Monday I testified at a trial. The diocese had ample notice that the
abuser-priest was a danger to minors. The former bishop of the diocese
being sued had received this priest from another diocese and that
diocese in turn had received him from his home diocese. In the first
diocese the bishop kicked him out after he had sexually assaulted boys
in three out of the four parishes to which he had been assigned. He
found a new bishop who took him in. In that diocese he sexually
assaulted boys in each of the four parishes to which he had been
assigned. That bishop gave him his walking papers and he ended up in
the last diocese. There he sexually assaulted boys in the first two
parishes to which he was assigned and was sent to a third. That’s where
he assaulted the plaintiff in the case. The bishop knew all of this
but, to use his own words, he was willing “to take the risk.” Sounds
like a slam dunk doesn’t it? It gets better. This is the third
trial for this diocese. They have already lost in two. They are about
20 more projected for victims of the same priest.
are a nightmare for the victims and their families. They are expensive
as well. The lawyers who represent the diocese get paid one way or the
other. The lawyers for the victims are on contingency. The church
lawyers’ fees come from the donations of the people. If the jury gives
a big award, some people will get bent out of shape and complain about
how much the payments to the victims cost the diocese. They really
ought to complain about the payments to the lawyers which are totally
during a break that the little guy in the black outfit sitting at the
corner of the defense table was the bishop. I also learned that neither
he nor any of his predecessors had ever reached out to any of the
victims. Throughout the day as I sat on the stand and answered
questions I looked at the victim on my left and the bishop on my right.
What was wrong with that picture? Simple! The bishop was in the wrong
place. He should have been sitting next to the victim offering support,
sympathy, kindness and hope. Instead he was on the other side, probably
worrying that the testimony was not making his diocese look too good.
point the diocesan lawyer made a big deal out of the fees that I am
supposed to receive as an expert witness. He left out the part that an
expert has to take fees or he isn’t an expert. He didn’t seem too
interested when I responded to a question from the plaintiff attorney in
which I shared that I have given away most of the fees I have ever
received. Do lawyers who represent the Church work for nothing?
does all of this have to do with the pope? Plenty! Benedict XVI made a
big splash in the U.S. and in Australia with all of his remarks about
clergy sex abuse and with the personal encounters he had with a small
group of victims in each country. A lot of people announced that the
Pope, the Vatican and the hierarchy have finally “gotten it.” After
all, Pope John Paul II not only did nothing, but in the few statements
he made he tried to shift the blame to anyone and anything from where it
ought to be.
Not so with
Benedict. First, he fired the notorious Marcel Maciel Degollado, the
founder of the cult-like outfit called the Legion of Christ.
Then he came to the US and said he was ashamed at the way things had
gone. He also said similar things in Australia. He may feel personally
ashamed and scandalized but that doesn’t mean a thing unless he does
something and thus far he has done nothing. That’s where this trial
comes in. In spite of the pope’s appearance of compassion it has not
rubbed off on the bishops. The trial I was at should have been stopped
before it started. The bishop should have picked up on the pope’s words
and shown concern for the victims instead of himself and his bureaucracy
and his diocese’s money.
should have taken action but he didn’t. The major fallacy with the
hierarchy and the pope is that they think that their words always make
things happen. They think that a statement or a gesture or even a
liturgy such as a healing Mass, are all they have to do. Even thinking
in that way is a gross insult to those hurt by the church. People are
sick to death of the highly nuanced statements that keep coming out of
the public relations departments of the Church because they are not only
empty. They are dishonest and an insult to the intelligence and
integrity of decent and honest men and women.
1. Issued an order to all bishops to
stop all legal actions and start treating the victims with care and
compassion instead of treating them like the enemy.
2. Ordered the bishops to stop building
cathedrals and monuments to themselves and use the funds for programs to
help victims and their families.
3. Invited a few hundred victims to the
Vatican at his expense to meet with he and the other Vatican big shots
so as to find out first hand just how horrendous this whole nightmare
4. Publicly fired some of the more
notorious cardinals starting with Cardinals George, Egan, Mahony, Pell
and Levada. Once the top guys are gone then start on the next level,
namely the bishops.
5. Stopped persecuting theologians and
scholars who are trying to figure out some of the blatant contradictions
on Church teaching and practice, starting with celibacy and the whole
bizarre theology of human sexuality.
6. Sent sizeable personal donations to
SNAP, NAPSAC and ROAD TO RECOVERY.
I think we
all know that all of the above have no chance of happening. Perhaps the
most realistic thing we can hope for is an awakening by isolated bishops
here and there. We can also continue to hope that lay Catholics, who
persist in looking at the hierarchical system through rose-colored
glasses, will start to grow up, get past their denial and see reality
for what it is. The recent popes and the hierarchy have enabled the
most horrendous spiritual and emotional destruction of vulnerable people
in a thousand years. Thus far they are doing precious little to make it
right. Those who continue to bow and scrape at the medieval
ecclesiastical court are not faithful Catholics but enablers of evil.
The heresy here is that the pope and the bishops seem to have no real
clue that the plunder of the bodies and souls of the vulnerable…..boys,
girls, men and women is evil that is perpetrated by clerics and
religious men and women whose lives are supposed to combat evil rather
than cause it.