Tag: red flags found in church

Pope Francis' Apology Tour Horowitz Law

Judging a Papal Apology – Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

When judging a Papal apology, sincerity and follow-up are key. Pope Francis has gotten wall-to-wall news coverage with what’s been called his ‘apology tour‘ in Canada. Francis stated, “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous Peoples.” But apologies come in all shapes and sizes, and many people have been chiming in that he failed to offer a concrete way forward and next steps. Here are our two cents on what makes a good apology versus a bad one and what an apology tells us about the individual or institution that makes one.

Our first question is, “why is the pontiff expressing sorrow?” Could it be because of the church’s role in the “notorious” residential schools, which were designed to erase Indigenous culture and language by forcibly separating roughly 150,000 children from their families, where thousands of Indigenous children died, and countless others were sexually and physically abused?

Let that last part sink in: “where thousands of Indigenous children died, and countless others were sexually and physically abused.” According to a NY Times article, about a year ago, at the site of just one school, an analysis of ground-penetrating radar scans found evidence consistent with the testimony of former students that hundreds of students were buried in unmarked graves on school grounds.

So it’s pretty clear that Francis has plenty to apologize for. 

Here are five questions to ask when evaluating any apology:

Not surprisingly, Pope Francis, like bishops worldwide, especially in the US, has earned a failing grade this week.

      1. Is the apology clear? Francis, like his underlings, deliberately uses vague language, going so far as to not even mention the word “abuse.” “Roddy Gould Jr., chief of Abegweit First Nation in Scotchfort, said Pope Francis’s words were too vague and seemed unconnected to the hurt and trauma caused by the residential school system,” reported the Canadian Broadcast CompanyAnother Indigenous survivor of these horrific abuses said, “You can’t dance around the, you know, bypass the truth and go right to reconciliation . . .” These actions are, of course, consistent with the apologies of many Catholic officials, high and low. All too often, they get all hazy and refuse to use common terms used by the public, instead tossing around opaque church phrases that ‘soften the blow’ that plain, clear words would cause. One of the most memorable examples of this comes from the now-retired cardinal who headed the New York Archdiocese for ages, Edward Egan. Egan stated, “If in hindsight we discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”
      2. Is the apology prompt? Again, the Pope fails on this score too. For decades, church and governmental authorities have known of this widespread, preventable, and egregious wrongdoing. In fact, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada first sought an apology from Pope Benedict XVI during a Vatican meeting 13 years ago. It’s hard to get excited about an apology or consider it sincere when it comes after years and years of begging.
      3. Is the apology forced or voluntary? In a technical sense, since Francis is the undisputed head of a global monarchy, no one can force him to do anything. However, the truth is that sometimes even monarchs feel compelled to respond to public pressure, media firestorms, and widespread discontent by their subjects. Sadly, however, in clergy sex abuse and cover-up cases, the level of shock, shame, and damage that must be done and exposed to prod Catholic officials to finally act is shocking.
      4. Does action follow it? If the past is any indication, we at Horowitz Law would be shocked if Pope Francis, in the days, weeks, and months to come, lays out a concrete plan to provide real help for vulnerable kids or wounded adults. Years ago, Canadian church officials promised to pay victims $25 million in restitution. To date, they have paid just 1.2 million Canadian dollars. Gould said, “The Catholic Church has accommodated and changed things in its church service to accommodate and keep its clientele. And that’s what I saw. I saw the largest political organization in the world make a vague, very articulated statement, not out of accountability, but to appease its base.”
      5. Does the apology come before or after wrongdoing is exposed? We’ve all heard apologies of both types: those offered AFTER someone else, not the wrongdoer, has revealed the bad behavior, and those offered BEFORE or WHILE the bad behavior is disclosed. We’d likely all agree that the ‘BEFORE’ and ‘WHILE’ apologies are always more genuine and, therefore, more healing. Suppose you’ve followed the church’s ongoing, decades-old, still-flourishing clergy sex abuse and cover-up crisis. In that case, you know that it’s exceptionally rare for a bishop or a Vatican bureaucrat to share news of a scandal and apologize for it BEFORE it hits the media.

In summary, we at Horowitz Law understand – and are glad – that some feel good about what Francis said in Canada this week. Those who suffer should, of course, get some comfort and consolation. But his words could and should have come sooner, been more explicit, and led to significant tangible help, not temporary emotional solace.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us at (888) 283-9922 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Colorado and nationwide. We can help.


Disturbing Trends Found in the Catholic Church

Red Flags and Disturbing Trends Found in the Catholic Church

Last year, an article about a small, obscure Catholic monastery overseas was released that disclosed numerous red flags and disturbing trends found in the Catholic church that are still happening. Although a year old, we would like to draw attention to it now for two reasons.

The first reason is that this article contains a shockingly thorough list of ‘red flags’ and disturbing trends found in the Catholic church. It highlights descriptions of very troubling behaviors that could almost serve as a ‘checklist’ for those who wonder, “Is what my boss/pastor/counselor doing appropriate?”

This article is also an example of a troubling trend in some religions, the growth of ‘independent’ churches headed by charismatic individuals that operate with fewer constraints and thus are even more likely to attract and coddle child molesters.

Regarding the ‘red flags,’ according to this article, a young man who wanted to become a priest felt manipulated, anxious, depressed, and harassed while “locked” in this weird emotional thing with his alleged abuser.

Allegedly he wasn’t allowed to go to the doctor, was urged to take psychiatric medication (by his boss), ‘broke down weeping,’ and ‘has been ostracized. He also reportedly saw ‘inappropriate guests’ at the monastery where both men lived, as well as financial mismanagement and inappropriate personal disclosures. His boss reportedly was highly flattering, personally charismatic, and dynamic. He was good at inspiring trust and frequently gossiped to (others) spiritual direction. He seemed to act possessive toward the alleged victim.

Let’s be clear. If you saw a person, especially a boss, exhibit one or two of these behaviors, you’d rightfully think, “That’s odd” or “That’s creepy,” even though laws were not technically broken.

But imagine that your supervisor did all – or even most – of these things. One act, however awkward or uncomfortable it may make you, could be chalked up to an anomaly. But repeatedly disturbing actions by a boss should immediately prompt an investigation and maybe some kind of disciplinary moves. This article showcases even more ‘red flags’ than we’ve listed here. There should really be a pocket-sized checklist that could be laminated and provided to every employee of youth-serving institutions.

More Disturbing Trends Found in the Catholic Church

The second point of this article is that the growth of new, ‘independent’ churches and religious groups that are NOT part of larger, established, mainstream religious bodies is troubling. A Catholic journalist summarizes the entire sordid story laid up above “is a lesson about what can happen when a charismatic founder is imbued with spiritual authority but with little supervision or oversight.” 

The proliferation of small, purportedly, and partially independent religious institutes or religious orders often headed by a charismatic official translates into even less ‘supervision or oversight’ than one typically finds in a diocese or conventional denomination. Who benefits from this lessened oversight? And who might be drawn to become part of one of these smaller, newer, less conventional, and more ego-dominated religious groups? Men who want to abuse power. 

The good news here is that in the legal realm, despite their reduced supervision and their claims to be independent, many times, these entities can still be held responsible for child sex crimes committed by their members or officials.

So if you’ve seen, suspected, or suffered abuse in one of these religious institutes or orders, do NOT assume you are without legal options. You owe it to yourself and others to report these crimes and check with an experienced attorney who can best explain what remedies you may have.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a member of a religious organization, contact us today at (888) 283-9922 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.