dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

He said, he said.

In sworn testimony released yesterday, Fr. Kevin McDonough, former vicar general and abuse-prevention czar of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis disputed Archbishop John Nienstedt's claim that McDonough had advised him not to keep written records of conversations about accused priests because they might be discovered in litigation. Having served three archbishops, two as vicar general for nearly twenty years and Nienstedt as "delegate for safe environment," few know more about how the Twin Cities diocese handled clergy accused of sexual misconduct. (More from MPR here, full video here.)

During the six-and-a-half-hour interview--which ended abruptly after lawyers disagreed about the allotted time--McDonough acknowledged what most observers of the crisis already knew: for many years, archdiocesan practice was not to routinely laicize abusers. Nor did it, as a matter of policy, report all accusations to the police. But McDonough also provided his version of the events surrounding several controversial cases, including that of Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, now jailed for molesting children, and that of Fr. John Shelley, whose computer was found to contain "borderline illegal" pornographic images (a county attorney did not press charges).

The release of McDonough's deposition comes two days after Nienstedt's was made public. Their court-ordered testimony was taken in connection with a lawsuit by a plaintiff who claims he was abused by a priest in the 1970s. The suit alleges that the archdiocese, along with the Diocese of Winona, created a public nuisance by hiding information about accused priests.

McDonough's deposition differs markedly from Nienstedt's, not only because it was about 50 percent longer (a judge ordered the archbishop to be deposed for four hours), but also because of the kinds of answers the former vicar general gave attorney Jeff Anderson. He spoke at much greater length--often to Anderson's chagrin--offered digressions, corrected the premises and terms of questions, showed a sense of humor, and even took a moment to compliment Anderson's choice of necktie.

But McDonough's testimony differs from Nienstedt's in another crucial respect: it undermines the archbishop's claim that McDonough advocated against keeping written records of conversations about accused clerics. In fact, he denied telling anyone not to document matters related to sexual abuse. Anderson asked whether the archbishop's recollection was correct, and McDonough said no. "First of all," McDonough explained, "[Nienstedt] and I would never have been in a position for much casual conversation. Archbishop Nienstedt managed largely by memo." Rather, he continued, "my tendency [when producing records] was to mentally invite Jeff Anderson into the office, presuming that I would be held accountable in the years ahead for my activity.... And you, by the way--I offer you as a compliment--were part of the imagination I had in that regard."

"Well, thank you for the compliment," Anderson replied.

That's not to say that McDonough favored all manner of record keeping. For example, his "general practice was not to compile lists" of accused priests. So how did McDonough come up with the names of fifteen credibly accused priests, which he told local media about in 1998? "My own memory from accessing the files." The archdiocese recently released a list of credibly accused priests, which it later had to update after Minnesota Public Radio found it rather incomplete. Lists, according to McDonough, "are notoriously difficult to make accurate, and they imply clarity of information where clarity of information is nonexistent." He told Anderson that he regrets that he didn't believe Fr. Jerome Kern--accused of molesting ten minors--had abused children, "but I don't think Jerome Kern's name would have shown up on a list had we made a list."

If he had made a list, it might have ended up in the archdiocese's priest personnel files. Anderson tried to get some clarity about how those files are handled, where they're located, and who has access to them. But he kept asking in the present tense: "[The files] are maintained by whom?" for example. Every time that happened, McDonough took the opportunity to remind Anderson that he hasn't worked in the chancery since 2008, so he doesn't really know how things are handled today. Following a long exchange over that question, McDonough explained that there are two sets of files: one called "the vault," which is in the chancery and accessible to "pretty much all the staff." Then there are the "disciplinary" or "restricted" files, kept under lock and key. But, he continued, "'restricted' is less a matter of who can see them and simply to have access to them one would have to go through another person, so one would not access them all by him- or herself. That's the reason. The restriction's not so much about who, it's simply about how, in my time. That's a nice tie, by the way."

The county attorney has ten active cases involving accused Twin Cities priests. McDonough's extensive knowledge of archdiocesan abuse policy--he quibbles with that term in the deposition because it sounds too much like "law," preferring "practice," but that objection amounts to a distinction without difference--makes him an obvious candidate for a police interview. But he's never talked to St. Paul Police. Anderson asked him about that, and McDonough claimed that the only contact he's received from the police was a letter two cops left for him while he was saying Mass back in December. He told Anderson that he turned it over to his lawyer, but then his lawyer interrupted--"Don't tell him what you told me."

What did the letter say? "I don't recall the content of the letter," McDonough said. Which is difficult to do when you can't even remember reading it, as McDonough also claimed. He did recall maybe informing the archdiocesan civil attorney, but couldn't summon what the two may have spoken about, if they spoke. Which he doesn't recall. Anderson wanted to know whether the police have been in touch since December. "There's been no further contact from St. Paul [Police]," McDonough answered.

Not according to a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department. "In addition to the letter that is discussed in the deposition," Howie Padilla told me, "we have had at least two contacts with Fr. Kevin McDonough’s attorney. In the last of those contacts, we were told that Fr. McDonough was declining to meet with us." McDonough's lawyer didn't interrupt the deposition to offer that information. "If his position has changed," Padilla continued, "and he is now consenting to meet with our investigators, that would undoubtedly be welcome news."

McDonough also refused to cooperate with the task force established by Nienstedt to "investigate," as Anderson put it, archdiocesan abuse procedures following damning media reports on Frs. Wehmeyer and Shelley (more on that here). "I don't believe it was an...investigation, but rather an inventory of their practices," McDonough explained. He repeated that objection a few more times. "Well, let's call it an audit then. Do you want to call it an audit?" Anderson asked. "I call it a study," McDonough clarified. But whether study or audit or investigation, he would have no part of it. "From the beginning, I felt that there was a media frenzy about all this, some of it stirred up by inaccurate statements from yourself, [Mr. Anderson]." The documentation was enough, he said. And besides, the archbishop didn't order him to participate.

"What were you afraid of?" Anderson asked.

"I'm not afraid of much," McDonough answered.

Days before Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer was arrested, McDonough, then "delegate for safe environments," and Deacon John Vomastek drove to his parish and informed him that he was being removed from ministry because he had been accused of abusing children, and would have to leave the premises. McDonough said that he offered to take Wehmeyer to the police station to make a statement, but apparently he refused. He and Vomastek obtained Wehmeyer's computer and firearm and left with them.

Some critics have claimed their intervention amounted to interfering with a police investigation, the idea being that McDonough took the computer in order to make it impossible for the police to search it. But McDonough told Anderson that he and Vomastek actually had permission from the police to visit Wehmeyer--permission the deacon had obtained by phone on the drive over. And McDonough explained that he took the computer because he wanted to preserve the chain of evidence. In fact, McDonough claimed, he strenuously resisted the idea of making contact with Wehmeyer before the police knew about it. But at a meeting he was assured by archdiocesan colleagues--former canonical chancellor Jennifer Haselberger, then-vicar general Peter Laird, and civil chancellor Andrew Eisenzimmer--"that the police had been notified and we could proceed." That wasn't enough for McDonough, so he had Vomastek, himself a retired St. Paul cop, make sure the police were informed about Wehmeyer. Anderson didn't ask why at that point McDonough didn't call the police himself.

McDonough said that he was told about Wehmeyer on Tuesday, which would have been June 19, 2012, and that he served him a canonical decree restricting his ministry the following day (McDonough mistakenly refers to it as a decree removing him as pastor). "Have the police been notified?" McDonough said he asked diocesan attorney Eisenzimmer. "He said, 'Yes, they have.'"

That undercuts Nienstedt's testimony. Under oath, he said that news of the Wehmeyer accusation "didn't come to us officially until June 22." If that was the case, Anderson asked, then why did the canonical decree opening an investigation read, "On June 18, 2012, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis received a complaint that Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer...supplied alcohol and sexually explicit images to a minor, and fondled or attempted to fondle the minor's genitals"? Nienstedt replied that Haselberger--who resigned last year in protest of the archdiocese's handling of accused priests--had drafted the memo, but that she was mistaken about the date the archdiocese received the report. Yet "Given on June 20" appears on the decree--above Nienstedt's signature.

The timing of these events matters because civil authorities are investigating whether archdiocesan personnel were in violation of mandatory reporting law. State law requires certain people to notify the authorities "immediately"--within twenty-four hours--after they receive information that leads them to suspect child abuse. There is an e-mail record that shows Vomastek contacted the police on June 20. So county prosecutors declined to charge the archdiocese or its staff with failing to report suspected child abuse, but that was before they knew about the decree Nienstedt signed. The case has since been reopened. And Haselberger confirmed to me that the St. Paul Police Department is in possession of a June 19 e-mail exchange between Eisenzimmer and her in which they discussed drafting the Wehmeyer decree.

Before Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer was jailed for molesting children and possessing child pornography, he had acted out sexually with adults in ways that worried his superiors so much that he was sent away for counseling. McDonough knew that he had a history of sexual misconduct with adults, but when Wehmeyer was up for promotion to pastor McDonough opposed the idea of informing parish staff of his past. That would be the parish where he abused the sons of an employee.

Wehmeyer had propositioned two young men, possibly aged nineteen or twenty, at a bookstore. A friend of the men took their statements and gave them to McDonough, who promised to deal with it. Later, when he learned that his fifteen-year-old son had gone on a youth-group outing with Wehmeyer, he let McDonough have a piece of his mind. Wasn't this a warning sign, Anderson asked? Not that Wehmeyer was a threat to children, McDonough said. He was a man struggling with homosexual attraction. McDonough also dismissed that man's concerns as vaguely homophobic. "Patrick shared with a lot of people in the Catholic Church concerns about homosexuality." He "did not like the idea of there being gay men in the priesthood." 

Later, when a police officer notified McDonough that he'd seen Wehmeyer loitering at popular gay cruising spot, he chalked that up to sexual-identity struggles too. Did that make him reconsider his opinion about informing parish staff about Wehmeyer's troubled past? No. What about Wehmeyer's diagnosis as a sex addict? McDonough didn't recall reading the report from the clinic where Wehmeyer received counseling. What about the DUI arrest? News to McDonough. The restriction on Wehmeyer's ministering to youth? "I don't recall the restriction."

"I never believed that Curtis Wehmeyer was a danger to kids," McDonough testified. "I'm sorry I didn't believe that, I wish I'd believed it, I wish I could have acted on that. I did not believe it." That "remained my conviction until I learned differently, sadly, terribly tragically."

