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Nienstedt's apologia tour.

Two days before the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced that it had received an allegation of sexual misconduct against Archbishop John Nienstedt, he visited a parish to apologize for the way he responded to accusations of sexual abuse by priests.

When I arrived here seven years ago, one of the first things I was told was that this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of and I didn’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately I believed that. And so my biggest apology to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more than I did. [When the story broke] at the end of September, I was as surprised as anyone else.

Really? Because in 2009 Nienstedt's former top canon lawer, Jennifer Haselberger, warned him not to promote a priest with a history of sexual misconduct. Nienstedt made him a pastor (the priest was already administrator of the parish, thanks to the previous archbishop's bad judgment). The priest went on to abuse children in the parish. Haselberger provided Nienstedt with a golden opportunity to "investigate it more." Why wasn't he more alarmed? Where was his sense of urgency? Calmed by the assurance that in the Twin Cities "this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of"?

And just last year Haselberger informed Nienstedt about another time bomb--this one was sitting in the chancery basement: a report indicating that "borderline illegal" pornographic images had been found on a priest's computer. Nienstedt did not report it to the police (in Minnesota, priests are mandated reporters). Haselberger did, just before she resigned.

Nienstedt was so troubled by the case that he considered contacting Rome for advice. In a detailed unsent letter to the Vatican, he acknowledged that this priest had possessed "borderline illegal" photographs of young people. He explained that he and the archdiocese could be subject to criminal prosecution for possessing such images (some were kept in the priest's long-buried personnel file). Nienstedt even expressed his "hesitation to assign [the priest] to any form of parochial ministry, given my doubts regarding his fitness for ministry and the potential harm and scandal that could ensue." That letter is dated May 29, 2012. But the archbishop wants Twin Cities Catholics to believe he was surprised when all this made headlines last September? Does he think they don't read the news?

But even if some buy the line that Nienstedt asked about that whole sexual-abuse-crisis thing upon arriving in St. Paul in 2007 and was told everything was hunky-dory, do they find it comforting? Pope Benedict XVI appointed him coadjutor just a few months before the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to its historic $660 million abuse settlment. And the year before Nienstedt moved to St. Paul, news broke that his brother bishop up the road in Chicago refused the advice of his abuse review board and allowed an accused priest to remain in ministry--a man who is now doing time for molesting children (for George this apparently raises deep theological questions).

That was the context of Nienstedt's query. The Catholic Church in the United States had not gotten over the scandal. Neither had most bishops. But he was satisfied when he was told that he need not worry about the local implications of the greatest crisis ever to befall the Catholic Church in the United States. All taken care of. Rest easy, Minnesota.

In that statement to the media last week, Nienstedt said that he is committed to restoring the confidence of his people, "who have lost confidence in us." As evidence of that effort, he mentioned his creation of an independent task force in order "to get the facts." He continued:

What went wrong? We have policies and practices in place. Obviously they weren't followed uniformly. I want to know what the facts are. I think you want to know what the facts are. And our people want to know what the facts are.

It's good that Archbishop Nienstedt has appointed an "independent" body to find these facts, because he hasn't shown much interest in sharing them with the public. (Indeed, when the archdiocese finally released the names of its "credibly accused" priests--after months of filibustering--it was missing three names.)

When Nienstedt finally consented to respond to Minnesota Public Radio's queries about the cases I mentioned above, he wasn't exactly forthcoming. When it came to the priest whose computer contained thousands of troubling photos, Nienstedt claimed the analysis of the hard drive "did not find evidence of possession of child pornography." He didn't mention that the same report warned that the images were "borderline illegal," or that he had composed a worried letter to the Vatican quoting that report.

Then Nienstedt claimed that police examined "the same material from the hard drive that was analyzed in 2004 and came to the same conclusion"--no child porn. In fact, a diocesan lawyer refused to give the police the report on the hard drive, agreeing to turn over just a few discs that supposedly contained the contents of the hard drive. "Whether these discs given to me were the actual discs or copies of those discs after first asking for them, I do not know," the investigating officer wrote in his report.

If the archbishop was committed to getting the facts out, he might have let MPR interview him in person. But they had to submit their questions in writing. No follow-ups allowed. His appearance before the media last week was also carefully controlled. Note the very beginning of the video. "Again, no questions," announces what looks to be Jim Accurso, the archbishop's PR manager.

