Is everyone vacationing this week but me? I can detect such things from blog traffic—this week has been sparse. Unfortunately this is the legal ethics CLE busy season, so I have been furious preparing materials for three new three-hour programs: “The Legal Ethics Mine Field,” “Legal Ethics Squeeze,” and a new musical ethics seminar for the New Jersey Bar Association, “Ethics Blues,” with the talented Esther Covington. It features legal issues-stuffed parodies of such songs as “Copacabana,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Piano Man,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Isn’t It Romantic” and “Let it Be,” among others. I’ve been writing parody song lyrics since I was 9, and much as I enjoy it, it is mentally exhausting in a way nothing else is.
1. The anti-Trump news media is all a twitter because former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh might challenge President Trump for the nomination. Joe Walsh! He’s the only member of Congress ever designated a fick by Ethics Alarms, in this post, about how Walsh, a Tea Party fiscal responsibility hawk who once lectured Barack Obama about how he was placing a burden on the backs of Walsh’s children, owed $117,437 in unpaid child support to his ex-wife and those already burdened, kids, three of them. For this and other transgressions he was defeated for re-election, and Joe’s now a talk show host, presumably with the same audience that took guidance from former radio bloviators Ollie North and Gordon Liddy.
2. On the innocent until proven guilty front…there has been a spate of defamation lawsuits lately in which priests accused of sexually molesting boys accuse the Catholic Church of ruining their reputations based on publicizing unsubstantiated accusations of pederasty.
A Fresno, California priest, Craig Harrison, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse, is suing an established Catholic watchdog group Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF). seeking “unlimited” damages as a result of RCF President Stephen Brady’s “appearance at a press conference in Bakersfield” that addressed “allegations of sexual misconduct” made against Harrison. The lawsuit and summons were filed this month after the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) concluded an investigation that it said exonerated Harrison. Brady says that the lawsuit may be intended to discourage other ongoing RCF investigations. Continue reading
Let’s see now. You are the titular head of a religious organization that talks a good game about virtue, morality and the dangers of sin, and it has been shaken to its core by an ongoing scandal involving thousands of officials sexually molesting hundreds of thousands of children while your organization not only covered up the crimes, but facilitated them. After the latest outbreak of this decades—centuries?—long scandal, you declared that your organization would regain the trust of its members by reversing its previous corrupt practices, and send clear messages that the conduct that endangered and damaged children would not be tolerated.
Then, when one of the highest officials in your organization offers his resignation after being convicted in a court of law for failing to stop one of the ongoing molesters despite knowledge of his vile activities, you refuse to accept that resignation.
What sense does this make? This is a fair summary of Pope Francis’s recent decision to reject the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin despite his conviction this month for covering up decades-old allegations of sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese. The only way it makes sense is if the Pope doesn’t comprehend the seriousness of the sex abuse scandal, and still places loyalty to the church and his colleagues above the welfare of victims past, present and future. Continue reading
Australian Cardinal George Pell was convicted in Melbourne this week on five counts of child sexual abuse. This made him the most senior official ever found guilty in the Catholic Church’s apparently endless child sexual-abuse scandals. The judge in the case, Peter Kidd, immediately subjected news of Pell’s conviction to a suppression order, the Australian equivalent of a gag order, on press coverage. Australian courts impose such orders to shield defendants from negative publicity that could prejudice future jurors in upcoming trials, and Pell faces another trial next year on a separate set of abuse charges dating to the 1970s. Of course, the more the public knows about how many predator priests the Catholic Church has facilitated, covered up for, and allowed to prey on children, the safer it is. I am not convinced that this suppression of news isn’t a sop to the Church. Judge Kidd told defense and prosecution attorneys that some members of the news media are facing “the prospect of imprisonment and indeed substantial imprisonment” if found guilty of breaching his gag order
Never mind: the web, social media and the Streisand Effect foiled the judge. Pell and the charges against him were quickly the subject of thousands of tweets and shared posts on Facebook. The posts included links to websites and blogs where the news was available, including NPR, the Daily Beast and the National Catholic Reporter.
The Washington Post reported the conviction, but the New York Times did not. The Times’ deputy general counsel, David McCraw, gave the excuse that the newspaper is abiding by the court’s order in Australia “because of the presence of our bureau there. It is deeply disappointing that we are unable to present this important story to our readers in Australia and elsewhere. . . . Press coverage of judicial proceedings is a fundamental safeguard of justice and fairness. A free society is never well served by a silenced press.”
So don’t be silent then.
The Associated Press and Reuters news services also did not report Pell’s conviction. Both services have bureaus in Australia that could face potential liability. Tell me again about how courageous news organizations are.
“Because of our sins, the Great Accuser always takes advantage – we read in the first chapter from Job – he roams looking for someone to accuse… he is accusing us strongly, and this accusation becomes persecution as well. …And there is also another type of persecution, of continuous accusations to dirty the Church: the Church must not be dirtied. The children yes, but not the mother, and the mother defends herself from the Great Accuser with prayer and penance. That’s why I asked to pray the Rosary, Our Lady, Saint Michael the Archangel. It’s a difficult moment because through us, the great accuser wants to attack the mother. And you don’t touch a mother”.
—- Pope Francis, addressing the closing session of a synod of bishops at the Vatican yesterday, claiming that the Catholic Church has been persecuted through accusations related to the clerical child sex-abuse scandals that have undermined the credibility of the papacy and church hierarchy.
I’m really mad at my head for exploding over this. Surely it isn’t a surprise, not after the ongoing accountability-ducking and finger-pointing the Pope and his Church have been engaged in while innocent children are buggered by priests worldwide. Yet somehow I did not, and apparently my head did not, believe that the Pope would be so callous, tone-deaf and, frankly, stupid as to play the victim card when it is not only invalid but guaranteed not to work. “How dare anyone accuse us of covering up child abuse when we have been covering up child abuse for decades, and probably centuries! How dare anyone imply that the Church is accountable when its priests molest children and its leadership choose to protect the molesters instead of the victims!” This is essentially what the Pope is saying (it sounds different in Italian), and he really seems to be oblivious to how awful it not only sounds, but is. Continue reading
The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!
Last week the Vatican began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”
No, the moment highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.
Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering, denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”
Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission” in Italian and English.
So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.
He blamed the Devil. Continue reading
I saw a hint of this when I noticed this week that my 90% leftist Facebook friends scrupulously avoided commenting on my cross-posted article about the current Pope’s likely complicity in the ongoing Roman Catholic Church child sexual abuse cover-up while metaphorically foaming at the mouth because the White House flag wasn’t at half mast. Then the New York Times started spinning. An article by Jason Horowitz titled “Vatican Power Struggle Bursts Into Open as Conservatives Pounce” argued that conservatives were “weaponizing” the scandal in order to minimize the influence of Pope Francis, who has aroused the Right’s ire by “going soft” on homosexuality and by becoming a shill for climate change. Horowitz wrote,
“Just how angry his political and doctrinal enemies are became clear this weekend, when a caustic letter published by the Vatican’s former top diplomat in the United States blamed a “homosexual current” in the Vatican hierarchy for sexual abuse. It called for Francis’ resignation, accusing him of covering up for a disgraced cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick.”
What? Heaven forfend that someone suggest that a hypocritical homosexual factor at high levels of the Church might be partially responsible for a policy of allowing male priests to continue to rape little boys! That’s minor, however, compared to the triple “What?” earned by the writer and the Times for implying that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s a letter accusing Pope Francis of covering up Cardinal McCarrick’s abuses while also taking his counsel on appointing bishops was merely a political ploy. This is one more example of the tactic of using alleged mixed motives to delegitimize an ethical act. So what if Viganò is a Vatican dissident? The evidence is overwhelming that the Catholic Church has facilitated child abuse for at least decades (See: “Spotlight”), that this continued on Pope Francis’s watch (See: the recent grand jury report), that the Pope is accountable, that his statement was a weaselly mess of accountability-skirting platitudes, and that Viganò’s accusations appear to have validity. Continue reading
From the National Catholic Register:
In an extraordinary 11-page written testament, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, said that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.
Archbishop Viganò said in his written statement, simultaneously released to the Register and other media, (see full text below) that Pope Francis “continued to cover” for McCarrick and not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” but also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor.” Viganò said that the former archbishop of Washington advised the Pope to appoint a number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark.
Archbishop Viganò, who said his “conscience dictates” that the truth be known as “the corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy,” ended his testimony by calling on Pope Francis and all of those implicated in the cover up of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse to resign.
His full testimony can be read here.
Well, let’s see if the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church can duck its responsibility one more time. This particular giant, nasty ethics chicken has been trying to roost for decades, while whoever was Pope continued to lecture the rest of the world, and the United States particularly, about its moral failings. Funny thing with me: I don’t take well to lectures on morality from self-anointed authorities who habitually facilitate their pals’ child-molesting hobby. It is telling—damning is a better word—that Pope Francis, who seldom hesitates to comment on the evils of war, capitalism and climate change cannot find words to comment on this accusation. As we discussed here last week, he did issue some Authentic Frontier Gibbersh about the re-emerging child abuse scandal as if he was just an innocent bystander.
Archbishop Viganò is a model whistleblower, although his call for the Pope and the others to resign is inadequate. The entire culture of the Church is corrupt to the core, and aa few, or many, resignations will not cure the problem.