Posts Tagged “catholic clerical abuse scandal”

Raymond Lahey walks quickly past reporters Wednesday after leaving an Ottawa courthouse a free man. (CBC)I’ve already blogged about the case of Raymond Lahey, erstwhile Catholic bishop of Antigonish (NS), who was found to have had child porn on his computer. He pleaded guilty, and the CBC reports on his sentence, which appears rather lenient (WebCite cached article):

Raymond Lahey, the disgraced Roman Catholic bishop who admitted he was addicted to looking at child pornography, has been released from prison after being sentenced to time served.

He was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison and two years probation but received a two-for-one credit for time served. Lahey pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography for the purposes of importation to Canada.

What’s ironic here is that, as a bishop — presumably at the same time that he was collecting child porn — Lahey had negotiated a settlement a substantial settlement over child abuse in his diocese. So one would assume he’d been well aware of the fact that what he was doing was wrong, and that it harmed children, at the time he was doing it. Moreover, it turns out his child porn was religiously-flavored:

The Crown’s case involved 588 photos and 63 videos, with the Crown pointing out that some involved adolescent boys engaged in sex acts while wearing a Crucifix and rosary beads.

Naturally the current bishop of Antigonish had some remarks on the sentencing:

In a written statement, the current bishop of Antigonish said many people have been disturbed and upset by Lahey’s case.

“This entire matter has caused a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger within and outside of our Diocese,” said Bishop Brian Joseph Dunn.

“Church leaders are called to provide good example and to show moral integrity in their lives. When they commit serious moral failures, this can have a significant impact on the faith community.”

This sounds all nice and contrite, but that apparent contrition is contradicted by the fact that, in most cases (albeit apparently not in Lahey’s), the R.C. Church goes to bat for abusive clergy and refuses to acknowledge they might have done anything wrong. This repeated denial is a pattern of conduct the Church has exhibited around the world. And I find it difficult to believe they’ve given up this particular habit.

Photo credit: CBC.

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St. Catharine's Church in Utrecht (the Netherlands). Picture taken by Fruggo, September 2004.I blogged a long time ago about the Roman Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal hitting the Netherlands. The AP via CTV relates the release of a report into the abuse of children by Catholic clergy there, and the numbers are staggering (WebCite cached article):

Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions over the past 65 years, and church officials knew about the abuse but failed to adequately address it or help the victims, a long-awaited report said Friday. The release of the report was followed by an apology to victims by the archbishop of Utrecht, who said the revelation “fills us with shame and sorrow.” …

The Dutch report said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse, which ranged from “unwanted sexual advances” to rape, in an attempt to prevent scandals. Abusers included priests, brothers, pastors and lay people who worked in religious orders and congregations, it said. The investigation followed allegations of repeated incidents of abuse at one cloister that quickly spread to claims from Catholic institutions across the country.

The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions likely lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report investigating allegations of abuse dating back to 1945.

It’s nice, I suppose, that Archbishop Wim Eijk apologized and expressed remorse over this, and compensation will be offered to victims, but once again I must ask why it took so long — the culmination of a thorough examination and investigation — for the apology to be forthcoming? Would it have been so fucking hard for the Dutch Catholic Church simply to have owned up, right at the start? Why is the Catholic Church, which claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality in the world, so fiercely unwilling to show some damned courage and moral fortitude, just once? They love telling everyone else what they ought to do, but refuse to be held accountable for their own actions, or inaction as the case may be, and must have all concessions of wrongdoing dragged out of them. Hypocrites!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Kansas City MOFor the first time in the US, an actual member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy has been indicted for his role in a priestly-pedophilia scandal. The New York Times reports on this astonishing development (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Robert Finn, and the diocese he leads have been indicted by a county grand jury on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse in the case of a priest who had been accused of taking lewd photographs of young girls.

The indictment [cached] is the first ever of a Catholic bishop in the 25 years since the scandal over sexual abuse by priests first became public in the United States.

The accusation is fairly stunning:

Bishop Finn is accused of neglecting to report abuse that occurred as recently as last year — almost 10 years since the nation’s Catholic bishops passed a charter pledging to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities.

The bishop has acknowledged that he knew of the existence of the photos last December but did not turn them over to the police until May.

We see, here, how strictly the American bishops live up to their promises. In two words … they don’t! Like the rest of the Catholic machine worldwide, these guys have all the morals and ethics of the Mafia.

Note that this is only a misdemeanor charge. However, that bishop Finn was charged at all, is monumental. I just hope the prosecutor sticks with this case, as small as it is, and doesn’t let go of it until a conviction has been won.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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Saint joseph oratory montreal 2010tThe trickle of stories relating to the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal is slow, to be sure, but it seems unending nonetheless, and they continue to come in from all over the world. The Canadian Press via the Winnipeg Free Press reports that a Catholic organization’s Quebec operation has agreed to a pay abuse victims (or their families) up to $18 million (WebCite cached article):

A major Roman Catholic organization has agreed to pay up to $18 million in a historic compensation agreement for sexual abuse committed over several decades in Quebec.

The Congregation of Holy Cross said Thursday that it has agreed to issue an apology and financially compensate victims for abuses at three different institutions over a five-decade span.

The amount is believed to be the most ever awarded in Quebec and, lawyers say, perhaps even in Canada.

The abuse occurred at a number of schools operated by the Congregation of Holy Cross and date back to the 1950s:

The agreement applies to three Quebec institutions that are now defunct — Montreal’s College Notre-Dame between 1960 and 2001; College Saint-Cesaire, located south of Montreal, between 1960 and 1991; and Ecole Notre Dame in the Lower St. Lawrence region (1959-1964).

At least 85 people are thought to be eligible for compensation. Lawyers believe that number could be much higher, but that many victims are likely too traumatized to come forward.

The revelation that abuse occurred in the Congregation’s schools took some time to be noticed. In the 90s one of the victims, René Cornellier Jr., wrote letters to the Congregation school he had attended, asking for them to own up to it, but he died shortly after that, so the matter wasn’t pursued. Those letters turned up when the Montreal Gazette went looking for evidence of abuse in Congregation schools. Cornellier’s abortive efforts were posthumously recognized in the agreement:

As part of the settlement, Rene Cornellier Jr. will also have a $100,000 scholarship named after him, in recognition of his role as the first victim to denounce the school.

The Congregation also apologized for the abuse, but — as is typical — never bothered to explain why it allowed the abuse in the first place, or how it could have been going on for decades, right under their noses … especially since they’d been put on notice about it at least in the mid-90s, via Cornellier’s letters. Once again, a Roman Catholic organization reveals its total moral bankruptcy by “apologizing” only when it’s coerced to do so, and only in minimal fashion, in spite of the fact that the R.C. Church represents itself as the planet’s sole remaining arbiter of morality.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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94 Stephen's GreenIt appears the government of Ireland is unruffled by the Vatican’s recent rejection of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s condemnation of the Vatican over its attempts to prevent secular governments from prosecuting child-abusing clergy. Almost immediately after the Vatican’s fierce denial, CNN reports that Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposed a new law that would hit the Church particularly hard (WebCite cached article):

Ireland stepped up its battle with the Roman Catholic Church over child abuse Sunday, with Justice Minister Alan Shatter vowing to pass a law requiring priests to report suspicions of child abuse, even if they learn about them in confession.

The Catholic Church regards information learned in confession as completely confidential.

But under the law proposed by Shatter, priests could be prosecuted for failing to tell the police about crimes disclosed in the confession box.

Shatter said in a statement through a spokesman last week that priests’ failure to report what they learn in confession “that has led sexual predators into believing that they have impunity and facilitated pedophiles preying on children and destroying their lives.”

The R.C. Church considers the confessional to be more sacred than almost anything else, so it’s sure to resist this law. Furthermore, even outside the confessional, the Church is vehemently opposed to any kind of mandatory-reporting requirement. This was a key sticking point in the Vatican’s rejection of changes in procedure which had been contemplated by Irish bishops in the mid-90s, and specifically and explicitly condemned in the (now famous but then secret) letter to Ireland’s bishops in January of 1997 (available at the NY Times and on this server):

In particular, the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.

