, “and expects that it will not have to call attention to such errors in the future.” Donohue’s message to the American press was loud and clear. It is not permissible for the press to identify public servants as Catholics when they uphold Catholic teachings in their public decision-making. If so, the League will come after them.[260pp47]
Disney—The May 1995 issue of Catalyst reports in an article, “Catholic League calls for a Boycott of Disney:” “The movie ‘Priest,’ produced by the BBC and released by Miramax, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, provoked the Catholic League to lead a storm of protest against the film and Disney. The movie is arguably the most anti-Catholic movie ever made.”[260pp48] This attack on Disney represents the single greatest assault in the League’s history. In an editorial, Donohue writes: “In addition to joining a boycott of everything that has the Disney label on it, we are asking everyone to sell their Disney stock. It would also send a message if everyone mailed Disney chairman Michael Eisner some old Disney toys or videos. If every Catholic League member sent even one box to Mr. Eisner, it would make an indelible impression on him.”[260pp49]
The petition against Disney reads, “We, the undersigned, have a message to Disney: you bit off more than you can chew when you offended Catholics with the release of ‘Priest.’…We hope that everyone at Disney thinks twice before offending Catholics again. Sadly, appeals to your goodwill mean nothing anymore. That is why we are hitting you in the pocketbook….The Catholic League has already tarnished your image and we have pledged to blacken it a little more.”[260pp50]
The League placed an Op-Ed page advertisement in the April 10, 1995 issue of The New York Times titled “What’s Happening to Disney?” It includes the statement: “So what is the Catholic League doing about this? We are leading a nationwide charge against Disney, making use of every legal means available—from boycotts to stockholder revolts—all designed to send a clear and unmistakable message to Michael Eisner, chairman of Disney.”[260pp51]
But the attack did not end there. On May 2, 1995, a Catholic League member, a stockholder, asked shareholders to ratify at the November meeting of the Walt Disney Company a resolution that calls for the establishment of a religious advisory committee to insure that Disney does not produce another movie like this one.[260pp52] On April 29, the League picketed Disney’s largest retail outlet in New England. A press release read: “The Catholic League intends to make the American public aware of Disney’s contemptuous disregard of the sensibilities of 59 million Catholic Americans. It is Disney that is ultimately responsible for this travesty and it is Disney that will remain the focus of our protests.”[260pp53]
In the July-August 1995 issue of Catalyst, an article, “Disney Protests Continue,” reports that the League had asked the four U.S. Senators who owned Disney stock to sell it: “Mrs. Dole announced on June 2 that she was selling more than $15,000 worth of Disney stock.” It reports that the League picketed the Dedham Community Theater in Dedham, Massachusetts, over the decision of the theater owner to show the anti-Catholic movie “Priest.” The article also reports that numerous dioceses had sold their Disney stock and that “after nine weeks in theaters, the Hollywood Reporter’s Boxoffice ranked ‘Priest’ 34th out of the top 35 movies nationwide.”[260pp54] The January-February 1996 issue reported that upwards of 100,000 petitions were sent to Disney: “…because the movie was a flop at the box office, we do not expect to be greeted with Priest II anytime soon.”[260pp55]
The League’s campaign was not just directed to Disney but to the entire film industry and to the media in general. The message: if you place the Catholic Church in a negative light, you are going to pay.
Jane Pauley—In the June 13, 1995 airing of NBC’s “Dateline ,” Jane Pauley interviewed Scott O’Grady, the U.S. pilot who was rescued in Bosnia. Pauley commented “A devout Roman Catholic, O’Grady made his confirmation at age thirteen, and unlike many of his peers never left the Church.” The Catholic League was angered by this comment and Donohue wrote to Bob Wright, CEO of NBC, demanding that Pauley be fired immediately for this terrible offense. For maximum effect, Donohue released a statement explaining his actions to the press to insure that all got the message.[260pp56]
Bill Press—On July 16, 1995, KFI Radio [Los Angeles] talk show host Bill Press, a Roman Catholic, was critical of the pope and the Catholic Church. According to the September 1995 issue of the League’s Catalyst, “The Catholic League issued the following statement to the press on this matter: ‘The issue here is not simply the vile comments of Bill Press. The issue is the willingness of a respected radio station to keep him on payroll….The Catholic League does not want equal time to respond to Press, rather it wants him fired.’”[260pp57] By distributing this press release, the League was sending a message to everyone in the press—if you are critical of the pope or the Catholic Church, we are coming after you and your employer.
