Will bishops at last be held to account in abuse cases?

We’re about to find out.

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo speaks during a news conference in Cheektowaga, N.Y., on Nov. 5, 2018

ON BECOMING the bishop of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone let it be known that his episcopal motto would be “living the truth in love.” Now Mr. Malone, ensnared in scandals and buffeted by allegations that he has covered up for priests accused of sexual abuse, has become a test case of whether bishops, who report only to the pope, will at last become accountable under a new policy adopted by Pope Francis last spring.

It has been a year since the bishop acknowledged “inadequacies” in his handling of abuse complaints involving minors as well as adults targeted by clergymen. Since then, reports of those “inadequacies” have multiplied. But Mr. Malone, who insists he has instituted reforms, has refused to resign even as some clergy in his own diocese and other prominent Catholics have said enough is enough. His tale encapsulates a basic feature of the church’s clergy sex abuse scandals: professions of new procedures and policies to clean up the mess, juxtaposed with institutional inertia, resistance and denial.

When Mr. Malone assumed his current job, in 2012, it had already been a decade since the clerical abuse and coverup scandals, starting in Boston, had erupted across the country. Yet in Buffalo, one of the nation’s largest dioceses, with some 600,000 Catholics, it took six years and, finally, a barrage of accusations involving local clergy, before he posted a list of 42 priests credibly accused of child sex abuse.

Those cases covered the decades before Mr. Malone had arrived in Buffalo, and, it soon emerged, they represented a very partial accounting. The bishop’s own executive assistant, Siobhan O’Connor, had seen the original draft, with 117 priests named, along with hundreds of pages of diocesan personnel files and memos — including a 300-page binder she found in a cleaning cabinet — detailing the allegations.

Ms. O’Connor, who turned over copies of the documents to a local television station as well as CBS’s “60 Minutes,” realized the published list had been whittled down by the bishop and church lawyers to exclude, among others, accused priests who had been left in ministry or restored after a suspension. In one case, a church lawyer wrote to the bishop that a priest alleged to have had sex with a teenage girl in the 1980s should be dropped from the list because including him “might require explanation.” (The priest, Fabian J. Maryanski, who has since been placed on leave, denied the allegation.)

Under the church’s new policy on accountability for bishops, it has fallen to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to decide whether to launch an investigation of Mr. Malone. As Mr. Dolan mulls that question — his office says an announcement is expected soon — other revelations have surfaced involving Mr. Malone’s less-than-assiduous attention to abuse victims. In an audio recording of a conversation from August, leaked recently by one of his former top assistants, Mr. Malone is heard worrying that “this could be the end for me as bishop.”

Conceivably, it could be. Meanwhile, what’s striking in the sordid tale is the absence of proactive moves that would lend credibility to the church’s stated zero-tolerance stance.

Complete Article HERE!

Archdiocese claims 1st Amendment against gay teacher’s lawsuit.

Here’s how that could play out.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis enrolled 23,206 students in the 2018-19 school year, and it has 68 Catholic schools, including seven high schools. Here’s what we know.

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A judge will soon decide whether the Catholic Church’s First Amendment religious rights protects it from a lawsuit filed by a fired Cathedral High School teacher who is gay.

Joshua Payne-Elliott was fired in June for being in a same-sex marriage, something the archdiocese says violates church doctrine. The school had the option of firing Payne-Elliott or being stripped by the archdiocese of its Catholic status. Cathedral chose to dismiss the teacher, who had been with the school since 2006 as a world language and social studies teacher.

Payne-Elliott in July sued the archdiocese, stating that he has suffered lost wages, lost employer-provided benefits and endured emotional distress and damage to his reputation.

The archdiocese filed a motion this week to dismiss Payne-Elliott’s lawsuit, citing First Amendment protections and jurisdictional issues. Jay Mercer, attorney for the archdiocese, said he’s confident a judge will rule in the archdiocese’s favor.

While a constitutional law expert who spoke to IndyStar didn’t rule out the chance that the archdiocese’s motion to dismiss will prevail, he said it would be more complicated than it appears.

What the attorneys say

Mercer said the archdiocese is governed by Catholic canon law and that the archbishop is tasked with ensuring Catholic teachers abide by church doctrine. The archbishop’s right to do so without court interference is enshrined in the First Amendment, Mercer said.

