Sunday, November 28, 2010

Next Installment of Nienstedt Story in Minnesota: From Gay Bashing to Bashing Survivors of Clerical Abuse

In case you were wondering what Archbishop John Nienstedt has been up to in recent weeks, in addition to sending out videos to Catholic households bashing gays to gain votes for Republicans (see the links at the end of this posting to a selection of my previous postings on this topic)*: this report from Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is eye-opening.

The archbishop is seeking to make a man who has filed suit claiming abuse by a Minnesota priest, Fr. Thomas Adamson, pay court costs--some $64,000.  David Clohessy of SNAP thinks that Archbishop Nienstedt is taking this "mean-spirited and intimidating step" to frighten anyone else who might consider filing suit after having been sexually abused by priests in the area.  And Clohessy believes Archbishop Nienstedt wants to punish this particular person because this survivor of abuse is trying to force the archdiocese to disclose names of other priests credibly accused of abusing minors.

The Minnesota SNAP chapter has put a video online at You Tube, in which Clohessy speaks further about this matter at a protest in front of the archdiocesan headquarters in St. Paul.  Here, Clohessy states again that this move on the part of Archbishop Nienstedt is "extraordinarily mean-spirited and callous."  He suggests that what Nienstedt is doing is one of the "most egregious, most callous" moves of an American Catholic bishop thus far, in attacking survivors of clerical sexual abuse.  And he concludes,". . . We don't believe that an alleged spiritual leader can profess to be a caring shepherd in public while in private and in court acting like a cold-hearted CEO."

There's a disturbing pattern here: as I reported in numerous postings last year (e.g., here), at the same time that Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was fighting tooth and nail against litigation pushing for his diocese to open its files about predatory priests to public inspection, he also mounted a gay-bashing battle in his state.  It appears that abusing survivors of clerical sexual abuse goes hand in hand with gay-bashing, for many Catholic bishops today.

The targeting and demonizing of gay citizens and gay Catholics is a diversionary tactic on the part of the Catholic hierarchy, one designed to divert attention from the inhumane and anti-Christian way in which many members of the hierarchy continue to treat those who experienced sexual abuse by priests as minors.  Like the Vatican's attempt to expel gay candidates from seminaries and bar ordination of gay seminarians, the homophobic finger-pointing is designed to rally the faithful so that they focus on a perceived enemy, and stop asking unsettling questions about the bishops' lack of genuine pastoral leadership in the abuse crisis.

As Fr. Thomas Doyle notes in a recent article in Voice of the Faithful's journal In the Vineyard, to which I linked some days ago, the rhetorical, public, professed response of the bishops to the abuse crisis is all about healing.  But when one looks at what bishop after bishop is actually doing when survivors of clerical abuse ask for healing and justice, one sees, instead, destructive and ruthless behavior that belies the claims of the bishops to be concerned for healing.

This behavior will go on just as long as the Catholic people of the U.S. continue to tolerate it and to fund it.  It will go on as long as the powerful voices of the intellectual elite of the Catholic center continue to ignore both the bashing of survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and the bashing of gays and lesbians.  As long as these Catholics, who have the ability to stand up, speak out, and make a difference, continue to practice their faith as if survivors of clerical abuse and gays and lesbians simply don't exist.  As if their voices don't count.

As if the way the bishops have chosen to treat these two groups of human beings made in God's image, of brother and sister Catholics, is not a well-nigh insuperable obstacle to continued connection to the Catholic church, for many Catholics.  I am hearing reports that there is now a noticeable exodus of Catholics in Minnesota from the Catholic church, following the recent anti-gay political activity of the Minnesota bishops.  I'm told some non-Catholic churches in the state are in dialogue about how to offer hospitality and healing to Catholics for whom the behavior of their bishops in the last election is the final straw.

I have to wonder what kind of faith my brothers and sisters of the center imagine they are practicing, when they can find it in their hearts to remain silent about these matters, while talking on and on about theological trivia when the real theological challenge of our times is to demonstrate why anyone should remain connected to a church whose leaders are capable of such inhumane and unChristlike behavior.

(*Oh, and then there are the churches he's been closing and parishes he's been merging while spending lavish funds from an unnamed donor or donors to bash gays--and while claiming the archdiocese is in serious financial straits and has to close churches.)

On the Minnesota story, see:

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