Thursday, February 17, 2011

Will The BS Ever End?

Archbishop Dolan is not happy with the hometown fishwrap or that pesky SNAP.  In the meantime Philadelphia's Rigali is taking cues from a Grand Jury.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think John Allen has given up real journalism for the sake of spinning the Church's flaws white as the driven snow?  His most recent offering at the NCR deals with a supposed campaign gearing up to take another look at the USCCB's zero tolerance policy.  I have some real issues with this piece.  The following is taken from the second half of Allen's article:

A final element of the case for reconsideration may have more short-term traction, which is the argument that the process doesn’t protect priests adequately against false accusations. One prominent voice on that front is the Detroit-based group Opus Bono Sacerdotii, meaning “Work for the Good of the Priesthood,” which provides support for accused priests. (what Allen fails to mention is that this is another of Tom Monaghan's interests and that it is heavily supported by Legatus.  OBS doesn't care if the priests it helps are guilty or not so don't assume the two thousand priests they claim to have helped are all innocent.)

“The bishops may face a crisis in the ranks of the priesthood, with at least a thousand innocent priests who have been removed and remain out of public ministry because of unproven accusations,” Joe Maher, president and founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, said in a Feb. 1 e-mail. (I would like to know how Mr. Maher is defining unproven because many of these accusations are past statute of limitations and can't be proven in any secular criminal context.)

“Active priests are aware of how their accused brethren are being treated by the bishop and wonder what kind of support, if any, will come if they are accused,” Maher said, who added that today the bishops are trying to “sort out” the right way to proceed. (And a lot of those priests never uttered one peep when they know abuse was going on, so they don't actually have much of a right to complain.)

On Jan. 14, the group circulated an e-mail fundraiser featuring the story of an unnamed priest accused in 2009 of spending too much time with a teenager. The priest was removed from ministry, after what he described as a “very biased” assessment by a diocesan-recommended psychologist who had, the accused claimed, a vested interest in a drumming up business for a treatment program. With the support of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, the unnamed priest said, other psychologists cleared him and he was returned to ministry.
Both George and Dolan flagged the danger of false allegations as an area in which U.S. policies may need reform. (OBS has also run campaigns for priests who have freely admitted they molested and molested repeatedly.  OBS has run these campaigns irrespective of the wishes of the local bishop. I guess OBS is above other Catholic endeavors like hospitals in Phoenix.)

“We have to keep looking at the process, so that predators are permanently removed but in a way that also doesn’t harm people who are innocent,” George said.

Dolan echoed the point, saying that his major regret about the way cases were handled at the outset of the crisis is that some priests were publicly removed and thus branded as abusers, even though the allegations were impossible to substantiate, “and to this day they’re living with that terrible burden.”

Dolan said that under current rules, any credible but unsubstantiated allegation triggers suspension pending a preliminary investigation -- “and in the vast majority of instances,” he said, “you can’t remove a guy without people jumping to conclusions.” (Operative word is credible which is why people might be jumping to conclusions.

The problem is compounded, Dolan said, by what he and others perceive as a higher percentage of false accusations today. During the initial outbreak of the crisis, he said, “the vast majority [of accusations] tragically were accurate ... I wouldn’t say that anymore.” (That's not what the experts say.  In fact they say there are fewer false accusations now than previously--and that previous rate was 1.4%)

Both prelates suggested that the risk of further abuse makes it difficult to revise the policy of immediate suspension, but said more thought needs to be given to how a priest who’s cleared can win back his good name.

If there is to be an evolution, today’s whispering campaign may have to become more vocal -- especially in offering cover to bishops when they step outside the zero-tolerance box. (Let me get this right, first they exempt themselves from the Dallas Charter, and now they want to exempt themselves from implementing the Dallas Charter. Wow.) 

Dolan cited the case of Msgr. Wallace Harris, a popular pastor in Harlem accused of sexually abusing high school students in the 1980s. Harris resigned and officials vowed that he will never return to ministry, but Dolan did not remove him from the priesthood.(Which means Harris is still being paid by the Archdiocese for doing nothing and that may have something to do with people's not being accepting of keeping molesters in the priesthood.  No other employer keeps these kinds of failed employees on their payroll in exchange for doing nothing.)

Dolan wondered why Catholic voices pushing for a reconsideration of zero tolerance weren’t more outspoken in support of his handling of the Harris case.

“Where are these guys when The New York Times and company blasts me, or SNAP [the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] and everybody pickets me?” he asked. “Are they defending me when I’m being attacked for letting him keep his priesthood? No, they run for cover.”

Such reactions suggest that unless what Rossetti described as the “voice of the people” changes its tune, some tinkering may occur, but in general zero tolerance will remain the order of the day.


There was quite a bit in this latest Allen piece I found objectionable such a this from one Fr. Guarino:
Guarino argued that zero tolerance -- especially forced laicization, meaning removal from the priesthood against a priest’s will -- distorts the theology of the priesthood, turning it into a job from which one may be fired for poor performance, rather than a permanent sacred calling.

“This may have the short-term advantage of preventing litigants from storming the church door,” Guarino wrote. “It may keep the media at bay for the moment -- a media that, in any case, will always find the church a stumbling block ... But such actions are also having the disastrous effect of eroding Catholic doctrine, the only treasure that the church really has to offer.”

So what is Guarino really saying, that our children should continue to be sacrificed to the fantasy of the magical priesthood.  Good Lord, if the abuse crisis has proven anything it's proven that ordination does not magically change anything about the ontological leanings of any given priest. What is he really afraid of?  That lay Catholics are beginning to figure out that clericalism is based on fantastical and inventifacted thinking?  Oh, and by the way, it is not Church doctrine that is the Church's treasure.  It's treasure lies in the teachings and life of Jesus Christ and the communal expression of that life.  Just sayin'.

Archbishop Dolan, he who is whining about no one coming to his defense, is also involved in some past history in his previous assignment.  It seems the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is missing some 75 million dollars. Lost under Dolan's watch.  That would be a lot of beer--even for him.  Maybe Bernie Madoff did something with it.  It couldn't be that it was misplaced to shelter it from exposure to settlements from some really nasty work by clerics in Milwaukee.  Maybe this little issue is the reason Dolan has returned to sniping at the NY Times and SNAP.

I actually find it mind boggling that Allen would write something like this when Philadelphia is embroiled in yet another Grand Jury Investigation which alleges criminal malfeasance on the part of the Archdiocese in not removing abusive priests.  I have read the report,  and like the first report, it is sickening.  For the life of me I can't get into  the heads of men who would so cavalierly place these pedophiles in one new parish after another.  Cardinal Rigali has finally agreed to investigate the 37 other credibly accused priests mentioned in the Grand Jury report.  This is not the week for Dolan to come out whining about zero tolerance and unfounded accusations--not when Cardinal Rigali is lucky he wasn't forced to post bail for his predecessor Cardinal Bevilaqua.  Ironic that Bevilaqua was one of the forces behind the Dallas Charter.  This whole thing gets so surreal sometimes it's no wonder Allen writes these kinds of articles.

One last note at the NCR is Phyllis Zagano's latest effort "Repairing the Broken Church".  Although I personally don't think adding a married priesthood to the current clerical system is a real answer for the woes of the current clerical system, her article makes way more sense than John Allens latest effort.


  1. To understand John Allen, consider the situation of the typical movie critic: would you have much of a career if you gave negative reviews to 80%-90% of Hollywood movies? (which sounds about right to me).

    Par for the course keeps changing, but people like Allen and much of the media in general regard par to be some kind of principal unto itself. Well, I suspect Allen knows this but maintains career viability through intellectual gymnastics which increasingly require the flexibility of a yoga master.

    Don't think that the attitude, "Apres moi, le deluge." is restricted to French kings. Much of the professional class realize this and at times express their thoughts about it. We've seen this attitude among those on Wall Street. What's funny is that it's likely that both Allen and many of the people he covers both feel this way but don't feel at liberty to speak about it frankly.

  2. I agree. He has forsaken journalism to become the genteel version of the Donahue guy from Catholic League, especially in his last 2 articles at NCR. I speculate that he needs to preserve his access to the Vatican for current and future writing projects.
    Thanks for this blog. Have been reading for a couple of years now.

  3. I could not let pass that the word verification was "untie". We need to untie ourselves from the web of lies.
    John Allen used to present an alternative point of view that was worth considering.
    Now he acts like he reports from an alternate universe.

  4. Yes, things are getting more and more unbelievable - including John Allen.

    As for concerns about innocent priests getting "thrown under the bus", give me a break. We're still waiting for a zero tolerance policy to be adopted here in Canada... our archdiocese is instructing seminarians to not inform the police if any accusations arise - they're expected to "keep it in the family".

    Where's our version of the Dallas Charter?

  5. I understand the need to protect people from accusations made out of pure maliciousness and with no basis in reality. I also understand what it is the hear one family relative accuse another family member of sexual abuse. It is a horribly confusing and spiritually draining situation.

    But surely the bishops must understand that it does no good to just start throwing malicious accusations in a free-for-all which it too many times is. And it is so sad to see the church using the same tactics as the civil criminal courts system when it comes to rape victims. Dear God, how many ways can they find to blame a victim? And a child at that?

    Of course in the adversarial system that the civil criminal courts have, it is to be expected. BUT somehow, I'd thought the church could be better than that. Some system where the truth is most important, where the authorities are more concerned about some healing process. Wouldn't it be nice if the church could honestly offer something of this nature to the civil criminal system?

    But apparently and heartbreakingly, it can't happen that way in this lifetime.

  6. It is about time the church stops the mea culpas. It's about time the hierarchy take a second and third look at the injustice in zero tolerance. It's about time we realize that 99% of the priests/bishops were not pedophiles, though no one can nor should absolve any engagement with older teens. It's about time the news media went after coaches, camp coun. teachers IF they really are interested in the welfare of children but their first agenda is to "kill" the church. It's about time the people in the pew said enough is enough when it comes to the many false accusations of good and honorable priests. It's about time the hierarchy, outside of the media, take a long, long look at zero tolerance in the light of today's psychology, medical science and reinstate hundreds of the priests who have shown over ten, twenty, thirty years that they were involved in a one time incident with older teens perhaps while under the influence of alcohol. It's about time that we realize that lawyers are interested in becoming supremely wealthy as, sadly, are some, and I emphasize some, of the so called victims. The real victims seek counselling more than money. The church has done more than any other institution in the world now to protect children. The safest place today for children is in the Roman Catholic Church. Revenge is mine says the Lord. Maybe we all should dwell on that scripture for a long, long, long time.

    A Caring Catholic

  7. You're certainly correct about Allen. Usually, though, NCR will allow someone in the survivor support community to refute him in the area of child sex abuse. My problem is that NCR doesn't run any counterpoint to Allen's Islamaphobia (disguised as "religious freedom") columns.

  8. Hey "Caring Catholic", when you mention a single incident "with an older teen, often involving alcohol" who do you think bought the alcohol? The 16 -17 year old? Or the 35 YEAR OLD MAN. We are not talking about a 18-19 year old college student having a 16-17 year old girlfriend (or boyfriend.) We are talking about fully grown, professional MEN (often kept as mental teenagers by the bishops, true) taking sexual advantage or force of young people. And have you read a Catholic Diocese facilities release form in the last few years? In essence it says in legal language that an employee of the diocese could molest your child IN FRONT OF THE BISHOP and the diocese would not be held accountable. This is why my child will never go to CYO camp. "No safer place for a child than the church?" Not by a long shot. My child is involved in Girl Scouts. Parents who are screened and trained volunteers are the ones who run things. I have been screened and know that the girls are the first priority, not protecting the bishop first then the priests, then the money and finally, maybe my child. Sue B

  9. Sue B, this line of yours presents the reality of things quite well:

    I have been screened and know that the girls are the first priority, not protecting the bishop first then the priests, then the money and finally, maybe my child. Sue B

  10. I'm wondering if a priest accused and convicted of child abuse could be considered to not have received the sacrament of Holy Orders. Could his ordination be annulled?

    A huge hole in the system, both church- and civil-wise, is the lack of supervision or accountability for a priest dismissed from ministry. If the statute of limitations has run out and he's told to make a life for himself elsewhere, there's nothing to stop him from going someplace new and repeating what has been done.

  11. Shannon you bring up an interesting point about null and void ordinations. Until the whole mythology of the magical priesthood comes crashing down, I don't think the idea of 'annulling' priestly orders is going to fly.

    The secular criminal system deals with all kinds of sexual predators all the time. I fail to see why clerical predators should be left in the hands of bishops. That is unless they build a national prison/monastery dedicated to the ministry and confinement of criminal sexual deviants--a solution that was floated way back in the 50's and rejected.

    Way back in the 50's? Holy cow, that was before the wild depraved 60's and Vatican II. Imagine that.