The National Catholic Review
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Padre Oprah and A Playboy President

The well-known Miami priest Rev. Alberto Cutié, known as Padre Oprah, was recently forced to resign from his parish because of compromising photos of him with a woman on a beach. In a television interview he admitted to being involved with the woman for several years. He explained that he has been given time to come to a decision about remaining a priest. He believes celibacy is good, but that "maybe it should be optional.” He also does not want to be forced into the role of poster boy for opposition to mandatory celibacy.

A few weeks ago, the president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, admitted that he became the father of a child while serving as bishop of San Pedro. Several other women also claim that he fathered their children. Because Lugo was a Catholic bishop when he ran for office, he was thought by those who voted for him to be upright and trustworthy.

Church history includes similar scandals even at the level of the papacy. On the other hand, history also records faithfully married popes, like Pope Hormisdas (d. 523) and Pope Silverius (d. 537), who were father and son--and also saints. The Catholic Church has had married and unmarried popes, bishops and priests who all struggled by the grace of God to be faithful to their promises of celibacy or their marriage vows.

Instances of marital infidelity raise questions about the challenges and difficulties married people face, but they do not destroy the perennial value of the sacrament. Likewise, the abuses by Father Cutié and former Bishop Lugo reveal the fallen nature of human beings but are not an indictment of priestly celibacy.

He Would Not Go Gently

Last week former Chicago Alderman Leon Despres died at age 101. If you are not from Chicago, you may never have heard of him. Many of the resolutions he sponsored from 1955 to 1975 on the Chicago City Council were ignored, if not condemned, and his fellow aldermen largely dismissed him.

But during that time, when the Chicago Democratic machine rolled over all opposition with what The New York Times once called its "militia of patronage workers,” Despres was often the lone voice speaking up for the needs of those ignored by the city, particularly African-Americans. In the 1960s, when the city proposed the widespread high-rise tenements that would become a blight on the African-American community in Chicago, Despres was the only one to speak out against the plan, calling instead for low-rise, scattered-site housing (the very idea now being enacted 40 years later in the city).

Though he was a white man, Despres was called "the lone Negro on the City Council,” because the six black aldermen regularly stood with Mayor Richard A. Daley Sr., even on issues regarding race. At times his black colleagues attacked him for claiming to know the needs of their people.

The columnist Mike Royko wrote in 1972, "Despres has been told to shut up--in one form or another--more than any grown man in Chicago.” And yet, in the face of the overwhelming strength and bullying of the Daley political machine, he never did. It took decades for the city of Chicago as a whole to recognize his wisdom, but today the city and the country are better for his courageous example.

The Markey Bill

Expressions of the need for justice in cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy focus on the church's responsibility to the victims. Legislation currently before the New York State Assembly steering committee, however, raises a different issue: justice for those accused of abuse. Bill A.2596, the "Markey Bill,” will eliminate for one year the seven-year statute of limitations on claims of sexual abuse, allowing allegations about decades-old incidents to be brought forward. Understanding for victims can make creating such a "window” seem to be the proper thing to do, but it can also open a window for injustice, when the passage of time has made it impossible to gather proof of innocence.

Statutes of limitations exist in both civil and criminal law to provide defendants some measure of justice, and are an application of the theory that before the law every person is innocent until proven guilty. In most jurisdictions there are statutes of limitation for almost every unlawful act except murder. Their purpose is to protect individuals from being charged when evidence proving their innocence no longer exists or when memories have become unreliable over time. (In New York State, for example, a student alleging sexual abuse by a school employee is allowed only 90 days after turning 18 to file a claim. This is 1/20th the length of time allowed for other crimes.)

The Markey bill would eliminate that protection for members of religious or volunteer organizations, harming not only individuals who are falsely accused (who are now regularly presumed to be guilty if the allegation is sexual in nature), but also the nonprofit institutions for which they work.

Comments

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Jack Ryan | 5/31/2009 - 11:06am
There is only anecdotal evidence that Hormisdas was married. The most reliable consensus is that he was a widower at the time he became pope.
john | 5/31/2009 - 7:37am
I didn't understand this article, eliminate for one year the seven year....these legal speak and legal issues are unclear. I'd have to read it 5 times to get what he's opposing.
William Rydberg | 5/30/2009 - 10:26pm
Fr Cutie's decision to join the Episcopal Church and their lightening induction does great damage to ecumenical relations and to the community at large. As I undrstand it, the Episcopal Church opted to hire him on without first allowing time for the laicization process. Sad news. On a happy note, Good Pentecost to all.
MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER | 5/29/2009 - 3:11pm
Letter sent in to America Magazine on the Markey Bill: It is disingenuous that the the bishops of New York are opposing legislation that would overturn present laws in that state which give more protection to perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse then to their victims and they should be ashamed of themselves. Removing statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children and opening a civil window for bringing forward previously time barred cases of sexual abuse by anyone is the only legal avenue open to the thousands of victims no matter who their abusers were. Is not the Holy See a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? How then can bishops justify not modifying their respective states' laws to give more protection to children? It is a conundrum. The Markey/Duane bill is modest in comparison to the one signed in 2007 as the Child Victims Law in Delaware. In that state there are now no criminal or civil statutes of limitation covering the sexual abuse of children and a two year civil window remains open until July 10, 2009. Citing the small number of falsely accused priests is a specious argument for the church not to support the Markey/Duane bill. The institutional Roman Catholic will lose any remaining credibility by continuing on such an immoral and insensitive a path. It lacks both justice and charity. Sister Maureen Paul Turlish Victims' Advocate maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com
Paul Leddy | 5/27/2009 - 3:51pm
The following excerpt is from a response written by Dave McGuire in response to Msgr. Harry Byrne’s The Dishonoring of My Regiment! (From the blog of Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, J.C.D., 7.24.2008) Msgr. Byrne – I find any member of your regiment dishonorable who is not doing everything in their power to get the truth out now. By this, I specifically mean that any person who is not actively supporting Assemblywoman Margaret Markey’s bill is dishonorable. Any person who is not actively calling for full disclosure of records is dishonorable. Any person who had knowledge of the abuse and is still holding that truth secret is dishonorable. As an abuse survivor I will not be satisfied with anything less than a repeal of the current NYS statute of limitations for sex abuse including a window for old cases. I believe this will be the only way the public will be given full knowledge of how far the protection of child molesters within your organization goes. Until there is FULL DISCLOSURE there will be dishonor. Anyone, ordained or otherwise, who does not call for such action today is dishonorable.
John McDonagh | 5/26/2009 - 1:48pm
In taking a position against the Markey Bill, it occurs to me that America's editors may have a conflict of interest, which you do not address. While you may be legally separate from the NY Jesuit Province and from Fordham University and Fordham Prep,you clearly have many ties to them. What then of the case of Richard Cerick who was sexually abused by Roy A. Drake, SJ, on the Fordham campus in 1968. Mr. Cerick is excluded from filing a civil suit by the present statute of limitations and by the Lopez bill, which is the alternative to the Markey bill. If the Markey bill were to become law, he would be able to file such a suit, unless he has surrendered that right in a legal settlement with the Province or the Prep. And can we be certrain that there are not others like Mr. Cerick who have not come forward, but who might be able one day to do so ? Is not rejecting the Markey Bill a sure way to silence such people ?
NICHOLAS CLIFFORD | 5/25/2009 - 3:31pm
While I am indeed grateful to be reminded of Popes Hormisdas and Silverius, aren't you overlooking an even more famous married pope? St. Peter, of course (Mk 1:29-31), though I can understand why intellectual consistency might make you reluctant to ascribe to him a title that only came later.
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 5/21/2009 - 2:05pm
While the Fr. Cutie and Bishop Lugo affairs do not, of themselves, "indict" priestly celibacuy, statistics offered by Richard Sipe that a significant number of priests are sexually active at any one time makes this argument strained -particularly given the issue of priest shortages and the need of Eucharist by the community. The issue is not the value or difficulty of celibacy, but its mandate in the Western rite, with many folk in need.
William Rydberg | 5/20/2009 - 5:28pm
I agree that the proposed Markey Bill is unfair and discriminatory. It is not just legislation.
Amos | 5/19/2009 - 1:24am
The Child Victims Act of New York—also known as the Markey bill—also would lengthen the period in which alleged victims may sue individuals and private organizations for child sexual abuse in the future. Sponsors of the proposed legislation in the state Assembly and Senate claim it will bring justice to victims of child sex abuse. But spokespersons for various religious institutions say the proposal unfairly targets them and other private institutions. New York's current statute of limitations requires alleged victims of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits by the time they are 23. But separate statutes for claims against public entities—such as municipalities, public schools, public hospitals and government-run institutions—require the alleged victims in cases of any nature to file statements of their intent to sue, called notices of claim, within 90 days of the incident. The disparity between public and private institutions is the crux of injustice cited by various legal, religious and private entities. The bill as it now stands does not make any provision to drop the notice-of-claim requirement for cases involving public entities. But its "window" provision, which would waive the civil statute for a one-year period, would permit the filing of previously time-barred lawsuits against individuals or private organizations in cases of child sexual abuse alleged to have taken place 30, 40 or more years ago. Under the Markey bill there are really two classes of victims: the public-institution victim and the private-institution victim, one of whom could sue for something that happened half a century ago, and one of whom could be shut out after a year or less. If the intent of the (Markey) bill is to give remedy to victims of child sexual abuse, in fairness it ought to include all victims..
MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER | 5/18/2009 - 11:09pm
RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS SHOULD DO MORE TO PROTECT CHILDREN It distressed me to read recently that religious institutions in New York, especially the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Jews, are pooling their resources not to better protect children and give all victim/survivors of childhood sexual abuse access to justice, but rather to keep inadequate laws on the books which give more protection to predators than to their victims. Such an action certainly fails the test of morality! The sexual abuse of a minor is an egregious sin, a human tragedy and a major social problem that demands comprehensive solutions but, most importantly, it is a crime committed against the innocents. It has been accurately described by Cardinal William Keeler, the former archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, as murder of the soul and the egregious nature of such crimes demands that there should be no statutes of limitation, period. Childhood sexual abuse is a major epidemic going on in our country, a pandemic if one considers it in its worldwide proportions so it is hard to believe, in light of recent statements in this newspaper, that we continue to have churchmen representing various religious denominations who actually oppose the removal of statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children. It is unconscionable that any synogogue, church or sect would hold fast to a belief that sexual predators and abusers should not be held accountable along with their enablers and that they would support the present accommodation in law that gives more protection to individuals who have been accused of the sexual abuse of children than to the victims themselves. Window legislation, as it relates to civil statutes, is the single most important factor in holding sexual predators and any enabling institutions or individuals, if they exist, accountable whether they are religious denominations, hospitals, schools or scouts. In the case of New York, a one year civil window just to gain access to the courts is the barest of minimums and yet religious leaders oppose it. How can the Catholic dioceses of New York state deny the rightfulness of extending statutes of limitation in regard to the protection of children? This is not a matter belonging to what our church calls the "deposit of faith," and leaving aside the matter of mortal sin for the moment, the sexual abuse of children is a matter of criminal behavior, not to be relegated to the venial status of a lesser weakness. On the basis of what is known today about the obstacles impeding a victim's ability in coming forward, present laws covering the sexual abuse of children are totally inadequate. Why isn't the archdiocese distributing postcards for the members of the Catholic community to sign and send to their legislators in Albany to support the complete removal of statutes of limitation going forward in regard to the sexual abuse of children, criminally and civilly? Why isn't the New York Catholic Conference lobbying to protect children as would befit the Holy See's signatory status to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? Window legislation is not "anti" any particular religion or institution but it is anti-rapist and child molester. It forces records, if they exist and have not been destroyed, to be made available in a court of justice and hopefully into the public venue as well. We know that pedophiles, rapists, molesters and child abusers come from all walks of life and that the sexual abuse of children happens primarily in the home so it is patently unconscionable for religious denominations and their leadership to protect and enable sexual predators by refusing to support changes in the laws that would hold both the perpetrators and their enablers accountable. No child ever deserves to be raped, sodomized, molested, abused or trafficked across state lines or international borders for purposes of sexual exploitation. Such acts, especially when committed by a parent, family member, doctor, teacher, trusted minister, rabbi, imam or priest are crimes and the perpetrators should be treated as the criminals they are. The Orthodox Jews and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church should be coming together to better protect our children from these vicious individuals and those who may have protected them. Is it about money? The outrageous claim that Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey's bill A2596, known as the Child Victims Act, is "designed to bankrupt the Catholic Church," as claimed by Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference is simply beyond the pale. Such disinformation promulgated by the institutional church is as disingenuous as it is outrageous. One needs to keep in mind that in 2007 the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a 660 million dollar settlement, the church's largest payout to victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse while also paying millions of dollars to their own lawyers, lobbyists and to the California Catholic Conference to oppose settling. At the same time the archdiocese built and paid for a magnificent new cathedral that any city in the world would be proud to showcase and they did it without ever mentioning bankruptcy. In the New Testament Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus says, "whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Where is it found that Jesus said justice for a child was dependent on the price tag? Nowhere! Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament. No, the real issue is not money. The real issue was and still is about the exercise of power and the abuse of that power no matter the religious denominations concerned. The Catholic bishops of the United States, for example, promised accountability and transparency in 2002 but have they been conscientious in delivering on that promise? Investigations and grand jury reports in a number of major jurisdictions have shown that the answer is a resounding "No." Even the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has yet to release priests' files which were part of their 2007 settlement and was ordered by the courts. In all good conscience, I would strongly encourage our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith along with the faithful Catholics of the Archdiocese of New York, and indeed all the good and decent people of the state of New Yorkof to support criminal and civil laws that are as strong as possible in holding accountable the sexual predators of our children and any individuals or institutions who were complicit in their protection. The proposed legislation (A2596 and S2568) by N.Y.S. Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, D-Queens and N.Y.S. Senator Tom Duane, D-Manhattan, is both comprehensive and a solution that will go far to help reduce childhood sexual abuse. __________________ Sister Turlish is a Delaware educator and victims' advocate who testified before the Delaware Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of Delaware's 2007 Child Victims Law. She has been a member of the National Representative Council of Voice of the Faithful and is presently on the Board of Directors for the Delaware Association for Children of Alcoholics. E-mail Sister Maureen Paul Turlish at maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com
Paul Leddy | 5/18/2009 - 10:12pm
You didn't complete your sentence. "Bill A.2596, the "Markey Bill,” will eliminate for one year the seven-year statute of limitations on claims of sexual abuse" You left out the part wherein NY public school teachers are exempt from this law. Why does that mattter? Because the number of victims (minors) abused by NY State teachers is far greater than abused by Catholic priests. How can that happen? Because priests don't belong to the teacher's union; but they do belong to deep pockets. This isn't about justice. This is about legalizing a shake-down of the Catholic Church in NY.
Bonnie Jachowicz | 5/18/2009 - 9:43pm
Regarding priestly celibacy: I greatly respect all those men who have chosen to live a life of priestly ministry and celibacy. Both choices are dauntingly difficult. Some have chosen celibacy, while others have merely consented to it primarily because of their desire to serve God through ordained ministry. The priests who have not entered the celibate state with enthusiasm and conviction may react later in life with unhealthy choices resulting in stress and other physical and psychological manifestations of depression. There are some wonderful men who are priests. I just hope we can retain them and attract more men to live a life of service without the requirement of celibacy. And let's not criticize marriage because of a lack of commitment on the part of a portion of the many who live perfectly happy, supportive, fruitful lives with their spouses. Prayer has helped many men cope with the loneliness of celibate life. Perhaps the Church will also act with compassion and allow those men who would like the option of marriage to have the dignity of making a choice, as any responsible adult does.
Aline Frybarger | 5/18/2009 - 7:10pm
I agree with the 2 previous comments. The only way we will know what happened is to listen to those who report about past abuse. Victims were blocked because of the intimidation and by the time they get enough personal strength, the system is not there for them. I think we need the look back window to find out what really happened.
Albino Luciani | 5/18/2009 - 6:10pm
www.bishop-accountability.org/abusetracker for daily verified & vetted reporting on why this bill is absolutely required; immediately, if not sooner! Fiat Lux & Veritas! Albino Luciani, MURDERED POPE
peggie thorp | 5/18/2009 - 6:00pm
Certainly the public is better served/protected when justice is meted out with an even hand. But in the sexual abuse of a child, the injustice is planted at the moment of the crime. It will not be diminished by a generous calendar or even a guilty verdict. Yet, the accused should not benefit by that same calendar in "winning" what is effectively an escape clause. Courts of law are where these sad confrontations should take place, where both the accused and the accuser can be heard to the best of their recall. The Markey bill would be a move in that direction. We have today many models of Truth and Reconciliation, particularly in South Africa. It isn't perfect but it restores a significant measure of human dignity to our worst moments.
PAUL KENDRICK | 5/18/2009 - 4:11pm
I sent a comment to you almost 4 hours ago. Will it be published?
Dave McGuire | 5/18/2009 - 3:28pm
What the Markey Bill does is allow Judges to determine the validity of allegations against previously protected child molesters. What the Markey Bill does is potentially warn the public of hundreds of child rapists that are living otherwise unidentified. What the Markey Bill does is allow child victim/survivors an opportunity to uncover injustices waged against them by institutions who manipulated and obfuscated so that they wouldn't come forward within the original time allowed statute. The Markey Bill does NOT protect public institutions - there are other venues a victim-survivor could pursue. The Catholic Church and other private institutions are NOT the victim of this bill. The public IS the victim of religious and private institutions scare tactics used to protect sex abusers at the expense of our children! The Markey Bill allows for some form of justice.
PAUL KENDRICK | 5/18/2009 - 1:05pm
Most 12 year-old children don't pick up the phone and dial 911 when their teacher, coach, priest, minister or family member sexually assaults them. In fact, most child sex abuse victims tell no one what happened, often hiding behind their shame and guilt well into adulthood. They may think it was their fault. Abusers are cunning and manipulative. They often threaten the child with harm if he or she tells anyone. No child should have to carry such a fearful burden. District Attorneys often ask, "Am I soft on crime because I cannot prosecute each and every case of child sex abuse?" Even if the crime occurred within the criminal statute of limitations, they must be able to prove their case. Are the editors suggesting that the evidence in all civil cases must be ignored on the sole basis that the abuse occurred 30 years ago? Five years ago, a financial settlement was made by school, church and Jesuit officials with 14 former students (child sex abuse victims) of Rev. James Talbot, S.J., a former teacher and coach at Cheverus and Boston College high schools. The abuse was alleged to have occurred between twenty and twenty-five years ago. Should we have ignored the testimony of all 14 plaintiffs? Did they somehow conspire to lie about their abuse by Talbot? What about the protection of children? Children are safer today now that Talbot has been identified as a child molester. I urge America Magazine's editors to reexamine their conclusions about this important issue.

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