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Prominent Catholics want Seattle Archdiocese to open all sex-abuse files


Prominent Catholics want Seattle Archdiocese to open all sex-abuse files

By Lewis Kamb, The Seattle Times
From the Link: Prominent Catholics want Seattle Archdiocese to open all sex-abuse files

SEATTLE — Two prominent legal professionals and practicing Catholics want straight answers from the Seattle Archdiocese to questions about its recently published list of clergy members identified as admitted or credibly accused child-sex abusers.

Terry Carroll, a retired King County Superior Court judge, and Mike McKay, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said they’re frustrated with what appears to be more of a public-relations move than a sincere effort at transparency and accountability.

In 2004, the two men headed an appointed review panel charged with examining clergy sex-abuse cases that recommended the archdiocese publicize names of credibly accused clergy. This month, the archdiocese essentially did that — disclosing names of 77 priests and others “for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, established or determined to be credible.”

 The list is posted on the archdiocese’s website. For each offender, it offers a name, a current status with the church and details about dates and assignments within the archdiocese spanning from the 1920s to 2007.

But the accounting provides no details about when and where the alleged sex abuse occurred — information Carroll and McKay contend parishioners and the public deserve to know.

“Congratulate them on publishing these names, but that’s hardly the full story,” Carroll said. “Not so fast. Fill in the gaps and let us talk about it. I think that would be the healthiest thing moving ahead.”

The two men urged the archdiocese to provide a thorough public airing about the church’s work in addressing child-sex-abuse issues leading up to the list, as well as answering several key questions:

• Why did it take so long for the archdiocese to publish the list?

• Why aren’t the names of certain credibly accused priests from other religious orders included in it?

• How many children were victimized by each offender?

• How much money has the archdiocese spent in attorneys’ fees fighting sex-abuse claims, and how did it pay for them?

Carroll and McKay also want the archdiocese to release each listed clergy member’s secret file in full, other than redacting names of victims.

“Put it all out there,” Carroll said. “Open these files and let us finally know exactly what happened so that we can put it behind us, instead of this type of an approach they’re doing with talking points and all of the spin that goes along with it.”

Since it published the list on the Friday afternoon before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the archdiocese has said it will continue reviewing cases to determine if additional information or names should be included.

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Archbishop Peter Sartain

But it hasn’t responded to a number of follow-up questions, and rejected a request to provide additional information about those on the list and the allegations against them. Archbishop Peter Sartain has declined interview requests.

Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni, in responding to Carroll’s and McKay’s question about attorneys’ fees, said it’s “nearly impossible” to determine what has been spent because the fees were part of settlement costs covered by insurance.

Transparency, healing

The archdiocese has said publication of the list was motivated by Sartain’s commitment to transparency and healing for victims, not by outside pressure or legal concerns.

The endeavor came after months of work by a consultant hired to evaluate case files and an appointed board that reviewed her recommendations, Magnoni has said.

But Carroll and McKay believe fallout from parishioners’ criticism over the archdiocese’s mishandling of an accused priest in 2014 prompted Sartain to act. The priest, the Rev. Harold Quigg, was among 13 clergy that Carroll, McKay and eight others on the 2004 review board investigated for child-sex-abuse claims.

The board supported accusations against nine priests and did not substantiate claims about three others. It also found allegations against Quigg to be credible, but determined they didn’t amount to child-sex abuse because the minor involved was 17 — a year older than the age of consent under church law.

Archbishop Alex Brunett

Archbishop Alex Brunett

Still, the panel wrote to then-Archbishop Alex Brunett, “This priest’s actions were so egregious so as to make him unsuitable for the priesthood.”

Among recommendations in a June 2004 report, the board advised Brunett to seek to defrock or bar from public ministry Quigg and the nine others, and to publicize their names.

Brunett resisted publishing the board’s report and wanted it rewritten, Carroll and McKay said. Brunett at the time said the board had exceeded its charge and that most of the recommendations were already in place.

Only after board members threatened to resign did Brunett publish the report, including the names of the nine priests. But Quigg’s name wasn’t released.

Brunett told the board Quigg “would live this life of private contemplation and penitence, but there would be no public ministry,” McKay said.

A few months later, when McKay attended a Catholic funeral of a friend in Bellevue, Quigg was officiating at the Mass.

“There he is up on the altar, and I’m very sure I’m the only one in the congregation that knew he shouldn’t be there,” McKay recalled.

In a December 2004 letter to Burnett, six review-board members called him out about Quigg and took issue with him for not adequately responding to their recommendations for more accountability for perpetrators and improved safeguards to reduce further abuse.

But 10 years later, North End parishioners at St. Bridget Church who learned Quigg was supposed to be barred from public ministry complained he still occasionally performed baptisms, funerals and weddings.

In May 2014, the archdiocese issued a statement about Quigg, detailing that starting in 1980, he and a teenager had “engaged in a 15-year-relationship.”

“The information was not made public because of the determination that the sexual contact did not involve a minor,” said the statement, which noted Brunett had ordered Quigg barred from public ministry.

The statement also said the archdiocese “learned recently” that Quigg had disobeyed the orders and that parish leaders weren’t alerted to the restrictions on him.

Carroll and McKay fired off a letter to Sartain, who replaced Brunett in 2010. It criticized the archdiocese’s statement about Quigg for errors and for downplaying the serious nature of his abuse.

“We had to call them on that for a couple reasons,” McKay said. “One, it was false. But secondly, it reflects a lack of vigilance on the Chancery’s part. We put them on notice about Quigg, and 10 years later, they said they didn’t know he was in active ministry.”

A short time later, Carroll and McKay sent another letter to Sartain, asking for an update on the nine other credibly accused priests from their 2004 review.

In July 2014, Sartain responded with an update saying all nine had been removed or restricted from ministry. His letter added he hadn’t had to discipline a priest for child-sex abuse since taking over as archbishop, nor was he “aware of any priests who have been disciplined for sexual abuse by Archbishop Brunett after 2002 that were not made public.”

Sartain concluded: “There is no place in the church for those who abuse minors, and I intend to do everything in my power to be sure that the vulnerable are protected and safe in our parishes and schools.”

Within three months of his letter, the archdiocese’s legal counsel had hired Kathleen McChesney, a consultant who specializes in investigating child-sexual abuse in religious institutions. She was tasked with compiling the list of credibly accused clergy.

 

The investigation

McChesney reviewed dozens of files to compile the list of 77 names by April 2015, she said.

“This was not an investigation by any means,” said McChesney, a former King County police officer and FBI administrator. “People were not contacted and interviewed.”

Instead, McChesney mostly focused on information already in the files.

“For the names we put forth, we felt we had enough information to make those determinations,” she said.

Because she was hired by the archdiocese’s legal counsel, McChesney said her work is covered by attorney-client privilege.

“Some people might think (the archdiocese) did this for protection, but that’s not the case,” McChesney said. “There’s integrity in this and the people who worked with me. We didn’t have to do this. Our goal is to encourage others to come forward.”

Lucy Berliner, a member of both the 2004 review board and the current one that evaluated McChesney’s recommendations, added that the panel thoughtfully considered each case.

“The reason it took so long was because of this sort of caring, deliberative process we took,” said Berliner, who directs the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress. “And in my view, it was very transparent.”

Many clergy on the list previously had been named in news reports and by victims’ advocates. That includes Quigg, who died last November. A number of other accused clergy — and lay employees — are missing from the list, some say.

McKay and Carroll said they believe McChesney and the board’s work is competent.

“We’re not disputing that,” Carroll said. “But there are other questions, and for the sake of transparency, much more needs to be known.”

The Catholic church should be outlawed forthwith


The Catholic church should be outlawed forthwith

JohnB on outlawing the Catholic church today

From the link: http://www.molestedcatholics.com/

After all my anger at the crimes and the harm done to society by the Catholic cover up is the need to understand how the healing journey can go and how it can help straighten a part of your life – it helps to regain a part of your truth and to show the depth of the damage and the harm caused by the actions of Catholics in their attempts to cover up the crimes of their fellow Catholics and their clergy.

Talking whilst driving with my son today and I began to relate to him some details about a foot injury I had as a child. He had come home and shown me a blister on his foot; I told him he had not spent enough time in bare feet – that was the prompt,  my topic could be my right foot or how long/harmful/life distorting the repression of the day to day Catholic cover up are – its part of the healing journey and a son who smiled today when he listened to me about this – its the story of how I had to cover up the injury even though I had to have ongoing medical attention and purpose made boots it was always done in the name of something else – my injured foot which had left me with a distinct limp because I walked with my foot turned in as it had been injured seriously when the car door was repeatedly slammed on my foot on the day the priest raped me at a little church in the beautiful hills of Central Victoria – its about how every Catholic knew what the cause was and every Catholic knew I was not permitted to speak about it – they were able to assist me with my pigeon toed-ness but they were not able to help me with my injured foot due to being slammed in the lock of the car door as that was a lie that would send me to hell – that’s why other kids parents were permitted to beat you if they heard you speak about it being what it in fact was. This was a conscious campaign by every catholic in that town, nuns and priests, knights of the Southern Cross, bishops, the local Catholic Policeman, the Editor of the local newspaper included – they all knew and participated – that to me is what the cover up was and the to me is what the cover up is today – that is what Catholic parishes across the world participate in still today – that is the Catholic cover up in action. It is bigger and stronger than just the Catholic hierarchy because so many have built their careers and their fortunes on.

The part skepticism plays in helping to clarify those truths and facts of your life – you realize that your own brothers and sisters were blackmailed in the same way over this and over dozens of other crimes that had occurred and were covered up – there was a regular murmurous uproar as another instances of sexual abuse was gossiped and whispered about and some kid bullied into fear of their life until the rules of secrecy were instilled (rather this repression was the enforcement of denial into the entire catholic population.

How deep is that repression?
How clarifying it is to me as a person. Reason and memory fit as another part of the jig-saw each of us who experienced this repression which was deployed on to all Catholic children. This was the cruelest and most psychologically damaging process that a human being could be put through- the entire religion and its entire congregation believed fervently that the were the leading light of Christianity – they led the world in morality, justice, humanity, compassion, leadership, ethics, community,salvation, redemption whilst they practiced the ways of the psychopath through a regime of terror inflicted through the fear of eternal hell, damnation, spiritual death and the very real and very often ostracism they deployed on those in the community the wished to bring into line.
Catholics were and remain efficient at that form of repression, they are persistent and ruthless as they are religiously sanctioned by the bishops, priest and nuns (each of whom backed up the story of the priest – this sealed the fate of any victim child of any form of torture who attempted to break out from it.
Those who survived that became good Catholics and continued with this genocidal war against their own children to ensure they would be as psychologically harmed as their parents – it became a self replicating child repressing monster that enshrined its rites to continue with these atrocious abuses of the rights  of a human child. The Catholic church is riven with this thinking and behavior, it is endemic in its persistence within the entire life of a Catholic it is endemic in all those religions which followed the same course and who between them have polluted our society to the point where the blatant sexual abuse of more than 30 million people alive today must be held in repression by the believers in the Catholic religion.

If society does not turn away from the path of the Catholic church and if it does not freeze its assets, its businesses then the vast majority of the real crime in our society will never be addressed and the world will never have had a real chance to raise our children in a peaceful, loving and truthful environment. Lets make 2011 the year we all come together to unite in the single cause of demanding our government ceases to trade with and Catholic or religious entity until democracy is restored in our country.

There is no precedent that permits a sector of society to enact genocide on its followers on the basis of religion. That is what we have today and what we have today is insidious and at the core of the ability of society to progress in the areas of human rights, dignity, respect, individuality, freedom of expression of thought and the freedom of speech.

While ever the Catholic church continues to exist and to be able to function as an organized religion it will be in the process of enacting the genocidal practices of the religion against some portion of society and it will continue to enable wars just as any organized religion can and repeatedly to the detriment of society does. The Catholic church is our most obvious example. We can either help the Catholic church to  prevail or we can help our children to prevail. For every person on the planet the real choice they have to make is whether they will support the Catholic church or will they support the children.

2011 must be the year when those of us across the world who have an understanding of this and for us to collectively demand our governments brings it to a halt and never permits it to occur again. That is a part of their moral obligation to society. Any politician who today stands in support of the Catholic church should be collectively condemned through our united and collective voices.

Make 2011 the year when you connect up with a proactive survivor who speaks clearly and directly about the needs and the means of providing the safety and the protection our children and our society need.

The Catholic church and those who follow it today need to stand back and permit reason and justice to prevail, to permit each and every person within the boundaries of their country to live with the legitimate right to live in a free and democratic country free of repression and child abuse.

The Catholic church stands condemned as a psychopathic pariah and must be rejected in all forms wherever it is not regulated and policed.

