30 May 2011

A selection of critical responses to the John Jay report on the causes of Catholic clergy sex crimes

The Guardian  -  UK     May 27, 2011

Child abuse tests how the church relates to the secular world

The Catholic church doesn't help itself by encouraging the idea that the laity and the priestly caste are separate and different

by Catherine Pepinster  | Opinion

The question: Is the Catholic abuse crisis over?

The John Jay report into sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics, commissioned by the US church itself, is one of the most comprehensive documents that the church has published anywhere in the world on the sexual scandal that has caused it so much embarrassment and its victims so much grief. The portrait it paints of the abusers themselves are of isolated, vulnerable individuals who had difficulties in bonding with others in normal relationships, who led stressful lives and were likely to have been abused themselves. And as the report itself says:

"Priest-abusers are similar to sex offenders in the general population. They had motivation to commit the abuse (for example, emotional congruence to adolescents), exhibited techniques of neutralization to excuse and justify their behaviour, took advantage of opportunities to abuse (for example, through socialization with the family), and used grooming techniques to gain compliance from potential victims."

So why has there been quite so much outrage about sexual abuse of minors by priests, more than, say, of sexual abuse of minors by scout masters, or doctors, or teachers? Andrew Brown in Comment is free last week put paid to the notion that there are more abusers among the Catholic priesthood than among other groups. So it's not the frequency of occurrence that is the problem. The disgust, I would suggest, is rightly felt in one way because the exploitation and abuse of children is so terrible a deed.

But we also feel that disgust so intensely because we all – not just Catholics, but society at large – expect Catholic priests to be different, to not be so reprehensible in their behaviour. And a major reason for that is that we have all bought into the problem: we have accepted the view that priests are different, that they are in an elevated position from the rest of us, that they are somehow holier. And if they are holier, they are above the usual human frailties. Too many of us assumed that priests would not be capable of such actions, that they should be treated specially and differently from anybody else accused of heinous crimes.

Faith is essential to religion, but this was blind faith. The institution of the Catholic church for years promoted clericalism with this view of the elevated priest above the laity, and it was barely questioned.

In his 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland about the abuse scandal, the pope did go some way to acknowledge the situation, speaking of the shame and remorse that he feels. This was also the man who spoke of "the filth in the church" just before he was elected pope. But Benedict's letter also showed the inherent weaknesses of the church's position, suggesting that the solution was greater spiritual devotion of the faithful. While he did acknowledge the role of clericalism, at least in the Irish context, he also shifted blame for the crisis on to secular culture as well.

For the Irish Catholics who love the church – and indeed those elsewhere who love the church – the idea that the clerical abuse crisis might be down to their lack of devotion is deeply depressing. As to the idea that the secular culture might be the cause – a view also promoted by the John Jay report – it is hard to understand why the church would come to this conclusion. For while the report concludes that the rise in abuse cases mirrors changes in American society in the 1960s and the 1970s – the"Woodstock era" of increased sexual permissiveness – it also reveals that 70% of abusers were ordained before the 1970s, that more abusers were educated in the seminaries in the 1940s and 1950s than any other era, and that abuse cases have tailed off. So an external permissive culture seems unlikely to be a cause.

The sex abuse crisis is a test of the church's relationship with the secular world. Blaming the outside for its internal ills won't help. Nor will encouraging the idea that the laity and the priestly caste are separate and different. The laity helped blow the whistle on what the church was keeping secret. When Catholics hear sermons about Doubting Thomas, who wouldn't believe until he saw the evidence of the risen Christ with his own eyes, he is not usually described as a man to be admired. But the sex abuse crisis shows us that Doubting Thomases, if they demand the evidence others keep hidden, are our heroes.

Catherine Pepinster is editor of Catholic weekly The Tablet

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Patheos  -  May 26, 2011

Callenging the John Jay Report

A law professor and victim advocate on blaming the Sixties for child sex abuse

By Marci A. Hamilton | GOD VS GAVEL Column


TO:           Archbishop Timothy Dolan
                  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

FROM:     Professor Marci A. Hamilton
                  Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law
                  Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
                  Yeshiva University

DATE:       May 27, 2011

RE:            Application for Grant to Write a Sequel to the John Jay Sixties Report

I can only imagine how you, the Conference, and John Jay himself are feeling after the public hee-hawing in response to your announcement last week that the Sixties era was responsible for your child sex abuse challenges. The cartoons, like the one by Tony Auth in the Philadelphia Inquirer, were short on empathy for your herculean efforts.

I noticed you paid about $1 million for this Report (and you solicited some serious funds from outside groups, including the federal government), so the national LOL in response has to hurt.

Speaking as a professor, I believe that the John Jay Report, otherwise entitled The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, lacks sufficient historical support for this breakthrough in explaining how an institution that started with Jesus Christ could become the global leader in child endangerment.

You obviously take the John Jay academics' Sixties thesis seriously as it appeared in your press releases about the Report; maybe the problem is that the Report just wasn't long enough. So I think you should consider doing a sequel to buttress your arguments about the Sixties.

I know that we have had our differences in the past, but now that I see the sincerity of your drive to protect children, I just can't let this opportunity pass.

Here is a summary of the promising avenues of research I would pursue for you as soon as you send me a check. Each one provides a new insight to help you (and the world) understand the men under your care and just how difficult it is for the bishops to handle this problem.

The Sixties were not just a permissive era when everyone was doing drugs, having sex, and listening to rock and roll.* There were many social influences that might help you as you try to explain the victimization of the Catholic bishops who have had to carry the cross of child sex abuse by priests.

Each of the following four cultural landmarks deserves further exploration. Once you have approved my grant application and paid in full, I will apply the tried and true research methods followed by the John Jay team to definitively link this cultural phenomenon to your problems.
  • 1960 Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was released. My educated guess is that most seminarians and priests started out the Sixties scared stiff. Or at least terrified of showers and motels. That can really affect your judgment.
  • 1966 Star Trek aired on television for the first time. Once Star Trek(and Spock in particular) made it imminently plausible that extraterrestrials exist—and can be more rational than humans—what man of God would not be concerned? Spock's irresistible 7-year-itch had to be a blow to any man contemplating a life without sex.
  • 1967 The first Super Bowl. The beginning of the end of Western civilization.
  • 1969 Neil Armstrong walks on the moon. As you may know, the Church once persecuted Galileo for saying that the earth was not the center of the universe. This reminder that the Church was once wrong about the basic order of the universe could have led any seminarian, priest, or bishop to doubt everything that is right and good.

It is my expectation that as I investigate these cultural links to your organization, I will be able to add significant cover for you and your fellow bishops who even today do not call the police when you learn of abuse by your employees.

If this grant application is rejected, which would be deeply disappointing, I would like to make one modest proposal to aid you as you recover from the humiliation of the John Jay Woodstock Report, as some have dubbed it. Do you want to regain the respect you have squandered? Become the victims' ally for justice. If you don't know what that requires, ask them. (That is not the same thing as asking your lawyers or your high-priced PR guys and gals what to do next.) But you and I both know you are fully aware of what you should do. You just haven't done it yet.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I was a kid in the Sixties, have never done a single illegal drug, including marijuana, never thought "free sex" was a good idea for anyone, and grew up liking country music as much as rock and roll. But this application is made in my capacity as an academic, not as someone who "lived" the phenomenon. I suppose this explains in part the fact that I have never abused a child or covered up anyone else's abuse of a child?

Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge, 2008) and God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge, 2005, 2007).

Hamilton's column, "God vs. Gavel," is published every Thursday. Subscribe via email or RSS.

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Miranda Celestes's blog   -  May 24, 2011

A worthless and dangerous report
by Miranda Celeste

Last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a report called “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” (.pdf), a companion to their 2004 report, “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, 1950-2002“. Both reports were compiled by the research team at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York at the request of the USCCB’s Office of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board, a group of prominent Catholic laity (both the OCYP and the NRB were created by the USCCB after the 2002 adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People). It is important to note that, although the research was carried out by the John Jay College, the UCCSB had the final say on whether or not to authorize publication of the report.

Before I read the newly-released report, I tried to be as charitable and optimistic about it as possible, with the thought that “well, this is better than nothing”.

After finishing the report, though, I can say with certainty that both my charity and my optimism were unwarranted. I was wrong. Very wrong. This report isn’t better than nothing. It’s a major setback in the movement towards Church accountability.

In the hope of counteracting some of the report’s detrimental effects, I want to offer some summary and analysis of its methodology, data, and conclusions. The report itself is very long (143 pages), but you can get an overview of its findings by reading its brief “Executive Summary” and/or The New York Times‘s recent article on the report.


First, I want to explain why this report’s findings are neither credible nor insightful:

1. The conflict of interest created by the funding. For example, a recent news report said that “[m]ore than half of the $1.8 million cost for the nearly 150-page report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the ’causes and context’ of child sex abuse by clergy came from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops”. Yes, the USCCB donated $918,000 of the report’s $1.8 million cost. However, such news reports should also explain that the majority of the remaining funding came from organizations that are either explicitly Catholic-affiliated or that have histories of funding Catholic activities and advocacy (the Knights of Columbus, the Raskob Foundation, Catholic Mutual Group, Sisters of Charity Ministry Foundation, the Luce Foundation, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the St. Joseph Health System, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Daughters of Charity Foundation/Province of the West).

So, this is a study that was commissioned by the USCCB (who retained “authorization” rights over publication of the final report) and that was funded almost entirely by Catholic or pro-Catholic organizations. Conflict of interest doesn’t get much more blatant than that.

2. Limited and untrustworthy data. In addition to reusing much of the information from the Nature and Scope study, the researchers explain that:

The primary data sources for the Causes and Context study are as follows: (1) longitudinal analyses of data sets of various types of social behavior (for example, crime, divorce, premarital sex) over the time period to provide a historical framework; (2) analysis of seminary attendance, the history and the development of a human formation curriculum, as well as information from seminary leaders; (3) surveys of and interviews with inactive priests with allegations of abuse, and a comparison sample of priests in active parish ministry who had not been accused; (4) interview and primary data from the 1971 Loyola University study of the psychology of American Catholic priests; (5) surveys of survivors, victim assistance coordinators, and clinical files about the onset, persistence, and desistance from abuse behavior; (6) surveys of bishops, priests, and other diocesan leaders about the policies that were put in place after 1985; and (7) analyses of clinical data from files obtained from three treatment centers, including information about priests who abused minors as well as those being treated for other behavioral problems (2).

