Trial showed that Kansas City diocese hasn’t learned enough from its past

By Mary Sanchez

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph showed itself as a forgiving, diligent shepherd in the civil trial just concluded.

But the sheltering love was for priests’ welfare first. Less attention was apparent for parishioners’ concerns, and certainly not for vulnerable children.

Given the testimony of denial by multiple priests, it’s questionable how far deeply ingrained attitudes have really shifted. In recent years, changes came about when the diocese was forced through repeated pleas by the faithful, multimillion-dollar settlements and court orders.

The trial’s conclusion was halted by a nearly $10 million settlement that lumped together multiple cases. But the jury trial was intended to weigh the sexual abuse accusations of a former altar boy, now a 44-year-old man.

Nearly two weeks of proceedings put on public display how the diocese for five decades — through four bishops — rationalized its decisions and struggles with pedophile priests.

The diocese put forth a shameful record in its own defense.Finn

Letters and verbal complaints of specific troubling incidents, dating back to the mid-1970s, were initially dismissed. Sexually inappropriate advances were seen as raucous and drunken behavior, something that a priest could be chided for and then ushered back to the rectory. There seemed to be a belief, a misplaced hope, that treating a priest for alcoholism could also cure pedophilia, as if the criminal behavior was only contingent upon the drinking. For some bishops, there appeared to be confusion about the difference between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children.

The church can choose to see the first as sinful. But to attack an innocent child is a crime. Such lack of common sense, that inability to separate church doctrine from criminal acts, is baffling.

In the 1980s, the diocese put its faith into what one expert testified was once common, moving a priest known to be struggling with sexual issues to a job as a hospital chaplain. One of the lawsuits settled this week was filed by a man who said he awoke from surgery to find a priest masturbating him.

Some of the deceased bishops’ actions can be understood better in the context of the times. Society in general is thankfully more informed about sexual abuse, how children are groomed to be victims.

But it’s a shallow defense.

Federal laws mandating that certain people must report suspected child abuse have been around since the mid-1970s. They always included clergy.

The priest in this case was still a priest when he died in 2013. He had been barred from performing some religious rites, but he was never formally defrocked. Monsignor Thomas O’Brien was treated as just another retired priest, his well-being taken care of as if he had served God and the diocese well in his time on Earth.

Before the settlement, O’Brien alone had already cost the diocese more than $7 million. And he’s just one priest who has been accused.

The question has always been, to what extent did the diocese shield its clergy at the cost of its flock? And why?

After this trial, we know more. But the jury was never going to hear the full story. Crucial information, broader context, was not allowed due to legal agreements between the parties to limit the case. Yet those elements draw a better picture of how the diocese mismanaged these problems, with one poor decision often leading to another.

Jurors were not told that one altar boy took his own life. They were not to know that O’Brien was believed to molest boys in tandem with another priest, Thomas Reardon, who has left the priesthood and has also been the subject of many lawsuits.

And they could hear no mention of former priest Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan, sentenced last year to 50 years in prison for child pornography, is the link that makes the diocese’s past history so disturbing. Because the diocese used some of the same rationalizations initially for Ratigan’s behavior as they used in the 1970s and 1980s.

A long letter from a parish school principal detailed disturbing behavior by Ratigan toward children. The letter was not taken seriously by diocese officials. When disturbing pictures were found on Ratigan’s computer, he was simply shifted to another location and he abused again. Those decisions led to the misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse against the sitting bishop, Robert Finn.

It is only because of the Ratigan criminal trial that this civil proceeding came to be. Publicity about Ratigan’s case was the kick-start that brought these new allegations forward. So the past of the diocese is intricately linked to its more recent woes.

Certainly the addition of two non-clerical ombudsmen to handle allegations of abuse is significant. The two female workers have made prompt and appropriate reports. Most important, they’ve kept the diocese in compliance with the law when accusations have been raised the past three years.

Finn would not allow any non-monetary agreements to be tacked to this settlement. The diocese is still reeling from its breach of similar agreements to keep it on track, doing the right thing for parishioners. That lapse cost the diocese $1.1 million earlier this year.

These cases are not just about money. Lives have been ruined.

Among the most stoic in the courtroom were Don and Rosemary Teeman, with whom the diocese settled a lawsuit last year. Their son Brian committed suicide after serving as an altar boy at the same time as the plaintiff in this case.

These forever-grieving parents listened to detailed accounts suggesting the diocese knew this priest was a danger before he met their son. They believe Brian took his life after being molested by O’Brien.

No testimony changes their reality. The Teemans have two grandsons by their daughter. One boy bears a remarkable likeness to Brian.

But they do not have their son.

“They should have done something; it could have been stopped,” Rosemary Teeman commented midway through the trial. “I’d have a bigger family.”

Upon that truth is where the diocese should begin post-trial reflection.

Complete Article HERE!

Way to ruin a protest

I think I’ll give this a try…

 

way to ruin a protest

Dell Rapids coach comes out in national article

By Brian Allen

Now to the story of a Dell Rapids man who decided to reveal he was gay in one of the most public ways possible.

Nathan Alfson wrote an article for the web site “Outsports”, telling of his experience growing up in South Dakota as a gay Christian athlete.

The article was published Tuesday morning.Nathan Alfson

On Tuesday night, we talked with him about the decision he made with this article…and the possible pitfalls.

It’s volleyball night for Nathan Alfson; playing sports with his friends is nothing new for Nate.

But becoming an instant internet celebrity for a public article about his private life….that is new. “Its been amazing. I’ve had nothing really but amazing comments.”

Alfson decided to write this article because he didn’t want to hide who he truly was anymore and he didn’t want anyone else to have to hide either; especially those like him who grew up gay in a conservative state like South Dakota. “I realized that it was a chance for everyone in our area a chance to open up and be themselves and really feel comfortable with who they are.”

