Sunday, 25 April 2010

Italian Catholic Oppose Celibacy

Sophia Loren had a romantic problem with Marcello Mastroianni in this 1971 film because he was a man of the cloth. But attitudes have changed since The Priest’s Wife was released and now a majority of Italians believe that priests should be allowed to marry, according to an opinion poll.

The survey, by the polling organisation Demos, came as Catholic bishops in Austria called on the Vatican to open up the issue of priestly celibacy for discussion.

The survey, published yesterday in La Repubblica, showed that confidence in the Pope in Italy had dropped from 53.7 per cent in 2007 to 46.6 per cent, compared with 77.2 per cent for Pope John Paul II in 2003.

Sixty-two per cent said they believed that the Church had sought to minimise or cover up sex abuse scandals.

Ilvo Diamanti, an Italian sociologist, said the drop in support for the Church and the papacy partly stemmed from the Vatican’s slow, divided and confused response to the paedophile crisis at a time of fast moving global media. It was also linked to the decline of the priesthood in Italian society, with the Church increasingly seen as out of touch with modern social attitudes and mores.

The poll followed the conclusion at the weekend of a congress at Mariazell south of Vienna at which Austrian bishops called on the Vatican to discuss the issue of celibacy and whether to ordain married priests.

Bishop Alois Schwarz of the Carinthia diocese told the meeting: “We hear this question as bishops, and we are telling Rome that we have this problem.”

He said the role of women in the Church was also among the “many open topics which we need to discuss with sensitivity and from different viewpoints”. The bishops ended their meeting with a call for “broad reforms”.

Last week the Bishop of Eisenstadt, Paul Iby, said in a newspaper interview: ‘It should be left up to every priest whether he wants to live a life of voluntary celibacy or in a family.”

“Rome is too timid in such questions,” Bishop Iby told the daily Die Presse, adding that priests should be allowed to choose whether they would like to marry to counteract the falling number of vocations. “But nothing is moving ahead in Rome,” he said.

Celibacy has been required of Catholic clergy since the early Middle Ages. However, it was not imposed in the early Church, and, according to Gospel accounts, St Peter was a married man.

Some senior Catholics, including Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, have linked paedophile priest scandals to the issue of celibacy. The Vatican has denied any such link, pointing out that in secular society paedophilia is often committed by married men.
Times Online

Friday, 23 April 2010

Four Bishops Resign.

In a clear sign of a harder line being taken inside the Vatican on issues around abuse, there have now been four bishops resigning within four days, in four different countries.

On Thursday, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare. Thursday. Two other Irish bishops have already resigned since December, and two more have offered resignations.  Pope Benedict has yet to decide on these, but is expected to agree.  There is also strong public pressure on the head of Ireland's Catholic Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, to step down, but he has not yet agreed to do so. In all of these Irish resignations, the reasons given concern their failure to act decisively against accused abusive priests, rather than any direct misbehaviour of their own.

In the US, the Archbishop of Miami, John Favarola resigned unexpectedly earlier this week, and had his resignation promptly accepted - very unusual in a Vatican bureaucracy where wheels usually move exceedingly slowly. Usually, a bishop tenders his resignation on turning 75 (which he will not do until December), and is routinely asked to stay on further until a replacement has been secured.  This resignation was accepted under a special rule that allows for early retirement in cases of ill health, or other matters of pressing importance.No such special considerations have been mentioned. Officially, this has nothing to do with abuse: but behind the scenes, I have come across reports that Miami too saw some protection of abuse offenders under his watch, and that is the reason for the speed of acceptance.

Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg, Germany, resigned yesterday following well-publicized allegations of hitting children decades ago when still a priest, and of financial irregularities at an orphanage where he once worked.

The most dramatic announcement came today in Belgium, where up to now there have not been any major reports of abuse.  In this case, it was indeed over direct involvement in abuse.  Bishop Roger Vangheluwe said in a statement admitted "abusing" a boy  in his close entourage when he was still a priest, and when first a bishop.

Vatican Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos Shielded American Abusive Priest.

Last week, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos was in the news when a letter surfaced, showing how he had earlier praised a French archbishop who had refused to co-operate with the police in the prosecution of a priest over claims of sexual molestation of young boys. We now know that letter was written with the approval, even support, of Pope John Paul II.

Now, Cardinal Hoyos is in the news again, with claims that he actively intervened, in opposition to the wishes of the local bishop, in disciplinary procedures brought against an Arizona priest, Fr Robert Trupia. 

From NCR Online:
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the former Vatican official who sent a letter in 2001 praising a French bishop for sheltering an abusive priest, had earlier intervened, against the wishes of a U.S. bishop, on behalf of an American abuser priest, according to documents that were part of a lawsuit.

Castrillon pressured Bishop Manuel Moreno, who was bishop of Tucson, Ariz., from 1982-2003, to allow a priest sex abuser to take a pension and work outside the diocese, despite allegations that would later jolt the diocese and cost millions to resolve. Fr Robert Trupia "sexually abused dozens of minor boys" before he was defrocked in 2004, according to documents in the civil case.
The litigation surrounding the case opens a rare window on the operation of the Vatican legal system.

Castrillon, who was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1998, sparked a new episode in the Vatican crisis last week when his 2001 letter to a French bishop surfaced, praising him for sheltering a predator. Moreover, Castrillon implicated the late John Paul II in that decision. "After consulting the pope ... I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model of a father who does not hand over his sons," Castrillon was quoted in the daily La Verdad as telling a religious conference in Spain on April 16.   

(Read the full report)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Chilean Bishops Apologize

Chile's Catholic Church apologizes for child abuse

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church in Chile on Tuesday said there had been 20 confirmed or alleged cases of child abuse by priests, and asked for forgiveness from the victims.
Monsignor Alejandro Goic, head of Chile's bishops' conference, said that in five of the cases sentences had been imposed, in another five trials were still under way, and in 10 others priests had been absolved or results were pending.
The wider Catholic Church has been buffeted in recent years by scandals involving sexual abuse of children -- most of them boys -- by priests. There also have been allegations of cover-ups and even suggestions that Pope Benedict mishandled cases when he was a bishop in Germany and a Vatican official before his election in 2005.
"There is no place in the priesthood for those who abuse minors, and there is nothing that can justify this crime," Goic said, reading a statement after an assembly of Chile's Episcopal Conference.
(Read the full report

Brazilian Priest Arrested

When news broke last month that Brazilian priests had been recorded on video footage having sex with underage boys, it was the first major report of clerical sexual abuse reaching South America.  As the footage was broadcast to the nation on television, it is hardly surprising that the widespread international publicity should have attracted the attention of the authorities.  In a sequel to the publicity, the first arrest has followed.    

Priest, 83, arrested in abuse case

BRAZIL -- An 83-year-old Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on suspicion of abusing boys as young as 12. The scandal erupted when Brazilian television network SBT broadcast a tape last month of Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa in bed with a 19-year-old; it was widely distributed on the Internet. Barbosa was detained late Sunday. His lawyer plans to seek his release from detention, citing his advanced age and arguing that he has a fixed address and does not pose a flight risk, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported Tuesday.

Read more at from Associated Press at Fort Worth Star Telegram)): 

Accountability: Benedict Accepts a Bishop's Resignation

It has taken a while, but Pope Benedict is expected to accept a further Irish bishop's resignation.

From BBC News:

Pope accepts Bishop Moriarty's resignation

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to accept the resignation of the Bishop of Kildare on Thursday.
Bishop James Moriarty offered to resign in December following publication of the Murphy Report into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Bishop Moriarty, who served as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1991-2002, was barely criticised in the Murphy Report.
He said, however, that he "should have challenged the prevailing culture".
Bishop Moriarty told the Irish Catholic newspaper he did not anticipate resigning when he first read the Murphy Report because he was not directly criticised.
New beginning
"However, renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past," he said.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Ratzinger & Munich: Where was the Blame?

When the story first broke last month that a convicted child molester had been allowed to return to active ministry in Munich, while Ratzinger was heading the archdiocese as Archbishop, the blame was accepted by the man who was then the vicar-general. Gerhard Gruber said then that it was a "serious mistake", but one for which he accepted full responsibility:  that Ratzinger had not been involved (even though written correspondence about the matter addressed to Ratzinger also came to light). At the time, there were eyebrows raised, as the man at the top can freely delegate authority - but not the responsibility for mistakes.

Now it seems that the situation is rather more serious than that.  Der Spiegel magazine is in possession of a a letter from Fr Gruber which shows that he made that statement exonerating Ratzinger only after coming under enormous pressure from unnamed persons in the church.  In effect, he has repudiated the original statement, and does not believe after all, that he should be held solely responsible.

