It’s Time to Occupy the Catholic Church


Jeff Ward: Chicago Cardinal George just can’t seem to get it right!

As I was pondering the positive effects of the Occupy Wall Street protests, another local news story caught my eye. The two events may appear to be disparate, but if you consider some interesting parallels, I think they actually complement each other quite well.

Essentially what I’m saying is, I think it’s time for an “Occupy the Catholic Church” movement.

Of course, whenever I broach this touchy subject, all kinds of cross-wearing folk come out of the woodwork to accuse me of Catholic bashing and being anti-church. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s start with those nine years (including kindergarten) at St. Nick’s. Armed with that education, I waltzed into all honors classes at Evanston Township High school. I was an altar boy, a church reader and volunteered on numerous projects. I still keep in touch with some of the nuns, teachers and priests from that time.

The Jesuits at Loyola University of Chicago put anything the Ivy League can offer to shame. And three of my most prized possessions include two quotes done in calligraphy by one of those nuns, and a cross made out of wood from an old St. Nick’s pew.

Though the thought didn’t come to me in exactly that fashion, at some point I began ascribing to Sting’s notion that, “Men go crazy in congregations, but they get better one by one.”

But despite declaring myself an official ex-Catholic, in no way does that mean I’m minimizing or disowning that heritage. On the contrary—I’m proud of it!

That said, let’s move on to our local news story.

Stopping just short of excommunication, Chicago Cardinal Francis George and his fellow bishops indignantly blasted Gov. Pat Quinn, a Catholic, for presenting a pro-choice PAC leadership award. They said, by “aligning” himself with that group, he was “supporting the legal right to kill children in their mothers’ wombs.”

My first thought was, “When will the church apply that same kind of zero-tolerance religious zeal to themselves?” But instead of going down that road, let’s just move on.

So my second thought was, “Isn’t this man throwing the first stone, the same man who, in the face of a mounting church child-sex-abuse scandal, allowed The Rev. Daniel McCormack to prey on young boys for 14 long years?”

In 1992, two men and one minor accused McCormack of abusing them while he was in the seminary. The subsequent letter placed in McCormack’s file simply “disappeared.”

In 1999, an assistant principal informed the archdiocese that the priest had abused a fourth-grade boy. Though she delivered that letter herself, the archdiocese said they never received it.

In 2003, a woman called the archdiocese to report her grandson was being molested by McCormack. Violating the very policies set forth by the cardinal himself, the archdiocese refused to call the police.

After McCormack was first arrested in August 2005, an independent review board created by the cardinal directed him to remove McCormack from the priesthood. He did not.

Finally, in 2006, 19 long years after that first case of abuse, McCormack was arrested when another parent complained to another principal who had actually had the good sense to go to the police.

And how did the church punish George for his complicit failure to protect children? They named him president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. If it were you or me, we’d be sitting in a jail cell.

But back to the present. After the cardinal trashed the governor, it turns out the award wasn’t going to any kind of abortionist, it was being presented to “pre-eminent” rape-victim advocate Jennie Goodman, herself a rape victim at the age of 18.

Goodman, who’s neither had nor encouraged as much as one abortion, a woman who could have justifiably issued a scathing counterattack on the Catholic Church, simply replied, “It hurts for all those people who have been raped.”

That’s certainly a far cry from George’s statement attacking her because the governor was “rewarding those deemed most successful in this terrible work.”

It kind of makes you wonder whether George or Goodman should be the cardinal.

When he finally understood the magnitude of his mistake, just what did the cardinal do? It certainly wasn’t anything as rash as issuing an apology. He stoically claimed he “regrets” that Goodman felt attacked and added, had he been aware of her story, “We may have found another occasion to say something about the governor.”

Ah, yes! Being a Catholic cardinal or bishop means never having to be aware of anything.

Aren’t these the same religious leaders who commissioned the John Jay Report, which blamed the sex-abuse scandal on the ’60s counterculture, the rise of feminism and the tolerance of homosexuality? Let’s not forget that document also claimed priests were only pedophiles if they molested someone under 10 years of age.

Isn’t this the same church that hasn’t punished one bishop or cardinal for their role in a worldwide child-sex-abuse cover-up?

And then Cardinal George attacks a rape-victim advocate. Talk about throwing the first stone …

My first thought was to call on Catholics everywhere to follow my lead and leave a church that so dismally falls short of the expectations they place upon their own flock. But considering all the good the Catholic Church does, I believe that would be the equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

And then I remembered the fine example being set by the “Occupy” protestors. In spite of this country’s many faults, they’re not abandoning it, they’re reminding our leaders what made it so great in the first place.

So, I’ve decided to issue this challenge instead. Catholics! Take back your church.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic church can be held responsible for wrongdoing by priests

High court ruling will make it easier for victims of clerical sex abuse to bring compensation claims against the church.

Victims of clerical sexual abuse will find it easier to bring compensation claims against the Catholic church after a judge ruled it can be held responsible for the wrongdoings of its priests.

In a test case heard at the high court, Mr Justice Macduff gave a decision in favour of a woman, known as JGE, who claims she was sexually assaulted by a Portsmouth priest at a children’s home in Hampshire.

The judge said although there had been no formal contract between the church and the priest, the late Father Baldwin, there were “crucial features” that should be recognised.

He said: “He [Baldwin] was provided with the premises, the pulpit and the clerical robes. He was directed into the community with that full authority and was given free rein to act as a representative of the church. He had been trained and ordained for the purpose. He had immense power handed to him by the defendants [the trustees of the Roman Catholic diocesan trust]. It was they who appointed him to the position of trust, which (if the allegations be proved) he so abused.”

It is the first time a court has ruled that the relationship between a Catholic priest and his bishop is akin to an employment relationship. It sets a precedent for similar cases, by providing further guidance for such trials in the future, while also putting the church in uncharted territory. The church has been granted extended leave to appeal the decision.

Lord Faulks QC, on behalf of the defendants, said the church was not seeking to evade responsibility for paedophile priests. “My clients take sexual abuse extremely seriously and are very concerned to eradicate and investigate it,” he said. “This case has been brought as a point of law that has never been decided.”

JGE told the Guardian she was pleased with the judgment but angry about the church getting leave to appeal. She said: “I’m fuming. I’ve had no support from the church whatsoever. Nobody has contacted me. They are ignoring victims. It feels like being on a rack, turning the screws tighter and tighter, over hot coals.”

A victory for the the church would have meant it could avoid paying any compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

Philadelphia prosecutors seek to prove pattern of pedophile priests, transfers at March trial

Prosecutors seeking to convict four Roman Catholic priests and a teacher in a pedophilia case want to use evidence of other sexual assault complaints and priest transfers in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

They filed a motion Friday to include relevant conduct at the high-profile trial, which is scheduled for March.

Monsignor William Lynn, 60, is the first U.S. church official charged with child endangerment and accused of transferring predator priests who then abused more victims. Two priests, an ex-priest and a teacher are charged in the same case with raping two boys.

Prosecutors hope to show that Lynn had a pattern of transferring known predators and that priests “had the opportunity and cover” to abuse minors.

They also want to show the jury broad evidence of the archdiocese’s handling of sex-abuse complaints, to try to prove the complaints were ignored, enabling predators and exposing them to new victims.

“The Commonwealth needs the ‘other acts’ evidence to make out core elements of the crimes charged: Lynn’s knowledge, and the intent he shared with his supervisors and with accused priests, are established by the patterns evident in his extensive history of handling priests who sexually assaulted children,” city prosecutors wrote in a pretrial motion filed Friday.

Defense lawyers have a month to file their response and cannot comment on the filing because of a gag order.

They have sought, unsuccessfully, to separate the rape charges from the case against Lynn, who is charged solely for his administrative actions as secretary for clergy.

Lynn’s lawyers say their client was acting on orders from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, whom he served from 1992 to 2004.

In another key pretrial issue, prosecutors are seeking to preserve Bevilacqua’s testimony before trial. However, the archdiocese argues that the retired cardinal, at 92, suffers from cancer and dementia and should not be dragged into court.

Lynn’s lawyers will clearly try to limit the scope of the trial testimony to job transfers involving the three priests on trial with him. They are the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 64, the Rev. James Brennan, 48, and former priest Edward Avery, 69, along with former teacher Bernard Shero, 48. All of them have denied the charges.

A 2005 grand jury report details sexual assault complaints filed against 63 priests over several decades, many of whom were transferred repeatedly. Lynn features prominently in the report. His lawyers have argued, in part, that Lynn never supervised children and cannot therefore be charged with endangering them.

Lynn’s motion to limit the trial evidence will be argued in December or January.

Three of the defendants are accused of raping the same child, starting when the victim was a 10-year-old altar boy in northeast Philadelphia, according to a February grand jury report underlying the charges. The fourth co-defendant is charged with raping a second boy from a suburban parish.

Complete Article HERE!

A Tale of Two Bishops: Finn in Kansas City, Morris in Toowoomba

Brilliant COMMENTARY from our good friends at Bilgrimage

In the news this week, stories of two bishops and the radically different way in which Rome is choosing to deal with their cases: Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph in the U.S., and Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba in Australia:

At National Catholic Reporter, Eugene Kennedy analyzes the Finn case as one of tragic arrested development not uncommon among career ecclesiastics. For consummate church careerists like Finn, preferment in the ecclesiastical system becomes everything early in their lives as budding bishops-in-the-making, and ambition to serve the father-pope (and wield churchly power) overshadows the process of human development, stunting the growth of those fixated on becoming monsignors, bishops, etc.

But, unfortunately, the boy who has given his entire heart and soul–his life–to the papa at the top of the ecclesiastical chain of command finds himself abandoned by papa in his hour of need, when his disgrace threatens to become an impediment and embarrassment to the man on top.

Kennedy writes:

There is something poignant, as there always is about a boy abandoned, if not quite tragic, for a good boy is not a great man, about Finn’s present discomfort. He has learned, in a way that he earned even if he did not deserve it, what it is like to be a victim. Clericalism is, after all, an Aztec god that will tear any cleric’s heart out, whether he is guilty or innocent, as a necessary sacrifice to its own survival. Poor Finn now knows, as so many victims of clerical sexual predators do, what it is like to have the institution one loved and trusted stand massive and silent in the face of one’s suffering.
The Finn case is really part of a larger story, that of the collapse of the hierarchical system that is taking place all over the world at this time. That is what is occurring in Ireland where the aftershocks of the generations of sexual abuse scandal have sent football field-size fissures through the foundations of the hierarchy, leaving bishops scrambling to survive and wrecking the once unquestioned entente between Church and State.
The same buckling of hierarchical structures can be observed in the European countries once called Catholic; it is easy to observe in the priests who are organizing and confronting their bishops all across that continent. It is only a question of time before the earth opens in other places in the universal Church.

And while Finn has served papa well if not wisely, and papa chooses to ignore the good boy who has fallen on hard times (since his fall impinges on papa’s reputation), a son-bishop who merely did his duty as a pastoral leader, who simply asked if church officials might please talk about effective ways to keep meeting the sacramental needs of the faithful as priests’ numbers dwindle, is savaged by the system and the papa who pulls its strings. At Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Baker reproduces and comments on the response of Bishop William Morris of Australia to a recent statement of his brother bishops in support of Rome’s attempt to force Morris to resign.

Morris describes the process by which he was disciplined (“entrapped” is actually the word that leaps to mind as one reads his account of the visitation of his diocese by Archbishop Chaput that resulted in Morris’s disciplining). The process was shameful. Shoddy. Built on lies and deceit.

Morris cites a letter he received from Pope Benedict following Chaput’s visit, which informs him that, when he proposed that the priest shortage might be effectively addressed by keeping the question of women’s ordination open for discussion, he made a choice “incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Benedict then informs Morris,

Yet, the late Pope John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the Church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood . . . .

Did John Paul II make an infallible and irrevocable declaration that the Catholic church has no right to ordain women? If so, I hadn’t heard of this newest use of the ex cathedra power of the papacy. I had understood that the last time a pope has made an infallible declaration was in 1950, when the doctrine of the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven was declared.

Two bishops: one, the quintessential good boy abandoned by a wily, self-protective father in his hour of need, when that need requires the father to extend himself and risk something to succor a son in need; the other, the son who assumes adult responsibility and seeks to fulfill the obligations of his calling scrupulously and faithfully. But who is then attacked for those very reasons by the same wily father–attacked precisely because he sought scrupulously to attend to his pastoral duties. And because he exhibited maturity, because he chose to act like a responsible adult doing a responsible adult job.

As Eugene Kennedy rightly notes, the entire hierarchical system of the Catholic church is buckling and collapsing all over the world. And is it in the least surprising that a system built on such dysfunction, on such dishonesty and outright cruelty, all premised on the divine right of a quasi-divine father figure to treat his subjects as objects in games that are all about shoring up the power of those on top, would come to such an end in a world in which the divine right of emperor-kings to rule subjects and the divine right of men to rule women are increasingly questioned and rejected everywhere except in the governing structures of the Catholic church?

Complete Article HERE!

Law expert: U.S. bishops should persuade Finn to resign

The U.S. bishops should quietly persuade Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., to resign in the wake of his Oct. 14 criminal indictment for failure to report a priest for sexual abuse of minors, said Nicholas P. Cafardi, an expert in civil and church law.

Calls for Finn to resign in the public arena don’t “really accomplish much,” Cafardi said. Instead, the U.S. bishops should call upon Kansas City’s bishop to resign “in the spirit of fraternal correction.”
Finn’s indictment comes amid controversy of his handling of a priest arrested for child pornography.

Cafardi suggested the bishops tell Finn that his continued presence as a bishop “is causing the faithful to question our commitment to the safety of their children” and that he should consider stepping down.

Cafardi, a professor of civil and canon (church) law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, is one of the original members and later chairman of the all-lay National Review Board established by the U.S. bishops in 2002 to oversee the bishops’ implementation of their new Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

With the criminal indictment of a bishop by a U.S. prosecutor, “a taboo has been broken,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, a director and spokeswoman for, a website that tracks how Catholic bishops have responded or failed to respond to sexual abuse of minors by their clergy.

In the past, bishops have been given undue deference by civil authorities, and “I think it’s long overdue that prosecutors treat Catholic bishops like other American citizens and hold them equally accountable under the law” when there is substantive evidence that they have committed a crime, she said.

“The whole point of [state child sex abuse] reporting statutes is to make sure that the child abuser is stopped before having additional victims,” Cafardi said, “and my understanding is that between the time that Bishop Finn found out about the child pornography on Fr. [Shawn] Ratigan’s computer and the time he — or the diocese — did report him, there were additional victims, or at least one additional victim. … That, to me, is the horrendous part of this.”

In a telephone interview with NCR, Cafardi said, “It would appear, from what we now know about Philadelphia and what we now know about Kansas City, that at least some bishops — and I have reason to believe that it’s very few bishops — have given themselves a pass on the [2002] Dallas Charter.”

Cafardi’s comment on Philadelphia referred to last February’s decision by prosecutors to bring charges against Msgr. William Lynn, former director of the archdiocesan Office for Clergy, for endangering minors by reassigning at least two priests known to have sexually abused minors to posts where they could come into contact with minors.

The grand jury investigation that led to the indictment said it was clear Lynn was acting in accord with policies established by now-retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, then-archbishop of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia grand jury investigation that led to Lynn’s indictment, which included substantial allegations of continued protection of abusive priests by Bevilacqua’s successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, is widely believed to have triggered Rigali’s resignation just five months later as archbishop of Philadelphia.

