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August 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy was warned about allegations of abuse against now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and other U.S. bishops in 2016, but says he was concerned some of the accusations weren’t credible.
Dr. A.W. Richard Sipe, one of the foremost experts on clerical sex abuse and the prevalence of sexually active clergy, released on his website a 16-page letter he sent McElroy saying, “I have interviewed twelve seminarians and priests who attest to propositions, harassment, or sex with McCarrick, who has stated, ‘I do not like to sleep alone.’”
“One priest incardinated in McCarrick’s Archdiocese of Newark was taken to bed for sex and was told, ‘this is how priests do it in the U.S.,’” Sipe wrote. “None so far has found the ability to speak openly at the risk of reputation and retaliation.”
Sipe has been in the news recently as the McCarrick scandal and now the Pennsylvania grand jury report have revealed unsavory details about clerical sex abuse and the Church’s cover-up of such activities. The 85-year-old died last week on August 8. He lived in La Jolla, California, which is located in the Diocese of San Diego.
“I will record instances that demonstrate the systemic dynamic that forms and fosters sexual violations among the clerical culture,” Sipe told McElroy. “All of this information is culled from records (civil or church). In addition, I have 50 years’ participation or contact with the clerical culture of the RCC [Roman Catholic Church].”
He then named Archbishop John Neinstedt, Bishop Thomas Lyons, Bishop Raymond Boland, Theodore McCarrick, and Bishop Robert H. Brom along with several priests and a Benedictine Abbot as having committed sexual misconduct with adults or sexually abusing children. Sipe also wrote of retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, “There is ample evidence already in the public forum that Mahony has known of priests who abused minors, reassigned them and allowed them to minister only to abuse other minors. He has not informed parishioners or even parish staffs, that the priests he was assigning had a record of abuse.”
Sipe’s letter included graphic details about a 10-year-old boy who was sodomized by a priest and a deacon in 1967. Upon telling his parish priest about the abuse, that priest said, “Oh, you’re the special little boy Fr. Boland told me about” and forced the child to perform oral sex on him.
“The record of one priest abuser relates how he anointed the foreheads of his boy victims with his semen,” Sipe wrote. “Another priest who was having sex with a 13-[year]-old…girl touched her genitals with what he said was a consecrated host to show her ‘how much God loves you’.”
“You are well aware that your diocese has settled with many victims (144 in 2007 alone),” Sipe wrote. “I have tried to help the Church understand and heal the wounds of sexual abuse by clergy. My services have not been welcomed.”
“My appeal to you has been for pastoral attention to victims of abuse and the long term consequences of that violation,” he implored. “This includes the effects of suicidal attempts. Only a bishop can minister to these wounds.”
The letter says it was hand-delivered, but language in it and a statement McElroy sent to priests of his diocese suggest it was not Sipe who hand-delivered it and that it was McElroy’s assistant who received it first.
“It was clear to me during our last meeting in your office, although cordial, that you had no interest in any further personal contact,” Sipe wrote at the beginning of his letter. “I will as I was asked, put my observations in the form of a report. Your office made it clear that you have no time in your schedule either now or ‘in the foreseeable future’ to have the meeting that they suggested.”
McElroy’s office was ‘served’ with now-published letter after dodging meeting with Sipe
On August 16, Bishop McElroy’s office sent San Diego priests a statement responding to the publication of the Sipe letter.
“Shortly after I was appointed Bishop of San Diego, back in early 2016, Dr. Richard Sipe requested that I meet with him to discuss the clergy abuse crisis,” said McElroy. “We had two long, substantive, cordial and frank discussions about the history of clergy sexual abuse in the United States. In those conversations, Dr. Sipe made allegations against several past and present bishops. He stated that he was in conversation with colleagues and was going to approach the new nuncio, Archbishop Pierre, to discuss these issues and the broader questions involved.”
“I shared with Dr. Sipe my concern that some of his information might not be accurate,” the bishop continued. “In two instances we discussed, I had certain knowledge of individuals being investigated and cleared yet he still leveled accusations against them. Dr. Sipe stated that he was making many of his allegations against existing bishops based on information that he had received from his work in legal cases on behalf of survivors of abuse.”
McElroy did not specify which individuals he knew were “cleared” and did not say whether those individuals were named in the letter.
“I asked if he could share this information with me, especially since some of his accusations involved persons still active in the life of the Church and Dr. Sipe was making substantive allegations about their personal misconduct,” said McElroy. “Dr. Sipe said that he was precluded from sharing specific documentary information that corroborated his claims.”
“Two weeks later, in July 2016, Dr. Sipe called and asked for a third meeting,” he recounted. “My assistant returned the call and said that I could not meet with him that month. Dr. Sipe subsequently hired a process server to come to my office pretending to be a major donor who would hand his check only to me. I was not in the office that day and the process server eventually turned the package over to my assistant.”
That letter has since been published, McElroy acknowledged. Sipe’s letter indicates McElroy’s staff told him the bishop could not meet with him anytime in the “foreseeable future.”
“It was only after that I sent you a letter copied to my contacts in DC and Rome,” Sipe wrote.
“After I read [now-published letter], I wrote to Dr. Sipe and told him that his decision to engage a process server who operated under false pretenses, and his decision to copy his letter to me to a wide audience, made further conversations at a level of trust impossible,” the bishop said.
“Dr. Sipe made many significant contributions to understanding the dimensions of clergy sexual abuse in the United States and to the assistance of victims,” McElroy concluded. But the limitations on his willingness to share corroborating information made it impossible to know what was real and what was rumor. Nevertheless, Dr. Sipe fought for what he believed in and dedicated himself to the service of others. May his soul and souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Much of the continued fallout from the McCarrick scandal and the Pennsylvania grand jury report has been concentrated on the east coast and Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
O’Malley announced this week that he won’t attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin this month as planned so that he can focus on dealing with sexual harassment allegations against the rector of his St. John’s Seminary. O’Malley is also facing criticism for having fundraised and travelled with McCarrick after his office received a letter warning of the prelate’s predation.
Wuerl faces scrutiny over whether he knew about rumors and complaints about McCarrick, his predecessor. His name appears more than 200 times in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and some have called for his resignation for allowing predatory priests to remain in ministry as documented by the grand jurors.