Posts Tagged “clerical child abuse scandal”

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.

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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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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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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.

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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.

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Looking north from a hill in Branch Brook Park, at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on a sunny midday.Among the R.C. Church’s rationales for protecting abusive clergy within its ranks is a presumption that the victims are to blame for it, and — perversely — that the abusers are the true “victims.” The Church doesn’t say so out loud very often, but once in a while someone lets this presumption slip, here or there. The most recent example of this, as NJ Advanced Media reports, came from a Newark priest who’d fled to his native Ecuador in 2003 when faced with allegations he’d abused a teen (WebCite cached article):

In an extraordinary admission of wrongdoing, a priest sought by authorities in New Jersey has acknowledged engaging in a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old boy, but he deflected blame for the incident by saying the teen “wanted” it and had “evil in his mind.”

In a telephone interview with NJ Advance Media, in email exchanges and in a lengthy post he shared publicly on Twitter, the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza said it was a “mistake” to have sexual contact with the boy in the rectory of a Plainfield church in 2003. He said he fled to his native Ecuador after the victim told a nun and another priest that Gallo Espinoza raped him.

“One thing that I am conscious (of) is he was at that time a teenager, and it is a big mistake for me. But I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want,” Gallo Espinoza wrote. “He was older (sic) enough to walk away, but I think that I was attracted to him, that is the only explanation that I can think right now.”

Gallo Espinoza added: “He had something evil in his mind. He approached me many times.”

Amazingly, Gallo Espinoza had been rather public about all of this:

Using the screen name “Unforgetables Unforgettables,” he also wrote an 864-word comment [cached] beneath the July 30 story about him on NJ.com. Gallo Espinoza, who identified himself by name in the comment, later shared a copy of it on Twitter [cached], along with one of his emails to NJ Advance Media.

For the record, here is that July 30 story (cached).

Because the victim sued the archdiocese of Newark, this vile creep even indulged in the “it’s-all-about-greedy-plaintiffs” whine:

Gallo Espinoza made reference to Ramirez’s lawsuit in his correspondence, saying the victim had revived the issue after 12 years to cash in.

“The explanation that I find to begin again with this incident after many years is ‘EASY MONEY,'” Gallo Espinoza wrote.

So in addition to having already admitted he abused a boy, the priest tried to insinuate the incident had been fabricated for money. Nice touch there, fella. Really nice!

Another nice touch in this case is that the victim’s uncle and youth minister, to whom the victim had reported the abuse and who’d confronted Gallo Espinoza about it, warned him an investigation had been started and that he should flee the country:

While the circumstances of Gallo Espinoza’s abrupt departure have never been fully disclosed, he said in the telephone interview it was [youth leader Antonino] Salazar and [victim’s uncle Jeivi] Hercules who told him to run. Hercules, who has since entered the priesthood, is now parochial vicar at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington.

Wonderful people, eh? How marvelous of these men — whom the victim had trusted enough to report the incident — to take that trust and crush it into the dirt. All in defense of a pedophilic priest and the Mother Church to which he belonged.

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