Category Archives: Clergy Sex Abuse

Dirty Data Sinks The U.S. Bishops John Jay Report

Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, the John Jay Report was commissioned and informed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB ) under the new Archbishop of Washington D.C. Wilton Gregory. The report relied on voluntary information provided by Dioceses — the very Dioceses responsible for the systematic cover-up the study sought to explain away. In the end, they found a total of 4,392 priests sexually assaulted minors across the nation from 1950 to 2002.

During their data collection, John Jay College never visited the Secret Archives of any Diocese. Instead, Cardinals and Bishops voluntarily sent in data to the College, who destroyed it after the report was complete. The bishops did not include themselves in the study (only Deacons and Priests), despite over two dozen bishops being accused. Upon its release, John Jay’s findings garnered legitimate skepticism from academics and survivors alike. New evidence proves us skeptics were right. The investigation surrounding the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report released last summer was one of the first times law enforcement raided the Secret Archives without warning, cornering the church into a “you’ll share them, or we’ll share them for you” situation. This catalyzed the Church to finally let Dioceses share their lists of known perpetrators from the Secret Archives.

Dioceses across the nation have now published names of 4,397 clerics from 122 Dioceses who sexually assaulted minors, with 75 Dioceses left to report. These numbers directly contradict the figures the Dioceses provided in 2004 by John Jay College. According to the new lists, the ratio of perpetrators to Dioceses is about 25 known perpetrators for every Diocese.  Only one U.S. Diocese thus far has the temerity to declare zero clerical offenders in it’s history.

If the remaining 75 Dioceses and hundreds of Religious Orders ever share their information, it would far exceed the numbers reported by John Jay College. We aren’t talking about new perpetrators that sprouted up since 2004 either; most of the recently named offenders were active during the time frame that the John Jay Report evaluated. This new data proves that not only was the John Jay Report problematic — it was plain wrong.

After the Pope’s directive at the end of February’s Vatican summit to stop releasing all Dioceses’ lists of known perpetrators to the public, it’s unclear whether we will ever see the remaining lists. Whether we see them or not, the numbers already provided demonstrate that the bishops underreported their records of known perpetrators in 2004 by 100% to suppress any scandal.

Now, more than ever, John Jay College needs to right this wrong in underreporting. It is time for the John Jay College to recall their 2004 report and recognize the Bishops used John Jay to cover up the chronic criminal conduct of clerics in the United States.

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Church 101 for Child Protection Advocates

Here are some lessons from the masters I have studied: Fr. Thomas Verner Moore OSB MD, Fr Gerald Fitzgerald s.P. and Fr. Aquinas Walter Richard Sipe O.S.B. 1. The sexual assault of minors is about power, not sex. 2. Child porn, child sexual assault and child trafficking are fruit of the same crime. 3. The cases are about criminal conduct, not belief.

The Catholic Church is a monarchical system that promises salvation to followers that adhere to the teachings. The system is fueled by a three tiered taxation engine rooted in powerful myths.   Nota Bene, the first teaching against clerical sexual abuse of minors is from the Didache in 60 A.D.

The Catholic Church is a consortium of churches in union with the Bishop of Rome. Each church is rooted in a specific language/culture called a Rite with the Roman Rite representing 95% of the 1 billion worldwide followers.

The Catholic Church is also a secular State known as Sanctae Sedes or the Holy See. The Holy See has diplomatic missions in hundreds of countries called Nunciatures staffed by representatives appointed by the Pope. The Nunciatures, Dioceses and Parishes are connected to the Holy See through the Vatican Bank or I.O.R. The Holy See rules by soft power and has not maintained a military force since the creation of the Italian State.

The core Governmental principle is that Power flows down and money flows up. At the top of the pyramid is the Bishop of Rome aka the Pope who holds universal jurisdiction where he alone teaches, governs and sanctifies the world. The world is organized by Dioceses which are geographic regions established by the Pope. Only the Pope appoints the Bishop of a Diocese, the Bishop reports to the Pope and pays annual taxes to Rome.  Each Diocese is a geographic region of parishes established by the Bishop. Only the Bishop appoints Priests to the parishes, the Priests report to the Bishop and pay annual taxes to the Diocese.  Laity do not have the capacity to govern. Respondeat Superiori is a common law principle that closely expresses the Roman model of Church polity. One of the key cases to be aware of is Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 565 U.S. 171 (2012).

