Columns Opinion Thomas Reese: Signs of the Times

Former New York Times reporter slams grand jury report on clerical abuse

Attorney General Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania speaks at a news conference in the state Capitol after legislation to respond to a landmark grand jury report accusing hundreds of Roman Catholic priests of sexually abusing children over decades stalled in the Legislature, on Oct. 17, 2018, in Harrisburg, Pa. Shapiro is flanked by lawmakers and victims of child sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

(RNS) — “Grossly misleading, irresponsible, inaccurate, and unjust” is how former New York Times religion reporter Peter Steinfels describes last August’s Pennsylvania grand jury report in its sweeping accusation that Catholic bishops refused to protect children from sexual abuse.

The report from a grand jury impaneled by the Pennsylvania attorney general to investigate child sexual abuse in the state’s Catholic dioceses has revived the furor over the abuse scandal, causing the resignation of the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and inspiring similar investigations in other states.

Steinfels argues that it is an oversimplification to assert, as does the report, that “all” victims “were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect abusers and their institutions above all.”

Writing in the Catholic journal Commonweal, Steinfels acknowledges the horror of clerical abuse and the terrible damage done to children, but he complains that no distinctions have been made in the grand jury report from diocese to diocese, or from one bishop’s tenure to another. All are tarred with the same brush.

Steinfels’ article will be published in the magazine’s Jan. 25 issue and is currently available on its website.

A major fault with the report, according to Steinfels, is its failure to acknowledge the impact of the 2002 Dallas Charter, which changed dramatically how the church responded to abuse. The charter required reporting credible accusations to police, the establishment of lay review boards and the removal of any priest guilty of abuse.

He also notes that “a good portion of these crimes, perhaps a third or more, only came to the knowledge of church authorities in 2002 or after, when the Dallas Charter mandated automatic removal from ministry.” How can bishops be blamed for covering up crimes they did not know about?

“The report’s conclusions about abuse and coverup are stated in timeless fashion,” he writes. It leaves the impression that there has been no change in how bishops deal with abuse and that they are still leaving children at risk.

“There is not the slightest indication, not the slightest, that the grand jury even sought to give serious attention to the kind of extensive, detailed testimony that the dioceses submitted regarding their current policies and programs,” he states.

RELATED: Pennsylvania grand jury report is a new low for Catholic Church

Almost all the media stories on the report, notes Steinfels, were based on the 12-page introduction and the dozen or so sickening examples in the introduction. The report was 884 or 1,356 pages long, depending on whether the dioceses’ responses were included. These responses were buried in the back of the report and are not included in the version on the attorney general’s website.

To show how diocesan policies got stricter over time, Steinfels examines the Erie Diocese in detail.

Former Erie Bishop Donald Trautman. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Erie

While the grand jury report accurately reports that Erie Bishop Donald Trautman reassigned an accused priest multiple times, it omits that these reassignments were to a chaplaincy at a nursing home, a senior living facility and a jail for adults, where the priest would not be ministering to children. The priest was forbidden to function as a priest outside of these assignments and was eventually barred from wearing priestly garb, before being kicked out of the priesthood altogether.

Nor does the report acknowledge Trautman’s assertion that “none of these priests is known to have reoffended.”

Steinfels points to the grand jury’s failure to report that Trautman attempted to meet with every victim and provided pastoral counseling and funds for therapy. It doesn’t reflect that in 2002 the bishop had all diocesan files reviewed by the Erie County district attorney, who concluded “no offenders remained in a position where they would present a danger.”

Most damning to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who ordered the grand jury report, is an Aug. 2, 2018, joint stipulation between him and Trautman stating that virtually all of the sweeping charges in the report were “not directed at Bishop Trautman.”

Those charges included statements in the report that “all (victims) were brushed aside”; that “the main thing” was to avoid “scandal”; that “priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God … did nothing”; that diocesan officials knowingly “enabled offenders and endangered the welfare of children”; and that they blocked law enforcement from investigating “crimes against children.”

Steinfels thinks the bad treatment of Erie was no exception. He shows how the phrase “circle of secrecy,” inaccurately attributed to Donald Wuerl when he led the Pittsburgh Diocese in the 1990s, had nothing to do with a church conspiracy, as the grand jury implied.

“Despite incomplete or inaccurate reports from Pittsburgh that prompted Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign from his later position as archbishop of Washington,” writes Steinfels, “the response from Pittsburgh offers a clear, pointed rebuttal to many assertions in the report, for any reader willing to go to page 1,113.”

Steinfels does not argue that things are now perfect in the church, but that the sweeping allegations of the grand jury report were “designed to be a weapon in the debate” to support a legislative agenda.

“Its impassioned, graphic style; its characterization of church leadership as no better, perhaps even worse, than the abusers; its refusal to make distinctions between dioceses or between periods of time like pre- and post-Dallas Charter,” writes Steinfels, “all are aimed at mobilizing public opinion behind legislation suspending the statute of limitations for civil suits and discrediting church opposition.”

Acknowledging the progress made by the American bishops is important, as Steinfels writes, because their experience is very important for the rest of the church, which today often makes the same mistakes the Americans made in the past. There is a lot the bishops of the world can learn from the U.S. bishops, and to ignore the progress they have made is not helpful.

About the author

Thomas Reese

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest, is a Senior Analyst at RNS. Previously he was a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter (2015-17) and an associate editor (1978-85) and editor in chief (1998-2005) at America magazine. He was also a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University (1985-98 & 2006-15) where he wrote Archbishop, A Flock of Shepherds, and Inside the Vatican. Earlier he worked as a lobbyist for tax reform. He has a doctorate in political science from the University of California Berkeley. He entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1974 after receiving a M.Div from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.


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  • The corporate structure is such that the Roman Church will continue to have horrific scandals of one nature or another over and over again as demonstrated throughout history. Until transparency and accountability to the followers is opened wide, abuse of some form will continue.

  • As the article points out, the Church has required “reporting credible accusations to police, the establishment of lay review boards and the removal of any priest guilty of abuse” since 2002, and most of the cases were dated before that or went unreported.

    They seem to have already taken the same steps toward transparency and accountability
    that any other organization has.

  • Mr Steinfels’ statements now, at this time, lend credence to my premise: Furor over the August report, has dissipated over the Christmas holidays. Even with a new legislature in PA, my sense is that legislators will continue to find it difficult to pass laws which effect only the Catholic Church, while ignoring similar problems in the public sector. But don’t think this is over. Mr. Shapiro who is in the pocket of Planned Parenthood, is teaming up with California’s Xavier Becerra to try to block the Trump rules on the contraceptive mandate. This affects the Catholic Church, and the Little Sister of the Poor in particular :
    Also, it is rumored that Kamala Harris is about to announce her run for President on MLK Day. She also is a great Planned Parenthood fan. She was key in prosecuting David Daleiden, who covertly filmed Planned Parenthood personnel wanting to sell body parts. Both Ms. Harris and Shapiro used “discovery” methods for records, which may go beyond the actual declared scope of investigation. We will see, by the time of the National Right to Life March on the 18th, a lot will have transpired.

  • Made a mistake upvoting your remark. It is not true. Wanted to, and did up-vote the reply to you below.

  • The key is found in the word “credible” accusations. Who decides what is credible and what isn’t? As we saw with the Kavanaugh hearing women are still deemed to be non-credible. I suspect that something similar will happen with the Catholic Church. Simply classify complaints as non-credible and there is no problem!

  • The Word no longer has meaning in the RCC et. al. The “vomit-inducing” pedophilia and coverup will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like “Do No Harm” and convert all houses of “worthless worship” to recreation facilities and parks.

  • Oh, you mean like Judas Iscariot?

    Isn’t that a result the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and Satan rather than “the corporate structure”?

  • As we saw with your comments on the Kavanaugh hearing, for you anything that sounds like what you already think is credible, and anything which contradicts it is non-credible.

    Also as we saw with Kavanaugh hearing, if your allegations are contradicted by contemporary witnesses, you contradict yourself, and you otherwise give signs of imagination, you are non-credible.

    If a diocese simply classifies complaints as non-credible, the entire world of media, attorney generals, and ambulance chasing lawyers have made it clear they are reading, willing, and able to pounce.

  • Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono made where they are coming from clear in their questioning of Brian Buescher who was nominated for a federal district court in Nebraska.

    Buescher is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.

    Harris criticized the Knights as an “all-male society”.

    She criticized statements on abortion made by the leader of the Knights, Carl Anderson.

    Basically Harris and Hirono made it clear any Catholic unwilling to publicly repudiate their church’s moral teaching is unfit to serve as a federal judge.

    The DC Chapter of the Knights invited both Harris and Hirono to join them in the Polor Plunge in February, when folks jump in the cold water of the Potomac to raise money for the Special Olympics.

    Neither Senator has accepted the invitation.

  • It is funny, when I grew up Catholic we were taught that true absolution for our sins was only possible when there was true contrition and the appropriate actions required for such contrition. The RCC, Fr. Reese, the times reporter – none seem to remember this from their catechism and continue to make excuses for wrongdoing. Might actually be time for each of them to add this to the list of sins they confess next Saturday.

  • “Context is the enemy of the immature, the insecure, and the manipulative” (Was Jesus An Evangelical?, Reeves, pg. 76)

    Important article in regards to how easily terrible wickedness and tragedy can be used by the manipulative and the ambitious.

  • Wow. Another Catholic ass-kisser. The church has literally NO moral authority left. What little effort was made by too few pales in comparison to the havoc wrought in countless thousands of lives while leaders covered up these obscenities. And ddefending them is beyond that pale

  • Yes, I read that in our Catholic newspaper, about Buescher. I am glad it’s getting around. Catholic men should be a fairly large voting block, I would think.

  • Don’t walk over my pontiff, Billy Goat Gruff! Just trying to promote the teachings of the Church, as Francis has many times done.

  • It is NOT getting around through the media.

    We’re reading Religious News Service.

    It certainly sounds like Religious News.

    All I hear is crickets.

  • The Church has always had sinners. Some of them were notorious. The PA document was full of old cases. As this author says, most of these changes to protect children were implemented in the ’90s. Almost none of the abuse in the document was after that time, and many of the priests accused are DEAD.

  • Article said CNS, so I guess just the Catholics. Well, the challenge will be how to spread the news, if she actually declares her candidacy. Anybody here, want to take on that anti-Catholicism? Your’s ” trolly,” T.C.

  • Over the last year or so anti-Catholicism has diminished substantially in the comments.

    With one exception the articles seem to reflect benign neglect.

  • I’m glad to hear it. Wasn’t here at that time. So we probably won’t see an article on Ms. Harris unless it tells a warm tale of her life?

  • I was also in some confusion over the furor raised by the Pennsylvania report. What it disclosed is the past abuse. Don’t get me wrong – bringing it to light is valuable in giving those who were abused a sense of being finally believed. And, it makes it clear that the abuse was as rampant in Pennsylvania as it was in Boston and so many other places. But, I was very aware that what was revealed was the past and there was not enough said about the present – the improved safety of children in Catholic spheres. Should we be furious about the past – yes. But real changes have been made by the Church that can make a difference. Enough change? I don’t know. I think the past should have taught us that statutes of limitations on sex crimes are a problem and we do need to get rid of them or extend them greatly.

    As for Planned Parenthood and contraceptive coverage in health insurance – I too am a tired Catholic and I support both for all the good they do and can do. I want even Catholic organizations to be required to provide contraceptives in health insurance – or have the very reasonable process of signing out on it so the contraceptives can be provided through another avenue. Using contraceptives is a matter of both particular circumstances of a couple and of their own conscience regarding the benefit/danger. I think the Church and bishops should teach but should not financially coerce people to live by rules they do not really choose. And choosing to not cover contra-ceptives is an attempt to manipulate their financial situation so they have to do what you want even if they don’t want to.

    I also think this nation needs to do a lot of work on how to draw lines around permissible and impermissible abortions. I don’t believe in the blanket “never” nor do I think the blanket “always” is right. Maybe there is no absolute right answer – and just a reasonable framework we can all live with. There are times when women need to right to make their own decisions about the uses of their bodies and the safety of their health and their lives. Women are more than the wombs you want to control.

  • Thank you for your response. I disagree with you. Just as doctors are not required to perform abortions, because of conscience reasons, neither should religious orders have to pay for them. When this first came up before the Supreme Court, the Court told the parties to “work it out.” Bshp. Zubik reported that the HHS never put it on the table to do so. NOBODY from the Obama administration wanted to touch it. They assumed Hillary Clinton would go in. Imagine their surprise. Now, once again what are we waiting for? Kamala Harris to go in? I was particularly struck by your final paragraph. Indeed! There are females in the womb, too. They feel pain. Would you be willing to support ” 20-week” restriction on abortion? We had one such bill in PA, that passed both houses, but was rejected by the Governor.

  • Yes, I would support a time limit on abortion. That would be similar to what has been done in a number of European countries. The PA bill that was vetoed had a 20 week limit, a change from the current limit of 24 weeks. This was done even though “The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that delivery before 23 weeks of gestation typically results in death and, among the rare survivors, practically all have significant morbidity.” But, even with that ignoring of medical information, it would have been a not far fetched compromise.

    The bill had no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities. I do think that these issues need further discussion and a real development of how the government (society) that wants to limit such a late term abortion should then pay for the birthing and care of the woman. The government should also see to the care of any child born with an abnormality, or see to the adoption of a child born of incest or rape. If society insists the child be born then society has a responsibility to help provide for the care.

    I think the Democrat governor missed a chance to make a beginning on finding some middle ground. It was the Republicans who stretched. But, I wonder if either side really worked with medical professionals? “The bill was opposed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.” (I don’t know what medical groups may have supported the bill. My source for info is:

  • Thank you! My current poll numbers are 1 , possibly, (you), and 1 against (EddDoerr).

    Truly, I can’t answer you about the medical societies that were for it. But I know that the testimony about pain to the child was a motivator. This is similar to the Dilation and Extraction debates earlier, and the born alive infant protection acts. I agree with you, that no mother should be left hanging in such terrible
    situations as you note. Genesis and BirthRight are two of the groups
    that support women through such pregnancies. Catholic Charities has
    also taken a pledge to not let anyone in such a situation slip through
    the cracks. What I can tell you is what happened politically in my district. Our former PA senator, a Catholic, was a co-sponsor. He is a Republican. Our representative, a Democrat voted for it, then tweeted that he had voted against it . There was other Democrats supporting the measure. You understand that in PA, abortion and gun control can cross party lines at local levels. In any case, both are gone. They are replaced by Democratic legislators, who I am relatively certain will never support such a measure. That said, neither candidate was knocked out primarily, by this, but rather by a desire for somebody new.

    I liken the 20 week bill (or 24, if you like) to the attempt to restrict slavery in the territories in the US, before the Civil War. Either we really want this to stop extending or we don’t. Thanks for talking.

  • In PA, they don’t have to indict, as in other states. They kept harping on that fact. However, the framers of the PA Constitution wisely had a protection for reputation, which stops those who wish to make political hay without sufficient evidence for indictment.

  • The Grand Jury did not have to indict.

    On the other hand the Grand Jury had no charge to write a report.

    And it did not. Grand Juries don’t write reports, Prosecuting Attorneys do.

    And that is what happened.

    A number of priests named in the draft were deleted by order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

    There was no due process. The Grand Jury was presented with whatever the Prosecutor presented them with.

    The drooling over the result indicates a rather large vacuum in the public’s understanding of the legal system.

  • If the the AG did anything illegal, then a civil case or other action (e.g., impeachment or disbarment) should be brought against him. None has been. None is likely. The point of the grand jury report seemed to be to lay out an argument that the statute of limitations in PA should be changed in the interest of justice. Whether it will be changed in PA remains to be seen. NY, CT, and RI are considering changes and the likelihood of change is greater in those states. Arguing for a change in the law obviously has a political dimension.

    On the strictly legal side (i.e., in the courts rather than in the legislature), civil cases are now likely to be brought under the common law doctrine of fraudulent concealment. The grand jury report may well turn out to be a legal game changer (not just a political one) because the grand jury was able to get into the dioceses’ secret files, providing evidence for a charge of fraudulent concealment. Importantly, fraudulent concealment may be invoked to toll a statute of limitations. The applicability of this doctrine in these cases will doubtlessly be tested in court and may go all the way to the PA Supreme Court. See

  • No one alleged that the Attorney General did anything illegal. I’d say “nice try” but it wasn’t.

    The Grand Jury did NOT lay out an argument. Grand Juries don’t do that, anymore than trial juries do.

    That was the PA AG who wrote that.

    Yes, civil cases MAY be brought by the usual ambulance-chasing slip-and-fall legal leeches who’ve been sucking up fees everywhere they can.

    No, it is very unlikely that any will go to trial.

    They’ll be the classic shakedowns of insurance companies.

    Any prosecuting attorney or other law enforcement officer could have gotten into “the dioceses’ ‘secret’ files”. All it takes is cause and subpoena.

    You really are sucking on this lemon, aren’t you?

    Do you happen to be associated with SNAP or one of the law firms?

  • “I want even Catholic organizations to be required to provide
    contraceptives in health insurance – or have the very reasonable process
    of signing out on it so the contraceptives can be provided through
    another avenue.”

    Your wish was granted some time ago. The government, when it dropped the case against the Little Sisters of the Poor and the others after the Supreme Court made the government drop its pants, agreed that it could work with the insurance companies without one iota of anything from Catholic organizations to provide contraceptives in health insurance.

    This marks the third time I have pointed this out to you, apparently with no effect on your inaccurate perception of what is going on out in the real world, and I previously identified four other posts to you in the last year, some pointing out your error in minute detail.

    Here’s betting I’ll have to do it again a fourth time.

    “Women are more than the wombs you want to control.”

    And fetuses are more than collateral damage in your feminist quest for autonomy from all rules, man-made or God-made.

  • I think you’d get a lot further if you were willing to trade the middle ground on abortion for middle ground on murder, incest, and rape.

    What do you think?

  • Your comments about “drooling”, “ambulance-chasing slip-and-fall legal leeches”, and “shakedowns” are beneath you and are certainly not the language I am hearing from the Vatican and a number of bishops, archbishops and cardinals, or Rev. Reese, for that matter, when discussing the issue. Such language poisons the well and cheapens the discussion.

    Your semi-accusation that I might in any way be affiliated with SNAP is also beneath you. I have never been associated with SNAP except to read their web site on recent occasions. I also read the Catholic League website and other Catholic and non-Catholic websites and blogs for balance. I am also not a lawyer or affiliated with any law firm. Ad hominem attacks against lawyers won’t fly here. But if I were a lawyer, prosecutor, policeman, or journalist seeking justice for victims of sexual abuse, I would be proud of that noble calling. See, for example, Note that this story is not about Inspector Javert hounding Jean Valjean over a loaf of bread. No, it is about the horrors of child abuse and a man whose full-time job is seeking justice for survivors of that abuse.

    As for “sucking on a lemon”, yes, incidents of sexual abuse, especially of innocent children, and its coverup do, indeed, deeply disgust me. They should. See Matt. 18:6. This is the appropriate response to such immoral and criminal behavior. Twenty or thirty years ago I might not have easily believed what we now know to be true about the prevalence of abuse. Thanks to government and media investigations, we know better now.

    If it is so easy to get into the shocking, secret and incriminating records of the dioceses, why has it taken so long for so many governments and media outlets around the world (in Ireland, Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guam, Honduras, India, Norway, Poland, etc., plus many U.S. states) to get around to it and realize, to their gross dismay, what was happening? Again and again official inquiries and media investigations have uncovered shocking crimes and long-running attempts to “avoid scandal” by covering it up. The whole idea of a secret file is that it is secret and hence not easily discovered or discoverable at all from the outside. That worked for a long time. The bill is now coming due.

  • The comments about ‘drooling’, ‘ambulance-chasing slip-and-fall legal leeches’, and ‘shakedowns’ are, if anything, understated.

    If the number of perpetrators and the number of children harmed were any criterion, the army of attorneys would be all over the public school systems.

    You attribute more to the Pennsylvania report than is its due and demonstrate a high level of gullibility. In fact you give every sign of being its target audience.

    You and I will not be discussing further.

  • I think rather the media’s presentation indicates either misunderstanding or definite skewing. It is really propaganda. However, most people do not investigate further. Indeed, some do not have the time — they are caring for loved ones and working. It is easier to watch the TV news when you are tired. But what, then? As you say, no due process — there was motivation on the part of the prosecutor — and the media will NOT go there.

  • The sad part of this is, that months ago, people were trying to get the news out that was reported by Rev. Reese. They actually were here on this website. But when a NY times reporter finally gives this his “blessing,” then it is news. Statutes of limitations basically protect the accused. Murder for example has none. Generally, a body needs to be found before charges can be filed. Here we have accusations that cannot be backed up by any physical evidence. The poor victims have problems themselves remembering correctly, because of the trauma. What if they accuse someone who is innocent? Many of these priests are dead. This is all civil cases, now. I think the Bishops have identified the victims, as the Pope says, as the poor, and they are moving to sell Diocesan properties, to help with their needs, What more can they do? The PA Sees handed over their files voluntarily. There was no raid. I hardly think that priests records should be public knowledge above and beyond any employee’s, do you? There are many employees in public schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. They may be charged with crimes, but until then, their files are confidential. If priests had any means, they could sue the diocese for this release of personal information across the board — A search warrant should be very specific.

  • Thanks. Interesting article. We must strike at the root of this. Killing children is NOT women’s health care. I guess on this site, we had better pray for the conversion of a NY Times reporter who is willing to talk up the pro-life cause.

  • To correct your “mistake” in UP-voting, log in, return to “Observer guy’s” comment, and hit the UP arrow. Doing so SHOULD eliminate your UP arrow. (I’m assuming the technology still allows this corrective.) FYI.

  • More than structure is involved. There is church culture maintained by clerics, bishops, and — perhaps most important — the laity. There is indifference, passivity, and fatalism among the laity, especially among folks still attending services and giving money. The Vatican and its sycophant bishops promote elevation of the ordained and subordination of the laity. They have longstanding doctrinal and disciplinary supports for maintaining the status quo. The last two popes didn’t help matters in their authoritarianism, rejection of Vatican II’s progressive spirit, and outreach to reactionary Catholics, i.e., those folks essentially opposed to Vatican II. I see Pope Francis attempting to “walk a tightrope” to navigate between the progressives and reactionaries. To say I am not optimistic for a Vatican II church would be an understatement.

  • Among the laity there is also much joy, during this Season. I noted that the Churches were full, and the laity were celebrating. Cheer up! Christ is among us.

  • So a diocese, in your mind, can investigate sexual abuse complaints by itself and isn’t required to report the complaints to authorities if the diocese, in its opinion, determines the complaint non-credible? Is that what the law requires?

  • This is reasonably up-to-date:

    “The circumstances under which a mandatory reporter must make a report vary from State to State. Typically, a report must be made when the reporter, in his or her official capacity, suspects or has reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. Another standard frequently used is in situations in which the reporter has knowledge of, or observes a child being subjected to, conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child. In Maine, a mandatory reporter must report when he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is not living with the child’s family.”

    “Mandatory reporters are required to report the facts and circumstances that led them to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected. They do not have the burden of providing proof that abuse or neglect has occurred. Permissive reporters follow the same standards when electing to make a report.”

    Churches in general are not mandatory reporters, and the seal of the confessional is generally recongized.

  • Yes, Jesus is present wherever two or more gather in his name. Your reference to “this Season” reminds me of so-called “C&E Christians/Catholics”.

  • And your’s reminds me of a story of Walter Ciszek’s where he was able to Celebrate an “E.” Service in Siberia after his release from a work camp. The people were most exuberent, and went home shouting, “Christ is Risen. Indeed He is Risen.” Walter was moved on from there by the KGB. But the joy was still there. We are lucky to be able to celebrate year round and at all.

  • “We are lucky to be able to celebrate year round and at all.”

    “C&E” Catholics don’t consider themselves “lucky” to attend worship twice a year. They consider themselves burdened by “obligation”.

  • I don’t think that is true of Christmas. I saw some teens with long faces, but even they smiled at the sigh of peace. Peace to you!

  • Well, as of yesterday, we have another shoddy and related piece of work, by Mr. Shapiro. The Trump HHS contraceptive mandate that allowed groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to opt out of the contraceptive trap, has been put on hold (again). Federal Judge Beetlestone of PA, this time did question Mr. Shapiro’s team, as to why he was invoking Congress, for Trump’s rules, but not for Obama’s. No good answer was forthcoming, so she just took refuge in The Sister’s religious freedom being “unconstitutional.” True, she did try to block the Sisters from being part of the challenge, but she was over-ruled in this. I wonder why the diocese of Erie and the diocese of Pittsburgh, who were in the original Zubik v. Burwell, lawsuit, were not participants with the Sisters in this one?

  • By your reasoning the Mormons should be able to practice polygamy. The Obama adminstration devised a good solution. Rightwing Catholics just want to make a point by obstructing that agreement.

  • No, they wish to exercise their conscience rights. I would say the point of the HHS is not getting birth control to women, but forcing people like the Little Sisters of the Poor to “accomodate” their idea of health care. The Little Sisters know more about healthcare in 2 minutes of their work, than the HHS figured out in the last 8 years.

  • What about the “conscience rights” of people who wish to use birth control or have abortions? Your religious beliefs should not infringe on their right to practice their beliefs.

  • I can’t stop them I don’t have to help them. Neither do the Little Sister’s. It’s funny the Obama admin. couldn’t come up with a way to do this, totally leaving others out of it.

  • Let’s face it. The vast majority of all Catholics use contraception. Any attempt to oppose subsidizing contraception was a purely symbolic gesture. The lawsuit was mysogystic and a mis-guided attempt by the American bishops to re-assert their authority over women’s bodies. Beyond that, Reublican Catholics, including most of the American bishops, supported the Obamacare lawsuit primarily to harass a Democratic president and undermine his signature achievement. Catholics gained far more consideration in terms of exemption from the contraceptive mandate than most groups do from the federal government’s policiies. And yet still, right-wing Catholics were not satisfied. And by the way, how many nuns are there left in the US? It is pathetic that the Little Sisters of the Poor allowed their organization to be highacked by right-wing Catholics for this political purpose.

  • You are either disengenuous or simple-minded.. The Obama administration gave lots of exemptions for religious groups. It was never sufficient for the Catholics who simply wanted to screw the Obama administration and in the process, screw millions of people out of healthcare. And the kind of symbolism of the sacraments is vastly differnt from the kind of symbolism that a political lawsuit symbolizes, I happen to be a historian of early America. I know the Bill of Rights. And what the Catholic hierarchy was demanding from the Obama administration went far beyond the accomodations given to most religious groups in support of religious freedom.

  • “Religious freedom,” as explained by founders such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, was understood as the “freedom from” religion as well as the “freedom to” practice religion. It is defined broadly as “freedom of conscience.” We live in a secular society with many diverse opinions. Because of your Catholic beliefs, you define abortion as “kiling children.” Other Americans do not accept this definition. They believe that by prohibiting or limiting abortion you are infringing on their most intimate conscience beliefs. The state is not trying to force anyone to have an abortion. But you are trying to prevent people from acting on their beliefs. That’s wrong. And don’t try to give me any arguments about murder being wrong. There is a social consensus that taking a gun and killing a person in cold blood is murder. There is no such consensus about abortion. And until there is, you have the right to hold your own views about abortion privately but you have no right to try to impose them on American society.

  • So do you figure in that amendment that you and your so-called majority have also freedom FROM speech? Thanks for letting me know I can talk privately to others about it!

  • Simply stated, as to the religious groups: They wanted to keep their plans that they had set up for their workers, and they should not have to violate their consciences to do so. The Bishops loved the ACA. I’m not so sure they do now. I meet so many historians with a skewed view of history, on this site. You’ll be wanting to talk to PSI Cop., to get some Freedom from my speech. He’s got a similar degree in medieval pseudo-history. Really, though, you are doing yourself and many others a disservice, by taking the plain text of the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and twisting it. If you feel fine with that, One Tired Catholic should make no difference.

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