According to Ave Maria University's website, the AMU Founder's Club hosted a visit from the President of "Opus Bono Sacerdotii" (OBS), Joseph Maher, one year ago this past Friday (December 19). IRS records show that the self-described exempt purpose of OBS is to offer "outplacement services for Roman Catholic priests and religious men and women for the purpose of providing a transition from one position to another". The University's Founders Club, which was established by Tom Monaghan (NY Times, 2/10/2003), advertised that the purpose of OBS was "to find solutions to sensitive situations confronting priests and religious in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Church."
"Outplacement services" for "sensitive situations"?
Translation: OBS helps to quietly shuffle around pederast priests.
According to the OBS website, Joseph Maher helped start the organization in Detroit in 2002 after "he received much public attention for his staunch support of a priest from his parish who was accused of rape. Today, over 2,000 priests have contacted Opus Bono Sacerdotii for assistance, with more calling on a weekly basis."...OBS and its Ave Maria supporters might claim that the mission of the organization is to support accused innocent priests who are defending wrongful allegations. But according to their website, OBS cares nothing about whether their clients are innocent or guilty (excerpt):
"In cases where legal procedures in civil, criminal or canon law are required: A client's innocence or guilt is not a determining factor in obtaining assistance from OBS"
From the Washington Post, Oct 13, 2002:
"In Detroit, Maher said he does not attempt to determine whether a priest is innocent or guilty before providing financial help from Opus Bono Sacerdotii. The group, which he said has raised $100,000 and applied to the Internal Revenue Service for charitable status, is assisting the Rev. Robert Burkholder, who returned to Michigan from retirement in Hawaii this month to face charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1986."
"In an interview published by the Detroit News in August, Burkholder, 82, admitted that he had had sexual encounters with "maybe a dozen or two" boys between the ages of 11 and 14. , but contended that they were consensual. "It takes two to tango," he said. "Some of the accusations are true, but so what? I was a priest — a good priest — who had a weakness."
Burkholder, who was labeled Michigan's worst pedophile priest by Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan, was sentenced to jail after pleading no contest to two second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges. As far back as 1993, it was known that Burkholder was a menace; that year, his priestly duties were constrained by his diocese as he admitted, in writing, to molesting at least 23 boys. None of that - not even Burkholder's unrepentant "two to tango" or "so what" - mattered to OBS. In another pederast crusade adopted by OBS, Maher sent 3,000 fund raising letters to support a jailed priest who was accused of 13 sex crimes on 6 boys. South Bend Tribune, Oct. 28, 2005, excerpt:
"I think it's outrageous what [OBS is] doing," [Bishop] D'Arcy said. "We never gave them any [diocesan mailing] list. They're unauthorized to do this and it's wrong. … I don't know anything about (Maher) and he doesn't know anything about this case. He's out of order writing to our people."
One recipient is a local man scheduled to testify at the trial that LeBrun fondled him in the early 1980s.
"I was extremely offended to receive this thing, and to try to solicit support from victims?" the local man said. "How low."
In January 2006, the priest that Maher so vigorously helped was sentenced to 111 years in prison. OBS is connected to Tom Monaghan far beyond Joseph Maher's invitation to speak at the Ave Maria University Founder's Club. Maher and OBS co-founder Paul Barron are both members of Legatus, Tom Monaghan's club for rich Catholic businessmen. OBS and Ave Maria also pick from the same talent pool. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic power broker who sits on AMU's Board and often defends Monaghan's questionable educational practices, serves on the OBS Advisory panel. OBS quotes Neuhaus:
"More power to you [OBS]! It is important that we counter this vicious notion that an injustice or alleged injustice of years ago can be righted by a new injustice now. The demand that a person "must be punished," no matter how long ago the offense or the repentance and transformation of the offender, is nothing more than a demand for vengeance, which, as the Scriptures remind us, is not rightly ours. Do let me know how your project progresses.
Cordially, (The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus"
Another OBS Advisor was the prominent canon lawyer Fr. Gregory Ingels. In 2002, he helped craft the "zero tolerance" policy on sex abuse adopted by American Catholics. The following year, in 2003, he was charged for a 1972 incident of sodomy and "substantial sexual conduct" with a boy. In the criminal complaint, Ingels acknowledged having had sex with the boy and could be heard on tape saying, "What I did to you was terrible."
This was not a singular moment of weakness or indiscretion on Ingels' part. In the summer of 2003, a second case against Ingels was assembled by the local district attorney. A former female student of Fr. Ingels, Jane Parkhurst, alleged that the priest began to "cultivate" her at age 15, taking advantage of a troubled home life that started after her parents died in a car accident. She told authorities that Ingels had sexually abused her for four years starting in 1973....Even after all this, OBS President Joseph Maher was quoted as saying that his organization was "grateful to have him [Ingels]" (San Francisco Weekly; 7/13/2005):
"He's an excellent priest, a very holy man, and he's a great help to us."more...
*I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the issue of sexual relationships between adults and teens can be a complex subject, considering that the relationship between a willing 17-year-old and her 21-year-old boyfriend is legally considered to be the same as that between a reluctant 15-year-old and a coercive 45-year-old. In my opinion this lack of distinction is a failure of the legal system and Opus Bono is taking advantage of moral ambiguity perpetuated by the courts. It should suffice to say that no one who has sexually assaulted an 11-year-old should be quietly protected from scandal and allowed to retain a job position requiring enormous trust from their greater community. Also, another issue to keep in mind is that there are important biological reasons for age of consent laws, such as the fact that teenage girls who become pregnant before the age of 17 are much more likely to endure serious health complications. By adopting a blanket policy of offering moral and financial support to any priest accused of sexual crimes, guilty or innocent, Opus Bono has effectively sent the message that sexual assault and child molestation are great ways for troubled priests to receive support and attention. Not only is this policy an attempt to evade criminal prosecution, it also endangers the safety and well-being of local church communities.