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The Shadow Behind ‘Spotlight’: How Predator Priests Derailed Boston’s Would-Be Pope, Cardinal Bernard Law


The Shadow Behind ‘Spotlight’: How Predator Priests Derailed Boston’s Would-Be Pope, Cardinal Bernard Law

Sins of the Father

10.26.151:03 AM ET
Cardinal Bernard Law

Cardinal Bernard Law

The shadow villain of Spotlight, Bernard Law was one of America’s most ambitious and prominent cardinals—until his handling of the sex-abuse scandal caught up with him.

Spotlight is a gripping new film by Tom McCarthy on The Boston Globe’s investigation of how that archdiocese concealed child-molester priests. Set in 2001, the film serves as backstory to the Pulitzer Prize-winning series that began on Jan. 6, 2002—“Feast of the Epiphany,” as we learn in the intelligent script by McCarthy and Josh Singer.

Taking on the church in heavily Catholic Boston was no small order. Several of the reporters came from Catholic homes. Marty Baron, the Globe’s new editor, by way of The Miami Herald, suggested the investigation after reading a Globe columnist on a priest abuse case. Baron wanted to know more; he later became editor of The Washington Post.

Played by the bearded Liev Schreiber, Baron presents as a shy man, of few but forceful words, an outsider to tribal Boston, and a Jew, as a Catholic businessman says, sotto voce, to Michael Keaton in his edgy, pensive portrayal of Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson.

Robinson’s clutch of reporters worked months before the first article appeared, finding documents and tracking down victims of some 30 priests. The turning point in 2001 came when a court ruling against the church unsealed lawsuits that put clergy personnel documents into the public record. The Globe ultimately reported that the archdiocese had sheltered 249 predatory clerics going back several decades.

The Globe unmasked Cardinal Bernard Law, then Boston’s Archbishop, for shielding predators; he made Newsweek’s cover in March 2002. Spotlight ends two months before that, just as the newspaper series begins. A line onscreen at the end of the film says that Law resigned as archbishop in December 2002, and later became pastor in Rome of a historic basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore (note to reader: at a salary of $12,000 a month, according to The New York Times).

Law left Boston a figure of ridicule and disgrace, yet still a Prince of the Church, as cardinals are called. He has never given an interview in the 13 years since then. In researching a 2011 book on Vatican finances, and more recent reporting trips to Rome, I pieced together a picture of the cardinal in winter (he turns 84 next month) as he rebuilt a power base. His story echoes the wisdom of Heraclitus: character is fate.

The Globe series ignited a chain reaction of reports at the networks and daily newsrooms, not least at The New York Times, which owned the Globe then and competed hard on investigations of its own. For the church, the earthquake convulsed well into 2004; the impact continued on for years, as dioceses and religious orders settled thousands of victim lawsuits.

Early into Spotlight, Baron pays a courtesy call on Cardinal Law, played by a silver-haired Len Cariou with a suave patrician gravitas, saying that as a young monsignor in Mississippi in the 1960s, “I was close to the Evers brothers,” and that he wrote for the Jackson diocesan paper. In a dash of hubris the cardinal suggests common cause in a healthy press, and then gives editor Baron a copy of the thick Catholic Catechism. Schrieber’s facial twist registers irony as he takes the book, knowing that news will come of rules long broken by the church.

I let out an audible mmmm at that moment in the screening; my wife whispered, “Is something wrong?” I shook my head, no, thinking of Law: All that promise…

Globe reporters interviewed me in late 2001 and several times in 2002 because of a work I published in 1992—Lead Us Not Into Temptation, the first book to investigate the nationwide crisis of priest sex abuse. (The book actually has a cameo in the film; a survivor activist shows his copy to Spotlight reporters with other material he urges them to read.) The Globe reviewed the book favorably in 1992 during heavy national coverage of an ex-priest, James Porter, who left a trail of agony in Massachusetts towns going back many years, before taking a plea bargain and 20-year sentence for child sexual abuse. He died in prison six years later.

Cardinal Law was irate over the Porter coverage, blustering at one point, “We call down God’s power on the media, especially the Globe.”

The book took seven years, with endless photocopying and FedEx bills—this was pre-Internet—to obtain legal documents on far-flung bishops shielding sex offenders. But I was unable to get documents from New York, Boston, and Los Angeles: Church lawyers had a tight lid on cases. Other attorneys assumed that the victims took settlements in exchange for silence. Nine years later, Boston survivors came forth, with wrenching personal stories, after Judge Constance Sweeney, a Catholic, ruled that press freedom trumped church secrecy, unsealing lawsuits and giving victims the right to speak. The scene is a key moment in Spotlight.

Cardinal Law, the reporters’ ultimate target, is not a major character in the film; Baron tells his reporters to go after “the system,” not the man, though it goes unspoken that Law was the system.

I met Bernie Law, as priests in Mississippi called him, in Jackson, the state capitol, in the summer of 1971 while working as press secretary in Charles Evers’s quixotic campaign for governor. A week after graduation from Georgetown, I arrived as a volunteer, wrote a press release when they needed one, and got hired for $75 a week.

Law was vicar-general, the bishop’s top assistant. Evers, whose brother Medgar had been assassinated in 1963, respected Law for his editorials in the Catholic paper urging tolerance during the violent years. In a heavily Baptist state prone to racial demagogues, Law had been on the right side of history. By 1971 the riots and Klan violence had abated; but tensions were palpable, race relations still raw. I was curious about Law, and when I called, the monsignor invited me to dinner. When I parked my dented VW in the chancery parking lot, he said, “Let’s take my car.” It was larger and more comfortable.

He was 40, plump but energetic, a Harvard graduate with early silver hair, a cool mind and warm wit. I liked him immediately. He sang praises of the Italian restaurant where he had a reservation.

The owner gave him a lavish hello, and scowled at me. “Sorry, Monsignor, we can’t take him—the hair is too long.” Law frowned. I blushed. The hair stopped just shy of my shoulders, but this was Mississippi and the guy didn’t like suspected hippies. Law protested, without yelling, to no avail. I knew it wasn’t a moment to stand on constitutional rights and expect to eat lasagna.

