The Archbishop Should Explain Actions in Case against Accused Priest
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 26, 2013
|Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang|
In 2011, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson defended the way the archdiocese here handles child sexual abuse allegations. He promised to cooperate with law enforcement when asked and to remind adults of their right to contact enforcement authorities in cases of suspected abuse.
His remarks, in an interview with the Post-Dispatch, followed charges and a grand jury report lambasting the way the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, led by Cardinal Justin Rigali, the former archbishop of St. Louis, handled allegations of child sexual abuse in Philadelphia’s Catholic community.
Now comes the case of the Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang and suggestions that Archbishop Carlson may not be keeping his pledges.
Father Jiang is a 30-year-old priest in the St. Louis Archdiocese who was charged with criminal child endangerment nearly a year ago after being accused of molesting a teenage girl in Lincoln County.
In a lawsuit filed July 12 by the parents of the girl, now 19, Archbishop Carlson is accused of trying to cover the priest’s tracks. The archbishop has not personally commented on the matter. He should.
The matter is in litigation, and lawyers may have counseled him against speaking out. But the silence only fuels concerns that he may have backed away from strict adherence to his own policies.
The parents allege in their suit that the archbishop tried to tamper with evidence by asking them to return a $20,000 check that Father Jiang left them. The lawsuit alleges that the priest explained to the girl’s mother in a text message he left the check “because of his ‘stupidity.’ ”
Instead, the parents turned the check over to law enforcement officials, as they should have.
A statement on the archdiocese website regarding the parents’ lawsuit says: “The Archdiocese has been made aware of a John and Jane Doe lawsuit recently filed in Lincoln County against the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Archbishop Carlson asserting errors in the supervision of a diocesan priest. These new allegations against the archdiocese and the archbishop are false and will be denied in an answer to the lawsuit filed in court.”
Angela Shelton, community relations specialist for the archdiocese, said Tuesday that there was no further comment. The archdiocese said last year that Father Jiang was placed on administrative leave after officials learned about the allegations, and that none of the alleged abuse had taken place at the Cathedral Basilica or on archdiocesan property. The question of where abuse is alleged to have taken place goes to the issue of failure to supervise.
Archbishop Carlson is also accused in the lawsuit of having known that Father Jiang was a danger to children, although it does not provide details. It further says that the archbishop and Monsignor Joseph Pins, the pastor of Cathedral Basilica, ignored the priest’s request to be reassigned from the Cathedral, where he met the girl, because he was having personal problems.
The parents claim in the lawsuit that they asked the archbishop last year if Father Jiang, who was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Carlson in 2010, would be removed from the priesthood. They say he answered “that he would remove Jiang if he ‘had sex’ with the child, but not for activities other than that.”
The archbishop appears to be have had a long-term mentoring relationship with Father Jiang, a native of Shandong, China. Archbishop Carlson supervised Father Jiang’s pre-priesthood ministry at St. John the Baptist Parish in St. Paul, Minn. After following the archbishop to St. Louis, Father Jiang lived in the archbishop’s official residence, according to the lawsuit.
After Father Jiang was arrested on the criminal charges in Lincoln County, Monsignor Richard Hanneke, archdiocesan vicar for priests, posted a $25,000 bond for his release.
Archbishop Carlson was subpoenaed to answer questions in a deposition in the criminal case. His attorney, Paul D’Agrosa, said Wednesday that the state had postponed depositions in the case. Hopefully the archbishop will share his answers with church members and the community at large so suspicion and fear can be put to rest.
The case of Father Jiang is playing out against the backdrop of Pope Francis’ overhaul this month of the laws governing Vatican City, including listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children.
Archbishop Carlson must follow the pope’s example and show support not just for the priest, but for his alleged victim and her parents. He shouldn’t weigh in on the priest’s guilt or innocence unless he knows the truth of what happened.
But it is incumbent upon the archbishop to live up to his promise to be open and transparent, to erase suspicion and create an atmosphere in which adults and children feel free to share their concerns.
Archbishop Carlson’s flock must not be discouraged from speaking out about any problems they have — whether at the hands of a trusted priest or not — if true healing is to occur within the community.