Monday, August 31, 2009
Why does Peter Verrill, Chairman of the Diocese of Portland Finance Council, think it's OK for the bishop to live in a $1.2 million mansion?
September 1, 2009
Peter Verrill of Cumberland Foreside is Chairman of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland Finance Council.
In a letter published on the diocese web site, Verrill explains that his responsibilities include assisting the bishop "in achieving openness and transparency in diocesan financial reporting."
That said, we want Mr. Verrill to explain why the diocese financial report for the period ending June 30, 2008 was not published on the diocese web site until two weeks ago (and only after intense pressure from a small group of Catholics), even though the report was completed seven months prior, in November 2008.
We want Mr. Verrill to explain why he and Bishop Malone will not publish (on the diocese web site) the names of the other eight laypeople who serve on the Finance Council (Mary Arnold is Chairperson of the Budget/Audit Committee).
We want Mr. Verrill to explain why he said and did nothing when Bishop Malone utilized a legal defense known as the "Charitable Immunity Doctrine" against a victim of clergy sex abuse. Malone attempted to avoid financial reparations for the harms and injuries inflicted upon a 12 year old boy by claiming that the diocese didn't have any money.
Finally, we want Chairman Verrill to explain why he supports Bishop Malone's decision to use Church funds for the purpose of the bishop residing by himself in a $1.2 million, 7,000 sq.ft., 16 room, three story brick mansion that includes six bedrooms, four full baths and a three car garage.
The bishop's $19,620 property tax payment is more than many Mainers make in an entire year.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
August 30, 2009
One can only hope that Rev. Mark Hession, the homilist at Senator Kennedy's funeral mass, was able to hear his own words as he spoke about Senator Kennedy's never ending compassion, love and understanding for the least among us.
In 2003, Rev. Hession was asked about the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. In an interview published in National Catholic Reporter, Hession said, "I can’t wait to get off the sex abuse piece of it.” He added that there are many other issues that need attention. “And when we put all the numbers together in this particular crisis, it’s almost indecent, frankly, that we are still tearing at it ourselves.”
In September 2007, Rev. Hession refused to meet with and speak to a small group of victims of clergy sex abuse and supporters who held a morning vigil outside Rev. Hession's parish in Cape Cod. The advocates were calling for Rev. Paul E. Miceli, a former high ranking archdiocese official and part-time pastor at Hession's parish, to apologize for his role in reassigning accused abuser priests to parishes and schools.
By his words and actions, Rev. Hession has inflicted additional insult, hurt and injury upon those who were abused and their families.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
August 28, 2009
The more the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland shutters its churches and puts them on the real estate market, the larger the question looms: Should Maine's bishop still be living in a million-dollar mansion?
It's on Portland's tony Western Promenade. According to city tax records, the 6,970-square-foot, three-story "mansion" has six bedrooms, 4 baths, an 840-square-foot garage and an assessed value of $1,126,000.
In short, pretty nice digs by anyone's standards. Too nice, according to at least one perennial thorn in the side of Bishop Richard Malone.
"It's not about Richard Malone," said Paul Kendrick, a Roman Catholic who for years has publicly decried the church's handling of the sexual abuse of children by priests. "It's about 'What kind of church is this?'"
Kendrick fired off a mass-distribution e-mail this week after hearing that five churches – Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Saco, St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Andre churches in Biddeford, and St. Joseph and St. Patrick churches in Lewiston – will close this year and next because of shrinking congregations, growing costs to maintain the buildings and the need to protect religious programs and services from ever-increasing parish deficits.
"Bishop Malone wants Maine's Catholics to cut costs, spend less and do without," observed Kendrick. "Everyone, that is, but him."
Tough words, to be sure, from a man who last year was threatened with official church sanctions (not to mention police arrest) if he didn't steer clear of Malone.
Still, it's not the first time in recent years that the opulence of a bishop's residence has raised eyebrows – and in a few cases, led to "For Sale" signs.
Six years ago, as the Archdiocese of Boston struggled to pay for legal claims by those sexually abused by priests, Cardinal Sean O'Malley sold the palatial cardinal's residence in Brighton, Mass., and moved into the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End. The move, which caught many by surprise, won O'Malley widespread praise, even from the archdiocese's harshest critics.
Last fall, Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh put his residence up for sale and moved into a seminary to be closer to those studying to be priests. The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, said this week that the property, valued last fall at $1.5 million, is now under contract and will likely be sold within the next few weeks.
Zubik told the media last fall that his decision reflects "more pressing concerns" facing the diocese as it struggles to make ends meet and at the same time fulfill its basic missions, including "reaching out to the poor."
"People think it's good that he is moving in with the seminarians," said Lengwin. "And that it's good for the church."
Then there's the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, where Bishop George Murry put his suburban residence on the market for $339,000 three months ago and moved into a smaller home in the city. Murry also announced that many furnishings from the stately five-bedroom home would be donated to Catholic Charities.
Diocese of Youngstown Chancellor Nancy Yuhasz said Thursday that although the property has not yet been sold, Murry's decision has been "received very well by the parishioners and the clergy." The old residence "is so large and such an expense," Yuhasz said. "It shows we're trying to be good stewards of our resources."
Back here in Portland, diocesan spokeswoman Sue Bernard said it would be a mistake to assume a connection between what it costs to run the diocese – including, for example, the $19,620 annual property-tax bill for the bishop's residence – and the ongoing efforts to bring various parishes' property more in line with their current needs.
(The diocese's operations are funded from a variety of sources, Bernard said, including a 12 percent levy on each parish's total revenue and a bishop's fundraising appeal made directly each year to Maine's estimated 200,000 Roman Catholics.)
Malone's charge to the parishes, Bernard noted, has been to determine "What do you need? Take a look at what you need and see if there's an excess there."
But might the same challenge be put to the bishop? Considering that he lives alone, does he truly need six bedrooms, four bathrooms, a three-car garage?
Bernard noted that the mansion, which has served as the bishop's residence since Bishop Joseph McCarthy purchased it for the diocese back in 1939, is used to entertain visitors to the diocese and for other social functions.
"He lives there by himself," she said, "but he isn't the only one who uses it."
What's more, Bernard said, while it's in a "lovely neighborhood," the interior could use some work. "There's wallpaper coming off in some places, peeling paint."
So why not sell it and move into the rectory at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where Maine's bishops lived before 1939?
In addition to generating, say, a million dollars from a sale and saving another $25,000 or so in annual operating expenses, might not such a downsizing send a powerful message to Maine's Roman Catholics about living within one's needs in these austere times?
"I'm sure there are people who would agree," Bernard conceded.
Starting, of course, with Kendrick, who titled his latest missive "Do Catholics in Biddeford, Saco and Lewiston know about this?"
"We're talking about the parishioners' money," Kendrick said, "and there's too much else to do with it."
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:
Bishop Malone's decision to live by himself in a million dollar mansion is a symptom of a much larger problem in the Church
- "What does Jesus (really) expect of us?"
- "How does every decision you make affect, enable or involve the poor?"
- 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
- When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
- When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
- And he will say to them in reply,
- Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
August 16, 2008
I became part of the “regiment” as a Dominican priest in May, 1970. I first became aware of the reality of sexual abuse of minors by priests before I was ordained through rumors and stories about certain priests in the Order who “liked altar boys.” I never knew that “liking altar boys ” went far beyond touching until after I was ordained. I learned the disgusting extent of “liking altar boys” in 1984 when I was working at the Vatican embassy and first became involved with the whole issue of clergy sex abuse. That was when I was asked to manage the file of Gilbert Gauthe, the notorious priest from Lafayette LA. My direct involvement increased with each month and each year and continues today.
Let me start out by offering my conclusion. The “regiment” truly is dishonored. It is dishonored in part by the thousands of priests who have raped and abused innocent boys, girls, men and women…..and in doing so have ravaged their souls and the souls of those who loved them. But the regiment is dishonored even more by the bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes, who have enabled, covered up, lied, manipulated, ignored and responded in anything but a Christian manner. They have really dishonored the regiment because they have knowingly turned their backs on that which the regiment is really all about, namely following the example of Christ. They can’t fall back on the excuse that they suffer from a sexual disorder or are impaired by substance abuse. Their impairment is a moral impairment and there is no excuse for that. Two recent examples: the first I will cite is the total lack of hierarchical integrity in Chicago! Cardinal George is a criminal and a traitor to the regiment……but will the members of the regiment who are so concerned about its honor step up and call him on it? No! Why not? Fear, timidity, irrelevant respect for the office? Pick one. They are all irrelevant to the facts. The second example is the famed Msgr. Wally Harris is New York. The hero of Harlem was interviewed by the John Jay Study people and complained about the number of false accusations…..all the while knowing he was guilty himself.