And you can understand why. The facts of Nienstedt's role in these two cases have been known for months. Rather than come clean about his decision-making process, instead of telling the people whose trust he says he wants to restore why he decided to promote a troubled priest to pastor, a man who eventually molested the children of a parish employee, or why he didn't call the police after he was informed that a forensic examination of a priest's computer turned up "borderline illegal" photos, he  changed the subject. He attempted to attach himself to the surprise local Catholics felt when they read September's disturbing news accounts. He fired a vicar general.

But he has not provided a straightforward account of his role in these scandals. Apparently he's leaving that to the "independent" task force. Who knows when they will complete their work, or how comprehensive it will be? But if the archbishop believes he can outrun the facts of the crisis he helped to create, he's in for a genuine surprise. Facts are funny that way. They almost always catch up.

About the Author

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



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Business as usual I guess.  One hopes that our new Pope will make sexual predation in the Church one of the issues at the top of his list.  Otherwise, the damage will go on and on, and on.  This issue ought to be framed as an all out war against sexual predators, not as an annoying side issue.  If the Church cannot or will not protect children, then what the HELL good is it?  Disclaimer:  This is not a troll.

"Borderline illegal"???  Oh, dear Lord.


Not to worry, Bob, only someone living in an alternate universe would consider it "trolling" to say that the Church MUST clean the sexual predators out of its house.  Unfortunately, ever since the first predator-priest stories broke in the 1980s, it's been clear that an alternate universe is exactly where the princes of the Church live.


Those of us who have been in the Diocese of Dallas since 1995 have lived through this situation already - only the bishop wasn't Nienstedt - it was Charles Grahmann who even was caught lying at the criminal trial of Rev. Rudy Kos.

Oh yeah, the bishop also promised to resign after the trial's end (per several significant lay catholics in the diocese - unfortunately, there were no notes or recordings of that meeting).  Grahmann managed to stay on until past age 75 (Rome can't let a bishop lose face and Grahmann was a personal friend of Benedict's) and he even forced out the assigned coadjutor bishop.

Nothing will happen here either except an archdiocese that will be in chaos for years.  Sad

From a practical point of view, the biggest challenge in the Church is not predators, it's the hierarchical culture of the official Church which enables the predation and then lies about both the predation and enabling.

I'm afraid that even Pope Francis doesn't see that problem very clearly yet.  If he lives another five or ten years, his papacy will rise or fall on the issue.  Sadly, I suspect that only he can change the culture.  The curia is just too thoroughly corrupt to admit the issue. 

Sometimes when reading about the church and sex abuse, I'm reminded of The X-Files, in which the concept of plausible deniability was raised to an art form.

"Mulder, not everything is a labyrinth of dark conspiracy, and not everybody is plotting to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate." - Scully to Mulder. She should have known better - after all, she was a Catholic.

I think culture is key to understanding the institutional church.  The church is highly centralized with local church leaders taking their cues from the top.  My favorite authority on organizational culture, Edgar Schein, defines culture as a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.  As someone (Schein?) observed, culture endures because it works.  Perhaps what makes church culture so difficult to change is its doctrinal underpinnings, e.g., Mt 16:18, bishops as "successors to the Apostles", the "validity" of Catholic sacraments, clergy as "priests" mediating between God and human beings.  I suspect any pope would find culture a difficult nut to crack.  After all, popes are themselves products of said culture.

Thanks for this post, Grant.  It is hard to understand John Nienstedt's take on reality.  Is he deliberately trying to pull the wool over people's eyes?  Is he in deep denial? As a Catholic in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, I am sometimes afraid that he may not be conscious of the consequences of his actions.  He comes off as sincere when he is excusing himself on the occasion you have noted.  I have heard people feel sorry for him because he is a man in way over his head in the role of Archbishop.  Where is the moral compass?  We have asked that he resign, but where can he go?  He may be trapped in that role till he is 75.   One of the reforms should be procedures for men to step down, get therapy, get a job for which they are competent--and all without shame.

He is thinking about what he looks like to other people rather than about what has happened---and he is addressing the "perception" dimension rather than the realm of causative  events.   It's an utterly delusional approach.  I have long compared the enabling bishops to fifteen year olds who burned the house down and want sympathy for their situation.  

In the Philly Daily News --


"Sister to Pope: Tackle the Scandal."

