dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

'Vengeance Time'

You may have noticed the lead story on the home page, Mark Sargent's "Vengeance Time: When Abuse Victims Squander Their Moral Authority." We're already getting...somewhat heated letters about it--not that anyone is surprised. Mark gives voice to the concerns of many observers of the church's sexual-abuse scandals--liberal, conservative, Catholic, and non-Catholic alike. Take E. Paul Kelly, for example, a retired attorney who worked on the Bishop Accountability database of accused priests. On his blog, he writes the following:

I agree that Catholic priests, a small minority to be sure, had sought out children, wee ones, elementary school ages, teenagers, for gross sexual practices, and had been doing so for decades. Many of their bishops knew about their crimes against humanity and suppressed as mightily as they could the leaking of any disclosures of those monstrosities, lest the Roman Catholic Church's reputation be stained. They transferred them within and without their dioceses, pulled a rug over the whole tragic slaughter of the young, and looked the other way. The explosion of that news in January, 2002, was unbelievable, unimaginable, incomprehensible. We, all of us, were enraged and we roared into action to see that justice be done, accountability be extracted from those responsible, and punishment be imposed for those resonsible. I joined in.

Now, however, I am frightened for our country, as well as for our religion and the institution that calls itself its church. We have forgotten who we are. Our country is mean. Justice is a synonym for vengeance. The rule of law is ignored by vigilantes in their relentless pursuits. Accusation in a news story is conviction without courts. The government is a sham and the Department of Justice itself is in tatters, from the current administration's abuse of power. And lawyers are beginning to wake up.

Our church continues under the leadership of its bishops, as it has always done, impervious to change, excommunicating those of us who seek change, ignoring us as people of the church by the stalemate of silence, and plowing straight ahead with The Three Ds: Dogma, Doctrine, Discipline. Many of our bishops and their church have become masters of the hardball tactics of unscrupulous lawyers, frustrated judges with delay by discovery, obliterated victims' hopes with bankruptcies, and turned the search for justice into a bare-knuckled game where victory goes to the meanest. It is time for lawyers to stand and speak, for the sake of our legal system and the oaths they swore to uphold the Rule of Law.

One of them is Mark A. Sargent, the Dean of the Villanova University School of Law.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

If there is one thing to keep in mind about those who have been abused, it is that abuse often makes people worse, not better people. Anger, cynicism, lack of trust, inability to form lasting close relationships, need to exercise control over their surroundings and the propensity to become abusers themselves -- these are traits we associate with unlikable, selfish people, who are all the more difficult to deal with because these traits are in some cases justified, even if, in others (repeat abuse) they can never be excused. This is what abuse can do to people. It destroys them from the inside out. You do not create a monster and then expect it to play by your own ethical guidelines. (And as for the lawyers -- Imagine what a relief it is to finally find someone who sees things totally your way after hearing for most of your life about the inviolibility of the moral authority of the very institution that sucked the life out of you.) Anyway, if the rest of us feel sad about the poor and marginalized, we should commit more of our own resources to their welfare. I am afraid that justice in the case of the abuse scandal will be fearful indeed.

My, My. I am surprised at Mark Sargent's omission or avoidance of the most important element when it comes to finances of the church---transparency. He makes assumptions that are not provable without such openness. Here in the New York Archdiocese there is the bicentennial campaign which imposes whacky goals on the parishes. For example in the parish I attend which has needed diocesan assistance for the last two years (because of parish mismanagement) there is the unattainable goal to raise $485,000. The carrot is the parish can keep the first $30,000.While it is a generally accepted fact that the diocese was in the red because of O'connor, there has yet to be itemized reporting in the diocese and the parishes. So we really do not know what is available or not available for the poor and aged priests and nuns etc. Certainly where unfairness and injustice occur we should take a second look. But there is a very big question whether the bishops have given us all the facts. I would guess that in Spokane there must be more transparency. I don't know. It might be a big jump to transfer that same picture to other dioceses. Last I looked they seemed pretty comfortable. Still.

I guess I'm one who has already written a "heated" letter.There are two problems here.One has to do with the Bishops and victims relative loss of moral authority.I submit that the excesses of the hierarchy in trying to conceal records of oversight failures (or, perhaps, more malfeasance not yet brought out )is greater than the few problems raised by SNAP. I am particularly uncertain about Mr. Sargent's claims of the Philadelphia Grand Jury report as being a revenge act against the former Archbishop of Philadelphia - the report is damning and should be read.The critical issue is the bringing into the open what truly occurred and accepting responsibility in a real way by Church leaders; instead, they fight discovery by claims of privacy, striving to keep Statute of limitation laws in place and bankruptcy declarations (see the stories emanating out of San Diego.)An NCR editorial not too long ago indicated (and I strongly agree) that the crisis will not subside until all is brought out and healing can begin.It strikes me that this is as important if not more so to victims than the money they receive.One can complain about legal fes for victims, but, in fairness, what about the big dollars that the Church is spending on legal fees (mainly to kep things under wraps.)? Shouldn't that be mentioned in fairness?The other issue is "justice" - an easy term to use.I think it's facile to say that justice today is equal to vengeance.Most courts are trying to balance out the multiple ends of sentencing with the resources they have. It's true that politicians have turned institutional corrections into a major industry to make us look tough. We overincarcerate drug possessors and underfund treatment.But there is naivete in many quarters about what rehabilitation can accomplish -especially if we do it on the cheap.Victinms of the crimes of sex abuse and domestic violence still continue to suffer terribly and comparitively.And the cry about presumption of innocence?If your kid is in a parish where a priest is alleged to have abused a child, what do you want done?What I see in this article is concern about Church finances and secondarily clergy -not really the people in the pews.If that's "heated", I leave it up ti you.

Dean Sargent says "SNAP might claim that its campaigns in Herndon and St.Louis were simply pragmatic measures needed to bring justice to those deprived of it, and to protect potential victims from the ongoing threat of clergy abuse. Presumably, they would argue that the church and its priests are finally getting what they deserve after decades of indifference,deception, and obduracy." This is an unwarrented presumption. My own work over the last five years with and for survivors is that it is not vengence but protection for other children that the call for names is after in making public the names of abusers.

