Mandatory Fingerprinting – a Solution? Or Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
The June 30 diocesan deadline for mandatory finger-printing spelled automatic dismissal for diocesan employ-ees and volunteers working with children who refused to submit to the requirement. At one parish in the diocese the policy is creating disunity and broken hearts. For Dr. Eleanor Kelly, Director of Religious Education (DRE) at St. John the Baptist in Front Royal since 1994, the decision not to be fingerprinted was a painful one. She loves her young charges. Like Jesus, who compared his love for Jerusalem to a mother hen gathering her chicks, Dr. Kelly speaks tenderly of the hundreds of children she guided through the catechetical program. “I’m like a grandmother to them,” she told Les Femmes. “It’s so important that someone else speaks to them [in addition to parents] and presents the faith. I’m really going to miss doing it.”
Kelly’s assistant, Shan Loughry, was also fired in the parish purge which swept out most volunteer catechists in the parish and many others working with children. Loughry, a homeschooling mom of two and a convert, ruefully described a conversation with Fr. Edward Hathaway, the new pastor. “He told me not to worry to be fingerprinted if I have a shoplifting record or something. It would all be kept in strictest confidence.” Father’s comment illustrates what many fear, i.e., that the diocese’s policy judges the laity as guilty until proven innocent. During implementation of the safe environment program, diocesan representatives, including the bishop, stated “parents might be abusers” and that those who refuse to be fingerprinted “must have something to hide.” It is an attitude many find troubling. [Les Femmes attempted to reach Fr. Hathaway for comment, but he was unavailable due to attending a two-week workshop out of state.]
Loughry believes the policy “makes everyone suspicious of each other…. That’s not the mind of the Church,” she said. “It’s the way of the world.” Now Loughry and her children attend daily Mass at Human Life International (HLI) instead of the parish. The deciding factor was Fr. Hathaway’s introduction of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at daily Mass. “We’ve been told we should be obedient to the bishop,” she said, “but when I asked Fr. [William] Ruehl [the former pastor who is in temporary residence] why they aren’t obedient to Redemptionis Sacramentum (RS) he said we don’t have to worry about that. It’s the bishop’s job.” [Editor’s note: RS says extraordinary ministers may assist the priest “only when there is a necessity.” Church documents are clear. The rare situations where laymen may assist are: when no priest is present, when the priest is inhibited by age or illness, or when the number receiving Communion is “so large” that Mass is “excessively long.” These extraordinary situations are rare and lay ministers are almost never justified at weekday Masses.]
According to Veronica Moreland, a catechist at St. John Bosco in Woodstock and a Les Femmes board member, “Bishop Loverde’s policy appears to be characterized by consistently dealing with problems and issues the way the secular world looks at them rather than as a spiritual father.” Moreland was removed from the catechetical program in Woodstock along with most of the other religion teachers (including myself) and the married couple leading the Junior Legion of Mary. “The bishops’ response to the mainly homosexual abuse crisis,” added Moreland, “seems to be dictated by their teams of lawyers and insurance companies.”
But why should anyone object to being fingerprinted? Isn’t it a sensible way to ensure children are safe? In an appeal to Rome I described why fingerprinting offers little security to parents: it fails to address the problems that caused the sex abuse scandals in the first place, i.e., homosexuality in the priesthood, the systematic cover-up of criminal actions by bishops, and rampant dissent from Church teachings. All of these endanger not only the bodies but also the souls of both children and adults. Despite the fact that over 80% of the abuse reported by the John Jay study involved homosexual priests molesting adolescent boys, the diocese continues to minimize and ignore the homosexual problem and the impact of dissent, particularly from Church teaching on sexual morality.
