All posts by Joseph H. Saunders

In Priest Abuse Cases It’s Always About the Documents

We’ve seen this time and time again. On more than one occasion, we’ve been directly involved in it. I’m talking about Catholic Church documents related to the abuse of minors by priests. The Church’s lawyers do everything in their power to keep them secret and we fight to get them released to the general public. After all, the real issue is child safety. That same fight has taken place in Philadelphia where state prosecutors had to fight to release the grand jury testimony of retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. They were posted online for the very first time by the Philadelphia Inquirer. They make for an interesting read. However, they are filled with the same kind of denials, half-truths, excuses, and obfuscations as we’ve seen before in Boston and Los Angeles. It’s also worth noting the reaction of Bevilacqua’s lawyers to the grand jury interrogation. The lawyers claimed the prosecutors were “anti-Catholic” and said they were disrespectful to the Cardinal during his testimony. These types of comments are instructive and give the reader an insight into how the Church and her lawyers think about the abuse crisis in general. In their world, church leaders, especially cardinals, are not to be questioned. They are especially not to be dragged before civil grand juries and asked questions about their own judgment.
It took courage and integrity to release the documents. Let’s hope as a result fewer children will be harmed because society is armed with knowledge about the issue and the scandal.

Irish-Vatican Relations at an All Time Low in Wake of Sex Abuse

The recent news that the Vatican actually discouraged a full and accurate reporting of the Catholic priest abuse scandal in Ireland has drawn the condemnation of the Irish government and led to the Irish papal representative to be recalled to Rome. This is unprecedented in a country where Catholicism is a fixture of Irish culture and heritage.
This news really isn’t new. In 1997, the bishops of Ireland were told not to move forward with their implementation of an abuse reporting system by the Vatican. Now, the Vatican’s behavior threatens the very foundation of Catholicism on the small European island nation.
According to NCR, “The Cloyne Report, which examined how the Diocese of Cloyne handled accusations of clerical sexual abuse, said the bishop paid “little or no attention” to child safeguarding as recently as 2008 and that he falsely told the government his diocese was reporting all allegations of abuse to the civil authorities.
The report also accused the Vatican of being “entirely unhelpful” to Irish bishops who wanted to implement stronger norms for dealing with accusations and protecting children.
Addressing parliament July 20, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the Cloyne Report “exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago.”
“And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day,” the prime minister said.

Reglan Warnings Updated in Canada

Health Canada is updating its Reglan warnings concerning tardive dyskinesia, a neuro-muscular disorder whose symptoms include involuntary limb movements, Restless Leg Syndrome, lip smacking, facial contortions, and rapid eye movement. There is no known cure for tardive dyskinesia and the contraction of the disorder increases the longer a patient is taking Reglan. The drug has been available to patients by prescription since 1975 and is used to treat digestive disorders.
In February 2009, the US FDA added a black box warning to Reglan. The black box warning is the most serious warning available in the FDA drug warning system. The FDA black box warning was related to Reglan’s association with tardive dyskinesia.

What the Cloyne Report Tells Us About Catholic Church Sex Abuse

The Cloyne Report, named after the tiny Irish diocese that covers most of County Cork, is perhaps the most damning sexual abuse report ever compiled. If you think that’s hyperbole, look at what Rocco Palmo, himself a devout Catholic, says about the Report. Palmo writes, “But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order.
Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic…as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.
And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism….the narcissism …….that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.
The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’.
Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s “ear of the heart”……the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”
Palmo’s assessment is sadly accurate and will be hard for the Church to claim it’s just more of the same Catholic bashing. Remember, Palmo doesn’t belong to the cadre of media the Church usually points to when it cries foul. This is coming from a “faithful son of the Church”.
The Cloyne Report is so bad, it’s hard to imagine the Catholic Church in Ireland recovering from this anytime soon.

FDA Investigating Whether Certain Osteoporosis Drugs Cause Cancer

First, it was an increase in bone fractures, now it’s a potential link to esophageal cancer. The osteoporosis drugs known as bisphosphonates but more popularly known as Boniva, Fosamax, and Actonel may be linked to a certain rare form of throat cancer. No data provides a definitive conclusion at this point, but the potential has led the FDA to move forward with a further investigation of the class of drugs.
According to NPR, “Some research has suggested that regular use of the pills could increase that risk. A paper published in BMJ, the British Medical Journal, last year suggested the medicines could double the risk of such cancers. But the cancers are rare, and the doubling would lead to about 2 cases per 1,000 people over five years instead of 1 case per 1,000 people (among people aged 60 to 79).”

Johnson & Johnson Feeling Effects of Hip Replacement Recall

Citing the effects of its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. recall of its DePUY ASR XL hip replacement as well as its continuing woes in the pharmaceutical industry, J&J earnings are off nearly 20% in the second quarter. Despite the drop, Johnson & Johnson still reported net income of $2.8 billion.
DePuy’s ASR XL hip is not the only one facing mounting lawsuits and FDA scrutiny. DePuy’s Pinnacle hip, also a metal-on-metal hip device is also facing lawsuits and an FDA review. The metal-on-metal hips, originally designed to last longer and provide more flexibility, have higher than acceptable failure rates as well as the potential for causing metallosis, a serious medical condition where the hip patient suffers from metal poisoning.