A general norm of roman structure is to adapt to the local civil laws (canon 22) in so far as they are not contrary to Codex Iuris Canonici. Roman Catholic institutions adapt to State law and incorporate to what most closely represents Church Polity.  Corporation Sole is a common listing in the annual Official Catholic Directory (O.C.D.) delivered to the I.R.S. and a document that is judicially noticeable.

There are three types of Roman Catholics: Clerics, Religious and Laity. Clerics (Patricians) are men ordained as Bishops, Priests or Deacons to teach, govern and sanctify the Religious and Laity.

Religious (Centurions) are vowed men and women following a Rule under a Superior. If male religious are also Clerics they can serve in parishes under the jurisdiction with faculties (permission) of the Diocesan Bishop. Religious men can be either Priests or Brothers. Religious women are referred to as Nuns or Sisters traditionally running schools and hospitals. Religious Institutes also are in the O.C.D.

Laity (Plebs) are all the baptized (99%) whose job is to pray, pay and obey. They achieve salvation through participation in the seven sacraments which are only provided by the Clerics.

Insurance is a requirement of all institutions with each Diocesan Bishop or Religious Superior as the autonomous administrator. Dioceses and Religious Institutes rely upon commercial insurance companies as well as risk sharing pools as Catholic Mutual Group and Catholic Risk Retention Group.

Once rumor or direct knowledge of child sexual assault comes to a Bishop or Religious Superior there are several traditional management options. An initial investigation is conducted by the Vicar for Clergy or a trusted Priest and a confidential report (canon 489) is created for the Holy See and the Secret Archives which only the Bishop and Vicar General (2nd in command) have access.

First and most common option is to quickly change the assignment, a geographic solution. A second is to command the offender to see a sympathetic psychiatrist or psychologist. Upon further offenses the Cleric or religious is ordered to the Servants of the Paraclete, Saint Luke Institute, House of Affirmation, Saint John Vianney Institute or Southdown. Final solutions are being sent to a monastery for prayer and penance or involuntary laicization. All of these management decisions have document trails maintained in the Secret Archives, their retention policy is in to maintain these files in perpetuity.

The Church has a closed loop system of Treatment Centers created in 1947 for Clerics and Religious. The purpose is to evaluate, report back and recycle clerics and religious back to ministry. Initial evaluations as well as monthly and final reports are sent back to the Bishop or Superior with the most common diagnosis being Pedophilia, Ephebophilia or N.O.S. (not otherwise specified).

The Church in the past faced minimal criminal exposure with a few exceptions of Fr. Donald Roemer in 1981 or Fr. John Goeghan in 2002 or Fr. Donald McGuire S.J. in 2006. There currently are 12 Grand Jury reports and charges against Bishops for failure to report and consumer protection violations for knowingly employing sex offenders. A Key case was Stogner v. California 539 U.S. 607 (2003).

Myth is Power: The Pope is the descendant of St. Peter and St. Paul, his teachings ex-cathedra are without the possibility of error. Every Bishop chosen by the Pope is a successor to the Apostles. Every Priest ordained by a Bishop is ontologically changed to be a little less than the angels, set apart to provide the sacraments necessary for salvation. Rome is the one, true, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic church. Obedience and Secrecy are the highest virtues while creating scandal is a deadly sin.

At least 64 high level documents from the 1st to 21 century demonstrate a Tradition of superior knowledge by Catholic Bishops of child sexual assault by clerics. Here is a short sampling. Didache of 60 A.D. ; Council of Elvira of 309 A.D.; Book of Gomorrah by Cardinal Peter Damian O.S.B. Cam. in 1051 A.D.; Sacramentum Poenitentia by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741 A.D; Instructio de Modo Procendi in Causis Sollicitationis by Pope John XXIII in 1962 A.D.; Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela by Pope John Paul II in 2001 A.D.

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Persistent Patience in Pursuing “The List”

Recently, a Vicar General of an archdiocese, when asked, how many perpetrators are you aware of, answered: “I have to fly.”

Why would anyone answer such a serious question with such a flippant deflection?

Because he knows the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops maintains “The List” of at least 6,721 clerics who have sexually abused minor children in the United States.  To date we know of 3,883.

That leaves a remainder of at least 2,838 clerics on “The List.”

This is a dangerous List.  Who are these priests and where are they today?

Whether it is Los Angeles, New York, or St. Paul, the pattern and practice is the same:

First deny, then delay and finally dribble out “The List” after a civil court orders the release.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Los Angeles Archbishop Gomez. His List and his secrets are sacred.

Criminal and civil litigation forced not one but three separate “Reports to the People of God” from 2004-2013.  The 2004 report listed some priests and attempted to justify Cardinal Mahony’s geographic solution when Father Michael Baker reported to Mahony in 1986.  The 2005 Addendum listed an additional 26 clerics.

The 2008 Report released on January 31, 2013 (under Los Angeles Archbishop Gomez) dribbled out 24 additional names.  To date the partial list is 269 clerics just in L.A.

Archdiocese of New York

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan – Where is his List?

The first Grand Jury report from Westchester County New York in 2002 found:

  • The Archdiocese of New York has a secret archive list. The religious institution had substantial evidence and continued to question survivors with the intent to suppress survivors resolve to report to law enforcement.  The Archdiocese of New York referred none of the cases reviewed by the Grand Jury to law enforcement.
  • Evidence from the secret archives revealed that after an accusation made the public List, the Archdiocese of New York willfully mislead the public and lied to parishes by defending the perpetrator and humiliating the survivor and their family.
  • “The List” was veiled in an additional layer of secrecy as the Archdiocese of New York required survivors and the family to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to receive counseling.  The Archdiocese then routinely stopped payment between 12-18 months.

To date The Public List includes 77 in the Archdiocese, 54 in Brooklyn and 57 in Rockville Centre.

Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis

Former Vicar General Fr. Kevin McDonough

Former Vicar General Fr. Kevin McDonough

In 2004 Saint Paul released the number of of perpetrators, but the not the names. That number was 33.

In September 2013. Vicar General Kevin McDonough, JCD ,gave an interview where he was asked how many priests he knew of were accused of abuse.  His answer: I have to fly.  This is Father McDonough’s last known interview and worth a listen.

On December 5, 2013, A court order forced Saint Paul to release the 33 names, seven previously unknown that served in over 50% of the Archdiocese parishes.

In 2014, Saint Paul released three additional lists. The List nearly doubled in length to 64.  In 2015, 17 more names were added, bringing the total number to 81.

The Reality

The stark reality is that the bishops and major superiors of male and female religious orders could produce their Lists with the numbers, names and locations tomorrow.  When asked, however, their actions speak quite loudly, “NO! I have to fly.”

In order to protect the children of today and tomorrow, we cannot allow institutions to maintain secret lists of perpetrators.  We must be relentless to make the secret lists public.

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Not-So-Great Expectations for the Canonical Trial of Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron OFM Cap.

It’s time for the people of Guam to lower their expectations of the canonical church trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Make no mistake: there will be extreme secrecy cloaked under the “pontifical secret” and sovereign immunity.  And while the procedure is called a canonical “trial,” it is nothing like any criminal trial you have experienced or seen on television.

1.       There will be no jury impaneled to publicly decide innocence or guilt.

2.       There will be no judge in a black robe responsible to the People conducting a fair and impartial trial.

3.       Secrecy is king.  There will be no public hearing.  The process began in secret, will be conducted in secret, decided in secret and the findings will be kept in secret Vatican archives.

4.       The outcome will only be known when the Holy See serves its decision on Anthony Apuron through the Papal Nuncio of the country and bishop where Apuron is domiciled.

5.       The procedure is based on the Code of Canon law and SST (Sacramentum Santitatis Tutela) promulgated in 2001.

6.       No matter the outcome, this is a test for Pope Francis and his commitment to discipline Bishops in the protection of minors.

7.       Apuron will not be present in Rome for any of it.

 

What to expect

Pope Francis is the only church official who can bring an action against Apuron.

Whenever the Pope becomes aware of a Bishop who has sexually abused children, he appoints investigators—known as auditors—to gather the facts and circumstances around the matter.  A likely candidate is Revered James Conn S.J., J.D., J.C.D.

The Pope then reviews the matter and decides whether to commence a Judicial or Administrative action.

If the Pope takes Administrative Action, then the Pope may instruct the Congregation for Bishops to order Apuron to a life of prayer and penance in a Capuchin monastery far from Guam. This does two things: reduces scandal, and allows Apuron to continue as a bishop, priest and Capuchin.

If Pope takes Judicial Action, then the Pope may instruct the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Mueller as Prefect to proceed following SST.  Mueller will then appoint Chicago Jesuit, Reverend Robert Geisinger S.J., J.C.D. as promoter of justice to instruct the matter.

Archbishop Apuron will be informed in writing of the charges and advised to retain a Canonist—a canon lawyer who will defend him and submit paperwork on his behalf to the Vatican.

The Promoter of Justice or his delegate will build on the Auditors’ investigation and delve deeper into the facts and circumstances, including taking depositions and gathering documents from Guam.

Archbishop Apuron will then review the written Acts (the entire file) of the case.

Then comes the decision: whether the Pope, through the CDF, will allow Apuron to remain a Bishop, Priest and/or Capuchin.

Pope Francis could laicize Apuron, removing him as a Bishop and Priest while allowing him to remain a non-priest Capuchin Friar (a “Brother”), able to live anywhere in the world and work for the order. Or the Pope could remove Apuron completely and demote him to be a lay person.

No matter the decision—it will be rendered in secret, likely signed by Cardinal Muller as Prefect and served on Apuron through the Papal Nuncio and the local Bishop wherever Apuron is living. If Apuron stays in Fairfield, CA, that bishop is Jaime Soto of Sacramento.

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Catholic Clergy Child Abuse Investigations Since 2005 … and a Papal Resignation

The German Pope’s resignation today as the Bishop of Rome (for health reasons) is the final lie in his Papacy. Since 2005, Benedict XVI’s church has been the subject of  more civil and criminal inquiries of the Church since the time of the Protestant Reformation.

Just look at the sheer volume of child abuse and financial abuse inquires during Benedict XVI’s reign. The real story is how these worldwide child abuse inquires brought on the first resignation of a healthy Pope in eight centuries.

Click on the links to read the full reports.

Germany

German Bishops Halt Child Abuse Inquiry

Australia

Australian Prime Minister Julian Gillard announces National Inquiry of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

Belgium

Report on wide spread child abuse in Belgian Church

Bishop Roger Vanghuewe resigns after child abuse accusations  

Mexico

Reverend Marcial Maciel, Founder of the Legionaries of Christ, was removed in 19 after first being removed as head of the Order for sexually abusing children in the 1950’s

United States

Los Angeles – Cardinal Roger Mahony’s 1985-2011 coverup of 128 priest perpetrators is revealed and Benedict XVI remains silent

Milwaukee – In the midst of planning for Bankruptcy and moving assets to shield them from child sex abuse survivors, Archbishop Dolan pays for the perpetrators silence.  Pope Benedict XVI rewards Dolan and promotes him to Cardinal

Philadelphia – After two grand Jury Reports Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua knowingly keeps priest perpetrators in ministry, orders the destruction of the evidence and his Vicar for Clergy is criminally convicted

New Hampshire

Ireland

Cloyne Report   

Ferns Report 

Murphy Report

Ryan Report 

Amnesty International Report

Italy

Genoa

Vatican Bank inquiry

Verona

Vatileaks and Monsignor 007

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Peeling back the thin, sacred veneer

The calendar year opens today with simultaneous court appearances by two of the largest Roman Catholic Archdioceses: Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

In Philly, jury selection begins in the criminal trials of priests accused of sodomy and child sexual abuse. These cases will continue to expose the “omissions” of Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali.

In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press will argue for the release of unredacted secret personnel documents of priests and bishops accused of sodomy, rape and sexual abuse of minors.  These documents expose the “acts of commission” by Cardinals Manning, Mahony and Levada.

This opportunity in L.A. for public accountability does not come twice in a lifetime.  The Cardinals’ fingerprints are on these documents.  If produced unsanitzed, they peel back the thin, sacred veneer covering the Cardinals’ business practices.

Not since Judge Sweeney ordered Boston’s Cardinal Law to turn over the documents in 2001 have we been at such a crossroads for child protection.

