Blog Archives

Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops


Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops

By  BRIAN ROSS , RHONDA SCHWARTZ and ANNA SCHECTER April 15, 2008

From the link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4656143

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

Even as he told reporters on his flight to America that he was “deeply ashamed” over the church sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict was accused by victims of protecting some 19 bishops accused of sexually abusing children.

“As a Catholic, I have to sadly conclude that he is not serious about ridding the church of corrupt bishops,” said Anne Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a group tracking public records involving the bishops.

According to the group, of the 19 bishops “credibly accused of abusing children,” none has lost his title, been publicly censured by the Vatican or referred for criminal prosecutions.

“The sexual corruption in the Catholic church starts at the very top,” said Doyle.

Pope Benedict told reporters on his flight this morning from Rome to Washington, D.C., he would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the scandal. “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry,” he said, according to Reuters.

While the church has moved to expel accused priests, critics say the higher-ranking bishops have been given favored treatment. “The attitude of the bishops towards the victims and the families of sexual abuse and predatory clergy is drop dead,” said Michael Wegs, of Marion, Iowa, one of nine former high schools students who said they were abused at a seminary in Missouri by former Palm Beach, Fla. Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell.

When the allegations were made public, Bishop O’Connell admitted at least two cases of abuse and was allowed to resign. He now lives on the beautiful, sprawling grounds of  the Trappists Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.

“He deserves to be in jail,” said Wegs, his accuser. “I don’t think there is any justice because he is allowed to travel, go where he please. He’s still a bishop, and he’s living among priests in the hierarchical structure; he is a top dog despite the fact that he’s a sexual predator.” Wegs says O’Connell has failed to even apologize to his victims.

Bishop O’Connell did not return phone calls from ABCNews.com seeking comment, but church officials say he and other bishops have been punished appropriately. “You cannot put on clerical attire, and you cannot service in a public way in ministry,” said Austin, Texas Bishop Gregory Aymond, chair of the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.

“That is a very, very significant consequence, and I would say a significant penalty,” said Bishop Aymond, who conceded the accused bishops maintain their title. “Priests and bishops remain priests and bishops forever, regardless of what happens to them or what they do,” said Bishop Aymond.

But victims groups and church critics say the pope can and should do much more to punish the bishops and finally resolve the scandal.

Before he became pope, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was in charge of monitoring cases of pedophile priests and was directly involved in deciding what punishment, if any, would be administered to priests and bishops.

“Priests who abuse children can be removed from the priesthood, but they do not remove bishops, they do not remove cardinals,” said author Jason Berry who has been tracking the sex abuse scandal and produced a documentary film on the subject, “Vows of Silence,” which premiered in New Orleans last night. “The problem is the power structure. There is no accountability,” said Berry.

Berry says the pope’s decision to have the Los Angeles archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, accompany him on his trip proves the point. “Why would you want someone in your entourage” like Roger Mahoney, asked Berry.

“This man has overseen a great many cases in which priests were moved from parish to parish. His diocese has paid over $660 million in settlements. And yet this cardinal has refused to release the files on these priests who have abused children,” Berry said.

Cardinal Mahoney did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

 

 

Pope Benedict’s Legacy Marred by Sex Abuse Scandal


Pope Benedict’s Legacy Marred by Sex Abuse Scandal

By  RUSSELL GOLDMAN  Feb. 11, 2013

From the link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/pope-benedicts-legacy-marred-sex-abuse-scandal/story?id=18466726

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

When Pope Benedict XVI resigns at the end of this month, he leaves behind a Church grappling with a global fallout from sex abuse and a personal legacy marred by allegations that he was instrumental in covering up that abuse.

As the sex abuse scandal spread from North America to Europe, Benedict became the first pope to meet personally with victims, and offered repeated public apologies for the Vatican’s decades of inaction against priests who abused their congregants.

“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” the pope said in a 2008 homily in Washington, D.C., before meeting with victims of abuse for the first time. “It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention.” During the same trip to the U.S., he met with victims for the first time.

For some of the victims, however, Benedict’s actions were “lip service and a public relations campaign,” said Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who represents victims of sex abuse. For 25 years, Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Vatican office responsible for investigating claims of sex abuse, but he did not act until he received an explicit order from Pope John Paul II.

In 1980, as Archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger approved plans for a priest to move to a different German parish and return to pastoral work only days after the priest began therapy for pedophilia. The priest was later convicted of sexually abusing boys.

In 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger became head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the office once known as the Inquisition — making him responsible for upholding church doctrine, and for investigating claims of sexual abuse against clergy. Thousands of letters detailing allegations of abuse were forwarded to Ratzinger’s office.

A lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a victims’ rights group, charges that as head of the church body Ratzinger participated in a cover-up of abuse. In an 84-page complaint, the suit alleges that investigators of sex abuse cases in several countries found “intentional cover-ups and affirmative steps taken that serve to perpetuate the violence and exacerbate the harm.”

“Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, either knew and/or some cases consciously disregarded information that showed subordinates were committing or about to commit such crimes,” the complaint says.

Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican’s lawyer in the U.S., told the AP the complaint was a “ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes.”

In the 1990s, former members of the Legion of Christ sent a letter to Ratzinger alleging that the founder and head of the Catholic order, Father Marcial Maciel, had molested them while they were teen seminarians. Maciel was allowed to continue as head of the order.

In 1996, Ratzinger didn’t respond to letters from Milwaukee’s archbishop about a priest accused of abusing students at a Wisconsin school for the deaf. An assistant to Ratzinger began a secret trial of the priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, but halted the process after Murphy wrote a personal appeal to Ratzinger complaining of ill health.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a letter urging the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to pursue allegations of child abuse in response to calls from bishops around the world.

Ratzinger wrote a letter asserting the church’s authority to investigate claims of abuse and emphasizing that church investigators had the right to keep evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the alleged victims reached adulthood.

Ratzinger became upset — and slapped Ross’s hand — when ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross asked him a question in 2002 about the delay in pursuing sex abuse charges against Maciel.

But by 2004, Ratzinger had ordered an investigation of Maciel, and after becoming pope, he ordered Maciel to do penance and removed him from the active priesthood. After becoming pope Benedict spoke openly about the crisis, but he was repeatedly accused of having participated in a coverup.

In April 2010, Benedict and other officials were accused by members of BishopAccountability.org of covering up alleged child abuse by 19 bishops.

At the time, the Pope told reporters he was “deeply ashamed” of the allegations of sex abuse by his subordinates and reportedly said, “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”

Several other accusations followed from alleged victims around the world, prompting Benedict to make a public statement later that month from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. In his speech, he said the Catholic Church would take action against alleged sexual abusers. The Pope described a tearful meeting in Malta with eight men who claimed to have been abused by clergy there.

“I shared with them their suffering, and with emotion, I prayed with them,” said Benedict, “assuring them of church action.”

In 2010, he personally apologized to Irish victims of abuse.

“You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry,” the pope wrote in an eight-page letter to Irish Catholics. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.”

But for those who advocate on behalf of the victims, the pope’s words did not go far enough.

“Tragically, he gets credit for talking about the crisis,” said David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP.  “He only ever addressed the crimes and never the cover-ups. And only in the past tense, which is self-serving.  Sex crimes and cover-ups are still happening.”

Clohessy called the meetings the pope had with victims “symbolic gestures.”

“This controversy that has reached even the highest office of the Vatican won’t go away until the pope himself tells us what he knew, when he knew it, and what he’s going to do about it,” said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a Catholic priest and professor of theology at Notre Dame University.

Lena, the Vatican’s U.S. lawyer, declined to comment on charges that Benedict had participated in a cover up, but said the fact that two major cases against the Church in U.S. courts, including the Murphy case, had “been dismissed by the plaintiffs themselves, speaks volumes for the strength and integrity of those cases.”

Vatican’s New Sex Abuse Prosecutor Gets No Confidence Vote


Vatican’s New Sex Abuse Prosecutor Gets No Confidence Vote

Posted by Joe Saunders     December 23, 2012 11:36 PM

From the link: http://pinellas.legalexaminer.com/miscellaneous/vaticans-new-sex-abuse-prosecutor-gets-no-confidence-vote-.aspx?googleid=306164

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Rev. Robert W. Oliver, a Boston canon lawyer, to be the “Promoter of Justice” at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome. A major portion of the job of the Promoter of Justice is the supervision of the Church’s internal investigation and prosecution of Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children.

After the Pope’s announcement, Rev. Oliver got a no confidence vote from one of Boston’s leading child protection advocates. Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director of Bishop Accountability, commented to the New York Times that: “Rev Oliver is a champion of accused priests, which obviously does not bode well for the job he will do as the promoter of justice.”

Boston was the epicenter of the public disclosure of the worldwide scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing children. The Boston Globe newspaper series documented an extensive cover up of pedophile priests by Cardinal Bernard Law. The cover up of the priests who sexually abused children involved the protection of the priests from criminal prosecution by civil legal authorities and moving the priests to other parishes where more children could be victimized. Rev. Oliver was brought into Boston in 2002 when Cardinal Law was removed from his post in Boston and moved to Rome.

Anne Barrett Doyle and Bishop Accountability have carefully followed and documented the Catholic priest abuse scandal for over a decade and have a reputation as an independent watchdog for the protection of children. Ms. Doyle and Bishop Accountability leveled specific criticisms of Rev. Oliver’s work in Boston that raise concerns about whether he will make the protection of children his top priority. For example, Rev. Oliver cleared 45% of accused priests in Boston when statistics across the country show that about 10% of accused priests in other dioceses are cleared. Rev. Oliver also made it easier for accused priests to stay in ministry and harder for abuse survivors to obtain church records.

Bishop Accountability has worked tirelessly to protect children and would have supported a choice by the Vatican that was supported by the factual record. Bishop Accountability has created a worldwide registry of pedophile priests. The Vatican has failed and refused to make a comprehensive list of pedophile priests public, a job that has fallen to Bishop Accountability by default. After 10 years in Boston, Rev. Oliver has made no efforts to call Cardinal Law to justice for covering up abuse of children. He has focused only on reviewing whether there is proof against individual priests. In fact, Cardinal Law got in essence a promotion to head a basilica in Rome when he should, in my opinion, be in prison.

No Catholic Bishop, Archbishop, or Cardinal has ever been held accountable or punished by the Vatican for covering up or protecting pedophile priests. In fact, the police and district attorneys in the U.S. criminal system have only recently convicted the first Bishop of covering up and protecting a child predator. In September 2012, Bishop Finn in Kansas City was the first Bishop convicted of a crime. Bishop Finn was convicted of a misdemeanor of failing to report known child abuse. The Vatican has taken no action against Bishop Finn and he still is the Vatican’s representative as Bishop in Kansas City. The Vatican’s failure to take any action against Bishop Finn is a ratification of Bishop Finn’s conduct. It is also indicative of where the Vatican’s priorities lie.

Pope Benedict’s failure to address the corruption in the hierarchy of the church that has protected priests who are criminal child abusers and rapists sends a message to Bishops around the world that protection of priests may be a higher priority than the protection of children. The appointment of Rev. Oliver in whom Bishop Accountability has no confidence to the top Vatican post does nothing to signal a change in the Church’s failed approach to the worldwide child abuse scandal.