Saturday, November 30, 2013

For Roger Mahoney, clergy abuse cases were threat to agenda

[A long series of articles appears in the December 1 Los Angeles Times regarding Cardinal Mahoney and sex abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. This is almost completely based on the 23,000 pages of archdiocesan documents made public by court order several months ago. The full story is worth reading, some excerpts are reproduced here.]

Los Angeles Times
December 1, 2013

A year after arriving in Los Angeles, the youngest archbishop in the U.S. Catholic Church had a schedule and an agenda befitting a presidential candidate.

Roger Mahony raced around the city in a chauffeured sedan, exhorting labor leaders to support immigrant rights and rallying hundreds against a proposed prison in Boyle Heights.

Where his predecessors had talked up praying the rosary, Mahony touted his positions on nuclear disarmament and Middle East peace, porn on cable TV and AIDS prevention. No issue seemed outside his purview: When an earthquake struck El Salvador, he cut a $100,000 check. When a 7-year-old went missing in South Pasadena, he wrote her Protestant parents a consoling letter.

Reporters took notes and the influential took heed. The mayor, the governor, business executives and millionaires recognized a rising star and sought his company.

Among the thousands of papers that crossed his desk in September 1986 was a handwritten letter.

"During priests' retreat ... you provided us with an invitation to talk to you about a shadow that some of us might have," Father Michael Baker wrote. "I would like to take you up on that invitation."

The note would come to define Mahony's legacy more than any public stance he took or powerful friend he made.

In the child sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church, Mahony is a singular figure.

He became the leader of America's largest archdiocese at the very moment the church was being forced to confront clergy molestation. Because he was just 49 when he took office, he was in power for the entire arc of the abuse crisis. Long after peers had retired or died, Mahony was around to face the public's wrath. Because of the unique way abuse lawsuits played out in California, his files on molesters became public while in most other corners of the church, they remain under lock and key.

The archdiocese's confidential personnel files, released this year as part of a massive settlement of civil lawsuits, provides the most detailed accounting yet of how clergy abuse was handled in a U.S. diocese. Along with sworn testimony by Mahony and his advisors and interviews with church officials, victims' families and others, the nearly 23,000 pages maintained by the archdiocese and various religious orders suggest a man who was troubled over abuse but more worried about scandal — and how it might derail the agenda he had for himself and his church.

When Roger Mahony was tapped in 1985 to lead Los Angeles' 3 million Catholics, he was bishop of the sleepy Stockton diocese where the faithful numbered just 135,000.

Some might have been nervous about taking on such a visible, high-pressure role, but not Mahony. The North Hollywood native enjoyed the spotlight, whether it was marching with Cesar Chavez in the 1970s or jumping into the nuclear arms debate from the unlikely perch of Stockton. L.A. offered Mahony a national platform.

He began changing the way the archdiocese was run. He stocked the chancery with computers and laser printers and hired women and minorities for key positions.


Latino concerns had been important to him since the days when he worked on his family's chicken ranch in North Hollywood, side by side with Mexicans in the country illegally. Within months of taking office in L.A., he had rolled out his "Latino plan" — a strategy for better serving the archdiocese's 2 million Latino Catholics. He quickly became a prominent proponent of an immigration bill that would grant amnesty to millions.


Behind closed doors, another issue was vying for his attention.

Had they met under different circumstances, Mahony might have thought Father Michael Baker an ideal priest for the archdiocese he was trying to build. Like the archbishop, Baker was a Southern California native fluent in Spanish as well as English. His bright blue eyes, charisma and familiarity with Mexican culture made him popular in the Latino parishes so important to the archbishop.

But what brought Baker to Mahony's office in December 1986 was a sin gnawing at his conscience. For close to a decade, the priest said, he had molested two boys.

That a priest could molest a child would no longer have surprised Mahony. Less than a month after he started work in L.A., the first letter regarding an abuser priest landed on his desk. Two days later, he was dealing with the case of a second molester priest.

Baker was the ninth.

For decades, such allegations had made their way to the archdiocese's headquarters. But for the most part, the men who wore the miter before Mahony did little in response. Letters from irate parents gathered dust in file cabinets. Priests were quietly transferred.

Mahony knew the larger church was just starting to confront clergy abuse. In 1985, after a molester priest caused a scandal in Louisiana, U.S. bishops held a closed-door session on abuse at their annual conference.

Mahony and other bishops subsequently received a lengthy report warning of the legal and public relations ramifications of abuse and offering tips for dealing with such cases. The report, written by a priest, a psychiatrist and a lawyer, presented the topic in a risk-analysis manner appealing to pragmatists like Mahony.

"Our dependence in the past on Roman Catholic judges and attorneys protecting the Diocese and clerics is GONE," the report said.

Among the recommendations was that bishops rely on lawyers' advice. Not long after Mahony arrived, he consulted the archdiocese's longtime attorney about Cristobal Garcia, a priest accused of molesting an altar boy and then fleeing to his native Philippines.

The lawyer, J.J. Brandlin, was unequivocal: "Be sure that someone has reported the matter to the authorities," he urged. "The law carries a heavy burden."

The advice went unheeded. Brandlin stepped down shortly thereafter, and in his place Mahony hired the law firm of prominent venture capitalist Richard Riordan, a devout Catholic.

About the same time, Mahony took another step recommended in the report: He held a seminar for all 1,100 of his priests about pedophilia. He concluded the session with a direct appeal to any child molesters in the audience.

"It's really helpful if you come forward so we can get you help," he said.

Only Baker responded.

It was Christmas week 1986. The chancery had begun to empty out for the holidays, but Mahony was working as hard as ever. The amnesty bill had passed, and the archdiocese was setting up centers to help register 250,000 immigrants for citizenship. The L.A. leg of Pope John Paul II's summer visit, the first time a pope had ever set foot in California, needed planning. And in the archbishop's corner office, Baker wanted to unburden himself about two boys he had molested for years.

What happened? Mahony asked. "Oh, just touching," Baker said.

Who were they? Mahony asked. Immigrant boys who'd left the area, Baker said. He didn't know their last names or where they could be found, he said. For all he knew, they might be back in Mexico.

The experts' report on abuse had mentioned cases like Baker's. Molesters so rarely self-disclosed that when a priest did, the bishop "should 'reward' him with his support," it said.

The archbishop did not raise his voice, the priest would later recall. He did not press Baker for the boys' identities or ask if there were more victims.

"I was glad I brought it up," Baker told The Times in 2002.

Mahony typed up a detailed account of the conversation and placed it in the priest's confidential file, meticulous record-keeping that distinguished the archbishop from his predecessors.

By the time the holidays were over, Baker had been sent to a New Mexico treatment center for accused pedophile priests. Police weren't notified. Victims weren't contacted.

It would become a familiar pattern.

By 1988, the sensational McMartin preschool trials, in which the staff of a Manhattan Beach day-care center was accused of abusing dozens of pupils, had made child molestation a water-cooler topic. But few in L.A. were aware that the archdiocese had its own serious problem. Barely two years in office, Mahony had dealt with 14 suspected abusers.

He had done so with utmost discretion. Chancery secretaries knew to lower their voices when taking calls from victims' parents. At Riordan's law firm, many partners didn't even know that their colleagues were working on the cases. Junior staffers whispered about it.

"We called them Father Fondle cases," recalled Lauren Hunter, then a paralegal at the firm. Riordan said in an interview he was not aware his firm handled the clergy abuse cases.

Mahony and his aides insisted on secrecy even when lives were at risk. In one case, the archdiocese was informed that a man dying of AIDS had been having sex with a parish priest, who in turn was abusing high school students. At the time, the average life expectancy after an AIDS diagnosis was 18 months. Yet church officials did nothing to alert the priest or the students. "People involved in these activities usually are aware of these matters," a Mahony aide wrote.

Mahony's schedule brought him in regular contact with the police chief and the district attorney, but he never mentioned the accused abusers in his ranks or reported them to law enforcement. In private memos, he discussed with aides how to stymie police.

Mahony and his aides selected therapists who they knew wouldn't report abuse to authorities, and urged suspected molesters to remain out of state to avoid police investigations and lawsuits. Mahony ordered one priest who had admitted preying on as many as 20 children to stay away from California "for the foreseeable future" to avoid prosecution.

Inside the Los Angeles Police Department's Sexually Exploited Child unit, detectives had come to think of clergy cases as a footrace against the chancery. When a tip about a priest came in, the starting gun went off.

"Even if it was at the end of the day and we were supposed to go home, we knew we were at the starting post," said Det. Dale Barraclough, who spent 20 years in the unit.

LAPD policy was to notify the archdiocese when an investigation was underway. But once the church was informed, Barraclough said, "we knew that the suspect, 99% sure, that he was going to be out of the country or out of state."

