Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Priest Abuse Records Unsealed

A Federal judge in Dallas unsealed the records concerning a series of cases of sexual abuse by priests in a single diocese in Texas. The Dallas Morning News reports on what was in these records and it’s stunning. A couple of examples:

1. Rev. Philip Magaldi. Magaldi. In 1997, the church finds him guilty of paying an 18 year old to give him enemas (after buying him drinks). Bishop Joseph Delaney decides that his punishment is to do some volunteer work. He does remove him from working with altar boys, but he leaves him as chaplain of the church’s boy scouts program. The next year a man in Massachusetts comes forward to say that this priest had abused him back in the 70s when he was a priest in Rhode Island, also with enemas. He was briefly suspended but returned to the ministry in 1999, when he was again accused of sexual misconduct. Even after that, he was still allowed to continue in the ministry at a retirement home until a new bishop finally removed him.

2. Rev. James Reilly. He molested three young boys in the 70s. Bishop Delaney says that he had heard other “allusions” to previous incidents like this involving this priest, yet he told the Philadelphia Diocese, where Reilly had been moved, that he didn’t think he was any threat to anyone. The Philadelphia diocese let him stay until his death in 1999. Meanwhile, several more men have come out and accused him of having abused them when they were children.

And here’s the kicker: not one of these cases, over the course of several decades, was reported to the police. If the principal of a school found out that a teacher under his authority was molesting children and just transferred them to another school without reporting it to the police, that principal would be in jail. So should Bishop Delaney. He is an accessory after the fact and complicit in covering up multiple felonies. He should be in prison. And the same thing goes for Cardinal Law and every other Catholic Church official involved in every single case. The moment they heard a report of such abuse by a priest, they should have called the police. The fact that they failed to do so in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases goes beyond negligence and becomes nothing less than aiding and abetting.


  1. #1 jba
    November 30, 2006

    Does anyone know why nothing gets done to these guys? Im from Boston and I remember the huge hoopla a few years back about all the abuse here. But if I recall correctly only one priest went to jail and all that happened to the people who covered it all up was one got sent to work in the Vatican. I would be very interested to know the legal reasons behind the lack of action on the part of the government.

  2. #2 writerdd
    November 30, 2006

    The church should be shut down and the bishop in charge should be sent to jail, as well as the priests who committed these crimes.

  3. #3 David C. Brayton
    November 30, 2006

    I agree with you. Just last week in Santa Rosa, a bishop that knew his legal duty to report abuse and intentionally did not follow the law wasn’t even indicted.

    I was flabbergasted that the DA declined to prosecute because the delay in reporting allowed the offending priest to abscond and disappear (reportedly to the hinterlands of Mexico). The DA’s decision is Un-F***ING-believeable.

    My hypothesis is that church leaders are held to a different standard because of their good work in other aspects of their life. This phenomena is disgusting.

  4. #4 GH
    November 30, 2006

    My hypothesis is that church leaders are held to a different standard because of their good work in other aspects of their life

    Perhaps but do they really do any more ‘good’ work than the average joe? I doubt it. I think more correctly law enforcement has the same view of religion as many in our society and that is a different set of rules for no apparent reason whatsoever.

  5. #5 Paul T.
    November 30, 2006

    If I sold drugs, the police would seize my car, house and bank accounts. Why does any church get off scott free? It’s not just the Catholics, but all religious organizations get a pass. I guarantee that if local authorities started auctioning off church property all of this crap would end.

  6. #6 DuWayne
    November 30, 2006

    Paul –

    A few years ago, NPR reported on attempts by several jurisdictions to seize church property to cover the reperations to victims of priest sexual molestation. I don’t remember the outcome, but I recall it led to a shitstorm of restructuring so that the churches operating under a given diocese would be considered legaly indipendent of the diocese.

