One of our most avid readers has also turned into a most avid writer. He is Paul Kelly, a former Jesuit from the New England Province, almost 74, living in retirement with his wife Jean in Pine Point, Maine. For much of the fall and winter, he has been compelled to give voice to the scandal in the Church, particularly the American Church. As for his writing, we can say that when he is good, he is very, very good. And when he is bad, he ain't that bad. We make bold to give some excerpt from the pen – er – computer of Paul Kelly.

A Paul Kelly File

Dec. 13. The Church, the Law and the Truth. Somehow, I’m beginning to think like a layman, not as a lawyer. I think more of the Gospels than I do about Rules of Procedure. I think more of Truth and Faith and Hope and Love than I do about due process or a Bill of Rights. I think more of justice than I do of litigation.

I think our bishops should stop listening to and acting like their lawyers. They should tear down the Berlin wall of silence and think like bishops. They should reread Canon Law about their obligations and accountability for the salvation of the souls of their people. A bishop is not a Gestapo officer, not a dictator accountable to no one but himself. He is preeminently “Servus Servorum Dei - A Servant of the Servants of God.” He is the shepherd of a flock, if you will.

What is difficult for even a legally trained person to grasp is the inconsistency of the bishops in America on American laws. Forget the Vatican bishops and cardinals, who simply cannot understand American passion for truth. Consistency, thou art a jewel, except in American laws as not being applicable to bishops in the face of Canon Law, yet applicable when a bishop is a defendant.

Our bishops in Washington asserted the commands of Canon Law, as sent down to them by the Vatican in its requested changes to the Charter for the Protection of Children. As easily predicted, our American bishops quickly obeyed, within one day of a joint conference with four Vatican representatives.

In Washington, Canon Law was stressed, even the new wrinkle of Prescription, its term for Statute of Limitations, sneaking in that little 10 year add-on to the age of majority at 18, to stop cold all those 29 years old and up. Just think. You are permanently and irrevocably damaged for life in mind, body, soul, heart, and youthful spirit, by sexual abuse from a man with a collar on backwards. And you can be "fixed", as if the permanency were temporary, provided you're smart enough to act before your 29th birthday. After that, the permanency of the damage becomes eternal. Due process has little to with it. Kids simply have to learn to count when they grow up, especially up to 10 which is then added onto 18.

With all the stress on Canon Law, one has to assume that, at least in the mind of bishops assembled, it trumps all of our civil laws for remedies. Bishops do admit, however, that our laws apply to those priest abusers who got caught by District Attorneys, and to themselves when it is to their advantage.

Here is the conflict: American bishops, when their own ox is being gored, disregard Canon Law and cling to American Law, with its Constitution, Bill of Rights, Statutes of Due Process, Rules of Discovery. And don’t forget the new one, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, which is now before all those states which don’t have one. The biggest, strongest, most vocal lobbyist in favor of RFRAs is, you guessed it, the General Counsel of the USCCB and the personal counsel of bishops of dioceses throughout the nation. Sure sounds like special interest legislation to me, and another move to sunder separation of Church and State.

Jan. 10 – Pow Wow. Mindful of the simple fact that I seem to be getting nowhere in my feeble attempts to dialogue with the Diocese of Portland of which I am a tribal member, I offer some tumbleweed and sage brush that blows, then floats through my soul. That soul has been offered inestimable help from the Catholic Church in the formidable task of saving it. One article of faith I do have, and on which I do rely with and for my eternal life, is the Church will not forsake me. While I may feel like an Indian elder rejected by his Chief and the Chief’s cohorts, I have not yet been ejected from the tribe, to wither and die alone in the great forest or out on the high plains.

In the solitary confinement of my solitude, I sit and ponder and wonder. About you, a Benedictine Abbot who became a Bishop and talked to the Indians, who in turn gave you a Crozier with an Eagle on the top of it and a Great Cross of Beaten Iron. They gave you the treasures of their tribe. And you spoke with them.

Mindful also of my age as an elder, 74 soon, and were I a bishop, one year from the going away time, I want to pretend that I am a sage, borrowing freely from the hearts of Native Americans their spirituality of the soul and the earth and all living things, rather than a theology of words and canons of law, made up by men trying to explain the Mystery of The Great Spirit. This is an opening of my soul with no hidden agenda in my heart.

These are wisdom thoughts, offered with respect for living beings within the Diocesan Chancery, in reliance upon a spiritual principle from the Arapaho Nation: “When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.” I respect you, Bishop Joseph, though I speak with strong tongue. You are my Bishop, the only one.

