My New Book

Dear friends and colleagues

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying: Enhancing The End Of Life.

(Click on the book art below for a synopsis and to purchase the book.)

The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying is specifically designed for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder, and dying people from all walks of life. But concerned family and friends, healing and helping professionals, lawyers, clergy, teachers, students, and those grieving a death will also benefit from reading the book.

The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying is a workbook that offers readers a unique group/seminar format. Readers participate in a virtual on-the-page support group consisting of ten other participants. Together members of the group help each other liberate themselves from the emotional, cultural, and practical problems that accompany dying in our modern age.

The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying helps readers dispel the myth that they are incapable of taking charge during the final season of life. Readers face the prospect of life’s end within a framework of honesty, activity, alliance, support, and humor. And most importantly readers learn these lessons in the art of dying and living from the best possible teachers, other sick, elder, and dying people.

The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying engages readers with a multitude of life situations and moral dilemmas that arise as they and their group partners face their mortality head on.

The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying offers readers a way to share coping strategies, participate in meaningful dialogue, and take advantage of professional information tailored to their specific needs. Topics include spirituality, sexuality and intimacy, legal concerns, final stages, and assisted dying. The book does not take an advocacy position on any of these topics. It does, however, advocate for the holistic self-determination of sick, elder, and dying people, which can only be achieved when they have adequate information.

Facing your mortality with the kind of support The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying offers does not eliminate the pain and poignancy of separation. Rather it involves confidently facing these things and living through them to the end.

This innovative workbook on death and dying is now available on Amazon and in bookstores. I welcome your thoughts, comments, and reviews.

All the best,

Richard Wagner, Ph.D., ACS
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Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse In The U.S. Context And Causes


Santa Clara University
11 May 2012

The context of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic bishops and priests is the culture of the priesthood. Roman Catholic bishops and priests constitute a privileged cast. This persists as a centuries-long reality perpetuated by the monarchical structure essential to the operation of the Roman Catholic Church. The world of RC clergy forms the setting, circumstances, and opportunities that surround the sexual activity of bishops and priests with minors and others. Clergy rule supreme in their spheres of operation—ministry of the sacraments (especially hearing confessions and celebrating mass) religious instructions/teaching, and the administration of their institutions. Parishes (and seminaries) are the most common sites of sexual contacts between priests, minors and others. The climate and culture and power of Catholic bishops and priests put the vulnerable and minors at risk for abuse within areas of clerical control.

The causes of sexual abuse by clergy are solidly rooted in human nature as it is fostered, lived, and expressed in clerical culture. Ordination into major orders (and preparation for them) marks the entrance into the clerical culture. Catholic clerical culture is characterized by homogeneity: it is an exclusively male province—males over twenty-five years of age alone are ordained priests—and they form a homosocial society where women are deprived of any authority. Candidates must promise “perfect and perpetual chastity, therefore celibacy” as a prior condition for ordination [Canon 277 #2]. That requirement confers social power on a priest. [“It was from sexual purity that the priesthood was believed to derive its power.”]

Cardinals and bishops vow absolute obedience to the Pope as the supreme authority. They, the pope’s legitimate surrogates, demand this obedience of their subordinates. [Father Yves Congar once said, “In the Catholic Church it has often seemed that a sin of the flesh was the only sin, and obedience the only virtue.”]

If a priest is apparently compliant with the demands of the culture he receives automatic status regardless of any individual merit. The culture provides an assurance of employment and continued material compensation for the duration of his life. The identification with the power system and subordination to it relives individuals of responsibility for the consequences of their individual actions. Truth telling is curtailed and subjected to the welfare of the organization (the good of the church). The prevailing rationale is that clerics’ first duty is to the higher law of God. Secrecy and loyalty are essential binding elements operative to the function of clerical cultural. Men within the clerical culture are labeled “special” since ordination confers an “ontological” superiority. Clerics thus incorporated into the culture often demonstrate qualities of dependency, entitlement, superiority/arrogance, variable degrees of psychosexual immaturity, but in many cases “they posses enormous powers of empathetic discernment—albeit for purposes of self-aggrandizement.”

These are the fundamental elements operative in the CONTEXT and CAUSES of the sexual abuse of minors and the vulnerable in whatever broader secular culture that clerical sexual abusive behavior occurs.

At the First National Conference for Victims & Survivors of Roman Catholic Clergy Abuse held in Chicago, October 1992 I said: The crisis of sexual abuse by Catholic bishops and priests “now visible is the tip of the iceberg. When the whole story of sexual abuse by presumed celibate clergy is told, it will lead to the highest corridors of Vatican City.”1 Those words that might have seemed shocking or prophetic 20 years ago simply reflect known and documented facts today.

Sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy is a long-standing problem. It is historical, but not “history”—the crisis is not over as some bishops and others declared in 2004 and since. Detailed historical accounts of priests abusing minor girls and boys and being sexual with each other are reliable and indelible [Basil 4th Century, Peter Damian 11th Century].[i] The U.S. bishops named the situation a “crisis” in 2002 when they set up a National Review Board. That group made a public presentation of A Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States on February 27, 2004. That is the same release date of a report on the investigation on the Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950—2002 conducted by staff members of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice under the direction of Dr. Karen Terry. She served as the principal investigator of a second study on the Context and Causes of clerical abuse released in 2011. Both of these studies were sponsored by the USCCB who established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. The cumulative force of media exposure [Boston Globe series on priest abuse beginning January 6, 2002] civil and criminal law suites, pressure from victim advocates, and outrage of the general public precipitated and propelled American bishops (and the Vatican) into measured reactive responses. The documentation provided for the John-Jay studies comes from diocesan files. The criminal trial in Philadelphia (2012) provides one testimony to the inadequacy of Church reporting and file production. I am not alone in reviewing thousands of documented cases of clergy abuse from 1908, 1917 and a continuous supply of reports from1923 up to the present day most not listed by bishops

The ongoing phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors is a worldwide problem among Roman Catholic clergy. Clergy abuse is not an American problem as proposed by Pope John Pau II, although it is remarkable here. Over all between six and nine percent (6-9%) of U.S. Catholic priests get sexually involved with minors: ten percent (10 %) have been documented in Boston. Eleven and one-half percent (11.5 %) of all the priests active from the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1983 were subsequently identified as abusers.3 In 1988 the “Sensitive Claims Committee” of the Tucson, AZ diocese held the names of twenty-three percent (23%) of its priests. Ireland, England and European countries were ten to fifteen years behind the United States in bringing the problem to public attention. That is no longer the case. [On May 3, 2012 an Italian priest, Father Riccardo Seppia, of Genoa was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for child sex abuse and attempting to recruit minors into prostitution.]

Sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy is a symptom of a culture in distress. It constitutes part of a larger pattern of sexual involvement by priests and bishops with others—some with minors, but more commonly with adult women and men. Although the latter is not illegal, such behavior by a bishop or priest is still marked in most cases by moral negligence, abuse, professional violation and hypocrisy. More importantly, ecclesiastical authority tolerates this behavior in its own ranks as long as it does not cause scandal. This indulgence characterizes the pattern and practice of clerical culture. As one bishop said on his return from a visit to Rome, “The organization to which I belong is rotten to the core and it comes from the top”. [Two conclusions are reasonable: one must assume that in any group of priests a certain number of sexual abusers are active. Second, the clerical system is not capable of monitoring itself. Grand Jury Reports form the most reliable source of the pattern and practice of clergy sex abuse and supervision/cover up by superiors. Also: Cf. Stockton ruling, Judge, May 2012]

Seminary training still does not prepare clergy for celibate/sexual reality. Seminary training produces many psychosexually impaired and retarded priests whose level of adjustment is adolescent at best.4. This tends to create a psychic and moral field and situations in which immature liaisons with young children not only become more possible but are psychosexually over-determined because children are actually on a developmental par with these men.

The celibate/sexual system that surrounds clerical culture fosters and often rewards psychosexual immaturity. Conformists and even sociopaths have a greater chance of ecclesiastical advancement than more mature and healthy clerics.5. [This is one consequence of clerical culture.]

The homosocial system of the Catholic clergy excludes women categorically from decision-making power. At the same time this male-only system glorifies the roles of virgin and mother; this juxtaposition creates a psychosocial structure that reinforces male psychosexual immaturity and malformation.

A significantly larger proportion of Catholic clergy has a homosexual orientation than does the general population.6. This has always been the case, with many saints among them; this is due in part to natural sexual biodiversity [homosexual orientation is a natural variant], a high genetic correlation between homosexual orientation and altruistic drive, and a culture dependent on control and external conformity [Absolute obedience is a cultural factor that can serve both the strong and the weak character.]

By refusing to deal honestly with the reality of homosexuality in the clerical state (and in general), Catholic teaching fosters self-alienation, and psychosexual immaturity of its clergy and encourages and enables identity confusion, sexual acting out, and moral duplicity. Clerical culture is redolent with clergy living “double lives”.

Catholic moral teaching on sexuality is based on a patently false anthropology that renders magisterial pronouncement non-credible. “Every sexual thought, word, desire, and action outside marriage is mortally sinful. Every sexual act within marriage not open to procreation is mortally sinful. In sexual matters there is no paucity of matter.” [This is irrational and unacceptable as are the rationale and pronouncements on contraception.]