  7. #7 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2006

    jba: one of the reasons there is so little action is that such charges are VERY hard to prove even when they’re reported immediately after the incident; and most of these charges are not reported until DECADES after they’ve happened. Quite apart from statute-of-limitation problems, reasonable doubts arise in connection to such issues as the motives of the alleged victims, and how reliable the various parties’ memories are after so long.

    (Before anyone slams me for kinda-sorta questioning the motives of the victims, I merely mention this issue because I’ve read more than one article in which a man, who had had sex with a priest as a boy, freely admits that the sex was consensual, and sometimes initiated by him, not by the priest. None of this excuses the priests, of course, but it does complicate any prospective prosecution.)

  8. #8 jba
    November 30, 2006


    Good point, I hadnt thought of that. I wonder if they take it into account that the minor initiated it or consented in a case like this. I have read several articles lately (although I dont have links handy)about teacher/student relationships where the student says that they consented to the relations and the courts and schools responses were “Minors cant consent”. I wonder if the clergy are treated different in such a situation. I realise also that those cases are also different because they happened much sooner to being found out, but Im still curious.

  9. #9 double-soup tuesday
    November 30, 2006

    I haven’t seem much about this on CNN today, although the Pope’s visit to Turkey coverage is nonstop, including ongoing commentary on the importance of cross-praying agreements — the allowance of Christians to pray in mosques and viceversa.

    CNN’s Anchor Kyra Phillips:

    Will the Pope be praying when he’s in the mosque?
    Why is it called the Blue Mosque?

    This sexual abuse thing seems to be localized and unworthy of in-depth examination by CNN. Probably felt the prurient content to be unseemly high.

  10. #10 Jeff Hebert
    November 30, 2006

    David C. Brayton said:

    My hypothesis is that church leaders are held to a different standard because of their good work in other aspects of their life.

    I disagree. I think it would be more accurate to say that religion is held to a different standard than other institutions and that priests, by “virtue” of being a part of a religious institution are granted special privilege. In other words, they avoid prosecution because of the office they hold, not their individual behavior.

    I am not attempting to argue that this is either a good or a bad thing, or right or wrong, I just mean it as an observation of the way our culture treats shaman — they get held to a different standard than non-shaman, regardless of how good or bad the behavior of the particular shaman in question might be.

  11. #11 jba
    November 30, 2006

    Jeff Hebert:

    I think you are on to something there.

  12. #12 Sastra
    November 30, 2006

    I also suspect that there might be some social effect coming from the Church’s constant theme of sin, repentance, forgiveness, sin, repentance, forgiveness. We all know the drill: Who of us has not sinned? Who would not want their honest repentance forgiven? The nature of humanity is sin, the purpose of life is repentance, and the Glory of God is His forgiveness. Emulate Him in all you do. Mercy is the highest of virtues. Judge not lest ye be judged. And so forth and so on ad infinitum.

    Priests (and ministers) are presumably supposed to be the earthly representatives of this message, and I suspect those who molest children manage to psychologically fit their “problem” into the general framework of Man’s Sinful Nature — and are possibly even sincerely sorry or conflicted, at least for a while. So how should a church deal with contrition, when God gives all a second chance, and gladly forgives seventy times seven? What would be expected?

    If there isn’t any residual cultural fallout from this intense harping on the infinite value of *mercy* and *forgiveness* even when this sort of situation comes up, I’d be surprised.

  13. #13 Ed Brayton
    November 30, 2006

    I suggest that the reason this doesn’t happen is because prosecutors are afraid of a backlash from Catholics at the voting booth if they start throwing bishops in jail for this. You think a prosecutor in Boston, who has to run for reelection, is about to throw the bishop of that diocese in jail?

  14. #14 Jeff Hebert
    November 30, 2006

    That’s probably a significant reason in Boston, but sexually-abusive priests have been uncovered across the country, including places with a very small Catholic demographic. I could be wrong, but I don’t think prosecuting a Catholic bishop or priest is going to get non-Catholics all that upset.

    Like most things, I imagine there are lots of reasons for the observed behavior which are all relevant to a greater or lesser degree. Politics, cultural differences in how shaman are treated, themes of forgiveness, the assumption that other good deeds outweigh the bad ones, all come into play. I doubt (my post to the contrary) that any one is “the” reason; anything that involves adults covering up for other adults under their authority molesting children — repeatedly — is bound to be fairly complex.

  15. #15 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2006

    Not if the prosecutor in Boston can make a solid case against the priest. I know a lot of people look up to the Catholic Church, but not to the extent of excusing something as universally reviled as sexual abuse of children (which is, I must note, not condoned by Catholic doctrine).

    A prosecutor WOULD have problems if his case against such a priest started to fall apart, as many high-profile child-sexual-abuse cases have done. That’s when the backlash would begin.

  16. #16 stogoe
    November 30, 2006

    Well, I haven’t sinned, because I reject that notion of ‘things a god says are wrong’, but I have done stupid stuff, made mistakes, etc.

  17. #17 jba
    November 30, 2006


    There is definatly a huge problem with the Catholic (and I suppose all of christianity has a similar practice) sin/repentence thing. Feeling bad just isnt enough and having a priest say its ok doesnt make it better IMHO.


    Very true, especialy here in Boston. But one thing that has also been happening here is that Catholic churches have been closing because of low turnout and lack of funds due to the whole scandal. A lot of Catholics have lost faith with their church due to this and maybe thats most of the justice we are going to get. Doesnt seem like enough to me.

  18. #18 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2006

    Jeff: please stop confusing “shaman” with “priest;” they’re not the same. You may think you’re making some sort of point by using a term we’re supposed to associate with “stone-age,” but in reality, you’re making yourself sound exceedingly stupid.

  19. #19 Jeff Hebert
    November 30, 2006

    Raging Bee posted (using patented “Raging Bee Mature-Adult-O-Speak”):

    Jeff: please stop confusing “shaman” with “priest;” they’re not the same. You may think you’re making some sort of point by using a term we’re supposed to associate with “stone-age,” but in reality, you’re making yourself sound exceedingly stupid.

    That is correct, shaman and priest are not the same, and that’s why I used the one and not the other — a priest, in my usage, is a subset of the more generic class of shaman. It’s not a pejorative distinction, it’s a generic one. From Wikipedia I use it in the sense of:

    Some anthropologists and religion scholars define a shaman as an intermediary between the natural and spiritual world…*

    I was trying to indicate that the class of individuals tasked in our society with mediation between the natural and supernatural — a superset including Christians and non-Christians alike, not just Catholic priests — have special rules applied to their behavior. Using the very specific term “priest”, which doesn’t even apply to all Christian denominations’ religious leaders, would be too exclusive to make sense for the point I was trying to raise. I could have said “religious leaders in general, of any faith (either Christian or non-Christian), and not exclusively priests”, but that’s rather more of a mouthful than “shaman”.

    And while Shamanism (as a specific rather than generic term) has existed since prehistory, I find it revealing that you would consider it “stone age”. I certainly do not. Shamanism has persisted in many cultures throughout the world even up to today, and is no more “stone age” than fire is. That’s your prejudice speaking, not mine.

    Finally, thanks for the “exceedingly stupid” comment. As always, your inspirational instruction in the field of how to argue like an adult continues to take my breath away.

    *I am leaving off the end of that sentence, which concludes “…who travels between worlds in a trance state” because it’s more specific than the sense in which I was using it. Certainly you could argue that prayer is, in a sense, travel between worlds, but that’s a rathole I was trying to avoid. I am ascribing the most generic and universal usage of the term possible, while understanding that not everyone would use it in such a way. Priest, on the other hand, has a very specific set of roles and connotations that I don’t think appropriate for a generic usage of “religious leaders of any belief system”.

  20. #20 Anuminous
    November 30, 2006

    As an anectotal note regarding Catholics in Boston, my Boston Irish Catholic mother in law continues to believe that permitting gay marriage in the Commonwealth will bring dire repercussions, but the charges against local priests are largely trumped up nonsense.

    Never underestimate the confidence of those who are certain without reason.

  21. #21 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2006

    Jeff: going beyond a mere Wikipedia entry, a “shaman” is someone who (allegedly) travels from this world to the spirit-world (with or without drugs) in order to answer questions, cure the sick, or whatever. Most Christian churches reject this notion out of hand as either impossible or against God’s will (living people don’t travel to Heaven or Hell unless God specifically allows it, which, according to most doctrines, he almost never does). Even in the Pagan community, who take shamanism more seriously, very few clergy can call themselves “shamans.” Your conflation of “priest” with “shaman” is inexcusable under any circumstances. If you wanted to save keystrokes, you could have used the word “clergy” instead.

  22. #22 Cheeto
    November 30, 2006

    Don’t forget the Raging Bee Rules: Since the Raging Bee parents are nice christians, everybody must be nice to all christians when Raging Bee is near. We can all just call that “RB Rule 1” when this issue comes up again

  23. #23 Will
    November 30, 2006

    Some bees sure go into a rage when they perceive something to be a slight towards Christianity(even when it really isn’t). Or when someone mentions “atheism” or a certain “PZ.”

  24. #24 Will
    November 30, 2006

    I forgot to mention,

    Priests(and preachers, etc.) fulfill the same role in Christian churches that Shaman do in other religions. If you’re going to argue that they don’t because priests don’t literally view themselves as traveling to a spirit world, then you’re just being overly pedantic.

  25. #25 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2006

    If, by “being overly pedantic,” you mean “choosing the right words to describe something accurately,” then I plead guilty — not that I’m FEELING guilty about it…

  26. #26 kehrsam
    November 30, 2006

    Cleaning up a few loose ends. In most states, there is no stautute of limitations on felony charges, although I believe Mass is one state that still has them.

    In no jurisdiction are minors able to “consent” to sex with an adult, on the theory that an adult can always force such consent in one manner or another (“I have candy in my pocket…”).

    Further, the age of consent varies quite a bit, and may or may not be higher if the sex partner is older. For instance, here in NC, the age of consent is 16 so long as both are under 21, but 18 if one is older than that.

    In any case, given the relationship of priest/penitant is itself inherently coercive, there may well arise a civil cause of action anytime a priest takes sexual or other advantage of a parishioner, regardless of age. So if the Church had been halfway honest about this from the beginning, it would have been stopped a long time ago.

  27. #27 Jeff Hebert
    November 30, 2006

    Raging Bee said:

    Your conflation of “priest” with “shaman” is inexcusable under any circumstances.

    Do you feel smarter now? Probably not, and neither do I, because pedantic pissing contests are both boring and unilluminating.

    “Clergy” might be a better term, but (for me)it has always had Christian connotations, maybe because I was raised Catholic. I was going for something more generic, and “Shaman” has always been the term I use, possibly because there weren’t any shaman where I grew up and so I had no connotations associated with it. Since the audience here is largely American, it seems reasonable to assume that clergy would have the same connotations for them. That may be an unwarranted assumption I admit, but that’s where I was coming from.

    Now, pardon me if I take a couple of paragraphs for a more personal direction here.

    You misunderstood the point I was trying to make and teed off with a whole set of foolish assumptions about my intentions and meanings, I clarified it, and you insulted me with hyperbolic self-righteousness. Again. The mature thing to do would have been to say “Jeff, here’s how I am reading what you wrote, is that what you meant?” And I’d have replied politely to explain what I was intending to convey, then you would have said “I think you’re taking a more liberal interpretation of the word ‘shaman’ than is generally warranted” and I’d probably have said “You’re likely correct, it’s a shorthand I’ve used for years but I can see how it might be misinterpreted to mean something I didn’t intend.”

    Instead, you whipped out your metaphorical cock and slapped me in the face with it, once again demonstrating the laughable gap between how you excoriate others for behaving, and what you yourself do every single day on this forum.

    You’re really a piece of work. It’s starting to be just as much fun watching you behave like a spoiled, arrogant, idiotic, self-righteous brat while railing against everyone else for being a spoiled, arrogant, idiotic, self-righteous brat as it is to watch the Discovery Institute tie themselves up in rhetorical knots.

  28. #28 SharonB
    November 30, 2006

    It just demonstrates that the Catholic Church is a criminal organization and should just STFU about the moral status of anyone else until they get their religious rear in gear and clean themselves up first. A white-washed tomb, I believe the Teacher would call them.

  29. #29 kehrsam
    November 30, 2006

    I have asked several people I know in DA offices this question, and none of them had a good answer, either: Why doesn’t RICO apply in this situation? If the answer is anything other than, “Of course it should apply,” then the follow up question is, “If RICO doesn’t apply to what the Church has been doing, when the hell would it apply?”

    As I said, I haven’t heard a good answer yet as to why it wouldn’t apply. Among other things, even if local statutes of limitations have expired, that does not mean that RICO can’t still use the underlying acts as triggers (although it has its own set of timetables). If we have a former Federal DA in the house, perhaps they could address the question.

  30. #30 RSG
    November 30, 2006

    I makes no difference if the minor initiated the sex, the adult priest had a duty to refuse, and is just as guilty as if he had initiated it. A child is not capable of consent to any adult, especially a priest. Pedophilia is pedophilia, regardless of which party initiates it. There is certainly a double standard, though, and churches and priests get a pass, whether they’re Catholic, Baptist, or whatever else.

  31. #31 Will
    December 1, 2006

    If, by “being overly pedantic,” you mean “choosing the right words to describe something accurately,” then I plead guilty — not that I’m FEELING guilty about it…

    Self-righteous twat.

  32. #32 raj
    December 1, 2006

    And here’s the kicker: not one of these cases, over the course of several decades, was reported to the police. If the principal of a school found out that a teacher under his authority was molesting children and just transferred them to another school without reporting it to the police, that principal would be in jail. So should Bishop Delaney. He is an accessory after the fact and complicit in covering up multiple felonies.

    No particular disagreement. From what I have read during the child sex abuse scandals involving the RCCi (Roman Catholic Church, Inc.–the hierarchy) here in Boston a few years ago, it is–or at least was–not unusual for there to be a tacit agreement between the RCCi and local law enforcement officials that, if some “problem” arose involving the members of the hierarchy (a priest, bishop, etc.) including but not necessarily limited to child sexual abuse, the local law enforcement agencies would let the RCCi “take care of it.” What that meant is anyone’s guess

    I’ll point out that there was nothing that prevented the parents of the children who were allegedly abused complaining to the local law enforcement agencies. Apparently, the parents just complained to the superiors in the hierarchy, who generally did nothing other than shuttling the allegedly offending priests to other parishes–which, of course, would not solve the problem, since those priests could offend in their new parishes. In the apparently rare instances in which the parents complained to law enforcement officials, they let the bishops “take care of the problem.”

    One thing that is interesting about the RCCi sex abuse scandal is as follows. There have been numerous sex abuse incidents in Protestant denominations, but you almost never find them widely reported? Why not? Most likely because of two factors (i) they are reported to law enforcement, and law enforcement agencies actually do something about them when they are reported to them, and, probably more importantly, (ii) there have been no really huge financial settlements–at least not that I am aware of. One reason is the difference in organization between the RCCi and Protestant denominations. In the RCCi, there is a central authority that assigns priests to parishes, but that’s not the case in at least most Protestant denominations. In most Protestant denominations, congregations essentially hire and fire their pastors, and thus would be responsible at the local level for their defalcations. Individual congregations have a lot less money to pay judgements with than do RCCi archdioces.

  33. #33 Kate
    December 1, 2006


    I think you’re also forgetting one key point about protestantism v. catholicism with regards to the clergy. Protestantism doesn’t (to my knowledge) require their ministers/priests to remain celebate. I have always felt that part of the problem with the catholic church sex scandals lies in the fact that the men denied themselves all healthy, normal outlets for their sexuality and in a few of these men something twisted and became very unhealthy. On the other hand, protestant ministers are allowed (and in some denominations practically expected) to marry.

    There’s also the school of thought that those people with such (pedophilic) tendencies either a) were trying to conquor them in the discipline and structure of the church or b) were seeking a place where they would not be punished harshly for indulging in their desires. Both options would lead to a higher percentage of “deviants” in the catholic preisthood.

    Couple that with your thoughts regarding teh structuring of churches and I think that it’s a much more complete picture.

  34. #34 Raging Bee
    December 1, 2006

    Kate: I wouldn’t be so quick to blame priestly celibacy for this; but I would be more inclined to blame the Church’s overall attitude toward homosexuality, and their refusal to find or make a place for it in the society they envision. It has been said that the offending priests are gay, and joined the priesthood both because they couldn’t have the kind of family they would have enjoyed, and because if they can’t have sex lives, they might as well be in an environment where priestly discipline, and the spiritual life, or something, would have a chance of erasing those parts of their nature they can’t face — which of course the priestly life can’t possibly do. Put young boys in the care of such repressed, frustrated sods, who have no space in which to honestly face, acknowledge or examine their sexual nature, and you’re begging for trouble, celibacy or no celibacy.

    Jeff: whatever definition of “shaman” you may have learned, I really can’t see how you could think it an applicable term for Christian clergy, especially when “priest” or “minister” would have done just fine. To my knowledge, it has NEVER been used in a Christian context, any more than “warlock.” The reason for my reaction to your misuse of the term, is that I found it a bit insulting that you would refuse to use the widely-used terms that Christian clergy accept for themselves, and have to impose your own word, with your own understanding of its meaning. Such word-games trigger my BS detector, and normally for good reason.

  35. #35 Jeff Hebert
    December 1, 2006

    Jeff: whatever definition of “shaman” you may have learned, I really can’t see how you could think it an applicable term for Christian clergy, especially when “priest” or “minister” would have done just fine.

    That was downright civil, thank you.

    You may well be right and my usage of “shaman” is peculiar and not commonly-accepted (and thus a poor choice), but I’ve seen the usage in other places and it seemed like a good way to differentiate the larger super-class of “intermediaries between the supernatural and natural world” — which would include Catholic priests, Baptist ministers, eastern Mystics, John Edwards-style “speakers to the dead”, etc. — from the smaller, specific subset of Christian clergy. I certainly wasn’t trying to be insulting, I was trying to be inclusive of the non-Christian “religious” people who also have exalted status that exempts them from some of the rules that bind the rest of us. If Christian religious leaders get insulted by the idea that they are not the only ones in that super-class, well, I don’t really have a response to that.

    And with that, I am done posting on the subject, as it stopped being interesting some time ago. Apologies to all and sundry for the dry and boring digressions.

  36. #36 Roman Werpachowski
    December 2, 2006

    “There is definatly a huge problem with the Catholic (and I suppose all of christianity has a similar practice) sin/repentence thing.”

    No, other Christian denominations often treat sin/repentence in a markedly different way than the Catholics.

    “Feeling bad just isnt enough and having a priest say its ok doesnt make it better IMHO.”

    Feeling bad just isn’t enough for the Catholics either. The fact that the sex abuse cases weren’t reported to the police is an abuse of the Catholic creed, not its fulfillment. In Catholicism, just feeling bad because of something is not enough, you also should amend the damage and “render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s”.

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