Renegade Catholic Right Bishop Refuses to Participate in Anti-Pedophile Program
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 02, 2007 at 09:53:13 AM EST
The Catholic Right, Thirty-one in a Series

Earlier this year I wrote about the authoritiarian Catholic bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska-- a favorite of the Catholic Right. Back then, Bishop Bruzkewitz' almost casual invocation of the penalty of excommunication was examined. Now it seems that His Eminence won't participate in the Church's national anti-pedophilia program.

The Catholic lay group, Call to Action has been courageously leading the fight for accountability in the church on this grave issue. Here is the press release, in which they confront the renegade Bishop of Lincoln:


More than 1,000 Catholics from all corners of the country have signed a petition protesting Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz's actions against members of the Lincoln-based Call to Action Nebraska.

The petition also included criticism of his refusal to participate in the annual nationwide audit to determine whether churches are compliant with church policies regarding sex abuse. It will be delivered to the Lincoln Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church on Friday.

"We are not happy with the way Bishop Bruskewitz has been handling things in the diocese and wanted to draw attention to that," said Rachel Pokora, president of Call to Action Nebraska.

Bruskewitz was on retreat this week, and Lincoln Diocese Chancellor Mark Huber declined to comment.

The delivery of the petition will be followed by a prayer service for renewal among Call to Action members. It comes shortly after the Lincoln Diocese refused for the third consecutive year to participate in the sex abuse audit administered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The audits began after the church established child protection programs in 2002 in the wake of a sex abuse scandal.

Though the Lincoln Diocese participated in the organization's first audit in 2003, it has not participated since and was the only diocese in the country to decline participation in the most recent audit.

"We find this to be very disappointing because we feel the children of Lincoln and the diocese are at risk," said Nicole Sotelo, spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Call to Action U.S.A.

In addition to his refusal to comply with the audit, the petition criticizes Bruskewitz's refusal to allow girls to serve at the altar and his 1996 excommunication of Call to Action Nebraska members.

The thrust of the petition, however, focused on the audit.

A spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Lincoln Diocese's lack of participation in the audit does not mean it isn't adhering to church policies regarding sexual abuse.

"The clergy sexual abuse crisis is a serious issue for all the bishops, and I can't see any bishop not doing all they can to ensure children are safe in their diocese," said Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, which administers the audit.

In a written statement, Bruskewitz affirmed that his diocese is operating in full compliance with all civil and church laws concerning the abuse of minors.

The church's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires dioceses to have a victim-assistance coordinator and a review board. The charter also requires the dioceses to report allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest, among other requirements, Kettelkamp said.

"The Catholic Church teaches that all homosexual acts and any sexual abuse of minors or others are mortal sins," Bruskewitz said in the statement. "Such sins and heinous crimes should be appropriately punished by the authorities of the church and the state."

Kettelkamp said she would like the Lincoln Diocese to participate in the audit.

However, she said, "he has the right to say no. I don't want people to think just because he doesn't get audited that children are at risk."

For more information on the Call to Action event, e-mail Pokora at

This report includes material from the Associated Press

As I stated back in January:

If a Bishop Brusckewitz were able to evoke secular as well as sectarian punishments for citizens who associated with organizations not to his liking could state inquisition really be that far off? Is it really out of the question to question whether those who would seek to avoid accountability from their congregants would similarly seek a government that does the same to its citizens? And most of all, is it really wise to take the advice of some and cease speaking out in support of keeping church and state separate?

But now the problem is not only that of using excommunication as a means to stifle dissent. The imperious Bishop Bruskewitz now displays the unwillingness to be held accountable by submitting to a sex abuse audit being conducted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

We have been down this road before. Bishop Bruskewitz appears to be typical of certain members of a Catholic hierarchy that seems more interested in protecting the church as an institution rather than her flesh and blood members. Power always seems to come before the personal well-being of her congregants. Accountability is avoided. In its place, members of the Church hierarchy-such as Lincoln, Nebraska's bishop--brazenly seek to be exempted from the rules -- make that the laws -- that apply to everyone else.  No wonder why many on the Catholic Right rail at the notion of keeping church and state separate.

By and large, religious leaders are either an unelected hierarchy or elected, but only accountable to the members of their specific denomination. If government is ever allowed to become the enforcement arm of any one faith, one of liberal democracy's most cherished institutions, leadership accountability, goes right out the window.

Bishop Bruskewitz's reprehensible behavior is all the proof we need.

The Catholic Right: A Series, by Frank L. Cocozzelli :

Part One  Part Two  Part Three   Part Four  Part Five  Part Six   Intermezzo   Part Eight   Part Nine  Part Ten   Part Eleven   Part Twelve   Part Thirteen   Part Fourteen   Second Intermezzo   Part Sixteen   Part Seventeen   Part Eighteen   Part Eighteen   Part Nineteen   Part Twenty   Part Twenty-one   Part Twenty-two   Part Twenty-three   Part Twenty-four   Part Twenty-five   Part Twenty-six   Part Twenty-seven   Part Twenty-eight   Part Twenty-nine   Part Thirty

The true agents of apostasy are not moderate or liberal Catholics, but those members of an increasingly authoritarian hierarchy who disdain accountability to the flock on this and other critical issues.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 02, 2007 at 09:58:25 AM EST

I agree, but I hope that there are not more Bruskewitzes lurking in the background. It seems that in many respects, Vatican II did nothing to change the sense of entitlement to unquestioning authority and unaccountability that many bishops have. I would also include among Bruskewitz's allies William "Mansion" Murphy of Rockville Centre, Raymond Burke of St. Louis, Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Charles Chaput of Denver, and John Yanta of Amarillo. The difference is that now the bishops are not dealing with an immigrant and poorly educated Catholic community, but one with educated and professional lay members.

Bruskewitz's editors also leveled an attack against the late Patty Crowley in the diocesan newspaper for Lincoln. Patty Crowley was co-founder with her husband Pat of the Christian Family Movement and a very prominent Catholic laywoman.

I do not belong to Call to Action, but I feel for them.


by khughes1963 on Sat Jun 02, 2007 at 10:29:08 AM EST is exactly why we must have the courage to go toe-to-toe with them.

If we love our church we're going to have to fight for it.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 02, 2007 at 01:41:05 PM EST

This all reminds me of the recent PBS series on the inquisition.

I wasn't all that surprised to see that the RC hierarchy was going out of it's way to defend the church.  What I see here is no different than what I saw on the series, and just as evil.

Teyose (Jesus) shook up and attacked the status quo.  These behaviors reinforce it.  It's all about power and staying in power.

BTW- I wonder if the author of the "Joshua" series was ever excommunicated.  His books did more for our spiritual life (as an antidote to the fundamentalist view of Teyose).  His books portrayed a "Jesus" (Joshua/Yeshua) I wish was real, even though there was an obvious RC bias.

Even the practice of pedophilia is about abusive power.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Jun 02, 2007 at 12:17:12 PM EST

Joseph F. Girzone, author of the Joshua series, has not been excommunicated as far as I know. He is a Catholic priest, and as far as I am aware, he has not been laicized. Girzone retired from the active priesthood in 1981 for medical reasons. Writer Amy Welborn (conservative Catholic) doesn't like the series (no surprise there,) claiming it's popular because people don't read the Gospels.

You are right about the practice of pedophilia, it is an abuse of power. The difference is that the hierarchy isn't dealing with a bunch of uneducated laypeople. My mother has always said that the church should be for the people, and the people were not supposed to exist for the church. Unfortunately, many in the institutional church behave as though the people should exist for the benefit of the church.

by khughes1963 on Sat Jun 02, 2007 at 10:02:35 PM EST

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