The Catholic League and Suppression of the Press Today
Intimidation by Catholic institutions over the past hundred years has resulted in a populace woefully ignorant of the threat to American democracy posed by the Church.
Editor’s note: Given this November’s US presidential election and the Catholic Church’s immense stake in the outcome, we are publishing a series of excerpts from N4CM 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. In the following Chapter 15, “The Catholic League and Suppression of the Press Today”, Dr Mumford examines the principles governing the Catholic League’s behaviour, the methods leading to its success and a collection of specific acts designed to halt public criticism of the Church. This chapter is as relevant and revealing today as it was when the book was first published in 1996.
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 the New 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 of Newsday 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’s “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 the New 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 Catalyst reports 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.
Dr Stephen D Mumford is the founder and president of the North Carolina-based The Center for Research on Population and Security. His principal research interest is the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. This interest, pursued for over four decades, first developed during a tour of military duty in Asia, where he first recognized the linkage between political stability and population pressures. He obtained his master’s in public health and his doctorate in population studies from the University of Texas. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, Dr Mumford has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.
Vatican: A New Child Protection Strategy Now?
by Jerry Slevin, retired Wall Street lawyer
WHERE DOES THE VATICAN NOW STAND?
Major new political developments worldwide affecting the Vatican may quickly lead to long overdue changes in its flawed child protection strategy. Two important and informed Cardinals, Martini and Pell, one a former, and the other a present, rumored contender to be elected pope, surprisingly and publicly admitted recently, reportedly, that the Catholic Church’s decades’ old priest child abuse scandal had still not been resolved and would continue to harm the Church, and presumably more innocent children and suffering survivors as well, unless reforms were effected.
Cardinal Martini, who died in September and had been a highly regarded Jesuit scriptural scholar and a very popular head of Italy’s largest diocese, Milan, also noted in August as part of his final description of the Vatican’s strategic failure to protect children sufficiently, that ” … the church bureaucracy rises up …”, clearly pointing his finger at the secretive and powerful Vatican administrative clique within Pope Benedict XVI’s administration, also called the Curia.
The new shocking announcement that one of Cardinal Law’s former Boston canon lawyers is to be the new Vatican prosecutor on priest child abuse cases just reinforces these Cardinals’ recent negative assessments of the Vatican’s current flawed strategy. Cardinal Law fled to the Vatican in 2004 apparently to escape the fallout from the explosive 2002 Boston Archdiocesan priest child abuse revelations. Cardinal Law’s former subordinate replaces the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, who was recently “promoted out” to Malta following his “bombshell” public statement confirming the harmful influence of a pervasive Vatican code of silence, or in Mafia terminology, “Omerta”, on child abuse matters.
Also surprisingly, in one fateful and unprecedented week last month, Catholic laity concerned about children in different parts of the world directly rejected clear Vatican signals by supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama in the USA, and the establishment of a special national child sexual abuse investigation commission by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia. And now the Philippine legislature has just approved a very popular law to make contraception affordably accessible there, despite strong Vatican opposition.
The Vatican’s long time significant worldwide political influence over Catholic voters has already likely ended. External pressures are now mounting for real Vatican reforms. There is set out below a summary of the considerations favoring these major reforms, as I now see them in light on my experience as a Wall Street lawyer over several decades advising up close senior executives in multinational organizations, as well as from my perspective as a grandparent and lifelong Catholic.
If you understand these considerations, you will realize reforms are not only possible, but almost inevitable as more external pressure builds on the Vatican. It seems clear to me as an experienced lawyer observing the Vatican’s continuing evasive behavior, often masked by religious rhetoric, that reforms to the flawed child protection strategy will happen mainly and probably soon as a result of subjecting the Vatican to the modern rule of law mandated by constitutional democracies, such as Australia, the USA and Ireland. You can make a difference in influencing how soon the reforms are made by supporting the application of the rule of U.S. law to the Vatican by clicking on and signing the petition to President Obama accessible at
Please avoid being distracted by the seemingly unending “mystical smokescreens” about papal “tweets”, papal saint-making, papal books, even about the papal butler and the other obvious papal rhetorical ploys that Pope Benedict XVI’s well funded Vatican media team, now headed by an ex-FOX News reporter, spins out on an almost daily basis. Disappointingly, some Vatican based media reporters apparently under deadlines and beholden at times to their onoing sources too often just rehash this typical trivia, instead of either pressing their sources on the really important questions or thinking through the real significance of the dissembling and corruption they see with their own eyes, as the butler has recently confirmed to the world at great personal risk. Apparently, it took a simple, but brave, butler just to get much of the international media to pay close attention, for awhile at least. Now the butler’s fate has been decided, while the corruption he sought to expose apparently goes on seemingly unabated and too often unchallenged by the world’s media.
PLEASE CLICK on to the above link and read and sign the short online petition. It calls on President Obama to promptly establish a U.S. national investigation commission comparable to Australia’s. All of the good reasons for establishing the commission in Australia apply here in the USA as well. There are no good reasons for President Obama not to set up the commission in the USA soon. He has repeatedly acknowledged the need to protect children from violence and abuse. You need to take this unique opportunity to encourage him to act decisively now by your signing this petition promptly; otherwise the petition may be disregarded for insufficient public interest.
PLEASE SIGN the above petition. Please encourage personally and by social media others, including family, friends, neighbors and fellow believers and non-believers, everyone who values children, to sign it also. Anyone 13 years or older can sign it.
PLEASE SHARE and circulate also my broad statement here, POST the full statement or portions thereof on your website and/or INSERT a link to this statement in current and future relevant comments you may make on other websites, as you judge appropriate. This hopeful message of potential reforms needs to get out to make sure the reforms occur.
The major national Catholic social justice movement, Call To Action, has just publicly begun to promote the above petition. Other groups, like the Childrens’ Defense Fund, the Voice of the Faithful, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Association of the Rights of Catholics in the Church, are also being encouraged to support the petition publicly in the near future. SNAP reportedly appears to support strongly the establishment of the Australian commission, but seems puzzlingly silent so far on encouraging President Obama to establish a comparable U.S. commission.
President Obama and several key members of his Administration, including his Chief of Staff, his Defense Secretary and his Attorney General, have already indicated recently they are taking some actions to stop the sexual abuse of children, especially in organizational settings. Now President Obama must take the lead on a comprehensive approach. As President, he already has full authority to establish this investigation commission without becoming enmeshed in the inevitable delays of seeking action from a divided Congress.
The rapes of young children secretly in a dark church by a heartless priest they were taught to trust are usually kept hidden for years and understandably get much less media attention than the senseless slaughter of children by a clearly deranged and insanely armed young man openly in a Newtown school he unexpectedly invaded; but they are all horrific and preventable evils for each of the young victims of these unspeakable crimes, for their loved ones and for everyone who cares about children. We must do all we can to curtail all violence against children, sexual as well as gun violence. We clearly have not done enough. You can help by signing the above petition. Please take a minute now and do so.
Will these major political setbacks worldwide for long standing Vatican policies result in changes in the failing papal strategy for protecting children from sexual abuse by priests and other Church agents? What exactly is the current flawed papal strategy? How was the current flawed strategy developed? Will these strategic political failures affect the election of the next pope expected by many to be occurring soon? Will the democratically elected and constitutionally controlled “Throne” now compel the Vatican to clean up the badly soiled and papally controlled “Altar”?
To assess what the possibilities are for real Vatican change in the near term, it is necessary to consider briefly the historical and political contexts in which the Vatican’s present internal and external strategies have developed.
IS THE CONSTANTINIAN CAPTIVITY ABOUT TO END?
The Catholic Church progressed steadily for three centuries after Jesus’ death, with considerable theological diversity, independently from the Roman Emperors. Its originally decentralized Church organization generally prospered and expanded under consensually selected local Church leaders, including some women, despite occasional and mostly local Roman persecutions. The Catholic spiritual “Altar” and the Roman imperial “Throne” were originally separate. Individual Catholics had a meaningful say for over three centuries after Jesus on choosing their own Church leaders and on evaluating these leaders’ performance in office.
If you were to imagine “playing back the videotape” and interviewing Catholics living in the first three centuries, they would surely have been shocked and confounded to hear how Jesus’ simple message of loving God and neighbor that was shared at a common meal with fellow believers had been hijacked by a clique of opportunistic men in Vatican City to serve as the foundation of a too often seemingly profit-driven multinational organization that frequently appears to exist mainly to benefit these men and their obedient, subservient and well rewarded male bishops worldwide.
Following the proclamation of the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313, the consensual Catholic Church the Apostles left behind was rapidly transformed in fundamental ways. Catholics still bear the brunt of some of the adverse aspects of this transformation by force, but that may be about to change. The Roman Emperors and their monarchical successors from Constantine on, in effect, frequently commandeered the Catholic Church, installing a coercive imperial-style hierarchical structure that operated top-down with “good” and “bad” popes for much of the subsequent 1,700 years up until the present, even through the 16th Century Reformation.
A new theological “orthodoxy” was often enforced during this period by imperial force, Church councils were called and influenced by emperors and monarchs and a canonical list of some disparate earlier writings to be included in the New Testament was effectively pressed. The “Altar” and the “Throne” were in a relatively short period generally merged under imperial pressure. Some of these merged elements have remained dominant in the Catholic Church until now in varying degrees continuously, despite the disappearance of all of the Roman Emperors and their monarchical successors by the end of World War I in 1918.
As late as 1903, in the lifetime of a few persons yet still living, the last ruling successor of the Holy Roman Emperor vetoed a leading contender in the then pending papal election. Since 1918, significantly, voting Cardinals have been generally free of outside governmental political pressure in papal elections, further strengthening the residual “de facto” power over popes inherent in the voting bloc held by the large group of Vatican Cardinals. The Vatican administration for the past hundred years has generally operated in Vatican City free of both external political control and internal lay Catholic influence, with accountability to no one as a practical matter.
As an frequently unaccountable hierarchical organization, the Vatican administration during much of this 1,700 year period has spent considerable energy, internally, on struggles for power and control over Vatican wealth and prestige among competing hierarchs and, externally, on interacting politically and sometimes even militarily with competing imperial powers up until the pope’s large Italian kingdom, the Papal States, fell militarily in 1870 to Italian nationalists. This resulted, until the late 1920′s papal bargain with Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini, in the so-called self-imposed “papal imprisonment” of the Vatican administration on the 100+ acre “campus” in Rome called Vatican City. Significantly, Pope Benedict XVI was baptized and confirmed during the “reign” of a pope, Pius XI, who had himself been born and confirmed in the Papal States.
WILL THE VATICAN SOON CHANGE DUE TO INTERNAL PRESSURE?
From 1870 until the present, the rare efforts to replace this coercive hierarchical heritage and restore the Catholic Church’s original internal consensual structure, including at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), for example, by changing from a papal hierarchical vertical model to an episcopal collegial, power-sharing, horizontal model, have generally not succeeded. Consequently, internally the Vatican has continued to be controlled since 1870 mainly by a self-perpetuating Vatican leadership group, mostly Vatican based Cardinals.
Operating as a voting bloc, Vatican Cardinals usually have a decisive “de facto” veto vote on selecting new popes. This clique thereby often gets to select on their terms their “man” as pope and also as a consequence to control tightly worldwide Catholic Bishops and related worldwide Catholic wealth through this clique’s designated candidate.
Notwithstanding the papal butler’s recent valiant and thankless efforts to expose this Vatican clique, Vatican Cardinals will likely soon get to pick the next pope in the forthcoming papal election. “Vaticanista” reporters will try to earn their expensive Roman keep by writing their usual harmless “horse race” stories for docile Catholics worldwide, as “papabiles” strut their red dresses in parades featured on CNN and similar underinformed media outlets. Astute observers, however, will know that the winner will more than likely be pre-determined before the race even begins.
Several efforts of some “progressive” Catholic leaders and thinkers, like Pope Benedict XVI’s oldest living former colleague and a fearless best selling scholar, Fr. Hans Kung, to argue for internal structural reforms, citing as support the clear implications of some of the actual decrees of the Second Vatican Council overwhelmingly approved between 1962 and 1965 by the worldwide Catholic Church’s Cardinals and Bishops, have often been strongly resisted and sometimes just ignored by the Vatican dominant clique. The Vatican’s worldwide network of ambitious academic apologists, some of whom at times talk and behave as if the Second Vatican Council never occurred, often then just echo the evasions of their Roman masters. The Vatican clique’s aggressive and long standing intimidation efforts against alternative internal progressive voices have in the past usually limited the impact of these alternative voices among rank and file Catholics.
At present, these progressive reformers, despite the overwhelming evidence from Church history and the Second Vatican Council proceedings supporting their case for reform, have no effective appeal remedies. Significantly, however, many more Catholics are increasingly boldly rejecting the Vatican’s and its apologists’ contrived rhetoric, are listening to these stalwart scholars’ message and are poised to support long overdue Vatican internal reforms. The recent resistance shown by a majority of local Catholics to strong papal political pressure in the USA, Australia, the Philippines, Ireland and elsewhere demonstrates that these reformers’ influence is rapidly spreading.
Even now, the current dominant Vatican clique is purportedly subject only to the absolute rule of the 85 year Pope Benedict XVI, although his butler apparently was sceptical about the extent of the aging pope’s actual control, it appears. It is clear, in any event, that the dominant Vatican curial clique internally remains unaccountable either to the Catholic laity, to the various Catholic religious orders, to local Catholic priests or, it appears, even to most non-Roman Cardinals and Bishops, despite some of these Cardinals’ and Bishops’ being at considerable risk of possible criminal proceedings for implementing elements of the Vatican’s flawed child protection policies.
For example, Philadelphia’s recently deceased Cardinal Bevilacqua, in my legal judgment after following Philly events closely, likely only avoided prosecution earlier this year on account of his terminal illness. Meanwhile, his subordinate, Monsignor Lynn, who said repeatedly under oath at his criminal trial this year that he only followed his Cardinal’s orders, sits in prison for child endangerment. Lynn’s subsequent Philly boss, Cardinal Rigali, a long time member of the Vatican upper management team, still appears to be in some legal jeopardy. Cardinal Rigali incidentally had also served as mentor for Kansas City’s Bishop Finn, who pleaded guilty several months ago to a child endangerment related crime but still remains an active Bishop, and for New York’s Cardinal Dolan, who reportedly continues to be a key focus of ongoing legal proceedings related to alleged priest child abuse cover-up misdeeds in Milwaukee.
The Vatican’s recent worldwide political losses suggest it may soon become accountable to the democratically elected and constitutionally controlled “Throne” with its modern rule of law, initially at least with respect to the Vatican’s failures to protect sufficiently children from predatory priests and to operate the Vatican Bank transparently. This likely new accountability can be expected, in turn, to lead to changes soon thereafter in the Catholic Church’s hierarchical structure as well. Cardinals and Bishops worldwide would then likely resist more strongly having their legal and financial protections dictated and/or undercut by octogenarian Vatican overseers, who may be too old to face prosecution themselves and who too often seem incurably oblivious to everyday Catholics’ concerns. This is perhaps to be expected from octogenarians who have apparently spent too many years in the unaccountable and almost surreal Vatican bubble inherited from the Papal States and the Middle Ages before that.
Moreover, the new revelations likely to be forthcoming from the new Australian investigation commission, and the U.S. commission as well if President Obama establishes one as he ought to, can be expected to increase significantly the pressure from lay Catholics for more transparency and accountability from the Vatican administration, and from their local Bishops as well. Few Catholics have accepted the flawed Church funded “expert studies” that painted an overly rosy picture of current Church child protection strategy and relied mainly on uneven data that some suspect bishops may have volunteered to share with the well paid experts. In February last at a Vatican public conference, “Vatican invited experts” gave a conservative estimate of over 100,000 youthful victims to date of priest sexual abuse already in the USA alone and still counting. So much for the rosy “expert” studies!
These impending new revelations in turn will likely hit the Vatican administration hard where it often seems to matter to them most, in their pocketbook. More Catholics, many of whom to date still have difficulty facing up to the upsetting reality of priest sexual abuse of children, would likely decrease even further their financial contributions to the Church and its institutions. Moreover, many more of them would also likely object more strenuously to large governmental subsidies to Vatican dominated institutions, like hospitals and universities, that can be operated in most cases at least as effectively without the Vatican’s almost superfluous “product brand” plastered on them.
These Catholic institutions will also likely face additional public objections from their employees and others over the Vatican’s continuing cynical U.S. presidential election year ploy to deny these employees contraceptive health insurance to try to undercut President Obama and other Democrats with some Catholic voters. And, surely, even fewer young Catholics born in the U.S. will be interested in becoming priests, compounding the severe and growing shortage of U.S. born candidates that is contributing to many Church closures. Imported foreign seminarians and priests, however well intentioned, have not satisfactorily closed and cannot close this gap. Moreover, several dozen of these foreign priests have reportedly fled the USA after being accused of sexual misdeeds, usually involving minors.
Also, the HBO worldwide cable network’s airing in a few weeks of the new award winning documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa”, about the alleged sexual abuse of over 200 deaf boys in Milwaukee by a single priest that was, in effect, covered-up for decades in Milwaukee and Rome, as well as the public release shortly of the Los Angeles Archdiocesan abuse files related to the $660 million Archdiocesan priest child abuse legal settlements, can both be expected to add considerably to the escalating public pressure for more Vatican transparency and accountability to the rule of law.
Moreover, the potential prosecution for child endangerment in the near term of some Cardinals and Bishops worldwide, a not unlikely scenario, would surely sweep away quickly many of the specious “traditional” arguments about the “immutability” of the current hierarchical structure of the “Vicar of Christ” and the “successors to the Apostles” and the related purported historical impossibility of making changes to the Catholic Church’s imperially mandated structure. Popes did a U-turn by prohibiting slavery after permitting it for centuries. Restoring the original consensual Church organizational structure in the Internet Age is scriptural, theologically and practically achievable and much more consistent with Jesus’ mandate that the “last shall be first” than the current hierarchical structure is.
As my high school chum, Rudy Guiliani, proved in challenging the Mafia as a brave Federal prosecutor, when the prosecutorial heat rises against an entrenched group, as is beginning to happen, prior precedents suggest it rapidly becomes “every man for himself”. Philly’s Monsignor Lynn recently learned this when reportedly Archbishop Chaput, likely with Cardinal Rigali’s concurrence, apparently underfunded the sums needed to pay Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers for a credible appeal of his conviction. Let all non-bishop clerics working for bishops note this well. They will likely be on their own if prosecuted!
WILL THE VATICAN SOON CHANGE DUE TO EXTERNAL PRESSURE?
