12/23/17

Fallen Kings: How Cardinal Law’s Reign Cemented The Church’s Fading Power


Cardinal Law celebrated mass in April 2005 inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

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When the cardinal’s residence was built in the 1920s atop a hill in the leafy, most western outpost of Boston, it was modeled after an Italian palazzo. The grand mansion, replete with ornate mahogany and marble appointments, has stood as a testament to the Boston Archdioceses’ stature in the very Catholic city of Boston. Political candidates — local and national — would come calling, and even the Pope came to visit.

When Cardinal Bernard Law took up residence in the Renaissance Revival mansion, Boston’s Roman Catholic movers and shakers would flock to the backyard for his garden party fundraisers.

Today, it’s a steady stream of students hauling backpacks, and members of the public traipsing across that same property. The mansion, now owned by Boston College, has been gutted and converted to an art museum and meeting rooms — a remarkable fall from grace that parallels that of the Boston Archdiocese itself.

A total of 65 acres of prime church property – possibly its most valuable in Massachusetts — was sold in a fire sale, after the clergy sexual abuse crisis, when the church was struggling to pay some $85 million dollars in settlements to victims. In the years since, the cost of settling claims surpassed $200 million, and the church’s declining fortunes have been more than just financial.

Cardinal Law’s death this week reawakened a flood of emotion and anger over the decades of sexual abuse that finally came to light in 2002, and at the archbishop’s role in allowing predator priests to move to new parishes, where they would prey on more unsuspecting victims. The revelations that began in Boston eventually engulfed the church worldwide, and the reverberations continue to be felt, nowhere more so than in the once all-powerful Boston Archdiocese.

“The church’s influence took a big hit in 2002, that’s undeniable,” says Domenico Bettinelli, who used to be director of new media for the Archdiocese, and now works as an anti-abortion rights activist. “There’s no doubt that since the great scandal broke … our public voice has been muted in many ways because our moral authority has rightly been questioned.”

It’s a far cry from the old days, when the church was almighty, and the cardinal was closer to king, according to Thomas P. O’Neill III, former Massachusetts state legislator and lieutenant governor. He’s also son of the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill.

“When my dad served in the state legislature and Cardinal [Richard James] Cushing said [to do] something, I can assure you, a Catholic majority in the state legislature paid attention to it, and did it,” says O’Neill.

Powerful ambitions

Cardinal Law long hoped he could also command that kind of obedience, after he arrived in Boston in 1984. With his booming baritone, and penchant for the regal trappings of the office, he did engender a deference and reverence that was in no small part derived from his influence with the Vatican. As one of the most senior American prelates, he was as well-connected as he was well-regarded outside Boston. He had the ear of Pope John Paul II, and was talked about as the man who might become the first American Pope. He was in regular conversation with President George H. W. Bush, and was a player on the world stage, instrumental in arranging the Pope’s first visit to Cuba; He was described in a 1990 newspaper article as “the first Archbishop of Boston to have a foreign policy.”


Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law conducts his first Mass after being appointed a Cardinal, at Our Lady of Victories Church in Boston.

A 1990 Boston Globe story, headlined “The Cardinal’s Ambitions,” outlines a typical week in Law’s life;

“He had mulled over Third World debt with Mexican bankers in Washington, D.C., brainstormed anti-abortion strategy with U.S. bishops in New York City, and jolted a visiting Northern Ireland official with a pointed question about conditions in Catholic schools there. The following Sunday he would leave for Cuba and his second tete-a-tete with Fidel Castro.”

But at home, the Catholic Church’s influence was on a slow decline that had begun under Law’s immediate predecessor, Cardinal Humberto Sousa Medeiros, who largely refrained from politics. By the time Law came to town, shifting demographics and changing social mores had significantly changed the landscape, further diminishing the church’s authority. And much as he wanted to reclaim the clout wielded by Cardinal Cushing, Cardinal Law never quite could.

