We don’t know much about newly-appointed Oregon Bishop Liam Cary. But we’re encouraged almost every time the Vatican promotes a priest rather than a chancery office staffer to higher positions. And we’re encouraged when men who have spent some adult years outside of the priesthood are elevated, because we believe it’s likely such men are slightly less caught up in an unhealthy, secretive, rigid clerical culture that dominates the Catholic hierarchy.
Bishop Cary has a tough job. His predecessor, Bishop Robert Vasa, acted recklessly, deceitfully and callously in child sex cases.
-- Vasa let a Catholic deacon (Joseph Levine) who was refused ordination by a New Jersey bishop and ousted by a Pennsylvania bishop work at an Oregon parish.
-- Vasa ignored our pleas to launch a vigorous public outreach campaign to warn unsuspecting families about a pedophile priest (Fr. Jose Joaquin Estrada) and a child-molesting deacon (Aaron Ramirez), both of whom lived and worked in Baker in recent years and are believed to be living in other countries now.
(Estrada pled guilty in 2005 to molesting an Oregon girl. He was deported to Colombia. In 1999, Ramirez fled to Mexico before an investigation could be launched about his being found in bed, naked with a 17 year old boy he had given alcohol and who was passed out in the bed.)
-- Vasa refused to participate in the annual national church sex abuse program and refused to conduct abuse prevention training for children, the training mandate by the US bishops conference and that is designed to prevent future horrific child sex crimes.
Still, despite our tentative optimism about Bishop Cary, we still urge anyone who sees suspects or suffers clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Oregon to contact civil authorities, not church figures. Child sex crimes are indeed crimes. They should be reported to the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased amateurs in church offices.