Friday, June 14

Well, it will take me a bit to absorb this and absorb what everyone's saying about this. In the meantime, I guess we'll go downtown and immerse ourselves in traditional northern Indiana culture - Germanfest. Later.
The final draft of the charter.
Why has Robert Bennett, defender of Bill Clinton, been named to the bishops' review board for their sexual abuse policy???????????
The results of the first vote.
I have to go. Have something I have to do and I won't be back until 5. Watch it on CSpan, or on the web here, though.

Lynch of St. Petersburg wants to "massage language" on an amendment. Boy, he chooses his words carelessly.

Now, here's the crux.

The Zero Tolerance matter. Hubbard's amendment to deal with priests who offended once, have been rehabilitated and served in ministry shall be dealt with on a case-by-case basis instead of dismissed.

Hubbard's talking. He's saying while the public wants zero tolerance, such a policy is not consistent with the Gospel (conversion) or with the bishops' own statements against "one strike and you're out" in terms of civil law.

In accordance with the principles of restorative justice, we should take these cases on a case-by-case basis.

Is not a case-by-case review the best? Why are we so afraid of such a policy? Boards making such a review would be mostly lay. Are we afraid to trust such a panel? At a time when lay involvement in the church is more important than ever before, such a process involving such a panel is a good way to involve them.


Lipscomb (Mobile): Supports Hubbard. Says we need to defend children. But retroactive application of penalty contradicts justice. In the emotion of the moment we have made an unbstantiated judgment that the sexual abuse of a minor must necessarily repeat. The medical commentary on this given to us says that perpetrators should not be in contact with children, but holding on to priests, while making sure they do not have access to children, actually keeps the community safe. There is no hard data on priests who offended once and have been in ministry for decades. We have not heard from them.

Mahony: We had a 2 1/2 hour discussion on this last night. And voted. (the implication is that they voted for zero tolerance)

Keeler: One act of abuse is one too many. Most often it's not just one. It's more than one. Although Lipscomb makes a point that it's not proven, our experience has shown it to be true.

Hurley (frmr of Anchorage) protests that to cut the discussion short is wrong (they've moved to limit discussion on this) and it wasn't the whole body who dealt with it last night.

Gregory asks the body if they want to call the question. They do.

Voted against the amendment. In other words: zero tolerance stays.

Amendment: If dispensation from the clerical state has not been applied (for age or infirmity - not exhaustive, just examples), the priest shall not wear clerical dress or celebrate Mass publicily. Must also lead a life of penitence.


Do you think it would be better to say "garb" rather than "dress?" Much laughter.

Voted on, passed.

In case you didn't know, C-Span is also broadcasting the bishops.
I hope you're checking out the Lawler reports.There are a couple more from early this afternoon.
Dreher's report:

Victims lawyer Sylvia Demarest, who won the $119 million verdict against the Diocese of Dallas in the Rudy Kos case, said on Thursday that the proposal being considered was an "improvement over past policy," but still "extremely negligent."

"It does nothing about prevention," she said. "They know very well that 75 to 80 percent of victims won't come forward, and if they do come forward, it won't be until after a number of years. If they wait for victims to come forward before addressing the problem, they will have let a lot of abuse happen."

Demarest said the bishops ought to draft a code of conduct for priests regarding relations with children and young people, and that the Catholic laity, especially parents, should be educated about it. She also said that the idea that a pederast priest could be safely retained in the priesthood if he is removed from active parish ministry is naive, given the myriad ways pederasts have of approaching the young.

Demarest noted that the bishops were not talking about whistleblower protection for good priests who know about sexual misconduct among their brother priests, but who are afraid to come forward because of possible repercussions to their priestly careers.

And I agree - this whole issue of timing is a huge problem. The discussion below related to the word "credible" raised the point of past and present reports. You must report the present, but not the past, necessarily. How far in the past is past? How present does present have to be? Yesterday? As Demerest points out, victims of sexual abuse do usually not come forward until years after the event. Years. The policy doesn't seem to take this into account.

How are they going to finish? They're not even finished debating the charter, and haven't even begun the norms.
Another amendment - a single offending diocesan cleric will be permanently removed from ministry. These provisions "may" include a request for dispensation or dismissal from the clerical state.

Blair( who is he? from where? A Detroit auxiliary? He mentions Detroit. He's making great points): are we in danger of creating a loophole. As I understand this, the person will be removed from ministry, but may or may not be laicized. Are we creating the danger of a loohole? Gives and example. We had a case of a priest who was found guilty, put in a priest retirement village, allowed to celebrate mass. In the course of that, he committed another act on a boy who came to him for counseling who saw him celebrating Mass and trusted him. He says if we're going to allow that, we are asking for trouble. I am going to suggest that we insert another bullet point: add something - "if an offender does not suffer the loss of the clerical state, he may be offered the option of a life-long regimine of prayer and penance in a controlled environment. It will be understood that he will not wear clerical dress or celebrate mass publicly."

A bishop on the committee (Lori) responds: There are many different things a bishop might do in terms of removing a priest or deacon from ministry. We tried to cover all possibilities by saying that the provisions of canon law allow the bishop to do what he wants. Or something.

Blair: Since the committee originally considered these elements (no collar, no public celebration of Mass), it's worth considering.

Gregory: Talk about it at lunch, okay? Is that acceptable to the body? Let's have time to speak to the Mother of God.

They pray the Angelus.

There is a big discussion going on about an amendment to insert the word "credible" in the requirement to report allegations to the civil authorities. I just had a blow-by-blow report of who said what, and I hit the wrong button, and it's gone. I'll try to recap. (GRRRRR)

Some bishops (Doran of Rockford) comes to mind as being particularly defensive regarding his priests. Says he can't face his priests if he's going to have to report every "accusation" that comes down the pike - every crazy letter, etc.

Mahony says he finds the intervention of civil authorities helpful. He's had two false accusations in the past months, and he's appreciated the early intervention of civil authorities to clear it up.

Several bishops speak against it, saying that this is the problem - not reporting. Other bishops are fearful of the impact on the priests.

It's cleared up when someone points out that the word "allegation" has a specific meaning. It's not a vague, general letter of accusation or dislike. It has a name, date and time attached.

Chopko (USCCB general counsel) also points out (and this is interesting) that this applies only to present day cases - not past ones. What to do with accusations from the past? It's a matter of negotiation between civil authorities and the church. Whatever is standard in the local jurisdiction, the church should do.

Law: I would also speak against the amendment. The word "credible" relates more to our own internal investigation - what we will or will not do. But that is not what the civil law is calling us to. The civil law is calling us to report. The insertion of this word would confuse.

Egan wants clarification on process: Allegation comes in. We are not to determine whether it's credible. We are to turn it in. Then what? If we start an ecclesial investigation, we might be impeding the civil investigation because we are alerting the accused. In this time, does the man continue in his ministry? Should be no (he terms this as "outrageous", but that's the way it is). When the DA comes back in and give his/her evaluation - then we determine the ministry status.

Committee member affirms that DA's don't want ecclesiastical investigations until they're finished, and it is a problem because it puts the people at risk. In some jurisdictions, however, it is possible to do both investigations concurrently. It's a matter of local negotiation.

Amendment failed. "Credible" not added.

Now they're going to try to add the word "non-frivolous" instead. Chopko (counsel) says that's a better word.

Pilarcyk speaks against the motion. Says that anything that seems to give ourselves wiggle room is ill-advised and might be illegal in some cases.

George: We respect the intent to be brothers to our priests, but that's covered by the word "allegation." By nature, it's probably not frivolous.

O'Malley: The genesis of the problem is that crimes were not reported. So that whole area of reporting is central. In no way do we wanto give the impression that we are

Favolora: I speak against it on behalf of those of us whose states do not allow us this exception. (that would be Florida)

Vote taken - failed.

Mahony wants limitation on discussion of amendments. It's now 12:15 - we have an enormous amount of work to do. They're all clapping. (They want lunch).

More from Lawler

Since the closing of formal sessions yesterday, reporters have been busily cornering bishops, getting bits and pieces of information about their closed-door discussions. This morning, over coffee, we have been comparing notes. It seems quite clear that the final policy approved by the USCCB today will be a "zero-tolerance" policy; it will call for the dismissal of any priest who has ever been guilty of molesting children-- with no exceptions, no escape clauses.
And that, really, was the only issue that provided any degree of suspense in this meeting. Will the bishops adopt a zero-tolerance policy? That's the question the secular media have been asking for the last few weeks. The answer is Yes. Next question?

Cardinal George finally speaks:

He says that there is not much new in the document, but what is new is the sense of collective responsibility and common resolve.

Bishop Trautmann of Erie just proposed an amendment pointing out that some dioceses and bishops have behaved responsibly in this area. It was approved.
Arroyo is interviewing Bruskewitz of Lincoln. (There's a break)

He asks him about the change in language from cleric to priest and deacon.

