Blog Archives

Media Double Standard On Pope Francis & Clerics v. UK Pols/Celebs & Bill Cosby ?


Media Double Standard On Pope Francis & Clerics v. UK Pols/Celebs & Bill Cosby ?

Views of Jerry Slevin, a Harvard and Catholic “schooled” retired international lawyer

From the Link: http://christiancatholicism.com/media-double-standard-on-pope-francis-clerics-v-uk-polscelebs-bill-cosby/

Reuters’ respected editor, John Lloyd, who is also a La Repubblica of Rome columnist and an Oxford journalism scholar, candidly observed about the Vatican’s recent Synod huddle: ” …  these ageing men did — and still do — have a serious sex scandal within their ranks – one which they have, in the main, dealt with badly.” Fair enough, but are journalists now doing much better, “in the main”, in covering Pope Francis’ failure after 20 months to take decisive action to curtail the clerical sex abuse scandal? No, with only rare exceptions.

CNN is a prime example. It appears, in effect, still to be giving Pope Francis and UK clerics a continuing pass on Vatican controlled secretive investigations, while pressing for an independent and transparent UK investigation of sex abuse allegations involving UK political leaders and celebrities.

A double standard, no? Do UK politicians’ opposition parties have more media clout than Pope Francis’ disorganized opposition that evidently is too often overwhelmed by Pope Francis’  media machine and his seeming support from opportunistic multi-billionaire media magnates in the UK/Australia/USA/Latin America and elsewhere? It appears so.

Pope Francis is clearly running out of time, as he seemingly is only going through some public relations motions on curtailing priest sex abuse. He must now either act decisively and transparently or he can expect to face more governmental investigations that he will most likely be unable to control. He no longer enjoys the support of major international powers that have protected the Vatican for centuries.

I discuss in detail Pope Francis’ dire overall predicament in my recent analysis also included below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” . My analysis relies heavily on my study of the work of Fr. Hans Kung. He is a leading world authority on Catholic theology,  history and interreligious dialogue, a former mentor to Cardinal Walter Kasper (Pope Francis’ preferred theologian), and an occasional confidante to world leaders, including the former longtime UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Fr. Kung has over a five year period generously given me by constant example and occasional e-mail some encouragement, including with respect to my recent  analysis. Of course, I am an international lawyer, not a professional scholar, and Fr. Kung is not responsible for my judgments.

I have also benefited from the courageous work of Fr. Charles Curran, a worldwide authority on moral theology. Fr. Curran, like Hans Kung, also felt the Vatican’s inquisitorial whip for thinking freely and openly. Fr. Curran significantly has just boldly called on Pope Francis to admit that the Vatican has made mistakes in the area of its sexual morality teachings.

Who present the bigger threat to those vulnerable to sex abusers — a limited number of celebrities and politicians or an indeterminate number of potential predators from among 4,000+ bishops and 400,000+ priests. Catholic clerics mainly are unaccountable to any independent and transparent oversight. They also have literally unlimited access to vulnerable victims. And, sadly, they have already shown a disproportionate tendency to abuse, no? Why the disparate journalistic treatment? It makes no sense.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the world renowned no-nonsense UK/Australian international human rights lawyer, unexpectedly in a  recent Christiane Amanpour CNN interview, seriously undercut CNN’s seemingly  papal “star power” exception. Robertson boldly, in effect, called for a massive UK national investigation of all sexual abusers, in both church and state institutions, like the extraordinary one currently underway in Australia. This call by a prominent international lawyer on a prime international cable network for a UK national investigation is a major event. His call, in principle, applies to the USA as well. Perhaps, more US lawyers also will now call on President Obama to act as well.

Another bold Australian human rights advocate, Aletha Blayse, had already similarly called on President Obama to do likewise with a comparable national investigation commission in the US modeled on the Australian Royal Commission. The need for a US national investigation commission appears even greater than the UK’s need.

Indeed, even former US President Jimmy Carter is getting on the expanding bandwagon. As reported by the National Catholic Reporter, he recently addressed by video, the Call To Action at a large convention of Catholic seeking change. Carter, a prominent evangelical Christian, in surprisingly direct and prophetic words, told the Catholic attendees that they faced “a church that models our society in marginalizing many of its women, its people of color and, in fact, all those who question any interpretation by male leaders of Jesus’ mission.” Carter added: “I urge you to give witness to the possibilities that society will change. You are agents of that change. And I stand with you in the valued struggle to move our faith, our country and our planet forward … “.  Does Carter have President Obama’s ear on these matters? He may.

As to evident journalistic double standards, CNN in an important segment on sexual abuse looked at  the fundamental subject of equal justice under the law, in the context of a “Tale of Two Cities” — Rome/Vatican versus London/Philadelphia, as shown here:

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/11/19/star-power-bewitches-those-vulnerable-to-abuse-says-human-rights-lawyer/

CNN’s segment involves implicitly two interrelated questions: (1) whether alleged sex abusers should receive special treatment if they are famous and powerful, and (2) should the independence of the related criminal investigation vary if it is conducted in Rome at the Vatican as opposed to places like London or Philadelphia?  CNN, in effect, answered “No” to the first question, yet made an exception for Pope Francis’ investigation of accused clerical sex abusers,  and skipped past the second question, which, of course, should have also been asked squarely and answered “No”.

Occasioned by unfolding multiple sex abuse allegations involving several  political leaders, celebrities and Catholic clerics, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour  raised the hot topic of “star power” — whether the famous and powerful were beyond independent investigation and above  laws that cover sexual abuse that apply to everyday people.

Amanpour referred to the escalating tsunami of allegations of sex abuse  involving men ranging from celebrities like TV’s most famous “father figure”, Bill Cosby,  to UK political leaders and celebrities and to worldwide Catholic clerics who have preyed on innocent victims, mostly children. Her informed guest was Geoffrey Robertson, QC.

Robertson has written a classic and fair case study of the Vatican’s conduct in the priest abuse scandal, “The Case of the Popes: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse” (2010). He may also have personal insights here as well, as he describes his wife as having been “once a Catholic”.

When Amanapour, who reportedly had been instructed as a child at a UK convent school, gratuitously and revealingly volunteered that Pope Francis wanted to address priest child abuse, Robertson seemingly snickered and interjected, “He hasn’t yet”. This lead Amanpour to amend her statement about Francis quickly to: “He {Pope Francis} says he will, we’ll see and we’ll have to hold him accountable”. She did not reveal how Pope Francis would be held by CNN or anyone else to account if he fails to address the abuse scandal independently and transparently, as he and his predecessors have mostly failed to address it effectively for over a century or more. No one has held a pope accountable for anything significant during that time.

Amanpour, a mother, to her credit, directly asked Robertson what specifically needs to be done in the future to protect those most vulnerable. He replied significantly and pointedly: “I would think the Australian experience of a Royal Commission, which has got total powers to reveal what’s gone wrong and to make recommendations, that’s a very good start,” He added,  “Here {UK} we haven’t got started.”

Robertson, in the short interview, did not have the opportunity to elaborate on the subject of the extent to which a UK commission should investigate the Vatican’s conduct, as the Australian commission is trying to do. Pope Francis is currently trying, as his predecessors had, in effect, to investigate and judge his own bishops and priests secretively, clearly neither an independent nor transparent process like the Australian Royal Commission or even the standard UK, Australian or US criminal process.

As it stands now, alleged clerical sex abusers enjoy favorable treatment from a conflicted Vatican process. This cannot, and in my judgment as an international lawyer, will not stand much longer, for the reasons I discuss under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” below. Famous performers, powerful politicians and protected priests should, under modern jurisprudence, be subject to the same basic laws and comparable criminal procedures as the people whose lives are destroyed by their crimes. That is referred to worldwide as equal justice under the law for all.

Of course, from Robertson’s statements in his book, his considerable experience and simple logic, he would have to concur, I submit, that priests, bishops and even popes, should not be entitled to legal exemptions or special treatment when charged with serious crimes, especially against children. Even US Presidents Nixon and Clinton were not above the law.

Both Amanpour and Robertson also focused on the UK’s Home Secretary’s widely reported difficulties finding an chief investigator who satisfied the public’s desire for an independent and transparent sex abuse investigation. What is worth observing here is how the media, even a highly regarded and experienced TV commentator like CNN’s Amanpour, just accepted at face value the pope’s statement he would investigate, without even trying to consider discussing how to assess whether it would be an independent and transparent investigation. Given the Vatican’s poor record to date, it seems unacceptable to rely so much on Vatican’s bald statements. Pope Francis surprisingly still seems to get a free media pass after 20 months as pope, with little to show on curtailing clerical child abuse. That will not continue indefinitely, for the reasons as I discuss below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”.

Robertson’s clear call on CNN for a broad national Australian style investigation commission is, as mentioned, a major development. Hopefully, he will be personally involved, given his fine record and unusual ability. Indeed, after his considerable work on famous legal cases involving, for example, holding Chilean ex-president General Pinochet to account, to defending WikiLeak’s  Julian Assange, Robertson has some star power of his own.

Indeed, Robertson’s chambers’ own  “star power ” has just been greatly enhanced by the marriage of actor/activist, George Clooney to Robertson’s able colleague, Alam Alamuddin, who earlier practiced at Sullivan & Cromwell, where I also earlier practiced.

Who knows? Perhaps, George Clooney, a strong advocate for Africa’s poor and for gay rights worldwide, might even decide to add his own considerable star power to secure protection for more children by calling for full accountability under the law for Catholic clerics of all ranks.

Raised reportedly a traditional Irish American Catholic family, Clooney would likely be knowledgeable about the Vatican’s shameful record on protecting children and its anti-contraception and anti-marriage  equality crusades.

These crusades have added to the miseries of many Africans, among others. including many children. Now that Pope Francis has appointed conservative South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier as one of the four leaders of Francis’ Final Synod for next October, Clooney’s advocacy here could be especially important for desperate Africans and others.

As “star power” sex abuse scandals are being revealed continually in the UK, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently and significantly said: “We are at an early stage of a reckoning with our past that is on a scale and gravity that just a few months ago might have seemed unimaginable and almost too horrific to contemplate. The task is to peel back the layers of deception that appear to have happened in the past.”

It seem clear that major “star power” sex abuse investigations in the UK are only in their infancy, which should concern Pope Francis. It is unclear whether the recent alleged sex scandals involving, among other matters, exploiting their position of power, that led to the resignations of two of the UK’s Catholic Church’s highest officials, Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the UK’s Bishop Kieran Conry, will be included in any UK public investigation. Given their key national positions, they should be included. They would likely be if Geoffrey Robertson’s call for a national commission is heeded.

As to Pope Francis’ new “papal protector of children”,  Cardinal Sean O’Malley, recently featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, please see the recent detailed, and documented, information, from Anne Barrett Doyle, the excellent researcher at BishopAccountabillity.org, on Cardinal O’Malley’s poor history on child abuse prevention efforts, described in her “Six Ways Cardinal Sean O’Malley Has Mishandled the Abuse Crisis” at:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/OMalley_Fact_Sheet.htm

To date, after a well publicized announcement almost a year ago, O’Malley has mainly had only a few photo ops with Pope Francis and some perfunctory meetings of his inchoate priest child abuse commission, usually timed to deflect negative publicity from UN committee condemnations of the Vatican’s priest child abuse cover-ups and the like. Now in his CBS interview, O’Malley has indicated he will visit the Vatican every two months apparently to check in for the latest photo ops, presumably when he attends the more important Council of Cardinals meetings. It appears the abuse commission will be run by Fr. Robert Oliver, who learned the ropes early as a canon lawyer under Boston’s  infamous Cardinal Law. It seems O’Malley will in the interim communicate with Oliver by FAX ! Are children any safer now? Please!

A year after first announcing this commission, O’Malley amazingly stated on 60 Minutes that the go-slow commission was working on some “protocols”, which his subsequent statements seem to suggest will focus more on protecting bishops than children. And CBS did not press him on the commission’s inexplicable and unacceptable organizational delays. It appears to be another instance of a media “pass” for the Vatican.

It seems quite clear that Pope Francis is intentionally pursuing effective child protection reform measures very slowly and almost secretly with this new advisory committee (A) headed by Cardinal Law’s successor, Cardinal O’Malley, who is experienced with “handling” abuse investigations confidentially and slowly, and (B) assisted now, as top assistant, by Cardinals Law’s, O’Malley’s  and Mueller’s predictable and pliable longtime canon lawyer, Fr. Robert Oliver.

