Pontifications

Pontifications


Bishops who should resign: VOTF names names

posted by David Gibson

The leading national church reform group has issued a release calling on five U.S. bishops to step down from their job, and for former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, to resign his various ecclesial offices in Rome.
The reform group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) issued the list to mark the seventh anniversary of the first Boston Globe stories that led to the unmasking of the sexual abuse scandal that has continued to rock the church.
The bishops named by are:

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago;
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles;
Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre (Long Island);
Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester (NH);
Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati.


VOTF bases its arguments for these five on “records from public documents, court testimony, and multiple survivor accounts [that] clearly indicate ‘culpable negligence’.” Given this evidence, the organization says, these five have “a clear obligation to the Body of Christ to resign.” If they do not, “Pope Benedict XVI should request their resignations.”
Why is this new or noteworthy? Many victims groups and lay leaders have called for bishops to resign, but the calls were either so sweeping and indiscriminate (“Throw out the whole lot!”) that they had little impact or credibility, or they were ad hoc reactions to various news stories. Problem is those stories were so plentiful that people became inured to the news therein; “There they go again” and “What are ya gonna do?” became the fatalistic refrians.
So in terms of making a case, this call by VOTF is well done. Pressure applied in a focused way is usually most effective–witness Law’s forced departure. But does VOTF make the case against these particular bishops?
Read this document (pdf file) for their brief for the prosecution.



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Tom

posted January 14, 2009 at 2:08 am


“Despite this record, which includes many other documented lies, dodges and disavowals, McCormack said to parishioners in New Hampshire in 2004, “I have apologized for what I have done and failed to do, and acknowledged that my responses to people who reported being harmed were inadequate.” In light of his extensive record of failing to protect children, and in recognition of his own admission of culpability, we call upon Bishop McCormack to resign his office.”
“Mahoney was evasive and unresponsive under direct questioning by public authorities during this lengthy deposition. In subsequent
legal proceedings involving the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Mahoney employed similar strategies of evasion, delay and denial over many months before finally agreeing to a financial settlement with survivors. In light of his tortured legalistic efforts to avoid any admission of culpability, we call on Cardinal Mahoney in good
conscience to resign his current position.”
I find it rather amusing that VOTF called on Bishop McCormack to resign ‘in recognition’ of his own admission of culpability yet called on Cardinal Mahoney to resign based on what they perceive to be strenuous efforts to deny culpability. Based on 180 degree logical inconsistency in calling hierarchal clergy to resign I call on the drafters and editors of this document to resign and call upon a judge in good conscience to order them into some kind of remedial learning.
On a more serious note, however, I was just as befuddled as anyone that none of the scandalous bishops and cardinals were relieved of their duties for failing to protect the least among us and allowing the perpetrators of these vile acts to violate more victims. Yet God will judge us all.
O Divine God of infinite mercy, purge us of all our iniquities that we may spend eternity in your holy presence.
God bless!



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Toni McMorrow

posted January 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm


I am the mother of a victim of child sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. I wanted to send a note of support and appreciation for putting forth this call for resignations of those enabling, offending bishops. As with many others, I continue to be appalled an outraged, that these “bishops”, who should themselves be facing criminal charges, continue to be allowed to hold their positions. My son like so many, many, others, most likely would not have been abused if the leadership in charge of the “pedophile priest”, had taken action on the knowledge and complaints of prior child abuse(20 years worth of problems) and removed him from access to children.
Thank you.
Sincerely, Toni McMorrow



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Carolyn Disco

posted January 14, 2009 at 4:40 pm


Congratulations to VOTF for highlighting the issue of bishop accountability and calling for resignations of prominent enablers of abuse. The witness is vital, even though no cardinal or bishop will ever resign, and Rome will never remove any of them.
The Vatican prefers the exercise of absolute power to the principle of holding prelates accountable. To date, the only consequence for the criminal endangerment of children has been promotion to higher office. The clerical mindset of exemption and privilege is boundless. NH’s attorney general characterized episcopal conduct as willful blindness, flagrant indifference, and conscious ignorance of the dangers priests posed to children.
As to John McCormack, his apology for what he has done and failed to do is a clever bit of appropriating religious language in the service of spin. He told members of NH Catholics for Moral Leadership in 2004 that he did nothing legally or morally wrong, and no child was harmed as a result of his actions, save one minor incident. All McCormack acknowledges are some indefinite “mistakes and inadequacies.” So much for self awareness — or willful blindness.
We filed a canon law case in 2003 against McCormack and his NH counterpart, Auxiliary Francis Christian; Rome ignores it, of course. The file does however make interesting reading at http://www.nhcatholics.org, especially the correspondence between McCormack and Jim Farrell.
The depth of clerical narcissism is very hard for people to understand. I thank VOTF-national for using the anniversary of the Globe expose to remind us of the injustice in the Catholic Church.
Survivor Support Chairman
VOTF-NH



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Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

posted January 14, 2009 at 5:44 pm


THE REALITY IS THAT CATHOLIC LEADERS KNEW
Sadly, there are many more names that belong on the list that the reform group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) has posted.
The reality is that the majority of the bishops in the United States knew there were priests who were sexually abusing individuals, especially children, in their dioceses in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s,’80s, ’90s and up to the present time whether they were officials of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Archdiocese of Denver, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia or the Archdiocese of Boston.
This is fact, not opinion, supported by official investigations of numerous dioceses. They knew terrible evils were being perpetrated on the young and they decided to tranfer predators around their respective dioceses without warning parishioners instead of calling the police which, surely, they knew they had a responsibility to do.
They knew it was wrong then as they know it is wrong today, but they are still either unable or unwilling to acknowledge and take accountability for that even at this late date.
Church officials made a conscious and informed decision not to protect the children, choosing instead to hide, transfer and protect pedophiles while additional children were put in harm’s way and victims and their families suffered further intimidation and abusive
treatment when they approached officials with their concerns.
Statements made by bishops all over the country stand in stark contrast to the Roman Catholic Church’s own history, which tells us that the incidents of sexual abuse were seriously condemned in the earliest days of the church.
Church councils and canon law were very specific in their condemnations of sexual aberrations and just as specific as to punishments, sometimes even including death.
Who did not know in 1960, 1985 or 1995 that the sexual abuse, rape or sodomizing of a child was wrong as well as being a mortal sin and should have been reported to the police? It is not that difficult to understand. It is not an article of faith; it is the rape of a child’s body and soul.
Instead, they made excuses rather than take responsibility
for the crimes and sins of the past, just as they makes excuses for not supporting the complete removal of criminal and civil statutes of limitation regarding the sexual abuse of children. Dioceses across the country have been among the most vicious opponents of child abuse legislation.
Pope Benedict XVI mandated that bishops do “all that is possible” in addressing the scourge that is childhood sexual abuse, and the People of God get only “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2), because words without action remain hollow.



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Edwin Hess

posted January 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm


Tom said (January 14, 2009 2:08 AM)
“I find it rather amusing that VOTF called on Bishop McCormack to resign ‘in recognition’ of his own admission of culpability yet called on Cardinal Mahoney to resign based on what they perceive to be strenuous efforts to deny culpability. Based on 180 degree logical inconsistency ……”
Tom, I find your comment rather amusing. It is not inconsistent. If someone admits guilt (and is guilty) he/she deserves punishment. If someone denies culpability, but is shown to be guilty, he/she desreves punishment for the offense, but also deserves further pubnishment for lying about it. The offense is consistent in both cases.



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Nancy Danielson

posted January 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm


Randy, comments such as these are often made against anyone who speaks out against homosexual behavior, as a way to discredit that person.
If the Court had enough evidence to prove that any of these bishops mentioned were guilty of enabling the abuse, and the Court did not act on that evidence, the Court is guilty of enabling abuse as well.



