A challenge for the good priests

I have never had any kind of tolerance for institutional malfeasance. Shocker, I know. But what really intrigues me is this: Why are the vast majority of America’s Catholic priests silent when it comes to child sex abuse and cover-up in the church?


In Los Angeles, a document release in January showed that high-ranking church officials knew about abuse, hampered police investigations, didn’t look for victims, lied to parishioners, and helped abusers escape justice.

In Orange County, documents released in 2005 showed much of the same thing … except we are still MISSING the files of many of OC’s biggest perpetrators (Michael Harris, anyone?). Then there is the fact that the man who personally engineered the cover-up of abuse and protection of predators, Msgr. John Urell, has never been punished and sits in a swanky south county parish. No shame, no remorse, no accountability.

In St. Paul & Minneapolis, an ever-growing scandal is unfolding daily. Besides the cache of porn and the sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits filed almost daily, two more priests were removed over the weekend. A long-time St. Paul priest finally admitted openly, “I am embarrased to be Catholic.”

In Kansas City-St. Joseph, a man convicted of child endangerment is the bishop. ‘Nuff said.

In Newark, Archbishop Myers has been mired in scandal, blaming a “slipshod filing system” for abusers kept in ministry in Illinois. (He also—a la Sheriff of Nottingham—had no problem accepting gifts of coins and gold from priests, even accepting one priest’s beloved camera). Myers also said that putting a convicted sex offender back in ministry was “an appropriate decision at the time.” The offender, Michael Fugee, was convicted of sexual misconduct in 2003. A spokesman for Archbishop Myers said in April of this year, “Father Fugee remains a priest who is allowed to be in ministry. There is no change in his status at this point.” Fugee has since been removed, and the New Jersey Star Ledger has even called for Myers’ removal.

And from the priests? Silence.

Why aren’t the priests in Kansas City up in arms that their boss is CONVICTED of shielding child pornography? Is it fear? Is it shame? Is it obedience?

I think another part of the problem is NIMBY-ism. Priests in areas not mired in scandal say, “Well, those kinds of things don’t happen here.” Or, in the case of Orange County and Los Angeles, they say, “It happened a long time ago. Times were different then.”

There are two problems with that argument. The first is obvious: Child sex abuse, the cover-up of abuse, and shielding predators have been wrong for generations (lots of generations).

The second problem is the one that priests seem to forget: They have no say who their new boss is going to be. What happens if suddenly, a man like Archbishop Myers, Cardinal Mahony, John Urell, St. Paul Archbishop Nienstedt, Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, OC Bishop Kevin Vann (who refuses to remove John Urell), or another problematic cleric becomes the LOCAL bishop. Now what?

Suddenly, the problem IS in the priest’s backyard. And because he refused to speak out when it was safer, he certainly cannot speak out now that a problematic bishop is his local prelate.

I don’t think Jesus would sit silently in his parish. In case you have forgotten, Jesus was the champion of social justice and rebellious change.

Here is my challenge to every priest in the United States: Think back to that day when you first got your calling. Was your calling to sigh and shake your head when bishops endangered your parishioners and broke the law? Was it your calling to realize that your bosses at the chancery knew about abuse and shuffled reams of paperwork to cover it up? Was it your calling to swallow hard and play nice with men you KNOW covered up for the criminals in your ranks?

No! Your calling was to celebrate your faith, fight for the underdog, bring people to God, and rid the world of sin.

If you care about your faith, then it is time for you to stand up. If you care about victims, it is time for you to demand change. How do you do that? It’s easy: say so and do it publicly. Do it at the pulpit and record it. Write a letter and post it on the internet. Post a comment here and on every news story that talks about church child sex crimes and cover-up. Don’t let fear of losing your job or your pension hold you back.

You vowed to be like Jesus. Now it’s your time. Victims are depending on you.


9 thoughts on “A challenge for the good priests

  1. “No! Your calling was to celebrate your faith, fight for the underdog, bring people to God, and rid the world of sin.”

    You’re joking, right? Really, Joelle? I hope I’m not telling you something you already know, but…

    “Sexual abuse of minors by clergy is reflected in the early records of the Church. A mention of sexual abuse is found in the canons of the Latin Church for a Synod at Elvira in Spain in year 309, where presbyters and bishops who commit sexual sins (#18) and those who abuse boys are mentioned. Additionally, St. Basil (330-379) stated: “A cleric or monk who seduces youths or young boys … is to be publicly flogged …. For six months he will languish in prison-like confinement … he shall never again associate with youths neither in private conversation nor in counseling them.”


    The priests and the Church cannot deal with this issue because they don’t think they need to because they believe that they are above civil law! How much more abuse is required to endure before we grow a pair and separate ourselves from this madness? It’s waaaay past time we, as a species, grow the fuck up!

  2. I read one priest say maybe Catholicism will have to go back to the days of hiding in the Catacombs to have real renewal, he stated it more eloquently but the fault is of many. Yes, those who commit despicable acts are to blame and there are no excuses.

  3. Joelle… thank you for your courage and issuing of a challenge to the many “good” priests with hope that they will soon understand the urgency of not remaining silent, especially when it concerns the protections of children and their families.

    It is proven fact that anyone who dares to participate in a law enforcement investigation involving sex abuse, child endangerment or violations of the Gun Free Schools Act will be forced to endure denied justice, defamation, retaliation, termination, and remain blacklisted for life. My family and I have been forced to battle against the Diocese of Orange’s business and employment practices for many years, and not once has a “good” priest or Diocesan employee stepped up to set the record straight about what really happened at Santa Margarita Catholic HS in 2001, when the principal’s son had a gun and was a threat to 1850 students. The administrators that had FULL knowledge the gun posed a threat to 1850 students allowed the principal to handle the gun possession of his own son…. and those same administrators still have knowledge about sex abuse crimes committed against innocent children…. NOT A WORD from any of them. If they speak out, they will be ruined–I know that now but didn’t know it back in 2001 – 2002.

    What is odd is the fact that Diocese of Orange defense attorney Peter Callahan was also involved with a Diocese that was referenced in your article, Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, Orange County Superior Court Case No. 02CC00158. And, the same defense attorney represented the All American Boys Choir civil lawsuit in the midst of the criminal case against Roger Alan Giese who molested a boy in the choir. Giese is now wanted by the FBI for multiple sex crimes committed against children–but no where to be found!

    One can only wonder how the same attorneys and same Diocesan employees are provided free passes to violate child protection laws and remain out of jail. Hopefully, your challenge will ring in the hearts of the many good priests and employees that remain silent out of fear and survival.

  4. Back here, in the real world, any priest who disobeys his bish can be “cut off at the knees,” have his career ruined, and his life. Several have. Publickly.

    Lots and lots of priests are aware of malfeasance (child rape, embezzlement, etc), but don’t dare speak out, out of justifiable fear of their ruination..

    Out of how many thousand bishops, only four have spoken out. And, we know what’s happened to them.

    Love you, Ms Casteix. Keep up your wonderful work.

  5. My fear that the reason so many priest stay silent is because they have something hidden in their own closets.

    So I welcome all of you good priests to prove me wrong, It is time for you to speak up and expose the truth. Victims, children, and parents deserve to hear your voices and your support.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,
    “SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

    1. Come on all you good priests…. get your courage up and protect kids. You can handle it, children can not handle being sexually abused …ok?

  6. Amen! What is wrong with all of us? I think a large part of the problem is economic..what work is available to a sixty years old man of woman with a degree in theology? They are held over an economic barrel. Do they even get social security? Any seminarian reading this be sure you have dual training as an electrician, nurse or teacher so that they can not abridge your freedom of speech. This abuse and other abusive situations have ever made liars and collaborators of all of us. And they cannot spiritually excommunicated us for doing the obviously right thing going so man the battle stations and full steam ahead. Sorry for my typos..new.tablet.

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