Via Media

Via Media

All the news that’s unfit to print

There has, as there usually is, much abuse-related news the past week. The Rochester priest arrested on abuse charges pled not guilty. The permanent deacon in Hawaii accused of abuse was released on bail. The Portland Archdiocese has named parishioners as defendants in its bankruptcy case. There were disturbing revelations in Denver this week.

Details at the Abuse Tracker, as usual.

Oh, and Fox News was all over the Christian Brothers’ Academy teacher story tonight. Surprise.

Exploiting and abusing the young – an unoriginal sin. Protecting institutions at the expense of those same young  – also a sadly unoriginal sin.

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posted August 2, 2005 at 11:41 pm

You gotta pity her sons and daughter. These days, although it’s bad enough if your mom dresses like a s**t, it’s quite another thing if she is! :(
I hope she gets the book thrown at her, but you know that since it’s heterosexual shenanigans of boys with a decent looking woman, it’ll just be “Hot for Teacher.”

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posted August 2, 2005 at 11:55 pm

Wow, that liberal Boston culture sure has a long reach.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 1:16 am

I never thought The Scandal would touch me: well, it has. A very close friend of my family’s, a priest I have called Uncle my entire life, was removed from ministry pending investigation and a psychological evaluation after a sole (already disproved) accusation by an uncredible witness. The accusation was from 15 years before: the investigation was prompted by a ‘recovered memory’ of abuse so flimsy that the story changed several times. And since the investigation was closed with the conclusion that there was no (as in none) evidence of abuse, you would think that would be it, right?
And so it was–until the same priest made the mistake a few months later of writing a letter with suggestions for searching out vocations in the St.Louis Review without clearing it with the St.Louis diocesan vocations head first. All the sudden, the investigation requires a removal from ministry and a psychological investigation.
And so now, thank you. Thanks to you and Rod and all the others who have hammered in how unimportant the rights of the accused are compared to the severity of the accusations. The crescendo has risen to the point where now the mere existence of allegations in the past is sufficient. I pray that Archishop Burke and any others responsible for this innappropriate use of guidelines ‘meant to protect children,’ to instead effect administrative changes, reconsider their actions and pray over the correct actions to take. Meeting the media-friendly guidelines of the Dallas accord are not the end of the story. Tearing up the framework of justice within the church to meet the unreasonable demands of an insatiable media will not help the church to be more holy.

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Rod Dreher

posted August 3, 2005 at 7:42 am

Tom: And so now, thank you. Thanks to you and Rod and all the others who have hammered in how unimportant the rights of the accused are compared to the severity of the accusations. The crescendo has risen to the point where now the mere existence of allegations in the past is sufficient.
Well, Tom, I’m sorry for you and for your priest friend, but you can take this blaming me and other critics of the Church’s handling of this scandal straight to the trash heap where it belongs. If what you report is true, it certainly seems as if your friend was railroaded. That’s wrong. It’s unjust and it shouldn’t stand. But it is not the case that because this priest may have been treated unjustly, that we are wrong to raise Cain about the scandal. I defy you to find any passage in which Amy, in which I, or in which any of the regular commentators in these parts have said the rights of the accused are unimportant.
I know of a case here in Dallas in which the bishop used the abuse protection framework to punish a priest he disfavored, while allowing favored priests with actual violations remain in office. This happens. It’s why Fr. Tom Doyle, of all people, speaks out against giving Rome the power to conduct secret trials and swiftly laicize accused priests. He says there’s a serious danger that corrupt bishops could use the process to strike out against priests whose only crime is getting under the bishop’s skin.
Look, you’re angry and you’re hurting for your friend, so it’s natural to blame those of us who have been loud voices of criticism of the Church hierarchy. But you need to think about this, from one of the Denver papers the other day:
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the scandal the Rev. James E. Kane saw when he talked to Gorski last week.
“I am a good friend of Father White’s,” Kane told Gorski. “And I personally like Father White, and I personally think this publicity is scandalous because I feel if a person has an illness, whatever it should be, what we should do for these people is pray for them and not criticize them.”

