Posts Tagged “priestly abuse”

Vatican flag (8583012024)A U.N. commission has been investigating how the Holy See handled child-abuse allegations within its ranks. This might sound as though something might actually be done about the worldwide priestly pedophilia scandal, but it won’t, because the U.N. is perhaps the single most ineffective institution on the planet. There really isn’t a whole lot the U.N. can do to the Vatican, even if it wished to, and odds are, it won’t wish to do anything. Even so, an investigation of any kind always has the potential to reveal something.

A hearing held today did just that. It shone a rather harsh and unflattering light on the Vatican’s evasiveness — which has been an ongoing problem for this U.N. commission (WebCite cached article). CNN reports on the proceedings (cached):

A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is “no excuse” for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests.

It’s the first time the Vatican has been forced to answer allegations so publicly that it enabled the sexual abuse of children by protecting such priests.

The committee questioned a handful of Vatican officials — including Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief sex-crimes prosecutor — for several hours Thursday in Switzerland.

The really interesting bit came from Scicluna, who hurled the problem of Catholic clerical child abuse right back at the governments of countries in which it operates:

Scicluna said he was there to say that “the Holy See ‘gets it’ ” with regard to the issue and that no one should stand in the way of the prosecution of abusive priests.

“Let’s not say too late or not,” he said. “But there are certain things that need to be done differently. I would talk about cover-up, for example, because this is a very important concern.”

States “need to take action against citizens of the country who obstruct justice in such an egregious crime as sexual abuse of minors, whoever these people are,” Scicluna said.

Scicluna is saying the problem lies not in anything the Church did or didn’t do, including covering up abuse, but rather, insinuates that it’s “states” which were the ones engaged in cover-ups. I’d say one could call this the definition of chutzpah, especially since the Church previously has been shown to have ordered its hierarchs not to cooperate with secular investigations.

Wow. I mean, just “wow.”

Scicluna went on to deny that priest shuffling — a frequent Church practice documented as having occurred around the world — ever happened:

As for priests who have committed sexual abuse of minors, the Holy See has made clear in a letter to bishops that it is “a no-go simply to move people from one place to another, from one diocese to another” without being open about their backgrounds, Scicluna said.

I can’t really say any of this surprises me. Although the Vatican has said that it “gets” the scandal, its officials’ words just keep reflecting the perpetually evasive tactics the hierarchs have always used in the past. Very little has changed, except for the fact that guys like Scicluna and Tomasi have been directly confronted and dressed down in a manner that’s never happened before. That much, at least, is quite welcome.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cathedral in BruggeThe Roman Catholic clerical child abuse scandal, unfortunately, refuses to go away. Nor — given the nature of the crimes committed, compounded by the many long decades of time during which they happened — should it. A report by a pedophilia expert in Belgium makes clear how extensive and enduring the child abuse was, as reported by the (UK) Guardian (WebCite cached article):

Some of the most damning evidence of systematic child abuse by the Roman Catholic clergy to come to light was unveiled today by Belgium’s leading authority on paedophilia, who published hundreds of pages of harrowing victim testimony detailing their traumas and suffering.

The explosive report by Peter Adriaenssens in the town of Louvain, east of Brussels, lists evidence of 476 instances of child abuse by priests and bishops going back 50 years.

What’s truly remarkable here is that this report was not the product of a government investigation, nor was it done by victims’ advocates. It was, instead, the Catholic Church’s own doing:

Adriaenssens was appointed by the church last year to head an independent inquiry into the scandal. Since April, when Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges, resigned after admitting persistently molesting a nephew, the Adriaenssens commission has been inundated with evidence, with hundreds of victims coming forward.

He has since documented cases of abuse occurring in almost every diocese in the country and in virtually every school run by the church. “We can say that no part of the country escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several [church] members,” said Adriaenssens.

“This is the church’s Dutroux dossier,” he added in reference to the notorious Belgian paedophile serial killer, Marc Dutroux, who kidnapped, tortured, abused and murdered six girls in 1995-6.

The extent of the damage caused by this systemic abuse is apparent:

Speaking of the victims, Adriaenssens said that 13 had killed themselves, according to relatives, and another six had attempted suicide.

13 suicide victims and 6 attempted suicides may not sound like a lot, but any life ruined by, or lost to, the abuse, is one too many. This abuse is not of recent vintage, either:

The abuse went back to the 1950s, was most common in the 60s and was tailing off by the 1980s, Adriaenssens said.

“The exposed cases are old, of course,” he said. “Society has developed. But there’s nothing to indicate that the number of paedophiles has diminished. Where are they today?”

Adriaenssens asks a very good question: Where are the abusers within the ranks of Catholic clergy? No one knows. The Roman Catholic Church continues with “business as usual” and continues to resist being held accountable, either for the actions of the individual priest-abusers, or for the bishops and other hierarchs who covered for them, shielded them from prosecution and lawsuits, and held onto them in spite of the abuse they were guilty of.

Hat Tip: Peter at the Antibible Project Forum (on Delphi Forums)

Photo credit: 8ran.

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St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral / Brian Shaw…or should I have headlined this, “Hell no, he won’t go!” … ?

It seems the Roman Catholic Church has gone deeper into “defiance mode” regarding its worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal. The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, has decided he will not resign over the scandal, or over his own personal involvement (prior to his elevation) in covering up one particular priest’s abuses. CNN reports on his childish resistance to accepting responsibility for his own actions (WebCite cached article):

Months after the revelation that he helped cover up for one of Ireland’s most notoriously abusive priests, the country’s top Catholic churchman, Cardinal Sean Brady, says he has “moved on” and will not resign.

“I’ve moved on there, I think, and I got a lot of support in my decision,” he told CNN in a rare interview.

Brady was, as a priest, not only a witness to one priest’s abuse, but engineered to cover-up what that priest did:

Brady was part of an internal church investigation into Father Brendan Smyth in 1975, he confirmed early this year. He did not report his findings to the police and asked two teenagers who gave him evidence to sign oaths of secrecy.

How nice of him to decide that, since he — personally — has “moved on,” he need do nothing more. What’s more, Brady is blissfully unaware of any problem with how the Church has dealt with this scandal:

Told that there are priests who say the crisis has hurt the morale of the clergy, Brady said: “I haven’t met many of those priests, to be honest.”

This is a laughable position for Brady to take. Was he not aware, for example, of the Ferns Report released some 5 years ago, concerning abuse within the diocese of Ferns? And the Ryan Report on abuse in Irish schools — the product of a years-long investigation which included litigation over its scope, concerning abuse ? And the Murphy Report which followed it, concerning abuse within the archdiocese of Dublin? Of course he’s aware of all of this, and of course he knows the clergy’s morale has been affected by it (priests’ worries over being personally prosecuted for what they did, lay at the heart of the litigation which tied up the Ryan Commission for years). Since Brady’s claim is nonsensical on its face, one can only logically conclude either that he is lying when he says he’s unaware of a morale problem, or he is in such fierce denial that he’s truly deluded himself into believing there isn’t one. Either way, it’s clear that Brady is neither willing nor able to be held accountable for what he did — and he’s engaging in a bit of childish “push-back” by resisting calls for him to resign.

It’s high time for Catholics to realize that the slippery, manipulative, amoral and sometimes criminal creatures who comprise the hierarchy of their Church are collectively inseparable from the “brood of vipers” that the founder of their own religion condemned, long ago:

You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil. (Matthew 12:34-35)

The Catholic hierarchy may talk a good game about how upstanding they are, and they might even issue an occasional non-apology apology when they absolutely must … but the evil that lies in their hears is made manifest by their actions, and those actions are undeniably immoral, cruel, and in many cases illegal. When will you all finally understand just who is running your Church and admit you have been misled?

Photo credit: Brian Shaw / Geograph Project and Wikimedia Commons.

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rodin gates of hell with thinker detail 05In a story I don’t know what to make of, a Vatican official has declared that abusive priests are damned to hellfire. CBS News reports on this declaration (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican prosecutor of clerical sex abuse warned perpetrators on Saturday that they would suffer damnation in hell that would be worse than the death penalty.

The Rev. Charles Scicluna, a Maltese priest who is a top official at the Vatican’s morality office, led a special “make amends” prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. …

“It would be really better” for priests who sexually abuse minors that their crimes “cause them death” because for them, “damnation will be more terrible” in hell, Il Sole 24 Ore online news reported. …

Scicluna, who could not immediately be reached for comment, began with a meditation from St. Mark’s Gospel saying those who harm children would be better off tying a millstone to their neck and throwing themselves into the sea.

In case you’re not familiar with the passage in question, here it is, including as much of its context as I can reasonably provide in this space:

Sitting down, He [Jesus] called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:35-50)

Scicluna’s rhetoric, therefore, is a bit harsh, especially given the Church has only recently — as in, just over the past couple of months — begun the slow process of acknowledging that its clergy have actually done something wrong and that this scandal is not merely the invention of “masonic secularists” or “Jews” or “great newspapers” or any of the rest of the denials they’ve offered.

Photo credit: Jon Himoff via Flickr.

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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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Three Blind MiceOne member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy has come up with an innovative way to handle mass media reports on the ongoing Roman Catholic clerical abuse scandal. I call it the “Three blind mice solution” to the problem. Specifically, he has decided not to subscribe to a local newspaper which has reported and editorialized on it. Oregon Live reports on Portland Archbihop John Vlazny’s approach (WebCite cached article):

The Most Rev. John G. Vlazny, archbishop of Portland since 1997, canceled his subscription to The Oregonian on Wednesday and asked Catholic pastoral ministers to do the same.

In a statement e-mailed to priests and lay ministers, Vlazny said a March 31 editorial was “the last straw.” …

Vlazny cited a March 29 syndicated column by E.J. Dionne Jr. and a March 30 editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman of The Oregonian depicting Pope Benedict XVI as deaf to demands that he “do something about pedophile priests.” The cartoon “was a portrayal dripping with hostility, an attack against our high priest, our universal pastor, our faithful teacher, the one person who, in the eyes of the world, symbolizes all that we are and do as Catholics,” Vlazny wrote.

I call this the “three blind mice” solution because it’s reminiscent of the famous nursery rhyme of the same name. He hopes, I guess, that the problem will go away, if the mass media — including the Oregonian — will just stop bringing it up. Barring the Oregonian stopping its reportage, he hopes that not having to read about it, himself, might also magically end the scandal. That way he doesn’t have to get off his sorry, whining little ass and actually do anything about it.

Unfortunately for the Archbishop, reporting on what the Pope is — or is not — doing about the scandal, and even opining that his actions are deficient, is not “an attack.” It is a statement. “An attack” is something else entirely, usually physical in nature. Also, not listening to something does not make it go away. Only small children believe that; believing it’s possible is a sure sign of immaturity.

Archbishop Vlazny’s anger is misplaced, in any event. Instead of complaining about the Oregnonian‘s reporting and editorials on the scandal, maybe he should rage and fume — instead — at the priests who abused children in their care, at his fellow bishops and archbishops who purposely allowed it to happen, and at the popes (from Paul VI onward) who knew about the problem, but chose to let it fester instead of dealing with it.

What a fucking crybaby. Boo hoo hoo. With all due respect, your Excellency … grow up, OK?

Hat tip: Romenesko blog at the Poynter Institute.

Photo credit: Josie Fraser.

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Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, WIThe failure of the Roman Catholic Church — at every level — to deal with abusive clergy within its ranks, is slowly becoming more and more evident, as increasing amounts of information come to light about how it dealt with them. One such case is that of Fr Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin, which the New York Times describes in detail (WebCite cached article):

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

It took a long time for Ratzinger, then in charge of this case, to act on it. But after they began to act, they suddenly aborted the process, at Fr Murphy’s own request:

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

Of course, the CDF office at the Vatican — which then was under the command of the current Pope — was not the only part of the hierarchy which dropped the ball, in the case of Fr Murphy. Despite what they knew about him, Wisconsin bishops continued to grant him sanctuary and refused to report him to authorities:

Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.

Among those in authority within the Church who moved Fr Murphy around, instead of holding him accountable for his actions, was Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland, who — as I’ve blogged previously — admitted, after retiring, that he’d been unaware that child abuse was a criminal matter. It took many years for him to realize it, but eventually, even this amoral and reprehensible creature realized Fr Murphy shouldn’t be with children:

Archbishop Weakland said this week in an interview, “The evidence was so complete, and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community.”

Nevertheless, Weakland’s “too little, too late” request was ignored anyway.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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