Why Isn’t Boston’s Cardinal Law in Jail? Part 1
By Chris Suellentrop Posted Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002, at 6:13 PM
According to local polls, nearly half of Boston Catholics want Cardinal Bernard Law to resign in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal involving pedophile priests. Cardinal Law admits assigning a priest to a new parish despite knowing that the priest had molested children. (Click here to read the Boston Globe‘s investigative reports on the scandal.) One family has targeted Law in a civil suit that accuses him of negligence and of intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress. But why isn’t Cardinal Law facing criminal charges?
Because what he did isn’t illegal in Massachusetts. Only 18 states require all persons to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse. Massachusetts isn’t one of them. The other 32 states (including Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia require only persons designated as mandatory reporters to report child abuse.
Mandatory reporters are generally designated by profession: health-care workers, education and child-care workers, social workers, law enforcement officers, etc. Ten states specifically list “clergy” among their mandatory reporters. But Massachusetts isn’t one of those states, either. (Seven of the 10 states requiring clergy to report child abuse also recognize the clergy-penitent privilege, which exempts clergy who become aware of abuse through their capacity as a spiritual adviser, such as through confessions in the Catholic tradition.)
There is a movement afoot in the Massachusetts legislature, however, to add clergy to the state’s list of mandatory reporters. The Massachusetts Senate has already passed a bill that would add both clergy and lay leaders of any church to the list. The law would recognize the clergy-penitent privilege, and it would be retroactive, requiring knowledge of past abuse to be reported within 30 days after the bill becomes law. The bill is expected to pass the Massachusetts House soon, and the governor is expected to sign it.
But even if Massachusetts adds clergy to its list of mandatory reporters, Cardinal Law won’t be going to jail. Under Massachusetts’ mandatory-reporter statute, each instance of failing to report child abuse carries a maximum penalty of a civil fine of $1,000. (Failure to report is a misdemeanor in 34 states. In some of those states, it can lead to imprisonment of up to six months.)
But Why Isn’t Bernard Law in Jail? (Part 2)
By Dahlia Lithwick Updated Thursday, Dec. 19, 2002, at 6:33 PM
Almost a year ago, Slate‘s “Explainer” answered the question: Why isn’t Boston’s Cardinal Law in jail? The question was somewhat rhetorical. Since Massachusetts didn’t have a mandatory reporting law, the answer was that the cardinal was under no legal obligation to come forward with information about sexual abuse of children by priests he’d supervised.
Almost a year later, more lawsuits have been filed, depositions have been taken, church documents have been turned over, and we have a clearer picture of what precisely the cardinal has done, or not done, over the past decade and a half. What’s emerged is horrifying. Law was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape. Worse yet, he breezily reassigned clergy known for sexually abusing children to work with more children—conduct not all that distinguishable from leaving a loaded gun in a playground.
Last week, under increasing pressure, Law resigned. Many Americans breathed a sigh of relief. But many also wondered, silently: “Is that all? Does Law get to pack up his hat and retire to Orlando and a second career in canasta?” And the question lingers, more urgently than it did a year ago: Why haven’t criminal charges been filed against him? What Law has done goes far beyond “not reporting” suspected child abusers. This was no crime of omission. It is now clear that Law affirmatively engaged in a pattern of shielding child rapists and recklessly allowing them unfettered access to yet more victims. A high-school principal or the CEO of any company in America would have been indicted months ago.
The evidence speaks for itself: Last spring, Law admitted in a deposition that he was aware that John Geoghan had reportedly raped at least seven young boys in 1984 yet nevertheless approved the transfer of Geoghan to another parish, working with other boys. Other documents revealed that Law similarly knew of and ignored decades of reported child abuse by Paul Shanley, placing Shanley in ministries with access to other children. Shanley is currently facing trial on 10 charges of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery. Law is jetting back and forth to Rome.
Throughout his tenure, Law seemed to reserve his warmest sympathy for the abusers, not the victims. He lied to a West Coast bishop about Shanley’s history. He signed a document attesting that another known child-molesting priest, Redmond Raux, had “nothing in his background” to make him “unsuitable to work with children.” Last week, more court documents revealed that the archdiocese gave new jobs to two priests, one of whom was known to have molested boys while the other had supplied cocaine to a teenage lover. Law’s responses to these and earlier disclosures? The molesters had been cleared by physicians; the church kept bad records; his subordinates vetted the transfers; he forgot; he never knew; he’s sorry.
“Sorry” may not be good enough. Not for the victims—many of whose lives would not have been devastated but for Law’s recklessness—and not for the rest of us. According to a summer poll conducted by ABC News and Beliefnet.com, eight out of 10 Americans believe bishops who failed to act on abuse allegations should be prosecuted criminally.
This message may finally be getting through. It’s been suggested that Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly was being soft on Law to protect his elected position among Catholic voters. Similarly, the Los Angeles Times reported that L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley went far too easy on Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahoney because, as a Catholic himself, Cooley was too conflicted to zealously pursue the investigation. But the tide seems to be turning, and finally prosecutors have begun to empanel grand juries to investigate criminal wrongdoing in the upper echelons of the church. While only individual priests and no church leaders have so far been charged with crimes, over a dozen states have started to turn their criminal law machinery on the supervisors.
And last week, Law and seven bishops who worked for him were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. Attorney General Thomas Reilly is finally making noises suggesting that the cover-up on the part of the church leaders was indeed criminal. For months, he had been insisting that there were simply no criminal laws on the books under which Law could be charged.
Reilly should consider taking a page from John Ashcroft’s book. The U.S. attorney general, never a man to be deterred by a shortage of enforceable laws, alternately invents new ones or rejiggers existing ones to suit his ends. It’s long past time that Reilly, Cooley, and their counterparts around the country started filing indictments. And their legal theory should be simple: A church official who knowingly puts a habitual child molester in a position to abuse more vulnerable children is aiding and abetting a crime.
The conventional wisdom is that getting criminal convictions won’t be simple. Reilly is correct that without child endangerment statutes, Massachusetts will have a tough time finding a hook for criminal prosecutions. (Child endangerment statutes were finally enacted in September in Massachusetts, but they cannot be applied retroactively). One tack being considered by Reilly’s office is to pursue church leadership under a state statute that criminally prosecutes companies for failures to stop wrongdoing by their employees—corporate vicarious criminal liability. Under this rule, the archdiocese could be sued as a corporation, just like any other, and Law would be liable merely because he was in a position of authority to prevent the crimes but didn’t. The penalty is fines, not jail time, but it’s a start.
Another route involves prosecuting church leaders for obstruction of justice. Some experts say that the Boston Archdiocese hasn’t actually obstructed any criminal investigation; it did turn over its documents. But in Phoenix, Ariz., prosecutors have suggested that Bishop Thomas O’Brien may soon face criminal obstruction charges for allegedly counseling victims’ families not to approach police.
One more tack being considered by the Massachusetts AG’s office is to file charges against Law as an accessory after the fact to the abuse. But to be an accessory, experts insist that you must intend for the abuse to occur; in other words, it’s not enough that Law knew his subordinates would molest again. It seems that not caring one way or another is insufficient.
In some jurisdictions RICO suits have been filed, using racketeering laws to prosecute the seemingly untouchable higher-ups in the church. Although early this month, a Cleveland grand jury cleared two bishops of racketeering charges, finding that their mishandling of sex abuse claims didn’t amount to criminal racketeering. This was a pretty creative use of the RICO laws, and it might work in other cases where the supervisors were more complicit in the coverups.
Last week, New Hampshire got a taste of how criminal indictments—or the threat of criminal indictments—may play out in the coming months. In settling a civil case, the Diocese of Manchester admitted that, had criminal charges been filed, the diocese itself would likely have been found guilty. Whether this kind of admission will embolden other prosecutors to file criminal charges or just use the threat as leverage in civil suits remains to be seen. But what’s becoming clear across the country is that the taboo is broken; that the church can still be a holy institution, but its criminals are not sacred. Civil suits and cash reparations are just not enough. Church elders who unloosed monsters on suffering children for decades cannot be treated as though they were above the law. Shakespeare wrote: “The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept.” It’s past time for the law to wake up and punish the guilty.
Bishop John McCormack files: Bishop: Church brass hid sex scandal
By Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg Boston (MA) Herald June 4, 2002
Manchester, N.H. — A bishop who served as Bernard Cardinal Law’s top personnel aide for a decade testified yesterday that Archdiocese of Boston leaders kept a wave of clergy abuse allegations secret because telling the faithful in the affected parishes might have created “a scandal.”
Bishop John B. McCormack, 67, now head of the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., gave the explanation under oath in a deposition in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley abuse case, witnesses to his questioning said.
“He said he didn’t want to create a scandal,’ ” said a visibly incensed Rodney Ford, whose son, Greg, now 24, is suing Law, McCormack, Shanley and the Catholic Church for numerous rapes alleged to have occurred in the 1980s at St. Jean’s Parish in Newton.
“Well, this is a scandal at its highest,” Ford said. “It’s a disgrace what we have had to go through.”
McCormack, emerging from 5 1/2 hours of questioning by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., declined to discuss his testimony in detail or answer questions from reporters. “I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to begin answering the questions that people have, that lawyers have,” said the embattled bishop, who has been urged to resign by The Manchester Union-Leader and numerous others. “I tried to answer them as completely, as thoroughly, as honestly as I could. Thank you for your interest. God bless you.”
The Herald reported yesterday that one document produced as a result of subpoenas in the Shanley case indicates a high-ranking archdiocese nun urged McCormack and others in 1994 that parishes be alerted after their pastors were credibly accused of molestation. Time and again, church documents show, the nun was overruled in favor of secrecy. McCormack admitted yesterday he ignored the nun, Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin, preferring to stifle the flow of any information to churchgoers.
At one point yesterday, according to Paula Ford, Greg’s mother, who was also at the deposition, McCormack acknowledged that he usually took the word of priests over parishioners when confronted with allegations of child abuse. “In every incident of every alleged victim, he took the word of the priest over the word of the victim,” she said. “When he found out after the fact that the victim was telling the truth, he never took the time to go back to these people and validate their claims.
“This was one of the most painful days of my life,” she said yesterday. “The truth is so painful.”
MacLeish, who is to depose Law tomorrow and Friday, said the testimony also shows that McCormack and his colleagues at the chancery in Brighton ignored Mulkerrin’s advice in violation of a 1992 directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that lay Catholics should be kept informed of sexual abuse reports. The conference is expected to issue new guidelines on the reporting of abuse by clergy today.
“Had Bishop McCormack taken the advice of Sister Mulkerrin, and gone to the parishes where Paul Shanley and some of these priests had served, and spoken to them and informed the parishioners of what was going on, I don’t think we would be here today,” he said.
MacLeish confirmed a Herald report yesterday that one of Mulkerrin’s memos read: “I know I sound like a broken record. But we need to put in church bulletins `It has come to our attention a priest stationed here between 19XX and 19XX may have molested children – please contact. . .”
MacLeish said his recent deposition of the Rev. Charles J. Higgins, the current archdiocese personnel chief, showed that Boston officials have discussed abuse at just three of the 200 parishes known to have been served by alleged abusers.
The tone of the session was cordial, said Peter Hutchins, a New Hampshire lawyer who also attended because he has cases involving the church. Written and audio-visual transcripts of the deposition could be made available as soon as this afternoon, pending a ruling by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Raymond J. Brassard.
Testimony also included discussions of priests who have not previously been implicated in abuse cases, MacLeish said.
“This is a case about a pattern,” he said. “There were many, many priests who were mentioned today.”
Some questions focused on how the archdiocese handled allegations involving the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin, who is in jail awaiting trial for abuse. Others pertained to a group of priests who attended St. John’s Seminary in Brighton with McCormack in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
They include Revs. Joseph Birmingham, John Geoghan, Bernard Lane and Shanley, all of whom have faced multiple lawsuits.
MacLeish and his law partner, Robert A. Sherman, said soon-to-be released documents include information that could strengthen cases against three or four more priests. They said they planned to make files on 10 more abusive priests public as soon as today.
MacLeish and Sherman stated in court last week that church lawyers were blocking witnesses from cooperating during depositions. There were no such problems with McCormack, MacLeish said.
The Fords said McCormack apologized to them over Shanley. Rodney Ford said he did not take the bishop seriously. Paula Ford said she expects future sessions to produce more troubling details about the church’s handling of the issue.
“I can see the writing on the wall,” she said. “It’s not pretty.”
Bishop John McCormack files: Bishop offers apology to parents of a Shanley accuser
By Matt Carroll Boston (MA) Globe June 4, 2002
Manchester, N.H. — Bishop John B. McCormack apologized yesterday to the parents of a Newton man who allegedly was abused by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, a onetime Newton pastor who was investigated by McCormack for making past statements endorsing sex between men and boys.
Paula and Rodney Ford, the parents of Gregory Ford, said at a news conference that McCormack spoke to them directly at his deposition here, delivering an apology they described as “awkward” and unconvincing. “He apologized and said he was sorry for what happened,” said Paula Ford.
McCormack, who was a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law before being named bishop of the Manchester Diocese three years ago, made a brief statement after nearly six hours of sworn pretrial testimony in a lawsuit filed by the Fords.
“I tried to answer as thoroughly, as completely, and as honestly as I could,” said McCormack, who declined to take questions from reporters.
Shanley was arrested last month, accused of raping Paul Busa during the 1980s, when Busa was a child attending religion classes at the now-closed St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton. Shanley has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Roderick MacLeish Jr., the attorney for the Fords in their civil suit against Shanley and Law, is today expected to release copies of approximately 1,000 pages of church documents concerning alleged sexual abuse by 11 priests. MacLeish gained access to the documents through the lawsuit in an attempt to show a pattern of negligent supervision of priests accused of sexual misconduct.
MacLeish is also scheduled to take pretrial testimony from Law in the Ford case tomorrow and again on Friday.
Meanwhile, Bishop Robert J. Banks, another former Law deputy who is now bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc., will be deposed today by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is representing 86 alleged victims of convicted pedophile and former priest John J. Geoghan.
Yesterday, Rodney Ford said he found it difficult to sit through McCormack’s deposition.
“It was one of the most painful days of my life,” said Ford, adding that it was particularly difficult to hear McCormack say that in some cases he never informed alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse that he had discovered they were telling the truth.
McCormack wrote to Shanley about a letter from a New York woman who said Shanley had advocated man-boy love, and asked the priest for an explanation. The Fords also said that during his deposition McCormack said he did not have access to documents in what the bishop called a “secret archive” at the archdiocese.
A transcript of McCormack’s deposition will be made public after a Middlesex Superior Court judge holds a hearing to determine when the transcript should be filed.
At the news conference with the Fords, MacLeish, who has repeatedly condemned the archdiocese this year for hiding the extent of sexual abuse among priests, also criticized a Globe report yesterday that said he and other lawyers secretly settled claims against many priests during the 1990s, all of them individual settlements that had the cumulative effect of masking the extent of the problem. “The last thing we were doing was keeping anything quiet,” said MacLeish.
In an interview last night, MacLeish said he brought the extent of the problem to the attention of Boston news organizations almost a decade ago, but insisted that reporters were uninterested in pursuing the issue.
In December 1993, the Boston Herald and then the Globe quoted MacLeish saying he had brought sexual abuse claims involving 20 priests and 28 alleged victims to the Boston Archdiocese.
In the articles, MacLeish praised the archdiocese for removing the unnamed priests from service, saying the church had done a “commendable job” of handling the issue.
In a letter to the archdiocese’s lawyer less than three months earlier, MacLeish raised complaints against 17 priests, and said that just two of them may have had “potentially hundreds of other” victims.
“It is clear that these cases together reflect a systemic pattern of abuse within the archdiocese and an alarming pattern of institutional negligence on a disturbingly large scale,” MacLeish wrote in the Sept. 27, 1993, letter to Wilson Rogers Jr., the church’s attorney.
The 24-page letter contains extensive details about the specifics of the sexual abuse by the priests. Many of their names, and the allegations, did not become public until this year. MacLeish made the letter public yesterday, he said, because it shows that he and his clients, in addition to seeking monetary settlements, also wanted the archdiocese to ensure that the priests would no longer have access to children. In the letter, MacLeish told Rogers he wanted to have the claims mediated, which was done in private.
Asked last night why he did not make the letter public in 1993, or file lawsuits to get the matter before the public, MacLeish said he did not take those steps because of a need to protect the victims, and because caps on liability for charities like the church made lawsuits less attractive than negotiated settlements.
When the Globe reported on Jan. 31 this year that the Boston Archdiocese had secretly settled claims involving more than 70 priests in the last decade, MacLeish disclosed that his law firm accounted for more than 50 priests.
Philip Saviano, a victim of clergy sexual abuse who hired MacLeish to represent him in the early 1990s, said the lawyer did not go far enough a decade ago to expose the problem.
“What I’m saying is, whether [MacLeish] sees it this way or not, he was part of the big web of secrecy,” said Saviano, who is director of the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Maybe he thinks he took steps to protect kids, but ultimately I’d say he didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.”
MacLeish, who represented more than 100 victims of former priest James R. Porter in the Fall River Diocese 1992, said the attention to that case and the subsequent private claims he filed against the Boston Archdiocese forced the church to create new policies and remove priests.
Bishop John McCormack files: Church covered up 4 decades of abuse
By Tom Mashberg and Jack Sullivan Boston (MA) Herald June 5, 2002
Documents on 10 suspended clerics released yesterday put Bernard Cardinal Law, three subordinates and even the late Richard Cardinal Cushing at the center of a broad effort to hide the truth about clergy abuse from parishioners, victims and the public.
The damaging new documents on the suspended clerics also reflect unfavorably on the oversight of priests under the long-lionized Cushing as well as Law’s predecessor, the late Humberto Cardinal Medeiros.
“What we now have before us is a four-decade-long pattern of protecting, harboring and covering up for known child molesters,” said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who released the files and is to depose Law today. “To claim any more that these are isolated cases is absurd.”
The Rev. Christopher R. Coyne, spokesman for Law, conceded yesterday that the latest batch of documents was damaging to his besieged archdiocese. “Once again, it was part of the protective culture of the church of the time,” Coyne said, “and forgetting . . . that the first thing has to be the protection of children.
“It’s going to take a long time to Recover the credibility we’ve lost,” he added.
Included in the files is a three-page handwritten 1993 Law memo in which he details why he let Rev. Eugene M. O’Sullivan be shifted in 1985 to a diocese in New Jersey – even though O’Sullivan had been convicted of raping an Arlington altar boy just a year earlier.
“Boston was not acceptable because of possible scandal,” Law wrote in the 1993 memo, which he apparently prepared after the Associated Press and other news media contacted the chancery about O’Sullivan’s criminal past. “While assignment of a priest under these circumstances is arguable, our present policy does not permit it.”
Nonetheless, after O’Sullivan was bounced from Metuchen, N.J., because of his Bay State convictions, he was allowed by Law to wear his clerical collar for 17 more years – and even served formally at Carney Hospital in Dorchester. The lengths to which Law himself went to assure new priestly duties for O’Sullivan and two other longtime problem pastors – the Revs. Ernest E. Tourigney and Daniel M Graham – are just some of the troubling personnel moves outlined in the files, obtained by MacLeish as part a pretrial investigation of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
Other revelations included in the long-hidden files are these:
– Embattled Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., denied over and over to parishioners that Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham was a threat to molest minors, even though Birmingham’s personnel file showed evidence of abuse starting under Cushing in 1964. In April 1987, in his capacity as Law’s secretary for ministerial personnel, McCormack reviewed an emotional inquiry about Birmingham from a male parishioner at St. Ann’s Church in Gloucester. The parishioner, whose son, then 13, was an altar boy under Birmingham, said he learned that Birmingham had been removed from his parish for molesting children, and that the priest had soon after fallen into “poor health.”
Because Birmingham had also preached about AIDS, and was rumored to have engaged in risky sexual practices, the parishioner wrote: “I am concerned about the AIDS situation, and about a priest possibly molesting my son.” He asked Law for an explanation. In answer, McCormack wrote that Law had received the letter and asked McCormack to investigate. McCormack then wrote: “I have contacted Father Birmingham and . . . he assured me there is absolutely no factual basis for your concern regarding your son and him. . . . I feel he would tell me the truth . . . in this matter.”
Birmingham died wasting away from cancer in 1989. Some 40 men have come forward in recent months to file lawsuits against him for abuse, and church files quote him admitting several times under questioning to “sexual improprieties.” Gary Bergeron of Lowell, a Birmingham accuser, said yesterday: “Page after page shows they all knew he was a molester a full decade before he abused me and my brother, but did nothing. It’s incredible to see how these `men of God’ let this go on for so long.”
– The files mark the first clear indications Cushing engaged in cover-ups. The Herald reported last month that Medeiros was deeply implicated in efforts to hide the depredations of defrocked and jailed pedophile James R. Porter. In a letter dated Oct. 1, 1964, a Marshfield couple wrote to Cushing detailing the sexual abuse of their 12-year-old son by O’Sullivan at St. Ann’s Church in Marshfield. In the letter, the couple told Cushing that O’Sullivan had fondled their son, an altar boy, several times that summer. They also informed Cushing of at least four other altar boys who spoke of being sexually abused by O’Sullivan. The couple said they had reported the incidents to the church pastor, who said he would relay their concerns to the archdiocese. The couple later found out the pastor had not followed through. That is when they wrote to Cushing.
“We are taking the liberty of reporting directly to you . . . trusting that you in your wisdom will know best how best to handle the matter,” the couple wrote Cushing.
Shortly after, O’Sullivan was transferred to Our Lady’s Parish in Waltham. That same year, similar accusations were levied, and he was again transferred, next to Point of Pines Church in Revere. An unsigned memo from 1964 acknowledges allegations against O’Sullivan and noted a three-week vacation was arranged beginning June 16, 1964, until July 6, 1964.
“Informed (O’Sullivan) that we would transfer him, effective approx. July 9,” the note states.
And despite Law’s insistence in his 1993 memo there were “no previous reports” of accusations on O’Sullivan, an internal memo from “T.J.D.” to Bishop Alfred Hughes confirmed the O’Sullivan problem. “As far as I can see there is no evidence of treatment following the events of 1964, just transferred etc. . . .,” the memo states.
– Regarding Father Graham, removed in February from St. Joseph’s in Quincy, the papers show he was assigned a “mediator” in 1988 by Bishop Robert J. Banks, now of Green Bay, Wis., a Law aide who was deposed yesterday for his role in the Boston scandal.
The mediator was Shanley, now awaiting trial on three counts of child rape, who acted as middle-man between Graham and the accuser. Shanley referred Graham to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), a program for sexual addictions loosely based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“With Fr. Paul Shanley’s help I have discovered a helpful support group, S.L.A.A.,” Graham wrote to his victim. “Meetings are helpful to keep ones sexuality in check.”
Graham was cleared by church officials to resume parish ministry, but in 1992 was charged once again with abusing minors. In a 1996 letter to Graham, Law offered him a dispensation from Law’s 1993 rules governing molester priests so that he could resume parish work.
– The documents also further the evidence that Medeiros allowed pedophile priests to remain in the ministry and transferred rather than disciplined them.
In 1973, Medeiros approved the request of Rev. Ernest E. Tourigney to take a post as student chaplain at Catholic University in Washington. Medeiros knew Tourigney had been transferred to St. Mary’s in Holliston after accusations of molestation at Immaculate Conception Church in Weymouth.
In his letter to Medeiros requesting the post, Tourigney said his stay at St. Mary’s helped “alleviate a long-term difficult situation with the parish, which I have tried to do to the best of my ability.”
“During my years as a priest, I have worked with the youth both on a parish and deanery level,” he wrote. “It is the type of work I enjoy doing the most, find most rewarding and feel most qualified in doing.” The records indicate there were at least eight victims who accused Tourigney of sexually assaulting them. Still, McCormack and Law gave him new slots.
– One of the more sordid tales to emerge from the papers involves accused predatory priest Richard O. Matte. A man alleges he was abused by Matte after he went to the cleric about being sexually abused by another priest at various places, including drug dealers’ houses in the early-1980s.
According to a letter to church lawyers from Robert A. Sherman, the victim’s attorney and MacLeish’s partner, the then-14-year-old boy was the victim of “violent sexual abuse” by the Rev. Richard Buntel from 1979 to 1985. Both Buntel and Matte were assigned to St. Joseph’s Church in Malden.
The victim claimed Buntel befriended him and introduced him to alcohol and marijuana, later feeding him cocaine and exposing him to “violent pornography.”
“On one occasion, two drug dealers associated with Fr. Buntel urged Fr. Buntel to make a pornographic film of him sexually assaulting (the victim),” Sherman wrote. “(The victim) does not know if this film was ever made.”
Bishop John McCormack files: Memos reveal trail of charges
By Sacha Pfeiffer Boston (MA) Globe June 5, 2002
The departure was sudden, but if parishioners asked what had become of their parish priest, church officials had a tidy explanation ready: The Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham had been “working too hard” and “needed a rest,” according to a three-page, handwritten Nov. 4, 1964, memo by a high-ranking Chancery official.
In fact, Birmingham had been hastily transferred from Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sudbury to St. James Church in Salem after two fathers and their sons reported the young priest had repeatedly fondled the boys.
It’s likely, however, that many Sudbury parishioners knew the truth anyway. The pastor there told Chancery officials that knowledge of Birmingham’s habit of groping altar boys was so “widespread” that some children refused to attend altar-boy meetings and religious education classes.
Forced to face two of his young accusers at a meeting at the Chancery, Birmingham first denied the accusations, then claimed to have no memory of the incidents, and finally apologized for the “impropriety.”
He was ordered to see a Catholic psychiatrist “to get to the root of this problem,” although it is unclear whether he followed through with the directive. He was placed on sick leave and later reassigned to Salem, where his abusive behavior continued, according to a fellow priest who advised church officials in 1970 that Birmingham be transferred again.
The disclosures about the archdiocese’s extensive knowledge of Birmingham’s alleged history of abuse were included among 1,000 pages of church documents released yesterday in connection with a lawsuit filed against the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
Despite Birmingham’s troubled history, he was moved from Salem to another parish in Lowell, to one in Brighton, to Gloucester, and to Lexington. By the time he died in 1989, he had served in a half-dozen parishes in the archdiocese, leaving dozens of accusations.
Church files show that his alleged abuses were known to Cardinal Bernard F. Law and several of his top deputies, including now-Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., who was one of Birmingham’s seminary classmates, and now-Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis.
In McCormack’s case, he wrote on Law’s behalf to assure a parishioner at St. Ann’s in Gloucester in April 1987 that there was “no factual basis” to his concern that his son may have been molested by Birmingham – even though McCormack had known since at least 1970 of Birmingham’s alleged abuses. “From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth and I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter,” McCormack wrote to the parishioner, who had written Law to inquire whether the Birmingham who was removed from Gloucester several months earlier was the same Birmingham who had been removed from Sudbury in the 1960s for molesting boys.
“I see no need of your raising this question with your son,” McCormack added.
Two months earlier, Banks wrote that Birmingham had “admitted there had been some difficulty” when confronted with a recent abuse complaint.”He agreed it would be helpful to resign from the parish, and to seek assessment and therapy,” Banks added.
Birmingham’s file indicates he was sent the same year to the Institute of Living, a Hartford treatment center for sexually abusive priests. After that, he served as parochial vicar at St. Brigid in Lexington from 1987 until shortly before his death in 1989.
After Birmingham’s death, complaints continued to stream in to the archdiocese, including one by a man who received a $60,000 settlement from the archdiocese for abuse he suffered at Birmingham’s hands when he was a high school student in the 1960s.
Bishop John D’Arcy, Who Sounded Alarm on Sex Abuse, Dies at 80
By Paul Vitello
Published February 4, 2013
Bishop John D’Arcy, who was ignored by his superiors in the 1980s when he warned about priests who later figured in the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, died on Sunday at his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he had led the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for 24 years. He was 80.
The cause was cancer, said Sean McBride, a diocese spokesman.
Bishop D’Arcy, who retired in 2009, drew national attention that year when he led a boycott to protest the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement ceremony.
Bishop D’Arcy, whose diocese encompassed the university campus, objected that the president’s abortion-rights views were in opposition to Roman Catholic teachings.
In Boston, where he spent the first half of his clerical career, Bishop D’Arcy, then an auxiliary bishop, wrote a series of letters to his superiors raising alarms about priests he considered troubled and dangerous. The priests were being reassigned to new pastoral duties despite their known histories of substance abuse, sexually abusing children or both, and he urged his superiors to reconsider.
The letters became public in the early 2000s when archdiocese documents were released by court order as a result of lawsuits.
In one of his bluntest letters, Bishop D’Arcy asked the newly appointed archbishop of Boston, Bernard F. Law, to rescind the appointment of the Rev. John J. Geoghan as pastor of a parish in Weston, Mass.
“Father Geoghan has a history of homosexual activity with young boys,” Bishop D’Arcy wrote to the archbishop on Dec. 7, 1984.
Father Geoghan was later accused of sexual abuse by 130 former parishioners, many of them from the Weston parish. He was strangled to death in a Massachusetts state prison by a fellow inmate in 2003 while serving a sentence for child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Law, who became a cardinal in 1985, said he could not recall Bishop D’Arcy’s letter when asked about it years later in depositions concerning the abuse cases.
Bishop D’Arcy wrote cautionary letters about three other priests: Thomas Forry, Richard Buntel and Robert Meffan, all of whom were later accused publicly of sexually abusing children.
In 1985, after writing a second letter about Father Geoghan to Cardinal Law, Bishop D’Arcy was elevated from auxiliary bishop to full bishop status and appointed to the post in Fort Wayne-South Bend.
He never spoke publicly about his letters.
Terrence McKiernan, founder of the Web site bishopsaccountability.org, a repository of church documents released as a result of lawsuits and government investigations of sexual abuse by priests, said letters like Bishop D’Arcy’s were rare.
There have been many internal memos about priests whom fellow clerics considered liabilities to the church, Mr. McKiernan said in an interview on Monday. “But I have read through thousands, tens of thousands of these documents,” he added, “and seen very few with D’Arcy’s level of expression of concern for the victims.”
John Michael D’Arcy was born on Aug. 13, 1932, in Boston, and ordained in 1957. He served as a parish priest for nine years before being appointed the vicar for spiritual development at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
In that role, in 1979, he recommended a comprehensive rethinking of the archdiocese’s system of recruiting men for the priesthood. Among other things, he urged that candidates undergo psychological testing, in part to screen out those who might not be sincere in taking vows of celibacy.
A 2003 report on sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese, issued by Attorney General Thomas Reilly of Massachusetts, concluded, “It does not appear that the archdiocese adopted Bishop D’Arcy’s recommendations in any meaningful way.”
Bishop D’Arcy’s boycott of Mr. Obama’s address at Notre Dame was one of two he led at the university when he was bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. In the other, in 1992, he protested the university’s plans to give an award to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, again because of Mr. Moynihan’s abortion-rights views.
When Mr. Obama was invited to give the commencement address in 2009, Bishop D’Arcy declared in an open letter to the university, “Notre Dame must ask itself if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”
Neither boycott changed the university’s commencement plans, though both sparked national debate among Catholics.
“He was very clear in his thinking, and never hid his views from anyone, no matter whom,” said the Rev. John Sassani, a parish priest in Boston, who was a friend.
Bishop D’Arcy’s survivors include two sisters: Sister Anne D’Arcy, a nun with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and Joan Sheridan.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 6, 2013
Because of an editing error, an obituary on Tuesday about Bishop John D’Arcy misstated his position in the Roman Catholic Church in the early 2000s, when letters he had written to his superiors in the Archdiocese of Boston about priests he considered troubled or dangerous were made public. He was bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., at the time; he was no longer an auxiliary bishop in Boston. The obituary also misstated the length of the sentence given to the Rev. John J. Geoghan, one of the priests Bishop D’Arcy had warned about, who was later convicted of child sexual abuse. It was 9 to 10 years, not life.
Is the Pope Panicking Over Sex Scandals, Political Polls, or Both?
Views of Jerry Slevin, a “Catholic and Harvard schooled” Wall Street lawyer, retired
Recent Vatican behavior indicates growing fear, if not panic, apparently related mainly to the ongoing clerical sex scandals and to recent papal political defeats. World media outlets are reporting almost daily now more priest sex scandal allegations, most recently about former Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony’s cover-ups for predatory priests and former New York Cardinal Egan’s ex-aide’s cross-dressing and drug and porn dealing. Moreover, on February 4, a week from Monday, HBO will begin airing internationally the devastating award winning documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa”, about the abuse of over 200 deaf boys and the Vatican’s failure to curtail it. No more free media passes for the Pope, it appears. For some more examples, please read, “How Much Longer Can the Vatican Avoid Priest Sex Abuse?” accessible by clicking on to the heading at the top or to: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-fj .
Meanwhile, the scandal is seriously harming the Vatican politically, legally, reputationally and financially. Government officials in the USA, Ireland, Italy, Australia, the Philippines, Germany and other nations increasingly challenge papal positions, including on child protection and contraception, sensing evidentally a weakened papacy. If the Pope continues to lose more political clout, he will also lose his power to exchange with political leaders his electoral support for special privileges and subsidies for the Catholic Church, as is already happening in Ireland and will probably soon happen in Australia, the USA and even in his fatherland, Germany.
The new appointment as chief of staff to President Obama of Denis McDonough, the highly regarded brother of a senior hierarchical canon lawyer from the Minneapolis-St. Paul diocese, with its extensive priest sex abuse claims, suggests the President will know well what is going on in the USA with its more than 100,000 estimated survivors of priest sex abuse. President Obama has already spoken out strongly against child sex abuse in organizational settings; now he may step up and do more than talk about it.
Given this, one would have expected the Vatican to try to address the priest scandals seriously and sensibly, and not merely with cosmetic changes and stepped-up spin. Instead, the Vatican seems to be hardening its defenses of the status quo hoping to survive the scandal, very likely a doomed strategy that has failed completely so far. What’s going on?
Current Papal Strategy
The Pope claims a unique divine authority over a mystical Eucharist administered only by low paid celibate male priests managed ruthlessly by his hand picked and well paid Cardinals and Bishops who serve, like him, for life. As such, the Pope claims accountability only to God and demands strict obedience from his hierarchy, priests and laity. Catholics are expected, no questions asked, to donate at the weekly Eucharist Mass and to accept blindly whatever the Pope and his self-serving Catechism say, even when the Bible, history and/or conscience clearly indicate otherwise.
Advantages of Current Papal Strategy:
The advantages are obvious. Wealth, power and privilege for the Pope, his corrupt Vatican Cardinal clique and their subservient worldwide hierarchy, with no accountability. It is great work if you can get it.
Disadvantages of Current Papal Strategy:
The disadvantages are becoming similarly obvious. Corruption, dishonesty, intimidation and now tens of thousands of sexually abused children who demand justice in a world increasingly governed by the rule of law, not by medieval papal dictates. Moreover, accumulating biblical and historical scholarship available to and understood by more Catholics is making clear that much of basis of the Pope’s purported claim to absolute authority is founded on myths and “cherry-picked” scripture and history. This has once again been made concisely clear most recently in the new book by a promising young UK/Italian scholar, “Democracy in the Christian Church”, a detailed description of which is accessible by clicking on at: http://amzn.com/0567449521
The solution is simple. Just follow the recent advice that Milan’s beloved and respected Jesuit scriptural scholar, Cardinal Martini, offered as his final testament, namely, close the 200 year gap in the Church’s structure and enter the democratic era without the Vatican medieval monarchical clique. The monarchical structure is not only contrary to Jesus’ explicit mandates and to early Catholics’ practice, it is too inflexible and ineffective to work in a global environment. The current inability of the Vatican to head off the Bank of Italy’s hold on Vatican credit card operations is just the latest evidence of Vatican managerial incompetence.
The Cardinals will soon meet to elect a new Pope. They can easily instead just postphone the election until a broadbased meeting of lay and clerical, male and female, Catholics can meet to decide on and adopt needed structural and other reforms, as happened at the first council in Jerusalem described in the New Testament. The Catholic Church has during the past decade survived with a severely ill Pope propped up by the Vatican clique and an octogenarian Pope dressed by his sceptical butler. The Catholic Church can get by with no Pope for a year or two, while it gets its own house in order.
Alternatively, the Cardinals can continue to do nothing but more of the same and elect another papal puppet to serve the interests of the corrupt Vatican Cardinal clique. If that happens, outside governments and their prosecutors will soon make the needed changes for them, as some in the hierarchy likely soon face criminal prosecutions and removal from office. Either way, the Spirit will likely soon return the Catholic Church to the consensual form Jesus and his first disciples left behind for 300 years, and discard the coercive one Constantine and his successors imposed and left behind for 1,700 year until now.
The church retains its barrier of silence
A lack of transparency at the top of the Roman Catholic Church has come between pulpit and pew.
In January 2002, the Boston Globe published the first in a series of articles that exposed the sordid history of sexual abuse of youth in the Boston Roman Catholic archdiocese. Those stories revealed how church officials had kept knowledge of abuse from parishioners and kept abusing priests in parishes where they continued to blight the lives and faith of the innocent.
Later in 2002, as more cases of sexual abuse in more dioceses tumbled out of the dark and the silence to which they had been consigned, the U.S. Conference of Bishops hurriedly promised transparency. The Catholic faithful, the bishops said, should know the extent of priestly abuse and their church’s response.
In 2007, after paying at least $660 million in abuse settlements, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles joined a torturous legal defense of a privilege to conceal its part in that history. The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, along with advocates for the victims, challenged the claim of archdiocesan officials.
Last week, in response to a court order, the archdiocese released internal records documenting the actions church officials took — or failed to take — when priests were accused of abuse. More documents will be released in coming weeks, but from those we’ve seen already, we know that in the 1980s, then-Archbishop Roger Mahony and his Vicar of Clergy, then-Msgr. Thomas Curry, failed repeatedly when moral judgment required them to choose the good of the Catholic community over loyalty to their fraternity of parish priests.
It’s impossible to use a facile word like “closure” at this point. The victims, some in their 50s and 60s, live on. The men who abused them have their crimes to live with. Members of the hierarchy have their attempts at contrition and their own unanswered failures. Nothing with real meaning is ended.
The faithful still gather on Sunday morning in my suburban church for Mass and to hear a sermon preached, which typically runs to themes of faithfulness, virtue and awareness of human failings. Hardly any of the hundreds of sermons I’ve heard since 2002 reflected on the scandal of priestly abuse, and the very few that did were generalized promises of change. Not one Sunday sermon considered how or why some men in the priesthood in Los Angeles became sexual predators. No sermon spoke of the disillusionment — obvious to everyone — that the men and women in the pews feel.
The promised changes have begun. The background of everyone who works with children in the parish is vetted. Parish workers are trained to observe the signs of abuse. Even the children are better informed. Beyond the parish boundaries, new protocols are in place for judging the psychological fitness of men seeking the priesthood. There’s a new awareness of what an abusing personality is like and how unlikely an abuser is to respond to treatment. New regulations should prevent an abusing priest from being shuttled from one unsuspecting parish to another.
These changes in parish life were made necessary by a hierarchy that kept silent for far too long. But some of the changes have coarsened parish life. Because of the archdiocese’s fear of transparency, every priest has been a suspect. Children have been steered away from contact with their pastors. Insurance carriers and church lawyers have counseled even greater distancing. The barriers rising between priests and children put at risk youth retreats, sports programs run by religious orders and boys’ high schools — all of which were part of my Catholic childhood.
The gap between pulpit and pew is widening, but it’s from those pews that future priests come. The formation of a boy into a man with the strength of character to accept a vocation used to begin with a relationship between a priest and a boy. It used to begin with a boy’s hero worship. That may not have been the best way to begin a life of self-denial and celibacy, but being in the company of a priest who seemed both saintly and human was the start for many men on the long path toward the priesthood. Of course, hero worship made the crimes of a predatory priest so much easier to commit.
From the perspective of the pulpit, the failure of the Los Angeles Archdiocese to understand and fulfill its responsibilities is likely to be seen as a tragic mistake, to be sincerely regretted and cured by regulatory fiat and vigilance.
From the perspective of those in the pews, the causes of priestly abuse and the reaction of archdiocesan officials make a bewildering labyrinth of unexplored reasons, including any that might lie in our own failures of understanding. Having had the sexuality of priests forced on us in its most terrible and scandalous form — in the form of a monster — we in the pews have had no invitation to offer whatever insight from our own lives we might give the men who are called to make their sexuality a daily sacrifice. Silence is the disfiguring common feature that perpetuated abuse and leaves the parish community unable now to minister to those who would minister to us.
D.J. Waldie is a contributing writer to Opinion.
How Much Longer Can the Vatican Avoid Priest Sex Abuse?
By Views of Jerry Slevin, a Catholic and Harvard schooled Wall Street lawyer, retired
The Vatican priest child abuse “cover-up denial”, that was so evident at the recent Roman Synod of Bishops, may be manageable for another year or two, but likely not much longer, even with a new Pope. International reality checks, in the form of factual and not mythical revelations, are rapidly exposing the Vatican’s latest mystical smokescreens to be the poor public relations ploys they are. So many innocent Catholic children have been raped by too many predatory priests protected by complicit Cardinals and Bishops. There are limits to trusting Catholics’ inculcated gullibility, and even an ex-FOX News pro working for the Pope can spin only so much. Facts stubbornly speak for themselves. Papal “Tweets” and “Apps” are no substitute for papal candor.
On an academic level, a promising young UK/Italian lay ecclesiologist has effectively exposed the mainly mythological foundation of the Vatican’s claim for absolute papal primacy. The recent book, “Democracy and the Christian Church”, concisely shows the scriptural, theological, philosophical and historical weaknesses of the papal claim and is accessible in part by clicking on at: http://amzn.com/0567449521
Catholics are increasingly learning that hierarchical conduct too often deviates significantly from papal propaganda. Initial Los Angeles secret abuse file revelations have exposed Cardinal Mahony’s reckless protection of known predatory priests. Criminal allegations of drug dealing against, and related cross-dressing and porn shop operation reports about, a former Bridgeport state chaplain of the Knights of Malta and top subordinate to Cardinal Egan and to Archbishop Lori, head of the Pope’s anti-Obama “religious liberty crusade”, are almost incredibly unsavory.
Moreover, reported efforts apparently to protect the secrecy of Munich and Regensburg files of the Pope and his brother, relating to alleged failures in the 1970′s to curtail a Munich predatory priest and to protect abused Regensburg choir boys, by sacking a too thorough German academic investigator, further erodes the steadily disappearing papal credibility. Ruthless attempts to silence a popular Irish priest who spoke about women and married priests, and apparently also to try to curtail an Irish priests’ “union”, are backfiring as the brave priest stands fast. Continued diatribes against gay marriage by a reported drunk driver San Francisco Archbishop appear cynical and desperate at best. Seemingly unending criminal trial disclosures about Cardinal Rigali’s Philly pedophile priest paradise continues to disgust many Catholics. Millions of U.S. Catholics have had enough and want to see these hypocritical and unaccountable actions curbed promptly.
Some Cardinals and Bishops will likely soon begin to be pressed directly by international and individual nations’ prosecutorial investigations. Even an end to Popes being dictated to by corrupt Vatican Cardinal cliques may be on the near horizon, as explained in “Will the Next Pope Become the Vatican’s Last Pope?”, accessible by clicking on the heading at the top here or on: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-cT
The days of relying mainly on Vatican canon law investigations and “prosecutions”, now to be overseen by one of disgraced Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyers, are over. The major Australian governmental investigation and the almost inevitable upcoming U.S. Federal investigation will only add to the pressure on the Vatican, as explained further in “Why President Obama Must Read the Latest “LA Confidential”, accessible by clicking on the heading on the top here or on: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-f3 .
Finally, beginning soon on Monday, February 4, HBO will begin airing internationally the award winnning documentary. “Mea Maxima Culpa”. It is the sad story about 200+ deaf boys who were allegedly sexually abused by a single priest in Milwaukee over several decades. Both local law enforcement and the Catholic hierarchy reportedly failed to act timely and adequately on deaf boys’ abuse claims, which even futilely reached the Pope’s CDF department in Rome. A Federal judge recently reversed an earlier shameful attempt by then Archbishop Dolan, now New York’s Cardinal and a reported papal contender, to transfer $55 million of the Milwaukee diocese’s funds to a cemetery trust beyond the legal reach of abuse survivors’ claims, apparently including some of the deaf survivors.
The Vatican and its subservient Cardinals and Bishops may try to run some more, as Cardinal Law so arrogantly did; but they are rapidly running out of places to hide.