District Attorney Chardo and Bishop RhoadesAn allegation against Bishop Rhoades relating to his time as bishop of Harrisburg was lodged in the wake of the grand jury report. Though weightless on its face, the diocese dutifully reported it to district attorney Francis Chardo, who dutifully investigated with what would in any other context be undue diligence. The allegation was, of course, leaked to the press. The South Bend Tribune, of course, blazoned it across its front page. To his credit, Mr. Chardo swept the charge aside and lamented the leak. His verdict:
This has been a case of a public airing of mere speculation of impropriety with no foundation. In this case, the leaking of what turned out to be an unfounded report did unnecessary harm. This has done a disservice to actual victims of sexual abuse. It has also caused significant and unnecessary harm to Bishop Rhoades.
Bishop Rhoades and the Grand Jury ReportBishop Rhoades’s record in both Harrisburg and Fort Wayne/South Bend is a welcome reminder that Catholics are served by many good bishops, of whom Bishop Rhoades is one of the best. Bishop Rhoades served as bishop of Harrisburg for five years from 2004 to 2009. As he noted in his statement and press conference (video) respecting the grand jury report, this followed the adoption by the USCCB of comprehensive “zero tolerance” policies and procedures respecting sexual abuse, which he “fully enforced.” Only two cases arose during Bishop Rhoades’s Harrisonburg tenure. They involved offenses committed years earlier. In each, he “notified law enforcement and punished each individual, even though both had already been removed from ministry.” While the grand jury did not include either case in its list of egregious examples, Bishop Rhoades sent the grand jury a detailed explanation of his policies and why he did not publicize these two old cases. (Report pp. 211 ff.) (On reconsideration, Bishop Rhoades recently released the names of all Fort Wayne/South Bend offenders disciplined before his arrival even though most diocese don’t follow that practice. The list included three Holy Cross priests, neither of whom served at Notre Dame. Notre Dame incidents would not usually be reported under present policies respecting minors.)
Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Pennsylvania Grand JuryBecause of Mr. Shapiro’s mischaracterization of the the grand jury report and the media’s following suit, the widespread impression is that priestly predators are preying on young people across the country as we write while bishops wink and nod. It is worth noting, and deeply disappointing, that a well-regarded Notre Dame professor who has been tapped by Father Jenkins as co-chair of a research task force to advise him in this matter is, unaccountably, among those fueling this misconception. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Dr. Kathleen Cummings called for unspecified “church leaders” to “relinquish their place at the head table” so that the Church will be “safer for children.” But the grand jury report provides no support for the notion that Catholic places are unsafe for children. To the contrary. As we said in a prior bulletin:
The good news is that, while sexual abuse has not been wiped out, the crisis appears to be over. The Pennsylvania data track the national data. Sexual assaults began mounting in the 1960’s, peaked in the 1970’s and 1980’s, fell sharply in the 1990’s, and bottomed out in the 2000’s.
All of the cases were brushed aside in every part of the state by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all. Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing they hid it all, for decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, cardinals have been protected, many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.
The diocese claim to have changed their ways, to have put appropriate safeguards in place and no longer have tolerance for sexual abuse. Statements are one thing. The proof of their claim will be if they support each of the four [legislative] recommendations.
Monsignor Thomas Benestad made a 9-year-old give him oral sex, then rinse the boy’s mouth out with holy water to purify him.”
Attorney General Shapiro is simply nasty for not informing the public that two entirely separate investigations exonerated Monsignor Benestad.
Notre Dame, the Grand Jury, and the McCarrick AffairFather Jenkins has recently said Notre Dame wants to do what it can to assist the Church and a task force he appointed has just issued a statement both of which we’ll discuss soon, but these announcements suggest some possibilities we note here. Notwithstanding Mr. Shapiro’s distortions and the grand jury report’s weaknesses, the report, together with the McCarrick affair, has trained attention on two issues of surpassing importance;
- The accountability of bishops for their own sexual abuses and their culpable failures to deal with clerical offenders for whom they are responsible; and,
- Confirmation of the earlier nationwide study data showing that clerical sexual abuse is overwhelmingly a homosexual phenomenon. See our prior bulletin.
ConclusionNotre Dame ought to make sure its faculty and students understand what the grand jury report really stands for. And it ought, above all, qualify to play a role by rescinding the honorary degree it bestowed on erstwhile Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Please join our petition below urging him to do so.
Strange HappeningsIn an eccentric – to put it conservatively – takedown of his predecessors, Bishop Ronald Gainer of Harrisburg recently proclaimed:
I declare that the name of every Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg since 1947 shall be removed from any building, facility, or room in the Diocese.