Category Archives: Sisters of Charity

Betrayal of Faith


Betrayal of Faith

By Cris Foehlinger
Sunday News [Pennsylvania]
January 16, 2005

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA – Patricia Cahill is overcoming a life of abuse and secrecy at the hands of the Catholic church.Her childhood was destroyed by the sexual abuse of a priest and later when she was a teenager by the very nun in whom she confided the abuse.

Through alcohol, drugs and a position of authority, Sister Eileen Shaw determined, in large part, the woman Cahill is today. One with no sexuality and no understanding of normalcy, yet one with a strong drive to right the wrongs of a church that molded her into a quagmire of guilt.

Patricia Cahill describes a long-term sexually abusive relationship with a Catholic nun, who gave her the gifts entwined in the fingers of her left hand.

Patricia Cahill describes a long-term sexually abusive relationship with a Catholic nun, who gave her the gifts entwined in the fingers of her left hand.

Although the nun’s ministry has since been restricted, Cahill, now 52 and living in Lancaster, is angry at the church for stealing her childhood, her family and her dreams.

She has found support through the nationwide Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. And, in turn, she is trying to focus on the future. Later this week she will launch a support group in Lebanon to help local survivors. (See related story.)

Child of faith

Cahill and her five siblings were born into a wealthy Ridgewood, N.J., family and attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel elementary school. Their father sold cars at his dealership and their mother sold real estate between bottles of vodka, Cahill said.

She said she was in first grade when a priest took her to his bed, the clergyman always wearing pieces of his priestly garb.

“He never took the white collar or stole off,” said Cahill. “He said it was a mortal sin to talk about anything we did while he had them on. Catholics are taught that if you commit a mortal sin you will go to hell.” So Cahill wouldn’t breathe a word of the abuse.

At home, she’d pick up empty liquor bottles before her father’s return from work. “I took over for Mom raising three younger siblings,” said Cahill, whose parents are now deceased.

“I remember cleaning Dad’s bathroom when I was 7. He made a big deal about it and I thought, “Wow!’ ” Craving that kind of positive attention, Cahill set her sights on the rest of the house.

“I was the chief bottle washer and surrogate housewife,” she said. “I was very strict and rigid like my Dad. I demanded a lot of my siblings and I regret that now, but I didn’t know anything else.” Cahill said her father was abusive. He was not an alcoholic, but the disease is a family one. “He would rule with an iron fist and for no reason,” she said, “he would pick out one of the three oldest and send them upstairs for a beating.” Meanwhile, the priest’s abuse continued until she was 13. It stopped because Cahill said, “No.” “I felt 100-percent responsible because all I had to do was say “no,’ ” she said. “I don’t know if his abuse was widespread, but I know of some victims and am looking for others.”

From priest to nun

Although Cahill was able to remove herself from the priest’s grasp, she couldn’t escape the need for the love and support she didn’t get at home.

At age 15, she confided the priest’s abuse in a family friend: the nun.

“She said, “He was a sick man so it wasn’t his fault’,” Cahill recalled. “Looking back, I see a lot of conflict with what she said.” Cahill said Sister Shaw, a member of the Sisters of Charity at Convent Station, N.J., saw that she was in dire need of love and attention. Shaw offered encouragement, spent time with her and told her she was special.

“She took me out of a dysfunctional home and promised me the world,” Cahill said. “She said no one would ever hurt me again.” By age 16, Cahill spent summers at the shore with Shaw and the nun’s family and friends. “All of them were 20 years older than me,” Cahill said. “What were they thinking? Why didn’t they think it was odd?” The sexual advances didn’t start right away, Cahill said.

“She became my mother figure but,” Cahill said with obvious fury, “you don’t sleep with your mother.

“I had kept secrets my whole life. I thought I was a sinner. Then Eileen told me I was. She also said it was my job to keep her vows because I was the stronger of the two of us.” Cahill said she was 15 when Shaw introduced her to alcohol and drugs, namely Valium and Librium.

And Shaw gave Cahill a medallion to wear only when the two were intimate. Cahill calls it her “medal of shame” as she was never to speak about what went on while she wore it.

One night when Cahill was 17, she remembers crying and asking Shaw to let her go. “She should have let me go, but she wouldn’t,” Cahill said.

“She made me call her “Sister Eileen’ in bed and told me that she loved me,” Cahill said.

“No one had ever loved me before.”

Search for justice

That love, however, cost Cahill a chance to have a family and children of her own, she said. Because of internal conflicts caused by the relationship, she said, it cost her a chance to join the Sisters of Charity in her teens.

And it cost Cahill her sexuality. Since she’s been away from Shaw, Cahill said, she has never been attracted to another woman. Because she remembers fear and pain from the priest, she won’t get involved with men.

For her, the guilt and shame blend with anger and bitterness.

Cahill, who is no longer a practicing Catholic, said one of the biggest obstacles to healing is trying to understand why so many nuns turned their heads and allowed the abuse to continue.

Ten years ago Cahill received help from the Sisters of Charity, who did “everything they are legally obligated to do,” according to a recent statement issued by Mother Superior Maureen Shaughnessy.

At the time, Cahill received treatment and about $46,000, Cahill said.

She is seeking additional treatment costs, a request she and members of her support network see as a moral obligation of the church.

Part of her larger mission now is to make sure nuns are punished for abusive actions. Because they are part of a religious order, they are more insulated and protected, Cahill said.

“We (Shaw and Cahill) would sleep in convents up and down the East Coast,” Cahill said. “Nuns would turn their heads when I ran up the back staircases.” Yet the conflict for Cahill remains.

Shaw encouraged her to go to college, something no member of Cahill’s family managed to accomplish. Her first teaching job was at St. Cecelia’s in Kearny, N.J. Shaw was the principal of the now-defunct school.

Shaw gave Cahill a ring during that first year of teaching, one that was identical to one the nun wore. “It never dawned on me what that ring was supposed to mean,” she said. “But it’s pretty clear now.” The nun even selected Cahill’s apartment, one where Shaw’s car could be parked undetected, Cahill said.

“During the day, she was extra authoritative with me in front of other people,” Cahill said. “Away from school, she would tell me not to befriend the other teachers and not to bring my home life into work.” Brief trips were routine.

“One weekend, we went to a convent in Connecticut and got snowed in,” Cahill said. “I think it was a bit obvious when we both didn’t show up for school, but she wouldn’t talk about it.” After a year of teaching under Shaw, Cahill realized she needed to get away and took a job in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. “I really liked teaching and made friends,” she said. “Shaw would still come on weekends, which wasn’t a problem since no one knew her.” By this time, Cahill said she was sick with drugs and alcohol. “I would drink on my way to school,” she said.

Cahill shared an apartment with a friend. “She was very indiscriminate with sex and would entertain men at night,” Cahill said. “After walking in on her one night, she came up with a system where she would put the man’s shoes outside her door to let me know she was with a man.

“So I would leave Shaw’s shoes outside my door and hang her veil on the doorknob,” she said. It’s an image that still haunts Cahill and one that will become the title of her book, “Veiled Threat.” Cahill said the nun thought the roommate’s conduct was immoral. But as Cahill’s questions persisted, Shaw refused to answer or make any sense out of her relationship with Cahill.

“What happened at night, happened at night,” Cahill said. “What happened during the day saved my life.

“She helped me out in lots of ways that I felt indebted to her so much that I kept her secret for too many years.” Cahill viewed everything as her fault. But then her emotional struggle becomes evident and contradictions reemerge.

“She was 36 and I was 15,” Cahill said of their early relationship. “It couldn’t have been my fault.”

Path to peace

By 1979 Cahill sought help through a 12-step program. It cost her any hope of a relationship with her siblings; they felt Cahill betrayed them by airing the family’s laundry, she said.

In her 30s, Cahill again studied to become a member of the Sisters of Charity, Shaw’s order. “I have learned since then that victims almost always return to the scene of the crime,” she said.

Cahill could not complete her quest because of internal conflicts that centered on the relationship with Shaw.

By 1992, Cahill knew she was in trouble and approached the Sisters of Charity for help. “I was very foolish,” she said. “I wanted therapy and nothing else.” Yet she also asked that Shaw be removed from her position as school principal. “They took her out and promoted her,” Cahill said.

Shaw is now the administrator of the Caritas Community in Jersey City, N.J., a retirement home for nuns. Repeated attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. Nuns who answered the phones said Shaw was on “holiday.” Caritas Community is in a convent that sits next to an elementary school.

When recently questioned about Shaw’s duties, Jim Goodness, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., said that the nun “is not allowed in the school.” She does attend Mass in the local parish, but is not part of the spiritual team. She is not involved in parish functions.

“The community has dealt with the issue and she is restricted in her ministry,” he said. “There has never been an incident where she broke her assignment since this came to light.” Goodness clarified that the Sisters of Charity is not officially part of the archdiocese. “But the sisters work in the archdiocese under the spiritual direction of the archbishop,” he said. “Religious communities operate under their own rules and authorities.” This is part of the problem as far as Cahill is concerned. “Priests are defrocked when they are exposed for abuse,” she said. “But there is no punishment for nuns.” Shaughnessy, Sister of Charity’s mother superior, said there was a confidentiality agreement at the time the sisters offered Cahill help. “I’m certainly not going to break that, and I have nothing to say about it.” Shaw has been cleared to serve in her new position, Shaughnessy said recently. “I don’t want to talk about this.” In a letter dated July 1, 1994, the Sisters of Charity agreed to pay for “certain professional services” from July 1, 1994, through June 30, 1996.

“In order to qualify for payment by the Sisters of Charity, the services: (a) must have been provided by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, and (b) must, in the provider’s professional judgment, have been made necessary by the alleged inappropriate conduct of a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, who is alleged to have had sexual contact with Patricia Cahill at various times between the years 1968 and 1992,” the letter states.

The letter goes on to say that all charges must be included on an invoice mailed to Sister Mary Canavan, general superior, in an envelope marked “personal and confidential.” “The Sisters of Charity consider this letter and the information contained herein to be confidential,” the letter, signed by Canavan, states.

“I never healed because they made me sign a gag order not to talk about it,” said Cahill, who is now recovering from alcohol and drug addictions.

She moved to Lancaster in 1997 to get away from her family and Shaw.

She thought about suicide. Reaching rock bottom, she again turned to the nuns she had grown up with.

By this time, the order had established a response team, made up of nuns, priests, lawyers and psychologists.

Shaughnessy encouraged Cahill to meet with them. She agreed.

Lancaster friend Donna Wilcox accompanied her to the session held at the Mother House in New Jersey. While the two were greeted cordially, Wilcox said, “The building was imposing and it was dark and empty. The surroundings felt very big and I felt very small.” Cahill wasn’t intimidated by the familiar atmosphere. But at the meeting there with two lawyers and two therapists, she said, ” “I feel like I need a lawyer,’ and they said, “No dear, we’re here for your healing.”‘ Cahill described the exhausting 3-hour session as “interrogation with a smile.” “I was impressed by one nun who seemed compassionate,” Wilcox said. “Patricia was so articulate and focused while my composure was gone. When you hear her story, it’s very humbling.

“They seemed caring and supportive,” Wilcox said. “I left thinking help was on the way.” Two weeks later Cahill received word that there would be no further therapy from the sisters, but “we will pray for you.” That’s all it took.

The anger that roared through Cahill catapulted her on the road to healing.

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How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges


How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges

From the Link: How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges

The Vatican

The Vatican

The Vatican doesn’t acknowledge human rights unless they are in accordance with Church doctrine. Its courts have been found by the EU to violate the right to a fair trial. And the Vatican has even maintained that its signature to one of the few human rights treaties it has signed (and even then with “reservations”) only applies to its own territory and not to the Catholic Church.

“One cannot then appeal to these rights of man in order to oppose the interventions of the Magisterium.”
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1990 [1]

The Vatican not only quietly rejects the supremacy of human rights in principle, it also cultivates effective ways to get around having to implement them.

♦ Diplomatic recognition, sought worldwide, brings diplomatic immunity from charges of human rights abuse

The doctrine of sovereign immunity has its roots in the law of feudal England and is based on the idea that the ruler can do no wrong. In US law this is broadly applied to the heads of foreign states. [2] It was sovereign immunity that foiled an American attempt to sue Benedict XVI for the Vatican’s handling of child abuse by priests. The Church lawyers argued that the pope, as the Vatican’s head of state, enjoys immunity against lawsuits in US courts. [3]

In U.S. courts foreign countries are also generally immune from civil actions, with exemptions primarily for commercial acts. This means that unless a case can be brought in under an exemption the only recourse may be to try to sue the Vatican in a country which does not have diplomatic relations with it. However, as the map shows, most of the world’s countries (coloured blue) already recognise the statehood of the Holy See, as the Vatican is called officially.

There are very few (gray) countries left which don’t yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. These amount to just three island nations (the Comoros, north of Madagascar, theMaldives, southwest of India, and Tuvalu, north of New Zealand) — two African nations (Mauritania and Somalia) — three from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Oman and Afghanistan) — and eight from Asia (Bhutan, People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia). [4]

X40036_727_CWVaticanRelnsCaption

The logistics of suing the Vatican from some of these countries could be daunting. Furthermore, due to the Vatican’s persistent diplomatic efforts, the number of countries which don’t recognise the Vatican is declining every year. (And one of the few left, Tuvalu, is gradually disappearing beneath the rising seas).

The Vatican’s web of diplomatic relations also makes its representatives immune to prosecution under international law. The 1961 Vienna Convention tries to provide diplomats with the security needed to perform their jobs. It is thanks to this treaty that states now express their displeasure by expelling the diplomats of a foreign country, rather than imprisoning them.

Diplomatic immunity in action: Archbishop Wesolowski is whisked away to the Vatican

However, this treaty was never meant to allow accused rapists of children to go free. Yet this appeared to be the intention when Bishop Paul Gallagher, the papal nuncio or pope’s ambassador to Australia refused to hand over to prosecutors documents on two priests who had abused more than 100 children over 40 years. [5] The nuncio invoked diplomatic immunity. However, as a UN committee later reminded the Vatican, [6] as a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was obliged to hand over this evidence. [7] Pope Francis was apparently so pleased by the nuncio’s attempts to block justice in Australia’s worst clerical abuse scandal, that the next year he promoted him to archbishop and to the number three post in his kingdom  the Vatican’s Foreign Minister. [8]

as happened in the Dominican Republic. [9] There on June 24, 2013 a deacon was arrested and admitted to procuring impoverished boys to be sexually abused by the papal nuncio Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski. [10] By the time the deacon appeared on TV and said that others in the Church knew about this [11] the nuncio had vanished. He had been secretly whisked away and reappeared in the Vatican.

At the TV station they suspected that there had been a leak.

A “dossier” accusing papal nuncio Archbishop Josef Wesolowski of sex abuse of minors was sent to Pope Francis sometime in July [2013] by Santo Domingo Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez. The pope found the information credible enough to dismiss Wesolowski, nuncio to both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, on Aug. 21 via confidential letter N.2706/PR to the bishops of both countries.

Neither the civil authorities nor the public knew about Wesolowski until a local TV program did an exposé on Aug. 31. The result of a year-long investigation, the broadcast contained testimony from residents of the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo that Wesolowski paid minors for sex.

Three days after the TV broadcast, a local bishop confirmed that Wesolowski had been recalled for sexually abusing minors.

Wesolowski reportedly had left the country only a few days before. [12]

In this case the Vatican acted against its own much-touted guidelines:

the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome […] before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic. [13]

Once he was safely in Rome the Vatican “confirmed that Wesolowski is a citizen of the Vatican city state, that the Vatican doesn’t extradite its citizens and that as a nuncio, or Holy See ambassador, Wesolowski enjoys full diplomatic immunity”. [14] Experts in international law say that the Vatican could have lifted the nuncio’s diplomatic immunity to let him face trial in the Dominical Republic (which could hardly be accused of having an anti-Catholic judiciary). [15]

However, the Church came under increasing pressure when the United Nations Committee against Torture stepped in. In June 2014 it urged the Vatican, if the investigation warranted it, to either try Wesolowski itself under the Vatican State criminal code (not canon law) or let someone else do so — and report back on the outcome. [16]

In August 2014, the Vatican gave Wesolwski a secret canon law trial to determine if he had violated Church doctrine. The Vatican tribunal found Wesolwski’s guilty of abusing young boys and defrocked him. But it refused to provide any information about his whereabouts or how he pleaded to the charges and refused to release contact information for his lawyer. [17] This deprived Mr. Wesolowski of his diplomatic immunity — so the Vatican then fell back on his Vatican State citizenship as the reason for not handing him over.

To avoid further challenges to its jurisdiction, the Vatican refused to provide the necessary documents to Polish prosecutors, who had hoped to try Wesolowski, a dual Vatican-Polish citizen. [18] The Vatican also got the Dominican Republic to fall into line. In August 2014, the day after Wesolowski lost his diplomatic immunity, the Santo Dominican prosecutor’s office announced that it was launching an investigation. [19] However, by the end of the year, the Dominican Republic’s top prosecutor was expressing “appreciation and satisfaction” with the Vatican’s actions (!) and said that the Vatican was the right place for the trial. [20] The Dominican authorities even stonewalled the legal inquiries of Polish prosecutors about Wesolowski, [21] which forced Poland to suspend its inquiry. [22] This cleared the way for the Vatican to conduct its own trial under the criminal law of its own state, which would satisfy the UN commitee, but keep control over the proceedings.

A Polish expert on church law, Prof. Pawel Borecki, explained why the Vatican was determined to maintain control:

“The Vatican will seek that this case does not go beyond its borders. Wesolowski is a high-ranking diplomat. He has knowledge of how the Roman curia works. He may also know about pedophilia in the church and if other high-ranking priests are involved in the crime. In a trial abroad he could reveal everything. Therefore, we can expect that the Vatican will not release him and it will hand down a severe punishment.” [23]

♦ Keeping out of key human rights treaty shields Vatican courts from international standards

The Vatican can’t be censured for violating the right to a fair trial which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights because it hasn’t signed the treaty. Instead, in a 2001 court case, it was Italy that was faulted for enforcing the unfair judgement of the Vatican court.

In essence the European Court of Human Rights found in 2001 that the procedures of the Roman Rota, the ecclesiastical appeals court responsible for marriage-annulment applications, failed to reach the standards required for a fair trial under article 6(1) of the European Convention and that, therefore, its judgments could not properly be recognized and enforced under Italian law. ECHR noted that in Rota proceedings witness statements were not provided to parties, thus depriving the parties of an opportunity to comment on them. The parties were not advised that they could appoint lawyers to appear for them, nor advised of the terms of the legal submissions made by the canon lawyer appointed by the court to argue against annulment. Finally, the parties were refused sight of a full copy of the Rota’s judgment, in which the ecclesiastical court set out its reasoning. Given these circumstances, the Strasbourg court took the view that justice was not done in annulment proceedings before church courts. [24]

“As new scandals erupt in Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria, the Pope has failed to put in place and enforce mandatory child protection policy across his church. I asked a senior church figure why this was the case. I was told that to put in place global policy underpinned by church law would admit that the Vatican had the responsibility and the power to do so, and expose it to lawsuits and potentially massive financial losses.” ― Colm O'Gorman, Independent, 9 March 2010

“As new scandals erupt in Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria, the Pope has failed to put in place and enforce mandatory child protection policy across his church. I asked a senior church figure why this was the case. I was told that to put in place global policy underpinned by church law would admit that the Vatican had the responsibility and the power to do so, and expose it to lawsuits and potentially massive financial losses.” ― Colm O’Gorman, Independent, 9 March 2010

♦ Damage limitation, part 1: Blame the bishops

If the Vatican doesn’t sign a human rights treaty, it’s easier to confine blame (and costs) to the local bishop. This helps the Vatican deny all responsibility for what is done in the Church worldwide. Thus the Vatican’s top prosecutor admits no fault on the part of the Church watchdog body, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which, under Cardinal Ratzinger (now the present pope), dealt with abuse cases. [25]

♦ Damage limitation, part 2: Blame the priests

Even better, from the Vatican’s point of view, is to place sole blame on the errant priests.

In the US Vatican lawyers argued that Roman Catholic clerics are not officials or employees of the Holy See. [26] This is now the main Vatican defence against lawsuits in the United States seeking to hold the Holy See liable for the failure of its bishops to stop priests from raping and molesting children.

Usually foreign countries are immune from civil actions in U.S. courts, but there are exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act which courts have said were applicable in this case. The statute says that plaintiffs can establish subject matter jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign, if a crime was committed in the United States by any official or employee of the foreign state and that the crimes were committed within the scope of employment. [27]

In the UK the same argument is being repeated. The English Catholic Church said priests are self-employed and thus it’s not responsible for victim compensation. Mindful of the dioceses in the US which were obliged to pay compensation to victims of clerical abuse and in some cases have gone bankrupt, [28] it has tried to argue that priests are self-employed. [29] However, in a High Court ruling on 8 November 2011 the judge rejected that argument, stating that the relationship between a priest and his bishop is sufficiently close so as to impose responsibility. According to the alleged victim’s lawyer, “This is a key decision with potentially far-reaching implications, effectively extending the principle of vicarious liability”. [30]

There are other theological variations on the responsibility theme: Whereas the Catholic Church says that its priests are self-employed, the Church of England, in order to avoid giving its priests workers’ rights, claimed they were employed by God. [31] And since 2008 it has said that they are “office holders”, in other words, employed by no one.

In Australia, too, the Vatican tries to hold the priests, and not the Church, legally liable in cases of abuse. It does through the remarkable claim, supported in a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court of New South Wales, that the “Catholic Church” does not exist as a single legal entity. [32] Therefore it cannot be sued; it cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of individuals who work in its “unincorporated associations”. Victims of assault could sue the responsible individuals or their unincorporated associations but it would be pointless; the individual religious take vows of poverty and the unincorporated associations own nothing. [33]

However, in 2014 Cardinal George Pell suggested that the Australian Church was no more responsible for priests’ crimes than any other organisation was for its employees. [34] Yes, employees.

♦ Damage limitation, part 3: Blame religious orders then let them refuse to pay

The English High Court and Court of Appeal both ruled that a Catholic diocese was liable to compensate the boys in a Catholic home who had been beaten, kicked and raped. However, that didn’t stop the diocese from claiming that a religious order was responsible and refusing to pay. And, of course, the order also denied any responsibility. [35] By 2012 the legal proceedings had been dragging on for eight years and due to the strain, many of the broken victims had dropped out of the process. [36]

And in Ireland where the Catholic Church and 19 religious orders agreed to split the compensation 50-50, the orders, one after another, have refused to pay. As of 2012 this had been going on for ten years. [37]

Even the four orders of Catholic nuns who ran the Magdalene Laundries and profited from what amounted to slave labour have refused to pay. [38] The Good Shepherd Sisters, The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Mercy and The Sisters of Charity are keeping all the profits from selling prime real estate when their gulags were shut down are refusing to share this with their victims. [39]

In Canada it’s the same story. Eight Catholic orders ran the orphanages and psychiatric hospitals in the Province of Quebec. Federal subsidies were greater for psychiatric hospitals than for orphanages, so to maximise the profits, large numbers of normal children were “diagnosed” as feeble-minded or insane. In both kinds of Church-run institutions the children were subjected to unimaginable brutality and many died. Yet neither the orders involved nor the Vatican are willing to pay any compensation to the traumatised survivors. [40]

Since the pope is the head of every Catholic religious order, they must be doing this with his consent. As David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, writes,

The Catholic church isn’t some loosely-knit hippie commune. It’s a rigid, secretive, tightly-knit institution. So when crimes happen, it’s disingenuous for church officials to pretend that everyone involved is disconnected from one another. [41]

♦ Damage limitation, part 4: Blame the victim

In a sworn deposition in 2011 the bishop of Syracuse actually said that the victims of child-molesting priests are partly to blame for their own abuse. [42]

♦ Damage limitation, part 5: Lobby against extending the time limits for suing the Church

Many victims are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they reach their 30s, 40s or later, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law. Yet in some US states, like New York, the victim is required to come forth by age 23. The US Supreme Court ruled that changes in criminal limits (statues of limitation) cannot be retroactive, so that any extension of present ones they will affect only recent and future crimes. [43] However, even this the Catholic Church is lobbying to prevent. If it succeeds, then the time limits can prevent penalties being applied for human rights abuses. Even when the Church admits it knew about the abuse, the priest admits that he did it, and there is independent evidence to back this up, “if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice”. [44]

♦ Damage limitation, part 6: other “evasions and machinations” 

These include (but are not confined to):

— Spending millions of dollars to fight sexual abuse lawsuits and keeping sealed the names of thousands of accused priests, as well as the outcomes of some disciplinary cases sent to the Vatican. [45]

— Hiding funds to avoid compensating victims. In 2007 a judge in informed the Diocese of San Diego that its attempt to shift the diocese’s assets while the case was pending violated bankruptcy laws. [46] And that same year the Vatican allowed the Milwaukee archdiocese to transfer $57 million into a trust for Catholic cemetery maintenance, where it might be better protected, as Archbishop Dolan wrote, “from any legal claim and liability.” [47]

— Legal quibbles of all kinds. For instance, in 2011 church leaders in St. Louis claimed not to be liable for an abusive priest because while he had gotten to know a victim on church property, the abuse itself happened elsewhere. [48]

— Going after honest clerics who act as whistleblowers. A group of priests and nuns formed in 2013 says the Roman Catholic Church is still protecting sexual predators. Calling themselves the Catholic Whistleblowers, they say that priests who spoke up have been “removed from their parishes, hustled into retirement or declared ‘unstable’ and sent to treatment centres for clergy with substance-abuse problems or sexual addictions.” [49]

— Subjecting the victims to an oath of secrecy. This is the oath that the victims of the Irish paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth were obliged to swear before Cardinal Sean Brady in 1975 when he was a priest and professor of canon law: [50]

“I will never directly or indirectly, by means of a nod, or of a word, by writing, or in any other way, and under whatever type of pretext, even for the most urgent and most serious cause (even) for the purpose of a greater good, commit anything against this fidelity to the secret, unless a…dispensation has been expressly given to me by the Supreme Pontiff.” [51]

— Tipping off accused clerics to allow destruction of evidence. In Australia in 2002, when a bishop learned that a child victim of one of his priests had gone to the police, he drove to a neighbouring town to warn him. This gave the priest, who was later comnvicted for repeatedly raping four children, the chance to destroy incriminating evidence. [52]

— Witness intimidation. In Germany in 2009 the Catholic Church hired detectives who turned at the homes of abused children and tried to get them retract their claims against one of its priests. [53]

— Hush money. In Australia in 2015 the nephew of a priest said that Cardinal Pell had tried to bribe him to keep quiet about abuse by his uncle. [54] And this tactic was proven to have been used in Germany in 1999, when cash payments were made to the parents of abused children at the same time as they signed agreement to remain silent. See Money for silence.

 It has been plausibly claimed that “the failure of the Vatican to promulgate a mandatory worldwide code of conduct, with a reporting requirement (for child abuse)...stems precisely from a fear of acknowledging its authority over national churches and implicitly conceding that priests and bishops, whom it appoints, are actually its agents in a legal sense.” — Patrick Smyth

It has been plausibly claimed that “the failure of the Vatican to promulgate a mandatory worldwide code of conduct, with a reporting requirement (for child abuse)…stems precisely from a fear of acknowledging its authority over national churches and implicitly conceding that priests and bishops, whom it appoints, are actually its agents in a legal sense.” — Patrick Smyth

♦ The Church follows its own Canon Law (which can be changed by a stroke of the papal pen) and must be forced to comply with civil law which is based on human rights

Amnesty International criticised the Vatican in its 2011 report, claiming it “did not sufficiently comply with its international obligations relating to the protection of children”. AI pointed out that the Vatican enlarged its own definition of “crimes in canon law” beyond “the sexual abuse of minors” ― but not the punishments

Amendments to the canon law promulgated in May introduced the “delicts” of paedophile pornography and abuse of mentally disabled people; the maximum punishment for these “delicts” is dismissal or deposition. Canon law does not include an obligation for Church authorities to report cases to civil authorities for criminal investigation. Secrecy is mandatory throughout the proceedings. [55]

As if the record unpunished priest abusers were not proof enough, a letter written in 2001 by a senior Vatican official has come to light praising a French bishop when he was convicted of failing to report a paedophile priest to the police. In 2010 the Bishop was given a three-month suspended prison sentence for not denouncing the priest, who was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2000 for sexually abusing 11 boys. [56]

However, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, told the Bishop, “I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil authorities.” And he concludes the letter to the French bishop by holding up the Bishops’ behaviour as a model for others; “This Congregation, in order to encourage brothers in the episcopate in this delicate matter, will forward a copy of this letter to all the conferences of bishops.” [57]

The Cardinal said afterwards that his letter was about protecting the seal of the confessional in accordance with Church law (Canon 983), but there is no mention of this in the text itself and at his trial the Bishop disputed this. [58] However, even if this were true, this would not hold in France which has apparently legislated a “duty to report” where children are involved. “French law recognises the seal of the confessional as part of a protected category of ‘professional secrets’, but makes an exception for crimes committed against minors”. [59]

 “Clericalism has many faces.  It is the delusion that priests speak for the Almighty and therefore are entitled to special treatment and even immunity from accountability for criminal behavior. It is the source of the conviction held by many, including top-level Vatican officials, that the legal systems of secular society are subordinate to Canon Law, the Catholic Church’s own system of governance.” ― Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.

“Clericalism has many faces. It is the delusion that priests speak for the Almighty and therefore are entitled to special treatment and even immunity from accountability for criminal behavior. It is the source of the conviction held by many, including top-level Vatican officials, that the legal systems of secular society are subordinate to Canon Law, the Catholic Church’s own system of governance.”
― Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.

Later the Cardinal also dropped a bombshell. He claimed that, “After consulting the pope, I wrote a letter to the bishop, congratulating him as a model of a father who does not turn in his children.” [60]

If Castrillon Hoyos is telling the truth, then John Paul personally approved sending this letter in direct violation of the instruction Card[inal] Ratzinger’s CDF had sent down months earlier, urging bishops in countries where the law obliges them to report knowledge of sexual crimes against children to civil authorities, to follow the law. If Castrillon Hoyos is being truthful, it would suggest that, as far as the pontiff was concerned, the Ratzinger directive was window dressing. [61]

The Church record of stonewalling criminal investigations certainly suggests that, until and unless forced to do otherwise, Canon Law, the legal system of the Catholic Church, is all the Church feels bound to follow. The outspoken Monsignor Maurice Dooley, an expert on Canon Law, has even stated this publicly. In 2002 he declared that bishops did not have to tell the Irish police about paedophile clerics and might even shelter these priests. “As far as the Church is concerned, its laws come first.” [62] And in April 2010 the Brazilian Archbishop Dadeus Grings concurred, saying that priestly abuse was a matter of internal church discipline, not something to report to the police. “For the church to go and accuse its own sons would be a little strange.” [63]

And even senior churchmen claiming that it is Church policy to report suspected abuse to the police have been found to be lying. In Australia, for instance, despite assurances by a bishop that the church had enforced strict rules to ensure such cases were reported to the police as a “matter of absolute policy’”, he and an archbishop secretly defrocked an abuser who was assured that “your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process”. [64]

In 2014 a United Nations committee severely criticised the Vatican’s handling of abuse cases and its failure to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The panel rejected the church’s key contention that the Vatican has no jurisdiction over its bishops and priests around the world, and is responsible for putting in effect the Convention on the Rights of the Child only within the tiny territory of Vatican City. By ratifying the convention, the panel said, the Vatican took responsibility for making sure it was respected by individuals and institutions under the Holy See’s authority around the world. [65]

To this the Vatican replied by using its usual shell game, switching between its three identities, as dictated by expediency:  “The Committee has overlooked important distinctions between the Holy See, Vatican City State and the universal Catholic Church.” [66]

Further reading about the Pope and the law

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, “Put the pope in the dock. Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law”, Guardian, 2 April 2010. [This is a proposal to prosecute the Vatican under criminal law, where diplomatic immunity does not apply, but where an arrest could only be made in a country (like the UK, but not the US) which has signed the Statute of the International Criminal Court.]

“Call to treat Vatican as a rogue state: Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says the church must abandon canon law”,Sydney Morning Herald, 9 September 2010. http://www.smh.com.au/world/call-to-treat-vatican-as-a-rogue-state-20100908-151cg.html

Afua Hirsch, “Canon law has allowed abuse priests to escape punishment, says lawyer”, Guardian, 7 September 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/07/canon-law-abuse-priests-escape-punishment

Alan Duke, “Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse”, CNN, 22 April 2010.  “Pope Benedict XVI was named as a defendant because he has the ultimate authority to remove priests and because of his involvement in reviewing sex abuse cases when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the suit says.” [This is a suit under civil law and, as the US has recognised the Holy See by establishing diplomatic relations with it, this suit depends upon proving that the Holy See acted in a manner which removes its immunity, as outlined above.]

Further reading about the Pope and the law

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, “Put the pope in the dock. Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law”, Guardian, 2 April 2010. [This is a proposal to prosecute the Vatican under criminal law, where diplomatic immunity does not apply, but where an arrest could only be made in a country (like the UK, but not the US) which has signed the Statute of the International Criminal Court.]

“Call to treat Vatican as a rogue state: Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says the church must abandon canon law”,Sydney Morning Herald, 9 September 2010. http://www.smh.com.au/world/call-to-treat-vatican-as-a-rogue-state-20100908-151cg.html

Afua Hirsch, “Canon law has allowed abuse priests to escape punishment, says lawyer”, Guardian, 7 September 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/07/canon-law-abuse-priests-escape-punishment

Alan Duke, “Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse”, CNN, 22 April 2010.  “Pope Benedict XVI was named as a defendant because he has the ultimate authority to remove priests and because of his involvement in reviewing sex abuse cases when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the suit says.” [This is a suit under civil law and, as the US has recognised the Holy See by establishing diplomatic relations with it, this suit depends upon proving that the Holy See acted in a manner which removes its immunity, as outlined above.]

Notes

  1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Instruction: Donum veritatis, On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian”, 1990-03-24, #36.
  2. “”Immunity”, The Free Dictionary.
  3. John L. Allen Jr, “The autonomy of bishops, and suing the Vatican”, National Catholic Reporter, 21 May 2010.
  4. Sandro Magister, “The Holy See’s Diplomatic Net. Latest Acquisition: Russia”, Chiesa, 14 January 2010.
    The Holy See does not yet have relations with sixteen countries, most of them in Asia, many of them with majority Muslim populations. There is no Vatican representative in nine of these countries: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, the Maldives, Oman, Tuvalu, and Vietnam. While in seven other countries there are apostolic delegates, pontifical representatives to the local Catholic communities but not to the government. Three of these countries are African: the Comoros, Mauritania, and Somalia. And four of them are Asian: Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar.
  5. “Australian abuse inquiry faces diplomatic standoff with Vatican”, National Catholic Reporter, 19 December 2013.
  6. [UN] Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on the initial report of the Holy See, 17 June 201, #14.
  7. See article 6.1, “Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.” Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution A/RES/54/263 of 25 May 2000, entered into force on 18 January 2002,
  8. “British archbishop who claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid handing documents to paedophile investigators is promoted to third highest role in Vatican by the Pope”, Daily Mail, 10 November 2014.
  9. “Dominican Republic says Vatican to handle landmark sex abuse case”, Agence France-Presse, 1 December 2014.
  10. Laurie Goodstein, “Vatican Defrocks Ambassador in Abuse Inquiry”, New York Times, 27 June 2014.
  11. . “Priests accused of child sex abuse to stand trial in Poland?”, Radio Poland, 16 October 2013.
  12. Betty Clermont, “Pope Francis Concealed His Actions Against Two Prelates. Now Both ‘Whereabouts are Unknown’”, Daily Kos, 29 September 2013.
  13. Laurie Goodstein, “For Nuncio Accused of Abuse, Dominicans Want Justice at Home, Not Abroad”, New York Times, 23 August 2014.
  14. “Vatican to Polish prosecutor: we don’t extradite”, Associated Press, 11 January 2014.
  15. Laurie Goodstein, “For Nuncio Accused of Abuse, Dominicans Want Justice at Home, Not Abroad”, New York Times, 23 August 2014
  16. The United Nations Committee against Torture said on 17 June 2014, ref CAT/C/VAT/CO/1:
    Impunity

    13. The Committee appreciates the confirmation provided regarding the ongoing investigation under the Vatican City State Criminal Code of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic. The Committee notes that the Republic of Poland has reportedly requested the extradition of Archbishop Wesolowski. The Committee also is concerned that the State party did not identify any case to date in which it has prosecuted an individual responsible for the commission of or complicity or participation in a violation of the Convention (arts. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8).

    The State party should ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation of Archbishop Wesolowski and any other persons accused of perpetrating or being complicit in violations of the Convention who are nationals of the State party or are present on the territory of the State party. If warranted, the State party should ensure such persons are criminally prosecuted or extradited for prosecution by the civil authorities of another State party. The Committee requests the State party to provide it with information on the outcome of the investigation concerning Archbishop Wesolowski.

  17. “Dominican court opens case on ex-Vatican official”, Associated Press, 31 August 2014.
  18. “Poland Suspends Inquiry Into a Former Vatican Envoy”, New York Times, 22 December 2014.
  19. “Dominican court opens case on ex-Vatican official”, Associated Press, 31 August 2014.
  20. “Dominican prosecutor OKs Vatican sex abuse case”, Associated Press, 2 December 2014.
  21. “Poland suspends paedophilia investigation against archbishop”, Polski Radio, 19 December 2014.
  22. “Poland Suspends Inquiry Into a Former Vatican Envoy”, New York Times, 22 December 2014.
  23. Donald Snyder, “Venue debated for trial of former nuncio accused of abusing minors”, National Catholic Reporter, 6 September 2014.
  24. Pellegrini v. Italy, 2001-VIII, Application No: 30882/96
  25. Laurie Goodstein, “U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse”, New York Times, 5 February 2014.
  26. Stoyan Zaimov, “Catholic Church Not Employer of Pedophile Priests, US Judge Rules”, Christian Post, 22 August 2014.
  27. “Bishops who mishandle abuse must be accountable, says Vatican official”, Catholic Herald, 8 February 2012.
  28. “Pope-bishop relationship key in sex abuse defense”, AP, 18 May 2010.
  29. “Settlements and bankruptcies in [American] Catholic sex abuse cases”, Wikipedia.
  30. “Catholic bishop criticises ruling on church liability for actions of priests”, Guardian, 15 November 2011.
    Crispian Hollis, Bishop of Portsmouth, “The Diocese, Fr Wilf Baldwin and the High Court Judgment”, 10 November 2011.
  31. “Catholic Church responsible for child abuse, High Court rules”, The Lawyer, 9 November 2011.
  32. Jonathan Petre, “Clergy close to workers’ rights”, Telegraph, 19 January 2004.
  33. Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church V Ellis & Anor [2007] NSWCA 117 (24 May 2007).
  34. Australian Cardinal angers abuse victims, The Tablet, 22 August 2014.
  35. Glen Coulton, letter to Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2011.
  36. “Church abuse case goes to highest court”, The Times, 23 July 2012.
  37. “Roman Catholic church stalls on £8m child abuse claims“, Observer, 15 November 2009
  38. “Counting the cost of abuse redress”, Irish Examiner, 01 October 2012
  39. “Kenny: I can’t force orders to contribute to Magdalenes redress fund”, Breaking News IE, 17 July 2013.
  40. Conor Ryan, “Site by laundry grave sold for €61.8m”, Irish Examiner, 05 July 2011.
  41. Petition concerning the Duplessis Orphans, presented to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, on behalf of the Duplessis Orphans, by Dr. Jonathan Levy and Rod Vienneau, 15 April 2011. http://www.vaticanbankclaims.com/quebec.pdf This is a reliable summary, as any factual inaccuracies would expose this human rights lawyer to charges of perjury, as explained at the end of the document.
  42. “Child victims partly to blame in priest sex-abuse cases, Syracuse bishop testified”, Syracuse.com, 13 September 2015.
  43. “Judge: Try Philadelphia priests, official together”, AP, 29 July 2011.
  44. Marci A. Hamilton, “Why ensuring accountability for clergy sexual abuse of children has proved so difficult, even though it remains so crucial”, Findlaw, 6 May 2004.
  45. Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who represents plaintiffs in sexual abuse suits, quoted in “Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits”, New York Times, 14 June 2012.
  46. “Ahead of Pope Francis’ Visit, Survivors of Sexual Abuse Take Stock”, New York Times, 15 September 2015.
  47. Amnesty International, Annual Report, 2011: “Vatican”.
  48. “Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show”, New York Times, 1 July 2013.
    “Appeals court: Judge erred on Milwaukee archdiocese fund”, AP, 10 March 2015.
  49. “Judge Orders External Audit of San Diego Diocese Accounts”, Associated Press, carried in San Luis Obispo Tribune, 11 April 2007.
  50. “Abuse victims criticise Brady’s decision to stay”, BBC News, 18 May 2010.
  51. “Revealed: the oath Brady, Smyth and the children swore”, Irish Independent, 3 December 2012.
  52. “Courage puts shame ‘squarely where it belongs'”, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2013.
  53. “Church Whistle-Blowers Join Forces on Abuse”, New York Times, 20 May 2013.
  54. “Cardinal Pell denies attempting to bribe alleged abuse victim and helping to move paedophile priest”, Tablet, 21 May 2015.
  55. “Mo. appeals court rules Catholic church not responsible for some abuse”, St. Louis Public Radio, 5 July 2011.
  56. “How the German Catholic Church Protected a Pedophile Priest”, Spiegel, 24 April 2009.
  57. Tom Heneghan, “John Paul backed praise for hiding abuse – cardinal”, Reuters, 18 April 2010.
  58. Cardinal Darío del Niño Jesús Castrillón Hoyos to Bishop Pierre Pican, 8 September 2001. Translation in “Darío Castrillón Hoyos”,
  59. John L Allen Jr, “Crisis hangs over pope in Malta like volcanic ash”, National Catholic Register, 17 April 2010.
  60. Tom Heneghan, “John Paul backed praise for hiding abuse – cardinal”, Reuters, 18 April 2010.
  61. Rod Dreher, “Cardinal: John Paul approved of cover-up”, Beliefnet, 18 April 2010.
  62. Ciaran Byrne, “Controversial cleric a ‘grade A1 idiot’, says colleague”, Irish Independent, 20 March 2010.
  63. “Catholic archbishop says kids are spontaneously gay”, Examiner.com, 8 May 2010.
  64. “Calls multiply for inquiry into handling of sex abuse”, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 August 2012.
  65. Laurie Goodstein, Nick Cumming-Brice and Jim Yardley,“ U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse”, New York Times, 5 February 2014.
  66. “Holy See’s Comments to Observations From UN Committee on Rights of the Child”, Zenit, 26 September 2014.

 

THE EXECUTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Part One the story


THE EXECUTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Part One the story

by Kobutsu Malone

From the Link: http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/

Bergen Catholic HS

Bergen Catholic HS

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Serial Sexual Harassment, Assault & Battery by Irish Christian Brothers
at Bergen Catholic High School,
Oradell, New Jersey: A memoir from 1964

Written on: January 20, 2002

The year was 1964. I was 14 years old and had just entered Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey. I did not want to go to Bergen but my domineering father whose self-interests for me showed no concern whatsoever for mine, or anyone else’s, feelings forced me into the school. I remember taking a long test for placement in the school in the gymnasium and I recall receiving the acceptance form. I had mixed feelings about this, having just spent eight years under the tutelage of Dominican nuns and the Sisters of Charity.

The experiences with the nuns during those years were traumatic. Many of us kids were humiliated and intimidated by the nuns on an ongoing basis. The image of a stern nun in full habit, bearing down on you with ruler in hand is the stuff of nightmares. I graduated from the grasp of the Sisters of Charity from Our Lady of the Visitation Church School in Paramus, New Jersey in 1963. Unbeknownst to me then, my experiences with the nuns were nothing in comparison to what was to come at the hands of the Irish Christian Brothers in Bergen Catholic High School the following two years.

Kevin Malone – 1964
(Ven. Kobutsu Malone)

The first days in Bergen Catholic were disorienting. It was my first exposure to an all male environment and my first dealings with Brothers. I was assigned to Room 34 as my homeroom, in what was then the new extension to the original school building. It was intimidating at first meeting the teachers, Brothers and lay men, who taught at the school. Up until that point in time I had only had women as teachers and suddenly the teachers were all men.

As teenagers in the mid sixties, we were very naive, not having been exposed to much beyond the confines of the Catholic schools that most of us had attended before coming to Bergen Catholic. We had universally been taught that teachers, and especially, priests, nuns and brothers were to be held in high esteem and could do no wrong. To us, they represented the direct intervention of the Church and God himself. We had no knowledge of the psychology of oppression or the idea of child abuse, or even heard the word “pedophile.”

There was nothing in my life that prepared me for the horror that was to unfold in Bergen Catholic High School in the following two years. Only in retrospect, looking back at the experiences some thirty five years later can I even begin to communicate what I, and certainly many of my fellow students, went through in that place.

In our freshman class we were introduced to the teachers of the subjects on day one. We had Latin, History, Biology, Math, English and Religion. There were a few teachers I remember as likable, most were intimidating, one in particular was perhaps one of the more despicable creatures to ever wear a Brother’s cassock. Brother Charles Borromeo Irwin was his name; he taught us freshman mathematics and served as the school treasurer.

Br. Charles Borromeo Irwin

I remember clearly the first day this individual came to the classroom. He was unkempt, smelled of stale tobacco, with nicotine stained fingers, yellow teeth and had the most hateful demeanor I had ever encountered. He would make snorting noises in an attempt to clear his sinuses instead of using a handkerchief. He would wipe his nose with his hand and then wipe the snot from his hand on his clothes or into his hair. He would terrorize us orally with tirades of abuse, shouting out loudly without warning, calling individual students “cretin, retard, pot-head, idiot, bungler” and “toad.” He would at times spontaneously begin singing the ditty, “Mares eat oats And does eat oats And little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too, Wouldn’t you?” His demeanor would change in an instant, bringing forth an outburst of vitriolic hatred directed at an individual student or the entire class. His behavior was bizarre to say the least; he built on the terror he projected, taking delight in the trauma and meanness he spewed forth on us kids.

“Charlie Irwin” AKA “The Chest” had an even darker side. This individual was given total authority over a class of thirty some odd adolescent boys. These young men were subject to him in private for forty minutes every day of the school week, we endured his presence through over 180 classes that year. His irrational behavior was obvious from the start; we all feared him right off the bat and as time progressed, our unmentionable fears became paramount in our days at school.

Irwin was a math teacher, and well accustomed to having his way with students. He had the habit of walking up and down the rows of the classroom while he talked or while we were doing tests or assignments. Periodically he would assign us work and retired to the back corner of the classroom near and open window and have a cigarette, heaven help the boy who dared to turn and look at him thus disposed.

Irwin’s most traumatic actions consisted of engaging in a verbal tirade over the stupidity of a particular student followed by a walk down the aisle next to the targeted student’s desk. Irwin was a tall skinny man, with an evident potbelly and pronounced slouch, he was far and away taller than all of the boys. His physical size coupled with his nasty demeanor and our lack of ability to communicate was totally intimidating.

I sat in the desk directly in front of the teacher’s desk in the classroom and we were required to sit at the same desks throughout the school year. I remember distinctly the first time Irwin molested a student in the classroom.

Br. Charles Borromeo Irwin

His first indecent assault and battery were tremendously shocking to me and I lived in fear from that moment on throughout my tenure in that school.

Irwin came down the isle next to mine and leaned over a young man and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He pushed down with some force so that the boy was forced forward into his seat, leaving a space between the boy’s back and the rear of the seat. Irwin did this with his left hand, approaching the boy from the boy’s rear left hand side. After pushing the young man down in his seat, Irwin reached behind the boy in the space created by the boy’s position in the chair and began pulling out the boy’s shirttail from his trousers. All during this episode Irwin was making wise cracks and calling the young man derogatory names in a hate filled voice. His final action, on the squirming victim, was to insert his hand into the boy’s pants and, placing it on the young man’s bare backside, squeezing his buttocks while the youth squirmed in terror and embarrassment in front of all his classmates.

I recall leaving that classroom that day feeling depressed and frightened at what had taken place in front of thirty other boys. None of us had the vocabulary or psychological sophistication to even talk about what we had witnessed, few said anything, and none of us had the courage to even address the issue.

Brother Irwin became bolder from that point on. He made threats to all of us as to revealing what took place in the classroom and engaged in wholesale terrorism for the remainder of the year. Irwin would repeat his molestation countless times on various students. He had certain favorites he would molest and assault repeatedly. His method always seemed to involve placing his hands down a boy’s pants and squeezing the boy’s buttocks while holding the child in his seat by a hand on the young man’s leg or by holding him down by his shoulder.

There was rarely a week that went by that Irwin did not molest someone in that classroom. We had no words to describe what we were experiencing and witnessing. The word “pedophile” was not in our vocabulary, nor was the word “molest.”

The closest we came to having a word for what we were experiencing was what some boys voiced as “MO” (short for “homosexual” that was barely, if at all, in our vocabulary)

Charlie Irwin had a biological brother, a lay teacher, named Thomas Irwin who was also a teacher in the school. I remember being in “Tommy” Irwin’s class in sophomore year, one day when one of the students called his brother (“Charlie”) a “MO”. Tommy Irwin denied that his brother was “like that”, indicating that even his brother had heard something and was in denial.

Looking back on it now, I find it impossible to fathom that no one in authority in that school or no parent ever took issue with what was taking place in the classroom and what we kids were being subjected to on a daily basis. I can only conclude that either not one of us communicated what was going on or that if anyone did, whatever repercussions ensued were suppressed and “handled quietly.” If the latter was the case, there are some issues of accountability outstanding. Thirty-five years later, I am the parent of two fine young men. If one of my boys came home from school with such a tale of abuse, assault, battery and sexual molestation, I would instantly remove my child from harm, seek immediate legal recourse and insure that the offender never ever entered another classroom or had any dealings with young people.

That is now… back then, at 14 years old, I for one would have been petrified to tell my parents of such things. The fear I had of my own father was a terror in its own right. I wanted as little to do with interacting with him as possible then. I most certainly could not have imagined ever bringing up what was happening to us in school by having to describe how an Irish Christian Brother, who my father held in high esteem just for the fact that he might wear a cassock and belong to the order, would regularly patrol the isles putting his hands down our pants, repeatedly molesting us during our math classes.

Back then things were not as open as they are now, there were many topics that were just not discussed in high school that are easily broached nowadays. Then, as victims, as Catholic school students, we were tremendously embarrassed to talk of any sexual matters, let alone homosexual matters, let alone being molested on a daily basis by a Brother in the School that our parents had selected because of its supposed superior educational qualities.

What happened to us was not our fault, but it could not have been any more embarrassing to talk about than any other topic imaginable. It was hard to understand why our parents wanted us so much to attend that place when we were being criminally assaulted and battered on an almost daily basis.

The damage some of us incurred in that place is inestimable. I presently live in the same area as the school and periodically in my travels I pass by the place. Each time I drive by, I remember the horror of those years. I think of the harm done by Irwin to hundreds of young boys over the years and I think of the institution that would allow such behavior to perpetuate. Mostly, I resent ever being sent into that hell hole and how relieved I was when I finally flunked out of there at the end of my sophomore year. I also remember the wrath of my father when my failure became known.

But who failed in reality? My father never had a clue what us kids were going through in there. He wasn’t there in the classroom when Brother Charlie Irwin came down the isle, sticking his hands in our pants, running his fingers in out butt cracks and then surreptitiously smelling his fingers afterwards. How do you tell that to your staunch Irish Catholic father in 1965?

Br. Ronald Alexius Howe

 

We lived in fear in that school, there were other Brothers there who taught us who were indeed sociopathic, violent men who frightened and intimidated us throughout the school year. I remember one of them, Brother Howe, pulling me out of my seat in the cafeteria one day because I was practicing hypnosis on another student. This individual lifted me bodily from the chair, threw me into a concrete block wall, lifted me up the wall by my arms, held me pinned to the wall by my neck while holding his right hand in a fist in front of my face. His words still resonate in me, “You fucker, you bring him out of that trance or I will drag you up to the principal’s office and beat the fucking shit out of you every step of the way.” This is an educator of young men? Brother Howe was well known for violent outbursts, his attack on me was not at all out of character, yet he continued to serve as a teacher in Bergen Catholic.

What happened to Charlie Irwin after I left Bergen Catholic I may never know. How many boys did he molest after that? How many young men were forced to endure his criminal attacks prior to my being there? How much damage did that vile individual do to innocent young men over his career as a so-called teacher? What of Brother Howe? I may never know the answers to these questions, none of us may ever know. I know one thing, it took me over thirty years to be able to put some of these experiences down on paper. I have spent a good portion of my life in introspection and self-examination and yet it has taken me more that three decades to be able to speak openly about Irwin.

For all I know, Irwin is long dead, if so he can no longer hurt any young boys. I know full well the implications of being a victim of that criminal in monk’s clothing, I know full well about survivor’s guilt and the sense of feeling dirty as a victim of such vile, degrading and filthy sexual abuse.

There is no closure, it does not just go away “in time” it is always a part of every victim’s life experience throughout the extent of their lives. So much pain, such shame, such unfairness, such betrayal. Forgiveness? It is a quaint notion, perhaps if faced with Irwin in person today; I might be able to manage such a feat. He is not in my life any more; he disappeared from my universe in 1966. Given his state of mind and general unhealthiness, I doubt he is still alive, but the memories of his abuse and battery linger.

It’s hard to forgive a memory, even more difficult as a victim to forgive a memory of terror and profound humiliation. I sincerely hope that in my putting these words on paper, other individuals who suffered as victims of Irwin and other pedophiles hiding in the Catholic Church will find the courage to come forward and elucidate their experiences.

Ven. Kobutsu Malone-Osho

Obituary Link for Br. Ronald Joseph Howe http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/PDFs/20120124_Howe_Obit.pdf

Obituary Link for Br. Charles B. Irwin http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/PDFs/IrwinObit.pdf