If there is no response, other than prayers for me, I join William Apess the Pequot, who warned me: “If this is the way they pray, that is bullets through people’s hearts, I hope they will not pray for me; I should rather be excused.”

This is what I see with the eyes of my soul as it stares at my Church, some of its clergy, some of its leaders and this is what I ask and say to them. You are not mentioned here, because you have not turned to stone. You are just quiet and waiting to see. I will name you that, for now, “Chief WaitNSee.“

.My voice is raised. It has spoken from my spirit. I wait for a Chief WaitNSee to speak to the children. The Mohawks say, “Remember that your children are not your own, but are lent to you by the Creator.” Could I burst into his tent of chanceries, I would dance and chant, “O Chief WaitNSee, speak to them and then speak to their Mothers and then speak to their Fathers and then speak to the Warriors in the Banned Groups and then speak to the Elders before they die, or before you retire and go away to your cell of solitude in the prairie beyond the mountains.” For, then, it will be too late to speak to them.

If the Great Chiefs do not speak back, I shall fight in my old age. I shall fight. Until I die. Crazy Horse of the Oglala Sioux told me, “Today is a good day to fight. Today is a good day to die.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Jan. 26. Curial Thought Control. The Vatican spoke recently to politicians and to the rest of us, too. A cardinal and his obedient associates in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have written a paper calling upon politicians to put their Catholicism on the line in their political wheelings and dealings in back rooms. They also think that Pluralism is not such a good idea for a catholic and that it might even be bad for democracy. Finally, they flatly state that there are absolute truths and nobody can deny them, must abide by them and act by them.

If there are absolute truths, must they be the essence of our catholic faith? Is Pluralism a lousy idea? Can politicians unseparate church from state, when they are considering whether a bill should become a law? All this on a cardinal’s say so?

On that bothersome word “absolute”, once the truths are so designated, all accede and concede without further debate, simply because they are “absolute.” Correct? For example, Einstein’s theory of relativity rests on an absolute, the speed of light, or at least it is a constant in his most famous equation, E=mc2. Or is it?

A young lecturer in Great Britain named Joao Magueijo has just had his book published this month: Faster than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation. He thinks that the speed of light was variable, VSL, and offers that theory as the only one to explain difficult scientific issues after the big bang. Just a young lecturer, he has absolutely dared to challenge the most preeminent scientist in our exciting era of knowledge, who was just a young patent clerk when he tied energy and mass to the speed of light.

One reviewer said: “The speed of light is generally taken as the one absolute of physics. So messing around with it is, roughly speaking, the physicist's equivalent of the Pope saying that Christ wasn't the Son of God as such, more a close personal friend. . . “.

In a prior millennium, Jesuit superiors sent me to Japan to convert the heathen, bring enlightenment to the backward, unenlightened aborigines of the Far East. Three years of teaching their youngest and brightest at Sophia University in Tokyo, of climbing Mount Fuji with some of the seniors, and of sweating out something I had never done before and didn’t have the slightest idea of how to do it, moderating the English language newspaper for the University, I became familiar with Pluralism, Relativism and freedom of thought in a new yet ancient way of thinking, the oriental mind. Boston was not Tokyo.

When I came home, that growing-up-in-Japan experience stayed with me.

Private study took me to India and the Buddha, into China and Bodhidarma, to Japan and Dogen. Zen Buddhism became a favorite. There are few absolutes in eastern thought, lots of Pluralism, and if you get mixed up in philosophical concepts, whether absolute or relative, then go wash your breakfast dishes or rake the garden.

The oriental mind just cannot grasp Greek philosophy, which often comes down to Either-Or; Right-Wrong; Good-Evil; Truth-Falsity, based as it is on the Principle of Non-Contradiction. Conversely, the Greek educated mind, imbedded in most of the cardinals running curial thought control programs, cannot understand oriental philosophies, where contradictions disappear, mingle with each other in a Yin-Yang or a Nirvana and all is one, because many are one, and the raft is not the shore.

Once again, as it did in the attempt to suppress the Chinese Rites hundreds of years ago, the Vatican obliterates the way about 58% of the world’s people think. There are an awful lot of Chinese and Koreans and Japanese and Indonesians and Indians who simply do not think or act the way westerners do. NCR’s editor Thomas Fox says it clearly in Pentecost in Asia, his recent book about the Far East and its dauntless bishops, whose Asian church is different. Had we some bishops without daunt, our American Catholic Church could be different, too.

And so, a question, always a question: How come a western educated German, a cardinal no less, can take a philosophical concept he is familiar with, name it an “Absolute Truth”, impose it as a fundamental principle of a revealed religion, which doesn’t use such a term in its scriptures, and then command the entire world to obey him, believe it, or be damned to eternal hell fire for mortal sin?

