Posts Tagged “clerical abuse scandal”

St. Michael's residential school, Alert Bay, BCThe Roman Catholic clerical abuse scandal has erupted a few times over the last decade, and especially during the last year — in a cascade of revelations beginning with the release of the Ryan Report just over a year ago — but elsewhere, scandals of a similar nature have been dealt with for much longer, and are getting closer to a resolution. An example of this is the Canadian residential schools scandal. The abuses of the period in question came to light some time ago, and the Canadian government has been working on compensating victims for over a decade. The question — for all that time — has not been whether or not the Canadian government and the churches who operated the residential schools did anything wrong, but over what kind of compensation would be provided to the victims, their survivors, and the rest of the native peoples.

CTV reports on what victims said at a hearing before a commission set up to address this matter:

Hundreds of aboriginals gathered in Winnipeg Wednesday to share their stories of abuse suffered during years of living in Canada’s disgraced residential school system.

The hearing was the first in a series of seven national events being run by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which aims to document the physical and sexual abuse and other horrors endured by children at residential schools across Canada.

While there’s still a lot of debate over this effort in Canada — including victims who think not enough has been done, and others who think it’s going to cost the country too much — the fact is that a resolution is being worked out. The same cannot be said for the Roman Catholic Church, which continues to evade its guilt and its responsibilities, and continues to view the scandal dysfunctionally, as a spiritual attack upon it by the forces of Satan, rather than as a catastrophic moral and ethical failing of its own making. The Vatican ought to watch what’s happening in Canada, and be ashamed of themselves for not being as willing to admit fault and change its ways.

Photo credit: Canada’s World.

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Saint Peter's Square, RomeIn a development that makes clear what an amoral abyss the Vatican is, the preacher to the Pope himself has equated reporting on the Catholic clerical abuse scandal with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Reuters filed this report on Fr Raniero Cantalamessa’s remarks (WebCite cached article):

Attacks on the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict over a sexual abuse scandal are comparable to “collective violence” against Jews, the pontiff’s personal preacher told a Vatican Good Friday service.

The sermon by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan whose title is “Preacher of the Pontifical Household”, drew sharp criticism from both Jews and victims of sexual abuse by priests.

It further racheted up tensions over the abuse scandal, forcing even the Vatican spokesman to distance himself from Cantalamessa, the only person authorized to preach to the pope.

Fr Cantalamessa used Holy Week services, as well as the coincidence of Passover and Easter this year, to get additional attention for his crass comments:

Cantalamessa, speaking with the pope sitting nearby, drew the parallel at an afternoon Good Friday service in St Peter’s Basilica on the day Christians commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion.

Noting that this year the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter fell during the same week, he said Jews throughout history had been the victims of “collective violence” and drew comparisons between Jewish suffering and attacks on the Church.

Nice. How marvelous. The worldwide mass media reporting on a long-simmering, insidious child-abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Church, somehow is the same as centuries of anti-Semitism, many generations of harassment of and attacks on Jews throughout Europe, leading up to and including the Third Reich’s attempt to wipe them out, culminating in the mechanistic murder of millions of Jews in central and eastern Europe.

Oh yeah, obviously they’re the same thing! Exactly the same!

not!

It goes without saying that Fr Cantalamessa’s comments have been condemned by Jews, as the AP reports via Google News (cached article):

“What a sad irony this would be on Good Friday, where so much of the anti-Semitism was brought about by the church against Jews,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “Anti-Semitism was pogroms, inquisitions, expulsions that led to death … What a grotesque comparison.” …

Hours later, the Vatican sought to distance itself from the incident. A Vatican spokesman said that remarks are not the church’s official position and that such parallelism can lead to misunderstandings.

Gee, ya think?

