Monday, September 16, 2019

Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, First to Be Investigated Under New Church Guidelines: A Selection of My Commentary on Crookston Diocese Over the Years

The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, Michael Hoeppner, is now under canonical investigation for allegedly interfering with civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual abuse of minors. As Jean Hopfensperger states in the report I have just linked, Hoeppner is the first sitting bishop to be investigated under new Vatican protocols for reviewing and disciplining bishops in such matters.

As I read this news, I keep flashing back to the open letter I wrote on this blog at Thanksgiving time in 2012. The letter addresses the Catholic people of the Crookston diocese. Crookston is the diocese in which my husband Steve grew up and has deep roots, deep Catholic roots. 

Many of us like to imagine that the roots of the abuse horror show in the Catholic church run solely to rectories, chanceries, houses of religious communities, and the Vatican. In my view, however, these roots run much deeper, and my experience with my husband's birth diocese, Crookston, over many years has helped convince me of this.

The corruption in the Catholic church that manifests itself in church leaders is shared by the laity, who have all too often sought to turn a blind eye to what they do not wish to see happening in their church, and who have also sought to find scapegoat groups — notably the LGBTQ community — to blame for the abuse crisis.

Not themselves…. Not their conspicuously unwelcoming attitude to LGBTQ people…. Not their refusal to create welcoming, inclusive communities that reach out to those on the margins of church and society, including above all survivors of childhood clerical sexual abuse….

The gist of my statement to the Catholic people of the Crookston diocese as they prepared for Thanksgiving in 2012:

Unfortunately, when your good Catholic families gather this Thanksgiving from the four corners of our nation and of the globe, there will be some empty places at many of your tables. Those places were once occupied by people who thought they belonged to family, who thought they had a home, who imagined they were welcome and that their family wanted them to share a meal around the one table.   
They imagined that they were loved. 
The empty chairs at many of your tables Thanksgiving day will belong to gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and aunts and uncles. These brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, and uncles will not be at your welcoming family tables for the holiday — they will not come home — because they have been told that they are not loved. ... 
My spouse Steve does not come home any longer. He does not do so for one quite simple reason: he is not welcome. You — his brothers and sisters — have made him explicitly unwelcome. 
And you have done so in the name of your Catholicism and of Jesus himself.

After I began documenting what was happening in the Crookston diocese over the years on this blog — since, again, my husband's family roots are there and we have followed events in that diocese for that reason — I found myself challenged by one of the leading "liberal" Catholic groups which claims its mission is to welcome and include LGBTQ people in the Catholic church. That group published a statement that was clearly responding to my commentary, a statement emphasizing how beautiful the Crookston area is, and how welcoming and warm the Catholics of that corner of Minnesota are. 

Here, by the way, is a map by Ali Zifan showing how Minnesota counties voted in the 2016 presidential election:

The Catholic diocese of Crookston covers much of the northwest corner of the state, which voted heavily (60-70 percent, for the most part) for Donald Trump. Polk County, in which Crookston is located, is the county shaped like a capital L, with Red Lake County, the county in which my husband Steve grew up, nestled in the foot of the L:

Both counties cast more than 60 percent of their votes for Donald Trump in 2016.

It's not just the diocese of Crookston. It's not any single diocese. Nor is it just the rectories, chanceries, religious community houses, and Vatican. It's also the "good" people of Catholic institutions throughout the U.S., many of whom have made it their business, as the people of the Crookston diocese have done in recent years, to send money to other states to rip the right of marriage from same-sex couples in those states. In 2009, dioceses across the U.S. sent money to far-off Maine to accomplish that purpose, with the Crookston, Minnesota, diocese contributing more per-capita than any other diocese in the nation to the successful 2009 effort to remove the right of marriage from gay couples in Maine.

The corruption from which the abuse horror show proceeds runs deeper than many people want to see in the Catholic church and its institutions. It has tremendously much to do with the refusal of Catholic communities to be welcoming to those on the margins of church and society, and notably LGBTQ people and abuse survivors. And that corruption is fully in evidence in the attempts of so-called "liberal" Catholic institutions and groups to shut down the testimony of those who want to call them to see the truth about how Catholic institutions behave — when they do not wish to see the truth.

Here is a series of postings I've made documenting events in the Crookston diocese, spanning a number of years and in chronological order. I'm offering them to you now as context to understand the latest events in the Crookston diocese:

And Now Crookston, Minnesota: Another Case in Which Vatican Parries (and Donohue's Gay-Bashing Meme Proves Wildly Inadequate)

As Catholic Dioceses Fund Anti-Gay Movements, Churches and Schools Still Close: Update of Crookston, Minnesota, Story

Barbara Dorris of SNAP Responds to Bill Donohue: "Outrageous Claims Made by a Well-Funded and Angry Man"

New York Victory and Unfinished Business: Catholic Church Still Anything but a Welcoming Place (4)

Crookston, Minnesota, Diocese Pays $750,000 Abuse Settlement: Critical Reflections

Abuse Survivor Megan Peterson on Pope Francis's Recent Statement About Holding Bishops Accountable: Actions Talk Louder Than Words

Laurie Goodstein on Why the Catholic Abuse Story Remains a Story (and Minnesota Survivor Megan Peterson Files Lawsuit As Her Abuser Father Jeyapaul Is Returned to Ministry)

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