“Law wanted to play that role and recreate that world, in a sense, but that world was already gone,” says James O’Toole, a history professor at Boston College, and former archivist for the Archdiocese of Boston. “There was a kind of polish to him as someone who knew what position he was in, and he was going to run with that, but he wasn’t able to do it.”

“By the time I got [into politics], you weighed everything that was being said by the church hierarchy, and you did it respectfully,” says O’Neill. “But did you follow blindly? No. Those days were all gone by the time I got there. [Lawmakers] paid attention to [Cardinal Law] … but they did not always comply.”

The election of 1986, O’Toole says, already revealed how the cardinal’s rigid Roman orthodoxy, and rightward leaning wasn’t flying with his Massachusetts flock. Cardinal Law lobbied for two referendum questions: one to ban state funding for abortion, and the other to permit some state support of parochial schools.

“Cardinal Law campaigned very strongly on both of those issues and he lost both of them decisively,” O’Toole says.


Cardinal Bernard Law embraced and kissed by Pope John Paul II as he is officially installed as cardinal by the Pontiff during a solemn Consistory in St. Peter’s Square in 1985.

By the time another decade passed, the gap had so swollen between Boston’s Catholic Church and Boston Catholics on social issues, leaving Cardinal Law venting that both Massachusetts senators and the governor were wrong on the abortion issue.

“Only I am right,” he said.

A few years later, the church would also falter in its efforts to block gay marriage, as lawmakers were paying more heed to the voice of their constituents, than the cardinal’s’s.

“There used to be an assumption that [the archdiocese] was speaking for the majority of people in the church,” says State Rep. Byron Rushing. “But the average Roman Catholic state representative or state senator knew that there were many Roman Catholics in their district that are in favor of it. They weren’t all on the same page … [like] in the old days.”

Still, the institutional power of the Catholic Church in heavily Catholic Boston, would continue to earn Law a ranking by Boston Magazine as one of the three most powerful figures in Boston, even through the late 90s.

Protecting its own

Indeed, former Attorney General Martha Coakley says that sway was what enabled the Archdiocese to keep the lid on the clergy abuse and on what higher-ups were doing that allowed the abuse to continue.

“The church as an institution was incredibly powerful in Boston, in protecting its records and using its authority to cover up what was in retrospect, an awful conspiracy to hide [the abuse] and protect the church’s reputation,” she says.

Furious backlash

But when the 2002 sexual abuse crisis threw the church into turmoil, and prompted a furious backlash, it was all over. With the church under siege, the balance of power shifted abruptly.

Law became the “poster boy” for the church’s cover up. The cardinal’s mansion was surrounded every day by swarms of protesters calling for his resignation. From his mightiest perch, he was reduced to being grilled by victims’ lawyers, under oath, about what he knew and when he knew it. One attorney recalls that when pressed during a deposition, Law turned to his attorney, protesting and asking if he really had to answer. The answer came back that yes, he did.


Philippine President Corazon Aquino receives Holy Communion from Cardinal Law during Mass at St. Ignatius Church in Newton, Mass. in 1986.

“The church lost all its influence,” Rushing says. On Beacon Hill, the church’s longtime lobbyist, who’d been a fixture at the statehouse, didn’t even dare show up.

“I would joke with him,” Rushing recalls. “You know like, ‘You can always come into my office, because I know you don’t want to go anywhere else in the building.'”

The cardinal, never shy to testify himself on legislation or use his bully pulpit, was rendered effectively mute. He was side-lined on issues he would have been spearheading, like a Boston Hotel workers strike that involved poor and immigrant workers.

Legislation moved through the State House, including requiring health insurance to cover contraception, and hospitals to offer the morning-after pill. On the other hand, Rushing says the church’s retreat was a big blow to other progressive/liberal efforts he would have liked the church’s help on, like increased assistance to the poor people and immigrants.

“We lost that lobby,” Rushing says. “They just stopped doing it.”

Shortly after the crisis, some Catholic priests in Massachusetts were even flouting the church by speaking out against a ban on gay marriages in Massachusetts, prompting a stern rebuke from above.

