Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And Now Crookston, Minnesota: Another Case in Which Vatican Parries (and Donohue's Gay-Bashing Meme Proves Wildly Inadequate)

And I’m now seeing that on the same day that Bill Donohue issued a press statement denying that he has ever defended Fr. Marcial Maciel (see my previous posting for more about this), he also released one calling for the “gay cover-up” in the abuse crisis to end.  Pretty shameless.

And pretty clearly diversionary—intended to divert attention from both his own demonstrable lack of integrity in denying what he has plainly said about Maciel, and from the real roots of the clergy abuse crisis.  Which run right to the Vatican.  And keep running there with every breaking new story about the deep crisis in which the church now finds itself. 

What has Mr. Donohue exercised right now is that one of the John Jay experts who undertook an exhaustive study of the abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic church, Margaret Smith, has called Donohue’s bluff as he tries yet again to divert our attention from the real roots of the crisis by playing the gay-bashing card.  As Jeremy Schulman notes at Media Matters, in response to Donohue’s attempt to revive the gays-are-the problem meme in his full-page 30 March New York Times ad, Smith states that, while Donohue may be citing John Jay statistics correctly, he is drawing “an unwarranted conclusion” from them.

As Smith notes, vis-à-vis the U.S. Catholic church and what we know from the data that have been released up to now, “The majority of the abusive acts were homosexual in nature. That participation in homosexual acts is not the same as sexual identity as a gay man.”

Smith points to Maciel himself as a demonstration of how fallacious it is to conclude that “gays” are abusing boys in the Catholic church.  Maciel both abused male minors and fathered children by at least one, and allegedly more than one, mother.  He is alleged, in fact, to have had multiple affairs.  With women.

If gays are the problem, and if the solution to the crisis is keeping gays out of the priesthood, what are we to do with the story breaking right now, that an Indian priest who has been criminally charged with abusing a 14-year old girl in Minnesota six years ago continues in ministry in India—with the blessing and protection of his bishop in India?  As Laurie Goodstein reports in New York Times yesterday, a 20-year old woman has filed suit against the Diocese of Crookston, charging that six years ago, Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, a priest assigned to parish ministry in that diocese, sexually abused her. 

Goodstein reports that Crookston’s bishop at the time, Victor Balke, informed the Vatican of the situation via Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  (As with its previous article on Fr. Murphy in Wisconsin, the Times appends a valuable e-file of documents from the Crookston case to its article.)

This was in 2006, after Benedict became pope and after the 2001 Vatican streamlining of its procedures for dealing with these issues, a streamlining that was supposed to be all about permitting the Vatican to deal proactively and quickly with cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors.

And what happened following the notice to the Vatican?  According to Goodstein, the Vatican recommended monitoring of Fr. Jeyapaul—not removing him from ministry. The recommendation of monitoring came to Bishop Balke in a May 2006 letter from Vatican Archbishop Angelo Amato (note: not from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to which Balke had written).*  At that point, Bishop Balke sent two more letters to Cardinal Levada, noting that two girls were claiming that Fr. Jeyapaul had molested them, that criminal charges had been filed against Jayapaul, and that the county attorney wanted to extradite Jeyapaul, who had now fled to India. 

Goodstein notes that a Vatican lawyer is also claiming that the Vatican recommended that Fr. Jeyapaul be defrocked, but left that decision up to his bishop.  Jeyapaul refuses to be extradited back to the U.S. to face the criminal charges pending against him.  His bishop in India, Arulappan Amalraj, says that Fr. Jeyapaul maintains his innocence, and is performing valuable service for the diocese that does not involve contact with minors.

The Vatican lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, is also stating that the Vatican has tried to assist with the extradition process.

Tim Nelson at Minnesota Public Radio notes that St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing the woman who has filed suit against Fr. Jeyapaul, refutes Bishop Amalraj’s assertion that Jeyapaul has had no contact with minors since his return to India, and has evidence showing that, in fact, Jeyapaul helped administer Catholic schools in India’s Ootacamund diocese after his return to that country. 

Nelson also notes that Bishop Balke has testified under oath that he never received a reply to his letters to Cardinal Levada—that is, he never received a reply from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has been, from the time the current pope headed that Vatican office, the church’s central “clearinghouse” for reports of priests abusing minors.**

The two girls abused by Fr. Jeyapaul (at least one of them claims to have been raped, according to Nelson) had both sought Jeyapaul’s counsel because they were considering becoming nuns.

