Resignations, Rome meetings and investigations: A week of major developments in the sexual abuse crisis

Pope Francis meets with officials representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican Sept. 13. At left is Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) Pope Francis meets with officials representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican Sept. 13. At left is Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

“It just doesn’t stop.”

That sentiment, shared on Twitter Thursday morning by Associated Press Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield, captures the feelings of many Catholics trying to keep up with the seemingly endless cycle of new revelations about sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct in the U.S. church.

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The crisis erupted anew in June, when Pope Francis removed former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from ministry after he was credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor more than four decades ago.

There is a seemingly endless cycle of new revelations about sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct in the U.S. church.

Since then, the retired Washington archbishop has faced more allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against adults; a grand jury report in Pennsylvania laid out details of alleged abuse against 1,000 children in that state; a former papal diplomat accused the Vatican of a cover-up and called on the pope to resign; and new allegations of mismanagement have been leveled against U.S. bishops.

Events in the United States and around the world prompted Pope Francis to announce that he is holding an unprecedented global meeting of church leaders to address sexual abuse in February. In the meantime, here is a roundup of developments in the crisis from the past several days.

Washington’s archbishop, Donald Wuerl, announces he will seek to step down

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington who for weeks has faced calls to step down because of his record in managing abuse allegations as the bishop of Pittsburgh, wrote in a blog post on Thursday that he will meet with Pope Francis in the near future and urge the pope to accept his resignation.

“Those called to serve the church in a leadership capacity must recognize that we are to lead not only by word, but also by personal action. We must be prepared to do whatever is needed, including stepping aside,” he wrote. “This action on my part is an essential aspect of the healing so that this archdiocesan church we all love can move forward.”

The 77-year-old cardinal submitted his resignation nearly three years ago, as is customary when a cardinal turns 75. But he is an adviser to the pope and a member of the Congregation for Bishops who, until recently, enjoyed a reputation as a solid manager—presumably among the reasons the pope has declined to accept his resignation in the past.

Trouble for Cardinal Wuerl began in June when his predecessor, Archbishop McCarrick, was removed from public ministry by Pope Francis after a claim of sexual abuse against a minor from decades ago was substantiated. Later, other people claimed they had been victimized by Archbishop McCarrick as adults.

Cardinal Wuerl maintained he was unaware of any misconduct claims against Archbishop McCarrick.

Cardinal Wuerl maintained he was unaware of any misconduct claims against Archbishop McCarrick.

His challenges were compounded following the release in August of an 800-page grand jury report that detailed decades of sexual abuse against minors committed by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.

When Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal ambassador to the United States, released a 11-page letter on Aug. 25 calling on Pope Francis to resign over the Archbishop McCarrick case, Cardinal Wuerl faced even more pressure. Archbishop Viganò accused Cardinal Wuerl of lying when he said he was unaware of accusations against his predecessor.

Cardinal Wuerl initially defended his record as archbishop of Pittsburgh, a post he held from 1988 to 2006. He noted that he removed many accused priests from ministry, even fighting with the Vatican in one case. But critics said he did not do enough, leading to protests from victims’ advocates, Catholic school teachers in Washington and even his own clergy.

On Thursday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and a previous president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, defended Cardinal Wuerl during an interview on CNN. Cardinal Dolan called Cardinal Wuerl “a good friend” and said “he’s a tremendous leader.

“I kind of hope he doesn’t resign. We need him. He’s been a great source of reform in the past,” he added. “I trust him enough that if he thinks he needs to resign for the good of the church, he will. And I would respect that decision."

Cardinal Wuerl has not announced when he would meet with Pope Francis, and the Vatican said it is preparing a response to Archbishop Viganò’s claims.

Pope Francis meets with U.S. church leaders in Rome

On Sept. 13, Pope Francis met for more than two hours in the Vatican with four U.S. church leaders: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S.C.C.B.; Archbishop José H. Gómez, vice president; Cardinal Seán O’Malley, head of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Young People; and Msgr. Michael Bransfield, general secretary of the bishops conference.

Following the meeting, both the Vatican and the bishops’ conference stayed mum about what the five men discussed.

Cardinal DiNardo released an 88-word statement, in which he said the group “shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States—how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse.” But he offered no details about what steps bishops would take to confront the ongoing crisis.

Following the meeting, both the Vatican and the bishops’ conference stayed mum about what the five men discussed.

The cardinal announced in August that he wanted to meet with the pope to discuss the case of former cardinal McCarrick. Cardinal DiNardo said he planned to ask the Vatican for an apostolic visit, led by laypeople, to investigate who knew what and when about the former cardinal. Many Catholics are wondering how then-Archbishop McCarrick rose to one of the most prominent posts in the U.S. church if Vatican officials knew of complaints against him as early as 2000, as the Rev. Boniface Ramsey alleges.

