Posts Tagged “clerical sexual abuse”

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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pliino Lepri, AP / Pope John Paul II blesses late father Marcial Maciel, founder of Christ's Legionaries, in November 2004. The Vatican is now investigating seven priests from the Legion of Christ religious order for alleged sexual abuse of minors.A couple years ago I blogged about the Vatican’s takeover of the long-troubled priestly order Legionaries of Christ. This order’s founder, the late Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, had been a darling of the previous Pope, the Blessed John Paul II. It seems, in hindsight … after years of internal Church investigations that only really began once John Paul had died … that Fr Maciel had been up to no good, and the order itself served as a front behind which he operated as a kind of rogue clerical princeling. My prior blog post on Maciel lays out some of what he’d been up to.

But it turns out the late Fr Maciel wasn’t the only misbehaving Legionary of Christ. Two years after taking over this sorry excuse for a clerical order, the AP reports (via USA Today), the Vatican has begun looking into the affairs of several other Legionaries (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican is investigating seven priests from the troubled Legion of Christ religious order for alleged sexual abuse of minors and another two for other alleged crimes, The Associated Press has learned. …

[T]he Vatican investigation of other Legion priests indicates that the same culture of secrecy that Maciel created within the order to cover his crimes enabled other priests to abuse children — just as abusive clergy of other religious orders and dioceses have done around the world.

This has actually been a long time coming. For years, the Vatican bureaucracy has been nosing around, collecting reports of various abuses by the order and its members. So what have the canon lawyers been doing with themselves, all this time, especially after they’d been running the order for two years now? I have no idea … and I suspect they don’t either. So now that these individual investigations have begun, it would be unreasonable to expect them to be resolved any time soon. We’re in for several more years of waiting for word as to what they finally discover. In other words, the investigations will stretch out long enough that some of those being investigated, or the witnesses involved, will die off; at that point the investigators will decide they have too little information to make any determination.

Photo credit: Pliino Lepri / AP, via USA Today.

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Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02Note: See below for a “good-news update” about this case, as well as another update.

Most of us realize that, when we’ve dug ourselves into a hole, the best thing to do is drop the shovel and climb out. Apparently, the archdiocese of Hartford never got the memo on this. With the Roman Catholic Church already having dug itself into the abyss of an international child-abuse scandal, the archdiocese and its attorneys have decided the solution is to keep right on digging. Toward that end they pulled a truly reprehensible stunt, as the Hartford Courant reports in a little nugget near the end of the story (WebCite cached article):

In his cross-examinations, [church lawyer Jack] Sitarz has implied that, since [plaintiff] Doe and his friend never forcefully resisted [Fr] Ferguson’s advances, they may have enjoyed them.

That’s right, folks. In a court of law, no less, an archdiocesan lawyer dared imply that the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest enjoyed being abused!

I’m almost at a loss for words to use to describe this maneuver. This is truly sick behavior.

Sitarz must, I’m sure — being an attorney — know full well that minors cannot legally consent to any kind of sexual activity, and that “liking” the abuse cannot and never will make it legal, much less moral or acceptable.

Yet he trotted out that old saw anyway — knowing it’s legally pointless.

Once again, I’m left asking: Why oh why, lay Catholics, are you tolerating the self-serving, greedy, manipulative, crafty, hateful, and horrific antics of the robed old men who rule your Church? When you are going to say to them, “Enough! No more!” When are you going to take back your own Church, turn them out, and change it into the organ of humility and compassion your own Jesus Christ himself supposedly taught about? What part of any of this behavior do you find acceptable … and why? If (as I hope) you don’t find it acceptable, why are you tolerating it?

Update 1: The Hartford Courant reports the jury has found the archdiocese of Hartford reckless and negligent in its dealings with Fr Ivan Ferguson, and awarded “Jacob Doe” a million dollars (cached). I’m sure the archdiocese will appeal and continue litigating this case, stalling as long as they can. But at the very least, it’s clear the jury did not buy into the archdiocese’s horrific defense.

Update 2: The archdiocese brought its appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, asking that the statute of limitations be rolled back so it can’t be held accountable for its actions.

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Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, WIThe failure of the Roman Catholic Church — at every level — to deal with abusive clergy within its ranks, is slowly becoming more and more evident, as increasing amounts of information come to light about how it dealt with them. One such case is that of Fr Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin, which the New York Times describes in detail (WebCite cached article):

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

It took a long time for Ratzinger, then in charge of this case, to act on it. But after they began to act, they suddenly aborted the process, at Fr Murphy’s own request:

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

Of course, the CDF office at the Vatican — which then was under the command of the current Pope — was not the only part of the hierarchy which dropped the ball, in the case of Fr Murphy. Despite what they knew about him, Wisconsin bishops continued to grant him sanctuary and refused to report him to authorities:

Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.

