Sunday, January 13, 2019

Front Page News Today in Charlotte, North Carolina: "PRIESTS ACCUSED OF SEX ABUSE — The Charlotte Diocese Has Not Released Lists"

On the front page of today's Charlotte Observer: a headline reading, "PRIESTS ACCUSED OF SEX ABUSE," with a notice that the Catholic diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, still has not released names of priests credibly accused of child sex abuse. The headline points readers to an article inside the front section of the paper that appeared several days ago in the online copy of the paper, but is being published in the print-media copy for the first time for today's Sunday edition. 

The article, entitled "Why hasn’t Charlotte Catholic diocese released list of priests accused of sex abuse?," by Tim Funk, reports a series of evasive statements by diocesan spokesman David Hains, one of which is that survivors would be harmed by having this information in the public sphere. To which SNAP's David Clohessy replies, in a word, "Baloney":

As for Hains' claim that releasing a list might "re-traumatize" victims, the former leader of a national group that represents the victims of clergy sex abuse had a one-word reaction: "Baloney." 
"The overwhelming majority of survivors WANT this info out there," David Clohessy, who is still active in the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, wrote in an email to the Observer.

The article also cites local clinical psychologist Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, author of Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, who states,

The vast majority of victims will say that it brings relief to see the name (of the priest) published. It's one step toward some kind of justice.

In addition, the article includes the respsone of Charlotte attorney Seth Langson, who has represented abuse survivors in the Charlotte diocese, and who states the following:

Charlotte attorney Seth Langson said he's not surprised that the Charlotte diocese is, in his words, "resisting all efforts to release the names of accused priests." 
He said he has brought three lawsuits against the diocese in child sex abuse cases, winning a $1 million settlement in 2010 for his client, Robby Price, who was molested in 1999 when he was a 14-year-old altar boy. 
The predator priest in his case was the Rev. Robert Yurgel, who sexually abused Price for six months, including in the sanctuary at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne and in the rectory at Our Lady of Consolation Church on Statesville Avenue, Langston said. 
"I want the struggle I have endured to be a symbol to other abuse survivors," Price said in 2010, when he was 25. "It is possible to bring criminal and civil justice to victims of sexual abuse." 
In his court battles, Langson said he has reviewed more than 30,000 pages of documents produced by the diocese, including personnel files. In a recent interview, he said he believes the Charlotte diocese is "one of the least transparent" in the country. 
"People would be stunned at the names," he added, if a complete list of accused priests in the diocese is ever released. Langson said he could offer no details, since those particular diocesan files — listing all accusations going back to 1980 — were stamped "confidential."

Diocesan spokesman Hains disputes Langson's characterization of the Charlotte diocese as one of the least transparent in the country. Having lived there more than half a decade, having had my (and my then partner's, now husband's) theological careers smashed by the monks of Belmont Abbey just outside Charlotte and by the bishop of Charlotte, having dealt with — or having tried to deal with — the abbot of  Belmont Abbey and the bishop of Charlotte, I can absolutely verify Seth Langson's observation about the Charlotte diocese.

It is and has long been one of the least transparent dioceses in the nation, "a conspicuously dark corner" of American Catholicism, in the words of a priest-theologian friend of mine. Neither the abbot of Belmont Abbey nor the bishop of Charlotte would ever meet with me to discuss what Belmont Abbey College did to me in issuing me a one-year terminal contract while refusing to disclose any reason for that contract. When the abuse crisis broke open with the Boston cases in 2002 (which snared both the bishop of Charlotte and the Belmont abbey monastery in the case of Rev. George Berthold [and here], whom they hired to replace me in Belmont Abbey College's theology department), and when abuse survivors reported again and again that bishops and religious superiors refused to meet face-to-face with them, I knew immediately that survivors were telling the truth. I had been there.

I knew this past week when I read reports in the New York Times that people sexually molested by priests in religious communities who report commonly being given the runaround when they approach diocesan officials to do something were telling the truth, since I was told by the bishop of Charlotte  (through his intermediary) that he has absolutely no jurisdiction over Belmont Abbey monastery and nothing to do with hiring or firing faculty at Belmont Abbey College — though the George Berthold case exposes that lie, since no less than Cardinal Law revealed that he had communicated with both Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte and with the prior of the monastery who is now its abbot, Placid Solari, regarding Berthold's hiring.

As the Greensboro [NC] News and Record reported two days ago, the other Catholic diocese in North Carolina, the Raleigh diocese, released its list of names last October:

As dozens of Catholic dioceses across the country have released lists of priests who have been credibly accused of child sex abuse, the Charlotte diocese remains undecided about whether to join what its spokesman calls the "stampede." 
But North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tells The Charlotte Observer the Charlotte diocese should follow the lead of others, for transparency's sake. The Raleigh diocese published its list in October (emphasis added).

This past September, referring to the "horrible revelations from last month" about sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic church (the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released in August 2018 on the heels of the McCarrick story), Charlotte bishop Peter Jugis led a Eucharistic procession and public praying of the Rosary to effect "reparation," "purification," and "cleansing" of the church. 

Given Jugis' refusal to release to the public names of credibly accused priests who have abused minors in his diocese, one has to wonder just what kind of purification of the church Jugis imagines is necessary — one that does not include himself? One that does not include his own diocesan leaders and his own diocesan priests? 

The abuse crisis, the need for cleansing, exists only elsewhere? Abundant evidence in the Charlotte diocese suggests that the claims that the Charlotte diocese has no need to clean its own house and stop focusing on someone else's house are entirely fatuous, and indicates that local media, if they want to maintain any credibility, need to push back very hard against the claims of diocesan spokesman Hains  at various points in the past — I remember these clearly, and investigative reporting could easily retrieve them — that the diocese of Charlotte has had nothing of substance to report about abusive priests. Has not happened here. 

Has not happened here has now morphed into, "We can't disclose our names because we'll wound abuse survivors." This demands investigative reporting — of the kind that, I must remind Bilgrimage readers, the National Catholic Reporter refused to do when I contacted that leading U.S. Catholic journal in the 1990s and asked for a hearing of my story about Belmont Abbey and the diocese of Charlotte. The response of NCR to me was that these kinds of things happen so commonly in Catholic institutions the story was not newsworthy.

Not far down the road one of the big-name reporters often featured in NCR in that period before he moved to a journal he now heads was at Belmont Abbey hobnobbing with its administrators, lecturing about gender matters, helping to celebrate and prop up its claims to be a pre-eminent Catholic institution…. His new journal features on its staff a priest on Belmont Abbey's faculty, and it has published an article by none other than Charlotte diocesan spokesman David Hains featuring Belmont Abbey.*

The media, including the Catholic media, have long been a big part of the problem when it comes to holding these abusive institutions, which do serious harm to many people who deserve to have their stories heard and told, accountable.

* Keep in mind as you peruse this article of the leading Catholic journalist reporting on his lecture at Belmont Abbey in 2007 about how the Catholic community needs to "meet in the middle" about gender matters that it came out only eight years after this "meeting in the middle about gender" lecture that Belmont Abbey College is one of a small handful of ultra-right-wing Catholic colleges and universities who have requested exemptions from the federal government permitting the school to continue receiving Title IX funding while refusing to adhere to federal guidelines prohibiting discrimination against transgender members of the college community.

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