Report Details Decades of Abuse, Failure of Leadership’ in Boston
A 91-page report detailing the sexual abuse of at least 789 children by 250 priests or other workers of the Archdiocese of Boston since 1940 documents a massive, inexcusable failure of leadership in the archdiocese, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said on July 23. But that leadership is about to change, and we hope this report will draw a clear line between the past and a hopeful future, said Reilly at a Boston press conference held a week before the installation of Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley on July 30 as head the Boston Archdiocese.
The report said evidence gathered during a 16-month criminal investigation does not provide a basis for bringing criminal charges against the archdiocese or its senior managers. Although evidence gathered during the investigation establishes that senior archdiocese managers did not report suspected child sexual abuse to public authorities, the state’s child abuse reporting law is not applicable because it was not expanded to include priests until 2002, the report said.
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said in a brief statement on July 23 that the lengthy report requires a serious and thorough reading before any substantive response can be made. But he reiterated the archdiocese’s commitment to treat sexual abuse of a child as a criminal matter...end any culture of secrecy in the handling of such matters...adopt and implement comprehensive and effective measures to prevent child abuse and work at every level to ensure the safety of children.
The report said Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned in December as archbishop of Boston, and his senior managers preserved the culture of acceptance of child sexual abuse within the archdiocese and adhered to the tragically misguided priorities of supporting the perceived needs of offending priests more than those of children who had been, or were at risk of being, abused.
Among the former Boston archdiocesan officials named in the report were Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, La., and Bishops Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis.; William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.; and John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H. Cardinal Law bears ultimate responsibility for the tragic treatment of children that occurred during his tenure, the report said. But by no means does he bear sole responsibility.
The cardinal and his senior managers had direct, actual knowledge that substantial numbers of children in the archdiocese had been sexually abused by substantial numbers of its priests, the report said. But because of tragically misguided priorities, the report added, archdiocesan officials failed to investigate adequately claims of sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy or to supervise adequately priests known to have sexually abused children in the past. It also put children at risk by transferring abusive priests to other parishes, other U.S. dioceses or abroad and by accepting abusive priests from other dioceses.
At the press conference, Reilly said the decision not to prosecute was not even a close call legally, because the laws in Massachusetts at the time did not require church officials to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse. In 2002, the Legislature passed a law making clergy mandatory reporters of such incidents.
The report found no evidence of recent or ongoing sexual abuse of children by priests or other archdiocese workers. But it added, Given the magnitude of mistreatment and the fact that the archdiocese’s response...remains inadequate, it is far too soon to conclude that the abuse has, in fact, stopped or could not reoccur in the future.
The report called the Boston Archdiocese’s Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Children, adopted in May, a disappointment because of various failures, including a lack of truly independent monitoring boards, their reliance at various stages on the discretion of the archbishop about whether to proceed and the exemption of bishops from its requirements.
The archdiocese has yet to demonstrate a commitment to the protection of children that is proportionate to the harm it has caused to children for decades, the attorney general said.
Reilly said the figure of at least 789 children victimized by 237 priests and 13 other church workers in the archdiocese came directly from archdiocesan records. But he said he thought the actual figure was much higher, in light of his own experience of being approached by scores of people who have told him they were abused but did not want to go public. Even the number of those who have disclosed their abuse likely exceeds 1,000, when all sources of information are taken into account, the report said.
Saying that the Archdiocese of Boston had shown an institutional reluctance to adequately address the problem [of sexual abuse of children] and, in fact, made choices that allowed the abuse to continue, the report called on church leaders to reverse this institutionalized culture of acceptance of the sexual abuse of children and adopt a greater commitment to the protection of children rather than the protection of priests and the reputation of the church.
Austrian Archbishop Warns of Continued Vocations Slump
An Austrian archbishop is warning of a continued slump in seminary enrollments across Europe. We must do everything to increase vocations, while also making this path a free choice, said Archbishop Alois Kothgasser of Salzburg, president of the European Vocations Service. The archbishop, speaking after a vocations service meeting in Warsaw in mid-July, sponsored by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, warned that a continentwide slump in seminary enrollments could continue. He told Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, that young people in Western Europe were very stressed over life decisions. Similar pressures were evident in Poland, which reported a 10 percent increase in admissions to its 86 seminaries in 2002, he said. Some countries are rich in vocations, like Poland, Romania, Croatia or Italy, where others, like France, Germany and Austria, are on the other side, Archbishop Kothgasser said.
D.C. Voucher Bill, Endorsed by McCarrick, Held Up by Senate
A school voucher initiative for the District of Columbia, backed by Washington’s Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, has been approved by a House committee, but a companion measure in the Senate is on hold. On July 15 the House Appropriations Committee approved $10 million in funding for the voucher legislation. Two days later, the Senate Appropriations Committee postponed a vote on the city’s budget amid heated discussion of eliminating the voucher initiative. The voucher measure in the Senate is a $40 million plan that would provide vouchers worth up to $7,500 for about 2,000 low-income students to attend private, charter or public schools. The Bush administration and U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige have supported the voucher bill; Cardinal McCarrick and District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams support it on the condition that it also include funding for public and charter schools.
