Tuesday, June 4

Yes, yes, yes.

Michael Kelly nails the weakness in The Policy:

But the real failing is not what is in the proposal but what is not. Not the slightest mention is made of any intention to investigate or punish the high church officials -- bishops, archbishops and assorted superiors and ecclesiastical bureaucrats -- who, it has been redundantly shown, have systematically aided, protected, hidden and promoted known predator-priests. They are the missing guilty, still.

This pretends, as is the institutional position, that the problem with the church is merely a plague of predator priests. Of course, this is not true. There are about 47,000 Catholic priests in America; the number accused of sexual abuse over the past four decades runs, by the most liberal estimates, only to a few thousand. The church's real problem is that its superior officers deliberately allowed these relatively few priests to remain -- in the face of powerful and mounting evidence of criminal wrongdoing -- in positions where they could exploit their priestly privileges and continue to prey on the young and the vulnerable

...Certainly, the men who raped boys need to be defrocked, not to mention tried, convicted and jailed. But what about the men who let the men rape boys? Why do they still hold high office? Why indeed do they still wear clerical collars? If two rapes is enough to get a priest defrocked, shouldn't looking the other way from a few decades' worth of rapes be enough to defrock a bishop?

See now, here's what I'm talking about.

In the aftermath of the Porter Horrors, the Archdioces of Boston implemented new policies for dealing with clerical sexual abusers, policies that were generally praised. Guess what? The people in charge of the archdiocese didn't always feel obligated to follow the policies.

Included in the more than 950 pages were documents showing:

-- the archdiocese had heard numerous, graphic complaints against the Rev. Ronald Paquin when it recommended he return to public ministry in 1997.

-- complaints about Rev. Paul J. Mahan poured into the archdiocese throughout the 1990s, including one from someone who twice attempted suicide and a letter from a lawyer claiming one boy was so scared of Mahan he jumped off Mahan's sail boat in the ocean to swim more than 100 yards to shore.

Mahan had been removed from parish duty in Boston in August 1993 but was reassigned to a Cambridge church the following year. The church later pressured him to laicize and threatened him with negative publicity as part of a bid to coax him out of the priesthood.

-- the archdiocese knew as early as 1964 of allegations against Rev. Eugene O'Sullivan, who in 1984 became the first Massachusetts priest convicted of sexual abuse. A woman wrote in 1964 to Cardinal Richard Cushing that O'Sullivan had reached into her 12-year-old son's bathing trunks and "touched him repeatedly in the private area." She said she reported the incident to her local pastor who told her "not to discuss the matter with a soul."

MacLeish said the documents also showed that even after the archdiocese imposed stricter policies following 1992 scandal with the former Rev. James R. Porter, it applied them haphazardly.

"There was apparently in the Archdiocese of Boston a pre-Father Porter policy and a post-Father Porter policy," MacLeish said.

For instance, the documents show the church vacillating over more than a decade in the case of Rev. Daniel Graham, who in 1988 was accused by one person of sexual abuse over several years in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The accuser wrote to Graham demanding that he enroll in a self-help group, avoid contact with children, and begin a program for sex abuse victims in his parish. The letter claimed Graham was continuing to abuse others but offered no evidence.

Graham wrote back acknowledging past mistakes and said he had met the conditions and long since stopped his behavior. In 1990, according to a later memorandum, the archdiocese's supervisor of priests, Bishop Robert J. Banks, said the problem was stress-related he had 'no problem' with assigning Graham a new parish.

However, after another allegation surfaced in 1992, the archdiocese reopened the case. Graham denied the allegation but Law forbade him from involvement in parish ministry in light of a new policy under which no one who had engaged in sexual abuse with a minor from working with minors.

Banks was reported in one document to have remarked that "1990 was pre-Porter and a more forgiving time."

