Meet the “Catholic Whistleblowers,” Learn the Fate of Father Fugee, and Revisit “Lying for Jesus”

You may recall the recent goings on in the Archdiocese of Newark related to the scandal of sexual abuse of minors. Well, a number of priests and religious have banded together to form a posse of sorts, and they call their little band of brethren the Catholic Whistleblowers. Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times shares the story up about them.

They call themselves Catholic Whistleblowers, a newly formed cadre of priests and nuns who say the Roman Catholic Church is still protecting sexual predators.

Although they know they could face repercussions, they have banded together to push the new pope to clean house and the American bishops to enforce the zero-tolerance policies they adopted more than a decade ago.

The group began organizing quietly nine months ago without the knowledge of their superiors or their peers, and plan to make their campaign public this week. Most in the steering group of 12 have blown the whistle on abusers in the past, and three are canon lawyers who once handled abuse cases on the church’s behalf. Four say they were sexually abused as children.

Their aim, they say, is to support both victims and fellow whistle-blowers, and identify shortcomings in church policies. They hope to help not just minors, but also adults who fall prey to clergy who exploit their power for sex. They say that their motivation is to make the church better and safer, and to show the world that there are good priests and nuns in the church.

“We’ve dedicated our lives to the church,” the Rev. John Bambrick, a priest in the Diocese of Trenton, said at a meeting of the group last week in New York. “Having sex offenders in ministry is damaging to our ministry.”

The group has sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to take several significant steps to heal victims and restore the church’s credibility: revoke all oaths of secrecy, open the files on abuse cases, remove from office any bishops who obstructed justice and create an international forum for dialogue between survivors and church leaders.

The Catholic Church in the United States put in place a zero-tolerance policy and a host of prevention programs after the abuse scandal peaked in 2002. Each year the bishops commission an audit of abuse cases, and this year’s survey, released May 9, found the fewest allegations and victims since the audits began in 2004.

But the whistle-blowers’ group contends that vigilance is necessary because some bishops are violating the zero-tolerance policies, and abusive clergy (who now number 6,275, according to the bishops’ count of those accusations that they deem credible) still have access to children. They point to the revelations in the last month that a priest in Newark who was a convicted sex offender restricted by a court order from working with children had been ministering in a Catholic parish in Trenton, taking confessions from children and going on weekend youth retreats.

Several of the whistle-blowers have been vocal about that priest, the Rev. Michael Fugee. Along with some New Jersey politicians, they have called for the resignation of the archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers. They fault Archbishop Myers not only for failing to restrict Father Fugee, but also for appointing him to help direct the education of priests in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Myers’s spokesman said the archbishop was unaware of the priest’s activities, and is cooperating with an investigation by the Bergen County prosecutor. Father Fugee left the ministry, and on Monday was arrested on charges that he violated a judicial order by having contact with minors. The bishop of Trenton, David M. O’Connell, removed another priest and two youth ministers from the parish in Trenton where Father Fugee worked with youth.

The Newark case, as well as the release of personnel records on priests by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and convictions of church officials in Philadelphia and Kansas City, convinced the whistle-blowers’ group that they have work to do despite the optimistic picture in the bishops’ audits. They do not consider the bishops’ audits credible because they are based on self-reporting.

Read the rest.

I don’t really know if the actions taken by Archbishop Myers tripped the switch on these folks deciding to band together. The impetus to do something had probably been building for a while. But if it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so be it.

Back when Fr. Michael Fugee resigned his priesthood, I explained that everyone loses when these tragic events occur. And the damages are exacerbated when they are covered up.

Guess what? As of yesterday, the leadership failures in the Archdiocese of Newark have resulted in the arrest of Fr. Fugee for violation of the protection orders he promised to abide by a few years ago, and was allowed to ignore.

Lately, the Catholic blogosphere has been debating perennial theological arguments around the telling of lies, using the often trotted out example of Nazi’s at your door. Some take umbrage at using the word “lie” and “liar” because these words point straight towards sin, aka “missing the mark.” Don’t use the word “lie,” the Machiavellian Catholic types argue. They prefer using words like, outfox,  fool, trick, outsmart, etc.

The reason for the discussion is the latest Live Action sting videos,  which use deceptive tactics that many feel are justified, while many others think the sting operations do more harm than good. I lean towards the latter argument and the reason isn’t because of Nazi’s at my door. It’s because of the pedophile priests in our parishes and how the hierarchy mishandled these fallen men.

Frankly, they lied about them. Or you could try to assuage your conscience and say that they outfoxed, fooled, tricked, or outsmarted their parishioners, and the authorities, in an attempt to prevent bringing harm to the Church.

And if anyone had any bent of theological knowledge (note: we’re dealing with theologically educated folks here), and noticed how the Catechism used to say one thing about lying, and now another, etc., well then the theological arguments used to bolster the acceptance of the tactics of Live Action work equally well in the case of arguments that lying to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church is licit.

Wouldn’t they? Hmmmm. Yeah. We all know how well that turned out. Like a train wreck of epic proportions. A string of train wrecks all over the globe, in every clime and place. Like a nonstop loop of Thomas the Tank Engine episodes.

Lies, see, always result in making a bad situation worse. The ends do not justify the means, because the end sought is not the end gained when resorting to lies. Just ask Father Fugee, the Catholic Whistle Blowers, and the victims of the abuses suffered at the hands of errant priests, added to more suffering compounded by the ham-handed attempts at the cover-ups that sought to keep these scandalous problems quiet.

Trying to resort to Natural Law, humanist ethics, lack of papal decrees, etc.,  as the basis for arguing why lies can be used licitly in certain circumstances flies in the face of the overwhelming, and divinely revealed, message repeated over and over in the scriptures, traditions, and teachings of the Church that lying, in all it’s impersonations and guises, is wrong.

It’s as obvious as Adam & Eve tying together fig leaves to cover their nakedness was to the LORD. Not that He needed any visual clues, or anything.

The Kingdom of Heaven is built on Truth and the norm of truth telling. Accept no substitutes.

Related

Rod Dreher: In Praise of Catholic Whistleblowers.

Lessons on Lying from “The Catechism Made Easy” with a little help from the Rolling Stones.

One Priest’s Opinion: Yes,lying really is intrinsically evil.

  • Hieronymus_Illinensis

    Distinguo. Live Action’s actions are for the purpose of exposing the truth about what abortuaries are willing to do. The bishops’ actions were for the purpose of concealing the truth about what the priests did. —Jerome Colburn

    • Roki

      Respondeo: the remote intention is irrelevant to the morality of the act itself, which is to lie, which is intrinsically disordered and sinful. Ends do not justify means: neither the bishops’ ends of protecting the reputation of the Church and/or the clergy, nor Live Action’s ends of exposing corruption among abortion providers.

  • Brian Sullivan

    Excellent point about how we accept some lying, like Live Action’s, and excoriate others, like bishops who covered up. Sin never makes things better.

  • Dan Li

    I… have always had difficulty understanding this. Let’s say that someone is a crazed madman has a means of killing everyone in the world in a quick and excruciatingly painful manner. Let’s say someone has the means of preventing this annihilation by lying and only by lying…

    The answer to what the *person* should do insofar as their personal relationship to God would go would be to be truthful (or perhaps dissemble) and not lie (not incurring mortal sin on themself).

    What about from a non-relational standpoint? Would it be better for a person to incur a most likely mortal sin, or for billions to die in a state of sin and suffer the consequence thereof even if otherwise millions might have been converted and raised to heaven? Does taking mortal sin upon oneself that another might be spared of it have any consequence?

    Basically, how do we resolve dilemmas of general conflict between these, and what are the chains of reasoning behind those resolutions? What if telling the truth invokes murder (a direct causal chain leading to death of another which is clearly perceived by the one doing the choosing).

  • Thinkling

    Ever since the Voice of the Faithful trainwreck I am always wary of such whistleblowing efforts. Time will tell, there certainly is still a place for such legitimate efforts though.

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com/ Arkanabar

    Well, according to my recollection of a Bl. John Henry Newman quote, it is better that we all die and the universe be snuffed out than that one person commit one venial sin.

    There is a far worse and more heinous pack of lies than those used to hide abusive priests: it is those used to protect diocesan insurance companies when false allegations were made. See http://thesestonewalls.com/articles-and-commentary/


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