“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” (Mark Twain)
Very wisely and rightly it has been said: “Those who do not learn from history tend to repeat it.” This is particularly true of the worldwide sexual abuse of minors in the recent past, and especially by priests and religious.
Scholars point out that the incidence of abusing children or minors is no greater, and may be less, among priests than among Protestant clergy, teachers, social workers, sports coaches, and similar professions. But, it has been noted, Catholic clergy are more attractive targets for lawsuits because the entire diocese or archdiocese can be sued. And that is a legal liability of the Church’s hierarchical structure. Moreover, the expressions of outrage by many in the media are incited by an ulterior agenda, namely, discrediting the Catholic teaching on human sexuality, about which they are genuinely incensed.
On November 26, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Bishops of the State of New York, who were on their scheduled Ad Limina visit. As expected, the Sovereign Pontiff began his meeting with a reference to his 2008 visit to the United States and sincerely commended the “conscientious efforts” to deal with the reports of clerical sex abuse. However, in a passionate and unequivocal quest for both truth and justice, His Holiness, hastened to add: “Just as the Church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards.” In other words, the unmistakable hope is that reports of sexual abuse in public schools, government, military, business, athletic, and other institutions should be pursued with equal vigour and due process. In doing so, Pope Benedict was merely reiterating what another courageous, outspoken and indefatigable protagonist for truth, justice and equality, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, once so aptly said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Ever since he assumed the Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has been humble and honest in acknowledging that the pastoral burdens of bishops all around the world had been made heavier by the past sins and mistakes of others, including some clergy and religious. And so, he candidly urges one and all to continue to repair the past errors with openness and humility and so build a better future for all. This, as is patently clear, is incumbent on all in positions of authority and without exception. And so, with a view to ensuring the accuracy, impartiality and objectivity of an investigation, those chosen to assess a complaint must be, and be seen to be, independent of the authority concerned, the complainant and the accused.
For instance, in 2005, four men in their late 40s and early 50s came forward to accuse Msgr. Ray Hebert, a highly respected Louisiana cleric, of raping and molesting them decades earlier at a Catholic home for troubled teens. One man claimed that the priest had brutally raped him more than 20 times. Ironically, up until those accusations, Msgr Hebert was a highly esteemed cleric and his 53-year ministry was without blemish.
As can be expected, the media swooped on the fabricated ‘scandal’ (?!) literally tearing the revered cleric’s reputation to shreds. It was not until five years after the original charges – and a tsunami of media coverage – that the accusers’ lawyers finally acknowledged in court that “Msgr. Ray Hebert did not molest their clients.” As a matter of fact, the veteran priest had barely spent any time in the alleged home for troubled teens. “As Head of the Associated Catholic Charities, his occasional visits to home were merely administrative.” Defenders of the accusers now claim that the charges were a case of “mistaken identity.” “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Similarly, Fr. Roger Jacques of the Archdiocese of Boston was rashly accused. Reportedly the accuser only surfaced with her charges after undergoing “hypnosis therapy” that claimed to have uncovered a “repressed memory.” The theory of “repressed memory” has been clearly and unequivocally discredited by leading memory experts in the psychological community. Incidentally, “hypnosis therapy” was also the culprit in the 1993 high-profile accusation against the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago. Months after Fr. Jacques was removed from ministry, the accuser radically changed her story about the nature of the abuse and, out of the blue, picked on another innocent scapegoat. Reportedly, and on proven evidence, one-third of the accused priests in the Archdiocese of Boston were falsely accused. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Dave Pierre is a journalist who operates the TheMediaReport.com, and an author of two books, Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church and Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, the Fraud, The Stories. On one occasion, he explains, he chanced upon an item in the Los Angeles Times. It was a 3800-word piece on the front page about decades-old abuses that were alleged to have been committed by Catholic clergy in remote villages in Alaska. Very honestly, he confesses, “many of the stories were heart-wrenching, painful, and tragic.” However, months later, the shocking story of a Southern California teacher who may have molested as many as 200 children was buried on page B3. Adds Dave Pierre, “I soon began to notice a trend: the Times was often giving front-page coverage to stories about Catholic priests alleged to have committed abuse decades ago. Meanwhile, arrests of public school teachers for abuse happening today were often not reported or buried in the ‘news brief’ section.” “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
