the catholic church and its bottom line
The priest in question, Michael Hand, spent some time in my former parish. He was accused of - and admitted to - molesting a 13 year old boy.
Now Hand is saying that he too was abused by a clergyman, Monsignor Charles "Bud" Ribaudo, while he was a student at Holy Trinity High School on Long Island.
I graduated from HTHS in 1980. Father Bud, as he was known, was the chaplain. I liked Father Bud, but there were always rumors floating around about his "special relationship" with some of the male students.
Hand, in a sworn statement, tells that he was silenced when he approached Catholic authorities about Ribaudo's innapropriate contact with him.
Hands 136 page written statement about the abuse and treatment of abusing priests in the Diocese is very revealing. Among the accustations:
Hand told officials about his alleged abuse at the hands of Ribaudo. Ribaudo was taken out of his position as pastor of St. Dominic's, but the parishioners were only told he took a leave for "medical reasons."
Don't you think it would be nice if the officials let their parishioners know the truth, so others won't be victimized by the pastor and those who were may feel free to come forward? Of course not. Because they don't actually care about the victims as much as they care about saving face.
Three months after Hand's accusation, Hand was told that the officials wanted to bring Ribaudo back to the parish by Christmas and the only way they could do that was if Hand swore to never tell anyone else about his alleged abuse by Ribaudo.
Supposedly, they wanted to bring Ribaudo back because of his fund-raising capabilities. Which pretty much sums up my feeling - and the reason I left the Catholic church - that the bottom line is not religion, but money.
Hands went on to say that other priests have told him that Ribaudo was returned to St. Dominic's because there were "very few priests in the diocese who could bring in as much money in this parish. He's a very important priest to keep there."
Important to the coffers. Not important to the well-being of the church and its parishioners.
The parish, which also operates an elementary and high school, has some of the diocese's biggest donors as members, including Computer Associates founder Charles Wang and Cablevision founder Charles Dolan. Hands, who headed youth ministry programs in his parishes, was, until his arrest, also active at St. Dominic High School, were Ribaudo had made arrangements for him to visit the campus once a week.
Then in early December 2001, Hands said he was called by Caldwell at the treatment facility Hands was attending in Maryland and was asked to keep quiet about Ribaudo. "They asked me, Caldwell asked me specifically, who did you tell besides your therapist?" Hands said.
Hands said it was his understanding that for his silence the diocese would help him financially to make the transition to private life after he voluntarily resigned from the priesthood.
Money raising, shady deal making, silencing accusers, paying people off to get lost - sounds a bit like the Sopranos, no? Even this part sounds a bit mob-like:
[head of priest personnel for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Msgr. Francis]Caldwell, according to the statement, even told Hands he should tell his mother in Florida to stop talking about Ribaudo to her friends because word was getting back to Long Island. "And he wanted me to call my mother or he would call my mother himself and stress with her the importance of keeping silent, because Bud Ribaudo was now back in a parish and they wanted to keep him back in the parish," Hands said.
Within months, the sex abuse scandal unfolding in Boston was also reverberating on Long Island. In March 2002, Newsday began checking into reports that Hands had implicated his former mentor. At that point, Hands said Caldwell called him and asked him to deny to Newsday that Ribaudo had ever molested him.
"I don't know why I was included in the decision process as to how the diocese handles Bud Ribaudo. He told me to think about it, with the strongest recommendation that I should do this. Because, he said, it's the right thing to do, to call and to deny this," said Hands, who refused to do so.
The right thing to do. This coming from a man who is supposed to represent the Catholic church. The right thing to do. Deny.
Hands also told of how he visited then-retired Bishop John McGann in December 2001, four months after his arrest, to discuss his plight. McGann said he was praying for Hands, his family, and the family of his victim. "He told me that during his term as bishop that he had handled many circumstances like this," Hands said. "And he told me that he always believed that a priest should always get a second chance and that his policy was to give a guy a second chance," if his psychologists recommended it. McGann died a month later.
And thus, you have the entire problem - from the Vatican on down to the smallest parishes - in a nutshell. Second chances often make for second victims. A child molestor in the public sector does not get a second chance to go out and molest again.
Hand's sworn statement also talks about the "Florida Solution," in which priests accused of abusing minors were shipped off to parishes in Florida. Hand "names names and tells what he had learned from his years as a priest."
The circumstances regarding Hand's telling of his abuse by Ribaudo are suspect:
In his statement, Hands said it wasn't until August 2001, after months of psychological treatment, that he was able to acknowledge the "inappropriate sexual contact" he said Ribaudo had had with him years earlier.
In March of 2002, Ribaudo resigned and was then stripped of his priesthood.
Expect to see more of this happening. Soon, it will a "priest eat priest" world, where one accusation leads to another, so the accused can try some plea bargaining or deal making in order to get lighter sentences. Ethics? Morals? Where?