Altogether then, one more time.  The buck stops......way over there

(Cartoon is a screenshot from the excellent video by Mark Fiore)


A FORMER vicar-general in the archdiocese of Munich has claimed that he was pressurised last month into taking the blame for a mistake made 30 years ago by the then Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), concerning the case of a paedophile priest.
Fr Gerhard Gruber has now said he did so only after coming under huge pressure from unnamed Catholic Church sources to take responsibility, so as to “take the pope out of the firing line”.
(Read the  full report here)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Chilean Priest Facing Criminal Charges

Chile priest charged with abusing daughter, others

SANTIAGO, Chile — A Chilean priest has been charged with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including his own daughter, and his diocese says he was suspended from his duties in the Roman Catholic Church early this year.
Ricardo Munoz Quinteros, 55, is accused of paying young girls for sex. State television broadcast video Tuesday night that it said shows the priest entering a motel with a young girl he paid for her services.
Prosecutors in Curacavi, on the outskirts of Santiago, formally charged Munoz on Tuesday with crimes dating back five years, expanding the initial sex abuse charges for which he was jailed in January.
Prosecutor Cristian Caceres said investigators are looking at whether the diocese tried to cover up for Munoz's activities, noting a series of transfers of the priest among four parishes in a few years, according to Radio Bio-Bio.
According to the charges, the priest abused girls between 16 and 18 years old, as well as his own daughter who was 5 years old at the time.

What About the Women?

One of the few features of the Vatican responses to the abuse scandal that I can agree with, is that it is incorrect to speak of widespread "pedophilia", or "child" abuse. They point out, quite correctly, that much of the abuse is not against young children, but against adolescents, and so is more correctly described as "ephebophilia". Here, though, I part company with the Vatican apologists:  the higher age makes he allegations different, but still indefensible. Abuse remains abuse, whatever the age of the victim, and to take sexual advantage of another from a position of power remains abuse, even if there has been nominal consent.  But it doesn't stop even there.  The victims of abuse are not just young and adolescent boys, or young boys and girls, but also include many adults, especially religious women and male seminarians. I have written on this before, but have been disappointed that in the present close attention to the worldwide problems of abuse, little has been written elsewhere about the widespread abuse of adults. We should remember that one the accusations against one of the of the most notorious alleged miscreants, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado of the Legionnaries of Christ, was that he abused both women (with whom he fathered children), and male seminarians, as well as his own children. Before the current uproar led to the resignations of a handful of Irish bishops, the few other bishops to have resigned over abuse were some who had themselves been found to have had sexual affairs, invited or otherwise,  with adults. There have also been numerous reports that some leaders of female religious houses, especially in Africa, have pleadedd wiht their local bishops for protection from predatory priests, usually meeting with little success.

Marcial Maciel Degollado with his patron and protector, JPII
Now, a worthwhile piece by Angelina Bonavoglio at Huffington Post goes some way to correct that imbalance.  This deals only with the adult women, not the seminarians, but it's a start.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Can Benedict Be Brought to Trial For Crimes Against Humanity

Here in the UK, the papal visit planned for September is turning into a public relations disaster.Even before the current uproar over abuse and cover-ups, in some circles there was a lot of unhappiness here, which was not helped by the manner of his invitation to disillusioned Anglicans.  Now, anger over the abuse allegations has led some well known British atheists to announce that they will attempt to use the papal visit as an opportunity to either have him tried for "crimes against humanity" for his role in protecting abusers, or to have some victims sue for damages.  I don't for a minute suppose that they will be successful, but just the suggestion is remarkable and will not please the Vatican. 

From the  Richard Dawkins, in the Guardian:

The pope should stand trial

Why is anyone surprised when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope? There is a clear case to answer
Sexual abuse of children is not unique to the Roman Catholic church, and Joseph Ratzinger is not one of those priests who raped altar boys while in a position of dominance and trust. But as so often it is the subsequent cover-ups, even more than the original crimes, that do most to discredit an institution, and here the pope is in real trouble.
Pope Benedict XVI is the head of the institution as a whole, but we can't blame the present head for what was done before his watch. Except that in his particular case, as archbishop of Munich and as Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (what used to be called the Inquisition), the very least you can say is that there is a case for him to answer. See, for example, three articles by my colleague Christopher Hitchens herehere, and here. The latest smoking gun is the 1985 letter obtained by the Associated Press, signed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger to the diocese of Oakland about the case of Father Stephen Kiesle, mercilessly analysed by Andrew Sullivan here.
Never mind headlines invented by foolish sub-editors, we are serious. It should be for a court to decide – a civil court, not a whitewashing ecclesiastical court – whether the case against Ratzinger is as damning as it looks. If he is innocent, let him have the opportunity to demonstrate it in court. If he is guilty, let him face justice. Just like anybody else.
 (Read the full report)

Abuse Not Confined to Children

Some of those entrusted with the care of the soul are more interested in the pleasures of the body than the things of the spirit. That conclusion could be reached from a new Baylor University report on the prevalence of Clergy Sexual Misconduct (CSM). Although much attention recently has been focused on clergymen, especially priests, who have had sexual encounters with boys, the Baylor study, conducted by the university’s School of Social Work, examines sexual activity between ministers and adults.

