Tuesday, January 15, 2008
"SACRILEGE: SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH"
is the title of a book by Leon J. Podles that has recently been released. This one is unique in that Podles used for it only the material that is available to the general public through the press and court documents. He has gathered up quite a lot of material.
What I found particularly interesting was his research on the treatment centers to which these abusive priests were sent once abuse was established. It has often been said that the reason bishops consistently put priests back into parishes was that the counseling profession told them it would be appropriate, and that thus the bishops were merely following the best professional advice available. Podles offers the details:
The Institute of Living
Cardinal Egan, the one-time bishop of Bridgeport Connecticut, blamed the Institute for telling bishops that abusive priests were cured and could be trusted with children. But the institute in 1990 had warned that "we are in a weak position when we try to make predictions about future behavior." The director of psychology, Leslie Lothstein, claimed that the bishops usually ignored reports: "I found they rarely followed our recommendations. They would put them [abusers] back into work where they still had access to vulnerable populations. The chief of psychiatry at the Institute added that "in some cases, necessary and pertinent information related to prior sexual misconduct has been withheld from us. In some cases, it would appear that our evaluations have been misconstrued in order to return priests to ministry. But the Institute's diagnosis of John Goeghan was "atypical pedophilia in remission"; they told Bishop Banks that "it is both reasonable and therapeutic for him to be reassigned back to his parish" and later said Geoghan was "psychologically fit" to work with children....(p. 307-308)
In 2002, after the flood of abuse stories, the Institute required bishops who sent abusive priests for treatment to give "the full facts and circumstances" that led to the requests for treatment, including all "complaints, disciplinary actions, treatment records, and criminal and civil allegations." After this information was required, bishops stopped sending priests to the Institute.
The Servants of the Paraclete
Father Gerald Fitzgerald did not intend to establish a center for treating priests with sexual disorders, but that is what Via Coeli at Jemez Springs became....
Father John Murphy, pastor of a Jamez Springs church, wrote a letter to some U.S. bishops complaining that
"staff, superiors of the four separate houses [that] constitute Via Coeli almost without exception have serious unresolved behavior problems that necessitated their removal from the active ministry. It also contained allegations of drug and alcohol abuse."
The Paracletes, however, denied the allegations.
Fitzgerald wanted to put priests who abused children on an uninhabited island in the Caribean he had purchased for $28,000: "it is for this class of rattlesnake I have always wished the island retreat--but even an island is too good for these vipers of whom the Gentle Master said--it were better they had not been born...." This was not to be. According to one newspaper report, the Vatican ordered Fitzgerald to sell the island.
Another client at Jamez Springs
[John B.] Feit was and is a suspect in a murder. He heard Irene Garza's confession at Sacred Heart Church. People who were trying to go to confession that night remember that he had disappeared from the confessional box. Authorities later found her body in a canal, where Feit's photographic slide viewer was also found. Feit changed his story to investigators and failed lie detector teses...
Within a few years, Feit had joined the Paracletes and had become a top administrator supervising priests sent there for counseling. One priest he supervised was James Porter...Once, in 1969, Feit failed to disclose to the priest's home diocese in Massachusetts that Porter had relapsed while on a probationary assignment in Houston. ...
The Paracletes continued their policy of hiring their patients to run the center.
Porter was one of the early sensational cases of priestly sex abuse.
In the twelve years before they closed the New Mexico center in 1994 the Paracletes treated about 400 priests for "psychosexual issues" with a twelve-step program, with Depo-Provera, and with hikes in the mountains. In 1986 Dr. Jay Feierman of the treatment center asserted that "our recidivism rate for behavior which could be considered criminal is 0% to the best of our knowledge." Their knowledge was not very good: they destroyed their own records, which shows a certain lack of interest in following cases to find out the long term results of treatment.(pp 308-311)
The House of Affirmation
...Rev. Thomas A. Kane, a Catholic priest and co-founder of the chain, used House of Affirmation finances to support personal real estate investments in Massusetts, Maine, and Florida, paid salaries from House of Affirmation funds to persons employed in his personal business enterprises, and misrepresented his academic credentials." But these small personal problems, of which his bishop was aware, did not end Kane's career. In 1988, at the recommendation of Bishop Timothy Harrington, Kane was made the national director of the Guild of Catholic Psychiatrists, despite his fraudulent claim of having a Ph.D. In 1992 he was breeding bulldogs and teaching a course in ethics at a Catholic college.(p. 313)
In 1993 Kane was stationed at Sacred Heart Church in Worcester. He was then accused by Mark Barry of assaulting him at St. Mary's Church in Uxbridge, starting in 1968 when Barry was nine years old. The abuse, Barry claimed, continued for eleven years and took place at the House of Affirmation while Kane was director there. Barry said Kane had a country house in Manchester, Vermont, where he took Barry and offered him to other priests. There Kane took pictures of Barry and the priests having sex. A suit filed in 2002 claimed that Kane was running a sex ring in which John Geoghan, David Blizard, and Victor Frobas shared boys among themselves.
Before filing for bankruptcy after a civil lawsuit involving boys, Kane transferred his real estate to Msgr. Brendan P. Riordan, a director of the House of Affirmation (as of mid-2007 he remains pastor of a church in the Rockville Centre diocese)...
Podles is forthright in placing the blame on the pope:
The boys and girls whose lives were destroyed were victimized not only by the abusers, but by all those who allowed the abuse to go on:...by the Vatican and by the pope, who appointed the bishops who hated confronting abusive priests more than they hated child abuse, by the pope who gave every sign to the bishops that he wanted abusive priests to be given a second, third, fourth, tenth chance, by the pope who reviewed case files of abusers and never asked about the victims, by the pope who had time to meet with breakdancers but refused every request to meet with abuse victims.(p. 510)