Not Responsible?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Catholic priesthood shelters perverts and sexual predators. Seems like hardly a week goes by that news media don't bring us another story of the predatory sexual acts of some Catholic priest or religious. I have written a number of articles addressing the sexual abuses of Catholic priests and brothers. To these articles and just about any mention of predatory priests, it has been my observation that Catholic apologists respond with a patented defense: The Church is not responsible for the wrongful acts of individual priests/religious. They will hold to this line, even when it can be shown that the local diocese knew of the priest's predatory ways, yet neither reported them to law enforcement authorities nor removed him from contact with the very population upon which he was preying.

In one of the articles, I explored at length the atrocities alleged to have been committed by Christian Brothers and members of other Catholic communities against children entrusted to their care in Quebec, Canada. Many of the allegations were proved in courts of law and the perpetrators were sent to prison. One of the Christian Brothers, charged with sexual crimes against children in another Canadian province, fled to a Christian Brothers monastery in New Jersey, where he was hidden from authorities.

Perhaps some who read here might be aware that defrocked Boston priest John Geoghan was found guilty of indecent assault on a ten-year-old boy and sentenced to ten years in prison (2002). It seems that Father Geoghan was a busy pedophile, for he was accused of sexual misconduct by some 130 people and was looking at two more criminal trials and was a defendant in 80 civil lawsuits.

On August 23, 2003, while in protective custody at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, Geoghan was trapped in his cell, strangled and stomped to death by Joseph Druce, a homophobic, self-described white supremacist and fellow inmate already serving life without possibility of parole for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass at him --John Geoghan, Wikipedia

From media reports it appears that Geoghan's archbishop, Bernard Cardinal Law, was aware of what the former priest had been doing, yet apparently did nothing to correct the situation. An article in the San Antonio Express-News reported that in a poll conducted by the Boston Globe-WBZ-TV, 58% of 800 Catholics interviewed said that the cardinal handled the situation poorly, and nearly half thought he should resign. Reportedly, the cardinal planned to stay on the job and made a few changes to how such cases are to be handled in future, in consonance with Pope John Paul II's recently published guidelines.

More than 80 names of accused priests now have been given to district attorneys in the five counties comprising the Boston archdiocese. – Ken Maguire, Associated Press, Cardinal to ignore poll, stay on the job, San Antonio Express-News, February 11, 2002, p. 9A

Cardinal Law may gave wanted to stay on the job, but all that changed some 10 months later:

Pope John Paul II on Friday accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as archbishop of the scandal-plagued Boston Archdiocese. . .Law subsequently apologized to abuse victims and announced a policy of "zero tolerance" for sexual abuse. The change in policy came after documents showed Law knew of the accusations against Geoghan, but remained silent and allowed him to remain a priest. . .At a news conference in Boston Friday morning, the Rev. Christopher Coyne of the Boston Archdiocese said Law will remain a cardinal attached to a church, but will most likely be in retirement status. Law has no more authority to govern the archdiocese by virtue of his resignation, he said. --CNN, Pope accepts Law's resignation, December 13, 2002, Copyright 2002 CNN

There is a site on the web, Wounded Children – Brave Men., where the victims, now adults, of sexual abuses by Catholic priests and brothers charged with their care briefly describe what was done to them and how it affected the rest of their lives.

Here is a sample of what can be found at the Wounded Children – Brave Men site:

One Brother would make me kneel in front of him and pray because it was my fault he committed these acts. I can't remember his name but I can remember the pain ... One brother called me homosexual, how can you be homosexual at nine years old?--Mike's Story

Within three months of leaving St. John's I started having sexual feelings towards my half brother. I didn't know where these thoughts came from; I never had any feelings like this before. I was so confused and horrified at the thought of becoming a sexual deviant monster like the Brothers. I believed I was becoming Brother Shawn. I was terrified. Instead of becoming like one of the Brothers in my twisted, warped thinking I thought my brother was better off dead. I didn't want him to end up emotionally damaged the way I was. That night I was charged with manslaughter. I was thirteen and my brother ten.--John's Story

The sexual assaults affected an area of my life that is difficult to talk about. I have lost two marriages because of my sexual dysfunction. I have difficulty in controlling my body's responses during sexual performance. The sexual violation of my person as a child has cost me a chance for intimacy.-- Gord's Story

I gave confession and told the Priest about a Brother who sexually assaulted me and he came out of the confessional and took my hand and took me directly to the Brother and told him what I Confessed. That is against everything right and holy according to Canon Law. Then the Priest sexually assaulted me.--Grant's Story

Past victims of priestly sexual abuse cannot be healed by exposing priestly pedophiles for the monsters they are or were, nor can such revelations heal the future scars of those yet to be abused by their priests. One can only hope that providing a forum where their stories might be told will help in the healing process. Though I was never victimized by a priest, in my heart I ache for those who were. I am consoled with the knowledge that the Perfect Judge will deliver all those priests, nuns, brothers, sisters, etc., who used their religious office to help them physically or sexually abuse children to God's perfect justice.

Not responsible? I'd say that every member of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, that Teflon entity to which no charge can stick, shares in the responsibility for these terrible crimes against children, either in the doing or in the concealing.

Come soon, Lord.

Cardinal Law Update

So what happened to Bernie Law after he left the Boston Archdiocese? Given the history of priestly sexual abuse while he ruled over the Boston Archdiocese one would think that he would have ended his priestly career in some secluded position. Not so!

In December of 2002, Cardinal Law decided to resign for the good of the Church. He moved out of the $20 million three story church –owned house in which he had humbly lived in a manner befitting a man of the cloth. He moved to Clinton, Md. where he brought comfort to the Sisters of Mercy of Alma by serving as their chaplain. For a man of his stature that was a modest post and in 2004 it was reported that he was being rewarded for his years of faithful service by being made the archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, one of the four most important basilicas in that city. A Vatican spokesman said he would “be in charge of the administration of the priests and anything related to the basilica.”

Although it must have been hard for the good Cardinal to leave his beloved United States, the move was not without its compensation. He was put up in quarters described as palatial, a “classical Roman apartment with frescoes on the wall.” (By contrast his Boston successor lived in more modest quarters, the $20 million house having been sold to raise a portion of the millions that the church paid out to victims of priests who served under his supervision.

Some might have thought that such great good fortune bestowed on one who presided over one of the church’s greatest sex abuse scandals would have been reward enough to last a lifetime. It was not to be. A heady time was in store for the good Cardinal following the death of John Paul II.

In addition to a long interview on ABC news and lots of photo opportunities, he was invited to the United States Embassy reception for President and Mrs. Bush. Since Mr. Bush does not read newspapers, he was probably unaware of the Cardinal’s executive infirmities. In addition, the Cardinal’s colleagues who arranged events for the week following Pope John Paul II’s funeral selected him to preside over one of the funeral Masses to be conducted during that week which include delivering that day’s homily. It was not only an honor but demonstrated that his colleagues did not bear any grudges for his lax governing style while serving in Boston. Not everyone was as forgiving.--Christopher Brauchli, Cardinal Bernard Law: From Glory to Glory, Published on Saturday, April 16, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

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