Why Catholic officials are "picked on" about abuse

Why Catholic officials are "picked on" about abuse

Fr. John Geoghan may be America's most prolific predator priest, with at least 150 victims over a 36 year clerical career. (He's not, however, the most efficient. That distinction goes to Mexico's Fr. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera who, in just 10 months in Los Angeles, reportedly assaulted 26 kids.)

This year is the 60 year anniversary of perhaps the first "red flag" Catholic officials had about Geoghan. In 1954, the rector of Geoghan's seminary expressed doubts about his suitability for the priesthood, in part because the seminarian was "decidedly immature."

It's also the 25 year anniversary of Cardinal Bernard Law sending Geoghan to St. Luke's Institute (one of at least three treatment centers where Geoghan spent time), where he was diagnosed as "high risk." Of course, he was still put back on the job in an unsuspecting parish.

And it's the 15 year anniversary of a 1994 Boston archdiocesan memo, labeled "confidential," that said that Geoghan would stay in a parishioner’s home who had eight kids “even when he was on a three day retreat because he missed the kids so much.” He “would touch them while they were sleeping and waken them by playing with their penises."

(Incidentally, last year was the 50th anniversary of Paraclete founder Fr. Gerald's Fitzgerald's letter to the pope advocating “Laicization for any priest, upon objective evidence, for tampering with the virtue of the young” noting that “real conversions will be found to be extremely rare" and "leaving them on duty or wandering from diocese to diocese is contributing to scandal." His advice was obviously ignored.) 


Why mention all of this?

Because some Catholic officials still claim that only recently did they begin to “understand” pedophilia. 

And because in the last two weeks, two of the very highest ranking Catholic officials claimed that the church hierarchy is unfairly “picked on” in abuse cases. (One was New York Cardinal Tim Dolan. The other was Pope Francis himself.) 

The relentlessly reckless and selfish handling of the Fr. John Geoghan case is one of thousands of reasons Catholic officials are "picked on" about child sex crimes.


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  • commented 2014-04-14 21:11:14 -0500
    Thank you for this excellent blog. The problem is actually more systematic and far more deeply engrained than could ever be approached on an individual priest or diocese level. If you read anything of Rev. Kevin Annett’s work, such as his book Hidden No Longer (http://hiddennolonger.com/), you will see the historical pattern of deeply ingrained ritual child abuse, which has existed in the Catholic church for many decades, perhaps centuries. This isn’t just a question of bishops, cardinals and popes covering up the truth of countless known pedophile priests, however heinous that crime may be. This is a matter of institutionalized ritual abuse. Responsibility for this begins at the Vatican, where so many of the worse rituals take place. Attempts on the part of Vatican officials to deflect blame from themselves are utterly useless in the face of a tall pile of very real evidence, including eyewitness accounts. The recent findings of the International Common Law Court of Justice in Brussels, Belgium attests to this fully.
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