Saturday, June 15

From Saturday's Globe: Cardinal Law reflects:

Law had not spoken to the news media since February, but last night, after the bishops finished their debate and celebrated Mass, he granted five-minute, one-on-one interviews to five Boston television affiliates and the city's two daily newspapers. Seated in a hotel suite, he was calm, soft-spoken, and greeted reporters warmly, but he was also clearly pained by his situation, and he willingly described the apology he offered to his fellow bishops at a closed-door session Thursday.

''I said to the bishops that never in my wildest, worst nightmare could I have imagined doing what I was then doing, and I discussed with them some of what the past six months has been like for me personally: the distrust, the anger, the sense of betrayal, the fact that for many, I've become an object of contempt,'' he said. ''I then pointed out that what added to that was the recognition that Boston, and I personally, had placed an added burden upon the bishops, and I apologized to them for that.''

I really don't get the first sentence of his quote: ....never in my wildest, worst nightmare could I have imagined doing what I was then doing...." To what does that refer? His priest-shuffling? Having to apologize for these dreadful decisions? The whole mess? It seems to me, no matter to what he's referring, to be a rather lame, awkward attempt at self-justification.

However, to be fair, I should refer you to blogger Bill Cork's reflection on Cardinal Law:

On a personal note, the hardest part of these past few months has been watching the vilification of Cardinal Law. I first met him ten years ago, when I was considering leaving the Lutheran ministry to become Catholic. He invited me to the Cardinal's Residence, and I found him to be a humble pastor -- not the megalomaniac the press and his critics make him out to be. He has been that humble pastor to me over the past ten years, though our communications are not frequent. He is the only bishop who has ever ended a meeting with me by praying for me and my family -- and he has done that each time I've met with him. When my conversion left me unemployed, he helped me look for a new position. He called up people to serve as a reference. He connected me with sources of income. He arranged interviews for me with people who could help the search. My first Easter as a Catholic, I was surprised to receive a card from him. He said, "I wish I could be doing more for you ... enclosed is a gift; consider it an 'Easter egg.'" It was a check for $900. That's the Cardinal Law that it has been my privilege to know. I grieve for him, and I pray for him, in this purgatory he is experiencing.

It all points to the complicated creatures we human beings are. We are neither all good nor all bad. An important side issue of these past months, and one that interests me a great deal, is how the revelation of a serious sin afffects our view of another person. Parishioners rise in indignation that their "good pastor" of many years might be removed because twenty years ago he abused a minor. How can one act invalidate decades of ministry? Well, it doesn't. The ministry was still there. Its impact remains. But so too, does the impact of the abuse. Most news stories that include interviews with people who know criminals, particularly youthful ones, I might add, usually include one fretful relative or concerned teacher announcing, "You know, he really is a good kid. He just made a mistake." The implication in those words is the same as we hear in the indignant parishioners'.

So the question remains - how do we evaluate sin - serious sin - as it exists within a complicated life that also includes good deeds and intentions?

This doesn't seem to me to be a difficult question, for it is quite simply, the question all of us face ourselves, because all of us confront the reality of ourselves: creatures who seek to do good, but find ourselves, more often than we would like, doing evil. Does it mean that we must then condemn ourselves as "bad?" No. I'm all for dispensing with the need to describe ourselves or anyone else as "good" or "bad." It's a useless description, for we are all (most of us, anyway - excluding the sociopaths and others like them) a combination of both, but what is essential for the Christian is that we know we are loved and claimed by Christ. When I read about a person who has committed a serious sin, I feel no need to define them as "bad." They are a human being who did a bad thing.

But that doesn't mean the bad thing they did must be forgotten or kindly reabsorbed into the totality of a mostly decent life, filled with small kindnesses to old ladies. The good things they did affected others. So did the bad thing. In profound and horrendous ways, usually. So justice demands that the bad thing must be compensated for, paid for, in some way. A price must be paid by the perpetrator that somehow matches, in whatever feeble way it can, the price that has been paid by the victims.

And do you know what I say? If a priest sexually abused a minor twenty years ago and has conducted what people consider a good ministry since then, it's time to pay that price. He did something - he damaged a soul, and possibly sent another's life on a trajectory that has been difficult to correct, and infected a life with a shadow that never quite goes away. And he got away with it, enjoyed the adulation and comfort of his parishioners in the years since, and did just fine. Perhaps he helped others during that time. Great. But there's nothing wrong with that time coming to an end and justice finally being served. It doesn't mean that any good he's done is invalidated. It doesn't mean that he's still not loved by God. It doesn't mean it's excommunicated. It means that just like the rest of us, he will have to let the consequences of his sin touch his life in a real way, so that he can, in some feeble sense, experience the damage he brought to another's life.

