John Paul II and his Defenders: Vengeance Time
SNAP's President Barbara Blaine refuted him stating that:
--- No dioceses have been "bankrupted." Five (out of nearly 200) have sought bankruptcy protection. There's a huge difference. No diocese is "going under." They are merely reorganizing with the goal of keeping dirty secrets hidden.
--- The [Portland]archdiocese will emerge virtually unscathed, at least financially. Payments to 175 claimants will be covered by $52 million from church insurers and a $40 million loan. No parish properties will be sold. No church leaders will be forced to testify publicly about their behind-the-scenes response to specific cases of child abuse by clergy."
Commonweal got lots of "common sense" all right because after Thomas Reese, the Jesuit editor of America Magazine, was ousted and bitten off by God's Rottweiler Benedict XVI, Commonweal was the next papal target and was in danger of being labeled as "heretic" by the Vatican and thus would lose its Catholic readership (besides running short of cash to subsidize its own existence as they asked for monetary contributions from us.)
So to save their label as a "premium Catholic magazine", Commonweal have to write an article or two every now and then to kiss the rear butts of Benedict XVI, the papacy and the Vatican. This latest main article is one of their safe "political move". The title is: Vengeance Time
When Abuse Victims Squander Their Moral Authority. You can read the full article here http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1915
I am posting (thanks to SNAP) the rebuttal of Barbara Blaine, President of SNAP, because she shows clearly each and every point where the Dean of School of Law got things wrong and where his data are erroneous and deceitful. His Catholic devious defense is not a surprise because John Paul II whom the Dean pledge allegiance to is the real Master of Deceit and his followers thus are also deceitful.
See John Paul II the Great Deceiver and Bishop Brom of San Diego
The letters in bold (--- preceded by hyphens) are the rebuttals of Barbara Blaine (also a lawyer) to Mark Sargeant (Dean of Law School).
You be the jury of who is telling the truth here.
April 20, 2007
When Abuse Victims Squander Their Moral Authority
Mark A. Sargent
In November of last year, the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, released the names of twenty former priests about whom the diocese found "credible or substantial complaints of sexual abuse of minors." Most of the twenty are dead. Edward M. Dudzinski, however, was still living-although he had not served as a priest since the 1980s-and resided in Herndon, Virginia.
When local members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) discovered Dudzinski's location, they went door-to-door in his neighborhood distributing a file of documents with the title "Community Notification: Protect your children from a credibly accused serial sex offender," which they believed established Dudzinski's identity as a sex offender. Dudzinski, however, has never been convicted of, or even charged with, a sexual-abuse crime.
----- Note that Dudzinski's BISHOP "outed" him as a predator, SNAP didn't. Yet the author criticizes us, not the bishop. So apparently, according to Mr. Sargent, it's OK for a church official to publicly identify a predator, as long as no one tells that predator's neighbors that he lives nearby. (Often, in cases like this, the main reason the predator was not charged or convicted is because the church hierarchy shielded him from law enforcement.)
SNAP has made similar preemptive strikes elsewhere. In January 2007, Rev. Darrell Mitchell left his pastoral duties after SNAP protested his assignment to two parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. While previously serving in Yakima, Washington, Mitchell had been accused of having pictures of nude boys on his computer.
---- No one, not Yakima's bishop, St. Louis' archbishop, the FBI, nor apparently even Mitchell, disputes that Mitchell had multiple photos of nude boys on his computer. The existence of the photos and their presence on his computer is not an "allegation." It is a fact.
No charges, however, were ever filed against him, even after investigations by the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, and the Diocese of Yakima. According to a diocesan spokesman, Mitchell relocated to Missouri because he had been "hounded so much" despite the thoroughness of the investigations and the decision by the FBI and local agencies not to take legal action against him.
--- According to the Associated Press, Mitchell "was suspended during the investigation and sent to a treatment facility in St. Louis for evaluation."
Unimpressed with that decision by the legal authorities, David Clohessy, SNAP's national director, said that "Archbishop [Raymond] Burke should have removed [Mitchell], never allowed him here, and still owes Catholics an explanation for his secrecy and recklessness." Pressure from SNAP was intense enough to induce Fr. Mitchell not only to resign his pastoral duties, but to leave Missouri.
----- for more on this case, see foot note at end of this.
