Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NPR on More Post-Philadelphia Questions, and More on McGuire and Corapi

More valuable commentary in the wake of the Philadelphia story and the story of Fr. Donald McGuire, Mother Teresa's confessor, about which I blogged yesterday:

As I did in yesterday's posting, this NPR broadcast by Barbara Bradley Hagerty asks how Philadelphia (and McGuire, and fill-in-the-blank, since it apparently continues all over the place) can have happened after the Dallas charter.  Hagerty's attempt to answer that question provides valuable information that supplements what I said in my posting yesterday, as I formulated five questions about what seems to be going wrong with the review and audit process the U.S. Catholic bishops set up in 2002.

Two of those questions ask whether diocesan review boards are being given access to all the information they need as they review files of priests accused of abusing minors, and whether they have real independence from bishops.  Another asks how board members are chosen.

Hagerty interviewed Terence McKiernan of Bishop Accountability about these same issues.  McKiernan notes that 

1. Review boards often do not have all the pertinent information as they review priests' files, because bishops and diocesan officials withhold pieces of information.

2. And boards are "handpicked" by bishops (and are therefore hardly inclined to be aggressive in demanding information and asking hard questions).

Another question I asked yesterday was how the national audit system can be said to be working well (or at all), when we now find it missed 37 priests credibly accused of abuse, who have been kept in ministry in Philadelphia.  On this point, Hagerty interviewed William Gavin, a former FBI agent hired by the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference (USCCB) to conduct an audit.

Gavin's testimony about how the audit system works is damning: "It was an audit in quotes," he says.  He could ask if a diocese was conducting background checks on priests and diocesan employees, but he was not permitted to review records showing if there were allegations against a priest.  Personnel files were "off limits" in the audit process.  Ultimately, the audit system depends entirely on the bishop's word as to whether priests have been credibly accused of abuse.

The fox is asked if the hens in the henhouse are secure . . . . 

And the clear, the obvious answer to the question, why does Philadelphia keep happening (as others familiar with the abuse situation do, Gavin notes that there are other Philadelphias out there) is this, Hagerty says: the system of review boards and audits that the bishops have set up will not accomplish what it's designed to do without independent reviews of files and allegations.  We know what we now know about Philadelphia only because a grand jury intervened.  

McKiernan notes that, in Cleveland, when the diocese had reported that 28 priests had been accused of abuse, a prosecutor's review of diocesan files found the number to be 145.  McKiernan also has an internal Boston archdiocesan document showing 40 credibly accused priests in 2009 whose names have not been disclosed to the public.

Hagerty's conclusion: As the Philadelphia case unfolds, "The faithful will surely be watching--and so will prosecutors."  And in the long run, as McKiernan noted several weeks ago when the news from Philadelphia began breaking, it appears it is going to take hardball legal action--prosecutors and grand juries--to force Catholic dioceses and religious orders to do what they have told us they are committed to do since 2002.  To protect children and put the safety of minors first and foremost . . . . 

The fox has simply not been doing an adequate job of guarding the henhouse and accounting for what goes on inside it.  (And when and how did American Catholics become so stupid and so morally obtuse that they ever imagined it would be otherwise, when this system was set up--knowing what we had already learned about what the bishops and religious superiors are capable of, by 2002?)

And speaking of what religious superiors are capable of, Barbara Dorris of SNAP offers a scathing (and truth-telling) response to the news about Jesuit Donald McGuire, about which I also blogged yesterday: as she notes, though we have seen some astonishingly duplicitous behavior on the part of diocesan officials, some of the worst cover-ups in the abuse crisis have been pushed by superiors of religious communities.  The files now available to the public (they're available on the Bishop Accountability website, as my posting yesterday noted) as a result of the new litigation about McGuire in Chicago show years and years of detailed reports about what McGuire was doing--activities well-known to his religious superiors.

Who took no action.  Who allowed him to continue his high-profile, lucrative ministry and trips around the world, including to Mother Teresa's community, where he offered spiritual succor.  And among those colluding in this particular cover-up, SNAP finds, is none other than Fr. Robert Wild, president of Marquette University.

