Tell me what is wrong with these two excerpts from this week’s news:
Francis, 78, a Jesuit from Argentina, is moving in a similar direction, McCartin said. He has overhauled the Vatican bureaucracy, encouraged open debate within the church, instituted a mechanism for removing bishops who covered up the priest sex-abuse scandal and adopted a simple lifestyle as pope, trying to emulate his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. (emphasis mine)
From the NY Times:
Francis is not the first pope to have addressed the issue of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy, but he has drafted new rules giving prosecutors more leeway in the cases, allowing criminal charges to be applied to Vatican employees anywhere. He is also the first pope to take action against superiors accused of covering up for priests. (emphasis mine)
Have you guessed? Are you stumped? Okay, okay. I’ll tell you.
Francis hasn’t taken action against superiors who covered up for abusing priests nor has he instituted a mechanism for removing bishops.
Allowing KC/St. Joseph Robert Finn to resign three years after a conviction for child endangerment or allowing Archbishop John Nienstedt to resign in the wake of a huge sex scandal is NOT a mechanism. Unless “allowing complicit bishops to freely resign with full rights, power, and honors—and no punishment, accountability, or shame” is a mechanism, of course.
These men have not been publicly sanctioned. Francis has said NOTHING publicly about how these men allowed criminals to wreak havoc on the children in their dioceses. They were not forced out of their jobs. There was never a public reason given by the Vatican for accepting the resignations.
These men are still bishops with full rights and honors. They still preside over important functions. They still command the respect of lower-ranking priests.
And what about Cardinals Mahony and Law? They are living very posh and cushy lives and exert a huge amount of power.
So there you have it: There has been no action and there is no mechanism.
And it’s time for the media to stop saying that there is—or at least ask the tough questions.
(In the case of the Vatican commission: that is a wait and see. My prediction? They will be stonewalled, just like every diocesan lay review board in the United States. But I respect the commission members deeply and will do everything I can to help)
So, now what?
You can write the NYTimes to ask for a retraction.
You can write Newsday, but since the excerpt was a summary of a quote, a retraction isn’t really an option. But it’s okay to ask for clarification.
And if you do write, be nice. Being a journalist is tough work these days.
I wrote two pieces in September’s issue of OC Family.
It’s nice to write about good news for a change.
The UN Committee for the Rights of the Child recently released their “Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Mexico.”
Much in the June 5 report wasn’t surprising: drug cartels are recruiting and using children for violence and children have been murdered and/or have gone missing in non-state violent activities. The committee also stated that migrant children are being targeted for abuse, killings and sexual violence.
But sections 35 and 36 of the report were striking (emphasis mine):
35. The Committee is deeply concerned about corroborated reports that hundreds of children have been sexually abused for years by clerics of the Catholic Church and other religious faiths The Committee is particularly concerned about the general impunity which perpetrators have enjoyed so far, as recognized by the State party’s delegation, about the low number of investigations and prosecutions of the perpetrators as well as alleged complicity of state officials, as well as about the lack of complaints mechanisms, services and compensation available to children.
36. The Committee strongly urges the State party to:
(a) Take immediate measures to investigate and prosecute all members of the Roman Catholic clergy and other religious faiths involved in or accomplices of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and ensure that those found guilty be provided with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of their crime;
(b) Provide children victims of sexual abuse with all necessary services for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration, and adequately compensate them;
(c) Ensure that specific measures taken to prevent sexual abuse by clerics become part of all policies related to violence against children and that empowered children learn how to protect themselves from sexual abuse and are aware of the mechanism they can refer to in case of such abuses;
(d) Take concrete measures to raise awareness on this type of abuse in order to overcome social acceptance and taboo surrounding these crimes;
(e) Collect disaggregated data related to cases of sexual abuse against children involving the Roman Catholic clergy and provide detailed information in its next report on the convictions and sentences pronounced.
I am interviewed via phone (Skype was not cooperating). We discuss Jared Fogle’s plea in child porn/child sex trafficking (underage prostitute) charges.
I come in at around 8:30.
Next month, Anaheim is hosting one of the best national training institutes on crime victims’ rights.
I’ll be presenting—and if you are going to be in Southern California in early September, this is a must-attend event.