The survey, released earlier this month, indicates that one out of every 33 women who regularly attend a house of worship has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader. Conducted nationally in 2008-09, the survey involved 3,559 respondents and included additional interviews with people whose lives were affected by CSM, such as husbands, friends, other parishioners and church staff members. Data indicated that 67 percent of offenders were married to another person at the time. Victims were members of 17 varied religious affiliations – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.

Diana I. Garland, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Work at Baylor and co-investigator of the study, said, “CSM does not occur evenly across congregations, but these statistics indicate the widespread nature and refutes the commonly held belief that it is the case of a few charismatic and powerful leaders preying on vulnerable followers.”

Monday, 12 April 2010

Malta: Abuse Victims Want Meeting During Papal Visit.

Pope Benedict will be visiting Malta shortly.  Victims of clerical abuse ill be waiting, and hoping to meet him.

From Associated Press:

Pope visits Malta mid-month, sex abuse cases await

VALLETTA, Malta — Pope Benedict XVI visits Malta in two weeks, and some victims of sex abuse by priests on the predominantly Roman Catholic island say they want him to use the trip to apologize for their suffering.
The trip is the first foreign visit that Benedict will make since the clerical abuse scandal tore across Europe. Noting that he has met with victims and denounced clerical abuse on previous foreign trips, the Vatican on Monday didn't rule out that the pope might break his recent silence on the matter in Malta.
Lawrence Grech, a 37-year-old man who says he was abused as a child at a church-run orphanage, has written to the Vatican demanding an apology. He said the pope should use the two-day trip April 17-18 to address himself to victims as he did in his letter to Irish Catholics last month.
"He should recognize that these things happened in Malta, reflect about the victims' suffering and issue a formal apology," Grech said.
Grech is one of 10 people who have testified behind closed doors in a case against three priests facing charges of child abuse. The proceedings have been going on for seven years.

Abuse allegations in Kenya

Just days ago, Bishop Buthi Thlagale of my home diocese, Johannesburg, warned that Africa had not been spared  the problems of abuse troubling the rest of the world - just the publicity and the subsequent public discontent.  Now Kenya is being caught up, too:

As the report notes, there is no evidence that the specific allegations are true.  The issue here, rather is that the  inaction by the church when the accusations were first made, and the apparent lack of concern.

From Associated Press:
Abuse charge against Catholic priest roils Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya — After three young men and a boy told police last June an Italian priest had been sexually molesting them for years at a shelter for poor children, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Kenya announced the church would investigate thoroughly.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Archbishop Tlhagale: Africa Not Exempt from Abuse

The Catholic Archbishop of my former original home diocese, Archbishop Buthi Tlhagale of Johannesburg, has formally acknowledged what would have been apparant oto anyne who gave the matter any thought: Africa ahs not been spared the problems with abuse, it has just not yet had the same media scrutiny.

Bishop: Africa Also Suffers Sex Abuse by Priests

A leading African Catholic archbishop says sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is a problem in Africa as well as in Western countries.
Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale said the church in Africa is inflicted with the same scourge as the churches in Ireland, Germany and America. He said the misbehaviour of priests in Africa simply has not been exposed to the same glare of the media.
Tlhagale said the image of the Catholic church is virtually in ruins because of the bad behaviour of its priests, whom he called "wolves wearing sheepskin."
(Read the full report)
Archbishop Thlagale does not say so, but one of his own predecessors has been implicated. Bishop Hugh Boyle, who was ordinary while I was at school and at university in the diocese back in the 1960’s and early ‘70’s, was posthumously accused of abusing young children while he was patron of the Boys’ Town institution outside Johannesburg.  

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

New Zealand Police Investigating Church Abuse

From Stuff

Former Police Commissioner John Jamieson is investigating five cases of historic sex abuse allegations against members of the Catholic Church in New Zealand.
The inquiries come as the church worldwide is rocked by allegations of child sex crimes committed by clergy.
Accusations have been directed at the highest level with the Vatican denying Pope Benedict XVI was involved in covering up some of the crimes.
This week the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington John Dew said he had apologised to church members for the "humiliation, embarrassment and disappointment" resulting from continuing reports of child abuse by priests in several countries.
"I think as more revelations come to light and people hear of that, it has put the church in a crisis," he said.
Archbishop Dew said the situation had been made even worse as church members heard that the cases may have been mishandled.
"That's why I wanted to say something to the people," he said.