Among those in authority within the Church who moved Fr Murphy around, instead of holding him accountable for his actions, was Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland, who — as I’ve blogged previously — admitted, after retiring, that he’d been unaware that child abuse was a criminal matter. It took many years for him to realize it, but eventually, even this amoral and reprehensible creature realized Fr Murphy shouldn’t be with children:

Archbishop Weakland said this week in an interview, “The evidence was so complete, and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community.”

Nevertheless, Weakland’s “too little, too late” request was ignored anyway.

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Cristo Redentor statue on top of Corcovado, a mountain towering over Rio de Janeiro. In the background the Ipanema and Leblon beaches separate the lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean.The scandal of Roman Catholic clergy abusing children has broken in yet another country: Brazil. This time the story includes — of all things — a sex tape! The AP reports via Google News (WebCite cached article):

Brazilian authorities are investigating three priests accused of sexually abusing altar boys after a video allegedly showing one case of abuse was broadcast on television, police and church officials said Tuesday.

The case came to light after the SBT network aired a video purportedly showing an 82-year-old priest having sex with a 19-year-old altar boy who worked for him for four years. Other young men appeared on the report saying that they, too, had been abused by Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa.

Also under investigation are Monsignor Raimundo Gomes, 52, and Father Edilson Duarte, 43, for allegedly having sexual relations with boys and young men. …

In its report last week, SBT showed footage of a man who looks like Barbosa having sex with the 19-year-old. It said the footage was secretly filmed in January 2009 by a 21-year-old man who charges Barbosa had abused him since age 12.

The Church is aware of the allegations, and local authorities are also investigating:

A church official in the Penedo archdiocese, in the northeastern state of Alagoas, said the three have been suspended. A police official said the men are free pending the investigation, which should last until the end of April. …

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said officials there were aware of the case.

Note that, unlike the scandal in other countries where the abuse allegations are usually old — often decades old — this Brazilian allegation is recent, dating only to last year (although the victim claims to have been victimized for years prior, as well).

The video referred to in this report may be this one, although I’m not sure since I don’t speak Portuguese (so please correct me if this is wrong):

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Pope Benedict XVIIt’s official. Pope Benedict XVI has, in fact, been directly involved in at least one priestly-pedophilia case. It happened while he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising (and a Cardinal as well). The (UK) Times reports on this revelation (WebCite cached article):

The Pope was drawn directly into the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal last night as news emerged of his part in a decision to send a paedophile priest for therapy. The cleric went on to reoffend and was convicted of child abuse but continues to work as a priest in Upper Bavaria.

The priest was sent from Essen to Munich for therapy in 1980 when he was accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The archdiocese confirmed that the Pope, who was then a cardinal, had approved a decision to accommodate the priest in a rectory while the therapy took place.

The priest, identified only as H, was subsequently convicted of sexually abusing minors after he was moved to pastoral work in nearby Grafing. In 1986 he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined DM 4,000 (£1,800 today). There have been no formal charges against him since.

Of course, underlings are trying to shield the Pope from culpability:

The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising said that there had been no complaints against the priest during the therapy at a church community in Munich. It said that the decision to let him continue working in Grafing was taken by Gerhard Gruber, now 81, who was vicar general of the archdiocese.

The Vatican said that Mgr Gruber had taken “full responsibility” for the priest’s move back into pastoral work but did not comment further.

Mgr Gruber said that the Pope, who was made a cardinal in 1977, had not been not aware of his decision because there were 1,000 priests in the diocese at the time and he had left many decisions to lower-level officials. “The cardinal could not deal with everything,” he said. “The repeated employment of H in pastoral duties was a serious mistake … I deeply regret that this decision led to offences against youths. I apologise to all those who were harmed.” He did not indicate whether the convicted paedophile would be allowed to continue working in the church.

It is true that — perhaps — then-Cardinal Ratzinger had not been informed about the details of H’s case, at the time he was sent to therapy, and later restored to pastoral work. However, that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility; Ratzinger signed the reassignment order, and should have known the reasons for it, even if he didn’t ask.

In any event, it’s awfully convenient for the Pope that Fr Gruber is willing to take the fall for him, over this. The trouble is, with 170 claims of priestly child abuse in Germany now being looked into, it may not turn out that H was the only pedophile priest to have been active in the Munich and Freising archdiocese, during Ratzinger’s episcopal administration.

Photo credit: Sergey Gabdurakhmanov.

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I’ve blogged before about the Roman Catholic clerical-abuse scandals, here in the U.S. and in Ireland. It’s also happened in other countries, such as Australia and Canada. But this scandal has finally hit home for the current Pope — literally (WebCite cached article). The German magazine Der Spiegel offers an exposé in how it has been going on, for decades, in the Benedict XVI’s native Germany:

Inside Germany’s Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal

This is what it looks like, the document of a conspiracy: 24 pages, with appendix, in Latin, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. A “norma interna,” or confidential set of guidelines for all bishops, who were required to keep it a secret for all eternity, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The guidelines, issued in the year of our Lord 1962, address a sensitive subject: sex in the confessional. The Vatican doesn’t put it quite that directly, preferring to use more guarded terminology to describe what happens when a priest leads a member of his flock astray before, during or after the confession — in other words, when he provokes a penitent “toward impure and obscene matters” through “words or signs or nods of the head (or) by touch.”

According to the instructions from Rome, the bishops were to deal very firmly with each individual case — so firmly, in fact, that everything would remain within the confines of the Holy Church. After all, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — formerly known as the Inquisition — has centuries of experience in conducting internal investigations. The Vatican has always filled all the positions in such investigations — prosecutors, defendants, judges — from within its own ranks, while the investigation files have been kept in the secret archives of the Roman Curia.

Because these guidelines were issued with regard to the sacrament of Confession — or Reconciliation as it’s more commonly known — the focus of this document, naturally, is on secrecy … because of the fact that everything having to do with the confessional is supposed to be kept secret. The problem with this is that the document in question has been used as a precedent for how the Roman Catholic Church handles all accusations of clerical abuse … even when it didn’t occur within the confessional or in connection with that sacrament. This is, of course, extremely convenient for the Church.

Der Spiegel‘s report is a a multi-page online document which covers a lot of ground. I cannot address all of its points. I will point out only a couple:

In page 4 of the report (cached), the weakness of the Church’s own internal criminal law (not government criminal law) is mentioned:

But because the Church refuses to admit to the mere possibility of crimes within its own ranks, its criminal law is as obfuscating as incense smoke at the altar. “One can’t say that the criminal law has any practical significance,” says Klaus Lüdicke, an expert on church law in the northwestern German city of Münster. In the past, he adds, the number of cases that became known was “negligibly small.”

The Church, then, cannot philosophically accept with the possibility of crimes being committed by its priests, so it barely deals with the subject at all, and the Church’s apologists toss it away as “negligible.” How nice.

On the same page, it’s mentioned that German Catholic hierarchs dismissed abuse cases as a merely-American aberration back in 2002, but found out that this wasn’t so:

Even after the massive abuse scandal in the United States in 2002, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the bishop of the southwestern German city of Mainz and the head of the German Catholic Church at the time, felt no particular need to take action. “We don’t have a problem of the same dimension (as in the American Church),” he told SPIEGEL in an interview at the time. In his diocese, he said, anyone who “is truly a pedophile is immediately removed from pastoral service.” These kinds of people, he said, could “not simply be transferred to a different location.”

Only a few weeks later, however, Lehmann was confronted with a new case of abuse inside his own diocese, in a parish near Darmstadt. A few months earlier, parents in a small city near Frankfurt had discovered, to their dismay, that the new director of their children’s choir, Father E., was the same man who had been forced to leave his previous parish because of questionable relationships with minors. Lehmann’s system had already shuffled the priest around several times from one location to another.

On page 6 of the report (cached), Der Spiegel mentions that help has been offered to the Church to help treat priests who may be pedophiles, but that offer wasn’t well-received:

Klaus Beier, one of Germany’s most prominent medical experts on sexuality, initiated the Dunkelfeld Prevention Project at Berlin’s Charité University Hospital to help pedophile men. Some of the men who have participated in the project are religious, and for them the path to his institute was particularly difficult. Beier has assessed a number of priests, including members of orders, sometimes in the context of trials and sometimes in response to a church’s request. …

Beier, who is convinced that priests can be helped, offered his support to the Vatican in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in the autumn of 2008. His clinical experiences, he wrote to the Holy Father, could “be of great benefit to affected members of the clergy.”

Surprisingly enough, the Vatican responded to Beier’s letter. “On behalf of the Holy See, I wish to thank you for your concern about the welfare of children and your efforts to provide appropriate assistance to those affected,” an official with the Vatican Secretariat of State wrote. Beier’s remarks, he added, would be “carefully acknowledged and forwarded to the appropriate officials.”

Folks, this is known as the “we’ll take this under advisement” dismissal. Der Spiegel did not say that the Vatican has responded to Beier in any other way, so it’s safe to conclude that the Vatican is not going to ask him for his help.

As long as the Roman Catholic Church retains its insular and secretive treatment of these cases, things will not change, and the abuse will not stop. The truth about the Church is that it is hypocritical down to its very core … claiming to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality and ethics in the world, yet unwilling to examine the morality or ethics of its own hierarchy or clergy.

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