Questions About, and Essential Reading, on Philadelphia

I am having a difficult time comprehending the appalling situation in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  It's really almost incomprehensible to me.  My main questions are: How could this be happening in my hometown nine years after the Dallas Charter was promulgated?  Is it possible that priests with credible accusations could still be in ministry almost a decade after the sexual abuse crisis first broke in Boston?  After Pope John Paul II said that there was "no place" in the priesthood for abusers?  After agonizing testimony from victims and their families, after millions and millions of dollars of payouts following countless lawsuits, after the resignation of Bernard Cardinal Law, after the founding of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the USCCB, after "safe environment" programs were instituted across the country, after Pope Benedict met personally with victims of abuse during his trip the the United States.  In short, after years of agony?   To begin to answer those questions, Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law and one of the original members of the National Review Board, provides an analysis in Commonweal.  (On a personal note, I was horrified to see one of my childhood pastors among the list of 21 priests removed from ministry.)  Here is Cafardi:

What was wrong with the Philadelphia review board and the bishops who signed off on their decisions? Who instructed board members on the standard of proof? The fact that bishops approved the board’s mistaken recommendations doesn’t mean they committed a crime. The grand jury would have indicted those bishops if it had come to that conclusion. Still, their failures ought to give pause to critics of zero tolerance. As should the admitted failure of Cardinal Francis George, who—three years after lobbying for zero tolerance in Dallas—refused the advice of his own review board and allowed an abusive priest to remain in ministry. Until there are no more Bostons, no more Philadelphias, no more Chicagos, any talk of softening zero tolerance remains premature. Without that policy, we’d be asked simply to trust such bishops’ judgment. As any Philadelphia parent would ask, Why should we? Read the rest here.


St. Katharine Drexel, St. John Neumann, pray for your city.

James Martin, SJ


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Jim McCrea
7 years 10 months ago
" - it may take time for Benedict to replace the bishops who were appointed over the last 30 or so years -"

Why?  Maybe he won't try because he is in agreement with the criteria by which they were selected.
David Pasinski
7 years 10 months ago
Thank you, Father Martin, for acknowledging this. To say that this is deja vu all over again is trite and incorrect- because it is much worse than that.  This time, it truly appears due to intentional (as opposed to ignorant) or totally negligent behavior by the hierarchy or those appointed to review such cases. Six year ago I completed a thesis for an MA in Public Administration on how the Boston crisis was mishandled from an administrative and crisis management point of view.  Others will have grist for a similar project in Philly - even if this doesn't result in an abdication like that of Cardinal Law.  As has been often said, the faithful now, I believe,  are much less scandalized by the immature and even exploitative behavior of the offending or accused clergy than they are by the self- serving and arrogant negligence- or much worse and more malevolently stained -  disposition and actions of the hierarchy.  
Jim McCrea
7 years 10 months ago
"There is no real accountability for bishops who abetted sexual abuse by failing to remove predator priests from access to children or for bishops who failed to comply with civil laws requiring reporting of abuse of minors.
Nor will there be soon.
Two explanations surface; one might be considered divine, the other, thoroughly human.
Bishops are jealous men. They are jealous of their responsibility as divinely appointed teachers of the Catholic Church. To their way of thinking, anything that might weaken their God-given, divine authority as teachers and guardians of the faith merits immediate and fierce resistance. From this point of view, calls to hold bishops accountable save to the pope himself, offend the dignity of the bishops' office and are framed by Vatican officials as attacks on the church. Instead of accountability, we are told that mistakes were made, sometimes tragic in their consequences. But, it is explained, they were mistakes made in the best interests of the church. Anything more, the Vatican fears, would undercut the authority of the bishop's teaching office and diminish his credibility.
Bishops are princes. We need but look at their ermine-trimmed robes and catch the ring of their courtly titles, "your excellency," "your grace," "your eminence." As elite members of the last feudal system in the West and one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, we shouldn't be surprised if bishops, as princes of the realm, are answerable only to their sovereign, the bishop of Rome.
If the hierarchy's royal accruements were simply vestiges of their medieval past, they might be harmless enough. But these episcopal conceits have forged a culture of privilege, secrecy, and exemption that is now exposed as a detriment to both their teaching and pastoral roles.
Even armchair psychologists can imagine how insular the life of royalty inevitably becomes - and how dangerous the royal power can be even in the best of men. A sobering insight follows: It remains exceedingly difficult for anyone in power to feel the pain of others, even the pain of young victims abused by their pastors. It's the exceptional bishop who maintains real contact with members of his flock, who listens to the laity as one disciple to another, who lets the pain of the abused rend his heart. Sadly, it appears that it's the exceptional bishop who puts the good of the children ahead of the good of the institutional church.
More than a half century ago, the Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich wrote that any religion that took upon itself the right to judge the values and mores of the world must be ready to subject itself to the same standards of judgment by which it judged the secular sphere. If a religion failed to do so, he warned, it rightly stood subject to the judgment of the world.
Then, Tillich added, this is the particular danger of the Catholic Church."
Donald Cozzens May. 17, 2010 Don't expect accountability from the last feudal system in the West”
7 years 10 months ago
 "The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than charity and affection of devoted shepherds ...
       "When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return O ye revolting children ... and I will give you pastors according to My own heart’ (Jer. 3:14,15). Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin."

