Watch out for papal candidates to start posturing on abuse. On the eve of the last conclave, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made one brief mention, in a highly publicized talk, of “filth” in the church.
“How does he keep a straight face?” That’s the question I often think about the public relations staffers who work for Catholic officials.
Let’s get specific. What exactly DID Pope Benedict do about the committing and concealing of child sex crimes in the church? LA Times writer Mitchell Lansberg did a good job of summarizing the case made by Benedict’s defenders, who say that he:
I can stomach a lot. But it's very hard for me to read about the Magdalene Laundries.
A journalist recently suggested to me that DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl was "less dirty" on abuse than the other US prelates who will attende the papal conclave. "Not so fast," I replied.
I read The Dallas Morning News series about abuse and cover up at Parkland Hospital at a bad time: while I was sitting in a hospital. (My 93 year old father-in-law is struggling.) It’s a very disturbing but very important series. I encourage you to read it.
To: Every current/former church employee/member who suspects child sex abuse
Fr: Barbara Dorris
Stories like these are indicative of the dangers that come when sex abusers have their crimes covered up. Joseph Piña was known to have abused kids in the 1970’s. He himself admitted this abuse. And yet because his crimes – grossly mischaracterized by Piña as “a relationship” – weren’t reported to police, Piña wasn’t made to register as a sex offender.
LA’s Cardinal Mahony & Archbishop Gomez’ private chat (about two weeks ago)
Mahony: I know this is your archdiocese now, Jose. But I've been plotting and scheming much longer than you and covering up more cases than any of our colleagues. So forgive me for taking the initiative here and suggesting our plan.
Gomez: I'm always glad to hear your thoughts Roger.
Mahony: These files are pretty bad. They'll re-ignite widespread outrage. So you'll need to do something beyond the usual “My heart aches for the victims” and “We didn't understand, but we've learned and are reforming' schtick. My PR pals at Sitrick Public Relations agree that you'll really need to distance yourself from all of this and from me too.
G: Makes sense. How should that happen?
Call me a hopeless optimist, but I think the developments in LA put more pressure on the Vatican to take action against Bishop Finn in Kansas City.
Don't misunderstand me: Mahony's so-called 'restrictions' and Curry's so-called 'resignation' are ineffectual symbolism and hollow gestures. Both retain their titles (Cardinal and Bishop, respectively). Both have ever-so-slightly lighter workloads. Both keep their salaries, health insurance, dental coverage, car allowances, and all the rest.
Both will be a little bit less visible. (That, however, may be advantageous for them, given how horrifically they've treated hundreds of victims and hundreds of thousands of Catholics.)
Still, something has been done in LA. In contrast, nothing has been done in KC.
One can argue "Mahony and Curry have been deceptive for much longer than Finn." True, but Finn's deception – in the Fr. Shawn Ratigan case and others - is far more recent.
Mahony and Curry claim "years ago, we didn't understand, but now we've learned." That’s a pretty weak excuse to begin with, but since Finn’s deception occurred long after the clergy sex abuse crisis exploded, there’s no way he could use a similar excuse.
Mahony and Curry have huge staffs, but Finn's diocese and staff are much smaller. It's harder for him to pretend "my underlings didn't tell me" or "my staff misinformed me."
The tiny consequences against Mahony and Curry have come far too late and are far too weak. But they are something. They’re better than nothing.
Bishop Finn, however, has felt no repercussions from his church colleagues or superiors (even though he has been slightly punished by the secular authorities).
In the past year, more punishments (small though they may be) have been doled out to church officials than ever before. From Msgr. William Lynn in Philadelphia to Cardinal Roger Mahony in Los Angeles, the Vatican must take notice. Perhaps, they’ll even do the right thing and take action in Kansas City.