The regiment has also been dishonored by the thousands of priests who knew that others were abusing children and did nothing. It is dishonored by the thousands who looked the other way and failed to speak out in support of the victims. It is dishonored by the many priests who stood by in silence while their bishops ran roughshod over victims, lying to them, lying to the public and lying to the clergy because of their obsession with their image and their power.
The regiment is dishonored by those priests who have spoken out but only to voice their self-centered concern about priests’ rights and the tarnished image of the priesthood brought on by “a few.” It is dishonored by those who have complained about the bishops’ lack of concern for priests, manifested in the provisions of the Dallas Charter and their on-going lopsided response but who have never complained about the bishops’ dishonest, unchristian and criminal response to reports of the denial of the victims’ rights. The regiment is dishonored by the priests who whine and complain about the shame brought on them by the minority of abusers. The shame is not only from them but from the silence and complacency of the majority.
The regiment is dishonored by those priests and bishops who keep trying to shift the blame to anyone but themselves with idiotic claims such as that of Madison’s Bishop Morlino who recently announced that the whole problem was caused because people didn’t obey the 1968 anti-birth control encyclical Humanae Vitae.
I’d like to share some of my own experiences which have led to these conclusions. When I first became involved in this issue in 1984 I was shocked to learn that former priest Gil Gauthe had raped dozens of children but I was even more shocked, scandalized and confused as I quickly learned that the US Catholic Conference and the bishops who knew about the abuse were only concerned about covering it up. When cover up was impossible due to the lawsuit filed and the criminal charges against Gauthe that came as a consequence, the response from the leadership of the Bishops’ Conference was as if this was a nuisance that would go away much more quickly if I stopped pushing it. A couple priests on the embassy staff told me that it would be best if I back off because “we don’t air our dirty laundry in public.”
The Gauthe case and the others that came to light back then did not go away. I don’t remember anyone at the time showing any concern for the victims with the exception of Fr. Mike Peterson. No one from the Bishops’ Conference or from the embassy staff ever mentioned the victims. All they worried about was containing the problem and managing the negative publicity.
After I left the embassy I was approached by the media several times. I spoke honestly and shared as much as I knew. I was criticized by priests because I opened up the brotherhood to dishonor as one put it. I still recall being at a Canon Law convention in Florida in the late eighties. Just prior to it I had given an interview that was widely quoted. At the convention I was attacked by several priests and was accused of betraying the brotherhood. Not one priest asked about the truth of the matter and no one was concerned about the problem itself or about the victims……they were only concerned about the bad publicity for the “regiment.”
In spring of 1986 I had organized an all day seminar in the Chicago area. Presenters included psychologists and attorneys who would provide information on responding to the problem and to the victims. We invited bishops and chancery officials from around the U.S. Not long before the event Cardinal Bernardin called me and urged me to cancel the event because he felt it would draw undue attention to the problem and would “sensationalize” it, to use his words. I refused. We held the seminar to a full house but not one priest from Chicago attended. Why? Because the Cardinal had let the word out that it was to be boycotted. Best to let the problem get worse rather than dishonor the Chicago branch of the regiment.
In 1992 I attended the first major gathering of victims in Chicago, the Vocal (later LinkUp) conference. I met three priests who were there because they had been ministering to victims. All three had spoken about the evil of clergy sex abuse from their pulpits and all three had been silenced and disciplined by their bishops for drawing undue attention to what one bishop referred to as a “minor problem.” I might add that since then there have been annual gatherings of victims sponsored by the two main support groups, LinkUp and SNAP. The clergy have never flocked to these gatherings to show their concern or support for victims. True, a few brave men always show up, but never more than a few. Only one bishop has ever attended and stood in solidarity and support of the victims, Bishop Tom Gumbleton. Where were the others?
In 1988 Bishop A.J. Quinn of Cleveland wrote to my former boss, the Vatican ambassador or nuncio as he is called, and complained about me. He was upset that I was magnifying the problem by speaking to the media. He told the nuncio in his letter that the “pedophile nuisance” would soon go away. To his credit the Vatican ambassador, Cardinal Laghi, sent me a copy of the letter and told me that he did not agree with Quinn’s statements.
Between 1984 and 2002 I do not recall a single instance where a priest or a group of priests spoke out publicly in support of victims other than the outstanding speech Andy Greeley gave at the 1992 conference mentioned above. I do not know of any who have publicly criticized the way bishops were responding. I don’t know of any priests’ senate ever saying anything publicly. The Canon Law Society of America had a couple seminars about the issue but has never done anything worthwhile other than express concern over priests’ rights. Nothing about victims or victims’ rights!
I recall when I was on active duty with the Air Force being called by a priest who worked at the Archdiocese for the Military Services. He advised me to stop speaking to the press and also told me that the archbishop was considering issuing me an order to stop testifying on behalf of victims. He assured me that they were concerned about the problem but that there was a better way to handle it. My response…….doesn’t waste your time and effort because I am not going to stop.
Many priests have told me over the years that if the church had only followed Canon Law we would not be in this mess. Nonsense! Canon Law is what the bishops want it to be. It has never been effective in protecting the rights of lay people. It has been totally useless in bringing justice to victims. It’s not that the canon law system lacks the provisions for action. But law has to be applied to mean anything and the people in charge of making Canon La w work are the bishops. Need more be said?
After 2002 things changed and people were speaking out all over. For the first time the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, an independent group, started making noises. They were concerned about priests’ rights in light of the Dallas Charter and the zero tolerance policy of the bishops. They had never said anything before this and expressed concern only about themselves and not about victims. They still have done nothing to help the victims.
Since 1988 I have reviewed several hundred priest-personnel files. In my work as a consultant and expert witness in civil cases and grand jury investigations I have also reviewed several hundred depositions taken from cardinals, bishops and priests. Many of these are available for all to see on several websites. In most of these depositions when asked about their knowledge of sexual abuse by accused clerics, the deponents either could not remember or they simply denied the abuse. While there were certainly cases when these clerics did not in fact have any direct or indirect knowledge, in most it was known from other sources that they did know about the abuse in question. How can one explain the denials and the memory lapses? My conclusion was that these clerical deponents either suffered from some form of cognitive disorder, or brain damage in plain English, or they were lying. Either way, these clerical deponents could have assisted in the search for the truth and supported the victims. They did not. They covered for the abusers even under oath. They chose to bring dishonor to the regiment.
The Knights of Columbus take great pride in their loyalty to the Church and to the bishops. They regularly show their support for priests and announce their love for the Church. They shell out barrels of money to the Vatican, to bishops, to seminaries and to other causes in support of priests. The Knights of Columbus h ave totally missed the boat. They have supported priests and bishops in their moral bankruptcy and in their destruction of the bodies and souls of the victims of abuse. They have said and done nothing to support the victims. Remember the words of Jesus: “If you do this to the least of my brothers you do it to me.” It looks as if the Knights and the bishops they protect have somehow missed that verse.
In the early days Andy Greeley spoke out publicly in support of victims. Over the years several priests have reached out to victims and survivors and some have even stuck their necks out, going public with their criticism. They were punished by their bishops and usually hammered or isolated by their “brother” priests. Since 2002 I have become aware of a small number of heroic priests who have placed their Christian commitment before the “brotherhood” or the image of the regiment and in so doing this small band of brothers has brought honor to the regiment. I’d like to name a few because these are the men who really live what Christian pastorship is all about: Ken Lasch, Bob Hoatson, Bruce Teague, Dave Hitch, John Bambrick, Gary Hayes, Jim Scahill, Tom Gumbleton, Geoff Robinson, Pat Powers, Pat Collins, Ron Coyne, Don Cozzens, Walter Cuenin, Bob Bowers……to name some but not all. Some quietly support and others provide direct pastoral care. Ken Lasch and Bob Hoatson, through Road to Recovery, have provided more pastoral care to victims in one day than all the bishops combined in 20 years. There are others whose names I cannot recall right now.
There are also the 58 priests from Boston who signed the letter asking Bernard Law to step down. In the clerical world, where priests are often treated like indentured servants, that was an incredibly brave act.
There are priests who complain about the many false accusations and the lack of legal representation and due process for accused priests. In the first place there are very few false accusations….10 that I know of out of thousands of cases. Those who make this charge have produced no credible evidence beyond rumor and hearsay. There is however truth to the complaint that there is little effective canonical-legal representation for accused priests….just like there has NEVER been any canonical-legal representation or due process for the victims of clergy abuse. Why is this so? Because the bishops do not believe in objective due process for anyone but themselves.
Perhaps the most sickening charges use the words “Catholic-bashing, priest-bashing or anticlericalism.” If there is shame attached to being a priest today it’s because the priests and bishops have brought it on themselves. If any group is responsible for anti-Catholic sentiment it’s the bishops. Their self-serving response to the victims of abuse is about as anti-Catholic as one can get. If being a good and orthodox Catholic means essentially being a good and faithful Christian, then the bi shops are the largest single group of dissenters and unorthodox heretics in the Catholic Church. They have sacrificed charity for image and institutional power. They have redefined orthodoxy to mean mindless obedience to their obsession with themselves and their power.
There is nothing magical or mystical about the priesthood that justifies any special treatment in the face of committed crimes. If we look at the gospels we find nothing that even remotely justifies setting priests on a pedestal or granting them “above-the-law” status. On the contrary there is abundant evidence that Jesus showed plenty of anger towards the church men of his time because they had lost their way and abused the people whom they were supposed to serve. There is ample scriptural evidence to justify a priesthood that would devote itself to the care of the marginalized, forgotten, abused and rejected. In our era the marginalized have been made so by the very clergy who have been ordained to protect them. Why then does it seem that the hierarchy and so many of the priests are so adamant in defending a priesthood that looks and acts more like a latter-day aristocracy in an anachronistic monarchy?
Perhaps one reason is that priests are formed from the beginning into a clerical culture that teaches them that God wants a “regiment” that is set apart and special. Perhaps yet another reason is that priests are formed in a culture that rewards docility, unquestioning obedience, intellectual mediocrity and total loyalty to the papacy and hierarchy while it dismisses and even punishes originality, creativity, independence or loyalty to one’s conscience.
I have heard more than one diocesan priest describe his state as “economic servitude” while complaining that the bishop held him in total captivity with the power to suspend his salary, health benefits, retirement, residence and ability to work. It is pathetic but true that fear is major component in convincing many priests to stay loyal to the brotherhood.
In spite of what appears to be a very bleak picture, I believe it is unfair and inaccurate to write off the entire priesthood as uncaring, weak or dishonest. In my travels I have either met or heard about many men whose essential loyalty is to the mission and ministry of Christ and not to the adulation of the papacy or the hierarchy. They serve unselfishly and often among those whom they serve are the victims and survivors of sexual or spiritual abuse inflicted by priests or bishops.
On the other hand it is dishonest and destructive to try to minimize the incredible damage that has been done by dismissing it, saying it is the result of a minuscule number of “bad apples.” The actual numbers are certainly not minuscule. Far more s hameful is that fact that the number of bishops who have lied, covered up and enabled is not a minority but the majority. Priests and bishops have to wake up and face reality. There has been immense dishonor and shame brought to the “regiment” because the “regiment” has been subjected to self-delusion. Its members, at least some of them, have actually believed they were part of some sort of elite fraternity and in so doing have lost sight of the fact that it’s not a “regiment” at all but a group of men whose calling is not to be “special” but to be compassionate reminders of the compassionate Christ.
One final shot and it’s at the nuns who have arrogantly and stupidly tried to frame sexual abuse as a “male” or “clergy” problem. Sex abuse by nuns has been covered more deeply and has been more difficult for the general public to swallow…but it is a major element of the overall nightmare. The dishonor to their regiment and the ruination of countless boys and girls, men and women brought about because of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse by women religious has been just as horrific as that perpetrated by the clerics. The nuns’ major organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, has responded to the victims with just as much arrogant and imperious disregard as have the bishops. The nuns have shown themselves to be just as clericalized as their male counterparts. They have brought just as much dishonor to their regiment as the clerics have to theirs.
Together the priests, bishops, nuns and brothers who have sexually abused minors and adults and those from these ranks who have looked the other way, denied, lied, covered up, revictimized and enabled, constitute a disgusting, sorry mess that has brought great dishonor not only to their respective regiments but to the Body of Christ.
1. They're afraid of what their bishop will do to them.
2. They're afraid that parishioners will think them unloyal and disobedient to their bishop.
3. They're afraid that the weekly collection basket will return more empty than full.
4. They're afraid their fellow priests will scoff and reject them.
5. They're afraid to speak out on behalf of survivors because Silence is the number one "Golden Rule" among clergy.
6. They're afraid their families and lay friends will think them "radical dissenters" within the church.
7. They're afraid to support survivors because doing so is a sure ticket to no advancement within the clerical hierarchy.
8. They're afraid to support survivors because they believe that reconciliation and forgiveness of clerical perps takes precedence over compassion and justice for survivors.
9. They're afraid because they believe that revealing additional sexual abuse scandals will destroy the church.
10. They're afraid because they are more concerned about themselves than those they are ordained to serve.
Pauline Salvucci of Maine is a former religious sister who now advocates for church reform and accountability.
Jesus as Pastor
by Rev. Thomas Doyle
The Catholic theological tradition has portrayed Jesus Christ as the Eternal High Priest, the epitome and model of the priesthood and the archetype upon which all priests should model their ministry.
Hence we would expect that every priest, when faced with any decision that involved the spiritual welfare of believers, or a dilemma over whether to follow a gospel imperative, would ask the question that has almost become a mantra for some: "What Would Jesus Do?"
Yet it is ironic that in his three years of public life, Jesus did little if anything that a traditional, clerical priest does.
He did not conduct services. He did not chair committees. He was neither a fund raiser nor an administrator. He was not worried about his career progression nor was he concerned about the quality of the robes he wore. He did not have an office and he was hardly worried about whether his style of ministry with the people pleased or displeased the leadership of his church.
Anger, whether expressed by Jesus or directed at him was always from or about a single issue: the abuse of power by the religious leaders of his day and their failure to respect the believers.
Jesus did little that the priest, a clerical "organization man" does.
However, he imprinted on history, by his life and actions, the authentic model of priest as pastor.
He took the incredible risk of looking beyond his own security in order to fulfill his mandate to make real the love of his father for all, especially the disenfranchised, the marginalized and the powerless. He incurred the anger and even rage of the religious leadership of his time because he risked everything to call them to account. He completely confounded and perplexed them because he was in it, not for himself, but totally for others, a concept totally alien to the religious establishment of the time.
Bishop Richard Malone recommends to pastor that he lie to parishioners about the reason for a child abuser priest's sudden departure from the parish.
Bishop Malone's memo can be found on pages 43-44. The memo is transcribed below:
Office of the Regional Bishop
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
FROM: Bishop Malone (initialed)
DATE: January 26, 2002
SUBJECT: Father Daniel Graham, Father Robert Monagle
I. Father Daniel Graham
I met this morning with Father Daniel Graham and informed him that, because of the new policy of the Archdiocese with regard to past instances of clergy sexual abuse of minors, Cardinal Law was asking him to resign as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Quincy, effective immediately.
I assured Father Graham that we are very aware that he has been giving excellent service as pastor of St. Joseph Parish and as vicar forane, and that absolutely no one is questioning the integrity of his behavior at this time. I told him that we know he had received very good psychological assessments and that the archdiocesan review board, under the former policy, had in the past agreed that he could appropriately serve in active ministry. I reiterated the recent change in the policy, and reminded him that the Cardinal has been giving the assurance that as far as we know, no priest with a past history of sexual abuse of a minor is currently serving in ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston.
While he was shocked with the suddenness of this decision, he seemed to understand the reason for it. He did not fight it in any way, but accepted it in a very sad but manly fashion.
I told Dan that he was not to appear at any Masses in the parish from this weekend on, despite the fact that it is Father Bob Monagle's good bye weekend.
I offered him the opportunity of being admitted to St. Elizabeth Medical Center this afternoon for a full health and pschological workup. I told him that the Cardinal had arranged for this with Dr. McDonald. Dan declined this option. He would prefer simply to go on health leave and move home with his elderly and ailing father. He did say that one good thing about this miserable situation is that he will now be able to attend better to his own health challenges, and also be able to spend more time with his father, whom he does not expect to live much longer. He expressed the hope that he might be able to celebrate his father's funeral Mass. After consultation with you, Father Higgins, I told him that I did not have an answer to that question at this time.
I also told Dan that it is important that he arrange right away with his own physicians to have a full examination, including the psychological dimensions. He nodded in agreement. He told me that only one priest, a close friend, Father John Malloy, knows of his past abuse allegation. He will be in contact with John about this recent development right away. I also assured him of the Cardinal's and my own care and esteem for him, and that we both find this to be a very painful thing. He appreciated that, and knows that we are willing to help him in any way that we
I told Dan that I would be talking to Fr. Bob Monagle about this situation right away. Dan did not have a problem with that.
This was the most difficult thing I have had to do as a bishop and, perhaps, in 30 years as a priest. But, with God's grace, it is done.
II. Father Robert Monagle
After some difficulty, I was able to contact Father Robert Monagle. Because he was preparing to go to a burial, and I to a parish visitation, we had tom speak on the phone in a confidential manner. I informed him of my meeting ewith Dan Graham, and outlined for him what I had communicated to Dan. Bob had no knowledge whatsover of Dan's past abuse allegations. I explained that he and Dan should talk as soon as Bob returned from the burial, and determine what will be said to the parish during the weekend Masses. I recommended that they announce that because of some health problems, Dan has taken a health leave, effective immediately. That will later turn to retirement, but that should not be mentioned at this time.
Bob said there is no problem covering the weekend Masses, since there are several priests who assist at St. Joseph's. He needs no help at this time.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Father Michael Doucette is an admitted child abuser. Neighbors must be vigilant. Doucette lives at 177 Carver Street in Waterville, Maine
Vatican Confirms Disciplinary Actions
The Diocese of Portland has received a decision from the Vatican confirming the disciplinary measures the Diocese imposed on Michael Doucette who has been out of priestly ministry since 2002. When a victim came forward in 1991 with a claim of having been abused in the early 1980’s, Doucette admitted to the abuse, was removed from ministry, and was immediately sent for treatment. He was placed back in ministry in 1992, but was removed again in April of 2002 when another individual complained of improper sexual advances, which took place before Doucette’s treatment in 1991.
The decision from Rome confirms that while Doucette remains a priest, he cannot have any public ministry; cannot present himself as a priest or wear clerical garb. Doucette lives in-state.
Doucette was ordained in 1975 and had the following assignments:
St. Martin of Tours, Millinocket 1975 St. Andre Parish, Biddeford 1976 St. Louis Parish, Fort Kent 1980 Campus Parish, University of Maine at Fort Kent 1981 Sacred Heart Parish, North Caribou and Mission of St. Theresa, Stockholm 1984 Auxiliary Chaplain, Loring Air Force Base 1985 (in addition to Caribou assignment) 1985 St. Thomas Parish, Madawaska 1991 St. Charles Parish, St. Francis and Missions of St. John, St. John and St. Paul, Allagash 2000 St. Agatha Parish, St. Agatha and Mission of St. Joseph, Sinclair; St. Luce, Frenchville 2001.
Why are Catholics in Biddeford, Saco and Lewiston so upset?
Bishop Malone says he is closing their parishes because the cost of operating and maintaining the churches has been on the rise.
Wait a minute. What about the rising cost of operating and maintaining Bishop Malone's 7,000 sq. ft., three story brick mansion?
Does everyone know that the bishop lives by himself in a 16 room home that includes 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a 3 car garage?
The mansion and surrounding property is assessed by the City of Portland at $1 million.
Property taxes alone amount to more than $18,000 per year.
The bishop won't say how much it costs to heat his 7,000 sq. ft. home.
Here's the bottom line. Bishop Malone wants Maine's Catholics to cut costs, spend less and do without.
Everyone that is, but him.
Diocese Plans to Close Five Churches in Biddeford, Saco and Lewiston
MPBN The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
The Diocese says the churches are too expensive to operate and maintain in the face of a decline in parishioners.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland says it plans to close five churches in Biddeford, Saco and Lewiston. The Diocese says Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Saco and St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Biddeford will be closing as of December 31st of this year, and St. Andre Church in Biddeford will close in December of next year.
The Diocese says the Catholic population has declined, and over the past five years, the parish has seen twice as many burials as baptisms. Meanwhile, the cost of maintaining and operating the churches has been on the rise, resulting in a $48,000 deficit for the fiscal year that ended in June, and a projected $170,000 shortfall for next year.
The Diocese says plans are also in the works to close two churches in Lewiston -- St. Joseph and St. Patrick. A task force recommended the closings in March, concluding that the churches were too expensive to maintain and operate in the face of a decline in parishioners. Under the plan, the churches would be closed this fall and put on the market, along with their rectories. The plan requires the approval of Bishop Richard Malone.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
If you care about those in need, do not give money to Bishop Richard Malone, instead, give directly to Catholic Charities or a charity of your choice
August 22, 2009
If you care about the poor and needy, do not donate money to Bishop Malone's annual Harvest Ball.
Instead, write a check directly to Catholic Charities of Maine.
Catholics can do more for the poor and needy by writing a check directly to Catholic Charities of Maine and not to Bishop Richard Malone.
During these difficult economic times, Catholic Charities is struggling to provide funding for its programs and services.
Meanwhile, Bishop Richard Malone refuses to move out of his expensive to maintain million dollar, 16 room, 7,000 sq. ft. mansion.
Under Bishop Malone's leadership, the diocese has experienced an almost $40 million surplus during the past five years, yet the bishop has not substantially increased the diocese contribution to Catholic Charities of Maine.
Bishop Malone will use your donation to further provide for his personal comfort.
Catholic Charities will use your donation to lessen the discomfort of those who are hungry, without shelter and in need of medical care.
Hosted by Bishop Richard Malone
October 30, 2009
Holiday Inn by the Bay, Portland
A night of dinner, dancing and music to benefit Harvest Magazine
Enjoy a wonderful dinner.
Dance to the music of the Tony Boffa Band.
Share an evening with friends.
Bid on some great Silent Auction items.
The evening's festivities begin with a social hour at 7 p.m. followed by dinner at 8 p.m. with dancing to follow. The ticket price is $60 per person or $100 per couple. Organize a group and reserve a table of eight for $400. The ball is black tie optional.
Menu choices: Bleu Cheese Encrusted Sirloin, Zucchini Parmesan, or Mediterranean Chicken
To purchase tickets or for more information:
Call: 773-6471 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or Send Checks to: Harvest Ball Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland 510 Ocean Avenue Portland, ME 04103
Checks should be payable to: Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland
Please indicate your menu choice for each guest: Blue Cheese Encrusted Sirloin, Zucchini Parmesan, or Mediterranean Chicken
Sign up today and join the fun!
Bishop Richard Malone won't publish his home telephone number, but he allows full names of altar servers to be published on parish web sites.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Maine
For immediate release:
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
CHILD PROTECTION ALERT
At least two of Maine's Catholic parishes continue to publish names and telephone numbers of altar
servers on parish web sites.
Personal information about minor children is available to sex predators
“Over and over again, Bishop Malone tells Catholics that the protection of children is his “first priority.” Yet, earlier this year, the bishop announced that mandatory background checks on hundreds of church workers and volunteers were not been completed in a timely manner. Now it’s discovered that the names and phone numbers of innocent minor children are posted on parish web sites. Bishop Malone won’t allow his own home telephone number to be published anywhere, yet, it’s ok with him that private information about children is posted on a website. With this information, a sexual predator could easily locate the child’s home address.”
Marie Tupper, Maine Coordinator, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
“Two years ago, I alerted officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland that names, photos and/or email addresses of Catholic school children were being published on Catholic school web sites. Now, I have discovered that the names and telephone numbers of more children (altar servers) are posted on at least two more parish web sites. When children's names and phone numbers are posted on web sites, the children are exposed to sexual predators, both within and outside the Church. It's ironic, though, that at the same time that Bishop Malone is refusing to allow SNAP to place an ad in the diocesan news magazine, one that is intended to help protect children and reach out to victims of clergy sexual abuse, further evidence arises that the bishop is not paying attention and doing everything he can to protect innocent children from child sex abuse.”
Michael Sweatt, Maine VOTF leader
"This is more proof that the church hierarchy has fixated on damage control, rather than on simple, proven steps to keep kids safe. There's still a long, long way to go before kids are truly protected in the Catholic community. The fault here lies squarely with the bishop, who clearly should be providing effective training for Catholics, instead of providing expensive contracts for defense lawyers and public relations professionals."
David Clohessy, Executive Director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Executive Director, 314 566 9790
Marie Tupper, Maine SNAP Coordinator, 207 633 4608
Michael Sweatt, VOTF Maine, 207 831 3791
Sent via electronic mail
Administrative Assistant to Bishop Richard Malone
Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland Portland, Maine
Dear Ms. Connolly,
We are surprised by all the confusion surrounding our simple request to meet with Bishop Richard Malone. In two previous emails directed through you to Bishop Malone, we clearly stated that we we want Bishop Malone to "look us in the eye and assure us that children are not in danger from a priest sex offender whom we have identified as living anonymously in a Biddeford neighborhood."
We want nothing to do with Co-Chancellor, Sr. Rita-Mae Bissonnette. It is documented that Sr. Bissonnette covered up allegations of sexual abuse against Rev. Raymond Melville and other abuser priests. She placed innocent children in danger. I'm certain you can understand why we don't want her anywhere near us.
The other co-chancellor, Msgr. Marc Caron, has already refused to meet with me about the Biddeford issue. In fact, I waited in the reception area for two hours until I was told the building was closing. When I approached Msgr. Caron in the parking area, he told me he would not speak to me and walked away.
