BACKGROUND DOCUMENTATION OPPOSING THE MANDATORY FINGERPRINTING POLICY IN THE DIOCESE OF ARLINGTON
1) The current policy fails to address the problems that caused the sex abuse scandal.
The bulk of abuse cases documented in the John Jay Report involved homosexual priests molesting adolescent boys. But the bishops’ strategy for addressing the sex abuse problem has ignored homosexuality altogether. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has no policy with regard to protecting children by banning homosexuals from the priesthood or removing homosexuals engaging in immoral, but legal, behavior. Instead, they have developed a massive project of fingerprinting and doing background checks on hundreds of thousands of innocent employees and lay volunteers. The Diocese of Arlington alone is requiring 15,000 lay people to be fingerprinted.
Despite the obvious role that homosexuality played in the abuse of children, it is not being addressed by the bishops. Rev. Edward J. Burns, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation of the USCCB, told the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2002 that homosexuality is not an automatic bar to ordination. “Some dioceses and seminaries have identified that a man with same-sex attraction is not likely to be a candidate for a particular diocese or seminary. Other dioceses or seminaries will say they have to look at that on a case-by-case basis, so you do have some differences from diocese to diocese.”1 In some cases the differences are extreme.
At the 2005 Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles, the largest such gathering in the United States, panelists speaking on homosexuals in the priesthood promoted this disorder as a positive norm. According to The Tidings, the Los Angeles Diocesan paper, Tom Beaudoin, assistant professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, told a packed workshop that “talking in a ‘more adult way’ about the blessings and challenges of gay priests similar to the way blessings and challenges of straight priests are discussed will allow Catholics to become ‘more human’ and ‘more holy with each other…so that at long last our church in this regard can finally begin to deal with reality.’”2 Another panelist, Fr. James Martin, S.J. associate editor of America magazine proposed “public models of gay priests” to counter “the stereotype of the gay priest as child abuser.”3
Not only did this panel promote homosexuality, but in an exercise in surrealism, the Congress organizers offered a partnered Episcopal lesbian “priest” for the edification of Catholic educators. Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord heads the California Council of Churches and is credited with convincing the National Council of Churches to scrap an endorsement of traditional marriage signed by its top officers in November 2000. She is also pro-abortion.4 Sr. Edith Prendergast, head of the Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education which sponsors the Congress, refused to say whether Cardinal Roger Mahony was aware of Rev. Guibord’s participation, although in previous years the Cardinal has stated he personally approves all the speakers.5
This promotion of disordered inclinations as normal and even a blessing was carried to an extreme in my own diocese when the former head of the Office of Child Protection, Jennifer Alvarez, told a meeting of parish Directors of Religious Education in 2004 that children are “safer with homosexuals than with heterosexuals.”6 Her statement shocked parents in the diocese because it echoes homosexual propaganda. The fact is that homosexuals molest children at a much higher rate than heterosexuals. They also engage in criminal activity at much higher rates than heterosexuals as shown by numerous studies including a 1996 survey of 12,283 non-institutionalized adults by the United States Center for Disease Control. It was the largest national random survey on human sexuality ever conducted in the United States.7
In an article
in the May issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review (HPR) authors Brian
Clowes and David Sonnier surveyed numerous studies and statements of homosexuals
themselves illustrating the “natural link between a homosexual orientation
and child sexual abuse.”8 Despite overwhelming evidence, the bishops
still focus on innocent laity and exclude consideration of the homosexual
problem. That this attitude continues was graphically illustrated in Arlington
on April 19, 2005. Fr. Terry Specht, Director of Child Protection and
Safety for the diocese, told a meeting of concerned parents at St. John
the Baptist in Front Royal which I attended, that he didn’t care
if a person was “heterosexual, homosexual, or metrosexual.”9
This blindness to the major cause of the sex abuse scandals undermines
the laity’s confidence in the approaches being taken.
Failure to take the homosexual problem seriously is of grave concern to the laity and contributes to scandal and an attitude of distrust. The bishops do not seem to be following the counsel of the May 16, 2002 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments stating that, “Ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent and, from the pastoral point of view, very risky. A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency is not, therefore, fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.”12
The current policy of the bishops on mandatory fingerprinting appears to many laity to distract from the real causes of the sex abuse scandals: the recruitment of men with same-sex attraction into the priesthood, the growth of a “gay” subculture in the Church, and active dissent from Church teaching, particularly on sexual morality.
2) Fingerprinting and background checks give a false sense of security.
Before an individual commits his first act of sexual abuse, he has no criminal record. But there are certain behaviors that can predict the likelihood of abuse. For example, those engaging in pornography, which is a progressive addiction, are likely to act on it at some point. Studies show that, like all addictions, the need for stimulus increases. Because buying and viewing adult pornography is not illegal those who indulge in such dangerous behavior will not be discovered by background checks. They are, however, still a serious threat to the parish community and should be removed when they are exposed. In the diocese of Arlington, Fr. James Haley reported to Bishop Loverde several priests with extensive pornography collections, a fact he discovered when he lived with them. Instead of dealing with the problem priests the bishop suspended Fr. Haley and removed his faculties. He allowed the porn-addicted priests to continue living in parish rectories in the diocese. Although there is no evidence that these priests had physically abused minors, they present a clear danger to the spiritual life of the faithful because they were indulging their perverted appetites. It is unlikely they were able to effectively counsel couples with marital problems or young people struggling with temptations against chastity. The likelihood they would shift from fantasy to action would increase over time if they continued their immoral behavior.
Fingerprinting and background checks have absolutely no impact on immoral sexual activity that is legal. The bishops have focused only on abuse of minors, but events of recent years show there is a serious problem with sexual immorality among consenting adults as well, including young adults barely out of their minority. The bishops have not addressed this problem as evidenced by reassignment of priests and the problem on Catholic college campuses where young people are exposed to sexually explicit and pornographic materials like the obscene play, The Vagina Monologues. If a priest presented such material to minors it would be cause for his dismissal.
Last year the review board of the Archdiocese of Seattle recommended that the bishops look at this problem more closely saying, “The vulnerability of persons to sexual exploitation does not end at age 18. We have seen instances where priests abused their authority and caused harm by engaging in sexual relationships with adults. Whether viewed from a violation of the vow of celibacy or as a matter of the abuse of authority, we believe the Church should address this issue more formally.”13
It is also a fact that those who engage in homosexual relations with adults while not themselves abusing children may be the channel for abuse by exposing children to other sexual deviants. Fr. Mike Lastiri of the Diocese of Fresno did not himself molest children. He did, however, hire one of his partners, Joe Banuelos, to work in the parish. Banuelos sexually assaulted a six-year-old at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Goshen, California.14 Fingerprinting and background checks can have no impact on this form of abuse and, in fact, parents may believe their children are safe on parish grounds and be less vigilant because of the false sense of security.
3) Mandatory fingerprinting violates privacy and is demeaning to the innocent.
This approach treats all the members of the Catholic faithful as guilty until proven innocent. It is insulting and demeaning to the innocent. It takes a problem that involved a relatively small number of guilty clerics and punishes innocent lay people. It follows the model of the anonymous bureaucracy rather than the model of the Catholic family which knows its own. Most of those who committed sexual abuse were exposed to their superiors who reassigned them to prevent their criminal acts from becoming public. A massive fingerprinting program would have turned up no abusers because criminal acts were deliberately hidden. Massive mandatory fingerprinting is an unreasonable requirement in light of the causes of the sex abuse scandals. The John Jay report did not uncover a single act of lay abuse. The lay faithful ask why this is the response rather than preventing homosexuals from being admitted to the priesthood and other positions of responsibility in the Church.
4) Giving the secular government oversight of the Church is dangerous and imprudent.
From the point of Church/State relations, there are two compelling reasons to oppose mandatory fingerprinting. First, it implies that the Church herself is a danger to her members and is not able to protect them without oversight from secular authorities. This turns reality on its head. It is the Church over the centuries that has converted barbaric nations and protected citizens from abuse by the state, not the reverse. Pope Leo XIII addressed this in many encyclicals of his pontificate in which he described the proper relations between the Church and the State.
