Priests’ letter supports Bourgeois

A group of “priests in good standing within the Roman Catholic church” wrote to Maryknoll superiors last month to support the priesthood of Fr. Roy Bourgeois “and his right to speak from his conscience.”

The letter bore the signatures of 157 priests.

Bourgeois, 73, has been threatened with dismissal from Maryknoll, a New York-based missionary order, for his public support of women’s ordination and participation in such events.

“The priests felt the need to stand in support of, not only Fr. Bourgeois, but their own right to speak from their conscience,” the July 21 letter said.

The letter is addressed to Fr. Edward Dougherty, superior general of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

“While we understand the difficulty of your position we hope that seeing support of ordained priests in good standing will help you come to a fair and just conclusion,” the letter said.

The letter does not specifically address the issue of women’s ordination, only that the signees support the right to speak from conscience. The letter and the signatures have not been made public, but NCR obtained a copy of the letter with the names.

The letter is “an attempt to let the superior general of Maryknoll and Vatican officials know that priests in the United States really support Fr. Roy Bourgeois and feel that his right to speak from his conscience is certainly something that is justified,” said the spokesman for the statement, Fr. Fred Daley of Syracuse, N.Y.

There is “certainly a concern, too, that we’re moving into a situation where it’s a church of fear rather than a church of love,” Daley said. The signees were a mix of diocesan priests and order priests, he said.

Maryknoll’s spokesman, Mike Virgintino, confirmed to NCR that the order had received the letter and that it “acknowledges” the right of Bourgeois and anyone in the Catholic church to present their views and speak from their conscience on any issues.

He said that this is an ongoing situation between Bourgeois and the church, not between Bourgeois and Maryknoll.

Daley said that the letter was addressed to Dougherty because as the superior general of Maryknoll he is the one who will be doing the removing.

Other letters in support of Bourgeois have been sent to Maryknoll or the Vatican, but no letter or statement has had so many priests sign onto it.

“It’s sad that someone who has given [his] whole life to the church and has witnessed for peace and accompanied the poor is being treated in such an embarrassingly scandalous way,” said Daley, a friend of Bourgeois.

According to Daley, in early July a group of concerned priests began talking about a way to support Bourgeois and the idea of a letter emerged.

The group approached Call to Action, a Chicago-based church-reform organization, for help in reaching out to other priests. Bourgeois was notified of the letter while it was being created, Daley said.

In other parts of the world, priests have been banding together as a united front for the rights of Catholics.

The National Council of Priests of Australia has defended ousted Toowoomba Bishop William Morris.

In Ireland, the Association of Catholic Priests formed last year to represent Irish clergy and promote a reform agenda, including a reevaluation of the church’s teaching on sexuality and the inclusion of women at every level within the church.

And last month in Austria, 300 priests signed a letter calling for reform, including ordaining woman and married priests.

In March, Dougherty and Maryknoll secretary general Fr. Edward McGovern wrote Bourgeois telling him that he had 15 days to “publicly recant” his support of women’s ordination or face dismissal from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

After 15 days, a second letter would be sent, and if Bourgeois did not recant after that, Maryknoll would send his dismissal records to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “for confirmation with a request for laicization.”

Bourgeois responded in a letter dated April 8, stating that he could not recant without betraying his conscience.

To date, Bourgeois has not received the second letter from Maryknoll.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter to Bourgeois in 2008 ordering him to stop his public support of women’s ordination and not to participate in events related to it, but Bourgeois did not adhere to those demands.

Bourgeois is also the founder of SOA Watch, an organization seeking to close down the former School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, a U.S. Army school that trains soldiers and military personnel from Latin America.

The Church Doesn’t Get It

Why Bishop Chaput is not the answer

The testimony before a grand jury in 2003 and 2004 of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, during the D.A.’s investigation of clerical sexual abuse, is now online courtesy of the Inquirer; it was filed as part of the current trial of Monsignor William Lynn. Reading Bevilacqua’s actual words is important, to get the feel of who he was, his thinking, and the way he should run his archdiocese.

There’s another reason we should read what he said. The problem that the archdiocese of Philadelphia faces is not merely that it has been run by men who were far more concerned with protecting pedophile priests and the Church itself than the children who were raped by those priests. If that were the case, the solution would be straightforward: You get rid of those men at the top. But the problem is far deeper than a few Cardinals who are morally bankrupt. And that is what the Church refuses to understand.

Bevilacqua’s testimony is telling. At one point over many hours and many days, assistant D.A. Charlie Gallagher asked the Cardinal several times why–when a priest who had sexually abused a parishioner was removed–Bevilacqua did not inform that parish as to why their spiritual leader was gone.

