Posts Tagged “catholic clerical child abuse”

Cardinal-Francis-George 110516 photoby Adam-BielawskiYet another archdiocese has been forced to release documentation that it was complicit in the abuse of children by its clergy. This time it’s the Windy City, as the Chicago Tribune reports (WebCite cached article):

Thousands of pages of secret church documents [cached] released Tuesday as part of a court settlement provide an unprecedented and gut-wrenching look at how the Archdiocese of Chicago for years failed to protect children from abusive priests.

The documents provide new details and insights into how the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly shuttled accused priests from parish to parish and failed to notify police of child abuse allegations. The paper trail, going back decades, also portrays painfully slow progress toward reform, accountability and openness.

Most of the 30 clergymen tied to the documents were not prosecuted. They were shielded by Roman Catholic Church officials who thought the men could be cured with counseling or bishops blinded by a belief in second chances and forgiveness.

Some of the abuse and cover-ups in this document cache involves the current archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, as the Tribune explains. The most outrageous quote in the article comes from the good Cardinal himself, referring to the abuse and cover-ups:

“That’s in the past, we’re hoping,” Cardinal Francis George said in an interview Sunday.

He’s “hoping” it’s “in the past”? He merely “hopes” his archdiocese’s custom of protecting abusive clergy is “in the past”? Seriously!?

The man is the fucking archbishop! What he says in his archdiocese, goes. The man needs to pull up his big boy pants and make this not just a “hope,” but a “reality.” As archbishop it’s entirely within his power to make it so. He’s in charge, and needs to fucking act like it. Yet, he doesn’t seem to want to.

If anyone wondered how decades of child abuse could have occurred at the hands of Catholic clergy and under the watch of the Catholic hierarchy, now you know why. Because not even a powerful Catholic hierarch is willing to take ownership of his own archdiocese and run it the way he sees fit. No. He just “hopes” it will be run better from now on.

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Cathédrale Catholic de Churchill au Manitoba (Cathédrale Saints-Martyrs-Canadiens-et-Reine-des-Martyrs), via Wikimedia CommonsNote: There’s been some news about this case; please see below.

Although I’ve condemned the Roman Catholic Church for the many decades it allowed its personnel to abuse children in its care, and protected those abusers by moving them around so they wouldn’t get caught, that’s not the entirety of the scandal. The Church couldn’t have pulled all this abuse off, without the willing assistance of other elements of the societies in which it operated, including secular officials who granted the Church a wide berth.

One example is that of Connecticut’s own Fr Stephen Foley, a Catholic priest and state police chaplain who, in the 1990s, had been accused of assaults; despite a criminal investigation that ended with Foley being fired as a chaplain by the state police and as a parish pastor by the Hartford archdiocese, he was never charged with anything (WebCite cached article). Foley went on to abuse more children afterward. The state police went so far as to allow him to drive a police cruiser, complete with lights, sirens and police-radio scanners, even though he was no longer a chaplain (cached) … and despite the fact that, had he remained a chaplain, he still wasn’t legally entitled to drive such a vehicle!

Another example of criminal-justice officials being complicit in a priest evading prosecution, came to light recently in Canada. The Canadian Press reports via the CBC about this cringe-worthy story that dates back to 1995 (cached):

A priest who this week is to face 76 sex charges involving Inuit children might have been tried years ago but for a quiet nod from Canada that allowed him to leave the country, says a church leader.

Georges Vervust is the top official with the Belgian Oblates, an order of Catholic priests that sent Eric Dejaeger to several communities in what is now Nunavut.

Vervust sheds light on questions that have troubled Dejaeger’s alleged victims for nearly a decade: How was a man facing child abuse charges allowed to leave the country days before his trial? And why did it take so long for him to be returned?

“What I have heard is that he got advice from people from the Justice Department, off the record, that he should leave,” Vervust said in a Belgian documentary. He confirmed his comments to The Canadian Press.

The CP goes on to tell the details of this story. It includes evasiveness and excuse-making by Justice officials at that time, including whines about being understaffed and the charges against Dejaeger not being a big deal. Ultimately, Dejaeger ended up on trial for his abuse many years after he fled the country, not because anyone in Canada bothered tracking him down, but quite accidentally:

In the end, it was an immigration violation, not an extradition order, that brought him back to face the charges he ran away from 18 years ago.

Dejaeger was eventually returned in January 2011 when a Belgian journalist realized that Dejaeger had lost his Belgian citizenship in 1977 when he became a naturalized Canadian. He had been living in Belgium since 1995 without a visa and was kicked out.

As I said, it’s not possible for the Church to have gotten away with child abuse, over the course of decades and in so many places around the world, if people around the Church weren’t willing to let them get away with it. At this point, societal collaboration with the Church appears much less of a problem than it once was, but it’s something we must always guard against.

Update: Canada’s National Post reports Dejaeger was convicted of 24 counts (cached).

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Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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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.

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Between masses at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, Archbishop John Nienstedt spoke directly to the media for the first time in months. / Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star-Tribune.Note: There’s been an update to this story; see below.

I’ve blogged already about Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul & Minneapolis, who may have been behind the destruction of a computer that had belonged to a pedophile priest, before police could get their hands on it. At the moment, though, rather than protecting a cleric who’s been accused of impropriety, as the Religion News Service reports, he’s the target of such an accusation himself (WebCite cached article):

Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, already under fire for failing to take action against priests suspected of abuse, announced Tuesday (Dec. 17) that he is stepping aside temporarily after a minor accused the outspoken archbishop of touching his buttocks during a group photo after a 2009 confirmation ceremony.

In what he called “a difficult letter for me to write,” Nienstedt says he learned of the allegation during the weekend. He said he does not know the young man and he presumes his accuser to be “sincere in believing what he claims.”

Nienstedt denies the allegation, and insists any contact during picture-taking was innocent … which may well be the case … but the fact that he stepped aside, at least temporarily, is significant.

The RNS article goes on to explain that, over the past weekend, Nienstedt had “apologized” for his weak handling of priestly pedophilia claims in his archdiocese. He claims he’d been assured things were well in hand, when he took office, so he blithely assumed they were — but in fact, they weren’t. I don’t buy that excuse, though, and neither should you: He became archbishop in 2008, some 5 years after the priestly-pedophilia scandal had blown up in the U.S., with new revelations still trickling out all over the place. Nienstedt cannot reasonably have been unaware that problems might have continued to lurk within his archdiocese. It just doesn’t make any sense for him to have assumed that, at that time.

Update: The Catholic News Service reports police have cleared Nienstedt and he’s returned to his job (cached).

Photo credit: Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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05354 Palm Sunday in SanokThe litany of bogeymen whom the Roman Catholic hierarchy blames for the priestly-pedophilia scandal continues to grow. Earlier this month, a Polish hierarch identified a sequence of villains whom he thinks forced a bunch of otherwise-totally-innocent priests to abuse children. It all started, as Polskie Radio reports, when the archbishop of Przemysl wandered stupidly into “victim-blaming” territory (WebCite cached article):

The archbishop of Przemysl made the controversial remarks after being asked about the problem of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. “Many of these instances of abuse could have been avoided if the relations between parents had been healthy,” the archbishop said. “We often hear that this wrong behaviour, or abuse, occurs when the child is searching for love,” he added. The archbishop suggested that children from broken homes can “cling on” to priests, hence creating the problems.

The idea that victims are to blame for abusive clerics’ action is not new at all, as I’ve blogged before. It’s actually a rather old notion that trickles far beneath everything the R.C. Church has said and done about the scandal. So I don’t consider this unusual, nor do I buy that there aren’t more hierarchs (possibly many more!) who think this way.

Michalik ostensibly apologized for these comments, as the article states. However, he wasn’t sincere about his “apology.” As Polskie Radio again reports, Michalik later doubled down with his blame-game (cached):

Head of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop Jozef Michalik has claimed that abuse of children is caused by pornography, feminism and a “selfish love” undermining the family.

“The shameful abuse by adults towards children results from the acceptance of pornography […] and the promotion of a false, selfish love between people,” Archbishop Michalik has told a Mass in Wroclaw Cathedral, south west Poland.…

During the Mass in Wroclaw on Wednesday, however, Archbishop Michalik said that though the family has always enjoyed respect as an institution in Poland, larger family units “have become stigmatised”.

“You have heard of adults abusing children and this kind of evil is not to be tolerated, but no one asks about the causes of this,” he said, blaming TV networks broadcasting “pornography and a selfish love”

“Nobody stands up for children suffering from a lack of love from divorcing parents, which leaves painful and permanent injuries”.

The archbishop also mentioned the “new ideology of gender” with universities offering gender study courses and “the most aggressive Polish feminists who scoff at the Church and years of traditional ethics, who promote abortion and struggle against the traditional model of the family and marital fidelity”.

“The ideology of gender raises legitimate concerns, because it goes against the laws of nature, promotes marriage between persons of the same sex and fights for the right to legalize adoption of children by these couples,” the archbishop said.

Michalik’s complaint about a “new ideology of gender” forcing priests to abuse children mirrors the Church’s assertion a couple of years ago that “society” caused priestly pedophilia.

Oh, and don’t assume Michalik is just some fringe lunatic lurking at the edge of the Catholic hierarchy who has no influence elsewhere. He’s not merely the archbishop of Przemyśl; he’s the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, the collective of hierarchs in Poland (that country’s cognate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). An equivalent situation would be if Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, had made such comments. Michalik is that authoritative. His remarks — which he very clearly stands by, in spite of his supposed “apology” — are neither trivial nor meaningless.

If it’s not clear to anyone by now, let me lay bare the fact here: There’s a nasty psychopathology festering deep within the R.C. hierarchy. It’s not going to go away on its own, because that same hierarchy grooms its own membership and shapes those who are initiated into it. The sooner lay Catholics admit their Church is criminally dysfunctional, and not going to reform itself, the sooner they can get off their sorry, cowardly, sniveling little asses and repair it, fercryinoutloud.

But of course, we know they never will, so why do I even bother saying it any more … ?

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Church of the Gesù in Rome / By Maus-TraudenOnce again, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church must be dragged kicking and screaming (metaphorically, anyway) into admitting their complicity in the abuse of children by clergy working under them. The Chicago Tribune reports the Jesuits in that city finally owned up to having protected and aided an abusive priest, for several decades (WebCite cached article):

Internal church records released Tuesday show that Chicago Jesuits consciously concealed the crimes of convicted sex offender Donald McGuire for more than 40 years as the prominent Roman Catholic priest continued to sexually abuse dozens of children around the globe.…

The documents contributed to a $19.6 million settlement between the Jesuits and six men from four states announced Tuesday. With an average payout of $3 million per person, the amount per individual is the largest in the history of the U.S. Catholic sexual abuse crisis, the victims’ lawyers said. The settlement and the documents add one more chapter to the still unfolding story of sexual abuse in the church.

Although the Jesuits insisted they’d found out about McGuire only recently, this turns out to have been a lie. They’d been warned long ago, and had even corresponded between themselves about it:

A memo in February 1991 expressed concern about a boy from Anchorage, Alaska, who traveled with McGuire and slept in the same room during a retreat in California. “This travel business is at least very imprudent, perhaps much more serious,” wrote the Rev. Robert Wild. He could not be reached for comment.

Another memo, dated April 1993, documented a call from the Rev. Joe Fessio, reporting that McGuire had been accompanied by several young men in Russia, “one of whom he was taking showers with and reading hard pornography.” Fessio reportedly contacted the boy’s father and “asked him to keep this quiet until he could represent this to McGuire’s provincial.”

Fessio could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In 1995, the Rev. Francis Daly, then acting provincial, wrote to McGuire after a mother copied his superiors on a memo telling him to stay away from her son. Daly could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“Let us hope that no more alleged incidents come to light,” Daly wrote. “You must understand the complaints raised in these situations are serious. There must be no more. I am calling you to a prudence greater than that which you have shown in recent years.”

Now, I’m pretty sure Catholic apologists out there who agree with the hierarchs that the Church has done nothing wrong, and that the whole scandal was caused by outside forces trying to destroy their precious holy Church, will continue to deny these documents show any awareness of McGuire’s wrongdoing. But Daly’s letter to him does indicate McGuire had crossed the line before. “I am calling you to a prudence greater than that which you have shown” makes no sense except in light of such knowledge.

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DownView CathedralBasilicaSH / Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Interior), Newark, NJThis is a story which is a couple weeks old, but sadly, it might as well have been decades old. Why? Because it’s merely the latest example of a long-standing pattern of behavior which the Roman Catholic Church has engaged in around the world. Several years ago a priest in the Newark archdiocese admitted to having been a pedophile, and agreed to stay away from children thereafter. But as the (Newark, NJ) Star-Ledger reports, he failed to abide by that agreement, and did so — as a priest still in good standing! — under the noses of his bosses in the archdiocese (WebCite cached article):

Six years ago, to avoid retrial on charges that he groped a teenage boy, the Rev. Michael Fugee entered a rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and signed a binding agreement that would dictate the remainder of his life as a Roman Catholic priest.

Fugee would not work in any position involving children, the agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office states. He would have no affiliation with youth groups. He would not attend youth retreats. He would not hear the confessions of minors.

But Fugee has openly done all of those things for the past several years through an unofficial association with a Monmouth County church, St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, The Star-Ledger found.

The archdiocese can’t plead ignorance of Fugee’s agreement with prosecutors, because it was made with their knowledge and even their blessing:

In addition to Fugee and Prosecutor John Molinelli, the archdiocese’s vicar general signed the agreement on behalf of Myers, pledging to abide by the restrictions on Fugee’s ministry.

The document — which can be found on NJ.com, the online home of The Star-Ledger — states explicitly that Fugee may not have unsupervised contact with children, minister to children or work in any position in which children are involved.

“This includes, but is not limited to, presiding over a parish, involvement with a youth group, religious education/parochial school, CCD (or Sunday school), confessions of children, youth choir, youth retreats and day care,” the agreement says.

Amazingly, the archdiocese contends Fugee’s activities didn’t actually violate the agreement:

But [Archbishop Myers’s spokesman Jim] Goodness denied the agreement had been breached, saying the archdiocese has interpreted the document to mean Fugee could work with minors as long as he is under the supervision of priests or lay ministers who have knowledge of his past and of the conditions in the agreement.

“We believe that the archdiocese and Father Fugee have adhered to the stipulations in all of his activities, and will continue to do so,” Goodness said.

Even if Fugee heard private confessions from minors, those supervising Fugee were always nearby, Goodness said.

“The fact is, he has done nothing wrong,” the spokesman said. “Nobody has reported any activity that is inappropriate, and I think that’s important to know, especially given that he’s a figure whose name is public and whose past is public.”

It’s clear that Mr Goodness and the rest of the Newark archdiocese have parted ways with reality, if they think anyone is going to buy into this idiotic claim. I’m certainly not stupid enough to accept it.

In any event, a few days after this revelation, the Rev Fugee contradicted Mr Goodness by admitting his behavior was, in fact, a breach of his agreement, and attempted to deflect any blame for it from the archdiocese (cached):

Asserting his actions were “my fault alone,” the Roman Catholic priest who violated a court-sanctioned agreement to stay away from children wrote in his resignation letter that he attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors without the knowledge of his superiors in the Archdiocese of Newark. …

“In conscience, I feel it necessary to make clear to all that my actions described in recent news stories were outside of my assigned ministry within the archdiocese,” Fugee wrote. “… My failure to request the required permissions to engage in those ministry activities is my fault, my fault alone.”

This latter Star-Ledger article includes a revealing tidbit that bolsters what I’ve said, since this blog’s inception, about the worldwide Catholic child-abuse scandal:

For years, Myers has faced criticism for his handling of Fugee, whom he has characterized as a victim in the criminal case. In correspondence with priests of the archdiocese, he referred to the criminal case as an “acquittal” despite the fact Fugee entered a rehabilitation program and underwent counseling for sex offenders.

You see, the hierarchs who rule over the R.C. Church are largely convinced that abusive priestsnot the children they abusedare the real victims in this scandal. It sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true. The abusive clergy and the Church sincerely and truly do not consider themselves responsible for any of the bad behavior uncovered by numerous investigations around the world; according to the Church, the scandal is anyone and everyone else’s fault.

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