The Catholic Right Lines Up Against the Least
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:29:59 PM EST
Bishop Robert Finn has many powerful friends on the Catholic Right.  As a hard charging leader of what he has called "the church militant" and one of four American Opus Dei bishops, Finn is clearly one of their own.  Nevertheless, it extraordinary that his allies have chosen to side with an element in the institutional church obsessed with unquestioned authority and against Catholic children and their families.
 While Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is ubiquitous, he is not the only one rallying to defend Finn's handling of alleged child abuser Fr. Shawn Ratigan. It is time to throw open the shutters and allow some daylight into the shadows and dark corners of Catholic neoconservatism.  

The Catholic League

While Bill Donohue and the Catholic League need no introduction, it is worth a quick review of their key members and advisers who share responsibility for the League's  support for Finn.

Among the League's Board of Directors is Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) who is reputed to be either an Opus Dei member or cooperator (but who in any case has certainly vigorously defended the controversial group). Also on the board is Candace de Russy, an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a neocon think tank that features Lewis "Scooter" Libby (of Valerie Plame fame) as a Senior Vice President.  The League's Board of Advisers is populated by such leading neocons as Hadley Arkes, Mary Ann Glendon, Robert P. George, Michael Novak and George Weigel, who has sanitized past Vatican failures regarding pedophile clergy and recently declared his scorn for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Thomas Monaghan

Another Catholic League adviser is Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan, who in many ways is the key to Donohue's activities in Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Monaghan has, over the years, advanced the twin agendas of laissez-faire economics and ultra-orthodox Catholicism with money and political muscle.  He has helped to fund Operation Rescue and Fr. Frank Pavone's Priests for Life as well as Legatus, the ultra-conservative millionaires-only club he founded. And according to Forbes, he has reportedly done the same for Opus Dei.

Monaghan is also involved with another Finn defender, Opus Bono Sacerdotii.

Opus Bono Sacerdotii

The Kansas City Star recently reported that the Fr. Ratigan, the alleged pedophile priest, had received a psychiatric evaluation at Bishop Finn's behest. But there are questions about the psychiatrist's impartiality as well as his diagnosis.  The Star pointed out:

Richard Fitzgibbons, who examined Ratigan in January after disturbing photographs of children were found on the priest's computer, is an adviser to Opus Bono Sacerdotii, according to the group's website. The nonprofit organization provides services to accused and imprisoned priests, including financial, legal and emotional support.

After his evaluation, Fitzgibbons told Finn that Ratigan was not a pedophile and that his pornography problem was a result of loneliness and depression, according to a report commissioned by the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

(Note that Fitzgibbons's diagnosis was "loneliness and depression" not pedophilia.)

Opus Bono Sacerdotii (OBS) describes, its mission:

Opus Bono Sacerdotii (Work for the Good of the Priesthood) was founded in response to many sensitive situations with priests requesting confidential assistance for unique problems.  These situations may encompass a whole spectrum of circumstances, however, the success in caring for Catholic priests is understanding the uniqueness of each individual and their particular needs, abilities and desires especially as it effects the extraordinary relationship between the natural and supernatural aspect of the person of the priest. describes OBS co-founders Joseph Maher and Paul Barron as "members of Legatus."  This is not unusual. Based in Monaghan's hometown of Detroit, Michigan, many of the key members of Legatus are also affiliated with the Monahan-founded or funded organizations, notably the ultra orthodox Ave Maria University ("AMU"), in Naples, Florida. These include such Catholic Right luminaries as the late neocon activist Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Fr. Thomas G. Guarino, and Fr. Michael Orsi.

A stern-looking Donohue is pictured on the OBS homepage next to a link to his piece, "Straight Talk about the Catholic Church and SNAP Exposed."

Fr. Orsi's past pronouncements about victims of priestly pedophilia have been controversial.  For example, as a December 22, 2008 post at noted:

Orsi's defense of sexually dysfunctional priests is rich with clericalism. This conclusion was highlighted in the book "Sacrilege:  Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church".  Leon Podles, a former federal investigator, is the book's author and, interestingly, a former supporter of AMU.  In the chapter "Clerical Accomplices", Dr. Podles describes the pass that Orsi gives to guilty homosexual/pederast/pedophile priests as reflective of a time "in which members of society had unequal status before the law.  Such inequality is always irritating, and is often used to protect privileged malefactors - and Orsi resents the loss of privilege."

Orsi uses his Ave Maria Chaplaincy to promote and defend OBS thanks to his two bosses, Ave Maria School of Law Chairman Tom Monaghan and President-Dean Bernard Dobranski. For all of the rants about liberal immorality, attacks on the family, and the "culture wars" penned by Monaghan and Dobranski in their fundraising letters, you'll never hear about the wink-and-nod given to Orsi or OBS in keeping pederasts at the altar.

That these Catholic Right leaders seem to want to save Finn's position as bishop at almost any cost, suggests that their goals for the Church as a bastion of religious and political authoritarianism, takes precedence over everything else -- including the safety and well being of children.

If Opus Dei is indeed orchestrating Finn's defense, this must be looked into.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:33:19 PM EST
That is how groups like OD and the LC work, in the shadows and out of the public eye. They also create a sort of cancer in the church itself.

by khughes1963 on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 11:26:04 PM EST

Human beings are disposable.

by arachne646 on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:01:09 PM EST
I know as a Catholic, this is true about how the institutional church behaves, and it disgusts me.

by khughes1963 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 12:03:46 PM EST

I have to keep reminding myself that the Catholic Church is not monolithic, even though the hierarchy would like it to be. The institution that produced Finn, Ratigan, et al has also produced the Berrigans, Jon Sobrino, Oscar Romero, Mary Hunt, and thousands of others who precisely follow the social justice teachings of the church that would like to marginalize or exclude them. I've sung and worked with nuns who epitomize the best that religion has to offer. And even though they themselves are subject to oppression from the hierarchy, they are still part of the institution.

It's a messy, self-contradictory, sometimes infuriating and sometimes inspiring church ~ rather like any other large human organization. So I'm writing this to remind myself and others that nuance is necessary in our thinking.

Having said that, I'll put out the wish/request for someone to write in detail about Opus Dei. I know they are extremely right-wing and secretive, but beyond that, I fear that my impression of them derives more from Dan Brown's novels than from any solid information. Thanks!

by MLouise on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 03:18:00 PM EST
My real criticisms of Opus Dei have nothing to do with Dan Brown, whose book can be called pseudo-history at best. On Opus Dei, I'd recommend "Beyond the Threshold" by María del Carmen Tapia, who was Escrivá's secretary and says his behavior was rather mean and unsaintly, "Opus Dei" by Michael Walsh, who was a former OD numerary, and "Their Kingdom Come" by Robert Hutchison. I don't recommend John Allen's book on Opus Dei as I think he gave them a whitewash job.

by khughes1963 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 03:59:33 PM EST
Thanks for the suggestions, but I was hoping for something more succinct from one of the excellent researchers on this site. My stack of "must read" books is already way out of control!

by MLouise on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 05:43:34 PM EST

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