The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota: Last Week’s SNAP Revelation About Yet Another Diocesan Leader
The Duluth News Tribune last Tuesday released another story about SNAP’s efforts in the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. SNAP, in case you have forgotten, is the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and played a rather central role in exposing and publicizing the coverup of the U.S. portion of the Roman Catholic church’s sexual abuse of children—mostly boys—by their clergy.
As I have noted before, the track record of SNAP indicates quite strongly that if SNAP gets a religious organization “in its sights”, suspecting it of a pattern of coverups, transfers, lies, and deceit, it will track that organization down and hound it to the grave. If they believe that there is any hiding, whatever they find will no longer be hidden at all. SNAP has demonstrated that it will never stop. I personally believe that the Episcopal church is an excellent organization for which SNAP may . . . shall we say . . . proffer its attention and its unique gifts.
Here’s a portion from Tuesday’s article:
“The international sexual abuse prevention and advocacy group planned to deliver a letter to Minnesota Episcopal officials to “blast” them for their secrecy regarding Mark Makowski and Lynn Bauman and ask that they disclose the names of any other known child predators working in the diocese, according to their news release.
After receiving SNAP’s letter Monday, the state Episcopal Diocese issued a statement that said it would respond after carefully considering the letter and taking it under advisement.
In 1995, Makowski, a former Catholic priest who served in Duluth and throughout the region, was sentenced to six months at the Northeast Regional Correctional Center and seven years of probation for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy while Makowski was a pastor at St. John Catholic parish in Grand Marais and Holy Rosary parish in Grand Portage.
More recently, Makowski served as an alternate representative for the Episcopal Diocesan Council representing District 8, which encompasses Minneapolis. The council, which is elected, oversees the diocese’s program and budget, according to its Web site.”
A quick google of “Mark Makowski” reveals a brief paragraph concerning the incident from 1995.
In 1995, a minor told his parents of sexual abuse by Makowski and they filed a complaint with police. He was convicted, defrocked and served a prison sentence, Fournier said.
Further slim details may be found here, with a summary of the issue referenced from the News-Tribune in 1995:
After initially pleading innocent to 3rd-degree sexual assault misconduct, Rev. Mark Makowski, 38, pleaded guilty to a plea bargain of 4th-degree misconduct in March. The pastor of St. John Catholic Parish in Grand Marais and Holy Rosary Parish in Grand Portage admitted he molested a 16 year old boy after giving him alcohol. “There’s a lot of people in this community who didn’t believe this happened,” noted prosecutor William Hennessy. “The family is happy that the trugh came out.”
There are also quite a number of current links to a “Mark Makowski’s” activities in Minnesota. [Of course, one cannot know if this “Mark Makowski” in Minnesota is the same Mark Makowski who committed the crime in Minnesota.]
A “Mark Makowski” participated in the 2007 Minnesota Aids Walk, contributed to the 2006 Minnesota Aids Project, and a “Jeremy Kurtz & Mark Makowski” contributed to The Aliveness Project, which “consists of people living with HIV/AIDS and concerned individuals of the community” [both also contributed to the Minnesota Aids Project in 2003]. A “Mark Makowski” was a delegate [along with a “Jeremy Kurtz”] to the GALA Choruses 2004 Festival [“the only national association of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and allied choruses”], and contributed to the Philanthrofund Foundation, “a catalyst in building communities in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are celebrated and live free from discrimination, violence, invisibility and isolation.” A “Jeremy F Kurtz and Mark J Makowski” also contributed to OutFront Minnesota—“Leading Minnesota Toward GLBT Equality”. Mark Makowski’s online profile states in part: “When not at work, Mark is immersed in home life with partner and cats, church leadership, and is hooked on hockey, football and baseball as a spectator. Photography, writing, reading, outdoor hiking & canoeing and political/religious discussions make up some of his passions.” A Jeremy Kurtz and Mark Makowski also live at the same address in Minnesota.
A “Jeremy Kurtz” is also a contributor of “YouthLink,” a partnership for homeless youth in Minneapolis.