Lecturer Magueijo thinks that the speed of light is variable, reminiscent of that fellow with a telescope which told him 400 years ago that the earth revolved around the sun, absolutely. Relatively speaking, though, he had to keep his mouth shut until he died. Later, a lot later, in our time actually, a pope apologized, thus allowing us a relative bit of peace on absolutes.

Here we are, throttled in a crisis that could very well bring down the Catholic Church, not just in America, but throughout the world. Every single day we are bombed with the smart bombs of deposition testimony of yet another bishop or cardinal of how unbelievably horrible was the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the cover-up of it all by the bishops themselves. Lay groups are ignored or silenced. Even the Knights of Malta are told to shut up and sit quiet in obedience while their speaker is yanked right off the platform by a cardinal of arrogance.

And out of Rome comes a moral teaching of politics, with a criticism of Pluralism and Relativism and other modern ways of thinking and acting and being. We are told to speak up and are silenced. We must believe in absolutes but cover-ups are relative. One would have to be an oriental, or at least a mystic, to handle the paradoxes, the contradictions, the oxymorons imposed and demanded by elevated human beings, who really believe that they are princes endowed with absolute control of our souls and minds. It is confusing to be catholic today, very confusing, slightly schizophrenic and maddening, at times.

Sophisticated and insightful commentators of the social and religious scene warned us that the Vatican had lost its prerogative to teach morals or render opinions on any topic under the absolute sun, because of the breadth and depth of the Scandal+Crisis, caused by the sexual depravity of some clergymen and the dereliction of duty by many bishops. I agree with the commentators. The day of the hierarchical talking head is gone and with it the consuming paranoia hierarchs used to destroy any change, any new idea, any discovery that enhanced human thought. Gone now. A new day is come. In a dream last night, I saw a cardinal riding a street car in Boston; he was reading Who Moved My Cheese?

Feb. 1 – Dear Cardinal Ratzinger, In short, dear Cardinal, will you please help us understand what C.D.F. does, how it does it, why it does it, and whether what it does is right and true, holy and good, and just, compatible with the Gospels ? Please help us understand the silence from the Holy See itself, by explaining why C.D.F. is bothering with minor issues occasioned by transsexuals in the clergy, politicians who favor separation of church and state, and women who claim to have been ordained as priests, when the Catholic Church in so many countries, including our own, is suffering grievously from the gravest scandal and crisis in its 2,000 years, caused by the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and the cover-ups by some hierarchs?

It is relatively easy to understand that the Congregation sees itself as the guardian of the faith. It is not so easy to avoid my confusion at the silence of C.D.F., while faith in the Church all over America and other parts of the world is under such an onslaught that faith in the church may very well be exterminated. The other alternative is for me to assume that C.D.F. is in command and has issued secret orders to all the bishops in the world to erect a wall of silence wherever sexual abuse and cover-ups have been manifest and uncovered. That assumption, and that is all it is, may very well explain the solidarity and uniformity of the reactions of the hierarchy of the church, starting in Rome and spreading to every diocese on the planet. Lay groups are dishonored and ignored. A wall of silence surrounds each chancery, as well as the Holy See itself. The Catholic Church is in grave danger, Cardinal Ratzinger. You and your Congregation appear to be indifferent to the greatest tragedy to afflict the Catholic Church.

These are serious difficulties, dangerous attacks on our faith, and a cause of pending doom for our church, dear Cardinal. We Catholics in America do not understand the Roman part of our Church, and frankly, are quite disappointed in its medieval, autocratic, dictatorial behavior, so unlike our Lord who answered Thomas by saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

It is very hard for us to find the life of Our Lord among some of the hierarchs in our church. It is even harder to find the truth of Our Lord’s message and teaching in the Magisterium and the manner in which the teaching of the church is taught by our bishops, as Canon Law requires. It is impossible to find the way of Our Lord’s kindness and love in the actions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

We, the laity, stand and speak. We hope for a response.


Feb. 4. On the New Age document issued by the Holy See. The announcement was made by the Rev. Don Peter Fleetwood in Vatican City. "I don't see any problems in the Harry Potter series," Fleetwood said, after the Council released the document he had helped write on New Age. He even praised and admired Harry’s author J.K. Rowling, who was "Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing." Such an adulation may now be bestowed legitimately on any theologian of the Church, and more likely than not emerge as a new touchstone for the C.D.F. itself in its examination of those theologians who are also Christian by conviction, mode of living and way of writing.

