Dallas Resources – May 2002
By Susan Hogan/Albach
At the Vatican last week, several U.S. cardinals said they supported greater involvement of lay people in the church. But they didn't put it in writing.
In fact, those words were cut from the cardinals' final communiqu at the historic two-day summit on clergy sexual abuse called by Pope John Paul II.
The lack of change from the top down has ignited a grassroots movement of U.S. Catholics seeking a greater voice in the decision-making of the church.
In Belleville, Ill., Catholics are organizing a diocesan-wide synod only for lay people. In Boston, a grassroots group called Voice of the Faithful is drawing hundreds of Catholics to discussions about the role of the laity in the church.
Similar movements are emerging elsewhere. Catholics say bishops' mishandling of predatory priests is triggering the gatherings. They're demanding change and calling bishops to greater accountability, openness and at least some oversight by laity.
"Nobody speaks to us," said Lena Woltering, an organizer of the June synod in the Belleville Diocese. "It's gotten lay people to realize they need to take more responsibility for their church."
What separates the new Catholic groups from others is that most aren't seeking to change church doctrine. Instead, they're loyal Catholics fed up with the sex scandals, cover-ups and secrecy. Many wouldn't think of boycotting Mass or the collection plate to force change.
"The voices calling for lay participation are people who are fully in support of Catholic faith and morals," said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative Catholic journal First Things. "That's a really new development. These Catholics really want to help the bishops be more effective."
Ernie Corrigan, an organizer of Voice of the Faithful, is typical of these Catholics. He grew up Catholic, married in the church and raised four Catholic children. Until recently, he was a public relations adviser to Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law.
"We love the church and are pained by what we see happening," he said. "But the days are gone when Catholics will sit silently just because a bishop has spoken. We've changed, but it's going to be a long battle to get them to change."
Many U.S. Catholics were disappointed that the cardinals stopped short of endorsing a zero-tolerance policy that would oust any priests who molest from any kind of diocesan job. They're also outraged that some U.S. bishops want leeway in judging one-time offenses from the past.
The cardinals countered that they introduced stronger punishment for serial offenders: a quick procedure for defrocking such priests and returning them to the lay state. But for priests who aren't serial offenders, some bishops want the option of reassigning them to nonparish positions.
"Even if these guys are assigned administrative tasks in the church, they are still living public lives with clerical collars," said Dr. Deal Hudson, editor of the Catholic magazine Crisis. "Any man with a collar who walks along a street or goes into a bookstore or goes into a movie should be a man that no one need fear."
Catholics needing to talk about the crisis have found few church leaders willing to listen, Mr. Corrigan said. Voice of the Faithful meets several times a week at St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, Mass.
The group started spontaneously. As frustration with the hierarchy's response to the scandals grew, so did the group. It now draws 4,500 supporters from nearly every state. A national convention on the laity is planned for July.
"When the church leaders wouldn't listen, we found strength in listening to each other," Mr. Corrigan said. "People who thought that the temperature in Boston would have an impact on Rome discovered they were mistaken."
The scandals erupted in January in Boston and swept the country, leading to the removal of nearly 200 priests from their posts. Cardinal Law has withstood public pressure to resign, which grew more intense after court evidence indicated he had knowingly moved a priest who was a serial molester from parish to parish.
The cardinal drew further criticism this week after his lawyers, in legal documents, blamed "negligence" on the part of the priest's 6-year-old victim and the child's parents for contributing to the abuse.
"The Catholic laity is furious that their leaders aren't doing the right thing," Dr. Hudson said. "Until that happens, the bishops are going to be under intense pressure."
Some Catholics believe that severe action is necessary to force change. In Boston, many Catholics say they won't give to Cardinal Law's annual appeal. The cardinal is hoping to raise $ 16 million, which is used to operate the archdiocese.
In Chicago, a group of prominent business leaders on Monday called on Catholics to boycott collection plates until the archdiocese adopts stricter policies on priests who molest. Among their demands: an independent audit of files on predator priests, full disclosure to law enforcement and removal of mandates that victims be silent as a condition of legal settlements.
