A Christmas barrage from the leftist news media insists that the Catholic Church should abandon priests and tradition to save itself and some bishops seem to agree.
Writing for USAToday.com, columnist Tim Roemer chose Christmas to lay out his case for why Catholic clergy can no longer be trusted “to fix the church’s sex abuse problem.” “The Laity must act,” he declared after a Pennsylvania grand jury report “revealed hundreds of children to be victims of both sexual abuse and a cover-up.” These betrayals, his column suggests, compel faithful Catholics to act to save our church.
So went Tim Roemer’s clarion call to action, “Clarion call” is an interesting term. It came into use in 13th Century, Middle English to describe the shrill call of a battle trumpet to summon troops to war. It appeared in more modern media in 1955 when Catholic priest, Father R.L. Bruckberger, touched off a controversy in the N.Y. Times Book Review describing American writers of having “a preoccupation with the cruel, the violent, the mean and sordid aspects” of American life.
Life magazine described this in 1955 as Father Bruckberger’s “clarion call… to mutiny against three decades of U.S. fiction dominated by skeptical criticism, sexual emancipation, social protest and psychoanalytic sermonizing.” We would be hard pressed not to see the same preoccupations dominating the news media, and especially when it comes to the Catholic Church.
There are some big problems with what Tim Roemer and other news media of the left are saying about this story. Note his terminology: “revealed hundreds of children to be victims….” Even if all these claims were substantiated – and most are not – the correct verb form would be “having been.”
Nowhere in Tim Roemer’s column at USAToday.com can we see any revelation of the fact that few if any of these claims are less than 30 to 50 years old. And yet all are presented in the present tense as though they are happening now. This sort of distortion has plagued the news media of the left throughout the life of this story.
Pushback and fact-finding are left to bloggers because the news media is notoriously deficient in policing itself or practicing zero tolerance for distorted news. The examples are legion, but one that stands out was an interview a few years back by CNN’s Anderson Cooper with child safety advocate, John Walsh.
As an example of institutional indifference, Mr. Walsh declared in his televised interview that “100,000 victims of sex abuse by priests were denied an audience with the pope [Pope Benedict XVI] while protesting at the Vatican.” This was far from true. I protested it to Bill Donohue at the Catholic League who in turn protested it to CNN.
The truth was that there were sixty people there, not 100,000, and half of them were reporters invited by a SNAP press release. Anderson Cooper quietly apologized to the Catholic League for the distortion, but I do not recall any pullback of the story. There was an addendum to this story that I wrote about in the most widely read TSWpost of 2017, “David Clohessy Resigns SNAP in Alleged Kickback Scheme.” That post was about a former SNAP employee’s lawsuit over being fired as a whistleblower.
Among a list of claims in the lawsuit was a charge that SNAP officials exploited client funds for luxury travel, restaurants and hotels when organizing such events. It was all about money, exploitation, and inflicting as much damage as possible on the Catholic Church, the lawsuit alleged.
After years of SNAP’s blustering and derision about Church officials settling lawsuits out-of-court with non-disclosure agreements, SNAP settled that lawsuit out-of-court with a nondisclosure agreement.
THE ANNUAL CHRISTMAS ANTI-CATHOLIC SPECTACLE
Back to USA Today. What actions should Tim Roemer’s “faithful Catholics” take to save the church? I’ll take his Christmas list one by one. First, the laity should demand, via petition, that the church turn over all pertinent records to law enforcement, and support – not oppose – revising statutes of limitations to enable prosecution of past abusers.
The suggestion implies either ignorance of the law or a dishonest attempt to mislead readers. The truth is that there are two sources of legal remedies for alleged victims: criminal and civil, and both have statutes of limitations. Revised criminal statutes do not “enable prosecution of past abusers.” I would be shocked to learn that Tim Roemer does not know this.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution holds that “No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be posted.” This means that if a crime is committed – a robbery, for example – the federal or state government does not have an open-ended mandate to prosecute it. If a statute of limitations is ten years from the commission of the crime, there can be no prosecution once the ten years has lapsed.
Federal and state legislatures cannot enact a law making it twenty years and then apply it to past cases. Such efforts have been repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Presumably, Tim Roemer knows this. So what is he suggesting here?
The Catholic Church has no standing to support or oppose revised criminal statutes of limitations. Such revisions can apply only to cases brought forward after enactment of the revision. When a 63-year-old man claimed to have been groped at age 16 – one of the claims against Cardinal McCarrick – no revised criminal statute will permit criminal prosecution of this claim.
There is but one exception. Some states have clauses that freeze the statute if a person moves to another state for a part of that time. Such laws originated in the frontier days of America to prevent a robber, for example, from holding up a bank in Boston and then hiding beyond the reach of the law until the heat dies down. In the case of accused Catholic priests, some have faced prosecution for 30 or 40 year-old claims, but only because they lived in other states for all or most of that time.
I doubt that Tim Roemer and the editors at USA Today are unaware of the Constitutional bar to extending criminal statutes. It is much more plausible that they are well aware of it. There are only two questions left. Are they intentionally deceiving readers? And, if so, why?
A civil statute of limitations is more flexible for the purpose of pursuing financial jury awards or, as in the vast majority of such cases, mediated settlements that require no substantiation. In New Hampshire, for example, a “reasonable person” who is injured has three years in which to seek financial redress for an intentional tort, a harm or wrong for which a court can award damages. The New Hampshire Legislature has actually reduced the civil statute of limitations from six years to three years.
There are a number of exceptions that could defeat such time limits. In lawsuits seeking settlements in my own case, Thomas Grover and his brothers and their contingency lawyers argued in 1996 that despite their claims of being assaulted at ages 15 to 16, they did not concoct their “causal connection” between the alleged abuse and drug addiction and other anti-social behaviors until 12 years later [See Ryan A. MacDonald’s “#MeToo & #HimToo: Jonathan Grover & Father Gordon MacRae”].
The court ruled – while allowing no testimony from me – that the statute of limitations began to toll only when they made such a causal connection. It’s called the “discovery rule” and it should have been appealed by Church officials but it wasn’t. The Grover brothers each scored $200,000 for this fraud.
The goal of lobbying for extensions to statutes of limitation has nothing to do with Tim Roemer’s suggested “prosecution of past abusers.” It has everything to do with disrupting and bankrupting the Catholic Church. Some states created “Window Legislation” – the allowance of a one year suspension of the civil statute so accusers can bring lawsuits in expired cases.
These extensions have been especially unjust because they typically apply only to private institutions such as Catholic dioceses and the Boy Scouts of America while exempting public institutions such as public school systems which have had vastly greater incidents of abuse. What would happen to your local taxes if USA Today lobbied for blanket extensions for anyone who wants to accuse a teacher going back 50 or 60 years?
A MODERN WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
There has been a lot of international criticism of Pope Francis for caving into the communist government of China on selection of Catholic bishops. Many have accused him of surrendering the authority of the Church and papacy while gaining little or nothing in return. What Tim Roemer and USA Today present as a remedy for the Church’s bruised public image is no different.
Once you get past Tim Roemer’s prescription for bankrupting the church over what he fails to describe as 50-year-old abuse claims, a far more insidious agenda emerges. His column goes on to demand that lay leaders should be involved in overseeing clergy assignments – a traditional and central role of bishops.
He also suggests that lay leaders should be tasked with developing “better screening procedures” for priests, a virtual guarantee that traditional or orthodox Catholics need not apply. He further envisions that lay leadership of the church would “allow priests to marry and women to be ordained as priests.” He left it unsaid that the LGBTQ community would be encouraged to pursue ordination, a development that all but destroyed the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
Most importantly, he writes, “Catholics should withhold donations until the clergy hear us and respond.” Of course, by “us” he reveals an apparent assumption that he speaks for seventy one million Americans who profess to be Catholic and presumes they are of a like mind with him. His clarion call is to “stand up and make our voices heard and demand results…” The safety of our children and the fate of our church are at stake.
Tim Roemer and USA Today are not at all alone in using Catholic scandal to further a progressive agenda. At Christmas PBS News presented an interview with a new official of SNAP – the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests who also lobbies to eliminate civil statutes that bar lawsuits in expired claims.
The PBS News moderator introduced her with a claim that her repressed memories of abuse by a priest emerged twenty years later, a fable that has been thoroughly discredited as invalid by forensic memory experts. Professional witnesses have convinced courts in many states to disallow repressed memory testimony as legally unreliable.
And during Christmas week, CNN hauled out its semiannual scandal coverage on Catholicism. We’ll be seeing it again during Holy Week, a CNN custom I once described in “Breaking News: I Got Stoned with the Pope.”
What is the inconvenient truth that USA Today wants to keep hidden and some Catholic bishops will not say its name? In Commentary magazine, Christine Rosen touched on it daringly in “Kavanaugh and the Assault on Men”:
“One year into the #MeToo movement, men are [now] expected to stand by as ‘allies’ who… #BelieveSurvivors and are not to defend themselves or other men against evidence-free accusations or even extreme expressions of misandry. They are definitely not supposed to do what Kavanaugh did: offer a full-throated and angry rebuttal to the charges lodged against him.”
That is what I did, and still do, and will continue to do for as long as I have even a squeaky and stifled voice in the public square. I have been given a privilege to publish some commentary, at The Wall Street Journal which stands out among other media outlets for its fair and balanced treatment of these issues. I’ll leave you with this commentary I published in response to a WSJ editorial, “The Catholic Bishops Who Couldn’t”:
“The Judge Kavanaugh story brought to the American mind a phrase with dire consequences for the state of justice: ‘Guilty for Being Accused.’ The U.S. Catholic bishops, and any number of state attorneys general, have been practicing it against Catholic priests for years. The truth is that the Catholic church in America is the sole institution to have virtually eradicated contemporary sexual abuse. “All the claims mentioned in this editorial are from 30 to 50 years ago and all the priests are guilty for being accused.
“There has been a cover-up. This has been a problem of narcissistic homosexual predation of adolescent boys and young adult men and the bishops have bent over backwards to cover up that fact. There are few clean hands in this story, a truth told in “How SNAP Brought McCarthyism to American Catholics.”
There will be a Part II of this post next week, and its subject matter will take this story out of the hands of the news media and put it at the feet of our bishops who, frankly, have not fared much better. I know it may ruffle some ecclesial feathers, but that is not at all my goal. I only want to tell the simple truth, even when it isn’t convenient.
Brace yourself for next week’s Part II: “The Credibility of Bishops on Credibly Accused Priests.” In the meantime, you might want to consider some related eye-openers:
- A Weapon of Mass Destruction: Catholic Priests Falsely Accused
- How SNAP Brought McCarthyism to American Catholics
- That Grand Jury Report on Abusive Catholic Priests
And the most important “must-read” and “must-share”: