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The Nienstedt shuffle.

Yesterday, after shying away from the press for weeks, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded to the disturbing revelations about the way his diocese has been handling priests accused of sexual misconduct. He apologized to victims and their families. He promised to do better. And he pledged "before God and in memory of my beloved parents"--whose deaths he recounts at the top of his weekly column--"to do all in my power to restore trust here in this local church."

A tall order--made taller still by Nienstedt's reluctance to come clean about the facts of the cases in question. (Last month, Nienstedt's former top canon lawyer, Jennifer Haselberger, publicly revealed that the current and past archbishops of St. Paul-Minneapolis promoted a priest with a history of sexual misconduct--who later went on to abuse children--and failed to notify civil authorities when they learned that another priest had possessed "borderline illegal" images of what appeared to be minors.) In an e-mail interview with Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)--his first since they started reporting on this fiasco weeks ago--Nienstedt answers relatively straightforward questions with something shy of the whole truth.

MPR led by asking why Nienstedt didn't go to the police after learning about the priest whose computer apparently contained "borderline illegal" photos. Here's Nienstedt's response:

NIENSTEDT: The analysis completed in 2004 did not find evidence of possession of child pornography. The images that [former chancellor for canonical affairs Jennifer] Haselberger showed to coworkers were of pop-up ads. Pop-up ads are unsolicited and often attach to the hard drive without the user's awareness or permission.

The St. Paul police completed a 7-month review of the same material from the hard drive that was analyzed in 2004 and came to the same conclusion: there is no evidence of possession of child pornography.

Not quite. What really happened is that in 2004--when Harry Flynn was archbishop--it was discovered that a computer that had belonged to a local priest contained thousands of pornographic images. The archdiocese hired a firm to investigate, and its report found "borderline illegal" images on the hard drive. Even though Minnesota law requires priests to report suspected child abuse--which includes child pornography (defined broadly to include "lewd" displays of genitalia)--it appears that no one with the archdiocese called the police. The priest was sent to treatment, returned to ministry, and the report--along with copies of the hard drive--ended up in the chancery basement.

It wasn't until last year, while Jennifer Haselberger was checking up on the priest (because Nienstedt was considering giving him a new assignment) that the '04 report and discs again saw the light of day. In memos to Nienstedt and other diocesan officials, she quoted the report at some length. She printed a few of the images and showed them to Nienstedt. And apparently her interventions had an effect on the archbishop, because in May 2012 he composed a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, seeking guidance. In that letter, he acknowledged that the priest has possessed "borderline illegal" images. Nienstedt even shared his concern that he could be subject to criminal prosecution. But he didn't send the letter. And he didn't call the cops.

When Haselberger showed him the "borderline illegal" photos, she reminded Nienstedt in a subsequent memo, he did not dispute that they were pornographic. But now he does. Now he repeats the non-expert opinion of Fr. Kevin McDonough--who had served as vicar general under retired Archbishop Harry Flynn, and at the time was Nienstedt's "safe environment liason"--that the images were not pornographic, but rather pop-up ads, "unsolicited, [which] often attach to the hard drive without the user's awareness or permission."

First, Nienstedt repeats McDonough's opinion as though it's fact. It's not. Haselberger rejected McDonough's assessment in a memo to Nienstedt. And no one has suggested that the report itself floated the idea that the images came from pop-up ads that magically installed potentially illegal images to the priest's hard drive. It's disingenuous for Nienstedt to pretend otherwise.

Second, that's not really how pop-up ads work. If you're innocently browsing, say, the website containing the State of Minnesota's statute on child pornography, you're not going to see pop-up ads for kiddie porn. But even if you are looking at legal pornography sites, how likely is it that they're surreptitiously installing child porn on your computer? The images wouldn't be that hard to trace.

Does he think Minnesota Catholics haven't read MPR's own excellent reporting (pace the deeply confused president of the Catholic League) on this case? Has he? Because a person who had actually read up on this case would have a hard time keeping a straight face while claiming that

St. Paul police completed a 7-month review of the same material from the hard drive that was analyzed in 2004 and came to the same conclusion: there is no evidence of possession of child pornography.

Nienstedt makes it sound like the police reviewed all the evidence they asked for and determined no crime had been committed. Again, that's not what happened. What happened was the police phoned the chancery and asked for the evidence Haselberger told them about, and a diocesan attorney made them wait before handing over a few discs--and, crucially, he withheld the report. Nienstedt asserts that the police had "the same material from the hard drive that was analyzed in 2004," but the investigating officer wasn't so sure. "Whether these discs given to me were the actual discs or copies of those discs after first asking for them, I do not know," he wrote in his report.

Of course, Minnesota law doesn't care whether a mandated reporter has proof beyond reasonable doubt that abuse has occured. It merely requires him to notify civil authorities when he has reason to believe abuse had occured--and suspecting possession of child porn counts because kids do not pose themselves for such photos. Nienstedt told MPR that he hasn't broken the law. But the case isn't closed. The police have reopened it.

In his column, Nienstedt ritually acknowledges the heinous crime of sexual abuse and apologizes to victims. "Over the last decade some serious mistakes have been made," he admits. But he doesn't name them.

He says he's learned a good deal over the past several weeks. But he doesn't say what those lessons were.

He says "we must also be committed to honesty and transparency." A good start would be not shading the truth when answering predictable questions from the media about what happened on his watch--questions Catholic parents in the Twin Cities deserve answers to.

He promises to "recommit today never knowingly to assign a clergy member to a parish or school if I have concerns that he will do harm to the community." But it's 2013. Boston blew up over a decade ago. Why should a Catholic bishop have to "recommit" to the obvious?

He notes that "there is also a question as to the prudence of the judgments that have been made." But whose judgments? Recently resigned vicar general Fr. Peter Laird? No, the archdiocese said, "he did nothing improper." Nienstedt prefers not to say. The task force he appointed to investigate this mess is supposed to provide some answers, but its work will hold value only to the extent that it's willing to name names.

Mistakes don't get made by no one. And no one is confused about where the buck stops in a Catholic diocese.

About the Author

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



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Bishops will do the absolute minimum that the narrowest possible interpretation of civil and canon law requires them to do – an interpretation that they themselves make, and which the public, the police, and the courts may not agree with.

Nor will bishops suffer any consequences from the Vatican. Francis has removed a bishop for an overly-expensive construction project, but he has removed no bishop for egregious mishandling of sexual abuse allegations. Money matters are more important than the souls of children.

In some ways I almost feel bad for these bishops.  I can't say I have ever been in a comparable situation, but it must be awful to have to face the fact that one or more of your priests is involved with child sexual abuse.  I doubt that was what the good Archbishop signed up for when he was named Archbishop. I guess my first reaction would be to hope it is wrong and that it will go away.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.  So after about 15 minutes to let it settle in, he, and any other prelate, needs to immediately contact the priest in question and let him know he is being suspended pending an investigation, then immediately contact the proper authorities and let them know of the accusation, and finally, report the matter to the appropriate diosesan review board and let it do its investigation.  Sometimes if you need to take an action, it is best to just do it.  I honestly think that a lot of these bishops don't "protect" their priests so much out of ill intent, but more out of almost a kind of fear that they  will be make a mistake.  Then they "lawyer up" and strat parsing words and phases which just makes things worse.  Better to be ciriticized for doing what is ultimately the right thing than for being to cautious.  Child sexual abuse is an awful thing.  You don't want to be wrong in making an acusation, but they don't seem to get that they need to take strong steps to protect children first.  The rest will work out. 

The evidence reflects that protecting children first is NOT the mission of the Catholic bishops.  I no longer think they are confused.  I think they are being threatened with being outed for their sexual activities by perpetrators.  And they are trying to survive.  Ain't no room in their hearts and minds for the protection of children.  They're protecting themselves.

I was just listening to an interview with Jennifer Haselberger at NPR ...

I don't believe the bishops have been confused, I think they know exactly what's going on and have made the choice to protect themselves at the cost of the children.  Why won't Francis address this issue?

The evidence reflects that protecting children first is NOT the mission of the Catholic bishops.

Certainly, that seems to be the case with Nienstedt and these two priests (not to mention other specific cases we've discussed here, in Newark, St. Joseph-KC, Joliet, LA, etc.).  At the risk of coming across as an apologist, though - there is also a good deal of evidence that clergy in dioceses across the US were removed according to the norms of the Dallas Charter.  These cases tend not to attact as much publicity - and perhaps they shouldn't be considered newsworthy, as it really should be the norm, the normal course of events, that these cases are expeditiously and justly settled.  But these cases are part of the body of evidence, too.  And there is other evidence - for example, all of the safe-environment training that has been administered to what must be tens of thousands of employees and volunteers.

Overall, there is considerable evidence that bishops do take protecting children more seriously than they used to.  I'd suggest that the conclusion to be reached in all this is that some bishops - perhaps many or even most - from time to time fall short of the high standards we demand and expect.  Sometimes they get it right, too often they don't.   That they don't get it right more often, still today, in spite of everything, is perplexing and infuriating.  And as I say, I am not writing this to excuse their failings.  The failings are unacceptable, and there is little doubt that bishops who have failed can do better.  

But if our conclusions are going to be guided by the evidence, then we should acknowledge that there is also a large body of evidence that complicates or even contradicts the sweeping conclusion, "protecting children first is NOT the mission of Catholic bishops".  I don't think the evidence, on the whole, leads us to that broad an indictment, and am requesting that we go where the evidence - all of it - leads us.


The huge amount of energy commenting on this case that refers to "borderline illegal" porn and "sexual misconduct" with adults suggests that there are no cases of actual child abuse left to get worked up about. 

Enough flapping lips - we need: 1) a grand jury investigation of possible child endangerment actions by the top officials of the archdiocese of st paul & minneapolis, the diocese of winona, the diocese of st cloud, the diocese of new ulm, the diocese of duluth, and the diocese of crookston.  AND we need:  2)  these named Minesota dioceses to release the names of the credibily accused abusive priests.  AND we need:  3) law enforcement armed with subponeas and search warrants for the 'secret' priest files of each of the dioeses.

Bob Schwiderski


Fr. O'Leary: Fr. Wehmeyer was given access to the children he abused when he was promoted to pastor of the parish where their mother worked. He abused those children last year. In addition to admitting to abusing those kids, he admitted to seventeen counts of possession of child pornography.

Possessing child pornograpy is a crime. And a mandated reporter (in Minnesota, priests are mandated reporters) must notify authorities when he reasonably suspects someone to possess child pornography. Last year Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph was found guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse when he didn't go to the police after being told one of his priests had potentially illegal images on his computer. 

These are not small matters.

Thank you, Grant Gallicho.  

The huge amount of energy commenting on this case that refers to "borderline illegal" porn and "sexual misconduct" with adults suggests that there are no cases of actual child abuse left to get worked up about. 

This  type of loophole defense of possession of child porn by a priest is very disturbing. 

Fr. O'Leary, do you really believe that child porn and its possession is nothing to get "worked up about"?

Perhaps you would like to clarify your meaning because if you truly believe this, it is truly shocking.

How many other priests (and bishops) believe that possession of child porn should be kept secret by bishops?  I do hope your comment is not representative of many. 

Creating child porn is the sexual abuse of children. Buying child porn is sexual abuse of children. That is why it is a crime and that is why possessing it is a crime. It is truly sickening to know that some priests do not see possession of child porn for what it is.

Grant: I'm glad to see that you have picked up on Arhbishop John Nienstedt''s debatable behavior. I live in Duluth, Minnesota, and I have been following this ongoing story. You've done a fine job of highlighting the story, Grant.

I did not realize that Jospeh O'Leary was a priest. It is attitudes like his, minimizing the perversions of his colleagues (or tacitly or actively approving of them) that has led us to the problems we now have with sexual misconduct of minors in the church.

But his attitude is not surprising. Problems with psychosexual development in priestly formation is something that formation directors need to look more closely at.

That he would publicly display his complete and total lack of awareness is pretty surprising as he is otherwise an intelligent man.

Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis - Director of Task Force, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

"Canon law is very eloquent on what a bishop is supposed to do, but there is no list of Thou Shalt Nots," says Father Reginald Whitt (2002). "These (sex abusers) are criminals, but they are our criminals and we can't lose them. Indeed, the bishops have a duty to try to save them," says the Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. (2002)

"......BISHOPS HAVE A DUTY TO TRY TO SAVE THEM (sex abuser priests)....." Well, Fr. Whitt, where is it written (no, not in text or canon is written in one's heart and soul) that the bishops have a duty to try to save the CHILDREN ABUSED and INNOCENT CHILDREN from the risk of abuse?

Seems like little has changed since these issues were studied over a decade ago by during the Dallas Charter Charade of the USCCB.

Father Whitt has a degree in canon law and civil law. Which perspective will take prominence and priority when he reviews the findings of the task force committee he established to review the debacle in the archdiocese? It is humanly, ethically and morally IMPOSSIBLE to avoid/resolve the conflicts of interest from both perspectives (civil and canon law) when attempting to review and support the rights of priests vs the rights of child victims.

Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Kansas City move over…………….here come the Twin Cities and their unique brand of US Catholic Church leadership.

Michael Skiendzielewski

Captain      (Retired)

Philadelphia Police Dept.

"....He (McDonough) told the archbishop and Eisenzimmer that he had spoken with a nun who had expressed concerns about Keating over the years.

The "bottom line" to that conversation, McDonough wrote, was that she was certain Keating had never committed a sexual act with any underage girl before or after his ordination.

"On the other hand, she expressed a great deal of concern about a longstanding pattern of behavior that she knows to have influenced several women, including herself," McDonough wrote.

"I proposed to her the phrase 'inattentive seductiveness' and she said that she thought that was very accurate," he wrote...."

Okay, you make the call.......which of the two is more professional and ethical?.........Archdiocesan "investigative skills" or their "child protection skills"? Forget both items, where the hell is the LOGIC?

In Philadelphia, our leadership uses the phrase "boundary violations" in place of your "inattentive seductiveness". The rest of the US Catholic faithful understand such conduct as "sexual abuse".

Michael Skiendzielewski

Captain        (retired)

Philadelphia Police Dept.

If bishops view priests as "theirs," then whose are the abused children? All this attitude dos is perpetuate "us" vs " them," and the clergy will lose that battle every time. A word to the wise should have been sufficient a long time ago, but apparently not ... yet.


Bob Schwiderski is RIGHT ON!:  Let the broad investigations begin.  And let the chips fall where they may.  Too many children are at continuing risk!

Howevery, there are SOOOO many things WRONG with some of the posts to this blog stream, so little time to write an appropriate comment.

@ Joseph O'Leary:  It is really sad to see you cling to your delusions and misinformation, expressed with such gusto.  Maybe you can't help yourself.  I can only conclude that you are trafficking in willful ignorance.  My only advice to you:  IF you are an ordained priest in good standing, you should consider surrendering your faculties for ministry until such time you get some professional help and continuing education about child sexual abuse.

@ Jim Pauwels:  Much of your speculations are [I HOPE] just the result of denial and ignorance - seeds sown by US hierarchs in their campaign to confuse and muddle public perceptions.  You state some really astonishing whopping falsehoods that US hierarchs have been able to plant in the media, and subsequently, within the US Catholic population.  

I consulted on the drafting of the so-called Dallas Charter - I was in the room when it was being proposed.  The Dallas Charter, as amended and revised by the Ratzinger-led CDF, is little more than a public relations gimmick contrived to obfuscate the truth, and deceive the American public about:  

(1) How canon law works, and that it is nothing more than a protections racket for complicit hierarchs and child-sexual predator priests;

(2) How to this day it is the on-going POLICY of the Catholic hierarchy - directed out of the Vatican - to contain the pervasive malignancy within the priesthood, using the vast financial resources of the church, to delay and deny due process and redress of grievances for survivors, and thereby deny them justice for the assaults upon their persons, most when they were defenseless children by sexual-predator priests.

[IMHO, most of the problem - like in Minnesota - is the result of US hierarchs having unlimited, unaccountable and unfettered access to literally $billions with which they have financed a phalanx of lawyers, public relations consultants, hush money to survivors and their families, the very financing of the abuse and exploitation - it takes a lot of money for these predator priests to assault and exploit children.  The hierarchs do it because they can.  Like most humans they are vulnerable to the corruption of absolute power.  We must separate the MONEY from MINISTRY!]  


There is NO EVIDENCE to assume that American hierarchs have turned the corner on their disasterous response to the rape and sodomy of children by priests, as you contend.  If it were so, as in one of the very examples you cite, Robert Finn would NO LONGER be bishop of Kansas City.  ZERO TOLERANCE, indeed!

Each new set of revelations here in the US and around the world lead us to one conclusion:  The Catholic hierarchy is hopelessly corrupt, and is dangerously alienated and irrelevant to the vast majority of Catholics around the world. 

The whole clerical-hierarchial system has been corrupted.  This is not about individual evil, but about a system that celebrates narcissism, that allows good men to devolve into little more than corporate hacks protecting the bottom-line instead of the Gospel.  

Papa Francesco himself has perhaps said it best when he described the curia as "the leprosy of the papacy."


George D, I have been so shocked by some of what Fr. O'Leary has written that I decided to investigate - to see if he is really a priest. Apparently so.  He is a professor of English literature in a university in Japan.  There is an entire collection posted online  of what he has written as comments on this website.  I sincerely hope that these thoughts are not shared by many priests.  He is listed as a priest on the website of the Diocese of Cork and Ross.

Anne Chapman, Grant Gallicho, George D., Jim Jenkins -- I accept the bishop's claim that he did not shield KNOWN child abusers or expose children to danger. I think all of you would be well advised to check the accuracy of your indignant outbursts.

It seems futile to correct the deliberate misunderstandings of Anne Chapman, as I have answered her on this very point previously. I have said that child porn is evil, but that fretting about "borderline legal" porn is a bit OTT -- porn sites assure their customers that all models are over 18 but of course they are often made to look as young as possible. About the "pop-ups", Grant makes some sweeping statements, but he should investigate what the two priests were liable to have stumbled on in their internet searches. That Grant and George should claim to see no difference between the actual abuse of children or use of child porn and the "borderline illegal" stuff or the "sexual misconduct" with adults says a lot about their own moral perceptiveness (which indeed regularly on this website overflows into the utterly libelous claim that I excuse child porn or child abuse -- I protested about this to Molly Wilson O'Reilly, Grant Galicho etc. about this nasty debate-stopping technique, but they prefect to disgrace Commonweal that sit down an reflect coolly!. As to Jim Jenkins, I wonder if he writes under the influence of something, since his posts are so consistently wild that they can only radically undermine the cause he claims to represent.

In any case, my simple point remains: unable to get bishops jailed for tolerating child abuse -- since of course they do not! -- the SNAP fanatics are now focussing on more iffy areas -- adult sexual behavior with adults, or "borderline illegal" cases where the models in porn just might be under 18. Most of those foaming and frothing here have probably seen mainstream movies (such as Ozon's "Jeune et jolie") with 17 year old heroines shown making love, but their right hand does not know what their left hand is doing!

Fr. O'Leary: You continue to ignore the facts of these cases. McDonough speculated that the images were pop-up ads. He saw only a fraction of the photos on the hard drive. And Haselberger disputed that assessment. Why do you prefer McDonough's assessment? The report that the archdiocese refused to turn over to the police called the photos "borderline illegal"--that does not mean "not illegal." It means "could be illegal." That's when the law expects mandated reporters to notify the police. Thanks, but I'll pass on your invitation to run the search terms that report found on the priest's computer, which included "helpless young boys." 

I didn't claim to see no difference between abusing children and possessing child pornography. Both, however, are reprehensible, and illegal under U.S. law. 

Interesting that Ms Chapman gives a link to Fr Tom Doyle's rather nutty attack, based on his reading of artfully selected morsels served up by his Dulcinea, Carolyn Disco (the full context of these was deleted by Commonweal, but I presciently kept a copy of the whole debate, in which Ms Disco's tactics are on full display). Fr Doyle is Irish like myself, and prone to rhetorical excess, as in his suggestion that the Vatican should be sold to the Mormons. A truly zany Snappist, Gerald Slevin, retired Irish Catholic lawyer, calls for priests to stop distribution the Eucharist -- imposing an Interdict -- in order to get bishops jailed. He flogged his conspiracy theories on the Association of Catholic Priests website, until they failed to post one of his missive, and he threw a tantrum, shaking the dust from his feet. This sort of immature behavior is one of the factors dragging SNAP into disrepute and bringing a huge swing of sympathy toward beleagured bishops and popes (for of course Benedict and Francis are the choicest targets of zealous SNAP lawyers like Slevin). These people are being seen, through their own stupid tactics, as ideologists with no genuine concern for the protection or welfare of children. 

Grant Gallicho, I did NOT suggest that you see no difference between child abuse and possessing child porn. I said that you treat borderline illegal as the same as child porn and therefore as something to be reported to the cops mandatorily. 

Another inaccuracy, Grant. The priest searched "helpless teen boys" not "helpless young boys" -- you distort this item in the direction of pedophilia. I ran the google search "helpless teen boys" and, behold!, only 5 matches turned up, three of them about this case, including your own Diocese of Wobegon entry. 

You keep missing the point. Mandated reporters are required by law to notify civil authorities when they have reason to suspect child abuse--this includes the possession of child pornography. Haselberger tried to persuade Nienstedt to report the images because they looked like they could be illegal. The law doesn't impose on mandatory reporters the duty to find out once and for all whether the images are illegal. Obviously that's up to a court of law.

I have explained this several times now.

My mistake. But my point stands. I have distorted nothing. "Free naked boy pictures" was another of the search terms turned up by the investigator. What would it take for you to be concerned about such searches? "Free naked boy pictures that are definitely illegal to possess"? I suppose we should take comfort from the fact that the priest destroyed one of his computers when the archdiocese asked for it?

I'm still not running that search (your own results do not support your theory about the way pop-up ads work, but I don't expect you to let that undermine your certainty).

Here is a somewhat obscure document,  which seems to show that full examination of the porn collection found no evidence of child pornography. Maybe what Chapman, Bond, Jenkins, Gallicho want is to expel from the priesthood any priest who watches porn of any kind. But such a crusade, whatever its merits, really has nothing to do with child abuse.

I don't have a theory about pop-up pictures (I am not even clear as to what they are), but I think that before dismissing Fr McDonough's theory you could have run an empirical check on how they work.

Wow, my eyes have been opened. If the priest googled "free nake boy pictures" he would indeed get a link, at the top of the list  (male-zone), that shows a vast array of porn images of boys who mostly look under 18 (200 pics). This is so easy to access that it can be regarded as in the public domain. Is this website illegal? I suggest that it could be this very page that provides the zealous inquirer with her material, so that Fr McDonough's explanation is substantially correct. I did a brief empirical check, whereas Grant pontificated in the void. America is a thoroughly hypocritical society, evidently awash in teen porn of a borderline illegal kind.

I did not have a "certainty" as Grant falsely alleges, but now that I actually did the test that he refused to do, I have a clearer insight into why the priest could indeed have just accessed pop-ups of this kind, so that Grant's accusation that Fr McDonough is lying is itself an unjustified claim.

So you don't really know what they are but you're pretty sure you know that I'm wrong about them? Sounds like you might be out of your depth.

I don't buy McDonough's theory because he didn't write the report--and he offered it eight years after it was written. He filed that report away soon after it was written, and stuck a note on the discs warning against putting them into an internet-connected computer. Now why do you think he did that? Because he was convinced that the images were totally legal?

I don't know what "obscure" document you're referring to. The archdiocese has not released the report. The police never saw it. And the police don't even know whether they have the full library of images that were originally found (the ones Haselberger saw--a library that included a photo of what looked to her to be a minor performing fellatio).


I didn't run the search because I presumed, correctly it appears, that a man who has amassed a collection of 2,500 pornographic images knows how to find them. Those search terms wouldn't have been on his computer if at least some of them hadn't worked. Also, we're talking about something that happened nearly ten years ago. Do you think you've discovered something that a forensic-computer expert didn't think to include in his report on the priest's hard drive?  

I didn't say McDonough was lying. You're getting sloppy.

What forensic-computer expert are you talking about? The forensic experts who examined the pornographic cache did NOT find evidence of child pornography.  Here is the "obscure document" I was talking about (forgot to attach the link).

Oh, Haselberger herself is the "forensic computer expert"? This is getting circular.

I suggest that the who business of possessing pornography has become a ridiculous legal quagmire. As I discovered just now, I am one click away from a display of 200 lewd and obscene photographs including boys that look very young. The Salem witch hunters would have had a field day if their victims had computers, for the Internet offers immediate access to all sorts of things, and one click could get you burnt!

No, his name is Gary Johnson (are you even reading what's been written about this? His name is in the police report you link to). He was hired by the investigators contracted by the archdiocese in 2004, when a local Catholic man came into possession of the priest's computer, found a bunch of pornographic photos on it, and took it to the chancery. I wrote up all of this the week before last. It's been covered in several stories I linked to. Maybe you should read a couple of them. The expert found "borderline illegal" images. Shall I say it again? Just because the report did not say "this is definitely child porn" does not mean that the images were not child porn. It means they might be illegal. How could the expert know the age of the people in the photos? And Haselberger herself told Nienstedt that she believed they looked like minors. Looked like. That's reason to report. 

