On behalf of the bishops of the California Catholic Conference I wish to respond to the article in America by Marci A. Hamilton (9/25), who is both an attorney for plaintiffs suing the Catholic Church and a professor at Yeshiva University Law School. The full response to her article can be found at www.cacatholic.org.
Under the guise of presenting lessons from the crisis of sexual abuse of minors, America has provided one of the most vociferous and bitter critics of the Catholic Church with a forum to publish a new plaintiffs’ brief. In federal court, she has argued the case against the Diocese of San Diego in its challenge to the California law that repealed the statute of limitations for the duration of 2003. She has opposed the church in several major legal issues, including the Archdiocese of Portland bankruptcy action. To describe Professor Hamilton merely as having represented numerous survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy of various denominations on constitutional matters is not transparent and certainly not full disclosure for the readers of America.
Professor Hamilton completely ignored the findings of the John Jay Report. The directors of that Report describe it as one of the most extensive collections about sexual abuse of minors and one of a very small number not based on forensic content. As such, it is a very valuable source of knowledge about sexual offending (John Jay 2006 Supplementary Report).
Her book God vs. the Gavel (2005) makes extravagant claims about abuse in the 1990’s that are not sustained by evidence. She has defended California’s targeting of the Catholic Church, and she promoted the same cause in Colorado. However, the John Jay Report shows that after 1985, as society became more familiar with the evil of sexual abuse of minors, church authorities dealt with it vigorously, and that it declined precipitously in subsequent years.
We agree with Professor Hamilton that the protection of children must be an absolute priority. However, we note that her priority extends only to children abused in private institutions. Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is a terrible tragedy, but it represents a small fraction of one percent of the whole unfortunate problem of sexual abuse of minors. Clearly the extension of the civil statute of limitations in California targeted the Catholic Church. That is how it was drawn up, and that is how it operated. In fact, the thousands of children Professor Hamilton claims were abused in churches during the 1990’s were more likely abused in public institutions, but she closes out the possibility of suits against those institutions.
The Catholic bishops of California reaffirm their absolute commitment to keeping the church safe for all, particularly children. They hope that the lessons learned and the evidence provided regarding sexual abuse will be of universal assistance in dealing with this terrible problem. Our society must go beyond identifying sexual abuse as a Catholic issue. It must treat all victims equally and not just focus on those whom trial lawyers can select to make a great deal of money for themselves. Justice must include all children.
(Most Rev.) Stephen E. Blaire
President, California Catholic Conference
In The Ethical Legacy of Dirty Harry (9/11), George A. Lopez gives a valid and pointed synopsis of policy issues surrounding the war on terrorism. There is no question that the president has had the upper hand in a nebulous environment by bold and aggressive leadership.
But to assert that the Bush ethical framework has not been examined on its own terms seems a misreading of the situation. Rather it is precisely the misgivings Americans have with these policies that are at least partially responsible for Bush’s falling popularity and the vigorously contested midterm elections.
Spirited critiques of administration policy cover many specific itemstorture rendition, redefining treaties, pre-emptive war, warrantless wiretaps, civil war versus war on terror, disproportionate costs, to cite a few. Rather than tacit acquiescence, I believe much of the discontent has significant ethical dimensions.
It is entirely possible that your editorial Politics and Terror (9/11) is a more accurate presentation. The public, however, does get it. They are out ahead of their elected representatives.
The Ethical Legacy of Dirty Harry, by George A. Lopez, (9/11) prompted some reflection. I was as stunned as anyone by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But we are such good people! What went wrong? Why? Is evil personified in Osama bin Laden as in no other of God’s creatures? Is he bent on destroying us just out of irrational hatred? No reasons, no exceptions? What are we missing?
I certainly do not have an inside track to his mind, but I would like to hear his thinking. What are his reasons for such hatred and destruction? Before we openly espouse any more Dirty Harry tactics, or kill more terrorists, or go to war against another nation, or shed the blood of more sons and daughters of the human family, couldn’t we have a conferenceunder U.N. auspiceswith bin Laden or his representatives and the U.S. and U.N. representatives elected by the world bodya conference to seek truth and reason, to bring to light any hidden agenda!
I am too old to be afraid for the future, but I believe the world today is entitled to something better.
Ron Henery, O.P.
The juxtaposition of the treatment (9/25) of Liturgiam Authenticam in Translating the Liturgy, by John F. Baldovin, S.J., with Authentic Unity by Robert F. O’Toole, S.J., is providential and painfully instructive. The most discouraging sentence in Father Baldovin’s article is The U.S. bishops obviously have decided to accept the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam as insisted upon by Cardinal Arinze. What a surprise! Not only has Latin become a sacred cow, but even Latin word order. That could leave us with And with spirit your!
(Rev.) Brian M. Rafferty
Lake Shore, Md.
The big division among non-Catholics is between fundamentalists, who interpret the Bible literally and, for want of a better word, the mainstream Protestants. The Catholic disunity of which Robert F. O’Toole, S.J., writes in Authentic Unity (9/25) is similar, but not as pronounced. Catholics differ in that some accept certain passages as literal and others do not. Some hold that the story of Adam and Eve and Genesis 1 to 11 are literal history. Others accept the findings of science that our first parents were totally different from Adam and Eve, a multitude rather than one pair, and date back well over 100,000 years.
As a result, the understanding of original sin and related formulations is blurred. Small wonder that as a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI stated that the inability to understand original sin and to make it understandable is really one of the most difficult problems of present-day theology and pastoral ministry.
While the problem of disunity muffles the voice needed by evangelization, the process of dealing with our problem can contribute to the unity of all Christians who sincerely try to ascertain Christian truth. The Bible-only theory for doing this has been discredited. Recognition is unavoidable of the need of an institution like a general council. But a tremendous amount of dialogue is called for about the structure, area of competence, competence of members, limits and membership. Our work and the expertise we attain in solving our problems, together with more humility, will render us more skilled and flexible in that dialogue. Without a council that Christians generally can accept, substantial advance in ecumenism is not possible.
The Lord wants unity, but not yet, as I see it. Unity of love, yes, now and always, this unity that popes have promoted zealously and with much success. Organic unity awaits the reconciliation of our differences, a great part of third-millennium history. Please God.
(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.
I think history might disagree with Col. Patrick Lang’s final statement, If we do that, jihadism will simply wither away (Al Qaeda and the Jihadis, 10/02). These violent conflicts with radical Islam have been part of Western history since the seventh century. All these various groups within radical Islam are united in their desire for a universal caliphate, wherein all peoples and religions will be subject to Shia law.
There is no logical discussion with these terrorists as Benedict XVI prays. They will not simply wither away as Western Europeans and some Americans hope.
(Msgr.) Donald J. Desmond
East Hampton, N.Y.