Tag Archives: Roman Catholic

The case for Rebecca Bradley’s conversion is weak

The wages of Rebecca Bradley’s “sins” have caught up with her in a big way. But will they lead to the death of her career — and will they further corrode the reputation of her political handler, Gov. Scott Walker?

Wisconsinites will get part of the answer on April 5, when Bradley, currently serving as an interim Supreme Court justice, faces her infinitely more qualified challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg at the polls for a full 10-year term on the bench.

Foremost among Bradley’s “sins” are the viscerally hateful anti-gay columns she penned as a student at Marquette University about gays, people with AIDS, Democrats, feminists and every other group singled out by the extreme right during the “culture wars” of the early 1990s.

She claims to have changed her views about gays in the ensuing 20-plus years. Supporting that claim, Bradley sought out WiG’s endorsement for her first and only judicial election. During our interview with her, she seemed at ease, quite likeable and sincere in her support for LGBT rights.

But on every other far-right issue, Bradley has remained immovable, which suggests that her support for LGBT individuals comes with unspoken qualifiers. In light of our interview, for instance, we were surprised to learn recently that she sits on the governing board of the St. Thomas Moore Lawyers Society. That organization pushes for “religious rights” of the kind that involve trampling on other people’s rights in the name of religion, such as allowing people who own public accommodations to deny services to gays and lesbians if they feel to do so would violate their beliefs.

The only evidence Bradley has offered of her more inclusive adult sensibilities seems either self-serving or scandalous. She appeared at a Fair Wisconsin fundraiser, which proves she’s willing to rub elbows with LGBT people to further her electoral career. She says she’d perform a same-sex wedding, if asked; but after four years on the bench she’s never been asked, which indicates she doesn’t know many gay and lesbian people very well, at least not the marrying kind.

Ironically, the most convincing evidence that Bradley’s strict Roman Catholic code of sexual morality has evolved comes from her personal life: She was divorced after eight years of marriage, had an extramarital affair and had what sounds like a “friend with benefits” relationship with her former boss after they stopped dating “exclusively.” She’s been accused of breaching ethical legal standards by representing that boss in a custody battle with his ex-wife, despite the objection of the ex-wife and her lawyer. Her description of that episode suggests a measure of petty vindictiveness between the two women — a scenario that’s troubling because she took the personal soap opera into a court of law.

Otherwise, Bradley has maintained her fundamentalist Catholic view on choice — and even contraception. In 2002, she equated abortion with murder and compared it to slavery and the Holocaust. In 2006, she penned a column defending a pharmacist’s right to deny contraception as an act of religious conscience. Defying scientific consensus, she described certain contraceptives as abortifacients, meaning they cause miscarriages. That’s a view that elevates Catholic doctrine above science.

Friends and allies

The most telling indicator of Bradley’s current state of mind is the company she keeps, and that should trouble voters for a variety of reasons. Her life is peopled with the same kinds of organizations and individuals with whom she was linked in the early 1990s.

Bradley has not earned her judicial career through her stellar educational background, legal writings, major cases or her legal career — which in part has consisted of defending doctors from malpractice claims and corporations from liability suits. She’s won the kind of honors that glossy magazines sell to advertisers, and she received the 2010 Women in Law Award from the Wisconsin Law Journal. But she did not have a Supreme Court-level legal profile outside of religious- and corporate-right circles.

Since 2012 Bradley has been hand-groomed for the bench by Walker, who’s appointed her to every judicial position she’s held during the ensuing four-year period. It’s easy to imagine that Walker was mentoring Bradley expressly for the state’s highest court.

If that’s true, it must have felt like a windfall for Walker when Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks dropped dead just months after Walker had elevated Bradley to an appeals court position. The tragedy gave Walker the chance to anoint his disciple as an interim justice on the high court.

Now, just a few months later, she can run as an incumbent for Crooks’ expired 10-year term.

During Crooks’ tenure, the Wisconsin Supreme Court leaned conservative by a 5–2 margin. But while Crooks ruled with his right-wing judicial colleagues 80 percent of the time, Bradley likely can be counted on as reliably as Walker’s other slavish supporters on the bench. She certainly feels as if she can count on him: She registered the domain name justicebradley.com before she’d even applied for the interim position — possibly before Crooks’ body was interned.

Bradley’s fierce partisanship and lack of political independence should concern voters. The Republican Party is virtually handling her campaign, which is being heavily funded by special-interest corporate groups. It’s safe to say that she’s deeply in the pocket of those corporations, which are bent on rolling back clean air and water regulations, getting rid of unions and allowing for endless political spending. She’s also served as president of the Milwaukee Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, a group whose mission could have been lifted from Charles and David Koch’s greediest dreams.

The combination of Bradley’s over-the-top anti-gay writings and her fierce loyalty to the Republican Party and its moneyed special interests have prompted protests against her during the final weeks of the campaign.

We Are Wisconsin has either staged or planned demonstrations outside of every Supreme Court candidate debate. Protesters have carried signs printed with some of Bradley’s most offensive writings. But group member Saul Owen said it’s the totality of Bradley’s record — the unseemly partisanship, the big-money support and the political opportunism as well as the hate rhetoric — that has local leaders and advocates alarmed, not only by Bradley’s candidacy but about the degradation of justice in Wisconsin that it embodies.

Wisconsin Justice Rebecca Bradley. — PHOTO: Courtesy
Wisconsin Justice Rebecca Bradley. — PHOTO: Courtesy

“She can’t be trusted to hold everyone equally under the eyes of the law,” Newton said.

We Are Wisconsin has called upon Bradley to pull out of the race, charging that her campaign has tainted even further the Supreme Court’s already heavily strained credibility.