Apologia means self-defense (over against an accusations or sukophantia); are you suggesting that the bishop is not apologizing but defending himself? 

Mainly the latter. (And I know what the word means.)

Thanks for writing and also for letting us know.  How to make that message heard by the pope?

Thanks for writing and also for letting us know, Sister Maureen Paul.  How to make that message heard by the pope?

Outstanding again, Grant. The comparison of Nienstedt's self-delusions/ rationalizations/ willful blindness/ conscious ignorance/ flagrant indifference/ whatever/ .... to the facts in hand at the time is striking for the dishonest spin so typical of bishops.

I believe Grant's analysis may be applied to about any bishop involved in abuse cases and the modus operandi would be essentially the same. I am reminded of the justice department official who told me the same patterns of deception and denial prevailed from diocese to diocese across the nation; the similarities were constant.

Tom Doyle, Richard Sipe and the Catholic Whistleblowers (mostly clergy and religious) have been on the case for decades, and still complicit bishops escape meaningful consequences for their conduct. This is more than tiresome.

Does Francis have some strategy or is it the same old, same old ad nauseam?


SNAP think the solution consists essentially in mandatory reporting and sending bishops to jail. They gloated over the 50 year sentence handed down to a sick priest who photographed little girls lewdly. They are a sort of revolutionary tribunal. It would be interesting to say how they would act in practice if they were appointed bishops themselves. There was one case where they were unable to follow their own black and white prescription of handing over all documents irrespective of considerations of confidentiality etc.  SNAP have failed to persuade Catholics of the wisdom of their tactics.

Nice image - acting as a *revolutionary tribunal* - guessing you are thinking the French 1789 revolution; the directory, the committee on public safety.  Only it isn't 1789 anymore except that the Vatican behaves just like the monarchy of Louis XVI and thus you see the results.

JOL- you continue your monologue.....50 yr.sentence; sick priest (unfortunately, both society & church don't know or refuse to help abuser priests (Finn did nothing constructive to help this guy) and, yes, some of this sentence was an attempt to get back at Finn.

Again, how about his victims - 50 years; no, a lifetime.  You, like too many bishops, never address the victims?

SNAP case in St Louis - your facts about the case are inaccurate.



A 50 year sentence motivated by "an attempt to get back at Finn" -- is this what American Justice has come to?

His victims are serving a life sentence? Not exaggerating just a leetle in the name of higher revolutionary justice? I know at least one woman who was molested by a relative in a manner more forthright than in the 50-years sentence -- by no means does she claim to be under a life-sentence. That is just a formula for hystericizing children. It is from the SNAP playbook. Any child who has been exposed to a voyeur or flasher is a victim for life, a Survivor, according to SNAP -- nay, any adolescent, and even any adult! Wake up and smell the madness!

"borderline illegal" repeated with holy horror by Angela above is a tricky entrapment term -- it means behavior that is not obviously illegal, but woe betide you if you attempt it, because some lawyer maybe able to get you. 

This is also a dream category for censors. As a university teacher of literature I am increasingly aware that there is a whole array of literary classics that one simply cannot teach, because students -- who are the customers -- may feel uncomfortable. The "borderline illegal" reasoning also means that one could actually be prosecuted for teaching a literary classic that could be interpreted as encouraging illegal sexual activity or interest. American Puritans could easily unleash a new wave of book banning and book burning. All of the following authors have stories or poems about under-age sex that could be borderline illegal: Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Henry James, Gide, Mann, Joyce, Nabokov, Tournier, Auden, Tanizaki, Kawabata. I suppose the US has already banned borderline illegal popular films such as Channel 4's "Clapham Junction" or the Japanese series of 5 films called Tagawa Kun (or some such name) or Francois Ozon's recent films. 

You may say that this would be a cultural loss, but surely that is worth it, since any child exposed to such material would be given a life-sentence of trauma! 

And of course to protect our sensitive young people from literature disturbing to their political correctness and American nombrilism we cannot teach the Greek classics at all.

Correction, the Japanese series is called "Takumi kun"; it is ony the tip of a huge iceberg:



Of course Americans, in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" are not free to watch this stuff -- they might be jailed for years for watching borderline illegal child pornography...

You can learn lots of Japanese from the subtitles, and you can also learn about the mental fodder of Japanese girls:

I went to the movie "Another Country" in Tokyo when it came out and was surprised to find myself the only male in the packed theater! Oops, Julian Mitchell and Alan Bennett must be added to the list of borderline illegals.