Law was mortified as he drove to another restaurant, telling me somberly that backwards Mississippi really had made important strides. At dinner he brightened; we talked national politics, theology, and church changes since Vatican II.

As we left the restaurant, Law said: “How’d you like to meet the bishop?”

Sure. Joseph Brunini, the bishop of Jackson, came from a family with a prominent law firm; he too had been a voice of moderation in the dark years. The bishop, 52, had a condo outside Jackson at the vast Ross Barnett Reservoir where people with sailboats had slips.

Barnett was the former governor known for inflammatory speeches and standing in the doorway at the University of Mississippi in 1962 to block James Meredith as the first black student. Meredith was escorted in by white federal marshals. “Which of you is James Meredith?” said Barnett to the only black man in eyesight. The campus soon exploded in a riot that left two people dead as federal troops secured Meredith’s place. The state named the big lake for the worst governor Mississippi ever had.

We sat on the deck of the condo, sipping Scotch as the insects sang outside. Brunini was an amiable man, a Georgetown graduate curious about my time there, the three of us trading thoughts about race relations and the church. I realized that Mississippi’s Catholic community amounted to a minority religion, a tiny social presence, quite different from the New Orleans of my upbringing. Brunini wished me well and made a point of blessing me as we left.

As Law and I drove back to the chancery, his demeanor changed. He was smiling, a man on a cloud. “Did you like the bishop?” he said. Yes, a very nice man. “Did you think he was—cool?” Uh, sure.

This man wants to be a bishop, I reported to myself with the brilliance of a 22-year old. As we pulled up to my car, he stuck out his hand. “Call me Bernie.”

Campaign work intensified; he made a trip to Rome and I didn’t see him again; we chatted a few times by phone.

As the years passed I followed news on him. He became a bishop in Missouri, and several years later, in 1984, vaulted to Boston, as archbishop, and soon a cardinal. I’ve known journalists to fume over people they wished they’d kept up with. I soon felt that about Law, wishing I’d sent notes, Christmas cards, anything to cultivate a relationship. The regret hit me in the mid-’80s as I reported on the prosecution of a pedophile priest in Lafayette, Louisiana. In a circuitous way, those events led to Law.

In January of 1986, the weekly Times of Acadiana ran my final piece, reconstructing how Bishop Gerard Frey had played musical chairs with seven priests who had abused children over several years. The paper ran an editorial calling for the Vatican to remove the bishop, for which it got hit with an advertisers’ boycott fomented by a retired judge, Edmund Reggie, and a prominent monsignor. The paper lost $20,000 before cooler heads prevailed. In July, the Vatican sent a new bishop.

In February of that year I shifted to work on the book, and flew to Washington, D.C., to interview Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer at the Vatican Embassy. Doyle, I learned, sent a shot across the bow as co-author of a 100-page report in the spring of 1985 on the pedophile cases before it became a crisis. The document went to every bishop in America. A classic whistleblower, Doyle lost his job; he became an Air Force chaplain.

Doyle told me how he had given Cardinal Law a briefing on abuse cases in various states in 1984 before his work on the report. Law supported Doyle in the effort; he even contributed $1,000 to cover photocopy costs so the document could be sent to 150 bishops. Many years later, Law testified in a deposition in one of the Boston cases and said he could not recall details of that 1985 report, which became a “smoking gun” for advising bishops to remove predators and reach out to victims. Many bishops opted to recycle perpetrators after stints in psychiatric treatment facilities, and ignore victims until they filed lawsuits.

The next time I saw Law was 1993 in New Orleans where the bishops held their summer conference. Activists with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests were staging a protest. Law stepped off an elevator at the Hyatt Regency and nearly collided with me. “Your Eminence, it’s been a long time since Mississippi. Would you have time to talk?”

He shook his head grimly and moved on. I noticed he was much heavier.

In 1998, the artist Channing Thieme was preparing an exhibition called “Boston Faces,” portraits of a cross-section of Bostonians. She was not a Catholic, curious about a man as powerful as Law, and delighted when he agreed to sit for her at the cardinal’s mansion in Brighton. She found him a charming conversationalist in two drawing sessions. When she returned with the finished graphite portrait, Law was delighted. She said: “What’s the toughest part of your job?”

“Judgment—the decisions I must make,” Law replied. And, as if looking ahead to a bitter reckoning, he added: “That is the half of it. The other half is the judgment I must one day face myself.”

She was amazed at the statement. The words do not ring of false modesty.

Law in 1998 was the most powerful American churchman in Rome. Close to Pope John Paul and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State, Law cultivated ties in the Roman Curia and served on major Vatican committees. Yet that artist’s question, as he gazed at his black-and-white image, seemingly unloosed an inner coil. He apparently felt guilty about something. Could it have been the scores of pedophiles he had sent to treatment tanks, some of them recycled, with little thought of their ravaged victims?

Power is the movement of money. The out-of-court settlements Law had approved, predicated on victims’ silence, put the survivors out of sight, out of mind.

Judgment stalked him in civil depositions as the media coverage wore on; reporters used his testimony to shatter the credibility of the man who had urged John Paul II to authorize the updated, very long Catholic Catechism, the one that the cardinal in the movie gives to the editor with his quiet, quizzical face.

Law resigned just before Christmas 2002, after a private meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome; he left Boston for sanctuary in a Maryland convent with nuns. Imagine the psychological blow to a man who had once told friends that he hoped to be the first American pope, a man whose support of migrants from the Dominican Republic entering Boston stood for the values of a church giving comfort and succor to the poor.

Nixon sought redemption after Watergate by writing books and holding dinners for selected journalists, a careful campaign to rehabilitate himself as a foreign policy sage.

Law turned to the one place where he had support—cardinals and bishops in the Roman Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy. “The curia is a brotherhood,” Cardinal Sodano once told The New York Times. Law had friends in the brotherhood after 17 years in Boston. A member of the Congregation for Bishops, he helped select new American bishops.

