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spreading the pain

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 09, 2007

In order to raise the cash to make its pederasty payment, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is selling a convent that currently provides a residence for three nuns. The anticipated selling price is a drop in the bucket of the roughly $250 million needed to keep the archbishop out of the witness box meet the Archdiocese's liabilities in the sex-abuse settlements, and the convent is one of about 50 non-parish properties to be sold. The sisters have been asked to vacate the house by the end of December.

From the point of view of the archdiocesan business office it's not an unreasonable maneuver. Spokesman Tod Tamberg says that, while the Archdiocese owns the Santa Barbara property, it has been made available to the sisters rent-free. By the same token, these nuns appear to be engaged in fairly humble, under-the-radar ministry; they wear traditional religious garb, moreover, which suggests they're unlikely to make things awkward by attracting the kind of high-profile defender the Archdiocese takes seriously.

The Archdiocesan spokesman says the good sisters just have to take one for the team:

"The pain is being spread around," Tamberg said. "We're losing our headquarters here, and none of the employees got a pay raise this year. This is just part of making it right with the victims, and we all have to share in the process even though none of us -- the nuns, myself -- harmed anybody. All of us as a church have to pay for the sins of a few people."

Well, no. Not everyone has paid. Most particularly, the persons whose duty it was to keep the victims from being victims in the first place have not paid. No episcopal head has been separated from its miter; no senior ecclesiastic (apart from those who attracted the attention of law enforcement agencies) has been dismissed because of bad decisions he made -- and there were plenty of bad decisions.

Remember that story in the LA Times on the appalling history of LA's archdiocesan seminary, St. John's Camarillo? It noted that "about 10% of St. John's graduates reported to have been ordained in the Los Angeles Archdiocese since 1950 -- 65 of roughly 625 -- have been accused of molesting minors." Take a minute to ponder the significance of that number. It represents not just students who happened to attend St. Johns, but graduates. Not just graduates, ordained graduates. Not just ordained graduates, graduates ordained for Los Angeles. And this ten percent refers not to the number of accused abusers in total, but of those accused of abusing minors.

The 2005 article cites a former student who claimed that this same institution given to indiscretions with minors was -- by the sheerest coincidence -- simultaneously burdened by a problem with same-sex unchastity: "Luis Godinez, who briefly attended St. John's in the late 1980s, said he left because he was offended by the promiscuity on campus. He said he often could not use his dorm bathroom at night because it was occupied by men having sex."

Incredible. With a record like that, you might think the responsible bishops would be yanked and dispatched to a monastery in the Orkneys, that every administrator and faculty member would be sent packing, that the seminary itself would be dismantled. So tell me: can you think of a single rector, dean, or professor whose career has suffered, much less ended, because of his role in the St. John's fiasco? "The pain is being spread around," says Tamberg. Can't see the trail of tears leading out of Camarillo, Tod my man, and the same goes for your own boss.

In fact, with the exception of nuisances shared with lay functionaries ("none of the employees got a pay raise this year"), it isn't clear that any hardship has been visited by the Archdiocese upon its own senior clergy as a consequence of the payout. Cardinal Mahony has famously described himself as a pioneer in tackling the sex-abuse problem. The frightening possibility is that he actually believes the line, and feels he and his intimates deserve to be rewarded for their accomplishments. He provided us, after all, with forward-thinking clergy like Liuzzi & Stoltz, did he not? Surely that's worth cashing in a convent or two.

"We're just so hurt by this," [Sister Angela] Escalera, the order's local superior, said this week. "And what hurts the most is what the money will be used for, to help pay for the pedophile priests. We have to sacrifice our home for that?"

Let's see that smile, Sister A. God loves a cheerful giver.

LA Times photo

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