This need not be a complicated issue. The bishop is not being considerate to our concerns. Our request for a meeting is reasonable. These delay tactics are not necessary. Why do I have to keep calling back to get an appointment with the bishop? Now, you want our telephone numbers. What possible reason is there for you to ask us this information? The bishop knows who we are.
We want to meet with Bishop Malone sometime next week. What date and time is available?
Or, should we just show up unannounced at his residence and ring the doorbell?
October 16, 2006
Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
Dear Mr. Kerry,
The resources of Catholic Charities Maine are needed to help protect children from child sex abuse in a Biddeford neighborhood.
The information I have provided below advises you that a Diocese of Portland priest who has abused children is presently living in a neighborhood full of kids.
You can help protect these kids by speaking publicly about your concerns. Speaking privately to your pastor or the bishop is a waste of time.
If you choose to do nothing, a child may be harmed.
Paul T. Kendrick
Ed. Note: Mr. Kerry did not respond and took no action.
St. James School
25 Graham Street
Biddeford, Maine 04005
Dear Ms. Berthiaume,
It has been almost a month since I wrote to you and other Biddeford school and church officials regarding our concerns about a Diocese of Portland priest who has been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of 10 and 12 year-old children while serving as pastor of St. Joseph's Church many years ago.
Approximately ten years ago, this priest was removed from active ministry. However, parishioners were not told the reasons for his removal. He now lives anonymously in one of your neighborhoods. Bishop Richard Malone has failed to warn parents and children of the priest's past history of child sex abuse.
Bishop Malone is still covering up for priests who abused children.
Sadly, I have not received a response to my letter from either you or any other Biddeford church leader. Not one of you has asked for more information. Not one of you has asked for the priest's name and address. Not one of you has expressed any concern for the safety of children in your community.
If you are counting on Bishop Malone to fix this problem, you are sadly mistaken.
Therefore, members of the Ignatius Group will begin to stand in vigil on the sidewalk in front of St. James School. Our signs and leaflets will attempt to alert Biddeford parents and children that Bishop Malone's cover up of a child molester's presence in your community is placing your children at risk of sexual abuse.
Our vigil will be peaceful. We hope that you and members of your staff and faculty will join us and speak to us. We need your help. Vulnerable children must be protected.
August 2, 2009
Sadly, there is not one Catholic priest in Maine who has become a beacon of hope, understanding, love and compassion for those who were abused.
Here are Msgr. Henchal's own words (transcript from diocese DVD, Fishers of Men):
Q - With all that has happened in the Church recently, why do you choose to remain a priest?**
A - "Where else would I go? Um, and I don't mean that just in the sense of I'd be so insecure, otherwise, I mean it in the sense of, this is still very important and in some ways I think that the terrible tragedy of the abuse scandal, it's a terrible thing, but you know, it allowed people to see that priests are human beings, and I think that's a good thing, and so, we don't have to pretend to be perfect, we can know that even real sinfulness exists in the church, hopefully less frequently and not more frequently, but that we can be flawed persons. we're not perfect, so we don't have to."
*Msgr. Michael J. Henchal is pastor, St. Bartholomew's Church, Cape Elizabeth, Maine and was appointed Vicar General, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland (Maine) by Bishop Richard Malone.
**Transcript from interview with Msgr. Michael Henchal recorded on Fishers of Men (Diocese of Portland Priests share their vocation stories on 2 DVDs).
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Msgr. Marc Caron tells family member of child sex abuse victim, "I will not meet with you today or any other time"
For immediate release:
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Chancellor Marc Caron tells family member of sex abuse victim, "I will not meet with you."
She sat by herself for two hours in the chancery waiting room.
"My request is simple," said Marie Tupper of Boothbay Harbor. "I want Msgr. Caron to look me in the eye and assure me that Father Michael Plourde is not sexually abusing children in Biddeford." .
Portland, ME - Marie Tupper, whose family member was sexually abused by Rev. Thomas Lee, serves as Maine's Regional Coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Late Tuesday afternoon, Msgr. Marc Caron, Chancellor of Maine's Roman Catholic Diocese, told Tupper that he "will not meet with her."
On Wednesday of last week, Tupper sent an email message to Msgr. Caron, expressing her concerns and fears regarding the safety of children in a Biddeford, Maine neighborhood. Tupper asked Msgr. Caron for more information regarding Father Michael Plourde, a Maine priest who was removed from public ministry eight years ago due to child sex abuse allegations and is now living anonymously in a residential neighborhood in Biddeford.
Sexual abuse victims have reported to Msgr. Caron and other diocese officials that they were sexually abused by Father Mike when they were ten to twelve years old. Bishop Richard Malone and Msgr. Caron, among others, have refused to warn neighbors about Father Mike's past history of sexually abusing children.
Msgr. Caron did not respond to Tupper's email. On Monday morning of this week, Tupper called Msgr. Caron's office. Msgr. Caron's secretary informed Tupper that Msgr. Caron had no intention of responding to her questions and in Msgr. Caron's own words would "not meet with her today or at any other time."
An hour later, Tupper called back. She told Caron's secretary that "my concern for the safety of children is more important than Msgr. Caron's dismissive attitude towards me. I will come to the Chancery and sit in the waiting room until he is willing to see me."
Tupper arrived at 2:30 p.m. Once again, she was informed that Msgr. Caron would not meet with her. She sat in the waiting room for two hours, until such time that she was informed she would have to leave the building because the Chancery was closing.
Shortly thereafter, Tupper approached Caron in the parking lot as he exited the building. "I am afraid for children who live near "Father Mike," she told him. "Please reassure me that they are not in danger of being sexually abused. I can't bear to think that what happened to my family member will happen to even one more child."
"I am not going to talk to you," Caron responded. He then walked away.
"Msgr. Caron's callous disregard for Marie Tupper's concerns about the safety of children is just one more example of what really happens behind closed doors in Maine's Roman Catholic Diocese," said Paul Kendrick, a founder of the Ignatius Group.
"Bishop Richard Malone and his staff try to appease our concerns about the safety of children by telling us that they are 'following procedure; i.e., Canon Law,' as to which abuser priests will be identifie, " said Kendrick.
"This explanation may sound good to some, but it does nothing to protect Biddeford children from Father Plourde. Canon Law, after all, is nothing more than the Catholic Church's corporate handbook. It contains, among other things, policies and procedures for reprimanding, disciplining and firing employees, just like the company handbook at General Electric or Microsoft," added Kendrick.
"See if this makes sense," said Tupper. "Bishop Malone has established certain categories for priest abusers. Each category defines whether or not Bishop Malone will identify and warn parents about a particular priest who has a history of abusing children."
Here are the categories:
1) If a priest is working in a parish when credible allegations of sexual abuse are brought against him, Bishop Malone will identify the priest and the nature of the allegations.
2) If a priest is not working in a parish when credible allegations of sexual abuse are brought against him, Bishop Malone will not identify the priest and the nature of the allegations.
3) If a priest was previously removed from public ministry (prior to June 2002) due to credible allegations of sexual abuse, Bishop Malone will not identify the priest and the nature of the allegations.
"Father Mike" fits into Category 3.
(When contacted by telephone, Msgr. Rene Mathieu, pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes in neighboring Saco, Maine and a member of the Diocese of Portland Clergy Review Board (reviews allegations of clergy sexual abuse), hung up on a caller who asked why Msgr. Mathieu isn't warning mothers, fathers and their children in Biddeford about "Father Mike." )
Monday, August 17, 2009
February 15, 2007
The Bishop Amadee Proulx Memorial Award is an insult to victims and survivors of abuse.
In 1990, former Auxiliary Bishop Amadee Proulx, former Bishop Joseph Gerry and then chancellor Msgr. Joseph Ford conspired to cover up sexual abuse allegations against Rev. Raymond Melville.
Melville was transferred from parish to parish. More children were sexually abused. Court documents reveal that Bishop Proulx protected Melville and did nothing to protect children.
There's an annual award in honor of Bishop Proulx.
In our opinion, this is a slap in the face to those who have experienced the trauma of child sex abuse.
14th Bishop Amedee Proulx Memorial Award
Take the time to nominate that special person you know in your parish who does so much for others! The Bishop Proulx Award was established to give recognition to an individual in Maine whose contributions reflect the mission of Catholic Charities Maine and foster the social teachings of Jesus Christ. Each nominee receives a letter of congratulations. Thewinner has an award ceremony that has proven to be a joyful event honoring his or her work, the social teaching of the Catholic Church, and the memory of Bishop Amedee Proulx. Since the beginning of the award, nominations have been received from over 90parishes throughout Maine. If you need a nomination form, please call CatholicCharities Maine, 781-8550. The deadline is March 23.
June 7, 2009
He's Bishop Richard Malone's best friend and he won't say he's sorry to clergy sex abuse victims.
From 1994 to 2001, Rev. Paul E. Miceli worked for Cardinal Bernard Law as Director of Ministerial Personnel for the Archdiocese of Boston. In this capacity, Miceli participated in the cover-up and transfer of priests who abused children and young people.
Miceli and Bishop Richard Malone own a home together on Cape Cod in South Dennis, Massachusetts.
In 2004, abuse victims and their supporters demonstrated outside the Immaculate Conception Church in Weymouth, MA on Sunday mornings. Miceli was the pastor.
The advocates wanted Miceli to tell the truth and be responsible and accountable for his role in the cover up and transfer of criminal priests who abused children.
Weeks later, Miceli suddenly resigned from the parish, leaving word that he was on “sabbatical.”
During the summer of 2005, Miceli was quietly reassigned to the faculty of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, MA, where Bishop Malone serves as a trustee (ironically, Bishop Malone is currently a member of the Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
In 2002, it was discovered that Malone (Auxiliary Bishop of Boston's South Region) had three priests working for him in parishes who had previously been accused of molesting children.
Miceli is listed as the National Seminary's Spiritual Director, overseeing the spiritual lives of seminarians, including those from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
The Rev. John K. Connell, a freshman religion teacher and chaplain, was removed from his job at St. John’s Preparatory School near Boston on April 12, 1995, after accusations he had molested several boys in the 1970s at a vacation home on Cape Cod. The archdiocese found the allegations credible, church records show. But two years later, Murphy was playing a role in the church’s attempts to return the priest to active ministry, records show.
“At my most recent meeting with Bishop Murphy, he expressed a desire that we bring to resolution some kind of job description for Jack Connell and that he receive a letter of appointment to this position from the Cardinal,” said a May 1997 Boston memo from the Rev. Paul Miceli, the archdiocese secretary for ministerial support. “I apprised Bishop Murphy of our conversation with Jack.”
The archdiocese’s reasoning, outlined in several memos, was that Connell could safely remain in the priesthood because, though he likely did sexually molest at least one boy in the 1970s, he did so because he had been an alcoholic. Church officials said Connell had been sober for 12 years.
Connell initially admitted to an investigator that he’d shared a bed with an accuser on Cape Cod , but after hiring a lawyer, he recanted several days later.
The archdiocese at first hoped to return Connell to the all-boy high school, but after it learned in 1997 of further allegations against him, church officials started looking for another job for him.
In June 1998, the archdiocese paid a $45,000 settlement to one of Connell’s alleged victims.
Archdiocese records show Connell had once before been accused of sexual abuse, in 1983. He was removed May 23, 1983, as associate pastor of a Newton , Mass. , parish, and was sent away for treatment. By Oct. 1, 1984, Connell was back working as an active priest, as a chaplain and teacher at St. John Preparatory’s 175-acre campus north of Boston .
Connell remained a priest on active duty, as a consultant to the Priest Recovery Program, until Nov. 30, 2001, when, at 61, he was given retirement status._______________________________________________________________________
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Deacon John Brennan, a former City of Portland Deputy Chief of Police, did not warn Falmouth police officials that an admitted priest child abuser moved into town.
The safety of children is being ignored.
What will he do now to warn moms and dads?
Deacon John Brennan, former Deputy Chief of Police for the City of Portland, chose not to notify the Falmouth Police Department when an admitted priest child molester moved into town.
Deacon Brennan works for Bishop Richard Malone as the diocese investigator. In this capacity, he is responsible for the investigation of child sex abuse claims brought against a priest or other Church employee.
Deacon Brennan is privy to most of the clergy child sex abuse cases in Maine. It is our understanding, though, that the bishop keeps certain files under lock and key.
By virtue of his ordination, Deacon Brennan takes a vow of obedience to his bishop. Secrecy, though, doesn't protect innocent children from sex offenders.
Deacon Brennan has encountered first hand the pain, suffering and trauma of child sex abuse. He has witnessed the wreckage inflicted upon victims and families. He has met face to face with arrogant, cunning and manipulative priest child abusers.
But, when a law enforcement like Brennan won't tell you that a child molester lives next door, children get hurt.
For more information:
Paul Kendrick, 838 1319
Harvey Paul, 232 9382
Michael Sweatt, 831 3791
"The Experience of the Victim of Sexual Abuse:" A Reflection
Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, Ph.D.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
June 14, 2002
Good Morning. I am honored to join the groups of speakers we have heard so far today. It has been a morning filled with great gifts and great grace. My own offering to you today is to contextualize the characteristics of childhood and adolescent sexual abuse; to present the experience of early sexual trauma through the lens of the victim; to make accessible the most common after-effects of childhood sexual abuse; and to suggest a few vital components of the healing process. I do this based on fifteen years of clinical work with men and women who were sexually violated as young people. To succeed, however, I need your help and a brief story best conveys what I mean by that.
Several years ago, my stepson, Daniel Patrick O'Dea, recommended that I read a fantasy trilogy authored by Terry Brooks. In the first book of the series, the young hero sets out on a quest in search of the magIcal Sword of Shannara (Brooks, 1978). A weapon of enormous power, the secret of the sword is that, when lifted by the sword bearer, it reveals to him every aspect of his being. All the good, unpleasant and truly hideous facets of his personality are reflected back to him in the blade of the sword. If the sword carrier can stand what he sees, he then can wield the sworn to do great good and to fend off the worst evil. Most who raise the Sword of Shannara, however, cannot bear to see themselves so fully revealed and are destroyed.
Today, I ask each of you metaphorically lift a Sword of Shannara; to open your hearts and souls to all that the Catholic Church has been, is, and could be under your care. I ask you to stare courageously at the full complement of great good and great harm enacted by you and your, brethren and especially, to reflect on your role in the devastation of childhood and adolescent sexual abuse perpetrated by priests.
Claude Levi-Strauss declared that, "the prohibition of Incest stands at the dawn of culture," and, if fact, represents culture itself. Make no mistake about it. The violation of child or adolescent by a priest IS incest. The sexual and relational transgression perpetrated by the father of the child extended family; a man whom the child is taught from birth to trust above everyone else in his life, to trust second only to God. Priest abuse IS incest.
Despite the cultural universality of the incest taboo, violation of sexual boundaries between adults and children is a universal phenomenon. Data collected over the past two decades inform us that about one third of all females and one fourth of all males are sexually abused in some way prior to the age of 18. These numbers hold up worldwide. From Italy to Ireland to India; from Thailand to Mexico, in Canada and the Middle East, children's physical and psychic boundaries are violated sexually with alarming frequency. Thus, the sexual victimization of minors is not just an American problem nor is it just a priestly problem. Rather, sexual exploitation of the young is a worldwide scandal in which Catholic priest have participated as fully and as secretly as have other men across the globe.
So far in these remarks. I have used the commonly accepted term, "sexual abuse," to describe an adult's sexual traumatization of a child or adolescent. In fact, however, "sexual abuse," is shorthand terminology for what more accurately is named the relational betrayal of a minor by an adult who is in a position of authority with the child and who exploits his own and victim's sexuality to subjective empower himself by utterly dominating the physical, psychological, and spiritual experiences of the victim. No wonder we use shorthand. From the victim's perspective, however, sexually executed relational abuse is the most meaningful way of conceptualizing that which we call sexual abuse.
As we have read in the media and heard today, sexual abuse victims often are young people for whom something or someone is missing. They yearn for an adult who sees them, hears them, understands them, makes time for them, and enjoys their company. Unfortunately, the sexual predator is exquisitely attuned to the emotional and relational needs of the potential victims. Like Fr. Geoghan seeking out fatherless children, sexual abusers ingratiate themselves into the lives of their victims, evoking respect trust and dependency long before the first touch takes place. When the confused child or adolescent is frequently so emotionally entwined with his victimizer so fearful of losing the abuser's affection or simply so terrified that he readily and silently complies with the sexual activities imposed upon him.
There are those who devalue survivors of childhood and, especially adolescent sexual abuse for not disclosing their victimizations when they were occurring. Secrecy, however, is the acknowledged cornerstone of sexual abuse. Some perpetrators overtly extract secrecy by suggesting that the victim will be blamed for the abuse, then taken from her home and placed in an orphanage. They say that telling would destroy and even kill the perpetrator, or they threaten that if the victim discloses, the perpetrator will harm her or members of her family. Sexual abusers may also blame the victim, accusing her of seducing the predator, thus filling the victim with the sham and self-loathing more appropriately experienced by the victimizer. In a more covert covenant of secrecy, the abuser provides the victim with gifts and special privileges that both silence and instill terrible and long lasting guilt.
