Priests, accusers press for resolution on sexual abuse cases

The Boston Globe today published two articles about the matter of unresolved cases of clergy sexual abuse.  The articles were troubling for a number of reasons.

Sexual abuse of children by clergy, in and of itself, is very troubling. It simply should not happen–period. When credible accusations of abuse have come forward and have been verified, priests should be removed from ministry. It seems to BCI that if a priest sexually abuses a child and there is no question as to the veracity of the claim, regardless of the civil or criminal penalties, the priest should also be laicizied.  Sexual abuse cases have cost the Catholic Church in the U.s. $3 billion, according to The Economist.  Imagine those funds put to use on evangelization, programs to support great priests, saving and maintaining beautiful church buildings destined for the wrecking ball, adult catechesis and faith formation, vocations, seminaries, and building the kingdom of God instead!

But the articles in the Globe were troubling for more reasons beyond even these. It seems to BCI that the cost, time delays, and process for resolving sexual abuse claims are all problematic.

Cost: $22.5 million on salaries and benefits

In Priests, accusers press for resolution, the following was reported:

The Archdiocese of Boston has spent more than $22.5 million since 2000 on salaries and health benefits for clergy awaiting a resolution of their sexual abuse cases from the church’s internal legal system.

The majority of cases, which can determine whether a priest is restored to ministry or cast out for good, have been concluded. But some have sat unresolved for more than a decade. And the cost of supporting accused clergy continues to mount.

The archdiocese attributes the delays in part to the inherently slow penal process in the church’s justice system, known as canon law, and the deluge of cases after the church’s sexual abuse coverup was exposed.

But the long waits have delayed a resolution for both priests and victims, prolonging the crisis.

Fifteen Boston priests who were removed from ministry in 2004 or earlier still await the conclusion of their canonical cases, in the meantime earning as much as $40,000 a year, plus health benefits. One — the Rev. Paul F. Manning, who turns 72 this year — has not worked in the ministry since 1996.

In each of those cases, an archdiocesan investigator has made an initial finding that at least one abuse allegation against the priest appears credible, and the priest has been suspended from public ministry pending the outcome of his canonical proceeding.

BCI understands the provisions of Canon Law that require for the bishop to provide for all priests in the clerical state. We wholeheartedly support the need for the Boston Archdiocese to take better care of priests in good standing while they are in active ministry, when medically ill and when retired. Without a doubt, if a priest is wrongly accused, by all means they should have their living expenses paid by the diocese while they go through appeals and try to get their name and reputation cleared.  But BCI does not understand why this has proven so costly.  15 priests @ say $60K/year for salary and benefits = $900K/year, for 13 years = $11.7 million.  That is a very large number, but still only about half of the $22.5M figure cited in the Globe. How many other priests are waiting for cases to be resolved, to account for the other $11M?

Canon lawyer Msgr. Jason Gray describes the provisions of the Code of Canon Law  regarding sustenance compensation for priests as follows:

Canon 384 obligates the diocesan bishop to see to the provision of sustenance and social assistance for his priests.  A priest is entitled to receive sustentatio because he is a cleric by ordination.  His diocesan bishop is obligated to see that sustentatio is provided because the priest is incardinated in his diocese.  Thus, ordination and incardination form the basis for a priest’s right to sustentatio.  Although canon 384 only mentions priests, a diocesan bishop should be concerned for his deacons as well.

Sustentatio is the support that is necessary to provide for the basic needs of a cleric, and is owed to a cleric who would otherwise be destitute.  Social assistance is part of sustentatio and provides for a cleric’s needs in sickness, incapacity, old age, and retirement.  Social assistance includes the duty to provide health insurance and social security.  Sustentatio is a basic right of the cleric and cannot be withheld even in the case of a penalty.

A diocesan bishop is obligated to see to the provision of sustentatio, but he is not always obligated to provide this support directly.  When a cleric is in need, the diocesan bishop can aid the cleric in a variety of ways.  He can help the cleric enroll in a government program such as Social Security or Medicare.