We Are Wisconsin plans to hold its next demonstration on Friday, March 18, outside a debate hosted by Wisconsin Public Television.

Closed loop

Bradley and Kloppenburg were virtually tied in the most recent poll, which was taken in February. That was before the indefatigable Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, uncovered and shared Bradley’s explosive hate writings from the Marquette Tribune. It also was before a misleading but effective anti-Kloppenburg television ad hit the airwaves, along with other contorted and inflammatory advertising.

The ads were paid for by an astroturf group misleadingly named Wisconsin Alliance for Reform. The group formed last October to run ads attacking former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold. The group’s Web domain reportedly was purchased by Lorri Pickens, whose husband has connections to Bemis, a company owned by the family that Ron Johnson married into. The company remains one of Johnson’s company’s best customers.
For a long time, Pickens has been associated, either directly or indirectly, with right-wing corporate PACs such as the Koch-brothers-backed Wisconsin Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. She has also worked with Julaine Appling’s anti-gay Wisconsin Family Action, and she managed Vote Yes for Marriage, the group that supported the 2006 state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage and later sought to overturn the state’s domestic partnership registry. (WFA is not making an endorsement in the Supreme Court race.)

That connection alone argues against Bradley’s self-proclaimed new worldview. And, on close inspection, her professional life has been lived in a closed loop with some of the same right-wing evangelicals and corporate-owned political hacks with whom she bonded during her years as a shock columnist at the Marquette Tribune, writing about how women play a role in their own rape.

Walker claims he had no knowledge of Rebecca Bradley’s writings when he appointed her as an interim justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley didn’t disclose the college columns in her applications for judicial appointments. Where the forms asked for academic and extracurricular activities, she listed her time as a Marquette University student senator and as editor of the student newspaper at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School.

But Walker’s disavowal is hard for anyone informed about his history with Bradley to believe.

Both were student Republicans whose time at Marquette overlapped, and both wrote conservative commentaries for the Marquette Tribune. Today, the two travel in the same corporate-right Republican circles, and they’re practically neighbors. Their Wauwatosa homes sit around the corner from each other, less than half a mile apart.

JoAnne Kloppenburg
JoAnne Kloppenburg

Bradley’s most controversial writings, including the column in which she called gay people “queers” and “degenerates” who deserved to die of AIDS, were published two years after Walker dropped out of college. But they had a common acquaintance — Jim Villa, one of Walker’s longest and most trusted advisers. Villa served as Walker’s chief of staff for five years when the governor was Milwaukee County executive, and he also served as an informal adviser during Walker’s brief presidential run last year.

Villa was a target during the John Doe investigation into possible illegal political activities among Walker’s Milwaukee County staff. Investigators, who suspected Villa of misconduct in public office and solicitation of public employees to commit misconduct, applied for a search warrant of Villa’s home and office.

Villa was not charged and went on to receive a cushy appointment from Walker in 2014 as the UW System’s vice president of university relations. Villa, who was president of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin at the time, had no discernible qualifications for the job, which came with a salary of $178,000. Critics of Walker’s civil service overhaul have cited Villa’s hiring as a blatant example of the cronyism they say will become the new norm in state hiring decisions under the revamped law.

Ross contends that it’s inconceivable Villa wouldn’t have mentioned the columns to Walker, given their inflammatory nature and the pair’s decades-long relationship.

But Villa denied that allegation to The Associated Press, saying, “Not only did I not speak to him about it, I didn’t remember those writings.”

That statement rings especially false because Villa’s gay sexual orientation, a well-known secret in GOP political circles, would make Bradley’s diatribes against “homosexuals” hard to forget — especially given their shocking level of malice: “The homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy,” Bradley wrote on Feb. 28, 1992, in a statement that typifies the aggressive style of her writings at the time.

For all the public knows, it might have been Villa’s coming out to his friend Bradley that led to her changing attitude toward LGBT people. But Villa declined to return a phone message left by WiG seeking clarification.

A lose-lose situation?

There’s a reason Walker has refused to say whether he would have appointed Bradley if he’d known of her public writing in advance: If he replied in the affirmative, he’d run the risk of alienating all but the right-wing evangelists who form the hard core of Republican loyalists. On the other hand, if Walker condemned Bradley’s unseemly written tirades, then he might suffer a backlash from the same voters.

Perhaps that’s why Bradley’s apologies for her past writings and her insistence that she has changed have struck so many people as hollow. If she backtracks on the vitriol that would inspire homophobes to the polls to support her in droves, she’s undermining her own election effort.

Bradley’s attempts to temper her past writings already have some of her most bigoted supporters up in arms.

On Charlie Sykes’ online blog Right Wisconsin, one anti-gay follower wrote: “If Bradley backs down here, she loses my vote. She needs to show some spine. The majority of voters in April will be older and whiter. That demographic does not thing (sic) gays are equal to straights.

Another wrote (quoted verbatim): “If they stay within their sex preference and not frakkin cheat, that gene goes away. Benefit for marriage is for those who can reproduce within their sex preference. BY the way, she was correct back then, gays, bisexuals and drug users spread HIV and cost millions in healthcare costs. Go ride a seatless bike.”

Bradley surely does not want to be associated with that kind of ignorance, but without such supporters she might very well lose the race, despite the millions that corporate special interests will likely spend on her.

The same holds true for Walker. His political fate might now be intertwined with his Frankenstein’s monster. With approval numbers that are under water, Walker cannot afford to be associated with either the bigoted rage surrounding his surrogate’s image or a repudiation of that rage.

