Look to Catholic Lay Leaders’ Experiences with Bishops

Guest Blog By Martin J. Leahy, PhD

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the grand jury reports were political propaganda. Assume also that all of the other investigations in the country, which pointed to identical patterns of behavior, were also political propaganda, motivated by feminists, gays, and other “anti-Catholic” types. How do you explain the fact that faithful Catholics, who love the Church, discovered the very same patterns that make up the bishop’s handling of the sex and power abuse scandal in the Catholic Church?
Let’a ask: what was the actual experience of the bishops by Catholic leaders chosen by the bishops to head review boards?
2003 Gov. Frank Keating, Chair, National Review Board compared the bishops to the Mafia. He said this in his letter of resignation
As I have recently said, and have repeated on several occasions, our Church is a Faith institution. A home to Christ’s people. It is not a criminal enterprise. It does not condone and cover up criminal activity. It does not follow a code of silence. My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology. To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.

2004 Justice Ann Burke, Keating’s successor, claimed that the bishops manipulated the board for public relations purposes. The NCR headlineread: Review board head charges bishops ‘manipulated’ sex abuse panel and withheld information: Bishops ‘anxious to put these matters behind them.’
The high-profile lay committee investigating the clergy sex abuse scandals was “manipulated” by the bishops, who used the 13-member National Review Board for public relations cover while withholding key information from the panel.
That charge was made in a March 30 letter from Anne Burke, the Illinois Court of Appeal Justice who serves as the Board’s interim chair, to bishops’ conference President Wilton Gregory.

She learned that Pennsylvania and New Jersey bishops, including Justin Rigali, were working in secret to undermine the work of the review board.

Charles Chaput, archbishop of Denver, was the attack dog who took on Justice Burke. The following is from NCR
Meanwhile, on April 2, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and his auxiliary bishop, Jose Gomez, responded to Burke. Her letter, they wrote, “assumes the worst motives on the part of the bishops, despite the progress that has already been made. Your language is designed to offend and contains implicit threats that are, to put it mildly, inappropriate for anyone of your professional stature.” Burke’s letter, said the two bishops, “invites resistance”….
Chaput and Gomez, however, questioned whether such audits are necessary.
The Charter, said Chaput and Gomez, “nowhere requires an annual national audit and the expense, staff and structures that would involve. We do not necessarily oppose such an audit. We do think it would make more sense on a triennial or quadrennial basis.”
Further, said Chaput and Gomez, the Review Board overstepped its mandate. “It is not the NRB’s duty to interpret the Charter. The NRB is an important advisory body at the service of the bishops. It does not and cannot have supervisory authority”.
This is more data about Chaput’s track record on the sex and power abuse crisis; this, from a letter with his signature.

2011 Ann Marie Catanzaro, Chair of the Philadelphia Review Board, says members of the Review Board learned about the most recent Grand Jury investigation only days before the release of the report. In a letter to Commonweal, she explained the Review Board’s process and how the archdiocese withheld information from members. On the Philadelphia bishops, she had this to say:
Although concerns about liability can be legitimate, addressing the abuse scandal from a legalistic perspective focused on protecting the archdiocese from liability is simply wrong.
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.

We all know the pattern: secrecy, silencing, concern for small “s” scandal (public relations damage), lawyering up, and reminding all around them that bishops have ultimate unilateral authority. There is rarely much, if anything, about the child. I have read hundreds of page of subpoenaed documents and don’t think I ever saw: “How is that little boy!?!” In some cases, clerics reminded parents and others about the need to avoid “giving scandal,” the big “S” Scandal, that sin against charity where saying negative things about the Church, even if true, risked undermining the faith of the “little ones” — us ignorant sheep who, having had our faith shaken, might leave the Church and risk eternal damnation.

The standing ovation for Lynn could be interpreted in many ways. I see it as a hip hip hooray for clericalism.