None can deny that the inordinate amount of media coverage of the sex abuse scandal has enabled the Church to eradicate the ‘filth’ (a term used by none other than Pope Benedict XVI) that infected it, to rid itself of an atrocious problem, and to emerge both purged and purified. Of course, the harm done to the victims is incalculable, and of this one and all are painfully aware, earnestly contrite and resolutely determined to blaze a new trail of transparency, trust and security. Stated differently, the universal Church has assiduously and tirelessly worked in the past decade to establish the Catholic Church and its agencies as the safest environment possible for children and young people. Much has been accomplished; and much more will be progressively done so as to ensure nothing short of the safest and most satisfactory results. Consequently, says Dave Pierre, “…any attempt to portray the Catholic Church as an insensitive cabal that is callous in disregarding the welfare of children is not only unfair, but untrue.” “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
“Treat others as you would have others treat you,” – so runs the Golden Principle as enunciated by none other than the greatest champion of truth and justice this world has ever known and who tragically died as a consequence of a vitriolic and conspiratorial campaign of baseless, contrived and warped allegations – Christ Jesus!
Justice is a virtue that prompts us to give to others what is legitimately due to them, and this is necessitated by the natural, moral and divine laws. The concerted and unrelenting pursuit of truth and justice ensure the value and dignity of any and every human being. “Just as the Church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards.”
With this in view, I am pleased to present Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast – Procedural Justice for Priests, Diocesan and Religious. It has truly been a labour of love and is the end result of intensive research, hours of candid conversations with scores of well-informed and honest persons, innumerable sessions of ardent prayer and a resolute determination that priests and religious will be accorded the procedural justice to which they are legitimately due as is every other human being. May truth and justice prevail!
The book is being published by iUniverse, Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.
Fr. James Valladares
Unit 2 Aluan Court
1 Ferguson Avenue
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 5064
A Brief Review from the Winter Edition of The Swag:
The clergy abuse scandal has posed the greatest threat to the traditional understanding of the Catholic priesthood since the Protestant Reformation. Now, as then, the deadliest attacks are coming from within the Church. In an attempt to improve a system that allowed a small minority of the clergy to violate children and ameliorate the gross negligence of some bishops who recycled these predators, the American bishops instituted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. It is, unfortunately, doing the Church more harm than good.
In Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, Fr. James Valladares shows how justice and charity have been violated by some bishops in dealing with accused priests. He examines the pertinent canons that guide the Church’s judicial system and finds that these are often ignored or wrongly applied. He provides true cases that highlight the injustice of the process and the agony of priests who have been subjected to the charter’s draconian mandates.
Further details are available on http://jamesvalladares.com/
About the Author: Fr. James Valladares is a Catholic priest currently serving the archdiocese of Adelaide, South Australia. This is his forty-fourth year in the pastoral ministry – the first nineteen were spent in the service of the archdiocese of Bombay (Mumbai), India.
A graduate in Psychology, Fr. Valladares went on to secure a Master’s Degree in Educational and Counseling Psychology and a Doctorate in Marriage Counseling. For ten years he served as a Lecturer in Psychology at the under-graduate level at St. Andrew’s College, Bombay (Mumbai), India.
Four years ago, Fr. Valladares successfully concluded a post-doctoral Research Study on Psychology, Religion and Healing, strikingly demonstrating that ALL involved in the Healing Ministry are working together as a team, in God’s Providence, to eliminate a common enemy – disease; and to promote the ideal proposed by the Greatest Healer this world has ever known, Christ Jesus: “…that they may have life and in abundance.”
Some of his other published works include A Series of Sermons on the Sundays of the Liturgical Years (A, B, & C), and six booklets in the form of letters for young couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage, parents with infant children, adolescent children, and young adults.