For "Clapham Junction" see here: It takes a potshot at SNAP-type hysteria. 

My thought exactly, Abe. Fr. O'Leary: I will no longer play host to your offensive minimizing of sexual abuse. I schooled you on this case the last time you proffered your ignorant musings about it. When a mandated reporter becomes aware of someone who may possess child pornography, he is required by law to report it. That's what "borderline illegal" means: maybe illegal. Whether such images are actually illegal is a matter for the courts to decide. I have explained this to you already. You are apparently ineducable on this issue. Or your ignorance is willful. Tough to say. 

JOL - although you will discount Tom Doyle:,%20The%20Bishops%20and%20Ecclesiology%203-14-12[1].pdf

To your oft repeated literary list, here are some quotes from this article about victims and about abusers (those you see as victims being pillored by the US legal system):



"The stated goals of the church are holy, dedicated to truth and service. Claims that clerical culture rewards untruth appears counter intuitive. Operationally the culture’s shared values and practices function to preserve itself regardless of the means used to retain control and image. The clergy sexual abuse crisis has underscored the American bishops’ maneuvers, fair or foul, to avoid scandal, maintain secrecy, and preserve financial assets. Those are the conclusions of Grand Jury Reports (Suffolk Co, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Kansas City, etc.) and A Report on the Crisis of the Catholic Church in the United States issued by the bishops’ independent review board and chaired by Keating/Burke. (February 27, 2004)"

In terms of clerical abusers (that you naively see as *victims*):

"Clerical culture is psycopathogenic. That means that the elements that constitute the operation of the celibate culture favor, select, produce, and promote men who tend to be what were formerly termed sociopaths. Nothing has exposed this core of the culture more clearly than the abuse of minors and the involvement of the most exalted members of the hierarchy who cover up for crimes"   

'The dichotomy between the Church’s stated goals and values and its operational methods and practices produces and encourages clerical hypocrisy. Sociopaths (psychopaths) are not men who fail to know right from wrong; they are men who know what is right, but don’t care (Cima, Tonnaer & Hauser, 2010).[20] The advertised altruistic agenda of clerical life makes it an exquisite cover for sociopaths and men vulnerable to narcissism. Work with clerical abusers reveals a profusion of  “altruism in the service of narcissism.” Every clinician who has treated large numbers of priest abusers gives witness to the conclusion that narcissism is a significant personality component of priest predators. 

More broadly, clerical culture produces in many men an acquired situational narcissism, characterized by a sense of entitlement, superiority, lack of empathy, impaired moral judgment and self-centeredness. Identification with and incorporation into a powerful and godly institution can confer a sense of grandiosity and moral justification for one’s personal behavior. These qualities favor a man’s promotion within the clerical system.'

JOL - as a cleric, you might want to meditate on these insights.  (especially your on-going and continual meme about those poor, clerical, misguided, *sick*,  clerical abusers who everyone is either taking advantage of or are blaming)

Finally, you might want to review and learn from this literary critic:

 "Literary critic, Lionel Trilling (1965) talks about the power of forces that change culture. Somewhere in the mind “there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological urgency, and biological necessity, and biological reason, that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge culture and resist and revise it.” There is hope."





So, Grant, would you madatorily report someone who downloaded "Clapham Junction" or the Japaneses "boys love" movies onto his or her computer, and if not, why not? Bill de Haas, your rant merely shows your inability to answer any of my questions!

I see no need to refute the over-heated article by Sipe, who cannot even spell "Cloyne" in "Cloyne Report" and who is far indeed from seeing how tendentious that report was, since it has no relationship to the point I was making.

I had a wager that Bill would use the word "artsy fartsy" but he confined hiimself to "oft-repeated literary list" (not noticing the two quite new cinematic items, which he no doubt did not even bother to watch). Literature has a lot to do with life, and you close off this avenue of insight at your peril. Richard Sipe, in his more considered books, makes good use of literary sources. Censorship is already at work in Bill's dismissive gesture, not to mention Grant's habitual scolding and "schooling".

I take heart that Fr O'Leary can only state his opinion, and that he has no power over the situation of clergy abuse or cover-up. It has happened all around him, and for decades, and he doesn't get it. The very worst of conservativism in action. He made up his mind long ago, and discernment--let alone facts--aren't even in the picture. Sad.

