Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dutch Church Reports on Abuse - Repeats earlier patterns of US, Ireland, Germany.

The Dutch church has released the findings of its own investigation into sexual abuse in the Netherlands Catholic Church - and its not pretty. Repeating the pattern already established in the US and Ireland, and more recently reported for Germany, this investigation has established the existence not only of extensive sexual abuse, but also strong indications of widespread coverups or failures by the Church to act against perpetrators.

Dutch Panel Found 2,000 Church Abuse Claims

BRUSSELS — The Roman Catholic Church, battered by sexual abuse scandals from the United States to Belgium, is facing a new set of damaging allegations in the Netherlands. Figures released Thursday by an investigative commission showed that almost 2,000 people had made complaints of sexual or physical abuse against the church, in a country with only four million Catholics.
“The Roman Catholic Church has not faced a crisis like this since the French Revolution,” Peter Nissen, a professor of the history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said of the growing abuse scandal.
With one legal case starting this week, and accusations against two former bishops, the reaction of the church appears to have fueled the crisis. Nearly all of the cases are decades old, with probably no more than 10 from the past 20 years.
Asked in March on television about the hundreds of complaints already surfacing, one of the church’s most senior figures, Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, shocked the nation by replying not in Dutch but in German. “Wir haben es nicht gewusst” — We knew nothing — he said, using a phrase associated with Nazi excuses after World War II.
“A lot of people perceived it as an affirmation of the culture of covering up cases,” said Professor Nissen, adding that it meant to many, “ ‘We should have known’ or ‘We knew but we didn’t want to know.’ ”
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that he had no comment and that the matter was in the hands of Dutch bishops.
Next month Cardinal Simonis, the retired bishop of Utrecht, will testify in Middelburg as a witness in a court hearing already under way involving sexual abuse.
In an interim report, issued Thursday, a commission headed by Wim Deetman, a Protestant and former education minister, said it had received roughly 1,975 reports of sexual or physical abuse, some directly but others through a body set up for victims, called Hulp en Recht, or Help and Justice.
One central accusation in the Netherlands is that, as in other countries, known abusers were simply transferred to new parishes.
In recent weeks it has emerged that a Roman Catholic order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, paid about $22,000 to settle an abuse claim against one bishop, Jan ter Schure, who died in 2003. The abuse is said to have taken place in Ugchelen between 1948 and 1953. The order declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Hulp en Recht is examining claims against a former bishop, Jo Gijsen, now 78, who has been accused of having an abusive relationship with a student at the Rolduc seminary between 1959 and 1961. He has denied accusations against him.
Central to the growing public debate over the church’s culpability is the extent to which sexual abuse was tolerated and covered up.
The hearing at which Cardinal Simonis will testify next month involves a priest convicted of abusing three youngsters in Terneuzen. The priest had been arrested, though not prosecuted, on similar grounds in the late 1970s as director of a Catholic youth center near The Hague, part of the diocese where Cardinal Simonis was then bishop.
The accuser’s lawyer, Martin De Witte, who represents about 120 other people claiming abuse, said his client wanted an apology and damages. “We say the Catholic Church didn’t take the measures to protect children from this man,” he said. “They gave him another chance, and another, and another.” 
-full report, NY Times 

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Priest's Open Letter on Abuse, Call for Full Disclosure

Last week, Fr. James Connell, vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, stood on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and called on his bishop to release documents related to the local sexual-abuse crisis: “I am absolutely convinced that we need the truth. Justice requires that the truth be known.” His appearance was a surprise to SNAP, which organized the press conference. According to Milwaukee News Buzz:
SNAP called the press conference Tuesday after learning that lawyers for the archdiocese and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba have asked a judge to seal a sworn statement given by Sklba in a local court case regarding priest sex abuse cases.
There is some irony in Connell linking arms with Isely. About a year ago, Connell was the subject of another press conference in which Isely called on the priest to step down from the internal church board that hears sex abuse allegations. Isely pointed out that Connell had investigated allegations against Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest who abused scores of deaf children, according to church records.
Connell added that he had undergone a conversion of sorts after he began wondering what his life would have been like if he had been abused. Connell has since organized a group of other priests who hold monthly candlelight vigils for those who have been abused. He also began to challenge the hierarchy of the church as to whether officials were living up the Dallas Charter, the 2002 document adopted by the bishops to deal with sex abuse allegations.
Today, Connell released an open letter to priests [PDF] “regarding the need for the revelation of truth concerning the priest sexual abuse scandal.” It’s a remarkable document, one that deserves to be read by Catholics lay and ordained alike. Read it at Commonweal

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Newark Abusers protected by Archbishop John Myers

Newark archbishop shielded at least 4 priests accused of sexual abuse

Eight years ago, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers stood among the nation’s bishops at a landmark gathering in Dallas and helped craft a policy intended to cleanse the priesthood of pedophiles and restore trust among shaken American Catholics.
In ratifying the Dallas Charter, Myers and his colleagues promised a new era of reform and transparency. Allegations of sexual abuse against priests would no longer be hidden from parishioners or police, and any priest believed to have molested a child would be permanently banned from ministry.

In the years since, Myers and his aides say the archdiocese has taken aggressive measures to identify abusive priests.
But a Star-Ledger review of the archbishop’s record since 2002 shows Myers on at least four occasions has shielded priests accused of sexual abuse against minors and one adult. In the four instances, the priests have either admitted improper sexual contact, pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct or been permanently barred from ministry by the archdiocese after allegations of sexual misconduct.
The archdiocese also wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the priests, a week after it learned he was accused of breaking into a woman’s home in Florida and possibly assaulting her.
From one perspective, the newspaper’s findings suggest Myers continues to take a cautious hand in publicly naming priests. The findings, coupled with testimony from a 2009 deposition, show the issue weighs heavily on Myers.
From another view, the archbishop has failed to live up to the guidelines and spirit of what was set forth in Dallas. The most controversial example is the Rev. Michael Fugee, who confessed to police eight years ago that he molested a 13-year-old boy. Fugee was never ousted from the priesthood, and the archdiocese assigned him last year as chaplain to St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark without telling hospital officials of his past.
In other cases:
- In 2004, the Newark Archdiocese wrote letters to six dioceses in Florida on behalf of the Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, one week after learning Gorak’s ministry had been terminated in the Orlando Diocese — after he was accused of breaking into a woman’s home.
- Also in 2004, the archdiocese banned the Rev. Gerald Ruane from public ministry after investigating an allegation he molested a boy, but did not publicly notify lay people or other priests. Ruane continued to say Mass and wear his collar in public.
- In 2007, the archdiocese failed to inform lay people that it found a molestation claim credible against the Rev. Daniel Medina, who had worked in parishes in Elizabeth and Jersey City. The case wasn’t made public until a victims group uncovered an alert sent by the archdiocese in September 2008 to other bishops saying Medina was on administrative leave and could not be located.
Read the full report: 
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Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Vanishing Accused Priests

Ten years after the clergy sex abuse scandal first exploded in the United States, lawsuits have been settled, reports issued, policies overhauled. But even as the crisis has shifted to Europe and the Vatican prepares to issue new guidelines on how to handle sex abuse cases, something glaring is missing in this country: the accused priests.

Although the vast majority were removed from ministry long ago - barred from celebrating Mass in public, administering the sacraments, wearing their clerical collars or presenting themselves as priests - church officials say they have no way to monitor where the men are now. Nor do they keep official data on how many were defrocked, or stripped of their priestly status; how many were imprisoned or placed on sex-offender lists; how many are working; and how many are dead.

The priests have largely vanished from public view. Their fates are often a mystery to their victims, their parishioners and even their attorneys.

Independently compiling data about what happened to the men is nearly impossible. Reports by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops show that at least 5,768 priests were accused from 1950 to 2009. Although the church deems most of the allegations credible, the vast majority have never been proved, and many of the priests have never been publicly identified.

The same is true in the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington, where local church officials put the tally of accused priests at 42 without naming all of them. (At least five additional men who belong to religious orders have been accused in the Washington Archdiocese.)

But a comprehensive list of names does not exist. Victims groups often disagree with church officials on who should be included and maintain their own lists.

The Washington Post was able to identify 31 priests accused in the Washington area and locate nine who are alive. All declined to talk about their cases or their lives, but court documents and interviews with those around them offer glimpses. The outcomes vary so much that they defy sweeping generalizations about the way the allegations were handled by the church or the courts.

Many of the cases never made it into criminal court because the alleged abuse occurred decades earlier and fell beyond local statutes of limitations or made evidence difficult to gather. Sometimes the accusers did not want to press charges. But at least 11 men were sentenced to prison, and at least five were sued in civil court. Seven are dead, including Monsignor William Reinecke, longtime chancellor of the Arlington Diocese, who shot himself after a former altar boy confronted him after Mass. At least 10 were defrocked by the Vatican. Four of those convicted of crimes wound up on sex-offender registries.

-Read the full Washington Post article
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Friday, 3 December 2010

Breaking News: German Cover-up of Abuse Revealed in Church Report

Is this the first sign of an extensive cover-up in Germany, in Cardinal Ratzinger's diocese of Munich and Freisung, including during his tenure as Archbishop? The report of an investigation commissioned by the Church itself seems to think so.

I reserve my own comment for now, but read the facts from Deutsche Welle, in a report that was commissioned to "try to air some dirty laundry":

German study finds systematic cover-ups in Catholic priest abuse cases

An investigation into cases of sexual abuse in the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, where Pope Benedikt XVI was once archbishop, has revealed a "systematic system of cover-up" and a lot of missing paperwork.

Delaware Parish to carry $3m of record damages award.

A Delaware court has awarded $30 million dollars in compensation to a victim of clerical sexual abuse. The plaintiff of course, will never see that amount: the guilty priest is personally liable for most of this, and of course does not have it. But in an unusual move which should terrify every church-going Catholic in the US, the jury determined that the local parish where the abuse took place should pay 10% of the award, a hefty $3 million, because it had failed to exercise adequate supervision over its priest. There could be more to pay, too. This amount does not include any punitive damages, which could still be added to the existing sum.
A jury in Delaware on Wednesday awarded $30 million in compensatory damages to a man who said he was sexually abused more than 100 times by a Roman Catholic priest — the largest such award granted to a single victim in a clergy abuse case, victims’ advocates said.
In an unusual outcome, the jury decided that the parish where the abuse occurred, St. Elizabeth in Wilmington, must pay $3 million of the damages, while the perpetrator is liable for the rest. Parishes have previously been held liable in only one or two cases involving abuse by Catholic priests, according to records kept by an advocacy group for victims known as
-(Full report at the NY Times)

Pause a minute, and let that sink in.

At a time when so many churches are being closed for lack of funds, how many parishes could cope with a legal claim for $3 million and more, as well as the legal costs and administrative nightmare of defending  a case? It's not enough to simply say that in practice, the diocese will pick up the tab. They might, if this were the only case. It is not, not by a long chalk.

This is just one defendant. A recent study suggested that possibly half of all parishes may have had an abusive priest working with them in the past. Imagine if half of all parishes in a diocese were to find themselves in the same position as this one?No way could the diocese take on a payment of $3 mil per victim for half their parishes.

Adding salt to the wounds, is that the offences took place many years ago. The parishioners who failed in their supervision of the priest, are probably no longer around. The people who will be acting for the parish, and find ways to produce the money, are almost certainly not the ones who were personally responsible for the lapses of oversight in the first place.

But look on the bright side.  Far too many parish priests simply do not permit any meaningful lay oversight over their activities, and too many parish councils simply step back, and defer to the priests wishes. If they know that courts could find themselves responsible for earlier misdeeds of their priests, they might just be bolder in future, and be less likely in future to simply accept in good faith the priests' reassurances of good behaviour.

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Chicago: More than half of parishes had priest accused of abuse

In Chicago, a careful analysis by activists based on the Church's own database and on court records has been simply dismissed by the diocese. The report concluded that over half of the diocese's parishes have at one time or another been served by a priest accused of sexual abuse. The diocesan response was that the priests concerned have been dismissed from ministry.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said officials have not seen the study, but told of the report's highlights questioned its conclusions.
"From the description of what we have heard, it appears that the analysis and conclusions are questionable," said Colleen Dolan of the archdiocese in an e-mailed statement. "The priests referred to in the ... report have all been removed and are not in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago."
This response is entirely beside the point. The report is not about the current situation, but an attempt to illustrate the geographical scale of the problem. Once again, the Church's response is to entirely ignore the evidence.
Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago taken by Gerald C...Image via Wikipedia
More than half of Chicago's Roman Catholic parishes have had a priest accused of sexually abusing a child working there at some point, according to a study released today that was quickly questioned by the Chicago Archdiocese.
In some cases, multiple priests accused of misconduct worked at the same church, according to the study, conducted by reform groups Voice of the Faithful, African American Advocates for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"In almost 60 percent of the parishes, an accused predator worked there," said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP.
For example, from 1980 to 1990, 57.7% of Chicago parishes had an accused priest working there, said Bob Kopp, one of the study's researchers and vice president of Chicagoland Voice of the Faithful. Other decades examined in the study had similar percentages of affected parishes, he said.

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New twist in Belgian Catholic abuse legal row

After the Belgian police controversially raided the bishops' offices and Cardinal Daneels' home, confiscating truckloads of material relating to allegations of church sexual abuse, two lower courts ruled that the raid had been inaoppropriate, and ordered that the material would be inadmissable as evidence. However, this is not over yet.  "Expatica" yesterday reported from Belgium that there has been a

New twist in Belgian Catholic abuse legal row

BRUSSELS: Belgium's highest court ordered magistrates on Tuesday to re-examine evidence seized by police relating to decades of child abuse and alleged Roman Catholic Church cover-ups.
The court overturned two previous decisions by lower courts that rendered inadmissible evidence taken from church headquarters, the home of a former archbishop and a church-backed commission investigating sex crimes perpetrated by priests.

Responding to lawyers acting for alleged victims who lodged appeals, the judges said the lower courts were wrong not to hear civil parties and therefore magistrates should look again at the evidence in a new light.

It means that truckloads of material gathered by police in spectacular raids in June that drew the ire of Pope Benedict XVI himself could potentially be used to relaunch state prosecutions for abuse.

However, it does not automatically mean a prosecution case will be launched, because the lower judges could reach the same decisions as before, saying they have done so this time while considering aggrieved parties' accusations.
The raids on June 24, conducted as a Vatican ambassador was meeting with church leaders, opened the eyes of the world to the scale of the scandal within the Belgian Catholic Church, but the church and retired archbishop, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, asked that the material seized be declared out of bounds.
Child psychologist Peter Adriaenssens then unleashed nationwide controversy with the release on September 10 of a report by a commission he led which revealed nearly 500 people reported abuses by priests since the 1950s and 13 victims committed suicide.
Adriaenssens subsequently called on the pope to resign.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Belgian Bishops Put Money Before Victims

The Belgian bishop of Tournai, Guy Harpigny, has admitted what was probably a factor in the episcopal cover-up of sexual abuse in the church not only in Belgium, but everywhere else as well. They were concerned that breaking their silence would have exposed them to claims for financial compensation. They put financial considerations ahead of concern for the victims.

From the Daily Telegraph:

Belgian Catholic Church sex abuse: we feared compensation claims

Belgium's Roman Catholic Church did not apologise for decades of endemic child sexual abuse by its clerics because an official apology would triggered a flood of expensive compensation claims, a senior bishop has admitted.

Guy Harpigny, the bishop of Tournai and the senior cleric responsible for rooting out sex abusers within the Belgian church's ranks, has further inflamed outrage by confessing that financial concerns over litigation stopped an official apology.

"We did not dare. If you officially apologise, then you are acknowledging moral and legal responsibility. Then there are people who ask for money and we don't know what lawyers and the courts will do about that," he said.

San Deurinck, 65, a Catholic activist who tried to commit suicide after he was abused by two priests as a teenage boy, has called on the Church to "respect victims" and to ensure justice by handing paedophile priests over to the police.

"I always had hope, but then I lost it," he said. "Let the Church understand that justice must do her work. The Church must comply to respect of victims.

Read the full report



Saturday, 11 September 2010

Belgian Abuse Report: "Almost Every Diocese".

In the extraordinary saga of the police / state tussle investigation into the Belgian Church history of child abuse, the church’s own investigator has found that abuse was widespread, occurring in “almost every” diocese, and in “virtually every school” run by the Church. Yet as recently as March of this year, the Belgian bishops believed that abuse was a problem affecting only the USA and Ireland, and was of only minor extent in their own country.
A court had ruled this week that the evidence seized by police in a church raid would not be admissible in court, as the raid had been “disproportionate”. Almost immediately, the church’s investigator, Peter Adriaenssens, released his report.
In the church’s favour, the very existence of the report goes some way to vindicate it in its hostile reaction to the police raid. Suggestions at the time were that police action was prompted by suspicions that the church was incapable of investigating itself – a suspicion supported by the patent inaction under the previous head of the Church, Cardinal Daneels. The damning evidence shows that finally, the church is now willing to examine itself, just as the Irish Church did last year.
Also in its favour, is Adriaenssens’ finding that the scale of the problem is clearly in decline.
The abuse went back to the 1950s, was most common in the 60s and was tailing off by the 1980s, Adriaenssens said.
"The exposed cases are old, of course," he said. "Society has developed. But there's nothing to indicate that the number of paedophiles has diminished. Where are they today?"
Most of the victims were now middle-aged, but remained traumatised.
However, several disturbing questions remain. If the problem was indeed so widespread, why was it not known, even by the current bishops, until recently? Was there a cover-up and protection of offending priests, as occurred in Ireland and the US – and as Cardinal Daneels tried to buy time for  bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Brugge as recently as this year?
The next question is, what will be the Church’s response? It will not be enough to simply say that things have improved. On BBC News last night, one survivor of English church abuse pointed out that although the offences may have occurred in the past, they are not “past” to the victims, but are ever-present in their lives today. This is also the sentiment of the Belgian victims:
"There are days when I thank God for having the chance to speak," testified one woman.
"Four years of psychotherapy have taught me that silence kills. I have had enormous depressions, going as far as attempted suicide. At other times I think it would be wise to let sleeping dogs lie. But in the end I've chosen to speak ... Since the resignation of the bishop of Bruges, I am living again in anxiety and fear. And I am far away. I've chosen to live far from my country, hoping that the past won't rejoin me."
This testimony was from a woman abused in the 1980s, but most of the cases concerned young boys and teenagers, as well a documented case of a two-year-old boy being molested.
Another victim told of being repeatedly sexually molested by his parish priest for five years from the age of seven.
"From being a violated child, I myself became, several years later, an abuser of adolescents and was sentenced to eight years in jail of which I served four and a half … The priest's violations certainly strongly shaped my sexual identity and influenced my life choices."
Will the investigations still under way in other countries show the same pattern? Germany too believed that the problem was primarily restricted to the English speaking countries – until Der Spiegel began to report on a few German cases, and the floodgates opened, as more and more victims who had previously kept silent, began to come forward. The same occurred in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. These have not yet reported  their findings in any detail but they will. What of the rest of the world, countries which have not conducted any formal enquiries into past abuse? There is no reason at all to suppose that they have been immune.
Finally, what will be the response of the global church to the systemic problems this crisis has revealed? Pope Benedict has said that we need prayer and repentance, rather than institutional reform. He is wrong – we need both.
Quite apart from the problem of abuse itself by individual clergy, which really does seem to be on the decline, there remains the problem of a Church which remains aloof and distant from the real world, which continues to see itself too often as above the secular law. The world’s largest global corporation and largest employer operates in every country of the world, but does not see itself  as accountable to any – because it still sees itself as an independent “state”.
This independent statehood is no more than a polite legal fiction. The politicians of the world really do now need to stand up to the Vatican and hold it to account.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

20 000 pennies donated in Rockville

Send The Bishops a Message has donated 20 000 pennies to the Diocese of Rockville, NY. The number of 20 000 was deliberately chosen to represent a (conservative) estimate of the number of US victims of sexual abuse by priests.

A message for the Rockville Centre diocese

Members of a national coalition led by Send the Bishops a Message delivered 20,000 pennies and a letter to Bishop William Murphy last Sunday morning during a sidewalk "press conference" outside St. Agnes Cathedral.
The group, which claims to represent over 25,000 people, called upon Murphy to use the money as a seed for a special fund to aid clergy sexual abuse victims.
The coalition, which also includes Victims' Voice, Road to Recovery and the National Survivor Advocates Coalition, is calling for a proposed Diocese of Rockville Centre Good Samaritan Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims’ Trust fund to be overseen by independent trustees who would distribute grants and other support to help victims and their families recover and heal from the trauma they say resulted from the abuse.
The number of pennies being donated, the group said, represents a conservative estimate of the number of people in the United States who experienced sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other church employees since 1950.

Boston Archdiocese: New Accusations Against Priest

BRAINTREE, Mass. (AP) ― A priest cleared by the Boston Archdiocese three years ago of child sex abuse is now facing more accusations.

The archdiocese said Wednesday the Rev. Thomas Curran has been restricted from public ministry following new allegations that he sexually abused children in the 1970s and 1980s.

Curran was on administrative leave from 2002 to 2007 during the archdiocese's investigation of two sexual abuse allegations, which it found were unsubstantiated. Curran was then placed on permanent disability, which restricted his ministry to family. He's now restricted from any ministry. His current location could not immediately be determined.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley said the new charges brought the church "great sadness" and underscored the importance of its efforts to protect children.

SNAP, an abuse victims advocacy group, said the case shows "how extraordinarily flawed" church sex abuse investigations are.

Belgian Cardinal: "Damage Control" Before Concern For Victims

Cardinal Godfried Danneels also acknowledged that "all too often" the Roman Catholic Church had given damage control precedence over concern for victims in sexual abuse cases involving clergy.

Roger Vangheluwe, the Bishop of Bruges, resigned at the end of April after admitting to a paedophile relationship with his teenage nephew n the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he was still a priest.
The victim, according leaked transcripts of a meeting on April 8, was then asked by Cardinal Danneels to keep silent about the abuse until Bishop Vangheluwe retired next year.
The cardinal insisted that he had tried to establish why the family had kept quiet about the abuse for almost 25 years and he denied mentioning the bishop's impending retirement to influence the relatives.
"I never wanted to suggest that it should not be made public," he said.
Cardinal Danneels, who retired in January, has been questioned by police as a witness in an investigation into sexual abuse by the Church in Belgium.
He said that he had only become aware of a sex abuse problem was big after cases emerged in the United States, the Netherlands and Germany.
"We knew of a few cases. But the stream of reactions that came in after Vangheluwe's resignation made the scale of the problem clear, also for me," he said.
Read more at Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

German Bishops' Abuse Guidelines Require Reporting to Police

Any suspicion of the mistreatment of children by church officials will in future be reported to prosecutors immediately, according to new guidelines presented by Germany's Catholic bishops on Tuesday.

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany on Tuesday unveiled a new set of guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuse within the church.
All future allegations of abuse at the hands of church officials are to be reported to state prosecutors, which was not the case under the previous policy. Rules have been extended to include not just clergy but all staff working for the church.
"The shocking revelations and experience of recent months has shown us that the guidelines of 2002 were not precise enough in every area", said Stephan Ackermann, the Bishop of Trier, at a press conference to  present the new rules.
The German Bishops' Conference gave Ackermann the responsibility for re-drawing the guidelines in February, after allegations of mistreatment at an elite Jesuit school in Berlin. Further cases of mistreatment in Germany and across Europe have caused severe damage to the Catholic Church.
The new 55-point regulations are to replace 16-point guidelines from 2002, and take effect on Wednesday, September 1. They were approved by the bishops' permanent council at a meeting in Wuerzburg last week.
"It was important for us bishops to make sure that the new guidelines prevent cases of sexual abuse being covered up," Ackermann said in the western city of Trier.

Priest gets 4 years for molesting St. Charles boy

A former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison for sexually assaulting a St. Charles boy.
Alejandro Flores, 37, of Shorewood, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal sexual abuse, a Class 1 felony, at a hearing in Kane County.
Prosecutors said Flores preyed on a boy whose family he met while working at St. Mary's Church in West Chicago. The abuse occurred on multiple occasions in Flores' car and in the victim's home, when the boy was 12 or 13 years old, prosecutors said. There also were allegations that Flores made attempts to have sexual contact with the victim's older brother.
As a result of his conviction, Flores must register as a sex offender for life and face deportation to his native Bolivia upon release from prison.
By law, he must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, or about three years and five months, Judge T. Jordan Gallagher said.
- from Daily Herald

Alejandro Flores, 37, of the 600 block of Brook Forest Avenue in Shorewood, had been charged with 16 felonies, including predatory sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, indecent solicitation of a child and attempted aggravated sexual abuse in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of his now 13-year-old godson.
Without the plea bargain, Flores could have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 to 16 years in prison, especially given the predatory sexual assault charge, according to Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Debra Bree. She said the prison sentence could have been even longer than that if the judge decided to sentence each charge consecutively.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office said between Jan. 1, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2010, Flores had sexual contact with a St. Charles minor between the ages of 8 and 13.
Prosecutors allege during the same period, Flores also tried to have sexual contact with the victim’s older brother, who also was a minor.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Belgian Cardinal Attempted to Secure Silence on Abuse

The church has been protesting vigorously that the scandal of sexual abuse is mostly about past history, that for the most part, past failings have been corrected and appropriate procedures are now in place. To some extent this is true -  but some degree of episcopal cover-up clearly continues.

In April this year, the Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe admitted to sexual abuse, and resigned. Shortly before this, the then head of the Belgian Church, Cardinal Daneels, tried to persuade the victim from going public with his allegations until after Vangheluwe's resignation.

From BBC News, Aug 28:

The former head of the Catholic Church in Belgium tried to stop a victim of sex abuse from going public with their story, Church officials have confirmed.
During a meeting in April, Cardinal Godfried Danneels advised the victim to delay a public statement until the bishop who abused him had retired.
Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who was also at the meeting, admitted to the abuse in April and resigned.
The victim recorded the meeting, and released the tape to Belgian media.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Decades Long Abuse Alleged in California

LOS ANGELES — The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has become embroiled in a new pedophilia scandal with six women and one man alleging sexual abuse by a priest over three decades.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Oakland, California accused Father Stephen Kiesle of acts of sexual abuse between 1972 and 2001, and alleged that Catholic Church officials knew of the crimes but did not stop them.
Pedophile priest scandals and allegations of high-level cover-ups that swept Australia and the United States in 2004 have surged again since last year and rocked the Catholic Church in Europe and the United States.
"The Catholic bishops in the United States of America and the Holy See have long facilitated the sexual molestation of children by engaging in the harboring and protection of known child molesting priests," read a copy of the latest lawsuit obtained by AFP.
"The bishops and Catholic hierarchs have done so to prevent the priests from being prosecuted and to avoid scandal," the lawsuit read.
It said church figures "have subjected Catholic families and children in these communities to known pedophiles, counting on the devotion and reverence in the communities to keep any further abuse by the priests secret."
The plaintiffs, six women and one man, said they were abused by Kiesle throughout childhood and adolescence, although one alleged victim, Teresa Rosson, 48, said she suffered abuse at the hand of the cleric until about a decade ago.
-from AFP

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Clerical Abuse: Will Germany follow Ireland?

In the ongoing story of clerical abuse in Ireland, what set this country apart from all the others where abuse has been uncovered, was the thoroughness of the church’s (belated) own Ryan Report last, year, and then the exhaustive government investigation into cover-ups by the diocese of Dublin, culminating in the Murphy report in November.  The impact of that report, in Ireland and elsewhere, left me wondering how it would be if other countries were to follow the example of the Irish. (Even at the time of that report, there were calls for an expansion into other Irish dioceses, and into Northern Ireland by the UK government. That pressure will not have been eased by the dissatisfaction at the Vatican meeting with the Irish bishops.) Now it seems that Germany may follow a similar path. For weeks, there have been a series of news reports of abuses, over several decades, at a Jesuit church school in Berlin.  But reports are now emerging of other problems in other cities too, and for other religious orders as well.  It seems that the more the press digs into this story, the more there is to find – and the more willingly former victims are coming forward to shed more light on the past.  Now, church organisations are calling for full disclosure from the church – and German politicians are starting to join in. If the German Church does indeed decide to launch its own Murphy style investigation, they will inevitably find the same Irish and American style cover –ups, as these were clearly mandated in directives from the CDF. Then, after the Germans, how many other nations might follow?
The weekly Der Spiegel, in its issue to appear on Monday, quoted Education Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger as saying she wanted the Church to take "concrete steps" to this end. She proposed a meeting with government representatives, the Church and victims of abuse to discuss possible compensation
Details of the allegations reported in US and British media have been sketchy, but this English language report from inside Germany is detailed and horrifying. From Der Spiegel:
The Catholic Church in Germany has been shaken in recent days by revelations of a series of sexual abuse cases. Close to 100 priests and members of the laity have been suspected of abuse in recent years. After years of suppression, the wall of silence appears to be crumbling. 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. 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 HolyChurch. 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.
(For a discussion of the content and significance of this document, see    at “Queering the Church”.  At the time that its existence was discovered and reported in the press, the Vatican claimed that it was out f date, and had been replaced.  However, a much later document from Cardinal Ratzinger, then at the CDF , placed the same emphasis on secrecy.) For the details of the actual allegations, read the full report. Vatican responses to the Irish problems have consistently attempted to portray it as a local governance problem.  However, there have also been widespread problems across the United States, and problems also in Germany, Canada, the UK, Italy, Austria, Australia and South Africa – and these are just the ones I know of off the top of my head. I suspect that the major difference between countries is not the prevalence of abuse, but just how much has so far been uncovered.  The German pattern seems to be following much the same path as the early days of the exposure in the US, while the German Bishop’s internal guidelines on responding to the problem are entirely consistent with the pattern laid down by the Vatican decades ago – and the pattern displayed elsewhere.
Code of Secrecy But upon closer inspection, even these guidelines are pervaded by the Church's way of thinking, as affirmed by the Holy See in 1962 under Pope John XXIII and once again in 2001. According to those guidelines, which remain in force today, potential cases of abuse must be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The guidelines also forbid bishops worldwide from taking any steps beyond an initial investigation of accusations without direct instructions from Rome. The entire procedure is subject to "pontifical secrecy," the second-highest level of secrecy within the Holy See. Anyone who violates this code of secrecy without papal permission can be punished. The guidelines of the German Bishops' Conference are worded accordingly and emphasize the primacy of discreet internal investigations. Before making a decision, each bishop must first consider ways to protect the reputation of the priest and theChurch. When Rome takes over the investigations, some abuse cases can be quietly dealt with in secret trials. Based on its own canonical law, the German Catholic Church does not feel obligated to immediately report cases of abuse within its own ranks to the German authorities, so that the authorities can conduct house searches, for example. Critics say that theChurch is exposing itself to charges of obstruction of justice, as long as the clergy handles cases purely on an internal basis. Critical Catholic groups have long sought to change the Bishops' Conference guidelines, but to no avail. Bernd Göhrig, the executive director of a group called theChurch from Below, calls for the establishment of independent ombudsmen to address the concerns of the victims, instead of the biased representatives of the diocese. This is probably the only viable option, given that the German bishops are as reluctant to address the issue of prohibited sex as the German pope. 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.
Critical Catholic groups have long sought to change the Bishops' Conference guidelines, but to no avail. Bernd Göhrig, the executive director of a group called theChurch from Below, calls for the establishment of independent ombudsmen to address the concerns of the victims, instead of the biased representatives of the diocese. This is probably the only viable option, given that the German bishops are as reluctant to address the issue of prohibited sex as the German pope.
These German instructions are clearly based on two Vatican documents to bishops worldwidem one of them produced by Cardinal Ratzinger himself. I would like to remind Pope Benedict of a fundamental principle of Catholic theology familiar to me from primary school.  It is always possible to obtain forgiveness for sin, but there can be no absolution before confession,  repentance and reparation.  In the case of abuse, reparation is not possible - but when will we hear from him a confession of his own role in the decades long mishandling of this? Where will this end? 

Saturday, 31 July 2010

More on "Suicide, Catholic Church, and Abuse": A Readers's Story:

My post on the church's culpability in youth suicide has brought this moving comment at Queering the Church, which has brought me , quite literally, to tears. I reproduce it here for your consideration, with no further comment - I have no words that would be good enough:
Thank you Terence for posting this thought provoking post. I would not want to comment directly on the Unglo family’s actions, though I have a good idea of their anguish and pain.
All I would say is that sometimes (and more often than appears on the surface) your two threads of thought intersect, tragically.
My wife and I are firmly convinced that young gays and lesbians are far more likely to be clergy sexually abused than their straight peers.
Here is our story, which is the story of our beloved son: Remembering Eric - 2nd Anniversary Of His Death the associated links tell some more about him and us. I know we had to fight my then-Bishop to have Eric’s funeral service in the local church building ~ because ‘the canons’ forbade the funeral of ‘a suicide’ in church. Heaping insult upon injury.
May Eric, and all the other suicide-victims of clergy sexual abuse … rest in peace, and rise in Glory!

John Iliff
"Eric's story" concludes with these word:
It was there in 1935 that he told his students:

'The one who does not cry out for the Jews has no right to sing Gregorian chant'.

Today, we forthrightly submit that:

'The one who does not cry out for the victims of clergy sexual abuse has no right to say the Catholic mass nor sing the Orthodox Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom'.

Irish Abuse Outrage as "Painful Surgery" - Bishop

A newly appointed Irish bishop,  Liam McDaid of Clogher, has described the crisis of abuse which has rocked the church worldwide, but especially in Ireland, as "painful surgery", which was necessary, but has brought much-needed healing. It's a striking analogy, and like any surgery, it has certainly been painful and was clearly necessary. Has it brought healing, as he suggests? I don't know about Ireland, but from a broader perspective, I'm sceptical. It takes time to get over from major surgery, and recovery is never guaranteed. On the surgery executed on the church, the jury is still out. Has the surgeon's knife cut deep enough? Were the cuts and stitches made the correct ones? Only time will tell.   Before reaching a verdict and signing off on a clean bill of health, we must continue to watch the patient closely, and monitor all symptoms.

“Painful surgery” good for Church, says new Bishop

The newly ordained Catholic Bishop of Clogher Liam McDaid has said that the Church was in need of “painful surgery” in order to cleanse it of the iniquity of having been responsible for years of child abuse. 

The Bishop said that the abuse scandal which rocked the Church brought the institution to its knees, ‘but perhaps that isn’t a bad thing,’ he added.

He invited fellow clergymen and lay-person to “repentant return to the well of salvation” as he prayed for a new direction for the Church in Ireland.
A native of Bundoran, Co Donegal, Bishop McDaid said “society has forced us in the Irish church to look into the mirror, and what we saw were weakness and failure, victims and abuse. The surgeon’s knife has been painful but necessary. A lot of evil and poison has been excised.
“There comes a time when the surgeon’s knife has done what it can, is put away, and a regime of rehabilitation for the patient is put in place.
“We have been brought to our knees, but maybe that is no bad thing. It can bring us closer to the core of the mystery.”
 He continued: “So while society keeps the mirror in front of us and rightly checks that we are sincere in our intentions and efforts towards rehabilitation, can I invite you, priests and people of the diocese of Clogher, to join me in a repentant return to the well of salvation.

“The journey will include, for many, facing the enormous challenge of forgiveness.
“Despite his intense suffering, Jesus forgave those who mocked, spat at, scourged and abused him. One of the co-crucified could not bring himself beyond abuse and excluded himself; the other rose to embracing forgiveness, and was welcomed into the kingdom. There are many painful experiences in life where only forgiveness can bring closure.”

Friday, 30 July 2010

UK: Child Protection Head Criticizes the Vatican

The Vatican’s recently published new guidelines provide for the doubling of the time limit allowed for prosecution under the statute  of limitations, from 10 years to 20. The head of the UK Church’s own Child protection agency says this doesn’t go far enough, as it fails to reflect the long-term effects of abuse. He argues that it should be removed altogether.

UK Catholic child protection agency criticises Vatican

National Catholic Safeguarding Commission calls for abolition of statute of limitations on prosecution of priests over child abuse

The head of child protection for the Catholic church in England and Wales has said the Vatican should remove the statute of limitations on prosecution of of priests for child abuse offences.
William Kilgallon, the chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC), argued that the time limit was unhelpful and failed to reflect the long-lasting effects of abuse.
He described the Vatican's recent decision to double the time period from 10 years to to 20 as "better than it was", but said he would have preferred its abolition.
He was speaking at the launch of the NCSC's annual report, which highlighted developments in the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
When asked to comment about the latest guidelines from the Vatican, Kilgallon replied: "It is good the time limit has been extended; my advice would have been to remove any limit. It is better than it was, but I would have preferred to see the removal of limits entirely."
He explained that the church in England and Wales was becoming more aware of the serious impact of abuse, and how the effects persisted with people into their adult lives. Events late in life could trigger feelings and trauma, forcing people to relive their experiences, he told the press conference.