***Protecting the children or the bishops? Events are illustrating what we knew along. “Safe environment” programs are not primarily about protecting God’s children, but shifting liability from bishops to diocesan employees and volunteers, parents, and even the kids themselves. Note the case of Fr. Daniel McCormack, pastor of St. Agatha’s in Chicago. Police arrested the 37-year-old in January for abusing two boys over the course of several years. The diocese knew about the accusations last August, but took no action because police didn’t charge the priest and would not release the name of his accuser. [Sounds reasonable…and, of course, the diocese had NO idea Father had a problem!] Well, according to Chicago papers, in 2000 the principal of Holy Family School next door to St. Agatha’s (now closed) notified the diocese about an incident reported by a parent. Fr. McCormack, who offered Mass every Friday at the school, allegedly told a fourth grade boy to take down his pants in the sacristy. After speaking to the priest the boy’s mom told Sister not to pursue the matter. Instead, she called a diocesan school official who told her, “If the parents aren’t pushing it, let it go.” She didn’t. After more fruitless calls she hand-delivered a letter to the chancery outlining her concerns. No action.

***Now things gets interesting. When the arch-diocese started taking heat recently over Fr. McCormack, guess who’s to blame… Why the nun, of course. The Chicago Tribune reported, “[Archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago] said recollections of church staff members about the nun’s communication are conflicting….Lago also criticized the nun…for not reporting her concerns directly to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as she would have been required by law to do. The nun ‘had the responsibility as a mandated reporter to report to DCFS,’ Lago said. ‘You can’t pass the buck. You can’t send it downtown.’” [Spoken like a man… “It was the woman’s fault!”] Let’s get this straight. Mom tells Sister to drop it. Instead she goes to school authorities who tell her to drop it as well. She persists and hand-delivers a letter to the archdiocese. Those with authority over Father fail to act and the letter disappears. Now, it’s her fault? [Cardinal George, please instruct your chancellor to act like a man. We expect Lago to demand Sister’s head next for not reporting to civil authorities. Side benefit: the execution will take the focus off the chancery.]

***Sad, but how does this concern me? Were you fingerprinted? Did you sign the receipt form for the diocesan policy on the protection of children? Do you realize you are a mandatory reporter under Virginia State Law and can be prosecuted for failing to report suspected abuse or neglect? [Hmm… what constitutes neglect – a dirty shirt? If a kid says, “I wish my parents wouldn’t hit me,” is that “proof” of abuse? What if a parent delivers an occasional well-deserved swat? Will the diocese advise, “When in doubt report?” And exactly how will this prevent what happened to the little boy in the sacristy with Fr. McCormack? It won’t, of course, but it sure keeps everyone too preoccupied to think about it.]

***Is the Church an agent of the state? The misguided policy on “protecting” children makes the Church subservient to the state. It turns all Church employees and volunteers into snoops for a state that claims to care about children […while facilitating 1.5 million abortions every year.] False reports are inevitable since reporters are immune from prosecution, but failing to report is punished. According to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform two thirds of child abuse accusations are false. Anyone who has studied the child abuse industry should be uneasy about the Church entangling itself with “protective services.” Abuse is terrible, but bad approaches that violate justice are no solution. Think! If the bishops had reported the homosexual abuse (i.e., CRIMES) to the police, we would not be talking about this. Meanwhile, dioceses more and more resemble state bureaucracies run by lawyers and less and less like the family of God. [As a priest friend recently pointed out to us, “Fear of the lawsuit has replaced fear of the Lord.”]

***Speaking of bureaucracy, the USCCB (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) has been getting some well-deserved bad press lately. When the “gay” propaganda film Brokeback Mountain was released, a fawning reviewer at the USCCB’s Catholic News Service (CNS) fell all over himself praising it. Unfortunately for CNS Catholics in the pew rebelled, leading to a change in the review from L (limited adult audiences) to O (morally offensive). This despicable review is just one more example of an out-of-control organization that consistently undermines Church doctrine in its articles and movie reviews. CNS is also suing Cybercast News Service for using “their” acronym. After losing in a lower court, they are appealing. Cybercast is a project of the Media Research Council, the leading organization fighting liberal media bias. [So liberal CNS suing them makes perfect sense!] CNS also demanded the Cardinal Newman Society stop using the CNS letters. The Society whose mission is to strengthen the Catholic identity at U.S. Catholic colleges, has effectively fought presentation of Eve Ensler’s V-Monologues and “queer” film festivals at schools like Notre Dame, De Paul, Univ. of San Diego, Boston College, etc. In a recent attack piece CNS accused the Society’s impressive young director, Patrick Reilly, of setting up a “concurrent magisterium.” [Gosh, isn’t that what the USCCB is doing? Maybe they don’t like competition.] There are at least 50 groups using CNS as an acronym. Why don’t they sue CompuServe or the Center for Non-verbal Studies? [Could this be agenda driven? Nah…how could we think it? On the other hand…NOW uses lawsuits to harass pro-lifers. Is liberal CNS borrowing a page from NOW’s playbook to harass orthodox Catholics? And a final question – Do they own the rest of the alphabet too?]

***Many USCCB staffs are termites! In September Dr. Eugene Fisher, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs issued what Catholic activist Randy Engel called an “ecstatic unqualified eulogy” of Rabbi Balfour Brickner, a leading figure in Reform Judaism who died September first. Brickner was a radical defender of abortion and “gay” rights. When the faithful protested, those responsible put on shocked faces and said they didn’t know about his 30 year unbroken record advocating abortion. [Duh!] Then in October the bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family sponsored a meeting of theologians and social scientists to prepare for the upcoming bishops’ pastoral on marriage. The chief facilitator? Michael J. Lawler, Creighton U.’s Director for Marriage and Family. Lawler not only supports divorce and remarriage, but endorses a “betrothal ceremony” for co-habiting couples. [If C.S. Lewis were a Catholic, we’d think the USCCB was his model for the evil bureaucracy in That Hideous Strength.]

***Money, money, where’s the money? This year’s Bishop’s Lenten Appeal started three weeks before Lent. The annual campaign joins the many other diocesan fundraising activities: Rooted in Faith, Parish Offertory Program, the increased parish assessment for building and repairs, another special collection for Katrina, etc., etc. The Rooted in Faith Campaign, begun in 2002, raised 115 million dollars in pledges which are still coming in. Promised projects included two new high schools and a priests’ retirement home. In August 2003 the Catholic Herald quoted school superintendent, Dr. Timothy McNiff, saying Prince William County had approved the school project and it was “good to go.” A year later another Herald article said the high school was scheduled to open in 2005 and the priests’ retirement center would be finished in mid 2006. By December 2004 the diocese was back-pedaling furiously on all projects with Fr. Mark Mealy, President of the campaign saying, “We remain committed to building two Catholic high schools…,” then making excuses for the delay: increased costs, etc. To date, these projects remain on the drawing board being “studied” despite a fundraiser that garnered over 150% of its goal of $75 million. According to the diocese the money is legally committed to the projects for which it was raised, but what about the pledges OVER the goal? Where is that approximately $40 million going? With all that extra money, why the delay? [Meanwhile, the diocese fiddles and prices sure aren’t dropping.] Watch for another campaign down the road justified by rising prices.

***Meanwhile, what grows like a weed? The size of the chancery bureaucracy. When Bishop Keating died in 1993, chancery offices occupied a few floors at 200 North Glebe Rd. Today, the bureaucracy occupies most of the building. What are you and your pastor getting for your money? More red tape, more studies, more reports, and larger parish assessments. A secretary recently told a Les Femmes member the record keeping for the child protection office alone is “overwhelming.” And every time we open The Herald we meet another chancery bureaucrat. Enough already!

***From liberal blogger Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia comes this interesting item: “Which American bishop got summoned over to meet with a dicastery? Given his record with administrative recourses, seems the curial chiefs felt the need to give this US high-hat a canon law primer.” [Hmm…perhaps Bishop Loverde can give us the inside scoop. He was in Rome recently with one of his canon lawyers. Come to think of it, about the time this blog was written. Any insights, Your Excellency? Oh, and what’s the status of the administrative recourse for Fr. Clark?]

***Final Question: Why all the Parochial Administrators? Under Canon Law 539 when a pastor resigns, dies, cannot function due to illness, is removed for cause, etc. the bishop must immediately name a parochial administrator to care temporarily for the needs of the parish until he assigns a pastor. There is NO provision in canon law for trial pastors. The practice of using administrators for long periods (even years) as pastors-in-training is proliferating across the U.S. but is completely unjustified under canon law. Why is this happening? One thought from our friend Fr. Paul Weinberger: “The only check on raw episcopal abuse is permanent pastors.” Let’s implement a study on the relationship between the use of “administrators” and increased examples of “raw episcopal abuse.” This may also explain the practice of frequent pastoral rotation. [When have we seen bishops assigned as diocesan “administrators” for a trial period? Gosh, now that we think of it, maybe it’s a good idea.]

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