Priest Abuse: The Rest of the Story

This past week has provided those who follow the priest abuse scandal a revealing look inside the workings of the Catholic Church and how they’ve handled the priest abuse situation.
First, during an abuse trial in Seattle, Rev. Michael G. Ryan, who served as Chancellor under then Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, testified that every diocese and archdiocese has a secret archives. In his testimony, Ryan noted that the archives is mandated by canon law. Ryan also admitted that covering up for priest abusers was viewed by church officials as service to the church. Ryan said, “(The secrecy) was to see that the church was well served.”
Fr. Ryan’s testimony is crucial since it goes to the heart of our priest abuse cases. In our lawsuits, we allege a cover up as well as a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public. I’ve taken deposition testimony regarding priest abuse lawsuits against the Diocese of Orlando and the Diocese of Gary where high ranking church officials have denied the existence of a secret archive. It seems odd to me that something mandated by the universal law of the church would be ignored by two different dioceses.
In the view of church officials, these sex abuse cases are an assault on the church. These priests and bishops who keep facts secret and hidden are, in their view, defending the church and serving her well.
In the other piece of revealing news related to the priest abuse scandal, retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland, OSB announced this week that he’ll be publishing his memoirs. “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church” will address some aspects of the abuse scandal as well as the Archbishop’s own brush with controversy.
In 2002, Paul Marcoux appeared on Good Morning America to publicly reveal that Archbishop Weakland had paid Marcoux $450,000 to keep quiet about his his sexual affair with the prelate. In the interview, Marcoux described his relationship with Weakland as date rape. However, as the relationship waned, Weakland penned a love letter to Marcoux.
The same day that Marcoux spoke about his relationship with Weakland, the Milwaukee archbishop called the papal nunio, Garbriel Montalvo, to inform him of Marcoux’s revelation. According to the Archbishop, Montalvo’s first reaction was, “Of course you are going to deny it.”
Weakland remained steadfast in his denial of the date rape characterization but would not deny the relationship.
In Weakland’s interview with the NY Times published today, he explains Montalvo’s reaction as typical of the Vatican’s desire to cover up and hide potentially damage news. It’s called the Roman way of doing things.
It’s interesting to note that this week’s revelations don’t come from lawyers or survivor advocacy groups. They come from within the church itself. A chancellor and an archbishop publicly give us a glimpse of the inner church operation. These revelations will be tough to deny or dismiss.