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March 02, 2006 09:00 AM UTC

Archbishop Chaput Pulls Out the Stops

  • by: Colorado Pols

Denver Archbishop Charles Caput is pulling out all the stops in his opposition to a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases, going so far as to say that the bill is specifically “anti-catholic.” From the Rocky Mountain News:

Nothing less than “the systematic dismantling and pillaging of the Catholic community nationwide” is how Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput describes the impact of current and proposed sex abuse legislation around the country…

…The archbishop was asked why some bishops and church lobbyists “have been reluctant to fight back” against such legislation, which has been inspired by the clergy abuse scandal. Chaput, not naming names, attributed the reluctance to “guilt, confusion, a desire to take what they perceive to be ‘the high road.’ Fear has played a part, too.

“Maybe all these things have been justified in their time. But what’s happening now – the systematic dismantling and pillaging of the Catholic community nationwide – is not justice. “And unless Catholics wake up right now and push back on behalf of their church, their parishes and the religious future of their children, the pillaging will continue.”

Three Catholic dioceses have gone bankrupt because of sex abuse cases: the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., the Diocese of Tucson, and the Diocese of Spokane, Wash. Others have been subject to multimillion-dollar settlements and forced to sell assets. The Archdiocese of Boston faces the closure of 80 parishes.

Sex abuse legislation is on the agendas in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa. In Colorado, Chaput has specifically targeted SB 143, sponsored by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon.

The bill would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for a two-year period so that victims of sex abuse could sue their alleged abusers and their employers, no matter how old the case. It would allow lawsuits against dead perpetrators and the institutions that employed them.

The archdiocese faces 24 lawsuits targeting alleged abuse by two priests in the 1950s and ’60s. Harold Robert White, was defrocked. Leonard Abercrombie is dead.

Chaput says most current sex abuse legislation reveals “a new and peculiar kind of anti-Catholicism.” Chaput said sex abuse “can become a convenient cover for a lot of unrelated hostility.” Some of the worst hostility comes from “angry, disaffected Catholics,” while still others dislike the church’s position on “abortion, or contraception, or immigration, or the death penalty; the list of grievances is endless.”

This is obviously an attempt to energize the Catholic community around his cause, because making the extreme claim that Fitz-Gerald’s bill is being done out of hostility toward the Catholic church is going a little far. He’s got some good arguments as to the legal ramifications of eliminating the statute of limitations and his concern that other public institutions are not included, but those are now buried in favor of his more extreme rhetoric that this whole effort is “anti-Catholic,” which is a bit of a stretch. Going the “black helicopter” route in arguing against something is not usually the best choice unless you think it is absolutely necessary to rally your base for support.

Colorado Luis also has interesting commentary on the subject.


25 thoughts on “Archbishop Chaput Pulls Out the Stops

  1. My uncle was one of those molested by Harold Robert White.  It took him until he was 40 years old before he could relate the story to his family.  There’s not much debate about the specifics of the case, and there are corroborating witnesses.  Harold White fled, and has been helped to hide by officials of the church.  Abuse cases are a psychological tsunami, and expecting a confused and ashamed teenager to build a criminal case in two years isn’t reasonable.

    My uncle’s dead now.  His sister–my mom–contacted with Joan Fitz-Gerald about this, and Joan really took it to heart.  I know it’s just the state legislature, but having the President of the Senate call you back for details and end up crying along with you really lets you know that at least someone in government cares.

    The bill isn’t specifically anti-catholic of course.  But the documented indcidents to date all involve the Denver Diocese.  I am sympathetic about the harm this could cause the church–and my practicing Catholic mom is too–but sweeping it under the rug hasn’t helped anyone to date.

  2. Perhaps if the Catholic Church spent half as much time on policing its rogue, child molesting priests instead of playing a shell game with them as it is spending opposing this and similar bills, there would not be as much of an issue.

    Is anyone else troubled that Chaput seems to be defending child molesters.  The message he seems to be sending is if the victim doesn’t speak up within the statute of limitations, “Cool, we’re off the hook!”.

  3. Shame on you, ColoradoDem.

    If you honestly believe that the Archbishop is defending child molesters, you’re obviously witless about what he’s saying here.

    The only “protection” this bill offers is protection from victims from suing agencies such as public schools, governments, etc. etc.

    And THAT’S the problem with this lame-brained, poor excuse for legislation – and that is entirely the point being made by the Archbishop.

