A Redemptorist priest who has been suspended from active ministry for the past eight years has described comments by a senior Vatican Cardinal as “like Trump” amid a deepening row over potential reforms in the Catholic Church.
Fr Tony Flannery, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests and an advocate of the ordination of women priests, made his comments after a report this week in the National Catholic Reporter quoted Cardinal Luis Ladaria of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as saying it had done “everything possible” to come to some type of resolution with him, but this had been unsuccessful.
In the same article, Cardinal Ladaria defended his office’s request that Fr Flannery sign four strict oaths of fidelity to Catholic teaching, saying while this was “very unpleasant”, it was required to maintain fealty to Church guidelines.
The Cardinal was quoted as saying: “We have tried always to maintain our respect towards Fr Flannery, but the duty that we have, according to the arrangement of the church, is to protect the faith and therefore to indicate some things that do not conform with this faith.”
Fr Flannery, 73, had said that unless he signed the oaths he had been informed he should not return to public ministry.
The row has now deepened, with the ACP tweeting a link to the NCR article and stating it is “very disturbed” by the comments as to the nature of the engagement with Fr Flannery.
It said if the report had quoted the Cardinal accurately “then it must be said, that he is misleading Catholics and the public. This is disturbing.”
Fr Flannery himself tweeted on Tuesday night “Ladaria is a Jesuit; he knows what ‘dialogue’ entails. He must know this statement is false. This has upset me this evening”.
He told the Irish Examiner he has no intention of leaving the priesthood or the Redemptorists, but could not rule out the possibility that he might be fired.
He said in eight years he had had no direct correspondence from the CDF and so the Cardinal’s assertion to the contrary was, in his view, “totally false”.
“The only thing I can compare that to is Trump,” he said, adding that what was said is “clearly contrary to all the evidence”.
Fr Flannery said there are “polarised positions” in the Church and in the Vatican itself on possible reform, but that the recent issue over the oaths of fidelity “in tone and content is like something from the 19th century”.
“To some extent this is like the end of the road in dealing with the Vatican,” he said.
In a comprehensive statement issued earlier on his website by way of response to the comments made by the Cardinal, Fr Flannery said the CDF under Cardinal Ladaria or his two predecessors “never communicated directly with me”.
“How do you dialogue with someone when you won’t speak to them?” he asked.
He said he was “totally unaware” of any other discussions held at a higher level and added: “All I ever got were demands for statements and signatures, and lists of punishments meted out to me. In fact the very first I knew of the whole process was, in 2012, when I was presented with two documents, outlining my ‘heretical’ writings, and the sentence being imposed. And the Cardinal says they have done everything to dialogue with me.”
An American bishop-elect has resigned just weeks before he was due to start the job, following an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor, Catholic Church officials said on Monday.
Father Michel Mulloy, 66, was appointed by Pope Francis on June 19 to be bishop of Duluth, Minnesota and was due to be formally installed in a ceremony on Oct. 1.
It is almost unheard of for a bishop-elect to resign between the time of his appointment and installation. The episode pointed to the continuing impact the abuse scandal is having on the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church.
It was not immediately possible to contact Mulloy or his lawyers for comment on Monday, a public holiday in the United States.
A Vatican statement said Pope Francis had accepted Mulloy’s resignation, but gave no more details.
The diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, where Mulloy had served as a priest, released a statement saying it had last month “received notification of an allegation against Father Mulloy of sexual abuse of a minor in the early 1980’s”.
The diocese said that when it received the allegation, police were informed and Mulloy was instructed to refrain from public ministry while a Church investigation determined if the allegation was credible.
A diocesan board made up of mostly lay members reviewed the investigation’s findings and concluded that the accusation “met the standard” for further investigation, the diocese said.
Mulloy submitted his resignation after he received a summary of the allegation, the diocese added.
A spokesman for Rapid City’s police force said there was no active investigation into the bishop-elect. Police in Duluth did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
For the past two decades the Roman Catholic Church around the world has been hit by a raft of sexual abuse cases and has spent billions of dollars in settlements, expenses that in many cases have led to the closing of parishes and schools.
The U.S. Church is still reeling from a Pennsylvania grand jury report that revealed that priests had abused about 1,000 people over seven decades in that state alone.
A SURVIVOR of clerical abuse, and now the Mississippi coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has blasted the Jackson Diocese and a Franciscan order over paltry compensation payments made to two black men who were abused by a friar in the 1990s.
The men making the allegations, La Jarvis Love and Joshua Love, both 37, are cousins who grew up together and encountered West in the 1990s, when he was a teacher and later the principal at the St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Three years ago, the cousins reported that West sexually assaulted them on school grounds and on road trips, including one to a New York summer camp established by the Franciscans, a Roman Catholic religious order.
As The Associated Press first reported, nearly two years ago La Jarvis Love and Joshua Love each agreed to settle their claims for $15,000 – far less than most clergy abuse victims receive.
A third man, Joshua’s younger brother, Raphael, also alleged West sexually abused him and reported the abuse to church authorities in 1998, after which West returned to Wisconsin. Raphael Love rejected a settlement similar to those signed by his brother and cousin.
In November, La Jarvis Love and Joshua Love filed a lawsuit in federal district court in New York, claiming the Franciscans pressured them into signing low-ball settlements that required their silence about their allegations. At the time they signed the settlements, they were not represented by an attorney.
“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re Black,” Joshua Love told the AP.
Father James Gannon, the leader of a Wisconsin-based group of Franciscan Friars, negotiated the settlements. Last summer, he denied that racism or the Loves’ poverty were factors in the amount of money offered . “Absolutely not,” he told the AP.
In 2006, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, which includes Greenwood, settled lawsuits covering 19 victims — 17 of whom were white – for $5 million. That average payout of $263,000 for each survivor is 17 times that offered to each of the Loves. Payments in more recent settlements nationally have ranged far higher.
Gannon also attempted to negotiate a similar agreement with Raphael Love, Joshua Love’s younger brother, who is serving two life sentences in a Tennessee prison for a double homicide he committed as a juvenile. Raphael Love refused Gannon’s offer because, he said, the amount was not enough to hire a criminal attorney willing to argue that he deserves a new trial.
West, 60, did not contest his extradition at a hearing in Outagamie Country, Wisconsin on August 17. He arrived at the Leflore County Jail in Greenwood, Mississippi, earlier this week following an investigation by the Mississippi Attorney General’s public integrity division.
West also has been charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child in Wisconsin.
Geoffrey Downs said he was a teenage altar boy in the 1980s when former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abruptly pinned him to a wall and sexually abused him as they prepared for services in Metuchen.
McCarrick, who would go on to become one of the most prominent clerics in the U.S. Catholic Church, allegedly said he could arrange for the two to go to a Jersey Shore beach house where they could have “alone time.”
Downs, who sued McCarrick and the Metuchen diocese last week, said he knew about that house because he’d been there a few years earlier on a retreat with a group of altar boys. He said he had been awakened by a sound just before dawn, and witnessed a priest sexually abusing a young boy.
“I was well aware of the beach house and what it could mean,” Downs, 53, said in an interview Monday.
His lawsuit is the second civil complaint alleging child sex abuse at a Jersey Shore home used by Catholic clergy and connected to McCarrick. In a suit filed last month, a man said he was abused by the former cardinal at a beach house where the prelate allegedly shared boys with other clerics. The abuse allegedly occurred in the early 1980s, when McCarrick was the Metuchen bishop, about the same time as the activity alleged in Downs’ lawsuit.
Downs’ complaint, filed Aug. 11 in Middlesex County, alleges he was abused by McCarrick in 1982 or 1983, when he was 15 or 16 years old, at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Metuchen. He said he didn’t know the bishop but had seen him celebrating Mass at the parochial high school he attended. Downs said he was abused just the one time, and that he recoiled from McCarrick and then quit going to church altogether.
The ex-cardinal was defrocked last year amid allegations that he sexually abused children and harassed adult seminarians, becoming the highest-ranking American Catholic official to be punished over accusations of sex abuse. Downs’ was the fourth suit filed in New Jersey over the past nine months alleging McCarrick sexually assaulted a child.
McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment. McCarrick has denied allegations that he sexually abused minors.
Downs said he didn’t talk about the encounter until recently, when he began reading about others abused in the Catholic Church and “started realizing it wasn’t an isolated incident.” The lawsuit says he visited the shore house about a year before he was abused by McCarrick.
“A year prior to the abuse Plaintiff had attended an altar boy retreat at the Diocese Beach House and had observed another boy being sexually abused by an unknown priest,” the lawsuit alleges.
Downs, who now lives in North Carolina, said in the interview that the beach house visit may have been earlier, around 1980, which would have been a year before McCarrick took over as bishop of Metuchen. Downs said McCarrick wasn’t there during the visit. His group of altar boys was getting ready to leave the house after a retreat while another group had just arrived. He said he woke up just before dawn when he heard sounds coming from another room.
“The door was cracked,” Downs said.
He said he “peeked in” and saw a priest and an altar boy who was about his age, 12 or 13 years old. The priest was standing, he said, and holding the boy from behind while touching him in a sexual way. Downs said he ran when the priest turned toward the door. He said he didn’t recognize the priest or the boy, and that they didn’t show up for breakfast that morning.
Downs said he does not know the location of the house. The lawsuit filed last month alleged that McCarrick ran a sex ring out of a Sea Girt home — but the attorney who filed it has since said he may have been mistaken about the location.
The Metuchen Diocese didn’t purchase the Sea Girt home until 1985, several years after the alleged abuse outlined in the suits would have occurred. But the Sea Girt property has also been mentioned in accusations that McCarrick sexually harassed adult seminary students on overnight trips there, pressuring them into sharing a bed with him and changing into bathing suits while he watched.
The diocese has said it does not know of another shore home it owned in the early 1980s. Property records show the Metuchen Diocese sold the Sea Girt home to the Newark Archdiocese in 1988 and later owned another house in Brick Township, which it sold to Newark in 1997.
McCarrick led the Metuchen Diocese from 1981 to 1986 before moving to Newark, where he was the archbishop until 2000.
Downs said he visited the Jersey Shore house just once but remembers other groups had gone there for retreats. He said that when he was abused years later, he froze and didn’t hear everything the prelate said. But he remembers McCarrick saying “he could help me with my grades, and could arrange for alone time at the beach house at the shore.”
“When he said that, it touched a nerve and freaked me out because I remembered what happened at the beach house,” Downs said.
Downs’ attorney, Derek Braslow, said in court papers that at least seven people have told the Vatican they were abused by the former cardinal as minors. Church officials have been conducting an investigation of McCarrick but have not yet issued a report revealing the findings.
The recent lawsuits are among more than 100 filed against the Catholic Church in New Jersey under a law that took effect Dec. 1, 2019, suspending the statute of limitations for civil sex abuse cases for two years.
Church officials have said they knew of no allegations against McCarrick involving minors until two years ago, when they removed him from active ministry. They have acknowledged settling two claims brought by adult seminary students in 2005 and 2007.
In the late 1980s, at least two seminary professors sought to intercede on behalf of students who had complained about McCarrick and trips to the shore. One of the professors wrote a letter to the Vatican when McCarrick was named archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2000. Months later, McCarrick was promoted to cardinal.
More than a year after Pope Francis ordered ousted West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield to make personal amends for alleged sexual and financial misconduct, his successor bishop says he has yet to hear from Bransfield about a restitution proposal.
In July 2019, Francis forbade Bransfield, a well-connected Philadelphian who had held prominent national spots in the Catholic Church, from celebrating Mass and from living in West Virginia. Bransfield had led the church there for 13 years. In November, Brennan had proposed, per Francis’s demand, a specific proposal for Bransfield’s restitution.
Some experts say the restitution package was a first for a bishop. Brennan called for his predecessor, now 76, to pay the diocese nearly $800,000, to apologize to victims, to lose his place in the diocesan cemetery, and to lose the normal bishop retirement package and instead receive a lower stipend equal to that of someone who had been a priest for 13 years.
Diocesan spokesman Tim Bishop on Monday referred The Washington Post to a July 28 letter Brennan wrote to the diocese. The letter only briefly mentioned Bransfield, saying that neither Brennan nor the papal nuncio — the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States — had heard back from Rome since November “on the plan of amends I submitted.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Brennan in the MetroNews report is saying Rome needs to approve of Brennan’s plan, Bransfield’s response or both.
Bransfield declined to comment Monday, and his lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Post in 2019 obtained an internal church investigation that found Bransfield, as bishop in one of the country’s poorest states, spent millions of dollars of diocesan money on chartered jets, lavish furnishings at his official residence and nearly 600 cash gifts to fellow clergymen. The Post also found that $21 million was moved from a church-owned hospital in Wheeling, W.Va., to be used at Bransfield’s discretion. The money was moved into the Bishop’s Fund, a charity Bransfield created with the stated purpose of helping residents of West Virginia, tax filings showed.
MetroNews quoted Brennan last week as saying Bransfield “would not come up with his own plan and did not admit to his actions. Brennan previously told MetroNews that Bransfield told him he did not know who he needed to apologize to.”
Francis was the one who initially called for Bransfield to make amends, Brennan said told MetroNews.
“I wasn’t sent in to demand that. They demanded that. They asked me to work with him, and let me tell you, that was not easy to do,” Brennan said.
Bransfield has denied wrongdoing, saying that his staff in Wheeling was responsible for diocesan finances and which accounts checks came from. He has told The Post that he thinks he greatly improved the financial health of the diocese during his tenure and that gifts and lavish perks were within church culture norm. He has denied the claims of seminarians and priests who said he sexually harassed them.