The news of Law’s new job in Rome in the spring of 2004 came at the worst possible time for his successor, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Seán O’Malley. O’Malley had approved an $85 million settlement to 542 victims, only to take public criticism for a wave of church closures, consolidating parishes in a controversial plan to sell property after the huge deficit Law had left. O’Malley had already sold the cardinal’s mansion for $108 million to Boston College. All that, and John Paul rewarded Law with a cushy perch at one of Rome’s great basilicas.

“Many people in Rome would say that he paid the price in the form of his resignation and that there’s no reason that he shouldn’t make a contribution,” Vatican correspondent John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter told Boston Magazine two years after Law assumed his position. (Allen now writes for Crux, an online branch of the Globe that covers the Catholic Church.)

After many years away from Mississippi, I went to Jackson in 2004 to promote a book, written with Gerald Renner. Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II explores the Vatican’s role in the abuse crisis. Before the evening lecture, I did several media interviews, and spent time with SNAP leaders Johnny Rainer and Kenneth Morrison.

Morrison was 39, an artist in Chicago who had grown up in Jackson. He was one of three sons of a physician, by then deceased. His mother came to the book event. The family had moved to Jackson from Boston in 1969 when Kenneth’s dad, Dr. Francis Morrison, an oncologist, took a teaching position at the state medical school. As Boston Catholics, the Morrisons found a friend in Bernie Law, the Harvard graduate. The Morrisons also befriended Father George Broussard who, as pedophiles will do, ingratiated himself with the family, slowly molesting the three young boys.

As we drove around Jackson that day, Kenneth, a strapping guy who did industrial art projects in Chicago, pointed to several church buildings where, he said, Broussard had forced sex on him as a boy of 5, 6, and 7 years old—“there, in that one, and that one, and that one.” As we drove past the chancery, his memories of being abused spilled into my thought field from 1971. The summer evening I pulled into the chancery parking lot to meet Bernie Law, matched the time period when little Kenneth was being preyed upon by Father Broussard nearby.

Morrison sued the Jackson diocese in 2003. The diocese faced lawsuits against seven other priests, several dating back to Law’s tenure there.

Law was the bishop’s right hand when Dr. Morrison reported what Broussard had done to the chancery. As Morrison would later allege, Broussard began receiving “treatment,” while staying at another parish. Law was close to the Morrisons, and to Broussard. Knowing what he knew, what should Law have done?

“The sexual molestation of minors wasn’t even on my radar screen,” Law testified in a deposition in the Morrison case. “It wasn’t the issue that it is today… it didn’t come up.”

But the diocese did investigate, as William Houck, who succeeded Brunini as bishop, stated under oath: “Broussard said he subsequently admitted the accusations to Bernard Law and to Bishop (Joseph) Brunini, and attended confession with Bernard Law.”

Law had moved to Rome when the Jackson diocese agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Kenneth Morrison.

In late 2012, I spent five weeks in Rome for GlobalPost, reporting on the Vatican investigation of liberal American nuns—the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Cardinal Law was a catalyst in sparking that investigation, as I reported, though he played no direct role in the interrogations, meetings, and correspondence that the sisters had with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The C.D.F. is housed in the majestic palazzo where in 1616 the Inquisition punished Galileo for his position that the Earth revolves around the sun.

After leaving Boston in humiliation, Law found a fraternal womb in the Curia; but after the blows to his stature and ego, he wanted other people to “face judgment”—an outsized projection of his own faults in the desire to bring those liberal nuns to heel. The man who suggested the new catechism wanted obedience to authority, of which he himself had little.

Levada, it is worth adding, had been archbishop of San Francisco, and up to his chest in litigation over pedophile priests, when the newly elected Pope Benedict tossed him a ladder in 2005 as if from a celestial helicopter, lifting him up and away from the muck in the City by the Bay to beautiful Rome and great status as theologian-in-chief.

Levada refused to be interviewed. I called Law, hoping against hope that he might agree to talk. A priest took the call at Santa Maria Maggiore, let his cold silence register for a number of seconds, and stated: “The cardinal does not give interviews. There are no exceptions.”

Pope Francis would later oversee the termination of the proceedings against the nuns, and make a point of meeting with several of the leaders of American sisters for a reconciliation with news photographers present.

“Law is a presence on the embassy social circuit,” a Western diplomat in Rome told me in 2012. “He’s a cardinal, an official of the Curia, so he’s on the invitation lists. He’s sociable and mingles easily.”

The Holy See assumes a decorum among journalists who cover the Vatican. Many reporters who work in the press room off St. Peter’s Square have broken stories critical of church officialdom—Nicole Winfield of AP and Philip Pullella of Reuters prominent among them; but you don’t see journalists in packs ambushing church officials as if they were Chicago or Louisiana politicians heading into criminal court. Pope Benedict was reeling from the Vati-Leaks scandal in late 2012 when I attended a reception for a group of newly invested cardinals.

It was a rare chance to get inside the Apostolic Palace, which is closed to the public save for ceremonial occasions. The large reception parlors have elegant tapestries adorning the walls. The papal apartments and pope’s office on the top floor were off-limits. In one parlor a sizeable crowd of people who had come from Nigeria waited in a receiving line to greet their new cardinal, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja. Many of the Nigerian women wept as they hugged him. The rich colors of Yoruba design on the dresses and dashikis of men were emblazoned with the new cardinal’s photograph. The vibrant festivity of the multicultural pageant in the life of the church reminded me of The Canterbury Tales.

Across the crowded Rome I saw the bloated, hulking figure of Cardinal Law, flanked by two priests, make his way past a receiving line toward two Italians in the red hat of cardinals. I moved that way, camera in hand. A priest at Law’s elbow saw me and glared, stationing himself closer to the cardinal to prevent a clear angle. I stood there for several minutes, without shooting, and then turned away, thinking of Kenneth Morrison.

A frequent Daily Beast contributor, Jason Berry’s books include Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II.

 

What the Catholic bishop knew


What the Catholic bishop knew

Eamonn O’Neill talks to F Ray Mouton, one of the authors of ‘The Manual’, a 1985 report into child abuse in the clergy which he claims the church suppressed

F. Ray Mouton

F. Ray Mouton

 

Now retired, F Ray Mouton spends his days writing his novel, Beyond Familiar Altars – a story of scandal and cover-up in the Catholic church. The media from various corners of the world have made repeated attempts to interview the 63-year-old former defence lawyer, but Mouton has – until now – chosen to lie low.

