No Wafer for Rudy

Giuliani campaigns as a Catholic, but he's on the outs with God

Hands recounted how Placa tried to settle his case: "Normally, Placa would go and speak personally to the family. I was told that, in my case, because they learned about it after it had come to the attention of the authorities, that they couldn't keep it under wraps. Alan had tried to contact the Hugheses to try to make inroads with them, to see on what level they could resolve things. During that first six months, they had refused any contact with Alan Placa." Hands was away in a therapy institute for much of that time and talking to Francis Caldwell, the monsignor who worked closest with Placa. Caldwell "felt bad" that they couldn't "make some kind of settlement" and assured Hands he'd "remain a priest," though he would probably not be assigned to a parish again. But as the scandal exploded, with Hands pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate, he left the priesthood—one of at least 35 priests who have been accused, many of whom have been drummed out of the diocese. "I told the grand jury about other priests that had been accused, and that Alan Placa had covered things up enough and that the priest had been moved, sometimes from state to state, to kind of lose the trail," Hands concluded.

David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), calls it "a travesty" that a political leader like Giuliani "would pay Placa." Politicians often hire cronies who hope to make money from their associations, says Clohessy, "but Placa didn't connive to get an extra ten grand in his pocket—he connived to keep desperately wounded child sex victims trapped in silence and shame and self-blame. He is the worst of the worst. He's worse than other child abusers, because he molested and he covered up other investigations."

But it's not just the hiring of Placa that indicates Giuliani's tone-deaf response to sex-abuse issues. In his final year at City Hall, Giuliani momentarily backed a City Council bill, Local Law 933, that would have, among other things, forced public and private schools and affiliated religious institutions to report abuse complaints to law enforcement as soon as they received them. When the archdiocese and others objected, the Giuliani administration quickly reached an agreement with City Council Speaker Peter Vallone to pull the bill and redraft it as an amendment to the charter that would appear on the 2001 ballot with a collection of other last-minute Giuliani proposals. But private schools were suddenly deleted from the charter proposal, which passed. Vallone says he "agreed with Rudy to take the private schools out." Council education chair Eva Moskowitz, a sponsor of the bill, said that, "given the priest sex-abuse scandals, there was a sense that the bill would further tarnish their image, that there would be public relations scandal." Placa told one interviewer that he would never refer an abuse complaint to the police, and Giuliani was effectively installing the Placa modus operandi into the City Charter.


Research assistance by: Benjamin Bright, Ben Greenberg, Alexandra Kahan, Jan Ransom, Ethan Strauss, Hannah Vahl, Tom Wiedeman

The Giuliani-appointed charter commission chair, Randy Mastro, a major adviser in the current presidential campaign and a former deputy mayor, explained only that his commission was "sympathetic" to private-school concerns. "Do we personally believe we should have gone further? Yes," he said.

But this bow to Catholic concerns by Giuliani was a rare exception to the cold shoulder that the church got on other issues critical to it, starting with abortion.

The Giuliani makeover for 2008 started with the end of the strand-by-strand comb-over that had become such a trademark of his mayoralty. But just as important as Giuliani's new look are his new views, with none more altered than those on abortion.

Giuliani says he still supports a woman's right to choose, but the Catholic League's Donohue reads his promise to appoint "strict constructionist" judges as "a wink and a nod" to conservatives who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Giuliani told Fox News that he supports "limitations on abortions," envisioning a day in which "we could get to no abortions," though he always achieved a 100 percent rating on the National Abortion Rights Action League's questionnaire, agreeing with the group on every nuance of the issue in 1993, 1997, and 2000. If he seems malleable about all of those nuances now—willing to leave access and funding up to the states—that's at least consistent with how malleable he was when he first adopted the positions that guided his government. He was searching for a point of view on the issue.

I was actually with him one night at Jack Newfield's house in the Village in 1989 when he was crafting out loud his views on abortion before his first mayoral run. He was an open book. Newfield and I backed off and turned him over to our wives, who gave him an earful. He thought then that abortion was a question of so many separable parts—from choice to Medicaid—that he could sit down with Conservative Party boss Mike Long and tell him some part of what he wanted to hear, and then sit down with Liberal Party brass Ray Harding and Fran Reiter and tell them some part of what they wanted to hear, thus securing the support of two parties that had never endorsed the same candidate for a major office.

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