Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned:
The Catholic Church in Crisis
[Note from BishopAccountability.org: This special contains reports on the following priests accused of sexual abuse or possession of child pornography: Daniel P. Herek, Matthew Berko (in addition to the main segment, there is an introductory segment on Berko also), Jean Vogler, Marvin Archuleta, S.F., and Neil P. Conway.]
Announcer: This is an ABC News Special.
PETER JENNINGS, anchor:
This is a broadcast about betrayal and failed leadership. An ABC News investigation finds there are priests still at the altar who have been found guilty of abusing young people.
Ms. ALEXANDRA MEIHAL: (ph) Do I think he should be defrocked? I think he should have been defrocked the moment it came out.
JENNINGS: (VO) Why did this priest do it and is talking to us about it? A way for him to find the truth.
Father NEIL CONWAY: I think that's my greatest regret, you know, that for some reason, I couldn't have what I needed in life and I went after the vulnerable to go get it.
JENNINGS: Another priest guilty of abuse. The church ignored warnings about him for three decades.
Ms. DEBBIE TUTTLE: (ph) He says, 'We have a file this thick on him, and we've known about it for years.'
JENNINGS: Will the institutional cover-up continue? Is the culture of secrecy so deep?
How hard will it be for the church to change?
Mr. WILLIAM DONOHUE (President, Catholic League): It's going to be very difficult for the church to change because they've got to--they've got to 'fess up.
JENNINGS: Who rules in Rome? Can this church purge itself?
Announcer: BLESS ME FATHER FOR I HAVE SINNED: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CRISIS. Here now, Peter Jennings.
JENNINGS: Good evening.
The crisis in the Roman Catholic Church is now very deep. For at least 63 million Americans who belong to the church, this is its greatest challenge since it established a presence in North America more than 500 years ago and was ultimately accepted.
In the last three months alone, more than 75 priests have been removed from their jobs because they are accused of sexually abusing young people. And millions of people have been further outraged to learn that other priests and bishops and cardinals have been covering up for the perpetrators. This has caused, as you will see in our latest polling, a huge schism between the church and its congregation. The rush of accusation and recrimination now has the force of an avalanche.
(VO) In parishes large and small all over the country, Roman Catholics want to know, where will it end?
Unidentified Woman #1: I don't know where it ends. It could be so much easier if the church would just be open.
JENNINGS: (VO) It is not over in New York, where today Cardinal Edward Egan agreed to give the district attorneys the names of priests accused of sexually abusing children. He had at first refused. The district attorneys were persistent.
Ms. JEANINE PIRRO (Westchester County District Attorney): We believe that all religions have an obligation, certainly a moral obligation, to report cases that they become aware of to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
JENNINGS: (VO) It is not over in St. Petersburg, Florida. Today, an attorney representing people who say they were abused by a priest has filed a lawsuit against three diocese, two religious orders and the Vatican itself. The lawyer accuses the church of a conspiracy to shield priests from prosecution.
Mr. JEFFREY ANDERSON (Attorney): The bishops and every head of every diocese in the US of A have effectively been operating above and below the law, not according to it.
JENNINGS: (VO) It is not over in New Jersey, where this week a court is deciding if a family can sue a diocese for alleged sexual abuse going back 20 years. The family accuses the church of conspiring to conceal the allegations.
Mr. STEPHEN RUBINO (Attorney): (In court) He said to them, 'Don't go anywhere as it relates to the authorities. It will harm you and it will the church.'
JENNINGS: (VO) It is certainly not over in Toledo, Ohio. This week, another alleged victim of a priest launched a lawsuit against the church, accusing it of tactics more often associated with organized crime.
Mr. WILLIAM CROSBY (Attorney): This witness intimidation, the payment of hush money...
JENNINGS: (VO) It has been one test of faith after another for Roman Catholics. At a cathedral in Boston on Easter Sunday a protester held up a sign which said "House of rape."
Boston is where the scandal first got so much publicity. In January, the Boston Globe newspaper revealed that Cardinal Bernard Law allowed the pedophile priest Father John Geoghan to be transferred from parish to parish, though he knew allegations against the priest stretched back for decades. This year, Father Geoghan was sentenced to nine to 10 years on one count of molesting a child. He is accused of molesting at least 130 others.
Unidentified Man #1: He's a filthy pig.
JENNINGS: (VO) When the church's role in protecting the Father Geoghan became public, the Boston cardinal agreed to give prosecutors the names of 80 priests accused of abusing children. Many Roman Catholics believe Cardinal Law should resign.
Unidentified Woman #2: The cardinal is incapable of leading us at this point in time.