He is sought after because of events he was party to just over a quarter of a century ago – events which included a secret meeting with Cardinal William Levada, who now holds one of the highest positions in the Vatican.

In 1984 Mouton, then a successful young lawyer in Louisiana, was having lunch with the local Roman Catholic church top brass. He was asked to defend a priest accused of child abuse – the first legally recorded case of its kind.

His client was Father Gilbert Gauthe, and he was accused of abusing dozens of children in Henry, a rural, deeply devout Catholic community. The church was already paying out millions to families who signed confidentiality clauses. But one family, the Gastals, whose son Scott was abused by Gauthe, refused to stay silent, and instead urged the local district attorney to file 37 criminal charges against the clergyman. “The priest needed his own counsel in the criminal matter and also in the civil cases where he was a lead defendant,” says Mouton. Despite death threats and the nature of the crimes, Mouton accepted the case.

“I believed this priest was a sole, aberrant individual and that there could not possibly be other men of the cloth who serially sexually abused children,” he explains. “I believed then that this priest should receive a fair sentence – 20 years in a facility where he could be treated for his condition, a time sufficient to allow his youngest victims to grow to be about 30 years old prior to his release. And I believed no one in the diocese could have known about these horrendous crimes without having reported them to the police and removing this man from the priesthood.”

Father Gilbert Gauthe

Father Gilbert Gauthe

At the time, Mouton didn’t think the priest’s employers – the church – could be held responsible for the criminal actions of someone they’d hired. He soon changed his mind: “I would come to believe that not only is a priest who abuses a child acting out of pathology, but a bishop covering up such heinous crimes is afflicted with a deeper, darker pathology that poses as great a threat, or even a greater threat, to society – for it was the bishops and the Vatican that empowered and enabled these criminals … to avoid scandal to the church.”

Now retired, F Ray Mouton spends his days writing his novel, Beyond Familiar Altars – a story of scandal and cover-up in the Catholic church. The media from various corners of the world have made repeated attempts to interview the 63-year-old former defence lawyer, but Mouton has – until now – chosen to lie low.

He is sought after because of events he was party to just over a quarter of a century ago – events which included a secret meeting with Cardinal William Levada, who now holds one of the highest positions in the Vatican.

In 1984 Mouton, then a successful young lawyer in Louisiana, was having lunch with the local Roman Catholic church top brass. He was asked to defend a priest accused of child abuse – the first legally recorded case of its kind.

His client was Father Gilbert Gauthe, and he was accused of abusing dozens of children in Henry, a rural, deeply devout Catholic community. The church was already paying out millions to families who signed confidentiality clauses. But one family, the Gastals, whose son Scott was abused by Gauthe, refused to stay silent, and instead urged the local district attorney to file 37 criminal charges against the clergyman. “The priest needed his own counsel in the criminal matter and also in the civil cases where he was a lead defendant,” says Mouton. Despite death threats and the nature of the crimes, Mouton accepted the case.

“I believed this priest was a sole, aberrant individual and that there could not possibly be other men of the cloth who serially sexually abused children,” he explains. “I believed then that this priest should receive a fair sentence – 20 years in a facility where he could be treated for his condition, a time sufficient to allow his youngest victims to grow to be about 30 years old prior to his release. And I believed no one in the diocese could have known about these horrendous crimes without having reported them to the police and removing this man from the priesthood.”

At the time, Mouton didn’t think the priest’s employers – the church – could be held responsible for the criminal actions of someone they’d hired. He soon changed his mind: “I would come to believe that not only is a priest who abuses a child acting out of pathology, but a bishop covering up such heinous crimes is afflicted with a deeper, darker pathology that poses as great a threat, or even a greater threat, to society – for it was the bishops and the Vatican that empowered and enabled these criminals … to avoid scandal to the church.”

Gauthe pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. The Gastal family were awarded $1.2m (£790,000) in damages. Mouton recalls: “This was the turning point … that verdict was reported prominently in media [and] was … heard in every plaintiff law office in the United States.”

While defending Gauthe, Mouton found out that the church had in fact known about his crimes since seminary and had moved him around parishes. He had also seen evidence that convinced him that there were other abusing priests across the US. When the case ended, he could have walked away. Instead, he decided to try to help the church get out of the mess it was in. He joined forces with Father Tom Doyle, who was the canon lawyer in the papal nunciature and Vatican embassy in Washington DC, and Father Michael Peterson, a priest-psychiatrist who treated sexually dysfunctional priests.

The three hatched a plan to pool their knowledge in the form of a “manual”, which would warn the church about the danger to children – and to the institution itself – posed by sexual abusers, and offer advice about what should be done.

Mouton says the report’s authors believed they had the support of senior US Roman Catholic figures. “My understanding is that both Doyle and Peterson were having ongoing discussions with men in prominent positions, including Cardinal Law, who verbally supported us drafting this document. The bishop charged with monitoring the crisis and reporting to the pope’s personal representative in the US, Bishop A James Quinn, was also supportive.

“The document was to be presented to an upcoming conference of all bishops in the US with the hope that they would adopt its provisions.”

The result of their labour was a 92-page document. They explained that priests were being accused of abuse on a wide scale and that many were probably guilty. They examined definitions of paedophilia and how it related to the priesthood. The issues were complex, they said, and needed addressing urgently. And while the church’s position was in danger, they urged the hierarchy to do its utmost to protect the vulnerable victims of the clerics’ abuse.

A secret meeting was called at a Chicago hotel in May 1985 to discuss what was now known as The Manual. A low-level auxiliary bishop from Los Angeles attended, called William Levada. Mouton recalls: “The meeting seemingly went well. Bishop Levada vetted every word of the document and seemed to be in full support of [it] being presented to the full conference of bishops. Shortly thereafter, Bishop Levada telephoned Doyle and advised him basically to ‘kill’ our document because the conference had a plan of their own and would form a committee to deal with the issue. “After the conference concluded, it was announced to the media that a committee had been formed to deal with clergy abuse. This turned out to be just another lie, for no committee was formed in the conference until the 90s.”

