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'The Fog of Scandal'

Just posted, an important article by Ana Maria Catanzaro, chair of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's review board.

Eight years ago, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua asked me to join the Archdiocese of Philadelphias sexual-abuse review board, which he was putting together to help him determine the credibility of allegations against priests. His invitation provided an opportunity and a challenge. If I wanted to be a part of the solution, here was my chance. And so, after much prayingand hand-wringingI accepted.

Given the nature of the cases wed have to review, I never imagined the work would be easy. Board members have worked hard to help the church address the crisisand keep children safe. We thought we were making a difference. So, when a 2005 grand jury strongly criticized the archdiocese for its handling of abusive priests, the board was as surprised and dismayed as anyone. But none of us was prepared for the news that broke this past February, when a second grand-jury report resulted in the indictment of four priests and claimed that it had found substantial evidence another thirty-seven, all still in active ministry, had abused. (Subsequently, twenty-seven priests have been suspended, pending further investigation.)

The February 2011 grand jury criticized the review board for not recommending the suspension of several priests. In cases where the archdioceses review board has made a determination, the grand-jury report states, the results have often been even worse than no decision at all. That sweeping judgment stunned review-board members. The grand jury had never asked us to testify about how we arrived at recommendations. In fact, the board had reviewed just ten cases involving the thirty-seven priests. None of the evidence we saw concerning the ten led us to conclude they had sexually abused minors. But until the grand-jury report came out, the board was under the impression that we were reviewing every abuse allegation received by the archdiocese. Instead, we had been advised only about allegations previously determined by archdiocesan officials to have involved the sexual abuse of a minora determination we had been under the impression was ours to make. The board still doesnt know who made those decisions.

Within a week of the February reports release, Cardinal Justin Rigali, now archbishop of Philadelphia, suspended three priests and announced the hiring of former prosecutor Gina Maisto Smith to review the cases of the thirty-seven priests in the grand-jury report. Meantime, the media had been reporting that the review board recommended leaving the thirty-seven with credible allegations in ministry. So the board requested a meeting with Cardinal Rigali and his auxiliary bishops to voice our concerns. When that happened, about a week after the grand-jury report came out, the bishops were apologetic about the way the media had treated the review board, but, for fear of being misinterpreted, said they would not make any public statements defending the review board.

Even more surprising to the review board, on March 8 Cardinal Rigali issued a press release announcing the suspension of twenty-one priests. The press release seemed to imply that the board had reviewed the cases of all twenty-one priests, which it had not. So we again requested a meeting, this time with Gina Maisto Smith and Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees the Office of Child and Youth Protection. We expressed our displeasure with the implication in the press release, and informed them of our intention to speak publicly about how the review board functions. We agreed not to discuss specific cases and Bishop Fitzgerald agreed to release us from the confidentiality agreement we had signed in 2003.

This article is my attempt to answer the question being asked by Catholics in Philadelphia and across the nation: What went wrong?

Read the whole thing right here.

About the Author

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



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It is not exactly Tom Doyle all over again. It is worse because at 26 years after the Vatican sent Doyle to investigate sex abuse by a priest, the bishops have no choice for outright lying and deceit. It seems to me that some of the appointees on the Philadelphia Review Board were hacks of the Archdiocese. Nine years after the Boston Globe, when Cardinal Law was sent packing for fear of indictment by a civil authority, how could anyone think it is only a matter of canon law? Especially since the the coverupees make the determination as to what is reviewed and/or deemed culpable acts.I feel for Cantanzaro. She is us in a sense in that we continue to allow malfeasance by the bishops. The reason is we just do not have the guts to confront the bishops. Another head of a review board, the national one, Governor Keating said the bishops were like the Mafia.Is there anyone who believes the bishops have any integrity left. Perhaps in isolated cases. There is no vision and the people are perishing.

I am glad that Cantanzaro has decided to defend herself and the review board rather than silently suffering all the blame to be laid upon them. Good for her! Let's see the truth and find out how much blame belongs to each party.It looks as though the final straw was that "the [March 8] press release seemed to imply that the board had reviewed the cases of all twenty-one priests, which it had not." Even the most respectful lay Catholic can only be taken advantage of up to a point. I fear that the threshold for priests is much higher, and that they are much more willing to take the blame to protect their hierarchical superior.

How long, O Lord, how long?

Outstanding article. Thank you, Ms Catanzaro and Commonweal.