Clergy deprived of a moral doctrine in which they can believe founder for moral guidance and leadership in their own lives and behavior. Sexually, priests and the hierarchy resort to denial, rationalization, and splitting in dealing with their own sexual behavior and that of their colleagues. With the laity they often apply the full wrath of the “law” [including the threat of hell].

The hierarchy cannot claim ignorance and deny the sexual practices of their own—themselves and their fellow-priests—and at the same time assert that they are credible and authoritative sources of leadership in sexual morality for the laity. They cannot responsibly [and legally] sidestep their personal and corporate roles as enablers.

Chief justice Anne Burke (IL) who served as the interim Chair of the National Review Board established by the U.S. Bishops in 2002 said after extensive personal contact with the hierarchy, “they do not want to change. They want Business as usual”. [Governor Frank Keating who served as Justice Burke’s predecessor as Board Chair said that the bishops operate like “cosa nostra”.]

In the past ten years the U.S. bishops have instituted some productive and useful educational ventures that alert certain populations to the dangers of abuse. Certainly these will protect some children from sexual predators. [They fail to notify parishioners that priests can be dangerous. Bishops were not included in the Dallas Charter Zero Tolerance policy. There still is no system for holding bishops accountable. The person charged with oversight of alleged bishop abusers is Bishop Robert Brom, a credibly alleged abuser himself.]

The context of child abuse by Roman Catholic clergy—the tip of an iceberg so painfully visible to us now—does not stand on its own. Sexual abuse by clergy is the product of a well-established clerical culture. The fundamental causes of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy are within the clerical culture. Only an honest examination and Reformation of that culture will address adequately the problem of clerical malfeasance about which sex is central.7.

I repeat what I said in 1992: “Difficult as it is to accept, we are certain that the hierarchical and power structures beneath the surface of dioceses and religious societies form the essence of a secret world that selects, cultivates, supports, and will continue to produce and protect child abusers within the ranks of the Catholic clergy. These hidden forces are elements far more dangerous to the sexual health and welfare of Christ’s Church than those already identified”

Complete Article HERE!

Prosecutor: Pa. diocese ‘disgraceful,’ ‘criminal’

PHILADELPHIA — After eight weeks of wrenching testimony, Philadelphia prosecutors rested their case Thursday in the trial of a Roman Catholic church official accused of helping bury complaints that priests were raping and molesting children.

Monsignor William Lynn is the first U.S. church official charged for his handling of the abuse complaints. Prosecutors say the former secretary for clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia helped known predators stay in ministry, and they charged him with child endangerment and conspiracy.

In arguing to send the case to the jury, a prosecutor said the church needed the priests to run the “business,” protecting church assets – and secrets – over the lives of children.

“They turned a religious institution into a financial institution,” Assistant District Patrick Blessington argued. “It’s disgraceful. It’s criminal.”

Defense lawyers counter that Lynn tried to address the problem as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, but he took orders from above. For most of his tenure, he reported to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Nearly 2,000 internal church documents unearthed from secret, locked archives show that Bevilacqua approved and occasionally overturned priest assignments recommended by Lynn. The archdiocese routinely kept accused predators in parish work, sometimes after a stint at a church-run treatment center.

Jurors have heard painful testimony from more than a dozen men and women who say they were abused. Former altar boys and others said they were molested or raped while working in the rectory, on overnight trips to the shore, and even in the church sacristy.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina agreed with a defense motion Thursday to drop one of two conspiracy counts lodged against Lynn. But he still faces another conspiracy count and two counts of child endangerment.

“The wild card, obviously, is whether or not we decide to put Monsignor Lynn on the stand,” lawyer Thomas Bergstrom told Sarmina as he sketched out defense plans for next week.

The trial caps a 10-year investigation for Philadelphia prosecutors, who began their work after the priest sex-abuse crisis broke open in Boston in 2002. They produced an explosive 2005 grand jury report that named 63 Philadelphia priests as likely predators but bitterly concluded that no one could be charged because of legal time limits.

But they got a second chance when more recent accusations surfaced, and they charged Lynn last year after a second grand jury investigation. That report alleged that Lynn knew the accused priests had prior complaints in their files but allowed them to remain in jobs around children.

In a blow to the defense, Sarmina let prosecutors tell the jury about 20 other priests whose cases had crossed Lynn’s desk, to show a pattern of behavior.

As early as 1994, Lynn had prepared a list of about three dozen problem priests based on his review of the secret files, and he sent it to Bevilacqua. The list, shown to jurors, classified three as diagnosed pedophiles and 12 more as “guilty” of the abuse. Twenty were inconclusive, Lynn had said.

Many remained active priests in the archdiocese for years. And one led a South Philadelphia parish until March.

The list is the closest thing to a smoking gun in the case.

Prosecutors say it shows that Lynn knew all too well the church had dangerous predators in its midst. The defense says it shows the loyal aide trying to get Bevilacqua to address the festering problem.

Lynn told the grand jury about the list in 2002, but he said he couldn’t find it in his office.

Then a memo surfaced in February – just days after the former cardinal’s death – that shows Bevilacqua had ordered it shredded. A surviving copy of the list was found.

Prosecutors ended their case Thursday with a detective testifying about the list and its belated discovery.

Lynn is on trial with the Rev. James Brennan, one of four co-defendants charged last year. Former priest Edward Avery – deemed “guilty” on Lynn’s 1994 list and defrocked in 2006 – pleaded guilty before trial to sexually assaulting an altar boy in a church sacristy in 1999. He is serving a 2-1/2- to five-year prison term. The two others will be tried separately.

Brennan, 48, denies the charges, and his lawyer attacked the accuser’s credibility when he testified.

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal’s presence felt at Pa. church-abuse trial

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died just weeks before his longtime aide went on trial in the alleged cover-up of sexual assaults by priests within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Yet Bevilacqua is very much the ghost inside courtroom 304 at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center. Rarely an hour goes by that his name is not invoked.

Witnesses portray him as a regal, sometimes feared authoritarian figure: “the man at the top,” in the words of city detective Joseph Walsh.

After eight weeks of evidence, prosecutors trying to convict Monsignor William Lynn of child endangerment rested Thursday without showing the videotaped deposition Bevilacqua gave two months before his Jan. 31 death. He was 88, and battling cancer and dementia. And he claimed to remember few details of the scores of abuse complaints that came in under his watch, according to a defense motion.

Yet since his death, prosecutors have learned the cardinal ordered two confidantes to destroy a 1994 list Lynn had prepared of 35 problem priests.

The list warned the cardinal they had three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen confirmed predators and at least 20 more possible abusers in their midst.

Bevilacqua promptly had the list shredded, according to a memo signed by his loyal aides, current Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw, Mich., and now-retired Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pa.

“It was all about the good of Mother Church,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington argued to the trial judge Thursday. “It’s not only criminal, it’s outrageously criminal.”

Lynn was the point person for abuse complaints in his role as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. He had little training for the job.

“I thought I was dealing with them adequately,” Lynn told a grand jury in 2002, when prosecutors started investigating the archdiocese. “I didn’t get any direction.”

Ten years later, jurors have seen nearly 2,000 documents subpoenaed from secret church archives, an astonishing cache that was long protected by locks, keys and door alarms.

They have also heard from former altar boys, and men and women who worked in rectories growing up, who said they were raped or fondled for years.

Prosecutors call Lynn a key player in developing the archdiocese’s response to the complaints. Typically, that meant taking statements from the accused and accuser, typing up memos, and sometimes sending a priest for counseling before he was transferred to a new parish.

Lynn’s defense lawyers have at times called their client a mere “scrivener” who carried out Bevilacqua’s orders. And even prosecution witnesses agreed the cardinal ultimately decided priest assignments.

Jurors also heard what happened if a pastor refused to take one of the bad apples. Monsignor Michael Picard of Newtown testified that he was called down to meet with Bevilacqua about his “disobedience” in 1996. He spent 14 years “in the penalty box,” denied the title of monsignor.

The evidence paints Lynn, by comparison, as a company man, dutiful and compliant. He alone now faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

“I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know whether he broke the law. But he certainly did not do the honorable thing,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “He should have looked Bevilacqua in the eye and said, `You can’t do this. This is wrong, and I’m not going to be part of it.'”

The cardinal, trained in both canon and civil law, made 10 combative appearances before the grand jury in 2003 and 2004, accompanied by high-priced counsel. Prosecutors blasted Bevilacqua in their 2005 grand jury report, but said they couldn’t charge him because the statute of limitations had run out on the accusations.

A second grand jury last year complained there were still dozens of accused Philadelphia priests in ministry. Armed with new complaints and revised laws, prosecutors charged three priests and a teacher with sexually assaulting two boys in the 1990s. They charged Lynn with two counts each of child endangerment and conspiracy.

“You don’t care about the boys. You care about the business of the church,” Blessington said Thursday about the lead defendant.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina dropped one of the conspiracy charges when prosecutors rested, finding insufficient evidence Lynn had conspired with the Rev. James Brennan to keep him in ministry. Brennan is also on trial, charged with molesting a teenager in 1996. Defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to a 1999 sexual assault, and is serving a 2 1/2- to five-year term.

The defense starts its case Tuesday, with Lynn’s former assistants and several character witnesses expected to testify. It’s not clear whether Lynn will take the stand.

The jury is expected to get the case in about two weeks – presumably, without ever hearing the sealed testimony of “the man at the top.”

Complete Article HERE!