Philly diocese's sex-abuse chair blasts cardinal

May 13, 2011 2:12:18 PM PDT
The head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's panel on priest sex-abuse is assailing the cardinal's response to the pedophilia crisis and pulling back the curtain on the panel's long-secret operations.

Cardinal Justin Rigali and his bishops "failed miserably at being open and transparent," review board chairwoman Ana Maria Catanzaro wrote this week in the lay Catholic magazine Commonweal.

RELATED: Read Catanzaro's article

"What will it take for bishops to accept that their attitude of superiority and privilege only harms their image and the church's?" Catanzaro wrote in an article titled, "The Fog of Scandal."

A grand jury this year criticized the panel and church officials for leaving dozens of problem priests in ministry.

But Catanzaro said the lay board was never informed about most of them because the archdiocese pre-screened which cases they reviewed.

Rigali initially said he knew of no priests working in the archdiocese with "an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse" against them. Yet he later suspended about 24 priests.

The Philadelphia grand jury charged two priests, an ex-priest and a teacher with rape, and a monsignor with endangering children through priest transfers. All plan to vigorously fight the charges. At least six civil priest-abuse lawsuits have since been filed.

Catanzaro, who has spent eight years on the review board, which makes recommendations about whether priests should remain in ministry, faulted church officials for focusing on lawsuits and liability concerns instead of ridding the church of pedophiles.

The archdiocese did not immediately respond to a call for comment Friday.

Catanzaro also complained that the panel is told to weigh church law on the subject of sexual abuse, not civil law, leading to what she called heated arguments between panel members and three church lawyers who assist the panel.

"We should expect better from the church and from our bishops. Although concerns about liability can be legitimate, addressing the abuse scandal from a legalistic perspective focused on protecting the archdiocese from liability is simply wrong," she wrote.

Catanzaro earned a Ph.D. in nursing at Catholic University and a master's degree in moral studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, which is run by the archdiocese. She directs the graduate nursing program at Holy Family University. She did not return messages from The Associated Press on Friday.

Former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua named her to the review board in 2002, when U.S. bishops ordered that lay panels be formed to address the abuse problem. She remains the Philadelphia panel's chairwoman, despite what she called soul-searching this year by her and other panel members about whether to resign.


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