Twelve years after the Boston Globe Catholic priest child abuse revelations and almost 30 years after Father Thomas  Doyle’s abuse report to Cardinals Law, Levada, Bevilacqua, Laghi, et al. and Pope John Paul II, for  O’Malley to say on CBS we are looking into “protocols” is a farce. And he seems to have gotten away with it!

Moreover, the Boston Globe has recently reported, based on legal documents the Globe examined, that Pope Francis’ choice to replace Fr. Oliver as the Vatican’s top prosecutor of clerics accused of child abuse, a prominent American Jesuit, was himself one of several Catholic officials who allowed a notorious abusive priest to remain in ministry for years after learning of his long history of sexual abuses. Fr. Robert Geisinger, named in September as the Vatican’s “promoter of justice,’’ was the second-highest-ranking official among the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s when leaders were facing multiple abuse complaints against the Rev. Donald J. McGuire..

But, the Globe reported, the Jesuits failed to notify police or take effective steps to prevent McGuire from continuing to molest minors. Documents examined by the Globe show that Geisinger had detailed knowledge of the complaints against McGuire as early as 1995 and advised officials in Chicago on how to discipline McGuire as late as August 2002. McGuire was finally convicted in 2006 by a Wisconsin jury of molesting two boys who had notified civil authorities. He was also convicted on federal charges in 2008 and is serving a 25-year-prison sentence.

The Globe also reported: “It’s astonishing that, for such a high-profile, sensitive position, the Vatican wouldn’t want someone whose background is unassailable, in the sense that there shouldn’t even be questions raised,” Philip F. Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, said of Geisinger.

Yes, it is astonishing that this Jesuit, with questionable credentials, has joined Fr. Oliver, Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer, as Pope Francis’ two man priest abuse response team. After a year and a half as pope, is this the best Pope Francis can do to curtail the worst scandal facing the Catholic Church since the Reformation?  That seems impossible to conceive. Pope Francis needs to address this scandal effectively now while he still has time.

It would seem more appropriate that Fr. Geisinger and Fr. Oliver be subjects of Vatican investigations, rather than to be the investigators!

I have to wonder, as an international lawyer, if O’Malley, Oliver and Geisinger, all presumably US citizens, were picked to work on the latest papal public relations ploys to “do little or nothing” to really curtail clerical  abuse also because the US has not ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty. Since the ex-pope had already been a subject of a complaint filed with the ICC, it must have occurred to the Vatican and its lawyers that whomever handles these matters can expect to face a further complaint at the ICC, a very serious matter. It might be more difficult to prosecute them under the ICC Treaty as US citizens if they had returned to the USA when the ICC prosecutor finally pursues the Vatican again, as I am confident as an international lawyer she will.

For the current “big picture” on the Vatican’s continuing failures here, please see the recent report by Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., the world’s leading expert on curtailing priest child sexual abuse, at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/how-survivors-have-changed-history-by-thomas-p-doyle-o-p/

Pope Francis seems, for over a year and a half now, to have made as his highest priority, protecting Catholic cardinals and bishops from prosecution, especially related to allegations of child abuse and/or related cover-ups, and of financial corruption, (A) by easing out, quietly and with minimal recriminations, controversial hierarchs by comfortable retirements, demotions or transfers (O’Brien, Brady, Conry, Tebartz-van Elst (Bling Bishop), Liveries, Burke, Rigali, even Wesolowski so far, et al.), and (B) by trying to co-opt completely all independent government investigations of hierarchs with Vatican controlled and secretive proceedings (especially Archbishop Wesolowski), that conveniently also protect against disclosures about other hierarchs that may have been implicated.

The USA situation seems equally bleak as the UK situation for the Vatican. Minneapolis whistleblower and former top diocesan official, Jennifer Haselberger, is reporting on her blog some unusual current Vatican attention possibly  to Archbishop Nienstedt’s status  and seeking diocesean bankruptcy protection. Meanwhile, Minneapolis media are also currently reporting about child porn video evidence that allegedly may have been destroyed, with a Vatican official’s involvement, by Obama’s Chief of Staff’s brother, Fr, Kevin McDonough. Child porn, and related evidence destruction, appear to involve Federal crimes as well as state crimes, which raise sensitive issues for Obama’s US Justice Department and his new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, a no-nonsense prosecutor.
Who knows what is really going on with Obama, but if concerned citizens don’t demand much more Federal law enforcement involvement, including a national commission investigation as openers, like the one that Geoffrey Robertson just called for in the UK and Aletha Blayse has called for in the USA,  the USA is likely missing the one “fix” that could really make a long term difference, as the civil litigation process enters its fourth decade, with some good results but not enough.
It is unclear what impact the investigation of the brother of President Obama’s Chief of Staff has had on Obama’s apparent failure to step up here with a national commission, but it is troubling, to me at least. And of course, the media as far as I know has not raised the matter with the White House, as I think they should. Again, the Vatican seems to benefit here from another media pass.

Please see also my related remarks at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/popes-child-abuse-commission-crawls-while-his-family-synod-slips/

http://christiancatholicism.com/crisis-pope-francis-and-the-synod-face-a-mess-in-the-house-of-cards/

Incidentally, Pope Francis thanked Fr. Hans Kung for sending him his important new book on how to reform of the Catholic Church, “Can We Save the Catholic Church” (2013). Here is an excerpt from his book:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/07/save-the-catholic-church-_n_4740030.html

For more, see:

http://amzn.com/0007522029

Hans Kung, a Swiss priest, has for over a half century been a world recognized Catholic scholar, a best selling author on church history and theology and even an occasional adviser to top political leaders. As mentioned, Pope Francis’ preferred theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, served as a younger scholar as an assistant to Fr. Kung at Tuebingen University, Germany’s foremost theological faculty.

Hans Kung has for more than a half century engaged with, or influenced, several popes, including his former university colleague, Joseph Ratzinger (ex-Pope Benedict XVI), as well as John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and even during his student years at the Jesuits’ Gregorian University in Rome, Pope Pius XII. Cardinals and bishops have sought his advice, at least as early as his time serving as a key theological expert with Joseph Ratzinger and Jesuit Karl Rahner at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Fr. Kung has for decades offered to many interested Catholics worldwide, including Cardinals Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Kasper, his own well articulated and scholarly supported alternative vision to that of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

For Hans Kung’s full warning to the effect that letting the ex-Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, stick around the Vatican would be a real mistake, please see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/hans-kung-pope-benedict-will-be-a-shadow-pope_n_2781248.html

For Charles Curran’s important, informative and insightful new call for Pope Francis to acknowledge the the Vatican has made some mistakes, at least in the are of sexual morality, please :

http://ncronline.org//news/accountability/some-kind-gradualism-curran-says-papacy-should-admit-some-its-teachings-are

For former US President Carter’s address to Call To Action, a large Catholic reform group, supporting a reform agenda for the Catholic Church, please see:

http://ncronline.org/news/censured-priest-carter-support-cta

For Australian human rights activist, Aletha Blayse’s recent call on President Obama, to set up a US national presidential commission to investigate institutional child abuse, like the Australian Royal Commission, please see:

http://christiancatholicism.com/post-elections-obama-kids-the-catholic-church-the-salvation-army-et-al-child-abuse-war-and-the-need-for-a-national-commission-of-inquiry-into-child-abuse-by-aletha-blayse/

My remarks, “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”, follows:

  1.  A Ray of Hope In A Crisis of Trust — A Holy Mess: Pope Francis says Catholics should “create a mess” to help him promote changes in the Catholic Church. The Catholic majority are pleased for now; although many are skeptical. Some see a bright ray of hope shining through the crisis of trust triggered by Church scandals. Others think the window of opportunity for hopeful light from Pope Francis will close soon if he is not prophetic and transparent. Indeed, some even think the Vatican’s current “holy mess” will be its final mess.
  2. Yet, Francis has so far offered few indications about concrete changes he really wants. Many Church leaders seem fearful of any changes. Yet, many Catholics and others are finally pressing for permanent changes. They have by now seen Vatican misconduct up close and too often. They now also understand better that many of the Vatican’s frequently ambiguous, if not vague, basic biblical and historical sources supporting papal power have too often been overplayed, if not misused, in encyclicals and a Catechism, to justify supreme papal power . Significantly, these permanent changes, that the Catholic majority seeks in good conscience and good faith, may differ ultimately from what many in the Vatican now want. As the “infallible Supreme Pontiff” for millions of Catholics, Pope Francis has the best papal opportunity in many years, if not centuries, to fix the broken Catholic Church. This may also be the final papal opportunity to clean up the “holy mess”. Time will soon tell.
  3. This crisis has led to one papal resignation already. Pope Francis appears for many reasons to be the Vatican’s best and last chance to lead on initiating overdue Church changes. Pressures beyond Vatican control can be expected to compel more severe changes if Francis fails to act effectively and transparently. This has already begun to happen with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European governmental investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets. Prospects for criminal prosecutions of Catholic Church officials have seemingly caused the Vatican to focus on overdue reforms in ways that earlier financial penalties and shameful publicity had rarely done before. As with corporate criminal executives worldwide, prosecution risk is generally a uniquely effective deterrent to future crimes by senior leaders.
  4. Almost 150 years ago, facing a similar crisis, Pope Pius IX refused to initiate overdue changes to his arbitrary and ineffective leadership of his Kingdom of the Papal States in central Italy. His key misguided “fix” was to push to be declared “infallible” in July 1870. Two months later, he militarily lost the Kingdom completely to Italian nationalists. Traditional papal protectors like France and Austria-Hungary stood by and passively watched, unwilling to support further papal mismanagement and capriciousness. Will Pope Francis make a similar mistake like Pius IX did by misjudging his precarious position?
  5.  The Vatican no longer even has comparable powerful protectors. It is mostly on its own now in the international political arena, like Pius XI’s Vatican was by 1870. Popes since 1870 have counter culturally tried secretively to rule mainly as “semi-divine infallible” absolute monarchs with tightly controlled subordinate bishops worldwide in an increasingly democratic world now linked by an open Internet and an 24/7 worldwide free media. The Vatican is running out of time to adjust to current reality and may be forced to do so soon.
  6. Building governmental pressures indicate currently that if the Vatican does not adopt key changes voluntarily and soon, the Vatican can be expected to be compelled to change involuntarily. This has recently already happened repeatedly, for example, in the financial area. Another recent example of increasing governmental pressure is the Australian national investigation into child abuse in religious organizations. It has already led to the Vatican changing both internal policies, and key leadership in Australia, including Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Papal Nuncio, following a massive effort by government investigators. Similar investigations can be expected in other countries as well.
  7. The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions. Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.
  8. Significantly, the Vatican no longer benefits from the powerful international protection that had enabled the Vatican to avoid overdue changes for centuries. In the current world of democracies and a free press and Internet, the secretive Vatican is vulnerable. Neither the Vatican’s high priced consultants, lawyers and lobbyists, nor the Vatican’s opportunistic financial elite allies, who seek Vatican backing to protect the income inequality status quo that benefits them so disproportionately, are hardly comparable substitutes for the earlier military backing of the Holy Roman Emperor and other powers. These powers had effectively protected the Vatican for centuries from demands for change. No more.
  9. Meanwhile, Pope Francis’ Synod strategy has pulled back the curtain on the Vatican’s fallible and incoherent management structure and helped explain why ex-Pope Benedict had no real choice but to resign. In our 24/7 media world, as the Church’s scandal and mismanagement dominoes fall, a further domino effect will likely take over beyond the Vatican’s power to control it. Fear of this effect has likely contributed to provoking some of the strong opposition that Pope Francis is facing among many in the Church’s leadership.
  10. Pope Francis acts at times like a radicalized realist. He is pressing forward relentlessly on a novel path to change. When necessary, he is even bypassing or sidelining fearful and entrenched opponents and factions. His opponents often overlook the many risks that presently exist in the Vatican’s vulnerable predicament. Pope Francis is evidently well aware of these risks. At times, some of his opponents prefer “to play their fruitless fiddles while Rome burns”.
  11. And of course, money is usually lurking in these factions’  approaches to changes. For example, the German and US bishops seem to have basically different approaches to changes like permitting communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. German bishops depend mainly on a per capita government subsidy, presently totally more than $6 billion a year, that pays the bishops more if more Catholics remain on the government registry; hence the German bishops’ inclusive approach to divorced and remarried Catholics and their families. US bishops, on the other hand, depend significantly on fewer major donors who reward the bishops’ ability to draw out fundamentalists to vote for low-tax right wing US political candidates. These fundamentalists oppose most changes, especially those relating to traditional marriage. Not surprisingly, US bishops tend to oppose changes to traditional marriage sacramental rules. As with understanding approaches to other changes, sometimes it pays to follow the money.
  12. Significantly, the Catholic majority intuitively understands that these risks generated by the present crisis, especially from building governmental pressures on the Vatican, have paradoxically also generated an unprecedented opportunity to restore the Church to an earlier condition — to a Church that Jesus’ first disciples would have recognized as completely consistent with Jesus’ Gospel message of love of God and of neighbors, even of enemies. This will be a welcoming Church again that satisfies the needs of both conservative and progressive Catholics.
  13. Well publicized Catholic Church scandals have triggered a unique situation — both an unprecedented crisis and an unexpected opportunity. This crisis (A) erodes Catholic trust in light of the longstanding gap between the Vatican’s words and deeds, (B) invites outside governmental intervention at a time when the Vatican lacks powerful international protectors like it had for centuries, and (C) underscores the urgent need for key changes in Church structure and doctrine. The crisis has also contributed, as indicated, to one pope’s unanticipated resignation and to the replacement pope’s unpredictable revolution.
  14. Before his 80th birthday in barely two years, Pope Francis can successfully seize the opportunity, follow his conscience and apply his unique status, forceful temperament and popular appeal. Most importantly, he can declare “infallibly” key changes. By then, he will have received new input from his two advisory Synods of Bishops. He has already been enlightened by his valuable almost two years of  experience as pope. He now also is unhampered by his prior pastoral positions and unfettered by his earlier ideological constraints as an obedient cardinal, bishop and Jesuit. If Francis fails to act effectively soon, the consequences will likely be quite negative for the leadership of the Catholic Church.
  15. Pope Francis can accomplish much if he wants to and finds the wisdom and courage to do so. Equally important, it seems unlikely any of his successors will get a more propitious opportunity in the foreseeable future to adopt long overdue changes. It may be now or never for Pope Francis and the Vatican.
  16. Any needed changes that Pope Francis leaves uncompleted, whether by choice or circumstances, Catholics can then push to complete soon thereafter, with or without Vatican support. Catholics can be expected to do so, given the current Catholic majority’s momentum and mounting democratic governmental pressures. The Catholic majority can expect help in effecting these changes from powerful forces, outside the Church structure, that are now pressing harder for key Vatican changes, like greater accountability and transparency.
  17.  The Making of the Unique Present Crisis: The Catholic Church is in the throes of its worst crisis since the Reformation. Vatican leaders in the 16th Century, aided by powerful outside military protectors, had mainly evaded making overdue structural changes, and their successors also managed with outside protection to avoid such changes mostly during the four centuries since.
  18. Nevertheless, Church changes are badly needed now and the Vatican no longer has any dominant outside protectors willing to help it avoid the changes. The changes cannot be deferred much longer if the Vatican wants to avoid both further Church decline and splintering into competing factions and constant interference from outside governments. Pope Francis’ confident and bold approach, and the Vatican’s evident need to avoid further negative repercussions from the current crisis, are both generating some hope now, as well as creating what appears to be the best opportunity since the Reformation for the worldwide Catholic majority to press the Vatican successfully for key overdue changes.
  19. According to Augustine: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to suffer no evil to exist.” Catholics are now pondering whether God will soon bring some good changes out of this evil crisis, likely with some help from either Pope Francis or the worldwide Catholic majority or some international investigators or some combination of all three.
  20. There are now hopeful indications (A) that the Catholic Church may restore some of its management structure to its earliest consensual, bottom up and distributed form, from its current coercive, top down and hierarchical form, and (B) that some questionable traditional Church teachings may change to fit mercifully the actual lived experience of sincere Catholics and to conform honestly to current biblical, historical and scientific scholarship, all with or without the Vatican’s affirmative assistance.
  21. The scandals underlying the crisis have deeply discouraged millions of concerned Catholics, yet many of them now also see a new ray of hope. This hope springs less from Pope Francis’ skillful public relations efforts than from the likelihood that the present crisis will necessarily help accelerate Church changes. Moreover, some of these changes are ones that the usually silent Catholic majority can and likely will play a key role in bringing about. This would be a refreshing change in itself for the Catholic majority, a change from only being able to react passively to misguided top down Vatican decisions dictated by a celibate, aging, conflicted and self perpetuating all male leadership.
  22. It appears likely now that the Pope Francis will soon make, or be induced by outside pressures to make, major structural and other changes — changes that the Vatican had been able to resist making for centuries under earlier better positioned popes. Powerful governmental, legal and media forces are now pressing from the outside for changes, whether the presently weakened Vatican wants changes or not.
  23. While Pope Francis mostly can only play the bad cards that ex-Pope Benedict dealt him, he can use both his papal authority over bishops and the Catholic majority and this mounting outside pressure, enhanced by the power of his personal popularity and his strong will, to help convince his entrenched Vatican opposition that voluntary Church changes are more in their interest than the otherwise inevitable involuntary changes could be expected to be.
  24. Paradoxically, these anticipated changes can also help restore the Catholic Church to one that is much closer, in essential structure and compassionate spirit, than the current Church is to the Church that Jesus’ earliest disciples, including prominently some women, left behind for over three centuries.
  25. Pope Francis has brought fresh hopes after centuries of papal evasions. Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, by 1520 had sought similar changes to an earlier Vatican bureaucracy then slithering through major scandals. Only military protection initially from the Holy Roman Emperor ultimately saved, for another 350 years until 1870, the Vatican’s centuries old Kingdom of the Papal States from many of the religious wars, internal divisions and radical reforms that followed Luther’s revolt. But Vatican scandals and structural shortcomings continued mostly as unresolved problems.
  26. The usually well positioned papacy generally remained unchanged structurally after the Reformation until the popes’ imperial protectors faded by 1870 and then finally disappeared in the First World War. This was almost 1,600 years after the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century first sought, often in practice by threats and bribes, to redirect the early Catholic Church leadership to become part of his imperial bureaucracy. Constantine’s and his successor’s imperial designs still infuse the current Vatican’s coercive and top down leadership structure.
  27. In 1870, Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) lost his last major monarchical protector due to the Franco-Prussian War. Pius IX then, without a strong outside protector, promptly lost the Kingdom of the Papal States finally on September 20, 1870 to a direct military assault on the Vatican by Italian nationalists. Both the Vatican and the Italians suffered fatalities. Two months prior to this assault, Pius IX had desperately tried to offset some of the projected negative effects of the Vatican’s expected military and political defeats. He sought to salvage some papal prestige on July 18, 1870, by being declared infallible at the First Vatican Council (Vatican I) that then soon ended prematurely due mainly to the military risks.
  28. A new era of “semi-divine Supreme Pontiffs”  thus began in 1870 and still continues under Pope Francis today, as he presses to solidify, at least temporarily, his extensive power over the Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia, as well as over the world’s bishops.
  29. The powerful prestige of infallibility has been the keystone of papal power from 1870 until now. Papal infallibility, ironically, has also been the tragic papal flaw. Concerns for preserving a claim to being infallible have, it seems, prevented politically insecure popes from making long overdue changes out of fear of appearing to be fallible and, yes, a mere mortal.
  30. This almost obsessive papal concern has been quite evident, for example, in the continuing papal opposition to contraception, mainly based on outdated natural law philosophy and medieval physiology, despite the overwhelming contrary witness in good conscience of the Catholic majority, and the latest strong and contrary evidence from natural science and modern philosophy.
  31. Incidentally, the Vatican’s opposition to family planning seems to be  a “win win” proposition for the Catholic leadership and a “lose lose” situation for couples. especially with other children, who cannot afford more children financially or emotionally.  From the Vatican’s perspective, if Catholic babies survive and thrive, they can then become potential future Church donors and docile voters to enhance the Vatican’s position in bargains with desperate vote seeking political forces. If the babies do not thrive, they become their parents’ or society’s problems, not the Vatican’s to be sure.
  32. Nevertheless, the Vatican’s strong pro-pregnancy opposition to contraception is unlikely to generate at current birthrates enough new Catholic babies to offset the Church’s escalating exodus among the practicing Catholic majority. This ongoing net decline in practicing Catholics is further eroding the Vatican’s already declining political influence and financial resources.
  33. Ironically, the more that recent popes press their opposition to positive ongoing human advances like pharmaceutical contraception, that enable couples, especially poor women, to plan their families, the less infallible they appear to be to more Catholics. The present crisis, exacerbated by the disarray among the pope and some cardinals and bishops exhibited at the recent Vatican Synod that ironically had been intended to curtail part of this crisis, also has put unsustainable additional weight on the already weak claim to papal infallibility.
  34. For almost 150 years until now, popes have been shrewdly able, despite the loss by 1870 of their actual Kingdom in central Italy, to maneuver politically, diplomatically and financially to retain some of their international influence, operational independence, considerable wealth and legal immunity, free of international laws and foreign restraints. Are the Vatican’s unique international status and contrived legal immunity claim both now about to collapse in the present crisis? Yes, it appears that the Vatican’s unique status and legal immunity are both likely facing collapse soon enough, no matter what Pope Francis now does.
  35. Many of the problems Luther initially noted in 1517 remained unresolved even after Vatican I in 1870, and still remain unresolved. These include Luther’s issues with the Vatican’s top down, coercive and unaccountable Renaissance structure and with recent popes’ historically and biblically questionable, if not idolatrous, claim of unaccountable absolute papal power. Vatican I was terminated abruptly and prematurely due mainly to the military risks, before the relationship of bishops and the Catholic majority to the newly proclaimed infallible popes could be addressed fully. Pius XI and many of his successors, through Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013), have at times used this uncompleted and unexpected result for almost 150 years to extend papal power over bishops and the Catholic majority.
  36. These continuing problems remain after (A) unsuccessful Vatican efforts prior to 1945 to seek favorable and special political arrangements with powerful leaders, such as with the Fascist dictators of Italy, Germany and Spain, (B) numerous Vatican efforts since 1945 to solidify in many countries favorable arrangements with various powerful political, financial and media elites, and (C) significant and still uncompleted and frustrated reform efforts from 1962 to 1965 at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).
  37. Most significantly, there are no longer any Holy Roman Emperors, or any other powerful monarchs, dictators or even democratically elected leaders, who appear willing to save the Vatican from facing the international legal and political consequences of its seeming sins and harmful policies. On the contrary, outside governments are already currently and forcefully pressing the Vatican firmly on its financial misconduct. Moreover, these outside forces are now also pressing hard, including through UN committees and national investigation commissions, on other Vatican misconduct, including facilitating priest child abuse.
  38. The current crisis paradoxically presents all Catholics worldwide with an unprecedented, even hopeful, opportunity to resolve longstanding problems, some that even predate Luther. Whether the Vatican will on its own initiative seize this opportunity positively or will imprudently wait, like Pius IX did in 1870, (A) to be invaded, now by Italian, Australian and other government investigators and prosecutors, and (B) to be forced to accept the latest geopolitical reality, remains to be seen.