That document you've linked to is the police report (which I linked to and commented on in my first post on this) filed after Haselberger called the cops. It's not a "full examination" of the evidence. The investigating officer said that he doesn't know whether he was given all the images, and the archdiocese refused to provide the study in question. From the police report:

"The report states in part that thousands of images were downloaded from the computer of pornographic images and included what appeared to be a prepubescent boy performing oral sex on another male. The report concludes by saying the writer would be surprised if it were not illegal. The box did not contain the actual computer itself and its whereabouts are unknown at this time."

2,500 porn images sounds vast but one click accessed 200 porn images on one display page, so ten clicks of so could be sufficient to get the priest into this hot water.

No, the report claimed he had downloaded them, which is not the same as viewing them on your computer. Sounds like you're out of your depth, Fr. O'Leary.

So one image turned up among 2500? But that image could be in the batch of 200 that I just accessed a few minutes ago with one click. A zealous investigator could scrutinize all 200 image and find it. In a medium so porous to porn, and so retentive of all images, as the internet and PCs, I suggest that the police confine their attention to the providers of such material rather than chase after the users. The description of the apparently under-age image as "pop-up" is not necessarily an opinion contrary to fact, as you state, but could be a fair account of the sort of stuff we are dealing with. 

So if I now downloaded, by a third click, the pop-up display page that I found by two clicks (google, and the first link at the top of the google hits) I would be a criminal. I suggest that this sort of policing has little to do with protecting children and that if SNAP gets so bogged down in this (with lots of randy orchestration from the sidelines about Niedstedt and his little club of pedophiles etc., etc.)  the public will be more disgusted with SNAP than with the bishops, who probably are showing more genuine concern for children.

My foray into the world of internet porn has been eye-opening. The site I looked at seem to be a USA product and such sites seem to be hugely popular and widely accessed. I imagine there are millions of American men who could be branded as pedophiles, abusers, etc. by someone who had access to their computer -- a perfect formula for witch-hunting. The whole thing stinks of hypocrisy.

Re: pop ups

Google records your computer IPs searches and gives that information to advertisers. Websites sell space to advertisers and what  "pops up" is ads that are consistent for most of what you are searching for. So if you are always searching for health info, pop ups will come up. If you are searching for porn then those pop ups will come up,

This priest had THOUSANDs of actual images actually saved to his hard drive. As in click ""file" and then "save as". He was not accidentally searching .

Thus, naturally there will be pop ups because there is actual porn being searched and saved. Also the pop ups are in the same kind of search category. If you are looking for mature women then you are not going to get pop ups of young gay boys. Not going to happen. You will get BASICALLY what you are searching for,

Even if it is not illegal strictly speaking (e.g. The models are over 18 - maybe but I would not trust the porn industry on this. They also claim that the regularly ensure that actresses and actors are tested for AIDs and this has been debunked over and over.)The priest believed that they were not and that is what is problematic. We get lost in the legalese of all of this. 

The  archibishop's "pledge to restore trust" in his weekly coumn is indeed very weak.

- He starts by recalling his parents' death, unrelated, but is that th best he could come up with for an example of experiencing pain? Could he not talkt about someone else's pain, rather than something that appears to try to draw sympathy upon himself?

- " I want you to know that I have been praying for all of you. I am experiencing that pain, too. The media have been filled with all kinds of accusations and unanswered questions. There is cause here for sadness, confusion and anger." In other words he is sad, confused by and angry at the accusations. That's not the reaction I would wish to see. What about questtions about himself, regret and remorse?

-" we all hoped and believed that the horror of sexual abuse of minors by clergy was behind us. Yet, the painful reality is that abuse did not stop in 2002. This is unacceptable. As the head of this local Church, I know that the ultimate responsibility here is mine."  Actually, no. It is impossible to stop sexual abuse completely, just as it is impossible to stop murders completely. What is unacceptable is sexual abuse that could have been prevented by paying attention to prior signs. By claiming to take responsibility indistinctly for everything, he is avoiding taking responsibility for his own concrete errors.

- "And so, with genuine sorrow, I apologize to all those who have been victimized, whether on my watch or not." Again, by offering such a sweeping apology that encompasses everyone and everything, he avoids actual apologizing for his own faults.

- "No member of any parish or school community should have to worry about the safety of the very environment in which we seek to impart and live out the Gospel message of Christ." ... "We must also empower the community, particularly children and parents, by educating them about the warning signs of abuse".  So, which is it ? Should we not worry, or should we learn to be alert to warning signs?

- "We must also be committed to honesty and transparency. This must be the result of our own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. Parishioners rightly expect their clergy to be men of God and to be holy by pursuing personal conversion daily." He is channeling pope Benedict here : "Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily." But it's a different context, and the words that gave me a bit of misplaced hope then are out of place here. 

- "And, of course, we must cooperate with civil authorities. " - versus pope Benedict: "Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence."

- "I realize how damaging such actions are in violating the care of their human dignity. The sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult is reprehensible, morally repugnant and goes against Christ’s teachings to promote goodness, life and light. This is not who we are as the Catholic Church. Abuse is a violation of both the love of God and the love of neighbor. Sexual abuse of anyone is absolutely heinous, and it must be opposed with every fiber of our being." This is too much. I agree with Grant's description of this as "ritualistic". Then, you'd think that once he says "every fiber of our being", he's reached the climax, but he continues - there is even worse than that: " And when it is perpetrated by a member of the clergy, it is an egregious betrayal of a sacred trust." It does not (to me) come across as authentic indignation, but just a pose.

- The only sentence worth remembering of the entire column:  "I have ordered a review of all clergy files by an outside firm. We need to ascertain the facts, and this will lead us to prudent and ongoing disclosure."

Fr. O Leary


There are several issue here. One is your behaviour as outlined in the snippets from Ann as relayed by Fr. Doyle. Couple that with the fact that you are from Ireland where there has been a lot of problems with priest molestation. And couple that with the culture of Irish Catholicism that historically has revered the institutional church and its representatives. This has led to a certain entitlement mentality that is immune from any kind of accountability. This is evident in your online demeanor as far as can tell.


As far as commonweal editors reflecting cooly with you, I think that it is difficult to reflect coolly with priests who come out of an entitled tradition and are not accustomed to accountability. You are accountable for your words and language and the odd comment here or there could be excused but there seems to be an entire pattern all around a similar theme; namely priests and sexual relationships with young men. 


The church is not just the priesthood but it obviously includes it and many priests have been disappointments and embarrassments to the community as a result of their behaviour in this area. It needs to be corrected and not excused, minimized, spun, etc.


We all need to work together on that.

"It is impossible to stop sex abuse completely" -- but the bishop is talking about a much more limited task -- stopping sex abuse by priests in his diocese completely -- this should be quite practicable. He failed in not pursuing those iffy priests more diligently (indeed would have done well to suspend them)-- perhaps he was distracted from his pastoral duty by the intense focus on legality, just as the 2,000,000 Americans who report child abuse to the law every year are said to be over-complacent about the effectiveness of their action, and are distracted from undertaking the commonsense neighborly intervention that could actually protect the children.


George D. if I used your own anticlerical and actually racist logic, I could say that as a middle-aged, well-off,  white male American, etc. etc., -- the task of filling in the blanks I'd rather leave to you. As to my "behavior" as "outlined in the snippets from Ann as relayed by Fr Doyle" -- the snippets are actually collected by Carolyn Disco, I do not know how many of them come from Ann Olivier, who is a very unreliable witness.  If you are seriously concerned about the abuse of children by adults, you would not be horsing around with this sort of fantastical ascription of motives. Perhaps it would be good if you could explain where you come from, what experience you have, and what is your concern with these issues other than looking for clerics to bash?

George D, of course he was not accidentally searching, but given the facility with which porn can be downloeaded, having THOUSANDS of such images is not very stunning -- I stumbled on 200 images that were "borderline illegal" just with one click, and I could have downloaded them with another click -- would you come along with your posse to take me off to the clink? or organize a lynching? The question is not whether his porn collecting was admirable, but whether it was clearly illegal, so that Abp Nienstedt in turn was in breach of the law for not mandatorily reporting it. People seem too anxious to tar the bishop with such illegality, though the grounds for that are flimsy, and I wonder if they are really motivated by any concern for real-life chidren.

Fr. O'Leary: Have you read much about this case? Because it sounds like you're just freewheeling here. Pronouncing on this or that aspect of these cases even though it's rather obvious that you don't know very much about them. And what is your level of experience as a computer user? Because the more you write about how websites work the less confidence I have that you're competent to assess McDonough's non-expert opinion.

Try to remember that an actual forensic computer expert found borderline illegal images. Nienstedt himself cites that report--the one the archdiocese refused to turn over to the police--in his unsent letter to the CDF. In that letter, Nienstedt writes that "pornographic images [plural, not singular], possibly of minors under the age of fourteen" were found on the priest's computer. He quotes from the report itself (the one that was filed away in the chancery basement with a note from McDonough warning against putting the discs into an internet-connected computer): "Many of the homosexual pornographic images viewed by this investigator and the computer analyst could be considered borderline illegal, because of the youthful looking male images."

Many. Not one. Many. You're minimizing. 

Nienstedt continues, explaining the priest's behavior during the '04 investigation: "During the investigation, [the priest] denied responsibility for the images discovered by the parishioner, claiming that they were viewed by a houseguest...who lived with him in his private home intermittently from 1999 to 2003. [Later the priest admitted to viewing adult pornography.] As part of the investigaion, [the priest] was asked to turn over to the investigator the two laptops he was known to have. Alter initially indicating a willingness to do this, [he] later refused to make his first laptop computer available to the investigator or the archdiocese.... [He] also admitted to destroying the second laptop when he learned that the parishioner had found pornography on the first."

Nienstedt knows he's exposed: "My staff has expressed concern that the fact that CD-ROMs containing the images remain in the oleric's personnel file could expose the Archdiocese, as well as myself, to criminal prosecution." But he didn't call the police. Why would someone so exorcised by pornography and the growing acceptance of gay marriage--someone who claims sodomy and porn are the work of Satan--sit on this hands rather than report these images that he admitted might depict children under the age of fourteen?

That is the relevant question.

Was Archbishop Nienstedt's failure to report actually a breach of the law?


In all honesty, I do not know. Perhaps it was not. Perhaps it was.

If it was, then he probably would prefer not to say anything self-incriminating.

However, at the present time, Archbishop Nienstedt is on trial in the court of public opinion, not in a law court.

For understandable reasons, he may fear that legal charges could be brought against him.

Nevertheless, with or without legal charges against him, Archbishop Nienstedt is going to have to explain why he is NOT guilty as he is suspected to be by some of his detractors.

I assume that if legal charges are brought against him, he will enter a plea of "not guilty" -- unless he wants to make a plea deal and plead guilty to something to get out of the situation.

Thus far, Archbishop Nienstedt does not sound like he understands the import of what people are saying about him and the diocese.

Instead, he sounds like he thinks he can talk his way out of the situation.


Grant: In your post @9:28am, you have posed an excellent question.

In the spirit of the Devil's Advocate, I will suggest a possible answer.

We have a fight/flight/freeze reaction.

Archbishop Nienstedt's "fight" reaction was not activated, as you and others think it should have been.

But "flight" was not an option.

I would suggest that he "froze."

Moreover, I would suggest that he is still in a "freeze" reaction. This is my admittedly speculative explanation of why he sounds like he does not undrstand the import of public concern about his failure to report.

Next, we should consider why he might have had a "freeze" reaction. But I do not know enough about him to speculate about this. Evidently, something about this situation caused him to "freeze" and "sit on his hands," as you put it.



 If you are seriously concerned about the abuse of children by adults, you would not be horsing around with this sort of fantastical ascription of motives.

I have no idea what your motives are. All I can do is base it on your public behaviour. And yes, when that behaviour is:

  • isolated in terms of demographic categories of perpetrators (age, gender, profession)
  • viewed in the context of an admittedly permissive and uncooperative hierarchy
  • understood in terms of priestly formation of a particular era
  • understood in a cultural context, in this case Ireland, that has historically given rise to clerical excesses and abuse

It is not hard to see how this could have permetead your consciousness and informed your behaviour. All I am doing is publicly outlining for you what anybody who is remotely aware of these issues is going to be led to believe. 

