Hawaii’s Catholic Church Must Confront Its Past

By James Wright
Honolulu Civil Beat
June 15, 2017

There are two Roman Catholic Churches when it comes to taking responsibility for child sex abuse cases in Hawaii: the repentant and the defiant.

The repentant is occasionally seen in public statements. A typical example appeared in a Jan. 9, 2004, letter to the Honolulu Advertiser by Patrick Downes as editor of the Diocesan newspaper:

“The Diocese of Honolulu acknowledges the devastating and long-lasting damage caused by the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. It pledges to deal with the problem strongly, openly and consistently in the future.”

Downes is a familiar name locally in connection with clergy sex abuse having more than 30 years of stridently defending the Church and the perpetrators — often by disparaging the victims.

The Catholic Diocese of Honolulu and its clergy continue to duck full responsibility for sexual abuse cases.

Under the veneer of the repentant Church is the defiant. Many decades of denials have been discarded for public, but hollow, apologies and solemn, though insincere, promises of atonement and amends.

Denby Fawcett’s Civil Beat story about St. Anthony Church of Padua in Kailua continuing to use the name of serial pedophile Father Joseph Henry’s “Father Henry Hall” is a good example of the persistence of the defiant Church. Another recent example is how the Most Reverent Larry Silva, the current Bishop of Honolulu dealt with Father Anthony Bolger, another priest accused in a lawsuit in 2013 of sexually abusing a boy at St. Anthony’s during the years 1978-1981.

Bolger was one of the accused pedophiles who staffed the Kailua parish over the decades. He hid in Tijuana apparently to avoid being served in the litigation over his abuse. When he died in Tijuana in 2015, his remains were returned to Hawaii for a funeral at St. Anthony’s, which was conducted by Bishop Silva and the Very Reverend Monsignor Gary Secor who is Vicar General of the Honolulu Diocese. An obituary in the Hawaii Catholic Herald was a tribute Bolger’s priestly service while omitting the pending litigation. Full clergy honors were rendered at the place where “devastating and long-lasting damage” had been done to minors by Bolger and other priests including Father Henry and Father Joseph Ferrario who later became Bishop of Honolulu.

It is frustrating that clergy in Hawaii’s Roman Catholic Church continue to step back from responsibility to let lay people speak in their behalf for past crimes such as the recent example of the business manager at St. Anthony’s being put out front to apologize for St. Anthony’s ongoing use of the name “Father Henry Hall” while the St. Anthony clergy was said to be was “too busy” to respond.

In the past, the Church misled and manipulated the parents of sex abuse victims when priests harmed their children. Faithful parents today are fully aware of the evil that was done. They may choose to overlook the transgressions of the clergy but they cannot ignore how the Roman Catholic Church today continues to defy the minimal standards of decency in dealing with its history. As a parent of young children, I fear that the past is really prologue.








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