Mahony Resources – April 23–30, 2002
By Larry B. Stammer, Beth Shuster, and Richard Boudreaux
ROME -- Several senior American cardinals will urge the Vatican today to ask Cardinal Bernard Law to resign as archbishop of Boston in the face of an escalating sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.
Two American clerics--a bishop and a cardinal--said that America's Catholic bishops are all but unanimous in believing that Law must leave Boston for the good of the church.
The cardinal, who asked to remain anonymous, said Sunday that he had been "commissioned" by other senior prelates to take their case against Law directly to Pope John Paul II's inner circle. He said that he, as well as others, would do so today during private meetings at the Vatican. Today's meetings come a day before two days of talks between America's cardinals and Vatican leaders on the abuse scandal.
"If the Holy See wants to send a strong signal of quality and standards of leadership," the cardinal told The Times, Law "will have to be replaced. This cannot be a phaseout." The cardinal said he did not want to undermine his efforts by publicly disclosing his name before speaking to the Vatican.
The bishop, also speaking on a confidential basis, told The Times, "Many bishops are of the mind that the healing process really can't begin until there's a change of leadership in Boston."
The rare move against a fellow cardinal underscored Law's increasingly precarious position in the wake of his handling of the scandal in his archdiocese, and the growing determination by the U.S. hierarchy to call for dramatic steps to extricate the American church from one of its worst crises in modern times.
A week ago Law flew to Rome to confer privately with the pope and other Vatican officials about his future. He returned to Boston and announced that he would continue as archbishop as long, he said, as God would permit him to serve. On Sunday, Law received a standing ovation when he told churchgoers at Holy Cross Cathedral that he wished that he could "undo the harm" caused by his handling of cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by priests.
Since the scandal erupted in January in Boston, it has spread across the country as sexual abuse allegations, many of them based on molestations going back decades, surfaced in other dioceses, including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and West Palm Beach, Fla.
"He [Law] created the impression that nobody did anything, and that's what infuriated a lot of us," the cardinal said.
Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, would not acknowledge or comment on continuing pressure for Law's resignation. It is "pure speculation" that Law's job could become a topic of discussion at the meetings this week, he said Sunday.
Other American church officials, noting that Law had met a week ago with the pope, said his tenure as archbishop was an issue between the two men only.
"I believe the question must remain in the hands of Cardinal Law, taking into account his own perception of the feelings of his priests and his parishioners and his dialogue with the Holy Father," Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, an American in the Vatican hierarchy, told the Roman newspaper La Repubblica. "I cannot judge."
But Bishop William S. Skylstad, archbishop of Spokane, Wash., and vice president of the U.S. bishops conference, told ABC News Sunday before leaving for Rome that Law "is in a very difficult situation."
Earlier this month, Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, asked to comment on Law's future, said he would find it difficult to walk down an aisle in church if he had been guilty of gross negligence.
Call to Close Loopholes
The cardinal who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity said he hoped that Law would step down "soon." In any case, he said, Law should not delay his resignation beyond the June meeting in Dallas of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who are poised to impose a new and mandatory protocol on all U.S. bishops for handling and preventing sexual abuse in their 195 dioceses.
The details of the protocol are to be worked out during the two-day, closed door consultation beginning Tuesday between the eight U.S. cardinal-archbishops and the pope and the highest-ranking cardinals in the Vatican. The Americans hope to win Rome's approval for imposing binding standards on all U.S. bishops.
Mahony said he will call for worldwide standards. He said many U.S. archdioceses rely on foreign priests, some of whom are "problem priests." Yet, he said, often their home bishops or religious order superiors fail to inform their American counterpart of a priest's failings. A worldwide protocol would help close such loopholes.
Sex scandals in America, in which dozens of priests have been accused of abusing children, have shaken the faith of American Catholics, cost the church millions of dollars in settlements and raised questions about American bishops' handling of investigations.
Bishops in Florida, Ireland and Poland have resigned because of the scandals. But most of the criticism has focused on Law, who allowed pedophile priests to continue their ministries. Two cases in which Boston area priests were transferred from parish to parish and continued to molest minors outraged Catholic leaders in his archdiocese, who called for his resignation and vowed to tighten their purse strings.
Now the lobbying against Law has reached the Vatican.
Talks May Backfire
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said he did not know about the effort to press the Vatican for Law's removal. He said he was surprised to hear of it and had no immediate position on it.
"I'm not a part of it," he said. "I'm not going to judge what other bishops are doing. Every bishop does what he feels he has to do for the good of the church. I'm not going to respond to it. I haven't had time to think about it."
George S. Weigel, an American theologian and papal biographer who has spent the last three weeks in Rome, predicted that any church official who advocates Law's resignation this week will "marginalize himself in the discussion."
"People may talk about how far this situation has gone and what other situations have to be looked at," Weigel said. "But this is not a meeting to discuss Boston. The temper here is not for that kind of discussion. That's not the way the church works."
The Vatican does not respond to "the press fervor of the moment," he said, adding that the cardinals were more likely to discuss the criteria under which any bishop who has mishandled a sex abuse case should step down.
But Father Thomas Williams, dean of theology at the pontifical university Regina Apostolorum in Rome, said the debate over Law's position "is good in the sense that everyone should be heard."
