Category Archives: clergy abuse

Tim Minchin skewers Cardinal Pell

Singer/songwriter Tim Minchin’s song “Come Home Cardinal Pell” is a must listen.

You can watch the video and listen to the song here.



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The Chancellor Shows Courage

Before the recent revelations of child porn sitting in the Secret Archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul, most people never stopped to think about the role of a Archdiocesan Chancellor. Some may have an image of Thomas Beckett or a librarian type. But most, honestly, just scratch their head.

So, what is a chancellor supposed to do? And how did St. Paul Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger stumble upon child porn in Archbishop Nienstedt’s secret archives?

The office of Chancellor in the Roman Catholic Church is first and foremost to “take care that the acts of the curia are gathered, arranged and safeguarded in the archive of the curia”. (1983 CIC 482)  This sounds a lot like a librarian, but the job also includes maintaining the entire inventory, or catalogue, of both the historical, secret and criminal archives.

What makes this job different than that of a librarian is that the cover up of clerical sexual abuse of minors in Saint Paul goes back to (at least) Archbishop Leo Binz in the 1960s. The cover-up documents have been stored at the Chancery on Summit Avenue as mandated by the Pope in the code of canon law. For instance, Father Jerome C. Kern’s file contains evidence the Archbishop was aware Kern was sexually abusing minor boys in 1969.

But why is there an explosion now when the Archbishop knew of the child porn in 2003?

The answer is simple: Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger.

Haselberger was the first lay female ever appointed Chancellor in St.Paul. She does not belong to the clerical “caste” and apparently she didn’t absorb the “Tradition of clerical immunity.” When she found the porn in the secret vaults, Haselberger followed her conscience and called law enforcement.

When the Archbishop was about to transfer Father Jon Shelley, Haselberger naturally reviewed the files under her care. She found a Saint Luke Institute report, an investigation by the Vicar General Kevin McDonough, and the porn vault. She found evidence that there were three computers, half a dozen morally disturbing searches and thousands of nefarious images sitting in the archives. There was nothing ambiguous about it.

What Now?

First, the Haselberger experience informs us that all church archives need to be reviewed by independent prosecutors in law enforcement. These prosecutors answer to the people, not the Pope.

Second, this 2013 experience teaches us that the Roman Catholic Church has not learned and in fact may not have the capacity to learn how to protect children in their care.

Third, we must press our leaders. Experience tells us that St. Paul is NOT unique. Are there priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors in ministry today?  We must press church leaders to make public what they know, urge prosecutors to demand files, and implore Catholics to withhold contributions until they and we can be assured that there are no criminals in active ministry.


Filed under canon law, clergy abuse

Correction: The Courage of One

Please note this correction from Jim Fitzpatrick:

“Please note there is one error in the article and it is on Bishop Carlson.  I did not ever say he threatened me, but that the threat was made to two Franciscan sister whom we know.  They were working at St. Williams in Fridley in the Gil deSutter era and when they pleaded with Bishop Carlson, to remove deSutter, Carlson threatened them with what would happen if they went to the press.  He used the terms that are in the article.  So, when Bishop Carlson took me to lunch and said if I had something on him relative to Tom Adamson (which he knew I did from the Guardian Angels parish experience) and if I felt I needed to go to the authorities or the press, I should do so.  I saw this as a veiled threat or a set up so I could face termination and blackballing in the church employment scene.  So, the threat was indirect.”

Former Minnesota priest Jim Fitzpatrick is courageously speaking about the child sexual abuse crimes by Father Thomas Adamson and the cover-up by the Bishops of Winona.

Almost 50 years ago, Fitzpatrick broke the silence about what distraught parents from Caledonia told him about the priest and notified Winona Bishop Edward A. Fitzgerald about Adamson the very next day.

Fr. Jim Fitzpatrick served the Church as a pastor and teacher from 1963-1973. Fitz left active ministry in 1973, married and continued serving the Church as a parish administrator in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. And he would remain in the dark about Adamson.

After Fitz’ report in 1965, Adamson was cycled from parish to parish, treatment center to treatment center and diocese to diocese.

Unknown to Fitz, Bishop Loras Watters, successor to Bishop Fitzgerald, had reports from four experts about Fr. Adamson—the Institute for Living (a well-known Catholic treatment facility), a local priest therapist, the Bishop’s own priest personnel board and the Servants of the Paraclete. All said that Adamson was fixated on boys.

Finally, Bishop Watters, under the Hierarchy’s policy of omertà, applied the “geographic solution” and ordered Adamson to Saint Paul, where the “scandal” could be better controlled.

By this time, Fitz was working as a church administrator. He received a call that Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Carlson had assigned Fr. Thomas Adamson to his parish. Fitz immediately called Winona and asked Vicar General Father Donald Schmitz if Adamson was still sexually abusing boys. Schmitz—according to Fitz—said yes. Fitz threatened to resign. Carlson instead transferred Adamson to another parish.

This story is informative on several levels. First, many Roman Catholic priests have one first-hand story about a fellow priest who sexually abused a child.

For example: with Adamson, dozens of priests, members of the personnel boards and bishops in Winona and Saint Paul (pastors, chancellors, vicar generals, auxiliary bishops, bishops) had reports on Adamson. But only one broke with the rule of omertà.

In addition, the hierarchy will and does use coercive power in order to silence whistleblowers—right out of Machiavelli’s “The Prince. According to Fitz, Auxiliary Bishop Carlson told Jim Fitzpatrick the price he would have to pay (firing and black balling) if he went to the police or press about Adamson. Nota Bene, Carlson was promoted and now is the Archbishop of Saint Louis.

Lastly, some will criticize Fitz for not breaking the chain of command sooner and calling someone outside the Church. But I commend Fitz for following his conscience, speaking now and demonstrating by example how to put children first.

My hope is that the thousands of priests and lay ministers in Minnesota who know about perpetrator priests will follow the example of Jim Fitzpatrick. I hope they will follow their conscience, break their silence and report what they know.

There is hope, and Jim Fitzpatrick is leading the way.

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Accident or Pattern?

Christian Brother Julian McDonald CFC testified in Australia’s Victoria Inquiry last week that the extraordinary level of child molestation at the Irish Christian Brothers school in Ballarat is CERTAINLY AN  ACCIDENT OF HISTORY.  Brother Julian is the Provincial and former chancellor of Australian Catholic University.

I applaud Brother Julian for naming the culture of secrecy and his accurate reiteration of the hierarchy’s version of the history of child sexual abuse an ACCIDENT.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about what Brother McDonald said. Was it an accident, a chance occurrence, a “coinkydink?” Or is it an ancient pattern and practice of criminal behavior in the Catholic Church?

Let’s start by looking at the history of the Irish Christian Brothers and then at the Catholic Church in various parts of the globe.

The Canadian Christian Brothers at Mount Cashel Orphanage were first criminally investigated in 1975. That investigation was snuffed even though two brothers admitted wrong-doing. A second investigation began in 1982, a third in 1989 … all of which culminated in a Royal Crown investigation, popularly called the Hughes Inquiry.

The American Christian Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection from child abuse survivors’ claims in 2011. Nearly 500 survivors from Damien Memorial High School in Hawaii to Bergen Catholic came forward to expose dozens of brothers who molested children in U.S. based Irish Christian Brothers schools.

Is it an accident of history that Rome has removed over 22 bishops for sexually abusing children?

Is it a chance occurrence that 30 Jesuits from three continents accused of sexually abuse children ended up in the Jesuit run Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska?

Is it a coinkydink that more than 256 bishops, priests and religious are accused of sexually abusing children just in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles?

We are well beyond the tipping point in history: Child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is part of the criminal fabric of the Bishops’ robes.



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Twenty years later, I look upon my ordination

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:17

Twenty years ago this week I was ordained a Roman Catholic priest at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. My ordination was performed by then-Bishop Jerome Hanus, O.S.B.

At the time, I knew I was being sent to a one-year assignment where I would fill in for monk who had been yanked from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, after a victim came forward and accused the monk of child sex abuse. This was not my first emergency assignment. The previous year—before I was ordained—I was ordered to replace a monk who had been working as a faculty resident at Saint John’s University. He had also been accused of sex abuse.

I was assured by Chancellor of the University, Abbot Jerome Theisen, O.S.B. that these were isolated incidents. Unfortunately, they were not.

In 1992, I could not imagine that hundreds of priests and religious currently in ministry were child molesters—or that the moral decay included Priors, Abbots and Bishops. But I would soon learn. After six years of hearing confessions and being a “company man,” I saw first-hand that the rot of clerical sex abuse of minors is centuries old (read the Didache) and that the knowledge of abuse runs all the way to the Pope.

Hearing confessions and performing the Sacrament of Penance is life changing for every priest. A priest is forever separated from lay people the moment he starts to hear the confessions of men and women in his parish. I will never forget—nor can any human—the first time I heard confessions of child molestation or murder. What affected me even more was that the penitents knew that they held the privilege and that the priest may never do anything about it. That was when I truly understood the lesson behind the myth of Sisyphus.

But is there hope now? I believe there is.

In the face of all this crime, I learned that criminals are eventually exposed, or as the Gospel says, the chaff will be burned.

There have been several major paradigm shifts during the past 20 years:

  • It is no longer unconscionable for people to understand that Roman Catholic deacons, priests, religious and bishops have sexually abused minors. A majority of people understand that this is a real problem that must be stopped.
  • The public understands that church officials at all levels have covered up abuse, promoted abusers, and marginalized victims.
  • Prosecutors and detectives know they can get a conviction against a Roman Catholic official without fear of being fired or voted out of office.
  • Grand Jury, Royal Crown and bankruptcy investigations across the globe have exposed the system of abuse, cover-up, and shuffling molesters from post to post, and
  • The internet and global communications have exposed child-molesting clerics to a global audience, allowed victims to network, and shined a bright light of truth into a 2000-year history of abuse.

But this change in child safety has gone beyond the Church. We have learned that any group with leaders revered as gods are incapable of self-policing. Whether it is the Hasidim, Boy Scouts, Penn State Football or Roman Clerics—once leaders are revered as gods, crime and cover-up are soon to follow.

As Augustine of Hippo (highlighted by Thomas Aquinas in his teaching on fraternal correction) said,

You become worse than the sinner if you fail to correct him

God willing, I look forward to the next twenty years.


Filed under canon law, clergy abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse

Good Reads

Author Jim Dunlap’s first novel MILLSTONE debuts tomorrow (November 26) on Amazon. Ten percent of the proceeds from the book go to nonprofits that help victims of child sexual abuse.

Jim was recently on the Dr. Carol Francis Show, where he talked about the book and the inspiration and facts behind it. The show’s podcast is archived here. It’s worth a listen.

According to Joelle Casteix, the thriller is adapted from his screenplay of the same name. Read more about the book here.

You can purchase the book tomorrow on Amazon at this link.

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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                                               

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.


Filed under canon law, clergy abuse