Posts Tagged “catholic clerical child abuse”

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin / Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters, via the Daily BeastThe worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal rolls on. I’ve blogged about it for a very long time. It’s been going on for around 15 years. Had such a scandal manifested within any other organization, people would have been prosecuted, changes would have been made, victims compensated, and it would have long ago stopped being an issue.

But that’s not how things work with the Catholic Church. No, the Holy Church doesn’t work the way any other institution does. It keeps on keeping on, as the saying goes. It doesn’t admit fault, it doesn’t change, it doesn’t relent, it makes no concessions, it just does what it’s always done … because the Church. Case in point: As the Daily Beast reports, the priestly-pedophilia scandal erupted again, this time in France, involving a Cardinal there (WebCite cached article):

Meet the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who has denied he did anything wrong by hiding the well-known fact [cached] that Father Bernard Preynat was sexually abusing as many as 40 Catholic Scouts in France in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Preynat was relieved of his duties in the parish of Roanne in 2015 after admitting to the sex abuse. He was indicted on Jan. 27 on charges of “sexual abuse and rape of minors” and has admitted his crimes to the police.…

Meanwhile, Cardinal Barbarin is facing criminal charges by a French secular court for “failing to report a crime” and “endangering the life of others,” which could carry a three-year prison sentence and fines up to €45,000.

Barbarin denies having done anything wrong, and his reasoning is quite unbelievable:

[Barbarin] maintains that he shouldn’t be accused at all because he eventually removed Preynat from parish work.

Never mind that the removal came nearly 15 years after his crimes were made known. After victims and their families came forward in 1991, Preynat was removed him from parish duties for six months by the then-archbishop, who is now deceased. Yet despite having confessed to the crimes, Preynat was allowed to return to his active duties after he repented, meaning he had access to children despite admitting to being a pedophilic sex offender.

When Barbarin was appointed as archbishop, he even promoted the errant priest to an administrative position in 2007 where he was in charge of six dioceses filled with children, according to court documents quoted [cached] in the French press.

Barbarin, who is well liked in France despite his harsh stance against gay marriage (which he once predicted would pave the way to legalized incest), removed Preynat from the priesthood last August when secular authorities got involved—25 years after his crimes had first emerged.

Yes, apparently Barbarin believes that, because he finally summoned the courage to stop Preynat decades after he knew Preynat was abusing kids, this means he shouldn’t have been prosecuted for not having stopped Preynat.

Yes, folks, this is exactly the sort of reasoning that floats through the pompous and self-righteous brains of Catholic hierachs. It’s at least as absurd and laughable as any of the vast litany of other excuses the hierarchs and their apologists have offered, over the past few years.

But let’s be brutally honest here: Preynat’s superiors — which included Barbarin for a very long time, but also others within the Church — knew damned well he was abusing kids but purposely chose to allow him to continue abusing kids, for decades. Yes, that’s decades. This is factual — by Preynat’s own admission. There’s no question about it. I invite any and all Catholic apologists out there to explain to me clearly how and why this was acceptable. I fucking dare you! Go ahead and tell me why this was just fine.

Photo credit: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters, via the Daily Beast.

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Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona, PAOnce again the world is treated to yet another revelation of the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s Mafia-like morals. It turns out that a campaign to let abusive priests prey on children lasted for decades in central Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the release of a grand jury’s finding outlining the “staggering” depravity (WebCite cached version):

Hundreds of children were molested, raped and destined to lasting psychological trauma by at least 50 priests and others associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown across half a century, a state grand jury has found in denouncing coverups orchestrated by two bishops and enabled by the law enforcement officials they controlled.

The conspiracy amounted to “soul murder,” said the report by the 37th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, released today nearly two years after the grand jury was impaneled.…

The two previous bishops leading the diocese — James Hogan, who served from 1966 to 1986 and died in 2005, and Joseph Adamec, who served from 1987 to 2011 and is now retired — “took actions that further endangered children as they placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the wellbeing of innocent children,” the report said. “Priests were returned to ministry with full knowledge they were child predators.”

