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by Peterr

A Little Fundraising Advice for LA Archbishop Gomez

6:30 pm in accountability, child abuse, Religion by Peterr

The chair of the archbishop, Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels

According to the Los Angeles Times, Roman Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez is worried about money. Says the paper, “The archdiocese has hired a New York company, Guidance In Giving Inc., to study the feasibility of a large-scale fundraiser that would shore up a bottom line hit hard by costly abuse litigation.” How large is large-scale? The Times puts the size of the proposed campaign at $200 million.

A couple of thoughts: First, if you pay a consultant to help you decide whether you should engage in a bigger project that would bring the consultant even more money . . . well, the words “conflict of interest” come to mind. But that’s a minor point. They know they need to raise the money, so the question they really are asking is how.

Which brings me to the second point: In my experience, there are two — and only two — times when a church organization undertakes a capital campaign like this.

One is when there is such excitement and energy that the time is right to take a bold step forward around a particular well-agreed-upon program. “We’re bursting at the seams, and we need to build a new building,” a parish might say, or “many of our parishes are growing dramatically, and we have to divide them, build new sanctuaries, and bring in new clergy to minister to them” says a bishop.

The other is when there is such a dire crisis that the energy of the community needs to be harnessed to address the crisis. “The creek behind the church overflowed its banks, flooded the basement, and caused a fire — and because it was all traced back to a flood, it is not covered by insurance because we don’t have flood insurance.”

Sadly, Archbishop Gomez and his archdiocese are not looking at the first set of circumstances here. Even more sadly, they are simultaneously trying not to admit it is a terrible crisis. According to NBC News, the archdiocese “is exploring a campaign to raise $200 million for the diocese to meet ‘a variety of needs,’ including ‘priests’ retirement, seminarian education, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities and parish needs.’”

Sorry, but exploring a capital campaign with such a diffuse set of goals and needs is an exercise of dubious worth. It makes it look like the archdiocese is still trying to downplay the horrendous abuse scandal that has unfolded in their midst. Potential donors will see this, shake their heads, and ask “why should be trust what you are saying about why you are asking for money, when you try so hard not to say what is driving all this?” Only if the campaign is honestly and clearly focused does it have a hope of success.

So let me offer a little advice to Archbishop Gomez. It’s free, from one pastor to another, and maybe it will help.

The campaign starts with a simple letter that goes something like this: Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Better Late Than Never for Archbishop Gomez on Handling Cardinal Mahony

7:22 am in accountability, child abuse, Religion, Uncategorized by Peterr

Roman Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez shook the Catholic world yesterday by imposing unheard-of sanctions against his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony for Mahony’s actions to shield predatory priests from accountability during his years as the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In most of the coverage, this was rightly hailed as a strong action to advance the cause of justice, and to provided at least a measure of accountability even though criminal liability is probably not possible because the statute of limitations has probably expired.  The coverage misses one very negative aspect of Gomez’ actions, however. Before we get to that, let me provide a little background.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (then headed by Mahony) settled a group of over 500 civil suits over clerical child abuse, and since then has been fighting the release of their files related those cases. When they lost the battle to keep the files themselves secret, they tried to argue that the names of not just victims but church officials should be redacted. Some records were released last week, and last Monday, they lost their redaction argument, and yesterday, rather than appeal the ruling, they released the rest of the files.

What emerged was not pretty. Not pretty at all:

Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution, according to internal Catholic church records released Monday.

The archdiocese’s failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation’s largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders’ own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.

Ugly. The memos show Mahony and his staff shuttling some priests out of the country, and cherrypicking therapists for others, all in an effort to avoid accountability.

Mahony retired in 2011, and Archbishop José H. Gomez took over the archdiocese on March 1, 2011. Yesterday, in his letter accompanying the release of the unredacted files, Gomez described reading through them:

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.

We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.

I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011.

Then came the bombshell:

Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Bishops Will Be Bishops

3:11 pm in child abuse, Religion by Peterr

Bishop Finn "Boys will be boys."

[UPDATED -- See below]

Cardinal Bernard Law presided over the archdiocese of Boston, and protected abusive priests like John Geoghan and Paul Shanley from secular authorities. When the story came out in court in 2002, the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer prize for their coverage, collected here in a special webpage. As the archdiocese melted down, Pope John Paul II accepted Law’s resignation and transferred Law to Rome, giving him a prestigious post at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and retained him as a member of various important positions on Vatican boards and commissions.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua presided over the archdiocese of Philadelphia, and put his own power and reputation ahead of the protection of children. After two major grand jury investigations, Beviliacqua’s Secretary for Clergy, Monsignor William Lynn was indicted for covering things up. As I wrote a year ago,

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua escaped being hauled before a grand jury only because his doctor says he is near death and has bad memory issues. In their report, the grand jury basically said “we took mercy on him and didn’t name him in the indictment, but boy did he screw up here.” Either he knew what his assistant was doing and is culpable for the later abuse, or he didn’t know and should have. The grand jury report [pdf] is devastating, and the trial will be as well.

It was. Last June, I wrote this about the trial when the verdict of “guilty” came down:

Lynn’s lawyers tried to cast him as a mere functionary, who had no authority to challenge what the archbishop wanted done — and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Archbishop Bevilacqua wanted things hushed up and buried. . . .

At the trial, Bevilacqua’s actions were scrutinized. Father Thomas P. Doyle, the canon lawyer who tried to warn the USCCB about the dangers of covering up for child abusers back in the 1980s. In thanks for his work, the hierarchy of the church derailed his career and sidelined him from offering them any additional advice. The prosecution, however, put his advice front and center in the trial:

A priest who is an expert on canon law testified Thursday that in his opinion, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was guilty of obstructing justice when he ordered the shredding of a confidential memo in 1994 that listed 35 archdiocese priests accused of sex abuse.

Father Thomas P. Doyle, an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse, was asked on cross-examination what advice he would have given Bevilacqua.

“He’s got a list of 35 men who are sexually abusing children, and he’s going to shred it?” Doyle asked incredulously. “No way,” Father Doyle told the jury. “That’s like obstruction of justice.”

That sole “guilty” spoken in Philadelphia is the one that ought to send shivers up the spines of every bishop and cardinal of the Catholic church. In Philadelphia, the story is not over, as there are other trials waiting to be held on this. Similarly, if I were retired Cardinal Rigali [Bevilacqua's successor], I’d be consulting with my attorneys rather closely. From the grand jury’s report, there certainly appear to be things that Rigali either knew or should have known about but upon which he did not act. Do they rise to the level of a criminal coverup? I don’t know, but there’s certainly enough there for a prosecutor to want to dig in a bit deeper.

Here in Kansas City, it certainly worries Bishop Robert Finn, whose trial for failure to report suspicions of child abuse by one of his priests is slated to begin later this summer.

Which brings us to Bishop Finn and Kansas City, where lawyers for the victims of former priest Shawn Ratigan have filed a civil suit against Finn and the diocese for failing to promptly report the child pornography found on Ratigan’s computer by the diocese’s director of management and information services, Julie Creech. Creech’s deposition was part of the court filings, which included this bombshell [KC Star story updated; see below]:

The civil motion filed Thursday quotes Creech as having been concerned when she heard that some at the diocese were saying that she had not found “lewd” photographs on the computer. In a partial deposition transcript included with the civil filings, Creech said she approached Finn about the diocese’s response to the Ratigan discoveries.

Finn, she noted, was not specific as to what actions the diocese would take.

“He did indicate that, you know, sometimes priests do things that they shouldn’t, and he said, you know, he said, ‘Sometimes boys will be boys,’ ” Creech said in the deposition.

And you know, sometimes bishops will be bishops, even when women like Julie Creech and Sister Joan Scary try to warn them.

I suppose it’s like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women who told the male disciples of Jesus about the resurrection. According to Luke, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

One of these days, the leaders of the church might learn that they ought to listen to the women.

UPDATE –

From the KC Star this morning [same link as above, but now changed], Creech appears to be walking her testimony back:

John Gromowsky, an attorney representing Julie Creech, the computer systems manager for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said that she had “misspoken” in deposition testimony taken in a civil case and hoped to correct it.

In the Aug. 17 deposition, Creech said that Finn had said, “Sometimes boys will be boys,” when she raised concerns about how the diocese was handling the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop computer she had seen lewd photos of young girls.

“The statement Julie Creech attributed to Bishop Finn during her deposition that ‘boys will be boys’ is not consistent with her recollection of any conversations she had with the bishop concerning the Shawn Ratigan matter,” a statement released by Gromowsky said. “Following the deposition, Julie realized she had misspoken.”