Raising the issue of fairness in these settlements and addressing the exaggerations of those seeking restitution is something that good people everywhere demand. Our courts address these issues in other legal matters; why should sexual abuse be any different?It is also must be said that it is ridicilous to assume that all accusations against priests are true, human nature being what it is. It is also assinine to assume that every dicoese and every Catholic parish has an overabundance in money that ought to be equally distributed to every victim who makes an accusation of clergy abuse. That idea belittles the individual work and contribution of every Catholic who has made numerous sacrifices to build these sacred institutions. And what happened to "everyone is innocent until proven guilty?" The last time that I read the ideas about the constitution, it seems like proving someone's guilt was paramount before restitution was made. It seems that accusations of sexual abuse made against Catholic priests trumphs this premise. Why?It also appears like some attorneys have forgotten that, all in the name of transparency and calling for church reforms. In their minds, every CATHOLIC priest accused, even if it were untrue, justifies an out of court settlement, despite a false accusation because of previous wrongs in cases where the church did not, but should have, made restitution.This approach to the law is a travesty of justice and cries out for a strong reaction from the public. These falsely accused priests, and the church which includes every baptized Catholic, deserve the benefits of the law and our justice system and assuming innoncence before guilt should be the basis of any accusations regardless of previous wrongs.Thank you Mr. Sargeant for raising the issue.

An e-mail I sent to Mr. Sargeant:Mr. Mark Esquire, First, let me establish the fact that I am a survivor of the Catholic Church experience. It started by being molested as a 12 year old by a sick, sly, educated wacko. It turned into being whip-lashed by one of the largest spin machines known to man! I certainly don't measure up when it comes to a pedigree. I have a GED from Podunk, Mississippi. You are a Philadelphia lawyer with an Augustinian influence. WOW! One question from the peanut gallery.... when and where has any diocese in the United States been FORCED into bankruptcy? I think, just maybe, you left out one key word, a word that the Church knows oh so much about.... PROTECTION! Good day, Mark BelenchiaJackson, Mississippi

I would be inclined to go even further than Mark Sargent. Remember, this scandal has always been about a narrow clericalism that shielded egregious abusers. That is how it began in Boston (actually, it began in Ireland, but that's another story). The number of abusers was always miniscule, and the scandal was how they were not stopped.Since then, the whole thing has morphed into a generic anti-Catholic witchhunt, Salem-like, with lawyers prowling around for "victims". Even if inappropriate behavior took place, most of the alleged victims were not children (the difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia seems lost on the media), and it also happened many many years ago. Priests live in terror of any wild allegation that the current culture will automatically assume is true.

I am stunned and shocked by Morning's Minion;s post that this has "morphed into a witchhunt." the statement on the face of it is gratuitous. Much of the emphasis in current victim groups is on:-trying to open up to disclosure what really happened;-extending back Statute of Limitation laws, because of the "recovered memory" problem - and yes, sexual abuse is different from any other crime -ask any rape victim!-the distinction betwen teen and child is simplistic- the power of a clergyman over a youth is enormous and its abuse in both -and, in fact with an adfult,say, in a counselling situation is truly horensous in impact! I find the matntra about justice as vengeance frightening. Nonone seems to want to seriously discuss community protection as a major function of justice and the common good.Much attention is paid to the poor priests falsely accused. Indeed there have been a few - the overwhelming majority of cases have been substantiated.The problem of all priests being shaken may be due to their having ben protected for years (even by members of law enforcement) from any public scrutiny.In focusing on that, of course, one deflects from the responsibility of the hierachs who continue to stonewall and also run up big legal costs of their own.To say there is a witchhunt casts terrible aspersions on numerous worthy Catholics, say those participating in VOTF.At base there is a confused notion of justice that minimizes both victim rights and the protection of the communiuty.

Bob,My intention was certainly not to "stun and shock". But I most certainly do believe the scandal has morphed into a witchhunt, fed by an anti-Catholic media frenzy. The proportion of pedophiles among the Catholic clergy is no larger than average. In fact, most abuse takes place within families, and is never reported. A priest friend told me once I would be absolutely shocked by the frequency that these stories come up in confession. I believe him. I also believe that society is latching onto Catholic clergy as a convenient scapegoat for a problem they it does not really want to face. Let me say it clearly: the way Bernard Law and other bishops responded to the abuse, both before and after the scandal became public, was an absolute outrage. The exact same thing happened in Ireland a few years earlier. If anything, the extent of abuse in Ireland was far greater, given that the state put so much power in the hands of a deeply flawed Church throughout the early part of the 20th century. And the victim's groups are still active there, doing good work. But there is a key difference between Ireland and the United States. In Ireland, where there is not such a litigious culture, you did not see parasitic lawyers cruising for "victims", and the latest "revelation" being reported on the nightly news. The culture in the United States has always been more prone to witch hunts. Also, the sorry state of the media in this country means that celebrity and gossip take precedence over serious news. Sex sells.Some other points:Age is crucial. Pedophiles are small in number (thank God), and deserve stiff penalties for the horrendous crime of abusing children. Tho who "abuse" older teenagers are in a different category. Here, the "crime" involves taking advantage of a power relationship (not to mention the breaking of a vow), but this is most certainly not pedophilia. Our society has a habit of extending adolescence, even well in the 20s. Just look at the effects on the culture. How old were Romeo and Juliet? Please note that I am not defending this kind of relationship, but it is most definitely not pedophilia. Note that most the the cases that arise on the news each night involve older teenagers, or even those in the 20s. As for "repressed memories", I'm deeply deeply skeptical. Many innocent people have suffered from these kinds of allegations before.

MM, Working backwards, on what is your skepticism based? The statement is most generic. I certainly find the arguments of folk like Richard Sipe convincing.As to sex abuse crimes, I urge you to read the penal law of your state. Victim age is an aggravating circumstance but the crimes are defined by some sort of compulsion by a defendant.I professionally dealt with victims less than a year and some in extreme age. All results were teribele.And we are not talking about statutory rape - certainly not in the case of a priest and a teenager.The brunt of your argument about witchhunt seems to be about-1)media. I thought in an earlier thread we'd noted that it has only been through the media that this issue is focused on. Once more I refer to the work of Timiothy Lytton at SUNY Albany on the topic.2) The greedy lawyer argument,Lawyers who sue get paid as in all damage matters.Victims who find their mistreated (as in one of the blogs above) turn to lawyers (see the Hand of God, etc. also)If leadership had been truly pastoral, forthcoming and transparent they would not hav espent huge amounts on THEIR lawyers in these matters.I;m sorry, but I continue to find your "witchhunt" argument to be gratuitous.

Morning's Minion has said: "Note that most the the cases that arise on the news each night involve older teenagers, or even those in the 20s."There is an old adage that says, Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no one is entitled to their own facts. Consider the following:The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a research study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice entitled, The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States. On page 70 of this study, in table 4.3.2, it is reported that 60.07% of those abused indicated that the first instance of abuse occurred at age 13 or younger (median age of 12.2).In that same study it is stated that 98.5% of the 4,392 accusations made in the time period covered were found to be credible. This is certainly a tragedy for the 66 priests falsely accused, and those responsible have a lot to account for, but 1.5% is a very small percentage.