Charlie Gallagher: “Don’t you think it would have been advisable to do that, to find out if he had abused anyone else?”

Cardinal Bevilacqua: “I repeat what I said before–we did not see it was necessary because no one was held back from reporting it.”

Gallagher: “Weren’t you concerned about whether or not there were other victims in that parish?”

Bevilacqua: “Oh, I’d be concerned about any victim, but there’s–if they wanted to come to us, they could have come anytime.”

Gallagher: “So you left it all up to these innocent children to come forward and make these claims; is that correct?”

Bevilacqua: “Their families. I don’t see–there was no restriction on anybody. They could come any time at all.”

Gallagher: “I’m not questioning the restriction … put upon the other parishioners. All I’m asking is: Don’t you think it would have been wise to go back to that parish to find out if there were other victims in that parish?”

Bevilacqua: “No, I didn’t think it was necessary, and I don’t see why we had to do that.”

That exchange, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. We now know the story, of how the Church protected priests who raped children by moving them around to other parishes, where they went on their merry way raping more children. But I cite the above because of Bevilacqua’s chilling tone, and how it nails his monumentally skewed priorities.

So can this scandal be solved by the retirements of Cardinals Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali, and by bringing in Bishop Charles Chaput, who supposedly has a good record on sexual abuse (though there are serious questions about that)? In short, will Chaput’s aggressive brand of Catholicism move the archdiocese past the current mess?

No. Because the mindset and actions of Cardinal Bevilacqua–and his successor Rigali, who punted on the problem–are a symptom of a crisis even deeper than priests who rape children being protected and allowed to rape more children.

We are too far down the road of understanding institutional power for the Church to do anything but openly admit not just the facts of abuse, not just the awful way it has dealt with that abuse, but the most basic truth that everyone can now see: That the Church as an organization–as an institution with power held tightly at the top, with maintenance of that power the abiding concern–must fundamentally change.

I invite you: Take a look at that grand jury testimony of Cardinal Bevilacqua. His attitude merely reflects how power is organized and maintained in his Church. So it is beside the point to grade Bishop Chaput on what he did in Denver, or to put much stock in him reinvigorating the local faithful, because what this archdiocese needs, what the Church needs, is the radical understanding that its own power structure has gone haywire. In fact, it has been haywire, and the sexual abuse scandal, like the Arab spring, as messy as it is, as painful as it is, speaks to a changing world: In this case, the Church is no longer powerful enough to mute victims, and it must start listening to them. And to parishioners.

Watch, many are saying about Bishop Chaput: This guy is a firebrand. No such thing as Catholic lite from him. But Chaput’s style of faith, as charged and beautiful as it may be, is not the answer; his appointment, in fact, is an end run on the crisis. Because back to the fundamentals in an authoritarian way, which is what Chaput really offers as head of the archdiocese, is exactly the style that got the Church into this mess over the past few centuries. How long will it take to understand that?

Bishop’s laptop had child torture pics

OTTAWA – A disgraced Roman Catholic bishop betrayed little emotion Thursday as a court was told his laptop contained hundreds of pornographic images of young boys — including photos of torture.

Raymond Lahey was in an Ottawa court for sentencing in a child-porn case that has rocked his former Nova Scotia archdiocese of Antigonish.

The 71-year-old cleric pleaded guilty in May to importing child pornography and voluntarily went to jail to begin serving time even before a formal sentencing.

A second charge of simple possession remains against Lahey, but it is expected to be withdrawn as part of the plea deal when he is formally sentenced later this year.

Close to 600 photos, mostly of young teen boys, were found on Lahey’s Toshiba laptop and a handheld device when he was stopped at the Ottawa International Airport in September 2009.

An Ottawa police detective told the court Thursday that the images ranged from soft-core nude shots to far more gruesome photos.

“Some of them were quite graphic,” Det. Andrew Thompson said. “There were images of nude boys, but there were also torture and stuff like that.”

As Thompson answered questions from the witness stand about the contents of Lahey’s laptop, the bishop sat quietly, his right hand trembling slightly as he ran his index finger along his mouth, chin and the cleft between his nose and upper lip.

He was dressed in a grey sport coat, khaki pants and a tan shirt with the top few buttons undone. He wore glasses and his grey hair was neatly combed and gelled.

Lahey’s lawyers argued that the bishop may not have seen every image stored on his laptop’s hard drive, since some of the pictures may have come from pop-up windows he never actually looked at.

They also tried to make the case that the 588 images of child porn were just a small fraction of the 155,000 or so photos on his computer. Thompson said. They also discovered that the bishop came across many of the images by typing the keyword “twink” into a search engine. The court heard the term is associated with hairless, adult males and is sometimes used within the gay community.

Among the contents of Lahey’s laptop were pornographic stories about children which, like some of the photos, depicted torture. A character in one of the stories, entitled “The Masturbation Chronicles,” shares Lahey’s name, Father Raymond. It was not clear if that tale involves torture.

Thompson told the court some content on Lahey’s laptop ranked among the worst he has seen during the course of what he estimates are between 50 and 300 child-porn cases.

“They’re right up there,” he said. “I mean, it doesn’t depict infants but the explicit images of torture are disturbing.”

A support group for clergy-abuse victims called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged the judge to give Lahey a tough sentence.

“We urge the magistrate presiding over this sentencing hearing to give Lahey a stiff sentence and send a message to pedophile clerics in Canada and abroad that child abuse will not be tolerated,” the group said in a release.

“Kids are safest when child predators are jailed, so we sincerely hope that Lahey is put behind bars, and we urge anyone who was a member of the Antigonish diocese who saw, suspected, or suffered these crimes to come forward and tell their story to civil — not church — authorities. Please remember that there is no greater weapon for a pedophile than silence.”

Lahey is scheduled to return to court in December. His lawyer, Michael Edelson, has asked the judge to reschedule that appearance for an earlier date

Vatican investigates gay-friendly Mexican bishop

Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, Mexico has told a Mexican newspaper he has received “a series of questions” from the Vatican about his support for the San Elredo community, which holds positions on homosexuality that are contrary to Church teaching.

“There has been a call from the Vatican and I am ready to clear things up … I have to respond to a series of questions that Vatican City has sent me about my work with homosexuals,” Bishop Vera told the newspaper Zocalo.

He said the Vatican inquiry has come about “because a Catholic agency based in Peru, ACI Prensa, has made false claims that I promote homosexual relations.”

ACI Prensa is Catholic News Agency’s Spanish-language sister publication.

He accused ACI Prensa of distorting his work. “They allege that I am against the magisterium of the Church and unfortunately they are driven by prejudice and phobias against the homosexual community.”

The request for clarification from the Holy See, he insisted, “is because this Catholic news agency has said outrageous things.”

Bishop Vera told the newspaper, “In the Diocese of Saltillo, we have very clear objectives. We work with (the gay community) to help them recover their human dignity, which is frequently attacked at home and in society, and they are treated like scum.”

“I am not against the magisterium of the Church, nor do I promote dishonesty. It would go against my principles to promote depravity and immorality,” he said.

In response to the Vatican inquiry, the coordinator of the San Elredo community, Noe Ruiz, told Zocalo the group would be willing to leave the diocese in order to prevent the work of Bishop Vera from being hindered.

“If tomorrow they come tell Bishop Raul Vera, ‘You are endangering your work in Saltillo because of such a small community, a network of barely 600 people,’ it would not be worth the risk,” he said.

In March of this year, Bishop Vera published a statement on the diocesan website expressing support for the “sexual, family and religious diversity forum.” The event was aimed at “eradicating what some sectors of the Church believe about homosexuality” — especially the belief “that homosexual actions are contrary to God.”

Father Robert Coogan, the American priest who founded San Elredo, maintained that the group’s work is not contrary to the teachings of the Church.

He added: “How can a person with same-sex attraction have a fulfilling life? And the only answer the Catechism gives is to tell them to be celibate, and that is not enough.

Chilean priest charged with sexual abuse hangs himself

Rodrigo Munoz Allendes was 45.

A few days ago he was accused by a 19-year-old boy.

He was found hanged in the courtyard behind the Church of Santa Chiara, located in the “La Cisterna” district of Santiago del Chile.

The name of the 45-year-old Chilean priest was Allendes Rodrigo Munoz.

He was accused of alleged sexual abuse by a 19-year-old boy, local media reported.

Shortly after the corpse was found, the Episcopal Conference posted on Twitter: “the Vicar of the southern are of the capital city has received a complaint of sexual abuse against Don Rodrigo Allendes.”

Jaime Coiro, the spokesman for the Episcopate, could not say when the crime had allegedly been perpetrated.

According to press reports, however, the police had already known that the youth’s family was about to file the complaint since the beginning of the month.

On May 12th, another priest, Luis Eugenio Silva, knowing well the Chilean media, had tried to commit suicide before their “version” of the his alleged sexual abuse could be released.

The Church denied though, pleading depression for a skin cancer.

Yesterday, three of the four youths who had filed complaints of sexual abuse in 2010 against Father Fernando Karadima, who was well known in Santiago and whose crimes the Vatican condemned, have published a vademecum to prevent these situations from happening again.

For this and other cases, President of the Episcopal Conference Ricardo Ezzati has already asked for forgiveness several times.