See the comments accompanying the article: naivete of board members about episcopal governance is truly depressing. How long before people wake up? Lord willing, may this be a clarion call to end the deference. Catanzaro is on the right track, but I am lacking in patience after all this time.She writes, The board still doesnt know who made those decisions about which cases it would evaluate. I ask, Why not? Why hasnt the board to this day apparently insisted on clarification, and full disclosure? BTW, the canon law that diocesan officials cite unendingly says that they in their duties must "never act contrary to the intention and mind of the diocesan bishop." (canon 480). Also, having an office in the archdiocese concerns the "function" that is performed, not whatever title is used. (canon 145) So, whether an episcopal vicar or secretary for clergy or whatever, the responsibility applies.Translation: the buck stops with Rigali; his underlings would never dare presume action independent of his wishes in such vital matters.Further, Cantanzaro writes, A canon lawyer argued that until 1994 the age of majority according to canon law was sixteen; therefore, canonically, a minor had not been involved. So what? And the board accepted that rationale? God help us. Didnt the board realize that neutral, generally applicable laws to protect minors do not create a privileged class (priests, bishops) immune from that obligation, regardless of any canon laws? Where was the civil lawyer on the panel?One must not reject wisdom even if late. Let's see what an awakened board does to implement its recommendations, or not. My best wishes to them. "The actions of men (and women) are the best interpreters of their thoughts. John Locke

I agree with Carolyn, and yet the board could demand anything and still get nothing, because they have no power. Like so many others, they believed they were part of a real effort to stop abuse and that the bishops could be trusted.When I left the Catholic church seven years ago, I felt guilty about being so cynical, and yet I could not trust, because I saw that the proposed reforms had no real weight and no possibility of enforcement. The guilt is gone, and I now see I was not cynical. I wish it were otherwise.The people on the board in Philadelphia had hope, trust, and faith, and their archbishops used those virtues against them. The board thought they were changing an abusive system, and instead they were being used as a shield by it. Their insistence on continuing is noble, but sadly, it could lead to another round of deception and disillusionment, because nothing in the power structure has changed. There is precious little evidence of any desire for real change.

Carolyn's comment (as usual) is quite germane: how the canonical is used to subvert justice.The problem extends beyond Philadelphia and even sex abuse matters to broad issues of governance in the Church we've often discussed.Those canonical trappings are a major part of the tool box of what Mr. Steinfels talks of as the "comand and control" Church of today (I prefer "power and control" which I think is significant to the culture of sex abuse issues here.)Fr. Martin over at America roots this issue in clericalism and that's surely germane as a context of what's hapened in Philly (and Ireland and Belgium and so on.)Come June, USCCB will take up the isue again but how much credibility and trust will they really have, when they are part of that command and cpntrol group bequeathed us by JPII, Law and carried on by Chaput, George, Dolin et al.?So sad......

I think that what's happened in Philadelphia illustrates that review boards are a dead end in the quest to address the sexual abuse of children by the clergy. The bishops have a demonstrable conflict of interest in this matter since they have made it abundantly clear that the prestige of the priesthood is their highest priority. The irony is how badly that priority has bitten them and continues to do so. But even if they do change their ways, sexual abuse is a criminal matter and is best referred to local law enforcement. Members of the review board in Philadelphia are learning this at much personal cost.

Molly Roach - because of statutes of limitations, some incidents of sexual abuse aren't able to be criminally prosecuted. But those incidents are still (or should be) subject to the remedies available through the review board.When bishops do the right thing, review boards aren't a dead end. Obviously, review boards depend on the cooperation of the bishop in order to be effective. We need to keep using whatever levers we have (publicity, criminal law, financial, etc.) to persuade the bishop that it's in his personal interest and the best interest of the diocese, the people of God and the mission of the church to be open, transparent, cooperative and determined to root out the evil of sexual abuse.

The diocesan review boards were created to deal with allegations of sexual abuse. Yet the review board has no control over the information it receives and cannot enforce its recommendations. It can only advise. In this and in all other matters, the bishop has first and final say. This was built into the Dallas Charter from the get-go. That bishops have continued to exercise their autocratic power should be no surprise.If the records and reports of a diocese were to be audited in a way that met the standards of the modern public audit, the bishop would not be able to control scope, access to information, the audit process itself or the final outcome. But this would mean that the bishops power to govern autocratically would be compromised, so such authentic audits have not happened, despite the best efforts of the review boards. The perpetuation of the power of the bishop trumps all.The situation is inherently irreparable under current structures of governance. Autocracy cannot co-exist with operations that are designed based on principles of accountability, transparency and modern standards of justice. Its one or the other. The only real solution is a reformation of the structures of governance.

