Mea Maxima Culpa: Voices Unheard, 2
Servants of the Paraclete
Father Gerald Fitzgerald had decided some decades before that something had to be done about all this abuse. As early as 1947, he founded Servants of the Paraclete, whose initial mission was to address this scourge through spiritual treatment of admitted abusers, a treatment consisting solely of intensive prayer and penance, the Forties version of “thoughts and prayers,” I suppose, equally ineffective then as now. The Servants pledge “to offer any prudent and possible Ministry to those in Sacred Orders and in the Religious Life, relying on the ever present healing power and exquisite mercy of a loving God” and “to deliver a compassionate ministry: pastoral and professional care to our brothers wounded in the fray of life.” They meant well.
It didn’t take too long, however, before Fitzgerald realized that rehabilitation was simply impossible. He wanted each of these priests defrocked and removed from their “target population.” Ten years after beginning his ministry, Fitzgerald felt that even the relatively extreme measure of defrocking was insufficient: “We are amazed to find how often a man who would be behind bars if he were not a priest is entrusted with the cura animarum [care of souls].” After discussions with then-Pope Paul VI, Fitzgerald convinced the Vatican to buy a Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles to house the offenders. The purchasing process began but was never completed because the Church hierarchy decided to do a complete one-eighty, changing the Paraclete mission from one of removing these men that Fr. Fitzgerald called “vipers,” to one of “rehabilitation and recirculation,” the perverse version of R&R. That didn’t work out so well.
This rehab-recirc lack of success was well depicted in Law & Order’s “Bad Faith” episode, first aired on television in 1995. A priest, Father Joseph Krolinsky, had abused several boys of his parish, using one of the boys, a fatherless child deeply under Father Joe’s influence, to procure his friends for the priest’s “matinees.” One of the friends he approached, who punched the boy for his trouble, was Mike Logan, one of the original L&O’s main detectives played by Chris Noth.
The writers really got the tone right. As I’ve found to be lamentably typical in real life, the Church shifted Krolinsky from parish to parish around the country, rarely informing the subsequent parishes of his past, which grew to include over 100 complaints. This snippet of dialogue between a Church representative and Assistant District Attorney and lapsed Catholic Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) tells the story:
Father Navarro: When Father Krolinsky was pronounced cured, he was sent to another parish.
McCoy: How many times was he pronounced cured?
Even parents who had evidence right in front of them refused to act: “my mother was pious,” one boy explained.
The boy who had helped the fictional pedophile priest became a decorated police officer, but on seeing Father Joe once more after years of trying to forget, he committed suicide. Other boys who were now men, refused to act. Meanwhile, Father Joe had left the priesthood, married, had two boys, and had begun to abuse one of his own children. His wife refused to act, even on behalf of her own child. This brings back the memory of Susan Smith, who killed her own children to keep her man.
Eventually, the evidence became too overwhelming to hide. Justice was done, no thanks to the Church. As part of their three-card monte priest shuffle, they had conned their flocks with the 180-Paraclete-style rehab-recirc plan. Their power allowed this abuse to continue for decades. In fact, when ADA McCoy brought up the idea of charging the Church as an un-indicted co-conspirator for hiding Father Joe’s crimes and allowing him scope to continue his abuses, Adam Schiff, the Jewish, but politically-savvy, District Attorney played by the late Steven Hill, refused to even consider the possibility.
And here in the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction corner, we have Tony Walsh, Ireland’s singing priest who abused hundreds of children. He was treated under this revised rehab-recirc mission of the Servants of the Paraclete, entering “treatment” in 1988, yet kept abusing until his conviction in 1995. Since Law & Order prides itself on stories “ripped from the headlines,” it is quite possible that Walsh did indeed serve as a basic model for the fictional priest in the 1995 episode. He was finally removed from the clerical state in 1996, twenty years after the abuse was first reported. After.
And so it was that Fr. Murphy, who had been removed from St. John’s, was appointed to St. Anne’s Church in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, inland nearly 300 miles north of St John’s location off Lake Michigan. At the same time, Gary had finally confided in his father, who filed a lawsuit. According to the Gary’s lawyer, Murphy supporters began to harass Gary at his home, and a nun “coerced and tricked” Gary into signing a settlement granting him his legal fees and $5000 worth of counseling which, as of filming, the Church had never paid.
Father Thomas Doyle, Doctor of Canon Law, working with the Papal Nuncio in Washington D.C., tried to resolve the growing numbers of complaints by working within the Catholic system. To no avail. When his sincere efforts ran full throttle into the brick wall of Catholic omertà, he went public. As an attorney, he was deeply disturbed that the Church resisted notifying civil authorities about these felonies: “I don’t know what they would have done if it had been a slew of murders” (Using, as a model, the historic silence by Catholic authorities on the slew of murders allegedly committed by past popes, I think I know.). Seated in a comfortable wood-appointed study, he noted on tape that the Vatican had first issued injunctions against speaking out in 1866, one hundred years before the boys complained about Fr. Murphy.