In Pennsylvania, relatively stringent criminal and civil statutes of limitations had frustrated both criminal prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the type of civil claims that have bankrupted Spokane and other dioceses.
------ no dioceses have been "bankrupted." Five (out of nearly 200) have sought bankruptcy protection. There's a huge difference.
----- No diocese is "going under." They are merely reorganizing with the goal of keeping dirty secrets hidden. Each has sought bankruptcy protection on the eve of potentially very embarrassing civil trials at which the bishop and his top staff would have to testify. They'd be forced, in open court, to take the oath, face tough questions, and disclose (usually for the first time) how much they knew about and how little they did about pedophile priests. Bishops are terrified of this. (Such questioning exposed Cardinal Law's duplicity and led to his resignation.) That's why these five bishops rushed into bankruptcy court.
----- In each of the five cases, the diocese continues to operate with "business as usual."
----- The latest to emerge from the process is the Portland Archdiocese. Here's what a news article in yesterday's Eugene Register-Guard says:
"With the approval of a bankruptcy reorganization for the Archdiocese of Portland expected as early as today, church reformers fear that the archdiocese has succeeded in avoiding public accountability for decades of child sexual abuse by priests.
The archdiocese will emerge virtually unscathed, at least financially. Payments to 175 claimants will be covered by $52 million from church insurers and a $40 million loan. No parish properties will be sold. No church leaders will be forced to testify publicly about their behind-the-scenes response to specific cases of child abuse by clergy."
Angered by their failure to obtain a grand jury indictment, two lead prosecutors later publicly attacked the archdiocese for its alleged efforts to forestall legislative enactment of a California-style suspension of the statute of limitations to resuscitate time-barred suits, as well as other changes in the state's child-abuse laws. The prosecutors made these public claims without producing any evidence that the archdiocese had engaged in such lobbying efforts, and without conceding that there might be reasonable arguments to be made against some aspects of the legislative package.
What's going on here? SNAP might claim that its campaigns in Herndon and St. Louis were simply pragmatic measures needed to bring justice to those deprived of it, and to protect potential victims from the ongoing threat of clergy abuse. Presumably, they would argue that the church and its priests are finally getting what they deserve after decades of indifference, deception, and obduracy.
---- He would know our intentions, had he contacted us. He of course never did.
Their actions, however, suggest that more is going on. SNAP's public campaign to expose priests who have merely been accused-or sometimes cleared-of abuse has a vigilante air about it. In their eagerness to effect justice as they know it, SNAP may in fact be disrupting the rule of law. Likewise, the Philadelphia prosecutors' diatribe against the archdiocese (and the front-page coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer) served as a kind of public theater in which the prosecutors cathartically worked out their rage at not being able to indict the archdiocese and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. The public, emotional, and absolutist character of all these actions expresses not only great anger and frustration, but also the desire to abase and punish. It's vengeance time.
---- Why is it so hard for this man to even entertain the possibility that both SNAP members and the Philly prosecutors (and the California legislature and the Wilmington bishop and everyone else he blasts here) genuinely want to protect kids. (Notice that he never suggests a better way to do that than what we do. He doesn't like what we do, thinks our motives are awful, thinks we're "taking the law into our own hands," but never once says "A better way to protect kids is. . . Nor does he even acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of what we do is quiet, kind, behind-the-scenes, sometimes life-saving one-on-one support for scared, confused, depressed and sometimes suicidal victims of repeated, horrific child rape and other crimes.)
To be sure, the bishops have brought these theatrics of vengeance on themselves. For an institution famous for its rituals and emphasis on repentance, the church has offered precious few rituals of penitence as a way of acknowledging its fault, recognizing the harm it has done, and seeking forgiveness both from God and those it has wronged.
---- Forget "rituals." On the contrary, there have been tons of "rituals." But rituals don't protect kids. Action protects kids.
Victims have often said (probably to their lawyers' alarm) that they would have been content with an opportunity to tell their stories, an acknowledgement of responsibility, exposure of the malefactors, and a genuine apology. The Cultrera brothers' remarkable documentary Hand of God, recently broadcast on PBS, dramatically shows how a victim first sought only some recognition of the injuries he suffered at the hands of one of the Boston Archdiocese's worst offenders. He sued for monetary damages only after Bishop John McCormack, one of the guiltiest diocesan officials, flat out lied to him and treated him with peremptory condescension.
---- And that's true of the overwhelming majority of victims who take legal action, civil or criminal.
No wonder the extraordinary proposed settlement of the Diocese of Spokane bankruptcy requires Bishop William Skylstad not only to publish the names of all credibly accused priests (which has already been done elsewhere), but also to appear at the pulpit in every parish where an abusive priest served, and provide every victim an opportunity to speak out publicly in the parish where he was abused. What's more, Skylstad must publicly call for eliminating statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children. In the absence of voluntary gestures of penitence, victims and their advocates are extracting public humiliation.
---- obviously, the goal here has nothing to do w/ "humiliation." It has everything to do w/ protecting kids and educating Catholics. Would he say, too, that state "sex offender registries" are meant to humiliate the predators? How is our leafleting any different?
It is not enough to say, however, that bishops, priests, and the church are finally getting what they deserve. The vengeance game is a dangerous one. When the original offense is terrible, we feel empowered to do terrible things in response. Blinded by our righteous rage and convinced of our moral superiority, we may do things we later regret.
---- Look again at the non-economic concessions that survivors in Spokane advocated for and won. Publishing the names of the credibly accused priests, how is that "vengeance?" Skylstad visiting each parish where a predator worked, how is that "vengeance?" On the contrary, that's simple pastoral decency. . .what Skylstad and his colleagues should have voluntarily done years ago.
(Skylstad wouldn't have agreed to such conditions if he didn't believe them to be appropriate and reasonable conditions.)
The consequences of the terrible assault of 9/11 on the innocent serve as an example. The moral horror of 9/11 provided, for a while, the sense that we were entitled to transgress our own moral boundaries. Torture seemed reasonable. Equally important, it made the rule of law seem a trivial charade. Why bother with the constitutional rights of Guantanamo prisoners? Why not enact legislation invading the privacy rights of millions of Americans, if that would make it easier to punish our enemies and protect ourselves from harm? In the "war on terror," it seems that anything goes. In the purity of our victimhood, we can do no wrong-or so we think until wrong has been done.
---- As victims here we aren't acting out of entitlement nor are we trampling on anyone's rights, least of all serial sexual predators who have raped and sodomized us as kids. We are acting out of a sincere desire to ensure that no more kids end up suffering as we did. Society knows now that most predators re-offend. Some have hundreds of victims in a lifetime. If our moms had known the history of our perpetrators, they would have kept us away from them. We want to inform moms who live/work near these men of their histories. Again, the only reason these predators are not in prison or listed on the sex offender registries is because they were shielded from police. They don't pose any less risk to kids than the sexual predators who aren't clergy persons.
Our self-righteousness makes us impatient with the law. The law's careful balancing of rights and interests, its goal of evenhandedness, and its insistence on due process seem to be pettifoggery, mere "technicalities," and an obstacle to achieving the justice we know in our hearts. This impatience with the law, however, can lead to injustice. The nauseating image of rich white jocks at Duke drugging and raping a black woman at a party led a prosecutor to abuse his prosecutorial discretion, violating the most basic rules for deciding whether to prosecute. The terrible nature of what could have happened made the prosecutor and many members of the Duke and Durham communities indifferent to the legal obligation to prove what actually happened. Who needs the rules of evidence when we somehow know that something awful took place?
---- The issue is archaic, arbitrary, and dangerously restrictive statutes of limitations that prevent survivors from ever GETTING to show evidence, by proscribing any possible court action, civil or criminal.
When the victims are children, we are even more willing to suspend our commitment to bothersome principles such as "innocent until proven guilty," "proof beyond a reasonable doubt," and the need for credible evidence. Take, for example, the McMartin daycare case in California in the 1980s, in which the accusations of one child's mother-who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia-led to a ballooning, seven-year investigation of the owners and staff of the daycare center, which produced no convictions and cost millions. The alleged abuses were so vile that well-intentioned prosecutors, social workers, and psychologists apparently lost their critical faculties in trumping up charges based on highly manipulative psychological examinations of the children and dubious theories of repressed memory.
To be sure, the clergy sexual-abuse cases differ from the Duke and McMartin cases in that something actually did happen,
---- "something actually did happen?????????????" we can't begin to understand, much less fix and prevent, widespread corruption unless we can call it what it is.
---- how about "tens (or perhaps hundreds) of thousands of innocent kids and vulnerable adults were raped and sodomized by priests (not to mention nuns, seminarians, brothers, bishops and lay employees). Hundreds (if not thousands) of church officials knew or should have known that these felonies were happening, yet they at best stayed silent or helped cover them up. And this author says "something happened!"
and the experiences and their consequences were in fact truly horrendous. The similarity, however, is that in both sets of cases the terrible nature of the alleged or real offenses led to impatience with, or even disregard of, the rule of law.
---- Who's disregarding the rule of law? Are we rioting? Are we vandalizing? Are we advocating jail without trial? Of course not. We are, however, calmly and legally and prudently and compassionately advocating changing predator-friendly laws so that serial molesters and irresponsible supervisors are exposed, and so that other decision-makers who deal with kids have real incentives to try and prevent future abuse and respond properly when abuse happens. Hardly a radical notion…
As with the response to 9/11, we are seeing how victims, perhaps understandably, try to avoid or ignore entanglement with the legal system and take the law into their own hands.
---- Who is "taking the law into our their own hands?" Bishops who publicly suspend priests who are proven, admitted or credibly accused molesters? Journalists who report those suspensions? Survivors who hand out leaflets? This is "taking the law into our own hands?"
It is very hard to criticize the survivors of clergy abuse and their advocates. The survivors were indeed victims, not just of the molesters, but of the bishops and officials who ignored and deceived them, who covered up the problem and enabled further abuse. They have had to struggle bitterly to get any recognition or compensation. But their innocence cannot justify everything that survivors and advocates choose to do.
In particular, it cannot justify some of the settlements that are emerging.
---- To the already long list of folks Mr. Sargent finds fault with, he now adds judges, church defense lawyers and church insurers. Obviously, he must believe that they are wrong, too. They are the ones who really know the depth of the injuries to the victims and the widespread, blatant cover-up and reckless behavior of bishops, chancellors, provincials and other church officials.
The recently proposed settlement of the Diocese of Spokane bankruptcy is an example. The Spokane plaintiffs had the legal leverage provided by a generous statute of limitations that allowed cases to go forward that would have been time-barred elsewhere. They benefited from a highly questionable judicial decision that the diocese "owned" the parishes' assets, meaning that these could be used to satisfy the diocese's creditors, including the abuse plaintiffs
---- Another guilty party: a bad judge. Is there anyone out there Mr. Sargent feels OK about?
The law thus gave the diocese little bargaining power. The diocese also had limited ability to fund a defense.
When it declared bankruptcy in 2004, the Diocese of Spokane listed only $11 million in assets against $75 million in liabilities, mostly abuse claims.
---- The bishop says it, therefore it's true!
It is therefore no wonder that the diocese ended up with a proposed settlement that would provide one of the highest per capita payments of any in the country. But that is not the only disturbing aspect of the proposed arrangement. It presumes payment of $20 million by the diocese's insurers, who may not actually pay the full amount.
---- Then yell at Skylstad, not us.
In a novel provision, the parishes, or more precisely the parishioners, are expected to raise $10 million, presumably through fundraising and sales of assets. The diocese itself must contribute $18 million, to be raised in part by selling the chancery and the bishop's residence. In addition, the assets of four Spokane parishes and a retreat center are being used as collateral for $6 million in notes from the diocese. This means that the parishes' assets are subject to being sold if the diocese defaults on its obligation. Where the balance of the $18 million will come from is not clear. The diocese has only until October 1, 2007, to pay 80 percent of the $45.7 million, with the balance due on October 1, 2010. This is expected from a diocese that is by no means rich. The $11 million in assets it claimed in 2004 has dwindled to just over $8 million because of bankruptcy costs. Even worse, the settlement covers only seventy-five claimants, any of whom could opt out of the settlement and join at least fifteen other potential plaintiffs in separate suits.
The bitterest irony of this punishing settlement, however, is that the victims are likely to receive only about half the total recovery to divide among themselves. Some will cover litigation costs. The rest will go to their lawyers.
While unusually heavy, the potential impact of the settlement on the Spokane Diocese is, of course, not unique. In mid-2006 the total cost of all known settlements was about $1.5 billion. That figure included settlements of $127 million and $100 million from the Boston and Orange County dioceses, but it did not include Spokane's proposed settlement and the recent settlements in the dioceses of Covington, Kentucky ($85 million), Portland, Oregon ($75 million), Los Angeles ($60 million), Milwaukee ($16.5 million), and Charleston, South Carolina ($12 million).
---- This is terribly deceptive. Charleston and Covington are making those amounts AVAILABLE for possible settlement. No final figures have been decided in either of these cases.
---- Notice what's missing? The settlement costs of the OTHER 184 dioceses, most of which have been paltry.
What's more, such settlements do not necessarily cap the dioceses' potential liability. The Los Angeles settlement does not include potential settlements arising from the five hundred other suits that were not included in the $60-million settlement. Those suits extend back to the 1940s as a result of the California legislature's suspension of the statute of limitations, which revived hundreds of time-barred suits. The number of potential suits in other jurisdictions with long or open-ended limitations periods is very hard to predict, and the potential damages cannot be calculated.
Survivors and their advocates are not likely to shed any tears over these huge settlements. For them, the church is just getting what it deserves, and even these amounts are insufficient to compensate the victims fully for their pain and suffering.
---- Notice how all survivors are a) the same, and b) don't care about the church. . . .Notice also no mention of the fact that most survivors don't and can't sue. And by the way, what constitutes "huge settlements?" He doesn't even begin to address how much a shattered child's life is worth.
The plaintiffs' lawyers have also taken the position in negotiations and in the press that the dioceses have plenty of insurance and under- or unused real estate that can be sold without impeding their religious and charitable missions, and that the bishops are crying crocodile tears about how badly the church and its faithful are being hurt.
---- Bishops can easily settle this debate. All they have to do is turn over the financial books to third parties who can offer an unbiased assessment of what they're worth. No bishop has. (Read recent San Diego stories about Bishop Brom playing fast and loose with the truth about his diocese's wealth.)
This last argument is self-serving cant from heavily biased plaintiffs' lawyers. To be sure, some of the larger, older urban parishes have abandoned or underused facilities that can be sold. Some can unload a few grand buildings such as the cardinal's residence in Boston. Most dioceses do have some insurance available to help meet the settlements.
---- Notice he offers not one shred of evidence to support this claim. We've heard of 2-3 dioceses that claim to have no insurance coverage . . .but of course we'll never know, because bishops refuse to turn over their financial info to independent sources.
But to assume that all dioceses will just be carving off fat, and not slicing into bone and muscle, violates common sense. In some cases insurance carriers will resist paying the full value of the policy, particularly when the dioceses are agreeing to compensate claimants whose suits are actually time-barred by the statute of limitations, minimally supported by admissible evidence, or based on questionable legal theories of supervisory failure, conspiracy, or vicarious liability. The reduced availability of insurable coverage will throw a greater weight on the diocese.
Who, then, will pay? Not the molesters, not the long-dead or retired bishops and chancery officials who enabled them, and not even the superiors who are still in office. The bill will be paid
---- the bill was paid years ago, by our grand parents and our parents, whose generous donations were used to pay defense lawyers and public relations professionals and for tons of insurance policies (out of which the vast majority of settlements are paid).
by closing and selling off older, marginal parishes that can barely support themselves in the inner cities and poor rural areas. It will be paid by closing Catholic schools already stressed by the increasing cost of providing private education, particularly to the poor. As usual, the poor will pay, but they won't be the only ones.
---- It is disingenuous to claim that victims whose childhoods were shattered and whose adulthoods are crippled are any less deserving than others who receive assistance today.
The church in America is a bit like a rust-belt manufacturing company with responsibility for the pensions and health care of tens of thousands of retirees who far outnumber current employees. The church has a significant number of aging priests, women religious, and lay employees with pensions it has to support. In the same way that mass tort liabilities can threaten pension systems in manufacturing companies, these settlements risk the church's capacity to meet its pension obligations. The scale of this threat is not yet certain, because little is publicly known about church pension programs, but the threat cannot be dismissed.
---- Again, there's a quick way to solve this. Bishops just have to be "transparent." Then, no one will have to guess. We'll have the facts.
---- But let's not kid anyone. Mr Sargent knows full well that there is a huge fund to pay for women religious in their retirement. Collections are taken up annually and have been so successful that there is controversy over who should oversee the fund. It is a huge stretch to suggest that money paid to victims is being taken from the retirement accounts of religious women.
The indifference of at least some victims and advocates to these problems, their assumption that the bishops are cynically crying poverty, and their tendency to treat every diocese as if it were as bad as the worst ones, suggest that they want not only to be compensated, but to burn down the house.
---- The very same men who deceived parishioners and police and prosecutors and us about predators now claim they are in financial trouble. They do this without offering evidence. . We react with skepticism. And Mr. Sargent criticizes us and says that at least some of us are "indifferent."
---- Our entire lives, our grandparents and parents have worked on bingo or fundraisers for one church-related project or another. There were never enough resources but somehow church officials found or raised the money for alleged physical needs, and a new gym was built or the roof was repaired, or aid was sent to the missions. If need be (and they've shown no such need), bishops can raise the necessary money to take care of the victims in the same way. But other than Skylstad, not a single bishop has even proposed this.
They know that the enormous public sympathy for their plight and the extreme hostility to the church that their activism has created
---- Whatever "extreme hostility" there is, it is a) clearly NOT directly at the church, but rather the church hierarchy, and b) has not been "created by" our alleged "activism," but rather by that hierarchy and its historical and continued self-serving actions.
---- Many of the victims who are speaking out, warning neighbors and parishioners are active members of the church and only do so because they consider doing so a gift that actually helps the church. If it weren't for the victims speaking out, literally hundreds of predators would still be in ministry today and they would most likely be abusing more kids.
---- What is so sad is that so few of us, if any, were ever told, "thank you" for showing enormous courage and paying huge personal prices to expose our perpetrators and protect kids. It is our concern and courage that has led to the suspension of these dangerous predators. It adds insult to our injuries when Mr. Sargent treats us as enemies for doing what any responsible citizen would do: speak out about the atrocities we have experienced so that others won't have to experience them.
will give them great leverage with juries and leave most dioceses in a virtually indefensible position.
---- Sargent identifies yet another culprit: emotional juries (It's ironic that someone who professes such love of "the rule of law" at the same time apparently thinks so poorly of jurors.)
Every attempt by the church to use perfectly appropriate legal devices such as pleading the statute of limitations, declaring bankruptcy, or trying to distinguish legitimate claims from fraudulent ones is met with outrage
---- Does Sargent really believe that if Jesus were here on earth today, he'd use hardball legal tactics and hair-splitting maneuvers? Would Jesus say "I know you were sodomized 75 times when you were eight, but you've just come forward too late..."
and some advocates take the law into their own hands, as in Herndon and St. Louis.
---- There he goes again, confusing peaceful leafleting with murderous mayhem. How odd that a law professor can't seem to distinguish between citizens exercising their First Amendment rights and citizens lynching people.
What this has meant for the church has become obvious as the settlements have rolled out. What it means for the victims should be just as clear. They are risking the moral capital created by their victimhood and the public sympathy generated by their pain. Their demands will be seen as disproportionate to the church's (and Catholics') ability to pay. Most important, the possibility of reconciliation will wither away. But will they even care?
---- Who knows how many (or few) victims Mr. Sargent has ever spoken with? But he feels comfortable lumping us all into one boat and miraculously divining our motives. . .
One final, broader point:
For 18 years, we in SNAP have listened to and supported literally thousands of survivors. We have been and still are deeply moved by the compassion and caring and sensitivity of survivors. Likewise, we are surprised by and grateful for the phenomenal lack of bitterness and vengefulness by so many. Given the pain we have suffered and are suffering, given the deceit of so many church officials, it is fairly shocking that more survivors do NOT feel the kinds of motives Mr. Sargent has miraculously found in so many.
And before you let this article bring you down, please remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Let's all see and accept this for what it is. Let's keep on keeping on!
Questions? Concerns? Let me know!
All the best,
More on the Yakima case:
These are direct quotes from the Yakima, Washington newspaper:
. . .on Dec. 21, 2006
A Catholic priest who left Yakima in 2004 while under criminal investigation for allegedly viewing child pornography has been reassigned to a church in St. Louis.
Yakima Monsignor Ron Metha, speaking for Yakima Bishop Carlos Sevilla, said that the priest "was given that assignment by Archbishop Raymond Burke, the Archbishop of St. Louis, after Bishop Sevilla disclosed to him completely all of the events that led to (his) absence from the Diocese of Yakima."
Photographs of nude boys were found on his computer.
Prosecutor Ron Zirkle decided not to press charges against the priest in 2005, saying that the case "did not meet federal or state statues for children in sexually explicit conduct."
Tony Huenneke, interim coordinator of communications for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, declined on Tuesday to talk on the record.
Huenneke would not comment on whether parishioners will be notified of the incident in Yakima.
. . . on June 11, 2005
New details have emerged in the case of a Yakima priest who was investigated by the FBI last year in connection with reports that he possessed child pornography.
But the new information about the investigation has raised questions about the Catholic Diocese of Yakima's handling of abuse reports.
Police began their investigation when a dozen or so photographs of naked boys were found downloaded on the priest's home computer in September 2003.
Since a February 2005 article in the Yakima Herald-Republic described the investigation, several people who have knowledge of a Yakima Police Department file on the case have stepped forward.
They're troubled by several aspects of the church's handling of the case:
*There was a five-day delay between when Bishop Carlos Sevilla confronted the priest about the photos and when police were notified.
* The priest may have had access to his computer after the photos were discovered but before police seized it.
* The police found no prurient files downloaded on the computer but did discover a sophisticated software program on the system that could effectively erase all prior records of visits to Web sites.
* The police didn't talk to the priest before he was sent away for treatment.
The priest was allowed to return to his home to pack before leaving the diocese to be evaluated at a Catholic mental-health facility in the Midwest.
"Yes, it's possible he could have gotten to it (the computer) and erased (items)," Mazzola (a Yakima church official) said.
A program was found on the computer's image drive that can delete files so they cannot be recovered, Mazzola confirmed.
Describing the software, Capt. Copeland noted, "Generally speaking, this kind of program can cause problems in an investigation."
- Robbie Burroughs, an FBI spokeswoman in Seattle, said she could talk generically about pornography investigations but couldn't comment specifically on the priest's case.
Asked about the five-day lag, Burroughs said, "In general terms, investigators believe that a time delay between reporting and finding evidence on a computer definitely could be a problem."
When queried about the specific eradication software installed on the priest's computer, Burroughs described it as "a sophisticated program that could hide or eliminate evidence."
- The priest remained in the Midwest until spring 2004. After mental health officials deemed him to be of no risk, he returned to the Yakima diocese, assigned to St. Paul Cathedral.
The FBI investigation was still ongoing at that time.
The priest stayed at St. Paul's until November 2004, when he left on a sabbatical, again to the Midwest, where he remains.
- (Yakima prosecutor) Zirkle decided against pursuing criminal charges. He said "The bottom line, in my opinion, is that we can't prove that these pictures showed children in sexually explicit conduct."
In other words, a man in possession of photos of nude boys doesn't, in and of itself, constitute child pornography.
-- The priest has been placed under the tutelage of another priest in the Midwest and has returned to light clerical duties, none of which include dealings with children, according to (Yakima church official) Mazzola.(SNAP note: This is NOT true. He's at a parish with a school.)
-- It's unlikely that the priest will ever return to work in the Yakima diocese, Mazzola believes.
-- "The most credible position is that the priest downloaded the photos. That's the position the advisory board has taken and the bishop, too," Mazzola said.
. . . February 10, 2005 Dilemma in diocese
n In September 2003, photographs of nude boys were discovered on a computer belonging to the priest.
-- About a week after the photographs were discovered in September 2003, the priest was sent to a Catholic mental-health facility in St. Louis for an evaluation.
According to a person who teaches in a Yakima diocesan school, parishioners at the church where the priest worked were told he'd had a nervous breakdown.
"I'm puzzled over why the church wasn't open and honest from the very beginning," said the teacher, who asked not to be identified.
-- "We were left out in the dark," said Dan Thibault, who was serving as pastoral-council chair in the Toppenish parish when rumors starting swirling about a cleric investigation.
"We heard there was a priest who was having problems, but no one knew where he was," said Thibault.
That's when Thibault joined the group of 30 people, who were gathering to discuss what they felt were troubling aspects of the case.
"I thought this whole sex-abuse scandal in the church was in the past, but then it struck us in the face that it's in the here and now," explained Ball.
"This was a priest who was reassigned to a parish with a SCHOOL," she emphasized.
Her sentiment is echoed by the teacher who didn't want to be identified. "We're not saying he's a pedophile, but we are asking why the diocese wasn't more open about why they were placing him back in a ministry position."
-- The priest was granted a sabbatical and left the diocese.
That development, however, has not quelled the parishioners' group, which believes Bishop Sevilla needs to give a full accounting of the issue.
"This is getting swept under the rug," explained Thibault, who spent five years in a Kansas seminary as a young man.
Bishop Sevilla declined to comment for this story.
-- What some parishioners question is why the priest wasn't placed on administrative leave and, if returned to the diocese, placed in a position where he had little access to the public.
--The priest returned to the diocese last spring - before the FBI investigation had concluded - and said Mass and performed other pastoral duties.
--To Kaluzny, an elementary-school counselor in Yakima, it was misguided to return the priest to pastoral duties, especially at a church located next door to a school.
-- One condition of the placement, according to (church official) Mazzola, was that the priest would have no contact with children.
However, two parishioners said that on at least one occasion the priest said Mass at La Salle High School, and he was allowed to live briefly in a building close to St. Paul Cathedral School.
-- The American Prosecutors Research Institute, which is part of the National District Attorneys Association in Alexandria, Va., argued that there's a troubling link between pornography and child abuse. Further, the attorneys said, the act of viewing pornographic pictures at the least exploits the child who was photographed.
-- Whether the photographs were pornographic or not is beside the point, say the members of the parishioners group. "Would you want your child left with him (the priest)?" said one.
Other parishioners maintain that the priest was allowed to be in situations where he wasn't monitored, alleging that he went on a Catholic teen retreat in Cowiche last fall.
n The same parishioners also contend that administrators at St. Paul Cathedral School weren't told about the priest's history, or the police investigation, when he was assigned to the church next door.
-- Prosecutor Zirkle (said) that police investigated what was found on the computer but didn't delve into the priest's history in other parishes.
People who worked for the other parish where rumors surfaced were contacted by the Yakima Herald-Republic, but they declined to comment.
-- After the priest returned to the diocese last spring, several people unofficially expressed concerns about his being allowed to resume ministerial duties.
"This is not a legal thing; this is a church thing," he said. The church should uphold a higher standard, he believes.
When the rumors surfaced last fall that the priest might have acted inappropriately in another local parish, Mazzola arranged for a person with a background in law enforcement to conduct a new investigation, which began in December. The results will go to the committee.
Stressing that no one had reported evidence about other incidents, Mazzola said, "This kept eating at me. I just wanted to get some healing."
Although that investigation is due to be competed within the next week or so, the parishioners who have been meeting together are growing impatient.
Last week about 30 of them signed a letter to the bishop, asking that he meet with them this week to clarify the diocesan policy and what will happen next.
They deserve full disclosure, they argued.
"It's my church. I can criticize me," Thibault explained. "If we don't come forward and make the church accountable, who can?"
Also, Father Robert Hoatson, of Rescue and Recovery International, sent the following (slightly edited) letter to the editor to Commonweal Magazine on April 18, 2007:
To the Editors:
You referred to Mark A. Sargent as a 'frequent contributor' to your publication. Hopefully, his latest diatribe against clergy abuse victims and, specifically, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, should prompt you to end his 'contributions.' His article was neither a contribution nor worthy of publication. While his article deserves to be ignored by any reasonably-thinking reader, I wonder what you were thinking when you decided to publish it.
Sargent is a law school dean at a Catholic university. Did you expect him to risk his job by telling the truth about the Catholic Church's hierarchy, molester priests, and those who aided and abetted them? That alone should have disqualified him from publication.
His article was unbalanced, lacked intellectual integrity, factual analysis, and was a mouthpiece for corrupt church leadership. He cited no laws that were supposedly broken by SNAP members, and he used generalizations and moral platitudes to criticize an organization of victims, one of the few, by the way, including Commonweal Magazine, that advocates for victims. I think my subscription to Commonweal will not be renewed. An apology to SNAP and all survivors is in order.
Fr. Hoatson's reply is from the column of Matt C. Abbott