Saint John Eudes, The Priest: His Dignity and Obligations, (New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1947)
Kang Dole
7 years 10 months ago
Wow, Maria-I think that that's what theodicy must look like after it's been flushed down a pay toilet.
Molly Roach
7 years 10 months ago
The God of Jesus did not communicate his displeasure through permitting the rape of children.  I pity anyone who believes in such a violent and hate filled God.
Anne Chapman
7 years 10 months ago
Maria - Not only do you blame the victims, you blame everyone EXCEPT those who are actually guilty.  How sad, also, that you see God as being such a nasty, vindictive God that he would permit the rape of children in order to "punish" laity in general.  Where on earth did you get these ideas?  Perhaps you misunderstand the writer of the book you cite.  If you didn't misunderstand him,  you would benefit greatly from some recommendations for further reading and reflection.  Many here could provide some ideas for you.
7 years 10 months ago
Contrary to Sister Chittister OSB telling us that "lent is not about penance" ( see Fr. Martin's reference to same ) Fr. Hardon SJ has another take on the matter. Seems timely as we are the Lenten season:

We return to our question: Why penance and reparation? Because, in Christ's words, "Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish".
Is it any wonder that on Pentecost Sunday, after Peter preached his sermon, and rebuked the people for their sins, and they asked him, "what must we do," his first word to the multitude was the imperative verb, "Repent!"
Is it any wonder that Our Lady of Fatima's message to a sinful world in our day, may be summarized in the same imperative, "Do penance."
Indeed, the calamities that we have so far seen in this present century: two world wars with more casualties than in all the previous wars of history, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust that hangs over us like a tornado cloud. All of this is God's warning to do penance and reparation. Why? Because God is not mocked.
You do not offend God with impunity. You do not sin without retribution. You do not ignore the will of the Almighty and expect the Almighty to ignore what you do.
What bears emphasis, however, is that this retribution is either to be paid willingly, with our penance and reparation, or will be paid unwillingly within the divine punishment.
The divine logic is simple, awfully simple, and all we have to do is learn what God is telling us. Either we do penance and reparation because we want to, or we shall suffer (against our will) the consequences of our sins in this life, and in the life to come.
But remember, this penance and reparation is to be done not only for what we have personally done wrong. It is for all the pride and lust, for all the cruelty and greed, for all the envy and laziness and gluttony of a sin-laden human family.
God is merciful and in fact as our Holy Father has told us, Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of divine mercy. But God's mercy is conditional. It is conditional on our practice of penance and reparation".

