Inquisition’s heavy hand remains ready to strike


The treatment of former Toowoomba Catholic bishop Bill Morris, sacked last May by the Pope, shows that the Inquisition is alive and well in the Catholic Church – only the rack is missing.

The secret denunciations by a tiny minority of self-appointed orthodoxy police in Toowoomba, the secret Vatican investigation, the secret judgment – with the accused never even knowing who the accusers are or what they have charged, let alone getting a chance to defend himself – the absence of any appeal, the denial of natural justice and the flouting of canon (church) law are all classical Inquisition tactics.

The unfairness and cruelty were driven home by two recent independent reports into the removal of Morris – one by an eminent jurist, Queensland Supreme Court judge W.J. Carter, and one by a leading canon lawyer, Melbourne’s Father Ian Waters.

They concluded that Morris was denied procedural fairness and natural justice. Carter wrote that the treatment of Morris was “offensive” to the requirements of both civil and canon law, while Father Waters found that the Pope had breached canon law and exceeded his authority in removing Morris without finding him guilty of apostasy, heresy or schism (which alone justify such action) and without following the judicial procedures canon law requires.

Carter found that an unsigned document from the Vatican to Morris in 2007 requiring his resignation showed “an appalling lack of evidence and particularity”, “demonstrable errors of fact” and decisions “by high-ranking church officials more likely based on gossip and hearsay” than evidence.
“One could not imagine a more striking case of a denial of natural justice,” he said.

Morris’s real offence was to suggest the church might consider discussing whether it might ordain married men or women, given the critical and worsening shortage of priests. Even a statement as tentative and careful as this had to be crushed, it seems.

This heavy-handed manoeuvring is a long way from what the church purports to stand for: love, mercy, truth and justice. All that seems to matter to the hierarchs, whether at StPeter’s in Rome or St Mary’s in Sydney, is obedience and loyalty.

The church’s leaders know it is losing a generation in the West. They seem not to care how much the ordinary, faithful Catholics in the pews and pulpits, doing the church’s works of mercy, are discouraged and distressed, or how cynical it makes those watching.

The fact that a bishop wears a red hat (cardinals) or red shoes (the Pope) is no guarantee that he is not a bully, blinkered or Byzantine.
Historian Paul Collins says not only is the Inquisition alive and well – after all, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Morris co-executioner William Levada, was once known as the Holy Inquisition – but that it is worse than the original Roman Inquisition, founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III to counter Protestantism in Italy. That, at least, had very clear procedures and was considered a model of jurisprudence in the Europe of the time.

What of Australia’s 42 Catholic bishops, who promised to represent Toowoomba’s Catholics when they visited Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit last October? One or two helped engineer Morris’s removal, others may have supported it but most – well aware of what a travesty it was – were cravenly supine (as Collins put it).

They promised to raise the subject during their visit to the Vatican. They did so, meeting the cardinals and among themselves. Back in Australia, they put out a statement saying they accepted the removal and would extend fraternal care to Morris.

What could the bishops have done? Early and strong public statements of support for Morris would have made the Vatican act far more carefully.
But, according to progressive Catholics, the damage was done 13 years earlier, when Australia’s bishops were excoriated about the state of the church in Australia during their 1998 ad limina visit to Rome. That was the time to stand up and repudiate the criticisms; the pattern is set now.

Meanwhile, in Rome, the leaders of the church who demand trust are callous in destroying it. Their medieval attitudes to authority seem very distant from the biblical teachings of Christ and much closer to the Pharisees, whom Jesus accused of laying heavy burdens on people’s shoulders without lifting a finger themselves (Matthew 23:4). If the church leaders want the faithful to trust them, they should show themselves to be trustworthy.

Complete Article HERE!

Irish ex-priest Oliver O’Grady sentenced to 3 years in Ireland for child porn cache

A defrocked Roman Catholic priest who admitted molesting more than 20 children in California has been sentenced to three years in prison in Ireland for possessing child pornography, court officials said Tuesday.

Oliver O’Grady, 66, was arrested in Dublin in December 2010 after leaving a computer containing pornographic images of children on a flight from Amsterdam.

O’Grady worked in northern California from 1971 until 1993, when he was arrested for abusing two brothers. He served seven years in prison and was deported to his native Ireland in 2000. He later moved to the Netherlands for several years.

O’Grady was the subject of the Academy Award-nominated 2006 documentary “Deliver Us From Evil.” In the film he spoke openly of abusing more than 20 children as he was shuffled from one parish to another in California through the 1970s and 80s.

The Dutch Catholic Church came under fire in 2010 after it emerged that O’Grady had been working as a church volunteer in the city of Rotterdam. O’Grady had been living in the country under another name, but parishioners recognized him when “Deliver Us from Evil” was aired on Dutch television. By that time, the disgraced ex-cleric had already left the country.

O’Grady had pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing child pornography. The Irish Courts Service said he was sentenced Monday at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The Roman Catholic diocese in Stockton, California, disclosed last year that it had agreed to pay $2 million to a brother and sister who alleged O’Grady molested them as children in the 1980s while they attended the Church of the Presentation and its school.