That nobody has pointed this out to you before is surprisng.

I will be perfectly happy to share my personal experience and background if you think that would be helpful.


So coy about your personal experience and background and so wrong in your suppositions about mine, George D. You have stung my nationalism by your display of presumably American superiority. The USA is not only the world's foremost distributor of pornography, including the sort of borderline illegal pornography we have seen is so easy to access, it is also the world capital of child abuse -- TWO MILLION cases reported to the police every year; the child abuse scandal among American priests utterly dwarfs the Irish incidents; yet you have the nerve to speak is such tones of  my country as if your own were a paragon of virtue, a city on the hill, a beacon of civilization for the whole world!

Grant gives new, and indeed troubling info, about MANY images of kids who look as if they are under FOURTEEN -- certainly that looks bad for the bishop and I would not wish to minimze it.

However, this entire industry of investigating people's online activity, with sting operations etc., seems to me a formula for witch-hunting (as well as fodder for police bureaucracy and the prison industry -- which also handle the 2,000,000 annual child abuse reports -- none of which is of any significant help to the children that America is just not rich enough or not community-organized enough to protect).. I noted that a leading Harvard theologian lost his position because some janitor found porn on his computer. It is very easy, as I saw, to download porn, from American providers, and once downloaded it may be quite difficult to erase definitively. Here is a minefield for everyone, not only for porn users -- as seen above a house-guest could use your computer and download images that could turn up years later in a dump where your computer had been dumped. 




A few things: First, none of the facts I've mentioned in this comment thread of my previous one have introduced information that wasn't mentioned or linked to in those posts. I reconstructed what happened in these cases from the superb reporting of MPR and from the records Haselberger made public. Second, I agree that online sting operations, such as those that used to be run by Dateline NBC, are moreally and legally problematic (I understand that a lot of the Dateline prosecutions did not hold up in court, probably because they look like entrampment). But entrapment is not what happened in St. Paul. There was no sting. The porn was found by a parishioner. He reporter it. The archdiocese investigated, and never called the cops. Third, the priest in question initially claimed a house guest was responsible for downloading all that porn. Later, he changed his tune, admitting to downloading legal pornography. In other words, at first he lied. The foresnic computer expert took that issue into account while examining the hard drive, and found "no evidence" that anyone except the priest had downloaded the "borderline illegal" images.

If the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is serious about being honest and transparent, it should make public that missing report. 

"Couple that with the fact that you are from Ireland where there has been a lot of problems with priest molestation."

George D.:  Being from Ireland is no worse than being from Canada. 

40 million leads to information about the Indian boarding "schools" in Canada:

Information about native children raped and abused by priests and religious in boarding "schools" in the U.S.:


It's not about Ireland or Woodstock or any other country or time period.  It's about everyone who supports the perpetrators and their enablers.  

There is NO EVIDENCE to assume that American hierarchs have turned the corner on their disasterous response to the rape and sodomy of children by priests, as you contend. 

Jim Jenkins - actually, there is considerable evidence that American bishops have handled some cases as they should be handled, and that they've improved in this respect, which is what I claimed.  Given the background you claim in these comments, I'd expect you to be familiar with that evidence.  Why aren't you?



Jim _ - there is always danger in making broad or sweeping generalizations.  OTOH, have to say that the track record of roughly 250 US bishops on abuse has not greatly improved since 2002.  And a prime reason for that is that no current policy (US Charter, Vatican decrees, etc.) hold bishops accountable.

We only have their spoken word that they will protect children.  Unfortunately, the repeated failures and the constant drip, drip, drip of revealations (both prior to 2002 and too often since then) only reinforce the overall conclusion that Mr. jenkins is stating.

Your own cardinal has repeatedly violated the 2002 charter - and he helped write and approve that charter.

Guess we could sit and marshall numbers, data, etc. but to what end?  Think we would all admit that one more abused child is too many; and yet, bishops continue to defend the institution first and play lip service to the 2002 charter.  (which, by the way, needs to be revised and updated -both to better the process of investigation and reporting and to insert accountability for bishops with actual steps to be taken if a bishop violates these regulations).

Sure you could cite numerous bishops who have followed the charter - but, OTOH, less than 20 dioceses have posted the names of abusers - so much for transparency.  And you still have two, if not three, dioceses that have never followed the charter.  And then you have folks such as Finn, Meyers, Neinstedt, Braxton, to name only a few.

Bill - I agree with much of what you write.   The fact that we could cite numerous bishops who have followed the charter is not nothing - in fact, it's something pretty substantial.  

But in point of fact, I don't know if we could cite numerous bishops who have followed the charter, or at least who have a perfect-compliance score across a period of years.  For all we know, even Nienstedt and Myers have high compliance scores as the audits measure these things.  The USCCB reports high compliance numbers from their national audits every year, but reading through the most recent audit report raises a number of questions.  

For example: of the 299 clergy accused in 2012 whose identities were known and who were still alive, 79% of them were removed from ministry or permanently laicized (which certainly sounds like what should happen) - but 21% were not.  Of those who were not, about half of them were returned to ministry (but the reasons for this is not given), and about half were accusations against religious-order clergy which were referred to the order's provincial (but what was the disposition?)  Do those 21% represent compliance issues, or at least compliance risks?  As the auditors measure these things - apparently not.  But just spending a few minutes thinking about these problem cases in St. Paul / Minn (not to mention Philadelphia) suggests that there could be all sorts of problems buried in that 21% number.  

What I'd like to see is an independent audit of the process, from initial accusation to final disposition.  Pick some accusations randomly and follow their progress.  And make a judgment regarding the outcome: was the accusation made correctly?  Was it passed along to the review board correctly?  Did the review board to a credible and professional job of investigating the circumstances and formulating a recommendation?  Did the bishop act on the recommendation on a timely basis?  Did the bishop accept the board's recommendation, and if not, why not?  Did the bishop forward the case to the Holy See for dismissal, and if not, why not?

In addition, the report raises trenchant cautions: only a fraction of dioceses permit their parishes to be audited (but it is in parishes that the majority of abuse occurs); and it points out that employee turnover among those charged with responsibility for child proteciton leads to gaps in the knowledge and gaps in the the process.

in fact, I do think there is a lot of value to marshalling numbers and data and see if it tells us anything conclusive or even suggestive.  The cases discussed here at dotCom tend to be instances in which the process was abused by bishops or diocesan officials.  And while a read through the audit report I linked to above should put to rest any suspicions that bishops fail in every case, or that there is some sort of secret Vatican policy in place, we have ample reason to suspect that there are holes that still need to be plugged.  Thank goodness for the diligence of journalists in sniffing these cases out and bringing them to light.


"Over the last decade some serious mistakes have been made," says the AB.  How 'bout, "Over the last decade, we did wrong"?

If Pope Francis doesn't remove Bishop Robert W. Finn who was *criminally convicted* and who subordinated children's health and safety to selfish ecclesiastical considerations, I'll be deeply disappointed in the man (the pope, that is).

Thanks, Jim P - but will add only one more comment to your statements.

You cite the audit reports of 21%.....the problem with this is that the John Jay audits are based upon diocesan/episcopal self-reports.  So, you see where I am heading with this.

A serious flaw in the 2002 charter again is that the bishops decide, determine the audit process, rules, etc.  They can set up diocesan boards but, again, if they fail to give their own boards information or withhold info (this MINN case is a good example of Flynn's decision); then, what is the audit worth?

We have already seen two leaders of the national board resign and speak out against the dallas charter and the results of the John Jay Study (Mr. Jenkins experienced this *corrupt* process in SF). 

Would venture to say that the 21% is an underreport figure.  And you also cite another area or gap - the constant shuffle of responsiblity between local bishops and religious orders - some of the largest orders have a very checkered history e.g. SJs (as you well know in Chicago); Salesians, small orders that have neither the leadership or resources to handle abusers.

As we have seen in Ireland, Holland, England, and now Australia - eventually we do arrive at an independent investigation led by the state.  The US may still end that way if this scandal continues.


Bill - yep.  I do think it's encouraging (but whether it will amount to anything is yet to be seen) that the auditors are pressing the dioceses for permission to directly audit parish compliance.  In the parishes is where most abuse originates and/or takes place.


Maybe I'm mistaken, but perhaps George D mentioned Ireland because the history of the church's power in society there is much different than here, and because of the news about the Cloyne report.

@ Jim Pauwels:  I will copy and paste your 10/28/13 post only because responses on these CW blogs are not posted proximate to their instigation point, and hopefully it will help anyone who does want to follow along with what I'm referring to.  You wrote:

Jim Jenkins - actually, there is considerable evidence that American bishops have handled some cases as they should be handled, and that they've improved in this respect, which is what I claimed.  Given the background you claim in these comments, I'd expect you to be familiar with that evidence.  Why aren't you?

The so-called "considerable evidence" you are referencing is the much ballyhooed, but fatally flawed, John Jay Study and its follow-up compliance reports - I think they are every five year intervals - which were entirely funded and underwritten by the US Bishops Conference [Not exactly an independent organizational entity that didn't have any stake, any skinny in the study's outcome - Yeah, right!  I also believe that unicorns defecate in technicolor.].  

US Catholic bishops got exactly the study results they paid for, which was mainly contrived to support their ecclesial-political ideology and continued corporate hegemony over the church:  Namely, (1) that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children by priests and bishops has all but ended - which we NOW know because of Minnesota, Kansas City, Scotland, Wisconsin, Ireland, Philadelphia, etc., etc., etc., is NOT true; (2) all members of the hierarchy escape any responsibility for the scandal [because the hierarchs get to point the finger-of-blame for all the bad advice they got from - wait for it, get this - psychiatrists and psychologists]; (3) most of the abuse can be sourced to the permissive [presumably sex, drugs, and rock'n roll] counter-culture of the 60s [eliminating any further need to exam any possible links of the abuse scandal to the feudal, narcissistic, male celibate clerical sub-cultural of the Catholic Church].  Boy, those hierarchs really dodged a big one, didn't they!?!

I have a word we mental health professionals and academics use for these studies that you refer to:  BOGUS!   

I wont bore you with a discussion of many of the study's design flaws [such as reliability, validity, sampling errors, self-report instruments, lack of inferential correlates, generalization errors that most immediately come to mind].  Suffice it to say:  The reason that no independent professional journal has yet to date published this study is because it could never survive any normal peer review process [the study had to be published by John Jay College of Criminal Justice itself].  The John Jay Study is a perfect example of what researchers refer to as [I'll clean-up the language for you]: Crappy data in, crappy data out.

A personal aside:  In fact, I was personally interviewed by the consultant research team for this John Jay study - I guess that makes me a participant.  I recomended to now Cardinal Levada that any study of contributing factors to the abuse scandal be totally independent from the influences of the Catholic Church hierarchy if the study was to have any credibility and integrity for Catholics and the general public.  I even recommended to him that any continued support from the Catholic Church to priest predators be contingent on their cooperative involvement in this independent research.

Levada didn't listen then.  And, I suppose, people like you aren't listening now.  

The result is that in the future we will continue to see sorry recriminating pageants played out in the media where hierarchs and priests bring new, added sorrows upon the PEOPLE. 

We Catholics deserve better.

This scandal is going to go on and on and on until a Pope removes the blatantly guilty enabler-bishops and institutes a system within each country such that the non-enabler bishops will be expected to publicly shame the bishop-enablers like Finn, Rigali, et al.  How that can be done without changing the hierarchical culture, I have no idea.  Maybe Pope Francis will figure out a way.  But if he doesn't, he too will eventually lose the respect of the people.

Now at ABC Religion & Ethics ... ... a lecture by Patrick Parkinson, a professor of Law at the University of Sydney, who's done research on the issues.  It's long and there's a second part to it, but here's just a small bit  ...

" rates of reported child sexual abuse by priests and religious in the Catholic Church are many times higher than for clergy and paid pastoral staff such as youth workers, in other denominations ....  The figure for the number of victims in the Catholic Church was exactly 10 times that in the Anglican Church ...

One of the unanswered questions about sex offending by clergy is how much of it is situational, or influenced by the culture of a group, rather than the outworking of an abnormal sexual deviation ..... 

Some priest-offenders rationalise their abusive behaviour on the basis that sexual activity with boys is not a breach of their vow of celibacy whereas sexual relations with a woman would be. Different levels of sexual contact falling short of intercourse may also be excused in this way. Some support for this thesis emerges from the survey conducted as part of the research for Towards Understanding, the discussion paper on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Australia. Respondents noted that offenders within the Church dissociated their abusive behaviour from their commitment to celibacy. Indeed, a high number of respondents described offenders they knew as having a strong commitment to celibacy.