I am not so worried about the pope. The Congregation of Bishops will simply have to come along. A lot of good pastors are walking with survivors and parents. They will eventually join others making a difference. It's inevitable.


I would like readers to note the gravity of Mr McFaul's claim that anyone who downloads "Clapham Junction", a respected product of British television, should be mandatorily reported to the police. There are thousands of people like him itching to report imaginary "offenders". Where does it stop? Why not report to the cops anyone who has a copy of Gide or Joyce? 

I'm no admirer of the US bishops, but it's unfair and recklessly misinformed to paint "a controlled manner" while in contact with the police and prosecutor's office as suspicious. According to the US Dept. of Justice, American prosecutor's have, as of 2011, a head-spinning 93% conviction rate, up 20 percentage points from just a few decades ago. Tread carefully or you'll be railroaded. Except in bizarro Florida, which has a 59% conviction rate. Almost a coin toss!

93% conviction? This sounds lkie Japan, where it is regarded as symptomatic of huge miscarriages of justice.


Interesting to see that Todd Flowerday corrected Joe McFaul's hysterical language on a previous thread on this topic;

Please everyone, this blog should not devolve into, should not be devoted to untangling Joseph O'Leary's twisted understandings of the realities of child sexual abuse and exploitation of children by Catholic priests and bishops.  Grant Gallicho is right: this is a clinical case of willful ignorance.

John Nienstedt is prima facie evidence of the corrupt, and corrupting, state of the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy.  Nienstedt is yet only the most recent example that the Catholic hierarchy and the clerical culture that undergrids it is dangerously alienated from and hopelessly irrelevant to lives of millions upon millions of Catholics and Christians around the world.

The only intelligent response from adult Catholics is to conclude that the Catholic priesthood must be completely and thoroughly reformed and renewed from parish to pope.  The only cadre within the Catholic community that has the competency, capacity and the duty to enact these necessary reforms are the PEOPLE.  

Face it, the hierarchy is NOT up to this task:  If the last forty years have taught us anything it is that the Catholic hierarchy is a spent force.

Despite all his pastoral brilliance that has thrilled and amazed the world since his election, Papa Francesco has already telegraphed to the world the political limits to which he is able to go, especially with the role of women in priestly ministry.  How could Francesco now turn his back so easily on the very reactionary hierarchy that elected him pope when the ordination of women is considered subversive by the hierarchs.

[Before all the clerical trolls out there are aroused from their wounded stupor:  I stipulate that ordaining women will not in itself make children safe from the sexual predation of priests.  But, it would go a long way to driving a stake through the heart of the political hegemony over the church and the clerical culture of the all-male feudal, narcissistic hierarchy - the real heart of darkness in this rolling Greek tragedy .]  

I say the PEOPLE must take the lead in the reforms and renewal of the priesthood admitting that it is a huge mountain to climb.  After centuries of being kept in the state of spiritual serfs will not be easy to overcome, maybe even impossible.  Many extra-canonical and extra-traditional tools will have to be experimented with over a long period of time.  It will take extraordinary revolutionary discipline on the part of the PEOPLE.

My sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, would consider this a "great faith moment."  I only know that this is where we must begin.  I am convinced that these are only the first steps in a long journey of a thousand miles - the long road from slavery to freedom.


When all is said and done, it boils down to this:

Morality is doing what is right, no matter what you are told.  Micromanaged "religion" is doing what you are told, no matter what is right.


If anything is micromanaged religion, Roman Catholicism is it in spades.



Jim Jenkins, "prima facie" is a weasel word which tells the reader your accusations are hypothetical. Your sort of overheated rhetoric is precisely why it has now become impossible to believe that anyone accused of anything to do with sexual misconduct with minors can be sure of a fair trial or fair sentencing. Since my postings on this thread did not refer to priests and bishops at all, but to the wider issue of society's attitude to adolescent sexuality, I suggest that you have not read them, but are giving a knee-jerk reaction, which again is the sort of thing that undermines the slow deliberation of justice and equity.

Correction, my  first posting on SNAP as a revolutionary tribunal did concern clerical sex abuse; but my main point was that SNAP is fueling dangerous fire that could engulf American society, something like the Prohibitionists of sainted memory or the League of Decency or the War on Drugs, except potentially much worse, leading to murder of suspected or convicted pedophiles for example.