  39. Catholics believe that God providentially guides their Church in mysterious ways. Some even wonder if God is not using this crisis as an opening for Church structural reforms overdue for centuries. Catholics increasingly are losing trust in their top leadership and want effective changes now. Many Catholics are curtailing their donations or just leaving the Church. Others are remaining nominally, but opting out of many Church rituals and doctrines for themselves and their children. And many younger Catholics are at best just indifferent about participation in a seemingly out of touch organization run, in effect from all appearances, as an all male absolute monarchy for the benefit of a few.
  40. The well publicized Church scandals include clerical sexual misconduct and widespread child abuse, as well as financial corruption and excesses — some longstanding and pervasive. As mentioned above, this crisis paradoxically may offer Catholics some hope and the best opportunity since the Reformation to restore the Church to the consensual, bottom up and distributed management structure that Jesus’ first disciples, prominently including women, originally left behind for centuries.
  41. Catholics overwhelmingly want leaders they can trust, which essentially means leaders who are accountable, not absolute, and who act transparently, not secretively. Given the Catholic Church’s pervasive worldwide influence and its universal potential as a strong public force, and counterweight to non-religious leaders, for either good or evil, the issue of how the Catholic Church is structured matters to all the world’s citizens, and to their political leaders as well.
  42. Governments worldwide are responding more actively to citizen complaints and media pressure about these Church scandals by investigating and prosecuting clerical crimes being revealed. Catholics elect and influence their political leaders, who in turn can influence Church leaders, who currently remain completely free of any democratic oversight by the Catholic majority.
  43. At present, the pope is still the last word on almost all matters concerning the Church and its leadership and laws, even on matters that impact the overall society like access to contraception and protection of children. The pope, as Supreme Pontiff, is purportedly accountable to nobody else, which is at the heart of the present crisis. Making sure no man is above the law is the modern antidote to the ailment of modern popes who seek to be, and to operate as, Supreme Pontiff without accountability.
  44. Citizens worldwide can be expected steadily and increasingly to encourage their political leaders to press the Vatican for major Church structural reforms, especially by these leaders enacting and enforcing vigorously civil laws against Catholic leaders who commit crimes. This legal process, especially prosecutions of alleged crimes, will very likely, if not inevitably, lead to the outside imposition of Church structural reforms in the near term if the Vatican fails to adopt the reforms on its own initiative.
  45. Continually hard pressed Vatican leaders really have no alternative, as earlier European absolute monarchs in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere painfully learned, other than to submit to independent oversight by the Catholic majority.
  46. Meanwhile, the Vatican is risking the division of the Church into numerous splinter cults and the incarceration of some of its leaders for crimes related to the sexual and financial scandals, as the Catholic hierarchy wastes precious time at Synods debating arcane theological topics like graduality.
  47. This crisis for the “99.99% Catholic faithful majority” appears to be mainly about TRUST. For many of them, it is mostly about losing trust in the “0.01% Catholic leadership minority”, given the leadership’s frequently flawed and unaccountable management and the scandalous and repetitive misbehavior of too many of them.
  48. By contrast, the crisis for the leadership minority appears to be mainly about SURVIVAL. For many cardinals, bishops and priests, this crisis seems too often to be largely about trying to save at all costs the current top down and coercive Church structure that has supported and rewarded many of them so handsomely.
  49. The present crisis has already led to unintended negative consequences — even to unprecedented and growing challenges to worldwide Catholicism, including: (A) a leadership challenge, to the Pope’s ethical authority and doctrinal infallibility as the “last word”; (B) a political challenge, to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to its opportunistic support of plutocratic political promoters;(C) a financial challenge, to the Vatican’s long term financial viability and to its self interested arrangements with selective financial, oil and media moguls; and (D) a competitive challenge, to the Catholic Church’s prospects in its continuing competition with other Christian and world religions, especially Islam, and even with non-religious secularism.
  50. These accelerating challenges surely have influenced, if not at times dictated, the Vatican’s recent tactics, and even its public style on many issues. This historically is almost a new papal experience, since modern popes mostly had operated secretly as near absolute monarchs for centuries. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that popular popes alone are insufficient to resolve the crisis — the Vatican can no longer defer confronting these challenges fully, honestly, transparently and promptly, even if they would rather defer them as recent popes often have. Both internal Church political factions, and external governmental legal forces, are increasingly pressing for greater papal accountability, sooner rather than later. Deferral is no longer a viable papal alternative.
  51. Jesus left a short, simple and revolutionary oral message of “Good News” about a caring and trustworthy God. Jesus, it appears, thought this message could be passed on by word of mouth by his usually uneducated disciples. 2,000 years later the oral message has been buried seemingly under millions of written words by thousands of scribes that have obscured Jesus’ direct simplicity, often to advance the personal agenda of those overseeing the scribes with their countless and opportunistic “explications” of what Jesus really meant.
  52. Was Jesus naive or foolish? And is his originally oral message essentially that simple? Even a quick perusal of the New Testament indicates Jesus’ core message is simple and direct, especially when stripped of some of the heavily philosophical and selectively imposed explications in Latin and Greek. This often stultifying and self serving explication process was most recently illustrated amply by the Catechism of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  53. Will the Vatican now finally begin to try to remove the self serving papal gloss and counterproductive clerical crust that have for many centuries obscured Jesus’ radical and revolutionary Good News —  to trust in a caring God and to love one’s neighbors, even enemies, as oneself? Or will the the Catholic leadership minority once again futilely try to contain the current crisis within its latest hierarchical structure?
  54. Will the Church leadership minority now restore its management structure to the early Church’s consensual and distributed network of bishops accountable to the faithful majority from the current coercive, top down and unaccountable model? And will the leadership minority now restore its general Church-state policy to Jesus’ earliest approach of peaceful coexistence with political leaders and prophetic witness for the poor and disadvantaged from the current Vatican approach that seeks opportunistic financial, legal and other leadership preferences in exchange for papal political support?
  55. Hopefully, the coercive and top down Vatican will finally soon restore, or be required to restore, some meaningful consensual and bottom up power to the Catholic faithful majority. Anything less will merely be at best a temporary glue on a crumbling structure. 500 years after Luther had been more than enough time to fix the structure, but the Vatican has failed, and is continuing to fail, to do so. It will continue to fail unless and until it submits to effective and transparent oversight by the Catholic majority, as almost all other absolute monarchies in history have already learned, often the hard way following violent revolutions.
  56. A consensual and bottom up Church management approach had been a common norm in the Church that Jesus’ disciples, including women, left behind for the first three centuries. That was before the decisive top down takeover, in effect, of the Church hierarchy that began under the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine and his imperial successors. Constantine’s top down and coercive Fourth Century legacy has survived in Rome in key respects, and still fundamentally overshadows Vatican decision making and operations. This must and will change, perhaps much sooner than the Vatican presently anticipates.
  57. As indicated with Pius IX’s underestimation of Italian nationalists, and Pius XI’s and Pius XII’s overestimation of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s protections, whatever else infallibility encompasses, international politics is evidently excluded. Time will soon tell if the current Vatican leaders are any wiser than their modern predecessors were.
  58. Millions of disrespected couples, women, children, divorced and gay persons and other innocent and marginalized victims of the Vatican’s current unchristian policies deserve the initiation of positive Church changes, as soon as practicable. Moreover, the beneficial worldwide potential for Jesus’ simple message of loving God and one’s neighbor, including enemies, needs to be freed of the blinders and constraints that too many popes have opportunistically and selectively imposed on it for centuries. Not only were modern popes “Prisoners of the Vatican” unnecessarily. So was Jesus.
  59. It is important in my judgment that citizens of the world, especially Catholics, weigh in now strongly and often, and try to influence the potential Vatican outcomes. Since the Vatican operates mostly secretively and often covers its real objectives with frequent and well funded media diversions, I have at times tried to draw my best inferences and projected what seemed to me to be likely outcomes, in light of the evidence available to me and my long legal experience. Some, of course, will object, but this appears necessary to assess the actions of an organization that still too often is shown to be dissembling considerably.
  60. My approach is intended to assist concerned readers in acting timely and proactively to advance structural and other reforms, and not just reacting defensively, after the fact, to papal faits accomplis. It is the Church of all Catholics, including the 99.99% faithful majority, and not just of the 0,01% leadership minority, and all need to weigh in now as their situations permit.
  61. The present crisis presents major risks for the Catholic Church’s leadership minority. Providentially, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for the Catholic majority to recover their Church from the clerical clique that centuries ago hijacked Jesus’ message. By recovering their Church, Catholics can then re-direct it and unleash the full potential of Jesus’ simple message of love of God and neighbor to a world that at times seems eager to hear that needed message of hope and peace.
  62. The Current Unprecedented Situation:A free media in a steadily more accountable world is pulling back the Vatican’s dark curtain letting all see the scandals, up close and personal. Luther, as mentioned above, had complained loudly about similar scandals as early as 1517. Yet, it took 500 years for the many misdeeds of Pope Alexander VI and other Renaissance clerics to be featured in several “Borgia TV Series”. Today, the latest “Secrets of the Vatican” are widely reported almost simultaneously, as in a recent PBS documentary by that name covering several current Vatican scandals.
  63. Moreover, Renaissance popes were protected by a powerful Holy Roman Emperor whose last successor lost power a century ago. Politically and militarily, popes since the end of the Second World War in 1945 have been dependent for protection and support mainly on Western democratically elected leaders.
  64. Even now after 1700 years, however, Constantine’s Fourth Century legacy of an imperial top down and coercive leadership structure remains influential in Rome, centuries after most of the world had rejected unaccountable monarchs. European monarchical protection of the Vatican diminished after 1850 and disappeared completely by 1918, replaced soon thereafter with de facto alliances with Fascist dictators in Italy and Germany and Spain until Italy and Germany’s defeat by 1945.
  65. As late as 1903, significantly, the Austria-Hungary Emperor reportedly vetoed a top contender in a papal election leading to the election of Pope Pius X. That was the last election prior to the start of World War I, in which the Austria Hungary Empire was dismembered, in effect, ending imperial veto power in papal elections. That veto power, however, had sometimes worked positively to restrain elections of some less dependable papal candidates.
  66. The defeat of the Fascist powers by 1945 has contributed to popes subsequently having almost to scramble opportunistically at times to make arrangements on a local basis with many countries for political protection and financial advantage for the Vatican and its bishops and priests. These papal arrangements have often been negotiated with local dictators and wealthy elites, as well as with some democratically elected leaders seeking local papal political support as opportunities arose in particular countries, most noticeably Pope John Paul II’s close ties with US President Ronald Reagan and his right wing Republican successors, including President George W. Bush.
  67. Popes Benedict XVI and Pope Francis continued to maintain close ties with right wing US Republicans and continue to provide them with political support through the US bishops and otherwise.  This is reportedly already underway for the 2016 US presidential election. Popes tend to be more pragmatic than ideological when under considerable pressures as in the present crisis.
  68. With the unrelenting spotlight that the 24/7 modern media now shines, the timeless “philosopher king” leadership question of Plato’s Republic now arises in Rome publicly and dramatically: Can any man, even a popular pope, be trusted honestly to face a major crisis of trust like the Vatican is facing, and to set important policies for over a billion people, unless he is truly accountable to others and also decides key issues transparently?
  69. Given the current pope’s age, the further question arises, are his successors also to be trusted without accountability? What have Catholics learned from the sordid history of bad popes, as well as from the revelations of current scandals that seem at times to be as sordid as the earlier scandals? Given the present crisis, the Vatican’s procedures and processes, now and in the future, in evaluating and adopting reforms are almost as important as the potential substantive reforms themselves.
  70. Pope Francis had little choice, it appears, but to try to contain this crisis of trust, after suddenly, in the midst of this crisis, unexpectedly succeeding the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. Francis’ Synods of Bishops strategy, his ongoing sophisticated and well funded media campaign, and his efforts to shore up favorable arrangements with some powerful world leaders of government, finance and media, all appear to be key parts of his strategy to contain this crisis.
  71. The Vatican under the current pope and his successor surely must soon either “lead and act”, or they will most likely be compelled, by internal and external pressure, to “follow and react”. Neither this present crisis of trust, nor the resulting challenges, can be avoided much longer to any significant extent.
  72. Some Relevant Recent History: The Vatican under Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) had aligned itself in the Second World War (1939-1945) with the once seemingly invincible, but losing Fascist dictators, Hitler and Mussolini and their “neutral” ally, Franco. Pius XII had been born into a Roman family that had been immersed earlier in the monarchical Papal States. He served for almost two decades under the autocratic Pope Pius XI (1921-1939). A top down coercive leadership must have seemed natural to Pius XII.
  73. Nevertheless, it had become increasingly clear by Mussolini’s removal in July 1943 that Western autocratic structures were losing to Western democratic structures and that major Catholic Church reforms were sorely needed, if not inevitable. By September 1943, Pius XII was endorsing modern biblical scholarship, which eventually planted the seeds that undermine some papal claims as Supreme Pontiff.
  74. Pius XII’s less well born immediate successor, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), an experienced diplomat and church historian, knew change was inevitable in the postwar situation populated by powerful Western democracies and decided boldly in early 1959, after only a short time as pope, that major Church reforms were badly needed and even overdue. This was clearly evident, especially after the defeat of the Vatican’s powerful European allies, Italy and Germany, and the takeover by 1950 of Eastern European Catholic countries like Poland, Hungary, Croatia and the Baltic States, by the Soviets.
  75. John XXIII must have also understood that as an “infallible pope” that he could ultimately control the key outcomes of the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965), or “Vatican II”. He called for the Council in 1959 less than a decade after Pius XII had in 1950 exercised the ultimate papal “infallibility power” in declaring Mary’s Assumption. That dramatic papal exercise appears to have been a desperate attempt to flex his “semi-divine infallibility” power after suffering the defeat of his Fascist allies and in the face at the time of the rise of Soviet power under Stalin.
  76. So John XXIII could risk letting the 2,500 plus Vatican II bishops talk with some freedom at Vatican II. As Pope, he would still have the last say.  Pope Francis seems to have a similar understanding that he has the last word no matter what his current Synods may decide or however the Synod bishops may vote. For modern popes since the 1870′s declaration of papal infallibility, councils like Vatican II and  Synods of Bishops are ultimately only advisory. This positions Francis to act decisively on Synod Bishops’ advice and otherwise.
  77. Unfortunately, John XXIII died in 1963 before he could implement many essential reforms as he may have planned to do. John had served in key diplomatic posts directly under two autocratic popes, Pius XI and Pius XII. These popes had enjoyed until 1945 powerful Fascist protection and support. John XXIII evidently understood well that the days of unaccountable autocratic popes protected by conservative European monarchs or Fascist dictators were over, especially with the postwar expansion of democratically accountable governments in many Catholic countries, including Italy and Germany.
  78. John XXIII in January 1959 had suddenly, unexpectedly and almost haphazardly announced publicly his reform intentions and initiated the preparation for the massive 2,500 plus bishops’ Second Vatican Council. His old friend, Paul VI, who was an experienced Vatican bureaucrat and his successor, reportedly thought in 1959 that John was stirring up a “hornets’ nest”. Similarly, Pope Francis appears intentionally now to be “creating a mess” with his unusual Synods. Undeterred, however, by John XXIII’s unexpected boldness and realizing that a retrenchment opportunity had been presented by John’s death early in the Council’s proceedings, the Vatican’s “hornets” reacted, specifically some of its entrenched bureaucrats like powerful Cardinal Ottaviani (1890-1979), and their preferred choices of subsequent Curial accommodating Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  79. These Vatican bureaucrats like Ottaviani and their successors, in effect, sidelined several key Vatican II era reforms for a half century with their “reform of the reform”, generally, a rhetorical euphemism for obstruction. These sidelined reforms included those relating to papal power sharing, married priests, contraception and even priest child abuse.
