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Unhappy with your press? Give the 'out of context' talisman a try. (UPDATED)

See updates--there are four now--here.

Yesterday social media lit up with news accounts claiming Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis had told victims attorney Jeff Anderson that when he was an auxiliary bishop in St. Paul and Minneapolis, he didn't know that it was illegal for an adult to have sexual contact with a child. Here's how one of those stories began:

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson claimed to be uncertain that he knew sexual abuse of a child by a priest constituted a crime when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, according to a deposition released Monday (June 9).

During the deposition taken last month, attorney Jeff Anderson asked Carlson whether he knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson replied. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

Today the Archdiocese of St. Louis defended Carlson with a long press release accusing Anderson, and by extension news accounts that cited him, of "strategically" taking Carlson’s testimony "out of context." According to the archdiocese, "in the full transcript of Archbishop Carlson’s deposition, the actual exchange between Archbishop Carlson and Plaintiff’s counsel is quite different from what is being widely reported in the media." The statement continues: "What Plaintiff’s counsel has failed to point out to the media is that Mr. Goldberg himself noted at this point in the deposition 'you’re talking about mandatory reporting?' When the Archbishop said 'I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,' he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse (pgs. 108-109)." In other words, Carlson was talking about mandatory-reporting laws, not laws against adults having sex with minors.

This prompted the alternative magisterium at the National Catholic Reporter to quickly publish a story that essentially repeats the archdiocese's press release. The editors even added an update at the top of the Religion News Service piece they published about this--which also parrots the archdiocese's claims. The St. Louis CBS affiliate published a similar article. So did Deacon Greg Kandra at Patheos. And the Winona Daily News.

So how did so many members of the media get this wrong? How could they so badly misread the testimony of Archbishop Carlson, and in the process besmirch his good name? Probably because they can read. Let's have a look at that "full transcript."

The archdiocese says that the "actual exchange" started with Anderson asking Carlson about mandatory-reporting laws. And that's not false. But what follows could not be clearer. Carlson is asked whether throughout his priesthood he knew that it was illegal for an adult to have sex with children, and he said he wasn't sure--but that he understood that now. Roll tape:

Q. Well, mandatory reporting laws went into effect across the nation in 1973, Archbishop.

MR. GOLDBERG: I'm going to object to the form of that question.

MR. ANDERSON: Let me finish the question.

MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Q. (By Mr. Anderson) And you knew at all times, while a priest, having been ordained in 1970, it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid. You knew that, right?

MR. GOLDBERG: I'm going to object to the form of that question now. You're talking about mandatory reporting.

MR. ANDERSON: Okay. I'll -- if you don't like the question, I'll ask another question.

MR. GOLDBERG: Well, you've asked a conjunctive question. One doesn't --

MR. ANDERSON: Objection heard. I'll ask another question. Okay?

MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead.

So the archbishop's lawyer objected to Anderson's question, Anderson accepted the objection and explained that he would ask a different question, and Golberg acknowledged that Anderson would reformulate. Here's the revised question:

Q. (By Mr. Anderson) Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it's a crime.

Is it possible that Carlson still thought that he was being asked about mandatory reporting? Maybe. But then Anderson asks him this:

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I don't remember.

And then he asks him this:

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a kid who he had under his control?

A. I don't remember that either.

Q. Do you have any doubt in your mind that you knew that in the '70s?

A. I don't remember if I did or didn't.

Anderson repeated "crime for an adult [or priest] to have sex with a kid" four times during that exchange, three after Carlson's lawyer initially objected (defense attorneys aren't too keen on compound questions). Yet the archdiocese argues that "when the Archbishop said 'I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,' he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse." The full transcript--posted on the archdiocese's own Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis website--makes it clear that Anderson wanted to know whether and when Carlson knew it was a crime for an adult to have sexual contact with a minor. He said he wasn't sure he knew it years ago, but that he did now. That's clear enough to anyone with eyes to see. So what's wrong with the archdiocese's?

Update: Right on cue, Bill Donohue weighs in with predicable accuracy.

Update 2: Donohue's latest flouncery, in which he erroneously claims Commonweal has "indicted" Carlson, proves once again that reading comprehension isn't his strong suit. Pretty much every word of that press release is false.

Update 3: Donohue is back with another press release--titled "Archbishop Carlson Has Been Framed" (for what he doesn't say)--proving once and for all that Carlson did know (in the past) that it's a crime for an adult to have sex with a minor. He lists several places in the transcript that Carlson says he advised (or would have advised) people (well, at least one couple--actually, he has trouble recalling) to go to the police with abuse allegations. Donohue writes: "According to attorney Jeffrey Anderson, as well as Commonweal, and other media outlets, the transcript of the exchange between Anderson and Archbishop Carlson reveals that the archbishop did not know it was a crime for an adult to have sex with a child."

That's not what I wrote. Nor did I claim that he is ignorant of such laws today. Rather, I was responding to the Archdiocese of St. Louis's attempt to reframe the portion of the testimonty in which Carlson was asked repeatedly whether and when he knew that it was illegal for adults to have sex with kids and repeatedly he answers with some varation on "I don't recall." The archdiocese now claims that Carlson was really answering a question about mandatory-reporting laws. But the transcript does not support that theory. That's quite strange. That Carlson says in other places that he advised at least one couple, and maybe some others (he can't remember), to take abuse allegations to the police, and that on one page he acknowledges that, yes, when a priest touches a child's genitals he has committed a crime, makes the testimony I cited all the more bizarre. Why would you say you coudln't recall whether or when you became aware that adults can't legally have sex with kids when you've already testified that it's a crime for a priest to touch a child's genitals? Momentary amnesia?

Obviously the archbishop was struggling to remember many features of his past dealings with this issue. According to Phil Lawler--not exactly known as a liberal critic of the bishops--Carlson "dodged other questions by saying almost 200 times that [he] couldn’t recall the details of various cases" (Donohue must not have seen this, because he has yet to issue a fatwa against Lawler). Indeed, at one point in the deposition Anderson asked Carlson about his inability to remember significant--even dramatic--details surrounding the scandal. Anderson produced part of a 1987 deposition of Bishop Loras Watters of Winona:

(By Mr. Anderson) I direct your attention to Page 55, Archbishop [Carlson], and go to Page 54. And at Line 25, the question [to Bishop Watters] is, "Other than Mr. Blahnik, your attorney, co-counsel, when did you discuss it with Father Adamson?"

Answer [Watters]: "Well, we have been in contact, oh, perhaps every two weeks. The last time was probably ten days ago."

Question [Anderson]: "Okay. I will get back and ask you about that a little later. Have you discussed it with anybody else in preparation for this deposition today, knowing that you were going to be asked questions about it?"

Answer [Watters]: "I guess Bishop Carlson, after I received his deposition. I said, 'Is that as tough as it looks like, you know?'"

Question [Anderson]: "Is it?"

Answer [Watters]: "He said, the best thing you can say is 'I don't remember.'"

Something tells me this exchange isn't one Archbishop Carlson is likely to forget.

Update 4: On Friday, Archbishop Carlson released a statement and a video in which he apologizes for the "concern and frustration" caused by "misconceptions stemming from" the deposition, and tries to "set the record straight." For his entire adult life, he explains, he's known that sexual abuse is a crime. So why did this happen?

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I don't remember.

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a kid who he had under his control?

A. I don't remember that either.

Q. Do you have any doubt in your mind that you knew that in the '70s?

A. I don't remember if I did or didn't.

Q. In 1984, you are a Bishop in the -- a Bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. You knew it was a crime then, right?

A. I'm not sure if I did or didn't.

Archbishop Carlson explains: "I misunderstood a series of questions that were presented to me."