In the Vatican’s external political relations since the late 1920′s, beginning with its relations with its early modern political allies, including “elected” fascist dictators, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, then continuing through the 20th Century with the Vatican’s relations with (1) numerous Latin American, African and Asian leaders, also often “elected” dictators, (2) American presidents, especially right-wing Republican ones, beginning with President Reagan, and (3) these leaders’ wealthy plutocratic supporters, the Vatican’s policy has been customarily to “exchange” papal electoral support locally for specific national candidates in exchange (A) for governmental financial subsidies and special privileges for the local national Catholic Church and its controlled institutions and for donations from wealthy Catholic plutocrats, and (B) “de facto” legal protection for the Vatican administration from any significant application of the international rule of law to either the Vatican’s Roman or worldwide operations.
Shrewdly, this local papal electoral support has usually been “wrapped” in a country-specific wedge issue, as was just done, albeit very unsuccessfully, in the USA elections with the anti-contraception and anti-gay marriage issues. This basic, century-old Vatican external political strategy just failed spectacularly last month in the USA and Australia and this week in the Phillipines, raising now great pressure on the Vatican to changes its external strategy, which may very well trigger changes in internal strategy as well. It is becoming increasingly clearer, to me at least, that a key reason the Vatican clique pushes “sexual” and “gender” legal issues so strongly is that it gives them a “hook” for Catholic voters in national political campaigns, thereby creating electoral “value” for the Vatican to “trade” to political leaders and their wealthy plutocratic supporters in democracies with a significant bloc of Catholic voters.
ARE THE NEW PRESSURES ON THE VATICAN TO CHANGE STRATEGIES ENOUGH?
Will the Vatican change these strategies now? Could these strategies even be changed now as a new pope is apparently to be elected soon, probably pre-selected by the current powerful Vatican Cardinals with their effective veto voting bloc? And what if the Vatican fails to change these strategies? Will governmental investigations in Australia, Ireland, the USA, and likely many more countries soon effectively force the Vatican to change fundamentally under the threat of international law enforcement?
The Catholic Church is at a critical crossroad. Can the spiritual “Altar” and the papal “Throne” again be separated as they were fruitfully under the Apostles and for three centuries following? In theory, there is no valid reason why a decentralized Church free of political alliances could not be effective, indeed more effective, in the Internet Age. Of course, that structure would likely reduce the power, wealth and prestige of the Vatican clique. Will the modern constitutionally controlled secular Throne’s application of the international rule of law to the Vatican compel the cleansing of the imperial Altar and also bring about long overdue internal Church reforms?
It is remarkable that the Church began last month a laity-supported and irreversible “great escape” from this imperial medieval capitivity. The laity appear mainly motivated by a desire to benefit existing and future children, millions of whom suffer often as unplanned children of parents who cannot afford to raise them decently. Many children are also too often subjected to sexual abuse by priests whom the innocent children have been told by their parents to trust.
This “great escape” began as mentioned above during the historic week that commenced on November 6, 2012 with U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election with majority Catholic voter support despite papal opposition over contraception, and ended on November 12, 2012 with Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s call for an Australian royal commission to investigate organizational child sexual abuse, including in the Catholic Church, despite much papal opposition earlier, but with overwhelming Catholic laity support.
The U.S. November 6 “contraception insurance victory” for President Obama and the simultaneous resounding defeat of anti-gay marriage initiatives, followed quickly by the Philippine legislature’s approval, again over papal objections but with widespread lay Catholic support, for providing broad access to affordable contraception, will likely reduce the frequency of U.S. and Philippine couples either having children they cannot afford or having to consider whether to seek an abortion. These are just plain facts demonstrated widely. The Vatican may claim otherwise and push some rear-guard action to save face and maintain the illusion of having political clout to “exchange”, but it has already lost the contraception and gay marriage legal wars as a practical matter.
The unprecedented and powerful Australian investigation commission will likely, as noted above, lead to the disclosure of many of the Catholic Church’s secret files on predatory priests and bishops’ mismanagement of them. This, in turn, will likely further alienate the worldwide Catholic laity and raise demands for effective hierarchical accountablity structures, perhaps just as the prospect of electing a new pope soon approaches. Perhaps enough voting Cardinals will wake up and smell the coffee, for their own sake at least.
Moreover, in the U.S., President Obama has also recently as reported above been publicly petitioned to set up a similar investigation commission, while President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, an orthodox Jew, just blasted Jewish educational leaders in New York on the need to protect children from sexual predators in religious educational settings.
Reportedly, President Obama’s Chief of Staff added, “Across this country in recent years, we have seen too much evidence of inappropriate behavior at too many institutions responsible for nurturing our children, …” adding, “…We can and must take a stand against it, promote awareness, set up preventative measures and openly address concerns as they arise.”
This follows President Obama’s several reported statements after the Penn State/Sandusky scandal erupted, as recently as last summer, that the protection of children from sexual abuse is more important than institutions.
A few days ago, the President reportedly apparently even bypassed his own Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and went directly to the Army Secretary, an unusual move, to stress the importance of protecting children from abuse following revelations of numerous persons with police records, including some with sexual assault charges, working at a day care center on a Washington, D.C. area military base. Two of these persons have reportedly already even been charged with abusing children at the center. Clearly, the President is being very proactive here to protect children from organizational abuse. A stark contrast to Pope Benedict XVI’s approach.
Secretary Panetta has now ordered a complete review of child care personnel policies on military bases. As a former member of the U.S. Bishops’ original 2002 Child Protection Board, Secretary Panetta knows well the need to have tight procedures to curtail abuse. He presumably saw how U.S. Bishops have evaded accountability under their own 2002 Charter.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder has recently announced an international coalition against the sexual exploitation of children using the Internet. He has also pushed cases where Federal prosecutors have a present jurisdictional basis, including interstate sexual assaults involving children and child pornography cases. It is a good start, but more is needed, so please sign the above petition.
In late October, only a few weeks before the remarkable week of November 6-12, numerous carefully selected worldwide Cardinals and Bishops had met at the Vatican at a papally orchestrated week-long Vatican Synod on Evangelization that barely mentioned child sexual abuse. Some U.S. hierarchs there appeared to operate on the expectation that President Obama would not be re-elected. What a monumental difference a few weeks makes!
As alluded to above, following the loss of the Papal States in 1870 and several disasterous wars in Europe that by 1945 ended all other absolute monarchies in Europe and the fascist dictatorships in Germany and Italy that popes had initially facilitated, Pope John XXIII in 1961, the year of President Obama’s and Prime Minister Gillard’s birth, signed the call for the Second Vatican Council. Pope John apparently hoped with the Council to lead the Catholic Church to adjusting internally and externally to a new world of democratic and constitutionally controlled nations.
Following the several decades long withdrawal from most international political matters after the 1870 loss of the Papal States, the Vatican had adopted, as described above, beginning in the late 1920′s a new geo-political stategy of providing Vatican support in fledgling Western democracies to opportunistic leaders, like Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, in exchange for subsidies and privileges for the local national Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII, a seasoned world diplomat, knew the Vatican had to adjust to modern realities, but died in 1963 before he could achieve his goal. The Vatican cliques with their papal election veto then regained their dominant position and have since the 1960′s generally frustrated many of the structural reforms the Second Vatican Council had tried to initiate.
THE AUSTRALIAN CHALLENGE
Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s prominent Cardinal, has been considered by some informed sources as a top prospect to be elected pope in the next papal election expected to be held soon. After spending considerable time in late October in Rome with the Pope and numerous other top Cardinals and Bishops at the lengthy Evangelization Synod that was mainly silent on the priest child sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Pell indicated unexpectedly in a public speech earlier this month that the criminal moral cancer of sexual abuse of children by priests is the most important and powerful barrier to Catholic evangelization at present. As Cardinal Pell now faces an unprecedented Australian national governmental commission to investigate thoroughly organizational child sexual abuse in Australia, including in the Catholic Church, he surprisingly admitted in his speech that the Catholic Church has failed to deal effectively with some predatory priests and to help enough abuse victims heal. He further acknowledged that much more needs to be done in the child protection area.
Amazingly, as mentioned, the Evangelization Synod orchestrated by the Pope in late October barely mentioned the child abuse scandal. What may have caused Cardinal Pell so suddenly to “get religion” on abuse matters? Evidentally, Cardinal Pell is very concerned about the unprecedented investigation commission, and he should be from all indications. So should Pope Benedict XVI.
A brave New York mother who lost her brother to child abuse has filed recently an online White House petition mentioned above to have President Obama set up a similar US commission. A U.S.commission would likely affect U.S. Cardinals as much as the upcoming Australian commission has affected Cardinal Pell, who now publicly endorses the commission he was unable to stop.
CURRENT VATICAN STRATEGY
Cardinal Pell’s quick “conversion” raises questions of where Pope Benedict VI now stands. The October Synod seemed to indicate that the Pope will continue mainly to avoid the abuse scandal.The continuation of Kansas City’s Bishop Finn after his child endangerment conviction suggests continuing Vatican stonewalling. Moreover, the appointment of Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer as chief Vatican abuse case prosecutor suggests more of the same.
Pope Benedict XVI is generally publicly elusive, doesn’t give journalists regular access and often clouds his carefully drafted statements, and now “Tweets”, with mystical smokescreens. But he has given some clear indications of his ongoing strategy on predatory priests, especially by some of his consistent actions and failures to act, including the recent Synod, Bishop Finn’s retention and his new chief prosecutor appointment. What might the Pope’s current strategy be?
Pope Benedict XVI, in his occasionally candid “My Vatican” video of a few years ago available readily on YouTube, volunteered the surprising admission that Vatican officials operate not very differently or more mysteriously than executives of major corporations. In a similar corporate vein, the pope’s long time doctrinal enforcement official, Cardinal Levada, in attempting to justify his recent carefully planned attack on U.S. Sisters, indicated in a recent interview that the Sisters were not properly presenting the Catholic Church’s “product identity”, pure corporate jargon.
Picking up on the Pope’s and Cardinal Levada’s useful admissions, one may justifiably ask what are the Vatican’s “corporate” structure, strategy, product identity and market position?
Cardinal Levada, for example, tried cutely to identify the Sisters’ “product” with the “Gospel according to Maureen Dowd”. She, of course, is the outspoken Catholic columnist at the New York Times whom Levada had earlier referred to as a “silly parrot”, perhaps because of her red hair and her propensity to soar verbally to peck holes so effectively in papal hot air balloons. Certainly, neither she nor the Sisters are silly!
For many US Catholics, Maureen Dowd’s and American Sisters’ “Gospel” is often much closer to Jesus’ Gospel than the corporate Gospel too often followed by the Pope and his other Vatican officials, most recently in the US presidential elections. The effective reporter and author, Jason Berry, has just convincingly shown in his “New Inquisition” articles that the three U.S. Bishops investigating the Sisters, as well as Cardinal Levada, are hypocritically carrying some of their own heavy baggage from their own different failures to address the child abuse scandal.
Cardinal Levada’s chauvinistic and gratuitous attack on American Sisters, and his premeditated pivot to Maureen Dowd as almost a feminine Martin Luther-type protestor, provide interesting perspectives on Vatican officials’ view of competent Catholic women. The Vatican’s nearly obsessive fear of Maureen Dowd’s pointed and incisive New York Times columns, especially, gives some indication of what “Women Bishops” will inevitably have to face from the Vatican’s exclusively male officials, which confrontation will likely occur much sooner than the Vatican may now be expecting.
Given the way the Nuns on the Bus easily outdistanced the Popemobile in the recent US electoral races, the sheltered Vatican administration with their chauvinistic attitudes have some good reason to fear sharing power with competent Catholic women. These brave women clearly seem less likely than many male bishops to be cowered into secrecy by threats of abrupt removal or to serve as papal puppets in exchange apparently mainly for a larger piece of the Catholic Church’s financial pie.
Is Pope Benedict XVI fallible here? Certainly. Before considering the papally admitted potential parallels of the Vatican’s approach to structure, strategy, product identity and market position to those of multinational corporations, one fundamental and clear difference must be emphasized. The Vatican uniquely operates secretly without accountability either internally to shareholder oversight or externally to regulatory oversight. In some ways, for example in its priest child abuse cover-up and its financial banking scandals, the Vatican seems at times to operate as a “rogue nation” accountable to no one internally or externally.
In my three decades representing many multinational corporations, I observed up close some top executives who would have envied greatly the Vatican’s secretive unaccountabilty, but that corporate battle was effectively lost years ago in constitutional democracies by subjecting corporate executives to the rule of law in a global regulatory environment.
The Pope’s revealing “corporate admission” that suggests one can view the Vatican similarly to corporate models provides a very useful way of analyzing the current Vatican’s approach to the Catholic Church’s “corporate” stucture, strategy, product identity and market position, which also sheds much light on the its flawed child protection strategy.
The Church’s corporate structure is analytically fairly simple. At the top is a pope who is “chief executive officer”, supreme legislator and top judge for life. In practice, papal decisions appear often to be influenced strongly, if not at times controlled by, senior Vatican Cardinals, especially the Secretary of State, currently Cardinal Bertone, who succeeded Cardinal Sodano, who appears still to be influential. Both of these Cardinals have reportedly been linked to several long standing scandals; Bertone to the Vatican Bank and a Milan hospital scandals and Sodano to the Mexican child sex abuser, Fr. Maciel, who eluded Vatican investigators for almost a half century by, among other things, reportedly frequently sprinkling large cash payments to powerful members of the Vatican clique.
The Pope, with his Vatican management team, controls Church canon law and judicial proceedings, and selects and controls worldwide Catholic bishops, who can be removed promptly by the pope. Priests and male and female members of religious orders are controlled directly by local Bishops and/or Vatican managers who direct the orders’ superiors. Any who deviate from currently favored Vatican theological or even political positions are generally disciplined promptly, often harshly and unfairly.
Pope Benedict XVI’s strategy appears targeted at maintaining maximum obedience to current papal theological, ecclesiastical and political positions. Opposing positions are at best given lip service, with the result that millions of Catholics, including priests, have left the Catholic Church in frustation, if not disgust. Some who stay try almost hopelessly and usually unsuccessfully to effect changes by stressing contrary precedents, especially the positions approved at the Second Vatican Council. In theory, clear positions approved by Church Councils could trump a contrary Vatican position. In practice, especially under Popes Benedict XVI and his immediate predecessor, in several crucial areas the Vatican’s interpretations of the Council is what controls Church practice, regardless of the weakness of the arguments supporting them.
The Cathholic Church’s key “product identity” appears to be to create a “monopoly” on the Eucharist, a central element of Catholic worship at the Mass, and on the all male celibate priesthood currently needed to offer the Eucharist worldwide, subject to the control of Bishops and ultimately the Vatican. A common meal of fellow believers in Jesus’ time, at least occasionally overseen by women, has become the central “unique product” in the Vatican’s “marketing” strategy. The pope and his Vatican management team, through numerous “theological” and liturgical statements, seeks to protect and preserve the Vatican’s monopoly here, but need a sufficient number of obedient priests to offer the “product”.
The Vatican seeks zealously to preserve its worldwide “market position” by protecting its “monopoly” on the Eucharist and on the requisite male priesthood against other Christian religious traditions externally and against alternative viewpoints internally, especially espoused often from women seeking admission to the priesthood.
While millions of Catholics have left the Church in rejection of the Vatican’s positions and approach, the Vatican’s prohibition on contraception has helped generate millions of “replacement Catholics”, born to Catholic couples whether or not the couples wanted or could afford to have additional children. Some of those children who survive, often in miserable circumstances, become future sources of Vatican power and wealth, as well as of new priests to serve to fill numerous priest shortages worldwide.
Against this corporate background, the Vatican has seemed incapable of containing its worldwide crisis of children being sexually assaulted by priests. Priests are needed to offer the main “product”, the Eucharist. It take years under current procedures to train young men to serve as obedient and low wage “producer priests”. The supply of domestic priests is diminishing in many countries and foreign “imports” have not and realistically in most cases cannot satisfactorily resolve the shortages.
Fearful of permitting priests to marry or to have women as priests, both of which means the Vatican might have to risk being viewed as “fallible” and then have to deal on a equal basis openly with women priests or priests’ wives, and even some mothers, on all issues, including child protection matters, and also pay at least married priests higher wages, the Vatican has to date thereby retricted the potential supply of new priests.
Consequently, Bishops are increasingly forced at times to ordain questionable seminarians and still even to retain predatory priests. Philly’s Archbishop Chaput is apparently still carrying suspected priests Cardinal Rigali suspended over a year and a half ago. Given this artifical constriction of the already diminishing candidate pool, the prospects are increasingly bleak for solving the predatory priest problem, no matter what the Pope may “tweet” otherwise!
Moreover, the Vatican’s “corporate” financial policy seems impervious to the multi-billion dollar continuing cash drain from child abuse claims. A continuing revenue stream from governmental subsidies, docile Catholics’ and protected plutocrats’ contributions, and Vatican investments and tax free properties, and a willingness to close parishes and schools, makes paying lawyers to protect Bishops an acceptable cost of business, like some financial firms that often treat fraud claims as an acceptable cost of doing business.
Survivors’ lawyers seeking usually the most cash for their cients, sooner rather than later, can apparently be depended on to settle claims and keep the bishops’ potentially incriminating files sealed if the settlement amounts are high enough. Apparently, bishops will often pay whatever is takes to protect themselves. While this expensive litigation process has benefited a small percentage of abuse survivors, it has not benefited many other survivors nor stimulated the Bishops yet to adopt real accountability measures like thorough independent audits.
In view of the unlikelihood as indicated above that the Vatican will effectively curtail predatory priests on its own initiative, governments need to compel corrective action. Please help this happen by signing the above petition.
Matters described above are readily substantiated on the Internet by entering the relevant key words in Google for links to the underlying news and other reports.
Finally, several excellent and readable books available now or soon in bookstores or online amplify much of the foregoing. Helpful summaries and/or reviews of most of them are presently freely available at Amazon.com/books.
These selective books are:
(1) The Theology of Fear, by Fr. Emmett Coyne;
(2) Can the Catholic Church Be Saved?, by Fr. Hans Kung (forthcoming soon in an English version);
(3) What Happened at Vatican II, by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.;
(4) Trent: What Happened at the Council, by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.;
(5) Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Elect Its Leaders, by Joseph O’Callaghan;
(6) Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, by Jason Berry;
(7) Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea;
(8) The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability For Human Rights Abuse, by Geoffrey Robertson; and
(9) The Politics of Sex and Religion, by Robert Blair Kaiser, available for FREE as an E-Book at robertblairkaiser.com .