Time Delays

The Globe article reports how a man who first formally accused the Rev. James J. Foley Jr. of molesting him in 1999 had to wait 12 years–until 2011–to testify in a tribunal. This article on the same situation describes how the complianant was notified in 2008 by the Boston archdiocese that a canonical trial would be held. “We waited and waited for the call to come and have that trial,” said the complainant’s mother. “It went on and on, and nothing happened.” It was not until June 2011 when the complainant and his family were called to testify to the archdiocese.   The Globe reports:

Nicholas P. Cafardi, a prominent canon lawyer and professor at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, said that trials conducted by the Catholic Church should not take more than three or four years.

“There is no reason for a canonical process, even with appeals, to take from 2004 to 2012,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Boston archdiocesan officials acknowledge the delays are excessive.

“We get it,” said Monsignor Robert P. Deeley, vicar general of the archdiocese, who is also a distinguished canon lawyer.

BCI does not understand why the Boston Archdiocese cannot make a greater effort to expedite investigation and resolution of these cases in Boston. Why not lower the salaries of the ten highest paid lay employees by $100K each or more–to a generous amount of $150K/year, save $1 million a year (which they should be doing anyway), use the $1M to hire ten more canon lawyers in Boston and/or in the Vatican to work through the backlog for a year, and get these done–for the benefit of everyone involved?

Problematic Process

This article, Twice implicated, priest fights for a decision, highlights the state of limbo for twice-accused priest, Fr. James J. Foley, who is currently a lawyer in private practice, while also collecting a $40K/year salary plus benefits from the RCAB.  BCI feels for the priest if he is innocent of the charges, but we fail to understand two things.

First. regardless of his guilt or innocence, if the priest is able to sustain himself financially as a lawyer in private practice while his case is pending, is the bishop still obliged to provide sustenance benefits?

Secondly, an aspect of the settlement process documented in this article has bothered BCI for a considerable amount of time–namely, the practice of the Boston Archdiocese settling cases without allowing the priest to even dispute the charges. The article says:

testimony in Foley’s canonical trial began only last year. Shortly thereafter, another former parishioner told the archdiocese that he, too, had been abused by Foley, from the time he was a 12- or 13-year-old altar boy until just after he graduated from Harvard.

The archdiocese paid that man a settlement and reported the allegations to Suffolk County prosecutors and the attorney general’s office. Foley continues to practice law and get his church paycheck.

The archdiocese would not comment on Foley, citing an active law enforcement investigation. It remains unclear because of the time elapsed since the alleged abuse whether he could be charged even if investigators found evidence.

Foley, reached at his law office in Lowell, referred calls to his attorney, Joseph S. Provanzano of Peabody, who in two brief phone interviews said his client was unaware of the second complaint and called the very idea of a law enforcement investigation “absurd.” He ridiculed the notion that the sexual abuse of a minor could extend into a victim’s early 20s, or that it could have taken someone so highly educated so long to report abuse.

Last summer, the man decided to call Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented hundreds of abuse victims, and initiated a complaint about Foley with the archdiocese. He received a settlement with little resistance last May.

Admittedly, if you read this complaint letter from the first victim about abuse he alleges occurred in 1983 or 1984, and then this article that describes the stories of both the first and second victims, the testimonies are persuasive.  In some situations, it may be easier and more cost effective to settle a simple case rather than go to court. Still, BCI does not understand why the Boston Archdiocese settled the second case, and has settled many others, without informing the priest and giving him a chance to defend himself and refute the accusation. Is the archdiocese so convinced that every priest is guilty as accused that they do not even give them a chance to prove themselves innocent?  Something is wrong here–it seems like it does an injustice to the priest accused, and it further sends a message that the archdiocese is ready to roll over and just settle with every person who comes forward with a complaint and a lawyer.  Again, BCI is not saying if the claims are valid or not–we are just saying the approach does not appear to provide due process for either the accused priest or the accuser.

This is what BCI thinks.  What do you think?

18 Responses to Priests, accusers press for resolution on sexual abuse cases

  1. Ken Foscaldo says:

    I am very disappointed in the Archdiocese and the process. We as a church will never heal as long as these cases drag out. Furthermore, having these cases drag out makes it difficult to support the church financially seeing how the money is being spent.

  2. Eva Arnott says:

    If every undergraduate who was seduced by a married faculty member could get a settlement from the university concerned, several local institutions of higher learning would have greater financial problems than the church does.
    If the archdiocese has about a million contributing members, spending two million dollars a year to support men who might be innocent, means each member has given each year about half the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

  3. Mary Doller says:

    I have heard that there are such institutions as ecclesiastical penitentiaries. What is the function of these? I would think that violations in canon law would result in ecclesiastical incarceration. I am bothered by the fact that to defrock a guilty priest is no solution at all! It just says that the Church washes their hands of him and sends him back out into the population. However, if the man is not guilty, he deserves support from the institution.

    Mitchell Garabedian called the canon law courts kangaroo courts. As much as I dislike this opportunist, I have to agree that if canon law does not take unto itself the punishment of those found guilty, they have, indeed, shown themselves to be a joke!

  4. Michael says:

    You know you’re joke when an ambulance chaser can make you look like bad. Maybe Mary Grassa O’Neill could head up a couple tribunals. What does she do anyway?

  5. Mack says:

    It puzzles me too that these cases take so long. The cardinal should make it a priority to get them resolved. He needs to cut through the red tape and just get it done. For them to drag on for so long indicates there is no sense of urgency or priority.

    • JUST WONDERING says:

      Amen, Mack. I’m “JUST WONDERING” what all the delay is about. If I remember correctly, Msgr. Deeley was called to
      Rome to help resolve these cases. What is the delay? As I said I’m “JUST WONDERING.”

  6. Marie says:

    “Imagine those funds put to use on evangelization, programs to support great priests, saving and maintaining beautiful church buildings destined for the wrecking ball, adult catechesis and faith formation, vocations, seminaries, and building the kingdom of God instead!”

    Yes, I can imagine.

    BCI said, “……we are just saying the approach does not appear to provide due process”. Does it ever seem that the [their] approach provides “due process”.

    This is complex, thought provoking subject matter and elements; a bottomless pit; far reaching implications and not just as it relates to this particular subject.

    I felt guilty about my not so guilty pleasure at the fact that this particular topic was once again on the front page; there will one day be a great unraveling, maybe this will be the start.

  7. Lazarus' Table says:

    Thnking about priests and bishops used to make me feel very guilty and inadequate because I thought I could NEVER be as devout/holy/”good” as they are. For me, they were ideals every Catholic was supposed to aim for. Oh, I knew they had faults like everyone else. I knew there were some who should have been plumbers instead. But the church still seemed to try to rise above its failings. In spite of its flaws, the church seemed to never lose sight of what it is called to be. Obviously, in the last decade or so my eyes were opened drastically and painfully. “Being like them” became not only something I could not be, but something I did not want to be. My mother raised me better. I know some secular companies who have higher moral standards than the church. So when the church is lacking in justice, or truth, or the willingness to lay down its life, it is no surprise anymore– it is the expectation. The church as we know it is fading; young people just aren’t buying it. Maybe some day, from its ashes God will raise up something more like what he had in mind.

    • The church was infiltrated by communists in the 30′ abd 40’s. Read Good Bye Good Men and also 002 -the latter probably only available by a Fr Trosch site under another name. — but the story of a man who died in a coma in a hosp. No relatives so the nurse opened his only possession which contained a diary of his life. He came from Russia to enter a seminary and become a priest to undermine the church and at that time there were at least 1000 men of his kind sent from Russia. Education brings better incite to our problem. The battle is between God and the devil. Serach Pope Leo XIII and read his locution. Think then about the change in the world of materialism and fracturing of the family .
      Also ck out 3daysdarkness because it’s coming soon!

  8. Stephen says:

    Lazarus’ Table,
    Again it is fascinating that you so eloquently speak for the time period of Church apostasy. (the last 50 or so years) Is there any doubt or mystery that The Faith you grew up with does not appeal to young people? Or that it seems out of date?

    “The church as we know it is fading.” Can I get an AMEN somebody? And thank You dear Jesus.

    The Church you know IS fading. It was the church that tossed out virtue for tolerance and basic fraternal correction for ‘don’t get any on me’ politics.

    If you are in a state of Grace and are feeling guilty you are either being prompted to action by your conscience or you are neurotic. Figure it out, get back to basics and move on.

    You are mistaken. The Bride of Christ is never lacking in justice or truth. It is the sinners within it. The Church today especially in the US is dominated by progressives and modernists, and many like yourself do not even realize or see the false teachings that have been portrayed as truth.

    Your desire to have God raise-up something from the ashes is valid and genuine. It has already happened. Your namesake Lazarus comes to mind as does the Holy Sacrifice of the Alter. The church you perceive by your human experiences has betrayed you, God is bigger than Braintree. Ours is the church of the one resurrection, theirs is the church of the constant innovation.

    Re; The matter of Fr. James J. Foley.
    A practicing attorney former priest with a $40+ benefit package from RCAB? Hush money perhaps?

    • Marie says:


      Do read Lazurus 9/10, 10 p.m. again. He feels no guilt. He, like you, recognizes that the “church” is evolving; neither he nor you is. You both remain steadfast.

      He is right in that from the “ashes”, God will bring forth for all (underscored) to see what He has in mind.

      For me, I do hope the demise is swift and that on the way down certain players see “guiltily” the error of their ways and are instrumental in the restoration and rectification of what they have been instrumental in destroying.

      Double dipping and the enabling of such seems quite a common practice these days.

      • Stephen says:

        I did read it.
        He feels no guilt because he lost his faith. Rather, his faith has been stolen from him by those who would make it in their own ‘good -guy’ milquetoast image .

        The Church does not evolve. That is; turn from one thing in time to a different thing at another time. Quite the contrary, The Church filled with sinners and saints is timeless. The current face of the institutional church in Boston is dominated by progressives and modernists and some suggest a homosexual power underground. The answer is not to turn away and wish for demise of anyone but to turn toward truth, and to realize there are those who hate truth. Truth will win in the end.

      • Marie says:

        I cannot speak for Lazarus other than face value of what I read and my interpretation.

        I would have to agree that the true church does not “evolve”, but rather that those who “present” the church are changed and those who have entered the “scene” at various stages are aware only of the change from the time they arrived, faithfully, to the time they are aware of change. If one has not heard or seen what you have and interprets what he/she hears and sees through the words of the “teacher” (present) then how are they to know what you know and what Lazarus knows?

        And what are your thoughts about the following?:

        “Something is wrong here–it seems like it does an injustice to the priest accused, and it further sends a message that the archdiocese is ready to roll over and just settle with every person who comes forward with a complaint and a lawyer. Again, BCI is not saying if the claims are valid or not–we are just saying the approach does not appear to provide due process for either the accused priest or the accuser.

        This is what BCI thinks. What do you think?”

  9. It seems that whomever is deciding what to do with the accused priests have something to learn. Why should a priest be sent into public life? Why aren’t they sent to a monastery to do praying only and taken from the public entirely? He is still a priest! The case of one who has a lawyers degree could do that in the capacity for the church as needed.
    Priests, bishops etc. should never do anything but priestly work and lay people should do the financing, and other lay work. Where is “common” sense today???!!

  10. Alice Slattery says:

    It is truly sad to see the tragic situation of the scandal that arose initially in the Boston Archdiocese out of such conditions as the “glorification” of the “outreach to homosexuals” cheered on by reporters from the Boston Globe that was conducted by Fr. Paul Shanley in the 1980’s in which Fr. Shanley really was engaging in behavior that was a betrayal of his vow to practice chastity, now being used as a smokescreen for the leaders of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF). Under the guise of being mainly concerned about unearthing accusations of priests with the charge of sexual crimes, VOTF is dissenting against the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding sinful sexual behavior. This upcoming weekend,Sept. 14,15, VOTF is holding their 10th VOTF Conference at the Marriott Boston Copley Place Hotel. One of their major speakers is Jamie L. Manson. In the description of Jamie Manson’s activities is that she is “A frequent speaker and retreat leader, she is a regular homilist for the New York City chapter of DignityUSA and has served on the board of the Women’s Ordination Conference.” A few of the articles she has written are:”As Culture War Rages,What’s the Status of LGBT Rights on Catholic Campuses?” and “Tainted Love: The Cost of Sojourners’ Refusal to take Sides on LGBT Issues” in which she identifies herself as “in a same-sex relationship(as opposed to remaining celibate, as Catholic and evangelical beliefs would have it)….”. Many of her articles appear in the National Catholic Reporter. Reading her articles shows how hostile she is to the teachings of the Catholic Church in many areas. Jamie Manson is the 5th speaker and then “Mass will be celebrated” to end the conference. By the way, Thomas Groome is also a speaker.
    An announcement of this VOTF Conference has been printed in the bulletins of St. Albert the Great Church, Weymouth, which holds monthly meetings of VOTF in this parish in which Fr. Paul Soper is the pastor. Fr. Soper is also the interim Director of Pastoral Planning for the Boston Archdiocese. One wonders if Cardinal O’Malley is aware of this activity that undermines the integrity of Catholic teaching in the Boston Archdiocese?

  11. Stephen says:

    Re: “Something is wrong here–
    A snippet of history
    In Boston Fr. Anthony Laurano (RIP) as a Priest sexually assaulted a young seminarian in 1972. This diocese ultimately determined that the assault was ‘consensual’. Approximately 30 years later Laurano died a Priest in his 80’s while he awaited trial for the assault of an 8 year old boy, while simultaneously working out the details with law enforcement of his consensual homosexual relationship with a mentally handicapped young adult male. (I knew Laurano personally, I do pray for his soul)

    The plight of a falsely accused Priest is a nightmare. A tolerance for deviants is ultimately the cause, and the philosophical root of it is – you guessed it – Modernism. There are many historical accounts on how to effectively deal with deviant clergy going back hundreds of years. The pandering is a … modern phenomenon. There is guilt by association. What is the best policy for the diocese at this point? I don’t know – I ain’t the Bishop.

    I suspect that enforcement of Canon Law, quality control of the rubrics of Sacraments and doubling the pay of priest who offer the Latin Mass would go along way toward bringing dignity back to those to whom Christ said “Son (s) behold your Mother.”

    Incidentally, the brown robe routine at this point is passe. Bishop Chaput also a Franciscan, has enough sense and humility to dress as the troops. To me, as a laymen the novelty has worn off, and the brown habit seems to indicate on the part of the Bishop a desire to be ‘special’ and not be associated with real Boston clergy who are called to slug it out with a hostile world. Sad really.

    Did a little homework on Fr. Foley. He could be a great guest columnist for BCI. A true insider. What do you think?

    • Marie says:

      “I don’t know – I ain’t the Bishop.” But, you of all, Stephen, have
      opinion. What is your opinion of how you would handle the RCAB situation if you were the Bishop?

      I believe the “falsely accused” live a nightmare regardless of who they are; regardless of what the situation or what the issue.

      Enforcement of laws seem arbitrary at best on all fronts. Your 1972 “history” seems to underscore that.

      Dignity perceived or real does not accomplish the perfection you are looking for; only you can do that; it is not a “long way toward”, it is all the way or not at all, otherwise, nothing changes at all. The “slugger” Boston priests cannot be more or less dignified than they are. In a hostile world, they are the anchors.

      I did not delve into Fr. Foley; have no thoughts; a story behind the story?

  12. Stephen says:

    The perfection I am looking for is found in the Mass, it is the source and summit of our Faith. In every walk of life there is dignity in the position. A custodians shine on a linoleum floor, the ethical standard in banking etc. At some point in the modernist dominated post V2 church it became tolerable for a Priest to sleeping with another man. If you don’t believe me ask ‘Lazarus’s table’. Some say this lowered the dignity of the position of all priests, I’d suggest it opened the door for evil in the sanctuary.

    Deeper minds than mine have suggest that the money exchanged for the crimes of Priest is the devils excrement. Priest that are lost in their own sin are not anchors, they are ships lost at sea. Lets all continue to pray for their salvation.

    Re-tool these priests until exonerated. If he finds sweeping floors etc. to be below his dignity or willingness, I’d question his vocation AND his alibi.

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