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Church Must Not Tolerate Those Who Enable Molesters

By David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine
Survivors Network of Those Abused [Chicago IL]
February 7, 2004

Because of child molesting charges, Father John Calicott of Holy Angels parish was twice removed from ministry, by two different bishops. He admitted "sexual misconduct" with two boys. Yet he's been teaching classes, including sex education, back at the very same parish where he abused youngsters.

In interviews with the Sun-Times and WMAQ-TV, both the current Holy Angels pastor and Calicott himself admitted this. Calicott, it turns out, has been at the parish "almost daily," despite the nationwide "zero tolerance" policy that bishops adopted and continually crow about.

Imagine an admitted abusive priest dealing with kids nearly every day, even after nearly two years of constant nationwide allegations, removals, civil lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, media exposes and admissions.

Still, Father Calicott is not the issue. The issue is twofold: the parish's current pastor and Cardinal Francis George.

How can the current pastor, the Rev. Robert Miller, justify allowing Calicott daily access to innocent, vulnerable youngsters? More important, how can George allow Miller to elude responsibility for this deliberately dangerous and disrespectful behavior?

We've long said that every bishop ought to stand before his priests and make two declarations. The first should be directed to molesters: "If you're attracted to kids, and you voluntarily come forward now, I'll give you the best medical, psychological, and legal help, and I'll stand by you forever."

It's doubtful many abusers would take a bishop up on this offer, but it's worth a try.

The second declaration should even be more forceful. "If you're attracted to kids, but you fail to report a brother priest who is, I will make your life a living hell. I'll yank your collar, your health benefits and your pension. And I don't care if you sue me to the highest court in the land. I will not tolerate the continuing culture of silence that enables precious children to be decimated by predators."

That second message is what George needs to send now. Calicott won't listen to reason and won't obey his bishop. That's clear. So punishing him is meaningless. Psychology professionals argue that child molesters are not rational. They can't be dissuaded by logic or threats. So little George can say will impact Calicott's behavior.

But Miller and his brother priests must listen to reason. They, surely, are reasonable and obedient men. If they see a fellow cleric punished for ignoring the bishops' zero-tolerance pledge, these "good men" will side with innocent children over their colleagues.

During Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, his campaign manager kept a frenetic campaign team focused using the mantra, "It's the economy, stupid." The analogous mantra here is "It's the leadership, stupid." It's not Calicott's behavior, it's Miller's behavior and George's behavior.

Let's put it another way: What to do with abusive priests can be complicated. What to do with complicit priests is not. Church leaders need to come down like a ton of bricks on men who aid and abet known or suspected molesters.

Two of George's colleagues, Bishops William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas, have led by example. Former Connecticut priest Laurence Brett, wanted for molesting kids in three states, was tracked to a Caribbean island, but narrowly escaped. FBI agents found evidence that two Bridgeport priests had corresponded with Brett, a criminal suspect on the run from the law. To his credit, Lori disciplined those two priests.

In Dallas, in the wake of the horrific Rudy Kos case, the diocese did background checks on all parish employees. A Dallas Morning News investigation showed at least two pastors failed to implement these simple safeguards. Responding to public pressure, Grahmann demoted them to smaller parishes.

By taking these sound management steps, both church leaders sent their flock a clear signal: Hiding or enabling a child molester will not be tolerated. Cardinal George needs to do likewise.

David Clohessy of St. Louis and Barbara Blaine of Chicago are leaders of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,


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