How much more evidence do we need to know that we cannot count on the clergy, especially the famously compliant Philadelphia clergy, for leadership to change this organizational culture?

When people are at Mass on Sunday how many will look up and wonder: Did that priest jump up to applaud Lynn? Maybe you should ask him.

36 thoughts on “Look to Catholic Lay Leaders’ Experiences with Bishops

  1. There’s no question about the breath and depth of the corruption within the RCC worldwide. It has been going on for centuries. As long as the vast majority of Catholics continue to kiss the rings of bishops, and supply them with money, the corruption will never end. The leadership of the Church will try to get away with as much as they can, for as long as they can. Meaningful change will certainly not take place in my lifetime, so I’m out! I’ve deprogrammed myself, and no longer need or want them in my life.

    1. I am surprised that even I, an ex-catholic since @1982, have evolved since coming aboard C4C in my view of the Catholics who stay in the pews. I have posted here that I don’t charge such with abetting or enabling because they have been misguided and lied to; however, I now take the view that with the laity not speaking out to the priest, and the priest not speaking out to the laity, the silence is culpable. And to me this is a condemnation of Catholicism itself.

      I had an hour and a half today at my volunteer place to sit so I put on the headset and tuned in EWTN for “open line with John Martignoni” the RC apologist “grande”. I was sorry I did— call after call came in with no hint any Catholic in the world was aware or concerned with either Kansas city or Philly and their “Lynn and Finn” catastrophes. Just every other subject one could imagine. I prepared a little talk I intended to give him and tried calling— couldn’t get through. I probably have been blacklisted since last week when Martingnoni suggested he would keep me off for a time because I refused to agree with his bible eisegesis.
      This is what I intended to say:
      You cannot get away or escape from the truth [now with Finn/Lynn]that RCism is now shown to be false religion by the actions and lack of actions [SILENCE] of Laity and clergy in the face of the sexual abuse of children.Now there is no excuse for for Catholics remaining to support the C.C. They cannot plead ignorance of the silence of those – both lay and clergy- aware of the abuse and not reporting it , or even urging each other to report it.

  2. I concur that the bishops will continue to abuse (any and all) until their houses of worship are empty. They do not hold themselves accountable and indicate no interest in doing so other than empty promises that they break. I too am ‘deprogrammed’ and it has taken most of my life. Being abused helped that happen. Perhaps we survivors are on this earth to carry that message.

    1. Believe it or not! There was a time– centuries ago– when the ONE defense available today, wasn’t available. You HAD TO ATTEND MASS or be arrested by the “authorities.” Today, at least that remedy is available. I use it!

  3. Tom Wheatley, former Assistant Chief, San Jose Police Department served on a Jesuit lay team in Los Gatos, California which reviewed allegations of Jesuit sex abuse at the same time he was also serving on the San Jose Police Department only 13-miles away. This raises a conflict of interest question. Wheatley graduated from a Jesuit high school in San Jose.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Leahy for that excellent summary. Justice Anne Burke has recently offered her current assesment. As a lawyer, judge, mother, grandmother, wife of a major political leader and devout Catholic, her views are important. She also met with the pope on abuse issues. Her new article is accessible by clicking on to http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-29/news/ct-oped-0429-burke-20110429_1_abuse-scandal-child-abuse-national-review-board Her bottom line after dealing with many bishops is, but can you really trust them! I don’t think you can.

  5. Dr. Leahy,

    “How much more evidence do we need to know that we cannot count on the clergy, especially the famously compliant Philadelphia clergy, for leadership to change this organizational culture (clericalism)”?

    Where does that leave a cleric like Fr. Chris who genuinely seems to want to act as a “prophetic voice” to change the culture? Will it always be a kind of “close but no cigar” endeavor for him? Isn’t his greatest obstacle fearing that he needs to be a “safe” prophet? Are “safe” prophetic voices ever prophetic?