The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported last year that the diocese has now paid out almost $21 million to O’Grady’s victims.

Complete Article HERE!

More dirty laundry

Incoming Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa has been sued by five parishioners from an El Paso, Texas, parish who say the bishop converted funds they donated specifically for construction of a chapel for the traditional Latin Mass to other uses — and they want their money back.

A Mass of Installation for Bishop Ochoa is scheduled tomorrow in Fresno. Pope Benedict XVI named him as the new Fresno bishop on Dec. 1. Before leaving El Paso, where he had been bishop since 1996, Bishop Ochoa took the extraordinary step of suing one of his priests, Fr. Michael Rodriguez. The bishop’s lawsuit alleges that Fr. Rodriguez, a problematic and outspoken priest, committed financial irregularities and violations of diocesan policy on the handling of parish funds.

The parishioners’ lawsuit, announced in a Jan. 30 press release, is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle. The five parishioners say that more than six weeks ago they asked for a meeting with Bishop Ochoa “to resolve this situation in private and in a spirit of Christian charity,” but never received a response from the chancery.

“We did not donate our money in order for it to be seized by the diocese or San Juan Bautista Parish and used for other purposes,” said the news release. “We simply asked that our money be used for the specific intention for which it had been donated or that it be returned to the rightful owners.”

In a Jan. 11 press release, Bishop Ochoa said Fr. Rodriguez had been removed as administrator of San Juan Bautista Parish on Sept. 20, 2011 “based on credible information and documents that show that he intentionally and materially failed to comply with the Manual of Policies and Procedures of Parish Finances of the Roman Catholic Diocese of El Paso.”

“Fr. Rodriguez’s handling and use of donated funds has compromised the financial integrity of San Juan Bautista,” Bishop Ochoa said in the press release. “I have appealed repeatedly to Fr. Rodriguez to make a complete disclosure and a thorough accounting of his financial administration of the parish but he has refused to do so.”

The bishop said Fr. Rodriguez’s refusal to provide financial information left him with no alternative but to file a lawsuit against the priest and his brother, David Rodriguez.
The parishioners’ lawsuit sheds new light on the conflict between Fr. Rodriguez and Bishop Ochoa. According to the suit, beginning in 2007, parishioners
“expressed a desire to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the Usus Antiquior of the Roman Rite and to do so with the installation of an altar and sanctuary designed for such Mass.”

Their donations, said the parishioners, “were not to be used for any other purpose.” Fr. Rodriguez, they said, collected the money and moved forward with plans for the altar and sanctuary, including the approval of architectural plans.

Parishioners James Herget and Marie Celeste Herget allege in the suit they contributed $32,820; parishioners Mario A. Macias and Francella Macias estimate their donations at $6200; and parishioner Aurora L. Alvarado alleges she contributed $1070. All of them ask that their money either be used to complete the traditional altar and sanctuary — or be returned to them.

Bishop Ochoa and Fr. Rodriguez have been at odds since 2010, when the priest began attending city council meetings to speak out against homosexuality. Fr. Rodriguez also authored several opinion pieces in the El Paso Times critical of the El Paso City Council for extending health insurance to all employees regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

When Fr. Rodriguez became involved in a recall campaign against some in city government responsible for that policy, Bishop Ochoa removed him as parish administrator. “This type of intervention in the political process by religious organizations such as the Diocese of El Paso and San Juan Bautista Church is not permitted under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code,” said Bishop Ochoa in a statement issued at the time.

Fr. Rodriguez has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, saying that Bishop Ochoa’s allegations that he improperly handled donated funds were not true.

“I have always honored, respected, and made good use of the financial patrimony of San Juan Bautista,” said Fr. Rodriguez in a Jan. 12 statement. “I stake my entire reputation on this claim.”

According to Fr. Rodriguez, he met with Bishop Ochoa on Sept. 20, 2011, and “opened my heart to my bishop, like a son to a father, and was completely honest and forthcoming with him as to the financial affairs of San Juan Bautista. I told him everything. He chose not to believe me… I have never misappropriated or misused parish funds.”

Fr. Rodriguez said “the real reason” for Bishop Ochoa’s lawsuit against him “is due to my defense of the Catholic Church’s teaching with regard to homosexuality as well as my adherence to the Roman Liturgy of 1962.” He said he would “continue to proclaim and teach the truths of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the area of sexual morality, no matter the cost” and would also “continue to adhere to the Ancient Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, no matter the cost.”

True to his word, Fr. Rodriguez was back before the El Paso City Council yesterday with a statement attempting to explain the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality to his elected representatives.

Complete Article HERE!

Former Nolan Catholic High student sues Fort Worth diocese, alleges assaults in the 1980s

A former student at Nolan Catholic High School who says he was abused by a priest who taught there filed suit Tuesday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and Bishop Kevin Vann.

The suit also names the Claretian Missionaries of the U.S. Western Province.

The suit states that the diocese, the order and Vann had prior knowledge of the sexual proclivities of Father William Paiz yet continued to assign him to positions of trust, such as religion instructor at Nolan.

The suit states that between 1983 and 1987, Paiz sexually assaulted the plaintiff at All Saints Catholic Church, St. George Catholic Church and other locations.

Tahira Khan Merritt, the attorney for the former student, who is now an adult, said she believes that Paiz is still affiliated with the Claretian Order and may continue to serve as a priest in another state. Paiz’s status could not be confirmed Tuesday.

“My client notified them over a year ago, and they did nothing,” Merritt said Tuesday. “That’s why he filed a lawsuit. He wanted to do everything he could to protect other children and be sure that nothing like this ever happens to another child.”

Paiz’s name is on a list of priests “who had allegations with a semblance of truth made against them regarding sexual misconduct with minors,” a file on the diocese website states. “The list includes priests who were diocesan priests of the Diocese of Fort Worth and those who served within the territorial limits of the Diocese of Fort Worth when the incidents of abuse were alleged to have occurred. None of these priests are currently in active ministry” within the Fort Worth diocese.

A spokesman for the diocese said church officials had no comment about the suit because they had not had time to read it.

It was not clear when Paiz’s name was added to the list of priests who have been vetted by the diocese.

“Someone has obviously made allegations against Paiz, but it could be the same person that filed the lawsuit,” said Pat Svacina, the diocese’s spokesman.

A Nolan spokeswoman directed inquiries about the suit to the diocese.

Merritt said that after Paiz’s name was added to the list, church officials did nothing to inform the public about it.

“This list has been posted on the diocese’s website for many years, but the current webpage bears no revision date and the diocese has made no effort to publicize the addition of the two new names of Claretian priests who abused minors in the diocese,” Merritt said. “So what good is it?”

The second new name on the list is Father Henry Herrera, who is also in the Claretian order. No information was available about him late Tuesday.

Complete Article HERE!

Philly Judge Again Finds Church Cardinal Competent

A retired Roman Catholic cardinal with dementia is competent and his recent deposition testimony can be used at an upcoming priest abuse trial, a judge ruled Monday.

A church official charged with child endangerment and accused of keeping pedophiles in ministry argues that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua can no longer recognize him, even though he served the cardinal for more than a decade.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is the first U.S. church official ever charged in the priest abuse crisis over accusations of administrative failings.

Prosecutors argue that Lynn and the archdiocese fed predators a steady stream of young victims for decades rather than expose the church to scandal — and costly lawsuits. Lynn served as secretary of clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. He faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

His lawyers hint that he won’t go down alone. They stress that Lynn took his marching orders from Bevilacqua, who was never charged despite two grand jury reports that blasted both the cardinal’s leadership and his 10 grand jury appearances.

They say prosecutors are trying to make Lynn the scapegoat for the dozens of Philadelphia priests credibly accused of abusing children.

Prosecutors, though, say Lynn was among the select few who had access to sex abuse complaints kept in “secret archives” at the archdiocese.

No one was charged after the first grand jury report in 2005 because of legal time limits.

The second report last year recommended charging Lynn with child endangerment; prosecutors later added conspiracy charges as well. In court last week, they called the archdiocese “an unindicted co-conspirator.”

Lynn is set to go on trial in March with two co-defendants, a priest and a defrocked priest who are each charged with sexually assaulting a single boy, based on complaints filed under newly expanded time limits in Pennsylvania. Lynn’s defense lawyers want to limit the trial to his handling of those two men alone.

Prosecutors hope to tell jurors how Lynn and other church officials handled the careers of 27 other priests “credibly accused,” to show a pattern of behavior.

The judge heard details of those allegations, which range from “grooming” to fondling to rape, for several days last week. She pledged to rule by Monday.

“It’s very, very difficult, and maybe impossible, for us to defend 27 or 28 cases, which involve disparate elements and occurred 20, 30, 40 years ago,” Thomas Bergstrom, a lawyer for Lynn, argued Monday.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington debated the point.

“This case is not impossible, it’s (just) unprecedented,” he said.

Defense lawyers may call Bevilacqua to court if prosecutors seek to use his recent testimony. Bevilacqua was deposed in late November, to preserve his sworn statements in case he is unavailable during the monthslong trial. The retired cardinal suffers from both dementia and an undisclosed form of cancer, church lawyers have said.

Lynn’s co-defendants are former priest Edward Avery, 69, and the Rev. James Brennan, 48.

Brennan’s lawyer also wants to keep out the uncharged priest abuse allegations, lest his client get “swept up” by the tide.

“If that comes in, the danger we confront is whether my client, a Catholic priest, is going to be swept up in a perception that the Catholic Church, that the archdiocese, has a big problem, and he’s one of them, so he must be guilty,” said lawyer William Brennan, who isn’t related to his client.

Jury selection is scheduled for Feb. 21. The trial is scheduled to start on March 26.

Complete Article HERE!