Gerald,I've seen this study, and I don't question its veracity. This is a serious study investigating serious abuse allegations. What I am talking about is sensationalist ratcheting up of the "scandal", both by a media that relishes such stories, and by a small number of predatory lawyers.

Saying that most abuse occurs in family is a sidestep and a non-sequitor. Ditto for noting the anti-Catholic element. However you measure this is a breach of faith of huge proportions. And remember it is the coverup by an entire bishopric and just not in America.A related scandal and one not talked about enough is the Catholic clergy's sexual involvement with women. Some hierarchs give the answer that this is due to the venomous seduction by these women. Not noting the serious abuse of the confessor/penitent, counselor/patient relationship. The abuse of adult women is yet to be told fully. Likewise the abuse of teenage females. Here again, the victim is blamed. We should not forget that what the scandal brings out is that the clergy now have to EARN respect and not just be given for the fact that they persevered to ordination. Jesus suffered the most ingnominious death, let his life stand for what he is. Finally, the clergy should do the same.

Morning's Minion,Please, recall your own words from the posting of 10:41 am on April 18th: "Even if inappropriate behavior took place, most of the alleged victims were not children ." And in your posting of 12:52 pm on April 18th: "Age is crucial. Pedophiles are small in number." These are not factual statments (as the John Jay study indicates). If you have "seen this study and do not question its veracity," then why make statements for public consumption that you know are false?I have read and listened to these sorts of false statements, and the one about the "frequent false accusations" that have appeared in this thread (though not from your contributions) for several years and am outraged when they are repeated, over and over again. Facts matter ,and in this whole mess the facts are difficult to find (due, in great part to the hierarchy's refusing to reveal them), so let's not contradict the ones that we do have.

Secrecy has been one of the greatest obstacles to justice, and the bishops cover-up of a crime wave by priests that now totals about 12,000 alleged victims (and only about 20% come forward), means that perpetrators and bishops essentially got away with everything under the Rule of Law. And lets remember the bishops criteria for inclusion in those numbers: any mentally handicapped victims whose abuse did not begin before the age of 18 were not included, and those abused by seminarians who did not go on to ordination were also not counted. So, what should happen, now that trials cannot be held due to statutes of limitation, or that weak laws shield enablers? Sorry, maybe next time? Continue the secrecy, and prevent anyone from learning what the record shows, is the apparent answer.As a mother, whose children grew up in a parish where 16 percent of the priests were abusers whose records are available on www.bishopaccountability.org, thanks to the NH Attorney General, and as a grandmother who wants to know if an accused priest is living nearby, befriending children, I welcome efforts by SNAP and everyone else to lay out the evidence, yes evidence, gathered by the Church itself over decades and kept hidden --- until survivors through their courage fought for its release. Let people read the documents on www.bishopaccountability.org and judge for themselves, since that is the only judgment possible. Consider that because of name disclosures, a survivor discovered that his former therapist was an accused ex-priest upon whom settlements had been paid. Please stop and ponder the horror of that discovery, made possible only because of BishopAccountabilitys list. Others have also been recycled as mental health professionals. Bishops themselves have published names after a priest, no surprise, recidivated and criminally assaulted again, and after an abuser was found employed in a public school with troublesome allegations there. One ex-priest who admits his past was found ingratiating himself into a family with young children, and the parents were profoundly grateful to SNAP for the information about the kindly elder gentleman who had just moved nearby. Furthermore, the list caused one survivor I know to come forward because the abusers name was not there. SNAPs goal to protect children is not some theoretical vengeance, but a matter of public safety, however misjudged by its critics. I thank them profusely for their steadfast courage in the face of base attacks upon their motives.

Such a great post by Carolyn Disco. What lawyers might want to consider is how it took the law so long to finally help the victims of clergy abuse. While only the law, rather than forces within the church, brought the bishops to justice, it is weird irony to foster it in their defense. For those who are in the metropolitan New York area you might want to attend the talk given by Tom Doyle in New Rochelle, Tom warned the bishops years before the scandal of the coming explosion, which they responded to by ostracizing him. He will talk at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 10 Mill Rd, New Rochelle. (The church is at the corner of North Avenue and Mill Rd).(Most Catholic churches will not foster any such talk.) So much for Sargent's paper. The title of the talk is:Clergy Abuse: Crisis or Pattern? It Not Over Till It's Over This is a unique opportunity to hear Tom Doyle in our area and to introduce him to others who may not yet know his work. His latest book is Sex, Priests and Secret Codes (written in collaboration with A.W.R.Sipe and Patrick J Wall)

The talk will take place on Thursday, May 10, at 7:30 pm.

Questions: Is there any value to statues of limitations, or should we simply do away with them? Bill, what is your evidence for claiming that "most Catholic churches will not foster any such talk"? How could you know? Even if true (and it may be, for good logistical reasons), what do you think that proves?

The SOL issue revolves around how long it takes for those abused in youth to recall and confront the abuse, especially if the abiser is trusted by those close by.aeSo of course it makes a difference.It would be useful for folks to read Doyle, Sipe and Wall's bok to have som,e understanding as well as to hear Fr. Doyle speak.Most important, I see a point by point rebuttal of Mr. Sargent's article by Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, was on line at Bishop Accountability Abuse Tracker this morning.In fairness, I wish Commonweal would publish it, if submitted and that the readers of this thread who have any interest would lok at it also!

Are you referring to this?http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/abbott/070421Blaine has not sent it to us, and it's far too long to publish as-is. I also think it contains several questionable assertions. Any diocese that has to take out a $40 million loan, for example, is hardly "unscathed." Who pays back the loan? Mark Sargent interprets some of the public activities of SNAP as having an air of vengeance. Does anyone believe Blaine would not deny that? And what is one to make of this statement: "As victims here we aren't acting out of entitlement nor are we trampling on anyone's rights, least of all serial sexual predators who have raped and sodomized us as kids." What is the point of the "least of all" if not to devalue the rights of sexual predators? It is well and good that we all militate for safer environments for children, but does that entail demanding that Catholics stop giving to their dioceses, as SNAP recently urged Catholics in the Diocese of Orlando to do? Whom does that serve? Incidentally, Hoatson last contacted Commonweal several months ago, after Religion News Service picked up my critique of 'Deliver Us from Evil,' a seriously flawed documentary on a sexual abuser priest and the sexual abuse scandals in general. He threatened to cancel his subscription unless I "retracted" my article. Maybe he has more than one.

The brunt of Blaine's article or rebuttal rings true to me. The article by Sargent certainly has an attenuated view of justice.At any rate, I suggest you both read Doyle and catch his talk, if possible,For myself, Sargent's article at minmum lacks balance and that is the point. It seems (as do some of the blogs here) to come from a perspective that can be characterized ( as one VOTF memeber I've heard says) as defending the Hurch - that is, identifying the Church primarily with the hierarchy.There is also a lack of empathy towards the victims - it reminds me of bishop Brom's testimony in San Diego where he seems like the buisnessman confronted by a person injured by one his products. There is an expression of sympathy, perhaps genuine, but the concern is protecting the company store. What's lacking then is the insight into the real damage done, it's an abstracted view that really is not touched personally by what's occurred. Or, if I mightt borrow on St. Thomas, I think it represents an intelectual but not appreciative knowledge of the problem.

Mark Sargent gets 2633 words to make his serious charges, but SNAPs president cannot be allowed 1931 for a full response? Commonweal should offer SNAP/Blaine the opportunity to make those exact same points in its pages, even if they need phrasing independent of insertions into Sargents original text. I hope the magazine has the character to do that.Meanwhile, a $40 million loan by a diocese to pay a settlement is fine, Grant, if that is what it takes. Settlements may be more burdensome on some dioceses than others, but does that mean they are not just? And what about church property that is not used for church purposes, like commercial real estate? It was photos of those properties placed on the table in Boston that moved negotiations forward; $160 million in assessed value, about $220 million market value. They were not included in financial statements released later, BTW. And San Diegos bishop was caught yesterday with grossly inaccurate estimates of its properties in a bankruptcy meeting, with Brom being asked about perjury. See http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20070421-9999-1n21diocese.html The larger point is that claiming current parishioners should not be financially burdened for past actions strikes me as counter to the Gospel. Sin (and crime) has consequences and we all as the Body of Christ share in them. Jesus rejected notions like its not my fault, and so should we. Child sexual abuse survivors stand as victims of the Church herself, and as such should have a special claim on our consciences. Lets pay the price in justice, not in charity, and then move on together with heads held high.As to statutes of limitation, they need to accommodate the reality behind sexual abuse, in order to be just. The average age of reporting in NH has been the mid-40s, spurred only by the media exposure, and victims knowing they would be more likely to be believed, rather than harassed. And why should survivors be prevented from even seeking justice since they still must prove their cases? Civil actions are the only way to publicly identify abusers who may still be out there; and if the priest is dead, it is a vital way to reach other victims who may be in serious need of help. The guilt of survivors who blame themselves because others followed them is wrenching to see; they thought they were the only ones, but now struggle with their former silence. And they will not be silenced now.Why should the accident of residence outside a state be the arbiter of justice? Paul Shanley, Donald Bowen, and Joseph Maguire, to name several, would never have been tried and convicted if only they had not moved. Their trials were warranted and welcome. But countless others escape because the Church hid their records.Sargents mention of Bishop John McCormack (my bishop) as one of the guiltiest diocesan officials, who flat out lied to a survivor, and of bishops and officials who ignored and deceived (survivors), who covered up the problem and enabled further abuse are examples of a double standard. He makes these statements when there were no trials of bishops indeed he harshly criticized Philadelphia officials who released a grand jury report when they were prevented by weak laws from prosecuting hierarchs. Happily in NH, the AG had corporate liability statutes on which to act and did. McCormack had to admit in an agreement (read plea bargain) that there was sufficient evidence for a likely conviction of criminally endangering children, with perjury as part of the planned indictment.As it happens, I can reference documents on bishopaccountabilty.org that make a powerful case against McCormack in MA and numerous other bishops; perhaps such released documents are among Sargents sources. No matter, he expects survivors to keep silent by not distributing the records of accused priests in a way he does not honor in his own accusations against bishops. Does he extend his censure of SNAP to his own conduct here?SNAP is abiding by the law by pushing for reforms within it. It is also not violating the law in any way by disseminating information released by bishops themselves or survivors in lawsuits. I do wonder though if Sargent would withhold documents about an accused priest from a relative or neighbor whose family was now befriended by that priest.

Last submission:I should clarify in my last post that McCormack was not part of any NH investigation because he so recently moved to the state. But as current bishop, he signed for the Manchester diocese in the 2002 agreement with the state. Sargent's accusations are based on McCormack's activities in MA, where no prosecution was possible (just like PA), well deserved though it was on the merits. Such a record would not have escaped sanction in NH.Please pardon if I take this one and only opportunity (promise) to back-up Sargents charges against McCormack. They cannot be presented in any court, except that of public opinion, and sadly, most do not seem interested in the facts. Yes, I am impatient that much evidence goes unused. So, we are left to read and draw our own conclusions, just as those who read SNAPs files with similar documentation on accused priests. This is a sampling of that type of experience. Sargent says he was moved by the Cultrera documentary, Hand of God. I have been in significant contact with the Cultrera brothers. Here is filmmaker Joe Cultrera's 1-22-07 email to me about his brother: McCormack on occasion answered the rectory door, and told Paul that Birmingham was waiting for him in his bedroom. Consider this in light of McCormacks response in a deposition, to the question: Isn't it the truth, Bishop McCormack, that you remember seeing Father Birmingham at St. James taking boys into his room in the rectory? Answer: No, thats not trueAnd note this exchange, at a time well before open rectories, in response to a victims affidavit: Q. As an altar boy and a 5th grade student I was abused by Father Joseph Birmingham starting the fall of 1964 until the fall of 1969 over a period of five years. This abuse consisted of oral sex, kissing, masturbation and attempted rape on several occasions. The oral sex and masturbation and kissing happened over a hundred times during those years. This happened in the school guidance rooms, the church Sacristy, the rectory, in his car, on ski trips, trips out west, trips to Nantaskit (sic) beach, Hampton Beach, at the boys camp I attended, in my own home. I could not escape this man. "While in the St. James Rectory on the second floor in Father Birmingham's room where I was abused several times I remember distinctly seeing Father Birmingham carrying ice cream to his room for me talking to Father McCormack and both of them looking at me in the room on the bed. This happened several times. Father McCormack would see me in the Rectory on the second floor with Birmingham. There is no denying this.Q. But you deny it, is that correct? A. Yes.So, if McCormack never should have known or suspected abuse (one victim confessed to McCormack about dirty acts with a priest in the parish), why could he not admit he saw boys in, and go in and out of a bedroom? Such memory losses

Who has disputed that several bishops tragically failed to protect young people from abusers? What portion of an article criticizing the tactics of SNAP must show proper respect to that commonly known fact? Who denied the horrors suffered by vicims of sexual abuse? Who said victims should be "silent"? Do you believe that the activities criticized by Sargent are above criticism? If so, why? How does that beavior qualify as "seeking justice"? Or can victims do no wrong? Do the accused have rights or are they abrogated by virtue of the alleged crime?Again, Blaine's commentary is interwoven with Sargent's piece--that's why it doesn't make much sense when put together--and as such we can't publish it. Of course, as far as I know she hasn't sent it to us. Not to mention the editorial problem of publishing something that has already been widely disseminated. I saw Doyle speak at VOTF's first national convention in 2002, and I've read many of his articles and papers. I've been covering this story since it broke, and share the outrage expressed by so many Catholics over how miserably this scandal has been handled by bishops. But none of that ought to disqualify the serious, long-overdue questions raised by Sargent.

