Thanksgiving message from SNAP — Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

November 26, 2015

SNAP is the engine that makes the Movement go and grow.


Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015


I hope you and your loved ones have a very Happy Thanksgiving.


Please notice my new email address: frankjdouglas@gmail.com





November 23, 2015




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The Islamic State: is it Isis, Isil – or possibly Daesh?

November 21, 2015


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The Islamic State: is it Isis, Isil – or possibly Daesh?

  • What should you call the terrifying organisation that beheads hostages and massacres its opponents? Here we explain a political and lingusitic minefield

     A member of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant. Photograph: Reuters

    Ian Black


    Sunday 21 September 2014 13.00 EDTLast modified on Tuesday 27 January 201507.52 EST


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    The Islamic State – aka Isis (in current Guardian house style) – is a scary and much-discussed phenomenon, erasing borders, conquering vast areas of Iraq and Syria, massacring its enemies and beheading hostages in slick snuff and propaganda videos. Barack Obama calls it Isil. David Cameron loyally follows suit. Others refer to Isis or IS. Now Francois Hollande has renamed it Daesh. Confused as to how to negotiate this linguistic and political minefield? You might well be.

    This terminological conflict has deep historic and cultural roots. The group originated in 1999 as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad – quite a mouthful. It got simpler in 2004 when its founder, a Jordanian called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pledged an oath to al-Qaida, then still being run by Osama bin Laden from his Pakistani hideout. Its Arabic name became Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (don’t ask!) – though that was shortened in English to al-Qaida in Iraq.

    But then it got more complicated. In 2006, under a man who now calls himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it morphed into the Islamic State in Iraq (Isi). In April 2013, two years into the uprising against Bashar al-Assad, Isi bigged itself up as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Al Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham) and declared a Caliphate – a state for all Muslims. Al-Sham is the historic Arabic name for Syria, Lebanon, and (according to some authorities) Jordan and Palestine. This area is known in English (thanks to the antiquated French phrase for the “lands of the rising sun”) as the Levant. Isis is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Isil is theIslamic State in Iraq and the Levant: thus the moniker in Obama’s and Cameron’s briefing books. It’s the same transatlantic solidarity that had London and Washington referring to UBL (Usama Bin Laden) when everyone else used the more familiar OBL (Osama).

    Opponents of the term Islamic State say it is neither Islamic nor a state: thus the suggestion of a group of British imams to Cameron that he use the expression “Un-Islamic State.” In a similar legitimacy-undermining vein Egypt’s leading Islamic authority, Dar al-Ifta, urged the media to use the rather heavy-handed QSIS: “Al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria.”

    Daesh, now officially adopted by the French government, is the Arabic acronym for Al Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham, (though it should, to be precise, really be rendered as Da’ish). But why the change? It was never golng to be easy for the French EIIL (l’Etat islamique de l’Irak et du Levant) to supplant the more widely used English ISIL or ISIS (cf Nato vs Otan, EU vs UE). And it may, suggested one French blogger, have been chosen for its “sonorité péjorative” (dèche, douche,tache – to be broke, shower, spot). Hollande said he would be using the phrase “Daesh cutthroats”.

    IS supporters, in any case, dislike the term Daesh as it does not spell out the crucial Islamic component. In the words of Simon Collis, the British Ambassador to Iraq: “Arabic speakers spit out the name Da’ish with different mixtures of contempt, ridicule and hostility. Da’ish is always negative.” It’s certainly entered the ever-adaptive Arabic language big time: in the plural form – “daw’aish” – it means bigots who impose their views on others

Judge approves Milwaukee archdiocese’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy

November 11, 2015


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I thank Peter Isely for this link.

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Judge approves Milwaukee archdiocese’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki addresses a press conference at the Cousins Center in St. Francis, Wis., Jan. 4, 2011, after announcing that the archdiocese will file for Chapter 11 reorganization of its financial affairs under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. (CNS/Allen Fredrickson, Catholic Herald)

Marie Rohde  |  Nov. 10, 2015


It took less than two hours for a federal judge to approve a plan that will allow the Milwaukee archdiocese to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after nearly five years of legal battles.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki spoke briefly Nov. 9 in a courtroom packed with sexual abuse survivors and more than 20 lawyers. Listecki praised the abuse victims for coming forward, saying they had raised the consciousness of the archdiocese and elsewhere.

“There is no resolution that will bring back what they have lost,” said Listecki, adding that he hopes the confirmation of the plan will turn the corner for the archdiocese, allowing it to focus on charitable, educational and spiritual work. “When we have a strong church, we have a strong community.”

One survivor, Mark Atkinson, stood up in court and questioned why it took so long for the archdiocese to deal with the issue.

“I went to the archdiocese in 1993 and nothing changed until 2002,” Atkinson said, adding that the archdiocese was covering up the scores of allegations that had come forward. “Why did we have to wait until 2002?”

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Later, he told NCR that he is not convinced that the archdiocese is sincere. “They promise changes, but I don’t see them,” Atkinson said. “What happens if it gets covered up again?”

Clearly, many of the survivors who filed claims with the archdiocese were unhappy with the settlement. One of the men who were abused as a child, who wished to remain anonymous, put it this way: “A lot of people think it was about money. It was about justice and there was not justice in this courtroom.”

While the plan provides $21 million for victims, survivor and chairman of the creditors committee Charles Linneman said victims will only get about $14 million. Most, he said were represented by state court lawyers who have been working for years on a contingency basis—meaning they only get paid between 30 and 40 percent of what their clients receive in judgments or settlements.

Meanwhile, the bankruptcy lawyers representing both sides will get about $20 million. Another $4.5 million was paid to lawyers representing the controversial trust fund for the perpetual care of nine archdiocesan-owned cemeteries. Survivors say the actual amount paid in legal fees is about $32 million.

Of the 575 survivors, about 120 will receive $2,000 each; 336 will share what remains and the remainder will get nothing.* The archdiocese reviewed the claims and assigned them to the various categories, a procedure criticized in court by survivor Steven Schmidt.

While 93 percent of those in the group who will get larger settlements voted to approve the plan, only 61 percent of the group receiving the smaller amount approved it.

Related: Winners and losers in the Milwaukee archdiocese’s bankruptcy settlement

Initially, Schmidt—who was identified in court as P9 — was placed in the category of those who would receive nothing because he could not identify his abuser by name. After Schmidt filed a formal objection with the court, the archdiocese identified his abuser.

Schmidt questioned how thoroughly the archdiocese had looked for unnamed offenders, thus denying some victims payment. Schmidt said someone other than the archdiocese should evaluate the claims.

“They knew who these offenders were and covered up their crimes,” Schmidt told NCR. “If you cover up the crime, you shouldn’t be allowed to investigate it.”

A dozen survivors gathered on the steps of the courthouse and vowed to continue their fight for justice.

Through an interpreter, three deaf men who were abused as children by a priest at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wis., said they asked Listecki to go to Rome with them and meet with the pope.

Peter Isely, the Midwest director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and one of the first Milwaukee victims to come forward more than 25 years ago, called the amount of money that the lawyers will receive “obscene.” He charged that about 100 priests named in the claims filed by victims remain unnamed by the archdiocese and called for an investigation of financial fraud, particularly that involving the transfer of some $57 million into a trust fund for the perpetual care of the archdiocese’s cemeteries.

In court, Francis LoCoco, a lawyer for the archdiocese, said his clients had followed the U.S. bishops’ Dallas Charter, relating to the handling of sex abuse cases. LoCoco said that all allegations had been sent to local prosecutors and, in the case of religious order priests, to their religious superiors.

“I expect one or more names [of abusers] will be added to the list,” he said.

As for the fraud allegations, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2011, but Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was named head of the New York archdiocese in 2009 and a cardinal in 2012, had been talking about the possibility of filing for bankruptcy as early as 2004.

The $57 million was moved from the general fund into a trust fund shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court opened the door to lawsuits against the church for “fraud”: The church could not be sued for the negligent supervision of its priests but it could be sued if it knew a priest was abusive and did nothing to warn potential victims, a fraudulent act.

Faced with several lawsuits poised for trial in state court in 2007 and perhaps dozens more in the wings, money was moved from the archdiocese’s general fund into the cemetery trust. Years later, thousands of pages of secret records were released by the bankruptcy judge, Susan V. Kelley.

Among those documents was a letter from Dolan to the Vatican in which he said, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability,” if the transfer were approved.

Dolan’s letter and the Vatican’s rapid approval of the plan made international headlines. In an editorial, The New York Times called the revelations “shocking.”

The issue of whether Dolan committed fraud when he moved the money will not likely be answered, according to legal experts who have been following the case. They said the $16 million contribution from the cemetery trust fund ($3 million of it in the form of a loan to the archdiocese) makes the issue moot.

“The whole idea of bankruptcy is to get rid of your debts and deal with the issues that put you in the position of having to file for bankruptcy,” said Ralph Anzivino, a Marquette Law School professor with expertise in bankruptcy. “Ultimately, the issue of fraud was never legally resolved. After the agreement, it was of no procedural value.”

Pamela Foohey, an associate professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, agreed but added that because the settlement includes some $16 million from the cemetery trust fund, $3 million of it a loan to the archdiocese, the money was included in the plan for settlement. “It is a completely appropriate and desired use of the [bankruptcy] process,” said Foohey.

Still, Isely and members of his group questioned why the U.S. trustee’s office didn’t act.

“It seems very clear to us that the trustee’s office was created and is mandated by Congress to ensure that no fraudulent or criminal acts occur before or during the course of Chapter 11,” said Isely. He asserted that the trust was created, in part, to prevent courts from compensating victims of clergy sex abuse.

“There seems to be sufficient evidence and justification, we believe, to warrant an investigation,” he said.

Michelle Cramer, a trial lawyer with the regional trustee’s office, was in court Nov. 9, as she has been for most of the hearing, but said nothing. Her boss, David Asbach, confirmed that he met with Isely and others from the group but said he could not comment on the case or on whether he made a referral to the U.S. Attorneys Office for prosecution.

The transfer of the money was unusual, said Jack Ruhl, a professor of accountancy at Western Michigan University who has extensively studied Catholic diocesan finances. He told NCR that he’s never seen a “reclassification” of funds like this one, although one California bishop was scolded by a bankruptcy judge for not being forthcoming with financial data, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese had renamed a fund, making it the property of parishes, before filing for bankruptcy.

“It probably has been done in the past in other dioceses, but it’s hard to detect,” Ruhl said. “They don’t have to release any financial data and what is released is not useful.”

Ruhl also said the lack of information on how the Milwaukee archdiocese arrived at the amount of money needed for the perpetual care of the cemeteries was not transparent. “I found no explanation in the court documents for how they arrived at that number,” he said.

He also attempted to get financial information on 1,900 Catholic cemeteries in the country on operational costs and how much was set aside for future care. “Only one or two had budgets and those were not very helpful,” he said.

In court Nov. 9, the judge asked lawyers to make final changes to the proposed order and said she would sign it.

[Marie Rohde is a frequent NCR contributor.]

*The number of survivors who will receive nothing from the settlement was inaccurate in an earlier version of this story.


Review: In ‘Spotlight,’ The Boston Globe Digs Up the Catholic Church’s Dirt

November 6, 2015


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I’m happy to see that the New York Times gave Spotlight a good review.


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Review: In ‘Spotlight,’ The Boston Globe Digs Up the Catholic Church’s Dirt


  • NYT Critics’ Pick

Spotlight” captures the finer grain of newsroom life. Credit Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films

“The city flourishes when its great institutions work together,” says the cardinal to the newspaper editor during a friendly chat in the rectory. The city in question is Boston. The cardinal is Bernard F. Law and the editor, newly arrived at The Boston Globe from The Miami Herald, is Martin Baron. He politely dissents from the cardinal’s vision of civic harmony, arguing that the paper should stand alone.

Their conversation, which takes place early in “Spotlight,” sets up the film’s central conflict. Encouraged by Baron, a small group of reporters at The Globe will spend the next eight months (and the next two hours) digging into the role of the Boston archdiocese in covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests. But the image of two prominent men talking quietly behind closed doors — Law is played with orotund charm by Len Cariou, Baron with sphinxlike self-containment by Liev Schreiber — haunts this somber, thrilling movie and crystallizes its major concern, which is the way power operates in the absence of accountability. When institutions convinced of their own greatness work together, what usually happens is that the truth is buried and the innocent suffer. Breaking that pattern of collaboration is not easy. Challenging deeply entrenched, widely respected authority can be very scary.

Directed by Tom McCarthy from a script he wrote with Josh Singer and based closely on recent history, “Spotlight” is a gripping detective story and a superlative newsroom drama, a solid procedural that tries to confront evil without sensationalism. Taking its name from the investigative team that began pursuing the sex-abuse story in 2001, the film focuses on both the human particulars and the larger political contours of the scandal and its uncovering.

We spend most of our time with the Spotlight staff. Their supervising editor, Walter Robinson (known as Robby and played by an extra-flinty Michael Keaton), has a classically blunt, skeptical newsman style, but he’s also part of Boston’s mostly Roman Catholic establishment. He rubs shoulders with an unctuous church P.R. guy (Paul Guilfoyle) and plays golf with a well-connected lawyer (Jamey Sheridan) who handled some of the archdiocese’s unsavory business. The reporters working for Robby — Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) — come from Catholic backgrounds, and have their own mixed feelings about what they’re doing.

Mr. McCarthy, who played a rotten reporter on the last season of “The Wire,” views journalists primarily through the lens of their work. He follows Pfeiffer as she interviews survivors, Rezendes as he wrangles a zealous lawyer (Stanley Tucci) and Carroll as he digs into long-hidden records, including articles buried in the newspaper’s archives. Though the film, like the Spotlight articles, avoids euphemism in discussing the facts of child rape, it also avoids exploitative flashbacks, balancing attention to individual cases with a sense of pervasive, invisible corruption. Baron urges the reporters to focus on the systemic dimensions of the story, and “Spotlight” does the same. As the number of victims and predators increases, and as it becomes clear that Law and others knew what was happening and protected the guilty, shock and indignation are replaced by a deeper sense of moral horror.

The outcome of the story may be well known, but Mr. McCarthy and his superb cast generate plenty of suspense along the way, and the idiosyncratic humanity of the reporters keeps the audience engaged and aware of the stakes. During the climactic montage — the presses humming, the papers stacked and baled, the trucks rumbling out into the morning light — my heart swelled and my pulse quickened, and not only because I have printer’s ink running through my veins. Journalists on film are usually portrayed as idealists or cynics, crusaders or parasites. The reality is much grayer, and more than just about any other film I can think of, “Spotlight” gets it right.

It captures the finer grain of newsroom life in the early years of this century almost perfectly, starting with a scene in which a retiring veteran is sent off with awkward speeches, forced laughter and dry cake. As the story unfolds, there are scenes of pale-skinned guys in pleated khakis and button-down oxfords gathering under fluorescent lights and ugly drop ceilings, spasms of frantic phone-calling and stretches of fidgety downtime. Not even the raffish presence of “Mad Men” bad-boy John Slattery can impart much glamour to these drab surroundings. Visually, the movie is about as compelling as a day-old coffee stain. As I said: almost perfect.

The Globe itself (owned by The New York Times Company when the film takes place) is shown to be an imperfect institution. The people who work inside it are decidedly fallible — as prone to laziness, confusion and compromise as anyone else. Before 2001 — with some exceptions, notably in the work of the columnist Eileen McNamara (played here in a few cursory scenes by Maureen Keiller) — the paper overlooked both the extent of the criminality in the local church and the evidence that the hierarchy knew what was going on. The Spotlight reporters and editors are pursuing a big, potentially career-making scoop. At the same time, they are atoning for previous lapses and trying to overcome the bureaucratic inertia that is as integral to the functioning of a newspaper as the zealous pursuit of the truth. “What took you so long?” is a question they hear more than once.

To use “Spotlight” as an occasion to wax nostalgic for the vanishing glory of print would be to miss the point. The movie celebrates a specific professional accomplishment and beautifully captures the professional ethos of journalism. It is also a defense of professionalism in a culture that increasingly holds it in contempt.

Mr. McCarthy is a solid craftsman. The actors are disciplined and serious, forgoing the table-pounding and speechifying that might more readily win them prizes from their peers. Everything in this movie works, which is only fitting, since its vision of heroism involves showing up in the morning and — whether inspired by bosses or in spite of them — doing the job.

“Spotlight” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Graphic descriptions of despicable acts; language not fit for print. Running time: 2 hours 7 minutes.




Email from Peter Isely: Voting on the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy settlement and attending the 11-9 final court hearing

October 29, 2015

Email from Peter Isely.

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Voting on the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy settlement and attending the 11-9 final court hearing


I have been hearing from a lot of you and there seems to be confusion and concern about those of you who want to vote “no” on the bankruptcy settlement plan for the Milwaukee Archdiocese.  Just to be clear what the lawyers have told me:  you CAN vote “no” to the plan if you want to voice your disagreement with how this bankruptcy has concluded and it WILL NOT affect any proposed settlement you will receive.  It’s mostly symbolic – the judge will likely approve the plan – but it still might be important for those of you who want to register your disapproval about the settlement terms, the compensation amounts, and other matters to vote “no”.  As always, check with your attorney if you have any questions.  I am not recommending here how you vote.  The votes have to be in by November 3rd.

ALSO, the final court date for the approval of the plan is November 9th. The hearing, which could be long, starts at 9:00 a.m. in Judge Kelley’s courtroom, 1st floor, Milwaukee Federal Courthouse, 517 E. Wisconsin Ave. Please make plans now for you , your family, and supporters to attend.  It is especially important that after the hearing, as we have done in the past, that survivors stand together and deliver a public message concerning the outcome of the bankruptcy, what this experience has been for us, and what still needs to be done to protect children.  This will be your last chance to be seen or heard by the judge.  It’s important that the judge sees as many of us as possible in the courtroom and into the hallways if necessary. Bring if you can your childhood photos. They are always a dramatic and moving visual demonstration of what this issue is about and the children we were when we were harmed.  Those children deserve to be seen and heard. They deserve justice.

Any questions, contact me.  It’s been an honor to stand with and fight and struggle together with each of you.

Peter Isely

SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee)