Saturday, February 20, 2010

"The Pieces of the Puzzle Are Falling into Place: Catholic Officials, a Global Web of Childhood Sexual Abuse, and the Judgment of History"

The Pieces of the Puzzle Are Falling into Place: Catholic Officials, a Global Web of Childhood Sexual Abuse, and the Judgment of History
Thursday, February 18, 2010
In 2002, the Boston Globe broke the story of Cardinal Bernard Law's cover-up of widespread childhood sexual abuse by serial pedophiles in the Boston Archdiocese. In the wake of the coverage, United States Senator Rick Santorum, himself a Catholic, declared what many assumed to be true -- that the problem was peculiar to Boston. According to Santorum, the child sexual abuse had been caused by the lax morals of a very liberal city.
Santorum's particular theory was laughable, but his core assumption that the problem was geographically limited needs to be examined carefully – for although this claim of exceptionalism has proved completely false, it has continued to be repeated, in other contexts, all over the country and the world. And as long as the problem of Catholic clergy child sex abuse is seen as local, ending it will be elusive – because strings are being pulled from high up in the hierarchy.
Pretending Each City's – and Diocese's – Problems Were Specific to It AloneYet, in 2002 and after, the media still covered the Boston story as if it were distinctive to Boston. And, after the Boston scandal broke, the Bishops held an emergency meeting in Dallas and declared that the issue was behind them. Of course, today we know that was hardly the case.
After the Boston situation received publicity, victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests started coming forward in many other American cities, with the pattern of abuse and cover-up repeating itself again and again. There is no room here to list them all, but they have included Bridgeport (Conn.), Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, and Spokane. There were recycling bins for the abusers in New Mexico, Maryland, and Canada. A priest could abuse several children in just about any state, take a break in New Mexico (where more children could be abused), and then be sent back to either the original diocese for re-posting, or another city. A handful of honorable prosecutors made the issue a priority, documenting the problem through grand jury reports -- but only a handful. The assumption continued to be that this must be a localized problem in certain dioceses, not one that was endemic to the organization – that is, entrenched throughout the entire Catholic hierarchy and system.
The media in each city focused on the abuse in that city, and the bishops in each city said, after some abuse was finally brought to light, that it was all history now.
The Growing Realization that the Problem Was – and Is -- Greater and More GeneralThen the list of dioceses with sexual abuse allegations grew longer and longer -- to the point that no state was untouched. Priests started to complain that the "scandal" had started to taint all priests unfairly. Many lifelong – and especially, older -- Catholics rejected out of hand the notion that the problem was deep-seated, or that it might involve the entirety of the Church. For them, this was a short-term bump in the long history of the Catholic Church. Some, though, saw the pattern and formed the Voice of the Faithful -- a collection of devoted Catholics who see the child sex abuse scandal as having revealed an unfortunately built-in problem, not just an isolated set of criminal and tortious acts.
Editors began to treat the stories of abuse, though, as simply redundant, and often caved to the pressure from bishops not to engage in alleged "anti-Catholic bias" by covering one story after another about abuse by priests. The bishops hired public relations firms to spread the word that legislative reform in response to the knowledge of priest abuse was nothing but anti-Catholicism, and to repeat the false claim that all of the abuse had been publicly reported and was safely in the past.
However, lawsuits were filed in numerous jurisdictions, and discovery was demanded, with concomitant news coverage of the lengthening list of abuse allegations. The ambitious American bishops then began to vie among themselves as to who would be the most successful in turning back lawsuits and related legislative reform. Once again, there was an apparent pattern of behavior in response to the public revelations and the lawsuits. The very same arguments against the victims, their attorneys, and legislative reform in this area were floated in far-flung states -- from California, to Delaware, to Wisconsin, and more.
A Problem that Crossed Not Just State, But National Boundaries
Still, the media treated the cases as location-specific. Editors were driven by the need for a contemporary and local "news hook" and did not invest in investigative reporting to cover the (much) larger story. National coverage of the Holy See's 1962 document, Crimens Solicitationes, which threatens excommunication for bringing "scandal" to the Church by telling outsiders about the sexual abuse of children was – and remains -- sparse. Yet that document provides an embarrassingly obvious hint that the problem was – and is -- endemic and entrenched, and that the cover-up has been constructed from the top down. Was the media in denial over child sex abuse (which is common in our society) or over heinous behavior by the largest church in the United States -- or both? Who knows? Either way, the denial was deep-rooted and pernicious, and unless one has been watching closely, the larger story has escaped the attention of most Americans.
The stories then started to float across the Atlantic from Ireland that many priests there had sexually abused Irish children. Lots and lots of children. Irish prosecutors dug deep and produced two reports. One report detailed how the Irish Church had victimized numerous children in church-run residential schools. Horrifying in itself, the report also served as a reminder of the many stories from Australia – stories that were never widely circulated in the United States -- of the omnipresent sexual and physical abuse of children in church-run residential schools there. The second report, which was 700 pages long and dubbed the "Murphy Report," and focused on the Dublin Archdiocese, painstakingly established that the hierarchy and the police had covered up persistent patterns of abuse. It also pointed to the Holy See as responsible in part for the perpetuation of abuse.
In the end, some Irish bishops were held accountable, with four even resigning after being shamed out of their offices. Then, the current Irish bishops demanded a meeting with the Pope, because they placed significant blame for the pattern of behavior on the Holy See. That meeting took place this week at the Holy See.
The Murphy Report also confirmed that Irish abusers were being shipped to the United States, where they abused American children. Some were sent back and some were permanently dumped here.
Meanwhile, at the same time that the Irish bishops were demanding accountability from the Holy See, discovery in a Wisconsin case -- as I discussed in my last column -- showed that the Holy See and in particular, then-Cardinal Ratzinger (who, of course, is now the Pope) were the official handlers for abusing priests in the United States. The exchanges that litigation unearthed show that there is little question that bishops operated under orders from the highest levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the issue of clergy who had been caught sexually abusing children.
Thus, we have come to know with a certainty that at a minimum, Ireland, the United States, and the Holy See have been linked. And only the Holy See has transnational powers within the group.
Even while all of this information was developing, moreover, there was still a pervasive belief that certain clerical orders were beyond reproach on the issue, especially the widely-respected Jesuits. The lawsuits against the Jesuits for abuse in Alaska were not covered nationally in the media. Then, Germany erupted with stories of pervasive abuse in Jesuit-run schools. The sex-abuse victims are still coming forward, but one rector was recently quoted as saying that he expected that, in the end, they would identify over 100 victims of a single Jesuit perpetrator. And abuse is not limited to this one perpetrator; once again, it is pervasive. In other words, the situation in Germany is a mirror image of that depicted in the first Irish report and of the Australian experience with church-run residential schools. There is an undeniable pattern and web of connections, even for those who would do all that they can to deny child sex abuse and deny wrongdoing by the Roman Catholic Church. That pattern has led to suffering that is beyond human imagination.
Let's face it: there are only two options here: Either the repeated pattern of abuse and cover-up around the world constitutes a giant set of uncanny coincidences, or there is a single source of power directly responsible for the global pattern. The answer is obvious and that is why there are lawsuits currently pending against the Holy See in the United States. History will judge all of us if we do not bring this institution to account for the suffering of children. The Church officials' current behavior makes the selling of indulgences in the fifteenth century almost look quaint.
Marci Hamilton, a FindLaw columnist, is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on this site on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback. Her email is In the interest of full disclosure, she represents clergy abuse victims and other victims of childhood sexual abuse on constitutional and federal statutory issues, including one who is currently in litigation against the Holy See..

