Program #0210 for Thursday, January 5, 2012: Tenth anniversary of abuse crisis; Romney’s pro-life record defended; Santorum’s near-win; physician-assisted suicide; new head of ex-Anglican ordinariate

January 5, 2012

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Today’s host(s): Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Tenth anniversary of abuse crisis; Romney’s pro-life record defended; Santorum’s near-win; physician-assisted suicide; new head of ex-Anglican ordinariate

Summary of today’s show: In our first news show of the year, Scot Landry and Susan Abbott talk with Fr. Roger Landry and Gregory Tracy about the 10th anniversary of the major eruption of the clergy sex-abuse crisis in Boston, touching on an extensive interview with Cardinal Seán in the Pilot; Pro-life and pro-family leaders in Massachusetts defending Mitt Romney’s record; Rick Santorum’s surprising surge in the Iowa caucuses; the appointment of a leader for the new Ordinariate in the US for ex-Anglicans; and more.

1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show and caught with Susan from her Christmas break. Scot said there’s been a lot of media coverage of the church this week and Cardinal Seán has conducted a number of one-on-one interviews talking about he 10 years since Epiphany in 2002 when it was revealed in the pages of the Boston Globe about John Geoghan and how he was assigned to several parishes after being accused of abuse. Susan said she remembers exactly where she was sitting in her kitchen when she read that article.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Roger and Gregory to the show. He said Antonio Enrique, editor of The Pilot, did perhaps the most detailed interview with the Cardinal, along with several other stories on this anniversary. Greg said it’s a monumental anniversary which has so much meaning for so many. they wanted to give it the coverage it deserves. The interview with the Cardinal tried to delve a little deeper than the letters, but also to cover how he went to Fall River in the 90s during the Fr. Porter case and then what we should do moving forward.

Scot said some people are questioning why we are marking this anniversary this way and Antonio asked the Cardinal about it:

I think that the commitment of the archdiocese to work for the protection of children is an ongoing commitment. Often times we memorialize the tragic events in history so that they will not happen again. I think that this is one of those kinds of things.

Susan said the Cardinal is on target that this is an ongoing commitment and this is a tragic event that needs to be memorialized. Greg said they have received a lot of feedback over the years asking them to stop printing about it in the Catholic newspaper, but they reply that this is a reality that we have to face up to and deal with as a Church.

Scot said there are twelve interview questions in the transcript. Fr. Roger said he was struck by the Cardinal’s candor with a direct answer to a question about whether Cardinal Law should have resigned. Fr. Roger said like Americans won’t forget December 7 or 9/11, Catholics should not forget January 6, where we beg God’s mercy and mark the day with reparations. He encouraged listeners to fast in reparation for the pain of the victims and for the harm done to the Church by this scandal. We need to beg the Lord to draw good out of evil and lead us from darkness to light.

Scot quoted a question of the Cardinal: “Ten years after the scandal broke in Boston, how do you explain the actions, or inactions, of Church officials who did not act swiftly when credible accusations of abuse were reported, often repeatedly?” The Cardinal responded:

As we say, hindsight is always better than foresight. In today’s world we have an awareness of the great harm that is done to victims of child abuse. In the past, I fear, that was not the case. People did not realize how profound the harm was that was visited upon children. The harm, I think, was compounded when the perpetrator was a priest because of the identification of the priest with God, with the sacred, and, therefore, besides the psychological damage it also did grave spiritual damage.

Then lists many other reasons as well:

But I think there was a lot of ignorance of these kinds of things. It became clear to me that, in the case of Father Porter, the bishop at the time, every time there was a complaint, he sent him to a mental health facility and there the psychologists were telling the bishop that he was cured, that he could be returned to (ministry) – absurd things – but at the time even the psychologists were giving that kind of advice. So I think all that contributed to the terrible decisions that were made.

There was also an exaggerated fear of scandal and trying to protect the institution. And I think, too, just in the culture at the time there was a lot of denial of this problem. People did not speak of these kinds of things – ever – even though it was like the elephant in the middle of the living room. I think Wl see reflections of that in the reporting on the case in Pennsylvania, where people just didn’t want to deal with it, didn’t want to face it. Even though they saw it, they were denying it. There was an unwillingness to grapple with the ugliness of this problem.

Scot said it’s still ugly today, but the Cardinal as much as any bishop in the Church,. has spent the last 15 to 20 years of his life meeting with survivors of abuse and helping now his third diocese overcome these problems. Greg said in 2002 the Pilot made a special issue when the crisis first broke, trying to get a handle on what this meant. He recalled that until March, people thought this was one horrible case that came to light and it would pass, but then it became clear it was not an isolated incident. Even then people were already saying these same things about there being a great ignorance about these matters in the past. Greg said society has come a long way and we need to keep this in its historical perspective. These things didn’t all occur ten years ago. Ten years ago, the tragedies that occurred mainly in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were brought to light at one moment.

Scot said seeing the progress made in the past 10 years makes him proud. We’ve trained 300,000 children and 175,000 adults in safe environment education. He said 575 young people have come forward to reveal that they’re being abused by someone in their life. Susan recalled how the archdiocese brought together people of various disciplines to form a special committee to bring together materials to provide training for the children and adults. Susan said in the Office for Religious Education they went through a lot of displaced anger because they found their office under attack for promoting the implementation of safety programs for children.

Scot said the Cardinal in his letter asked the media and other organizations to contextualize the abuse, by not treating every instance of abuse as if it was a present occurrence and by giving special emphasis to abuse in the Catholic Church and not giving regard to the problem that this is a societal problem. Fr. Roger said for priests, when all these abuses were treated as if they just happened, were subjected to many indignities and suspicions. The Church needs to be treated just like any other institution when accusations of these kinds come up.

Fr. Roger said the fact that those with secular mindsets treat the Church differently is an implied recognition that the Church should be held to a higher standard, the standard applied by Christ.

Scot said these wounds are still raw for victims and their families, all priests in a particular way, and all laity. We should pray for everyone who will go through a difficult time this week.

3rd segment: Scot said anyone who’s seen the TV this week know that the US presidential primary season is in full swing. He said many critics of former Mass. governor Mitt Romney have alleged that he wasn’t a strong defender of life or family issues in Massachusetts. Nine leaders in pro-life and pro-family matters in Massachusetts have come out to set the record straight about Romney.

Fr. Roger said his reaction is that the defense was too strong. Romney’s record in Mass. was mixed and they should have just combatted lies. He would like to hear Romney explain what he thinks he didn’t do enough. On same-sex marriage, Fr. Roger thinks Romney should have refused to order city clerks to issue marriage licenses and bring about a constitutional crisis over the ability of the Supreme Judicial Court to order same-sex marriage. On the other hand, he did do a lot of the pro-life, pro-family message and could have done more.

Susan said before Fr. Roger just spoke, she would have trusted the signatories to this letters based on her knowledge of their reputations. The signatories included “Raymond L. Flynn and Mary Ann Glendon, both former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See, as well as the former executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Gerald D. D’Avolio.”

Scot said one of the things that came out of the Iowa caucuses was that Rick Santorum, a pro-life Catholic, did so well in the voting, ending up within eight votes of Romney. Greg said Santorum appealed to the Christian conservatism of Iowa in a particular way and his defense of the family. While Greg personally would like to see Santorum become president, he thinks the voters of New Hampshire may not respond in a similar way and may not become the GOP nominee. But the fact that he came so close in Iowa shows that there’s a thirst for the pro-life, pro-family message that isn’t being supported by other candidates.

Scot said he’s never seen Rick Santorum ever dilute his conservatism on the pro-life issue. He asked Fr. Roger if Santorum will hear criticism of his pro-life views during the primary. Fr. Roger said Santorum will be cast as an extremist because he doesn’t include a rape or incest exception for abortion. He may receive flask for statements from those supportive of the gay agenda reacting to his views of the gay agenda as harmful to America.

Also from the Pilot this week is an obituary of Fr. Thomas Fleming, who was ordained in 1959. He served as Army chaplain in Vietnam, Korea, and Germany during the Vietnam conflict.

In the Anchor, Fr. Roger said there will be a lot of focus on the Church’s teaching on physician-assisted suicide. The Anchor noted that the Mass. Medical Society came out now in opposition to the practice and they wanted to be sure Catholics knew that Massachusetts doctors were not in favor of this proposed law.

Also in the Pilot is a story about the forming of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which encompasses the United States for ex-Anglican parishes that become Catholic. It’s like a diocese in function and is based in Houston. The first ordinary, who is not a Catholic bishop, is a former Episcopalian bishop.

Scot noted that Fr. Jeffrey Steenson is not a bishop, and doesn’t have the power to ordain, but in most other respects has the same powers as a bishop. Greg pointed out he’s not eligible to be a bishop because he’s married. Fr. Roger said it’s part of Pope Benedict’s response to Christ’s prayer that “all would be one” and reuniting Christians under one Church.

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