Posts Tagged “catholic clerical abuse scandal”

The Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport has long resisted explaining its complicity in clerical abuse that took place within it, for the last several decades. This resistance, however, has more or less been futile (if I may paraphrase Star Trek: the Next Generation). At every step, their attempts to hide what they were doing and cover their tracks, have failed. Their most recent defeat came a few weeks ago at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to prevent state courts from releasing a number of legal documents dealing with a list of abuse reports which the diocese had settled with their accusers (WebCite cached article). This cache of documents was finally released today, and the picture they paint of the diocese, and specifically of (then-Bishop, and later, Cardinal) Edward Egan when he was deposed, is not flattering, as the Hartford Courant reports:

Cardinal Edward Egan Protected Abusive Priests At Victims’ Expense

“Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations.”

Those six words uttered by retired Cardinal Edward M. Egan during two depositions neatly sum up his approach to handling the burgeoning priest sexual abuse scandal that he inherited when he took over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut in the late 1980s. …

During his deposition with attorney’s from Tremont and Sheldon, the Bridgeport firm that filed the lawsuits, Egan comes off as dismissive, argumentative and at times condescending.

The documents show that Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, reassigned priests that he knew had allegations made against them and in general downplayed allegations made against many of the priests. At one point Egan said he wasn’t interested in allegations — only “realities.” He added that “very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything” against a priest.

For example, regarding a dozen people who made complaints of sexual abuse and violence against [accused abuser Fr Raymond] Pcolka, of Greenwich, Egan said, “the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth.”

Egan also acknowledges that he never attempted to seriously investigate the truth of such allegations — accusers were not interviewed, witnesses were not sought, and no attempt was made to learn of other possible victims.

Egan allowed Pcolka to continue working as a priest until 1993, when he suspended him after Pcolka refused an order from Egan to go to the Institute of Living in Hartford for psychiatric treatment. Egan referred to the Institute as his “preferred” place to send priests who needed counseling.

His handling of complaints made against Carr was no different, the records show.

Despite a May 1990 memo by a diocese official worrying about “a developing pattern of accusations” that Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk had fondled young boys, Egan kept Carr working as a priest until 1995, when he suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed.

Of course, Egan — who after these depositions was elevated to Archbishop of New York and became a Cardinal because of that, before retiring a short time ago — had merely carried on what his predecessor (the late Bishop Walter Curtis) had done, as the Courant goes on to explain:

The documents also show that Egan inherited the priest abuse scandal from Curtis, who admitted he deliberately shuffled pedophile priests among parishes to give them a “fresh start.” Records show that seven priests accused of sexual misconduct were at one time assigned to St. Teresa’s Church in Trumbull between 1965-1990. Curtis, who is now deceased, was deposed three times. He also admitted he did not think that pedophilia was a permanent condition.

Curtis viewed pedophilia as “an occasional thing” and not a serious psychological problem and was more concerned with weeding out potential gays among clergy applicants.

“We had a policy in this sense, that before a candidate was accepted for study for the priesthood, [they] would have psychological testing, and if there appeared signs of homosexuality, he wouldn’t be accepted,” Curtis testified.

Curtis also testified that records of complaints against priests would usually be put into the diocese’s “secret archive,” a canonically required cache of historical documents accessed only with keys kept by the bishop and the vicar.

He said he would occasionally go into the archive and remove what he called “antiquated” abuse complaints, and destroy them.

Curtis’s deposed testimony more or less amounts to an indictment against the Roman Catholic Church, showing that — as custom and as policy — it consciously chose not to take abuse reports seriously, and even when they suspected an allegation might be true, they nevertheless made efforts to shuffle the accused priests around and to “rehabilitate” them.

What a nice, Christian organization the Roman Catholic Church is … no?

Update: The Courant today ran a follow-up story, focusing on the example of Fr Raymond Pcolka. It shows that the Church knew, prior to his ordination, that he had psychological problems … yet they ordained him anyway, assigned him to a parish, and within months were hearing complaints about him. Pcolka had a nearly 3 decade career of abuse before the diocese finally decided they could not tolerate him any more and retired him. What a wonderful crew.

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I blogged a couple times already on a report by an investigative commission in Ireland on the abuse of children in the care of the Roman Catholic Church (such as orphanages and schools) which had been released in May. That report focused mainly on the operations of facilities, which had been mostly in the care of religious orders such as the Christian Brothers. A subsequent report, released a few days ago, delves deeper into the Church hierarchy’s cover-up, and the complicity not only of the religious orders but of the Dublin archdiocese, as well as government officials, police, etc. The New York Times reports on these additional revelations:

Report Says Irish Bishops and Police Hid Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church and the police in Ireland systematically colluded in covering up decades of child sex abuse by priests in Dublin, according to a scathing report released Thursday.

The cover-ups spanned the tenures of four Dublin archbishops and continued through to the mid-1990s and beyond, even after the church was beginning to admit to its failings and had professed that it was confronting abuse by its priests.

But rather than helping the victims, the church was concerned only with “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets,” said the 700-page report, prepared by a group appointed by the Irish government and called the Commission of Investigation Into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

The abuse — and the cover-up — were extensive, pervasive, and multi-generational. The Church’s reaction? I’ll relay what the Times reported (emphasis mine):

In a statement, the current archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, acknowledged the “revolting story” of abuses that the report detailed, saying, “No words of apology will ever be sufficient.” He added, “The report highlights devastating failings of the past.”

