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American pews empty out as sex-abuse scandal escalates

April, 2011

Long-suffering Catholics, both Canadian and American, have been waiting patiently for the priest sex-abuse crisis to finally come to an end. Sadly it has not happened yet.

This spring, two developments indicated the crisis is far from over. In fact, it may be getting worse.

In the American Northwest, the Jesuit Order was forced to pay $166 million in damages caused by Jesuit priests and brothers mostly in native residence schools centred in Oregon. This is one of the largest payments made by the church or its religious orders since the scandal began in Boston some years ago.

In a shocker, the archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali, placed 21 priests on administrative leave from clerical assignments in response to allegations of sexual abuse. This is the largest group of priests removed from ministry in the history of the American Catholic Church.

This unprecedented step to remove at one swoop such a large group came in the wake of the Philadelphia grand jury’s February report that charged Msgr. William Lynn, who led investigations of abuse allegations for the archdiocese between the years 1992-2004, with two counts of endangering the welfare of children. In other words, he is alleged to have shuffled priests around who had abused children.

The report also called for the archdiocese to “review all of the old allegations against currently active priests and to remove from ministry all the priests with allegations against them.” The archdiocese did not release a list of the suspended priests, but local media were running the names of priests who had been suspended. Named on the list were nine pastors, five parochial vicars, three chaplains, one pastor emeritus, two retired priests and one archdiocesan administrator.

Victims’ advocates expressed scepticism about the effects of the move.

“The suspensions are a long-overdue and begrudging step forward that temporarily makes kids safer, but they do nothing to address the ongoing deceit and callousness by Philadelphia Catholic officials,” said David Clohessy, a founder of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

“A grand jury found that the archdiocese misleads victims and endangers kids and has done so for years. That requires major reform by secular and religious authorities,” Clohessy added.

Another spokesperson for the victims said the fact that the 21 priests were kept in ministry after allegations against them were made raises questions about abusive priests still in ministry in other dioceses.

“We have no reason to think that Philadelphia is unusual in all this. No doubt there are priests who remain in ministry in other dioceses and no doubt review boards there are doing pretty much what they did in Philadelphia, which is to protect priests in the system instead of protecting the children.”

In a piece in the National Catholic Reporter, editor Michael Sean Winters called on Cardinal Rigali himself to resign. The cardinal, writes Winters, “was not only derelict in his duties, he completely misunderstood the nature and import of the promises made to the faithful at Dallas.” By “Dallas” Winters means the Dallas Charter, the norms and guidelines for the protection of children the U.S. bishops adopted in 2002.

The problem with the Dallas Charter is that there is not a single word in it about the culpability of bishops themselves. One of the biggest offenders was Cardinal Bernard Law, who presided over the church in Boston when the sex-abuse crisis exploded there a decade ago. Not only was Law not fired, he was summoned to Rome, where the Pope gave him a promotion.

There are rumours the same thing may happen to Cardinal Rigali. If things get too uncomfortable for him in Philadelphia, he will be offered a sinecure in Rome. But the Church as a whole is paying a heavy price for this unjust policy. Priests complain they are being left out to dry while their superiors, the bishops, get off scot-free. The faithful in Philadephia are in an uproar at the way the scandal has played out there.

It is likely the national scandal (the worst crisis to hit the Catholic Church since the Reformation four centuries ago) is having a terribly negative effect on Catholics in the pews. Statistics show that 75 per cent of Americans espouse the religious tradition in which they were raised but that is not true for Catholics. About 60 per cent of Americans raised as Catholics no longer practice their faith and about one-third have left the church entirely.

This is a fateful trend for the Catholic Church. If a few culpable bishops resigned, that might begin to turn the trend around.



At April 11, 2011 at 5:00 AM , Blogger city of angels lady said...

Write Hague Criminal Court Prosecutor by May 11 re Crimes Against Humanity of Pope. A prosecutor at The Hague International Criminal Court will soon decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Joseph Ratzinger (otherwise known as the “Pope”) as a German citizen who is complicit in crimes against humanity, especially in light of the epidemic of pedophilia by Catholic priests.
Persons with evidence of crimes committed by the Catholic Church or The Vatican can now write directly to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in charge of this case, Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, according to the two German Lawyers who are applying to prosecute Ratzinger, Christian Sailer and Gert Hetzel.
Click here: for more info and address to send your evidence to The Hague Prosecutor - Source: City of Angels Blog by Kay Ebeling.

At April 11, 2011 at 5:52 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Recommendation for a great new book, for anyone interested in the Catholic clergy abuse situation:

Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation - Survivors Seeking Justice, by Jennifer M. Balboni,


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