"There's a variety of opinions about what should be done [about Law] among those who are sincerely looking after the best interests of the church," Williams said. "All the issues have to come out, all the arguments."
New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who has also come under fire for mishandling sexual abuse cases, said before leaving his archdiocese for the Rome meeting that he was "deeply sorry" for any errors he made and vowed to take steps to prevent them in the future.
"You should expect nothing less of me, and the other leaders of our church," he wrote in a letter Saturday to Catholics in his archdiocese.
In St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, John Paul celebrated Mass for 20 newly ordained priests, telling them that Jesus expects a "higher loyalty" from them, a rigorous life of poverty and humility.
"He asks of you to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect," the pope said. "In a word, the Lord wants you to be holy. . . . If every vocation in the church is in the service of holiness, some--such as the vocation of ordained ministry and the consecrated life--are that in a singular way."
Times staff writer William Lobdell contributed to this report.
California Church Cover-up?
CBS Evening News
When victims of a California priest were awarded $30 million in 1998, it was the largest judgment ever against the Catholic Church. And, for the first time in a priest abuse case, a cardinal, Roger Mahony, testified.
"I felt like he lied to us," said juror Mary Park.
He told Park and other jurors that when he was Bishop of Stockton, he didn't know Father Oliver O'Grady was a molester. Mahony transferred the priest weeks after a police investigation. He claimed he never read the secret file his diocese kept which contained O'Grady's confession.
"We asked each other, 'Did you think he was telling the truth?' And the greatest majority of us felt he wasn't being honest with us, that he was still covering up," said Park.
In 1991, evidence surfaced connecting Mahony and his predecessors to the cover up of the Rita Milla case. When she was a teenager, a priest told her: he had a secret.
"He just leaned over and kissed me," said Milla.
In time, she says Father Santiago Tamayo forced her to have sex with him and other priests.
"It was seven priests. It didn't stop until I got pregnant," she said.
They scared her into keeping their secret and sent her to the Philippines where she almost died giving birth.
"I almost died protecting them. That's the part that woke me up. I went to the archdiocese really, really confident that they were going to listen to me. They were going to be appalled," said Milla.
But, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales, when they did nothing she decided to sue. The priests fled and the archdiocese said it didn't know where they went. The story might have ended there, but seven years later, Father Tamayo, plagued by guilt, came back and confessed.
He'd kept letters showing the Church knew he was in the Philippines and paid him to stay there.
"We would ask that you not reveal that you are being paid by the Los Angeles archdiocese unless requested to under oath," the letters read.
"But how's he going to do that if he's hidden?" demanded Milla.
Cardinal Mahony has denied any knowledge of the case, saying -- as he did with O'Grady -- he never read the files.
But when Mahony took over the archdiocese, Father Tamayo wrote directly to him. The cardinal's staff responded, offering the priest more money to stay away because lawsuits would "only open old wounds and further hurt anyone concerned, including the archdiocese."
"Liar. What a liar. I wish I could have him right in front of me and just cram these (documents) in his face and say 'explain this'," said Milla.
Tamayo was defrocked by Mahony, not for sex abuse, but for getting married. The Church denied repeated requests to interview the cardinal, but in Rome this week, Mahony told a local reporter he has a zero tolerance policy toward abusive priests.
"That''s our number one priority, to care for victims, to make sure all children and young people are safe and we don't have a repetition of this," he said.
Rita Milla, who once thought of becoming a nun, has turned her back on
the Church and is devoted only to her family -- including her oldest child,
the daughter of a priest.
Staking Their Claim
By Mary Rourke
WELLESLEY, Mass. -- In an unadorned parish hall in this posh Boston suburb, a woman spoke evenly, clearly trying to control her emotions. "I'm concerned about my children, who are making decisions about the future for my grandchildren," Claire Megan said. "I want them all to remain Catholic. But not in the church the way it's been."
This faithful churchgoer has found herself rethinking her world these days as new accusations continue to surface about sex crimes and cover-ups within the Catholic priesthood. Not one to see herself as a reformer, let alone a revolutionary, she nevertheless now feels compelled to help change the institution that has always been her spiritual home. She is attending meetings, helping to draw up proposals, and talking. Mostly talking. For better or worse, the church is no longer a place people like Megan can take for granted on Sundays. And as the Catholic church's problems become more glaring, laypeople like this unassuming grandmother in her 60s are getting involved.
From Buffalo, N.Y., to Chicago to Southern California, laypeople around the United States are getting together to see what role they can take, many of them demanding a larger role in church governance, meeting in ad hoc groups designed to bring about a dramatic change in church policy. At the very least, these people want a voice, some want more, including a church government with equal partners between the clergy and the laity--much as the Senate and House work side by side. They want to help police church actions, and they are prepared to withhold their donations as leverage to bring about such change.
Some of the most ambitious of these advocates meet every Monday night in the parish hall of St. John the Evangelist Catholic church in this small suburb of Boston. Their group, of which Megan is a member, got its start when 25 parishioners met after a Sunday Mass to vent about the former Boston priest, John J. Geoghan, accused of molesting more than 130 boys, and Boston Cardinal Bernard Law's long-term willingness to keep the problems hidden. The meetings have evolved into strategy sessions with the gathering force of a social revolution.
