Tag Archives: servants of the paraclete

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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**Updated with translations** Happy Anniversary, Holy See: It’s been 50 years!

Anniversaries are important mile markers.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of Father Gerald Fitzgerald s.P. giving notice to the Holy See of the problem of child sexual abuse by the clergy in the United States.  Fitzgerald not only informs the Holy See but suggests a low-cost simple solution to protect children:

“On the other hand, when a priest has fallen into repeated sins which are considered , generally speaking, as abnormal (abuse of nature) such as homosexuality and most especially abuse of children, we feel strongly that such unfortunate priests should be given the alternative of a retired life within the protection of monastery walls or complete laicization.”    April 11, 1962  

Father Fitzgerald’s solution to the Holy See is simple: assign priests who abuse children to monasteries.  This classic Roman Catholic solution of assigning religious order and diocesan priests to the protection of a monastery was well known in the United States.  Want an example? See the documents on Clement Hageman O.M.I. not being admitted to final vows.

The Holy See reacted to Father Fitzgerald’s warnings in line with tradition: The report was filed away in the Holy See’s Secret Archives and with no action.

The only published work about Father Fitzgerald, A Prophet for the Priesthood: A Spiritual Biography of Father Gerald M.C. Fitzgerald,  by Father John Hardon S.J., tip-toes around the issue of fallen priests.  Looking back, we know Father Fitzgerald was aware of the crime of stuprum (sex between an adult and a child) but there is no evidence he knew the work of Cardinal Peter Damien also warning the Holy See in the 11th century (Book of Gomorrah).  Neither was Father Fitzgerald was aware of the various instructions from the Holy See such as Cum sicut nuper (1561 AD), Universi dominici (1622 AD) or Sacramentum (1741 AD).

Knowingly, the Holy See allowed Father Fitzgerald from 1947-1968 to paddle upstream against the tradition of centuries of clear knowledge of priests molesting minors.  Tragically, the Holy See did not heed Father Fitzgerald’s warnings and removed him as Father General of the Servants of the Paraclete. He died in 1969.

Today we have criminal indictments of bishops, a conviction for vicars for clergy, a 2012 arrest of a priest I worked with in Saint Paul and ten diocese or religious order bankruptcies.  Despite the work of Father Fitzgerald, the tradition of child molesters in the ranks of Roman Catholic clergy is consistent and uninterrupted. Despite clear and consistent warnings from the most trusted clerical insiders within the tradition, the problem persists. Our vigilance must be even greater today than Father Fitzgerald warned the Holy See in 1962.

Happy anniversary, Holy See.

UPDATE: Click here for English translations of the documents.

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ICB History 101: The Irish Christian Brothers and the permanent stain of child sex abuse

Here is my crash course in the Irish Christian Brothers sex abuse and cover-up scandal and bankruptcy:

In order to understand the current Irish Christian Brothers debacle, we need only look north.

As I have repeated (and as my Church history professors seared into my cortex in countless seminary courses): The Past is Prologue to the Future.

In light of that, let’s take a short trip back in time:

In 1975, detectives Robert Hillier and Paul Pitcher of the Newfoundland Constabulary were investigating complaints from the Irish Christian Brothers orphanage at Mount Cashel.  Hillier and Pitcher were not naive detectives, but even they could not imagine the extent of the beatings and sexual abuse, the Brothers collusion, and the blatant obstruction of justice and corruption surrounding the child sexual abuse by the Irish Christian Brothers who worked at Mount Cashel.  It would take an additional two decades for the moral bankruptcy to explode. You can read the results of their work here, in the 1991 Hughes Report, Part I and Part II.

But the abuse and cover-up didn’t stop there. It spread south, as the Irish Christian Brothers shuffled criminal child predators across international borders and state lines to avoid prosecution, find new innocent child victims, and ensure that justice would never be served.

Here is a great reading/viewing list (after you’re done with the Hughes Report) that will give you a good historical narrative of the pattern, behavior and human cost of the ICB sex abuse crisis:

Unholy Orders: Tragedy at Mount Cashel by Michael Harris

The Boys of St. Vincent – “two-part docudrama based on real events that took place at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s, Newfoundland, one of a number of child sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church.” – Wikipedia

Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse Meets the Civil Law, by Thomas Doyle and Steven Rubino, Fordham Urban Law Journal

The Christian Brothers Educational Record, a yearly diary and chronicle of the activities of the Christian Brothers Schools in the US and Canada

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, an excellent novel about life in Newfoundland

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So much for “it was a thing of the past”: Active Clergy Criminal Cases

With the beginning of the clergy sex abuse and cover-up criminal trial in Philadelphia, as well as the recent guilty plea from Orange County (CA) priest Denis Lyons, I wanted to post a list of all of the currently active clergy criminal cases in the United States. If I have missed any, let me know. All of these are for sexual abuse or conspiracy to commit abuse, except for Fr. McCloskey in Albany. He was charged with fleeing from the police, reckless driving and auto theft.


