Whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger is NCR’s person of the year for 2013


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Editorial: 2013’s person of the year


Jennifer Haselberger (AP Photo/Minnesota Public Radio/Jennifer Simonson)

NCR Editorial Staff  |  Dec. 30, 2013

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It is a tale we have heard many times, too many times: Fr. James Spencer, testifying before Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said that in the 1990s and early 2000s when he was chancellor of the Brisbane archdiocese, he was concerned that the church’s response to victims of clergy sexual abuse wasn’t just. Priest perpetrators were going unpunished and lawyers were bullying victims.

“Did you ever say to the archbishop,” this isn’t right’?” the commission asked.

“I certainly inferred it,” Spence answered. “One doesn’t generally speak so directly to the archbishop. Perhaps one should.”

Indeed, one doesn’t generally speak so to the bishop, lord of his fiefdom, not if one wants to keep his job or advance in his career.

NCR has been reporting on the priest sex abuse crisis since 1984. It has been a soul-numbing experience, as we heard again and again of the pain of victims damaged by abuse and then re-victimized by bishops and chancery personnel and their lawyers who covered up abuse, stonewalled investigations and hid criminals “to protect the church,” as if the church were something other than its most vulnerable members. No, one doesn’t generally speak so to the archbishop, but thank God that some do.

Thank God for the courage of abuse survivors and the families of victims who will not let our bishops and leaders forget the abuse and their complicity in it. Thank God for activists who stand with survivors. But most of all, thank God for one very special class of people: the priests and church personnel who do stand up to their leaders and cry out for justice. People like Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle and former Benedictine Patrick Wall, who sacrificed promising ecclesiastical careers because they sided with the victims of abuse and not with those who would cover it up. Thank God for the recently formed Catholic Whistleblowers, a group of mainly priests and religious women, Catholic insiders dedicated to fighting the scourge of sex abuse and its cover-up.

Finally thank God for Jennifer Haselberger. Haselberger, who holds a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, became chancellor of canonical affairs for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese in 2008. She had held a similar post in the Fargo, N.D., diocese. In St. Paul-Minneapolis, she reviewed the archdiocese’s records and archives and discovered unreported allegations of clergy sex abuse and lapses in investigations (NCR, Oct. 25-Nov. 7.)

“I was not prepared for this disregard for the requirements of canon law, nor for what appeared to be an equal disregard for civil law, especially in regard to the obligation to report to the civil authorities,” Haselberger told NCR.

She repeatedly took her concerns to Archbishop John Nienstedt, but they were ignored and rebuffed. Haselberger, 38, resigned her position in April 2013, saying she found it impossible to continue, knowing that such reckless disdain for the law and the U.S. bishops’ own procedures still existed and that her efforts to rectify them had proved futile. So, she alerted law officials and the media. These public revelations have resulted in resignations of key archdiocesan personnel, a public review of how the archdiocese handles abuse allegations, and several police investigations.

Haselberger says she draws inspiration from a phrase she learned as an undergraduate student at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul: “Be loving critics and critical lovers of the institutional church.”

And that is why Jennifer Haselberger is NCR’s person of the year for 2013.

This story appeared in the Jan 3-16, 2014 print issue.


    11 Responses to “Whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger is NCR’s person of the year for 2013”

  1. Augusta Wynn Says:

    Jennifer Haselberger: the real reason they won’t ordain women. A woman of substance would NEVER let these bishops get away with covering up for sexual violence against kids.


  2. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Congratulation Ms. Haselberger! Thank you for a job well done! VIVA!

  3. ClevelandGirl Says:

    You go Girl!!!! We need thousands more like Jennifer with the intelligence, courage, credentials, position, and power to take down the bastards.

    Note the fugly comments on the NCR thread. People referring to her “running down the halls screaming” and such. If she had male parts, would she be referred to as “screaming”? No, of course not. Only “shrill” “shrieking” “harpy” “unbalanced” “disgruntle” WOMEN scream. People with male parts supposedly do not. Note the *extreme* misogyny being directed at her because she’s a *woman* who called their bluff. She’s being accused by the misogynists of making stuff up, lying, fantasizing, and all other terms of deception hurled at women who speak the TRUTH to power merely because they are women and lack male genital parts. She can’t possibly know truth from lies because she lacks a penis (and needs to be medicated until she becomes a zombie for her uppity attitude because she can’t possibly be sane for lacking a penis), the auxiliary brain that men rely on because their primary brain is clearly inferior to the one good one that women have. And we all know the direction men’s “little brain” leads them — rape, violence, and total lack of accountability. Women are better with one brain than men are with two!

    I’m sure Jennifer, with her background as an attorney who *knows the law*, would not have made any groundless claims whatsoever and that she has *evidence* to back up each and every thing she says. EVERYTHING.

  4. Thomas Says:

    Of course she is believable…isn’t it the truth that we are after anyway? Who cares who has a penis or doesn’t have a penis…competence is competence…and the truth never changes regardless of the presenter. Maybe RomanCatholicWomenPriests could use her…they are open to new blood…. Hierarchy is going into and down the toilet, and there isn’t a plumber that will be able to open up that septic tank. It is the lies that have destroyed their credibility and reputations….they are sewer bound.

  5. ClevelandGirl Says:

    Yes, truth is truth, however, the propaganda machines make specific use of gender to establish credibility. Women are not considered credible and men are by our patriarchal society. When a woman reports being raped, she’s always a lying whore who “asked for it”, “hysterical”, “vindictive”, “dresses slutty”, etc. When a man reports a rape, at worst he’s after money or maybe he’s a substance abuser, but he’s never vilified or discredited for having certain stereotypical traits attributable to his gender.

    “Sluttiness”, “hysteria”, “shrillness”, “screaming”, “vindictiveness”, “irrationalality (by whose definitation?)”, “on the rag”, “menopausal”, “premenopausal”, postmenopausal, “delusional”, etc., are traits attributed by our patriarchal society to women to completely discredit them, no matter how rational, well-educated, authoritative, or credible women might be. If a man goes to a doctor and has a problem that is difficult to identify, the doctor keeps digging until something is found. If a woman has a difficult-to-identify problem and cursory test results aren’t revealing, women are considered de facto to be mentally ill and will be prescribed psych meds just to shut them up.

    I’m undergoing allergy testing right now, as I’ve had allergy problems that have grown steadily worse over the years, especially the last four or five years to the point I’ve had to file FMLA. I had a reaction to dog dander “in front of witnesses” over the holidays, but I’m concerned the scratch tests will not reveal this because my outer skin surface is not reactive (no rashes or anything). When I went to an allergist in the 1980s, he would only cop to a dust/mite allergy and said I had “vasomotor rhinitis”. He prescribed 240 mg of sudafed per day (to make me climb walls), Seldane (which got banned for causing heart problems, *and* the “miracle cure” for “vasomotor rhinitis” — you guessed it, *antidepressants* (tricyclics at the time). Today, SSRIs are the “miracle cure” for “vasomotor rhinitis” even though they have completely different pharmacokinetics and mechanisms of action from the tricyclics so how the hell do they “cure” the same problem that is not actually depression?

    Women are de facto “depressed” or otherwise “mentally ill” for the following reasons: having children, not having children, being child-free/childless and enjoying it and preferring it, being premenstrual, being premenopausal, being postmenopausal, being pregnant, not being pregnant, having sex, not having sex, having a husband, not having a husband, being a lesbian, having a brain and using it in ways men disapprove of, having a job in a nontraditional field for women (like science and engineering), having a lifestyle that does not meet societal approval in any way, shape, or form, being “insufficiently feminine”, being “insufficiently passive/submissive/obedient, etc. In other words, women are de facto depressed for any/every life condition that can happen when one lacks a penis.

    Thomas, because you’re a male (I’m assuming), you have never been treated as women have been treated, nor will you ever understand as you are always on the advantaged side of the equation. Everything advantages you, including catholicism. There is nothing in our society that disadvantages you for your gender.

  6. Thomas Says:

    Empathy causes one to understand.

  7. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    I must admit that having a dick opens more doors than understanding.


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    mini wirehair doxie
    court stenographer

  8. ERW Says:

    Would it be great if Jenifer Haselberger would write a book about her entire experience working for those criminal hypocrites.

    The more of the misdeeds of those misleaders are exposed in the media, the less likely they get away with it. Chances are, those mitered monsters just might to prison time for aiding and abetting. The more publicity the more pressure on the courts to apply the law equally to the church criminals.

  9. Thomas Says:

    Didn’t the pope just call some priests monsters? We must be on the same page—we’ve identified them in every dioceses of America. And some know us too…being Catholic can be like having a bad dye job—the roots always show, and the label will never have an apology…not even in fine print. She should write a book…but, it would be a tear jerker…it could break your heart!

  10. ERW Says:

    The more of a tear jerker, the more likely it would become a best seller, and create such an outrage, that the courts would be forced to take action against those creeps.

  11. Thomas Says:

    Not many want to go up against them…they are confused…the domain of men is different than the domain of heaven—nothing man will ever do can change the destiny of another. If a believer believes in a just God, they know that He will have the last word. The Church cannot keep one out of heaven, the saints cannot keep one out of heaven, the pope cannot keep one out of heaven, a bishop cannot keep one out of heaven…it is only we who keep ourselves out of heaven. The stories that some souls will tell are those that will make you cry a river…especially, the story of a murdered soul.

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