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Grant, Grant - let's not pick on the poor, poor archbishop - he is in ill health and a *victim* here.  To borrow from Mark Twain - "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated*  - in other words.. *the reports that I was misquoted by the cruel, cruel, unethical media are greatly exaggerated*.  (and I am entitled to my good name especially as I spend millions on legal fees to dodge, delay, attack, and suppress evidence.  Just wait until the Father Joseph Jiang case finally comes out in the open -- or



Grant - 

In the deposition, Abp. Carlson *clearly* states that he knew in 1984 that sex with a child was a serious crime.

From pages 98-99 of the deposition, in which Church-suing lawyer Jeff Anderson is *clearly* asking Abp. Carlson about a 1984 memo for which Carlson took notes:

ANDERSON: And you also knew that when first degree criminal sexual conduct is written and recorded, that is the most serious of the sex crimes against a child. You know that?

CARLSON: Correct.

There. Yet the MSM, NCR, and even you make no mention of this exchange at all.


I also think it is not unreasonable for a 70-year-old sitting for a four-hour deposition to become confused at some point, which is often a major goal of the questioner.


Veteran litigants like Anderson know that during depositions it is easy to hop-and-skip around and between different topics, wear down or confuse the individual being questioned, and then play "gotcha" with the transcript later on. And Anderson knows that the media will jump on it.


Yes, some of the exchanges with Carlson are befuddling - to say the least - but I think ascribing the most mean-spirited motives to Carlson when there is certainly some question about the exact subject of the reported exchange is unfair.




Dave Pierre


I didn't ascribe motive of any kind. Nor did I suggest that Carlson does not know it's illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor. 

DPierre - agree with some of your descriptions about Anderson, legal tactics, etc. but disagree when you try to apply this to Carlson's testimony.

Fact - in numerous places in the depostion, Carlson makes statements that clearly indicate that he knows that sexual abuse is criminal. (not just the one you cite)

Fact - mandated reporting - you can be criminally charged if you fail to do this - which Carlson has admitted to. 

Fact - whether the deposition was four or one hour, a simple, direct question about sexual abuse as criminal is cut and dried - you would answer that question or any form of that question the same way - in fact, his lawyer objected and forced Anderson to reword the question.  So, whether that question is asked in the first or the fourth hour - the answer should be simple and straightforrward.

Fact - he had weeks, if not months, to prepare for this deposition.  You make it sound as if he is helpless in the face of hard ball Anderson questioning?  He also has counsel present to support appear to be playing the *victim* card.

Grant has highlighted one series of exchanges - and to be honest, whether it refers to ignoring  mandated reporting or to sexual abuse as criminal, both are criminal behaviors.  Carlson used terms such as *I don't remember* 193 times.  If nothing else, this appears to refute your argument.  Was he so confused for four hours that he had to resort to *I don't remember* 193 times?

One reason I made the statement above was that I expected someone to *use the health or age card* to defend the poor, helpless, in poor health 70 year old archbishop.

Facts - Carlson has sat through any number of depositions (with more on the way).  His pattern in every deposition is the same - *I don't remember*.  Some other damaging items:

- 80 year old convicted clerical abuser in Winona just stated that Carlson and company never asked him if he had other vicitms when he was caught.  (THEY NEVER ASKED)

- some indications that Carlson, in a conversation with Watters of Winona, advised him to just use the phrase - *I don't remember*

- the phrase *I don't remember* is a typical tactic used by bishops and their legal teams.  Tom Doyle has written about this under the title - *mental reservation*


Concerned Catholics: Here's how you can help, in very specific ways:

Catholics, you may feel powerless but you aren't. You can donate to groups that prevent abuse, not institutions that hide it. You can write letters to lawmakers urging better child safety laws. You can invite child sex abuse victims and their advocates to speak in your churches or to your organizations. You can speak out in public and online because secrecy only helps the bad guys.

You can look at the list of 51 proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting St. Louis Catholic clerics at You can ask every current and former Catholic you know about these predators your friends, your family, your neighbors. You can get specific, and ask Did any of these priests, nuns, seminarians or brothers hurt you? If they say yes, you can beg them to call police, prosecutors, therapists or our support group. You can assure them that healing is possible, and sometimes justice and prevention are possible too. You can encourage them to explore any legal options they may have criminal or civil.

You can beg your colleagues fellow parishioners to report what they know or suspect about clergy sex crimes to law enforcement. You can remind them that nothing is too small, old or seemingly minor to report. You can tell them it's their duty to share what they've heard or seen, and it's law enforcements' duty to decide what's worth investigation or prosecuting.

You can plead with your parish staff current and former to tell independent sources about everything they've heard, seen or suspected about possible clergy sexual misdeeds, whether it's clear or unclear.

You cannot, however, give up, not if you want a safer church for kids. For 25 years, we in SNAP haven't given up. And we never will.

You can't just pray or walk away or ignore this crisis or assume others will fix it not if you want a safer church for kids.

And we submit that you cannot contact Catholic officials if you want real reform. Calling and writing to secular authorities, not church figures that's the most effective way to protect kids, expose wrongdoers and deter cover ups. Contacting church officials is, at best, a waste of time. At worst, information shared with them can enable them to better hide abuse and impugn you or your motives.

Whatever you do, please know that silence and inaction are the best friends of those who commit and conceal heinous child sex crimes. Consider the words of therapist Judith Herman:

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.

Earlier today, Carlson, through his public relations team, issued a statement saying he's a leader in the church on abuse. He's half right. He's a leader in four ways, each of them disturbing.

--He's a leader in recklessness.

We know of no other sitting archbishop who is, right now, letting a twice-arrested predator priest live unsupervised just six minutes away from the parish where he allegedly assaulted a boy and a girl. We're talking about Fr. Joseph Jiang, who is living at Grand and Lafayette with Dominicans.

--He's a leader in alleged evidence tampering.

We know of no other sitting archbishop who reportedly asked a victim's family to give him evidence in a criminal case. We're talking about Fr. Jiang again, who, according to police, prosecutors, civil attorneys and a victims' parents, left a $20,000 check with those parents after they confronted him with his crimes and he admitted them. According to the parents, the police and the prosecutors, Carlson reportedly called the mom and asked for the check, instead of telling her to give it to law enforcement.

--He's a leader in importing predator priests.

We know of no other archdiocese where more proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics are accepted from other places. We're talking about Catholic facilities here called RECON, the Vianney Renewal Center, St. Joseph's infirmary, and other church centers in Shrewsbury and Webster Groves.

--He's a leader in hardball tactics.

We know of no other sitting archbishop who has successfully gotten a clergy sex abuse case tossed out by claiming his archdiocese isn't responsible for a predator priests' crimes because those crimes were on private property, not church property. We're talking about the Fr. Thomas Cooper case, in which a judge found that:

--a victim has evidence that the archdiocese knew a priest had a history of sexual abuse,

--that church officials knew that leaving (the priest) alone with kids was certain. . .to result in harm to (others),

--that they disregarded that known risk, and, as a result,

--(at least one boy) was sexually abused by (the priest.)

We challenge Archbishop Carlson to dispute these facts, any or all of them.

Still, Archbishop Carlson is a lucky man. He's got people talking about what he says. People should focus instead on what he does. That's even worse. He's playing legal hardball, exploiting legal loopholes, and denying victims their legal right to confront wrongdoers in court.

He's talking like a compassionate shepherd in public while behaving like a cold-hearted CEO in court.

He continues to protect child predators and endanger innocent kids.

This whole avoidable situation fills us with deep sadness.

It's sad that Carlson is again blaming the media instead of admitting his wrongdoing.

It's sad that Carlson claims he can't recall what he's said and done in clergy sex cases. If you tell the truth and do what's right, it's easier to remember.

It's sad that, just like with Congressman Todd Akin, once again St. Louis is in the national spotlight because of hurtful comments by a powerful official about sexual crimes.

It's sad that Carlson claims to worry about re-opening the wounds of clergy sex abuse victims, instead of taking real steps and responsible action to prevent those wounds in the first place and heal them properly, through taking responsibility and exposing cover ups.