Shatter’s proposal, then, is especially provocative, and it strikes at the very heart of how the Vatican wishes to operate. Good for him … and good for the Irish government.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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This image shows a copy of a newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, warning Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police, a disclosure that victims groups described as "the smoking gun" needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of cover-up. The letter documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland's first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits. Via the Globe and Mail.The aftermath of the Cloyne Report, about which I’ve blogged already, continues to play out, in Ireland and in Vatican City. The Vatican threw a fit, recalling their nuncio to Ireland because Taoiseach Enda Kenny dared call the Vatican out for its conduct in the clerical child-abuse scandal. This nuncial recall was, all by itself, a childish reaction to criticism, and showed how out-of-touch the Holy See is. But as is normal with the Holy See, it has not changed. The BBC reports that the Holy See once again has dug its heels in and remains firmly in denial that it could have done anything wrong (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican has rejected claims by Irish PM Enda Kenny that it sabotaged efforts by Irish bishops to report child-molesting priests to police. …

In a speech to parliament in July, Mr Kenny accused the Church of putting its reputation ahead of abuse victims.

The Vatican said it was “sorry and ashamed” over the scandal but said his claims were “unfounded”.

“The Holy See is deeply concerned at the findings of the commission of inquiry concerning grave failures in the ecclesiastical governance of the diocese of Cloyne,” said the Vatican, in a detailed response to the allegations [cached].

“The Holy See… in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.”

“Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties.”

The Vatican continues to claim innocence in spite of the discovery of a “smoking gun” document … a (then) secret letter to Ireland’s bishops in 1997 … which showed the Holy See had derailed efforts by those same bishops to cooperate more fully with secular authorities (cached). As the BBC article relates, the Vatican insists any such conclusion about the letter is a “misinterpretation”:

But the Holy See’s response, published on Saturday, said Mr Kenny’s blistering accusations were based on a misinterpretation of a 1997 Vatican letter expressing “serious reservations” about the Irish bishops’ 1996 policy requiring bishops to report abusers to police.

I challenge anyone to read this letter (available at the NY Times and on this server) and not conclude — rather than “interpret” — that it was intended to do anything other than prevent the sort of cooperation with local authorities that the Irish bishops had been contemplating in the mid-90s. It clearly and explicitly states that, for example, mandatory reporting requirements are, in papal eyes, canonically and morally problematic:

In particular, the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.

What Irish bishop, reading this Vatican instruction, would fail to conclude that he should not follow mandatory reporting guidelines? Seriously?

Once again the Vatican demonstrates its proclivity to act in denialistic and juvenile fashion, continually refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing, even in light of demonstrable evidence of its own wrongdoing. The robed denizens of the Holy See — nearly all of them middle-aged or elderly — are far too old to be acting as childishly as this. It’s time for them to act their ages.

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St Bernard's Church, Tariffville (Simsbury), CTNot too long ago, a report commissioned by America’s Catholic bishops claimed — among other things — that priestly pedophilia was a “historical” problem, meaning it’s “history” and is no longer happening. Apparently this isn’t true, though; a month ago I blogged about a priest here in Connecticut who was arrested for abusing children; and now, WFSB-TV reports on yet another Nutmeg State priest who’s been arrested (WebCite cached article):

A St. Bernard Catholic Church priest in Simsbury appeared before a judge on Friday to answer to charges of sexual assault.

Simsbury police said Rev. Edward Warnakulasuriya was arrested on Wednesday, and was charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.

WFSB offers this video report (unfortunately not visible in all browsers; you may have to click the link to see it):

Unlike the case of the priest in Berlin, CT, there’s no mention of cooperation by the archdiocese of Hartford, which suggests there’s been none (aside from Warnakulasuriya being suspended).

Really, I have to wonder when the Roman Catholic Church will finally admit that the clerical abuse scandal is an actual, real problem, not a figment of others’ imaginations, not the product of a global conspiracy by the Church’s enemies (or worse, by the Jews), not a “spiritual attack” by the Forces of Darkness on God’s holy church, not a money-grab by people who want to cash in by suing the Church, and not a thing of the past. It’s time for the Roman Catholic hierarchy to grow up, “man up,” accept responsibility for their own clergy, admit what has happened, and conclude the problem once and for all.

But we all know they won’t. They’re much too cowardly and selfish even to consider such a thing.

Photo credit: St Bernard’s Church, Tariffville (Simsbury), CT.

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