JENNINGS: (VO) The cardinal has refused to step down. The diocese has reached a settlement with Father Geoghan's victims that may amount to $30 million. Just today, we learned the Boston diocese may have spent as much as $50 million in the last 25 years trying to cure sexually abusive priests.
The Roman Catholic Church has never said what it costs financially overall to deal with this. There are estimates that since 1985, the church may have spent more than a billion dollars in victim settlements, with no end in sight.
Mr. ANDERSON: The problem is not just abuse by clerics. The problem is concealment of it by the hierarchy. And for that to begin to stop and to end, I believe that a bishop--an American bishop--is going to have to hear the clang of the jail door behind him. And that will then be heard by every bishop in the US of A, and that is a sound that will have to resonate to the Vatican.
JENNINGS: This is surely a terrifying prospect for the church, that this may be a true conspiracy, that maybe a substantial number of people knew what was going on and allowed it to continue. If it turns out to be the case, this will all be much worse.
We know that Catholics are already very unhappy. An ABC News/Washington Post poll done in conjunction with the religion Web site, Beliefnet, finds that 71 percent of Catholics believe this is a major problem that needs immediate attention. Thirty-six percent of Catholics say they are angry with the church.
ABC NEWS-Washington Post-beliefnet POLL +/- 4.5%
Major Problem- Needs Immediate Attention
48% 71% Feb March
How the Church has Handled it: Personal Reaction
36% 34% 19% 9% Angry Dissatisfied Satisfied Pleased
JENNINGS: (VO) In fact, the public nature of this scandal is being driven largely by angry Catholics. We've listened to a great many people for this broadcast, including nuns and priests, former seminarians and just members of the church. They all seem to believe that the church has betrayed them.
Mr. MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS (Catholic Historian): Clerical sex abuse is horrific. And yet, our bishops did not react with horror and that's the scandal.
JENNINGS: Why do you think they did not react with horror?
Mr. WINTERS: They were looking to protect--and still are looking to protect the institution.
Mr. R. SCOTT APPLEBY (University of Notre Dame): It goes beyond sexual abuse by a tiny minority of priests. It goes into the hierarchy worried about scandal, worried, it seems, more about priests than victims of the priest.
Monsignor LORENZO ALBACETE: Within the Catholic world, there is an awareness that something is wrong, radically wrong.
JENNINGS: It has been said often in this crisis that the church has lost its moral authority. Do you agree?
Mr. DONOHUE: I think that there's been an attrition of the moral authority of the Catholic Church, and in some places it's been damaged very badly. I wouldn't say irreparably.
Mr. APPLEBY: That's a terrible crisis, if people begin to think that the bishops and the priests' moral judgment is in question.
Sister KATHLEEN DOLPHIN (Saint Mary's College): I think the abuses and the cover-up revealed something about the Catholic Church that is very troubling, and that is assuming that the perpetrators would be immune somehow because of their status.
JENNINGS: Is this--was this the church's Watergate?
Mr. DONOHUE: Yes. It is the church's Watergate. And the--the church is 100 percent responsible for the problem.
Mr. APPLEBY: It has eroded the confidence of many Catholics in the leadership of the bishops. The presidency went on after Watergate.
Monsignor ALBACETE: But for us who--who believe--and therefore prove this is even more serious than Watergate--it--it--it's--it's not like that. It strikes at the very credibility of Christ, who says that the way people will know that he is who he says he is the way his disciples love each other and stay together. Wow. We took care of that, didn't we?
JENNINGS: We'll hear from that group again. Naturally we asked some of the church's most senior officials to talk to us, including many American cardinals who rank just below the pope. All the ones we asked said no. And the Vatican declined to comment to us on this crisis.
When we come back, the anatomy of a cover-up, who it takes to do damage control.
Announcer: BLESS ME FATHER FOR I HAVE SINNED: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CRISIS. This ABC News Special will continue in a moment.
JENNINGS: This scandal in the Catholic Church has had a huge amount of attention since that priest in Boston, Father Geoghan, finally went on trial for sexual abuse at the beginning of this year, but it is not new. There are new details, of course. And new examples of abuse. But by virtually all accounts, the church has been very good at managing the problem--quietly. ABC's Ron Claiborne reports from Nebraska.
RON CLAIBORNE reporting:
(VO) Omaha, a city of nearly half a million people, on the banks of the Missouri River, where the majority of the population is Roman Catholic. Five years ago, a local priest, Daniel Herek, was arrested for molesting a teen-age boy. What happened here was a textbook case of how a Catholic archdiocese ignored suspicions about one of its own for 30 years and tried to control the damage to contain a scandal.
Unidentified Reporter: (From February 13, 1998) Father Herek is accused of having sexual contact with a young boy under the age of 14.
