Fr. Bob VerEecke, formerly at St. Ignatius at Boston College, removed from pro-gay parish after ‘boundary violations’ with male parishioner

September 24, 2018

This story broke last week, but BCI missed it in the midst of the Walter Cuenin coverage. Jesuit Fr. Bob VerEecke was the pro-gay pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola parish in Chestnut Hill, MA for 27 years, until he left in June of 2016. He was replaced at St. Ignatius in MA by Fr. Joseph Constantino, who was previously pastor of the gay-friendly parish, St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan, from 2006-2013 (see below). In other words, the Jesuits more or less swapped the assignments of the two pro-gay pastors at their respective pro-gay parishes.

francisxavierrainbowflagSt. Francis Xavier in Manhattan, is a hotbed for pro-gay dissent and LGBT  activism. When same-sex “marriage” became legally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, St. Francis Xavier Church’s Facebook page shared a photo of a rainbow flag draping the steps up to the altar.

Here’s are excerpts from the original report by LifeSiteNews, “Jesuit priest from pro-gay parish removed after ‘boundary violations’ with male parishioner.”

NEW YORK CITY, September 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Jesuit priest at a well-known pro-homosexual Manhattan parish has been removed as pastor for “boundary violations” with “an adult male who attended the parish.”

Fr. Bob VerEecke has been removed as pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church and restricted “from the exercise of public sacramental ministry,” according to a September 15 letter from Jesuit superior John Cecero read out at parish Masses last weekend.

A letter from acting pastor Fr. Daniel Corrou posted on St. Francis Xavier website Tuesday revealed the allegations concerned “a recent, unwanted and inappropriate conversation and attention of a sexual nature toward an adult male who attended the parish.”

Corrou wrote that “there was nothing criminal about this interaction” and that VerEecke “agreed that the incident took place, acknowledges his lack of good judgement, and is sorry for the incident.”

This confirms the September 15 letter from Cecero, superior of the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus.

“About a week ago, the Archdiocese of New York communicated to me complaints by an adult of boundary violations by Fr. VerEecke. I reviewed these complaints with Fr. VerEecke, and he acknowledges a lack of good judgment in his behaviour,” Cecero wrote.

“Consistent with our Province Ethics in Ministry policies, I am removing Fr. VerEecke from the Church of St. Francis Xavier and restricting him from the exercise of public sacramental ministry. I anticipate that many of you will share my regret in taking this action, but we as a Church have learned the hard way that boundary violations must be met with a swift and decisive response from church leadership.”

St. Francis Xavier is notorious for its support of the LGBT agenda, hosting regular meetings for Catholic Lesbians and Gay Catholics. It draped a rainbow flag on the altar steps after the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” and in conjunction with the city’s Pride event, Church Militant reported in June 2015.

The parish traditionally marches in the NYC Pride Parade, which was organized this year by parish staff Robert Choiniere, doctoral student at Fordham University, and co-producer of “docudrama” Full of Grace: The lives of LGBT Catholics.

“Celebrating Pride is about as Catholic as you can get,” Choiniere, who appears holding a rainbow umbrella on a New Ways Ministry report on LGBT Catholics in Dublin for the World Meeting of Families, wrote in the June 24 parish bulletin.

“St. Francis Xavier has been a shining example for many decades of this truth…The sacred procession of Pride is a proclamation of our identity as Children of God,” he wrote.

Indeed, New Ways Ministry, a dissident group that lobbies the Catholic Church to accept homosexuality, lists St. Francis Xavier as one of its “LGBT friendly” parishes.

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, who has been lobbying the Church to normalize homosexuality, is scheduled to speak at the parish October 3.

Martin, “friend of Xavier was present at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin,” will speak on “how the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity,” the parish website says.

“Jim will be at Xavier to speak about his experience in Dublin in light of recent painful events in the church,” the announcement says.

Known as “the dancing priest,” VerEecke has choreographed numerous liturgical dances.

In June last year, VerEecke led parishioners of St. Francis Xavier in a “wave” as he danced in the sanctuary, and several young women swirled around in front of him to “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.

VerEecke was known for his kooky liturgical dance and other pro-gay advocacy while at St. Ignatius in Chestnut Hill, MA.. Beyond the tragedy of what VerEecke did, there’s another scandal.  Cardinal Sean O’Malley welcomed the previous pastor from St. Francis Xavier to be the new pastor at St. Ignatius of Loyola in the Archdiocese of Boston. Surely he knew about his gay advocacy at his parish in New York before accepting the appointment. Here’s what Church Militant reported in 2015 in “NY CHURCH DRAPES ALTAR STEPS WITH GAY FLAG”:

MANHATTAN, June 29, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) – A Catholic church in New York City has posted a photo of its altar steps draped in the rainbow flag.

Saint Francis Xavier, known as a bastion for gay Catholics, has a reputation for gay activism, with members regularly marching in the city’s gay pride parade.

The photo was posted on the parish’s Facebook page on June 27, the day right after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its revolutionary decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states, and during the weekend of gay pride festivities in New York City.

The pastor once wrote a parish bulletin encouraging the Church to rethink its teachings on homosexuality, and the parish hosts regular meetings for Catholic Lesbians and Gay Catholics, as well as a Zen Meditation group. Although the Courage apostolate — the only Church-approved ministry to Catholics with same-sex attraction — is headquartered in New York City, the parish has yet to welcome the orthodox apostolate there.

Cardinal O’Malley should be asked why he freely accepted the appointment of Fr. Constantino to be pastor of St. Ignatius, given his history.

And does anyone else think the Fr. VerEecke story sounds just a little bit similar to what we reported about Fr. Walter Cuenin’s unwelcome advances on a male Brandeis student and Terry Donilon’s “non-denial denial“?  He said there was no charge of molestation (which we knew), and then he said no allegation of molestation — which was merely a parsing of words — but would he agree that it was an unwelcome sexual advance after the victim had been plied with alcohol and was unable to say no?


Why Did Cardinal O’Malley Cover-Up Gay Abuse Scandal?

September 13, 2018

In view of Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s public denials about cardinal sean o malleyhaving had knowledge of  Cardinal McCarrick’s sexually immoral behavior, Catholics and non-Catholics ought to be aware of how Cardinal O’Malley handled a situation where he did know of a Boston priest’s homosexual abuse of a young man, and where he knew about the priest’s advocacy of the gay agenda for many years before this abuse occurred.

The priest is Fr. Walter Cuenin, and his public advocacy for the gay agenda was well known for 15+ years under both Cardinal Law and Cardinal O’Malley.  In his final role in active ministry, he was chaplain at Brandeis Univ. in Waltham, MA. Cuenin departed that position abruptly in January of 2015 without prior notice for what was described at the time as “health reasons.”  A tipster at BCI reported on September 8 that the reason for the departure was actually that Cuenin has plied a student with alcohol and made undesired sexual advances on him.  Cuenin was removed from ministry and sent for treatment at a clinic in Michigan and has not been heard from since. This scandalous incident was covered-up by both Brandeis and the Archdiocese of Boston. On September 11, an official from the Archdiocese of Boston confirmed that is what actually happened. Here are more details and the full history.

  •  1993: Fr. Walter Cuenin was appointed pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, MA by Cardinal Bernard Law
  • From 1999 to 2000,  Fr. Cuenin was actively involved in an effort sponsored by Catholic Charities of Boston to create a program called, “Companions” for parents and family of homosexual children that was focused on affirming and supporting the homosexual lifestyle. The opening Mass was held at Our Lady’s in October 1999. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Cuenin and was assisted Fr. John J. White (companion of child-molester Fr. Paul Shanley and co-owner with Fr. Shanley of a gay bed-and-breakfast motel in Palm Springs California) and Fr. Richard Lewandowski (then-pastor of St. Camillas Church in Fitchburg who ran a PFLAG organization at Fitchburg State College and later testified against the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage). Other participants in the event included Charles Connors, president of Boston PFLAG, and Paul Merullo who had to serve 2 years in jail for molesting a youth.  Numerous complaints were made to regional bishops, then-Vicar General Bishop Murphy, Cardinal Law and others to try and get the program halted, and it was eventually stopped in late 2000.
  • April 2002: Cuenin testified to a MA legislative committee in opposition to a proposed amendment that would have banned gay marriage.  He argued that Defense of Marriage Amendment amendment seemed to violate the Catechism of the Catholic Church because homosexual marriage was a human rights issue.
  • September 2002: In a New Yorker article entitled, “The Reformer“, Cuenin said gays and lesbians should be allowed a front-row seat at church and not be told that their lives are “basically disordered.”
  • June 2004: Cuenin invites parishioners to attend the Gay Pride parade. Complaints to the archdiocese are ignored.
  • May 2005: Our Lady’s bulletin runs a notice from their Gay and Lesbian Faith Sharing group invites all parishioners again to Boston’s Gay Pride Parade.  Faithful Catholic, Alice Slattery sends  letter to Cardinal OMalley and Bishop Lennon to  sharing details of Cuenin’s history and begging the Cardinal to intervene. She gets no response.
  • September 2005: After years of complaints to both Cardinals Law and O’Malley about Fr. Cuenin’s promotion of homosexuality, he was finally removed as pastor by O’Malley not for his public dissent from Catholic teachings, but rather based on the results of a financial audit that showed improper use of church funds for a leased car and excessive payment of Mass stipends. 
  •  January 2006.  Cardinal O’Malley reassigned Cuenin as campus chaplain, at Brandeis University, where he would be allowed to freely counsel students confused about their sexuality.  It was widely assumed at the time this move was done to find a permanent role for Cuenin and to quell the furor at Our Lady’s over his departure and anger at his replacement, Fr. Chris Coyne (former spokesman for Cardinal’s Law and O’Malley)
  • June 2006:  Cuenin was the featured speaker at the Gay Pride interfaith prayer service.
  • April 2007: Cuenin speaks in Lexington at Interfaith Forum on topic of “God, Gays, and Faith.”  Alice Slattery send another urgent request to Cardinal O’Malley prior to the talk asking him to intervene and stop the talk, but she got no response.  She then sent a follow-up letter to Cardinal O’Malley_on April 12 2007 giving more background on Cuenin and also naming other officials and priests from the Archdiocese with past involvement in pushing the gay agenda. She also got not response.  (Perhaps the letter was received by Fr. Robert Kickham?!)  Alice included a letter published in the local Lexington newspaper saying that “Cuenin doesn’t represent all Catholics.
  • February 2012: Cuenin, in an interview with the New Ways Ministry, said:

“The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, so I cannot directly say I support it, but I have seen from my experience that for many people it creates a much healthier environment..For example, if you were to go to Provincetown in the summer time, where a lot of gay people go, it’s a radically different place today than it was 20 years ago,’ Cuenin said. ‘They are there with children and married, raising kids, so they go home at night. In other words, it has transformed the whole gay scene.”

What actually happened around his departure is for more grave than “health reasons.”  BCI is told that Cuenin had taken a Brandeis student on a trip to NY City around Christmas-time, staying in a one-bedroom hotel room with one bed.  He plied him with alcohol, and then engaged in non-consensual sexual activity with him. The victim, who prefers to be unidentified, wanted Fr. Cuenin to leave campus so that other students were no longer vulnerable to similar happenings.  Brandeis administration loved Fr. Cuenin for his liberal ideology that fit well on campus and because he was a popular figure on campus, and they wanted to keep the matter quiet. So did the Archdiocese of Boston..  Key people from Brandeis involved in the handling of this situation included Andrew Flagel, then senior vice president for students and enrollment, and Jamele Adams, dean of student life.  Then-president, Frederick Lawrence was also aware and involved. Cardinal O’Malley knew about this as did Bishop Peter Uglietto, Vicar General, and Fr. Bryan Parrish, episcopal vicar and secretary for parish life and leadership.

Fr. Parrish was asked about this on September 11.  Even though the diocesan website shows Cuenin’s status is “Senior Priest” (which means a retired priest in good standing, many of whom offer assistance in parishes), Parrish said Cuenin’s official status with the archdiocese is a “restricted Senior Priest”, which means no ministry is allowed and no church housing is provided. Cuenin has a very public problem with alcohol and Fr. Parrish confirmed he was involved in the incident of molestation at Brandies as reported on BCI and at Conquered by Love.  Cuenin is at an alcohol treatment facility similar to a halfway house in very poor health with some level of supervision, and his condition is such that he is not considered a threat to others.

Many questions merit answers from Cardinal O’Malley.  Why did he allow a man known as an advocate for homosexual activity to a college campus where he could corrupt young minds and souls?  Did he read all of the many letters sent to him, or were they screened by Fr. Kickham?  Did he discuss the idea of reassigning Fr. Cuenin to a college campus with his staff and/or head of campus ministry, and if so, what was the recommendation?   Why were the circumstances of Cuenin’s actions that led to his departure from Brandeis — namely, sexual molestation of a student – kept quiet?  Was this incident reported to the police?  How do we know there have not been other victims of Cuenin’s? What keeps Cuenin from going to a park or other place where young people are present and repeating this behavior again?

Cardinal O’Malley is in Rome today meeting with Pope Francis to discuss sexual abuse by clergy.  Hopefully following that meeting, he can provide some answers to these questions.


Boston Globe: alleged accusers left off list

November 20, 2011

The “Catholic Church Attack Engine” at the Boston Globe appears to have filled up with gasoline this past week.  On Friday they published a rather biased “Editor steers church paper into controversy”  piece going after The Boston Pilot–quoting, of course, the standard-bearer dissenting Catholics the Globe apparently has on “speed-dial” who are invariably quoted saying something critical about the Catholic Church. Today, we have a journalistic rehashing of the complaints from August that the Archdiocese of Boston excluded in its public list of priests accused of sexual abuse, those priests who came from religious orders or other dioceses.

BCI has said this before and will say it again, if the Boston Globe is really concerned about the sexual abuse of children and about victims having the courage to come forward with claims of past abuse, why has there been no investigation whatsoever of the matter of sexual abuse of children in public schools, where the problem is reportedly far more extensive, or a call for public disclosure of the names of public school teachers accused of sexual abuse of children?  Why is that?

Front Page Hypocricy

This is to Michael Rezendes, reporter of the piece today in the Globe, “Many alleged abusers left off church list.”  Your carefully-worded Wikipedia entry–written by username “Script8″ who, coincidentally, has only contributed on Wikipedia to your profile and nothing else–says the following:

For nearly a decade Rezendes was also a member of the Globe’s Spotlight Team, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize for investigating the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. For his reporting and writing on the Church, he also shared the George Polk Award for National Reporting, the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, and numerous other honors.

Rezendes was the lead writer and reporter on the opening story of the Globe’s series on the Church…In addition, Rezendes broke the stories about similar cover-ups by Church officials in New York City and Tucson, Arizona…Rezendes and the Spotlight Team were also Pulitzer Prize finalists for a series of stories that uncovered abuses in the debt collection industry.

As a Spotlight Team member, Rezendes played a key role in many of the Globe’s most significant investigations, including those probing the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, financial corruption in the nation’s charitable foundations, and the plight of mentally ill state prisoners.

This background suggests reporting skills which are not at all in evidence in your article today or your coverage of the problem of child sexual abuse in society.

Catholics acknowledge the pain that hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Boston have experienced. And the Globe report begrudingly acknowledges that the extent of disclosure by the Boston Archdiocese “compares favorably with the vast majority of the nation’s 195 dioceses, which have released no official lists at all.”  Michael, arguably the Catholic Church is now the safest institution in the world for children. You know that.  After nearly 10 years of disclosures of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, surely you are aware that your own work has made it easier for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy to come forward and not fear they are alone. 

So, if you and the Globe really give a rat’s @#$ about victims of sexual  abuse, why have you not tackled the much greater problem of sexual abuse in public schools and other public institutions?

BCI is going to restate and add to what we said in this post back in August.

Why is there no effort by the Boston Globe and Attorney General Martha Coakley to have public disclosure of the names of public school teachers who have abused children?   This article on LifeSiteNews says that according to Charol Shakeshaft, researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

George Weigel, writing in First Things in 2010 said:

The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000.  According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Remember that number–six credible cases of sexual abuse by priests were reported in 2009 out of 65 million Catholics.  In New York City, Archbishop Dolan shared word on his blog that the “rate of sexual abuse among public school teachers is 10 times higher than that of priests.” The statistics were from a NYS Special Commissioner of Investigation report that substantiated 78 abuse cases by teachers in 2009, and 73 such cases in 2010.  There were 78 cases in just NY City Public Schools in 2009, but 6 across the entire Catholic Church nationally.  Where is the problem, really?  Why does the Boston Globe not insist that similar work be done in Boston Public Schools or across the state, and that a list of accused teachers be published?

On March 12, 2011, the NY Times published a report about widespread abuse problems in more than 2,000 New York state-run homes for the developmentally disabled. Despite a state law requiring that incidents in which a crime may have been committed be reported to law enforcement, state records show that of some 13,000 allegations of abuse in 2009 within state-operated and licensed homes, fewer than 5 percent were referred to law enforcement.

One might argue that is New York, not Massachusetts. Here in Massachusetts, in 2007 then-U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan reported on his study of 11 years of records at the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission. Sullivan found “very concerning neglect and abuse trends”, especially sexual abuse, in state-supported vendor-operated group homes for the disabled. In the report, he said:

“Unfortunately, after reviewing data from the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, our office did note some very concerning neglect and abuse trends in Contract Vendor operated community residences, as compared to the ICF/MRs and State operated community residences. These neglect and abuse trends, particularly sexual abuse, were of great concern to our office and shows that residents in our community homes are at a greater risk of being abused and/or neglected.”

What are Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Michael Rezendes and the crack Spotlight Team doing about the “very concerning neglect and abuse” of the disabled in state-supported homes?  What is Attorney General Martha Coakley doing?  Nothing that we can find reported publicly.

This 2001 report from the Guttmacher Institute says, “Almost one-third of females and nearly one in 10 male high school students in Massachusetts say they have experienced sexual abuse.  Where is the outrage?  What is the Boston Globe doing about this?  What is Martha Coakely doing?  Nothing that we can find reported publicly.

Martha Coakley is quoted as saying, “By failing to name the visiting priests and those from religious orders they’re sending a mixed message to the public…’’  Martha, how do you justify the mixed message YOU are sending to the public by your complete and utter failure to investigate and publicly disclose names of those guilty of sexual abuse of children in public schools or of adults in state-run facilities?

Yet the drumbeat goes on and the criticism continues, asking for the release of yet more names by the Catholic Church.  How the Globe and Attorney General justify their front-page hypocricy to themselves personally and to the public is a mystery.

Shoddy Journalism

Is this paragraph by Rezendes an example of unbiased news reporting?

To many committed Catholics, his brown robe and sandals – the attire of a Capuchin friar – symbolized a refreshingly humble alternative to his predecessor, the imperious Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned as archbishop and decamped for Rome after 58 of his priests signed a letter urging him to quit because of his handling of the burgeoning abuse crisis…

It is not even factually accurate.  “Decamp” means “to depart suddenly.”  Cardinal Law resigned in December of 2002 and he did not “decamp” to Rome after 58 priests signed a letter urging him to quit.  As reported in February of 2003 by the Associated Press, Law, in fact, went to Maryland a few months after leaving Boston and was chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy of Alma. Perhaps Mr. Rezendes should reread the Globe archives to see the Globe’s own story from November 2003 that acknowledged Law was living in a convent in Maryland. It was not until May of 2004 that Law was named to his post as archpriest at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.  And where exactly does the reporter get his facts to justify the opinion of “many committed Catholics” that Cardinal Bernard Law was “imperious”?  Would those “many committed Catholics” be the people he interviewed for this story?

Why Boston Archdiocese is Not Releasing Names of Religious Order Priests and Those from Other Dioceses

This is the explanation given by Cardinal O’Malley and the Boston Archdiocese in August 2011:

“Another issue to which I have given substantial consideration has to do with listing names of accused priests who are not priests of the Boston Archdiocese, but are religious order priests or priests from other dioceses.  After careful consideration, I have decided to limit the names that are being published on our website to clergy of the Boston Archdiocese.  I have decided not to include names of religious order priests or priests from other dioceses on our list because the Boston Archdiocese does not determine the outcome in such cases; that is the responsibility of the priest’s order or diocese.  I recognize that, over the years, many religious order priests and priests of other dioceses have served within the territory of the Boston Archdiocese, including in assignments at our parishes.

In its 2004 report, the Archdiocese published information with respect to the number of religious order priests and priests from other dioceses who had been accused of abusing minors while serving within the Archdiocese.  Archdiocesan policy is that, as soon as an accusation of misconduct is received against a religious order priest or a priest from a different diocese, we immediately notify law enforcement, as well as the superior of that order or the bishop of that diocese, and revoke the accused priest’s faculties to minister within our Archdiocese.  Under canon law, it falls to the superior or to the bishop to investigate and evaluate the accusation, taking appropriate canonical action. I urge the religious orders and other dioceses to consider their own policies with regard to publishing the names of accused clergy.  I hope that other dioceses and religious orders will review our new policy and consider making similar information available to the public to the extent they have not already done so.”

Bishop Accountability and SNAP

Terrence McKiernan, founder of BishopAccountability.org, is featured prominently in the Globe article. Yet oddly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote the Globe story tells us virtually nothing about McKiernan, or about his organization.  Who is McKiernan?  It is virtually impossible to find much about his background anywhere. This piece from the SNAP 2009 Conference brochure describes him as follows:

Terence McKiernan founded BishopAccountability.org in 2003 and is the organization’s president. Terry holds master’s degrees in Classics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Bristol in England. Before his involvement in the church crisis, he was an academic editor and a consulting firm manager.

What led to his “involvement in the church crisis”?  Various web searches turn up Terence McKiernan, 57, of Natick, and Terence McKiernan-White, a former copy editor for the Cornell University Press.  But why does the Globe not share whatever other credentials and background that give him credibility and standing to be quoted in matters of Church governance, besides McKiernan’s self-appointment as the “president” of BishopAccountability.org?  And who exactly are the main sources of funding for BishopAccountability.org?  What is their budget?  How is McKiernan compensated?

Then there is the matter of the agendas of McKiernan and his SNAP colleagues.  BCI and others have said it appears they will never be satisfied.

This September article from Our Sunday Visitor,”Report Questions Motives of Clerical Sex Abuse Victim’s Groups” bears reading. Here are a few excerpts:

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and their allies have “decided to wage war on the Catholic Church,” says a report released last month by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Catholic League President William A. Donohue said he sent two trusted friends in July to observe SNAP’s national conference in Washington D.C. What they reported back, said Donohue, was an event marred by open hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“For three days, people were talking about an evil institution,” he told Our Sunday Visitor…

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented abuse victims, also reportedly said, “This immoral entity, the Catholic Church, should be defeated. We must stand up and defeat this evil.” Garabedian did not return a message from OSV seeking comment.

The Catholic League report says McKiernan “went on a rant” against Archbishop Dolan, accusing him of refusing to release a list of 55 “predator priests” and saying he hoped to “find ways of sticking it to [Dolan].”

McKiernan — who told OSV he is an orthodox Catholic who attends Mass, prays the Rosary and goes to confession — said he may have been “too opinionated” in his Dolan comments, but stood by his statement that the archbishop is not releasing names of accused priests.

McKiernan is a regular speaker at SNAP Conferences.  SNAP, of course, has their own problems, like issuing a press statement Aug 10, 2011 to attack a falsely accused priest after he has been legally exonerated and the alleged victim found to have fabricated claims. (“The defense [for Rev. Borowec] produced evidence at trial that demonstrated the complaining witness fabricated the charges and was seeking attention with intent to obtain money from the church. Prior to trial, the prosecutor suppressed evidence regarding the complaining witness’s mental health history and prior false allegations she made against another priest”).

Here are a few pieces from TheMediaReport.com on BishopAccountability.org and SNAP:

Glaring Hypocrisy From SNAP in Penn State Abuse Story
“Do As I Say, Not …”
November 2011 –

Bravo! Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas Slams SNAP
“My take is that they have a hatred toward the Church. Their mission is no longer to assist victims, but is to strike at the Church and wound the Church.”
-October 2011-

SNAP Misleads Public On False Accusations – Again
More frustrating dishonesty from SNAP.
-October 2011-

No Fairness For Innocent Priests at BishopAccountability.org
Tarnished. (w/UPDATE: Anti-Church site admits “error”!)
-September 2011-

Have Michael Rezendes or the Globe reported any of this information?   No.

Has the Boston Globe ever reported anything about those priests falsely accused of abuse–and the devastation to their lives and health that come from false accusations aired publicly?  No.