There is more on the line for Nathan than simply coming out nationally.

Alfson is a baseball coach in Dell Rapids….at St. Mary’s….and his superiors didn’t know he was gay.

Now they more than likely do. And Alfson says if the school fires him he will not be surprised. “I am prepared for the worst. And I understand completely for what is going to happen. Hopefully it can change someday.”

He knows there are those in his school and church community who will judge him and condemn him. Alfson says that’s OK because life moves forward…. that you can be gay and Christian. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. “I am not worried about where I am going. Others might disagree. But that’s OK. I’ve had my fair share of conversations with God. I am comfortable where I am going. I am ready for Heaven when it comes.”

If you would like to read Nathan Alfson’s article for yourself, click on this link.

Complete Article HERE!

Thought for the day

Enough said!

 

pretending1

“People who say homosexuals are sick are sick themselves”

By JAN MARTÍNEZ AHRENS

Raúl Vera is the Mexican bishop who holds the record for death threats. He has survived more than one attempt on his life, and his work in favor of missing persons, immigrants, children and juveniles, indigenous populations, prostitutes and pariahs of all types has earned him the undying hatred of many, including the drug rings.Bishop Raul Vera Lopez

Yet the threats seem to leave no mark on him. An engineer by trade and an intellectual son of May 1968, the 69-year-old Dominican friar has forged himself a legend as an untamed soul.

His first test came in 1995 when Juan Pablo II sent him to Chiapas in the middle of the Zapatista effervescence. His mission: to bring order to the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, which was then headed by the charismatic Samuel Ruiz, a champion of liberation theology and supporter of pro-indigenous theories. But the man who was supposed to wrest power away from the unruly Ruiz and return the diocese to the path of conservatism ended up supporting the local clergy instead.

Rome never forgot. As punishment, four years later Vera was transferred to Saltillo, in the arid northern state of Coahuila. It was to no avail. Vera returned to the trenches, facing up to the government and to the fearsome drug cartel of Los Zetas.

Meanwhile, his charged rhetoric against inequality and “liberal capitalism” has distanced him from the rest of Mexico’s bishops, who are aristocratic and wed to orthodoxy.

For a long time, Raúl Vera was the Catholic Church’s black sheep, the old-fashioned left-winger. But that was until the ideological earthquake represented by the new pope, Francis I, gave renewed relevance to his words. Now, other bishops are suddenly turning to Vera for guidance.

Question. What visits would you recommend to the Pope when he comes to Mexico?

Answer. To begin with, he should become familiar with the migrants’ route. I would also make him visit a prison, because he likes going to prisons. I would also take him to the outskirts of a large city, because he says we should go to the periphery. I would organize a visit on the basis of what he is asking us to do. And I would make sure that the poor and the indigenous were standing in the front row, because that is something that doesn’t usually get done.

Q. Not long ago you baptized the daughter of a lesbian couple. What do you think about homosexuality?

The true meaning of life lies in the community, in caring for the weak”
A. That is a topic that we have refused to address. The people who say homosexuals are sick are sick themselves. The Church needs to come to them not with condemnation, but with dialogue. We cannot cancel out a person’s richness just because of his or her sexual preference. That is sick, that is heartless, that is lacking common sense.

Q. Is it not the same with abortion?

A. I share the Church’s views on abortion, and see it as murder. The difference lies in how you penalize it. Abortion, just like same-sex marriage, has served us subterfuge to tell ourselves that we in the Church have our morals. It is very easy to go against a woman who has an abortion, it poses no trouble and we have support from the ultraconservative right. When there was a national campaign against abortion here, I organized rosary recitations to reflect on the defense of the lives of migrants, miners and women as well as the unborn. But we are hypocrites. It would seem that the only moral rules deal with condemning same-sex couples and abortions. You do that and you’re the perfect Christian.

Q. Would you make prostitution legal?

A. No, that would be legalizing female exploitation. I believe in the dignity of women. Prostitutes are extremely damaged women, but they must never lose their dignity and their right to be respected. We are reaching horrible extremes in connection with trafficking and exploitation.

Q. You have confronted the drug cartels in public. Do you fear for your life?

I learned that in order to defend human life, you have to put your own life on the line”
A. In Chiapas I learned that you have to risk your life if you want to stand on the side of the poor. I learned that in order to defend human life, you have to put your own life on the line. There is no other way to be a shepherd.

Q. Mexico officially has more than 13,000 missing persons. In two northern villages, the drug rings took away 300 people in full daylight within the space of days, and authorities did nothing about it. What is happening?

A. Impunity is allowing this to happen. Disappearances come with the elimination of all evidence that might aid persecution of the crimes. First the people disappear, then their bodies.

Q. Would legalizing drugs be a solution?

A. That will not be a solution.

Q. Why not?

A. Absolutely not. Drugs go hand in hand with the depreciation of human life. The decomposition of man does not come from drugs; man turns to drugs, like he turns to alcohol, for other reasons. To some, life has no meaning and they need drugs to find that meaning. Others have no other place to go. Legalizing drugs will not solve the problem of why people use drugs in the first place.

Q. Are you a Socialist?

A. I do not consider myself a Socialist. I have not read Marx, I was not an activist, and I never liked the theory of conversion into a dictatorship. We all have the same rights and the same dignity, but we also have freedom. Yet I have never supported the methods of capitalism. The true meaning of life lies in the community, in caring for the weak and sharing equally in the bounty of the land. All of this I learned from the indigenous world, from the poor and the peasants. They taught me the value of human life and shared their capacity to feel joy. They taught me how to laugh.

Complete Article HERE!

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