Monday, October 31, 2011

The Spin Shall Set You Free

How did the question move from "Why are we going to war?" to "Who is that man's wife". I asked the first question. Someone else asked the second. It worked. It's still working. - Sean Penn as Joe Wilson in Fair Game.


I am not so much bothered by Catholic readers vowing to assault me physically. I am not so much bothered by Catholic readers saying that I'm a pervert. I am not so much bothered by Catholic readers (clergy even) telling me that my writing amounts to "bullying" and "uniformed public rants" (see my post on Bishop Finn and some of the more recent of the 100 comments).

But I am bothered by the Lie. I am bothered by the Spin. And I am bothered by innocent people being blamed and not protected.

I wrote last week's piece because Bishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, in his defence of Bishop Finn, played right into the hands of the Tribalism that is fast seeking to become the sixth wound in the Body of Christ. The meme goes like this: If you criticize my guy, you are in league with the forces of darkness.

And now Bill Donohue has stepped into the fray, playing exactly the same game.

But this isn't about us vs. them, it's about sin and repenting of sin - through the grace of Christ.

So let's play Father Z. here and ask not "what does the prayer really say" but "what is the reality behind the spin"?

Below are Donohue's assertions with my comments in red.


Last December, crotch-shot pictures of young girls, fully clothed, were found on Fr. Ratigan’s computer; there was one photo of a naked girl. The very next day, the Diocese contacted a police officer and described the naked picture - No, the picture described was a theoretical picture that had not yet been seen, and this theoretical picture was described to an off-duty police officer informally by the Vicar General. The theoretical picture described bore no resemblance to any of the the actual pictures on the laptop.;

a Diocesan attorney was shown it. There was more than an "it", there were hundreds, and more than a diocesan attorney was shown these pictures.

Because the photo was not sexual in nature, it was determined that it did not constitute child pornography. Absolutely untrue. The photographs were all sexual in nature. They may or may not have met the legal standard for child pornography, but the police were not given the chance to determine that for six months. In any event, the failure of the diocese here is a moral one, even if not a legal one.

This explains why the Independent Review Board was not contacted—there was no specific allegation of child abuse. Tell the parents that these photos were not forms of child abuse, Mr. Donohue.

Think about that for a minute. Bill Donohue is saying that a U.S. diocese that had hundreds of pictures of little girl's crotches and many picutres of a naked sleeping two-year-old on a priest's laptop were right in failing to contact the Independent Review Board because "there was no specific allegation of child abuse". This is a despicable statement, Mr. Donohue. Despicable.

When Fr. Ratigan discovered that the Diocese had learned of his fetish, he attempted suicide. When he recovered, he was immediately sent for psychiatric evaluation. It is important to note that Bishop Finn, who never saw any of the photos, did this precisely because he was considering the possibility of removing Fr. Ratigan from ministry. After evaluation (the priest was diagnosed as suffering from depression, but was not judged to be a pedophile) - note that this diagnosis was so obviously wrong that many in the Chancery office advised Bishop Finn to seek a second opinion. He did not.,

Fr. Ratigan was placed in a spot away from children and subjected to various restrictions. No, he was placed at a retreat center where school children were sent on a regular basis and was allowed unsupervised access to them and to the families of his former parish, the families whose girls he was lusting after.

After he violated them, the Diocese called the cops. Actually, the off-duty police officer called the cops only after it became apparent that the Vicar General was dragging his feet - and by the time the police were brought in, Bishop Finn had allowed the laptop containing the original evidence and containing any other undiscovered caches of evidence to be destroyed.

That’s when more disturbing photos were found.


Donohue then goes on not to write more about this case, but to slam David Clohessy and SNAP.

But the question, you see, is not (as Bill Donohoe claims) "Is David Clohessy a liberal?" but "Why were the parents not contacted and the children not helped?" The question is not (as Bishop Naumann claims) "Is the Kansas City press pro-abortion?" but "Why was the minimum of decency and Christian charity not exercised here?" The question is not, "Who is this man's wife?" but "Why did we go to war?"

And let me be clear: I am not calling for Bishop Finn to resign, nor am I making any comment upon the prosecution of Bishop Finn.

In fact, I believe people when they tell me he's a good man, a sweet man, a kind man, and a serious follower of Christ.

And that is why I am calling on him merely to do the one thing that would do more than anything else to fix the damage to the Body of Christ - public penance.


Dave said...

I think Donohue is using "child abuse" to mean physical abuse there. I did the same thing in your comments box and was called a pervert and a sick animal for my trouble.

Of course, taking pictures like that is child abuse. It's child abuse of which the child is thankfully unaware, but child abuse nonetheless.

I am not a big fan of Donohue in general. Sometimes he hits the mark, but other times he fires wildly in every direction.

Dave said...

By the way, I doubt public penance would do any good. It would just cause the Catholic-haters to scream "off with his head" all the more. There is very little forgiveness left in our culture.

He has already apologized and admitted that things weren't done very well. I'm not sure what else would do any good.

Sarah said...

Mr. Mueller, you are a pervert and a sicko.

YOU are why child abuse happens. It's the dickering and niggling over the technicalities according to the strictest interpretation of the law that allow filthy, revolting men like yourself to do filthy, revolting things to little children.

You are the personification of evil.

No right-minded, decent human being, ESPECIALLY one who is a parent, hears the facts of this story and doesn't see it for what it is -- the same old same old hierarchical cover up of known child abuse. That's all it is. It ain't anything else.

If you can't see evil and call it for what it is, you are evil. Period.

You're on the radar, you animal, and I hope your continued rationalizations and excuses do you in.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Sarah, apparently you're addressing commenter Dave.

You're going too far here. Dave admits this is child abuse and admits the diocese dropped the ball. He is talking about the difference between kids being photographed sexually without their knowledge and kids being physically assaulted sexually - both are forms of sexual abuse, but one is more invasive than the other, and that is all he's pointing out here.

There's no indication that Dave is a pervert and a sicko or that he is the personification of evil.

I share your indignation against those who excuse child abuse, Sarah. But let's try to keep a modicum of decency here in the comboxes.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Oh, and Dave, I'm not suggesting that public penance should be done for any worldy political reason. It should be done for an other-worldly spiritual reason. Of course people will mis-interprest it; then again, it may make a tremendous witness (blaming the messenger does not). But whether it helps or hurts from a political point of view, it would help the Church tremendously from a spiritual point of view.

Sarah said...

He has already apologized and admitted that things weren't done very well. I'm not sure what else would do any good.

What would do EVERYONE a world of good, including the Church, is for this to go to court, for the evidence to be put up in public of just how badly and heartlessly and pridefully this piece of garbage, Finn, and Murphy, and that disgusting creep, Ratigan FAILED TO FOLLOW THE LAW.

He needs to be tried and convicted in public.

No more separate rules for Catholics. No more sweeping things under the rug. No more internal investigations first, call the law later and only if you can't hide your dirty, dirty crimes.

Finn needs to be convicted AND he needs to do whatever time he can be sentenced to. When he sits in his orange jumpsuit in jail with his fellow criminals, then maybe, just maybe, there will be a tiny glimmer of hope that the Church will finally Get. It.

Until then, no child is ever safe in the presence of a member of the Catholic hierarchy.

This is the case that will prove to the world once and for all that the Church really means business when they talk about cleaning house.

Bill Donohue is a lunatic. Anyone who excuses Finn cares more about image than they do the welfare of children, and that makes them evil.

There is no middle ground here. There's no "percentage of blame", like this is a sleazy cut-rate legal settlement. Those girls are real human beings, innocent little girls. Those filthy, filthy men, Ratigan, Finn and Murphy, are all equally guilty of defiling that innocence.

Sarah said...

He's only admitting it's child abuse NOW because he got caught saying it wasn't a big deal as long as the innocent little girls were "blissfully" unaware that some creepy pig was fingering open their diaper and snapping photos.

He can back pedal all he wants now, but everyone knows what he really is now.

Dave said...

I'll leave it to anyone who cares enough to read our exchange of comments (i.e. probably no one) to decide which one of us is unhinged.

All I was saying, though I may not have been clear enough, was that the actions that Fr. Ratigan took are not "child abuse" under the law. By that, I meant physical abuse.

The children in the Fr. Ratigan pictures seem to have been blissfully unaware that a wrong had been done to them. That is infinitely better from the child's point of view than the case where they are physically sexually violated. It doesn't mean that, from the offender's perspective, taking those sorts of pictures is anywhere near OK. I never said that it was.

Sarah said...

Creating child pornography is child abuse. It is a crime. Period.

Oh, but hey, as long as they're "blissfully unaware" they're being used to create pornograpy, no big deal, right?

I guess, by your logic, as long as you drug children before you abuse them, that's makes it okay.

What you don't get is that we're not talking about the differences between a man stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family and Bernie Madoff.

We're talking about the deliberate defilement of innocent children to satisfy one's sick, perverted inclinations.

There are no "degrees" here. There's no possible "good" that can supercede the criminal element.

This is what it is what it is and it's rotten and sick and evil.

Full stop.

No room for stupid lawyer talk here.

You either get that Ratigan, Finn and Murphy are all EQUALLY disgusting, sick, evil men, or you don't.

And if you don't, you're no better than they are.

Your continued use of the qualifier "blissful" is what gives you away. Oh, hey, they're in a state of bliss while the guy tramples all over their purity and gets a big raging hard on and jacks off over the little "art" collection he created for his private use -- no biggie -- not so bad -- it's not like they were awake while he abused them.

Do you even hear yourself? CAN you even hear how sick YOUR spin is? What the hell is wrong with you? With men like you in the world, no wonder women have decided it's better to do without when it comes to parenting. Some protecter you make.

Dave said...

Have you ever heard of the phrase "ignorance is bliss"? I presumed that everyone had. I was playing off of that phrase here, and it is apropos to use it in that context.

You obviously have a problem with men in general, as it takes very little provocation for you to believe that one is a pervert.

I never said that what Fr. Ratigan did was "no big deal" (that was all generated from your own warped perceptions) so I feel no need to respond to that.

I still disagree with you that Finn and Murphy are as guilty as Fr. Ratigan. I also disagree that Bp. Finn is as guilty as Msgr. Murphy. You obviously see this in a very binary way, for whatever reason. I do agree that Bishop Finn handled things badly, but I very much doubt that he'll be convicted legally.

Sarah said...

Finn is clearly guilty of the crime he is charged with.

Murphy needs to be charged with the same crime.

Ratigan is guilty of different crimes.

They are all EQUALLY guilty of breaking the law.

I don't have issues with men at all. I have a huge problem with effete, sicko creeps who would put a piece of garbage like Finn over a child's innocence.

I like men. I just don't think you are a man.

Dave said...


OK, maybe, pending the result of the case, they are all guilty of breaking the law, but then again, someone stealing a small amount of money, or speeding, is also guilty of breaking the law. Hopefully, you can see that the guilt is not equal.

I am not putting Finn above anything. I think he clearly made mistakes, but I think that a lot of his mistakes came from trusting his Vicar General (Msgr. Murphy) too much.

Msgr. Murphy had responsibility to deal with sexual abuse related issues, and he either dropped the ball due to gross incompetence, or tried to hide the ball. I'm not completely sure which yet.

Sarah said...

Scroll up. Read my remarks re stealing bread v. Madoff.

The nature of these crimes is different than speeding tickets and petty theft.

You still can't see that, can you? You're still incapable of seeing those innocent girls as real human beings, created in the image of God, entrusted to us here on earth by God? You really don't get that there's a huge difference between breaking a speed limit by a few mph and sullying the innocence of a child for your own disgusting ends?

What the hell is wrong with you?

These men knew there was, at the very least, a potentially serious problem regarding the abuse of little girls in their parish. They did not do the right thing. And now that they've all been caught, they're all pointing their dirty fingers at each other and making whiny excuses.

These are men? Are you serious? These are a bunch of men who claim to be in persona Christi?

Yeah, because Christ, even when INNOCENT yet falsely charged, whined and wrung his hands and made excuses and pointed his finger at others, and dickered over degree and technicalities. Sure. Right.

This pack of useless little pieces of shite, all of whom are GUILTY of their crimes can't even grow a single pair of balls between the three of them, man up, and accept the consequences of their actions.

Give me a freaking break.

Dave said...

Of course, there are different levels of guilt, even if all are guilty. That was exactly the point I was trying to prove, and I intentionally inserted lesser examples of breaking the law to show it, and now you are mad at me about it.

Let's say that a wife catches her husband, or her son, with child pornography. Is she as bad as the husband/son if she can't muster up the courage to report him? I would say no. It is bad, but not as bad as the husband/son. Apparently, you say yes, she is just as bad. OK, I can agree to disagree.

Who is making excuses? I don't see Bishop Finn making excuses. He is actually being kinder to Msgr. Murphy than I think I would, were I in his place, and he has admitted that he made mistakes and pretty much taken all of the flak upon himself.

Bishop Finn did know enough to know that those pictures COULD be of girls under Fr. Ratigan's charge, and he should have definitely followed up on that, even if he thought (based on Msgr. Murphy's faulty reports) that the pictures were not criminal.

Sarah said...

Dude, you're either guilty or you're not. In some cases, and when we're talking about SOME minor crimes, there may be extenuating circumstances that allow for discretion. A man who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family is still guilty of stealing. However, his circumstances allow for leniency when charging/sentencing him.

Finn is still 100% guilty of what he is charged with. There are NO extenuating circumstances in this case that could possibly mitigate his filthy crime. None.

That's the difference.

Yeah, your wife should report you. Oh, wait...I did that for her.

And Finn KNEW those pictures were evil and he DID NOTHING. Actually, the only thing he DID do was conspire to destroy material evidence. ANOTHER crime.

The guy is lower than pond scum and so are you for trying to make it look like what he did is excusable somehow.

It's not.

It's disgusting.

And you still don't get that ANY bishop, in this day and age, after the revelations of the past several years regarding filthy dirty priest behavior and the filthy dirty cover up the bishops, cardinals and Popes engaged in, who doesn't personally act on any report of potential child abuse in his jurisdiction is a useless piece of crap who needs to be publicly flogged in the town square.

You just don't get that, do you?

You still can't fathom the seriousness of the wrongdoing here, can you?

Of course not.

Dave said...

Well, I'll give you this much: after this, I doubt any bishop will leave the handling of sex abuse cases in the hands of anyone but himself. And maybe that's as it should be.

I see that you didn't bother to respond to my question, except to turn it into a threat against me.

Check out Matthew 7:5. Maybe you need to turn your fierce lens of guilt-finding upon yourself. If you seriously reported me, who you know nothing of, based on nothing other than your warped perceptions and the fact that I disagree with you that Bishop Finn should be publicly flogged, then perhaps you should be publicly flogged as well.

One could easily argue that accusing an innocent person of a crime is a worse crime than failing to report an actual crime committed by someone else.

I will pray for you, though I admit that I do not feel much inclined to do so.


Anyway, I am going to take leave of this comments box, as the crazy quotient seems to be turned up to 11 here.

Thanks, Kevin, for initiating discussion of this issue.

Dave said...

Actually, you are probably a troll, in which case the joke is on me for wasting so much time responding to you. Oh well - I tend to be too trusting that others are on the level.

Sarah said...

Yeah, I'm a real troll for thinking there's something deeply disturbing about excusing child abuse for any reason.

I did answer your question.

There are certain types of crimes that don't allow for any mitigation of circumstance. Crimes against the most innocent, the most powerless among us are among them.

Yes, a wife who knows her husband or a mother who knows her son is in possession of child porn doesn't report it, she's as bad as they are.

Each image in any collection of child pornography represents an act of child abuse. And each purchase of those images adds to the demand for new images, and thereby adds to new acts of abuse.

Child pornography is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the child sex trade.

Ask anyone who knows anything about pedophiles if these filthy animals are happy to stop at images only. The answer will be a resounding NO. Sooner or later, pictures aren't enough. Sooner or later, these animals will take things a step further.

You see this with Ratigan -- first it's just pictures of girls. Then it's clothed shots of girls' panties under their uniforms. Then, it's the exposed genitalia of a sleeping child -- exposed because Ratigan himself opened her diaper.

That indicates a ramping up of the activity. Just because there isn't an actual photo of Ratigan touching the girl's genitalia doesn't mean he didn't do it -- he probably did, actually. He touched her to move the diaper -- given his sick proclivites, why stop there? You seriously think he didn't touch her?

Finn KNEW that. Murphy KNEW that. And they did NOTHING. They are as bad as Ratigan. We may not be legally able to charge them with the same crimes, but we have to charge them with anything and everything we can and prosecute them and give them the harshest sentence possible.

Any person, anywhere, who knows of child pornography and does nothing has the suffering of the children of the sex trade on their hands.

You defend the imagery, you defend the kidnapping and abuse that created the images.

Dave said...

For what it's worth, I agree that Fr. Ratigan is/was on the path to physical abuse if he wasn't already there, and I completely agree that child pornography is a horrible thing that usually leads to or indicates something worse.

The only thing I disagree on is that those who fail to report them are "as bad" as the child pornographers themselves, but you are certainly justified in being angry at the Bishop and his team.

God bless you.

Andy, Bad Person said...

No more separate rules for Catholics.

Does that include the extension of statutes of limitation extended only the Catholics?

Until then, no child is ever safe in the presence of a member of the Catholic hierarchy.

Come on. Institutionally speaking, after the scandals broke in 2002, the Catholic Church has had some of the best anti-abuse measures of any organization.

Any measures taken, however, are only as strong as the individuals in the system that must take action. In this case, Finn and Murphy failed in their responsibility. Whether or not they are legally culpable, they are most certainly morally culpable. That doesn't make the whole system broken; it means the cogs need to be replaced.

Sarah said...

The KC situation means more than that, Andy.

How many more "cogs" are broken that we don't know about yet? Who else needs to be replaced?

You can have as many measures and policies and protocols as you like, and they can look like the best thing in the world on paper, but if the mindset among the hierarchy is still one of arrogance and superiority, it doesn't matter.

And as long as there are lay people willing to give these guys a pass just because they're priests or bishops, nothing will ever change.

The heirarchy are the same men they were ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago. They've grown up from the seminary in this weird, creepy, closed atmosphere where they were told from day one they were special, something higher, something closer to God than regular people.

That's bad enough -- when you look at the nature of the Catholic priesthood and the formation of a priest, it would be more suprising if there _hadn't_ been this type of scandal -- but add to that a laity who likes the notion of a priesthood that rules, that is superior, rather than a priesthood that serves, and it's a marriage made in hell.

An arrogant priesthood plus a laity that so idolizes that priesthood they cannot hold those men fully responsible for their filthy, disgusting crimes is the problem, not a few broken cogs here and there.

It's a systemic problem, it's rooted too deeply in the psyches of both the priesthood and the laity, and unless something drastic happens, nothing changes.

If Finn is convicted and given jail time, things will change. That will be the eye opener the Church needs from the top on down.

Anonymous said...

Finally, Sarah, you show your true colors. You hate priests. You no longer are limiting your venom to Finn and Ratigan and any crimes in question. Now you are attacking all priests because of the "weird, creepy" seminary atmosphere and the laity thinking the priests are "superior" to them.

You've got some real problems with the priesthood and men and you are just capitalizing on this mess to spew your hatred.

God bless and heal you.

Sarah said...

No, "Anonymous", that's not what I'm saying.

I'm saying that a system that takes very young men and fills their heads with the notion that they're superior to others by virtue of their calling is the problem. It IS creepy and weird.

I don't hate all priests at all.

I have huge issues with the system.

A quick spin through the Catholic blogosphere will reveal a segment of the Catholic laity who do revere the priesthood and who do adhere to the idea that priests are superiors rather than servants.

You can make whatever accusations they like as anonymously as you like, but that doesn't make you right.

What is your interest in protecting abusive priests and maintaining a system that protects them first and children second?

What's on your hard drive?

Anonymous said...

To the host of this blog:

Read the tail end of the other comment thread. I will offer a prayer of protection for you against that unbalanced individual physically threatening you.

To Susan:

"The heirarchy are the same men they were ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago. They've grown up from the seminary in this weird, creepy, closed atmosphere where they were told from day one they were special, something higher, something closer to God than regular people."

Never heard that once in my time in seminary. I actually heard more of "you're a heterosexist woman-hating pig for even wanting to be a priest." But granted I went to a gay-friendly progressive seminary... and barely survived.

I don't know how to explain the origins of the clerical protection racket, but the seminary is only one cog of a larger problem. To me, the solution is bringing every priest and bishop scandal to the bright light of publicity and, if warranted, criminal sanction. IMHO once clerical perverts and coverup artists find themselves in prison jumpsuits with regularity, then we won't find many of their ilk wanting to be priests in the first place.

Reform of the seminary, though necessary, is not sufficient.


David Clohessy said...

"Bishop Finn, who never saw any of the photos. . ."

Careful! This is what Finn says. Many doubt that it's true. We should be very cautious before leaping to conclusions about his veracity here.

Anonymous said...

Actors are assholes folks.
Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

I usually enjoy reading your blog, but since you've become bent on making Bishop Finn the bad guy I don't think I want to read your stuff anymore.

Anonymous said...

Oh yah, and Dave, Sara's the unhinged one. No doubt.


Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Brien,
Is it just me, or have your posts really sucked lately?

Rosemary said...

Sarah, I wish you had not threatened Dave. Threatening someone is definitely not OK.

The main reason I, in particular, wish you hadn't, is that by threatening him you gave people an excuse to discount what you're saying. And what you are saying is very important.

I agree with your anger and your passion. Thank you for saying what you did.

I agree with you that overly-calm, bland, nitpicking responses to priestly pedophilia are at least a huge part of the problem, if not the problem itself.

The reason bishops have been so unwilling to address priestly pedophilia is because they know they don't have to.

They have the conservative traditional Catholic laity trained to accept it. Trained into a sort of submissive posture that allows it. Trained to overlook it, protect the pedophile-shuffler, and blame the victims.

I think that if anything will solve the Scandal, it's if good Catholic men, fathers, rediscover their stones, and say "No more."

I commend you on the straightforward anger and clarity of your posts, and I also commend Mr. O'Brien for taking the social risks he's taken in speaking out about this.