As Nelson’s report notes, attorney Jeff Anderson is alleging a Vatican cover-up in this case.  As Peter Isely of SNAP notes

What makes this horrific case significant isn’t that a fugitive priest is evading law enforcement, nor that his irresponsible bishop is letting him do so and keeping him around kids. What makes this case particularly troubling is that the Vatican is apparently condoning the irresponsible behavior of both clerics and essentially ignoring the only-slightly responsible behavior of the US bishop who is making half-hearted efforts to go after the fugitive.

It is stunningly reckless for a top Vatican official to let a fugitive live with a bishop and be around kids. It is mind-boggling that this top church staffer only ‘asks’ a bishop to ‘monitor’ a fugitive priest accused of molesting two girls recently.”

And so, having reviewed this horrendous story that appears to be about yet another Vatican cover-up of a situation in which a priest is repeatedly abusing minors and is again placed in ministry with access to minors, I ask Mr. Donohue and his defenders one more time: how do you imagine that blaming gay priests for the abuse crisis and conducting a purge of gays from seminaries is going to resolve this crisis?  And how do you imagine you can be convincing when you go around crowing that the purge of gays from the seminaries and priesthood is “working,” because the abuse situation has now been cleaned up and those liberated gays of the 1960s who have infiltrated the priesthood no longer have access to minors?

Because nothing about your explanatory meme fits the case of Fr. Jeyapaul, who molested girls and not boys.  And whose cultural roots have little if nothing to do with the wild 1960s and those gay liberation movements on which you want to hinge your sole explanation of—and solution for—the abuse crisis.

What is constant in story after story is cover-up.  By pastoral authorities.  At the highest levels.  With all roads leading to Rome.

You are not doing the church a service through your mean-spirited diversionary gay bashing in response to the abuse crisis, Mr. Donohue.  In fact, you are diverting valuable energy away from the real problem that needs to be solved, if the church ever gets beyond that crisis.

That problem is in Rome.

This Crookston story hits home for Steve and me, because it’s his home diocese.  He has siblings, in fact, who live in the very parish in which this abuse took place.  Sadly, those siblings have little to do with their brother because he is gay and in a long-term committed relationship with me that he publicly acknowledges.  When a daughter of one of these siblings married this past year, they refused to invite me to the wedding, causing Steve and a number of other siblings to boycott the wedding in response.

It is interesting to note, too, that when it was revealed that Catholic dioceses across the nation sent money to Maine to help strip the right of civil marriage from gay citizens of Maine last year, the Crookston diocese sent a huge chunk of money—huge for that area—to Maine. 

When I reported on this last November, I noted that all evidence suggests that the dioceses that sent money to Maine sent funds donated by Catholics to their parishes in the expectation that those funds would support their parish, and who had no notice that their donations were being put to a political use in Maine. 

Several weeks later, when National Catholic Reporter reported on the same issue, a reader with the username Charles_MN logged in to say that the largest per-capita donation of any diocese in the nation to the crusade to remove the right of marriage from Maine’s gay citizens came from the Crookston diocese.  Charles_MN notes, 

One has to wonder, where did this sum come from? Was it from the general fund? What say did the hard working people who give weekly to the diocese have? I would probably guess very little. What was the actual intent of Bishop Hoeppner who approved this large sum in the end? Was it to curry favor at higher levels? The people of the Crookston Diocese expected a better, more local use of their money in this tough economy to help their neighbors using real Catholic Social Justice teachings.
Given what we now know has been going on in the Crookston diocese in recent years, the siphoning off of money contributed by Catholics of that diocese to remove the right of marriage from gay citizens in Maine seems exceptionally ill-considered.  If not downright evil.

There seem to be real challenges in the Crookston diocese for which money donated by local Catholics would be far better spent.

* I appear to be in error here.  The documents that the New York Times article has placed online indicate that Archbishop Amato is the secretary of CDF.  So  ** Bishop Balke's statement that he had not had a reply from the CDF evidently means he did not receive any direct reply from Levada.  And yet what Balke says in his 14 December 2009 deposition is, “I don't recall any response from the Congregation.”  Which suggests that he himself regarded the formal statement of reception of his letter by Amato as not a response, but an acknowledgment of receipt of the letter . . . .