All writers throughout the universe: Stand and applaud. You may be recognized, wanted, read and approved, unless, of course, you are theologians, whose every word, punctuation and inference can never escape C.D.F.’s telescopic scrutiny. Writing as a theologian is always fraught with the overhanging presence of the C.D.F. and its whiplike whispers of “Gotcha!”


Feb. 12. Ah! If Only They Would Come Clean! Breaking news last January of news that a lot of us felt was really old and went back for decades, if not for centuries, came upon us like Watergate or Lewinsky, and was fed by lurid detail on lurid detail in daily news accounts until it led, like Nixon, to the resignation of the most powerful cardinal in America, Bernard Cardinal Law, together with several other bishops; or like Clinton, to those remaining hierarchs who are choosing to stonewall it out, face trial, escape by plea bargaining or a full and vigorous legal defense that offers no restraints at all, even if a diocese has to file for bankruptcy of material assets to stay consistent with the bankruptcy of most of its spiritual ones. Ah! If only they had come clean...

Please notice I am not talking church, religion, Gospels, revealed truths, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the model of what Jesus would have done, Apostolic succession, morality, the holiness of leaders, the exalted state of bishops and cardinals, the sacrificial leadership of a celibate priesthood. I am talking about politics. American politics, where it is all local, and its recent history of wrongs and crimes and derelictions by something pretty secular and non-religious, but not as sordid as sexual

abuse of minors by clergy and cover-ups by bishops. I’m talking simply about common sense, basic decency, honesty in the gut, from a bunch of men in high and low office, who still have a chance to save the institution they think they are serving but are actually destroying, day by forlorn day.

I wonder how many of them will read the entire Grand Jury report out of Long Island’s diocese of Rockville Centre. And if some do, I wonder if they will react as I did and agree that this is not a news story or a magazine article. It is a Grand Jury Report, written by a group of ordinary people, not lawyers or prosecutors or experts, just peers. I wonder if some of those bishops and cardinals will say out loud what I did when I finished it: My God! My God!

Ah! If only they would come clean...

Oh! dear muse,
The daily news
Shows more abuse.

Bishops’ power,
Sour and sourer
In every hour.

There is no pope
To give us hope.
He cannot cope.

Past is scarred,
Present barred,
Future marred.

In the lurch,
As we search
For our church.

Ah! dear muse,
We’ve paid our dues
And left the pews.

Paul Kelly

Feb. 20. Let the poets be heard. Mrs. Bush cancelled an important event apparently because the poets invited were going to read some poems that disagreed with the positions set out by the administration whose President is her husband.

Poets met here in Portland, Maine, in protest, and that's the only news item that prompted my seeing a similarity in her wielding of power with that of some hierarchs who will not allow a difference of opinion with their administration to be spoken from the platform of their white or brown or red brick houses called "church property". I didn't go for the cheap shot that the White House is reputedly not Mrs. Bush's but belongs to the people. I did infer that she is as obedient to her husband and sensitive to his aspirations as chancery officials are to bishops. I wasn’t talking about whether she had the right to do it or not, whether it was a good idea or not. I was talking about the fact that she did it.

It wasn't an argument. Nor did I hope that others would move forward. Or sideways. Or stand still. I am not Leonard Swidler and I came here because he is. He knows what he is doing. I do not, nor do I pretend to have the qualifications to reshape either the state or the church. What fascinates me is power and authority, where it comes from, how it is grasped, and the seemingly irreducible origin that is simply, "I say so."

So, with or without a military force to enforce it. Mrs. Bush simply cancelled the party. Finished. Over. Done. Simply put: "No Symposium this time." In the little I have learned, some bishops do the same thing. "VOTF will not meet on church property." Finished. Over. Done. While many may think that poets are harmless and merely the best of writers, we all know that down through the centuries they have been the eyes of insight and the voices of reason when conflict churns then turns to war. Here in Maine, one of our poets Elizabeth Hobbs said last week: “An honest artist will show all sides, and not just rah-rah for our side. Our side is the human side, and we had better not forget it.”

Local reports also noted, “Last week, one nationally known poet called on all poets to ‘speak up for the conscience of our country.’ “

In conscience, then, whether of our country, or of all of us, or of some of us, are we able to reason with another with whom we disagree? And if the other stands solid, unmoved, unconvinced, may we appeal to an arbiter of disputes, a mediator, a United Nations? And, if that third party fails to agree with our side, must we kill the other and its people?

Is it even right and politic to ignore, ban or silence the poets? And the writers? And the people who march? And any one else who disagrees? The way that some hierarchs do and presidents and their wives?

