In yesterday’s thread about the indictment of the Bishop of Kansas City — the spiritual leader of 143,000 Catholics in 27 counties in Missouri, and an active member of Opus Dei — on charges of failure to report recent child abuse, some commenters were upset. They argued that it goes too far to suggest that putting money in the collection plate at any Catholic Church finances child abuse, because there are a lot of good parish priests, and that most of that money stays in the parish. Let’s set aside the obvious point that money is fungible and concentrate on the supposed goodness of the parish priest. Most of them are good, I’m sure, but the question is whether a practicing Catholic would know if their priest were a molester. Two recent indictments provide an answer to that question.
First, Missouri. In December, 2010, when a computer technician discovered “hundreds of photographs of children on Father Ratigan’s laptop, including a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch”, Father Ratigan attempted suicide. His parishioners were told that he was a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. After he recovered,
Bishop Finn sent Father Ratigan to live in a convent and told him to avoid contact with minors. But until May the priest attended children’s parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, hosted an Easter egg hunt and presided, with the bishop’s permission, at a girl’s First Communion, according to interviews with parishioners and a civil lawsuit filed by a victim’s family.
Now let’s move to Philadelphia, where another high-ranking church official, Monsignor William Lynn, was indicted earlier this year for conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children. The Philadelphia Inquirer obtained the Grand Jury transcript leading to Lynn’s indictment, and here’s a little snippet of the testimony of his predecessor, Edward Cullen, who became the Bishop of Allentown:
Cullen made a similar point.
“Public relations is in everything,” he testified.
When the Rev. Robert L. Brennan was accused of misconduct with boys, the church sent him to a hospital for treatment. Parishioners were told he was on a religious retreat.
Asked about the cover story, Cullen conceded, “It’s not the truth.”
It was a lie, wasn’t it? prosecutors asked.
“You could call it that,” Cullen said.
Brennan was finally reassigned [pdf] to a position in a convent in 2004, after 16 years of being moved from parish to parish, and 20 different accusations of child abuse.
These are not allegations from the far-off past, and they are not whispered rumors. Even if you think every penny of your donation goes to the local parish, you’ll never know if your money is going to pay the salary of a child rapist.