The group's name, Voice of the Faithful, suggests that its members do not intend to break away from the religious tradition they love. Their slogan, taped to the wall of their meeting room, spells out their straightforward, albeit difficult, goal: "Keep the faith, change the church."
To be sure, grass-roots movements intent on reforming church policies have cropped up repeatedly since the mid-1960s, when the leaders of the Second Vatican Council called for greater participation by laypeople in the life of the church. But most of these reformist groups have focused on a single issue, from ordination for women to birth control or equality for homosexuals. Now, as sexual abuse charges against dozens of priests around the world are being made public, laypeople are saying it is past time to rethink how the church does business. "Pedophilia is only a symptom of a disease," says Jim Muller, a cardiologist and parishioner of St. John the Evangelist and president of Voice of the Faithful. "The disease is absolute power."
The possibility of changing a centuries-old governing system composed of an all-male conference of bishops is daunting. "We've got to stay focused," says Muller. "Our goal is to organize the laity and give us a voice. If we start fighting over the gay issue, married priests and everything else, we won't make it."
No one envisions this happening overnight. Earlier this month, at a workshop called "Reform in the Catholic Church" in Belmont, Mass., a few miles from Wellesley, Mary Jo Bane discussed more basic strategies for church reform. Bane is an expert on public policy issues and teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Her session was part of a daylong conference on a variety of religious topics.
"It's a question of forming an alternative institution," she told 40 people who sat in a circle around her. "I'm your basic incrementalist. Change begins at the parish level."
In Chicago, Dan Daley is co-director of Call to Action, a group founded in the late-1970s that is the largest Catholic Church reform group in the U.S. It counts 25,000 members nationwide, including lay Catholics, nuns and priests and is monitoring lay-led movements such as the one in Wellesley. "Parishes around the country are holding meetings where people can talk, hear from the staff, sort out their feelings," says Daley. "Slowly they're becoming more conscious of the underlying issues. Particular parishes are going through the process, but each one is quite aware that others are doing the same thing. Call to Action is set up to connect these people. We're gearing up for it. We've started to get requests."
Patrick Young, a lawyer at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is a member of Call to Action; he was in Wellesley last week to attend a Voice of the Faithful meeting and was met with cheers when he introduced himself in the crowded parish hall. "Tomorrow night we're meeting in my city," he said. "I'll bring back news of your activities."
Earlier this month at San Francisco Solano parish in Orange County's Rancho Santa Margarita, a "listening" session followed the announcement of the resignation of parish priest Father Michael Pecharich, who has been accused of molesting two boys. He has resigned from the parish.
On April 7, members of San Francisco Solana met with facilitator Sister Kathleen Schinhofen, who helped them focus their concerns. Next, parishioners want to meet with Orange County Bishop Tod Brown, who recently called for an expanded role for the laity in church decision-making procedures. His announcement came days after Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony made a similar plan for the Los Angeles archdiocese. Mahony said he will include molestation victims on a board that reviews sexual abuse allegations against priests.
In Boston, says Muller, "the interest is keen." Within weeks of the Voice group's first meeting in February, it attracted about 100 concerned Catholics from around the state. Now, more than 200 people regularly attend the Monday meetings. The group has a Web site, http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org, and a mailing list that grows by as many as 100 new names a day, Muller says, now numbering about 1,500 names. Requests for training workshops come in from around the country. "We're besieged with people who want a model for how to create a stronger voice for the laity," Muller says.
He reads such signals with experienced eyes. Thirty years ago, Muller helped found International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, an international lobbying group, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for the project. That group grew to include 135,000 members, but Muller says he is reaching for far greater numbers for Voice of the Faithful. "We have maybe 300 people committed now," he says. "We need three million." Changing church government may be Voice of the Faithful's most ambitious goal, but it is not the only item on its agenda. Other priorities include supporting victims who have been molested by priests and standing up for "priests of integrity" who have been afraid to criticize church policies and teachings for fear of being punished by their bishops.
"I think what we're planning is doable," says Muller. "We're going to serve as a voice for mainstream Catholics and create a mechanism for democracy." The test of their strength may come on July 20, when Voice of the Faithful will hold a convention in Boston to draft a constitution for the laity. It is expected to call for bishops to share responsibility with laypeople, from making appointments of top clergy to enforcing openness on the daily level of parish government. Church leaders ought not to govern themselves, they say, no more than police and politicians who are overseen by civilian commissions.
Asked why he expects the church hierarchy to pay attention to demands by the laity, Muller appeals to moral integrity, social justice and money. "There is an unbalanced power structure with no voice of the faithful," he says. "We need to change that. With a constitution, we'll get the laity organized in a collective voice. Then we'll have a democratic process in place." As for leverage, Muller says, "the laity pays the church's bills."
Last week at the meeting in Wellesley, Muller read a statement drafted by Voice leaders calling for Cardinal Law to resign and for Boston Catholics to be included in choosing his replacement, although laity is not currently involved in that process. (The pope has since called for a meeting of the American cardinals in Rome, which is scheduled for today.)