But we can't be paralyzed by our sadness. Kids depend on us. Kids need us. So please, please don't give up! Keep fighting against a centuries-old, still-powerful culture and practice of secrecy around clergy sex crimes and cover ups. Keep helping us reach out to those who are suffering in shame, silence and self-blame because of child molesting clerics and employees and their complicit church colleagues and supervisors.

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

Judy Jones: Does SNAP counsel victims not to alert church authorities if they've been abused by a priest? That strikes me as grossly irresponsible advice. 

Does SNAP counsel victims not to alert church authorities if they've been abused by a priest?

It just did.

That strikes me as grossly irresponsible advice. 




You wrote, "Fact - in numerous places in the depostion, Carlson makes statements that clearly indicate that he knows that sexual abuse is criminal. (not just the one you cite)"

YES. But the media, NCR, and Grant have not reported this, and that is the point I'm making.

And your point about alleged "mental reservation" goes back to what I said about ascribing the most mean-spirited motives to the man. Have you considered the possibility that Carlson *truly* does not remember exact facts and thinking from *30 years ago*? 

It's easy to sit on a computer and attack a guy, but unless you've actually been in similar shoes to him, I believe claiming the guy is being dishonest is simply unwarranted and unfair.

And Tom Doyle? No, thanks. Personally, I wouldn't trust the guy to give me directions to a gas station:


Um, why?

(The above dirceted toward Grant and Jim)

 Here is exactly what Ms. Jones stated:

And we submit that you cannot contact Catholic officials if you want real reform. Calling and writing to secular authorities, not church figures that's the most effective way to protect kids, expose wrongdoers and deter cover ups. Contacting church officials is, at best, a waste of time. At worst, information shared with them can enable them to better hide abuse and impugn you or your motives.

She did not state - do not alert church authorities if abused by a priest.  She did state that is next to worthless, at times.  Would suggest we have a both/and vs. either/or.

You might want to spend time investigating the current cases (now civil) against Jiang with Carlson in the picture.  What is especially of note is the hard ball tactics used by Carlson's legal team; he called and pressured the girl's family to change course and move to the civil courts; etc.  Wonder what they would say about their experience in terms of *notifying the local church"?

"And we submit that you cannot contact Catholic officials if you want real reform. Calling and writing to secular authorities, not church figures that's the most effective way to protect kids, expose wrongdoers and deter cover ups. Contacting church officials is, at best, a waste of time. At worst, information shared with them can enable them to better hide abuse and impugn you or your motives."

Is that so hard to believe?  If I find out there is reason to believe a child may have been harmed by a priest, I'm going straight to the police, not the bishop's office.  Let the police inform the diocese of the allegations. Only if the cops refuse to investigate would I even consider calling the bishop's office.  Prior notice only gives the diocese more time to start covering up tracks and spinning a story. 

That would be my advice to any friend or loved one wondering what to do, too. 

The bishops have made it clear many a time that they consider these priests their "sons."  If a guy down the street molests a kid, are you going to go to the cops first, or the guy's father? 

Abe: I didn't say only. Obviously you call the cops. But not to inform the people who have immediate authority over the accused at all?

Why should victims have to do that, especially given the Church's track record? Victims could hardly be blamed for not taking it for granted that church authorities will be on their side. Look, it's not a question of church authorities not finding out: if law enforcement investigate/charge one of their employees, church authorities are going to be made aware of the situation, and probably in such a way as to be less capable of sweeping things under the rug.

Did I say "have to"? Did I say they should be bursting with ecclesial trust? Let's have a who-gets-the-scandal-better contest, shall we?

I think that you actually would like to have that contest; otherwise, I can't explain why you're being so defensive. 

And actually, you pretty much did say that they had to, without actually nutting up enough to say it directly. You asked a rhetorical question: "But not to inform the people who have immediate authority over the accused at all?" My guess is that you think the take-away from that question is that it is wrong not to inform those people, otherwise you wouln't have clutched your pearls over what Judy said, and you wouldn't have posed the question. Well, I and a few others have given reasons as to why someone might not inform the church. 

Besides,  if the suspect is arrested, I'm pretty sure it's the justice system that has immediate authority over him.

And if he isn't? Do you know how many priests haven't been detained because the cops didn't think they had enough evidence to convict? Lots. It's not obvious that victims never should tell church authorities. For years Jeff Anderson would send victims to the Archdiocese of Chicago because they would pay for therapy--no questions asked. I know you're not very good at debating without dropping a colorful metaphor here and there. And they're entertaining as all get out. But they don't mask ignorance. It's more complicated than Jones or you suggest. 

Abe, there are instances - there have been many - where secular authorities are not able to prosecute clerical sex offenders.  One common reason is because criminal statutes of limitations prevent authorities from pursuing old criminal cases. (Under the Dallas Charter and associated Norms, there is no statute of limitations, so the church's internal legal process is not bound by them).   There also have been instances where civil authorities have investigated accusations and determined that the evidence doesn't meet their threshold for prosecution.

In addition, criminal investigations can be lengthy, and unless civil authorities arrest the accused cleric, those authorities can't prevent him from continuing in whatever ministerial activities bring him into contact with minors, whereas the church authorities can remove the victim immediately from ministry and pull him from the parish (or wherever he is assigned).

There is also the risk that the secular authorities won't get things right.  For example, they may fail to contact the church authorities.  I don't think it's prudent to rely wholly on them.

My view is that SNAP, in recommending that victims not alert church authorities, is not acting in the best interest of victims and survivors.  I don't really see a downside to victims and survivors informing church authorities, and for themselves and for other victims/survivors, the upside can be substantial, if the church follows its own rules.


Sorry, I should have made this more clear in my previous comment: my view is that victims/survivors should always contact both the secular authorities and the church authorities to report any and all instances of abuse.


Thanks, JP - which is my basic approach also.  But, to be honest, don't expect much in return from church authorities.

Nor do I paint SNAP with one color - Judy Jones, just like Carlson, are only one part of either the church or SNAP.  But, it is always enjoyable to watch Abe and Grant go at it.

You're right, Grant. The full transcript confirms the original  story, which The AP also carried. The transcript shows that Anderson asked the same question several different ways. 

It looks to me as if the archbishop was tired and confused at that point in the deposition, since he had already spent hours answering questions about events long in the past.

The archbishop had opportunities to correct the record. Lawyers don't normally do re-direct examination when their clients are being questioned in a deposition, but as I understand it (I'm not a lawyer), they can. If the archbishop really didn't  mean what he clearly had said, his lawyer could have cleared up the record with a few questions on re-direct.

Or the archbishop could have explained himself better to the news media when reporters started calling about the transcript. The statement that was issued only seems to have confirmed that the archbishop did not know sexual abuse was  a crime in the past: "while not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the Archbishop did make it clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today." That is a non-denial denial. Maybe his spokesman could have actually talked to the reporters.


We urge anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by anyone within the Archdiocese to contact the police. Sex abuse is a crime, and the church officials are not the proper officials to be investigating child sex crimes.

Of course it is up to the victim if he or she wishes to report to the church officials also.. but many, many  times victims are treated badly by church officials. This is not something just in the past, the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on today throughout the world.

That is why we work so hard to help expose the truth so that kids are protected today. Nothing has really changed because there is no punishment for the bishops who do not follow their own made up rules.

tks, Judy Jones


I should flesh out what is at the basis of my approach, which is that I am extremely wary of placing the onus for dealing with an abuser on the victim. I am willing to agree that a victim, for the sake of potential victims, should report abusers to the police. And, because I know that it is true that law enforcement may drop the ball or be limited in its abilities, I have not said that victims should never report abusers to Church authorities. It's just that there has to be a real failure in the system if it should be necessary for the victim to take on that burden--but, yes, such failures are hardly an impossibility. Jim says he doesn't see a downside to victims reporting abusers to the Church. Well, I would suggest to Jim that he consider the additional emotional distress that may be accrued when such reporting is met by resistance ot worse: new betrayals are only added to old ones. It could be that the downside is further injury to victims, which should be considered when thinking about why or why wouldn't a victim contact the Church.