It is neither right nor politic. As a matter of conscience, it is wrong and immoral. Stand and speak. And write.


Feb. 22. Bishops, Be Not Afraid. The daily news media told the world what had been happening to beautiful, defenseless children, wee ones in those innocent ages before the teen years began and teens themselves in the equally innocent and exciting years of growing up to be known as grown-ups, when some depraved men acting as priests transformed blessings into soul murdering sex. The daily news swelled into tremendous emotional swells of the full force of a symphony orchestra screaming its outrage to the heavens when bishop after bishop was stripped of his secrecy and made manifest to the world as a disgraceful master of transfers and deceitful letters of recommendation in a demonic denial of the truth. Now, over a year later, with a Charter for the Protection of Children yet to be made real, a Berlinesque wall of silence erected wherever a Catholic Church building is to be found, and an utter disregard of the pleas of mothers and fathers and the children themselves now in the grown-up years they once yearned to reach, the daily news has settled into a dirge of constant drum beats, slow funereal moanings from the strings of violins and cellos and silence from the brass. The laity stirs, looks around, asks, “Who is in charge?”

When will a bishop stand and speak? Where is a bishop who dares to lead? How many bishops are manly enough to get together, if only for mutual strength, open the doors of their walled chanceries, and tell us the Good News, whose authors are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, along with a letter writer named Paul? Is there a cardinal, who fancies himself as a true Prince of the Church, one who loves the Church and its people, and wants to mingle with us, talk to us, walk with us, hold our hands? In our loneliness, our banishment in solitude, we laity would welcome such men.

April 5, 2003 Communications Seminar. As I watch Cable News, I realize that I am auditing a graduate level seminar on the art of communications and sit all day in a state of scholarly attention before generals at CentCom in Dohar, SecDefense and Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, various Information Ministers from several nations in the Middle East, and eager, knowledgeable consultants for hire in military retirement, those generals and colonels who either led troops in battle or taught at the War College. I do not look upon these talking heads as second guessers, but as learned experts extremely skilled in the art of communications. Some of them even remind me of colleagues in my former profession as a trial lawyer. It dawned upon me that perhaps some of my old friends and I could get together and offer our services to the Network and Cable News people for a competitive seminar to be called something like “The Art of Fantasy.” I’ve even come up with two to start off with.

Fantasy the First
The Saddam Hussein we see on TV these days is the same Saddam we saw on TV last fall and up to the start of the current war. Both are the same man, his double. The real Saddam has never been on TV for many, many years. So, we really do not know what he looks like now, whether dead or alive, or what peculiar, unique characteristics he may have in eyebrows, ear lobes or nostrils. We were and are always looking at a stand-in. No need for cosmetic surgery or Oscar winning acting performances: “Just be yourself ole buddy, be yourself.”

Comment: Why not? He is reputed to be wily.

Fantasy the Second
It has been said that the real Saddam Hussein has several doubles, his features and build and swagger being rather easy to duplicate among Ba’athists in Iraq. Or in Brooklyn. Or in Seattle. Maybe even in Washington, D.C.

Would that our energetic, innovative, creative and fabulous planners of military strategy and commensurate tactics, had created an American double of the Mother of all Dictators, along with a representative cabinet of Yes-men with moustaches and Green Beret berets. It would not be too difficult for Donald Rumsfeld to draft a Hollywood makeup artist to come up with a realistic looking V.P. Tarik Aziz or that master of fiction, the Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf , who says that the Abrams M-1 Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles cruising downtown Baghdad are not Coalition Forces but disguised Pickup Trucks of the Special Regimental Guard.

Once made up and on stage, a competent director could easily film the Mother of All Surrenders with Saddam and his cohorts bidding farewell to Iraq and wishing all Iraquis well under a new regime, while apologizing for their own Coalition of the Unwilling and their inability to withstand and defeat an overwhelming force of the Coalition of the Willing. Clutching suitcases filled with American dollars and wearing civilian clothes from Sears and T.J. Maxx, they could then board the charter bus, marked “Syriac Seniors Day Trips” and head off to the northwest ostensibly for a life of retirement and leisure. Saddam’s final words could be, “See, we had no WMDs. Give peace a chance.” Once out of sight, they could transfer to helicopters and be flown back to Central Command in Quattar, to collect their Oscars.

Comment: Donald Rumsfeld? Why not? He’s real good at planning spectacles.


