Posts Tagged “child abuse”

Cardinal Law arriving to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in 2010 / Andrew Medichini, Associated Press, via New York TimesBy now most of my readers will have heard that Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, died in Vatican City (Archive.Is cached article). He was famous as one of the targets of the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team, which revealed “priestly pedophilia” in the US in a series of articles back in 2002.

Initial focus was on the case of Fr John Geoghan, whom the archdiocese purposely allowed to abuse children for decades during his career as a priest (cached). The now-late Cardinal Law, the Globe subsequently revealed, helped a large number of priests abuse children, not just Geoghan, then often used quiet settlements to keep their abuse a secret (cached).

Cardinal Law flew to the Vatican and resigned as archbishop, near the end of 2002, under the weight of the unfolding scandal. Pope John Paul II then granted him a cushy, make-work job (i.e. archpriest of St Mary Major basilica) which kept him in Vatican City and thus shielded him from potential prosecution in the US.

Good bye and good riddance to one of the more vile human beings who’s ever lived. I’m disappointed the current Pope, Francis, is going to preside over his funeral. What Francis ought to have done, back when he took office, was to dismiss Law from his job in the Vatican and ship him back to the ‘States, hopefully to be brought up on charges for what he did. It’s a pity that can never happen, now.

Photo credit: Andrew Medichini/Associated Press, via New York Times.

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In this photo provided by the Australian Government Royal Commission, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, seated left, watches as Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, seated right, signs a document after receiving the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at Government House, in Canberra, Dec. 15, 2017. The commission delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. (Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission via AP)Australia has been investigating child abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy for several years now, and at long last, its report is final. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the numbers are staggering, and among contributing issues is the Church’s mandatory celibacy policy (Archive.Is cached article):

An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

(That last part is for all the Roman Catholic apologists out there who think this investigation was merely a pretense for attacking their precious Church. It wasn’t. But I digress.)

Another problem cited in the report is the confessional secrecy:

It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse.

The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged.

The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

This recommendation wasn’t exactly welcomed by the R.C. hierarchy:

“I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” [President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis] Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

Let’s be honest about it, though: The R.C. bureaucracy often uses the sanctity of the confessional to justify not reporting abuse to local authorities, the premise being that a priest’s superiors learned about it in the confessional. That, of course, is just a contrivance. I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine and dogma surrounding reconciliation (aka confession), but as I understand it, using the confessional as “cover” for one’s criminality — and especially using it to invite the collusion of the priest to whom one confesses — invalidates it as a sacrament. And that, in turn, lifts the secrecy provision.

But hey, what could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such holy things?

Photo credit: Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission, via Associated Press.

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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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Bergen Catholic Chapel, via Bergen Catholic High School Web siteThe Catholic child-abuse scandal continues making news. This should be no surprise, given that it went on for decades at the very least (and in fact we have no reason to assume it doesn’t go back centuries), and was worldwide in scope, not to mention pervasive within the R.C. Church. The latest revelations to emerge describe abuse that took place many decades ago, as NJ Advanced Media reports, at a private Catholic school in New Jersey (WebCite cached article):

Eight more former Bergen Catholic High School students have come forward to accuse former staff members at the school of sexual abuse.

The eight have levied their allegations since it was revealed in August that the all-boys high school in Oradell had reached a $1.9 million settlement [cached] with 21 men who said they were sexually abused at the school.

The eight men, who are now between the ages of about 55 to 75 years old, say they were sexually abused when they were teens between the years of 1956 and 1977, said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represented some of the previous alleged victims.

The timeframe of the alleged attacks is similar to the one provided by the other alleged victims who settled with the school. They had said they were abused between 1963 and 1978.

The school itself, not the archdiocese of Newark (in which it’s located) or the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers (the priests who staff it), reached the settlement with the victims. Apparently the archdiocese plays no role in the school’s administration, so — at least for now — they’re not involved.

Note that the Christian Brothers who run this school are part of the worldwide order of Christian Brothers who, back in 2003, filed suit to block the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, and succeeded in preventing that body from releasing the names of abusive priests (cached). Despite that, the Christian Brother order figured prominently in abuse investigations in Ireland, and elsewhere.

At any rate, I expect Catholic apologists will repeat their old rationale for why they don’t think their holy Church or its clergy did anything wrong: The accusers are just in it for the money, and some of them — so far — were paid off. There was no abuse, they’ll say; accusers made it all up long after they left school, just to get some money for themselves and their attorneys.

While I agree money might motivate some accusers, the “profit motive” can’t explain all the accusations that have been leveled, around the world, for decades, nor does it account for the fact that many investigations — again, from all around the world — have substantiated that abuse did, in fact, take place, and moreover, that in a lot of cases the Church hierarchy did, in fact, cover it up and on occasion enable the abusers by moving them around.

I expect to hear more about this. I also expect to hear a lot more whining from Catholic apologists about how terrible it is that accusers are coming forward now and how terrible it is that some have already been paid off. It’s as though the victims somehow owe it to the Holy Mother Church to keep silent — forever — about the abuse they’d endured, because … well! … it’s the Holy Mother Church. Or something. Because for some reason, no one is supposed to say anything bad about the Holy Mother Church. Or something.

Photo credit: Bergen Catholic High School Web site.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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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).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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