These sources are acceptable but insufficient. They aren’t an adequate substitute for independent outside analysis of and inspection of Church data. Had the Church been willing to provide access to data that was not self-reported, then each of the above-mentioned sources could have provided additional useful information for the study. On their own, though, they’re just not enough.

As the report explains, this problem began with the Nature and Scope study:

…the USCCB wanted to know the extent of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on a national level from 1950-2002. Any method of data collection on a project of this scope has limitations. The John Jay College researchers determined that it would be impossible to gather an adequate sample—there was simply not enough known about the problem nationally. It was decided that the best method to study this problem was to conduct a “census,” or to collect comprehensive information from the records of every diocese, eparchy, and religious institute in the United States. Though this method had restrictions, these files provided a wealth of information regarding the abusers, minors who were abused, and the financial cost of the individual cases (7).

Here, the researchers fail to justify the substitution of a “census” of self-reported data for an actual adequate sample and fail to explain the highly problematic nature of self-reported data, beyond mentioning that it “had restrictions”.

If it is true that it would have been impossible for the researchers to “gather an adequate sample”, then the researchers should have acknowledged that they needed to wait until such a sample could be gathered and should have refused the USCCB’s request. Instead, though, they chose to engage in a time-consuming and expensive study that would, ultimately, fail to provide any credible findings or useful suggestions for reform.

The fact that much of the data from the Nature and Scope study was reused in the Causes and Context study (2) is one of the primary reasons that, like the Nature and Scope study, the Causes and Context study was not worth undertaking.

Throughout the Causes and Context study, the researchers blindly accept the truth of the Church’s self-reported data. This is both troubling and dangerous, particularly when it comes to Church officials’ claims that they were not made aware of incidents of sexual abuse by priests until many years after they occurred. For example, the researchers assert that:

Despite data indicating that the incidence of abuse rose steadily between 1950 and 1980 and fell sharply by the mid-1980s, most of these events were unknown to civil authorities or church leaders before 2002 (27).


In 2002, the public response was focused on the leaders of individual dioceses and then on the collective hierarchy of the Catholic Church. What this outpouring of pain and indignation failed to accommodate was the temporal disjunction between the historical occurrence of these incidents of abuse and the emerging knowledge by Catholic leaders of the extent of the abuse (75).

yet their only evidence for this claim of “temporal disjunction” is the dioceses’ self-reported data. Even a cursory glance at the history of the Church’s response to the sex abuse crisis illustrates just how dubious this claim is. One such example can be found in the case of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In late 2009, after years of refusing to release sealed documents pertaining to cases of sexual abuse by priests (fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court), the diocese ran out of legal options and was forced to turn over some of their files. As suspected, these documents contain evidence that Cardinal Edward Egan, previously Bishop of Bridgeport, knew about various allegations of abuse at the time of or shortly after their occurrence, but, instead of reporting these allegations to law enforcement, decided to handle the issue “internally”, potentially endangering more children in the process.

And Egan wasn’t merely “a bad apple”. Church leaders in dioceses all over the United States (89) chose to handle sex abuse allegations “internally”, which is a clear indication that, like Egan, many Church leaders indeed did know about cases of abuse at the time of or shortly after their occurrences, despite their self-reported assertions to the contrary.

Additionally, the researchers assert that:

There was no clear indication…of the bishops’ or other diocesan leaders’ understanding of the extent of harm resulting from sexual abuse. Although this lack of understanding was consistent with the overall lack of understanding of victimization at the time, the absence of acknowledgment of harm was a significant ethical lapse on the part of leadership in some dioceses (119).

Here, they researchers acknowledge an “ethical lapse”, yet refuse to place the blame where it belongs: on the abusers and on those who engaged in a cover-up of their behavior. Instead, the researchers claim that, in the 1960s and 1970s, American society as a whole didn’t understand how damaging and harmful child sex abuse was, and that the Church leaders of this time thus couldn’t possibly have known the proper course of action to take in response to an allegation of abuse.

Ultimately, despite the extremely problematic nature of their data, the researchers insist that:

The Causes and Context study provided a unique opportunity to collect robust, rich, and multifaceted data on the sexual abuse of minors over a sixty-year period. Seven sources of quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed, and the findings support a consistent set of conclusions. This convergence of findings provides confidence in the data, which can then serve as a base for creating policy recommendations (118).

This failure to acknowledge the highly flawed nature of the data in question indicates that the researchers are not credible and that the Causes and Context study’s conclusions are, for the most part, neither trustworthy nor deserving of serious consideration.


Next, let’s look at two of the major problems of and flaws in the report’s methodology and conclusions:

1. One of the most egregious aspects of this report is that the researchers arbitrarily redefine “pedophilia” as sexual abuse of victims that were ten years old or younger at the time, despite the fact that the DSM sets the cutoff age at thirteen. Defining it as “ten years old or younger” allows the researchers to make claims like:

Less than 5 percent of the priests with allegations of abuse exhibited behavior consistent with a diagnosis of pedophilia (a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors about prepubescent children). Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as “pedophile priests” (3).


It is worth noting that while the media has consistently referred to priest-abusers as “pedophile priests,” pedophilia is defined as the sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Yet, the data on priests show that 22 percent of victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or postpubescent (10).

… whereas if they had stuck to the DSM‘s guidelines (age thirteen or younger), most of the priest-abusers could legitimately be called “pedophiles”, as ”[m]ost sexual abuse victims of priests (51 percent) were between the ages of eleven and fourteen, while 27 percent were fifteen to seventeen, 16 percent were eight to ten, and nearly 6 percent were under age seven” (10). In other words, if the researchers had used the DSM‘s guidelines, the percentage would jump from 22% to almost 73%.

Arbitrarily changing the age from thirteen to ten was a very sleazy and duplicitous move, and, unfortunately, many media outlets will most likely report the “5%” and “22%” figures without explaining the study’s authors’ arbitrary redefinition of “pedophilia” (see this CNN story for an example). “Pedophilia” is a word that evokes strong feelings in many people, and, without this explanation, most media consumers will be left with the impression that the Church’s sex abuse crisis isn’t nearly as horrible or widespread as they had previously thought.

Frustratingly, the researchers do not explain why they chose to redefine “pedophilia”, saying only that: “[f]or the purpose of this comparison, a pedophile is defined as a priest who had more than one victim, with all victims being age eleven or younger at the time of the offense” (34).

Even more egregious, though, is the researchers’ attack on any media outlet or individual who accepts the standard definition of “pedophile”:

Media reports about Catholic priests who sexually abused minors often mistakenly have referred to priests as pedophiles. According to the DSM IV-TR, pedophilia is characterized by fantasies, urges, or behaviors about sexual activity with a prepubescent child that occurs for a significant period of time. Yet, the Nature and Scope data indicated that nearly four out of five minors abused were at least eleven years old at the time of the abuse. Though development happens at varying ages for children, the literature generally refers to eleven and older as an age of pubescence or postpubescence (53).

I’m both horrified and perplexed by the researchers’ arbitrary and unexplained redefinition of their study’s primary topic. Remember: their redefinition of “pedophile” allows them to claim that only 22% of priest-abusers were “pedophiles”, whereas, if they had used the DSM‘s definition, that percentage would jump to almost 73%. Media consumers who hear the figure of 22% reported without context will, most likely, assume that it is based upon the standard (DSM) definition, and, as a result, will develop a highly inaccurate understanding of the realities of the Catholic sex abuse crisis. Because of this, I don’t think it’s uncharitable or unreasonable to call into question both the credibility of and the integrity of the researchers.

2. The researchers attempt to place some of the blame for the sex abuse crisis on the failures of seminaries to fully prepare priests for the social changes that accompanied 1960′s and and 1970′s culture, focusing on “the impact social changes in the 1960s and 1970s had on individual priests’ attitudes and behavior and on organizational life, including social stratification, emphasis on individualism, and social movements” (7).

For example, the researchers assert that, according to their data:

[T]he problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests peaked in the 1970s, with a decline by the mid-1980s in all regions of the Catholic Church in the United States. Though more cases of sexual abuse continue to be reported to dioceses today, almost all of these allegations are of abuse that occurred decades earlier (46).

then proceed to attempt to connect this supposed “peak” in sexual abuse cases (again, remember that all of this data comes from the “censuses” they sent to the dioceses) to the concurrent shift in cultural norms/”social indicators” (36) and rise in “deviant behaviors” (46), primarily “divorce, use of illegal drugs, and crime” (36), arguing that: “[t]he documented rise in cases of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s is similar to the rise in other types of “deviant” behavior in society, and coincides with social change during this time period” (46).

This argument indicates that the researchers need to be reminded of two things: that correlation does not equal causation, something that they either do not understand (doubtful) or actively chose to ignore, and that equating divorce with the “use of illegal drugs” and “crime” and the sexual abuse of children is problematic, to say the least.

Their attempt at justifying this argument is both pathetic and painfully convoluted:

Sexual abuse of a minor by a Catholic priest is an individual deviant act—an act by a priest that serves individual purposes and that is completely at odds or opposed to the principles of the institution. Divorce is an act also made for personal reasons that negates the institution of marriage. Illegal drug use and criminal acts violate social and legal norms of conduct, presumably at the will of the offender. The recorded or reported incidence of each of these factors increased by 50 percent between 1960 and 1980. If the data for the annual divorce rate are compared to data for the annual rate of homicide and robbery, the time-series lines move in tandem. From stable levels in 1965, the rates increase sharply to a peak at or soon after 1980 and then begin to fall. This pattern is indicative of the period effects that can be seen in the Nature and Scope data on the incidence of sexual abuse by priests (36-7).

Yet again, it bears repeating that both this claimed “peak” in sexual abuse cases (which forms the crux of their argument that the sexual abuse crisis was a “historical problem” (2)) and the argument that “period effects” are partially to blame for this “peak” are supported only by extremely limited and inherently untrustworthy data.

All of this grasping at straws serves only one purpose: to deflect guilt away from the perpetrators and those who engaged in covering up their acts.

Even more disturbing and baseless is the researchers’ claim that one cause of this “peak” in sexual abuse cases between the 1960s and the 1980s is that, until recently, seminaries failed to provide a “human formation” (41) curriculum consisting of “the training in self-understanding and the development of emotional and psychological competence for a life of celibate chastity” (5) and providing “a clear delineation of behavioral expectations appropriate to a life of celibacy” (120), asserting that: “[p]articipation in human formation during seminary distinguishes priests with later abusive behavior from those who did not abuse. The priests with abusive behavior were statistically less likely to have participated in human formation training than those who did not have allegations of abuse” (3).