It's Wild who, by all indicators, torpedoed Marquette's hiring of out lesbian scholar Jodi O'Brien last spring, because of questions about how her presence as a dean at a Catholic university would mesh with the school's "Catholic mission and identity."  And yet when Wild served as provincial of the Chicago Jesuits from 1985 to 1991, he permitted McGuire to remain in ministry, and allowed him to roam the world unfettered in his high-profile activities, which included repeated (and well-known, to religious superiors) abuse of minors.  As my posting about Marquette's recent implementation of partner benefits for gay couples indicates, it took a report by an outside consultant to note that anti-gay bias was a serious problem at this Jesuit university, followed by pressure from the faculty senate and the student government association, before Fr. Wild took that step to provide health care benefits to partners of gay employees of Marquette.

Already, on some blogs (e.g., this America "In All Things" thread), posters of the rabidly anti-gay Catholic right are dragging out all the old red-herring arguments about how the McGuire story shows us that the gays are the problem, that gay priests have been chiefly responsible for the abuse crisis, etc.  Some folks commenting here at Bilgrimage in the past few days to defend Fr. Corapi have stated that the bishops give free passes to the gays, because, so the story goes, the bishops constitute a lavender mafia that protects gay priests and ignores their abuse of minors.

These are the same Catholic pastoral officials, keep in mind, who have just written the federal department of Housing and Urban Development to protest its proposed new rules that would "ensure equal access" to LGBT persons in programs that help the elderly, sick, and economically deprived find stable housing.  HUD has proposed adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its categories of those protected from discrimination because it finds, from recent studies, that gays and lesbians face significant discrimination in the area of housing, and one out of five transgender persons is homelessness due to discrimination.  HUD concludes, 

In considering the mounting evidence of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons, the department is concerned that its own programs may not be fully open to LGBT individuals and families.

The U.S. Catholic bishops, the so-called lavender mafia, are pressuring the federal government to keep anti-gay discrimination alive in its HUD program.   Jesuit Fr. Robert Wild refused to hire out lesbian Jodi O'Brien though he permitted Fr. Donald McGuire to remain in ministry while McGuire was known to be abusing teens.

Playing the gay-bashing card in these discussions of abuse of minors by priests only assists the bishops and religious superiors in diverting attention from what is really at the heart of all these stories, whether the children molested were males or females: and that is astonishing, reckless, morally stomach-turning abuse of power and authority.  Which a powerful sub-set of lay Catholics who support Catholic officials in their attacks on gay and lesbian human beings are still prepared to accept, as they turn their moral microscope exclusively on the gays, finding them the source of all that's wrong in the church and the world.

While they continue to try to silence open discussion of the heinous, immoral behavior of bishops and religious superiors who have turned a blind eye, over and over, to abuse of both male and female minors by priests in ministry.  And while they continue to tell any Catholics who call for honest, open discussion of what's at the root of the abuse crisis--an ongoing, morally insupportable abuse of power and religious authority--to shut up and keep praying, paying, and obeying.

(And speaking of the Corapi story, here's yet another blogger--Mark Shea--of the Catholic right who seems to get it, and who's willing to ask the hard questions, as Corapi continues to mouth off about the circumstances that led to his being placed on leave.

And am I the only person in the world who thinks that this particular homophobic piece of work has gotten hold of a Father Corapi Starter Set?  Don't you love the way he does that macho head-rub thing as he drones out his oh so certain and oh so stupid--and so toxic and harmful--anti-gay rubrics, including the amazing claim that the bible contains "multiple" condemnations of homosexuality, and the truth of the bible stands on whether those are accurate texts or not?)

God help me if this is an uncharitable judgment on my part.  I'm just plain tired of the meanness practiced in the name of God, as I reach the age of 61 today.

P.S. A bit later in the day: and don't miss Colleen Baker's stunning commentary right now at Enlightened Catholicism, about the disparity between how Catholic authority figures have treated Fr. Roy Bourgeois, because he spoke in support of women's ordination, and Fr. Donald McGuire, the rock-star arch-conservative Jesuit who brought his community money and fame, while abusing minors for years on end.  I appreciate Jayden Cameron of the wonderful Gay Mystic blog for bringing it to my attention--having difficulty just keeping up these days, with all the breaking news.

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