Join with us and support us in our demand to governments across the world that the repression and actions of genocide carried out by Catholics and the Catholic church must cease immediately.

JohnB

Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases


Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases

By  | 

From the link: http://ncronline.org/news/women-religious/bishops-investigating-us-nuns-have-poor-records-sex-abuse-cases#.UXwI06Wxrjg.facebook

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles, a joint reporting project by NCR and GlobalPost.com, examining the background and the principle players in the Vatican’s investigations of U.S. women religious.

From its palace in Vatican City, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith monitors compliance with Roman Catholic moral teaching and matters of dogma for the oldest church in Christendom.

These issues have little bearing on most of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Faith, for them, rests in parish life and the quality of their pastors. In the 1980s, for example, when the congregation punished theologians who dissented from the papal ban on artificial birth control, the majority of Catholics who believe contraception is morally acceptable did not change their opinion.

But as the congregation accelerates a disciplinary action against the main leadership group of American nuns, many sisters and priests are reacting to a climate of fear fostered by bishops and cardinals who have never been investigated for their role in the greatest moral crisis of modern Catholicism: the clergy sex abuse crisis.

A small but resonant chorus of critics is raising an issue of a hypocrisy that has grown too blatant to ignore. The same hierarchy that brought shame upon the Vatican for recycling clergy child molesters, a scandal that rocked the church in many countries, has assumed a moral high ground in punishing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group whose members have put their lives on the line in taking the social justice agenda of the Second Vatican Council to some of the poorest areas in the world.

Many nuns from foreign countries wonder if the investigation is an exercise “in displaced anger,” as one sister puts it, over the hierarchy’s failure in child abuse scandals across the map of the global church.

Cardinals and bishops involved in the LCWR investigation have suffered no discipline for their blunders in handling clergy pedophiles, according to news reports and legal documents.

Cardinal Bernard Law was the prime mover behind the “apostolic visitation” of all American nun communities, other than monastic ones, and the subsequent doctrinal investigation of LCWR, according to sources in Rome, including Cardinal Franc Rodé, retired prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Law, who refused to comment for this article, has not spoken to the press in 10 years. He resigned as Boston archbishop in December 2002 and spent 18 months living at a convent of nuns in Maryland, with periodic trips to Rome. In 2004, the Vatican rewarded him with a position as prefect of Santa Maria Maggiore, a historic basilica; he took an active role in several Roman Curia boards, and became a fixture on the social circuit of embassies in Rome.

Boston was a staggering mess. Settlements and other expenditures related to abuse cases there have cost about $170 million. Mass attendance since 2002 has dropped to 16 percent. Declining financial support has caused a storm of church closings, from nearly 400 parishes in 2002 to 288 today (soon to be organized into 135 “parish collaboratives”).

Six years after Law found redemption in Rome, clergy abuse cases exploded in Europe.

“You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Catholics of Ireland in a letter on March 19, 2010, as the Irish reeled from a government report on a history of bishops concealing clergy predators. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” the pope continued.

“You find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope.”

Despite the uncommon tone of contrition, the pope’s letter offered no procedures to remove complicit bishops or genuine institutional reform.

On April 6, 2010, as cases of clergy abuse in other countries shook the European heartland, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel criticized Benedict for “reluctance to take a firm stance” on the abuse a crisis, which “is now descending upon the Vatican with a vengeance and hitting its spiritual leader hard.”

Almost three years later, the drumbeat of criticism has subsided, but the core problem is unchanged. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., remains in his office despite his conviction in criminal court, where he drew a suspended sentence for failure to report suspected sexual abuse of children. Benedict has not punished any of the hierarchs who recycled so many sex offenders by sending them to other parishes.

Under the logic of apostolic succession, which sees each bishop as a descendant of Jesus’ apostles, the power structure gives de facto immunity to cardinals and bishops for just about any wrongdoing that doesn’t bring a prison sentence. The double standard in church governance — with the men of the hierarchy immune from church justice — has become a glaring issue to leaders of missionary orders in Rome as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith probes the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In 2005, shortly after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emerged from the conclave as Pope Benedict XVI, he appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to succeed him as prefect of the doctrinal congregation. Levada became a cardinal soon after.

Levada was caught in a swamp in 2002 amid news reports on abuse cases under his watch in San Francisco. He formed an Independent Review Board of primarily laypeople to advise him and review personnel files on questionable priests. Psychologist James Jenkins chaired the board. Fr. Greg Ingels, a canon lawyer, helped set it up. Jenkins grew suspicious when Levada would not release the names of priests under scrutiny.