Sin addition man abused minors maintain silence because they accurately perceive that there is no one in their environment who will help them if they disclose. It is more hopeful for a child to preserve a fantasy that IF he told, someone would protect him than it is to reveal the abuse to another who ignores, blames, or re-abuses him. Finally, children and teenagers do not disclose the sexual abuse secret because they care for the perpetrator. A central cruelty of sexual abuse, in fact, is the perpetrator's trampling of the young person's generously and freely bestowed affection or respect.
It is from this epicenter of betrayed trust that the mind splitting impact of sexual abuse ripples outward. The victim, of early sexual violation simply cannot reconcile the respected figure who may help him with his homework, teach him how to throw a curve ball, or take him to the local hockey game with the sexually overstimulated and overstimulating man presenting an erect penis to suck. It is simply too much and the resulting fracture of the victim's mind and experience often leads to a debilitating post- traumatic stress disorder that affects every domain of the victim's functioning and lasts for years and years after the abuse has stopped.
Let me now guide you on a tour through the corridors of a psyche twisted by sexual transgression. It is a trip through a traumatogenically constructed, psychological House of Horrors in which experiences of self and other are grotesquely distorted and terrifying images unexpectedly pop out from seemingly safe places. The visitor lurches from one emotional shock to another in an interior atmosphere of darkness, one punctuated only by frightening flashing lights and nightmarish unreality. Our first stop is the organization of the victim's images of self and others.
When a young person is being abused, the psychological shock is so great that the normal self cannot absorb or make sense of what is happening to it. In a valiant attempt to cope with the overwhelming overstimulation and sense of betrayal literally embodied in sexual trauma, the self splits using the psychic mechanism of dissociation. The normal operation of dissociation allows, for example, each of us to drive ten miles and then "come to" with no memory of the time just past. For the victim of child or adolescent sexual violation, however, dissociation is an exponentially more dramatic process, one that serves as both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, by entering into an entirely different state of consciousness while being abused, the victim preserves a functional and safe self who is removed from the trauma and is therefore able learn, grow, play, and work. Many a patient has reported for instance, that she--the self recognized as "I"--floated above the bed on which that "other kid"--the alienated victim self--was being abused. On the other hand, the curse of dissociation condemns the state of self who experienced the abuse to a trapped existence in the inner world of the survivor, a place dominated by terror, impotent but seething rage, and grief for which there literally are no words. Because trauma impels the brain to process events quickly and in a state of hyperarousal, verbalizing pathways are bypassed. Instead, the sexual violations are encoded by the child and retrieved by the survivor as non-verbal, often highly disorganizing feelings, somatic states, anxieties, recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and sometimes dangerous behaviors.
Often, the adult survivor's life is wracked by unexpected regressions to his victimized self that are triggered by seemingly neutral stimuli. Much as the Vietnam Vet who hits the floor during a thunderstorm is, in a very real way, back in the Mekong Delta seconds before his buddy's sckull is blown off, so too the sexual abuse survivor may be triggered into a regression by something or someone reminiscent of his earlier traumas. No longer firmly located in the present, the survivor thinks, feels, experiences his body, and behaves as the victim he once was, badly confusing himself and those around him. For victims of priest abuse, a Roman collar, the scent of incense, light streaming through stained glass at a certain time of day, organ music, or most certainly, interacting with priests and bishops about their abuse may well evoke the appearance of usually dissociated self states.
Coexisting with the violated, terrorized, grief stricken victim self, the adult survivor of sexual abuse has within her a state of being that is identified with the perpetrator. Through this unconscious ongoing bond to the predator, the survivor preserves an attachment to the abuser by becoming like him in some ways. When threatened by experiences of helplessness, vulnerability or anticipated betrayal, the survivor unconsciously accesses this self-state to gain a sense of empowerment. Subjectively experiencing themselves as righteously indignant, survivors may enact at times breathtaking boundary smashing, cold contempt, and red-hot rage. Not surprisingly, survivors are sickened by the thought that they resemble in any way their perpetrators and therefore avert their gaze from their own Swords of Shannara for long periods of time lest they fragment even further at the sight of their own abusive tendencies. I want to be clear that, here, I do not mean that survivors become sexually abusive. While that can happen, it is exceedingly rare. Rather, they enact some aspect's of there abuser's lack of respect for others. It is important for therapists and, in this case bishops, to recognize that the clay of the survivor's abuser self was molded quite literally by the hands of a master–-their own sexual and relational victimizer. While those in relationship with survivors can model setting limits on what they will tolerate in relationship with another, an empathic understanding of the source of the survivor's sometimes outrageous behavior is essential to hold in mind.
Finally, the sexual abuse survivor sometimes may enact an aspect of self that is greedy, grandiose, and insatiably entitled, an element of self that remains out of awareness for a long time. There comes a day in every survivor's recovery upon which he fully comprehends what was so cruelly taken from him. Further personal growth and healing requires that the survivor then mourn the childhood or adolescence that never was, the defensively idealized caretakers who never existed, and perhaps most poignantly, the self that could have been had trust, hope, and possibility not been so brutally shattered.
I cannot exaggerate nor can I adequately convey the soul searing pain of this phase of recovery. One patient, at this point in treatment, cried, "This is too much. I can't stand it– I won't–-you can't make me. I can deal with the abuse--maybe, perhaps. But the idea that I can't go back, that my childhood is broken forever–-I can't live with that. I won't know that I never was and never will be just a kid."
Quite understandably, the sexual abuse survivor may act to avoid the ultimate mourning necessary to move on from the abuse and all that was stolen from him. Launching a lawsuit against the perpetrator or against those who abetted the abuser may be one strategy employed to deny unrecoverable loss, while instead pursuing an illusion of full restitution of that which, tragically, never can be restored. No matter the amount of the ensuing financial settlement, a residue of emptiness and lost hope persists. At the core of the survivor's being, the worst has happened yet again; he has been paid off to go away while life goes on relatively untouched for the perpetrator and those who shielded him.
Now let me be absolutely clear. Money can be a little better than nothing and is what the Church too often historically offered victims. Many survivors, in fact, resorted to lawsuits only after being stonewalled in their quest for more personal reparative gestures. Legal action, in this situation, represents a last ditch effort by the survivor to become an agent in his own life. Further, a lawsuit, when all else has failed, puts into action an understandable demand that the truth be told one way or another. In addition, many survivors need financial assistance for therapy, substance abuse rehabilitation, and educational or vocational training previously unattainable because of post-traumatic stress symptoms plaguing the victims. But money is not nearly enough, no mater how much it is, and lump sum payments that are not individualized to meet the specific needs of each survivor fail to meet recovery needs. Rather, what serves healing well it much more difficult, much more personal, and much more humbling for clergy.
Real healing for survivors requires that priests, bishops, and cardinals conform to the template upon which rests the Sacrament of Reconciliation, te ritual cleansing of the soul in which Catholic priests profoundly believe. Real healing thus demands that Catholic clergy apologize personally to each and every victim of priest abuse; not through eloquent public letters but in face-to-face encounters. Bless me, my son or daughter, for I have sinned. The Vatican recently cautioned that the administration of group absolution is not an acceptable venue and that confessions should be heard individually and in private. So, too, survivors deserve to meet with those who have harmed them and to hear from clergy genuine confessions of failings and remorse.
Real healing must draw from the Church a deeply meaningful commitment that every priest, bishop, and cardinal will do everything in his power to prevent further priest abuse, and that he will act swiftly, decisively, and above all, publicly to remove abusers from his ranks. Finally, cardinals, bishops and priest must do penance to restore each survivor's trust in humanity as well as in the Church. Retreats and group processing sessions that include survivors, clergy, and professionals are just some possible approaches to restorative penance. Whatever penitential road is chosen, it is essential that the clergy of the Catholic Church put their mouths, souls, and physical beings where heretofore mostly only their money has been. It is right and it is needed for survivors of priest abuse to heal.
Leaving the realm of sexual abuse survivor's organization of self, we enter a related corridor on our tour, one in which we explore typical characteristics of the victim's interpersonal relationships.
A survivor's relationships with other people are hued and shaded by expectations and anxieties forged during their traumatic experiences. Approaching others from within the psychological confines of post-traumatic stress disorder, the trauma survivor exhibits rapidly shifting relational stances, painfully lurching from periods of extremely dependent clinging, to those marked by vicious rage aimed at the same person. Stark terror and tears can switch in an instant to cold aloofness, while warmth and vivacity may turn kaleidoscopically to paranoid suspicion. All this, of course, leads to many chaotically unstable relationships, often alternating with stretches of the loneliest isolation.