Note his Excellency’s specific mention of “the past.” It’s all “water under the bridge” for the Archbishop, it seems. How nice — and Christian of him to slough off any responsibility. What a way to uphold a higher standard of morality.

It wasn’t just the Roman Catholic hierarchy that allowed this to happen, though … many others colluded with the Church and were complicit in the abuse:

The report said the Irish police allowed the church to act with impunity and often referred abuse complaints back to the archdiocese for internal investigations.

The police said Thursday that they regretted their failure to act. “Because of acts or omissions, individuals who sought assistance did not always receive the level of response or protection which any citizen in trouble is entitled to expect,” Ireland’s police commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, said, adding he was “deeply sorry.”

It’s interesting how so many people are willing to apologize … but they’re only doing so after the fact, and essentially they plan never actually to truly do anything to express their remorse, or prevent such things ever from happening again. The government promised prosecutions, as the Times explains:

The Irish government vowed to make amends to the victims. The justice minister, Dermot Ahern, promised that “the persons who committed these dreadful crimes — no matter when they happened — will continue to be pursued.”

The problem, however, is that, as a result of a 2004 lawsuit by the aforementioned Christian Brothers, Irish courts caved in to the Church and have prevented the Commission from releasing the names of the abusers. Because of that, prosecutions will be next to impossible.

P.S. I assume that the fact that the New York Times reported on this, will only further convince Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, that the Times is “anti-Catholic.” He seems to believe the R.C. Church should be insulated from having its misdeeds reported publicly … and that the misdeeds of other churches and religions somehow grant the Catholic Church permission to misbehave. I guess these ideas, too, are part of the Catholic Church’s high moral standards … although most of us know better.

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A commission in Ireland — appointed some 9 years ago to catalog and report on abuses by Roman Catholic institutions meant to house “wayward” children — has finally issued a report on the matter. Though the institutions in question were all closed by the 1990s, revelations of these abuses were a scandal in Ireland that the commission had been appointed to address. It is a damning report listing indescribable abuses, and shows how both Roman Catholic Church officials, and the government of Ireland, cooperated in a scheme which in some cases amounted to institutionalized slavery. The New York Times reports (WebCite cached article):

Tens of thousands of Irish children were sexually, physically and emotionally abused by nuns, priests and others over 60 years in a network of church-run residential schools meant to care for the poor, the vulnerable and the unwanted, according to a report released in Dublin on Wednesday.

The 2,600-page report paints a picture of institutions run more like Dickensian orphanages than 20th-century schools, characterized by privation and cruelty that could be both casual and choreographed.

“A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions,” the report says. In the boys’ schools, it says, sexual abuse was “endemic.”

The length of time it took to produce this report is, perhaps, a reflection of internal interference within the Irish government, which had actually cooperated and fueled the Church’s institutions, as well as a lawsuit by a Church order:

It was delayed because of a lawsuit brought by the Christian Brothers, the religious order that ran many of the boys’ schools and that fought, ultimately successfully, to have the abusers’ names omitted. In 2003, the commission’s first chairwoman resigned, saying that Ireland’s Department of Education had refused to release crucial documents. …

It exposes for the first time the scope of the problem in Ireland, as well as how the government and the church colluded in perpetuating an abusive system. The revelations have also had the effect of stripping the Catholic Church, which once set the agenda in Ireland, of much of its moral authority and political power.

The report singles out Ireland’s Department of Education, meant to regulate the schools, for running “toothless” inspections that overlooked glaring problems and deferred to church authority.

It’s understandable, then, that some in Ireland’s government had tried to hinder this investigation … their culpability in this scheme to abuse and enslave children has been exposed.

The reality of this systemic abuse got major international attention in 2002 with the release of a movie about the so-called “Magdalene asylums” (or “Magdalene laundries”), called The Magdalene Sisters. News programs in the US followed this with presentations on the issue. But while the Magdalene asylums were scandalous enough, the abuse, it turns out, was much wider in scope than that.

Given that the Roman Catholic Church holds itself up as the sole arbiter of morality and ethics in the world, one would think the Church has something to say in the wake of the commission’s report. An apology at the very least. But guess again:

The Vatican had no response. But leaders of various religious orders — who often argued during the investigations that the abuse was a relic of another time, reflecting past societal standards — issued abject apologies on Wednesday, taking care to frame the problem as something that is now behind them.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said in a statement that he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed,” adding, “I hope the publication of today’s report will help heal the hurts of victims and address the wrongs of the past.”

Essentially the Vatican is ducking the issue completely, and the religious orders that orchestrated these crimes are mouthing mild admissions and insincere well-wishes for the abused, in order to evade civil lawsuits that have been filed against them. (The Vatican officially condemned The Magdalene Sisters when it was released, and called for a boycott of it, so silence from the Holy See is an improvement on that … I guess.)

The next time the Roman Catholic Church tells you what’s moral and what isn’t, remember their ineffective, insincere and evasive response to this travesty. Oh, and when a Catholic tells you that atrocities such as the Inquisitions are “a thing of the past,” you might remind them that there are very likely still Catholic nuns, priests and brothers in Ireland, who’d once been part of this slavery scheme — one for which they have not even yet been brought to justice.

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