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.