Hundreds of child sex abuse complaints made against Christian Brothers, royal commission hears
Commission told 281 Christian Brothers in Australia subject to one or more claims or substantiated complaints of child sexual abuse
Sunday February 21, 2016 21.53 EST
From the Link: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/feb/22/hundreds-of-child-sex-abuse-complaints-made-against-christian-brothers-royal-commission-hears
In Australia, 853 people have made a claim or substantiated complaint of child sexual abuse against one or more Christian Brothers, with 75% of victims under the age of 13 at the time, a royal commission has heard.
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has turned its attention to the Christian Brothers as the third round of its hearings into the diocese of Ballarat began on Monday. A religious community within the Catholic church, the Christian Brothers primarily worked in educational facilities for children.
In all, 281 individual members of the Christian Brothers in Australia have been subject to one or more claims or substantiated complaints of child sexual abuse, the commission heard, with 45% of that abuse occurring in Tasmania or Victoria.
The commission’s data showed that the highest number of claims of child sexual abuse were against a brother identified only as Brother CCK, who had 46 complaints made against him about incidents in Victoria and Tasmania. The average age of his victims was 11 years old and the abuse occurred between 1963 and 1987, including in Ballarat.
Another Brother, Stephen Farrell, a Christian Brother at St Alpius Boys’ School in Ballarat East, had allegations of sexual abuse made against him from six people, with the abuse allegedly occurring between 1971 and 1974. In 1997, Farrell was convicted of nine counts of indecent assault against two boys aged nine and 10 at the school but his two-year prison sentence was wholly suspended.
He was convicted of a further charge of indecent assault against a 10-year-old boy, with his sentence suspended on appeal. The commission heard another Brother, Gerald Leo Fitzgerald, was forced to retire from teaching at St Alpius Boys’ School, with a report saying he had “reached that stage of life when, for some men, control of emotional impulses becomes lessened”.
He was allowed to continue to live within the St Patrick’s religious community, the commission heard. A separate report stated he went into the junior dormitory to “play with boys”. He died in 1987 and was never charged.
Reading the opening address, the counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness, described a number of other Brothers who had abused or who were alleged to have abused while working within religious schools and within Ballarat’s Catholic community.
Timothy Barlow, a former student of St Patrick’s College, also gave evidence to the commission on Monday morning, saying: “There were rumours among students at the school that the Brothers were sexually abusing some of the kids.
“I would describe it as common knowledge, because it was a topic of routine conversation among kids that this was going on.”
One, Brother Edward Dowlan, “made little attempt to conceal his behaviour”, Barlow said, frequently placing his hands down boys’ pants while they walked around. In a previous commission hearing about Ballarat held last year, the commission heard from a witness that he was raped by Dowlan.
It was a survival of the fittest environment, Barlow said, describing how the Brothers beat him, including bashing him on the head, when he was 15 years old.
He said he tried to stick up for the younger children who he knew who were being abused by the Brothers but was not taken seriously, even when he called his mother from the school and told her what was happening.
“Looking back at my time at St Patrick’s we were in a dysfunctional and closed environment where the abnormal was normal,” Barlow said.
“As 15 to 16 year olds, we had no idea really of the outside codes of ethics, morality and justice, so it was not a notable thing for us to see that these things were happening.”
Another witness, Martinus Claassen, said he was a pupil at St Patrick’s from 1974 and that Dowlan was his housemaster.
One weekend he left his homework in the classroom and, after he confessed to Dowlan that he had subsequently not done this homework, Dowlan became angered, Claassen said.
“He started stroking my thigh, his hand then moved so he was stroking and squeezing my genitals,” he said.
When he said to stop, Dowlan “struck me on the back of my head”, Claassen said.
Dowlan then made him stand facing the wall at the back of the room and began gyrating against him, which continued until lunch time. Claassen said that, after Dowlan let him go, he went to the toilet and vomited.
He told his mother and a meeting was arranged with the headmaster of the school, Brother Paul Nangle, who accused him of making it up, Claassen said. Nangle is due to give evidence before the commission this week, when he will answer questions about how he responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.
“Brother Nangle then terminated the meeting, saying, ‘Thank you for coming.’”
The experience left him demoralised and he worried he would be expelled, Claassen said. Claassen, who was also a victim of Brother CCK, told the commission he felt Nangle had failed to act on allegations of abuse or take action to protect children and hold Dowlan to account.
In 2015, Dowlan was convicted of 16 counts of indecent assault against 11 boys at four different Christian Brothers’ schools and was sentenced to six years and six months in prison, with a four-year non-parole period.
Over the next fortnight, the commission will hear from a number of former Christian Brothers staff and victims about historical abuse that occurred within their Ballarat institutions. Australia’s most senior Catholic and financial head of the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, will give evidence on 29 February relating to his time serving as an assistant priest at Ballarat East.
‘We’ve ended up with the ears of the world’: Abuse survivors adamant fight will go on
The abuse survivors who travelled to Rome to hear his evidence spoke to reporters moments after Cardinal Pell completed his final day on the stand in Rome.
David Ridsdale, a victim of pedophile priest, his uncle Gerald Francis Ridsdale, said the fight for justice was far from over.
“We wanted to make sure the commission [for Cardinal Pell] was the same process that we faced when in Australia,” Mr Ridsdale said.
“We feel that has been achieved. But so much more has happened. We’ve ended up with the ears of the world.
“So, please, understand that while we’re fighting one battle in Ballarat, we’re hoping to steamroll a whole deal more, and this is a worldwide institutional problem, not just the Catholic Church, this went on for so long and everybody knew, everybody knew.
“And it is about time that we addressed the past and look forward to the future, and I can assure you that is the goal of all the survivors that you have met.”
‘In the loop’
On his fourth day on the stand in Rome, Cardinal Pell said he would have been aware of concerns raised by parents from the Victorian parish of Doveton in a 1991 letter to the Catholic Education Office that said Searson was going into the boys’ toilets, watching boys in the shower and taking children into the presbytery without permission.
He said he did not investigate the matter because it was the responsibility of the CEO and the Vicar General.
“If they’d asked my opinion I would have given it,” he said.
He agreed that he was “in the loop as far as knowledge of Father Searson being a risk to children” but said the issue was the level of risk and “just what could be done within church and state law”.
The commission also heard that a student at St Patricks College in Ballarat told Cardinal Pell that Brother Edward Dowlan was “misbehaving” with boys in 1974.
Cardinal Pell said the boy “mentioned it casually in conversation” and did not ask him to do anything.
Asked by Commissioner Peter McClellan what he did with the information, Cardinal Pell replied: “I didn’t do anything about it”.
Eventually, he said, he inquired about the matter with the school chaplain but did not go immediately to the school to find out what was going on.
“With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more,” Cardinal Pell said.
Lawyer Peter O’Brien, representing a former student of the Christian Brothers from Ballarat, asked Cardinal Pell “why on earth” he did not mention the complaint to police or insurance companies involved in cases brought against the Christian Brothers about Dowlan since the 1990s.
Cardinal Pell said it was because he had “no idea that the Christian Brothers were covering up in the way in which it’s now apparent”.
Dowlan continued to abuse dozens of children until 1985 but Cardinal Pell said he could not have done something to stop the crimes.
Pell denies offering bribe to keep abuse victim quiet
Earlier in proceedings, Cardinal Pell denied asking a nephew and victim of pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale what it would take to keep him quiet.
David Ridsdale told the commission when he told Cardinal Pell in 1993 he had been abused by his uncle, the then Melbourne bishop asked him: “I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.”
Cardinal Pell said he felt sorry for Ridsdale, but repeatedly denied the claim.
Mr Ridsdale’s lawyer Stephen Odgers SC asked: “Was it the case that you didn’t have much interest in what David Ridsdale told you about the crimes of Gerald Ridsdale?”
Cardinal Pell replied: “That’s completely untrue and David has never claimed that.”
Cardinal Pell said there was a radical misunderstanding between himself and Mr Ridsdale over their 1993 telephone conversation.
“I’m not even sure what keeping quiet means,” Pell said.
“I do dispute that.
“But for a man who was expressing a preference for a church hearing rather than going to the police, I wouldn’t have had any dispute with him on that score, although I have never impeded or discouraged anyone from going to the police.”
Pell said it was a “disastrous coincidence” that five pedophiles ended up at the one Victorian school and parish in the 1970s.
Four pedophile Christian Brothers taught at Ballarat East’s St Alipius Boys’ School and pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale was the parish priest.
Pell also emphatically denied telling another priest that Fr Gerald Francis Ridsdale was abusing boys.
Former altar boy BWE has testified he overhead Cardinal Pell tell Fr Frank Madden before a funeral in Ballarat in 1983: “Ha, ha, I think Gerry’s been rooting boys again.”
“Let me begin by saying that nearly every detail in this allegation is manifestly false,” Pell said.
Fr Madden has previously told the inquiry Cardinal Pell never said that.
Cardinal Pell also said he deeply regretted the impact the abuse had on survivors’ faith, saying “Of course one of the other things I regret as a Catholic priest is the damage that these crimes do to the faith of the survivors, of the victims and their friends and family and generally throughout the society. I lament that”.
Cardinal Pell told the commission on Wednesday the church in the 1970s and 1980s was a world of crimes and cover ups and he was left in the dark about serious sex abuse allegations against priests and brothers in Ballarat and Melbourne.
Cardinal Pell also said he regretted his choice of words when he told the commission on Tuesday he had no interest in Father Ridsdale’s offending in the mid-1970s.
Cardinal Pell said he completely messed up the sequence of events while giving evidence and had believed he was responding to questions about when he was a Melbourne official in 1993.
The girls, the paedophile and Cardinal Pell
Words: Debi Marshall
From the Link: The girls, the paedophile and Cardinal Pell
Australia’s worst paedophile priest, Father Gerald Ridsdale, once lived with a young clergyman who is now Cardinal George Pell. As the Cardinal prepares to give evidence to the child abuse royal commission, two women break decades of silence to tell Debi Marshall about their ordeal in Ridsdale’s care – and their disappointment with Pell.
In 1973, a young Father George Pell, flushed with success from his recent studies in Rome and Oxford, returned to his home town of Ballarat and took up residence in the St Alipius presbytery; a place, it would be publicly revealed more than 20 years later, that was a paedophile’s paradise and a child’s nightmare.
His housemate that year was the tall, rowdy and popular parish priest, Father Gerald Ridsdale. What the parents and parishioners who worshipped God and obeyed the sanctity of the church and its messengers did not know was that from early in his priesthood, Ridsdale was subject to a psychiatric report. He was already a serial child abuser who sodomised children at will, picking them off when and where his desires dictated: in front of a church altar, at the presbytery, or on camping or fishing trips.
When he hurt them, he ignored their cries for him to stop. If they persisted in making a racket, he beat them. Badly.
In May 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began an investigation into how Catholic Church authorities dealt with paedophile clergy in Ballarat and the impact of abuse. It heard that the diocese was a hotbed of scandal, cover-ups and paedophilia, and that vulnerable children – particularly orphans – had been prey to abusive clergy.
The hulking figure of Fr Ridsdale had given sermons from the pulpit while secretly running an unsophisticated, but terrifyingly effective paedophile ring. All three of Ridsdale’s Christian Brother cohorts – particularly Brother Robert Best – had also enjoyed uninterrupted access to vulnerable children, whom they handed around to each other to abuse.
“Because I went into care so young and stayed until I was 12, I was known as a “lifer””
For Gabbi Short, now 60, growing up at Ballarat’s Nazareth House Girls’ Home, run by the Sisters of Nazareth, was the equivalent of living in hell; a daily battle for survival. The fifth of nine children, Gabbi was placed into care when she was just eight weeks old, at the suggestion of her parents’ local priest.
“Dad was a war veteran who suffered shell-shock and neuroses,” she says. “Mum cared about us, but the way Dad was, she had no choice but to put me and my sister in a home. She had no pension to live on.
“Because I went into care so young and stayed there until I was 12, I was known as a ‘lifer’. Mum made every effort to continue to see me, but the nuns made it clear she wasn’t welcome at Nazareth House and she eventually gave up.”
Gabbi recalls with a shudder the years 1963 and 1964.
“They were just the worst years,” she says. “That was when Father Gerald Ridsdale, who was the chaplain at our school, and Sister Imelda, were there together. It was a nightmare.”
Sr Imelda, a young, attractive nun, was a sadist to children.
“She was in Ridsdale’s thrall,” Gabbi says, ticking off on her fingers some of the brutalities she and other orphans endured.
“She was charming and sycophantic to Ridsdale, but together they brutalised us orphans continually. The sexual and physical assaults that I and the other girls endured between us are too many to list, and they are all graphic and appalling.
“For no apparent reason, Sr Imelda would slam my head up against the wall, which resulted in a hairline fracture of my skull, drag me up the passage by my hair, make me stand in the freezing cold hallway for three hours at a time or get down on my knees and polish the concrete.
“She would belt me for wetting the bed and if we wet ourselves from fear, we had to lick up our own urine.”
“We were his playthings. He’d kick us, belt us, or slam our heads up against walls.”
Ridsdale, whom Gabbi describes as an “arrogant and cruel beast of a man,” also delighted in the abuse.
“He just ran amok,” Gabbi says. “We were his playthings. He’d kick us, belt us, or slam our heads up against walls. He used to belt me around the head with his hand. Maybe they hated themselves and their life – who knows? But we were definitely their scapegoats. There was no escaping the brutality.”
Gabbi developed her own defence mechanism to ward off the sure advances of the paedophiles who worked in or visited Nazareth House.
“After all the abuse I’d endured, I developed such a thing about my body that from the age of 12, no-one would dare touch me,” she says. “Paedophiles are experts at knowing which children to pick on and they didn’t come near me. But not all my friends were as lucky.’
Gabbi recalls that Ridsdale would visit Nazareth House and take girls away as he chose. No-one stopped him.
”One of his favourite girls was Sarah [not her real name], who was in charge of us junior girls,” Gabbi says. “He raped her repeatedly from the age of 10 but when she reported it to a nun, it was ignored.
“Sarah tried to commit suicide by jumping out a second floor window. A nun came in, made all the girls in her dormitory line up at the window so she couldn’t try to jump out again, and belted her within an inch of her life.
“Sarah was so desperate, she just wanted to die. Years later, she accompanied a friend who needed to see a priest for pre-marital counselling. When she entered the room, she found to her horror that the priest was Ridsdale. He recognised her instantly and pulled a photograph of her in her first Communion dress from his top drawer. He had kept it all those years.”
When she heard a baby cry after her excruciating labour, she was told to be quiet.
There are other stories, too, of girls who won’t be identified: the 12-year-old virgin who mysteriously became pregnant at the orphanage and was secretly sent to have her baby at St Joseph’s Babies Home in Broadmeadows. When she heard a baby cry after her excruciating labour and asked if it was her child, she was told to be quiet. She was returned to the orphanage, sans baby, and told to say she had been on holiday.
She doesn’t know who the father of her baby was, but suspects she was drugged and raped, probably by a priest; possibly Ridsdale. It would be 50 years before she would reunite with the son taken from her.
Cossetted from the outside world, with the Catholic mantra of guilt and hell, fire and brimstone to keep them on the straight and narrow, the orphans knew that it was a mortal sin to be molested and that if that happened, they would go straight to hell.
“You need to understand just how isolated and cut off we were behind the walls of that imposing, grandiose orphanage,” Gabbi says.
“We were so vulnerable. On one side of the grounds was a nursing home for the elderly; we were on the other side. We had the same teacher for every subject, so we couldn’t get away from the sadism.
“I didn’t even know the word sex, let alone what it meant.”
“There were about 15 girls in my class. They were all abused.”
At the mercy of the Nazareth nuns who, in turn, did the priests’ bidding, they weren’t taught about sex.
“I didn’t even know the word, let alone what it meant,” Gabbi says.
Gabbi made that special Catholic sacrament, the First Communion, in 1963, aged 7, and saw her mother, very briefly the day before.
“I ran to her and asked her not to go away any more,” she says. “But I never saw her again.” Her mother died in 2003.
Gabbi has a photograph of herself from that day, dressed, as are her fellow students, in a virginal, white, knee-length dress and veil. Standing between them, a vulture amongst his flock, dressed in black robes, his hands piously locked together and wearing an affable smile, is Fr Ridsdale. He had something to smile about: just a week before, he had raped yet another young girl, Julie Braddock. As with the other children he frequently assaulted, he had got away with it.
“In my 40s, I started to talk about what had happened at the orphanage.”
Julie, now 60, has carried the scars of Ridsdale and Imelda’s abuse throughout her life.
“He was the parish priest, so we saw him every day,” she recalls. “Both of them were preparing us for our First Communion; we were learning passages from the Bible. They agreed I needed one-on-one tuition, so I was sent to meet Father in the chapel.”
It started innocently enough: a word of encouragement from Ridsdale, a kiss on the cheek, progressing to him putting his hand up her dress and then his fingers into her vagina.
“I cried, because it hurt,” she grimaces. “I was still crying when I went to see Sr Imelda.”
It was the worst decision she could have made. Imelda beat her, savagely, and locked her under the stairs for three days. Released from the dark, foul-smelling cupboard where she was given only a bucket for her excrement, she was again sent to Ridsdale.
“He said that evil was inside me and he needed to get it out.”
The rape that followed was so brutal that when she cried out in pain, Sr Imelda entered the room and dragged Julie to the bathroom, demanding she take a bath before she was sent to get her toilet bag. Forcing her to lie on the cold lino, Imelda inserted Julie’s soapy toothbrush in her vagina and rectum until she bled. Satisfied that she was clean, Imelda then pronounced that Julie was a filthy girl who must remain silent about what had happened.
Julie was seven and a half years old. Ridsdale would rape her again on at least two occasions.
A week before her First Communion, Julie fainted during rehearsals. Enraged, Ridsdale ordered that she stay behind when the other students left.
“He dragged me out of the church and threw me down the steps.”
“He slammed me so hard in the face that I fell over the church pew and was very badly bruised,” she says, absently drawing a figure-eight with her fingers on her kitchen table.
“Then he dragged me out of the church and threw me down the steps.”
“Nobody gets away with that!” he screamed. Lying whimpering on the ground, she quivered to see Sr Imelda advance toward her, to pick her up. She knew what she was in for.
Like other orphans, Julie, the sixth child in her family, desperately needed loving care – not abuse. Abandoned by their mother when Julie was one month shy of her second birthday, she and her two siblings – one marginally older than herself, one three months of age – were taken into police custody.
Sent to St Joseph’s Babies Home, run by the Sisters of Nazareth, Julie was placed into the Nazareth House Girls Home at the age of five. It was an unwelcome induction.
“Our names were called out and we had to stand in buckets of boiling water.”
“I was shown to my dormitory and told not to wet the bed. The next morning, very early, I was woken and hit on the legs by the nun because I had wet the bed. She rubbed my face into the wet sheet so hard my nose bled. I was then dragged to the bathroom, told to strip in front of the other girls, and beaten along with others who had wet the bed. Later, our names were called out and we had to stand our naked feet in buckets of boiling water.”
The physical abuse was so horrendous, that on occasions Julie would fall unconscious. Sr Imelda was always the most vicious.
“She broke my fingers,” Julie says. “She made me and the other girls eat our own vomit.”
Gabbi and Julie became friends.
“I once tried, with Gabbi, to crawl through a hole in the fence, but a nun kept dragging me back. The wire was embedded in my leg and I needed 11 stitches. I was locked in a cupboard under the stairs for days and nights as punishment. When I was released, I was so ill I had to stay in the sick room for eight days.”
Julie was never told that her real sister, Gail, was at the orphanage, and imagined that Gabbi was her sister.
Julie left the orphanage in 1963 to live with foster parents. But her foster father, too – a pillar of the Polish church and, she believes, part of Ridsdale’s paedophile ring – also abused her; abuse that was so terrible she still can’t speak of it.
“I was locked in a cupboard under the stairs for days and nights.”
In 1968, she became violently ill. Flummoxed as to the cause of her condition, the doctor would later ascertain it was the result of Ridsdale’s abuse and the injuries she sustained at her First Communion rehearsal. Julie’s spleen, one kidney and her appendix were removed.
To escape the hell of life at home, in 1972, aged 16, Julie left home and later married a boy she liked, but didn’t love. The marriage didn’t last, but depression, which has dogged her all her life, did. Four serious suicide attempts ended with hospitalisation, but she eventually found love, married, had seven children and gained a teachers degree. Her beloved husband died in 2005, as did her foster mother, who had left her husband immediately when Julie finally told her of the abuse.
Gabbi left the orphanage in 1968. Moving through a succession of other Catholic homes, including the Winlaton Youth Training Centre – “virtually a prison” – she slept rough on the streets. The terror and trauma she suffered as a child haunted her in her 20s, when her body turned in on itself.
“I was in shock and went down to 30kg,” Gabbi says. “I was dying inside.”
Determined to get stronger, she found work, married and had three children. The marriage didn’t last, but what has lasted is her commitment to ensuring others did not go through what she experienced.
“In my 40s, I started to talk about what had happened at the orphanage,” Gabbi says. “I started to heal and I haven’t stopped talking about it since.”
“I could move on with my life but I’ve chosen to speak out for vulnerable children.”
Now a spokesperson for Forgotten Australians and a relentlessly outspoken critic of the malevolent evil that was allowed to flourish in Ballarat – and elsewhere Ridsdale and his companions lived and worked – Gabbi says she will not rest until these paedophiles and malicious nuns are fully exposed.
“I could move on with my life and put this behind me,” she says, “but I’ve chosen to speak out for vulnerable children who can’t speak for themselves. We need to look out for kids today because no-one looked after the kids of yesterday. We were just open slather.”
THE LAW EVENTUALLY CAUGHT UP WITH RISDALE AND HIS PAEDOPHILE COHORTS, BUT TOO LATE TO SAVE MORE THAN 30 BOYS, WHO CHOSE TO END THEIR OWN LIVES RATHER THAN RELIVE THE ONGOING NIGHTMARE OF THE SADISTIC SEXUAL, PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL ABUSES INFLICTED ON THEM BY THESE SO-CALLED MEN OF THE CLOTH.
The law eventually caught up with Ridsdale and his paedophile cohorts, but too late to save more than 30 boys, who chose to end their own lives rather than relive the ongoing nightmare of the sadistic sexual, physical and emotional abuses inflicted on them by these so-called men of the cloth.
For Ridsdale, the dominos started falling when, in 1992, one of his male victims contacted a hotline regarding paedophile priests. When the police came calling, he could no longer hide behind his cassock, clerical collar and cross. He went quietly.
Pell welcomed the announcement of the Royal Commission, but his welcome soured in public opinion when he added that priests who hear confessions from people who commit child sex abuse must remain bound by the Seal of Confession (the duty of Catholic priests not to disclose what is heard), which he described as ‘inviolable’.
Later, addressing intense questioning at the Royal Commission about what he knew, Pell (by then a Cardinal in Rome and one of the Vatican’s most powerful figures) said he had noticed nothing.
“[Ridsdale] concealed his crimes from me and other priests in Ballarat, from parishioners and from his own family,” he asserted grimly.
Pell’s decision to walk with this vilified priest would prove to be a PR disaster.
Victims, police and the media, were outraged. Not only had Pell shared a house with Ridsdale in 1973, he had chosen to walk side byside with him into court in 1993, when Ridsdale pleaded guilty to 30 counts of indecent assault against nine boys, aged 12 to 16, between 1974 and 1980, for which he received his first, 12 month sentence.
Both had cut an odd figure: Pell, then an ambitious auxiliary Bishop in colourless priestly robes, and Ridsdale, sporting a garish white suit and hiding behind oversized sunglasses. Pell’s decision to walk with this vilified priest would prove to be a PR disaster.
In 1994, Pell had allegedly responded to child abuse victim Timothy Green that he not be ‘ridiculous’ when Green told him that Ridsdale’s friend, Brother Edward Dowlan, was abusing children at St Patrick’s College. Pell has insisted he has no recollection of such a conversation. He was present at a 1982 meeting of the College of Consultors, which discussed unseating Ridsdale from the Mortlake Parish to a Catholic centre in Sydney.
Risdale was convicted of 54 child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges.
By 1993, Ridsdale’s days of being protected were numbered and a flood of victims would continue to come forward. Between 1993 and 2013 he was convicted of 54 child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges against children aged as young as four.
“The vast majority of those were boys,” Gabbi says. “But we know there are girls for which he hasn’t been charged and that the figure is higher – much higher – than 54. Hopefully his past will catch up with him before he is eligible for parole again in 2019. Or before he goes to meet his Maker, in whose image he had represented himself.”
A slim, intense woman with a ready smile, who speaks in an urgent torrent of words, Gabbi cannot hide her disgust that Pell consistently claims he did not see or hear anything.
“How could he not have heard the relentless rumours or the parishioners’ complaints?” she asks, incredulous.
“How could he not have seen the stricken faces of the children when they left Ridsdale’s company? Even Ridsdale’s nephew, David, who was sexually abused by him for five years from the age of 11, claimed to have told Pell about the abuse. He says that Pell’s response was to offer him a financial bribe to keep quiet. Pell, of course, dismissed David’s claim by responding that ‘An offer of help is not the same as a bribe.’ It all just beggars belief.”
At the Royal Commission, Pell said that at no time had he attempted to bribe David or his family, nor did he offer any financial inducements for him to be silent.
And throughout the storms, Pell stood resolute. Paedophilia “was always regarded as being totally reprehensible,” he intoned.
This is probably my last chance to tell my story.”
In 2007, Gabbi and Julie, who had not seen each other for 44 years, met again at a Nazareth House reunion. They have remained friends. Gabbi exhorted Julie to tell her story, but shame and humiliation linger like shadows. She is now very ill.
“This is probably my last chance to tell my story,” she says. “I was stripped of everything I was and everything I am, just as the other 500,000 Australian orphans were. I didn’t know I had siblings until I was 25.
“It matters that I, and other orphans, called out for help and were ignored. Imelda is dead, Ridsdale in prison, but it still matters. It matters. We need justice.”
Julie, too, questions why Pell supported Ridsdale and not the victims. Like other child abuse victims, she is disgusted and outraged that Pell has cited ill health as his reason for not returning to Australia to face the Royal Commission – offering instead to appear by video link.
“If he’s well enough to run the Vatican’s finances,” she spits, “he’s well enough to come home and be counted.”
Julie, who gave evidence before the Royal Commission, is adamant that history must not repeat.
“We are only weeks away from the next sitting of the Royal Commission in Ballarat,” she says. “I want the church to stop hiding what happened. It needs to stop trying to write its own script to take away who we, as victims, are.”
“If Risdale had been stopped in the 1960’s, he wouldn’t have gone on to rape so many.”
She has a special message for Ridsdale and others she believes have turned a blind eye: “Stop protecting each other. You need to go to the next life with honesty and give us victims some peace.”
“The tragic reality is that if Ridsdale had been stopped in the 1960s, when there were so many warnings about his disgusting behaviour, he wouldn’t have gone on to rape so many boys – a slew of whom later took their own lives – or girls,” she says.
“History could be so very different if those men of the church hadn’t lied and covered up for him and others. This story is just the tip of the iceberg. Nazareth House and the Catholic Church need prosecuting, as do any nuns still alive who abused us. Ridsdale needs prosecuting for what he did to us.
“The question is now: who was protecting Ridsdale? Let’s throw the book at those people.”
Sexual Assault Counselling Australia provides counselling for people who want to address their trauma as a result of hearing about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Call 1800 211 028.
The National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service 1800RESPECT also offers counselling on 1800 737 732 and at https://www.1800respect.org.au/
Winner of the 2015 Walkley award for Journalistic Leadership, Debi Marshall is an associate producer with Seven’s Sunday Night and author of numerous crime books.
Pope Francis Defies UN on Torturing Children
Jun 07, 2015 4:55am PDT by
The UN Committee against Torture “found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” After Vatican officials were called to Geneva in May 2014 to respond to tough questions like why the pope believed his responsibility for protecting children against torture only applied on Vatican property, the committee issued its report.
The members “ordered the Vatican to hand over files containing details of clerical sexual abuse allegations to police forces around the world, … to use its authority over the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to ensure all allegations of clerical abuse are passed on to the secular authorities and to impose ‘meaningful sanctions’ on any Church officials who fail to do so.” With the exception of a couple of staged PR events, the pope has refused to take any of these measures.
The Vatican had issued an “Initial Report” preparatory to the hearing. “Nowhere in the Holy See’s [the name of the Church’s global government] Initial Report under the Convention does it make any mention of the widespread and systemic rape and sexual violence committed by Catholic clergy against hundreds of thousands of children and vulnerable adults around the world. There is no mention of acts that have resulted in an astonishing and incalculable amount of harm around the world – profound and lasting physical and mental suffering – with little to no accountability and access to redress … [T]he Vatican has consistently minimized the harm caused by the actions of the clergy, through both the direct acts of sexual violence and Church officials’ actions which follow, such as cover-ups and victim-blaming. … The Holy See’s Initial Report to this Committee is itself evidence of the minimization of these offenses and the resulting harm.”
The Committee against Torture report came “after senior officials sought to distance the Vatican legally from the wider Church … saying priests were not legally tied to the Vatican but fell under national jurisdictions. But the committee insisted that officials of the Holy See – including the pope’s representatives around the world and their aides – have a responsibility to monitor the behavior of all under their ‘effective control.’”
The committee also urged a “prompt and impartial” investigation in the case of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the pope’s nuncio (ambassador) to the Dominican Republic.
Wesolowski solicited sex for money from Santo Domingo’s poorest boys. “We learned from the children that Wesolowski took pictures of them while they were masturbating. Oral sex was performed,” Nuria Piera, an investigative journalist in the Dominican Republic, said. “He abused that poverty and used that mechanism to approach children and take advantage of them for years,” according to Yeni Berenice Reynoso, National District prosecutor.
A dossier accusing 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 on August 21 via confidential letter. But the pope never reported Wesolowski to civil authorities nor made the information public.
All prelates should make credible allegations public as a warning to avoid contact with the accused. Also, any other victims should be encouraged to contact a law enforcement agency perhaps making the investigation easier, apprehension and prosecution more certain. The group, Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), defines failure to take these steps as a “cover up.”
Wesolowski left the country before a local TV program broadcast an exposé on August 31. It was reported in January 2014 that Wesolowski “is now thought to be living in Rome and is protected from extradition by diplomatic immunity.” “For me it was a surprise to see Wesolowski walking along Via della Scrofa in Rome,” Santo Domingo Auxiliary Bishop Víctor Masalles tweeted on June 24, 2014.
Embarrassed, the Vatican announced on June 27 that Wesolowski had been laicized (defrocked) “in the past few days … Measures will be taken so he is in a precise restricted location, without any freedom of movement,” said Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, without specifying how this would be accomplished. The press reported this as proof of the pope’s “zero tolerance” for child sex abuse.
Defrocking means a cleric is fired without being reported to the police. The most serious punishment available to the pope is excommunication. Pope Francis excommunicated an Australian priest for supporting women’s ordination and same sex marriage. He also excommunicated the leaders of the lay group, We Are Church, for celebrating mass in their home.
The New York Times had an article about Wesolowski on its August 24, 2014, front page including statements that Dominican officials would prosecute him if it were not for the former ambassador’s diplomatic immunity. The next morning Lombardi made an announcement that Wesolowski did not have immunity and could be extradited by the Dominican Republic. Dominican officials, however, had expressed regret for the past year that “there’s no extradition treaty between the Vatican and the Dominican Republic. … The ideal thing would’ve been and our desire is that he be tried here, but the law forbids us.”
On September 25, Lombardi said Wesolowski had been put under house arrest inside the Vatican City State “because the Polish prelate represented a flight risk and because Vatican prosecutors feared he might tamper with evidence.”
The next day, the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Serra reported that Wesolowski was arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography. “Some were downloaded from the internet and others the victims themselves were forced to take. The prelate stored part of this chamber of horrors on his own laptop. The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults. … Wesolowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.”
Pope Francis allowed his prelate 15 months freedom to commit crimes involving child pornography which sometimes involves their tortuous death – something to think about the next time the pope speaks out against the sex trafficking of children.
November 22, 2014: Wesolowski was seen “walking quietly inside the Vatican City…in apparent freedom” and is presumed to still live there under house arrest.
After almost two years, Wesolowski’s trial has not yet begun.
The Pope’s Enduring Contempt for Children
People who have been sexually abused as children live shorter lives than those who have not been abused according to expert testimony. They have a life expectancy about 10 to 20 years shorter than those who have not.
• Trauma produced both physical and psychological damage, affecting children’s development, including their personalities and sense of self.
• Children’s brains and immune systems were also affected, making them more prone to a range of auto-immune diseases.
• They also often have unhealthy lifestyles so they’re prone to substance abuse and poverty and unemployment.
• There was also a strong link between child abuse and suicide, which could be influenced by a variety of factors including depression and substance abuse, which exacerbated negative thoughts.
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio “refused to meet with victims, and he stayed largely silent on the issue of clergy sex abuse, except to issue a surprising denial that he had ever handled an abusive priest. His only known action was to commission a behind-the-scenes report to judges that sought exoneration of a criminally convicted priest by impugning the credibility of the priest’s victims.” BishopAccoutability.org, a group dedicated to documenting the Catholic sex abuse crisis, showed Bergoglio’s involvement in five specific cases.
One month to the day after his election, Pope Francis appointed a group of cardinals, now referred to as his “C9”, to be his closest advisors.
Cardinal George Pell had been making headlines in Australia for decades regarding the sex abuse scandal. When asked what he thought was the root cause, Pell replied, “it’s obviously connected with the problem of homosexuality.” As archbishop and creator of the “Melbourne Response,” a system “designed to control the victims and protect the Church … Pell intended to minimize the crimes, conceal the truth, manipulate and intimidate the victims. … Some relatives of abused children have called the cardinal a ‘sociopath.’”
The John Ellis case “was all about deterrence.” Ellis sued Pell and the trustees of the Sydney archdiocese in 2006 over abuse he suffered as an altar boy. Pell spent more than $1m fighting Ellis despite him asking for just a tenth of that amount in settlement, put him through “distressing and unnecessary cross-examination” and threatened him with legal costs. Pell’s “Ellis Defense” is “an exemplar of litigation going wrong, causing further trauma for a victim of abuse.”
Pell personally knows hundreds of the people involved – the victims and their families as well as the abusers. … He was a very senior authority in the Catholic Church when the court cases began in the 1990s and the top Catholic figure in Australia until he went to Rome. … [H]e was the leader of a system that protected the guilty and failed innocent people. … [H]e was the man in charge during many years of this scandal. Therefore, he can be held accountable and responsible for it.”
Pope Francis also chose Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa as a close adviser. Errazuriz had made national headlines for protecting Fr. Fernando Karadima, the “worst scandal” of the Chilean Church. “Power is the true point of the case. The [sexual abuses against children] were not possible without a network of political, social and religious power working for 50 years,” stated political analyst Ascanio Cavallo, Dean of the Journalism School of the Adolfo Ibáñez University.Church officials were warned as early as 1984 about Karadima’s “improper conduct.” The first known reports to reach Errazuriz were in 2003. In 2006, a priest appointed by Errázuriz to investigate the claims reported to the cardinal that he believed “the accusers to be credible.”
According to court testimony in a 2011 civil complaint filed against Karadima, Church officials, including Errázuriz, tried to shame accusers into dropping claims, refused to meet with them and failed to carry out formal investigations for years. A judge dismissed the criminal case against Karadima in November 2011 because the statute of limitations had expired but also determined that the allegations were “truthful and reliable.”
When Pope Francis, who during the above period was cardinal primate of the neighboring Argentina, appointed Errázuriz to his C9, one of the claimants called it “a shame and a disgrace.” On September 15, 2013, Errázuriz said that the archdiocese had no responsibility for their “tremendous pain.”
On July 1, 2013, the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the pope for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nun” for the past fifteen years and set November 1 as a deadline for a reply. The questions were sent as preparation for a public hearing scheduled for January.
As one of the signatories to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Church was fifteen years late in delivering a report describing whether it had acted to “protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence” as the convention requires. Additionally, the questionnaire sought to establish whether “perpetrators of sexual crimes” were allowed to remain in contact with children, what legal action was taken against them and whether reporting of suspected abuse was mandatory. It also included queries about support for victims, and any incidents where complainants were silenced.
By issuing its questions, the Geneva-based CRC brushed aside a Vatican warning that it might pull out of the Convention on the Rights of the Child if pushed too hard on the issue. In a report of its own posted on the UN website last October, the Holy See reminded the CRC of reservations on legal jurisdiction and other issues it made when it signed the global pact. It said any new “interpretation” would give it grounds “for terminating or withdrawing” from the treaty.
Within weeks of his election, Pope Francis had ordered that the Vatican “continue along the lines set by Benedict XVI” in handling torturing children. But on July 11, 2013, the pontiff enacted a civil law criminalizing leaks of Vatican information to the press and sexual violence against children, including child pornography. The crimes were punishable by up to eight and twelve years in prison, respectively. The law was applicable inside the Vatican City State and for employees of the Holy See in its extraterritorial properties including embassies. In hindsight, one could question if the pope was preparing for a Vatican civil trial against Wesolowski as justification to keep him out of a foreign prison.The November 1 deadline for a response to the CRC came and went.
Pope Francis responded to the CRC on December 4 by stating that it was not the practice of his government to “disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings” and “that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property.”
A rarity, Francis’ response was criticized. The next day, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley stated that the pope would create a special Commission for the Protection of Minors with no authority other than to advise him on ways to address the subject.
On January 16, 2014, the day the CRC hearings were to begin in Geneva, Pope Francis again showed his contempt for his Church’s victims by concelebrating mass, followed by a private meeting, with Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles. The Washington Post (among others) had condemned Mahony for protecting known abusers, stating he’s “lucky not to be in prison” and that “his continued prominence reflects the culture of impunity in the Catholic Church a decade after its tolerance and complicity in the abuse of children was exposed.” After his private meeting with the pope, Mahony blogged “the topic of scandal never came up.”
The same day, Lombardi said the Church had developed “a series of initiatives and directives” that are “extremely helpful” to other communities. He also criticized the assumption that bishops or religious superiors act “as representatives or delegates of the Pope.” He said this belief is “utterly without foundation.” Rather, civil authorities in countries that have signed the UN convention are directly responsible for its implementation and for the enforcement of laws that protect children.
The UN panel asked Vatican representatives for responses to the questions they had sent in July. While the American media trumpeted a statement made by one of the Vatican officials that he “gets it,” the foreign press was not as fawning:
Germany’s Deutsche Welle: Vatican response ‘fails smell test for ordinary people’
Venezuela’s El Nacional: The Vatican at the UN today dodged providing detailed information on issues relating to sexual abuse of minors by clergy in a rhetorical exercise in which it attempts to demonstrate determination to prevent new offenses.
Spain’s El Pais: The Vatican still does not take responsibility for sexual abuse
BishopAccountability.org noted five significant moments of the hearing:
• For the first time, the Vatican had to admit publicly that it still does not require the reporting of child sex crimes to civil authorities. Nor does it take this step when priests are defrocked.
• The Holy See still refused to provide the data requested on July 1.
• The Vatican believes that it is the obligation of the individual perpetrator, not the Church, to compensate victims.
• Religious orders, which comprise one third to one half of the world’s Catholic clerics, still are not being compelled by the Holy See to create abuse policies. (Pope Benedict XVI ordered the world’s bishops to do this in 2011. The order was widely ignored, even by the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.)
Vatican delegate to the UN, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, responded in an interview: “At the same time we have to keep in mind that even though there are so many millions, forty million cases of abuse a year regarding children, unfortunately some cases affect also Church personnel.” Tomasi also suggested that the UN committee may have been influenced by “Some NGOs that support homosexuality, same-sex marriage and other issues probably presented their own views and ended up reinforcing [the committee’s] line of thought in some way.”
On March 5, 2014, Pope Francis stated that, as regards the sexual torture of children, “The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked.”
Some negative press coverage ensued. So on March 7, Lombardi sent an email to the Associated Press reminding the media that the sex abuse commission remained a priority for the pope.
Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, praised the work of both UN committees. “We do not share any enthusiasm, however, for the Vatican’s defrocking of thousands of abusing clerics resulting in them being released into the labor market without being subjected to secular justice, and the resultant criminal record. This will almost certainly put other children at risk from former priests reoffending.”
The United Nations Committees on the Rights of the Child and on Torture, requested the Holy See to abolish the pontifical secret for allegations of child sexual abuse, and to order through canon law mandatory reporting to the civil authority. In September 2014, Pope Francis rejected that request on the grounds that mandatory reporting would interfere with the sovereignty of independent States. Mandatory reporting would only interfere with such sovereignty if a State law prohibited reporting of clergy sex abuse of children to the police. No such State exists. But the Vatican … illustrates its very real intention to interfere in the sovereignty of independent States by prohibiting reporting once canonical proceedings start, even when the civil law requires reporting. …
The de facto privilege of clergy by the use of secrecy, rendering clergy immune to civil prosecution for child sex abuse, was set up in 1922 by Pope Pius XI, and was continued and expanded by five of his successors. Regrettably, it seems that Pope Francis gives every indication of adding himself to the list as the seventh pope.
Barros and FinnIn January 2015, the pope appointed Juan Barros Madrid, formerly Military Bishop of Chile, as bishop of Osorno, Chile. Within a month, 1,300 lay Catholics, nearly half of Chile’s Parliament and thirty priests in the diocese signed a letter demanding that the pope rescind the appointment. Victims of Karadima said Barros was present when they were molested, did nothing to stop him and later covered up for Karadima.
“’Put your head on my chest. Take the little tongue,’ said Karadima. Thus began a long journey of torture and suffering for Juan Carlos Cruz Chellew … He denounced the ‘hypocrisy and simulation of Pope Francis’ on the ‘zero tolerance’ for pedophile priests: ‘The pope says good things, but does the opposite for victims to have access to civil justice. We are re-victimized while he rewards the abusers and abettors naming them cardinals and bishops.’”
The pope’s nuncio to Chile expressed support for Barros. President of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal Ezzati, said that “the Holy Father has chosen a pastor for the Church of Osorno and we, as Catholics, are in communion with the pope.”
Barros was installed as bishop on March 21 “amid riot police and shouting protesters … hundreds of churchgoers dressed in the black of mourning denounced Barros.” Since then, Barros “has had to sneak out of back exits, call on riot police to shepherd him from the city’s cathedral and coordinate movements with bodyguards and police canine units.”
In an interview published March 26, the Archbishop of Concepcion disclosed the details of a meeting he had with Pope Francis on March 6. “Archbishop Chomali explained that he gave Pope Francis a ‘document with detailed information on the consequences of the appointment he had made. All the documentation that I cited came to him, whether through the nunciature or the Chilean embassy to the Holy See. He was very much up to date on Bishop Barros’ situation, and in fact a few days prior he had spoken with him. With firmness and much conviction he told me that he had analyzed all the past records and that there was no objective reason that Bishop Barros should not be installed as diocesan bishop.’”
“Pope Francis has to withdraw this appointment or I and others may find it impossible to stay on the commission,” said Peter Saunders who was sexually abused as a child in London by two Catholic priests and the headmaster of his Catholic primary school and is a member of pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Saunders threat was published on March 27, two days before Palm Sunday when the Church begins a series of special liturgies culminating on Easter. If carried out, it would have been a PR disaster for the pope.
Cardinal O’Malley met with members of the commission the week after Easter – April 12. Bishop Joseph Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., found guilty in 2012 of failure to report suspected child abuse, was called to Rome for an April 14 meeting with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
A priest under Finn’s supervision was sentenced to fifty years in prison for producing hundreds of pornographic photos, using his own parishioners as victims, some under the age of three. And for years prior, Finn not only refused to look into or even acknowledge any of the many complaints about this priest’s behavior, some of which came directly from the principal of the school that most of the victims attended, he also stonewalled once the child porn came to light, failed to inform or warn any of the families of the victims, gave the priest continued access to children, was complicit in the destruction of evidence, spent $1.4 million of diocesan money defending himself against two misdemeanor charges in court, only alerted the police when forced to, and, in short, put children at risk and failed to get the offending priest any serious help or counseling.
“Even if Finn is removed, that’s no tremendous sign of progress because there are literally hundreds of Catholic officials around the world still on the job, who have done what Finn did,” SNAP director, David Clohessy, had said earlier.Finn’s resignation was announced April 21. Although this occurred 30 months after Finn’s conviction, 25 months into this pontificate and Finn remains a bishop still carrying out his episcopal functions, members of the commission and the media were appeased about Barros’ promotion.
Pell and Barros
Before Pope Francis chose him to be one of his closest advisers and promoted him as head of Vatican finance, Cardinal George Pell had made national headlines during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings which covered Pell’s response as archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney. In February 2015, the Royal Commission – the highest form of investigation in Australia – found that Pell placed the Church’s financial interests above his obligation to victims of childhood sexual abuse as part of an aggressive legal strategy to protect the assets of the Sydney archdiocese.
Currently, the Royal Commission is holding hearings about what transpired in Ballarat where Pell had been ordained and served until 1987. “Scores of children were abused by Catholic clergy from the 1960s to the 1980s. Many victims in Ballarat and elsewhere in Victoria state committed suicide, in one of the worst clusters of clerical abuse trauma in the world.”
• Timothy Green said when he was 12 or 13 he told Pell in 1974 that Brother Edward Dowlan was abusing boys at St Patrick’s College. “Father Pell said `don’t be ridiculous’ and walked out.”
• A victim said another priest walked in while Fr. Gerald Ridsdale was raping her at the Ballarat East presbytery and did nothing. Ridsdale says he doesn’t know who the priest was. Pell and one other priest lived in the same house with Ridsdale at the time.
• Pell was at a 1982 meeting of the College of Consultors which discussed moving Ridsdale from the Mortlake parish, but he says no claims of abuse were raised at the meeting. Ridsdale was convicted of more than 140 offenses of child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges against children as young as four years old between 1993 and 2013.
• David Ridsdale accused Pell of trying to bribe him in 1993 after being abused by his uncle, Fr. Ridsdale. Pell allegedly asked him: “I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.”
More than 55,000 people signed a petition last month addressed to Pope Francis calling for Pell to return to Australia to answer questions from the Royal Commission concerning these current allegations.
Peter Saunders, speaking on Australia’s “60 Minutes” program on Sunday, May 31, said of Pell: “He has a catalog of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, almost sociopathic I would go as far as to say, this lack of care. He is making a mockery of the papal commission (into child abuse), of the pope himself, but most of all of the victims and the survivors.” He thought that Pell should be dismissed.
Before the program had even aired (after the network released promotional material), Pell issued statements calling Saunders’s comments “false”, “misleading” and “outrageous”, and said he would consult legal advisers. On Monday, Lombardi said that “Mr. Saunders spoke for himself and not for the commission which does not investigate or judge individual cases.” Australia’s Catholic archbishops made a statement that Pell is a man of integrity.
Meanwhile, “retired Bishop Juan Luis Ysem of Ancud has called on Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno to resign before he is asked to leave by Pope Francis.”
So, again it looks like a prelate will “resign” (this time Barros) and will members of the sex abuse commission and the press be appeased about the current allegations against Pell?
If you’re not feeling mollified and want to help, you can donate to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) or BishopAccountability.org which operates the Abuse Tracker website from which most of the above information was obtained.
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))
The UN Committees found child sexual offenders were still in contact with children, Church officials were not cooperating with law enforcement authorities, the pope’s representatives and their aides were not monitoring the behavior of those under their “effective control” and that there was no accountability for hierarchs.
Given that sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, “with 68% still being left unreported,” and that it can take 20, 30, even 40 years for victims to fully recall the details of these excruciating crimes, consider the following information to be only a sampling of what is currently still taking place in the Catholic Church.
Failing to protect children
Similar to Wesolowski, Pope Francis dismissed Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Miranda Melgarejo of Ayacucho, Peru, via letter in May 2013 without notifying the public or the police. On August 21, 2013, a Spanish lawyer wrote in his blog that the Vatican “accepted the resignation” of Miranda for “having sex with minors and adults, too” which had been “solicited in confession.” Miranda is still at large.
June 2015: “Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.”
February 2015: “Philippine Bishop Arturo Mandin Bastes right now is keeping a known abuser, Fr. Arwyn N. Diesta, in ministry.”
February 2015: “Some Catholic religious orders are still failing to adequately protect children against sex abuse 20 years after the scale of the problem became evident [in Ireland] according to a review by the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church … In one case, a priest who admitted accessing child porn was still in ministry and was an acting prior with “ambitions to continue or undertake a leadership position within the order”, according to the review.” “Religious orders, which comprise one third to one half of the world’s Catholic clerics, still are not being compelled by the pope to create abuse policies.”
January 2015: Gian Piero Milano, whose official title is Vatican Promoter of Justice, “reported two cases of possession of child pornography within its own walls last year.” A Vatican spokesman said one of them involved Jozef Wesolowski.” So after his arrest, Wesolowski “continued to possess child pornography” while inside the Vatican City State? Who else possessed child pornography inside the Vatican?
Sex offenders moved around
April 2015: A US federal grand jury indicted Rev. Joseph Maurizio accused “on charges pertaining to sex trips to molest boys [in Honduras] as well as three counts of transmitting funds into and out of the US in furtherance of his criminal activity.”
