Manufacturing the Clerical Predator


The Catholic Church has overseen the world’s longest-lasting and most widespread campaign of institutional sexual abuse. Why is it that after sixteen centuries of documented evidence and decades of continuous international public exposure, new revelations of the scope and magnitude of the crisis continue to shock the public?

Manufacturing the Clerical Predator goes beyond the usual clichéd and tediously-repeated popular explanations offered for the abuse crisis by exploring the personal narrative and theoretical accounts of three Wisconsin former seminarians and priests detailing the transmission of the culture of clerical abuse across three generations. It supplies a fresh, unique, and urgently-needed approach to the question that has yet to be answered about sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church: Why?

Catholic watchdog names bishops tied to sex abuse and urges pope to act

Researchers on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church are demanding that Pope Francis release the names of bishops investigated under a 2019 policy meant to formalize the church’s handling of abuse cases.

BY >

Prominent researchers of accountability for clergy sexual abuse called on Pope Francis on Wednesday to release the names of bishops investigated by the Vatican since the implementation of 2019 rules that overhauled how the church responds to abuse accusations.

The watchdog group,, criticized the pope at a news conference for failing to give a “full accounting” of the impact of the revised rules, which they called a landmark effort to combat abuse. The organization also released a list, based on news reports from around the world, of 40 bishops who have been investigated under the four-year-old law.

“The pope has repeatedly said he wants transparency, yet he is leaving the faithful in the dark,” Anne Barrett Doyle, the group’s co-director, told reporters Wednesday. “Survivors and Catholics in the pews not only need this information; they have a right to it.”

In a letter to Francis, the organization urged him to answer “the faithful’s yearning for accountability” by releasing a detailed list of church officials investigated for alleged abuse or for mishandling abuse claims that were brought to them. The rules, implemented in June 2019, devised a way for bishops to help police their own ranks, among other changes, and were the first significant step toward formalizing a process for investigating abuse allegations in the church.

U.S. advocates have pushed for decades for more transparency around sex abuse cases, contending that the church’s steps toward accountability — creating lists of accused clerics, spending millions to implement new child-protection protocols and toughening the Vatican’s punishments for abuse — have not gone far enough. This week, Maryland’s attorney general is expected to release a redacted version of a grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Advocates have particularly criticized a lack of robust accountability for bishops, who typically oversee dioceses. Of the 40 bishops on Bishop Accountability’s list of accused clerics, the group said fewer than half have been disciplined.

Barrett Doyle said her group was releasing a list because the Vatican had not published one. She urged Francis to release not only a full, international accounting of names of investigated bishops, but also the allegations against them and the status of each case.

“How many complicit bishops are still leading dioceses?” she asked. “How many religious orders are run by credibly accused predators?”

Bishop Accountability’s list included 13 U.S. bishops, all of whose names had been reported previously, who have been accused of committing abuse or of mishandling allegations brought to them. Two — Bishop Joseph Binzer of Cincinnati and Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn. — resigned, and three have been cleared. The remaining cases are ongoing, or their outcomes are unknown.

Even when U.S. bishops have been penalized, Barrett Doyle said, the consequences have been too light. Binzer resigned in 2020 after failing to report misconduct allegations against a priest in his diocese, but he later became the pastor at two parishes. Hoeppner stepped down in 2021, after an investigation into allegations that he mishandled abuse cases, but was allowed to say a send-off Mass. Neither he nor Binzer lost their titles as bishops.

Francis has not stripped any bishops of their priesthood since he defrocked ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, in 2019 after credible allegations of sexual misconduct.

Francis has acknowledged in recent months that the church has not solved the abuse crisis. He told the Associated Press in January that the church still needed to be more transparent and that its leaders should talk more about abuse of vulnerable adults.

“It’s what I want,” he said. “And with transparency comes a very nice thing, which is shame. Shame is a grace.”

Francis, perceived as an outsider, inspired tremendous hope for change after assuming the papacy in 2013. A decade later, he has a mixed record on responding to abuse and has at times perpetuated a pattern of secrecy around the topic.

His signature anti-abuse measure, the 2019 law, has failed to have a significant impact, Barrett Doyle said. She criticized Francis for not requiring clerics notified of abuse to report the allegations to civil authorities and contended that the rules were set up to maintain the Vatican’s control over these cases.

