Sunday, November 28, 2010

SNAP Responds to Archbishop Nienstedt


For immediate release: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,

[NOTE: The links in this media release have been added by The Progressive Catholic Voice.]

Hundreds of men and women who were molested by priests and betrayed by bishops have done exactly what this brave man is doing – using America’s time-tested justice system to warn parents and the public about a child predator and expose his complicit colleagues. Never before, however, has a Minnesota Catholic bishop tried to make a victim pay for court costs in such a case.

So why is Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Neinstedt taking this unprecedented step of trying to force an alleged child sex abuse victim to pay $64,000 for archdiocesan legal costs? We believe Neinstedt wants to punish this victim for trying to get names of other predator priests exposed. And Neinstedt wants to scare other victims into staying silent.

The victim won the first round in court. Last month, Neinstedt won the second round, by getting a judge to toss the case out on the statute of limitations. On Monday, Neinstedt formally asked the same judge to make the alleged victim give the money to the church for its legal costs.

Taking this mean-spirited and intimidating step now is Neinstedt’s way of trying to force the victim to give up his appeal. We believe Neinstedt knows that stunning evidence of recklessness, callousness and deceit will surface if this case goes forward.

This is not really about the actions of Fr. Thomas Adamson. He’s long been a predator. He’s been sued several times before. His victims have gotten settlements. He’s been suspended from active ministry. As awful as his crimes are, sadly, in this church, they’re basically routine.

This is really about the actions of Archbishop Neinstedt, who claims to care about his flock but is choosing secrecy over openness, and causing more harm to the already wounded instead of ameliorating the harm that we are already suffering.

This summer, Pope Benedict pledged to “do everything possible” to stop future clergy sex crimes.

That’s what this brave victim is doing – trying to prevent future clergy sex crimes by Adamson and other pedophile priests.

And the Pope told a group of bishops “It is important to establish the truth of what happened” in the church’s abuse and cover up crisis.

That’s what this brave victim is doing – trying to establish, in court, the truth about which current and former archdiocesan staff saw, suspected and knew about Adamson’s crimes but hid them.

Neinstedt evidently cares little about stopping future clergy sex crimes. Why else would he be using his lawyers to hide the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests?

Neinstedt evidently cares little about establishing “the truth of what happened.” Why else would he be trying to stop this case from moving ahead in the courts?

Given the Pope’s positive comments about abuse, there are really only two possibilities. Either bishops like Neinstedt know that the Pope is merely posturing, and really wants bishops to ignore and conceal child sex crimes like they’ve done for decades. Or Neinstedt disagrees with the Pope. We hope Neinstedt will

So why is Neinstedt attacking this brave victim in this way? The logical explanation – he’s trying to punish this brave victim for trying to discover and disclose the identities of other local predator priests. Or Neinstedt is trying to intimidate other victims from coming forward. Or he is trying to do both.

We in SNAP believe it’s immoral for a bishop to exploit legal technicalities and hide behind an arbitrary, archaic and predator-friendly statute of limitations. A profit-making secular businessman might do this. But it’s just wrong for a professed spiritual figure to do so.

If Neinstedt believes Adamson did not, in fact, sexually assault this boy, then Neinstedt should fight on the merits, not on the technicalities. He should give this alleged victim his day in court.

Let’s be clear: Neinstedt isn’t breaking any laws. He’s perfectly within his legal rights to try and force this victim to pay $64,000. But by doing this, he’s revealing who he really is – a cold-hearted CEO masquerading as a caring shepherd.

Maybe, just maybe, if an obvious liar maliciously brings a patently false lawsuit against a clearly innocent cleric, Neinstedt might have a leg to stand on using such vicious tactics. This, however, is anything but such a lawsuit.

No one claims this victim is not credible. Virtually no one claims Adamson is innocent. Few claim that church officials never had any inkling of Adamson’s crimes. In fact, in this very case, one judge found such compelling evidence of church cover up that she sided with the alleged victim, giving him the chance to seek punitive damages against the archdiocese. So by any standard, this is a solid case against a proven predator.

It is anything but some frivolous lawsuit. It’s an admirable effort by a brave but deeply wounded man to expose predators, protect kids, warn parents, deter wrongdoing, help victims and achieve healing and closure. And it’s apparently provoking an unprecedented, un-Christian, mean-spirited response from alleged spiritual figure.

We believe Neinstedt will fail in this awful move. And we hope that his callousness and recklessness will prod others with information about clergy sex crimes and cover ups – by Adamson or any cleric – to speak up, get help, safeguard children and start recovering.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747,, Peter Isely (414-429-7259,, Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell,

Recommended Off-site Links:
Archdiocese Seeks $64K in Abuse Case - Rose French (Star Tribune, November 24, 2010).
Next Installment of Nienstedt Story in Minnesota: From Gay Bashing to Bashing Survivors of Clerical Abuse - William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, November 28, 2010).
Why Does Clerical Sexual Abuse Always Stay at the Clerical Level? - Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, November 28, 2010).
How the Church is Failing Abuse Survivors - Kim Michele Richardson (The Huffington Post, November 26, 2010).

See also the previous PCV articles:
Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Victims: “You Can’t Get Healing in a Court of Law” - Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, February 2008).
More on the Statute of Limitations - Mary Hasbrouck (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 2010).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quote of the Day

Lost in [the] hubbub [over the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] is the fact that Dolan will be taking over an association of bishops that has been greatly weakened by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The downgrading of bishops' conferences around the world followed a period after Vatican II when the conferences, spurred on by the Council, became friskier, bolder and more independent from Rome's control. The idea that local (national) churches should heed the signs of the times of their own surroundings was temporarily in full bloom.

It was during that period of two decades that the U.S. bishops wrote their most memorable pastoral letters, one on the nuclear arms race, the other on the nation's economy that underscored the shame of poverty.

They were heading for a third letter on women but that effort ended in perhaps inevitable shambles. By then, John Paul II had begun to curb the growing initiatives by the conferences on grounds that conferences had assumed authority that rightfully belonged to Rome. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was his able assistant in that effort.

From then to now, the conference's ability to do anything on its own has been virtually suspended. The conference does nothing that isn't rubber stampable by the Vatican.

Stripped of nearly all autonomy, the U.S. conference does the bidding of its hierarchical superiors. Dolan can act at best as a polished ambassador who can employ persuasion but doesn't set policy. His advice to Rome will most certainly serve to formulate strategies to convince wary Catholics that the church has been right all along rather than to challenge the policies of church authorities in the name of American Catholic insight.

– Ken Briggs
"Amidst Dolan Hubbub, Easy to Forget Bishops Are Virtually Powerless"
National Catholic Reporter
November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The "Dumbing Down" of the Roman Catholic Church

By Rev. Robert W. Caruso

Note: The following article by Robert Caruso was published in the November issue of the Minneapolis newspaper Southside Pride. Robert is a partnered gay man and an ordained priest in the Old Catholic Church. He serves as pastor to Cornerstone Old Catholic Community.

The Roman Catholic Church has always been controversial on social issues. In recent years the Roman leadership has spiraled further and further into a more aggressive absolutist, monarchical and judgmental kind of leadership that distinctly and genuinely has embraced a power that is neither pastoral nor loving.

Minnesota's Roman Catholic Archbishop Neinstedt has singled out a persecuted minority group to demonize and bully. As a gay man in a relationship for close to 14 years, and as an ordained Old Catholic priest, I feel compelled to say something for the sake of the Catholic Church and the GLBT community here in the Twin Cities. Let me be clear that I love the Church and believe that the Second Vatican Council was Spirit-driven in a most dynamic way. But I believe the Roman Catholic leadership in Minnesota has imposed extreme injustices on Catholic gay and lesbian persons as well as on progressive Catholics in general.

It is indeed dangerous for us to remain silent or wait for better days within the Catholic Church when such horrible psychological abuse is inflicted upon gay and lesbian persons who merely seek to fully live their lives in harmony and peace with others. It is no longer acceptable to be "bi-partisan" or "non-controversial" on this issue when such psychological abuse from Archbishop Neinstedt is apparent and unapologetic.

The conciliatory renewal that was to occur in the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church has gone stagnant. The pastoral constitution of "Gaudium et Spes" ("Joy and Hope") has all but been ignored by Pope Benedict and more locally by Archbishop Neinstedt. It is clear that the church's fidelity to persons having a God-given gift of freedom of conscience is a very scary idea for men like them because complex social moral issues such as same-sex marriage indeed require something more than calculated vagaries of fear and manipulation. Dialogue needs to happen, and this can only occur among persons with free consciences. Moreover, Vatican II explicitly proclaims that bishops are called to "direct the energies" of the church "towards its common good" in a manner that is pastoral in character and "not in a mechanical or despotic fashion." (GS, Ch. 4, sec. 74)

The recent political actions of Archbishop Neinstedt, the mailing of 400,000 DVDs in opposition to the civil rights movement of same-sex marriage, are grotesque, to say the least. Neinstedt's DVD message is but one example among others of what many Catholics and non-Catholics believe is the systematic "dumbing down" of the Roman Catholic Church. The message contained in the DVD was neither theological nor intelligent, but deceptively political in singling out gay and lesbian persons.

I will no longer participate in the "dumbing down" of the Catholic Church I grew up with and love. We are the church of Ireaneus, Tertullian and Gregory of Nyssa; we are a church that cherishes a pastorally reasonable and coherent tradition! We are a Christian tradition that is comprised primarily of eucharistic table communities where worship reminds us that we live in an ordered creation that moves Christians to love in generosity and nonviolence. The Roman Catholic leadership has clearly ostracized Catholic gay and lesbian persons from the eucharistic table! It is time to celebrate our Catholic faith apart from the Roman Catholic leadership — it is time for us progressive Catholics to form eucharistic table communities as a "counter-structure" from the Roman leadership.

The spirit of Vatican II is not dead, but alive in those of us who seek to fully live our lives as the People of God, regardless of sexual orientation.

That is to say, the spirit of Vatican II continues to move beyond the denominational borders of Roman Catholicism! Our hope, our joy is our coming together as a eucharistic community where the tradition of the church is not "dumbed down," but enriched and transformed in the communion of the Spirit!

Recommended Off-site Links:
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 1)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 2)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 3)
The Old Catholic Church: Catholicism Beyond Rome - An interview with Robert Caruso.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Cultures: Vatican and American

By Doug Rodel

Editors’ Note: We will be publishing some of the papers presented by work/study group members at the Synod of the Baptized, September 18, 2010, sponsored by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). We are Catholics who want to become more informed about our Church’s history and theology. We do not claim to be experts and would appreciate correction and comment from people who are more informed than we are. Open a free Google account if you do not already have one and comment on our stories. Thank you.

I wish to discuss how two very distinct identities I carry – American citizen and Roman Catholic believer – coexist, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in tension.

If we go back to the early 1960’s when I, like many of you, came of age in both traditions – American and Catholic - we remember two charismatic Johns: President John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII. And we remember it was a great time to be an American Catholic. The United States elected its first Catholic president. Our Catholic schools were flourishing. And the 800 private Catholic hospitals were among our nation’s finest healthcare facilities.

What accounted for these robust Catholic institutions in America? For more than a century, Catholics had worried that their immigrant faith would be lost in this new land of freedom and opportunity. To safeguard the faith, the American bishops recommended minimal cooperation with non-Catholics, and they created a powerful parallel culture of Catholic institutions, namely, schools, hospitals and social service agencies such as Catholic Charities, to provide for the temporal needs of their immigrant communities.

But as early as the 1930’s, and especially after World War II, political forces that would change this face of American Catholicism began coalescing. John Kennedy campaigned and won election by eloquently taking the nation to the edge of what he called The New Frontier with its challenges of “unfulfilled hopes and dreams.” Many of these hopes and dreams became reality upon Kennedy’s death when President Johnson channeled the nation’s grief into implementing The Great Society triumphs – civil rights, the war on poverty, education reform, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as consumer and environmental protections. These Great Society programs were a natural outgrowth of FDR’s New Deal, and both embody many tenets of Catholic social justice teachings established in the writings of the popes, American Catholic intellectuals and American bishops.

But why am I talking about Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society? Because they represented significant external forces that caused the American church to change. As a consequence of these historic programs, American government accepted more and more responsibility for the temporal needs of its citizens. From this time onward we saw the movement away from the parallel Catholic institutions. For example, Catholic social service agencies now became collaborators with the government. Henceforth, the new challenge for the American Catholic church was to figure out how it would become a penetrating presence in American culture as its parallel presence receded.

We may very well find our answer in Rome where Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council saying, “. . . [T]asks of immense gravity and scope await the church. . . . It is a question…of bringing the modern world into contact with the life giving…energies of the Gospel . . .”

John XXIII, just like John F Kennedy, took us to the edge of a new frontier when speaking of the unfulfilled hopes and dreams for the 20th century church. He said it is past time to open the windows and let some fresh air into a stale institution. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Council Fathers got to work creating documents that rang out with the words “freedom” and “liberty.” It becomes evident Vatican II is about optimism and hope for all mankind.