If someone goes to the police with sex abuse allegations against a priest, the police will certainly then contact that priest and his superiors ... mission accomplished as far as letting the church know.  And I still remember the case of Ireland's Cardinal Beady, who was part of a church effort that made  a victim  swear not to tell his parents or the police he was abused.  I don't think that was a unique situation ... "The child's father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy"

Pierre, Bill Donohue has to die some day and you should be ready to fill his shoes.

The lack of transparency that was promised in the Dallas Charter was on clearly on display by Carlson in his pathetic deposition.

The only thing that is worse is the response of his archdiocese and people like you who assure the destruction of the tiny amount of credibility left in the church.

Archbishop Carlson and his performance in this deposition have no resembance to the teachings of Christ, PERIOD.

Pierre, you are embarrassing yourself and are losing the tiny amount of credibility that you have remaining.

The church is about truth, love, protection of children, and taking care of the ones that were harmed.  Not about the protection of the privilege and power of an archbishop.


IISTM that there are a lot of questions that might need to be asked before making that first phone call.  Here are some that occur to me.  

Are there any children in immediate danger? If so, I think I should perhaps contact the parents immediately.  

Next:  what does the law require given what I know or just suspect?  If I am I just suspicious and no child is in immediate danger (i.e., today or tomorrow), is anybody else likely to have additional knowledge who could confirm or disconfirm my suspicion?

Given the circumstances, what does the law require?  And how fast does it require me to inform them of what I know or suspect?     

If I just have suspicions and the law doesn't require me to inform the police of, and if I know that my current bishop has been known to cover up cases of abuse in the past, I think I should obviously go straight to the police.  If I know that my bishop made a mistake in the '90s but cooperated with the diocesan review board in handling cases since then, then I might go to the bishop. It all depends.  But depending on how strong my evidence is, I might also go to the police with my suspicions.

But what If I don't know anything about my new bishop?  I say that given the statistics, the shameful odds are that he will cover-up something if I tell him my suspicions or clear evidence, so I should probably go immediately  to the police, and also ask the police whether I should inform the bishop as well.

Sometimes we aren't sure what to do, and prudence gets complicated.  I say if it's necessary to risk making an error, then err on the side of protecting the children.  



Abe, yes, I agree that it must be emotionally distressing to have to talk with anyone about being abused.  This is why minors who have been abused frequently don't confide in their parents, teachers, cops or other adults who could take action to stop the abuse and report the abuser.  I understand it's also why rape victims frequently don't report rapes to the police.

This is why I find it flabbergasting that SNAP, which puts itself forward as a friend in need for victims and survivors of abuse, seems cavalier, or worse, about being a friend in need in this regard.  A friend of an abuse victim should provide the help, encouragement and emotional support for a victim to do the right thing.  And that certainly includes taking concrete steps to get the abuser away from the victim.  

*Anyone* with knowledge of abuse by a cleric, church employee or volunteer, or who suspects abuse, should report their knowledge or suspicion to both the civil authorities and the church authorities, for the reasons I outlined in my earlier comment.  Some of us have legal mandated-reporter requirements (both civil law and church law) in this regard, but even folks who aren't required by law to report suspicions should do it anyway.


I don't want to be too critical of SNAP.  But I don't think it's likely that a victim who contacts a diocesan victim protection office is going to be treated badly.  I would be very surprised if the person on the other end of the phone is mean, rude or dismissive.  If I'm wrong about this, then those instances should be brought to light, particularly if there is a pattern of this type of treatment in a particular diocese.  And I don't know why someone from SNAP, or any friend of a victim, couldn't be on the phone when the victim makes the call to support the victim and make sure the report is taken seriously.

Abe: I basically agree with you. I don't think SNAP has any business telling victims whom they should not talk to. What if a victim is in a diocese that actually has a good response team? There are downsides to every situation. In the McCormack case in Chicago, for example, the police declined to prosecute the first complaint (McCormack's brother happens to be a Chicago cop)--that was the reason Cardinal George declined to follow his review board's advice to remove McCormack from ministry. Now, that's a case everyone involved--from layperson to bishop--managed to botch. But it illustrates why a single approach won't do.

Grant - you might want to update your UPDATE:


And can't wait for his last sentence -

"I will have more to say on this matter. We have the evidence that will settle the issue."

Yep, Big Bill will *settle* the issue; once and for all!


...but even folks who aren't required by law to report suspicions should do it anyway.

Suspicion is a slippery word. It can mean anything from fairly good evidence warranting further investigation to "I suspect my neighbor is a witch, because she has a black cat." If you set the bar too low, you will sweep up allegations that are simply crazy or spiteful, and waste investigators' time; too high, and you will miss real cases of abuse. When and how does suspicion cross the line into reportable evidence? Are there clear guidelines, or is it a matter of hunches?


Between you and Tom Boyle, I'll take Tom anyday. You  quote your own biased report. How tacky!

Suspicion is a slippery word.

Yep.  I wouldn't know where to begin to build the decision tree, "Do I make the call or not?"

Sometimes, though, it's not that hard to decide.  A school principal wrote this letter to the Kansas City diocese about Shawn Ratigan, detailing a series of suspicions.



Bill - it gets worse.  The Media Report merely copied/pasted from Fr. Z's blog (without attribution):

Almost all of the allegations and links are to second or third hand opinion writers - there are no documented is, in fact, a smear campaign orchestrated by Fr. Z.

Here's the real story on Fr. Z (not exactly an unbiased or reliable source of information):

Both Pierre and Z use innuendo, smears, and personal attacks to make their biased opinions known.



Despite the terrible things that have happened, the reforms have made the dioceses safer for children. The rules are mostly excellent now. What I like about it that it even prevents certain teachers or social workers who have emotional needs to use children (not sexual) in a manipulative way. Alas it does prevent some good relationships. But children should mix with children. The Guidelines are great. I am more familiar with New York. We have to continue to be vigilant that supervisors might intervene against the victims.

Grant - thanks for the update to the update.  Now, from Big Bill, here is the proof to settle this:

Geez, Grant, you *framed* the poor, poor archbishop.

Where does one start? 

So, Big Bill indicates numerous places in the depostion where Carlson acknowledged that sexual abuse is criminal behavior. 

But, then he goes back to the highlighted part of the deposition and claims Anderson (or Grant's version or NCR, etc.) is twisting his answers....that he was really refering to mandated reporting.  (even tho, ignoring that is also criminal behavior if you are a mandated reporter and he was but in the case of Adamson, prior to the state law requiring this)

And, of course, Big Bill continues his meme that Adamson is a *homosexual* priest and, of course, this is the real core problem.

@BillMazella: Calling someone "tacky" is just namecalling. It is the sign of a loser when it comes to facts.


@BilldeHaas: Good grief. I simply copied and pasted the Q&A ***directly from the deposition itself***!! I copied *nothing* from Fr. Z. In fact, I did not even see Fr. Z's post until this morning (the 12th). If you truly call yourself a Catholic, you would apologize for spreading such a gross and deliberate falsehood about me.


@Grant: I'm a little surprised at you. When you say the "transcript doesn't support [the] theory" that Abp. Carlson was talking about mandated reporting, you either didn't read the entre transcript or we get back to one of my original points: that you maliciously ascribe the the most sinister motives to Abp. Carlson.

There are numerous points during the transcript where Carlson clearly acknowledges that he knew in the 1980s that child abuse was a crime.

In fact, Anderson had already deposed Carlson **four times** back in the 1980s! 

In the relevant portions of the deposition, Carlson's attorney and Anderson quarrel over the questioning and the topic of mandated reporting. I certainly think it's fair to give Abp. Carlson the benefit of the doubt that, considering the *numerous times* that he had already answered questions about the *crime* of child abuse, Anderson was asking him about mandated reporting.


Dave P.: Stop. I didn't impute motives. You're terrible at this. 

DPierre - here is what you posted above: (June 12, 2014)

Compare that to the link from Fr. Z - yes, he does say he gets this from Media Report but he posts in March, 2012. (you have to look for his attribution to Media Report and your link above dated April, 2014 compared to Fr. Z's March, 2012 did throw me)

And yet - your long list is still second or third hand opinions with no documentation; merrely innuendo and smears.

Given the documentation I provided to counter your false allegations, will you, as you say,  " If you truly call yourself a Catholic, you would apologize for spreading such a gross and deliberate falsehood about me." also apologize to Fr. Doyle?


@Bill deHaas: You originally wrote, "The Media Report merely copied/pasted from Fr. Z's blog (without attribution)."

That claim is 100% false. You won't apologize. Instead, you say that Fr. Z. cited me in 2012. Uhhhhh ... so what? What does that have to do with anything?

You also claim that my "long list" about Fr. Tom Doyle has "no documentation." That is also 100% false. Everything is documented, such as his ban from acting as a canon lawyer in the Archdiocese of St. Louis because he committed canonical crimes.


And another thing: If there is anything false on my site about Doyle, I will *certainly* take it down. Tom Doyle is *very* aware of my site, yet he has never once contacted me about anything being false. Period.


@Grant: When you post a headline, "Unhappy with your press? Give the 'out of context' talisman a try," *of course* you are ascribing/imputing a motive to the archbishop/archdiocese!

C'mon, man! Has the Blackhawks loss affected you that much? 

DPierre --

Can you tell us the whole story of why Cardinal Burke condemned Fr. Doyle as a criminal?  According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2007 Cardinal Burke *prohibited* Krause and Rozanski from hiring Fr. Doyle as their canon lawyer, and the Cardinal assigned them a different canon lawyer instead.  So how come one year later he is condemning Fr Doyle for NOT representing Krause and Rozanski?  What's the other side of this story???

David Pierre is a special type of apologist.  

Ann, you gave him an opportunity to tell you the other side of the story.  One would think he would have already put that out there  because he is the man behind the "media report", as this might imply some type of journalism.

Sorry Ann, he is a one side of the story man, very similiar to an archdiocese spokesperson. 

He has the chutzpah to question the integrity of Tom Doyle.

Tom Doyle has more integrity in his pinky toenail than Pierre has in his entire body. Tom has the courage to tell the truth to church leaders who just care about their reputation. If they would have listened to him in the 70's the church would have truly protected it's reputation as well as protecting children, there would be significantly less victims. 

Tom has lost many opportunities because he has lived his integrity.

Dave Pierre is not only an apologist but an opportunist as well.  He hawks his fiction books to make a buck from other willfully blind folks who have so much invested in their faith that they cannot afford the truth to devalue their rigid beliefs. These people follow the institution instead of Jesus. They trust in the words of Bill Donahue while people who follow Christ seem to trust the words of Tom Doyle.

Dave, I am sure that you can justify the Trenton bishop's despicable legal argument stating that a priest is off duty when he is molesting a child. I know that Jesus taught us so very much about accountability avoidance.

I just want to hear your twisted justification. It is worth a laugh and I can email your remarks to other victims who also find your actions hurtful yet sometimes in a dark way, comical.  I am sure it will be a real  "dandy".

DPierre - you link to a form from Burke; so what?  Again, that is Burke's opinion in which he is judge and jury.  There is no documentation that either supports or proves what Burke says.  It is merely a *pronouncement* from a now discredited member of the curia.  (Burke is on the way out and down - he is the opposite of Francis)

You post two other links about Doyle's career:

- when he left the apostolic delegate's allege that this is based upon some type of *evil* Doyle did.  In fact, it was an internal political move that had nothing to do with who, what, or how Doyle did his job  (if anything, it shows the cowardly actions of the internal church institution)

- when he was ordered to leave the military allege that this is based upon some type of liturgical *evils* and disregard of what his archbishop ordered.  Documented investigations reveal that the archbishop interpreted and ordered certain liturgical practices that actually did not follow canon law.  Doyle (one can argue, unwisely) cited canon law and the archbishop, of course, basically dismissed him (more on his own imagined belief that Doyle was insolent)

So, it might be more accurate to describe your Media Report as an advocacy piece that paints one side of a complex story.  Unfortunately, any time one only posts one side of a story, the truth, the good name of others, etc. suffers.  Thus, my conclusion that your advocacy website is filled with innuendo, biased allegations, smears, and you still owe Fr. Doyle an apology.

Bill, You hit the nail on the head, powerful comment.

Jim Pauwels, That is the big problem... YES, they are treated badly... then victims get worn out and give up..they get broken down again...!   We need the statute of limitations to be removed.. esp in Ohio, Penn,.. bad news there..

When victims report to church officials .. child advocate, or victim protection office.... the final decision on what to do rests solely with the Bishop, who most often ignores it... unless a victim has some kind of power or threat of going public.... only then will bishop make these predators known to public and parents..

The bishops are NOT following their own child protect polices...they don't have to, because there is no punishment for those who don't...

We urge them to file a police report.. at least get it on record because what happened to them is and was a crime.... many time, because of the statute of limitations, the police can't do anything.. but at least get it on record.... the laws are changing, as we have seen in MN>.

tks, Judy

Judy - -

It seems that there are many fewer reports of abuse since the Boston situation became public and the bad  behavior of so many bishops has been made public.  In other words, it seems that many bishops *are* taking the Dallas agreement seriously.  I don't doubt that there are still many bishops operating under their old policies, and they certainly need to be exposed.  

However, making general (if not explicitly universal) statements about "the bishops" not following the new policies is, I think, actually counter-productive.  Some of them seem to be trying.  Statements about "the bishops", as if it were still all of them, makes it look as though you have lost objectivity, and, worse, it makes it seem as though your hard work has made no difference even after all these years.  But your persistence has helped a great deal.  I say it's time to show that, while there's a lot more to be done, the problems aren't hopeless, that action still makes a difference.  In other words, blast the bad bishops -- by name if necessary, but don't associate those who are trying to change with the bad ones.

Thank you for all your help for the little ones.

i'm amazed at the level of ignorance about the needs of survivors for safety from further exploitation at the hands of the perpetrator(s) when they come forward with their stories of abuse.  For whatever maybe your reasons [Grant Gallicho] for suggesting that survivors notify church officials of the abuse, they are insufficient and specious. Experience over the last four decades tells us that the Catholic hierarchy is hopelessly corrupt and incapable of even elemental justice.  Just as Gallicho reports in the Carlson deposition, hierarchs have no sense of the truth of their lives or actions.  Every day they must look into the mirror and see the lies of their lives written on their faces.  How sad and tragic ...  

i'm amazed at the level of ignorance about the needs of survivors for safety from further exploitation at the hands of the perpetrator(s) when they come forward with their stories of abuse.  For whatever maybe your reasons [Grant Gallicho] for suggesting that survivors notify church officials of the abuse, they are insufficient and specious. Experience over the last four decades tells us that the Catholic hierarchy is hopelessly corrupt and incapable of even elemental justice.  Just as Gallicho reports in the Carlson deposition, hierarchs have no sense of the truth of their lives or actions.  Every day they must look into the mirror and see the lies of their lives written on their faces.  How sad and tragic ...  

About the trustworthiness of the bishops ... ...

Roughly two-thirds of top U.S. Catholic leaders have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to keep working, a systematic practice that spans decades and continues today, a three-month Dallas Morning News review shows. The study - the first of its kind - looked at the records of the top leaders of the nation’s 178 mainstream Roman Catholic dioceses, including acting administrators in cases where the top job is vacant.

It's not just that ... they show their disregard for victims also by the millions of dollars they spend fighting changes in statutes of limitation on sex abuse ...


Crystal --

That report from the Dallas Morning News is 12 years old, the year that the big blow out in Boston happened.  That was the year reform started, though there have been numerous cases of abuse that came to light even *after* that Dallas Morning News report was made.  I would like to see a report on what has happened since 2002 -- about how many of the bishops seems to be complying with the Dallas Charter now.  


Why do I mistrust "the bishops" in general, when it comes to abuse allegations, and look to verify credibility first?

1) The bishops, through the USCCB, maintain control of the "audit" process by determining the questions asked by the "auditors." They determine who the "auditors" will be allowed to speak with, provide no access to priest personnel files, exclude allegations against religious brothers and seminarians who did not go on to ordination (technically not clergy), and refuse to participate at all if they so choose. There are no consequences for failure to participate. How is it that the subject of an "audit" gets to control the terms of an "audit?"

One-third of US priests are in religious orders and therefore not bound by the Charter and Norms. Many have adopted similar policies and procedures, but none is required.

2) Only 26 out of 194? dioceses allow "auditors" to do individual parish audits, which is where most of the action is. This past week the head of the National Review Board practically begged bishops to allow StoneBridge Business Partners, the "auditing" firm, to interview parish personnel, rather than just some central office staff.

3) I use quotation marks when speaking of audits, considering that William Gavin, the former FBI agent whose firm preceded StoneBridge, fnally in 2011 acknowledged, "It was an audit in quotes...I think it was more of a program review than anything else." He further noted full dependence on a bishop's word as to whether anyone had been accused, and such a disclaimer was part of his annual reports.

(This thread is about the reliability of episcopal words.)

Compliance with the Dallas Charter is certainly an indication of doing current background checks, plus training and reporting of allegations (but only where the law requires it). That is not however a keystone of credibility. I believe all dioceses below were in compliance despite these developments:

The revelations in Philadelphia in 2011 (Review Board not told of all cases); the depositions of Nienstedt and Carlson this year; the Daniel McCormack case in Chicago a few years back (where George did NOT remove an abuser despite the Review Board’s request); the release of documents last year in CA about Mahony’s record of cover-up; Finn’s failure to report pornography. The Charter is not designed to address such cases. Remember, no access to priest personnel files, and only what happened in the past year is included.

FWIW, I did a comparison in about 2007 between the results of four USCCB audits and simultaneous independent audits by the NH Attorney General’s office. The results were night and day, with almost complete compliance noted by the USCCB matched against critical deficiencies and “word games” found by the AG. That is now old material as well, but the taste lingers. We also wrote the USCCB “auditors” with chapter and verse about Charter violations in 2004, including a bogus “commendation” awarded the previous year, to little effect apparently. We were informed that the Charter preamble was not dispositive, only the 17 specific articles that followed.

To continue:

4) The Essential Norms that accompany the Dallas Charter are part of church law but are not audited; only the Charter itself, which is a mission statement of morally-binding principles. Rev. James Connell, a canonist and former Review Board member in Milwaukee, has been trying for years to get bishops to audit the Essential Norms.

This is why: The urgency of flawed review/audit of allegations:

“Church law requires that the case alleging sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome (Essential Norms 6). Hence, the rules for handling abuse cases are found in the Essential Norms.

“But, if the auditors are not reviewing the Essential Norms, then no one is checking to see if the dioceses actually do send to Rome the cases that fit the “semblance of truth” standard. (cf. the full text of the 2011 audit report at:  noting the absence of any audit of diocesan compliance with the Essential Norms)

“This is a major flaw in the audit process and the flaw continues to this very day. The Essential Norms is not audited; there is no review of diocesan handling of sexual abuse allegation cases; the lack of accountability lives on. Since June 2010, I have been trying to get this flawed audit policy changed, but to no avail.”

5) The “I don’t recall” answers by bishops in deposition are a typical refrain that I distrust.  Just read through multiple depositions and legal documents  to get a sense of the terrain.

Recall the bishop who reminded new Jesuit superiors in 2000 how he repeats to himself when entering court, "I'm sorry, Your Honor, but I do not remember."  Those who heard this laughed loudly.

Therapist and researcher Richard Sipe: “Or, as Bishop John Ricard said to one of his priests who related it to me: I only lie when I have to.

6) Or the record of legal settlement documents citing individual priests’ accounts of their sexual experiences with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who continues to travel the world as an eminent cardinal. Who cares?

Carolyn - I don't wish to dispute any of the points you raise.  I am not sure to which sub-thread of the discussions that have sprung up under this topic they are directed, but I'd note that none of your points are compelling reasons for victims/survivors to not report instances of abuse to diocesan child safety offices (as well as civil law enforcement and child-protection agencies).  You're right that the compliance requirements under the Dallas Charter and Essential Norms have not proven to be bullet-proof, and I would support measures that would strengthen those norms, some of which you point to in your comment (fuller, more independent audits, access to parish personnel, fewer opportunities for bishops and their staffs to interfere with diocesan procedures).  Grant published a pretty comprehensive list of recommendations here at dotCom within the last few years.  

Despite the flaws you call out, it is nonetheless true that, in the post-Charter/Norms world that now prevails, some cases of abuse reported to dioceses - we hope it is the great majority of cases - are now handled more or less by the book: the perpetrator is removed from access to the victim and from ministry.  Those, it seems to me, are the urgent and important things that a diocese can do, which law enforcement may not always be able to do.  There are also the aspects of spiritual and pastoral care, and psychological and medical care, for which dioceses (mine, at least) have resources at the ready.

JP = you state:  "Despite the flaws you call out, it is nonetheless true that, in the post-Charter/Norms world that now prevails, some cases of abuse reported to dioceses - we hope it is the great majority of cases - are now handled more or less by the book: the perpetrator is removed from access to the victim and from ministry."

By repeating this mantra, you obviously miss Carolyn's point.  We don't know what you pronounce because we are not able to audit and verify from an outside source.  You do say......we hope it is the great majority of cases.....but *hope* has no place in a formal audit process.

The examples that Carolyn cites (and they are by no means exhaustive) should document for you the reality that cases are not handled more or less by the book.  We don't know and even specific diocesan appointed Safety Boards don't know because of the tragic disconnect that Carolyn highlights.  Only a bishop can decide what clerical cases or allegations get to his safety board.  And if he chooses to keep silent, keep the allegation hidden, etc.  the board and the church know nothing.

Suggest that your hope and more or less majority of cases are the result of victims going to civil authorities and then it is made public.  When that happens, then the disconnect (bishop's control and decision) is by-passed.  Then, the bishop has no choice but to suspend, begin to investigate, etc.

Sorry, you presume the good actions of most bishops - that has yet to be proved.  What we have is a two pronged system - the Dallas Charter almost exclusively has to do with parish/diocesan safety programs (will grant that these are probably, more or less, in compliance and working); but when it comes to actual allegations, victims, and clerics, then the bishop makes the decisions; has complete control, and has NO accountability and if he chooses to act secretively, make poor or wrong decisions, there is no reprecussions.

To Carolyn's credit, she has loyally and courageously tried to correct this *disconnect* with the hopes that Francis's new committee on abuse will also eventually drive a worldwide change so that bishops are held both accountable and suffer reprecussions.

JP - thought you would be amused by one of your colleagues (think he suffers from the same disease)

Greg Kandra:

From what the deacon posted from the archdiocese: 

"On page 22 of the transcript, Plaintiff’s counsel questions the Archbishop, who had repeatedly requested and was denied the ability to review case documents pertaining to the questions asked of him, and who, 27 years after last being deposed, is now being maligned for his inability to recall certain events."

First time any sitting STL archbishop was deposed: " Last month, prosecutors deposed Carlson and one of his top aides (Deacon Phil Hengen) in the case.(September, 2013)"

Obviously, the STL archdiocese can't even get the facts straight (altho, they may try to wiggle out of this by making a distinction between depositions for civil cases vs. criminal cases)

Fact - Carlson has been deposed numerous times over his episcopal terms of office - the most recent in September, 2013 in STL.  Geez, how does a archdiocesan office miss that fact?

Does this mean we can take the rest of their statement at face value?

Carolyn Disco's comments @ 1:07a.m. shines a bright light on the reason many many catholics  distrust  the bishops. The subtext is summarized in one word: POWER. They want to control the narrative. They want to control the process. They are wedded to the institutional church, the administrative apparatus instead of the gospel.

Bill - you make a number of strong points.  Even so, that's *still* not a compelling reason for a victim/survivor (or anyone else with knowledge or suspicion of abuse) to not report instances of abuse to the diocesan protection office.  Whether Carolyn or you disagree, I'm not sure, but that's the reason I came into this discussion.


JP: I believe adult survivors who reach a point where they want to come forward about their abuse are better advised to report first in writing to the police or the AG's office, at least in NH.  If someone wants to pass on a copy of the report to the diocese as well, fine. Written communication is the survivor's way of having evidence of what was reported, rather than depending on notes by either the police or the diocese's contact. Never should a survivor go alone to any office; preferably he or she should have counsel.  

Often, the survivor wants the name of his or her perpetrator known, in case there are other victims suffering in silence. Unfortunately, the only way that happens is when a court case is filed. Media will not publish a name unless there is a public record or filing with the name. There are a few cases where survivors have asked me to contact the diocese for them anonymously, which I did. Sadly, those perpetrator names remain secret to this day because no legal action was taken. 

The diocese has repeatedly refused to publish a list of credibly accused priests, directing anyone, believe it or not, to the database at has about 3,000 or so published names, but there are about 5,000 identified abusers in total (my latest info, a few years ago). We do not know the names of a few thousand. also has a list of accused priests it cannot release on its own.

I believe legal hardball is the norm still. Here is an example from 2011: 

A case from 2013 of what I consider the diocese's dismissive response:

One likes to hope survivors are treated compassionately; then again, verify first.






So, from a law enforcement perspective, you should report a crime to law enforcement, and provide a written statement.  It really should not be up to the victime of alleged sexual assault to report to others.  Here is a list of reasons why:

1.  Multiple reports mean that you risk (however innocently) creating multiple accounts -- not telling exactly the same thing risks having your credibility undermined in future proceedings.

2.  Reports to law enforcement of suspected child abuse are privileged.  Reports to private parties are not. 

3.  Any law enforcement official will tell you that advance notice of accusations can undermine an investigation, by allowing evidence to be removed, alibis to be manufactured and so on.  This oesn't necessarily mean that everyone is involved in a conspiracy, but reflects the fact that not every investigation will be professional or effective and a poorly done investigation can thwart the efficacy of other investigations. 

4.  Waiting to go to law enforcement makes any investigation harder to pursue and is especially pernicious in the investigation of sexual abuse, for a variety of reasons.  

My advice would be, go to law enforcement and raise the issue that the alleged perpetrator has continuing contact with minors and ask what will be done about it.  I don't know why a sort of parallel track emerged in the reporting and resolution of sexual abuse allegations, but you can see with recent allegations that colleges don't do such a great job handling sexal assault allegations by and among students, that organizations can have competing if not outright conflicting interests and it will be very hard for an individual to know whether a diocese will handle allegations well or poorly.

Jim Pauwels, what would be your ..."compelling reasons reason for a victim/survivor (or anyone else with knowledge or suspicion of abuse) to not report instances of abuse to the diocesan protection office.  

Carolyn --


Thank you for the data about the non-compliance of so many, many bishops.  I didn't realize that the Dallas Charter has no teeth at all.


Years ago I read some of Sipe's accusations against Cardinal McCarrick, and, since the secular press hasn't picked up on the suspicions, I assumed that the evidence against him wasn't strong enough for the secular papers to risk being sued by him if they published the stories.  Sipe now seems to be saying that the secular press is generally so thoroughly intimidated by the Catholic hierarchy that they're scared of blowing the whistle on any of the sexually active bishops.  How can that be true?  I certainly do trust the work you and your Manchester paper did in New Hampshire, but if the evidence is so clear in other cases,why aren't the secular papers reporting it?


Who is this Fr. James Connell and how come his bishop allows him to speak out?    Give that man a medal!  And who are the 26 bishops who do allow real audits?    We should have statues of them in the public squares.  And to Carolyn and the Manchester paper too!





Jim P. --


ONLY 26 out of more than 100 bishops allow independent audits.  How can you assume that the other 100+ are truth-tellers when they themselves set up a system that allows them to avoid the truth?  For Heaven's sake, not even one of the bishops has *ever* publicly condemned the likes of Bishops Finn and Mahoney and Law.  What reason do you have to trust any of them except maybe the 26?


I have read that there is a canon law that prohibits bishops from criticizing their brothers.  Do you know if that is true?  Sounds against the natural law to me:-(  Did you as deacon have to promise to defend your bishop no matter what you knew?

Ann, to answer your questions:

1 - I hope I did not mislead you: there are no truly independent audits done through the bishops' conference, far as I am concerned. By that I mean where the bishops do not set the terms of the "audit" or determine who shall or shall not be interviewed or make their files available. The "audit" instrument is a questionnaire sent to participating dioceses that has already been approved by the bishops themselves. 

The 26 dioceses refer to those whose bishops authorized the "auditors" to go into parishes to interview people and review parish data. A "diocese" may be audited at the central office, but that does mean the auditors had direct access to parish personnel or parish files. Am I confusing or clarifying things? Oh, the parsing of meaning is a useful skill.

2 - Fr. James Connell, former vice-chancellor in Milwaukee, now retired, is a courageous whistleblower who struggles to reform the church. Read about him as a Catholic Whistleblower in the NYTimes:

His background here:

3 - The canon law you may be thinking of, Ann, is the one used against Tom Gumbleton right after he submitted testimony for SOL reform in OH: violating communio episcoporum, the communion of bishops, who oppoosed such reforms.


Canon law says basically what a bishop or bishops want it to say, IMHO, if it can be twisted like this. Gumbleton was made to resign as pastor of a parish. Since when does the head of the Congregation of Bishops in Rome (Battista Re) get to determine who is a pastor in Detroit? When he and his bishop want to get rid of someone on a pretext, IMHO.


When push comes to shove, I think it is fair to say that bishops will do/not do what they want/don't want to do.  Peer pressure may change some minds but, in general, are they not independent powers unto themselves? 

Even popes seem very reluctant to step in and admonish/threaten to remove them from their duties except in very rare and patently egregious cases.

When it comes to bishops, Catholics deserve all that they tolerate.

Correction: A "diocese" may be audited at the central office, but that does NOT mean the auditors had direct access to parish personnel or parish files..."

Carolyn --

Are you saying that the auditors may not question people in the parishes unless the bishop grants permission?  If so, that would be farcical if it weren't tragic for the children involved.  Sort of like telling the police that they can chase after a criminal but can't question him.  Have there been 26 bishops who did allow  the auditors to check in the parishes? God bless them if they did.  That would be a beginning.

I tried to find something on the net about the canon law which I read about which (supposedly) requires bishops to swear that they won't criticize a fellow bishop publicly.  I also checked out  "communio episcoporum", but found nothing.  Maybe someone dreamed it up, or maybe it's a custom with the force of law.  There are such things in canon law.  If there is such a law, I don't see how it can be called Christian, and if a bishop made such a promise I can't see how it could really be binding.

God bless Msgr. Connell. Restores one's faith in the priesthood. So now there are several other priests besides my late pastor who truly have courage.  (Out of how many --  30K?)

Philip Christopher, in a comment I posted here on 6/11, 9:38 pm ET / 8:38 pm CT, I listed some reasons why I believe victims/survivors, and others with knowledge or suspicion of abuse, should report instances of abuse to diocesan children protection offices.  My comment was triggered by a statement posted here from a SNAP official that urged victims/survivors, in the strongest terms, to not report incidents to dioceses - a recommendation that another SNAP official has subsequently walked back after questions were raised here about it.  My views on the matter can be found in the comments I've posted under this topic.


I believe adult survivors who reach a point where they want to come forward about their abuse are better advised to report first in writing to the police or the AG's office, at least in NH.  If someone wants to pass on a copy of the report to the diocese as well, fine. Written communication is the survivor's way of having evidence of what was reported, rather than depending on notes by either the police or the diocese's contact. Never should a survivor go alone to any office; preferably he or she should have counsel.  

Carolyn - that seems reasonable.


It really should not be up to the victime of alleged sexual assault to report to others. 

But if the victim doesn't, who will?  Is law enforcement obligated to do so?  I believe that some individual dioceses have negotiated protocols with local law enforcement agencies, but I don't have a sense of how prevalent those understandings are.  


Jim Pauwels @10:21am - thank you for pointing me in the direction of your earliest comments. It is apprecaited and clarifies my understanding of your point of view.


In response to your question: "Are you saying that the auditors may not question people in the parishes unless the bishop grants permission?"

Yes, I am saying just that. As I mentioned, 26 dioceses allow "auditors" to do "audits" of individual parishes. The NRB head, Francesco Cesareo, reported to the USCCB last week that 26 dioceses cooperated in parish audits, while he spoke of hoping to expand that number. Basically, he goes hat in hand seeling cooperation.

Sorry, seeking cooperation

Jim, if you contact law enforcement, which could include CPS, and give them the name and address and other contact information they are more likely to follow up than the individual's employer.  I am sure the employer would like to be informed as early as possible, but in my view, it's not the victim's responsibility to make a report.  The point is not to just contact someone, the point is to have something done about it.

Ann, re: canon law: from the link I included above about Gumbleton:

"In 2006, he gave a written testimony to the Ohio House Judiciary Committee that explained his support for a bill that would extend the statute of limitations to 20 years past the victim's 18th birthday. In that testimony, he also said a priest sexually abused him in the 9th and 10th grades.

The Ohio Catholic Conference and bishops had spoken out against the bill. They opposed one part of the bill, which would give a one-year look-back period that allowed people to come forward with allegations that had ran past the statute of limitations.

By speaking in support of a bill that the Ohio bishops spoke against, Gumbleton had violated "communio episcoporum," Gumbleton said. He was notified of that violation in a letter from the Vatican sent to the then-Detroit Archbishop Adam Maida, which was then given to Gumbleton."

Another link:

"Because he violated "communio episcoporum" (the communion of bishops) and other canons by speaking in support of a statute of limitations for a sexual abuse bill, retired Detroit auxiliary bishop Thomas Gumbleton said he was forced to discontinue his role as pastor at a Detroit parish.

Besides receiving the official notification that he had to resign as pastor, Gumbleton said none of his fellow bishops contacted him personally when he spoke in support of the bill and revealed at the bill's hearing that he was a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest." 

Barbara, your point re: the laxity of some colleges is well-taken.  This is exactly why the Dallas Charter and related Norms called for all of the programs that are now in place in the church.  As we've been discussing, those norms also need strengthening.  Whether colleges have been down a similar path, I don't know, but it seems as though they should. 

For those of you who are checking in on the comments but not the post itself, be sure to have a look at the updates.

Jim, the college situation is actually more complex.  Since the dispute centers on complaints by one adult against another, it's not nearly as clear what the responsibility of a college is or should be under the circumstances, but generally, colleges are subject to Title IX, federal requirements, so the legal issue they now find themselves addressing relates to what that actually requires in the context of sexual assault.  I wish more universities encouraged criminal complaints because that is what the criminal justice system is there for.  What some colleges appear to have been doing is, under the guise of providing a college resolution process, running interference to ensure that, whatever else, there is minimal negative publicity for the college.  That usually centers on prohibiting the alleged victim from speaking about the incident and in some cases actually discouraging reports to criminal authorities.  There is almost a bait and switch quality to some of the promises and procedures that have been maintained.

In contrast, reports of abuse by an adult against a minor require reporting to specific state authorities, and if proven to be true, are criminal.  The issue is what can be proven, and state of mind or circumstances are irrelevant (except maybe for insanity defenses).

Thanks, Grant.

Great material for a comedy skit on whose memory is more impaired: The bishop who said in his own sworn deposition that another bishop told him the best thing to say in a depostion is "I don't remember." Or the other bishop who says in his own sworn deposition that "I don't remember" telling the first bishop to say "I don't remember." 

Carolyn --

Thanks for  the info and the sites.  The first site mentions communio episcoporum, but it doesn't site it as a particular law or even say that it's a law. When I searched the canon law site for it nothing came up.  And the second site you give also doesn't come up. So i have to wonder if communio episcoporum is one of those customs with the force of law that the canon law talks about.  Or maybe i just misread the original article, wherever it was.  Can't remember now.  But I really would like to read the actual law Bishop Gumbldon was accused of breaking. If there is such a law.


I have one juris doctor working on it now. Something along this line was part of our canon law case back in 2003, bearing in mind we were speaking by analogy:

"As we reason by analogy, we understand that within the context of the care and salvation of souls, Canons 1740 and 1741 more specifically define what the Church understands as “some other grave reason” for the resignation or removal of a bishop. In particular, by analogy we see in Canon 1741 the concern of the Church that both its pastors and its bishops never “cause grave harm or disturbance to ecclesiastical communion.”


"While these canons do not speak directly to the removal of a diocesan bishop or auxiliary bishop, we see in them, and in the concern they communicate for the faithful of the Church, a direct parallel to the canons that address the matter of episcopal resignation...


The Church is explicit in calling bishops the “pastors” of their diocese: “Individual bishops who have been entrusted with the care of a particular Church–under the authority of the supreme pontiff–feed their sheep in the name of the Lord as their own, ordinary, and immediate pastors, performing for them the office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing” (Christus Dominus: Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops). A fortiori, the laws and obligations that apply to and govern a pastor apply more readily and govern more strenuously a diocesan bishop." 


The problem for Gumbleton was that he had "broken communio" with his brother bishops, one expert told me.


Canon 1741: The reasons for which a parish priest can lawfully be removed from his parish are principally 


 1. A manner of acting which causes grave harm or disturbance to ecclesiastical communion."

There also may be something about communio among these pages about the bishop's role: New Evaluation of the Image of the Bishop

This sounds like another Bisphop unhappy with his  press. Will the hammer (Canon Law) nail the 10 signatories or does it apply only to the brother bishops?

Carolyn -

Thanks very much.  So it looks like there really isn't any specific law which refers directly to the communion *of bishops/ episcoporum".  So it seems that Bishop Gumbledon was removed not because he violated the "communio episcoporum", rather he was removed as a mere *pastor* of a parish, and the communion involved was the communio "ecclesiastiae".  Sounds like Milwaukee (or the Curia) has some confused canon lawyers.

At any rate, it looks like the "communio episcoporum" is either a myth or one of those customs-as-law. But if it is a custom, surely there must be some references to it in precedents involving the removal of other bishops.

Francis seems to have the instincts of a good executive.  I wonder if he'll get around to reforming canon law.

I don't want to sound like I'm defending the undefendable, but if you have ever been involved in a these depositions, especially a contentious one, I would say that the court reporters's written transcript does not give that great a picture of what it feels like.  I have been involved in a couple of them, one highly controvertial one actually. Often the lawyers speak to each other and while the person being deposed is there, he or she isn't part of that convesation. It is like being the 3rd party in a 2 man conversation.  Things also move fairly quickly at times, and move from 1 thing to another.  Sometimes that is part of the strategy even in hopes of getting yu to say something stupid on the record.  And unlike a courtroom, there is no impartial judge to help keep order, make sure you questions are clear, answers are clear and so forth. You also don't get cross examined to clarify any potential gaffes. In other words, it is easy to get lost and it is easy to look silly  or vengeful or generally bad.  I've been there, done that.  All that said, I really don't get why the archbishop is still in his job.

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