"We're doing this to get their attention," said Michael Tario, 55, a lifelong Catholic who attends Mass every day. "People are accusing us of trying to bankrupt the church. What we really want is to make it better - safer for children, healing for victims."
Liberal Catholics are calling church leaders to allow priests to marry and women to be ordained. Last weekend, representatives from 17 activist groups affiliated with Catholic Organizations for Renewal met in Alexandria, Va., to form a collective response to the church crisis.
"Bishops are finally having to answer for the abuse of power, the secrecy and lack of accountability," said Linda Chavez, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference. "Until this point, their response has been that how they handled things was their business and nobody else's."
The U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse is developing a national policy to be considered at the bishops' June meeting in Dallas. Under consideration: a national office with lay experts to consult with bishops on sex-abuse complaints.
That may be a sign that the public outcry is having an impact, said Dr. Dean Hoge, a sociologist at the Catholic University of America. But to produce any long-term change, he said, the groups will need to think beyond the bishops' meeting in June.
"If the bishops don't make significant changes in June, people shouldn't get discouraged," he said.
Father Neuhaus said he expects that, in the future, bishops will be increasingly collaborative in their decision-making on these cases and on other matters of faith. Some dioceses, including Dallas, already involve lay people in oversight of allegations of sexual misconduct.
"Many bishops get themselves into deep trouble by unilaterally making decisions which might be better made by inviting the wisdom and reflection of the wider church," he said.
Cardinal Law has ordered Boston-area priests to ignore calls by the laity for an association of parish pastoral councils, made up of volunteer lay members who aid their parish. Some dioceses around the country already have similar councils. And lay people serve on the boards of most parishes in the United States.
But not all Catholics believe that giving lay people greater authority in the church is the answer to the present crisis.
"It has to be a person who won't just rubber-stamp what the clergy say," said Dr. Jim Langley, who attends St. Rita's Catholic Church in Dallas.
Dallas Bishop Charles V. Grahmann has come under fire from Catholics upset by his decision to reassign two priests who didn't fully implement the diocese's safe environment policy. Members of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church launched a public campaign to keep their priest, but the bishop didn't bow to the pressure.
"The church isn't a democracy. But when you have leaders so off base, what do you do?" said church member Frank Geis. "How can lay people have a voice? That's the struggle in the Catholic Church."
Regional Debates Set
By Susan Hogan/Albach
The American church has been engulfed by sex scandals for months. Since January, nearly 200 priests from across the country have been removed from their posts for sexual abuse; one bishop resigned.
Pope John Paul II summoned the cardinals to Rome with only one week's notice. He opened the conference by calling sexual abuse of children a crime and by expressing solidarity with victims.
The cardinals then outlined procedures to remove "notorious" priests but stopped short of calling for the automatic dismissal of any sexually abusive priest. Under the cardinals' plan, bishops would still exercise significant discretionary power in deciding whether a priest is a threat to children.
The proposals drew an immediate outcry from U.S. Catholics, who said the cardinals were too soft. Many Catholics are pushing for a zero-tolerance policy that would prevent any priest guilty of sexual abuse from working in any church job.
And, in light of revelations about cover-ups and secret settlements, they're leery of bishops having any discretionary power. Some Catholics are even calling for zero tolerance of bishops guilty of cover-ups.
"I urge 'yes' to zero tolerance for sexual abuse and jail time for bishops and cardinals who don't report it to the civil authorities," said Velma Colchin, who attends St. Luke Catholic Church in Irving. "It's time for the bishops and cardinals to start obeying the laws of our nation."
In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law has been under pressure for his handling of predator priests. In one case, court documents indicated he transferred a priest he knew to be a predator from parish to parish.
"Rarely do difficult problems have easy solutions," said Grady Muldrow, who attends St. Jude Catholic Church in Allen. "The solution to the Catholic priest abuse of minors is easy: zero tolerance. If you are ever shown just once to be guilty you're out, never again to serve in the church in any function whatsoever."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will consider a binding uniform national policy on clergy sexual abuse at its meeting June 13-15 in Dallas. Bishops are divided on what shape the policy will take.
They are now meeting in smaller, regional gatherings to discuss the cardinals' proposals. Texas bishops will meet in San Antonio on May 20 with bishops from Arkansas and Oklahoma. The meeting is closed to the media.
This week, Catholic bishops from Georgia and the Carolinas endorsed a policy tougher than the cardinals'. They called for zero tolerance for priests who sexually abuse minors and mandatory reporting of incidents to law enforcement.
A spokesman for the Dallas Diocese said that Bishop Charles V. Grahmann supports a zero-tolerance policy toward priests who abuse children. In terms of whether the policy should be made retroactive, the spokesman said the bishop will follow whatever guidelines the bishops adopt in June.
The diocese said it has allowed at least one priest accused of molestation to still engage in restricted ministry. The Rev. Richard Brown was accused of molesting a girl in 1981 and now lives in a monastery in another state, according to the diocese. After accusations against him surfaced, Father Brown underwent therapy and then served in adult-only ministries in Detroit and New York.
"Bishop Grahmann's general attitude is hard-line on priests who abuse," said diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard. "To say that there will never be a gray-area case that has to be judged separately may be going too far."
Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, the national spokesman for U.S. bishops, said he favored zero tolerance. In terms of past cases, he said the primary concern needs to be the victim, not the priest.
"I'm asking bishops to put the victims at the forefront of consideration," he said. "We cannot continue to hurt the victim."
Priest Kept Working after Child Abuse Prosecutions
By Brooks Egerton
In the annals of clergy sexual abuse, the Rev. Norman Rogge is a familiar character. He has been accused of groping a young teen at a movie, of fondling others during swimming lessons, of exposing himself to an 11-year-old boy on a weekend trip and soliciting oral sex.
What makes the 77-year-old former Dallas priest unusual is that he has been criminally prosecuted twice for child molestation. He pleaded guilty the first time and no contest the second.
And - as some Catholic leaders are calling for a "one-strike" abuse policy and priests are being removed from ministry almost daily - Father Rogge remains in good standing, working at a Jesuit retirement home in New Orleans.
All the charges against him were "incorrect," he said Friday, declining to elaborate.
Dallas lawyer Sylvia Demarest, who has represented victims of priests and has cataloged an estimated 1,000 clergymen who've been publicly accused of sexual abuse, said she knows of a few who've kept working after one criminal case. Father Rogge may well be alone in surviving two, she said.
"I've never heard anything like that before," said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, who once served in the Vatican Embassy in Washington and has helped hundreds of priests' victims press claims against the church. "That's the ultimate. To lay yourselves open to that kind of liability is incredible."
Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on sexual abuse, sighed Friday when told about the situation. He said that when the bishops gather here next month for a historic session on this subject, he'll advocate a national policy banning public ministry by any priest credibly accused of abuse.
"I believe very strongly in one strike and you're out," Bishop Galante said. "The focus has to be on the victims."
Ms. Demarest, part of the legal team that won a record judgment in 1997 against the Dallas diocese for covering up abuse by the Rev. Rudy Kos, says Father Rogge is "an example of why the system will not change."
If the priest is unique in terms of his criminal record, he is hardly the only one still being allowed to function after allegations of abuse. One example with local ties is Brother Claude Ory, who was fired from Jesuit College Preparatory School in 1994 after repeated accusations of sexual misconduct and is now minister of a residence hall at a Baltimore college.
The Dallas Diocese, which is being hailed by U.S. bishops for its post-Kos reforms, lets the Rev. Richard T. Brown function "as a hermit at a New York monastery," diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard said. He stressed that only one person accused Father Brown, a woman who was in her early teens two decades ago.