Detectives begged parents not to inform the church and held off telling their own supervisors, Barraclough said in an interview, buying time to talk to witnesses, track down other victims, and seize toys and photos from rectories.

Officers often lost the race. In early 1988, police learned that a visiting priest allegedly molested several boys over nine months before fleeing to his native Mexico. In an effort to identify all the potential victims, detectives asked for a list of altar boys at two L.A. parishes.

Mahony was adamant that the roster not be provided: "We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever," he wrote to aides in an internal memo.

Det. Gary Lyon became fed up and poured out the story of Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera to a Times reporter. Lyon told the newspaper that church officials knew the priest was leaving the country but contacted authorities only after he was gone. Now, Lyon complained, they were preventing police from identifying the children who may have been harmed.

The story ran on the front page. It was not the type of headline Mahony was used to. He knew the power of the media in spreading the church's message and building his influence. He made sure photographers were on the tarmac when he delivered medical supplies to El Salvador. He called KNX Radio from his car phone whenever he spotted a traffic accident.

When the story about Aguilar-Rivera broke, Mahony was preparing to fly to Washington for a high-profile address to Congress on nuclear disarmament. He had told his press office to expect a lot of calls about his speech, but in the wake of the Aguilar-Rivera story, the media weren't interested.


"They lied as bad as any thug or ex-con I've ever come across on the street," Lyon recalled in an interview. "They were more interested in saving the reputation of the church than helping us find these young victims."


Meanwhile, the archbishop's influence was growing. In 1991, Pope John Paul II elevated him to cardinal. Accompanying him to Rome for the ceremony was a group of powerful Angelenos, including future mayor Riordan. He had become a confidant of the archbishop, raising millions for the church and even spearheading the purchase of a helicopter for Mahony.

In the city's worst moment of crisis, the 1992 riots, Mahony provided a voice of moral authority that politicians couldn't. He appeared live on six television stations to plead for calm and went to still-smoldering Watts to urge looters to "clear their conscience" by returning stolen merchandise. Many did.

By this time, Mahony had dealt with close to 40 accused abusers. He sent priests to long stays at treatment centers, pored over memos detailing their progress and, upon their return, arranged jobs designed to keep them away from children. To the archbishop, each case represented a problem crossed off his list.

In the early 1990s, however, signs began to emerge that his approach wasn't working.

Lynn Caffoe, a Redondo Beach priest who had allegedly taken hundreds of boys into his bedroom, convinced church officials that a nine-month stint in therapy had him "in a much better space."

"Excellent progress," Mahony wrote.

Months later, as the archbishop was about to clear Caffoe to return to ministry, a boy came forward to say the priest had been molesting him the entire time. Another abuser priest, Gerald Fessard, had been cleared by a psychologist as being "in no danger of acting out" after treatment; but after he returned to ministry in Temple City, parishioners said he was talking to children about sex and touching them inappropriately.

Mahony revised his approach. .........

Yet the archbishop stopped short of any steps that might make the sins of priests public. The new advisory board, for example, was provided only vague descriptions of cases.

Alleged perpetrators were referred to as "Father X," and the parishes involved were never identified. Board members were never told whether Mahony followed their advice.

None of them mentioned calling police.


But seven miles from the new cathedral site, at St. Columbkille's in South L.A., Michael Baker had returned to the ministry. The priest had signed a contract vowing to stay away from children and agreed that a trusted Mahony aide, Msgr. Tim Dyer, would monitor him in the rectory.

On a May afternoon in 1996, Dyer went home from work early and climbed the stairs toward the priests' bedrooms. Suddenly, Baker emerged from that direction with a teenage boy at his side and barreled past Dyer. Aghast, the monsignor threw down the books he was carrying and raced after them. By the time Dyer reached the bottom step, Baker and the teen were outside.

Dyer peered through the rectory's Venetian blinds just in time to see Baker's car screech away, with the boy in the passenger seat.

As clergy abuse scandal erupts, Roger Mahony put in spotlight


In 1997, a dozen years into his tenure, Mahony was at the height of his power. He was a national advocate for immigrants in the country illegally, and his voice carried sway on issues including welfare reform and the racial tensions arising from the O.J. Simpson trial. Residents — Catholic and others — consistently voted him among the region's most popular public figures in opinion polls.

But in a locked cabinet in the archdiocese headquarters, files bulged with evidence that Mahony was covering up sexual abuse of children.

Manila folders alphabetized by abusers' names contained letters from distraught parents, graphic confessions from priests, and memos between the archbishop and his aides discussing how to stymie police investigations and avoid lawsuits.

To Mahony, the meticulous files were a record of problems solved and scandals averted. In the years to come, however, it would become increasingly hard — and finally impossible — to keep the problem of sexual abuse locked away.

Revelations that he had shielded pedophiles eventually undercut the moral authority that had made him one of America's most important Catholic leaders. One by one, people who had revered and trusted him would turn away. He lost the victims and their parents first, then his aides, the press, the political establishment, lay Catholics and ultimately the church he'd worked so hard to protect.

From early in his time as archbishop, Mahony did more than his predecessors to address sexual abuse by priests. For the most part, he didn't ignore allegations or shuffle untreated molesters from parish to parish. He insisted on inpatient therapy and placed returning priests in jobs where they had little access to children.

"Nothing pains me more than to learn of such misconduct on the part of anyone in the official service of the Church," he wrote to a victim's parents.

But he drew the line at steps that would acknowledge abuse cases publicly. By the mid-1990s, that insistence on secrecy was turning loyal Catholics like Paul and Sue Griffith against Mahony.

When the Long Beach couple learned that a priest had molested their son, they trusted Mahony to handle it appropriately. At the chancery, their son poured out his pain about the years of abuse he'd suffered, starting in seventh grade. "It's unbelievable how a grown man could be attracted to a kid and destroy him," the 21-year-old told church officials.

Mahony sent Father Ted Llanos to a church-run facility in Maryland and planned to explain his absence as the result of "administrative stress." Involving the police, a Mahony aide told the Griffiths, wouldn't help anyone.

In the past, that might have sufficed. But with molestation having become a staple of news reports and talk shows, families like the Griffiths were more willing to challenge the church.

"I view your ... announcement as a cover-up or at least managing the news to execute damage control," Paul Griffith wrote in a letter to the church. His son had been brave, he wrote, and now the archdiocese was failing to show "an equal amount of courage to be truthful."

Church officials went ahead with an announcement saying Llanos was leaving because of "issues in his life." But an anonymous call led to a police investigation and at least 15 other alleged victims came forward. Criminal charges against Llanos and extensive press coverage followed. Mahony met with the Griffiths at the chancery. He apologized for the pain Llanos had caused and assured the couple that the priest was an aberration.

The meeting didn't assuage the Griffiths. They criticized Mahony in media interviews and editorials and helped their son sue the archdiocese.

Sue Griffith, recalling the meeting with Mahony in an interview with The Times, said the cardinal had claimed that during his tenure only one other church employee molested a child: a school janitor.

It was Holy Week, and Mahony's calendar was jammed. In addition to the rites leading up to Easter 2000, the cardinal was working around the clock with city leaders to end a strike by 8,500 janitors. Presidential candidate Al Gore was also in town and wanted to meet.

That Tuesday afternoon, Father Michael Baker walked into archdiocese headquarters. Fourteen years earlier, he had confided to the cardinal that he'd molested two boys for nearly a decade. After a stint in treatment, he was allowed back into limited ministry.

Now, he was asking to see Mahony's top aide, nervously clutching a stack of papers. Baker handed the papers to Msgr. Richard Loomis without explanation.

It was a draft lawsuit from an attorney for two new victims — brothers then living in Arizona — accusing Baker of molesting them over 15 years in California and Arizona. The attorney gave the church and Baker one week to compensate the victims or face a lawsuit. Loomis didn't even read to the end before removing Baker from the ministry. Pack your bags, he told the priest.

Mahony had quietly settled claims before, many for little or no money. But to prevent an airing of Baker's misdeeds in a public courtroom, he approved a settlement on a different order: $1.25 million.

The payout stopped the suit, but not Baker. Mahony barred him from acting as a priest in public, but church officials soon learned he was still wearing his clerical collar and ingratiating himself with families by performing baptisms.

Those closest to Mahony realized that after years of trying to handle Baker quietly, they had reached a breaking point.

Loomis and the archdiocese's lawyer, John McNicholas, told the cardinal that for the safety of the community, the faithful must be alerted. They proposed vaguely worded parish announcements about Baker's "past inappropriate behavior with minors" in another state. But even that was too much for Mahony.

"There is no alternative to public announcements at all the Masses in 15 parishes???" Mahony emailed Loomis. "Wow — that really scares the daylights out of me!!"

