Posts Tagged “child abuse”

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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Bergen Catholic Chapel, via Bergen Catholic High School Web siteThe Catholic child-abuse scandal continues making news. This should be no surprise, given that it went on for decades at the very least (and in fact we have no reason to assume it doesn’t go back centuries), and was worldwide in scope, not to mention pervasive within the R.C. Church. The latest revelations to emerge describe abuse that took place many decades ago, as NJ Advanced Media reports, at a private Catholic school in New Jersey (WebCite cached article):

Eight more former Bergen Catholic High School students have come forward to accuse former staff members at the school of sexual abuse.

The eight have levied their allegations since it was revealed in August that the all-boys high school in Oradell had reached a $1.9 million settlement [cached] with 21 men who said they were sexually abused at the school.

The eight men, who are now between the ages of about 55 to 75 years old, say they were sexually abused when they were teens between the years of 1956 and 1977, said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represented some of the previous alleged victims.

The timeframe of the alleged attacks is similar to the one provided by the other alleged victims who settled with the school. They had said they were abused between 1963 and 1978.

The school itself, not the archdiocese of Newark (in which it’s located) or the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers (the priests who staff it), reached the settlement with the victims. Apparently the archdiocese plays no role in the school’s administration, so — at least for now — they’re not involved.

Note that the Christian Brothers who run this school are part of the worldwide order of Christian Brothers who, back in 2003, filed suit to block the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, and succeeded in preventing that body from releasing the names of abusive priests (cached). Despite that, the Christian Brother order figured prominently in abuse investigations in Ireland, and elsewhere.

At any rate, I expect Catholic apologists will repeat their old rationale for why they don’t think their holy Church or its clergy did anything wrong: The accusers are just in it for the money, and some of them — so far — were paid off. There was no abuse, they’ll say; accusers made it all up long after they left school, just to get some money for themselves and their attorneys.

While I agree money might motivate some accusers, the “profit motive” can’t explain all the accusations that have been leveled, around the world, for decades, nor does it account for the fact that many investigations — again, from all around the world — have substantiated that abuse did, in fact, take place, and moreover, that in a lot of cases the Church hierarchy did, in fact, cover it up and on occasion enable the abusers by moving them around.

I expect to hear more about this. I also expect to hear a lot more whining from Catholic apologists about how terrible it is that accusers are coming forward now and how terrible it is that some have already been paid off. It’s as though the victims somehow owe it to the Holy Mother Church to keep silent — forever — about the abuse they’d endured, because … well! … it’s the Holy Mother Church. Or something. Because for some reason, no one is supposed to say anything bad about the Holy Mother Church. Or something.

Photo credit: Bergen Catholic High School Web site.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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St Peter's Square, Vatican City - April 2007Among the defenses the Roman Catholic hierarchs have relied on, regarding their mishandling of clerical child-abuse worldwide, is the assertion that it’s something which is “in the past.” Done. Over. Finished. No longer an issue. The US bishops, for instance, used a report they commissioned to declare it a “historical” problem — as in, “it’s history.” Unfortunately for the bishops, it turns out this isn’t actually the case. Reuters reports that an audit actually showed an uptick in child-abuse incidents (WebCite cached article):

An annual audit of reports of sexual abuse by members of the U.S. Roman Catholic clergy released on Friday showed sharp increases in the number of new claims and in the value of settlements to victims.

The audit showed that 838 people came forward from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, to say they had been sexually abused by priests, deacons or members of religions orders while they were children, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

That is up 35 percent from 620 new reports of abuse a year earlier, an increase that the bishops said largely reflected a large number of claims in six dioceses that had either filed for bankruptcy or were located in states that opened windows allowing victims to sue over old cases of sexual assault.

It’s true that bankruptcies and changes to the law can bring out more reports of abuse that took place long ago, but this audit included more recent reports:

While the bulk of the reports related to cases of abuse date back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, there were 26 reports made by minors of more recent abuse.

If in fact the “priestly pedophilia” scandal truly was the “historical” phenomenon bishops have claimed, this number would have been zero, not 26. Once again, the truth rears its head and reveals the hierarchs as the inveterate liars they actually are. It’s long past time they owned up to what they’ve done — i.e. to protect abusive clergy — rather than making excuses for it or dismissing it (e.g. insisting it’s not an ongoing issue).

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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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Jesus weptFor years, I’ve reported on the problem of clerical predators abusing people — all too often, children — and be shielded by virtue of their sacred offices. Usually this has involved the Catholic Church, because the Catholic hierarchs have, historically, worked to prevent their clergy from being prosecuted or sued. They’ve even moved personnel around surreptitiously in order to keep them out of the hands of Johnny Law. Catholic apologists love to whine that these kinds of reports hit the media “only” when their precious Church is involved, and abuse by other clergy — or other types of folks, such as public-school teachers — is never reported. (In fact, it is! But they don’t really care to admit it.) They think this is some kind of defense of their Church.

Well, it’s not. Yes, I concede this sort of thing is not solely a Catholic problem. Over the years I’ve repeatedly said this, and have blogged about various cases. That, however, doesn’t appear to stop Catholic apologists from making this whine.

So to be clear, I present another sordid tale, reported by the Hartford Courant, that involves a Baptist church in New Haven, CT (WebCite cached article):

A pastor at a Baptist Church in New Haven was allowed to continue leading his church for five years while on the state sex offender registry after a child-molestation conviction, letters from church officials and state court records show.

It was only after his second arrest — in 2014 on child pornography charges — that Eli Echevarria stepped down from leading El Calvario Baptist Church, according to the letters and court records.

Church leaders, who operate independently of the central Baptist governing authority in Connecticut, have not responded to multiple requests for comment. Echevarria is serving a two-year prison sentence.

The Courant goes on to explain what happened here. Unlike the Catholic Church, which uses its vast size and its pervasive, homogeneous organization to help abusers avoid detection, Echevarria took advantage of Baptists’ decentralized structure and “hands off” approach:

But the case and the way it was handled have sparked criticism of the church’s governing authority.

The fact that American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, the church’s ruling body, never informed other pastors of Echevarria’s history came to the attention of William Keane, pastor at First Baptist Church of Branford, after Echevarria began attending his church.

Keane criticized the statewide church’s handling of Echevarria’s situation, including a policy put in place after Echevarria’s second conviction that requires state church officials to run the names of all pastors through the state’s sex offender registry list at least once every two years.…

ABCConn does not install local pastors. Individual churches hire, and can fire, their pastor. The statewide group only sets overarching policy.

In essence, then, this structure (or lack thereof) allows both the Baptists’ governing council in Connecticut, and the management of the El Calvario church, to endlessly pass blame to each other. It’s rather a convenient setup, isn’t it? Even if, ironically, it’s the opposite of how the Catholic Church gets around things like this.

I’m sure some Catholic apologists will jump up and down for joy at this revelation. “You see? It’s not just us!” they’ll happily announce. And in doing so, they won’t have gotten the point … which is that religions are supposedly bastions of morality, not dens of iniquity. Purposely structuring a religion in such a way as to allow predators to operate freely and without accountability, is no way to run things — unless you’re trying to arrange it so that malcontents can skate. That its clergy sometimes turn out to be criminals does nothing to reinforce the notion that a religion has any moral superiority. In fact, it leans against such a conclusion.

I’ll close by commending Pastor Keane for having worked to bring at least some accountability here. He took on his own organization, in defense of kids. Good for him! Would that there’d been more like-minded folks running El Calvario and managing ABCConn.

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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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