“It is self-policing packaged as accountability,” Barrett Doyle said. “It is bishops watching bishops.”

Complete Article HERE!

State lawmakers push for priests to report abuse learned about in confessional

— Catholic bishops are pushing back, arguing the statutes would infringe on the First Amendment rights of priests.

A priest reads inside a confessional.


Catholic leaders are pushing back against efforts to alter state laws that exempt clergy from reporting child abuse they hear about during the sacrament of confession, arguing the changes will force priests to choose between the law and their faith.

Advocates for abuse survivors insist the changes are necessary, noting instances where abuse by a parishioner or even a cleric continued despite a priest learning about it during confession.

“It’s almost as though it is a pass for priests,” said Michael McDonnell, spokesperson for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hope politicians in every state would be encouraged to produce some legislation that would further safeguard children from any unnecessary damage.”

The debate comes as lawmakers in at least three states — Vermont, Delaware and Washington — consider removing an exemption in mandatory reporter laws for what is often described as “clergy-penitent privilege.”

Similar to attorney-client privilege, it protects information discussed in a confidential pastoral conversation from being used in court, even if the information concerns child sex abuse.

Catholic authorities in each locality are lobbying to keep the carve-outs in place.

“Requiring clergy members to report child abuse learned during a penitential communication would infringe First Amendment rights of all Catholics in the state of Vermont, not just clergy,” Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington said in recent testimony before members of the Vermont state Senate.

The Diocese of Wilmington, in Delaware, in a statement published earlier this month described the seal of confession as “nonnegotiable.” The statement said breaking the seal of confession would “incur an automatic excommunication that could only be pardoned by the Pope himself.”

Photo by Shalone Cason/Unsplash/Creative Commons

The sanctity of clergy-penitent privilege in the United States, which applies to Catholics as well as other religious groups, dates back to at least 1813, when the Court of General Sessions of the City of New York declined to force a priest to testify. It was later affirmed by then-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who insisted in a 1980 ruling that clergy-penitent privilege recognizes a “human need” for confidential conversations with a religious leader.

But more recently the principle has been challenged. In 2016 in a case in Louisiana, a 14-year-old said she had told her priest during confession that she was being abused by another parishioner. The priest allegedly didn’t report the abuse and encouraged the minor to move past it — even as the parishioner continued the abuse. When the minor’s family eventually sued, the diocese defended the priest, arguing he was exempted from reporting and could not be compelled to testify.

More recently, an Arizona judged ruled in August 2022 that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could not refuse to answer questions or turn over documents in a child abuse case under the state’s clergy-penitent privilege.

Former Liberty University Law School professor Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian has challenged faith leaders to rethink their own approach to such statutes.

“What should ultimately determine whether a pastor voluntarily reports abuse is the life and safety of a precious child made in the image of God,” Tchividjian, who founded the group Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment before leaving it in 2019 to pursue abusers full time, wrote in a 2014 Religion News Service editorial.

There is precedent for removing the carve-out for confession in U.S. state-level mandated reporter laws. According to a 2019 analysis produced by the Children’s Bureau, in the 29 states and U.S. territories where clergy are considered mandated reporters, 24 exempt them if information is learned during pastoral conversations. In the other five, two states (New Hampshire and West Virginia) and Guam deny clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse or neglect. Two other states (Connecticut and Mississippi) do not address the privilege in their reporting laws.

Sixteen other jurisdictions implicitly include clergy as mandated reporters under statutes that apply to “any person.” At least four other states in this category — North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas — deny clergy-penitent privilege in the case of child sex abuse or neglect, according to the Children’s Bureau analysis.

A bill that would make clergy mandatory reporters passed the Washington state Senate in late February with a confession carve-out. But as the bill moves before the state House, some lawmakers are pushing for the exemption to be removed.

A statement from the Washington State Catholic Conference noted clergy have a duty to report child abuse but are mandatory reporters “everywhere else but the confessional.”

“When priests and bishops learn about child abuse, they can and should report it to the authorities. But when someone reveals their sins to God in confession, that is a sacred matter that priests must never disclose,” read the WSCC’s statement.

But for McDonnell and other advocates for abuse survivors, the government’s primary concern should lie elsewhere.