Filed under Background Information, clergy abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse

Castration vs. Isolation

Recently, German and Moldovan lawmakers have openly discussed using chemical castration as a viable treatment option for sex offenders.  Because the offender will no longer be able to act on his desires (and in many cases will lose sexual desire altogether), castration is offered as one option to prevent recidivism, or repeat offenses.

This topic deserves further discussion.

Roman Catholic Church has centuries of experience and could aid the discussion. Unlike any other institution, the church has trained psychiatrists and psychologists who specialize in child predators; has operated predator treatment facilities; and has sponsored internal studies where child predators were carefully evaluated, recidivism was discussed and chemical castration was practiced.

The Roman Catholic Church has grappled for years with the question of what to do with bishops, priests, religious and employees after they have sexually abused minors.  Thousands of pages of internal church documents outline topics like: “Post Treatment Options”, “What to do with the unassignable” and, “Where to place those given a sentence by a church court of a life of prayer and penance”.

Whatever the pithy phrase employed, the church has intensely studied the problem of predator clerics for nearly a century.

In the early 20th century, Reverend Thomas Verner Moore M.D. studied the causes behind the high rates of insanity amongst the clergy, including the driving forces of human nature.  Another early pioneer in treating child molesting clergy was Dr. Leo Bartemeirer M.D. at the Seton Institute.

On the west coast, the Servants of the Paraclete and Reverend Gerald Fitzgerald S.P., treated molesting priests with depo-provera as a form of chemical castration.  Fitzgerald surmised that if you turned off a predator’s sex drive, he would not be sexually attracted to children.  Depo-provera use continued into the 1990s where Father Stephen Rossetti Ph.D. makes mention of depo-provera at the Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, MD.

None of these institutions have had great success.

Experience has taught me that chemical castration of clerical sex offenders of minors is only effective for a small few.  For the clerics I have known or interviewed, the causes and composition of their sexual attraction to children are very complex.  According to Father Cannice Connors O.F.M. who ran the Southdown treatment facility in Canada and the Saint Luke Institute for three decades, the causes and composition of clerical sex offenders are more than bio-chemical.  It surely is not a “software” issue, only requiring a “reboot” of the clerics hard drive.  Complex clerical criminals such as Gilbert Gauthe, Oliver Francis O’Grady or Donald J. McGuire S.J. are cunning and calculating. In fact, even Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, S.P. calls them “Vipers.”

Ockham’s Razor – Isolate Sex Offenders from Target Population

William of Ockham’s (also known as Occam’s) Razor, or principle of economy, states that the simplest answer to a highly complex question is often the best answer.  Using that methodology, the answer for keeping children safe is simple: isolate sex offenders from their target population. Chemical castration is complex, difficult to maintain, and must be carefully monitored.  Its success rate is poor.

The simplest answer? Complete isolation where there is no possibility of predators have any access to their target population. The children of today and tomorrow are worth it.


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

The Real Horrendous and Nefarious Crime? Not Calling the Police

It’s papal trivia time!

In light of the recent explosion of media coverage about the clergy sex abuse scandal, revelations about the inaction of bishops to stop offenders, and the full-scale global cover-up of the rape of hundreds of thousands of children, let’s take a little quiz.

Name the Pope who insisted that all clerics who molest children be turned over to civil authorities and forced to live a life of penance at a monastery far away from children?

A)   Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)

B)   Pope Benedict XVI (2005-present)

C)   Pope Pius V (1566-1572)

The winner?  C.  Apparently, someone got it right 438 years ago.  And that was the last time anyone thought about calling the cops.

Church documents show that the crime of bishops, priests, deacons, and religious raping and sodomizing children has been known and understood by the Roman Papacy for at least a millennium.  Pope Saint Pius V (1566 -1572) referred to the crime against children in his Constitutions of August 30, 1568 as horrendum illud scelus: that horrendous crime.

And then he did something revolutionary:  He demanded action to keep kids safe.

Pius V sought to reform the criminal depravity and moral laxity of the clergy by instituting penalties that bishops, abbots, and superiors of religious orders could invoke on the cleric.  Pius V states:

§1. “Clearly it is known to the Lateran Council that clerics who have been caught sinning against nature with children must be cast out from the clergy or forced to lead a life of penance in the Monasteries.

Funny, he doesn’t say anything transferring a priest to a new location where people won’t know about his past …

In light of the recent developments of Gilbert Gauthe and Oliver O’Grady being loose in society, it probably would be prudent to follow Pope Pius V second point and place the 4,392 clerics mentioned in the John Jay Study in Monasteries without schools.

§2. “But lest the contagion of such a disease grow stronger, we have concluded in Council that the Clerical defendants of this nefarious crime must be punished severely, that for those who do not shudder at the damnation of their souls the avenging secular sword of civil laws may surely deter them.”

Pope Pius V concluded in the sixteenth century that punishment must be severe and the offending clerics turned over to civil authorities.

The Church, according to Professor Henry Charles Lea’s History of the Inquisition, did call the police.  Clerics were handed various punishments including a life of rowing in the gallows and even death.