The Dallas Diocese never supervised Brother Ory or Father Rogge, who report to superiors in the Jesuit order. They are among at least five priests or brothers accused of sexual abuse who have worked for Jesuit Prep; at least nine more diocesan priests have been accused over the last half-century, out of hundreds who've served.
Until a reporter started asking questions earlier this spring, Father Rogge worked at a church in southern Louisiana and at St. Charles College, a spirituality center for novices in the Jesuit order. Officials of the Lafayette Diocese forced him out, saying that the Jesuits had not disclosed his record or even his presence in the area.
The Rev. Tom Stahel, a regional spokesman for the religious order, would not respond to this statement or most questions The Dallas Morning News asked about Father Rogge. He did say that the Jesuits had received no allegations of sexual misconduct against the priest since he started work at the rural church in the late 1980s.
Robert Swart, who says Father Rogge molested him in the early 1960s, criticized both the Jesuits and the Lafayette diocese. He recently e-mailed Lafayette Bishop Edward O'Donnell to ask why the priest had been allowed to have a church there and got this response: "As a matter of fact, he has never had one."
But Father Stahel confirmed that Father Rogge had long served part-time at Christ the King Church near Opelousas. He said the initial plan had been for him to do household work full-time at nearby St. Charles College, but then the realities of the priest shortage hit - "the need to serve the people," as Father Stahel put it in a one-paragraph statement.
"Every time they lie and throw this crap around again, it feels like abuse all over again," Mr. Swart said in an interview. He signed his missive to Bishop O'Donnell "a recovering Catholic."
Father Rogge said he worked at Jesuit Prep in Dallas for two years around 1959 and did not get in trouble before leaving. His short stint here was one of the first in a 46-year career as a priest that has taken him across the United States - from Kansas, Connecticut and Texas to Florida, Alabama, California and finally Louisiana.
Father Stahel would not say why Father Rogge left the elite boys school, whose yearbooks describe him as secretary-treasurer.
By the early 1960s, Father Rogge was assistant pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tampa, Fla., chaplain at a Catholic high school and counselor at the local juvenile-detention home. Mr. Swart, who has received therapy funded by a Jesuit religious and literary education society, says the priest fondled him repeatedly in 1963 under the guise of having his genitals checked for signs of "damage." No complaint was made to police.
In 1967, Father Rogge pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for groping a 14-year-old from the juvenile home at a Tarzan movie. Other residents of the home told investigators of inappropriate touching during nude swimming lessons near a lake cottage that the priest had.
No further charges were filed, however, and Father Rogge was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to get psychiatric treatment. A Tampa police report says Father Rogge admitted to the one charge, blaming a "momentary compulsive action." He also admitted soliciting oral sex from a boy, according to the report.
Father Rogge stayed at the Tampa church until about 1980, when he was reassigned to Mobile, Ala. In 1982, according to The Official Catholic Directory, he was at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. By the mid-1980s, he was at a church in the northwestern Louisiana town of Montgomery.
In the summer of 1984, Father Rogge returned to Tampa for a visit and drove to a country cabin with two adult friends. A Citrus County sheriff's report says the three men, all associated with an organization formed to search for missing children, took along the 11-year-old son of one of the group's founders.
The three men spent the next two days nude, masturbated in front of the boy and gave him beer, the report said. Father Rogge ultimately pleaded no contest in 1985 to a single lewdness charge.
He said Friday that he did not know then what his plea meant, but a 1985 Tampa Tribune story says a judge asked him "a variety of questions ... to assure that Rogge understood the ramifications."
The judge sentenced him to probation and confinement for several months at a Catholic treatment facility in New Mexico. In this case and in the one from 1967, he received deferred adjudication, meaning that he had no criminal record after his probation.
Before his 1985 plea, Father Rogge had told a Tribune reporter that the men were nude at the cabin "because it was so hot" and that "nothing of any immorality took place." Yet one of the priest's friends, a previously convicted child molester named Michael Betancourt, also pleaded no contest to threatening the boy's life.
