Can we trust the bishops?

Illinois Supreme Court Justice and and former interim chairwoman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Review Board Anne Burke, commenting on the wrenching Philadelphia story, asks some hard questions today about the U.S. bishops and the church's continuing crisis:

It appears that even after years of investigation of child abuse by priests, the cover-up of that abuse has been further institutionalized. Some of the alleged crimes in Philadelphia transpired while the National Review Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on which I served, was trying to get to the truth of the scandal. The indicted monsignor is accused of turning a blind eye to things in his chancery office. Of course, to blame a clerical official, and not his archbishop, of such deviousness presents a mistaken analysis of how the church works.


The bishops say they responded to this scandal, and hold up as evidence the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which they put into motion back in 2002. I do not denigrate that historic step. It did a lot to make children safer in our Catholic institutions. It permitted the National Review Board the opportunity to examine the causes and effects of the scandal.

But the news that more than 24 active priests in Philadelphia face abuse accusations, and that some were allowed to remain in active ministry after accusations were made against them years ago, raises new fears.

For me, these are much more than institutional nightmares. This makes me wonder what kind of people we are dealing with when we engage the bishops. How is it that they say one thing and secretly intend something else? Are they ever to be trusted?

I remember the sometimes vicious response some members of the church hierarchy gave to the National Review Board when we were doing our work some years ago. Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York, actually wanted to ban us from his fiefdom, as if we were coming from some rival kingdom to challenge his rule.

All the events of our investigation and audit get colored with new meaning in light of the charges in Philadelphia. Little has changed.

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Brendan McGrath
7 years 5 months ago
Jim McCrea
7 years 5 months ago
In general - no.

In specific cases - TBD.
Anne Chapman
7 years 5 months ago
No, it seems that the bishops (as a class within the church) cannot be trusted, although certainly there are individual bishops who may be trustworthy. 

Sadly, it will take a very long time before many  trust the bishops (or Rome, for that matter) again. As a class, the hierarchy clearly lacks both moral judgment and moral courage, and cannot be trusted to tell the full truth. It is nine years since the ''big'' story broke in Boston. It has been more than 25 years since Father Thomas Doyle presented his report on sexual abuse by priests to the bishops of the US, exposing the truth of what was happening, and warning of dire consequences for the church if the bishops didn't act.  Thomas Doyle was ostracized for telling the bishops the truth, and his report was ignored.

 The bishops (and Rome) have had a great deal of time to enact policies that would not only impact lower clergy and parish staff and volunteers, but that would hold bishops themselves accountable for failing to remove priests from their jobs when receiving reports of abuse, and for failures to cooperate with the civil authorities. The bishops refuse to police themselves. Rome refuses to act against bishops. The US bishops elected Cardinal George to head the USCCB shortly after he had been forced to admit that he had failed to act in another case AFTER the adoption of the Dallas accord, and had once again chosen to protect a priest rather than remove him from his job pending the results of an investigation. Nor did he contact the police about the allegations (which turned out to be true). Now there is Philadelphia. Who will be next?  The same story is unfolding in Ireland right now, and the Cloyne report should be published soon.

Some don't trust the government or politicians - but politicians must face the electorate every few years, and those politicians, military leaders, or government executives who are shown to have lied or to have grievously failed in their jobs can be recalled or fired. More than one has been tried for extremely serious offenses (illegal) and gone to prison. Unfortunately there are no such mechanisms to force some kind of accountability, responsibility, or penalty on bishops.

Dale Rodrigue
7 years 5 months ago
''The floor in Hell is lined with the skulls of bishops''

St. John Chrysostom
Crystal Watson
7 years 5 months ago
There may be some individual bishops who are trustworthy, but as a group, I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them.  People in government are not better, but they are accountable.  The bishops think they're untouchable.  I hope civil law proves them wrong someday.
david power
7 years 5 months ago
History has thrown up very differing types of Bishops.
There are periods when to be a bishop is a dangerous thing and so it takes men of courage. History or Christian history has given us incredible men of God who were bishops and really were men to trust and admire.Men of Culture  and learning,simplicity and brilliance.It is a sin to compare those men to those imbeciles of today.
Bishops are either motivated by love of God or love of power, which is then given a holy translation. Most bishops have a few extra pounds than a priest because eating habits reveal a covetous nature .
The question is not or should not be can we trust bishops, but this batch.
There are about 5000 bishops in the world and it is hard to name a good one among them.Intelligent yes.Conscience-based, a good few. Interesting,very few.They have all memorized very well the cathechism and have little to show for it.But if you read interviews with them you see that they are of an incredibly poor quality.They measure every answer for a calculated end and it is not to shoot Christ into the veins of the jaded masses but simply to not frighten the horses lest they rock  the boat. Who of the current batch would blow the whistle on childabuse?
Who among them would kiss a leper on the lips?

As long as their reasoning is based on the power of the Church it would be best to calculate if your interests clash with theirs.If so, watch your back and keep an eye on your kids.

I would truly love to hear of a good bishop.It would give me so much solace for anybody to tell me the name of a good and holy bishop(Maria,Fr Hardon was not a bishop!).
A man who has cojones and knows he is swimming with sharks and would take a baseball bat to pedophiles while promising to pray for them later.
Somebody throw me a name.      
Jack Barry
7 years 5 months ago
If you are referring to Card. O'Malley, Boston, trust is limited.  He has been playing the same game in Boston of refusing to release promised names of abusers that he started when he was ''cleaning up'' Fall River in 2002.   In Fall River, the DA finally got the names out.   In Boston in March, several groups were seeking help from the State Attorney General.   
Also in March, an order of nuns was taking the cardinal to the Mass. Supreme Court because they have been unable for about 5 years to retrieve their lay-employee pension money from a church-run underfunded fund.   
Todd Flowerday
7 years 5 months ago
I think David's assessment in post one is a bit off. In an ideal world, the bishops have a ''moral platform'' and politicians have a public accountability. Before the advent of corporate ownership of the political process, I would say politicians, in general, were one with us. The bishops have attached themselves to the trappings of a privileged aristocracy. This is outdated, counterproductive, and antigospel.

In general, bishops, however, have behaved immorally and illegally, as politicians in general have shown themselves faithless.

I tend to trust my own bishop. My sense is Judge Burke is also trustworthy. Her assessment comes as a faithful and loyal Catholic well acquainted with the law.

'' ... but the bishops were the ones being attacked, so you'd expect them to circle the wagons.''

I would hope this wasn't the assessment. Children and teens were the victims, and the bishops were guilty bystanders. If the bishops truly saw themselves as the attacked, then I'd assess them as victims of their own arrogance and narcissism. And until they repent and reform as a group, we shouldn't be surprised that they continue not getting it.
7 years 5 months ago
The Dallas Charter was nothing more that a "gentleman's agreement" beteen the offending Bishops and the offending priests to look the other way. The Charter was intended to hold no one accountable. There is one word missing from the Charter. Anyone know what it is? We have these men to thank for the sexualization of our children in "Catholic" schools. There is a gargantuan elephant in the room and we just keep talking around it, to no avai.
7 years 4 months ago
Justice Burke's last paragraph is spot on!
Vince Killoran
7 years 4 months ago
"She has no credibility in my book."

I think Joe is off base about Anne Burke:among other things, she is a co-founder of the Special Olympics and was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1996.
Crystal Watson
7 years 4 months ago
David P,

I remember Cardinal Bergiglio.  I had thought he'd be a good future pope, but then I read up on him and some of what I read was kind of disturbing.  He seems to be very conservative,  anti-liberation theology, and there are allegations of his conspiring with the military junta in 1976 to have a couple of too-liberal Jesuits kidnapped   ....

And this from the LA Times ...

I don't know if the allegation are believable, but it gives one pause.
Frank Gibbons
7 years 4 months ago
Todd -

Of course I'd listen to you if you criticized the Bishops over their handling of the sex abuse scandal - if you also criticized the way the Society of Jesus dealt with sexual abuse within their order. 

Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago

Excellent that we are on the same page then. I was most recently critical of the Jesuit handling of affairs in northern Alaska on my blog. I'm also convinced that sex (among other tools) has been used in an addiction to power. Alas, religious orders, especially ones that emphasize authority (perhaps at the expense of other virtues) are not immune from this.

I happen to think that America is a perfect medium to explore this. On the other hand, I would think it about as uncomfortable as asking the Philadelphia diocesan organ to go authentic journalism on Cardinal Rigali. But it sure would make a statement if they did.

However, this thread is about Anne Burke, who is not a Jesuit. And neither are most of the commentators here. Nor are nearly all of the USCCB.

I would not ask you to type a screed against the bishops, and neither would I respond to any request for a similar statement on the Jesuits as some gesture of bona fides for a mutual credibility. I certainly don't need that. You don't. And neither does the Church.
Anne Chapman
7 years 4 months ago

Why are you so willing to ignore the culpability of the bishops in permitting sexual abusers to continue to abuse?  Why as a Catholic do you spend all of your concern on the public school system - the public school system is forced to be accountable - to the voters, and to the taxpayers. The hierarchy of the church is not accountable to anyone it seems - except now, possibly, the civil authorities in Philadelphia who are doing the job that bishops and Rome should have been doing all along.

Why do you not care about this?  Why do you persist in trying to whitewash it by saying ''others do it too.''  This forum is about the church's issues; every voter and taxpayer has a say in what happens in their public school system. Catholics have no say in their own church.

THis tactic (switch the conversation to the other guy) could lead some to think that those who adopt it  don't really care about the victims of priests - that they care only about the ''reputation'' of the institution - exactly the same priority that the hierarchy had, an attitude that created thousands of victims unncecessarily. These bishops claim to be teachers of morality. How can anyone trust their moral judgment or moral discernment when they clearly failed to show either when it came to choosing between protecting the young and protecting an institution?
Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago
I'll venture out on a limb with a speculation.

That America and Commonweal are perceived to be too repetitive on this theme may be also, in part, because the cover-up scandal has blown away the notion that conservative/orthodox/obedient/magisterium Catholics are somehow more moral than liberals.

Nearly every liberal and liberal outlet are unfailingly critical of the bishops on their handling of known sex predators. Conservatives-some, but not all-agree. Some wring hands and bring up homosexuality or the 60's. But I think we all know that bishops of pretty much every stripe, most notably the JP2 set, have erred in great numbers. Greater percentages than the misbehaving clergy.

I think some Catholics are deeply bothered that the myth of conservative moral superiority has been obliterated. In fact, I'd say some of them seem to be steaming over it. The truth confronts them, but they can't believe it. It's a John 9:41 moment.

I do not think bishops will join Commonweal and America, because they are generally hamstrung on the meme that people in Orders, especially high Orders, are more moral than the rest of the rabble.

In truth, they are given substantial responsibilities. They certainly need our prayers. But some have sinned and committed crimes.
"Most of us here are indulging in group think - we're horrified because everybody else is horrified."

Not quite. Liberal news outlets exposed and covered the bishops' misbehavior. Everyone else is horrified because liberal Catholics got there first.

The more these internet conversations continue, the more familiar it all seems: the alcoholism of my family, the addicts who married in, and the crazy excuses and justifications thrown up to those of us who atttempted a life with some sobriety. The bishops need an intervention, and I daresay many of their supporters should be invited for it, too.
Anne Chapman
7 years 4 months ago

The reason people keep talking about the atrocious behavior of the bishops - again and again and again - is because the bishops keeping behaving badly -  again, and again, and again!  It hasn't stopped. It's still happening - reports from everywhere. Philadelphia in the US, New Hampshire, Chicago under George just a few years ago (after the Dallas charter and yet he is elected to head the USCCB), Ireland - the Cloyne report due out this week, Belgium -what has Rome done about the pedophile bishop who gives interviews with winks about  how his nephews ''liked'' his intimacies, etc. etc. etc for years and years and years. In Philadelphia - first Rigali lied about no priests still being in their positions who had ''credible'' allegations against them, then he did a quick about-face and removed another couple dozen priests.   David, don't you read the news? 

Has it not occurred to you that many people believe the same thing about the bishops because they have independently reached these conclusions from ''watching'' the bishops (and Rome) for more than 9 years now? From learning that the US bishops asked Thomas Doyle to investigate way back in the 80s, and that when he reported on what he found, they tabled the report and essentially exiled him- Kill the messenger because he didn't produce what they wanted?

Report after report after report of bad judgment, of deliberate malfeasance at times?  How can anyone not follow this situation for years and not reach the conclusion that the bishops (and Rome) failed repeatedly and miserably to protect young people long after they knew about priest abuse?  In the United States, in Ireland, in Germany, in Austria, in Canada, in Belgium, in Australia (Bishop Robinson headed that inquiry - and he has spoken out and he is now ostracized by the church), in Chile.....  And with the exception of Archbishop Martin of Dublin and Geoffrey Robinson of Australia (there may be others - Kevin Clark is asking people for names), not one bishop (certainly not one in the U.S.) has ever openly and publicly called on his fellow bishops to be honest, to take responsibility, to be accountable, and to prove their good intentions by drawing up some kind of charter policy to police themselves - the only thing they did was a token charter that governs the volunteers, the lay staffs, and the lower clergy - background checks, fingerprints, courses ((I don't know if those provisions even apply to priests, but apparently they do to deacons). It's a start, but the big problem is the bishops and they have done nothing to police themselves.

If you have another way of looking at the ''sexual abuse thing'' (molesting, rapitng, and sodomizing children and young teens - those who would rather not look at the realities too closely must read this - ) that does not involve changing the subject to public schools and society in general, if you have some kind of evidence that any bishop except for those already named has spoken up and spoken out about this situation, if you have any evidence that the information kept at is wrong, then please tell us.

Those who thinks that the widely shared horror at the absolutely lack of moral judgment and accuntability shown by the hierarchy of the church all the way up to Rome and including the newly ''blessed'' late pope for literally decades now is ''group think'', perhaps  should do a little reflection on why they aren't also horrified by it all.
Jack Barry
7 years 4 months ago
David Smith  -
There's an alternative to the way you assume various people operate.   Independent thinkers, naturally inclined to debate, each examine data about some subject of interest.   Each makes her or his own mind up about the validity of the data.   He or she then draws conclusions that are supported by the data.   Afterwards, several people may agree.  If so, that's consensus.   Multiple independent repetitions strengthen confidence in the conclusions.  Persistent conclusions over time ''again and again'' show that the underlying subject of interest isn't changing noticeably.  
The process is the opposite of group-think.  It can also be distinguished from conspiracy by the motives of the people involved.   
Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago
"What bothers me is the ... refusal to move away from complaint to analysis and toward solution."

Actually, David, this is not true.

My suggestion is to treat this matter as an addictive system. We are viewing an addiction to power and control. Sex is one tool of this addiction. Bishops need to see they have been duped by addicts who have groomed them as allies.

Bishops would do well to acquaint themselves with the nature of addiction and codependency, to set aside secrecy-a favorite tool of addicts. Wide and wise consultation on personnel matters will ensure that present and future addicts do not gain the ear of a bishop and twist his crozier into a knot.

"(W)hy not at least concede the possibility that (bishops) based their actions on what they thought at the time to be solid moral foundations?"

I suspect they did. Successful addicts are able to present a defense to those they have groomed, telling them exactly what they want to hear. There's a reason why some abusers are able to manipulate by the dozens. And if they were able to seduce children and their families into loyalty, they certainly are able to manipulate bishops.

Others have suggested structural changes to the Church. The elimination of privilege and secrecy among bishops-but I hold out little hope for that.
Jack Barry
7 years 4 months ago
Todd  -  
Your model is interesting and, to me, has some plausibility as a partial explanation.   It seems to go too far in portraying the bishop as purely a helpless victim who is some combination of stupid, naive, uninformed, and inexperienced.  
Try an interesting experiment.   Exchange the two names, ''bishop'' and ''addict'', wherever they appear.   Your descriptive framework holds as written, but the implications of who is exploiting whom change.  The details of the power flow are different, more or less parallel to organizational authority rather than opposing it.   A result is support for a bishop's having an overinflated conviction  of his own wisdom, holiness, and importance, which feeds his need.   The codependent's activities are enabling, since covert control over a child sexual abuser gives the bishop one more power lever to exercise, which feeds his need.   ?
Anne Chapman
7 years 4 months ago
Todd, while you are probably on target as far as the addiction to power and privilege goes, it's important to go beyond simply recognizing that it is an addiction to looking for the roots of the addiction.  I agree with Jack that the bishops are far from helpless and stupid men, subject to easy manipulation by the perverted priests under their supervision. Their decisions to protect the perverts and continue to put young people at great risk was most likely not due to being manipulated by the priests. There was no ''good'' reason to do this. Nothing justifies leaving kids at risk for sexual molestation. There is no ''moral foundation'' that justifies the highest leaders of the church enabling evil to be done to the young. These men may not be ''evil'', David, but their decisions led directly to evil being done.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson addresses the source of the addiction of the hierarchy to power and privilege and to their belief that their only responsibility was to the pope and not to THE church in his book - Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church:
Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus. 

It is not possible to summarize the book in a sentence or two. I had reached most of the same conclusions as he did long before I ever heard of him or the booki. However, I found the book to be affirming - it meant that I am not the only one who came to these conclusions, and he, as a bishop and as someone who spent nine years investigating the sexual abuse cases in Australia, is far better qualified than I to explain it all. The causes of the scandal of a hierarchy that refuses to be accountable goes so deep into the church's past, with all of the complexities of how this mind-set developed over 1700 or so years, and infiltrated church teaching and thus church governance, that only in-depth study will begin to get to the heart of the matter. And then there might be some solutions. However, there is no incentive for those in the hierarchy and Rome to do this - they are victims of their own (probably unrecognized) attachments to power and privilege and possessions, and like most who enjoy these things in politics or in business or elsewhere in secular society, they have no desire to give them up. But they are in the unique position of being able to say that they alone can determine these things - they alone can speak ''for'' God. There is no electorate, no board of governors, no stockholders to whom they must answer - and this makes honest and genuine reform almost impossible.
David Pasinski
7 years 4 months ago
Another blog site America is posting is a topic that could well be relevant here- a "Culture of Complicity." We have struggled in our city, as have many others, to establish an effective Civilian Review Board for police actions.  The efforts have largely failed due to such a culture- some good men and women who would not break a code and culture of complicity.  Such is the case, i believe, with many chancery personnel as well as among the bishops themselves who would never speak publicly about what they know has been tolerated at higher levels or among brother bishops.  I have known some very good men whom,I believe, are compromsed by this culture.
John Barbieri
7 years 4 months ago
The bishops, like the rest of us, are defined by their actions.
"Res ipsa loquitor!"
They don't care!
Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago
"The proof of the pudding in the present is how many cases of sexual abuse have occurred the last 8 years and how have they been handled."

Indeed. Cardinal George rejected his own review board's recommendation and allowed predation to continue unchecked for a while. Bishop Walsh in Santa Rosa CA delayed long enough to allow a predator to flee the country. These are the cases we know about. Do any critical thinkers believe beyond doubt we have seen them all?

"A baseline of comparison should be made with cases of sexual abuse in the public school system and how they have been handled. If America could do investigative research and come up with these numbers, we would have the current situation fully before us and the American people."

Personally, I think bishops and priests should be held to a higher standard than teachers and principals. But to compare, we would need to find an instance where a principal or school board had buried forty complaints and allowed two dozen teachers to continue employment. We might need to consider that there is less "brotherly" connection between teachers and administrators. We might also need to consider the baseline that a significant percentage of bishops have moved predators-much higher than the percentage of priests who have abused. Would an investigated find that most principals and school boards had sheltered an abuser? Our clergy should be held to a higher standard, but I suspect the moral and legal performance of bishops is lower than in the secular world of education.

Lastly, I do agree there is an aspect in hiding-the reality that almost all abuse happens with a family member or trusted friend. Families, by far, are the more likely locus for abuse. If the Church had the moral high ground, it might be an agent for change, reform, and healing. People lament-and rightly so-the lives destroyed by the clergy and bishops. But another loss, much overlooked, is that the Church has placed itself beyond the bounds of credibility in being an advocate for victims and survivors of family abuse.
Alessandro Bresba
7 years 4 months ago
I'm a frequent reader of this blog but haven't posted as the intensity of the discussion can be a little intimidating - witness the still simmering Lady Gaga post by Tom Beaudoin from a few days back... :)

But I am very interested in Kevin Clarke and David Power's call to nominate good adn trust worthy bishops.  Which bishops do the readers of this blog look to as pastoral, holy leaders of their congregations?  The first ones that came to my mind are deceased (John XXIII, Romero), but if we want to limit ourselves to the living, I was thinking of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia, author of Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, certainly the best and most holistic response to the issues of sexual abuse that I've heard from any of the Catholic clergy.

Who else?
Jack Barry
7 years 4 months ago
Starting at the top, the choices from five metropolitan archdioceses headed by cardinals:  
Boston (Sean O'Malley), Chicago (Francis George), Galveston-Houston (Daniel DiNardo), Philadelphia (Justin Rigali), and Washington (Donald Wuerl). 
Four other archdioceses have retired archbishops who are cardinals: 
Baltimore (William Keeler), Detroit (Adam Maida), Los Angeles (Roger Mahony), and New York (Edward Egan)   [Wikipedia]
Bill Mazzella
7 years 4 months ago
"I'd trust the bishops long before I'd trust the government.  They are at least standing on a moral platform, even if their actions are ignorant and misguided.  Governments don't even pretend to morality - their only mandate is to please as many people as possible."

Well. Let's hear it for hypocrisy!
Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago
Well, Frank, I'm not a Jesuit, and I haven't abused children, only listened to friends and survivors recount their story. If I criticize the bishops, will you listen to me?
david power
7 years 4 months ago

I think that Archbishop Martin is a case worth studying .
His history was more or less all wrong.Vatican insider, and according to one person I know who worked with him very concerned about media approval.
Then he was sent to Dublin in what seems to be the usual Roman way , two seconds reflection at the table of a trattoria which of course is then made out to be a fabled Pope on his knees praying and fasting. 
His first few years  backed that up as he made the most boring and cautious speeches and basically seemed to be biding his time to get back onto the international circuit after realizing what a cesspit of an act Irish Catholicism had become.  
Then sometime around 2007 the Ghost of Hamlet's father seems to have whispered in his ear and he threw away the script and started his very own violent torpedo of truth tour. 
His sin in the eyes of many clerics is that he broke from his fellow bishops and did not practise the holy collegiality that had been practised till that point.Cardinal Ottiviano rightly remarked that the only time the Apostles acted as a college was when they deserted Jesus. So ,you now have a man who is standing alone.He does not want to be a hero (he is not!) but is simply too long in the tooth to playact like the rest of the Irish bishops. I am not sure he would have done any better than the rest 10 or 15 years ago but right now he is in the unique position of being a liberal who is the only shred that remains of  catholic credibility in the island to the west of hope.
7 years 4 months ago
"Holy collegialaity" (ro cover up abuse)!
 How droll.
Bishops are a special breed and unworthy of accountability or correction.Thank God we had Cardinal Ottaviani to point the way.
I think it's really sad that all some folks can do  in disagreement is attack.
Such is blogdom these days.
Anne Chapman
7 years 4 months ago
In addition to Geoffrey Robinson and Archbishop Martin, it seems that Cardinal Christopher Schonborn of Vienna might be a trustworthy sort. I don't know much about him, but he has had the courage at times to call a spade a spade - and been chastised by Rome for doing so.  The courage to speak out and speak up is sorely lacking in the hierarchy.
7 years 4 months ago
This is the Anne Burke who got her job because her husband is alderman Burke.  Do you realize how corrupt Illinois/Chicago politics is?  She has no credibility in my book.  That is not to say that I am blindly defending the bishops. Its just that to take Anne Burke seriously is to be blindly led.
david power
7 years 4 months ago

I actually met Cardinal Schoenborn once in Rome.I have also met Cardinal O Malley in London and Archbishop Martin twice.
It is hard to know a person in 5 minutes but the most powerful figure I met was Cardinal Bergiglio.The Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a Jesuit and radiates holiness and humility,miracles happen :).
I think that the Jesuit Charism can give the Church a great gift in it's form of independence.  Jesuits like Bergoglio have another look in their eye that goes beyond the norm.
The Cardinal sent me some books to read and one of them ,which I have in my bedroom, is letters written by the General Superiors of the Jesuits prior to and after the suppression of the order.
Cardinal Bergoglio wrote an introduction which is magnificent."Las Cartas de la Tribulacion", "The letters of tribulation" would be the English translation. They read the entire ordeal in a spiritual key while also no doubt being aware of the veniality of the papacy.One of the key words they all use is "discernment",so lacking from the Church in recent decades. 
The centre of the letters reflects the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius in that the goal is always to arrive at Jesus.This is another gift the Jesuits can give to the Church.

I have found a little solace thinking of this man.
Thanks Anne and Kevin!      
7 years 4 months ago
This is the same Anne Burke who struck down tort reform in Illinois even though her husband gets most of his political money from trial lawyers.  Conflict of interest Anne???  She should have recused herself if she had an ounce of fairness!

Her career is full of political appointments by Republicrats like Thompson and Edgar.  Getting "elected" as a judge is a joke since people have no idea who is on the ballot.
Vince Killoran
7 years 4 months ago
C'mon Joe-this can't be your contribution to the discussion, i.e., bashing Anne Burke.  I know you don't like her politics but if your read her biography with an open mind you'd see that she is a substantial person.

Yeah, there are lots of good lawyer jokes out there but the bishops behavior has been so bad that they don't even merit humor.
Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago

I'm not comparing victims or abusers-I'm comparing management. I'm not aware of a study comparing bishops and district-level school administration. I don't think bishops of the past ten to thirty years would come off looking well in comparison.

If we compare cardinals currently in active ministry, we're looking at 40% minimum bungling-a major snafu in Philadelphia, and a loud belch in Chicago.

If school administrators were passing known abusers school to school or to another district, I have a sense that journalists would be all over it. I suspect that there's more turnover among the ranks of teachers than priests, so possibly teachers are let go without a record. It's also got to be much harder for a teacher to avoid a rep in a school of any size. Kids talk about the harmless foibles of their educators like you wouldn't believe. They did when I was young. And we knew which people to avoid.

That sex abusers are active in society: this is not news. Not at all. What is a scandal for the Catholic Church is the high number of bishops who have covered up for their clergy. I don't understand why you and other commentators, Walter, seem unwilling to engage that fact.

Abusive clergy are the addicts, and when an addict is uncovered, there are proper moral, legal, and safeguarding steps that can and should be taken. Bishops, however, are the scandal. And until a study emerges that indicts half of the district administrators in the US, no amount of earnest blogging from the Jovial One or from misguided apologists is going to convince that education has a bigger problem than the Church.
Frank Gibbons
7 years 4 months ago

This post is about Ann Burke?  It's called "Can we trust the Bishops"?  With America and Commonweal, it's always about the bishops and the hierarchy.  It's a riff that goes on ad infinitum and ad nauseum. Somone could blog that the violets failed to bloom this year and, on cue, there will be comments that it's the bad, bad hierarchy's fault.  These knee-jerk reactions not only lack insight, but they are incredibly tiresome as well.  I'd like to see a little more introspection on the part of the Commonweal and America contingent. 
Joe Garcia
7 years 4 months ago
I second (or is it third) the "nomination" of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ. His criticisms (in my view, very well founded) of "liberation theology" as is popularly defined, only raises his stature in my eyes. If the rumors after the 2005 Conclave are to be believed - and there's no way to know how much/little of those rumors are true - he was 2nd to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in the balloting, and (surprisingly!) the favorite of the more progressive cardinals voting.

The people whom I know how know/have met Cdl. Bergoglio are unanimous in their praise for his kindness, humility, prayerfulness and steadfast adherence to the Magisterium. For those of you who read Spanish, his homilies are a joy, many of them ex tempore and often peppered with charming colloquialisms.

I'd also like to "nominate" Abp. Terrence Prendergast, SJ of Ottawa.
ed gleason
7 years 4 months ago
Walter Mattingly will always bring up 'it's the teachers'. I have repeatedly told him the school boards have open meetings with open mikes so take what ever evidence you have to those meetings. I have told him there are more than 100 times more public school teachers teachers than priests There are three times the number of Catholic school teachers than priests. His 'studies' by Shakeshaft include as abuse surveys of students and 'looks' and jokes are lumped into the count.  Walter... show us the numbers. Better yet take it to an education blog. 
Anne Chapman
7 years 4 months ago
David Smith,

You have concluded that "most" at America (and Commonweal?) engage in "group think" and are "horrified" because everyone else is.

 On what do you base this rather sweeping conclusion? 
Todd Flowerday
7 years 4 months ago
"It's a riff that goes on ad infinitum and ad nauseum."

But that doesn't demonstrate it's wrong. If a child persists in refusing to clean her room, do his chores, or break curfew I'm sure the parental riff gets nauseating after several instances. But it is more a reflection on the lectured than the audience. Perhaps it is the behavior of clergy and prelates that is sickening.

The bishops don't get it. People who harp on abusers or teachers also don't get it.

I challenge Walter and other apologists to find one instance of a principal or school administrator burying a review board's recommendation to terminate a teacher-just like the Smart One did in Chicago. Let alone leaving two dozen teachers in place like Cardinal Rigali in Philadelphia.

At some point, you have to face the reality: the bishops have blundered this as badly as they could. This is like DOE and Justice telling school boards to crack down on perp teachers then have it blow up legally nine years later. Voters wouldn't wait for the next election; they would demand an immediate recall. Bishops are lifers ... unless they advocate for women's ordination or get married.
Molly Roach
7 years 4 months ago
Blackmail.  There are priests and bishops who are sexually active in ways we can understand as not criminal.  Refer to the work of Father Donald Cozzens and Richard Sipe.   Now, it is one thing to present possible %'s of this activity but it would be another thing entirely to start naming names.  My conclusion is that the criminal perpetrators are blackmailing the non-criminally active.  To name them would make it all very real and the moral situation of the Church hierarchy apparently dire. I'm guessing a lot of clerics are in on this secret.   Who, on the clerical inside of this troubled institution, is willing to be the man who begins that process of uncovering.  And yet, I think this is what needs to be done.  Trust the bishops?  Not until they can speak the truth.  
Jack Barry
7 years 4 months ago
Molly  -  The plausibility of blackmail is certainly supported by the work of Richard Sipe and others.   It would combine with other factors at work. 
In 2003, the 1st of the 3 Philadelphia Grand Juries reported a germane finding (p. 8):  
''Finding 10.  Many non-offender priests have remained silent in the face of clear evidence that a brother priest is sexually molesting a minor, and in some cases have actually covered up the abuse. The Archbishop and his appointed administrative managers foster this silence in order to avoid scandal in the Church and do not encourage priests to report suspected abusers.''  
Brave handfuls of individual priests have spoken out since 2002.  Tens of thousands appear publicly to be non-committal on child sexual abuse coverup by their superiors.  Whether the explanation is cowardice, complicity, or distorted notions of obedience or fraternal loyalty, the effect is consent by silence.  
Recall a memorable 58 priests in Boston in 2002 who found the courage and virtue to write publicly to Law calling for him to go.  Their letter could serve as a model today if there were 58 more such priests in the US.


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