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Ronnie Mondello

posted January 18, 2009 at 10:50 am


As a Catholic Convert and as a human being who personally knows three victims,& has heard several others speak at VOTF, the sexual abuse, cover up, blase attitude of Rome, etc. etc. is devastating…..I still am a “believer” and find prayer my saving grace but can well live without attending mass. Why didn’t the entire laity rise up in protest….what kind of brainwashing goes on as children (not in my case) that “anything goes as long as it is “Catholic?”….Being a Roman Catholic has opened up many doors for me to spirituality, faith, etc. and has given me the chance to meet so many wonderful Christians BUT there is a limit as to TRUST and the sexual abuse scandel & the church’s attitude toward it has enabled me to reach my limit. May VOTF never give up it’s journey for justice!…



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Carolyn Disco

posted January 18, 2009 at 8:04 pm


RE: Nancy’s comment:
“If the Court had enough evidence to prove that any of these bishops mentioned were guilty of enabling the abuse, and the Court did not act on that evidence, the Court is guilty of enabling abuse as well.”
Nancy must mean “prosecutors” bringing criminal indictments. The fact is the Church successfully fought legislation to make bishops accountable. They prevented laws making clergy mandated reporters of abuse, and still fight extensions of statutes of limitation. Bishops hid crimes for decades, and then it was too late. Keeping the secrets had its benefits. As did distorting the First amendment by claiming in effect they had a right to be negligent in supervising priests.
The MA attorney general and the Philadelphia district attorney were anguished about inadequate laws as were many others. The NH attorney general extracted a virtual admission of guilt from the Diocese of Manchester. McCormack had to agree in writing that there was sufficient evidence for a conviction for child endangerment. Instead of prosecuting, the State got 9,000 secret archives released, and State supervision of the Diocese’s handling of abuse for five years.
This is not to overlook that many in law enforcement were far too deferential to bishops and failed to act. After 2002, much legislation was finally passed to make bishops accountable.
I hope Nancy was not challenging or minimizing bishops’ cover-ups by suggesting they were not the only ones.



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Your Name

posted January 19, 2009 at 10:52 am


Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, as well as others, keep referencing the 1950s or 1960s and forward.
I find it very difficult to believe that clergy behavior and heirarchy stonewalling are late 20th century phenomona.
As Sister rightly ovserves, “Who did not know in 1960″? Of course they knew. They knew in 1900, in 1850, in 1700.
I want to point this out for two reasons:
A)The clergy behavior is not the result of the “secular and moral” culture of the late 20th century as some of the bishops and commentators wish to say. To tar the developments in the Church and clergy since WWII as the problem and a return to the good old days as the solution takes the responsiliblity off the supposedly nieve heirarchy. The developments manifested in the Church since WWII are good and healthy. (These developments in the Church go back at least to Leo XIII and were active in the early 20th century. They found their voice in Vatican II.)
B) The bishops who ignored the behavior came from the same seminaries and clergy as the abusers. Are the abusers really a small quantity of lone actors or is there a subculture that supports this behavior? In other words, did the bishops just stonewall to protect the Church from a small quantity of loners; or, did the bishops bless it as accepted practice among a group of the clergy?
Is there any research on this? Should there be?



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kaythegardener

posted January 19, 2009 at 7:32 pm


“The current & past Popes, along with the highest levels of the Vatican bureaucracy, still seem to speak about the problem of clerical abusers from the viewpoints of the just the perpetrators, not the victims. They seek to minimize the consequences on the guilty, not to maximize the benefits for innocents who need protection. I am speaking here about all forms of clerical abusers, not just against young children, bad as that is…
As the nuns taught us in Catholic grade school in pre-Vatican II times —
If, as an adult, you have committed a serious sin that is also
a felony crime that has harmed others grievously, for which you
could go to prison for several years, then it is not enough to
just go to confession.
You also have a duty to ask God for the Grace to consult a
lawyer & then turn yourself in…
Since you had offended against the laws of society as well as
the law of God, you owed acknowledgement of your deeds to both
spheres of authority & both groups would mete out punishments,
as was their right.
The nuns gave that as one of the principle examples of exercising the virtues of integrity & fortitude in adult life after Confirmation, since the guilty are more apt to hide their sins, even from themselves.
Beware of the glib “I’m Sorry”, since it is so easy to dull & then put your conscience to sleep. That is how people wind up committing mortal sins & actually risk losing their soul’s eternal salvation…
Since the nuns expected average 10-12 year old children to remember & understand these concepts, what problems with comprehending this do the higher ranks of clergy who are in their 50s, 60, or even 70s have???
Since the leadership at the top sets the tone for everyone on down, then let our Catholic leaders imitate Christ himself. “By the stripes of the Suffering Servant, all are healed” & “ Christ did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but rather emptied himself out in suffering for our sakes, even unto death on a Cross…”.
A posture of humility, not arrogance, from the hierarchy, will go a long way towards solving this problem, once & for all…
KMC
+++++++++++++
Originally sent in as a reader comment (15 Jan 2009) to the VOR_VOTF Yahoo group discussion list & resent to Beliefnet.com, the the kind permission of the VOR_VOTF listmaster, KMC