Cardinal DiNardo, who is also facing accusations of mishandling abuse claims (see below), spoke to Catholic News Service following the Vatican meeting, but he did not confirm if he asked the pope about launching an investigation.

In a statement on Aug. 16, Cardinal DiNardo said the U.S.C.C.B. Executive Committee had established three goals: “an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.”

When asked about the three priorities after the meeting with the pope, the cardinal told the Catholic News Service, “I think we can make movement on those things. I think we have to do it step by step.”

Vatican announces a global summit of bishops in February to discuss sex abuse

The United States is not alone when it comes to abuse and charges of cover-up by church leaders.

Authorities in Chile continue to investigate allegations of abuse there. A group of Catholic nuns in India accused a bishop there of committing rape. Church leaders in Germany are bracing for the release of a report detailing thousands of past cases of abuse.

To address these and other claims, Pope Francis announced on Sept. 12 that the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world will gather in Rome next February.

Little is known so far about what will be discussed at the meeting, but a spokeswoman for the Vatican said it would address “the prevention of the abuses of minors and vulnerable adults.” There is no word on whether experts in sexual abuse will be invited to brief bishops or what outcomes may be possible.

New York attorney general launches investigation into mismanagement claims

Following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office has begun a civil investigation into how church leaders in the state’s eight dioceses have handled allegations of abuse.

The investigation will pay particular attention to the Diocese of Buffalo, where Bishop Richard Malone is accused of mishandling sexual assault claims against priests there and of not being truthful about the number of priests accused of abuse. He is facing calls to resign but has said he will not stand down.

The investigation will pay particular attention to the Diocese of Buffalo, where Bishop Richard Malone is accused of mishandling sexual assault claims.

In March, Bishop Malone released a list of 42 priests he said had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. But a Sept. 12 report by Buffalo TV station WKBW said the real number may be higher than 100.

WKBW said the diocese may have changed the criteria for who to include on the list of priests so that it could claim no credibly accused priests were still in active ministry. According to the report, the initial list had more than 100 priests, including members of religious orders, deceased priests accused by a single victim and an “additional 20 accused priests who were kept off the list because they did not fit the diocese’s narrowly defined ‘categories’ for disclosure.”

That report follows claims that Bishop Malone, a former auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, mishandled allegations against other priests in Buffalo. The bishop has denied any wrongdoing.

More U.S. cardinals face allegations they have mishandled abuse claims

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S.C.CB. and one of the four church leaders who met with Pope Francis this week, is being accused of mishandling allegations of abuse by a priest in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, where he is archbishop.

The Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez was arrested on Sept. 11 in Conroe, Tex. He is accused of fondling two people when they were in their teens and he was the pastor of a church. The two alleged victims brought their complaint to Cardinal DiNardo as early as 2001. The archdiocese said it reported the claims to the Texas Child Protective Services.

Despite the allegations of abuse, Father LaRosa-Lopez was kept in ministry. He is currently the pastor of a church in Richmond, Tex., and the archdiocese vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Cardinal DiNardo has not responded to charges that he mishandled the church’s response.

Another church leader criticized for mishandling abuse claims is Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who was appointed archbishop of Boston in 2002 to repair the harm caused by the decisions of that city’s previous church leaders to reassign priests known to be sexual abusers.

As head of the Vatican’s sexual abuse commission, he has won praise for pressing Rome to move more swiftly on allegations of abuse and mismanagement by other bishops. But in recent weeks, critics have said that warnings to the Boston archbishop about then-Archbishop McCarrick went unheeded. The cardinal said he never received information about those claims because the Vatican commission is charged with making recommendations, not investigating claims. But Cardinal O’Malley said this week he now plans to “personally review” each new claim that comes to his office.

Critics have said there is no clear path for those who believe a bishop has mishandled allegations of abuse to report their concerns.

West Virginia bishop retires and faces an investigation into sexual harassment

Just before the meeting between Pope Francis and U.S. bishops, the Vatican announced that it had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield, who leads the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va. The bishop turned 75 on Sept. 8 and submitted his resignation, as is customary. Often, bishops are allowed to continue on, but the Vatican quickly removed Bishop Bransfield from his post and announced that Baltimore Archbishop William Lori would lead an investigation into claims that Bishop Bransfield sexually harassed adults.

Bishop Bransfield is the cousin of Monsignor Bransfield, who was part of the Vatican meeting Thursday. Bishop Bransfield had been implicated in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia clerical sex abuse case, but he denied ever abusing anyone and claimed vindication years ago.