Norwegian Bishop Resigned (2009) Over Abuse

Church: Norway bishop resigned in '09 over abuse

From AP

OSLO — Norway's Catholic Church revealed Wednesday that a bishop who resigned last year did so after admitting he had molested a child years earlier, when he was a priest.

Georg Mueller stepped down as bishop in the western city of Trondheim in June 2009. The church said it had not previously disclosed the reason for his resignation at the request of the victim.

Mueller's successor, Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, said in a statement Wednesday that the 58-year-old German had been removed from all pastoral duties and undergone therapy after he admitted the abuse. Mueller admitted to only one case — before he became a bishop in 1997 — and no other allegations have come to light, church officials said.

Global Abuse: Chile, India.

First, the problem of sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy was seen as just an American problem, then just the Americans, and those priest-ridden Irish. Earlier this year, the world began to realise that it was also a more widespread European problem, with rapidly increasing reports also from Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Poland…

The truth of course is that this is no more than just a European problem, any more than it was ever just an American issue. This was just where the news broke first.  There is every reason to suppose that comparable stories wills till emerge from the countries of the South. I have already reported on the first stories emerging from Brazil and a single instance (concerning child pornography) from Chile.  Now, we have more reports from Chile, and one from India.

The first report from Chile concerned a  Spanish teacher, rather than a priest, who was arrested in Chile on charges of filming the sexual abuse of boys. Now, the Catholic archbishop of Santiago has admitted that the Chilean church is investigating “a few”, cases involving paedophilia and the clergy.  He says there are “just a few” cases, for which he thanks God.  So do I – if it remains just a few. The experience from elsewhere, however, is that “just a few”” cases which are known initially, have a habit of growing to a few more as more victims are emboldened to speak up- and the growing trickle then becomes a flood. (Initial reports from Germany were of fewer than a hundred cases. When the hotline opened last week, it handled thousands of calls within the first few days.)

From the Strib:

Roman Catholic archbishop in Chile says 'a few' cases of paedophilia are being investigated

SANTIAGO, Chile - The archbishop of Santiago says the Roman Catholic Church is investigating "a few" cases of pedophilia involving priests in Chile, an issue church leaders long sought to play down. 
"There is something to these pedophilia abuses — just a few, thank God," Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz said in an interview on state television Sunday evening. 
Errazuriz did not say how many cases or whether they had been reported to police. Press representatives of the Santiago diocese told the Associated Press on Monday that they didn't know how many pedophilia cases were under investigation.

Meanwhile, the first report from India does not concern abuse in India, but an Indian priest who is wanted in the USA to face trial over allegations concerning actions when he was based in Minnesota.  The interesting feature about the Indian hierarchy, concerns their response ( or lack of response) to calls for extradition – and how it has changed dramatically in the face of publicity.

When news first broke last week that Fr Joseph Jeyapaul, now working back in India, was wanted to face criminal charges in Minnesota for allegations dating back to 2004 and 2005, there were conflicting claims from the Vatican, which said it had “warned” the Indian Church authorities about Fr Jeyapaul. and from his current diocese, which claimed there was no case to answer, and so there were no plans for him to return to the US.

From the Modesto Bee:
Bishop Victor Balke of the Diocese of Crookston tried three times to alert superiors about a visiting priest accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in 2005. The Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul, a native of India who served in the diocese in 2004 and 2005, returned to India before legal charges were filed. Roseau County authorities are seeking to have him returned to Minnesota to face rape charges. 
Balke wrote his first letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office charged with disciplining priests, in December 2005. 
"I cannot in good conscience allow this matter to be passed over because the cleric has left my territory," he said. "In my mind, that would be a shameful act of betrayal towards the women and girls in India to whom Fr. Jeyapaul could at present pose a serious risk."
Five months later, the office responded to Balke that Jeyapaul was being monitored.
"Do you know what being monitored means?" Anderson asked rhetorically. "It means nothing. They are doing nothing.

From the Wall Street Journal
Father Jeyapaul said a 2007 internal church investigation into his 28 years as a pastor in India didn't produce any allegations of sexual abuse. 
Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of the Ootacamund diocese, which conducted the investigation, confirmed that the report contained no allegations, and said in an interview that the Vatican had contacted him in late 2006 and 2007 seeking information on Father Jeyapaul after learning of the allegations in Minnesota. Bishop Amalraj said he sent a report from the inquiry to the Vatican in early 2008.
From Ksax TV Eyewitness News
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Vatican officials warned church officials in India to monitor a Catholic priest charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota, but four years later he continues to work in his home diocese. 
In a 2006 letter to the bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, Archbishop Angelo Amato wrote that the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul would be watched in his home diocese "so that he does not constitute a risk to minors and does not create scandal."
Jeyapaul denies the charges and has no plans to return to the U.S. to face the courts. His current bishop says Jeyapaul has a paperwork job in his office and does not work with children.
Latest reports, show that the publicity has made a difference.  four years after the Minnesota bishop first wrote to the CDF, years in which the Vatican wheels moved with typical Vatican speed (i.e., near inaction), suddenly Fr Jeyapaul will, after all, return to the US to face his accusers.  The lessons are plain:  even when the Vatican does indeed “act” to ensure that accused paedophiles  face proper investigation and possible trials, the procedures that they follow are glacially slow.

However, when faced with the full force of publicity, things can change very suddenly. The intense public scrutiny the media are now applying to the Vatican may not be popular with the oligarchy, but it is clearly bringing results, and must continue.

NY Times:

Priest in India Says He’ll Go to U.S. to Face Sex Charges

NEW DELHI — A Roman Catholic priest in southern India charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl in Minnesota in 2004 said Tuesday that he would return to face the charges, though he and his supervising bishop in India said they did not know about the criminal charges until reporters contacted them.

(If they “did not know” until reporters contacted them, how effective was the Vatican scrutiny? Or has somebody here, either the CDF or the diocese, been somewhat economical with the truth?  )

Monday, 5 April 2010

Arizona: How Canon Law Protected Convicted Abusers

A report from Arizona tells how the late Tucson Bishop manual D Moreno struggled to get authorization from then Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF to defrock a convicted abusive priest. 
The late Bishop Manuel D. Moreno pleaded with the future pope for help.

In one case, Moreno pleaded with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, for help in removing the Rev. Michael Teta, who was convicted by the church in 1997 of five crimes including sexual solicitation in the confessional.
"I make this plea to you to assist me in every way you can to expedite this case, because the accused was a priest in whom I had great confidence at one time, but who, unfortunately, worked among our former seminarians, and, terrible to say, evidently corrupted many of them," Moreno wrote in an April 1997 letter to Ratzinger.

The report as published presents yet another case where Pope Benedict, as head of the CDF, was clearly involved in dealing with a clear case of abuse by a convicted priest, but did no intervene to remove him from presenting a continuing danger to children, in spite of pleading and warnings of future abuse from the local ordinary.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

How Many German Abuse Victims? Hotline Crashes After 4400 calls.

Lest anybody be in any doubt that the scale of the abuse problem in Germany compares with that in the US or in Ireland, here is a sobering statistic:  teh hotline set up to take calls from abuse survivors, crashed on its first day in operation, after taking over 4400 calls:

Abuse hotline crashes as 'humiliated' church prays for a new start

AN ABUSE hotline set up by the Catholic Church in Germany crashed on its first day as more than 4400 alleged victims of paedophile and violent priests called to seek counselling and advice.
The handful of therapists assigned to deal with them could not cope with the numbers - only 162 of 4459 callers were given advice before the system was closed.
Andreas Zimmer, the head of the project in the Bishopric of Trier, said he was not prepared for ''that kind of an onslaught''.
The hotline is the church's attempt to win back trustfollowing an escalating abuse scandal that threatens the papacy of German-born Pope Benedict.
On the same day as the German hotline opened allegations emerged of serial abuse perpetrated against children by Bishop Walter Mixa - an ally and friend of the Pope - when he was overseeing a Catholic children's home in the 1970s.
The leader of Germany's Catholic bishops said in a Good Friday message that he hoped Christianity's most solemn day would mark a ''new start'' for the church. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said the time when Christians commemorated the crucifixion of Christ must ''mark a new departure, which we so badly need''.
(Full report from Sydney Mornign Herald)

Dear Pope: Call Me

In fairness to the Pope, there is probably nothing he could have said to the church in Ireland that would be sufficient to bring healing to the thousands of survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of pedophile priests. Too little, too late. I don’t think anyone ever imagined the numbers of victims, the numbers of abusive priests, and the material (not to mention the spiritual) cost facing the Roman Catholic Church. But as the crisis erupts again in Europe and the U.S. with serious questions being raised about the Pope himself, one has to wonder if the men in charge have learned anything in the past 20 years. It would appear not.
If the Vatican were to ask me for advice on how to handle this situation (which they will not), here are my ten steps to justice and healing:
  1. Words are important but actions are the real test. Anyone who knew and did nothing or knew and covered it up should no longer be in a position of authority in the church. Holding individual bishops and administrators accountable would speak volumes.
  2. Stop expecting any sympathy from the flock; you don’t deserve it.
  3. Stop being defensive and complaining that the media coverage is a “pretext for attacking the Church.” You created this problem by not responding to disclosures of abuse and by trying to hide them instead of dealing with them.
  4. Stop empathizing with Bishops who hid the abuse of children because they wanted to protect the church’s reputation. They sacrificed thousands of children and set in motion an institutional failure that now threatens the future of the church.
  5. Come clean and own up to the system’s failures and tell us what you are doing to fix it. Remember: repentance, according to Ezekiel, means to “get a new mind and a new heart.”
  6. Don’t ever use the Gospel passage about the woman caught in adultery when Jesus said that anyone without sin should cast the first stone to discuss any of this. Instead check out Luke 17:1-2: “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come. It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown in the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Jesus was serious about accountability; you should be too.
  7. If you are serious, establish a commission to really investigate and recommend structural changes because this is a structural problem. Be sure to include non-bishops and non-Catholics who actually have expertise.
  8. Stop pretending to “protect” the institutional church by hiding from victims and survivors. Your first job is pastoral and they are your flock. All they are seeking is justice and healing, and they have a right to expect both from their church. In fact, your defensive, lawyer-driven responses have placed the institutional church in great jeopardy. You have compromised the integrity of the church and caused many to question their faith.
  9. Remember: they don’t expect us to be perfect, just to be faithful.
  10. “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your free, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12)
So Pope Benedict, call me. Let’s chat.

US Bishops Ignored Early Warning, 25 years ago.

A quarter of a century ago, three priests, experts in law, in canon law, and in psychiatry, worked together to provide the US bishops with a manual which contained guidelines on how to avoid future problems with sexual abuse.  Tragically, the advice was ignored.

In 1984, Fr Ray Mouton was asked to defend an accused priest in a civil trial. During the trial, he learned that church authorities had known of the offender's crimes since seminary, but had protected him for years. After  the trial was over, he joined forces with canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle and psychiatrist Fr Michael Peterson, in an effort to "help the church get out of the mess."

Who knew what, and when? Cardinal William Levada, who says he doesn’t recall seeing The Manual, receives the cardinalitial ring from Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images
This is extracted from the Guardian:

The three hatched a plan to pool their knowledge in the form of a "manual", which would warn the church about the danger to children – and to the institution itself – posed by sexual abusers, and offer advice about what should be done.
Mouton says the report's authors believed they had the support of senior US Roman Catholic figures. "My understanding is that both Doyle and Peterson were having ongoing discussions with men in prominent positions, including Cardinal Law, who verbally supported us drafting this document. The bishop charged with monitoring the crisis and reporting to the pope's personal representative in the US, Bishop A James Quinn, was also supportive.
"The document was to be presented to an upcoming conference of all bishops in the US with the hope that they would adopt its provisions."
The result of their labour was a 92-page document. They explained that priests were being accused of abuse on a wide scale and that many were probably guilty. They examined definitions of paedophilia and how it related to the priesthood. The issues were complex, they said, and needed addressing urgently. And while the church's position was in danger, they urged the hierarchy to do its utmost to protect the vulnerable victims of the clerics' abuse.
A secret meeting was called at a Chicago hotel in May 1985 to discuss what was now known as The Manual. A low-level auxiliary bishop from Los Angeles attended, called William Levada. Mouton recalls: "The meeting seemingly went well. Bishop Levada vetted every word of the document and seemed to be in full support of [it] being presented to the full conference of bishops. Shortly thereafter, Bishop Levada telephoned Doyle and advised him basically to 'kill' our document because the conference had a plan of their own and would form a committee to deal with the issue. "After the conference concluded, it was announced to the media that a committee had been formed to deal with clergy abuse. This turned out to be just another lie, for no committee was formed in the conference until the 90s."

According to a New York Times report on 20 June 1985 – some weeks after The Manual was privately copied and distributed to scores of bishops by the two priests and Mouton – the Rev Kenneth Doyle, a spokesman for the US Catholic conference in Washington, stated: "We don't want to give the impression that it's [sexual abuse cases by priests like Gauthe] a rampant problem for the church, because it is not."
Statements made by Levada in a legal deposition during an abuse case in California in 2004 record him saying that Mouton's report didn't stick in his memory despite its explosive contents: "It's a long time, and it would be difficult for me to say that I recall having seen it before … I maybe have seen it before, but I don't recall it now." He also said he was at the meeting as a "listener" with a brief to report back to Law. He said he didn't recall whether he told Mouton, Doyle and Peterson if their report and its distribution was "a good idea or not".

(Read the full report).  

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Church's Shattered Reputation.

It will not surprise anybody that the reputation of the Catholic Church.  However, it is worth taking note of this report by the professionals, which tells us what we all know, but quantifies the damage, and analyses it in formal terms:

From PR Week:

Reputation Survey: The Catholic Church - Pope's Apology Falls Flat

Allegations of child abuse have damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church in the eyes of 82 per cent of the public, PRWeek/OnePoll's research finds.
The survey of 3,000 respondents - 16 per cent of whom were Catholics - found that a total of 72 per cent felt the Pope's recent apology to victims of paedophile priests did not go far enough.
Interestingly, 48 per cent of Catholic respondents felt the Pope's apology was sufficient, but only 24 per cent of non-Catholics felt the same.
The latest batch of stories surrounding allegations of child abuse within the Church has clearly caused reputational damage. Nearly 35 per cent of Catholics questioned said the stories would prevent them from going into a Catholic church.
And 44 per cent of Catholic respondents said the stories would make a difference when it came to allowing their children to attend a Catholic church. For non-Catholics, the figure was 61 per cent.
The news that the Vatican is to set up an investigation team has not made a great deal of difference to the public's perception of the Church. Only 23 per cent of Catholics said the investigation team had made their opinion of the Church more positive. For non-Catholics this figure was 13 per cent. Overall, 51 per cent of Catholics and 72 per cent of non-Catholics said this made no difference.

(Full Report:) 

Abuse: State Inquiries For Northern Ireland, Switzerland.

The really important feature of the story of church abuse in Ireland, was that the Murphy report, which resulted in special attention by Pope Benedict XVI and paved the way for an opening of the floodgates of disclosure across Europe, was that it was an investigation by a national government, not into the abuse itself, but into the cover-ups: in effect, this was an investigation into the affairs and modus operandi of Catholic Church itself. IT may be this example that has prompted the German government to plan a similar investigation of their own, although the Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it will cover more than just the Catholic Church.

The Murphy report, though did not cover all of Ireland, just the diocese of Dublin. With the peculiar political structure of a divided Ireland, it was perhaps inevitable that the government of Northern Ireland should want an enquiry of their own, and now it seems they are going to get one. (Technically, this is part of a separate country, the UK, but falls under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Brady, who is primate not just of the Irish Republic, but is "Primate of all Ireland".) Like Germany, this will investigate abuse across a wide range of institutions, not just the Catholic Church.

Together with the German investigation, this will surely encourage still more governments to conduct inquiries of their own.

Austrian Cardinal's "Truth & Reconciliation" Move

Around the world, leading bishops are having to face difficult decisions on how best to respond to the gathering storm of anger over church abuse, globally and in their own countries. On the one hand, many bishops are participating in a clearly orchestrated response to the global crisis by defending the record of Benedict XVI, often by attacking the motives of the critics. On the other, some braver and more perceptive clerics are simultaneously warning of the urgency required for a more thoroughgoing reform and cleansing of the church itself, in its institutions and practices.
Whatever their stance on the global problem, all have to deal also with the local issues, which vary dramatically from country to country, from Ireland, where the head of the church remains under intense pressure to resign, to the UK and Canada, where claims have been made that reforms introduced years ago have effectively eliminated the problem. The response that I like best, however, was that of the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who has applied an approach which reminds me of the principle behind the South African experience of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and which I recommended many months ago as an appropriate response from the Church - he has held a service in the Viennese cathedral, in which people were invited to speak of their experiences, and to share their hurt and anger. (Earlier, Cardinal Schoenborn was one of the first to state publicly that the crisis required the Church to start to ask some hard questions about its rules and procedures)

Austrian cardinal acknowledges church guilt in abuse scandal, thanks victims for coming forward

VIENNA (AP) - In a surprisingly strong attempt to make amends, a prominent Austrian cardinal has acknowledged church guilt in a sex abuse scandal involving Catholic clergy.During a somber service Wednesday in Vienna's famous St. Stephen's Cathedral, Christoph Schoenborn, a close confidante of Pope Benedict XVI, also thanked victims for breaking their silence.

Schoenborn said some in the church took advantage and destroyed the trust of children, were sexually violent and considered the image of the church most important.

The strong language was contained in a confession he read together with Veronika Prueller-Jagenteufel, a theologian.

Schoenborn, who serves as archbishop of Vienna, also openly addressed attempts to cover up abuse, saying silence "occurred far too often" in the past.