    1. Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and long time critic of the church’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis, serves as an expert witness for victims suing the church. He hits the leadership head on, and lets the chips fall where they may. However, you can be certain that this brave gifted priest will never be wearing a miter. This man has a “set,” and he’s not going to let the hierarchy neuter him!

      He’s a great example, but a man of his caliber doesn’t come around everyday.

    2. Hadit posted: “Dr. Leahy,

      “How much more evidence do we need to know that we cannot count on the clergy, especially the famously compliant Philadelphia clergy, for leadership to change this organizational culture (clericalism)”?

      Where does that leave a cleric like Fr. Chris who genuinely seems to want to act as a “prophetic voice” to change the culture? Will it always be a kind of “close but no cigar” endeavor for him? Isn’t his greatest obstacle fearing that he needs to be a “safe” prophet? Are “safe” prophetic voices ever prophetic?

      Great ,insightful question that!
      And in the first paragraph– I had thought “organizational culture” a fitting euphemism for “cult”, but your “clericalism” is also appropriate IMO.

    3. Dear haditCatholic, Father Chris listens, engages with us, says he has learned and changed his position on the power/sex abuse crisis based on his exchanges with others. I don’t agree with all that he says but he challenges and supports the Church and us. I don’t know what else I could ask for. I am keenly aware of the risks he is taking and he has my respect and gratitude. Martin

      1. Thank you, Martin.

        Praying for you, Fr. Chris. May God provide you with wisdom and the courage to implement it.

  6. The Dallas Charter setting up the US Bishops zero tolerance policies and programs apparently exempted the bishops from oversight.

    And the bishops who espouse Zero Tolerance have, for the past ten, or more years, through their state conference offices ‘well under the radar screen’ attempted to minimize or eviscerate mandatory clergy molestation reporting requirements, extensions of statute of limitations, predator passing on legislation, and most recently using Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, legislation that would make it difficult to prosecute any clergy for ANY crime of ANY sort.

    It is clearly time for folks to really understand the nature of the bishops tactics and Catholics4Change is the first place where I have seen a coherent effort to address these issues.

  7. The struggle continues. Their failures must continue to be made public. We must continue to blog, to protest, to stop giving money, to support the survivors and to support the cases being brought against the highest leaders of the RCC.

    We must continue speaking out. It is going to take a long time; they are very powerful and very rich. We must continue speaking out–even to those beside us in the pews…

    I am hopeful…


  8. Here’s the Oath Against Modernism that Mr. Chris and the rest of the clergy must sign. He is fooling himself, and us, if he thinks he can be both a priest and a prophet.

    Given by His Holiness St. Pius X September 1, 1910.

    To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.
    I . . . . firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated: Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical’ misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.
    Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.
    Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.
    I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God.

    1. To the person who gave Charles’ post a thumbs down, please say why or how the oath will not prevent Mr./Fr./Rev. Chris from being a prophetic voice in eliminating clericalism. Defend your point of view.

      To Fr. Chris… please respond to how the oath does or does not impede your prophetic voice.

    2. The “death of dogma is the birth of morality” , this is more of an allegiance to the hierarchy than to GOD, now I can understand why the rcc acts with arrogance.

  9. maturlishmdsnd@yahoo.com
    I agree with Martin J. Leahy’s piece above.

    “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”

    Why, on God’s good earth, would anyone trust the leadership of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia or the national leadership for that matter? We have read, studied, talked about, and responded to the first Philadelphia grand jury investigation and the horrors it contains. Some of us even went so far as to believe what the AOP said it was going to do. With the release of the second PGJR in 2011 many of those same individuals were forced to admit that actually very little was being done and the hierarchy and their underlings weren’t even observing their own directives.

    Leadership knew, they always knew that serious problems existed within its ranks as far as sexual activities were concerned and I am not speaking only of the sexual abuse of children as horrid as that is. Leadership covered it up, transferred those they had reason to believe were culpable, etc., etc., but they never showed any concern for the victims. That mindset came out in page after page after page in the grand jury reports and then in previously sealed depositions that one can now easily access on line. Leadership will not dialogue with members of the People of God who want to help and give their input; people who dearly love their church.

    The fact is leadership is still more concerned with keeping secrets, playing it close to the vest while holding onto power with an iron grasp, so much so that they do not realize the institution in collapsing in on itself. They made rules in 2002 that they applied to the clergy but did not see fit to apply them to themselves. If they do not have the character and integrity to own up to their failures, “man up” if you will, in the area of childhood sexual abuse and start being a model for other denominations to emulate why would anyone expect that they could possibly exercise a character and integrity in any other area?

    “Sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.”

    Sister Maureen

  10. Her Name was Nellie of the Old
    And we were girls of ten
    The Sisters of the Blessed Poor
    Took care of Nellie then…
    She couldn’t walk and liked to balk
    At everything she was asked
    “Oh this pot’s too hot, this tea’s too cold”
    Complaining with each task, she was,
    Complaining with each task.

    Christmas time approaching
    The Archbishop’s on his way
    Oh the cleanin’ and the polishin’
    Preparing for the day.
    As our voices rise in love of Song
    His Mittyness presides
    And after, as he blesses all,
    Our Nellie wheels by, she does
    Our Nellie wheels by.

    Oh some they say were never the same
    In church or school or home
    For Nellie she was not struck dead
    For what she said to Rome.
    As His Grace extended his ringed hand
    To Nellie as she passed
    “Oh, I’ll kiss your ring, of course I will
    But first you’ll kiss my ass”, she said
    But first you’ll kiss my ass.”

    1959. San Francisco

    May Nellie of the Old live inside of each of us.


  11. Thank you again to those of you who are standing in solidarity with the victims.

    The bishops should be reminded of another fact. The victims, we who were raped, sodomized and sexually assaulted by trusted priests, were also faithful Catholics. The father of Eric Patterson, who was victimized at 12 and committed suicide at 29, spoke at a SNAP meeting. According to Mr. Patterson, the victims were “the true believers.” We were easy marks because of our deep faith in the Catholic church. Kids who believed, who were not skeptical, were targeted, because we were easy to manipulate.

    It’s ludicrous to portray this as an attack on the church. Supposedly, the people are the church, or that’s what I was taught.

    1. It is way past time for “Catholics” to ask themselves how ,like Judge Burke above, they can recognize the “bishops” are liars and yet continue to fantasize that these “bishops” bring “grace” from God through “confirmation” and other fanciful religious exercises. Some are self-defeating because , as Janet Clark says: “that’s what I was taught.”

      I say it’s past time fostraightht talk.

  12. Martin Leahey made the point in his excellent article that in all the tragic records of molestation that he had read, that there was no personal concerned reference to an individual child.

    I think this is a really important point. As both a mom and a grandma, I think the care, love and protection of children, is probably the most fundamental motivation most parents have….we will sacrifice everything we have to protect a child. It’s in most parents DNA.

    Naively, we trusted the Church to do the same, and boy were we wrong.

    Perhaps at the heart of this very ugly situation is this fundamental dichotomy. The clerical end of the world is essentially incapable of protective love of children and all the appropriate behavior that would then ensue. Indeed it houses molesters and protects them, and is enormously protective of it’s reputation, using every legal and political gambit at its disposal. It was only with the Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, Et al that the Dallas Charter, such as it is, came to be.

    So, it behooves us to use some of those legal gambits as well. In every state Capitol there is a Catholic Conference Office staffed by the bishops lobbyists. These lobbyists have been very busy campers these last ten years, attempting to sabotage legislation that would aid victims while pushing legislation that would protect the church.

    The legal issues are complicated and varied, and on occasion fast moving.

    Actually I think there needs to be a specific blog dedicated to these issues where just as one can check out Abuse Tracker, one could check out a Bishops Legislative State Actions, so that concerned folks can contact appropriate legislators about specific legislation. If there had been a concerted effort ten years ago to oppose the bishops lobbying efforts, victims rights would be much improved.

    Finally about SNAP, that adage about a few dedicated folks robustly pursuing a very valuable goal and changing the world, is what I think of when I think of SNAP. They have been phenomenal. They support victims, they use media to find more victims and most of all they protect children. And they use media very effectively to keep the Church honest, or as honest as possible. One could say that SNAP is well endowed with that parental DNA.

  13. The bishops’ motives don’t matter. Whether or not they knew that certain priests had molested children doesn’t matter. Whether or not there was an actual cover-up doesn’t matter.

    Whether by ignorance or bad judgment, whether they outright lied or just stalled, by virtue of their position the bishops SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, and therefore they are responsible and accountable.

  14. It is a wonderful and necessary idea to create a blog that tracks the bishops moves in the political arena. Folks would be stunned to know how “political” these bishops lobbying groups are. And they are NEVER on the side of innocent children. Thank you, Joan, for the brilliant suggestion.

    Bishops think it is Jesuslike to spend more money fighting statute of limitations extensions in each state, than they spend to help survivors of their child raping colleagues. As a catholic people, raised in the tradition of prayer and study, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the power of these men of dubious conscience.


  15. This is my humble suggestion as to a root of the problem you at Catholics4Change are struggling against:

    The Confessional.

    If I possessed the education and intellectual power to do so, I would pursue that avenue; however, I leave that to others.

  16. Over the last ten years Many Diocesan Abuse Review board members resigned in disgust. Jim Jenkins PhD Chair of San Francisco archdiocesan review board under now Cardinal Levada resigned in disgust at the cover-up .A/B Levada went on to become head of Vatican Congregation on faith and doctrine succeding BXVI.. Levada’s job was to clean up abuse.?????????????… #2 man in Vatican ????

  17. I am going to repeat here something that I think will be helpful to all:

    A book recommendation for everyone in the pews: “Willful Blindness; Why We Ignore the Obvious At Our Peril” by Margaret Heffernan (2011). It’s a fascinating study on why people ignore the obvious. It looks at this phenomenon using examples from lots of different sources – The Church, Madoff, The Federal Reserve, Enron, BP, Nazi Germany (Actually, the segue from the discussion on the Church to Albert Speer, mastermind of the Third Reich is wonderful.)

    The Philadelphia Library has copies!

  18. “Look to Catholic Lay Leaders”

    Since this is the topic at hand, here goes. A check with Rep. Marsico’s office (life-long Catholic and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, PA State House) revealed that Judiciary Committee hearings are tentatively scheduled for October 18 and there is no agenda set as of today.

    One wonders whether or not Rep. Marsico attended either of the events (Mass or breakfast) with Archbishop Chaput in Harrisburg last week. If so, we can be sure that HB 832 and 878 will be scheduled for public hearings on October 18. Yeah, right!

  19. Don’t doubt for a minute that the leadership in the Catholic Church wants ALL of this “nonsense” to go away, and as quickly as possible, regrettably it hasn’t and and will not do so anytime soon. Those in the episcopacy never have grasped the scope of the sexual scandals that have occurred in the Church for decades. This is not and never has been a “local” problem. The length, width, breath and depth of this issue goes far beyond what was ever imagined by anyone, inside or outside the Church. Until those in the positions of authority understand the immense amount of pain suffered by victims and their families, the shame and embarrassment of Catholics in general and the lack of trust and respect that many have towards the Church, until then, the crisis will not abate. We are way past, “Houston, we have a problem!” The attitude and behavior of those “in charge” is totally inept and incompetent. Producing a new missal, silencing those who may suggest optional celibacy or women priests is far more critical to the welfare of the Church in the minds of those in the Vatican……………The conduct of some of those who call themselves servants is appalling.

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