….and the abuse crisis is unlikely to subside anytime soon

Some church leaders have called on dioceses and religious orders to release their files related to sexual abuse on their own before civil authorities step in. But time may be limited: Law enforcement officials in at least eight states have either launched similar investigations to Pennsylvania or are considering them.

Material from the Associated Press and Catholic News Service was used in this report.

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J Brookbank
2 months ago

Thank s for this thorough article. The structure was very helpful, laying out the news events chronologically, one by one, rather than in a mash up of analysis that makes it hard to.see the full extent.

Vincent Couling
2 months ago

Robert Mickens has useful analysis about the way forward that augments Michael's article ... https://international.la-croix.com/news/has-the-abuse-crisis-torpedoed-…

"But the pope is absolutely convinced that the deeper issues at the heart of abuse perpetrated by the Catholic clergy — whether that be an abuse of authority, conscience or sex — are clericalism and elitism in the Church. How to effectively eradicate them will be much, much more difficult than punishing abusers and their protectors. It will require, as Francis has often said about all reform/renewal in the Church, a change of mentality. And that is a very painful thing that not only the pope, the bishops and priests will have to suffer through. It will be a purifying path for the entire People of God.

The time is right for de-centralization of Church authority: Pope Francis has called all the presidents of the world's national bishops' conferences to Rome next February for a three-day meeting to discuss "the protection of minors." That's a very broad and vague topic. But the fact that he's having such a gathering is an indication that he understands that the sex abuse crisis is a worldwide problem (even if it has yet to be played out in public in many places). It is also an indication that he believes the entire hierarchy, and not just he and a few people in Rome, must decide together on the steps that need be taken to get to the root of the problem and its prevention. Will Francis use the February meeting to obtain a clear mandate for his desire to grant more juridical (and doctrinal) authority to the local churches and their episcopal conferences? That seems like a real possibility."

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Michael - this is a great summary. Comprehensive yet concise. I think one item should have been added, that of the accusation and exoneration of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who was in Harrisburg when the now-discredited allegation rose. What is great is that this went from allegation to exoneration in a week (link below). It is a reminder that many innocents are likely to be caught up in the dragnet of the global investigations and they need our prayers as they will suffer ignominy until cleared and a cloud of suspicion will persist in some quarters for ever. For the sake of justice for all, I would like to see a standing independent panel of lay faithful Catholics and professional investigators at the ready to convict or clear accused clergy as rapidly as possible.

https://www.wane.com/news/local-news/bishop-rhoades-cleared-of-wrongdoi…

Michael Barberi
2 months ago

A good summary, but it lacks two important accusations and revelations that must be thoroughly investigated:

1. Vigano states, and we know it to be true, that It was JP II that promoted McCarrick to Cardinal in 2001 when his decades-long sexual abuse of seminarians was widely known by U.S. Bishops and Cardinals and by Vatican officials who received a letter from Fr. Ramsey about McCarrick's sexual abuse of seminarians.
> How did Pope JP II justify promoting McCarrick to Cardinal?
> Was the evidence about McCarrick withheld from JP II? If so, this creates a different but highly significant scandal. How did this happen?

2. Vigano also stated that Pope Benedict XVI sanctioned McCarrick in 2009-2010. However, there is evidence that McCarrick did not abide by these sanctions. Vigano also accused Pope Francis of lifting B16's sanctions on McCarrick.
> Did B16 sanction McCarrick?
> If so, why did B16 do nothing when McCarrick ignored the sanctions?
> Did Pope Francis know of sanctions that B16 imposed on McCarrick? If so, why did he lift them or do nothing to McCarrick who continued to ignore these sanctions? Did Pope Francis question if sanctions were in-effect on McCarrick since he never adhered to any of them?

I hope that a national (or international) lay-lead impartial committee with Apostolic participation will thoroughly investigate all accusations and evidence in the Grand Jury Report, the entire McCarrick scandal, and the Vigano's letter. This means having unfettered access to all documents, reports, emails, etc, and the ability to question priests, bishops, cardinals and Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI.

So far, we have heard nothing from DiNardo and Pope Francis. We need to bring all priests/bishops/cardinals....and potentially popes....found guilt of sexual abusive crimes, immoral sexual behavior, gross negligence, coverup, or the turning a blind eye to evidence of sexual abusive behavior, to appropriate justice and to institute significant structural, process and juridical reforms.

Anthony Noble
2 months ago

Michael,
You should lead a lay investigation into all of points you made. You are spot on. It would be a blessing if the Vatican and the American Bishops follow your advice. As for Vigano, I don't believe he is a credible person though to be thorough, it would be important to review his claims so if nothing else they can be exposed as untrue.

