Sunday, 23 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Vigilance of Bishop Timlin


Bishop James C. Timlin, Suffer little children.
Some Pa. Catholic priests impregnated the girls they abused,

Buried deep in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic child abuse in the state are some horrific stories that are only just coming to light.

One of them is the account of how a priest in Scranton diocese, Father Thomas D. Skotek, sexually abused a girl over a period of five years while serving as pastor of St. Casimir in Freeland, got her pregnant and arranged an abortion for her.

You might think those facts alone would be sufficient to defrock, even excommunicate and cast into outer darkness, the errant priest, but this is the Catholic Church we are talking about, where these little difficulties are seen only as a problem if the story gets out and becomes public knowledge. The important thing is to keep it under wraps lest the public catch a glimpse of what's really going on in the church they would trust absolutely and into whose care they would gladly entrust their own children.

Running the diocese of Scranton at the time was Bishop James C. Timlin. The records show that he was aware of the details by October 1986. He accepted Skotek's resignation as parish priest in Freeland and sent him to St. Luke Institute in Maryland for an evaluation. He then sat down and showed his compassion as a man of God and penned a letter, writing:

This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.

The letter was not addressed to the unfortunate victim, however. Timlin was writing to her rapist, Fr. Thomas D. Skotek.

In January 1987 Timlin reassigned Skotek to a ministry in Wilkes-Barre.

Two years later, Bishop Timlin wrote to the Vatican reporting that:

A priest in the diocese has been rendered irregular as a result of having assisted in the procurement of a completed abortion…Although I cannot absolutely give assurance that this priest's criminal action will never become public, I do not foresee that such would likely be the case. This priest is currently residing in a parish quite far from the town where the crime was committed. He is awaiting a response to his request for a dispensation.

[Timlin's reference to the criminality of arranging an abortion here refers to the Catholic Canon Law, not the civil law of Pennsylvania.]

Timlin expressed his sincere hope that the request would be favourably received because it would be to "spiritual benefit" of Fr. Skotek and to the "people of this diocese who heed the gifts he shares in priestly ministry". According to the Grand Jury report, Timlin paid the victim's family $75,000 to keep quiet about the affair.

Notably, the Vatican seems to have failed to tell Timlin that his and Skotek's actions were criminal and that he should desist and report the facts to the law enforcement and child-protection agencies. The vatican appears to have maintained the stance that their clergy are not subject to the local laws in the countries and states in which they work and are accountable only to the Church.

Bishop Timin allowed Skotek to continue working as a priest until June 14, 2002 when he was removed from active ministry some 20 years after raping a minor, impregnating her and procuring an abortion for her.

According to the Grand Jury report, Skotek's crime and Bishop Timlin's criminal complicity in covering it up and obstructing justice justice was just one of a number of similar crimes committed by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.

Again in Scranton, Bishop Timlin was informed on March 24, 1988 by anonymous letter of rumours that Father Robert J. Brague was having a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old high school girl. He did nothing.

He was informed again three months later by the same informant because Timlin had apparently 'disregarded' the letter. The informant perceptively noted that he "did not have very much control over his priests."

On August 29, 1988, five months after the initial letter, the high school girl's sister wrote to Bishop Timlin telling him that Fr. Brague had made her sister pregnant. Timlin responded to the letter claiming that as soon as the matter had been brought to his attention, Brague had been removed from office and advising that it was better not to say anything about the matter rather than cause a scandal. In other words, Timlin was asking the victim's sister to help him in covering up Brague's abuse. He assured her that:

What has happened is their responsibility and certainly Father Brague will take care of his obligations.

The baby, a boy, was born in April 1989.

In August that year Timlin wrote to the Rev. John Nevins, Bishop of Venice, Florida, telling him that Fr. Brague would no longer be able continue as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton and "wholeheartedly" approving his transfer to the Diocese of Venice to continue working as a priest there. Not my problem!

When Brague's son by the girl reached the age of seven, the Diocese of Scranton did the decet thing and arranged a scholarship for him to attend one of their schools.

On the case of Father Joseph D. Flannery, the Diocese of Scranton was sent several letters, complaining the he was having affairs with girls between 1964 and 1966. He reportedly got one girl pregnant and was seen on vacation with her Atlantic City. These letters were sent by a member of the clergy, a parishioner and the pregnant girls mother. However, there appeared to be no record of these letters nor of any action taken in respect of the allegations in the Diocese records. There is no record either of the any report by the diocese to the law enforcement and child-protection agencies in the diocese in respect of these allegations. Mysteriously however, On May 6, 2016, the diocese sent a certified letter to each of the District Attorney's Offices within the diocese giving the names of priests against whom complaints of sexual abuse of minors had been made.

Although apparently having no record of the complaints or of any action against him, Flannery's name was included on the list. So, there are either records the Grand Jury were not given, or the records they were given had been 'edited'.

There will undoubtedly be more such revelations in Pennsylvania, and stand by for another deluge from New Jersey, New York and other states as the inquiries now getting under way begin to report their findings.


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