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Pope Francis poised to punish convicted bishop.

During a press conference on the return flight from the Holy Land yesterday, Pope Francis did that thing he does: he made some news. The pope revealed that he would soon meet with abuse victims, promising to "move forward on this issue with zero tolerance"--and he announced that three bishops were "under investigation." One of them "has already been found guilty, and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed." He didn't name the bishops, nor did he elaborate on the details of their cases.

Naturally, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was not impressed. "Francis made three meaningless abuse comments today," according to Joelle Casteix, western regional director of SNAP. "None of them are significant in any way. All are disappointing because they amount to more public relations instead of real action." SNAP's executive director, David Clohessy, echoed that sentiment in his comment to the Boston Globe: “This means nothing,” he said. Francis's remarks are just “another savvy public-relations move that will protect no kids, expose no predators, prevent no cover-ups, and punish no enablers.’’

Really? I understand that SNAP must ritually denounce anything a bishop has to say about the sexual-abuse crisis. But isn't this what SNAP wants? To see bishops held accountable for their failures to protect kids from abusive clerics? Did Clohessy absorb what Francis actually said? The pope explained that three bishops are being investigated, that one of them has already been found guilty, and that the Vatican is figuring out what sort of punishment to mete out. This is anything but meaningless. Because, as everyone at SNAP knows, there aren't many bishops who have been convicted of a crime during this long scandal.

We've known for some time that Rome was investigating at least three bishops. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, formerly of Edinburgh, resigned in February 2013 following allegations that he'd had sexual relationships with priests. The Vatican announced that it was investigating him last month. Chilean auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras has been accused by other priests of abusing a fifteen-year-old. Vatican investigators have been dispatched to look into the matter. And Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski is also being investigated by the Vatican, after it was alleged that he had engaged the services of teenaged "rent boys." He's been recalled from his post as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic apparently to stand trial as a citizen of the Holy See.

But none of those men have been "found guilty," as the pope put it (at least not yet). There haven't been many. In 2012 a Canadian bishop was convicted of importing child pornography. The Holy See swiftly laicized him (a terrifying punishment indeed). The only bishop I can think of who has been "found guilty" and gone unpunished is Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He was convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. Is he the bishop Francis was referring to? Hard to say, because Francis didn't say what kind of guilt he was talking about--civil or canonical. Finn's spokesman says he doesn't know. But it sounds like he won't have to wait too long to find out.



Commenting Guidelines

The O'Brien, Lahey, Contreras, and Weolowski cases are all about bishops who are suspected of having themselves done something related to sex abuse. They are priests who seem to have committed various reprehensible sexual deeds, and who also happen to be bishops.

Bp Finn is different because he himself has not personnally done anything that had anything to do with sex abuse. His case, roughly, is about misusing his episcopal authority for cover-up. He was convicted because he is bishop - because of his authority, and therefore of his responsibility. That's the kind of accountability that SNAP is asking for.

I think that Pope Francis is saying that bishops don't get speicla tolerance by virtue of being bishops: if they commit sex abuse and are found out, they'll suffer consequences just as they would if they were simple priests. But I have yet to see anything on his part suggesting that anything will happen to a bishop who covers up and fails to report a case of sex abuse.

Nevertheless, I am happy to read that he will meet with abuse victims. That's a first step for him.

There's still no accountability for bishops who covered up abuse.

The enabling bishops should have been the first targets -- they are still in a position to enable even more abuse.  And Bishop Finn, although he is the only one who has been convicted of enabling, is not the only enabler still in office.  I'm thinking of Cardinal George, who even in the last 5 years has switched an apparently guilty priest around.  And there are others.   And I think that those American bishops who have not subscribed to the Dallas Charter should be next.

Is Pope Francis only going to censure bishops who are abusers and not censure the enablers?  Will a lack of a civil investigation get some of them off the hook?  Sad to say, none of this is clear.  

SNAP and the UN Committee on Torture want bishops punished, but surely if the bishops' crimes are as egregious as alleged they should be investigated and convicted under the civil justice system. Why do we not hear SNAP and the UN Committee blasting the remissness of the justice system? Not a fashionable target?

In the diocese of Oakland, we're engaged in an important, but far less serious struggle; it's another "let's shoot ourselves in the foot" business regarding contracts for teachers in Catholic schools.  A local high school student began a petition on Change.Org which now has almost 3600 signatures.

What has that to do with this topic?  One wag suggested in his comments that teachers who violate the terms of the contract be sent to another school, just like the offending priests.


You can find the petition at

Why do we not hear SNAP and the UN Committee blasting the remissness of the justice system? Not a fashionable target?

SNAP has lobbied legislatures to extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. With increasing attention on the issue of human trafficking (not exactly the same thing but related), I hope that there will be more international pressure to pass laws protecting children and minors from sexual exploitation. That is not specific to priests and bishops of course, general changes to legislation across the board but, obviously, the Church would comply. Indeed, I would expect them to support such legislation; and happily they are. Attention is being paid to this issue with the World Cup occurring in Brazil.


Part of the effect the UN's decision that sex abuse was torture would have had was to do away with the SOL problems that face abuse victims ... no statute of limitation on torure.

The "decision that sex abuse was torture" is on the face of it  category confusion that will only bring embarrassment to the UN and solace to torturers.

Sex abuse is torture. Period. No confusion. Just a profound notice that children will no longer be easy prey.

Stop has the right to be suspicious until cover-up bishops are punished. And not just a token amount. History favors snap in this call and that is the point. 

I think not. I think it will bring embarrasment to the Vatican who argued that it didn't exercise direct control over its priests worldwide. The Vatican accused the panel of sloppy reasoning. It insisted the committee was wrong “to give the impression that all the priests serving around the world are indirectly, legally tied to the Vatican.”

That is absurd on its face. Good heavens! What of Vatican I's statement:


"The Roman pontiff enjoys....full and supreme power of jurisdiction, not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and governance of the Church dispersed throughout the world"


I believe that there is something called a motu proprio that is binding on all Catholic priests and bishops worldwide. Translations of text require authorization from the Holy See before being binding. Additionally, the Dallas charter required approval from Rome before being able to be legislated. The Pope needs a gift from the president of the USA; preferably the plaque that read: "The buck stops here". That is leadership!









I thought this article explained the "sex abuse as torture" concept pretty well ...

Snap. Not stop.

Michel Foucault prophesied that the next wave of scapegoating and witchhunting, since Jews and gays are now off-limits, would be directed against pedophiles. He did not foresee that this would refer to any sexual connection between and adult and minor, as well as many rapports between minors themselves. He did not foresee that a UN committee would subscribe to the demonization of pedophiles (and of all minors who report either at the time or later, when adults, that they wanted, loved or lusted after adults) to the point of identifying any such connection as Torture (to the immense delight, of course, of real torturers who have successfully argued that waterboarding in not torture or that torture is necessary and justified).

I am not a prophet like Foucault, but I predict that the frenzy about sex with minors and the blind application of mandatory reporting of it will come back to bite the frenzy-mongers themselves in the tail. Already we saw that SNAP had the greatest difficulty in handling a man with a pedophile problem among their own officials, for they had cut off every avenue of mercy, understanding, or pleas for nuance and moderation. Far from making them more understanding of the bishops, it seems to have hardened them in their fanaticism, and led them to cut off their former colleague leaving him to rot in jail.

The UN also committed a category error in equating papal primacy with Vatican State having legal authority over priests and bishops.

If a cleric stole money, the Vatican could not prosecute him directly for that. It is up to the civil law. 

If a lay Catholic committed a sexual crime against a child, the church could not directly punish him or her for that -- it is a matter for the civil law.

The Vatican could attach the penalty of excommunication to such a crime, as it does to abortion. But the UN is making itself ridiculous in telling the Vatican how to administer its spiritual penalties.

In fact, the UN zealots are frustrated because they have been unable to prove any connection between crimes against children and the Vatican, despite a case in the Hague.

They are also annoyed that no bishops have been penalized under the civil law, except one in France who refused to collaborate with the law enforcement agencies and Bishop Finn, who got a mere rap on the knuckles.

Of more than 300 complaints received about US clergy in the last year or so, only 2 concerned people who were minors in 2013.

SNAP must also be very annoyed that the UN committee made recommendations to the Vatican but did not issue judgments or condemnations, contrary to what Gerard Slevin expected.

