Kenneth Angell, the former bishop of the diocese of Burlington, has died. The Burlington Free Press marked the occasion with a story that completely failed to mention his “see no evil, hear no evil, maybe there’ll be no evil” approach to the Roman Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal.
But hey, I’ll be happy to fill in the blanks.
Angell was stationed in Burlington from 1992 to 2005. Before that, he served for 18 years as the bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, one of the many epicenters of priestly criminality and hierarchical complicity.
A total of 36 lawsuits were filed by alleged victims of clergy sex abuse in the Diocese. They were , eight years after Angell had moved on to Burlington, for $13.5 million. A couple examples of Angell’s approach to victims’ complaints:
Bishop Angell testified in a 1990 lawsuit that he did not take seriously allegations – made by both parishioners and assistant priests – that the Rev. William O’Connell was molesting boys. The priest was convicted, served a short sentence, moved to New Jersey, committed more crimes and died in prison. In another Rhode Island case, Bishop Angell in 1989 promised to “take care of it” when the Rev. Normand Demers was accused of misconduct with boys while working at a Haitian orphanage, according to a former orphanage staffer. The priest was brought back to work in the Providence diocese.
“Did not take seriously,” indeed. This is exactly the kind of wishful thinking that turned a handful of bad apples into a worldwide scandal that left thousands of victims emotionally scarred, and undermined the moral authority of the Church.
At the same time, Angell was a man on fire when his own definition of morality came under threat.