According to the sheriff's report, Mr. Betancourt "got a pruning saw out of his truck and placed it against his neck. He then told the victim if he told anyone, he would kill him."
There is no indication that Father Rogge worked as a priest again until the late 1980s, when he began work in southern Louisiana at the college and the parish.
Father Rogge "has left a trail of tears for 40 years," Mr. Swart's recent e-mail to Lafayette's Bishop O'Donnell declared. "Enough is enough."
Twice-Convicted Priest Still Serving
By Associated Press
Dallas (AP) - At a time when some Catholic leaders are calling for a "one-strike" policy, church abuse experts were shocked to learn that a former Dallas priest twice convicted of sexual abuse is still serving.
The Rev. Norman Rogge, 77, has been accused of groping a young teen at a movie, fondling others during nude swimming lessons, exposing himself to an 11-year-old boy and soliciting oral sex.
In 1967, he pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In 1985, Rogge pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious conduct in the presence of a child.
He said Friday that he did not know then what his plea meant.
The judge sentenced him to probation and confinement for several months at a Catholic treatment facility in New Mexico.
In this case and in the one from 1967, he received deferred adjudication, meaning that he had no criminal record after his probation.
"I've never heard anything like that before," said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, who once served in the Vatican Embassy in Washington and has helped hundreds of priests' victims press claims against the church. "That's the ultimate. To lay yourselves open to that kind of liability is incredible."
Rogge told The Dallas Morning News in Saturday's editions that all the charges against him were "incorrect" and declined to elaborate.
Dallas lawyer Sylvia Demarest, who has represented victims of priests and has cataloged an estimated 1,000 clergymen who've been publicly accused of sexual abuse, said she knows of a few who have kept working after one criminal case.
Rogge may well be alone in surviving two, she said.
As priests are being removed from ministry almost daily because of abuse accusations, Rogge remains in good standing, working at a Jesuit retirement home in New Orleans.
Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on sexual abuse, sighed Friday when told about the situation.
When the bishops gather in Dallas next month for a historic session on the subject, Galante said he will advocate a national policy banning public ministry by any priest credibly accused of abuse.
"I believe very strongly in one strike and you're out," Galante said. "The focus has to be on the victims"
Rogge is "an example of why the system will not change," said Demarest, who was part of the legal team that won a record judgment in 1997 against the Dallas diocese for covering up abuse by the Rev. Rudy Kos.
Until a reporter started asking questions earlier this spring, Rogge worked at a church in southern Louisiana and at St. Charles College, a spirituality center for novices in the Jesuit order.
Officials of the Lafayette Diocese forced him out, saying that the Jesuits had not disclosed his record or even his presence in the area.
The Rev. Tom Stahel, a regional spokesman for the religious order, told the newspaper that the Jesuits had received no allegations of sexual misconduct against the priest since he started work at the church in the 1980s.
He said the plan was for Rogge to do household work full-time at a nearby college, but then the realities of the priest shortage hit "the need to serve the people," as Stahel put it in a one-paragraph statement.
Rogge said he worked at Jesuit Prep in Dallas for two years around 1959 and did not get in trouble before leaving. That stint was one of the first in a 46-year career as a priest that took him from Kansas, Connecticut and Texas to Florida, Alabama, California and finally Louisiana.
By the early 1960s, Rogge was assistant pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tampa, Fla., chaplain at a Catholic high school and counselor at the local juvenile-detention home.
In 1967, Rogge pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for groping a 14-year-old from the juvenile home at a Tarzan movie. Other residents of the home told investigators of inappropriate touching during nude swimming lessons near a lake cottage that the priest had.
No further charges were filed, and Rogge was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to get psychiatric treatment. He also admitted soliciting oral sex from a boy, according to a Tampa police report.
In the summer of 1984, Rogge and two adult friends took an 11-year-old boy to a country cabin, where the three men spent the weekend nude, masturbated in front of the boy and gave him beer, a Citrus County sheriff's report said. Rogge pleaded no contest in 1985 to a single lewdness charge.
Parishioners Welcome Priest
By Bill Lodge
He asked for a chance Saturday. They gave him an ovation.
The Rev. John Libone delivered his first sermon at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas since succeeding a popular priest who was transferred, over some parishioners' protests, to McKinney.
Father Libone, 48, said he felt a little as he imagined the disciple Philip felt when he was sent to unfamiliar territories to spread Christianity.
"Philip had great confidence in God. Philip had great trust in what God would do through him. And so Philip was courageous."
"I'm not here to replace anybody," Father Libone said, without naming the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk, who was sent to St. Michael Catholic Church in McKinney after he failed to complete criminal background checks on church employees and volunteers.
Conducting such background checks became the policy in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas in response to child-molestation cases involving former Dallas priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos. In 1997, a judge ordered the diocese to pay nearly $120 million in damages, which was later negotiated to a $31 million settlement.
"I come to follow a good pastor," Father Libone said of Father Bierschenk, 51.
"I'm going to try very sincerely to open my heart to you, and I humbly ask you to do the same. I hope to stay with you for many years to come."
Hundreds of parishioners gave him an extended ovation when he added: "God bless us all together in our journey in faith."
Jenna Wright, a 31-year-old supporter of Father Bierschenk, said she was impressed by Father Libone's remarks.
"They were really good, and I cried all the way through them because I'm really going to miss Father Bierschenk," Ms. Wright said. "I think we should be positive, now, after meeting him."
Father Libone later said he appreciated the early expressions of support from many people in the parish.
"People have been so very warm and very helpful and very supportive," he said. "It's a great parish. It's always been known as a great parish. I'm very grateful to be here."
Catholics Sound Off about Abuse Crisis in Church
By Susan Hogan/Albach
Come June, the world's eyes will be on Dallas. At least 300 Catholic bishops are expected to meet here June 13-15 to iron out a national policy on clergy sexual abuse.
For several weeks, The News has asked Catholics what they'd like to say to the bishops, or to share their thoughts about what's happening in the church.
We received numerous calls and e-mails - far more than we can publish. Below are representative excerpts from some of the responses. Each reader is identified by name and parish.
Bishops must listen
As I think of this opportunity for the bishops to reflect on the church in crisis, I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's response to the question: "What would you say to Osama bin Laden?" He said that he would listen, that he would bring with him the best listeners. He would try to be open to bin Laden's pain, rage, messages. He recognized that it would take prayer, willingness to listen and not to judge.
This approach would be good for our bishops to follow. Listen. Listen to the victims, the families, the priests in pain. Pray, and then in a small room with just a few people at once, be open to each message. Listening, acknowledging all the pain, anger and sadness must come before action.
As the body of Christ, laypeople must pray each day for the outcome of the meeting. We need a miracle, a time of grace in which bishops look beyond their own truth, put aside their so-called knowledge and power, to start the healing. All involved in any way must resign, repent and look to God for transformation. Our silent clergy must speak with love and conviction, acknowledging their own pain and their own need to unite with all who were sinned against and who sinned.
In making decisions, in planning for the future, the questions must not
be legal or based on pride or a need to be right. We have the unique opportunity
to be God's healing instruments. God will have a lot to say. I pray he
will be heard.
The church should turn over all evidence against priests to the police
to get prosecuted like any other regular citizen who committed a crime.
As far as the bishops, if proven that they did indeed know of the acts
but chose to reassign the priests, they, too, should be put on trial.
Furthermore, safeguards should be put in place where they can never come
back to the church and must continue the rest of their life outside of
the church's business.
It seems strange that there is a movement for laity to want to have a say in the abuse cases. The main basis for the problem is that the bishops had lay advice in the years when most of these cases occurred. They used the advice of psychologists who assured them that these abusive priests could be cured. We now know they were apparently way off base. And now we have a group of people who are self-appointed experts in the field who want to take advantage of the situation to attempt to turn the Catholic Church into some sort of democracy.
The question of celibacy is another area which is blown out of reason.
Half of child abuse is done by parents who obviously are not celibate.
The relationship between celibacy and abuse is nonexistent. However, the
acceptance of practicing homosexuals into the priesthood is an invitation
to disaster. I have the highest optimism that this "crisis"
in the church will bring back a cleansing of the church so that it will
again proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The leaders of the church that allowed it to happen were as wrong as
the priests who did the crime. However, there are many more good priests
and leaders that deserve our support. That said, I want to point out that
I haven't really heard anyone being negative about the Catholic Church
as a whole, or that it is a fault of our faith. We are sad that it happened.
It is the duty of everyone to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Not all bishops are bad. Not even a majority of them are bad. But they've been over-schooled in religion and under-schooled in management. If the bishops had been better managers, they would have been better bishops. They are not doing a good job of recruiting priests.
What they should do is clean house of any priests that have anything to do with suspicious activities with youngsters. Some of these priests are frustrated in their personal lives. I've run into priests who were gay, but I have no anger against them. The only ones I'm angry at are those who are predatory.
There are lots and lots of jobs for priests that aren't in a parish.
I don't want anyone being involved with children or teenagers that have
activities that put them one-on-one.
I have rarely attended Mass in my parish in recent years. I was severely upset by what was revealed in the 1997 Rudy Kos liability trial against the Dallas Diocese.
At this time, I have decided I cannot just sit back and be angry with the church as I have been over the past years. The church is us. We will make it or break it. Apathy has been at the root of the recent problems.
If laypeople had been more active back when we first began to hear of priests molesting, and demanded more definitive action sooner, then maybe we would not be where we are now.
The answers are really very simple from the perspective of investigations of sexual abuse. The issue is educating the public, and emphasizing that priests are human, too, and enforcing immediately, and retroactively, an absolute zero tolerance policy. That does not mean that every alleged offender is out, but it does mean that the details of the investigation are public.
We should not treat victims as if they have done something wrong and presume that they want their identities hidden. However, if that is the case, then adequate precautions must be taken to protect the identity of any victims. The parish input should be considered regarding the decision of allowing the alleged perpetrator to stay.
The investigation record must be public and posted in any location where
any priest with such a record may serve. Texas already has a sexual abuse
offender list, and this would be an expansion of such a system.
The Catholic hierarchy has blown the chance to make moderate reform. I believe that the church will suffer membership drop, active attendance drop and a huge financial drop in income if the Highest Ups do not take extreme measures that are out-front and measurable by the public at large, not just Catholics.
It should be one strike and you are out of the priesthood. Period. No administrative job as a priest or any other job as a priest. Out!
They should demote all ministers, including cardinals, if it is proven that they covered up law-breaking priests.
Forgiveness, repentance and amendment of one's life should not allow a priest to stay in the priesthood. Forgiveness? Yes. To keep his job with counseling? Absolutely not.
A forgiven felon who has served time cannot hold certain jobs in the
secular world. A priest is first responsible to the laws of the land.
Ideally, the Holy Spirit guides the bishops. But the bishops don't always listen. They can become careerists or politicians rather than teachers of Scripture and of Catholic doctrinal and moral tradition.
When they don't listen or have any sort of accountability, they can get by with doing things like moving abusive priests around. The truth about everything needs to come out. I don't know the best way to do that.
In our parish, there's a lay parish council. It would be good to have
something like that on the level of the bishops, too. The downside is
that a lot of lay people don't know a lot about the church. What we most
need is to pray harder and be more focused on Jesus, being good Catholics
Priest's Transfer Protested
By Leif Strickland
About 60 people chanted "justice for Father Ortega" while marching outside St. James Catholic Church on Sunday to protest the recent demotion and transfer of their priest, the Rev. Efren Ortega.
Father Ortega and another Dallas priest, the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk, were transferred in April because they had not completed criminal history checks on employees and certain volunteers, as the Catholic Diocese of Dallas requires.
The protesters said that they decided to picket outside the Oak Cliff church to show their support for Father Ortega, who is now an associate pastor at St. Edward Catholic Church in Dallas.
"We're offended," said Julia Ruiz, as she walked along the sidewalk outside the church. "We do not agree with what the bishop did."
Church member Maria Guadalupe, who held a poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe, said Father Ortega "gave us 13 years of service, and he never did anything to anyone."
"He was always ready when we called him. This is not right."
Father Ortega declined to comment Sunday afternoon.
Diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard said Father Ortega had discouraged any protests at St. James.
Mr. Havard said Father Ortega was remorseful about failing to implement the policy and "was humble and contrite" after being reassigned.
"He's a very good man and a very good priest," Mr. Havard said.
Under the diocese's 4-year-old safe environment policy, which was designed to prevent child abuse, parish administrators must conduct criminal history checks on employees and on volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults. The policy was initiated after child molestation cases involving former priest Rudy Kos.
Father Ortega and Father Bierschenk, formerly of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas, are the only priests who have been transferred from their churches for not fully implementing the policy. Neither has been accused of sexual misconduct. Father Ortega's reassignment came only months before construction is set to begin on a $1.5 million sanctuary, St. James members said. The church, which serves a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, has an average weekend attendance of 2,100, according to a diocese directory.
The church's new pastor, Monsignor Mario Magbanua, declined to comment Sunday.
Charles Wilson, president of the St. James church council, said that the timing of the reassignment was unfortunate because Father Ortega "has dedicated years to this project. In fact, he probably didn't have time to fill out the paperwork [for background checks] because he was busy with it."
However, Mr. Wilson said he didn't support the demonstration because "it doesn't help the parish or the father or our image. ... We're probably not going to get him to come back, no matter how we feel."
Staff writer Susan Hogan/Albach contributed to this report.
Retired Priest Suspended after Report of Abuse
By Tiara M. Ellis
A retired local priest was suspended after a sexual abuse allegation was reported to the Dallas Diocese, officials said Friday.
The Rev. Michael Flanagan, 73, was suspended in April after a man told Catholic Diocese of Dallas officials that he was abused as a child in the early 1980s.
Diocese officials did not know whether Father Flanagan performed any duties with the diocese, but many retired priests substitute for priests who are ill or taking time off.
The account of sexual abuse was "brought forward and reported to Child Protective Services immediately," said diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard.
Diocese officials would not release any information about the reported abuse except to say that it was in the early 1980s when the victim was a minor.
Father Flanagan could not be reached for comment.
The suspension prohibits Father Flanagan from working in any ministry, celebrating Mass or presiding at any church worship. But he has not been defrocked.
Father Flanagan was forced into retirement in May 1999 after diocese officials learned that he had been arrested on charges of public lewdness involving an adult in the 1990s, according to a statement from the diocese.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said the suspension supports the diocese's policies created to protect children and others.
"I am deeply saddened and upset by this report. On behalf of all members of the diocese, I apologize to the victim and pray that his coming forward can be part of a healing process," Bishop Grahmann said in a written statement.
Father Flanagan, who is from New York, was ordained in the Bronx in 1961.
He has served at Sacred Heart Cathedral, now the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe; St. Patrick Co-Cathedral, now known as St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth; St. Patrick Church in Dallas; Christ the King Church in Dallas; St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Plano; St. Mary Church in Sherman; and Immaculate Conception Church in Corsicana.
He also served as a chaplain at Baylor University Medical Center from 1990 to 1998.
The suspension comes after two Dallas priests were transferred in April for not completing criminal history checks on employees and certain volunteers as is required by the diocese.
The policy on criminal history checks was started in response to child molestation cases involving former priest Rudy Kos in 1997.
Father Flanagan's suspension is the first since the Rev. Kenneth Roberts was suspended in 1998. Mr. Roberts was suspended after disobeying orders by Bishop Grahmann to end his public ministry and not work with young people.
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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