The Catholic League and Suppression of the Press Today
From the Link: http://churchandstate.org.uk/2012/04/the-catholic-league-and-supression-of-the-press-today/
This chapter from our chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996), provides a survey of the Catholic League’s chilling effect on the American freedom of the press. The book is available at Kindle here, and is available to read for free here.
Chapter 15: The Catholic League and Suppression of the Press Today
The Catholic League was founded in 1973 by Jesuit priest Virgil Blum. William Donohue assumed leadership in July 1993.[260pp1] Since then, the membership has grown from 27,000 to 200,000.[260pp2] According to Donohue, the League has “won the support of all of the U.S. Cardinals and many of the Bishops as well…We are here to defend the Church from the scurrilous assaults that have been mounted against it, and we definitely need the support of the hierarchy if we are to get the job done.”[260pp3] Thus it can be considered an arm of the Church. It supplements or replaces priest-controlled organizations of the past described by Blanshard and Seldes. The League apparently has a single mission: suppression of all mainstream criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Donohue, it is fortunate that, “the Catholic Church is there to provide a heady antidote to today’s mindless ideas of freedom.”[260pp4] He is a strong advocate of the Church’s positions on restriction of the freedoms guaranteed by the American Constitution and condemned by popes for nearly two centuries, especially those regarding the press and speech. He informs us that: “the Catholic League is there to defend the Church against its adversaries.”[260pp4]
There are many recognizable principles governing the behavior of the League. One is revealed in a vicious 1994 attack against the New London newspaper, The Day, for an editorial critical of the Catholic Church: “What is truly ‘beyond understanding’ is not the Catholic Church’s position, it is the fact that a secular newspaper has the audacity to stick it’s nose in where it doesn’t belong. It is nobody’s business what the Catholic Church does.”[260pp5]
A second basic premise is the League’s commitment to canon 1369 of the Code of Canon Law: “A person is to be punished with a just penalty, who, at a public event or assembly, or in a published writing, or by otherwise using the means of social communication, utters blasphemy, or gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.”[260pp6] Canon law is the law of the Catholic Church. All criticism of the pope or the Church is in violation of this law in one way or another. This chapter will make clear that the League follows this canon to the letter and demands that all others conform—or pay the price for their violation.
Another principle is aggressive action. Says Donohue, “I defy anyone to name a single organization that has more rabid members than the Catholic League. Our members are generous, loyal and extremely active. When we ask them to sign petitions, write to offending parties and the like, they respond with a vigor that is unparalleled…We aim to win. Obviously, we don’t win them all, but our record of victories is impressive.”[260pp7] To justify this stance, he identifies with Patrick Buchanan’s resistance to the “Culture War” against the Catholic Church: “We didn’t start this culture war against the Catholic Church, we simply want to stop it.”[260pp8]
Donohue also justifies the League’s aggressive behavior by claiming that it is culturally unacceptable for nonCatholics to criticize the Catholic Church. “Perhaps the most cogent remark of the day,” he asserts, “came from the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, who politely remarked that his mother always advised him not to speak ill of other religions. It is a lesson that apparently few have learned….Non-Catholics would do well to follow the advice of Ed Koch’s mom and just give it a rest. Their crankiness is wearing thin.”[260pp9] This cultural norm is widely accepted in America, to the enormous benefit of the Vatican. What role, one wonders, did the Catholic Church play in its adoption? Certainly, in the case of population growth control, its consequence has been catastrophic.
The Catholic League strongly discourages criticism of the Church, especially attacks by the press. Says Donohue, “It does no good complaining about Catholic bashing if all we do is wait until the other side strikes.”[260pp10] Prevention of such publications is of the essence. Yet Donohue is convinced that this is not censorship: “The press and the radio talk shows asked me if the Catholic League was engaging in censorship by responding the way we did. As always, I informed them that only the government has the power to censor anything.”[260pp11] This is patently untrue.
Another tenet enunciated by Donohue:
“I think it is a gross mistake to give elevation to fringe groups. Our basic rule of thumb is this: the more mainstream the source of anti-Catholicism, the more likely it is that the Catholic League will respond….The mainstream media, after all, have the credibility and influence that the fringe lacks, and they are therefore much more likely to do real damage.”[260pp12]
“When major universities, TV networks and government officials engage in Catholic-baiting, it is a far more dangerous situation than the venom that emanates from certifiably fringe organizations.”[260pp13]
“When an establishment newspaper such as the Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale] offends, it cannot be ignored.”[260pp14]
Donohue goes on to explain the Sun-Sentinel example. On February 9, 1995, it ran an ad, paid for by a Seventh Day Adventist group, which claimed that the Catholic Church is seeking to create a New World Order to take command of the world and that the Pope and the Catholic Church were in a league with Satan.
Accordingly, the Catholic League contacted the radio and television stations in the area, the opposition newspaper, and the nation’s major media outlets registering its outrage and its demands. We demanded nothing less than ‘an apology to Catholics and a pledge that no such ads will ever be accepted again.’ We added that ‘If this is not forthcoming, the Catholic League will launch a public ad campaign on its own, one that will directly target the Sun-Sentinel.’
“What exactly did we have in mind? We were prepared to take out ads in the opposition newspaper, registering our charge of anti-Catholic bigotry. We were prepared to pay for radio spots making our charge. We were prepared to buy billboard space along the majority arteries surrounding the Fort Lauderdale community. Why not? After all, …we are in a position to make such threats….This is the way it works: if the source of bigotry wants to deal with lousy publicity, it can elect to do so. Or it can come to its senses and knock it off. In the event the anti-Catholic bigots want to bite the bullet and stay the course, we’ll do everything we can within the law to make sure that they pay a very high price for doing so.”[260pp15] It goes without saying that anyone critical of the Vatican, or the hierarchy, or the Roman Catholic Church is, by definition, an anti-Catholic bigot—including Catholics themselves.
One final element makes clear the objective of the Catholic League—protection of the papacy against all criticism. Writes Donohue, “It is the conviction of the Catholic League that an attack on the Church is an attack on Catholics.”[260pp16] He offers no rationale to support this theory. Obviously, millions of liberal American Catholics would disagree outright, for it is they who have been attacking the Church.
Throughout American history, the job of combating anti-Catholicism fell to the clergy, and especially to the Archbishops. But times have changed….The type of anti-Catholicism that exists in American society today is fundamentally different from the genre that marked this country’s history from the outset. From colonial times to the election of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States, anti-Catholicism was vented against both individual Catholics and against the Catholic Church itself. But over the past 30 years, it has become evident that most of the Catholic-bashing centers on the institution of the Church…[260pp17]
The hierarchy cannot be effective against criticism of the institution because they are the institution. Thus, the hierarchy has had to call on the laity to protect the institution in this way. In 1971, the League’s founder pointed out, “If a group is to be politically effective, issues rather than institutions must be at stake.”[260pp18] In other words, the laity, if left to their own devices, will not defend the institution but they will defend their interests as individuals. Hence, the League has adopted this principle and has convinced its members that “an attack on the Church is an attack on Catholics.” In this way, the institution is successfully using individual lay Catholics to shield it from all criticism.
The Church and Its Image
The Catholic Church in America has good reason to be intensely concerned about its image and any criticism. Donohue cites a 1995 study, “Taking America’s Pulse,” undertaken by the National Conference (formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews). Despite the almost complete suppression of all criticism of the Catholic Church in America, a majority of non-Catholic Americans (55%) believe that Catholics “want to impose their own ideas of morality on the larger society.” The survey also found that 38% of non-Catholics believe that Catholics are “narrow-minded because they are too much controlled by their Church.”[260pp19] Obviously, there is a highly receptive audience in this country for any justified criticisms of the Catholic Church. If the floodgates ever opened, it is unlikely that the Church would be able to close them again. Only too well understood by the hierarchy, and the Catholic League, this perhaps explains their unmitigated intolerance for criticism.
Methods of the League
Donohue has cited many of the methods used by the League, including some we have already mentioned. “We specialize in public embarrassment of public figures who have earned our wrath and that is why we are able to win so many battles: no person or organization wants to be publicly embarrassed, and that is why we specialize in doing exactly that…”[260pp20] Elsewhere he writes, “The threat of a lawsuit is the only language that some people understand. The specter of public humiliation is another weapon that must be used. Petitions and boycotts are helpful. The use of the bully pulpit—via the airwaves—is a most effective strategy. Press conferences can be used to enlighten or, alternatively, to embarrass.”[260pp21] “Ads taken out in prominent national newspapers are quite effective.”[260pp22]
The Catholic League’s Op-Ed page advertisement which appeared in the April 10, 1995 issue of The New York Times attacking Disney for its release of the excellent film, “Priest,” is a good example. This attack will be described more fully later. But on the Op-Ed page the following advertisement appears: “We’re leading a nationwide charge against Disney, making use of every legal means available—from boycotts to stockholder revolts—all designed to send a clear and unmistakable message to Michael Eisner, chairman of Disney.”[260pp23] This is only one of many staged or threatened stockholder revolts led by the League.
But probably the most effective means of suppressing criticism of the Catholic Church through the press is a constant “in your face” attack of local newspapers. In a 1995 report on the Massachusetts Chapter of the Catholic League, it is noted that the president and the executive director had been on the attack, “appearing in the media more than 600 times” in the previous five years.[260pp24] In a single state, 600 times in five years! It is no wonder that newspapers in Massachusetts are very reluctant to print any criticism of the Catholic Church, no matter how justified, given this constant barrage of punishment.
Intimidation of the media leadership and of our government by the League is achieved through the wide distribution of frequent news releases, its monthly newsletter and an annual report. In an article on the publication of its 1994 report, Donohue writes, “The purpose of the report is to educate the public and influence decision-makers in government, education and the media….The report is being distributed to all members of Congress, the White House…and to prominent members of the media and education.”[260pp25] From an article regarding the 1995 annual report: “It has been sent to every Bishop and congressman in the nation, as well as to influential persons in the media and other sectors of society.”[260pp26] In a February 1995 letter to the membership, Donohue announced that the 1994 report will be distributed to the press, noting “there will be little excuse left for media ignorance of Catholic-bashing.”[260pp27] Individual attacks are often announced through widely distributed press releases which are bound to capture the attention of members of the press.
Success of the League
The Catholic League has been remarkably successful in achieving its goals. Donohue rightfully gloats: “One of the major reasons why people are giving [donations] is the success the Catholic League has had.”[260pp28] As noted earlier, membership grew from 27,000 to 200,000 in the first two years after Donohue took control. He continues, “We have had a string of victories and we have also had an unprecedented degree of media coverage. We don’t win every fight but our overall record is quite good. Our presence on radio and TV, combined with coverage in newspapers and magazines—both religious and secular—is excellent.”[260pp29] “We’ve been featured on the television program ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and received front page coverage from national newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.”[260pp30] The number of apologies and promises it extracts from the nation’s newspapers, TV networks and stations and programs, radio stations, activist organizations, commercial establishments, educational institutions and governments is most impressive.
The suppression of all criticism of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy is the goal of the Catholic League. The visit of the pope to the U.S. in October 1995 was a major media event. Given all the gravely serious problems faced by the Church and the enormous amount of dissent by American Catholics, as well as the growing hostility from non-Catholics as a result of the Church’s interference in American policy making, one would expect wide coverage of these realities in the media during his visit. Instead, it was treated as a triumphant return.
The Catholic League believes that it played a major role in this great public relations success—and with good reason. In August 1994, it launched a campaign to intimidate the press in an astounding advance warning to media professionals preparing for the pope’s visit to New York in late October. A letter signed by Donohue announced a press conference to be held just prior to the pope’s visit that will present “10’s of thousands of petitions from active Catholics” that have been collected over the past year.[260pp31] The petition speaks for itself. What else but intimidation of the press is the intent of this campaign?
The November 1995 issue of the League’s journal, Catalyst, is headlined, “Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score.” Donohue writes, “By all accounts, the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was a smashing success. Media treatment of the papal visit was, with few exceptions, very fair. Protesters were few in number and without impact. From beginning to end, this papal visit proved to be the most triumphant of them all.”[260pp32] A month later he writes, “The relatively few cheap shots that were taken at the Pope by the media in October is testimony to a change in the culture.”[260pp33] And of course the desired “change in the culture” is the elimination of criticism of the pope and his hierarchy. The Catholic League is succeeding on a grand scale far beyond what all but a handful of Americans realize.
Intimidation Prevents Criticism
It is clear from Donohue’s own words that prevention of any criticism is the goal of the League and that intimidation is its means of achieving this end. In a fund-raising letter mailed in December of 1995, Donohue appeals for funds to hire more staff: “We could have done more….We could have tackled other issues, thereby adding to the number of people who will think twice before crossing Catholics again.”[260pp34] From the League’s 1995 Annual Report: “It is hoped that by …[attacking critics], potential offenders will think twice before launching their assaults on Roman Catholicism.”[260pp35] This statement also makes it clear that it is the protection of the institution that is the goal, not protection of individual Catholics.
It appears that the most aggressive and extensive attack in League history was one directed at Disney for its release of the movie, “Priest.” In an editorial, Donohue forthrightly says that the purpose of the intensive attack on Disney is the prevention of the production of such critical movies in the future: “Our sights were set on what might be coming down the road, not on what had already happened.”[260pp36]
The advice given by Ed Koch’s mother—do not speak ill of other religions—has been a national ethic for nearly all of this century. This ethic, inherent in our culture, has served to suppress nearly all criticism of the Catholic Church. As a result, until its political activities were unveiled with the implementation of the bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities in 1975, the Church had been relatively immune from mainstream criticism. Because this ethic has served the Catholic Church so well, the Church may very well have played a major role in its inculcation into our culture. With its political activity becoming increasingly evident, critics are more than ever convinced of the need for public criticism of the Catholic Church.
However, this ethic does not protect the Church from dissent within its confines which has been growing since Vatican Council II in the 1960s, and most remarkably in recent years. The American media, to avoid flying in the face of American culture by ignoring this dearly held belief, have occasionally provided a forum for this protest. The dissenters have been a significant source of criticism. The Catholic League has not overlooked this problem—indeed, it takes it very seriously. All criticism is targeted from whatever source, including members of the Church.
For example, on January 22, 1995, CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast a segment by Mike Wallace on the Catholic dissident group Call to Action. The Catholic hierarchy did agree to appear but dictated terms that were unacceptable to CBS. Then, according to Donohue, the Catholic League sent two letters to executive producer Barry Lando and issued the following press release on January 25:
The entire Call to Action segment was, from beginning to end, an exercise in intellectual dishonesty and journalistic malpractice. The decision to give high profile to the Catholic Church’s radical fringe was pure politics, and nothing short of outrageous….Allowing extremists an uncontested opportunity to rail against the Catholic Church distorts the sentiments of most Catholics and provides succor for bigots. There is a difference between reporting dissent, and promoting it….’60 Minutes’ made clear its preference, extending to the disaffected a platform that they have never earned within the Catholic community….This is propaganda at work, not journalism.[260pp37]
This press release, of course, was received across America as a powerful warning to others to steer clear of Catholic dissidents. The Catholic League then launched a national postcard mailing campaign directed at Lando personally: “…we are angered over the way you continue to present the Catholic Church….We are tired of having our Church viewed from the perspective of the disaffected.”[260pp38]
In another example, the League attacked the October 5, 1995 edition of “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw for providing a platform for Catholics for a Free Choice and Dignity. The League’s press release included the following:
The media do a great disservice to Catholics and non-Catholics alike when Catholics for a Free Choice and Dignity are presented as though they were genuine voices in the Catholic community. The effect of such misrepresentation is to promote dissent rather than to record it. As such, it is irresponsible for the media to allow itself to become willing accomplices to public deception.[260pp39]
The continuous intimidation is bound to have its desired effect. The April 22, 1996 issue of theNew Republic magazine criticizes the League’s annual report as indicative of the League’s “paranoia.”[260pp40] The New Republic completely misses the point. One need only look at the language used in the League’s attacks. It is not defense. It is intimidating language. The report is an offensive weapon used to silence critics of the Catholic Church.
Specific Examples of the League’s Intimidation
The Catholic League focuses it attention on five types of institutions: media, activist organizations, commercial establishments, educational institutions and governments.[260pp41] Donohue attributes the League’s success, in part, to its ability to stay focused.[260pp42] The League’s 1994 and 1995 annual reports alone offer 350 examples of League attacks. The numerous stunning examples from which to choose make selection for presentation difficult. These were all reported during the period from July 1994 to June 1996.
Newsday—On June 1st and June 3, 1994, the Long Island daily, Newsday, published Bob Marlette cartoons which, according to the Catholic League, “raised pope bashing to a new level.”[260pp43] An apology from Newsday published in the form of a “Memo to Readers” failed to satisfy the Catholic League and a petition was distributed to Long Island pastors. On July 15, Donohue met with Newsday publisher Anthony Marro to discuss the paper’s coverage of Catholics. At the meeting, he presented 76 petitions signed by Long Island pastors expressing their concern for the way Catholics have been portrayed by the newspaper.[260pp44] This was not enough. On August 25, 1994, Donohue met with the editorial board ofNewsday on the newspaper’s coverage of Catholics. Donohue complained that the absence of practicing Catholics on the editorial board resulted in an insensitivity toward Catholics.[260pp45]
Philadelphia Inquirer—An article in the September 1994 issue of the League’s journal is headlined, “Cardinal Bevilacqua Scores Philadelphia Inquirer for Church Coverage, Declines Interview”. The Inquirer had requested an interview for a major story on the Archdiocese. The Cardinal refused: “I have declined your request for an interview due to your unfair and unbalanced coverage of the Archdiocese in the last year….This view is based on a review of Inquirer articles from May 1993 to May 1994. This review included 23 articles written about the Catholic Church. Of these 23 articles, eighteen were considered to be unfair and unbalanced. The unfairness and imbalance occurred in five areas including the selection of negative topics, a disregard for positive news, the use of unqualified experts, the use of negative language and a consistent omission of factual information…It is particularly frustrating to continue to read negative characterizations of the Roman Catholic Church with no regard for our role as the largest provider of social services in Southeastern Pennsylvania and our role as the most visible religious organization in the poorest areas of our city.”[260pp46] The Cardinal makes clear that he feels he should be permitted to dictate what is written about his church to the letter, revealing an arrogance that could never coexist with a free press. Furthermore, that he would bring up the provision of social services by the Church, fully knowing that these services the Church provides are almost entirely funded by local, state and federal tax monies, is deceptive.
Associated Press—On March 10, 1995, the Associated Press (AP), in a story on a court ruling upholding a law barring doctors from engaging in assisted suicide, disclosed that the federal appeals court judge was a Catholic. (The judge’s ruling was in line with his pope’s teaching on this matter.) Donohue took great offense to the AP’s identification of this judge as a Catholic and sent a letter to AP executives asking for a copy of the AP policy on the matter. The League also sent a related press release to other news outlets to inform them of this offense. Darrell Christian, AP’s Managing Editor wrote an apology. “The League is satisfied with AP’s quick response,” writes Donohue in the League’s Journal, “and expects that it will not have to call attention to such errors in the future.” Donohue’s message to the American press was loud and clear. It is not permissible for the press to identify public servants as Catholics when they uphold Catholic teachings in their public decision-making. If so, the League will come after them.[260pp47]
Disney—The May 1995 issue of Catalyst reports in an article, “Catholic League calls for a Boycott of Disney:” “The movie ‘Priest,’ produced by the BBC and released by Miramax, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, provoked the Catholic League to lead a storm of protest against the film and Disney. The movie is arguably the most anti-Catholic movie ever made.”[260pp48] This attack on Disney represents the single greatest assault in the League’s history. In an editorial, Donohue writes: “In addition to joining a boycott of everything that has the Disney label on it, we are asking everyone to sell their Disney stock. It would also send a message if everyone mailed Disney chairman Michael Eisner some old Disney toys or videos. If every Catholic League member sent even one box to Mr. Eisner, it would make an indelible impression on him.”[260pp49]
The petition against Disney reads, “We, the undersigned, have a message to Disney: you bit off more than you can chew when you offended Catholics with the release of ‘Priest.’…We hope that everyone at Disney thinks twice before offending Catholics again. Sadly, appeals to your goodwill mean nothing anymore. That is why we are hitting you in the pocketbook….The Catholic League has already tarnished your image and we have pledged to blacken it a little more.”[260pp50]
The League placed an Op-Ed page advertisement in the April 10, 1995 issue of The New York Times titled “What’s Happening to Disney?” It includes the statement: “So what is the Catholic League doing about this? We are leading a nationwide charge against Disney, making use of every legal means available—from boycotts to stockholder revolts—all designed to send a clear and unmistakable message to Michael Eisner, chairman of Disney.”[260pp51]
But the attack did not end there. On May 2, 1995, a Catholic League member, a stockholder, asked shareholders to ratify at the November meeting of the Walt Disney Company a resolution that calls for the establishment of a religious advisory committee to insure that Disney does not produce another movie like this one.[260pp52] On April 29, the League picketed Disney’s largest retail outlet in New England. A press release read: “The Catholic League intends to make the American public aware of Disney’s contemptuous disregard of the sensibilities of 59 million Catholic Americans. It is Disney that is ultimately responsible for this travesty and it is Disney that will remain the focus of our protests.”[260pp53]
In the July-August 1995 issue of Catalyst, an article, “Disney Protests Continue,” reports that the League had asked the four U.S. Senators who owned Disney stock to sell it: “Mrs. Dole announced on June 2 that she was selling more than $15,000 worth of Disney stock.” It reports that the League picketed the Dedham Community Theater in Dedham, Massachusetts, over the decision of the theater owner to show the anti-Catholic movie “Priest.” The article also reports that numerous dioceses had sold their Disney stock and that “after nine weeks in theaters, the Hollywood Reporter’s Boxoffice ranked ‘Priest’ 34th out of the top 35 movies nationwide.”[260pp54] The January-February 1996 issue reported that upwards of 100,000 petitions were sent to Disney: “…because the movie was a flop at the box office, we do not expect to be greeted with Priest II anytime soon.”[260pp55]
The League’s campaign was not just directed to Disney but to the entire film industry and to the media in general. The message: if you place the Catholic Church in a negative light, you are going to pay.
Jane Pauley—In the June 13, 1995 airing of NBC’s “Dateline ,” Jane Pauley interviewed Scott O’Grady, the U.S. pilot who was rescued in Bosnia. Pauley commented “A devout Roman Catholic, O’Grady made his confirmation at age thirteen, and unlike many of his peers never left the Church.” The Catholic League was angered by this comment and Donohue wrote to Bob Wright, CEO of NBC, demanding that Pauley be fired immediately for this terrible offense. For maximum effect, Donohue released a statement explaining his actions to the press to insure that all got the message.[260pp56]
Bill Press—On July 16, 1995, KFI Radio [Los Angeles] talk show host Bill Press, a Roman Catholic, was critical of the pope and the Catholic Church. According to the September 1995 issue of the League’s Catalyst, “The Catholic League issued the following statement to the press on this matter: ‘The issue here is not simply the vile comments of Bill Press. The issue is the willingness of a respected radio station to keep him on payroll….The Catholic League does not want equal time to respond to Press, rather it wants him fired.’”[260pp57] By distributing this press release, the League was sending a message to everyone in the press—if you are critical of the pope or the Catholic Church, we are coming after you and your employer.
Liz Langley and the Orlando Weekly—Liz Langley wrote a light article about communion wafers in the August 10-16, 1995 edition. The League took great offense and issued a statement to the press that included the following: “The Langley piece is one of the most anti-Catholic articles to have appeared in some time….Accordingly, I will now mobilize a public relations offensive against the newspaper, using every tactic this side of the law to discredit the paper.”[260pp58] Donohue’s press release may have been meant to intimidate other reporters. Nearly a year after the incident, I talked with Editor Jeff Truesdell. Nothing ever came of the League’s threats. Of course, no one ever reported this to the thousands of reporters who read the press release from Donohue.
Fox-TV—In September 1995, Mother Teresa was used to make a comedic point in a promotional spot for the Fox-TV program, The Preston Episodes. The Catholic League complained to the Los Angeles Office of Fox and “an apology was extended and a pledge not to run the offensive spot again was made.”[260pp59]
Bravo Network-“Windows”—A program which aired on September 24, 1995 on the cable network Bravo, featured a dance routine involving a priest dealing with temptation from a nun. “The Catholic League registered its outrage to Bravo, the ‘Windows’ producer Thomas Grimm, and Texaco Performing Arts Showcase, which sponsored the program.”[260pp60] In December the League reported that Texaco had apologized for sponsoring this segment. Texaco also stated to Dr. Donohue that henceforth there would be a “screening procedure for the Texaco Performing Arts Showcase.”[260pp61]
New Britain Herald—Connecticut’s New Britain Herald published a syndicated cartoon which shows the three Magi going to visit the Baby Jesus. One of the shepherds says, “Wait…aren’t we just encouraging these teen-age pregnancies?” League members complained to the newspaper that this was anti-Catholic bigotry. The newspaper issued an apology on its editorial page.[260pp62]
Ann Landers—In an interview with Christopher Buckly in the December 4, 1995 edition of theNew Yorker, columnist Ann Landers criticized Pope John Paul II. “After first making a favorable comment about the Pope, Landers remarked, ‘Of course, he’s a Polack. They’re very antiwomen.’ …Landers later apologized for the crack about the Pope…The Catholic League sent its own comments to the New Yorker and further disseminated its views via a news release and radio interviews….(T)he Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided to drop Landers’ column beginning in 1996.”[260pp63]
ABC’s “The Naked Truth”—The League strongly attacked the January 10 edition of the ABC show “The Naked Truth.” The League’s letter to ABC included this threat: “We will contact the sponsors of the program and will alert our members to take action against them. Knowing our members, they won’t hesitate to do so.” This report, which appears in the March 1996 issue of Catalyst, listed the names, addresses and phone numbers of the eight sponsors of that show.[260pp64]
“Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw”-San Diego radio program—The April 1996 edition of Catalystreports on an attempt by the League’s San Diego Chapter to have the “Lash Wednesday” segment of the Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw program discontinued. The local chapter charged that the “humor” was “unacceptable” and the segment must be discontinued. But it failed. At that point the national office of the Catholic League got involved and placed an ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune “calling attention to this outrage.” This prompted media requests for interviews with the chapter president who appeared live on KGTV, the ABC affiliate. The tenor of this interview was “so controversial” that the station was pressured to invite him back a second time. “This time the television reporters were much more respectful.” The League asked its members nationwide to contact the radio station General Manager and the President of PAR Broadcasting Company to demand that this segment be discontinued, providing his address, phone and fax numbers.[260pp65]
PBS’ Frontline—On February 6, 1996, PBS aired a program called, “Murder on ‘Abortion Row’”. The two hour special was a serious look at the life of John Salvi, the person who killed two women and wounded five others working at an abortion clinic in 1994. Salvi is a devout Catholic and had planned to become a Catholic priest. The Catholic League was given an opportunity to preview the program. It immediately released a statement to the press attacking the documentary which began, “The Frontline program, “Murder on ‘Abortion Row,’” is nothing more than a front for Planned Parenthood and an irresponsible propaganda piece against Catholicism.”[260pp66]
Newsday—On March 12, 1996, the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, ran a headline which read, “Ex-Alter Boy on Trial.” The League protested. Donohue called the paper’s editor: “The content and tone of his remarks assured Donohue that this would not happen again.”[260pp67] Newsday subsequently published a League letter-to-the-editor which was very critical of the newspaper.
HBO—On May 6, 1996, Home Box Office aired “Priestly Sins: Sex and the Catholic Church.” The one hour special focused on the issue of sexual abuse in the priesthood. The League issued a lengthy news release which sharply attacked HBO: “The film is classic propaganda…HBO is not the first to float the idea that a ‘code of secrecy’ keeps the Church from revealing the truth about clergy sexual abuse: that honor extends to the Nazis and others. The Catholic League will call on all Catholics to boycott HBO…”[260pp68]
Sony—The June 1996 issue of Catalyst reported on the Sony movie, “The Last Supper”: “The movie, while not offensive to Catholics, nonetheless offended Catholics with its promotional material. The League…wrote a letter of protest to Sony Picture Releasing President, Jeffrey Blake. The response from Sony was decisive: ‘We have taken the unusual step of modifying our marketing campaign’….The League is satisfied with this modification.”[260pp69]
AP—On March 31, 1996, the Associated Press ran a story about a suburban Chicago man suspected of assassinating a Philadelphia policeman a quarter-century ago. The story, which was distributed to newspapers all over the country, mentioned that the accused was “23, a Catholic school-educated telephone repairman, when the shooting occurred.” The League sent a letter of protest to the president of AP and urged all of its members to do the same, providing his name and address to them.[260pp70]
QVC Shopping Network—Continental Cablevision in New England had conducted a survey of 32,000 subscribers and found that viewers preferred to drop the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the Catholic cable network, in favor of the QVC Shopping Network. The New England Chapter of the Catholic League sharply opposed this change and Continental was muscled into continuing programming of EWTM.[260pp71]
Barneys New York—On December 9, 1994, the League successfully pressured Barneys of New York, an upscale clothing store, into removing an “offensive” nativity scene from its storefront window on Madison Avenue and 61st Street. Donohue informed Barneys that it had about four hours to contact the League, otherwise the media would be contacted. It didn’t take long before Simon Doonan, a senior vice president, called Donohue and extended an apology. However, Doonan flatly declined to do anything about the exhibit. Donohue then released a statement to the media that included the following comments: “Barneys New York and Christie’s have cooperated in promoting an insulting anti-Christian exhibit….Plainly put, this means that Barneys will respect the right of artists to show disrespect for the rights of Catholics. The Catholic League will disseminate this news to as wide an audience as possible. We do not accept Mr. Doonan’s apology: apologies unaccompanied by corrective action do not assuage.”[260pp72]
Catalyst went on to report: “Within hours of releasing this statement, the television cameras were in Dr. Donohue’s office. Just about every radio and television station in New York commented on the Barney exhibit….Barneys pulled the display from the window…giving the work back to the artist….In response to all of this, Barneys took out full page ads in The New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News, apologizing for what had happened. The ads, together with the boycotts that were instituted, wound up costing Barneys hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales.”[260pp72] Now that’s success!
Hard Rock Casino and Hotel—The December 1995 issue of Catalyst reports: “When the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel opened last March in Las Vegas, it featured a restored carved gothic altar in one of its cocktail bars….The offensive use of the altar has been a source of criticism by many area Catholics.” The local bishop complained to the owner, Peter Morton, who said it would be removed. After seven months of inaction, the Catholic League got involved. The League outlined its strategy to the press: “…the time has now come to put public pressure on Mr. Morton. The Catholic League will contact the media in Las Vegas about this incident, and will alert the national media to it as well. We will also take out ads in the local newspapers, as well as the diocesan newspaper, requesting Catholics not to patronize the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel and to organize demonstrations in front of the establishment. We will also contact local Catholic organizations to organize phone trees and deliver their message straight to Mr. Morton. If more pressure is needed, we will bring it to bear, including a national boycott of all Hard Rock Cafes.”[260pp73]
The Catholic League followed through on its promise by taking out three ads in area newspapers.[260pp74] Hard Rock quickly responded saying it would remove the altar on November 30. The report ended, “The Catholic League will announce its next move once it finds out what happens on November 30.[260pp75]
An article in its January/February 1996 issue: “Victory is Always Sweet: Hard Rock Hotel Pulls Altar” reads: “After responding to pressure brought by the Catholic League, the Hard Rock Hotel…withdrew an offensive altar from its bar…By giving the incident publicity, both nationally as well as locally, the Catholic League was able to secure the support of many influential Catholics, some of whom put pressure on Hard Rock….It cost Hard Rock approximately a quarter million dollars to remove the altar… we won.”[260pp76]
William Paterson College—On July 5, 1994, Professor Vernon McClean, an instructor in the African-American and Caribbean studies department at William Paterson College at Wayne, New Jersey, opened the first session of his summer class, “Racism and Sexism in a Changing America,” by saying the pope is a racist. The League was contacted and it sent representatives to the college. “No one in any office would speak with us. They took great umbrage at our inquiry and were totally uncooperative. We received the same treatment from three different offices—we were either dismissed or treated as though we had no right to be questioning the incident. Following this lack of cooperation and response from the college, we issued a press release demanding an apology from the college and disciplinary action against Professor McLean. The New Jersey papers gave the issue thorough coverage and the New York radio and television media also took note.”[260pp77]
After the college completed its investigation, it made a public statement that “the College is satisfied that the matter has been resolved fully and completely.” The League, however was not satisfied. “Accordingly, the Catholic League called upon state officials to conduct a formal hearing on the campus of William Paterson College; Governor Christie Whitman, senior higher education officials and area legislators were contacted….But thus far she (Governor Whitman) has been mute….The Catholic League will not be satisfied until justice has been done. Our goal is not to simply chastise one college professor….We’re taking the long view on this one and it would behoove people like President Speert (Paterson College president) to do likewise.”[260pp77]
University of Michigan—The University of Michigan student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, ran a cartoon that mocked Newt Gingrich’s promotion of Boys Town and also related to the pedophilia problem in the Catholic priesthood. Donohue wrote a threatening letter to Dr. James Duderstadt, President of the University of Michigan: “Enclosed is a copy of a cartoon that was run in The Michigan Daily….Please be advised that as president of the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization, I am prepared to do what is necessary to rid your campus of the bigotry it presently entertains.”[260pp78]
The very next issue of Catalyst reads: “We are happy to report that an apology from the cartoonist and a conciliatory letter from Dr. Duderstadt have brought this issue to a close.”[260pp79]
The Population Institute—In a May 1995 fund-raising letter, Werner Fornos, president of The Population Institute, wrote the following: “The Vatican continues to undermine the advancements we’ve made in Cairo on issues of pregnancy prevention. The anti-contraceptive gestapo has vowed to double the number of its delegation (to the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing) to 28 and to turn once more to weaken the cause of reproductive rights.” The July-August, 1995 issue of Catalyst describes the League’s response in an article, “Nazi Slur of Vatican Implicates Congressmen.”[260pp80]
In a news release, the Catholic League issued the following remarks: “The Population Institute proves once again that some of the anti-natalist forces are unquestionably anti-Catholic. Not content, or able, to debate the issues on their merits, these activists seek to defame the Holy See and thereby discredit its influence. Members of The Population Institute who share its politics, but not its bigotry, should make a clear and decisive break with the organization…. Accordingly, the Catholic League calls upon the following advisors to The Population Institute to resign immediately: Sen. Paul Simon, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Jim Leach, Rep. Robert Torricelli and Rep. Sam Gejdenson. Not to resign would be to give tacit support to anti-Catholicism…The Catholic League [also] wrote to each Congressman involved in this scandal.”[260pp80]
The September 1995 issue of Catalyst reports: “Senator Daniel K. Inouye complied with the League’s request and resigned from the Population Institute. Senator Barbara Boxer of California put The Population Institute on notice, warning that any future examples of ‘inappropriate’ and ‘offensive’ fundraising letters would lead her ‘to reconsider’ her position with the organization. Congressman Robert Torricelli of New Jersey…warned The Population Institute to be more careful in how it phrases its letters.”[260pp81]
Anti-Defamation League—On December 1, 1995, the ADL notified the publisher, Hippocrene Books that it was granting a prestigious literary award to Richard Lukas for his book, Did the Children Cry? Hitler’s War Against Jewish and Polish Children. Lukas was to receive the literary award, plus a prize of $1,000 on January 23, 1996 at the ADL’s headquarters in New York. On January 10, the ADL’s Mark Edelman, wrote to the publisher stating that a mistake had been made; that subsequent review led to a decision to reverse the initial judgment. The May 1996 issue of Catalyst reports, “When the Catholic League learned of what had happened, it was incensed.” Donohue wrote a letter to Edelman: “For the record, I would like to know exactly why the book was selected for an award in the first place. Surely there are records of this evaluation. And I would also like to know why those reasons were found unpersuasive—and by whom—at a later date.”
