Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Knights of Columbus and child abuse cover-up*

This post contains details that may be upsetting for sensitive readers.

The Knights of Columbus (KOC) are commonly known as the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization, but most people don't know that the Knights also function as a recruiting organization for highly exclusive Catholic equestrian orders such as the Knights of Malta and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The history of equestrian orders dates back to Ancient Rome, where the order comprised a large proportion of the patrician classes that monopolized the Roman political process, as well as most major commercial enterprises. Today, this same oligarchical tradition is continued through Catholic equestrian orders that subvert the democratic process by way of quasi-political religious organizations. While the KOC does not represent the upper echelons of the Catholic cryptocracy, that dubious honor instead being designated for the equestrian orders noted above, their political influence as an arm of the Vatican has been significant enough to play a role in silencing countless victims of clerical abuse.

The photo above captures the opening Mass of the 131st annual Knights of Columbus convention on August 6 in San Antonio. Included in the photo is church leader Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who the New York Times states "worked quietly to keep evidence of child molesting away from law enforcement officials and shield abusive priests from criminal prosecution more than a decade before the scandal became public, according to confidential church records." The article continues, "Rather than defrocking priests and contacting the police, the archdiocese sent priests who had molested children to out-of-state treatment facilities...Ray Boucher, a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs in those cases, said the files released on Monday were “particularly damning,” because they showed the “wanton disregard for the health and safety of children, and a decision by the highest members of the church to put its self-interest and the interest of abusive priests ahead of those of children.”"

Also pictured above is Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of sexual assault by former Benectine monk and Catholic priest Richard Sipe. According to Sipe, "On file are the unsealed “MEDIATION DOCUMENTATION FOR FR. G.” that involved McCarrick and the dioceses of Metuchen and Newark, NJ. A financial settlement was reached. The case was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, but it has not yet responded." What follows is an excerpt of the events described in the mediation document:

“He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs around mine. Then He started to tell me what a nice young man I was and what a good priest I would make someday. He also told me about the hard work and stress he was facing in his new role as Archbishop of Newark. He told me how everyone knows him and how powerful he was. The Archbishop kept saying, “Pray for your poor uncle.” All of a sudden, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t have my own car and there was nowhere to go. The Archbishop started to kiss me and move his hands and legs around me. I remained frozen, curled up like a ball. I felt his penis inside his underwear leaning against my buttocks as he was rubbing my legs up and down. His hands were moving up and down my chest and back, while tightening his legs around mine. I tried to scream but could not…I was paralyzed with fear. As he continued touching me, I felt more afraid. He even tried several times to force his hands under my shorts. He tried to roll me over so that he could get on top of me, but I resisted, I felt sick and disgusted and finally was able to jump out of bed. I went into the bathroom where I vomited several times and started to cry. After twenty minutes in the bathroom, the Archbishop told me to come back to bed. Instead I went to the recliner and pretended to fall asleep.”

A news article reports that the Knights of Columbus sponsored a youth group, the Squires, members of which have accused the KOC of collaborating to cover of child sexual abuse. The article states "In one of the lawsuits, an unnamed Kansas resident claims the Squires leader abused him from 1978, when he was 10 years old, until 1986. He claims the leader shared him with other youth counselors in the group and threatened to kill him if he told anyone, the lawsuit said. The second lawsuit came from Texas resident Jim Dennany, who said he alerted Knights of Columbus officials in 1986 to assaults he said he suffered in the 1970s when he was a young teenager. He claimed the group took no action, concealed the allegations and told him to keep quiet, according to the lawsuit."

According to former Domnican priest and canon lawyer Thomas Doyle, "The Knights of Columbus take great pride in their loyalty to the Church and to the bishops. They regularly show their support for priests and announce their love for the Church. They shell out barrels of money to the Vatican, to bishops, to seminaries and to other causes in support of priests. The Knights of Columbus have totally missed the boat. They have supported priests and bishops in their moral bankruptcy and in their destruction of the bodies and souls of the victims of abuse. They have said and done nothing to support the victims."

So it may not be much of a surprise that a Pennsyvania newspaper, the Observer-Reporter, reported that convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky was awarded Coach of the Year title by the KOC. Sandusky has also been a speaker at KOC events. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was assigned to investigate the Sandusky scandal. "We will immediately report any evidence of criminality to law enforcement authorities," said Freeh. New York state newspaper The Journal News reports that Louis Freeh, along with suspected Russian spy Robert Hanssen, are both members of the secretive Catholic fraternty Opus Dei. In his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei, Robert Hutchinson writes of the canonization of Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva, noting that in attendance was "Dr Carl A. Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus and senior American member of Opus Dei." Given the overlapping membership between Opus Dei and the KOC, the likelihood that the Penn State investigation was doomed by favoritism from the very beginning is very high indeed.

According to Vatican Insider, a project run by the daily newspaper La Stampa, Opus Dei is "one of the ecclesiastical bodies closest to the Pope". So the testimony of Jim Jenkins, former chair of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Review Board under Archbishop (now Cardinal) William Levada, should not be ignored. Jenkins states, in reference to the Dallas Charter which provided guidelines for how the Church would respond to the clerical abuse scandal, that "The Charter’s scope needed to be limited to the alleged assaults upon “minors” leaving the inappropriate sexual behavior of clerics with other adults beyond the jurisdiction of the review boards." In other words, the sexual assault of adults was considered to be acceptable behavior. Jenkins also states that "The behavior of bishops and cardinals was off-limits to the scope of any investigation by any archdiocesan review board." Translation: bishops and cardinals are not subject to civil law.

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Pope Benedict XVI was responsible for investigating clerical abuse scandals. Let's examine some of his accomplishments during that time period.

via CBS News:

The Vatican's lawyer says then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told a California bishop to make sure a priest with a history of sexually molesting children didn't abuse while the church worked to defrock him...Attorney Jeffrey Lena was responding to a 1985 letter obtained by The Associated Press on Friday in which the future pope said more time was needed to study the case of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle. Lena says Ratzinger urged the bishop to give Kiesle "as much paternal care as possible." Lena says that was a way of saying the bishop was responsible for ensuring Kiesle didn't reoffend....The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock Kiesle, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to the 1985 letter bearing his signature. The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office. The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle...

Attorney Irwin Zalkin represents a woman who says Kiesle assaulted her three times by the time she was 7 years old. Court documents accuse Kiesle of providing her with wine, binding her hands and sexually abusing her, Tracy reports....Earlier Friday, the Vatican confirmed that it was Ratzinger's signature on the letter. "The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said....The diocese recommended removing Kiesle from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office that shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests. The case then languished for four years at the Vatican before Ratzinger finally wrote to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. It was two more years before Kiesle was removed; during that time he continued to do volunteer work with children through the church..... the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the universal church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age." Kiesle was 38 at the time.

Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory. As his probation ended in 1981, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood and the diocese submitted papers to Rome to defrock him. In his earliest letter to Ratzinger, Cummins warned that returning Kiesle to ministry would cause more of a scandal than stripping him of his priestly powers. "It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and that as a matter of fact, given the nature of the case, there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry," Cummins wrote in 1982...California church officials wrote to Ratzinger at least three times to check on the status of Kiesle's case and Cummins discussed the case with officials during a Vatican visit, according to correspondence. At one point, a Vatican official wrote to say the file may have been lost and suggested resubmitting materials....As Kiesle's fate was being weighed in Rome, the priest returned to suburban Pinole to volunteer as a youth minister at St. Joseph Church, where he had served as associate pastor from 1972 to 1975.

Kiesle continued to volunteer with children, according to Maurine Behrend, who worked in the Oakland diocese's youth ministry office in the 1980s. After learning of his history, Behrend complained to church officials. When nothing was done she wrote a letter, which she showed to the AP. "Obviously nothing has been done after EIGHT months of repeated notifications," she wrote. "How are we supposed to have confidence in the system when nothing is done? A simple phone call to the pastor from the bishop is all it would take." She eventually confronted Cummins at a confirmation and Kiesle was gone a short time later, Behrend said. Kiesle, who married after leaving the priesthood, was arrested and charged in 2002 with 13 counts of child molestation from the 1970s. All but two were thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a California law extending the statute of limitations. He pleaded no contest in 2004 to a felony for molesting a young girl in his Truckee home in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in state prison.

Now would probably be a good time to include this painting by the highly talented tattoo artist Paul Booth:

*Research credit for many links in this post is due