This cognitive distortion may well be an important factor in sex offending against boys. If priest offenders have a strong commitment to celibacy, then sexual relations with adult women or girls will not be permissible. If these men rationalise sexual contact with men or teenage boys as either not being a breach of their vow of celibacy at all, or a sexual peccadillo which may be both tolerated within the Church and forgiven by God, then they may well be as prone to situational same-sex activity as men in prison or in other confined, all-male environments. Teenage boys in children's homes and boarding schools, and boys in parish contexts with whom the priest or religious may find good enough reason to be alone, may disproportionately become victims because of their accessibility and vulnerability, not necessarily because of a paraphilic sexual attraction to boys of that age ...."

Jim P,

Regarding the USCCB bishops' audits, here is what William Gavin, a former FBI agent who was hired by the USCCB to make sure they were preventing and reporting abuse:

"It was an audit in quotes...I think it was more of a program review than anything else."

Gavin says he could ask whether a diocese is conducting background checks on priests and employees — but he was not allowed to look at records that would indicate whether there were any allegations against a priest.

"We didn't have the benefit of drilling down into personnel files to see what might be there," Gavin says. "They were off limits."

Gavin and his auditors had to depend on a bishop's word about whether anyone had been accused of abuse."

Fr. Jim Connell, a retired canonist of the archdiocese of Milwaukee, has pushed for siginificant reforms to no avail: 

"Require that the related Essential Norms be audited along with the charter. While the charter is a profound, important and morally binding document, it does not actually stand as church law. The Essential Norms, however, has been approved by the Vatican as church law to assure diocesan compliance with the charter. However, the scope of the audit as established by the bishops is of the charter only, not also of the Essential Norms. In other words, that which is legally binding on each diocese (Essential Norms) is not audited, while that which is not legally binding (charter) is audited. This must change."

When we provided chapter and verse to the Gavin Group, correcting misiniformation, with detailed documentation, I believe it was basically a waste of time. We were told that our references to the preamble were void because the audit addressed only the text in the 17 articles themselves. 

The USCCB audits are "compliance" audits, a checklist so to speak that fails to determine if what is audited actually is effective. Genuine audits are "performance" audits, which our attorney general insisted upon when the state audited the Diocese as part of a non-prosecution agreement. Bishop McCormack went to court to prevent the state from doing performance audits and mercifully lost the case. 

I later did a comparison between the results of the USCCB audits versus the state audits. The difference was night and day: "The bishops claim one thing, the state finds something very different. . ." (sorry for some line breaks in formatting)

Please understand why some of us are skeptical. The Diocese once reported a change in procedure to the USCCB for which it was honored with a commendation, not noting of course it was something the state's auditors required of them to correct a deficiency. 

Fr. O Leary:

I think I made my point. Last word - yours.


I am not singling out Ireland as if it is unique. Certainly, Quebec was very similar culturally and institutionally. I was simply saying that it produced a clerical culture that did not hold priests accountable. Priests, therefore, assumed and entitlement mentality. Just read the comments on this board and others. QED. How accountability is somehow anti-clerical escapes me.Maybe there is a program at the Gregorian that will enlighten me!

As for residential schools, Prime Minister Harper apologized for residential schools some years ago and I don't think that the Jesuits or any other order of sisters has done similarly (as far as I know). Nor has the Catholic Church in Canada. Most people in Canada have no idea of what residential schools were or their purpose. The stated purpose was to literally "kill the Indian in the child". There needs to be far more education in the curriculum in Canada including and especially the Catholic PUBLICLY funded schools in Ontario.

i have no problem and am in sympathy with Phil Fontaine asking the UN just this month for refer to Canada's dark history with indigenous people as genocide. Certainly, inasmuch as Catholic run boarding schools were vehicles of "assimilation" aka killing the Indian in the child, there should be a public apoplogy from the Cardinal and bishops of Canada but I am not holding my breath in that regard.

But if feel not need to get defensive about Canada or the Catholic church's relationship with indigenous  people. I don't see that as disloyal. 

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel afterall!

@  Crystal Watson:  Thanks for bringing the Patrick Parkinson study to my [our] attention.  This is the kind of independent scientific inquiry that is sorely needed rather than the twisted public relations, blame-shifting gambit of American hierarchs in the John Jay Study.

What I found most interesting in the Parkinson study is the attempt to address to the issues of the Catholic clerical culture and its ability to act with impunity in the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

My experience tells me that most of the abuse by Catholic priests were crimes of opportunity:  The whole cultural edifice of the celibate-male priesthood [even its enshrinement in Canon Law] enabled priests to prey upon vulnerable children and their families with impunity.  It happened because it could happen, and because Catholic culture broadly understood enabled it.

IMO, the fact that the vast majority of assaults were priests-on-male-adolescents which the Parkinson study focuses on is an artifact of the high concentration of homosexually-oriented priests in the priesthood.

It was much more opportune for priest predators to disguise their cultivation - stalking, really - of potential victims among young boys than among young girls.  It was much easier for predator priests to explain to other priests, parents, school teachers and principals, parish secretaries, etc. their particular attention toward boys.  Where if it had been with girls that kind of exceptional behavior would have immediately raised red-flags about the priest's maintenance of celibacy.

One area where I hope that sometime in the future researchers will focus their attention is how "pew" Catholics also engaged in what the Parkinson study calls "cognitive discord."  I believe that we must bring more light to the tacit approval and financial underwriting of the whole clerical culture's superstructure by lay Catholic men and women over decades that also enabled the abuse and exploitation of children to metastasize, eventually corrupting the very hierarchy who were suppose to be the shepherds protecting us from predators in sheep's clothing.

Carolyn - thanks for those comments and that link.  I agree that the USCCB audits only go so far, and could/should go farther.  Did you read the 2012 audit report (here)?  It appears that a different group, StoneBridge Business Partners, is now conducting the audits.  The auditors have called out the need for parish-level audits, and noted that 20% of audited dioceses are now permitting the auditors to visit parishes.  That number is far too low.  As someone who has some parish-level responsibility myself, I can see how even a well-managed parish like ours has to work hard to maintain compliance for background checks and training requirements for staff and (especially) volunteers.

Thanks in particular for those comments by Fr. Jim Connell - it's an astute point.


US Catholic bishops got exactly the study results they paid for, which was mainly contrived to support their ecclesial-political ideology and continued corporate hegemony over the church

Do you not see how this sort of accusation, bereft of any supporting evidence, tends to diminish the credibility of your commentary on this issue?  If the John Jay investigators and the StoneBridge Business Partner auditors are as corrupt as you accuse them of here, you should present evidence for it.  These are extremely serious accusations.  




@ Jim Pauwels:  Since you are quoting me, I presume your comment is directed to me.

Supporting evidence?  Really, I don't think the kind of evidence you would require could ever be produced - because that is the nature of the complicit and corrupt hegemony of the hierarchs to conceal and confound the public.  

These hierarchs didn't get that far up the clerical ladder because they were stupid enough to leave a paper trail conveniently hanging around for public consumption.  [I guess recent revelations in New Jersey, Minneapolis, Kansas City are just aberations to you?]

Where is your evidence, Pauwels, for your preposterous contention “that bishops do take protecting children more seriously than they used to?”  I’d like to see that evidence – the whole world would like to see that evidence.  How about some citations that we could all look that up?  Or, is this just your personal conjecture?

Pauwels states:

That they [the hierarchs] don't get it right more often, still today, in spite of everything, is perplexing and infuriating.

You should try pleading your “perplexing and infuriating” reaction to all the children assaulted in New Jersey and Minnesota by priests, recent incidents which have occurred since your self-described turn-around in how hierarchs deal with predator priests.   

How would you respond to investigations like Patrick Patterson's in Australia cite above by Crystal Watson?  Patterson forthrightly begins to identify the systemic factors that contributed to the enormity of the sexual abuse and exploitation scandal in the Catholic Church – unlike anything American hierarchs have ever been associated with.

Did you even read Carolyn Disco's post above?  Just in case you missed it:

Regarding the USCCB bishops' audits, here is what William Gavin, a former FBI agent who was hired by the USCCB to make sure they were preventing and reporting abuse:

"It was an audit in quotes...I think it was more of a program review than anything else."

Gavin says he could ask whether a diocese is conducting background checks on priests and employees — but he was not allowed to look at records that would indicate whether there were any allegations against a priest.

"We didn't have the benefit of drilling down into personnel files to see what might be there," Gavin says. "They were off limits."

Gavin and his auditors had to depend on a bishop's word about whether anyone had been accused of abuse."

Audits are what you do in financial accounting - commonly known as bean-counting.  That is not scientific inquiry.  Gavin is attempting to salvage his profession reputation from having even been associated with the hierarchs' audit program. 

Wake up Pauwels, and smell the coffee.

Jim Jenkins: >My experience tells me that most of the abuse by Catholic priests were crimes of opportunity

This seems pretty generally true for abusive relationships, doesn’t it?  For example, Sandusky’s abuse associated with football and his “charity.”  Or almost all domestic abuse situations.  Would not most or all of us would agree with Mr. Jenkins in the generalization and in the general application to sexual abuse by Catholic priests?

If so, the issue becomes one of determining what constitutes and permits the opportunity.  When I was a boy, one heard frequent talk of “near occasions of sin,” and we were warned away from such at our moral peril.   Does the Church still use this term and concept?   It always seemed sensible to me, if demanding.   Because if it does seem a useful construct still, then defining the metes and bounds of the opportunities that support the crime should seem a priority. 

Mark L.

Clergy sex abuse does seem to often be a crime of opportunity, but the answer isn't just to create less opportunities for it to happen.  Most people could have all the opportunities in the world and still never rape a child.  We should be asking why the church has so many priests who do.

Well, right now we can, to some extent, bound the opportunities that support the crimes. At least there we can do something in practice - keep watch on the youth around us, be alert to iffy situations, try to be aware of unusual behavior, and, if possible, raise other people's awareness. All that can be done independently of the priorities of the church hierarchy, and it gives us some measure of local control of the sex abuse risks. It doesn't come naturally, but if we really care, we can train ourselves to be watchful. (In fact it's my major complaint against normal priests, that they were probably sometimes in contact with abusers but did not see it.) ... a lecture by Patrick Parkinson, a professor of Law at the University of Sydney, who's done research on the issues.

This lecture is *great* - everyone concerned about this issue should read it.



Regarding opportunity: The lecture by Parkinson referenced earlier includes this passage:

Propensity and opportunity: Furthermore, propensity is not co-extensive with opportunity. It may well be that the incidence of child sexual abuse has declined in recent years, consistently with international trends, with no change in propensity. This is because propensity is only one of the preconditions for sexual abuse to occur. There is also the need for opportunity. As awareness of the problem of child sexual abuse has developed, so the opportunity for abuse has declined and the risk of disclosure leading to penal consequences has increased. Des Cahill offers these observations:

"So it is important to ask: why has there been a decline in clerical child sex abuse since the 1980s ...? To me there are eight reasons for the decline: the social visibility given to the issue since about 1983; the better child protection mechanisms that we have in place; the greater vigilance of Catholic parents and church workers; the lessening number of priests over the past four decades; the resignation of many priests from the clerical life; the almost total collapse of the altar boy system; the closure of almost all Catholic boarding schools; and the lessened interaction of Catholic priests with their Catholic schools."


 (In fact it's my major complaint against normal priests, that they were probably sometimes in contact with abusers but did not see it.)


They saw it.  If you lived in a big old house with three or four other adults, and one of them was always drunk, wouldn't you notice?  And if one of them was always taking children up to his room, wouldn't you notice?  And if one of them was always taking children to his lake house for weekends, wouldn't you notice?

But if you had no education, no work experience, no marketable skills, little energy, etc., and you were well into your 40s, would you risk your safe berth by complaining?  Those who rocked the barque were likely to find themselves out of the comfortable city rectory and down in the boonies alone.  


Where is your evidence, Pauwels, for your preposterous contention “that bishops do take protecting children more seriously than they used to?”  I’d like to see that evidence – the whole world would like to see that evidence. 

There is nothing preposterous about my contention.  It's the only conclusion to be reached by anyone who is willing to look at the data and consider its meaning.  And the whole world needn't wait - the data is out there already for anyone to see.  Perhaps the data complicates cherished narratives of folks who advocate certain programs of reform - but that is their problem.

Both of us have mentioned at least two sources in this course of this thread: the the most recent USCCB audit (cf especially chapter 2, and tables 1 and 2 in chapter 3), and the lecture by Patrick Parkinson (in which there are a number of passages in which he gives the church credit for the progress it has made, while not pulling any punches on its failings).  In addition, the John Jay College Causes and Contexts report includes material that acknowledges that the bishops have made progress. (cf the "Recommendations for Prevention Policies" on p 120 ff for some of those acknowledgements).   

In referencing these sources, it goes without saying that I accept the data presented in all three of the sources I've linked to here - for example, in the USCCB audit report, I accept the tables showing the number of criminal background checks run and the number of clergy, staff, volunteers and children who have received abuse-awareness and safe-enviromment training.  In other words, I accept that the reporting organization exercised due diligence in collecting and analyzing the data, and exercised truthfulness in publishing it.  If you refuse to acknowledge that there is anything useful or valid in any of these sources, I'm afraid I can't help you, but I am confident that anyone who reads these sources with an open and objective mind will agree that the data supports the contention that, overall, the bishops have made progress in recent years - even bearing in mind the limitations of these numbers that have been pointed out in this discussion and in previous discussions.  

There is also a second set of data points I have in mind: my own experience in ministry, in which, like all of my peers, I've been required to personally jump through all the hoops (training, criminal background checks, etc.).  Finally, there is my observation of three priests of whom I'm personally aware who were removed from ministry in recent years.  As best as I can discern (I have no view to the details of the process), the cases were handled according to the Dallas norms, and all three have been permanently removed from ministry.  I don't know that these three cases illustrate progress per se, but from everything I've heard and read about how the church used to handle such cases, it seems like progress to me.


"Maybe Pope Francis will figure out a way. But if he doesn't, he too will eventually lose the respect of the people."

The clock is ticking, and quickly the weeks and months go by.  By being a populist he built up an early high level of expectation.  That euphoria can disappear as fast ... or faster ... as it arose.

Let's hope he doesn't end up being known as Pope "Alway A Bridesmaid, Never A Bride."

 [I guess recent revelations in New Jersey, Minneapolis, Kansas City are just aberations to you?]

Actually, that's the $64 question: are they aberrations? Are they typical?  Are they something in between, and if so how in-between are they?  My claim in all this is extremely modest, even pretty boring: that some cases have been handled by the review boards and the bishops as they are supposed to.  How many?  That would be helpful to know.  But I don't know how we learn the answer.  I lifted one fact from the most recent USCCB audit: that 79% of clergy with accusations against them (who are still alive) have been removed from ministry and/or forcibly laicized.  What does that 79% number mean?  It may mean that a majority of cases are handled appropriately.  But why not more than 79%?  And what is the likelihood that, like Fugee in Newark, some of those barred from ministry will be reinstated?


79% of clergy with accusations against them (who are still alive) have been removed from ministry and/or forcibly laicized.  What does that 79% number mean?  It may mean that a majority of cases are handled appropriately.

No. That is only possibly appropriate for those cases for which the accusation, after a proper enquiry, was deemed likely to be true; and the other 21% of the cases were only handled possibly appropriately if in those cases the accusation, after a proper enquiry, was deemed to be false. The percentage says nothing about whether the handling was appropriate.

The critique of the Murphy Report, commissioned by Dublin priests, is in turn critiqued by their Archbishop:

Gay men having sex with minors -- Jim Jenkins claims that this is the bulk of the abuse cases. When I claimed that many cases fall under this category I was lambasted by William LIndsey (BIlgrimage) who said, repeatedly, that I put ALL cases in this category. 


I suggest that the abuse scandal becomes much more understandable in this perspective, and spares us having to imagine all abusers as monsters who rape children just as a display of power and without any sexual attraction (the male gender of the adolescents in 80% of the cases being just an accident).


The main reason for the decline in  sexual contact between adult men and teenag boys is the tightening of the law and of gay men's awareness that the age of consent has to be taken with utmost seriousness. It was very different thirty years ago when gayness was illegal or regarded as socially unacceptable, without much differentiation of ages, so that many gay men thought they might as well be hung for a lamb as for a sheep.


Crystal Watson portrays all men who have had sexual contact with minors as child rapists -- not a helpful use of language in my opinion. As to pedophiles, it is well known that penetrative sex is statistically rare in their case, and the offence of touching or of voyeurism is the most common. 

About that 21%:  half of those were order priests.  Has anything official been done about establishing procedures to handle order priests and nuns?  Have any bishops or the USCCB tried to look into that problem?  Or the Vatican?

Ann: for the Vatican, see what pope Francis said in his interview with Commonweal!

I wrote:

79% of clergy with accusations against them (who are still alive) have been removed from ministry and/or forcibly laicized.  What does that 79% number mean?  It may mean that a majority of cases are handled appropriately.

.. to which Claire responded:

No. That is only possibly appropriate for those cases for which the accusation, after a proper enquiry, was deemed likely to be true; and the other 21% of the cases were only handled possibly appropriately if in those cases the accusation, after a proper enquiry, was deemed to be false. The percentage says nothing about whether the handling was appropriate.

Claire - you lead your comment with "No" - but you could have started the same comment with "Yes" and it would be equally true.  I agree at least somewhat with your analysis.  Here's how I would think about it:

  • That 79% consists of two major categories: those who have been laicized (i.e. expelled from the clerical state - their career as a priest, deacon or bishop is ended); and those who have been removed from ministry but not (or not yet) laicized.
  • For the latter category (removed from ministry), there are two sub-categories: those who have been removed from ministry because an accusation against them has been deemed credible (cf articles 6 and 9 of the Essential Norms); and those whose cases have been fully processed by the review board and the bishop and have been permanently barred from ministry (cf articles 8 and 9 of the Essential Norms).  For the former sub-category (removed from ministry, possibly only temporarily, because an accusation has been deemed credible), the accused's case is still pending, and the disposition is unknown.

We aren't told how many clerics fall into each of the categories and sub-categories I've outlined above.  But if we accept the rule of thumb that victims almost always tell the truth about abuse, then it's difficult to believe that there are many (or any) instances in which a cleric who has been laicized  after being found guilty, has been laicized unjustly.  And  I would say the same of the subcategory who have been permanently barred from ministry.  The subcategory of those who are removed from ministry pending a determination by the bishop are to be accorded a presumption of innocence, but it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of them are guilty of what they're accused.

Now - it's possible that, even though the final disposition of a case was that a cleric was laicized because he was guilty of sexual abuse, the case still wasn't handled appropriately at the diocesan level or by the Holy See.  I can't point to any instances in which this happened for accusations that were reported or processed after the promulgation of the Charter and the Essential Norms, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are folks here who can cite some instances of this.  Some of the cases we've discussed here, such as Fugee in Newark, may end up fitting that particular set of circumstances, but as of this date, I don't think he's been laicized.  

I think the most we can say, based on the fact we're given (the 79% number), is that the fact doesn't contradict, and may support, the hypothesis that at least some of the cases are handled appropriately.  In short: it may mean that a majority of cases were handled appropriately.  And there is anecdotal evidence - possibly a good deal of it, although I don't know if it's ever been pulled together and organized - of cases that were handled appropriately.  This anecdotal evidence is a powerful confirmation when it's coupled with facts like the 79%.  And we know of at least some instances in which cases were not handled appropriately; but we don't know whether those instances are typical or exceptional.

From that:


St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson didn’t report a clergy sex abuse claim to police in the 1980s when he was a leader with the Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota, according to a lawsuit filed there Tuesday. And the same priest in question allegedly went on to do more harm.


About that 21%:  half of those were order priests.  Has anything official been done about establishing procedures to handle order priests and nuns?  Have any bishops or the USCCB tried to look into that problem?  Or the Vatican?

Ann - as you probably know, the bishops don't have jurisidiction over religious order priests; the superiors of each individual order are responsible for their members.  Each order needs to establish its own processes.  This Chicago Tribune article from earlier this year suggests that orders tend to lag behind the bishops and dioceses in this respect.

One interesting little nugget from that article is that the is a private firm called Praesidium that apparently has developed some accreditation standards which a religious order may try to comply with.  This statement from this past August by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men implies that a lot of orders are now accredited.  But that's all I know about it.


Jim, actually I don't follow those details any more. After following the news on that front in full depth a few years ago, I became convinced that accountability and transparency were not really present. Even if you point to cases that, you say, appear to have been dealt with "appropriately", I'm not ready to dig into the details and look for flaws. I'm afraid that the question is settled as far as I'm concerned: prevention is done by vigilance on the part of all people involved in the local church, and problems are to be addressed by taking them to the police and letting them deal with it. Chanceries and their more or less "appropriate" protocols are no longer on my radar.

But I wish you good luck in trying to fix the system.


@ Jim Pauwels:  RE your posts of [10/29/13; 5:23pm] and [10/29/13; 6pm]: 

Nice try, but no cigar Rev. Pauwels!  All the unctuous condescension not withstanding, your argument and logic escape any close examination. 

You still haven’t produced any citations from the scientific literature, besides what others and I have cited, to support your preposterous contention that is [“that bishops do take protecting children more seriously than they used to”].

Perhaps they didn’t teach the scientific methodology in seminary?  You can’t as you do when you cite the John Jay study and its subsequent audit reports make inferences and extrapolate conclusions from its purely summative data [i.e., bean counting, as in “79% of credibly accused priests have been removed from ministry” from another of your many posts].  The study would have had to use other research methodology to make those conclusions because the hierarchs contrived the study to fit their political ideology and agenda. 

You can’t conflate the USCCB audit/John Jay report with the lecture by Patrick Parkinson [A lecture given in Australia.].  That’s mixing apples and oranges:  the US and Australia are not analogous situations.  Nor, can you selectively quote from the Parkinson lecture little nosegays about how things have improved over time in Australia – Australia is not the US.

Besides in Australia, unlike here in the US, the Australian national government is breathing down the neck of the Australian Catholic Church with a fully empowered judicial inquiry into the sexual abuse and exploitation scandal - nothing like the prospect of prosecution and imprisonment to focus the hearts and minds of the hierarchs.  Of course, things have gotten better – in Australia!

The politics is very different here in the US:  Both of the last two administrations sided with the church’s attempts to shield Cardinal Levada whenever he would travel to the US – and now lives in retirement, I believe - from a mountain of subpoenas from American courts.  Catholic justices on SCOTUS [a solid majority] voted en masse to uphold Levada’s diplomatic immunity on the grounds that he was an official of a foreign state.  You have to hand it to the hierarchs’ legal eagles – they’re really worth every penny.

Pauwels, anytime you find those studies your desperately looking for, let us know.

@ Jim Pauwels: Don't mean to pile on, but I found somethiing that you wrote very interesting:


While you attempted to posture your arguments as calmly and dispassionately as possible, this quote I believe is really telling of the back-story for much of your arguments:

There is also a second set of data points I have in mind: my own experience in ministry, in which, like all of my peers, I've been required to personally jump through all the hoops (training, criminal background checks, etc.).

Do I detect some indignation that priests are now being held to account for their commissions and omissions as they relate to abuse and exploitation of children by their colleague “brother priests”?  Regrets maybe?  Being painted with too broad a brush perhaps?

Interesting that you highlight your [observation] of three priests removed from ministry.  This begs the question from my time on the SF review board: Why there was only one priest from SF archdiocese who ever reported another priest to police authorities?

[Let me summarize the particulars of this one illustrative case study: Rev. John Conley – former assistant US district attorney for Illinois - on returning to the rectory found his pastor, Rev. James Aylward, wrestling on the floor in nothing but his underwear with a teenage boy who was the rectory’s evening phone receptionist.  [I’ll spare you the other graphic details.]  Conley promptly reported the assault to the SF police.  For Conley’s actions, then archbishop Levada suspended him from ministry, banned him from living in the rectory, ordered him to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment, and sneered at him, “You need to learn obedience.”  Conley sued Levada in civil court - I think it was a first in US legal history for a priest to sue his bishop - for mental stress and defamation of character; his suit was reinstated upon appeal.  On the eve of Levada’s deposition, archdiocesan lawyers negotiated an agreement that restored Conley's faculties and fully funded Conley’s retirement to the tune of $hundreds of thousands, in exchange for Conley dropping the suit.  Levada never testified.  Conley now lives in SF in comfortable retirement filling in for parish priests on leave or vacation.]

I think most Catholics can understand why priests are like the "three blind mice" when it comes to their brother priests and bishops.

What is also equally preposterous is the contention of many priests that they were never aware of any of their colleagues’ abusive behavior despite the fact that most of the abuse took place on church or school property. 

This pervasive silence from the clerics and fellow religious about crimes against children that were occurring right under their noses undermines the very arguments that you, Pauwels, make about how the so-called John Jay audit indicates “due diligence” from the hierarchs.

All priests and religious must come forward with their own stories of what they saw and what they know about the abuse and exploitation of children by their fellow priests without reservation or this sad chapter in the Catholic Church will never end.

"The task force he appointed to investigate this mess is supposed to provide some answers, but its work will hold value only to the extent that it's willing to name names."

Developments subsequent to the writing of this fine article seem to indicate that the task force will be hamstrung in its investigation and will in fact not "name names" -- because it won't be allowed to.  Father  Whitt, the staff director responsible for the task force, recently made statements which indicate this.  They can be seen via the National Catholic Reporter, including a longish article in the Twin Cities secular press.  Take a look at for a list of the articles, and follow the links. 

We have seen this script before in other places, and it was a disaster.  Archbishop Nienstedt has chosen to a) divide up the investigation among four separate entities, and b) is trying to restrict the access of the task force to information they would credibly need to do their investigation.

If I were the members of the task force — which, at least on paper, seems eminently qualified and includes a broad range of relevant professions — I would speak to the Archbishop immediately to clarify the matter of access to records.  If I came away unsatisfied, I would immediately resign so as not to damage my professional reputation.  Perhaps the whole task force might be moved to resign en masse — though it would be far better if they were given access to the information they need. 

This shameful record of trying to hoodwink lay professionals, of trying to "use" them, simply must stop. 

The near-universal occurrence of this sort of behavior by bishops lends credence to the existence of some formal but still secret Vatican policy.  If that is so, it too will eventually come to light, with predictable consequences. 

I have read that when a bishop is made a cardinal he takes a vow never to reveal anything that would harm the Church or its reputation.  Does anyone know if that it true?  Do bishops also take such a vow?  i have read that canon law requires that bishops not criticize a fellow bishop publicly.  Is this true?

If they may not speak out, no wonder there is a cover-up culture of men who cannot abide criticism.


Cardinals’ Oath on Receiving the Biretta

Below is a translation of the oath of fidelity and obedience to the Pope and his Successors, pronounced by the Cardinals at the time they receive the biretta, or cardinal’s hat: 

"I [name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff Francis, and of his canonically elected Successors;

to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to anyone what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church;

to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law. 

So help me Almighty God."

I am unaware of a similar oath for bishops, but obviously no oath is necessary, since all understand the importance of secrecy in such matters. Can anyone think of any US bishop who has freely divulged information/documents without a court order, or under threat of testifying himself in open court under oath who did not quickly settle a lawsuit days before such scheduled testimony?

Cardinals and bishops fight page by page  to keep the secrets all the way to the US Supreme Court. Fortunately, Lori (when in Bridgeport) and Mahony lost such cases. But Lori still refused to release 12% of the documents under review and pursued another legal strategy to start the meatgrinder all over again. Appeals can go on for a decade.

We simply need district attorneys, attorneys general, legislatures, and grand juries with subpoena power instead of so-called investigations by independent groups where clerics like Whitt decide what is seen and not seen, and who may be interviewed or not, 

Gerelyn had it exactly right in her description of priests who are essentially economic hostages to their bishops.

That oath is truly amazing. Under that oath, are they required to tell the truth under the oath they take in legal depositions? Or does one oath trump the other (the god of religious oaths superseding the god of legal oaths, perhaps)? Can anything they say under legal oath be trusted? Can they even, morally, say I do to the oath they take before a deposition? Has anyone ever tried to explain this to a plaintiff's attorney or a D.A.?

Questions, questions...

Jim Jenkins.  I've cited my sources.  Attacking me personally doesn't change those sources.  Not everything that is true is published by academics and peer-reviewed.  The data in the sources I've referenced is what it is.  Parkinson in Australia, whose work you seem to admire, seems to accept the John Jay report on causes and contexts for what it is, and to find some value in it.  If you don't - as I say, I can't help you.

In this conversation, I've made a very modest claim, and defended it with some evidence.  If you don't like my evidence, you don't (although your rejection hasn't dissuaded me that my evidence has some value).  But you haven't offered any evidence whatsoever that would make me or anyone else think that I'm wrong.  Not even evidence that doesn't meet your lofty standard.  You've told a couple of anecdotes.  Anecdotes are fine, as far as they go; I've shared a couple myself.  Grant's posts on Minneapolis are, in a sense, anecdotes, i.e. they are single episodes, albeit anecdotes bolstered by reams of evidence.  But anecdotes by themselves don't tell us anything very useful about general trends. An anecdote may be typical or it may be atypical of overall trends.  The whole point of this discussion is: are these instances in Minneapolis indicative of anything, and if so, what?  I've shared my point of view, and don't need to share it again.  

You've positioned yourself in this discussion as a social scientist who is familiar with the social scientific literature on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church (and you have the advantage of me, as I'm not and I'm not).  Now that you've exhibited the good form that experts always show when they sneer at non-experts, go ahead, be scientific and bring out some wares from the storehouse of your scholarship.

Btw,  I'm truly sorry you had such a bad experience in San Fransisco, and I'm grateful that you stepped up at one time to try to help the church.  


There is also a second set of data points I have in mind: my own experience in ministry, in which, like all of my peers, I've been required to personally jump through all the hoops (training, criminal background checks, etc.).

Do I detect some indignation that priests are now being held to account for their commissions and omissions as they relate to abuse and exploitation of children by their colleague “brother priests”?  Regrets maybe?  Being painted with too broad a brush perhaps?

Only you know what you think you detect, but what I was expressing here is that taking all the classes, background checks, etc. was a pain the ass.  Nowadays, I have to ensure that the volunteers in my ministries do the same thing, and all of them find it a pain the ass, too.  On the other hand, these things are necessary and, I believe, helpful.  There are a lot of good things in life that are also pains in the ass.


Mr. Jenkins - appreciate your replies to JimP (who is a deacon in the Chicago archdiocese).

JimP - again, the issue with quoting or using data from charter audits or John Jay is the earlier points that were posted.  Charter audits only tell us about current status of an oversight structure e.g. background checks, safety measures, etc.  It says nothing about actual cases of alleged or confirmed abusers or what the bishop/diocese does.  John Jay is interesting but, at the core, they base their conclusions upon data that is not objective; is not complete.  Thus, it is hard for experts to take the JJ Study as significant.  If anything, an argument could be made that JJ Studies and Charter audits are lulling us to sleep.

In terms of priests' reporting abusers - my experience has been very different from yours.  My classmates continue to disappoint me.....even recent conversations elicit responses such as:  *never saw anything*;  *don't know anything about that*; *he surprised us all*; etc.  The denial is shocking.

Here is a different analysis and approach to this issue - example is a Vincentian priest, Carlos Rodriquez, who has served time in California for abuse and whose records were recently and finally released as part of the LA settlement.

My own timeline on this case:

My classmate, Rev. XXXX, pastor in Illinois currently, said that he recommended that Carlos not be ordained at the end of his deaconate in Patterson, CA where he was pastor.  CM provincial consultor, XXX, swayed the provincial council to ordain him.  And, of course, the file doesn’t contain any of the early 1990s stuff when Carlos was assigned to St. Vincent’s downtown and abused….kid came to confession (not sure what CM?) who wisely convinced the kid to see the pastor outside of confession.  This led to Santa Barbara where he again abused and finally his dispensation and then six years later, conviction.  What a sad and sordid story – and he had a functional IQ of 92; the emotional maturity of a 14 year old. 

Again, my approach is via *formation*.  The file contains some provincial council and seminary faculty votes but, of course, no actual student files, no minutes or record of faculty discussions/votes; no psych testing results.  The pattern is sad and disheartening:

  • Initially not accepted to high school seminary – later admitted
  • Minor Seminary High school principal, Rev. XXXX, with provincial, Rev. Falanga, allowed him to move to novitiate but only as a candidate for brotherhood (this is another sad issue – be a brother by default)
  • Novitiate director changed and allowed him to go to college seminary, Perryville, MO as priest candidate
  • In religious communities, a seminary faculty only makes recommendations (provincials/councils like bishops make the actual decision for promotion)
  • West provincial adds fifth year at college but allows Carlos to go to theology
  • Theology faculty appears divided…..make him do an unordained internship (this is very unusual)
  • This adds another year to theology studies
  • But, he moves on, does diaconate internship fifth year and is ordained
  • West Provincial leaves and gets married; provincial consultor takes his place (one year after casting the influential vote to grant ordination …he said that Carlos just had to mature and it was normal…He had just received his Marriage and Family Counseling Certification and thus was deemed the expert on all matters psychological 
  • What you see is a fragmented formation process – three if not four different faculties voting; faculties that did not have the expertise to make these decisions; and a bias that when votes were evenly split, then promotion was guaranteed.  This allowed Carlos to play off various faculty members; to basically get a clean slate every time he changed seminaries and residences.  No consistency and no one paid attention to the psych testing results (which are not in the file)

This situation continues to exist across the US seminary landscape - it adds to the complexity of this issue and goes even deeper than just active priests and their decisions or non-decisions about colleagues' behaviors.

I have no documents to back this up, but I believe that all men before they are consecrated bishops - before they are given the keys to the kingdom [roughly akin to the exclusive keys to the executive restroom] and, of course, the bank accounts - prospective bishops must sign a pledge that they will never ordain women or married men priests, and they will never deviate from church policy on contraceptives and abortion.  

I have to believe that they also all swear oaths about money - after all they are becoming corporate officers in the corporation sole church.

I understand that if they don't sign, there is no red or magenta hat for them. I guess then it's back to trolling in the parishes?

@ Jim Pauwels:  No need to pout.  It's just that when you're in a hole, stop digging.

All of us have an obligation to correct the public record and intentionally manipulated public impressions perpetrated by the hierarchs and their minons. 

Unwarrented assertions from the dubious JJ study is tricky business because the so-called Dallas Charter and JJ study and its audits are little more than an elaborate public relations scheme cooked up by a bunch of canon lawyers and political consultants for the hierarchs to staunch the ever-widening wound on the church's (really, the hierarchs) reputation as a cascade of sexual abuse narratives became public back in 2000.  

The hierarchs were in full panic mode that their continued political hegemony over the church was threatened - and they're right about that one!  The Dallas Charter has little to do with the safety of children and is mainly designed to support the continued political survival of the hierarchs.

Prime example of this is the much ballyhooed Zero-Tolerance policy - the Ratzinger-led CDF eviserated that one by insisting that canon law trump any zero-tolerance policy, and Ratzinger ordered that all - I love this term, so Roman - of the most notorious cases be referred exclusively to a secret Roman tribunal under his jurisdiction for adjudication.  [I wouldn't be surprised that secret tribunal is still operating in the Vatican to this today.]  Since the Zero-Tolerance policy is a sham, that is why credibly accused priest predators have been allowed to continue in ministry (as in New Jersey, Kansas City, Minnesota, etc.).

Also not publicly well understood is that the Ratzinger-led CDF essentially neutered all the diosecean review boards, mainly because they were composed primarily of laity.  Can't have the serfs  controlling the futures of the celibate lords and princes!  Levada told me directly that "the Vatican" [read Ratzinger] could not abide with women being in a position to hold bishops and priests to account.  [Jim P., I'm not making this up.]

Furthermore, the Ratzinger-led CDF insisted on many changes from the draft Dallas Charter.  Chief among them was that hierarchs (bishops and cardinals) would not be within the purview of the review boards.  Neither would religious priests.  [Notice that much of the continuing scandal for the church in more recent years is tied to the behavior and complicity of hierarchs and religious priests.  A coincidence?]

Jim Pauwels:  Thank you for acknowledging my "bad experience" on the SF review board, but whatever I experienced pales in the face of the tortured lives of the survivors of abuse and exploitation by priests.  It is in the memory of the survivors that we Catholics must be resolute in our pursuit of justice, and the reform and renewal of the priesthood from parish to pope.

To paraphrase Lincoln:  That we Catholics here highly resolve that these blessed Innocents shall not have suffered in vain.

Bill D - very interesting stuff.  As you lay out the case there, the possibility certainly seems to be there for an abuser to manipulate a leaky system of formation and evaluation for suitability.  And as I noted recently, the shortage of priests seems to cast its shadow over Carlos' history: get him ordained unless there is decisive evidence not to.

Stronger checks and balances during formation wouldn't be the magic bullet to block all abusers from being ordained - but it certainly should be one major component of a holistic approach.  I really do believe that the compliance training and background checks are another pillar.  And a reform of the process for handling accusations is another. Grant had published a series of recommendations to this effect some time ago, not sure where to lay my hands on them now.  But all of his recommendations seemed sensible to me.


JimJ: That comment on trolling is the sort of thing that sets JimP's teeth on edge.

I still want to know why, given the oath that cardinals take, anyone should believe anything they say or deny about the church under oath. I also want to know where they get off taking any other oaths.

Jesus said not to swear at all, but let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Why should any Christian -- Quaker, Catholic, etc. -- swear oaths?  

Agree, that once a religious figure has sworn an oath to protect his religion, his subsequent oaths are meaningless.

(Amazing, imho, that anyone  takes (or pretends to take) the John Jay study seriously.  Maybe the most offensive bit was lowering the age from 13 to 10 for children victimized by pedophiles.)

Yeah, that's not (what happened)(.) 

Hi, Grant,

I won't be reading the John Jay report again.  Sorry if I overstated its worthlessness.  I remember threads here about it, but I won't be reading them again, either.  

(Too hard on the old eyes to read the old threads, since the new formatting removed all the paragraphing and much of the punctuation.)  

Patrick J. Wall quoted SNAP:

(He's an expert, as I'm sure you know, on St. John's sordid history.  I get him confused with Thomas Wahl, another monk from St. John's, now in Japan, the brother-in-law of J. F. Powers.)

(Clicked reply too soon.)

Forgot to add that the first comment on the Patrick J. Wall page from a priest who was a "clergyvictim" is very interesting.  (I guess I wasn't the only one to think the John Jay report lowered the age from 13 to 10.)

The Dallas Charter has little to do with the safety of children and is mainly designed to support the continued political survival of the hierarchs.  Prime example of this is the much ballyhooed Zero-Tolerance policy - the Ratzinger-led CDF eviserated that one

I'm sure I'm at least as tired of this ping pong match as you are.  But look: you write this snippet I've pasted here as though it's true, when in fact its claim - that the CDF "eviscerated" zero tolerance from the Dallas Charter - manifestly is not true.  A quick perusal of the relevant documents illustrates this:

  • From the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Article 5: "The diocesan/eparchial bishop is to exercise his power of governance, within the parameters of the universal law of the Church, to ensure that any priest or deacon subject to his governance who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described below (see note) shall not continue in ministry".  
  • From the Essential Norms for Diocesan/ Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, Article 8: "When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants (SST, Art. 6; CIC, c. 1395 §2; CCEO, c. 1453 §1).

Removing someone after a single offense is the definition of zero tolerance. So what you  wrote isn't correct: zero tolerance is still in effect, and in fact, the CDF didn't "eviscerate" zero tolerance.  The CDF took the original Charter and Essential Norms, and revised them in order to bring them into compliance with canon law.  But zero tolerance provisions remain in place.  It's not just a guideline; it's particular law for dioceses in the US.  We, the People of God, should expect nothing less than zero tolerance for every instance of abuse.

So now, let's go back to the beginning.  The whole point of this thread - the original topic - is that there are a couple of priests in St. Paul - Minneapolis to whom zero tolerance wasn't applied when credible allegations were made; and in the case of one of those priests, because his bishop didn't have zero tolerance, the priest was put in charge of a parish where he subsequently abused children.  Had the USCCB's zero tolerance policies, which remain in effect and which I've quoted here, been prudently applied, those children would never have encountered that criminal priest.  

You, I and anyone reading this comment agree that the sequence of events is gut-wrenchingly tragic, and the Minn bishops who were complicit in this failure to uphold the particular law deserve all of the sh*t that is being directed at them; and we probably further agree that the universal church should have some legal mechanism to pursue formal canonical justice against those bishops and diocesan officials (in addition to whatever secular legal penalties they're facing).  I don't think there is any disagreement about any of that.

 All of us have an obligation to the truth.  Bishops and diocesan officials aren't exempt.  Truth-telling by them would be a huge step forward in turning off the drip-drip-drip of child abuse allegations.  But you and I aren't exempt from truth-telling, either.  The zero tolerance policy is true: it continues to exist and it's particular law for dioceses in the US.  It didn't prevent those priests from staying in ministry, nor those kids from being abused.  But let's point the finger where it should be pointed.  And that's not at the CDF or the USCCB in this instance.  In fact, the CDF and USCCB seem to have gotten it right in this instance.  Had their particular law been followed, a lot of tragic stuff would have been avoided.  It's two bishops in the Twin Cities and some diocesan officials who seem to have gotten it horribly wrong.


IN RE:  the data.

If there has been no improvement in the behavior of the bishops and clergy since the Dallas Charter, that means that things are as bad now as they were in the 90's and 80's as far as reporting and holding clergymen responsible is concerned.

So where are the figures that show that since Dallas there have been proporitonally as many reported cases and coverups?  Who are these priests and bishops, besides Finn and the others already mentioned?

a pledge that they will never ordain women or married men priests, and they will never deviate from church policy on contraceptives and abortion.  

This would not be very far from the priorities in colonial times. I am reading a first-hand account written by a priest who spent the first part of the 20th century in the Gabon jungle as a missionary. After a mission had been built among the Adouma people, the Adoumas were given control of trade activity on the river but abused it to such an extent that the missionaries gave up and moved out, leaving them on their own until, forty years later, they were approached again by Adoumas who asked for a catechist, which was given to them on condition that they would first build a house for the catechist and that once he arrived they would take care to feed him every day. Here is an excerpt.


The small construction had been built carefully and with the cooperation of almost the entire village, under the leadership of the village head who had first started the negotiations. Thus the missionary had to execute his end of the bargain: a very serious catechist was selected and placed there.


What happened then had almost never been seen before. One does not always see Africans assiduously coming, on time to listen to Catholic doctrine, with old men keeping order among the young, with old woman leading the young ones, and everyone attentively repeating the prayers and listening to the lessons. The popularity was such that the catechist had difficulty answering the needs, but he was given plenty of food. Then, emulation started: people came from nearby villages, and those who were too far started building their own constructions for chapels and put pressure on the fathers to be given more catechists.[…]


In spite of that enthusiasm, the missionaries stuck to the rules regulating the length of catechumenate. It was not merely a matter of knowing doctrine: there was also the matter of behavior. The catechumens had to first stop superstitious practices. Bad habits had to be reformed: drink less palm wine, stop scandalous behavior. Consider that those hundreds of adult pagans, whose numbers soon grew into the thousands, were approaching baptism with all sorts of cases of conscience that had to be dealt with for each of them. There were polygamous husbands who wondered what to do with their wives. There were husbands who were no longer living with their wife, wives who had be given away to pay for debts and who were now in other hands, young wives who were not quite sure which one was their true husband. "The entire moral theology will be spanned by those cases!", wrote Fr. Hée.

Even then and there, family issues were paramount!


Ann - exactly.  The sources I keep referencing suggest that the number of cases has been in decline.  (Take those sources for what they're worth.)   But that must be balanced with the understanding that most reports of abuse don't happen immediately; it can take years or decades before a victim comes forward.  So we don't have an accurate snapshot, yet, for abuse that may have taken place within the last 10-20 years.  That Australian lecture linked to by Crystal earlier in this comment thread has some very good discussion of these issues.

Who are these priests and bishops, besides Finn and the others already mentioned?

Ann, and JimP.:  We don't know. Their identities dribble out one at a time. Grant's original post noted that this was St. Paul-Mineapolis, of all places! Well, there, of all places!, a whistle-blower appeared and an NPR station decided to follow up. Is there a whistle blower in every diocese that needs one? And a news medium willing to take the abuse of offended Catholics while following up?

We don't really know, do we? And can we trust the statements of people who have sworn never to say anyting hurtful to the Church? Who can we trust?

FWIW, my reading of the text of the cardinals' oath is that the cardinal's highest obligations are to Jesus, the Gospel and the Church (which includes not just the pope and cardinals, but parishioners, victims - all of us).  Any time a bishop lies or equivocates, he has potentially harmed the church - has violated his oath.  I suppose not all cardinals would share my interpretation.  

At any rate, cardinals are still relatively few and far between.  I believe there are none in St. Paul and Minneapolis.


We don't know. Their identities dribble out one at a time.

It's even more dribbly than that - specific cases dribble out one at a time.  It's possible that Nienstedt and Myers and these other dribblees have handled most of their  cases as they were supposed to be handled.  We don't know.  But if that does happen to be the case, it would seem to be a powerful motivation to be transparent about it.



@ Jim Pauwels:  I get it that you NEED to continue with all the willful ignorance.  I get it that a corrupt and complicit hierarchy doesn’t FIT into your cosmological reality.  Go ahead:  Knock yourself out!  If that is what you need to make it through life, go for it.

At times like this my sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, would quote the Psalms:

They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths …

The issue for you is that reality is a social construction where our individual perceptions and cognitions must be situated within a social context rendering a shared reality beyond the solely personal experience.

However for the record – even though I concede it will probably never convince you Pauwels:

  • The much ballyhooed Zero-Tolerance is a public relations gimmick cooked-up by political and media consultants all for public consumption. 
  • The Ratzinger-led CDF ordered edits in the text of the Dallas Charter that established that canon law – not zero-tolerance, not American law – was the preeminent controlling, operational, functional principle guiding bishops.
  • The Ratzinger-led CDF also effected changes in the draft of the Dallas Charter that essentially neutered lay-led review boards, and also shielded hierarchs and religious priests from the purview of the Dallas Charter.
  • Under both Ratzinger and then Levada at the CDF, a global strategy was focused under Vatican control, which has effectively truncated investigations into the abuse scandal attempting to limit the church’s exposure to accountability.
  • The continuing revelations of multiple priest predators, and their enablers in the hierarchy, in cultures and societies around the world are signal flags that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is unabated.
  • The seeming failing rates of abuse and exploitation among Catholic priests are more an artifact of the progressive aging and mortality rates of Catholic priests than corporate policy changes by the Catholic Church.  [Criminologists have long determined that criminal behavior in men is inversely correlated with age and positively correlated with falling testosterone levels.]  In other words, as men age all men are less likely to engage in criminal behavior – this certainly applies to the rapidly aging cohort of Catholic priests. 
  • Priests’ sexual predation on children [regardless of gender and sexual orientation] is highly correlated with a nexus of opportunity and the expectation of impunity.  [In other words, the choice of victim for priests predators is more a crime of opportunity and being able to get away with it, and less attributable to the sexual orientation of the priest and/or their sexual deviancy, and the lack of inhibition from appropriate social boundaries.]

Actually Pauwels, I share your obligation and dedication to “Truth-telling.”  Reminds me that Sister Adelaide would often paraphrase scripture:  “I have come to bring you the Truth.  And the Truth will set you free.  But first, it will make you miserable.” 

Jim J - thanks, and peace to you.


Postscript on "What it means to tell the truth" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Communicating truthfully means more than factual accuracy…There is a way of speaking which is…entirely correct and unexceptionable, but which is, nevertheless, a lie…When an apparently correct statement contains some deliberate ambiguity, or deliberately omits the essential part of the truth…it does not express the real as it exists in God.” 

My quoting this for the umpteenth time is particularly appropriate in light of Grant's excellent analysis of "The Neinstedt Shuffle." The Shuffle is exactly what Neinstedt did; dancing around the real as it exists in God through omission and distortion. IOW, lying.

I saw Neinstedt's statement earlier on the abuse tracker  and knew it was clever drivel. I understand the work Grant had to put in to deconstruct the piece; the hours of sorting through misleading muck. I thank him again for this and prior efforts. 

Bottom line: Where are bishops who speak truthfully from the heart? 

Patrick Parkinson gave a lecture this week in Australia, noting:

"...the Church needs to find a way of throwing out its rotten apples, publicly rebuking or removing leaders from their positions if they have failed egregiously to do the right thing. It needs, in other words, to modernise and to create an authority structure with power to deal with the recalcitrant and the obstructive in its midst. I have no reason for confidence that this leadership will come from the Vatican or from the leaders of the worldwide religious orders, some of which are also based in Rome."

Perhaps the laity, also in the form of courts, legislatures and media, can further this process. Silence is not an option.

"  The whole point of this thread - the original topic - is that there are a couple of priests in St. Paul - Minneapolis to whom zero tolerance wasn't applied when credible allegations were made; and in the case of one of those priests, because his bishop didn't have zero tolerance, the priest was put in charge of a parish where he subsequently abused children.  Had the USCCB's zero tolerance policies, which remain in effect and which I've quoted here, been prudently applied, those children would never have encountered that criminal priest.  "  Quite --but the defense of the bishop is that the allegations did not specifically concern actual child abuse.

I forgot to reply to Fr. O'Leary's latest misinformed comment in this thread: owning child pornography is defined by civil and canon law as a form of sexual abuse. 

When was the last time you read deeply on this issue, Fr. O'Leary? You have a lot of opinions on an issue you obviously know so little about. 

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