Monthly Archives: February 2013
NSS draws international attention to UN report that berates USA on its lax approach to clerical child abuse
NSS draws international attention to UN report that berates USA on its lax approach to clerical child abuse
Posted: Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:26
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has expressed deep concern to the US Government about its failure to properly deal with “sexual abuse committed by clerics and leading members of certain faith-based organizations and religious institutions on a massive and long-term scale amounting to sexual slavery or servitude of children”.
Concerned that the failure of the US authorities to prosecute the sexual abuse, the UNCRC has urged them to investigate all cases of “sexual abuse of children whether single or on a massive and long-term scale, committed by clerics”.
The condemnation (shown in full below) was made as part of a cyclical five yearly review of states by the committee, and followed evidence given by the National Secular Society focussing on the Catholic Church.
NSS executive director, Keith Porteous Wood, commented: “$2 billion has been paid out to abuse victims in compensation by the Catholic Church in the US indicating a massive scale of abuse. Yet very few clerical perpetrators have been convicted and only one official has been convicted for facilitating the abuse. Hundreds, if not thousands, of clerics have wrongly escaped justice due to the continuing secrecy of the Church and the issue being almost ignored by law enforcers.
“That so many perpetrators have escaped scot-free is yet a further abuse of the victims whose whole lives have often been ruined as a result.
“Pope Benedict has been responsible since 1981 for the policing of the Church, and with it, child abuse, and many think, as I do, that no one is more culpable than he is. He has hushed up abuse accusations to protect clerics, the Church’s reputation and funds. He has obstructed secular justice rather than encouraged it. We can only hope that his successor opens the secret files and treats victims with the respect they deserve.
“Prosecuting authorities have some very awkward questions to answer, and not just in the USA, and I hope they too take to heart the UN’s stinging criticism, where they mention “inaction and/or corruption”.
“I acknowledge that child abuse in religious institutions is not confined to the RC Church, but there is no doubt that it occurred within the RC church at a much greater level than any other religious institution.”
What the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded (Word doc):
35. The Committee is deeply concerned at information of sexual abuse committed by clerics and leading members of certain faith-based organizations and religious institutions on a massive and long-term scale amounting to sexual slavery or servitude of children and about the lack of measures taken by the State party to properly investigate cases and prosecute those accused who are members of those organizations and institutions.
36. The Committee urges the State party to take all the necessary measures to investigate all cases of sexual abuse of children whether single or on a massive and long-term scale, committed by clerics, to issue clear instructions to all relevant authorities to actively prosecute those cases and to engage in a dialogue with faith-based organizations religious institutions and their leaders, in order to enlist their active and open collaboration to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases. The State party should also draw the attention of law enforcement authorities to the sanctions that may be imposed on them in case of inaction and/or corruption.
The NSS’s involvement in this was reported around the world after the story was taken up by Reuters.
Attorney: Dozens more in Pa., Ohio claim abuse by friar
By John Seewer
Brother Stephen Baker died last month shortly after it was revealed he had paid financial settlements to 11 men who claimed he had abused them when they were schoolboys.
TOLEDO, Ohio — About 50 more people have come forward to say they were sexually abused at Catholic schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio by a Franciscan brother who killed himself in January, said an attorney who settled 11 alleged abuse cases against the friar.
Brother Stephen Baker, 62, stabbed himself in the heart at a western Pennsylvania monastery on Jan. 26, a little over a week after the disclosure of financial settlements in alleged abuse cases in Warren, Ohio. A coroner told the Altoona Mirror newspaper that Baker left a short note apologizing for his actions.
The new accusers have alleged in recent weeks that they were abused between 1982 and 2007, attorney Mitchell Garabedian said Sunday. Some said Baker abused them even after he left teaching in 2000 when he would attend school events in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Garabedian said.
The latest allegations come from people in 12 states who went to school in Warren or were either middle school or high school students in Johnstown, where Baker taught and coached, Garabedian said.
The Boston attorney said he’s also heard from four people who say they were abused while Baker was at a high school in Orchard Lake, Michigan.
Baker was named in legal settlements in January involving 11 men who alleged he had sexually abused them at a Catholic high school in northeast Ohio three decades ago. The undisclosed financial settlements involved his contact with students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren from 1986 to 1990.
Baker taught and coached at John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was at Bishop McCort in Johnstown from 1992 to 2000. He taught in Michigan in the mid-1980s.
Roman Catholic Bishop George Murry of Youngstown said this month that he sent letters asking for information from about 1,200 adults who attended Kennedy High School while Baker taught and coached there.
The Youngstown diocese has said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse.
Messages seeking comment were left with the Youngstown diocese and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese on Sunday.
Cardinal Roger Mahony: I Forgive Those Who Are Angry at Me for Covering Up Child Rape
February 17, 2013 By Hemant Mehta
Cardinal Roger Mahony, the man who appears to have shielded child-molesting priests for the sake of Catholicism, wrote about humiliation on his personal website.
But instead of talking about the things he’s done wrong, he flipped it around and threw it back on the victims of his purported crimes and those who rally behind them:
In the past several days, I have experienced many examples of being humiliated. In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people. I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage — at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us.
Thanks to God’s special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them.
As if they’re the ones who need to be forgiven.
As if he’s the good guy for being so humble as to think of them.
As if he’s the one humiliated but not the victims of the scandal he helped cover up.
As if he had nothing to do with their frustrations and rage against the Catholic Church.
There’s a lot of talk lately about how out of touch the Catholic Church and its leaders are… but rarely are the examples so clear-cut.
Cardinal Mahony ‘unflappable’ in deposition on priest abuse cases
February 23, 2013 | 3:08 pm
A “relatively unflappable” Cardinal Roger Mahony answered questions under oath for more than 3 1/2 hours Saturday about his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, according to the lawyer who questioned the former archbishop.
“He remained calm and seemingly collected at all times,” said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents a man suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese over abuse he claims he suffered at the hands of a priest who visited his parish in 1987.
Mahony has been deposed many times in the past, but Saturday’s session was the first time he had been asked about recently released internal church records that show he shielded abusers from law enforcement.
De Marco declined to detail the questions he asked or the answers the cardinal provided, citing a judge’s protective order.
The deposition occurred just before Mahony was to board a plane for Italy to vote in the conclave that will elect the next pope. In a Twitter post Friday, Mahony wrote that it was “just a few short hours before my departure for Rome.”
Church officials did not return requests for comment.
The case, set for trial in April, concerns a Mexican priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera. Authorities believe he molested at least 26 children during a nine-month stay in Los Angeles.
Recently released church files show Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico after a top Mahony aide, Thomas Curry, warned him that parents were likely to go the police and that he was in “a good deal of danger.” Aguilar Rivera remains a fugitive in Mexico.
The archdiocese had agreed Mahony could be questioned for four hours about the Aguilar Rivera case and 25 other priests accused in the same period. De Marco said he did not get to ask everything he wanted and would seek additional time after the cardinal returned from the Vatican.
Past depositions of Mahony have eventually become public, and De Marco said he would follow court procedures to seek the release of a transcript of Saturday’s deposition.
The Dark Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI
By Matthew Fox Posted: 02/20/2013 12:32 pm
The pope has chosen to step down, the first pope in seven centuries to do so. As a Christian, I witness his legacy, and that of his predecessor, with profoundly mixed feelings: outrage over the crimes committed against the people of God, and relief that the masks covering the corruption of the papacy have at last been removed.
I see that the 42-year reign of the past two popes has so destroyed the church we once knew that now the Holy Spirit can give birth to a community far more attuned to the revolutionary Gospel of Jesus than the current and dying structures ever could be. More than ever, we recognize the warning of historian Lord Acton after Vatican Council I defined papal infallibility: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We have witnessed how Cardinal Martini on his deathbed, issued a damning call to action to a church “200 years behind the times.” We have witnessed the retaliation of the past two popes against theologians and pastoral ministers who have dared to dissent for the sake of social justice, eco-justice, gender and gender preference justice: 105 and more have been and continue to be hounded, silenced and expelled.
So as one of these dissidents, speaking now from outside the Vatican’s punitive reach, I offer a short list of some of the issues for which history will hold Ratzinger accountable, both as cardinal and as pope (I offer page numbers of my study on his life and papacy in my book, “The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved,” to see the backup evidence).
- His silence for years about the notorious pedophile priest Father Maciel, who was so close to Pope John Paul II that he was often invited on the papal plane — and who sexually abused dozens of his seminarians, had two wives on the side and sexually abused his own children. Fr. Maciel was not fully investigated until 2005 even though a New York bishop reported his actions to Ratzinger’s office in 1995 (125-130).
- His attacks while head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly “Office of the Holy Inquisition”) on theologians and pastoral leaders the world over who dared to do their job which is to think (they are listed on page 238-241 but the list keeps growing).
- His (and his predecessor’s) bringing back the Inquisition and dumbing-down the church, educing theology to 1) a catechism and 2) agreement with the dictates of the pope and his curia. History does not remember Torquemada as a theologian; neither will they remember Ratzinger as one.
- His unrelenting attacks on base communities and Liberation Theology even though this movement, like the civil rights movement of the U.S., was the most Christ-like movement for democracy and justice and freedom in centuries (41-62).
- His (and the previous pope’s) promotion of neo-fascist sects as the new “religious orders,” including Opus Dei, which is now embedded in places of great power including the financial headquarters of E.U., the U.S. Supreme Court, the CIA (especially under George Bush the first), FBI and the U.S. mainstream media (106-124).
- His and the previous pope’s support for extreme right wing groups from Maciel’s Legion of Christ to Communion and Liberation to Opus Dei (130-144). Opus Dei members are being placed as bishops and cardinals in Latin America and now in North America: Los Angeles, the biggest North American diocese, is run by an Opus Dei bishop. Likewise the diocese of Kansas City, whose bishop is convicted of covering up for a predatory priest but refuses to step down.
- His destroying the integrity of the canonization process by eliminating the role of “devil’s advocate” in pointing out the shadow side of the candidate. With this obstacle out of the way, Ratzinger pushed through the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei, Fr. Escriva — a recognized fascist who praised Hitler — faster than any saint in history (106-125).
- His covering up the scandal of pedophile clergy and putting the image of the Catholic church ahead of the rights of young children in the U.S., in Ireland and elsewhere. The recent HBO film “Mea Maxima Culpa” tells the facts about some of these horrors and how the buck stopped with Ratzinger (134-174).
- His public disrespect for other faiths and disavowal of religious ecumenism. Ratzinger as pope managed to insult Islam, Judaism, all Protestant churches (saying they are not churches) and the mind-body-spirit practice of yoga. As cardinal he presaged this anti-ecumenical attitude, unbelievably calling the globally revered Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, “the anti-Christ” (260).
- His absolute reaffirmation of a “morality” of sexism (no women priests ever; Catholic sisters in America are now being subjected to inquisitions as theologians have been; priests who support women are dismissed — but pedophile priests are not!).
- His un-Christlike diatribes against gay persons, borne out in not one but two documents: his ignoring scientific research on homosexuality has created another Galileo moment in church history.
- His irresponsible positions against condoms even in an age of AIDS and against birth control in a time of excessive human population on a crowded planet. His positions on sexuality are all about St. Augustine’s antiquated ethics and not anything Jesus ever taught.
- His interference in the presidential election of 2004, wherein Ratzinger instructed American bishops that any “Catholic politician” (i.e. Kerry) who did not denounce gays and abortion could not receive communion. This resulted in three states having very unusual Republican votes from Catholics — if just one of them had had a more normal Catholic vote, Kerry, not Bush, would have been president.
With such a track record as this, Father Ratzinger is right to retire. Unfortunately, because he and his predecessor appointed only yes men as cardinals, one should not expect any improvement in the next pope.
Instead, we should recognize that history has passed the papacy by. Now is the time for the Holy Spirit to push the restart button on Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant versions — so as to strip down to the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the Cosmic Christ tradition.
Christianity can be rebuilt without basilicas on our backs but mere backpacks. Travel lightly. Walk humbly. Do justice. And peace will follow.
UK’s top cardinal accused of ‘inappropriate acts’ by priests
- The Observer, Saturday 23 February 2013 16.31 EST
Three priests and former priest report Cardinal Keith O’Brien to Vatican over claims stretching back 33 years
Three priests and a former priest in Scotland have reported the most senior Catholic clergyman in Britain, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years.
The four, from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, have complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain, and demanded O’Brien’s immediate resignation. A spokesman for the cardinal said that the claims were contested.
O’Brien, who is due to retire next month, has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex marriages would be “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved”. Last year he was named “bigot of the year” by the gay rights charity Stonewall.
One of the complainants, it is understood, alleges that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counselling.
The four submitted statements containing their claims to the nuncio’s office the week before Pope Benedict’s resignation on 11 February. They fear that, if O’Brien travels to the forthcoming papal conclave to elect a new pope, the church will not fully address their complaints.
“It tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs,” said one of the complainants. “The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit.”
The revelation of the priests’ complaints will be met with consternation in the Vatican. Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the church have dogged the papacy of Benedict XVI, who is to step down as pope at the end of this month. Following the announcement, rumours have swirled in Rome that Benedict’s shock move may be connected to further scandals to come.
The four priests asked a senior figure in the diocese to act as their representative to the nuncio’s office. Through this representative, the nuncio replied, in emails seen by the Observer, that he appreciated their courage.
It is understood that the first allegation against the cardinal dates back to 1980. The complainant, who is now married, was then a 20-year-old seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, where O’Brien was his “spiritual director”. The Observer understands that the statement claims O’Brien made an inappropriate approach after night prayers.
The seminarian says he was too frightened to report the incident, but says his personality changed afterwards, and his teachers regularly noted that he seemed depressed. He was ordained, but he told the nuncio in his statement that he resigned when O’Brien was promoted to bishop. “I knew then he would always have power over me. It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity.”
In a second statement, “Priest A” describes being happily settled in a parish when he claims he was visited by O’Brien and inappropriate contact between the two took place.
In a third statement, “Priest B” claims that he was starting his ministry in the 1980s when he was invited to spend a week “getting to know” O’Brien at the archbishop’s residence. His statement alleges that he found himself dealing with what he describes as unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.
“Priest C” was a young priest the cardinal was counselling over personal problems. Priest C’s statement claims that O’Brien used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.
The cardinal maintained contact with Priest C over a period of time, and the statement to the nuncio’s office alleges that he engineered at least one other intimate situation. O’Brien is, says Priest C, very charismatic, and being sought out by the superior who was supposed to be guiding him was both troubling and flattering.
Those involved believe the cardinal abused his position. “You have to understand,” explains the ex-priest, “the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him.
“He’s more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life. You can’t just kick him in the balls.”
All four have been reluctant to raise their concerns. They are, though, concerned that the church will ignore their complaints, and want the conclave electing the new pope to be “clean”. According to canon law, no cardinal who is eligible to vote can be prevented from doing so.
Lawyers Question New York Cardinal in Milwaukee Suits
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN Published: February 20, 2013
A week before Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan is set to leave New York for Rome, where his name is being floated as a candidate for pope, he was questioned in Manhattan for three hours on Wednesday behind closed doors in a legal deposition concerning the sexual abuse of children by priests.
The lawyers deposing Cardinal Dolan represent hundreds of people who say they were sexually molested by priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which he led for seven years before his appointment as archbishop of New York in 2009. The lawyers want to know when Cardinal Dolan, as archbishop of Milwaukee, learned of allegations against certain priests, and how quickly he made those allegations public.
Cardinal Dolan is one of two American cardinals who are being deposed in sexual abuse lawsuits this week, and who plan to travel to Rome next week in advance of the proceedings to elect the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who announced last week that he was resigning Feb. 28.
The other American is Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles. He is expected to be deposed on Saturday in Los Angeles, and he has been under fire since the court-ordered release last month of 12,000 pages of internal church files revealing his role in shielding accused priests from the law.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, said that Cardinal Dolan had cooperated fully with the deposition.
“Today Cardinal Dolan had the long-awaited opportunity to talk about his decision nine years ago in Milwaukee to publicize the names of priests who had abused children and how he responded to the tragedy of past clergy sexual abuse of minors, during the time he was privileged to serve as Archbishop of Milwaukee,” Mr. Zwilling said in a statement. “He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could, and he was looking forward to talking about the good work and progress that took place to ensure the protection of children and pastoral outreach to victims.”
Cardinal Dolan has been much discussed as a possible candidate for pope. The cardinal, who is the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a charismatic figure at ease in parishes as well as in morning talk show studios, and he left a strong impression in the Vatican last year with speeches promoting what the church calls the “new evangelization.”
But in New York, he has been dogged by the legal cases in Milwaukee. His successor, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, had the archdiocese declare bankruptcy in 2011, saying that it would be the best way to compensate all the victims and for the church to move forward. Milwaukee was the eighth Catholic diocese in the United States to seek bankruptcy protection because of abuse lawsuits.
In the Milwaukee Archdiocese, 575 people have filed claims saying that they were abused, over many decades, by Catholic clergymen. About 70 said they were victims of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who, church records show, admitted having molested deaf students at a boarding school outside Milwaukee, said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer in St. Paul who represents 350 of the 575 plaintiffs.
Bankruptcy negotiations fell apart last year when the archdiocese argued that many of the 575 cases were invalid. Frank LoCocco, the lawyer for the Milwaukee Archdiocese and Cardinal Dolan, said the cases were beyond Wisconsin’s statute of limitations, or the plaintiffs had already received settlements, or the accused were not employed by the archdiocese.
Lawyers for the victims argue that previous archbishops, including Cardinal Dolan, intentionally stalled and kept allegations quiet so that the cases would fall beyond the statute.
Mr. Anderson, who questioned Cardinal Dolan on Wednesday, said he had already deposed a former Milwaukee archbishop, Rembert G. Weakland, and Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba.
“The deposition of Cardinal Dolan is necessary to show that there’s been a longstanding pattern and practice to keep secrets and keep the survivors from knowing that there had been a fraud committed,” Mr. Anderson said.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese said recently that it had spent $9 million in legal fees. Creditors accuse the archdiocese, under Archbishop Dolan, of shielding $55 million in a cemetery trust. The archdiocese argued that those assets had been set aside for Catholic burials by Archbishop Dolan’s predecessors.
Cardinals Dolan and Mahony quizzed on child abuse
21 February 2013 Last updated at 14:38 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21539070
Two US cardinals due to go to Rome to help elect a new pope are being questioned about cases of child abuse by priests under their supervision.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan testified about his release of names of accused clergy members in his former archdiocese.
Cardinal Roger Mahony will be questioned on Saturday about a Mexican priest accused of abusing 26 children.
Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly said last week he would retire, becoming the first pontiff to do so since 1415.
Cardinal Dolan, 62, also the Archbishop of New York and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been seen as a long-shot candidate for the papacy.
His deposition came during a bankruptcy trial filed in 2011 by Cardinal Dolan’s successor to the archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over abuse claims from nearly 500 people.
The scandal has seen the removal of several church officials, including another former archbishop.
A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said he was eager to co-operate with lawyers on the trial.
“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to co-operate in whatever way he could,” said spokesman Joseph Zwilling.
The plaintiffs have said the evidence given by Cardinal Dolan would help them to establish when church officials first became aware of the abuse allegations and victims.
Current Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki has said the church is seeking bankruptcy protection so it can continue to operate, while still compensating victims.
It is the eighth US diocese to take such action.
A spokesman said Cardinal Dolan’s decision to make public the names of suspected abusers was part of a wider effort to begin the healing process.
But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is asking for the cardinal’s testimony to be made public.
Cardinal Dolan “did a lot of creative maneuvering of priest sex offenders and creative accounting of church money,” said Peter Isley, a director of the group.
Calls to withdraw
Meanwhile, Cardinal Mahony is due to provide evidence in a separate case over visiting Mexican priest Reverend Nicolas Aguilar Rivera.
Police believe he abused 26 children in 1987 and fled to Mexico a year later when parents complained.
He has been removed from the priesthood and is still a fugitive.
In recent weeks, the archdiocese of Los Angeles has released thousands of documents concerning over 120 accused clergy members.
The papers showed Cardinal Mahony and other church officials protected some of those accused and made no effort to warn churchgoers about the risk to their children.
There are mounting calls for Cardinal Mahony to withdraw from the conclave. But in blog and Twitter posts the cardinal has indicated he intends to go to Rome.
Should Sex-Abuse-Scandal Cardinals Be Allowed to Vote for New Pope?
by Barbie Latza Nadeau Feb 21, 2013 1:25 PM EST
As the conclave for new pope nears, Catholics are calling for cardinals embroiled in sex-abuse scandals to abstain from voting.
Can he who has sinned cast a vote for the next pope? Apparently so. But a growing number of the Vatican’s cardinal electors are being questioned over their knowledge of past sex-abuse scandals, calling into question their ethical right to vote in the next conclave.
In less than a week, the majority of the 117-strong College of Cardinals is expected to descend upon Rome to prepare for the conclave in which they will elect a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned February 11. But as the Vatican prepares for the pageantry of the occasion, survivors of the church’s sex scandals and everyday Catholics are raising concerns about whether it is appropriate for certain cardinals to be allowed to dictate the church’s future. “In our view, it’s very safe to assume that almost every one of the prelates who’ll pick the pope … have ignored, concealed, or enabled child sex crimes,” Zach Hiner, a spokesman for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), tells The Daily Beast.
While many cardinals have been stained by the extensive clergy sex scandals, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles Roger M. Mahony has become a poster priest for the corrupt cardinals of this conclave. Mahony was effectively let go as head of America’s largest diocese in January by his Vatican-endorsed replacement, Archbishop José Gomez, when a California court released 120,000 pages of internal church documents sequestered during investigations of 120 predatory priests in the Los Angeles diocese. The documents show that Mahony was directly involved in moving known pedophiles between parishes in an attempt to conceal their crimes. “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” said Gomez in a statement when he fired his predecessor. More than $600,000 has been paid in lawsuits to victims in the Los Angeles diocese.
This Saturday Mahony will appear in a Los Angeles court to give a deposition in a criminal case involving a Mexican priest who is accused of raping 29 children over just nine months in 1987. The priest is on the lam in Mexico with multiple arrest warrants for child abuse against him, and he has been defrocked in absentia. But Mahony allegedly covered for the priest and obstructed justice when parents of the reported victims complained to the police. He is currently not facing charges, but he will be questioned under oath. Then, according to his Twitter feed, he plans to head to Rome—unless someone stops him. “Countdown to the papal conclave has begun,” he tweeted. “Your prayers needed that we elect the best Pope for today and tomorrow’s church.”
Since Benedict’s resignation, a not-so-subtle storm has been brewing outside Vatican City calling for Mahony to stay in California. Signs have been posted (and quickly removed) along the perimeter walls of Saint Peter’s Square warning that cardinals, like Mahony, who have been embroiled in the sex-abuse scandals are coming to town. Even the ultraconservative Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, which is distributed for free in many Catholic churches each Sunday, has been weighing in on the topic. The influential magazine conducted an online survey among its faithful readers about whether Mahony should be allowed to participate in the election of the next pope (the overwhelming response was no). They then ran a damning op-ed piece called “Cardinal in Court” in which they called on Catholics to voice their opinions about the case. The American-based group Catholics United has also launched an online petition to urge Mahony to stay home. Italian Cardinal Velasio De Paolis suggested in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica that perhaps the right approach was if Mahony “could be advised not to take part only through a private intervention by someone with great authority”—which could mean the pope himself. Barbara Blaine of SNAP echoed that sentiment in a statement this week: “We hope that high ranking Vatican officials will instead preclude Mahony from attending the conclave and voting for the new Pope. His sordid record covering up child sex crimes should be considered a stain on the church and unworthy of a papal elector.”
Mahony’s may be the worst case, but he is certainly not the only cardinal elector stained by the church’s American sex-abuse scandals. On Wednesday the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, spent three hours answering questions under oath about pedophile priests under his clerical management during his time as the head of the Milwaukee diocese in Wisconsin from 2002 to 2009. While there, he allegedly used church money to pay “a handful” of predatory priests more than $20,000 to leave the priesthood quietly, a claim he originally denied until bankruptcy documents seemed to indicate that the payments were made.
Dolan, who has not been charged with any crime, will also head to Rome next week to prepare for the conclave. His name has been circulated as a potential pope, though that was before his deposition was made public this week. He is certainly not a favorite among the church abuse victims’ groups. “Dolan has been particularly adept at evading responsibility for his wrongdoing in clergy sex cases, having moved twice since the scandal started gaining international attention more than a decade ago, and having worked, three times, in states with especially archaic child-abuse laws that favor defendants,” says David Clohessy, head of SNAP. “Civil justice can expose predators and their enablers, but only criminal justice can imprison and deter them. So while these depositions represent progress, it’s crucial to remember that the best way to prevent and discourage future crimes and cover-ups is for secular authorities to investigate, charge, and convict Catholic officials who hide and enable heinous crimes against kids.”
The question of just who will vote in the conclave could prove pivotal in whether the church will be seen as addressing its dark history of well-documented abuse. If Mahony is somehow dissuaded from attending, many believe that it would send a message that the church is taking a different stance on abuse going forward and that this College of Cardinals will elect a pope who has as clean a record on the issue as possible.