Pope Francis has recently cited the new book by a U.S. university researcher as another reason why many bishops need to rethink their practice of covering up for priests who abuse children.
Francis cited Mary Jo Kane’s case study, which was published in her May 2012 book, “Almost Innocent: Church and the Crimes of Larry Seidlin,” in a letter to the Jesuit superiors of the Catholic Church in Uganda.
The book’s title is a pun of two nuns: the title of Kane’s book is almost innocent, and the subtitle, “Of Mind and Mindedness,” refers to Seidlin’s widely publicized attempts to protect pedophile priests in his Bronx parish.
Kane, a veteran study of priest abuse researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, interviewed Seidlin, a priest who left the Archdiocese of New York for Albany in the early 1990s. Seidlin was a priest who settled into a lower-middle-class, Hispanic neighborhood and was easily identified by neighbors due to his large physique and booming voice. He also tended to scream if he was angry.
A 2001 report by the Archdiocese of New York found that roughly seven of every 10 victims it encountered were unable to identify their abuser. Seidlin admitted, in Kane’s book, that he had abused children. The author also claims that Seidlin was aware of the Vatican and other church leaders’ whitewashing of abuse cases and worked to undermine his own career prospects.
Kane sought to pin the blame for Seidlin’s coverup exclusively on Vincent Doyle, a lay person who worked as a chaplain at St. Vincent’s Seminary and tried to coax Seidlin to admit that he had abused children in the 1990s.
But Seidlin told Kane that another priest had told him that the archdiocese threatened to terminate his contract if he did not cooperate in that coverup. Kane says that in emails to Seidlin she found one that described the archdiocese’s role in the coverup as two actors—one, Doyle, as a whistleblower; and the other, Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan.
When Kane followed up with Doyle, she says she was told that “Al” had never actually referred to himself by name in his correspondence with Seidlin. According to Kane, the communications were redacted in the final version of her book.
In her letter to the Jesuits in Uganda, Francis also wrote: “It would be good to get a comprehensive overview and a clear picture of such matters among the superiors and the number of Jesuits themselves, as a whole, who may be involved. If this plan is deemed too much of a high-level risk, then he (the head of the Jesuits) can form the decision on this matter, in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the doctrinal office) is a Vatican office that handles the final verdict in Catholic Church cases of priests who are accused of sexually abusing children.
Calls to the three Jesuits who are the three superior general in Uganda—one for each order in the country—were not returned.