By Pam Spees's reasoning any abuse that can in some cases lead to suicide is to be categorized as torture. This would include school bullying, spousal abuse, abusive or traumatic relationships between adults, loss of employment, poverty, etc. 

There are lots of mad psychiatrists around who urge people to regard their traumas as rooted in some form of sex abuse. One man with a long psychiatric history accused a dead teacher who had watched him naked in the showers in school (along with other students) of occasioning a lifelong trauma. Now he can wheedle more compensation by claiming to be a torture victim. The rampant unfairness of such a system of reasoning should be apparent.

If the cleric stole money, he would be censured under some form of ecclesiastical law that ultimately would have to be signed off on by the Vatican. 

But Joseph's logic would suggest that sexuality can NEVER be used as a weapon. That children and minors are NEVER exploited. The reality is they are. 

As an example, even though we have a free maket system, that still does not make price gouging  to a criminal offence. When it is and when it isn't is an issue of law and case by case evidentiary procedures. But in order for that to occur, you need to present the evidence. A victims word is not enough. Hence, that is the problem of covering up, it prevents the fair administration of justice which is a practical virtue. Why do you think we have laws for obstruction of justice?

@ Claire:

"I have yet to see anything on his part suggesting that anything will happen to a bishop who covers up and fails to report a case of sex abuse."

Actually, the pope's comments were in response to this question, which specifically spoke of bishops who fail to do their part, morally, legally and otherwise: 

"You spoke harsh words against the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, the priests. You have created a special committee to better address this issue at the level of the universal Church. In a practical sense: we know now that in all the local Churches there are rules, strong moral and often legal, imposed in cooperation with local civilian authorities, in one way or another. What will you, if there was a bishop who clearly has not honored, did not comply with these obligations?" 

[Original in Italian: Lei ha parlato con parole molto dure contro l’abuso sessuale dei minori da parte del clero, dei preti. Lei ha creato una commissione speciale per affrontare meglio questo problema a livello della Chiesa universale. In senso pratico: sappiamo ormai che in tutte le Chiese locali ci sono norme che impongono un forte obbligo morale e spesso legale a collaborazione con le autorità civili locali, in un modo o nell’altro. Cosa farà Lei, qualora ci fosse un vescovo che chiaramente non abbia onorato, non abbia osservato questi obblighi?]

With that said, I also don't think he was talking about Finn. As I have said elsewhere several times already, Finn will remain where he is, unless both (a) people of the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph and (b) the USCCB do something to make it "impossible" for him to continue his episcopal ministry, which neither party has, as far as I know.

As to the incredibly sad, ugly problem of clergy sexual abuse and episcopal coverup, John W. Feehily said it best in another thread: "Francis will take steps to address this but not in a way that could ever satisfy the cynics."




Of course I do not suggest that sexuality can never be used as a weapon, or even as an instrument of torture, as at US rendition camps for example.

What I do say, is that not all sexual improprieties are torture, and even injurious sexual encounters or jiltings that cause deep distress are not torture.

If a cleric stole money there would be no expectation from law enforcement or from the UN that the Vatican administer punishment. Even the cleric's local bishop would not be held to such an expectation. Even the parishioner might say -- father did wrong, father paid the price in civil punishment, now let us move on, no need of ecclesiastical sanctions.

My logic, George D, alleges, is that minors are never exploited. Of course minors are often exploited, by sexual predators. It is highly illogical of George to deduce that I am somehow so stoopid as to deny this. But not all exploitation is torture. Redefining exploitation as torture is stupid and illogical.

Really, people should respect ordinary logic in these discussions.

I believe that concealment of evidence of  sexual offenses is a very widespread practice. If a parent discovered that her son had had sex with a 15 year old prostitute years before his marriage, and she then called the police to notify them, ruining her son's marriage, her children's future, her own relationship with all the family, I think a reasonable case could be made for her burying the evidence. Countless other similar judgment calls can be conceived. SNAP itself faced one with Taylor, and that should make them sympathetic to church authorities who have had so many thrust upon them.

Why does Francis not just fire the bishops/cardinals who have been shown to have covered up sex abuse ... Brady, Mahony, Law, Finn?  He can fire a bishop who spends too much money on a home but not those who made the continued  sexual abuse of children possible?  I've seen no explanation for why he cannot do this and I assume he just does not *want* to do it.