“The priest was arrested Sept. 24, nine days after a raid on the parish rectory and his farmhouse in Paint Township, Pennsylvania.”
February 2015: “A Flemish priest who has been repeatedly accused of sexual abuse for many years has been in charge of an orphanage in Brazil. The Dutch congregation to which John D. belongs to is aware of the allegations, but has so far hardly intervened.”
December 2014: “Alessandro De Rossi, a priest accused of sexual abuse in Salta [Malvinas, Argentina] was arrested in Italy. Since then Salta Justice is in the process of extradition to stand trial in religious local courts … The priest is charged with the crime of ‘aggravated sexual abuse seriously outrageous and corruption of minors.’” De Rossi was a “fidei donum” priest, still attached to his diocese but sent abroad to do missionary work. With the approval of the pope, Don Alessandro was appointed priest in the Roman “parish of celebrities” on December 1, 2013. One Italian parishioner noted, “There were suspicious goings on around kids in the parish.” Another questioned, “Is it possible the Church did not know of his past with the law?” At the time, they were only informed the “de Rossi is back in Rome for health reasons with a positive view of the local bishop.”
November 2014: “Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul who fled to his native India to avoid facing felony criminal sexual conduct charges was just extradited back to Minnesota. He is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old and 16-year-old girl.” One alleged “that he’d masturbated in front of her, groped her, and forced her to give him oral sex.”
November 2014: “Although he received accusations from two victims of sexual abuse against a Fr. ‘M.D.’, Belgian Bishop Jozef De Kesel did not prevent the priest from going to Brazil where he now works with street children.”
October 2014: Fr. Roger Mount “who was allowed to continue preaching in Papua New Guinea despite being named in child abuse compensation settlements was deported to Australia and is likely to face being extradited from Queensland to Victoria.”
October 2014: “U.S. Marshals are attempting to find a Catholic priest who disappeared after he was accused of molesting a six-year-old Brooklyn girl last June. We found out he has friends and family down here,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Juan Lara, the agency’s local spokesman.
February 2014: Monsignor Carlos Urrutigoity is now second-in-command of the Diócesis de Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. “A former Diocese of Scranton [Pennsylvania] priest, Urrutigoity was accused more than a decade ago of abusing local children in a federal sexual abuse lawsuit … Bishop Martino carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry … to appropriate Church officials, including Bishop Rogelio Livieres, Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; the Apostolic Nuncio to Paraguay; and the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.”
Fail to report abuse charges to proper authority
April 2015: In Kerala, India, Fr. Edwin Figarez had been accused of repeatedly raping a 14-year-old girl between January and March this year, “mostly when she came for confession.” The bishop followed Canon (ecclesial) Law and “suspended Figarez for the time being” but did not turn him over to the police. The mother went to the police. Figarez “remains underground and continues to evade the police.”
April 2015: Nine recent cases are cited by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) where credible allegations of child sex abuse were kept secret from the public by U.S. prelates. “We could cite dozens and dozens of other examples proving that the self-serving secrecy that caused the church’s global abuse and cover up crisis remains in force.
March 2015: “The spokesman for the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference, Fr Jozef Kloch, stated that as a matter of policy Polish bishops would not report allegations of child sex abuse by clergy to the civil authorities. It was up to the victims to report, he said.”
March 2015: Philippine Church “authorities have never turned over a clerical child sex abuser to the civil authorities. Never has a priest sex abuser been convicted. The bishops, who represent the management of the Church, should be held to account for they simply ship off child-abuser priests to dioceses abroad in some cases. When they abuse abroad and are investigated they rush back to a hideout the Philippines.”
January 2015: In a special report profiling a dozen key cases of priests in the Philippines accused of child sex abuse: “These cases are important because they reveal an enduring resistance by Filipino bishops to punishing and exposing offending priests.”
March 2014: The Italian bishops’ conference declared they had no official obligation to report the sexual abuse of children to any legal authorities outside of the Catholic Church with no objection from the pope.
Appeals, Petitions, Letters
June 2015: The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission demands that the Pope come to Canada to apologize “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.” The commission’s report says there has been “a patchwork of apologies or statements of regret” in Canada that few residential school survivors or Church members may even know exist. “It has been disappointing to survivors and others that the Pope has not yet made a clear and emphatic public apology in Canada,” the report says.
January 2015: Two people who say they were sexually abused as teenagers asked Pope Francis via press conference to investigate the way the Diocese of Buffalo handled their complaints.
December 2014: Two Argentine women traveled to Rome to ask Pope Francis for justice in the case of Fr. Héctor Ricardo Giménez who was found saying mass in a hospital chapel in 2013. “We think this man abused hundreds of children,” stated Estefania Gelso. Like the letter they had in January 2014, their trip produced no results.
December 2014: “Three priests have written to Pope Francis seeking an investigation into the Milwaukee archdiocesan bankruptcy. One of their concerns, a controversial move by then-Archbishop Tim Dolan to put $57 million into a cemetery trust fund he admitted was to provide improved protection of these funds from ‘any legal claim and liability.’ The intent of the bankruptcy proceeding for Church officials was ‘to exhaust silence and slander victims as well as to serve as a warning to others,’ the letter asserts.”
December 2014: Leaders of victims in three countries wrote an open letter to Pope Francis asking that he “take concrete action to protect children now.”
They want him to:
-Fire the predators,
-Order all bishops to report suspected sex crimes, open files and turn over evidence to police, and
-Punish bishops and Church officials who knowingly transfer predators and/or shield predators from police.”
July 2014: Open letter that Pope Francis “dismiss Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City for his clear participation in the cover-up of [Legion of Christ founder] Marcial Maciel, and Father Nicolás Aguilar and other pederasts … [T]he manifesto signed by 128 abuse survivors, lawyers and supportive groups was announced at a news conference in Mexico City, where the newspaper La Jornada called the Church’s deeds ‘crimes against humanity.’”
July 2014: A group of Argentine survivors called on Pope Francis to “amend hazardous defects of ecclesiastical laws so that permissive bishops will no longer remain in office.”
May 2014: Italian victims of pedophile priests sent a video to Pope Francis asking for sympathy and compensation. Among them were “eight deaf and mute people who were enrolled in a school in Verona, where 25 priests abused at least 100 students from the 1950s to the 1990s. Rete l’Abuso (Abuse Network) organization produced the video. The organization’s website identifies 148 priests convicted of child molestation, and a map of Italy detailing the Catholic parishes where the crimes occurred.”
May 2014: “Request the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn … after he failed to report a priest who had taken or possessed hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls.” 263,594 supporters of this petition were ignored until the pope needed a scapegoat to quell the fury over his appointment of Barros.
April 2014: After the pope promoted Pell as his chief financial official, Australian Catholics petitioned, “Pope Francis: Sack Cardinal Pell Now…. His lack of empathy, justice and compassion for the victims of [sex] abuse is hard to reconcile with what Jesus did and taught. His few words of apology were hard to take seriously.”
September 2013: Two hundred people in a Scotland parish signed a petition accusing the Bishop of Galloway, John Cunningham, of persecuting and ostracizing Fr. Patrick Lawson. Lawson was removed from the parish after nearly two decades of calling the Scottish hierarchy to take action against Fr Paul Moore who he accuses of sexually abusing altar boys.
August 2013: “Pope Francis: Stop Recycling Pedophile Priests” a petition signed by almost 7,000 because Newark Archbishop John J. Myers “failed to take action against a sexually abusive priest.”
May 2013: A petition to Pope Francis: Address the Global Sex Abuse Crisis and Convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission begun by two of Karadima’s victims. The petition gained 10,229 supporters.
May 2013: “Call for the resignation of Rev. John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis“ for “deception” in handling pedophile priests.
May 2015: “Right now, the Irish betting firm Paddy Power has Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines as the favorite to be the next pope, giving him 11/2 odds. Already dubbed the ‘Asian Francis,’ Tagle got another boost this week with his election to lead a global federation of Catholic charities.” “In a 2012 interview, Tagle said that zero tolerance was a subject of debate in the Philippines [and] in a little-noticed 2012 video interview he observed of the Asian church’s response to clergy sexual misconduct, “I think for us … exposing persons, both victims and abusers, to the public, either through media or legal action, that adds to the pain.”