Parishioners of St. John the Baptist stated these very concerns at an April 19 meeting with Office of Child Protection head Fr. Terry Specht. In describing the event Wanderer reporter, Chris Manion, observed that “many parents…were deeply offended – some of them were outraged – that the chancery would fingerprint 15,000 lay people while it stridently refused – like the bishops in Dallas, as encouraged by the ‘gay activist’ movement – even to address the issue of homosexual priests….While Fr. Specht repeatedly attempted to focus on the mechanics of the background check program, he was inundated with questions about homosexual priests and the bishop’s intentions regarding them.” It was clear, despite parental concerns, the answer was fore-ordained: homosexuality was not going to be addressed. Submit to mandatory fingerprinting or face dismissal.
As a catechist for nine and ten-year-olds I responded to that ultimatum with an appeal to His Eminence Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. In June, facing imminent dismissal, I asked the congregation, which oversees catechetical programs, to rescind Bishop Loverde’s policy and review the situation in the United States. Until the gay subculture in the Church and the role dissent plays in abuse are dealt with, there will be no real solution to the crisis. Homosexuals molest children at a much higher rate than heterosexuals. Homosexuals also engage in criminal activity at higher rates as shown by numerous studies, including a 1996 survey of 12,283 non-institutionalized adults by the U. S. Center for Disease control. It was the largest national
random survey on human sexuality ever conducted in the United States. Studies consistently show homosexuals, who represent only 2 to 3% of the population, commit over 35% of child sexual abuse. While it is technically accurate to say “most abusers are heterosexual” it is highly misleading. Not only are homosexuals more likely to abuse, but they abuse numerous children. When 2% of any group commit such a large percentage of a crime, profiling makes good common sense.
Despite these facts many dioceses continue to admit homosexuals to the seminary and homosexualists propa-gandize for them as two panelists did at the recent 2005 West Coast Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles. Fr. James Martin, SJ, associate editor of America magazine, proposed “public models of gay priests” to counter “the stereotype of the gay priest as child abuser.” Tom Beaudoin, assistant professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University advised more discussion of the blessings and challenges of gay priests to allow Catholics to become “more human” and “more holy” with each other.” Santa Clara, a Jesuit institution, is well-known for its homosexual advocacy.
In an article in the May 2005 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, authors Brian Clowes and David Sonnier surveyed numerous studies and personal statements by homosexuals illustrating the “natural link between a homosexual orientation and child sexual abuse.” They pointed out that “anyone who even suggests that there may be a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia is instantly and reflexively labeled a ‘homophobe’ and a ‘gay basher.’”
Commenting on Clowes’ statement, Manion writes, “This analysis goes far to explain the views of Mrs. Jennifer Alvaro, Fr. Specht’s predecessor at the chancery. In 2004 Mrs. Alvaro told directors of Religious Education that ‘children are safer with homosexuals than with heterosexuals,’ evidently including their own parents. Although Alvaro left her position shortly thereafter, her apparent contempt for parents became a central theme of the chancery’s approach to ‘sex abuse prevention.’ Dr. Clowes reveals that anti-Catholic ‘gay activists’ agree resoundingly with Mrs. Alvaro’s view. According to his study, ‘Convicted pedophile and NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) member David Thorstad has said that ‘I think that pederasty should be given the stamp of approval. I think it’s true that boy-lovers [pederasts] are much better for children than the parents are.’”
One of the most pernicious aspects of the current policy is that it gives the secular government oversight of the Church, a dangerous and imprudent precedent. From the point of view 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 help 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.
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Second, by turning over responsibility for oversight to the state, the Church implies her dependence on the secular bureaucracy 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 control the Church and her members. This is already being discussed in Canada in the wake of legalizing same-sex marriage and is a very real danger in the U.S. as well. During Bill Clinton’s administration the Justice Department under Janet Reno maintained illegal files on pro-life activists and others including the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While Fr. Specht and the diocese say no permanent records will be kept, Virginia Code § 52-46 requires the state to establish and maintain a database of all fingerprints submitted for background checks. The prints are archived and cross-checked against criminal activity so submitting organizations can be informed if an employee or volunteer commits a crime that disqualifies him from service. Manion interviewed Elvira Johnson of the Virginia State Police Crime Lab who confirmed that “the digital images [of submitted fingerprints] are kept on archive.”