Crystal, he might have to fire himself too. Brady was a junior cleric in 1975 when he signed the protocol of a meeting where a young sex abuse victim was bound to secrecy. Do you think Argentina was more enlightened then? Why not ask all candidates for the papacy to provide a complete paper trail of all their decisions to ensure that they meet the high ethical standards set by SNAP?


Francis talks a lot about mercy, and I am pretty sure that one of the aspects he has in mind is to resist the lust for vengeance, the scapegoating of pedophiles, the moral panic about adolescents' sexuality that pervades American culture (which at the same time is awash with pedophile-toned advertisement and pornography). 

Actually, just as in the case of his predecessor, there is a vocal campaign to present Francis as complicit in child abuse.

If Bergoglio were forced to retire as Pope, his successor would probably swing the church back to the right. Brady, Comiskey, Donal Murray, and several other bishops whose retirement was called for were men of the Vatican II stamp, intelligent and pastorally endowed, and their replacements spell a shift to the right for Irish Catholicism.

Be careful what you ask for!

@ Joseph S. O L: 

"... there is a vocal campaign to present Francis as complicit in child abuse." 

This reminds me of what then Cardinal Bergoglio said in his book-lenghth interview. When asked why he did not defend himself against all the smearing campaigns that were going on, (e.g., that he was complicit during the Dirty War, etc.), Bergoglio responded by saying that first, there is no point in stooping to their level by getting into the back-and-forth, and then shared this anecdote: while visiting a synagogue, a little prayer from the Book of Hebrews entered his mind, and he prayed, Lord, may I bear this mockery in silence, and how that gave him much peace and joy. 

So yeah, I don't think Francis cares one bit what the cynics, naysayers or as he called them, sourpusses have to say about, well, anything, to which I'd say: good for him, and may God continue to give him much strength to go on. 



Why not? Easy. Because Christians hold themselves and their leaders to a higher standard than secular justice. 

to CW: There's still no accountability for bishops who covered up abuse.


Do you just cut and paste your comments from an old master sheet?  If not, it sure feels like you simply repeat tired, unreflective responses week in and week out, year in and year out.  So boring.  And these certainly do not engage the points raised in excellent posts like these from Grant


There is no panic over adolescent sexuality; just an awareness of what long term effects sexual abuse/exploitation have on a person. As more people talk about, awareness grows. Hopefully ethical awareness as well. Legislation is one, and only one way, for this to occur.

For example, Gabor Mate works with hardcore drug users on Vancouver's east side. He operates a safe injection site. He states that over 90% of the women who visit the clinic and are also engaged in prostitution of one type or another were sexually traumatized as young people. Now, correlation is not causation but surely, even you, would admit that it is a factor in their development.

Secondly, in reality, the situation of the mother of the son who visited a 15 year old prostitute is not a scenario that plays out. Obviously. The only cause for concern would be if he had a fixation and was going after 15 year old girls when he was 40. Then, she might begin to detect a pattern as they discover pornography on his computer of young adolescent girls, etc. Then, there is increased suspicion. Maybe a pattern of engaging in prostitution. Then he might be charged after an incident and in the police investigation, it would be discovered that there is a series of patterns of him engaging in this behaviour over the course of decades. Not all of which would be admitted to court but it would be known by the wife, mental health professionals, etc. , etc.

Sound far fetched? It happened here with an assistant Crown Attorney. A young girl was discovered murdered. In her diary was the name of several prominent people in the community included was his name. Now, he was not involved in the murder but obviously there was follow up whereupon it was discovered that he had in fact been engaged in sexual relationships with her when she was 15. Oh, and she had been in an out of youth court for various charges while he was the Crown and while he was involved in snorting coke, drinking and having sex with her (and others)! And no, he did not provide any conflict of interest to his boss. He was subsequently fired, and disbarred.

Oh, and how about this for a final bit of irony. The women who had to testify were all adults who at one time had engaged in prostitution but had moved on and their names would be in the paper. Not all the other Johns. Nice, eh! 

How many people do you think want to go through with a trial and all that? Few. That is why there are few prosecution but far more exploitation than we are aware of.

I am not talking about being prudish, just trying to establish some ethical parameters for sexual behaviour. Why is that so hard for you to grasp?