“I think that when the church doesn’t police itself … we have to expect that civil society will police us instead,” Cafardi said. “Would we rather our bishops follow the Dallas norms and charter, or would we rather see them indicted?”

“If [Finn] had kept the Dallas norms, he would have been in compliance with the state law as well,” he added.

“There is no real [binding bishops’ conference] compliance mechanism with the Dallas norms” apart from an audit and declaration that a diocese is not in compliance, he said. “But with civil society, when you break a law — especially if it’s a criminal statute — you can expect to be indicted and tried.”
Referring to a June editorial in The Kansas City Star calling on Finn to resign, NCR asked Cafardi if he agreed that Finn should resign as bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“I think that the people to ask for his resignation are his fellow bishops,” Cafardi said.

“I think they need to do that in a spirit of fraternal correction,” he added, referring to a classical theological principle in the church of offering positive moral guidance to someone who has departed from the appropriate path of Christian discipleship.
“Also, I think they need to do that in private — but I do think that they need to do it,” he said. “I think he’s let down his brother bishops. From the facts, it would appear — he’s not been found guilty yet, but from the facts it would appear — that he’s really let down his fellow bishops, and they should be the ones who are talking to him.
“I’m not sure public calls for a bishop to resign really accomplish much,” he said.

Cafardi said that on one hand, Finn might use a promise to resign as a bargaining chip in the civil criminal proceedings — as often occurs when politicians or other civil officials face criminal charges — and that might be a reason not to resign before his criminal case is resolved.

“But then the flip side of that,” he said, “is what does his staying in office say about the seriousness of the bishops in following the Dallas Charter and norms? I mean, that cuts both ways.”

“I can’t read his conscience,” Cafardi said. “I think if a resignation comes, it really is best brought about by the fraternal correction of his brother bishops. I would like to see that, and it may be happening. But when it does happen, it is never in public.”

NCR’s efforts to interview Deacon Bernard Nojadera, new director of the U.S. bishops’ conference’s secretariat for child and youth protection, about the Finn indictment were redirected to the conference’s office for media relations. Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, the bishops’ media spokeswoman, said the conference had no comment on the Finn case.

Bishop Robert Finn
Doyle, of, said despite numerous reports of bishops who have protected sexually abusive priests and failed to report them to civil authoritie,s “not one bishop … has yet gone to jail” for violating civil laws on mandatory reporting of sex crimes against minors.

“The Kansas City prosecutor showed a lot of courage” in bringing an indictment against Finn, she said, and that action, along with the recent indictment of Lynn in Philadelphia, “is a very encouraging development.”

“It’s absolutely deplorable that in 2011 a bishop is still failing to report an abuser, but it’s very encouraging that prosecutors have finally stopped their deference to church officials … and are beginning to treat church officials like ordinary citizens,” she said.

Doyle noted that though the charter to protect young people passed by the U.S. bishops in 2002 calls for bishops to report all credible allegations of abuse to civil authorities, the legally binding essential norms for all bishops that were approved by the Vatican do not make that a requirement.

She said she thinks many bishops interpreted the Vatican rejection of a blanket reporting requirement as a church law, in favor of a more modest requirement that all bishops follow local laws on the subject, as a signal from Rome that the Vatican prefers non-reporting whenever legally possible.

While many church officials since 2002 have publicly interpreted the charter as requiring them to hand over all reasonable abuse allegations to civil authorities even when civil law does not mandate it, Doyle said she thinks there is a fairly large number of U.S. bishops who have interpreted the charter’s reporting guidelines more narrowly — in contrast to Cafardi’s belief that “very few” bishops have adopted such a narrow interpretation.

As to the overall fallout of the recent Kansas City events, Cafardi said: “How many Philadelphias, how many Kansas Cities does it take before the bishops realize that the steps they took in 2002 protect our kids, they protect our church, and they should be followed without question?”

Complete Article HERE!