According to a New York Times report on 20 June 1985 – some weeks after The Manual was privately copied and distributed to scores of bishops by the two priests and Mouton – the Rev Kenneth Doyle, a spokesman for the US Catholic conference in Washington, stated: “We don’t want to give the impression that it’s [sexual abuse cases by priests like Gauthe] a rampant problem for the church, because it is not.”

Statements made by Levada in a legal deposition during an abuse case in California in 2004 record him saying that Mouton’s report didn’t stick in his memory despite its explosive contents: “It’s a long time, and it would be difficult for me to say that I recall having seen it before … I maybe have seen it before, but I don’t recall it now.” He also said he was at the meeting as a “listener” with a brief to report back to Law. He said he didn’t recall whether he told Mouton, Doyle and Peterson if their report and its distribution was “a good idea or not”.

This week, in a statement to the New York Times, Levada said: “As I look back on my own personal history as a priest and bishop, I can say that in 1980 I had never heard of any accusation of such sexual abuse by a priest. It was only in 1985, as an auxiliary bishop attending a meeting of our US bishops’ conference … that I became aware of some of the issues.” The conference the cardinal refers to was in June 1985 – a month after the hotel meeting.

n his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society. “In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said. “It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than' and a ‘worse than'. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

n his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.
“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.
“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

In retrospect, Mouton wonders about Levada’s attendance: “Prior to being an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, Levada worked in the Vatican in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and from 1981 to early 1983 he worked directly under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was prefect. The trajectory of Levada’s career [since the hotel meeting] was meteoric. In July of 1986 he was made archbishop of Portland, a diocese that mishandled the clergy abuse crisis. Levada was further promoted in August 1995 to archbishop of San Francisco, where he was criticised for his actions in regard to clergy abuse.

“Shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he appointed Archbishop Levada as prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and Levada was elevated to cardinal. Thus, [he] is now the person charged with full responsibility for all matters relating to clergy abuse.

“Was Levada the eyes and ears of Ratzinger in that meeting? I only know that he worked with and for Ratzinger and obviously remained close to him for 24 years, and [he] possesses a quality I believe Joseph Ratzinger values above all others: loyalty to Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. ”

Levada has come in for criticism of his handling of so-called “mega-suits” in California and, later, in Portland, Oregon, where his archdiocese filed for bankruptcy after claims running in excess of $50m were settled. In May 2000, Levada authorised a payout of $750,000 to a man who had been sexually assaulted by a priest. The priest who witnessed and reported the offence, Father John Conley, sued for defamation after his church accused him of being unstable and negligent. Just before the case went to trial, Levada authorised a secret deal to “prefund” Conley’s retirement and thus silence him.

In June 2002, in a speech to US bishops in Dallas, Levada called on clerics to ask whether they’d done all they could to crack down on abusers. By the end of the year he was advising Pope John Paul II to develop his so-called “zero-tolerance” policy on the issue. Mouton reflects: “There is no question … that had the bishops around the world, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II adhered to our advice thousands of priests would have been removed from the ministry and turned over to police authorities, and an inestimable number of children would have grown normally through childhood with God’s greatest gift, innocence, intact.”

For A. J. Baselice: Sins of the Father


For A. J. Baselice: Sins of the Father

Father Charles Newman, once head of the largest Catholic high school in Philadelphia, sits in jail after stealing nearly a million dollars. But as one family knows, he committed acts of evil far more chilling than that

From the link: http://www.phillymag.com/articles/sins-of-the-father/#OdpPfGKqspzyICMw.99

WHILE THE FAITHFUL and holy gather in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Art Baselice stands outside, bearing witness in his own way. He isn’t interested in prayers for Bishop Joseph Cistone, who is leaving Philadelphia to run a diocese in Michigan. He isn’t hoping to shake hands with the cardinal and all of the archbishops, who have come together on this summer afternoon for Cistone’s farewell benediction.

Surrounded by a handful of priest abuse victims and their advocates, he holds a sandwich-board sign bearing photos of his son, Arthur Baselice III, and two clerics, Brother Regis Howitz and Father Charles Newman. As a pair of clergymen head into the service, Baselice raises up his billboard. They look over for a moment, then move on. “See what I get?” Art says. “There’s a man of God. He turns his head.”

Back home in South Jersey, the ashes of Art Baselice’s son sit in a marble urn, surrounded by trinkets and photographs, as if part of a funeral that never ends. The man Art holds responsible is Father Charles, the former president of Archbishop Ryan, the largest Catholic high school in the city. With his wife and two children, Art would attend Saturday mass, and walk up the aisle to Father Charles, who would place the Holy Eucharist in their outstretched hands or on their tongues. Art is mostly bald now, and stocky, with the meaty hands of a prizefighter. He rarely smiles, and when he speaks, there’s an edge to his words, like he’s spitting them out — partly the South Philadelphia Italian in him, partly the ex-city cop. But his sharp cadence is mostly a reflection of what he can’t stop thinking about. “He started grooming Arthur the day he met him,” Art says of Father Charles. “Not only Arthur. He groomed us.”

That Father Charles was sent to prison in May for stealing more than $900,000 from his religious order and high school gives Art little comfort. In his mind, there are crimes for which the priest, and the Philadelphia archdiocese, haven’t been punished. His son is dead. So is his faith. As Bishop Cistone and his holy brethren worship inside the cathedral, Art tightens his grip on his sign, trying to make sense of how he — the ex-cop, the devout Catholic, the father — ended up here, and when his healing will begin.

This isn’t a story like so many that have surfaced since 2002, when the Boston Globe’s reports on Catholic clergy abuse tore apart that city’s archdiocese. Since then, tales of pedophile priests have been told by the hundreds, as other cities, including Philadelphia, began to examine the church in a way they once dared not. In 2005, a grand jury investigation launched by district attorney Lynne Abraham culminated in a 418-page report. The revelations it contained were horrifying. One priest molested a fifth-grader inside a confessional booth. Another raped an 11-year-old, then took her to a clinic for an abortion. Sixty-three priests were named in all, and the scores of children they violated would grow up battling addiction, suicidal thoughts and mental illness. But there is another group of victims and survivors — the families whose lives were ruined by depraved men cloaked in priests’ vestments.

 

Art and Elaine Baselice are among the forgotten collateral damage from Philadelphia’s clergy-abuse scandal. In the early 1970s, the Baselices were like a South Philly fairy tale, two young Catholic kids in love. Art, a Bishop Neumann grad who served in the Air Force, married Elaine, a pretty Maria Goretti alum from the neighborhood. Despite the cost of Catholic education, their kids, Arthur and Ashleigh, would grow up the same way they had, with the discipline and moral guidance of the church. Fortunately, Archbishop Ryan High was less than a mile away from their new home in the Northeast.

Arthur Baselice didn’t stand out among the rest of his freshman class when he arrived at Ryan in 1992. He wasn’t a straight-A student, nor a delinquent, partly thanks to the discipline at home from his father, who had worked hard years in homicide and narcotics. Arthur loved rock music and sports, especially football, playing tight end at Ryan. Still, he was more of a goofball than a macho jock, always quick to crack jokes and laugh. He didn’t seem destined for Princeton or the NFL, but Arthur’s parents were proud. He was a good kid.

Elaine Baselice first met Father Charles at Ryan’s annual mother/son dance during Arthur’s freshman year. The priest approached her and asked if she was Arthur’s mother. “What a fine-looking son you have,” Father Charles said. It was a strange introduction, but dressed in his brown friar robes, with glasses and a round, soft face crowned by thinning hair, he certainly looked harmless enough.

Father Charles wasn’t a typical priest, though. He’d joined Ryan’s staff in 1978 as a lay teacher in the English department. There, he was drawn to the spirituality of the Franciscans, who lived at the friary on Ryan’s campus and worked at the high school as teachers and administrators. Newman left to join the seminary, and when he returned in 1985, in his mid-30s, he had become Father Charles.

As an adviser for the school theater group and chorus, Father Charles was a talented organist and well-liked. In the hallways, though, he was a disciplinarian. It was his business-like manner, not any schmoozing with the archdiocesan elite, that would ultimately lead to his promotion to principal. He was also appointed treasurer of the friary — not an important job, it seemed, for priests who’d taken vows of poverty, as the Franciscans do.

In his private life, Father Charles was more likely to stay in his bedroom than have a beer at the friary’s Friday happy hours. One friend of his, Brother Regis Howitz, was a custodian at the school. Otherwise, Father Charles didn’t have an obvious social circle. Like a method actor who was always “on,” he maintained a holy aura at all times and was rarely seen wearing anything but his habit. Father Charles seemed to be a man who fully understood the power of the priesthood. So when he began calling Arthur Baselice into closed-door meetings, no one thought to question him about it.

FATHER CHARLES WAS promoted to principal before Arthur’s sophomore year, and though Arthur wasn’t in his class, and wasn’t an actor or a singer, something drew the priest to the boy. In the hallways, Father Charles would call him “Elvis,” a playful reference to Arthur’s sideburns. He summoned Arthur to his office and adjusted his grades to spare him from summer school. The priests at Ryan were revered, and Arthur thought the most respected of them all, his principal, was also becoming his friend.

Arthur later detailed his experience in a court complaint he filed against the archdiocese, as well as in statements to investigators and letters. By his junior year, he was seeing Father Charles every week, first in common rooms at the friary, then upstairs in his bedroom. While Arthur wore the priest’s black socks, Father Newman would sniff his feet and masturbate. In return, he would give Arthur alcohol and $200. After a few months passed, Father Charles pushed his victim further, performing oral sex on him while Arthur wore his socks. Drugs followed, with the priest’s bribes escalating from booze to pot, cocaine and OxyContin. Father Charles made Arthur urinate on him. According to Arthur’s complaint, Brother Regis also abused Arthur — sometimes in the presence of his friend, Father Charles, and other times alone.

Silence, it seemed to Arthur, was his only option. Along with the shame and confusion he felt, there was Father Charles’s warning: If Arthur ever spoke of what happened between them, the priest would kill himself. But as the rituals continued in secrecy, Arthur’s parents began to notice changes in their son. His grades fell. His cheerful attitude soured. He was spending more time with his girlfriend, Noelle Millar, after school. The summer after his junior year, Arthur made a stunning announcement — Noelle was pregnant. Angry and desperate to straighten out their son, the Baselices threw him out of their house and withdrew him from Ryan. Noelle’s parents took him in, and the Baselices thought Arthur was attending public school in the fall. They didn’t realize that Father Charles had told Arthur he would personally cover his tuition at Ryan.

After learning that Arthur was still at the school, his parents brought him home and agreed to let him stay at Ryan. It was a victory for the priest, in more ways than one. He kept Arthur close and drew his parents into the mythology he’d created for himself. They believed he was as concerned for Arthur’s future as they were. Why else would Father Charles visit Arthur and Noelle in the hospital after the birth of their son? Or take Arthur to Colorado for a hockey trip? He even brought Elaine a handbag after a visit to San Francisco. It made it easy to ignore the odd moments, like the time Elaine heard Father Charles say to Arthur, “See you later, stud.”

The sexual torture finally ended in 1996, when Arthur graduated and made up a story he told the priest about contracting a venereal disease. But Father Charles found another way to control his favorite pupil — with money. Arthur said that what began as casual drug use with his priest was spiraling into ­addiction, first to coke and pills, then eventually to heroin.

Arthur broke up with Noelle and over the next several years seemed to be adrift, struggling with community college, wandering from one odd job to the next. The only constant in his life was the drugs, and though Father Charles had pledged a life of poverty, he managed to fund Arthur’s habit for years with envelopes of cash, sometimes thousands at a time, and checks in Arthur’s name, one of which was for $10,800. When Arthur needed a lift to a local bar where he’d score coke, Father Charles would take him. All of that money could have sent Arthur to rehab, but what if, in his cleansing, the boy exposed his molesters? By Arthur’s account, Father Charles kept him stoned and silent.