We all now know that well known Catholic laity who were appointed to national and archdiocesan review boards ended up holding their noses and some were thrown under the bus. Names such as Gov. Keating, Judge Burke, San Francisco's review board chairman under Cardinal Levada, Dr. Jim Jenkins, and even Leon Peneta, now CIA chief and future Sec of Defense, all had the dis-pleasure of being treated as flunkies and being thrown under the next bus. These people were appointed by the highest levels of the US hierarchy. So anyone from now on who takes a position with these diocesan boards is simply stupid. All over the country, all board members should resign; they are just providing cover for the clerical club. The buses are still coming down the road.

"Apparently Philadelphias bishops dont fully grasp that by failing to speak openly from the outset they will continue to pay a higher price, in terms of both credibility and cash. If only they would have followed the example of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. Confronted with an accusation against him, Cardinal Bernardin openly, humbly, and without a prepared text, answered all the questions he was asked. Thats the sort of response the people of Philadelphia expect and deserve."This paragraph captures the problem succinctly, IMO. Cardinal Bernardin detailed the accusation of child abuse against him (later admitted by the accuser to have been false), and his reaction and actions in response to the accusation, in his book "The Gift of Peace," which I heartily recommend. (The book also addresses the Cardinal's thoughts about the diagnosis that had pancreatic cancer about his battle with the terminal illness.) The Cardinal eventually met with his accuser and provided pastoral care to the man, who was also fighting a losing battle with disease. (BTW, Peter Steinfels's article in the current Commonweal on Cardinal Bernardin--generated in response to George Weigel's hatchet job on the influence and memory of the Cardinal--is truly excellent.)

Some weak points in the article:In the wake of the February grand-jury report, board members discussed the possibility of resigning. We decided against it because we have nothing to hide. Furthermore, the archdiocese has responded to some of our recommendations. [...] If we had resigned, we concluded, the archdiocese would no longer have to listen to us.... and how would that be different? The archdiocese does not have to listen to the review board, as is. It's amply demonstrated by the rest of the article.Then, the end is also weak:The board offers the following recommendations to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia [...]. Then, a long list of "should"s, followed by: The solution to the sexual-abuse scandal rests on being honest, acting promptly and transparently, being open to constructive criticism, and being committed to protecting minors. [...] Breaking free of [a culture of clericalism] wont be easy. It will require a change of heart and practice. For if the bishops resolve to see this tragedy never happens again is not firm and sincere, [...].That is still based on goodwill. The author recognizes that her recommendations amount to nothing if the bishops don't follow take them to heart. So, what to do? She's counting on "a change of heart" for that to happen. She no longer trusts Abp. Rigali, but sees no alternative than tell him what he should do and hope that he does it. Hoping for a miracle, in other words. Jeanne has it exactly right, I think. While we wait for God to change the heart of the bishop, what is needed is to take some power away from him. For example, the review board should make decisions, not mere suggestions. When the review board decides that a priest must be suspended, that decision goes through, regardless of whether the bishop wants it or not. That would be more progress than any recommendation on the list!

"Useful idiot" is the phrase that comes to mind.After reading this, I conclude the grand jury's castigation of the board's shortcomings is entirely justified.

Claire --Clearly the review board had no power and has no power to change how abuse cases are handled by the diocese. The only de facto power it has is the power to shame the bishop -- accuse him publicly of specific wrongdoings and call on him to resign immediately. Ads in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the NYT should do it.I doubt he would' resign, but Rome might notice.

What Ann said about ads. And even more...I don't get why the logical decision, after what the author describes has been the review board's experience, is to continue serving on the board! They should call a press conference and resign as a group. And anyone who gets contacted to form a replacement board should respectfully decline, publicly. A week or so ago, someone wise on another thread (can't remember who, pretty sure it was a woman) used the analogy of abusive relationship dynamics to discuss the hierarchy's attitude/actions regarding the exercise of power and control. Recognizing the analogy is not exact, it nevertheless seems to me that the decision to stay on the review board starts to sound a lot like the "S/he's really a good person, except when..." "S/he truly cares about me, it's just the stress of the job," "I know s/he can change, if only I can explain myself better," kind of rationalizations people give for staying in awful relationships.

