Both are smart female Catholic lawyers who became part of Archbishop John Nienstedt’s inner circle and enjoyed his ear and his trust.
One of them, Jennifer Haselberger, became part of the solution.
The other, Greta Sawyer, remains part of the problem.
Haselberger’s story is widely known. She’s a courageous whistleblower. Here’s a recent profile of her:
I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard a victim tell me that this is what her local Catholic officials have said about her report of child sexual assault.
(The latest such case involves Fr. Michael Keating of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese. In 2006, a young victim disclosed to church officials that Fr. Keating molested her. Archdiocesan staff kept quiet, however, and deemed he report “unsubstantiated.” So they kept the predator on the job for nine more years. He’s stepped aside, now that he’s being sued.)
One big meeting of Catholic officials has ended. Another meeting takes place next month. And at both, a huge “the elephant in the room" was ignored.
Last week in Rome, the new “Council of Cardinals” met with Pope Francis for three days. According to papal spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi “the sex abuse issue did not come up during the G-8 meeting.”
I’m not talking about the outrageous Fr. Michael Fugee case in Newark. I’m talking about these recent cases, all of which have surfaced in less than one month:
-- Fr. Matthew Riedlinger, who was exposed Sunday as having sent 1,200 inappropriate sexual text messages to what he thought was a teenaged boy and had sexually harassed at least five teenagers and young men, some of whom were seminarians. (For months, Trenton Bishop David O'Connell has kept this hidden.)
Audacious is a word I don’t use often. But it leapt to mind this morning when I read that a child molesting cleric at a New York archdiocesan parish is being ousted from ministry.
“Audacious” is the best way I can describe Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s letter to the flock at Church of the Holy Name of Mary parish in Croton-on-Hudson.
Here’s how the dictionary defines “audacious” – “extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless” or “recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like; insolent; brazen.”
A Detroit predator priest was recently ousted. Archbishop Allen Vigneron made a formal announcement. It implied this was the first allegation against the priest.
But it wasn’t.
Today, an Ohio jury found Fr. Robert Poandl guilty of molesting a boy years ago.
But in the most crucial sense, this brave victim and his family won long before today.
It feels like justice for child sex abuse comes in waves. There will be a string of stunningly negative court decisions over days and then there’s a sudden reversal, and a series of positive legal developments will happen.
In Canada, for instance, a judge recently ruled that two sisters from Ontario must pay their uncle $125,000 in libel damages for allegedly accusing him - falsely - of sexually assaulting them when they were children.
And in Montana, a judge recently gave a child molesting teacher a depressingly light sentence, claiming that his 14-year-old victim is “older than her chronological age” and “as much control of the situation” as the teacher.
Last week, another child molesting nun was publicly exposed. She’s Sister Agnes Daniels, who worked at St. Mary School in Boston when she reportedly committed the abuse. (Thanks to attorney Mitchell Garabedian for disclosing the accusations.)
In July, two other abusive nuns were publicly exposed: Sister Agnes Santomassimo and Sister Mary Joseph. Both allegedly molested in California. (Santomassimo also worked in Chicago. Joseph also worked in Idaho, Arizona and Washington state.)
Smart, brave victims of Dubuque area predator priests have forced Catholic officials there – as part of lawsuit settlements - to post names of child molesting clerics on the archdiocesan website. We’re always thrilled when survivors use lawsuits to pry information from the church hierarchy and use that information to warn parents about pedophiles.
But there is helpful information that illuminates and less helpful information that obfuscates.
The Dubuque Archdiocese seems committed to less helpful information that obfuscates.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.