But couldn't that conviction have been altered if he'd looked at Wehmeyer's file? "You didn't bother to go back and look at what was reflected in the file about his history?" Anderson asked.

"I think what I testified is that I don't recall whether I did or not," McDonough replied.

About the Author

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

Topics: 
47 comments
Close

47 comments

Commenting Guidelines

  • All

I have read through the 300 p;us pages of the deposition and am amazed at how in some instances McDonough has a dead certain memory but in so many others he simply cannot recall. 

I can't help but feel somewhat sorry for the man at this point.  He resisted what was going on to some extent, but not enough.  (Does Shakespeare have any characters like him -- a man somewhere between courageous and gutless?)

This is LEADERSHIP in the USA Roman Catholic Church ?  For his part, McDonough gives new meaning to the word "SMUG" and in his instance, Nienstedt is the eptiome of "BEWILDERMENT."

And thousands of parishioner's donations and dollars were spent on legal counsel for these two superstars...............obviously, money can't buy the TRUTH.

 

Hmmm, 

"Does Shakespeare have any characters like him -- a man somewhere between courageous and gutless?"

I've always believed that Macbeth displays this perfectly.  I wonder if McDonough took any counsel from 3 witches?

Well, somebody is lying..!!!

Fr Kevin McDonough's total callous disregard for protecting vulnerable children and adults in the St Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese is appalling.

It is extremely sad that these church officials are getting away with these crimes of enabling and empowering child predator priests to sexually abuse innocent children. And to think that if McDonough would just picked up the phone and dial 911 as soon as he had suspicions or knew about a child predator, so many children would have been spared the life long harm of being sexually abused.

It is way past time for law enforcement to take some serious action to hold these church officials accountable for their crimes of cover up.

Sadly the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called "zero tolerance" policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don't have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their power and the institution rather than protecting innocent children.

Once again we urge outside law enforcement to get involved to stop these crimes against humanity.
Judy Jones, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

 

What a self-satisfied smugness McDonough exhibits!

(He) didn't recall reading the report from the clinic where Wehmeyer received counseling. What about the DUI arrest? News to McDonough.What about restrictions on ministering to youth? "I don't recall the restriction."

"I think what I testified is that I don't recall whether I did or not,"

"He did recall maybe informing the archdiocesan civil attorney, but couldn't summon what the two may have spoken about, if they spoke. Which he doesn't recall." 

"I'm not afraid of much," McDonough answered. (Perish the thought!)

I believe McDonough was having fun twisting himself this way and that; as of course the smartest man in the room, and everyone ought appreciate that fact. What a delightful opportunity to impress!

I hope someone can knock that smugness right out of him somehow, with say a criminal indictment and conviction that sends him to prison. But I have scant hope he will ever meet his due with his sense of superiority. Besides, with his brother Denis as White House Chief of Staff, perhaps he is used to an aura of privilege?

That he was responsible to protect children is a chilling thought. Who would trust his child or granchild under Kevin McDonough's disinterested leadership? Examine files? Read clinical reports on accused priests? Another "I can't recall" anyone?

Michelle Somerfield --

Yes, probably Macbeth.  At least Lady Macbeth seemed to think he was being cowardly.    

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

As I read and reread the article, I am left with an overwhelming sadness.  Perhaps I do not know the entire situation surrounding this matter, nor am I involved with the day to day actions of the church, but nonetheless I am still shadowed by the words; “How Sad”.  As a teacher I have always tried to instill in my students the concepts of right and wrong. We direct children to stand up for what is right; even when standing alone  We request of them to not sit back and watch those who are weaker and less fortunate be bullied and mistreated by those in more powerful positions.  And yet, in light of this, I have now read of two cases where church authorities, in my estimation. have done just that; how sad.  When the crossing of t’s and the dotting of i’s comes at the expense of children’s welfare, how sad.  We ask of our students daily to be accountable for actions.  Is it unreasonable to ask the same of adults?  As leaders of the church there is a much higher responsibility; how sad when the sight of that responsibility is lost. 

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48. 

How sad when we lose sight of this.

Henry IV, anyone? 

In the old Star Trek episodes they were always talking about the "Prime Directive". I believe that at a fundamental level these men misunderstood what their Prime Directive was. They apparently believed that it was to protect the institutional church at all cost. They made the same calculation as Caiphas did in John's gospel, that it was better for one to suffer than the many.  Add to this a culture in which people were squeamish talking about anything to do with sex, and were willing to "blame the victim". Also add in a clerical culture in which the priests were "sons" to the bishop and brothers to each other (not bad in itself unless you leave other people outside the family circle), and you have the recipe for the perfect storm.  And people in a court room having a lot of trouble with their long term memory.

 

Bishops and other church personnel have a history of not recalling, not remembering, parsing words when being deposed.  I'm not certain of many things, but when I was  managing employees at my job,I feel sure that I would have remembered an accusation of sexual abuse of a child.  If I wrote or read a report of said abuse, I would have remembered it.  If I had a conversation about an alleged abuser with a higher-up or with an attorney, I would have remembered. Are these loyal sons of the church not embarrassed to be suspected of lying? 

