Top

blog

Stories

 

St. Louis Archdiocese Cancels Event to Pray for "Exoneration" of Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

archbishop-robert-carlson-headshot.jpg
via
Archbishop Robert Carlson.
Yesterday, we published an update on the investigation into Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang, a St. Louis priest accused of molesting a teenage girl on multiple occasions. Notably, in what appears to be a first, prosecutors have subpoenaed Archbishop Robert Carlson in this criminal case.

Archdiocese officials declined to comment on the pending case, but victims' advocates have pointed us to one place where church officials made a very troubling statement about the accused priest: A meetup.com listing for an event at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis to pray for the "defense and exoneration of Fr. Joseph Jiang."

Organizers from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) say they are outraged by the stated purpose of the event, which is offensive and hurtful to the victim and her family. But after Daily RFT reached out to the archdiocese about this meet-up, church officials took down the website and canceled the event.

See also:
- Reverend Xiuhui "Joseph" Jiang Charged with Fondling Teenage Girl
- Fr. Joseph Jiang: Archbishop Robert Carlson Subpoenaed in Priest Sex Abuse Case
- Decades After First Alleged Child Sex Abuse, St. Louis Priest Removed

Here's a screengrab from the original meetup.com listing for tonight's prayer service:

holy-hour-meetup.com.jpg
via meetup.com

After we reached out to an Archdiocese spokeswoman, the event was removed:

meetup-deleted.jpg
via meetup.com

A spokeswoman tells Daily RFT in an e-mail that the leadership of the archdiocese did not know about the event until our inquiry. Here's her entire statement, which says that it would be inappropriate to pray for Jiang's exoneration, but that it is appropriate to pray for him and everyone involved:

The leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Louis was unaware of this event until your inquiry. The young adult ministry group of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis regularly meets for prayer on a bi-weekly basis, and this holy hour served in place of a regularly scheduled meeting. The Cathedral rector was aware that a holy hour was to take place, even that prayers would be offered for Fr. Joseph, but he was not aware of the express intention as phrased in the Meetup description. The holy hour has since been cancelled and the website taken down. It would be inappropriate for the Archdiocese to encourage prayer specifically for the exoneration of Fr. Jiang. We do pray for Fr. Jiang, as we pray for everyone involved in this situation. More specifically, we pray for justice and healing for all parties involved.

When first alerting us to the event, David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, a St. Louis-based victims' rights group, says, "It's a subtle, sophisticated form of obstructing justice by intimidating victims and witnesses and whistle blowers."

"To publicly pray...on Church property for his defense and exoneration...it's just inexcusable," he says.

joseph-jiang.jpg
Joseph Jiang's mug shot.

After learning that the event was canceled, Clohessy says, "Is it better than nothing? Sure.... Anything that reduces the suffering of victims and the intimidation of witnesses and whistle blowers is good. But in this case, just like so many other cases, the archdiocese does only the bare minimum and only when forced to do so by external pressures."

He argues that the fact that this event was publicized this way -- even if top church leaders were unaware of it -- reflects a culture that is harmful to victims.

"It's just continued disappointment," he says. "Because for decades, Carlson and his colleagues could and should have taught parishioners and employees how to act when priests are accused."

For more on Father Jiang, read our previous coverage on the criminal investigation.

Additionally, here are copies of relevant court documents in the case compiled by SNAP:

Joseph Jiang Documents

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
JJMR
JJMR

Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?  How many of you would be howling if a (as of yet unsubstantiated) similar accusation were leveled against you?  Would you hope people would call for your hanging or assume you were the worst possible?  Let the facts speak, and do not be in a rush to get in their way with your own uniformed opinions.

BalancedCatholic
BalancedCatholic

The young adults group at the Cathedral Basilica setup a Meetup (dot com) website a couple of years in order to track RSVPs and to make use of the Meetup service's built-in email mailing list and Facebook integration features. I know that because I was an active member of the group at that time, and was aware of the efforts of the members responsible for that Meetup site's creation.

This was all done on their own initiative, and *no* official of the Archdiocese nor staff member of the Cathedral Basilica had *any* administrative access to the site whatsoever at any time, nor did they maintain or exert editorial control over it at any point in the last couple of years. The service was even paid for by the group's members.

Now, this all made for a practical arrangement that was not the result of careful planning, but just came to be out of a desire of the Cathedral's young adults to leverage a modern means of communication so as to better organize themselves and maintain an attractive social media presence. And it worked out pretty well for nearly 2 years.

However, a lack of discretion (more on that below) on the part of one of the Cathedral young adults Meetup site's "organizers" (Meetup's terminology) led to this incident and revealed a pitfall of not having a Church employee act as managing editor for all the social media tools in use by ministries and apostolates *directly* tied to (and in effect representing) an Archdiocesan institution, in this case the Cathedral Basilica on Lindell Blvd. That situation has been immediately remedied and management of the young adults social media presence will no longer be ad hoc.

Regarding the lack of discretion mentioned above:

Please consider that many of the young adults at the Cathedral Basilica were friends of Fr. Joseph Jiang -- they respected him and were grateful to God for his priestly ministry to them. As his case, the accusations, et al. have unfolded over the past year, many have formed opinions one way or another as to his guilt or innocence, as it is human nature to do. Those of us who care for Fr. Jiang pray not only for him, but also for his accusers, the prosecutor and defense attorney, the judge and those as yet unknown persons who in a few months will sit on the jury that will decide his fate.

What do we pray for? For justice, truth, divine grace, mercy, understanding, prudence, and all those spiritual goods that all involved need in order that the case and trial may conclude in a way that is most pleasing to God, who is Himself Truth, Justice and Mercy.

It seems that one of our "organizers" (again, Meetup's term) of the now defunct Cathedral young adults' Meetup site chose to bill the prayer service as "for the exoneration of Fr. Joseph."

Was that choice of words prudent or appropriate? No, it was not. As suggested above, that time of prayer was truly intended as a spiritual salve for *all* involved (as previous prayer services have been), not just Fr. Jiang. And we don't yet know whether he is guilty or innocent, so it wasn't appropriate for the organizer to express her/his opinion in that way, despite having strong feelings in that regard. Was the action malicious? No, of course not. It was borne out of personal friendship, respect and great concern for a priest of our Church.  The person who made the mistake certainly feels terrible about any hurt, misunderstanding, confusion and anger caused by it, and it was a "life lesson" learned, to be sure.

I hope this reflection clears up any wild speculation about this incident. For those who have engaged in wild speculation or venomous criticism, on this website or in other venues: peace of Christ be with you, and I would encourage you to engage the brain God gave you, and to think critically before wildly tapping your fingers or flapping your lips.

I speak only for myself and from my knowledge of the Cathedral young adults' group's history and the known facts of this website incident. In no way do I officially represent the Archdiocese, nor the Cathedral Basilica, nor the Cathedral's young adults group.

Pax.

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

pray he dont get a chance to fuck your kiddies some more

maturlishmdsnd
maturlishmdsnd

I am outraged by the actions of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in scheduling a prayer service for Xiu Hui Jiang, "a St. Louis priest accused of molesting a teenage girl on multiple occasions."  What kinds of policies are in place there that groups regularly using the Cathedral would not realize the inappropriateness of such a thing?  No matter who scheduled what, oversight of such events is the responsibility of the rector and ultimately the archbishop.  I agree with David Clohessy's comments.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

Kay4Justice
Kay4Justice

Incredible:  An announcement like this appears on the diocesan website and no one, absolutely NO ONE in charge knew anything about it...  This is typical avoidance behavior.  If the pastors and their bishops are not aware of the problems they have, then they should resign and go live in La-La land.  It might help their education if they were to spend some time behind bars.

snapjudy
snapjudy topcommenter

This just causes more pain to this family who is already hurting...  It is time to stop blaming the victims.

Sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day, so silence is not an options anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.   

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com, "SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

gmerilos
gmerilos

The only thing that's worse than tolerating and helping child molesters for ages, it's adding insult to injury by praying for them - in public and on church property. Shame on every Catholic parishioner and priest involved.

If the pastor doesn't know what's happening at his church, he should be fired.

SMHMPT
SMHMPT

@Kay4Justice  The meet up site is not affiliated with the diocesan website and there is not even a link to it from the diocesan website.  read @BalancedCatholic  post above.  It is very informative


SMHMPT
SMHMPT

@gmerilos  Doesn't scripture say to "love your enemies and do good to those who hate you and your joy will be full" How are hearts changed?  How can we intercede for God's grace to reach the hard of heart.  Are prays filled according to our desire or God's desire? Who is in ultimate control over all things

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...