ear Bishop Timlin,
On February 21, 2002 you published in your Diocesan newspaper a statement entitled “Society of Saint John, Shohola, and Diocesan Policy Regarding Abuse of Minors by Clergy.” I have attached below a complete copy of your statement for those who have not had the opportunity to read it.
(1) YOUR LATEST LIE
In the first paragraph of your statement, you claim that “the Diocese of Scranton in every case complies with the requirements of all the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, canon law, and our diocesan policy.”
Now, your diocesan policy has a background check requirement for all individuals who work with young people. Yet you admitted to Mr. Rod Dreher of National Review Online that no background checks were performed on the members of the Society of St. John because “it never seemed to be indicated. We still don’t think it’s necessary.” (February 15, 2002).
The purpose of a background check is to avoid relying upon mere indications or appearances. If you really believed that you could protect young people based upon first impressions alone, you would not have a background check requirement in your diocesan policy. But you do have such a policy, and yet you admitted to Mr. Dreher that you did not do background checks on the Society priests—even though you insist in your Diocesan newspaper statement that you have followed your own diocesan policy “in every case.”
Not only did you fail to comply with your own policy, but you even sent Fr. Urrutigoity back to work as a chaplain at St. Gregory’s Academy—an all-boys school—after he had been accused of molestation in February 1999. And even then you did not warn the authorities at St. Gregory’s Academy that Fr. Urrutigoity had been accused of molestation.
Moreover, in the face of additional compelling evidence since 1999 that Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey are sexual predators, you answered Mr. Dreher’s question about background checks by saying, “We still don’t think it’s necessary.” Huh?
Therefore, what are we to make of your statement that you have complied with all laws and with your own diocesan policy “in every case”? Will there be no end to your shameless lies?
(2) YOUR FALSE COMPASSION
In the second paragraph of your statement you wrote: “In stressing that all legal requirements have been met, I must also assert that the diocese has, above all else, the compelling responsibility to reach out to the victims, to those persons claiming to have been abused by a priest. . . . The diocese will always reach out to the victims; we will offer needed assistance and loving care to those we know have been hurt by a priest.”
These are compassionate words, but how do they fit with what you have actually done? What you have done is to make a statement in the national press designed to discredit and dishearten a victim of clerical abuse. You told Mr. Dreher that the young man whose formal complaint led to your removal of Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey was a “problem child” at St. Gregory’s Academy. And you have said this in coordination with the Society of St. John, whose spokesman, Fr. Dominic O’Connor, attacked this young man’s character in the same article.
Since you learned the identity of this victim from a confidential letter forwarded to you by the Papal Nuncio, how can you explain the fact that you made the confidential information in this letter available to Fr. O’Connor? And how could you allow Fr. O’Connor to make attacks on this victim in the national press? How does this square with your claim that you will always offer “loving care” to those hurt by a priest?
Anyone can see by your actions that your words of compassion are empty and vain.
(3) YOUR HYPOCRISY
In the last paragraph of your statement, you wrote: “I ask you to pray for all young people who have suffered from this horrible and shameful crime and never hesitate to inform me if a cleric is involved.”
Again, these are mere words. For what did you do when you were informed of clerical abuse? You not only attacked the character of one of the victims, but you also attacked those who informed you of the misconduct of priests in the Society. Moreover, you allowed—and by your own attacks even encouraged—the Society of St. John to do the same. Thus we see Fr. O’Connor, in the same article by Mr. Dreher, vilifying a witness to the Society’s immorality by calling him “unstable,” “self-centered,” and “resentful.”
When I informed you back in September 2001 that Fr. Urrutigoity was sleeping one-on-one in the same bed with boys in his private chambers, your response was: (1) to take no substantive disciplinary action; and (2) to obstruct and harm those, such as myself, who were calling people’s attention to the grave misconduct of the Society. Thus, you gratuitously attempted to damage the College of St. Justin Martyr and defame my character. You also directly or indirectly encouraged the Society to follow your vindictive example.
Are such tactics really designed to encourage victims to inform you? Are there no bounds to your hypocrisy?
* * *
In the three instances above, I have contrasted your platitudes and high-sounding words with what you have actually done. The contrast is illuminating.
Even if you have complied with all the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which I doubt, you have repeatedly violated the natural and divine laws that stand above all positive law. Your lies, your false compassion, and your hypocrisy make you unfit to be a shepherd of the Holy Catholic Church.
You should know that I have been contacted by many who are familiar with the case of Fr. Caparelli, a priest from Pike County under your authority who died in jail of AIDS after being convicted of molesting altar boys. These people claim that your behavior in the present scandal reminds them of your handling of the Fr. Caparelli case. I am now researching this.
I am also encouraging all who are disgusted and fed up with your cover-up to write to you at firstname.lastname@example.org or at your regular mail address of 300 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton, PA 18503.
SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN, SHOHOLA,
DIOCESAN POLICY REGARDING ABUSE OF MINORS BY CLERGY
A Statement by the
Most Reverend James C. Timlin, D.D.
Bishop of Scranton
February 21, 2002
Circulating in certain media outlets in the Diocese of Scranton are reports of serious allegations of sexual misconduct involving two members of the Society of St. John, an association of priests residing in Shohola, Pike County. In view of the local attention and the national concern about the church’s response to the abuse of minors by members of the clergy, I believe it is imperative that I make clear that the Diocese of Scranton in every case complies with the requirements of all the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, canon law, and our diocesan policy. In the case of the allegations involving priests of the Society, appropriate agencies of the government have been fully apprised of the allegations that have been brought to the diocese’s attention.
In stressing that all legal requirements have been met, I must also assert that the diocese has, above all else, the compelling responsibility to reach out to the victims, to those persons claiming to have been abused by a priest. It is impossible to exaggerate the harm done to a child or, indeed, to any person, no matter the age, who is abused sexually. Such acts are all the worse when the perpetrator is a priest who is in a position of trust. The diocese will always reach out to the victims; we will offer needed assistance and loving care to those we know have been hurt by a priest.
These are difficult times for priests as well as for our good people. Please remember that there are thousands and thousands of good, faithful priests who labor hard every day in the vineyard of the Lord. It is most regrettable for them to be tarred with the same brush as those relatively few who are guilty of gross misconduct. Please remember also that as wrong and as tragic as child abuse is, it is also wrong to condemn a person without credible evidence.
I ask you to pray for all young people who have suffered from this horrible and shameful crime and never hesitate to inform me if a cleric is involved. And I ask you to pray for priests who are so good and faithful in their service to you. Please pray also for me as I do my best to know the truth and to act courageously and with perseverance while confronting these difficult matters during these troubled times.