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: "What the World Needs Now is a New St. Patrick" by David Gibson How about St. Brigit too!

"At this point in the Catholic Church's long-running saga of the sexual abuse of children by priests there are few surprises and fewer heroes. The two-day "summit" in the Vatican that wrapped up on Tuesday brought the bishops of Ireland together to meet with Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the issue, much as leaders of the American hierarchy were summoned to Rome for an overnight palaver with Pope John Paul II in 2002. "

Bridget Mary's Reflection:

What the church needs now is a new St Patrick and St. Brigit!

How about a renewed church, rooted in partnership and equality that is Christ-centered, Spirit-led and justice oriented! Perhaps, a modern day verison of the the early Celtic model of St. Brigit of Kildare where women and men, celibate and married, lived side by side in a double monastery and raised their children in Christian Community. The church in Ireland needs a vibrant transformation that is rooted in Celtic spirituality. Some of this treasury includes a celebration of creativity, poetry, hospitality to the stranger, a warm welcome to all who cross our path, service to the poor, connectedness to earth and living beings, equal partnership between women and men, a mystical sense of communion with life and a dynamic embrace of a loving God who is very fond of us and the communion of saints as family members.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Vatican Warns Supporters of Women Priests

Sarasota, FL, United States (AHN) - The Vatican has threatened to excommunicate Catholics who support the ordination of the first women priests and deacon in Florida by an excommunicated former nun.

