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Pope establishing commission to hear appeals of accused priests.

In a brief note this morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosaria, Argentina, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he will have "responsibility for" a commission to examine appeals by clergy accused of “delicta graviora"--a canonical term that includes the crime of sexual abuse. The Vatican statement provided no further details about this new commission.

As Catholic News Service notes, over the past decade, the Holy See has laicized 848 priests for abusing minors or vulnerable adults. Over the same period, another twenty-five hundred priests were ordered not to have contact with minors, and to live out their lives in prayer and penance, usually for reasons of advanced age.



Commenting Guidelines

Same old, same old ...

This appointment of another commission is probably more attempts to clean-up the mess left over from 'Little Joseph's' attempt to have all the "most notorious" [a direct quote from Levada quoting Ratzinger] abuse cases sent directly to the Holy Office and its still secret tribunal to adjudicate these cases.

The implication, of course, was that Ratzinger was telegraphing his brother hierarchs to send me your worst cases and I'll do my best to see that they disappear down the Roman black hole of injustice - of which Ratzinger was the chief gatekeeper.  No wonder the cardinals elected him pope when JP2 finally left the stage - they owed him big time.

These modest numbers about laizations and forced retirements are the result of years of massaging the grim facts of priest perpetrators by the CDF.  

From meta-analysis of the pertinent research literature, we can estimate that for each survivor who comes forward with their stories of abuse and exploitation, there are anywhere from six to seven yet to come forward.  Just do the math.

Papa Francesco will continue to have real problems navigating this mine field.

Found this little item in my email.  Read it and weep:


Oy vey......Joseph O Leary to run to the defence of the comission in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1......

Seriously though, all of this needs to be done in a comprehensive, clear fashion. The story of the Italian bishops saying that officials do not need to report is disguisting albeit unsurprising.

There is some kind of deep sickness in the structure that needs to be exposed, discussed, and addressed. A forensic psychiatrist from the US brought in to advise strongly suggested that the Pope and senior leaders examine this. Until then these bureaucratic machinations are simply make work projects lacking depth, meaning, or impact. 

@ George D:

Joseph O Leary to run to the defence of the comission in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1......


How long do you think it would take for the Usual Suspects from the SNAP and their ilk to show up with their same ol' same ol'? 




Here is what would be good to understand: presumably, these priests already had an avenue of legal appeal.  Is this new commission superceding whatever that old channel was?  And if so, why?


Sandro Magister today interprets the appointment of Mollaghen as a promoveatur ut moveatur action (Promote him to get rid of him) aimed at one of Begoglio's critics in Argentina. He's being assigned, Magister says, to un fantomatico ufficetto curiale che neppure c’è ma è solo “erigendo" that is, to "a mysterious little office that doesn't even exist but is only to be established."  Magister, who has no great love for Pope Francis, interprets the appointment as punitive.

The CDF now has five bishops on its staff. That's all most as many as some episcopal conferences.

Yes, Magister is no great fan of Pope Francis, but this time I think he's on to something. The full article cited by Father Komonchak gives some of the back story. Rosario is one of the principal dioceses in Argentina, with 1,700,000 Catholics. From there to a desk at sixty-eight.

SNAP  showed their lack of concern for justice when they gloated over the 50-year sentence for Shawn Ratigan. They again show the same insensitivity when they scoff at any claim by a priest that he had been unjustly accused or disproportionately punished. I wish contributors to dot.commonweal would atttempt to be a little less adulatory toward SNAP's bullying tactics.

JOL - your ACP sympathies and excuses are showing again.  Will go along with Fr. Paddy McCafferty's reply and comments in regard to ACP's statement about abuse as *mistakes*.

McCafferty correctly described yours and others positions as trying to absolve, excuse, or invent reasons for why some priest abusers *abused* - emotional immaturity; acting out behavior on a kid who may be 17-18 years old; a *mistake* that should not be held against one for life; etc.

Totally ignores the life-long damage done to victims; attempts to absolve criminal behavior by *winking* at the criminality; etc, etc.

And your oft stated position about Ratigan and others who have criminally violated children via the internet is really growing tired and stale. Ask one of the parents of a toddler or infant whose photo was taken by Ratigan and posted on the internet?  Doubt that they think 50 years was too extreme.  And you appear to ignore other behaviors of Ratigan that may have merited this prison term - his lies under oath; his inability to stick to his probation requirements; etc.  It's not like he was only given one chance?


While SNAP expressed quiet satisfaction over the Ratigan sentencing, calling for his bishop's scalp as the next step, SNAP supporters posted messages on the internet calling for ‘a bullet in the head’ or suggesting that Ratigan wouldl be killed in jail. Any plea for leniency was tarred as condoning Ratigan’s loathsome behavior. SNAP are very quick on the draw and very self-righteous, with a nasty tendency to demonize their critics instead of listening to them.

SNAP is an acronym for Survivors Network of people Abused by Priests. As such it is surrounded with the authority that victims’ impact statements enjoy in American justice and that has invited comparisons with the medieval ‘divine judgment’ or ‘ordeal.’ Well staged emotional performances can override all rational considerations of proportion in sentencing. The tendency is to believe that the victims themselves are the ones who should decide the perpetrator’s sentence – though in the case where the victim says, ‘just let him go,’ the law turns a deaf ear.

SNAP constantly suggests that there are no degrees of gravity where the abuse of children is concerned: molestation of the Ratigan sort is equivalent to violent rape, and any violence against children deserves life imprisonment. The effect of this brand of zero tolerance, SNAP believes, is to terrify pedophiles out of abusing children, and in addition to keep offenders off the streets forever so that they will no longer be a threat to children. 

Now any sexual offense involving minors is equiparated with torture, and SNAP supporters have gleefully repeated this new mantra.

The work of therapists to help pedophiles overcome their antisocial behavior and channel their desires into more creative activities is viewed with skepticism by SNAP supporters who believe that pedophile offenders will always re-offend and that their behavior is doomed to become progressively more abusive. Claims that recidivism among sexual abusers of children is not that high are rejected by SNAP as heresy, for SNAP has NO interest in considering the facts from more than one point of view.

The famous Charité university hospital in Berlin claims that one in a hundred German men is troubled by pedophile desires. Its program for helping them is very appreciated, but because of the huge taboo surrounding their problem it is often very difficult for the participants, in many cases married men, to come to Berlin regularly. Under a regime of mandatory reporting if the hospital discovered that any of the men had touched a child indecently at any time they would have to hand them over to the police. This, of course, would be fatal for the program. SInce mandatory reporting is the first Article of SNAP's Creed and the main plank of their campaign to get bishops in jail, they cannot even begin to consider the wisdom of that hospital's program.

The frothers and frenzy-monger that SNAP shamelessly urges on constitute a dangerous presence in the church and in society at large. Fanaticism and puritanical obsession have never produced any good in western history, though always pursued on the noblest and godliest of motives

John Page and Joe Komonchak,

I agree this is interesting. Any opinions as to what it all means? 

On the positive side, if Magister is correct, it seems to suggest that the Pope is quite capable of incisive political moves to clear the way for his own agenda when he's sure of the players. Since I like his agenda (so far, at least), this seems like good news to me. When I heard about Burke and Rigali being removed from the Congregation for Bishops, I likewise thought it was decisive and a wise move on his part. One can never be free of politics, and I'd rather see effective political decisions than weak ones.

Frankly, there have been some weird non-decisions that worry me, like leaving Ouellet in place and no new prefect for the CDWS. These have worried me because they seemed to suggest a tendency in Francis to let the bureaucracy drift. Keeping Guido Marini on, or letting Gaenswein continue as prefect of the Papal Household can be explained as gestures of deference to Benedict. But these others are a little harder to explain. They don't seem consistent either with his example or his program as I understand it. Of course, I may not understand it much.

On the negative side, if Magister is correct and this new office is being invented as a place to park an Argentine political opponent, this might suggest that Francis sees the tasks associated with dealing with the sex abuse crisis as busy work. This, it goes without saying, would not be good. Of course one could be forgiven for thinking that this particular task may be regarded as a sort of a penance; spending one's entire day plowing through the details of such cases would be an extremely grim duty. 

If I were to imagine the very best, I'd like to think that there is some genuine discernment going on here, and not pure politics. For example, if Francis knows that Molleghan is a scrupulous fellow who will take care to follow the rules and who takes a stern view of disciplinary matters, he might think he would do better in an office dealing with the technical issues associated with abuse cases than he has done in the pastoral care of a large diocese. Possible?

(P.S. I still don't know why the CDF is handling abuse cases, period. These are not doctrinal matters.)

For "all most" READ "almost" 

Will this new commission also cover appeals for priests in trouble for supporting women's ordination? 

Well staged emotional performances can override all rational considerations of proportion in sentencing. The tendency is to believe that the victims themselves are the ones who should decide the perpetrator’s sentence 

And your evidence for this is.....??? Studies, criminal law research..? So, I take it you are also opposed to restorative justice practices since the victim and those impacted are part of the process.  In First Nation indigenous cultures these are referred to as "sentencing circles". They are alternatives to jail and seek to address the disruption caused by the offence to the community and to also help heal the offender.

Do you have any experience, at all, of actually working or being part of the criminal justice system?

SInce mandatory reporting is the first Article of SNAP's Creed and the main plank of their campaign to get bishops in jail, they cannot even begin to consider the wisdom of that hospital's program

Mandatory reporting is the law in most developed countries. It is not an article of SNAP's creed. It is legislation passed by democtratically elected legislatures. If you want to change the law, then feel free to start a campaign in your country. Let me know how that goes for you! This legislation has been in place for at least a decade or more. Counselling programs, psychologists, and psychiatrists deal with this ALL the time. Standard ethical practice. Also if person is an iminent danger to themselves (suicide) or others (homicide), they can and should be formed. The university in the Colarado shooting, for example, was informed by the treating psychiatrist, who breached confidentiality under that provision, of the risk of the patient acting out violentlly.

Normally, these programs aimed at treatment are part of sex offender treatment programs. Libido suppressing drugs, such as Lupron, are often prescribed.


@ Joseph S. O Leary:

I wish contributors to dot.commonweal would atttempt to be a little less adulatory toward SNAP's bullying tactics.

Don't hold your breath. Or else you'll choke.

Ask me how I know (haha), and also, I share your views and concerns.


And Rita Ferrone's post reminds me of these quotes from the pope in his conversation with La Civiltà Cattolica's Fr. Spadaro:

"You can have large projects and implement them by means of a few of the smallest things. Or you can use weak means that are more effective than strong ones... The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.”


My remarks on the role of victim impact statements are a perception very widely shared (for instance by a prison chaplain who recently denounced the perversion of justice by vengefulness and a false ideology of "closure"). Asking for irrefragable proof surely sets a rather unfairly high standard for a combox in which opinions are so often expressed with very little appeal to factual basis.

Mandatory reporting is an article of faith in that it is a quite controverted legislation even in the case of reporting of suspicions of actual abuse of a child. 64% of all such reports in the US are unsubstantiated, only 22% substantiated; but more significantly many people feel they have done their duty by an abused or neglected child when they notify the cops, not realizing the the cops are not in the business of helping such children and do not have the resources to do so. In SNAP's case however, mandatory reporting goes far beyond actual threats to children and applies largely to historic allegations or to suspect interest in 17-19 year olds, for example. 

FACT CHECK WARNING - more inaccuracies from JOL.  He copies/pastes from Wikipedia but can't get it correct.

He says:  "....64% of all such reports in the US are unsubstantiated...."

FACT:  mandated reporters are people who have regular contact with vulnerable people such as children, disabled persons and senior citizens and are therefore legally required to report (or cause a report to be made) when abuse is observed or suspected. Specific details vary between jurisdictions- the abuse that must be reported may include financial, physical, sexual, neglect or other types of abuse.

Oh yeah - don't miss JOL's last sentence - he tries to sneak in his ACP discredited approach again e.g. ".....suspect interest in 17-19 year olds, for example"    Geez, we all know that kids that age are on their own and should be fair game for abusers to make mistakes.


Mandatory reporting exists for all kinds of reasons, first among them is that the child actually has rights. This was affirmed at the United Nations. Part of the responsibility calls us to ensure the safety and healthy development of children in our countries. Child protection is one as is, indeed, family preservation.

As for the Catholic church and SNAP. In the Catholic church, the theology (at least how it is popularly understood) places the priest in an intermediary position between the people and God. It is the priest who absolves you of your sins (Ego te absolve). Note that the "ego" is used in the formulation. In the Eucharist, we still have the view that the priest "confects" Eucharist even without the presence of any actual people. I just heard a priest three weeks ago preach on the value of priests celebrating private masses! As long as this kind of magical thinking is part of the wharp and weave of the theology around priesthood, then within the Catholic community there is going to be an implicit (and explicit) power imbalance. If we take this theology seriously,this makes the relationship between Catholic priests and youth qualitatively different than any other relationship.

Thus, there are built in power imbalances that need to, in justice, be taken in to account when evalluating the gravity of the misconduct.


@ Maria:  SNAP bully tactics?????  Really?

Please don't let any of us stand in your way of demonstrating to what extend you [and others on dotCommonweal here] will go to defend the indefensible.  Knock yourself out.

Do survivors seeking justice really rock your boat?  Interesting.

I suggest for your edification you read Luke 10:25-37.

@ Jim Jenkins,

Unlike you, I do not equate "survivors seeking justice" with SNAP and their politicking. 

But hey, if that's what rocks your boat, knock yourself out. 




Jim Jenkins, I can't see how you conclude that there is guilt every time there is an accusation. Granted, Fr. O'Leary's approach -- that it's all smoke and mirrors -- drives you up a wall. Me, too. But the Country Walk child care case in Miami-Dade County back in 1984 and its attendant nationwide witch hunt based on "recovered memory" has to make one cautious. I mean, even with the whole police force on a case, and scads of physical and forensic evidence, we more than rarely send the wrong perp to death row. And murder is a slam dunk compared to child abuse.

And, of course, there was Cardinal Bernardin.

When the bishops,  at Dallas, tossed out "zero tolerance" as a bone to critics, I cringed. I pictured (and wrote) that the day would come when some priest would protest his innocence, supportive parishioners would picket the chancery officer on his behalf, the child in the case would recant, but the bishop (certain that if he admitted error the gates of Hell would prevail) would hold out and destroy the wrongly accused priest's ministry. And that would be a black eye, too.

I know that whenever the pope or the Vatican says or does anything about child abuse, SNAP will not be pleased. If SNAP were ever consistently pleased, it would be out of business and out of work. But the rest of us shouldn't allow ourselves to fall into the position of knowing that the accused is always gulty, like Ed Meese when he proclaimed, "If a person in innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect." Sometimes accused priests are innocent; they need protection, too.

P.S. I second Rita Ferrone's P.S.: What does any of this have to do with doctrine?


Your analysis would be correct if the situation with respect to investigation of priests who have engaged in child sexual abuse was as you said. The reality is (and we know it is a reality based on clear, solid evidence and testimony) that bishops were aware of sexual abuse and they routinely assigned the priest to another position, they hid information. When, accountability was sought, they did everything in their power from ensuring a just and fair exposition of the evidence. Frank Keating, who was head of a panel looking at the US hierarchy's response to sex abuse said: "To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church," Granted things have improved but NOT due to any road to Damascus conversions but due to the advocacy of groups like SNAP and "secular" authorities. And this is in the US that has a far more developed sense of democracy, accountability and is far less mired in Catholic clericalism than in countries like Italy, Ireland, or even historically the province of Quebec in Canada let alone the Vatican.

Fr. Marcial Macial is case in point of this very thing. In fact, he was not even disciplined or censured unless you consider being assigned a life of prayer and penitence a discipline.

I am not a fan of zero tolerance but I am a fan of fair, transparent processes. Where is the counsel for the victim in canon law, where are their rights? I thought the church was the whole people of God? This is certainly not reflected in the canon law nor practices.

A clerically based ecclesiology is dangerous. Even Cardinal Kapser suggested that lay men and women could serve in Vatican offices like the CDF. That this has not occurred in 2014 is incredible!

So, you can understand, I hope, why moves like this are viewed suspiciously. Today, I would trust the USCCB over the Vatican any day! They have a better sense of checks and balances, have had far more experience dealing with this in light of a critical and questioning press than the Vatican.

George D., We aren't all that far apart. Yes, we can trace cover-ups, including several post-Dallas. And I had meant to mention, in connection with evidence, that these cases do get into slam dunk territory when we have the computer with the offender's pornography on it. What I worry about is treating any and every suspicion as proof of evil deeds. The bishops corporately have lost all credibility in this matter, for good reason. Still, there may be times when their devout wish that Fr. X not be guilty as charged may actually be true, and since they can't credibly defend Fr. X, the laity has to be ready to.

Yes, accused priests should have the right of appeal, and that includes the  guilty ones.  It would be against the odds if there weren't some people with grudges against good priests who wouldn't take the opportunity for revenge and fabricate some believable charges.  In other words, we can expect that there have been a few innocent priests who have been framed by their enemies, priests whose "good priest" image was in fact a true one.

So right on with the new commission.  But there should also be a commision of appeal for children whose accusations didn't stick. 

I do wonder about the Archbishop Mollaghan.  He apparently opposed Francis in some matter(s) in Argentina.  What is their history? Oposition to Francis in Argentina suggests he has a strong personality, and Francis just appointed C. Pell to a huge -- but non-pastoral -- position because of the strength of his character.  Did Francis simply see that Mollaghan has the strength to play hardball (in one direction or the other) in the new commission?   Or maybe Francis is just kicking him upstairs.  At this poin there's no telling. 

But if the new commission is just a sign that Francis is protecting the old boy network, and if he fails to pursue the bad bishops, then the commission will be seen as part of a betrayal of the children -- and a failed papacy.

I haven't lost hope yet,however.  More and more Francis seems to be setting up a Vatican structure in which all sides will be heard, and not just during his own papacy.  That is a very good thing indeed. But when in the $^%&%# is he going to remove the obviously incompetent and criminal bishops like Finn?  It is terribly worrisome to me that he hasn't done so already.  What's he waiting for?  For the whole new Vatican structure to be in place?  He didn't wait for the bling bishop.  Why is he waiting for Finn?

Ann  - he is a VII priest and was the head of an episcopal conference.  He strongly believes in collegiality and that the Finns of this world need to be handled by the episcopal conference - not Rome as some omnipotent power.  He is the bishop of Rome who serves the servants.

Yes, it is frustrating but, IMO, if he is able to turn the barque of Peter towards collegiality and empowering episcopal conferences to act appropriately and responsibly - it is better for the future of the church.

Don't know how to address the Bishop of Bling - unless there are things that transpired between the German conference and Francis that we are unaware of?

So if a priest is accussed of sex abuse and the police are notified of the allegations and he's investigated and there's enough evidence to go to trial and he's found guilty, I'm wondering what the point of this new panel/commission is going to be .... if that same priest pleaded innocent to this panel and they found him to be so, what would this mean in a practical sense   - that a convicted offender would be in good standing in the church?  And if allegations of abuse were made and the police couldn't find enough evidence to go to trial, is it even remotely possible that the new commission would decide the priest should be removed?  Maybe I'm not understanding the point of this.

Crystal - just a guess but believe that this will deal with *ordered laicizations* and also issues about continuing financial support, etc.

he is a VII priest and was the head of an episcopal conference.  He strongly believes in collegiality and that the Finns of this world need to be handled by the episcopal conference - not Rome as some omnipotent power.  He is the bishop of Rome who serves the servants.

 Bill - is this more or less a reading of the tea leaves?  Beyond a general sense that he believes in collegiality, and that he would like to revitalize episcopal conferences, I haven't seen anything specific that he would like to empower conferences to deal with miscreant bishops regarding sex abuse.  Have you seen anything of that nature?

He would need to lay some legal groundwork to make this happen.  Of course, conceivably that groundwork could be laid with the issuance of a single document.

FWIW - I am not certain that empowering episcopal conferences would lead to the happy ending that folks long for.  Perhaps the bishops of a country would tend to circle the wagons and protect their own, as has been known to happen from time to time.  And the fact remains that the power to remove bishops already exists - at least theoretically, it belongs to the bishop of Rome.  He needn't do anything with episcopal conferences to remove someone like Bishop Finn.  That said, I agree with you that, in general, he'd like to give more responsibility to national conferences.  But as I say, whether this particular issue would be something he'd (or we'd) want to toss to the conferences, I am not sure. 

Just my thoughts.


@ Jim Pauwels:

Have you seen anything of that nature?

The Bishop of Bling?


Oh, I see.  Thanks, Bill.

Crystal, maybe I'm not getting the drift of your question. There are cases where the priest is innocent, and appeals. He hasn't been convicted in any civil court, but has been accused in the ecclesial setting (to his bishop or religious superior) and the case has gone to Rome. Graviora delicta also covers sexual transgressions in which the victim is not a minor, so there is no mandatory reporting. Yet there's an issue of justice. The guy has been removed from ministry. It's his good name and his standing that are at stake. His bishop may have hung him out to dry, based on a false accusation. He has a right to appeal. 

Bill deH. --

Thanks.  Your hypothesis -- that he's waiting to set up the episcopal structures and have them deal with the wayward bishops  -- is possibly correct. But that still leaves people like Finn in position to do harm in the meantime, which is indeed enfuriating.  Surely he could make one simple new law that bishops convicted of criminal behavior towards children will be removed post haste.  With his new commision on priests, they could always appeal their removals.

Yes, I agree that the episcopal conferences will have more power, and that  we have no assurances that they will use their power well.  Maybe Francis is slow about setting them up because he wants to get to know how the conerences already in place actually work.  I have no doubt that his single most important decision as pope in restructuring the Church will be what he decises to do about collegiality and those conferences.

Will the conferences have judicial, legislative and executive functions?  Take Bishop Finn -- will they accuse, try, and send him off to a monastery?  Will they make laws for their countries without the approval of Rome?  Which sort(s)?  Just what will the Curia be assigned to do?  It seems to me that the reform of the Curia should be done in tandem with the  structuring of the new bishops conferences.  And what, if anything will be the relationships among the conferences?  Will the English-speaking ones have overlapping jurisdiction over the liturgy?  

Or what?  It's all a mamouth job, I grant you.  I wonder if he has any management experts helping him.  Maybe he's getting some help from the management experts who have helped with the IOR, who seem to have done an efficient job, so far anyway.

One big question I left out:  will the laity and the religious below the bishops have any recourse against episcopal conferences when we think we have been treated unfairly?  We do have some at least nominal rghts to appeal to Rome now.  Will some or all of them be destroyed?  Will Canon Law have to be retone from almost scratch?  Yikes, this reform is likely to take at least 25 years for even the outline of the big new structure to be implemented.  And I doubt Francis will last that long.

Thaks, Rita.  I don't know much about canon law. I'm trying to undertand it in a way that analogous to what a big international corporation might do.  If someone in their employ was accused of a crime, the police would handle it, and if they were accused of some lesser transgression, I guess there might be an internal investigation?

"So if a priest is accussed of sex abuse and the police are notified of the allegations and he's investigated and there's enough evidence to go to trial and he's found guilty, I'm wondering what the point of this new panel/commission is going to be ....if that same priest pleaded innocent to this panel and they found him to be so, what would this mean in a practical sense   - that a convicted offender would be in good standing in the church?" "

In the Archdiocese of Dublin, 12 priests were so accused and found guilty in civil courts over the last 60 years. Presumably each of these men could have appealed against their conviction or sentence within the civil justice system. If they did not, it would be utterly ridiculous for them to appeal to a church panel instead! (Perhaps one could imagine an unlikely situation where an appeal failed in the civil justice system but where the Vatican discerned that the State in question was radically anticlerical and using such allegations as a ploy. But in such cases getting a declaration of innocence from the Vatican would cut no ice with the hypothetical anticlerical regime.)

But many other priests have been subjects of allegations and penalties within the church and in civil actions brought against the church authorities. This is a realm where the clarity of the criminal law and its procedures is lacking, and where there should be a wide range of appeal. The priests are judged by their bishops or by the Roman authorities and subjected to penalties such as defrocking, as well as to the loss of their good name.


"And if allegations of abuse were made and the police couldn't find enough evidence to go to trial, is it even remotely possible that the new commission would decide the priest should be removed?  Maybe I'm not understanding the point of this." It's a commission about appeals, so the appelant has already been removed or subjected to some other penalty against which he is appealing. It is very possible and even very likely that the court of appeal will uphold the original punishment.





Now the German tabloid Bild-Zeitung is reporting that the Vatican are opening an investigation of Bertone for undue appropriations, but Fr Lombardi denies this.

I don't of course say "it's all smoke and mirrors"; that clerical child abuse is a huge and horrible reality cannot be denied.


"FACT:  mandated reporters are people who have regular contact with vulnerable people such as children, disabled persons and senior citizens and are therefore legally required to report (or cause a report to be made) when abuse is observed or suspected."

The 2,000,000 reports received by the cops in the USA each year, of which 62% are unsubstantiated, and 22% substantiated, would be mandatory only if there is a universal mandatory reporting law. I do not know if bishops are mandated reporters in the sense defined above, but SNAP treats them as legally obliged to report any observed or suspected abuse, even from the distant past.

I have read that many psychiatrists find that mandatory reporting regulations interfere with their work.

"He tries to sneak in his ACP discredited approach again e.g. ".....suspect interest in 17-19 year olds, for example"    Geez, we all know that kids that age are on their own and should be fair game for abusers to make mistakes."

The ACP's suggestion is discredited only in the eyes of SNAP types. This kneejerk response confirms how widely the SNAP folk extend "abuse" and "mandatory reporting" -- a relation between consenting adults is automatically categorized as abuse if one of the clerics is an adult. A bishop who does not disciple or defrock a priest who is in a long-term relationship with another adult is tarred by the SNAP folk as complicit in abuse, covering-up, etc.

I must admit that the more of SNAP's frenzied rhetoric I read, from Tom Doyle, Caroline Disco, Gerard Slevin Judy Jones, David Clohessy or whoever, the more I sympathize with the bishops encircled by these bullies baying for their pound of flesh.








 Ann (and JP) - not reading any tea leaves (well, may be smoking the wrong kind???) - think that there may be other elements at play here:

- Francis is having to play catch up on the worldwide church abuse is obvious that his experience in Argentina equates more closely to what we would have seen in the US in the early 1990s....he has a lot of catching up to do

- IMO, he is also having to carefully build an internal case for holding bishops accountable with actual penalties for those who cover up, move abusers, etc.  This will take time and canon law is not easily revised; much less educating worldwide bishops

- appears that Rome continues to try to balance out the western, legal approach in nations with strong legal traditions and nations in which priests could be harrassed, tried, etc on trumped up abuse charges  (but, to be honest, this can be easily handled)

- there is also the parallel Benedict orders which required every episcopal conference to set up and have their safety plans and how to handle abuse plans sent to Rome (note that Argentina had not replied in a timely manner?)

So, it appears, IMO, that he is trying to lay a legal foundation, empower episcopal conferences (to act on Finn unilaterally would not help this reform); and build from the bottom up (rather than top down....this is a typical Jesuit method of operation). 


JOL - "The ACP's suggestion is discredited only in the eyes of SNAP types" - really???

Guess you missed the outcry that happened post ACP comment (and it wasn't just SNAP)

Interesting how you manipulate facts; ignore some facts; etc. to continue your meme.

Fact - without SNAP, media, lawyers, would the church (Rome, bishops), even today, have responded to the most significant threat to the church in centuries?

Every movement, group, etc. have folks who are on the extreme, the edge, the fringe - but, that doesn't mean that the group is hysterical, over-reacting, misguided, etc.  You paint with a broadbrush which is neither fair nor accurate.

And to name specfic folks and call them *bullies* while sympathizing with bishops (who, of course, in our narrative have never been bullies) is beyond the pale.

Bullies - really?  Have you read the account in Australia of Pell and the parents whose daughters committed suicide?  Have you been tracking the developments with Nienstedt in Minneapolis-St. Paul;  have you ever sat down and met with parents whose children were abused, tried to approach or work with the local chancery/bishop, and were rebuffed?  Guess you forgot about the documented facts of Bernie Law in Boston?  You appear to be dismissing the multiple state investigations of various Irish dioceses - geez, who were the bullies there?  It sure wasn't SNAP.

How quickly one can forget facts, realities, etc. because your ideology blinds you to the true victims and true bullies.


Bill - re: your comment of 7/21, 7:24 am Central Time / 8:24 am Eastern Time: each of your bullets seems likely enough.  

So thinking about the original topic - the establishment of this new commission and what that means: based on the commentary here, it's difficult to see that this is an important development in whatever program of reform Francis is bringing about.  If Magister is right, then this new commission is a career dead-end landing place for an Argentine bishop who is being kicked upstairs.

If this new commission really is the first piece of the reform puzzle, it's kind of a curious one, and it's not easy to see what the overall picture is going to look like.


As a person who knows Shawn Ratigan and whose family was affected by his being outed, I have both a bit of insight as well as a dog, so to speak, in the fight. I do wish people would leave his 50 years out of it. I do not know, but I suspect his lawyer was pulled back from making a more vigorour defense. Possibly by the man himself. He did attempt suicide, after all. Half-a-century in prison is a mighty atonement.