The National Center for Victims of Crime’s 2015 National Training Institute features more than 130 leading experts and 72 workshops, offering a multidisciplinary opportunity to skill up on the latest best practices and research in the crime victims’ field.
If you are a California professional, you qualify for a $100 discount on registration.
Here is more information:
California Professionals Save Big!
As a California professional, you’re eligible for our deepest discount of this year’s National Training Institute in Anaheim, California, September 9-11. Save $100 off registration rates currently $325 for members and $450 for non-members. Lock in now to save! Enter password 2015NTICA to receive discount.
Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) are offered and agencies may also use VOCA funds to cover registration costs.
The National Center for Victims of Crime’s 2015 National Training Institute features more than 130 leading experts and 72 workshops, offering a multidisciplinary opportunity to skill up on the latest best practices and research in the crime victims’ field. Topics include:
Connect with and learn from victim advocates, counselors, program managers, attorneys, social workers, psychologists, researchers, nurses, system-based service providers, and other leaders from across the country.
About the National Training Institute
The National Center for Victims of Crime’s National Training Institute is a forum for law enforcement, victim service professionals, allied practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to share current developments and build new collaborations. Our multidisciplinary approach is centered on victims, based on best practices, and informed by the latest research. Sessions highlight practical information to better support services for the wide range of people victimized by all types of crimes.
Here’s a hypothetical:
Your boss borrows your car and runs over your beloved dog Rover in the company’s parking garage. When your boss returns the car, you ask him about your dead dog and the blood stains all over the bumper. He denies all knowledge.
When confronted with video surveillance footage, your boss finally admits that he did run over your dog, but claims that “he thought he did the right thing for you and Rover.” He is not fired. In fact, he is backed up by the company and remains in his job for three more years, where he supervises your work and is your “go-between” to higher management.
You can’t quit because you are under contract.
After those three years, your boss resigns. But he keeps his paycheck and gets to go on all of the company golf outings free of charge.
Soon after the resignation and well-publicized golf outings, your company invites you to come to a “healing meeting” where you are invited to heal from the pain of losing your dog. Your boss is invited, too. The company will be collecting donations for the “coffee fund” at the meeting, so attendees are asked to bring their checkbooks.
Your company also invites the press. When the press calls you about the meeting, you tell them that you aren’t going. You are portrayed in the media as angry and ungrateful for not participating.
Ridiculous? You bet it is.
But let’s switch out a few things … say, using Kansas City/St. Joseph as an example … and see how perception changes:
Your bishop knows that a priest in your parish has created child pornography involving your child and does not call the police.
When confronted by the police, the bishop says that he did the right thing for the priest and the children involved. The police don’t buy his argument and arrest the bishop. He later pleads guilty to child endangerment and is sentenced to probation.
The bishop is not fired from his job and is supported by his fellow bishops and the Vatican. But you’re rightfully angry. If you stop going to church and receiving the sacraments, your faith tells you that your eternal life is at risk. Remember: you’re under contract.
The bishop finally resigns, but is allowed to do all of the fun stuff like keep his title, collect a paycheck, live in a fancy house, go to Rome and perform public ordinations.
After the resignation, the bishop’s successor holds a “healing Mass” and invites you to attend. When you say, “Hell, no. There has been no accountability within your organization,” people say you are callous and unforgiving.
Anchoring the argument with “healing”
The conversation about sexual abuse and cover-up in Kansas City-St. Joseph is far from over, but by throwing out the word “healing,” interim Archbishop Joseph Naumann is slamming the door shut on discussion, reform, change, and accountability.
Basically, he’s saying, “We healed and offered the victims healing. It’s time to move on (and raise money).”
Really, that’s the gist of what he said:
[Naumann]’s encouraging the grieving and still angry parishioners to reach toward their faith.
“I think we need to ask the Lord to help each of us to heal. There are people who have experienced wounds on both sides,” Naumann said in an interview Monday at the Diocese headquarters in downtown Kansas City.
“A great resource is our prayer. Prayer can be helpful to become focused on moving forward and not (revisiting) those things in the past,” Naumann says, “unless we can learn from them.”
“At this point,” he says, “if there are people who chose not to give because of Bishop Finn’s leadership, this may be a moment to re-examine that.”
Why the anchor is false
Minnesota Public Radio reporter Madeleine Baran made a very interesting point about the term “healing” at the 2015 SNAP conference in Washington DC.