Unlike Benedictines Sipe and Wall, Doyle remains in the Church, while also speaking out against its practices in this area, and consulting on clerical abuse cases worldwide. When he first became aware of problems in the 1980s, his reaction, as he recollected on WBUR Radio Boston in 2015, was surprise at the “lack of outrage” in the Church. In April 2014, he reported his impressions to the Royal Commission in Australia where then-Archbishop George Pell unapologetically detailed the Church’s actions to demonize a former abuse victim. They did this even though the Church believed that victim, John Ellis, now an attorney, had indeed been abused.
WARNING! WARNING! In May 2018, I’m watching MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes when guest Eric Lipton, a reporter for the The New York Times, mentions a certain Cardinal Pell. I think, “Wait, don’t I know that name?” Of course I do.
Pell had had a secret meeting with Scott Pruitt, Tr*mp’s erstwhile Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency who, at that time, was busily destroying the environment. The meeting at La Terrazza, a five-star restaurant in Rome, was apparently covered up after Pell was charged with sexual abuse of children only three weeks later. Soooo, it’s clear Pell wasn’t exactly a disinterested party in the study of abuse in Australia. Less than a year after the Commission’s report was publicized, Pell himself was under investigation. And on top of that, he’s a climate change denier. Lord help us all. I wonder if his prison is in the path of the devastating wildfires now engulfing Australia.
Pell was rewarded for trying to keep things quiet and discrediting accusers, as is typical, becoming a Cardinal and Vatican treasurer, making him the third-highest ranked man in Church hierarchy. Yet, in December 2018, he was found guilty of five counts of abuse against members of the Melbourne Cathedral boys’ choir. I imagine the silencing of angelic voices. I imagine a choir of Terry Kohuts, all with their fists covering their mouths in the ASL symbol for keeping secrets. Other counts, including some in Ballarat, his hometown and a vacation spot sometimes featured in the Miss Fisher series, were dropped before trial.
Of course, despite the unanimous jury conviction, after a trial in which the defendant did not testify, and the appeal, which the defendant lost, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) re-litigated the case online, defaming the main witness. It’s worth noting that each of Australia’s states has some version of the “right to silence,” a concept similar to the U.S. “right to remain silent,” meaning that defendants’ decisions not to testify on their own behalf is not to be read as evidence of guilt. You can tell, though, that the CNA had trouble justifying why the priest wouldn’t speak up, weakly suggesting that the defense team was expensive so he should follow their advice and that they were afraid he might not just stick to simple matters of fact. The obvious fear that Pell might tell the whole truth is certainly telling.
The initial questioning of Cardinal Pell was videotaped. This video footage was included as part of another documentary, Guilty: The Conviction of Cardinal Pell, produced by Journeyman Pictures. It is narrated in part, by Louise Milligan, an investigative reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, who eventually wrote Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, a work that won Australia’s highest journalism award, the Walkley Foundation “Book of the Year,” among other plaudits.
Milligan, who has a law degree, called it, “the toughest story I’ve ever done” that “pales into comparison with what this ordeal has been like for the people who made complaints about George Pell.” Interestingly, in her bio on the Melbourne University Publishing website, someone felt compelled to say that “Milligan is Irish-born and was raised a devoted Catholic.”
Thinking this little bio might be an attempt to legitimize work that criticizes Catholicism, I did a little spot check of other MUP author bios to see if it were common to add these personal notes and found an inconsistent, though not uncommon, pattern. One foreign correspondent’s bio included information on his kidney transplant, which was not relevant to his book topics. A newspaper columnist’s bio only stated how many books she had written and how many languages they had been translated into. Full stop.
As Pell is made aware of the specific allegations against him, he looks both unsurprised and unashamed in the video. About thirty minutes into watching the film on YouTube, I was searching another internet window for information on SANO, the Australian task force with an expansive mandate specifically
established to investigate historic and new allegations that have emanated from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into child sex abuse involving Religious and Non-Government organisations. The task force will also coordinate investigations emerging from the Australian Government Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
As I looked at the other window, I listened to Pell. His voice sounded outraged but there was something missing, so I went to the video window and backed up. His body language told its own story. Aside from what appeared to be a little smile of pride or smirk when he gave his address as “number one, Piazza della Tuttaglianina, in Rome” his facial expression was mostly blank, no flashes of anger in the eyes, or grimace in the mouth muscles.
But I found that you can’t read too much into into that. A review of his past televised Christmas messages and Ash Wednesday homilies shows that an expressionless face with hesitant phrasing, odd accent patterns, and minimal vocal energy is just his style. More telling is how he hugged himself, much like Donald Tr•mp hugs himself on camera when he’s scared-lying (as opposed to one of his other multiplicity of lying modes like boast-lying, bully-lying, racebait-lying, etc.).
But let’s return to Fr. Doyle who, like most others who have stood up to Church hierarchy, has been punished for his integrity, having been removed from his cushy Embassy position. From a high-powered canon law expert, he became an Air Force chaplain. But as a consultant and attorney for SNAP (Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests), he continues his joint mission of comfort to, and justice for, survivors.