Why not ask all candidates for the papacy to provide a complete paper trail of all their decisions to ensure that they meet the high ethical standards set by SNAP?

How about any ethical standard! Bishop Williamson, of the SSPX, had his excommunication lifted. It would have taken a whole 30 seconds of using google, bing, or any search engine to discover his anti-semitic, holocaust denying, Jew blaming, attitudes. All of this came to light after the lifted excommunication when the press who also have access to google and bing discovered it! Says a lot about the vetting process or lack thereof.





Of all the damned rabbit holes to go down, how did we end up at the UN?  

At the risk of staying on-topic: Grant's post has it exactly right.  Whether or not the pope has checked off every single box on SNAP's wish list, SNAP and other advocates of abuse victims should be cheering this move to hold bishops accountable.  

And if Grant's speculation is correct, that Finn is the bishop who is about to have the boom lowered on him, then what could there possibly be to complain about?  But I don't think I'm crawling very far out on a limb in predicting that SNAP will find something.  'It didn't happen soon enough.'  Or, 'The punishment isn't harsh enough.'  SNAP talking points pretty much write themselves.  

Here is what SNAP's spokespersons should have said: "This is a welcome move.  We applaud the Holy Father for his actions.  While there are still many other problems to be addressed, let's hope this is a first step to bringing about justice and healing for the victims we represent.  We pledge our support for this effort on the part of the institutional church."

SNAP had a chance here to not let the pefect be the enemy of the good.  It failed.  


Maria : you're right about the journalist's question, but it seems to me that the pope's answer sidesteps the issue of cover-up, so I stand by my earlier comment.

"Abuse of minors
At the moment there are three bishops under investigations: one has already been found guilty and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed. There are no privileges. … A priest who does this betrays the Body of the Lord, because this priest must lead this child, this boy, this girl, to sanctity, and this boy or girl trusts in him; and instead of leading them to sanctity he abuses them. This is very serious. It is like, by way of comparison, holding a black Mass. You are supposed to lead them to sanctity and instead you lead them to a problem that will last their entire lives. In a few days' time there will be a Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae with some survivors of abuse, and then a meeting with them. … But we must move forward on this issue, with zero tolerance!"

( )

The Italian version is here:

George D on ethical parameters. Of course it is highly unethical for a man to have sex with a 15 year old prostitute. My question was whether it is necessarily unethical not to denounce him to the cops years later when doing so will destroy his whole family.


" The only cause for concern would be if he had a fixation and was going after 15 year old girls when he was 40."


So let bygones be bygones? But that is not what the SNAP-minded say. Even misbehavior dating back 40 or 50 years must be pursued till the last ounce of flesh has been taken, irrespective of the present consequences.




I realize that it is convenient and, maybe among dotCommonweal-ers, even fashionable to condescendedly criticize SNAP.  Or, label them whiny complainers that can never be satisfied further infantilizing and stigmatizing them so that we don't have to believe their horror stories of abuse.

Many on this blog would obviously prefer that the victim left naked in the ditch in the pararble of the Good Samaritan remain there, be quiet and suffer in silence. 

It must be very threatening to folks for survivors to have the courage to stand-up and tell their stories of abuse and exploitation.  I guess it just doest fit into the dominant mythology of many of the folks on this blog.  

That must be a terrible cross for you guys to carry to have to tolerate survivors seeking justice?  It would be so much easier to suppress our collective guilt if survivors would just shut-up about their torture and abuse. 

SNAP's job is to promote awareness that survivors of abuse and exploitation at the hands of priests and bishops have been waiting a LONG, LONG time for justice.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote from the Birmingham jail:  "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."

SNAP's job IS NOT to be a cheerleader for a complicit hierarchy in the greatest scandal to rock the church since the crusades and the Inquisition.

BTW:  Is it just me, or did Joseph O'Leary really try to parade his odious ideology about how the rape and sodomy of children by adults is in some way normative human sexual behavior?  This has crossed over into "North American Man/Boy Love Association" (NAMBLA) territory!   

Really, O'Leary?  Your words:

Michel Foucault prophesied that the next wave of scapegoating and witchhunting, since Jews and gays are now off-limits, would be directed against pedophiles. He did not foresee that this would refer to any sexual connection between and adult and minor, as well as many rapports between minors themselves.

Redefining exploitation as torture is stupid and illogical.


