Mark Stephen Murray @MarkStephenMur2
I want the Combonis to repent for what they have put many men that were abused by their priests through. Repent. Turn around. Treat victims and survivors with understanding, love and empathy. Not hate and intimidation. We were chidren.
U.S. Catholic Bishops Meet in the Shadow, Still, of Clergy Sex Abuse
By ED CONDON
November 10, 2018 6:30 AM
(Carlos Barria/Reuters)Expect them to offer solutions to problems. What the public wants, however, are answers to its questions.
This weekend, the Catholic bishops of the United States gather in Baltimore ahead of their three-day annual general assembly, which opens Monday. By coincidence, it will be 16 years exactly since their session in 2002, when they met to amend and adopt two measures, now known as the Dallas Charter and the Essential Norms, in response to the last great eruption of the Church’s sex-abuse crisis in the United States.
On November 13, 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, and other luminaries took to the microphone to praise the “significant progress” that had been made. “Thank God we are where we are today,” Law told the bishops as they nodded along. “We’ve got to get past this,” McCarrick said. “We can’t have Dallas 2 and Dallas 3 and Dallas 4.”
Thanks in large measure to “Uncle Ted,” Dallas 2 is very much what the bishops are now facing: a comprehensive and codified response to a national moral crisis of credibility. Many Catholics report that, while they continue to trust their local priest, they consider the episcopate suspect.
Many of the country’s senior prelates are looking forward to Baltimore as the moment when they can begin to move past the scandals of the past few months. Many concede that sacrifices will have to be offered, and publicly. A binding code of conduct for bishops has been circulated, as has a detailed proposal for a new independent commission to investigate accusations against bishops.
The bishops will be desperate to leave Baltimore with a tangible result; votes will be cast and measures adopted. A document of some kind will be taken back to the dioceses and flapped before the faithful by bishops insisting that “we heard you and we acted.”
But have they? Will they? Can they?
That Cardinal Law, the man responsible for so much of the last crisis, was given a respectful hearing in 2002, instead of being hooted back to his chair, is an indication of how strong is the instinct not to look a problem in the eye.
The U.S. bishops have always offered more “solutions” than answers, looking ahead instead of looking around. For example, one of the first to call for a lay-led investigation into McCarrick was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, his successor as archbishop of Washington. Yet Wuerl has pointedly refused to answer simple questions about what he knew about his predecessor and when he knew it.
As they gather this weekend, it’s not at all clear that the bishops understand the causes of the problem facing them, let alone agree on how to solve it. The Pennsylvania grand-jury report, released in July, detailed the horrific sexual abuse of minors in several dioceses over a period of decades, and similar investigations are now under way in a growing number of states. At the same time, particularly in the wake of the McCarrick scandal, accounts have emerged of the almost habitual sexual harassment of seminarians in some dioceses, and of young priests too. Independent investigations are underway by local bishops to examine allegations of serious sexual misconduct in seminaries in Boston, Philadelphia, and Newark.
In condemning sexual abuse and demanding “zero tolerance,” some bishops are deliberately adding “of minors” as a qualifier, while others are taking as a whole the two problems, the sexual abuse of minors and the sexual harassment of seminarians and young priests. The bishops appear divided also between those who think that the current crisis is not primarily about sex and those who think that the heart of the scandal is that some clergy are illicitly engaged in sexual activity, particularly homosexual activity. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, for example, belongs to the former camp. He has called the issue of active homosexuality among the clergy a “distraction” from “the clericalism that’s much deeper as a part of this problem.”
Cupich is joined by a few others in calling clericalism the root of the sexual-abuse crisis facing the Church. Decrying a culture of entitlement and elitism among the clergy, they maintain that it is wrong and scapegoating to blame the problem on “gay priests.”
Cupich himself, however, removed two priests from ministry in Chicago in September after their arrest by Miami Beach police, who found them engaging in vigorous acts of “clericalism” in a parked car near a playground, in full public view, in the middle of the afternoon. One of the priests was ordained for the Chicago archdiocese through a vocational program that was known for homosexual activity among its students and that for a time was led by a priest who was arrested for child pornography in 2016.
Others attempting to explain the crisis point to a network of clergy bound by common sexual experiences, even as victims, in their seminary days. They argue that the bond of a common secret, or common disdain for Church teaching on sexuality, creates a culture of winking tolerance for sexual activity, even when it involves teenagers and other minors. They point out that about 80 percent of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy are against young men or boys.
Others who see the abuse crisis as a crisis of faith among bishops and priests posit that a small but deeply entrenched minority among the clergy are still angry at the Church’s rejection of the sexual revolution. On this view, the dissident clergy presume that eventually the Church can be brought to change its teaching to reflect the values of a more sexually permissive culture, one rooted in radical thought from the 1970s, when organizations such as NAMBLA (the North American Man/Boy Love Association) and the U.K.’s Paedophile Information Exchange held respectable places in the gay-rights movement.
For all the show of unity that will be on offer in Baltimore, it’s little secret that several of the participants cordially detest one another — and their differing assessments of the scandals. Yet few bishops, however diligent, are 100 percent satisfied that they know every dark secret that might have been buried in a file by their predecessors, leaving a roomful of men deathly afraid of casting the first stone.
The result is an especially bloodless and impersonal kind of compromise: a statement expressing corporate remorse for group failings but blaming no one in particular. The “solutions” we can expect out of Baltimore will, of course, include promises of tough new measures for the future. But they will answer none the questions Catholics have about how we got here.
If the measures proposed so far are an indication, the bishops hope that by cutting off their noses, they can keep their heads. It may have worked last time, but the faithful have had enough of group apologies, corporate remorse, and atonement by policy.
The one thing Catholics have learned since Dallas is that the sins of a few members can sicken the whole body. They want personal accountability. They want to know who knew what when, and why they didn’t do anything about it. They are sick of their leaders’ respectful silences and grey-faced unity, which has been shown to serve offending bishops, not the faithful.
What the faithful want is to see lines drawn. They want to see good bishops get angry and complicit bishops get scared. They want names named. Above all, they want to know that, in years to come, watching footage of Baltimore 2018 won’t make their gorge rise at the sight of another McCarrick telling us “we have to move on.”
Top Catholic Bishop to be Questioned over Child Abuse Scandal
Cardinal Vincent Nichols will be First Leader of English Church to Testify under Oath
An Observer Article by Harriet Sherwood (Sat 10 Nov 2018)
The Roman Catholic church in England will come under intense scrutiny this week over its handling of child sexual abuse and the cover-up of predatory priests by bishops and other senior figures.
Survivors of rape and assault will testify over five days at an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, along with church leaders, officials and child protection experts in a case study examining the archdiocese of Birmingham.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, will give evidence in person on Tuesday – the first time that the most senior Catholic in England has been cross-examined under oath. He was archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009. Bernard Longley, the current archbishop of Birmingham, will also be cross-examined. All other earlier archbishops of the diocese have died.
A series of scandals has shaken the global church this year, embroiling Pope Francis in the biggest crisis of his papacy. At a preliminary hearing in September Alexis Jay, who chairs the sex abuse inquiry, said it would examine “the extent of any institutional failures” by the church in Birmingham to protect children. Birmingham was chosen as a case study because it is the largest archdiocese in England, stretching from Stoke-on-Trent to Reading.
The hearing is expected to focus on the cases of Father Samuel Penney and Father James Robinson, who were convicted of child abuse, and two other priests against whom allegations were made.
Last weekend churches across the archdiocese read out a letter from Longley that said he and Nichols were “at one in our sense of shame and sorrow” over abuse.
Two reports commissioned by the archdiocese had highlighted serious past failures and current areas requiring significant improvement, Longley told parishioners. “We are acting promptly to put their recommendations into action.” The two archbishops were united “in our willingness to assist this public inquiry and to learn from its findings”, he added.
Longley’s letter followed one sent by Nichols in August to all parishes in the diocese of Westminster, in which he said he took personal responsibility for the church’s failures to protect children. “I am utterly ashamed that this evil has, for so long, found a place in our house, our church,” he wrote.
“I bear this shame in a direct way, for it is the direct responsibility of a father to protect his household from harm, no matter how difficult and complex that might be.”
David Enright, who represents a number of survivors as head of the child abuse team at Howe & Co solicitors, said the church was “structurally incapable of implementing minimum uniform standards of child protection”. The safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be taken out of its hands.
“Not a week goes by where there is not yet another astonishing revelation about child abuse, both here and abroad, perpetrated within the Catholic church. That church is either directly or indirectly involved in the education of almost a million children in Britain, as well as care homes, playgroups, Sunday schools and a plethora of other spaces involving child care,” he said.
“The Catholic church, as currently constituted, in relation to child safeguarding, presents a clear and present danger to British children.”
The pope has come under increasing pressure on the issue this year. He was heavily criticised for his robust defence of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse, and was later forced to apologise and accept the bishop’s resignation.
He was slow to respond to a devastating 900-page grand jury investigation of clerical sex crimes in Pennsylvania, waiting almost a week before writing of the church’s shame.
He made a disastrous visit to Ireland in August, where he appeared unprepared for the hostility of survivors of abuse and the widespread sympathy for them.
A retired Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, publicly called on Francis to resign, claiming the pope had ignored widespread rumours about a former archbishop of Washington, instead favouring him as a papal emissary. Viganò’s incendiary claims were seized on by Francis’s enemies within the Vatican, triggering internecine warfare at the heart of the Catholic hierarchy.
Last month a survey found that Francis’s popularity ratings among US Roman Catholics had plummeted as a result of his perceived mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis.
Britain’s independent inquiry is expected to hold further hearings into child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England next year.
Top Catholic bishop to be questioned over child abuse scandal
Mark Stephen Murray @MarkStephenMur2
Open letter to the US Catholic bishops:
by National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff – 9th November 2018
Dear brothers in Christ, shepherds, fellow pilgrims,
We address you as you approach this year’s national meeting in Baltimore because we know there is nowhere left to hide.
All the manipulations and contortions of the past 33 years, all the attempts to deflect and equivocate — all of it has brought the church, but especially you, to this moment.
Even the feds are now on the trail. They’ve ordered that you not destroy any documents. The Department of Justice is conducting a national criminal investigation of how you’ve handled the clergy sex abuse scandal. It is a point in our history without precedent. We want you to know that you aren’t alone in this moment, you’ve not been abandoned. But this time it must be different. This time it won’t be easy.
From fable to sacred text, we know how this goes. The point is reached where all realize the king wears no clothes, the righteous accusers read the writing in the sand and fade away, the religious authorities receive the Master’s most stinging rebukes. As a class of religious rulers, the loudest among you have become quite good at applying the law and claiming divine authority in marginalizing those who transgress the statutes. The prolonged abuse scandal would suggest, however, that you’ve not done very well taking stock of yourselves.
We have no special insight into why this moment — the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the downfall of Theodore McCarrick — has so captured the public imagination and pushed the church to this outer limit of exposure and vulnerability. There are theories, not least of which is that the opportunists among us are attempting to use this moment to bring down the only pope who has actually dethroned bishops and a cardinal for their crimes and indiscretions.
But that’s an issue for another time.
The reality, we all know, is that it has been going on for a long time. The first national story appeared across four pages of this publication in the summer of 1985. The worst of it occurred during the pontificate of the hastily sainted John Paul II, a giant on the world stage, but a pastor who let wolves roam his own flock. His idealized concept of heroic priesthood apparently left him incapable of hearing the truth from credible witnesses, including the few bishops who dared disturb that idealized world with troubling reports. He promoted to the end Marciel Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, and a persona who came to represent the worst of the abuse scandal. Maciel, an accomplished sycophant, kept scrutiny at bay with his ability to spread a lot of young priests and a lot of money around the Vatican.
The point beyond dispute is that we are at a moment in U.S. church history — and perhaps in the history of the global church — without precedent. This is not about debatable matters — celibacy or the filioque clause, or the primacy of Scripture or whether the Earth is the center of the universe or whether women should be allowed ordination or any of the hot button issues that have kept us roiling and at each others’ throats these past decades. This, instead, is about a rot at the heart of the culture entrusted with leadership of the Catholic community. A rot so pervasive that it has touched every aspect of the community’s life, disrupting all of the certainties and presumptions about who we are and who you are that helped hold this community together.
Those who worked so ardently in the past to enable you — the faithful, so betrayed, who just couldn’t believe you would engage in such a deliberate cover up; the likes of George Weigel and his blind, uncritical hagiography of Pope John Paul II; Dr. Mary Ann Glendon and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and their naive celebration and defense of Maciel; the rest of the chorus at First Things and like publications; the telling silence of so many other Catholic outlets; the absurdity of charlatan William Donohue and his silly “Catholic” League — they helped sustain your weak narrative as many of them denigrated those who raised the tough questions and pursued the truth.
None of them any longer has a persuasive case to make. Some of them now try to blame the crisis on gay priests. You might be tempted to latch onto that diversion, but it will only prolong the already intolerably long agony.
Gay priests and bishops are certainly among us — probably a greater percentage of gays in the Catholic clergy, if anecdotal evidence and the private chatter of seminary rectors and heads of orders is to be believed, than one would find in the general population.
The clergy culture is in deep need of serious conversation and education about that issue and much more regarding sexuality. That discussion is unlikely on any significant scale because too many bishops and too many priests, if they were honest, would have to admit to an orientation that the church still calls “disordered.” Unless the preponderance of credible experts has suddenly flipped its understanding of things, however, sexual orientation is not one of the topics that match with sexual abuse.
Orientation is not a determining factor in abuse of children. If it were, we’d have to be investigating heterosexual orientation as a cause because a lot of abuse is perpetrated by heterosexual men upon boys and girls. So, take that path if you’d like, but be prepared to lose whatever bit of credibility might be left in the tank.
You’ve been ensconced in a culture that has for too long protected you from the consequences of your worst instincts. The boundaries that once kept your culture safe from scrutiny have become as irrelevant today as the moats and walls of previous centuries. There is no hiding any longer. You’ve been imbibing the excesses of power, authority and privilege that have accrued over centuries and, like the addict who hits bottom, a fundamental decision for recovery is essential to your survival.
You’ve hit bottom not because the latest gush of bad news resulted from a resolve to come clean and tell the truth. It resulted from yet another investigation. In short, you were moved to words of contrition because you were, once again, caught. Yes, most of it is old news. Yes, the coverup was engineered mostly by bishops who are no longer in office or have died. News organizations once reluctant to take you on for fear of being labeled anti-Catholic are no longer reticent.
You’ve become certain clickbait. And you will continue to be as, in diocese after diocese, more documents are released and revealed and more grand juries look into the inner workings of this institution over the past 50 years or so. It is self-inflicted pain.
And please stop asserting that you did not know what was going on before 2002. If the scandal exploded in 2002, it was because a long fuse had already set off explosions in city after city and state after state and been chronicled widely for 17 years before the spark hit Boston. In the aftermath of those explosions, you were certain enough about what was going on and its potential consequences that you employed individually and corporately legions of lawyers. You knew enough to keep secret files under lock and key. You knew it was evil enough that you had to hide it.
There is no denying you’ve done a lot of adjusting to the bad news. You put together a charter to protect youth. (Fair to note that it’s taken you 16 years to get around to considering including yourselves among those to be held accountable.) You’ve instituted a national office, paid for elaborate studies, instituted national and local review boards, held reconciliation services and required child protection training and background checks, and paid billions in settlements. The church is indisputably a safer place for kids for all of that effort. But it was all done in reaction to outside forces.
The only thing you can’t be forced to do is what you would say our sacramental tradition requires: a deep personal examination, telling the truth, begging forgiveness and a resolve to amend.
The examination begins with the question that only you can answer, individually and as a group: How did we and our brothers in the past, as leaders of this clerical culture, reach the point where we could rationalize turning our backs on children who had been sexually tortured by our priests to protect those priests and our culture? One of your brothers, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, has already laid out some appropriate steps. Bishops must “cede authority,” he said, to allow for greater accountability to outside authority. He also said that “privilege, power and protection of a clerical culture” have to be “eradicated from the life of the church” or “everything else is a sideshow.”
Those are worthy points to consider. The retreat you’ve scheduled for January would be the perfect place to do just that as a body. A suggestion: attend in mufti and leave all the trappings, the collars and black suits, all the silk and lace and pectoral crosses at home. God will recognize you. Take that little step in humility and actually meet as brothers. Seek out those among you who have suffered, who have known what it means to come through pain or addiction or illness. Ask them to help lead you out of this dark moment. They would know the way.
When it is over, and here we make a suggestion that runs contrary to journalistic interest: Be quiet. No grand pronouncements.
In the months to follow, as the federal investigation likely forces out more documents and that burning fuse continues to set off explosions, some of you may pay dearly for what you have or have not done in the past. We’ll know how your retreat went by how you act in those moments.
We’ll know whether you’ve really hit bottom and are on the mend with the best interests of the community at heart or whether you’re still in search of cheap grace and the easy way out.
In the name of the child victims, the families torn apart, the parents who know no end to their agony, the body of Christ subjected to relentless humiliation for decades, it has to be over. This time has to be different.
We pray for you,
Your sisters and brothers, your fellow pilgrims, the church.