With some notable exceptions, the Church under John Paul II has not been the Church of the people that was described by the Fathers of Vatican II. It is the old hierarchical Church – hierarchy means rule by the holy, that is, our priests and bishops – which for most of the 20th century in America depended on lay passivity to do pretty much what it pleased. Now that the laity has seen through the holiness scam, the laity is demanding more; it is calling for accountability from priests and bishops whose authority depends on their commitment to serve. The good news is that, verbally at least, the bishops promised to be accountable when they signed their charter at Dallas, by setting down a policy of "transparency and openness." The bad news is that few of the bishops demonstrated much willingness to follow up on their own stated intentions. They still seem ruled by a spirit of secrecy.

What would we have the bishops do?

E. Paul Kelly has a set of suggestions for them, suggestions that can only startle anyone familiar with the way most of our bishops have chosen to run the myriad operations of what they like to call their Church. It will be interesting to see how bishops respond to the kind of legal challenges that a lawyer like Kelly is quite capable of making.


E. Paul Kelly

Dear Bishops:

Your Charter For The Protection of Children And Young People, approved by The Holy See on December 8, 2002, says:

“ARTICLE 7. Each diocese/eparchy will develop a communications policy that reflects a commitment to transparency and openness. Within confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved, dioceses/eparchies will deal as openly as possible with members of the community. This is especially so with regard to assisting and supporting parish communities directly affected by ministerial misconduct involving minors.”

Most of you signed this article, but I wonder how many of you realize what transparency implies?

Relying upon a lifetime in the law, I respectfully offer the following in an effort to describe what such a promise should and could and would entail. Here are some ways you can demonstrate your openness:


  1. Emphasize that the primary concern, attention, responsibility and love of the Diocese is for the minor children who have been sexually abused by priests. They come first.
  2. Publish the Diocesan program for the rehabilitation of all minors, now grown up, who have been sexually abused, with regard to caring for their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
  3. List all that the Diocese has paid, or assisted in paying, for the professional fees incurred by such abused persons, whether for legal services or for the costs of medical providers, including but not limited to social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health professionals, counselors.
  4. State the plans of Diocese to continue such payments, until the abused person has been discharged from care.
  5. Publish the policy adopted by the Diocese to respect the privacy and confidentiality of such abused persons, and, in particular whether the Diocese refrains from assigning them to employees or consultants of the Diocese in any of the fields mentioned for legal, medical and mental health care, leaving them free to select their own providers of care.
  6. Guarantee that the Diocese will not exact any promises or bargains from such sexually abused and extremely fragile persons, so that they are free from any undue influence and may exercise whatever decisions they determine to be in their best interests, once they have reached a state of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual stability that allows them to do so.
  7. State whether the Diocese has exhausted every lead, so the Diocese can tell the people that there are no other persons who have been sexually abused by clergy.
  8. Tell others who come forward in the future that the Diocese will deal with them as it has for others who have been sexually abused by clergy.


  1. Where are they now?
  2. State whether the Diocese is providing due process for priests accused by civil authorities.
  3. State whether the Diocese is providing due process for priests accused and brought before Ecclesiastical Tribunals under Canon Law
  4. Tell us what you are doing about accused priests who have left the active ministry. Let us know if the Diocese has given their names and all their records to local civil authorities.
  5. Tell us whether the Diocese accepts liability for the harm done to minors by the accused priests.
  6. Tell us that the Diocese has a continuing program to uncover such sexual abuses by clergy in the future, as quickly as possible and that no cover-ups, including but not limited to transfers within or without the Diocese will even be entertained, yet alone allowed.


  1. State where all personnel records are kept in the Diocese.
  2. Describe how all of them are made and kept secure.
  3. Provide the Diocesan policy on retention of records.
  4. State whether the Diocesan policy is in accord with or contrary to the policy adopted by the USCCB in its November, 2002 meeting in Washington, D.C. State whether the Diocese will favor a reexamination of that policy, particularly with a view to making it clearer and understandable.
  5. State whether any records have been destroyed as has happened in the Diocese of Manchester, NH, and apparently is being considered by other Dioceses, particularly immediately upon the death of the priest involved.
  6. State whether the Diocese maintains a secret archive to which the Bishop alone has the key, as required by Canon Law.
  7. State whether that Secret Archive is secure and will be maintained secure.
  8. Inform us whether the Diocese has ever discussed the destruction of personnel records of any priest. If so, please give all the details and the conclusions reached.
  9. Tell us whether the Diocese will destroy any records of any priest, at the time of his death, or at any other time.
  10. List every kind of record maintained by the Diocese. This request is not limited to the ones we may suspect exist, such as personnel files relating to medical issues or performance levels of all clergy or employees; or other types of documents in the form of entries, memos, telephone messages, appointment calendars; or a system or removable retrieval such as CDROM, Zip or Tape Drives; or off-site file storage. We expect disclosure of any type of record and record retention that we cannot now imagine and which may be kept by the Diocese in a secret manner.
  11. If those records are in Latin or in some other secret code, provide the translation or the key to the Code.


  1. State what the Diocese has done to discover whether there was any cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy within its territory.
  2. Identify any Diocesan official, no matter what his rank, who has been accused of transfer of priests within or outside of the Diocese, writing or authorizing letters of recommendation for accused priests, maintaining silence when questioned about an accused priest, destruction of records of an accused priest, or any other act which may be construed to have been an attempt to keep things quiet, to avoid scandal, to save the reputation of the priest or of the church, or for any other reason.
  3. With regard to those accused of cover-up, state what procedures will be followed to see to it that there is an investigation and, if need be, a trial on all issues raised, whether under Canon Law or the law of the jurisdiction where the Diocese is located.
  4. Identify any Diocesan official who has resigned because of his involvement in a cover-up.
  5. Identify any other Diocesan official who intends to resign for any reason, within the next six months.
  6. Explain what procedures of Canon Law may be applicable to this issue of cover-up.
  7. Please state whether there is any procedure available under Canon Law for the removal of a Cardinal, Archbishop, Bishop or other Diocesan official, accused of and found responsible for covering up the conduct of a priest accused of sexual abuse of a minor, other than demands for his resignation by the laity.


  1. Tell us whether the Diocese has a tax-exempt status with the Federal, State or Local Governments.
  2. List all real and personal properties of the Diocese that are deemed tax-exempt, and the fair market value of each.
  3. Provide whatever records the Diocese has filed with Federal, State or Local governmental agencies seeking and maintaining such a tax free status.
  4. Furnish a copy of the IRS certification and form that shows the Diocese is a religious exempt organization


  1. Identify the Diocesan attorneys, in-house lawyers known as General Counsel, and outside lawyers or law firms, separate from those attorneys assigned as defense counsel by insurance carriers.
  2. State the relationship between the General Counsel of the Diocese and the Office of General Counsel of the USCCB.
  3. State whether the Diocese is engaged in active lobbying of its State legislature for the enactment of legislation favorable to the Church, or the repeal of laws that are alleged to be harmful to the Church. State whatever association the Diocese has with the USCCB in such lobbying.
  4. State whether the Diocese would recommend lay participation in deciding whether to lobby or not for a specific bill before the State legislature. If so, set forth the Diocesan policy and procedures for such communication with the laity.
  5. State whether the Diocese favors instituting legal action against a governmental policy that appears to be in conflict with the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.
  6. State the Diocese's legal budget in the last fiscal year, and the total amount of the fees paid to Diocesan counsel during that period.
  7. What is the amount budgeted for legal expenses in the current fiscal year.
  8. Identify the person who oversees civil legal matters for the Diocese. Identify the person who oversees ecclesiastical legal matters for the Diocese.
  9. Identify all current litigation pending in the Diocese: Name of Case, List of all parties, Names and addresses of all counsel of record, Docket Number, County and Court where filed.
  10. State the types of professional advice the Diocese has sought from a law firm, a professional organization specializing in case management, or any other professional group to advise it on the future prospects of litigation for and against the Diocese, including but not limited to matters arising out of or related to sexual abuse of minors by clergy and cover-up by Diocesan officials as part of an official strategy. Identify all such consultants, their rate of compensation, and the projected cost of their professional services, with a separate listing for litigation and the payment of judgments or settlements.
  11. State where these funds will come from in future cases.
  12. Tell us whether the Diocese has considered the filing of a petition for bankruptcy or retained counsel to prepare a prospectus for such an eventuality.
  13. List the number of priests in the diocese against whom claims have been made, and against whom litigation has been filed, based upon claims of sexual abuse by them on any person, whether minor or adult, male or female.
  14. Tell us whether the Diocese will rely upon, revert to, or otherwise claim any protection under so-called Statutes of Limitations that may have been enacted in the jurisdiction where the Diocese is located.
  15. Tell us whether the Diocese is going along with the demands placed on it by Insurance carriers: to try every known legal defense available under American law or suffer the loss of insurance coverage for non-cooperation.
  16. Should such insurance carriers attempt to enact their threats, tell us that the Diocese will file Petitions for Declaratory Judgment and invite the laity, as well as the injured victims, to join in such a legal proceeding as Amici Curiae – Friends of the Court.
  17. State whether the Diocese will permit any practicing or retired attorney at law who had been a member of the Clergy or a religious Order, to act as co-counsel, or counsel of record, in such Amici Curiae filings, without charge, and in full consort with the General Counsel or other attorneys selected by the Diocese, to make manifest to the Courts that “We are Church” is a true statement of fact and of law.


  1. Identify all parties to the settlement.
  2. Name the insurance carrier, the type of policy issued to the Diocese, the amount of coverage available, the amount of the deductible and the amount paid by that carrier.
  3. What is the amount contributed by the Diocese including the amount of the deductible had it been figured into the final computation, towards the final total of the settlement.
  4. Tell us the source of the Diocese’s contribution to the settlement, i.e. the General Fund, an Emergency Fund, Personnel Expenses, Surplus, or any other designation known to and used by the accounting firm retained by the Diocese.
  5. Tell us what portion of these funds came from the donations made by parishioners, whether in Sunday collections or by solicited donations from private individuals, business entities or corporations, partnerships, estates, or investment groups.
  6. State the amount by percentage or by dollars that each individual parish throughout the entire Diocese contributed to the total amount due from the Diocese toward the final settlement total.
  7. Tell us whether the accused priest contributed to the final settlement, and, if so, the amount so contributed.
  8. Tell us whether the settlement itself is a full lump sum payment to the victims and their attorneys, or is set up as an annuity or structured settlement payable over time. If structured, please give the details of the structure, its management and its cost, together with the allocation of that cost among all the parties to the settlement, including not limited to the parish involved, the Diocese, a Religious Order or Congregation, or any other entity, religious in nature, incorporated in this State or another State, and any other party to the settlement, particularly any other party who is to be released from liability to the victims.
  9. Tell us where alleged abusive acts occurred, and over what period of time, with specific attention to identifying any locations in or on property of a parish Church or the Diocese.
  10. Tell us whether State prosecutors were parties to the settlement, and whether they reserved the right to prosecute any of the parties to the settlement for any criminal activity in the perpetration of the sexual abuse forming the foundation of the civil action.
  11. Tell us the relationship between the accused priests and the Diocese, and tell us what makes the Diocese responsible and liable for his conduct.
  12. Tell us whether the Diocese admits liability for acts of the priest or priests accused, or for efforts by others employed by the Diocese to de-rail the case.


  1. List all lay groups, organized in any fashion whatsoever, known to the Diocese, to be operating within the Diocese.
  2. List which of those enjoy the status of meeting on church property or within parishes of the Diocese.
  3. List all groups which have been banned, barred, or silenced, and state the reason for such actions, including citations to any relevant authority.
  4. State the parameters, authorities, canons, policies, rules, regulations or any other set of principles by which a lay person or a lay group is to be judged unworthy of the use of property claimed to be owned by the Parish, School or other agency involved, or by the Diocese itself. If they are in written form, please produce them.
  5. In the banning, barring or silencing of any lay group, tell us whether any investigation was performed, by whom, and produce the report of that investigation.
  6. Tell us whether the Diocese received any suggestions, advice or orders from any higher authority, including but not limited to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, any source within the Curia or the Holy See, and provide the names, titles and status of each official within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church who took part in such request or order to the Diocese.
  7. Tell us the procedures used to silence or discipline the lay group including but not limited to any hearings, presentation of evidence for or against, cross-examination of witnesses, production of documents such as credentials, mission statement, or records to show purpose and intent. Be ready to furnish copies of the findings of fact and law, whether civil or canonical.
  8. Tell us whether the Diocese intends to speak to such lay groups in any fashion in the immediate future, i.e. within the next six months, to review its status.
  9. Please state whether any lay person, or group of lay persons, will be allowed to stand up and speak out, without fear of being banned, barred or silenced.

This is my understanding of those simple words in Article 7 of The Charter: “transparency and openness”. No dictionary definitions are required. No long explanation, as an exercise in rhetoric, whether based on theology or philosophy or just plain common sense will offer a deeper understanding. It is really quite simple, very direct, devoid of qualifying adjectives or reservations.

What the Charter says is transparency. We shall accept nothing less than that. Those were your own terms, and indeed, your promises to us the laity, for which we thank you. We honor you for such leadership in this most terrible crisis in the life of the Catholic Church.

Years ago, young Jesuit Scholastics in our New England Province had a wonderful way of coming together when a strenuous discussion had ended in the recreation room after dinner. One of us would say: His dictis, procedamus in pace. "Having said these things, let’s go forward in peace.”

Today, with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People having become the Law of the Church, and with its touchstone being “transparency and openness,” I am changing that old saying to reflect on our coming together for the sake of our American Catholic Church:

Having said these things in the Charter and in these suggestions, let us go forward together in peace, with transparency and openness to and from each other.

You can email Kelly at: