Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some Updates on Previous Stories: Little Rock Catholic School Abuse Case, Altoona, Wisconsin, Boy Scouts and Catholic Parish

Some updates on stories about which I've posted here in the not-too-distant past:

I told readers several weeks ago that the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) had called on the Catholic bishop of my home city of Little Rock, Arkansas, Anthony Taylor, and on Mount St. Mary high school in Little Rock to publicize an impending court hearing. The court hearing had to do with a teacher at Mount St. Mary, Kelly Ann O'Rourke, who had been sentenced for having sexually molested a student at the school. They also had to do with Kathy Griffin, a counselor at Mount St. Mary and O'Rourke's live-in partner, who learned of the abuse of the student but did not report it to authorities.

The update: the jury in this trial found Griffin guilty this past week. Max Brantley reports on the verdict for Arkansas Times. At the same trial, O'Rourke pled guilty to having repeatedly violated the terms of her probation by making numerous phone calls to the girl she had molested.

In a press release yesterday that I'm not yet seeing on the SNAP website, SNAP official Barbara Dorris notes that the jury's decision makes things safer for minors in both Arkansas and Florida, where the predator has been living, but: 

Unfortunately, the institutional wrongdoer here - the Little Rock Catholic diocese and Mt. St. Mary's School - have, for now at least, escaped consequences for their reckless, callous and deceitful behavior in this case. Neither school nor church officials made any real effort to help police and prosecutors pursue these criminals. At best, the diocese and the school did the bare minimum. More accurately, they minimized the crimes by O'Rourke and Griffin and refused to lift a finger to help find more victims, witnesses or whistleblowers that could have been helped or helpful.

Another update: in August, I noted that Father Derek Sakowski of St. Mary's Catholic church in Altoona, Wisconsin, had booted a Boy Scouts troop that had met at the parish for a quarter century after the Scouts decided to accept openly gay members. This week, it was announced that "after further examination of the new policy adopted by Boy Scouts of America last May, St. Mary's Rev. Derek Sakowski and La Crosse Bishop William Callahan agreed that it fits within Catholic teachings."

And here's how I put the "rest of the story" together: the widespread furor over Father Sakowski's decision to boot the Scouts, which provoked serious pushback online and much media coverage, resulted in communications between Sakowski and Callahan that led to "further examination" of the Boy Scouts' policy, which the USCCB liaison to the Scouts, Bishop Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, has already approved, as has Edward P. Martin, chair of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

And so case closed, except that we'll continue to see some kicking and screaming on the part of a few parish priests who have built their understanding of Catholic identity around the exclusion and denigration of LGBTI human beings until the culture moves so decisively beyond accepting this kind of gross prejudice and discrimination that it becomes as unthinkable as, say, the defense of slavery, which once enjoyed widespread support among Christians.

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