BCI will close by re-running this excerpt from the piece by George Weigel (“Scoundrel Times)” in First Things:

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

BCI is sending this blog post to Mr. Rezendes at the Boston Globe. His email is rezendes@globe.com. At the end of this post, where it says, “Share this,” do us a favor today. Click on the graphic that says, “email” and send a copy of this post to Mr. Rezendes.  Or, better still, copy and paste the post into a new email, and ask Michael one question: When are you going to run a spotlight series about sexual abuse of children in Massachusetts public schools and call for the public release of names of public school teachers with credible claims of sexual abuse against them?  While you are at it, also send a copy to Martha Coakley <ago@state.ma.us>  and ask her the same question.

Let us know if you get a response.


Archdiocese airs list of priests accused of sexual abuse

August 26, 2011

On Thursday, the Boston Archdiocese announced publication of a web listing of clergy accused of sexual abuse of a child. BCI acknowledges the pain that hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Boston have experienced and also understands there was a fair amount of outside pressure on the archdiocese to release this information. At the same time, BCI also feels compelled to offer a few of our own reactions to both this specific announcement and certain comments from critics of the initiative.  Notice the clear “Opinion” marking on this post.

The Merits of this Effort

First, BCI wishes to acknowledge the merits of this initiative. The sexual abuse of children by clergy was a terrible thing to have occurred, the harm to people in many cases irreparable, and the scandal was horrible. This initiative to post names of priests accused of sexual abuse to bring comfort and additional closure to victims has been underway for some time and required a great deal of work to get every piece of information correct. Even one error could be devastating to the reputation and vocation of an innocent priest. The reason for the effort was aptly summarized by Cardinal O’Malley in his statement:

“Having met with hundreds of survivors, I know firsthand the scars you carry. And I carry with me every day the pain of the Church’s failures.  I express once again my sorrow for your pain and my apology for any way the Church and its clergy have failed you,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley in the written decision document published with the list.  “My deepest hope and prayer is that the efforts I am announcing today will provide some additional comfort and healing for those who have suffered from sexual abuse by clergy and will continue to strengthen our efforts to protect God’s children.”

The above being said, there are a few aspects of this where BCI has issues and concerns.

1) Release of Names of Priests Publicly Accused with Unsubstantiated Charges

BCI understands the basis for publishing names of priests accused of sexual abuse and found guilty, and agrees with that.  But BCI struggles to understand why the Archdiocese felt compelled to publish names of clergy who were publicly accused of sexually abusing a child where the allegations were found unsubstantiated by the Review Board or where the priest was acquitted after a canonical process.  BCI looked at the websites of other dioceses such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia and could not find information disclosed about priests who faced public accusations and were cleared. If it is there, we could not find it.  Here is how the Boston archdiocese explained the decision to priests whose names were published who fall in this category:

“Our hope is this effort will be helpful to you in providing an official, clear and easily accessible statement that the complaint against you , which was the subject of previous publicity has been found unsubstantiated…

We believe that posting this information about cases such as yours separately from the other cases listed above will allow us to clarify that the past complaint against you has been found unsubstantiated, while also remaining consistent with our commitment to augment our present policies with regard to providing information about Archdiocesan clergy accused of abuse.”

That is one side of the story, and perhaps clergy who faced accusations that were made public and were cleared find this listing of benefit to clear their name.  But, what happens for those Boston priests for whom past publicity has died down and for whom wounds of a false accusation have healed who did not want their names published like this? Why do other dioceses not publish this? BCI has heard of at least one priest who faced unsubstantiated public charges for whom the appearance of his name on this list is deeply troubling and reopens old wounds unnecessarily.

In civil law, a person is presumed innocent until found guilty. Where else in secular society do we find that someone who was accused of wrongdoing and found innocent has their name published publicly in a database as accused and found not guilty?  Are public school teachers, police officers, lawyers or medical workers improperly accused of abuse or some other crime but found innocent placed on a public list for their entire lives for the whole world to see?  For what civil crimes or situations does that happen? Has the right balance of disclosure vs rights of the priests been struck here?


2) Odd Wording of Press Release

The headline reads, “August 25, 2011 – Archdiocese of Boston Launches Web-Based Publication With Respect to Its Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse of a Child.”

(Braintree, Mass.) August 25, 2011… As part of Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley’s ongoing commitment to protect children and rebuild trust in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the Archdiocese of Boston today launched a web-based publication with respect to its clergy accused of sexual abuse of a child (www.bostoncatholic.org).  The Cardinal’s decision to publish this information is detailed in a letter to the people of the Archdiocese (copy attached and available on the website) along with an open letter to survivors of sexual abuse and an open letter to the clergy of the Archdiocese.

Exactly how does the archdiocese publishing a listing of clergy accused of sexual abuse “respect” its clergy? Call BCI obsessive about grammar if you will, but if you were a priest publicly accused of sexual abuse who was cleared, how does the archdiocese launching a web listing that includes your name with an unsubstantiated charge “respect” you?  Why not just say “Archdiocese of Boston Launches Web Listing of Its Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse of a Child”?

3) Misplaced Criticism by Attorney General Martha Coakley and others

According to the Boston Globe, Attorney General Martha Coakley and advocates for clergy abuse victims complained that this disclosure listed only those priests who had already been publicly accused, and omits the names of dozens of accused priests from religious orders and other dioceses, as well as those who left the priesthood before accusations were leveled againt them.

The reality as conveyed in the article is that Cardinal O’Malley omitted the names of religious order priests and those from other dioceses because the Boston Archdiocese does not investigate or resolve allegations against them. It is not “shameless hairsplitting” as SNAP complained. And how does Attorney General Coakley justify complaining about lack of disclosure of information that falls outside of the scope of cases the Boston archdiocese manages and deals with, when she apparently turns her own head the other way on pursuing local matters like the Partners Healthcare price-fixing case, which we described in this post as having been ceded to the U.S. Department of Justice?  BCI humbly suggests the Attorney General re-read Matthew 7:5.

And why is there no effort by Attorney General Coakley to have disclosure of the names of public school teachers who have abused children?   This article on LifeSiteNews says that according to Charol Shakeshaft, researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

George Weigel, writing in First Things in 2010 said:

The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000.  According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Remember that number–six credible cases of sexual abuse by priests were reported in 2009 out of 65 million Catholics.  In New York City, Archbishop Dolan shared word on his blog that the “rate of sexual abuse among public school teachers is 10 times higher than that of priests.” The statistics were from a NYS Special Commissioner of Investigation report that substantiated 78 abuse cases by teachers in 2009, and 73 such cases in 2010.  There were 78 cases in just NY City Public Schools in 2009, but 6 across the entire Catholic Church nationally.  Where is the problem, really?  Why does Martha not insist that similar work be done in Boston Public Schools or across the state, and that a list of accused teachers be published?

On March 12, 2011, the NY Times published a report about widespread abuse problems in more than 2,000 New York state-run homes for the developmentally disabled. Despite a state law requiring that incidents in which a crime may have been committed be reported to law enforcement, state records show that of some 13,000 allegations of abuse in 2009 within state-operated and licensed homes, fewer than 5 percent were referred to law enforcement.

One might argue that is New York, not Massachusetts. Here in Massachusetts, in 2007 then-U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan reported on his study of 11 years of records at the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission. Sullivan found “very concerning neglect and abuse trends”, especially sexual abuse, in state-supported vendor-operated group homes for the disabled. In the report, he said:

“Unfortunately, after reviewing data from the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, our office did note some very concerning neglect and abuse trends in Contract Vendor operated community residences, as compared to the ICF/MRs and State operated community residences. These neglect and abuse trends, particularly sexual abuse, were of great concern to our office and shows that residents in our community homes are at a greater risk of being abused and/or neglected.”

What is Martha Coakley doing about the “very concerning neglect and abuse” of the disabled in state-supported homes?  Nothing that we can find reported publicly.

This 2001 report from the Guttmacher Institute says, “Almost one-third of females and nearly one in 10 male high school students in Massachusetts say they have experienced sexual abuse.  Where is the outrage?  What is Martha doing about this?  Nothing that we can find reported publicly.

4) Misplaced Criticism by SNAP, BishopAccountability and Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian

They complained about 91 accused priests omitted from Cardinal O’Malley’s list.  Of the 91 accused priests omitted from the Cardinal’s list, 62 are dead, have never been publicly accused of abuse, and have never been investigated by Church officials, and 22 faced accusations that could not be substantiated.

C’mon.  It sure sounds like nothing will ever be good enough for SNAP and the lawyers, and they will never be satisfied.  Why bother kow-towing to these folks?

SNAP has their own problems, like issuing a press statement Aug 10, 2011 to attack a falsely accused priest after he has been legally exonerated and the alleged victim found to have fabricated claims. (“The defense [for Rev. Borowec] produced evidence at trial that demonstrated the complaining witness fabricated the charges and was seeking attention with intent to obtain money from the church. Prior to trial, the prosecutor suppressed evidence regarding the complaining witness’s mental health history and prior false allegations she made against another priest”).

Then there is attorney Mitchell Garabedian complaining that three people on his list of priests with abuse allegations against them were not on the archdiocesan-published list. The Globe reports:

Church officials, underscoring the complexity of compiling such a list, said that abuse allegations against three of the individuals on Garabedian’s list were found to be unsubstantiated. But Garabedian said today that the Church made financial payments to settle the accusations against all of the priests on his list.

A reasonable person might ask, why did the archdiocese make a payment to settle an unsubstantiated allegation in the first place?  And if both sides know the accusations were unsubstantiated but payments made, who is working towards recovering those payments and the associated lawyer fees paid to Garabedian?

Here is another excerpt from the piece by George Weigel (“Scoundrel Times)” in First Things:

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

The above is what BCI thinks.  Do we dare open a can of worms by asking what you think?

ps. Today, August 26, is the last day to vote in the Catholic New Media Awards. BCI has been nominated in several categories. To vote, click here, then click on the link to register, give a valid email address, go to your email account and click on the confirmation link, and you will then be able to vote. It will take you only a minute to vote on your favorite Catholic blog(s)!


