Monthly Archives: April 2013

Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases

Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases

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From the link:

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles, a joint reporting project by NCR and, examining the background and the principle players in the Vatican’s investigations of U.S. women religious.

From its palace in Vatican City, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith monitors compliance with Roman Catholic moral teaching and matters of dogma for the oldest church in Christendom.

These issues have little bearing on most of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Faith, for them, rests in parish life and the quality of their pastors. In the 1980s, for example, when the congregation punished theologians who dissented from the papal ban on artificial birth control, the majority of Catholics who believe contraception is morally acceptable did not change their opinion.

But as the congregation accelerates a disciplinary action against the main leadership group of American nuns, many sisters and priests are reacting to a climate of fear fostered by bishops and cardinals who have never been investigated for their role in the greatest moral crisis of modern Catholicism: the clergy sex abuse crisis.

A small but resonant chorus of critics is raising an issue of a hypocrisy that has grown too blatant to ignore. The same hierarchy that brought shame upon the Vatican for recycling clergy child molesters, a scandal that rocked the church in many countries, has assumed a moral high ground in punishing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group whose members have put their lives on the line in taking the social justice agenda of the Second Vatican Council to some of the poorest areas in the world.

Many nuns from foreign countries wonder if the investigation is an exercise “in displaced anger,” as one sister puts it, over the hierarchy’s failure in child abuse scandals across the map of the global church.

Cardinals and bishops involved in the LCWR investigation have suffered no discipline for their blunders in handling clergy pedophiles, according to news reports and legal documents.

Cardinal Bernard Law was the prime mover behind the “apostolic visitation” of all American nun communities, other than monastic ones, and the subsequent doctrinal investigation of LCWR, according to sources in Rome, including Cardinal Franc Rodé, retired prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Law, who refused to comment for this article, has not spoken to the press in 10 years. He resigned as Boston archbishop in December 2002 and spent 18 months living at a convent of nuns in Maryland, with periodic trips to Rome. In 2004, the Vatican rewarded him with a position as prefect of Santa Maria Maggiore, a historic basilica; he took an active role in several Roman Curia boards, and became a fixture on the social circuit of embassies in Rome.

Boston was a staggering mess. Settlements and other expenditures related to abuse cases there have cost about $170 million. Mass attendance since 2002 has dropped to 16 percent. Declining financial support has caused a storm of church closings, from nearly 400 parishes in 2002 to 288 today (soon to be organized into 135 “parish collaboratives”).

Six years after Law found redemption in Rome, clergy abuse cases exploded in Europe.

“You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Catholics of Ireland in a letter on March 19, 2010, as the Irish reeled from a government report on a history of bishops concealing clergy predators. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” the pope continued.

“You find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope.”

Despite the uncommon tone of contrition, the pope’s letter offered no procedures to remove complicit bishops or genuine institutional reform.

On April 6, 2010, as cases of clergy abuse in other countries shook the European heartland, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel criticized Benedict for “reluctance to take a firm stance” on the abuse a crisis, which “is now descending upon the Vatican with a vengeance and hitting its spiritual leader hard.”

Almost three years later, the drumbeat of criticism has subsided, but the core problem is unchanged. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., remains in his office despite his conviction in criminal court, where he drew a suspended sentence for failure to report suspected sexual abuse of children. Benedict has not punished any of the hierarchs who recycled so many sex offenders by sending them to other parishes.

Under the logic of apostolic succession, which sees each bishop as a descendant of Jesus’ apostles, the power structure gives de facto immunity to cardinals and bishops for just about any wrongdoing that doesn’t bring a prison sentence. The double standard in church governance — with the men of the hierarchy immune from church justice — has become a glaring issue to leaders of missionary orders in Rome as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith probes the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In 2005, shortly after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emerged from the conclave as Pope Benedict XVI, he appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to succeed him as prefect of the doctrinal congregation. Levada became a cardinal soon after.

Levada was caught in a swamp in 2002 amid news reports on abuse cases under his watch in San Francisco. He formed an Independent Review Board of primarily laypeople to advise him and review personnel files on questionable priests. Psychologist James Jenkins chaired the board. Fr. Greg Ingels, a canon lawyer, helped set it up. Jenkins grew suspicious when Levada would not release the names of priests under scrutiny.