Vatican Says Flexibility Allowed on Posture After Communion
The Vatican’s top liturgy official has said the church’s liturgical norms for posture at Mass do not forbid Catholics from sitting or kneeling when they return to their place after Communion. The ruling from Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, was published in the July issue of the newsletter of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Liturgy. It said the issue arose when some bishops, seeking to implement the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal, directed that those who have already received Communion should remain standing until everyone has received, and then may kneel or sit during the period of silence following Communion.
Bishop Calls for Humanitarian Assistance for Migrants
The bishop of Tucson is calling on Catholics in his diocese to assist Latin American migrants who are attempting to come into the diocese across the U.S.-Mexican border. The diocese is asking for donations of cash or first-aid items to help migrants, who cross the border daily, said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas. Bishop Kicanas said that recent deaths of migrants trying to cross the Arizona desert compelled the church to offer its assistance. I ask parishes to join me in supporting our sister archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, as they provide humanitarian assistance to migrants at risk, the bishop said in a letter read in parishes during Masses on the weekends of July 12-13 and July 19-20.
N.Y. Bishops Accept Revised Bill on Emergency Contraception
The New York State Catholic Conference withdrew its objections to legislation mandating that hospital emergency rooms provide emergency contraception drugs to survivors of rape after the language was amended to resolve church concerns. The bill, which was awaiting the signature of New York Gov. George Pataki as of July 16, calls for such drugs as long as they are not contraindicated, the woman is not pregnant, and it is within a medically appropriate amount of time from the attack, according to a statement from the conference, which represents the bishops of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses.
Catholic hospitals currently administer these drugs to rape survivors under those conditions, the statement said. Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the Albany-based conference, said in the statement that Catholic hospitals are second to none in providing compassionate, holistic care to survivors of rape. This legislation will not affect how that care is provided. Catholic hospitals in New York will continue to offer these medications to rape survivors, consistent with this law and with church teaching.
Secular France Bringing God Back into Public School Classes
Public schools in staunchly secular France are planning to bring God back into the classroom. In June, France’s Education Ministry launched the European Institute for the Study of Religions to educate teachers on religion. The institute will begin teacher training during the new school year in September in Versailles and Lyon, two of the country’s largest school districts. We are facing a generation that knows little about this country’s religious heritage, said Regis Debray, one of the project’s coordinators. In a nation where separation of church and state is a defining characteristic, this marks a new chapter for France’s deeply rooted secular traditions. It is not catechism, said Debray. The program would discuss the history and development of all religions, he said.
An Israeli antiquities collector who revealed last year that he was in possession of an ancient burial box he said was linked to Jesus was arrested on fraud charges. Israeli police said they found a warehouse and laboratory with sophisticated forging equipment in an upstairs room in the home of Oded Golan. A number of other forged antiquities in various stages of production were also uncovered, police said in a statement. [See Am., 11/18/02.]
Pope John Paul II, concerned about U.N. weakness demonstrated by the Iraqi war, will dedicate his message for World Peace Day next Jan. 1 to the importance of international law in promoting harmonious relations between countries.
A Nicaraguan church leader has broken the ice after 24 years of strained church relations with the Sandinista political movement by blessing a celebration marking the anniversary of Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution. We ask the Lord to help all Nicaraguans, reconciled and sharing an embrace of peace, to construct a new future, forgetting the past and looking to the present, said Bishop Edy Montenegro, vicar for communications in the Managua Archdiocese, before tens of thousands of Sandinista loyalists gathered in Managua on July 19. It was the first appearance by a high-ranking church leader at such an event since July 19, 1979.
This year, because All Saints Day, Nov. 1, falls on Saturday, the usual obligation of Latin-rite Catholics in the United States to attend Mass that day is abrogated, said the July newsletter of the bishops’ Committee on Liturgy. It said, however, that the Mass obligation remains for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, even though that is a Monday.
Pope John Paul II gave about $6.6 million to disaster relief and development projects in 2002, according to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
A Catholic human rights office has criticized Guatemala’s highest court for ruling that former military ruler Gen. Efrain Ríos Montt can run for president. Rios Montt’s 1982-83 regime was marked by a wave of repression and brutality against the Guatemalan population that left in its wake thousands of dead and missing people, said the Human Rights Office of the Guatemala City Archdiocese.
Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, has urged the Bush administration to support deployment of an international stabilization force to Liberia.
The Vatican posted a budget deficit for the second year in a row, attributing the roughly $15 million shortfall mainly to a global economic downturn and the cost of constructing new embassies and purchasing real estate in Rome.
In a letter dated July 7, Pope John Paul II urged Poland and Ukraine to reconcile over the massacres of tens of thousands of Polish and Ukrainian civilians during World War II.
The Catholic Book Club, a book-of-the-month club operated by America, has discontinued selling books but will continue to recommend a new book each month. The 75-year-old club has operated at a deficit for years because of rising costs and declining revenues. The club will no longer publish a monthly newsletter, but its monthly recommendation can be found at www.americamagazine.org/cbc.cfm along with a link for purchasing the book at amazon.com.