If the current cleansing of the Church is a good thing — which it is — one must guard against the loss of perspective (and schismatic disobedience).
The question is whether the crisis of abuse is ongoing or seems more intense than it is, coming, as it did, in the quick succession of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania; an investigation by Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s diocese that laid open the misdeeds of a major cardinal (McCarrick); and a memo from the former Vatican nuncio to the U.S., who was dismissed by the Pope some time ago and now demands his resignation. In media parlance, a perfect storm.
First of all, the numbers:
According to Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas of Catholic World Report:
“There is nothing new in the [grand jury] report; all that is there has been treated before, especially in 2002. Secondly, over half the priests accused are dead, with one man actually having been born in 1896 and accusations going back seventy years! Thirdly, we are dealing here with “accusations,” not convictions. Were some of the accusations valid? Unfortunately, yes, but many could never be substantiated in a court of law.
“Amazingly, only two of the accusations are even able to be prosecuted! If you want real news, it is that out of over 40,000 priests in this country, last year there were only six allegations (with four of them against the same priest), again, I stress ‘accusations.’ The New York City public school system gets that many accusations against its personnel in a month. If you want to read an independent, non-Church critique of the Pennsylvania report, check out the work of David Pierre at Media Watch.”
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.”
In 2015, of children in 8th through 11th grade, about 3.5 million students (nearly 7%) surveyed reported having had physical sexual contact from an adult (most often a teacher or coach; see here). The type of physical contact ranged from unwanted touching of their body, all the way up to sexual intercourse.
This statistic increases to about 4.5 million children (10%) when it takes other types of sexual misconduct into consideration, such as being shown pornography or being subjected to sexually explicit language or exhibitionism.
That’s in one year. The clergy numbers (nearly 7,000 clerics) goes back seventy years and includes priests who made names for themselves on Catholic television. We have reported on abuse cases for eighteen years, and recall a book we carried in our store, Goodbye, Good Men.
Absolutely horrid, shocking, demonic, and detestable — handled in a terrible way, by just about every diocese — but not up to the numbers in other professions where there is contact with young people.
Notes a commentator: “We’ve all heard of the Catholic Church child abuse scandal that’s still regularly covered, 20 to 40 years after much of the abuse took place. It too was tragic, and acknowledged as such by the church, which has taken action to prevent its ever happening again. The same can’t be said of unionized public education — where child abuse appears to be rampant, often with little done about it and with teachers unions largely silent. It gets little national media attention — certainly not on the scale that the Church scandal did.”
There’s that. Now as for ex-Cardinal McCarrick: this is an especially detestable case given his former standing as one of the top American cardinals — and created very much the same kind of crisis that ensured with high-ranking clergy in Australia, Ireland, and Chile were fingered (one of them Cardinal Pell), but unfortunately, nothing unique. Purging homosexuality from the Church is an urgent matter and has been largely covered up because of the priest shortage and the sheer number of “gay” clerics who wended their way through sometimes sordid seminaries in the 1970s, 1980s, and into the early 1990s.
The accusations against ex-Cardinal McCarrick were known not just by Pope Francis but also Pope Benedict XVI and Saint Pope John Paul II. This is clearly shown in a letter written to the Vatican in 2000 — before McCarrick was made a cardinal (in 2001). There is no indication that Benedict formally sanctioned McCarrick, as implied by the recent uproar, and in fact he received McCarrick at the Vatican three times after accusations had been known and after he had asked the cardinal to keep a “low profile.” The perspective thusly stated: Francis should not bear all of the blame. We too are conservative (John Paul II conservatives) — but let’s be fair. Covering up scandal was modus operandi in every nation across the Catholic landscape, as is also the case in education and other walks of life.
Does that excuse it? The Church should be held to higher accountability. For certain.
Are there abuse bishops?
Indeed. Below is a list from Bishops Accountability. You will hear future horror stories and state reports.
But as for the Pennsylvania grand jury one: while exposing truly horrible cases, they were mainly ones that are old — yet made it seem, to those who don’t read beyond headlines, like they were recent incidences.
While too many accused priests still minister — as will be shown by future investigations in other states — the problem plummeted after U.S. bishops initiated measures in 2002, such that the abuse incidence is now about what it was before 1955.
The Church has a huge problem — clerical distance, indifference, homosexuality, worldliness, and pride (laymen are not treated properly in many ways) — but there are plenty of amazing priests out there, as there are amazing monsignors, bishops, and cardinals. Poor and unbalanced reportage — often with a clear agenda — has almost thrown them out with the bathwater.
Bishop Michael J. Bransfield
Implicated in Philly trial testimony April 2012 by victim of ex-priest Stanley Gana. Separate allegation of 1970s fondling of high school student revealed by prosecutor. Bransfield denied all abuse. [See his statement.] Never charged. Remains Wheeling-Charleston WVbishop.
Bishop Robert H. Brom
Accused in 1990s of coercing young seminarian into sex in 1980s, while Duluth MN bishop. Accuser retracted allegation, reportedly as condition of $85K settlement. Retired 2013, age 75. San Diego CA bishop emeritus.
Bishop Tod D. Brown
News in 2007 of 1997 letter to church alleging Brown’s sexual abuse of boy, age 12, in 1965. Church had deemed it not credible. Brown denied abuse. Never charged. Neither he nor victim interviewed by police. Retired 2012, age 75. Orange in California bishop emeritus.
Bishop Leonard P. Cowley
St. Paul MN auxiliary bishop 1958-1973. Died 1973. Name released February 2015 as one of 17 archdiocesan clergy accused of sexual abuse or misconduct with a minor. A man filed a claim that Cowley sexually abused him at age 15 during trip to northern Minnesota in 1968.
Bishop Paul V. Dudley
Retired 1995, age 68, as Sioux Falls SD bishop. Accused 2002 of fondling altar boy age 11 or 12 in 1950s. Accused also by two women. “Cleared” by church 2003. Remained emeritus. Died 2006.
Bishop Thomas L. Dupre
Accused 2004 of sexual abuse of two youths more than 20 years previously. Resigned age 70, per canon 401.2, same day that news broke. Sent to treatment. Indicted but not tried, due to SOL. Remained Springfield MA bishop emeritus. Died December 20, 2016.
Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario
Honolulu HI auxiliary bishop and bishop 1977-1993. Accused of child rape in 1985 letter to papal nuncio. Lawsuit 1991 dismissed on SOL grounds. Retired as bishop 1993, age 67. Stayed in ministry and remained emeritus. Not charged. Died 2003. Named by more alleged victims 2013 and 2014.
Bishop Louis E. Gelineau
Resigned 1997, age 69, after accused of attempting to fondle then drown boy at Vermont orphanage in 1950. In 1997 deposition, denied 1993 sexual abuse of altar boy. Remains Providence RI bishop emeritus.
Bishop Joseph H. Hart
Resigned as Cheyenne bishop 2001, age 70, per canon 401.2. In 2002, KC newspaper revealed Hart was reported to the church in 1989 and 1992 for child molestation in the 1970s. At least four other alleged victims have since come forward. Not charged. Remains Cheyenne WY bishop emeritus.
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
Accused February 2004 of paying teen for sex in 1970s and sexual misconduct with adult males. Hubbard denied allegations, saying he had not violated celibacy. Not charged. Hired own investigator who reported June 2004 “no credible evidence.” Retired 2014, age 75. Albany NY bishop emeritus.
Bishop Robert N. Lynch
Denied 2001 accusation of sexual harassment by diocesan communications director. Church paid accuser $100K; bishop said it was severance, not hush money. Accuser’s lawyer said there was “unwanted touching” but no “overt sexual actions.”Retired age 76 in 2016 as St. Petersburg FL bishop.
Bishop Eugene A. Marino, S.S.J.
Resigned 1990, age 56, as Atlanta GA archbishop. Woman, age 27, soon went public regarding two-year sexual relationship with Marino, which he acknowledged. Remained archbishop emeritus. Died 2000.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with seminarians and priests in 1980s while Metuchen NJ bishop and Newark NJ archbishop. Church settled with alleged victim 2006, reported Richard Sipe. Washington DC archbishop emeritus. Allegation of abuse of a minor, made through the IRCP process, was announced by Cardinal Dolan in June 2018. McCarrick denied the allegation. The Metuchen diocese and the Newark archdiocese publicly acknowledged three settlements in 2005 and 2007 to two former seminarians. Pope Francis removed McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to live a life of prayer and penance while an investigation proceeded. One of McCarrick’s adult victims chose to come forward, and the allegations broke in the media. Another man abused as a minor came forward. In August 2018, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released his “testimony” alleging that a network in the hierarchy, including Pope Francis, had knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians but took no action. Viganò also claimed that Pope Benedict had ordered McCarrick to live a life of prayer and penance, and that Pope Francis reinstated McCarrick. Evidence of Pope Benedict’s action regarding McCarrick has not been produced, and it appears that McCarrick was in public ministry under both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.
Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros
Boston MA archbishop 1970-83. Died 1983. Accused 2002 of sexually abusing 14-year-old boy in 1979. Accuser said Medeiros touched his groin while giving him a “bear hug” in the archdiocesan chancery, where he was allegedly molested the same evening by vice-chancellor Rev. Fred Ryan.
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Stepped aside December 2013 after allegation of inappropriately touching boy’s buttocks in 2009. Called allegation “entirely false.”Resumed duties March 2014 after prosecutor announced no charges due to insufficient evidence. Internal investigation of alleged misconduct toward adults revealed July 2014. It reportedly found Nienstedt made “sexual advances” toward two priests. Nienstedt kept findings secret and, according to MPR report , authorized new investigation by second law firm. Resigned June 2015, per 401.2, soon after archdiocese was charged criminally for contributing to child sex abuse. Now Saint Paul and Minneapolis MN archbishop emeritus.
Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien
Accused in a 2017 lawsuit of repeated sexual abuse of a boy in Arizona when the boy was in 2nd to 5th grades during 1977-1982. O’Brien denied the allegations. Admitted in June 2003 to covering up child sexual abuse in his diocese. Arrested days later on charges related to a fatal hit-and-run auto accident. Resigned age 67. Convicted in that case and sentenced to probation and community service. Phoenix AZ bishop emeritus.
Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell
Admitted 2002 to 1970s sexual abuse of Missouri high school seminary student. Resigned immediately as Palm Beach FL bishop per canon 401.2, age 63. Numerous former students alleged abuse. Not charged. Remained bishop emeritus. Died 2012.
Bishop George E. Rueger
Accused in 2002 lawsuit of 1960s sexual abuse of boy age 13-14. Denied allegation. Not charged. Alleged victim withdrew suit 2003. Retired age 75 in 2005. Worcester MA auxiliary bishop emeritus.
Bishop Daniel L. Ryan
Resigned 1999, age 69, week before lawsuit cited his hiring of male prostitutes. News 2002 that he solicited sex from boy, age 15, and sexually abused another, age 16-17. Not charged, due to SOL. Internal diocesan study 2006 confirmed Ryan’s misconduct with adults. Remained Springfield IL bishop emeritus until he died in 2015.
Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez
Resigned 1993, age 59, after accused of sexual contact with at least 5 women; some were ages 18 and 19. Stayed in ministry. Remained Santa Fe NM archbishop emeritus. Died 2012.
Bishop William S. Skylstad
Accused 2005 of 1961-64 sexual abuse of girl under age 18. Skylstad denied the accusation, and investigator hired by him found no truthin the claim. Retired 2010, age 76. Spokane WA bishop emeritus.
Bishop Lawrence D. Soens
Resigned 1998, age 72. Accused publicly 2000s of ‘sadistic’ sexual abuse of 31 teen boys beginning late 1950s. Found guilty by 2008 review board. Not charged. Remains Sioux City IA bishop emeritus.
Bishop James S. Sullivan
Resigned citing Alzheimer’s, March 2002, per canon 401.2. Age 72. Accused June 2002 of 1966 fondling of boy, age 16, in Michigan. Denied accusation. Charges not pursued due to SOL. Remained Fargo ND bishop emeritus. Died 2006.
Bishop Joseph V. Sullivan
Baton Rouge LA bishop 1974-1982. Died 1982. Accused in 2000s of sexual abuse of three different teen boys, 1969-1982. Later bishop called claims credible, removed Sullivan’s name from high school.
Bishop Joseph Keith Symons
Admitted 1995 to past sexual abuse of boy. Stayed in ministry. Remained Palm Beach FL bishop. Resigned 1998, age 65, after another victim emerged. Admitted to abuse of 5 boys. Not charged. Found in ministry 1999 in Lansing MI diocese. Bishop emeritus.
Archbishop Rembert George Weakland, O.S.B.
Resigned in 2002 immediately after news of $450K payment in 1998 to silence man accusing him of sexual assault when man was 32. Weakland had just turned 75, and resignation was accepted per canon 401.1 — the age-75 rule applying to bishops in standard situations. Weakland denied abuse but admitted to sexual relationship. Remains Milwaukee WI archbishop emeritus, residing in PA monastery.
Bishop Lawrence Harold Welsh
News in 2002 of police investigation 1986 alleging he had choked male prostitute during sex. Welsh admitted to most of accusation, except “amount of violence.” No charges filed. Resigned as Spokane bishop 1990 after drunk driving arrest. Made Saint Paul and Minneapolis auxiliary bishop 1991. Died 1999.
Bishop James Kendrick Williams
Resigned age 65 in 2002, per canon 401.2, after accused of sexual abuse of two boys, 1969 and 1981, and young adult late 1980s. Denied abusing anyone. Lexington KY bishop emeritus.
Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann
Forced to resign 1999 at age 57 after allegation by younger priest of coercing sex. Accused early 2000s of sexual abuse of 3 differentboys in 1960s and ’70s. Remained Santa Rosa CA bishop emeritus. Died 2009.
Bishop John S. Knight
Accused 2000 of sexual misconduct with person over age 16. Not known if alleged victim was under age 18. Church deemed allegation “substantive enough to warrant a full examination.” Removed from ministry during Church investigation. Resigned same year, age 58. Toronto bishop emeritus.
Bishop Raymond J. Lahey
Arrested in 2009 for possession of child abuse images. Resigned as Antigonish bishop in 2009 per canon 401.2, age 69. Pled guilty in 2011. Sentenced in 2012 but given time served. Laicized in 2012.
Bishop Eugène P. LaRocque
Retired 2002. Investigated late 1990s-early 2000s by police probing sexual abuse in Cornwall. Per LaRocque, original allegations date to 1961. Not charged. Accused 2005 of 1970s sexual abuse of altar boy. Denied all accusations. Alexandria-Cornwall bishop emeritus.
Bishop Hubert P. O’Connor, O.M.I.
Resigned 1991, age 63, after charged with sex crimes. Convicted 1996 of 1960s rape and indecent assault on two young aboriginal women. Sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Released on bail after serving 6 months. Remained Prince George bishop emeritus. Died 2007
Cardinal George Pell
Accused 2002 of 1961 or 1962 sex abuse of 12-year-old boy while Pell was seminarian. Denying allegation, Pell stood aside as Sydney archbishop, while church asked former judge to investigate. Report said accuser “gave the impression he was speaking honestly” but crime could not be established. Pell resumed office. Appointed by Pope 2014 to head Vatican’s new Secretariat of the Economy. News broken by ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) July 2016 of multiple additional complaints investigated by Victorian police. Pell allegedly fondled the genitals and anuses of two boys in a pool in 1978-1979, and may have exposed himself to three boys in 1986-1987. Another allegation involved unspecified abuse of two teen choirboys in 1990s. Pell’s office called the allegations “totally untrue” and accused ABC of a “scandalous smear campaign.” In a 2nd statement, Pell urged an inquiry of the Victoria police, accusing them of leaking reports to the ABC. [See the half-hour ABC TV program transcript.] A book published in May 2017 contained detailed claims that Pell had sexually abused two choirboys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in east Melbourne in the late 1990s, when Pell was archbishop and after he had initiated the Melbourne Response. On June 29, 2017, Victoria police announced that Pell would face “multiple charges” and that there were “multiple complainants.” In response, the Sydney archdiocese said that Pell “strenuously” denies the allegations and will return home pending doctors’ approval to “defend the charges vigorously.” He becomes the highest ranking Catholic Church official to be criminally charged with child sexual abuse.
Bishop Max L. Davis
Criminally charged June 2014 with 1969 sexual abuse of child in New Norcia, prior to ordination. Denied the charge. Stepped aside as Australia’s Military bishop while court case active. Tried in Perth court February 2016 on charges of “indecent dealings” with five boys, ages 13-15, between 1969-1972. Found not guilty.
Archbishop Richard A. Burke, S.P.S. *
Accused 2009 of 1983 sexual abuse of 14-year-old girl in Nigeria. [See victim’s statement.] Resigned 2010, age 61, per canon 401.2. Admitted “failure to observe his oath of celibacy.” Sued RTÉ, claiming victim was 20, not 14. Suit settled 2015: RTÉ paid legal costs but made no concession on victim’s age. Benin City archbishop emeritus.
Bishop Eamonn Casey
Resigned 1992, age 65, after revelation that he fathered a child in 1970s. Fled Ireland, worked in Ecuador missions, then English diocese. Accused 2005 of sexual assault of girl, age 5, 30 years earlier. Casey denied accusation. Not charged. Returned to Ireland 2006. In nursing home since 2011. New accusation April 2016 by a Limerick woman. Galway and Kilmacduagh bishop emeritus until his death March 13, 2017.
Bishop Brendan Oliver Comiskey, SS.CC.
Resigned 2002, age 66, per canon 401.2, after revelations that he protected serial abuser Fr. Sean Fortune. Ferns inquiry in 2005 reported two allegations against Comiskey: 1990 complaint of misconduct toward young woman over age 16, and accusation by Fortunein his 1999 suicide note. Comiskey denied both. Ferns bishop emeritus.
Bishop John Magee, S.P.S.
Stepped aside but didn’t resign 2009 after internal watchdog report that he had mishandled two abusive priests. State launched its own inquiry. Resignation announced 2010, per canon 401.2. State’s report 2011 revealed more cover-up and 2008 report to church of Magee’s inappropriate behavior toward teen, age 17-18. Magee admitted conduct, denied sexual intent. Not charged. Cloyne bishop emeritus.
Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, C.S.Sp.
Retired 1971, age 76, as Dublin archbishop. Died 1973. First accused of sex abuse in 1999 book. News in 2011 that McQuaid was cleric described in 2010 supplement to Murphy report with two complaints of child sex abuse, including of a 12-year-old boy in 1961, and one “separate concern.”
Bishop Gerardo Antonazzo
Investigation April 2016 by prosecutors in Cassino, in response to a letter from a seminarian accusing Antonazzo of sexually molesting him and seven other adults. Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo bishop.
Bishop Giuseppe Carraro
Retired 1978 as Verona bishop. Died 1980. Accused 2009 of repeatedly molesting boy who attended school for deaf. Carraro was being considered for beatification at time of complaint.