Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

A Discussion on Faith and Culture

Leon J. Podles  :: DIALOGUE header image 2

Enabling Bishops and Hispanics

January 28th, 2013 · 29 Comments

Hispanics have not turned against bishops who have enabled sexual abusers the way other Catholics have.

At the start of the crisis, the Globe reported:

Law has been hounded by the media and Catholics around the world, but his strongest defenders have been local minorities. Last month, dozens of Hispanic supporters chanting in support of Law on the front steps of the cathedral faced harsh words from protesters.

After Law resigned, Hispanics still supported him:

”It hurts me so much,” Sanchez said yesterday afternoon while sitting in a pew in the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in East Boston. ”I was never in favor of him stepping down.”

Like many immigrants, especially those from Latin America, Sanchez remained supportive of Law even as the clergy sexual abuse scandal triggered a tidal wave of demands for his resignation.

He knows Law made grave mistakes, and he’s sickened by the thought of priests sexually abusing children, but he said he can’t allow himself to be angry at Law. He said that only through forgiveness can people really heal. Above that, though, he said it’s impossible to dislike a man who has done so much good for others - especially Latinos.

For them, ”el cardenal,” holds a special place in their hearts.

When Hurricane Mitch pummeled Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998, Law raised more than $1.5 million to help families there. When earthquakes ravaged El Salvador and Colombia in 2001, ”el cardenal” again went into action.

In fluent Spanish, Law has consoled Latino parishioners when they needed it. The cardinal speaks lovingly of his birthplace: Mexico City.

While some people may question the strong support expressed by many immigrants, the Rev. Robert Hennessey, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer, said it makes perfect sense.

”They have great capacity to forgive,” Hennessey said. ”They have a different view.”

He likens that view to how families handle a crisis at home: ”When you have a loving father that did something wrong, he’s still your loving father.”

Cardinal Mahoney has been revealed as an enabler and protector of pedophiles. He has long been a champion of Hispanics.

In his long tenure in the nation’s largest archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony, now 76, distinguished himself as a keen politician in both civic and church circles. He was an early champion of Hispanic immigrants, marching with César Chávez, the founder of the United Farm Workers of America, and is beloved by many Hispanics, who make up 70 percent of the four million Catholics in the archdiocese.

Los Angeles Hispanics are conflicted but still supportive:

“Roger Mahony will continue to be my friend. But reading all this stuff, it breaks my heart,” said Antonia Hernandez, an immigrant rights activist who’s worked with Mahony since he was a bishop in Stockton in the late 1970s. “Here are these people he spent his whole life protecting from abuse and when he could do something about it, he didn’t.”

But Hernandez, the president and chief executive of the California Community Foundation, a leading philanthropic organization, said Mahony did too much for immigrants for his achievements to be dismissed, saying: “His affinity for the immigrant community, the farmworker, is genuine and real.”

To me this looks like a large-scale version of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy, sympathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.[1][2] The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.[3]

Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”[4] One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they no longer become a threat. [5]

The abuser keeps the victim off guard by acts of kindness mixed with acts of abuse. Mahoney championed farm workers as he let his priests rape their children. Hispanics are conflicted and uncertain how to respond.

I know there are some Hispanics who read this blog. What do you think?

Tags: clergy sex abuse scandal

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Oso Pious // Jan 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    A truly great article! Here in New Mexico in the 1974-91 era, even though Archbishop Robert Sanchez covered up for dozens of pedophile priests, the people still “adore” him as a saint! My Hispanic friends told me that Archbishop Sanchez was a “normal” man and that the 27 young women or girls who accused him of inappropriate touching, etc. were just “asking for it”. If Sanchez had molested boys instead of girls my Hispanic friends would have been more judgemental towards him. I knew Robert Sanchez personally and I attended his parish in Old Town when he was a simple pastor. I liked to have coffee with him after Mass and talk about the Vietnam War. He would flirt with the cute waitresses but so did everyone else! Years later, after one of my special-education students was molested by a priest under his control and after my student was murdered in prison to keep him silent, I felt different. The waitress who Sanchez flirted with in 1974 in the Sheridan Old Town Coffee Shop was also later to be one of my dear friends and her brother had been the handicapped student who was sexually attacked by the priest. Both were Hispanic and devout Catholics. My good friend, Jay Nelson has a book called “Sons of Perdition” which documents and details all of the known cases of priestly sexual abuse in New Mexico. It is now available on Kindle as an e-book and has been updated to 2011.

  • 2 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Leon, I think a lot of this has to do with mindless groupthink, whether toward one’s own religion or ethnic group. It’s not just a Catholic or Latino problem. Just look at how liberals and conservatives behave in the secular political world. Few people have the moral courage to stand out as individuals and legitimately criticize members of their own group. That’s because their fundamental identity comes from being members of the group in question.

    When you parouse the Catholic blogs, you find lots of Catholics, if not the vast majority, defensively holding on to their identity and reacting to legitimate criticism with the most vapid, stereotypical boilerplate. This includes priests and monsigniors, and I say that from personal experience. I think many Catholics have been taught to be defensive for so long that they don’t know anything else.

  • 3 Mary // Jan 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Is it the “forgiveness ” of pederasty or the taxpayer financial revenues from immigrant services that is the driving force behind the immigration concern for the Cardinals and vice versa?
    Latinos were a driving force behind Obama’s election too when it came to immigration…..
    “For Mr. Obama, immigration reform remains a top priority during his second term. He plans to push Congress to move quickly on an ambitious overhaul of the immigration system that would include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.”
    Mahony blesses L.A.’s rally……

    The Catholic church in America benefits financially from the taxpayers money though the Bush era Faith Based Initiative healthcare facilities that serve many illegal immigrants. So isn’t it to the best interest of the bottom line for the Hierarchy to fight to make it easier for Latinos to immigrate?
    Catholic Health Initiatives
    “With total annual revenues of more than $10.7 billion and approximately 83,000 employees, CHI ranks as the nation’s second-largest faith-based health system.”
    Now the Church leaders are caught between a rock and a hard place. They cannot appear to be truly Catholic and allow for abortion and contraception in these facilities funded with Fed subsidies under ObamaCare.
    Either the Truth of Christ’s Love motivates your actions all the time, as with reporting the attacks on the innocent to the legal authorities, or eventually you will get caught in the unholy lie.
    Once Obama reforms the immigration law for better or worse, depending on your view, I wonder how many Latinos will realize pederasts are equal opportunity predators too ?

  • 4 Jacobo // Jan 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Here in the “Catholic Guantanamo” where all the trash gets recycled, including plutonium and pedophile priests, my Hispanic people and I have been so abused and beated down for so many generations that we are just numb and naive regarding this issue. If I had my way, I would bring back the guillotine to remove the offending member of each pedophile and truly make them eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.

  • 5 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 28, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Leon, when reading your post, I thought about your post regarding Evangelicals in El Salvador and how successful they’ve been. I think many Latino Catholics (in the U.S. and Latin America) view Catholicism more as a mark of cultural and ethnic identity rather than as a faith committment. Perhaps that’s why many Latinos aren’t holding the American bishops’ feet to the fire — and perhaps that’s why Evangelicals have been so successful in Latin America; the latter offer a faith commitment that stands out because it runs counter to the cultural millieu.

  • 6 Mary // Jan 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    IMHO the demon has a way of biting the backsides of men who purport to be Christ’s reps here and refuse to carry the ball.


  • 7 Mary Ann // Jan 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I believe that the reaction to abusive priests and coverup is an extension of their reaction to abusive government since the Revolution (powerlessness becomes a “virtue”, whether cloaked as meekness or forgiveness) , and of their reaction to family abuse ( infidelity, which is the cultural norm I am told, alcoholism and accompanying battery and sex abuse).

    Catholics need to remember that we cannot forgive sins committed against another. And we cannot forgive sins committed against us as a body (for instance, the coverup) unless there is knowledge, accountability and reparation. To forgive in these cases is not forgiveness but an act of denial using religion as a disguise.

  • 8 Mary Ann // Jan 29, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Denial, and co-dependance, and enabling.