She remarked that groups who are in the wrong (and the journalists who cover them) will use the word “healing” as a way to end an argument or story arc and create the “next phase,” even if the story arc hasn’t finished.
Even if there has been no accountability.
Even if the group does not have the moral authority to determine healing times for those they have hurt.
My suggestion? I encourage Archbishop Naumann to hold “meetings of accountability ” and “prayers for reform.”
Healing can’t happen when a wound is still infected with cover-up.
And the story? It’s far from over.
The Well-Armored Child: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse is ALMOST HERE!
Enter NOW by clicking the link below or visiting Goodreads to win your free signed copy.
Well … the contest starts April 12 and closes the day the book is released: September 15. So be sure to enter on August 12.
Spread the word!
I am always telling parents the importance of keeping all Internet-enabled devices in common areas of the home. Many parents challenge me on this—telling me that they trust their child.
It’s not a matter of trust. It’s a matter of child safety. Here’s why:
A Michigan woman is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an 11-year-old boy for more than a year after meeting him on Xbox Live …
Carlton gave the boy clothes, debit cards, and jewelry, the prosecutor added.
The expensive gifts are one of the top symptoms of grooming (how a predator manipulates a child into becoming a sex abuse victim – learn more here).
If your child is receiving expensive or inappropriate gifts from an adult (especially an adult you don’t know), take action immediately.
In the meantime, talk to your child about Internet safety, monitor your child’s texts, and empower your child with information about grooming and sexual abuse. It is never okay for an adult to be sexual with a child or teen. And yes, women abuse.
In light of the upcoming Papal visit to the U.S., I have a question:
When does Zero Tolerance begin?
Here are some hypotheticals to help illustrate my question:
- If you found out that a new priest in your parish had admitted to his superiors (but not the parish) that he had sexually abused a child, would you be upset?
- What if you found out that the abuse occurred before the priest had been ordained?
- What if the archbishop told your parish and other parishes that the abuse was a “consensual dating relationship?”
- What if you found out that the priest had been a teenager when he sexually abused a seven-year-old boy?
- What if you knew that another archdiocese had kicked the priest out, citing Zero Tolerance?
- What if you found out that despite the admission, your local archbishop gave this priest faculties in your archdiocese (that is, permission to act as a priest) and the archbishop said that the priest was not a risk to children?
Would you be upset? Would you want this priest around your children?
So when does Zero Tolerance begin? Does it begin at ordination? Does it begin at puberty? Does is begin at birth?
These are questions we should all be asking in Chicago.
** and a note: if any priests are quietly removed without the full truth, that’s definitely not Zero Tolerance.
Amy Smith is a hell of a blogger and advocate for victims of sexual abuse in Protestant churches. A few weeks ago, she discovered that the “Care Director” at Fairfax (VA) Community Church is a registered violent sex offender.
What happened afterward is shocking.
Here’s a teaser: in their defense of sex offender Eric Nickle, they gave away the identity of his victim.
One of the ugliest, most painful Catholic diocese bankruptcies has come to an end. Just in time for Pope Francis to visit the U.S.
I haven’t spoken much here about the Milwaukee Archdiocese Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But today, they settled with victims after—what victim’s attorney Jeff Anderson calls—”four and a half years of drawn-out, painful legal battles resulting in millions of dollars in legal fees to bankruptcy attorneys.”
Only 330 of the 575 who filed claims will get compensation. The archdiocese lawyers worked hard to get a ton of cases tossed—like that of advocate Peter Isely—because he was a longtime outspoken critic and survivor. I guess if you help other people get justice, the Archdiocese makes sure you get no compensation of your own.
The 330 survivors will receive $21 million.
Documents exposed in the bankruptcy showed a widespread cover-up. From FOX 6:
These documents detailed Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Vatican’s role in sexual abuse cases and demonstrated how church officials and the Vatican repeatedly denied sexual abuse survivors justice by failing to act with urgency on reports of sexual abuse, often waiting years to remove a priest from ministry who had credible allegations of child sexual abuse.
But what the bankruptcy will be best known for is the infamous “cemetery fund.” From The Wall Street Journal:
In 2007, four years before the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now Cardinal Dolan of New York, transferred about $55 million to a new trust created to provide for more than 1,000 acres of cemetery land. The land serves as the final resting place for more than 500,000 people, according to the archdiocese’s website.
The archdiocese contends that the funds have always been intended to provide for its cemeteries. But in a letter to the Vatican the same year the trust was created, then-Archbishop Dolan suggested the transfer would help defend the funds against future lawsuits.
“By transferring these assets to the trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability,” he wrote in the letter, a copy of which The Wall Street Journal has viewed.
For a great inside view on the Milwaukee Archdiocese and sexual abuse, watch Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, available on demand.
A number of years ago, a family reached out to me asking for help. Their son had been abused by a priest named Gerald Funcheon, and the family wanted to know what happened to the Crosier cleric.
At the time, I looked at the resources available. I saw a priest with huge holes in his assignment record and a couple of lawsuits. Other than that, he had simply vanished.
How times have changed.
This week, Funcheon (who had hidden assignments in Hawaii and California and very public assignments all over the country—including Indiana, where he was banned because of his “plans” to molest) was sued for sexual abuse by two more victims in Minnesota. That brings the victim tally to somewhere around 20.
Funcheon now lives is a facility for offending clerics in Missouri. But he’s free to do whatever he wants.
His victims? They are the ones who suffer for Funcheon’s crimes.
I was in an interview the other day when I was asked whether SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (the group for whom I have volunteered for the past 12 years) paid me.
When I said, no—that I am, in fact, a volunteer with the organization—the writer said, “That’s good. You wouldn’t want to be seen as a professional victim.”
I swallowed hard, and let it drop.
Here’s the rub: SNAP is constantly being bashed by its opponents for being “professional victims.” But since when is taking a stand, demanding change and accountability, and running an organization been “being a professional victim?”
No one looks at other great victim-based organizations like the National Center for Victims of Crime or RAINN: The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and says, “If you really care about the cause, you would work for free.” You certainly don’t look at your child’s teacher and say, “If you truly believed in education, you’d refuse a paycheck.”
So why do people look at SNAP’s full time, professional (and sorely underpaid) staff differently? It’s time for that view to end.
Which leads me to my next point: SNAP is successful. So successful, in fact, that its opponents have taken to SLAPP lawsuits to attempt to silence and bankrupt the organization.
A SLAPP is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
From the California Anti-SLAPP Project:
While most SLAPPs are legally meritless, they can effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and thus diverts the defendant’s attention away from the public issue. Equally important, however, a SLAPP also sends a message to others: you, too, can be sued if you speak up.
In a new SLAPP lawsuit, SNAP leaders, an alleged victim’s parents, St. Louis police officers, and city officials are being sued by a St. Louis priest, Fr. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang.
In June 2012, Fr. Jiang was arrested for repeatedly molesting Lincoln County girl and was also charged with “victim tampering.” The tampering charge was due to the fact that he gave the girl’s parents a check for $20,000 to ensure their silence. The parents turned the check over to police.
He also admitted to molesting the girl, according to press reports.
In November 2013, those charges were dismissed. Unfortunately, this is all too common in child sex abuse prosecutions.
Then, in April 2014, he was arrested again on charges he repeatedly molested a St. Louis boy between 2011-2012. Those charges were dismissed in June 2015, but circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce said that her office “remains hopeful that charges will be refiled in the future.”
The motivation for Jiang’s SLAPP lawsuit? From KMOX:
Barbara Dorris of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) tells KMOX that she believes the suit is intended to send a message.
“Our fear is that this is a way to intimidate victims, witnesses and whistle-blowers…into silence,” says Dorris. “If you tell the truth, we will sue you and I think it’s intended to silence people.”
SNAP has never been terribly popular. They expose cover-up. They show how victims and the public have been betrayed by beloved religious leaders. They talk about ugly truths that keep children safer from abuse. They demand that wrong-doers—even well-loved wrong-doers—be held accountable.
And they have changed the world in the process.
Their first amendment right to continue in their work should never be silenced by a SLAPP.
The more things change … the more they stay the same.
This morning the Vatican announced the appointments of three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
And one of them is a problem: vicar general and moderator of the Curia of the archdiocese Joseph Brennan.
LA’s vicars general have been a sorry lot.
Former vicar general Msgr. Michael Myers resigned in 2009 after a New York Times article showed that he allowed a self-admitted sex addict and molester to be a priest in the archdiocese.
