In response to Brian Roewe's report today at National Catholic Reporter about Jennifer Haselberger's affidavit in the sexual abuse lawsuit involving the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Harvard-trained international lawyer Jerry Slevin writes,
Her affidavit provides detailed evidence of how a major diocese covered up numerous cases of priest sexual abuse that continued even after Pope Francis' election and may still be going on. It underscores that Francis' calculated and ineffective approach to facing the Catholic Church's greatest challenge in centuries will likely be a failure.
Not a single bishop to date has been removed for covering up for child predator priests.
The affidavit includes revealing and disturbing looks at some of the US hierarchy's key players: (1) Archbishop Harry Flynn, one of the leaders of the US bishops' purported child protection "reform program", (2) Archbishop John Nienstedt, a top anti-gay marriage culture warrior subject now also to an investigation of alleged earlier hypocritical gay relationships, and (3) Fr. Kevin McDonough, a former Minneapolis vicar general and older brother of President Obama's Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough.
Jerry's absolutely correct. He argues that Pope Francis's decision to prioritize the Vatican's financial scandals while dragging his feet on the abuse crisis has been a serious mistake, and that his vague, half-hearted, ineffectual gestures to date in the direction of accountability and transparency in addressing the abuse crisis suggest that "he hasn't changed much from when he exhibited a clearly underwhelming approach to curtailing priest abusers in Argentina."
In Jerry's view, unless Francis wakes up soon and begins to deal with the mess on full display in Jennifer Haselberger's affidavit (and, as Jerry notes, we can reasonably infer from abundant evidence that the crimes are continuing even now throughout the Catholic world), his papacy will have been a failure.
As Frank Cocozzelli reminded us several days ago, convicted criminal Robert Finn still sits on his episcopal throne in Kansas City. Frank suggests that, even for people who hold great hope for the papacy of Francis, his failure to act in the case of Finn is creating a "credibility problem" for this pope.
As Jerry points out, many people continue to suffer due to the "hierarchy's insatiable 'will to power'" which is at the very heart of the abuse crisis, and which, many of us suspect more and more, is also at the heart of Francis's apparent refusal to address this crisis head-on and effectively — since addressing it in those ways will require him to deal with the deep, well-nigh intractable problem of clericalism from which the abuse crisis stems. The sexual abuse of minors is part of a winder, deeper system of abuse of the lay members of the church by its ordained members, due to the way in which power is allocated within the Catholic system due to clericalism. Meanwhile, as Jerry reminds us, those who suffer as a result of the insatiable will to power of the clerical elite in the Catholic system include "[d]efenseless children, abandoned survivors, disrespected women, desperate poor couples seeking to plan their families, sincere gay persons and divorced couples, et al."
And how, I ask myself, can a pope be applauded everywhere as a great pastoral success when he does not address — from the top of the church and directly — the pastoral needs of all those members of his flock, who continue to experience serious pain due to the unchecked arrogance of clerics that is built right into the very foundations of the abuse problem in our church? What does Francis, and what do his defenders, intend for all of their fellow Catholics who are seemingly simply written out of the Catholic picture and the human community as long as the abuse crisis goes unresolved, unaddressed, treated as a minor priority of this pope as he claims that only 2% of priests worldwide are guilty of abusing minors?
As he has consistently done in many other statements (click his name in the labels below this posting for links to them), Jerry argues that, when the rulers of the Roman church appear unwilling or unable to address this serious systemic problem of ongoing abuse within their church, it becomes the responsibility of secular governments, secular courts, and secular criminal authorities to do so. And they will do so, he suggests, if Pope Francis won't.
The graphic: Paula Ruddy of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and the Council of the Baptized holding a sign thanking Jennifer Haselberger in an October 2013 demonstration in support of SNAP in front of St. Paul Cathedral, St. Paul, Minnesota. The photo is from Michael Bayly's Wild Reed blog.