Ann,Sadly, all those measures have been tried and have failed resoundingly. Ample publicity that exposes shameless conduct, even the filing of a well-researched canon case in Rome by laity (first of its kind) achieved nothing.Way back, a very conservative, highly-educated and well-placed Catholic told our group not to waste our (bloody) time seeking meetings with bishops, and so forth. Instead, leverage the power of institutions outside the church that indeed do have the power to force bishops to reform.Working from the inside is useless, since as so many comments here note, the laity has zero power in the final analysis. The answer is to work through legislatures, the courts and the media, which indeed can get bishops to sit up straight, and fast.The criminal prosecution of Lynn, and (I'm dreaming) quite a few bishops/dioceses, carries outstanding promise for changes in episcopal behavior. Grand jury investigations are perhaps the most effective means to root out criminal activity. Possibilities for criminal and civil RICO prosecutions, with no statute of limitations, and potential triple damages are striking.SOL windows to allow past victims to come forward, as in CA and Delaware, could open files and minds in astounding ways.Remember the bishop who quipped to about 40 laughing Jesuits that as he entered court he would mentally rehearse his line, "I'm sorry, Your Honor, I do not remember" - well let's find measures to jar those memories, as secret archives in their own hand are wont to do when under oath on cross examination. See The outside avenues for reform must be advanced. And that happens when the laity ignores the likes of Dolan and Chaput with their anti-Catholicism red herrings. Enable DA's, AG's, prosecutors, the Justice Department, and legislators everywhere to take action --- knowing the local bishop's influence cannot endlessly spin the facts, or end their careers.More than one commenter has noted that the sight of bishops and chancery folks entering lock-up would yield the quickest imaginable about-turn. Which is why every diocesan legal hardball trick in history will be on display in Phila, and why Lynn's conviction is potentially so meaningful.Our power is to empower those civil officials/institutions to do the work of justice. Is the laity awakened enough to do so?

"Integrity," as explained long ago in my high school Religion class, "means doing what is right even when it's hard." This article, Mrs. Catanzaro, epitomizes integrity. I hope others follow your direction.

Carolyn --I agree that the civil measures must be pursued. But there is also a principle in psychology (or there used to be) that people cannot take being booed for very long. I would hope that the worst of the bishops might be booed out, or if that doesn't work, the Pope might see that they must be removed (if the DAs don't get to them first). What didn't work early in the campaign against the enablers might work now. Early on I don't think people realized just how bad the problem was, and many were still making excuses for the enablers. I don't think that happens very often these days. And if the clergy could be persuaded to join in demanding resignations, it would have an even better chance of working. Yes, I still have some hope that Pope Benedict has been sincere in his condemnations since he met with some victims. If the message can get to him how awful some bishops are (I'm not sure how many particulars he gets) , he just might act.. And if he does, then that would be be as effective as the civil courts. Anything to get the enablers out of office!I still wonder just how much specific info the Pope knows about *any* issues. He's quite old, works half a day, and there are people around him who don't *want* him to get the particulars. But his new communications office seems to be much more able, and I don't doubt that if there were a concerted effort in the American press to get rid of Cardinal Rigali, Fr. Lombardi would know about it and would get the news to the Pope. But who know what really happens in that sinkhole of information called the curia.

If I could, I would remove the last paragraph of my 12:28 comment. I can imagine no scenario leading to review boards having power over bishops, so that was pointless.I would also like to back William Hill and say, just in case Mrs. Catanzaro is reading, that I think that, by that article, she is helping transparency and making a significant contribution to the future protection of children against sexual abuse by clergy. In my opinion, her concluding recommendations are not effective, but all the information in the article is invaluable. It must have taken a good bit of courage to expose the dysfunction as she witnessed it herself.

Great article. The hierarchy "gets" it. They are using you too...they didn't give you critical information because if they opened all the files to the review board, there would have been a revolt. ( I hope.) Sadly, the review boards are pawns. Yes, some good things have taken SPITE of the hierarchy, not because of it. Are you just now understanding how pervasive this immoral, unethical (and criminal) behavior is in the Catholic Church? The diocese we live in has a review board that is an absolute laughing stock. Their hands are tied and the hiearchy likes it that fact, they set it up to be so. Thanks for a great read. Too bad this isn't going to be read at all masses on Sunday to get the "complacent catholics" to shift in their seats a bit.

And one more thing...the Pope knows. He's at the helm. Don't be that naive. All the bishops know, the cardinals know...and so does the Pope. Meeting with a couple of victims simply puts a band-aid on cancer.

Ann, I just talked to a friend the other day, a man who is very sharp and opinionated and would brook no nonsense from anyplace except the Church. He still has a complete blind spot about what is going on. He only listens to the party line coming from the clergy and he really thinks the crisis is over and everything is fixed now.When people are uncomfortable with a topic, they will take any reassurance in order to stop thinking about it.