This time, whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court race, Walker seems to have manipulated himself into a corner. After all the failed attempts he’s made to keep his strategic moves in the dark, he still hasn’t learned that he’s being watched by people like Ross and reported on by all of the state’s responsible media.

 

 

Republicans vow to obstruct anyone Obama nominates to fill Scalia’s seat

Antonin Scalia, who was considered one of most conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, died Friday night while staying at a hunting resort in the Big Bend area of Texas. The caustic firebrand complained about feeling ill the night before he was found unresponsive in his room.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

Scalia was part of a 5-4 conservative majority — with one of the five, Anthony Kennedy, sometimes voting with liberals on the court. In a tie vote, the lower court opinion prevails.

Scalia’s death leaves a 4–4 split between liberal and conservative justices on the bench, which means many important decisions will be tied. An even split between conservatives and liberals on the Supreme Court will leave nearly an entire year in which many major upcoming decisions, including cases involving abortion, affirmative action and immigration policy, will be resolved by lower courts

After offering his condolences to Scalia’s family and paying tribute to him as a “towering figure,” President Barack Obama vowed to nominate a successor to Scalia “in due time.”

Republican congressional leaders, hoping to win the White House next year, fired back that they would refuse to approve anyone Obama nominates — a ploy in which they are well versed. They insist no nomination should be made until the next president takes office, which is nearly 11 months away.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate’s top Democrat, said it would be “unprecedented in recent history” for the court to have a vacancy for so long a time.

The Supreme Court will now become a major issue in this year’s presidential race.

Dozens of federal positions remain unfilled due to Republican obstructionism, including the nomination of Eric Fanning to be the next secretary of the Army. The Senate refuses to approve Fanning due to his sexual orientation. He’s stepped down from his post as acting secretary because of the political turmoil.

Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio, R–Fla., scuttled Obama’s nomination of Judge Darrin Gayles, an out gay black state court judge, to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Scalia, who was selected in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, seemed to have a mission to move the court to the right. He was a strict constructionist who adhered to legal“originalism,”which he called “textualism.” In other words, judges had a duty to give the same meaning to the words and concepts as they were understood by the Founding Fathers. Because same-sex marriage was not mentioned in the Constitution, written over 200 years ago, Scalia believed that the issue was not a Constitutional one.

A challenge to a Washington, D.C., gun ban gave Scalia the opportunity to display his devotion to textualism. In a 5–4 decision that split the court’s conservatives and liberals, he wrote that an examination of English and colonial history made it exceedingly clear that the Second Amendment protected Americans’ right to have guns, at the very least in their homes and for self-defense. The dissenters, also claiming fidelity to history, said the amendment was meant to ensure that states could raise militias to confront a too-powerful federal government if necessary.

But Scalia rejected that view. “Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct,” Scalia wrote.

Scalia carried his rifle in a case on the New York City subways. Decades later, he taught the Upper West Sider Kagan how to shoot a gun and the two went together on excursions hunting animals.

Scalia was a strong supporter of privacy in cases involving police searches and defendants’ rights. But, a devoted Roman Catholic, he also voted consistently to let states outlaw abortions, to allow a closer relationship between government and religion, to permit executions and to limit lawsuits.

In 2002, however, he surprised SCOTUS observers by opposing the court’s decision to outlaw executing the mentally disabled, despite the church’s rejection of the death penalty. The framers of the Constitution didn’t think capital punishment was unconstitutional and neither did he, he said, adding that judges who follow the philosophy that capital punishment is morally wrong should resign.

A longtime law professor before becoming a judge, Scalia frequently spoke at law schools and to other groups. Later in his tenure, he also spoke at length in on-the-record interviews, often to promote a book.

He betrayed no uncertainty about some of the most contentious legal issues of the day.

“The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state,” Scalia said during a talk that preceded a book signing at the American Enterprise Institute in 2012.

Scalia was in the court’s majority in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively decided the presidential election for Republican George W. Bush. “Get over it,” Scalia would famously say at speaking engagements in the ensuing years whenever the topic arose.

The justice relished a good fight. In 2004, when an environmental group asked him to step aside from a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney after reports that Scalia and Cheney hunted ducks together, the justice responded with a 21-page memorandum explaining his intention to hear the case. He said “the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined,” if people thought a duck-hunting trip could sway his vote.

Two years later, The Boston Herald reported that Scalia employed an obscene hand gesture while leaving a church in response to another question about his impartiality. Scalia penned a scathing letter to the newspaper, taking issue with the characterization. He explained that the gesture —the extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin — was dismissive, not obscene.

“From watching too many episodes of The Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene,” he said.

A smoker of cigarettes and pipes, Scalia enjoyed baseball, poker, hunting and playing the piano. He was an enthusiastic singer at court Christmas parties and other musical gatherings.

Born in New Jersey, he was the only child of an Italian immigrant father who was a professor of Romance languages and a mother who taught elementary school. He attended public schools, graduated first in his class at Georgetown University and won high honors at the Harvard University Law School. He taught law and served in Republican administrations before Reagan made him an appeals court judge in Washington in 1982. Scalia and his wife Maureen had nine children.

Scalia’s impact on the court was muted by his seeming disregard for moderating his views to help build consensus.

The friendship between Scalia and Ginsburg inspired the opera Scalia/Ginsburg by composer Derrick Wang. The two once appeared on stage as extras in a performance art the Washington Opera.

In one aria, the Scalia character rages about justices who see the Constitution evolving with society.

The operatic Scalia fumes: “The justices are blind. How can they spout this? The Constitution says absolutely nothing about this.”

The real-life Scalia certainly agreed.

