Archive for February, 2013
Voice of the Faithful® has long called for greater accountability and transparency throughout the Church and has pointed out that, because of constant pressure, attitudes have been shifting slowly. The Los Angeles judge’s order for the archdiocese to release unredacted secret documents has certainly added to that pressure. Reflecting on Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez’s actions regarding Cardinal Roger Mahony, which resulted from the contents of those documents, experienced Vatican watcher John L. Allen gives us this in commentary today in National Catholic Reporter:
… most basically, the culture of the church is evolving in the direction of greater accountability. Yes, it’s happening under external pressure, and yes, it’s taking an awfully long time. Nonetheless, the wheels are slowly grinding in the direction of the idea that when someone drops the ball, there need to be consequences?”
Click this link — Gomez, Mahony and the ‘Sodano Rule’ — and you may read Allen’s entire column.
This dotCommonweal blog post offers two quotes. The first from Pope Benedict XVI in 2002 when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The second from Fr. Robert Oliver, recently appointed by Benedict XVI as Promoter of Justice at the Congregation, during a press conference yesterday afternoon in Rome.
By Bill Casey, member of Voice of the Faithful® Survivor Support and Child Protection working group and former board chair
The reprehensible behavior by hierarchical officials to assign known abuser-clergy to new parishes and schools, without alerting their communities of the risk to children (and even adults), is a well-documented pattern of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal. Less well-documented are equally insidious hierarchical decisions to move abuser-clergy from one diocese to another, again without disclosure of risk to communities where they next serve.
A victim/survivor in Vancouver, British Columbia, recently shed light on this latter behavior by filing a civil lawsuit against the Vancouver Archdiocese and the priest they removed from active ministry after she reported that he sexually abused her as a minor. However, less than a year after her report, the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island re-activated this same priest’s ministry and assigned him to parish work for the next six years—that is, until it too had to remove him a second time for “problems of a similar nature”. Although the Vancouver Archdiocese claims that it fully informed the Rockville Center Diocese of the priest’s history, Rockville Centre has been silent on this matter.
The abuser-priest, Fr. Damian Cooper, also known as Lawrence Cooper, began grooming Kathleen Taylor at age 16 while providing counseling to her at a youth leadership camp, and four months later began a sexually abusive sexual relationship. The abuse lasted for five years until Taylor broke his hold over her and reported his abuse to Vancouver Archdiocesan officials. The Archdiocese removed Cooper from active ministry when it learned of what it offensively referred to as Cooper’s “affair”.
When the Archdiocese denied Cooper’s request to be reinstated after six months of counseling, he moved to New York for additional professional help. Two months later, the Diocese of Rockville Centre returned Cooper to ministry and assigned him to at least two parishes for the next six years—until, as noted, it removed him from active ministry for “problems of a similar nature.”
After the Vancouver Archdiocese learned of his second removal, it recommended to Cooper that he seek laicization from the Vatican.
A recommendation, seriously? That is the extent of their responsibility for the priest they trained and ordained? Whether Cooper is laicized or not, Cooper is a risk if he has access to girls or women in a pastoral relationship. Yet he appears on no sex registry where adults have an opportunity to take preventive measures. Further, the communities in which he served in the Vancouver and Rockville Centre dioceses likely have no information about him. Neither Vancouver nor Rockville Centre seemed to take any responsibility for their “charge” once they no longer permitted his active service.
By bringing a civil action against the Vancouver Archdiocese and Cooper, Kathleen Taylor has taken on responsibility to bring Cooper’s sexual abuse into the public domain. As a survivor, she is trying to alert the public to the risk of Cooper remaining as an ordained priest and working in a position of trust in future without the Church providing any indication of the risk to girls or women. She also wishes to inform and reach out to other possible victims of Cooper’s abuse, so they know they are not solitary victims.