Announcements would distract from all that the cardinal was trying to accomplish: a new immigration amnesty, a push against the death penalty and more funding for parochial education. Just the week before, he had taken presidential hopeful George W. Bush to South L.A. to show him how Catholic schools were helping poor children.

"We could open up yet another fire storm — and it takes us years to recover from those," he told Loomis.

No announcement was made. Later that year, Baker was defrocked. In the past, Mahony's aides had not questioned the way he dealt with abuse, but Loomis couldn't contain his anger in this case. He told a colleague that how Mahony had handled Baker was "immoral and unethical" — and shortsighted.

"Someone else will end up owning the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," he wrote in a memo. "We've stepped back 20 years and are being driven by the need to cover-up and to keep the presbyterate [priests] & public happily ignorant rather than the need to protect children."


He was still shaking off jet lag when the Boston Globe published the first in a series of stories that would shake the Catholic faith. "Church allowed abuse by priest for years," the headline read. The priest was Father John Geoghan, and the disgraced archbishop was Cardinal Bernard Law.

But 3,000 miles away, Mahony recognized a threat to his own reputation. By this time, he had quietly dealt with at least 47 clergymen accused of abuse.

He quietly drew up a list of all accused abusers still working in the archdiocese. There were seven. One by one, he summoned them to the chancery and informed them their careers were over.

But after Boston, the world had changed. Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks publicly demanded the names of abusers. Detectives, thwarted on church cases for decades, set up a hotline for victims. When they learned about a possible molester priest in Azusa, they dispatched at least 15 investigators to interview altar boys.

Talk radio hosts whom Mahony had once charmed by calling in traffic reports pilloried him. When emails in which he expressed fear of a criminal investigation were leaked, KFI-AM read them live on the air from outside the cathedral.

His press office embraced a phrase once unimaginable for the archbishop: "No comment." When he finally spoke to reporters, he joined the critics piling on Law but admitted few mistakes of his own.

"I don't know how I could face people," Mahony said about his Boston counterpart. "I don't know how I could walk down the main aisle of the church myself comfortably, interiorly, if I had been [guilty] of grave neglect."

With each new headline, more victims stepped forward. Some of the accused priests were long dead, others long gone from L.A. Some were beloved, others the subject of rumors for decades. Mahony lamented that to be a priest was to be suspected of abuse.

Late one Friday night, he picked up his phone and called the LAPD. He was patched through to Det. Dale Barraclough, who was getting ready for bed.

The detective was astounded, he said in an interview. In two decades of Barraclough's investigating child sex abuse cases, Mahony had been a distant adversary who sent aides and lawyers to frustrate investigations. Now the cardinal was calling him.

There's a new abuse allegation, Mahony said. It involves me.

A schizophrenic woman had accused Mahony of molesting her in 1970 at a Fresno high school. He told Barraclough he didn't know the woman. The detective thanked him and typed up a report. Fresno police later cleared the cardinal.

It was the first time Mahony had reported an abuse allegation to the LAPD, and the only time he could be certain it was false.

By the spring of 2002, the file Mahony kept on Michael Baker had grown to more than 300 pages. Only a handful of people had ever laid eyes on it, and the cardinal thought it inconceivable that its damaging contents would ever become public.

As in the past, Mahony had misjudged Baker. When Times reporters tracked the former priest down, he provided details of how he had told the archbishop he was a child molester. In the 2002 front-page story, Baker recounted that during a 1986 meeting with Mahony, a church attorney blurted out that perhaps police should be called.

Mahony's response, Baker told the paper, was "No, no, no."

The revelation prompted then-Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley to convene a grand jury to subpoena the personnel files of Baker and other priests. Mahony refused to turn over the files, saying canon law required that conversations between bishops and priests remain confidential. Cooley countered that there was no such legal protection and accused the cardinal of obstruction.

The battle cost the archbishop in Sacramento, where lawyers and victims' groups were pushing for legislation that would temporarily lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits and allow victims to sue the church over decades-old allegations. Mahony was once a powerful force in the capital, but his refusal to hand over records was now being cited by irate legislators — some of them raised in the church — as a reason to support the bill.

"It made it easy for the Legislature," Rod Pacheco, then a GOP assemblyman from Riverside and a former altar boy, recalled in an interview. "We're in Sacramento reading these articles and talking to people in our districts. No one's on the church's side. Nobody."

The measure passed easily.

The scandal consumed Mahony's days, but he seemed to find solace at the corner of Temple Street and Grand Avenue. There, the $189-million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was nearing completion. Mahony had spent years approving every detail, down to the wattage of freight elevator light bulbs. He walked the grounds almost daily in a hard hat and snapped enough photos to fill 40 albums. When he spoke of the sprawling plaza and the soaring nave, he sounded like a new father.

"I dreamed of how it would look," he said at the time, "but I never thought it could be so beautiful."

To Mahony's dismay, the abuse scandal continued to dominate the news. He turned to the crisis public relations firm Sitrick and Co., which had counted Enron among its clients. In one meeting with journalists arranged by the firm, he said he thought about the scandal every two to three minutes and wished he could "back up and undo" his mistakes.

"We were really following what was then a view in the psychiatric, psychological circle that this particular malady could somehow be successfully treated," he said. "And that turned out to be wrong."

He ended by pleading for "some great story about the cathedral without sex abuse in that story."


The four-hour dedication Mass was so important to Mahony that he went through 32 drafts of his homily. In the end, he didn't mention sex abuse; but outside, protesters had brought a papier-mache effigy of Mahony holding a sign that read, "Suffer the little children." Some mocked his cathedral as "the Taj Mahony."

Four months later, the first lawsuits resulting from the Sacramento law were filed. Mahony hired a downtown firm that specialized in what attorneys call "bet-the-company litigation." The law firm estimated that about 100 people would sue. In the end, more than 500 did.

The claims stretched back to the 1930s, and many named priests never previously accused of abuse, including Loomis, the Mahony aide who had removed Baker from ministry. Loomis denied the allegations but was put on leave. Lawyers had predicted a "feeding frenzy" of false claims. But as victim after victim gave sworn accounts, it became clear to church officials that the vast majority were telling the truth.

With the scandal he had feared for so long now a reality, Mahony began to embrace transparency. In 2004, he named more than 200 accused priests in a comprehensive report unparalleled in the American church. It called on the church to "examine its conscience" about having placed secrecy and image preservation above the well-being of children.

Mahony set up an office to assist victims. He hired retired FBI agents to investigate every claim. He instituted fingerprinting for clergy, teachers and volunteers and started a mandatory program to teach them how to prevent abuse.


On a winter evening in 2008, Mahony welcomed a group of parishioners from La Cañada Flintridge into a conference room at the cathedral.

He had settled the bulk of the abuse litigation for $720 million, far greater than any previous settlements in the U.S. Catholic Church and far more than the archdiocese could afford. Mahony was now forced to beg wealthy parishes for contributions.

St. Bede's had more than $100,000 to spare. He showed the parishioners accountants' reports, charts and timelines, two people who attended the meeting said in interviews. He told them how an East L.A. parish had held a tamale sale and brought him a check for a couple hundred dollars.

What about Michael Baker? a man interrupted.

A lot of us come from business backgrounds, a woman further down the table said, and you are a CEO who just paid out a three-quarter-billion-dollar settlement. We think you should resign.

Don't you think I want to retire? Mahony said, his voice rising. I could be at my cabin in the Sierra. I'm staying because I'm the best person to fix this.

It's about accountability, another woman said.

Mahony slammed his hand on the table, scattering his charts. You self-righteous... he began. Keep your money, he told them.

By 2011, when Mahony reached the church's retirement age of 75, he had outlasted most of the public fury.

He planned on using his remaining years to advocate for the rights of immigrants in the country illegally and saw an opportunity when President Obama announced his second-term push to overhaul immigration law.

But events in a dreary courtroom west of downtown last winter would ensure that he couldn't separate his legacy from the abuse scandal. In January, after years of delays, a judge signed an order forcing the archdiocese to make public thousands of pages of priest personnel files, the final piece of Mahony's mammoth settlement with victims.

The records showed for the first time, and often in Mahony's own handwriting, the level of his personal involvement with abuse cases. He had reviewed the psychiatric reports in which priests laid out what they'd done to children. He had read the letters in which mothers of victims described their agony, and he had strategized with aides about how to keep abusers from justice.

He issued yet another apology, this one describing notecards he'd kept listing the names of the victims he had met.

"I pray for them every single day," he said. "I am sorry."

It wasn't enough. There were calls for Mahony's prosecution. When he ventured out to run errands, strangers berated him.

His successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, wrote a letter to the faithful admonishing the cardinal for his failures in dealing with abuse and announcing that Mahony would no longer have any "administrative and public duties" in the archdiocese. Mahony was furious. He objected in private to the Vatican and in a letter to Gomez he posted on his blog.

"Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions" about clergy abuse, Mahony wrote, adding, "I handed over to you an Archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth."

Hours later, Gomez issued a clarification that Mahony remained "in good standing."

On a Monday morning nearly two weeks later, Mahony woke up to the news that Pope Benedict XVI had resigned.

"I look forward to traveling to Rome soon … to participate in the Conclave to elect his successor," he typed on his blog.

Many did not share his enthusiasm. With Law too old to vote for the next pope, Mahony stood as the global face of clergy abuse. A liberal U.S. Catholic group started an online petition urging him to stay home.

After he arrived at the Vatican, some of his fellow prelates, men whose own records on abuse largely remained secret, distanced themselves. Several told reporters that Mahony should look to his own conscience in deciding whether to participate.

Mahony stood his ground, giving television interviews and blogging and tweeting from Rome. But once he returned to Los Angeles, he largely faded from public view.

He now lives in the rectory of his boyhood parish in North Hollywood. Some Sundays, he volunteers at churches in poorer neighborhoods, saying Mass in Spanish in place of vacationing priests.

When Mahony's predecessor retired, a church historian worked with him to prepare an exhaustive biography. No one is currently working on Mahony's.


Michael Baker served about six years behind bars after pleading guilty to molesting two boys. Authorities believe he abused at least 21 other children. He now lives at a senior citizen community in Costa Mesa. On a recent morning, he answered the door for reporters wearing only shorts. Keep your voices down, he said. My neighbors don't know.

In an interview shortly before his release from prison, two L.A. detectives pressed Baker about Mahony.

Why did the cardinal shelter you for so long? they asked.

Baker shrugged.


Read full article at the Los Angeles Times

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pope names private secretary to supervise Vatican bank

November 28, 2013

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis named his personal secretary to supervise the activities of the Vatican bank on Thursday, in a sign the pontiff wants to keep a tight grip on the drive to clean up its operations and image.

Alfred Xuereb, a 55-year-old Maltese prelate, will be responsible for overseeing two commissions created by the pope to supervise the bank itself and the economic structure and finances of the Holy See, the Vatican said in a statement.

Since taking office in March, Francis has moved to tackle years of financial scandals involving the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, which is under investigation on suspicion of money laundering.

Xuereb will keep the pope informed about the work of the commissions and any action that needs to be taken, it said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters that Xuereb had been working in this role unofficially for some time, but would now be able to do so more effectively.

The Vatican has signed an agreement with Italy over exchanging financial and banking information and the IOR has opened a website,, and begun publishing annual reports in a transparency drive.

Francis raised the prospect that the institute could even have to be closed down unless it could reform itself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why did Pope Benedict XVI resign?

Mark Dowd
November 26, 2013

In February, Benedict XVI shocked the world when he became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. But attention shifted quickly to the succession, and the election of the new Pope. Amid the drama, one question was left unanswered - why did Benedict quit? Pope Benedict's official resignation statement offered his waning physical and mental powers as the explanation, but it's long been suspected there was more to it. And my enquiries have confirmed that.

I went to visit the Nigerian Cardinal, Francis Arinze at his apartment overlooking St Peter's. He's one of the most senior figures in the church and knows the Vatican like the back of his hand. He was even, for a short time in March of this year, mooted as a possible successor to Pope Benedict. And he was one of the select handful of senior church officials who were in the Pope's Apostolic Palace when he broke the news to them personally.

I raised the subject of the scandals that had preceded the Pope's bombshell decision and, in particular the Vatileaks affair in which the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, had leaked confidential documents exposing Vatican power struggles. Could that have been a factor in his resignation? His answer was unexpected.

"It is legitimate for a person to speculate and say 'Maybe,' because some of his documents were taken secretly. It could be one of the reasons," he told me.

"Maybe he was so pained that his own butler leaked out so many letters that a journalist was able to write a book. It can be one of the reasons. I don't expect him to be enjoying that event."

In the Vatican, young ambitious members of the church are advised to "hear a lot, see everything and say nothing". That such a senior figure should essentially countenance a departure from the official line is significant.

Essentially, Pope Benedict was a teaching Pope, a theologian and intellectual. "His idea of hell would be to be sent on a one-week management training seminar," one insider told me. His misfortune was to accede to the papacy at a time that there was a power vacuum, in which a number of middle-ranking members of the Roman curia, the Church's civil service, had turned into "little Borgias" as another clerical official put it.

Don't take my word for it, this assessment comes from the highest source - the current leader of the Church. And Pope Francis does not mince his words. "The court is the leprosy of the papacy," he has said. He has described the curia as "narcissistic" and "self-referential". This is what Joseph Ratzinger had to deal with.

Over a period of time dating back to final years of Pope John Paul II, the heart of the HQ of the Roman Church had become dominated by infighting cliques. This was what the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele said he wanted to expose by photocopying and leaking all those documents.

But Gabriele said his relationship with Pope Benedict was like "father and son". So why did he act in a way that was sure to embarrass a man he was clearly close to?

"He said he had seen many ugly things inside the Vatican. At a certain point he couldn't take it any more," says his lawyer Cristiana Arru, clutching her rosary beads, in only her second ever public interview. "And so he looked for a way out. He says he saw lies being told. He thought that the Pope was being kept in the dark regarding key events."

Gabriele was found guilty of "aggravated theft" and spent three months in custody before being pardoned by the Pope. But that was not the end of it. The Church's leader set up an inquiry into the whole affair.

Three Cardinals produced a 300-page report. It was meant to be kept under lock and key, but a leading Italian daily claimed it had been briefed on its contents. The result? More embarrassing leaks, this time with claims of a network of gay priests exerting "inappropriate influence" inside the Vatican.

The headaches continued to mount for the German Pope. In many journalistic endeavours, "follow the money" is good advice for getting to grips with what is really going on, and it applies to the Vatican too. One of the most eyebrow-raising stories we encountered involved an annual Nativity scene in St Peter's Square.

For years, deals were struck in which the Vatican paid several times the market rate. When a whistleblower tried to reform the system, officials in the papal court persuaded a hapless Pope Benedict to promote him to a role 4,000 miles from Rome.

Similar antics occurred at the Vatican Bank, for years a source of unwelcome headlines for the Catholic Church. It was set up to help religious orders and foundations transfer much-needed money to far-flung parts of the world. But when a sizeable proportion of the transactions are in cash and are being sent to politically unstable parts of the planet, it does not take a genius to see what might go wrong.

It appears that bank officials took key decisions without always informing the Pope. When the board ousted its reforming president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi (conveniently, on the day that the news of the Gabriele's arrest was getting saturation news coverage), the Pope did not find out until it was too late. He was "very surprised" in the later words of his private secretary. Gotti Tedeschi was an Opus Dei member and thought to be close to the Pope, but in the end this did not protect him.

Did all this prove too much for the ageing Pope Benedict?

Examine the precise words of the papal press spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi: "The Church needed someone with more physical and spiritual energy who would be able to overcome the problems and challenges of governing the church in this ever-changing modern world." Maybe that is as near as you are ever going to get from a senior official that the church had become ungovernable and needed someone else at the helm to stop the rot.

This is a church that now has a huge opportunity to move on and face up to the challenges of the 21st Century. Often seen as remote, its leadership is now canvassing the views of ordinary Catholics on hot-button issues such as contraception and gay marriage. Reform has come on the back of scandal. This is a development that has not gone unnoticed by Cardinal Arinze.

"What you have to remember," he says, "is that God often writes straight on crooked lines."

German bishops eye guidelines for divorced Catholics to take communion

Jonathan Luxmoore
Catholic News Service
November 27, 2013

Church officials in Germany defended plans by the country's bishops' conference to allow some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, insisting they have the pope's endorsement.

"We already have our own guidelines, and the pope has now clearly signaled that certain things can be decided locally," said Robert Eberle, spokesman for the archdiocese of Freiburg.

"We're not the only archdiocese seeking helpful solutions to this problem, and we've had positive reactions from other dioceses in Germany and abroad, assuring us they already practice what's written in our guidelines," he said.

Eberle's comments followed the disclosure by Bishop Gebhard Furst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart Nov. 23 that the bishops' would adopt proposals on reinstating divorced and remarried parishioners as full members of the church during their March plenary.

In an interview Wednesday with Catholic News Service, Eberle said "many points" in the pope's apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, ("The Joy of the Gospel") suggested the German church was "moving in the right way" in its attitude toward remarried Catholics.

Uwe Renz, spokesman in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, also defended the bishops' stance. He said he believed the bishops were acting "in the spirit of the pope's teaching."