Sure, his life will change. Drastically. He will feel humiliated. He will feel a bit lost. He will have his moorings shaken and perhaps his sense of self shattered.

And the victims respond: Now you know.

This is really funny.

Smells n' Bells, brought to you by the Wacky Guys at Envoy.

Via Dreher:

The reaction of Fr. Thomas Doyle to the Charter (Fr. Doyle was one of the three authors of the 1985 report to the bishops)

This is the strongest, most unequivocal statement that the US Bishops or any group of bishops have made concerning sexual abuse by the clergy and the related cover-up by the bishops and other church leaders. It will be received with skepticism and doubt by many because of the bishops' history of broken promises and empty statements.

The bishops of our country (and other countries) have made similar statements and promises in the past. These statements for the most part, have not been followed by consistent action. The promises have generally been empty, giving rise to the presumption that their (the promises) purpose was primarily to garner good public image for the bishops in the face of growing criticism for their actions and inactions over sexual abuse. In fact, in many documented instances, the promises were followed by actions that were totally contradictory to the content of the public statements made by bishops.

The true test of the US Bishops' sincerity and the most significant and convincing sign that they are beginning to understand the horrific devastation that sexual abuse has caused for so many will not be by mere words. No matter how poetic, emotional and direct the statements may be, they are worthless without consistent and hard-hitting action. If there is no sign of compassionate outreach to victims and survivors, this Charter will be relegated to the same dustbin with past statements fromthe US Bishops.....the dustbin of irrelevance and uselessness. If this charter is not followed by immediate action that convinces the victims and survivors and the millions who support them, that the bishops are beginning to 'Get it" then the anger of the past months and years will increase and the credibility of the bishops and many clergy will never be restored. In effect, the bishops' unfortunate march backward into irrelevance will increase to a gallop .

Historically the Catholic hierarchy has dealt with problems both big and small, with words. Statements, decrees, outlines, procedures and now charters, have been the medium of choice.These statements are often presented to the interested group orto the general public in a general, impersonal manner. In the case of sexual abuse by the clergy and related cover-up by the bishops, such a method of communicating concern and commitment is totally inadequate unless it is followed by decisive action. The bishops must cross the divide between themselves and the faithful,especially the victims and survivors, and enter into their world and begin to not simply acknowledge, but to understand their sense of emotional and spiritual devastation.

The bishops must understand that they have lost the trust and credibility ofthe victims and survivors but also of millions of others, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. They stand before people who have matured in their attitude towards the Church, its leadership and its clergy. They will no longer blindly accept without question the words of the bishops. If, as the days and months unfold, the survivors and those who support them see no action consequent to the Charter, they will demand reasons why and will accept nothing less than unequivocal truth.

Particular observations:

The overall impression is that the various boards, committees, office and procedures remain in the total control of the bishops. There must be a collaboration and inclusion of lay people is not mere token but actually shares authority and decision making power with them. If this is not part of the Bishops' methodology then their credibility with regard to the Charter is immediately called into question. In the past they have failed miserably at policing the clerical system.

Article3: Confidentiality Agreements. This statement must be clear and must statethat such agreements will be entered into only at the express request ofthe victim/survivor.

Article4: Reporting to Law enforcement. This article does not specify when the report is to be made and it must specify that such a report will be made as soon as there is a substantial allegation. If there is question about the substantial nature of the allegation, the quandary is resolved in favor ofthe alleged victim and the report is to be made.

Article5: The Preliminary investigation. There must be no confusion about the purpose of the canonical investigation and any subsequent canonical action.This canonical procedure does not replace the civil law criminal procedure or any investigation initiated or envisioned by civil law authorities.This article must be clear on the distinction between the two areas of responsibility. It must also clarify that the canonical penalties are not a substitute for civil law penalties but are penalties imposed in addition to any civil law penalties.

Article8: Office for Child and Youth Protection.The method of appointment of members must not be left solely to the General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference. To do so immediately compromises the integrity of the office and calls into question the ability of the office members to act with complete independence and integrity. There must be some mechanism or procedure whereby lay groups can take part in the nomination and veto procedures for the membership.

Article9: Review Board. For this board to have both credibility and effectiveness it must be independent of the Bishops' Conference even though it may come into existence through an action of the conference.To ensure this the tenure of the membership should be structured in such a way that they do not have to fear termination or dismissal should their feedback be threatening or disagreeable to the bishops. In short, if the review board has evidence to state that a bishop, group of bishops or the entire bishops conference is acting irresponsibly, they must be able to do so without fear of reprisals.

The Status of Confirmed Sexual Abusers

This is understandably the most visible and emotional element of the charter.By constant dwelling on this aspect in their individual and collective pre-Dallas statements, the bishops have almost isolated it as the most pressing issue. In fact, it is not the pivotal point in determining the sincerity of the institutional church's commitment to eradicating the problem of clergy sex abuse.The real pivotal point is the personal and compassionate outreach to the victims.

The statements in Article 4 basically paraphrase the median penalty envisioned by Canon law for a cleric proven to be a sexual abuser in violation of canon 1395. Permanent removal from ministry amounts to a permanent suspension which can be accomplished by a bishop only by means of a tribunal/judicial process. To do so by means of an administrative act will necessitate the special permission of the Holy See. The article implies that this suspension will take place in every case wherein it is proven that a cleric has sexually abused a minor, past present or future. In dealing with past offenses then, the bishops will need a waiver from the present canonical norm of the statue of limitations.

Concerning laicization (commonly referred to as "defrocking") the Charter states nothing new or radical. An offending cleric will be given the option of petitioning the Holy See for laicization with the assurance that it will bequickly granted. In some cases the bishops may decide to ask the Holy See to laicize or dismiss a cleric without his consent. This too is a process that has been followed for at least the past 5 years in this country.

The bishops had no authority to authorize a "zero tolerance" policy on their own.To definitively dismiss a cleric from the clerical state...i.e., to defrock or laicize him, can only be done on the diocesan level by means of a canonical trial. This is a lengthy,complex process. With a good defense attorney a convicted cleric could avoid the imposition of the most severe penalty available to the tribunal, which is dismissal from the clerical state. Thus, this avenue would be practically useless in achieving the goal of removing offending clerics from the clerical state.

The only other alternative for the bishops would be to request the Holy See to give them the power to laicize or defrock clerics using an administrative process. The Vatican would almost certainly not permit this because of its fear that accused priests would be denied due process or that bishops would usethe process to unilaterally get rid of clerics deemed troublesome for other reasons. [N.B. Fr. Doyle has said to me before that this ie why he himself opposes this.]

A possible course of action for the bishops would have been a specific petition to the Holy See for a streamlined and expeditious process whereby proven abusive clerics (past or present) would be laicized by the Holy See. Such a procedure, if actually followed by bishops, would possibly have satisfied the demands and concern of victims and survivors and others. Short of this, the proposals in the Charter are nothing different than what is presently contained in the Code of Canon law.

The Codeof Canon law (both editions, 1917 and 1983) contained explicit procedures for investigating allegations of sexual abuse, documenting such investigations, prosecuting allegations in a judicial forum, imposing punishment and providing just compensation to victims. Yet the provisions of the Code were never faithfully followed anywhere in thiscountry.The reason they were not followed and consequently serve as no guarantee of a just solution to the problem of clergy sexual abuse, is the stark fact that they are totally controlled by the bishop. There is no such thing as a separation of powers in the Catholic church. In each diocese the offices of executive, legislator and judge are combined in the bishop. Hence, the inability for full accountability is canonically institutionalized.

The Charter is concerned with the protection of children and young people. Yet the majority of those actually sexually abused or harassed by Catholic clerics are adult women.Although society rightly considers child sexual abuse to be horrific beyond compare and rightfully so, this is no excuse for the bishops to have ignored the issue of sexual abuse of women. This issue demands as much attention as the sexual abuse of children and young adolescents. Sexual abuse no matter what the age of the victim, is devastating with life-long consequences.To even entertain the erroneous belief that adult women somehow are partially responsible when they are sexually abused is infuriating to victims and holds the bishops or anyonewho purports such an idea up to ridicule.

The bishops did not address the issue of their own responsibility for the cover-ups. Mention was made by Bishop Gregory in his otherwise outstanding statements. Yet the body of bishops failed to honestly confront the most vital aspect of the crisis. The actions of the bishops are what have engendered the anger and even fury of the victims, survivors and others,Catholic and non-Catholic alike. This issue must be dealt with in an openand honest forum participated in by not only bishops, but victims , laity and other concerned clerics. This single issue is the one that is pivotal for the bishops credibility. It is the reason for the lack of trust and its resolution will be the single most important aspect if the bishops ever expect to be presumed credible.

The Charter should have included a section specifically devoted to the demeaning and destructive hard-ball tactics employed by diocesan and insurance lawyers.The bishops should have pledged some form of reparation for this gross re-victimization of so many survivors. They should also have pledged an immediate end to such tactics.

The Bishops, in the Charter or elsewhere, should have addressed the gross misrepresentation of this problem by certain Vatican officials, bishops and cardinals in other countries and in certain unofficial Vatican publications. To address such outlandish characterizations of this problem would in no way deny anyone's freedom of statement. To have failed to do so significantly adds to the re-victimization and humiliation of the victims and survivors. The statements by certain Latin American cardinals and bishops as well as certain Vatican officials, are self-serving, clericalist and totally devoid of any semblance of compassion or concern for the victims.

The restoration of the bishops' credibility and trust is secondary in importance to the healing of the victims and survivors. This will only begin when the bishops and other clerical leaders of the Catholic church move beyond words and begin to consistently act in a manner that convinces the victims, thesurvivors, their supporters and people everywhere that they truly are concerned not with their power and position but with the emotional and spiritual well-being of those who have been horrendously harmed by clergy sexual abuse.

For astute canonical analysis of what's transpired, go to see what Peter Vere has to say.

From the NYTimes (LRR), Governor Frank Keating on how he envisions his work on the bishop's board:

I agree with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who has said that the bishops must be held accountable for what has occurred — and what will occur — on their watch. The commission will see to that. In any case where a bishop is found to have provable knowledge of illegal activities committed by a priest under his charge, and where that bishop knowingly covered up such activities, he should also be held legally accountable as an accessory to the crimes involved. The commission is capable of calling the public's attention to bishops who do not follow the guidelines adopted yesterday, and we intend to do so.

The commission's third and most important goal might best be described as theological. We do not propose to rewrite church doctrine. But to undertake the reform of a religious institution, addressing serious violations of a religious oath, one must begin from a base of faith. My faith has taught me that guilt is a valuable emotion when it leads to atonement. Atonement is more than repentance and a plea for forgiveness; it also implies accountability.

Many leaders of my church have a great deal to be guilty about these days, and mea culpas are not enough. The public, and especially the Catholic laity, will watch what they say, but we will also watch what they do to right past wrongs and to protect the vulnerable and the innocent. The commission will insist that action follows word, that deeds are consistent with the stated intent of the charter.

It is time to apply some old-fashioned Catholic guilt to a tragic situation. Rules, policies, enforcement, even defrocking and criminal prosecution — all are essential to the protection of innocent young people and to the restoration of a beloved institution's integrity.

Sounds like a good start - but I still have to wonder....

Robert Bennett??? What was wrong with Bill? Oh yeah. He thought someone should resign. Defending wrong-doers isn't his gig.

Here's a good summary of Friday's events from the WaPost
The print media has done a decent job covering these scandals, but the television news networks, both cable and regular broadcast have, for the most part, done their usual shoddy, blinkered job. The cable coverage of the bishops' meeting was particularly bad and the most irritating feature was their dependence on Cardinal Mahony for commentary. Of course, he must present himself as a commentator, but one has to wonder, why do they even agree to sit with him, listen to his deceptive blather and nod, without drawing any attention to his brazen hypocricy or questioning his own record and his own statements about this record?

Thank goodness for LA's alternative New Times, which has stayed on Mahony's case, including this week in a this article that focuses on how Mahony has protected seminary cronies and students:

Nowhere is the cohesion of the Mahony buddy system more evident than in the case of G. Patrick Zieman, a prize student whom Mahony had elevated to auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles before persuading the Vatican to appoint him as Santa Rosa's bishop. According to police reports, Zieman forced a young priest brought up from Costa Rica (who quickly got into trouble that required the bishop's help) to wear a beeper so that Zieman could beckon him for sex at all hours. Some of the trysts occurred inside the bishop's diocesan office. Having averted criminal prosecution, Zieman is still a Roman Catholic bishop, conducting mass and otherwise holding counsel in comfortable exile at a monastery in the Arizona desert outside Tucson. (Sources say he is a fixture of Tucson's artsy party scene, and was even spotted recently at a karaoke bar.)

You really need to read this long, but illuminating article.

It is a gorgeous day here. The sun pours down on our corner of the world, but not in that skin-ripping kind of way that it does in a Florida summer. No, today, we're being showered with just the right combination of elements from above: sunshine and a coolish breeze that drifts through our open doors and windows. We're not sweating, we're not freezing. We're just right. After the baby awakes from his nap, we'll walk in the park. At a leisurely pace today. I'm not energetic for a brisk "Gotta lose twenty pounds" turn around the park. I want to let the baby smell the roses and confront the swing. Funny. He loved the swing when he was six months old, but now he's not so sure.

Germanfest was itself last night. Downtown Fort Wayne sees festivals of one sort or another almost every weekend during the warm months. Its residents are so desperate to be outside after months of winter and even spring chill, they'll take any excuse to go to the pavilion at Headwaters park, hook a plastic beer pitcher to their belts and enjoy the music.

Katie alternated between flinging herself around the dance floor and burying her nose in her book at the table. Joseph alternated between complaining and lurching around the dance floor.


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