Clergy Sex Abuse in Catholic America: It’s not over till it’s over

Yesterday, Sunday November 23, the Boston Globe ran a six-column banner headline on its front page,

…”Top Vatican prosecutor failed to report defrocking of Chicago’s Rev. McGuire”

Lede graf:
“A prominent American Jesuit recently named by Pope Francis to prosecute priests accused of sexually abusing minors under church law was himself one of several Catholic officials who allowed a notorious abusive priest to remain in ministry for years…”
(Here we go again, sigh.)

The prelate in question is the Rev. Robert Geisinger, a Jesuit, now the Vatican’s chief prosecutor handling clergy sex abuse cases that reach the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, lineal descendant of the Inquisition Office. Link to the Globe article infra.

There are some curious angles to the Globe story

1. The Globe’s parent company, Boston Globe Media, recently launched a website on all things Catholic with great fanfare: Crux Now.
From the website, About Crux:
“Crux strives to cover the worldwide institution of the Roman Catholic Church, from the papacy to the hierarchy to local dioceses…”

Which raises an obvious question, how will Crux affect the Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Boston.
Well, now we know…

Crux has been mostly a cheer-leader for the hierarchy, with soft-focus coverage of Boston’s Cardinal Seàn O’Malley, including his participation at the Crux launch event.
Meanwhile, the Globe resumes its’ honorable tradition of hard-nosed reporting, without fear or favor.
And with yesterday’s front-page article, the Globe scoops other media (including its affiliate Crux) with a real Catholic news story which has had extensive attributed pick-up nationally.
Was this story too rough for the Globe’ s cousins at Crux?

2. In the Globe story on Geisinger, an attempt was made to contact the cardinal, but,
“…O’Malley declined to answer questions about Geisingers’s future…”

And yet Boston’s cardinal is the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide czar for clergy sex abuse as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, with a vested interest in the prompt, vigorous and transparent handling of alleged clerical malefactors.
And only one week ago, O’Malley made headlines on CBS by throwing under the bus one of his fellow bishops, Kansas City – St, Joseph’s Robert Finn.
When the reporter asked the cardinal about Bishop Finn’s fitness to serve in KC, O’Malley agreed that Finn would not qualify as a teacher in the Archdiocese of Boston under child protection guidelines! And he added, re Finn’s fate,

“It’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently…we’re looking at how the church could have protocols on how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for the protection of children in his diocese.” Quoth the raven, nevermore.

Well then, on 60 Minutes His Eminence did not hesitate to wade into a matter that is still sub judice in Rome – essentially a grand jury probe of Finn through a formal canonical Apostolic Visitation.
But in the matter of the Globe’s story about Geisinger’s fitness as the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of clergy child abuse cases, O’Malley goes MIA, and his spokesman ducks by “…referr[ing] questions to the Holy See.”
Another moment for Boston’s cardinal.

3. Geisinger’s title at the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith is Promoter of Justice (P/J).
From my own more-than-casual experience with appeals to Rome, the P/J is all-important:
He (always a “he”) functions as coordinator of the Roman Curia’s review of the appeal, conferring with advocates for the contending parties, framing the issues to be briefed, ruling on what is (and is NOT) relevant, setting deadlines and eventually (perhaps after a few years) issuing a “voto” (opinion) on how the appeal should be decided.
Given that each case generates several hundred pages of acta (documentation), the P/J’s 4-5 page voto for the busy cardinals and bishops who decide the appeal carries a lot of weight.

4. Finally, the consequences of clergy sex abuse across Catholic America are still with us, almost 13 years after the Globe (yes!) broke the story in Boston on January 6, 2002, with another banner headline, actually eight columns wide rather than six in those more expansive days. Some straws blowin’ in the wind:

There are hundreds of abuse claims that may push into bankruptcy the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (‘SPAM’). Having posted for FY-2014 an operating loss of $9 million against revenues of $25.5 million , SPAM is considering a bankruptcy filing. Per the diocesan CFO, bankruptcy,

“…may be an option…it’s being considered with fairness to the victims [of clergy sex abuse] in mind…” Associated Press, November 20,2014.

Also, as reported a few weeks ago on November 5 by a very enterprising international Catholic blog, Global Pulse Magazine [not to be confused with Global Post], Rockville Centre’s Bishop William Murphy is urging NY Catholics to

“…oppose a bill designed to protect sexually abused children, saying the [NY State bill] unfairly penalizes the Catholic Church.”

As a high-ranking alumnus of the regime of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law, when it comes to clergy sex abuse Long Island’s Murphy certainly knows his stuff.
According to a report prepared by Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly after Law’s sudden and stealthy flight from Boston, between 1993 and 2001 the Most Rev. William Murphy was the Boston Archdiocese’s Vicar for Administration, functionally its prime minister – with all cabinet officials reporting to Murphy, and Murphy reporting directly to Law.
Bernie Law’s 18 years in Boston culminated in the detonation of the scandal, and have made the Archdiocese the poster child for clergy sex abuse in the U.S. (a malignancy that has now gone global; no longer a Made in the USA phenomenon as Euro cardinals opined at the time).
Back to Bishop Murphy: it doesn’t seem smart PR to put him out there as the face of resistance to child protection legislation in New York State someone who was Boston’s de facto Executive VP for half of those terrible Law years.

It appears that the issue of clergy sex abuse in the U.S. has not – by any means – run its course.
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.


Top Vatican prosecutor failed to report abuser
By Michael Rezendes GLOBE STAFF
The Boston Globe
Nov 23 2014

A prominent American Jesuit recently named by Pope Francis to prosecute priests accused of sexually abusing minors under church law was himself one of several Catholic officials who allowed a notorious abusive priest to remain in ministry for years… read more…

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