In May 2003, board members were stunned to read news reports that Ingels had been indicted for allegedly having oral sex with a 15-year-old boy at a local high school in the 1970s. Levada, the board learned, had known about the allegations since 1996, yet kept Ingels in ministry and as an adviser. Ingels helped fashion the church’s 2002 zero-tolerance policy and wrote a bishops’ guidebook on how to handle abuse cases. Ingels stepped down.

Jenkins quit his post, denouncing Levada for “an elaborate public relations scheme.”

Levada was sued for defamation by a priest he pulled from a parish for blowing the whistle on another priest. In 1997, Fr. John Conley told police that the pastor with whom he served made advances on a teenage boy. Levada yanked Conley from ministry; Conley, a former assistant U.S. attorney, sued. After the accused priest owned up in a civil case, which paid the victim’s family $750,000, the archdiocese paid Conley in 2002 a six-figure “pre-retirement” settlement before the suit went to trial.

Robert Mickens reported in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly, in May 2012 that Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, a protégé of Law’s, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate LCWR.

Lori established several communities of traditionalist nuns as bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., between 2001 and 2012.

As a canon lawyer, Lori helped write the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It has no oversight over bishops. In 2003, Lori approved a $21 million abuse victims’ settlement involving several priests. The lay group Voice of the Faithful criticized him for allowing an accused monsignor to stay in his parish. In 2011 the priest resigned after a female church worker made sexual harassment allegations.

In a Jan. 12, 2011, Connecticut Post op-ed piece, Voice of the Faithful leader John Marshall Lee cited a priest who had been suspended for sex abuse yet appeared in clerical attire at public gatherings.

“Does this behavior contradict Bishop Lori’s assumed supervisory orders suspending priestly public activities?” Lee asked. “How does a bishop enforce his instructions in this regard? Where does a whistleblower report this behavior, or determine if the priest in question was suspended in the first place?”

Lee cited another cleric who had been removed after “credible allegations of sexual abuse” but with no indication that he was defrocked.

“There is no current address for this man who might have been labeled ‘sex offender’ (had the church acted responsibly when leaders first heard of adult criminal behavior perpetrated on Catholic children) and who may continue to be a potential threat to children,” Lee said. “Is the church saying that such men are no longer a public threat to children?”

Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who wrote the secret report on LCWR for Levada, has said he got most of his information from LCWR literature. Writing in his diocesan paper, Blair made the accurate point that several speakers at LCWR conferences have taken positions, such as ordaining women, that are contrary to church teaching.

Does this mean that the ordination of women is a new form of heresy? If the truth of the church is defined by men who have violated basic moral standards in disregarding the rights of children and their families, how does their behavior meet the sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful, extolled by the Second Vatican Council?

Blair’s own background spotlights a double standard that rewards bishops who scandalize laypeople.

In 2004, the priest who had headed the Toledo diocese’s 2001-2002 $60 million capital campaign was accused by two men of having abused them as boys many years before. Blair kept Fr. Robert Yeager as the diocese’s planned giving consultant, and until Yeager’s retirement in July 2005, the priest continued to solicit donations while an attorney negotiated settlements for the victims. The bishop removed Yeager from ministry in 2006, before the settlements made news.

Blair forcibly retired a veteran pastor who criticized the bishop’s parish closures as “high-handed decisions with almost no collaboration with anyone.” In one parish Blair installed a priest who had had a long relationship with a woman. When the parishioners found out, Blair reassigned the priest. A spokesperson said the bishop had to keep quiet as the priest had told him in confession.

In 2005, parishioners in the farm belt town of Kansas, Ohio, filed a Vatican appeal when Blair closed St. James Parish. It failed. They filed suit to save the parish in county court, arguing that the bishop was only one trustee but parishioners owned the property. The state sided with the bishop. “We spent $100,000 in legal fees,” said parishioner Virginia Hull. “Bishop Blair paid his lawyers with $77,957 from our parish account.” Blair had the church demolished.

Blair, Lori and Levada became bishops with help from Law, whose influence at the Vatican as a member of Congregation for Bishops is pivotal in selecting new American priests for the hierarchy.

Along with Blair, the second member of the three-man committee now supervising LCWR is Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. In a 2007 homily in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Red Mass, an annual liturgy for lawyers and judges, Paprocki, who has degrees in civil and canon law, declared, “The law is being used as an instrument of attack on the church. This was true from the earliest times when the earliest Christians were, in effect, outlaws in the Roman Empire for refusing to worship the official state gods.”

He saw clergy abuse lawsuits were undermining the church’s religious freedom. “This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd,” he insisted.

“The principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil,” he said.

Equating the devil with lawyers seeking financial compensation for victims of child sexual abuse drew heavy criticism.

In a 2010 homily, Paprocki took a rhetorical back step, saying, “Apparently I did not make myself clear that it is the sins of priests and bishops who succumbed to the temptations of the devil that have put their victims and the Catholic community in this horrible situation in the first place.”

In a column for his diocesan newspaper before the November election, Paprocki attacked the Democratic Party platform for its support of legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

Without endorsing Mitt Romney outright, he wrote, “A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your soul in serious jeopardy.”

Did bishops who sent child molesters from parish to parish, on to fresh victims, without warning parishioners, promote “actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil”? Does apostolic succession absolve them of all wrongdoing?

Bishops gain stature in the estimation of cardinals and popes by proving their loyalty. A chief way to do that is by serving as an investigator of priests or nuns who run afoul of the hierarchy as threats to the moral teaching upheld by bishops, regardless of what the bishops have done.

Leading the Vatican’s supervision of LCWR, the doctrinal congregation delegated Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to ensure that the nuns’ leadership group conforms to changes the Vatican wants.

Sartain was previously the bishop of Joliet, Ill., a diocese that was wracked with abuse cover-ups and lawsuits under his predecessor.

In spring of 2009, a Joliet seminarian, Alejandro Flores, was caught with pornographic pictures of youths, some of which appeared to be of underage boys. No criminal charges were filed.

Sartain ordained Flores three months later, in June 2009. Then in January 2010, Flores was arrested for molesting a boy. He pleaded guilty in September 2010, the same month that Benedict promoted Sartain to archbishop of Seattle.

Next: a report on issues of property owned by women religious in which the Vatican investigation has taken interest

[Jason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, writes from New Orleans. Research for this series has been funded by a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.]

8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church


8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church

If pedophile payouts weren’t enough to convince you the Catholic leadership is often anything but moral, take a look at some of their other sins.

Did the Catholic Bishops wince last week when their leader, anti-contraception Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was exposed for paying pedophiles to disappear? One can only hope. After all, these are men who claim to speak for God. They have direct access to the White House, where they regularly weigh in on issues ranging from military policy to bioethics, and they expect us all to listen – not because of relevant expertise or elected standing, but because of their moral authority.

Ahem.

If pedophile payouts weren’t enough to convince you that this “moral” authority is often anything but moral, take a look at some of their other sins against compassion and basic decency.

1. Excommunicating doctors and nuns for saving lives. In 2009, a 27-year-old mom, pregnant with her fifth child, was rushed to a Phoenix hospital, St. Josephs, where her doctors said she would almost certainly die unless her pregnancy was aborted immediately. The nun in charge approved the emergency procedure, and the woman survived. The local bishop promptly excommunicated the nun. “There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child. But — and this is the Catholic perspective — you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means,” said Rev. John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix.

How far are the Church authorities willing to take this “moral” logic? In Brazil last year, with Vatican backing, the Church excommunicated a mother and doctor for saving the life of a 9-year-old rape victim who was pregnant with twins. (At four months pregnant, the girl weighed 80 pounds.) Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, said “life must always be protected.” Perhaps Mr. Batista Re can explain the Vatican’s 1,500-year tradition of “just war.”

2. Protecting even non-Catholic sex-offenders against child victims. As we have seen, the moral priorities of the bishops are laid naked when they decide who to excommunicate and who not. The doctor and the mother of the pregnant 9-year-old got the boot for approving an abortion, but not the stepfather who had sexually assaulted the child, probably over a period of years. A similar contrast can be seen between the case of the Phoenix nun and hundreds of pedophile priests who were allowed to remain Catholic even after they finally were identified and removed from the Church payrolls.

It gets worse. In New York, a bill that would give child molestation victims more time to file charges has been blocked seven times by the Catholic hierarchy led by none other than Cardinal Dolan. Why? “We feel this is terribly unjust, we feel it singles out the church, and it would be devastating for the life of the church.” In other words, regardless of whether the abuse really happened or what the consequences were for victims, what matters is how much additional lawsuits might cost the Church.  Isn’t that the ends justifying the means?

