The Bishops “Listening Sessions” on Clerical Sex Abuse


By Randy Engel


On the evening of November 8, 2018, I attended a “Listening Session” at a local Catholic parish in the four-county Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, headed by Bishop Edward C. Malesic. The listening session, one of seven hosted by Bishop Malesic, was held in response to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Grand Jury report of August 14, 2018, on clerical sexual abuse in seven Catholic dioceses in western Pennsylvania.

An estimated 150 to 200 parishioners and guests from nearby Catholic churches, which included this writer, were in attendance for the scheduled two and a half-hour meeting held in the church. Since the parish has a K-8 grade school, I was not surprised to see many parents in the audience as well as a large contingent of elderly Catholics, probably grandparents and great grandparents. Bishop Malesic was attended by a handful of Chancery staff, and members of his newly established Safe Environment Advisory Council.

The first half hour was taken up with a recitation of a “Litany of Healing and Renewal” designed to “heal the wounds of the Church,” and welcome a “new era of safety and trust” in the Church. A “Have mercy on us, Lord” was repeated fifteen times after every short prayer led by a moderator in typical “Nervous Ordo” fashion. The audience prayed for the abused and the perpetrators of abuse along with other groupings including priests, bishops, law enforcement officials, news media and communication professionals and all children and parents, etc., etc.

I would have preferred a short sincere simple apology from a tearful bishop dressed in sackcloth and ashes, but then, “Who am I to judge?”

When the rote prayers concluded, Bishop Malesic, who radiates a meek and mild persona,  introduced the members of his diocesan entourage and made some preliminary remarks on the sex abuse situation in the Greensburg Diocese. Then the moderator, an affable young lady, explained that in order to accommodate the large numbers of persons wanting to speak, a limit of two minutes of microphone time would be enforced, and the floor was opened for comments and questions from the audience addressed to the bishop.

Financial Considerations Dominate the Session

Not unexpectedly, the first question posed to the bishop involved financial legal settlements to victims – “Where would the diocese get the funds to pay off present and future law suits? What portion of the diocesan financial reparations would fall to the parishes?” These and other financial questions continued to dominate the questions from the pews for more than an hour.

According to Bishop Malesic, the Greensburg Diocese had already paid out a million bucks in sex abuse settlements (peanuts when compared to the $210 million settlement agreement of the Archdioceses of Saint Paul and Minneapolis), but the future for the diocese looks brighter, he said. The bishop announced that the diocese was in the process of establishing a Victims Compensation Fund to be administered by the office of attorney Kenneth Feinberg, but the amount of the  funding has not as yet been finalized.

When questioned about the continuing diocesan opposition (with the backing of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ) to the opening up of a “window-of-opportunity” to the current restrictive statute of limitation laws, the bishop said that he wants to help victims of sex abuse, but not at the expense of bankrupting the Diocese of Greensburg.

Left unsaid at the listening session was any admission that the victims’ fund was intended to offset any demands for the expansion of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitation laws, and that the victim would likely be required to sign an agreement not to initiate any further compensation demands. According to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, there will be an opportunity for sexual abuse survivors whose cases are time-barred from pursuing civil claims to report their abuse to the arbitrators of the diocesan Victims Compensation Fund  and received compensation for their healing and recovery. The problem with this solution, however, in the words of Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is that the Church should not be placed in the role of being “the arbiter of its own punishment.” On the other hand, the plan would serve the interests of victims who wish to settle quickly and avoid the personal agony of a trial.

Two Heart Wrenching Scenes

About half-way through the listening session, the discussion changed to the plight of clerical sex abuse victims and their parents. The mother stood up first. Then her husband. Due to the poor acoustic quality of the handheld portable microphone and the obvious emotional trauma of the parents who were addressing the bishop, it was impossible to hear what transpired between the two. At one point I heard the father mention the word “homosexual,” but it was impossible to determine in what context it was used.

Visually, however, one could not avoid the realization that for parents, no less than victims, the catastrophic implications of having one’s son or daughter sexually assaulted by a priest claiming to be an alter Christus is beyond imaging. Bishop Malesic was visibly shaken as were all those gathered in the church. The scene was heartbreaking.

Some good soul called for a moment of silent prayer and the session went on.

The next question came from a young mother who explained that recently her little daughter came home from school and asked her, “Mommy, what do priests do to altar boys?” There was stunned silence in the church. You could have heard a pin drop. I don’t recall there being any significant reply by the bishop.

At some point a school official explained the Safe Environment procedures in effect at diocesan schools which includes the security vetting of everyone from school administrators and teachers to cafeteria workers and janitors.

Another participant in the listening session asked the bishop if the sexual abuse problem was as rampant in religious orders as in the diocesan priesthood. The reply from either the bishop or one of his aides was that there was no data available on the subject.

Actually there is a great deal of historical data that supports the thesis that the organized infiltration and colonization of homosexuals into clerical ranks began with religious orders and not the diocesan priesthood, but there was no opportunity for this writer to comment on the question without sacrificing my two-minute comment time, so I let it pass.

Homosexuality vs Pedophilia

About two hours into the listening session, the diocesan moderator came down the church aisle and handed me the microphone.

I had spent the previous day preparing my comments and questions for Bishop Malesic, on the naïve assumption that the bishop and his staff would devote more time to listening than speaking in which case participants would have had more time to state their case or/and their questions.

But since I was under the two-minute gun, I simply had to ask my questions outright.

My first question centered on why the bishops (including Bishop Malesic) choose to use the word “pedophilia” rather than “pederasty” in defining the nature of the clerical sex abuse crisis facing the Church. I noted that the Catholic Church from the earliest centuries until recent times had always referred to the grave sin and crime of the sexual abuse of adolescent boys by priests and religious as pederasty. Further, I explained that the Holy See had always connected pederasty to the grave vice of homosexuality, but neither Pope Francis nor the American bishops have done so. I asked the bishop, “Why not?”

My second question, which was more of  a comment, alluded to the fact that the crime of pederasty was not a new phenomenon in the Catholic Church. I cited St. Peter Damian’s lengthy treatise, the Book of Gomorrah, written in 1059 A.D. which condemned outright the grave sin of pederasty as well as homosexuality. I was going to recommend that Bishop Malesic provide copies of an English translation of St. Damian’s compelling writings to all his priests, seminarians and religious in the Greensburg diocese, but when I looked up at the bishop’s face it appeared that he didn’t even know who St. Peter Damian was, much less what the Saint Damian, a Doctor of the Church, wrote on sexual perversions.

I attempted to press ahead to question three which dealt with the important issues of the proper vetting of diocesan seminarians including the removal from any consideration of priestly ordination any candidate who was found to engage in pederasty, homosexuality, or who were habituated self-abusers, and question four in which I asked if he, Bishop Malesic, (and the American bishops) were prepared to lead the battle against organized perversion exemplified by the Homosexual Collective.

But alas, my time was up, and the moderator took the microphone and looked to the bishop to address at least my first two concerns.

The bishop’s reply was almost incoherent. He started to explain that the issue was chastity (or the lack thereof) and it didn’t matter whether the seminarian or priest was heterosexual or homosexual, it was all the same … kind of. At which point, I interrupted the bishop to remind him that sodomy was not just any old sin, but one of the four sins that cry out to God for vengeance. At that point, my “dialogue” with Bishop Malesic ended.

I knew it was getting pretty close to closing time and there were a few others who had not yet have their say, so I waited until the listening session was over to say goodbye to Bishop Malesic and to hand him my five-volume set of The Rite of Sodomy. He was surprised at the gift and somewhat overwhelmed. Seeing that he was unlikely to read all five volumes, I suggested he start with Volume II which deals specifically with the crime of pederasty. I wished him well, left the church, and drove home pondering the evening’s events and their meaning.

The Superficiality of It All

The overwhelming impression I received of the evening’s events was one of absolute superficiality regarding Bishop Malesic’s responses, or more to the point, his lack of truly informed responses to the questions I has asked him.

Why? I asked myself.

Clerical sexual abuse in AmChurch has been going on for decades. By this time, every American bishop should be a walking encyclopedia on the subject.

After all, the hierarch’s bureaucracy, the United States Catholic Conference (USCCB), has spent hundreds of thousands of hard-earned laity dollars on two massive John Jay College Reports on clerical abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. One wonders how many bishops have actually read those reports and examined the charts which show that more than 80% of clerical sexual abuse victims are adolescent BOYS!

If Bishop Malesic’s performance was any measurement of what Catholic bishops actually know and understand about the nature and extent of the crime of pederasty, Catholic laymen had better look elsewhere for help.

One also has to wonder out loud, if these USCCB-inspired dog-and-pony shows on sexual abuse are simply designed to help defuse the diocesan timebomb of clerical sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults including seminarians and young priests who have become the prey of their own bishops.

Catholic Parents are on their Own

As a general rule, with a few minor exceptions, Catholics who are looking to Rome or to AmChurch to reform themselves and clean out their Augean stables where the moral and doctrinal filth has been gathering for decades, are barking up the wrong tree.

Catholics, in general, and Catholic parents in particular, need to focus their attention elsewhere, most especially on God, Our Lady, the angels and all the saints in heaven, and on living the Catholic faith, day in and day out, in season and out.

As most AKA Catholic readers aware, this writer is in the process of organizing a movement against FOP – the Forces of Organized Perversion. God willing, we should be on the move against FOP at the start of the New Year (See HERE). E-mail me at rvte61@comcast. net if you’re interested in this lay/parish priest project.

In the meantime, I’m going to ask the reader to meditate on the new commentary on the Third Glorious Mystery – The Descent of the Holy Ghost, found at the “Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church” which includes this moving and profound reminder for us all:

Pope St. Gregory the Great is reputed to have said, “Divine Justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” Although we would almost certainly be amiss in making of this a perfect one-to-one correlation, or of alleging that every Pope is chosen directly by God, we certainly would do well in considering that, in accord with the words of both Daniel and Pope Gregory, the chastisement that is upon us is the fruit of our own infidelities.

The End