"There is a Conference of Bishops in Catholic tradition and a College of Cardinals," says Peggie Thorp, who is on the steering committee of the Voice group. "With a constitution," she believes, "there will be a Conference of the Laity, with an equal voice."
A freelance writer, Thorp says the core group members of Voice of the Faithful grew up in the '60s. "Our age group was defined by movements, for peace, racial justice, women's rights," she says. Some years ago, she says, Thorp decided to drop out of the church, even though she still attended Sunday Mass. "For years, I stood outside church teachings and policies," she says. "I separated my faith from the institution." In an unexpected turn, the current sexual abuse scandal helped change her mind. "I see how my church is hurting people," says Thorp. "I want to help fix that."
Jim Post, a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist in Wellesley is a lawyer who helped organize an international boycott of Nestle USA in the late '70s in protest of the company's promotion of baby formula in Third World countries to mothers not educated about the advantages of breastfeeding. Using his organizing skills for Voice of the Faithful, Post is setting up an escrow fund for Catholics who want to divert their financial contributions from this year's annual Cardinal's Appeal that starts in May in the Boston archdiocese. They are suggesting that people place their contributions in the National Catholic Community Fund, a philanthropic organization that gives money to Catholic social-service programs.
"This allows us to avoid giving money to what amounts to Cardinal Law's hush fund," Post says. So far, settlement cases involving Geoghan have cost the Boston archdiocese an estimated $35 million.
Diverting contributions as a form of protest is not a new tactic: Chicago-based Call to Action has held funds in escrow for members of St. Francis Xavier church in N.Y. City. Parishioners put their contributions in escrow when a new pastor there began to fire staff and rearrange priorities without involving the congregation. In 1998, parish leaders asked Daley's office to hold the Christmas collection in escrow as leverage to help bring about change. "In a month or two, that pastor was removed from his job," says Daley. "It wasn't cause and effect, exactly. But withholding finances contributed to it."
One recent Monday night at St. John the Evangelist, more than 200 people from at least 10 neighboring churches squeezed into the parish hall. Some stopped to greet Father Tom Powers, the pastor who supports the Voice of the Faithful but does not always attend meetings.
The session began with a hymn and prayers. First-time visitors stood up to introduce themselves. "I am the mother of a victim," one woman said in a quivering voice. "Not by a priest, by a scout leader." Her son, now in his 20s, was molested when he was 9 and has not recovered emotionally. She takes it personally that Boston Cardinal Law did not report priests accused of abuse under his jurisdiction to the police, including Geoghan and retired Father Paul Shanley, who were repeatedly accused of molesting minors from as far back as the late '60s.
"To watch my sweet child grow into an angry young man breaks my heart," the mother said. "I can't even look at the cardinal. I want him out of his office."
Daley, in town for the meeting, sat with hands folded at the back of the room. "I came here to find out how the folks in Boston are dealing with things," he says. "What happens in Boston will be terribly important for Catholics all across America. If Boston takes a strong stand, the church will never be the same again."
Two hours into the meeting, 250 people were still trying to agree about the first sentence of a statement Muller's team had drafted in response to Cardinal Law's refusal to resign from his office.
The statement declared a loss of confidence in Law's ability to govern effectively. It stated that a change in leadership was essential and called on the Vatican to meet with a delegation of laypeople from Boston that would provide a full report on the situation there.
When the resignation issue is resolved, the statement said, lay Catholics in the Boston archdiocese should be included in deciding who Law's replacement will be.
The process is not easy for the members of Voice of the Faithful, and shared values notwithstanding, the particulars are hard to settle upon. Despite bursts of applause, particularly at the suggestion that a Boston delegation should visit the Vatican and that lay Catholics should help choose his replacement, the group could not all agree on the terms and language of the statement. Some argued that it is still too early to make demands; others that the tone of the letter was too angry.
In attempting to estimate the will of the majority, more than 200 voted in favor of the statement, if not the precise wording. Eight were opposed to at least part of the statement. "We want this to be a safe place for different opinions," Muller said, still hoping to reach a consensus. The arguing continued.
Twenty-five minutes later, several dozen people had walked out in frustration. Maura O'Brien, a woman in her 30s who serves on the town council, suggested another vote. This time, the purpose was only to get "a sense of the group." Two hundred nine voted in favor of the statement, nine could not accept it. From that night on, the room agreed, majority vote would rule.
"It was an extraordinarily difficult meeting," Muller later
said. "We'll go to majority rule from now on. But I hope the most
conservative members will see that Voice is a good home for them."
For two days after the meeting, Muller said, he was discouraged. But he
has since changed his mind. "I'd call it birth pains," he said.
U.S. Catholics and Vatican Face a Cultural Chasm in Coping With Sex Scandal
By Richard Boudreaux and Larry B. Stammer
VATICAN CITY -- A month ago, long after clerical sex scandals had mushroomed in the United States, the Colombian cardinal overseeing the worldwide Roman Catholic priesthood fielded a barrage of questions from reporters here over how the Vatican would respond.
Defensive and irritated, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos portrayed the scandals as the product of an American "culture of pansexuality and sexual licentiousness" and noted sourly that most of the questions were in English. "This by itself is an X-ray of the problem," he said.