Making this case much worse than a lot of others, was the active involvement of secular officials, who apparently were more concerned with pleasing the R.C. Church than in doing their jobs and prosecuting crimes against children:

The report includes extensive testimony from a key aide to Bishop Hogan, Monsignor Philip Saylor, who said a Blair County president judge, sheriff and other law-enforcement officers deferred to the diocese to let it handle investigations of abusive priests, rather than prosecuting them. And Monsignor Saylor said a mayor of Johnstown sent candidates for police and fire chief to him for interviews, and he would tell the mayor whom to pick. “That happened in Johnstown and Altoona,” he said.

The grand jury report quoted former Altoona Police Chief Peter Starr as crediting his own appointment to such arrangements and saying that the “politicians of Blair County were afraid of Monsignor Saylor” given his role as editor of the diocesan newspaper.

With such influence, “Hogan saw no obligation of faith or law to the children of his parishioners,” the grand jury report said.

The report added that even a diocesan review board, impaneled amid growing public outrage over sexual abuse by priests, often turned into a travesty, with investigations focusing not on the accused but on those reporting abuse by priests. In one case, the review board sought gynecological records of a survivor, the report said.

You can read the entire report for yourself, if you wish (cached).

This is one of the few investigative reports in which secular officials’ complicity and obeisance to the Church were revealed in plain language. The unfortunate problem is that, despite this pervasive child abuse and extensive efforts to obstruct justice, no one is going to be prosecuted, due to the deaths of many perpetrators, statutes of limitations, and an unwillingness to force victims to testify. If not for those, a lot of people might be going to jail. More’s the pity.

Now, I’m sure the fact that this report was released by Pennsylvania’s embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane will make Catholic apologists leap for joy. “How can anyone believe this report?” they’ll protest. “Ms Kane is up to her eyeballs in a scandal!” Yes, it’s true, Ms Kane is in deep trouble (cached). So yes, this grand jury report was offered up by tainted hands. But that’s not actually relevant here, and it doesn’t affect the report’s credibility. She wasn’t on the grand jury. What’s more, that she presented the report doesn’t mean its conclusions aren’t valid. After all, even a broken clock is right, twice a day.

So, too bad so sad, Catholic apologists. You still lose. And you always will, because your loser Church is run by a cadre of amoral and cowardly old men.

Photo credit: Joseph, via Flickr.

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SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL, OOTY, via Diocese of Ootacamund Web siteFor a while now, I’ve blogged about the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion that priestly pedophilia is a “historical phenomenon” (i.e. a relic of the past). Five years ago the American bishops commissioned a report which reached this conclusion, and used those very words. But that’s not the case. Even at that time — and now — it remains a continuing problem.

As if to underscore this, as well as to demonstrate, once again, that it doesn’t take this problem seriously, a diocese in India — at the Vatican’s urging — has reinstated a priest there who’d molested children while he was posted to a Minnesota church. CBS News reports on their reprehensible maneuver (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic church in southern India has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the United States more than a decade ago, a spokesman said Saturday.

The suspension of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul [cached] was lifted last month after the bishop of the Ootacamund Diocese in India’s Tamil Nadu state consulted with church authorities at the Vatican, said the Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the diocese.

Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of Ootacamund had referred Jeyapaul’s case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the suspension was lifted on the church body’s advice, Selvanathan said.

The article briefly describes the particulars of this case … but even this is enough to make one’s skin crawl:

Jeyapaul was sent to Minnesota in 2004 and served at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, near the Canadian border.

He was suspended in 2010 after being charged with sexually assaulting two girls who were both 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.

Jeyapaul fled the United States, but was arrested in India by Interpol in 2012 [cached] and extradited to the U.S. Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to molesting one of the teenagers who hasn’t been identified publicly. The charges involving sexual abuse of the second teenager, Megan Peterson, were dropped as part of a plea deal.

Peterson accused Jeyapaul of raping her in his office in a statement posted under her name on the website of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has advocated for victims’ rights.

It’s clear the Vatican and the global hierarchy of the Church simply don’t take this seriously. As I’ve documented many times over the years, they consistently and repeatedly have blamed the worldwide priestly-pedophilia scandal on anything and everything other than themselves or the abusive priests. In some cases, they don’t even view the abuse as unacceptable or criminal in the first place. In others they view accusations of abuse by their clergy as fabrications woven by any number of bogeymen (ranging from “masonic secularists” to gays or homosexuality generally to Pope-haters to the Forces of Darkness to the Jews) intended to “bring down” God’s holy Church. In still others, they believe the victims somehow coerced clergy into abusing them.

The hierarchy staunchly and petulantly refuses to accept it’s done anything wrong by protecting and supporting abusive priests. No excuse is too ridiculous to offer, in their effort to justify this refusal.

Photo credit: Diocese of Ootacamund Web site.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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General Audience with Pope FrancisAfter being tossed from the Vatican’s priestly-pedophilia review panel, abuse victim Peter Saunders has a bit to say about that project. And what he said, in his interview with AFP, isn’t good at all (WebCite cached article):

“Of course Pope Francis has established he is part of the problem,” Peter Saunders said in an interview with AFPTV, during which he insisted he had not resigned and that only the pontiff himself could force him to quit the Vatican commission.

“That breaks my heart because when I met him 18 months ago I thought there was a sincerity and a willingness to make things happen, and I am afraid that has been dashed now.”…

But Saunders now says he realises the commission was always going to be about “smoke and mirrors” and that he is convinced the Church will never act alone to cure the “cancer” in its midst.

Saunders confirmed my suspicion that his removal from the panel was caused by something more recent than his criticism of Cardinal George Pell some eight months ago:

Saunders said the move was triggered by tensions that arose after a fellow commission member told him about being approached by two priests from an Italian diocese who had discovered a colleague was a serial abuser of children.

He also tackled something I’ve been talking about for years:

Saunders said the notion that clerical sex abuse was a problem of past decades — an argument Vatican officials have assiduously promoted — had to be challenged.

“This is not in any sense a historical issue or problem,” he said. “It has to be tackled now. The Pope could do so much more and he is doing next to nothing.

“This is a societal problem — but if the Church, the so-called moral leadership of the world, does not take a lead in this area it would quite rightly be considered morally bankrupt in every other area.”

Saunders is 100% correct. The Church has, in fact, repeatedly insisted that priestly pedophilia is a “historical problem” (and using that very phrase), yet as we all know, it’s not “historical,” it’s “ongoing.” As long as the Church refuses to admit that, it will remain possible for abusive clergy to go on abusing kids.

So much for the notion that Pope Francis might deal with this scandal better than his predecessors. All he managed to do, by creating this commission, was to come up with yet another way of deflecting it. How disappointing. The little bit of respect I’d had for Pope Francis is now gone.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)When Pope Francis ascended to the papacy, he was hailed as a reformer, and many expected he’d handle the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal much better than either Benedict or John Paul had. As I’ve blogged many times, Francis has in fact gone his own way, many times and over many issues.

Whether he’s been able to make a real difference, though, is another matter. And the clerical child-abuse scandal appears to be one in which he’s gotten nowhere. It’s not as though he’s done nothing at all … back in late 2013 he announced the creation of an advisory panel on the matter, which included abuse survivors (WebCite cached article). Unfortunately, that commission hasn’t done much. Its meetings have been infrequent, and its impact has been minimal.

And now, as CNN reports, it seems someone in the Vatican has decided to kick one of the abuse survivors off the panel (cached):

One of two sex abuse survivors on Pope Francis’ commission on the abuse of minors by the clergy has taken a leave of absence, the Vatican announced Saturday.

But Peter Saunders, an outspoken critic of the papal commission, responded: “I have not left and I’m not leaving.”

Founder of the London-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Saunders told reporters, “I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will only talk to him about my position.”

A Vatican statement said the “direction and purpose” of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was discussed at a Saturday meeting.

“It was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission’s work,” the statement said.…

At a news conference after the Vatican’s announcement, Saunders said he was blindsided by the decision.

“I was asked to consider my role or what my role should be with the commission,” he said.

“I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence. I said I would reflect on what I would do.”

Saunders said he learned about his supposed leave after the statement’s release.

The CNN article implies Saunders was thrown off the panel because of his harsh criticism of Australian Cardinal George Pell, but that happened eight months ago (cached). In most cases, that passage of time would suggest the two events aren’t linked. Then again, this is the Vatican we’re talking about, and it’s a proverbially slow-moving institution. Still, I’m not sure there’s a lockstep association here. It’s possible that Saunders has been causing internal problems for them during the intervening months, leading to this decision. That’s not to say any problems Saunders may have created for them are undeserved, or that he’s been unreasonable: The robed denizens of the Vatican probably just don’t like an abuse survivor calling them out on what they — and the rest of the hierarchy — did, and possibly are still doing.

That the Vatican didn’t even have the decency to tell Saunders he’d been dismissed before announcing his forced departure, is just another example of their moral deficiency and their sense of entitlement.

Was Pope Francis behind this low maneuver? Maybe … but maybe not. It’s hard to say how the Vatican operates these days. It’s true the Popes are nearly absolute monarchs, and technically in charge of everything that happens there. But there are times — both historically and now — when the machinery of the Vatican moves on its own, responding to its internal bureaucratic momentum. We’ll have to see what Francis does about this … but we’ll also have to keep in mind that, whatever we do hear, will have been filtered through that same machinery, since the Vatican is the Pope’s public-relations engine.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Trento DuomoThe sad parade of Roman Catholic Church officials who blames the “priestly pedophilia” scandal on anything and everything other than the Church’s own personnel, just keeps on going. Clearly the Church is having difficulty accepting responsibility for its own actions, or inactions as the case may be. The latest example of this phenomenon comes from an Italian priest who — like several other clergy before him — blamed pedophilia on the child victims themselves. Religion News Service reports on what Fr Gino Flaim said about what he thinks caused the scandal (WebCite cached version):

A priest has lost his post in northern Italy after saying he can “understand” pedophilia within the church. The priest appeared to blame children for sexual abuse and described homosexuality as a sickness.

“Pedophilia I can understand, homosexuality I don’t understand,” the Rev. Gino Flaim, a priest in Trento, told Italy’s La7 channel [cached]. “Unfortunately there are children that look for affection, because they don’t have it at home. And perhaps if they find a priest, he could also give in.”

Asked if the accusations against pedophiles were justified, Flaim said: “It’s a sin, and as with all sins they also become accepted.”

These remarks echo those of the late Fr Benedict Groeschel of EWTN three years ago, and of Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemyśl, Poland some two years ago. And they also echo the excuse-making, reported by an Irish abuse victim, of an abusive priest himself decades ago, and more recently by an Ecuadorian priest who’d worked in Newark.

What all of this means, is that Fr Flaim’s victim-blaming is not a unique phenomenon. It can’t, therefore, be taken as just one guy mouthing off like an idiot on his own. No, quite the opposite must be the case: If the same idea has been expressed over the course of years by Catholic personnel in various parts of the world, it must reflect some deeper philosophy simmering deep within the bowels of the Church.

The RNS reports that Fr Flaim has been removed from his post, but this hardly means much in light of how pervasive this expressed trope is. If there are more Catholic personnel who think as he does … as I suspect is the case … then there must be many more firings and a lot more reform. The only way this will happen is if Catholics make it happen … but I doubt they will. I mean, the priestly-pedophile scandal has been a worldwide phenomenon for some 15 years now. If the laity hasn’t figured out they need to force their own Church to change, in that time, they’re not going to figure it out at all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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St Paul Cathedral 2012Note: There’s been some news today about this archdiocese; see my next blog post for information.

The worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal continues slowly to churn out news stories, because the R.C. Church’s hierarchs continue covering up for abusive priests — years after they’d said they’d do a better job of policing them. The latest such story, as reported by the New York Times, comes out of Minnesota and involves an archdiocese, not a person, criminally charged with complicity (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

The charges [cached] and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say they were underage when a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them from 2008 to 2010.

The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese.

This case involves a catastrophic, consistent refusal to monitor and discipline Fr Wehmeyer, over the course of about 15 years or so. The archdiocese was repeatedly told about Wehmeyer’s antics, yet the abuse continued unabated. Wehmeyer finally was convicted in 2013 — not that the archdiocese did much to help bring that about.

At any rate, as this story explains, Fr Wehmeyer continued abusing kids in his care many years after the US R.C. bishops supposedly established a new “zero tolerance” policy, back in 2002. I guess “zero tolerance” must not mean what most of us think it means.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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