At the same time, the church’s financial clout took a nosedive as well. Angry, disillusioned parishioners were leaving in droves, and donations — from collection plates and large institutions— were drying up. After the crisis, the annual Boston Catholic Appeal plummeted to half of what it was.

“Everything went right over the cliff,” said one church official, not authorized to speak on the record. “We were basically in a freefall.”

O’Neill says the Catholic faithful began to distinguish between the mission of the church, and the institution of the church, and found ways to support the former but not the latter. He says that’s still happening, as he saw recently, when fundraising for a local Catholic school.

“In the old days the Catholic Church would support it almost in its entirety,” he says. “Today, you have private folks making contributions directly to [foundations that support that mission] as opposed to through the apparatus of the archdiocese.”

Climbing out out of crisis mode

By all accounts, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, has worked small miracles to restore confidence in the church. Soft-spoken, and low key (he’s way more comfortable in the traditional plain brown habit of his Franciscan order, than the regal garb that Cardinal law favored), O’Malley, has showed genuine compassion for the victims, and a deep commitment to their healing and to church reform. Church officials say attendance has finally stabilized, and donations have climbed back up to pre-crisis levels.

The coffin of former Archbishop of Boston U.S. Cardinal Bernard Law at the St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday.

“If you told me before Sean O’Malley had become the cardinal of Boston, that anyone could have come and done the repair that Sean O’Malley has done, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have believed you,” says O’Neill. I think everybody — even Catholics not practicing today — have a very deep seated respect for Cardinal O’Malley.”

Politically, the Archdiocese is slowly recovering some of its voice, but seems to be strategically picking and choosing its fights, to stay more in sync with Boston Catholics. For example, O’Malley has been championing the cause of undocumented immigrants and speaking out on opioid addiction, violence prevention, and education.

“We’re out of crisis mode now, and Cardinal O’Malley is much more engaged politically,” the church official says.

The church recently managed to pull off a legislative win, helping to defeating a measure that would have allowed physician assisted suicide. But Bettinelli cautions even that vote doesn’t necessarily mean an upswing in the church’s influence.

“Lawmakers are voting “based on their faith,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily because they are being influenced by [O’Malley].”

Catholic participation remains low; just about 20 percent attend weekly mass, compared to 70 percent in the 1970’s, according to the church. Money remains tight, and despite the softer tone coming from both Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley, doctrine is not budging on issues like abortion, contraception, or gay marriage, and so the chasm between the church and many of its parishioners on social issues is only widening.

“The rigid school of catholic doctrine … doesn’t sell in the 21st century,” says says Lawrence DiCara who was Boston City Council president in the 1970s.

Close to 70 parishes have been eliminated since 2004, a trend almost surely accelerated by the scandal, but reflective of the broader shift of Catholic America from the old heartland of Boston, N.Y., Chicago and Philly, to the South and Southwest.

Today, as Cardinal O’Malley tries to reboot and boost the Catholic Church, in keeping with his more down-to-earth style, he lives in a modest rectory in the heart of Boston, far from the once majestic mansion that was home to his predecessors.

O’Neill was one of the “movers and shakers” who once reveled at the big parties at Cardinal Law’s residence. “Those were the happy days,” he sighs.

He was also there for the small, private meeting, when a handful of Law’s closest confidantes told His Eminence it was time to quit.

“That was the end of it,” O’Neill says.

Now, he says, “this church is a church in repair, and we have a long way to go.” Then, ever faithful, he adds, “But I think the [new] leadership is destined to do the right thing, and get us to that point.”

As O’Toole puts it, “it’s dangerous for a historian to talk about the future but … the revival will come at some point. You know maybe 100, or 200 years from now … But I don’t think [this decline] will be permanent.”

Complete Article HERE!

12/22/17

Children of Catholic priests chalk up win in fight for recognition

The Vatican has at last broken its silence on priests who become fathers, as their children reveal the pain of secrecy

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When he was a boy, Vincent Doyle spent most weekends with a priest he believed was his godfather.

Every Friday night they would watch MacGyver and Vincent would stay in a room that the priest, who was called JJ, kept for him. And every morning before school, he would call Vincent to wish him well.

It was not until years later when Doyle, a psychotherapist based in Galway, was sitting in the kitchen with his mother, leafing through old poems the late priest had written, that he asked the question he innately knew the answer to. “I said: ‘He was my father, wasn’t he?’ And I saw a tear come out of her,” Doyle says.

Catholic priests have been breaking their vows of celibacy and fathering children for decades, if not centuries. For just as long, the Vatican has not publicly addressed the question of what, if any, responsibility the church has to provide emotional and financial support to those children and their mothers. Until now.

A commission created by Pope Francis to tackle clerical sexual abuse will develop guidelines on how dioceses should respond to the issue of the children of priests.

The pontifical commission for the protection of minors has been criticised for doing too little on child sexual abuse. Its decision to take up the issue of priest fathers comes after Irish bishops published guidelines this year that have been hailed as a global model.

They say a child’s wellbeing must be the first consideration of a priest father, and that he must “face up” to his personal, legal, moral, and financial responsibilities.

Acknowledgement of the issue has come about in part because people such as Doyle, who has launched an organisation designed to help priests’ children cope with their difficult childhood circumstances, are speaking out like never before.

It is, says John Allen, a veteran Vatican journalist, an example of the “Francis effect”. “He has encouraged a spirit of open discussion. There is a vast global loosening up under Pope Francis, and this is one expression of it,” he says.

In the past, a bishop who was confronted with a priest father would have been most concerned about the priest breaking his vow of celibacy, Allen says. The priest would probably have been urged to avoid being “tempted” by the mother again and told to ensure the child was taken care of, but not have a personal relationship.

Doyle has loving memories of his father, whose surname he adopted. He will not talk about his parents’ relationship out of respect for his mother’s privacy, except to say one thing: they loved each other.

“He did everything he could for me in the circumstances,” Doyle says. “I simply loved him like a son would. The only problem is, you cannot say it.”

When he was a child, he says, his mother was under pressure and lacked visible social support. “People were led to believe that you were the only one.”

While he is encouraged by the signs of progress, Doyle wants the pope to confront the issue personally. When secrecy has been imposed on a child for their whole life, he says, it is a form of abuse that must be addressed.

“The big problem with children of priests is that they technically don’t exist, and until someone says they actually exist, it is a psychological battle that the children face,” Doyle says.

John Anderson, 72, contacted Doyle after hearing about his organisation, Coping International, and was moved to share his story for the first time.

Anderson says he was 18 when he learned that his father was a French priest. He never knew him and his birth certificate still states that his father is unknown. It was not supposed to be that way.

When Anderson’s mother was pregnant, he says, the plan was that she would enter a convent and that he would be adopted by his mother’s doctor.

Instead, his mother kept him and the pair took a £10 ticket to Australia when Anderson was three, armed with a letter of recommendation written by his father, which stated that his mother was a “creditable emigrant”.

As an adult, Anderson underwent years of psychotherapy and experienced bouts of mental illness, an issue he traces back to his difficult childhood with a mother who was incapable of caring for him.

Anderson says he was unable to be a proper father to his three daughters because he was too insecure and incapable of trusting anyone.

“I turned into this ice man in a way,” he says. Anderson went on to be an artist, but it was challenging because he was still unable to access his emotions.

“I had a rotten childhood. I used to pray to God to send me a friend,” he says. After learning who his father was, he wrote a letter to the priest’s order to try to find out more about him. They wrote back, calling him a gold-digger.

“My mother would have gone to her grave with the information, bless her. It’s like lifting the stone, isn’t it? Rolling the rock back from the cave mouth,” Anderson says.

“It has caused so many people so much grief. I’d just like the whole thing in the open. Jesus Christ, he wouldn’t have wanted this.”

Complete Article HERE!

12/19/17

Sexual Abuse is a Spiritual Encounter with God through a Priest

by The Kavanagh Sisters

Yet again we come across an article about the highest echelons of the Catholic Church published by the Indigenous America and shared on facebook this week that makes no sense to any right minded individual.

What are we to conclude from such statements made by Australia’s most powerful clergy, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart who made his comments in response to a report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse who proposed 85 sweeping changes to the criminal justice system and recommended that priests face criminal charges for failing to report serious crimes such as sexual abuse to the police.

Hart responded, saying ‘he’s prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by paedophile priests.’ He insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law. He went on to say that “Outside of this, all offenses against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.”

How can anyone make these statements with impunity, and with such conviction? How are we allowing this?

I feel sorry for the real priests and I know there are many who bought “the dream” but for the rest of them, things need to change.  People seem to forget and it is not that long ago, certainly in my childhood how much damage the church is responsible for. They stole from us at the very deepest level, behaving as if they themselves where God.   They assumed control over our thoughts and behaviours, telling us every Sunday from the pulpit how bad we were.  They took responsibility from us for our own morality, our bodies, filling us with shame and guilt around normal bodily functions.

They presumed to tell women in particular what they could and could not do with their bodies.  Men did not escape because although they sent them the message that they were more important than women through the sexual act (telling women they had to fulfill their marital duties) men still had to feel shame around their own natural bodily functions.  They ensured every man woman and child struggled with their sexuality and in my opinion the church is solely responsible for more than just the sexual abuse they inflicted upon the world from within but also created the perfect environment for the sexual abuse that runs rampant through our society’s today.

When are we going to realise that we do not need these frocked men to access or communicate with Our God.  For me the church represents a past filled with fear, oppression, shame, guilt, control, domination, rules and restrictions…… hang on a minute …… isn’t that the highest level of abuse….  and yet here we are still listening to these dinosaurs.

When you think about it, these men hiding behind the label of religion have caused so much pain and suffering without ever taking responsibility, manipulating the words in the Bible in order to allow them to do whatever they want.

The church’s response to handling allegations of abuse has in my opinion sealed the deal.  I would have more respect for them if they would have put their collective hands up and repented as their religion endorses, instead they have consistently attempted to avoid at all costs ownership of any wrong doing, making them responsible yet again for even more pain and suffering.   Where is the love their religion urges us mere mortals to demonstrate to one another?  The church did such a monumental job manipulating and brainwashing us, taking advantage of people’s goodness that as a result some people are still afraid to stand up and say when something just isn’t right.  I for one am glad that their dictatorship has come to an end….. They are just having trouble accepting it.

Complete Article HERE!

12/15/17

Catholic Church Singled Out In Australian Sex Abuse Report


The bronze statue of Cardinal Moran stands by the entrance of St. Mary’s Cathedral, in Sydney, Australia.

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In a far-reaching report on child sex abuse in Australia, a government commission is recommending that the country’s Catholic Church lift its celibacy requirement for diocesan clergy and be required to report evidence of abuse revealed in confession.

Those are among the 400 recommendations contained in the 17-volume final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which is wrapping up a five-year investigation – the longest in Australia’s history.

“We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report said.

The Australian reports: “More than 15,000 people contacted the commission to share their experiences of abuse, more than 8,000 of them spoke personally with the commissioner about the trauma it caused, and approximately 2,500 cases have now been referred to police.”

The commission said the church failed to properly address allegations and concerns of victims, calling the Church’s response to them “remarkably and disturbingly similar.”

The report also detailed abuse in churches of other denominations and at such institutions as schools and sports clubs. However, it concluded that the greatest number of alleged abuse perpetrators were found in Catholic institutions. The commission has concluded that 7 percent of priests who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009 had been accused of child sex abuse.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • A national strategy to prevent child abuse, with a national office of child safety.
  • Making failure to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution a criminal offense on the state and territory level.
  • Implementing preventative training for children in schools and early childhood center.
  • A requirement that candidates for religious ministry undergo external psychological testing.
  • Any person in a religious ministry subject to a substantiated child sex abuse complaint should be permanently removed from the ministry.

Currently, Australian law exempts confessional evidence from the rules that apply to other kinds of evidence in court, according to The National Catholic Register.

“We recommend that canon law be amended so that the ‘pontifical secret’ does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse,” the report said.

It said that “Religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school [counselors] should be brought into line with police, doctors and nurses who are all obliged by law to report sexual abuse,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“Without a legal obligation to tell police about abuses, many staff and volunteers failed to let anyone outside the institution know, the commission found,” the Herald reported.

The commission called for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to ask the Vatican to introduce voluntary celibacy for clergy. The commission found that clerical celibacy was not a direct cause of abuse, but that it increased the risk of abuse when celibate male clergy had privileged access to children.

In an official statement, Archbishop Denis Hart of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, apologized for past abuse, calling it a “shameful past” and said the commission’s report “will be taken very seriously.”

However, speaking to reporters later, Hart said the commission’s report “hasn’t damaged the credibility of the church” and called the recommendations on the confessional “a distraction.”

“The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that’s carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable. It can’t be broken,” Hart told reporters.

“I think everyone understands that this Catholic and orthodox practice of confession is always confidential,” he said.

Hart also pushed back on the subject of celibacy: “We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don’t have celibate clergy both face these problems. We know very well that this happens in families that are certainly not observing celibacy.”

The commission’s findings follow numerous allegations of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Australia in recent years. In June, Police in Victoria charged Cardinal George Pell, now a high-ranking Vatican official, with sex abuse dating to his time as a priest in Australia in the 1970s and 80s. Pell has denied the allegations.

The report concluded: “Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number.” the report concluded.

“It is not a case of a few ‘rotten apples.’ Society’s major institutions have seriously failed,” it said.

Complete Article HERE!

12/9/17

Ex-Catholic priest convicted in women’s 1960 rape and murder

A former Texas priest convicted of murder in the rape and strangulation of a 25-year-old beauty queen who went to him for confession almost 60 years ago is set to hear testimony Friday in the punishment phase of his trial.

John Bernard Feit, 85, was found guilty Thursday in the slaying of schoolteacher Irene Garza in McAllen, Texas. The Hidalgo County jury that convicted Feit can sentence him to up to life in prison.

Garza disappeared April 16, 1960. Her bludgeoned body was found days later. An autopsy revealed she had been raped while unconscious, beaten and suffocated.

Feit, then a 28-year-old priest at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, came under suspicion early on. He told police that he heard Garza’s confession in the church rectory rather than in the confessional, but denied he had killed her.

Among the evidence that pointed to Feit as a suspect over the years: Two priests told authorities that Feit had confessed to them. One of them said he saw scratches on Feit soon after Garza’s disappearance. His portable photographic slide viewer was found near Garza’s body.

Feit had also been accused of attacking another young woman in a church in a nearby town just weeks before Garza’s death. He pleaded no contest and was fined $500.

This week, prosecutors presented evidence that elected and church officials suspected Feit but didn’t want to prosecute him because it could harm the reputations of the church and Hidalgo County elected officials, most of whom were Catholic. Sen. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president that year.

Feit was sent to a treatment center for troubled priests in New Mexico, later becoming a supervisor with responsibility in the clearing of priests for parish assignments. Among the men Feit helped keep in ministry was child molester James Porter, who assaulted more than 100 victims before he was defrocked and sent to prison.

Feit left the priesthood in 1972, married and went on to work at the Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix, training and recruiting volunteers and helping oversee the charity’s network of food pantries.

Garza’s family members and friends had long pushed authorities to reopen the case, and it became an issue in the 2014 district attorney’s race. Ricardo Rodriguez had promised that if elected, he would re-examine the case.

Complete Article HERE!