Posts Tagged “clerical abuse”

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Priests Abused Kids Decades Ago in NJ Catholic School

Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter's Square - 12 May 2013Since his ascension to the Vatican throne, there’s been an expectation, or perhaps just a hope, that Pope Francis would finally adopt a new tactic in the handling of the Catholic Church’s worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal. As something of a reform advocate, Church watchers assumed he’d do things differently. And he has, in fact, marched to his own drum in many regards, as I’ve blogged quite often, but where “priestly pedophilia” has been concerned, he’s mostly been a big disappointment.

Yeah, he’s said and done a few things that suggest he “gets it,” but in the end, nothing has really changed, on that score. The best example of this is his special review commission, which apparently imploded because at least one of its members (foolishly, it seems) expected some actual results from it. “Priestly pedophilia” has turned out to be an ongoing problem which Francis ultimately hasn’t done anything about.

But that may have changed. I emphasize the “may have” in that sentence. The Associated Press reports the Pope has changed canon law so that bishops who failed to protect children might be disciplined (locally-cached version):

Pope Francis has established legal procedures to remove bishops who botch handling sex abuse cases, saying they can be kicked out of office if the Vatican finds they were negligent in doing their jobs.

In a law published Saturday, Francis answered a long-running demand by victims of abuse and their advocates to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for abuse, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police.

In the law, Francis acknowledged that the church’s canonical code already allows for a bishop to be removed for “grave reasons.” But he said he wanted to precisely state that negligence, especially negligence in handling abuse cases, can cost a bishop his job.

Yes, it’s true there really hasn’t been anything to date preventing a Pope from demanding the resignation of a negligent bishop — for pretty much any reason at all. It could always have been done, had it been desired. The Pope has a great deal of authority, both within and outside of canon law. But having this provision explicitly within canon law is a noteworthy change.

Even so — as with the review commission that collapsed — that doesn’t mean anything will ever come of this. The Vatican will, in all likelihood, continue doing as it wishes. We’ll just have to see if this new canon law actually goes anywhere … and given the Catholic bureaucracy’s glacial pace, it might take years for it to be noticed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Pope Changes Canon Law Concerning Bishops’ Accountability

St Paul Cathedral 2012Note: There’s been some news today about this archdiocese; see my next blog post for information.

The worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal continues slowly to churn out news stories, because the R.C. Church’s hierarchs continue covering up for abusive priests — years after they’d said they’d do a better job of policing them. The latest such story, as reported by the New York Times, comes out of Minnesota and involves an archdiocese, not a person, criminally charged with complicity (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

The charges [cached] and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say they were underage when a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them from 2008 to 2010.

The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese.

This case involves a catastrophic, consistent refusal to monitor and discipline Fr Wehmeyer, over the course of about 15 years or so. The archdiocese was repeatedly told about Wehmeyer’s antics, yet the abuse continued unabated. Wehmeyer finally was convicted in 2013 — not that the archdiocese did much to help bring that about.

At any rate, as this story explains, Fr Wehmeyer continued abusing kids in his care many years after the US R.C. bishops supposedly established a new “zero tolerance” policy, back in 2002. I guess “zero tolerance” must not mean what most of us think it means.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Minnesota Archdiocese Charged In Abuse Case

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Bishop Lahey Gets Light Sentence Over Child Porn

Image from Franciscans (Friars Minor Conventual)A couple months ago I blogged about the claim made by the country’s Catholic bishops that the clerical child abuse scandal which has plagued the Church worldwide for some time now is a “historical” problem (i.e. it’s “history,” a mere relic of the past) and is now no longer an issue. The report, written by a cadre of academics — but commissioned and paid for by the bishops — said (WebCite cached article):

The “crisis” of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is a historical problem.

Of course, I didn’t believe the bishops academics when they said this, and — unfortunately — I’ve been proven right, by the arrest of a priest in Berlin, Connecticut. The New Britain Herald reports on this story (cached):

The same police officers who stood by [the Rev. Michael Miller’s] side while tending to the injured took him into custody Tuesday to charge the popular St. Paul Catholic Church priest with five counts of risk of injury to a minor and one count of attempted obscenity. …

In the wake of allegations of inappropriate contact with a minor, Miller was suspended from public ministry July 4, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the Franciscan Friars.

The archdiocese of Hartford is supposedly cooperating with police in this case, which has been investigated for about a month. And they’re offering to “help out,” as revealed in another article in the Herald (cached):

“Anyone who has experienced inappropriate contact and/or conduct by Fr. Michael Miller should contact the Berlin Police Department. They are also encouraged to contact Sister Mary Kelly at the Archdiocese of Hartford at 860-541-6491. She is the coordinator of the Victim Assistance Program and can offer some assistance.”

By making this offer, the archdiocese hopes to intercept any reports before they get to the police. Nice. Really nice.

Photo credit: From Friars Minor Conventual Web site (Wayback Machine cache).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 5 Comments »

Vatican MuseumThe disclosure of a quarter million US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks has confirmed there was a good deal of tension between the Vatican and the Irish government over its inquiry into the abuse of children by the Roman Catholic Church there. The (UK) Guardian reports that the Vatican had been “offended” by requests for information and testimony by the Murphy commission (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican refused to allow its officials to testify before an Irish commission investigating the clerical abuse of children and was angered when they were summoned from Rome, US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks reveal.

Requests for information from the 2009 Murphy commission into sexual and physical abuse by clergy “offended many in the Vatican” who felt that the Irish government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations“, a cable says.

Note here the total lack of concern for the fact that the Murphy commission was investigating wrongdoing by Catholic clergy within Ireland … wrongdoing which had — by then — already been documented, to an extent, by the Ryan Commission. Oh no. The Vatican had no concern for priestly abuse, no interest in doing anything about it, and no interest in allowing the Irish to know what had been going on in their own country.

No way!

Rather, the Vatican was concerned about its “sovereignty.” After all, isn’t that much more important than the welfare of children in the Church’s care?

What is, perhaps, a bit worse than the fact that the Vatican chose to stonewall the Murphy commission, is that — ultimately — the Irish government surrendered on the matter:

According to [Irish ambassador to the Vatican City, Joel] Fahey’s deputy, Helena Keleher, the government acceded to Vatican pressure and granted them immunity from testifying. Officials understood that “foreign ambassadors are not required or expected to appear before national commissions”, but Keleher’s opinion was that by ignoring the commission’s requests the clergy had made the situation worse.

As usual, if it bellyaches and whines long enough and hard enough, the Vatican usually gets what it wants. It would, of course, be much better for the world if — instead of childishly stamping their feet every time someone tries to hold them accountable for their actions — the robed denizens of the Vatican finally grew the fuck up, came clean as to what they did or didn’t do, and took ownership of their own (mis)behavior.

But like politicians, the clergy will never mature, and they will never admit fault. So that won’t happen.

Photo credit: Wikitravel.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Vatican “Offended” By Irish Government Investigation

IMG_3802.JPGI think I’ve been too lenient on the Roman Catholic Church, over the past couple weeks. I posted just a little while ago that it seemed the Pope might have been just a little more contrite about the clerical child abuse scandal that’s plagued his institution for the past 10 years or so and has reached full-boil since late last year. Clearly, I underestimated the R.C. Church’s hypocrisy. You see, a couple weeks ago, Belgian authorities raided Church facilities looking for documentation concerning this scandal within their country. The Vatican responded by throwing a tantrum. Der Spiegel reports on the raid and the Church’s furious reaction (WebCite cached article):

But now that secular investigators have decided to take action, [Pope Benedict XVI] has condemned the “surprising and regretful” circumstances of the Belgian raid. In a message of solidarity with the bishops in Belgium, Benedict argued in favor of cooperating with the secular justice system, but he insisted on the church’s right to conduct internal investigations.

Benedict’s allies in Rome wasted no time in ensuring that relations between the Catholic Church and the secular world took another turn for the worse. The Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire sees the desecration of the graves as a “brutal act that strikes right at the heart of the church.” Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone — the second most powerful man in the Vatican — expressed outrage at the fact that it was possible to hold venerable bishops for so long without food or drink, “as if they were children.” Not even under communism were church officials treated as poorly, he said.

Essentially, then, the Church has reasserted that it is above the law of the land in all the countries in which it operates … a principle which it had asserted in the Middle Ages, often successfully, but which over the centuries — especially after the Reformation — it had been forced to concede.

Apparently, that all went out the window, when Belgian authorities decided to investigate the R.C. Church as it would have any other institution that may have victimized Belgians. That can’t be permitted, in the eyes of the Vatican.

But while the Church rages and fumes and stamps its feet that it’s being investigated by secular authorities over accusations that it may have victimized people, the Church has a completely opposite view of secular authorities, when it is a possible victim of a crime. The archdiocese of Hartford, here in Connecticut, called on the state to investigate and prosecute a priest who may have embezzled money from the Church, as the Hartford Courant reports (cached):

A well-known Roman Catholic priest who stole $1.3 million from the Sacred Heart parish over seven years said he “had grown to hate being a priest” because the Archdiocese had given him the “worst church assignments” where he would “have to fix problems made by the previous priests,” according to his arrest warrant. …

Waterbury [CT] police launched an investigation after the archdiocese came to them May 27 and said it had uncovered unauthorized payments from church funds to accounts held by Gray and other suspicious transactions, according to the affidavit, which was prepared by Waterbury Police Detective Peter Morgan.

So the Roman Catholic Church is more than happy to ask those evil “secular authorities” to help them out when they need it … but not willing to cooperate with them when their own misdeeds are being reviewed.

I can only think of four words to describe this: Hip. Oc. Rih. See. You know … the tendency to say one thing but do another? You know, that all-too-common human compulsion, which the founder of the Church’s own religion — Jesus Christ — himself, in the flesh, and in clear, unambiguous terms, specifically ordered his followers never, ever to engage in? Yeah. That “hypocrisy.”

Is anyone now not clear on what a festering sewer full of assorted putrid vermin the Vatican is?

Photo credit: Homini:).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 3 Comments »