Has Commonweal and its editors - erstwhile mavens of Catholic probity - given up their journalistic responsibilities?  Where are our thought police when we really need them?

@ Claire:

Well, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we.

In the meantime, I still maintain that the problem of Finn is not the pope's to address, but the people of Kansas City-Saint Joseph and the USCCB's.

As a curious aside, the reporter who asked the quetsion was an American, who could have easily specified his question by naming names (e.g., "For example, in the US, there is this bishop, etc.etc.), but he and the other English speaking journalists whom he was representing, for whatever reason, chose not to. 

By contrat, the next reporter, from the Spanish-speaking group, named names, or rather, a name, i.e., Cardinal Bertone (which the Vatican's official transcript had conveniently left out, lol) in his questioning re. recent Vatican financial scandals.

To which I'd say: English speaking journalists =chickens; Spanish speaking journalists = well played.


Michel Foucault prophesied that the next wave of scapegoating and witchhunting, since Jews and gays are now off-limits, would be directed against pedophiles. He did not foresee that this would refer to any sexual connection between and adult and minor, as well as many rapports between minors themselves.

Foucault also thought that concern over AIDs was homophobic hysteria. He was wrong about that too. 



Fr. O'Leary's quasi - NAMBLA support is well known. He writes under his own name so caveat emptor! Obvious for anyone who has ears or eyes. Why his bishop has given him a pass is beyond me. His public comments amount to at least unprofessional conduct. Oh well....More of the same. QED

That must be a terrible cross for you guys to carry to have to tolerate survivors seeking justice?  It would be so much easier to suppress our collective guilt if survivors would just shut-up about their torture and abuse. 

Suddenly, it all makes sense: everything Grant has ever written here about victims, perpetrators and the hierarchy that enabled the crimes: that entire corpus has actually been part of a giant conspiracy to discredit victims of sexual abuse and obstruct justice.  Quick, Grant, retire to your secret underwater headquarters before your plans are foiled for good!


Any bishop who is personally guilty of sexual abuse of anyone should not be protected from civil law by the a Vatican that says it is deciding what to do.  The civil authorities should have first crack at the miscreant; church punishment should be secondary.

Any bishop who has covered up sexual abuse is guilty of aiding and abbetting, complicit in the crime and most likely is an accessory after the fact.  I don't know what laws other countries have in these matters, but the US is quite explict about these crimes.

The Vatican can pussy-foot around all it wants, but a crime is a crime and is subject to civil punishment irrespective of any formal church determination.

Michel Foucault prophesied that the next wave of scapegoating and witchhunting, since Jews and gays are now off-limits, would be directed against pedophiles. He did not foresee that this would refer to any sexual connection between and adult and minor, as well as many rapports between minors themselves.

That is one of the most stomach-turning and horrifying statements I have ever read in these comments.  I literally cannot believe that anyone can compare  innocent victims of scapegoating and "witchhunting", including Jewish people and gay people, to pedophiles - to sexual predators who prey on children.   Pedophiles are not innocent victims. They are criminals.

I have seen Mr. O'Leary defend pedophile priests countless times, supposedly on the grounds of "unproven" allegations or reaching to claim that the boys seduced the men.  I would hate to know why he is so quick to defend the indefensible.

But this kind of statement goes beyond even those statements. Pedophiles are criminals of the worst kind.  The large majority of the victims of priests were aged 14 and younger - these are kids.  Only a small % were 16 or 17, and exploiting them was also evil. 

Mr. O'Leary's comment is an attempt to defend EVIL.


It does not have to be either or. Right now Snap is acting the way it should as the pope is acting the way he should. Snap has been disappointed so many times. The pope has to marshall his officials to action in a disciplined way. Too early to fault either. To condemn either at this point is premature. Pressure is important on both sides to be fair. Hopefully a coalescense will occur. 

As for pedophiles the emphasis should be on their making amends. Rehab, of course. But the key is to follow the important steps of AA listed below.  Without that they have no credibility. 

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make 

amends to them all. 


9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do 

so would injure them or others. 


People who have been reading this blog for a long time are used to tuning out certain types of comments by Father O'Leary. What else is to be done? Asking for offensive comments to be removed would go against the principle of open discussion. The guidelines ( have fairly clear rules for deleting comments: "ad hominem attacks; off-topic; containing inappropriate or offensive language, advertising, copyrighted material, or suspicious information,"

and I don't think Fr O'Leary's comment fits those. Comments reacting in protest would distract from the topic under discussion. So, what to do other than tuning out?

Fr. O'Leary thinks independently, and writes things that raise hackles.  Let's take a look at some of the things that he has written under this post.  Fr. O'Leary wrote:

SNAP and the UN Committee on Torture want bishops punished, but surely if the bishops' crimes are as egregious as alleged they should be investigated and convicted under the civil justice system. 

My view: Fr. O'Leary has a point.  We recently focused here on a case in St. Paul/Minneapolis where the district attorney declined to prosecute a bishop who has shown questionable judgment.  Except for Bishop Finn, I'm not aware of any other American bishop being charged in aiding and abetting abuse, whether for failure to comply with mandated-reporting laws, or for conspiracy, or anything of that nature.  Nor do I think that, in today's political, legal and media environment, any American district attorney or judge would fear for political reasons to put a Catholic bishop in the dock.  It seems reasonable to conclude that instances of sitting bishops behaving egregiously enough to warrant criminal charges are pretty few and far between.  That is not to say that bishops should be exempt from civil and ecclesiastical sanctions.  They shouldn't.  I'm not aware of Fr. O'Leary ever claiming otherwise. 

Fr. O'Leary also wrote:

The "decision that sex abuse was torture" is on the face of it  category confusion that will only bring embarrassment to the UN and solace to torturers.

My view: Fr. O'Leary is correct about the category confusion. The UN also recently claimed that restrictions on abortion are torture(!)  Distorting the meaning of words does nothing to help victims, but it does discredit the UN's claims to be a locus of clear thinking and moral righteousness.  Fr. O'Leary's statement that misusing words in this way has the potential to "bring ... solace to torturers" also is correct.  For the same reason, I've written here before that I don't think the word "survivor" should be used to describe any and all victims of sexual abuse.  

Fr. O'Leary also wrote:

Michel Foucault prophesied that the next wave of scapegoating and witchhunting, since Jews and gays are now off-limits, would be directed against pedophiles. 

My view: perhaps Fr. O'Leary could present a quote or explanation from Foucault that would put this in context; as a bare-bones statement, with no surrounding context, it seems like kind of an odd thing for Foucault to say.  But I don't find it far-fetched that sex offenders are scape-goated.  In the US, sex offenders (most of whom seem not to be classified as predatory) must register with the state for the rest of their lives, and their identities and addresses are publicly available to anyone on the world on Internet-accessible registries.  I'm told that, because of these registries, sex offenders frequently are harassed, both by private citizens and by the police and other law enforcement officials.  I'm sure they find it difficult to get good work, even if whatever tendencies led to the commission of the crimes are well-managed.  I believe that, in prison, sex offenders are at disproportionate risk of violence from other inmates.  I know that most of us don't shed any tears when registered sex offenders are mistreated in our communities, or beat up or killed in jail.  But as Christians we're called to care even about them.  

Overall, I don't agree with everything that Fr. O'Leary writes.  Like most of us who comment frequently, he sometimes gets his facts wrong.  I also have found Fr. O'Leary to be thoughtful, well-read, and fearless in his opinions.  And once in a while he flashes some breathtaking brilliance.  When he's wrong, he should be corrected - fraternally (and please, apply the same standards to me!).  I'm glad he's willing to think against the grain of public opinion here at dotCom.  The victims'-advocacy complex isn't and shouldn't be exempt from critique.  And if his comments are too upsetting, they can always be skipped over.  


We have no idea who the 3 bishops are that Pope Francis said were being investigated. Why didn't he make their names public and tell the public what they were being investigated for? 

--- Also, meeting with victims is one thing, but he already knows what to do to protect kids today.

Quoted by pope: " We must go ahead with zero tolerance"
What is Pope Francis going to do about the bishops and cardinals who do not follow the "zero tolerance" policy.?  The pope's grandiose promises and words do not protect kids.
Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called "zero tolerance" policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don't have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their power and the institution rather than protecting innocent children.

Everyday the pope delays in taking significant actions to demote, fire and discipline the high ranking church officials who continue to protect the child predators, another child is being sexually abused within the archaic system. And Pope Francis needs to immediately disclose the names and the reasons that he claims 3 bishops are being investigated.

Delays and silence are not an option anymore. It only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
Judy Jones, SNAP,  Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

Sorry if I seem to be repeating myself.  It's just that many people have been hoping Francis would take action against bishops who have covered up sex abuse.  But as far as I can tell from the news stories I've read, the only bishops who are being investigated are those who have been abusers themselves.  So, this is *not* news, unless, of course, bishops who abused children in the past have never been investigated or punished by the Vatican up until now.

Jim Pauwels @ 2:19 pm:

Well said.



Jim P,

Please Jim. O'Leary compared Jews and Gays to Pedophiles. As Ann pointed out pedophiles are criminals.  Nobody said that O'Leary never said anything that is correct. But this statement is outrageous and deserves, well, the outrage.

Survivors are rightly wary of a new meeting with the pope. Benedict did not have a clue and acted as if he were in space at the meeting with survivors. Francis, I am certain will be different. But one can understand the survivors hesitancy.

 I also have found Fr. O'Leary to be thoughtful, well-read, and fearless in his opinions

Are you on bath salts? 

Thank you, Bill.  I debated posting at all. But I am indeed  "outraged" by that statement. I too have agreed with some things Mr.O'Leary posts, but have also noted his consistent pattern of defending pedophile priests and defending bishops who protect pedophile priests.   I never commented before on any of  those posts, but comparing innocent victims of scapegoating with criminals who prey on children was a step too far for me to swallow without protest.  It is over the line - an absolute insult to Jews and gays.   I too am exercising my right to "free speech" on this board by expressing my outrage at this comparison.  One hopes that statements such as that one are challenged and not just allowed to slide by as one man's opinion because of a misguided understanding of what is and is not "censorship".  Challenging someone's ideas here is not censorship.

Jim P, it may be unfortunate for the sex offenders that convicted sex offenders must register as such later. But as a mother and (as of one month ago) grandmother, I am very glad that those who prey on children have at least few obstacles put in their way.  The relapse rate is very high among those who commit these crimes.  The children MUST be protected as much as possible. That is something that too many bishops (and so far, too many popes) simply don't "get". 

Are those who refer to JOL as "Mister" rather than "Father" rejecting his priesthood, or just committing an error?

I refer to "Fr" Robert Sirico and "Fr" Z in quotes because I personally reject any claim they choose to make as a priest, a status for them which must have a couple of bishops heading for the confessional on a regular basis.

While Finn remains unpunished, he is still punishing others.


"Colleen Simon had her dream job, working at her church to feed hungry families. It was a job, she says, "I was called to by God."

And then last week, she was fired because she is married to another woman.

Colleen has devoted her life to helping the hungry. She's in a loving, committed relationship. Even now, she bears no ill will toward her church, instead praying for "the day when we are all loved and embraced by our churches."

If Colleen Simon is not fit to serve the poor at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Kansas City, no one is.

One of Pope Francis's top bishops in Italy recently called for including gay Christians in church life, less than a year after Francis himself called for a new tone. But the local bishop, Robert Finn, seems not to have gotten the message."

@ Jim Pauwels:  My sainted sixth grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, often intoned:  " Tell me who your friends are and I tell you who you are."  I think you just hugged a Tar Baby in your embrace of JOL. 

It is written in Proverbs (13:20): 

"He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."

Pauwels, you should know better:  Just because the local district attorney doesn't bring criminal or civil charges doesn't mean that our hierarchs have clean hands, or aren't complicit in the rape and sodomy of children.  

Hierarchs have bought the best criminal lawyers money-can-buy to "reduce their legal exposure" - I think that's the operative legal wording?  

You seriously can't think that if Cardinal Mahony wasn't sitting on a mountain of money during all those years of omnipotence he wouldn't be doing time right now at San Quentin?  [Independent estimates have it between 5 and 10 $billion portfolio - including the exclusive use of a helicopter to flit around LA without getting trapped on the freeways].  

You can buy a lot of Get Out of Jail Free cards with that kind of money!  Think of all the politicians and district attorneys Mahony is still carrying around in his hip pocket!

Sister Adelaide also warned us that "sins against the Holy Spirit" included sins of omission and willful ignorance.