Welcome back to our #question4Trump series.

We say, use the system to change the system; but first you have to know how the system works. The topics of pedophilia and sexual abuse in the Catholic church, and religion in general, may seem very distant from politics but it is exactly that gap in understanding that we seek to close.

Trump has run a very religious campaign, indeed he is running in a time of global religious war. To catch up on all the key points we’ve highlighted in our analysis so far, please check out all our articles tagged #question4Trump.

After a few more articles in this series to paint the Bigger Picture of how religion and politics are connected, we will publish our #question4Trump in hopes that you will join us in asking it to him.

We CAN change this world but we have to do it TOGETHER.

In the following article we will summarize the career of Cardinal Bernard Law, a key figure in the hierarchy of the US Catholic church, a close friend of the former pope, and a man who KNOWINGLY facilitated and covered up the pedophilia and sexual abuse perpetrated by hundreds of priests under his supervision for decades.


Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston, Massachusetts

One of, perhaps, the most tragic stories of religious sexual abuse in the US is one of a father and son. The father, Tom Fulchino, after enduring abuse at Porter’s hands, discovered his son, Chris Fulchino, had been abused by John J. Geoghan years after the fact when his son spoke up after seeing Geoghan’s face and story on TV.

[T]he Fulchino family has decided to speak out. Father and son – and Susan, wife to one victim and mother of another – liken themselves to other Geoghan victims: They represent the consequences of Cardinal Bernard F. Law‘s decision to knowingly send a pedophile priest to their parish.

…After learning … how much Law knew about Geoghan before sending him to Weston, they decided to sue the cardinal and the bishops – the ”good old boys club,” Susan called them – who facilitated Geoghan’s movement from parish to parish.

”Geoghan is a sick man. And he was a sick man on the loose,” Tom Fulchino said. ”It was up to Cardinal Law and the people to control that person. But they did nothing. They’re just as responsible as Geoghan is.”

The Fulchinos moved to Weston in 1983, wary from Tom’s experience but determined that all five children would have the religious upbringing they had as children. The following year, Law dispatched Geoghan to the parish.

At the time… Law had just removed Geoghan from St. Brendan’s Church in Dorchester for molesting children. And he knew Geoghan had been taken out of St. Andrew’s in Jamaica Plain in 1980 after he admitted to abusing seven boys in one extended family. Back then, according to church records, Geoghan said the abuse was not ”serious.”

But St. Julia’s parishioners knew none of this. Nor did they know why Geoghan was on sick leave in 1989 – for again molesting children. Even so, Law approved sending Geoghan back to St. Julia’s.

Chris Fulchino was 13, and in the seventh grade, when Geoghan ensnared him. To this day, he remains uncertain of the precise date. But he turned 13 a month after Geoghan’s 1989 return from pedophilia treatment.

It is likely that Cardinal Law knew about Geoghan’s problems from the very start. As the original Spotlight article tells, in 1982, a letter was written to Law’s predecessor, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, by the aunt of Geoghan’s seven Jamaica Plain victims:

“Regardless of what he says, or the doctor who treated him, I do not believe he is cured; his actions strongly suggest that he is not, and there is no guarantee that persons with these obsessions are ever cured,” Margaret Gallant said in her plea to Medeiros.

“It embarrasses me that the church is so negligent,” Gallant wrote. Archdiocesan records obtained by the Globe make it clear why Gallant wrote her irate letter two years after the abuse: Geoghan had reappeared in Jamaica Plain, and been seen with a young boy. The records note that the next month, “Another letter from Mrs. Gallant. Why is nothing being done?”

Cardinal, then Monsignor, Medeiros had also been one of Porter’s superiors and, evidence shows, he was responsible in the 1960’s for moving around pedophile priest Porter.

The Spotlight team also documented that Cardinal Law “and five other bishops who supervised Geoghan over the years [were] accused of negligence in many of the civil suits for allegedly knowing of Geoghan’s abuse and doing nothing to stop it. Never before [had] so many bishops had to defend their roles in a case involving sexual molestation charges against a single priest. The five, all since promoted to head their own dioceses, are Bishops Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis.; William F. Murphy of Rockville Center, N.Y.; John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., and Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans. Law and the five bishops have all denied the accusations in legal filings.”

In his own defense, “Law wrote in the Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, “Never was there an effort on my part to shift a problem from one place to the next,”” but he would go on to become, at the age of 71, “by far the highest-ranking American church official ever to lose his job as a result of scandal, and he is the first American bishop to lose his job for mismanaging sexually abusive priests.”

A Boston Globe article from December 2002 titled A church seeks healing tells how in the year of scandal that followed the Spotlight team’s first article, Law “tried to explain away his conduct as a result of insufficient understanding of the nature of sex crimes, as a result of bad advice from physicians, or as a result of bad recordkeeping. He apologized in a variety of ways. He changed the policy locally – removing more than two dozen priests from ministry [that] year under a new zero-tolerance policy – and supported a new national church policy on child protection.

“But none of the changes were enough in the face of a year of astonishing revelations and disastrous public relations. There [were] now more than 500 people suing the Archdiocese of Boston, claiming to be victims of abuse by priests.”

At first defensive, calling sexual abuse of minors by priests “the rare exception,” Law imposed a new stricter policy in Boston in 1993, but did not require that all abusive priests be ousted. This year [2002], the scandal exploded with revelations that Law and his assistants had known that the Rev. John J. Geoghan was an alleged abuser and yet reassigned him. Over the course of the year the church has been forced to reveal that many other abusive priests were similiarly reassigned.

Another Boston Globe article, also from December 2002, titled More clergy abuse, secrecy cases tells how:

Desperate to contain the burgeoning scandal in the priesthood, the Archdiocese of Boston for years dealt in secret with allegations that a priest had terrorized and beaten his housekeeper, another had traded cocaine for sex, and a third had enticed young girls by claiming to be “the second coming of Christ,” newly released church records show.

In some cases, church officials – including Cardinal Bernard F. Law – reacted to the explosive charges by quietly transferring rogue priests to other parishes and treating them with a gentleness and sensitivity apparently unshaken by the heinous allegations against them.

The article goes on to describe some of the atrocities that Law and others like him facilitated in more detail, such as the following case against Rev. Robert Meffan:

At least three women, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, charged that the Rev. Robert Meffan had sexually abused them 25 years earlier under the guise of spiritual counseling.

The priest encouraged them to be “brides of Christ” and described himself as “the second coming of Christ,” according to the files. The women said that Meffan, now retired, regularly invited them to his bedroom where he encouraged them to “link spiritual stages with sexual acts,” including the fondling and kissing of genitals.

In an interview yesterday, Meffan acknowledged the sexual contact with the girls.

“I was trying to get them to love Christ even more intimately and even more closely,” Meffan said. “They were wonderful girls.”

But it’s not just the horror of the crimes that makes them so sickening, it’s the idea that there were other men, men like Cardinal Law, men with even more power and authority, working to ensure that these crimes continued occuring! For example:

In 1984, clinicians recommended that the Rev. Thomas P. Forry, accused of beating his housekeeper and carrying on a long-term sexual relationship with a woman, remain at a clergy treatment center for six months. But after Law met with Forry, the priest was instead returned to his South Weymouth parish. Forry was not removed from ministry until early [2002].

What about that story in relation to his defense that all of the offenders he had transfered had been cleared by medical professionals?

To be fair, the article also tells the story of Bishop John M. D’Arcy who believed it was his “obligation to try to prevent scandal in those cases where it seems almost definite that it will occur”. He tried to warn his superiors about the illegal and immoral behaviour of some of his colleagues in Boston, but his warnings went unheeded. It seems as if he played the role of nothing more than a ‘teacher’s pet’ or ‘tattletale’, considered insignificant by the people who had the power to act.

For example, even after D’Arcy warned him about Forry, “Law and other top church officials learned of allegations that Forry was sexually involved with a woman. He later would be accused of sexually assaulting her son. Nevertheless, Law approved Forry’s assignment as a full-time Army chaplain in 1988 without any reference to the allegations against him or a recommendation that he receive psychiatric help.”

“I have every confidence that you will render fine priestly service to the people who come under your care,” Law wrote.

To [Cardinal] Law, another pedophile priest, Peter J. Frost, wrote that “he was gay and a “sex addict.” He said he was abused as a 10-year-old and had learned early not to trust adult men.

“I cannot remove from my memory that one of my victims committed suicide because I would not give him an answer to his question, `How do I accept my homosexuality?’ You see, I hated my homosexuality and did all I could to show I was not gay. I became an active homophobic and hated all gays, myself included,” Frost wrote to Law.

After allegations finally surfaced against him, Cardinal Law wrote to Frost: “It is my hope that some day in the future you will return to an appropriate ministry, bringing with you the wisdom which emerges from difficult experience”.

The article gives other similar examples. It also states that “Law, who has said he never intended to “protect a priest accused of misconduct against minors at the expense of those whom he is ordained to serve,” was confronted with accusations of clergy sexual abuse almost immediately after becoming archbishop of Boston in March 1984.”

Many people hoped Law’s resignation meant the end of another dark chapter and the beginning of a new, more accountable one (A church seeks healing): “This resignation represents a significant step forward in the healing process, for abuse victims not only in the Boston diocese, but in dioceses across the country,” said Bishop William S. Skylstad, vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “To restore trust and faith in our church, we must be held accountable. Today’s action sends a strong message that all priests and bishops will be held accountable.””

“”This is the first bishop in the United States that has had to resign over this crisis, and he’s a cardinal, so I think it sends a message to everybody, inside the church and outside the church, that the church gets it,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor of America magazine, the Jesuit weekly. “There is no more business as usual. People are going to be held responsible for what they did.””

Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, said: “Law’s resignation is unprecedented – this is the cardinal-archbishop of one of the premier archdioceses in the whole world – being forced to resign.”

But the fact that Law himself was not held more responsible was not a good indicator of things to come.

For Law, it was just the end of a “nightmare he was probably too old and too tired to continue to play a part in. So the pope finally let him off the hook, giving him early retirement in exchange for good publicity. After his resignation was finally accepted by Pope JPII,  “Law himself expressed relief – he reportedly had volunteered to resign in April, but was asked by the Holy See to stay on.

“I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted my resignation as archbishop of Boston,” Law said in his statement. “It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation, and unity which are so desperately needed.””

The reason for this desperate need of a fresh start was likely financial rather than spiritual. It is unlikely, probably, that the Catholic church needs to ‘find God’ again…right?

Law [left] behind an archdiocese in financial and legal turmoil, with more than 500 pending lawsuits by victims of clergy sex abuse, and coffers so depleted that church officials are pondering filing for bankruptcy. Mass attendance has been falling as Catholics flee in disgust at stories of how their spiritual leaders failed to protect their children.

It seems like the Vatican should have been furious…right?

In Rome, the pope made no public comment, and the brief Vatican bulletin said nothing about the reason for Law’s departure. Law issued just a brief statement of apology.

Well, at least Law apologized…right?

“To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize to them and beg forgiveness, …The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure. Please keep me in your prayers.”

‘Particular circumstances’? As if he didn’t know the abuse was widespread, as if he didn’t facilitate that.

‘Please keep me in your prayers’? As if it’s his own sick pleasure to think that he will forever haunt the minds of the people whose lives he touched – whether they pray for his soul or their own. 

Law’s resignation – after 11 months of apologies, explanations, and policy changes – end[ed] an unprecedented rebellion by outraged Catholics against a man who was once the most influential American Catholic prelate, a man who had enjoyed easy access to the pope and the president, a man who wanted a legacy built on his passionate work against abortion and for Catholic-Jewish relations and his articulate explication of the church’s foreign policy beliefs.

He sounds very political indeed. We wonder, why is it that these men are always able to act above the law, above the status of the rest of us mere mortals? Why is it that he is enjoying a ‘well-deserved’ early retirement when he should be in prison, at least.

He started his retirement with a trip to Rome to meet with the pope to “discuss the crisis afflicting the Archdiocese of Boston”. Was he really the best person to consult? We suppose it depends on what the pope wanted information on:

Cardinal Bernard Law “resigned as Boston archbishop in 2002 amid a Boston Globe investigation reporting allegations of more than ninety clergy perpetrators under his authority. That number has grown to 204 [as of 2011], according to BishopAccountability.org, an online archive on the church crisis.

“In May 2004 the archdiocese, facing a $4 million deficit and a $37 million loan to repay, announced a wave of parish closings to make up the shortfall. The next day came news that Law was bound for Rome to become pastor of the historic basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with an estimated $12,000 monthly salary, according to the New York Times. He now sits on the Vatican’s board of the Congregation for Bishops, which chooses new bishops.” (TheNation.com)

We will comment on the state of the Vatican’s finances, which have increased 20x under the current pope Francis, later in this series. If your jaw is on the ground that this man was promoted rather than prosecuted, please consider the following point about believers:

Despite it all, [Susan Fulchino] has kept her faith. ”I feel badly that my kids may not walk back into the church again. That really bothers me,” she said, ”because we believe in God. ”You need to believe in something.” (For father and son, a shared anguish)

It is indeed important to understand the distinction between the concepts of God and religion, and the institutions of the churches and networks of evil men who use the concept for their own benefit.

It is precisely because worshippers are such desperately hopeful people, indoctrinated with the concepts of faith, guilt, and false humility, that the mortal evils of the institutions of faith are allowed to go unpunished.

The victims are caught in a soul-gripping confusion – between the feelings of love, connection, and spirituality that they get from a relationship with their concept of God and being around other like-minded people and the feelings of hate or fear, sin, and shame they feel from what some of those people have done to them and from the kind of culture that is allowed to exist, or even fostered, in the institution that claims to represent their faith and God on Earth.

This kind of paralyzing confusion is exactly the same force at play in Poland now as the Catholic church-controlled government is attempting to ban abortion completely. Read more about the events in our article Poland Polarized: A Leviathan Gripped by Fear of the Catholic Church.

We need to expose the truth about the most powerful organization on the planet because, aren’t we all tired of living under their control, endlessly manipulated and repressed? Fortunately, we will be able to do this without fear if we understand the difference between what we commonly describe as ‘God’, the idea of creation coupled with a sense of the unknown or wonder, and the practice of religion, the codification of behaviours and activities necessary for the best possible life, the institutions that are supposed to represent those ideas on Earth, and the men who have hijacked them.

Discussion about that kind of topic is always welcome on SexiLeaks – please feel free to start one below 😉

We’ll be back again soon with a continuation of the same topic and a focus on the response of the Vatican and Pope during all of this tragedy.

Thanks for reading and, as always, much love ♡