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Onetime priest crusades for abuse victims suing Catholic Church
Patrick Wall as a seminarian and junior monk at Saint John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota in the late 1980s.
June 19th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Onetime priest crusades for abuse victims suing Catholic Church

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - As a young man studying for the priesthood, Patrick Wall imagined life as a professor and football coach at a Catholic university.

It didn't work out that way. Two decades later, Wall has not only left the Catholic Church, he has become one of its most tireless opponents.

He's an ex-priest, driven from ministry by the feeling that his superiors used him to help cover up sex abuse by other clergymen.

And he's using the training he gained as a priest to work with victims of abuse who want to take the church to court.

Since 1991, Wall says he has consulted on more than 1,000 abuse cases, helping lawyers pick apart defenses mounted by dioceses from Alaska to Australia.

Now a senior consultant at the law firm of Manly and Stewart in Southern California, Wall spoke to CNN on the sidelines of a recent conference for legal and religion scholars at Cardiff Law School in Wales.

In Philadelphia, where four priests and a Catholic school teacher were indicted on sex abuse charges earlier this year, Wall says he is helping the district attorney build an unprecedented criminal case not only against the clergy, but against an archdiocesan official who supervised them. The priests – one of whom is the church official – and the teacher have denied the allegations.

The case is potentially historic. Wall doesn't know of another case where a U.S. prosecutor has gone after an official at the top of the church hierarchy as well as the suspected abusers themselves.

Prosecutors are trying to convict a vicar – the man who supervised the priests in the archdiocese – with child endangerment because they say he allowed suspected abusers to have contact with young people.

The case raises the possibility that a high-ranking church official will end up behind bars.

Wall hopes the threat of prison time will change the way American bishops respond to abuse allegations in a way that civil lawsuits have not.

"In the civil cases, we have taken over $3 billion, but you're not getting a lot of change in the system," he says.

Patrick Wall outside a recent conference in Wales.

There has been more than a decade of intense focus on abuse by priests across the United States and Western Europe, plus lawsuits, investigations, and Vatican statements, including instructions to bishops around the world just last month to come up with an abuse policy.

And even so, Wall says, priests are still abusing children.

"I'm working on stuff that happened in the summer of 2010," he says. "It's the same old sodomy."

A life-changing assignment

Wall was studying to be a priest at Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, when there was a life-changing knock on his door one morning after breakfast.

At his door that day in 1990 was the head of the abbey, Abbot Jerome Theisen, with an assignment, Wall says.

Wall, then 25, was to move into one of the freshman dormitories at the university associated with the abbey. The abbot wanted him to become a faculty resident, a staff position that involved keeping an eye on first-year university students in college housing. He was to make the move immediately, that very morning.

Wall knew why.

"Starting in 1989, we started getting hit with lawsuit after lawsuit" from people alleging that priests had abused them, Wall says. He says the abbot told him that credible abuse accusations had been made against the man Wall was to replace.

Brother Paul Richards, a spokesman for Saint John's Abbey, said that the monastery and university had no record of why Wall was asked to work in the dorm. Abbot Theisen has died, Richards added.

Saint John's Abbey adopted a policy on sexual abuse and exploitation in 1989, it says on its website, saying that made it “among the first institutions to adopt” such a policy.

Wall, for his part, says the abbot's request put him on the road to becoming what the church unofficially calls a "fixer," a person who parachutes in to replace clergy who have to disappear quickly and quietly.

Wall as the temporary administrator at a Maplewood, Minnesota church in 1995.

One of Theisen's successors, Abbot John Klassen, issued an open letter of apology in 2002, saying that "some members" of the monastic community had engaged in "abusive sexual behavior with people in our schools and parishes."

A lawsuit was filed earlier this month against Saint John's by a man who says he was abused in the 1960s by a priest who later served as abbot between Theisen and Klassen. The abbey says it was “shocked” by the charges against the late Abbot Timothy Kelly, who died of cancer last year.

