About a month ago, Pope Francis abruptly shut down the tepid efforts of U.S. Catholic bishops to make themselves accountable on sex abuse. (That is, whether they commit it themselves or cover it up.) As Chris Manion pointed out, Francis’ decision could have devastating consequences. Not only for sex abuse victims but also for the Vatican.
By interfering so directly in how the U.S. Church handles itself, the pope may have undermined the legal claim that each diocese is independent of the Vatican. But that claim is the main barrier to plaintiffs breaching the Vatican’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits for sex abuse.
Imagine if sex abuse were happening in Saudi-funded mosques. Victims couldn’t sue that country’s government. Unless … lawyers could prove that the Saudi government was setting those mosque’s policies. Then the door would be open. Likewise at the Vatican. If Rome must foot the bills for dioceses that go bankrupt? “The Pieta” could end up in the bedroom of a Saudi prince.
Father Faucher fantasized about raping and killing young children, favored child pornography that depicted extreme violence and claimed in online chats to have mixed his own bodily fluids into the communion wine at his church.
Yesterday Pope Francis issued a call for sex abusers in the priesthood to turn themselves in to authorities. Of course, they should. But of course they won’t. Remember what we’re dealing with here. These men have been granted the highest privilege for a Christian. They stand “in the person of Christ,” dispensing sacraments. They abused their power to prey on the helpless.
One such man is Thomas Faucher. As Fox News reported:
A Roman Catholic priest who possessed more than 2,500 images of what investigators called the most disturbing child pornography they had ever seen has been sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole.
The Rev. W. Thomas Faucher pleaded guilty to five felonies including possessing and distributing child pornography and a drug charge earlier this year. During his sentencing hearing in Idaho on Thursday, Judge Jason Scott said Faucher fantasized about raping and killing young children, favored child pornography that depicted extreme violence and claimed in online chats to have mixed his own bodily fluids into the communion wine at his church.
Faucher, 73, told the judge he was “deeply sorry” and said he should be released on probation, claiming he could use his freedom to visit with victims of child pornography and then speak about the evils of child abuse. …
Before the sentencing, special prosecutor Kassandra Slaven asked for a 30-year prison sentence, including 20 before he would be eligible for parole. “It shakes the community. It shakes the members of the Catholic Church,” Slaven said. “… He portrays himself as a victim and is not at all accountable for his actions.”
Yeah, something tells me guys like that. … They aren’t going to comply with the honor system.
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Nor do I have any confidence in our Catholic bishops. In 2002, they tried to crack down on abusive priests. But they specifically exempted themselves from punishment. Who urged that? Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who retired as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. That was before it came out that he was a child molester. And a serial predator on young seminarians. McCarrick remains an archbishop. He lives comfortably at church expense, with church-paid attorneys, a short walk away from a grammar school.
Earlier this year, whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano exposed how much Pope Francis likely knew about McCarrick. Francis responded with icy silence. He compared his critics to Satan. Francis’ protege, Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, also chimed in. He told the press not to go down “the rabbit hole” of exploring past abuse cases.
Now thanks to prosecutors, we’re going to find out how deep that hole goes. And how many rabbits are hiding there. Because the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, has finished an investigation into the church in her state. She discovered 515 cases of abusive priests which the church had hidden from authorities.
According to Church Militant:
Cdl. Blase Cupich was pushing at the bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore what’s called the Cupich-Wuerl plan.
CNA reports that contrary to having an independent lay-led commission investigate allegations against bishops, the “Cupich-Wuerl plan would instead send allegations against bishops to be investigated by their metropolitan archbishops.” This means that Cupich is proposing that all 700 cases be processed under him alone.
An astonishing power grab. Should Cupich be trusted? Admittedly, many of the Illinois abuse cases got botched before he took over in Chicago. Or took place under other bishops.
But Cupich can’t evade responsibility for the following case. Spokane is the diocese he ran before getting fast-tracked to the powerful post in Chicago. And a flagrant scandal occurred on Cupich’s watch. As Catholic News Agency reports:
The Diocese of Spokane said Thursday it was unacceptable that Jesuit priests credibly accused of sexual abuse were unsupervised on the campus of Gonzaga University. While Spokane’s current bishop had no knowledge the priests had been living at the university, the diocese said its prior bishop [Cupich] was informed of their presence in 2011. …
While the Jesuit province informed the diocese that the accused priests “were living on campus with safety plans requiring such things as chaperones for any trips out of Cardinal Bea House and restricting their public ministry,” recent media reporting “indicates that these credibly accused Jesuits were free to come and go on campus,” the statement read. …
According to the media reports, at least some credibly accused priests had regular unsupervised access to the university campus and unsupervised visits with students, and were permitted to lead prayer services in other settings, including Native American reservations.
One of the credibly accused abusers was Fr. James Poole, SJ.
In 2005, an Anchorage woman, Elsie Boudreau, settled for $1 million a lawsuit against Poole, his Jesuit province, and the Diocese of Fairbanks.
Boudreau’s lawsuit claimed that she was molested by Poole, who was stationed in her home of Nome, Alaska, from the time she was 10 years old until she was 19, when she told him she would never be alone with him again. …
Jesuit authorities knew since at least 1960 Poole had acted inappropriately in conversations with children about sex. Jesuit authorities said at that time that Poole had “a fixation on sex; an obsession.”
Jesuit officials were informed in 1997 by Bishop Michael Kaniecki, SJ, of Fairbanks that Poole had a history of sexual misconduct and abuse allegations; a fact that had been known to Kaniecki, himself a Jesuit, since 1986.
[Jesuit provincial Fr. John] Whitney did not inform Gonzaga administrators or Spokane police that Poole and other residents were accused of sexual abuse. Despite the restrictions Whitney imposed on him, Poole regularly went to Gonzaga basketball games and its library, and met alone with a female student at least once.
The Jesuits are certainly to blame here. But the buck stops with Cupich. He knew that leaving these ruined priests free on campus violated the bishops’ own 2002 policy. Maybe he didn’t care.
Cupich now is apparently the most powerful figure in the American church — thanks to Pope Francis’ backing. So don’t expect improvement soon. Oh yes, and according to Abp. Vigano, Cupich was one of the bishops promoted by … Theodore McCarrick.
We must thank God for hard-working attorneys general like Ms. Madigan. As she said in her announcement of the Illinois cover-ups, “The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself.”