1. President Obama, like all national US Democratic Party leaders since the early 1980’s, appears to calculate carefully his dealings with the Vatican. Given the Vatican’s influence over some US voters, this makes political sense. Nevertheless, his conflicts with the Vatican are likely to increase sharply sooner, rather than later.
  2. Since at least 1984, the Vatican and its subordinate US bishops have worked closely politically with right wing US Republican leaders and their “low tax” wealthy donors. This political strategy appears to involve a “trade” of Vatican political support for protection by, and subsidies from, the US government, as well as substantial Church donations from high income Republican donors.  This evident political alliance between conservative Catholic and fundamentalist Christian voters has been an essential part of the right wing’s electoral strategy since at least 1984. And it surely has contributed to the obscene and growing income disparity in the USA since 1984. The poor sheep seem easily fleeced, especially when episcopal shepherds work opportunistically with the ravenous high income wolves.
  3. Consequently, Obama will take on the Vatican, it appears, only when larger segments of his voting base, especially women, gay folks and liberal Catholics would likely approve, as he did in 2012. He then  successfully pushed his Obamacare contraception mandate and his public support for the “Nuns on the Bus” in their struggle with the Vatican. He had their leader, Sr. Simone Campbell, give a prime time speech at the 2012 Democratic national convention, which certainly had to have upset the Vatican.
  4. So far, however, President Obama has been able mostly to avoid the “elephant in the room”, the priest child abuse scandal that has challenged other national leaders, for example in Australia, the UK and Ireland. Current events, including in Minneapolis relating to Obama’s Chief of Staff’s brother, Fr. Kevin McDonough, and the upcoming 2016 US presidential campaign, may compel Obama, however, finally to take a public stand soon on the greatest church scandal in US history. He recently in a well publicized meeting with the UK’s Prince William spoke up on the need to protect rhinoceros. Will Obama now speak up for children at high risk of being abused by clerics?
  5. Pope Benedict had launched a disastrous Vatican investigation of American nuns. It had prompted protests from outraged US Catholics. It ended in Rome on Tuesday (12/16/14) with the release of generally appreciative Vatican findings; the report on the investigation stressed the achievements and efforts of the US nuns. A related Vatican investigation is still ongoing, though.
  6. Pope Francis met a delegation of American nuns on Tuesday morning and unsurprisingly has promised to appoint women to decision-making roles in the Vatican, according to Reuters. Perhaps Pope Francis now will make some women Cardinals in February, as he already has the power to do.  Please see my related remarks proposing the former Irish President, Mary McAleese, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice, Anne Burke, as ideal candidates for open Cardinal positions in February, at: 
  7. http://christiancatholicism.com/women-as-cardinals-why-not-now/ 
  8. Pope Francis now needs to get out of the “women mess” that he has helped create with his medieval approach and comments about women. By his making some women Cardinals soon, he could help clean up this mess quickly, no? In any event, he needs women’s help promptly.
  9. Many US Catholics viewed the Vatican’s “inquisition of nuns”  as an attack on the mission of American women religious or nuns, who often work selflessly with marginalized communities, and in education and hospitals. The two nuns’ investigations caused an uproar among some US Catholics who even picketed in front of churches. Nearly 60,000 signed a petition of support for the nuns, which was delivered to the American bishops at their conference in Atlanta in 2012. Several prominent bishops indicated at this bishops’ meeting that the inquisitions of the nuns had been a public relations mess.
  10. These ill advised Vatican investigations clearly hurt the 2012 US Republican candidates. It was among the most inept of Cardinal Dolan’s and ex-Pope Benedict’s political errors in their 2012 US election campaign crusades. Indeed, Pope Francis’ top US Cardinal, Boston’s Sean O’Malley, recently alluded gratuitously to the investigations as a “disaster” in a widely watched CBS “60 Minutes” interview.
  11. Apparently, Pope Francis and likely his right-wing “low tax” US donors now want the “nuns off the bus” before the 2016 US elections, as the pre-election media hype has already begun. Indeed, the culture warriors like Archbishop Chaput are already working the right wing donors, as the recent Napa CA conference made clear. Francis has apparently already climbed aboard Chaput’s right wing bandwagon with Francis’ planned trip to Philadelphia in the summer.
  12. In addition to the other nun investigation, Pope Francis and President Obama still face perhaps a bigger and escalating challenge in Minneapolis. It involves former longtime Archdiocesan Vicar General, Fr. Kevin McDonough, close brother to Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough.
  13. It is likely Obama will be unable to duck taking a public stand on the priest abuse scandals much longer, as the 2016 political campaign begins to gather steam, as it already is . The continuing Australian and imminent UK national child sex abuse scandal investigations will only increase media attention on the need for a national US presidential investigation, as recently has been persuasively called for by a prominent Australian abuse survivor activist, Aletha Blayse, at :
  14. http://christiancatholicism.com/post-elections-obama-kids-the-catholic-church-the-salvation-army-et-al-child-abuse-war-and-the-need-for-a-national-commission-of-inquiry-into-child-abuse-by-aletha-blayse/
  15. Moreover, the well regarded constitutional law litigator and professor, Marci Hamiton, who clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman US Supreme Court Justice, has recently well set the stage Obama is now on in her excellent 12 year retrospective. Professor Hamilton, an expert on child protection laws, writes persuasively: “The President and all members of Congress failed to acknowledge the fact of clergy sex abuse and the role religion has played in creating the conditions for abuse. Congress and the President continued their 12-year tradition of never uttering the term “clergy sex abuse,” let alone acknowledging its existence. Apparently they believe only the Australian federal government should hold churches responsible for the protection of children from horrendous actions by trusted religious leaders, …. Our national leaders sadly have chosen the path of political least resistance, rather than justice and the protection of children. It will be interesting to see whether the presidential candidates and their parties take up child safety as a platform plank. It was a lot easier to ignore the issue 12 years ago. They ignore it now at their peril … “.
  16. Generally, the Vatican and its subordinate US bishops are still challenging Obama on marriage equality and insurance for contraception. At the recent Vatican Synod on the Family, the assembled bishops almost unanimously re-affirmed the Vatican’s ban on the birth control pill.
  17. And Pope Francis’ skillful recent efforts with evangelical fundamentalist voters, including his public emphasis on “gay issues” and on the “devil”, apparently helped to bring out enough fundamentalist voters to route enough Democrats in last month’s US congressional elections. And Francis has hardly warmed up his appeal to US Latino Catholic voters so critical for Democratic candidates.
  18. Predictably, the right wing Congressional forces have already led the effort to rollback restrictions on Wall Street banks’ derivatives investments and to raise significantly the amounts wealthy donors can contribute to election candidates, further enhancing the current grip of the wealthy top 0.01% on US Federal government policies. And they did this with the help of the Catholic hierarchy, no? So much for Pope Francis’ economic populism!
  19. The latest Minneapolis “Catholic challenge” for President Obama and Pope Francis has just surfaced in a short note entitled, “More Lawyers”, on the blog of Minneapolis whistle blower, Jennifer Hasselberger. Canon lawyer Haselberger has reported that a prominent Minneapolis attorney and expert in federal litigation has been calling people about Fr. Kevin McDonough. She added that the lawyer has declined to discuss his efforts with a local reporter, referring questions to the Archdiocese. Why would the Archdiocese be investigating its former Vicar General if, as appears to Ms. Haselberger from her sources, that may be what is happening?
  20. She observed that this development called to her mind “a question I was asked by a reporter after my affidavit was released in July of 2014 “. That affidavit is one of the most searing single statements ever by a Catholic Church insider canon lawyer, alleging a widespread cover-up of clergy sex misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. She has made the most detailed claims yet, accusing archbishops and their top staff of lying to the public and of ignoring the U.S. bishops’ pledge to have no tolerance of priests who abuse.
  21. Haselberger spent five years until resigning last year as Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt’s top adviser on canon law. She worked closely with Fr. McDonough. She has charged that the Archdiocese used a chaotic system of record-keeping that helped conceal the backgrounds of guilty priests who remained on assignment. She is the highest-level official from a U.S. diocese to make claims of a cover-up.
  22. A canon lawyer educated at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, Jennifer Haselberger served as a judge on Catholic Church tribunals in Minnesota and was trained through the U.S. bishops’ conference on child safety and monitoring guilty clergy.
  23. Haselberger also reportedly said the archdiocese gave inaccurate information to auditors hired by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to monitor dioceses’ compliance with the diocesan child protection plan. Haselberger noted the auditors didn’t have access to church files to check whether the Archdiocese’s report matched the records. “They would have found out that it did not,” she said. Since the clergy abuse scandal began in 1984, then erupted into a national crisis in 2002, the American Catholic Church has been flooded with revelations — from civil lawsuits, grand jury inquiries and the bishops’ own research — about how dioceses consistently put the interests of the Church above victims. After almost two years as Pope, Francis “go slow” advisory anti-abuse commission still has less than half of its members announced to date. It does not appear that Pope Francis wants to address this scandal seriously on his watch, as he begins his 79th year.
  24. Haselberger’s accusations stand out because of her credentials and timing. Haselberger reportedly said Fr. McDonough — the Archdiocese’s Vicar General or top aide for 17 years, and brother of White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough — never accepted the plan American bishops adopted in 2002 that streamlined church law for the U.S. so guilty priests could be barred from ministry or removed from the priesthood altogether. She reportedly indicated that McDonough continued his previous approach of striking agreements with accused offenders to remain priests but stay away, sometimes providing them extra payments to do so. McDonough oversaw clergy misconduct cases until September of last year. “He explained to me his position that dismissal wasn’t the right solution for the church,”Haselberger wrote.
  25. McDonough had called the Archdiocese’s monitoring system for priests guilty of sex misconduct “state of the art,” Haselberger said. However, she said the program relied heavily on self-reporting by the guilty priests with no verification of what they reported.
  26. Nienstedt meanwhile announced recently that allegations had been made against him several months before of inappropriate sexual behavior and he had hired a firm to investigate. Nienstedt told the Catholic magazine Commonweal he never engaged in sexual misconduct, nor had he made any sexual advances. Haselberger reportedly told Commonweal that she was interviewed by the firm, and that investigators have about 10 sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety by Nienstedt. Reportedly, a top criminal lawyer has recently been contacting, apparently on Nienstedt’s and/or the Archdiocese’s behalf,  some who have provided statements. Why he is doing that is unclear.
  27. It appears that President Obama may face in 2015 the political need to make a statement about clergy child sex abuse, as well as to consider establishing an Australian style national presidential investigation commission. He can only duck this scandal further at significant cost to his legacy, it appears. no?
  28. For additional background, please see:
  29. http://verdict.justia.com/2014/12/11/2014-review-ups-downs-child-protection
  30. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/15/jennifer-haselberger-church-sex-abuse_n_5588363.
  31. htmlhttp://canonicalconsultation.com/1/post/2014/12/more-lawyers.html#comments