NJ--Newark bishop defends his colleague
For immediate release: Monday, June 15
Statement by Mark Crawford, New Jersey SNAP leader, 732-632-7687, firstname.lastname@example.org
The new head of the Twin Cities archdiocese defended a controversial colleague who spent extravagantly on an opulent home for himself.
In an op ed last year, Bishop Bernard Hebda defended the residence that Archbishop John Myers is building for himself.
We feel sorry for Newark Catholics and now Twin Cities Catholics who had assumed or now assume that Bishop Hebda would be different from and better than Myers or Neinstedt. In Newark, Hebda has no doubt dashed their hopes. In St. Paul, we suspect that he will.
And we're sad too that Hebda displays a greater loyalty to his selfish colleague than to parishioners.
Pope Francis urges us to show mercy to the poor. Hebda, however, urges us to show mercy to an imperial and imperious monarch, a man who has shown, time and time again over a long clerical career, that he values his power and reputation more than victims and parishioners.
It's striking that Hebda can't even bring himself to use the phrase “Myers' personal home.” Instead, he euphemistically calls it a “construction project.”
When Pope Francis sent Hebda to New Jersey, he again missed a clear opportunity to discipline, demote, denounce or even defrock a blatantly reckless, callous and deceitful prelate and send a powerful signal that cover ups will no longer be tolerated. Now, sending Hebda to Minnesota, Francis again refuses to be honest about the troubling crisis there and about his motives.
It will be tempting for many to read more into this appointment than they should. Because Vatican officials usually refuse to disclose the rationale for their actions – or are notoriously vague when they do so – no one can really be certain whether this move is in any way connected to Neinstedt’s repeatedly irresponsible actions with predator priests.
But many Catholics will assume this. We caution them against leaping to conclusions. No one person caused the horrific scandal in Newark. No one person can fix it. The real solution isn’t juggling secretive church officials. The real solution requires every single current and former Catholic Church employee and member to call law enforcement with any knowledge or suspicions of clergy sex crimes and cover ups, no matter how old, small, vague or seemingly insignificant that knowledge or those suspicions might be. That’s what protects kids – the courage of many adults, not the shuffling of two officials.
Finally, Bishop Hebda is a lawyer, a fact that worries us. Most bishops approach clergy sex abuse and cover up cases like lawyers, instead of shepherds.
And he’s worked in two states with particularly archaic, predator-friendly child sex abuse laws, which means it’s hard to really assess how he’s handled clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
Neither of those dioceses has posted names of predator priests on their websites, as roughly 30 US bishops have. And Hebda has done nothing in Gaylord or Newark that indicates to us that he’ll be any different or better than the overwhelming majority of his clerical colleagues who continue to conceal clergy sex crimes.
The safest course for Twin Cities victims, witnesses and whistleblowers is to keep calling secular officials, not church officials, when they see, suspect or suffer clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)