Posts Tagged “catholic clerical child abuse”

Cardinal Law arriving to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in 2010 / Andrew Medichini, Associated Press, via New York TimesBy now most of my readers will have heard that Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, died in Vatican City (Archive.Is cached article). He was famous as one of the targets of the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team, which revealed “priestly pedophilia” in the US in a series of articles back in 2002.

Initial focus was on the case of Fr John Geoghan, whom the archdiocese purposely allowed to abuse children for decades during his career as a priest (cached). The now-late Cardinal Law, the Globe subsequently revealed, helped a large number of priests abuse children, not just Geoghan, then often used quiet settlements to keep their abuse a secret (cached).

Cardinal Law flew to the Vatican and resigned as archbishop, near the end of 2002, under the weight of the unfolding scandal. Pope John Paul II then granted him a cushy, make-work job (i.e. archpriest of St Mary Major basilica) which kept him in Vatican City and thus shielded him from potential prosecution in the US.

Good bye and good riddance to one of the more vile human beings who’s ever lived. I’m disappointed the current Pope, Francis, is going to preside over his funeral. What Francis ought to have done, back when he took office, was to dismiss Law from his job in the Vatican and ship him back to the ‘States, hopefully to be brought up on charges for what he did. It’s a pity that can never happen, now.

Photo credit: Andrew Medichini/Associated Press, via New York Times.

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In this photo provided by the Australian Government Royal Commission, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, seated left, watches as Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, seated right, signs a document after receiving the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at Government House, in Canberra, Dec. 15, 2017. The commission delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. (Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission via AP)Australia has been investigating child abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy for several years now, and at long last, its report is final. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the numbers are staggering, and among contributing issues is the Church’s mandatory celibacy policy (Archive.Is cached article):

An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

(That last part is for all the Roman Catholic apologists out there who think this investigation was merely a pretense for attacking their precious Church. It wasn’t. But I digress.)

Another problem cited in the report is the confessional secrecy:

It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse.

The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged.

The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

This recommendation wasn’t exactly welcomed by the R.C. hierarchy:

“I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” [President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis] Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

Let’s be honest about it, though: The R.C. bureaucracy often uses the sanctity of the confessional to justify not reporting abuse to local authorities, the premise being that a priest’s superiors learned about it in the confessional. That, of course, is just a contrivance. I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine and dogma surrounding reconciliation (aka confession), but as I understand it, using the confessional as “cover” for one’s criminality — and especially using it to invite the collusion of the priest to whom one confesses — invalidates it as a sacrament. And that, in turn, lifts the secrecy provision.

But hey, what could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such holy things?

Photo credit: Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission, via Associated Press.

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Vatican flag (8583012024)The Roman Catholic Church obviously has a major problem. It’s been decades in the making, and has been on the front burner of occidental society for going on 20 years now. But it doesn’t seem to go away … because Church personnel just won’t stop doing shit they know they’re not supposed to do.

The latest case doesn’t involve abuse of children by a priest … but it’s close. As the New York Times reports, the Vatican has recalled one of their diplomats from their Washington Embassy due to kiddie porn (Archive.Is cached article):

The Vatican has recalled a high-ranking priest working as a diplomat in the Holy See’s embassy in Washington after American authorities sought to strip his immunity and potentially charge him with possession of child pornography, the Vatican said Friday.

In a statement, the Vatican said that it had been notified by the State Department on Aug. 21 of “a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a member of its diplomatic corps.

The Vatican said the priest would face an investigation and potential trial in Vatican City. But some critics saw in the Vatican’s move a reflexive step to protect its own by whisking a priest away from a justice system in a foreign land.

The statement did not identify the cleric, but Italian news media reports and an American official familiar with the investigation said it was Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, who was ordained in Milan in 1993 and entered the diplomatic corps in 2004. He has also worked as a diplomat in Hong Kong and as the Holy See’s liaison to Italy.

The article suggests this is standard practice for diplomats accused of crimes, but let’s be honest here: It fully coincides with the well-worn, and well-known, Church policy of vacuuming up clergy accused of wrongdoing and shuffling them off someplace else. The Times relates a story of another Vatican diplomat — an archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, nuncio to the Dominican Republic — who was similarly brought back to Vatican City and was supposed to have been “tried” for his crimes, only to die (conveniently) before that trial. I expect something similar to happen in this case; it will languish in the bowels of the Vatican Curia long enough for the just-recalled diplomat to die or to become so old or infirm that he ends up never being tried. Guaranteed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Dom RegensburgSeveral years ago, word came out that children had been abused as part of a Catholic choir in Germany, run for a time by the brother of Pope Benedict XVI. It took some time, and a long investigation, but according to Deutsche Welle, the final report reveals more abuse than most had guessed (WebCite cached article):

A total of 547 young boys from the famous Regensburger Domspatzen (“cathedral sparrows”) choir were subjected to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of priests and teachers, according to the attorney tasked with investigating the alleged abuse.

Presenting his 450-page report into the findings, attorney Ulrich Weber, said he found 500 cases of physical abuse and 67 instances of sexual abuse spanning over six decades.

Of the 49 church officials and teachers implicated in the report, nine were found to have been sexually abusive. Church officials had fostered a “culture of silence,” which allowed them to carry out such abuses for decades, Weber said.

Victims described their schooling and choir experience as like “a prison, hell and a concentration camp,” Weber said, adding that many had described those years as “the worst time of their lives, characterized by fear, violence and hopelessness.”

Note that the “culture of silence” is similar to what has been uncovered elsewhere within the Catholic Church. It’s what permitted “priestly pedophilia” to go on, all around the world, for decades.

In this case, for some 30 years (1964 to 1994), Fr Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict (aka Joseph Ratzinger), had run the Regensburger Domspatzen. He’s insisted he was unaware of any abuse, although the investigator doesn’t find this plausible. Also, the abuse certainly didn’t begin with Fr Ratzinger; the investigation dates it as far back as 1945.

This report is only part of a larger process, which will include compensation to victims. That’s the least that could be provided. I’d prefer to have seen some contrition on the part of the Regensburg diocese, and an apology at the very least by Fr Ratzinger. Given the most recent abuse uncovered happened in the 1990s, criminal prosecutions may not be possible, but some acknowledgement by Catholic officials is needed.

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Cardinal George Pell in 2012Like many countries, Australia has been investigating how the Roman Catholic Church (along with other groups) handled child abuse by clerics in its ranks.

Over the last couple years, the man who’d been Australia’s top Catholic hierarch, Cardinal George Pell, had to testify about what he, and other hierarchs, had done. During these hearings, Pell let fly the excuse that Catholic hierarchs didn’t want to report child abuse, because they weren’t “gossips.”

Pell may have faced some heat, as a hierarch, over how the Church’s management handled the scandal, but as the New York Times reports, the state of Victoria has charged him with sexual assault, himself (WebCite cached article):

Australia’s senior Roman Catholic prelate, and one of Pope Francis’ top advisers, has been charged with sexual assault, the police in the Australian state of Victoria said on Thursday.

The prelate, Cardinal George Pell, became the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses.

Pell has been in the Vatican since 2014, when Pope Francis named him to a key post in the Church. He is, effectively, the number 3 man in the Vatican. Although Pell has been criticized (not unjustly) for how he handled abuse allegations against clergy working under him, while he was archbishop of Sydney and of Melbourne before that, these charges appear to be about him, directly, and aren’t really new:

Last year, detectives from the state of Victoria flew to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell over sexual abuse accusations, the police said.

The detectives were part of a task force charged with investigating allegations of abuse that arose from a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria into the abuse of children, as well as the Royal Commission’s hearings.…

News reports that the Australian police were weighing abuse charges against the cardinal came on May 17, days after the release of a book, “Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell,” by Louise Milligan.

Pell has said he will return to Australia to answer these charges. (Since the Vatican has no extradition agreement with Australia, he could just hide out there and ignore the charges, if he wanted.) We’ll just have to see how his case plays out.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Saint Patricks Cathedral in New York - NYC - USA - panoramioFallout from the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal continues raining down all over the place. The latest example comes from New York City, whose archdiocese wants to borrow money to improve their cashflow, as Reuters reports, which has been choked due to payouts to abuse victims (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is seeking permission for a $100 million mortgage on some of its valuable Manhattan property to fund its compensation program for people sexually abused by its priests, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The archdiocese said last October it would compensate people who had accused priests of abusing them as children, including those prevented by statutes of limitations from filing civil lawsuits. It said at the time it would seek loans to fund the payouts, which are being decided by two independent arbitrators.

On Monday, the archdiocese filed a petition in New York state court in Manhattan seeking approval for a one-year mortgage from JPMorgan Chase on land it owns behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Lotte New York Palace hotel is located on the site. The petition was necessary under a New York law governing the use of church property, Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“Because we have begun the process of paying out the compensation to victims, the archdiocese has taken this short-term loan to cover the payments,” Zwilling said.

As Reuters explains, the archdiocese is also soliciting claims by abusers who haven’t come forward yet, which may well add to their liabilities. That’s laudable, as such, but really, it’s the least they could do at this point. As with almost every other diocese on the planet, they spent years, and maybe decades, covering for abusive clergy and effectively enabling the abuse by continuing to grant abusers access to children, even in cases when they were known abusers.

It’s widely assumed that Catholic dioceses are wealthy … and nearly all of them are. But in many cases, their wealth is tied up in real estate, and while it has value, it’s not cash in the bank that they can write checks against. Hence, tactics like this, borrowing against their real estate. But I can’t say I’m sympathetic. As I said, this scandal was decades in the making and was fuelled by depraved and amoral hierarchs who put the reputation of their precious Church above everything else — even the welfare of children in its care. Disgusting.

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Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)I can’t really say this story surprises me. Pope Francis’s “abuse commission” was doomed from the moment he announced its creation, several years ago. There is no way any such group was ever going to be able to investigate “priestly pedophilia” or bring about any changes that could prevent child abuse in the future. It quite simply was not going to happen. As the Religion News Service reports, an Irish abuse survivor who’d been invited on the panel, has given up and quit (WebCite cached article):

Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has accused the Vatican bureaucracy of “shameful” resistance to fighting clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church as she quit a key panel set up by Pope Francis.

In a major setback for the pope, Collins on Wednesday (March 1) announced that she had resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established by the pontiff in 2013 to counter abuse in the church.

She said the pope’s decision to create the commission was a “sincere move” but there had been “constant setbacks” from officials within the Vatican.

“There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change or understand the need to change,” Collins said in a telephone interview from Dublin.

Collins is not the only abuse survivor on the panel to have had trouble with it. A year ago, Peter Saunders was sidelined by the commission, and he condemned it — although, as RNS explains, he hasn’t resigned.

Look, any veteran watcher of the R.C. Church could have predicted this outcome. The Vatican is the most change-averse organization on the planet. They resist change at all costs, all the time. There’s a kind of defiant psychopathology that sets in with all the hierarchs once they become princes of the Church. They can get petulant and even angry about having to change, and about being faced with their own wrongdoing, as with New York’s Cardinal Egan back in 2012, retracting his namby-pamby pseudo-apology for what happened while he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, CT. Really, they’re all very childish … which should be no surprise, since immaturity and the religious mind go hand-in-hand.

At any rate, I am disappointed for Ms Collins. It appears she had thought the Pope’s commission might accomplish some good, back when it started, and she still says the Pope himself sincerely meant it to work out. But it didn’t, and it won’t, because it can’t. That’s just how the Vatican, and its black-robed denizens, are.

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