Advice for new archbishop: Real Catholic agenda is way broader than abortion


WHEN POPE Benedict XVI transferred Archbishop Charles Chaput from Denver to Philadelphia, one of the nation’s most prominent Catholic archdioceses, the appointment captured the attention of faithful Catholics, the media and undoubtedly a few nervous elected officials.

The archbishop has earned a reputation as one of the church’s most outspoken conservatives. During the 2004 presidential race, he warned Catholics they would be “cooperating in evil” if they voted for Democrat John Kerry, a devout Catholic who does not favor criminalizing abortion but whose positions on support for pregnant women, immigration reform, nuclear disarmament and other issues align with Catholic teaching. The archbishop has also scolded the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Obama and, in contrast to most of his fellow bishops, insists that Catholic politicians who depart from church teaching on abortion should be denied communion.

Chaput’s appointment is likely to have national implications in the 2012 election. As the presidential campaign gains momentum, Pennsylvania Catholics will again be aggressively courted as swing voters in this battleground state. GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are staunch Christian conservatives. “Values voters” are back in the news. If history is any guide, Catholic voters in Pennsylvania will be key to who wins the White House.

Despite the media fixation on the religious right, the Public Religion Research Institute and other experts on faith in politics consistently find that most religious voters reject a culture-war approach to politics and instead embrace a broad spectrum of values – protecting the poor from budget cuts, passing immigration reform, expanding health care to all Americans and building a moral economy.

A disproportionate focus on criticizing politicians who do not accept that criminalizing abortion is the only way to solve this terrible problem gives the false impression that the Catholic Church is a religious wing of the Republican Party. Elected officials who support the death penalty, demonize immigrants and slash programs that protect the poor and most vulnerable, all in contradiction to church teaching, rarely receive the sort of public rebukes Chaput and other conservative Catholic bishops direct at those who deviate from the church position on abortion.

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St. Louis Archdiocese pays out $467,500 more to abuse victims

The St. Louis Archdiocese has paid $467,500 in the past year to nine people who claimed they were sexually abused by six St. Louis-area priests as long ago as the mid-1960s, officials said.

A lawyer for the archdiocese said it has paid $8.2 million to settle 103 sexual abuse claims. About three-quarters of the cash has been paid to accusers who came forward in the past seven years, a period in which abuse by priests – and the Catholic Church’s handling of accusations – rose to a local and national scandal.

The archdiocese confirmed the settlement figures on Monday after a survivors group held a news conference to name five of the priests in the settlements: Robert F. Johnston, James A. Funke, Joseph Lessard, Donald Straub and Michael S. McGrath.

The archdiocese later acknowledged a mediated settlement concerning a sixth priest last year, but did not identify him. There are about 10 complaints still pending resolution, said Bernard Huger, a lawyer for the archdiocese.

The archdiocese also agreed to post the Missouri child-abuse hot line in every archdiocesan workplace; educate adult employees on how to recognize sexual abuse; conduct “safe touch” programs for children and immediately report abuse complaints to authorities.

Huger said the first three “concessions” have been in effect for years, and the fourth is mandated by law. Ken Chackes, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, said it was important to get the archdiocese to commit to keeping them going.

Seven members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests demonstrated outside the Richmond Heights home of McGrath, decrying that none of the five priests are listed in Missouri’s sex-offender database. They distributed pamphlets to neighbors that began, “Your neighbor is a predator!”

McGrath’s mother, Stella, answered the door for a reporter and said her son was not home.

She said his accusers were making up stories “trying to get money from the archdiocese.”

About the leafleting outside, she said, “I don’t think there is anything I can do about it.”
McGrath did not respond to a phone message.

McGrath has been sued by 20 people alleging abuse. He was ordained in 1975, removed from public ministry in 1997 and laicized in 2005. He served in parishes and schools in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

Funke, a former teacher at Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis, pleaded guilty in 1987 to molesting two teenage students and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was removed from the priesthood in 2006.