3. Using churches to organize gay haters. When the Washington State legislature approved marriage equality this spring, fundamentalist Christians across the state organized to reverse the legislation. Even though three quarters of American Catholics think that gay marriage or civil unions should be legalArchbishop Peter Sartain jumped to the front of the pack, decreeing that Western Washington parishes under his “moral authority” should gather signatures for an anti-equality initiative. To their credit, a number of priests refused, and a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality is raising money for ads. In contrast to the Catholic League, which has made the degrading argument that sex between priests and adolescent boys is consensual homosexuality, lay Catholics appear to know the difference.

4. Lying about contraceptives to poor Africans. Of all the mortal sins committed by the men of the cloth, the most devastatingly lethal in the last 30 years has been the Catholic hierarchy’s outspoken opposition to condom use in Africa. In 2003, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family publicly lied about the efficacy of condoms in preventing both pregnancy and HIV: “The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom.” The archbishop of Nairobi told people that condoms were spreading HIV.  Some priests told parishioners that condoms were impregnated with the virus.

The motivation for such flagrant falsehoods? The Church has practiced competitive pro-natalism for centuries, but lately anti-contraceptive edicts have been ignored by most educated European and American Catholics, and Italy has the second lowest birthrate in the Western World, at 1.3 per woman. The bishops see this as a “catastrophe” and are looking to Africa as “a reservoir of life for the Church.” They wrap their opposition to contraception in lofty moral language such as that offered by Pope John Paul II: It seems profoundly damaging to the dignity of the human being, and for this reason morally illicit, to support a prevention of AIDS that is based on a recourse to means and remedies that violate an authentically human sense of sexuality. As late as 2009, John Paul’s successor, Benedict, continued to tell poor African Catholics that condoms were “wrong” and even suggested that they were making the epidemic worse. With god-knows –how-many lives lost and children orphaned, he finally softened his stance in 2010.

5. Obstructing patient access to accurate information and services in secular hospitals. In rural Arizona near the Mexican border, women delivering babies by cesarean section were refused tubal ligations because their independent hospital was negotiating a merger with a healthcare network run by Catholics. Worse, when a woman arrived at the same hospital in the middle of a miscarriage and need a surgical abortion to complete the process, she was forced to travel by ambulance to Tucson, 80 miles away, risking hemorrhage on the way. All over the U.S. secular and Catholic-run health systems are merging, and patients are quietly losing the right to make medical decisions based on the best scientific information available and the dictates of their own conscience.

Even when the Catholic-owned hospital is a small part of the merger, administrators insist that Catholic directives apply to the system as a whole. These directives prohibit not only abortions but also contraceptives, vasectomies and tubal ligations, some kinds of fertility treatment, and compliance with end-of-life patient directives. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be handled in keeping with the medical standard of care. As biotechnologies and treatments relevant to the beginning and end of life advance, we can expect the list to grow longer. Patients cannot trust that they will be told other options are available elsewhere.

One of the bitter ironies here is that even wholly “Catholic” hospitals and charities are staffed primarily by non-Catholics and largely provide services to people of other faiths or of none, paid for with tax dollars. In healthcare much of the money flows from Medicare and Medicaid. In 2010, non-medical affiliates of Catholic Charities received 62 percent of annual revenue from the taxpayers – nearly $2.9 billion. Only 3 percent came from church donations, with the remainder coming from investments, program fees, community donations and in-kind contributions. And yet all of those dollars get directed according to the dictates of bishop conscience rather than individual conscience.

6. Slapping down nuns. Catholic charities and hospitals are at some competitive advantage in part because of hard-working nuns, many of whom have skills and responsibilities that exceed their compensation. The bishops are the Catholic Church’s 1 percent; the nuns are managers and service workers –and many have taken the kind of poverty vows that America’s 1 percent is trying to impose on the rest. Because many nuns live in the real world, where suffering and morality are complex, they often make care-based decisions and take nuanced positions on moral questions that the Council of Bishops resolves by appealing to dogma and authority.

