2011 ANNUAL REPORT ON ANTI-CATHOLICISM
Colorado Springs, CO – The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a lawsuit against the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) because they scheduled a prayer luncheon on February 10. The Superintendent of the USAFA, Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould, invited 1st Lt. Clebe McClary, a committed evangelical, to be the guest speaker. MRFF sought to silence him because of his religious views. Along with MRFF was a USAFA economics professor, David Mullin, who claimed that his attendance at the luncheon was mandatory, and would face reprisal if he chose not to attend. The judge who ruled on this case showed that the event was voluntary. Moreover, Mullen testified that he never suffered retribution when he decided not to go to previous prayer luncheons. Bill Donohue answered this by publicly applauding Gould for standing by his decision to welcome McClary.
Church-suing attorney Jeffrey Anderson accused former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan (now the archbishop of New York) of moving $75 million to the parishes in 2004. Dolan did so because the money was held as an investment account for the parishes and was returned to them.
Anderson also wanted to know why $55 million was moved to a cemetery trust in 2008, a year after a Wisconsin court said victims could sue for fraud. In reality, the cemetery transfer took place in 2007, and was entirely consistent with previous practices: the cemetery trust existed, de facto, since the early 1900s and was not formalized until 2007.
Assisting Anderson was Los Angeles lawyer Gillian Brown. On February 11, she got so out of hand in her rambling attacks that presiding Assistant U.S. Trustee, David Asbach, had to put the arm on her. Brown also asked about the monetary value of the bishops’ rings and crosses.
We issued a press release demonstrating that the pro-abortion community was lashing out due to fear of legislation assuring civil rights to the unborn. Below are some examples.
• Pro-abortion enthusiast Amanda Marcotte said pro-lifers want to force women back to the “sadistic punishments” of the pre-Roe days when they were allegedly forced to mutilate their own babies.
• The Feminist Majority accused pro-lifers of “domestic terrorism,” and a writer for religiondispatches.org said “state-endorsed terrorism” was at work.
• The National Organization for Women outdid everyone by engaging in rank anti-Catholic invective: it said it would be a “dream-come-true” for the bishops if women were to lose access to pap smears and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Jeffrey Anderson said he possessed a “smoking gun” that showed that when Archbishop Dolan led the Milwaukee archdiocese before coming to New York, he and the Vatican worked in concert to “keep secrets and avoid scandal” in their handling of an abusive priest, Franklyn Becker.
However, unlike his predecessor Archbishop Weakland, Dolan moved with dispatch to get Becker out of ministry. In his letter of May 27, 2003 to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now the pope), he said that all efforts to rehabilitate Becker were a failure, and that “it is clear that he will never be able to assume public ministry” (Becker had just been arrested in California for crimes he allegedly committed in the 1970s). Furthermore, Dolan said that if the California trial went forward, it “makes the potential for true scandal very real.”
The term “scandal” in the Catholic lexicon is very specific: it is defined as “a word or action evil in itself, which occasions another’s spiritual ruin.” In other words, once the public found out more about Becker, his misconduct would give scandal to the Church by causing the faithful to question their faith. For that reason, and for his past record, Dolan said he wanted him out of the priesthood. Anderson knows his way around Catholic circles and knows full well what Dolan meant, yet he chose the more conventional understanding of the word “scandal” to condemn him.
Sacramento, CA – Atheist activist Michael Newdow was denied certiorari in his fight to excise “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. He had been trying unsuccessfully for years.
An editorial in the Seattle Times said that 37 priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese were allowed to continue in ministry despite a finding of sexual misconduct by a grand jury. But the grand jury did not find anyone guilty. Moreover, all of the accused were initially investigated and 24 were suspended on a second look; most of the others were found innocent or had left ministry.
Archbishop Dolan was condemned by the National Survivor Advocates Coalition for allegedly engaging in a “shell game.” A website run by activists, BishopAccountability.org, took aim at the Bridgeport archdiocese for not listing the names of “accused priests”— not “credibly accused priests.”
The National Catholic Reporter also ripped into Archbishop Dolan for his remarks on “60 Minutes.” Dolan correctly said that the scandal is “over with”—most of the abuse took place between the mid-60s and the mid-80s (recent stories are about decades-old cases)—and for this he was treated with scorn by Jamie L. Manson. Unhappy with the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics, she spoke derisively and disrespectfully of the archbishop.
Daniel Neill’s family sued the Philadelphia archdiocese, blaming it for his suicide.
In 1980, Daniel Neill accused Rev. Joseph J. Gallagher of fondling him when he was an altar boy at St. Mark’s in Bristol, PA. His accusation was not deemed credible by the principal of the school. The case was dismissed. The boy’s parents did not sue the school. The case was dismissed again in 2007, when Neill, knowing that a grand jury had been impaneled to look into old cases, decided to report his alleged abuse to the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Since the investigators could not substantiate an uncorroborated accusation of an alleged act of abuse that occurred 27 years earlier, they dismissed the case. In July 2008, Neill was notified of the decision. In June 2009, he killed himself.
Attorney Jeffrey Anderson represented Neill’s family. He supported their case on the grand jury report which held that the investigators should have deemed Neill’s claims credible, but offered no evidence to support its position.
The grand jury report said falsely that Neill’s account was based on “the corroboration of other witnesses.” In fact, there was no corroboration by anyone. While the report said there were a few altar boys who said that they, like Neill, had discussed masturbation in the confessional, “none of them said they were molested by Father Gallagher.” More important, the report never said that even one of these friends was witness to—or even heard about—the alleged abuse. And indeed the only person Neill said he discussed his travails with at the time was the priest’s sister, who was mentally handicapped
Jeffrey Anderson accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, of knowing about the conduct of a Wisconsin priest, Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who allegedly abused Anderson’s client in 1960. The lawsuit, filed in 2010, was procedurally defective and therefore went nowhere. In 2011, the proper channels were pursued, but the end result was the same.
The fact is that the Vatican was never notified of Murphy’s behavior, which involved many boys extending back to the 1950s, until 1996. The Vatican could have ignored the case, maintaining that the statute of limitations had expired, but instead ordered a trial. The judge in the trial, Father Thomas Brundage, testified that Ratzinger’s name never came up during the proceedings. The trial was called off once it became clear that Murphy was near death; he died soon after.
Voice of the Faithful, a dissident Catholic group, sent a letter to the 900-plus priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia asking them to agree with its position that Pennsylvania lawmakers should abolish the statute of limitations for sexual abuse, opening a two-year window for civil suits.
The letter by Marita Green of the Steering Committee said that supporting its position is a “measure of integrity.” Included was a “survey” which asked priests whether they agreed with its stance. To top things off, it explicitly said that “the number [of postcards] that are not returned will be recorded as votes against abolishing the statute-of-limitations shield.”
Voice of the Faithful deliberately tried to engineer this “survey” so that it could go to the media “demonstrating” how few priests of “integrity” there are in the Philadelphia area.
After a priest sent us the correspondence from Voice of the Faithful, we mailed the 900-plus priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a letter designed to short-circuit this agenda. It worked—few responded.
Planned Parenthood of Collier County, Florida hosted a Catholics for Choice workshop.
The Diocese of Venice in Florida declared that this event was “an attempt to distort Catholic teaching to advance a particular agenda that is offensive to Catholics and like-minded people of good will.”
To say, as they advertised, that “abortion can be a moral choice,” is to say that the intentional killing of innocent human life can be morally justified.
A federal appeals court overturned a previous ruling that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. The court said that the plaintiffs did not have a right to be protected from “conduct with which they disagree.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that this was unconstitutional on the premise that encouraging people to pray is against the First Amendment.
SNAP called on House Speaker John Boehner to withdraw his nomination of Father Patrick Conroy to be the 60th chaplain of the United States House of Representatives alleging that he did not call police about a previous case of sexual abuse. The charge was totally bogus, and Father Conroy became the new House Chaplain.
The National Survivors Advocates Coalition opposed the nomination of Father Patrick Conroy to be the Congressional chaplain: “This is not the time to place a member of the Oregon Province of the Jesuits in a position of privilege and influence.” The accusation was as bigoted as it was inacurrate.
Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report condemned the Holy See’s human rights record. However, it did not list a single instance of a human rights violation in 2010. Its entire entry on the Holy See smacked of bias.
The Vatican issued guidelines on how to address the issue of sexual abuse. The day before, SNAP condemned the guidelines in a press release: “To anyone unfamiliar with the church hierarchy’s long-standing secrecy surrounding child sex crimes and cover ups, these ‘guidelines’ may seem decent. To those, however, who realize that, right now, across the world, kids are being molested by priests and crimes are being concealed by bishops, these ‘guidelines’ are woefully inadequate.” The fact is that the Catholic Church has less of a problem with the issue now than any other institution. The charge was totally unfounded.
The bishops’ conference released the John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on the “Causes and Context” of abuse. Two days before its release to the public, the New York Times reported that SNAP and BishopAccountability attacked the report before even seeing it. Co-director of the latter activist entity, Anne Barette Doyle, said, “There aren’t many dioceses where prosecutors have gotten involved, but in every single instance there’s a vast gap — a multiplier of two, three or four times — between the numbers of perpetrators that the prosecutors find and what the bishops released.” National director of SNAP David Clohessy said, “Predictably and conveniently, the bishops have funded a report that says what they’ve said all along, and what they wanted to hear back. Fundamentally, they’ve found that they needn’t even consider any substantive changes.” Once again these accusations were made without any supporting evidence.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation coined a “DeBaptismal Certificate” for people trying to escape religion. The radical atheist group promoted this ploy simply to offend Christians; it knew that this gambit lacked teeth.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU of Virginia sent a letter to a Virginia school board denouncing the school’s proposed display of the Ten Commandments. They said that the school board “cannot hide the religious purpose behind this display simply by arranging other documents around the Ten Commandments.” As usual, these groups sought to nullify the historical significance of the Ten Commandments.
When the bishops assembled in Seattle for the USCCB conference, they grappled with the issue of clergy abuse. While some allegations were worthy of pursuit, others did not appear credible. The following cases were reported in the news in June:
• A Tennessee man claimed he was abused in the 1970s, though he and his lawyers admitted his memory was returning “a little at a time”
• A Louisiana man claimed he was abused in the 1970s, though he admitted that he “suppressed” his memories until recently
• A Texas man claimed he was abused in the 1980s but could not remember the accused priest’s name
• A convicted murderer from Pennsylvania claimed he was abused in the 1960s, though two of his own brothers didn’t believe him
• A Kansas man who initially accused a priest of wrestling with him back in the 1970s later claimed he was groped
• The Seattle archdiocese was sued by a woman who claimed she was fondled in the early 1960s at a church picnic by a man who was not a priest
• After a New York man read about the death of a priest whom he knew, he claimed he was abused by him in the 1960s
• A California priest living in a retirement home and who had never been charged with anything, was accused of abusing someone in the 1960s
• After one Ohio woman came forward claiming she was groped in the 1960s, four other women in the area claimed victim status
• A man from Pennsylvania said he was touched inappropriately in the 1970s, and even though he never contacted the police, the accused priest was permanently removed from ministry and had his job terminated at the diocese
The recently deceased Rev. Charles Murphy was the subject of a Boston Globe column by Brian McGrory. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian sued the priest twice. In both instances, Father Murphy was exonerated after an archdiocesan review board examined the charges. McGrory wrote that what Garabedian did to Father Murphy was “a disgrace.” Twice falsely accused, Father Murphy died a broken man. After The National Survivor Advocates Coalition criticized McGrory for pointing out what a travesty the Murphy case was, it concluded, “Perhaps Rev. Murphy was an innocent man, poorly treated.” Bill Donohue responded to this injustice by calling Garabedian at his office. Donohue simply asked him if he had any regrets for pressing charges against Father Murphy. The attorney responded by screaming at the top of his lungs. Indeed, he went ballistic, bellowing how he lost his case because of the archdiocese’s “kangaroo court.” Donohue asked him several times to calm down and to speak rationally, but instead he engaged in more boilerplate, making sweeping condemnations of Boston priests.
Activist attorney Michael Newdow said he would not give up in his attempt to excise “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. A judge denied Newdow’s appeal on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The words that offended Newdow were described by the judge as a “patriotic exercise, not an endorsement of religion.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed a statement on physician-assisted suicide, prompting condemnation from its opponents. For example, President of Compassion and Choices, Barbara Coombs Lee, said it “alarms us” to see the bishops “use their standing” to work against her agenda. Thus did she call into question the first amendment right of the bishops to address this issue.
BishopAccountability, SNAP and the National Survivor Advocates Coalition, demonstrated the extent to which their agenda threatens the constitutional rights of accused priests.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz expressed his concerns that unscrupulous lawyers may try to plunder the bishops’ conference for making commitments on how best to handle accused priests. For merely raising this concern, SNAP urged Catholics in his diocese to stop making contributions. In May, when a case against the Louisville diocese was thrown out, SNAP lashed out at the judge for dismissing it on the basis of a technicality that happened to be nothing less than the First Amendment. BishopAccountability said that priests should be removed from ministry before an accusation is investigated. Similarly, SNAP said, “We strongly and repeatedly beg people to call authorities—police and prosecutors—with any information or suspicions no matter how small or seemingly insufficient.”
New York City Atheists protested a newly minted street name called, “Seven in Heaven Way,” officially dedicated in Brooklyn, New York. The group said that since they believe there is no heaven or hell, the street sign offended them.
Bill Donohue responded by calling this reaction a phobia of Christianity as well as a visceral hatred of religion in general and Christianity in particular.
Founder and president of Secular Coalition for America Herb Silverman wrote an article for the Washington Post “On Faith” blog comparing Christian teachings to Islamic Sharia law. He said, “I want to keep my country secular and certainly wouldn’t want to live under any form of religious law. Surprisingly, some irrational Christians fear that unless we have actual laws opposing Sharia law we will be forced to live under it. This is far less likely than that we will be forced to live under some form of Christian law.” For anyone to compare Sharia Law to Christian tenets is scurrilous.
Santa Rosa County, FL – After much intense litigation in an ACLU suit to obtain a consent decree that would end school-sponsored religious activities, the Liberty Counsel won back constitutional freedoms for teachers, staff, students and community members. The rights re-affirmed for students included voluntary prayer, religious answers for homework, and participation in private, after-school religious programs. Among the liberties that teachers regained were the freedom to pray in school during break and during school events, to have a Bible on their desk, to wear religious jewelry, and to assign readings from the Bible when relevant. People were again free to say “God bless.”
SNAP held a conference in Washington, D.C. in July that was open to the public. Trusted sources of the Catholic League were there, and their findings were the basis of a report that Bill Donohue wrote, SNAP EXPOSED: Unmasking the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
This report put an end to the debate over the real motives of those involved in the victims’ lobby. SNAP, along with BishopAccountability and the lawyers they work with, are an agenda-driven movement that uses victims, real and alleged, to smear and sunder the best interests of the Catholic Church.
The Vermont chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit against a Vermont inn whose Catholic owners refused to host a same-sex wedding. The owners said that they do not discriminate against gays or lesbians, whom they host as well as employ. However, the owners declined to host a same-sex marriage based on their religious beliefs.
American Atheists protested the decision to move the World Trade Center cross (two steel beams that were found in the shape of a cross when the Twin Towers were leveled) from St. Peter’s Catholic Church in lower Manhattan to its new site at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. President of American Atheists David Silverman, said, “No other religions or philosophies will be honored.” He also blamed Jesus for 9/11: The Christian God “couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name.”
A federal court in Texas dismissed the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit claiming that Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Christian prayer rally violated the First Amendment. Judge Gray H. Miller of the Federal District Court of the Southern District of Texas said that those who disagreed with the rally did not have to attend.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) issued a complaint about Wisconsin’s state website linking to Care Net, a faith-based group that caters to pregnant women. FFRF decried the lack of “information on abortion” and claimed that linking to a group with religious ties constituted an endorsement of religion.
BishopAccountability sent a letter to Regis College professor and Boston Review Board Chairperson Dr. Mary Jane Doherty asking her to disclose the names of priests accused in the archdiocese, all of whom were reportedly dead. On the face of it, the missive smacked of bigotry and showed nothing but contempt for the rights of accused priests.
SNAP falsely accused New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan of covering up alleged sexual misconduct. A 16-year-old girl working in a Bronx parish claimed she was inappropriately touched by an 87-year-old priest. Dolan knew nothing about it. Moreover, when Dolan did learn of the arrest, he immediately informed the cleric that he cannot function as a priest and must leave the parish until the matter is settled.
SNAP also accused Archbishop Dolan of “acting secretively” in a previous case involving Msgr. Wallace Harris. This was libelous: Dolan was the Archbishop of Milwaukee when Harris was suspended. When Cardinal Edward Egan, Dolan’s predecessor, learned of the alleged misconduct by Harris, which supposedly happened 30 years earlier, he notified the D.A.’s office.
According to SNAP, these cases also show the Church’s tolerance of pedophilia. But neither of the two cases involved pedophilia: in both instances, the alleged victims were teenagers.
The U.S. Air Force suspended a class at Vandenberg Air Force Base after complaints that it violated separation of church and state. Bill Donohue wrote a letter to Gen. Edward A. Rice, Jr., the Commander of Air Education and Training, imploring him not to yield to the grossly unfair demands of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Donohue maintained that there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution of the United States that disqualifies a presentation of St. Augustine’s “just war theory,” and related biblical references. In fact, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, as well as religious liberty. “Just war theory,” Donohue said, “is taught at state institutions all across the nation—explicitly citing Augustine’s contribution—and never has it been an issue. Moreover, biblical passages are often cited when referencing the work of Rev. Martin Luther King. Should we similarly censor them?”
Donohue concluded: “I have read the materials used in the class, and can assure you that no one—save for an anti-religious zealot—would find fault with them. I therefore urge you to stand fast against these bullies and do what is academically right and constitutionally protected: reinstate the class.”
The Vatican released documents showing that the Holy See never had any knowledge that a priest allegedly molested a young man in Oregon in 1965. The case, Doe v. Holy See, involved the late Rev. Andrew Ronan, a Servite priest, who was moved from Ireland to Chicago to Portland, Oregon; the specific lawsuit related to what allegedly happened in Portland.
Jeffrey Anderson’s 2002 lawsuit claimed that Ronan was an employee of the Vatican and that the Holy See is guilty of negligence for allowing the transfers. But the documents show that the Holy See never knew of this case until 1966 when Ronan asked to be laicized; his petition was quickly granted.
Bill Donohue responded by saying, “Anderson knew all along that this lawsuit, like so many others he has filed, would never win in court. But to him, winning is not defined by a judge; rather, it is defined in the court of public opinion. That is why he continues to cast aspersions on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, throwing up as much mud as he can muster, hoping some will stick.”
The Charity Give Back Group (CGBG), formerly known as the Christian Values Network, is an online service that partners with more than 170,000 charities, religious and secular, enabling users to support their favorite charities when they shop on the web. Because some of the charities embrace the traditional Christian understanding of marriage, some activist organizations sought to pressure retailers not to associate with CGBG.
Bill Donohue confronted the request, promoted by gay marriage proponents, that retailers withdraw their association. He also condemned the false accusation that some of the recipients connected with CGBG were Christian “hate groups.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State was outraged that religious groups were upset at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to ban clergy from speaking at the 9/11 tenth anniversary ceremony. The group claimed that since people of many faiths were killed on that day, it would be improper to respond with a Christian message.
We responded that a priest, rabbi, minister and imam should all have been represented at the commemoration ceremony. This would have been a positive route, but the anti-religion community did not see it that way.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a student and the student’s parent against the Giles County, Virginia school board for “endorsing religion” by displaying the Ten Commandments. The fight for displaying the Ten Commandments in Giles County is one that has been going on since December 2010, when the FFRF first complained of the display.
SNAP, assisted by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), petitioned the International Criminal Court to prosecute Pope Benedict XVI for allegedly covering up “crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.” CCR attorney Pam Spees claimed that “Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican.” The Catholic League responded with a letter of its own to The Hague. The letter made the point that the major goal of SNAP is to attack the Catholic Church using methods that are as unethical as they are political.
David Clohessy of SNAP gave an interview with Time magazine, in which he revealed SNAP’s goal to jail the pope: “We’re not naïve. We don’t think the Pope will be hauled off in handcuffs next week or next month. But by the same token, our long-term chances are excellent.”
Several organizations, led by Catholics for Choice, sent a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, regarding the coverage of contraception and sterilization under Obamacare.
Catholics for Choice teamed up with other anti-Catholics—many of whom have been excommunicated from the Catholic Church—to assail the bishops. What was exercising them was the determination of the bishops to denounce the anti-Catholic provisions of the Obamacare legislation: the Church leadership objected to the proposed mandate that Catholic healthcare providers offer contraceptive and sterilization services (the opt-out stipulations are functionally non-existent).
The letter was published in the National Catholic Reporter. The headline was also revealing: “What the Bishops Won’t Tell You.” In other words, the bishops were lying to Catholics.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference released a joint statement addressing a faux Catholic group:
“A group calling itself ‘Catholics for Marriage Equality MN’ seeks to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic Church teaching related to matters of marriage and sexuality. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) wish to make it known that this group does not speak for the Catholic Church, is not an agent or entity of the Archdiocese, MCC, or the universal Church, and has no authority to determine what does and does not constitute Christian doctrine and morality.”
As everyone knows, the term “marriage equality” is code for homosexual marriage. The Church, no surprise, is opposed to treating marriage as an alternative lifestyle. It follows, then, that a group which calls itself “Catholics for Marriage Equality” is a fraud.
It is false for same-sex marriage supporters to declare that Catholicism is somehow agnostic on this issue. It is not. There is only one teaching body in the Church, the Magisterium, and it neither recognizes nor sanctions social arrangements that compete with marriage.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation pushed the Forest Service in Montana to remove a Jesus statue from its hillside perch in the trees. The local Knights of Columbus erected the statue in the 1950s after some of its members were inspired by religious monuments during World War II while fighting in the mountains of Europe. They have maintained the statue ever since and have never been charged for public use of the land.
Catholics for Choice placed an advertisement on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Ironically, the advertisement focused exclusively on limiting the choices of Catholics: It asked President Obama to stand against the U.S. bishops by denying Catholic institutions the right to a religious exemption from healthcare services they cannot in good conscience countenance.