The Church is a society chartered as of right divine, perfect in its nature and in its title, to possess in itself and by itself, through the will and loving kindness of its Founder, all needful provisions for its maintenance and action. And just as the end at which the Church aims is by far the noblest of ends, so is its authority the most exalted of all authority, nor can it be looked upon as inferior to the civil power, or in any manner dependent upon it….To wish the Church to be subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty is a great folly and a sheer injustice.15 (my emphasis)
Second, by turning over responsibility for oversight to secular authorities, the Church implies her dependence on the State and willingness to relinquish her authority to the State. While the current relationship is voluntary, it sets a precedent for the government at some future date to claim the right to exercise oversight of the Church and her members. This is a very real danger in view of the United States government keeping illegal files on pro-life activists and others. Former Attorney Janet Reno developed an extensive secret database called VAAPCON, the Violence Against Abortion Providers Conspiracy which entailed massive record keeping on pro-life leaders, even those who never engaged in activism. VAAPCON collected information on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others.16
Diocesan authorities insist that fingerprints and background files collected will not be maintained by the government. There is no way that can be guaranteed. Several men who work in law enforcement at both the Federal and state levels stated at the April 19th meeting in Front Royal that fingerprint records are likely to be kept permanently, a serious injustice to the innocent. In Virginia this will definitely be the case. The Code of the Commonwealth of Virginia § 52-46 establishes a database of all fingerprints submitted for background checks. They are archived and cross-checked against criminal activity so the submitting organization can be informed of any crimes disqualifying an employee or volunteer. The June 16 issue of The Wanderer reported that, “Elvira Johnson, a supervisor at the Virginia State Police Crime Lab, confirms that is the case: ‘the digital images [of the submitted fingerprints] are kept on archive’ on the state police computer system.’”17
In view of the growing hostility to Christianity in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular, in the United States, developing a program to identify all the priests in the country and many of the most active Catholic laity seems foolhardy. Our current Holy Father and his predecessor, coming from countries controlled by Nazi and Communist tyrants would certainly understand the dangers inherent in developing a national registration program for Catholics. The mandatory fingerprinting allows the State to collect such information easily without the political fallout of mandatory registration. Only those without a sense of history would fail to see the potential for abuse of such a program.
5) Lay faithful who oppose the invasion of their privacy and entanglement with the State may withdraw from parish religious education programs with great loss of talent and service to the local Church.. Others may form independent associations to teach outside the purview of the parish and diocese.
Already in a number of places laity are establishing programs and activities for youth outside the purview of the parish that ideally belong within. Fr. Specht informed parishioners at St. John the Baptist in Front Royal that if a CCD program could not recruit sufficient teachers willing to submit to mandatory fingerprinting, the parish will suspend its CCD program. This will, of course, result in religion programs forming outside the parish with no oversight by the pastors. Even in parishes where CCD continues the impact will be felt. Those who drop out are likely to be the most faithful to Church teachings because opposition to the bishops’ flawed approach has mostly come from those who embrace the Sacred deposit of Faith in its fullness.
6) The relationship of the sex abuse scandal to dissent needs to be studied.
Many Catholics believe that the sex abuse scandals arose from two main causes: homosexuals admitted to the priesthood and unbridled dissent, particularly from Catholic sexual teachings. Homosexuality continues to be presented as a gift to be celebrated as was evidenced at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference cited earlier. Dissent continues to be widespread in many dioceses throughout the country. The Religious Education Conferences on both the east and west coasts, which reach thousands of Catholic catechists and educators every year, are hotbeds of dissent. Both conferences feature a stable of speakers well known for their opposition to fundamental Church doctrines. The East Coast Conference is so notorious that the Director of Catechetics in Arlington, Fr. Paul deLadurantaye, advises catechists not to go and the diocese will not pay for attendance. Unfortunately, there are other sources in Arlington for promoting scandal. A local pastor, Fr. Horace Grinnell, sponsors the annual Thomas and Ruth Grinnell lecture series named for his parents which always includes a few well-known dissenters. He is in the process of expanding the series as an Adult Education Institute. The list of proposed speakers sent to a group of priests in the diocese includes those who promote women’s ordination, dissent from Church teaching on sexuality, and other heterodox issues. As long as this type of “catechesis” continues, the problem of physical and spiritual abuse of the faithful, including children, will go on. Mandatory fingerprinting and background checks for all Catholics who work with children will not solve the problem. Leading the faithful to embrace the faith in its fullness is the Catholic answer. Those who live lives centered on the Eucharist, Confession, and pursuit of virtue do not molest children.
1 Shawne K. Wickham,
“‘Celibate chastity’ will get new focus as church looks
to prevent abuse,” New Hampshire Union Leader, November 18, 2002.
2 Paula Doyle, “Panel Speakers ‘Open up the Conversation’
on Gay Priests,” The Tidings, March 18, 2005.
4 “Speaker is Partnered Lesbian ‘Priest,’” The
Wanderer, February 24, 2005, p. 3.
6 Diocesan meeting for Directors of Religious Education held April 21,
2004 in Diocese of Arlington.
7 Dr. Kirk Cameron, Editor, “A Look at Criminality,” Family
Research Report, Vol. 19 No. 8, December 2004.
8 Brian W. Clowes and David L. Sonnier, “Child Molestation by Homosexuals
and Heterosexuals,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 2005, pp.
9 Chris Manion, “Diocese Denies Homosexual Problem, Fingerprints
Parents Instead,” The Wanderer, June 2, 2005.
10 Adam Ashton, “Lastiri assigned to parish in Bakersfield,”
Merced Sun Times, June 7, 2005.
11 Stanford Espedal, “Kid in a Candy Shop: Disgraced Homosexual
Priest Living at Saint Augustine High School, Hearing Students’
Confessions,” San Diego News Notes, March 2005.
12 Jorge A. Cardinal Median Estevez, Prefect Congregation for Divine Worship,
Prot. N. 886/02/0, May 16 2002.
13 Achdiocesan Case Review Board Report, Archdiocese of Seattle, June
2004, p. 12.
14 Superior Court Files 29692 for Tulare county, CA Dept #6 before Hon.
David L. Allen in criminal case against Joe Herrera Banuelos, May 13 1991.
15 Pope Leo XIII, Episcopal Letter Immortale Dei, November 1, 1885.
16 Pete Winn, “VAAPCON-troversy”, Focus on the Family Citizen
Link, July 17, 2000.
17 Chris Manion, “In Arlington Diocese Controversy Over Fingerprinting
Continues,” The Wanderer, June 16, 2005, pg. 1.
2 Paula Doyle, “Panel Speakers ‘Open up the Conversation’ on Gay Priests,” The Tidings, March 18, 2005.
4 “Speaker is Partnered Lesbian ‘Priest,’” The Wanderer, February 24, 2005, p. 3.
6 Diocesan meeting for Directors of Religious Education held April 21, 2004 in Diocese of Arlington.
7 Dr. Kirk Cameron, Editor, “A Look at Criminality,” Family Research Report, Vol. 19 No. 8, December 2004.
8 Brian W. Clowes and David L. Sonnier, “Child Molestation by Homosexuals and Heterosexuals,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 2005, pp. 44-54.
9 Chris Manion, “Diocese Denies Homosexual Problem, Fingerprints Parents Instead,” The Wanderer, June 2, 2005.
10 Adam Ashton, “Lastiri assigned to parish in Bakersfield,” Merced Sun Times, June 7, 2005.
11 Stanford Espedal, “Kid in a Candy Shop: Disgraced Homosexual Priest Living at Saint Augustine High School, Hearing Students’ Confessions,” San Diego News Notes, March 2005.
12 Jorge A. Cardinal Median Estevez, Prefect Congregation for Divine Worship, Prot. N. 886/02/0, May 16 2002.
13 Achdiocesan Case Review Board Report, Archdiocese of Seattle, June 2004, p. 12.
14 Superior Court Files 29692 for Tulare county, CA Dept #6 before Hon. David L. Allen in criminal case against Joe Herrera Banuelos, May 13 1991.
15 Pope Leo XIII, Episcopal Letter Immortale Dei, November 1, 1885.
16 Pete Winn, “VAAPCON-troversy”, Focus on the Family Citizen Link, July 17, 2000.
17 Chris Manion, “In Arlington Diocese Controversy Over Fingerprinting Continues,” The Wanderer, June 16, 2005, pg. 1.