Since this information conflicts with the Child Protection Office’s assurances that no personal data is kept, I wrote to Bishop Loverde on June 20 informing him that, “a lawyer friend of Les Femmes reviewed the statute to make sure our interpretation of its legal meaning is correct. He commented that ‘By submitting fingerprints, it appears that one is agreeing that they be maintained (potentially) forever so long as one is in voluntary service. And by doing so, one authorizes, implicitly, at least, the state to notify the diocese of any arrest, etc. What a privacy waiver!’”
I presumed the diocese did not deliberately misinform the faithful, so I asked the bishop to tell “all those par-ticipating in the mandatory background check that their fingerprints will, in fact, be kept in a state database…. People who agree to the diocese’s mandatory finger-printing policy have a right to know they are waiving their right to privacy despite misleading assurances by the diocese.” I also asked how the chancery would notify the laity of this error. While waiting for an answer, I raised the same question with Fr. Specht in several e-mails. He responded but failed to answer the question. At deadline the diocesan webpage continues to read. “The fingerprints are a means of positive identification and do not enter the person being checked into any database.” Not true.
At this point one can only conclude that Bishop Loverde and the Office of Child Protection are willfully misleading the faithful to facilitate cooperation with mandatory fingerprinting. Denying informed consent flies in the face of the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People with its call for transparency and openness. It is also flagrantly dishonest.
A spot check of dioceses around the country found mandatory fingerprinting, while common, is not the only approach to evaluating those working with children. Most dioceses require training, either by attending a workshop or watching a video. Some require little else. Background checks vary. Some dioceses use private agencies to review public criminal records and state sex offender registries. Some do social security number checks. Others stress personal references and interviews. Dioceses that do mandatory fingerprinting generally involve the FBI and the state police which means personal information is probably kept in a permanent database as in Virginia. Applicants usually fill out a form that includes waiving the right to privacy and giving permission to do the check.
Will all this activity and the expense entailed protect children? Would it have protected the six-year-old nephew of Fresno pastor Fr. Mike Lastiri’s pastoral associate? Joe Banuelos one of Lastiri’s partners, molested the child. Baneulos went to jail. Lastiri, who also embezzled $60,000 from his former parish, went to the notorious St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, MD. Shortly after, Bishop John Steinbock sent him to St. Phillip’s Church where he was assigned twenty years earlier. When the parish rebelled, both the bishop and pastor castigated the sensible parishioners in the parish bulletin.
Steinbock showed he learned little from the sex abuse scandals. “The issue with Fr. Lastiri,” he wrote, “has been one of addiction, not criminal sexual behavior.… The fact that he has found his way, with the grace of God and…his response to intense therapy, to a newfound sobriety, he is in a unique position to minister to others with understanding.” The bishop went on to compare Lastiri to “another sexual addict, St. Augustine.”
No, Your Excellency, St. Augustine was a fornicator, not a “sexual addict.” Early on he settled in with a long-term mistress who bore him a son. All serious sins are not equally evil. Sodomy is one of the four sins that “cry to
is one of the four sins that
heaven for vengeance.” Homosexual sodomy, which often involves use of the most depraved pornography, anonymous sex, sadomasochism, and many partners is especially vile. It cries out to parents to demand removal of deviants who surround themselves with others of their ilk. They are, indeed, a serious threat to children and young adults.
Mandatory fingerprinting of the laity creates a lot of sound and fury that distracts attention from the gay subculture in the Church. Whether it protects the bodies and souls of the innocent, particularly young adults (recent minors), is another question.
[Visit the Les Femmes website to review the appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy of Bishop Loverde’s policy on mandatory fingerprinting. The website also documents the diocesan history on safe touch programs including correspondence and articles. At the Les Femmes home page: www.lesfemmes-thetruth.org select “Don’t Touch” from the menu which gives access to all documents.]