Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Remembering Bishop William G. Curlin of Charlotte As Eminently Pastoral (There's Still No Room in the Inn for You Queer Catholics) (2)

On 22 January and 3 February 2003, Cardinal Bernard Law was deposed in Boston by attorneys representing abuse survivors. In that deposition, the attorneys deposing Law asked him about Rev. George Berthold and how and why Belmont Abbey College ended up hiring Berthold with the approval of the bishop of Charlotte, William G. Curlin. 

Here are some highlights from that deposition:

▪ November 1996: Sister Rita McCarthy writes Rev. William Murphy, Law’s Delegate, to report the following allegation a seminarian had shared with her: "He told of the two instances when Father Berthold acted inappropriately. One time he came to blank's room, told him to lie down on the bed and proceeded to touch him all over, even in his private parts." 

▪ In the Feb. 3, 2003, deposition, Cardinal Law is asked if that allegation (stamped in the court case as Berthold 2115) has been read correctly. Law affirms that it has.

▪Law is asked if he has a memory of making a recommendation for Berthold’s placement in Charlotte sometime after this.  

▪ Law replies, "I don't know that I made the recommendation that he go there but I would have — he would have needed my permission to go there."

▪ At this point, Jeffrey Newman, attorney for the plaintiff, produces a June 22, 1997, letter of Law to Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte (marked as Law Exhibit #9).

▪ Law is asked if he recalls signing the letter.  He indicates that he doesn't recall signing it, but it is his letter.  

▪ Letter reads: "Reverend Berthold is a priest in good standing of the Archdiocese of Boston and is being considered for a position at the Abby College in Belmont. He is well-qualified for the position and has moral integrity and pastoral skills." 

▪ Law is asked if this is an accurate reading of the letter. Law affirms that it is. He is then asked if he read the letter before signing it. He says he thinks he would have. 

▪ Law is then asked if he signed the letter and made the recommendation to Curlin, knowing the allegations made against Berthold in 1996. 

▪ Rather than affirming, Law says, "I think it's interesting — I think it's important to put in the record the second paragraph of that letter." Attorney reads it: "I understand you have been in conversation with your secretary, Father Anthony Marcaccio, regarding information given to him by Father William Murphy, my Delegate. I trust the information provided sufficiently describes Father Berthold's situation, allowing you to make a decision as to whether to grant him the faculties of the Diocese of Charlotte." [My editorial comment: this indicates that Bishop William G. Curlin, Father Mauricio West, his chancellor, now-Abbot Placid Solari and then-Abbot Oscar Burnett of Belmont Abbey, and Robert Preston, president of Belmont Abbey College and Solari's brother-in-law, approved the hiring of Berthold with full knowledge of his past.]

▪Attorney then repeats what Law had said in his June 22 letter to Curlin: that Berthold is well-qualified for the position at Belmont Abbey, and has moral integrity and pastoral skills to serve undergraduates.

▪Attorney notes again that Law was saying this after having known of the allegations against Berthold in 1996.

▪ Attorney then says that after Law recommended Berthold to Curlin and Belmont Abbey, another allegation was made against Berthold.

▪ Law replies, "Excuse me?  Would you repeat that again?" Attorney replies, "Sure." Law asks, "The time sequence." Attorney replies, "After 1997—" Law asks, "After this letter." Attorney states, "After this letter.  He was accepted [i.e., by Curlin and Belmont Abbey]. And then another complaint comes forward to the Archdiocese about an allegation of sexual abuse, and that complaint was about a year later in November of 1998."

▪ Attorney asks Law if he has a memory of this. Law replies he doesn't, but might have his memory jogged if something is put in front of him.

▪ Newman produces Berthold 2-256/Law Exhibit #10. This is a November 3, 1998, allegation of a man saying that when he was 11 in Woburn, MA, he was molested by Berthold while lying on Berthold's bed, taking off his pants on the priest's instruction, and having his genitals fondled. 

▪Attorney says to Law, "You would agree with me, Cardinal Law, that that is a very serious allegation?" Law replies, "Certainly."

▪ Newman then notes that, with two prior allegations by two young seminarians, Law had still sent Berthold on a "so-called lend-lease program to the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina" [my editorial comment: with full knowledge of Berthold's past on the part of Curlin, Mauricio West, Placid Solari, Oscar Burnett, and Robert Preston].

▪ Law replies that yes, that seems to be true, according to this document, though he quibbles with the term "lend-lease."