Another former vicar general, Msgr. Richard Loomis testified in 2009 that “Mahony ordered him not to inform parishes of allegations against the now defrocked Rev. Michael Baker.” So he didn’t.
What did Brennan do as vicar general?
Well, we know that he used LA’s Catholics to lobby lawmakers on behalf of Archbishop Gomez. In a 2013 email, he asked Catholics to write and call their state representatives and tell them to vote no on SB131, the California Child Victims Act. If passed, it would have opened the doors of the civil courts to victims of child sexual abuse.
The bill ended up passing through both houses. It was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, at the behest of the bishops.
It’s no secret why Gomez and Brennan lobbied so hard against the bill. A similar bill in Minnesota unearthed decades of child sex abuse and cover-up. The cover-up was so bad, in fact, that one archdiocese is subject to a criminal probe and St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstadt just resigned in disgrace.
Heaven forbid something like that happen in LA.
But it gets better: one of the three new bishops will be assigned to head the San Gabriel Region. Its former bishop, Gabino Zavala, resigned in 2012 after it was discovered that he had fathered two children.
There has been no shortage of news this summer when it comes to the US clergy sex abuse crisis. Although the Vatican is attempting to clean up the mess as much as possible before Pope Francis’ September visit (including accepting the resignations of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archbishop and bishop, as well as finally ousting the convicted Kansas City-St. Joseph bishop), very little has changed when it comes to zero tolerance.
We still need to remain vigilant. And as more victims in other organizations such as the Boy Scouts and religious groups besides the Catholic Church come forward and demand justice, it’s vital that we remember that our top priorities must always be child safety and victim healing.
In light of this, let’s go back to basics: the Code Words.
If you or your child are a part of an organization with an allegation of child sexual abuse, demand transparency … or leave the group. And if you’re wondering if your institution is transparent, keep an eye out for these cover-up Code Words. Not every code word means that there is sexual abuse, but every one of these code words can be a sign of real trouble and cover-up.
- Boundary violation
- Inappropriate touching
- Victim alleged additional details, discredited
- Long hugs
- Confidential investigation
- Accused is a minor
- Tickling, horseplay, rough-housing
- Questionable photos
- Monitored employee
- Not allowed to work with children
- Immature (when describing an employee)
- Consensual relationship with a teen/child
- Well-developed child
- Troubled/emotionally disturbed child or family
- History of alcohol/drug abuse (in victim or alleged perpetrator)
- Mature teen
- Overnight, unsupervised trips
- Affair with a teen/child
- Inappropriate (and not described) conduct
- Internal investigation (that is not made public)
- Employee sent to undisclosed treatment
- “Times were different”
- After numerous interviews, child retracted the story
- Complete review of personnel file (that is not made public)
- Misunderstood affection
The code words fall into categories: victim blaming (victim changing story, mature teens, consensual relationships, affairs, emotional disturbance), ignorance (“times were different”), minimization (treatment, misunderstood affection, tickling, horseplay).
I am more than happy to add to the list … so feel free to respond in the comments.
One of my closest friends once told me, “When you really think about it, bullying is just low-level sexual abuse.” That thought stuck with me.
What also stuck with me is how prevention of bullying is similar to the prevention of child sexual abuse. It requires good communication, strong self-esteem, and engaged parents who understand the depth of the problem.
Stopping the cycle of bullying also requires many of the same things required in the prevention of child sexual abuse and cover-up: victim-friendly laws that extend the statute of limitations, exposure of the problem, and a concerted effort to hold enabling school or other officials accountable.
SCRAM! A Parent’s Quick-Start Guide to Preventing, Identifying, and Ending Bullying is now available for purchase in paperback or as an ebook.
I was at the doctor’s office the other day when I saw a card for the OC WarmLine.
Sponsored by the National Alliance of Mental Illness-Orange County, the WarmLine is staffed by “warm, friendly voices” who can provide help with substance abuse or mental health concerns (including depression), provide referrals for mental health services, and (this is the best part) just listen and talk to the person who is lonely and confused.
The service is only available to Orange County, California residents.
The numbers are:
Learn more (or live chat with a trained operator) at their website: www.namioc.org
Remember: if you or someone you love is suicidal, call 911.