|Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Blast New Spokane Bishop
By David Clohessy
September 8, 2010
Statement by David Clohessy, SNAP Executive Director, 314 566 9790
(In a new interview with a Washington newspaper published today, Spokane’s new Catholic bishop discusses the church’s child sex abuse and cover up crisis.)
Bishop Blase Cupich endangers kids, hurts victims and misleads Catholics by mischaracterizing and minimizing the Catholic church’s horrific, on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis.
In this interview, Cupich makes three stunning and patently ridiculous claims.
1) “Sexual abuse of children is not happening in the church today. “
2) “The scandal is that, 30 years ago, the world of psychology, criminal law and the church didn’t handle the situation well. Society didn’t handle the situation well.”
3) “Various institutions that work with kids that don’t have in place codes of conduct and training that we have in place.”
Let’s look at all three of these claims.
First, on the very day Cupich’s interview appeared, Illinois newspapers were reporting on the new guilty plea by a Chicago area predator priest, Fr. Alejandro Flores. He was ordained in 2009. He molested a boy in 2010. Ancient history? Hardly!
Even worse, the local bishop’s top staff knew this predator had problems even before he was ordained. According to one newspaper: “Prosecutors say Catholic officials had some warning signs about Flores” because he “was caught with gay porn on his computer” and “some of the images appeared to be those of young boys.”
So what did the Illinois bishop do? He warned no parishioners about this incident and went ahead and ordained Flores anyway.
The day before Cupich’s interview appeared in print, Fr. Joseph Fiala was arrested in Kansas for child sex crimes he allegedly committed in 2007 and 2008.
We could go on and on and on.
Every day, a blog called “The Abuse Tracker” posts dozens of news accounts from credible media outlets across the world about current clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Most, sadly, involve Catholic clerics. (It’s available at BishopAccountability.org)
Catholic officials can try mightily to distance themselves from pedophile priests when those priests are caught and admit guilt. But as long as Catholic officials continue to recruit troubled men to the priesthood and ordain them despite clear warning signs, this horrific, on-going crisis will continue.
Second, Cupich claims, “The scandal is that, 30 years ago, the world of psychology, criminal law and the church didn’t handle the situation well. Society didn’t handle the situation well.”
It’s hard to know where to start with this one. Sure, much of society has improved over the past three decades when it comes to child sexual abuse. But the Catholic church stands apart as the one institution that has attracted, harbored, protected and transferred more child predators - literally thousands of child molesting priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians, brothers and other staff – than any other.
And while there certainly are too many abusive coaches and teachers, it’s nearly impossible to find one who has molested dozens or hundreds of kids because he or she was deliberately moved from place to place by irresponsible supervisors. Why? Because that happens most in the Catholic church, and always has.
(Isn’t it sad to see an alleged spiritual leader implying “Heck, we’re no worse than other groups that caused children to suffer”?)
Cupich disingenuously blames ‘psychology’ for part of the church’s crisis. He conveniently neglects to mention that if he and his colleagues had called the police about clergy child sex crimes (both known and suspected), hundreds of predator priests would be in prisons, not in therapy. He also obscures the fact that pedophile priests were deliberately sent for counseling to Catholic institutions where the top priority wasn’t protecting kids and ‘healing’ predators but keeping secrets. (With their vast resources, Catholic bishops could have sent their ‘troubled’ priests to the ‘best and brightest’ in the therapeutic community. Instead, however, they chose to protect themselves, their colleagues and their secrets by utilizing instead therapists who would help bishops conceal the crimes and give bishops the ‘recommendations’ to return pedophiles to ministry that bishops so desperately sought.)
Third, Cupich claims that “various institutions that work with kids that don’t have in place codes of conduct and training that we have in place.” We challenge Cupich to stop the McCarthy smear tactics and specifically tell us what other institutions lack the supposed abuse programs that the Catholic church has allegedly adopted (albeit begrudgingly and belatedly). It’s just wrong to cast aspersions on an entire group – agencies and organizations that deal with kids.
And we challenge the ludicrous notion that ‘codes of conduct’ are in any way effective when it comes to child sex crimes. Does Cupich honestly believe that, years ago, even one confused priest told himself, “Gee, I’m not sure sodomizing a child is right or wrong. My bishop doesn’t make me sign a ‘code of conduct’ forbidding child sodomy, so I guess I’ll go ahead and assault a little girl or boy today.”
These “codes of conduct” are like much of the bishops’ response to this heinous scandal – it’s a smart PR move that makes people feel good and believe reform is happening. But it has no impact whatsoever in the real world.
It’s also worth considering what Cupich doesn’t say. He never once acknowledges that the church’s rigid, all-male, secretive culture plays any role in this crisis. He never once admits that bishops ignore and conceal child sex crimes because they can (since in this monarchical structure, they answer to virtually no one).
It’s misleading to talk about the crisis without mentioning its primary cause – the recklessness, callousness and deceit of bishops who repeatedly, knowingly and secretly transferred child molesting clerics to unsuspecting parishioners, and who shun victims, deceive reporters, stonewall police, intimidate witnesses, destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, and discredit whistleblowers.
Finally, Cupich stresses the church’s “need to rebuild trust.” We respectfully disagree. The church needs to stop finger-pointing, excuse-making, and blame-shifting. The church needs to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. When that happens, trust will be restored.
We agree with his statement that the church hierarchy is “more than the sins of our past.” Indeed, the church hierarchy is also, sadly, the sins of its present.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Taking Stock - A new bishop promises to help renew the Catholic church in Spokane.
Blase Cupich, bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City, N.D., had a good thing going. He’d spent 12 years in the small city of 125,000, building friendships and relationships. He’d raised $12.5 million to create a Catholic school and retreat center.
But life’s direction can change quickly. The Catholic Church told him he needed to pack up his bags and become bishop in Spokane, a diocese battered by sex abuse scandals and bankruptcy.
We sat down with Cupich (pronounced “soup-itch”) on Friday, the day of his installation to talk about the future of the Catholic Church in Spokane.
INLANDER: Was it hard to reset your life like that?
CUPICH: Sure it is. All of a sudden you’re told that you have to give up all of those ties and supports and relationships, and go to a place you’ve never been before. I had my own house and routine. All that’s gone.
The Spokane diocese has been peppered by sexual abuse scandals.
Sexual abuse of children is not happening in the church today. These are historical cases. The last time that we have a case of actual abuse of a child [in Spokane] is in the early ’80s. This is not anything that is happening now.
The scandal is that, 30 years ago, the world of psychology, criminal law and the church didn’t handle the situation well. Society didn’t handle the situation well.
Today, even, we have various institutions that work with kids that don’t have in place codes of conduct and training that we have in place. We would hope that the measures we are taking can be instructive to these other institutions.
How should the Spokane Catholic Diocese deal with this wound?
This diocese has called for victims to come forward for healing, and we will continue to do that. I have every intention of meeting personally with any victim of sexual abuse by a priest and will continue to reach out to them.
I’m personally committed and I have a fairly good record with being able to do that.
Because of the sexual abuse lawsuit settlement, the diocese has been hit with a major bankruptcy. Some parishes may have to be sold. How do you feel the Catholic Church in Spokane should deal with that issue?
I think the financial future has a lot of uncertainty about it, simply because we don’t have the resources that we’ve had in the past to provide the infrastructure. We have no chancery office building. We rent a floor. We have cut back on our staff by about 75 percent. The bishop’s residence is gone and I’m living in a rectory here at the Cathedral. The future is uncertain. It’s in a very delicate situation. But we also remember two things: Our mission is not about finances. And secondly, we trust that we can place ourselves in the hands of God and we’ll get through this.
Over the last 50 years, the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass weekly has gone from 75 percent to 45 percent. Why is that?
The issue is complex. I think all mainline churches are suffering. First of all, society has changed in terms of mobility. With the greater mobility, people drift from their roots and so they begin to not feel as connected to an area they move into, and don’t get connected to their parish. The second reason, I think, is we are living in an era in which people are separating spirituality from religion. … And the sex abuse scandals have hurt us.
How can that trend be reversed?
We need to be more aggressive in our hospitality, when people move into our area. We have to go and find out what new Catholics in their area. [We need to help] people to see that their spirituality isn’t the fullest it can be if they don’t share it with others. And we need to rebuild trust. We’re more than a diocese that suffered bankruptcy. We’re more than the sins of our past.
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