Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teaching credentials...

 Food for thought:
  • Imagine your English teacher demonstrating mastery of the language by regularly uttering statements like this, “We seen them deer when we was up north!” 
  • Imagine your mathematics teacher regularly adding numbers incorrectly. 
  • Imagine your social studies teacher talking about visiting “Toledo, the capital of the U.S.” 
  • Imagine your music teacher with an inability to count rhythms correctly or carry a tune.  

Now try to imagine yourself valuing these teachers’ lessons.  In each case, regardless of the theory expressed, actions belied their true subject-matter expertise to the point you probably justifiably questioned their credibility…a lot…  Their actions told you, “I am not qualified to teach about this.”


  • Imagine your Catholic faith teacher, who professes to know more than you about truth, being exposed as a liar. 
  • Imagine your faith teacher confusing the commandment about adultery with those about murder or stealing.
  • Imagine your faith teacher enabling and covering up clergy’s sexual abuse of minors but writing the Church’s norms to protect children.

Such is the case with the Catholic hierarchy and sexual abuse.  The bishops declare themselves the ultimate teaching authorities on faith yet, on a weekly basis we read of bishops being caught telling lies or enabling abusers.  We live with the appalling reality that bishops equate raping children to an adulterous affair, though rape is about forcefully taking that which is not given and destroying the child’s physical, emotional and spiritual life in the process.  Perhaps lesser known, the primary authors of the US bishops’ charter to protect children, themselves harbored sexually abusive priests even after the charter was signed.  What is most puzzling of all is that a) the bishops think anyone should take them seriously as moral authorities and b) that anyone does.

Here are just a smattering of proof points:

1.  Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis said in an April, 2014 sworn legal deposition that he didn’t know until March, 2014 that Ken LaVan, a priest with multiple credible sexual abuse accusations, was still in active ministry.  However, this past week revealed that ole John was actually getting annual updates about Ken’s ministry activities. 

Psst….John, this is called “lying” and violates the 8th Commandment: “Thou shall not bear false witness.”  John, I gotta tell ya, this really kills your street creds in the truth department.  Plus, when you lie under oath in this country, it is also called a “crime” further crumbling your “truthiness” credibility.  Much like Dr. Seuss’ book calling for another liar to depart public leadership, “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!”, I think it’s beyond time we say, “John C. Nienstedt Will You Please Go Now!”

2.  Moving on to Canon Law, we see the hierarchy actually classifies priests’ sexual misconduct with minors under the 6th Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”  Yes, appalling as that seems, the hierarchy officially equates trusted religious leaders’ sexual assault of innocent minors with extra-marital sexual activity between two consenting adults.  You read that right: the clergy categorize destroying children’s lives and souls against their will equally with two adults consensually caving to hormones in a tryst.  

Don’t believe me?  Canon 1395 states, “A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”  This is the one sentence in Canon Law that is meant to deter clergy sexual abuse.  Why are you not trembling in awe? 

As an aside, please notice that unlike ordination of women which incurs automatic excommunication, clergy raping children, according to Canon Law, is not grounds for excommunication.  It merely calls for possible removal from office…ya know, “if the case warrants” it.  It would seem that the Vatican should have inserted an emoticon of a face winking next to that statement…it is so fierce and followed.

Call me nutty but I think that when a priest sexually assaults a kid, they kill a soul, they steal…thus, they break the 5th and 7th commandments against killing and stealing…not the 6th pertaining to marital fidelity.  This Canon Law classification reveals much about the hierarchy’s understanding or lack thereof with regards to the commandments, rape, children, marriage, sexuality, human life, etc…  In turn, it directly impacts the hierarchy’s credibility on all these topics.

3.  This brings us to the ace team of bishops who were principle authors of the US bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” written in 2002: Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archbishop Harry Flynn, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, and Cardinal Francis George.  With the exception of Wilton Gregory, all of them harbored sexually abusive priests … some even after the charter was written, signed and promulgated.  In the case of Cardinal George, it included harboring a known sexual predator in his very own episcopal mansion (2003).

Actually, Cardinal George’s rap sheet of enabling and covering up sexually abusive priests after the charter is so long I will just provide a link that enumerates some cases between 2003 and 2006 rather than turn this into a painfully long blog article.  Harry Flynn kept the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer in ministry despite Wehmeyer's sexual addiction and sexual misconduct.  He also failed to report a priest in possession of child pornography.  All of this after the charter was in place. 

Of the group, Mahony seemed to be the one who at least tried to reform his diocese’s practices but there always seemed to be a struggle between loyalty honoring the brotherhood’s clerical institution versus honoring truth and justice.

These aren’t the only bishops failing to follow the charter.  For example, we do have our friend and convicted criminal for failure to report child abuse, Bishop Bob Finn, still at the helm of the Kansas City Diocese.  I just thought since they wrote the charter, that maybe they would have been role models for doing the right thing.  Silly me.

So, as I see it, the bishops seem to have authored the charter as a PR stunt rather than as a step towards profound institutional reform.  Furthermore, looking at the whole situation, I think the bishops collectively demonstrate that they:
a) Do not understand the 5th, 6th, or 7th commandments, and
b) Do not obey the 8th commandment

I wonder if they have enough self-awareness to realize that many of the faithful see them as also violating the 1st commandment against having false gods based upon their willingness to forfeit several commandments in favor of protecting their brotherhood’s clerical institution.  When a team who believes they are the guardians of the commandments demonstrates poor mastery of half of them, what are they really guarding?


  1. Thank you! Gasp! What can I say? We keep hearing this over and over--have we become inured to it. Why isn't anybody who can DO anything about it doing anything?? Please, keep writing, rubbing it in their faces until it stops!

  2. Don't agree that this falls under the ethic against stealing. But definitely falls under the ethic against murder: as we know it includes any bodily harm done to another. It does also fall under a violation of chastity (falls under the ethic against adultery), but like most normal people that would seem to be the lesser of the two sins committed to me.

  3. I think of it as stealing because it is taking something from another. I didn't think of it as relating to chastity because professionals working with rape survivors say rape is not about sex. It is about power...specifically power to take dignity from the victim. Thanks for your comments. It is interesting to hear different spins on this. I agree that the more compelling commandment pertains to murder/physical harm since it is through a physical violation that the transgressors robs the person's dignity.

  4. Powerful post highlighting the horrible disconnect between the treatment of priests who rape children—a life destroying act—and women who are ordained priests—a life fulfilling act.