In April, the Vatican decided to remind the nuns who’s on top. Rome issued an 8-page assessment accusing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of disagreeing with the bishops and of “radical feminism.” It appears that their labors on behalf of poor, vulnerable people had distracted them from a more Christian priority: controlling other people’s sex lives—oh, and standing up against the ordination of women. The Archbishop assigned by the Vatican to rein in unruly American nuns is none other than Peter Sartain of Seattle, the same moral authority who has declared a holy crusade against gay marriage.

7. Bullying girl scouts. Unlike the Boy Scouts, who recently earned media and public attention by booting out a gay den-mother, the Girl Scouts have been stubbornly inclusive and focused on preparing girls for leadership. For example, last year a Colorado troop included a trans-gender 7-year-old. That’s a problem for the Bishops, and since up to a quarter of American Girl Scouts are Catholic kids with troops housed in churches, they see it as their problem. To make matters worse, the American Girl Scouts refused to leave their international umbrella, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which has stated that young women “need an environment where they can freely and openly discuss issues of sex and sexuality.”  The World Association would appear to believe the data that girls who can’t manage their sexuality and fertility are more likely to end up in poverty than leadership positions.

Then again, maybe that’s what the church hierarchy is after. According to an article last month at the Huffington Post, “The new inquiry will be conducted by the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It will look into the Scouts’ ‘possible problematic relationships with other organizations’ and various ‘problematic’ program materials, according to a letter sent by the committee chairman, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Ind., to his fellow bishops.” We’re talking about an organization run by women for girls facing an all-male inquisition. In today’s Catholic church, leadership still requires a y chromosome.

8. Purging popular and scholarly interfaith bridge builders. Lest some reader assert that the sins of the Bishops are all a consequence of sexual repression – some contorted pursuit of sexual purity that degrades both sex and compassion—it is important to note that the current cohort of Church authorities are as obsessed with doctrinal purity as sexual purity. It would take me many paragraphs to describe their tireless pursuit of purity as well as retired Anglican bishop, John Shelby Spong, does in one:

Hans Kung, probably the best read theologian of the 20th century, was removed from his position as a Catholic theologian at Tubingen because his mind could not be twisted into the medieval concepts required by his church. This action was carried out by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who at that time under Pope John Paul II held the office that in another time gave us the Inquisition. Matthew Fox, one of the most popular retreat and meditation leaders and an environmental activist, was then silenced by the same Cardinal Ratzinger. Professor Charles Curran, one of America’s best known ethicists, was removed from his tenured professorship at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., also by the same Cardinal Ratzinger. Father Leonardo Boff, the best known Latin American liberation theologian, was forced to renounce his ordination in order to continue his work for justice among the poor of Latin America by the same Cardinal Ratzinger. Next we learn that the Vatican, now headed by Cardinal Ratzinger under his new name Pope Benedict XVI, has ordered the removal of a book from all Catholic schools and universities written by a popular female theologian at Fordham University, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson. Now the nuns are to be investigated. Conformity trumps truth in every direction.

The Catholic tradition defines deadly or “cardinal” sins as those from which all other sins derive. In addition to lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth and envy, the traditional seven include pride and greed, which, to my mind, drive much of the appalling behavior in this list. If an attempt to assert autocratic control over the spiritual and physical lives of lay people isn’t pride, I don’t know what is. And if a willingness to silence child victims to protect church assets isn’t greed, I don’t know what greed is.  The BBC’s revelation last month of money laundering in the Vatican Bank pales by comparison.

To me, ultimately, the sins of the Catholic bishops are “deadly sins” because they kill people, whether pregnant mothers or depressed gay teens or African families, or simply desperate people who are forced into greater desperation by “moral” priorities that distract from real questions of well-being and harm.

What the Bishops will have to account for when they meet their maker, none of us can say. For some American Catholics, the process of holding them to account has already started. The Women Religious have pushed back against the condescending “assessment” issued by the Vatican. Small groups of lay Catholics have rallied to their support. Picketers meet monthly outside Sartain’s cathedral to protest his stance against equality. The Franciscan brothers issued a statement of solidarity with the nuns, many of whom have remained solidly focused on economic justice instead of sexual transgressions.

Given the arrogant cruelty of Church leaders, criticism to date has been remarkably tempered. As the Bishops flash their moral authority in the White House and media and pulpit, clothed in white robes and draped in crimson, they should be glad they aren’t eyeball to eyeball with Jesus himself. As the writer of Matthew tells it, he called out the corrupt religious leaders of his day in no uncertain terms: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.