Wisconsin’s year: Walker flames out, Ryan moves up, and more

A failed presidential bid, a new job for Rep. Paul Ryan and a capital city on edge were some of the most notable stories in Wisconsin in 2015. A look back at those and others:

SCOTT WALKER: The Republican governor spent the first half of the year hop-scotching across the country laying the foundation for his presidential run, visiting early primary states and courting Republican donors. He officially jumped into the race in July but floundered in a crowded field that included real estate mogul Donald Trump. Less than three months later, with poor poll numbers and the prospect of dwindling donor support, he was out.

PAUL RYAN: Wisconsin’s other national political figure found himself under pressure to take over as House speaker after John Boehner abruptly announced plans to quit the job. Ryan appeared to want nothing to do with the job before relenting and being elected in October.

MADISON UNREST: The state’s capital city was on edge for weeks after Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old biracial man, died in a confrontation with a white police officer in his apartment building in March. Robinson’s death sparked waves of street protests, but District Attorney Ismael Ozanne ultimately decided that no charges were warranted against Officer Matt Kenny.

WISCONSIN DRIVERS: The state’s drivers got the green light to hit the gas _ on some roads, anyway —J after Walker signed a bill giving state transportation officials the power to bump the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 in some places.

JOHN DOE INVESTIGATION: For nearly three years Walker endured ugly headlines as the state Government Accountability Board and Milwaukee prosecutors pursued a John Doe investigation _ a procedure similar to a grand jury proceeding where information is tightly controlled _ into whether his 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside conservative groups on issue ads. The state Supreme Court finally halted the probe in July, ruling such coordination is legal. Three months later, Walker signed a bill prohibiting prosecutors from using the John Doe against politicians.

YOUTH PRISON INVESTIGATION: The state Department of Justice was asked late in the year to examine allegations of misconduct at the facilities that house youth prisoners in Irma. Allegations at Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills School include sexual assaults, physical confrontations and child neglect. A top corrections official and the Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills superintendent were relieved of their duties.

MILWAUKEE ARCHDIOCESE BANKRUPTCY: A federal bankruptcy judge approved a reorganization plan for Milwaukee’s Roman Catholic archdiocese in November that called for distributing $21 million to hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims. The plan splits most of the money among 355 people. Another group of 104 people will get about $2,000 each. Archbishop Jerome Listecki apologized to victims in court shortly before Judge Susan Kelley approved the plan, saying he believes the archdiocese has turned a corner.

TOMAH VA MEDICAL CENTER: Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Medical Center Chief of Staff David Houlihan was put on leave in January while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigated allegations of overprescribing narcotic pain medications and retaliatory behavior at the Tomah facility. In August the VA’s inspector general said deficiencies in care led to the death of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski in 2014. Houlihan was fired in October, a month after the center’s director, Mario DeSanctis, was dismissed.

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM: A tough year for the UW system included a $250 million budget cut and a tuition freeze. State lawmakers also removed tenure protections for UW professors from state law, though system regents were considering restoration of some protections in a process expected to last into the spring.

LABOR UNIONS: Not a good year here, either, as Walker signed a bill making Wisconsin a right-to-work state. That means workers can’t be required to join a union or pay union dues, a change likely to erode membership. The state AFL-CIO is suing, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: The NBA team is getting a shiny new $500 million arena, with taxpayers committed to half that under a bill signed by Walker. The new building may open for the 2018-19 season.

SUPREME COURT UPHEAVAL: Longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson was bounced from that post by the court’s conservative majority after voters approved an amendment letting the justices pick their chief rather than going by seniority. Justice Pat Roggensack was made the new chief. Separately, 77-year-old Justice Patrick Crooks died in his chambers in September, giving Walker an opening to appoint conservative-backed Rebecca Bradley to finish his term. She’ll have the advantage of incumbency in the spring election for a full 10-year term.

MARTY BEIL: The often brusque leader of the Wisconsin state employee labor union died in October at age 68. Beil was the face of the union for years and was at the center of the losing fight against Walker’s signature public union restrictions.

RUSS FEINGOLD’S RETURN: After losing the U.S. Senate seat he’d held for 18 years to Republican Ron Johnson in 2010, the Democrat announced in May that he would run against Johnson in 2016.

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Colorado gunman: ‘No more baby parts’

“No more baby parts.”

Those were the words terrorist Robert Lewis Dear spoke to a law-enforcement official on Nov. 28 shortly after he was taken into custody for allegedly staging a long and deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic.

The official could not elaborate about the comment and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Afer a long, brutal standoff on a snowy afternoon during which portions of Colorado Springs were on lockdown, those words seemed to answer at least one question about the incident in which 12 citizens and police officers were shot and three, including a police officer, killed: Why?

Witnesses to the shooting have also told media sources and Planned Parenthood staff that the shooter was clearly motivated by opposition to choice.

At a vigil held at All Souls Unitarian Church on the evening of the shootings, the Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit and promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart also said that all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Demonstrating the divisiveness of the issue even in friendly territory, after Cowart’s remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a “political statement” and left.

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, like virtually all of the group’s clinics, has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

A Roman Catholic priest who’s held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, distanced himself from Dear, saying that he wasn’t part of his group. “I don’t know him from Adam,” said Rev. Bill Carmody. “I don’t recognize him at all.”

The public might learn more about Dear’s motives on Monday, when he makes his first court appearance. Officially, police have not yet presented a motive to the public, although it seemed obvious. As Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers put it, people can make “inferences from where (the shooting) took place.”