As I’ve posted before, this sort of reasoning seems egregious, extreme, and weird to those of us capable of thinking rationally about it. But as I’ve blogged already, most of the Roman Catholic Church — especially those high up in the Vatican — does not view this scandal rationally. To them, this scandal is not something they’ve created on their own. It is, instead, an external attack upon the God’s appointed Church, by the forces of the Devil himself. To them, the reports of abuse either are absurd and false, fabricated by diabolical forces or “secularists”; or they’re real, but the product of diabolical infestation of the abused children, who “tempted” the poor priests into behaving inappropriately. Either way, by this reasoning, the Church is not in the wrong here; the children harmed by clerical crimes are not “victims,” but rather, the abusive clergy are “victims.” The R.C. Church has not done anything to deserve being “attacked,” other than to have been God’s appointed Church. Such thinking inevitably leads to a comparison with Jews, then, who were persecuted because they viewed themselves as “God’s chosen people.”

Under the “scandal-as-a-spiritual-war” model, then, Fr Cantalamessa’s comparison is perfectly valid and reasonable.

So long as this model of thinking about the scandal holds sway in the cavernous, amoral halls of Vatican City, nothing will be done, because the Church will never concede that anything is wrong. It can’t, because to do so would grant the Devil a “victory,” and they cannot permit that.

Photo credit: Humpalumpa.

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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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Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov (1887)To date I’ve blogged many times on the many Roman Catholic clerical-abuse scandals that have popped up around the world over the last decade or so, and especially the past few months. In January I blogged about an abuse victim’s personal observation that the priest who had viewed his actions as the result of a kind of spiritual contest between himself and the Devil, whom the priest had viewed as somehow being present in his child-victims, “tempting” him, and thus “forcing” the priest to abuse him. While this is a subjective account, it does neatly explain the Church’s reticence to deal with the matter of abusive priests, historically; according to this model, it’s the abusive priest — not the child he abuses — who’s the true “victim” in these crimes.

It’s rare that I see any suggestion of this “scandal-as-a-spiritual-contest” model mentioned in mass media reports, but it does come up here and there. It appeared, for example, in this (UK) Guardian article on the scandal and the Vatican’s reaction to it (WebCite cached article):

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said on his Facebook site that the pope was being subjected to “scandalous and disgraceful” attacks. One churchman, Antonio Riboldi, the emeritus bishop of Acerra, declared that it marked the start of a war “between the church and the world; between Satan and God”.

Note: Apparently the government of Italy is actively defending the Roman Catholic Church, even though there are new allegations of wrongdoing by priests at schools for the deaf in that country (cached article). I guess Italy doesn’t plan to investigate those, unlike other countries’ governments, which either have investigated abuse allegations (e.g. Ireland) or are working toward doing so (e.g. Germany).

The Vatican views itself as being “under attack” by the brutal and ruthless forces of “wicked secularism” and the Devil, which have long been bent on destroying the Catholic Church. This is reflected in this same article, in the words of Italian government officials:

Maurizio Ronconi, a leading Italian Christian Democrat, said: “For years, a masonic-secularist offensive against Catholics has been under way.”

A centre-left opposition MP, Pierluigi Castagnetti, said: “It is now quite clear that the campaign against the pope and the secretary of state of the holy see by certain great foreign newspapers is not fortuitous, nor does it stem from any journalistic right or duty, but is rather a precise design intended to strike the Catholic church at the top.”

Why, obviously! All these allegations are fabricated by “masonic secularists” and by “certain great foreign newspapers.” We all know the abuse never occurred. The masonic secularists and the newspapers paid folks all around the world to make up stories about how they were mistreated. They found hundreds, or thousands, of people to weave fantastic tales of abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy.

Yeah yeah that’s it! By the way, I have several thousand acres of Arizona swampland that’s going cheap; you’d better buy it quick before it’s all gone!

It’s become increasingly apparent that the Church and its defenders view this scandal, overall, in the same way that the abusive priests themselves may view their own behavior … as a diabolical attack within a larger cosmic spiritual war. This is why they are so quick to defend themselves and deny everything; to admit any wrongdoing or fault within their organization would be to grant the Devil, and the “masonic secularists,” a “win” in this larger spiritual conflict. And they don’t want that.

If I am correct — and this is the mindset the Catholic Church and its defenders adhere to — then there is no way this will ever be resolved. Any evidence of clerical wrongdoing or hierarchical cover-ups will be viewed as being diabolical in origin, and will be rejected and fought off. Investigations by secular governments, and any internal or external pressure to “change,” will also be viewed as diabolical assaults on the eternal and “godly” Church, and likewise be actively resisted.

Lastly … does anyone know what a “masonic secularist” is? As far as I know, this phrase is a contradiction in terms, because in order to become a Freemason, a man must also believe in some deity. Thus, a mason literally cannot be a “secularist” in the strictest sense.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Gregory XIILots of mass-media stories lately have brought up the possibility that the scandal-plagued and increasingly-discredited Pope Benedict XVI might resign. It is, after all, not unheard of for politicians or heads of corporations to resign when confronted by situations of this sort. However, most of these same stories — such as this one by ABC News — conclude that the Pope cannot resign:

Experts in canon law say only a heavenly bolt of lightning can take the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from power as the supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

“The only person who can fire him is God,” said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, who worked at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., and was one of the first whistle blowers when the sex scandals broke in 1984.

“A pope is never forced to resign, not under the current canon law,” said Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent for the Tablet weekly. “A pope can voluntarily resign, but it’s interesting… Who would take his resignation?”

With all due respect to Fr Doyle and Mr Mickens, however, the idea that the Pope cannot resign, is bullshit. It is, in fact, possible. It’s explicitly stated in canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law:

Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.

Thus, the answer to the question Mickens asks, i.e. to whom would the Pope tender his resignation? is: No one! He doesn’t have to give it to anyone. He merely has to disclose that he’s resigning. That’s all that’s needed, nothing more.

It is also not true that no Pope has ever resigned. In fact, it’s happened multiple times. The last such occasion was when Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415, an act which effectively ended the Great Western Schism — a particularly uplifting period in ecclesiastial history, a time when two, and later three, popes contended for control of the Church and of Europe.*

Granted it’s been a little over 6 centuries since this last papal resignation, but the canon law permitting it to happen is still there, and can still be used by Benedict XVI, if he chooses to do so.

None of this is impossible to research; the information I provide here is available to anyone on the Internet if they simply take a few minutes to find it. So I suggest the reporters at ABC News — and all other outlets — actually look into it before writing stupid news stories that report untruths as fact.

* The part about the Western Schism being “uplifting” is, of course, sarcasm. The truth is that there was very little good about it … except that it exposed the political, structural, bureaucratic, and moral bankruptcy of the Church at that time. The grotesque debacle known as the Cadaver Synod served much the same purpose as well, as did the period soon after it, known to the Church as the Saeculum obscurum.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI during general audition, 5/2/07Pope Benedict XVI has finally spoken to Ireland’s Catholics about the scandal that has plagued their country for decades, the vast scope of which was revealed was in the Ryan Report, which was released a whopping 10 months ago, and subsequently in the Murphy Report, released 4 months ago. That’s right … after almost a year, the Pope finally figured out that it was time to say something to a country rocked by the reprehensible conduct of some of its Roman Catholic clergy and covered up by its Catholic hierarchy.

As the old adage goes, “better late than never,” eh?

At any rate, Time magazine reports on the Pope’s letter, which will be read to Catholic congregations in Ireland over the weekend (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI rebuked Irish bishops Saturday for “grave errors of judgment” in handling clerical sex abuse and ordered an investigation into the Irish church but did not mention any Vatican responsibility.

In a letter to the Irish faithful read across Europe amid a growing, multination abuse scandal, the pope doled out no specific punishments to bishops blamed by victims, and Irish government-ordered investigations, for having covered up abuse of thousands of Irish children from the 1930s to the 1990s.

The Pope’s letter directly addressed perpetrators as well as victims, and in surprisingly (for a letter of this type) stark terms:

Benedict used his harshest words for the abusers themselves, saying they had betrayed the trust of the faithful, brought shame on the church and now must answer before God and civil authorities.