Straub was ordained in 1975 but removed from ministry by St. Louis Archbishop Cardinal John Carberry. He was laicized in 2005.

Church officials have apologized to victims and said Straub admitted allegations of sexual abuse and had been treated before being returned to service.

Johnston, defrocked in 2002, was charged with sodomy in Jefferson County in 2006 for sexually abusing a boy in 1978; the disposition of the criminal case was not clear on Monday.

Lessard admitted to the Post-Dispatch in 2002 that he molested at least 12 boys in three parishes in the 1960s and ’70s, but had been returned to service by Carberry after treatment.

In a statement, then-Archbishop Justin Rigali said reassigning Lessard to new parishes was “inadequate and, by current standards, unacceptable.”

He was never charged with a crime.

New York Episcopalians Nominate Married Lesbian Tracey Lind For Bishop

Episcopalians in New York have nominated Rev. Tracey Lind, a married lesbian priest, for bishop.

“She is 57 years old and is married to Emily Ingalls,” a Monday announcement from the diocese said. Lind and Ingalls married last year in New Hampshire.

Lind is dean of the Trinity Cathedral, located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

During her 11 year tenure, she has led the development of Trinity Commons, an environmentally sustainable campus that is home to Trinity Cathedral and the Diocese of Ohio, and three fair trade shops.

From 1989 to 2000, she was Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Paterson, New Jersey.

She is a native of Columbus, Ohio and holds a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from the Honors College at the University of Toledo, a master of community planning from the University of Cincinnati, and a master of divinity from Union Theology Seminary in New York, according to a church biography.

In 2009, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest gay rights group, honored her with an Equality Award.

A special convention to be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on October 29 will select a winner, who will be named coadjutor bishop and assist the current bishop, Mark Sisk, until his retirement.

The 2003 ordination of Bishop Gene V. Robinson created a deep divide between the 77 million-member Anglican Communion and its more liberal American branch, the Episcopal Church.

The elevation of a second openly gay bishop, Assistant Bishop Mary D. Glasspool, in May further divided the two churches.

Report: Kansas City diocese ‘jeopardized safety of children’

A study commissioned by the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese of its handling of sexual misconduct cases found that “individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families.”

Hiring former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate how the diocese handles cases of sexual misconduct was part of Bishop Robert Finn’s response to questions that he had mishandled the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a local pastor arrested in May for possession of child pornography.

The Graves report states that Finn, who first became aware of concerns about Ratigan in December, “had not determined a ‘breaking point’ at which he would remove Fr. Ratigan from ministry or take other more serious action.”

Ratigan is in jail on charges filed in Clay County, Mo. A federal grand jury charged him in August with 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child pornography.

Among the findings in the 138-page report, which is available online, are:
Diocesan leaders, as previously reported in the media, did not inform the diocesan review board of allegations;
Responsibility for the investigation of sexual misconduct fell to one office, that of the vicar general;
Finn took Ratigan at his word that he would abide by restrictions on his association with children.
Taken together, the report states, findings indicate that “Diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures” for responding to reports of sexual misconduct.

The report appears to place most blame on the current vicar general of the diocese, Msgr. Robert Murphy, who was previously the point person in the diocese for investigating claims of sexual misconduct and was also a member of the diocesan review board.

Murphy, the report states, “served as a gatekeeper” and had “no one to second guess his judgments.”

Murphy was relieved of his responsibility in cases of sexual misconduct by clergy in June, but remains vicar general of the diocese.

Ratigan served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City until December. The parish is in Clay County.

For the most part, today’s report seems to affirm the sequence of events already reported by diocesan officials and in the media.

However, the report elaborates on certain aspects of the story, including how a detailed report outlining misconduct by Ratigan was handled by Murphy and Finn.

A year before Ratigan’s arrest, principal Julie Hess of the elementary school attached to St. Patrick Parish hand delivered to Murphy a letter warning that parents and staff members there were concerned about “significant red flags” about Ratigan’s behavior and were worried he “fit the profile of a child predator.”

“Parents, staff members, and parishioners are discussing his actions and whether or not he may be a child molester,” wrote Hess in the May 2010 letter.

As previously reported in the media, the report states that Murphy verbally informed Finn of the letter, but that the bishop did not read it until May 2011.

In the report, Finn states that he “cannot recall” whether he received a written report on the subject from Murphy prior to this May, and can only “specifically recall” three items from Murphy’s verbal report to him on the subject:

That Ratigan had swung children around on the school playground, had let children hug his legs and had let a girl sit on his lap.

Among other descriptions of Ratigan’s behavior in Hess’ letter are instances where the priest had allowed students to “climb on him, grab his leg/s, and reach into his pockets for candy” and a report that, during a Brownie Girl Scout visit to his home, a woman “had found a pair of girls’ panties inside one of the planters in Father’s back yard.”

The letter concludes: “[Staff members] believe that Father spends so much time at school he isn’t able to get other important things done. Father is at school every day for long periods of time. He is usually present at arrival time, during morning prayer, recess, lunch, dismissal, and after school. He also visits the early childhood center most every day.”

Also elaborated upon in today’s report is the process by which Finn dealt with instances of Ratigan visiting children after he had been removed from his parish.

After receiving out-of-state treatment for a December suicide attempt, Ratigan was assigned by Finn to live with a group of Vincentian priests in a home located near a prayer center run by a group of Franciscan sisters.

As previously reported, today’s report states that, when moving Ratigan, Finn gave the priest instructions to not attend or participate in events where children were present, to not have access to a computer, and to only use cameras in “limited circumstances.”

However, the report states, there was no supervision given to Ratigan to ensure those instructions were followed.

In a sub-section titled “A Flag of the Reddest Color,” the report states that Ratigan attended several functions where children were present in March, including a popular local parade.

News of Ratigan’s visit with children, the report states, caused Msgr. Brad Offutt, the chancellor of the diocese, to e-mail Finn April 8 expressing concern.

“I am not sure what the options are for addressing this, but plainly something needs to be done to limit Diocesan liability and protect children,” wrote Offutt. “[Ratigan’s] recent behavior relative to children and on the computer are a flag of the reddest color”

During a conversation the same day with Ratigan, the report states, Finn admonished the priest, again, that he was not to have contact with children.

Ratigan, the report states, heard confessions from minors April 11 and “grew bolder” by attending a high school track meet May 7 and accessing the guest computers at the Vincentian home.

Finn, the report states, said in an interview for the investigation that he “had not formulated a plan” to address Ratigan’s behavior.

“Although he was considering assigning Fr. Ratigan to the Archives Department of the Chancery, where he would not have contact with children, Bishop Finn had not determined a ‘breaking point’ at which he would remove Fr. Ratigan from ministry or take other more serious remedial action,” the report states.

The report outlines five recommendations for the diocese, including:
Asking all diocesan employees and volunteers to report abuse to the police;
Notifying a diocesan ombudsman of current and past abuse;
Ensuring that the diocesan review board be notified of all allegations of abuse.
The diocese previously announced June 30 the appointment of an ombudsman and public liaison officer tasked with receiving and investigating cases of sexual misconduct.

In a statement to press, Graves indicated he thought the diocese would take his recommendations to heart.

“Our investigation identified shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures, but we believe Bishop Finn and the leadership of the diocese understand the gravity of the issues and take these recommendations seriously,” Graves stated.

In a similar statement, Finn touted the diocese’s appointment of the ombudsman as a sign its seriousness.

“The Graves report affirms the decision to establish and appoint an Ombudsman. Jennifer Valenti, appointed Ombudsman in late June, is an experienced prosecutor and possesses the authority as gatekeeper to receive and investigate, independently, any complaint involving the sexual abuse of minors,” Finn stated.

A statement from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was more skeptical.

“Lawyers still act like adding some phrases to the official diocesan procedure manual will make some kind of difference,” SNAP’s outreach director Barbara Dorris wrote.

“It won’t. Only vigorous action by police and prosecutors will make kids safer in the KC diocese.”