Mark Makowski is listed in the minutes as attending a 2007 Diocesan Council meeting—a meeting, incidentally, where Bishop Jelinek pronounced that [according to the minutes] “In Minnesota, he feels that the Episcopal Church has gained more parishioners over the consecration of Gene Robinson than it has lost”, which is a somewhat surprising theory, since the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota has moved from nearly 10,000 in ASA in 2002 to around 7500 in 2006, and a membership of about 28,000 in 2002 to a membership of about 25,000 in 2006. Of course, the past 10 years overall also demonstrate a steady and near unrelenting decline; Bishop Jelinek has been the bishop of the diocese since 1993.
And Makowski is still listed on the diocesan web site as of today as an “Alternate Representative” on Diocesan Council for Region 8, despite the statement of the Legal Coordinator for the diocese, Renee Carlson , who mentioned in the Duluth News Tribune story that “to her understanding he was no longer serving in it.”
In one final surge of irony, a “Mark J. Makowski” of Minneapolis writes a letter to The National Catholic Weekly in 2003 and a year earlier a “Mark Makowski” writes a letter in response to an article in the same journal.
The irony? Well . . . in the 2002 letter, “Mark Makowski” says this [ital added]:
“I appreciate the varied letters to the editors that manage to be published. The process on how one is selected seems to be akin to how one is admitted to Harvard. 2002 will be remembered by me for how the Catholic hierarchy became more insane. William Donohue’s letter seemed to be compassionate towards admission of gay men to the celibate priesthood but his usage of “immature” seems to be a hidden bias against gay men. The few priests that have confided about their own maturity admit that there are many levels of their personal lives that have not developed since before entering the seminary. Francis DeBernardo appears to have locked in on the real issue concerning ordaining gay men. Unfortunately, W.E.LaMothe has some hysterical notion of gay men especially in the way they recruit young men. The gender of W.E. remains hidden but one can only assume that those who use only initials to sign their letters must belong to a secret society, possibly a Papist who should be rounded up and removed from the shores of America.
I know that if I keep writing, I will enter the hierarchy-zone and kiss my intellect good-bye.”
Obviously, there is no way to know if the “Mark Makowski” who wrote that letter is the same “Mark Makowski” who was once a Roman Catholic priest, and in 1995 was convicted in a plea bargain arrangement of molesting a 16-year-old boy “after giving him alcohol.” And thankfully, one does not need to know that in order to see the irony of the letter.
Almost exactly one year ago, I did a rather extensive compendium of quotes and links about another Episcopalian who is invited into the diocese of Minnesota and that the organization SNAP [Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] has focused on as well.
I bumped that article to the top of last week’s feature stack, because it’s important to remember the specific details of the Episcopal diocese of Minnesota’s actions.
Here is one major section of that original post, quoted here, and extensively so:
It seems that SNAP is involved with another story about an ex-Episcopal priest and the retreat center, “Episcopal House of Prayer,” in the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.
The Episcopal House of Prayer offers such helpful retreats as “Taking Jesus Seriously: Buddhist Meditation for Christians,” “Yoga: A Spiritual Practice,” and “Wisdom School Introduction”, this latter taught by Lynn Bauman. From the Retreat Center website is this helpful description of the course:
“Fifty years ago a very ancient and precious document from the beginning of Christianity came to light—the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. It was found in Egypt, and only surfaced onto the contemporary scene after much difficulty and intrigue. Clearly, this woman student of Jesus played an important role not only in his life, but also in the early formation of Christianity. Ultimately she and her Gospel were rejected and disappeared from view – only to surface 2000 years later.
Legends, such as those now told in the popular DaVinci Code, are widely available today. Though a mixture of fact and fiction, they point to a deeper reality that this Gospel uncovers and makes available now, after lying hidden from view for thousands of years. Are we ready for what it reveals?
Perhaps we are! In this seminar we will explore the legends, the Gospel, and the principles of the Divine Feminine all of which intrigue our modern imagination. Critical to each of us is the wisdom they bring to our own lives, and to the collective life of modern humanity. Come prepared for an adventure of Spirit. Cost: $310”
On Tuesday this week, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune revealed that Dr. Bauman is a registered sex offender:
“A group representing clergy sex-abuse victims criticized an Episcopal retreat center in Collegeville, Minn., on Tuesday for inviting a registered sex offender—the brother of the center’s director—to lead a retreat this weekend.
Lynn Bauman, 64, admitted to molesting an 8-year-old boy on a camping trip in 1996 and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation, according to the Texas Department of Corrections. He said Tuesday night that he admitted to wrongdoing and has not reoffended, and that it is “not germane” to his work now.”
Today, St. Paul Pioneer Press also picked up the story:
Organizers “are in denial. They should warn people. They have a responsibility to protect children; they owe society that,” said Bob Schwiderski of the Minnesota chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
But church officials and the Episcopal House of Prayers board president asked for understanding and forgiveness Wednesday.
“Clearly an incident occurred. And he has been judged and punished,” said Helen Hansen, of St. Paul, a longtime retreat center board member and its president. “He has taken the proper steps. We are not dealing with a repeat offender. … He has something important — insight and wisdom — to share.”
Of course, Abuse Tracker, a blog by retired religion reporter Kathy Shaw has noted the story.
The original story about the abuse, from an October 1999 issue of the Anglican Journal offered these details:
“Dr. Lynn Bauman, 57, pleaded guilty in Texas to indecency with a child by contact and inducing a sexual performance by a child. He was sentenced in August to 10 years probation, fined $1,500 and ordered to perform 240 hours of community service.”
I was very clear in the original post that my issues with Dr. Bauman’s continued work are not “he’s a sinner—sinners should not work” but about—once again—the arrogance and presumption of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota not being clear and up-front about him while allowing his continued leadership at Episcopal events in that diocese.
Now, we have something awfully similar happening one year later—and we have the same organization blowing the whistle on it.
At this point, I’m wondering the same thing that SNAP seems to be wondering. Just how many more convicted sexual molesters of boys are in leadership positions or honored speakers at Episcopal events in the Diocese of Minnesota? SNAP has asked “that they disclose the names of any other known child predators working in the diocese” and I certainly can understand that request.
But in my article of a year ago, I focused on some larger issues as well, not merely the secrecy issue, which is significant enough.
—The Episcopal Retreat Center seems to be largely interested in presenting workshops on eastern religion, with a thin and obscuring glaze of Christianity baked on
—It chooses as a key presenter a person who is heavily and intensely involved with gnostic spirituality and a presenter at a gay activist organization
—He is also a convicted sexual offender
I need to be clear. Those who are convicted of crimes—any crimes—are certainly allowed to support themselves and be contributing members of society. That is not the issue here, nor does it seem to be the issue of SNAP.
But the entire array of facts raises some interesting questions for Episcopalians in the Diocese of Minnesota.
1. Is anyone concerned about the non-Christian and rather unbalanced teaching that is going on at the retreat center?
2. Is it significant that Ward Bauman, the director of the retreat center, is Lynn Bauman’s brother, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press?
3. What should the diocese of Minnesota do, if anything, about assuring the moral character of spiritual leaders of the flock of Jesus Christ?
4. Is anyone—particularly laity—in the Diocese of Minnesota awake out there?
5. And . . . [this appears to be SNAP’s issue] should the diocese have been up-front, at the least, about the criminal activities of Dr. Bauman at a retreat in 1997 so that parents could be informed, rather than appear to be keeping retreat attenders and Episcopalians in the diocese in the dark?
As I have [cautiously] observed the activities of SNAP over the past years, I know one thing. If SNAP gets a religious organization “in its sights”, suspecting it of a pattern of coverups, transfers, lies, and deceit, it will track that organization down and hound it to the grave.
It will never stop.
I don’t know what SNAP is thinking about the past two “experiences” its had with leaders in our denomination.