As for this commission, I sure hope its membership all have their AA pins. Or they will be groomed like actors in period dramas. Or JP2.

I don't think this commission is "a career dead-end landing place." As Rita Ferrone pointed out (@ 5/20, 7:14pm), such a commission is needed, and I'm surprised that there hasn't been one already.

Were I to also speculate further, I would say this is another twofer from the pope, in whose eyes Mollaghan is not a "good" bishop, but who may have a knack for other things. So the pope moves him to a different post where he could use his talents better, and in doing so, he has now opened up an opportunity to appoint a new, different bishop for the Archdiocese of Rosario. 

Kinda like what he did with Cardinal Pell.

I think this pope knows what he's doing. The more I hear the same old tired diatribe from the same old people, the more I see the same old tired hangwringing from the same old people, the more convinced I become that the pope is on the "most appropriate" path at this time. 


If Francis is dealing in long-term strategies, what are the odds he'll have a long-term impact, considering his advanced age? John XXIII was a man in a hurry for good reason.  

I have read that many psychiatrists find that mandatory reporting regulations interfere with their work.

The only problem I have heard regarding that, is that mandatory reporting is an impediment for many women to reach out for help. They fear that their children will be taken away as they struggle with addictions and many other issues. Or, even issues of unstable and unpredictable relationships and so on. The solution for this is for child protection services to be viewed not as child apprehension but as family preservation. I know this is a challenge and there is a lot of stigma.  At the same time, many if not most, of the high profile cases in the media of children dying due to neglect or actual drowning by mothers could have been prevented if the women received prompt medical and mental health attention. The signs are usually always there. This is the extreme part of the spectrum and there are degrees. But people need help, and sometimes they or others are, in fact, in danger. It is irresponsible not to act in these instances and legislation in these instances is proactive and aimed at helping all concerned. It is naive to think otherwise. But experienced, comprehensive, accessible, child protection services is the answer.

As for men (or less frequently women) being erotically attracted to children, this needs to be treated and any psychiatrist or counsellor, obviously has to look at risk managment. Thoughts are not actions but thoughts can lead to actions when you look at risk factors such as access, family relationships (some men might think step-children do not count, etc.). This was the case when I worked in human services. But ethically, every client is informed before every single session that there is confidentiality EXCEPT in the case of child endangerment and harm to self or others. It is standard practice working with people. 

I have a good friend who is a psychiatrist with a background in forensics and this is not an issue for him. It is likely that the psychiatrists you are hearing from are inexperienced in this area and these comments reflect their troubles in the area.


George D - agree but then you and I actually work in that world and with psychiatrists.  Just dismissed it as another ill-informed, dog whistle from JOL who hasn't a clue in terms of psychiatrists.

As you well know, federal, state, and professional associations' ethics codes have mandated reporting built into their is a key element in any employee assistance program and is connected to substance abuse conditions that risk harm to others or self or the public good or mental health conditions that have the same risks.

Find his comment to be especially confusing given what is going on in Rome right now with Rome, UN, etc. joining forces to fight sex trafficking, etc. (esp. in the upcoming events in Brazil).  Talk about going down a rabbit hole or a side issue to avoid the forest.

As Rita Ferrone pointed out (@ 5/20, 7:14pm), such a commission is needed, and I'm surprised that there hasn't been one already.

This is something that requires further explanation, and in fact I alluded to it in my first comment in this topic.  I believe that canon law already provides an avenue of legal appeal; we've seen at least one report here at dotCom of a priest whose laicization proceeding has been on hold, for years if I'm not mistaken, because the priest is exercising his right to a full canonical trial.  It may be that the purpose of this commission is to expedite that process.  If that is right, then you may be right that this represents a "two-fer", and this move may make sense as part of a program of reform.


The more I read about priest sex abuse the more it seems to me process has run off the rails because of three fundamental flaws.

1)  Punishing the perpertrators cannot and will not produce justice for the victims.  Nothing can undo the abuse.  Pursuing the perpertrator to protect others and help him is laudable.   Punishment and compensation are simply revenge.  As I recall, Christ said we must forgive seventy times seventy times and we have a perfect example of Saint JPII forgiving his assassin and visiting him in jail.

2)  Flogging third parties for mistakes of judgement - Bishops and other administrators fit this category - shows how we fundamentally believe that people can never change unless change is forced.  As each of us knows personally, that never works, change only comes from within.

3)  Mercy is completely forgotten and absent, particularly at the commonweal combox.

Hi, Bruce - 

1) I would say that the purpose of a just punishment extends beyond "undoing the crime".  I agree with you that, once the abuse has happened, it can't be completely rolled back (although perhaps counseling and other forms of treatment might be able to at least somewhat ameliorate the damage suffered by the victim).  But the purpose of punishment is to address the disorder caused by the offense.  The nature of the crime/sin demands that the perpetrator be justly punished, even if that punishment doesn't "undo" the crime.  It's important to keep in mind that it isn't only for the good of the victim that punishment of the perpetrator is required; it is for the good of the community (including, in instances of clerical sexual abuse, the faith community).  This isn't just theoretical; the expressions of horror and revulsion are genuine from people who learn that their parish priest abused someone, even if the those folks don't personally know the victim.  All of us recognize intuitively that it is wrong to permit a monster in our midst.

2) Regarding third parties and mistakes in judgment: I agree that, at some point in the history of our knowledge of sex abuse, it was possible to acknowledge that there were genuinely non-culpable mistakes in judgment.  Thus, at one time, psychological professionals may genuinely have believed that they had cured serial abusers, and at one time, bishops and their staffs may genuinely have accepted those psychological/medical recommendations that an abuser could be returned to ministry.  But those days, in my opinion, are long past.  A bishop who doesn't understand, in this day and age, that his primary responsibility is to the children, at the expense of the prerogatives of the offending cleric, is culpably obstinate or ignorant.  I don't know how else to look at it.

3) A bishop, wearing his judicial hat, can't confer mercy on abusers if mercy means putting victims at risk.  Speaking as a cleric who is active in ministry: I don't know how to be in ministry and simultaenously be walled off from children.  I don't think it's possible.  Short of  isolating an offender in some remote monastic setting, I don't think it can be done.  I don't know what mercy would means in this set of circumstances.


Regarding mandatory reporting:  I used to work with victims of domestic violence in a state where people who did what I did were considered to be mandatory reporters.  We were trained to explain to those seeking our assistance that we were mandatory reporters any time the status or treatment of children in the home came up.  We were providing crisis help, so were not in the same position as psychiatrists.  Some women would pull back from giving us information, but often as not, they would tell us whatever they thought they needed to.  Nonetheless, this is the simple proposition: child abuse is a hidden crime with great incentives to many people to keep it hidden, and a doctor including a psychiatrist's first duty is to his patient, and not the patient's children.  Which means that there is very little advocacy that happens for the youngest, most helpless victims, even by people who know a great deal about instances of abuse.  Yes, it's a trade off, but certainly it's a trade off that society has the prerogative to make. 

I can't comment on this subject any more.  It seems like it will never end, that the stain of the protracted cover-up of abuse in its midst will take more than a generation to overcome, particularly because people who were responsible will never be held accountable, which makes the stain bigger than the best and most genuine wishes and efforts of others within the church to overcome it in any lesser time frame. 


Wow!  So much BS to respond to here and so little time!

First of all, I wear my support for survivors as a badge of honor – something that I don’t apologize for.  I readily admit that I have genuine affection for these brave women and men who out of the depths of their assaults and degradation at the hands of priests they somewhere, somehow have found the spiritual and psychological strength to challenge these injustices and to pursue redress of grievances.

As I see it, this is a modern narrative of the Rape of the Innocents seeking justice.  If you can’t handle that, it shows us just where your moral character really lies.

Bully tactics???  Really.  If I’m ever counted among “Tom Doyle, Caroline Disco, Gerard Slevin, Judy Jones, David Clohessy” – to which I would add Barbara Blaine, Barbara Dorris and Joelle Casteix among others – I’m in good company.

@ Tom Blackburn:  I don’t think that just because there is an allegation of abuse that it is proof of the assault.  One of the first cases I investigated with the SF review board:  While we found that a certain “Father” was frequently drunk when he visited the parish school, acted bizarrely around children, publicly berated women religious in front of children and their parents, had allowed his “non-priest” boyfriend/lover to move into the rectory, misused parish funds to pay for Hawaiian vacations for himself and his lover – despite all that, we could not corroborate the very believable allegations that he had sexually assaulted a then 9 y.o. girl. 

[Levada did suspend this priest - but not for his assaulting this girl.  Later, this priest was reinstated mysteriously by Levada after he publicly threatened to reveal “embarrassing facts” about the archdiocese and its officials.  Sound like extortion to you?  Maybe all this is a “honor among thieves” kind of thing?  Hey, O’Leary, is this the kind of “falsely accused” priests that you feel good about defending?]

When several bloggers here are busy defending the indefensible and attacking survivors for seeking redress of grievances, we should all remind ourselves that this is really some examples of clinical projection where dystonic anxiety overwhelms the ego leading to this offensive and irrational displacement of unacceptable and intolerable feelings.  [Sorry for all the Freudian/psychodynamic jargon  - Its been a long time …]

I believe that it is my duty, and privilege really, to continue to speak out in a preferential option for the survivor – especially as long as the church remains in denial mode. 

I don’ apologize for this in the least.  As long as people continue to disparage the struggles of survivors for justice for their assaults, I believe the friends of SNAP should, will continue to speak out and confront moral cowardice.

I predict that we will continue to see these classic examples of willful ignorance and bigotry as long as the church fails to deal definitively with the rape and sodomy of children by priests in this the greatest scandal to rock the church since the crusades and the Inquisition.