In May 2003, board members were stunned to read news reports that Ingels had been indicted for allegedly having oral sex with a 15-year-old boy at a local high school in the 1970s. Levada, the board learned, had known about the allegations since 1996, yet kept Ingels in ministry and as an adviser. Ingels helped fashion the church’s 2002 zero-tolerance policy and wrote a bishops’ guidebook on how to handle abuse cases. Ingels stepped down.

Jenkins quit his post, denouncing Levada for “an elaborate public relations scheme.”

Levada was sued for defamation by a priest he pulled from a parish for blowing the whistle on another priest. In 1997, Fr. John Conley told police that the pastor with whom he served made advances on a teenage boy. Levada yanked Conley from ministry; Conley, a former assistant U.S. attorney, sued. After the accused priest owned up in a civil case, which paid the victim’s family $750,000, the archdiocese paid Conley in 2002 a six-figure “pre-retirement” settlement before the suit went to trial.

Robert Mickens reported in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly, in May 2012 that Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, a protégé of Law’s, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate LCWR.

Lori established several communities of traditionalist nuns as bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., between 2001 and 2012.

As a canon lawyer, Lori helped write the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It has no oversight over bishops. In 2003, Lori approved a $21 million abuse victims’ settlement involving several priests. The lay group Voice of the Faithful criticized him for allowing an accused monsignor to stay in his parish. In 2011 the priest resigned after a female church worker made sexual harassment allegations.

In a Jan. 12, 2011, Connecticut Post op-ed piece, Voice of the Faithful leader John Marshall Lee cited a priest who had been suspended for sex abuse yet appeared in clerical attire at public gatherings.

“Does this behavior contradict Bishop Lori’s assumed supervisory orders suspending priestly public activities?” Lee asked. “How does a bishop enforce his instructions in this regard? Where does a whistleblower report this behavior, or determine if the priest in question was suspended in the first place?”

Lee cited another cleric who had been removed after “credible allegations of sexual abuse” but with no indication that he was defrocked.

“There is no current address for this man who might have been labeled ‘sex offender’ (had the church acted responsibly when leaders first heard of adult criminal behavior perpetrated on Catholic children) and who may continue to be a potential threat to children,” Lee said. “Is the church saying that such men are no longer a public threat to children?”

Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who wrote the secret report on LCWR for Levada, has said he got most of his information from LCWR literature. Writing in his diocesan paper, Blair made the accurate point that several speakers at LCWR conferences have taken positions, such as ordaining women, that are contrary to church teaching.

Does this mean that the ordination of women is a new form of heresy? If the truth of the church is defined by men who have violated basic moral standards in disregarding the rights of children and their families, how does their behavior meet the sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful, extolled by the Second Vatican Council?

Blair’s own background spotlights a double standard that rewards bishops who scandalize laypeople.

In 2004, the priest who had headed the Toledo diocese’s 2001-2002 $60 million capital campaign was accused by two men of having abused them as boys many years before. Blair kept Fr. Robert Yeager as the diocese’s planned giving consultant, and until Yeager’s retirement in July 2005, the priest continued to solicit donations while an attorney negotiated settlements for the victims. The bishop removed Yeager from ministry in 2006, before the settlements made news.

Blair forcibly retired a veteran pastor who criticized the bishop’s parish closures as “high-handed decisions with almost no collaboration with anyone.” In one parish Blair installed a priest who had had a long relationship with a woman. When the parishioners found out, Blair reassigned the priest. A spokesperson said the bishop had to keep quiet as the priest had told him in confession.

In 2005, parishioners in the farm belt town of Kansas, Ohio, filed a Vatican appeal when Blair closed St. James Parish. It failed. They filed suit to save the parish in county court, arguing that the bishop was only one trustee but parishioners owned the property. The state sided with the bishop. “We spent $100,000 in legal fees,” said parishioner Virginia Hull. “Bishop Blair paid his lawyers with $77,957 from our parish account.” Blair had the church demolished.

Blair, Lori and Levada became bishops with help from Law, whose influence at the Vatican as a member of Congregation for Bishops is pivotal in selecting new American priests for the hierarchy.

Along with Blair, the second member of the three-man committee now supervising LCWR is Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. In a 2007 homily in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Red Mass, an annual liturgy for lawyers and judges, Paprocki, who has degrees in civil and canon law, declared, “The law is being used as an instrument of attack on the church. This was true from the earliest times when the earliest Christians were, in effect, outlaws in the Roman Empire for refusing to worship the official state gods.”

He saw clergy abuse lawsuits were undermining the church’s religious freedom. “This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd,” he insisted.

