Monthly Archives: March 2011

Two More Philadelphia Priests Suspended

Cardinal Justin Rigali has suspended two additional priests because of sexual abuse allegations. Citing Archdiocesan policy, the names of the two priests were not released by spokesperson Donna Farrell. The non-disclosure has set off a firestorm of criticism. Farrell noted that neither priest has been active for the past six years and are retired. However, critics of the Archdiocese have a valid point when they note that keeping the names confidential does very little to protect children from these men.
The point of naming names is to protect children. If the Archdiocese refuses to name the priests who’ve allegedly abused children, what’s the good in that? The lack of disclosure clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding and appreciation for the importance and urgency of child protection. The public has a right to know the names of those accused.

Another Philadelphia Grand Jury Report Released

Another damning grand jury report has been released in Philadelphia concerning the sexual abuse of minors. The 2003 report was released by The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). The Philadelphia Attorney General’s office noted that the newly released report is an interim report from a grand jury investigation whose 18 month term had expired. A subsequent 2005 report completed the work found in the 2003 version.
While there is nothing substantially new in the 2003 version, it’s important to note the consistency among all three grand jury reports who all found that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia failed to protect young children from predatory priests by refusing to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement authorities. The 2003 report laments this decision and criticizes officials within the Archdiocese for relying on a technicality to not report the sexual abuse to the police.

Are There Other Philadelphias?

The National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Roberts had the courage to ask the question, I’m just repeating it and offering my own thoughts on the subject. Roberts has asked the question many Catholics, survivor advocacy groups, and those interested in the protection of children want to know. Very few Catholic dioceses or archdioceses have received the scrutiny and attention Philadelphia has received. I can think of Boston, Manchester, Rockville Center, and Los Angeles as dioceses and archdioceses that have received the type of scrutiny that comes from a grand jury investigation. All of those that did receive that level of scrutiny didn’t fare so well so it’s fair to conclude there are indeed other dioceses and archdioceses that have been scandalously negligent in their failure to protect children.
It’s my opinion that there are other dioceses and archdioceses that would do about as well as Philadelphia, perhaps worse. Places like the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Archdiocese of Miami, the vast territories of the Mid-West where Catholicism is still considered mission territory, and other dioceses that have witnessed a large influx of immigrant populations.

For Profit Colleges

A weak economy that has frustrated job growth has led many people to consider enrolling in for-profit colleges. The admissions requirements are usually more relaxed than those found in private and public colleges and universities and the for-profit marketing brochures make it appear that a for-profit education will make it easier to obtain a job in a tough economy. However, there’s a caveat in this-the cost of some of these schools can be $100,000 or more. Many of these for-profit schools are not accredited so that credits don’t transfer to other academic institutions.
Complaints from former students and graduates became so numerous that the federal government began investigating these schools last year. (The federal government provides billions of dollars to these schools in the form of loans each year.) As a result, the federal government now requires that for-profit schools 1)cease paying admissions counselors based on the number of students they enroll, 2)provide job placement statistics by industry that are verifiable by an independent agency, and 3)require states to regulate such institutions.
In Florida, more than 180 for-profit college students have complained to the attorney general, according to a report in the Tampa Tribune.
Before deciding to pay for and attend a for-profit college, it’s important to do your homework. Check to make sure the school is properly accredited. Obtain information about the school from an independent agency. Ask questions about the school’s job placement history and their students’ default rates on student loans. As always, caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware.

Catholic Bishops Facing New Public Relations Crisis

In the wake of the fresh sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the US bishops are scrambling to contain the fallout. For years now, they’ve touted their efforts in responding to the priest abuse scandal. As a group, the bishops implemented a “zero tolerance” policy concerning priests who’ve abused in the past as well as those who abuse in the future. They’ve created diocesan review boards that are supposedly independent of the bishops’ control or influence.
Yet these policies have failed miserably in Philadelphia. Bishop Blaise Cupich, head of the diocese of Spokane Washington and chair of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, pledged to work harder to implement the policies of the Charter that’s supposed to protect young people. Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Catholic Bishops Conference had a similar response.
What both bishops fail to consider is the possibility that the entire system is flawed. Bishops remain the sole arbiters of how review boards work within their own dioceses. Bishops are the ones who decide who reviews the priest personnel files and the bishops are the ones who have the sole responsibility for taking action in these cases. That’s the problem. There is no real independent review. The very structure of the church doesn’t allow it. That’s why the Philadelphia situation should come as no real surprise to any of the bishops.
Words won’t fix this problem. Promises won’t assuage disillusioned parishioners. Perhaps someone should state the obvious-if a bishop fails to implement policies that truly protect children, the bishop should be removed and held liable for his actions or lack of action. Take the Philadelphia example as a case in point. Cardinal Rigali is past the normal age of retirement. He’s already submitted his letter of resignation to the Pope (which he’s required to do upon his 75th birthday). Rigali doesn’t fear any real consequences for what happened in Philadelphia. I suspect the Pope will accept his resignation in a matter of months without any mention of the harm caused by his lack of leadership in Philadelphia.
These scenarios aren’t limited to Philadelphia either. Look at how the priest abuse crisis was handled in other major metropolitan cities like Boston and Los Angeles. Cardinal Law was allowed to resign and transferred to Rome where he lives quite comfortably in charge of a major basilica. Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles retired in similar fashion, years after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles faced hundreds of lawsuits and criminal probes from the District Attorney’s office.
The Catholic Church’s policies concerning the protection of young people look nice on paper but don’t work because the people who should be held accountable for enforcing the policies aren’t held to any level of accountability. Unless and until there’s a serious level of accountability that holds bishops and cardinals responsible for this crisis, it won’t end.

DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Issues

Like the DePuy ASR XL hip replacement device, the DePuy Pinnacle hip is a metal-on-metal hip replacement. However, unlike its similar hip replacement device, the DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement device has not been recalled. There is growing concern that the Pinnacle has a design defect that causes an unacceptable high early failure rate that may lead to metallosis or metal poisoning from shards of metal from the hip entering the bloodstream.
The DePuy Pinnacle received a fast track approval process based on the 510(k) approval. This type of approval allows for a device’s market approval based on substantial similarity to an already approved, older hip devices. In this case, such a quick approval may prove to be short sighted in that Pinnacle patients are reporting similar to those suffered by the already recalled DePuy ASR XL hip made by the same manufacturer DePuy Orthopaedics.
A failed DePuy ASR XL or Pinnacle hip implant causes untold suffering to patients who have to endure revision surgeries in order to correct the failure. The surgeries are more complicated than the original implantation surgery and complications from the failed hip such as tissue and surrounding bone damage make further surgeries difficult and painful. Rehabilitation from revision surgery is also more difficult.
That’s why it’s important that medical devices such as artificial hips and knees are proven sound and effective before they are ever approved for market use. The rigorous testing and analysis before patient implantation saves the patient unnecessary suffering and cost.

Dangers of DePuy’s Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants

When first introduced, the metal-on-metal hip implants were lauded as a breakthrough in medical device technology. They were designed to last longer and used in younger, more active patients. The conventional wisdom was that such a device would actually be more durable and allow the hip implant patient more flexibility with less wear and tear with a lesser chance of dislocation than the traditional metal and ceramic hip implants. These new metal-on-metal hips were considered to be state of the art and the wave of the future.
The DePuy ASR XL was first introduced onto the marketplace in 2005. Problems with the metal-on-metal DePuy first began to surface in 2007 in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, because the United States has no medical device registry system it’s hard to determine the nature and extent of the first reported problems in the United States.
The reported problems with the DePuy hips included pain in the joint and groin area, swelling, numbness, and a loss of feeling in the lower extremities. A further complication from these hips includes metallosis or metal poisoning wherein the wear and tear of the metal components cause tiny particles of metal to enter the bloodstream. This complication can be very serious and can only be detected through a specific blood test. Anyone with a metal-on-metal hip implant should consult their physician for such a blood test since there are may not be early physical symptoms associated with metallosis. Metallosis may cause implant loosening that cause pain, swelling, surrounding tissue damage, and difficulty walking.
The growing number of reported issues with the DePuy ASR XL hip led to a recall of the medical device in August 2010. In February 2011, the FDA created a section dedicated to the issue of metal-on-metal hip implants with specific information related to the DePuy ASR XL recall.

Broadspire Letter Regarding DePuy ASR XL Hip Recall

In the wake of last August’s DePuy ASR XL hip implant recall, DePuy, a division of Johnson & Johnson, has contracted with Broadspire, a subsidiary of Crawford & Company, a large insurance and claims adjuster. Broadspire’s stated goal is to reduce the financial impact of claims on its client DePuyOrthopaedics. It’s important to note that the insurance adjuster’s purpose is not helping patients who have a failed DePuy ASR XL hip implant.
Recently, Broadspire sent a letter to all DePuy ASR XL hip implant patients stating that they will pay their out-of-pocket expenses (not the full cost of surgery and recovery) for revision surgery to fix the failed hip. However, in order to qualify for these out-of-pocket expenses, the hip patient must sign medical release forms giving Broadspire and DePuy full and unfettered access to the patient’s medical records including records that are completely unrelated to the DePuy hip procedure.
Interestingly, Depuy has contracted with Broadspire concerning the Depuy ASR XL hips that were recalled and but has not authorized Broadspire to assist individuals with DePuy Pinnacle hips which have failed.
If DePuy and Johnson & Johnson were truly interested in the welfare of patients suffering from failed hip implants, it would have offered assistance to Pinnacle implant patients as well.
I believe that the letters sent from Broadspire are a ploy to gain access to patients’ medical records in order to attempt to reduce DePuy’s liability in these hip recall cases.

Germany Extends Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse

Germans who were sexually abused as minors will now have an opportunity to seek civil justice from their abusers as well the organizations that hid the abuse. The new statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases has been extended from 3 years to 30 years past the age of 21.
The new legislation which is expected to be passed by the German parliament later this year, is a positive response to the Catholic sex abuse scandal that rocked the country last year. The scandal implicated the present Pope when he was the Archbishop of Munich in the late 1970’s. In the midst of the scandal last year, documents were uncovered that a notorious sex abuser was transferred under the auspices of then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger.
Let’s hope individual states in this country, especially New York and Pennsylvania follow the good example of Germany.

Judge Says Zicam Investor Suit May Proceed

A decision to allow investor lawsuits against Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The high court’s decision upholds the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision overturning a lower court ruling that threw out the lawsuits involving Zicam nasal cold remedies. The investors have argued in their lawsuits that they should have been told that the Zicam product might cause users to lose their sense of smell.
The original court had ruled to dismiss the lawsuits because there was no statistical proof linking anosmia (loss of smell) to the Zicam product.