Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It's Still Going on — Cover-Up of Abuse Is Still Going on — and Catholics Know This, Do not Trust Their Bishops, and Are Withholding Money

Since some of us recently had a discussion here about Catholics withholding donations to parishes and Catholic institutions because many Catholics see their money put to uses that disgust them, including covering up clerical abuse of minors, I thought I'd draw your attention to this recent article by Brian Fraga. As he reports, Catholic donations to parishes and Catholic institutions in the U.S. are dropping because many Catholics believe their donations have been abused, in particular, to cover up clerical sexual abuse of minors. Fraga writes,

A Pew Research Center survey released this past summer indicated that 26% of U.S. Catholics reported giving less money as a result of the recent reports of sexual abuse and misconduct by priests and bishops. 
Fr. Jay Mello, a pastor of two parishes in Fall River, Massachusetts, told CNS that his parishioners have been quite "vocal" about not donating to diocesan collections. 
"They don't trust the bishops and feel this is the only way they can send the message," Mello said.

The Pew Research Center study referenced by Fraga was published this past June. It's entitled "Americans See Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse as an Ongoing Problem" (the graphic at the head of the posting is from this study). The Pew study finds the following:

And, overall, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults say the recent reports of sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic priests and bishops reflect "ongoing problems that are still happening" in the church. Far fewer (12%) think the recent reports reflect "things that happened in the past and mostly don’t happen anymore."

The vast majority of U.S. Catholics are not convinced the abuse horror show is over and done with. They suspect "ongoing problems … are still happening" in the church. They do not trust the hierarchy — and have every reason not to do so — because of the deplorable track record of the hierarchy right to the present of covering up abuse of minors by clerics and church workers, of moving abusive clerics around with no notice to their new parishes or institutions that they pose a danger to minors, of issuing misleading and outright lying statemenhts to the public, of withholding information about what's going on and how things are being handled, etc.

The withholding of donations is taking place now because many Catholics think the problems about which we have learned in the past two decades are taking place now. They are not in the past, as the bishops and their apologists want to claim.

Yesterday, I was a lurker in a Twitter conversation in which a young Catholic associated with the journal First Things entered a conversation between another tweeter and me to inform us that the abuse situation is over and done with, and that this was the primary point of Peter Steinfels' critique of (or, more bluntly, attack on) the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report in Commonweal earlier this year. I say that I lurked in the conversation after this person entered it because he has a history of abusive behavior towards me on Twitter, and I have told him I will no longer engage him as a result of how he has dealt with me.

Given that, to the best of my knowledge, only the bishops and Vatican know the full score about the abuse horror show — all the data are in their hands, and we have every reason in the world to think they have never released all data to the public and will not do so — I wonder how anyone can conclude with a straight face that the abuse is all over and done with. Locked the gays out of the seminaries: problem solved. Only heterosexual seminarians and priests left, thank the Lord: abuse over! (Cf. Frédéric Martel's In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, which shows that the fierce ideological struggle now going on inside the Catholic hierarchy is a struggle between two overwhelmingly gay and closeted camps: problem not solved; gays still with us — but gays bitterly opposed to the rights of LGBTQ people in the rest of the world who are open about who they are and self-accepting.)

Hardly a week goes by without a story like the one that broke this week in the archdiocese of New Orleans, in which defrocked deacon (i.e., he was a cleric) George Brignac was arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a minor. This is the third time Brignac has been arrested for abuse of a minor. He was arrested in 1980 and 1988. There have been multiple allegations of abuse made against him. The archdiocese of New Orleans has paid out beaucoup money to survivors of his abuse.

Yet Brignac was still lectoring at Mass in a parish in the New Orleans area in 2018, and the Knights of Columbus featured him at events in 2017 where he had contact with children! Getting wind of all of this (or pretending only now to have gotten wind of all of this), the archbishop of New Orleans, Greg Aymond, says he was shocked and surprised to learn that Brignac was a Mass lector in 2018.

It's still going on. And the faux surprise of bishops only now learning that it's still going on (who have known the full score all along) does not convince increasing numbers of Catholics — and this is why donations are being withheld, and, in my view, should be withheld.

As Jennifer Haselberger, the whistle-blowing former canon lawyer for the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, tweeted a few days ago in response to this New York Times article about the secret binder of accused priests held by the embattled bishop of Buffalo,  Richard Malone, 

It's still going on, and Catholics know that it's still going on. They also know that they have no reason at all to trust most of their bishops.

And this is why they are withholding donations.

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