My last post on this or it could go on forever.I know I'm stubborn - my wife tells me so and is sometimes (usually) right. So I reread Sargent and the snippets above and I'm still not sure what vital questions that have been long hidden that he raises.To say that victims groups are always right is a straw man, but, in general and in the vast majority of cases I've followed they are on target.I repeat that Sargent talks a lot about justice, but very little about community protection as an integral part or how it's accheived.I'm bewildered, since he resides in Philadelphia, how he can attack the prosecutors there with no supportive eveidence; I continue to suggest that the previous Archbishop of Philadelphia was properly scored in the Grand Jury report (please read if you haven't). I have not seen anyone calling for the archbishops head of late and he doesn't seem to have sufferted any damage, like all the other bishops who are criticised by Mr. Sargent and others here for enabling.I also return to the point of seeing his response here as one concerned basically with keeping the buisness going -whereas it was, is and continues to be in need of change - change where leadership like the Bernard Laws or Gonzales or Wolfowitz or whoever of this workd don't just nod at responsibility and let truth be damned. I think that has some aproxcimation to what we mean by justice.It;s easy to toss around words like vengeance. From where I sit -that's heated!The replies this article and its defenders are receiving may also be "heated", but in this poor writer's opinion, they indicate a low point in Commonweal editorial work.

Grant,You make the argument that Sargeants questions are long overdue. Let me give you a view through the lens of a victim/survivor. Whenever someone uses the word overdue when discussing the Church, it runs a cold chill under my skin! Overdue, please! I am 52 years old, the Church found out about my abuse no later than 4 years after it had taken place. They did N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Maybe it had to do with our VG at that time? Msgr. Bernard Law!! I did not speak to one of those vicious trial attorneys until I was 46.M. BelenchiaJackson, Mississippi

In response to Grant Gallichos post April 21, 2007, 8:15 pm with questions related to my prior posts - final discussion:Q: Who has disputed that several bishops tragically failed to protect young people from abusers? A: Several, you say? It is closer to two-thirds of bishops documented as failing to protect children and young people. You forgot to include children in your question.Q: What portion of an article criticizing the tactics of SNAP must show proper respect to that commonly known fact? A: More than the obligatory, pro-forma disclaimers of yes, it was horrible, only to be followed by analysis that discounts any need to reform a legal system that leaves that horror unchallenged. Sargent mentions no need for statutes of limitation reform, criminal or civil, no matter how narrow the limits; or the enactment of corporate liability laws like those in NH that allowed the AG to charge child endangerment characterized by willful blindness, flagrant indifference and conscious ignorance of the dangers priests posed to children including actions taken with a consciousness of guilt. Rings true to me. (The plea bargain still demanded and got a virtual admission of guilt -- sufficient evidence for a likely conviction)I infer Sargent suggests we leave the laws as they are; extending eligibility for future placement on a sex offender registry is unimportant. Prosecution is left to depend on the accident of geography, all right if a priest moves out of state, but not so if he stays put. And if by all clinical evidence, the horror of abuse leaves the victim genuinely unable to come forward within an unreasonable time frame, well, sorry, out of luck, you cannot seek justice in the courts even though you are in terror that your abuser is still free to molest again. You would still have to prove your case in court, but you cannot even get to the door. The lesson of 95-98% of past alleged priest abusers escaping trial due to bishops cover-ups is what? Troubling? Not worthy of comment? Sargent also does not object that no supervisors could be held criminally accountable in PA, even after reading all those case studies. My God! And thank God, there is law in NH to the contrary. So, I find just saying the obvious about abuse, then attacking SNAP for seeking possible criminal and civil remedies in accord with the law, after having been betrayed by its deficiencies is disturbing. I subsequently read with alarm Sargents previous attack on the Phila grand jury report as biased, and his support for the archdioceses defense (despite a few words inserted about bishops often failing to protect), and understood better where he is coming from. (See Abuse in Philadelphia 12-15-05 issue only the abuse is by the DA against the Archdiocese http://commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1470)**Q: Who denied the horrors suffered by victims of sexual abuse? A: No one, but are not those horrors worthy of just redress under the law even if the financial consequences to the Body of Christ involve more than insurance money? Survivors have a priority claim as victims of the Church herself. The idea appears to be it must not affect people personally, as though Christ said, its not my fault, and sin and crime have no communal consequences. Somehow, the horror just happened all by itself, and the hierarchys confession of Bless me Father for sin has occurred should be satisfactory. The Church will survive stronger, no house will burn down, but it would be helpful if bishops in bankruptcy proceedings told the plain, simple truth instead of emulating corrupt corporate executives out to beat the system. That only enrages, and harms negotiations.Q: Who said victims should be "silent"? A: Sargent himself said victims should not exercise their free speech rights by speaking about or distributing the records of their alleged perpetrators absent a criminal prosecution. He says their goal is not child protection, but vengeance. Does he deny the guilt they feel because their silence might have contributed to the next victims abuse, and are determined not to allow a repeat even if their only option under the law today is to make known the names and histories of allegations? Apparently, whatever horrors occurred, they are not sufficient to warrant any redress by actions that do not violate any law. Q: Do you believe that the activities criticized by Sargent are above criticism? If so, why? A: No, but when criticism is accompanied by blistering, untrue attacks on motives, instead of determining whether they are effective and legal deterrents to crime, I object.Q: How does that behavior qualify as "seeking justice"? A: Seeking access to courts for survivors is certainly seeking justice.Q: Or can victims do no wrong? A: Not worth answering.Q: Do the accused have rights or are they abrogated by virtue of the alleged crime?A: They have: -the right to a fair trial, (knowing that is impossible, note their lack of desire for access to a courtroom to defend themselves, instead of just being grateful to have escaped the law); -the right to be considered innocent in a court of law, but not innocent in my mind in the face of documentary evidence to the contrary (Ive read hundreds, maybe thousands of pages over the years), -the right to give their side when charged, and authorize the release of their files to prove it, (but not lying like so many later found culpable); -the right to stop the denial, the obfuscation, and excuses about alcoholism (its because I drank, when he drank in order to abuse), -no right to spin about boundary violations and harm when rape, groping, molestation is what he means, -the right to treatment, health care, and a safe place under meaningful supervision, not reassignment to any ministry anywhere, in another parish, state or nation during precautionary leave, investigation, suspension-no right to benefit from a deferential mindset embodied in No one will believe you.-the right to restoration of a reputation if warranted, as I participated in -the right to insist supporters not attack those who accuse him, and keep support private so as not to intimidate survivors in general afraid who may be afraid to come forward-for further discussion; I care about the truly innocent Q: I saw Doyle speak at VOTF's first national convention in 2002, and I've read many of his articles and papers. A: Yes, I was there too, having proposed that VOTF establish a priest of integrity award and give it to Tom. I also wrote Jim Posts award presentation statement. I consider his articles and papers foundational to any understanding of the crisis, but do not see their impact reflected in your own views.Q: I've been covering this story since it broke, and share the outrage expressed by so many Catholics over how miserably this scandal has been handled by bishops. A: So, what consequences, if any, do you think, should attach to bishops for their miserable supervision of a massive crime wave?Ive been there from the beginning as well, with thousands of documents at my home and untold hours of research, reading and writing completed. I share your outrage, and have sat, listened, and wept with many survivors for countless hours. Let me recommend that experience for a fuller understanding of this horror. Q: But none of that ought to disqualify the serious, long-overdue questions raised by Sargent.A: Re: long overdue - the questions have been examined at length in other articles and forums for a long time; this is not new. Serious issues, yes, but to be argued on the undisputed facts, what happened on the ground, not by laying heavy burdens on those who suffered by straining the gnats of procedure, and jurisdiction, and technicality and interpretation and liability and unconscionable motions that leave victims abandoned, bishops unaccountable, and justice mocked.Sargents piece was more in the cast of a polemic typical of diocesan legal and PR efforts than reasoned argument in the manner of a legal scholar. I believe I responded evenly at first, but both of us have picked up on emotion. That over, and perhaps with talk of vengeance and burning the house down put aside, maybe there can be some common ground.By the way, Bob Hoatsons subscription has not expired yet, which is why it is still in effect. Perhaps he does not realize he should be entitled to a refund for unused portions, and can cancel immediately. Your reference to him was unnecessary.** A simple comparison of the archdioceses examination of the supposed inaccuracies in the report versus the response by the DA exposing the churchs distortions is highly instructive. I invite everyone to read both to evaluate where the truth lies - in Sargents analysis or not. (Archdiocesan Response: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2005_09_21_Philly_GrandJury... vs District Attorneys Examination of Archdiocesan Response: Examination of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's Response to the Grand Jury Report

Oops, I forgot to include the URL for the DA's response to the Archdiocese: http://www.philadelphiadistrictattorney.com/images/DA_s_Response.pdf

As suggested above you and others need to read the countless documents available to the public. Just to give you a glimpse of what I and other survivors have had to actually endure from the Church attorneys. The following is one of my favorite arguments they made here in Mississippi on behalf of the Church: (paraphrasing)The secular law of negligent hiring or supervision may encourage a court or jury to find prior failings disqualify servants from future assighnments. Under Catholic doctrine, however, a prior failing is not necessarily a disqualifaction for ministery.The Church believes that genuine conversation can occur. Thus, depending upon the circumstances, a prior failing may have taught a spiritual lesson which the individual can share with others in his ministery. As examples they use scripture, Exdodus 2:11-15, II Samuel 11:2-12:15, Psalms 51 and many others. All of these make reference to murder, adultery, assault, perjury, persecution and imprisonment. They go on to say Church history is replete with examples of saints who sinned greatly and learned from such experience through the grace of redemption so that they could better teach other to avoid sin. We are talking about the sexual assualt of CHILDREN!!! Are they?

Mark,I am so sorry you had to endure such legal hardball. That rationale was tried in Boston and was overruled by Judge Constance Sweeney (bless her) and an appellate court. From "Our Fathers" by David France, p. 582: "The novel and frustrating argument went like this: Central to Catholic belief are the sacraments, especially the sacrament of penance; Cardinal Law and his leadership team were exercising their freedom of religion when they forgave abusive priests and transferred them; the litigants are treading all over that right; they seek to 'modify the church's understanding of forgiveness and grace."One church lawyer noted..."Some of the greatest leaders in church history are, as the church would say, redeemed sinners, but as our civil justice might say, former criminals."Does that church argument not offend any reasonable person?The USCCB general counsel encouraged dioceses to use that defense, so apparently, it reached MS as well.Survivor counter argument: "society's desire to protect children from harm was more powerful than any managerial policies of an organized religion. Criminal laws can't be broken, even by churches."Take heart, Mark. The Providence, RI diocese claimed it is a collection of souls and could not therefore be sued.Bridgeport CT (read Cardinal Egan of NY) said priests were independent contractors over whom he did not have control.Truth is mocked here and elsewhere, but Sargent only notes how PA laws could not touch Phila's cardinals. Read the Phila files in user-friendly format at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/pa_philadelphia/Philly_GJ_report.htm and see if anyone believes that is a just outcome.

I might add one thing..... The animal who raped me had plenty of practice at learning so his flock could benefit. On the record he molested 6 people in 5 different parishes! None of us knew each other prior. We were all around the age of 12, starting in the early 60's into the 80's. Four of them were violated after notification from me! I also know personally about many others... who came forward off the the record!

Where are the Church defenders? Where are Sargeant's defenders? Where is the over-due discussion of why, when and where? I was ask early on in this movement if I was concerned about people 'jumping on the bandwagon'? My answer then and my answer now, " who would want to jump on this wagon?..... I have had my whole life broken open for all the world to see! I am sorry for those who have been falsely accused. It is my opinion that this doesn't happen very often. Who would want to be dragged through HELL! Then thrown to the heap by the Church of your baptism!!

Several posts have mentioned Barbara's Blaine's response to Mark Sargent, which was printed elsewhere. I hope all have read it. I am responding to it here, because it bears on one of the sad cases Dean Sargent mentions: Fr. Darell Mitchell's being driven from his St. Louis parish by SNAP protests.----In her lengthy recitation of newspaper citations regarding Fr. Darell Mitchell, Barbara Blaine glosses over one important fact, while another is not mentioned at all. First, that the mental health facility to which Fr. Mitchell was sent deemed him to not be a risk. This is not the type of treatment from the 1960s and 1970s that was justly criticized as ineffective, after many priests were declared "cured" and sent back to parishes. Fr. Mitchell underwent a rigorous six-month program, with a two-year after-care program, at St. Luke's Institute. It's not as though the diocese sent him on a six-month vacation till everything "blew over." Bishop Sevilla was morally certain that Fr. Mitchell was not a risk to children or teens when he returned him to ministry, albeit in a supervised setting. Second, and I can't really fault Ms. Blaine for this, since it only rated a passing sentence in one of the newspaper stories: a subsequent private investigation of Fr. Mitchell's previous assignments showed no evidence of sexual abuse of anyone. Bishop Sevilla ordered that investigation after questions were raised about the original process undertaken by the diocese. Unfortunately, the diocese chose not to publicize the results of that investigation. But certainly Bishop Sevilla was armed with two important affirmations of Fr. Mitchell's suitability for service in a parish: The judgment of the doctors at St. Luke's, who said he was not a risk to children or teens; an exhaustive private investigation of his past assignments that showed no evidence of sexual abuse. Why didn't the diocese publicize the results of the private investigation? Probably fearing exactly what eventually took place anyway: The protest campaign that took place in St. Louis which drove Fr. Mitchell from the parish where he was serving, and most probably from the active priesthood, given how his reputation has been virtually destroyed. SNAP has called on Archbishop Burke in St. Louis and Bishop Sevilla in Yakima to apologize for Fr. Mitchell's placement in St. Louis. If Fr. Mitchell is ever shown to have sexually abused a child or teen, I'll be the first to be on my knees, begging for forgiveness for the church, and offering whatever help I am able to provide. Until such a time, I think SNAP owes Fr. Mitchell an apology, and should take some concrete steps to try to help him restore his reputation. Sincerely, Fr. Robert SilerSt. Andrew's ParishEllensburg, WA

Fr. Siler,What did Fr. Michell do to cause anyone to be concerned? If there were no charges, then what caused the attention to Fr. Michell?And why did he not go back to WA after the investigation? Did SNAP act alone on this? Did any catholic lay organizations have any comments on this issue? If there was no problem with the priest, could it be the lack of transparency on the two bishops part in this matter?

Thank you for your questions, Mark. I would agree that there was room for improvement on the part of both bishops. It probably would have been better for Fr. Mitchell to have remained inactive pending the law enforcement investigations, which stretched on for well over a year. Maybe it was foolish of Bishop Sevilla, given the current climate of the church, to believe that he could protect both children, and the reputation of the priest, so that he could return to ministry. Certainly there is a long and complicated story of the local reaction to this story, which resulted in the formation of a local VOTF chapter.To me, there is a question of proportion, related to Mark Sargent's question about the rule of law. I'm thinking especially of this quote, in regard to anger directed toward church officials: "The public, emotional, and absolutist character of all these actions expresses not only great anger and frustration, but also the desire to abase and punish. Its vengeance time." Up until December of this past year, Fr. Mitchell had not been identified publicly in any news coverage, because he had never been charged with a crime. That's a reasonable expectation any of us would have, isn't it?But when a local reporter asked the diocese for the priest's whereabouts, by name, the diocese issued a press release stating that he had been given an assignment in St. Louis by Archbishop Burke, who was fully aware of his background. While the local newspaper continued not to name Fr. Mitchell, the Associated Press reporter in St. Louis did, and the story began circulating widely.Within days, SNAP was passing out leaflets in parishes in St. Louis where he had served. A blog that carries stories about sex abuse published several of the Yakima newspaper stories. One of them mistakenly included a photo caption from a completely different story - but not obvious to the casual reader - that falsely labeled Fr. Mitchell a pedophile. That story ended up in the archives of a website that maintains a database of accused priests. It took me several days of earnest e-mailing to get the photo error corrected. Who knows how much further damage it caused to Fr. Mitchell's reputation? To this day, his name is included in a database of accused priests, though he was never charged with a crime.As I put it in another blog a few months ago: I firmly believe in the church's "one strike and you're out" policy. But this seems more like "one foul ball and you're out." Is that fair?Sincerely,Fr. Robert

Fr. Silers heartfelt message makes some positive points: that St. Lukes treatment center found Fr. Darrell Mitchell did not present a risk to children, and that a private investigation found no evidence of child sexual abuse at his prior assignments.The problem is that those findings, according to the articles SNAP cites, do not dispute the fact that the bishop and review board agree that a dozen or more photographs of nude boys were found downloaded on Mitchells computer; that investigators found his computer contained a sophisticated program that could eliminate those photos and make them unrecoverable; that Mitchell had access to his computer for five days after being notified by his bishop about the charges but before the police were contacted, a time when he could have erased the photos; that the only reason the FBI rendered no federal indictment was that the boys, while naked, were not in engaged in sexually-explicit conduct. As a parent and grandparent, I find that the reason for such a narrow escape from federal criminal prosecution gives minimal assurance. It is a fair question to ask why would a priest download photos of nude boys? Not men, but boys, minors under the law; not just viewing but downloading. And what is the need for a sophisticated software program to erase any trace of websites visited? To cover ones tracks? Who were those poor boys (God protect them), and what exploitation might have been involved?Mitchells return to ministry, supposedly supervised and while an FBI investigation was ongoing, did not prevent his placement at a parish with a school; with parishioners saying he said masses at a high school, and also went on a teen retreat. This is stark word that even after 2002, bishops are negligent, really do not pay attention, and cannot be trusted, period. But I bet they passed the USCCB audits with flying colors.Another reasonable question, based on records of prior diocesan deceit (failing to report full histories to treatment centers), is if St. Lukes were given the whole story here? The National Review Board criticized dioceses for that, and I have documentary evidence of multiple instances of the practice.Now, do Missourians or does any parent have a right to know of Mitchells history, which is not in dispute by anyone apparently, even Mitchell himself? Or should it be hidden? Dean Sargent apparently believes I should know nothing about photos since there could be no criminal prosecution, no matter how thinly sliced the matter. Truth, the facts should be secret, regardless.But I believe openness counts, especially in light of the cited failures in supervision. I blame the bishops for placing Mitchell in parish ministry; it was not fair to him, or prudent of them. Are there not other placements where supervision would be meaningful with no access to children?The fact that there were no instances of prior abuse does not mean there were no instances of prior computer downloads of questionable probity. Is it acceptable to wonder if this was not the first time, or if indeed child pornography has been viewed, and his forethought in an ability to eliminate it was actually exercised? This is a parent, a mama bear speaking. I just cant take the chance that Fr. Siler will ever have to get down on his knees; its too late then. Ive sat with too many survivors for too many hours. The churchs standards should be higher than those of the technicalities of legalese. I know of a priest treated at St. Lukes, a good program, yes, who signed a continuing care contract and was warned to stay away from computers. Still, according to law enforcement, he accessed up to 10,000 pages of pornography with adults and teens, including website links to child pornography, and one that contained incest. But no prosecution was possible because the images were in temporary folders, not downloaded. Please understand our apprehension.Mitchell was ill-served by hierarchs, and it is their blindness that brought him to this day. They are the ones who owe him an apology, not SNAP. And keeping secrets like before, so the laity and law enforcement are ignorant, was and is not the answer. I believe Mitchells interest in photos of nude boys is not something he willed, but was perhaps a burden suffered with great anguish. My heart goes out to him. That his treatment appears meaningful, his understanding of himself deepened is very good news; and with prayers for ongoing recovery, I sincerely hope he finds peace. And, please Lord, let some good come out of all this for him, and those who love him. But I do not want him around my grandson. Or should I feel guilty about that?

Carolyn,Thank you for your thoughtful response.Shalom,Fr. Robert

Fr. Robert,So, as I understand it, Fr. Mitchell had pictures of nude boy's on his computer. These pictures were found on the computer by an employee of the diocese. Fr. Mitchell went to St. Luke's for some sort of treatment.He stayed in the St. Louis area with his bishop's knowledge.The St. Louis bishop also knew of Fr. Mitchell's record. Neither bishop informed anyone about anything. Finally, a newpaper reporter found out about this by asking questions of the WA. diocese. Then, in my opinion I don't see any fault of SNAP. This same pattern of events is and has been a 'red flag', right? SNAP was created in part to advocate for victims. I conclude that if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck it is a good chance that it is a duck..... History is full of this same story-line with terrible consequenses......... We are talking about protecting children!

Thank you for your comments, Mark.Again, I think it's a question of proportion. If someone were to diligently examine my computer, they probably would find a picture or two of a naked baby girl. A few years ago, my next-eldest sister, proud as can be of her first grandchild, sent out numerous pictures by e-mail. One or two, as I recall, showed the little girl getting her first bath. I don't remember clearly ... it's been four years since I've looked at them.The pictures Fr. Mitchell looked at were less innocuous than those, but far less serious a situation than the one Carolyn outlined, of a priest with a documented history of accessing thousands of pornographic sites.For good or for ill, our justice system has a presumption of innocence. Except, it would seem, when a priest is accused of wrongdoing. Fr. Mitchell has been made out to be a monster, at least by some. I don't know how one undoes that sort of damage. But it seems out of balance to me.Well. I doubt there's much more to be gained from bandying this about. And it's time to shift gears: a funeral for a 15-year-old girl who was severely disabled shortly after birth by an infection. She has a twin sister, so one is able to see how beautiful she would have been had she had the chance to develop normally.What's that line from Babette's Feast? In heaven we will be fully the person God created us to be? Not that we should ever stop trying, and helping others, here on earth.Shalom.Fr. Robert

To err is human. With that said, I think it would be reasonable to understand why SNAP acted in the way that it did. If we have to come down on one side or the other I think it should be to protect children. As stated above, I dont think I would want to have my children around this man. Is that unreasonable? Holding a priest to a higher standard is not a radical approach! The bishops are the ones who need to apologize, especially to Fr. Mitchell.

In conclusion, it is disconcerting to see Fr. Roberts focus on a sense of grievance by priests, when there is no mention of the children in the photos. That mindset troubles me, especially when the facts are not in dispute.Comparing family photos of babies with what appear to be unrelated boys, not babies, posted naked for public view --- for what purpose?? It is scary to me that the difference is minimized. Read Perversion of Power by Mary Gail Frawley ODea, the psychologist who spoke to the bishops in Dallas, to understand the disconnect.I wish Fr. Robert well, and thank him for taking the time to participate. And may Fr. Mitchells treatment be fully successful.

Thank you, Carolyn, for your additional comments. I was not attempting to minimize differences, only to make a point about proportion. I'm sure I could have found a better example.Only Fr. Mitchell and his doctors know why he looked at those photos. His doctors have said he is not a threat to children or teens. While you have spoken movingly of how you would not trust your grandchildren with him, I know women in our diocese who are still very thankful for Fr. Mitchell's ministry to them and to their families, and who would still trust him with their children.I can say that because I know him, unlike the vast internet readership that only knows him now as an accused priest who looked at photos of nude boys. Thank you for your best wishes for me and Fr. Mitchell.Peace,Fr. Robert

Fr. Silers,I understand your thoughts up to a certain point. But, there is one thing that you have highlighted that I would like to talk about. You talk about knowing Fr. Mitchell and how you know people who would fully trust him. That in its self is the very reason for the bishops to have been as transparent as possible. When things are keep a secret, facts become tainted from the beginning. Any problems that Fr. Mitchell had were only magnified by not being honest about them from the beginning. I dont buy your argument that the bishop was scared of SNAP. SNAP only got involved after the facts became available to the public through the efforts of a reporter. It seems reasonable for people from other places to think if he was not good enough for Washington then why is he in others back yard. As I stated above this has all the markings of what has become a red flag for so many. This same scenario happened here in Mississippi with a horrible outcome. A priest came to Jackson after treatment to teach in a local Catholic High School. Only after he was called back to Wisconsin to face criminal charges did anyone here know anything about him. He had been convicted of a third degree sex crime prior to coming to Mississippi, a misdemeanor. He was teaching religion to eight graders when he got called back to Wisconsin to face felony sex crime charges of which he pleaded no-contest and went to jail. He is now on Wisconsins sex crime registry for life! His victim was 14!! Can't you see why so many would be worried about someone like your friend?

Sorry Fr. about your name. It's Siler.... my bad!

Thank you, Mark, for the follow-up. And no problem with the name ... thank goodness there's only of me! :) I do tend to go by my first name a lot, since I'm a Benedictine oblate, as well as a diocesan priest.I do understand why people would be worried, especially given that there had been no public follow-up on the private investigation that had taken place. I think Bishop Sevilla felt that St. Louis would be a good place for Fr. Mitchell to be, since he had done well at St. Luke's, and in his supervised parish setting earlier. The bishop felt there had been an overreaction here, which would make it difficult to reassign him here, given how polarized the situation had become. I dont think Archbishop Burke did anyone any favors with the parish assignment he provided, given the presence of a school and a prior assignment of a priest there that had attracted controversy. I wish Fr. Mitchell had had the fortitude to stick it out and squarely face his past when the protests began. Most people can be very forgiving when things are well-explained.I wonder how one goes about putting the pieces back together when something has gotten so broken apart...Thanks again for your comments.Fr. Robert

Fortunately, someone alerted that this thread is still going on so I can answer Grant's question.Mark, in Westchester there is only one church that will allow votf meetings. Queens had better luck when many people confronted the bishop there. In Manhattan the Jesuit church on 15 th st and the other one on Park Avenue have allowed meetings. There might be one or two more.Egan will not respond to votf. Most pastors in the NY archdiocese are afraid to hold meeting on church premises. The famous meetings in the Upper Room in the Greek Church in New Rochelle are held there because of the difficulty of getting Catholic churches. So make no mistake about it there is intense hostility among the NY clergy for votf. Propelled mainly by Egan.

Some interesting figures for those who think the problem of priest being falsely accused is running rampant! These are for the general public....... I would bet it is even lower for clergy abuse....Fabricated sexual abuse reports constitute only 1% to 4% of all reported cases. Of these reports, 75% are falsely reported by adults and 25% are reported by children.Children only fabricate % of the time.