But in 1996, officials decided to consider the case as having been addressed before the new policy and Graham was again cleared to work without restrictions. Graham was suspended from his parish in Quincy this February after Law said all priests who had been accused of abuse would be removed

Now here's something useful, linked by someone in a comment somewhere on this blog (thanks!)

Some industrious fellow studied the Catholic Directories from 1995-1997 and collected ordination data. He's organized it by ordinations per capita of Catholics and ranked dioceses so you can see for yourself how the numbers stack up in dioceses led by bishops of various stripes.

Here it is. Oh. And guess who's first? Just some southern diocese led by a bishop who moved up - and then out. Quickly.

Spent the evening reading Conclave, the new book by John Allen, Vatican correspondent for NCR(eporter) about, of course, the process for electing the pope. (autographed at the RBTE. The other big autograph of the session was Marty Haugen's on a CD, picked up as a gift for Katie's teacher. She came over to me today and gushed about it, about how much she LOVES Marty Haugen. I smiled grimly and said she was welcome.)

It's a light read, most appropriate for people who know absolutely nothing about the Catholic Church, considering the long chapter it includes on what a pope is. It's not terribly infected by NCR-itis, except in the ways you might anticipate - an ever so slight shudder seems to emanate from the page when "conservative" prelates are discussed. It's useful for the outline of the process of election, a couple of fascinating stories (about the wretched conditions the cardinals have had to live with during a conclave, even up to the last one - sleeping on cots, sharing bathrooms, closed windows (because of the rules of secrecy) in a Roman summer, and a run-down of Allen's top candidates. Although he's humble enough to point out that in 1978, Andrew Greeley did some kind of computerized prognostication of likely candidates, and Wotyla wasn't even on the list. But we must take Allen's list with a grain of salt - he's got Lehmann of Germany on there - Lehmann who has clashed with the Vatican over the Church's cooperation with the German system of providing certificates for legal abortions and who has publicly allowed divorced, remarried and non-annulled Catholics to receive communion - yeah, he's gonna be pope. Right. But, as my husband pointed out, that choice undoubtedly reflects Allen's preferences more than anyone else's.

Next up: a variation on the theme, a book I'd forgotten I owned - one I swiped from the Tampa Tribune office back when I was reviewing books for them. When I lived there. In Florida. With an orange and a grapefruit tree in my backyard. And I could go to the beach....Oh - as I was saying, the book is Passing the Keys, a more detailed look at the same question.


In the early Church (i.e. the first thousand years), bishops were (generally) accountable to one another, and (specifically) accountable to the synod of bishops in their local area (usually corresponding to a province of the Empire). The canons of the Church defined specific offenses (heresy, schism, simony, malfeasance, etc.) for which a bishop might be accused, brought before the synod, and (if appropriate) deposed.
After the schism between Rome and the East, canon law became much more complex, centralized, and bureaucratic in the West. I don't know the details, but I'm sure that there is some sort of "due process" under canon law for disciplining a wayward bishop. (What, I wonder, was the procedure that led to the excommunication of Abp LeFebvre?)

The Eastern Orthodox Church still follows the more ancient procedure.

Read Deal Hudson's letter on Curial blindness here. It's depressing.
Cranky Prof points out in a comment on a post below that bishops function, practically speaking, independently of one another, and he's right. Perhaps this will be the moment in which some clarification on that confusing issue will occur. Bishops, while responsbile for teaching in union with Rome and the other bishops (collegiality) are also responsible for implementing the teaching of the Church in their own dioceses in ways suited to the particular needs of that diocese. That's nothing new. It's been the nature of bishops and dioceses since the beginning. It's the way we hold together the universality of the Church with the uniqueness of the local church. Perhaps someone can enlighten us as to whether there's any provision for episcopal discipline in Church history or practice, aside from the decision of the Pope to deal with a bishop - or not.
Well, I read the stuff, and the only thing I have to say is to agree with Michael, who points out the glaring omission in this proposal: No consequences for a bishop who violates them. I suppose, in the end, such matters are up to the Holy See, but I think most of us understand that most dioceses have had policies very similar to these for years. Any bishop could have put in motion any one of these proposals at any time: reporting the crimes to authorities, removing offending clerics from ministry, and so on. (The big difference, to my fairly untutored eye, is the whole compulsory laicization thing) But they didn't. And all of those bishops who shuffled all of those predators are still in office, none the worse for wear, really. What happens if a bishop deliberately circumvents this policy in the future? A letter informing him that he violated a policy?

I also have come to the opinion that these review boards (mentioned in the second document) should be actually composed of non-Catholics. Okay, maybe put one Catholic on there, but I think they should be as independent of the Church as possible, and possibly even appointed by an outside agency - I don't know how that would work, but it seems very easy for a bishop to stack a review board with easily manipulated people.

The guidelines regarding creating "safe environments" for children and youth are of course, vague, in this document, but it will be interesting to see if any dioceses will have the courage to adopt the very simple Boy Scout policy of prohibiting adults from being alone in a room with a child. (with the exception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, of coure) There must always be at least two adults present.

Another area that's largely missing from this document is that of legal action. Perhaps one of our many lawyer readers can help sort this out. I suppose it would be unwise or not within the range of these particular documents to offer guidelines for the behavior of those acting on behalf of the Church in court and deposition situations. But you know, that's been a major area of scandal - almost as much as the priest-shuffling has been: the treatment of victims in court and depositions. Should or could the policy deal with this in any way?

But the bottom line that we all should be wondering about is this: What are you going to do, bishops, when one of your own violates this policy? What are you going to do, bishops, about those of your own who have violated policies much like this one in the past? What are the consequences? If there are none, what's the point?

Okay. Here you go. I'll post the links now, then read the stuff and offer comment in a bit.

Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

and then Draft: Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy or Other Church Personnel

Feel free to add your comments before I return!

An article on the proposal, with comments from Fr. Thomas Doyle:

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, one of the most active priests in aiding victims, said the document's contrition over bishops' misdeeds "is certainly extraordinary, given the way in which church bodies respond to crisis situations."

"It is a new beginning," he said, if the sorrow proves sincere and the charter, especially outreach to victims, is honored. But "there have been so many promises made," he cautioned. If even "one or two bishops" continue to treat victims with hostility or let lawyers pursue hardball tactics, Doyle said, "that will blow the bottom out of any credibility they wish to restore

Good point. In one of the comments on the excerpts from the proposed policy below, a reader asked why the proposal doesn't address some (ahem) root causes of the behavior - that is, calling for an unequivocal embrace of the Church's teaching on sexuality, etc. Well, at this point, the first matter is administrative - get the predators out of the priesthood. And secondly, we haven't seen the entire document yet. Perhaps it does. Perhaps it doesn't. We'll see.
Depositions and records indicating cover-ups in Omaha, too. Notice the name of "Gutgsell" featured prominently in the story. He is the chancellor of the archdiocese, and he clearly emerges as the creepy priest's main protector.
An account of Bishop McCormack's deposition yesterday.
Here are excerpts from the draft policy, to be released later today.

''Dioceses will report any accusation of sexual abuse of a person who is a minor to the proper authorities and cooperate in their investigation. ...

''Effective immediately, even a single act of abuse of a minor will bring about a request for laicization, even without the consent of the cleric.

''Regarding acts of sexual abuse of a minor committed prior to this date, if the cleric is a pedophile, or if he has committed more than one act of sexual abuse of a minor, there will be a request for the cleric's laicization, even without his consent if necessary. ...

That last point will, of course, will be the focus of contention. The apparent refusal to embrace zero tolerance is a mistake, as Michael points out

By making this provision one would never know if their pastor has been involved with a minor in the past, i.e. if he has this sexual dysfunction. This policy by its very nature would put a pall over the entire priesthood. It would not cleanse the priesthood of predators and subsequently would besmirch the name of good priests who would be the victims of this policy should it be adopted


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