Another Errant Bishop Passes from the Scene

By Sheryl McCarthy
Newsday [New York]
August 4, 2003

Two down, four to go.

Now that the pope has accepted the resignation of Bishop Thomas Daily, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, two members of Boston's infamous Gang of Six have been disposed of.

The group included Cardinal Bernard Law and the five auxiliary bishops who over the years allegedly hushed up countless acts of sexual abuse by priests and passed those priests along to do more damage.

Law was forced out in December, after the litany of crimes committed against children and young men and women during his tenure was revealed to be so horrible that his presence in that city could no longer be tolerated. He is now reported to be at a monastery near Pittsburgh.

Bishop Daily is the second to go. Last week he insisted he was leaving the job because of his age and the Catholic church's retirement policy. But his name will always be tarnished by his complicity in the sex-abuse scandal.

Meanwhile, the other bishops who've been named by the Massachusetts attorney general as participants in the cover-up continue to head dioceses around the country. They are Bishop Robert Banks in Green Bay, Wis.; Bishop Alfred Hughes, New Orleans; Bishop William Murphy, Rockville Centre; and Bishop John McCormack, Manchester, N.H. They deserve to be drummed out of office as well.

The man replacing Bishop Daily is Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Camden, N.J., who came in vowing to protect the children under his care. Camden had its own problem with sexually predatory priests, however, and in March agreed to pay 23 plaintiffs almost a million dollars to settle sex- abuse claims, according to one report.

None of the New York Catholics I talked to last week knew much about DiMarzio, but most expressed cautious optimism that he will handle this problem better than Daily did.

"What I know about Camden is not that positive," admitted David Cerulli, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He said other SNAP members told him "there was a lot of foot-dragging and backsliding" in terms of reaching out to victims in Camden. But of Daily's departure Cerulli said: "I'm glad to see him go . .. At least two are gone."

Annie Heslin, a lifelong Brooklyn Catholic and a member of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group formed to respond to the sex-abuse scandal, said she's glad Daily is leaving because of his role in the scandal. "It wasn't here in New York, but it did happen in Massachusetts, and all of us felt very shocked ... However, we hope for a new day."

Apart from his involvement in the Boston scandal, Daily seems to have been a capable enough administrator during the 13 years he was in Brooklyn. Church members said the diocese was efficiently run and that, while many other dioceses grappled with huge financial problems, under Daily Brooklyn was one of the few that published an annual financial audit.

After the church sex scandal blew wide open, the Brooklyn diocese responded better than some. After the district attorneys for Brooklyn and Queens requested the names of all the priests who were accused of sexual misconduct over the last 20 years, Daily complied, a church member said. Two Brooklyn priests were prosecuted and convicted during the last year. And, while Daily at first refused to recognize Voice of the Faithful, he later recanted and sent representatives to meet with the group.

But Daily will always be dogged by his old sins. In his report on the Boston sex scandal, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly cited Daily for clearly preferring to keep priests who sexually abused children in the ministry by transferring them to unsuspecting new parishes without supervision or notification.

According to Reilly, as many as 1,000 victims suffered under the hands of the priests while Daily and the other bishops looked the other way. None of these men will ever be criminally indicted because of the child-protection laws that existed at the time and the difficulty of proving they had criminal intentions. But their hands are as dirty as any of the errant priests. Even now hundreds of victims are trying to have the crimes against them recognized and to get settlements and an apology from the church.

If the Gang of Six can't be prosecuted, they at least deserve to get the boot. Four to go.


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