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Sean Cannon

posted January 29, 2009 at 4:41 pm


All
Firstly, I’m not American. That’s neither an apology nor an excuse. Merely a statement that I do not understand fully the American way of life, even though I lived for 2 years in the ‘Bible Belt’ and have spent 6 months in California.
Secondly, I am Catholic, and I believe all that the Church teaches, and especially, in this context; in the ‘traditional’ Act of Faith and particularly that God is He who “can neither deceive nor be deceived.”
Thirdly, I am an African and I live in Africa.
So to my response, and I’ll admit I did not read all the responses to this blog.
We have to remember that the Church is responsible only to God and not the ‘electorate’: Unlike man, God does not obey man’s rule. And like God we should obey God’s Rule only. I’m not approaching a definition of God’s rule, for I am without understanding but with much Hope.
We cannot expect nor be seen to expect that secular rules and politics can apply to the Body of Christ. We need to understand that Christ judges differently from man because He is God and man is but infinitely less than an amoeba to Einstein, in intellect amongst other things, when it comes to determining right from wrong, or even for that matter true humility and contrite confession.
Am I absolving the Bishops’ actions? No, I’m not a priest but merely a member of the laity. But I refuse to judge any Bishop’s heart from a secular basis: as I refuse to judge anyone’s heart from my deficient human standpoint. If I did judge, I would judge both Peter, who denied Christ more than once, and Paul who persecuted Christ beyond the bone. And perhaps, too. I would judge Abraham for being willing to give up his son for a ‘voice from the sky’. And if I accept Peter and Paul and Abraham as my guidance to absolute perfection, I must accept that His wisdom transcends secular desire and vengeful human need.
If I accept that He is all-knowing and all-just, and I accept that my human nature is flawed, and I accept that my heroes, Peter, Paul and Abraham could sin on par if not not lower than my own sins, then I must accept that a Bishop in our Perfect Church can also sin. And I’ll not exclude the Holy Father from the ability to sin; let’s not confuse impeccability with infallibility. Then, logically, I must accept that His Bishops can sin also.
But I cannot accept that man would seek to rule the Church. Our Church has but one head, but one master – and that head and master is not man.
The Church does not prone itself to democracy. If that were the case, then Catholics would be no better off than the so-called Anglican “communion”. But Catholics are better off, because they have the knowledge that they are still led by Christ through apostolic succession.
The question is thus: Why do we pit man’s impoverished idea of justice against the perfect justice of God Himself? Or put it into the terms of this discussion – do we Catholics look for eternal justification or temporal justification?
The reason I can ask this, is it seems as though the majority (at least) of the respondents seek human justice in opposition to God’s Justice. But in this search, has everyone considered that eternal justice will be the Bishops’ lot as it will be all of ours? Do we seek a Chinese style church, in which we are given to listening to The Word in the government’s language? Or do we subject our prideful humanity to the supremacy of God?
OK, so this may seem to be a hang-back, a fence-sitting response (give me the American term), but it is not. I abhor both the Bishops’ actions but also most of the responses above which would seek to place a secular justice above that of the Church. Above that of Christ Himself.
Granted, we see through a clearer glass when it comes to tangible and immediate retribution than when we look through God’s window. And I’m mixing metaphors perhaps. But grant also that we do not wish for any secular institution to govern Christ’s Body; because then that’s what it would not be – Christ’s Body.
In 2000 years we have seen many mistakes being made, and some of them by Popes and clergy – even the first Pope and the first Bishops. But let us not treat Christ’s servants as though they were elected members of school boards.
Have at me as you will.
God Bless
Sean



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