Posts Tagged “priestly pedophilia”

cittá di vaticano | piazza di san pietroI blogged this morning about the Pope’s own personal involvement in the case of at least one pedophile priest (known only as “H”) during his tenure as Archbishop (and Cardinal) of Munich and Freising. This involvement is incontrovertible, since then-Cardinal and Archbishop Ratzinger signed the orders to reassign H — but the Vatican is saying that, somehow, in spite of this fact, the Pope had not actually been involved. (I guess they define “signing an order” as something other than “involvement,” although this defies logic.) The New York Times reports on this Vatican push-back campaign (WebCite cached article):

Vatican Sees Campaign Against the Pope

As new details emerged on allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Munich archdiocese then led by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican spoke out on Saturday to protect the pope against what it called an aggressive campaign against him in his native Germany. …

In a note read on Vatican Radio on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was “evident that in recent days there are those who have tried, with a certain aggressive tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich, to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse.” He added, “It is clear that those efforts have failed.”

I don’t know how this “failure” came about, since H’s reassignment order could only have been approved by his Archbishop … i.e. Joseph Ratzinger. Moreover, it had been Ratzinger, who — after leaving the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, had presided over the Church’s doctrinal-watchdog arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — had personally ordered any abuse proceedings to be kept secret and thus out of reach of secular criminal authorities:

In the interview on Saturday, Monsignor Scicluna also addressed accusations that the Vatican was obstructing justice by imposing secrecy on reports of abuse.

In 2001, Benedict, who was then in charge of Vatican investigations of abuse allegations, sent a letter to bishops counseling them to forward all cases of abuse of minors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where they were to be subject to secrecy.

While dismissing the idea that the Vatican imposed secrecy “in order to hide the facts,” Monsignor Scicluna said that “secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right — as everyone does — to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”

But he said church secrecy had “never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.”

Nevertheless, it is this same policy which Catholic bishops around the world have — since it was issued — used to justify refusing to hand over information on accused priests to secular criminal authorities. Scicluna can say this was not intended … and it may not have been … but it did, nevertheless, happen.

The Vatican’s paranoid, “it’s-just-a-nefarious-anti-papal-plot” reasoning is, at best, irrational, and at worst, downright delusional. It’s time for Catholics to stop letting them get away with these responses.

Photo credit: p_valdivieso.

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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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The Roman Catholic Church’s priestly pedophilia and child-abuse scandals are not, as it turns out, limited only to the U.S. and Ireland. Canada has had its share of scandalous behavior by the Catholic Church within its borders. A settlement in a class-action suit against the Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia has been approved, as reported by the CBC:

A $15-million class-action settlement involving Roman Catholic priests accused of abusing young boys in Nova Scotia will proceed.

John McKiggan, the lawyer handling the historic settlement, said both sides of the class action — the Diocese of Antigonish and lead plaintiff Ron Martin — agreed to go ahead with the deal now that the deadline for opting out has expired. …

The settlement was the result of a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by Martin, a Cape Breton man who said he was sexually abused by a priest as a boy. Martin said his brother, David Martin, killed himself in 2002 and left a note stating that he, too, had been abused by a priest in the diocese.

This is not, however, the only bad news endured by the Roman Catholic Church in that province. In October, Richard Lahey, bishop of Antigonish — who (ironically or not) had been key to negotiating this very settlement — was arrested by Ottawa police for possession of child pornography, as the Globe and Mail reported:

A Roman Catholic bishop who oversaw an historic settlement with victims of past sexual abuse by priests in Nova Scotia has been charged with possessing and importing child pornography.

Bishop Raymond Lahey of the archdiocese of Antigonish was searched at the Ottawa airport as he re-entered Canada on Sept. 15. Officers found images “of concern” on his laptop, and seized it along with other media devices. He was released pending further investigation. …

In a statement Saturday, Bishop Lahey said that “after much thought and careful consideration” he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict “for personal reasons.”

What’s really stunning about this is that Lahey had been caught with child porn, after having issued the following statement about the (then-pending) settlement (as the G&M went on to say):

At the time [the potential settlement was announced], Bishop Lahey, who was bishop of Antigonish for six years and was not implicated in the allegations, apologized to the victims and noted they were entitled to protection from priests.

“Sexual abuse, indeed any abuse, is wrong. It is a crime and it is a serious sin in the eyes of God. I want to assure you that for some time our diocese, like others throughout Canada, have been taking steps to protect children and youth,” Bishop Lahey told a news conference.

Wow. I mean, just wow. The hypocrisy here is so obvious, and so brazen and stark, there doesn’t appear to be anything left to say about it.

At any rate, anyone who thought that Roman Catholic Church clerical scandals were only here in the U.S. or — as revealed this year — in Ireland, is sadly mistaken. Clerical misdeeds within the Catholic Church are much more widespread than most people suspect. What’s worse is, these are not cases of lone, abhorrent priests doing things they shouldn’t and then getting caught. Quite the opposite: Each of these scandals has featured active involvement by the hierarchy above these priests, to hide their misconduct, cover it up after-the-fact, shield them from secular prosecution, with no discernible effort made to prevent it from happening.

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The Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport has long resisted explaining its complicity in clerical abuse that took place within it, for the last several decades. This resistance, however, has more or less been futile (if I may paraphrase Star Trek: the Next Generation). At every step, their attempts to hide what they were doing and cover their tracks, have failed. Their most recent defeat came a few weeks ago at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to prevent state courts from releasing a number of legal documents dealing with a list of abuse reports which the diocese had settled with their accusers (WebCite cached article). This cache of documents was finally released today, and the picture they paint of the diocese, and specifically of (then-Bishop, and later, Cardinal) Edward Egan when he was deposed, is not flattering, as the Hartford Courant reports:

Cardinal Edward Egan Protected Abusive Priests At Victims’ Expense

“Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations.”

Those six words uttered by retired Cardinal Edward M. Egan during two depositions neatly sum up his approach to handling the burgeoning priest sexual abuse scandal that he inherited when he took over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut in the late 1980s. …

During his deposition with attorney’s from Tremont and Sheldon, the Bridgeport firm that filed the lawsuits, Egan comes off as dismissive, argumentative and at times condescending.

The documents show that Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, reassigned priests that he knew had allegations made against them and in general downplayed allegations made against many of the priests. At one point Egan said he wasn’t interested in allegations — only “realities.” He added that “very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything” against a priest.

For example, regarding a dozen people who made complaints of sexual abuse and violence against [accused abuser Fr Raymond] Pcolka, of Greenwich, Egan said, “the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth.”

Egan also acknowledges that he never attempted to seriously investigate the truth of such allegations — accusers were not interviewed, witnesses were not sought, and no attempt was made to learn of other possible victims.

Egan allowed Pcolka to continue working as a priest until 1993, when he suspended him after Pcolka refused an order from Egan to go to the Institute of Living in Hartford for psychiatric treatment. Egan referred to the Institute as his “preferred” place to send priests who needed counseling.

His handling of complaints made against Carr was no different, the records show.

Despite a May 1990 memo by a diocese official worrying about “a developing pattern of accusations” that Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk had fondled young boys, Egan kept Carr working as a priest until 1995, when he suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed.

Of course, Egan — who after these depositions was elevated to Archbishop of New York and became a Cardinal because of that, before retiring a short time ago — had merely carried on what his predecessor (the late Bishop Walter Curtis) had done, as the Courant goes on to explain:

The documents also show that Egan inherited the priest abuse scandal from Curtis, who admitted he deliberately shuffled pedophile priests among parishes to give them a “fresh start.” Records show that seven priests accused of sexual misconduct were at one time assigned to St. Teresa’s Church in Trumbull between 1965-1990. Curtis, who is now deceased, was deposed three times. He also admitted he did not think that pedophilia was a permanent condition.

Curtis viewed pedophilia as “an occasional thing” and not a serious psychological problem and was more concerned with weeding out potential gays among clergy applicants.

“We had a policy in this sense, that before a candidate was accepted for study for the priesthood, [they] would have psychological testing, and if there appeared signs of homosexuality, he wouldn’t be accepted,” Curtis testified.

Curtis also testified that records of complaints against priests would usually be put into the diocese’s “secret archive,” a canonically required cache of historical documents accessed only with keys kept by the bishop and the vicar.

He said he would occasionally go into the archive and remove what he called “antiquated” abuse complaints, and destroy them.

Curtis’s deposed testimony more or less amounts to an indictment against the Roman Catholic Church, showing that — as custom and as policy — it consciously chose not to take abuse reports seriously, and even when they suspected an allegation might be true, they nevertheless made efforts to shuffle the accused priests around and to “rehabilitate” them.

What a nice, Christian organization the Roman Catholic Church is … no?

Update: The Courant today ran a follow-up story, focusing on the example of Fr Raymond Pcolka. It shows that the Church knew, prior to his ordination, that he had psychological problems … yet they ordained him anyway, assigned him to a parish, and within months were hearing complaints about him. Pcolka had a nearly 3 decade career of abuse before the diocese finally decided they could not tolerate him any more and retired him. What a wonderful crew.

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The moral bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic Church continues to be revealed incrementally. The latest revelation comes from the memoirs of the former Archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WebCite cached article):

Weakland says he didn’t know priests’ abuse was crime

In the early years of the sex abuse scandal in Milwaukee, retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland says in his soon-to-be released memoir, he did not comprehend the potential harm to victims or understand that what the priests had done constituted a crime.

“We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature,” Weakland says in the book, “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church,” due out in June.

Weakland said he initially “accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it.'”

Let me get this straight: A Roman Catholic archbishop didn’t know that child abuse is criminal? Really??? Does this guy honestly expect me to believe that?

This is unreal! And it’s absolutely inexcusable.

Weakland has more than a few skeletons in his own closet, independent of the priest-pedophilia scandal itself:

Weakland retired in 2002 after it became known that he paid $450,000 in 1998 to a man who had accused him of date rape years earlier.

How wonderful. He managed to remain in his office as archbishop for four years after paying off one of his own victims. How did the Vatican not know about this when the payment was made in 1998? Of course the Vatican knew … and it nevertheless left him there until he resigned of his own volition. This makes the Vatican nearly as culpable in his (mis)conduct, as Weakland was himself

Here’s a challenge to any and all Roman Catholics out there who may be reading this: What in hell are you thinking? How can you remain connected to this organization as it stands? If you want to stay in it, but reform it, what exactly are you doing to accomplish that goal (other than merely saying you’d like it to change)?

Or do you think that the Roman Catholic hierarchs are always right, no matter what they do, and that all their actions are automatically moral, merely by virtue of the office they hold?

If you accept that what the RC Church is doing is wrong, but do not remove yourself from it or work to change it, then you are in collusion with its immorality. If you accept that the hierarchy is always right, by definition and by office, then you are as morally bankrupt as they are. Either way it’s not a good reflection on you — and that makes me even prouder to be a lapsed Catholic (and therefore an apostate) myself.

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