  4. Going the “black helicopter” route in arguing against something is not usually the best choice unless you think it is absolutely necessary to rally your base for support.


    What is this supposed to mean?

    Read the Archbishop’s statements re: FitzGerald’s testimony.  She claimed that she never consulted with an attorney on the matter – and yet the Archbishop points out where she did.

    So who’s lying?  FitzGerald or the Archbishop?

  5. Emphasizing the problem in public schools, Nevada resident Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (SESAME), cited an example that happened in her daughter?s school.
    ?A teacher in my daughter?s school was still allowed to teach despite a history of sexual misconduct in three different states,? Miller said. ?The teacher was allowed to move from one job to another and was never punished. And this is not an isolated case.?

    SB 143 co-sponsor Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald exited before Miller spoke. SESAME?s Miller later told the Denver Catholic Register: ?I was surprised when Senator Fitz-Gerald did not stay for my testimony. I was a little disappointed that she didn?t stay because I thought I had some very valid information to share, to help educate on this problem from a national standpoint.?


    Ah yes, the courageous “leader” Fitz-Gerald, who astutely leaves so as not to hear another side of the issue.

  6. One of the interesting effects of the statute of limitations change legislation, which is consuming the lobbying efforts of Chaput, combined with a shift of emergency contraception legislation from being about mandating that hospitals (even Catholic ones) provide EC information, to legislation permitting pharmacists to provide EC without a doctor’s prescription (which Catholic run pharmacies could choose not to do), is that it pretty much neutralizes the impact of Catholic Church lobbying on the EC issue, making passage of a bill that doesn’t get vetoed (Owens cited Catholic objectives to the mandatory nature of the last bill as his main reason for the last veto), much more likely.

  7. BMR,

    The question of whether or not Fitz-Gerald consulted an attorney seems like a non sequitur.  Do you have a link to this testimony?  Why do you consider that the important part of this story?

    I think you’re mistaken in your previous comment.  “The systematic dismantling and pillaging of the Catholic community nationawide” was entirely the point of Caput’s remarks.  He needs a tinfoil hat, black helicopters are optional.

  8. The real issue with this piece of legislation is precisely about nearly anyone coming to terms with this kind of “person of trust” sexual abuse in two years IS entirely unrealistic.  Any psychologist who has dealt with this issue will confirm this.

    Why would he call this bill “anti-Catholic”?  It addresses the problem of sexual abuse, period.  What a VERY dumb thing to say.

  9. In Colorado, you have six years to sue to collect a contractual debt.  How exactly is it anti-Catholic to give people six years from reaching adulthood to sue for sexual abuse?  Preposterous, but typical Chaput.  The consequence of course will be to persuade a decent number of Catholic voters that Democrats are anti-Catholic.  Surely that’s no part of his motivation.

  10. I have seen bits about “friendly” amendments that would extend the statute to public servants (school employees)… Calling this bill “anti-Catholic” is ridiculous – it doesn’t target any specific institution.

    As to Chaput’s “defending” child molesters, one of the biggest problems the Church has right now is that they keep these priests within their ranks, shuffling them through the system to keep them away from their sordid pasts.  If the Church would finally say “enough is enough” and do to these priests what they do to gay priests, or uncelibate priests – i.e. kick them out of the priesthood – then they wouldn’t have nearly as much of a problem.  Until the Church owns up to its own inability to deal with the situation, they don’t get a lot of sympathy from me.

  11. Read again, they’re getting rid of the entire statute of limitations for two years:

    “The bill would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for a two-year period so that victims of sex abuse could sue their alleged abusers and their employers, no matter how old the case.”

    This could lead to death by a thousand frivilous lawsuits for any institution that followed the advice of crackpot psychs, like many bishops did back in the ’70s and ’80s. 

    The exemption for public institutions also removes any state incentive for keeping these things from getting out of hand.

    (Wasn’t this site supposed to stay out of policy disputes?  Or has that changed, now?)

  12. Kevin, I did not miss that provision and think it ill-advised.  But it is no more anti-Catholic than the rest of it, unless you believe that the Catholic church was the only non-governmental institution which tolerated harassers.

  13. An observation:

    Yes, and what about John Paul II and the Church’s dirty little secret with regard to the pederasts within the priesthood and the Church’s quiet protection of those deviates? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard or read of anything John Paul II said or wrote or did which spoke directly to the molestation of innocent boys by the very real — as opposed to the ideological –evil of fucked-up priests within the holy womb of mother Church? No, what I recall was John Paul II’s most public and telling action of bringing Cardinal Bernard F. Law from Boston (where he had ignored, botched, hidden the sexual abuses by priests against children and for which, Bostonians demanded his removal); yes, John Paul II brought Cardinal Bernard F. Law from Boston — where tar and feathers were being prepared — and gave him a promotion to archpriest of one of the four basilicas under Vatican direction in Rome, St. Mary Major Basilica.

    Chaput, doth protest too much, methinks or, in the grand tradition of John Paul II, chooses to shift the polemic away from where it surely ought to be directed and that is directly toward the great “princes” of the church, like Chaput.

    Forgive me, but–as a lifelong Catholic (now surely lapsed)–Chaput’s politicizing of this issue as representing the harbinger of collapse of the church in America is not only disgustingly religiously jingoistic but clearly mirroring a page from Dubya’s war on terror. You don’t make war against a word. You make war against an entity or a nation or a disease or an inhumanity. In this case, that war should be against the intentional, disgustingly high-level orchestrated coverup of priests molesting innocents.

    If this bill appears “anti-catholic” then, well, perhaps that’s where the proper emphasis ought to lie.

  14. Well, with sentiments like those voiced by George, it’s no wonder an anti-Catholic motive appears to be a reasonable suspicion.

    My solution to clerical pederasts is enactment and strict enforcement of anti-sodomy laws, but that’s been rendered unconstitutional and untenable by the libertine wing of the Democratic party.

  15. Does, Mr. Jones, the historical record of the actions of the Catholic Church with respect to this disgusting embroglio even–just a wee, wee bit–focus some of your attention on, indeed, the ACTIONS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH and its response? This has nothing to do with “anti-sodomy” laws. This has everything to do with the molestation of young boys by priests or persons of trust and authority.

  16. I’m curious how anyone could support sheilding any institution that may be sheilding child molesters.

    What Fitz-Gerald, much as I don’t care for her, has proposed is not anti-Catholic.  It is anti-Pedophile.

    Chaput appears to come down on the pro-Pedophile side of the argument.

  17. I’m curious how anyone could support sheilding any institution that may be sheilding child molesters.

    What Fitz-Gerald, much as I don’t care for her, has proposed is not anti-Catholic.  It is anti-Pedophile.

    Chaput appears to come down on the pro-Pedophile side of the argument.

  18. “This has nothing to do with “anti-sodomy” laws. This has everything to do with the molestation of young boys by priests or persons of trust and authority.”

    The molestations were enabled by the past few decades’ dismissive or even celebratory attitude towards sodomy and youthful “sexual exploration,” in both secular and “trendy” Catholic circles.  The grossly sinful and negligent clerical trash-passing couldn’t have taken place without the wink-and-nod attitude that prevailed in many seminaries, movie theaters, and college campuses.  Draconianism has its upsides.

    I don’t doubt that in a few more years, child molestation will become the next hip object of veneration, just as gay marriage was unthinkable a decade back and is now a sign of progressive thinking.

    But in the meantime, the spiritually suicidal such as yourself will justify obviously flawed acts of legal plundering.

  19. Chaput just comes off as a partisan defender of pedophiles, especially those who happened to be employees of the Catholic Church. The church would do better to accept moral and financial responsibility for shielding its employee pedophiles, and to apologize to the victims – and to society – for not promptly reporting those crimes to law enforcement. How can any organization deny responsibility for shielding employees who used their positions of trust to perpetrate their ugly crimes? Chaput would do better to acknowledge responsibility, instead of attacking the victims and the legislators who are trying to help them.

  20. Kevin, you know nothing of my spiritual side. So, kindly don’t presume that it is “suicidal.”

    I’m reminded of e.e. cummings, “I Sing of Olaf.”

    “Christ (of His mercy infinite)
    i pray to see; and Olaf, too

    preponderantlingly because
    unless statistics lie he was
    more brave than me: more blond than you.”

    My spirituality, Kevin, probably profoundly eclipses your rather crude perception of reality (and consequential moral arrogance) to the point where, if push came to shove, the sordid, dark corners of Chaput’s Catholicism would surely reveal much more than pederasty.

  21. The way to protect kids is to add an amendment to current legislation which would remove statute of limitations on all FUTURE abuse allegations.  Plus, the behavior of institutional employees, including clergy, which allows the moving around of abusers, should be classified, for the FUTURE, as constituting criminal conspiracy.  Then see how Caput reacts.

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