Today, when 12 American cardinals lay the sex abuse crisis before Pope John Paul II and his top aides, what the Vatican had long viewed as an "American problem" will become its own.
The Americans' immediate goal is to persuade the Vatican to authorize the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to impose unprecedented binding procedures on all 195 U.S. diocesan bishops for addressing clerical sex abuse.
But more fundamentally, the extraordinary two-day meeting here is an opportunity to bridge a cultural gap between the Curia--the central Vatican bureaucracy that is dominated by Italians and, to a lesser extent, by other Europeans and Latin Americans--and Catholics in the United States, whose church is one of the world's largest and richest.
The divide reflects conflicting values: New World openness versus Old World secrecy, American home rule versus Vatican centralization, Anglo-Saxon CEO-style management versus a Mediterranean forgive-and-forget attitude toward sinners.
The chasm helps one understand a range of conflicts between the Vatican and American Catholics during John Paul's long reign, including disputes over academic freedom at Catholic universities and inclusive language in the liturgy. And it helps explain why the pope and his aides failed at first to grasp the scale of the current crisis, the American church's worst in modern times.
Senior U.S. clerics, summoned here on a week's notice, said Monday that they were encouraged by the Vatican's belated attention and the chance to explain the American perspective.
For today's opening session in the frescoed Sala Bologna, in the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican is sending eight top curial officials--up from the original list of three--to meet with the Americans. The pope will address the group today and attend as many of the sessions as his schedule allows, the Vatican said.
"The more members of the Holy Father's Curia who are engaged in the discussion, the better it is for the church," said Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who will join the American delegation. He said the talks will allow Vatican officials "to ask the questions that perhaps they do not fully understand in terms of the crisis we are facing."
The two sides have a history of misunderstanding.
Since the 19th century, when Pope Leo XIII cracked down on what he called "Americanism," the Curia has viewed American culture as deeply rooted in Calvinist individualism, lacking a strong concept of community or the church.
More recently, in 1989, John Paul became concerned that the American church was spinning beyond his control. He summoned all American archbishops, including cardinals, to Rome. The discussion ranged widely--from the high rate of remarriage for divorced American Catholics to the American hierarchy's tolerance for dissent within the church.
John May, then archbishop of St. Louis, crystallized the clashing perspectives in his opening remarks.
"Authoritarianism is suspect in any area of learning or culture," he said. "To assert that there is a church teaching with authority binding for eternity is truly a sign of contradiction to many Americans who consider the divine right of bishops as outmoded as the divine right of kings."
The response by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the Vatican's guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, was equally blunt: Bishops must remember that they are "guardians of an authoritarian tradition."
Since then, papal appointments have brought the American church hierarchy more into line, but disagreements have persisted.
In 1990, for example, a papal document on higher education required theologians at Catholic universities to get certification from their bishops that they were teaching authentic Catholic doctrine. U.S. bishops resisted, arguing in defense of academic freedom. To many of them, the Vatican effort smacked of loyalty oaths and blacklisting.
The American reaction, in the Vatican's view, was a rebellious assertion of individual freedom against the collective good of the church.
A few years later, the Vatican began objecting to the use of inclusive language--the word "people," for example, instead of "man"--in English translations of Latin liturgical texts. It demanded new powers over the translators--a panel set up by English-speaking bishops conferences around the world. Bishops in America balked.
Both disputes--over universities and translations--were settled on the Vatican's terms, after lengthy discussions with American bishops.
The sex scandals have highlighted a new set of cultural differences, along with what George S. Weigel, an American theologian and papal biographer, called "an urgency gap" between the Vatican and American Catholics.
One difference is over the Vatican perception that pedophilia is mostly an American problem.
Many American Catholics resent that view. They believe the U.S. is taking the lead in grappling with a problem that is hidden in many other societies but will eventually confront the church worldwide.
Pedophilia scandals have already hit the Catholic Church in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Mexico and Poland. But the phenomenon has gained far more attention in America, where the culture makes victims less inhibited about stepping forward and the right to sue in court offers the prospect of financial damages.
The Vatican is immersed in Italian culture, which, like many others, regards sex abuse and other aberrant human behavior as inappropriate fodder for public discussion.
When Mexico's bishops met this month, they claimed that their country had no abuse cases--then admitted it did. Still, Mexican Archbishop Sergio Obeso told a news conference that evidence of crimes will not be turned over to the civil authorities, because "dirty laundry is washed at home."
"The reaction in the United States is, 'Just wait and see,' " said Father Thomas J. Reese, who edits the Jesuit magazine America. "For cultural reasons, it's a lot more difficult in the Mediterranean countries and in Latin America for a young man to come forward and say publicly that he was abused as a child. But concern about sex abuse is going to spread from the United States and hit many other countries in a few years. There's a denial factor now, but it won't last."
Another tension is between Vatican secrecy and American openness.
When the scandals in America erupted, the Vatican first insisted that it had already addressed the problem with a new requirement that all accusations of clerical sexual abuse be reported to Rome.
But these requirements, adopted last May, were issued in secret. They were sent in June to bishops and heads of religious orders but not publicly announced until January, when they were finally published in Latin in the journal of record of the Holy See.