  80. These and other inevitable reforms can no longer be sidelined by the Vatican without risking dire consequences, given the escalating internal and external pressures at present on the Vatican. Maintaining, at times, the almost medieval Vatican status quo is no longer a papal option, as it may earlier have been for Pope Francis’ predecessors.
  81. This current crisis is now forcing the Vatican to try harder (A) to defend its exclusive doctrinal authority, (B) to maximize its wealth and solidify its allies among powerful national elites, and (C) to counter its religious competitors, as it tries try to survive reasonably intact.
  82. After a half century of frequent papal resistance and Vatican bureaucratic diversions that thwarted key elements of John XXIII’s and Vatican II’s reform approach, Pope Francis appears to be seeking to resume some of what John XXIII had tried to initiate. But Francis may not be doing enough, soon enough, as he approaches his eightieth birthday in two years.
  83. Many Catholics’ mistrust has now even led some of the Catholic 99.99% publicly to question the Vatican’s selective interpretation and application of Jesus’ simple Gospel message of love of God and neighbor. The Vatican’s opportunistic approach to the Gospels had earlier been at least widely tolerated, if not accepted by many Catholics. Now even at the initial Vatican Synod of the Family in October 2014, a significant number of bishops selected by  prior conservative popes even voted against several traditional Vatican positions. Such episcopal independence had been scarce since 1980 under the prior two popes.
  84. The Vatican dam has burst under the pressure of the current scandals and the the floods being released will not likely by contained by anything short of a return to the consensual, bottom up approach that prevailed in the Church and that Jesus’ disciples, including some women, left behind for over three centuries. The current coercive and top down papal management structure is not likely to contain the floods much longer, without major reforms, including especially power sharing with an independent Catholic majority. Cardinals and bishops who resist this pressure will likely be swept away by the flood of reforms, as happened with Cardinal Raymond Burke even before Pope Francis strengthened his authority to remove bishops.
  85. Strategic Alternatives and Assumptions: Any serious and objective assessment of this current Church crisis must consider at the outset several key questions. How is Pope Francis, after almost two years as pope, addressing this current crisis, as well as the related challenges to the Pope’s moral leadership and doctrinal authority, to the Vatican’s political and financial positions, and to the Catholic Church’s competitive advantage that this crisis has dramatically and unexpectedly provoked? What are Francis’ strategic options to resolve the crisis and which strategy has he selected? Is his selected strategy based on valid assumptions and truthful analysis? What are the likely outcomes from this crisis for the Vatican?
  86. The Expanding Crisis and Interplay of Related Challenges: The current Catholic Church crisis, and the four challenges the crisis has provoked, have been occasioned by almost unending scandals These scandals involve priest child abuse, bishop misconduct and financial corruption. The yet uncontrolled scandals have caused the ongoing crisis, while the insatiable 24/7 media cycle and the Internet are accelerating it non-stop.
  87. The scandal fallout is even leading many Catholics to question the previously accepted assumption that “The Holy Father knows best.” Basic questions now arise about infallible papal authority, as well as the Vatican’s hierarchical structure and unquestioned control of biblical and moral theology, especially regarding sexual and gender matters.
  88. Pope Francis indicated as the new pope at the World Youth Congress in July 2013 that he wanted a “mess” to stimulate change, and now he has one he helped create. He cannot now avoid confronting and attempting to defuse the expanding crisis, since it has unleashed unstoppable international legal and political responses. Previously, modern popes could discuss some pressing issues, while also deferring other important issues, and then sit on or even avoid the implications of these discussions, even for a half century as with some of the key issues discussed in the 1960′s during the Second Vatican Council period, such as married priests, power sharing among bishops and contraception.
  89. No more! With the pressure from the current crisis increasing, the Vatican can no longer just table these issues, and must address them now, along with additional significant issues, like (A) holding bishops accountable to the 99.9% faithful majority, (B) ordaining women priests, (C) celebrating gay marriages, (D) welcoming divorced and remarried Catholics at Mass, and (E) protecting children.
  90. These scandals in today’s wide open media world have created unprecedented reputational, political, financial and competitive risks and also generated related challenges for the Vatican. One pope has already resigned under pressure, the first to do so in almost 600 years. Many tough questions, rarely asked earlier, are now proliferating rapidly and are being raised constantly and publicly. The days of popes on pedestals are over permanently, notwithstanding the rapid acceleration of Pope Francis’ new pope saint making spree as part of his crisis response.
  91. Will Pope Francis be next to resign under similar pressure? Who will succeed him? How many Vatican officials are now being investigated by outside government prosecutors? Could the Vatican financially go broke, as over a dozen US dioceses and religious orders already have, under the weight of rising scandal related legal costs and declining donations and subsidies? Will even more Catholics now leave the Church seeking greener pastures and truer shepherds?
  92. Until recently, the Vatican’s decades’ old strategy aimed simultaneously and defensively at protection and preservation. Protecting, as the Vatican’s highest priority, its top leaders from governmental legal accountability, has meant employing media management tactics with help, it appears from billionaire media masters and seeking opportunistic arrangements with powerful political leaders and wealthy financial barons.
  93. Preserving Vatican wealth and membership statistics, both to maximize its eroding income worldwide and to reverse declining Catholic birth and retention rates in key countries, has meant continuing to pursue a “pro billionaire” fundraising approach and a “pro-pregnancy” population policy. This population policy had been earlier declared in Pope Pius XI’s 1930 anti-birth control papal encyclical occasioned by both the rising threat of atheistic Soviet communism against a declining Western European birthrate and the military ambitions of Pius XI’s key protector, Mussolini. Today, the Vatican’s pro-baby policy appears directed at the Vatican’s near obsession with the threat of radical Islam and Muslims’ high birth rate.
  94. The Vatican’s defensive instruments of power currently include (A) endlessly quoting in Vatican public relations releases from Jesus’ appealing message of brotherly love, while avoiding the message too often in actual Vatican actions,  (B) constantly fronting a smiling  “semi-divine infallible pope”, preferably hugging babies, (C) shrewdly managing a self interested, obedient and self perpetuating hierarchy, (D) carefully applying its significant worldwide wealth advantage,  and (E) tightly controlling its considerable political influence in key countries, like the USA and Germany.
  95. The major current Church challenges, on top of the present scandal crisis, are:
  96. (A) A leadership challenge — diminishing papal authority and declining adherents, as millions of older Catholics are leaving the Church, many due the Vatican’s rigid sexual policies and its mismanagement of the scandals, while many younger Catholics are similarly disaffected and are increasingly marrying in non-Church ceremonies, are having and baptizing fewer Catholic babies, and are even avoiding or deferring the early introduction of their children to the Church’s formative indoctrination process associated with First Communion/First Confession;
  97. (B) A political challenge — to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to the Vatican’s opportunistic arrangements with plutocratic political promoters ;
  98. (C) A financial challenge — declining personal donations and governmental subsidies while facing unending legal expenses and litigation penalties — fewer Catholics are donating, while billions in scandal related expenses are still being incurred, as more dioceses go broke and bankrupt and more Churches and schools are closed and sold off; and
  99. (D) A competitive challenge — increasing competition from other faiths and from secularism, ranging from Christian pentecostals, to Islamic converts, to the growing category of “nones”, unaffiliated with any faith group.
  100. Many of the world’s billion Catholics worry increasingly about the future of their scandal infected Church. While many millions still support the Catholic Church devoutly, millions of others, including women, children, poor couples, divorced and remarried, gay folks and even non-Catholics, suffer under Vatican policies that often seem unchristian and unnecessary.
  101. Pope Francis must currently confront this crisis and these challenges. He needs a comprehensive strategy to do so. His individual actions cannot really be assessed adequately or intelligently, except in the context of his overall strategy.
  102. Strategic Alternatives Presently Available to the Vatican: Pope Francis has given many Catholics new hope for a Church cure, for positive changes and for overdue reforms. Recent developments make clear that major changes for the papal monarchy are underway and that more are coming. When and how the newest changes may come surely raise complicated questions that demand responses, even if “final answers” are yet unavailable.
  103. Some Catholic Church changes may come voluntarily and others involuntarily, but come soon they will to the current papal monarchy, as they long ago came to other European monarchies. Depending on the specific change, either voluntary consensus among many Catholics or involuntary coercion from outside governments (as has already occurred in the financial area), or both, are driving these changes relentlessly. As a Catholic, I hope the changes come voluntarily. As an international lawyer, I expect the major changes will come involuntarily in any event, if needed voluntary changes are not implemented soon.
  104. Of course. the Church’s future options necessarily depend on, and are limited by, its present situation, as influenced by its unique history and traditions. Pope Francis cannot start afresh. He also faces considerable opposition from many sides. In some respects, Pope Francis’ situation today is like that of Pope Pius IX, who lost his large Papal States’ kingdom a century and a half ago to outside Italian governmental forces. Pius XI tried to recover some lost power by being “declared infallible” at the 1870 First Vatican Council. That move, however, may have created more problems for the Church than it solved.
  105. Pope Francis appears similarly desperately to be trying, with recent papal saint making spectacles and his Synods of Bishops, to make changes to try to head off some of the likely changes he may anticipate being imposed on the Church by escalating outside government pressure. His fine tuning the rules recently on his power to remove bishops suggests he does not plan on endless debates with the likes of Cardinal Burke.
  106. Moreover, Pope Francis must try to follow Jesus’ message closely if he wants to succeed. But traditions about Jesus, especially the all important “Good News” of the four Gospels, have been interpreted in different ways, prophetically, theologically and even politically, by earlier Catholic leaders and thinkers. These influential leaders and thinkers and their specific interpretations have generally dominated Church dogma and practice over much of its 2,000 year history, often in unpredictable ways at times with unanticipated consequences.
  107. For much of this long period, popes benefited from considerable protection from powerful monarchs, and at times even tyrants. But this has generally no longer been the case since the end of Fascist hegemony in Germany and Italy by 1945. Since then, the Vatican has had to nimbly weave its web of political protection by trading Vatican support on an ad hoc opportunistic basis for national arrangements. These alliances ranged from close ties since the 1980′s with elected US Republican leaders to alliances with military dictators in Latin America and Africa.
  108. Importantly, the Bible, including the Catholic New Testament, has a complex and complicated origin and multiple textual, linguistic, and cultural sources. It is now well known by scholars that the Bible is no straightforward guidebook on many modern problems. Early Church history also is poorly documented, quite diverse and easily manipulated by selective sourcing and quotations.
  109. Indeed, millions of words have been written by modern biblical and church history scholars. Nevertheless, in recent years, there has frequently been greater rather than less uncertainty about some important aspects of Jesus’ reported words and deeds and about some of his “clear mandates”, than had sometimes been assumed as beyond question by earlier popes. “The Tradition is …”, is at times much more complicated than modern popes have sometimes suggested in their encyclicals and the Catechism.
  110. The Vatican’s Current Strategy and Strategic Assumptions: Modern popes, including Francis, in their key dogmatic and moral pronouncements and proclaimed pastoral policies and practices, rely on many assumptions, occasionally unstated ones, sometimes selectively derived from preferred “in house” Catholic scholarship on scripture, history and theology. There are several assumptions in essential areas that are less certain than at times presented by self interested Vatican officials and their opportunistic apologists.
  111. These assumptions are a major part of the foundation for the Vatican’s claims about the Church’s (A) origins and sources, including some key New Testament mandates, (B) structure, leadership and management, and (C) dogma and practice. On closer inspection, these assumptions are more doubtful than modern popes, including Pope Francis, have at times indicated and the propositions popes construct on these assumptions are often more uncertain than not.
  112. By acknowledging these uncertainties now, some “unchangeable” dogmas and practices at variance with the lived experiences and informed consciences of hundreds of millions of Catholics can, and will be, changed voluntarily or involuntarily by the Vatican, to conform truthfully and honestly to Catholics’ current knowledge of, and daily experience, with reality. These truthful acknowledgements are often, as well, an essential prerequisite for the Vatican to survive the crisis and challenges it must face to survive.
  113. The Vatican can no longer avoid addressing the current relentless questioning of some of its key assumptions, given the growth in the Catholic scholarship community beyond Vatican control, as well as the 24/7 media coverage and Internet revelations that at times undercut Vatican positions. And future papal pronouncements, without ample underlying independent scholarly support, are hardly going to influence many Catholics for long. The Vatican can no longer address modern day “Galileos” solely by placing them under house arrest.
  114. Acknowledging honestly the uncertainty of the Vatican’s assumptions is fundamentally important, and also provides additional reasons to hope that positive changes in Church structure and doctrines are likely in the near term. If, as Jesus reportedly said, the truth makes us free, it is  mandatory that the Church’s options for change henceforth be pursued based honestly on truthful assumptions, and not opportunistically on “selective truths”, as at times still occurs and has also occurred in the past.
  115. Pope Francis had as a young Jesuit provincial in Argentina direct experience with the outside government power of a military dictatorship. He understands well that the Vatican he inherited from the ex-Pope was and remains in several areas, especially priest child abuse, on a collision course with outside governments armed with a coercive rule of international law. Longtime Vatican players, that had been accustomed until recently to living in a Vatican bubble in an Italy run by a seemingly billionaire swinger, do not yet seem to understand, as Francis appears to, that the days of “The Holy Father says … ” are over. Francis appears to know that either the Vatican reforms itself now or it risks being forced soon to reform, with the chaos and divisions that forced reforms would likely entail.
  116. These assumptions, in varying degrees, have shaped much of the Catholic Church’s present. They will also influence significantly its future, no matter what Pope Francis decides to do. Understanding better these often unstated assumptions creates hopeful opportunities for adopting long overdue positive reforms by eliminating non-essential and questionable “certainties” that at times have been impediments to needed changes.
  117. The overarching Vatican “framework” at present, based on current Vatican assumptions, appears to be mainly that (A) Jesus endorsed popes as supreme papal monarchs, (B) who are accountable only to God, (C) who uniquely interpret infallibly matters of “faith and morals”, including New Testament moral themes, and (D) who appoint as unaccountable bishops superior men, exclusively, (E) to implement and enforce unchangeable dogmas and practices mandated by popes. The Vatican currently, in effect, requires a billion plus Catholics to operate within this framework as well. This framework does not stand up well to close scholarly scrutiny.
  118. Complicating Pope Francis’ difficult tasks are many opportunists, including several very wealthy and powerful Church donors, who appear to be seeking, for their own personal agendas, to exploit the considerable “spiritual power” possessed by the modern papacy and to benefit from the political prestige and financial assets that popes control. For more than the last three quarters of the Catholic Church’s  2,000 year history, popes have at times been important “players”, sometimes a major player, in the international political economy; hence, the age old objective of wealthy donors to influence both papal decision making and wealth management.
  119. These opportunistic donors at times rely implicitly and selectively on several present weak papal assumptions, as do many in the Catholic hierarchy of cardinals and bishops. Of course, some of these Catholic religious leaders, with over 1,500 year years of accumulated political and economic traditions behind them, often also share some of their wealthy donors’ primary goals of maximizing their personal wealth, while also minimizing their individual accountability.
  120. Neither Pope Francis, nor any of his potential successors, can make many of the needed positive changes, without at a minimum revising key elements of his weak assumptions. Pope Francis and his successors, of course, may be unwilling voluntarily to make these revisions. That may matter significantly for the 0.01% minority leadership who may then not survive. It may not matter much, however, to the 99.9% faithful majority, who may still get to see these reforms imposed on the leadership majority by outside governments.
  121. The current likelihood is that Francis or his successor will, nevertheless, be compelled soon enough to make many of these changes, by pressure from outside governments accountable to their constituents, many of whom are Catholic. This is not the 1960′s, with the Second Vatican Council, when a collusive Vatican bureaucracy and their selected popes can stymie for a half century needed reforms agreed to by almost all of the world’s bishops at the Council.
  122. European governments are already beginning to apply considerable pressure in the financial area with mandated reforms for the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own asset management operation. This pressure has included so far a Vatican Bank asset seizure, a Vatican City credit card facility freeze and criminal investigations, even an arrest of a key Vatican financial official by the Italian government. The Vatican has been, in effect, required to hire some of the world’s most influential and expensive financial and banking consultants, lawyers and auditors and that may still not be enough to keep all Vatican officials out of prosecutors’ reach.