Here it is time to introduce another American Catholic. His face appeared on the cover of Time magazine, December 12, 1960, shortly after JFK’s election. And he is our third John, John Courtney Murray, a Jesuit priest. His lifelong subject of study was the interaction of America and Catholicism. He told us Catholics that we must become more intellectually aware of our “coexistence” in a pluralistic, heavily Protestant society. Time magazine recognized and reinforced Murray’s scholarly claims that America’s public philosophy necessarily rests on a set of natural law principles - principles nurtured and sustained to a large extent by the Catholic tradition. Therefore, Catholicism was not just compatible with the American Experiment, but essential to it.

But John Courtney Murray’s work on religious freedom had angered many in the Vatican and he was virtually silenced by Pope Pius XII. So despite his fame and scholarship Murray was not even asked to participate in the discussions leading up to the First Session of Vatican II. However, very fortunately for us Americans, and for our church, arch-conservative Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York saw to it that Murray was present as an expert at the Second Session. And the rest is history.

The “Declaration on Religious Freedom,” written and rewritten five times by Murray in the midst of contentious Council debate, is the distinctive contribution of the United States to Vatican II. It reaffirmed the most basic principle of Catholic social justice teaching, the dignity of the person. Here belatedly in human history, the bishops affirmed religious freedom as an inalienable right. Remember, the church had condemned religious freedom in the 19th century! Opponents of the declaration did not want to admit that the church had been wrong. Her previous position was that “truth has all the rights and error has no rights.” In practice this meant that because non-Catholics were following an erroneous religion, they had no right to religious freedom, and at best could be tolerated. But, as one Council observer remarked, “This is nonsense. Truth is an abstract concept. People have rights.” The Declaration on Religious Freedom opened the way toward new confidence in ecumenical relationships, and a new straight forwardness in the relationships between the church and the modern world.

This is the good part of the Roman church I can firmly buy into. I can say yes to this church because I believe I am a participating member of the Roman communion, sharing a history and a theology, which recognizes the pope, the bishop of Rome, as the leader of the global church. I believe the papacy is the symbol of unity for this worldwide church. I can understand it is the papacy, both as an office and as a symbol, very similar to our American presidency, that prevents the splintering movement of local churches, spinning off and away from unity with the larger church. In the documents of Vatican II I read that the papacy and the Eucharist together are the twin anchors of Catholic unity. We Catholic Christians are a sacramental people who gather as a community because of Eucharist and for Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no church. Without the papacy, there is only the local church.

My acceptance of some things Roman gets more complicated when we bring a fourth John into this presentation – Pope John Paul II. So much of what he did in relation to the outside world was progressive. He sided with religious tolerance, democracy and human rights. And now some historians are even writing that John Paul, more than any other world leader, was responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union. But paradoxically, his insistence on democracy outside the church did not translate to democracy inside the church. Instead, much of what he did inside the church was stifling, for example, Vatican centralization, obsessive secrecy, strict orthodoxy, minimizing the role of women, and the repeated condemnations of theologians. I find myself angered by a Vatican culture that is modeled on assumptions drawn not from the Bible, but rather from human cultural preferences that are clearly imperialistic, despotic, and paternalistic.

The single outstanding feature of American Catholics is that we expect to have a say in the shape of our church. We no longer believe that our faith is something simply given from above. Those of us who identify ourselves as active, involved and more progressive Catholics say it’s all about our culture, our history and our style. It is the style of our American culture and history to be intensely democratic and fiercely participatory. Therefore as progressive American Catholics we openly call for more democracy in the day-to-day activities of our church, a greater say for all the faithful in the selection of our bishops and pastors, and lay control over financial matters. We have a wide range of expertise which for historical reasons is reserved in church life to the clergy by an outdated Code of Canon Law.

Fifty years ago I bought into the dreams of JFK’s Camelot, and the irrepressible optimism of an Italian pope. An assassin’s bullet killed our President John, but we learned his dream lives on in the historic legislation that helped change the institutional structures of the American church. Today there are those who strive to kill Pope John XXIII’s dream for Vatican II.

So I ask you, are we ready as resolute Americans, and committed Catholics, to step up, to identify actions, and to work for reforms in the spirit of Vatican II that will once again change the institutional structures of our American Catholic church?

Recommended Bibliography

Hehir, J. Bryan, Th.D. Notes from his lecture “Catholic Identity: The Roots, the Relevance and the Realization of the Idea.” Third Annual Lecture and Award, Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity Series, April 23, 2009, College of St Catherine.

Dionne, E.J.,
Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right, Princeton University Press, 2008.

Lakeland, Paul, Church: Living Communion, Liturgical Press, 2009