January 2015: Pope Francis appointed Blase Cupich archbishop of Chicago in September 2014. Fr. Michael W. O’Connell “was temporarily suspended in December 2013 after the archdiocese received an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a boy years earlier.” He was reinstated “even though the Cook County Sheriff’s Department never closed the criminal case. Weeks later, new allegations surfaced involving alleged abuse of a different boy in the 1990s.” Cupich is keeping O’Connell on the job with admonitions to “to avoid the parish school” and “not be alone with a child,” a contention that SNAP calls “ludicrous and dangerous.”
December 2014: Pope Francis promoted Bishop Christopher Coyne to bishop of Vermont. Coyne was “Cardinal Bernard Law’s former mouthpiece. For years, time and time again, then Fr. Coyne repeated deceptive public relations spin about heinous child sex crimes and callous cover ups by Law and other Catholic officials. While a bishop in Indiana, [SNAP] prodded Coyne to aggressively reach out to anyone who may have seen crimes by Fr. Francis Markey who was arrested by US marshals at his Indiana home in connection with the alleged rape of a 15-year-old boy twice, including the day of the boy’s father’s funeral. As best we can tell, he ignored our request.”
November 2014: Pope Francis promoted Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher to Secretary for Relations with States. “This important role is the equivalent to that of a Foreign Minister.” As nuncio to Australia, Gallager “claimed diplomatic immunity in response to repeated requests for archival documentation that might assist” the New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry into child sex abuse by Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen. Gallagher told Cunneen that his office is “the high diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the Commonwealth” and citied “the protections afforded by international agreements, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” Gallagher later relented.
November 2014: Pope Francis appointed Fr. Robert J. Geisinger as prosecutor of sex abuse cases at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) even though he had allowed a fellow Jesuit, a notorious serial sexual predator, to remain in ministry for years.
November 2014: Pope Francis appointed Archbishop José Luis Mollaghan to a new panel to assist the CDF in prosecuting clerical sex abuse. Mollaghan was “suspended in May as head of the Rosario archdiocese in Argentina due to accusations that he mismanaged Church funds” and “has a dismal record on abuse in his home diocese and nation.”
September 2014: Fr. Robert Oliver was appointed the Vatican’s “point man on sexual abuse” as chief of staff for the pope’s sex abuse commission, Oliver was “a champion of accused priests” while he was a canon lawyer for Boston cardinals Law and O’Malley.
February 2014: In his first consistory for naming cardinals, in addition to elevating Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (see below), the pope included Santiago Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, another Chilean prelate who had also covered-up the sexual abuse of children by Fr. Fernando Karadima.
January 2014: Pope Francis promoted Lexington Bishop Ronald Gainer to head the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, diocese. As bishop of Lexington, Gainer failed to take action against Fr. Carroll Howlin. “Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that Fr. Howlin, suspended for sexually abusing Illinois boys, still lives and works – unsupervised – in McCreary County. The cleric has reportedly also molested two Kentucky boys, one of whom committed suicide. Despite his suspension, however, the Tribune reports that Fr. Howlin’s supervisors in both the Lexington and the Joliet Catholic diocese have basically ignored him … Gainer put Fr. William G. Poole back into a parish even though Poole was twice charged with public indecency (1990 and 2001) and accused (in 2003) of molesting a boy. A Catholic lay panel in the Covington diocese found the child sex abuse allegation against Poole to be credible and paid a settlement to the victim. But Gainer recklessly put Poole back on the job.”
December 2013: Pope Francis reconfirmed Cardinal William Levada to the powerful (because they help select new prelates) Congregation for Bishops although Levada has one of the worst records among the U.S. episcopate for covering up for criminal clerics.
December 2013: Pope Francis appointed Fr. John Doerfler as the new bishop for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan. During the trial of a serial child molester, Doerfler admitted under oath that he had deliberately destroyed “nearly all records and documentation in the secret Church files of at least 51 reported to have sexually assaulted children after the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file fraud suits against Catholic dioceses in the state for covering up for clerics….When specifically asked if it bothered him that clerics who abused children were being dumped into the community without public notice, Doerfler chillingly answered: ‘No’”.
September 2013: Pope Francis approved Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the office of the Holy See that has dealt with all sexual abuse cases 2001. As bishop of Regensburg, Germany, Müller promoted Fr. Peter Kramer, previously convicted of child sex abuse and ordered not to work with children, to pastor. Müller concealed Kramer’s conviction from parishioners. When victims learned of Kramer’s new assignment, additional victims came forward and Kramer was convicted of additional child abuse.
April 2013: The pope also chose Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley as a C9 member. “A close look at the cardinal reveals a career-long pattern of resisting disclosure of information, reinstating priests of dubious suitability, and negotiating mass settlements that are among the least generous in the history of the crisis.”
March 2015: “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the office in charge of abuse cases, has refused to cooperate with civil authorities in Italy concerning a well-known priest that Benedict XVI dismissed from the clerical state in 2012 … But Pope Francis re-instated him last summer after he appealed the decision and then sentenced the priest to a ‘life of prayer and penance.’ The Italian Magistrates were seeking access to documents ‘subsequent to the canonical trial’ at which Fr Mauro Inzoli was initially dismissed. The Vatican’s rejection of their demand seems to confirm that once canonical proceedings commence, the pontifical secret applies, and any disclosure of information obtained in those proceedings is strictly forbidden’”
February 2015: A settlement was reached between 232 plaintiffs sexually abused by priests and nuns at the Ursuline Academy in St. Ignatius, Montana. “The agreement breaks down to less than $20,000 per victim. “These nuns no doubt say they’re ‘poor’ but frankly we doubt that claim. When it suits them, Catholic officials say they’re part of a huge global church. But when it benefits them, like in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases, they claim each diocese or religious order is autonomous.
Did these nuns even try to borrow money from other Catholic institutions (like Boston’s disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law did) or raise more money in any way, so they could do justice by these hundreds of still-suffering victims? We doubt it. Shame on them.”
February 2015: “The Archdiocese of Mobile [Alabama] is attempting to block subpoenas related to sexual abuse allegations, according to court documents. Reverend Johnny Savoie at St. Pius X Catholic School is being sued by four parents for allegedly failing to protect their children from claimed bullying problems.”
September 2014: Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into the abuses that occurred over the years in Indian residential schools, said the “’government of Canada and the Catholics have not provided documents’ needed for the commission to complete its work. He also said the churches were being unco-operative, and the Catholic Church in particular fears more abuse stories will emerge against living clergy. Seventy per cent of the 140 Indian residential schools were run by the Catholic Church with the remainder operated by the Anglican, United, Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist Churches.
May 2014: “A judge rejected a lawsuit filed by the Diocese of Arecibo [Puerto Rico] seeking to block the release of additional information to prosecutors regarding sex abuse allegations … The judge gave the diocese two weeks to hand over the information.
April 2014: “The Netherlands Church is still not properly handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests and brothers according to three victims’ organizations. They are outraged that the Church has unilaterally terminated mediation and victim assistance.”
Statutes of Limitations
February 2015: “Those who say they suffered childhood sexual abuse by clergy will have to comply with 2010 statute of limitations after a narrow vote by a South Dakota legislative committee. In 2010, with the backing of Church lobbyists, state lawmakers approved a new statute of limitations restricting some types of civil litigation in childhood sex abuse cases. Proponents testified that alleged abuse in Catholic Indian Boarding Schools happened so long ago few of the accused are alive to defend themselves. Opponents to that law argue the new statute of limitations was applied retroactively by the courts resulting in the dismissal of several ongoing childhood sex abuse lawsuits—further damaging the victims who are still alive today.”
February 2015: “A Spanish court has dropped charges against 11 out of 12 suspects in a clerical sex abuse scandal because the crimes fall within the statute of limitations. The Grenada court dropped charges of “sexual abuse with penetration, exhibitionism, and concealment of evidence” against nine priests and two laymen accused of abusing an altar boy.” This case became famous because the victim wrote a letter to Pope Francis. The pope phoned him “asking him to ‘forgive this extremely serious sin’ [and] that “people are already working so that all of this can be resolved.’” Granada’s Archbishop Francisco Javier Martínez only suspended the three priests directly accused of child abuse. His refusal to suspend the seven priests charged for covering up the crime sends the appalling message that enabling, tolerating, cooperating and covering up child rape is acceptable behavior that should not be punished. However, “the Holy Pontiff continues to support the controversial archbishop” because he is still in office.
March 2013: Cardinal Timothy Dolan “has successfully lobbied Albany to block SOL reform. Furthermore, before coming to New York, he himself testified publicly against window legislation in Wisconsin and is rumored to have paid off pedophile priests.”