What Peter Steinfels got wrong about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

Steinfels’ much-discussed Commonweal essay is a 12,000-word cavil of a single adjective in the introductory paragraph of a 1,300-page document that, imperfect as it was, did what it set out to do.

The Department of Justice seal is seen July 30, 2018, in the Great Hall at the Main Justice Building in Washington. The Justice Department said in mid-October it was opening its own investigation into Pennsylvania's Catholic dioceses and clergy sex abuse claims. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Veteran religion reporter Peter Steinfels’ recent, lengthy essay in Commonweal, on the supposed faults and failings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the media coverage of the Report, is the sort of piece that tempts a writer to respond point-by-point, and line-by-line.

I will resist that temptation, but Steinfels’ essay does call for a reply.

Steinfels raises some real and significant concerns, most of which regard the grand jury system in general. The specific case of the grand jury that investigated the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania is at best an instance of those concerns.

Steinfels is right to note that grand juries are easily manipulated for political purposes, and their reports can be used to damage rivals or enemies. I share his concern. There is a risk to core principles of rule-of-law in free society—hence to free society itself—attendant on the use of grand juries, arguably illustrated in the kind of grandstanding the Pennsylvania Attorney General made of the Grand Jury empaneled to investigate the Church in Pennsylvania.

“Eternal vigilance, the price of liberty,” is not just a slogan. If Attorney General Josh Shapiro was careless in the use he made of the instrument, bishops were counting on greater and more general carelessness when they covered up abuse and enabled abusers.

Steinfels is also deeply concerned with reporters and news outlets, which he says have given short shrift to the improvements bishops have made in crafting and implementing new and robust safeguarding measures. That may not be exactly wrong, but there are two problems with making it a central complaint in an essay like the one he wrote.

First, making that case might not take the column inches his essay did, but it would have to be backed by more real data than he brings to bear, and much more rigorous analysis of it than he offers.

Second, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was not about the bishops’ progress in getting a handle on the noxious culture and nefarious dealings of clerical and hierarchical leadership over the past 15 years. It was about their failures—which were not mere failures of oversight, but included active coverup and enabling—for which only a few Catholic clerics have ever been charged and no bishop in Pennsylvania past or present has faced meaningful consequences.

Steinfels accuses the Pennsylvania Grand Jury of using its report “to be judge and jury, and to hand down convictions.” The report itself explicitly disavows this role, however; in fact, it describes its work as simply the best that could be done under the circumstances, due to statute of limitations. “This Report is our only recourse,” the Report reads. “We are going to name names and describe what they did—both the sex offenders and those who concealed them. We are going to shine a light on their conduct, because that is what the victims deserve.”

There is room for doubt regarding some specific claims against individuals named, but the Pennsylvania system provides for responses, which are contained in the Report. But in the absence of the preferable public trial, the Report is the sole, admittedly inadequate, public remedy for a very unsatisfactory situation.

When it comes to the Report itself, the central theses of Steinfels’ treatment are that the Report makes an “ugly, indiscriminate, and inflammatory charge,” specifically that, “all of [the victims] were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all,” and that media coverage of the report was, “amenable to uncritically echoing this story without investigation,” which led to, “[t]he prevalent story about Catholic clergy sex abuse as deeply entrenched, largely unabated, and uniquely Catholic,” being, “now so embedded in the media as to make it resistant to evidence to the contrary.”

Steinfels concludes that the Report’s charge against Church leadership in Pennsylvania was “unsubstantiated by the report’s own evidence, to say nothing of the evidence the report ignores,” and, “is truly unworthy of a judicial body responsible for impartial justice.”

First of all, a grand jury is not, properly speaking, a judicial body—not, at any rate, the way a trial jury is—nor is its purpose to render impartial justice. As Steinfels himself notes, a grand jury is an investigative instrument, the purpose of which is to collect and weigh evidence of crime, and determine whether there is a prima facie case for criminal prosecution or sufficient grounds for other government action.

This is also why Steinfels’ charge the Pennsylvania Grand Jury did not properly highlight, weigh, analyze, or otherwise take into account exculpatory evidence, is misplaced. That’s not what a grand jury does. A trial jury does that—at trial.

Steinfels consistently ignores this basic and key distinction, or misapplies it in his analysis.

In the case of the investigating Grand Jury that issued its report last August, the Pennsylvania Attorney General needed to show evidence of such criminal activity sufficient to warrant the Grand Jury’s  empaneling in the first place. It was not a fishing expedition. Also, there was never any question of indicting the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania—certainly not on the vast amount of evidence the Grand Jury collected, which pertained to crimes for which the statute of limitations had expired. Grand juries in Pennsylvania, however, are not limited to recommending judicial indictment. Here is how Pennsylvania defines a grand jury report in law:

A report submitted by the investigating grand jury to the supervising judge regarding conditions relating to organized crime or public corruption or both; or proposing recommendations for legislative, executive, or administrative action in the public interest based upon stated findings. (Title 42, Chapter 45, Section 4542)

It is odd to hear anyone crying foul over the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on the grounds it denied the bishops due process, as Steinfels does. A great part of the reason the grand jury was convened and its report came out the way it did were the decades of episcopal machinations that, among their effects, made timely prosecution of individual crimes impossible.

Steinfels takes particular issue with the Grand Jury Report’s claim that “all” of the victims were “brushed aside” when clearly, it wasn’t “all” of the victims. It was only “most” of the victims. Steinfels concedes the report proves widespread abuse and systematic coverup over decades.

After his painstaking read of the document, Steinfels in essence discovers that the 40th Statewide Grand Jury of Pennsylvania did its job.

Though his essay runs to nearly 12 thousand words, Steinfels does not offer a systematic critique of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. He does not even try to do so. He sets up a straw man: the inflated claim in the introduction to the report. He waves a red herring: the report doesn’t do the work of the defense. He picks a couple of cherries from the low, low branches: the misattribution of the phrase “circle of secrecy” to then-Bishop Donald W. Wuerl was one cause for considerable hand-wringing (even though the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report contained the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s extended rejoinder).

Steinfels’ protestations in that specific regard have a particular tin ring to them, as well: Cardinal Wuerl did not coin the phrase, “circle of secrecy,” but he did participate in the thing. We now know he participated in the thing both in Pittsburgh and in Washington, DC, where he succeeded the disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

We now know Cardinal Wuerl had at least one report of McCarrick’s perverse conduct directly from one of McCarrick’s victims in 2004, when Wuerl was still bishop of Pittsburgh. One doubts whether Steinfels would have dedicated so much of his ink to this point, had he known then what we know now.

Steinfels’ concern about how the Report downplayed the post-2002 drop in reported incidents of abuse and improvement in safeguarding minors is also misplaced.

The Report is perhaps “begrudging” in that last regard, as Steinfels says. Then again, “There is no reason, of course, why a grand jury has to take such diocesan testimony at face value,” he also writes. To do their job, the grand jury didn’t need to mention this progress at all, and shouldn’t be faulted for not doing so.

If reportage of the story of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report contributed to the reinforcement of public perception of the abuse crisis “as deeply entrenched, largely unabated, and uniquely Catholic,” and to that public perception being “now so embedded in the media as to make it resistant to evidence to the contrary,” there’s a reason—and it isn’t hasty or irresponsible reporting.

Abuse is a societal problem, as is coverup, as are the facile irenicism and a false sense of camaraderie that lead to institutional thinking of the worst sort. But highlighting that in a critique a report dealing with abuse and coverup in the Church can easily sound like whataboutism.

Steinfels’ essay is, in short, a 12,000-word cavil of a single adjective (“all”) in the introductory paragraph of a 1,300-page document that, imperfect as it was (such documents always are), did what it set out to do, in spades: show there is a prima facie case to make against the bishops of Pennsylvania, who covered up abuse and enabled abusers for more than seven decades.

(The view expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the CWR editors or Ignatius Press staff.)


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About Christopher R. Altieri 89 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, writer, and editor based in Rome, Italy. He spent more than a dozen years on the news desk at Vatican Radio. He holds the PhD from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

52 Comments

  1. I have never been a fan of Peter Steinfels, however, I think his recent essay is an invaluable contribution to a sane conversation about the whole “crisis.”
    I regret to say that my friend, Chris Altieri, is very much off-base in his critique of Steinfels. Indeed, I devoted my entire editorial in the latest issue of “The Catholic Response” to a refutation of the Pennsylvania report, aided in large measure by the work of an objective third-party legal critique.
    Frankly, I am tired of hearing about episcopal “cover-up” when what we are talking about is out-of-court settlements (which I oppose for very different reasons), which almost always involve confidentiality agreements. Simply put, if you want the money, keep your mouth shut; if you don’t want the money, feel free to talk to anyone you want.
    Mr. Altieri wonders if Steinfels would have modified his article if he had known about Wuerl’s prior knowledge of McCarrick’s behavior. What does that have to do with the Pennsylvania report?
    Very much to the point, if Shapiro had been seriously concerned about the welfare of children, why were all organizations involved with children not the subject of a grand jury investigation? As a matter of fact, Shapiro has shown his colors most recently in entering a complaint against the Trump Administration’s regulations guaranteeing religious freedom rights; further, Shapiro continues to harass the Little Sisters of the Poor!
    Some of the finest legal minds in the country have called the grand jury report a travesty of justice; less nuanced persons have dubbed it a joke (albeit a cruel joke), which has created a terrible climate of distrust in the Catholic community — as it dishonestly suggests that the accusations (not proven crimes and convictions) are part of the fabric of current Catholic life. As I pointed out in my editorial, there is no place safer for children today than in a Catholic institution in the United States.

    • Father Stravinskas, you may be tired of hearing about episcopal cover up but the fact of the matter is that episcopal cover up is what led to the shameful crisis we are in now. Had the Bishops actually done their duty, there would not be this much filth in the Church. Had the Bishops behaved as they should, you would not be tired of hearing of the cover up.

      It is shocking that after the long Lent of 2002 we are once again subjected to the exposition of the Bishop’s complicity and not just ineptitude.

      In your comment, you did not once disprove Altieri’s critique of Seinfel’s essay.

      It may be that there should also be a grand jury convened to investigate the other organizations. But that smacks of Tu Quoque. Whether all the other organizations are guilty of abuse is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that those who claim to be anointed by God have committed these heinous crimes.

      And yes, today, maybe (and that is a big maybe) there is no safer place for children than int the Catholic Church. But that is rather beside the point considering that the Church refuses to acknowledge the fact that Bishops shielded perpetrators and were perpetrators themselves.

      Even as I write, the Vatican still insists there is no link between homosexuality and abuse even when the facts stare them in the face. How can we even say that this will not happen again when majority or the abuse is same-sex related and we refuse to deal with that fact?

      If the Church is being persecuted, perhaps she should be for having danced to the tune of the secular world for decades instead of proclaiming and living the Truth of Christ.

    • “if you want the money, keep your mouth shut” Don’t you see a problem with this, Father? Whose money is it? Certainly, not the bishops’. And buying silence is the very definition of a coverup, legal niceties or not.

      • What Fr. S fails to note is that “silence” is required by The Church in exchange for the money…so it is the unfaithful shepherds of the Church “buying the coverup…of their own system of “mafiosi omertà.”