  • 9 Oso Pious // Jan 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I have done an informal “poll” of all the seniors I know in my community in Estancia, New Mexico and 80% are Hispanic and Catholic. Most have told me that the newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America are the primary ones who support the Cardinals who enable the pedophile priests. They are more conservative and traditional and less educated and most are living below the poverty line. The younger generation of Hispanics are more educated, affluent and less traditional. They mostly think that the Bishops and Cardinals should be held accountable and bear the consequences of their actions (or inaction). Since 1947 New Mexico’s Servant of the Paraclete monsastery(Via Coeli) became a holding “prison” and rendition center for the pedophile priests from all over the world. When their number became too large to keep confined, the pedophiles were simply declared “healed” and recycled into the local Hispanic parishes… In these rural Hispanic communities, the priests (padres) were usually the most educated and trusted authority figures. They baptized, married and buried every Catholic in the village or parish and therefore had huge “respect”. To address a Bishop or Cardinal was like talking to God Himself and since they were so high above the rest of the clergy and hierachy that they were almost Divine. Pope Pius XII was even called the “Angelic” because he never touched or really embraced anyone. To criticize these clerical “demi-gods” was so way beyond the pale and comprehension of the average New Mexican Hispanic… In Los Lunas, New Mexico there is even a cross and image for Saint “Gestas”, the so-called “bad thief” in Luke’s gospel. The disgraced Archbishop Robert Sanchez’s picture still adornes the walls of every Catholic home in Estancia, NM.

  • 10 Tony de New York // Jan 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I think that those Hispanic that were not born in the USA was a SHOCK to learn about the abuse. Remember that in latinamerica priest have girlfriends those who r homosexual r really in the closet. You don’t hear about it.

    My family and i we want those bishops and cardinals in JAIL or what is better, the DEATH PENALTY!

    “Catholicism more as a mark of cultural and ethnic identity rather than as a faith committment. ”

    For some, I went back to el Salvador and i was suprise to find thousans of catholics in new groups like las comunidades neocatecomunales, el sembrador, encuentros matrimoniales, cursillos etc that work really hard to evangelize.

    There are 4 mayor seminaries over 500 seminarians.

  • 11 TheAltonRoute // Jan 30, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Hispanic Catholicism has its oddities, what with Opus Dei, the Legionaries of Christ, etc.

    Maybe Mahony was really in league with the farm owners? Another Ford Foundation corporate leftist on the payroll of the very interests they supposedly were “fighting.” It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if Catholic leaders such as Mahony were encouraging Hispanic immigration for less than noble reasons.

  • 12 Mary // Jan 30, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Good points on forgiveness Mary Ann!
    I have a seventy five year old friend who is ill and retired from Diocesan employment. She is trying to make sense of what she was taught and believed as a Catholic vs what she witnessed and heard first hand in the rectories . Repeatedly, she refers with regret to what she describes as “massive brainwashing.”
    I do not want to appear to denegrate the Faith with this statement. Point being that there were/are very few who know/knew the truth and even less who are willing to take time to mentally process it and take action even in their personal lives.
    My friend keeps saying that,”God gave us a brain for a reason but we do not use it!”
    Pounding home the “meekness” of the Blessed Mother by some alleged Mariologists has convinced many of this ,”(powerlessness becomes a “virtue”, whether cloaked as meekness or forgiveness)” Profound!
    Our Lady’s “meekness” was not in submission to evil or evil doers , nor should it be understood as feminine powerlessness.It took real strength to remain with Her Son during His tortures and death. Later ,when the persecution of the Christian Church in Jerusalem was ramped up ,both She and St John exited for the more welcoming area of Ephesus.
    There comes a point, when in using one’s brain, some realize they cannot remain in their parish or even Diocese while others criticize them for disobedience to church law.

  • 13 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Mary Ann, your Jan. 29 comments are spot on, especially regarding victimization and forgiveness. The biggest thing that bothers me about contemporary Christianity is the insistence on dispensing forgiveness like a vending machine without the aggrieved party dealing with the emotional pain and the perpetrator deliberately rejecting his behavior, if not making restitution. All that insistence does is treat hurting, broken people as commodities — which, btw, institutionalized churches do very well.

    I think a lot of the “p0werlessness as virtue” idea stems from the idea of “offering up” one’s own travail for atonement. The problem with that idea is that we can’t truly atone for our own sin, let alone for others. That was the whole purpose of Christ dying on the cross in the first place; as the only perfect human being, He was the only atoning sacrifice God accepted to redeem humanity. The modern church — across all denominations — has forgotten that “the wages of sin is death,” as St. Paul so aptly put it.

  • 14 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jan 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Oso Pious, your description of the attitude toward priests and bishops, I believe, reflects perfectly the Catholic idea that clerics are ontologically different from the rest of us (being an alter Christus seems to mean far more than just consecrating the Euchrist). Give any ruling clique that kind of deference and you create massive problems, even if sexual abuse isn’t one of them, because that clique becomes isolated not only from the people but from the very values it clams to serve.

  • 15 Oso Pious // Jan 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Joseph, when I was in the seminary I had to watch a film about the “angelic shepherd”, Pope Pius XII and his “housekeeper”, muse and life-long companion who lived with him under the same roof for 41 years. Her name was Sister Pascalina Lehnert (La Popessa) and she was called the most powerful woman in Vatican history. She would spray the Pope’s hands with dis-infectant everytime he ever touched anyone by shaking hands, etc. (kind of like the obsessive-compulsive detective named Monk on CBS). All of the women we seminarians encountered were dressed like the Taliban women in habits that only showed their faces. Any pictures of girls or women who looked “too pretty” were cut out of our magazines (especially National Geographic) in our library. Surrounded only by men during our teen-age years, we were prime targets and victims for many of the pedophile priests and brothers who took adavantage of our developing sexuality. We were even forbidden to see our sisters, mothers or any females during our years in the minor seminary. Our statues of Mary and female saints had no breasts or hips. Our statues of Christ and male saints were very feminine, with long curly hair and slim figures. Many of my classmates developed “crushes” on older men or each other. Some of my classmates even acted, fixed their hair and dressed in a subtle, “feminine” manner. I think the mothers and fathers who supported sending their young boys off to these “minor seminaries” should bear some of the responsibility and blame for what later happened to so many of them. These “pedophiles” were enabled and fostered NOT just by the Bishops but by the whole “sick” Catholic culture that provided and encouraged these young sacrificial lambs to give up their sexuality before they even reached puberty and be raised in a culture that was not only without women, but was very hostile to any hetero-sexual feelings. Father Hardon (appropriately named) wrote a biography of Father Gerald Fitzgerald s.P. called “A Prophet for the Priesthood” and Gerald was truly a “Spock-like”, asexual character from Star Trek and his disdain for women was evident. He told us that the women who loved priests, were the daughters of EVE and that they lured the priests into sin. The resulting pedophile priestly “monsters” who prey on our children were mostly severly socially retarded men who were stunted in their sexual and social development and are also victims themselves of a perverted theology developed by homosexual clerics, during the Middle Ages.

  • 16 Mary // Jan 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Joseph , AMEN to your #14 comment!
    The adulation given to many clerics isn’t any different from what Hollywood stars or sports figures get puffed up on and we have seen them publicly fall.I wish I had a dime for every time I felt compelled to tell someone that just because a cleric says or does this or that it is not necessarily coming from Jesus Christ!
    “Alter Christus “refers to the enactment of the Mass being linked to the Sacrifice of Our Lord, and then only if the cleric is properly Ordained.

  • 17 Oso Pious // Jan 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    My experience in the minor seminary ( btw, the same one that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago went to) had left me with a huge HOLE in my social and sexual development! I have managed to survive due to the compassion and kindness of loving friends. Cardinal George of Chicage has recently come out with an anti-gay diatribe and he is now recovering from a second bout with cancer. There are rumors that he may be our next Pope. I understand and forgive my parents for being so eager to send me off to the minor seminary. After all, I did learn a lot of Latin and Greek , philosophy and theology and especially how to think. Although I was deprived of the normal social intercourse with girls and women , I am more than making up for it now in my senior years. As for the Hispanic Catholics that I know, most are still stuck in a pre-Vatican II time warp of Thomistic Medieval thinking.

  • 18 TheAltonRoute // Feb 1, 2013 at 1:10 am

    I remember having listened to a sermon by Fr. John O’Connor, OP, in which he says that his Dominican seminary had a serious problem with homosexuality by the 1950s. He says his superior and he tried to get higher-ups to do something about the problem but nothing ever happened. I suppose with guys such as Spellman in charge of the American Church by then, one only can imagine how bad the problem was in religious orders.

  • 19 Oso Pious // Feb 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    The idea of a “minor” seminary was conceived originally to help young boys in poor, undeveloped and illiterate communities and/or countries to achieve literacy and learn Latin which was essential! However, in America, these seminaries became a magnet for upwardly mobile, mostly white young boys and their parents to achieve a certain “status” among their Catholic peers. Graduates of Catholic grammar schools were told that if they were 1)healthy 2)intelligent and 3)devout Catholics , that these were sure signs that they were being “called” to the priesthood (or sisterhood for girls). Mothers used to brag that their son(s) were studying for the priesthood and they eagerly offered us their young, pre-adolescent boys to be somehow magically transformed into “priests” like cars in a Henry Ford assembly line. I don’t ever recall Jesus calling young pre-teenagers to be His disciples or apostles!