Vatican Document on Reorganization of U.S. Dioceses

June 27, 2011

An email we received from an alert reader this morning gave us the impetus to return to a topic from a few weeks ago, namely, the “Radical Reshuffle for the Boston Archdiocese.”  The article appeared in a publication called “Vatican Insider.”  (Boston Catholic Insider likes the name of the publication, “Vatican Insider,” A LOT! ).

Here are a few excerpts, and then we will recap how this all relates back to recent news from Boston.

The tsunami of child abuse cases has devastated the life of the American Church

The huge wave of child abuse scandals has dramatically altered the life of the American church. Not only from a moral point of view…But also, and above all, from an economic point of view.

The lawsuits brought forward demanding tens of billions of dollars in damages, which have enriched the victims of abuse from decades ago and the team of specialised lawyers in the field have forced several dioceses to seek judicial protection for bankruptcy.

There is great concern in the Vatican. Not just because the United States, historically, has always made large contributions to the Holy See’s budget, a budget which receives very little revenue and so is normally in the red without the contributions of the dioceses of the various donating countries throughout the world, among which the most important are the U.S., Germany and Italy. The Holy See, however, also fears that economic problems could lead to repercussions on religious life and even on maintaining the basic living conditions for priests, especially pensioners.

For this reason, the Congregation for the Clergy in agreement with other departments has prepared a specific document, which will be released after the summer, possibly in October,  that is specifically dedicated to the reorganization of American dioceses…It will provide guidelines on how the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, and each individual diocese must act to rebuild its presence in their area.

A “classic” negative example of the reorganisation linked to the economic problems is that of Cleveland, where the Holy See has decided to send an apostolic visit, or rather, an investigation to look into whether the decisions taken by the Bishop Ordinary Gerard Lennon were adequate.  He announced that 29 parishes will close and another 41 will be merged. The restructuring plan which will cut 52 parishes out of 224 is already in effect. Other cities in which word about closure has been heard are Camden, New Jersey, Allentown, Pennsylvania and New York City. The reasons that prompted the decision to close parishes in Cleveland have been the flow of population to outlying areas, the financial difficulties that have seen 42% of parish budgets finish in the red and the shortage of priests. Now this last point is questioned by the Vatican and the apostolic visit will serve to ascertain the facts. The Vatican has asked Lennon to stop his policy of savage cuts.  In Boston, amongst many other controversies, he closed 60 parishes. So far the Vatican has not had any luck.

The protests of the faithful against these cuts have been numerous and loud and have even reached the Vatican. This uprising inspired the creation of a document which is based precisely on the nature of participation at the grass roots level that the Church in the United States has, therefore giving an important role to the laity. The philosophy is that of making a distinction between parish and the church. A diocese in difficulty does well to reduce the number of parishes, but must maintain churches and chapels where they exist, perhaps entrusting the care to families of the faithful who are willing to look after them and keep them open. Then on Sundays it is easy to send a priest to celebrate Mass. This solution would take into account various factors, the first being the singular issue of distances, which in the United States are so large. Outright closure of places of worship often oblige the private faithful of the parish to take long journeys to participate in the holy Sunday service.

A second problem that the document will take into account is the sale of and management changes at Catholic hospitals. The first recommendation is to preserve an ethical perspective in the case of a change in management. If this is not possible, then one can sell, but must anyway favour organizations and institutions that are ethically sound. Finally – and this will not be in the document, and will probably be part of recommendations provided to the individual bishops, there is great concern about the consequences of the payment of damages for the abuses. Some dioceses, such as Boston, led by the Franciscan Cardinal O’Malley that have been particularly affected by the abuse phenomenon, are extremely generous. But they may run the risk of not being able to pay for pensions and healthcare assistance to elderly priests. The document will advise the creation of a guaranteed safety net for people such as these who are particularly vulnerable.

 

As the alert reader who passed this along to BCI noted, multiple issues that have attracted attention in Rome seem to have some origins in Boston or connection to the Boston archdiocese.

  • Extremely generous child abuse settlements
  • Drastic parish closings
  • Ethical issues around the sale of the Catholic hospital
  • Ability to pay for pensions and maintain basic living conditions and healthcare for elderly priests

Though the child abuse claims and initial plans for parish closings preceded the arrival of Cardinal O’Malley in Boston, for better or for worse, the manner in which he has dealt with all of the above is certainly something that Cardinal Sean and his team “own.”  We hope the Congregation for the Clergy is well-informed–in particular, about the $25 million buyout clause in the Caritas deal which we discussed multiple times last year. Last July in our blog post, “Trust” we shared how Cerberus/Steward can abandon the Catholic identity of the hospitals if it is “burdensome” to them and start performing abortions at Caritas hospitals for a donation of $25 million to a charity chosen by Cardinal O’Malley.

BCI thinks the final document will be very valuable, as many dioceses are wrestling with these issues. What do you think of how the Boston archdiocese has handled the areas cited in the article?


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