Father White has many formal accusations against him, stretching back over his career. The Archd of Denver apparently knew all about it. And now you have a priest saying that we ought not talk about his alleged molestation of children, but just shut up and pray for him. Tom, that is an outrage. If you want to know where the rage that now appears to have unjustly swallowed your friend comes from, look here. That’s the reason. I’m not justifying injustice, please understand, but I’m trying to show you why people who have heard this kind of junk from the clergy and their lay abettors over and over and over and over and over get so sick of it they find it hard to trust any of them.
Let me make this clear: Anger does not justify injustice! But your solution, Tom, would mean remaining silent in the face of injustices done to children and families, and that’s just cowardly and wrong. I don’t know if you have children, but you need to realize that if you did, and a priest or priests would have molested them a few years ago, the bishop, the successor of the apostles in your diocese, and his lawyers would almost certainly have gone at you hammer and tongs if you tried to seek redress for those abominable crimes against your children. And they would have tried to take you and your family apart. It has happened over and over and over. You think that is just, or a situation that requires polite silence and deference? Not me.

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Susan Peterson

posted August 3, 2005 at 8:14 am

Well, what is a process by which justice can come to the guilty without injustice to the innocent?
I was just this morning involved in all kinds of discussions about my husband’s Episcopal diocese-and others-in which bishops on a power trip have used flimsy excuses to discipline…and threaten with laicization, priests who either opposed the ordination of Gene Robinson, or in our local case, who contradicted the bishop to his face in public when he said there were no pedophilia issues in our diocese. And I thought, do Catholic bishops do this sort of thing?
Well, apparently, they do. This priest apparently stepped on the toes of someone close to the bishop, and there was an accusation…which they apparently previously had believed to be false …which gave them the excuse to punish him.
Now, is there a way to prevent this, structurally, without also giving a loophole for ignoring actual abuses?
I don’t have the answer, believe me. I am asking if Rod, who has thought about this a lot, or anyone else, has any ideas.
Susan F. Peterson

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posted August 3, 2005 at 8:43 am

There was a piece on NPR yesterday morning about an article in the Toledo paper about the complicity of the local police in covering up abuses. Of course it was all lumped together–pedophilia with statutory rape, with the recently reported satanic ritual abuse and murder. The one size fits all solution was “protecting the institution” in this case, traced back to an old Chief of Police, who had covered up because he was a “prominent Catholic” and then the policy was institutionalized.
Now I think it maybe understandable why the police didn’t publicize a statutory rape in the 50’s by a priest–why Catholic police didn’t publicize this–because, yes, indeed they did want to protect the institution from the scandal.
Why do people need to know about this? True, its a grave sin, and probably though some measure of weakness is involved in the priest’s behavior, some measure of malice is too–how can you not know a 14 year old girl isn’t capable of consenting. What does this say about your solidarity or charity.
Nevertheless, I can see why its best not to publicize an example like this.
But the one size fits all, least common denominator that both liberals and conservatives can agree on–that its some kind of institutional chauvinism, or clericalism–the liberals because for them, all authority constitutes some kind of illicit oppression, the conservatives, because they’ve been treated for the past 40 years to the liberal autocrats wrecking the liturgy, and distorting the doctrine.
Nevertheless, the difference between the homosexuals in Toledo, the actual pedophiles, the diabolical rituals, and finally the garden variety sleazoids, is not comprehended by the least common denominator analysis that its institutional chauvinism.

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Rich Leonardi

posted August 3, 2005 at 8:57 am

The damn shame of situations like the one concerning ‘Uncle’ is not only is it unjust to them, but ultimately it’s unjust to the abused.
Take Cincinnati’s Fr. Larger, a case I’ve described many times. Larger was caught groping a male undercover police officer at a park he admitted to visiting several times before. Archbishop Pilarczyk returned him to ministry about a year later. Now he faces charges stemming from a questionable ‘recovered memory’ situation similar to the one engulfing ‘Uncle’.
If he is found innocent, he will feel vindicated, as will countless other priests, guilty and innocent, who believe they’ve been railroaded by the new guidelines which now put accusations on a fast track.
Letting men like Larger play the role of ‘just man wronged’ in front of TV cameras flanked by their lawyers isn’t progress.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 9:05 am

If you want justice tempered with mercy, you need thorough investigations and real trials (or hearings, if there’s not enough trial-type evidence). We need to have the archbishops and the police and the accused and the parishioners quit having to dance around in the dark without knowing what’s going on. You can’t have a fair judgment without knowing what’s going on. And there clearly needs to be some independent oversight process, so you don’t have people getting unfairly railroaded or unfairly allowed to go on their merry abusive way.
This isn’t rocket science. Civil law works if it’s used, and canon law can work just fine if civil law can’t touch the offenders. But the process has to be fair and impartial and routine, not something used roughly and randomly. We can’t afford doubt and chaos and danger, and that’s what we’ve had for far too long.

