Via Media

about a former lawyer for the Cleveland Diocese – , the lawyer, you might say, whose life has taken a downward spiral since he left the diocese, appeared on 60 Minutes II, and since, mysteriously, can’t find work.

Charlie describes the Cleveland Diocese during his 22 years there — Pilla became bishop in November 1980 — as “the whole dynamic, to be perfectly honest, is when you’re there, you are in a 15th-century court. You are. This is the king (the bishop). The king can do no wrong. And you have what I call courtiers , and if you want to curry favor, you know that Bishop Pilla has had a very bad habit of killing the messenger. That is part of the dynamic of who he is.”

As the bishop’s lawyer, Charlie says, “I was the messenger on many things. There were educational issues, the current situation with clergy misbehavior. All kinds of things.”

He describes to me certain diocese courtiers who had direct access to Pilla and “fed into a lot of the bishop’s ego.” He says it’s “fascinating to me when people say, ‘You were the bishop’s lawyer,’ because for the last four years I worked there, I never talked directly to him. I was shielded from speaking to him.”

Charlie handled issues dealing with priests until about 1993, he says, when he was told not to do it any more. Before that, he had instructed school principals on sexual abuse, written much-imitated policies, and liasoned with the Department of Human Services. He says Pilla was “fine with letting us do stuff,” but that when Sister Carol Anne Smith joined the diocese to run the schools that “all of a sudden we’re stopped from doing the stuff.” He adds, “There’s a lot that people attribute to Bishop (James) Quinn, but a lot of it has to be attributed to Sister Carol Anne Smith as well.”

In 1997, while still working with lay people, parishes and the schools, he was asked by a pastor to help with an incidence of alleged sexual abuse at one of the schools. Charlie says that “we would meet with the families, offer therapy, we had a victim’s advocate who would hook them up with psychologists and psychiatrists, we’d pay the bills.” He says he learned the accused individual had been at another parish for several years, and that “he followed our protocol” and called up the other community and turned the man in.

Afterward, however, Charlie says Sister Carol Anne called him in and removed him from working with schools telling him he was “doing a bad job,” and that Bishop Quinn told him he lost that part of his job. But even after he was told not to deal with the schools and sexual misconduct issues, Charlie says that in 1998-99 “people did come to me and I tried to help them and I was chastised for doing that.”

Sister Carol Anne Smith did not respond to a request for an interview.

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