Their issue with the retreat center and the diocese of Minnesota seems to be best described in this quote from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“SNAP believes retreat participants “should not be kept in the dark” if a facilitator is a sex offender.
“We want to be fair to the institutions involved, and this might be an excellent program, but let’s call a spade a spade,” he said. “Sex offenders are registered for a reason. People should not be kept in the dark about who they’re dealing with.”
As I ponder the last three rather eye-opening years for me and other traditional Episcopalians, I think I know exactly what SNAP means when it talks about people being “kept in the dark.”
Traditional Episcopalians are quite familiar with that sensation about a broad array of other matters.
I see three ominous trends with the two examples noted above in the Diocese of Minnesota.
First, there is the trend in the Episcopal church that there need be no criteria for participating in church leadership. If you are breathing, and are able to sit in a pew, then you can “lead.” Yet the New Testament details a number of criteria for church leadership beyond “being alive” and “sitting in a pew”. And of course, normal secular companies have criteria as well. If you have DUI’s on your driving record, some businesses will not hire you. If you are convicted of certain forms of stealing, other companies that sell high-end, easily transportable products, will not hire you. Some citizens of our country have forfeited their right to vote. Criteria and higher standards for leadership abound in the secular world, but not, it seems in the Episcopal church.
Are there any past behaviors that should preclude one from serving in a position of church leadership? I think so. And I would say that criminal sexual behavior by an adult against a young person is one of those behaviors.
Second, once a person is elevated to church leadership, there are some, it seems, in the Episcopal church who don’t want anyone to “say that out loud” about criminal behaviors like child molestation. They are willing to promote them to leadership positions, without being open and aboveboard about that person’s criminal behavior towards minors. And yet, church members make decisions about their children and young people’s involvement in certain activities and at certain locations based on who will be involved and where—whether it’s the neighborhood children, other youth peers, or adults, whether it is the choir room in the undercroft, or the Diocesan house. Church members may even actually decide whom to vote for in church elections based in part on their past records of achievements, failures, and yes, immoral and criminal behavior.
Third, and most creepily, I get the sense increasingly in our society—especially and shockingly in church circles—that sexual criminal behavior is not perceived as actually all that bad—no worse than any other crime. Understand, I’m not speaking of moral or immoral behavior, which from God’s point of view, has no ranking. All are sinners, all come under God’s judgement, and all must receive an atonement and a reconciliation with God through Christ’s work on the cross. There is no “ranking” of sin, from the perspective of whether we are or are not under the judgement of God and not in fellowship with God. It’s all bad, and it all deserves condemnation. Without reconciliation with God through Christ, we will be forever absent from God.
But the law rightly distinguishes the degree of crime. There are crimes that “cause no harm,” there are crimes which harm only material goods, and there are crimes that harm or threaten harm to other people. In that latter category, there are crimes that harm others “without violence” and crimes that harm others “with violence.” In that latter category, there are crimes that harm or threaten harm with violence to one’s peers—other adults—and crimes that harm with violence those who are weaker and not one’s peers—children and youth.
As heinous as, for example, adult rape is—the sexual assault with violence upon a woman or man against whom one is stronger or has superior weapons—that is still not as heinous a crime as the sexual assault upon a minor. Even if the child or young person is not overtly threatened, it is still a gross misuse of one’s adulthood and maturity to prey upon a weaker person, one who is weaker psychologically, rationally, emotionally, sexually, and physically and one over whom one is in authority and power.
Does no one see that allowing people who have done such things—engaged in criminal sexual activity against a weaker human being who is not even an adult peer—to act as leaders in the church is dangerous, irresponsible, and cavalier about sexual abuse of young people? It’s as if the whole notion of societal disapproval towards such horrible, criminal behavior is now outmoded, passe, and unmentionable.
SNAP is basing their questions and their pursuits on past experience—namely past experience with the same sort of cavalier, wink-wink responses as I have detailed above, and as the Roman Catholic church in the U.S. practiced with deadly results for decades. I sure hope that somebody, somewhere, sitting in the pews of the diocese of Minnesota is asking some of the same questions that SNAP is asking.
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