Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Charles Pierce and Joelle Casteix on the Rot in the NY Archdiocese: The Sordid Story of Father Peter Miqueli and What Cardinal Dolan Knew When

Until yesterday, the story of what's happening with Father Peter Miqueli and former USCCB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan in the New York archdiocese seemed largely confined to the tabloid news, and for that reason, I haven't commented on it. I'm averse to wading through tabloid slime, I'm far from confident that what the tabloids report is accurately reported, and stories they break have a nasty way of twisting and turning, leaving folks who comment precipitously on them  embarrassed at having trusted a tabloid report.

But when a commentator of the integrity and stature of Charles Pierce began talking yesterday about the Miqueli story, I perked up my ears. Pierce's angle: fourteen years down the road from the Boston Globe exposé of the abuse crisis on which the film "Spotlight" focuses, the Catholic church is still dealing with sex scandals — because nothing seems to change with the leaders of the Catholic church.

Pierce writes, 

Now, as is well-known, we don't go in for mere voyeurism here in the shebeen—But, if we did, hoo, boy!—so our excuse for mentioning Father 50 Shades Of Grace here is to mention once again that Dolan From New York is proving to be a rather less than effective leader of his flock. Earlier in his career, when he was presiding in Milwaukee, Dolan almost literally buried church funds to keep them away from litigants who'd been molested by priests of that archdiocese, stashing $57 million away in an archdiocesan cemetery trust fund. Despite these shenanigans, he got the red hat and the big chair in New York where he has behaved like a cheap-seats Spellman, wearing his Yankee cap, cracking wise on satellite radio and on Morning Joe, and being altogether a handy nuisance for those people opposed to what Papa Francesco is about over there in Rome. Now, as it turns out, he probably knew more than he'd liked to have known about his alleged wandering slave-boy cleric.

Why does Pierce think Dolan knew more than he'd liked to have known about "his alleged wandering slave-boy cleric"? Pierce points to the testimony of Tatyana Gudin, erstwhile live-in girlfriend of Miqueli's S&M "master" Keith Crist. Gudin emailed Dolan with information about the scandal, and she states that Dolan's response was to pressure her to keep the information in-house and talk to archdiocesan investigators before the criminal authorities got involved (due to the charges that Migueli has embezzled funds to pay his S&M "master"). He wanted her to come to a meeting with Catholic officials without any legal representation, and she backed out.

Pierce's comment on Dolan's behavior:

Jesus H. Christ on a steam table, there's a damn hit movie out there right now about what happens when first you take your evidence to archdiocesan investigators. That Dolan thought he could run this rap after everything else that's gone on over the past 15 years is proof enough that he's learned nothing. Your Yankee cap won't get you into heaven anymore, pal. 

Also yesterday, another highly trustworthy commentator, Joelle Casteix, who's a SNAP leader, wrote about the Miqueli story at her Worthy Adversary blog: as she notes, this story is framed by lurid headlines like the following from the UK's Daily Mail: " 'Sex slave' priest who 'stole from church for BDSM with his master' railed against gays and lesbians and called parishioners 'sinful', congregation claims." The Daily Mail article then points to a thread of comments by parishioners of Miqueli's parish St. Frances de Chantal in response to a Change.org petition calling for his removal as pastor.

These comments allege that he was an abusive pastor, imperious, angry, prone to fits of rage when parishioners defended gay folks. They also suggest that he used denial of the sacraments as a tool to control parishioners. 

Joelle's noteworthy take on the Miqueli story:

The story is lurid and new details are being leaked every day. But here's the meat of the story: the "sex slave priest" Fr. Peter Miqueli is being accused by worshippers of stealing millions to pay for his BDSM "boy toy" and their very icky antics.  
But the REAL news hasn't been released yet: I predict that when the always-fatal "drip, drip, drip of information" is fully underway, we are going to learn WHAT NY Cardinal Timothy Dolan knew about the perv priest and WHEN he knew it … and that Dolan knew a whole lot more (a whole lot sooner) than he says he did.

This is shaping up to be yet another of those all-too-predictable stories within the Catholic context in which a priest (or a bishop, or a cardinal) is leading a secret life that includes homosexual activities, often of a lurid stripe, while he publicly inveighs against LGBT people and blames the pastoral rot in the Catholic church or the moral decay of society on those folks. And while his own proclivities are closely guarded secrets within a hierarchical system and clerical network in which he's protected as the gays are bashed and treated as the big problem to be combatted in church and society . . . . 

There's, in other words, a pathology at work here, and we now have abundant indicators of what it's about: an all-male club of astonishing power and privilege protecting its own, including its many gay members, while simultaneously scapegoating LGBT human beings and doing everything in its power to blame social problems on those human beings and deny rights to them. 

And speaking of that club and how it protects its own, and speaking of a notoriously homophobic member of that club who has long worked hard to deny rights to LGBT people — speaking of clericalism and its tremendously destructive effects throughout the Catholic church — here's Dr. Judy Courtin, a lawyer representing victims of institutional sexual abuse in Australia, in today's The Age, commenting on the news that Cardinal Pell is too sick to appear before that country's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: 

Last Friday afternoon, when it was announced at the royal commission hearing that Pell would not be attending to give evidence, the outrageand frustration of victims and families of those who had committed suicide was raw and shattering. Combining this insult with three weeks of ongoing denials and multiple memory failures by senior clergy in the witness box, the message to victims and their families has been one of arrogance and disdain. 
All that is needed is one brave person to 'fess up, blow the whistle and tell the truth about the extensive and inordinately damaging cover-up of child sex crimes in the Catholic Church. If nothing else, the millions and millions of dollars being spent by the Church to defend the indefensible at this royal commission, could be given to victims and their families for the unspeakable harm they continue to suffer. 
The performances by the Catholic Church at the royal commission hearings are but a public charade. How contemptuous.

Charles Pierce and Joelle Casteix are right, aren't they? Not much seems to have changed since 2002 — because the real source of the rot in the Catholic church, clericalism, with its arrogance and disdain for anyone outside the parameters of its little club, is not being in any way effectively addressed. Including by the current pope . . . . 

The pencil drawing of a crying eye is by muffintop04 at DeviantArt; she has generously made it available for sharing through Creative Commons license.

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