123. While Francis bobs and weaves and seeks political allies like anti-gay American fundamentalists, Catholics need to cover their bets by continuing to press their leaders, including President Obama to act. Papal promises of change are no longer a safe bet without concrete papal actions fulfilling the promises. Insufficient papal action to date suggests a need for more caution and prudence, and less cheerleading and wishful thinking.

 

Advertisements

Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases


Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases

By  | 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop confirms National Catholic Reporter is not a ‘Catholic’ publication


Bishop confirms National Catholic Reporter is not a ‘Catholic’ publication

From the link: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=16911

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, has confirmed that the National Catholic Reporter should not advertise itself as a “Catholic” publication.

In a column appearing in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Finn notes that he, as the bishop of the diocese in which the Reporter is located, has the duty to “call the media to fidelity.” He cites the Code of Canon Law, which (in #1369) calls for “a just penalty” for anyone who “excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.”

The National Catholic Reporter, Bishop Finn remarks, has taken an editorial stance that puts the publication at odds with the Church, by “officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.” He reveals that he has received numerous complaints about the Reporter’s editorial policies.

Bishop Finn reminds his readers that in 1968 his predecessor, Bishop Charles Helmsing, directed the editors of the Reporter to remove the word “Catholic” from the title of their publication. The newspaper’s editors refused. Bishop Finn says: “From my perspective, NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.”

The bishop discloses that soon after arriving in Kansas City, he sought to engage the Reporter editors in a discussion of their fidelity to the Catholic Church, but was rebuffed. “At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead end,” he adds.

Bishop Finn concludes that “I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name ‘Catholic.’” He says that he remains willing to discuss the issue with the Reporter staff, but as things stand, “I find that my ability to influence the National Catholic Reporter toward fidelity to the Church seems limited to the supernatural level.”

US judge agrees to delay unsealing documents from lawsuit against disgraced Legion of Christ


US judge agrees to delay unsealing documents from lawsuit against disgraced Legion of Christ

By David Klepper, The Associated Press January 25, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A judge agreed on Friday to delay the release of documents related to a disgraced Roman Catholic organization called the Legion of Christ to give it time to appeal his earlier ruling unsealing them.

Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein gave the Legion until Feb. 15 to ask the state Supreme Court to intervene in the tug-of-war over the records, which are from a lawsuit filed by a woman contesting the will of a wealthy aunt who left the Legion $60 million.

The judge had ruled on Wednesday that the public had a right to access the documents despite concerns from the Legion’s attorney, Joseph Avanzato, that they could taint a future jury. Avanzato, in asking the judge to stay his ruling, said Friday that it would be wrong to release the documents before the Legion had an opportunity to appeal the decision that unsealed them.

“The Legion has a right of appeal here, which would be destroyed if there is no stay,” Avanzato said.

The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Providence Journal and the National Catholic Reporter had asked the judge to unseal the documents, saying they could shed light on the Legion’s operations and there was no justification to seal them. The media organizations’ attorney, Joseph Cavanagh, asked the judge not to grant the delay.

“He (Avanzato) keeps arguing that once the cat is out of the bag, they’re done,” Cavanagh said. “Let it out.”

The Legion, founded in Mexico City in 1941, calls itself a religious congregation of pontifical right and says its mission involves “extending the Kingdom of Christ in society,” according to its website. The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 after determining that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women.

The Legion, which has facilities in Rhode Island, has faced other complaints, including one from a Connecticut man who claims to be Maciel’s son. Another Connecticut man has alleged the Legion used predatory means to persuade his ailing father to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the Legion says it doesn’t pressure anyone to make a contribution.

The wealthy aunt whose will is the focus of the current case, Gabrielle Mee, a widow, died in 2008. Mee’s niece Mary Lou Dauray had sought to challenge her will, saying Mee had been defrauded by the Legion into leaving it her fortune. The judge last year threw out the challenge because he determined the niece lacked standing, and her attorney plans to appeal.

Dauray’s attorney, Bernard Jackvony, also had sought the documents’ release. He said the documents, compiled in the course of the lawsuit and sealed by a probate court judge in 2009, contain information about the Legion that isn’t known by the public.

Judge delays unsealing of Legion of Christ records


Judge delays unsealing of Legion of Christ records

By Dennis Coday  |  Jan. 25, 2013

From the link: http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/judge-delays-unsealing-legion-christ-records

National Catholic Reporter is one of four media outlets that asked Silverstein to unseal the documents. The Providence Journal of Providence, R.I.,The New York Times, and the Associated Press are the others.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island judge has agreed to delay the release of records related to the Legion of Christ to give the Roman Catholic order time to appeal his ruling that unsealed the documents.

Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein on Friday agreed to give the Legion until Feb. 15 to ask the state Supreme Court to intervene. The documents are from a lawsuit contesting the will of a woman who left the Legion $60 million.

Silverstein ruled Wednesday that the documents should be unsealed, despite the Legion’s concerns that they could taint a future jury.

The Associated Press and other media organizations asked Silverstein to unseal the documents.

The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 after determining its late founder had molested seminarians and fathered multiple children

What the Cardinal Knew, Or How to Hoover A Pedophile


from the link: http://www.priestabusetrial.com/2012/04/what-cardinal-knew.html

What the Cardinal Knew, Or How to Hoover A Pedophile By Ralph Cipriano

Monday, April 23, 2012

As the religion reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early 1990s, my assignment was to profile Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.

At the time, I was negotiating with the cardinal’s PR guys for a face-to-face interview with Bevilacqua. The cardinal’s men offered some suggestions. If I wanted to do a story about the cardinal, I should see him in action first. They wanted me to accompany the cardinal on one of his famous, carefully choreographed “parish visits.”

These were glorified photo ops where Bevilacqua would visit a local parish, say Mass, and then mug for the cameras. It was all part of the cardinal’s public image as an energetic, charismatic shepherd out among his adoring flock.  The cardinal’s PR guys also suggested several priests in the archdiocese who would be good to interview about the cardinal, boosters who would say positive things about what a wonderful job the cardinal was doing to re-energize the archdiocese.

It took months for the cardinal’s PR people to settle on just the right parish, and just the right pastor, for the cardinal’s parish visit, which would be the subject of photos for a big Sunday spread in the Inquirer profiling the new archbishop.

There were some ground rules for my participation in the parish visit. One, I could not travel with the cardinal; I would have to follow in the car behind the cardinal’s chauffeur-driven Ford Crown Victoria. Two, I could not speak to the cardinal unless he addressed me first. And last, if he did deign to speak to me, I had to refer to him as His Eminence. Not Cardinal, not Cardinal Bevilacqua, but His Eminence.

The parish visit went off as scheduled. The parish we visited was Our Mother of Sorrows, an ethnic Slavak church in Bridgeport, Montgomery County. The pastor of the parish was Father Stanley M. Gana.

The photos and story ran in the Feb. 7, 1993 Inquirer, including a photo of the cardinal conferring with Gana. The caption: “The Rev. Stanley Gana outlines the day’s visits to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church. The cardinal has made all-day pastoral visits to 185 parishes. His workaholic schedule has given him a strong presence in the community at large.”

Here’s what the cardinal’s PR people wanted me to see:

At Our Mother of Sorrows, after Saturday night Mass, more than 250 people were waiting to meet him. He stood near the free-throw line on a basketball court in the basement.

Women bowed and kissed his ring; men shook his hand. Whenever a child came to see him, the cardinal got down on one knee.

It went on for an hour, with no break. “I’m not tired, the cardinal said. “This gives you adrenaline.”

He held one woman’s face in his hands as he talked to her in low, soothing tones. Teresa Bokoski, 61, was all smiles when she left.

“He’s wonderful; I loved him,” said Bokoski, who told the cardinal how she suffered from a panic disorder. “He just prayed over me. His prayer was just wonderful, and he said he would continue to pray for me. And I was so touched. And he asked me to pray for him.”

Imagine my surprise when I read the 2005 grand jury report, and saw Father Gana described as the priest who had “sexually abused countless boys in a succession of Philadelphia Archdiocese parishes. He was known to kiss, fondle, anally  sodomize, and impose oral sex on his victims. He took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families, and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems. He brought groups of adolescent male parishioners on overnights and would rotate them through his bed. He collected nude pornographic photos of his victims. He molested boys on a farm, in vacation houses, in the church rectory. Some minors he abused for years.”

Maybe the archdiocese or the new cardinal wasn’t aware of Gana’s reputation? Nope, here what that same grand jury report had to say about that subject:

The Archdiocese had been hearing allegations about Fr. Gana’s sexual misconduct since the early 1970s. A seminarian had described Fr. Gana to Msgrs. Lynn and Molloy as “like a sugar daddy, always supplying money and vacations and use of a beach house.” A parish priest in Media had expressed concern to the Archdiocese about Father Gana’s inviting other seminarians to his rectory at Our Mother of Sorrows in Bridgeport, where he had become pastor in 1986.

During the archdiocese sex abuse trial, it was revealed that Gana’s own brother had approached the late Cardinal John Krol and told him what Gana was doing with those boys that he kept on the farm.

The seminarian referred to in the Grand Jury report was Robert D. Karpinski, who showed up in court last week to testify about Gana’s abuse. Here’s what the grand jury report had to say about Karpinski, identified in the report as “Tim:”

The Archdiocese responds to a report of abuse by investigating the victim.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other top Archdiocese managers first learned of Fr. Gana’s abuse of Tim in November 1991, when the victim was in his eighth and final year of seminary. Tim had not reported Fr. Gana’s criminal acts because his spiritual director at the seminary, Fr. Thomas Mullin, had urged him to wait until after his ordination so that he would not jeopardize his chances of being made a priest.


The seminary rector, Msgr. Daniel A. Murrya, however, learned of Tim’s victimization and notified Archdiocese managers. He informed them, too, that Tim had told other seminarians about Fr. Gana’s abuses, and that gossip about Fr. Gana was spreading among the parishes. Archdiocese managers acted quickly — but not against Father Gana.


In December 1991, the Archdiocese made Tim the target of a full-scale ‘investigation’ into second-and-third hand rumors of homosexual contacts with another seminarian. The probe, Archdiocese managers said, would decide whether Tim would be allowed to continue at seminary and on to ordination.


Cardinal Bevilacqua himself initiated the inquiry, choosing to ignore the child-molestation charges against one of his priests. Archdiocese managers did not even speak to Fr. Gana for another six months. The investigation of Tim, meanwhile, was conducted by the third highest official of the Archdiocese, Assistant Vicar for Administration James Molloy, and his new aide, Msgr. William Lynn — the same Lynn who had served as Tim’s seminary dean.


The true purpose of this investigation, the Grand Jury finds, was not to get at the truth about Tim, but to suppress the truth about Fr. Gana by controlling and silencing the seminarian. Archdiocese managers barred Tim from the seminary and his deaconite assignment. Monsignor Murray, the rector, threatened his friends with dismissal if they associated with him. Those who came to his defense were themselves punished.

According Archdiocese records, Msgr. Murray told Msgrs. Molloy and Lynn that Tim was “damaged goods,” that he was “fragile and sensitive.” Monsignor Murray warned Archdiocese managers that the seminarian “might sue the diocese for pedophilia.'”

So Archdiocese officials knew all about Father Gana, and they were brazen enough to think that the truth would never come out. They could not foresee the earthquake set off by the Boston sex abuse scandal of 2002, or the grand jury that would be empaneled in Philadelphia shortly thereafter to investigate them. Or the subpoenas that would force open the archdiocese’s secret archive files. So they were brazen enough to pose the cardinal with Father Gana at a photo op that they knew would wind up in the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I also mentioned some parish priests that the cardinal’s PR men suggested I interview. One of them was Father David Sicoli, who, at the time, was carrying out the cardinal’s wishes by consolidating parishes in North Philadelphia.  In a story that ran March 25, 1993, I quoted Father Sicoli as one of the pastors on a planning committee in North Philadelphia that was recommending that 15 parishes and four parish schools be closed or merged.

It’s a difficult assignment to accept a new job as pastor, and then convince everybody in the parish that it’s time to close the doors. But Father Sicoli was up to the task. Here’s what the story said:

The Rev. David Sicoli, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, said that he and his parishioners viewed the merger as necessary so that the church could spend less on insurance, building maintenance and salaries and more on programs.


“Nobody is imposing this on us. We recommended it,” said Father Sicoli, who sat on the committee along with six elected representatives from his parish, as well as St. Stephen’s and Holy Child.

“We looked at our options and recommended that a single parish be established from the three, with a primary site at Holy and a secondary site here at Our Lady,” he said.


He said his parishioners — 340 families in a church built for 2,000 — “are going to be sad. It’s similar to a death in the family. But our parishioners here have been so much a part of the process and they’re OK with what’s going to happen.”

Here’s what the 2005 grand jury report had to say about Father Sicoli:

Another archdiocesan priest, Fr. David Sicoli, sexually abused a succession of boys, buying them computers, taking them on trips to Africa and Disney World, and giving them high-paying jobs in the church youth group, and inviting them to live with him in the rectory. Victims came forward to tell their stories, preserved in the secret archdiocesan records.


“Other [victims] now grown, told the grand jury that Fr. Sicoli sexually abused them and treated them as if they were his girlfriends,” the grand jury report said. “Despite reports in Fr. Sicoli’s Secret Archives file of inappropriate relationships with these four victims and five other boys, Cardinal Bevilacqua appointed the priest to four pastorates between 1990 and 1999,” the report said.


The results of the cardinal’s decisions were predictable. “At each one he [Fr. Sicoli] seized on a favorite boy, or a succession of favorites, on whom he showered attention, money and trips,” the report said. “Three of these boys lived with Fr. Scioli in the rectories with the knowledge of Msgr. Lynn,” the report said. The priest was finally removed in 2004, after a review board found “multiple substantiated” allegations involving a total of 11 minors between 1977 and 2002.

Why would Cardinal Bevilacqua knowingly consort with two known pedophile priests, and indeed allow his Archdiocese PR machine to parade the two abusers out in public with him? Maybe because the cardinal owned these guys, in the tradition of J. Edgar Hoover. Both Sicoli and Gana knew that their crimes were documented in the archdiocese’s secret archives, and that they served at the whim of the archbishop, who, at the scrawl of a pen, could send them packing. So when it came to Sicoli and Gana, the cardinal had them “Hoovered,” he had their unquestioned loyalty.

A.W. Richard Sipe is a former Benedictine monk and priest who has researched the sexuality of priests and bishops. On his website, richardsipe.com, he cites two reasons for the blindness of the bishops when it came to the sexual sins of their fellow priests: narcissism, and the skeletons in the bishops’ own closets:

More broadly, clerical culture produces in many men an acquired situational narcissism, characterized by a sense of entitlement, superiority, lack of empathy, impaired moral judgment and self-centeredness. Identification with and incorporation into a powerful and godly institution can confer a sense of grandiosity and moral justification for one’s personal behavior. These qualities favor a man’s promotion within the clerical system.

On his website, Sipe classifies the sexual preferences of American bishops, and he lists Bevilacqua as a heterosexual.

There is evidence to back that up in court records. In 1995, a veteran employee of the Philadelphia archdiocese filed a workers’ compensation claim against the church. In the claim, the employee, a devout Catholic who worked in close contact with the cardinal, alleged that he had suffered “serious mental and physical distress” and was no longer able to work as a result of the cardinal’s “rude and abusive treatment.” In the claim, the employee who was fired after he suffered a heart attack, charged that much of his stress was caused by the presence of women who rode in the cardinal’s limo and stayed overnight at the cardinal’s mansion. Records showed the archdiocese settled the claim by paying the former employee $87,500.

The employee, the claim said, “was also severely troubled the cardinal’s frequent habit of meeting women on airplanes and inviting these women to spend time at the cardinal’s mansion … [the employee] was troubled by the fact that Cardinal Bevilacqua would frequently ride with women in the back of the cardinal’s vehicle. Cardinal Krol had never allowed women to ride in the back of a vehicle with him.”

The employee also “was severely troubled by one woman who would follow Cardinal Bevilacqua to every function no matter if it was a local event or something in Downingtown, or Brooklyn, N.Y. The woman “would have closed-door meetings with Cardinal Bevilacqua after every function. [The employee] was troubled to see Cardinal Bevilacqua meeting with [the woman] on the property at night and also meeting with [the woman] on the St. Joseph’s College campus early in the morning.”

The employee said he frequently saw the cardinal strolling with “his arm around” the woman, massaging her back and showing her “undue affection.” When the employee talked about about the woman to other members of the church hierarchy, the claim said, “various monsignors and bishops would jokingly refer to [the woman] as Fatal Attraction and would jokingly ask [the employee] if Fatal Attraction had shown up at the cardinal’s latest destination.”

The woman, who drove a car with the license plate “1AB-FAN,” showed up for three years at every appearance of the cardinal. The relationship, according to the claim, came to an end when the cardinal told the employee that the phone number of the cardinal’s residence had been changed, and he was forbidden to give out the new phone number to anybody.

About This Blog

 The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William J. Lynn, Edward V. Avery and James Brennan is an important case. Everybody can’t be in the courtroom, so The Beasley Firm asked veteran reporter Ralph Cipriano to blog the trial. He is one of 30 journalists accredited by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office to cover the case, unfolding daily in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center.
 We pledge to be an independent voice. That means we will chase this story where ever it goes, and not follow any predetermined plot line. And because we are intimately aware of the Constitutional rights and protections afforded to all, including the accused, we are not going to censor our accounts.
What happens in Courtroom 304 is often raw, upsetting and obscene. We are not going to clean it up, and we are going to play it straight down the middle. That means we are going to identify all the evidence and the people involved, for both the prosecution and the defense. It’s the only fair way to do it, and a position  unique to this blog. That’s why both defenders and critics of the Catholic Church, as well as victims’ advocates, say our site is the only voice in the media that’s telling it like it is at the archdiocese sex abuse trial.

