Monday, February 4, 2019

FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON DIOCESAN REPORTS


On another post, I spoke of the "drip, drip, drip" aspect of the various dioceses throughout the country releasing names of those who are credibly accused  most of them dead or long gone from dioceses. I lamented the fact that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops could have made one big giant bombshell, get it all out there together, and continue to move forward to prevent this kind of mismanagement in the future. But no, they prefer the agonizing drip, drip, drip and interminable press coverage that continues because of the drips.

But another aspect related to a coordinated effort is what information is given when names are released. Thanks be to God our Diocese of Savannah had very few reports of abuse. The most notorious abuser is thankfully in prison for life and we know from press reports, not the diocese, that he was a serial abuser of the worst kind. The others who are reported, we have no information. Are they like Wayland Brown or did they have only one or two reported cases of abuse? As bad as abuse is, some is much more heinous than others. All abusers should not be lumped together.

I read in CRUX this morning a commentary by a man abused by a priest in Texas. This is what he said in part:

Hebert told Crux that he is happy that the list was published, but finds the information on the Austin and Galveston-Houstonwebsites - the two Texas dioceses in which Willemsen served - to be “clinical, hard, [and] cold” due to a lack of details about the assignments of the alleged abusers. He compliments the Archdiocese of San Antonio for being “much more comprehensive,” adding their website “reads like you are speaking with someone who cares and knows that a victim wants to know about their abuser and put their lives back together after having gained some closure to that chapter.”

I have to agree. For some odd reason, I read some of San Antonio's list and found it had details that few other dioceses have. In fact, I discovered from San Antonio's website that one of their Irish Imported priests was accepted by the Diocese of Savannah in the 1960's! He's on our list but with no other details whatsoever. I discovered that he had 10 credible cases of abuse against him and that now he is dead, none of this on our website.

Unfortunately too, my childhood pastor in Augusta, from the time I was in first grade until 12th is on our list but with no details whatsoever. How pervasive was his abuse, what type? I would like to know because now I wonder was he like Wayland Brown or was his a one time event? That matters on many levels!

This is San Antonio's description of this priest who was in Augusta in the 1960's when I was growing up and I remember him as a child. Those of us in our diocese should have known this from our diocese not from another diocese. All of this could have been avoided by a nationally mandated style of reporting. Kudos to San Antonio! Here is what San Antonio said about a priest ending up in my diocese when I was a kid:


O'Sullivan, Michael J. – 10 allegations
Michael J. O’Sullivan was ordained a priest in Ireland in 1955 for the Archdiocese. From 1955- 1965, he was assigned in the Archdiocese to St. Mary in Fredericksburg, to St. Peter in San Antonio, to St. Mary in Victoria, to Blessed Sacrament in San Antonio, and to St. Vincent de Paul in San Antonio. The first known allegation of child sexual abuse against O’Sullivan was made in 1962, while he was assigned at Blessed Sacrament. O’Sullivan was placed under the care of a local psychiatrist, and on his recommendation was assigned to minister at St. Vincent de Paul while his treatment continued. Because it was alleged that he re-offended at St. Vincent de Paul, he was sent for residential treatment to Conyers, Georgia, under the care of a medical doctor. After about a year of this treatment, the doctor proposed that O’Sullivan’s return to ministry would be of service to the community and profitable to his psychotherapeutic progress. In a letter responding to the doctor’s proposal, the Archdiocese refused to accept O’Sullivan in San Antonio, but allowed that another diocese, “with full knowledge of Father’s problem,” might assign him. The Diocese of Savannah, Georgia assigned him to parish work in 1965, and when they learned in 1971 that he had again sexually abused children, the Diocese of Savannah removed his authorization for priestly ministry and asked him to leave their diocese. O’Sullivan returned to his hometown in Ireland. He lived in his parent’s house, but also exercised some priestly ministry over the years and received some assignments from the Diocese of Kerry. The Archdiocese became aware that he was no longer in Savannah in 1973, when the bishop of Savannah copied the Archdiocese on a letter warning the bishop of Kerry about O’Sullivan’s 
history. A visitor from Savannah had encountered O’Sullivan presenting himself as a priest in Ireland, and the letter was intended to ensure that action would be taken to keep him out of ministry. While the Archdiocese removed O’Sullivan from his assignment in San Antonio in 1964 and sent him for psychiatric treatment, the Archdiocese did not formally remove his faculties to minister or forbid him to present himself as a priest until 1994. While no allegations had yet been made against O’Sullivan in Ireland in 1994, since then four allegations have come forward, alleging child sexual abuse in Ireland in the 1970’s. Because the Archdiocese recognized that there was sufficient evidence of abuse to do so, in 2006 Archbishop Gomez referred this case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, seeking O’Sullivan’s laicization (removal from the clerical state). O’Sullivan died in 2013, prior to the resolution of his case. 

2 comments:

TJM said...

Off topic, Father, but did you see this? Hitler must be very upset he lived at the wrong time:


Pope Francis has called on Chinese bishops to show respect and loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party as faithful “members of the Chinese people.”
The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article Sunday in Italian, English, and Chinese, saying that the pope has invited “all the Bishops to renew their total adherence to Christ and to the Church.”

At the same time, “as members of the Chinese people, they are obliged to show respect and loyalty to the civil authorities.”

rcg said...

On the original topic: I am concerned the information the bishops have is not reliable enough to release as a batch yet to the public without causing damage to priests who are unjustly accused. While that has been an excuse in the past for not releasing such files it appears nothing much was done to correct that situation. Rather I think it would be go a long way toward fixing our reputation to find an independent firm competent to review and release the information. It might be a drip, but the names of priests that are clearly disordered can be released to show progress without being reckless concerning the ones we are not certain about.