Planned Parenthood has been under increased physical and verbal attacks since July, when an undercover video released by anti-choice activists appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. It was later determined that the video had been misleadingly edited. The truth is that the group only recouped preservation and shipping charges for fetal tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science, which is legal. Since the controversy, however, Planned Parenthood has taken the extra step of no longer recouping costs but rather paying the associated costs on its own.

Dears’ comment about “baby parts” likely refers to the controversial video.

Fetal tissue research has been responsible for some of the greatest medical treatment achievements of the last several decades, including the development of a polio vaccine.

In the wake of the killings, David Daleiden, who heads the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the manipulated videotapes of Planned Parenthood, said he opposed the violence.

“The Center for Medical Progress condemns the barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman. We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” Daleiden said in a statement.

No wrongdoing

Multiple investigations in red states have uncovered no wrongdoing on PP’s part in charging storage and transportation fees for fetal tissue. But that hasn’t stopped politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates, from invoking the tapes often on the campaign trail in an effort to draw the support of fundamentalist Christian voters, who likely will determine the winner of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses in Iowa in February.

Demonizing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood has become a sure-fire way to inspire cheers and applause at conservative Republican events.

Eager to get in on that action, Republicans in Congress, who have a 9 percent approval rating among their own party’s voters, staged a Congressional hearing on the tapes to rally conservative support. That investigation, too, found no wrongdoing.

“We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.”

Following the shooting, Ted Cruz was the first GOP presidential candidate to offer condolences to the loved ones of the victims.  

At a campaign stop, Cruz responded angrily to a reporter’s question linking Dear with the anti-choice movement, according to the Texas Tribune

“It’s also been reported that (Dear) was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist,” Cruz shot back. “If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

Cruz is heavily backed by some of the nation’s most extreme anti-choice activists.

Ironically, although Cruz took exception to what he called attempts by the left to use the shooting to taint all abortion foes, he and others on the right have pointed to the terrorist attacks in Paris to denounce President Obama’s plans to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the United States — despite the lack of evidence that any Syrians participated in those attacks.

In recent months, as right-wing candidates and officials have tried to make political gains off the discredited tapes, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide. In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue suggested that all the anti-choice rhetoric quoted recently in the media and on display at GOP presidential debates and appearances was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

Since September, there have been four attempted arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, three of which have caused significant damage.

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

AP contributed to this report.

Response to the shooting from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

To those who go to unimaginable extremes to close our doors:

We deplore your violence.

We reject your threats.

We fight your legislation to limit reproductive rights and health care in every corner of our country.

We believe your actions and words hurt women — whether by making it impossible to seek health care or by creating a climate of disrespect and hostility that fosters extremist violence.

We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients. The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.

We aren’t going anywhere. Planned Parenthood has been here for nearly 100 years, and we will keep being here as long as women, men, and young people need health care with dignity.

To those who go to shocking extremes to close our doors, know this:

These doors stay open.

Click here to contribute to Planned Parenthood

See also Gunman had been charged with animal cruelty, domestic abuse



Religious freedom fights are not going away

Conservative faith leaders who have made religious liberty a rallying cry as gay marriage spread throughout the U.S. have been stunned by Indiana’s abrupt retreat from a law some advocates said would protect objectors from recognizing same-sex unions.

But these religious conservatives are vowing to press on with their push for conscience protections — a drive that gained momentum several years ago when they saw their beliefs on marriage, abortion and other issues increasingly in the minority.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who leads the religious liberty committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops’ goals have not changed following the uproar this week in Indiana and to a lesser degree Arkansas.

“Individual or family-owned businesses as well as religious institutions should have the freedom to serve others consistent with their faith,” Lori said in a statement.

Similarly, the Rev. Russell Moore, who leads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “We have to continue to press for religious liberty for everybody regardless of how unpopular that concept might be.”

Still, Tim Schultz, president of the First Amendment Partnership, which works with religious groups and state lawmakers on religious liberty, said after this week’s controversy over religious freedom, “the brand has definitely been tarnished.”

The governors of Indiana and Arkansas signed bills hoping to quiet the national outcry over whether the laws offered a legal defense for discrimination against gays. In Arkansas, the changes more closely aligned the bill with the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Indiana law was amended to bar discrimination and prohibit social service providers from using the law as a legal defense for refusing service to the public. Liberal religious groups had been among those condemning the laws.

Religious liberty was once an issue that consistently united groups across the political and theological spectrum. But religious conservatives came to adopt religious freedom as a call to arms, as they found themselves more and more on the losing side of the culture wars.

A decade ago, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm in Washington, convened legal scholars from across the ideological divide on gay marriage to examine potential areas where religious freedom and gay rights might clash.

Protections for worship are secure under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But complications arise when faith-affiliated organizations, such as charities, hospitals and schools, try to maintain their religious identity even as large employers of people from all faiths and providers of services to the public.

A coalition of evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders later pledged civil disobedience to government laws they said would compel them to violate their views.

By 2011, the Catholic bishops’ conference had formed its own religious liberty committee and started organizing rallies and prayer services around the issue. The same year, the 1st Amendment Partnership was formed to work with state lawmakers.

The movement had its greatest victory to date last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and other closely held businesses with religious objections could opt out of providing the contraceptive coverage required by the Affordable Care Act.

But that win prompted a liberal backlash, and public opinion against religious exemptions hardened, especially when it came to legalizing gay marriage.

Conflicts over protections for religious objectors had been a part of every statehouse debate over legalizing gay marriage. In New York, same-sex marriage became law in 2011 only after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s top two legislators struck an 11th-hour compromise on protections for religious objectors.