Henry Brown
2 months ago

I am still puzzled how McCarrick ever became a Bishop ?

Is the vetting process less thorough than that for becoming a Seminarian ?

Then how was it that McCarrick was then made a Cardinal ?

How was evidence concerning his weaknesses ignored ?

You can pass new Canon Laws and say you will do this and that but until

this mystery is resolved, what good will it do if warning/claim are ignored ?

Jeffrey More
2 months ago

This article is thorough, all right. It is also searingly illustrative of how profoundly screwed up the Church is. All hell is breaking loose -the Body of Christ is being lacerated, in Cardinal DiNardo's words- but the best the whited sepulchres who run this "oldest established permanent floating crap game" can manage is to send a four-man delegation to Rome, three of whose members face, or are associated with someone who faces, allegations of misconduct! Is this some sort of joke? All of these men may be wonderful, innocent people; but has management of the U.S. branch of this international REIT sunk so low that fully 75% of the delegation sent to Rome has to consist of people who are (however temporarily) under a cloud themselves? This is like something out of a bad sitcom. Add to that the fact that the delegation has seen fit to keep us all in the dark as to what was discussed (except for DiNardo's 88-word statement), and you've got the makings of a Monty Python routine, particularly considering how full of big plans/ideas DiNardo was when he requested this meeting. Then there's the matter of the global summit that's supposed to deal with the international aspects of the corrosive rot affecting Catholic Church, Inc. This is scheduled to take place five months hence! Again, is this some sort of joke? Meantime, Donny Wuerl is sitting in his penthouse on Embassy Row anticipating someday meeting with the Pope to discuss the matter of the resignation he claims he's so anxious for Francis to accept urgently, while his brother cardinal in New York, from his mansion on Madison Avenue, offers the hope that Donny will not, after all, resign. In light of all this foot-dragging and delay, one has to wonder how long it will take the Vatican to draft its response to Archbishop Vigano's accusations. Will it be before the Second Coming? I wouldn't bet on it.

arthur mccaffrey
2 months ago

or to put it another way Jeffrey, from the perspective of victims rather than the perspective of a dysfunctional institution--how many more children will be abused in the coming 5 months? I would rather these red hats did all their speechifying from inside a jail cell. Pope Francis likes to visit the sick and the imprisoned and the outcast, so this would be a good opportunity for him to go meet his own employees.

J Brookbank
2 months ago

Excellent summary.

The Church is so corruptly structured that compromised Cardinal Wuerl is "prevented" from even doing the right thing regarding his own personal participation in that structure without permission and without peer pressure (if one goes, do they all have to ask whether they too should go?)

This is not about sex. This is about the corrosive and self-protected power to maintain themselves which is revealed in this chronology and your summary.

Sick structures make healthy people sick and sick people sicker.

And sex has ALWAYS been one of the ways sick humans act out.

The acting out has to stop, of course. But the long-term fix is the end of this pseudoroyalty.

Phillip Stone
2 months ago

Please America, call this for what it really is :
1. A SCANDAL and not a crisis
2. Failure of duly constituted governance.
3. Dubious sacramental theology in both ordination and reconciliation.

The peak of the obscene clerical sexual abuse activity is well in the past, the practice of denial and cover-up continues and from where I stand there is no light visible at the end of that tunnel.

Will Niermeyer
2 months ago

Dolan and O'Malley also need resign. They too are just as guilty of hiding the sex abuse in their archdioceses. I no longer place my complete faith in the Catholic Church. Clergy and Hierarchy are a bunch of lying pervert money hungry fools. My parish bulletin went from thanks for all the money we made on the Bazaar to a Mass for penance to asking for more money for Hope Appeal. It's a joke

Al Cannistraro
2 months ago

Michael J. O’Loughlin and commenters: There clearly is a widely held assumption that these misbehaviors (to put it mildly) are a modern phenomenon. And many commenters here attribute them to normative changes originating at Vatican II some decades ago.

But what if there actually is more continuity, going back much further, involving all kinds of sexually-rooted "misbehavior?"

The celibate/chaste ideal represents a very high bar, realistically speaking., and it's only realistic to assume that many have not been able to clear it (and some might not have taken it seriously).

It might be that the only thing that has changed is modern communication, and the fact that modern parental and student norms and values have knocked clergy off their holy pedestals, thereby making it thinkable to call out the misbehavior and to label the bad actors as miscreants.

When I was an altar boy in the early 1960s it was widely rumored among us youths that two particular priests should be avoided, but there was no care about this among adults/parents as far as I knew.

Likewise violent forms of "discipline" and "keeping order" in Catholic schools was considered normal and necessary and even admirable in the names of "in loco parentis" and "building character." Looking back, I feel confident to say that those clerics who employed these methods with relish were acting out of pleasure (that probably had some sexual dimension).

My point is the problem should not be studied in a way that focuses the spotlights only on the sexual abuse of youths problem and the factor of more openly homosexual clergy. Rather, a longitudinal analysis of RC church culture over more than just recent decades might result in deeper and more useful understanding.

The following article is suggestive of what I mean:
http://jamesalison.co.uk/texts/were-in-for-a-rough-ride/

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Al - I read your link. James Alison has arrived at several self-defeating assumptions. He says there are few straight men in the clergy, the less so the higher up the hierarchy. He says the fiercest enforcers of natural law teaching are homosexuals (the closeted kind) and the relatively few straight men don't really care about it. He says only the doctrine-denying homosexuals (the healthiest in more-or-less monogamous sex relationships) are the honest ones. And, he blames the homosexual culture in the clergy (the dishonest part) as the reason the Church cannot deal with child sex abuse (see quote below). So, in short, he unwittingly lends support to those laity who think the key cause of this crisis is a gay lobby in the Church. His solution is to change the perennial teaching of Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers, the Church Doctors, the Magisterium and the Catechism. He doesn't seem to realize that if he had his way, the Church would have denied its patrimony, its very self. No one could ever believe its teachings about anything. To use his own thought process - he is a closeted destroyer of the Church, whether he is conscious of it or not. He is suffering from closeted christophobia, and may not be conscious of this ideological orientation. The Catholic Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error, so, even if it has a massive gay lobby, the Church cannot succumb to their influence. Yet, several mainstream Protestant denominations are not so protected. They have followed his prescription. They are dying before our very eyes.

James Alison: "Tangentially, I hope it also hints at why such a mutually deceptive gay-heavy world has been so useless at dealing with child abuse. “Don’t ask don’t tell” can function as a way of genuine mercy among gay men who don’t want to cast stones in a glass house where the assumption is of relationships which may be illicit according to house rules, but are neither illegal nor pathological. But it can also be used (and certainly has been) as a cover for blackmail by those who have genuinely illegal and pathological behaviour to hide. The combination of these two has led to an inability to distinguish, in practice, between “naughty” gay men and “criminal” pedophiles."

J Brookbank
1 month 4 weeks ago

Tim, your ability to cherry-pick is impressive.

You do not quote the explicit statement that gay clerics, while generally aware of another cleric's sexual activity, are genuinely shocked when a gay cleric sexually abuses a child.

Though you chastise this priest-theologian as "christophobic", you also seems to accept as accurate his description of the priesthood today.

So, why not quote that statement?

My thought?

You ignore it because it challenges your conviction that most clerical sexual abuse was perpetrated by gay priests acting out on children and teens their homosexual desires. This gay priest is spilling every bean he can think of about sexually active gay clerics and he is clear that sexual abuse of children by gay priests is NOT one of the beans needing to be spilled.

The statement you quote suits your needs because you think it supports the idea of a "gay cabal" (which is different from what he describes: he describes the presence of gay priests at every level of the hierarchy. If priests were mostly Asian, would it be an Asian cabal? Would a priesthood that us mostly white, and straight be a "straight white cabal"? I can answer that. Nope. It would be "the priesthood". A powerful group only becomes a "cabal" when the group is not composed of straight white men).

You also pulled that quote because it allows you to blame the sexual abuse of children on gay priests even if they are not the ones actually doing it.

Tim, your primary concern is NOT protecting children.

Your primary concern is the demonization of gay priests, sexually active gay men and the eexclusion of both from the Roman Catholic Church.

And you cherry-picked the quote that seems to make your case.

It was a virtuoso performance of manipulation ... and hubris.

That "christophobic" charge! Tim, you make me giggle sometimes! It is like being back in my sophomore year of high school all over again! The passion! The leaps of logic! The cherry-picking! The hubris! My goodness it was glorious! And young...and lacking in context...and complexity...and wisdom.

Tim O'Leary
1 month 4 weeks ago

J - James Alison freely admits he wants the change Church doctrine, so it is amazing when he admits that the problem of the homosexual fifth column and the resultant blackmail is protecting the abuse of minors, even if he proposes a solution that would destroy the Church. Here is another quote "As a gay priest myself I am obviously more in agreement with Mickens than with Dreher or Douthat. However I would like to record my complete sympathy with the passion of the latter two as well as with their rage at a collective clerical dishonesty which renders farcical the claim to be teachers of anything at all, let alone divine truth." I agree with Alison's desire to end the dishonesty and cynicism. Return to Scriptural teaching. Stop the cover-up.