About the Author

 Ralph Cipriano was the first reporter to take a critical look at the Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia. Writing in the early 1990s as the religion reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and subsequently, as a freelancer for National Catholic Reporter, Cipriano examined secrecy and lavish spending under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. He also explored the findings of the grand jury that investigated sex abuse in the archdiocese.

His work has been recognized by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, which includes The Catholic Standard & Times, the official newspaper of the archdiocese of Philadelphia. In 1999, the Catholic Press Association awarded a First Place for Investigative Reporting for Lavish Spending in Archdiocese Skips Inner City, published June 19, 1998 in National Catholic Reporter. In 2006, the Catholic Press Association awarded a First Place for Best News Writing for a national event for Grand Jury Findings, published on Oct. 7, 2005 under the headline: “Philadelphia cardinals ‘excused and enabled abuse, covered up crimes.’ ”


Cipriano is the author of Courtroom Cowboy, The Life of Legal Trailblazer Jim Beasley, who was Cipriano’s lawyer in a historic libel case against The Philadelphia Inquirer over the veracity of his coverage of the archdiocese, a battle recounted in Chapter 21 of the book. His most recent book is The Hit Man, A True Story of Murder, Redemption and the Melrose Diner, about the life and crimes of former Mafia hit man John Veasey, also available on Kindle.

 

 

A Catholic’s Easter lament: Dogmatic, tone-deaf bishops


from the link: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/connelly/article/A-Catholic-s-Easter-lament-Dogmatic-tone-deaf-3465228.php

A Catholic’s Easter lament: Dogmatic, tone-deaf bishops

By JOEL CONNELLY, SEATTLEPI.COM
Published 04:00 p.m., Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 2010 installation of Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain at St. James Cathedral. Sartain is using parishes as signature gathering centers for Referendum 74, which would roll back same-sex marriage.
Photo: Joshua Trujillo, Seattlepi.com / SL

A painful truism of this Holy Week, Christianity’s most important days of the year:  Moral leadership in America’s Catholic Church is starting to flow from lay persons in pews and priests who deal with human problems, not prelates on thrones wearing white, red and purple hats.

Just look around to events from Rome to Berlin, and from Worcester, Mass., to Seattle.

In the Archdiocese of Seattle, our bishops issued a letter saying parishes will become signature-gathering centers for Referendum 74, a ballot measure designed to roll back same-sex marriage.  But the state’s marriage equality law was sponsored by a Catholic state senator and signed into law by a Catholic governor.

Archbishop Sartain and Bishop Elizondo talk about treating all persons with “respect, sensitivity and love,” but then urge support for a campaign put together by the National Organization for Marriage — an outfit that wants to “drive a wedge” between blacks and gays, “sideswipe” President Obama and make opposition to marriage equality “an identity marker” for young Latinos.

A Q-and-A, just put out by the Washington State Catholic Conference, tells the faithful:  “The Catechism of the Catholic Church does teach that homosexual ACTS are intrinsically disordered, not persons.”

A question to Archbishop Sartain, who does not seem to want to take questions:  How do I, as a layperson, treat my friends who are gay and lesbian?

When with a telltale, sheepish grin a friend says he/she is seriously in love, my standard refrain is along the lines, “Why you lucky dog!  Have you kids set a date?”  Friends take pleasure in other friends’ happiness.

What’s, then,  the approved party line for gay friends in love?   a) Sorry, the church says what you are doing is “disordered,” or b) I love you as a sinner but I hate your sins, or c) My bishops have written:  “For all unmarried persons, chastity means that they refrain from sexual relations.”

Do purple skullcaps dull the mind?   The Jesus of the Gospels preaches human decency, not dogma.  Life experience teaches us that the essence of marriage is the same whether people are straight or gay.  Two people affirm their love and make a commitment to each other.  Lots of gay and lesbian couples are raising children:  Should they be denied the right to raise those children as legally married couples?

Catholic governors in Washington, Maryland, New York and California have not submitted to church dogma, or the hierarchy’s convoluted reasoning.  And a vast majority of young people — including Catholic young people — want the happiness of friends whatever their age or race or sexual preference.

The hierarchy is tone deaf in many ways and places,  be it in heavy-handed attacks on contraception coverage in health insurance or cruel treatment of Catholics who are not docile and do not submit to discipline.

A small Catholic college in Massachusetts was forced during Holy Week to rescind its invitation to Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, to be this year’s graduation speaker.  She was to speak as co-founder and president of the group Common Sense About Kids and Guns.

The order came from Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, whose spokesman told National Catholic Reporter that McManus acted because of Kennedy’s “positions on pro-choice versus pro-life and the sanctity of marriage.”

What a cruel, vindictive action, and what a reflection on the kind of men running the church.

“I am a lifelong Catholic and my faith is very important to me,” Kennedy said.  “I am not a public official.  I hold no public office, nor am I a candidate for public office.  I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections.  He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith.”

The bishops don’t learn.  They may think of themselves a shepherds, but America’s Catholics are not sheep.  They may not consult people in the pews — or meet with those, like Kennedy, that they are judging — but laypersons (and many priests) are consulting their consciences.

A key lesson:  Moral authority is earned.  It is not  simply acquired when a bishop/cardinal/Pope is installed.   The American (and Irish, and Dutch, and Belgian , etc.) hierarchy has forfeited a lot of that authority through its handling of the priest sex-abuse scandal.

The despair is mitigated by the good works and wise words from  those in the pews.

As Pope Benedict XVI used a Holy Thursday sermon to tell priests to obey orders, Medina, Wash., lay Catholic Melinda Gates was speaking from conscience about contraception at a conference in Berlin.

Contraceptives are not a code for abortion, she said, nor an invitation to promiscuous sex.  “We are talking about giving women the power to save their own lives and their children’s lives — and to give their families the best possible future,” said Gates, talking of the need for birth control in the developing world.

Gates discussed the instruction in faith she received from sisters in a Catholic high school:  “In the tradition of great Catholic scholars, the nuns also taught us to question received teachings.  One of the teachings most of my classmates and I questioned was the one saying birth control was a sin.”

She didn’t question lessons on service, and giving back, and social justice, worthy grounding for the future co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The bishops will just have to deal with conscience-driven Catholics.  In fact, they could listen and learn.

SNAP, the bishops and a lesson in ecclesiology


SNAP, the bishops and a lesson in ecclesiology

by Thomas P. Doyleon Mar. 14, 2012

Commentary

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, came into existence in 1989, just five years after national attention was first focused on sexual molestation of minors by Catholic clergy. The founder, Barbara Blaine, is a survivor of abuse. The national director, David Clohessy, is also a survivor. SNAP came into existence because the institutional church, i.e., the bishops, could not and would not do anything to help the victims of the priests they were supposed to supervise.

Realizing that they would have to help themselves, Barbara and the original members started what has become the oldest and most effective advocacy and help group for the countless victims of clergy abuse throughout the United States and Europe as well.

Over the years since its existence, SNAP has done what the institutional church should have done: It offered understanding, support, solace and above all, hope for anyone who called upon it. SNAP is not a sophisticated organization with a well-oiled and financed bureaucracy. It has always been focused on providing support for victims, giving them the encouragement to begin to heal from the devastation of abuse and giving them hope, knowing they are not alone.

In 1993, Pope John Paul II issued his first public response to the clergy abuse issue in the form of a letter to the U.S. bishops. In this letter, he said the bishops have a responsibility to the “innocent victims.” Unfortunately, that’s all he said about victims, devoting most of the letter to a fumbled attempt to shift the blame to the secular media and U.S. culture.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States. On the plane coming over, he spoke to the media and said, “The victims will need healing and help and assistance and reconciliation: This is a big pastoral engagement and I know that the bishops and the priests and all Catholic people in the United States will do whatever possible to help, to assist, to heal.”

The pope was wrong on that one. The bishops as a group have certainly not helped the victims heal. They have said a lot of nice things, but their response has been hypocritical. While they feign sorrow and regret, make promises and lay on church floors at organized penance services, they are also waging a war against the survivors of the molestation and betrayed trust that they themselves have brought about. They continue to spend millions of the laypeople’s dollars to try and bury any attempts at bringing civil legislation to protect victims into the 21st century and, most reprehensible, they continue to try to pound victims into the ground in the courts. The bottom line is that as with everything else, the response to the clergy abuse nightmare has to be their way or no way.

The latest and most convincing evidence of the bishops’ collective failure following the present pope’s admonitions is the organized attack on SNAP. This attack is being carried out by lawyers who represent two priests accused of abuse, but it’s not about justice for the priests. It’s about destroying an organization that represents not only a source of profound embarrassment to the bishops but a serious threat to their continued duplicity. On one hand, the demand for SNAP’s files is sending a horrific message to all victims of clergy abuse and to all who try to help and support them. The message is clear: Although individual bishops might be truly sympathetic, the bishops as a group simply don’t “get it.” Nothing has changed since 1985, when this sordid issue first came to widespread public awareness. They are only concerned for themselves, their image, their control over the laity and their money. The National Review Board had it right when they pinpointed this in their 2004 report.

But there is another side. The thinly veiled attack through the lawyers from Kansas City, Mo., and St. Louis is part of a strategy to discredit not only SNAP but all survivors of the sexual and spiritual abuse by the priests, religious and bishops. It shows that they fear SNAP and the survivors. Bill Donohue, who basically represents only himself, announced that SNAP is a “menace to the church.” He also claimed in an editorial that “Jeff Anderson is an enemy of the church.” Not one bishop has spoken out and said, “Bill, you’re wrong.” This is where we come to the ecclesiology part.

Ecclesiology is a fancy name for the theology of the church, the meaning of the church. This meaning had to be recalled by the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) because it had been buried in the hierarchical trappings of the church as monarchy. The meaning resurrected by the council is simple yet profound: The church is the “People of God,” which simply means that the boundaries don’t stop with the bishops or with the clerical subculture. The council reminded Catholics that there were followers of the spirit and word of Christ before there was a hierarchy and a clerical world. Almost before the bleachers were removed from St. Peter’s Basilica at the close of the last session in 1965, the forces intent on neutralizing the reborn understanding of the church were hard at work. These forces are more evident today than at any other time since the council, and they are led by bishops.

SNAP is the People of God. The laypeople and the priests, religious men and women and miniscule number of bishops who stand with victims of clergy abuse and give them hope and healing are the church. Even though they might not think so, the lawyers who help victims find justice and healing are the church. It’s not true to say that “the church” does little to nothing to provide authentic help. The church has been the source of the help. It’s not, however, been the part of the church that has the official mandate to extend pastoral care to those in need, namely, the hierarchy. But they are not “the church.” They are only a very tiny part of it — .00074 percent, to be more exact. Some would argue this and say that we all have a mandate and they are right, but the leadership in extending compassionate support should have come from the bishops. Even the pope expected it. But it has not come from the bishops or even from the papacy. It has come from people who, it appears, have a more realistic and theologically orthodox understanding of the meaning of “church” than those who hold the official positions in the institution.

So Bill Donohue (and anyone who agrees with him) is dead wrong, reading from a script that was never theologically sound and is certainly way out of date. The purpose of the “church” is not the care and feeding of the hierarchy. The most important people in the church, if one takes the lead from the example of Jesus, are not the ones with the fanciest and most colorful robes but the ones who are the most marginalized and rejected, and in this group, one must include the countless women and men who have become marginalized because of the physical and sexual abuse of the church’s own ministers. They have been marginalized by the very ones who should lead the way in providing compassionate care, and they have been rejected by those who see them as a threat to their image, prestige and power.

The attacks on SNAP and the overall campaign to discredit and intimidate victims are a sure sign that an important part of the church has gone off the rails. It is a sign of a radically distorted ecclesiology. One way or the other, however, SNAP, its leadership, its members, those it helps and above all its spirit, will not be snuffed out no matter how vehement the attacks from the hierarchy, their supporters and their cheerleaders. Why? Because SNAP is people. Not just any people, but a true expression of the People of God.

[Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle is a canon lawyer, addictions therapist and longtime supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims. He is a co-author of the first report ever issued to the U.S. bishops on clergy sex abuse, in 1986.]