"Our own dialogue process has shown this is a major issue for both lay Catholics and priests," Renz said.

"Pope Francis has called on bishops to exercise a wise and realistic pastoral discernment on such problems, and our bishops want divorced and remarried Catholics to be a full part of the church community, with full rights," he said.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reaffirmed in October church teaching that prohibits divorced and remarried Catholics from the sacraments without an annulment. His announcement came after the Freiburg archdiocese issued guidelines making holy Communion available to divorced and remarried parishioners.

In a 4,600-word article in the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano Oct. 22, Müller said the "entire sacramental economy" could not be swept aside by an "appeal to mercy," adding that if remarried divorcees were "convinced in their conscience a previous marriage was invalid," this should be "proved objectively" by a church tribunal as required by canon law.

In an Oct. 8 letter to Zollitsch, president of the German bishops' conference, the prefect said the archdiocese's guidelines contained "unclear terminology" and violated church teaching by suggesting remarried Catholics could take a "responsible decision in conscience" to receive sacraments after consulting their priest.

However, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, one of eight members of the international Council of Cardinals advising the pope on reform of the Roman Curia, criticized the stance. He said Müller could not "end the discussion."

Meanwhile, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier told the Trierischen Volksfreund daily Nov. 21 the sacraments offered a "chance for reconciliation and a new beginning." He said the church needed a "more intense and honest account of the concrete reality facing many couples and families."

Several German church leaders earlier welcomed the Freiburg guidelines, including Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Berlin. He told KNA, the German Catholic news agency, Oct. 9 that divorced and remarried Catholics were "welcome in our parishes" and "belong to us."

In a Nov. 23 speech to the lay Central Committee of German Catholics, Furst said a commission of six bishops had been drafting guidelines since 2010 for faithful couples to "gain readmission to the sacraments in justified individual cases," and would present them for approval at the bishops' March meeting.

He explained that the commission had drawn on the Freiburg archdiocese's document as well as a 1993 pastoral letter on the subject by three other bishops.

The bishop told the central committee to applause that he would "make arrangements" in his own diocese if the bishops' plenary failed to "agree a common line."

Speculation about a change in church practice has grown since Pope Francis told reporters in his plane back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July that a Synod of Bishops in October 2014 would explore a "deeper pastoral care of marriage," including the eligibility of Catholic divorcees to receive Communion.

In his apostolic exhortation released Tuesday, the pope said the magisterium should not be expected "to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the church and the world" and cautioned against "a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance."

He added that the "doors of the sacraments" should be not "closed for simply any reason," and said the Eucharist was "not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pope Francis: no more business as usual

Daniel Burke
November 26, 2013

Pope Francis on Tuesday called for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church – including at the very top – saying he knows it will be a messy business but he expects his flock to dive in feet first.

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," the Pope said in a major new statement.

"I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures."

The Pope's address, called an "apostolic exhortation," is basically a pep talk from the throne of St. Peter. But Francis' bold language and sweeping call for change are likely to surprise even those who've become accustomed to his unconventional papacy.

"Not everyone will like this document," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author in New York. "For it poses a fierce challenge to the status quo."

Officially known in Latin as "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the 85-page document is the first official papal document written entirely by Francis. (An earlier document was co-written by Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.)

Although Francis sprinkles the statement with citations of previous popes and Catholic luminaries like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, the new pontiff makes a bold call for the church to rethink even long-held traditions.

"In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated," the Pope said.

"Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives."

Such statements mark a sharp break from Benedict XVI, a more tradition-bound pope who focused on cleaning up cobwebs of unorthodoxy in the church.

By contrast, in "Evangelii" Francis repeats his calls for Catholics to stop "obsessing" about culture war issues and enforcing church rules, and to focus more on spreading the Gospel, especially to the poor and marginalized.

The church, he said, should not be afraid to "get its shoes soiled by the mud of the street."

The Pope also hinted that he wants to see an end to the so-called "wafer wars," in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion. His comments could also be taken as another sign that he plans to reform church rules that prevent divorced Catholics from receiving the Eucharist.

"Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason," Francis said.

"The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

Even so, Francis reiterated the church's traditional stand against abortion, defending that position against critics who call it "ideological, obscurantist and conservative."

"Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question," Francis said.

The Pope also reiterated that the possibility of ordaining women is "not open for discussion." But that doesn't mean the church values men more than women, he said.

"We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church," the Pope said.

Francis also said he expects other parts of the church to change, and called on Catholics to be unafraid of trying new things.

"More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving."

Francis didn't mention specific changes, but made it clear he expects them to start at the top and include even long-held Catholic practices.

"Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy," he said.

The church's centralization, where all roads lead to Rome, and the "we've always done it this way" type of thinking have hindered Catholics' ability to minister to local people in far-flung places, Francis suggested.

"I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities," the Pope said.

The outside world didn't escape Francis' notice either.

In a section of "Evangelii" entitled "some challenges to today's world," he sharply criticized what he called an "idolatry of money" and "the inequality that spawns violence."

"Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric," the Pope wrote.

Martin, the Jesuit priest, said, "I cannot remember ever reading a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating."

"The document’s main message is that Catholics should be unafraid of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel and new ways of thinking about the church," said Martin, who is also an editor-at-large at America Magazine in New York.

Evangeli Gaudium amounts to Francis' 'I have a dream' speech

John L. Allen Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 26, 2013

Dreams can be powerful things, especially when articulated by leaders with the realistic capacity to translate them into action. That was the case 50 years ago with Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and it also seems to be the ambition of Pope Francis' bold new apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel."

In effect, the 224-page document, titled in Latin Evangelii Gaudium [1] and released by the Vatican Tuesday, is a vision statement about the kind of community Francis wants Catholicism to be: more missionary, more merciful, and with the courage to change.

Francis opens with a dream.

"I dream of a 'missionary option,' " Francis writes, "that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today's world, rather than for her self-preservation."

In particular, Francis calls for a church marked by a special passion for the poor and for peace.

The theme of change permeates the document. The pope says rather than being afraid of "going astray," what the church ought to fear instead is "remaining shut up within structures that give us a false sense of security, within rules that make us harsh judges" and "within habits that make us feel safe."

Though Francis released an encyclical letter titled Lumen Fidei in June, that text was based largely on a draft prepared by Benedict XVI. "The Joy of the Gospel," designed as a reflection on the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, thus represents the new pope's real debut as an author.

Early reaction suggests it's a tour de force.

The text comes with Francis' now-familiar flashes of homespun language. Describing an upbeat tone as a defining Christian quality, for instance, he writes that "an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!"

At another point, Francis insists that "the church is not a tollhouse." Instead, he says, "it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone." At another point, he quips that "the confessional must not be a torture chamber," but rather "an encounter with the Lord's mercy which spurs us to on to do our best."

Francis acknowledges that realizing his dream will require "a reform of the church," stipulating that "what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences."

Though he doesn't lay out a comprehensive blueprint for reform, he goes beyond mere hints to fairly blunt indications of direction:

He calls for a "conversion of the papacy," saying he wants to promote "a sound decentralization" and candidly admitting that in recent years "we have made little progress" on that front.

He suggests that bishops' conferences ought to be given "a juridical status ... including genuine doctrinal authority." In effect, that would amount to a reversal of a 1998 Vatican ruling under John Paul II that only individual bishops in concert with the pope, and not episcopal conferences, have such authority.

Francis says the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak," insisting that "the doors of the sacraments" must not "be closed for simply any reason." His language could have implications not only for divorced and remarried Catholics, but also calls for refusing the Eucharist to politicians or others who do not uphold church teaching on some matters.

He calls for collaborative leadership, saying bishops and pastors must use "the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear."

Francis criticizes forces within the church who seem to lust for "veritable witch hunts," asking rhetorically, "Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?"

He cautions against "ostentatious preoccupation" for liturgy and doctrine as opposed to ensuring that the Gospel has "a real impact" on people and engages "the concrete needs of the present time."

On two specific matters, however, Francis rules out change: the ordination of women to the priesthood, though he calls for "a more incisive female presence" in decision-making roles, and abortion.

Francis says the church's defense of unborn life "cannot be expected to change" because it's "closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right."

The pope's toughest language comes in a section of the document arguing that solidarity with the poor and the promotion of peace are constituent elements of what it means to be a missionary church.

Francis denounces what he calls a "crude and naïve trust" in the free market, saying that left to its own devices, the market too often fosters a "throw-away culture" in which certain categories of people are seen as disposable. He rejects what he describes as an "invisible and almost virtual" economic "tyranny."

Specifically, Francis calls on the church to oppose spreading income inequality and unemployment, as well as to advocate for stronger environmental protection and against armed conflict.

