Can Joe Biden Save American Catholicism from the Far Right?

Joe Biden and Pope Francis.
President Joe Biden’s nondoctrinaire Catholicism is driving comparisons to Pope Francis, who has vexed traditionalist U.S. bishops much the way Biden has.

By

A few hours after agitators incited by President Donald Trump breached the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, addressed the reconvened representatives, along with a vast television audience. She denounced the “shameful attack on our democracy” and resolved that the House would complete its certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. Pelosi, a Catholic, then took a religious turn. “Today, January 6th, is the Feast of the Epiphany,” she said. “On this day of revelation, let us pray that this instigation to violence will provide an epiphany for our country to heal.” She also quoted a prayer often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace; where there is hatred, let us bring love; where there is despair, let us bring hope.” Biden has quoted this prayer often. Three weeks earlier, when the electoral votes were first certified, he had offered the saint’s words—“where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is darkness, light”—as something like a mission statement for his Presidency.

Those invocations represent a striking turnabout. In the past four years, several million traditionalist American Catholics have made the impious, twice-divorced, religiously tone-deaf celebrity mogul Donald Trump their standard-bearer. Now progressive Catholics are placing their hopes in Biden, who is only the second Catholic President, after John F. Kennedy. Biden’s unfailing attendance at Sunday Mass, his visits to the churchyard graves of his first wife and daughter (who were killed in a car crash, in 1972), and his practice of carrying a rosary are taken as emblems of that public servant’s deep faith. His late-in-life election, moderate temperament, and just-folks manner prompt comparisons with Pope Francis—even as the new President’s support for abortion rights and gay marriage has prompted the head of the U.S. bishops to form a “working group” to examine his positions, and several bishops to declare that he should be denied Communion. (During the campaign, Biden turned against the Hyde Amendment, which proscribes the use of federal funds to support abortion services, after decades of tacit support for it.) Set the rosary aside, and old-school Joe Biden is the kind of flexible, independent-minded Catholic whom many bishops have spent their careers taking to task—and many progressive Catholics see as akin to themselves. In a new book, Massimo Faggioli, an Italian who is a professor of theology at Villanova University, near Philadelphia, observes that “Biden’s presidency arouses not only political expectations but also religious, even salvific ones. This Catholic president is now called upon to heal the moral damage inflicted upon the nation by Trump, the pandemic, and globalization.”

The events of January 6th upped the salvific ante and the brief for Biden to be a “Reconciler-in-Chief.” With the election to the Senate of the Reverend Raphael Warnock, a Baptist pastor from Georgia, some envision a resurgence of the religious progressivism that shaped the civil-rights movement. Catholics hope that the Church, with its moral authority diminished owing to its bishops’ failings on clerical sexual abuse, can be a trusted actor in national affairs again—that it can counter the “ ‘zombie’ ideas” (as Faggioli calls them) of Christian nationalism. The hope is that the Biden Administration will invigorate American Catholicism, and vice versa.

Catholics have sought convergence between Rome and U.S. politics before, and the present political culture is partly shaped by such aspirations. In 1987, Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran pastor (soon to convert to Catholicism), declared that a “Catholic moment” in American public life was at hand. The Reagan Administration had conjoined the President’s anti-Communist conservatism to that of Pope John Paul II, who, after conducting a nine-city U.S. tour, was at the apogee of his influence in this country. The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor, was as prominent as any senator or governor. Antonin Scalia had been seated on the Supreme Court. Through John Paul’s efforts, Catholicism was strongly identified with the struggle for political freedom and human rights in Soviet-controlled Poland. Neuhaus saw the moment as one in which the Roman Catholic Church in the United States would assume “its rightful role” in providing “a religiously informed public philosophy” to what he saw as an incoherent, decadent, post-sixties civil society.

Catholic theoconservatism has shaped Republican politics ever since, through an extensive network of political operatives, opinion-makers, academics, and philanthropists. It has set itself against the presentation of religious belief as merely a private matter, seen in a speech that Mario Cuomo gave in 1984, when he was governor of New York, in which he explained that, although as a Catholic he believed abortion to be wrong, he could not impose his beliefs on his constituents. Theocons disdain that position. In their view, a Catholic in public life should affirm his or her faith openly, strive to conform public policy to Church teachings, and reject the notion that the separation of church and state forces officials to check their faith at the door.

Today, outward measures suggest that a different Catholic moment is at hand. Six of the nine Supreme Court Justices are Catholics. So is Speaker Pelosi. So are at least eight of Biden’s Cabinet nominees. So is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Yet the terms of engagement have changed dramatically. The Church to which these people all belong is nearly as divided as the country, and American politics is now suffused with religion-as-public-philosophy, even as theocons decry, as the former Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic, did in 2019, the left’s “organized destruction” of traditional religion.

The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court made the change manifest. Barrett, raised a Catholic in Louisiana, is a graduate of an all-girls Catholic high school and of Notre Dame Law School, whose faculty she later joined. Since childhood, she has belonged to the People of Praise, a Catholic movement with a structure that places female members under the authority of men. A traditionalist—mentored by Scalia and publicly opposed to legal abortion—Barrett was a theocon’s dream high-court nominee. Yet, at her confirmation hearings for both the U.S. Court of Appeals, in 2017, and the Supreme Court, this past October, she took the Cuomo-esque position that theoconservatives have long derided: she insisted that her “personal convictions” and “policy preferences” should have no bearing on her rulings from the bench. (Nevertheless, last Tuesday, she joined the five other conservative Justices—three of them Catholics—in rejecting the argument that a Food and Drug Administration rule that women seeking to obtain the so-called abortion pills must do so in person from a health-care provider rather than by mail places an undue burden on those women during the pandemic, which has made doctors’ offices and clinics less accessible.)

Biden’s stance is something like the inverse of Barrett’s: as his public prominence has increased, he has grown more effusive about his Catholicism. In his memoir from 2007, “Promises to Keep,” he recalled that, fifteen years earlier, when asked to speak about faith and public service, at Georgetown University, where his son Hunter was a student, he hesitated: “It was a topic I had always shied away from because it makes me a little uncomfortable to carry religion into politics.” But the experience, he went on, made clear that Catholicism’s message about the perils of the abuse of power by the powerful had “always been the governing force in my political career.” His faith was prominent in the memoir itself, and in 2016, when he received Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, awarded to Catholics who have “enriched the heritage of humanity” through their work, he called it “the most meaningful award I’ve ever received in my life.” During the 2020 campaign, he traced his view on immigration to the Church’s “preferential option for the poor”—a favored expression of the Catholic left. Last June, in a eulogy for George Floyd, he cited “Catholic social doctrine, which taught me that faith without works is dead,” and quoted from the Catholic hymn “On Eagle’s Wings.”

Biden’s nondoctrinaire Catholicism is driving comparisons to Pope Francis, who has vexed traditionalist U.S. bishops much the way Biden has. Shortly after his election, in 2013, Francis said that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods,” suggesting that the Church had become “obsessed” with those topics. In 2019, he expressed support for gay civil unions. Last week, he announced that women are now expressly permitted to serve on the altar during Mass, thereby rejecting the traditionalist view that sacramental authority belongs to priests, who, according to Church teaching, must be male.

Shortly after Election Day, Francis sent Biden an inscribed copy of his new book, “Let Us Dream.” The progressive Catholic commentariat had already lit up with exhortations about the ways the new President might draw on the Pope’s key themes—mercy, concern for the poor, attention to the common good—to undo the Trump Administration’s inhumane policies. But it’s worth noting that, on many issues, Francis is much more progressive than Biden. In his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” the Pope traced the destruction of the planet to globalized liberal capitalism, in which strong countries put “selfishness” in place of the common good. In October, in “Fratelli Tutti,” he spelled out a view of universal human solidarity to extend his vision of a society in need of dramatic reordering. His positions bring to mind those of the self-described democratic socialists who are the architects of the Green New Deal—which Biden distanced himself from in a debate with Trump, saying, “The Green New Deal is not my plan.”

How, then, might President Biden draw on his faith as he takes office and leads the country? There are two obvious options. The first is that he could move to the center, through an appeal to his Catholic roots. On the Sunday after the riot at the Capitol, Pope Francis encouraged public figures to “calm souls” and “promote national reconciliation.” Biden could use the language of faith—the human family, my brother’s keeper, a common destiny—to reach out to Republicans disaffected by the Trump-incited hard right, and gain their coöperation in containing the spread of COVID-19, doing the work of reconciliation in the process.

Alternatively, Biden could draw on Francis’s critique of globalized society to move the emboldened Democratic majorities in Congress emphatically leftward. He could cite the vastly popular Pope to help make the case for regular payments to pandemic-stricken families (a form of basic income), tax and banking reform, a national minimum-wage increase, debt forgiveness, and aggressive action on climate change. An obvious precedent is President Kennedy, who shifted left after his election, bolstered, in part, by the progressive teachings of Pope John XXIII.

Or he could combine the two options, taking an approach rooted in both Francis’s pontificate and his own career. Paradoxically, the Pope’s moderate temperament and reputation have served to advance his progressive positions. In the same way, Biden’s record as a centrist and his profile as a hymn-quoting churchgoer could give him cover as he tacks left, much as Francis has, using the language of the common good to advance policies—refreshed infrastructure, a green jobs program, health care for all—that would actually benefit the disaffected whites in the heartland who are presently hooked on Trump. Strong employment, social stability, and a government seen acting concretely for the common good would help bring about national reconciliation with a Franciscan accent. As a side effect, joint efforts between the Biden Administration and the Vatican—on the climate, immigration, and human rights—might prompt the Vatican to be more progressive in its approach to laypeople, women and gay people among them, in leadership positions.

Of course, Biden faces harsh opposition, not least from other Catholics. The morning of the Inauguration, as Biden went to St. Matthew the Apostle, the Catholic cathedral in the capital, for a Mass attended by Speaker Pelosi and other government figures, the Catholic bishops released a long missive by their conference president, Archbishop Jose Gomez, of Los Angeles, expressing an eagerness to work with the new President, but upbraiding him for holding positions “in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender” that “would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity,” and implying that Biden’s approach to Catholicism posed a threat to religious freedom. The same Catholic traditionalists who detest Pope Francis detest the new President, and spiteful right-wing resistance may block any progressive initiative from Biden, as it has blocked those of Francis in Rome.

In this moment, it’s strange to think of Joe Biden, for so long a workhorse legislator in a blue blazer, as a redemptive figure. It’s strange that progressives, who are generally leery of Vatican authority, are frankly hoping that American politics will be inspired by the Pope—and hoping that a Pope might move a Democratic President further to the left. It’s strange that a Church whose followers have been harmed and angered by decades of negligence on clerical sexual abuse can still be seen as a source of civic healing. And yet the second Catholic President can hardly afford not to draw on his religion; with the country wracked by a pandemic, a recession, and political violence, he is going to need every source of reconciliation and moral authority available to him.

Complete Article HERE!

USCCB President’s Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America

FILE UNDER:  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America from Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

My prayers are with our new President and his family today.

I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all.

Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics. We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors. In every community across the country, Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, and ministries form an essential culture of compassion and care, serving women, children, and the elderly, the poor and sick, the imprisoned, the migrant, and the marginalized, no matter what their race or religion.

When we speak on issues in American public life, we try to guide consciences, and we offer principles.  These principles are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teachings of his Church. Jesus Christ revealed God’s plan of love for creation and revealed the truth about the human person, who is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.

Based on these truths, which are reflected in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, the bishops and Catholic faithful carry out Christ’s commandment to love God and love our neighbors by working for an America that protects human dignity, expands equality and opportunities for every person, and is open-hearted towards the suffering and weak.

For many years now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has tried to help Catholics and others of good will in their reflections on political issues through a publication we call Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The most recent edition addresses a wide range of concerns. Among them: abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development, and international peace.

On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties. We work with every President and every Congress. On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.

I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress. As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition.

Working with President Biden will be unique, however, as he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith. In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring.

At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture. So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.

For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.

Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families. My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.

President Biden’s call for national healing and unity is welcome on all levels. It is urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.

As believers, we understand that healing is a gift that we can only receive from the hand of God. We know, too, that real reconciliation requires patient listening to those who disagree with us and a willingness to forgive and move beyond desires for reprisal. Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves.

We are all under the watchful eye of God, who alone knows and can judge the intentions of our hearts. I pray that God will give our new President, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.

I entrust all our hopes and anxieties in this new moment to the tender heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ and the patroness of this exceptional nation. May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country.

I should no longer be treated like a dissident by Vatican, says Fr Tony Flannery

Fr Tony Flannery has said he believes he should no longer be called a dissident because he is now ‘mainstream’.

By Helen Bruce

Fr Tony Flannery has said he believes he should no longer be called a dissident because he is now ‘mainstream’.

The co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests has also questioned why senior members of the Catholic Church are not being sanctioned, as he was, for airing their views in favour of women being ordained.

His public expression of support for women’s ordination and same-sex marriage, as well as more liberal views on homosexuality, led him to be suspended from public ministry by the Vatican in 2012.

He has been told he can return to ministry if he vows in writing to obey the Church’s teaching on women and LGBT+ people.

However, he has now noted that two senior members of the Catholic Church – one of them the Archbishop-elect of Dublin – have made statements similar to his own about the position of women in the Church, and specifically about women’s ordination.

Fr Flannery said: ‘Given that the opinions I have expressed on these matters are now being held and expressed by many people of all levels right across the Church, without any apparent sanction, I am curious to know how any Church authority, ecclesiastical or religious, can justify and condone the sentences that have been imposed upon me.’