Joe McFaul 05/13/2011 - 1:00 pm Useful idiot is the phrase that comes to mind.After reading this, I conclude the grand jurys castigation of the boards shortcomings is entirely justified.John, after reading this article again, and again...I conclude the same. How long does it take an intelligent group of people to realize they are being used as well? And why speak out now Ann? Is it because you realize victims have been right all along and you're willing to stand with them and take the heat? Or, is it because you needed to defend yourself as a member of the review board against the mean ol' media who didn't get it exactly right? I'll give you let the whole world know that civil attorneys (hired by the diocese) were sitting in on review panel meetings gathering as much info as possible from the victim in case they decided to take it legal. Very calculated move. And all the diverse people you listed were there? It's true what my husband has said all along..."they listen to their lawyers instead of their Lord." One word: CORRUPT.

Tammy and desertdweller ==If you had been around this blog longer you'd know that after Carolyn Disco I'm about the second loudest complainer about the enabling bishops. And I haven't just complained here. I've complained in person to an archbishop face to face in no uncertain terms. I've also made myself known in person to another bishop. How many have you managed to make yourself known to personally?I do think that the Pope might not know the exact accusations made against Cardinal Rigali. There are a billion Catholics in this world and several thousand bishops, and the Pope doesn't open the mail himself. Most significant, there are those around him who *want* him not to know the particulars and are quite capable of preventing him from knowing. Of course, I could be wrong. But it would be worth it to stir up some media attention in the hopes that the Pope will surely see what has gone on in detail.

Dr. Catanzaro's contributions have been substantial and she has done a fine service by publishing this article. I reviewed her CV and see that she is a nurse and a theologian with both an RN and a Ph.D. Her background is very impressive, and both her nursing credentials and her doctorate would both be of very great service. However, she has, in my view, disqualifying credentials--she is active in her parish and is a practicing Catholic. The review boards, frankly, need people who are more jaded and willing to seriously consider the possibility that they will be deceived by the bishops whose files they should be reviewing. In short, the laity considered for those positions are often clerical "insiders" and suffering from an extended clericalism themselves. Dr. Catanzaro might have been an ideal candidate for the Baptist review board, not a Catholic one.She was appointed in 2002. By then, depositions of several bishops had been published and these were clearly perjurious. I would have assumed that all review board members would have been reading depositions of bishops from across the country from 2002 on. Also in 2002, the Diocese of Manchester essential entered into an "Alford plea" with the Attorney General, conceding criminal activity at the diocesan level. Any review board member was on notice after December 2002 that the their own diocese should be treated as potential criminals under supervision and to presume that the board will be misled by the diocese as a matter of course. A few "tests' of the communications being made to the board would quickly have revealed if the diocese was being candid or not.As it turns out the board was simply window dressing intended by the bishops to allay the suspicions of faithful Catholics.

@Ann, I agree and would piggyback that additional media coverage of which you speak would also help educate more Catholics (the ones who don't read blogs, who don't see scandal coverage in the diocesan papers, etc).

Joe McF --I agree that Dr. Cannizaro has done the Church a favor by going public about Philadelphia. I don't think, however, she should have automatically been suspicious of Cardinal Rigali because of the bad behavior of Cardinal Bevilaqua.i. It was right not to hold him guilty by association. However, now that the board has had experience with C. Rigali, I don't see how he can possibly continue in office. From what I've read he probably belongs in jail. Philadelphia needs a new bishop now, and the whole review board == not just Dr. Cannizaro -- should demand one..

Let me put in a good word for Ann Olivier, whose supportive posts I do appreciate, with many thanks. We may differ on some particulars, but IMHO she has opened her eyes and heart remarkably to the realities of episcopal corruption. Now, I happen to think B16 knows very well what Rigali and his confreres have done. It is to B16's discredit that he refuses to act against Sodano, Castrillion Hoyos, Sean Brady and several bishops in Ireland, not to mention others in his administration who have certainly damaged themselves and the Church. Meanwhile Diarmuid Martin struggles alone.B16 seems constitutionally incapable of doing anything that might embarrass a hierarch, almost no matter what. The clericalist system is intact and prospering; it's the only world he knows from the age of 12, and nostalgia rules. So much the worse - more Latin and reform of the reform only hastens the retreat from the Gospel the world of the 21st century really needs. Such blindness is heartbreaking.

Did you see the AP story linked by Grant in a more recent post? She directs the graduate nursing program at Holy Family University. Also, I saw elsewhere that she works at Lasalle nursing center and Lasalle university. She may be risking her job by this article. How can she make demands from someone who could try to get her fired? (Maybe not right now, but as soon as the media's attention is somewhere else.)

Dr. Catanzaro (should you be reading this blog) --I apologize for misspelling your name. Tthank you for having the courage to go public. You are in very select company, and I'm sure the children will bless you. Would that the rest of your board had had the courage to join you.

Thank you, Carolyn :-)You could be right about the Pope, of course. I just think of the people around him as, well, the way Dan Brown thinks of them, and I didn't even read the da Vinci Code. Intrigue seems their way of life. I've just been impressed by Benedict's sanding up to JP II about Maciel, though he was over-ridden. In any event, I think we should not give up trying to reach the hierarchy. I doubt that all of them are evil, though wise and courageous ones are scarcer then hen's teeth.

Speaking about the rest of the board:James Amato, L.S.W. , Deputy Secretary, Catholic Social Services, Angelo P. Giardino, M.D., Pediatrician, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Mary Louise Johnson, an Attorney in Private Practice, and Reverend Thomas J. Owens, Pastor of Saint Alphonsus Parish.

I've met with two bishops, one archbishop and one cardinal...ate lunch at a posh restaurant with a high ranking person in a very influential position within the Catholic Church...and that official advised my family on how to sue our diocese because "the system will betray you in every way possible." (And they did). That official told us the real inner workings of a broken system, including the powerless role of the review boards, the ineffectiveness of an "audit," the fine line everyone walks with errant hierarchy, political influence, and the parishoners who are none the wiser. While there was never an attorney retained, at least we knew what we were dealing with. I don't understand how anyone can say B16 may not "know." He KNEW when he was the head of the Office of The Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith....did he all of a sudden develop amnesia? He may not know the specifics...but, something tells me, these issues land on his desk the PR can be properly handled.I actually find comfort knowing the board can be identified. Where I live...the people that serve on that board are a deep dark secret.

I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, a canon lawyer, and a member of our archdiocesan review board. Hence, I truly appreciate the concerns and frustrations that Ana Maria Catanzaro raises in this article. At the same time, however, I would explain the role of a diocesan review board somewhat differently for the authors presentation.The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its related Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons are Church documents that are governed by Church law, not civil law. Thus, civil law provisions regarding sexual abuse of a minor (which can vary from state to state) are not part of the charge given to a diocesan review board, nor should they be. Civil authorities are the competent persons to determine what civil law action can be taken, if any, coming from an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon. Furthermore, this civil law determination should precede any investigation or development of recommendations by a Church diocesan review board.So, it can be asked, what is proper material for the work of a diocesan review board?A diocesan review board is a consultative body that assists a diocesan bishop/eparch concerning an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or a deacon. But, what is meant by sexual abuse? As originally established by USCCB in 2002, the Charter (in a footnote to Article 1) states that sexual abuse of a minor includes sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a minor and other behavior by which an adult uses a minor as an object of sexual gratification.Thus, the norm to be considered in assessing an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is whether conduct or interaction with a minor qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the sixth commandment. When the Charter was revised in 2005, this 2002 wording was removed and replaced with sexual abuse, for purposes of this Charter, shall include any offense by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with a minor. Actually, I would expect that the statement any offense by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue is broad enough to include all statements in civil law statutes that define sexual abuse of a minor.Both the 2002 and the 2005 versions of the Charter and Essential Norms indicate that If there is any doubt whether a specific act qualifies as an external, objectively grave violation of the sixth commandment, the writings of recognized moral theologians should be consulted, and the opinions of recognized experts should be appropriately obtained. I would add that the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a foundation for the identification of grave violation when it discusses lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, and rape as violations of the sixth commandment (CCC 2351-2356).Ultimately, of course, it is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop/eparch, with the advice of a qualified review board, to determine the gravity of the alleged act. Thus, the work of a review board is to assist the diocesan bishop/eparch in deciding if an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against a priest or a deacon actually is a matter of sexual abuse as presented in the Charter (not civil law), and if the allegation seems to be true or has the semblance of truth. In addition, making a recommendation regarding the suitability of a cleric for ministry and making recommendations regarding related policies are, according to the Charter, within the competency of a diocesan review board.It also should be noted that both the Essential Norms and Vatican directives establish that, once the diocesan bishop/eparch understands that the allegation seems to be true or has the semblance of truth, the case must be forwarded to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome where further Church action will be determined.Now, with this overview of a diocesan review board in place, I would like to address four appropriate concerns raised by Ana Maria Catanzaro in this article.First, does the review board see all the cases? By design, nothing in the Charter or the Essential Norms provides for a diocesan review board to review cases that had been reported to the diocese prior to creation of these documents in 2002. Rather, a review board addresses cases that arise after the implementation of the 2002 Charter and Essential Norms. Furthermore, something that might be surprising to some people is that even though both the Charter and the Essential Norms require each diocese to have a functioning review board, the diocesan bishop/eparch does not have to follow the advice of the review board and even can decide which cases, if any, require consultation with the review board, simply because a review board is consultative. This is not a good approach, it seems to me. Hence, I agree with the author that all cases that have arisen since 2002 should be brought to the attention of the review board. In addition, if there had not been such a review process in place before 2002, the bishop/eparch should ask the review board to review all the cases that predate the Charter and Essential Norms. Moreover, I would add to the discussion the need for a thorough audit of each diocese each year to review the effectiveness of the controls and procedures that are in place to assure that all cases are properly addressed. The related audit report should be made public in its entirety by the auditor, who then should be open to questions and comments from the public.Second, are boundary issues actually part of grooming a potential victim and, therefore, an integral part of sexual abuse? I am referring to actions and words that under many circumstances would be considered appropriate behavior, but within the context of interaction between a cleric and a minor might or might not be appropriate, depending on the intent of the cleric (e.g., hugs, pats on the head or shoulder, and expressions of feelings). Indeed, understanding the intent of the priest or deacon is key to evaluating the behavior, yet the intent is unknown, unless actually indicated by the cleric. Consequently, it is very difficult to establish matters of boundary issues as being sexual abuse. But, if an allegation of boundary issues arises against a particular priest or deacon, even if it cannot be established as sexual abuse, the review board can address the suitability of the cleric for ministry and can recommend to the bishop/eparch a partial or complete restriction of his ministry.Third, what is the route to transparency and a public display of the complete truth regarding the clergy sexual abuse scandal? In the absence of full disclosure of the facts and complete explanations from bishops and other Church leaders about the clergy abuse scandal, I hope that a thorough investigation, authorized by the pope, would study the systematic issues that have gotten the Church into this mess, and provide detailed recommendations to the Church community as a whole about how to resolve the scandal and to prevent its reoccurrence. Actually, however, I hold little hope for this investigation to happen unless the laity speak-up clearly and frequently for such action. Fourth, what is going on within the religious orders concerning their problems of sexual abuse by their members? This seems to be one of the best-kept secrets in the clergy abuse scandal. So, I add my voice to the authors call for bishops/eparches to require the superiors of religious orders in their diocese/eparchy to make public the status of sexual abuse of minors by members of their community. These religious communities are a very important part of the Church and should be held accountable along with the dioceses.Thus are my thoughts.Reverend James E. Connell, JCDArchdiocese of Milwaukee

I hesitate to criticize Fr. Connell in view of his continuing brave wise contributions. However, it is worth noting that his checkoff list from the Catechism does not include either frequently reported fondling or seduction/grooming of a minor. Are these to be excluded, or does the Catechism or Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue need to be revised if they are to be invoked as authoritative guides? (Ask a few parents)On the conveniently amorphous category of "boundary issues", it is worth noting that the ex-prosecutor hired by Cardinal Rigali after the 3rd Grand Jury report was published said recently that she was unable to provide a definition of the term until her investigations were completed. Regrettably, Fr. Connell's explanation of the role of a review board does as much as Dr. Catanzaro's to display the hollowness of the vaunted concept. His four concerns add valuable, experienced insights to understanding what has been foisted off on the citizenry.

Jim Connell is indeed a shining light amongst clergy, and his experience is wide. I value his contributions highly. Still, questions abound. (Jack Barry's comment is outstanding.)Definitions of sexual abuse under canon law, the Charter, the catechism, moral theology, etc. may indeed include anything under civil law, but I believe implementation may be more in theory than in practice. For example, despite mention of pornography in the catechism, the Vatican itself did not recognize it as a grave sexual offense until a few months ago; likewise it did not include molestation of a mentally handicapped person as sexual abuse unless the abuse occurred before ones 18th birthday. Abuse by seminarians who do not go on to ordination is still not counted by bishops in their annual audits; the same for religious brothers. Catanzaro also implies the Board encounters narrow technical approaches in canon law that offend reason. What sticks in my throat is the Phila canon lawyer insisting that 16 was the Vatican's age of majority at the time of abuse, so his priest client should be exempt from any sanctions proposed by a Review Board. Bad enough that criminal prosecution is off limits, now even canonical restrictions are to be avoided under such numbing rationale? Is that the level of discourse?The integrity of those in administration, namely bishops and chancery officials, amply demonstrate by their records that their first concern is not the safety of children. We cannot rely on them or their naive appointed advisers. Again, the most effective resort I see is to civil institutions with the power to force compliance. In the main, the clerical management system and those in it are too secretive, corrupt and self-absorbed to do the job right. Isn't that what experience tells us? A few Phila DA's accomplish more than 300 USCCB bishops in a decade of obfuscation and cover-up. Where is one's energy more productive?Even Bob Bennett and Anne Burke from the original National Review Board surmise Phila is much more the norm than the exception. Look at all those government investigations in Europe, which are the only way we learned anything. This is not to abandon pressure for reform from the inside, just know its very burdensome limits.

Bernard Haring called for a moral theology that calls for a way of life away from legalisms and absolute authority. A German, Haring learned how absolute authority ruined a nation and almost the world. Ratzinger has not learned that lesson. The kind of postings in this thread were unthinkable even a couple of years ago here. It shows how Catholics are increasingly realizing that the gospel is not the hierarchy and that the bishops too many times work against the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Jeanne Follman 05/13/2011 - 11:46 am The diocesan review boards were created to deal with allegations of sexual abuse. Yet the review board has no control over the information it receives and cannot enforce its recommendations. It can only advise. In this and in all other matters, the bishop has first and final say."That is so very Catholic:"The parish and diocesan finance councils were created to deal with matters of fiscal control and management. Yet the finance council has little control over the information it receives and cannot enforce its recommendations. It can only advise. In this and in all other matters, the pastor or bishop has first and final say."

And, you know folks, we enable this by going along. Oh, we throw up our hands and say: "But what can we do? They have all the power." Rottenness is best cured by exposure to heat and light. Duplicity and skullduggery should not and cannot be funded. Stupidity should be immediately challenged whenever it is uttered, no matter who is doing the uttering. Goodness in people and actions needs to be recognized, publicized and fostered as the right thing to be and do.That's a start.

Our "bishop's fund drive'" begins next weekend. We will not be contributing. A first for us. Our bishop is pre-JP2 appointment. He's intelligent, pastoral and not a blowhard. This is not a move against his service. We just can no longer enable this corrupt system. I feel badly that my wonderful parish will have to pony up the $ to meet its quota, but the blowback has to start somewhere. My blog crush Ed Gleason notwithstanding (they have boatloads and he's undoubtedly correct), money is what talks here. I have no illusions that our dollars can meet the contributions of the true believers in the system, but at least we can feel that we are maintaining our integrity in some way. The $ that we contribute will be split between VOTF and Bishop Accountability. The folks in the pew who turn up every weekend at mass may be uncomfortable about the sexual abuse crisis and its cover-up but IMO, they will stay in denial. Life can be hard and if your church leaders are undermining you and your family and well, lying, it may just be one more existential blow that you cannot handle.

Thank you, Holloway.My money goes to VOTF, SNAP and in various turns. They certainly need it.

Holloway: I do almost what you do, except for some money for the St Vincent de Paul society. VOTF and Bishop Accountability money is for church reform --- the equivalent of giving for church administration and maintenance.St Vincent de Paul money is for charitable purposes. The church governance may be giving us headaches (or nightmares), but in the meantime, the poor still need housing and food and heating. I wanted a Catholic lay organization in which bishops had no power. The St Vincent de Paul society has no clerical oversight (priests are welcome to join, but they have the same rights as anyone else, no more). It's a compromise that works for me, for the present.

I actually still give to CCHD. I like the idea that the Catholic Church in the US supports grassroots groups and poor peoples' movements. I also feel sympathetic towards it since it is a special target of attack by some fringe Catholics.

Ms. Catanzaro's piece is informative, but I think it would have been more compelling if it were written/endorsed by the entire review board, or was it?

My $ formerly donated to church now go 1/3 each to SNAP, Catholic Worker and Project Rachel.

I respect Ms. Catanzaros integrity and commitment to child safety, and I am offended by the attacks on the Review Board which she chaired. As so many have voiced here, review boards have no power to execute change of any kind. By definition they are advisory only, and they can only advise based on the information they are given. I dont believe that any lay person working on a review board is there for any reason other than sincere concern for protecting children. However, I do NOT believe that about the priests, bishops, canon and civil lawyers, or private investigators hired by the Church. These people have only one agenda: protecting the Catholic Church. The Churchs reputation was once the greatest concern in the cover-up process, but I am not sure how the reputation of the Church could get any worse. The only things bishops have left to protect are the Churchs assets and their own personal asses. So is Ms. Catanzaro a fool for remaining in the Church? Is her continued commitment a sign of navet or courage? I dont think anyone on this blog or elsewhere has the right to judge her. Many, many Catholics still believe in the possibility of change from within. Even if you or I do not share that optimism any more, we need to resist slipping into the cynicism and callous disregard for others that has characterized the worst of our bishops. Lets be better than that.

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