Posts Tagged “priestly pedophile”

Pope Francis in Prato (87)Over the last few years, Chile’s Catholic Church has been rocked by priestly pedophilia allegations. Many of them involve Fr Fernando Karadima, who was convicted in 2011 by the Church itself of having abused children (Archive.Is cached article). Karadima had been powerful and influential within Chile’s Church, having groomed many of its clergy. Among them is Juan Barros, whose elevation to bishop a few years ago was protested due to allegations he’d known about Karadima’s abuse but hadn’t tried to stop it (cached). There’s been acrimony in the Chilean Catholic Church ever since.

When it was announced that Pope Francis would visit Chile, it was widely assumed there’d be some drama. And sure enough … there was! His visit started out well enough, when he asked for forgiveness for “priestly pedophilia” (cached). I mean, it was an empty plea, but it was at least moderately conciliatory. But things went downhill from there, and as the Associated Press reports via RNS, the Pope left Chile on an unexpectedly harsh note (cached):

Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadimas [sic], such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”

The pope’s remarks on Thursday (Jan. 18) drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011.…

“As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” tweeted Barros’ most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

What childishness! While I’ve been disappointed with how Francis has dealt with this scandal, this kind of response is beyond the pale.

I’m not sure why Francis asked Chile’s priestly-pedophilia victims for their forgiveness, only to accuse them of slander a couple days later. It sure seems as though the Catholic Church’s handling of this scandal has been set back to the days when Pope John Paul II and his enforcer, who’d later become Pope Benedict XVI, were in charge, pathologically denying it all and desperately trying to keep it all quiet. That didn’t work out too well for them — but apparently Pope Francis never got the memo. Or he did, but decided to rip it up in the middle of his sojourn in Chile. What a fucking prick.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Trento DuomoThe sad parade of Roman Catholic Church officials who blames the “priestly pedophilia” scandal on anything and everything other than the Church’s own personnel, just keeps on going. Clearly the Church is having difficulty accepting responsibility for its own actions, or inactions as the case may be. The latest example of this phenomenon comes from an Italian priest who — like several other clergy before him — blamed pedophilia on the child victims themselves. Religion News Service reports on what Fr Gino Flaim said about what he thinks caused the scandal (WebCite cached version):

A priest has lost his post in northern Italy after saying he can “understand” pedophilia within the church. The priest appeared to blame children for sexual abuse and described homosexuality as a sickness.

“Pedophilia I can understand, homosexuality I don’t understand,” the Rev. Gino Flaim, a priest in Trento, told Italy’s La7 channel [cached]. “Unfortunately there are children that look for affection, because they don’t have it at home. And perhaps if they find a priest, he could also give in.”

Asked if the accusations against pedophiles were justified, Flaim said: “It’s a sin, and as with all sins they also become accepted.”

These remarks echo those of the late Fr Benedict Groeschel of EWTN three years ago, and of Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemyśl, Poland some two years ago. And they also echo the excuse-making, reported by an Irish abuse victim, of an abusive priest himself decades ago, and more recently by an Ecuadorian priest who’d worked in Newark.

What all of this means, is that Fr Flaim’s victim-blaming is not a unique phenomenon. It can’t, therefore, be taken as just one guy mouthing off like an idiot on his own. No, quite the opposite must be the case: If the same idea has been expressed over the course of years by Catholic personnel in various parts of the world, it must reflect some deeper philosophy simmering deep within the bowels of the Church.

The RNS reports that Fr Flaim has been removed from his post, but this hardly means much in light of how pervasive this expressed trope is. If there are more Catholic personnel who think as he does … as I suspect is the case … then there must be many more firings and a lot more reform. The only way this will happen is if Catholics make it happen … but I doubt they will. I mean, the priestly-pedophile scandal has been a worldwide phenomenon for some 15 years now. If the laity hasn’t figured out they need to force their own Church to change, in that time, they’re not going to figure it out at all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Looking north from a hill in Branch Brook Park, at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on a sunny midday.Among the R.C. Church’s rationales for protecting abusive clergy within its ranks is a presumption that the victims are to blame for it, and — perversely — that the abusers are the true “victims.” The Church doesn’t say so out loud very often, but once in a while someone lets this presumption slip, here or there. The most recent example of this, as NJ Advanced Media reports, came from a Newark priest who’d fled to his native Ecuador in 2003 when faced with allegations he’d abused a teen (WebCite cached article):

In an extraordinary admission of wrongdoing, a priest sought by authorities in New Jersey has acknowledged engaging in a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old boy, but he deflected blame for the incident by saying the teen “wanted” it and had “evil in his mind.”

In a telephone interview with NJ Advance Media, in email exchanges and in a lengthy post he shared publicly on Twitter, the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza said it was a “mistake” to have sexual contact with the boy in the rectory of a Plainfield church in 2003. He said he fled to his native Ecuador after the victim told a nun and another priest that Gallo Espinoza raped him.

“One thing that I am conscious (of) is he was at that time a teenager, and it is a big mistake for me. But I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want,” Gallo Espinoza wrote. “He was older (sic) enough to walk away, but I think that I was attracted to him, that is the only explanation that I can think right now.”

Gallo Espinoza added: “He had something evil in his mind. He approached me many times.”

Amazingly, Gallo Espinoza had been rather public about all of this:

Using the screen name “Unforgetables Unforgettables,” he also wrote an 864-word comment [cached] beneath the July 30 story about him on NJ.com. Gallo Espinoza, who identified himself by name in the comment, later shared a copy of it on Twitter [cached], along with one of his emails to NJ Advance Media.

For the record, here is that July 30 story (cached).

Because the victim sued the archdiocese of Newark, this vile creep even indulged in the “it’s-all-about-greedy-plaintiffs” whine:

Gallo Espinoza made reference to Ramirez’s lawsuit in his correspondence, saying the victim had revived the issue after 12 years to cash in.

“The explanation that I find to begin again with this incident after many years is ‘EASY MONEY,'” Gallo Espinoza wrote.

So in addition to having already admitted he abused a boy, the priest tried to insinuate the incident had been fabricated for money. Nice touch there, fella. Really nice!

Another nice touch in this case is that the victim’s uncle and youth minister, to whom the victim had reported the abuse and who’d confronted Gallo Espinoza about it, warned him an investigation had been started and that he should flee the country:

While the circumstances of Gallo Espinoza’s abrupt departure have never been fully disclosed, he said in the telephone interview it was [youth leader Antonino] Salazar and [victim’s uncle Jeivi] Hercules who told him to run. Hercules, who has since entered the priesthood, is now parochial vicar at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington.

Wonderful people, eh? How marvelous of these men — whom the victim had trusted enough to report the incident — to take that trust and crush it into the dirt. All in defense of a pedophilic priest and the Mother Church to which he belonged.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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).

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Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during the weekly general audience, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 14, 2010.  (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)Everything that’s come out of the Vatican over the last couple months, only confirms what I’ve been saying for a while now (first here, then more recently here), which is that the Roman Catholic Church views the clerical child-abuse scandal as a merely-spiritual attack upon their righteous institution by the Forces of Darkness, rather than as a true criminal problem they need to address as such. Recently the Vatican alluded to the scandal, but in the process claimed that the scandal itself was an “attack,” thus confirming — once again — my assumption that this is how the Holy See views it. CBS News reports on this statement (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI spoke Thursday about “attacks” on the church and the need for Catholics to repent for sins and recognize their mistakes, in an apparent reference to the clerical abuse scandal.

Benedict made the comments during a homily at a Mass inside the Vatican for members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. …

“I must say, we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word ‘repent’, which seemed too tough. But now under attack from the world, which has been telling us about our sins … we realize that it’s necessary to repent, in other words, recognize what is wrong in our lives,” Benedict said.

To the Pope, then, “telling the Church about its sins” is equivalent to an “attack” on the Church.

In addition to this little snippet of evasiveness, I note that the Pope referred to “we Christians” and mentioned “Christians” throughout this homily. He did not refer to “the Church” or to “the clergy” in his comments … but to all “Christians.” Thus, he attempts to generalize the problem — as if to suggest the laity and non-Catholic Christians, who are “Christians” just as much as the R.C. clergy are — were somehow involved, and had something to “repent” that they were refusing to. Some of the laity have, to be sure, aided, abetted, and advocated for the criminal clergy and the hierarchy which enabled them (lay Catholics like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League leap immediately to mind in this regard*), but for the most part, lay Catholics as well as non-Catholics were not responsible for the decades or centuries of child abuse that the Roman Catholic Church allowed to happen. The Pope is wrong to include them in his comments about “repentance.” He is not admitting that it’s largely only the abusive priests, and the Catholic hierarchy — who covered up their activities, going as far as shuffling them around to different parishes, dioceses, and even countries in order to evade prosecution (cached article) — are the ones who have anything to “repent.”

Thus, the Pope implicates all of the world’s Christians in the criminality of this relative few. He’s doing this, of course, to make his own clergy and hierarchy appear less guilty than they truly are.

* To see some reasons why I say this, check out the Media Matters archive of Donohue material, among other sources.

Photo credit: AP Photo / Pier Paolo Cito via CBS News.

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Rev James J Scahill (St Michael's, E Longmeadow MA)A priest in East Longmeadow, MA took an unusual and courageous step this weekend. He called for Pope Benedict XVI to resign, and his bishop dutifully dressed him down for it. The Springfield Republican reports on his remarks and the bishop’s rebuke (WebCite cached article):

Less than 24 hours after calling for Pope Benedict XVI to step down, Rev. James J. Scahill drew a rebuke from the Roman Cathocic Diocese of Springfield Monday.

A longtime critic of the church’s sexual abuse crisis, Scahill delivered four sermons over the weekend suggesting that the 82-year old Pontiff should take greater responsibility for solving the church’s clergy abuse problems or resign.

Fr Scahill is one of the few Roman Catholic clergy in the country to dare take on his own Church’s leadership and issue a public reprimand for its conduct. His bishop, of course, couldn’t handle that, so he complained about it:

In a response issued Monday afternoon, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell [of the Springfield diocese] faulted Scahill for bringing up the issue on a Sunday meant to foster reconciliation and forgiveness in the church.

“There is a sad irony in that Father Scahill’s remarks were delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday,” said McDonnell, adding the church has expressed “tremendous sorrow, sadness and shame” about clergy abuse cases.

For the record, Scahill’s parish is behind him:

St. Michael’s Parish Council president Thomas LaMondia said the congregation was largely generally supportive of Scahill’s message.

Bishop McDonnell’s response parrots the Church’s mantra — through all the reporting, criticism, etc. of this scandal — that “Things are different now, so stop complaining, and stop asking the Church to be punished!” The Church is not interested in making amends for its past conduct … aside from the occasional mealy-mouthed apology … and continually resists any attempt at being punished over this scandal. It believes this scandal is not “real,” not a collection of truly criminal acts by abusive clergy against children, or by hierarchs who covered it up, but rather, a merely-spiritual attack by various anti-Catholic villains (ranging from “the Devil,” to “masonic secularists,” “great foreign newspapers,” or even Jews). So the Church does not accept that it has done anything wrong, for which it ought to suffer any consequences. The abusive priests were victims — either of entirely-false allegations fabricated by said villains, or of children who’d been infested with the Devil and thus forced the poor defenseless clergy to behave criminally — and the hierarchs who covered up their activities were merely responding accordingly by not giving into the Forces of Darkness.

The bottom line is that the Roman Catholic Church … as a worldwide organization … views itself as the collective innocent victims of a spiritual assault. They will never do anything to concede defeat.

At any rate, I for one salute the Rev Scahill for taking the stand he has, and his parish for generally being supportive of him, in the face of his bishop’s rebuke and Vatican propaganda minimizing the scandal.

Photo credit: Dave Roback, The Republican

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This 1985 letter, written in Latin to the bishop of Oakland, Calif., was signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was head of the Vatican office that disciplined abusive priests.As the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal has continued to rumble around Europe — most recently having made its appearance in Malta — the Vatican’s position has consistently been that the current Pope, Benedict XVI, who once headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had been responsible for handling such allegations, had known nothing about it until the early 2000s, and since becoming Pope in 2005, he has taken command of the problem and dealt with abusers harshly. But the AP got its hands on a 1985 letter which suggests otherwise. As they report via Google News, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was actually reluctant to discipline or defrock a priest in the Oakland, California diocese who had already been convicted of abuse (WebCite cached article):

The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including “the good of the universal church,” according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican’s insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.

The case against Rev Stephen Kiesle had already languished for four years by the time Cardinal Ratzinger wrote back to John Cummins, then bishop of Oakland:

In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of “grave significance” but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with “as much paternal care as possible” while awaiting the decision, according to a translation for AP by Professor Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the “good of the universal church” and the “detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly considering the young age.” Kiesle was 38 at the time.

Kiesle’s guilt by that time was not in question, and Kiesle himself had requested to be defrocked:

Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years’ probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.

As his probation ended in 1981, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood and the diocese submitted papers to Rome to defrock him.

So by the time of this 1985 letter, Ratzinger had been working to keep a man who wanted out of the priesthood, in his vestments for 4 full years! And it would take 2 more until he was finally tossed out!

The Vatican’s denials that Cardinal Ratzinger wasn’t aware of the problem of priests abusing children, decades ago, are quite obviously untrue. How many more lies will they tell in order to keep propping him up?

Photo credit: Kim Johnson / AP (via USA Today)

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