The statement gave no explanation for why Creech’s testimony differed from her recollections.

by Peterr

Penn State President Graham Spanier in His Own Words

1:00 am in accountability, Education by Peterr

Since last November, when the Jerry Sandusky saga propelled Penn State into the headlines, I’ve wondered about Penn State’s former president, Graham Spanier. After reading the Freeh Report in its nauseating detail, I did more than wonder — I started digging for Spanier’s own words on what it means to be a university president.

Let’s go back eleven months, when NCAA Division I presidents concluded a summit that called for “bold, sweeping changes” in intercollegiate athletics. In the NCAA’s own press release on the summit, Spanier had this to say about the need to reform the NCAA rulebook:

Some of these things our coaches and our boosters might not like, but we need to do what I think you are going to see happen in the next year. . . . [Violators] should be afraid now, if they are going to go out and break any rules – because people have had enough of that. . . . The folks that are trying to disrupt the integrity of intercollegiate athletics in this country are going to have to be held more accountable than has been the case in the past.

Somehow, I think what we’ve seen unfold at Penn State in this past year is NOT what Spanier had in mind. Holding people more accountable was clearly not part of the administrative ethos when talking about coaches and boosters at Penn State, as the Freeh Report made abundantly clear.

A few months before that summit of NCAA Division I presidents, Spanier was at the heart of the 2011 investigation of the Fiesta Bowl for financial irregularities and other major problems. At the time, Spanier was the chair of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, and chaired the BCS investigative task force that looked into the matter. From the task force’s report, page 1:

Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

The Freeh Report: The Cost of an Accountability-Free Climate Comes Home to Roost

9:53 am in accountability by Peterr

Louis Freeh documents the atrocities of Penn State’s culture of non-accountability [pdf, pp. 14-15]:

The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. . . .

Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University — President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley, and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno — failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. . . .

These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events . . .

By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent Grand Jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as President. The Board also failed in its duties to oversee the President and senior University officials in 1998 and 2001 by not inquiring about important University matters and by not creating an environment where senior University officials felt accountable.

Sounds a lot like what I wrote last November has been borne out by Freeh’s investigators:

Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Nice Diocese You’ve Got Here, Bishop . . .

7:06 pm in Religion by Peterr

St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, rendered in stained glass. (photo: Fergal OP via Flickr)

Yesterday evening, Irish television station RTE One broadcast a new episode of their news documentary series “Would You Believe” that came with the title “Unspeakable Crimes.” These unspeakable crimes are described on their website like this:

Just when the Irish bishops were beginning to come to grips with how to deal with the clerical sexual abuse problem, Rome intervened and tried to enforce Vatican policy which put the interests of the priest, not the victim, first.

In a strictly confidential letter seen by WYB, the Vatican threatens the Irish bishops that if they follow their new child protection guidelines it would support the accused priest if he were to appeal to its authority.

The letter tells the Irish bishops that the Vatican has moral reservations about their policy of mandatory reporting and that their guidelines are contrary to canon law.

The letter itself is here [PDF], and it says exactly what RTE claims it says.

The study document referred to in the letter are the 1996 guidelines that the Irish bishops proposed, which included mandatory reporting of abuse to the secular authorities. (PDF of the study document is here.)

The Vatican’s reaction to that section of the study document was to say this: “In particular, the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.” The Vatican goes on to say something to the effect of “you English-speaking people seem to have this problem all over the place, so while WE study what WE want to do about it, you just keep on doing what you’re doing, according to the rules WE laid down earlier in canon law, and forget all about YOUR study and its proposed mandatory reporting clause.” The actual phrasing of that last part is more delicate, of course, but the implication is clear: shut up, and “at the appropriate time” we’ll tell you all what to do.

They also attach a nice theological threat at the end: “in the sad cases of accusations of sexual abuse by clerics, the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must be meticulously followed under pain of invalidity of the acts involved if the priest so punished were to make hierarchical recourse against his Bishop.” IOW, if you don’t follow the old way, and thus punish a priest, and the accused priest appeals to Rome, Rome is going to back the priest and you will end up with a black eye.

Shorter Vatican: “Nice diocese you’ve got here, bishop. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it . . .”   Read the rest of this entry →