But when gay marriage increasingly became recognized by courts instead of legislatures, religious conservatives needed another means to seek conscience protections. Lawmakers in several states turned to the laws known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, which states had been adopting one-by-one since 1997, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal version of the law did not apply to states.

But many church-state experts say the laws have been badly misrepresented amid this week’s turmoil. Legal scholars say the law would not provide blanket protection for religious objectors to gay marriage, as some advocates claimed. Religious Freedom Restoration Acts give people a chance to bring a religious liberty claim before a judge, who then decides on the merits.

“Those folks who wanted to clutch onto these laws as a way to hold onto the past or stave off gay rights misunderstood what these laws would do,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois Law School.

Casual quips by pope put Vatican on alert

Pope Francis has grabbed headlines with his off-the-cuff homilies, crowd-pleasing one-liners and lengthy interviews during which he has pontificated on everything from the church’s “obsession” with rules to how he won’t judge gays. But his chattiness has gotten him into some trouble, and the Vatican has gone into damage-control mode to clarify, correct or put his comments into context. Here’s a look at some of Francis’ more eyebrow-raising comments, and the efforts by the Vatican’s spin doctors to address them.

DID FRANCIS REALLY CONSIDER TURNING DOWN THE JOB?

In an interview with the Rome daily La Repubblica, editor Eugenio Scalfari quoted the pope as saying he was “seized by a great anxiety” moments after his election and asked the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel to give him a few minutes time to think things over.

“To make it go away and relax, I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows,” he was quoted as saying. “At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting.” The pope was quoted as saying he signed the acceptance form and went out on the balcony to be introduced to the world as Pope Francis.

But the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who helps with Vatican media relations, later said the interview didn’t reflect Francis’ real words. He said Scalfari neither recorded the conversation nor took notes, reconstructing the conversation from memory and printing it as a verbatim interview. The Vatican doesn’t dispute the overall thrust of the interview, which Scalfari said he submitted to Francis for review and which the Vatican newspaper reprinted verbatim. But Rosica said the purported “mystical” experience recounted by Repubblica after the election didn’t happen, though Francis himself has said previously and in public that “I didn’t want to be pope.”

CAN ATHEISTS BE SAVED?

One of the novelties introduced by Francis has been his daily 7 a.m. Mass in the Vatican hotel, to which groups and individuals are invited. Francis delivers homilies each day, the contents of which are summarized by Vatican Radio. On May 22, he caused no shortage of confusion when he suggested that even atheists could find salvation.

According to church teaching, the Catholic Church holds the “fullness of the means of salvation” – a message that has long been taken to mean that only Catholics can find salvation. But in his homily, Francis said: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! `Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”

Rosica issued a lengthy “explanatory note” a few days later after being inundated with questions about whether Francis was changing church doctrine on salvation. He noted that church teaching also holds that “those who through no fault of their own” don’t know about Jesus but seek God and try to do his will can also attain eternal salvation.

“Always keep in mind the audience and context of Pope Francis’ homilies,” Rosica cautioned. “His words are not spoken in the context of a theological faculty or academy nor in interreligious dialogue or debate. He speaks in the context of Mass.”

SHOULD THE VATICAN BANK BE SAVED?

On April 24, Francis invited members of the Vatican bank to join him for Mass in the hotel. The Institute for Religious Works, as the bank is known, has been plagued by scandals – most recently over the arrest of a Vatican monsignor on charges he tried to smuggle some 20 million euro ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland without declaring it at customs.

Given the scandals, the arrival of a reform-minded, non-nonsense pope has prompted a flurry of speculation that Francis might shut the bank down. So imagine the headlines that followed his April 24 homily, when he lamented how the church can sometimes become too bureaucratic, too much like an aid group, and that bureaucracies are necessary up to a point.

“The church isn’t an NGO, it’s a story of love,” Francis told the bank’s staff in the pews. “But there are the IOR folks here, excuse me, OK? Everything is necessary, offices are necessary, OK, but they’re only necessary up to a certain point: as a help to this story of love. But when the organization loses this primary place, when the love is gone, the poor church becomes an NGO. And this isn’t the way to go.”

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, under secretary of the Vatican secretariat of state, told the Vatican newspaper a few days later that Francis was by no means hinting that he might shut down the Vatican bank.

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SAID WHAT?

Sometimes, Francis’ one-liners don’t warrant Vatican clarification, but they’re worth repeating simply because they came from the lips of the Successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church:

– Francis urged the church to “strip” itself of its worldy attachment to wealth during his Oct. 4 trip to Assisi and focus instead on the basics of Christ’s teachings. “You might say, `Can’t we have a more human Christianity, without the cross, without Jesus, without stripping ourselves?'” he asked rhetorically. “In this way we’d become pastry-shop Christians, like a pretty cake and nice sweet things. Pretty, but not true Christians.”

– Francis was asked June 7 why he chose to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the fancier Apostolic Palace where his predecessors lived. “If I was living alone, isolated, it wouldn’t be good for me,” he told students of Jesuit schools. “A professor asked me the same question, `Why don’t you go and live there (in the papal apartments)’? And I replied: `Listen to me professor, it is for psychiatric reasons.'”

– The pope has urged nuns and sisters to be like joyful mothers to the church, caring for its flock, and not act like they’re “old maids.” “It makes me sad when I find sisters who aren’t joyful,” he lamented during his Oct. 4 visit to a cloistered convent in Assisi. “They might smile, but with just a smile they could be flight attendants!”

Given Francis’ wry sense of humor and willingness to regularly ditch speeches prepared for him, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he wants the faithful to know the difference between a pontifical joke and an encyclical, a clever quip in a homily and infallible teaching.

“There are different genres of expression, some are magisterial and official, others are more pastoral,” Lombardi told The Associated Press. “They have a different doctrinal value.”

Anti-gay Austrian priest barred from preaching Easter Mass

Austria’s Roman Catholic church is forbidding a priest from preaching to his flock at Easter Mass because of his comments against gays and Muslims.

The move comes after the priest, Karl Tropper, described homosexuality as “perverse,” in a recent newspaper interview.

He has also described Islam as “pure racism.”

Spokesman Georg Plank of Austria’s south eastern Graz-Seckau diocese said that Tropper, 75, has repeatedly used an “unacceptably simplistic and inciting tone” about homosexuality and Islam.

He adds that this can no longer be explained away to the “obstinacy of old age.”

Plank also notes Tropper will be pensioned Aug. 31.

Catholic Church official’s meth business resembled TV’s ‘Breaking Bad’

To onlookers, Monsignor Kevin Wallin’s fall from grace at his Connecticut parish was like something out of “Breaking Bad,” the television series about a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a methamphetamine lord.

The suspended Roman Catholic priest was arrested on federal drug charges this month for allegedly having methamphetamine mailed to him from co-conspirators in California and making more than $300,000 in drugs sales out of his apartment in Waterbury in the second half of last year.

Along the way, authorities said, he bought a small adult video and sex toy shop in the nearby town of North Haven named “Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place,” apparently to launder all the money he was making. He has pleaded not guilty, and jury selection in his trial is scheduled to begin March 21.

On social media sites, people couldn’t help but compare Wallin with Walter White, the main character on “Breaking Bad” who was making so much cash that he and his wife bought a car wash to launder their profits. He has also been dubbed in some media as “Monsignor Meth.”

Wallin, 61, was the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nine years until he resigned in June 2011, citing health and personal problems. He previously served six years as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Danbury until 2002.

He was granted a sabbatical in July 2011. The Diocese of Bridgeport suspended him from public ministry last May.

Diocesan officials become concerned about Wallin in the spring of 2011 after complaints about his appearance and erratic behavior, diocese spokesman Brian Wallace told the Connecticut Post.

Some reports of his behavior were startling.

“We became aware that he was acting out sexually — with men — in the church rectory,” Wallace told the newspaper, adding that church officials deemed the sexual behavior unbecoming of a priest and asked Wallin to resign.

Wallace didn’t return several messages left by The Associated Press.

“News of Monsignor Kevin Wallin’s arrest comes with a sense of shock and concern on the part of the diocese and the many people of Fairfield County who have known him as a gifted, accomplished and compassionate priest,” the diocese said in a statement on Jan. 16 after learning about Wallin’s arrest. “We ask for prayers for Monsignor Wallin during the difficult days ahead for him.”

Wallin’s arrest called attention to larger problems within the church, said Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, one of many local chapters of the lay organization formed in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

“Catholics have to ask whether the mandatory obligation of celibacy imposes a harmful burden on priests and whether women ought to be admitted to the priesthood,” the group said in a statement. “The steady decline in the number of priests, the aging of priests, the terrible sin of pedophilia among priests, and the downfall of Monsignor Wallin are all signs of a sickness in the priesthood. It is time to seek a remedy for this awful malady that threatens the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life.”

Elizabeth Badjan, a member of the St. Augustine congregation, told The New York Times that Wallin needed the prayers of parishioners.

“This is all the work of evil,” she said as she left Mass last weekend. “He was not close enough to God. He was tempted by the devil.”

Wallin’s case has drawn comparisons to that of the Rev. Ted Haggard, a well-known evangelical megachurch pastor in Colorado who was forced out of his job in 2006 after a male escort alleged Haggard had paid him for sex and bought crystal meth.

Federal agents arrested Wallin on Jan. 3, and a grand jury indicted him and four other people on drug charges on Jan. 15. All are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, a crime that carries 10 years to life in prison upon conviction.

Wallin is also charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Last July, Drug Enforcement Administration agents in New York told agents in the New Haven office that there was an unidentified Connecticut-based drug trafficker distributing methamphetamine in the region. Two months later, an informant told the DEA that the trafficker was Wallin, according to an affidavit by agent Jay Salvatore in New Haven.

The Connecticut Statewide Narcotics Task Force was also investigating Wallin.

Authorities said an undercover officer with the state task force bought methamphetamine from Wallin six times from Sept. 20 to Jan. 2, paying more than $3,400 in total for 23 grams of the drug.

Federal agents also say they learned through wiretaps and informants about other sales Wallin was making.

Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein said federal and state authorities worked together in “the dismantling of what we allege was a significant methamphetamine distribution organization that spanned from California to Connecticut.”

Also charged in the case were Kenneth Devries, 52, of Waterbury; Michael Nelson, 40, of Manchester; Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente, Calif.; and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel, Calif. Authorities say McCluskey and Laschober were involved in the shipping of methamphetamine to Wallin.

Messages by the AP were left lawyers for Wallin, McCluskey and Laschober. Wallin is being detained without bail at the Bridgeport Correctional Center, state records show.

 

US nuns consider response to Vatican censure

At a pivotal national meeting, members of the largest group for U.S. nuns have been weighing whether they should accept or challenge a Vatican order to reform what it called their “certain radical feminist themes.”

The national assembly is the first since a Vatican review concluded the Roman Catholic sisters had tolerated dissent about the all-male priesthood, birth control and homosexuality, while remaining nearly silent in the fight against abortion. Officials at the Holy See want a full-scale overhaul of the organization under the authority of U.S. bishops.

The 900 sisters at this week’s meeting “are asking God to show us to the next best step we can take,” said Sister Mary Waskowiak, director of development for the Mercy International Association. The executives of the group have called the Vatican report flawed.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 American sisters. The rebuke from the Holy See, issued in April, prompted an outpouring of support for the sisters nationwide, including protests outside the Vatican embassy in Washington. A spokeswoman for the nuns group said they had received more than 1,500 cards from supporters from around the world, some of which were placed on tables at the meeting.

“Thank you for all you do to support the needy and underserved in our world,” read one.

“Have courage! It doesn’t have to be this way,” read another.

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, began its review of the organization in 2008, following years of complaints from theological conservatives that the nuns group had become secular and political while abandoning traditional faith.

After the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, many religious sisters shed their habits and traditional roles as they sought to more fully engage the modern world. The nuns focused increasingly on Catholic social justice teaching, such as fighting poverty and advocating for civil rights, but insisted they had kept prayer and Christ central to their work.

Vatican investigators praised the nuns’ humanitarian efforts but said the conference had “serious doctrinal problems” and promoted “certain radical feminist themes” that undermine Catholic teaching. Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been appointed along with two other American bishops to oversee rewriting the groups’ statutes, reviewing its plans and programs and ensuring the group properly follows Catholic ritual.

The sisters face a limited range of options for how they can respond, given that their organization was created by the Vatican. The president of the nuns group, Sister Pat Farrell, was expected to make an announcement as the meeting ends. She has indicated in her public remarks this week that the sisters may not formulate a definitive response.

Sister Mary Rose, a Connecticut nun for 51 years, believes the nuns can resolve their disagreements with church leaders.

“I think we probably have differing perspectives. We come from a lived experience that is different,” she said. “But I think we have the same goal in mind, which is the following of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced the spirit will lead all of us.”

Major study finds gay priests are not to blame for Catholic pedophilia scandal

Researchers commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. to analyze the pattern of clergy sex abuse have concluded that homosexuality, celibacy and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal.

The study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York instead said that the problem was largely the result of poor seminary training and insufficient emotional support for men ordained in the 1940s and 1950s, who were not able to withstand the social upheaval they confronted as pastors in the 1960s. Crime and other deviant behavior increased overall in the United States during this period, when the rate of abuse by priests was climbing.

“The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally,” the report’s authors said. “Factors that were invariant during the time period addressed, such as celibacy, were not responsible for the increase or decline in abuse cases over this time.”

Victims’ groups dismissed the report as an attempt to focus blame for the scandal on priests, instead of on bishops who allowed offenders to stay in ministry without warning parents or police. “They want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops,” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement.

The report is the third study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, when the abuse crisis erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston and caused what church leaders have called the deepest crisis in American Catholicism.

The scandal has cost U.S. dioceses nearly $3 billion and has spread to Europe and beyond. Just this week, Vatican officials instructed bishops worldwide to develop discipline policies for abusive priests within a year.

The debate over why priest-abusers were kept in ministry in the U.S. often fell along ideological lines. Liberals blamed mandatory celibacy or the lack of women in the church hierarchy, while conservatives blamed gay priests, since the overwhelming majority of known victims were boys.

The John Jay researchers, however, said that the offenders chose to victimize boys mainly because clergy had greater access to them. The study notes that gay men began enrolling in seminaries in larger numbers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when the rate of abuse was declining.

The authors, in findings first reported by Religion News Service, said they found “no single cause” of child sex abuse by priests and no “psychological characteristics” or “developmental histories” that distinguished guilty priests from clergy who did not molest children.

Although the victims studied by the researchers were all minors, the authors said only a tiny percentage of accused priests – less than 5 percent – could be technically defined as pedophiles. The John Jay researchers define pedophile as an adult with an intense sexual attraction to prepubescent children. However, victim advocates have disputed that classification by age, since boys ages 11 to 14 were the largest group of known victims, which could include children who had not yet gone through adolescence. The American Psychiatric Association defines pedophilia as attraction to children, usually age 13 or younger.

According to previous studies conducted by John Jay and other surveys commissioned by the bishops, U.S. dioceses have received abuse claims from more than 15,700 people against about 6,000 clerics since 1950. Abuse cases peaked in the 1970s, then began declining sharply in 1985, as the bishops and society general gained awareness about molestation and its impact on children, the study said.

Dioceses reported that nearly all of the allegations they received were reported after 2002 in response to intense news coverage of the problem and after child victims gained courage as adults to come forward. John Jay researchers said this means that the bishops were not aware of the true scope of the problem until then, an assertion victims’ groups say is naive.

Critics argue the study cannot be trusted since the raw data was provided by the bishops.

In February, a Philadelphia grand jury alleged that the local archdiocese kept 37 credibly accused clergy in public ministry, despite repeated pledges by the nation’s bishops that no offenders would stay on duty. In response, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali suspended about two dozen clergy and hired a former prosecutor to review the cases. Ana Maria Catanzaro, the head of the Philadelphia review board, which was formed to advise bishops on abuse cases, said last week that the archdiocese had “failed miserably at being open and transparent” and had kept some cases from the board.

“What Philadelphia does is reveal the flaws in the process,” said Ann Barrett Doyle of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, which is compiling a public database of all records related to the scandal.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops’ conference, said church leaders fully cooperated with the $1.8 million study, which was funded by the bishops, Catholic foundations, individual donors and a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Dioceses have spent tens of millions of dollars since 2002 on child safety programs that include background checks for people who work with children and training for adults and children to identify abuse.

“John Jay was chosen to do the study because of its independence from the church,” Walsh said. “John Jay was free to consult whomever they wanted and they did so.”