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Omaha parishioners learned about it not from the church, but from the local news. When angry parishioners demanded to know how long church officials had known about Herek, they were assured it was an isolated incident.
Unidentified Man #2: I'd like to know tonight exactly what is it that our kids were exposed to.
Unidentified Priest: In the school program they were exposed to nothing that would be harmful.
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Only later would it come out that the Omaha church had ample signs of Herek's inappropriate contacts with children, but ignored them. It started in 1965. Herek's seminary school teachers described him as "doubtful material for the priesthood" and "a definite risk." One of them noted that he tended to seek contacts with younger boys. Still, in 1971, he was ordained as a priest.
Monsignor ROBERT HUPP: If I was a bishop, I wouldn't ordain him.
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Monsignor Robert Hupp was pastor at Christ the King Parish in Omaha, one of Herek's' first assignments. Hupp soon complained to the archbishop that Herek was taking young boys to his private room.
Monsignor HUPP: I told them that he was taking them back in his quarters, back and forth. And I said, 'I don't know what's going on back there.' I had no idea. I said, 'I have no idea.'
CLAIBORNE: And what did the archbishop say in response?
Monsignor HUPP: 'We'll take care of that. We'll take care of that. I'll talk to him.' And so on and so forth. That's all he said.
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Herek remained at Christ the King another year. That's when this man, who doesn't want to be identified, says Herek molested him. He was 12 years old.
Unidentified Man #3: There was a lot of touching and caressing. He was trying to tell me it was OK to--to be a man and--and to prove that, you know, I'm a man, and...
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Suddenly, the door opened.
Man #3: It was the senior associate pastor.
CLAIBORNE: Another priest saw this?
Man #3: Yes. He saw me laying on the floor with--in my underwear, with Father Herek next to me.
CLAIBORNE: And what did this other priest say or do?
Man #3: He was reminding Father Herek that he had the 6 AM obligation for Mass the next morning.
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Father Herek was transferred to another parish the next year. In this letter, the Omaha archbishop thanked him for his fine work. But he also advised him, "do not confine yourself exclusively to working with young children," and he recommended that Herek see a psychiatrist.
For the next 15 years, Herek was transferred every few years from one parish to another in and around Omaha. According to law suits filed after his arrest, he was accused of molesting young boys at practically every one of those parishes. Even at the time, there was a pattern of complaints. In the late 1970s, Herek kept a mobile home at this trailer park. At least three people complained to church officials about him bringing young boys there. 1980, court papers show that a high school teacher said he told then Archbishop Daniel Sheehan about a boy who claimed he was molested by Herek. 1986, a mother complained that Herek encouraged an 11-year-old boy to go skinny-dipping. 1988, another woman report that Herek had 11 to 14-year-old kids at his house late at night.
Herek--who would later say that no one from the church ever confronted him about any allegations or complaints--continued to serve as a priest. Here he is after his school was vandalized in 1994.
Father DANIEL HEREK: It does not deter us to--to bring a safe place for children in a truly Christian environment where parents can feel free and safe to send their children in.
Ms. TUTTLE: Well, we were afraid for the boys and so we started talking to other parishioners.
CLAIBORNE: (VO) Debbie Tuttle's children attended St. Richard's school, where Father Herek arrived in 1982. After hearing troubling stories about their new priest, she and her husband, George, took their concerns to Father Michael Gutgsell, the chancellor of the archdiocese. According to Tuttle, Gutgsell said church officials already knew about Herek.
Ms. TUTTLE: He says, 'We have a file this thick on him (indicates a stack about a foot high), and we've known about it for years.'
CLAIBORNE: Father Gutgsell explicitly acknowledged that they knew about inappropriate sexual behavior with little boys?
Ms. TUTTLE: Yes. Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
CLAIBORNE: Then, in 1997, a cleaning lady entered Father Herek's room here at St. Richard's. In it, she found a videotape, reportedly containing scenes of parish boys frolicking nude or in their underwear. One scene showed several of them simulating sexual intercourse while a voice identified as Father Herek's off-camera urged them on.
(VO) Critics say the church moved into damage control mode, sending Herek to this treatment center for pedophiles rather than calling the police. When Herek returned from treatment he was arrested and pleaded guilty to molesting a 14-year-old boy. He served two and a half years in prison and is now being held in a mental health facility. But there was no widespread scandal, and Herek's case was largely forgotten, until now.
In the wake of the stunning revelations about pedophile priests in Boston and elsewhere, the Omaha archdiocese says it checked its files to see if any other priest had ever been accused of molesting children. The archdiocese has told prosecutors Herek was the only one.
JENNINGS: As we worked on this broadcast, we often heard from defenders of the Catholic Church that there is no evidence to suggest that the incidence of sexual abuse is greater in the Catholic Church than in other churches or with other professionals in constant contact with children. But there is simply no way to prove it, either way. Back in just a moment.
Announcer: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CRISIS continues. Once again, Peter Jennings.
JENNINGS: One of the reasons so many Catholics are angry, especially long-standing defenders of the church is this: Just when they think the church has made some progress purging its ranks of offenders, something else comes up to compound the problem. For more than a year, ABC News has been investigating whether there are priests with a record of sexual abuse who are still on the job. Here's ABC's Cynthia McFadden.
CYNTHIA McFADDEN reporting:
It's Easter Sunday in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the Epiphany of Our Lord Ukranian Catholic Church. But even amidst the baskets, bonnets and blessings on this, the holiest day of the year in the Christian calendar, the shadow of abuse and scandal hovers.
Inside, Father Matthew Berko asks his parishioners to pray for the nation's priests. So many of them, he says, falsely accused of sexually abusing children. But what Father Berko does not mention from the alt[a]r was that in 1985, he, himself, pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. Father Berko was one of dozens of priests ABC News found still on the job, despite criminal convictions or civil settlements for sexually exploiting or abusing children.
Ms. SYLVIA DEMAREST: If someone's been irre--sexually irresponsible with a child, does that person deserve to be a priest? I say no.
McFADDEN: (VO) Texas attorney Sylvia Demarest has compiled a list of more than 1,000 priests publicly accused of child sexual abuse or exploitation. It was compile[d] as part of a successful lawsuit she brought against the Dallas diocese on behalf of 11 altar boys abused by a priest.
Ms. DEMAREST: I accuse the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of knowing of the sexual predilections of child abusers and acting to make sure that those allegations were never made public, that the children were not helped, that the perpetrator was not criminally tried and put in prison.
McFADDEN: Does it still go on?
Ms. DEMAREST: Yes.
McFADDEN: No doubt in your mind?
Ms. DEMAREST: No doubt in my mind.
McFADDEN: And even when priests have been brought up on charges, it's never been known how many of them were allowed to remain on the job. So, more than a year ago, we began with a simple question: Are there priests charged with sexually assaulting or exploiting minors who've been convicted of criminal charges or who have settled in civil cases who are still working in the church? The answer is yes.
Using sources both inside and outside the church, ABC News built a database and found 30 such priests. In some cases, the priests actually pled guilty. In other cases, the priest went to prison. And yet all 30 are still working as priests.
(VO) We found them in parishes across the country, in 17 states, often in small towns like Kalamazoo, Michigan; Opelousas, Louisiana; or Marvin, South Dakota. We took a close look at three cases. Case one, Father Jean Vogler.
Unidentified Man #4: This morning, we would like to announce the results of a two-year-long investigation...
McFADDEN: (VO) As part of a nationwide sting called Project Special Delivery, Father Vogler, pastor of the Holy Rosary Church in Evansville, Indiana, was caught red-handed ordering videotapes of hard-core child pornography directly to the rectory.
Mr. RAYMOND SMITH (US Postal Inspection Service): When we got inside in a bedroom closet, we found a large wooden chest, a trunk. It had his name and address on it. And in that trunk, we found 92 videotapes. Many of those 92 videotapes contained extremely graphic and explicit hard-core child pornography.
McFADDEN: (VO) But despite spending a year in federal prison and having to register as a sex offender, Father Vogler returned to work as a priest, moving only a few miles across town to this small church, where he conducted Easter Mass this past Sunday.
Father JEAN VOGLER: I--I'm not around children in any...
McFADDEN: (VO) In an interview Monday with an ABC News producer, he acknowledged the charges but suggests that his crime was not as serious as those of other priests.
Father VOGLER: I've never had--there's never even been a suggestion that I've ever done a single thing to a child.
McFADDEN: (VO) Case two, Father Marvin Archuleta. In 1971, Father Marvin Archuleta was a priest at the Holy Cross Parish in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, when he invite a 14-year-old altar boy named Eddie Baros on a cross country trip to Washington, DC. A two-week nightmare, according to Eddie. Father Archuleta fondled him, he says, in motel room after motel room across the country.
Twenty-three years later in 1994, Baros sued. Father Archuleta and the Catholic Church settled for an undisclosed amount. But his religious superiors told ABC News that Father Archuleta was removed from his priestly duties and reassigned to work on church computers and finances several years ago. But despite this, we found him at work as a priest on Palm Sunday across the border in Mexico City.
Father MARVIN ARCHULETA: (Spanish spoken)
McFADDEN: (VO) Sylvia Demarest says shuffling problem priests from parish to parish or even out of the country is not unusual.
Ms. DEMAREST: The Catholic Church is worldwide in scope. If you want to hide, this is a great institution to belong to because there's always someone who's willing to accept you.
McFADDEN: (VO) In a phone conversation, Father Archuleta told ABC News that while he did not deny the fundamental allegations, he says Eddie exaggerated what had happened.
Which brings us back [previously discussed above] to St. Petersburg and case three, Father Matthew Berko.
(OC) Hi, Father Berko. My name is Cynthia McFadden.
Father MATTHEW BERKO: Yeah.
McFADDEN: (VO) He agreed to speak with us on camera, and out of respect for the parishioners, we filmed hi[m] discreetly from a van across the street.
(OC) Now, can I just ask you a question? This--this is you, right? Now, do you remember this little girl?
Father BERKO: Yeah.
McFADDEN: Is this...
Father BERKO: I don't remember the girl, but I remember giving her Communion.
McFADDEN: But do--do you remember her name?
Father BERKO: No.
McFADDEN: (VO) Her name is Alexandra Meihal and she says she will never be able to forget Father Berko. He baptized her, gave her her first Communion. She was the president of the youth group at his church just outside Toronto. She was 14 the night she went to talk to him.
Ms. MEIHAL: He offered me a drink at that point and said, 'Don't worry about it. It's only church wine,' like, it's what you take for Holy Communion.
McFADDEN: (VO) And then, she says, he sexually assaulted her.
Ms. MEIHAL: You know, he--he did fondle me, and he did try to masturbate me. He also did--had digital penetration, as well. I kept saying, 'Father, please don't.' To this day, I can still hear myself saying that. But he didn't stop.
McFADDEN: (VO) Alexandra says she was so upset, she considered suicide. Criminal charges were brought. Father Berko pled guilty and received a one-year suspended sentence. But a year later, he was back at Alexandra's church as a priest, with the bishop telling the local newspaper that the case was, quote, "a minor thing."
Ms. MEIHAL: As far as they were concerned, because he didn't impregnate me, which is what I was told, that it wasn't a serious issue.
McFADDEN: Because he didn't impregnate you?
Ms. MEIHAL: Basically, that's the way they looked at it.
McFADDEN: (VO) Alexandra and her family were so outraged they sued. They were awarded 184,000 Canadian dollars, not a penny of which has been paid. But Alexandra says what she really wanted was for Father Berko to leave the priesthood.
The court records say you pled guilty to sexually assaulting her when she was 14. Is that accurate?
Father BERKO: Ma'am, this is not so easily explained. There's a lot of circumstances involved in that pleading, which I pled only because of the advice of my attorney.
McFADDEN: No, do your...
Father BERKO: But I am still innocent, as far as I'm concerned.
McFADDEN: Now, do your superiors know about the guilty plea, or that...
Father BERKO: Oh, of course they know it.
McFADDEN: And the parishioners, as well.
Father BERKO: They know it. There's no secret. But I have never--I've always maintained my innocence.
Ms. MEIHAL: Something that should have been pure and honest and good turned out to be very, very bad, very evil, very ugly.
McFADDEN: Alexandra says that you told her father that you were guilty of this, and her mother. Not true?
Father BERKO: No. I told her there were indiscretions but I did not say I did those things.
McFADDEN: What are indiscretions, Father?
Father BERKO: Those things that she--the indiscretions? Taking her into my confidence and talking to her alone in a house.
McFADDEN: You did not...
Ms. MEIHAL: What angers me is that I put him in a position of trust and authority. I know what it did to me and I didn't want anyone to go through that anguish ever again. They have an obligation to protect the kids. They have to realize there's a problem and they have to do something about it.
JENNINGS: It must be very dispiriting to church officials to look at our poll results. 74 percent of Americans and two-thirds of Catholics say that church officials have tried to cover up the sexual abuse rather than deal with it. We talked about this to our small group of observers.
How do you think the church responded to this?
Mr. DONOHUE: Very poorly. They're not forthright. They--they--there's too much puffery.
Sister DOLPHIN: And hiding behind officialdome, and using highly religious language doesn't really get at where the problem is, when what people want to know is, 'Is my child safe?' No one has said, 'Here are the facts and here's how we intend to reform the whole thing.' I haven't heard that yet.
Monsignor ALBACETE: It's despicable. Despicable. I find that despicable. Didn't we just go through this in the government? It depends on how you use the word "is."
Mr. DONOHUE: Hey, how about some courage on the part of the bishops? They treated these--these priests putting their hands on the kids like as if a priest had too much to drink. You know, if Father Murphy has too much to drink then you put him in the tank for a month and--and let him dry out. But he's not analogous to what--what's going on here. How dare a priest put his hands on the kids! This--this is a moral outrage, and they thought that somehow this would--this would be covered up that no one's going to find out about it, and they put their heads in the sand. And right now, it--it's--it's out of control.
JENNINGS: When we come back, the institution. Do homosexuals in the church contribute to this problem? What about celibacy? And will the Vatican do anything?
Announcer: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CRISIS will continue after this from our ABC stations.
JENNINGS: When we listen to virtually any conversation among people connected with the Catholic Church, lay people or priests, there are several issues that come up every time. Has the growing number of homosexuals in the priesthood contributed to this? It is an argument made by those in the church, including the pope's spokesman, who think the priesthood is not a good calling for gay men. There are others who believe that the obligation of celibacy is a factor. And, too, what about the leadership from Rome, from the pope himself? Here's ABC's Bill Blakemore.
BILL BLAKEMORE reporting:
(VO) For nearly 2,000 years, the Vatican in Rome has struggled to hold a worldwide church together with strict rules and traditions. That may be part of the problem. The cardinals have taken special vows to protect the church from scandal, to keep weakness hidden. For centuries, the only place anyone would talk honestly about sex of any kind was the confessional, where it was only between you, God and the priest. But some of this is changing.
Unidentified Priest: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy...
BLAKEMORE: (VO) Struggling in the face of this crisis, some seminary directors are getting the message. Things older priests were embarrassed to talk about when they were in seminary must now be taught openly. And they must carefully screen their candidates: those future priests who will run typical neighborhood churches...
(Franciscan monks singing)
BLAKEMORE: (VO) ...or like these Franciscan seminarians who will specialize in helping inner city youth.
(VO) What screening process did you all go through before getting into the seminary?
Brother THOMAS FRANCIS CACCIOLA (Franciscan Friars of the Renewal): It very is the same kind of psychological examines anybody would go through for--for many different things. We go through the MMPI. We go through the Rorschach.
Brother LUKE MARY FLETCHER (Franciscan Friars of the Renewal): They don't just look at you when you first join, but all the way through. It's a very developed program.
Brother ANGELUS MARIE HOULE (Franciscan Friars of the Renewal): We have courses in psychology and counseling, courses in sexuality. By being priests, we're not asexual. We still are sexual beings, and how to express that properly.
Dr. JAMES GILL (The Jesuit Educational Center for Human Development): Just bringing in lecturers or having conversations about sexual things is not enough. You have to be able to talk with the individual seminarian about his life, about his feelings, about his impulses, about his fantasies, about his history, and then the ability to live as celibates out in a very erotic culture like ours.
BLAKEMORE: (VO) In this "very erotic culture," part of this crisis that is often argued about only privately in the church is how much of the problem is due to homosexuality. Conservative church leaders say, a lot. They point out that the vast majority of abuse cases that have come to light in this crisis are about homosexual abuse of teenage boys. The hard question, which few will tackle in public: Is there a connection? Many church liberals say no way.
Dr. GILL: The church has always said and will always say homosexuality is not something that a person should be regarded as evil because of or in--in some way unworthy of ordination. What the church says is, a man, to be ordained, has to be capable of controlling his sexual life, whether it's heterosexual or homosexual. That's the church's teaching.
Mr. EUGENE KENNEDY (Professor Emeritus, Loyola University, Chicago): I believe that the idea that this is a problem caused by homosexuals is an effort to find some way to get rid of this problem by scapegoating it on to a group of people who are vulnerable in the way people look at them in society.
BLAKEMORE: (VO) But there seems to be confusion about what the church teaching is. The Vatican apparently thinks the problem is about homosexuality. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, answering questions about this crisis, is quoted in The New York Times, saying, "People with this inclinations just cannot be ordained. That does not imply a final judgment on people with homosexuality, but you cannot be in this field." This echoes what some conservative American church leaders are saying privately. To keep and protect the all-male celibate priesthood, they must make it clear to all men thinking of becoming priests that homosexuals need not apply.
While liberal Catholics say this crisis is not the fault of homosexuals, they say it is about the all-male celibate priesthood, and that it should change. There should be married priests and women priests. But they complain the Vatican and conservative American hierarchy are afraid of change.
Dr. GILL: I think it's fear of scandal, fear of shocking, fear of disillusioning people, that--that the church has had a wonderful image and it's been preserved at times by covering up some very human and sometimes some very pathological and very criminal behavior.
Mr. KENNEDY: The hierarchical model which John Paul II--great man though he may be--has tried to impose on the church, has caused the church to make the same error: try to control this crisis around pedophilia and sexual abuse by controlling from the top and at the top. That does not work.
BLAKEMORE: (VO) It is true that last year, with sexual abuse scandals coming to light in several countries, the Vatican issued ordered new orders to bishops about how to handle allegations of sex abuse by priests. But in spite of a growing outcry from American Catholics for the church hierarchy to be more open, little is known about these new directives from Rome. The Vatican is keeping them secret.
JENNINGS: Several times the pope has condemned a man who abused young people, but we do not know how deeply involved or fully informed the pope is about what is happening here. The United States accounts for about 6 percent of all the Catholics in the world.
Here again are our Catholic voices on this question of leadership.
Mr. APPLEBY: Some of the men who've been appointed to high posts in the church, including some of the bishops, have been appointed because they--they tow the line without much challenging or open conversation about issues.
JENNINGS: Is the American Roman Catholic Church able to make changes if the Roman Catholic Church in Rome--i.e., in the Vatican...
Mr. WINTERS: No.
JENNINGS: ...wishes not to make changes?
Mr. WINTERS: No. No. You move together. Being a bishop now means you're the branch manager for the Vatican, rather than the leader of the local church.
Mr. APPLEBY: Part of the reason for this crisis is that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States does not have the authority to formulate policy that is binding on all the bishops in this country, and the Vatican has been wary of giving the National Conference any authority out of fear that it somehow threatens the Vatican's authority.
JENNINGS: How hard will it be for the church to change?
Mr. DONOHUE: It's going to be very difficult for the church to change, because they've got to--they've got to 'fess up, they've got to understand that--that their entire bureaucratic structure has--has led to a kind of sclerosis in the Catholic Church.
Monsignor ALBACETE: There is a need to regain credibility. It's like saying we need a new mission. We need a new reason for being. I mean, when you say that, you're saying you've got serious problems.
JENNINGS: Is it a turning point for the American Catholic Church?
Mr. DONOHUE: I think that once the Catholic Church faces up to this crisis--it hasn't yet. It hasn't yet. But once it faces up to this crisis, then, I think it's--it's--it's going to be a better church in the long run.
Sister DOLPHIN: We're seeing people rising up and saying, 'No, this is our church. We can't let this continue.' There is something about a crisis that brings people together. Something within you just wells up out of your heart and says, 'No. No. Enough is enough.'
Monsignor ALBACETE: Look, the church doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to recognize sin--its own. That's all.
JENNINGS: What do you think will change?
Mr. DONOHUE: Well, I think that what will change is this: The next time a priest puts his hands on a kid and a bishop plays musical chairs with him, that bishop will fall.
JENNINGS: You mean, if a bishop moves him around from parish to parish?
Mr. DONOHUE: That's right. That's right. From parish to parish.
Mr. APPLEBY: This is going to leave a legacy among American Catholics that--who will require greater levels of accountability that the bishops and the priests in this country cannot ignore.
JENNINGS: Is it realistic to think that fundamental change in the Roman Catholic Church can take place?
Mr. WINTERS: Of course. Our tradition is incredibly strong. It's been around for 2,000 year precisely because it's been able to adapt and to change.
Sister DOLPHIN: This is my church, too. I'm staying. I'm thinking. I'm contributing. I'm listening. Bottom line--here's my bottom line. There's something living, breathing in this tradition. So, the church, after this scandal, is going to be different. It's going to be different.
Announcer: A disgraced priest confesses, speaking out about the crimes and speaking forgiveness, when THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CRISIS continues.
Announcer: This ABC News Special, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CRISIS, continues.
JENNINGS: It is very hard, as we have found, to know what's going on inside the Catholic Church. Much of the hierarchy doesn't want to talk. Most of the priests who've been caught are understandably silent. And so, to hear from a man who was caught, paid a price and now seeks some form of redemption, is unusual. Neil Conway in conversation with Chris Wallace.
Father CONWAY: When I was dressed up in that collar, and I was doing my work, I was Father Neil Conway. When I was doing this stuff, I was in another set of clothes, I was another person living another life. And the twain didn't meet.
CHRIS WALLACE reporting:
(VO) It started so differently. Neil Conway grew up the 12th of 13 children in a well-to-do Irish Catholic family. He decided he'd make his mark becoming a priest. But it's more complicated than that. Conway says he was sexually abused as a child.
Sister DOLPHIN: It gave me all the more reason just to get sex out of my life. Get it out of my life. I decided at 14 to be a priest. One thing you don't do as a priest, you don't have sex. And also--and I really regret this--you don't have romance in your life. You don't have intimacy, you know?
WALLACE: Did you feel that taking the vow of celibacy in a--in a sense, would be a safe haven, would be a place you wouldn't have to deal with sex.
Father CONWAY: Oh, right. Very good. That's what I would call it. A safe haven. A safe haven.
WALLACE: (VO) In 1963, when Conway became a priest in Cleveland at age 27, he says he was good at it. He helped the poor. He also started working with young teens. One Sunday, he was wrestling with a 14-year-old.
Father CONWAY: And all of a sudden, I felt this sexual feeling. Excitement, you know? And it scared me.
WALLACE: (VO) Conway says he was able to suppress his feelings for two years, until he took another boy on a ski trip and ended up sharing a bed with him.
Father CONWAY: I woke up in the night fondling him. That was my first abuse. I didn't do a lot of these one-night stands. These were relationships. Sick as they were, they were relationships. I felt they were relationships, OK?
WALLACE: And how many young men were there?
Father CONWAY: Eight. I hate to say it, but I think it's true that the face has changed but the game was always the same.
WALLACE: And the game was...
Father CONWAY: The game was trying to find intimacy, love and romance and sex from a young man.
WALLACE: (VO) After years of therapy and reflection, Conway thinks he understands why it happened. One reason, he says, is that starting out on the priest track at age 14, he never had to sort out all the emotions and urges of growing up.
Father CONWAY: I ran out of my--my capacity to repress my sexuality, you know? And it busted out. My sexuality busted out. And it busted out like a little 14-year-old boy with other little 14-year-old boys.
WALLACE: You mean you were with other kids because you were still a kid yourself?
Father CONWAY: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I had to start at 14 because that's where I stopped. I think that's my greatest regret, you know, for some reason I couldn't have what I needed in life and I went after the vulnerable to go get it.
WALLACE: (VO) That's what Conway thinks now. But back when he was in the middle of it, this priest who wanted to do good says he felt almost no guilt about doing bad.
Father CONWAY: I remember thinking, 'Oh, yeah. Oh, this is part of our relationship. It's part of our friendship.' That's insane. But I was, you know, that's what I was saying.
WALLACE: So, somehow you convinced yourself you weren't hurting these kids, you were helping these kids?
Father CONWAY: Yep.
WALLACE: Father Conway, you're a smart man.
Father CONWAY: I'm a smart man. An addict is insane.
WALLACE: (VO) Conway's double life came crashing down in 1985 when a nun found a teenager in his bed at the rectory. He was reported to the Catholic diocese of Cleveland.
Father CONWAY: I was informed that they really didn't have any hard evidence. And I said, 'Don't wait for hard evidence. I need to go now. I need treatment now.'
WALLACE: (VO) Conway was sent for treatment to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland. After a year, he says the church was willing to let him return to the priesthood, where there would be no contact with children. But he decided he should retire.
Father CONWAY: I just felt that my kind of guy shouldn't be a priest. That's what I felt.
WALLACE: Shouldn't be in the church?
Father CONWAY: Yeah. Even if he never did it again. I've got to find another way to serve God and serve myself and serve others, you see?
WALLACE: (VO) For the last 16 years, Conway has lived alone on a small farm near Cleveland. On Easter morning, he was planting flowers before a statue of St. John the Evangelist. He has created this personal prison so he can face the truth of exactly what he did. Now, in the church crisis, Conway says he's found a way to serve. He's speaking out and he hopes other sex offender priests will also, to force the church to deal with its problems.
Father CONWAY: The wound has to be, at least treated at its sorest point. The sore point now is priests who--who abuse teens, and a church that tends to not help solve the problem so much as protect itself.
WALLACE: (VO) Conway says he set a rule for himself: never again to be alone with teenagers. But for all his efforts, he says he realizes that he still takes his place alongside other priests who have brought so much hurt.
You've got a lot of psychological reasons why you did what you did.
Father CONWAY: Yeah. That's right.
WALLACE: The fact is...
Father CONWAY: I did it. It was my hands.
Father CONWAY: Right. Yeah.
WALLACE: You committed a crime. You committed a sin.
Father CONWAY: Yeah, that's right. I live under the gospel curse of someone, who Jesus said, would be--would have been better if he had not been born. That's what has been killing me for the last 16 years.
JENNINGS: One other note, we are told that in the last decade seminaries in the United States have stopped recruiting potential priests right out of junior high school.
JENNINGS: This is a huge subject, this turmoil in the church. We, ourselves, are left wondering who will change. What affect will ordinary Roman Catholics have on the future direction of their church? Will, for example, lay people withhold their Sunday contribution to the collection plate until they are satisfied that things are changing? We were reminded this week that change in this church does not always start at the top. We also know there are many agendas in this ancient church, and change is not easy.
But that's our broadcast. There's a good deal of information about all
of this at abcnews.com and at beliefnet.com. Thank you for joining us.
I'm Peter Jennings. Good night.
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