The Vancouver Archdiocese stated that the abuse victim was not a minor in the abuse that led to Cooper’s second removal. However, adult women who are sexually exploited by priests in pastoral relationships often find it even more difficult to come forward and ask for support after being abused, because they are made to feel that the abuse was somehow their choice, or their fault. In this context, was the second woman informed by the Church that she was not Cooper’s first victim, or did the Church once again try to pass off the abuse as an “affair”? Taylor feels that this second, unnamed victim, along with any other adult victims of pastoral sexual abuse, deserves to know the truth and be supported in taking whatever actions will support her healing.
As admirable as Taylor’s motives are in this regard, I wonder why the Catholic hierarchy wash their hands of the needs of actual or potential victims in their communities where abuser-priests served, or currently reside?
Kathleen Taylor has stood tall and is actively trying to do what Church officials are not. VOTF leaders at the national office and on Long Island are supporting her efforts.
More information about this story is available at the following two links:
As more and more information surfaces about clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Archdiocese Is Accused of Failing to Release All Abuse Records), and as a report on the horrific events in Ireland’s Magdalene laundries is about to be published (Magdalene Laundries Report Published Today), perhaps it’s time to review the history of this ongoing scandal in the Catholic Church. Here is a three-minute version …
He says he turned over an archdiocese ‘second to none’ in protecting children — Responding to a public rebuke by his successor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony insisted that he tried his best to deal with the priest molestation scandal but fell short because not enough was known about the problem early in his career.” By Mitchell Landsberg and Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
The church files are filled with outrage, pain and confusion. There are handwritten notes from distraught mothers, accounts of furious phone calls from brothers and perplexed inquiries from the police following up on allegations of priests sexually abusing children.” By Jennifer Medina and Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
To those familiar with the protocols of the Catholic hierarchy, the news was stunning. The archbishop of Los Angeles publicly rebuked his predecessor, a cardinal, for his failures in dealing with the priest sex abuse scandal. The action by Archbishop Jose Gomez, relieving Cardinal Roger Mahony of “any administrative or public duties,” was remarkable on two levels.” Editorial in National Catholic Reporter
Only now is the full scope of the roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ culpability in the sex abuse scandal being confirmed. — Not only did the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles fail to protect children from pedophile priests, but its leaders, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, subsequently sought to protect its reputation by covering up cases of sexual abuse and shielding priests from the arrest and prosecution they deserved. The archdiocese then spent more than a decade fighting to keep that coverup from being revealed in court.” Editorial in the Los Angeles Times
Voice of the Faithful® sees some slight, long overdue justice in the recent removal of retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony from public ministry for abetting clergy sexual abuse, a first in the decades-long scandal. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Mahony’s censure in a letter Jan. 31 in which he stated that, effective immediately, Mahony “would no longer have any administrative or public duties.”
Gomez also stated in his letter that he had accepted the resignation of Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who as a monsignor under Mahony had discussed with him how to hide molestation of children by priests from parishioners, police and the public.
VOTF has long stressed that Church discipline of hierarchy involved in the clergy sexual scandal is absolutely necessary to show that the Church will not tolerate child sex abuse. Holding bishops accountable also is a crucial step towards renewal and healing. Although Gomez’s action appears little more than a slap on the wrist for Mahony, the move, which is likely unprecedented in Church history, does signal a move in the right direction.
But more is needed. “All secret files must be released,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president, “and made public before we gain closure on this deplorable piece of our Catholic fabric, which not only was stained repeatedly by abusive priests, but also—and worse—was covered up by a complicit hierarchy.”
Bishop Gomez’s action follows the release of thousands of pages of confidential Church documents on clergy sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese containing the names of Church leaders who had covered up clergy sexual abuse of children. These names formerly had been blacked out of the documents, but the un-redacted documents were released after a judge’s order to do so.
In a letter to parishioners, Gomez calls the behavior described in the documents “terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.” VOTF agrees.
The formerly secret documents now are being assessed for possible actions by state authorities, but many of the crimes that have come to light so far are likely to fall outside California’s statute of limitation on child sex abuse. This underscores the necessity of reforming such statutes, which VOTF and other organizations have stated repeatedly is necessary to protect children adequately from predators and bring some measure of justice to survivors.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.