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James Martin, S.J.May 12, 2011

This new article in Commonweal is a must-read for all American Catholics interested in their church.  Ana Maria Catanzano, the chair of the Review Board for Philadelphia, details why, despite the work of the Board, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia still found itself with 37 priests in active ministry with credible accusations against them as late as this year.  Ms. Catanzano writes: "This article is my attempt to answer the question being asked by Catholics in Philadelphia and across the nation: What went wrong?" Her piece stands beside that of Justice Ann Burke, former interim head of the National Review Board, who recently wrote a scathing critique of the process nationwide in the Chicago Tribune, entitled "Abuse and the Church: Can the Bishops Ever Be Trusted?"  Ms. Catanzano writes passionately about her service on the Review Board, and for me the article can be summed up in the first sentence of this paragraph (my boldface): 

It is the archdiocese that determines which cases the board reviews. We do not examine cases in which an ongoing criminal investigation or civil litigation is involved. The board reviews allegations the district attorney has already determined cannot be prosecuted (for lack of evidence or because the statute of limitations has expired). When we are given a case, external investigators, hired by the archdiocese, interview the accuser, the accused, and anyone suggested by either party. The board does not take testimony, but we consider written testimonies, along with the investigators’ transcripts and any information provided to us by the archdiocese.

The review board does not have the power to subpoena, nor does it have the authority to remove a priest from ministry. We simply examine the evidence available to us, determine whether there is enough evidence to indicate that a minor has been sexually abused, and make a recommendation to the cardinal regarding that priest’s suitability for ministry. It is up to the cardinal to accept or reject our recommendations.


Cardinal Rigali and his auxiliary bishops also failed miserably at being open and transparent. Their calculated public statements fueled speculation that they had something to hide. Since the release of the February grand-jury report, their carefully scripted statements led laity and clergy alike to wonder whether the archdiocese had told the whole truth. As a result, many Philadelphians believe the archdiocese kept child molesters in ministry. Other Catholics think the cardinal simply allowed accused priests to be convicted by the media. As a result, many priests are disheartened. After all, they were not given any explanation about the thirty-seven priests mentioned by the grand jury until Cardinal Rigali and his auxiliary bishops met with them a month after the grand-jury report was released. Some priests continue to fear they could be falsely accused and hung out to dry by the bishops. Despite that, they continue to minister faithfully.

Apparently Philadelphia’s bishops don’t fully grasp that by failing to speak openly from the outset they will continue to pay a higher price, in terms of both credibility and cash. If only they would have followed the example of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. Confronted with an accusation against him, Cardinal Bernardin openly, humbly, and without a prepared text, answered all the questions he was asked. That’s the sort of response the people of Philadelphia expect and deserve.

So why haven’t they gotten it? In a word, clericalism.

Read the rest of this important, incendiary piece here.

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Molly Roach
12 years 6 months ago
Dr. Catanzaro, what about the case of "Ben"?  I bring it up because the review board did address itself to that case.   This was the man bringing an allegation against Father Joseph Gallagher-and the board had heard from another man a year before about the same priest but didn't find the allegations credible because there was some discrepancy in the time frame of the victim's story.  But then "Ben" brought similar allegations against the same cleric, and other witnesses independently corroborated some of the details of the abuse reported and the review board found that  "Ben's" allegations were not credible.  What standard of evidence were you working with?  Or was this a case where the canon lawyers argued the board down?   This is an important question to address because "Ben" killed himself. "Clericalism" is not a full enough reason for the way in which this case developed and I think the Grand Jury was appropriately critical of the board's work in this case.  So what about Ben?
Juan Lino
12 years 7 months ago
Although there are a few things I would argue against in the article, on the whole I would say that it’s excellent and that Ms. Catanzaro’s observations - especially about Clericalism in the U.S. - are spot on.
Todd Flowerday
12 years 7 months ago
Another devastating piece for the episcopacy. If I were a conspiracy nut, I'd say the bishops are blowing up their own Church. As it is, we need an intervention.
John Barbieri
12 years 7 months ago
Thank you Ms. Catanzano for exposing this latest piece of chicanery by Cardinal Rigali and his bishops.
There should not be any church review board at all.
There should be investigations by the appropriate civil authorities and prosecutions if merited. And, if conspiracy to obstruct justice is found, let the cardinals, archbishops, bishops,answer to the law.
Can the catholic hierarchy be a trusted?
In a word: NO!
Thomas Lang
12 years 7 months ago
Is the next article going to be titled, "What Went Wrong With the Jesuits in Oregon?" 

Or, is the goal to try to continue to deflect the focus away from the Jesuits and back to Philadelphia as much as possible?

("Settlement by Jesuits' Oregon Province one of biggest among sex abuse cases"  http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/03/jesuits_oregon_province_believ.html)

What's that saying Fr. Martin about, "He who lives in glass houses should not throw stones"?
Anastasia Theodoridis
12 years 7 months ago
Well, "clericalism" is a charitable explanation.  Unfortunately, not as convincing as the theory that the bishops are vulnerable to the same charges and thus can't afford to pursue [other] offenders very vigorously.
Carolyn Disco
12 years 7 months ago
No one should really be surprised. We have had examples for years of criminal episcopal conduct that because of statutes of limitation could not be prosecuted.

Just read countless government investigations on www.bishop-accountability.org, including perjury charges against bishops that really had to be plea-bargained, given the circumstances.

Way back, a very conservative, highly-educated and well-placed Catholic told our group not to waste our (bloody) time seeking meetings with bishops, and so forth. Instead, leverage the power of institutions outside the church that indeed do have the power to force bishops to reform.

Working from the inside is useless, since the laity has zero power in the final analysis. The answer is to work through legislatures, the courts and the media, which indeed can get bishops to sit up straight, and fast.

Grand jury investigations, criminal prosecutions; criminal and civil RICO actions, with no statute of limitations, and potential triple damages; SOL windows to allow past victims to come forward, as in CA and Delaware, to open files and minds in astounding ways.

Remember the bishop who quipped to about 40 laughing Jesuits that as he entered court he would mentally rehearse his line, “I’m sorry, Your Honor, I do not remember” – well let’s find measures to jar those memories, as secret archives in their own hand are wont to do when under oath on cross examination. See http://ncronline.org/blogs/examining-crisis/surely-rome-can-do-better

The outside avenues for reform must be advanced. And that happens when the laity ignores the likes of Dolan and Chaput with their anti-Catholicism red herrings. Enable DA’s, AG’s, prosecutors, the Justice Department, and legislators everywhere to take action — knowing the local bishop’s influence cannot endlessly spin the facts, or end their careers.

 Our power is to empower those civil officials/institutions to do the work of justice. Is the laity awakened enough to do so?

Kate Smith
12 years 7 months ago
I agree with an earlier commenter that there has been a lack of criticism of Jesuits by Jesuits.   I see none of the transparency or accountability in Jesuits that this article states is  lacking in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.   Where is the article by a Jesuit raising objections to how Jesuits handle abuse, how Jesuits repeatedly let an abusive Jesuit priest return to ministry, how Jesuits reward supervisors who ignored abuse, and how the Jesuit superior general turns a blind eye to all of it when victims complain to him?

There is far more to report and discuss than the recent story of settlements in Alaska.   It is a huge problem with Jesuits in the U.S.

Where is that Jesuit article in America, when you should have even more access and ability to tell the story?
12 years 7 months ago
Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees the Office of Child and Youth Protection, is also the Founder, Office for Legal Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia (now Office of General Counsel) 1991 – 2004
Shortly after the release of the First Grand Jury Report in Sept. 2005, I contacted Msgr. Fitzgerald in his office at St. Charles Seminary in order to find out what happened in the Office for Legal Services during his leadership when allegations of clergy sexual abuse were delivered to his office. After numerous messages and faxes, his assistant informed me that Msgr. Fitzgerald wanted me to know that such allegations of clergy sexual abuse were not handled by his Office for Legal Services.
I’m sorry, Msgr./Bishop, but your statement is just not believable. At the time of your appointment as Founder of Legal Services in 1991, you were a civil attorney for nearly 20 years. Within the next two years, you will be a civil attorney for 40 years and are responsible for the Office of Child and Youth Protection. With your professional training and experience in legal matters, who else would the Cardinal trust with such potentially devastating legal matters as clergy sexual abuse allegations?
Why have we had three Grand Jury Reports over this time, arrests of clergy, and the violation of the bodies, minds, and souls of our youngest Catholic parishioners which continues to this day?
Matthew Pettigrew
12 years 6 months ago
In this article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms.Catanzano expands somewhat her comments in the Commonweal article. It really is time for Cardinal Rigali to go.
12 years 6 months ago
I want to thank all who have responded with supportive comments and constructive criticism. However, I want to make clear that my intent in writing the Commonweal article was not to be incendiary, to blast the cardinal, or to rip into anyone, as some have reported in the media. Rather, my intent was to shed light on what went wrong, provide constructive criticism, point out limitations inherent in the Charter and the Norms, and offer recommendations to make the process as transparent as possible. Fr. Martin, you are correct that I am passionate about my service on the review board. Everyone on our review board is passionate about removing child molesters from minstry and keeping children safe. That is the reason we chose not to resign. Yes, we felt used and deceived. But ultimately, in our resolve to keep children safe, we decided to keep pushing for accountability and transparency. It is truly sad that this horrible scandal has obscured for some all the good the Catholic Church does in Philadelphia and throughout the world. As a lay Catholic who loves the Church dearly, even with all its faults, I will continue to assert my rightful role and speak out against injustice, especially when it comes from our leaders. My prayer is that all Catholics, lay and and ordained, will do the same. That, I believe, is what will ultimately bring an end to clericalism.
Jerry Slevin
12 years 6 months ago
BARELY CREDIBLE, ANA MARIA: Your explanation of the Philly's Board's inexplicable acquiesence in Bevilaqua's and Rigali's dangerous behavior is barely credible. Eight years, including the 2005 grand jury investigation report, of regular rubber stamping. You had educated people, including a lawyer on the Board, who argued with the Archdiocesan lawyers. And you accepted canon law as your standard.  Innocent children were exposed to rape on your watch. The Board members may not have been paid directly, but how many of them indirectly worked for Church organizations or otherwise received Church benefits? Are you willing to testify against the Cardinals? Are you prepared to file ethics violations' charges against the Archdiocesan lawyers? Have you yet retained your own lawyer and is the Archdiocese paying her tab?               Canon law? Clericalism? Recommending improvements to the Review Board's procedures. Are you serious? Forget canon law, clericalism and review boards. These are serious violations of the criminal law, crimes, pure and simple. You of all people should know review boards are just screens to enable bishops to cover their illegal acts. The only simple requirement is for all bishops and pastors , loudly and often, to declare to all Catholics: ''If you suspect sexual abuse, call the police immediately!''. That is why we have police. They are the professionals. If the police acted the way the Review Board appears often to have acted, the police would likely be subject to prosecution for criminally negligent performance of their duty. You may have took on this assignment with the best of intentions eight years ago, but didn't it occur to you often and early that something was amiss? Let us hope you reply to these questions, so other Catholics can learn from your apparent mistakes,  
12 years 6 months ago
Ms. Catanzaro is right on target. On just two of her many concerns: lack of precise definition of ''sexual abuse''; innocent priests fearful of their own unjust removal. In AMERICA, 6/21/2004 Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ criticized the Dallas Charter severely on these and several other points. He called for revisiting the Charter.

As a canonist working with alleged abusers - some innocent, others not, I experienced the drastic need for the Charter to be revisted and amended to address Dulles' points. I wrote in 2007, 2008, and 2009 to the USCCB President and the then Bishop Chairs of the Committee to Protect Children, urging the prompt revisting of the Charter because innocent priests were at risk of removal from ministry and defamation of their name. Each response declared that my concerns would be addressed by the USCCB meeting in 2010 !!! Eight years after Dallas; six years after Dulles!!!  The November 2010 USCCB meeting came and went. Nothing, nada, zip! Incredible!

So much for the concern of the bishops for priests! I have encountered an extern priest, broken and demoralized and his reputation shattered because a bishop misunderstood a letter from another diocese! There is no practical avenue for appeal. A bishop can be judged only by the pope! The process kills justice. Who is running this show? Apparently nobody!

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