It is a tragic hour in some ways—that hour when the hierarchy is driven to reckon with themselves.  When every avenue of procedural distraction has been cut off and when documents are produced that these men penned that prove their acts of omission and commission and how they protected their own reputations over the safety of children.

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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.

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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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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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Salvation, Righteousness, Surrender and Spirituality

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so — Mark Twain

Experience tells me that Twain’s words are wise.  Heed his warning to reconsider and reevaluate your core assumptions and beliefs.

Most people in the United States were born into one of the monotheistic religions.  The three most common are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  I emphasize being born into a religion because our belief systems are planted into our core from birth — almost akin to a reptilian response.

Religion vs. Spirituality

Judaism, if boiled down, is about Righteousness; Christianity is about Salvation; and Islam is about Surrender.  All three are core elements of western spirituality.  Each share different “holy buildings”: Temples, Churches and Mosques.  Each religion has a Holy Book or books interpreted with authority by Rabbis, Priests/Ministers and Mulah’s.  They have different initiation rites, liturgies, languages and cemeteries.  And each proposes to teach their youngest followers what to think and how to live a religious life.

But the spiritual life is very different. The spiritual life, in complete constrast from religion, demands that we question our basic beliefs, ditch the bad habits we have picked up over the years and consider that sometimes we have to go into exile in order to find our way home.

Questioning Core Beliefs

Remember Mark Twain’s words:

It is what you know for sure that just ain’t true that gets you in trouble.

Over the years I have discovered that most of the pictures of “God” or “the Divine” are what the Roman Catholic Church put in my head from the earliest moments of my childhood.

If you think about it, all the ideas and pictures of God we had as children were supplanted in our little heads by the Rabbis, Priests/Ministers and Mulahs.

Want to try an experiment? I suggest you talk to your kids, grand kids, nieces or nephews and ask them to draw some pictures for you.  Ask them:  What does God Look like?  What if God was one of us?  Where does God live?  How does God speak to us?  Draw Heaven and Hell.  What Does a Religious Person or Non-religious person look like?

The pictures my kid drew made me stop in my tracks.

Ditch Our Bad Habits

Twain also wrote:

There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

One of the most common mistakes that survivors’ family members make is that they return to the same bad habits that resulted in the sexual abuse of the victim in the first place.

Often I hear the story of extreme disappointment from survivors’ family members that changing from one authoritarian religion to another produced no happiness, joy or personal growth.  Because remember: If your primary religion told you what to believe and how to live your life, yet also allowed the sexual predator to access your minor child, then jumping to another authoritarian religion will likely produce a similar result.

The other common spiritual pitfall is going to a “trusted” priest because he is one of the “good” guys.  If the priest or minister you are going to covered for perpetrators in the past, then you are moving backwards.  The problem is that you can never know who the good guys are because thousands of good priests knew and remained silent. Plus, since most bishops still won’t disclose the names of many of the predator priests who worked for them, bishops have created a cloud of suspicion over every priest.

Look at the case of Father Tom Adamson in the Diocese of Winona.  Only because Father Jim Fitzpatrick came forward do we now know the other priests who also knew that Tom Adamson was sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.  Bishop Fitzgerald, Bishop Watters, Archbishop Roach, Bishop Carlson, Father Schmitz and Father McDonough all knew about Adamson.  I knew most of them personally as “good guys.” I was wrong.

Exile as the Path Home

What to do?  My dad told me a story years ago that I now understand.  Dad was one of the fortunate men to have survived the Pacific Theatre in World War II.  Upon return home to his native southeastern Michigan, he completed college and started in the management training program at Ford Motor but he hated it.  His passion he found was not on the ground, but flying.

Dad had to leave again and go to Texas for flight school.  Upon return, he had to wait and when his “big break” break came, he had to leave again, this time for Minnesota.  At the time, he said he felt that Okinawa, Texas and Minnesota were an exile.  But in retrospect looking back fifty years he now knows that the exile was really the path home.

As survivors and families of survivors you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that what you thought was true, just wasn’t so.  That big institutions and people loyal to the institution are sluggish (at best) to change.  Finally, that sometimes we do have to go into Exile in order to find our way home.

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