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Gerard E.

posted August 3, 2005 at 9:17 am

The pattern is repeated over and over again, in This Scandal and others. Acted out with clockwork precision this week in the kerfuffle over Raphael Palmiero and his alleged use of steroids. Bad, wrong or messy incident happens. Those supervising alleged perp cover up mess. Less sympathetic people discover incident. Kaboom. Louder kaboom when alleged perp previously proclaims his/her righteousness. As Raffy proclaims in March 17 Congressional Dog And Pony Show. As the Book of Ecclesiastes notes- there is nothing new under the sun.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 9:36 am

Matt Collins, over at Trust the Truth, reminds us that there is already a sex abuse policy contained in the bible. It’s in 1 Timothy 5: 19:24:Do not listen to an accusation against a presbyter unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. When they sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, that the rest also may have fear. I charge thee before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels that thou observe these things impartially, in no way favoring either side. Do not lay hands hastily upon anyone, and do not be a partner in other men’s sins. Keep thyself chaste. Stop drinking water only, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thy frequent infirmities. Some men’s sins are manifest even before investigation, other men’s sins only afterwards.So the problem isn’t with those like Rod who are the bearers of bad news, but with the bishops who simply ignore the revealed Word of God on this issue!
Tom, I know how you feel. I personally know 9 priests who were removed from minstry for abusing children, two of whom were in my parish. In addition to those 9, I knew another (the principal of my high school) who was arrested for solicitation, and one of the guidance counselors who abused a classmate.
So don’t let your personal anger and pain blind you to the reality of what went on, and unfortunately CONTINUES TO GO ON!

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posted August 3, 2005 at 11:19 am

Tom, Rod et al,
Suck it up, there is no justice. If memory serves me correctly the word “justice” is never even used in the New Testament, in particular the Gospels.
There’s a lot of crying out for justice in the Old Testament, but God never really delivered on that. The enemies of the Jews were never vanquished as requested – the only ones vanquished being the victims of the Jewish genocides concomitant with the creation of Israel – and those enemies that were defeated fell to powers that later came to crush the Jews. [The alliance of the Jews with the Romans (see 1 Maccabees 8:1-4) is particularly ironic. Look at the praise lauded upon those who would later nail them to the walls of the Temple.]
Presumably there will *eventually* be justice, when “He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matt 3:12) But let’s say someone obtains indulgences for those who are not quite damned but “just make it” into Purgatory: No justice to be found! And of those who “go to hell” – can you say anyone is actually in hell? Most priests will give you an admonition for suggesting it.
Nope, no justice. So I don’t think God cares much about it. I think He cares much more about redemption, our sufferings be damned. There is, however, a lot of talk about “obedience” in the Bible from Jesus Himself. I’d stick with that rather than pursuing a hopeless quest.

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reluctant penitent

posted August 3, 2005 at 11:24 am

“Larger was caught groping a male undercover police officer at a park he admitted to visiting several times before. Archbishop Pilarczyk returned him to ministry about a year later.”
Why was this man allowed to return to ministry? Why do the parishioners tolerate him as their priest?

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reluctant penitent

posted August 3, 2005 at 11:28 am

“It’s why Fr. Tom Doyle, of all people, speaks out against giving Rome the power to conduct secret trials and swiftly laicize accused priests. He says there’s a serious danger that corrupt bishops could use the process to strike out against priests whose only crime is getting under the bishop’s skin.”
Father Doyle is wrong on this one. Such trials are the only way to rid the Church of malfeasant and heterodox priests. As long as the trial is not conducted by the accusing Bishop, as long as the priest has a right to defend himself, and as long as the decision is made in accordance with Church law, unfair judgments are likely to be rare.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 11:31 am

“Justice” is one of the 7 virtues, and thus has been part of our Sacred Tradition explicitly at least since Gregory the Great. The word “Trinity” isn’t used in the New Testament either… I thought that Catholics were supposed to be okay with that sort of thing.
So no, we can’t expect a perfectly just Church in this world, just as we can’t expect a perfectly faithful, prudent, or fortitudinous one. But it would be a negligence of our duties as Christians not to work for justice.

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Kevin Miller

posted August 3, 2005 at 12:03 pm

The word dikaiosun?, which is the usual word for “justice” (it can also be, and is sometimes, translated as “righteousness”), is used something like 94 times in the NT.

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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 3, 2005 at 2:22 pm

Rod, does the situation in Denver reflect on Absp. Chaput, at all? I ask because he’s one of the “darlings” (not mine) of “conservative” Catholics everywhere. I find him to be a loudmouthed idiot, but that’s just my opinion.
Regarding “justice,” Ian, let me remind you that God requires us to defend the innocent. Study the Mosaic Law in the first five books of the OT. God has made us in His free image; that means He gives us minds to discern His values and wills to implement them. God created us to be responsible actors in this life, not merely to be redeemed manikins for the next life.
Saying that God isn’t just is saying that God is neither holy nor righteous. Holiness, righteousness and justice reinforce each other. Remember that.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 2:56 pm

“I find him to be a loudmouthed idiot, but that’s just my opinion.”
Once upon a time, there was a pot who lived near a kettle …

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Susan Peterson

posted August 3, 2005 at 4:10 pm

About the two witnesses thing….sexual crimes usually don’t have witnesses. This would mean that most cases of rape or sexual abuse would never be prosecuted or punished. This is what is so difficult about this sort of thing. For some things there is physical evidence but for a lot there is only circumstantial evidence, a pattern of behavior, or even the credibility of the abused together with his subsequent pattern of problems which are common in those who have been abused. Going by the last criteria alone does have a significant potential for convicting, or at least destroying the life of, an innocent person. But then, ignoring such accusations can have the same potential for destroying the life of the victim or subsequent victims.
While some cases are very clear, others are extremely murky. Some kind of trial situation at least gives the accused a chance to defend himself.
Susan Peterson

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Der Tommissar

posted August 3, 2005 at 4:11 pm

So God is perfectly Indifferent and perfectly Merciful?
It’ll take a while for me to wrap my head around that one. Talk amongst yourselves.

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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 3, 2005 at 5:14 pm

Ian, perfect justice doesn’t exist on earth because we’re still subject to sin. Human beings don’t deal out perfect justice. But God does eventually, not here but in the afterlife. But in him justice and mercy meet. The example you gave about indulgences doesn’t mean there is no justice, because God can apply those indulgences to anybody, not necessarily the person they were asked for.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 5:38 pm

While some cases are very clear, others are extremely murky. Some kind of trial situation at least gives the accused a chance to defend himself.
Susan Peterson

Susan, I couldn’t agree more.
When facts are in dispute, we in the Western European culture have trials. This isn’t a perfect fact-finding machine – what is? – but it’s the best we can do.
Canon Law is enamoured of secrecy. Along with this goes secret trials. This may protect the accused, but as some have pointed out here, it can also endanger him, opening the door to personal grudges by the bishop and so forth. That’s one approach.
Anglo-Saxon law abhors (and forbids) secret trials. We require that trials be in the open.
There’s no point in arguing which is best. They’re just two different points of view.
What is important, all agree, is that there should BE trials where there is any evidence at all, and that cases where there isn’t any should be ignored. Easy to say, hard to practice.
OF COURSE some of the priests accused of sexual misbehavior are perfectly innocent.
But the hierarchy, by its behavior, has pretty much forfeited the trust both of the public on the one side, and of priests on the other. Trust like that, once lost, isn’t easily regained.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 8:53 pm

I’m sorry about Father “Uncle” — obviously, no system of justice devised by humans is going to prevent some cases where the innocent are brought down (or prevent at least a few molesters from slipping through the cracks). But let’s face it, priests getting bounced from parish to parish, accusation after accusation, with only the overwhelming approval of their parishioners to keep them in place – that is not the kind of willful blindness conducive to calm and rational correction.
I do get annoyed whenever those who insist that the rights of the accused are respected are themselves accused as priest-worshipping chumps who like to blame the victim and who are unable to say the sky is blue without a Papal bull to back them up. That being said, I don’t see a problem with most anything Rod has said, though, and he shouldn’t be lumped in with the hysterics who like to vent on this site.

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Michael in Denver

posted August 3, 2005 at 10:28 pm

Mr. D’Hippolito,
I’m not Rod, but I’ll take a shot at answering your question. One of my first concerns when the Denver Post started reporting this story last week, was that I would be disappointed by the Archbishop. To the extent that these allegations reflect on him, I’d say the reflect pretty well. It appears that the Archdicese followed all the right procedures when contacted earlier this year. The civil authorities were notified, and offers were made to help the victim/accuser. Letters were sent to all parishes, again offering help to anyone hurt by priests. His statements were published in the DCR, and I’d bet they’re on the website. (
In fairness, it’s obvious that not everything is perfect in the Archdiocese of Northern Colorado. Father White’s record appears to indicate a lot of shuffling without obvious reasons. It appears that this victim had contacted the Archdiocese years before (during Arbp. Stafford’s administration) and did not get satisfaction.
There isn’t any reason for those of us in NoCo to be happy, but, at this point at least, it doesn’t look like Arbp. Chaput has acted dishonorably.

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