Friday, February 01, 2008

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Sex Scandal--from Afar

By coincidence, Phil Lawler has written a book entitled The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture (Encounter) which was recently released. Although the book is partially about Boston (Lawler's home), the review in First Things tells us that it also covers national territory--specifically, the sex-abuse scandals.

“The thesis of this book,” writes Lawler, “is that the sex abuse scandal in American Catholicism was not only aggravated but actually caused by the willingness of church leaders to sacrifice the essential for the inessential; to build up the human institution even to the detriment of the divine mandate.” Bishops again and again responded to the crisis as institutional managers, employing public relations stratagems to evade, deceive, and distract attention from their own responsibility. Lawler several times invokes the terse observation of St. Augustine, “God does not need my lie.” The bishops lied, says Lawler, and many of them are still lying. This is offered not as an accusation but as a conclusion that he believes is compelled by the evidence.

...“The first aspect of the scandal, the sexual abuse of children, has been acknowledged and addressed,” Lawler writes. “The second aspect, the rampant homosexuality among Catholic priests, has been acknowledged but not addressed, and later even denied. . . . The third aspect of the scandal has never even been acknowledged by American church leaders.” The third aspect, the malfeasance of bishops, “is today the most serious of all.”

You got THAT right, Phil.

Oh, yeah--the title of the review is "Paved With the Skulls of Bishops"--from a phrase used by a very orthodox and competent Bishop in his endorsement of the book. Here's an excerpt:

“Lawler’s masterful analysis is sobering and provides an urgent incentive for authentic renewal. If St. John Chrysostom is correct when he says that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops, it would be a mistake for any bishop or priest to miss this book."

The name of that Bishop-endorser? Fabian Bruskewitz--who writes with authority--and ironically, could be writing about a certain couple of Milwaukee Archbishops.


RAG said...

I tend to agree with the author's thesis but attenuate that because of Fabian's endorsement (though I don't necessarily disagree with him here).

The Diocese of Lincoln is not immune from sexual abuse by priests and Fabian refuses to provide data.

Dad29 said...

1) Strange that there's been zero press-coverage of the "abuse" from Lincoln--which tends to derogate from your statement, no?

2) Bruskewitz reports only to Rome. Check the Canon Law, which is the one he works under.

No Committee of self-appointed twits can come between him and the Pope, no matter how arrogant they may be.

Come back to me with press reports or police/DA reports on that abuse, RAG.

RAG said...

On February 27, 2004 the National Review Panel of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a report detailing the number of priests in the U.S. who have committed sex abuse against children, and the number of victims since 1950. This report contained a lot of other information about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States. The study was performed by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City. Most of the investigators who performed this exhaustive report were former FBI agents.

There are about 195 dioceses in the United States, but there was only one diocese that refused to participate in the study, and that was the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. The person responsible for this decision not to participate was Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz.

There is the danger that Catholics and the public will be left with the impression there have been no problems in the Diocese of Lincoln, and some church officials in the Diocese have tried to leave that impression.

Fr. Paul Witt, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in was quoted by the Associated Press in January 2004 as saying there have been no sex abuse cases in the Lincoln Diocese in the last 20 years. That simply is not true, and is a distortion of the public record.

The first of these was a case of sex abuse brought against Fr. Paul Margand who, at the time, was an assistant pastor at St. Teresa's Church in Lincoln. He was accused by a young boy from that parish, and was criminally charged. He pleaded no contest to one charge of having sexual contact with a child. In 1987 he was sentenced by the District Court of Lancaster County to 20 months to five years of psychiatric treatment and imprisonment.

The second case was against Fr. Robert Hrdlicka who served for a period of time in the late 1970's at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, but was later assigned to other parishes in the Diocese. After that he served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, and while he served there he was charged with and convicted of seven counts of sex abuse of minors. He was court marshaled, pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and was dishonorably discharged. Right after that, he was defrocked by the Diocese of Lincoln. Four unidentified young men in Lincoln have accused him of sex abuse while he served at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln. However, no legal action was ever taken as a result of these accusations.

More recently, a third and fourth case of child sexual abuse have been brought against Msgr. Jerome Murray who was assigned in the 1970s to St. Joseph Catholic Church in York, Nebraska. The first charge against him, which was filed in February of 2003, was brought by one Robert P. Goodman who now lives in Arizona. That suit has just been settled in the last month for an undisclosed amount of money.

Another suit has been filed (March 2003) against the Diocese of Lincoln, St. Joseph Church and Msgr. Murray by a Randy Pfeifer of Colorado.

All of these cases have been widely reported in the Lincoln Journal Star.

In fairness the Lincoln Diocese has not had an unusually large number of sex abuse cases. As the national study says, we will never know the full extent of the abuse crisis because there are a large number of cases that have never been reported, and never will be reported. And the Diocese of Lincoln has never encouraged the reporting of cases. But still, the number of cases in Lincoln seems to be somewhat close to the national average, or if anything, somewhat below that average.

The really good news for the Catholic Church in Nebraska comes from the Diocese of Grand Island where there have been no reported cases since 1950. But as even the Grand Island Diocese points out in their report, the fact that there have been no reported cases does not mean there have been no incidents of child sex abuse there. Both the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Grand Island have fully complied with the John Jay and USCCB study, and have been fully accountable.

Dad29 said...

Thanks for the info!

I am corrected. There were FOUR reported abuse cases w/convictions.

M. Alexander said...

There's a new blog discussing the book if anyone is interested:

Interesting Bishop Bruskewitz endorsed the book.

Anonymous said...

I was molested by Fr. Paul Francis Margand in the Diocese of Lincoln. See how Fabian Bruskewitz responded when I came forward.

M. Alexander said...

It seems like the Diocese of Lincoln had their sex abusers criminally charged and sentenced. That did not happen in the rest of the country with few exceptions.

Patti D said...

Regarding the diocese of Grand Island, I would have to disagree with the statement that there have been no abuse cases since 1950. When I attended Central Catholic High School there from 1956-60, we had a priest Named Father Paul Schwarten. As I recall he later there was an article in the paper that he was arrested and implicated in taking 2 young boys to a motel out of town and abusing them. It was after I graduated and was probably in the early 60's and was quite a big scandal at the time.

Anonymous said...

Hrdlicka molested many, many kids, and the diocese and the catholic schools were able to convince the parents it would be sinfully scandalous to report this, even implying the kids had some culpability and responsibility. The former bishop and current bishop are to blame for intimidation, and putting the priesthood way above and beyond the people of the church.