The report continues: “The Catholic League…did not receive a response from the ADL until the matter was favorably resolved on March 18. But the good news did not come until considerable pressure had been brought to bear. Before the ADL reversed its decision not to give the award, the attorney for author Lukas had already warned the ADL that it would be sued. When the ADL made its announcement to reinstate the award to Lukas, it noted that it still had several problems with the book. The ADL said that ‘we believe the book underestimates the extent of Polish anti-Semitism before and after World War II. We believe also that, while there were heroic efforts of some Poles during this time, the book appears to vastly overestimate the number of Poles who were engaged in such courageous actions. Finally, the ADL believes the book presents a sanitized picture of Polish involvement with Jews during the War and overlooks authoritative points of view of many historians, including Polish historians.’ Though justice prevailed in the end, this marks a sad chapter in the ADL’s history….We hope that the ADL has learned an important lesson and that such ‘mistakes’ will be avoided in the future.”[260pp82]
The Clinton Administration—The October 1994 Catalyst headline reads “League Assails Clinton Administration for Bigotry.” This article reports: “In an unprecedented move, the Catholic League assailed the administration of a standing president for anti-Catholic bigotry. From the time President Clinton took office, it has become increasingly evident that his administration is insensitive at best, and downright hostile at worst, to Catholic interests. But the final straw occurred during the third weekend in August. Faith Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the State Department, charged that the Vatican’s disagreement over the Cairo conference on population and development ‘has to do with the fact that the conference is really calling for girls’ education and improving the status of women.’ That statement was so outrageous that one of our members…wrote a strong letter registering her concerns to President Clinton…and [this letter] was published as a Catholic League open letter to the President in the August 29th edition of The New York Times.”[260pp83]
This open letter, published as a half-page advertisement sponsored by the Catholic League, ran in all editions of The New York Times on August 29, 1994. It viciously attacks Faith Mitchell and requests President Clinton to retract and apologize for her statement.[260pp84]
In an article published in this issue, Donohue writes: “The anti-Catholic bigots in the Clinton administration got so exercised during the Cairo conference that Leon Panetta [who is Catholic], the White House Chief of Staff, acknowledged that there was a problem with Catholic-bashing and vowed to discipline anyone who continued to chide the Vatican.”[260pp85] Apparently, any criticism of the Vatican, no matter how just, is off limits.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders—In an editorial in the January-February issue of Catalyst, “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Donohue writes, “We have rolled into 1995 with a string of victories. Dr. Elders is gone…Dr. Joycelyn Elders is one for the books. The very first news release I issued when I took over as president of the Catholic League in July 1993 was in opposition to the nomination of Dr. Elders as Surgeon General…Through the month of August, we pressed hard to stop her nomination: we held a press conference at the National Press Club and wrote to all the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but we ultimately fell short of our objective. What we did not do, however, was give up. We continued to criticize Dr. Elders whenever she made an irresponsible statement…”[260pp86]
An article in the same issue, “Elder’s Exit Applauded,” reads: “The Catholic League is delighted to see that one of the most outspoken anti-Catholic bigots in the Clinton administration has been axed. Joycelyn Elders was nominated to the office of Surgeon General by President Clinton in 1993 and confirmed later by the Senate. The Catholic League opposed her nomination and confirmation from the beginning. Her anti-Catholic statements…should have alone disqualified her from a position of national influence and authority…The Catholic League continued to speak out against her during her tenure as Surgeon General.”[260pp87]
This is but a very small sample of the attacks by the League over this two year period. It is unfortunate that space limits the number. These examples are presented almost entirely in the League’s own words. As one surveys its material, it becomes evident that all criticism of the Church or anything that places the Church in a negative light is deemed anti-Catholic, despicable and impermissible. The Church is simply above all criticism. The Catholic League obviously rejects America because it rejects what America stands for, including the freedoms of speech, expression and the press. This stand taken by the Catholic League is consistent with nearly two centuries of Catholic teaching on these matters and we should expect nothing different.
Intimidation, such as has been described in this chapter, by Catholic institutions over the past hundred years, has resulted in a populace woefully ignorant of the threat to American democracy and security posed by the Church. This intimidation has made it possible for the Church to go unchallenged.
How can Americans publicly discuss the obvious conflict between American national security-survival interests and Papal security-survival interests in this environment that the Catholic League now so effectively fosters? Obviously, it is not possible. Not only were the recommendations of the Rockefeller Commission and the NSSM 200 report never implemented, they were never publicly debated. Few Americans are even aware of NSSM 200 or this conflict in security interests. Intimidation by Catholic institutions has completely suppressed appropriate investigation of this conflict. Indeed, this intimidation has shut off the flow of the kinds of facts that resulted in these recommendations—facts of which all Americans should be fully aware. Without this vital information and discussion in a public forum, there can be no democratic solution to this conflict between the interests of the nation and of the Catholic Church—a dilemma well understood by the hierarchy.
[260pp1] Donohue W. We’ve Only Just Begun. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 3.
[260pp2] Christian Coalition Conference a Success. Catalyst October 1995. p. 15.
[260pp3] Donohue W. A Banner Year for the Catholic League. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 3.
[260pp4] Christian Coalition Conference a Success. Catalyst October 1995. p. 15.
[260pp5] Women’s Ordination Letter Draws Liberal Media Fire: Editorial Criticism of Papal Letter Earns Response. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 8.
[260pp6] Sheridan A. Ignatian Society Petitions Cardinal Hickey to Remove Fr. Drinan’s Faculties. The Wanderer July 18, 1996. p. 1.
[260pp7] Donohue W. Our Members Make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp9] Donohue W. The Vatican, Women and Non-Catholics. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 7.
[260pp10] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. June 1995.
[260pp11] Donohue W. The Message From Florida Is: Bigots Beware. Catalyst April 1995. p. 3.
[260pp13] Donohue W. Catholic League’s 1994 Report on Anti-Catholicism. New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. p. 2.
[260pp14] Donohue W. The Message From Florida Is: Bigots Beware. Catalyst April 1995. p. 3.
[260pp16] Donohue W. Catholic League’s 1994 Report on Anti-Catholicism. New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. p. 2.
[260pp18] Blum VC. Public Policy Making: Why the Churches Strike Out. America March 6, 1971. p. 224.
[260pp19] Anti-Catholicism Nation’s Worst Prejudice. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 13.
[260pp20] Donohue W. Our Members make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp21] Donohue W. A Banner Year for the Catholic League. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 3.
[260pp22] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. June 1995.
[260pp23] Catholic League Op-Ed page ad which appeared in the April 10, 1995 issue of the New York Times, “What’s Happening to Disney?” signed by William A. Donohue, President.
[260pp24] The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts Forms. The Wanderer October 8, 1995. p. 8.
[260pp25] Report On Anti-Catholicism Released. Catalyst April 1995. p. 1.
[260pp26] Report On Anti-Catholicism Released. Catalyst May 1996. p. 1.
[260pp27] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. February 1995.
[260pp28] Donohue W. A Banner Year for the Catholic League. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 3.
[260pp30] Letter sent to the Catholic League Membership signed by League President William Donohue. September 1995.
[260pp31] Catholic League letter announcing a press conference signed by League President William Donohue. August 1994.
[260pp32] Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score. Catalyst November 1995. p. 1.
[260pp33] Donohue W. Our Members make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp34] Catholic League fundraising letter signed by William Donohue mailed December 1995.
[260pp35] Donohue W. Catholic League’s 1995 Report on Anti-Catholicism. New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. p. 4.
[260pp36] Donohue W. The Fallout Over “Priest.” Catalyst June 1995. p. 3.
[260pp37] “60 Minutes” Rigs Show Against Catholic Church. Catalyst March 1995. p. 1.
[260pp38] Give It To “60 Minutes”…. Catalyst March 1995. p. 4A.
[260pp39] Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score. Catalyst November 1995. p. 1.
[260pp40] We’re “Paranoid.” Catalyst June 1996. p. 1.
[260pp41] Report On Anti-Catholicism Released. Catalyst May 1996. p. 1.
[260pp42] Donohue W. Our Members make This a Special Christmas. Catalyst December 1995. p. 3.
[260pp43] Newsday’s Marlette Offends Twice in One Week. Catalyst July-August 1994. p. 8.
[260pp44] Meeting with Newsday Editor. Catalyst September 1994. p. 2.
[260pp45] Meeting with Newsday Editorial Board. Catalyst October 1994. p. 2.
[260pp46] Cardinal Bevilacqua Scores Philadelphia Inquirer For Church Coverage, Declines Interview. Catalyst September 1994. p. 6.
[260pp47] AP Responds to League Complaint. Catalyst May 1995. p. 1.
[260pp48] Catholic League Calls for Boycott of Disney. Catalyst May 1995. p. 1.
[260pp49] Donohue W. There’s Anger in the Land. Catalyst May 1995. p. 3.
[260pp50] Petition Against Disney. Catalyst May 1995. p. 5.
[260pp51] What’s Happening to Disney?, a Catholic League Op-Ed page ad which appeared in the April 10, 1995 issue of The New York Times. Catalyst May 1995. p. 12.
[260pp52] Disney Targeted By Resolution. Catalyst June 1995. p. 1.
[260pp53] League Pickets Disney. Catalyst June 1995. p. 14.
[260pp54] Disney Protests Continue. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 4.
[260pp55] Disney Gets Present From Catholic League. Catalyst January-February 1996. p. 9.
[260pp56] Jane Pauley Shows Anti-Catholic Bias. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 15.
[260pp57] KFI Radio (Los Angeles) Insults Catholics. Catalyst September 1995. p. 5.
[260pp58] Orlando Newspaper Insults Catholics. Catalyst October 1995. p. 6.
[260pp59] Media Wars on Catholicism: Fox Promo Withdrawn. Catalyst November 1995. p. 4.
[260pp60] Media Wars on Catholicism: Bravo Makes Obscene Show. Catalyst November 1995. p. 5.
[260pp61] Texaco Apologizes, Bravo Condescends. Catalyst December 1995. p. 13.
[260pp62] You Can Make a Difference. Catalyst December 1995. p. 2.
[260pp63] Ann (S)Landers Lashes Out at Pope and Polish People. Catalyst January-February 1996. p. 10.
[260pp64] ABC Show “The Naked Truth” Ridicules Catholicism. Catalyst March 1996. p. 4.
[260pp65] San Diego Radio Program Mocks Catholicism, Drawing League Response. Catalyst April 1996. p. 1.
[260pp66] PBS’ “Frontline” Exploits Catholicism in Abortion Program. Catalyst April 1996. p. 6.
[260pp67] Protest of Bias Yields Favorable Result. Catalyst May 1996. p. 13.
[260pp68] HBO Offers Tabloid Look at Catholic Church. Catalyst June 1996. p. 1.
[260pp69] League Protest of “The Last Supper” Pays Off. Catalyst June 1996. p. 4.
[260pp70] AP Red Flags Catholic Religion. Catalyst June 1996. p. 13.
[260pp71] New England Chapter Helps Save EWTN. Catalyst June 1996. p. 13.
[260pp72] League Pressures N.Y. Store To Remove Offensive Creche. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 1.
[260pp73] Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas Offends Catholics. Catalyst December 1995. p. 4.
[260pp74] Why is the Hard Rock Hotel Offending Catholics? Catalyst December 1995. p. 5.
[260pp75] Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas Offends Catholics. Catalyst December 1995. p. 4.
[260pp76] Hard Rock Hotel Pulls Altar. Catalyst January-February 1996. p. 6.
[260pp77] Pope Defamed at New Jersey State College. Catalyst September 1994. p. 1.
[260pp78] University of Michigan Cartoon Draws Swift League Response. Catalyst March 1995. p. 11.
[260pp79] University of Michigan Cartoonist Apologizes. Catalyst April 1995. p. 2.
[260pp80] Nazi Slur of Vatican Implicates Congressmen. Catalyst July-August 1995. p. 1.
[260pp81] Senator Inouye Resigns From Population Institute After League Protest. Catalyst September 1995. p. 4.
[260pp82] Protest Stirs ADL to Restore Prize to Author. Catalyst May 1996. p. 6.
[260pp83] League Assails Clinton Administration for Bigotry. Catalyst October 1994. p. 1.
[260pp84] Open Letter To The President. This half-page ad sponsored by the Catholic League ran in all editions of The New York Times on August 29, 1994. Catalyst October 1994. p. 8.
[260pp85] Donohue W. The Holy See, Cairo and The Pundits. Catalyst October 1994. p. 11.
[260pp86] Donohue W. We’ve Only Just Begun. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 3.
[260pp87] Elder’s Exit Applauded. Catalyst January-February 1995. p. 4.
Australian bishop testifies on prevalence of child sex abuse in the church
Dying of cancer, Bishop Emeritus Geoffrey Robinson appeared Aug. 24 before the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to testify to the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the church.
He painted a sad picture of a brave and lonely Sisyphus with his band of bishops in tow, pushing a boulder with a reasoned response to the crisis up the Vatican Hill, only to have it pushed back by popes and cardinals who had no idea about the issue and a blindness about the incapacity of canon law to deal with it.
“However great the faults of the Australian bishops have been over the last 30 years, it still remains true that the major obstacle to a better response from the church has been the Vatican,” Robinson told the commission. Most of the Roman Curia saw the problem as a “moral one: if a priest offends, he should repent; if he repents, he should be forgiven and restored to his position. … They basically saw the sin as a sexual one, and did not show great understanding of the abuse of power involved or the harm done to the victims.”
Robinson entered the seminary at 12-years-old, was ordained a priest, and became a canon lawyer and then auxiliary bishop of Sydney. In 1996, when revelations of clergy sexual abuse of children in Australia had reached a crescendo, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference appointed him to find a solution. In 2004, he resigned as auxiliary bishop of Sydney after concluding that the church’s response was still inadequate.
“I eventually came to the point where I felt that, with the thoughts that were running through my head, I could not continue to be a bishop of a church about which I had such profound reservations,” Robinson wrote in a 2008 book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. “I resigned my office as Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and began to write this book, about the very foundations of power and sex within the church.”
He wrote books and went on lecture tours, calling for radical reforms within the church, and in the process lost and gained many friends.
He quickly came to the conclusion after his appointment by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to draw up a protocol to deal with child sexual abuse in 1996, that canon law was so inadequate for cases of sexual abuse that it would be a sham to use it. “We would have to invent something of our own,” he told the Royal Commission.
Prior to 1983, when he was consulted by the Vatican about a new draft of the Code of Canon Law, he found the words “pontifical secret” stamped over the document. He complained that if he were to give a reasoned response, he needed to discuss it with colleagues. He was told: “Just don’t give it to the media.”
In 1996, Robinson devised a protocol called “Towards Healing,” a system that was “outside, and indeed contrary to canon law.” In the first draft, he required these crimes to be reported to the police as the police were not the media. Pope Paul VI’s instruction, Secreta Continere of 1974, imposes the pontifical secret over allegations of clergy sexual abuse of children and contains no exception for reporting to the police. The barrage of statements by senior Curia figures from 1984 to 2002 made it abundantly clear that bishops should not report these allegations to the police.
But that was not the only conflict that “Towards Healing” had with canon law. It had its own system of investigation, and clergy could be placed on permanent “administrative leave.” None of this complied with canon law.
In his perceptive notes of the meeting in the Vatican in April 2000 to discuss child sexual abuse, Robinson wrote that the members of the Roman Curia showed an “an overriding concern to preserve the legal structures already in place in the Church and not to make exceptions to them unless this was absolutely necessary.”
He told the Commission how Italian Archbishop Mario Pompedda told the delegates how they might get around canon law, but he did not want a law that he had to get around. He wanted one he could follow, but “they never came up with it.” Robinson came away from that meeting knowing that the Australian bishops had no choice but to continue to go it alone, irrespective of what the fall out might be.
The extent to which he and the other Australian bishops were prepared to do that is starkly illustrated in the minutes of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference of Nov. 28, 2002, where they resolved to disobey Pope John Paul II’s 2001 Motu Proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, which required all complaints of child sexual abuse to be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which would then instruct the bishop what to do. They would only refer those cases where there was no admission by the priest that the abuse had occurred. Robinson told the Commission that the purpose behind that was to avoid being told by Rome what to do with those priests who admitted the abuse. That decision was well justified given the figures presented to the United Nations by the Vatican that only one third of priests against whom credible allegations of child sexual abuse had been made, have been dismissed. The claim that the Vatican has a policy of zero tolerance is pure spin.
This defiance of canon law was never going to last. Patrick Parkinson, professor of law at Sydney University, appointed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to review “Towards Healing,” pointed out the problems of a local protocol that conflicted with canon law: priests permanently removed from the ministry simply appealed to Rome which ordered their reinstatement. The bishop had to comply or be sacked. Robinson told the Commission that “Towards Healing” was initially successful because a number of priests accepted that they could not continue to work as a priest, but “it later fell down because both sides changed.” Priests started to defend themselves with canon lawyers, and the victims went to civil lawyers.
Robinson was very critical of Pope John Paul II for a lack of leadership on this issue, and particularly his imposition in 1983 of a five-year limitation period that effectively meant that there could be no prosecution of priest paedophiles under canon law because their crimes had been “extinguished.” Prior to 1983, there was no limitation period for these crimes. After 1983, if a child was abused at the age of 7, and did not complain by the age of 12, there was no possibility of dismissing the priest under canon law.
Figures presented to the Commission indicate that in Australia, the limitation period meant that only 3 percent of accused priests could be dismissed, and that figure only increased to 19 percent with the extension of the period to 10 years from the 18th birthday of the victim in 2001. Robinson said the church has still not had the appropriate leadership on child sexual abuse from Pope Benedict XVI and not even from Pope Francis.
Robinson also criticized Australian Cardinal George Pell for refusing to join the other Australian bishops in adopting the “Towards Healing” protocol. Pell was party to the two-year consultations leading up to its adoption in November 1996, but, without reference to anyone, announced he was setting up his own system, the “Melbourne Response,” and then claimed he was the first in Australia to do something about clergy sexual abuse. Apart from accusing Pell of destroying a unified response from the Australian bishops, Robinson said he was an “ineffective bishop” for having lost the support of the majority of his priests who wished for him to be transferred somewhere else. Their wish was fulfilled. He is now in charge of the Vatican finances.
A reading of the many documents tendered to the Royal Commission provides even more evidence that the Vatican’s all but useless disciplinary system caused far more children to be abused than would otherwise have occurred. Robinson fought the good fight, but was ultimately defeated and resigned, exhausted.
In the end, the Australian bishops abandoned the courage they displayed under his leadership, and followed the lead of Pope Benedict XVI who, in his 2010 Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, ignored the Murphy Commission’s criticisms of canon law, and blamed the Irish bishops for failing to follow it. In submissions to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and to the Royal Commission, the Australian bishops ignored what they knew of canon law’s failings, and blamed their predecessors for making “terrible mistakes” when their predecessors were demonstrably complying with canon law.
Australia has a peculiar cultural habit of creating heroes who struggle in vain, and are defeated — from the bushranger, Ned Kelly to the soldiers who were massacred at Gallipoli in the First World War. The Catholic church needs some heroes. Robinson, now terminally ill, is one of them.
[Kieran Tapsell is the author of Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican Secret and Child Sexual Abuse (ATF Press 2014).]
Bill Greenlee On Reports of Church Retaliation Against Legislators 6-9-2016
Councilman Bill Greenlee (At Large) delivers remarks on news reports that PA Catholic Archdioceses were retaliating against Catholic lawmakers who support PA House Bill 1947, which extends statutes of limitations for child sex abuse victims to report crimes to law enforcement or file civil claims.
MARCH ACROSS BROOKLYN BRIDGE IN SUPPORT OF CHILD VICTIMS ACT
If you would like your organization to be listed, please submit your contact info in the form below, we will be updating the Facebook event daily to include any groups that wish to participate.
This is a link to the official Facebook event, we urge you to share it with your followers and encourage as many people as possible to join this important and historic event on behalf of children’s safety everywhere.
If you have any questions about this event or about this form, please feel free to contact Chaim Levin, one of the organizers of this event at email@example.com or 917-932-5394
It is time for politicians to make our Children their number 1 Priority. Join Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Senator Brad Hoylman in taking a stance to end NY Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse claims.
Victims, Survivors, Advocates, Parents, Grandparents, Children and Activists Unite. We will start gathering at 11am on the cadman plaza park (north lawn),we will be giving out t-shirts and posters. The March across the Brooklyn bridge to city hall will start at 12pm. Please feel free to bring your own posters and signs as well.
The closest train stop nearby is the High Street on the A train
Organizations supporting this event:
Parent Against Predator
Jewish Community Watch
Horace Mann Action Coalition
United Support Network
Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA)
Noble 9 Collective
The Voice of Justice
The Bridge Advocacy Center
NYS Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims
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Therefore I accuse by Vinnie Nauheimer
Due to the global ongoing sexual abuse and cover-up by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, it is safe to assume that the only part of Crimen Sollicitationis that was adhered to was the demand for secrecy. Up until 2002 almost every settlement involving sexual abuse by a priest came with an enforceable gag order on the victim. The victims were silenced while most offending priests were moved to new hunting grounds.
The logical question to ask is, “Cui Bono,” who benefits? Who benefits from the silence? It could be argued that the priest and his accuser benefit from the silence. However, since there were no remedies for the care, compensation or treatment of the victim, it is hard to see how victims benefited from Crimen instruction. There has never been any proof whatsoever of rampant false charges being brought against innocent priests. Therefore innocent priests haven’t benefited. So who are the chief beneficiaries of the documentCrimen Sollicitationis? The sexually abusive priest and the Roman Catholic Church are the only beneficiaries.
Therefore, I accuse!
Lest Crimen sidetrack us, the salient points are:
1. The document was sent from the International Headquarters.
2. The document was sent out globally.
3. The document was sent in secrecy.
4. The document demanded secrecy.
5. The penalty for violating secrecy is the harshest penalty the church can mete out: excommunication.
6. It labels the sexual abuse of children as “The Worst Crime” thereby admitting to the world the Vatican’s complete understanding of the vile nature of the act of sexually abusing children.
By their own hand they are condemned.
In the 28 countries we know about, the rape, sodomization, and molestation of children are publicly documented. Why then hasn’t Interpol gotten involved? Interpol states that the protection of children is one of their primary goals. This is the first paragraph taken from Interpol’s page on children:
Crimes against children
Children are the most vulnerable individuals in our society; they are also the most precious commodity that the world has and have a right to be protected from all forms of abuse. INTERPOL as an organization is also committed to eradicating the sexual abuse of children and has passed several resolutions making crimes against children one of International policing top priorities.5
They tell us that, not preventing, but eradicating (wiping out) sexual abuse is one of their top priorities. How can the sexual abuse of children be a top priority when the chief global culprit, the Roman Catholic Church has not been formerly accused by either the UN or Interpol?
The evidence is abundant for any who would make even a cursory examination of the facts. The Dallas Morning News did an entire series on the international scope of both clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up. Central to the series was the theme of hierarchy moving predator priests internationally in order to save them from being tried for crimes committed or to provide new hunting grounds or both.6
The facts accuse!
The need to protect children around the world is a global priority of United Nations. The U.N. through its UNICEF organization has put together “The Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Here are articles nineteen and thirty-four from that convention, which address the sexual abuse of children.
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent:
- The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;
- The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;
- The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.7
I accuse the RCC of violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child!
The Holy See, which could be a member of the United Nations by virtue of the fact that the Vatican is a city-state, has elected not to become a member of the UN. Rather it has been granted the nomenclature of permanent observer. This means that they enjoy the full rights of every sovereign member except the right to vote. In this way they can lobby for whatever they desire and not have to go on record as voting for or against an issue.
They chose to not to support “The Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The Holy See declared that “the application of the Convention should be compatible in practice with the particular nature of the Vatican City State and of the sources of its objective law.” in a statement issued when they declined to be a signatory. To date, all members but two have ratified the Convention.8
The United Nations through Interpol, its international police agency, and UNICEF, their children’s agency recognize the need to police and prevent the sexual abuse of children throughout the world. They state this is a top priority. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been widely accepted by governments around the world, seeks to end the sexual abuse of children. Why then have the UN, UNICEF, and Interpol chosen to totally ignore the most public, international series of sex crimes and cover-ups against children running from the twentieth into the twenty-first century?
Having established that the sexual abuse of children is accepted by the RCC as being a criminal act, it follows that aiding and abetting criminals is also a crime. The international criminal activity of aiding and abetting sexual predators by the RCC is well documented. The award winning newspaper The Dallas Morning News did an excellent series of articles dealing with the international flight of pedophile priests to escape prosecution entitled Runaway Priests. The following are excerpts from some of their articles as listed on the website Bishop-accountability.org.
Dr. Navarro-Valls (chief spokesperson for the pope) previously declined to comment on The News’ investigation, which found more than 200 accused priests, brothers and other Catholic workers hiding across international borders and living in unsuspecting communities, often with the church’s support. About 30 of the men were wanted by law enforcement in another country.9
Where is Interpol? Where is the outcry from UNICEF?
Bishop Thomas V. Daily of the Diocese of Brooklyn, in an exchange of correspondence with a Venezuelan bishop in 1991 about allegations against Father Diaz, praised the priest’s work in his diocese even as a 60-count indictment was pending against him in Queens on child sexual abuse charges. Later that year, after pleading guilty to three counts of sexual abuse in the case, Father Diaz was deported to Venezuela, where the pattern of victimizing young boys continued unabated.
And so it went throughout Father Diaz’s ministry. Moving from country to country, from parish to parish, from victim to victim, he was often held unaccountable by church officials and was treated delicately by some law enforcement authorities, the interviews and documents show.10
How can the above be anything but an international criminal conspiracy?
His order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, has long moved priests accused of sexual abuse from country to country, away from law enforcement and victims. Indeed, it is how many others in the Catholic Church have dealt with the problem, a yearlong Dallas Morning News investigation has found.11
The crimes committed by the hierarchy of the RCC against the children of the world have been documented many times in many countries. In each country from Poland, to Ireland, to the United States around and down to Australia, the story is the same. Priests who commit criminal acts of sexual abuse against children are shuffled from country to country with no regard for either local or international law. These priests are shuffled by a complicit hierarchy who are guilty of aiding and abetting criminals. Once transferred, these priests are free to prey upon a fresh population of unsuspecting families who revere the priest as god’s representative on earth.
In 2002 Pope John Paul II stated before the world, “There is no room in the priesthood for those who sexually abuse children.”12 But nothing was done; priests were still being shuffled and names of priestly perpetrators are still a closely guarded secret. In April of 2008, while on the plane over to the United States, Benedict XVI said, “I am deeply ashamed” 13 while referring to the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal. On July 19, 2008, in Australia, he said,
“I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.”14
“And those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice!” Strong words from the pope! The pope is an honorable man; bishops and cardinals are all honorable men and they speak well. Yet nothing was said about revoking Crimen Sollicitationis. Did he forget that as Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001, he reaffirmed its validity? He can say one thing publicly, but as long as he still binds everyone with knowledge of clergy abuse to the absolute law of secrecy under the chapter 11, “ a secret of the Holy Office,15” the pope is only mouthing words. As long as Cardinals, Law, Mahony, George, Egan and Levada remain in office, he is only mouthing words. As long as bishops and the leaders of religious orders who shuffled pedophiles from country to country remain in the priesthood, the pope is only mouthing words. The pope is the only one who can start bringing those responsible for these evils to justice!
It is time to put an end to the global scourge of clerical child abuse and put these criminal priests behind bars along with the members of the hierarchy who have purposefully aided them. (It seems that Pope Benedict agrees with me.) These crimes are a violation of God’s law, Church law, Civil law, and International law (all covered in this treatise). As proven in the United States, the only thing that will change the way the RCC harbors their criminals is a courtroom. Interpol must aid in the capture of these international child abusing fugitives and the U.N. must bring charges against the Vatican in the World Court. Only the credible threat of listing the Vatican as a criminal organization, making them stand trial for the abuse of tens of thousands of children and covering-up for thousands of priests will force the much needed changes while making the world a safer place for children. Interpol and the UN had every right to get involved in the clergy abuse scandal because it violates their conventions. Now both the UN and Interpol have an invitation to get involved straight from the pope’s mouth. Pope Benedict XVI has just asked for “aid and assistance” followed up by “those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.” The Vicar of Christ on earth is asking for help in bringing to justice to those who committed and helped in crimes of sexual abuse against children. What greater invitation can be made?
Note 1. To any lawyers who may represent or have represented survivors of sexual abuse. Crimen Sollicitationis means “crime of solicitation” which refers to crimes of the confessional. Reading this text is extremely difficult because everything up until Title V is about soliciting in the confessional. Title V paragraph 72 states: “Those things that have been stated concerning the crime of solicitation up to this point are also valid, changing only those things necessary to be changed by their very nature, for the worst crime,” TakeCrimen Sollicitationis (English version) and put it in a Word document. Then do a find/replace with find Solicitation and replace it with child abuse. You will be amazed at how it clarifies the document giving you a clearer understanding of what Crimen Sollicitationis says about the clergy abuse of children.
About the author: Vinnie Nauheimer has written extensively on the subject of clerical abuse. He has written two books on the subject of clergy abuse. One of poetry “Silent Screams” and one comprised of selected letters sent over an eight year period on the subject of clergy abuse called “Epistles on Clergy Abuse.” His art, poetry and writing can be found on websites around the world. Though they don’t issue a degree in Clergy Abuse, Mr. Nauheimer successfully survived advanced classes from the School of Intimidation and Slander sponsored by the NY Archdiocese. Both his and his family’s degree of pain were acknowledged by a Grand Jury probing the issue of clergy abuse. His goals are the same as those stated by Pope Benedict XVI in Australia on July 19, 2008: “Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.”
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_sex_abuse_cases_by_country#See_also July 9, 2008 and http://www.scribd.com/doc/1021887/SEXUAL-ABUSE-IN-THE-CATHOLIC-CHURCH-2002 – July 9, 2008
2. http://www.priestsofdarkness.com/crimen.pdf – July 10, 2008
3. The 1922 Instruction and the 1962 Instruction “Crimen Sollicitationis,” Promulgated by the Vatican: Thomas Doyle, O.P., J.C.D. – June 30, 2008
4. http://www.priestsofdarkness.com/crimen.pdf – July 10, 2008
5. http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/Default.asp – July 11, 2008
priests_hiding_in_plain_sight.5ee1e9be.html, – July 11, 2008
7. http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/Conventions/unConvCR.asp – July 12, 2008
8. http://www.unicef.org/pon95/chil0008.html – July 12, 2008
9. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2004_09_12_Dunklin_InThe.htm – July 12, 2008
10. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/timeline/2002-04-20-Murphy-Diaz.htm – July 13, 2008
11. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2004_06_20_Dunklin_ConvictedSexual.htm July 13, 2008
12. http://www.poynterextra.org/extra/abusetracker/2002_04_21_archive.htm – July 18, 2008
13. http://aftermathnews.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/pope-says-he-is-deeply-ashamed-of-clergy-abuse-scandal/ – July 18, 2008
14. http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=2&ContentID=85771 – July 19, 2008
15. http://www.priestsofdarkness.com/crimen.pdf – July 10, 2008.
Title V: The Worst Crime
From the Link: http://catholicarrogance.org/Catholic/RC_clericalpedophilia.html
“73. To have the worst crime, for the penal effects, one must do the equivalent of the following: any obscene, external act, gravely sinful, perpetrated in any way by a cleric or attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality).
74. Against accused clerics for these crimes, if they are exempt religious, and unless there takes place at the same time the crime of solicitation, even the regular superior can proceed, according to the holy canons and their proper constitutions, either in an administrative or a judicial manner. However, they must communicate the judicial decision pronounced as well as the administrative decision in the more serious cases to the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office.4
The wording of Title V is extremely important as it confirms the Vatican’s own knowledge and acceptance of the fact that the sexual abuse of children, regardless of sex, is a crime. The Vatican did not use the words evil, sinful, offensive, lapse of judgment, moment of weakness or illness. They used the word “crime” which is the only word that can adequately describe the act of a priest preying on a child for his own sexual gratification. Therefore, by stating that “the sexual abuse of children is a crime,” the Vatican tacitly acknowledges before God and man that priests who commit the crime of having sex with children, are in fact criminals! They also demand that these criminal acts be reported to their international headquarters, the Vatican.
Criminals commit crimes. Sex with children is a crime under both canon and civil law. Therefore, there can be no doubt that priests who commit the crime of sexual abuse with children are criminals! Ipso facto, those who protect these criminals are themselves guilty of aiding and abetting criminals. The Vatican has known for centuries that the sexual abuse of children is a criminal offense. In that, they are in total agreement with the secular law of just about every country on earth.”
Not only is the sexual abuse of children considered a crime by the Vatican, but to add emphasis to the matter, the Vatican chose to label it “The Worst Crime.” Of all the adjectives that are available to describe a crime, the Vatican chose to call the sexual abuse of children “The Worst.” What does that make the men who allow these sexual predators ply their trade unabated? What does this do to the commonly used hierarchal defense, “I didn’t know?” What does it say about the hundreds of bishops in 28 known countries around the world who failed to live up to the Vatican’s standards? What does it say about a Vatican that tolerated these failures?
Crimen Sollicitationis directs the bishops to prosecute crimes of child sexual abuse? Failing to do so makes them all scofflaws! They scoffed at every indecency perpetrated on the bodies of children around the world. Neither bishops nor the Vatican can claim ignorance of the law anymore! Whether it was an internal or external law, they failed to prosecute the rapists, sodomizers and molesters in their midst; by their own account, the criminal element.
The English Translation of the Crimen Sollicitationis
In a document addressed to “all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other diocesan ordinaries”, the Vatican gives instructions on the “manner of proceeding in cases of solicitations”:
The text, it adds, is to be “diligently stored in the secret archives… as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries”.
Some excerpts follow:
The crime of solicitation takes place when a priest tempts a penitent, whoever that person is, either in the act of sacramental confession, whether before or immediately afterwards, whether on the occasion or the pretext of confession, whether even outside the times for confession in the confessional or [in a place] other than that [usually] designated for the hearing of confessions or [in a place] chosen for the simulated purpose of hearing a confession…
[The object of this temptation] is to solicit or provoke [the penitent] toward impure and obscene matters, whether by words or signs or nods of the head, whether by touch or by writing whether then or after [the note has been read] or whether he has had with [that penitent] prohibited and improper speech or activity with reckless daring…
The Ordinary of the place in these cases is the judge even for regulars [religious], even though exempt. It is indeed strictly prohibited for their superiors to interpose themselves in cases pertaining to the Holy Office.
However, having safeguarded the right of the Ordinary, there is nothing to prevent superiors themselves, if by chance they have discovered [one of their] subjects delinquent in the administration of the sacrament of Penance, from being able and having the obligation of being diligently watchful over those same persons, and, even having administered salutary penances, to admonish and correct, and, if the case demands it, to remove him from some ministry.
They will also be able to transfer him to another [assignment], unless the Ordinary of the place has forbidden it because he has already accepted the denunciation and has begun the inquisition.
Although, as a rule, a single judge, by reason of its secrecy, is prescribed for cases of this type, it is not forbidden, however, for the Ordinary in the more difficult cases to approve one or two assessors and counsellors, selected from the synodal judges; or even to three judges, likewise chosen from the synodal judges, to hand over the case to the judges to be handled with the mandate of proceeding collegially…
Minor helpers are to be used for nothing unless it is absolutely necessary; and these are to be chosen, in so far as possible, from the priestly order; always, however, they are to be proved faithfulness and mature without exception.
Because, however, what is treated in these cases has to have a greater degree of care and observance so that those same matters be pursued in a most secretive way, and, after they have been defined and given over to execution, they are to be restrained by a perpetual silence, each and everyone pertaining to the tribunal in any way or admitted to knowledge of the matters because of their office, is to observe the strictest secret… under the penalty of excommunication.
The oath of keeping the secret must be given in these cases also by the accusers of those denouncing [the priest] and the witnesses.
First knowledge of the crime
Since the crime of solicitation takes place in rather rare decisions, lest it remain occult and unpunished and always with inestimable detriments to souls, it was necessary for the one person, as for many persons, conscious of that [act of solicitation], namely, the solicited penitent, to be compelled to reveal it through a denunciation imposed by positive law. Therefore:
The penitent must denounce the accused priest of the delict of solicitation in confession within a month to the Ordinary of the place or to the Holy Congregation of the Holy Office; and the confessor must, burdened seriously in conscience, to warn the penitent of this duty.
The faithful, however, who knowingly have disregarded the obligation to denounce the person by whom he was solicited, within a month, falls into an excommunication, not to be absolved unless after he has satisfies the obligation or has promised seriously that he would do so.
The duty of denunciation is a personal one and is to be fulfilled regularly by the person himself who has been solicited.
Anonymous denunciations generally must be rejected. However, they can have supportive force or give the occasion for further investigations, if the particular circumstances of the matters involved render an accusation probable.
The obligation of denunciation on the part of the solicited penitent does not cease because of a spontaneous confession by the soliciting confessor done by chance, nor because of his being transferred, promoted, condemned, or presumably reformed and other reasons of the same kind. It ceases, however, at his death.
Before [the person making the denunciation] is dismissed, there should be presented to him, as above, an oath of observing the secret, threatening him, if there is a need, with an excommunication reserved to the Ordinary or to the Holy See.
If two witnesses cannot be found where each individual knows both the denounced and the denouncer, or if they cannot be interrogated at the same time without the danger of scandal or without detriment to the good name concerning him, then arrangements to be made, so that two persons, by means of a divided [testimony], namely, interrogate two witnesses only about the denounced and another two only about the individual denouncers.
In this case, however, it will be necessary to inquire elsewhere as to whether hatred, enmity or any other human disaffection against the denunciated [priest] was the case.
If it is evident that the denunciation totally lacks a foundation, [the priest] should order this to be declared in the Acts, and the documents of the accusation should be destroyed.
If the indications of the crime are vague and indeterminate or uncertain, he should order that the Acts be put into the archives, to be taken up again if something else happens in the future.
If, however, there are indications of a crime serious enough but not yet sufficient to institute an accusatorial process, he should order that the accused be admonished according to the different [types of] cases the first or second [time?], paternally, seriously or most seriously, adding, if necessary, an explicit threat of the trial process, should some other new accusation is laid upon [the accused] meanwhile, a check should be kept on the morale of the accused.
Those who are in danger of falling back [into their former ways], and therefore of becoming greater recidivists should be submitted to particular vigilance.
As often as, in the prudent judgment of the Ordinary, it seems necessary for the amendment of the delinquent, for the removal of the near occasion [of soliciting in the future], or for the prevention of scandal or reparation for it, there should be added a prescription for a prohibition of remaining in a certain place.
Whenever an Ordinary immediately accepts a denunciation of the crime of solicitation, he should not omit telling this to the Holy Office. And if by chance he treats of a priest whether secular or religious having residence in another territory, he should transmit at the same time, an authentic copy of the denunciation itself.
Any Ordinary who has proceeded correctly against some priest who is soliciting should not omit to informing the Holy Congregation of the Holy Office, and, if it is a matter in which a religious is involved, also the General Superior concerning the outcome of the case.
If any priests condemned of the crime of solicitation, or even only admonished, should transfer his residence to another territory, [one] Ordinary should immediately warn the [other] Ordinary of the things that preceded that person and of his juridical status.
If any priests suspended in a case of solicitation from hearing sacramental confessions but not from sacred preaching happens to go to another territory to preach, the Ordinary of this territory should be reminded by the prelate or the accused, whether secular or religious, that he cannot be utilised for hearing sacramental confessions.
All these official communications shall always be made under the secret of the Holy Office; and, since they concern the common good of the church to the greatest degree, the precept of doing these things obliges under serious sin [sub gravi].
From the audience of the Holy Father, 16 March 1962
Our Most Holy Father John XXIII, in an audience granted to the most eminent Cardinal Secretary of the Holy Office on 16 March 1962, deigned to approve and confirm this instruction, ordering upon those to whom it pertains to keep and observe it in the minutest detail.
At Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation, 16 March 1962.
Place of the seal
A Cardinal Ottaviani
The formula for taking an oath to exercise one’s office faithfully and to observe the secret of the Holy Office
I promise sacredly, vow and swear, to observe inviolably the secret in all matters and details which will take place in exercising the aforesaid duty.
Tim Minchin – Pope Song with Lyrics
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
He’s a fucking motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the fucking fucker
Fuck the motherfucker
He’s a total fucking fucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fucking fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucker
Fuck the motherfucking Pope.
Fuck the motherfucker
And fuck you, motherfucker
If you think that motherfucker is sacred
If you cover for another motherfucker
Who’s a kiddie fucker
Fuck you, you’re no better
Than the motherfucking rapist
And if you don’t like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys
I don’t give a fuck if calling
The Pope a motherfucker
Means you unthinkingly brand me
An unthinking apostate
This has nowt to do with other
Fucking Godly motherfuckers
I’m not interested now
In fucking scriptural debate
There are other fucking songs
And there are other fucking ways
I’ll be a religious apologist
On other fucking days
And the fact remains if you protect
A single kiddie fucker
The Pope, or Prince or plumber
You’re a fucking motherfucker
You see I don’t give a fuck about
What any other fucker
Believes about Jesus
And his motherfucking mother
I’ve no problem with the spiritual beliefs
Of all these fuckers
While those beliefs don’t impact
On the happiness of others
But if you build your Church on claims
Of fucking moral authority
And with threats of Hell impose it
On others in society
Then you, you motherfuckers
Can expect some fucking wrath
When it turns out you’ve been fucking us
In our motherfucking asses
So fuck the motherfucker
And fuck you, motherfucker
If you’re still a motherfucking Papist
If he covered for a single motherfucker
Who’s a kiddie fucker
Fuck the motherfucker
He’s as evil as the rapist
And if you look into your motherfucking heart
And tell me true
If this motherfucking stupid fucking
Song offended you
With its filthy fucking language
And its fucking disrespect
If it made you feel angry
Go ahead and write a letter
But if you find me more offensive
Than the fucking possibility
That the Pope protected priests
While they were getting fucking fiddly
Then listen to me motherfucker
This here is a fact:
You are just as morally misguided
As that motherfucking, power hungry
In the stupid fucking hat.
Five myths about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal. Sick and Twisted RCC apologist spews the typical line of bullshit
First from Frank LaFerriere, blogger of Rape Victims of the Catholic Church to David Gibson….I hope you burn in your RCC hell you disgusting, piece of shit, low-life, scumbag, pedophile loving apologist for your cult of pedophiles. I see you have learned rather well while you are on your knees, sucking the shriveled, rotting dick of Bill Pig Face Donohue of the Catholic League and your Pedophile Pimp Pope Benniedickless and Frankie the Pedophile Pimp and Priest lover.
BUT as Saint Peter Damian stated in his Letter 31, the Book of Gomorrah [Liber Gomorrhianus], containing the most extensive treatment and condemnation by any Church Father of clerical pederasty:
“Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin. Listen, I say, and be shrewd enough to understand that all of you alike are deserving of death, that is, not only those who do such things, but also they who approve those who practice them.”
And David Gibson? I agree with him. All your disgusting pedophile pimps and pedophiles and scumbags like YOU who support and defend them? ARE ALL IN FACT, DESERVING OF DEATH AND WHO THE HELL AM I TO ARGUE WITH YOUR SAINTS EH?
By David Gibson
VATICAN CITY — As Benedict XVI prepares to mark the fifth anniversary of his election as pope here on Monday, he is beset by devastating reports about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests — and abouthis own role in the crisis. The reports have prompted sharp condemnations of the pontiff as well as a backlash of media criticism from papal defenders in the Vatican and around the world. Amid the firestorm, myths have emerged that only complicate the search for truth, healing and accountability.
1. Pope Benedict is the primary culprit in the coverup of the abuse scandal.
Between 1981 and 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s office for doctrinal orthodoxy. A few abuse cases (some from the United States) came before him, and the evidence shows that he did not move with any urgency to defrock priests. In 2001, as the number of cases coming to light worldwide increased, Ratzinger convinced Pope John Paul II to let his office have jurisdiction over all of them. Though the Vatican says church confidentiality did not preclude bishops from reporting crimes to civil authorities, some see Ratzinger’s move as an attempt to keep the cases secret.
Nonetheless, there is just one case so far that can be traced directly to Ratzinger’s tenure as a bishop, when he was head of the archdiocese of Munich in his native Germany. In that 1980 case, Ratzinger allowed a child abuser into his diocese for psychiatric treatment, and the priest was reassigned to a parish where he went on to abuse more children. It’s unclear whether Ratzinger personally signed off on the assignment, but he seems to have acted more or less like most bishops at the time — giving little oversight to the abuser and doing nothing to remove him from the priesthood. Alas, there is plenty of blame to go around for the church’s passivity.
As pope, Benedict has blamed the media for exaggerating the scandals, yet he has moved more aggressively against abusers than John Paul II, his predecessor, who tried to stop defrocking priests altogether and who ignored evidence of the terrible abuses by the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, a well-known Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ, a secretive order that is under Vatican investigation.
During the 2000s, as Ratzinger came to realize the scope of the abuse, he expedited the defrocking of abusive priests and reopened the Maciel case, which had been closed under John Paul. “We realize that it’s necessary to repent,” Benedict said in a homily on Thursday. He has still has not punished bishops, however, with the same rigor with which he has targeted abusers.
2. Gay priests are to blame.
Some defenders of the Catholic Church’s response to the abuse crisis say that homosexual priests are responsible for the majority of abuses, in part because more than 80 percent of the victims are male. They argue that true pedophiles — adults who are pathologically attracted to pre-pubescent children — constitute a small minority of offenders. Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone repeated this gay-pedophile link on Wednesday, and such reasoning was partially behind a 2005 Vatican policy barring gays from seminaries.
Such assertions have numerous flaws. For one thing, research shows that gay men are no more likely to molest children than straight men. (And celibacy doesn’t seem to be a determining factor, either.) Yes, 80 percent of the victims were male, but many offenders assaulted children of both sexes. Maciel abused boys and fathered children with several women. Moreover, the abusers had access to boys; an adult male couldn’t go on overnight trips with girls or take them away unchaperoned.
Finally, while critics of gay clerics fret that homosexuals dominate the priesthood and endanger children, in fact the ostensible increase in gay priests in recent years has coincided with a sharp decrease in reports of child abuse by clergy.
3. Sexual abuse is more pervasive in the Catholic Church than in other institutions.
Sexual abuse of minors is not the province of the Catholic Church alone. About 4 percent of priests committed an act of sexual abuse on a minor between 1950 and 2002, according to a study being conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. That is roughly consistent with data on many similar professions.
An extensive 2007 investigation by the Associated Press showed that sexual abuse of children in U.S. schools was “widespread,” and most of it was never reported or punished. And in Portland, Ore., last week, a jury reached a $1.4 million verdict against the Boy Scouts of America in a trial that showed that since the 1920s, Scouts officials kept “perversion files” on suspected abusers but kept them secret.
“We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,” Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told Newsweek. “I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others.”
Part of the issue is that the Catholic Church is so tightly organized and keeps such meticulous records — many of which have come to light voluntarily or through court orders — that it can yield a fairly reliable portrait of its personnel and abuse over the decades. Other institutions, and most other religions, are more decentralized and harder to analyze or prosecute.
Still, it is hardly good news that the church appears to be no different from most other institutions in its incidence of abuse. Shouldn’t the Catholic Church and other religious institutions hold to a higher standard?
4. Media outlets are biased against the Catholic Church.
While the Vatican and the pope’s champions argue — often in conspiratorial tones — that the media is biased against the church, the truth is quite the opposite.
The church and the pope do receive major media attention, and with reason. The pope is a world leader as well as the temporal head of one of the world’s most storied religious traditions. There are more than 1.1 billion Catholics on the planet, and the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in the United States, with more than 65 million baptized members. In the media, holidays such as Christmas and Easter tend to be dominated by Catholic images.
The pope also makes news with his pronouncements on a range of topics, and his travels are media events. Pope John Paul II’s death and funeral in April 2005 produced wall-to-wall coverage for weeks, generating some of the most favorable press the church has ever had.
The annual survey of religion in the news conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that in 2008 — the year Benedict traveled to Washington and New York — coverage of the pope and of the Catholic Church accounted for more than half of all news stories about religion, and the majority were positive or explanatory. You don’t hear the church complaining about this kind of attention.
5. The crisis will compel U.S. Catholics to leave the church.
When the initial revelations of widespread sexual abuse by clergy emerged in 2002, many believed that Catholics would abandon the church en masse, or at least send the institution toward insolvency by withholding donations. But then, as now, American Catholics turned out to be an unpredictable lot. Though critical of the bishops and the Vatican, Catholics tend to love their local parishes and priests. And even if they don’t heed all church mandates, they don’t easily shed all the cultural and sacramental markers of their faith.
A 2007 Pew survey of the religious landscape in America found that among Catholics who had left the church, the abuse crisis ranked low on the list of reasons — well behind church teachings on homosexuality, the role of women, abortion and contraception. And a 2008 poll by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate showed that even the bishops had enjoyed a rebound in approval, with satisfaction with the hierarchy growing from 58 percent in 2004 to 72 percent in 2008.
Still, Catholic leaders can’t be complacent. Some 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics, and without immigrants, the number of American Catholics would be falling, not growing slightly. In a competitive marketplace, it’s not smart to put your customers’ loyalty to such a test.
David Gibson is the author of “The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and his Battle with the Modern World.” He covers religion for PoliticsDaily.com. He will be online on Monday, April 19, to chat with readers. Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.
From the archives . . . For recent Outlook coverage of the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse scandal, see “Time to Hear Pope Benedict’s Confession” (March 28) by Sinead O’Connor and “Who is a Real Catholic?” (May 17) by David Gibson.
A former reporter is haunted by the story he didn’t pursue four decades ago.
From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/04/08/i-got-an-early-tip-about-a-priests-sexual-abuse-and-i-sat-on-it/?tid=a_inl
I always knew that watching “Spotlight” was going to be difficult for me, so I kept putting it off. Finally, with my wife out of town last week, I sprawled on the family-room floor with my two big dogs and steeled myself to view the Oscar-winning film about the investigation of sexual abuse in Boston’s Catholic Church. I was glad Patricia was away. I didn’t want her to see my tears.
As the next two hours crawled by, I was consumed by three emotions: admiration for the Boston Globe’s investigative team, pride in the journalism profession I have labored in for more than four decades — and guilt.
One day in the 1970s, I fielded a phone call in the newsroom of the Providence Journal. The caller was a local woman with a story that seemed inconceivable: Her 10-year-old son had been repeatedly molested by a Roman Catholic priest.
A couple of days later, I sat across from her and her boy at their kitchen table in a rundown Providence tenement building. What they told me was chilling. The boy, his voice cracking, said that he wasn’t the only victim — two of his friends also had been abused. I asked the woman if she or the other parents had reported this to the Providence police. She said they’d tried, but the police scoffed and warned them that it was a crime to file a false report.
As a journalist, I am skeptical by nature. But by the time I left them that evening, I believed that what they’d told me was true. The next day, I consulted with an editor, one of the top guys who ran the paper. He branded their account rubbish before I could even finish relating it.
I understood why he was incredulous but insisted it was worth looking into. He forbade it. No way would the paper ever slander a priest, he said. Besides, he added, even if the story were true (a notion he dismissed out of hand), none of our readers would believe it. At the time, Rhode Island was the most heavily Roman Catholic state in the union, and people trusted the church — in the 1970s, public surveys regularly showed that more than 60 percent of all Americans had high levels of confidence in organized religion.
I protested. The editor dug in. I argued. He got angry. If I didn’t let this go, he warned, I’d be looking for another line of work.
I was a young reporter, less than a decade into a profession in which he’d excelled for several times that long. I had a wife, kids and a mortgage I could barely afford. I needed that job. I loved it, too. And when that editor threatened to take it away, he was so red-faced with fury that I knew he meant it. Besides, I told myself, what good would it do to chase the story if the newspaper wasn’t going to print it?
So I swallowed hard and moved on to other investigative targets. (In a state rife with organized crime and political corruption, there was no shortage.)
It seems unlikely that I was the only journalist who got a lead about a pedophile priest in the decades before Marty Baron walked into the top job at the Globe and began to set things right. (Baron is now executive editor of The Washington Post.) There were so many damaged kids, so many distraught parents. Yes, most of them were loath to speak of it, even in a whisper. They were cowed by their shame, their reverence for the church and their fear that they would not be believed. But surely a few must have called their local newspapers and gotten the brush-off. Knowing that I probably wasn’t the only one who failed to follow up doesn’t make me feel even a teeny bit better.
In Rhode Island, the first public indication that something was amiss came in 1984, the year after I left the paper, when the Rev. Henry Leech, assistant pastor of St. Jude’s Parish in Lincoln, was charged with five counts of sexual assault on teenage boys. Later, as he was sentenced to three years in prison, he told the judge that he, too, had been sexually assaulted when he was a child. Over the next few years, three more Rhode Island priests were convicted of similar crimes.
By 1997, when Louis Edward Gelineau retired after 25 years as bishop of Providence, several civil lawsuits accusing a dozen Rhode Island priests of sexual assault were winding their way through state and federal courts. Some of them accused Gelineau of either doing nothing about the assaults or trying to cover them up. Then it got uglier. In the 1950s, when he was assigned to a Vermont orphanage, the future bishop molested a child himself, according to a deposition sworn out by the alleged victim. Around the same time, Gelineau was also accused of having sex with an altar boy and soliciting sex at a nearby Massachusetts truck stop. He denied it all and was never charged.
From my Rockefeller Plaza office in New York, where I directed a team of Associated Press national writers, I followed these developments with a growing sense of revulsion. Still, I never imagined that they were a mere shadow of what was to come.
On Jan. 6, 2002, the first of the Globe’s 600 news stories on the pedophile scandal and the unconscionable worldwide cover-up by the Roman Catholic hierarchy hit the streets. Suddenly, the unthinkable was in the open for all to see. Across America and then around the world, victims by the thousands came forward to tell their stories. And this time, the world listened.
In September of that year, Providence’s new bishop, Robert E. Mulvee, settled 36 lawsuits accusing 10 Rhode Island priests and a nun of sexually abusing children, paying the victims $13 million . But that was not the end of it.
Two years later, the John Jay Report, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put the number of Rhode Island priests accused of sexually abusing children since 1950 at 56 — a figure that seemed astounding for such a small state. In the years since, at least four more Rhode Island priests have been either put on “administrative leave” or criminally charged for sex offenses.
When the Globe broke the news, my instant reaction was professional jealousy: That story, and the Pulitzer I was sure would follow it, could have been mine. But then I was transported back to that Providence tenement house, felt the eyes of that woman and her son on me, and I was deeply ashamed. Their names are lost to me now, but for years, I’ve often thought about them — and about all the other kids who were molested during the decades when nobody, including me, was doing anything about it.
What of that priest the woman and her son told me about? Was he ever brought to justice? I don’t know. My notes were discarded decades ago, and I no longer remember his name. But to this day, I study every fresh report about predatory priests in the hope that I might recognize it if I see it again. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if my old editor does the same. He’s an old man now, and there’s no point in burdening him with my shame.
I have no idea if my Providence colleagues and I could have followed that lone lead and unraveled the whole monstrous mess in the 1970s. But even then, I was a capable investigative reporter. Sometimes working alone, sometimes as part of a team, I exposed fraud in the state Medicaid system, corruption in the federal Section 8 low-income housing program, widespread voter fraud in a mayoral election, third-world conditions and needless deaths at the state’s institution for the developmentally handicapped, physical and sexual abuse at the state’s institution for delinquent children. I even helped identify a murderer. And I was far from the only one. In the 1970s, the Journal was rich with investigative talent.
So, yes, perhaps we could have done it. But we didn’t even try. I didn’t, to my everlasting regret. There are a lot of us out here: journalists who got a whiff of the stink and missed the big story, cops and prosecutors who looked the other way, bishops who saw the depth of the depravity and chose to cover it up. Perhaps some of us are guiltier than others, but we are members of the same tribe. That’s why one line in the movie, delivered by Stanley Tucci in the role of crusading Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, brought me to tears:
“If it takes a village to raise a child it takes a village to abuse one.”
A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight
From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-new-sex-abuse-scandal-in-the-spotlight/2016/04/01/4a1747fa-f76e-11e5-8b23-538270a1ca31_story.html
Mary Kane is a freelance reporter who lives in Arlington.
Like many longtime reporters, I celebrated the Oscar victory for “Spotlight” and the fearless journalism that exposed the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.
I would soon see the story, and the scandal, from a very different perspective.
Two days after the Oscar ceremony, news broke about another widespread church coverup. I found myself poring over a grand jury report outlining in sickening detail the abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests and religious leaders in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — in my hometown.
I moved away long ago, but I still have family there. I visit regularly, and my mom was a devoted parish volunteer during her lifetime. I figured I might recognize a few of the accused or some of the churches. I quickly realized things stretched far beyond that.
The names of priests and parishes from my childhood appeared, one after another, all familiar. My grade school priest. Not one but two pastors from my neighborhood parish, a half block from my childhood home. The principal, vice principal and music director from my high school. A priest I once met with to consider officiating my wedding. The priest at the church my four nieces and nephews attended. The chaplain of the nearby Catholic hospital, where my mom volunteered.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Two of the priests, leaders at Bishop McCort High School, where my parents sent me and my three brothers in the 1970s to receive a quality religious education, were “sexual partner[s]” who worked together to molest a 13-year-old boy, the report said. They coordinated visits to his house. Once one priest had “satisfied himself,” the report said, the other “took advantage of a victim he believed to be compliant.”
One had been my religion teacher.
First, I called my brothers, to vent. Then I tried comprehending the scale of the abuses. TheSpotlight team identified about 80 predatory priests in an archdiocese of 1.8 million Catholics. The grand jury report found at least 50 priests and religious leaders in a diocese of fewer than 100,000. That was stunning enough. But there was more.
“Spotlight” depicted the Catholic clubbiness of Boston that allowed for abuse. In small-town Pennsylvania, corruption extended into all corners of the community. The church exercised “overwhelming access and influence,” even handpicking community leaders, including the police and fire chiefs. “The mayor would have them come to me, and I would interview them and I would tell him which I would pick,” a top bishop’s aide testified.
I appreciated how “Spotlight” highlighted the crucial role that journalism plays in challenging the powerful. In my home town, however, I saw how it sometimes falls short. George Foster, manager of an outdoor billboard advertising company and a former high school classmate of mine, emerges as the hero — not an investigative reporting team.
Foster’s brother was a priest; the two heard rumors of abuses and began looking into them. In 2002, Foster wrote an op-ed for the local paper, calling on the church to clean up its house.
Immediately, he was inundated with tips and evidence from victims, attorneys and even the police. He also did something no journalist had: He went through the files at the Blair County Courthouse from the 1994 civil trial of the Rev. Francis Luddy, a priest accused of molesting boys. The lawsuit against Luddy was filed in 1987, but records were sealed at the church’s request. They became public during the trial.
Foster found in the files documents showing church officials knew of credible allegations against many additional priests but kept them secret. He confronted then-Bishop Joseph Adamec. If this were a movie, outraged authorities would have taken action. But that didn’t happen. Adamec rebuffed him.
Finally, in 2014, state investigators in a different child abuse case contacted Foster, and he provided his files. The report cited them extensively and called Foster’s actions “nothing short of heroic.”
I wondered where the journalists had been. Local media covered the Luddy trial, and the Johnstown paper, tipped off by Foster, wrote about the Luddy files in 2002. But none of it drew national attention. I called Richard Serbin, the attorney in the Luddy case, who regularly represents clergy sex-abuse victims. There wasn’t a paper with the prestige of the Boston Globe to make an impact, Serbin said. It happened in a small community in decline, and few noticed or cared. “The facts were all there, back in 1994,” Serbin said. “And no one bothered to look at them.”
“Spotlight” ends with a lengthy list of investigations of church abuses worldwide. In Pennsylvania, the grand jury report offers prayers that the current bishop makes the right choices going forward. I hope that works. I’m not exactly in the mood for prayer.