Editor’s Note: This series of stories contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse of minors and adults that readers might find disturbing. This material is not intended for children. If you or someone you know was sexually abused, contact local law enforcement for help.
“We are in schism.” Father John A. Hardon, S.J., minced no words when summing up the situation between Rome and the Catholic Church in the United States in the late 1990s. Few understood the inner machinations of the Holy See better than Hardon, a highly respected theologian and author of dozens of books on the Catholic Faith.
After unsuccessfully lobbying the curia of Pope St. John Paul II to remove Illinois Bp. Daniel L. Ryan for sexual misconduct, Fr. Hardon told associates the pope felt powerless to force reform on the American bishops. “The Holy Father wants to prevent a de facto break — a formal, explicit schism — with Rome,” he said. Hardon echoed the sentiments of his Vatican superior, Cdl. Édouard Gagnon, who nine years earlier privately lamented that the American bishops “will not obey the Holy Father” when he seeks to intervene in U.S. Church matters.1
Father John A. Hardon advised RCF on its investigation and tried to get the Vatican to act on Bp. Ryan.
Father Hardon’s efforts and reaction are described in a nearly 570-page investigative report compiled over eight years by The Roman Catholic Faithful Inc. (RCF), a nonprofit watchdog group based in Petersburg, Ill. The document was filed with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Child and Youth Protection. It describes widespread homosexual misconduct and corruption by a sitting U.S. bishop and the years-long effort to remove him from office. This all happened years before the sex-abuse crisis blew up in the Church in 2002 — and was a harbinger of the $3.65 billion that the Catholic Church would pay out in settlements, support and attorney fees as a result of priestly sexual abuse in the United States.2 ….