Posts Tagged “abuse scandal”

Cardinal Keith O'Brien is to resign amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA, via the (UK) GuardianThings just keep getting worse for the Roman Catholic Church. Great Britain’s senior hierarch, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has resigned over abuse allegations, as the (UK) Guardian reports (WebCite cached article):

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned with immediate effect after being accused of “inappropriate acts” towards fellow priests.

The Scottish Catholic church announced that Pope Benedict had accepted the cardinal’s resignation as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which came after the Observer disclosed a series of allegations by three priests and one former priest [cached].

O’Brien has denied the allegations and had been expected to continue in his post as head of the Scottish Catholic church until mid-March, when he was due to retire at age 75.

But in a detailed statement, O’Brien said he resigned on Monday, and apologised to any people he had let down. He said he did not want the controversy to overshadow the election of the new pope.

Note, these accusations aren’t exactly like most of the abuse that’s been investigated and reported worldwide for more than a decade now. O’Brien’s four accusers were seminarians at the time of the abuse, three of whom are currently priests. That, of course, does not make what he did right. I’m just pointing out this is not a case of pedophilia; it means children are not the only victims of Catholic clerics’ abuse.

I also note that O’Brien is the Cardinal who, last week, announced he’d support ending the Church’s celibacy requirement for priests (cached):

The Scottish Catholic leader, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has said he would be happy for priests to be able to marry. Many priests struggle to cope with celibacy and should be able to marry and have a family, he added, in advance of a trip to Rome where he will help elect the next pope.

O’Brien told the BBC: “I’d be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should be married. It’s a free world and I realise many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood, and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.”

He said this at the very same time he knew he’d been accused of abusing seminarians and while he was awaiting papal acceptance of his resignation … so this is not a coincidence. One wonders why he’d say such a thing, under those circumstances?

Photo credit: David Cheskin/PA, via the em>Guardian.

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Photograph of St Aidens Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Republic of IrelandWhat the Roman Catholic Church has done to the children of one of the most-Catholic countries in the world — i.e. Ireland — is a travesty that reaches beyond the imagination. This timeline of the scandal there, courtesy of the Irish Times (WebCite cached version), shows the Church there had been insuring itself against child-abuse claims in the 1980s; allegations began emerging in the 1990s, and the Magdalene laundries became infamous by the end of that decade. Since then the Irish judiciary has undertaken a number of investigations into the abuse. The Ferns report (focused on the diocese of Ferns) was released in 2005. The Ryan Report, with a national scope, was released in 2009. The Murphy Report (focused on the archdiocese of Dublin) was released a few months later. Just yesterday, the Cloyne Report (focused on the diocese of Cloyne) was released, and as the New York Times explains, the situation is even grimmer than had been thought (cached):

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009, long after it issued guidelines meant to protect children, and the Vatican tacitly encouraged the cover-up by ignoring the guidelines, according to a scathing report issued Wednesday by the Irish government.

Alan Shatter, the Irish justice minister, called the findings “truly scandalous,” adding that the church’s earlier promises to report all abuse cases since 1995 to civil authorities were “built on sand.” Abuse victims called the report more evidence that the church sought to protect priests rather than children.

That’s right, folks. This means that, even as the Irish government was wrapping up the Ryan and Murphy investigations — and four years after the Ferns Report had been released — Ireland’s Catholic bishops were still actively covering up for child-abusing clergy whom they supervised:

The Cloyne Report, as it is known, drafted by an independent investigative committee headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, found that the clergy in the Diocese of Cloyne, a rural area of County Cork, did not act on complaints against 19 priests from 1996 to 2009. The report also found that two allegations against one priest were reported to the police, but that there was no evidence of any subsequent inquiry.

It’s clear the Church knew what this latest report would say, long before its release:

John Magee, the bishop of Cloyne since 1987, who had previously served as private secretary to three popes, resigned last year.

The Irish foreign ministry summoned the papal nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to a meeting, to answer for the Holy See’s conduct. The Irish Times reports on his comments afterward (cached):

The papal nuncio today said he was “very distressed” by the report into child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne. …

“I wish to say, however, the total commitment of the Holy See for its part to taking all the necessary measures to assure protection.”

Except, the Holy See actually did nothing of the sort! The Cloyne Report shows — via documentation — that the Vatican actively worked to undermine Irish bishops’ cooperation with secular authorities in child-abuse cases, as the NY Times story explains:

Most damaging, the report said that the Congregation for the Clergy, an arm of the Vatican that oversees the priesthood, had not recognized the 1996 guidelines. That “effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures” and “gave comfort and support” to priests who “dissented from the stated Irish church policy,” the report said.

The report gave details of a confidential letter sent in 1997 by the Vatican’s nuncio, or ambassador, in Ireland to Irish bishops, warning them that their child-protection policies violated canon law, which states that priests accused of abuse should be able to appeal their cases to the Vatican. The nuncio also dismissed the Irish guidelines as “a study document.”

I blogged about this letter six months ago when it was reported in media outlets and released on the Internet. So this particular item is not really news. The Cloyne report, however, places it in perspective and demonstrates its effect on Ireland’s bishops.

Ireland’s chief Catholic hierarch, Cardinal Seán Brady, apologized — again:

Cardinal Brady issued an apology on Wednesday and called for more openness and cooperation with civil authorities. He has been fighting calls for his resignation since last year, when he acknowledged helping to conceal the crimes of one serial-rapist priest from Irish authorities in the mid-1970s.

I’ve already blogged about that particular skeleton in Brady’s closet. What a marvelous, stand-up kind of guy. (Not!)

I have to wonder how many more of these reports are going to be released; how many more times are we going to hear Catholic hierarchs express their regrets and promise to do better; and how many more times are we nevertheless going to discover that they continue to refuse to do so? How long is it going to be before the Roman Catholic Church finally admits what it has done and actually tries to make things right?

My guess is, they never will. (After all, there are Catholics who — even now — are convinced Galileo deserved to be destroyed because he insolently agreed with Copernicus!)

Final note to anyone who will complain that child abuse happens in all religions and I’m not supposed to report on the Catholic Church’s abuses … I’ve already answered that tired whine, and quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. It shouldn’t matter — and it doesn’t! — that other religions’ clergy abuse children. What the Catholic Church has done, is what it has done, and no amount of any other religions’ wrongdoing can possibly justify it. (That’s known as “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is both fallacious and amoral. It needs to fucking stop.)

Photo credit: JohnArmagh / Wikimedia Commons.

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Image of a 1997 letter from the Vatican warning Irish bishops not to report suspected child-abuse cases to police.The Mafia-like philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy continues to be revealed as information emerges from the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal. The latest revelation comes in the form of a letter, originally written by Vatican officials to Ireland’s bishops in 1997, ordering them not to report child abuse to local authorities. The AP reports via Canada’s The Globe and Mail on this remarkable document (WebCite cached article):

A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police – a disclosure that victims groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of coverup.

The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

What makes this a “smoking gun” is that it shows the Vatican to have lied about the scandal:

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that the church in Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.

The letter also shows the Vatican’s primary concern was to ensure that canon law — i.e. the Church’s own internal legal system — handled these cases and that secular courts would never see them. Once again we see that the Church views itself as being above the law of the countries in which it operates, and assumes itself answerable to no one and nothing else.

The Globe and Mail hosts a copy of the letter, just large enough to read if one works at it (WebCite cached version).

My guess is that Catholicism’s apologists will refuse to acknowledge the lie demonstrated in this letter and will refuse to accept any possibility of wrongdoing by Church hierarchs.

Hat tip: Repi at Atheist/Agnostic/Herding Cats on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: The AP, via The Globe and Mail.

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Benedict XVI in FatimaPope Benedict XVI has come one tiny step closer to contrition over the Catholic clerical abuse scandal, and asked for forgiveness, as the New York Times reports (WebCite cached article):

Addressing the sexual abuse crisis from the seat of the Roman Catholic Church before thousands of white-robed priests, Pope Benedict XVI on Friday begged forgiveness, saying the church would do “everything possible” to prevent priests from abusing children. …

The pope did not outline specific actions that the church would take to combat abuse, as many had hoped — and as Benedict had pledged at an audience in April. Nor did his remarks go much beyond what he had already said in a letter to Irish Catholics in March and in a private meeting with victims of sexual abuse on Malta in April.

But it was the first time that Benedict had asked forgiveness for the crisis from St. Peter’s Square, the heart of the church itself, and on an occasion focused on priests.

Even so, the Pope could not help but try to evade responsibility for everything that happened:

The pope said the Devil was behind the scandal, saying it had emerged now, in the middle of the Vatican’s Year of the Priest, because “the enemy,” or the Devil, wants to see “God driven out of the world.”

“And so it happened that in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light — particularly the abuse of the little ones,” the pope added.

So you see, once again, the Vatican’s thinking implicit behind everything that’s happened … this is not really a failing of the Church and by the Church. It is, instead, an external affliction, imposed on the Church from outside it, by the Devil; in other words, it’s part of an ongoing spiritual struggle between the godly Church and the Forces of Darkness, and it’s the clergy who are its real victims (having popped up during the Year of the Priest). The “little ones” or children who were abused, are merely incidental players in this drama, in the Vatican’s eyes.

So while I can say the Pope has become more contrite about this scandal than he has been in the past, by not accepting full responsibility for it, I cannot really say is truly 100% contrite yet.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales).

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During an audience of Pope Paul VI in 1977The Roman Catholic clerical abuse saga continues to grow worse for the Church and the Vatican. CBS News reports on a letter which had been sent to then-Pope Paul VI in 1963 advising the removal of pedophile priests (locally cached image):

The head of a Roman Catholic order that specialized in the treatment of pedophile priests visited with the then-pope nearly 50 years ago and followed up with a letter recommending the removal of pedophile priests from ministry, according to a copy of the letter released Wednesday.

In the Aug. 27, 1963 letter, the head of the New Mexico-based Servants of the Holy Paraclete tells the pope he recommends removing pedophile priests from active ministry and strongly urges defrocking repeat offenders.

The letter, written by the Rev. Gerald M.C. Fitzgerald, appears to have been drafted at the request of the pope and summarizes Fitzgerald’s thoughts on problem priests after his Vatican visit.

One would expect that the Pope — having requested the advice — would then have taken it. The Roman Catholic hierarchy, of course, is denying that Paul VI even saw the letter, so he hadn’t been warned. Even so, it’s documentary evidence that someone within the Church, with knowledge of the issue, had tried to inform the Vatican of its extent:

“It [the letter] shows without a shadow of a doubt that … how pervasive the problem was was communicated to the pope. He was able to share with him their knowledge of how pervasive this problems was, how destructive this problem was,” [abuse victims’ attorney Tony] DeMarco said.

In an additional news item which is not really news, the Vatican continues to complain that newspapers — especially the New York Times — have dared to report factual information about the Church:

The Vatican’s top doctrinal official, Cardinal William Levada, specifically called out the New York Times for coverage he called “deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness.” The pope, he said, is owed a debt of gratitude for introducing needed reforms.

Translation from Vaticans-speak: Waaah waah wah waaaah wah!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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