In the end, "The Joy of the Gospel" amounts to a forceful call for a more missionary Catholicism in the broadest sense. The alternative, Francis warns, is not pleasant.

"We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in our own comforts," he writes. "Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide."

The anguish of being Catholic

Elizabeth Nagel
Minn Post

November 26, 2013

Last week more than 300 Catholics gathered together. One by one, they came forward to an open microphone, giving their names and the parish to which they belong. I heard anger, pain, frustration – and yes, anguish.

Their perspectives varied. Some told about incidents of abuse. Others, who work for parishes, spoke about the strict standards to which they adhere in doing background checks on volunteers wishing to work with children. But they are unable to do the same with priests assigned to their parishes. Another area addressed in this debacle is the degree of pain experienced by good and decent priests in this archdiocese. Everyone present related how events relating to this scandal have deeply affected them.

There was one area of agreement. Committing sexual acts involving a child is reprehensible enough. But much of the anger went beyond the molestation of children, and instead was directed at actions of Archbishop John Nienstedt and those who work for him. Questions were raised if he is even capable of bringing about healing and necessary changes — much less whether he is willing to do so.

Unanimous show of hands

At one point the moderator asked those assembled if they believed the archbishop should resign. The show of hands was unanimous. Archbishop Nienstedt’s leadership has been severely impaired. There was little hope expressed by those present that constructive change and healing can occur as long as he remains here in Minnesota.

One person asked if there was any process in the Catholic Church for the removal of a bishop or archbishop. Unfortunately, the principle of subsidiarity in the Church (in which matters are best handled at the local or individual level in order to curb excessive power “from the top”) works against any clear process for removing a dysfunctional bishop.

The issue was raised as to why there have been no arrests made of archdiocesan officials since the cover-up of abusing priests has been much more than immoral. Obstruction of justice, including tampering with evidence, is a punishable crime in Minnesota. One person reminded the group of the request by St. Paul police for anyone abused to come forward as part of the police’s on-going investigation of this massive attempt to cover up wrong-doing.

Understanding the underlying causes and solutions to curb pedophilia (molestation of children by a non-family member) is not an easy matter. Some of those present called for abolishing celibacy for priests as a solution. If celibacy were the cause of pedophilia, then the problem would not exist in Protestant denominations and other religions (or secular organizations that serve children). These traditions deal with the very same issues that the Catholic Church does regarding the sexual abuse of children.

Persons ordained and lay people who commit acts of pedophilia come in every size and shape – single and married men (and women), all ages, and across socioeconomic and educational levels.

Understandings have changed

To be fair, it is necessary to grant the Catholic Church a little slack in its past actions toward offending priests. Understandings about pedophilia have changed. Several decades ago, a number of mental health professionals believed pedophilia was a curable disorder. So removing a priest and sending him to a treatment facility was a feasible response (though similar help usually was not given to those victimized).

Today, most mental-health professionals would agree that pedophilia is not treatable. The only solution involves preventing such individuals from having access to children. And it is why child pornography is so dangerous because it feeds this illegal and illicit attraction to children.

Sexual misconduct with adults by priests and other clergy is another matter. It is possible for an ordained person to gain understanding of the origins of their sexual misconduct and entanglement with parishioners. After a process of self-examination and treatment, many of these ordained individuals are more “safe” in their parish assignments.

Of course, there will always be serial offenders – as reflected in our current public discussion in which we are struggling to find a balance between permanent incarceration and the safety of others. Likewise, the crime of sexual molestation of children in the church will never be completely curtailed. We can diminish it and limit its damage by increasing awareness about inappropriate behavior and provide resources for children and those who work with them.

Sometimes I would despair, along with my clients, when they were misused and abused by a clergy person they trusted. Then I would be privileged to be part of their healing process and I would rejoice.

As a Catholic, I hope the same healing can happen in my spiritual tradition. The Catholic Church is community for so many of us and a source of much good in this city that I call home.

Elizabeth C. Nagel is a Twin Cities writer and photographer. She spent over three decades as a licensed psychologist, including work with individuals harmed by clergy, including Protestant clergy, who crossed the boundaries of appropriate pastor-parishioner relationships.

German bishop: allow communion for divorced/remarried despite Vatican disapproval

Catholic World News
November 25, 2013

A German bishop has said that the country’s episcopal conference will move forward with plans to allow Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, despite clear disapproval from the Vatican.

Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Stuttgart told a lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics, that the German bishops have already drafted new guidelines for the reception of Communion by divorced/remarried Catholics, and hope to vote their approval to those new rules in March 2014. Bishop Fürst said that the German hierarchy is responding to demands from the faithful. “Expectations are great, and impatience and anger are greater still,” he said.

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has instructed officials of the Freiburg archdiocese that they should retract a proposed policy that would allow divorced/remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist. That policy, Archbishop Müller said, “would cause confusion among the faithful about the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.”

A number of German bishops have pressed for change in the Church’s practice that bars Catholics who have divorced and remarried from receiving the Eucharist. (The only exceptions are for Catholics whose early marriages are annulled, or those who pledge to live with their new partners as “brother and sister.”) Pope Francis has suggested that the question should be addressed by the Synod of Bishops, which will meet in October 2014.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Alec Reid, priest who helped broker peace accord in Northern Ireland, dies at 82

Douglas Dalby
New York Times
November 25, 2013

The Rev. Alec Reid, an unassuming Roman Catholic priest who played a quiet but crucial role in clandestine negotiations that led to the historic Good Friday peace accord in Northern Ireland in 1998, died here on Friday. He was 82.

Rev. Alec Reid was also a confidant of influential pacifist nationalists like the Nobel laureate John Hume.

The Redemptorist Order, a missionary society of priests to which he belonged, announced the death without specifying the cause.

Father Reid was virtually unknown to the wider public until 1988, when he was captured in a photograph kneeling over the bloodied, spread-eagled corpse of a British soldier whom he had tried but failed to save minutes earlier from execution by the Irish Republican Army. It remains one of the most haunting images of “the Troubles,” the violent struggle that tore at Northern Ireland for three decades.

Few people knew at the time, however, that Father Reid had served as a secret peace broker between Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the I.R.A.’s political wing, and Father Reid’s contacts in the British and Irish governments. Father Reid was also a confidant of influential pacifist nationalists like the Nobel laureate John Hume. Father Reid and Mr. Adams frequently met at the Clonard Monastery in the nationalist heartland of urban west Belfast.

But he was no mere messenger. Martin Mansergh, a former negotiator for the Irish government, said Prime Minister Charles Haughey of Ireland regarded Father Reid as the “most important person in the entire peace process, bar none.” Mr. Haughey died in 2006.

Father Reid, who abhorred violence, convinced the parties in the struggle that Mr. Adams had a genuine interest in seeking an end to the I.R.A.’s paramilitary campaign against the British government in pursuit of a united Ireland, and that he had the wherewithal to deliver on a peace agreement.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Adams described Father Reid as “the chaplain to the peace process” and Clonard Monastery as its “cradle.”

“There would not be a peace process at this time without his diligent doggedness and his refusal to give up,” Mr. Adams said.

The agreement, signed on Good Friday in April 1998, sought to put an end to the old hatreds between Northern Ireland’s two main groups, the predominantly Protestant, pro-British unionists and the largely Roman Catholic republicans, who remain committed to a united Ireland. The pact was a blueprint for the present power-sharing government formed by Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party.

In 2005, Father Reid was one of two independent witnesses to the decommissioning of the I.R.A.’s arsenals. In a recent interview, he recalled an I.R.A. member turning in an assault rifle for destruction.

“The man handed it over and got quite emotional,” he said. “He was aware this was the last gun.”

The other independent witness, the Rev. Harold Good, a Methodist minister, characterized Father Reid as someone who “was prepared to go into no man’s land.”

“It can be a very lonely place; it can be a dangerous place,” Mr. Good told the Irish national broadcaster RTE, “but Alec knew somebody had to go into that place. He was no innocent abroad, but he knew what had to be done.”

Alec Reid was born in Dublin in 1931 and grew up in the Republic of Ireland, in Nenagh, in rural County Tipperary, where he had moved at age 6 after his father died. He joined the Redemptorist Order in 1949 and was ordained a priest in 1957. He was sent to the Clonard Monastery in Belfast, the order’s base, four years later and remained there for 44 years.

He caused a furor in 2005 when, speaking at a public meeting, he compared the way Protestant unionists had treated Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland to the way the Nazis had treated the Jews. He apologized almost immediately, saying he had been provoked by a baying crowd.

Father Reid, who is survived by two sisters, lived out his last years in Dublin, but he spent a significant amount of time in Spain, where he won praise for helping to persuade the Basque separatist group ETA to declare a short-lived cease-fire in 2006. The group has since declared a permanent cessation.

Division over pope's effect in focus at religion academic meetings

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
November 25, 2013

If Pope Francis wants to speak genuinely about his concern for the world's poor, he must also address stark issues of inequality faced by women globally, Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister told a crowd of religion scholars, teachers and clergy here Saturday.

Citing figures that indicate women represent approximately two-thirds of the world's illiterate population and two-thirds of those suffering from hunger, Chittister said, "Someone, somewhere has decided that women need less, women deserve less and women are worthy of less than men."

"Pope Francis has won the heart of the world by being humble, simple and pastoral -- a warm and caring face of this church, a man like Jesus who is a man of the poor," she said. "But no one can say that they are for the poor as Jesus was and do nothing, nothing, nothing for the equality of women."

Chittister, a well-known author, NCR columnist and former leader of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, spoke Saturday at a session at the annual meetings of The American Academy of Religion and The Society of Biblical Literature.

Held Nov. 22-26 at sites across downtown Baltimore, the meetings saw approximately 15,000 teachers, scholars, clergy and others gather for some 1,000 events over the five-day period.

Chittister spoke at one of several events during the meetings focused on what effect Pope Francis has had globally on Catholicism, religion and society worldwide since his election to replace Pope Benedict XVI in March.

At question at several of those sessions was whether the new pontiff can be seen as standing in line with his predecessor, who did not share Francis' more friendly public persona and was seen by some as more doctrinally conservative.

Evincing a sharp contrast among other analysts Saturday was George Weigel, the well-known biographer of Pope John Paul II who spoke with Chittister as part of a five-person panel dedicated to "Pope Francis and the State of Global Catholicism."

Saying that the first months of Francis' papacy have been "a kind of Rorschach test," Weigel said Catholics have seen in the new pope "their dreams or their fears with a clarity and conviction that frankly has little to do" with the pope's actions.

Giving 10 points about Francis' style and preferences -- calling him, among other things, someone who is a "radically converted Christian disciple," a person respectful of popular expressions of piety, and a "man of the arts" -- Weigel said the pope stands in "essential continuity" with his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Francis, Weigel said, will be the pope who completes a "dramatic historic transition" in the church from a focus on the 15th-century Council of Trent to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.

Outlining an arc of history leading to Pope Francis, Weigel said that transition was a "process of dynamic development" begun by Pope Leo XII in the 19th century and "accelerated by Vatican II and its authoritative interpretation by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose pontificates set the stage for Pope Francis and with whom his pontificate will be in essential continuity."

Richard Gaillardetz, a leading academic who heads the nation's largest membership society for Catholic theologians, took issue with Weigel's description of Francis' continuity with his predecessors at another panel discussion focused on the pope later Saturday.

Gaillardetz, who is the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College and serves as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, spoke at a panel hosted by the College Theology Society -- another membership society for theologians -- and said he had rewritten his remarks after hearing Weigel's description of the new pope.

Gaillardetz said Francis' approach to the papacy represents a significant change in trajectory.

Since the end of the 19th century, Gaillardetz said, popes have frequently focused on being the "chief doctrinal czar" of the Catholic church, responsible for issuing authoritative statements on what Catholics should and should not do.

Beginning in the 1960s with Pope John XXIII, that role of the papacy has shifted to where the pope found himself needing to be someone who can persuade people about the teaching of the church rather than just handing down doctrine, Gaillardetz said.

"This is why it seems to me we can't simply speak of Pope Francis' continuing seamlessly what his predecessors have begun," Gaillardetz said. "Because I think Francis now marks in many ways the end of that trajectory where we think of papal teaching primarily as normative pronouncements of the teaching of the church."

Referencing a wide-ranging interview the pope had with an Italian Jesuit priest earlier this year, printed in 16 publications the order run around the world, Gaillardetz said such interviews are a "new form of papal teaching."

"We can certainly see real continuity with his predecessors," he said. "But I think we have to see also a genuine new development in the papacy -- I think the latest stage in what I hope will be a continued trajectory towards a papacy that can serve the unity of faith and communion in the church by recognizing in the modern world juridical degrees are going to need to be the exception rather than the rule."

Chittister too mentioned the pope's Jesuit interview, drawing specific notice to the pope's call in it for the church to "work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman."

"Who will do this reflecting?" Chittister asked. "The same clerical patriarchal types who have been doing it for the past 2,000 years?"

"The church has never defined women as fully independent beings, let alone adults," Chittister said. "Will there be simply another round of men do this and women do that: a dual anthropology that sees women as caregivers alone and men as world builders exclusively?"

The sessions about Francis were just a few of dozens at the religion meetings that touched on Catholic issues.

Earlier Saturday, the religion academy's group dedicated to those studying the Second Vatican Council dedicated two and a half hours to seven separate papers on the impact on the council's reforms of the Catholic liturgy.

One of the presenters there was Jonathan Tan, a senior lecturer at the Australian Catholic University, who focused on struggles communities in places like the Philippines and India have had in addressing concerns that the Catholic Mass does not do enough to incorporate local customs.

Some Catholics in those places, he said, feel an "an alienation with the church's liturgy which does not align with their hopes and needs."

Other sessions focused on the nature of authority in the global church since the council, experiences of African-American Catholics, and the future of Roman Catholic studies at public educational institutions.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

(Scotland) police get dossier of alleged abuse in Catholic church

The Scotsman
November 24, 2013

Confidential letters from Scottish bishops, dating back to 1995 and including every diocese in Scotland, will be reviewed by Police Scotland, the force ­confirmed.

In one, a bishop describes abuse against “two severely mentally-handicapped young female adults”, according to reports in a Sunday newspaper. Another reportedly refers to a 15-year-old boy as “sexually mature”.

Former advisor to the Motherwell diocese, Alan Draper, called for criminal investigations and an independent Scottish Government inquiry into sexual abuse in the Church.

The revelation came as it was revealed that a former moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has been asked to look into safeguarding procedures in the Catholic church. Andrew McLellan, who is also a former chief inspector of prisons for Scotland, will oversee the review.

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the Church has co-operated with police and would continue to do so.

He added: “I understand that all the information concerned was passed to police many years ago and investigated. If someone has been in possession of material which they felt showed criminal behaviour, they would be expected to explain why they had taken 18 years to hand it to the authorities.

“The current initiatives being launched are not only statistical, qualitative analysis will also be undertaken. The needs of survivors, remains a primary concern of the Church.

“Dr Andrew McLellan will chair a panel of experts with wide experience in a range of disciplines, the composition of which will be a matter for him to decide. He is an eminent and respected public figure with an exemplary record of public service. The review will look at procedures, the historical audit will look at how cases were dealt with.

“It would be negligent to just focus on how we deal with abuse without giving a context of safe and professional practice where risk is assessed and early intervention is essential.”

But Mr Draper, a former deputy director of social work and retired senior lecturer in medical ethics at Dundee University, said the review was a “charade”.

Mr Draper criticised the lack of a forensic audit to open files and look at cases. He said: “It’s pious words. It says the Church recognises the trauma and pain of survivors. How are they doing that? Where’s the evidence of justice and healing?

“They talk about supporting those who have been harmed. Where’s the support? If ­anyone attempts to sue the Church, the attitude turns adversarial and the lawyers and insurance ­people say ‘no’.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, stepped down in February after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

He issued an apology, saying “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me”. He stated that he would play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland. He later left the country for a ­period of “spiritual renewal”.

At the weekend, Archbishop Leo Cushley, his successor, suggested that the Vatican would not be pursuing any further action in relation to O’Brien. The Archbishop said: “My impression is that Rome has finished with this. They will monitor the situation. He will not return to Scotland. Nothing is a lifetime sentence, but it is a reasonable assumption that he will not be coming back in the near future.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it would be inappropriate to comment while a police investigation was ongoing.

Twin cities archdiocese is just at the beginning of its sex abuse scandal

Jean Hopfensperger
Star Tribune
November 24, 2013

Minnesota should expect to see a spike in clergy sex abuse lawsuits as questions about the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ handling of those cases thrusts church leaders here into the national spotlight.

While it’s too early to know how many new cases may yet come, legal analysts and victim advocates say the developments in Minnesota church to significant financial risk.

“This is just the beginning for Minnesota,” said Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that documents clergy misconduct. “The St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese is in a meltdown that perhaps only a dozen dioceses have experienced during the ongoing sexual abuse crisis.”

Nationally, the Catholic Church has spent an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion settling abuse lawsuits, according to court documents and media reports, and nine Catholic dioceses, including Milwaukee’s, have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2004.

In Minnesota, recent events have conspired to bring extraordinary attention to the issue. State law changed earlier this year to permit lawsuits from decades-old abuse cases, prompting more than 20 new lawsuits. A whistleblower in the archdiocese went public with incriminating church documents that seemed to indicate that church officials may have withheld information about new abuse cases.

Several priests under fire have resigned. A few priests, Catholic parishioners and generous donors have asked Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt to step down.

Nienstedt, in turn, has hired a consultant to examine clergy files and appointed a task force to review church policies.

Scandal blasts open

Minnesota arrived late to the clergy abuse scandal, and a decade after the problem was supposed to have been fixed by 2003 guidelines established by U.S. bishops. Retired Twin Cities Archbishop Harry Flynn was a leader of that national effort.

The national scandal erupted in the mid-1980s, when a Louisiana priest, the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, pleaded guilty to abusing more than 20 minors.

Since then, thousands of victims have stepped forward. Dozens of dioceses from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles have been embroiled in costly legal fights that have saddened and angered both parishioners and clergy members. More than 100 dioceses and religious orders have reached clergy abuse settlements in the past 25 years, according to BishopAccountability as well as media reports and court documents. The process can drag out for years.

Minnesota Catholics aren’t the only ones reeling from new allegations of abuse. Similar claims have emerged in recent months and years in Philadelphia; Honolulu; Chicago; Newark, N.J., and Gallup, N.M.

The new allegations bear a striking resemblance to the old: that Catholic leaders ignored or rejected the claims of alleged victims, chose not to remove offending priests from the ministry and often failed to report allegations to the police.

Tom Doyle, a Virginia-based canon lawyer who has testified on behalf of alleged victims in hundreds of clergy abuse cases in civil courts, said churches typically respond to allegations in a similar manner: They appoint review boards, hire outside investigators, adopt new policies and, in some cases, remove or demote key players within the church hierarchy.

But two things make Minnesota different, Doyle said. First, the call for Nienstedt’s resignation includes some parish priests. Second, a whistleblower from inside the chancery — former archdiocesan canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger — has provided inside information about the church’s handling of recent abuse allegations and its treatment of priests who were known to have abused children.

In other dioceses, “We’ve mostly had determined prosecutors who had to dig and dig,” said William D’Antonio, an author of several books on the Catholic Church in America and a psychology professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “And more victims would step forward.”

Minnesota also happens to have a law firm that specializes in cases of clergy abuse, Jeff Anderson & Associates. Headquartered about 2 miles from the chancery, Anderson said his firm has represented more than 1,000 victims of clergy sex abuse nationally over the course of 30 years. Settlements have ranged from $1 million in 1983 for a victim of former priest Tom Adamson to up to $2 million for more recent cases in Chicago.

Stakes are high

Since Minnesota’s statute of limitations for abuse victims was lifted in May, Anderson’s firm has filed 21 lawsuits representing alleged victims of abuse from the 1960s to 2012. Many involve alleged abuse that occurred decades ago, committed by priests who already were implicated in settlements to other victims.

More cases are coming, said Anderson.

The cost of settling lawsuits — both in dollars and public image — can mount quickly. A typical settlement, including attorney fees, ranges from about $250,000 to $1 million per victim, attorneys for victims said.

Settlements vary widely by location and by the number of clergy and victims involved. In 2006, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee paid $16 million in settlements for 10 victims. In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid $660 million for 508 victims. In 2011, the Archdiocese of Wilmington, Del., settled for $77 million for 150 victims.

Many settlements also require the church to make public all the documents pertaining to the case, including lists of priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Nine dioceses have declared bankruptcy, arguing that they had to in order to pay legal costs and settlements. The diocese of Gallup, N.M., was the latest, filing in September.

But victims’ advocates claim bankruptcy has been a strategy to limit victims’ claims, shield assets and halt public trials that would allow attorneys to take depositions from priests.

Most dioceses get some settlement money from insurance. They also draw money from other sources.

“Dioceses have long-term investment portfolios, huge donors, vast land holdings, the ability to mortgage that land, and tremendous donations in wills and bequests that offer unrestricted funds,” said Patrick Wall, a victim’s advocate at Anderson & Associates and a former priest who worked in the St. Paul chancery in the 1990s.

In Los Angeles, about half of the $600 million paid out came from insurance, Wall said. The balance came from a cemetery fund, the diocese’ central bank account and the parish checking account, he said.

The costs are high for the church hierarchy, as well.

Bishops who supervise offending priests are under growing scrutiny. Former Boston Archbishop Bernard Law resigned in 2002 after church documents suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests. Two bishops of Palm Beach, Fla., resigned because of child abuse allegations. A Missouri court last year convicted Bishop Robert Finn of a misdemeanor for failure to report a priest’s child pornography to authorities — the first time a sitting bishop had been convicted of such an offense.

D’Antonio and others say that abuse litigation could continue for years, depending on how many victims step forward and how the archdiocese responds.

Minnesota may have a long road ahead, they say.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bullying practices threaten small businesses on 24th Street (San Francisco)

Laura Waxman
El Tecoloto
August 29, 2013

Librería San Pedro and G.G. Tukuy Indigenous Arts and Crafts store at 24th and Florida streets may be the latest targets in what seems to be a pattern of prospectors threatening to evict mom-and-pop businesses on 24th Street.

“A huge amount of prospectors, realtors, individuals (are) looking for space on 24th Street,” said Erick Arguello of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association. “It has become very popular in the last couple of years—Valencia (Street) is saturated so a lot of the businesses are looking for space here.”

Packed from floor to ceiling with faith oriented gifts, books, rosaries, clothes, charms and crosses— Librería San Pedro is a Catholic bookstore for the community’s faithful.

“As Latino business owners, we all feel under pressure. We were already kicked out of (other areas), and now they want to kick us out from here,” said Arnoldo González, who runs the store with his family.

Both businesses are tenants in property owned by the adjacent St. Peter’s Catholic Church, and their leases with the parish have expired. They are currently renting on a month-to-month basis.

In the spring, Rev. Manuel Estrada, pastor at the St. Peter’s Church, received notification from the Archdiocese of San Francisco that the two businesses may be subject to eviction.

“I told (the Archdiocese) that these spaces are already rented…by families from our parish and that I don’t want them to leave,” he added. “It’s important to preserve these businesses … because this is a Latino neighborhood … I think that is our identity as a neighborhood.”

According to Arguello, the Archdiocese was made an offer of $100,000 by prospective investors to replace the current tenants with a high-end restaurant.

“The Catholic church came to us and offered to rent the space,” said Mark Kaplan, real estate broker for Rock
well Properties.”I found someone who wanted to take it, and he made a general offer in May or April, the church did not reply to it.”
Despite repeated attempts, the Archdiocese did not confirm the amount, nor disclose the identity of the investor to El Tecolote.

In a neighborhood with a low vacancy rate and businesses that have been rooted in the community for generations, many merchants are reluctant to sell—making it plausible for investors and realtors to take measures into their own hands.

“We have seen a pattern of businesses being made an offer to sell, and a couple of months later they have problems with the health department,” said Arguello. “That is very suspect to us—if the business owners don’t want to sell, (the investors) try to get them out of the way.”

Despite Father Manuel’s opposition to the evictions, a meeting was held in which representatives of the Archdiocese Real Estate and Property Services found that both stores had electrical problems that needed to be addressed.

The business owners were told by Father Manuel that if they fix their electrical problems—an endeavor that would cost the businesses an estimated $6,000 out-of-pocket—then there “wouldn’t be a problem.”

“We could be evicted at any moment—we are worried that we invest the money and then they tell us to go,” said González. “For me and my partner next door, that’s how I feel.”

Neither G.G. Tukuy nor the bookstore have been given an eviction notice, yet the uncertainty of what will happen to their livelihoods and lack of transparency by the Archdiocese has all parties worried.

“Father Manuel is feeling the pressure from the Archdiocese … he wanted to let us stay,” said González. “But at the same time I don’t know why he doesn’t offer us a lease.”

In reference to aggressive tactics being used on Librería San Pedro and G.G. Tukuy and other small businesses on 24th Street, Arguello said: “If things change naturally over time and people and new people come in, fine … but it’s more clammed, more aggressive, (and) if they can’t find a space they’ll pay somebody to kick you out,” said Arguello. “They’ll do all kinds of different things. It’s not good change when people are bullied and harassed.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Vatican survey

Fritz Bauerschmidt
Pray Tell
November 22, 2013

I just finished filling out my diocese version of the Vatican Survey in preparation for the Synod on Marriage and the Family. All I can say is, “whew!” I am presuming that the basic set of questions are being used in diocese around the world, since some did not seem terribly relevant to my situation. It also seemed like some could only be answered by a diocesan official. More problematic, some of the questions were so technical or obscurely worded that I was left uncertain as to what was being asked. Also, the answers were almost all in narrative form, so I don’t know what kind of data will be able to be compiled from this.

I suppose it’s better than not being asked at all.