Posts Tagged “priestly pedophilia”

Saint joseph oratory montreal 2010tThe trickle of stories relating to the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal is slow, to be sure, but it seems unending nonetheless, and they continue to come in from all over the world. The Canadian Press via the Winnipeg Free Press reports that a Catholic organization’s Quebec operation has agreed to a pay abuse victims (or their families) up to $18 million (WebCite cached article):

A major Roman Catholic organization has agreed to pay up to $18 million in a historic compensation agreement for sexual abuse committed over several decades in Quebec.

The Congregation of Holy Cross said Thursday that it has agreed to issue an apology and financially compensate victims for abuses at three different institutions over a five-decade span.

The amount is believed to be the most ever awarded in Quebec and, lawyers say, perhaps even in Canada.

The abuse occurred at a number of schools operated by the Congregation of Holy Cross and date back to the 1950s:

The agreement applies to three Quebec institutions that are now defunct — Montreal’s College Notre-Dame between 1960 and 2001; College Saint-Cesaire, located south of Montreal, between 1960 and 1991; and Ecole Notre Dame in the Lower St. Lawrence region (1959-1964).

At least 85 people are thought to be eligible for compensation. Lawyers believe that number could be much higher, but that many victims are likely too traumatized to come forward.

The revelation that abuse occurred in the Congregation’s schools took some time to be noticed. In the 90s one of the victims, René Cornellier Jr., wrote letters to the Congregation school he had attended, asking for them to own up to it, but he died shortly after that, so the matter wasn’t pursued. Those letters turned up when the Montreal Gazette went looking for evidence of abuse in Congregation schools. Cornellier’s abortive efforts were posthumously recognized in the agreement:

As part of the settlement, Rene Cornellier Jr. will also have a $100,000 scholarship named after him, in recognition of his role as the first victim to denounce the school.

The Congregation also apologized for the abuse, but — as is typical — never bothered to explain why it allowed the abuse in the first place, or how it could have been going on for decades, right under their noses … especially since they’d been put on notice about it at least in the mid-90s, via Cornellier’s letters. Once again, a Roman Catholic organization reveals its total moral bankruptcy by “apologizing” only when it’s coerced to do so, and only in minimal fashion, in spite of the fact that the R.C. Church represents itself as the planet’s sole remaining arbiter of morality.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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94 Stephen's GreenIt appears the government of Ireland is unruffled by the Vatican’s recent rejection of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s condemnation of the Vatican over its attempts to prevent secular governments from prosecuting child-abusing clergy. Almost immediately after the Vatican’s fierce denial, CNN reports that Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposed a new law that would hit the Church particularly hard (WebCite cached article):

Ireland stepped up its battle with the Roman Catholic Church over child abuse Sunday, with Justice Minister Alan Shatter vowing to pass a law requiring priests to report suspicions of child abuse, even if they learn about them in confession.

The Catholic Church regards information learned in confession as completely confidential.

But under the law proposed by Shatter, priests could be prosecuted for failing to tell the police about crimes disclosed in the confession box.

Shatter said in a statement through a spokesman last week that priests’ failure to report what they learn in confession “that has led sexual predators into believing that they have impunity and facilitated pedophiles preying on children and destroying their lives.”

The R.C. Church considers the confessional to be more sacred than almost anything else, so it’s sure to resist this law. Furthermore, even outside the confessional, the Church is vehemently opposed to any kind of mandatory-reporting requirement. This was a key sticking point in the Vatican’s rejection of changes in procedure which had been contemplated by Irish bishops in the mid-90s, and specifically and explicitly condemned in the (now famous but then secret) letter to Ireland’s bishops in January of 1997 (available at the NY Times and on this server):

In particular, the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.

Shatter’s proposal, then, is especially provocative, and it strikes at the very heart of how the Vatican wishes to operate. Good for him … and good for the Irish government.

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Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza has been called back to Rome to discuss the impact of the recent Cloyne Report / BBCI’ve already blogged about the damning Cloyne Report, and the justifiable anger of the Irish government over what it revealed about the Catholic hierarchy’s behavior.

A key element of the report, and which sparked so much ire, is this: In the midst of several Irish investigations into the abuse of children by Catholic clergy, it turns out that, as late as 2009, Ireland’s Catholic bishops were still actively protecting abusers, in spite of promises made as long ago as the 1990s that things had changed. The Vatican itself had, in a 1997 letter to Ireland’s bishops, intervened and specifically ordered them not to turn reported abuses over to secular authorities.

In other words, the cover-up went all the way to the very top echelons of the Catholic hierarchy.

One would think that the Roman Catholic Church — which ostensibly teaches the humility and contrition that Jesus demanded of his followers — would respond humbly and show some contrition over this. However, that’s precisely what they are not doing. In the wake of the documentary evidence of wrongdoing provided in the Cloyne Report, the Vatican continues to lie … insisting it never did anything wrong and never ordered bishops not to cooperate with secular authorities.

After Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny ripped the Vatican a new one the other day, the Holy See responded … by recalling their nuncio (ambassador) to Ireland. The BBC reports on this latest event in the history of Catholicism in the Emerald Isle (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican has recalled its special envoy in Ireland after a damning report on the Catholic Church’s handling of child abuse by priests.

Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza has been called back to Rome to discuss the impact of the recent Cloyne Report. …

Vice-director of the Vatican press office Father Ciro Benedettini said the nuncio’s recall “should be interpreted as an expression of the desire of the Holy See for serious and effective collaboration with the (Irish) government”.

He added that it “denotes the seriousness of the situation and the Holy See’s desire to face it objectively and determinately.

“Nor does it exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions.”

That last sentence is the real cause of this ambassadorial recall. Yes, folks, it’s true … the Vatican is so angry that the Irish government and people are (understandably) angry at the Church for what it did, that they’ve brought their nuncio home in protest! How dare the Taoiseach publicly condemn the Vatican for what it was shown to have done wrong! Why, that kind of insolent response just can’t be tolerated!

Fucking childish is what it is. And a fucking disgrace.

Photo credit: BBC.

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Irish Times / Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Cloyne report told 'a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children'Just under a week ago, I blogged about the release of the Cloyne Report into Catholic clerical abuse of children in that diocese. There’s been no small amount of furor over it in Ireland. Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny recently addressed the Dáil (or lower house of parliament) over it, as reported by RTÉ, and he minced few words in his condemnation of the Vatican (WebCite cached article):

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has strongly criticised the Vatican for what he said was an attempt to frustrate the Cloyne inquiry, accusing it of downplaying the rape of children to protect its power and reputation. …

Never before has a Taoiseach used such language in criticising the Catholic Church.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil that the Cloyne Report highlighted the ‘dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.’

The rape and torture of children had been downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold, instead, the primacy of the institution, which are its power, standing and ‘reputation’.

The hierarchy had proved either unwilling or unable to address what he called the horrors uncovered in successive reports, a failure which he said must be devastating for so many good priests.

Mr Kenny said that the Catholic Church needed to be truly and deeply penitent for the wrongdoing it perpetrated, hid and denied.

Kenny all but accused the Vatican of being a criminal enterprise. Virtually every news outlet which has reported on the Taoiseach’s condemnation of the Vatican, has noted its vehement and unprecedented nature.

Another Irish official had similarly harsh words of a papal spokesman, based on the latter’s denials of Vatican wrongdoing:

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, speaking in a personal capacity, has said that there was nothing in the advice given by the Papal Nuncio in 1997 to encourage bishops to break Irish laws.

He said that the Vatican’s advice to Irish bishops on child protection policies could not be interpreted as an invitation to cover up abuse cases.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the comments were disingenuous and he said he expected a more considered, formal response from the Vatican.

The minister called Lombardi a liar. He had very good reason to. The Vatican’s 1997 order to Ireland’s bishops was most assuredly an instruction to cover up abuse.

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

Photo credit: Irish Times.

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Photograph of St Aidens Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Republic of IrelandWhat the Roman Catholic Church has done to the children of one of the most-Catholic countries in the world — i.e. Ireland — is a travesty that reaches beyond the imagination. This timeline of the scandal there, courtesy of the Irish Times (WebCite cached version), shows the Church there had been insuring itself against child-abuse claims in the 1980s; allegations began emerging in the 1990s, and the Magdalene laundries became infamous by the end of that decade. Since then the Irish judiciary has undertaken a number of investigations into the abuse. The Ferns report (focused on the diocese of Ferns) was released in 2005. The Ryan Report, with a national scope, was released in 2009. The Murphy Report (focused on the archdiocese of Dublin) was released a few months later. Just yesterday, the Cloyne Report (focused on the diocese of Cloyne) was released, and as the New York Times explains, the situation is even grimmer than had been thought (cached):

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009, long after it issued guidelines meant to protect children, and the Vatican tacitly encouraged the cover-up by ignoring the guidelines, according to a scathing report issued Wednesday by the Irish government.

Alan Shatter, the Irish justice minister, called the findings “truly scandalous,” adding that the church’s earlier promises to report all abuse cases since 1995 to civil authorities were “built on sand.” Abuse victims called the report more evidence that the church sought to protect priests rather than children.

That’s right, folks. This means that, even as the Irish government was wrapping up the Ryan and Murphy investigations — and four years after the Ferns Report had been released — Ireland’s Catholic bishops were still actively covering up for child-abusing clergy whom they supervised:

The Cloyne Report, as it is known, drafted by an independent investigative committee headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, found that the clergy in the Diocese of Cloyne, a rural area of County Cork, did not act on complaints against 19 priests from 1996 to 2009. The report also found that two allegations against one priest were reported to the police, but that there was no evidence of any subsequent inquiry.

It’s clear the Church knew what this latest report would say, long before its release:

John Magee, the bishop of Cloyne since 1987, who had previously served as private secretary to three popes, resigned last year.

The Irish foreign ministry summoned the papal nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to a meeting, to answer for the Holy See’s conduct. The Irish Times reports on his comments afterward (cached):

The papal nuncio today said he was “very distressed” by the report into child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne. …

“I wish to say, however, the total commitment of the Holy See for its part to taking all the necessary measures to assure protection.”

Except, the Holy See actually did nothing of the sort! The Cloyne Report shows — via documentation — that the Vatican actively worked to undermine Irish bishops’ cooperation with secular authorities in child-abuse cases, as the NY Times story explains:

Most damaging, the report said that the Congregation for the Clergy, an arm of the Vatican that oversees the priesthood, had not recognized the 1996 guidelines. That “effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures” and “gave comfort and support” to priests who “dissented from the stated Irish church policy,” the report said.

The report gave details of a confidential letter sent in 1997 by the Vatican’s nuncio, or ambassador, in Ireland to Irish bishops, warning them that their child-protection policies violated canon law, which states that priests accused of abuse should be able to appeal their cases to the Vatican. The nuncio also dismissed the Irish guidelines as “a study document.”

I blogged about this letter six months ago when it was reported in media outlets and released on the Internet. So this particular item is not really news. The Cloyne report, however, places it in perspective and demonstrates its effect on Ireland’s bishops.

Ireland’s chief Catholic hierarch, Cardinal Seán Brady, apologized — again:

Cardinal Brady issued an apology on Wednesday and called for more openness and cooperation with civil authorities. He has been fighting calls for his resignation since last year, when he acknowledged helping to conceal the crimes of one serial-rapist priest from Irish authorities in the mid-1970s.

I’ve already blogged about that particular skeleton in Brady’s closet. What a marvelous, stand-up kind of guy. (Not!)

I have to wonder how many more of these reports are going to be released; how many more times are we going to hear Catholic hierarchs express their regrets and promise to do better; and how many more times are we nevertheless going to discover that they continue to refuse to do so? How long is it going to be before the Roman Catholic Church finally admits what it has done and actually tries to make things right?

My guess is, they never will. (After all, there are Catholics who — even now — are convinced Galileo deserved to be destroyed because he insolently agreed with Copernicus!)

Final note to anyone who will complain that child abuse happens in all religions and I’m not supposed to report on the Catholic Church’s abuses … I’ve already answered that tired whine, and quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. It shouldn’t matter — and it doesn’t! — that other religions’ clergy abuse children. What the Catholic Church has done, is what it has done, and no amount of any other religions’ wrongdoing can possibly justify it. (That’s known as “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is both fallacious and amoral. It needs to fucking stop.)

Photo credit: JohnArmagh / 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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Papal tiaraThe Roman Catholic Church is nothing if not predictable. The Los Angeles Times provides this story on a report that the Church released about the abuse of children in the care of Catholic clergy (WebCite cached article):

Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the United States is a “historical problem” that has largely been resolved and that never had any significant correlation with either celibacy or homosexuality, according to an independent report commissioned by Catholic bishops — and subjected to fierce attack even before its release on Wednesday.

The report [cached] blamed the sexual revolution for a rise in sexual abuse by priests, saying that Catholic clerics were swept up by a tide of “deviant” behavior that became more socially acceptable in the 1960s and ’70s.

First, I find I must comment on the writing of this story. It is contradictory to say that a report “commissioned by” the bishops, is “an independent report.” If the bishops commissioned it, then it’s their report, not someone else’s. They may not have written it themselves, or even researched it, but they “own” it nevertheless, so it cannot logically be said to have been “independent.”

Second, I note that the report refuses to acknowledge that the Church’s actions, including protecting abusers, played anything other than an incidental role in the scandal:

“The abuse is a result of a complex interaction of factors,” said Karen Terry, a John Jay criminal justice professor who led the research team. One major factor, she said at a news conference in Washington, was social turmoil in the 1960s and ’70s that led some priests “who had some vulnerabilities” to commit child sexual abuse. She said Catholic seminaries had done a poor job of preparing priests “to live a life of chaste celibacy,” as their vows demanded.

In other words, it was all the fault of society … and the “sexual revolution” … and if the Church did anything wrong, it was in failing to deal with that as well as it might have.

It’s absolutely stunning how the bishops continually rationalize their own criminal behavior. When they chose to shield abusers from prosecution, and when they chose to move them around in order to avoid letting anyone know their dirty little secrets, that was NOT because society or the sexual revolution put a gun to their heads and forced them to do it. No. It was a cold, calculated choice based on the information they had at the time they had it, and it was made in order to protect their Church’s reputation and wealth. Neither society nor the sexual revolution had anything to do with that. Not the slightest damn thing. Oddly enough, the report itself describes at least one instance of inaction by the Church hierarchy:

On October 18, 1984, a Louisiana grand jury indicted Gilbert Gauthe, a former priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, for a long list of sexual crimes against children. The Diocese of Lafayette had received multiple reports of Gauthe’s abusive acts for seven years before he was indicted but had not managed to control his behavior. Gauthe had been repeatedly cautioned about his behavior but was not removed from ministry until 1983, when, following another report of abuse by a parent who demanded action, he was sent to the House of Affirmation in Massachusetts for treatment. The specifics of the Gauthe case were shocking: Gauthe had not only raped and sodomized dozens of boys, he had used the “cloak” of his status as a priest to justify his actions to the victims and to intimidate them into silence. Harm to Gauthe’s victims was profound, requiring hospitalization for some and psychotherapy for many. The criminal case and related civil litigation filed by the families of the victims drew national and international press attention. Despite the sensational press coverage and extensive discussion of the case, the failures of the leaders of the Diocese of Lafayette were many. Diocesan leaders hesitated to remove Gauthe from ministry even after he admitted to the abuse, and they failed to redress the harm to the child victims and their families. They were preoccupied with controlling negative publicity and so were not forthcoming with information to the affected parishes. Such failures on the part of the Diocese of Lafayette were to be repeated by leaders of some other dioceses in the coming years. (p. 77)

Nevertheless, elsewhere the report downplays the bishops’ furious efforts to cover up for the abusers, passing them off as something all institutions tend to do:

This response framework, as well as the lack of transparency, is not an atypical response to deviant behavior by members of an institution. (p. 4)

Of course, most institutions do not claim to be the sole remaining arbiters of morality in the world. The R.C. Church cannot legitimately use “But other organizations do the same thing!” as an excuse. That’s “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.

Leave it to Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, to rationalize why the “scandal” was not really a “scandal” and why neither the abusive clergy nor the bishops had done anything wrong:

William Donohue, the outspoken president of the conservative Catholic League, noted on the group’s website that the report found that 81% of abuse victims were male and 78% were beyond puberty. “Since 100% of the abusers were male, that’s called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality,” he said.

Aha. So it’s “just” homosexuality. Oh well, I guess that makes the abuse of children OK, then, eh Bill?

What a fucking reprehensible bunch of creatures we’re dealing with, in the Catholic Church and its defenders … ! If you’re a Catholic and you’re not sickened by these people, then there’s something wrong with you.

Photo credit: kevingessner.

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