Good Lord. Can this priest just answer a straight question with a straight answer and tell his lawyer to take off. Pretty basic questions and I don't see what is so complicated. The right answer is, YES, if the police come here after I am very  happy to talk to them about whatever information they require that will be helpfu in their investigation. By the way that is the ONLY right answer!

In Ontario, under PHIPA, and almost every other professional code, confidentiality must give way if it is an issue of abuse of children. Every professional knows this and this is said to every client before a session.

What is the canon law or procedures around protection of information in priest's file? This needs to be reviewed and I hope the Dallas charter did this. Have no idea what the bishops have done in Canada. At any rate, this matter needs to be clarified in Rome too assuming that their rhetoric matches what they are prepared to do in practice.

As the saying goes, believe none of what people say and all of what they do!

You want to know more about Fr. Mc Donough's character and what he did in the St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic school system read the book "AmChurch Comes Out". Per the book he was active in the LGT movement being a speaker at a LGT conferencewhere he spoke about proudly promoting LGT in the Catholic school system in the Twin Cities and that AB Flynn was no problem for him "to get things by  him". I am not sure if it meant complete trust or AB Flynn wa unaware out of ignornce.

The chapter from the book seems to allude Fr. McDonough to be a big factor in the push to change the Twin Cities Catholic school education curriculus towards LGT acceptace an promoton as a "normal" lifstyle with al its sex activities inluded. Ceck the book "AmChuc Comes Out".

If asked what piece of manifest wrongdoing Bp Nienstedt or Fr McDonough can be securely accused of, I would not be able to answer, and I think this is true of most people. Could someone just point out the one single incident that is held against him or them? The media frenzy is in proportion to the murkiness of the malaise.

My first seeing Fr. McDonough name was in Chapter 6 "Brainstorming in Rochester: Pushing the Gay Agenda in Schools and Parishes" in the book Amchurch Comes Out, The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda" (2002) published by Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc.. Just went to the book and it was Bill Kummer giving the talk and not Fr. McDonough (SORRY FOR MY ERROR). Fr. McDonogh and AB Flynn were mentioned. Kummer "illustrated how he's been able to use AB Flynn as a studge for his cause", GLBT, and "he spoke how he manipulated AB Flynn and used his office to dispel parental opposition to his agenda for the schools.......One of the pivotal and controversial events Kummer described was held in November 1997, at which members of all high school boards were present, in the midst of rising parental ire at the intrusion of homosexual agenda in their schools, along with vicar general Fr. Kevin MCDonough. ....But the vicar general was there, and the vicar general, I might tell you, is generally very supportive of what we are doing in our archdiocese, but all he managed to try to get out that night was celibacy. That's all he kept talking about, was celibacy.....Kummel's was, far and away, the most explicit in detail on how gay activists employ dirty tricks an subterfuge to achieve their goals."

MY COMMENT: Giving benefit of the doubt it sounds like both AB Flynn and Fr. McDonough were used and manipulated, but being in their positions and "knowing" Catholic teaching in these areas how can they be "so out to lunch" in such an important area (school kids) plus hearing parental concerns and ire on the matter. This leads one to suspect coverups of child sex abuse resulting from their lack of vigilance fom the onset of association with such character as Mr. Bill Kummer. Where was the background check on him and his his group? Every place does background checks!!!

So who's deposition would I trust; AB Niendstedt or Fr. McDonough? Hands down it is AB Niendstedt and kudos to him for his great work in our archdioese!!

 

 

Joseph:

The manifest wrongdoing is failure to report and failure of due diligence. Failure to report is a criminal issue although here we get into legal technicalities around when the legislation is covering that has passed and if failure occurred before that, there can be no violation of the law. This is what happened in another case discussed in an earlier thread.

From a civl point of view, the wrong doing is failure of due diligence, failure to take reasonable precautions to protect minors, and, as the testimony goes, deliberately failing to document misconduct.

All of this goes to establish an entire culture of knowledgable, deliberate, attempts to provide adequate protections for minors from the diocese.

I agree with Alex that the most reasonable inference between the he said of AB Niendstedt and the he said of Fr. McDonough falls on Niendstedt's account. Mcdonough testified that Niendstedt managed by memo (a good practice as there would be documentation available). It is reasonable that Mcdonough knowing this would have had a brief, informal conversation discouraging him from this practice due to liability to concerns. That does not excuse Niendstedt but it does make a lot of Mcdonough's testimony suspect.

I thought the lawyer did a good job of asking follow up questions such as: "do you believe the only basis for restricting a priets activities if there is criminal charges", and of course Mcdonough replied in the negative.

What the lawyers are establishing is that when victims press forward with redress to the harm done, there has been so much obfuscation and deliberate cover-up occurring, that getting information to support them from the diocese is impossible and therefore courts should not trust the testimony of the dicoese and I agree with that judgement based on the patterns of conduct visible now.

Also Mcdonough comes across as a total weasel. In other testimony, he testifies that he refused to co-operate with the AB' own investigation. He cites media frenzy and misinformation spread in the media by the lawyer, to which the lawyer retorts, but this was the AB investigation not mine or the presses (my LOL). then he goes on to say that he would not characterize it as an investigation, it was a study...whatever..LOL (good lord)

See this clip of his testimony where McDonugh refuses to speak to Fr. Witt. Begin at 2:56 on discussion of the AB's "investiation"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfOUgsORb2s

"The manifest wrongdoing is failure to report and lack of due diligence"

Of course those are the allegations, But could you give a precise, clear, concrete instance of both forms of wrongdoing? Either on the part of Nienstedt or of McDonough.

Can you give one concrete illustrative incident of criminal concealment or negligence in the cases of Frs Wehmeyer or Shelley for example? Otherwise most people will only be aware of a confusing hum of unfocused allegation.

I look at the bit about Fr Witt, and I fail to see what is incriminating there. There was indeed a media frenzy, stirred up by Anderson and lots of people at NCR and Commonweal -- it is understandable he would keep out of it as much as possible.

Below is a summary of wrongdoing at a press conference by the laywer, Anderson. One of the specific, concrete, concealment of negligence is precisely what Grant posted; namely deliberately not documenting things such as sexual abouse by minors and by extension reporting as he did not do with the photos over and against the advice of the chancellor for canon affairs Jennifer Hassleberger. Once she discovered it in the secret vault at the office when they were considering promoting Shelly. She had concerns that they were in possession of child pornography and went to both Mcdonough and Niendstedt urging the to disclose to the police and not keep it in the secret files). Both Mcdonough and Niendstedt told her to put them back in the vault.  

After she copy and pasted them, he testified that he could not tell if they were adolescents or not but not turn them over. Anderson then clarifies that his role is a "mandatory reporter" and he agreed. By law, they are required to report any suspicions.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKjLUrQ-pfs#t=625

Yes, this is the Jennifer Haselberger point, already discussed ad nauseam here and elsewhere. Though the pics seen by the bishop were "borderline illegal" in that they could have been of under 18s, and though any "suspicion" must be reported, so that I suppose Anderson has got his pound of flesh here, it is not really a strikingly dramatic incident, and Anderson's extrapolations from it seem excessive. As I noted in previous discussion, borderline illegal material is two clicks away, and being in possession is three clicks away on your computer, so one might well have scruples about turning someone over to the cops for such borderline suspicious behavior -- that is, many people might well judge that though technically on the wrong side of the law the bishop's behavior could be seen as humane and understandable. If that is the best Anderson and the media frenzy have been able to come up with, this anti-Nienstedt campaign will peter out. 

JOL - do you ever get tired of *bobbing and weaving* with the evidence? 

 If that is the best Anderson and the media frenzy have been able to come up with, this anti-Nienstedt campaign will peter out.

It isn't an anit-Nienstedt campaign, it is a pro-justice campaign. It is evident that there are deep structural dysfunctions in the structure of the institutional church. Nienstedt, Pope John Paul II et al. are simply manifestations of a deeper problem. A psychiatrist brought in by the Vatican to advise on this issue suggested that the Cardinals give some reflection to what is causing this problem on a systemic and structural level. This was chronicled on the documentary discussed here awhile back.

I reviewed some of the testimony of Mcdonough and am not going to get to micro-analytical about it. It is there for all to view and come to their own conclusions.

But, it is our call, and duty, and Flannery O'Connor wrote to clean up the sloppiness, the lack of rigour in the Church....and to suffer on account of it. This was in a letter to Cecil Dawkins in The Habit of Being as I recall.

 

Clean up the lack of rigor is  a challenging call to us all. I sometimes think that the focus on bishops' bureaucratic mishandling of what must be for them a highly traumatic business is a way of avoiding looking at our own behavior and attitudes. It is almost as if people were saying, "we made the mess and now, bishop, you had better sort it out". Or as if we were saying, "the rot in the church is all about priests molesting minors (aka <child rapists>) and bishops not being diligent enough in invigilating them -- it has nothing to do with us!" The mechanisms of displacement, scapegoating, passing the buck are surely rife in this scenario.

Joseph:

I agree. But in this instance, pertaining to the bishops office, it is their issue and must be called as such.  Up until 10 years ago, Catholics had no idea what the path to complaints was and there was no feedback loop around resolution of the complaint back to the lay person. In the Penn State situation, the blame also had to be laid on Joe Paterno, the head coach at the time. And no, there should be no statue erecting to him on the Penn State campus. Similar, for many instances when this occurs in schools and families.

I have elsewhere advocated on this board for an extension of the statute of limitations for these cases. i would also be less inclined to make this about civil suing and place it in the criminal courts.

I am not one of these people who believe that every time the s*** hits the fan, we should say pass a law or change a policy but in this instance, I definitely think that review of the legislation covering this is essential.

As members of the faithful to advocate for more transparent policies, procedures and legislation that reflects the Church, that Vatican II articulated. Namely the people of God. Currently, the processess and canons that guide investigations in these situations are all clerically focussed and none on the victim. This was made clear in Niendstedt's testimony when Anderson asked him why, when he was drafting a letter investigating authorization of investigating a priest, while there was a sentence on protecting the reputation of the accused, there was nothing on victims. Niendstedt replied that this was because this was a canonical document. In this, he was probably correct, it is the canons that guide formal investigations that need to be reviewed and they are tilted towards the cleric and not the lay person.

And finally, yes, for each of us to act as ethically as we have includng where sexual morality is concerned. Stay faithful to commitments (whether married, religious, or otherwise). I know not easy and I know we all fall but, as a society, we need to make some clear markers in that regard.

Joseph, you may well be right in some respects about the willingness to deflect, divert and deny when it comes to sexual abuse, but if that attitude is pervasive (I don't think it is) it is in no small part because the Catholic Church is a top down structure that not only discourages but sometimes punishes the kind of activism that might lead to accountability among bishops or cardinals.  What stopped Nienstedt from relying on a broader range of experience in investigating and disposing of sexual abuse allegations?   Do you think that no one in his flock, in the whole diocese, would have been qualified and willing to help, whether in drafting policies or providing some kind of reality check on how individual cases might be handled? 

I see your missive as, basically, a "heads I win tails you lose" proposition from the hierarchy to the faithful.  

JOL - let's not fall into your *usual* gambit in which you start shaking when folks loosely use the word *pedophile*.   Reality in these cases - these priests were found guilty of criminal behaviors (you don't have to have the label *pedophile* to be guilty of criminal sexual activities).

So, evidence from numerous sources (Haselberger, Laird, others) indicate that Neinstedt and others by state law had a duty to report suspicious behaviors - they failed to do so and in some cases buried the information and allowed (and in a couple of cases promoted) these priests.

You have two depositions now - McDonough comes across as a skilled witness who was prepared by his legal team;  Nienstedt comes across as in denial, clueless in some ways; trying to use *mental reservation* ploys to avoid answering or admitting to his own behaviors.  Both have a ways to go in order to meet any agreed upon standard of adult responsiblity and accountability to the church.

"these priests were found guilty of criminal behaviors" -- but we are not talking of the legal case against the priests but about the pretty non-existent one against Nienstedt and McDonough. If your close colleague or family member were accused of viewing illegal pornography would you be pleased if you were considered responsible? You might be responsible for not having deeper insight into their weakness, for imagining that they were just the usual common or garden US porn consumer (the US being the world's chief producer and consumer of same), but you could not be held legally accountable. Confusing the guilt of a sexual perpetrator with the guilt of those who allegedly should have controlled or reported his behavior is a formula for injustice.

By the way, is it correct to suggest that Jonathan Shelley was "found guilty of criminal behaviors" ? -- http://kstp.com/article/stories/s3302404.shtml

 

Of course Curtis Wehmeyer was a pedophile (http://www.startribune.com/local/east/189429331.html) and of course. Jonathan Shelleyhttp://kstp.com/article/stories/s3302404.shtml

 

But, unless I am missing something, no criminal charges have been brought against Nienstedt or McDonough. 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2013/11/archbishop-nienstedt-...

I guess it would be sanguine to expect scrupulous accuracy from those who spell Nienstedt Neinstedt.

Barbara your suggestion that the bishop should have consulted more widely about the cases of suspect behavior from the two priests perhaps underestimates the difficulty of conducting such inquiries while respecting the privacy and reputation of the person who has aroused suspicion. When Nienstedt apologized last fall for his handling of Wehmeyer, whom he didn't suspect he was a threat to children, he appointed a task force to examine church policies on abusive priests and ordered an external review of all priest files, which with the wisdom of hindsight goes some way in the direction you recommend.

Here is the link I meant to post about Jonathan Shelley: https://www.google.co.jp/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=eKhgU5WgO4zH8gfDkoHQAg#q=jonathan...

Joseph, I didn't recommend that he consult "more widely" but that the process that he used incorporate a wider range of expertise and viewpoint.  I work with a lot of organizations, facing a whole host of different kinds of potential "problems" -- everything from employment issues to fraud -- and some organizations tend towards the "whitewash" mentality and others towards the "let's get to the bottom of this and decide the best course" mentality.  A real investigation uses real experts (forensic accountants, computer experts, psychologists, lawyers or whoever) to fully understand what happened.  All of them are used to working under terms of strict confidentiality. 

On the other hand, if you want a cover up, it isn't hard to get one and still call it an investigation.  There are lots of organizations that decide what they want to do and gear the investigation to support that decision.  I don't know if that's what happened here, but it would not surprise me if it was.  And I don't think a "task force" making recommendations replaces a team of investigators getting to the bottom of an individual case. 

The point is, there is nothing unique or special about an investigation into a priest's conduct from that of other mid-level or even high level executives.  From my perspective, the attitude of "being special" is at the heart of a lot of the dysfunction on display in the church's reaction to allegations of sexual abuse.  

Fr. O'Leary, you have a regrettable habit of popping off on subjects without knowing much about them.

"As I noted in previous discussion, borderline illegal material is two clicks away, and being in possession is three clicks away on your compute..."

"Borderline illegal" material is "two clicks away," sure--especially when you start running searches on "helpless teen boys" or "naked boy pics," as found by the report the archdiocese commissioned. Being in possession of images means that you have downloaded them to your computer and stored them there. Apparently Shelley had downloaded thousands of pornographic images, some of which that report said looked "borderline illegal." You don't accidentally save thousands of photos to your computer.

Apparently you are ineducable on this point. So why don't you quit while you're behind?

A father told me that his kids can click "horse woman" and find images of bestiality straight away.

Shelley did NOT download thousands of illegal images, but 1300 legal pornographic images of which a handful are alleged to be borderline illegal. But a look at these sites shows that you can download 200 images at one click and the you will see among those images some that look like minors, but may not be. If I am ineducable, at least I did make the experiment once, at your prompting. Have you tested my obsevation empirically? Your sarcasm is remarkably unhelpful. 

