Getting It Backwards

By Kevin O'Brien
Waiting for Godot to Leave
September 20, 2013

Bishop Loras Watters

Most of us, I imagine, read our emails backwards.  That is to say that when a bunch of emails pile up in our inboxes, they are usually arranged from most recent to least recent.  This is like reading Chapter Ten of a novel, then reading Chapter Nine, and so forth.

The Riverfront Times has an article on Archbishop Carlson and his history of handling claims of abuse.  One of the very helpful things the RFT does is to embed on their website the original documents related to the issues they are reporting.  And so you can bypass any possible lax reporting or media spin by going to the source.  This was particularly helpful in the Bishop Finn case.  I still have readers, for example, who are quite rightly concerned about how the media tarnishes the Catholic Church by reporting half-truths, but who don't realize that in this internet age, and especially in the Bishop Finn case, original source documents are available (i.e., the Graves Report and the Stipulation of Testimony).  And apparently the Pope has recently stirred up concern with an interview that few people are bothering to read, relying instead on media reports.  But its full English translation can be read at America Magazine.

So it's more possible now to go to the source than it ever has been.

And the source the RFT provides (which I've embedded below) is really rather stunning.  For the effect of reading them from page one to page five - which is chronologically backwards - is jaw dropping.

These documents aren't really a reflection on Robert Carlson personally as much as they are on the unbelievably stupid and careless way the Church in the U.S. has been handling abuse.  Yes, there's the really awful fact that Carlson focuses on the potential bad publicity this case might bring the archdiocese, while exhibiting a more tepid concern over the suffering of the victim.  Still, Carlson's most recent memo is written in an attempt to remove the perpetrator (Fr. Tom Adamson) from ministry - which is indeed what ended up happening.  But there's something worse than that revealed in these three documents.

What is revealed is that the bishop of Winona, Minnesota knew of the perpetrator's character and of his pattern of abuse NINE YEARS before Carlson's memo suggested he be removed from ministry and sent to treatment.  And in Bishop Watters memo, written in 1975, it is clear that the priest in question was actively abusing victims for FIFTEEN YEARS prior to that.  Watters writes (in 1975) that there are ...

... numbers of people in at least five different communities across the entire diocese who have finally pieced together incidents occuring over a fifteen year span and who now openly raise questions about the credibility of all priests.
And, if we are to believe, this same Bishop Watters
stated under oath in 1986 that he never knew what Adamson's specific problems were until 1984.
 ... which was simply and obviously perjury ... or Clintonesque doublespeak.

And evil, like holiness, spreads out in ripples.  The primary victim mentioned in Carlson's memo victimized others, raping at least one girl.

How such sluggish, inept twiddling inertia can infect an organization that is supposed to be living and preaching the Gospel is utterly astonishing.

It's almost seems the bishops are getting everything backwards.


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