|That's no halo; it's a big ZERO!|
Even church leaders admit it: One of the glaring gaps in the sex-abuse reforms is the lack of a system to report and investigate allegations against bishops.
It was obvious in the years between the first reports of Cardinal McCarrick’s misconduct — his sexual relationships with seminarians and younger priests — and his July resignation.
It has since become obvious, too, in how the church dealt with West Virginia’s longtime bishop, Michael Bransfield.
Raised in a family of prominent Philadelphia clerics, Bransfield had built a reputation as a reliable Vatican fund-raiser and spent two decades climbing the ladder at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. In 2005, he was named bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. [Editor's Comment: Are Church politics the same as in the secular world where powerful lobbyists BUY politicians? Is that how Maxine Waters and the Clintons became a millionaires? Was Bransfield made a bishop because he was a "reliable Vatican fundraiser?]
Two years later, church leaders in Philadelphia fielded a complaint from a man who said Bransfield had sexually abused him in the late 1970s, when he was a teen and the priest a teacher at Lansdale Catholic High School.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, then Philadelphia’s archbishop, quietly alerted law enforcement authorities, who deemed the case too old to be prosecuted. Rigali never shared the allegation with his local church review board — as was required by the zero-tolerance policy promulgated in Dallas — or announced it to the region’s 1.5 million Catholics.
Five years passed before the claim became public, and then only during an unrelated trial of a monsignor accused of helping the Philadelphia Archdiocese conceal the misconduct of predator priests. One witness testified that he had endured abuse decades earlier at the hands of one of Bransfield’s friends, an infamous Philadelphia priest named Stanley Gana, and that Bransfield knew about it.
In written statements issued by his diocesan spokesperson, Bransfield disputed that claim — and that he had ever abused anyone.
One witness testified that Michael Bransfield, the West Virginia bishop, knew about the abuse he had endured decades earlier as a teen at the hands of one of Bransfield’s friends, the Rev. Stanley Gana. Bransfield disputed that claim — as well as allegations that he himself had committed abuse.
But the headlines added to what had been years of whispers in his West Virginia diocese of 78,000 Catholics, where Bransfield was reputed to have a fondness for young, attractive seminarians, among them some he promoted into positions typically reserved for more experienced clerics.
One priest recalled a dinner he and other then-seminarians attended with Bransfield at a Washington restaurant in the mid-2000s. The bishop, he said, hovered “unusually close” to another young student, even drinking from the same glass of wine.
“It made me really uncomfortable,” said the priest, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “I was thinking, ‘Was [this student] even old enough to be drinking?'"
There were other ways, too, that Bransfield stood out in Wheeling, amid the hardscrabble hills of Appalachia.
His bishop’s mansion there boasted a personal chef, a 13-foot sunken bar, and a 100-square-foot wine cellar. He entertained around an ornate dining-room table, custom-built and shipped in from the United Kingdom. He ordered horses for a rural pastoral center so he could watch them out the window as he ate, according to visitors and diocesan staffers.
The bishop lived “like an Arab sheik,” said the Rev. Jim Sobus, a priest no longer in the diocese.
Still, few spoke up about Bransfield, perhaps because of his power.
“You take a vow of obedience to [your bishop],” said the Rev. Bekeh U. Ukelina, who served under Bransfield but is now on a leave of absence. “You implicitly understand a bishop can destroy you.” [Editor's Comment: As happened to Fr. James Haley when he crossed Bishop Paul Loverde over the homosexual priest problem in the Diocese of Arlington.]
Indeed, the concerns about Bransfield remained beneath the radar until a larger controversy engulfed the church, one that appeared to have emboldened alleged victims to come forward.
McCarrick’s resignation this summer — after decades of claims from accusers in New Jersey and New York — was a hallmark event, the ouster of the highest-ranking U.S. prelate, a cardinal, over sex-abuse allegations.
Soon after, at least three priests came forward with claims that Bransfield had subjected them to unwanted sexual advances and physical contact, according to one person familiar with the church’s ongoing investigation.
Officials have since set up a hotline to field complaints just about Bransfield; more than 75 calls have come in, alleging misconduct in West Virginia, Washington, and Philadelphia that stretches back decades.
Bransfield abruptly resigned in September, a few days past his 75th birthday, after what the U.S. Bishops Conference described only as accusations of “sexual harassment of adults.” (11/4/18/. Philadelphia Inquirer)How did Bransfield manage to carry out his misdeeds for so long? It was the result of two Ecclesiastical concepts: Obedience and Secrecy.
In terms of Obedience, priests at their ordination promise Obedience to the ordaining bishop and his successors.
Secrecy at the level of the diocese (local Church) while not promised at a priest’s ordination is presumed as a part of being Obedient.
However, WHAT IS ONE TO DO WHEN THESE CONCEPTS CLASH WITH THE BASIC GOSPEL REQUIREMENTS OF A SHEPHERD AND OF EVERY BAPTIZED CHRISTIAN?
Archbishop Vigano was faced with this very question:
September 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò explained in his new testimony released yesterday why he broke his promise of pontifical secrecy in revealing that Pope Francis had knowingly restored now ex-Cardinal McCarrick to a position of influence.
“Certainly, some of the facts that I was to reveal were covered by the pontifical secret that I had promised to observe and that I had faithfully observed from the beginning of my service to the Holy See,” Viganò stated.
“But the purpose of any secret, including the pontifical secret, is to protect the Church from her enemies, not to cover up and become complicit in crimes committed by some of her members,” he continued.
“I was a witness, not by my choice, of shocking facts and, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (par. 2491), the seal of secrecy is not binding when very grave harm can be avoided only by divulging the truth. Only the seal of confession could have justified my silence.
The "pontifical secret" is a pledge of confidentiality taken by some employees of the Vatican Curia and the Vatican diplomatic corps and occasionally by others, for example, those privy to information about the process leading to the choice of a new pope.Nabi Sayeth: In light of the current sexual abuse scandal in our Church, perhaps it is time to re-think the requirement of Obedience and secrecy.
According to canon law, "Business of the Roman Curia at the service of the universal Church is officially covered by ordinary secrecy, the moral obligation of which is to be gauged in accordance with the instructions given by a superior or the nature and importance of the question. But some matters of major importance require a particular secrecy, called 'pontifical secrecy', and must be observed as a grave obligation.”
Pontifical secrecy has been the subject of great controversy in recent years because it used to pertain to the Church’s internal investigation of clerical sexual abuse of minors. Meant to protect the dignity of all involved, this provision has been eased to allow for the involvement of police. However, the oath of secrecy is still controversial, as it includes a promise not to break confidentiality even if it would bring about a greater good.
Recently Father Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press told LifeSiteNews that he thought this part of the oath might be immoral.
“I do think that there is a role in life--and in the Church--for confidentiality, and for respect for privacy, and for secrecy,” he said. “At the same time I think it can be abused. And I think it has been abused in many cases when there are embarrassing facts that are hidden merely to prevent people from being embarrassed.”
How many incidents of sexual abuse were covered up because of the need to be “Obedient” to one’s bishop?
How much information is known by certain priests, such as the priest mentioned above who observed perverted behavior by Bransfield at a Washington restaurant?
And what about the chancery Monsignors? If only the walls could talk at the 14 million dollar new mansion! I do believe their “Obedience” to Bransfield was motivated more by expediency, a selfish desire to protect their own climbing hides. THEY CHOSE TO KEEP SECRETS OF AN IMMORAL NATURE AND IN DOING SO THEY SINNED AGAINST OUR LORD AND BETRAYED THE TRUST OF THE PEOPLE OF WEST VIRGINIA.
They can use the Obedience argument/defense until the “cows come home”. But as the hunters say, “That duck don’t fly.”
And what about the Diocesan attorney? If he is the Catholic that he claims to be WHAT WOULD MOTIVATE HIM TO REMAIN SILENT AND BE OBEDIENT TO A CORRUPT BISHOP WHEN THE WELL BEING OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE LIVES OF INNOCENT YOUNG CHURCH MEMBERS ARE AT STAKE?
Or in other words, WHEN DO RIGHTEOUSNESS, COMPASSION, HONESTY AND TRUTH TRUMP OBEDIENCE TO THE ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGE?
This question is addressed in the Philadelphia Inquirer article (quoted above) regarding the relationship between now retired bishop Flynn and his (then) newly hired attorney, Jennifer Hassleberger:
“In 2014, a dozen years after Flynn had stood before a bouquet of microphones to trumpet the (Church sexual abuse) reforms, his words were being recorded again – this time in a legal deposition.
That day, Flynn repeated more than 130 times that he could not recall how he handled abuse cases during the 13 years he led his Minnesota archdiocese. Even a high-profile case that drew national attention — involving a priest who abused nine boys — had eluded his memory.
Flynn, then 81, attributed his answers to the forgetfulness of old age; critics saw them as evasive.
By the time Flynn faced the lawyer’s questioning, he had already made one appointment that proved fateful in revealing many more abuse allegations against priests.
Before Flynn retired, he hired canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger, who would later become an adviser to Flynn’s successor, John Nienstedt.
Some of the records that crossed her desk horrified her, she said: Reports of a priest with pornography on his computer. Another imprisoned for criminal sexual misconduct and theft. Warnings and concerns to Nienstedt that had been all but ignored.
“I saw the hierarchy just completely disrespecting on every level the needs of the people they were serving,” Haselberger said during an interview in St. Paul.
Consider the case of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer.
Flynn ordained Wehmeyer in 2001 despite concerns expressed by his seminary supervisors, who feared he was not up to the demands of being a priest, court records show.
Haselberger warned Nienstedt not to promote him. In 2009, the bishop ignored her advice, naming him pastor of two merged parishes.
The Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer abused two brothers, 12 and 14, during a camping trip, leading to his conviction on molestation and child pornography charges.
The following summer, Wehmeyer sexually abused two brothers, 12 and 14, during a camping trip — assaults that eventually led to his conviction on molestation and child-pornography charges.
By that time, Haselberger had had enough.
“I think the psychological term would be nonstop moral distress,” she said in an interview. “YOU KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT THING TO DO IS, but the organization’s conditions do not allow you to do that.”
She quit in protest in 2013 and took her concerns to the office of St. Paul’s top prosecutor, Ramsey County Attorney John J. Choi.”Nabi Sayeth: I do believe there are numerous people within the dioceses’ hierarchical structure whose consciences are severely scarred due to “NONSTOP MORAL DISTRESS” including the chancery Monsignors, the Diocesan attorney, and the lay chancery staff. They will carry wounds from the nonstop moral distress to their graves and then they must face the Divine and Just Judge from whom there is no escape ….
Luke 17: 1-2…
He said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”
The most painful part of it all lies in the fact that Bransfield was allowed to roam free, unchecked, because of their self-serving “OBEDIENCE”, all the while doing harm to many people, especially our young.
Nabi Sayeth: THE SECRECY MUST STOP...It’s time, for attorney, chef, lay department heads, fired employees, chancery Monsignors, priests young and old...to cast off the veil of secrecy and speak out. Your eternal salvation depends upon it….