The National Catholic Review
What can Europe learn from the U.S. sexual abuse crisis?
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When the clergy sexual abuse crisis exploded in the United States, most Vatican officials and European churchmen considered it an American problem. Then when Canada and Ireland experienced a similar crisis, it became an “English speaking” problem. Rather than seeing the crisis in the United States as a warning to put their own houses in order, too many European bishops continued with business as usual, believing that the crisis would not touch them.

Now that the crisis has arrived in Europe, what can the European bishops and the Vatican learn from the U.S. experience?

Begin with the context. The sexual abuse crisis did not start in Boston; it first came to public attention in the mid-1980s with a court case in Lafayette, La. The crisis was covered by the National Catholic Reporter long before the Boston Globe noticed it. It was in the mid-80s that insurance companies told bishops such cases would no longer be covered in their liability insurance. This should have gotten the attention of any prudent C.E.O.

A Long Learning Curve

Before 1985, few bishops handled these cases well. The tendency was to believe the priest when he said he would never do it again and to believe psychologists who said the priest could safely return to ministry. The bishops were compassionate and pastoral toward their priests, while forgetting their responsibility to be pastoral and protective of their flock. They tried to keep everything secret so as not to scandalize the faithful.

Between 1985 and 1992, the bishops began to learn more about the problem. They held closed-door sessions with experts at their semiannual meetings. At one closed meeting, at least one bishop told his brother bishops of the mistakes he had made and urged them not to do the same. The number of abuses declined during this period.

In 1992, under the leadership of Archbishop Daniel Pilarcyzk, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a series of guidelines on dealing with sexual abuse. Data collected by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice show that the number of abuse cases plummeted in the 1990s, indicating that by that time most bishops “got it.” The guidelines were opposed by Cardinal Bernard Law, however, and ignored by other bishops who still did not get it. The guidelines were not binding on the bishops, and they continued to leave open the possibility that an abusive priest could return to the ministry. And at a meeting in St. Louis that same year, a group of psychologists who were treating priests urged the bishops to keep open the possibility of returning the priests to ministry.

The scandal in Boston showed that voluntary guidelines were insufficient. It also showed that no one trusted the bishops (or their advisors) to decide who could safely be returned to ministry. As a result, in 2002 the bishops, with the consent of Rome, imposed binding rules requiring zero tolerance of abuse, reporting of accusations to the police, and mandatory child protection programs in every diocese. Under the zero tolerance rule adopted at their meeting in Dallas, any priest involved in abuse will never be able to return to ministry. In most cases, he would be expelled from the priesthood with possible exceptions if he is elderly and retired or infirm. The Dallas rules also required a lay committee in each diocese to review accusations against priests who are suspended from ministry while an investigation takes place. The rules were controversial in that many priests saw the zero tolerance law as draconian. They also feared false accusations and that the rules made them guilty until proven innocent. They objected that Dallas dealt only with priests, not with the bishops who are guilty of negligence.

In any case, it took the American bishops 17 years to figure out how to proceed, from the 1985 lawsuit against the diocese of Lafayette, La., to the establishment of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. The European bishops need to travel the same ground very quickly, and the Vatican needs to make zero tolerance the law for the universal church.

What Not to Do

While the Europeans can learn from what the American bishops got right at Dallas, they can also learn from the mistakes the Americans made during the crisis.

From the beginning, the American bishops underestimated the size and gravity of the problem. Prior to 1993, only one-third of the victims had come forward to report the abuse to their dioceses, so not even the church knew how bad the crisis was. Most victims do not want others to know they were abused, especially their parents, spouses, children and friends. Media coverage of clergy abuse encouraged and empowered victims to come forward as they recognized they were not alone.

Today, Europeans are shocked by the hundreds of cases that are being reported. They should get ready for thousands more. In the United States over 5,000 priests, or 4 percent of the clergy, were responsible for 13,000 accusations over a 50-year period. There is no reason to think Europe is different. Hope for the best, but do the math and be prepared.
The biggest miscalculation the American bishops made was to think that the crisis would pass in a few months.

Hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass is a failed strategy. Unless they want this crisis to go on for years as it did in the United States, the European bishops need to be transparent and encourage victims to come forward now. Better to get all the bad news out as soon as possible than to give the appearance of attempting a cover-up.

One school in Berlin, a Jesuit school, did the right thing. It knew of seven cases of abuse, went public, hired a female lawyer to go through their files and deal with victims, and then wrote to the alumni asking victims to come forward. When at least 120 victims did come forward saying they were abused at Jesuit schools in Germany, the foolish concluded that the school had been crazy to issue the invitation. But not only was it the Christian thing to do, it was also smart public relations. No one is accusing the current school administration of covering up. In addition, rather than have three to five years of bad publicity as one victim after another comes forward, they will have a few months of bad publicity before the media moves on to something else.

American bishops also made the mistake of blaming the media, blaming the permissive culture and trying to down play clerical abuse by pointing out that there are 90,000 to 150,000 reported cases of child sexual abuse each year in the United States. While there is truth in all this, it is counterproductive for the bishops to make these arguments, which come across as excuses. Rather the bishops should condemn the abuse, apologize and put in place policies to make sure that children are safe. Nor is one apology enough. Like a husband who has been unfaithful to his wife, they must apologize, apologize, apologize.

Finally, the American bishops excused themselves by saying they made mistakes but were not culpable because of their ignorance. Sorry, this won’t wash. American Catholics wanted some bishops to stand up and say: “I made a mistake, I moved this priest to another parish, I did not think he would abuse again, I got bad advice, but I take full responsibility. I am sorry and I resign.”

If 30 bishops in the United States had done this, the crisis would not have gone on as long as it did. People would have said, “Good, that is what leaders are supposed to do. They get it. With a new bishop we can have healing and move on.”

Bishops have to be willing to sacrifice for the sake of the whole church. It is a scandal that Cardinal Law was the only U.S. bishop to resign because of this crisis. It is encouraging that four Irish bishops have submitted their resignations. Unless the church wants this crisis to go on for years in Europe as it did in the United States, some bishops will have to resign for the good of the church.

Will the European bishops learn from the U.S. experience? I hope so.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.

Comments

Richard T Rodriguez | 5/9/2010 - 4:17pm

I think when we opt out for legal solutions we are simply calling it quits, tossing the towel.  Then there is an exchange of funds.  This is not my vision of a just society. There is a much more lengthy process that we can't swim around.  It involves the perpetrators and the victims meeting, dining; meeting, dining; meeting dining.  No exchange of funds-but of lives.

Dan Hannula | 4/15/2010 - 1:58pm

Mr. Smith:


How are the news media and the legal profession "profiting hugely"?  Since that is ostensibly an emprirical observation-you really should provide some proof. Otherwise, it sounds like you are maligning professionals who are doing their jobs and blaming the messengers.  "The abused are being victimized again"?  So, if I hire a lawyer to be my advocate, I am being abused?  Would they be better off being silent?  I respectfully disagree; Qui tacet consentire videtur.

David Smith | 4/15/2010 - 2:27am

There's something badly twisted in the way this is falling out.

The news media and the legal profession are profiting hugely from the misery of those sexually abused and from the inability of the Church to defend itself against punitive court actions.  The abused are being victimized again, and the Church is being drained of its physical resources.

Cui bono?

Kate Smith | 4/13/2010 - 5:20pm

Thank you for that info, Tim.  I am sure a lot of people are grateful and relieved to know that.

And that timeliness thing.   I am filing the first lawsuit in my life, because the Jesuits violated the legal agreement they signed in 2003.   And 2003/4 was a very big deal, with Jesuits, and that legal agreement.

But in 2009/10, no one took responsibility at all, with the Jesuit provincial actually lying about the words in the legal agreement (an easy thing to look up) and the current Jesuit provincial not taking responsibility for what they did, EVEN after Fr. Nicolas told me he asked them to!!!!

I don't like this job of having to saying this, but there won't be any cover ups. 

JOHN BUSHMAN | 4/9/2010 - 11:34pm
Excellent article by Thomas Reese. It should have been in the print version of the magazine as well. I'm wondering if that's because, after being forced out as editor of America by the Vatican, Thomas Reese is still a persona non grata in the published edition.
Greta Green | 4/9/2010 - 1:31am

I love it when people say that this has nothing to do with homosexuals.  The Jay Report clearly showed that over 75% were adult males attracted to boys between the ages of 12-17.  This is known in the homosexual industry as attraction to "twinks" and is a common part of the homosexual gravely disordered actions which the Catholic Church clearly identifies as a grave sin.  That is in now way trying to condone it.  I want to see these priests and everyone else that does this locked up until they are no longer any danger to kids again.  The point most make when this comes up is not homophobia, but an honest desire to protect the kids that have been hurt, and those who may suffer in the future from these predators or children. 

But lets go after everyone who abuses kids under age.  Lets really get serious about this with the same angst, the same anger, the same calling for vengence, the same supposed interest in protecting kids.  If those who post the concern about priest and bishops do not want a worldwide attack on everyone who harms a child in this horrible way, who takes an underage child for an abortion and protects the raptist, or who performs an abortion on an underage girl which does as much or more damage than an abuse and covers up a rape, then please label your anger for the catholic bias it is.  Please label your anger as having nothing to do with the victim, but some other agenda against the Church or maybe just this Pope who is not quite liberal enough in his belief and leadership. 

RICHARD KUEBBING | 4/8/2010 - 12:22am

The fundamental problem, or as we would say at work, the root cause, of the class of problems Fr Reese is talking about is a severe aversion to the truth by many, including management, in organizations.  When the organization is large, public relations becomes the direct enemy of truth.

One of the ways to say simply what Fr Reese is saying is:  the truth shall set you free.

I think few people believe it.  Few people practice it.  And in some situations, such as politics, it is contraindicated.

It would be interesting to look at the challenges the world have faced over say 5 decades and find the role of truth-telling, and lack thereof, in them.

Craig McKee | 4/6/2010 - 3:28am

"It is a scandal that Cardinal Law was the only U.S. bishop to resign because of this crisis."

Considering his POST-RESIGNATION treatment by the institutional church (PROMOVERE AD REMOVERE!), I am surprised that more bishops aren't flooding the Vatican with resignation letters of their own!

KRAI PONGPOON MR | 4/5/2010 - 10:50pm
Fr. Reese'article dose not offer guidelines for Europe only,
but it dose the same to other continents and nations where
abuse of children by priests and religious has been rampant,
in order that effective measures are taken to solve this serious problem at the earliest possible dates. Our Catholic Church must be sincere and transparent in solving the problem by going dawn to the root causes of it,otherwise it is hard to expect a recovery of its prestige in the near and far future.
SARAH MELICI | 4/5/2010 - 6:02pm
The time to fix this sexual abuse problem is NOW. The Pope must ask for the resignation of anyone including Cardinals and Bishops who knowingly allowed this abuse to continue to resign and not give them any other job like what happened with Cardinal Law who is doing very well in Rome.

The Vatican must apologize, be open and not try to put the blame elsewhere. Only then can the church begin to heal and trust the hierachy.

There are so many fine and blameless priests who are suffering with the people. It is grossly unfair.
Dominic Tomasso | 4/5/2010 - 1:42pm
There will be no healing until every one of the hierarchy involved in this criminal mess has been requested to resign.

The Pope has to wake up. What these criminals have done is not just a sin, read my lips, they are crimes.

To to think that the Pope would like us to continue having faith or trust in thes criminals is down right STUPID.

Allowing these criminals to just resign, continue to have the honor of a good honest bishop and to receive the fringe benifits that go with a resignation, is ludicrous and a insult to all Catholics. They must be requested to resign without any pomp and ceremony.

They all should be reported to law enforcement and prosecuted for crimes. Anything less, is still a a slap in the face of all Catholics.

Stop with the games your holyness. You have got to clean house. One other little matter you should seriously consider, If you are also involved, STEP DOWN, do the right thing. Then there will be healing and rejoicing the world over.

You, your holyness, are the only one that can put an end to this situation. If not, you will be responsible for whatever else these criminals do till the day they die. Bite the bullet. Don't listen to what your Cardinals are saying. they are only protecting their own asses. I almost forgot, God is watching everything you do or fail to do your holyness. You just can't spin your way out of doing the right thing with, you know who.
Kate Smith | 4/4/2010 - 4:07pm

Carolyn, I was going to say a lot more - and then I ended up just thinking about it!

Because dealing with the Jesuits was so futile, in terms of not taking responsiblity for allowing the perp to return to ministry, I had to hire a lawyer.   Well, that whole experience has been good for me.   My attorney and I do not see things exactly the same but listen well to each other, which makes us a a good team.   I already see good things about going to court, especially having the opportunity to ask Jesuits questions.   I want to ask the Jesuits so many questions!!  My attorney was going to go straight to filing a lawsuit in court, and I said write a letter first, and then court.  

I think it's going to be okay, because I have a great advocate, and the goal is clear:  seeing the Jesuits take responsibility.

Kate Smith | 4/4/2010 - 8:15am

Carolyn, thanks.   I learned a lot in '03, and - just an example, you mentioned connecting with SNAP- the local leader of SNAP is one of "my people" even though we are SO different.  He's a Conservative Republican - who rides a Harley motorcycle - and I'm a liberal Democratic who hikes in the Adirondacks - and gosh do we laugh so much about our differences and how those perp priests connected us!  We both just shake our heads and wonder about it.

Michael, you are so right about it not being over in the US.   My attorney told me that my situation was happening ALL Over -  perp priests and religious quietly going back into ministry!!!   My lawyer wanted a good case to pursue it - and that turned out to be mine.

Claire, I agree - it's not a homosexual problem.   Just look at the world.  Most sexual abuse is directed at women.   Twice, I talked briefly about my situation - spontaneously - at a CTA conference in Chicago and a VOTF meeting in NY - and both times dozens and dozens of women were lined up in a hallway and parking lot to talk to me.   I ran away, not expecting it.  I couldn't handle it.   I wish I could back and do it again and iisten.  I think I acted a lot like bishops (and provincials and religious superiors) do.  Damn.

Basile Pennyworth | 4/3/2010 - 9:36pm

The author makes it sound like the crisis has basically passed here in the U.S. I don't think so.

I wish the Pope & Bishops - perhaps even priests - would all view this issue as PASTORAL.. Many of the victims are locked in their anger, loss of trust....they need to be helped to...yes, forgive. The Amish do it. Can we also learn?

This might happen if first the Pope, bishops, priests....confess. Whether subjectively guilty or not, as leaders of the institution, and in place of the perpetrators, they should confess and ask forgiveness of the victims. May we all live out the lessons of Holy Week, washing their feet, accepting shame and humiliation - even those who are innocent - the focus being on helping victims, those who are able, to forgive, let go and unburden themselves as much as possible.

John Greenleaf | 4/3/2010 - 9:23pm
Excellent observations by Thomas Reese. While I agree completely with him that (as he says) "It is a scandal that Cardinal Law was the only U.S. bishop to resign because of this crisis." I suggest that it is an ongoing scandal that Cardinal Law lives and reigns in grand style at St. Mary Major in Rome. This kind of retirement after his outrageous behavior in Boston is a cynical joke and an insult to all who love and care about the church.
CLAIRE BANGASSER MS | 4/3/2010 - 8:57pm

Good article. Thank you.

It is not only homosexuals who molest children. Heterosexual men and women do it. Parents do it. 

I wish the medical truth would also come out about homosexuality so as to silence homophobes...

As to some of our bishops, they remind me of the men who brought the adulterous woman to Jesus...

Carolyn Disco | 4/3/2010 - 8:50pm

Kate,

Maybe there is a way we can exchange email addresses. Suggestion: check out the accused priest database at www.bishopaccountability.org to see if your abuser is there. Dont' worry if not; there are about 3K names in the database, but the church knows of about 5K and refuses to release them.

Only about 2% of those on the database have criminal convictions because of the statute of limitations. Are you lucky enough to live in Delaware, where there is no legal limitation any more? Some dioceses post the names on their websites, but most by far do not. More are considering it. All names there have come from public sources.

Also, you might use the SNAP bulletin board as a way to see if there are other victims out there. Finding someone abused by the same priest can be very healing.

You may know this, but the church is forbidden by the Dallas Charter from asking you for a confidentiality agreement in any settlement. Any confidentiality agreement request MUST come from you, if that is something you want.

Many survivors want their abuser's name on the database, and there has to be someplace else where the information is published first. Thought of asking your lawyer to put out a press release on the filing of your complaint? Your name will not be made public.

Now, the church pays bigger bucks for secrecy. Consult with your lawyer on the matter. It is your decision. You're probably a long way from settlement at the beginning of the process, but I pass on some thoughts for consideration. SNAP has many members who have been through the process.

Blessings,

Carolyn

Carolyn Disco | 4/3/2010 - 8:08pm

Kate,

Thank you for writing back. And congratulations for taking an important stop in moving away from being a victim to becoming a survivor. You are claiming your personal power. And as you see, the universe responds when you do.

You have a wonderful attitude: "It hardly matters what happens." Because the legal process can be infuriating as the defendant tries to hide documents, drag out motions and counter motions, submits interrogatories designed more to harass than learn the truth, takes depositions etc. ...that's the way it can work unless the Jesuits have changed their pattern. No matter, you are speaking truth to power, and God bless you.

Build support into your life, with family, friends; see if there is a SNAP chapter nearby at www.snapnetwork.org; continue to smell the flowers.

Feel the power...

Carolyn

PS: I'm named after my grandmother, too.

ed gleason | 4/3/2010 - 2:22pm

Irish bookies are giving betting odds on BXVI resignation at   6-4 [ bet 6 to winn 4 

Kate Smith | 4/3/2010 - 12:18pm

Carolyn, thank you for your words and encouragement.

The timing matters to me.  I didn't do it yet, but I had thought "suing the church" was too hard for me.  Then I got mad.   And then I remembered the strong women in my life, especially my grandmother Kate, who I am named after.  She had her own difficulties being Catholic - disowned and banished from ALL her Irish relatives after she married a Lutheran German sometime around 1925 in New York.  (By the way, my Lutheran grandpa was way more interested in my Catholic faith life than anyone else, always ASKING me about it.  Catholics don't ASK.)

So, I'm going to ask my attorney to file suit against the Jesuits on my grandmother's birthday in April - if that's what we have to do to make the Jesuits take responsibility.

I can be my grandmother's granddaughter and be strong and laugh and do what needs to be done - and life will go on.   I honestly didn't know this whole experience would feel full of grace.

Two years after I was sexually assualted by a Jesuit, an elderly Sister of Mercy in my hometown in NY kept asking about me.   She was my first and second grade teacher in CCD, and I hadn't seen her since I was 8 years old and never contacted her.  How weird is that?  My mother (who hates phones) kept calling me.   "Sr. Amabilis told me to call you and tell you she was praying for you."  My Mom did that at least 50 times over the next few years, and she got annoyed, asking me what was going on.  "Geesh, Mom, I don't know."  Then my Mom gave me something from Sr. Amabilis, a little figurine made of shells.  "Kate, she has nothing, but she wanted you to have something from her."

Then one day, Sr. Amabilis died, and I knew it.   The shell figurine fell on the floor.  I laughed and laughed, remembering all the times I read about weird things like that.  My mom called me later that day and said Sr. Amabilis died, and I said "I know."

Well, on Good Friday, my lawyer sent a letter to the Jesuits, as a step to going to court if we have to.   In other words, on Good Friday, I read about all the s*** in my life as expressed by my lawyer to the Jesuits. (My lawyer asked me to review it.)

A couple hours later, I heard something fall - that shell figurine from Sr. Amabilis - while I was checking on my tomato seeds.  And I laughed.   Again?  20 years later?  

Life is rich sometimes.   It hardly matters what happens.

Kate

Brian Norkett | 4/3/2010 - 2:03am

The underreported story here is the motives of those within the church to jump on the bandwagon of secular liberalism attacking the Pope. Our liberal Catholic friends are using this a a wedge to get the reforms that they want.  It's not about the kids it's about the church that they seek.

Well be careful what you wish for since when the forces of darkness are finished with the church there may not be much left of the church.  Rember that every dollar that goes into pockets of greedy plaintiff's attorneys is one less dollar spent feeding the poor or caring for the sick.

What we have here is a lynch mob against the church and lynchmobs have a poor record of dispensing justice.

Greta Green | 4/2/2010 - 11:36pm

One of the first things they need to do is make sure they cleanse their seminaries so that homosexuals are not brought into the priesthood.  Then as soon as any abuse occurs, they should get that person away from boys and into a padded cell and call the police.  If guilty, they should be thrown out of the priesthood and excommunicated.  Zero tolerance for abuse.

Then they should make sure a good investigation is started such as was done with the John Jay Report which clearly showed the homosexual attraction to twinks which is a huge problem in this community. 

However, all abuse of any type with kids needs to be exposed and punished.  The Catholic Church should take the lead in going after every type of abuse of children with no political correctness factor.  They need to expose for example the huge amount of homosexual porn on twinks which is aimed at boys between the ages of 11-17.  The Church made the mistake and paid the price and needs to use this bad experience to expose this huge issue in that community to proect the kids.  After all, that is what we are after, correct?  protecting kids.  This could not be about bashing the catholic church, even from within the church on the left.  Everyone should join in calling for life sentences for all abuse of minors.  every form of attraction to minors needs to be outted and huge rewards paid out for anyone doing this gravely disordered action.  If we gave out $100,000 for positive proof of anyone doing this, priest, teacher, or anyone else. we could start to end this plauge in a few years. 

Carolyn Disco | 4/2/2010 - 10:48pm

Kate B.

I am indeed grateful for your posting that shows what really happens, despite the fine words about the church being the safest place today for children.

Thank you for your pursuit of justice. May you find inner peace and healing from the sexual assault you experienced at the hands of a Jesuit. It seems religious orders are much worse than dioceses when it comes to hiding the secrets.

Blessings,

Carolyn

John McCloskey | 4/2/2010 - 7:46pm

There are many good, practical, honest and righteous actions and policies that bishops could have put into effect. That should be obvious by this point. I, and nearly the entire world, understand this. They have been bad managers and inept when confronted with the results of their mismanagement.

But the most awful thing is what most bishops have not done. They have not been Christian. Even today, they argue and maneuver, they litigate and yes, they pontificate. Why don't they just say "yes when they mean yes, and no when they mean no" for "anything else is from the evil one." Do they believe this? Or do they not? In place of tit for tat arguments about press coverage and bias, why don't they turn the other cheek? Or do they consider this admonition to be hopelessly naive? Instead of taking the places of honor and standing at the front of the church appearing to be above other men, perhaps they should be afraid to come fully into the sanctuary, and simply say "Lord have mercy, for I am a sinner." Instead of placing burdens on men that are impossible to bear and doing nothing to lighten these burdens, perhaps they should bear the burdens of the least, with their own money, to provide counseling for the troubled, financing for those who cannot work, and to bear the burdens of those who have been hurt by their lawyerly policies.

Do these men have faith?

These men do not have the courage of even a first year cadet at West Point, who agrees that he will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate anyone who does.

They do not have the wisdom of a 21 year old in officer candidate school, who learns in his leadership courses that you can delegate power, but you can never delegate responsibility. If something happens on your watch, it is your responsibility.

These men - not all bishops, but those who have resisted victims, sought to preserve their reputation at the cost of justice, lied and prevaricated - have shown themselves to be craven, venal, and mendacious. If they had any decency, they would go.

Marie Rehbein | 4/2/2010 - 10:21am

There is one thing that would happen if there were married men in the clergy of the Church, and that is that leaders would arise from that group who do not want to put thoughts of sex out of their minds. 

The married clergy would be people who have integrated thinking about sexual matters with thinking about all matters.  Therefore, it is likely that they would be more comfortable correcting the transgressors and reaching out to the victims than are the current leaders of the Church, who find sexual thoughts disruptive to their thoughts and feelings about God.

Kate Smith | 4/2/2010 - 6:37am

Fr. Reese, your history of the U.S. appears thorough, but you left out the history of religious orders.  I noticed your only example of religious orders was a good story about a Jesuit school in Germany.

I happen to know a lot about religious orders.  I was sexually assaulted by a Jesuit, and in the past decade the experience of "reporting it" introduced me to a new set of siblings - men and women who were also sexually assaulted by Jesuits and members of other religious orders.  David Clohessy, of SNAP, has a wonderful gift of telling people who contact him who it would be better to contact.   So, at a SNAP conference, when I approached David, he said "Kate, meet Kevin.  Kevin, meet Kate. I have to go.".......   Kevin is my brother for life.  He not only was sexually assaulted by a Jesuit, he was reporting it to the SAME province I was dealing with.   We could swear and laugh about it.

Here is the latest chapter for the history of the U.S. church, so the European church can do better.

The Jesuit who assaulted me was removed from ministry and teaching in 2003 after I was found credible.  The provincial who found me credible left the same year.  Midway through the term of provincial #2, the perp Jesuit was back teaching at Georgetown and Fordham and presiding at liturgy  - violating promises made to me AND violating a legal agreement.  

How did I know?  In 2009, I googled his name.   I'll never forget that day.  It was like being assaulted again.  I will never trust again.

Provincial #2 did nothing when I contacted him, so I contacted the Jesuit universities where the perp was teaching and the parish where he was presiding.  One university and the parish took action, but the provincial still did not.  So, I contacted Fr. Nicolas.  He said it would be addressed.  It wasn't.

Provincial #2 was still allowing the perp to teach, so the Jesuit president of the university banned him from campus - and sent the provincial a letter and sent me a letter telling me.

Provincial #3 is there now. I hired a lawyer, and today we are sending the provincial a letter, and going to court if we have to.

And the Jesuit provincial who allowed an abusive Jesuit to return to ministry and teaching?  That Jesuit was just named the president of a Jesuit high school, to start this summer.

I'm writing a letter to his new board, telling them about that Jesuit's refusal to take responsibility.

Brian Norkett | 4/2/2010 - 3:58am

It is well and good for the church to take responsibility for their failures. 

However, it does in any way serve the truth by NOT pointing out the extent of sexual abuse in other quarters of society, by not recognizing the intense bias against the Catholic church among the intelligentsia, by ignoring the media's half truths or downright lies at times, or by failing to explain the context and circumstances of how these decisions were made-in many instances 50 years ago.  It also does NOT serve justice to turn over unlimited sums o the church's money to greedy plaintiff's attorneys when that money could be spent feeding the poor or serving the needy.

I have practiced law for 25 years and in that time if I have learned anything it's that there are always two sides to every story and that lynch mobs seldom dispense justice very well.

Dale Rodrigue | 4/1/2010 - 8:45pm

What I don't understand is how bishops and cardinals who state they believe in and follow Christ (like the rest of us) can look the other way when they all heard the whispers and rumors of this behavior.  After all, didn't they all deal with transferring these priests?

I don't understand how they could suppress their consciences.  Is there something in the Vatican basement that proves Jesus wasn't real and these leaders are just living the good life at our expense? Is Dan Brown onto something?

Nah, the trappings of the Imperial lifestyle was too much to risk losing to blow the whistle.  As St. Paul said the root of all evil is the love of money (and the Imperial lifestyle I might add).

Fr. Reese is correct, they should face up and take action.  However, they're doing the opposite, blaming the NYT, and looking for a scapegoat (Bp. Weakland). 

Fr. Lombardi, the media guru for the Vatican stated he hasn't even spoken w/ B16 since March 20th!!!  I  guess they expect it  to just disappear next week. OR maybe B16 knows more is coming and  knows it's hopeless to say anything at the present time because he's toast?

God help our church during this time.

TIMOTHY RYAN | 4/1/2010 - 7:44pm

Glad to read another fine Article by FR Thomas Reese,S.J. Hope there will be many more in the future!

Carolyn Disco | 4/1/2010 - 5:38pm

A taste of the back-up:

http://votf.org/Survivor_Support/truth_list.html

Carolyn Disco | 4/1/2010 - 5:29pm

Re: “Nor is one apology enough. Like a husband who has been unfaithful to his wife, they must apologize, apologize, apologize.”

If I may, apologies have become such hackneyed expressions filled with euphemisms and the passive voice that they become non-apologies in effect. Pious language of all sorts, but never the heart of the matter: bishops admitting their culpability, not in the bleached verbal gymnastics of “mistakes” and “errors of judgment.”

By any common sense standard, it’s criminal endangerment of children, obstruction of justice, failure to report under the law, and in some cases even perjury. (I’ve got the back-up) Bishops should appreciate the truth will set them free, even if it is incriminating.

My own bishop, NH’s John McCormack, late of Boston, maintains he did nothing legally or morally wrong. “The state of Massachusetts brought no criminal charges, the state of New Hampshire brought no criminal charges,” with evasions and denial to follow. He submits his resignation this summer; priests are being "asked" for $75 to $80 donations for a purse honoring his golden anniversay. He will retire in all the glory of the office. Something is wrong here.

Our AG calls the conduct of complicit bishops willful blindness, conscious ignorance and flagrant indifference to the dangers priests posed to children. The Phila grand jury report and others are stinging indictments, and not because of “mistakes.” Bishops can boast of no indictments because of weak laws and statutes of limitation, but until they own the crisis as well as the solution, stalemate.

The real story is far from “I made a mistake, I moved this priest to another parish, I did not think he would abuse again, I got bad advice..."

The real story is lying to survivors about the perpetrator, withholding vital information from treatment centers, subjecting survivors to vicious legal hardball tactics. Just go to www.bishopaccountability.org for any of the government investigations and bishops' depositions.

George refused to remove an abuser even after his Review Board recommended it, and kept him in ministry until, what was it, 2005, well after the Dallas Charter. And he's head of the USCCB!

First step: stop the spin, tell the truth, not in some generalized cloud, but in all its particulars. I can go forward based on truthful communication, the real as it exists in God, in Bonhoeffer's words. Not the gruel we have been served so far.

Michael Barberi | 4/1/2010 - 4:23pm

Instead of intelligently managing this crisis, the Church has choosen to villify and stonewall the media.  I am not defending the media because they often over-react and mislead.  However, the strategy the Church has elected to adopt in this case is similiar to its intransigence and irrefutable weak responses to highly questionable past doctrines and dogma.  They are only digging themselves into a bigger hole.

Molly Roach | 4/1/2010 - 12:22pm

The US Bishops are still not leaders, still unwilling to take responsibility, still making excuses for themselves.