“Zero Tolerance” for Abuse Victims

Lafayette Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel has come under fire amid media reports that he excommunicated Deacon Scott Peyton after his teenage son was sexually abused by Lafayette Father Michael Guidry.  Faithful Catholics are slamming Deshotel’s claim that Peyton “sever[ed] ties with the Catholic Church” by writing to him with concerns about clerical sex abuse cover-ups.  While Peyton, a sex abuse victims’ advocate, was ousted from the Church, there is no indication that Guidry, who pled guilty and is sentenced to seven years in prison for molesting Peyton’s son, has ever been excommunicated.  Sex abuse experts point out that Deshotel is one among a growing list of bishops who prove that the only sex abuse policy Church officials choose to enforce is “zero tolerance” for victims and whistleblowers.

Like Deshotel in Lafayette, Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory removed the faculties of Father Michael Briese after he reported credible allegations that Father Adam Park preyed upon seminarians.  Although Park resigned as vice-rector of the North American College (NAC) in Rome after multiple seminarians came forward with damning sworn testimony against him, media reports uncovered how Gregory has been hiding Park in Washington parishes without defrocking the scandal-plagued cleric.  While Gregory is allowing Park to go unpunished, he is forbidding Briese from ministering to Washington Catholics.

Springfield in Illinois Father Peter Harman, who as NAC rector abetted Park’s serial predation, is likewise being shielded by his Bishop, Thomas Paprocki, while the seminarians who spoke up swiftly found their vocations ended.  Although Harman stepped down in disgrace as rector after a former FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) found allegations “credible” that he engaged in anal sex at an orgy with Archbishop George Lucas, Paprocki appointed him Pastor of the prestigious St. Anthony Parish and Schools in Effingham, Illinois.  After Paprocki received and covered up more than seven reports, the former FBI SAC detailed under oath how the Springfield in Illinois Diocese has been deceiving the Faithful about the credible allegations and retaliated against victims and informants who came forward.

The way that Cardinal Gregory and Bishop Paprocki are mishandling credible accusations against their priests resembles how La Crosse Bishop William Callahan removed Father James Altman for calling out abuse cover-ups but assigned accused Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill as Administrator of St. Teresa of Kolkota Parish.  Burrill had been forced to resign as the USCCB’s Secretary General after his serial sexual misconduct involving the gay dating app, Grindr, was exposed in the media.

Like Father Altman, and other “canceled” priests, Richmond Father Mark White was evicted from his rectory by Bishop Barry Knestout for speaking out against sexual predation and cover-ups on the part of prelates like ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and disgraced Cardinal Donald Wuerl. While White was suspended, McCarrick and Wuerl escaped legal accountability.

While victims and whistleblowers are thrown into the street, a new investigative report, “From Predators to Pastors?” has unveiled a scheme by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan to secretly keep accused priests in parishes and schools.  Examples documented in the video report include Monsignor John Paddack, a priest Dolan allowed to remain as “Pastor” of a prestigious Manhattan parish while being named in 11 sex abuse lawsuits; Father George Sears, a current New York Archdiocese official Dolan is rewarding with high positions despite the fact that he is the subject of a sex abuse criminal police complaint; Monsignor Thomas Derivan, whom Dolan is allowing to head a Bronx parish and elementary school after a recent lawsuit reported that he performed oral sex on a minor; and Father Jeffrey Maurer, who remains Pastor of a New York parish despite admitting that he committed sexual misconduct with a seminarian.  Dolan is making uninformed Catholics finance the salaries and benefits of these and other actively ministering accused priests, but he has yet to reveal how victims who report sexual abuse to the New York Archdiocese have their complaints covered up, have their vocations destroyed, and even commit suicide as a result of the trauma.

Church leaders increasingly confirm that the path to clerical promotion lies over the trampled lives of sex abuse victims and whistleblowers.  While scandalous clerics are celebrated by complicit media outlets that often refuse to report clerical abuse, those who have the courage to come forward are made to watch in silence as abusers or those who cover up abuse climb the ecclesiastical ladder.  Until the Vatican defrocks bishops who endanger their flock and bury sexual abuse by their priests, Catholics should prepare to witness the vocations of more holy whistleblowers like Deacon Peyton being discarded in the name of sexual cover-ups.

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a sexual abuse victims’ advocate, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. A former Navy (O6) Captain/Chaplain, seminary instructor, and diocesan respect life director, Gomulka was ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and later made a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by St. John Paul II. He can be reached at genegomulka@gmail.com.