He also used critical — but a bit less stern — language about the Irish hierarchy’s management of the problem:

Benedict faulted their [the perpetrators'] superiors, the Irish bishops, for having failed “sometimes grievously” to apply the church’s own law which calls for harsh punishments for child abusers, including defrocking priests.

Time notes that the Pope conveniently failed to apologize for what he may have done to make the problem worse and encourage the hierarchy’s cover-up:

While a cardinal at the Vatican, Joseph Ratzinger penned a letter instructing bishops around the world to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep them secret under threat of excommunication. Irish bishops have said the letter was widely understood to mean they shouldn’t report the cases to police.

Although it is true that this directive has been used by bishops around the world to justify hushing up the abuse cases — and in some instances using it to justify resisting subpoenas by secular authorities — we need to be honest about the situation: The letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was issued in 2001; but Roman Catholic cover-ups and the silencing of victims had been going on, in many countries, long before that — including at least one such instance in 1975 which Sean Brady, current Primate of Ireland, took part in while he was a priest. While this CDF letter certainly didn’t do much to help the situation, one can hardly say it was the start of the hierarchy’s secrecy policy, because quite obviously, it wasn’t. It did, however, set the previously-presumed secrecy policy in concrete, and thus created an impediment to hierarchical reforms, such as when the U.S. Catholic bishops met a few years ago, in the wake of the John Jay Report, to deal with the matter and establish new procedures. Thus, the Pope has a lot to answer for where his 2001 CDF letter is concerned … but no one should be fooled into thinking it was the source of the Church’s secrecy policy.

At any rate, I’m not sure that the Church’s critics will be satisfied with the letter the Pope released this weekend, but it’s evident that he knows there’s a great deal of anger about this scandal. This is only the start of the Vatican’s response to it; we’ll see how much more is done about it in the months and years to come. Yes, it will take the Vatican years to deal with this. It is as slow-moving an organization as any on the planet. Anyone who’s expecting swift, decisive action will be bitterly disappointed … because the Holy See is never swift or decisive — about anything.

Photo credit: Tadeusz Górny / Wikimedia Commons.

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Cardinal Sean Brady (Niall Carson, PA Wire)At long last, a high-ranking Roman Catholic figure admits having done the wrong thing, in at least one case of child abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest. The (UK) Daily Mail reports that Sean Brady, the R.C. Church’s Primate in Ireland, was present for, and complicit in, at least one cover-up during the 1970s (WebCite cached article):

Under-fire Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, has apologised for not reporting a notorious paedophile priest to the police. …

Cardinal Brady, who as Archbishop of Armagh is Primate of All Ireland, was a priest in 1975 and attended meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints of sexual abuse against Father Brendan Smyth.

Earlier this week it emerged that the children, aged 10 and 14, had been asked to sign a pact of silence so that the ‘Church could carry out its own investigation’.

Irish Catholic officials did not explain why neither Cardinal Brady nor his superiors at the time shared their information with the police. Fr Smyth went on to abuse more children in the following years.

This admission may be the end of Brady’s tenure. One may assume he will — like Cardinal Bernard Law, who as Archbishop of Boston shuffled pedophile priests around in order to protect them — be “kicked upstairs” and retire to a cushy post somewhere in the bowels of the Vatican.

Note here what the R.C. Church did, to these two children back in 1975: Not only did they allow them to be victimized by a priest, they had the temerity to forcibly place on them — by making them take a vow of silence — the burden of remaining forever silent on the matter. They compounded this immorality by then allowing Fr Smyth to continue abusing other children. This is unconscionable behavior … yet it seems to have been routine, and may have been done to any number of other child-victims.

One can only wonder why it took so long for the Archbishop to confess his complicity in this case. The Ryan Report was released back in May 2009, so it’s not exactly “breaking news.” Until this revelation, Brady had insisted he would not resign unless the Pope asked him to, however, this admission is likely to trigger such a request, and one can safely assume he knew that, at the time he made it.

Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire, via the (UK) Daily Mail.

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