It says it is investigating the claims against Kelly, calling them “the first allegations that Abbot Kelly violated his vows or was an abuser.”

Wall plans to testify in that case, he told CNN.

"In the fall of '92 we had another 13 [abuse] cases come through," Wall says. "They pushed up my ordination" by a few months, Wall says, so he could step into the shoes of another priest who had to vanish.

Understanding the damage

It was after his ordination, Wall says, that he began to understand the trauma that abusive priests were inflicting, not only on their victims but on victims' families and communities.

As a new priest, Wall started hearing confessions of victims' relatives who blamed themselves for the abuse, telling Wall "I should have known, I should have seen the signs."

A heavy-set man who laughs easily, Wall still looks like the linebacker he was in high school and college. He peppers his speech with words like "dude" and casually refers to people who he thinks have done something stupid as "morons."

But relating the confessions of victims' relatives, Wall's cheerful demeanor hardens.

"I'm telling them, 'You haven't committed a sin,'" he says.

Wall, right, with his mom, dad and a diocesan priest in 1989.

Wall says that child abuse isn't like other injury cases, such as car crashes, in which a victim might be 10% at fault. Instead, he says, "100% of the blame is on the perpetrator."

Over the next four years, Wall says that the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis sent him to four more places in Minnesota where priests needed to move out fast.

He learned a lot. Wall says he saw that there was a budget for handling cases of priestly sexual abuse as far back as 1994, eight years before the scandal blew up nationally with revelations about abuse in Boston, Massachusetts. The archdiocese could not immediately confirm that, but spokesman Dennis McGrath said he would not be surprised if it was true, saying the archdiocese had been a leader in helping victims of abuse.

Wall did what the church told him to do for as long as he could, he says, but his doubts continued to grow.

"I followed the party line," he says. "But it's pretty hard to follow the party line when you don't think the party line is moral any more."

The breaking point came in 1997. Wall was in Rome, studying for a master's of divinity degree. His abbot called from Minnesota to tell him he was being posted to the Bahamas.

It was not the dream job it might sound like.

Wall says that the Bahamas was where Saint John's was sending priests it had to keep away from people because of abuse allegations. Richards, the abbey's spokesman, flatly denies the charge.

"I basically was going to be a prison warden," Wall says.

"Without much planning, I said, 'Basta cosi,'" he says, lapsing into Minnesota-accented Italian meaning, "Enough of this." Wall had decided to leave the priesthood.

Patrick Wall at his first mass as a priest in December 1992.

The abbot did not take that well, Wall says, warning that he would never make it in "the real world," that he would not be released from his priestly vows and that the order would bill him for the master's degree it had sponsored for him. The tab for the degree was about $48,000, he says.

Richards denies those allegations. "It has never been the abbey's practice to require payback for education from members of our community who have left," he says, "and it was not the case with Pat Wall."

Wall says the abbot's threats did not change his mind.

"All it did is piss me off even more," he says. "I left without a plan in December 1997."

Insider knowledge

Wall says he went home to Lake City, Minnesota to live with his parents, then bounced from job to job for nearly five years. He got married and had a daughter. He made good money as a salesman in Southern California but says he found the work as intellectually stimulating as "shovelling dirt."

And then, in 2002, the California state legislature did something that would change Wall's life. The state opened a one-year window to allow victims of clergy abuse to sue the church, even if the if the statute of limitations on the case had already expired.

Wall's eyes light up as he discusses the moment.

The law did not specifically target the Catholic Church, Wall says, noting that some rabbis were sued as well. But Catholic organizations were by far the largest group of defendants.

Still, suing a Catholic diocese was no easy task. "The litigation demanded a level of expertise that had never been needed before," Wall says.

Because of his religious training in canon law, as the Catholic Church's rules are known, Wall had that expertise. He knew how and where the church kept records. He knew where money came from and where it went. He spoke Italian and Latin.

