Saturday, August 24

A look at five priests who are fighting back against sexual abuse allegations with civil suits

Because all five cases have been filed since early July, they have invited comparison. Father Eremito was removed from his duties in the Archdiocese of New York in 1992 after accusations of sexual abuse. But the career records of the four priests in the Tulsa, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Cleveland dioceses show no allegations of sex abuse beyond the single accusations that the priests have contested, church officials said. Because of those otherwise unblemished records, all four priests have received at least private endorsement for their civil lawsuits from their bishops, church officials and the priests' lawyers said.

I hope truth comes out - that falsehood on any side is exposed as just that. However, the slight problem I have in this reporting, as well as in other similar types of reports, is the implication that because an alleged victim is a criminal or has had substance abuse problems, they are not credible. Some might see it that way - but I see it this way: Abuse can (although not necessarily does) lead to dysfunctional behavior on the part of the victim. Further, it is not unthinkable that an abuser would purposefully pick out victims who come from damaged backgrounds or are already engaging in questionable behavior as a way of protecting themselves against future accusations - "Look at me! Priest! Look at him! Drug addicted petty thief! Who are you going to believe?"

Heartwrenching story from tomorrow's NYTimes Magazine about the struggle to keep a pregnancy - and a newborn - going in the wake of pre-eclampsia.
From the NYTimes Book Review: Judith Shulevitz writes about the perils of writing about faith

In other words, religious sentiment can be deadly to the literary impulse, which must be as willing to traffic in vain chatter and smart wit as in solemnity and uplift. Fortunately, there are always a few writers in a generation capable of taking on religion without limiting themselves to the higher emotions. The past few years have seen a remarkable number of books that never make the reader cringe despite their expressions of love for God or religion. I'm thinking of Garry Wills's ''Why I Am a Catholic,'' Leon Wieseltier's ''Kaddish,'' James Carroll's ''Constantine's Sword'' and Jonathan Rosen's ''Talmud and the Internet.''

Well. I guess. What I guess is that Shulevitz doesn't do a lot of reading on the subject - the books she cites are all acceptable-to-the-NYTimes-Bestseller-List type of books. Can we assure Shulevitz that there are plenty of good writers out there writing about their faith who might not cause even her to cringe?

And to say this about Augustine's Confessions:

The larger lesson here may be that it is possible to conduct a dignified yet personal conversation about religion if you do it with artful restraint. This isn't all that surprising, but we tend to forget that the model for all personal discussion of belief, Augustine's ''Confessions,'' is less a work of self-revelation than of philosophy, a critique of Manichaeism and a working-through of Neoplatonist ideas about God, the self and the world.

Has she read the Confessions? It is a deeply personal work, boldly revealing of the passions with which Augustine wrestled at his most heartfelt level - even his "theological" questions that he pours out in Book One bear the mark of a searching soul, not a mere intellectual working out problems.

Terry Mattingly on the trend of "missionary cohabitating"

Church people have a name for what happens when young believers get romantically involved with unbelievers.They call it "missionary dating," usually with one eyebrow raised in skepticism. Most of these relationships involve a good girl who is convinced that, with time, she can help a bad boy see the error of his ways and learn to walk the straight and narrow path. Times have changed. According to new research, a surprising number of females have graduated from "missionary dating" to "missionary cohabitating." "My theory is that women are willing to make sacrifices for their partners, once they have become emotionally attached," said researcher Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. "They're willing to make compromises to try to hang on to the relationship. Men won't do that."These girls are probably thinking, 'He's not perfect. But I love him and I can help him change.' Meanwhile, we know what the guys are thinking. They're thinking, 'I'm not sure she is the one I want. She's not my soul mate. But she'll do for now.' " What is fascinating is that women who say they are deeply religious are just as likely to live with men before marriage as women who are not, wrote Stanley, Sarah Whitton and Howard Markman. Their work is summarized in "Maybe I Do: Interpersonal Commitment and Premarital or Non-Marital Cohabitation," written for the Journal of Family Issues.

A very cool new search engine: Kartoo. I don't quite get it, but it's purty to look at.
Priests slaps girl he's baptizing

A Spanish priest baptizing a 3-year-old girl slapped the child in the face because she would not stop crying, a newspaper reported Saturday.Father Enrique Abad of Santa Rosa parish in the southeast town of Alcoy had asked the mother of 3-year-old Alba Diaz Pons to quiet her during the ceremony last Saturday, El Mundo said.
A firecracker explosion outside the church upset the girl even more. So as Abad anointed the child's forehead with oil, he slapped her in the face with his other hand, the paper said.


From the NYTimes: (LRR): A look at how zero-tolerance has impacted the diocese of Amarillo which, at most, has had 41 priests in recent years - 8 have had to leave because of the policy.

Of course. part of the reason for that is that the previous bisop made it a habit to recruit priests who were doing time in treatment centers for service in his diocese. The first priest described in the story had done jail time in California.

Bishop Matthiesen had hired him directly from a treatment program at Jemez Springs, N.M. where parole officers in California had allowed the priest to enroll for rehabilitation and counseling on sexual abuse. California officials refused to transfer his parole to Texas, so he had to return to New Mexico to finish his sentence. "I trusted the professional people at Jemez, who gave me a very good report on him," Bishop Matthiesen now says, explaining why he hired a man with a criminal conviction for sexual abuse of minors. "Their evaluation of him was that he could minister."By his own admission, Bishop Matthiesen developed a close relationship with officials at Jemez Springs, who began to recommend other priests from the program to him. He said he earned a reputation for taking such priests and began getting referrals from other bishops. He took one priest from a program in Maryland. He denied that he took the priests because of any difficulty in recruiting candidates in such a remote and small diocese, but his successor, Bishop Yanta, has told parishioners that was the case....In the cases of the eight priests, Bishop Matthiesen said he accepted at least five from the New Mexico treatment center and never told parishioners of their backgrounds. He said he had instituted safeguards, like monthly group sessions and meetings with a counselor for the priests. He also noted that none of these priests had been accused of any wrongdoing in the Amarillo diocese."I think I made the right decision," said Bishop Matthiesen, noting that he never accepted pedophiles but rather ephebophiles, abusers whose victims were ages 14 to 17. "I do believe in the possibility of conversion, of repentance, of rehabilitation."His mistake, he now says, was not telling parishioners."I personally wish I had done that," the bishop said. "But it wasn't what we did in those days."

Also from the Tikmes, the bishops have appointed the final member of the review board, Justice Petra J. Maes of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

SNAP has hardly any funds.

The leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests have had a dizzying year, getting quoted on newspaper front pages across the country, chatting with Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue on national television and meeting with lay and ordained church leaders in Dallas and Washington, D.C.And although the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis has catapulted SNAP's once unpopular cause from the shadows of obscurity into the limelight, the group's finances often still linger in the red.SNAP's leaders have no letterhead, no national office and no operating budget. Their headquarters in Chicago is essentially a post office box. Their Midwest regional office is in Milwaukee, in donated space in Plymouth United Church of Christ, with no telephone....Clohessy, 45, said the most that SNAP had raised in any previous year was about $5,000, mainly from members."I used to say that we are a low-budget organization, and someone pointed out to me that this isn't true," Clohessy said. "We are a no-budget organization. If we had not been so busy simply trying to deal with people in pain, we certainly could have done a better job at organization building and fund raising."SNAP began soliciting donations at its Web site earlier this year, with people able to donate with credit cards through the PayPal Internet service. That has raised about $15,000. Another $12,000 to $15,000 has come from groups and individuals in other ways, including $5,000 from a California foundation and $2,000 from the Voice of the Faithful chapter in Boston, Clohessy said.


Jeb Bush cites religious bigotry as motivating force in outcry against appointment

Gov. Jeb Bush defended his choice to lead Florida's beleaguered child welfare agency after an article surfaced in which he condoned "manly" discipline of children and asserted that men have authority over their wives. Bush told reporters Friday that he questioned whether Jerry Regier was being pilloried because of his conservative religious views, and condemned a "soft bigotry that is emerging against people of faith." "It really doesn't matter if Jerry has a deep and abiding faith and it certainly doesn't disqualify him for public service," Bush said as Regier stood nearby. "I think there's bigotry here and it troubles me."