Response by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan
First clarification I am not a former nun. While I belonged to a canonical community for ten years, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters (Philadelphia) I now am a Sister for Christian Community which is an independent order of Sisters whose charism is to build Christian community wherever we are and to celebrate all people as God's family. Our prayer is "that all may be one".

Second clarification: We did not receive a letter from the Vatican or from our local bishop before these ordinations as this all headline news article seems to imply.

The good news is that Catholics are not afraid of excommunication!
Pat Ferkenhoff, a member of a local parish in Sarasota, Florida, was quoted in the Herald Tribune article as saying: "Well, I'm not going to get my hed chopped off or be burned at the stake." ( Church Disapproval doesn't deter crowd", Herald Tribune, by Anna Scott, Feb.7, 2010)

An atmosphere of joy permeated the jam-packed church with over 250 supporters of Roman Catholic Womenpriests for the ordinations of three women in Florida despite Bishop Frank Dewane's excommuniation decree. (See pictures and articles below on blog)

Actually, the bishop's threat (Sarasota Herald Tribune article reported by Anna Scott on Feb. 6th, 2010) increased our attendance. Several people told us they came to be in solidarity with the women being ordained and to support our justice movement for women in a renewed priestly ministry in our church. The people of God seem to regard this punishment as a badge of honor.

It is ironic and sad to read about the meeting of the Irish bishops with Pope Benedict this week. None of the Irish bishops were fired for their handling of the horrific pedophilia crisis. Not one bishop in Ireland or elsewhere has been excommunicated for their handling of the pedophilia crisis which has destroyed lives of Catholic children! Yet, the Vatican threatens faithful Catholics who support Roman Catholic Womenpriests with excommunication. I believe Jesus would weep ! In this Lenten season, our church needs major reform and renewal.
The Vatican has a long history of excommunicating, interdicting and punishing people in one century and canonizing them in another century. Pope Benedict canonized Mother Theodore Guerin, an excommunicated nun in 2005, and will canonize Mother Mary MacKillop, another excommunicated nun in 2010. Mary Ward, a foundress of a religious order modelled on the Jesuits, was villified by church authorities. She was imprisoned at one point, and recently has been declared Venerable, a step on the path to sainthood. One, of course, cannot forget St. Joan of Arc, patron of France, who rejected giving assent to church authorities and followed her conscience. She was burned at the stake and later declared a saint! St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the church's greatest theologians, was excommunicated after his death!

So, the supporters of Roman Catholic Womenpriests who attended the Florida ordinations are in good company, and perhaps even on a fast tract to Sainthood! We are not leaving the church. We are leading the church into a new era of justice and equality for women in the church, reclaiming our twelve-hundred year heritage of women deacons, priests and bishops, and following Jesus' example of Gospel equality.

Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
Bishop serving Southern region

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject the automatic excommunication issued by the Vatican.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Ordinations in Florida: Links to Gallery Pictures

Permission to use with note below:
Hello! I was at the Sarasota ordinations... Feel free to forward the link in any way you think is appropriate and to use the photos as you'd like. WinarskiChicago, IL=

Other Gallery:

Catholic Priest Breaks Silence on Women's Ordination

Catholic Priest Breaks Silence on Women’s Ordination
Release date: February 16, 2010
Media Contacts: Fr. Roy Bourgeois at 706-570-5359
Janice Sevre-Duszynska at 859-684-4247,
Bridget Mary Meehan at 941-955-2313, 703-505-0004,
Visit: and
On Saturday, February 20, 2010, Father Roy Bourgeois, Maryknoll priest of 38 years, founder of the School of the Americas Watch and Nobel Peace Prize nominee will speak in support of women’s ordination and the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. The presentation will take place from 1:30 - 4:30 p.m. at St. Andrew United Church of Christ, 6908 Beneva Road in Sarasota, FL 34238. The event is sponsored by Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community and is part of a national tour. "Sexism is a sin," said Fr. Roy Bourgeois in an August 2008 homily at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexington, KY. "No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong and immoral." Bourgeois, a Roman Catholic priest, is facing excommunication for his public support of women’s ordination and the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. "The hierarchy will say, it is the tradition of the church not to ordain women," Bourgeois continued. "I grew up in a small town in Louisiana and often heard, ‘It is the tradition of the South to have segregated schools.’ It was also ‘the tradition’ in our Catholic church to have the Black members seated in the last five pews of the church. Our Church leaders at the Vatican tell us that women cannot be ordained . With all due respect, I believe our Catholic Church’s teaching on this issue is wrong and does not stand up to scrutiny." In addition to his religious work, Bourgeois is the founder of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, and is internationally known for his work to end U.S. government–funded training of Latin American soldiers in torture techniques. Fr. Roy and SOA Watch were recently nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee. In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter Ordination Sacerdotalis which states that Catholics may not even speak about women’s ordination. Fr. Roy is breaking this glass ceiling on his national tour. Bridget Mary Meehan, Roman Catholic Woman bishop of the Southern Region and pastor of Mary, Mother of Jesus Catholic Community, said, "Women served as deacons, priests and bishops in the early Church. Roman Catholic Womenpriests are leading the Church into a new era of renewal by reclaiming our ancient tradition of women as disciples and equals." Bourgeois and Dorothy Irvin, archaeologist and theologian known for her work on women priests in the Early Christian tradition, will present the Levi Award in absentia to Ruth Kolpack and Sr. Louise Akers. Established by the Minnesota-based Lydia’s Gathering Foundation, the Levi Award recognizes Catholics dismissed from employment or excommunicated by the Church for supporting women’s equality. For more information, contact Dorothy Irvin at 612-387-3784.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Challenge Cardinal George, U.S. bishops and Pope Benedict XVI

Roman Catholic Womenpriests challenge Cardinal George, U.S. bishops and Pope Benedict XVI
Release date: February 15, 2010
Media Contacts: Janice Sevre-Duszynska at 859-684-4247 rhythmsofthedance@
Bridget Mary Meehan at 941-955-2313, sofiabmm@aol. com
Visit: http://www.romancat holicwomenpriest and http://www.bridgetm arys/blogspot. com/

Roman Catholic Womenpriests challenge Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said that New Ways Ministry does not provide "an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching," in a February 5, 2010 statement.Roman Catholic Womenpriests challenge Cardinal George, the USCCB and Pope Benedict XVI to be open to the Christ in all people, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons. RCWP also challenges the Vatican to bless and affirm the LGBT community, the New Ways Ministry to them, and to welcome the prophetic witness and challenge of both, as well as their struggles, joys and gifts. RCWP sees Cardinal George’s statement as exclusionary and unacceptable for Catholics who embrace Jesus’ Gospel of inclusivity, equality and justice: a discipleship of equals. New Ways Ministry, co-founded by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Salvatorian Father Robert Nugent, is based in Mount Rainier, Md. It is a 33-year-old "gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities. "On May 23, 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued a document ordering Gramick and Nugent to cease ministry to gays and lesbians because they were not strong in teaching that homosexual acts were intrinsically "disordered" and that the homosexual inclination was objectively "disordered" . The central issue, according to theologian Mary Hunt, was that neither Gramick nor Nugent was willing to agree that homosexual acts were intrinsically evil and that the teaching was virtually infallible and unalterable. Gramick rejected the 2000 order and has continued to provide support to the LGBT community. In the formal document she was informed that she "may not speak or write on homosexuality, on the notification, or on any ecclesiastical processes that led to it..." further, that she "may not encourage the faithful to publicly express their dissent from the official Magisterium, nor protest decisions of the Holy See, nor criticize the Magisterium in any public forum whatsoever." Gramick, however, as a matter of informed conscience, defied the Vatican’s edict and continues to lecture widely on behalf of justice for the LGBT community. She believes that only if all people are treated with dignity and respect will there be peace and harmony in the world. RCWP supports and celebrates her courage.Catholics continue to speak out against prejudice. In 2009, before a Maryland House of Delegates committee, Francis De Bernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said: "It would be a grave error in judgment – both politically and morally – for government leaders to assume that the Catholic hierarchy reflects the belief of most Catholic people." The hierarchy is not the Catholic Church; the Catholic Church is the People of God. Roman Catholic Womenpriests walk in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the LGBT community. We support New Ways Ministry and their compassionate ministry to the People of God.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: "Bishop Welcomes Controversy" Article in Miami Herald Tribune/Tampa Bay/AP Florida

Miami Herald

"Good!" said Bridget Mary Meehan, the former nun who is performing today's ordinations and is one of five bishops in the national movement. "They're upping the ante. People will have to be courageous to support us and that is what this is about. Like our sister Rosa Parks, we refuse to sit on the back of the bus any longer."

Tampa Bay