  • 20 TheAltonRoute // Feb 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Oso Pious,

    Who established the first minor seminaries in the US? Regardless of religious order, they seem to have been fertile ground for creating generations of abusers.

  • 21 Joseph D'Hippolito // Feb 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t ever recall Jesus calling young pre-teenagers to be His disciples or apostles!

    Exceedingly well put, Oso Pious.

  • 22 Father Michael Koenig // Feb 1, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Junior seminaries always struck me as odd. Does anything similar exist among any eastern rite Catholics? I’ve never heard of it among the Orthodox.

  • 23 Oso Pious // Feb 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Just like the “rectory boys of El Paso” referenced in Leon’s book “Sacrilege”, the custom of having young boys live with older clergy goes way back to St.Paul and Timothy. Father Gerald Fitzgerald s.P. told me that I could serve my Novitiate and study at any one of his 24 houses since the Servants of the Paraclete had the “Papal Privilege” as he put it. I chose Randolph, Vermont because I had never been to New England and (I wanted to be close to Canada in case I left his order and was drafted for Vietnam).

  • 24 Father Michael Koenig // Feb 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Of course, in the Eastern church, many of the “rectory boys” are the priest’s own sons. My sister in law’s priest (Greek Orhtodox) has taken his sons with him to visit the dying, something that has touched parishioners.

  • 25 Oso Pious // Feb 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I recall that one of my fellow Paraclete novices in Vermont was from a Byzantine rite and was named Frater Michael Mangoyian. I left after Frater Roger LaPorte set himself on fire in front of the U.N. in New York City in Nov. 1965. As far as the minor seminary I attended in Illinois, I often wonder how the hierarchy ever expected the sex identity starved youngsters to ever be normal?

  • 26 Joseph D'Hippolito // Feb 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Why did LaPorte set himself ablaze?

  • 27 Oso Pious // Feb 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Joseph, Brother Roger LaPorte s.P. was protesting the naphalm bombing of innocent women and children in Viet Nam during the UN secretary, U Thant’s, visit. A number of people including Buddhist monks and young girls were immolating themselves! Right after Roger’s death the “big black out” occured and the lights went out all along the Eastern seaboard… Then Cardinal Spellman denounced Dorothy Day and silenced Thomas Merton and any other pious Catholic who was against the war in Vietnam. Spellman once said that we had to kill those “damn gooks”. Roger LaPorte was an orphan and had no living close relatives, so Spellman told us to pretend that he never existed in case we were asked questions by reporters! We had to keep the code of silence (omerta) and the location of our Paraclete houses a sercret at all costs!! (just like the cover up of pedophile priests today!)

  • 28 Oso Pious // Feb 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    The New York papers originally said that Roger was a seminarian from Vermont BUT Spellman made sure later editions deleted that info. Spellman tried to make the reporters believe that Roger was crazy and that even as he was dying of painful burns in the hospital, he was not interviewed nor believed! Under no circumstances was the public media ever allowed to know of the existence of our “secret” Paraclete house. Even in New Mexico, the local people though Via Coeli was just a “retreat” house. All over the world the Paracletes had secret houses where pedophile priests were held until they could be “processed” and eventually recycled.

  • 29 Kathryn // Feb 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I am hispanic. However, I am also a Catholic Convert.

    My husbands family are Mexican Immigrants and Cradle Catholics. They sent him and one of his elder brothers to St Anthony’s Highschool in Santa Barbara.

    He talks about the priests there with some affection, even though he now knows that some of his friends suffered sexual abuse.

    When we joined the Parish we now attend, he and his Brother recognized that the Parish Preist had attended the same school before moving on to Seminary. Neither ever expressed concern for the safety of their sons.

    No one wants to know. They definitely don’t want to talk about it. I don’t really blame them for that.

    A few years ago when the priest at the family’s Parish in Oregon was accused they just wanted the victim to shut up and go away.

    I asked them why they would deny the priest his day in court. I still have never recieved a reply. It is hard to look at someone who benefited you and be able to recognize that someone elses wounds came at the expense of your need .

    It’s funny really. We see Christ on the Cross and we revere him.

    Yet when someone is wounded in service to us without consent we must poisen them by insisting that they did too ask for those wounds.

Leave a Comment