Sister Chittister, along with everyone else, of course, know better.
renee Schafer Horton
7 years 10 months ago
I appreciate your sentiments, but you are not being completely truthful. Religious orders, including the Jesuits, keep your guys in your orders and under wraps - away from kids, but still in "holy" orders. This happens because the people in charge - the Bishops - have not truly been held accountable. Yes, they maybe followed advice of poor psychologists, but at some point (say, after an 8 year old boy and his mom said Father had done something dirty to him), the bishops should say to hell with the experts and turn the priest over to the cops. Not doing so means the bishops are culpable. truly humble and honest men would have stepped down. I just find it hard to believe you think the Church doesn't cover up or lie ... yes it is still happening because a clerical closed culture allows it.
Carolyn Disco
7 years 10 months ago
Jim's post is very helpful in that maybe, finally, the scales are falling from people's eyes about the criminal negligence and obstruction of justice by bishop/cardinals/ popes.

How many revelations does it take to appreciate the mendacity of Rigali and his counterparts? To absorb the extent of clerical narcissism and the sense of  privilege bishops savor?

To appreciate that their actions are the true interpreters of their thoughts, and so their willful blindness, conscious ignorance and flagrant indifference to child welfare is abundantly clear.

Levada has a stellar record in protecting abusers. Yet he now heads the CDF as chief investigator in Rome. Burke, Rigali, and Law sit on the Congregation for Bishops, and as Americans have influence over US episcopal appointments. God help us.

Right now in LaCrosse, Callahan is enforcing a standard of ''moral certitude'' for assessing allegations, when the church's universal law specifies ''semblance of truth'' for continuing investigations.

His predecessors, Listecki and Burke, did the same. They get away with it, despite the warnings of a courageous priest, Jim Connell, about the danger of abusers being missed as a result.

Where are the Wisconsin DA's and grand juries looking into files and secret archives?

How dare we assume Phila is the exception! And what are Catholics in Phila going to do, really do, in response? How about Rigali finding no one present at any mass or Lenten observance he leads?

Find another parish and let the cardinal offer his usual theological reflections as red herrings to an emtpy church. His empty promises deserve at least that minimal censure.
Kang Dole
7 years 10 months ago
Maria, you quote Father Hardon the way my mother-in-law quotes Gurdjieff.
7 years 10 months ago
I note that Terry Mckeirnan of Bishop Accountability  stated that the philadelphia situation is"not uniusal."
I think that means that the goal ofinstitutional protection still is the driving concern among diocesan leaders.
So, Fr. Martin, I guess that your deep dismay at the events in Philly  should be tempered by how weak our Church is, how fragile, and how much  in need of reform.
The Church is seen  by many to be in crisis.
At the same time, in several places, the call has gone out to bring those who have walked away back and to invite new members in.I think, Father, you are excellent at that kind of effort.
But I think that effort is in some disarray and will only be moved forward by a recognition that there are deep problems inleadership/governace and in the divisions among us (as is evidenced on this blog site so often and not without vitriol.)We need in my opinion to move from obfuscation to total honesty and from profound desire fror power to a profound sense of and demonstration of service if we want to move  toward being credible Church again.
ed gleason
7 years 10 months ago

In the Philly story we have the fact that two priests and a lay teacher 'passed around' a ten year old for sex. This puts a new and different spin on the extent of crime and mind set of the perps and their cover-up superiors. Was the monsignor superior aware of the 'passing around'. and the extent of the trafficaing?  and if not why not? . They need to be asked in public,  to sit down and answer 'did you know of the 'passing around'?? What this is called on news stories when it happens  by stupid teen agers, is called 'gang banging'.
Will the 90% of the silent  pew Catholics answer a call for stern/drastic/urgent reform when they learn about the trafficing in 10yearolds, a level of  depravity that has become the modus operandi of these clerics?  Never in my memory, have a depraved bunch of teenagers, have ever been accused of gang banging someone as young as a ten year old. That level of depravity needs the ripening of age. Private sins and crimes are one thing , conspiracies of sin and crime have another name. It's criminal gang banging..Cardinal Rigali calls them  'violations of boundaries' WE say gang banging.
Ed & Peg Gleason
david power
7 years 10 months ago
This would have been truly depressing to me about a couple of years ago.
I think it  is par for the course. Cardinal Rigali is not some great exception to the norm of clerical and episcopal culture that has dominated for a good few decades.
If the Church was truly penitent we would be reading headlines such as "Pope calls Rigali to Rome for chat" or " Apostolic visitation announced for Philadelphia" instead we will get the usual pained and handwringing gestures from the usual perps. The quote of Pope John Paul is also revealing. If there was truly "no place" in the Priesthood for pedophiles then surely Cardinal Groer would have been defrocked or the case against Maciel would not have been blocked by the Pope himself which is a violation of Canon Law. Paetz would have been removed from the Priesthood, ditto Vangheluwe.