He said the Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, in an interview with The Irish Times, had said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the Church.

Fr Flannery said: ‘He is reported to say that “the biggest barrier to having female priests in the Catholic Church is probably tradition, not the Scriptures”.

‘In saying this, he appears to undercut the main argument used by the Church against the ordination of women.’

Fr Flannery said that Bishop Batzing, the president of the German Bishops Conference, had been reported as saying he was in favour of women being ordained deacons.

Bishop Batzing went on to say, in relation to the arguments against the ordination of women: ‘I must honestly say that I am also aware that these arguments are becoming less and less convincing and that there are well-developed arguments in theology in favour of opening up the sacramental ministry to women as well.’

Fr Flannery said: ‘So now the German bishop who supports women’s ordination has been joined by the new man in Dublin, who supports women deacons, and undercuts the main argument about ordination – that Scripture forbids it. No longer dissident, I am now mainstream!’

He added: ‘Will these two senior clerics be asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to sign a document which states “a baptised male alone receives ordination validly”?

‘It is not my wish that they be requested to do so, but it is worth pointing out that this is what I have been ordered to sign as a precondition of being “gradually” restored to ministry.’

Fr Flannery also noted that Bishop Batzing had said he believed it was necessary to change Church teaching on homosexuality, while Pope Francis disliked the Church’s description of homosexuality as an ‘intrinsic moral evil’.

He queried if either of them would be asked, like him, to sign a statement declaring homosexual practices to be ‘contrary to the natural law’.

Complete Article HERE!

Seattle archbishop is stonewalling push for more transparency of church sex-abuse cases, group contends

Paul Etienne took over as Seattle’s archbishop in 2019. An alliance of practicing Catholics say the archbishop has refused to discuss their call for a citizen-led review of the Seattle Archdiocese’s private records on clergy abuse.

By

Their ranks include ex-federal prosecutors, a retired judge, a one-time assistant police chief, even a former priest. But a group of prominent Catholics say they still can’t get an audience with Seattle’s new archbishop in their push to address the fallout of a lingering scandal.

Members of Heal Our Church, a Seattle-based alliance of practicing Catholics who seek a public review of how the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal secretly festered within the parishes of Western Washington, contend they’re being stonewalled by Archbishop Paul Etienne.

Since requesting a meeting with Etienne in January, group members said the archbishop has refused to discuss their call for a citizen-led review of the Seattle Archdiocese’s private records on clergy abuse. Group members contend only full disclosure of the secret files — with a public airing about the archdiocese’s known pedophile clergy members and how the church dealt with them — can ultimately heal the church and rebuild trust within the broader community.

“What we’re proposing is not radical,” said Clark Kimerer, a retired Seattle police assistant chief and core member of Heal Our Church. “It’s truth and reconciliation — a time-tested process that provides healing.”

But so far, Etienne has responded with only impersonal, pro-forma letters that dispute the necessity for such an initiative, group members said.

In a recent email, a spokesperson for the archdiocese partly blamed the coronavirus lockdown for scuttling the archbishop’s plan for an in-person discussion with the group.

“We had a meeting set but the pandemic came, which postponed this meeting,” according to the archdiocese’s email. “This is a meeting that would be better done in person, which can’t be done right now.”

But the email added that a “thorough outside review of the files by qualified lay people (and) a review of allegations by a group of qualified lay experts has already been done.”

Before Etienne’s appointment to Seattle in 2019, the archdiocese undertook various efforts to examine and address clergy sexual-abuse cases. They included creating a case review board in 2004 to examine child sex-abuse claims against several priests, and hiring former FBI-agent-turned-consultant Kathleen McChesney to evaluate the archdiocese’s clergy-abuse archives. McChesney’s review resulted in the archdiocese’s 2016 publication of a list naming 77 clergy members with credible accusations of rape or other abuse dating back decades.

Etienne has since established a pastoral council to take input from the laity, and the archdiocese continues to keep a review board of appointed citizens for consultation on sex-abuse cases, the email said. It also has quietly updated its “credibly accused” list with the names of scores of clergy on loan from other dioceses or religious orders who worked in Western Washington schools and churches but were left off the archdiocese’s initial accounting.

“Given our history and deep commitment to healing and transparency, as well as our deep respect for and trust in the experts like Kathleen McChesney and review board members, we are not planning to replace them or create parallel structures or processes,” the archdiocese’s email said.

But the church’s efforts to date have failed to fully address the scandal and continue to promote secrecy, according to the Heal Our Church group members.
They contend the archdiocese has failed to explicitly reveal how much church officials knew about credibly accused clergy members and when they first learned of individual abuse allegations. The archdiocese also hasn’t provided details as to whether its high-ranking officials played any role in enabling or covering up cases of abuse, and if so, why that happened, the members said.