Vatican officials struggling to grasp the impact of the scandals have also displayed a lack of understanding of American civil law, which has made financial liability a big issue.
Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone of Italy, a Vatican official, called it a "strange fact" that in the United States the church is forced under civil law to pay millions of dollars in damages for the misdeeds of "single individuals."
"This ordinarily doesn't happen" in other societies, he said in an interview with the Italian magazine 30 Giorni, "and it shouldn't happen."
Another factor that blinded the Vatican to the American scandals was a suspicion among curial officials that sex abuse allegations were being orchestrated and reported by opponents of the church's strong stand against abortion and birth control and its insistence on clerical celibacy.
It took weeks of insistent messages from American cardinals and bishops to convince the Vatican that the scandals have severely eroded the faith of ordinary Catholics and threaten to taint John Paul's reign.
"The magnitude of this scandal has finally hit home here," said Weigel, the theologian, who has spent the last three weeks in Rome. "The urgency gap has finally begun to narrow."
The two days of debate here will try to reconcile conflicting perceptions over what to do about the scandal.
In remarks over the weekend to visiting clergymen, John Paul emphasized that Jesus demands a "higher loyalty" from priests, including humility, poverty and chastity.
Some American Catholics worry that the pope is framing the sex abuse issue more as a matter of discipline by individual priests than as an institutional failure. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, said he would plead in today's meeting for a papal apology to the victims of clerical sex abuse.
"This is an institutional church issue," Mahony said in an interview. "The pope has to say something that is very pastoral and caring to the victims and to children and youth."
On Sunday, one U.S. cardinal told The Times that he and other prelates planned to urge the Vatican in meetings Monday to ask Cardinal Bernard Law to resign as the archbishop of Boston. Law has come under fire for his handling of cases of pedophile priests. The cardinal offered no progress report on Monday's meetings.
As for what to do about pedophile priests, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the American bishops, said the bishops tend to favor a chief executive's approach: "You do something wrong, you're fired."
"But it's not that easy to dismiss someone from the priesthood," she added, noting the Vatican view that once someone is ordained a priest, he is a priest forever.
Also, the American push for mandatory reporting policies--which would require bishops to inform police of any credible allegations of sexual abuse against a priest--has been met so far with a cautious response from the Vatican.
Society must "respect the 'professional secrecy' of priests," Bertone said in the 30 Giorni interview. "If a priest cannot confide in his bishop because he is afraid of being denounced . . . it would mean that there is no more freedom of conscience."
On one hand, the Americans see the Vatican's point. "It's one thing if you're dealing with a constitutional government that believes in due process and innocent until proven guilty," Walsh said. "If you're in a dictatorial state, in China, I'm not sure whether you'd want the bishops doing that."
But Mahony said worldwide standards are essential in an age of globalized missionary work. American dioceses often rely on foreign priests, he said, yet often are not told by those priests' superiors when one has a record of sexual abuse.
If accused of sexual misbehavior in America, Mahony complained, such priests have an easy out.
"They get a dime and call a cab," he said. "They're gone."
L.A. Cardinal Sued For Alleged Cover-Up Of Priest Abuse
LOS ANGELES -- Cardinal Roger Mahony, who leads the nation's largest Catholic diocese, was sued under federal racketeering laws Monday for allegedly covering up past sexual abuses by priests.
Two lawsuits by four alleged abuse victims claim that over three decades Mahony knew of molestation allegations against several priests and concealed the information from parishioners and law enforcement, allowing the priests to continue working.
Plaintiff attorney Jeffrey Anderson said Mahony had a pattern of "protection of pedophile priests."
The lawsuits are the latest in a series of racketeering suits filed this year against U.S. Catholic dioceses in connection with the church's ongoing clerical sex abuse scandal.
The archdiocese did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The lawsuits also name the bishops of all 194 U.S. dioceses. Those dioceses maintained secret files of "scandalous material" that included evidence of pedophile priests, Anderson said during a news conference after filing the lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The lawsuits also name the archdiocese and the Rev. Carl Sutphin as co-conspirators.
The allegations against Mahony include the period he was bishop of the Stockton, Calif., diocese. He came to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1985 and was made cardinal in 1991.
After allegation were made against Sutphin, Mahony repeatedly promised to have him removed from the church, according to the plaintiffs. Sutphin was instead transferred to another church and only forced to retire this year.
Andy Cicchillo, one of the plaintiffs, told reporters on the steps of the Los Angeles County Courthouse: "We would not be here today if I was not lied to in 1991 by Cardinal Mahony."
The plaintiffs, together with a group of abuse survivors, planned to try to personally serve the lawsuits on Mahony after the petitions are filed.
Mahony recently returned from a Vatican summit on the priest-abuse scandal
and called for a national "zero tolerance" policy against abusers.
Cardinal Sued Over Molestation Cases
By Beth Shuster and Richard Winton
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was sued Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court under a federal racketeering law typically used to dismantle organized crime operations. Two lawsuits were filed on behalf of two sets of brothers who allege they were sexually abused as children by a priest in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
The civil lawsuits allege that Mahony protected abusive priests as head of the archdiocese, a pattern of behavior that constitutes a criminal enterprise.
The lawsuits also allege that the nation's 194 bishops maintain secret files on abusive priests that should be turned over to authorities.
Specifically, the suit alleges, Mahony promised to remove Father Carl Sutphin after learning of abuse allegations in the early 1990s, but waited until this year to force Sutphin into retirement. The lawsuits also allege that Mahony knew of other abusive priests but did not fire them or report them to police.
"The evidence directly establishes that Cardinal Mahony as the head of the church in Los Angeles has engaged in a pattern of concealment, deception, obstruction of judicial process and the protection of pedophile priests and he's been doing that for years," said Jeffrey R. Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney who has filed numerous lawsuits against dioceses across the country since the 1980s. "The RICO [Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations] laws are designed to get to the top of criminal organizations if they [church officials] act like mobsters and organized crime, we just have to hold them responsible."
RICO was enacted three decades ago as a tool in the government's war against organized crime and has since been used in civil cases. Under the statute, racketeering is defined as a criminal enterprise that affects interstate commerce and uses illegal means to further its ends. In this case, Anderson alleges, the archdiocese concealed abuses to maintain its reputation and keep getting church donations.
The racketeering lawsuits are the first to name an American cardinal, Anderson said at a news conference Monday. He spoke on the downtown courthouse steps alongside two alleged victims and about a dozen supporters, then walked two blocks to deliver the suit at the new downtown cathedral. The victims are seeking unspecified compensation, as well as policies to prevent priests from abusing children. RICO suits pay triple damages.
Archdiocesan officials would not comment on the lawsuits. Mahony, who was taken to a Burbank hospital Sunday night with blood clots in his lung, is expected to be released in about a week.
Mahony said last week that he forced Sutphin to retire early after reviewing past reports of sexual abuse by priests. Mahony said he required Sutphin to undergo psychological counseling when he first learned of the abuse allegations in the 1990s. He said he received good reports about Sutphin's progress and later allowed him to live at St. Vibiana's Cathedral with him and other priests. Mahony said he thought Sutphin was well supervised there.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs took a different view.
"Hasn't he heard of jail?" Anderson said. "I don't think he did anything for the safety of children."
The two lawsuits, one filed on behalf of twin brothers Andrew and Joseph Cicchillo and the other on behalf of two unidentified victims, allege that letters were sent to archdiocese officials in the 1990s describing the allegations against Sutphin. The Times does not identify sexual abuse victims unless they request that their names be published
Andrew Cicchillo said that he sent a letter to the cardinal in 1991, and that he was told in response that Sutphin would be removed from the priesthood. He said he received money from the archdiocese to pay for counseling. About a year later, Cicchillo's sister wrote to Mahony requesting money for Andrew's continued therapy. That request was apparently denied.
Cicchillo, 46, said he was abused by Sutphin for 10 years, beginning when he was about 6. Sutphin was the associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Maywood at the time.
Cicchillo said Sutphin would tell him, "I love you like a brother, this is between us, no one has to know."
His twin brother, Joseph, said he was abused by Sutphin over two or three years. He said Sutphin would tell him "you're the chosen one, you're special." When he rebuffed the priest, Joseph Cicchillo said, Sutphin told him he would go to hell if he didn't oblige.
The lawsuits maintain that Mahony has a history of protecting abusive priests, including Father Oliver O'Grady in Stockton. Anderson in 1988 won a $30-million jury verdict on behalf of two brothers allegedly molested by the priest. The verdict was later negotiated to $7 million. The suit alleged that Mahony had transferred the priest from one parish to another after learning of the abuse allegations. But Mahony testified in the trial that he was unaware of certain allegations against O'Grady when he moved him.
The lawsuits also claim that abuses by Father Santiago Tamayo, who allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old girl from 1979 to 1982, were concealed by the archdiocese to avoid liability. Tamayo, the suit alleges, took the girl to the Philippines to hide her pregnancy. She later sued the archdiocese.
Monday's suit alleges that the archdiocesan attorneys in 1984 lied when they claimed that they did not know where to find Tamayo. Correspondence showed that the church was mailing him checks at an address in the Philippines. Tamayo returned in 1988 to answer the civil allegations.
That year, Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who was the vicar in charge of personnel at the L.A. archdiocese at the time, advised him to leave the United States, that the payments were to help him live permanently in the Philippines. A copy of the letter, the suit noted, was sent to Mahony.
In their lawsuit, two unidentified Ventura County brothers allege that they were molested as youngsters in 1976 by Sutphin, when he was chaplain at St. John's Medical Center in Oxnard.
The brothers, identified only as John B. Doe and John F. Doe, allege that they met Sutphin in 1975 when their family attended mass at St. John's chapel.
"He became a family friend who came over to dinner," John F. Doe said in an interview. "This was a priest my parents trusted."
He said he and his brother were abused by the priest on a fishing trip.
"It was [Sutphin's] mom's trailer," John F. Doe said.
He said he never told anyone about the alleged abuse until January 1994 when his brother told his mother.
Their mother, a longtime Catholic high school teacher, reported the abuse the next day to Msgr. Terrance Fleming, then vice chancellor of the archdiocese, the suit said.
Msgr. Timothy J. Dyer, who supervised priests at the time, called her back.
He said he would take care of the problem, the lawsuit alleges. Dyer has declined to comment.
Anderson wrote to Mahony on April 10, advising him of Sutphin's alleged misconduct.
He attached a letter from the mother of John F. Doe and John B. Doe seeking an explanation from Mahony.
John McNicholas, an archdiocese attorney, replied in an April 22 letter that Sutphin had been removed from the ministry. Mahony said he turned over Sutphin's name to police.
Several lawyers with experience in RICO lawsuits said the case faces major obstacles.
"The idea the church is running a pattern of racketeering activity, it might make a good headline but it won't hold water at the end of the day in court," said Los Angeles attorney Fred Friedman.
He said lawyers often prefer to file such cases in state court because they tend to draw more sympathetic juries; verdicts do not have to be unanimous.
Other experts said the lawsuits may have been filed too late. RICO has a four-year statute of limitations.
Michael J. Mueller, chairman of the American Bar Assn.'s Civil RICO Committee, said the U.S. Supreme Court heard a RICO suit in which an ex-patient sued physicians at a psychiatric hospital eight years after his discharge.
"The Supreme Court said you cannot wait eight years after he obviously knew to sue," Mueller said.
"And so it seems to me a defendant in these type of cases is going to point to that Supreme Court decision," Mueller said.
Anderson said that besides the RICO allegations, the lawsuit also claims
battery, fraud, conspiracy, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional
Tempe man, 3 others sue LA archbishop
A Tempe resident and three other men who say they were abused by a California priest decades ago filed suit Monday against Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation's largest archdiocese, under a federal law originally aimed at busting organized crime.
Mahony, who called for zero tolerance for predatory priests before last week's Vatican summit on the sex abuse scandal, is named under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Mahony, 66, meanwhile, was in good condition Monday after being hospitalized for treatment of a blood clot in his lung, church officials said. He was admitted Sunday night to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, the archdiocese said in a statement.
His office did not reply to a request for comment.
Jeffrey Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney who has filed 500 sex abuse cases across the country since 1983, also included 194 archdiocesan bishops nationwide as unnamed co-conspirators.
The suit claims he concealed crimes by failing to remove predatory priests and by lying to parishioners.
"I made Mahony the centerpiece of this suit because he is a mastermind of deceiving parents, deceiving parishioners, deceiving police and deceiving prosecutors," Anderson said.
Andy Cicchillo, 46, of Tempe said Monday that he and his twin brother were molested by a priest between 1964 and 1975 when they were children at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Maywood, Calif. In 1991, after learning that the priest was a chaplain in a hospital serving children, Cicchillo wrote to Mahony asking that the priest be defrocked.
Cicchillo said the archdiocese promised "he would never wear a (priest's) collar again. But last year, someone from the old parish showed my brother a photo of (the priest) giving tours of the cathedral."
"I have had Mahony on the radar for a long time," said Anderson, who sued Mahony for protecting a pedophile priest while Mahony was bishop of Stockton, Calif., before moving to Los Angeles in 1985. In that case, a $30 million verdict against the diocese included $24 million in punitive damages on behalf of two victims.
Three weeks ago, Anderson also filed a RICO suit against the former bishop of Palm Beach, Anthony O'Connell, who resigned in March after acknowledging he had sex with a seminary student years ago.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says victims are disappointed with the focus on "bad apple" priests, "while the public and the parishioners know it's not about the apples, it's about the barrel - the folks in charge."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Blood Clots Hospitalize Mahony
By Thomas H. Maugh II
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was admitted to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank on Sunday evening for treatment of a pulmonary embolism--blood clots in his lung.
His physician, Dr. Lee Parsons, said Mahony was in good condition and resting comfortably Monday. Though he may be in the hospital for as many as 10 days, he is expected to make a complete recovery.
Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, said the cardinal was working from his room.
"One of the first things he asked for was his computer," Tamberg said.
Experts speculated that the clots could have been caused by Mahony's flights to Rome and back last week for the two-day conference of cardinals on pedophilia.
Prolonged sitting on such flights occasionally causes the formation of blood clots, or emboli, in the legs. These clots can then break loose and lodge elsewhere in the body, producing lung damage, heart attacks and strokes.
This condition is often called "economy-class syndrome," but it can affect passengers and pilots anywhere on a plane. At least 2,000 Americans each year die from such blood clots after a flight, but experts said that the vast majority go undiagnosed and that as many as 1million people worldwide die from them yearly. Former Vice President Dan Quayle suffered a pulmonary embolism in 1994 after an overseas flight, but was successfully treated.
The clots do damage by blocking the flow of blood to the affected organ. In the lungs, that means a patient's blood is not completely oxygenated, causing breathing difficulties and chest pains.
Although pulmonary emboli cause as many as 650,000 deaths in the United States annually, said Dr. Craig Feied of George Washington University, the vast majority of those occur in the first hour after symptoms begin or in patients in which the disorder is never diagnosed. Once a patient is diagnosed and hospitalized for treatment, deaths are rare.
Treatment includes bed rest and the use of clot-busting enzymes to destroy the initial clot and blood thinners to prevent the formation of more clots.
Mahony was successfully treated in 1998 for a blood clot in his right lung that he developed after prostate surgery. Such clots are common among hospitalized patients and after surgery.
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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