Answer. They felt that the Holy See would want to reserve disciplining of bishops to itself.

Arroyo asks why not "root causes" discussed. Are you distressed?

Yes. Because (he says) the root causes are dissent and homosexuality. Both are Pandora's boxes, and the documents, done in great haste, perhaps as an impulse to assuage the media, and doesn't address these root causes.

Are you upset about the way that Thursday was spent?

Yes, particularly the choice of Steinfels. I was deeply annoyed, I don't know who chose those speakers, never got a response.

Q: Will this document have sticking power? Bishops are not bound to follow anything.

A: What they're hoping to obtain is the Holy See's approval of this as a legislative act for our country. Says he would be surprised if the document stands before the Holy See.

Q: What happened in the closed door sessions?

A: I will say this: I agree with what Cardinal George said about it.

Q: Will the bishops stand up and give moral teaching and leadership?

A: I hope so, but probably not.

Me now: So why hasn't Bruskewitz said a word so far in the public debate?

The discussion is now centered on defining "sexual abuse." The US bishop's conference had their own definition, and so did the Canadian bishops' conference. Which definition to accept? (The defintion is in a footnote)

Archbishop Wuerl has proposed a definition which is comprehensive and says that if there is doubt, experts should be consulted.

Cardinal Bevilaqua points out that both definitions are good, and for pete's sake, this is a footnote, after all.

Wuerl says that's what they're trying to do, but in a grammatically acceptable fashion.

Archbishop Regali is going over the definition, which speaks of "contacts" or "intereactions" and is worried about the defintion of the latter. "Remember, we are taking a priest out of ministry for this." Galante clarifies that when the interaction is being used towards the result of sexual use of a child. Galante says, "To be honest, I don't know a whole list of how that would happen, thanks be to God."

Wuerl speaks again. Says that's impossible to include every conceivable circumstance, that's why an moral authority could evaluate.

Sheehan is speaking against the definition that says sexual abuse can occur "whether or not it inolves genital or physical contact."

Bishop Pfeifer (of San Angelo) says it doesn't matter because civil law is civil law, and it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Rigali wants to omit a sentence in the defintion that says sexual abuse occurs whether or not there's physical contact, whether or not there is discernible immediate harm,etc.

They just did a voice vote on Rigali's motion. The voice vote was too close. Now they're standing to vote in favor or against. The result: 87 in favor 156 against.

A Thursday night update from Phil Lawler:

Then, just as reporters were heading back to their desks with empty hands, someone-- some enterprising reporter among us-- came back to the group with a scoop. Cardinal George, caught for a quick interview in a hotel hallway, had revealed that the bishops were moving toward a "zero tolerance" policy. The complicated provisions of the original draft policy, which allowed some room for compromise in the case of a priest who had abused one child at one time in the past, were likely to be jettisoned.

Now they're going through their modifications to the charter

One of the consistent little modifications they have made is to change "cleric" to "priest and deacon" - the reason was just given. Because disciplining of bishops is beyond the pervue of this document.

Bishops prayed.

Bishop Gregory went over the procedures for requesting to speak (involving various colored cards)

Now Archbishop Flynn is speaking, highlighting the changes made to the draft. He says it's stronger, more cognizant of canon law, defines sexual abuse, and so on.

Now they're going to start debating amendments. Of course, I have no idea what these amendments are.

A question for Expert Bloggers out there:

I need to revise my links a bit, but when I go to my template from the blogger edit page, some of the links that show up on the page don't show up on the template. Any explanations?

Anthony Marquis is offering some very interesting thoughts over at his blog, Veni Sancte Spiritus. In particular check out his reflections on seminary life:

When I was studying with a religious order, I had an epiphany while at table. I was having dinner with seven other confreres and I realized that through the conversation they were flirting with one another. Nothing overt and I do not want to claim any wrong doing, but it was obvious to me that they were getting their sexual fix as it where. On some level, their sexual needs were being met. I felt completely outside the circle. Almost every conversation I had with female classmates was noted and commented upon, but the same people who gave me a difficult time about my "popularity" at school were able get their fix at the house. I know that I was not the only one who felt this way. A group of friends from other religious houses had similar experiences. Worth noting is that most of this group left their various orders and are now married or on their way. Most of us now teach or work in parish ministry. Did we have vocations to ordained ministry or to something else.

Way too many articles for individual links and comments.

Go to the Poynter Clergy Abuse Tracker for a list of many, many articles from today's newspapers.

And remember - the bishops start their meeting at 9am central time.


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