Category Archives: Spotlight Movie

Hundreds of Italian paedophile priests outed in shocking map


Hundreds of Italian paedophile priests outed in shocking map

Patrick Browne (patrick.browne@thelocal.com)
Published: 03 Mar 2016 16:15 GMT+01:00
From the Link: http://www.thelocal.it/20160303/hundreds-of-italian-paedophile-priests-outed-in-shocking-map

Map of Pedophile Priests in Italy. Photo: L'Abuso

Map of Pedophile Priests in Italy.
Photo: L’Abuso

The map of Italy below paints a highly disturbing picture.

In the last decade alone, there have been 120 definitive convictions, marked on the map by red pins, against child abusers among the clergy.

Yellow pins mark instances of abuse that have been confirmed by a court, but the perpetrator has not been sentenced, most commonly due to court cases expiring under the statute of limitations.

Black pins mark cases in which foreign priests in Italy, who are under investigation abroad, are being protected by the Vatican.

L‘Abuso, an Italian association for the victims of paedophilia by priests, collected the figures from court data.

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But the cases shown on the map are just the tip of the iceberg, the company’s chief, Francesco Zanardi, told The Local.

“The actual scale of the problem is unknown, and we only have data for the last decade – but it gives an idea of how widespread it is.”

Zanardi hopes the map will help convince Italians of the need to finally bring child abusing clerics through the civil justice system.

“The Italian government has a treaty with the Vatican which means priests are not obliged to report child sexual abuse. In other countries that is a serious crime in itself – but in Italy it’s just the norm.”

The majority of Church child abuse investigations in Italy are therefore carried out behind a wall of secrecy in the Vatican’s ecclesiastical courts.

Once found guilty by a Vatican court, most abusive priests do not end up not being defrocked and incarcerated. Instead, they are sent to a new diocese where abuse can occur again.

This process was even actively encouraged by the institution itself when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a letter to all bishops in 2001 encouraging them only to report suspected abuse cases to the Vatican’s courts on pain of excommunication. Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI four years later before resigning in 2013.

But Italians are becoming more critical of the Church’s efforts to deal with paedophilia internally, thanks to notable media coverage of the problem.

Firstly, the ongoing investigation into Vatican finance chief George Pell, who is still working for the Church despite reams of evidence suggesting he covered up years of abuse while working as a priest in the Australian state of Victoria.

Secondly, Sunday’s Oscar success of the film ‘Spotlight’, which scooped two awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay. The film tells the story of how a team of reporters working for the Boston Globe first exposed endemic child abuse in America in 2003.

“I’m pleased that ongoing investigation into Cardinal Pell and the recent success of Spotlight have the Italian media talking more about the issue, but a lot more needs to be done,” Zanardi said, adding that he doubted Pope Francis would do anything to change the laws surrounding the reporting of abuse.

Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has tried to improve the Catholic Church’s image, but critics say he has failed to address the problem of child abuse sufficiently and has not done enough to create a dialogue with victims.

“It’s ridiculous really,” added Zanardi.

“We’ve known about child abuse in the Catholic Church for 15 years  and it’s time to face up to it. The Church needs to be forced to take its child abusers to civil courts – but if that happens it will be a miracle, no pun intended.”

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A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight


A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight

April 1

From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-new-sex-abuse-scandal-in-the-spotlight/2016/04/01/4a1747fa-f76e-11e5-8b23-538270a1ca31_story.html

"Saint" Peter Damian's admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

“Saint” Peter Damian’s admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

Mary Kane is a freelance reporter who lives in Arlington.

Like many longtime reporters, I celebrated the Oscar victory for “Spotlight” and the fearless journalism that exposed the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.

I would soon see the story, and the scandal, from a very different perspective.

Two days after the Oscar ceremony, news broke about another widespread church coverup. I found myself poring over a grand jury report outlining in sickening detail the abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests and religious leaders in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — in my hometown.

I moved away long ago, but I still have family there. I visit regularly, and my mom was a devoted parish volunteer during her lifetime. I figured I might recognize a few of the accused or some of the churches. I quickly realized things stretched far beyond that.

The names of priests and parishes from my childhood appeared, one after another, all familiar. My grade school priest. Not one but two pastors from my neighborhood parish, a half block from my childhood home. The principal, vice principal and music director from my high school. A priest I once met with to consider officiating my wedding. The priest at the church my four nieces and nephews attended. The chaplain of the nearby Catholic hospital, where my mom volunteered.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Two of the priests, leaders at Bishop McCort High School, where my parents sent me and my three brothers in the 1970s to receive a quality religious education, were “sexual partner[s]” who worked together to molest a 13-year-old boy, the report said. They coordinated visits to his house. Once one priest had “satisfied himself,” the report said, the other “took advantage of a victim he believed to be compliant.”

One had been my religion teacher.

First, I called my brothers, to vent. Then I tried comprehending the scale of the abuses. TheSpotlight team identified about 80 predatory priests in an archdiocese of 1.8 million Catholics. The grand jury report found at least 50 priests and religious leaders in a diocese of fewer than 100,000. That was stunning enough. But there was more.

“Spotlight” depicted the Catholic clubbiness of Boston that allowed for abuse. In small-town Pennsylvania, corruption extended into all corners of the community. The church exercised “overwhelming access and influence,” even handpicking community leaders, including the police and fire chiefs. “The mayor would have them come to me, and I would interview them and I would tell him which I would pick,” a top bishop’s aide testified.

I appreciated how “Spotlight” highlighted the crucial role that journalism plays in challenging the powerful. In my home town, however, I saw how it sometimes falls short. George Foster, manager of an outdoor billboard advertising company and a former high school classmate of mine, emerges as the hero — not an investigative reporting team.

Foster’s brother was a priest; the two heard rumors of abuses and began looking into them. In 2002, Foster wrote an op-ed for the local paper, calling on the church to clean up its house.

Immediately, he was inundated with tips and evidence from victims, attorneys and even the police. He also did something no journalist had: He went through the files at the Blair County Courthouse from the 1994 civil trial of the Rev. Francis Luddy, a priest accused of molesting boys. The lawsuit against Luddy was filed in 1987, but records were sealed at the church’s request. They became public during the trial.

Foster found in the files documents showing church officials knew of credible allegations against many additional priests but kept them secret. He confronted then-Bishop Joseph Adamec. If this were a movie, outraged authorities would have taken action. But that didn’t happen. Adamec rebuffed him.

Finally, in 2014, state investigators in a different child abuse case contacted Foster, and he provided his files. The report cited them extensively and called Foster’s actions “nothing short of heroic.”

I wondered where the journalists had been. Local media covered the Luddy trial, and the Johnstown paper, tipped off by Foster, wrote about the Luddy files in 2002. But none of it drew national attention. I called Richard Serbin, the attorney in the Luddy case, who regularly represents clergy sex-abuse victims. There wasn’t a paper with the prestige of the Boston Globe to make an impact, Serbin said. It happened in a small community in decline, and few noticed or cared. “The facts were all there, back in 1994,” Serbin said. “And no one bothered to look at them.”

“Spotlight” ends with a lengthy list of investigations of church abuses worldwide. In Pennsylvania, the grand jury report offers prayers that the current bishop makes the right choices going forward. I hope that works. I’m not exactly in the mood for prayer.

Still protecting its own


Still protecting its own

May 15 at 7:29 PM

From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/still-protecting-its-own/2016/05/15/dca095ec-194f-11e6-aa55-670cabef46e0_story.html

Catholic outrage at Facebook posts against Catholics. Loses no sleep over priests raping little boys.

Catholic outrage at Facebook posts against Catholics. Loses no sleep over priests raping little boys.

“In 1995, two individuals alleged sexual abuse by Father Robert Hopkins in the 1970s.”

“In 1999, an individual alleged sexual abuse by Father Timothy Murphy in the late 1960s to early 1970s.”

“In 2002, an individual alleged sexual abuse in the mid-1970s by Dennis Pecore, who was then a religious brother.”

ON AND ON it goes. These accounts, and several dozen others like them, now appear on the website of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which recently published a list — or rather, republished one from 2002 with 14 additional names — of clergy alleged to have abused children. Similar lists have been published by other dioceses, which in recent years have taken steps to atone for years of sweeping such cases under the rug by adopting more forthcoming policies and providing counseling to victims of abusive priests.

The church says the publication of these names will provide acknowledgment to victims that they are not alone. By seeing their abusers publicly identified and shamed, victims may be “empowered to find out that other people have alleged against the same person,” according to Sean Caine, spokesman for the archdiocese.

That’s a fair point but an inadequate one. For while the archdiocese is extending one sort of validation to victims, it’s simultaneously pressing to deny most of them another sort: the opportunity to seek redress in the courts.

For years, even as it acknowledged having systematically enabled and covered up the abuse of children by priests, the church has also fought aggressively to maintain tight deadlines that limit the time in which survivors may file lawsuits against abusers and superiors who looked the other way.

In Maryland, the church, fearing the financial fallout of such suits, has lobbied so effectively that bills to extend the deadline, known as the statute of limitations, have not even been accorded a vote in the legislature. The result for the great majority of victims is that by the time they speak up about the abuse they suffered — typically, many years after the fact, as the examples at the top of this editorial illustrate — they no longer have the option of filing a lawsuit, which now ends at age 25. Youthful victims of abuse, whether in schools, churches or teams, must be given more leeway to seek justice, including compensation for the harm they have suffered.

The church argues that abusers are ill-equipped to defend themselves when alleged victims level their accusations many years after the fact; it cites fading memories, unreliable witnesses and fragile evidence. Yet Maryland, like most states, has no such deadline limiting when abusers can be criminally prosecuted. Just as in criminal cases, civil juries are qualified to judge the strength of a victim’s allegations and a defendant’s response.

It’s possible that the stigma of abuse may start to fade as a result of the publicity to which clergy sex abuse has been exposed. If victims come forward more quickly, owing to the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight” and intensified public discussion of abuse, that would be a good thing. In the meantime, justice for victims must include the option of litigation — even if that proves costly for the Catholic Church and other institutions.

“Pope Francis, It’s Time to Protect the Children” Plea by “Spotlight” Producer Falls on Deaf Ears


“Pope Francis, It’s Time to Protect the Children” Plea by “Spotlight” Producer Falls on Deaf Ears

Posted on by Betty Clermont

From the Link: https://opentabernacle.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/pope-francis-its-time-to-protect-the-children-plea-by-spotlight-producer-falls-on-deaf-ears/

"Saint" Peter Damian's admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

“Saint” Peter Damian’s admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

In accepting the Academy Award for Best Picture, producer Michael Sugar told the world: “This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

Earlier that day, Spotlight’s Mark Ruffalo, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, as well as Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, who together won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, attended a protest outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles. They were there to support members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

‘What better way to start the day?’” said McCarthy who called up Ruffalo and Singer that morning to join him. Singer added: “We’re trying to put a little more pressure on the Church to hold bishops accountable, have a little more transparency and do a better job protecting kids.”

Later on the red carpet, Ruffalo told Reuters they were “protesting the continued lack of transparency of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican and most of the archdioceses here in the United States on sexual abuse. There are 2,800 priests who they know are absolute sexual predators whose names have still not been released here in the United States. [There are] thousands more throughout the United States and the Vatican today is still dragging its feet on making any real reforms. So we were there today to try to bring justice closer to the hands of these poor people, this horrible thing that’s happened to these people.

Pope Francis has provided only lip-service, a promise of a still-non-existent tribunal, and a commission to solve problems someday in the future which have already been addressed and remedied by the survivors, their advocates and civil authorities. The only action taken so far by the commission has been to boot out survivor Peter Saunders for being too vocal.

“On child abuse, there is no sincerity on Francis’ side,” Saunders said later.

All American children are at risk because the bishops refuse to release the names of their credibly accused employees and because the bishops have lobbyists with seemingly unlimited resources to obstruct the passage of laws revising statutes of limitations  allowing adults who were assaulted as children to expose and stop their torturers from harming more children.

Children in other parts of the world with weak or non-existent compulsory reporting laws are in even more danger. As dictator, Pope Francis can and does enact and enforce Church law on his own initiative. But he refuses to act to protect children.

Bishops follow the Church’s universal law, which gives them – and guilty clerics – lots of wiggle room. Priests who molest minors are to receive “just penalties” which can be as mild as a warning.

Permanent removal is reserved only for certain cases, which the Vatican described in a policy framework sent to the world’s bishops in 2011. A priest must be removed permanently if his ministry would be “a danger for minors or a cause of scandal” [as decided solely by the bishop].

Church officials need not report child abuse unless local secular law requires it. The result is that Catholic officials in many countries still give second chances to child molesters, with the Vatican’s permission.

Right now, immediately, as he did with the Bishop of Bling, Pope Francis can remove bishops who aid, abet and/or cover-up for pedophile priests or who do not report child sex abuse to civil authorities – but he has refused to do.

Pope Francis is able to endanger children around the world because the “choir” that Michael Sugar hopes for is humongously outmatched by the American mainstream media’s fawning and selective coverage of the “people’s pope.”

For example, the only publication of Ruffalo’s interview was in the Philippines.

The only websites to highlight Sugar’s acceptance speech were mostly trade publications: the Hollywood Reporter,  Entertainment Weekly  E! News and The Blaze.

What we got from the mainstream media (Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, UPI, New York Times, Washington Post, International Business Times, U.S. News & World Report, New York Daily News, The Salt Lake Tribune, Google, Yahoo and religious and broadcast media) was that the Vatican praised Spotlight. Additionally, the Boston Globe, ABC News, Vanity Fair, etc. told us that Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the pope’s do-nothing commission on sex abuse, liked it too.

Ironically, the mainstream media had praised Spotlight for showing the importance of investigative journalism and the courage and difficulty it took to uncover and report detrimental information about the powerful Catholic Church.

Coincidentally, Australian Cardinal George Pell, chosen by Pope Francis as head of all Vatican finance, was ending his first day’s testimony to the Royal Commission on child sex abuse as the Academy Awards telecast was beginning. Because his doctors claimed he was too ill to travel, Pell testified via video link from a hotel room in Rome. Pell was responding to charges that he attempted to bribe a victim, dismissed a victim’s complaint, knew about Australia’s worst predator priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and did nothing, and was complicit in moving Ridsdale from parish to parish in Ballarat.

A group of Australian survivors flew to Rome to be present during Pell’s appearance.

In Ballarat, “we have the highest suicide rate among men in Australia. We have some of the worst drinking and violence problems. And it all stems from that abuse,” said David Ridsdale, Gerald Ridsdale’s nephew and one of his victims. “This is not just a problem in Ballarat or in Australia,” he told the press at the hotel before the hearing. “This is a systemic problem throughout all the world.”

Help us heal the future,” he asked members of the media. “We don’t need any more victims in 50 years. We need to be the last of the survivors.”

Fat chance.

The U.S. media headlined that in giving testimony, Pell was contrite and honest: “says Church made enormous mistakes,” “admits ‘indefensible’ errors in abuse crisis,” “admits ‘scandalous’ response to abuse allegations.”

The following quotes by Pell regarding clerical sex abuse, sometimes buried but most often omitted by the American media, were published in Australia:

“For good or for ill the Church follows the patterns of the society in which it lives.”

“I don’t think it calls into question the divine structure of the Church … I think the faults overwhelmingly have been more personal faults rather than structures.”

”I was certainly unaware of it … If [the leadership of the Catholic Church had] been gossips, which we weren’t…we would have realized earlier just how widespread this business was.”

Business Insider Australia compiled a list of thirteen things “the man in charge of the Catholic Church’s finances couldn’t recall or didn’t know anything about during his testimony today.”

Completely omitted by the U.S. media was that Pell had been making headlines in Australia long before he was promoted by Pope Francis. Accounts of clerical child sex abuse in Australia were so egregious that in 2012 the state of Victoria (capital Melbourne where Pell was archbishop) initiated a parliament inquiry, the state of New South Wales (capital Sydney where Pell was cardinal) investigated complaints that the Catholic Church hampered police investigations, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the formation of a Royal Commission– the highest form of investigative body in that country – to study child sex abuse by religious and non-government bodies.

Pell’s response was to complain about a “’persistent press campaign’ and ‘general smears that we are covering up and moving people around,’ and then capped it off with the claim that abuse by Catholic priests had been singled out and exaggerated.’”

“Catholic clergy commit six times as much abuse as those in the rest of the Churches combined, and that’s a conservative figure,” a Sydney University law professor told the Victoria inquiry. (Catholics are 25% of Australia’s population) “Of thousands of offences, not a single crime was reported by a Church official to the police,” the Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner testified.

Anthony Foster, father of two young daughters repeatedly raped by a priest – one committed suicide, the second struggled with alcohol addiction and while intoxicated was struck by a car leaving her paralyzed – told the Victorian inquiry that Pell showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy typifying the attitude and response of the Catholic hierarchy” when he was Melbourne archbishop.

Pell’s apology was described as “full of criminal clichés” and  “a cynical exercise in damage control.”

In an essay titled, “Rules Are for Schmucks: How to Succeed in Rome,” Luis Granados recalled what happened to John Ellis, who was abused by a priest for many years as an altar boy, when he brought a lawsuit for $100,000 against the Sydney archdiocese.

[…] Pell brought in high-powered lawyers to defend the case.

They subjected Ellis to a grueling two-day cross examination about the details of his abuse and whether he was really a closeted homosexual, systematically trying to convince the court that he was a greedy liar. They hired a public relations expert to help smear Ellis in the court of public opinion.

So how does media darling Pope Francis treat this guy? He promotes him – to the single most important position in the Church. Cardinal Pell is now in charge of all the Church’s money, including the notorious Vatican Bank. The fine moral sensibility he displayed in spending $550,000 to defeat a $100,000 claim to set an example for others, will now guide an institution unregulated by any government and that has a long history of financial fraud, tax evasion, facilitating Mafia money laundering, and possibly much worse …

(For more information, you can read my blog: “Why a Miscreant like Cardinal Pell is Head of Vatican Finance.”)

“I’ve got the full backing of the pope,” Pell told reporters before the second day’s testimony after he met with Pope Francis.

After the four days of testimony were completed: Associated Press, “Australian Cardinal George Pell admits abuse failure, wants to help town [Ballarat].” Reuters: “’Evil was done,’ Australian cardinal says after meeting abuse survivors.” Both wire services are picked up by dozens of U.S. news outlets.

The survivors wanted, but were denied, a meeting with Pope Francis. As were thesurvivors in Mexico during the pope’s recent trip.

The Australian press: The Age, “Cardinal George Pell has to resign, or Pope Francis must act.” Sydney Morning Herald, “After four days of evidence, we’re still in the darkabout what Cardinal George Pell really knew.” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “If the media coverage – from left and right – is any sign, Cardinal George Pell angered many people with his evidence this week to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”

A Sydney priest who knows Pell for more than 30 years: “I think I share the dismay and disgust of a great many people, Catholic and others, with the cardinal’s display, and the interesting thing about it of course is it’s just made plain to the world who he is and what he’s like.”

Except in the United States.

 

(Note to readers: No alternative reporter or blogger would have access to accurate information on the global clerical sex abuse crisis without the Abuse Tracker website, administered by the volunteer talent and hard work of Kathy Shaw. If you’d like to support independent journalism, please visit the website and follow the instructions to donate.)

 

Abolish time limits on childhood sex abuse cases


Abolish time limits on childhood sex abuse cases

By Stephen Estey | 11:11 a.m. April 22, 2016

From the link: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/apr/22/sex-abuse-law-change-04232016/

April is Sex Abuse Awareness Month. In light of this fact, it’s time we re-examine our state laws — particularly those that pertain to sexual abuse. More specifically, we need to take a hard look at the laws that can limit or bar a sex abuse victim’s ability to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the institutions that failed to protect him/her. These laws are referred to as statutes of limitations. Though in place for a reason, statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases frequently act to protect predators and harm victims.

Children who have been sexually abused face a lifetime of psychological issues. The trauma inflicted on them in their youth reverberates into adulthood. Often it takes years for victims of childhood sex abuse to come to terms with what happened to them. Their struggle is real: a childhood sex abuse victim is more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to help him/her deal with their emotional pain and low self-esteem. They may have difficulty forming meaningful relationships with coworkers and may find themselves in and out of romantic relationships due to trust issues.

In addition to the human cost of childhood sex abuse, there is a real cost to society. A 1996 Department of Justice study of child molestation victims determined that childhood sex abuse costs society an average of $23 billion annually.

There is one clear way that we can lessen the toll that childhood sex abuse takes on our society: increase and/or eliminate statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases.

A statute of limitations puts a time limit on the civil or criminal prosecution of a pedophile. In California, a victim of child sex abuse generally has until the age of 26 to file a lawsuit. These time limits serve to protect pedophiles and the institutions to which they belong from legal or societal backlash. A good example of this is the Roman Catholic Church. Several of its prominent leaders have been made aware of sex abuse scandals taking place within the church, yet these leaders have done nothing — or have taken steps to cover up the crime, as seen in the critically acclaimed 2015 film “Spotlight.”

This must end.

Lawmakers in several states have committed themselves to bringing this disgraceful trend to a stop. California refuses to eliminate or even extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed two legislative bills that would have extended the statute of limitations for victims, amid heavy lobbying from the Catholic Church and other institutions that have negligently enabled predators to sexually abuse young children.

In the end, justice is what matters most. Victims should not be silenced. Pedophiles, rapists, and molesters should not walk free simply because the statute of limitations in their state protects them. All childhood sex abuse statutes of limitations in every state should be promptly lengthened and/or eliminated.

Estey of the law firm Estey Bomberger represents childhood molestation victims and has twice been named “Trial Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.