Perhaps needless to say, normal sexual functioning is almost impossible for most survivors until well into their recovery. Too often, sex, even with a trusted other, triggers terrifyingly disorganizing flashbacks during which survivors sometimes literally see the face of their abuser superimposed on the visage of their sexual partner and experience dreadful relivings of their sexual traumas. In addition, survivors frequently are disgusted by and ashamed of their own bodies and sexual strivings. Unreasonably blaming the abuse on their own sexuality, they often desperately insist that it never would have happened were it not for their self-perceived horribly seductive bodies and deplorable sexual desires. Heterosexual boys abused by men additionally are tormented, wondering what it was about them that attracted the perpetrator. Sexual abuse survivors of all genders and sexual orientations are deprived of the right to grow gradually into a mature sexuality and, instead, are forced or seduced into premature sexual encounters they are emotionally ill equipped to handle. As adults, therefore, these men and women often spin between periods of promiscuous and self-destructive sexual acting out and times of complete sexual shutdown during which, like burn victims, they experience the gentlest physical contact as excruciatingly painful.
Finally, there is a characteristic relational stance assumed by many sexual abuse survivors that is particularly germane to these proceedings. It involves others who did not abuse them but also did not protect them.
If it takes a community to raise a child, it also takes a community to abuse one so that whenever a minor is sexually violated, someone's eyes are closed. Throughout history and in every segment of society, the most common response to the suspicion or even the disclosure of childhood sexual abuse has been self-defensive denial and dissociation. No one finds it easy to stand in the overwhelming and destabilizing reality of sexual abuse. Thus, blindness, deafness, and elective mutism are responses endemic to many confronted by a victimized child, an adult survivor, or a perpetrating adult. To the extent, however, that the sexual victimization of a minor depends upon the silence of adults who knew, suspected, or should have known about the abuse, the burdens of shame and reparation reach beyond the perpetrator. In the case of the Church, it is not just abusing priests and abetting bishops who must lift a symbolic Sword of Shannara and face what is reflected back to them in its blade. Rather, every rectory housekeeper, every parish maintenance man, every religious woman or lay teacher, every parishioner - any of these individuals who once felt uneasy about a priest's relationship with a young boy or girl and said nothing need ponder their inaction and resolve to behave protectively in the future. Zero tolerance must include the silent as well as the predatory.
What is important to recognize at this conference is that adult survivors of sexual abuse frequently are, at least initially, even angrier with adults who failed to protect them than they are with the perpetrator himself. Because the survivor's internal relationship with his abuser often is organized around competing feelings of attachment and hate, he often feels freer to turn the full blast of his long pent-up rage and bitterness on those who did not protect him and who, in addition, failed to provide for him in ways the perpetrator seemed to, albeit at an unholy cost to the exploited child or adolescent.
How turning down another corridor on our tour of a psyche ravaged by early sexual trauma, we examine the impact of sexual abuse on the cognitive functioning of the victim and survivor. Part of what is overwhelmed during sexual abuse is the young person's ability cognitively to contain, process, and put into words the enormity of the relational betrayal and physical impingement with which he is faced. It is striking and often bewildering to observe in adult survivors completely contradictory thought processes that ebb and flow with little predictability. One moment, you are speaking with an intelligent adult, capable of complex, flexible, abstract, and self decentered thinking. Under sufficient internal or external stress, however, or in situations somehow reminiscent of past abuse, the cognitive integrity of the survivor shatters and becomes locked in rigidly inflexible, self-centered thought patterns, simplistic black and white opinions devoid of nuance and an immutable conviction that the future is destined to be both short and unalterably empty. For example, one survivor patient who worked as an investment banker was so intellectually gifted that she was considered a brilliant whiz kid in the competitive New York world of finance. When beset by psychological or interpersonal stimuli linked to her uncle's sexual abuse, however, she became in her own words, "stupid minded." At those times, she literally could not think at all or could access only immature, disorganizing and panicky ways of thinking.
If a survivor's cognitive functioning is severely ruptured by sexual abuse, his affective life, the next stop on our tour, is even more impaired. When a young person is sexually traumatized, the hyperarousal of the autonomic nervous system and the body's subsequent attempt to restore order disrupt the brain's neurochemical regulation of emotion. In addition, we are now learning that attachment relationships also impact upon the brain's ability to modulate feelings, with traumatic attachment experiences interfering with effective neuropsychological regulation of affect. The brain of the sexually abused minor thus suffers a double assault. Both the sexual traumas themselves and the betrayal of an attachment relationship assail the flow of affect modulating neurochemicals.
As an adult, the survivor shifts--sometimes quite rapidly--between states of chaotically intense hyperarousal and deadened states of psychic numbing. This inability to modulate emotional arousal often leads to interpersonally inappropriate verbal or motoric actions when the survivor is hyperstimulated, and to similarly inappropriate emotional and psychomotor constriction as the individual moves into psychic numbing. Further, autonomic arousal becomes a generalized reaction to stress in the midst of which the sexual abuse survivor is unable to discern realistically the severity of a perceived threat. Instead of reacting at the actual level of psychological danger, the survivor may engage in seemingly irrational behaviors like temper tantrums or terrified withdrawal. These behaviors do no fit the present day situation but are perfectly complimentary to the now affectively revived earlier trauma.
Because of the damage done by sexual abuse to affective brain functioning, adult survivors often need psychotropic medications for periods of time during recovery. For some, their impairments are sufficiently intractable to require lifelong medication. These drugs are expensive and it would be a specific and reparative use of Church funds to provide survivors who are under the care of psychiatric professionals with the medications they need to function more adaptively.
We now are almost finished with our psychological tour and are about to enter what can be the most shocking corridor of all. Also partly due to disrupted brain functioning, sexual abuse survivors often display a truly spectacular array of self-destructive behaviors. They slice their arms, thighs, and genitalia with knives, razors, or shards of broken glass. They burn themselves with cigarettes, pull hair from their heads and pubic areas, walk through
dark parks alone at night, play chicken with trains at railroad crossings, pick up strangers in bars to have unprotected and anonymous sex, drive recklessly at high speeds, gamble compulsively, and/or further destroy their minds and bodies with alcohol and the whole range of street drugs. Both male and female prostitutes tend to have backgrounds of early sexual abuse. Survivors also are two to three times more likely than adults without abuse histories to make at least one suicide attempt in their lives (Briere & Runtz, 1986). Sometimes they die.
Survivor self-abuse performs a myriad of functions too complex to address adequately today. A quick inventory of a survivor's motivations to act self-destructively includes: punishment for the abuse he blames himself for; mastering victimization by taking charge of the timing and execution of harm; self-medication of turbulent affective storms; and unconsciously seeking states of hyperarousal that then trigger the release of brain opiods, providing the survivor with a temporary sense of calm. At an even more deeply unconscious level, frighteningly self-destructive sexual abuse survivors want to turn the table on present day stand-ins for those who violated and neglected them. Unconsciously, they long to see their own terror, helplessness, impotent rage, and shocked recognition of utter betrayal reflected now on the face of someone in their lives. Who can blame them?
As we exit now from our tour of the terrifyingly disorienting psychological House of Horrors, constructed amidst sexual abuse, and maintained by its aftermath, it should be clear that a survivor's recovery is a long, complicated, sometimes treacherous process. There is a cohort in this country of professional men and women who have labored long and hard in the clinical trenches of trauma since the sexual abuse of children was dragged out of society's skeleton closet in the early 1980's. The bishops and priests of the Catholic Church need the expertise of professionals to effect healing both within the Church and in relationship with survivors. Please call on us to help you.
Psychoanalyst Le.onard Shengold entitled his book on the effects of childhood sexual abuse, Soul Murder (Shengold, 1989). I do not think that early sexual trauma necessarily has to result in soul murder but it most surely batters and deadens the soul of the young victim and the adult survivor. That this ravaging of souls has been administered by priests entrusted with a sacred covenant to protect and enliven souls is despicable; it is evil itself.
The Catholic Church and you, its American shepherds, are at a crossroads. Like the recovering victim of sexual abuse, you can choose to defend, deny, retrench, and rigidify. You can refuse the reflection of a Sword of Shannara and turn away from all your decency, all your love and generosity, all your arrogance and indifference. When a survivor takes that familiar and well-worn road, further fragmentation and diminished integrity of mind and soul ensues. But, as is the case for so many sexual abuse survivors, another road can be chosen. Collectively wielding a blade shining with truth and courageous determination, you can decide to lead the American Church on a path of recovery, growth, and restored faith. This conference could become a new epicenter from which ripples the revitalization and restoration of souls. It is a matter of your will which road is taken. May great grace walk with you and guide you in the days to come. It has been a great grace to me to address you today.