5.24.2009

retired archbishop: we didn't know raping children was a crime

This has to be one of the more horrific indictments of the systemic abuse perpetrated and covered up by the Catholic Church that I've ever seen.

From The Freethinker:
Today we learn that a retired Catholic Archbishop in the US is claiming in a soon-to-be-published memoir that he did not comprehend the potential harm to young victims or understand that the priests had committed a crime.

Rembert G Weakland: "We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature."

Also cogent analysis from Atheist Revolution, tying Weakland's statements to the recent revelations of widespread abuse of Irish children in Catholic-run institutions, and of course, the subsequent conspiracy to cover it up.

Back to The Freethinker:
Weakland, who retired in 2002 after it became known that he paid $450,000 in 1998 to a man who had accused him of date rape years earlier, said he initially:
Accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would 'grow out of it'.

Weakland's critics allege that, when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, he had tried to cover up some of the widespread abuse that had taken place in the diocese – in particular by overseeing an evaluation in 1993 of Father Lawrence Murphy, one of those prosecuted for abuse.

A 2003 report on the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee revealed that allegations of sexual assaults on minors had been made against 58 ordained men, who were under the direct supervision of the Archbishop of Milwaukee.

By early 2009, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had spent approximately $26.5 million in attorney fees and settlements to victims.

Weakland's words are contained in his memoir, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church – and have infuriated those who suffered at the hands of the clergy.

Said Peter Isely, Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP:
It's beyond belief. He's either lying or he's so self-deceived that he's inventing fanciful stories. . . These have always been crimes.

* * * *

I'm fortunate that, through my activism and volunteer work around sexual assault, I've heard the stories of child sexual abuse and recovery from survivors themselves. So I have a very clear mental picture of the terror, the core insecurity, the shame, the confusion, the mental illness - and the long, long, painful recovery - that survivors endure.

The people I knew had done a lot of healing work and had made it through. Many people aren't as lucky. Child sexual abuse is closely linked to a lifetime of poverty and "disorganization," a technical way of saying "a fucked-up life": traumatic and unhealthy personal sexual history, substance abuse, homelessness, violence, suicide.

The stories I heard made me ashamed of working so hard to heal from my own one-time experience of sexual assault. I know the drill - "it's not a contest," as therapists and social workers love to say - and each of our pain is real and unique. The fact of someone else's child sexual abuse doesn't make the fact of my rape any less real. But I'll tell you, I found myself thinking, what happened to me was nothing compared to this. I marvelled at their strength and resiliency, the human will to survive and transcend.

On the Catholic Church child abuse scandal, Irish edition, The Freethinker is very strong, worth reading.

As always, full credit is due to the survivors. They have have resisted vast, powerful forces that demand their silence, but they have refused to be silent.

Thanks to both James and Allan for sending the Weakland story.

10 comments:

Cornelia said...

No, you need not feel bad about having to work so hard on your own healing. The fact that somebody has been subjected to even more horrendous violence doesn't make your own pain go away (it might even add up to it) and doesn't negate your own story. I hate what I have been through and of course I hate honor murder and this systematic fundamentalist cult abuse torture even more and often, particularly when it's cold, stuff like this can even feel retraumatizing and be a major trigger in itself.

Cornelia said...

And what an idiot that is to claim he has not known or even to believe his own propaganda!!!
For the court records: It is punishable nonetheless (if the statute of limitations has not run out yet, of course!) He could have asked and found out and so he should - and desisted from these heinous violent crimes and torments!!!

James said...

Bill "Catholic League" Donahue is up in arms over the press coverage of this. His objection: the "Priests beat, raped children" headlines are misleading, since the beatings were just standard corporal punishment, and only 12% of the cases investigated involved actual rape -- the rest were just fondling, groping, and that sort of thing.

Do these guys have any clue that their apologetics are making them look even more vile?

L-girl said...

Cornelia, thank you.

James, I wonder, do they know??

Searching for links on the Magdalene Laundries, I noticed a reader comment at IMDB that said, in part, "I'm sure there's another side to the story, there always is, but..."

I thought, people think there's *another side* to child abuse? To child slavery? Another side that could somehow ameliorate or justify such horrors?

Cornelia said...

Thank you so much, James and Laura.

M. Yass said...

But Wait, There's More!"(The secrecy) was to see that the church was well served," Ryan replied, saying it was not for "sinister reasons." Earlier in his testimony, he said the "cloak of secrecy" was an "unfortunate phrase" he used in a deposition meant to describe the Archdiocese's discretion in such matters.

Pfau continued: "In 1976, you knew it was a crime to molest a child?"

"I knew it was a grave moral offense," Ryan answered. "I'm not sure 'crime' was the first thing that came to my mind."
There it is, laid bare. Serial child rape is "not a crime" and was dealt with "in a cloak of secrecy" so that "the church was well served."

I have several personal connections to this case. First, Fr. Ryan was my last priest. Second, I was a student at the school where Fr. O'Donnell had his last assignment.

Fortunately, I was never victimized by Fr. O'Donnell despite (1) being in his target age group and (2) craving male attention due to being raised by a single mother.

Learning of this sort of thing kinda reduces one's enthusiasm to show up once a week to dutifully receive the magic cookie.

Cornelia said...

M. Yass, I am so sorry! My school was no fun, too but this is even worse. OMG, shit, I understand how you feel. At least you were not molested yourself and at least you need no longer go to school...

Al said...

Another side to the story huh?......The only other side I can see from this story is that sometimes the survivors of these hateful crimes are able to heal and focus their energy to turn something so negative into a positive. What we have to focus on is healing and helping these victims NOW so that we can break not only the silence, but also the cycle. Because unfortunately more often than not those disconnected survivors will have a negative effect on some other member of their family. It is up to us and our generation to recognize the symptoms, talk about the problems openly and help these people get the necessary treatment. There are over 60 million survivors in the US and hundreds of millions worldwide. Statistically this means that you know at least one. Please visit www.letgoletpeacecomein.org to see how you can help by posting a childhood photo & caption, your story, or your creative expressions to our website. The Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation is a newly formed nonprofit with a mission to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by "showing" the world that we do have a strong voice and we will be no longer cast aside or swept under the rug as a secret.

James said...

An impassioned speech from a survivor: Michael O'Brien

Cornelia said...

Thanks so much, Al and James. Yeah, support for survivors is so vital...