You're correctly reading frustration in my responses to you because I'm quite tired of your misstatement of facts and your confusion about issues essential to grasping the problem. I did not say that Shelley downloaded nothing but "borderline illegal" photos. I said that a report found that some of the many were "borderline illegal."

Nor did I recommend that you run Shelley's search terms. I won't do it. (You certainly shouldn't.) I don't need to in order to know that you can find any damn thing you want online. This is not news. You have not brought new information to the discussion. Viewing an image in your web browser is not the same thing as downloading it to your computer. That takes more steps. You have to right-click on the image, click save, choose which folder to save it in, and decide what to name the file. That doesn't happen by accident. You keep suggesting that it's so easy to possess these images that you might end up doing so by chance. Close your eyes, click a few times, and presto, you're in possession of illegal images. But that's not how the internet works. It's not how computers work. And you would do well to learn that before you go spreading more confusion all over my threads.

"You're correctly reading frustration in my responses to you because I'm quite tired of your misstatement of facts and your confusion about issues essential to grasping the problem. I did not say that Shelley downloaded nothing but "borderline illegal" photos. I said that a report found that some of the many were "borderline illegal.""

Of course. We all know that. If I suggested you said otherwise, I apologize.

"Nor did I recommend that you run Shelley's search terms. I won't do it. (You certainly shouldn't.) I don't need to in order to know that you can find any damn thing you want online. This is not news."

It was news to me when running the search terms that I could call up on my screen in 2 clicks a panoply of 200 boys, some of whom were borderline illegal. One more click would make me a criminal!

"You have not brought new information to the discussion. Viewing an image in your web browser is not the same thing as downloading it to your computer."

I did not "view" the images; they just popped up in a vast collage. To download them would have taken precisely one more step, a simple click.

"That takes more steps. You have to right-click on the image, click save, choose which folder to save it in, and decide what to name the file."

OK, I'll test this. I pick the Commonweal page "Style and Substance". Right click. Then I click "save" without having to choose a folder. So it took 2 clicks, rather than one. I understand that I have now downloaded that Commonweal page onto my computer. If it contains any criminal material, can I quote you as an accessory?

"That doesn't happen by accident. You keep suggesting that it's so easy to possess these images that you might end up doing so by chance."

I never made such an absurd claim, of course. But many people do foolish things on the internet on the spur of the moment, and very often think they have erased the traces of their action only to find that it pops up again. I think the internet has become a paradise fot he Linda Tripps of this world.

"Close your eyes, click a few times, and presto, you're in possession of illegal images. But that's not how the internet works. It's not how computers work. And you would do well to learn that before you go spreading more confusion all over my threads."

As far as I know the only "confusion" I spread was to say the naughty images could be down loaded in one click -- you said in three -- the correct answer seems to be two. I am happy that this is the biggest error of which you think you can convict me.

And it's "my threads," is it? I think the other Commonweal authors do not follow your fussy, sometimes threatening and bullying proprietarial policy, which has irritated and alienated many posters here, something that does not seem to bother you at all.

To clear up confusion, did Shelley download "thousands" of porn images, or 1300? 

It's 2,300. I reported this, as did Minnesota Public Radio, months ago.

Saving a web page is not the same as downloading images found there, but whatever.

Gosh, legal pornography vs. illegal pornography. If the whole issue hangs on that, then as a church we're in worse trouble than I thought. Even if people "do foolish things on the internet" 2,300 foolish things, even for a very foolish person, is beyond foolishness. It's the expression of an addiction to pornography.

Perhaps this has already been said, but for what it's worth: We have not only a legal issue, we are facing a major crisis of confidence. Persons in the pews don't want to see their priests downloading pornography of any sort, legal or illegal. It's immoral and a sign of degeneracy. It's disrespectful of the human body and sexuality. Is it really so hard to discern that something is wrong here?

The Catholic faithful are getting the impression that our priesthood is full of perverts, abetted by those who defend obviously immoral behavior by parsing the law. No wonder people are losing confidence.

Rita, no one is saying that "the whole issue" hangs on that. Of course there is a wider pastoral and ethical context that goes far beyond what is legal or not. But if the pornography was not illegal or could be considered in good faith not to be illegal, then the bishop and Fr McDonough are not guilty of any crime in the eyes of the law. Nienstedt said he had viewed hundreds of the cache of 1300 images on Shelley's computer (a firm hired by the diocese put the number at 2300 according to the newspaper report cited by Grant) and found nothing to report to the police. 

An addiction to pornography is certainly a worrying symptom in a priest, but it is not in itself illegal. Since the US is the world's foremost producer and consumer of porn, it is lamentable but not surprising it seeps into the clerical world as well. Catholics can't bear the thought of priests looking at porn and women can't bear the thought of their husbands looking at porn, but there are lots of other things that people cannot bear the thought of, such as two men kissing, or masturbation, or whatever, and if we invest too heavily in holy horror we get quickly into Scarlet Letter territory.

Saving a web page IS the same as downloading images found there in the case of what turned up when I tried the search phrases used by Shelley -- 200 images showed up AT ONCE on the screen and two clicks were all that were need to save them. Just now I searched my computer to see if the Commonweal page I saved this morning were still on my computer, and of course it was, and will be until I delete it and then delete it again in the junk box (and no doubt it may still be there after that). 

No, it's not. You didn't save the images themselves, you saved an HTML file that contained small facsimiles of the image files. Perhaps your students are accustomed to your knowing what you're talking about in your area of expertise, and accept your assertions of fact as fact. But I don't, because you have shown yourself to be sloppy with facts in these cases. And it's been obvious from the beginning--obvious to anyone who knows something about how the internet works, about how computer file systems work (hint: you can empty your "junk box"; hint two: deleted files don't end up in a "junk box")--computers and the internet aren't among your strongest subjects. What would be the point of my contiuing to explain this to you?

Another curious assertion: What is your source that the United States is the world's foremost consumer of pornography? Where do I remember hearing that a major moral problem in the church was really an American problem? Oh, right. From Vatican corners, when the sexual-abuse crisis first exploded years and years ago.

Nienstedt didn't view all the images Shelley downloaded. He did, however, sign a letter addressed to the CDF that began, "I am writing to inform you of an instance of possession of pornographic images, possibly of minors under the age of fourteen."

It takes precisely three clicks, light taps of one's index finger to download incrimination images, that could send you to jail if they are the product of entrapment agencties.

The file I could save contains 200 suspect images. I click the link, then right click, then save.

The link remains on my computer and can be identified and activated by logging in to the internet at any time.

"Perhaps your students are accustomed to your knowing what you're talking about in your area of expertise, and accept your assertions of fact as fact. But I don't, because you have shown yourself to be sloppy with facts in these cases."

I'm sorry, Grant, but I genuinely do not see what factual error I am guilty ot.

"And it's been obvious from the beginning--obvious to anyone who knows something about how the internet works, about how computer file systems work (hint: you can empty your "junk box"; hint two: deleted files don't end up in a "junk box")"

The "junk box" I refer to appears as a rubbish bin icon on my desktop screen. My computer is Japanese language so I do not know the correct English temr.

"--computers and the internet aren't among your strongest subjects. What would be the point of my contiuing to explain this to you?"

Perhaps to make me understand? If I ever said that to my student I would be denounced for academic abuse...

"Another curious assertion: What is your source that the United States is the world's foremost consumer of pornography? Where do I remember hearing that a major moral problem in the church was really an American problem? Oh, right. From Vatican corners, when the sexual-abuse crisis first exploded years and years ago."

I never said that, of course.

"Nienstedt didn't view all the images Shelley downloaded. He did, however, sign a letter addressed to the CDF that began, "I am writing to inform you of an instance of possession of pornographic images, possibly of minors under the age of fourteen.""

 

Didn't know that, and it contradicts the statement of his I was referring to. Perhaps he wrote it at a LATER date after the borderling image had been pointed out?

 

Perhaps the confusion turns on the difference between downloading a link to a prose text and to pics. The male-zone site presumably visited by Fr Shelley throws up 200 images. I saved the link (it took 3 clicks, 5 seconds) then deleted the image-display, then clicked on the link I had saved, but had less success calling up the images than with the Commonweal text to which I applied the same process yesterday.

 

In any case it is clear that popular internet porn sites have become a paradise for entrapment. The entrappers are really playing a pornographic game themselves. I think we should be careful about pouning on people because of internet usage. It could be one's own teenage son or daughter who is hauled before the courts next. If the great machine of American Justice really thinks these borderline illegal images are so evil, I am sure they could stamp them out immediately, instead of swelling the already monstrous prisons yet more with demonized "sex offenders". 

Well I tried again, first saving the file, and then saving the pics. Saving the file means that the link is lodged on my computer, and that if I click on it at any time 342 pics come up in one immense collage. If I collected 8 such links I would have as much borderline porn on my computer as Fr Shelley.

Saving the pics does not work so easily. When I clicked on what I had saved only one of the 342 pics came up.

 

In short I have done what the inquisitors refuse to do: look into the telescope.

 

Eppur si move.

"Deleted files don't end up in a junk box" -- well, they do end up in a refuse box (Jap. gomi-bako), and as I have just experienced, it takes considerable time to delete them and then to delete them again in the refuse box.

And are they deleted? Could some inquisitors find them still lodged in my computer? What about the google search that used the first of the three phrases quoted by Grant as used by Fr Shelley?  Suppose I delete the history of my google searches. Can the inquisitors reconstitute it?

See what you are doing to yourselves, Americans! You set up very popular website such as male-zone -- the huge number of pics are contributed by private individuals and I am sure that a search for the number of viewings would yield astonishingly high figures. Then you set the thought-police on a chase for juicy targets, bachelors or married men who viewed these lubricious items. Then you proceed to wreck careers and lives, driving people to suicide. EXACTLY the same dynamic holds in countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, where HUGE porn consumption goes hand in hand with draconians prosecution of sex offenders.

 

Meanwhile, the police define child porn as something quite different from the twinky sites Fr Shelley's search phrases threw up (Shelley was not, as far as I know, tried for any criminal offense) or from the pics that got the unfortunate Fr Shawn Ratigan a 50 year sentence (to the delight of the SNAP zealots): http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display...

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment