Media Watch III.
Weekly review of the media, Media Watch III, will be found today at the Chicago Daily Observer website www.cdobs.com .
DeLeo & Joravsky.
The team of State Sen. Jim DeLeo and Reader columnist Ben Joravsky scored well on my WLS-AM (890) radio show last night. Ben is always good but the assistant Senate majority leader was starkly independent as he agreed with Joravsky on the minimal importance of the Olympics. Seeing a top legislator take an independent position on a subject of this importance to the leader of his party rekindles in me anyhow admiration for leaders of Jims caliber.
None So Blind as Those Who Will Not See.
There is absolutely no stopping a fast rushing train roaring down the track: thus the election of Francis Cardinal George as president of the U. S. Conference of Bishops Tuesday is inevitable. And so I congratulate the prelate for assuming this top job
but there is no doubt that in almost any other body that pursues democratic processes the election would be sidetracked.
Read Jason Berry in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, Nov. 11. Its an Op Ed. Berry, the author of the books Lead Us Not into Temptation and (with Gerald Renner) Vows of Silence, is directing a documentary on the priestly pedophilia problem. He starts off the article with a quotation from Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill. in 2004. Bishop Gregory, then president of the USCCB proclaimed after two years of investigations into the priestly pedophilia matter that The scandal is history.
Berry asks: Did the church really learn its lesson? Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, is currently preparing to assume the presidency of the Conference of Catholic Bishops whose annual meeting begins Monday [today] in Baltimore. His new position would make George highly visible when Pope Benedict XVI arrives on his first trip to the U. S. next Spring which is fitting because George was a valuable ally of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when the cardinals conclave chose him to be pope in 2005.
The problem is that George show little indication of having internalized the lessons of the scandal. He displays a stunning in sensitivity to the churchs failures. And twice since the 2002 conference in Dallas that adopted the youth protection charter, George has flouted the churchs supposed zero-tolerance attitude in his handling of abusive priests.
In February, 2003 for instance, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Fr. Kenneth Martin of Wilmington, Del. A consultant to the archdiocese on liturgical texts had been staying at the cardinals mansion during his monthly visits to Chicago. He had been staying there despite the fact that he had pleaded guilty in 2001 in Maryland to sexually abusing a teenage boy over three years in the 1970s when he was a lay teacher. Martin received a suspended sentence and was declared by the diocese to be a `priest in good standing in Wilmington, provided he not do public ministry.
Needless to say, this was shocking newsd. The members of the 12-person National Review Board which had been appointed by the Conference of Catholic Bishops to conduct research on the causes and context of the scandal and report back with recommendations on how to avoid future scandals had met with George just the day before the story broke in the Sun-Times---yet he had told them nothing about the priests visit. What could be more telling about Georges attitude that his willingness to welcome an admitted pedophile as a houseguest?
When Sun-Times reporter Cathleen Falsani asked George why hje had allowed Martin to stay in his official residence after his misdeeds had become known and why the priest was still working for the archdiocese as a consultant, George did not apologize but defended his colleague. `Are we saying that people with any kind of question in their past are not employable? he responded. `Unless we want to say these people are simply permanent pariahs, is it appropriate to put his life under scrutiny in that way?
`When I read the Sun-Times, said former Rep. Leon Panetta, a California Democrat who served on the National Review Board and was one of those who had met with George that week, `it confirmed for me what is at the heart of this [pedophile priest] problemthe hierarchys failure to understand the seriousness of the crisis.
Members of the National Review Board made a second trip to Chicago nearly a year later to consult with the cardinal. George celebrated Mass for them but according to three sources present at the meeting, he issued a warning over coffee and doughnuts: `You will be the downfall of the Church!.
The group was dumbstruck. `The bishops and priests have failed to deal with this [scandal], Panetta said he told George. The healing process could not begin, Panetta said, unless the church acknowledged the problem.
Several people present at the meeting subsequently confirmed Georges remarks before I called the cardinal for comment for an article for the National Catholic Reporter. Georges spokesman called me back to say, `The cardinal categorically denies making the statement attributed to him and anyone who said that he said that either heard him wrong or misunderstood him.
But matters got worse. In August, 2005, police questioned Fr. Daniel McCormack of Chicago after a mother charged that he had molested her 8-year-old son at Our Lady of the Wayside school where he taught in October. George ignored his own archdiocesan review boards recommendation to remove McCormack, instead allowing him to continue teaching and coaching. In January, 2006, McCormack was arrested on charges of sexually abusing another boy at the school.. When asked about it, the cardinal incredulously said he had taken no action because he had had no information from law enforcement. McCormack has since pleaded guilty and gone to jail.
The archdiocese did take action against Barbara Westrick, the schools principal, who had called the police after she learned of the complaint against the priest. She was fired in June. Although the archndiocese denies it, it seems likely that her criticisms of the churchs response cost her her job.
A reform group, Voice of the Faithful, has called on George not to assume the presidency of the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Despite all the supposed reforms and despite the new guidelines and rules that were supposed to have taken care of the problems several years ago, the reality is that many members of the church hierarchy have been slow to change their attitude.
Listen to the words of Thomas J. Papro9cki, one of Georges auxiliary bishops in Chicago. Paprocki who has a law degree and church license in canon law gave a sermon Oct. 15 for the Red Mass, a gathering of lawyers and jurists, in Grand Rapids, Mich. The bishop scorned the churchs escalating financial losses to victims of predatory priests. `The church is under attack, Paprocki declared, comparing the civil litigation to Henry VIIIs seizure of `church property and kill[ing] those who did not accept his notion of the supremacy of the crown.
Displaying the callousness that has cursed so many Catholic bishops for so long, Paprocki insulted the victims of the scandals as well as the attorneys and judges in their cases with these words: `We must use our religious discernment to recognize that the principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil.
The youth protection charter says that a priest accused of child abuse must be removed until his case is resolved. For bishops who conceal or move or condone such priests, there is no penalty. They serve at the pleasure of the pope. That double standardwhich strikes a lot of us Catholics as devilishis personified in Cardinal Francis George who is unfit to be president of the Catholic bishops.
I submit this article as part of this websitenot because I agree with it in every instance but because for the most part the objections of those to the Cardinals accession has received little attention in Chicago media (with the exception of Channel 2 CBS-TV) and a reference buried deeply in a story about George in Sundays Tribune..
On two items I do disagree with Berry. The prerogative of naming and removing bishops must remain with the pope, not with a civil or extra-religious processotherwise the apostolic appointment and removal powers would be usurped. However Berrys criticisms of the bishops being derelict are right-on and the fact that local dioceses and Rome itself being derelict have much substance and credibility.
With respect to Bishop Paprockis statement, knowing him and having discussed matters with him in depth in private, I think the reproduction of these words in Berrys article does not reflect the bishops views in their entirety. Paprocki recognizes that however regrettable and abominable the abuses were, they have been capitalized on by lawyers and others who despise the Church and wish to litigate it out of existence. Having interviewed on both sides of the issue myself, I share Paprockis view that a hatred exists in some litigators that would relish driving the Church into penury and in some dioceses virtually out of existence..
Whether as Paprocki says it is Satans wish or not I leave to theologians. However there is no doubt that the overwhelming burden of Berrys articlethat there has been a cavalier ignoring of the importance of disciplining and turning records over to the police and in fact hiding facts that has put children in danger
an ignoring that goes to the chanceries (including in Chicago) and ultimately in the Roman bureaucracy and curia
a dereliction that constitutes the everlasting shame of the Church in this age
is true without question.