J Brookbank
1 month 4 weeks ago

Tim, i don't know of anyone who doesn't agree that the many forms of dishonesty in the RCC have to end.

Your particular dishonesty is your persistence in stereotyping of gay men as pedophiles and sexual harassers, supported by your dishonest manipulations of statistics, quote cherry-picking and distortion of the available literature through narrowly sourcing.

There is a log in your eye, Tim.

Tim O'Leary
1 month 4 weeks ago

J - I know you deeply believe the Church is in error in its teaching on homosexuality, and that those who abuse minors are not real homosexuals but something else (maybe a 5th orientation). And you disagree with Alison and most commentators that there is a gay lobby in the Church. You think these are just people abusing power and secrecy, and the sex part is an aside. I think you are blind to this particular injustice. Let's get the investigation and stop the enabling.

J Brookbank
1 month 4 weeks ago

Tim, you mischaracterize most of what I believe on these topics.

I do believe Church teaching on homosexuality is wrong and will evolve. (I don't use the language of "error" when talking with or about Catholics because it harkens back to an ugly time in the Church when "error" got people killed, right? It seems like there has been a revival of its usage and people on both sides of the "error" debate get a little bananas over the word. It's hard to get the odor of burning human flesh out of the word, you know?)

I believe it likely that better than half the RCC clergy are gay men, and I think THAT is what most people agree on.

I don't have a problem with that fact, and I believe again that THAT is what most people agree on.

I do not believe that child sexual abuse is attributable to or an outgrowth of or part of gay sexuality.

I believe there are child sexual abusers who are also gay men just as I believe there child sexual abusers who are straight men and some child sexual abusers are exclusively pedophiles and some child sexual abusers are simply sadists. I believe all are criminals with the only and more than sufficient qualifying factor being that they sexually abused a child.

I believe that the sexual abuse crisis in the RCC is a distinct phenomenon from the prevalence of gay men in the Church.

Do I believe there are some points of intersection? Of course. A system that sets people up for secret-keeping if they want to stay in the system is a system where people protect each other's secrets. Welcome to the theory of dysfunctional groups 101; in it, we will study secret-keeping in dysfunctional families, church groups, political parties, workplaces and every other kind of human institution where the rules are not humane. Tim, Fr Allison is not the first to make this observation. He might be the first openly gay priest to make it publicly but Richard Sipe had been writing for decades about how the vow of celibacy contributes to secrets which benefit abusers. Allison expands on that by openly acknowledging that gay priests, not just straight priests, are violating their vows of celibacy. Good for him. And it does not in any way link gay priests to child sexual abuse by priest-predators, except by that intersection where secrets around sex are built into the system.

I believe you steadfastly refuse to read and acknowledge mainstream forensic, scientific and clinical literature which makes all of that very clear.

I believe you steadfastly refuse to acknowledge it when you encounter nuanced, complex, both/and thinking by people you have decided are "against the church" and thus wrong wrong wrong.

I believe there is a lot of sexual activity going on in the lives of RCC vowed celibates.

I frankly don't care ------ I care if they are good pastors and for some that is tied to a charism of celibacy and for some their pastoral gift would be and is enriched by being partnered.

I do not care except for the fact that the lying is corrosive for everyone and everything. Then again lying about the sexual lives of RC clerics has been practically an RCC tradition for a long long time.

I get it that it is different when Father only has to walk down the hall versus across town to the convent or to his housekeeper's back door.

Celibacy is a beautiful charism when it is of the Holy Spirit and it is a gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous conceptual way of teaching people what Christian love of the Other looks like --- how it is possible to live with all of one's energy available for and open to being present to the Other, whomever the Other may be: God or a stranger or the person you don't like but see every day ---- it is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous and it is a ****charism**** the Holy Spirit gives to few.

I personally love the idea of priests who get it --- who understand it, who see how gorgeous it is and then, if they do not have that charism, spend their lives as pastors honestly living the tension between aspiring to that perfect availabity to and energy for being present to the Other, any and every Other AND living
in human intimacy with a partner. Oh my gosh. Gorgeous spiritually gorgeous spiritually gorgeous spiritually gorgeous. (I say that as someone who does have that charism but didn't join religious life because I refused to pretend that I accept church teaching about homosexuality.)

Yes I believe that the root issue here is the corroded and corrosive nature of an old-world pseudoroyal hierarchical institution that assigns power and authority to a handful of members of one gender. The sex abuse and harassment is not "an aside". It is not the corroding factor. It is the evidence and the proof of the corrosion of the institution by the institution.