With the punishments available today, if the bishops followed the leadership of Pope Saint Pius V, many clerics would have only scarred one child instead of the dozens each priest perpetrators has.  Somewhere between the 16th and 20th centuries, the bishops stopped turning clerics over to civil authorities.

§3. “Therefore, we intend to pursue more fully now and with more vigor what has already been decreed in this pestilence, and we deprive any Presbyter and any other Clerics, either diocesan or religious, of whatever grade, rank, office or privilege who commit so dire and unspeakable an act.  Those demoted by Ecclesiastical judge or Bishop should be immediately delivered to the secular power to receive punishment.”

Pope Saint Pius V is clear: Call the police and turn the cleric over to civil authorities.  For the United States bishops or William Cardinal Levada of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to claim they did not understand the gravity of the problem or what to do until 1984 is lavender lunacy.  And a downright lie.

The penalties and procedures to stop bishops, priests, deacons, and religious that permanently sexually scare children have been available for centuries.

So, what is the horrendous crime today? The bishops and priests and not calling the police.


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

The Crafty Perpetrators Remain

More than a month ago, Sister Sheila McNiff of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus published a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece claiming that the clerical sexual abuse problems in Los Angeles have come to an end.

I do not blame her for attempting to close the door on an ugly decades-old chapter of the Archdiocese’s history – she was just doing her job. Those of us who have worked for the Roman Church were all taught to protect the Bishop. And that is exactly what she is doing.

The op-ed’s chart and accompanying text do the “numerator/denominator shuffle” by portraying the state of the local church as one with new procedures that have miraculously stopped bishops, priests, and deacons in the archdiocese from sexually abusing minors and vulnerable adults.

That is simply not the case. The truth is actually much scarier: only the simple criminals have been caught. The craftier clerical pedophiles and ephebophiles remain. Or better put: how can a couple of rules stop a 2000-year SECRET history of sexual abuse? The church (under the rule of the Pope) has been secretive for its entire history – how can one Cardinal change it? More importantly, why would he want to?

Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical Spe Salvi reminds us that the laws of reason, will and love ultimately govern the world. But we also know that reason and the powers of observation tell us that sexually abusive clerics were and are in active ministry.

The first time Catholic bishops met with the goal to implement controls over clerics who sexually abused children was at the Council of Elvira in 309 A.D. It didn’t work.

More than 1600 years later, abuse was still a serious problem ~ in 1922 Pope Benedict XV issued a worldwide procedure, De Modo Procendi in Causis Sollicitationis, instructing Bishops on how to proceed with accusations of clerical sexual abuse. The document was kept secret for more than 90 years.

In Los Angeles, the problem is endemic. We now know that Former Los Angeles Cardinal Timothy Manning sent and visited an Archdiocesan priest, George Pausch, at the Servants of the Paraclete in the 1950s to deal with clercial sexual abuse. These visits were kept secret until recently, when more than 500 civil sexual abuse cases unearthed documentation of the meetings.

Also, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met at Saint John’s Abbey in 1985 in closed session to discuss the national scandal. Why was the meeting closed and its purpose kept secret? And what will Mahony do to change this tradition? Nothing.

Since 2001, the L.A. District Attorney’s office has prosecuted several L.A. clerics for conduct after 2001 – with little to no help from the Archdiocese. What will Mahony do to help law enforcement? Nothing.

Thus, reason and history dictate that we will see new criminal and civil cases in 2008 and beyond.

Why? Because of the secrecy.

One of the classic defense arguments is that the “will” of Cardinal Roger Mahony has produced policies and procedures that have rooted out abusers. In short, defenders claim, things are getting better and better everyday. But facts are facts: It is sheer folly to even consider that the “will” of the Cardinal or any cleric can change the 2000-year-old culture of the Latin rite church.

Let’s look at what Mahony’s “will” could not do:

Cardinal Mahony did not have the will to stop clerical abusers as vicar general and auxillary bishop in Fresno. As bishop of Stockton, he did not have the will to stop abusers like Oliver O’Grady. Finally, Cardinal Mahony did not have the will to stop Fathers Baker, Wempe, and Lopez in Los Angeles. It was only due to the secular criminal and civil legal systems that these predators were finally stopped.

But these are the sloppy perpetrators. As more and more clerics are exposed as abusers, I believe that the more clever men – men like Donald McGuire – will slowly be ferreted out. And considering the size and history of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, I think that there are many clever men who are still actively serving and actively perpetrating. The sloppy perpetrators were able to abuse countless kids in spite of “reforms” and “studies” within the church. Smarter men will have no problem circumventing any new regulations that come their way.

Until Roger Mahony cooperates fully with law enforcement, tells the truth about abuse, and comes clean about what he knows and what he has done, all of the “reforms” in the world will not make the Archdiocese a safer place.

As we approach the Lenten season, I contend that God’s love will conquer the darkness of the clerical sexual abuses the Cardinals of Los Angeles attempted and still attempt to hide from the public. I have hope – not in internal Archdiocesan or Papal procedures – but in the police and prosecutors who now have the history and experience to help us stop the craftier clerical criminals yet to be discovered.


Filed under Background Information, canon law, Clergy Sex Abuse