In 1993, Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote to the Vatican with an urgent problem. One of his priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had been accused of plying teenage boys with alcohol and molesting them, sometimes during prayer.
In less than eight years, Father Kevin Barmasse had, as one church official put it in newly released files, “left a wake of devastation that is hard to comprehend.” Mahony yanked Barmasse out of his parish and wanted to make sure he couldn’t return. But Barmasse appealed to the one body that could overrule Mahony: the Vatican.
“The case has been there for many, many months,” Mahony wrote to one Vatican office tasked with handling priest misconduct. “The lengthy delay has created serious problems for my own credibility as a Diocesan Bishop.”
In the wake of the court-ordered release of 12,000 pages of confidential archdiocese records, Mahony has been criticized for hiding abuse allegations from police and failing to protect parishioners from accused molesters. But the documents suggest that Mahony at times had to press an unresponsive Vatican to get molesting priests out of the church.
UC Riverside professor Jennifer Scheper Hughes, who has studied Benedict’s reaction to liberation theology in Latin America both before and during his papacy, suggests that he leaves a painful legacy for Roman Catholics in the region. Says Hughes,
“Both as Cardinal Ratzinger and as Pope, Benedict devoted himself to a process of undermining, silencing, and marginalizing the theologians, priests, and religious who committed themselves to the liberation of the poor. His legacy in Latin America is precisely this: the systematic dismantling of the infrastructure of liberation theology. Some in Latin America may hope that this period of antagonism has now come to a close. Others are, by now, far more cynical.”
DignityUSA, the advocacy group for LGBT Catholics, has called on supporters “for a period of prayer and reflection as we prepare for the conclave” to elect a new pope who may put an “end to statements that inflict harm on already marginalized people, depict us as less than fully human, and lend credence to those seeking to justify discrimination.”
“It’s hard to identify a figure who has been more oppressive to LGBT people in the religious world than Pope Benedict,” says DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke.
From the labeling of homosexuality as “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically evil” in magisterial documents he developed as a cardinal, to condemnations of transgendered people as mentally ill, to more recent attacks on marriage equality as a deterrent to world peace, says Duddy-Burke, the current pope has actively worked to undermine the full equality of LGBT people and denigrated their human dignity. Duddy-Burke notes that the announcement of Benedict’s retirement on the eve of the Christian Lenten season provides an opportunity for deep reflection on the harm such words and actions do within and beyond the Church. She hopes such reflection will fuel action among the faithful in the pews.
Eric Nielsen, 52, a parishioner at the church since 1981, said after Sunday services that “this will probably be my last time coming here” because he was unsettled by the child abuse scandal.
“I take my hat off to the archbishop,” Nielsen said. “He got on the ball and did what needed to be done.”
“It’s a shame,” he added.
In a move unprecedented in the U.S. Catholic Church, Gomez announced Thursday that he had relieved Mahony, his predecessor as archbishop, of all public duties over his handling of clergy sex abuse of children decades ago.
Gomez also said that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Mahony to conceal abusers from police in the 1980s, had resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara.
The announcement came as the church posted on its website tens of thousands of pages of the previously secret personnel files of 122 priests accused of molesting children.
“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez wrote in his letter, addressed to “My brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The release of the records and the rebuke of the two central figures in L.A.’s molestation scandal signaled a clear desire by Gomez to define the sexual abuse crisis as a problem of a different era — and a different archbishop.
Church leaders who mishandled child sex abuse allegations will be named in a 30,000-page cache of internal Archdiocese of Los Angeles records set for public release in coming weeks, a judge ruled Monday.
The decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias reversed a ruling by a private mediator that the names of archdiocesan employees should be redacted from the documents to avoid further embarrassment to the church and “guilt by association.”
Elias said the public’s right to know how the archdiocese, the largest in the nation, handled molestation allegations outweighed such concerns. She also reversed the ruling of the mediator, retired federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian, that priests who had faced a single allegation of abuse would have their names blacked out.
“Don’t you think the public has a right to know … what was going on in their own church,” she asked a lawyer for the archdiocese. She said parishioners who learn from the files of a priest accused of abuse in their local church “may want to talk to their adult children” about their own experiences.
Earlier this year, Sister Keehan stepped up again, when, after the administration announced that Catholic institutions would not be exempt from the law’s mandate to employers that their health insurance plans fully cover patients’ contraceptive costs, and do so without demanding a co-payment from the patient. After the predictable outcry from the bishops, the administration offered an “accommodation” requiring health insurance companies to pick up the tab for the conception coverage, and Keehan gave her approval.
BELGIUM’S Roman Catholic Church vowed today to compensate the victims of paedophile priests in the wake of a child abuse scandal that has rocked the Church for the past year.
Accused for months of showing little compassion for the victims, the bishops and heads of religious orders deplored the abuses that were documented last year by a Church-backed commission, which revealed nearly 500 cases that took place over several decades, resulting in 13 suicides.
“Recognising their moral responsibility and the expectations of society, the bishops and religious leaders pledge to ensure recognition of the victims and adopt measures to heal their suffering,” the Church said in a statement.
“They are determined to bring dignity back to the victims and provide financial compensation according to their needs,” it said, denouncing the “trauma and suffering” caused by abusive priests.
So we’re to believe that priests were simply swept along with the rest of society as drug use increased, premarital sex became more acceptable and divorce more common? Oh, the horrors of the Summer of Love!
May I point out that “deviant” behavior is a slippery category, and loosened morality on sex in general isn’t the same as the criminal act of sexually abusing a child? The report correlates the rise in sexual abuse of children by priests with rising crime rates and divorce rates — deviant behavior, all — without establishing how they’re related other than coincidence in time.
The problem is that child molestation by priests — and the systematic cover-up of their crimes by church hierarchy — has been exposed as a global phenomenon. How well does generalized “deviance” explain trends in sexual abuse that happened in South Africa, Ireland, Germany and other countries worldwide? Surely the divorce and crime rates didn’t play out in the same way in all of these countries the way they did in the United States.
The study also took pains to characterize the scourge of sexual abuse by priests as “historical” — which is to say, a thing that happened and is now mostly past. It notes a drop in reported abuse cases starting in the mid-1980s and credits new policies and practices put in place in churches and seminaries. If this is true, shouldn’t we be asking how important a factor the societal deviance explanation is to begin with?
Moreover, it seems a little too pat to use reported cases of priestly abuse to draw conclusions for all time.
The most damnable aspect of the report — yes, that word is chosen carefully — is how it seeks to distort the role of pedophilia.
The report defines prepubescent children as 10 years of age and under. By that standard, as The New York Times pointed out, the bishops can claim that fewer than 5 percent of sexual predator priests were pedophiles and that only 22 percent of their victims were prepubescent.
More than two months after their arrest, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office formally presented felony charges Friday against four current or former priests and a former parochial schoolteacher accused of raping two altar boys in the 1990s or enabling their abuse.
The five include the Rev. James J. Brennan and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, defrocked priest Edward V. Avery, and former teacher Bernard Shero. Brennan allegedly sexually assaulted a teenager in his apartment. The others are accused of sodomizing a 10-year-old at St. Jerome’s Parish in Northeast Philadelphia.
Msgr. William J. Lynn, who served as Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua’s secretary for clergy, is charged with child endangerment for recommending the assignments of known predatory priests.
Brennan did not attend the session, having waived arraignment. The others were present but did not speak. However, their lawyers voiced frustration that prosecutors had yet to give them all of the alleged victims’ testimony to the Philadelphia grand jury that recommended the charges against them.
Prosecutors said those materials would be made available before the next hearing.
A few nights ago, there was some discussion on one of the LGF threads about those who are willing to make huge sacrifices, including the possibility of losing their lives, in service of the greater good.
Most folks applauded such efforts; but there were a few who most heartily did not. I have my own opinion of those folks that I won’t go into here. But what follows is just such a story of men making sacrifices to serve those in need.
French filmmaker Xavier Beauvais has given us “Of Gods and Men”, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
For every pedophile priest, there are good men like the Trappist monks whose story is the subject of this movie. This is quoted from the article I linked:
The movie tells the story of Brother Christian and his half-dozen fellow monks, mostly elderly as so many monastic congregations are, living the simplest of lives in impoverished and violent Algeria in 1996. Their Trappist vows mandated a life providing basic medical needs to the Muslim peasants in the village Tibhirine; of producing and marketing simple produce like honey for their own sustenance; of prayer and song in their little chapel; of contemplation and of silence.
But that world is shattered by Islamic terrorism. In the one and only grizzly scene, a few Croatians are repairing a local road when a convoy of jeeps, with engines roaring and tires squealing, emerge. The terrorists dismount, grab the foreigners, innocent and unarmed, and viciously slit their throats.
The news reaches the monks. They know that as “infidels” they are now marked men. They know the government, corrupt and murderous in its own right, is equally threatening. If they stay it is only a matter of time. They will be killed. The villagers plead for them to leave.
On Christmas Eve the monastery is assaulted by these killers. The defenseless monks are ordered to surrender their medical supplies. But Brother Christian refuses to do so, citing the need to provide it for the children and the elderly. It is a war of nerves and the terrorist leader blinks. He turns to leave but Brother Christian stops him and, quoting from the Koran, admonishes him not to disturb the sanctity of God’s house on this holy night. The message resonates. Chagrined, the Muslim terrorist apologizes.
The monks know they will return and this time there will be finality. They meet to discuss their future. Initially the brothers are divided; after much prayer, contemplation and consultation the community embraces the will of God: it was their calling to minister to these villagers and with these villagers they will remain. The terrorists return. At gunpoint the monks are kidnapped. In the final heart-breaking scene these holy men are silently led away, to their execution.
A now 37-year-old man has filed a lawsuit in Jackson County against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, alleging he was molested by two priests in the 1980s.
The two priests named in the lawsuit are Rev. Mark Honhart and the Rev. Hugh Monohan.
“It happened, (the man was) 9 years old for the first priest, and for Father Hugh Monohan, he was 11 years old. So, it happened for a period of two or three years,” said David Biersmith, one of three men with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests who showed up outside the diocese to show support for the unnamed plaintiff.
Richard Durocher was another man who showed up in support.