“The court would be substituting its judgment for the archbishop, which it could not do because the court cannot put itself as the leader of the Catholic church,” Mercer said Thursday. “It would be inappropriate for a court to say it (the archdiocese) doesn’t have this authority. It would be violating the Constitution.”

The archdiocese’s motion asks the court to dismiss the case on grounds that it isn’t constitutionally allowed to interfere with church governance. The 20-page document cites a slew of case histories and rulings to support its argument.

Payne-Elliott’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said archdioceses get sued all the time, making it clear that they can fall under court jurisdiction.

“I think they’re really overreaching,” DeLaney said of the archdiocese’s motion.

DeLaney argues that a court can hear and decide her client’s lawsuit without making a judgment about church doctrine. The case is really about the archdiocese interfering with a separate entity, Cathedral High School, to force Payne-Elliott’s termination without justification, DeLaney said.

In the archdiocese’s motion, Mercer says the plaintiff fails to show there wasn’t justification for the archdiocese’s involvement that led to Payne-Elliott’s firing. When asked by phone about alleged improper interference, Mercer said the merits of that allegation won’t even make it to court.

“The merits of this case will never be litigated because the court has no authority,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

Dissident Catholics Assail Vatican Role at UN

By The Associated Press

A group of activist Roman Catholics asked the United Nations Thursday to revoke the Vatican’s observer status for failing to protect the rights of women, children and the LGBTQ community.

The group, calling itself Catholics for Human Rights, said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the Vatican must be stripped of its status in part because of the “magnitude of rape, sexual violence and torture perpetrated by clergy.”

The activists, including lawyers and theologians, also said the Holy See excludes women from positions of authority and opposes contraception, same-sex marriage and abortion.

In Rome, the Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.N. chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it had no immediate reaction. Any change in the Vatican’s status would have to be decided by U.N. member states.

Catholics who disagree with the church’s teachings on abortion or who have been upset at its handling of sexual misconduct allegations have previously made similar demands for the U.N. to downgrade the Vatican’s status as a permanent observer, which allows it to take part in the world body’s policy discussions, but does not give it a vote in the General Assembly.

The Vatican’s role at the U.N. has also been opposed sporadically by groups who say it is a religious organization, not a nation.

Members of the activist group gathered Thursday in a building across the street from the U.N., where the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was holding its annual conference.

“It’s hard to name a state or religious group that’s done more than the Holy See to thwart the spirit and the letter of the Commission on the Status of Women, which affirms that the fundamental freedoms of all women and girls is essential for the achievement of gender equality,” said one of the activists, Mary Hunt, a theologian from Silver Spring, Maryland. “Today, the institutional church is essentially a global, male-run, top-down corporation whose product is religion.”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

French cardinal Barbarin convicted over sex abuse cover-up

Barbarin was found guilty of failing to report the abuse of a minor between 2014 and 2015

The archbishop of Lyon, the most senior French Catholic cleric caught up in the paedophilia scandals that have rocked the church, was convicted of helping covering up abuse and handed a six-month suspended jail term on Thursday.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who was not in court, was found guilty of failing to report the abuse of a minor between 2014 and 2015.

His lawyers announced immediately that he would appeal the judgement.

“The reasoning of the court is not convincing,” lawyer Jean-Felix Luciani told reporters. “We will contest this decision by all the means possible.”

Barbarin, 68, faced long-standing allegations from victims’ groups that he failed to report a priest under his authority to police after learning of abuse which took place in the 1980s and 90s.

But prosecutors judged that those crimes were beyond the statute of limitations — meaning they were too old to prosecute — and declined to press charges.

During the trial, victims accused Barbarin of being aware of the abuse allegations from at least 2010 and then trying to cover up the scandal, under orders from the Vatican, from 2015.

Francois Devaux, who leads a victim’s group in Lyon, called Thursday’s verdict a “major victory for child protection.”

The Catholic Church has been roiled in recent years by claims against priests which have come to light in the wake of a global move by victims to go public with evidence.

Clerics have been denounced in countries as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ireland, and the United States, leading Pope Francis to promise to rid the church of a scourge that has done enormous damage to its standing.

Complete Article HERE!

God’s Work Against Child Abuse Will Be Done By States, Not The Vatican

Pope Francis celebrated a final Mass to conclude his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

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The moral order has flipped upside down when civil authorities must force religious leaders to honor the Eighth Commandment against lying. Yet we are in such a Bizarro World, as I learned after my native New Jersey was among a half dozen states to investigate Catholic dioceses, following Pennsylvania’s searing catalog of decades of abuse of 1,000 children by hundreds of priests.

In the wake of Jersey’s probe, Catholic dioceses in the state recently released the names of priests credibly accused of abuse. Monsignor Thomas J. Frain, pastor of my childhood parish, was among them. (He, like many on the list, is deceased.) Though the nature of his abuse and age of his victim(s) weren’t specified — priests have preyed on adults, including nuns, as well as kids — I thank God that neither my brother nor I were ever altar boys or left alone with him.

I mention this by way of suggesting, as a practicing Catholic, that attention to the just-ended Vatican summit on child abuse is misplaced. If it’s church reform you want, turn your gaze from Rome to U.S. states, where law enforcement, having lost patience with Catholic leaders (as have we in the laity), have started probing abuse.

Post-Pennsylvania, New Jersey was joined by New York, Nebraska, Illinois, Nevada and Missouri in hitting bishops with subpoenas or demands for records. Many abusive priests will escape justice, having run out either life’s clock, like Frain, or the statute of limitations. Still, I’d place my faith in prosecutors over prelates.

Four days of Vatican talk about Pope Francis’s “reflection points” — including psychological testing of seminarians (that’s not being done already?), mandatory conduct codes (don’t molest kids isn’t clear enough?), an independent group to receive abuse reports (we already have that. It’s called the police.) — ended with no specific proposals, which wouldn’t exorcise the abuse demon anyway. Internal reform must be more radical; in particular, the case for ordaining women, never on the table in Rome, was bolstered by recent revelations of widespread sexual assault in the Southern Baptist Convention, which also has an all-male clergy.

Victims as young as 3-years-old “were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” according to the horrific Houston Chronicle story that broke the news. The problem, a Harvard professor of Christian morals told the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof, is that “prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity.”

My argument for women priests is much simpler. Research shows that pedophiles are overwhelmingly male. Ordain fewer people disposed to pedophilia and you’re likely to get, surprise, less pedophilia. (You’d also eliminate the inequity of barring women from clerical leadership.)

Some suggest that discarding the Catholic celibacy requirement for priests is the solution. While I support that change for other reasons, the case for it as the antidote to pedophilia doesn’t pass the giggle test. Men who force themselves on children are not just horny guys seeking consensual, adult relationships. Take away mandatory celibacy and they would still crave a form of sex as depraved as it is illegal

Garry Wills, the Catholic historian whose writings I admire and learn from, agrees celibacy isn’t the cure, though his suggestion to abolish the priesthood is even more a moonshot than allowing priestly marriage. Alternative proposals, including some from abuse survivors, suffer the same two defects as the “reflection points:”

One, there are cultures in the world where Catholic leaders either just don’t get it, downplaying abuse as non-criminal or the result of homosexuality, or else are preoccupied with other issues like war and poverty. Rules in Jersey won’t play in India or Italy.

Two, enforcing rules relies on self-policing by a church that has shown it can’t be trusted to self-police. Not when the summit revealed the destruction of church records containing abuse accusations.

I suspect I’d get agreement from the many good men in the clergy. The bishop of Albany, N.Y. asked the local DA to review diocesan records, writing to Catholics in his flock that “in an effort to restore a sacred trust that has been broken again and again, I believe a fully independent investigation, one coordinated by the district attorney, is the only way forward.”

That “only way forward,” ceding investigations to secular law enforcement, will make it easier for those of us who want to stay in the church. Non-Catholics will ask why we bother, to which journalist Margery Eagan had the best answer: Catholics of good will are unwilling to let pedophiles drive us out of our church, which, at its best, nourishes us spiritually, feeds the hungry and heals the sick

We’re also unwilling to let our Catholic brothers and sisters who cringe at female ordination have the sole say in defining Catholicism. Traditionalist deference to the hierarchy and its interpretation of apostolic tradition helped foster the clericalism that landed us in this crisis to begin with. To get out of it, we must look to Caesar’s forces, not God’s

Complete Article HERE!