Living on his own helped Arthur hide the depth of his addiction from his parents, who thought their son was simply partying too hard. As their concern for Arthur’s health grew, so did their suspicions about the priest. Whenever Arthur was pressed for cash, he always found work thanks to Father Charles — odd jobs around the school or friary. When the family moved to South Jersey, Father Charles came to bless their home. Why was he still so interested in their son? One evening, Art Baselice paid a visit to the friary with that mystery in mind.

Father Charles led him into a dim, wood-paneled meeting room, where the air was thick and stale. “I asked him point-blank — ‘What is your relationship with Arthur?’” Art recalls. “‘Are you giving him money?’ He would never answer my question. And because of my upbringing, the way I’ve been conditioned that a priest is a representative of God, I never pursued it.”

Art knew how to interrogate, thanks to 13 years with the Philadelphia police. This man, though, was a priest — his priest. Art had been baptized, confirmed and married by men like Father Charles. In the spiritual chain of command, Father Charles stood at the top: “It was like asking God a question, and He doesn’t answer.”

Art set aside his role as inquisitor and again became a humble congregant. As he’d done so many times before, he asked Father Charles to offer him penance.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Art said. At the end of his confession, Father Charles said, “Say three Hail Marys for your lovely wife,” and granted him absolution.

ARTHUR AND HIS PARENTS weren’t the only ones whose faith was manipulated by Father Charles. In 2002, the priest was promoted from principal to president of Archbishop Ryan High, which put him in charge of the school’s finances and fund-raising. By now, Arthur was a full-blown heroin addict, and the priest was in the perfect position to bankroll Arthur’s self-destruction. From his first days in the new job, those who worked with Father Charles noticed unusual withdrawals and checks. Like Arthur’s parents, they were initially hesitant to doubt the priest. But after six months, three staffers reported their concerns to Stephen Pawlowski, of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education. Pawlowski — a layman who was Ryan’s previous president — thought Father Charles was just handling his business differently and deserved some leeway to learn on the job. Six more months of curious activity passed before Pawlowski notified the archdiocese’s finance director of Father Charles’s suspicious transactions.

On November 24, 2003, the archdiocese announced that Father Charles had resigned from Ryan after an internal audit revealed “financial irregularities” at the school. An investigation turned up a five-figure check written to Arthur Baselice, who was then seven years removed from Ryan. A private detective working for the church contacted Arthur and asked about his connection to Father Charles. For the first time, Arthur felt compelled to release what he’d been holding inside for so long. He confessed the abuse to the detective, who in turn spoke with Art Baselice. “Your son,” he said, “needs help.”

Arthur decided to give his parents a letter he’d written years earlier but had kept to himself. The lines run together with the panicked urgency of someone who’s afraid that if he puts his pen down to consider his thoughts, he may never pick it back up again.

Dear Mom and Dad,

First of all I love both of you very much. I was going to tell both of you what set my compulsive behavior off a couple months ago but chickened out afraid of what people would think, but I can not go on living like I am and hurting the ones that love me the most. You wonder why I would rather see a shrink than go to NA or AA, that’s because I need professional help. When I was 17 … I was a desperate young man and I was taken advantage of. … I went to Father Charles for advice, and on numerous occasions he got me drunk and high and taken advantage of me at the time it seemed right I mean I did not know any better. … He is the one who started me drinking and gave me the money to buy drugs so he can have his way with me. I truly believe in my heart one hundred percent he made me the person that I am!

Across three handwritten pages, Arthur’s conflicted feelings toward Father Charles are laid bare. “I feel guilty saying something,” he wrote, “because I think he really cares about me.” On the final page, he changed course: “You always thought I liked Father Charles the truth is that I hate him.”

The Baselices already had their suspicions, but they weren’t prepared for what they were hearing from their son. The priest’s comments and behavior, all of those clues that they’d submerged over the years, suddenly became buoyant.

His parents’ anguish only deepened when Arthur moved back home in 2004. Arthur couldn’t hide the abscess on his arm, or his swollen, bloated hands, like those his father had seen on the heroin junkies he used to lock up, and in the halfway houses he still patrolled for the New Jersey parole department.

The Baselices had reached their breaking point. Determined to show the church firsthand what Father Charles had done, they dragged Arthur — colorless and gaunt, sick from withdrawal — into a tense meeting with counselors for the archdiocese. “The only thing I want is my son back the way you got him,” Art Baselice said. “You broke him. I want you to fix him.”

The counselors took detailed notes, then passed the Baselices along to the Franciscans for help. Since Father Charles wasn’t a diocesan priest, they reasoned, he wasn’t the archdiocese’s responsibility. At the Baselice kitchen table a few days later, Arthur and his father met with three Franciscans, including Father Thomas Luczak, the regional head of their order. Before Arthur told them his story, Art excused himself. He couldn’t bear to hear the details of his son’s abuse by a man he’d once shared dinner with in that same room.

The Franciscans agreed to send Arthur to rehab. Less than a week into his stay, Arthur received a $50,000 offer from Luczak in exchange for a waiver of his right to sue. Arthur returned home without signing the agreement. “You know, Dad,” Arthur said one night, “I think Newman wanted me dead. I think he was trying to get rid of me.”

THE BASELICES CONVINCED Arthur to talk to a lawyer. Civil court was their only recourse for justice, since the criminal statute of limitations had already expired; that’s also why no criminal charges were filed in the wake of the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report about priest abuse. Charlie Gallagher, the assistant district attorney who led that investigation — and, later, the one that would send Father Charles to jail for his thefts — wasn’t sure he believed victims who waited a decade or more to come forward with their stories. The grand jury investigation changed his mind. The same patterns of abuse and cover-up that had emerged in other cities were unfolding before his eyes. “Someone coined the phrase ‘soul murder,’” says Gallagher. “These victims I dealt with — their soul was killed, their spirit was killed, their faith was killed.”

Gallagher first met Arthur Baselice after Arthur filed a civil lawsuit in June 2004. He no longer resembled the young man from his high-school football photos. The drugs had cut him down below his normal weight, and there was an emptiness behind his blue eyes, making it hard to tell whether he was seeing what was in front of him or replaying the past. A year later, a state appeals court would dismiss Arthur’s suit and 16 others, not based on merit, but because the complainants came forward too late.

Still, there seemed to be reasons for hope. On the final Wednesday of November 2006, Governor Ed Rendell expanded the state’s criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes and made other changes to the law that were a direct result of the grand jury’s recommendations. It was too late to help Arthur legally, but he seemed to have already turned a corner. After violating probation on a drug possession charge, he completed six months in court-mandated drug rehab and a halfway house. He returned home and held down a job, installing granite countertops. At 28, he was spending time with his son and staying clean. For the first time in a decade, the Baselices had their boy back.

On the night that Rendell signed the sex crimes bill, Arthur ate lasagna with his mother, gave her a kiss, and left the house for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Elaine didn’t know that earlier in the day, her son had called his sponsor. That old feeling was back, and it scared him. No one is sure why Arthur left NA and drove to Camden. Perhaps he was fighting the urge to kill himself, like the time he nearly jumped from a ­second-story window in a drug-fueled frenzy. Maybe, as he wrote in one of his letters, he’d had another nightmare that he was wearing black socks with Father Charles.

The next morning, a man stirred in a Camden apartment around 4th and Royden streets. He looked over at Arthur, who was on the floor, leaning back against a chair where his hooded sweatshirt, phone and keys sat. His skin was cold to the touch, and his nose and mouth were caked with a foamy fluid. Seeing that Arthur was dead, the man took a shower, called the police from a pay phone, and walked away.

That afternoon, Art Baselice answered his doorbell to find two Camden officers, their faces as grim as the news they carried. He realized his son had died in the same drug-infested neighborhood he combs on his parole beat. “That,” he says, “is what we get for being good Catholics.”

 

IN HIS FIFTH-FLOOR office in Center City, Bishop Joseph McFadden, who oversees Catholic education for the archdiocese, is dressed in black, bearing a cross around his neck and a look of heavy concern on his face. The only archdiocesan or Franciscan priest who agreed to speak on the record about clergy abuse and Father Charles, McFadden expresses his sadness for the Baselice family and other victims. He also points to a study that suggests there are more predators in public schools than in Catholic ones. As for what the church has learned after decades of inaction or subterfuge when predatory priests were accused, McFadden says it’s “not only a learning curve for the church. I think it’s a societal learning curve. … We have to listen clearly to children, with a much more discerning ear than before, which I think sometimes we used to dismiss. The church has learned we take this seriously now. So what did the church not do back then? We did what society did. Sometimes we didn’t pay close enough attention.”

And so, 13 years after the passing of Megan’s Law, six years after Boston’s scandal, and four years after the grand jury report that Cardinal Justin Rigali discouraged Catholics from reading, the church refuses to accept responsibility in unequivocal terms. In the wake of Father Charles’s thefts, the archdiocese sued the Franciscans, their longtime partners in faith, for damages, and accepted a $488,631 settlement. Yet it settled only a handful of claims with abuse victims after the grand jury report. No high-ranking church officials stepped down.

Instead, it’s largely business as usual. Consider Joseph Cistone, the bishop whose farewell mass Art Baselice protested this summer. The grand jury report cast him as an enabler who shielded Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, then head of the archdiocese, from firsthand contact with abuse allegations. Monsignor William Lynn, who is named hundreds of times in the report for his flawed investigations of accused priests, now runs a parish in Downingtown. Arthur’s parents were told the church was praying for their healing, and the archdiocese agreed to pay for Arthur’s medication before he died, as well as therapy for Elaine and Ashleigh. But the church’s lobbyists continue to block legislation that would give victims a chance to face their abusers in court.

It’s no wonder the Baselice family feels they were as much betrayed by the church as they were by Father Charles. “I don’t believe anybody in the hierarchy knows what to do,” says victims advocate Father Tom Doyle. “To them, spirituality is obedience to them and to liturgy. I don’t think they understand the damage, nor do they want to understand. They say, ‘Go back to the church. We’ll heal you on our terms.’ You’re asking people to go back to Auschwitz for dinner.”

FATHER CHARLES NEVER stood trial over his relationship with Arthur. At his sentencing hearing for theft, he denied giving drugs to Arthur, claimed they only had sex once (when Arthur was 18), and said the money he gave Arthur was to help pay gambling debts. But in his disjointed remarks, he never explained what happened to the $900,000 he stole. “You’re not telling the truth,” the judge responded. “I don’t even know if you’re admitting to yourself what you really have done.”

Upstairs in the Baselice house, Arthur’s bedroom has been faithfully preserved, like a museum display. His workout schedule and a pack of Marlboros sit on his nightstand. A football jersey hangs on his closet door. It gives Elaine Baselice some small comfort. She can’t bring herself to join Art when he stands in front of archdiocese headquarters with other survivors, holding his sign. This has become his crusade. He knows there are more victims. Arthur told Elaine he once walked in on Father Charles while he was molesting another boy, but refused to give up his fellow victim’s name.

With Father Charles in jail for three years, Art has tried to arrange a meeting with Brother Regis, who is still a Franciscan but restricted from service. “I want to know why he did what he did,” Art says. “Are you happy that my son is no longer with us?” But in September, Art was informed that it wouldn’t be in his best interest to meet with Brother Regis.

Art scours clergy abuse websites and jots down movie quotes about justice and revenge on index cards. If a priest walks into a restaurant where he’s eating, he’ll demand a table far away. Somewhere deeper inside, there’s also the anger he feels toward himself, for being too clouded by faith to save his only son.

His wife sits on the living room floor, leafing through a binder filled with Arthur’s letters. Art walks over to the white urn bearing the boy’s name. “This is what I get to kiss and touch every day,” he says, his jaw beginning to tremble. “It’s not warm. I can’t smell his hair or his cologne. That’s what I got.”

Perhaps their only hope for healing lies in Arthur’s son, whom they see every week. At 14, he loves rock music and football, just like his dad. He’s still too young to understand what his father endured, or how he himself, just by being, may lead his grandparents to salvation in a way no priest or church ever will.