Skip to comments.US bishop summoned to Rome by Congreg. of Bishops to explain "gag order" excommunication threat
Posted on 05/21/2003 3:56:14 PM PDT by Polycarp
American bishop summoned to Rome by Congregation of Bishops to explain "gag order"
Dr. Brian Kopp, Vice President, Catholic Family Association of America
Today at his annual spring priests' meeting for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown (held at the plush Seven Springs Four Season Resort in Somerset County PA) Bishop Joseph Adamec announced he had received a letter from the Congregation of Bishops at the Vatican summoning him to Rome to explain his recent gag order placed upon his diocesan priests.
This gag order was in the form of an oral presentation at a meeting of his priests outlining the canonical sanctions he would impose upon any priest who publicly disagreed with him, including suspension and excommunication.
This threat of excommunication was in response to the public opposition by several diocesan priests in conjunction with lay Catholic activists to his Diocesan Education office's conference featuring New Age dissenter nun Sister Jose Hobday last September.
In his March 7, 2003 Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal piece titled "Finally, a Rapid Response Why didn't sex-abuse scandals stir Vatican action the way war has?" columnist Rod Dreher mentioned Bishop Adamec's gag order:
Disgraced Dallas bishop Charles Grahmann continues holding on to power, despite fresh revelations of corruption and abuse of power. And in the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., Bishop Joseph Adamec, who reportedly has been concealing abuse accusations against four priests, has now threatened to excommunicate any priest who publicly disagrees with him. It goes on and on.
Bishop Adamec has debated this gag order publicly following Dreher's column. He states, in a Letter to the Editor of the Wall Steet Journal following Dreher's column:
Rod Dreher, in his Houses of Worship column (Taste page, Weekend Journal March 7), accused me of "concealing abuse accusations against four priests" and "threatening to excommunicate any priest who publicly disagrees" with me. Both statements are untrue.
Since I became Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown in the Spring of 1987, I have had to deal with a number of allegations involving the abuse of minors, all of them occurring years earlier. I have suspended priests who were known threats to children and investigated other allegations, some of which were not able to be substantiated. A lengthy statement about the handling of these matters can be accessed on our Diocesan web site: www.diocesealtjtn.org/news.
I am supposed to have placed our priests under some sort of gag order. What that refers to, I presume, is not a gag order but a verbal presentation that was made last fall at a clergy conference. That presentation explained the laws of the church relative to a person publicly inciting public dissent against the church. The law is not mine but that of the universal church as found in the code of canon law, and it applies particularly to the priests and deacons who are an extension of the bishop's teaching authority. Neither that presentation nor the case of the reported precept against a certain priest had anything to do with the abuse of minors on the part of priests or the reporting thereof. I am fully aware that we as clergy are mandatory reporters.
(Most Rev.) Joseph V. Adamec
Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown
Rod Dreher subsequently responded to Bishop Adamec in his own Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street journal:
To the editor:
In his letter yesterday, Bishop Joseph Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., accused me of making two untrue accusations in my March 7 "Houses of Worship" column. It is indisputably true that, as I said in the column, that the local newspaper has reported allegations that Adamec has covered up abuse accusations against four local priests. According to the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Adamec has in four extant cases of alleged priest sex abuse not followed the national guidelines adopted by the country's Catholic bishops last summer. The county district attorney called the bishop's conduct in the matter "disappointing." Catholic lay leaders have declared publicly that they went to the media with this information after being rebuffed by the bishop -- the same bishop who refused to answer questions about the apparent cover-up until the Tribune-Democrat's revelations forced him to. About Adamec, abuse victims' leader David Clohessy has said, "Almost no bishop in the country so steadfastly refuses to acknowledge even a single mistake." That's some achievement.
Secondly, Adamec puts a preposterous spin on a verbal presentation he gave to his priests last fall. I've personally spoken with Altoona-Johnstown priests who said the bishop warned that priests could face canonical sanction, including excommunication, if they criticized him publicly. Now Adamec is claiming that he was merely warning them against "publicly inciting public dissent against the church." This is rich.
For one thing, Adamec has never been known as a staunch defender of Catholic orthodoxy (indeed, quite the opposite). For another, as difficult as it is for many bishops to believe, the bishop is not the same thing as the church. Besides, Adamec has done this before to a priest he found troublesome. Monsignor Philip Saylor, a respected priest who was intimately aware of the diocese's atrocious record of handling priest pederasty cases, received a decree signed by Adamec on September 9, 1999, in which he was threatened with possible suspension and excommunication if he ever made a public statement that, among other things, caused the faithful to think poorly of their bishop. (The decree can be viewed at: http://www.dioceseaj.com/docs/saylor.html).
Sounds like cover-up to me. Is there any wonder why Altoona-Johnstown priests are afraid? Tell the truth about ecclesial corruption, and you could not only be defrocked, but thrown out of the church forever. Those poor priests can lose everything if they cross Adamec -- all the more reason for faithful laymen to rise to defend them and our church from bishops who seem to be doing their best to sully it.
This gag order was also the subject of an article in the March 14, 2003 National Catholic Reporter, "Priests say bishop issues gag order" as well as local newspapers, including a March 02, 2003 article in the Johnstown, PA Tribune Democrat newspaper, Diocese muzzles priests
Obviously, the Vatican does not approve of such abuses of canon law and the bishop's authority.
Furthermore, just last week 26 clergy of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown anonymously distributed a letter to all priests and local media outlets of the diocese demanding the Bishop settle future abuse cases out of court to conceal molesters, and further to sue Catholic activists who have been instrumental in exposing homosexual molestation cases in the bishop's diocese.
Coming so close upon the heels of many new priestly homosexual molestation cases in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and given the fact that the Vatican gives great weight to a bishop's ability to lead and control his diocesan priests, many local Catholic activists wonder if Bishop Adamec, like Cardinal Law and others before him, will be forced to resign over the escalating scandals, abuse of canon law, and open revolt among his priests.
This man has lost the respect of his priests and people, as Law did, and there is nothing left for him to do but to quit.
It's .org, not .com, and they want a username and password. Top secret!
Diocese denies rumor, says bishop not called to Rome
A rumor that Bishop Joseph Adamec has been summoned to the Vatican to make a "verbal presentation" regarding diocesan priests is just that, a rumor, Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese says.
Sister Mary Parks, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said she hadn't discussed the rumor with the bishop, but it was denied by a diocesan official.
Dr. Brian Kopp of Johnstown, a Catholic activist, said in a statement that Adamec announced at a Clergy Conference at Seven Springs Resort that he had received a letter from the Congregation of Bishops at the Vatican summoning him to Rome. The purpose, Kopp said, was to explain a gag order placed on priests.
I again this morning talked to the clergy member from whom I received this report yesterday to verify the story, and he continues to maintain the veracity of the initial report. He contacted 2 other clergy members this morning who were also present at the bishop's talk.
One concurred with the account exactly as related yesterday while the other was unsure whether the bishop indicated he had to personally travel to Rome or if an explanatory letter was being sent to the Congregation of Bishops at the Vatican.
Either way, it is maintained by all 3 clergy members that Bishop Adamec stated he was being questioned about the gag order.
It is also clear that Sister Mary Parks is commenting on this story without speaking to the bishop himself.
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