“The principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil,” he said.

Equating the devil with lawyers seeking financial compensation for victims of child sexual abuse drew heavy criticism.

In a 2010 homily, Paprocki took a rhetorical back step, saying, “Apparently I did not make myself clear that it is the sins of priests and bishops who succumbed to the temptations of the devil that have put their victims and the Catholic community in this horrible situation in the first place.”

In a column for his diocesan newspaper before the November election, Paprocki attacked the Democratic Party platform for its support of legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

Without endorsing Mitt Romney outright, he wrote, “A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your soul in serious jeopardy.”

Did bishops who sent child molesters from parish to parish, on to fresh victims, without warning parishioners, promote “actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil”? Does apostolic succession absolve them of all wrongdoing?

Bishops gain stature in the estimation of cardinals and popes by proving their loyalty. A chief way to do that is by serving as an investigator of priests or nuns who run afoul of the hierarchy as threats to the moral teaching upheld by bishops, regardless of what the bishops have done.

Leading the Vatican’s supervision of LCWR, the doctrinal congregation delegated Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to ensure that the nuns’ leadership group conforms to changes the Vatican wants.

Sartain was previously the bishop of Joliet, Ill., a diocese that was wracked with abuse cover-ups and lawsuits under his predecessor.

In spring of 2009, a Joliet seminarian, Alejandro Flores, was caught with pornographic pictures of youths, some of which appeared to be of underage boys. No criminal charges were filed.

Sartain ordained Flores three months later, in June 2009. Then in January 2010, Flores was arrested for molesting a boy. He pleaded guilty in September 2010, the same month that Benedict promoted Sartain to archbishop of Seattle.

Next: a report on issues of property owned by women religious in which the Vatican investigation has taken interest

[Jason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, writes from New Orleans. Research for this series has been funded by a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.]

State ward regularly beaten by nuns, inquiry told

State ward regularly beaten by nuns, inquiry told

Posted Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:12pm AEDT

From the link:

A former ward of the state say she and other young girls were regularly beaten by nuns at a convent in Ballarat in the 1950s and 60s.

Gabrielle Short told the Victorian child abuse inquiry she thought she was going to die from the abuse at Nazareth House.

She says many girls who spent time there have significant health and psychological issues as a result of their treatment.

“Many times a nun would come out of nowhere and just start belting into us with her stick, across the head and kicking us at the same time,” she said.

“I remember many times being beaten so bad I could not get back up off the floor.

“My head head would be spinning and my legs would feel so weak I felt like I had no blood in my head.”

The inquiry also heard from Gordon Hill, who spent 15 years in the St Joseph’s boys home in Ballarat from the age of two.

He told the inquiry he was also sexually abused and beaten by nuns and priests.

Mr Hill says the abuse started when he was five.

“It went on until I was about 11. Then I went on to the next section and thank god it stopped,” he said.

“But a couple of priests who were there used to love certain kids.”

Irish state held responsible for Magdalene Laundries

Irish state held responsible for Magdalene Laundries

From the link:

(Reuters) – Many of the women and girls subjected to harsh discipline and unpaid work in Ireland’s now-notorious Magdalene Laundries were sent there by the Irish state, an official report said on Tuesday.

The laundries, run by Catholic nuns, have been accused of treating inmates like “slaves” for decades of the 20th century, imposing a regime of fear and prayer on girls sometimes put in their care for simply falling pregnant outside wedlock.

Irish governments had in the past denied blame, emphasising the laundries were private institutions, but the 1,000-page report concludes there was “significant state involvement”, with one in four inmates sent there via various arms of the state.

The laundries, depicted in the award-winning film “The Magdalene Sisters”, put 10,000 women and girls, as young as nine, through an uncompromising regime from the foundation of the Irish state in 1922 until 1996.

The report’s findings follow investigations into clerical sex abuse and state-abetted cover-ups that have shattered the authority of the church in Ireland and rocked the Catholic Church’s reputation worldwide.

“Many of the women who met with the committee experienced the laundries as lonely and frightening places. For too long, they have been and have felt forgotten,” said the report, compiled by an inter-departmental government committee established in 2011.

“None of us can begin to imagine the confusion and fear experienced by these young girls, in many cases little more than children, on entering the laundries – not knowing where they were, feeling abandoned.”

Groups representing survivors of the Magdalene Laundries – named after Mary Magdalene, the “fallen woman” of the gospels – asked Prime Minister Enda Kenny to apologise on behalf of the state and want a compensation scheme to be established.

Kenny stopped short of the full apology demanded, saying the Magdalene Laundries was not a “single issue story”.

“To those residents who went through the Magdalene Laundries in a variety of ways, 26 percent of them from state involvement, I am sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment,” Kenny told parliament.

Justice for Magdalenes, a group comprised of former inmates, family members of those who died and human rights activists, said Kenny’s statement fell far short of a sincere apology and that what could have been a positive day had “been ruined”.


Years of crisis over sexual abuse of children have prompted several Irish bishops to resign. Last month a new head of the Roman Catholic Church was appointed to succeed Cardinal Sean Brady, whose tenure had been plagued by allegations he failed to warn parents their children were being abused.

Unlike other harrowing reports where priests were found to have beaten and raped children in Catholic-run institutions, no allegations of sexual or physical abuse were made against the nuns at the laundries, Tuesday’s report said.

However former inmates, one in 10 of whom died in care, the youngest at 15, described the atmosphere in the laundries as cold, with an uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer enforced by scoldings and humiliations.

Many women still find it difficult to tell their stories, the report said. The committee, chaired by Martin McAleese, husband of former Irish President Mary McAleese, was only able to survey 100 “survivors”.

Some, like Mary Currington, were too embarrassed to talk about their past until recently. Housed in a laundry against her will from 1963 to 1969, she only told her now husband about her experiences after he asked her to marry him.

Currington was sent to the laundries after being brought up in Ireland’s now defunct Catholic-run industrial schools, themselves the subject of a 2009 report that labelled them places of fear, neglect and endemic sexual abuse.

Born to an unmarried mother, she returned to the nuns for help aged 18, only to be sent to a laundry where her name was changed, long hair cut and clothes replaced by rags. Expect for a 30 minute break for exercise, her days were spent behind a sewing machine.

“They locked me up for six whole years in that place. I lost my youth,” the mother-of-two, known to the nuns as Geraldine, told Reuters from her home in England.

“All your life was about prayer, what did it do for us? They enslaved us, most of them were very horrible people. I don’t know how they said they were people of God, they were not people of God… It’s ruined my whole life.”


Paedophiles walk as their victims suffer

Paedophiles walk as their victims suffer

From the link:

ONLY three of the 238 men convicted of having sex with a child under 10 in the past decade have been jailed for what the government has set as a standard minimum term of 15 years.

One man who raped a child was behind bars for as little as nine months.

The shocking truth of such lenient sentences is revealed as The Daily Telegraph launches a campaign to force judges to do what the community expects through setting mandatory minimum terms for all sex crimes against children.

Angry child protection advocates and victims groups say that judges should not be free to ignore the standard non-parole periods set as guidelines for paedophiles and others who possess child pornography.

Even Attorney-General Greg Smith yesterday acknowledged more needed to be done to bring sentences into line with what the public think is appropriate.

Mr Smith said the community considered sexual intercourse with a child under 10 was among the most heinous offences and “wants sentencing to reflect this”.

But the system of standard non-parole periods, introduced in 2003 as “guideposts” aimed at bringing consistency to sentences, is not working, Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said.

“There should be mandatory minimum sentences because we can’t trust the judges,” she said.

Ms Johnston said Bravehearts had long opposed such sentences because it could see sense in judges’ arguments that they were best placed to see all the issues and determine the right sentence.

“But we have adjusted that view because it is obvious that judges do not reflect community expectations,” Ms Johnston said.

“When standard non-parole periods were introduced, we thought, this is fantastic. It will give some certainty.

“But we have since looked at how they operate in NSW and found quite a large percentage of cases are falling outside the template.”

In the past decade, the longest non-parole periods imposed for having sex with a child under the age of 10, in cases of domestic violence, were just nine months and one year, according to Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures. Of 238 men convicted of having sex with a child under 10 in the same period, only three were jailed for what the government has set as a standard minimum term of 15 years.

Victims of Crime Assistance League’s Howard Brown said sex crimes against children fell in a special category where the sentence needed to be spelled out clearly as a mandatory minimum period.

“The reason judges oppose this, and I understand their rationale in a general sense, is that we should never remove the independence of the judiciary so they become beholden to government,” he said.

“But there is that saying that with rights come responsibilities and the general community is of the view that judges have abrogated their responsibilities by not handing down sentences that reflect community concerns.”