“There’s never been discussion of the how and why this all evolved,” said Terry Carroll, a retired King County judge. “We think a lot has to do with the bishops and decisions by the church, but there’s been no real accountability for that era because the whole story hasn’t been told.”

At times, such details have separately emerged in lawsuits brought against the archdiocese by abuse victims. In one case, the archdiocese’s required legal disclosures of portions of the secret file kept on one notorious priest, the Rev. Michael Cody, showed the late Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connolly knew Cody was a pedophile but nonetheless moved him from parish to parish. After The Seattle Times detailed the case in 2016, Seattle University removed Connolly’s name from its athletics and recreation center.

Carroll and Mike McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, both served on the Seattle Archdiocese’s first review panel. They’ve since become outspoken critics of what they’ve described as the archdiocese’s opaque handling of the scandal. The two were among a core group who helped launch Heal Our Church and the latest push for more transparency.

More than 250 practicing Catholics in the Seattle Archdiocese have signed on as supporters of the group, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes. Heal Our Church, which runs a website to promote its cause, hosted a webinar in October and invited Etienne, but the archbishop was a no-show.

The group plans to broaden its effort in the New Year and hasn’t ruled out taking legal action, Kimerer and Carroll said.

Michael Sullivan, a former Seattle diocesan priest among the group’s core members, blamed clericalism — a deep-rooted approach that sets bishops and priests above everyone else in the church — for the resistance to truly independent examinations of the scandal. Sullivan pointed to the Vatican’s long-awaited report on ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s serial sexual misconduct as an example.

Released in November, the 449-page report found that years of allegations against McCarrick were ignored or covered up by bishops and other officials, allowing him to rise to the highest levels of Catholic church hierarchy. But the report downplayed the roles of surviving officials, placing the lion’s share of blame on the late Pope John Paul II.

“They tend to come together and circle the wagons when things go wrong,” Sullivan said of church authority.

The pandemic appears to be the archdiocese’s latest excuse for putting off dealing with the latest calls for transparency, Sullivan added.

“We’ve offered to meet virtually or with social distancing,” he said. “But (the archdiocese) refused those opportunities.”

Group members contend that ignoring the church faithful’s efforts for a definitive public airing only serves to further undermine the archdiocese’s credibility and diminish trust at a time of plummeting membership.

“We’re seeing a church in crisis,” said Kimerer, the former assistant police chief. “The faithful (are) leaving the church in droves and credibility is at an all-time low. But if, indeed, the archdiocese has addressed these issues, then why are they so averse to having a lay-led group validate that? We’d call that a clue.”

Complete Article HERE!

Three men accuse prominent Michigan priest, Polish seminary leader of sexual abuse

Rev. Miroslaw Krol

By

The call came one warm night in June 2019. A young Polish priest referred to as “John Doe 1” in a federal lawsuit filed Monday knew it was his boss, Rev. Miroslaw Krol, and he knew that Krol was drunk. But he didn’t know the night would end with him driving an intoxicated Krol and another visiting priest to a motel to meet a male sex worker, and then, according to the suit, withdrawing cash from an ATM so Krol could pay him.

Krol is the chancellor and CEO of Orchard Lake Schools, an Oakland County campus that includes a private prep school, St. Mary’s; a seminary, and a Polish cultural center. A leading figure in the Detroit area’s Polish Catholic community, both Krol and the OLS leadership are named as defendants in a suit in which three men — including two priests — say Rev. Krol recruited them to Orchard Lake with the intent of sexually abusing them.

On Stateside, host April Baer talks to reporter Kate Wells about this story.

But when Krol’s abuse was repeatedly reported to Orchard Lake’s board of trustees — which includes the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of the Detroit Archdiocese — these men say they were either forced to resign or were abruptly fired. Krol is currently on leave, according to a statement from Steve Gross, Chairman of the Board of Regents:

“In our judgment, these former employees of the Orchard Lake Schools who are asserting these claims while simultaneously seeking to remain anonymous have mischaracterized the circumstances surrounding their terminations. It is important to note all individuals named in the lawsuit are adults. These former employees bringing this employment action did not work with any minors, nor did their roles involve the

High School on our campus. We are confident that the facts, in this case, will prevail, that the legal process will determine their claims lack merit, and that we acted appropriately at all times.
As an institution, we have been and will continue to be fully committed to following the highest
standards for our students, faculty, and staff.”

“Father Krol denies all allegations of misconduct, and looks forward to being vindicated,” said attorney Roy Henley, who represents Krol, in an emailed statement Monday. “He has no other comment at this time, and accordingly respectfully declines your offer of an on-air interview.”

The public relations office for the Detroit Archdiocese did not respond to requests for comments or interviews.

Who is Rev. Miroslaw Krol?

Krol, a native of Poland, “brings significant money into the OLS organization and has deep ties to the Vatican by virtue of his friendship with Polish Cardinal [Stanislaw] Dziwisz, a former Secretary to Pope John Paul II,” according to the federal suit.

Krol initially studied at the SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary at Orchard Lake. Located in West Bloomfield Township, it bills itself as “the only seminary in the United States dedicated to preparing foreign-born seminarians, primarily from Poland, to serve the Catholic Church in our country.”

Krol went on to complete his training in New Jersey, where he studied under and was ordained by the now-notorious former American Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, who sexually abused minors and seminarians for decades.

“It is in this environment that Defendant Krol completed his religious training and spent much of his early years as a priest in Newark — where McCarrick was Archbishop. Indeed, Krol was ordained by McCarrick and, upon information and belief, witnessed in him many of the grooming tactics that Fr. Krol would later employ at OLS.”

In 2006, Kroll returned to Orchard Lake as dean and vice rector of the seminary. According to the complaint, rumors started that he was “engag[ing] in sexual activity with seminarians.”

“At least one young seminarian recruited from Poland during this time period is reported to have confided in both a local priest and in a Bishop in New Jersey that the sexual activity involving Krol at these parties was not always consensual. Upon information and belief, the Bishop told the seminarian that if he wanted to become a priest, he should not say anything further about the topic.”

Meanwhile, Krol was traveling to Poland to recruit young men, including those who allegedly “had failed out of seminary in Poland or who had issues with alcohol and sexual matters.” The suit accuses Krol of falsifying their academic transcripts to get them into Orchard Lake, where they were “alone and eager to revive their dreams of becoming a priest. They were vulnerable and largely dependent on Krol.”

In 2017, when Krol was being considered as a candidate for chancellor of Orchard Lake, “two priests who had worked with Krol at OLS in the past raised concerns with the OLS Board of Regents regarding Krol’s behavior…[and] rumored sexual misconduct when he had served as a Dean and Vice Rector,” the claim alleges.

“Despite these warnings about Krol, the OLS Board of Regents appointed him as Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer in 2017.”

 

John Doe 1: A young Polish priest

John Doe 1 first met Krol when he was a young seminary student in Poland, where Krol often came to recruit students to Michigan. Years later, the suit alleges Krol aggressively recruited Doe 1 to leave his role as a priest in a New Jersey parish to come work as vice chancellor of Orchard Lake, promising to pay for and arrange his green card.

But the green card never materialized. Instead, Krol began controlling every aspect of his life, according to the complaint: berating him, demanding he “be available at all times,” forcing him to cancel plans or return early from vacations. He also began inviting Doe 1 to his apartment for late-night meetings, where Krol “drank to excess.” One evening, the suit alleges, Krol pushed his hands down Doe 1’s pants and touched his penis. The next day Krol told him how much “fun” he’d had, and went on to make frequent references to the size of Doe 1’s penis.

“After he left, Krol spread false rumors that John Doe 1 was forced to leave OLS because he was gay. These statements were untrue and continue to harm John Doe 1 to this day.”

So when Krol called him that June night, asking Doe 1 to drive him and a visiting priest from Chicago to a bar, Doe 1 refused. But Krol, who was clearly intoxicated, threatened to get behind the wheel himself. Feeling trapped, Doe 1 agreed to give them a ride.

“When they got to the bar, John Doe 1 realized that it was a gay bar,” the complaint reads. “When they left, Fr. Krol directed John Doe 1 to another stop — which John Doe 1 soon realized was a motel. At the motel, a  male sex worker, who Krol had apparently contacted through the internet, was waiting. It was apparent to John Doe 1 that the sex worker knew Fr. Krol.

“John Doe 1 remained in the car while the other priests went into the motel,” the complaint says. “At one point, the priests asked John Doe 1 to retrieve cash from an ATM, which John Doe 1 concluded was used to pay the sex worker. When they arrived back to Krol’s apartment that evening, John Doe 1 began to help Krol — who had fallen asleep in the back seat — out of the car. Krol threw his arms around John Doe 1’s neck and tried to hug him … and then started kissing him on the face and lips, trying to put his tongue in John Doe 1’s mouth. John Doe 1 pushed Krol away and told him to go home.”

Doe 1 didn’t know where to turn. He’d seen Krol use his power and influence to destroy the careers of other young priests he didn’t like, the complaint alleges, and feared he couldn’t leave Orchard Lake without angering Krol. Eventually, Doe 1 confided in his bishop in New Jersey, who is not named in the suit, but who told Doe 1 he had to leave.

“Ultimately, John Doe 1 decided to tell Krol that he had to leave for reasons related to his green card,” the suit says. “John Doe 1 left OLS in October 2019. After he left, Krol spread false rumors that John Doe 1 was forced to leave OLS because he was gay. These statements were untrue and continue to harm John Doe 1 to this day.”

John Doe 2: A classical musician from Chicago

At the same time Joan Doe 1 was trying to find a way out, his coworker was experiencing similar harassment and abuse by Krol, according to the complaint.

“John Doe 2” is not a priest. A Polish native and professional classical musician in Chicago, John Doe 2 was also recruited to Orchard Lake by Krol to take on a prominent position as director of the Polish Mission there.

Both he and Doe 1 were hired in 2018. And like Doe 1, John Doe 2 says Krol began making unwanted sexual advances soon after he started at Orchard Lake. On weekends, Doe 2 would drive back to Chicago to be with his wife and daughter. But that left four evenings a week when Krol knew he was on campus, Doe 2 says.

At first, Krol would invite Doe 2 to his apartment in the evenings, and invited him to “lay down” or “relax” in Kroll’s bed. Doe 2 says he made it clear to Krol that he wasn’t interested and left his apartment, but Krol became increasingly aggressive. Then came the text message, in Polish, warning Doe 2 that if he didn’t accept Krol’s invitation, his job would be on the line.

That night, Krol lunged at him, “leaping into his lap” and “kissing his neck and lips and trying to put his hands down John Doe 2’s pants,” the suit alleges. “Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him.” Doe 2 says he “pushed Krol away and left his apartment,” and tried to ignore Krol’s messages or schedule work meetings to conflict with Krol’s invitations.

Doe 2 says initially, he was in shock. Having been raised in Poland and with several members of his family serving as priests, Doe 2 had spent his life in the church community. He says he started to tell other members of the Orchard Lake community about what was happening. Some of them seemed shocked. But others told him they weren’t surprised.

“Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him.”

“I heard from some of them that there was gossip a long time ago going around about Father Krol, you know, being this or that,” John Doe 2 told Michigan Radio. “So I was shocked, like, ‘So there are people who heard about that already a long time ago, before I got to Orchard Lake, and didn’t do anything about it? Like, are you waiting for something really crazy to happen here on campus?’

“But some … people told me, ‘Well, oh my god, thank God! Because there was already gossip that you had a relationship with Father Kroll…. Thank God that you are straight, you are not the gay.’ Because that was what was the gossip, was that people were telling each other, ‘You know what? Maybe he’s his lover or having a relationship with him.’”

Doe 2 says eventually he just wanted to “forget” what had happened in Krol’s apartment, he says, “and move on and then focus on my job and my work. Hopefully nothing’s going to happen, because I sent the message [to Krol.] It’s kind of like, ‘Goodbye, thank you very much.’ And hopefully he will get it. And so I was hoping for that. But unfortunately, it got worse and worse and worse.”

Krol began luring Doe 2 to his apartment by pretending to have a heart attack or medical emergency, or saying they needed to talk about “future plans for the Polish Mission.”

“During the meeting, Krol had several drinks and at one point excused himself to go to the bathroom,” according to the suit. “When he returned, Krol sat next to John Doe 2, put his hand on John Doe 2’s leg, and began slowly moving it up his thigh. At the same time, Krol reached his other hand into his own pants and began to masturbate. Krol began asking John Doe 2 to have sex with him and telling John Doe 2 that he loved him. John Doe 2, as in the past, rejected Krol’s advance by moving Krol’s hand off his leg and leaving the apartment.”

It was a turning point. In January 2020, Doe 2 says he reported Krol’s sexual harassment to John Roland, a member of the OLS Board of Regents and Vice Chairman of the Polish Mission’s Board of Directors. Roland said he had to “disclose the information to the entire Board of Regents,” the complaint says, but the “other Board members chastised him — suggesting that Mr. Roland should have addressed this issue only with Krol. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Roland was removed from the OLS Board.”

Just a few weeks later, on January 15, 2020, the COO of Orchard Lake, Todd Covert, asked to talk with Doe 2 privately in his office.

“So he closed the door, and he said, ‘We need to talk about stuff. There is that person who reported to us, the board member [who] reported to us…. And I need to ask questions, and I want to talk to you about it. So are you OK [with that?]’

“I said ‘Yes, no problem.’ But I said, ‘Can I record the meeting?’ Because I was scared already, you know? And he said, ‘No, there is no reason. It’s only the two of us. So there is no reason for recording that meeting.’ And I told him, ‘You know what, I would really like to record that meeting. If not, then I can’t talk to you…. [If] there is nothing to hide, why not to record?’ So then finally he said yes.”

Doe 2 says he still has that recording, though his attorneys declined to provide it to Michigan Radio. But Doe 2 says he recounted Krol’s harassment and abuse over the previous year and half. And Covert seemed sympathetic, he says.

“He told me that he feels very bad for me, and they are going to take this very seriously. They are going to look into it, they are going to investigate, and that there is already investigation going on. And they’re going to get back to me with more staff, more details, more probably questions.”

Doe 2 says he returned home to Chicago that same day. Two days later, he opened his email to find a message from the vice Chaicman of the Board of Regents, asking Doe 2 to contact him about a “‘very urgent, very important issue.’”

“And then before I was able to respond to that email or contact him, I got another email” saying his contract with Orchard Lake and the Polish mission has been terminated. The email accused Doe 2 of “a variety of criminal and tortious conduct,” the suit alleges, including that Doe 2 had stolen or mismanaged money from the Polish mission.

Those allegations were “untrue,” the suit claims, and “had never been raised with Doe 2 previously, and was nowhere mentioned in his personnel file.” But he soon learned that Krol was publicly saying Doe 2 had been fired under a cloud of suspicion for misusing Orchard Lake funds.

In the close-knit, Midwestern Polish Catholic community, word spread fast, Doe 2 says. He started getting calls to his home in Chicago from friends who’d heard the rumors.

“He talked badly about me in Poland, too,” Doe 2 says. “So people who knew me [for] many years, they contacted me, and they said, ‘There is something not correct. You are not that guy .’

“So it was very shocking. And I was sitting alone [at home] because I couldn’t, at the time, talk openly. I couldn’t let people know what was happening, really, behind the scenes…. He hurt my name that I built for years and years. And then I thought, what about my child, you know, if she hears some story later on, and it’s untrue?”

Doe broke down, sitting in his car in his garage, so that his daughter wouldn’t hear him while she was doing virtual school inside the family’s home. “I’m doing this for all the future victims. I don’t want anything like that to happen to anyone. But mostly for my daughter. I want to look in her eyes every day, and know that I did the right thing.”

“I was the guy who was victimized, and going through the trauma, and seeking for help and telling people ‘Listen, guys, help me. This is something not right. This is crazy stuff going on on this campus from the leader. This is what is happening to me as an employee.’ And they did nothing.”

Reports and retaliation

The third and final victim mentioned in the suit is not a formal plaintiff, but was witness to similar behavior by Krol. He, too, was a young Polish priest recruited by Kroll soon after John Doe 2 left Orchard Lake. He too says Krol sexually harassed him, and that when Doe 3 rejected him, Krol “began sending him torrents of abusive text messages, and blaming [him] for mistakes that he had not made.”

In December 2019, Doe 3 told Krol he would leave Orchard Lake when his contract ended the following June. Instead, Krol fired him in March. Doe 3 says he reported Krol “to church authorities by writing to the Archdiocese of Detroit in or around March of 2020.”

Soon after, a detective from the Michigan Attorney General’s office contacted Doe 3, and interviewed him. The same detective also reached out to Doe 1, who eventually agreed to disclose Krol’s abuse as well. According to the lawsuit, no one from Orchard Lake has reached out to either of the young priests about their complaints.

Then in August, lawyers for the two plaintiffs reached out to Orchard Lake’s leadership to formally report the allegations of sexual harassment. One month later, in September, Krol went on a popular Polish radio show, and accused both Doe 2 and Doe 3 of “misappropriating funds.” Doe 1 says Krol began contacting his friends and family members and making threatening statements. “Indeed, shortly after Krol learned of John Doe 1’s cooperation with legal counsel in this matter, parishioners in John Doe 1’s diocese began receiving anonymous and disparaging letters about John Doe 1,” the suit says.

“It’s so disappointing to me, both as an attorney and as a Catholic, to see a Church institution respond this way to really serious, credible claims from multiple people that have come forward,” says Jennifer Salvatore, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “And that’s really disappointing, because the world knows now how they’re supposed to respond. The law is really clear about how they’re supposed to respond, and the church knows how they’re supposed to respond. And time and again, they are not honoring their legal obligations or their moral obligations with respect to how these issues are being addressed. And to see it happen in 2019, 2020 in a Catholic Church entity is just tragic.”

Complete Article HERE!