Now place the preceding legal deposition side by side with what occurred in May 2002 when the allegations against Berthold became public, and Belmont Abbey officials and Bishop Curlin initially responded to this breaking news:

▪May 15, 2002, Boston Globe reports that Law had recommended Berthold to Belmont Abbey despite knowing allegations of improper physical contact with young seminarians.

▪ "Officials at Belmont Abbey expressed irritation that they knew nothing about the episode until a Globe reporter called it to their attention last week" (Stephen Kurkjian, “Law Recommended Fired Dean for College Teaching Position,” Globe 5/15/02)

▪ Teresa Sowers McKinney, Belmont Abbey spokesperson, says, "If [Berthold] had been removed because of a disciplinary problem, then he should not have been given that letter [of approval by Law] because we would not have hired him. Even if there had been an allegation, we should have been told so we could have decided on our own." The Globe article indicates she has consulted with the school's chancellor, Abbot Placid Solari, before making these statements.

▪A Charlotte Observer article of the same day quotes Robert Preston, former Belmont Abbey president and brother-in-law of Abbot-Chancellor Placid, to say that "he did not remember much about Berthold but recalled his departure [from Belmont Abbey, where Berthold suddenly departed in the middle of an academic year]." Preston says, "I never knew why."

▪ The following day (May 16th), the Observer quotes Janette Blandford, chair of the committee that hired Berthold in 1997, who "expressed outrage" that no one told them [i.e., the committee] that Berthold had been dismissed less than two years before for improper contact with a young seminarian. Blandford says, "Somebody just flat-out lied." [Editorial comment: at this point, Blandford appears to be indicating that Law has lied to the Abbey and Curlin-West; abundant evidence indicates that Placid, Oscar, Curlin-West, and Preston are well aware of Berthold's past when they hire him]. 

▪ Blandford is quoted as saying "We were desperate to get a theologian." She makes no mention of the fact that the Abbey had hired two well-qualified lay theologians in 1991, only to give one of them (William Lindsey) an unexplained terminal contract in 1993, and another (Stephen Schafer) was terminated in 1995 along with a number of other faculty, as the Abbey declared financial exigency, while finding several million dollars to repave its parking lots and refurbish buildings.

▪The Observer article quotes Abbey junior Kevin Graham to say, "This is not a reflection of the Abbey or what the Abbey stands for."

▪ Immediately after this article, another appears in the Observer and Globe (May 16) reporting that Donna Morrisey, spokesperson for the Boston archdiocese, told the Boston Globe on May 15 that Boston church officials had notified Belmont Abbey and the diocese of Charlotte verbally and in writing of Berthold's past, before the Abbey hired him.  

▪ On the same day, McKinney told the Observer that the college stood by its first story. Charlotte diocesan spokeswoman Joann Keane refused to comment, and Anthony Marcaccio, vice chancellor of the diocese says that the Boston archdiocese had not told Charlotte officials that Berthold shouldn't work with children or vulnerable adults.

▪ The Globe article notes that Berthold had submitted a résumé when he came to Belmont Abbey, but McKinney indicated that "the school had not yet located it." The same day, Blandford told the Globe that Abbot Placid Solari, who was dean at the time Berthold was hired, "assured the committee that there were no problems in Berthold's background." The Globe article says, "Solari was unavailable for comment."

▪ May 17: the Observer reports that on the 16th, Marcaccio admitted that the Charlotte diocese [i.e., Bishop William G. Curlin] did, in fact, know of Berthold's past when Belmont Abbey hired him. The Observer article states that this statement came a day after Charlotte's Catholic officials insisted the Boston archdiocese had not provided them with information about Berthold before he came to Charlotte.  

▪May 18: the Observer, the Gaston Gazette, and the Globe all report that Abbot Placid Solari acknowledged on the 17th that he had been told of Berthold's past when he hired Berthold. Solari (who was sub-prior of the monastery while also serving as dean of the college in 1997), stated that the written documentation about Berthold's past had been given to then-Abbot Oscar Burnett, who had not shown it Solari when he hired Berthold. Oscar Burnett couldn't be reached for comment.

It is particularly horrifying to hear Law, who knew of the allegations of sexual abuse of minors and young adults by Berthold, saying that the man had "moral integrity and pastoral skills." Apparently, Law's (and Curlin's, Burnett's, Solari's, and Preston's) definition of moral integrity and pastoral skills includes assumptions about sexual molestation of minors and young adults that is at variance with the beliefs of a vast majority of American Catholics.

What about any of this is eminently pastoral behavior on the part of these Catholic leaders, I ask again? — as should anyone who cares about the pastoral integrity of the Catholic church.

Note: this is the second in a two-part series of postings. The first part is here.

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