Defending this assertion and attempting to connect it to the supposed “peak” in sexual abuse cases required the researchers to employ painfully convoluted logic including, once again, the “correlation equals causation” fallacy:

Human formation in seminary is critically important. The drop in abuse cases preceded the inclusion of a thorough education in human formation, but the development of the curriculum of human formation is consistent with the continued low levels of abuse by Catholic priests (118).

Men ordained in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s did not generally abuse before the 1960s or 1970s. Men ordained in the 1960s and the early 1970s engaged in abusive behavior much more quickly after their entrance into ministry (3).

In other words, the researchers believe that the vast majority of priest-abusers, whether they attended seminary in 1930 or in the early 1970s (or any time in-between), committed their crimes during the 1960s and 1970s (the time they refer to as the “peak”), and that this is primarily due to the fact that their seminaries failed to provide these priest-abusers with a proper “human formation” curriculum.

All of this begs the question (one that the researchers completely ignore): why would any priest have to be taught (in a “human formation” curriculum or otherwise) that it’s never acceptable, ethically or legally, to sexually abuse a child? According to the researchers, we should unquestioningly accept their baseless assertion because, without a proper training in “human formation”, these priest-abusers were unable to understand “appropriate forms of closeness to others” (121) and that certain behaviors are not “appropriate to a life of celibacy” (120).

The fact that the researchers completely ignore this question, this 500-pound elephant in the room, is egregious and unacceptable, and is yet another indicator of this report’s uselessness.


Sometimes I think that I should stop writing about this issue, as I’ve written about it so many times before and it’s quite difficult not to repeat myself. But I can’t and won’t shut up about it, and neither should you. The day that we stop writing and talking about it is the day that the Church wins this fight.

Time and time again we have seen that the Church will do whatever it takes to downplay and/or cover up their failings and crimes. They have shown their willingness to fight dirty, and one of the most useful and effective tools in their arsenal is their dominance of the discourse and conversation (both in the media and elsewhere) about these issues. The Causes and Context study is a textbook example of this: when the media reports its “takeaways” without providing context, they are, in effect, doing the Church’s face-saving dirty work for them.

No, we must not shut up. We must not allow the Church to dominate the discourse. Speak out in whatever ways you can. On its own, what you or I say or write may not have any effect on the Church or the discourse surrounding this issue. Taken as a whole, though, our words provide a clear indication that there are many of us who will neither blindly accept the Church’s domination of the conversation nor quietly sit by while they evade justice time and time again.

Don’t shut up, even when you feel like you’re repeating yourself. It took me a while to realize that the reason I’ve sometimes been repetitive when writing about this is that the Church itself has repeated the same crimes and the same institutionally sanctioned cover-ups over and over again. They repeatedly refuse to admit their culpability or to face legal punishment when appropriate. And, most importantly, they repeatedly deny outsiders access to their files that contain information on the sexual abuse of children and the cover-ups of that abuse.

Until the day that they allow that access, until the day that the light of public scrutiny is finally able to illuminate and reveal the darkest and most disturbing aspects of the Church, we owe it to the victims to never, ever shut up.

I won’t shut up, and neither should you. The day that we stop fighting back is the day that they win.

Let’s make sure that day never comes.

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Note from Perry Bulwer  -  May 30, 2011

Catholic League President Bill Donohue also wrote an analysis of the John Jay report, but at 24 pages it is too long to post here. In the intro he refers to it as a "critical analysis", but it reads more like an apologia. That intro also states that "... Donohue has written many articles on priestly sexual abuse and has discussed this issue on a number of radio and television shows."  

If you want to hear what an obnoxious, ignorant apologist for pedophile priests who tortured their child victims has to say about Catholic clergy sex crimes you can listen to one of those radio interviews on this blog at the following link:

Catholic League President Bill Donohue Denies Catholic Church Abuses [radio interview]

Also see:

The Catholic League downplays the evils of child abuse



SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Three victims respond to new church abuse report

Statement by Barbara Blaine, SNAP President, May 18, 2011

It's 'garbage in, garbage out.' Two academics, paid by bishops and using information from bishops reach the conclusions bishops desperately want to reach themselves.

The Catholic hierarchy wants us to believe that the abuse of children by clerics is 'situational.' It's not. It's systemic. And most important, the tragic continuing cover up of those crimes, by bishops, is even more systemic. But the bishops report will give them even more reasons to avoid tough questions and take decisive steps to make children safer, expose the truth, discipline wrong-doers, and stop the abuse.

The document is yet another reminder of the sad, simple truth that keeps getting overlooked here: no institution can police itself, especially not an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy. The report is a clarion call to police, prosecutors, lawmakers, and judges to end decades of dangerous deference to church officials and start reforming secular laws so that those who commit, ignore, and conceal child sex crimes can be held responsible for the devastation they cause.

* * *

Four fallacies in new bishops abuse report

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Predictably and conveniently, the bishops have funded a report that tells them precisely what they want to hear: it was all unforeseeable, long ago, wasn't that bad and wasn't their fault.

It gives bishops even more reasons avoid doing what they clearly want to avoid: questioning celibacy, married priests, secular laws, serious reforms or their own virtually limitless power as kings in a medieval monarchy.

Here are four of the most crucial fallacies in the document:
  1. The crisis is and was unforeseeable, the report claims, because child molesters don't have forked tongues or devil tails and can't be easily detected. Fair enough. But the report essentially dodges the crucial question: Why don't bishops quickly out and oust child-molesting clerics the first time they sexually assault a child? (And why then, if predators can't be spotted in advance, do bishops tout their alleged seminary "screening" processes as panaceas?)
  2. The crisis was long ago, the report claims, because the bishops say so. Never mind the fact that only a handful of five and ten year olds march down to the police station and promptly report their own victimization, so it's dreadfully misleading and dangerous to assume clergy sex crimes have gone down in recent years.
  3. The crisis isn't all that bad, the report suggests, because many of the kids who are or were violated had experienced puberty. Never mind the fact that child sex crimes, no matter at what age, are always illegal, immoral and hurtful. So the hair-splitting between pedophiles and ephebophiles (a distinction that seems to matter to few besides bishops) is, for the most part, at best irrelevant and at worst distracting.
  4. Most important, the crisis isn't bishops' fault, the document implies. It was what the New York Times calls the "Blame Woodstock" defense. At best, this is naïve. At worst, it's deceptive. There are at least three reasons why it may appear to some that abuse 'peaked' in the 60s and 70s. The first is that victims during those years are old, strong, smart, healthy, and desperate enough to finally be able to report their horrific pain. The second is that bishops are much more willing to disclose clergy sex crimes that are beyond the reach of the criminal and civil justice system than more recent clergy sex crimes that could result in prosecution and litigation and embarrassment. And bishops are more willing to acknowledge child felonies committed under their predecessors than themselves.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the bishops' 'take-away' here is: "We don't have to change a thing." Thankfully, most people realize that's nonsense. Most people understand that a feudal system lacking any 'checks and balances' is inherently unhealthy and that a culture premised on sexual abstinence and secrecy and self-perpetuation is inherently problematic.

Finally, David Gibson writes that the apparent jump "in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s, the authors found, was essentially due to emotionally ill-equipped priests who were trained in earlier years and lost their way in the social cataclysm of the sexual revolution."

Lost their way? Please! The writing on the wall seems clear: We fear that bishops are going backwards and laying the groundwork to recycle and restore proven, admitted, and credibly accused child-molesting clerics to ministry. Because, if those child sex offenders merely "lost their way," they can clearly be "rehabilitated," right?

Countless times over the past decade, bishops have claimed, "We used to be naïve about abuse. Now we understand it better." But if that's the case, how can they, or anyone, attribute heinous, repeated sexual assaults on innocent, vulnerable kids as some priests "losing their way."

* * *

New bishops document on abuse released; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Tuesday, May 17

Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach CA, western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (949 322 7434, jcasteix@gmail.com)

Little in this document is really new. Not surprisingly, it confirms the same tired, self-serving rationalizations that bishops began trotting out years ago. This report is the latest, and perhaps most shrewd, effort by bishops to shift blame and make excuses. They're counting on us having short memories and being swayed by the patina of academic respectability.

As the AP reports, the document says that "homosexuality, celibacy, and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal." What did and does cause this crisis is clear - timid, self-serving bishops who are obsessed with their comfort and reputations, so they work very hard to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups covered up.

As the New York Times reports, "The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance." But the real question is: Why was and is it not possible for bishops to quickly oust predators once they started molesting? That's what really needs to be addressed.

As the AP reports, the report claims abuse "peaked in the 1970s," then began declining. This is perhaps the most absurd and damaging assumption. All but a few victims are only able to report child sex crimes decades later. Because of this inevitable lag time, it's irresponsible to pretend anyone has any real sense of how many clergy sex crimes happened in recent years or are happening now.

Bishops desperately want us to believe that their long-standing, deliberate, repeated recklessness, and deceit were just simple "mistakes" because they just "weren't aware of" or "didn't understand" abuse. That is deceit heaped on more deceit. Even more, they want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops.

Bishops are highly educated men with extensive staffs and resources. But even high school dropouts have, for decades, known that child sex abuse is wrong, illegal, and hurtful. Even teenagers know that we are to call police and prosecutors. But bishops didn't call the police about abuse. And most still don't call the police. And the Vatican doesn't require them to call the police.

How much bishops knew about the causes or treatment of pedophilia is irrelevant. For decades, every one of them knew it was illegal. And nearly every one of them endangered kids by refusing to call the police or tell the truth. Nearly every one of them protected known and suspected child molesters instead of protecting children. Nearly every one of them used their position of authority and power to keep victims silent and marginalized.

What needs to be studied, but bishops ignore, is the inexcusable and on-going cover up of clergy sex crimes by top Catholic officials.

Wrongdoers often childishly point to other wrongdoers, saying "See, they're naughty, too." Such bald-faced diversionary finger pointing may be smart public relations, but it's morally irresponsible.

We don't need Catholic officials to distract us about other individuals or institutions that have mishandled child sex crimes and cover-ups. We need Catholic officials to seriously reform their own institution and stop current and future child sex crimes and cover-ups. It's unseemly for bishops to spend parishioner donations on a document designed to restore bishops' shattered reputations when true reform, transparency, and child safety do not cost a nickel.

We don't need Catholic officials to distract us by splitting hairs about whether most child molesting clerics are pedophiles or ephebophiles.

Bishops brag that they have adopted policies and procedures. Recent developments, however, show how worthless those policies and procedures are:

In February, a Philadelphia grand jury found that 37 priests with credible allegations of abuse or inappropriate behavior towards minors were still in active ministry, despite the fact that just days earlier Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali said that no priest with credible accusations were working in the diocese. Five men (four priests and a teacher) were criminally charged, including the monsignor who was responsible for covering-up for predator clerics.

That grand jury concluded that the archdiocese "continues to engage in practices that mislead victims, that violate their trust, that hinder prosecution of their abusers, and that leave large numbers of credibly accused priests in ministry" and the policies and practices allegedly "designed to help victims (are) instead helping the abusers and the archdiocese itself."

In New Jersey, a Catholic school employee (Jose Feliciano) was accused of improper sexual contact with a child and murdering a priest. Just weeks ago, it was revealed that, along with one third of the other parish employees , the alleged criminal was never fingerprinted or subject to a background check.


In Kansas City, a priest named in two child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits within the past six months remains in a parish. (Fr. Michael Tierney)

In Fresno, a priest deemed guilty by a jury of molesting a boy remains in a parish. (Fr. Eric Swearingen)

In St. Louis, a priest who's been accused three times of molesting at least three boys (none of whom know one another) is still in ministry (Fr. Alex Anderson)

In Stockton, a judge has ruled that there is enough evidence to schedule a July civil sex abuse trial against a priest who is still in active ministry (Fr. Michael Kelly)

In Wyoming, a bishop against whom at least six child sex abuse lawsuits have been settled remains a bishop. (Bishop Joseph Hart)


In March in Boston, Cardinal O'Malley's delegate said that there were 40 priests who have been accused of abuse but never named publicly. To date those names still remain secret.


Last year in New Jersey, a Catholic chaplain was ousted from his hospital job after a newspaper disclosed that he had been found guilty of molesting a boy in a criminal case in 2003. Although the verdict was overturned on a technicality, a judge ordered that the priest not be allowed around minors unsupervised (Fr. Michael Fugee), but Newark's archbishop quietly put the offender in a hospital anyway.


Child molesters gravitate toward jobs involving kids. Institutions tend to protect themselves. So the Catholic hierarchy doesn't stand out because of child molesting clerics. Its stands out because of complicit bishops.

Here's the bottom line: Other institutions have also mishandled abuse. None, however, ignores and conceals child sex crimes like the Catholic hierarchy. Other institutions must do more to better protect kids. The Catholic hierarchy must do much, much more.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259,peterisely@yahoo.com), Barbara Dorris(314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell,SNAPdorris@gmail.com)


AlterNet  -  June 6, 2011

Blame the '60s? The Catholic Church's Latest Shameless Ploy

Pedophilia isn't a social habit that one adopts. It's a sickness. Deal with it. Honestly.

By Jim Hightower

I try to avoid religious commentary, but -- Good God! What is it about confession that the Catholic hierarchy can't seem to grasp?

The grotesque epidemic of priestly pedophilia that has roiled the church has been under assessment in a five-year, $2-million study commissioned by our country's Catholic bishops. At long last, the report is out, but not the truth. Instead, the panel concludes that this horror is not the fault of the church, nor even of the abusive priests. Rather -- cue the heavenly music -- the sixties made them do it.

Yes, it's the Woodstock defense. The diabolical theory of this study is that "social chaos" created by the tie-dyed sexual revolution of the 1960s so discombobulated otherwise chaste and honorable men that they used their religious authority to rape 10-year-olds and teenagers.

Dios mio, Lord have mercy. That conclusion is as perverted as what the priests did and as inexcusable as the hierarchy's ongoing denials and cover-ups. Start with the obvious: First, rape isn't about sex; it's a gross abuse of power. Second, I was around in the 1960s, and while I couldn't seem to attract much free love for myself, I can testify that the sexual revolution of the time most definitely didn't even contemplate -- much less advocate -- old men in dark robes molesting children who'd been placed in their care.

The church's report is as silly as the right-wing's current fiction that all would be well in America if only the sixties had never happened. Excuse me, but enormous progress was made in those years by women, civil-rights champions, environmental advocates, and, yes, by American culture itself.

The Pope should shelve the nonsense in this report and lead the world in a new liturgical chant: Pedophilia isn't a social habit that one adopts. It's a sickness. Deal with it. Honestly.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly "Hightower Lowdown," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.

This article was found at:



Catholic League President Bill Donohue Denies Catholic Church Abuses [radio interview]

US bishop's report on clergy abuse puts focus on sociological factors instead of church leaders who covered up crimes

Catholic theology explains why popes and priests dedicated to goodness could be so perverse and abusive

Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church

Retired Archbishop blames protective church hierarchy for clergy abuse scandal

Australian Archbishop says church culture responsible for deep-rooted child abuse crimes and cover-ups

Former Benedictine monk says church has not yet addressed child abuse crisis, most bishops still mired in obfuscation and deceit

Is the Catholic church in state of denial over clergy abuse, or is it honest and transparent?

Vatican's top Cardinal blames sex crimes scandals on homosexuality in speech in Santiago, where Chilean priest raped girls 

As one bishop blames Jews for current criticisms of Catholic church, another blames homosexuality for pedophile priests 

UK bishops denounce Cardinal for linking clergy sex crimes to homosexuality, Vatican out of touch with society

Mexican bishop adds internet porn, erotic TV and loose morals in society to list of excuses for why priests commit sex crimes

Belgium's Catholic primate faces demands to step down after controversial remarks on pedophile priests and AIDS

Clergy abuse survivor tells Delaware court that church officials blamed him for tempting pedophile priest

Irish priests say there is a difference between pedophile priests and those who commit "minor indiscretions" with a teenager

Brazilian bishops prepare anti-abuse guidelines, Archbishop says teens are "spontaneously homosexual" & "society is pedophile"

Bishop of Tenerife blames child abuse on the children

Philadelphia cardinal and bishops hid problem priests from clergy abuse review board, put church law before civil law

Credibility of US bishops' reformed child protection policies challenged by Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal

Inquiry finds US Catholic hierarchy still endangering children and fighting justice for clergy abuse survivors

Washington archbishop claims Catholic clergy abuse is all historic, abusive priests now dealt with appropriately, but church still fights victims

Hundreds of admitted or credibly accused pedophile priests who escaped justice are unsupervised by church or police

Dublin Archbishop admits frustration over failed effort to promote major reforms in Catholic Church

Leaked confidential letter reveals Vatican's intention to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities

Of course popes, cardinals and bishops covered up crimes against children, but can the Church be reformed while leaders are in denial?

Catholic diocese bankruptcies protect assets from abuse survivors but provide no relief for moral bankruptcy of church leaders

Milwaukee archbishop blames bankruptcy on individual pedophile priests, ignores systemic coverup by church leaders 


  1. Why the Pope Hates Nuns

    By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet June 1, 2012

    In 1979, Sister Theresa Kane was given a very special task. As president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group for most orders of U.S. Catholic nuns, Kane was asked to deliver four minutes of welcoming remarks, on behalf of American sisters, to the newly elected Pope John Paul II during his first papal visit to the United States. At a gathering inside the grand church in Washington, D.C., known as the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Kane offered the pope a warm greeting, and then launched into this:

    As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women...As women, we have heard the powerful messages of our church addressing the dignity [of] and reverence for all persons. As women, we have pondered these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the church, in its struggle to be true to its call to reverence and dignity for all persons, must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of the church."

    All ministries -- including, of course, the priesthood. Her meaning was not lost on the pope or, it seems, his henchmen in cassocks.

    Chief among the new pope's enforcers was Joseph Ratzinger, the bishop from Bavaria, whom, three years later, JPII would appoint to the position of prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine the Faith, an entity once known as the Roman Inquisition. As prefect, Ratzinger soon had his Congregation all but living up to its historical inquisitive reputation as he conducted a jihad against liberal bishops, clerics and nuns in the U.S., and around the world. Today, the former prefect is known as Pope Benedict the XVI, still an enforcer, and one with a long memory.

    On April 28, nearly 33 years after Theresa Kane's unprecedented challenge to the pope, the Vatican delivered a verdict against LCWR, the nuns' group led by Kane in 1979: Its members were defying Catholic doctrine, Vatican investigators said, by promoting "radical feminist themes," as well as contradicting church teaching on homosexuality and the no-girls-allowed priesthood. Further, as Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times reported it, "The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that 'disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals.'"

    As punishment, Cardinal William Levada, who now occupies Ratzinger's old job at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee LCWR for up to five years, giving him final say on every speaker at the group's conference and every public utterance made in its name. He'll also revise LCWR's governing statues and oversee the revision of a handbook that, according to the Times, was "used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine." Links between LCWR and two liberal Catholic groups will also be investigated.

    Speaking on CBS This Morning [video] last week, Sister Maureen Fiedler, host of the public radio program, Interfaith Voices, said, "If this were the corporate world, I think we'd call it a hostile takeover."

    On Friday, in an unprecedented act of defiance, the LCWR board, after a week of meetings in Maryland on how to respond to both the Vatican crackdown, issued a statement of its members' intention to contest the hierarchy's takeover of their organization. It reads, in part:

    Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.

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    Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

    The sisters said that LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell and Executive Director Sister Janet Mock would travel to Rome to take up these concerns with the prefect and the bishop he appointed to rule over the sisters, and would then consult with the organization's general membership in August. One option the organization could choose is to disassociate with Rome altogether and reconfigure itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, according to its Web site, "has approximately 1500 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, representing approximately 80% of the 57,000 Catholic sisters in the United States."

    Theologian Mary E. Hunt, co-director of the Catholic feminist resource center, WATER, told me in a telephone interview from her office in Silver Spring, Md., that the Vatican set its sights on LCWR because, as an organization that is part of the church structure, its members are "canonically vulnerable" -- meaning that they are subject to the law of the hierarchy, known as canon law, as interpreted by its appointed enforcers. Should the group dissolve itself and incorporate as a non-profit, it need only operate within the bounds of U.S. law, under which the religious freedom of its members is guaranteed under the First Amendment.

    A Cult of Power

    When examined in combination with the recent tantrum taken by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the birth control mandate in the health-care reform law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, Pope Benedict's crusade against the nuns would seem to render the Roman curia and the bishops, above all other things, a cult of misogyny. But that would be too simple a reading. At its heart, the church hierarchy is a cult of power; misogyny is but one tool for the already powerful to ensure that power remains in their possession.

    One need only look at the current scandal engulfing the Vatican over dealings at the Vatican bank, and an internecine battle waged by partisans and enemies of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Last week, the pope's own butler was arrested for allegedly having leaked confidential papal correspondence and documents to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of a just-released book about Pope Benedict.

    Then there's the recently revealed pay-offs doled out by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while he served as Archbishop of Milwaukee, to priests accused of abusing children who agreed not to contest their own defrocking.

    The campaign to discredit Bertone is believed to be orchestrated by partisans of his predecessor, who want Bertone out of the way before Benedict dies, in order to prevent him from presiding over the conclave that will elect the next pope. In Dolan's case, he used payouts as a means of preserving his own power while serving as Archbishop of Milwaukee, by getting troublesome priests out of the way. (It seems to have worked; Dolan is now the cardinal archbishop of New York.) Dolan's payola scheme, of course, is but one tiny aspect of the enormous and shameful disaster the hierarchy brought upon itself by covering up the crimes against children committed by more than a few priests over the course of decades -- all in an effort to preserve its own power by maintaining a false appearance of propriety that put countless children at risk.

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    Writing at Religion Dispatches, Mary Hunt contends that the Vatican's attack on the nuns isn't simply about nuns -- or women. It's about the laity -- keeping the people of the church from actually claiming them the power granted them during the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and maintaining the power of the clerics. "The effort to rein in LCWR is meant as much to scare the rest of us into line as to corral the nuns," Hunt writes.

    This isn't this first time that the Vatican has sought to silence U.S. nuns. In one famous case, 24 sisters were threatened with expulsion from their orders for having signed a statementthat asserted "a diversity of views" on the subject of abortion existed within the church, including the belief that abortion could sometimes be a moral choice. The ad was sponsored by Catholics for Choice, then under the leadership of Frances Kissling. Cardinal Ratzinger presided over the inquisition.

    But this time is different, Hunt contends, because of the role played by nuns in the passage of Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law initiated by the Obama administration and signed by the president. When the bishops, via the USCCB, sought to to block the legislation, largely because of measures that dealt with coverage of women's reproductive health issues, the administration turned to Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which represents some 600 Catholic hospitals and 1400 health-care facilities. When Keehan backed the bill, she lent a Catholic imprimatur to the administration's much-contested hallmark piece of law. After Obama signed the bill, he sent Keehan one of the ceremonial signing pens he used to make the bill a law. Keehan's defiance was compounded when a coalition of U.S. nuns penned a letter supporting the law that was signed by leaders of 55 religious orders and umbrella groups, including the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. .

    Earlier this year, Sister Keehan stepped up again, when, after the administration announced that Catholic institutions would not be exempt from the law's mandate to employers that their health insurance plans fully cover patients' contraceptive costs, and do so without demanding a co-payment from the patient. After the predictable outcry from the bishops, the administration offered an "accommodation" requiring health insurance companies to pick up the tab for the conception coverage, and Keehan gave her approval.

    Nuns Defy Bishops on Health Care; Bishops Cry Foul on 'Religious Freedom'

    In choosing the nuns to provide a stamp of Catholic approval for both the health-care law itself and the contraception "accommodation," the Obama administration acted on a calculation that the bishops' hard-core position against contraception and abortion under any circumstances was not supported by the majority of American Catholics, whose views are more in line with those represented by the nuns. The administration's concern was winning buy-in from Catholic lay people -- the voters -- and its legislative strategists knew that the moral imprimatur of the nuns would go a long way to that end. But in executing its strategy, the administration dared to do what no other before it had: expose the powerlessness -- the impotence, if you will -- of the hierarchy when faced with the will of what the church reform documents of Vatican II called "the people of God." The bishops, and presumably the pope, were not amused.

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    While it's true that the Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious began nearly four years ago, the timing of the Vatican's announcement of its "hostile takeover" of LCWR coincides with the launching of a barrage of lawsuits against the administration by the bishops and Catholic entities challenging the requirement that all health insurance companies contracted for employer-provided health plans offer contraceptive coverage to the insured, and with no co-payment by the patient. This requirement applies to virtually all employer-provided health plans, including those that cover the employees of Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions. The timing of the Vatican attack on the nuns also aligns with the timing of a public relations offensive by the bishops that frames the contraceptive mandate as an infringement of religious liberty -- an offensive that includes a heretofore unprecedented attempt at overt political organizing by the clerics for what they're calling a "Fortnight for Freedom," spanning from June 21, which commences the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, through to July 4th.

    Sarah Posner, writing at Religion Dispatches, reports:

    Fusing the martyrdom of Catholic saints with Independence Day, the Bishops write, "Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power . . . . Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty."

    All of this will of course come to a head as the general election campaign is heating up over the summer months. The Bishops urge commemoration of "resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty" and call on "an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom."

    The irony here is that a good part of the problem the Vatican and the bishops are having with their American nuns and parishioners is, in fact, their very Americanness. For the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Rome, its American flock, as it assimilated into the greater American culture, became increasingly troublesome. American Catholics, often enthusiastic in their patriotism, are, in reality, subject to two different and contradictory faiths: the American civic religion of liberty, individualism and participatory democracy, and the Roman tradition of collective submission to ecclesiastical authority. As time has passed, the American religion in many ways came to surpass the faith tradition of their ancestors in terms of forming a primary set of values. Roman Catholicism, for many, is more a subcultural identity than a daily practice of the rules and rituals mandated by the magisterium.

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    American Catholics have long flouted the popes' prohibition on the use of birth control, and are not inclined, as a bloc, to be moved by the bishops' complaint of liberty infringed -- especially when the liberty the bishops claim for themselves is the right to deprive a class of people, who represent half of world's population, of a fundmental aspect of health care particular to that class -- a class that is deemed unworthy by the bishops for admission into their ranks, by dint of the shape their bodies take at birth. Although sexism still thrives in the United States, the average American, even the average American sexist, does not generally classify it as one of the precious religious freedoms for which Americans should lay down their lives.

    In the years leading up to the sex-abuse scandal that has gripped the church for more than a decade, many American Catholics viewed the bishops and the popes as simply out of touch with the modern world in matters of sexuality, especially on the reproductive front. But since the scandal, the bishops find themselves widely discredited as it became known that so many were aware of the sexually predatory behavior of some priests toward minors, and acted to cover up the crimes of those clerics. One such bishop was William Levada, who served as archbishop of San Francisco and Portland, Ore., and is now the Vatican prefect in charge of the nuns' persecution.

    The nuns, on the other hand, have only grown in moral stature since Vatican II in the eyes of many Catholics, as they seriously implemented the council's mandate to go out into the world and do good works. Today, the most visible Catholic advocates for social and economic justice are often nuns, who work with the poor and minister to the sick. They are, by and large, better educated than the bishops who would rule them, and are consequently often more articulate in expressing their work in the context of their religious values, which they commonly frame in terms of the Gospel's calls to work for justice and healing, rather than as demands for obedience to a power structure whose princes preach adherence to a set of rules that is, at once, cruel and absurd.

    Is it any wonder then, that when the Vatican condemned LCWR for, as the New York Times' Laurie Goodstein http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/us/vatican-reprimands-us-nuns-group.html reported, "for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping 'silent' on abortion and same-sex marriage," Catholic across the country expressed outrage in demonstrations that took place in some 50 cities?

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    Vatican Inc.

    When Sister Maureen Fiedler described the Vatican's action in the language of big business, she wasn't just being clever. According to Mary Hunt, the Vatican's power structure is very similar to that of a corporation, while the structure of the U.S. coalition of women's religious orders function more on the model of your local food co-op -- very process-oriented and deliberative. Speaking of the Vatican, she told AlterNet: "This is a business, where people do what people do in business."

    But with the scandal currently gripping Rome over the pope's leaked correspondence and problems with transparency at the Vatican Bank, and the worldwide disaster of the sexual abuse claims against priests and the bishops who harbored them, Vatican Inc. seems to be treading the path of Lehman Brothers and Enron. The sexual abuse debacle has led to the bankrupting of two archdioceses in the U.S., under the burden of settlements made to victims: Milwaukee, less than two years after Cardinal Dolan became Archbishop of New York, and Portland, Oregon, under the leadership of Cardinal Levada. Such was Levada's brutality, in fact, that he punished a priest who reported a child-abusing fellow priest to the police -- a move that came back to haunt him when the whistle-blower, Father Jon Conley, brought a defamation case against the archdiocese after paving the way for the family of an abused child to win a $750,000 settlement from the archdiocese. (Politics Daily contributor Jason Berry told the sordid tale here in 2010.)

    Now head of the church in the city once described by Pope John Paul II as "the capital of the world," Cardinal Dolan is among those charged with making the case for the bishops bogus claim of religious persecution by the U.S. government. But as the U.S. bishops mount their "Fortnight for Freedom" campaign (perhaps better named "Fortnight of Fury"), the Vatican stock would appear to be tanking.

    "Roman Catholicism, in its institutional form, is imploding," Hunt told AlterNet.

    Some might see in that implosion a divine act of creative destruction. For without the institution, what remains of the church could be simply the "people of God." And in the Gospel of Matthew, that's pretty much how Jesus defined the church.

    In its statement, the LCWR board asserted:

    [The board] believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world. As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity.
    Read the Vatican document condemning the Leadership Conference of Women Religioushere [PDF].

    To view the numerous embedded links in this article go to:


  7. Not Satisfied With Attacking Nuns, Catholic Bishops Go After Girl Scouts

    By Mary E. Hunt, Religion Dispatches June 4, 2012

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is having a Saturday Night Live moment. Emboldened by the Vatican's hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the gentlemen have shown their prowess by choosing to investigate the Girl Scouts of the USA. Which would be comical -- first the nuns, now the Girl Scouts -- if the goal were not so pernicious and the outcome so damaging, especially to the bishops.

    The tactics against the girls and the women are taken from one playbook, the goal of intimidation is the same, and the pushback in both cases is distracting from more pressing problems at hand. Still, you wonder who does their public relations, as the bishops are now about as popular as a recession.

    The apparent goal of this exercise of "investigating" gender female persons is to set up and enforce a male-defined model of girlhood/womanhood. A Vatican-, or in this case, USCCB-launched investigation is what Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM, calls the equivalent of a grand jury investigation. There is the presumption that something is wrong, not something right, that there is guilt to be uncovered, not virtue to be unleashed. What is wrong seems to be women and girls thinking for themselves and acting for the common good.

    What boggles the mind is why the Roman Catholic Church would be so presumptuous as to investigate what does not belong to it. Granted, some Scout troops meet at Catholic churches, but that does not make them Catholic entities any more than the Alcoholics Anonymous group that meets in the same basement. In the case of the Scouts, the supposed connections with groups that support reproductive justice are, for the most part, links to websites where girls can find further information on issues, hardly a ringing endorsement of the groups' missions. Sex education is not an integral part of scouting; that is something left to families. What is really at issue here is that women and girls involved in the Girl Scouts do not ask permission of ecclesial men to live as responsible citizens of a global world.

    Girl Scouts USA belongs to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, about ten million strong in 145 countries. In a July 2012 conference in Chicago, WAGGGS will discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals. Those include the elimination of poverty, universal primary education, gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, environmental sustainability, and the development of a global partnership for development, a blueprint for just living in the 21st century. The Episcopal Church USA adopted a resolution at its 74th General Convention to support the goals. Perhaps they will be investigated next.

    The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is hardly leaving the Girl Scouts quaking in their boots. Their reasoned and patient replies to accusations that they shouldn't have to answer demonstrate their mission: "Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place." Would that the bishops follow suit.

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    Several parallels with the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious lay bare the playbook here. The LCWR "doctrinal investigation" was Rome-based, undertaken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Girl Scout "investigation" is U.S.-based sleuthing led by the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth chaired by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. Both cases are based on long-term reporting by conservative Catholics, both lay and clerical, of the groups' supposed sins. This is a cottage industry that includes the Eternal Word Television Network and random ecclesial busybodies who apparently report to Rome and to the USCCB on a regular basis.

    What mystifies me is that with all of the economic, racial, and war-related issues at hand the bishops still choose to take on these girls and women. Gone are the days when governments, businesses, and armies worried much about what the bishops had to say. Here are the days when disgraced bishops are deposed and indicted for the sexual crimes and cover-ups that have come to define contemporary Catholicism. By contrast, nuns and Girl Scouts are powerful symbols and equally powerful advocates for justice and peace. So in a sense the bishops have really taken on those who are shaping the culture.

    The bishops fretted in both cases about sex and gender, especially reproductive justice. The straw that broke the camel's back for the nuns was the support some of them showed for a more inclusive health care policy. For the Scouts, it was the organization's public acceptance of a transgender child into a Colorado troop. Underneath those decisions lurks the fact that nuns, not bishops, were seen as normatively Catholic, and even though a quarter of all Girl Scouts are Catholic, they didn't consult the bishops before doing the right thing. Who would, given the men's handling of abuse cases?

    In each instance, the Roman Catholic Church is backing a concrete alternative. For the LCWR, the kowtowing Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious is already canonically chartered and accepting members. For those who find the Girl Scouts too rich for their blood, there are the multi-religious American Heritage Girls and the Little Flowers Girls' Club already in place. These groups function much like the Girl Scouts and Brownies they seek to replace but with far more explicit conservative ideology.

    Curiously, for a church that tends to keep pubescent people in single-sex groups, another alternative is Venturing, a youth development program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America for girls and boys age 14-21. The Boy Scouts are an avowedly anti-gay group that demands faith in God, not in just any higher power. The Girl Scouts modified their pledge several years ago to accommodate growing religious pluralism.

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    The investigations are meant in large part to intimidate since they really don't have much of a direct impact. Intimidation happens in small ways -- a few nuns self-censor, the leaders of the Girl Scouts redact a few publications. But just as most nuns are going about their business undaunted, the Girl Scouts will gather 100,000+ strong for "Girl Scouts Rock the Mall" in Washington DC on the 9th of June. They hope to set a world record for the biggest sing-along in history. Their new theme song says it all: "Girl Scout ignite a dream, ignite your hope, ignite the world on fire." Now that ought to be enough to make the bishops tremble in unison. The contrast between the girls and "the big boys" will be vivid that day.

    My favorite local troop just got back from a horseback-riding overnight. They have cleaned up a local park and planted trees near the Chesapeake Bay. They took in a women's basketball game and donned period costumes to guide visitors at a C and O Canal park in Washington, D.C. For the international Girl Scout Thinking Day, when troops learn about girls in other countries, this group studied Liberia where Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 with Tawakul Karman of Yemen. They are preparing to be good citizens and leaders of a globalized world that the bishops can scarcely imagine.

    The crowd on the Mall in Washington will be festive on this the 100th anniversary of the group's founding by Juliette Gordon Low. They have reason to celebrate. Just as women's religious congregations have empowered countless women, the Girl Scouts, founded by a woman whose estranged husband left the bulk of his estate to his mistress, have instilled "courage, confidence and character" in millions of girls. God knows they need it in the current culture where women's well being is threatened on many sides.

    I expect to see some nuns, former nuns, and friends of nuns on the Mall that day when I lift my voice as a former Girl Scout. History will record that in 2012 the Girl Scouts and nuns were living values the bishops could only mouth while they searched in vain for condoms in the cookie boxes.

    Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Md. A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, she lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to liberation issues.


  10. Is Pleasure a Sin?

    By MAUREEN DOWD, New York Times June 5, 2012

    It’s hard to say what is weirder:

    A Sister of Mercy writing about the Kama Sutra, sexual desire and “our yearnings for pleasure.”

    Or the Vatican getting so hot and bothered about the academic treatise on sexuality that the pope censures it, causing it to shoot from obscurity to the top tier of Amazon.com’s best-seller list six years after it was published.

    Just the latest chapter in the Vatican’s thuggish crusade to push American nuns — and all Catholic women — back into moldy subservience.

    Even for a church that moves glacially, this was classic. “Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar — came out in 2006.

    The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, spent years pondering it, then censured it on March 30 but didn’t publicly release the statement until Monday.

    The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

    In old-fashioned prose steeped in historical and global perspective, Sister Farley’s main argument is that justice needs to govern relationships. In the interest of justice to oneself, she contends that “self-pleasuring” needs “to be moved out of the realm of taboo morality.”

    Immanuel Kant, who considered masturbation “below the level of animals,” must give way to Alfred Kinsey. “It is surely the case that many women, following the ‘our bodies our selves’ movement in the fourth quarter of the twentieth century, have found great good in self-pleasuring — perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure — something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers,” she writes. “In this way, it could be said that masturbation actually serves relationships rather than hindering them.”

    A breath of fresh air in the stultifying church, she makes the case for same-sex relationships and remarriage after divorce. “When it truly becomes impossible to sustain a marriage relationship, the obligation to do so is released,” she writes, adding, “as when in the Middle Ages a broken leg made it impossible to continue on a pilgrimage to which one had committed oneself.”

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    Taking on the Council of Trent and a church that has taken a stand against pleasure, Sister Farley asserts that procreation is not the only reason couples should have sex. Fruitfulness need not “refer only to the conceiving of children,” she writes. “It can refer to multiple forms of fruitfulness in love of others, care for others, making the world a better place for others” rather than just succumbing to “an égoisme à deux.”

    The Vatican showed no mercy to the Sister of Mercy, proclaiming that “the deliberate use of the sexual faculty” outside of marriage or procreation, or on one’s own, is wrong; that homosexual sex acts are “deviant,” and that marriages are by and large indissoluble. Sister Farley issued a statement that she did not intend for the book to be an expression or criticism of current official Catholic teaching, and academics and the head of her order rushed to her defense.

    This latest ignoble fight with a noble nun adds to the picture of a Catholic Church in a permanent defensive crouch, steeped in Borgia-like corruption and sexual scandals, lashing out at anyone who notes the obvious: They have lost track of right and wrong.

    Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York blasted The New York Times after Laurie Goodstein wrote that, as the archbishop of Milwaukee in 2003, he authorized payments of up to $20,000 to sexually abusive priests “as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood.”

    Cardinal Dolan insisted through a spokesman that it was “charity,” not “payoffs.” But if you were the parent of a boy abused by a priest who went away with 20,000 bucks, maybe “charity” is not the word that would come to mind.

    Its crisis has made the church cruel. The hierarchy should read Sister Farley’s opprobrium against adults harming vulnerable children and adolescents by sexually exploiting them; respect for the individual and requirement of free consent, she says, mean that rape, violence and pedophilia against unwilling victims are never justified.

    “Seduction and manipulation of persons who have limited capacity for choice because of immaturity, special dependency, or loss of ordinary power, are ruled out,” she writes.

    If only the church could muster that kind of clarity, rather than Dolan-style “charity.”


  12. Health-care humbug: Religious freedom rallies threaten religious freedom

    by: Joseph L. Conn June 8, 2012

    Look for another round of “religious freedom” protests in cities around the country today. Aggressive right-wing religious lobbies are purportedly organizing “Stand Up” rallies to stop “the unjust violation of our religious liberty by the Obama Administration’s contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs mandate.”

    It’s all baloney, of course.

    The Catholic bishops and their Religious Right allies, in fact, are waging war on religious liberty and its constitutional corollary, the separation of church and state. They are demanding that federal health-care policy conform to their religious dictates.

    The Obama administration insists that all Americans have access to birth control services through their insurance plans. There’s nothing wrong with that. Ninety-eight percent of women who are sexually active use birth control at some point in their lives.

    To implement this policy, the administration is asking all employers to make sure their insurance plans include contraceptive services. But to satisfy religious objections, houses of worship are exempt from the mandate. And employees of religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and colleges would get birth control services directly from insurance companies at no cost to the religious employers.

    This isn’t good enough for the Catholic hierarchy and the Religious Right, of course. So they’re out in the public square pretending their religious liberty is at risk. Some bishops are even comparing themselves to Martin Luther King Jr. and hinting darkly that they may have to engage in civil disobedience and go to jail.

    The bishops also claim the administration is not talking with them in good faith about their concerns, so that’s why they had to file a series of lawsuits challenging the birth control mandate.

    Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, suggests the Obama administration can’t be trusted to follow through on proposals to protect the church’s religious liberty interests.

    “These ideas are being thrown around,” she told The Washington Post, “but it would be foolish to sit around like Little Mary Sunshine and hope things change.’’

    Trust me, Sister, nobody is ever going to mistake you for Little Mary Sunshine. Walsh may be the only nun in America who thinks the all-male Catholic hierarchy is always on the right track about everything.

    So what’s really going on here? In short, the lust for money and political power is driving this movement.

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    The bishops are alarmed that lucrative federal contracts and grants are at risk under the Obama administration. The hierarchy and its charities get millions in government subsidies and they fear that the largess might disappear if administration officials insist that all contractors follow public policy, not religious law, in carrying out programs.

    The bishops’ recently lost a $19 million, five-year contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help victims of sex trafficking because they refused to provide reproductive care – or even referrals – for vulnerable women, as the government rules mandated.

    Heavens! If this keeps up, the hierarchy might have to turn to its parishioners, not the taxpayers, to pick up the tab for its religiously rigid social services. And a lot of money is at stake. HHS spokesperson Marrianne McMullen told CNN last year that HHS alone has awarded $650 million to Catholic social service agencies over the last three years.

    No wonder the bishops are turning up the heat across the board to make sure the Obama administration doesn’t cancel any more contracts. And if the White House refuses to cave, the bishops want someone else living there.

    It’s impossible to see the bishops’ crusade, aided by the ever-partisan Religious Right, as anything but an election-year crusade to bring Obama to his knees or kick him out of office.

    It’s the 21st century and we live in a nation that supposedly separates church and state, but this whole thing has a whiff of the Dark Ages about it.

    Americans overwhelmingly approve of birth control, and a clear majority thinks reproductive services should be a benefit of health insurance. In a secular democracy, who gets to decide public policy – the people or aggressive religious lobbies?

    Joseph L. Conn is the Director of Communications of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


  14. The Pope's New PR Man: Fox News Reporter and Member of Secretive Opus Dei

    By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet June 25, 2012

    Let's say you're at the top of a large, right-wing institution; one with such a patriarchal bent that only men are allowed into leadership. Imagine that, in recent times, your once-powerful worldwide conglomerate is losing oodles of clout, thanks in part to media coverage of the scandals that have beset you: the leaking of your CEO's private correspondence to a reporter, that pesky decades-long epidemic of child sexual abuse by your branch managers, mutiny amid the ranks of the service wing of your organization, and the perception that you have played dirty with one of your competitors.

    Where would you find a really savvy player in the media world with legendary message discipline on a range of issues that serve the interests of the moneyed, exclusionary, patriarchal elite? Who ya gonna call?

    Why, Fox News, of course.

    This weekend the Vatican announced its hire of Fox News correspondent Greg Burke for the newly created role of communications strategist. Since the beginning of Pope Benedict XVI's reign over the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See, as the Vatican is known, just can't seem to catch a break in the media. Kicking off his papacy with hard-line rhetoric against Islam that resulted in rioting, Benedict now seems to have lost all control even of his own subordinates, as evidenced by the spilling over into the public sphere a round of internecine Vatican battles that resulted in the arrest of the pope's butler for allegedly leaking Benedict's private correspondence to a journalist.

    That scandal took place just as the Vatican was earning black marks in American media for its jihad against U.S. nuns for not being mean enough to LGBT people, and for advancing such "radical feminist themes" as equality of the sexes. Instead of heading into the cloister to reconsider their radical views, nuns are taking to the airwaves to present their case, and in the eyes of Catholic laypeople, they appear to be winning the day.

    Then there are recent attempts by state-level conferences of Catholic bishops halt proposed state legislation in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts that would either lengthen or lift statutes of limitations for reporting sexual crimes against children, all in the service of further covering up thousands of such crimes by Catholic priests. Add to that the bishops' attempts to obstruct access to contraception to women who work in church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities, and the moral authority of the church hierarchy is taking a major hit, encouraging media outlets to cover the church more objectively and aggressively than they have before.

    That any media strategist could prevail in restoring the reputation of an institution whose leaders have behaved as has the Catholic hierarchy -- knowingly subjecting children to potential sexual abuse through cover-ups and transfers of abusers to new parishes, refusing to admit women into church leadership, and demonizing LGBT people even as the AIDS epidemic claimed the lives of a number of its priests -- is a dubious proposition. But it's easy to see why the Vatican turned to Greg Burke.

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    On paper, at least, Burke is well-suited to the job: much of the brutal political ideology advanced by Fox News is shared by the Holy See. But where Fox News has been successful in snookering regular people into believing that the brutal agenda somehow serves their own interests, the Catholic Church is not faring so well at selling its own exclusionary agenda to the Catholic faithful, many of whom support the nuns under attack by the Vatican. (See the AlterNet report, "Why the Pope Hates Nuns.")

    Like the Vatican, the leaders of News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, are secretive, vindictive and sneaky. Just look at the phone-tapping scandal that gripped the U.K. last year, in which News Corp. executives ordered and covered up the hacking of voicemail messages from the private accounts of celebrities and crime victims. And don't forget the stalking of Amanda Terkel (then of ThinkProgress and now at the Huffington Post) by Bill O'Reilly's producer, Jesse Watters.

    But Burke's authoritarian bona fides hardly end with Fox News. He's also a member of Opus Dei, the secretive, misogynist, elitist Catholic cult embraced by the late Pope John Paul II. And he's not just a member, he's a special member -- a "numerary," a position described by the Religion News Service as "a celibate layman who lives at an Opus Dei center..." The Opus Dei domicile at which Burke resides is in Rome.

    Both men and women can bear the title of numeracy, but men enjoy a privileged position in their sex-segregated housing, where they are served by the women. A 1995 article in the Jesuit magazine, America, described the life of the female Opus Dei numerary this way:

    According to two former numeraries, women numeraries are required to clean the men's centers and cook for them. When the women arrive to clean, they explained, the men vacate so as not to come in contact with the women. I asked Bill Schmitt if women had a problem with this. "No. Not at all." It is a paid work of the "family" of Opus Dei and is seen as an apostolate. The women more often than not hire others to do the cooking and cleaning. "They like doing it. It's not forced on them. It's one thing that's open to them if they want to do it. They don't have to do it."

    "That's totally wrong," said [former numerary] Ann Schweninger when she heard that last statement. "I had no choice. When in Opus Dei you're asked, you're being told." According to Ms. Schweninger, it is "bad spirit" to refuse. Women are told that it is important to have a love for things of the home and domestic duties. "And since that's part of the spirit of Opus Dei, to refuse to do that when you're asked is bad spirit. So nobody refuses."

    It's hard to imagine Greg Burke finding a way to sell that mentality to the media as a good thing -- never mind the fact that Opus Dei members are devoted to "mortification of the flesh" by wearing cilices, metal chains with spikey prongs that the wearer fastens tightly to the thigh, prongs to flesh.

    With an apparent lack of self-awareness, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone "accused the media of trying 'to imitate Dan Brown' in their coverage of the VatiLeaks scandal," according to Reuters. In Brown's conspiracy thriller, The DaVinci Code, Opus Dei is a major player in a Vatican conspiracy. In hiring Burke, it's almost as if the Vatican was looking to feed the fantastic conspiracies of Brown and his fellow travelers. You could call that an epic PR fail.


  16. Cardinal Sins: Top Catholic bishops bless extremist Bill Donohue

    by Rob Boston, Secular News Daily July 26, 2012

    Just how far out politically is the Roman Catholic hierarchy these days?

    Pretty far out, I’m sorry to say. In fact, it has come to this: Several prominent prelates have lauded William Donohue, the belligerent head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and author of a new book.

    Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York City, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien formerly of Baltimore, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia are all quoted praising Donohue and his tome Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century in the latest Catholic League newsletter.

    Now, I’ll admit I haven’t read Donohue’s book, but I’ve had run-ins with the man over the years on Fox News and am familiar with his modus operandi. He blusters a good bit and basically attempts to roll over his opponents though intimidation.

    Donohue, whose vision of Catholicism comes from about the 14th century (although that’s probably unfair to the 14th century), has perfected the art of the smear. In his world, anyone who disagrees with any policy objective of the Catholic hierarchy is obviously an anti-Catholic bigot. (Of course, this would include the majority of American Catholics, who are famous for breaking with the bishops on issues like divorce, birth control and abortion.)

    Like most religious zealots, Donohue believes that his myopic vision of the One True Faith should govern other people’s lives. He’s constantly complaining about art exhibits in public museums that he believes offend Catholicism and once even hectored the National Portrait Gallery in Washington until it removed a video clip Donohue didn’t like.

    Donohue doesn’t hesitate to put his bigotry and extremism front and center. In 2004, he appeared on an MSNBC program to praise Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ,” and in the process warned Americans about those pesky West Coast Jews.

    Blathered Donohue, “Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It‘s not a secret, OK? And I‘m not afraid to say it.”

    Gee, Bill, maybe you should have been afraid to say it because it makes you sound like a crank and an anti-Semite.

    And the hits just kept coming! A moment later Donohue added this gem: “Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without Nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost. You have got secular Jews. You have got embittered ex-Catholics, including a lot of ex-Catholic priests who hate the Catholic Church, wacko Protestants in the same group, and these people are in the margins…. Mel Gibson represents the mainstream of America.”

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    In light of Gibson’s subsequent antics, it looks like Donohue backed the wrong horse. If the drunken, frequently anti-Semitic ravings of Gibson represent “the mainstream of America,” then heaven help us all.

    Why are top bishops venerating this loon? There may be an old-fashioned quid pro quo here. The bishops may feel they owe Donohue one. After all, he has been a dogged hierarchical apologist during the pedophilia scandal.

    According to Blustering Bill, gay priests – not a clerical culture of collusion and cover-up – are to blame. (When it comes to gays, Bill’s not exactly a fan. In one notorious column, he likened gay people to descendants of the Marquis de Sade who celebrate a “death-style” and seek to “pervert society by acting out their own perversions.”)

    Donohue has also relentlessly attacked media outlets that have reported on the pedophilia scandal – a classic case of trying to kill the messenger.

    In his blurb for the book, Cardinal Wuerl calls Donohue “a preeminent voice defending the Church.” That’s part of the problem. A festering and bitter man who often employs anti-Semitism and gay bashing and who has all the rhetorical skills of a foghorn should not be the preeminent voice of any institution that seeks to be taken seriously.

    The bishops are free to anoint Donohue their hero, but I suspect most Americans – including the majority of Catholics – would rather they show him the door.

    To view the links in this article go to:


  18. Catholic Church wavers on child sex scandals in Pope's homeland

    By Simeon Tegel, GlobalPost Senior Correspondent, NBC World News October 23, 2013

    LIMA, Peru — Pope Francis’ promise of a more humble, tolerant Catholic Church may have earned rave reviews around the world, but in Latin America, a string of child sex scandals has left some wondering what's really changed in the Vatican.

    Along with landmark gestures such as dressing simply, publicly kissing followers’ feet and refusing to condemn gays, Francis has also vowed to punish pedophile priests.

    Yet seven months into his papacy, the church’s questionable handling of child molestation cases in Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Peru is calling that commitment into doubt.

    Campaigners say it may be no coincidence that the scandals have occurred in Latin America, the world’s most Catholic region, given the influence wielded here by an often conservative clergy.

    In the Dominican Republic, the Vatican’s envoy, Josef Wesolowski, was secretly fired in August for allegedly paying underage boys for sex.
    In Peru, an auxiliary bishop, Gabino Miranda, has been on the run for more than a month since child sex allegations surfaced. He is alleged to have selected his victims during confession.

    He was also secretly sacked by the church. The news only broke by accident, during a media interview with a progressive ex-bishop who mentioned the issue in passing.

    In a letter to the Vatican, Miranda denied the allegations but acknowledged being “imprudent.” Lima’s ultraconservative archbishop, Juan Luis Cipriani, even scolded journalists covering the scandal and demanded “mercy” be shown to Miranda.

    Meanwhile, in Chile, the archbishop of Santiago, Ricardo Ezzati, this month declined to appear before a congressional committee investigating sexual abuse at Catholic children’s homes, citing the separation of church and state.

    That was despite the fact that the homes in question were part-funded by Chile’s government agency for child welfare.

    And in Argentina, Father Julio Cesar Grassi is now behind bars after an appeals court in September confirmed his 15-year sentence for sexual assaults on two young boys.

    His trial brought a mixed reaction from the Argentine church. One bishop publicly insisted Grassi was innocent. And in response to his conviction, his archdiocese issued a statement highlighting how Grassi had been acquitted on 15 of the 17 charges against him.

    For critics, the cases show the church under Francis — who was archbishop of Buenos Aires before becoming Latin America's first pope — still has a long way to go in how it handles pedophile priests.

    Jose Andres Murillo, founder of Chilean group Para la Confianza (For Trust), which helps victims, said: “This just demonstrates how there needs to be profound change within the structures of the church.

    “It remains full of cardinals and bishops who were named by John Paul II and were sympathetic to his political fight [against communism] but who are pretty reticent when it comes to the rights of children, women or minorities.”

    Murillo was also outraged by “scandalous and criminal” moves to declare John Paul II a saint next year, despite the late pope’s 1999 shelving of a child abuse investigation into his friend, the late Mexican priest Marcial Maciel.

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  19. Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ, a powerful worldwide religious order that now admits he carried out widespread child abuse and has expressed its “sorrow and grief” to his victims.

    “The problem is global but there are reasons to think it is particularly bad in Latin America,” said Barbara Blaine, of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

    “The church plays such an important role in most of Latin America. It can influence people’s lives more than in some other parts of the world.”

    Two urgently needed measures, she said, are full church transparency when handling pedophilia cases and for senior clergy found to have covered up child sex abuse to be disciplined.

    Yet the church establishment’s response, including since Francis became pontiff, has largely been one of silence.

    The Peruvian Episcopal Conference, which gathers together the country’s Catholic bishops, issued a statement offering its “prayers” for Miranda’s victims and stressing the dedication of the Catholic clergy and faithful to the “poorest and most needy.”

    But neither the Vatican nor Catholic authorities in Latin America has made any moves to inform the public when a cleric is being investigated.

    With 425 million believers, some 39 percent of the global total, Latin America remains easily the world’s most Catholic region, according to the Pew Research Center.

    Nevertheless, the church has been hemorrhaging followers here, many to evangelical denominations.

    Now just 72 percent of residents in Latin America and the Caribbean describe themselves as Catholic, compared with 90 percent a century ago.

    Francis’ new tone may be an attempt to reverse that trend by making Catholicism more accessible and reaching out to those who felt excluded by its moral admonitions on a range of issues, from reproductive rights to homosexuality.

    In a recent interview, he called on Catholics not to be so "obsessed" with imposing doctrines.

    Yet the pontiff may be thwarted by resistance from conservative priests.

    Although Latin America spawned the “liberation theology” movement of leftist priests who dedicated themselves to helping the poor — and which John Paul II decried as Marxist — it’s also home to some of the most reactionary clergy in the world.

    Cipriani, the archbishop of Lima, is the most senior cleric in Opus Dei, the movement that follows a literal — its critics say harsh — interpretation of the Bible.

    He is known for his controversial views. He believes Peru’s former dictator Alberto Fujimori, serving a 25-year prison sentence for embezzlement and directing death squads, should be released. And he opposed a pension of less than $100 a month for the penniless elderly.

    Jorge Apolaya, a gay activist in Peru, said despite the pope’s recent comments that he could not “judge” homosexuals, there remained great “distrust and suspicion” among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

    “You definitely have mixed feelings hearing the pope talk like that,” Apolaya, of the Peruvian LGBT Network, said. “It is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still a long way away.”

    “The church establishment here in Peru is still very conservative and uses its influence to block LGBT rights and equality. I don’t see gay Catholics returning to the church in significant numbers just yet.”

    And unless Francis is able to match words with actions, the same may be true for those who have abandoned the church over its failure to tackle pedophile priests.


  20. Poland's Catholic Church Slammed On Sex Abuse And Excuse That Children Are Partly To Blame

    By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Huffington Post AP October 23, 2013

    WARSAW, Poland -- WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland's Catholic Church has come under a wave of condemnation by appearing to suggest that children are partly to blame for being sexually abused by priests.

    Archbishop Jozef Michalik, head of Poland's influential Episcopate, was commenting this month on revelations about Polish pedophile priests. A child from a troubled family, Michalik told reporters, "seeks closeness with others and may get lost and may get the other person involved, too."

    The words triggered an immediate uproar — one that Michalik tried to stamp out the same day by apologizing and saying he had been misunderstood. He had not, he said, meant to suggest that child victims were in any way responsible.

    But the damage was done.

    Ordinary citizens joined prominent politicians in expressing outrage, and intense debate continues more than two weeks later. The media pointed out that Michalik had supported a parish priest convicted in 2004 of child sex abuse, and one of the priest's victims said she was horrified by Michalik's latest remarks.

    "Archbishop Michalik's words make us feel fear and revulsion," Ewa Orlowska said.

    The archbishop's comments forced the Episcopate's spokesman, the Rev. Jozef Kloch, to state that Poland's church has "zero tolerance" for pedophilia but that it needs to learn how to approach and talk about the matter. The controversy has since led bishops under Michalik to apologize for "priests who have harmed children."

    It all comes amid a tide of allegations that Poland's church is sweeping cases of sex abuse under the carpet, putting it at odds with Vatican efforts since 2001 to punish abusers. The scrutiny has also further undermined the church's status in Poland as a moral and political leader — cemented by Polish-born Pope John Paul II through his critical role in inspiring the fight against communism. The church's defenders say that priests are being singled out for condemnation when teachers and sports coaches have also been caught sexually abusing kids.

    John Paul himself came under criticism for a reluctance to heed accusations against priests. While the Vatican in 2001 ordered bishops to submit cases of alleged pedophilia to the Holy See's review, it was largely the initiative of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. After the church sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in the United States, Ratzinger pressed for faster ways to permanently remove abusers from the church.

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  21. The crackdown against pedophile priests gained intensity once Ratzinger became Benedict XVI. In 2011, Benedict instructed bishops' conferences around the world to submit their own guidelines for keeping molesters out of the priesthood and to protect children.

    Poland's Episcopate has issued guidelines for the church's punishment of priests and support for the victims. But it sees no need to report priests to state investigators and says that the financial compensation rests with the wrongdoer, not with the church. That approach may soon be tested by a man who is readying Poland's first sex abuse lawsuit against the church.

    In several countries, including the U.S., Canada and Australia, the church has been paying millions in compensation over sex abuse cases.

    Michalik also recently raised eyebrows by saying that the roots of pedophilia lay in pornography and divorce, both of which are "painful and long-lasting wounds."

    The debate started last month after Dominican Republic investigators revealed child sex abuse allegations against two Polish clergymen: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador, and Rev. Wojciech Gil, a parish priest. Wesolowski has been forcibly removed by the Vatican. Gil has denied sex abuse and suggested that Dominican drug mafia is taking revenge on him for his educational work.

    Some 27 Polish priests have been tried for sex abuse since 2001, but most cases ended in suspended prison term — indicating a general leniency for the church in Poland, where religion is taught in schools and senior church officials attend state ceremonies.


  22. Child sex abuse inquiry Catholic Church concedes celibacy may have contributed to child sex abuse

    ABC News Australia December 12, 2014

    The Catholic Church has conceded that its vow of celibacy may have led to the abuse of children at the hands of the clergy.

    The church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council to respond to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse today released an activity report conceding that "obligatory celibacy" may have contributed to decades of child abuse involving the clergy, and that ongoing training was necessary for priests.

    The council's chief executive officer Francis Sullivan said the training should include "psychosexual development".

    "The proper training, formation, the proper understanding of psychosexual issues for individuals has been raised, and it's a no-brainer," Mr Sullivan said.

    He said in the wake of the report even the most sacred traditions were up for discussion, but was not recommending that celibacy no longer be a requirement for priests.

    AUDIO: Australia's Catholic Church admits link between celibacy and child sexual abuse (AM)
    "When we have a public inquiry into the sex crimes in the Catholic Church, you need to address how sexuality is understood and acted out by members of the clergy," Mr Sullivan said.

    "You need a very clear understanding about your own sexuality, your own sexual development, your own way of relating as a person to others.

    "That's called psychosexual education. Certainly in the past, there was none."

    The report also stated the church turned a blind eye to abuse for decades, and that in the past, some of its leaders did not understand that the abuse of a child was a crime.

    'Report does not go far enough'

    Victims of child sexual abuse have said the report does not go far enough to address the problem.

    Nicky Davis from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the Church should simply admit it had not handled complaints appropriately.

    "The redress in a lot of cases was absolutely disgraceful and very very devious, and done in such a way to exploit the vulnerability and the damage that survivors had already suffered," Ms Davis said.

    "Every case that I'm aware of involves church officials manipulating and deceiving survivors and putting them in a position where they have no choice but to accept a pittance.

    "And the Church officials are aiming to provide as little redress as they can get away with."

    The report acknowledged that survivors, as well as many Catholics and the broader community, felt the compensation offered to victims was not adequate - blaming a general lack of information about the Church's redress schemes.

    The suggestion of a link between a priest's vow of celibacy and child sexual abuse has previously divided Australia's senior Catholic clergy.

    Cardinal George Pell acknowledged there may be a connection in his evidence to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry last year.

    But Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart vehemently denied any connection before the royal commission this year.