Some Recent News from the Catholic Church
Here are some news items you may have overlooked.
Philadelphia “Retirement Homes”
Recall that I recently showed that the Church doesn’t fire pedophile priests, it merely “laicizes” them [What is “Laicizing” a Priest?]. This “punishment” consists of relieving them of their duties, while continuing to pay them, provide them with food and housing, etc. Since the priest no longer has any official duties, the Church has no responsibility for his continued misconduct.
None of the journalists covering laicization discussed the scope of the problem. But a recent report from Philadelphia provides some hints. According to RNS (Religion News Service, here) – the most important religious news network in America - Monsignor William Dombrow was in charge of Villa St. Joseph, “a retirement home for aged and infirm priests.” RNS’s use of “retirement home” is misleading. According to the Catholic News Service, via the National Catholic Reporter (NCR, here) the “retirement home” was also “designed to house archdiocesan priests, stripped of ministerial faculties, who have been found credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.” NCR doesn’t address the number of laicized and “normally” retired priests living in the villa. But given the great shortage of priests, few retire before it is medically necessary. Chances are that Philadelphia has one or more retirement homes largely occupied by laicized priests.
These homes aren’t cheap. Monsignor Dombrow pled guilty to embezzling over $500,000 from the villa. That must have been a small part of its budget. No one in the archdiocese even noticed his theft. The bank discovered it and informed the archdiocese, who turned Dombrow over to the authorities. (The Church is less tolerant of theft than pedophilia – it never turns over pedophiles.) While much is made of the crippling costs of child abuse lawsuits, nothing is ever said about the Church’s cost of supporting laicized priests. It must be substantial, even relative to the Church’s legal liabilities. While dioceses routinely declare bankruptcy to avoid legal penalties, they never complain about taking care of their deviant priests.
Monk runs “sex club” in England
A monk in one of England’s finest Catholic boarding schools ran “sex clubs” (here). He organized orgies for the boys. It’s not clear whether he participated. He was never officially charged with sex abuse. In 2004, the police advised the administration to remove him. However, the good shepherds of this school kept him in place until 2012.
Catholic Religious Orders in Ireland Maintain their Traditions
Ireland effectively outsourced much of its educational and social services to the Catholic Church. In recent decades, it became apparent that these good shepherds were guilty of the worst sorts of atrocities – not only child sexual abuse, but child slavery, mass graves at orphanages, etc. This depravity received little coverage in the United States.
Much of this was done by special religious orders, rather than regular priests. Catholic bishops set up a watchdog group as part of their promise to prevent such outrages from recurring. The watchdog just reported about three of the offending religious orders (here). Nothing had changed. The article says nothing about other religious orders or about the regular Catholic Church in Ireland.
Fraudster Priest in England
The headline tells of a “UK priest's bizarre fraud scandal” (here). The priest was living as a husband with his housekeeper and her children. He stole a good deal of parish money to “pay for things such as foreign travel, fine dining, expensive cutlery and a seemingly lavish lifestyle.” Relative to most news of priestly crimes, this doesn’t seem particularly bizarre. What I found most striking was his lack of remorse: “The parish keeps me. Ultimately, I’m in charge of it, so I can spend it.” He feels he is entitled to the assets of his parish.
This is a good example of the utter immorality of many priests – far more than anyone acknowledges. There was a priest in Boston who was a spokesman for the society of man-boy love. He was a proud pedophile, and everyone knew it. There was a similar priest in an earlier scandal in Louisiana. Most priests probably knew of at least one pedophile. Yet no priest ever turned in a pedophile priest. This would be a crime, if the Church was not given a special dispensation. No one mentions this outrage.
Pope Francis and Sex Abuse
More than three years ago, Pope Francis set up a special commission to study the problem of priestly sexual abuse of children and to make recommendations. By now, it should be obvious that the commission was a sham. The only two victims chosen for the commission have left in disgust. The commission was not even given access to a canon lawyer, a necessity for determining whether any recommendation is feasible or legal under the Church’s byzantine legal system.
Pope Francis periodically speaks of the horror of child sex abuse, and proclaims a zero tolerance policy. (No one mentions that his unusual definition of zero tolerance is actually surprisingly tolerant.) If the pope were really serious about stamping out child abuse, would pedophiles be treated so well? Would no one turn them in? Would Irish religious orders, previously guilty of abuse, openly ignore official recommendations to eliminate abuse? The check has been in the mail for nearly four years. It is distressing that everyone is still satisfied with empty promises.
Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these children … to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6; Luke 17.2). I believe that Jesus would also damn an institution if it bore responsibility.
P.S. - Note that all these news items were from the last few days. This kind of thing happens all the time, though media may not report them.