In his first case, he testified against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, California, challenging its claim that it did not know the Franciscan friar at the center of abuse allegations.

Wall insisted that the archdiocese and any priest in it would have easy access to church records saying who the Franciscan was and who had jurisdiction over him.

The case settled out of court, Wall says.

The Diocese of Orange declined to comment for this article, as did the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is the defendant in several cases currently involving Wall’s firm, Manly and Stewart.

Jeffrey Lena, a lawyer who represents the Vatican in the United States, also declined to comment.

But Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota-based lawyer who specializes in suing the Catholic Church on behalf of abuse victims and filed the suit against Saint John's Abbey, is full of praise for Wall.

Anderson calls Wall “an extraordinary researcher, academic and hands-on voice of experience from the inside.”

He praises the former priest's “courage,” and says he is a “powerful, insightful source of information based on his own personal experience and his study of the phenomenon” of abuse.

An old problem

Wall argues that the problem of abuse by priests is far older than anyone in the church admits publicly.

The earliest church records concerning sexual misconduct by priests come from the Council of Elvira, he says. That synod took place in what is now Spain in the year 309.

There was a treatment center for abusive priests in Hartford, Connecticut, as far back as 1822, Wall says, and the Vatican issued instructions to American bishops on how to judge and punish accusations of criminal acts by priests as far back as 1883.

Wall provided his translation of the 1883 instructions to CNN. They do not refer to any specific crimes, but refer to “abuses” and “evils.” They set out how to investigate, judge and punish crimes by priests, laying out rules such as the examination of witnesses in private, and the opportunity for the accused to know the charges and to respond and appeal.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office declined to comment on assistance it is receiving from Wall, saying it was prevented by court order from discussing the case with the media.

But Wall says that years of seeing how the Catholic Church handles abuse cases have convinced him that the church will not solve the problem itself.

He says he's not impressed by new instructions from Rome last month giving bishops around the world a year to come up with procedures for handling allegations of abuse.

"It's a Circular Letter," he says, using the official church term for the document. "That means it's for the circular file. Bishops are going to throw it away."

Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops revised its 2002 charter around dealing with sex abuse allegations to reflect the Vatican's new standards.

Wall believes the Catholic Church will survive this scandal.

"It's going to fix itself," he says.

"The institution is going to become radically smaller" as people abandon the church, he predicts. "The loss of membership, the problems in the criminal courts, the statements from the pope - these are all good."

Perpetrators need "access, power and money" in order to commit crimes and get away with them, Wall argues. A smaller, weaker Catholic Church won't be able to provide those things, making it less of a haven for abusers, he says, which will lead to a cleansed institution.

In the meantime, Wall says, the church should give up trying to handle abusers internally and let the law step in.

He recommends that the church "completely get out" of child protection, hand over all its files to civil law enforcement, and make bishops sign a legal oath every year that there are no perpetrators in the ministry - which would open them to criminal prosecution if they are found to have lied.

"Otherwise," he says, "I'll be prosecuting priest sex abuse cases for the rest of my life."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Sex abuse

soundoff (745 Responses)
  1. Ben

    Wall is just out to mak a buck. He obviously did not have the devotionor comittment to b a priest. This site pretty well describs him : http://www.themediareport.com/topic-john-manly/manly-insider-exclusive.htm

    June 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • a victim

      seems the church and its crusade to destroy victims will never stop. Remember, the catholic church is about deception and deceit, all about money and power. They will destroy whoever gets in their way or exposes the truth about them.

      Keep up your crusade, make sure you destroy those who help victims.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Cole

      Being a victim of a crime does not make you an authority on the matter.... just bitter

      June 21, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • a victim

      or better said, having greater insight to the truth.

      June 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  2. HelpNewYorkExposePedos

    New York has an opportunity to expose pedophiles. However we need your help. If the 'Child Victims Act' Bill does not make it to the floor for votes by wed, 22nd, this coming week, it will be squashed. The Assembly will pass the Bill, however certain senators will keep it in codes committee, in the senate. It needs to get out of the codes committee (they place it there to kill it). We need to get it to the floor to be voted on. Please go to http://www.ChildRescueBill.org/Yoursupport/YourSupport.htm

    All we ask is your phone call and an email. We will keep you posted on what senators are stopping it.

    Thank you for your help.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  3. Petel2

    Now a note about pedophiles; They are the best manipulators. They will pretend to be non-catholic, non-religious, catholic moms, spanish catholics and use other handles and descriptions to fooling you. They are good at their game, just read the many posts here. They come here to fight exposure, to pretend innocence – to fool you.

    Just as criminals will revisit the scene of the crime to see if they are suspected, this is the pedophiles scene to find out how close we are to exposing them.

    Remember, good people would never deny victims of abuse. Good people would demand the courts hear the cases to discover the truth. Good people would never deflect crimes committed against children and change the focus. Good people would never blame a media for reporting crimes of lifelong suffering of children.

    Pedophiles will.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  4. Reality

    Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?
    "
    FEAR, SHAME and GUILT and COVER IT ALL UP!!!

    Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

    Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

    Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

    Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have se-x with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy"

    Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods.

    Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life.

    If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

    June 20, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  5. peace

    We all have to live in peace.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  6. ses

    I totally agree with you Sean......abusers are found everywhere....only a few have chosen to hit on the Catholic Church because they found their gold mine. Also, the abusers have nothing to do with the Church, in fact, they have hidden themselves under the robes of the church because they are too chicken to come out of the closet if they are gay, or to be caught if they were plain civilians. And the Catholic church has felt obligated to try to protect them and reform them. As a result the Catholic Church is being penalized as well as the church-goers are stigmatized with all these deviates and
    imbeciles. I am a Catholic and always will be, because there are bad-apples everywhere.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Jon

      The nature of the scandal, however, is never that there were pedophiles in the church; the world knew about that for years, even decades, and before 2001, whenever it happened, the blame was laid on the individuals alone. Rather, the nature of the scandal was the manner in which the Church concealed and therefore protected abusers, thereby enabling them to continue victimizing children. Who, then, were the greater sinners: the pedophile priests, or those who enabled them? Whether there are child abusers in the Church, and how many, is therefore a red herring the Church has utilized.

      June 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Christian Schizophrenia

      Keep supporting the rapists and their protectors

      June 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Cole

      Supporting rapist or supporting reformation of troubled individuals? Pedophiles are mental ill. What would we say if the Church shunned all those who suffered from mental illness? It is easy to be judgmental when you do not have to create a solution...

      June 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. HPNIII

    To me it is simple, if a bishop knew of a priest who committed murder, he should be turned in to the law. Molestation is against the law and if a bishop is aware of a priest who has committed this CRIME, they should be turned into the police. Some sins are not against the law and the bishop may have some say so in resolving those issuses, but molestation is a felony crime and covering up such a crime makes the bishop an accessory to that crime, and yes the bishop should be sent to prison just as the priest.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Cole

      sure...that's reasonable....

      June 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  8. BlackWulf

    Its All About Capitalistic Lawyers ,and Political Motives, and Get Rich Schemes Off the Catholic Church. Just like all the other Churches that have been attacked for supposed conduct. I am Catholic from the 1970's era and I personaly had no issues, and was taught the Bible one on one by a Sister. As supposed people have claimed such abuses.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • CER1940

      BlackWulf, I attended catholic schools in the 1940s and 1950s, even 1960s if you include college. I never "had any problems" either but I believe it happened and I believe it was covered up by bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even popes. I think we would not know what we know today if civil suits had not been filed and won. What money victims have received in no way covers the pain, anguish and suffering that has been caused them by the offending clerics and the heirarchy that has covered for the ciminals. Even more money should be paid to the families of the victims. If any part of this was strictly about money it was the part where the church has fought so hard to keep this all under cover over the years. The coverup was motivated by the desire of the heirarchy to maintain power and wealth.

      June 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • CER1940

      BlackWulf, ps when I was in high school, a priest struck me once and I struck him back. I got a dirty stare, we never liked each other after that, or before for that matter but he never struck me again. There were witnesses.

      June 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • a victim

      seems like the lawyers are the only ones the victims and their families can count on. Certainly not the catholic church.

      Guess you really want to deny victims their help, shame on you.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  9. William Demuth

    Grown men who violate little boys need a bullet in the back of their skull.

    Then their corpses should be burnt on their evil altars.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • BlackWulf

      First of all you , should be careful how you phrase things- you brit.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  10. David

    Do not leave Jesus because of what Judas did. Yes, the devil is trying to break THE church, but hell will not prevail. " Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Mt 16:18

    June 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Dave

      You just don't get it, do you?

      June 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Christian Schizophrenia

      Ahh the devil is trying to break the church. Anything negative about or from the church is because of the devil? Get help bro.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Christian Schizophrenia

      Dave, people not living in reality tend to not "get much out of the reality of life"

      June 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So Judas buggers, but Jesus does not?

      That is up their with the checks in the mail!

      June 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • CER1940

      Dave, I believe this is one of the many explainations that has been issued by the Vatican in very recent years... that is "the devil made us do it".

      June 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Christian Schizophrenia

      If there is a Devil then his church is the Catholic Church.

      June 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  11. Christian Schizophrenia

    The more catholic churches that are closed and sold is a good thing.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • BlackWulf

      Ok lets start with youre personal property.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  12. BizGuy

    Part of this abuse problem is Catholic Priests aren't allowed to get married. The other part is a mental sickness stemming from mulitple things that are too complicated for me to comprehend. The bible is very clear that if a man burns with lust they should be married. Pastors are allowed to marry but Catholic priest aren't. This is a Catholoism issue, not a biblical one.
    But again this only solves some of the problem.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Come on, I LOATHE the church but that is just silly.

      These yahoos fancy little boys back doors.

      Even if they had wives, they would still be baby buggerers!

      June 20, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  13. Rick

    Thank you Patrick.
    At long last someone willing to stand up to the most powerful religious organization of all time, for victims of abuse . Having been an alter boy in grade school and boarder at a Benedictine high school in WA state, I knew of at least two class mates who were abused. When one out spoke, he was sent to confession and told to repent for lying about a man of the cloth. These predator bothers and priests knew exactly who was vulnerable and easy prey. I was fortunate, barely a C student and a smart a–, I was not an attractive candidate.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Jeff

      The Catholic Church is a vast criminal enterprise. Its leaders ought to be arrested and charged under RICO. Then they ought to be put in jail and the assets of their kult seized. There is no greater danger to world peace than the deranged krist kult and their thirst for degenerate behavior - from the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the Third Reich, to the pedophilia scandal.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  14. HEATHER HASCHEAU

    TO THE ATTENTION UNTO MISTER ROBERT EDWARD TURNER #3. BOSS OF CNN.COM/FOUNDER THREOF: I AM NOT A CATHOLIC NOR AM I CHURCH GOER BUT I AM VERY SYMPATHETIC UNTO ALL HERE AND NOW TOO.. THUS IF IT HAD BEEN UP TO ME THIS WORLD WOULD HEVER BEEN HAVING, --SINCE THE START OF TIME: ***PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL UNTO ALL.*** WHY?!? I CARE THSI IS WHY. SIGNED: HEATHER AHSCEHAU.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  15. John

    When I was younger (early 1970's) and an alter boy it was "funny" how priests that liked the wrestle the boys and pay special attention to boys with single moms who were loners were never questioned by superiors. When accustions were made, the monsignor would call the child a liar and tell his mother he needed discipline, then when the acuusations were too intense these preists were just "transferred" to another diocese to find a whole new population of kids.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  16. Rich

    When you believe crazy things, you do crazy things.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Tone Loc's Attorney

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaRoT0mr5oI&w=640&h=390]

    June 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  18. HOLY

    Jesus never claimed divinity, he was a hebrew prophet just like Moses, Jonah, Zachariah, and John the baptist.
    Top bibilical scholar__ Bart Ehrman.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • ttwp

      Even Jesus Christ enemies knew who he claimed to be.

      "We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:33

      June 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • I still Believe

      Bart Ehrman only says that because he thinks some of the books in the bible are forgeries.... No proof of it... its just one of his beliefs.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Obviously Bart Ehrman never read the verse in the gospels (I forget which gospel) where Peter asks Jesus who he is, a teacher, a prophet, or more. Jesus replies "Who do you think I am?" and Peter responds "The Son of God, the Messiah." And Jesus responds to Peter "This has been revealed to you, for I am." That may not be exact wording (I don't have a Bible in front of me at the moment), but it sure sounds like a claim to me.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • John

      Yeshua called these men who were accusing him of Blashphemy liars and of the devil. To view there argument as valid, is to take the side of the devil. It is a silly thing to do. Yeshua answers them, by quoting David in the Pslams, then saying – If David called them mighty ones (gods), then why don't you accuse him of blasphemy. It infatically states, that he only said that he was the Son of the Almighty. That catholic church puts Mary above god, calling him the mother of god, because they were pagan from the start.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Jeff

      The bible is a collection of allegorical fairy tales. People who quote it as literal history are deeply, deeply disturbed.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • John

      Ryan in Michigan, please re-read the book of John. Yeshua made it abundantly clear. "I do NOTHING of myself, but as I hear I say and do". Because he did everything and said everything his father said, he therefore was God manfest in the flesh. That does not deter from the passage that says, "God is not a man that he should lie". It is actually a deniel to claim that Yeshua was God. As it says...1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. Yeshua came from the line of Adam as flesh and he did nothing but what God told him to do. Again, It is written..."Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ"

      June 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • St Reformed

      Bart Ehrman? to be taken with a grain (if not a pound) of kosher salt: Prof. Ehrman wrote "Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium” to "prove" that Jesus was merely another OT prophet. Yet, unlike many skeptics (e.g The Jesus Seminar), Ehrman acknowledges considerable historical material within the Synoptic Gospels. Like most academics, Ehrman has an axe to grind. In his case, it's his fundamentalist upbring (Plymouth Brethren) that sparked spectacular rebellion to his current agostic-to-atheist stance.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • John

      Jeff, I suggest you read the book of Isaiah and then go read the Taylor Prism. You only say what you do, because you are ignorant of what is actually written in the bible like most people. Archeology has dug up thousands and thousands of facts regarding what is written in the bible, from Archaedian texts, to Syrian, Egyptian, ect, ect. You think what you want. However; If you state it is nothing but fairy tales, then you are speaking only by ignorance, not of hard study.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • John

      That said, Jesus was much more then a prophet. He was sinless and the perfect representation of God.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • David Johnson

      I still Believe

      You said: "Bart Ehrman only says that because he thinks some of the books in the bible are forgeries.... No proof of it... its just one of his beliefs."

      Actually, Ehrman is well respected among his peers. He offers evidence. Believers just don't want facts to get in the way of their beliefs. LOL

      Cheers!

      June 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @John

      You said: "That said, Jesus was much more then a prophet. He was sinless and the perfect representation of God."

      Jesus may not even have ever existed:
      There were no eyewitness accounts of Jesus. The Gospels were written by god knows who in the third person. The Gospels were written with an agenda i.e., Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God.

      We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
      -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)

      The bottom line is we really don't know for sure who wrote the Gospels.
      -Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

      Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.
      -C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)

      There are no known secular writings about Jesus, that aren't forgeries, later insertions, or hearsay. NONE!

      Most of the supposed authors lived AFTER Jesus was dead. Can you say hearsay?

      We don't even have a wooden shelf that Jesus might have built. Or anything written by Jesus. God incarnate, and we don't even have a Mother's day card signed by Him.

      The Dead Sea Scrolls did not mention Jesus or have any New Testament scripture.

      Jesus, if he existed, was not considered important enough to write about by any contemporary person. The myth hadn't had a chance to flourish.

      Paul's writings were the first, about Jesus. But, Paul's writing was done 25 to 30 years after Jesus was dead. In a primitive, ultra-supersti_tious society, 25 years is a lot of time for a myth to grow. Paul never met Jesus.

      Some people feel that Paul, not Jesus, is the real father of what most Christians believe today (Pauline Christianity).

      Questions on the Crucifixion story:
      "Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save." Mark 15:31
      "Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe..." Mark 15:32
      It would appear, that the chief priests are admitting that Jesus "saved" others. If they knew this, then there is no reason for them to demand that Jesus descend from the cross, in order for them to believe. They already admitted to knowing of Jesus's "miracles".
      I'm sure you will apply Evangelical gymnastics to these verses, but taken literally it would seem that this is just an embellishment by Mark. A work of fiction.

      Here is some more:
      According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."
      Yet not a single mention of a three hour ecliptic event got recorded by anyone. 'Cause it didn't happen!

      Mathew 27 51:53
      51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
      How come nobody wrote about zombies running through the cities? 'Cause it is all b.s.

      If Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, who died for man's redemption, then this would be the most important event in the history of man.
      Why wouldn't god have ensured there was tons of evidence that this was true? Multiple Writings by contemporary eyewitnesses – Jews and Romans.

      You are going to want to say that there IS lots of evidence, but look at reality: There are way more people, in the world, who are not Christians (68%) than who are (32%). Obviously, the evidence is not adequate to convince even a majority of the world's people.

      Cheers!

      June 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  19. Cole

    How much does he make as a consultant for the lawyers, who get to keep 30%-50% of all rewards from victims? He is not charitable, he is making a TON of money off the largest charity group in the world.....The Catholic Church.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      He is under no authority to take a vow of poverty, especially in light of the fact the Church broke its vows of celibacy. Besides, he has a daughter to support, so why is it wrong to pay him for his services? He has unique knowledge, so why should he not charge top dollar for his services?

      June 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Brad S.

      How much of each donation to the Catholic Church actually goes to "charitable" purposes??? Answer – You'll never know.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • JT

      Oh, one of those "Sure, we've r@ped hundreds of thousands of children throughout the centuries but golly, look at what good things we're doing down at the soup kitchen!".

      June 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Cole

      90 cents on the dollar go to charity.... How much do you donate to worthy causes each year??? Have you ever feed a starving child???

      June 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Marcello

    'He recommends that the church "completely get out" of child protection, hand over all its files to civil law enforcement, and make bishops sign a legal oath every year that there are no perpetrators in the ministry – which would open them to criminal prosecution if they are found to have lied.'

    YES. This is exactly what should be done. If the Church isn't willing to do it voluntarily, then law enforcement should force this solution upon them.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Sean

      Considering that in the last few decades there have been exponentially more abusers in the public school system than there has been in the Catholic Church, how come you arent advocating they dismantle the public school system?

      June 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • May

      Actually, I think we should start with the President of the United States, and every year he should have to take an oath than NONE of his employees are child molesters, or ponographers, or adulterers.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Sean you are an idiot apologist who defends priests who bugger little boys.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      sean.. any form of abuse by anyone is abhorrent ..but the church tried to cover it up and hide behind some form of perceived religious immunity.. and was more concerned about its image and status than the victim.

      June 21, 2011 at 12:36 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.