And I am now tired of both of us. Get on with the Golden rule, Tim. Quit stereotyping. Quit manipulating statistics. If you are medical professional, you know better. Start reading the professional forensic, clinical and research literature re: child sexual abuse. If you are a medical professional, you know better than to rely solely on known conservative sources. Knock it off with the stereotypes. Remember how unhappy you were to be accused of being a closeted gay child abuser.

Michael Barberi
2 months ago

Al,

I agree with most, but not all of what Fr. Alison said. For example, how can he know with certainty that most of the clergy is homosexual especially the hierarchy? On the other hand, he is a good voice within the Catholic Church in addressing the issue of homosexuality. He is encouraging a rethinking of this issue in honest and open dialogue based on our growing knowledge of this issue, inclusive of theological scholarship.

I continue to argue that the Holy Spirit leads us in truth in agreement and disagreement. The Holy Spirit protects the Church from error as the People of God (entire laity, clergy, theologians) and not merely and solely a pope or the magisterium in isolation. The protection from error of the 'Church' has been incorrectly defined for centuries to the hierarchical magisterium, full stop. What has been missing for so long is the lay magisterium, the sensus fidei, and the magisterium of theologians. All three magisterium together is the magisterium of the Church as the People of God.

The truth never changes but our understanding of truth does change as we grow in wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear and love of God and neighbor. To whit, the history of our Church has taught us that some teachings that were taught as truth for centuries by popes and councils, were eventually changed. Perhaps, how the hierarchy and our Church treats homosexuals will change as well.

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

This is an excellent proposal from Michael Schmitz in today's WSJ. The USCCB should lobby states to adopt the following into civil law: “A religious leader commits sexual assault if he or she is in a position of trust or authority over the complainant and uses said position to engage in sexual penetration or contact. Consent by the complainant is not a defense.” "Such laws would apply to clergy of every religion and sect. They would serve a clear secular purpose: protecting those unable to give real consent. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court ruled that states generally could not criminalize consensual sex between adults in the privacy of the home. But the ruling stated that this did not apply in the case of “those who might not easily refuse consent.” That includes victims of clergy sex abuse." "A false idea of mercy has allowed many acts of abuse that should be considered criminal—and some that already are—to go unchecked. Catholic bishops and the laity should work to criminalize every instance of clergy sex abuse. They should press for serious penalties, including mandatory jail time, as well as extended statutes of limitations." regarding the last point, they might match Pennsylvania's (report at any time before age 50). https://www.wsj.com/articles/stopping-the-priests-who-prey-on-adults-15…

Santy Asanuma
2 months ago

Michael, I am a born and raised Catholic in a small island nation of Palau. I am not going to defend evildoing from a priest or any person for that matter. However, I hope that for the sake of dealing with a real issue to keep our mind in an objective perspective. No doctor or lawyer are required to divulge information on his/her patients medical condition including being infected with HIV/AIDS or provide incriminating information to authorities that would incriminate his/her client. This are fundamental precepts and guidelines for all crucial institutions to fulfill their respective functions in order to secure the common good of society. Priests are governed by higher codes not to report on the sins of people including other priests. I hope to God that they will not change that. Likewise we need to find other ways to screen and better indoctrinate our priests to do what Jesus would in all they do as shepherds of the faith. To put things into perspective there are parents around the world doing this to their own children. It is not only priests. This a human evil that we need to rid of in our societies. Again this is no defense for the evil priests but calling to separate the sanctity of the church from the evil acts of individual priests.

Paul Mclaughlin
2 months ago

Could we stop with the discussion of sex and sexuality and focus on the root cause of the this problem and most of the other problems the Church faces - it is the uncheck abuse of power by a select group of men who establish and enforce the laws which is rooted in the errant teaching that when they are ordained they experience an “ontological change” that gives them a higher status and a place between God and the great unwashed - the rest of humanity.

This errant teaching had lead to the Vatican Bank Mess, the sexual abuse crisis and the subordination of the laity.....

The notion that the laity has to beg these same men to have a seat at the table is the problem.

The notion the upcoming Synod on the crisis has laity as guests is the problem.

Who is paying for these men who fail us - the great unwashed. Our role in the Church is pray, pay and shut-up.

Tim O'Leary
1 month 4 weeks ago

The Church needs to realize that the secular powers-that-be are coming after her, and will do everything in their power to sever the Church from the truth in the Scriptures. And there is a fifth column inside the Church that is aiding and abetting them. As Pope Francis has said, this attack is so fierce it must be demonic. If the Church falls, then the only defenders of the truth will be individuals following their consciences and paying for it with their livelihoods. Jack Phillips won in the Supreme Court, but they have come after him again. "The same day that the U.S. Supreme Court granted review in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, an attorney in Colorado called Phillips’s shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and requested a custom cake with a blue exterior and pink interior to celebrate a gender transition from male to female." https://www.denverpost.com/2018/08/19/colorados-against-masterpiece-cak…

Fernán Jaramillo
1 month 4 weeks ago

When the ranks are thin, the military accepts recruits whose fitness is in doubt. Given the psychological profile of the potential pedophile, doesn't the hierarchy know that some of these "recruits" among the very thin priestly ranks are a very high risk? I suspect the hierarchy knows.

If the ranks were more numerous, enlarged by married men of either homosexual or heterosexual orientation, could that reduce the risk? My personal sense is that an openly gay man in a committed relationship may be no more inclined to abuse than the straight man.

Tim O'Leary
1 month 4 weeks ago

Fernán - not sure if you have evidence for your last sentence. But, a sexually active homosexual, even in a committed relationship, would be a visible contradiction of Church teaching, which is far worse in terms of evangelization than thin ranks. It might be hard to believe for someone who doesn't believe, but abusing souls is worse than abusing bodies. Filling ranks with people who deny the faith is a solution only profferred by those who would prioritize sexual satisfaction over eternal salvation. Look at the Episcopalians. They will likely be extinct in a generation.

Fernán Jaramillo
1 month 4 weeks ago

-

J Brookbank
1 month 4 weeks ago

Fernan, there are no credible statistics or sources indicating that ANY demographic of gay men is more likely than heterosexual men to sexually abuse children of either gender. Nor are there any credible stas or sources indicating that gay men are more than straight men to sexually harass subordinates.

Michael Barberi
1 month 4 weeks ago

I know that many people do not believe that the teachings of the magisterium should be changed. I get it. However, this is not my opinion, nor the opinion of the majority of Catholics and theologians and many bishops and priests. Based on a rethinking of Scripture, Tradition, Human Experience and Reason, a change in a teaching or in the pastoral application of a teaching may occur in the near or distant future as follows. Other teachings may change as well.

1. Voluntary celibacy and admission to the priesthood of married men.
> We already accepted married priests that left the Episcopal and Anglican Church. We also know that most of the Apostles were married men, and there is nothing in Scripture that says that a married man cannot be a Catholic priest.

2. Women as ordained Deacons and perhaps one day women as ordained priests.
> JP II's rationale for an all male priesthood is primarily based on the fact that Christ choose only men to be his Apostles. This rationale implies that if Christ wanted a woman as one of His Apostles he would have done so. Since Christ did not do so, this means he did not want women priests.
> IMO, this ignores society's view of women at that time. In other words, women in ancient times could not inherit or own property, and could not testify or be witnesses in a civil or religious Court or Tribunal. Essential they were second class citizens with limited rights and were considered inferior to men. Even in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas believed that a woman was the defect of the human seed. In other words, he said that the male seed intends to produce a complete human being, a man, but at times it does not succeed and produces a woman.
> IMO, if Christ would have chosen a woman as one of His Apostles it would have severely challenged the credibility his message. Few men at that time would believe a woman especially when preaching about Scripture, Salvation and the Good News in Christ. While we know that some women were leaders in the early Church, they were not Apostles or chosen by Apostles to replace them upon their deaths. The choice of 12 men as Christ's Apostles is understandable given the socio-politcal-religious culture at that time. More importantly, it does not mean that a woman could not be a priest in the future of the Church.

3. Same-sex marriage or same-sex unions may undergo a rethinking as well.
> IMO imposing a life time of sexual abstinence from above (e.g., the hierarchy/magisterium) upon homosexuals (e.g., all those born with a same sex orientation/inclination) while at the same time denying them a marriage or permanent union puts an unjust and almost an impossible burden on them. Every heterosexual has a 'choice' between remaining single or to get married. Even a priest who takes a vow before God can leave the priesthood, get married and be able to express his love sexually to his spouse. A homosexual has only one choice....to live a lifetime of sexual abstinence even if he got married in civil ceremony, in a non-Catholic Christian Church or in a Jewish Synagogue.
> I hope that the Church will give consideration to homosexuals who enter into a permanent, faithful and loving relationship with a member of the same sex and who abide by the same responsibilities and obligations of heterosexuals who enter into a marriage or union. The Church needs to treat homosexuals with respect, dignity and sensitivity and not impose an almost impossible burden upon them for their salvation.

4. A solution to the sexual abuse scandal.
> All homosexual or heterosexual priests/bishops/cardinals/popes who are found guilty of sexually abusing minors, immoral sexual relations with adults, covering up such crimes and immoral sexual behavior, or guilty of turning a blind eye to evidence of immoral sexual behavior and of gross negligence of their responsibilities, should be defrocked. We need significant structural, process and juridical reforms now.

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