Do I sound skeptical of his claims? I think there are reasons to be. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was among the youngest priests to have been ordained as a bishop in the U.S. in the last 50 or so years. At 38-years-old in the heady days of 1968 immediately after Vatican II while there were anti-war riots and all kinds of free love and rock 'n roll, with Cardinal Dearden (who was responsible for promoting some of the worst ever bishops in U.S. history) in charge in Detroit from whence he came, His Excellency had little firm grounding on which to rest his feet. Hence he was able to go off on flights of fancy to press for greater lay involvement in the Church to the detriment of the priestly ministry, for dispensing with the rule of celibacy, for the ordination of women, the full embrace of homosexual activity as "normal," the acceptance of contraception (interestingly, he was ordained a bishop barely three months prior to the issuance of Humanae Vitae), and who knows where he stands on abortion.
These are positions he has held for years. Fortunately, while Rome erred in making him a bishop, she was at least wise enough not to give him his own diocese and he has remained an auxiliary in Detroit for nearly 38 years. These positions have, of course, made him the darling of the National Catholic Reporter (for which he writes a regular column) and the biggest name in Call to Action. They have also endeared him to the secular press who somehow or other forget all those dissenting positions in favor of calling him a pacifist bishop. Now I haven't seen too many other bishops take up arms since, say, the 14th or 15th century, but somehow or other they manage to escape the moniker of "pacifist."
His agenda and those of folks like Cardinals Dearden† and Mahoney, Archbishops Hunthausen†, May† and Roach†, Bishops Hubbard, Clark, Untener† and Lucker†, started to get somewhere from 1965 until about the early-1990's. But by the grace and mercy of God, it has fizzled. Since then, He has seen fit to raise up some bishops after His own heart (cf. Jer. 3.15) and they have at least declawed the beast of the USCCB. This state of affairs is certainly not pleasing to those of the Dearden school who are left alive.
But of late, Bishop Gumbleton has been out of the spotlight. Call to Action meetings generally get less attention from the MSM these days. His last bit of publicity was when he said last year that he wouldn't submit his resignation papers at age 75 because, according to him, that's such an arbitrary number. This, of course, came after the fact that he had said he would do so a couple of years earlier.
There are two ways to look at this: The conduct of his ministry can lead one to believe it may have happened and so thoroughly damaged him that it screwed up his thinking completely. However, the conduct of his ministry can also lead one to believe that he is lying through his teeth just to get attention and to get an agenda against the Church through. Given his track record, possibility #2 is quite plausible. It could be that His Excellency was at this press conference for reasons that were far less high-minded than those noble causes which he cited.
Consider what will happen if the State of Ohio passes a law that lifts the statute of limitations for a year on child sexual abuse. The Dioceses of Cleveland, Columbus, Steubenville, Toledo and Youngstown and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will all be subject to a year of people filing lawsuits. That won't look very pretty in many places, particularly Cinti and Cleveland which have not exactly had a reputation for the most orthodox and firm bishops for quite some time. Supposing the law is passed -- is it out of the realm of possibility that, say, 500 people will file suits in Ohio? Considering that it is one of the most populous states in the nation, and a rather Catholic one to boot, I don't think so. If that were to happen and assuming a payment of $1 million per victim (that seems to be the consensus figure these days -- instant millionaires, you know), that will cost the Church in Ohio half a billion dollars in payouts, to say nothing of attorney's fees and court costs.
Supporting this action that could bring some more dioceses to bankruptcy court is unbecoming of a bishop. And it isn't necessarily in the victim's best interest, either, as this story from the AP shows.
So what else raises my suspicions?
1) Notice that he is not revealing the names of the priest or of his fellow student, even though the priest is dead. If he's so much for SNAP, why isn't he revealing the name in case there were other victims, as SNAP is always demanding? And why aren't we going to hear SNAP say, "Hey, bucko, get back out there tell all the names you know!"
2) Notice that when he became bishop, he did nothing about this guy, not even after the very public warnings of cases like Father James Porter, well before the current cycle started four years ago.
3) Notice that he said it didn't traumatize him too much. Sorry, but if I was a naive 13-year-old (which I was) and a priest put his hand down my pants (which thankfully none ever did), I would have been traumatized by it. Granted, I probably would not have said anything out of shame or fear, but it would have still traumatized me.
4) His superiors in Detroit knew nothing of his claim. Cardinal Maida was caught flat-footed, according to his press release.
Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit, says he is always disheartened whenever he hears of a claim of clergy sexual abuse, and is especially saddened by the report that Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a Detroit auxiliary bishop, was apparently a victim himself many years ago. "The Detroit archdiocese was never made aware of this," Cardinal Maida says. (my emphasis)Still, His Eminence was kind enough to offer a helping hand.
As it relates to Bishop Gumbleton's remarks on how these cases are handled, Msgr. Ricardo Bass, Cardinal Maida's delegate for clergy matters, notes there is no time limit on a person bringing forward a complaint to the archdiocese. "Bishop Gumbleton's experience is indeed regrettable," says Msgr. Bass, "and, no doubt, it frames his personal opinion on this matter. As we would with any person in his situation, the archdiocese stands by its commitment to provide counseling assistance as needed." Regarding the statute of limitations, Msgr. Bass adds, "it has served our society well in protecting the rights of everyone, especially after a long passage of time." (emphasis mine)Throw in some time of prayer and penance at a desert monastery and you've got yourself a deal. So go ahead, Excellency, take him up on his offer. You've been needing it for some time.