Connect to share and comment
The Vatican has been reining in the progressive leadership of American nuns, creating a political test of wills over the future of a faith with one billion adherents worldwide as it braces for an historic papal transition. Described as a modern ‘Inquisition,’ this punitive campaign against the nuns lands on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and raises fundamental questions about the mission of a global church and the role of nuns who were inspired by Vatican II in taking the social justice gospel directly to the world’s poor.
Vatican selections include bishops and cardinals who protected pedophile priests.
an attorney negotiated settlements for the victims. The bishop removed Yaeger after eighteen months, as the fundraising campaign drew to a close, but before the settlements made news.
“A priest who was publicly critical of Blair's handling of the sexual abuse crisis has been silenced from speaking to the media,” says David Yonke, an author and former Toledo Blade reporter who covered religion for years. ”Father Stephen Stanbery used to call me regularly but stopped about two years ago. He could not acknowledge that he was silenced by the bishop but it is clear that’s what happened,” says Yonke, now with Religion News Service.
Blair forcibly retired a veteran pastor who criticized the bishop’s parish closures as “high-handed decisions with almost no collaboration with anyone.” In one parish he installed a priest who had had a long relationship with a woman. When the parishioners found out, Blair reassigned the priest. A spokesperson said the bishop had to keep quiet as the priest told him in confession.
In 2005, parishioners in the farm belt town of Kansas, Ohio, filed a Vatican appeal when Blair closed St. James parish. It failed. They filed suit to save the parish in county court, arguing that the bishop was only one trustee but parishioners owned the property. The state sided with the bishop. “We spent $100,000 in legal fees,” said parishioner Virginia Hull. “Bishop Blair paid his lawyers with $77,957 from our parish account.” Blair had the church demolished.
Blair, Lori and Levada became bishops with help from Law, whose influence at the Vatican as a member of Congregation for Bishops was pivotal in selecting new American priests for the hierarchy.
The second member of the three-man committee now supervising LCWR is Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. In a 2007 homily in Grand Rapids for the Red Mass, an annual liturgy for lawyers and judges, Paprocki, who has degrees in civil and canon law, declared that “the law is being used as an instrument of attack on the Church. This was true from the earliest times when the earliest Christians were, in effect, outlaws in the Roman empire for refusing to worship the official state gods.”
He saw clergy abuse lawsuits were undermining the church’s religious freedom. “This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd,” he insisted. “The principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil.”
Equating the devil with lawyers seeking financial compensation for victims of child sexual abuse drew heavy criticism for Paprocki.
In a 2011 homily the bishop took a rhetorical backstep, saying, "Apparently I did not make myself clear that it is the sins of priests and bishops who succumbed to the temptations of the devil that have put their victims and the Catholic community in this horrible situation in the first place.”
In a column for his diocesan newspaper before the November election, Paprocki attacked the Democrats’ party platform supporting abortion.
Without endorsing Mitt Romney outright, he wrote that “a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your soul in serious jeopardy.”
Did bishops who sent child molesters from parish to parish, on to fresh victims, without warning parishioners, promote “actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil?” Does apostolic succession absolve them of all wrongdoing?
Bishops gain stature in the estimation of cardinals and popes by proving their loyalty. A chief way to do that is by serving as an investigator of priests or nuns who run afoul of the hierarchy as threats to the moral teaching upheld by bishops, regardless of what the bishops have done.
Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle is delegated by the CDF to ensure that the nuns’ leadership group conforms to changes the Vatican wants.
Sartain was previously the bishop of Joliet, Ill., a diocese that was wracked with abuse cover-ups and lawsuits under his predecessor.
In spring of 2009, a Joliet seminarian, Alejandro Flores, was caught with pornographic pictures of youths, some of which appeared to be of underage boys. No criminal charges were filed.
Bishop Sartain ordained Flores a priest six months later, in June 2009. Then in January 2010, Flores was arrested for molesting a boy. He pled guilty in September 2010, the same month that Pope Benedict promoted Sartain to archbishop of Seattle.
Research for this series has been funded by a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life, sponsored by the Knight Program at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism; the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.