There are 35 offences for which the government sets standard non-parole periods, five of them cover sex crimes against children as young as 10. They include creating child pornography but not possessing it.

Mr Smith will today announce an overhaul of the system of standard non-parole periods but denied it was sparked after being notified about The Daily Telegraph campaign. He said it was partly prompted by a 2011 High Court ruling in a case of a child sex offender which reduced even more the significance a judge has to place on standard non-parole periods.

He said research showed sentences had increased since the introduction of standard non-parole periods but there was still inconsistency. But he does not support mandatory minimum terms for child sex crimes.

The only mandatory sentence in NSW is life for the murder of a police officer.

“We know the community wants tougher sentences and we will seek to get more guidance to the courts so they realise community concern,” Mr Smith said. “But nevertheless we need to maintain judicial discretion because no one case is the same as another.”

Mr Smith raised the spectre of rapists killing their victims after “Queensland police at their top level” had concerns that mandatory sentences in that state could lead to murders. Ms Smith said that two barristers who he had asked to review sentences for child sex crimes had “not been able to show a pattern of trivial sentencing”.

Two years later, former Berlin priest yet to face trial

Two years later, former Berlin priest yet to face trial

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 6:00 am | Updated: 11:38 am, Thu Apr 25, 2013. Monica Szakacs

From the link:

Father Michael Miller

Father Michael Miller


It has almost been two years since a former assistant pastor of St. Paul Church in Kensington was first arrested and charged with five felony counts of risk of injury to a minor and one misdemeanor obscenity charge.

Father Michael Miller’s case was continued for the 21st time on March 28, 2013. His next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, in GA 15 Courthouse, at 20 Franklin Square, New Britain.

William J. St. John Jr., a Waterbury attorney who represents the former Berlin priest, said he cannot discuss any details regarding the case.

Miller was first arrested on July 12, 2011, at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, on charges that he had inappropriate contact with more than one minor. At the time he’d been hospitalized for an unknown reason.

According to an arrest warrant, a mother noticed her 13-year-old son having what she said was a “very disturbing and inappropriate” conversation with Miller on Facebook. Police confiscated two computers from Miller’s home. Miller told police that he knew the boy was 13 and had offered to perform sex acts with the boy but he never had physical contact with him.

Miller, who was 41 at the time, was charged with five counts of risk of injury or impairing the morals of a minor and a single count of criminal attempt to obscenity. He was released after posting $150,000 bond and his first court appearance was scheduled for July 26, 2011. He pled not guilty to all charges.

The Berlin Police Department then arrested Miller a second time on June 14, 2012, on three additional charges: two counts of obscenity, possession of child pornography and 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor. The warrants were issued after analysis was done on the cellphone and two computers that were confiscated, with Miller’s consent. Miller was released on a $300,000 bail which was posted by Miller’s order, Franciscan Friars Conventual.

Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Hartford Maria Zone said the case is currently still at status quo and there is no new development as far as she knows.

“I know investigators were doing a lot of forensics on his computer and I have not been told if the authorities are done with that,” Zone said. “I’m assuming the case is continued every time because the investigation is not complete.”

Miller has been undergoing treatment at a rehabilitation facility since his second arrest. Since the matter is personal, Zone said, she cannot comment as to what treatment he is undergoing.

“It is my understanding that (Miller) is still receiving services at a rehabilitation facility,” she said.

In 2012, Zone told The Berlin Citizen that the archdiocese will continue to work with authorities and will release information publicly as it becomes available. She also said the church offers a Victims Assistance Program available to anyone who has experienced any type of abuse.

Miller ministered to the 2,300 regular members of St. Paul’s Parish. He was with St. Paul for five years when the investigation into his case began. Miller also served as chaplain for the South Kensington Fire Department and had roles with several other youth and adult organizations in town.

Ex-priest claims Australian Church hid sex abuse

Ex-priest claims Australian Church hid sex abuse


From the link:

A Maltese man has blown the lid on the Australian Church by quitting the priesthood and claiming the Victorian Archdiocese has been deleting child sex abuse records.

Victor Buhagiar claims he “saw and heard” the Archbishop of Victoria order a secretary to turn off a recorder before discussing clerical sex abuse during a Church council meeting in April 2012.

He bowed out as a priest last January, saying his subsequent enquiries into the matter had led him to a metaphorical dead end.

“I believe there’s a devil in the hierarchy,” Mr Buhagiar has now told Australian investigative TV show Today Tonight.

“I suspect the recorder was turned off to create a black hole, so that investigators will…find nothing. Certain data is not being recorded in any way, shape or form.”

He accused the Archdiocese of operating a ‘no names’ policy in cases related to sexual abuse, saying Church superiors had turned down a request to alert nearby parishes to the presence of a suspected sexual offender.

“The secretary told me we cannot do that because we have a policy of no names. If I don’t put the name of the person, how are the other priests going to know who I’m talking about?” he said.

Pope Francis has called for the Vatican’s prosecutorial arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to act decisively in cases of sexual abuse and promote measures to protect minors.

While Victorian Archbishop Denis Hart has issued a statement contesting Mr Buhagiar’s claims, he has done little to directly deny them. In a statement, the Archbishop noted that, while the Archdiocese complied with privacy principles, “it is wrong to describe that as a ‘no names’ policy”.

Archbishop Hart also admitted that tape recorders were sometimes switched off during council meetings, justifying this by arguing that some discussions were either “in a preparatory stage or otherwise confidential”.

“On such occasions, the Council may elect to discuss matters that are not minuted. This allows an open discussion in advance of a formal decision or final position being reached,” the Archbishop wrote.

Mr Buhagiar’s resignation caught his former Gladstone Park congregation by surprise. Reactions to his sudden departure have been mixed: while over 300 locals have written to the Archdiocese in his support, others have said that the parish is being better run without him.

Editorial: Sex abuse accountability should be universal law

Editorial: Sex abuse accountability should be universal law


From the link:

In late February, Maltese Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna told Italian journalists, “From now on, no one” — and when he said “no one” he meant the 117 cardinals coming to Rome for the conclave that would elect Pope Francis — “will be able to say they know nothing about what goes on regarding clerical sex abuse.” Efforts begun by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and continued by Pope Benedict XVI are “now a fundamental part of the church’s response to sex abuse,” Scicluna said. “It will be part of the leadership program of whoever is elected in the Sistine Chapel.”

Scicluna, of course, is more than an auxiliary bishop from Malta. He was the prosecutor handling sex abuse cases for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 10 years until he was made a bishop last year. He, under the leadership of Ratzinger as the doctrinal congregation’s prefect, deserves credit for breaking the ecclesial logjam and beginning to move effectively against clergy who had abused children.

As we sort through Benedict’s pontificate and his more than three-decades-long legacy at the top of the church hierarchy, it would be wrong to too easily dismiss what Benedict did to protect children from clergy sex abusers. This does not mean his record is blemish-free or that we agree entirely with the processes used by bishops and the Curia to handle cases of abuse brought against clergy. But there can be no doubt that the church and her children would be in a far worse position if Benedict had not taken control of these cases in 2002.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George acknowledged this in interviews he did before the conclave. “Whoever is elected pope … he obviously has to accept the universal law of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who’s ever abused a minor child.”

This seems to be a milestone for the church on this issue and a time for people who have long fought for it to be addressed to declare at least a small victory.

Scicluna concluded his interview saying that the “sore spots” in the church today are violations of the sixth and seventh commandments: sins against purity and theft. “We need to go back to the Gospel,” he said. “Whoever is elected pope will have to continue Ratzinger’s ‘purification’ work.”

Which brings us to Francis and what could be the next phase in the Catholic church’s struggle with this issue. Within days of the new pope’s election, his record of handling clergy sex abuse as archbishop of Buenos Aires was called into question. Our senior correspondent, John Allen, looked into these allegations during his recent trip to Argentina. Allen’s reporting indicates that apparently Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio handled cases of clergy sex abuse as any reasonable, cautious church leader of his generation would. We would suspect that he went through a learning process while acting within the constraints of civil and canon law.

To understand what his next steps as pope should be, it is helpful to know the circumstances under which Scicluna was being interviewed. The former prosecutor was being asked whether U.S. Cardinal Roger Mahony should attend and vote in the conclave. Just weeks before, the Los Angeles archdiocese had finally complied with a court order to release tens of thousands of documents that clearly showed Mahony and his lieutenants shuffling abuser priests from parish to parish, hiding their whereabouts from law enforcement and discussing legal strategies to keep abusers and the archdiocese safe from prosecution. The release of those documents was enough to cause the current archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez, to restrict Mahony from official archdiocesan duties. Mahony fought back with his personal blog, his Twitter account and his media savvy. He used his red hat to pull rank and forced Gomez to backpedal. Gomez declared that Mahony was still a priest and bishop in good standing. After hundreds of lives had been damaged and millions of dollars spent on futile legal delaying tactics, Mahony blithely boarded a plane for Rome, claiming a right to elect the new pope. Where is the justice in that?

Scicluna said the question of whether Mahony should join the conclave or not was a matter for the cardinal himself, a challenge for him to follow his conscience.

Mahony is Exhibit A for what Francis must do in the next phase of this crisis. It is no longer about frontline defense to protect children and remove offenders. The next phase of the crisis is all about accountability, the accountability of church leaders, bishops and chancery personnel who obstruct investigations or cover up crimes.

To date, the sex abuse crisis has been massively disruptive of the lives of priests and laypeople, but it has not made a huge difference in the lives of bishops because they have yet to be called to account. The Dallas Charter that can remove a priest or deacon from active ministry with one accusation of abuse is voluntary for bishops. Bishops in Lincoln, Neb., and Baker, Ore., have proven that, as have the leaders of seven Eastern rite eparchies in the United States who have never submitted to the charter. The bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., found guilty in two civil jurisdictions for failure to report suspected child abuse, remains in office.

Zero tolerance for clergy child abusers is now the universal law of the church. Francis’ task is to lay down laws that will hold bishops liable for their actions and inactions, too. Bishops’ accountability to the people they serve must also become the universal law of the church.

Six abuse cases still pending in Clogher

Six abuse cases still pending in Clogher

Sarah Saunderson • Published 25 Apr 2013 13:00

From the link:

Attending the Report and audit on safeguarding children in the Clogher Diocese held in St.Macartan's College in Monaghan are (from left), Mrs Elaine Murphy, Mr Pat Drury, Fr. Shane McCaughey, Bishop Liam MacDaid, Ms Deirde Boyle and Mr Brendan Kelly. © picture by John McVitty, Enniskillen, Co.Fermanagh, N. Ireland - 0777198737

Attending the Report and audit on safeguarding children in the Clogher Diocese held in St.Macartan’s College in Monaghan are (from left), Mrs Elaine Murphy, Mr Pat Drury, Fr. Shane McCaughey, Bishop Liam MacDaid, Ms Deirde Boyle and Mr Brendan Kelly. © picture by John McVitty, Enniskillen, Co.Fermanagh, N. Ireland – 0777198737

There are currently six civil cases involving allegations of clerical child abuse pending in the Clogher diocese, the Bishop of Clogher the Very Rev. Liam MacDaid has said.

While the “vast majority are historical”, it has emerged that a most recent allegation came to light as recently as two years ago.

A report released yesterday (Wednesday) on behalf of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) draws “a line between the practice of this diocese today and some of the practice which existed previously”.

From cases examined, opportunities were consistently missed when concerns of abuse by clergy in the Clogher diocese were highlighted in the past, the Review of Safeguarding Practice states.

*In one particular case there was an unacceptable delay in taking action against a priest and removing him from all ministry, following receipt of a credible allegation.

*In another, a priest of the diocese was suspected of multiple incidents of abuse, but he was not moved from ministry, transferred to another parish and eventually was sent overseas for therapeutic help. He remained outside the jurisdiction and was eventually extradited back to this country several years later but died before he could be brought before the courts.

*In a number of cases, allegations emerged against priests following their death making it impossible for any investigation to take place.

“The impression formed by the reviewers of past practice was that the response to abuse concerns was often unsatisfactory and that risky behaviour was not addressed as strongly as it should have been,” the report said.

According to the BBC, former Bishop Joseph Duffy has accepted the criticism in the report. He said: “I am satisfied that the review acknowledges the effective child safeguarding structures and practice that operate in the diocese and which I, along with clergy and laity, spent many years developing in each of the parishes throughout Clogher.

“However, I accept the criticism in the review and regret that, in the past, the standard of managing some cases fell short of what is expected today.” Bishop Duffy was Bishop of Clogher between 1979 to May 2010.

Between 1975 and November 2012, there were 13 allegations made against priests incardinated into the Bishop of Clogher.

And there were 23 allegations reported to the police services over that period of time. There have been two convictions.

At a launch of the report in Monaghan yesterday, Bishop Liam MacDaid said: “We have had to face the pain and the shame of seeing children abused and seriously damaged and traumatised. The priests and the lay people you see here, along with many others, have been grieved and appalled at what has happened. They have generously given time and energy to give out help to those who are hurt and traumatised and set up structures to ensure this cannot happen again.

“I think we will find the report in general is a good news story. Further work is to be done. The report also points us in the right direction and we are determined to see it though,” he said.

The report looks at 48 different criteria set out by the NBSCCCI. Clogher Diocese has met fully 41 out of the 48, with seven partially met. The PSNI and Gardai and health services “have a good working relationship with the diocese”.

“It is clear that the issue of safeguarding children effectively is prioritised in this diocese,” said the report.

“One of the most striking parts of the fieldwork for the review was the opportunity to meet and engage with the volunteers, staff and priests of the diocese who are involved in safeguarding. Their enthusiasm is real and their commitment exceptional,” the report said. As well as a Diocesan safeguarding committee with 13 members, there are going to be five diocesan trainers by Autumn. Each parish has two parish trainers. There are 1,400 volunteers actively working in safeguarding children in Clogher parishes, north and south.

Second ‘Runaway Priest’ found by Dallas News sent back to Australia to face sex-abuse charges

Second ‘Runaway Priest’ found by Dallas News sent back to Australia to face sex-abuse charges

By 5:02 pm on April 24, 2013

From the link:

Australian authorities charged the Rev. Julian Fox, pictured, after he returned from his religious order’s headquarters in Rome. He faces 10 counts of sexually and physically abusing boys at a Melbourne-area boarding school, according to press reports.

Australian authorities charged the Rev. Julian Fox, pictured, after he returned from his religious order’s headquarters in Rome. He faces 10 counts of sexually and physically abusing boys at a Melbourne-area boarding school, according to press reports.

Another priest from our landmark 2004-2005 series on the Catholic Church’s international transfers of sex abusers has been arrested.

Australian authorities charged the Rev. Julian Fox, pictured, after he returned from his religious order’s headquarters in Rome. He faces 10 counts of sexually and physically abusing boys at a Melbourne-area boarding school, according to press reports.

In our series, I reported that Fox was moved to Fiji after an abuse complaint in the late 1990s was made to his order, the Salesians of Don Bosco. The Salesians also paid his accuser a settlement, officials acknowledged to me.

When I talked to Fox by phone in 2004, he said a church review had exonerated him. He declined to further discuss the allegations.

“That’s in the past,” he said. “I’m not keen to be trolling through all of that again.”

Fox was also the Salesians’ South Pacific leader during the 1990s. In that role, he received allegations that the Rev. Frank Klep had previously abused boys. As you may recall, Klep is the fugitive priest we found on another Pacific island, Samoa, handing out candy to children at a church.

Fox told me that he had investigated the Klep complaint. But he couldn’t remember what he had found because the case was “history under a bridge,” he said.

The recent interest in Fox is two-fold:

First, an Australian government inquiry spawned a widening criminal investigation that has produced multiple arrests. Second, a leading investigative news program there, Four Corners, examined the Fox case last year.


Calling for inquiry to focus in on courts

Calling for inquiry to focus in on courts

From the link:

CHILDREN will remain at risk unless the royal commission into institutionalised child sex abuse includes the Family Court in its investigations, Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston has warned.

Ms Johnston said it would be a missed opportunity if the court was not included.

“Thousands of children and their families are depending on it,” she said yesterday.

In a submission sent by Bravehearts to the royal commission, the organisation said improvements to practices, policies and procedures within the court would have a positive impact on a “large number of Australian abuse survivors”.

Ms Johnston said it was a “no-brainer” that the court came under the commission’s terms of reference.

“As an institution, the Family Court deals extensively with child sexual assault,” Ms Johnston said, adding it was critical that the commission did its “job properly”.

Ms Johnston said Bravehearts was aware of instances where the court’s practices were deficient and had led to children being placed at serious risk of sexual harm.

The Family Court has hit back, saying Bravehearts had misunderstood what an “institution” is in the context of the royal commission.

“The abuse being investigated by the royal commission specifically ‘does not include the family’,” a spokesperson for the Family Court said.

“There are other obvious reasons why courts do not fall within the remit of the royal commission and to suggest they do is to fundamentally misunderstand the role of courts.”

She said there were many courts where the issue of child sexual assault and the contact children should have with parents arose, not only in family law proceedings.

She said the reasons for every decision made by the court were published and the reasons behind every decision were open to scrutiny.

The royal commission has made a point of not commenting outside public hearings.