These are just words to feed to the Media. Every diocese needs a layperson dedicated to the investigation of such matters as the clergy work like cosa nostra. 

Another problem is the generational one.Those who were chosen to be bishops by the last pope had a certain outlook. They may have been corrupt and intellectually weak but they knew how to say si. It will take Pope Benedict ( a genuine intellectual!) time and courage to replace these guys with serious bishops and cardinals. The culture of Omerta built up over the previous decades will need to be tackled.  The Church needs (we need) to condemn that legacy of fake sanctity and coverups and see the "veritas horribilus". Christ is waiting for us beyond all of this!  
Anne Chapman
7 years 10 months ago
David, while I agree that it may take time for Benedict to replace the bishops who were appointed over the last 30 or so years, he could instantly restore at least some credibility and respect if he did a few things  - start by removing Cardinal Law from his various jobs in Rome, all of which confer honor and imply that he was rewarded for his loyalty to Rome, even though that loyalty resulted in horrific harm done to young people who would have been spared if he had had the moral courage to act.  Then he could ask for resignations from many other of the worst offenders, and, when received, sending them to do some kind of mission work - perhaps in inner city parishes in rich countries, or to those in areas suffering from poverty, war etc. Perhaps a bit of time there would help these men understand that the role of bishops is to serve.

 Benedict could also apologize to the few heroic men who have risked their ecclesial careers to do the right thing - such as Thomas Dolan and Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia,  and he could give Archbishop Martin of Dublin the red hat - unfortunately he skipped over one of the few who has clearly stood up for victims in favor of one in Ireland who was among the worst offenders - once again, rewarding loyalty to the institution instead of rewarding loyalty to truth and morality.  It appears that John Paul II did protect Maciel from the investigation into his multiple abuses. How sad that the head of the investigation, Cardinal Ratzinger, lacked the moral courage to stand up to his boss when told to drop it.  Benedict may be a "genuine intellectual" - but the church needs a courageous leader who will hold the bishops accountable (and those in Rome who facilitated also) and a genuine pastor.  So far, he shows no more sign of possessing the needed moral courage and pastoral sense than did his predecessor.
david power
7 years 10 months ago
To Anne and Jim,

I understand what you are saying and more or less agree with you but there are two factors which stay my hand . The first is that as Christians we believe in forgiveness and mercy and must not act like a corporation that hires and fires .
I know that all of the compassion and mercy has been allocated to the abusers and their bosses but the point remains valid, the Clergy ,including bishops of Rome, are hard-wired to protect clergy above laity and their children everyday of the week but we must go beyond this pathology.
 The Church was a discernment free zone from the 16th of October 1978 onwards and this Pope would do well to rectify that.
The last Pope always knew better than everybody else, he gave Groer the post in Vienna because he was a pal with marian devotion even though Cardinal Konig was very much opposed.
We all might think that we know better than them and be trigger-happy but Benedict has to seek out advice and counsel so as to return the Church to a less ego-driven  way.
This is the real repudiation of the old legacy. To listen to others!
Looking at those selected so far I would say that Pope Benedict has tried to ensure that they are not just yes-men in tune with his ego but genuine pastors.
This is a step in the right direction in my mind.
Collegiality is a slow process and the Pope will no doubt make mistakes but he is humble and does not consider himself the Church. We too are equal sharers in the Church and that was not communicated for a very long time. I am sure that you will not agree but there you go!  


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