|Clerical Mendacity and the Information Age
By Leon J. Podles
February 12, 2011
Jason Berry gave a talk on the crisis on the church. One of his main points is that the Vatican and the bishops are unable to cope with the instantaneous flood of information that the internet has provided. You shouldn’t do anything that you don’t want the whole world to find about, because as soon as one person knows it, the whole world will know it. The Vatican doesn’t understand this, and the Williamson affair demonstrated. No one googled Williamson to discover his peculiar opinions on the Holocaust.
The convenient lie has long been a staple of church (and other) bureaucracies. Jason called it a culture of mendacity. When can tell an untruth is a vexed moral question, and sometimes the line is hard to draw. The classic example is the Gestapo asking you where the Jews are hiding. But ordinarily, one is obliged to tell the truth if the person with whom one is communicating has, in the ordinary course of life, the right to receive the truth.
Church officials have never learned this ordinary lesson.
The Rev. Martin O’Laughlen, when he was 29, became sexually involved with a 16-year-old girl:
Father O’Loghlen had sex on several occasions with Julie Malcolm in the 1960s while she was a student at Bishop Amat High School in nearby La Puente, Ms. Malcolm said. Nearly three decades after the abuse ended, Father O’Loghlen tried to reach Ms. Malcolm, who was then living in Phoenix.
After receiving several phone messages from Father O’Loghlen, Ms. Malcolm filed a complaint with the Diocese of Phoenix and later filed a lawsuit against the priest and his religious order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In 1999, she settled the lawsuit for $100,000, Ms. Malcolm said.
O’Loughlen went on to become Provincial of his order and served on the sexual offenses review board for the Los Angeles archdiocese.
…the provincial, the Rev. Donal McCarthy, who now oversees the religious order in California, wrote to the archdiocese in March 2009, asking that Father O’Loghlen serve as a priest in Los Angeles. The letter included assurances that Father O’Loghlen “manifested no behavioral problems in the past that would indicate that he might deal with minors in an inappropriate manner” and had “never been involved in an incident or exhibited behavior which called into question his fitness or suitability for priestly ministry due to alcohol, substance abuse, sexual misconduct, financial irregularities, or other causes.”
He was appointed as an associate pastor in the San Dimas church four months later. Father O’Loghlen also worked at the parish’s elementary school.
The archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy’s Office “did not fully consult” other records of the priest’s “previous assignments in the archdiocese, which would have indicated that he admitted to having had a sexual relationship with a female minor,” Mr. Tamberg said.
In 2009 O’Laughlen’s name was on the internet; he was listed in BishopAccountability.org’s database, with a link to the report that the LA archdiocese had released.
Church officials do not think they are bound by the same moral laws that we mere laymen are bound by. A diplomat, it is said, is a man chosen to lie for his country; do bishops and religious superiors think that their mission from God is to lie for the Church?
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