Monthly Archives: October 2012

Is it safer for kids to fly or go to church?

Patrick Doyle wrote an intriguing piece in the Boston Daily after interviewing a number of seminarians. After reading it, I now am more afraid than ever for the future safety of children in the Church.

The formators (priests in charge of seminarian formation) in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston are analogizing millennia-old child sexual abuse crimes to the airline industry.  I do not think the folks at Boston Logan, Delta airlines or Boeing would concur.

From the article:

“As Father Chris O’Connor, the Vice-Rector at Saint John Seminary (Boston) is fond of saying, Priests are like airplanes.  Most of them take off and land, take off and land, and everything is fine.  You only hear about the ones who crash.”  

It’s delusion at its highest form.

So let’s look at the numbers. If you compare and contrast what the National Transportatio  Safety Board (NTSB) reports with the Roman Catholic Church National Review Board (NRB) here is what you find:

NTSB                                                                        NRB

http://www.ntsb.gov                                                         http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/

crash rate is eight million to one                       crash rate is 4-10%

62 major crashes since 1950                              6,115 priests since 1950

910,000 licensed US pilots                                 39,718 active US priests.

accident data base available                               accident data base is secret

 

Is it safer for a child to fly on an airplane in the United States or to attend the Roman Catholic Church?  You do the math.

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Bishops Gone Wild

Think that Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn’s recent guilty plea is a shock to Rome? Alas, for the Holy See, this is nothing new.  The real question in the case of the Kansas City Bishop is: What options does the Holy See have available?

From the Roman viewpoint, this is a delicate balancing act.  On one side, the Holy See does not want to concede to the “people” demanding the removal of Finn. Why? Because it is reminiscent of 19th century Lay Trusteeism.  On the other side, the embarrassment of how Finn handled the Shawn Ratigan case (nearly ten years after the Charter and Norms were promulgated) is scandalous.

Here is a list of management techniques deployed by the Holy See in recent history to snuff out scandal created by Bishops.  The management techniques fall into two categories: Geographic and Privation of Office.

Geographic Solution

As a new priest twenty years ago, I saw the results of the Vatican quietly removing Bishop Lawrence Welsh of Spokane, WA.

Larry sexually assaulted a teenage prostitute in Chicago while at a Knights of Columbus convention.  Larry was the national Chaplain to the Knights.  Chicago police investigated and the Spokane newspaper exposed it.

The Holy See acted quickly, neutralizing the scandal by saying that Welsh was arrested for drunk driving and applying the “Geographic Solution.”  Larry was removed as the Ordinary of Spokane and relocated to Saint Paul/Minneapolis.

Privation of Office

The privation of office is a management technique that has at least eight different tactics.  The first is to transfer the bishop to the “missions” on another continent.  Second is to remove and sometimes invalidate his episcopal ordination.  A third common technique is to send the bishop for chemical addiction treatment (see Welsh above).  Fourth is to order the bishop attend a sexual abuse treatment program.  Fifth is the traditional solution of ordering the bishop to a life of prayer and penance in a monastery.  Sixth is to send the bishop to become a chaplain in a remote area.  Seventh is to quietly retire him to an emeritus status.  Lastly, they’ll jet the guy out of town and transfer him to Rome.

Here are more than a few examples of canon 416 (privation of office) actions that Rome has performed on members of the Hierarchy of recent memory:

a.  Bishop Lawrence Welsh of Spokane was removed, sent to “alcohol treatment,” and transferred to be an Auxiliary Bishop in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

b.  Bishop Emerson Moore of New York was removed and sent to Hazelden.  Bishop Moore died in an AIDS hospice in Stillwater, Minnesota.

c.  Bishop Thomas Dupre of Springfield, Mass was removed and sent to Saint Luke Institute.

d.  Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell of Jefferson City, MO was removed and sent to live a life of prayer and penance at Mepkin Abbey.

e.  Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe was removed and sent to be a chaplain at a small convent of Hispanic nuns in southwestern Minnesota with summers in Anchorage.

f.  Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa, CA was removed and sent to live in a house on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery in Tucson.

g.  Several Bishops immediately resigned upon allegations of moral turpitude and then they remained as bishop emeritus.  Bishop Kendrick Williams of Lexington Ky.  Bishop Joseph Symons of Palm Beach, FL.  Bishop Timothy Harrington of Worcester, Mass.  Bishop Christopher Weldon of Springfield Mass.

h.  Abbot Laurence Soper O.S.B. was removed and sent to Rome.  Now he has an interpol arrest warrant out for his arrest for failure to appear on child abuse allegations in the U.K.

i.  Abbot John Eidenschink O.S.B. was removed and made a chaplain in a tiny town in northern minnesota.

More stories could be recounted but the evidence is substantial. The Holy See—through its many Vatican offices—has the power, authority and knowledge of what to do.

As to Bishop Finn?  Let’s spin the wheel. Since he has a criminal record (unlike many of his counterparts above) we may all end up being surprised.

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Filed under canon law, catholic, clergy abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse

A Modern Monk’s Tale

Every once in a while, real religious history is written.  Those of us trained in religion know this firsthand—we have read thousands of pages of hagiography that simply skim over the truth, avoid scandal and paint a rosy, unquestioned picture of religious history.

Then there was John Cavanagh.

John Cavanagh was a former Trappist monk who blew the whistle on his Abbot and the Abbot’s boy toys in the monastery.  The Abbot was removed. But he wasn’t the only one punished: the whistleblowers were also pushed out of the monastery. With the troublemakers gone, the Order could create a perfect cover story.

The reason to read this story is to see how John Cavanagh found a deeper spirituality after he lost his religion.  His evocative and personal story was published the day before he died.

“A Modern Monk’s Tale,” by John Cavanagh.

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