From Karen, two links related to the about-to-be elevated Dolan:

Archbishop looks forward to making Milwaukee home and Everything you ever wanted to know about Dolan

A short interview with a Catholic seminarian from the Boston Globe
Detroit man arrested for driving drunk on his way to performing a circumcision.

Write your own joke. Or - don't. Please.

From St. Petersburg: A look at the Jehovah's Witness practice of "disfellowshipping" or excommunication
The Thing is Jewish - From the Dallas Morning News (LRR), a a look at the religious faith of comic book heroes.

There have been a few characters over the years whose faith has been made explicit. Daredevil, the blind superhero who will be played by Ben Affleck, is Catholic. Nightcrawler, a member of the X-Men who may make it into the next movie, is considering becoming a Catholic priest. But their religion will not be a part of the upcoming movies. Neither is Ben's faith a part of the plan for the FF movie, or the Punisher's for that character's movie, Marvel officials said. Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad declined to explain why faith wasn't woven into the scripts. But comics industry experts said it was for the same reason religion hasn't been a big part of the books: Not offending is safer.

From the AP: The pain of closing ethnic parishes:

In the 1800s and 1900s, Eastern European immigrants flooded into southwestern Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines and steel mills. Neighborhoods in and around Pittsburgh swelled with their numbers. The immigrants brought with them their work ethic, their languages and their religions. Churches — many of them Catholic — sprung up, statues of patron saints watching over them in the New World, masses being held in their native tongues. Now, in Pittsburgh and across the nation, many of those old ethnic churches are gone, and parishioners worry their cultural past could be lost. On the same day Holy Trinity shut its doors in Ford City, 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, two other ethnic parishes did the same: St. Francis of Paola, a predominantly Polish church, and St. Mary's, attended by German families. Church officials said there were too few people to support keeping all three. It was the same story a month earlier in McKeesport, where St. Stephen's closed after ministering to Hungarian immigrants for more than a century. It had gone as far in its early history to import a priest from Hungary to serve Mass; there were 13 oaken statues inside the church, each representing an aspect of Hungarian history and religion.

From North Carolina: A story about Hispanics drawn to Pentecostalism:

Like most people in his native Colombia, Jairo Gallego grew up Roman Catholic. But after immigrating to the United States, the Raleigh man grew bored with what he saw as tedious, repetitive Masses. He stopped attending church, but he could not find anything to fill his spiritual void.Then, two years ago, as he prayed with a Pentecostal minister whom his sister had invited to their mother's house, Gallego suddenly found what he had been seeking for so long. The prayer was more inspired and more emotional than what he had experienced as a Catholic, he said, and it spoke directly to him."I converted right there," recalled Gallego, who minutes before had been swaying to the rollicking music that boomed inside Primera Asamblea de Dios, a Spanish-language Assemblies of God church in North Raleigh."Here I feel joy, and during the music, I can barely sing, because I want to cry," he said. "I feel something I never felt at Catholic Mass. They don't praise God like we praise God here."....There's no way to know whether Jairo Gallego would still be attending Mass if he hadn't immigrated to the United States. But once he converted, he made his church the center of his social life and began making wholesale changes to his life, such as quitting smoking and drinking. "I never really wanted to do those things, but I couldn't change, because the Catholic Church never taught me how to change," he said.

Tampa-area podiatrist accused of stockpiling weapons, targeting mosques.
Two tales of parishes backing their priests. Very different accusations, very different parishes.

In the first, St. John Parish in Worcester, Mass defends its priest accused of bad things with boys. (before he was a priest) The story is also examined by Leon Podles at the Touchstone Blog (top item)

In the second, traditional parish Assumption Grotto in Detroit is rallying to the defense of an African priest about to go on trial for rape there and accused of it in other states.

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