This weekend, NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan moves up again in the Catholic hierarchy. We’re troubled by this promotion of a prelate who continues to mishandle clergy sex abuse cases. We urge Catholics and citizens to look at Dolan’s performance, not his personality. And we urge Vatican officials to do likewise.
Dolan has been very lucky. He’s worked in states with particularly archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly child sex laws. So when child sex abuse victims and their loved ones are mistreated by church officials, it usually remains hidden because they can’t file lawsuits and expose the wrong doing. And Dolan has followed two relatively cold, callous or corrupt colleagues – Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Cardinal Edward Egan. So his gregarious demeanor is a welcome “breath of fresh air” that distracts observers from his actions and leads many to complacently assume that such a nice guy must surely treat abuse victims better than his predecessors. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be true.
By promoting Dolan, Pope Benedict is essentially rewarding wrongdoing which encourages wrongdoing. That’s what happens often in the Catholic hierarchy.
In four recent instances, Dolan has acted recklessly, callously or deceptively.
---Several months ago, Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, the public learned that there was child porn on assistant principal Lawrence Gordon’s school computer.
But Catholic officials – including Dolan - kept silent for nine months about the child porn, giving the criminal and his supervisors ample time to destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, intimidate witnesses, threaten whistleblowers and thwart law enforcement.
For a solid decade, Dolan and his peers have promised to be “open” about child sex crimes. But for most of last year, he was keeping such crimes secret. There’s just no excuse for Catholic officials keeping parents in the dark about child porn at their kids’ school month after month.
---Last August, Dolan similarly made no moves to help resolve child sex accusations against Fr. Jaime Duenas.
In a short statement on the archdiocesan website, Dolan didn’t ask Catholics or citizens to do a thing when Duenas was arrested. It is crucial that victims, witnesses and whistleblowers be urged to call police and prosecutors. Dolan is not dumb. He knows appeals like this are often effective. But instead of begging anyone with information or suspicions to call the cops, he said nothing.
Dolan suspended Duenas. Big deal. That’s the absolute bare minimum a Catholic official should do when an alleged child predator is arrested. Any other employer would do the very same thing (and likely more).
Dolan also posted on his blog a mean-spirited statement which attacked the teenaged victim:
---Two weeks ago, Vatican officials announced they are refusing to defrock a serial predator priest, Msgr. Wallace A. Harris. Dolan is quietly going along with this reckless decision.
In 2010, Dolan quietly let Wallace, a prominent and powerful priest, quietly resign from his Harlem parish, deliberately and deceptively leaving the impression that he was stepping aside because of alleged health problems. Dolan knew then that Harris had been accused by at least ten men of sexually assaulting them when they were kids.
Still, despite repeated promises to be “transparent” in child sex cases, Dolan only hinted to only one group of parishioners at only one church that the accusations against Harris were credible, letting many of them believe their pastor was innocent but beset with health issues and leaving for that reason.
And now Dolan, who so vigorously pledges to be “open” about clergy sexual abuse, refuses to even disclose where Harris is living. And he refuses to question or challenge a Vatican move that leaves children at risk.
Catholic officials often claim to be “monitoring” or “supervising” child molesting clerics. Hundreds of times, however, those promises have been broken and more innocent lives have been devastated. If Harris is truly in a secure, remote and professionally run treatment center, why won’t Dolan clearly say so and tell his flock where it is?
It’s very likely that many of Harris’ former flock believe he’s innocent. Dolan can and should dispel this dangerous myth. But he hasn’t and he won’t.
And it’s likely that Harris could be criminally prosecuted for child sex crimes. Dolan should try to make this happen, by using his massive resources and bully pulpit to beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police. But he hasn’t and he won’t.
---Days ago, Dolan’s predecessor made shocking statements about the church’s on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis.
We urged Dolan to publicly rebuke Egan for these shockingly callous comments that will no doubt heap more pain onto millions of victims and Catholics who are still suffering because they have been assaulted by child molesting clerics or betrayed by corrupt church officials. We asked Dolan to clearly denounce Egan. Ignoring callousness or mouthing vague platitudes aren’t enough. At an absolute bare minimum, Catholics need and deserve explicit, public and repeated condemnations of Egan by his brother bishops.
Rather than criticize a colleague, Dolan praised him, saying Egan “had always “responded appropriately and with rigor” to sex-abuse cases.”
Among other things, Egan said:
§ I don’t think we did anything wrong.
§ I’m very proud of how this thing was handled.
§ I believe the sex abuse thing was incredibly good.
§ There really wasn’t much . . . hidden.
§ I do think it’s time to get off this subject.
§ I don’t think I should be upset about that, or you should be, or anybody else.
§ I never had one of these sex abuse cases, either in Bridgeport or here (New York). And I believe that the cases I had were each handled just exactly as they should have been.
§ I did exactly what we were told to do. And as a result, not one of them (the accused priests) did a thing out of line.
§ I’m not the slightest bit surprised that, of course, the scandal was going to be fun in the news.
§ If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I’d be happy to know who he is.
(See full interview, in Connecticut Magazine, here: http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/Web-Exclusive-Content/February-2012/Egan-Ten-Years-After/)
Dolan must show – by his actions – that he is what he implies and claims: different from Egan. He could start by posting on their websites the names, whereabouts and work histories of every proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting cleric in their dioceses (like 25 US bishops have done).
Years ago in Milwaukee, Dolan posted names of child molesting clerics on his archdiocesan website. In New York, he refuses to take even this simple, inexpensive step toward protecting kids. He’s going backwards, not forwards, regarding child safety.
Dolan clearly enjoys talking with reporters and has been praised as ‘a good communicator. ‘Yet in child sex cases – this one and others - he says little or nothing and has his public relations professionals say little or nothing that is substantive or helpful.
Dolan has an awful – but carefully hidden - track record on child safety and is not making children safer now. Like most of his peers, in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases, Dolan continues to do the absolute bare minimum.
I’m ashamed I was ever catholic and just as ashamed to be an American.