Chaput to be Named Archbishop of Philadelphia

Well, it looks like I was wrong. The National Catholic Reporter is writing that it has confirmation that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver will be the next archbishop of Philadelphia. According to NCR, the popular choice, or at least the name submitted to Pope Benedict, was Archbishop Kurtz, the Pope chose Chaput. Chaput, of course, is well known for fighting legislation in Colorado that would have given an opportunity to abuse survivors to file claims against their abusers and the institutions that protected them. We’ll have to wait and see how he handles the inherited abuse situation in Philadelphia.

New Philadelphia Archbishop Tomorrow?

There is speculation among church insiders that Pope Benedict XVI will name a new archbishop in Philadelphia tomorrow. The new archbishop, whomever he is, will have his hands full dealing with the mess left him by outgoing Cardinal Justin Rigali who earlier this year suspended 21 priests over sexual abuse allegations. The suspensions came after Rigali had told Philadelphia Catholics that the Archdiocese had no priest working in ministry who’d been accused of sexually abusing a minor. Of course, that announcement came on the heels of another Philadelphia grand jury report which detailed the recent history of the Archdiocese’s handling of the priest sex abuse scandal. All this bad news will make it very difficult for the next Archbishop.
The rumors have been swirling for some time now but those who know the Philly situation note that three bishops have the inside track-Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, and Pennsylvania native Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville. Both Lori and Gregory have had ample experience dealing with the priest abuse scandal and would be logical choices for the post. However, Whispers in the Loggia scribe Rocco Palmo is hinting that he already knows who it is and from what he’s writing, his money is on Kurtz. We’ll all know tomorrow, probably.

The Latest Irish Abuse Report

The so-called Cloyne Report is the civil Irish government’s fourth report in as many years as it attempts to come to grips with the horrors of Catholic priest abuse in this largely Catholic country. What’s new in this report, new but not surprising, is that Catholic Church officials continue to cover-up for pedophile priests. The report refers to case after case in which priests’ sexual abuse was known and nothing was done about it.
The former bishop of Cloyne who resigned last year responded in the standard fashion, “I now realize. . .” as if it should be some great revelation to him and his fellow bishops that they have a moral and civil duty to protect children.
According to the NY Times, “The Cloyne Report is the Irish government’s fourth in recent years on aspects of the scandal. It shows that abuses were still occurring and being covered up 13 years after the church in Ireland issued child protection guidelines in 1996, and that civil officials were failing to investigate allegations. The report warned that other dioceses might have similar failings.
“That’s the most horrifying aspect of this document,” Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland’s minister for children, told a news conference on Wednesday. “This is not a catalogue of failure from a different era — this is about Ireland now.”
“Most damaging, the report said that the Congregation for the Clergy, an arm of the Vatican that oversees the priesthood, had not recognized the 1996 guidelines. That “effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures” and “gave comfort and support” to priests who “dissented from the stated Irish church policy,” the report said.
Now, let’s not think for one minute the situation in Ireland is any different than our own in the United States. If you’re tempted to think so, take a look at the disaster in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia or the Diocese of Gallup, just to name two recent examples. The Catholic bishops can not be trusted to police themselves and their priests. It’s time for a federal investigation of the entire enterprise and federal oversight in every diocese. We need something akin to a Superfund for a toxic spill. Nothing short of that will stop the abuse and the cover-up.

FDA Issues Warning About Vaginal Mesh

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to surgeons and prospective female patients about a vaginal mesh that’s been used in surgeries to correct a condition known as pelvic organ prolapse. The directive called on surgeons to consider other options to the mesh until the FDA can convene an advisory committee to explore more thoroughly the problems with the vaginal mesh.
Use of the mesh is widespread with approximately 100,000 women having the mesh surgery each year. According to the FDA, mesh-related symptoms include painful sexual intercourse, infections, urinary problems, overall discomfort, and bleeding, usually from the mesh eroding through the stitched tissue or from skin contracting tightly around it.
According to the Boston Globe, “In 2008, the FDA announced that “rare’’ problems could be associated with transvaginal placement of the mesh, which is used along with surgical stitches to support sagging pelvic organs such as the bladder, uterus, and bowel after they have been lifted back out of the vagina, where they descended.
From 2008 to 2010, the FDA received 1,503 adverse event reports associated with mesh used for pelvic organ prolapse repair, five times as many as the agency received from 2005 to 2007. It also received three reports of deaths that were related to the mesh placement procedure.
Recent studies indicate that about 10 percent of women who have the mesh placed transvaginally experience mesh erosion within 12 months of surgery and that more than half require additional surgeries to remove the mesh. Less commonly, the mesh becomes so intertwined with scar tissue that it cannot be removed.”