Liz Langley and the Orlando Weekly—Liz Langley wrote a light article about communion wafers in the August 10-16, 1995 edition. The League took great offense and issued a statement to the press that included the following: “The Langley piece is one of the most anti-Catholic articles to have appeared in some time….Accordingly, I will now mobilize a public relations offensive against the newspaper, using every tactic this side of the law to discredit the paper.”[260pp58] Donohue’s press release may have been meant to intimidate other reporters. Nearly a year after the incident, I talked with Editor Jeff Truesdell. Nothing ever came of the League’s threats. Of course, no one ever reported this to the thousands of reporters who read the press release from Donohue.
Fox-TV—In September 1995, Mother Teresa was used to make a comedic point in a promotional spot for the Fox-TV program, The Preston Episodes. The Catholic League complained to the Los Angeles Office of Fox and “an apology was extended and a pledge not to run the offensive spot again was made.”[260pp59]
Bravo Network-“Windows”—A program which aired on September 24, 1995 on the cable network Bravo, featured a dance routine involving a priest dealing with temptation from a nun. “The Catholic League registered its outrage to Bravo, the ‘Windows’ producer Thomas Grimm, and Texaco Performing Arts Showcase, which sponsored the program.”[260pp60] In December the League reported that Texaco had apologized for sponsoring this segment. Texaco also stated to Dr. Donohue that henceforth there would be a “screening procedure for the Texaco Performing Arts Showcase.”[260pp61]
New Britain Herald—Connecticut’s New Britain Herald published a syndicated cartoon which shows the three Magi going to visit the Baby Jesus. One of the shepherds says, “Wait…aren’t we just encouraging these teen-age pregnancies?” League members complained to the newspaper that this was anti-Catholic bigotry. The newspaper issued an apology on its editorial page.[260pp62]
Ann Landers—In an interview with Christopher Buckly in the December 4, 1995 edition of theNew Yorker, columnist Ann Landers criticized Pope John Paul II. “After first making a favorable comment about the Pope, Landers remarked, ‘Of course, he’s a Polack. They’re very antiwomen.’ …Landers later apologized for the crack about the Pope…The Catholic League sent its own comments to the New Yorker and further disseminated its views via a news release and radio interviews….(T)he Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided to drop Landers’ column beginning in 1996.”[260pp63]
ABC’s “The Naked Truth”—The League strongly attacked the January 10 edition of the ABC show “The Naked Truth.” The League’s letter to ABC included this threat: “We will contact the sponsors of the program and will alert our members to take action against them. Knowing our members, they won’t hesitate to do so.” This report, which appears in the March 1996 issue of Catalyst, listed the names, addresses and phone numbers of the eight sponsors of that show.[260pp64]
“Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw”-San Diego radio program—The April 1996 edition of Catalystreports on an attempt by the League’s San Diego Chapter to have the “Lash Wednesday” segment of the Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw program discontinued. The local chapter charged that the “humor” was “unacceptable” and the segment must be discontinued. But it failed. At that point the national office of the Catholic League got involved and placed an ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune “calling attention to this outrage.” This prompted media requests for interviews with the chapter president who appeared live on KGTV, the ABC affiliate. The tenor of this interview was “so controversial” that the station was pressured to invite him back a second time. “This time the television reporters were much more respectful.” The League asked its members nationwide to contact the radio station General Manager and the President of PAR Broadcasting Company to demand that this segment be discontinued, providing his address, phone and fax numbers.[260pp65]
PBS’ Frontline—On February 6, 1996, PBS aired a program called, “Murder on ‘Abortion Row’”. The two hour special was a serious look at the life of John Salvi, the person who killed two women and wounded five others working at an abortion clinic in 1994. Salvi is a devout Catholic and had planned to become a Catholic priest. The Catholic League was given an opportunity to preview the program. It immediately released a statement to the press attacking the documentary which began, “The Frontline program, “Murder on ‘Abortion Row,’” is nothing more than a front for Planned Parenthood and an irresponsible propaganda piece against Catholicism.”[260pp66]
Newsday—On March 12, 1996, the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, ran a headline which read, “Ex-Alter Boy on Trial.” The League protested. Donohue called the paper’s editor: “The content and tone of his remarks assured Donohue that this would not happen again.”[260pp67] Newsday subsequently published a League letter-to-the-editor which was very critical of the newspaper.
HBO—On May 6, 1996, Home Box Office aired “Priestly Sins: Sex and the Catholic Church.” The one hour special focused on the issue of sexual abuse in the priesthood. The League issued a lengthy news release which sharply attacked HBO: “The film is classic propaganda…HBO is not the first to float the idea that a ‘code of secrecy’ keeps the Church from revealing the truth about clergy sexual abuse: that honor extends to the Nazis and others. The Catholic League will call on all Catholics to boycott HBO…”[260pp68]
Sony—The June 1996 issue of Catalyst reported on the Sony movie, “The Last Supper”: “The movie, while not offensive to Catholics, nonetheless offended Catholics with its promotional material. The League…wrote a letter of protest to Sony Picture Releasing President, Jeffrey Blake. The response from Sony was decisive: ‘We have taken the unusual step of modifying our marketing campaign’….The League is satisfied with this modification.”[260pp69]
AP—On March 31, 1996, the Associated Press ran a story about a suburban Chicago man suspected of assassinating a Philadelphia policeman a quarter-century ago. The story, which was distributed to newspapers all over the country, mentioned that the accused was “23, a Catholic school-educated telephone repairman, when the shooting occurred.” The League sent a letter of protest to the president of AP and urged all of its members to do the same, providing his name and address to them.[260pp70]
QVC Shopping Network—Continental Cablevision in New England had conducted a survey of 32,000 subscribers and found that viewers preferred to drop the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the Catholic cable network, in favor of the QVC Shopping Network. The New England Chapter of the Catholic League sharply opposed this change and Continental was muscled into continuing programming of EWTM.[260pp71]
Barneys New York—On December 9, 1994, the League successfully pressured Barneys of New York, an upscale clothing store, into removing an “offensive” nativity scene from its storefront window on Madison Avenue and 61st Street. Donohue informed Barneys that it had about four hours to contact the League, otherwise the media would be contacted. It didn’t take long before Simon Doonan, a senior vice president, called Donohue and extended an apology. However, Doonan flatly declined to do anything about the exhibit. Donohue then released a statement to the media that included the following comments: “Barneys New York and Christie’s have cooperated in promoting an insulting anti-Christian exhibit….Plainly put, this means that Barneys will respect the right of artists to show disrespect for the rights of Catholics. The Catholic League will disseminate this news to as wide an audience as possible. We do not accept Mr. Doonan’s apology: apologies unaccompanied by corrective action do not assuage.”[260pp72]
Catalyst went on to report: “Within hours of releasing this statement, the television cameras were in Dr. Donohue’s office. Just about every radio and television station in New York commented on the Barney exhibit….Barneys pulled the display from the window…giving the work back to the artist….In response to all of this, Barneys took out full page ads in The New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News, apologizing for what had happened. The ads, together with the boycotts that were instituted, wound up costing Barneys hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales.”[260pp72] Now that’s success!
Hard Rock Casino and Hotel—The December 1995 issue of Catalyst reports: “When the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel opened last March in Las Vegas, it featured a restored carved gothic altar in one of its cocktail bars….The offensive use of the altar has been a source of criticism by many area Catholics.” The local bishop complained to the owner, Peter Morton, who said it would be removed. After seven months of inaction, the Catholic League got involved. The League outlined its strategy to the press: “…the time has now come to put public pressure on Mr. Morton. The Catholic League will contact the media in Las Vegas about this incident, and will alert the national media to it as well. We will also take out ads in the local newspapers, as well as the diocesan newspaper, requesting Catholics not to patronize the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel and to organize demonstrations in front of the establishment. We will also contact local Catholic organizations to organize phone trees and deliver their message straight to Mr. Morton. If more pressure is needed, we will bring it to bear, including a national boycott of all Hard Rock Cafes.”[260pp73]
The Catholic League followed through on its promise by taking out three ads in area newspapers.[260pp74] Hard Rock quickly responded saying it would remove the altar on November 30. The report ended, “The Catholic League will announce its next move once it finds out what happens on November 30.[260pp75]
An article in its January/February 1996 issue: “Victory is Always Sweet: Hard Rock Hotel Pulls Altar” reads: “After responding to pressure brought by the Catholic League, the Hard Rock Hotel…withdrew an offensive altar from its bar…By giving the incident publicity, both nationally as well as locally, the Catholic League was able to secure the support of many influential Catholics, some of whom put pressure on Hard Rock….It cost Hard Rock approximately a quarter million dollars to remove the altar… we won.”[260pp76]
William Paterson College—On July 5, 1994, Professor Vernon McClean, an instructor in the African-American and Caribbean studies department at William Paterson College at Wayne, New Jersey, opened the first session of his summer class, “Racism and Sexism in a Changing America,” by saying the pope is a racist. The League was contacted and it sent representatives to the college. “No one in any office would speak with us. They took great umbrage at our inquiry and were totally uncooperative. We received the same treatment from three different offices—we were either dismissed or treated as though we had no right to be questioning the incident. Following this lack of cooperation and response from the college, we issued a press release demanding an apology from the college and disciplinary action against Professor McLean. The New Jersey papers gave the issue thorough coverage and the New York radio and television media also took note.”[260pp77]
After the college completed its investigation, it made a public statement that “the College is satisfied that the matter has been resolved fully and completely.” The League, however was not satisfied. “Accordingly, the Catholic League called upon state officials to conduct a formal hearing on the campus of William Paterson College; Governor Christie Whitman, senior higher education officials and area legislators were contacted….But thus far she (Governor Whitman) has been mute….The Catholic League will not be satisfied until justice has been done. Our goal is not to simply chastise one college professor….We’re taking the long view on this one and it would behoove people like President Speert (Paterson College president) to do likewise.”[260pp77]
University of Michigan—The University of Michigan student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, ran a cartoon that mocked Newt Gingrich’s promotion of Boys Town and also related to the pedophilia problem in the Catholic priesthood. Donohue wrote a threatening letter to Dr. James Duderstadt, President of the University of Michigan: “Enclosed is a copy of a cartoon that was run in The Michigan Daily….Please be advised that as president of the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization, I am prepared to do what is necessary to rid your campus of the bigotry it presently entertains.”[260pp78]
The very next issue of Catalyst reads: “We are happy to report that an apology from the cartoonist and a conciliatory letter from Dr. Duderstadt have brought this issue to a close.”[260pp79]
The Population Institute—In a May 1995 fund-raising letter, Werner Fornos, president of The Population Institute, wrote the following: “The Vatican continues to undermine the advancements we’ve made in Cairo on issues of pregnancy prevention. The anti-contraceptive gestapo has vowed to double the number of its delegation (to the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing) to 28 and to turn once more to weaken the cause of reproductive rights.” The July-August, 1995 issue of Catalyst describes the League’s response in an article, “Nazi Slur of Vatican Implicates Congressmen.”[260pp80]
In a news release, the Catholic League issued the following remarks: “The Population Institute proves once again that some of the anti-natalist forces are unquestionably anti-Catholic. Not content, or able, to debate the issues on their merits, these activists seek to defame the Holy See and thereby discredit its influence. Members of The Population Institute who share its politics, but not its bigotry, should make a clear and decisive break with the organization…. Accordingly, the Catholic League calls upon the following advisors to The Population Institute to resign immediately: Sen. Paul Simon, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Jim Leach, Rep. Robert Torricelli and Rep. Sam Gejdenson. Not to resign would be to give tacit support to anti-Catholicism…The Catholic League [also] wrote to each Congressman involved in this scandal.”[260pp80]
The September 1995 issue of Catalyst reports: “Senator Daniel K. Inouye complied with the League’s request and resigned from the Population Institute. Senator Barbara Boxer of California put The Population Institute on notice, warning that any future examples of ‘inappropriate’ and ‘offensive’ fundraising letters would lead her ‘to reconsider’ her position with the organization. Congressman Robert Torricelli of New Jersey…warned The Population Institute to be more careful in how it phrases its letters.”[260pp81]
Anti-Defamation League—On December 1, 1995, the ADL notified the publisher, Hippocrene Books that it was granting a prestigious literary award to Richard Lukas for his book, Did the Children Cry? Hitler’s War Against Jewish and Polish Children. Lukas was to receive the literary award, plus a prize of $1,000 on January 23, 1996 at the ADL’s headquarters in New York. On January 10, the ADL’s Mark Edelman, wrote to the publisher stating that a mistake had been made; that subsequent review led to a decision to reverse the initial judgment. The May 1996 issue of Catalyst reports, “When the Catholic League learned of what had happened, it was incensed.” Donohue wrote a letter to Edelman: “For the record, I would like to know exactly why the book was selected for an award in the first place. Surely there are records of this evaluation. And I would also like to know why those reasons were found unpersuasive—and by whom—at a later date.”
The report continues: “The Catholic League…did not receive a response from the ADL until the matter was favorably resolved on March 18. But the good news did not come until considerable pressure had been brought to bear. Before the ADL reversed its decision not to give the award, the attorney for author Lukas had already warned the ADL that it would be sued. When the ADL made its announcement to reinstate the award to Lukas, it noted that it still had several problems with the book. The ADL said that ‘we believe the book underestimates the extent of Polish anti-Semitism before and after World War II. We believe also that, while there were heroic efforts of some Poles during this time, the book appears to vastly overestimate the number of Poles who were engaged in such courageous actions. Finally, the ADL believes the book presents a sanitized picture of Polish involvement with Jews during the War and overlooks authoritative points of view of many historians, including Polish historians.’ Though justice prevailed in the end, this marks a sad chapter in the ADL’s history….We hope that the ADL has learned an important lesson and that such ‘mistakes’ will be avoided in the future.”[260pp82]
The Clinton Administration—The October 1994 Catalyst headline reads “League Assails Clinton Administration for Bigotry.” This article reports: “In an unprecedented move, the Catholic League assailed the administration of a standing president for anti-Catholic bigotry. From the time President Clinton took office, it has become increasingly evident that his administration is insensitive at best, and downright hostile at worst, to Catholic interests. But the final straw occurred during the third weekend in August. Faith Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the State Department, charged that the Vatican’s disagreement over the Cairo conference on population and development ‘has to do with the fact that the conference is really calling for girls’ education and improving the status of women.’ That statement was so outrageous that one of our members…wrote a strong letter registering her concerns to President Clinton…and [this letter] was published as a Catholic League open letter to the President in the August 29th edition of The New York Times.”[260pp83]
This open letter, published as a half-page advertisement sponsored by the Catholic League, ran in all editions of The New York Times on August 29, 1994. It viciously attacks Faith Mitchell and requests President Clinton to retract and apologize for her statement.[260pp84]
In an article published in this issue, Donohue writes: “The anti-Catholic bigots in the Clinton administration got so exercised during the Cairo conference that Leon Panetta [who is Catholic], the White House Chief of Staff, acknowledged that there was a problem with Catholic-bashing and vowed to discipline anyone who continued to chide the Vatican.”[260pp85] Apparently, any criticism of the Vatican, no matter how just, is off limits.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders—In an editorial in the January-February issue of Catalyst, “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Donohue writes, “We have rolled into 1995 with a string of victories. Dr. Elders is gone…Dr. Joycelyn Elders is one for the books. The very first news release I issued when I took over as president of the Catholic League in July 1993 was in opposition to the nomination of Dr. Elders as Surgeon General…Through the month of August, we pressed hard to stop her nomination: we held a press conference at the National Press Club and wrote to all the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but we ultimately fell short of our objective. What we did not do, however, was give up. We continued to criticize Dr. Elders whenever she made an irresponsible statement…”[260pp86]
An article in the same issue, “Elder’s Exit Applauded,” reads: “The Catholic League is delighted to see that one of the most outspoken anti-Catholic bigots in the Clinton administration has been axed. Joycelyn Elders was nominated to the office of Surgeon General by President Clinton in 1993 and confirmed later by the Senate. The Catholic League opposed her nomination and confirmation from the beginning. Her anti-Catholic statements…should have alone disqualified her from a position of national influence and authority…The Catholic League continued to speak out against her during her tenure as Surgeon General.”[260pp87]
This is but a very small sample of the attacks by the League over this two year period. It is unfortunate that space limits the number. These examples are presented almost entirely in the League’s own words. As one surveys its material, it becomes evident that all criticism of the Church or anything that places the Church in a negative light is deemed anti-Catholic, despicable and impermissible. The Church is simply above all criticism. The Catholic League obviously rejects America because it rejects what America stands for, including the freedoms of speech, expression and the press. This stand taken by the Catholic League is consistent with nearly two centuries of Catholic teaching on these matters and we should expect nothing different.
Intimidation, such as has been described in this chapter, by Catholic institutions over the past hundred years, has resulted in a populace woefully ignorant of the threat to American democracy and security posed by the Church. This intimidation has made it possible for the Church to go unchallenged.
How can Americans publicly discuss the obvious conflict between American national security-survival interests and Papal security-survival interests in this environment that the Catholic League now so effectively fosters? Obviously, it is not possible. Not only were the recommendations of the Rockefeller Commission and the NSSM 200 report never implemented, they were never publicly debated. Few Americans are even aware of NSSM 200 or this conflict in security interests. Intimidation by Catholic institutions has completely suppressed appropriate investigation of this conflict. Indeed, this intimidation has shut off the flow of the kinds of facts that resulted in these recommendations—facts of which all Americans should be fully aware. Without this vital information and discussion in a public forum, there can be no democratic solution to this conflict between the interests of the nation and of the Catholic Church—a dilemma well understood by the hierarchy.
[260pp1] Donohue W. We’ve Only Just Begun. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 3.
[260pp2] Christian Coalition Conference a Success. Catalyst October 1995. p. 15.
[260pp3] Donohue W. A Banner Year for the Catholic League. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 3.
[260pp4] Christian Coalition Conference a Success. Catalyst October 1995. p. 15.
[260pp5] Women’s Ordination Letter Draws Liberal Media Fire: Editorial Criticism of Papal Letter Earns Response. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 8.
[260pp6] Sheridan A. Ignatian Society Petitions Cardinal Hickey to Remove Fr. Drinan’s Faculties. The Wanderer July 18, 1996. p. 1.
[260pp7] Donohue W. Our Members Make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp9] Donohue W. The Vatican, Women and Non-Catholics. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 7.
[260pp10] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. June 1995.
[260pp11] Donohue W. The Message From Florida Is: Bigots Beware. Catalyst April 1995. p. 3.
[260pp13] Donohue W. Catholic League’s 1994 Report on Anti-Catholicism. New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. p. 2.
[260pp14] Donohue W. The Message From Florida Is: Bigots Beware. Catalyst April 1995. p. 3.
[260pp16] Donohue W. Catholic League’s 1994 Report on Anti-Catholicism. New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. p. 2.
[260pp18] Blum VC. Public Policy Making: Why the Churches Strike Out. America March 6, 1971. p. 224.
[260pp19] Anti-Catholicism Nation’s Worst Prejudice. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 13.
[260pp20] Donohue W. Our Members make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp21] Donohue W. A Banner Year for the Catholic League. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 3.
[260pp22] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. June 1995.
[260pp23] Catholic League Op-Ed page ad which appeared in the April 10, 1995 issue of the New York Times, “What’s Happening to Disney?” signed by William A. Donohue, President.
[260pp24] The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts Forms. The Wanderer October 8, 1995. p. 8.
[260pp25] Report On Anti-Catholicism Released. Catalyst April 1995. p. 1.
[260pp26] Report On Anti-Catholicism Released. Catalyst May 1996. p. 1.
[260pp27] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. February 1995.
[260pp28] Donohue W. A Banner Year for the Catholic League. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 3.
[260pp30] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. September 1995.
[260pp31] Catholic League letter announcing a press conference signed by League President William Donohue. August 1994.
[260pp32] Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score. Catalyst November 1995. p. 1.
[260pp33] Donohue W. Our Members make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp34] Catholic League fundraising letter signed by William Donohue mailed December 1995.
[260pp35] Donohue W. Catholic League’s 1995 Report on Anti-Catholicism. New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. p. 4.
[260pp36] Donohue W. The Fallout Over “Priest.” Catalyst June 1995. p. 3.
[260pp37] “60 Minutes” Rigs Show Against Catholic Church. Catalyst March 1995. p. 1.
[260pp38] Give It To “60 Minutes”…. Catalyst March 1995. p. 4A.
[260pp39] Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score. Catalyst November 1995. p. 1.
[260pp40] We’re “Paranoid.” Catalyst June 1996. p. 1.
[260pp41] Report On Anti-Catholicism Released. Catalyst May 1996. p. 1.
[260pp42] Donohue W. Our Members make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp43] Newsday’s Marlette Offends Twice in One Week. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 8.
[260pp44] Meeting with Newsday Editor. Catalyst September 1994. p. 2.
[260pp45] Meeting with Newsday Editorial Board. Catalyst October 1994. p. 2.
[260pp46] Cardinal Bevilacqua Scores Philadelphia Inquirer For Church Coverage, Declines Interview. Catalyst September 1994. p. 6.
[260pp47] AP Responds to League Complaint. Catalyst May 1995. p. 1.
[260pp48] Catholic League Calls for Boycott of Disney. Catalyst May 1995. p. 1.
[260pp49] Donohue W. There’s Anger in the Land. Catalyst May 1995. p. 3.
[260pp50] Petition Against Disney. Catalyst May 1995. p. 5.
[260pp51] What’s Happening to Disney?, a Catholic League Op-Ed page ad which appeared in the April 10, 1995 issue of The New York Times. Catalyst May 1995. p. 12.
[260pp52] Disney Targeted By Resolution. Catalyst June 1995. p. 1.
[260pp53] League Pickets Disney. Catalyst June 1995. p. 14.
[260pp54] Disney Protests Continue. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 4.
[260pp55] Disney Gets Present From Catholic League. Catalyst January-February 1996. p. 9.
[260pp56] Jane Pauley Shows Anti-Catholic Bias. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 15.
[260pp57] KFI Radio (Los Angeles) Insults Catholics. Catalyst September 1995. p. 5.
[260pp58] Orlando Newspaper Insults Catholics. Catalyst October 1995. p. 6.
[260pp59] Media Wars on Catholicism: Fox Promo Withdrawn. Catalyst November 1995. p. 4.
[260pp60] Media Wars on Catholicism: Bravo Makes Obscene Show. Catalyst November 1995. p. 5.
[260pp61] Texaco Apologizes, Bravo Condescends. Catalyst December 1995. p. 13.
[260pp62] You Can Make a Difference. Catalyst December 1995. p. 2.
[260pp63] Ann (S)Landers Lashes Out at Pope and Polish People. Catalyst January-February 1996. p. 10.
[260pp64] ABC Show “The Naked Truth” Ridicules Catholicism. Catalyst March 1996. p. 4.
[260pp65] San Diego Radio Program Mocks Catholicism, Drawing League Response. Catalyst April 1996. p. 1.
[260pp66] PBS’ “Frontline” Exploits Catholicism in Abortion Program. Catalyst April 1996. p. 6.
[260pp67] Protest of Bias Yields Favorable Result. Catalyst May 1996. p. 13.
[260pp68] HBO Offers Tabloid Look at Catholic Church. Catalyst June 1996. p. 1.
[260pp69] League Protest of “The Last Supper” Pays Off. Catalyst June 1996. p. 4.
[260pp70] AP Red Flags Catholic Religion. Catalyst June 1996. p. 13.
[260pp71] New England Chapter Helps Save EWTN. Catalyst June 1996. p. 13.
[260pp72] League Pressures N.Y. Store To Remove Offensive Creche. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 1.
[260pp73] Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas Offends Catholics. Catalyst December 1995. p. 4.
[260pp74] Why is the Hard Rock Hotel Offending Catholics? Catalyst December 1995. p. 5.
[260pp75] Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas Offends Catholics. Catalyst December 1995. p. 4.
[260pp76] Hard Rock Hotel Pulls Altar. Catalyst January-February 1996. p. 6.
[260pp77] Pope Defamed at New Jersey State College. Catalyst September 1994. p. 1.
[260pp78] University of Michigan Cartoon Draws Swift League Response. Catalyst March 1995. p. 11.
[260pp79] University of Michigan Cartoonist Apologizes. Catalyst April 1995. p. 2.
[260pp80] Nazi Slur of Vatican Implicates Congressmen. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 1.
[260pp81] Senator Inouye Resigns From Population Institute After League Protest. Catalyst September 1995. p. 4.
[260pp82] Protest Stirs ADL to Restore Prize to Author. Catalyst May 1996. p. 6.
[260pp83] League Assails Clinton Administration for Bigotry. Catalyst October 1994. p. 1.
[260pp84] Open Letter To The President. This half-page ad sponsored by the Catholic League ran in all editions of The New York Times on August 29, 1994. Catalyst October 1994. p. 8.
[260pp85] Donohue W. The Holy See, Cairo and The Pundits. Catalyst October 1994. p. 11.
[260pp86] Donohue W. We’ve Only Just Begun. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 3.
[260pp87] Elder’s Exit Applauded. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 4.