It wasn't a League. It was a Legion. And regardless of Cardinal Spellman's fulminations, I don't recall anyone being murdered for going to see "Baby Doll." Of course, there may have been some suicides.

JOL - you allege that folks are using *overheated rhetoric*.....and then you post the above....SNAP fuelng dangerous fire engulfing society; prohibitionists;legion of decency/war on drugs...much worse

Really, - now who is using *overheated rhetoric*?    How sad....but, am sure you will now double down.


John Prior, this is about the third time you have misread my postings. I said that the Legion of Decency did NOT cause murder so that in this sense the pedophile hysteria could be more dangerous in that it HAS caused murders. Prohibition did cause murders but not committed by the proprohibitionists.

Bill de Haas, that is overheated in your eyes because you sanctify SNAP and ignore completely the dangers of pedophile hysteria.

Forgive me, Joseph S. O Leary, for misreading your postings. I don't know, it may be some last, unexpunged trace of charitableness or decency in my mind that refuses to accept what I keep reading in them. I'll try to do better.

John Prior, you might spare yourself the sarcasm and try to attempt rational dialogue.

Not that there's much hope of that from Commonweal...

Joseph O Leary,

  • "revolutionary tribunal" 
  • "in the name of higher revolutionary justice"
  • "a formula for hystericizing children"
  • "one could actually be prosecuted for teaching a literary classic..."
  • "we cannot teach the Greek classics at all."
  •  "dangerous fire that could engulf American society"
  • "pedophile hysteria"

That's a sampling from just two day of your posts on just one article. Please don't lecture me about rational dialogue while you're pumping out such hyperbolical hogwash. It's only effect (and merit) is that it reduces your credibility.

Thanks,'s the JOL disconnect (or is it clericalism run amok?).  Today's Dallas Morning News has 7 stories of men getting jail terms for rape or sexual assault (rape may have not happened).  Guessing that most of these guys probably have some type of mental illness or condition that has helped create the crimes.  Yet, don't hear JOL ad vocating for these guys?  Are clerics special - such that criminal law and penalties can not apply to them?

In depth studies of the prison population in the US indicates that roughly 40% of all inmates suffer from some type of mental condition - so, do we just let them go; give them *token* sentences; assign to prison mental health facilities (btw - we don't have near enough).

Yet, somehow JOL sees a *witchhunt* and *conspiracy* against all abusing clerics - really?  Does the law suggest that because they are clerics they should be treated differently?

Yesterday, met with a friend (priest for almost 35 years).  We have known each other since 1st year in high school.  We discussed an infamous case in his religious order - provincial was told about an abuse incident; he directed the priest to drive to the next town; spend the nite in a hotel, and then gave him money to fly across the country to St. Luke's Institute.  Ten years later, this provincial was serving the bishop of Gallup, NM (infamous for the number of abusers since the Regina Cleri treatment center was nearby) and helped write the diocesan abuse policy - he also consulted and voted on re-assigning and moving credibly acused clerics.   This is long after 2002, Boston, LA, etc. and yet, he appears to have learned nothing. (sees himself as an expert in behaviors because he has a certification as a marriage and family counselor).

My priest friend was totally unable to see that this guy was at best misguided.....he could only put himself in the shoes of the guy as provincial in the early 1990s and said - well, he probably was afraid that this cleric's life was in danger....someone might have come after him......we talked for another 20 minutes on this topic and the victims were never mentioned or brought up?  This friend is a near genius, excellent management skills, good pastoral insights; passion for the poor, etc.  And yet, he is incapable of seeing this situation as criminal; breaking basic laws; no compuction for the victims (unless it is the abusing cleric); and makes excuses at every turn.  JOL is merely an extreme of this experience.   Can only conclude that clericalism is so deeply ingrained that there is no ability to feel for victims; to make excuses with the illusion of safety; to think that it is all past us; to ignore, deny, excuse and to treat their brother priests as being the victims, put upon unfairly; or mouthing the usual - the bishops had the power and were unaccountable (and did you ever say so?  did you ever act on that insight?)

We also talked about some common priest friends who are convicted abusers now in this religious community - my friend trusts that they are on *safety plans* (lingo in the community for these guys and monitoring/supervision).  Yet, one guy was recently moved to the retirement center - he is one of the younger members of the community....why?  he doesn't know; the province only releases and says that he is on a safety plan; no explanation; no announcement that he was moved/reassigned?  In another case (also at this same retirement house), there is an accused/alleged abusing cleric (rumor has it that family members have made the allegations and the lawsuit is in the millions).  This cleric has been isolated for the last ten years - first, living at a sister's motherhouse with one other cleric;  then, quickly moved to the community retirement house when that prior diocese got a new bishop.  There have been and are no announcements; no explanations; my friend trusts that he is on a safety plan (yet, know that this alleged abuser has his own car; can drive and travel freely).  And my friend would rather remain in his denial; ignorance; etc. then be responsible and accountable?  Help me understand?

John Prior, hyperbolic only insofar as people here do not take their logic to its conclusion. One did -- he said he would see someone who downloaded the Channel 4 product "Clapham Junction" as doing something "borderline illegal" and so as needing to be reported mandatorily. Everyone else refrained from answering my questions. Since many literary classics could equally be seen as "borderline illegal" I do not see what logic restrains the zealots from reporting a prof who would teach, for example, The Immoralist. I suggest that most profs value their comfort too much to teach such a dicy text, which in itself is a triumph of censorship.


Hystericizing of children is a genuine problem, ask any psychiatrist.


Bill de Haas, you could take lessons from Sinn Fein in whataboutery. I do not advocate for any victims of possible injustice except clerical ones, you allege -- utterly, utterly falsely!  As I said several times, NO ONE accused of anythng connected with minors can be sure of a fair trial. Indeed, I took notice of the plight of pedophiles back in the 1970s, when I became a gay lib advocate, and that was long before I had any awareness of the existence of clerical cases.




By the way "a witch hunt against all abusing clerics" is not what I see. There are indeed clerical abusers who should be brought to justice, but the witch hunt mentality is an obstacle to justice. It is one of the reasons that bishops are so loth to report clergy to the cops. Parnell's words, "Do not throw me to the wolves", echo in their mind.

I am "an extreme of this experience" you allege -- which is just the sort of inaccurate smear that you and so many here indulge in. In doing so you create a climate that is utterly prejudicial to justice. It is this blustering self-righteous sloppiness that has made American Justice useless to deal with sexual abuse of minors. 

Grant says I am not an expert on America -- no doubt -- who is? -- but America exports its expertise about the rest of the world to all of us. The US is felt and perceived as a generator of brutality, violence, prejudice, and a sneering sense of superiority worldwide.

J. O'Leary,

I hesitate to offer advice to someone who is clearly well-content with his arguments. But if your purpose is to persuade others rather than merely to drown them in the heavy rain of your postings, you might want to cut back a little on sweeping generalizations and wave-of-the-hand appeals to expert opinion. You say in support of one assertion, "ask any psychiatrist," as if you have polled them and found them, for the first time ever, in universal agreement.

And there is this:

It is this blustering self-righteous sloppiness that has made American Justice useless to deal with sexual abuse of minors. 

And what was that sloppiness? Saying that you are extreme in your views on sexual abuse of minors. Yes, that accurate and unremarkable opinion has made American justice useless, and there is no fair and legitimate way of dealing with the matter, so we must presumably ignore it. Nicely argued.

As for your extraordinary statement that "we cannot teach the Greek classics at all," I hope it will comfort you to learn that the Iliad and Philoctetes and, yes, even the Symposium are still unsuppressed. They and the other endangered literary classics can still be freely taught at universities, if there is sufficient interest. University students are generally adults, whom the law allows to look after themselves.

NO ONE accused of anythng connected with minors can be sure of a fair trial.

Granted, but only because no one accused of anything at all can be sure of a fair trial. The innocent are sometimes incarcerated, and the guilty go free. Yet I strongly suspect that those accused of crimes against minors have more resources in money and expertise available to them than do defendants in ordinary street and drug crimes. And if they are clergy, way more resources.

Most people think that preying on children is despicable, and those that do it elicit very little sympathy. But a "witch hunt"? Hardly. With intimidated children and look-the-other-way adults and statutes of limitation, sexual predators have had it easier than many other offenders. Unless you believe that they are all innocent, you might occasionally express some concern for their victims, if only to keep readers of your comments from turning away in horror.

John Power, I do not "express some concern for their victims" as some sort of rhetorical ploy, as you advise. I take it for granted that all decent people are horrified at the sexual abuse of children.


My point, which you partly concede, is that the potent witch hunt rhetoric put forward so irresponsibly by so many has made this are one in which the system of justice has become radically untrustworthy. There are other areas as well, for instance when the defendant is black, but this does not take away from my point.

The Symposium and the Iliad are still taught, to be sure, but some students might be "uncomfortable" with the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus or with the louche moments in the Symposium. As to the Phaedrus and the Charmides, could you explain why someone who denounced them as "borderline illegal" would be wrong, by your logic? 

Greek poetry is largely about "lovers of pretty boys" -- in short, it is "borderline illegal" and no professor who dares to teach it can consider himself or herself immune from possible persecution. See

It is pretty hard to take American psychiatrists seriously when they rewrite their opinions in response to pressure from right wing organizations:

John Prior, you say "university students are generlally adults, whom the law allows to look after themselves" -- but in the case of "borderline illegal" matter, the law does not consider the age of the person to whom it is shown. One McFaul, here, said that "Clapham Junction", viewed late at night on Channel 4, by adults, should be treated as borderline illegal and as a topic for mandatory reporting of the said adults. Imagine a US professor showing it to his or her class -- it would only take one student to have him or her investigated by the police. The same is true of someone who teaches Andre Gide's L'immoraliste, for example. Can you clarify why you think it would be alright to teach Theognis and Gide?

I wonder will John Prior answer my question, or just indulge in more ad hominem name calling such as "extremist"! There is nothing extreme about my views on any of this, nor are they written in stone. I am quite open to rational argument.

So the answer, J. O'Leary, is more rain. I thought it would be.

Achilles and Patroclus? I was going to ask which book of the Iliad has the lurid homoerotic scenes that might make some students "uncomfortable," but then I saw this perfect piece of fatuity:

Greek poetry is largely about "lovers of pretty boys" -- in short, it is "borderline illegal" and no professor who dares to teach it can consider himself or herself immune from possible persecution.

And that is enough for me. Bye.

Fatuity? No, fact -- you did not read the link and you did not answer my question. Would you ban Greek lyric because of its pervasive pederastic content, and if not why not?

The Iliad? In antiquity the pederastic relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was intensively discussed; no professor could avoid dealing with it, because the naughty students would have found the details on Wikipedia. One scene concerns Achilles, Patroclus and a woman sleeping together, and the issue of whether Achilles was in the middle comes up. Patroclus was the eroumenos, Achilles a minor.

Achilles was 15 when he began fighting in the Trojan war. The literature on their relationship is pretty spicy.

It seems to me you are logically bound to consider it borderline illegal and to denounce to the cops any professor who purveys such filth to pure American youth!

Or do you consider the Greek lyrics I quoted harmless and innocent? 

And what about Gide? Surely you do not think his book is harmless?

This post was about, among other things, a priest possessing possibly illegal pornographic images. Of real people. Not literary figures. 

At last an answer from Grant: borderline illegal concerns only real images of real people not literary images of fictional people.

But this distinction does not work at all.

First, it does not cover the film industry in which the actors seem to be minors; I refer again to "Clapham Junction" which has a scene of a 14 year old buggering a man and later a scene of full frontal nudity of the boy. I refer again to Tagami-kun, which has many scenes of boys in bed (one of a boy being molested by his brother).

Second, novels such as The Immoralist did concern real people, the very young North African boys that Gide abused; the same boys recur in Gide's diaries.

Third, pornography is not usually defined as concerning only real images of real people. Maybe US law has some such restriction of the meaning of pornography; on this I would like some clarification.

Fourth, apart from formal censorship there is a much wider informal censorship which is definitely affecting what can be taught even at university level. This has always been the case to some extent, but the current anxiety about children means that a vast tract of literature touching thereon has become unteachable, at the very moment when that literature has so much to teach us.

List away, Fr. O'Leary: You remain off

topic. Engage the post or get lost.

Oops, Takumi-kun, not Tagami-kun.


I don't myself believe that any of the material quoted is pornographic. But I do not see what it to prevent a zealot from seeing it as borderline illegal, or what is to prevent owners or teachers of such material being molested by the zealots. In my childhood we had terrific censorship and possibly this also created the silence and shame that have come to light in the examination of magdalene laundries and child abuse. Be careful, Grant, of subscribing to zealotry.

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