“The mandating of clergy to disclose abuse is truly a modest step that is going to help curb child abuse,” McDonnell said. “It’s sad that in 2023 we have to negotiate laws to protect the most vulnerable.”

Complete Article HERE!

Employee with Diocese of Oakland removed after arrest on suspicion of child porn possession

— The arrest happened in January; police said case has not yet been filed to District Attorney’s Office


An employee with the Diocese of Oakland was removed after Walnut Creek police arrested him on suspicion of possessing and sharing child pornography, authorities and church officials said this week.

Walnut Creek police Lt. Holley Connors confirmed Tuesday that the arrest happened in January. Police have not presented their case yet to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

“We are still reviewing evidence, and that could take a little while with all the digital evidence,” Connors said Tuesday. “It could be a week. It could be a month. We have no ETA for when it will happen.”

The worker had been with the diocese since June 14, 2021, working primarily with preparations and planning for liturgies at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, located in the 2100 block of Harrison Street, Diocese spokeswoman Helen Osman said in an email.

She said he has not worked at the cathedral since the first week of January and is no longer employed by any parish or school within the Diocese.

“In reviewing this situation, we have not discovered any potential criminal conduct by (the suspect) in the course of his employment, or occurring on cathedral property, utilizing its property, or involving parishioners, including minors,” Osman said via email. “No arrests occurred on cathedral property, and the Diocese of Oakland, which oversees the cathedral, has cooperated with law enforcement.”

According to Osman, the suspect’s work included coordination of weddings and funerals, as well as working with California docents, all of whom are all adult volunteers. He also worked with the altars servers program, which is almost exclusively adults, Osman said.

Police did not release any more information about the arrest. Connors declined additional comment, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

On Tuesday, leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement saying they were “appalled” at the Diocese’s handling of the man’s arrest, given that “as far as we can determine, no outreach was done in the community or with the public in the ensuing 2 months.”

Instead, church leaders should have been more transparent and forthcoming about the man’s arrest, said Joey Piscitelli, a Northern California leader of the group, also known as SNAP, in an interview with the Bay Area News Group.

“It’s extremely alarming,” Piscitelli said. “Immediately, the Diocese did not reach out. It should have happened immediately, so that people could at the very least check with their kids and the community. But nobody was given that opportunity.”

Osman said in an email that Diocese leaders did not immediately share information with the congregation about the man’s arrest because “it was not prudent to make any public announcement that might risk interfering with an ongoing investigation.”

Complete Article HERE!

TV report alleges John Paul II covered up sexual abuse in Catholic Church before papacy

— Rumors that late Polish pope knew of abuse in Poland’s Catholic Church have long circulated, but new film appears to prove them correct

By Jo Harper

A television report on Monday about St. John Paul II alleged that he actively covered up cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in his native Poland before becoming pope in 1978.

John Paul is a Polish icon who was pope during the last decade of the Cold War and is widely credited with boosting the success of the Polish anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s.

“I hope that this report will end the discussion and the festival of blurring reality, pretending that John Paul II might not have known,” Marcin Gutowski, a TVN24 journalist and author of the report, told the channel.

The program will be broadcast this evening on the independent US-owned channel, which has been critical of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), accusing the right-wing party of populism.

Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek made similar accusations against the pontiff in his book, “Maxima Culpa,” which goes on sale in Poland this week.

Gutowski’s film shows previously unknown facts from the life of John Paul before he became pontiff. He served in that position until his death in 2005 and was canonized as a saint after his death.

Gutowski talked to victims of priests who in the 1960s were subordinate to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, as John Paul was then known.

“He talked with people who personally informed him about the crimes committed by the clergy and the church documents confirm the actions and omissions of the cardinal,” Gutowski said.

The reporter also accessed church documents abroad. “Among them are letters of the cardinal personally signed by him, which testify, leaving no doubt, how he acted as the Metropolitan of Krakow against abuses in the church and what he did with pedophile priests,” Gutowski told TVN24.

“Now, to put it bluntly, the ball is in the church’s court,” he added.

John Paul II was criticized by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an abuse victims’ group, for not responding to the sex abuse crisis. In 2008, the church recognized it was a “very serious problem” but estimated that it was caused by “no more than 1%” of the over 500,000 Catholic priests worldwide.

Complete Article HERE!