    • Fr. S:

      Cardinal Wuerl’s lying, and his pal Cardinal McCarrick’s career of deceit, destruction of the faith (Land of Lakes 1967), sexual abuse and anti-Christ sodomizing, are what have shaken faith in Catholic Bishops, Cardinals and McCarrick’s hand-picked Pope.

    • “Frankly, I am tired of hearing about episcopal “cover-up” when what we are talking about is out-of-court settlements (which I oppose for very different reasons), which almost always involve confidentiality agreements.”

      No doubt, confidentiality agreements, are part of the “cover up”, that kept much of the information revealed in The Grand Jury Report confidential.

      Peter Steinfels suggests that Catholics should “join hands over the issues that divide us”, when those issues reflect either an assent to that which a Catholic must believe with Divine and Catholic Faith in regards to The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, and The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, or a denial of The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, and a denial of The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, in essence, denying Genesis.

      the desire to engage in a demeaning act that denies The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, or The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Matrimony, does not change the nature of the act.

      While it is true that some bishops passed failures and present pastoral responsibilities have demonstrated that they do not believe and thus take seriously that Christ’s teaching on sexual morality, serves out of respect for the inherent Dignity of every beloved son or daughter, to then suggest that members of the Catholic laypeople who do not assent to The Church’s teaching as informed by Christ, in regards to sexual morality, is a contradiction in term.

      it is not The Faithful who are responsible for the heinous sexual abuse crisis, the sexual harrassment and abuse at various seminaries, and the heinous cover up when there was credible evidence to report and investigate a possible heinous crime.

      Catholic schools, like every point of Time and Space in our Salvational History, are always the safest, where the Faithful reside, those who hold fast and true to The Word Of Love Made Flesh.

      • I apologize, that should read:

        “Frankly, I am tired of hearing about episcopal “cover-up” when what we are talking about is out-of-court settlements (which I oppose for very different reasons), which almost always involve confidentiality agreements.”

        No doubt, confidentiality agreements, are part of the “cover up”, that kept much of the information revealed in The Grand Jury Report confidential.

        Peter Steinfels suggests that Catholics should “join hands over the issues that divide us”, when those issues reflect either an assent to that which a Catholic must believe with Divine and Catholic Faith in regards to The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, and The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, or a denial of The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, and a denial of The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, in essence, denying Genesis. The Word of God Will not contradict God’s Truth.

        The desire to engage in a demeaning act that denies The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, or The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Matrimony, does not change the nature of that particular demeaning act.

        While it is true that “some bishops passed failures and present pastoral responsibilities have demonstrated that they do not believe”, and thus take seriously that Christ’s teaching on sexual morality, serves out of respect for the inherent Dignity of every beloved son or daughter, to then suggest that members of the Catholic laypeople who do not assent to The Church’s teaching as informed by Christ, in regards to sexual morality, could possibly be part of the solution, when they are, in fact, part of the problem, would be contradiction in terms.

        It is not The Faithful who are responsible for the heinous sexual abuse crisis, the sexual harrassment and abuse at various seminaries, and the heinous cover up of credible evidence, that should have been reported in order to investigate a possible heinous crime.

        Catholic schools, like every point of Time and Space in our Salvational History, are always the safest, wherever and whenever the Faithful reside, those who hold fast and true to The Word Of Love Made Flesh, and therein, lies The Crux of the matter.

        One cannot be for Our Lord And Savior, Jesus The Christ, if one is against Him.

        The Charitable Anathema has always existed for the sake of Christ, His Church, all who will come to believe, and all those prodigal sons and daughters, who, hopefully, will soon return to The Fold.

        Let us Prayer that The Charitable Anathema will help those who no longer believe what a Catholic must believe with Divine and Catholic Faith, recognize the seriousness of their error that sets them apart from The Christ, repent, and return to Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, outside which, there is no Salvation.

        “No one can come to My Father, except Through Me.” Jesus The Christ

    • Desr Father, I commend your apparent cocern for fairness and justice. However, as an 81 year old man who has been a daily communicant most of my life and whose worked in many capacities for non profit Catholic service organizations, I have endured and witnessed muchof which the Grand Jury reports. The sorrow I suffer for the past 20 or so years is not something I wish to comment on in this forum. Just know that there are Catholics out here that are happy to see the kight of truth fall on those sheherds in wolves clothing. My faith, as I am certain that of many, may have been shaken a bit but no Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest or layman will cause me to abandon my Church. Please do not attemot to justify the McCarricks, Tobbins, Wuerls, McCelroys , James Martins among otgers of our Faith. Let the light of justice purify our Church….I do not doubt She will come out shining as the Bride of Christ that She is! It hurts me to read of excuses when I have witnessed and endured the tragedy that is the unfaithful shepherd. I entrust them to to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If one believes that Shapiro was zealous just wait until the Federal investigations, using RICO laws, completes its investigation!

  2. Mr. ALTIERI, WHO HAS NO INTELLECTUAL OR OTHER STANDING IN THIS MATTER THAT I CAN MAKE OUT, IS SIMPLY WRONG TO SUPPOSE THAT STEINFELS’ MATICULUS STUDY TURNS ON A SINGLE WORD. AS A JOURNALIST OF MORE YEARS THAN I SUSPECT BR. A. HAS BEEN ALIVE, I FIND STEINFELS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ABOUT THE REPORTING ON THE PA REPORT. WHERE DID YOU FIND THIS CREEP?

    • Calling Mr. Altieri a creep are you?

      You just soiled your own pants, Mr. Woodward, however elevated your self-opinion is.

    • Altieri went into great detail in his critique of Steinfels. You meanwhile are just ranting and raving sans proof other than because you say so. Your admiration for should be grounded on facts which you failed to present.

    • Kenneth Woodward, are you the same guy that announced how wonderful John T Noonan was? He too, was a person with not much standing. He was not a theologian, and he constantly tried to undermine Catholic teaching on contraception. He even came out with a bizarre interpretation of Humanae Vitae that said that Catholics can use contraception all during the month, except when they are fertile. So if you are that Kenneth Woodward, you are firmly entrenched on the liberal side of things, and Peter Steinfels, long a hack liberal reporter from Commonweal, that home of liberal goofs, is your man.

  3. This essay in a nutshell: Grand jury reports are supposed to be one-sided and tendentious, and the author has no problems with a one-sided, tendentious report painting the Catholic Church in the worst possible light, even though the media presented the report as an objective summary of proven facts and the author of the report, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is using the report to urge other ttorneys general to follow his example.

    In this regard, it is useful to note a fact omitted by the author: Shapiro is suing the Little Sisters of the Poor to try to force them to provide abortifacients and contraceptives to their employees.

    Only the very naive can fail to see that the end result of more grand jury investigations will be an attempt to coerce the Catholic Church to conform to secular, left-wing beliefs. Indeed, the similar Royal Commission in Australia recommended the end of priestly celibacy and the end of the seal of the confessional.

    • How is Shapiro’s suing of the LSP relevant to the overwhelming facts presented that priests and bishops sexually abused those in their care?

  4. Grand Jury Reports like that in Pennsylvania are inevutable when significant numbers of the leaders of the Catholic Church ceased to follow Christ and chose, instead, to follow the Father of Lies.

  5. I agree with Chris Altieri, and I disagree with Fr. Stravinskas’ angle on this matter.

    Yes – obviously DA’s like Shapiro are politically motivated, and would never pursue a grand jury action against a political ally like the public school establishment.

    And so…what?

    Fr. Stravinskas’ argument that there is “no safer place for children today than a Catholic institution in the US” is a MINOR point…it is unintentionally falling into the McCarrick trap.

    The MAJOR issue facing our Church is NOT pedophilia – the abuse of children per se. The evidence of the 2002 National Review Board and the recent German Church abuse caseload confirm this. THE MAJOR MATTER AT HAND is the generational and systematic cultivation and protection of a powerful network of clergy and Bishops who live double-lives as active homosexuals, who practice, as does Wuerl, a career of deception to live these double lives, deception which has at its core the ETERNAL NEED to coverup even for pedophiles, in order to protect the post-Christian and counterfeit Catholic sofomy cult from being exposed.

    Saying that the Catholic Church is “safe for children” is, wittingly or unwittingly, just “McCarrick-speek.” Our holy priesthood is being infested and attacked at its root by the cult of sodomy – the price of forgetting this has been, and always will be, sexual abuse of altar boys and seminarians, who will be left on the side to suffer and often commit suicide so that Wuerl and his friends can keep beach houses together at the Jersey shore and Ft. Lauderdale (isn’t that right Msgr. Rossi?).

    • Desr Father, I commend your apparent cocern for fairness and justice. However, as an 81 year old man who has been a daily communicant most of my life and whose worked in many capacities for non profit Catholic service organizations, I have endured and witnessed muchof which the Grand Jury reports. The sorrow I suffer for the past 20 or so years is not something I wish to comment on in this forum. Just know that there are Catholics out here that are happy to see the kight of truth fall on those sheherds in wolves clothing. My faith, as I am certain that of many, may have been shaken a bit but no Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest or layman will cause me to abandon my Church. Please do not attemot to justify the McCarricks, Tobbins, Wuerls, McCelroys , James Martins among otgers of our Faith. Let the light of justice purify our Church….I do not doubt She will come out shining as the Bride of Christ that She is! It hurts me to read of excuses when I have witnessed and endured the tragedy that is the unfaithful shepherd. I entrust them to to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If one believes that Shapiro was zealous just wait until the Federal investigations, using RICO laws, completes its investigation! q

    • Chris, you are spot on! God bless you for your honesty. The pain these wolves have caused will not subside soon. I look forward to a thorough purification of the Church. Thank you!

  6. Truth in this tainted existence is a double edged sword. Limited good is expected from States’ attorneys general investigation limited to what author Altieri concisely laid out. And its limitations well accounted for by Fr Stravinskas. As a dime store prophet I prophesied little good more damage will occur. Bishops will be compelled to make a chest beating for their fault thru their most grievous fault for their loss of credibility spiritual reawakening retreat urged by the Pope. Recollected the repentant more the unrepentant likely better at deception. The fault? Where else than with the only person living in this world with the authority and commission to rectify, to name the abuse Adult priestly homosexual violence among themselves and their adult to young adult victims. The real cover-up is at the Vatican dictating the false terms of the Feb ‘Synod’ [an evolved Papal concept subject to whim and perceived fancy] and doing everything possible to thwart the Am Bishops led by Cardinal DiNardo to do anything, to refuse delegation of authority to disarm and humiliate placing a notable Pontiff placater advocate of the sexually disturbed Cardinal Cupich in ad hoc command of the Am Bishops at home and abroad. An article achieves its purpose if it opens up good discussion and a Pontiff his agenda if he manages to engage the faithful in pointing their weapons at each other.

  7. Ross Douthat suggests if we want to understand the evil we are up against, then we must search at places that are “outcasts” (my word) in Catholic news and sources.

    I have taken his advice. I now sift evidence from, among others, Michael Voris (the bane of George Weigel!).

    Here’s a story from Voris:

    Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, formerly Archbishop of the US Military Archdiocese, is reported to be part of the Sodomy Coverup Cult.

    I remember shaking his hand once at a Knights of Malta dinner in NYC. I assumed – for the 25-30 years that I knew of him – that he was a faithful priest and Bishop.

    Apparently not.

    A Catholic Chaplain (I forget his name from the video…but you can see for yourself) for the Navy & Marine Corps, in command of all other chaplains in his area, in around the year 2000-01, became alarmed by the extremely high rate rate of Catholic chaplains being found guilty of sexual misconduct (80% homosexual misconduct). Catholic chaplains were only 20% of the chaplain corps, but their rate of misconduct was 50% of the chaplain-related cases. The good chaplain wrote of his concern to then Archbishop O’Brien, Head if the Military Archdiocese, expressing his great concern.

    O’Brien refused to answer or even aknowledge the Chaplain’s letter. Then in 2002, the Boston Globe sex abuse coverup story broke. Suddenly, O’Brien contacted the good chaplain, directing him to meet him.

    The chaplain traveled to meet O’Brien, thinking O’Brien would now join him in acknowledging the problem raised.

    Instead, O’Brien tried to “gaslight” the good chaplain, telling him he was over-reacting and imagining things, and “expressing concern that the chaplain might need psychological counseling.” The chaplain, being fully prepared, came with a case file of 100 allegations of sexual misconduct by Catholic Chaplains. O’Brien insisted that there were only 2 credible accusations. The good chaplain told O’ Brien that the Archbishop ought to be concerned less about the good chaplain’s psychological state, and more concerned about chaplains like Rev. Matt Lee, twice incarcerated by the Marine Corps for sexual misconduct, the first for homosexual misconduct, the 2nd and final for possessing child pornography.

    Lo and behold: it is reported that O’Brien, with his longstanding NY Archdiocese connections, is linked to the now deposed Vicar General of the AD of NY Rev. Mustaciuolo, who was protecting the now deposed gay-for-pay Priest Rev. Miquelli. Rev. Miquelli had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from parishioners, and hired his gay prostitute friend as a parish employee. How did this become publicly known? Did the parishioners aks for an investigation by the NY AD under Cardinal Dolan? Yes. Did the AD of NY help them? No. What happened? The poor parishioners had to go outside the Church to sue the Archdiocese to get justice…and that is where justice was served.

    And li and behold: can you guess who also had a connection to this ugly betrayal of the Church?

    Yes: Cardinal O’Brien. In fact, when the Cardinal traveled back and forth to Rome and other jet-setter locations, he was chauffeured to and from the airport by Rev. Miquelli’s very own gay prostitute boyfriend.

    So right now, we are stuck with seeking justice OUTSIDE of the CHURCH, as was proven in Italy when the parents of victims of Rev. Inzoli has to sue the Church in civil court to get justice for their children, when Pope Francis and “his team” reversed justice doled out by good Pope Benedict, and restored Inzoli to priestly duties, despite having been proven guilty by the formerly-credible CDF (now taken prisoner and totally compromised by the double-handed Francis…friend of McCarrick and Danneels the arch abusers and coverup Cardinals).

    Investigate and audit every single living Bishop and Cardinal.

      • Thanks Peter.

        We are fighting for our Church here – our Mother.

        And McCarrick is a post-Christian idolater (as evidenced by his brazen unrepentance) and so are “his pals.”

        Let us all heed Jesus about what to do here: we cannot merely pray…some demons cannot be driven out except by fasting and praying.

    • I too now pay much more attention to people like Micnael Voris. But you still need to keep in mind that they practice a much racking style of journalism. They are right half the time, and they are wrong half the time. I can remember lots of blockbuster things that Voris reports, and then you hear no more of them, because the story failed later on, down the line. Still, he is important and he uncovers things that no one else will uncover. He has lots of sources. But he is still wrong half the time. So follow Voris, but be cautious.

  8. People are missing fundamental truths. Grand Juries are ways that an Attorney General removes responsibility from himself and places it on the members of a Grand Jury. However, grand juries are notoriously easy to manipulate, because they only hear one side of the story.

    So Grand Juries are one of the best methods to politicize something while seeming NOT to politicise something

    Consider this – Attorneys General can simply to the investigation themselves – they have no need at all to convene a gran jury. The Attorney Generals office can investigate to high heaven. There is no need for a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is supposed to provide cover against charges of favoritism, but in actual fact, they just serve to cover up things.

    Second, the thing about Steinfels is why is this noted liberal, liberal, liberal guy suddenly coming out to attack the PA Grand Jury report. There is a reason for it. It did not just happen. Father Martin also praised Steinfels to the heavens. What is behind this liberal attempt to undercut the PA Grand Jury. ARe they afraid that they will find more homosexual misconduct. That is my guess.

  9. Father Stravinskas and Peter Steinfels have it right. Although neither puts it in quite these words: the Pennsylvania report is a political hack job. Catholics who take it seriously ought to be ashamed of themselves.
    The PA report is designed to be the opening salvo of a war by the secular state against the Catholic Church in the USA (as witness the spate of copy-cat proceedings in other states Shapiro has propagated). The PA report is militantly anti-Catholic, and the US bishops ought to find the courage to call it out and stop mumbling about their concern for victims, calling for prayer and penance, and trying to find ways to get the laity (God help us!) more involved in Church governance.
    My read is that most of the bishops in PA and elsewhere in the US did the best they thought they could, by the lights of their times (stretching over 70 years, for crying out loud!), although they weren’t prepared for the inundation of homosexuality in the clergy in the decades after the 1960s.

    • No Mr. Robert Miller.

      You and Fr. Stravinskas have it wrong: this is not a “fake crisis,” which is astounding to see implied by Fr. S’s “quotation marks” about this heinous matter.

      It makes no difference thst people who may hate the Catholic Church expose our criminals for us.

      You are wittingly or unwittingly doing McCarrick’s work for him.

      And in light of his close company with “Rev.” Rosica I am confirmed that the arch-liar and abuse coverup artist Cardinal Wuerl likewise has no “disordered attachments to scripture and tradition,” but worships the oracle Pope Francis, hero of Bishop Zanchetta and Rev. Inzoli and Rev. Grassi.

  10. I found Mr. Steinfels’ article more balanced and rational than Mr. Altieri’s. Steinfels’ account of the Erie diocese was both enlightening and historically truthful. Those of us alive today aren’t less sinful, we are just as blind to our sins as those who went before us were blind to theirs.
    There is no question that the Grand Jury report was a political hack job. And criminal prosecutions (or Grand Jury reports), no matter how satisfying they might seem, dont fix problems. They might motivate others to fix a problem, but they do nothing to actually fix a problem.
    There are two-sides to every story, and while there is no question that some in the hierarchy engaged in sinful behavior, the mere accusation does not constitute proof. Further, accusing those who cannot defend themselves, like the dead, to help cast aspersions over those alive, is sinful in itself.

    • Everyone knows the a grand Jury Report is by a group who hates the Church.

      And so…what difference does that make?

      Answer: none. Cardinal Wuerl is a liar, and lied to the Church’s own National Review Board about his own cases, and as we now just affirmed, lied to the Church again this past summer, in declaring he had “not even a rumor” of McCarrick’s offenses.

      You are (wittingly or unwittingly) doing McCarrick’s errand.

  11. I can see the new counterattack Mr. Steinfels and Woodward et al:

    Do you honestly think people will start acting like cattle because you show your “journalist” credentials?

    That doesn’t work anymore…

  12. As Mr. Steinfels observes, a Grand Jury investigation is conducted in secret, without the input, and most often not even the knowledge, of the accused. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, an indictment may be issued, whereby the accused is formally charged with the crime. Only then is he given the opportunity to defend himself, at trial. This, of course, can be a lengthy and involved process.

    In the case of most of the egregious Church abuse cases, the statutes of limitations have long since tolled. Many of the alleged perpetrators are dead. As Mr. Steinfels points out, there are many reasons why a case may not have come to light, depending on the individual circumstances. It may be that the victim was reluctant to come forward. It may that the Church investigated the case, and found the charge not to be credible. Or, it may indeed be a case where Church officials covered it up. But statutes of limitations exist for a reason. Evidence becomes stale. Dead people can’t defend themselves. And, as time goes on, it’s a lot easier to just make stuff up, especially if there is money to be made. Just ask Justice Kavanaugh.

    Given the supercharged information age we are now living in, everything is political. The process, and the publicity, are the punishment. Now more than ever, prosecutors are politicians, looking to promote themselves. So, in recent years, we have seen a politicization of the Grand Jury process. In the Pennsylvania cases, the Attorneys General utilized the process to generate “reports,” in lieu of indictments. This gave an official stamp to what would otherwise be stale charges, without actually having to prove them. In the case of our diocese, Altoona-Johnstown, a report was announced a few years ago by our Attorney General, after she was disbarred for unethical conduct.. She is now in jail.

    It’s not about guilt or innocence these days. Mr. Steinfels thinks he can discredit these people by conducting his own trial. His conclusion, or verdict, if you will, is that yes, all sorts of terrible things did indeed happen, but that no, the Church has been given a bad rap with respect to some of the coverup charges. I’ve got news for him. No one cares.

    When you do something that puts you on the wrong side of history, it is pretty hard to live it down. Our country is still calling itself to task over slavery, an issue that was supposedly resolved over unspeakable bloodshed some 150 years ago. More recently, when the Nazis were put on trial at Nuremberg, it wasn’t about giving them a fair trial. It was about the show. It’s always about the show.

    Like it or not, the Church is going to be living with this for a long time. It’s not fair. It’s not just. But it is what it is.

    I see that Mr. Steinfels could not resist, albeit in passing, resurrecting the tired old Bill Donohue argument, that the Church has been singled out unfairly. He states:

    “Nor are there comparisons to other institutions. One naturally wonders what a seventy-to-eighty year scrutiny of sex abuse in public schools or juvenile penal facilities would find.”

    This, of course, undercuts the very argument he is trying to make. The Catholic Church is not a government agency. If you truly believe the Church is an institution of Divine inspiration, and that its officials have been endowed with a sacred trust, then you should not be shocked when she is held to a higher standard, even by non-believers. Especially by non-believers.

    It gets worse. Check out his line:

    “As for Catholicism, the Second Vatican Council, along with major social changes, disrupted the church and the shame and silence imposed by its deferential culture. Jogged by lawsuits and publicity and the very fact of increasing instances of abuse, bishops’ responses began to change, belatedly but significantly, in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.”

    Let’s unpack this here. This guy is basically telling us that the Church’s present posture of diligently responding to child abuse cases was somehow inspired by the supposedly more open culture of Vatican II, while at the same time tacitly admitting that the Council ushered in the “increasing instances” of abuse. He also acknowledges that the Church’s response was “jogged by lawsuits and publicity,” which of course is a massive understatement. Maybe I am being cynical here, but I’d replace the word “jogged” with “motivated.”

    Which leads me to the point where I will share with you why I find this whole approach particularly offensive. The Catholic Church Hierarchy’s entire solution to this soul-wrenching crisis has been one of instituting new bureaucratic policies and procedures. Mr. Steinfels states this repeatedly…that these policies and procedures have been in place since 2002, that the Bishops effectively implemented them well before that, and that the problem has now been fixed. The Hierarchy has gone to Confession, recited its Penance, and resolved to sin no more.

    Except, in my view, the Church’s response to this crisis has been long on rationalization, and short on actual confession. This was, and is, a cultural problem, not a systemic one. And, when I speak of culture, all evidence all points to that “Woodstock” of the Modern Church, more popularly known as “Vatican II.” To hear them tell it, V-II was nothing but a positive change for the Church. This has always been the party line. As such, no “bad fruit,” can in any way be attributable to the Council’s emanations, which have now been elevated to the status of Revelation.

    I’m sorry, but I was there when it all went down. I am the product of sixteen grades of Catholic education, all of it in the epicenter of this scandal, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. I knew these guys. Theirs was a culture of not only of “change” but of complete disrespect for Church tradition, and the generation that came before them. They gave us junk theology, junk music, and even junkier buildings. Theirs was a lifestyle of wild parties, high living, and sexual permissiveness, both heterosexual and homosexual. That a few of them wandered out of their pleasure palaces in search of little boys is hardly surprising to anyone who lived through it. For every victim who suffered when someone crossed that line, there are many more who simply walked away from the Faith. That is the real scandal.

    • 100% correct.

      Wuerl and McCarrick are pals, and Steinfels is part of the McCarrick Establishment, defending the post-Catholic regime of counterfeit clergy, bishops and Cardinals, men who defy the moral law of sexual chastity given to us by The Lord Jesus.

      They believe in what Professor Hornbeck of Fordham believes: that Jesus and the apostles were wrong to oppose fornication, sodomy and adultery.

    • The “fake crisis” is the media’s presentation of this as another round of newly uncovered child abuse in the Catholic church. Of course, there has been no renewed outbreak of child abuse in the Catholic church. That has pretty much been under control since the 2002 events. It is very true that Josh Shapiro, the PA attorney general, sought to give the impression that a new round of child abuse had broken out, and that it was evenly split between abuse of boys and girls, which is false. Shapiro takes lot of homosexual money, and he does their bidding to a large degree.

      The only thing his report did was talk about the details of cases that had been exposed in the media already, years ago, and used such graphic detail as to make everyone want to vomit. It is good in a way that he did this, because the realities of homosexual abuse need to be known. The presence of evil homosexual priests needs to be known and understood. So he marginally contributed to the understanding of the problem But everything in his presentation indicates that he wanted to give a false impression to the media.

      However, this new crisis is the uncovering of the fact that homsoexuals run large parts of the church. It is nor really about a new round of child abuse. It is about McCarrick the homosexual rising, of Cupich and Farrell and Nighty Night Baby rising, of Pope Francis and Spadoaro and Martin.

      • Bingo Samton:

        Your last paragraph is the real crisis.

        It is what Gov. Frank Keating alerted the Catholic Church to in 2003 when he resigned from the US Review Board:

        The Church has been and is still being compromised by morally corrupt Bishops and Cardinals.

        And these core men: McCarrick, Mahony and Danneels of Belgium and Wuerl etc etc etc just elected their own agent – Cardinal Bergoglio – to take the coverup to the Church worldwide.

        That is the crisis – apostasy and corruption in the Church Hierarchy: all the way to the Pope engineered in the 2013 conclave – who as the post-Catholic arch-liar McCarrick stated at Villanova in Oct 2013 (google & watch the video) was elected “to change the Church in 5 years.”

    • I have to say, that was a very long involved comment just to say you dislike Vatican II and blame it for all the child abuse. That is a silly position, in the extreme

  13. While we’re discussing Steinfels:

    I note he is professor emeritus and agent of Fordham University, the post-Catholic cult college which actively promotes sodomy and other offenses against the law of Jesus – by way of establishing a publicly-known sodomizing man, Prof. Hornbeck, as its Chairman of Theology.

    So Steinfels begins with the assumption that he, like McCarrick and Danneels and Wuerl and Cupich and Tobin and the rest of Fordham’s “Land-of-Lakes” counterfeit-Catholics, are trying desperately to save the McCarrick establishment and their post-Catholic pontiff Jorge Bergoglio…band-picked by McCarrick, Danneels et all.

    Monstrous men of darkness, deceit and soul-murdering sexual abuse.

    • To hear people talk about Francis, Weurl, McCarrick, shows the ignorance of so many Catholics and non Catholics-
      Weuel got defamed in the Grand jury Report, he’s described as having done nothing to get rid of abusers, when he actually pursued them and kicked 18 out of one diocese.
      Francis had Card, Dolan put a report together on McCarrick and when it was don McCarrick was gone, and is now defrocked.
      Read the MEDIA REPOT and Catholic League web site-they do their homework on this issue, with brutal honesty, and show the fake news about clergy abuse.
      GS

  14. I hold no brief for the US bishops, but the uncritical acceptance of the PA grand jury report by some Catholic conservatives is embarrassing. It is almost entirely a combination of either previously disclosed incidents or unsubstatiated allegations going back decades that cannot possibly be proven one way or another. Many of the accused are, of course, conveniently dead. Shapiro and the media clearly try to present this as breaking new ground, when it mostly is a rehashing old stories or a dump of everything in the files, however dubious or speculative. We do know a few things about Shapiro, however. He is an ambitious, leftwing politician with impecable anti-Christian credentials who issued this thing to help build a national profile for himself. And he is doing it with the undeserved help of writers like Mr. Altieri. The sex abuse scandal in the Church was real enough, but that does not mean that every wild charge should be taken at face value. We should know better.

    • TONY –

      no one, much less Chris Altieri, is suffering from “uncritical acceptance” of the PA Grand Jury Report.

      I think you are not connecting with Mr. Altieri on the underlying crisis disclosed by what is on the surface of this matter. Steinfels is playing the McCarrick strategy, trying to mischaracterize this crisis, because it threatens men like Steinfels himself, who is part of the McCarrick establishment.

      • Chris,

        You do have not to convince me that there has been an ongoing crisis in the Church over the last fifty years plus, and that current phase under Francis is the low point so far. However, inviting people like Josh Shapiro, Lisa Madigan,and Eric Schneiderman to come in and “clean house” is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. It reminds me of a certain type of “conservative”, who during the Cold War, fantasized about the Red Army rolling into the West and eradicating all the decadence. Be careful what you ask for.

      • Chris,

        You do realize that good, orthodox, innocent priests are also getting swept up in the abuse allegation frenzy. I personnally know of two such cases locally over the last fifteen years, and yes, I am confident that they are both inncocent. In fact, you would have to have no imagination not to have foreseen how the enemies ( both inside and outside) of the Church would exploit the scandals to try to silence and destroy good priests whom they despise because of their holiness and effectiveness. That the sex abuse scandal was very real is undeniable, but it has largely abated over the last two decades at least and acutually began declining starting in the mid-,80s. The 88 year old Ted McCarrrick is very much the face of the scandal, a man who was committing his outrages at the peak of the crisis and a little beyond.

  15. In related news, a federal judge in Pennsylvania, acting in response to a lawsuit filed by Josh Shapiro, has just issued a nationwide injunction against the Trump Administration’s regulations providing relief from Obama’s contraceptive mandate. Shapiro is serious about using government power to control the Catholic Church.

  16. The problem, of course, is that we can only seek justice from the State where civil law was broken, i.e. minors involved. The real issue (homosexualists) can only be fully resolved within the Church, since homosex is generally not illegal under civil law.

  17. Pa. A. G. Shapiro is no friend of the Church or Judeo-Christian Values, He’s a Rad Pro-Gay and Pro-Abort. I suppose it’s a case of God using evil nations and people to chastise a faithless Israel….

  18. Silly, eh?

    “In order to celebrate these Sacred Mysteries, let us call to mind those rare occasions where, well, you know, maybe we weren’t as cool as we usually are…[1 second pause.]

    Pretty much sums up Vatican II.

  19. I have not only read the PA report but have *personally spoken* to priests who were *falsely accused* in the report.
    PA Josh Shapiro’s report was utterly and corrupt and dishonest to its core.

    Peter Steinfels’ article was a long-overdue GODSEND, and I am *incredibly* disappointed in Altieri’s assessment here.

    I could provide several examples, but Altieri’s claims of “decades of episcopal machinations” are unsupported by any serious factual analysis.

    And regarding this assertion by Altieri: “Though his essay runs to nearly 12 thousand words, Steinfels does not offer a systematic critique of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. He does not even try to do so.”
    What?! That is nothing but a *complete falsehood*.

    CWR is much, much better than this lazy and ill-composed “critique.”

    This article is so poor I am wondering that if Altieri’s effort was the product of some kind of personal bad blood between him and Steinfels.

  20. Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas mentioned in his comment here that he devoted his entire editorial to the PA Grand-Jury Report in the latest issue of his journal, The Catholic Response. I have read it, and it is to date the most compelling and just challenge to the PA Report that has come out of American Catholicism. It is also no surprise that his editorial cites the work of David F. Pierre, Jr., publisher of The Media Report, who also comments here. Both men are to be commended for their rational thinking and writing through what has become for all the rest of the Catholic Church in America our summer of shame. I just read a brief piece in The Wall Street Journal quoting AG Josh Shapiro: “There is a reckoning going on in this country.” A reckoning implies vengeance carried out by a judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one with nothing like a trial of facts and evidence to get in the way. I have also written about the unconstitutional report that came out of PA’s Grand Jury with no possible purpose except to persecute instead of prosecute: http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/grand-jury-report-abusive-catholic-priests/

  21. It seems the author simply does not like Peter Steinfels. Another good reason to avoid The Catholic World Report as a source of honest and balanced information and perspective.

    • It seems that Fr. Lindner is making an accusation that he doesn’t bother to back up–probably because it isn’t true. The article makes arguments against some of Steinfels’ claims and analysis; it Fr. Lindner finds fault with the arguments, he should say so. But making this about who “likes” who is lazy and sloppy, the sort of thing CWR works hard to avoid.

  22. Christopher R. Altieri’s article criticizing Steinfel’s knocking the Grand Jury Report (GJR) of Penn State, is typical of all those Catholics who want to be “the good guy”, and everyone else, the “bad guy”.
    No one’s denying there are bad guys on the GJR list, but there are priests-like Benestad, Fitzgerald and others-who were already cleared of abuse charges BEFORE the GJR came out, but their names were still on the list.
    Now there are priests who were in the GJR who are making noise that they were kept out of the hearings without a chance to defend themselves.
    THESE are the articles that Altieri and others should be writing.
    Altieri’s comment about ‘trials’ is an important point-but the point is that in so many cases on the GJR, there were NO trials.
    And in places where fake victims like Gallagher sent three priests and one teacher to jail (one whom died there, handcuffed to his cell bed), the trials were a sham.
    Fr. Gordon MacCrae is now in his 25th year of incarceration on a fake abuse charge even though his accusers admitted privately, he never abused them, and that they were “going for the money’, which a lot of foolish bishop forked out without a trial or due process.
    Cardinal Pell is now convicted in Australia, when the court decided earlier in the year, last year,, that the ‘major charges were not worth being taken seriously’, BUT, the trial could go ahead.
    Now we know that one of Pell’s ‘victims’, who is now dead after OD-ing, told a relative that Pell never abused him, which kills the testimony of the other fake victim, who said they were both abused.
    I have written to Cardinal Weurl, also defamed in the GJR, to sue the %$#@ out of the attorney general Shapiro, and I hope Pell will do the same.
    In the words from the film, BECKET, ‘the Kingdom of God must be defended like any other kingdom.”
    We do it now, or they will open the arena and start throwing us all to the lions again.
    G Sudano

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