Episcopal Scandal, Pedophile Payoffs, and the Bernardin Legacy

By Paul Likoudis
The Wanderer
June 18, 1998

The resignation of the first Catholic bishop in the United States for pedophilia, Bishop J. Keith Symons of Palm Beach, Fla., on June 2nd, stunned his flock but was, to the American public at large, a ho-hum "affair."

In the same week that Symons resigned, Bernard Cardinal Law in Boston and Archbishop Patrick F. Flores, the "Mariachi Bishop" of San Antonio, publicly announced multimillion-dollar payoffs to groups of men sexually abused by priests in their dioceses, another ho-hum affair.

The surprising lack of Catholic outrage could be explained by the repetitive nature of such stories in recent years, but what did not surprise Amchurch observers was that no U.S. bishop – other than Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg – commented publicly on the Symons case, the Law and Flores payoffs, and the sullying of the priesthood by such public exposures.

Why the silence?

Perhaps because so many dioceses are routinely paying for clerical crimes – an amount estimated by some priest-abuse victims' groups at over $800 million over the past 15 years.

Or perhaps because the Symons case is not likely to remain an "exceptional case" much longer, and bishops are just hunkering down waiting for the next cases to explode.

The Wanderer has been reliably informed that there are pending investigations of sexual abuse allegations against other bishops, including pedophilia, both by Church authorities and attorneys in various dioceses, and that a major expose of a homosexual-pedophile ring in the clergy and episcopacy is imminent.

When it happens, the "Bernardin Legacy;" which is receiving a major publicity boost this July, will be seen in a different perspective.

Symons, who admitted that he owed his appointment as a bishop to the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, is not the only prelate with sexual problems to have come into the episcopacy with Bernardin's influence. At least two other American prelates were forced to vacate their dioceses because of their sexual involvement with women. As is commonly known, many other bishops also owe their jobs to the late impresario of the Amchurch, who worked closely with former Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Jean Jadot to pack the hierarchy with modernists and social liberals.

The lack of episcopal response to the news that one of their own is a self-confessed pedophile raises questions about three issues: Did Symons' brother bishops know of his history and when did they learn? Do other bishops know of peers who have similar problems? Is there a ring of episcopal pedophiles who recruit and promote their own?

“The Catholic people need the answers to these questions," says Helen Hull Hitchcock, founder and director of Women for Faith and Family.

"Concealing the truth has never helped the Church. If there is a network and what it is, I don't know. I can understand why good bishops would want to handle clerical abuse discreetly in the past, fearing to expose good people to scandal. But the concealment has caused great harm, and now it's clear that some type of network is operating in the Church trying to destroy it.

"It's time for someone in the hierarchy to give the Catholic people a 'heads up',” she told The Wanderer.

Chances are that the Catholic faithful will never get a candid confession from someone in the hierarchy about the qualifications some priests had that merited their selection by Bernardin for promotion.

What they do know is that without Cardinal Bernardin around to continue micromanaging the affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the legal response to clerical pedophilia, there's little assurance that the Symons case will be the last of its kind.


The unraveling of the Bernardin Legacy comes, strangely enough, just as Bernardin's lifeless legacy is about to be touched up in a major television eulogy to be broadcast in the first week of July from coast to coast on at least 126 public television stations.

Catholic journalists who saw previews of the one-hour special, Bernardin, at the recent Catholic Press Association meeting in New Orleans were stunned: some overcome with sadness at the loss of their hero; others overcome with disgust at Bernardin’s apotheosis.

The release of the documentary comes at a peculiar time, when Catholic Americans are starting to understand that the "Bernardin Legacy" is the Amchurch – a meticulously planned deconstruction of the Church in the United States, of its liturgy and institutions, including a studied avoidance of the growing scandal of clerical pedophilia until scores of lawsuits forced the issue into the public arena.

To his sycophants, Bernardin is memorable for his "seamless garment" / "consistent ethic" / "common ground" / St. John the anti-Semitic Evangelist / Many Faces of AIDS / Call to Action, etc., projects in the Church. To his critics, his micromanagement of Amchurch affairs, including his distressing appointments to the episcopacy of such incapable protégés as Archbishops Thomas C. Kelly, O.P., and John R. Quinn, and others, was a disaster.

Bernardin will feature interviews with Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, Bishop Lynch of St. Petersburg, who was made general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops while Bernardin was NCCB president, Dr. Martin Marty, Newsweek's Kenneth Woodward, Time's Richard Ostling, Chicago Sun-Times photo journalist John White, and Msgr. Kenneth Velo, Bernardin's personal assistant and driver.

In addition to airing nationwide on PBS, the documentary, produced by Martin Doblmeier and Frank Frost, of Journey Films and Frank Frost Productions respectively, will be marketed to Catholic parishes and schools for study.

Also in July, Doubleday Books in New York will release the late cardinal's "autobiography."

Ironically, Doubleday will release it approximately at the same time that it releases a paperback edition of Malachi Martin's Windswept House, a frightening novel depicting a Bernardin-like, career-oriented prelate who is at the center of a homosexual / pedophile / occult ring running the Catholic Church in the United States.

"I think the 'Bernardin Legacy' is absolutely deleterious,” Martin told The Wanderer.

"My friends in Rome tell me that there was hardly one bishop appointed in the last 20 years that got in without his approval, and I would say that, for Bernardin, sex was an instrument to be used for political purposes, and he was utterly shameless.

"To be blunt, in that matter, he had no scruples at all."

Two days after Symons announced his resignation, the Archdiocese of Boston acknowledged that it paid out several millions of dollars to settle a dozen lawsuits against it and Fr. John J. Geoghan, a retired priest accused of sexually molesting more than 50 children over three decades.

Several days later, on June 6th, Cardinal Law called a press conference to announce that he had defrocked Geoghan.

The diocese did not disclose the actual amount it paid Geoghan's victims, but some of the priest's victims estimated the total settlement between $2.5 million and $10 million.

Over 31 years. following his Ordination in 1962, Geoghan served six parishes in the Boston area. He was placed on sick leave in 1981, after reports of sexual abuse were made against him, but was reassigned to parish work after treatment. He was placed on permanent sick leave in 1995.

The Boston Globe reported that Geoghan was retired in 1995, but the Official Catholic Directory lists Geoghan as the assistant director of Regina Clari, a retirement home for priests.

In retirement at the home while Geoghan was there was his former pastor from St. Julia (where some of the abuse took place) in Weston, Msgr. Francis Rossiter, who once served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Boston.

In San Antonio, Archbishop Flores announced a $4 million settlement with the families of seven boys abused by Fr. Xavier Ortiz-Dietz. The incidents all took place between 1987 and 1992 while Ortiz was pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Macdona.

What is "rather inexplicable" in the words of Michelle Petty, attorney for Ortiz's victims – is how Ortiz ever became a priest.

"The poor priest was crazy." she told The Wanderer.

"It's part of the public record that Ortiz's seminary records from Mexico show that he had a lot of problems, that he was about to be kicked out of the seminary when Flores met him, that he failed his psychological tests, that he was sexually conflicted, that he exhibited obsessive-compulsive behavior – a whole litany of psychological problems – and it's all in writing.

"There is also a tremendous amount of correspondence between Ortiz and Flores, in which the archbishop says, 'Don't worry about your problems. we'll get you in our seminary'."

The Bernardin Legacy

Groups that monitor these clerical sexual abuse cases estimate that Catholic dioceses have paid out an estimated $800 million in settlements for clergy sexual misconduct lawsuits in the past 15 years, for an estimated 400 to 1,000 priests (out of a total priest population of about 50,000) responsible for some 10,000 victims.

Among the hundreds of clerical sex abusers is one Msgr. Frederick J. Hopwood, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., whose early career was closely linked to Bernardin's; and when Hopwood's sex abuse victims pressed damages against the Diocese of Charleston, attorneys for the Archdiocese of Chicago, during Bernardin's tenure, worked out the terms of settlement.

In March, 1994, six months before a former Cincinnati seminarian named Steven Cook publicly accused Bernardin of sexual abuse, newspapers in South Carolina reported that nine men had come forward to accuse Hopwood of sexual abuse in cases dating back to the 1950s.

On March 21st, 1994, Hopwood pleaded guilty to one charge of sex abuse, performed on a minor while Hopwood was rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist sometime in 1970-1971, in a plea agreement that put him in a therapy program instead of jail.

About the same time that Hopwood was making the news in Charleston, The Wanderer received an anonymous "fact sheet" (subsequently investigated and substantiated) that drew connections between Bernardin and Hopwood.

Both men, who were roommates at the Charleston seminary, were ordained by the late Bishop John J. Russell of Charleston (1950-1958), later bishop of Richmond; Hopwood in 1951, Bernardin in 1952. Bishop Russell was himself accused of sexual abuse.

Immediately upon Hopwood's Ordination, Russell appointed him chancellor of the diocese, a post at which he served for a few years, with Bernardin coming on as assistant chancellor in 1953, and replacing Hopwood as chancellor in 1954.

For much of the time until Bernardin was named in 1966 as an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta under his mentor, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan, who had been bishop of Charleston from 1958-1962, Bernardin and Hopwood resided together at the cathedral rectory.

What made the Hopwood pedophilia case of more than just passing interest was the involvement of attorneys from Mayer, Brown, and Platt, the Archdiocese of Chicago's law firm, which brokered the settlement for some of Hopwood's victims.

According to an attorney familiar with the cases against Hopwood, "he was not your ordinary pedophile. He did hundreds and hundreds of boys, and I can't imagine Bernardin not being aware of it, since they lived together for such a long time.”

There's More

The Bernardin Legacy continues, of course, not only in Amchurch's continuing sex scandals but in the institutionalization of dissent in Church structures, beginning with the bishops' national headquarters, extending down to chanceries, Catholic schools and hospitals, and parishes.

With his ever-widening circle of sycophants, he created his own kind of church, one based on – in the words of Malachi Martin – "'dialog' rather than obedience to the will of God.”

Despite the efforts of his lay and clerical followers to keep his image polished and his apparat in motion, the Bernardin Legacy will continue to fester in the body of the Church until the surgeons – that is, his brother bishops – decide to cut it away.


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