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Things of the Past?

Lyle J. Arnold, Jr.

In 2004, Bishop Wilton Gregory, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, proclaimed that after two years of relentless investigations into priests who sexually abused children and the Bishops who protected them, `the scandal is history’ (1). Normally this should mean that all the needed measures had been taken by the Bishops to stop any continuation of the scandal, and they could re-start from ground zero again.

Before analyzing whether that statement was effective or not regarding pedophilia in the clergy, let me ask some questions: For the disfigured lives of the 12,000 victims and their families what did the affirmation that the scandal is ‘past history’ mean? They did not become psychologically healed by that affirmation. For those who lost their faith because of the countless criminal acts of the clergy who they trusted, what did those words of Bishop Gregory mean? They meant nothing. I don’t know one person who returned to the faith moved by those words.

Fr. Daniel McCormack

Fr. McCormack of Chicago pleaded guilty to molesting five boys, the last one in December 2005
What did those words mean for the financial well-being of the Dioceses? Again, they meant nothing. After Gregory’s words, we have seem the unprecedented fact of entire Dioceses filing for bankruptcy, putting themselves into the hands of civil judges to do with them whatsoever they decide. So, with his words Bishop Gregory simply took the optimistic approach, giving the impression that everything was resolved. In fact, there was and is an enormous legacy of pain and sorrow that nothing but sincere repentance and penance could help to heal.

But now, let me check if his words were effective regarding the scandal of pedophilia. Did they stop it? I will take just one example from “the past history” that continues to this date: it is the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was considered by some to be the most powerful ecclesiastical figure in America in the latter half of the 20th century and one bearing the greatest responsibility for the moral decadence in the American clergy. Indeed, analyzing Bernardin’s influence one Catholic journalist sustained in 2002 that “the current scandals rocking the Catholic Church today are his legacy: the infestation of the American Hierarchy with perverts and abusers; the homosexualization of seminaries and the clergy; the bare-knuckled legal tactics employed on abuse victims"(2).

Now then, let me check Bernadin's successor in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, who is now also the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In August of 2005, police detectives questioned Fr. Daniel McCormack of Chicago, after a mother charged that McCormack had molested her 8-year-old son (3). George ignored his own archdiocesan review board's decision to remove McCormack. Instead he allowed him to keep teaching and coaching youths.

In January of 2006 McCormack was arrested for sexually abusing a boy and was convicted and jailed. In July McCormack pleaded guilty to sexually abusing five boys – the latest in December 2005. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Cardinal Francis George

Card. George, guilty of covering for McCormack's abuses of boys
Cardinal George said he simply hadn't gotten the word about McCormack. The school principal who called the police about McCormack, probably knowing that George did get the word and had done nothing, was subsequently fired. "It seems that her criticisms of the Church's response cost her job," noted reporter Jason Berry, in an article titled "Is the Church Really This Blind"(4).

The Cardinal’s “mistake” has cost the Archdiocese plenty. In September it paid more than $1.5 million to one boy who was abused by McCormack (5). It also provided a blaring example that the sexual abuse scandal is not “past history.”

If the decades of sexual attacks on children and youth by clerics had been duly addressed by the Hierarchy, that is, punished by severe chastisements and exposed to the Catholic faithful to encourage their vigilance, the continuation of the scandal could have been cut. Instead, the Dallas measures, which are just better than nothing, did not take such approach. We still have the same problem, as the news reports regularly. Also, the Bishops who cover for such priests, or fail to correct them should be penalized as well.

Meanwhile, the payouts in the settlements continue full steam. To mention just the big fish, without pretending to give a complete list, since Bishop Gregory’s statement we have seen Bishop Tod Brown of Orange County paying $100 million to 90 victims, Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles paying $660 million to settle 500 cases, Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego paying $198 million to 140 cases, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane paying $48 million to settle a non-disclosed number of victims, Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport paying $37 million for 157 cases, and the Society of Jesus in Oregon paying $50 million for 110 cases.

There is a final ironic point. Cardinal George, who as we saw covered for a guilty pedophile priest, was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Instead of a punishment, a reward. What can the Catholic man on the street think, except that “accountability” is a joke. The scandal that Bishop Gregory told us was “past history” continues, as present today as it was before.
1. Jason Berry "Is the Church really this blind?" Los Angeles Times. 11-11-07. 2 Paul A. Likoudis, "Amchurch Comes Out – The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda," Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc/Petersburg, Illinois, 2002, inside cover.
3 The Los Angeles Times. 11-11-07.
4. Ibid.
5. The New York Times online, February 2, 2005
Posted December 7, 2007

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