The new pope needs to rid us of these aberrant priests
How the Vatican addresses this crisis will define the Catholic church’s role in the modern world
- The Observer, Saturday 2 March 2013
Two venerable national institutions have been engulfed in recent weeks by allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by senior officers. One of them is trying to reassure victims that it is taking their concerns seriously. The other is the Catholic church in Scotland.
The Observer last week revealed that three priests from the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and one ex-priest had made an official complaint to the Vatican stating that they had been subjected to “inappropriate” advances by their boss, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the most senior Catholic churchman in Britain. Since then, the response of the Scottish Catholic hierarchy has been lamentable. When asked why the cardinal had failed specifically to deny the allegations, the church’s spokesman in Scotland claimed that O’Brien did not know what he was being accused of. Yet a few days earlier the Observer had provided him with details of the complaints before we published the story.
Rather than offer help and spiritual guidance to the four men, there has been barely concealed hostility and calls for the men to “out” themselves.
Nor can these incidents be examined in isolation. The frequency with which stories of aberrant sexual behaviour within the Catholic clergy throughout the last 40 years have occurred suggests that the church has a systemic problem.
At its best, the Catholic church contributes greatly to the spiritual, cultural and political life of Britain. As such, its pain is felt by many beyond its spiritual jurisdiction. There are those, on the other hand, who seek nothing other than the removal of every vestige of Christianity from public life. Yet such a view ignores the priceless work that all of the churches carry out within our most excluded and deprived communities.
How the new pope addresses this serious problem will define his church’s role in the modern world. If he chooses not to lance the boil, then what authority the
church still possesses to influence the turbulent affairs of humanity will simply evaporate
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
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
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN Feb. 11, 2013
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.”
Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits
By Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm
Published June 14, 2012
While the first criminal trial of a Roman Catholic church official accused of covering up child sexual abuse has drawn national attention to Philadelphia, the church has been quietly engaged in equally consequential battles over abuse, not in courtrooms but in state legislatures around the country.
The fights concern proposals to loosen statutes of limitations, which impose deadlines on when victims can bring civil suits or prosecutors can press charges. These time limits, set state by state, have held down the number of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against all kinds of people accused of child abuse — not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest.
Victims and their advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York are pushing legislators to lengthen the limits or abolish them altogether, and to open temporary “windows” during which victims can file lawsuits no matter how long after the alleged abuse occurred.
The Catholic Church has successfully beaten back such proposals in many states, arguing that it is difficult to get reliable evidence when decades have passed and that the changes seem more aimed at bankrupting the church than easing the pain of victims.
Already reeling from about $2.5 billion spent on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs relating to child sexual abuse, the church has fought especially hard against the window laws, which it sees as an open-ended and unfair exposure for accusations from the distant past. In at least two states, Colorado and New York, the church even hired high-priced lobbying and public relations firms to supplement its own efforts. Colorado parishes handed out postcards for churchgoers to send to their representatives, while in Ohio, bishops themselves pressed legislators to water down a bill.
The outcome of these legislative battles could have far greater consequences for the prosecution of child molesters, compensation of victims and financial health of some Catholic dioceses, legal experts say, than the trial of a church official in Philadelphia, where the jury is currently deliberating.
Changing the statute of limitations “has turned out to be the primary front for child sex abuse victims,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who represents plaintiffs in sexual abuse suits.
“Even when you have an institution admitting they knew about the abuse, the perpetrator admitting that he did it, and corroborating evidence, if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice,” she said.
The church’s arguments were forcefully made by Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, in testimony before the State Legislature in January opposing a proposal to abolish the limits in civil cases.
“How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old?” Mr. Brannigan said. “Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.”
“This bill would not protect a single child,” he said, while “it would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers.”
Timing is a major factor in abuse cases because many victims are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they reach their 30s, 40s or later, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law. In states where the statutes are most restrictive, like New York, the cutoff for bringing a criminal case is age 23 for most serious sexual crimes other than rape that occurred when the victim was a minor.
In more than 30 states, limits have already been lifted or significantly eased on the criminal prosecutions of some types of abuses, according to Professor Hamilton. The Supreme Court ruled that changes in criminal limits cannot be retroactive, so they will affect only recent and future crimes.
In New York, the Catholic bishops said they would support a modest increase in the age of victims in criminal or civil cases, to 28. But their lobbying, along with that of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders, has so far halted proposals that would allow a one-year window for civil suits for abuses from the past. The bishops say the provision unfairly targets the church because public schools, the site of much abuse, and municipalities have fought successfully to be exempted.
The New Jersey proposal to abolish time limits for civil suits could pass this summer, said its sponsor in the Senate, Joseph Vitale, a Democrat of Woodbridge. The main opposition has come from the Catholic Church, he said. Mr. Brannigan of the Catholic Conference has testified at hearings, and bishops have “reached out to scores of legislators,” Mr. Vitale said, warning that an onslaught of lawsuits could bankrupt their dioceses.
California was the first state to pass a one-year “window” law to bring civil suits, in 2003, and those involved say that the legislation moved so quickly that the church barely responded. But the experience proved a cautionary tale for the church: more than 550 lawsuits flooded in.
Since then, only two states have passed similar laws: Delaware, in 2007, and Hawaii, in April. Window legislation has been defeated in Colorado, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and New York.
Joan Fitz-Gerald, former president of the Colorado Senate, who proposed the window legislation, was an active Catholic who said she was stunned to find in church one Sunday in 2006 that the archdiocese had asked priests to raise the issue during a Mass and distribute lobbying postcards.
“It was the most brutal thing I’ve ever been through,” she said of the church campaign. “The politics, the deception, the lack of concern for not only the children in the past, but for children today.” She has since left the church.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference has spoken out strongly against a bill that would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitations, but advocates still hope to win a two-year window for filing civil claims.
If that happens, “we’ll see a lot more victims come forward, and we’ll find out more about who the abusers are,” said Jetta Bernier, director of the advocacy group Massachusetts Citizens for Children.
The landmark trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn in Philadelphia, who is accused of allowing predators to remain in ministry, almost did not happen because of the statute of limitations.
A scathing grand jury report in 2005 described dozens of victims and offending priests and said that officials, including Philadelphia’s cardinal, had “excused and enabled the abuse.” But the law in place at the time of the crimes required victims to come forth by age 23. “As a result,” the report said, “these priests and officials will necessarily escape criminal prosecution.”
But victims emerged whose abuse fell within the deadline and in 2011, a new grand jury brought charges against Monsignor Lynn, who had supervised priest assignments.
Pennsylvania expanded the limits, and for crimes from 2007 on, charges will be possible up to the time that victims reach age 50. Advocates are now pushing to abolish the statute of limitations for child sex abuse and open a window for civil suits over long-past abuses. But the legislation appears stalled in the face of church opposition.
The new archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, who led the successful campaign to defeat such a bill in Colorado, says that current restrictions exist for “sound legal reasons.”
Father Marcial Maciel, was my dad, and he sexually abused me, Raul Gonzalez claims in lawsuit
By Michael Sheridan Daily News Staff Writer
Tuesday June 22, 2010 8:52am
He was a celebrated priest, praised by Pope John Paul II.
“My dad told my mom that he was a CIA agent,” Gonzalez told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “He always told my mom that he was a really busy man. That he was always flying on his trips because of the business of his company.”
It wasn’t until he saw Maciel on the cover of a magazine, dressed in priest garb, that he learned the truth.
In the lawsuit, Gonzalez claims he, and other children, were sexually abused by Father Maciel during his time as director of the Legionaries of Christ, a congregation he founded in 1941
“He is one of the many, many kids, and others abused and deceived by Maciel,” says Jeffrey Anderson, Gonzalez’s lawyer.
“He told me that his uncle sometimes made him masturbate him and, basically, the idea of my dad was to transmit that idea to me,” said Gonzalez, according to ABC News.
Gonzalez described many different kinds of abuse he claims Maciel committed.
“He always told us we had to kiss him because that was how we would learn how to kiss a girl when we grew up,” he said.
In the lawsuit, he alleges Father Maciel was protected by the church — including Pope Paul II — because of his efforts in raising money, as well as providing gifts and benefits to Vatican officials.
“My dad told my mom that when John Paul II dies, he was going to be in trouble,” Gonzalez said.
After the death of Pope Paul II, Maciel was stripped of his authority and the Legion of Christ was taken over by the Vatican. Father Maciel was still a priest when he died in 2008.
The Vatican and the Legion of Christ did not comment on the ABC News report. Gonzalez says he has met with officials several times regarding a settlement, and has demanded $26 million.
Sex Abuse Scandal: Did Archbishop Ratzinger Help Shield Perpetrator from Prosecution?
After long delays, the Catholic Church finally appears to be taking responsibility for sexual abuse cases. But it is an uncomfortable process. The pope even failed to take the problem of child abuse seriously when he was the archbishop of Munich.
Peter H. simply cannot understand why allegations are being made against him now — especially after all these years. “Why me of all people?” the priest asked during a phone conversation with his friend, the mayor of Garching, a town near his own, Bad Tölz, in Bavaria.
Yes, why him of all people? Especially when there are so many priests who have committed sins against children, and so many who have been treated leniently by the church. Back in 1980, even Joseph Ratzinger — then the archbishop of Munich, and now Pope Benedict XVI — had played a role in the decision to handle Peter H.’s pedophiliac infractions internally. No police, no state prosecutor, no trial. Therapy and brotherly love would bring this sinner back to the fold.
Events that linked Ratzinger and Peter H. decades ago are now causing their paths to cross once again. Last week, one of these two men, Peter H., was suspended from the priesthood, while the other, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a pastoral letter on clerical sexual abuse. The pope now wants to clear up these cases and aid the victims.
Is this a long-awaited turning point?
Finally, after much too much hesitation, there is now movement in the church — at the lower level with Peter H. and at the higher level with the pope and the German Bishops’ Conference. For the first time since the sex scandal erupted, church officials have indicated that they intend to tackle the problem seriously. In Bavaria, the Catholic Church now intends to report all such cases immediately to the authorities. “We all have to deal with the consequences of utter evil in the world and in the Church,” says the current archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx. “This boil must be lanced. Everything must come out,” his colleague in Bamberg, Ludwig Schick, adds. And the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, who has been engaged by the Bishops’ Conference to handle abuse cases, openly criticizes the institutions of the Church, admitting that “there have been cover-ups in a wide range of cases.”
Political Reaction May Lead to Official Enquiry
Politicians are also reacting. The German state of Hesse wants to make it mandatory for public and private schools to report all suspected cases of abuse and plans to launch a special investigation into all 33 boarding schools located in the state. Bavaria is calling for preventative therapy to be offered to any teachers or clergymen with pedophilic tendencies. And the German federal government has finally reached a decision on who will attend roundtable talks on the issue and what will be on the agenda. On Wednesday, the government plans to announce the appointment of an independent commissioner in Berlin to investigate the abuse cases across the country.
This collective toughening of attitudes is the result of weeks of mounting pressure. Germany’s dioceses have been flooded with complaints and one of the first church officials entrusted with investigating cases of clerical misconduct has already resigned because he could not handle the work. Benno Grimm, from the diocese of Limburg, which covers territory in the states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as the city of Frankfurt, said that he could no longer cope with the number of allegations and reports and that the accounts of abuse were getting under his skin.
Public prosecutors also have their work cut out for them. Up until now, they have had few opportunities to prosecute because the statute of limitations has usually expired for the alleged crimes. But investigations are currently being conducted into at least 14 clergymen on suspicions of sexual abuse. This figure emerged after a SPIEGEL survey of all 24 public prosecutors in Germany. Nine refused to comment. In addition, 11 secular teachers and tutors are being investigated, including three former educators at the prestigious Odenwald boarding school.
At the same time, many Germans are leaving the Catholic Church, especially in the Catholic stronghold of Bavaria, where the faithful have been shocked by scandals surrounding the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys’ choir and the monastery school in Ettal as well as the reportedly lenient treatment of the pedophile priest, Peter H., by the pope’s own former archbishopric in Munich. Officials in the cities of Regensburg and Munich report that, for the first half of March, the number of people leaving the church is nearly double when compared to the same period in February. (Editor’s note: In Germany, church taxes are collected by the government and members of the Catholic and Protestant churches register with the local authorities.)
People are unnerved because, for a long time, no one was able to credibly assure them that everything possible was being done to ensure that youth groups and schools were safe from sexual abuse. And their skepticism is understandable: The case of Peter H. is a prime example of how well the church’s system to protect abusers works.
Young Priest Made ‘Indecent Advances’
As a young chaplain in the diocese of Essen in 1979, H. forced an 11-year-old to engage in oral sex after a camp retreat. He reportedly had the boy drink alcohol before assaulting him. There were at least three more victims in Essen but their parents reportedly decided not to press charges to avoid putting their children through the ordeal. Instead they complained to H.’s immediate superior, the parish priest of St. Andreas. That priest’s handwritten report to the head of church personnel and the vicar general of the diocese of Essen states that H. had made “indecent advances” toward the children during his work in the parish.
Church officials in Essen decided not to press charges and instead arranged for their brother to enter into therapy in Munich. In the letter of transfer, written to the Bavarian diocese that Ratzinger then led, there was a clear admission that the priest had sexually assaulted children in his former parish. Munich was not left in the dark about what kind of problem was on its way to them, the diocese of Essen said last week.
The Diocesan Council, chaired by Archbishop Ratzinger, dealt with the case in Munich on Jan. 15, 1980. According to the minutes of the meeting, “Point 5d” on the agenda saw the council discussing Peter H., who had requested “accommodation and support in a Munich parsonage for a while.” The request also stated that “Chaplain H. will undergo psychological therapeutic treatment.”
Ratzinger Knew Police Hadn’t Been Informed
A policeman’s son, Ratzinger was well aware that no one had notified the police and that everything had been handled by the Church internally. Neither he nor his diocese reported the case to the authorities. Instead, a brief, succinct statement concerning the chaplain’s application was entered into the minutes: “The request is granted.”
Barely two weeks later, H. had been assigned to pastoral duties again. Ratzinger allegedly knew nothing of this. But his office did receive a note from his vicar-general at the time, Gerhard Gruber, concerning the chaplain’s placement in the Catholic parish of St. Johannes Evangelist in Munich. Did Ratzinger overlook the memo? Gruber now says that he alone was responsible.
In the town of Grafing near Munich, H. again sexually abused several pupils. In 1986, a local court in Ebersberg in Bavaria handed out an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a 4,000 deutsche mark fine to H. He was also convicted of distributing pornographic materials.
Priest ‘Always Kissed Children on the Mouth’
Church officials then simply transferred the pedophile from Grafing to Garching — but apparently without informing the parish there of his history. Once again, children at his new place of work complained that their priest always kissed them on the mouth — a practice they found disgusting. Mothers complained to the parish council, but nothing happened. In 2008, the first of his victims in Essen came forward: Wilfried Fesselmann, 41, was 11 at the time of the alleged abuse. The priest was transferred again, this time to his current place of residence in the town of Bad Tölz. Once again no warning was issued to the new parish, where the priest was able to conduct church services with the young people of the area. And it was not until last week that H. was finally suspended from priestly service.
And that is precisely the focus of the current discussion. What responsibility do people with knowledge of what has been done bear? And what about the perpetrators’ superiors? How could they enable pedophile priests to continue working in the Church? And what has the current pope done during his career in the Church to combat a sex problem that he is well aware of?
It was not only in Munich, but also later in Rome that Ratzinger missed countless opportunities to vigorously tackle the issue. For over 23 years — until his election as pope — he headed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, meaning that he was also responsible for dealing with reports of sexual abuse. From 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger exercised this power from a fortress-like palace in the Vatican, where he passed through heavy iron-studded gates every morning and every evening. Above the gates, the walls are still emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Holy Office, also known as the Inquisition, which held Galileo Galilei under arrest here and sentenced Giordano Bruno to death as a heretic.
For decades, Ratzinger accepted the fact that little attention was paid to the problem of sexual abuse. Instead he focused on reprimanding Latin American church activists who advocated liberation theology, a movement that defines the teachings of Jesus Christ differently, as well as feuding with controversial critics of the Catholic Church such as Eugen Drewermann and Hans Küng. His rare public statements during this period were dedicated to pet topics like “faith and reason.”
A Parallel World of Murky Legality
It wasn’t until 2001, after a sexual abuse scandal had rocked the Catholic Church in the US, that Cardinal Ratzinger took action. He decreed that the local churches now had to report all such suspected cases to his offices of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome — but under strict secrecy.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna currently serves as the church’s Promoter of Justice, making him, in effect, the Vatican’s internal prosecutor. Between 2001 and 2010, he investigated over 3,000 accusations lodged against members of the clergy who had allegedly violated their vows of celibacy.
In dealing with such cases, Church officials operate in a parallel world of murky legality. Clergymen play the roles of judge and prosecutor, files are kept secret and witnesses are questioned, but never informed of the purpose of the interrogation.
In 300 cases, the defendants were found guilty and given the mandatory maximum penalty: dismissal from the clergy. In another 300 cases, the defendants anticipated that they would be thrown out of the church and preempted this by asking to be dismissed. This group includes priests who had been caught with pornographic images of children. And around 1,800 priests only received a relatively mild punishment due to their advanced age: They were banned from performing the sacrament.
No Complaint, No Plaintiff, No Judge
All the while, state prosecutors remained relatively powerless to counter the church’s leniency — mainly because they know nothing about the offenses committed. When there is no plaintiff, there is no judge. As long as church officials do not file official complaints and succeed in persuading the victims’ families not to report offenses to the authorities, then the Catholic Church can continue to act within its own realm, and beyond the reach of secular laws. Up until now, nobody from the outside world has been able to do anything about it.
So far, there are no known cases in which bishops or vicar generals have been prosecuted for protecting pedophile subordinates or because they allowed them to continue to work with young people — as in the case with the priest Peter H.
Nevertheless, as the policies of the official body of the Protestant Church in Germany (the Evangelical Church of Germany, or EKD) clearly demonstrate, it is actually possible to crack down on sexual offenders in the clergy. “As soon as initial suspicions arise,” says EKD spokesman Reinhard Mawick, “they are reported to the police so the state prosecutor can investigate.”
The Evangelical Church of Westphalia, for example, has had a 64-page manual with instructions on how to deal with sexual assault for some time now. These guidelines provide detailed information on how to recognize perpetrators and it also lists possibilities for best supporting victims. The Church has to take “active and clear steps to prevent sexual assault,” it says in the publication.
In response to a request from SPIEGEL, the EKD has checked how many cases of abuse have come to light. Results have come in from nine of the 22 district churches across Germany. Over the past 10 years, there have been exactly 11 cases within those churches — and only one had to do with pedophilia. Any clergymen or deacons involved were removed from the service of the church.
Translated from the German by Paul Cohen
Bishop confirms National Catholic Reporter is not a ‘Catholic’ publication
Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, has confirmed that the National Catholic Reporter should not advertise itself as a “Catholic” publication.
In a column appearing in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Finn notes that he, as the bishop of the diocese in which the Reporter is located, has the duty to “call the media to fidelity.” He cites the Code of Canon Law, which (in #1369) calls for “a just penalty” for anyone who “excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.”
The National Catholic Reporter, Bishop Finn remarks, has taken an editorial stance that puts the publication at odds with the Church, by “officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.” He reveals that he has received numerous complaints about the Reporter’s editorial policies.
Bishop Finn reminds his readers that in 1968 his predecessor, Bishop Charles Helmsing, directed the editors of the Reporter to remove the word “Catholic” from the title of their publication. The newspaper’s editors refused. Bishop Finn says: “From my perspective, NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.”
The bishop discloses that soon after arriving in Kansas City, he sought to engage the Reporter editors in a discussion of their fidelity to the Catholic Church, but was rebuffed. “At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead end,” he adds.
Bishop Finn concludes that “I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name ‘Catholic.’” He says that he remains willing to discuss the issue with the Reporter staff, but as things stand, “I find that my ability to influence the National Catholic Reporter toward fidelity to the Church seems limited to the supernatural level.”
Germany’s Catholic Private School Abuse Scandal: ‘The Church Is Not a Criminal Organization’
Accusations of abuse have been reported in 20 of 27 German Catholic dioceses. Has abuse of children become systematic? In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, Johannes Siebner, director of the College St. Blasien, discusses failures of the Church in dealing with the victims.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Father Siebner, after years of silence, numerous victims of abuse at Catholic schools and institutions are now taking the risk of speaking publicly about their experiences. Accusations have now been registered in 20 of the 27 German dioceses. Can one still speak of regrettable, isolated incidents, as some Church representatives continue to do?
Johannes Siebner: Behind each individual case there’s an individual fate. That’s why we must speak of individual cases, in order to be fair to the individual victims. At the same time, we must examine whether there is a system behind these individual fates, or a systematic or systemic culture of looking the other way and willful ignorance in our institutions.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So is the abuse systematic?
Siebner: The Catholic Church is not a criminal organization. Anyone who claims that is going too far. The fact that the victims were children is attributable to the location and time of the crime as well as to specific priests or their bosses — as is the fact that their pain and injuries weren’t seen and people looked away. But there doesn’t appear to be any connection or agreements between the perpetrators — at least not in the cases at the Canisius school in Berlin or ours in St. Blasien. But to only speak of individual cases would trivialize the issue. The victims don’t see themselves merely as victims of individual perpetrators.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So we are discussing an atmosphere that fostered abuse. Psychologists say that the intimate environment of a boarding school, combined with the closed-off world of the Church, can cause these things to happen more easily. Do you think that’s correct?
Siebner: Is it really that simple? Your question is suggestive. The incidents at St. Blasien happened during normal school operations and weren’t necessarily connected to our boarding school. I don’t have any statistics and I am no expert, but my impression is that there is a danger in boarding schools because relationships can have a hermetic element to them, because team spirit can be a temptation and because the role of the educators is constructed as — and must be — one where absolute trust is placed in staff. But none of that is an argument against boarding schools, in the same way that it is not an argument against the institution of parenting.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The abuse is often played down — most recently by Austrian auxiliary bishop Andreas Laun of Salzburg, who told a German talk show host that similar cases happen in Protestant schools. Others have made the argument that abuse has also been perpetrated in groups like the Boy Scouts and atheletics clubs as well as within the family …
Siebner: I don’t pay attention to everything that is said, broadcast or published. But I am sad and skeptical when someone is successful in playing this down or distancing themselves from it. This negatively influences attitudes towards the victims. It also makes it more difficult to see things from the victims’ perspective.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Such attempts to divert attention away from the Church’s own responsibility completely contradict your own views on how one must deal with the issue of abuse.
Siebner: Yes, indeed. The experience of victims has shown that the abuse isn’t solely comprised of the act of abuse, but also the fact that the institutions have looked the other way.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How can abuse and violence on the part of teachers against students be prevented effectively?
Siebner: We need to create a school atmosphere in which a child can cry out if he has been injured and where that cry will also be heard — even if it is very quiet or very inconvenient. Such cries of pain are disruptive and are too quickly condemned as inappropriate. They disrupt the institution’s functioning and damage its reputation. We must teach teachers and school staff to recognize when a child has been harmed.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You are talking about a goal, but what can people do in concrete terms?
Siebner: We have to invest in schools’ culture and we have to encourage people to take responsibility. At the end of the day, we need transparent structures and procedures that are reliable and do not just exist on paper. A student body should also have a say. We need independent bodies that students can turn to.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think that should also include cooperation with local officials or the demand that teachers must bring a certificate of good conduct with them when they join a school?
Siebner: I don’t have anything against a certificate of good conduct — because we can use them to address issues. Last year, for example, we sent a teacher on an exchange program to England, where he was supposed to sleep at a boarding school. I had to fill out a form about him that was several pages long, and he had to present a certificate of conduct. At first I thought that was excessive. But then I realised that this is a sensitive area and the issue is being taken seriously. But one also cannot have the illusion that this is sufficient protection. But it does foster trust because it means the issue gets discussed.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Have you called in the teachers at your school to question them about abuse?
Siebner: No, and I will not do that. That task has been assigned to me, in particular regarding the past 10 years …
SPIEGEL ONLINE: … because of the statute of limitations …
Siebner: … but I will not place 75 teachers under general suspicion. If there is no concrete suspicion, then I will not question my employees. What right do I have to do that?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Regardless, thousands of parents place their trust in the education and moral values of religious private schools.
Siebner: I understand parents who want to have clarity and safety, and when they ask questions about this issue, I take them very seriously. But this is not a conflict that I can resolve. I can’t just order every teacher into my office, give them 10 minutes and ask them the question: Have you ever touched small children inappropriately? I can not and do not want to place all parents under general suspicion just because of the fact that abuse occurs in some families.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If you don’t want to address it that way, then what is the most appropriate way of dealing with the issue?
Siebner: Even I don’t have any ready-made solutions. Those who offer them too quickly generally only want to reassure the general public.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You sound derogatory when you say “general public.” But the reputation of Catholic private school has been shaken. You have to respond to that.
Siebner: But not with knee-jerk reactions or attempts at placation. Neither works, because it doesn’t do justice to the victims. Of course I want to protect the school’s reputation as well as that of the Church — what kind of school director would I be if I didn’t? But I have made a decision: My first priority is to put myself in the shoes of the victims. That’s not always easy for me to do. My wish is to send a signal to every victim: I believe you, and I am thankful that you are talking. To be honest, on the second point I needed some time and it took a lot of strength. That is spiritually challenging.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: For years the abuse was covered up and kept quiet. Some victims were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in exchange for compensation payments.
Siebner: I assume there were cases like that. The victims aren’t making this stuff up.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Should charges be brought in each individual case?
Siebner: What is a case? Where does abuse begin? It can’t be addressed easily with sweeping answers. My astonishing experience has been that many victims wouldn’t talk if charges were going to be immediately brought. At the same time, if I go too far in taking care of my employees and adopting the assumption that they are innocent, then I also risk silencing the victims yet again. The message then would be that I don’t believe them. It’s a real dilemma. The only solution I can really see to this is to have independent ombudspeople.
Interview conducted by Oliver Trenkamp.
Calls for Full Investigation: Number of Church Abuse Cases Continues to Rise in Germany
The Catholic Church in Germany is under pressure as more and more cases of sexual abuse come to light. Now the government is demanding that the Church take rigorous action to investigate the incidents. By SPIEGEL staff.
For years, Jörg D. was plagued by feelings of shame, insecurity and rage. Finally, on Sept. 17, 2009, he sent the pope a four-page letter describing his plight. “I beg you for help, in whatever form possible,” he wrote.
But Benedict XVI remained silent. To this day, Jörg D., now 25, has not received a response, “not even a two-liner, nothing, nothing at all
Franz-Josef Bode, the bishop of the city of Osnabrück in northwestern Germany, hasn’t been much help either. He advised D., a victim of abuse, to “forgive and forget.”
In fact, Bishop Bode wants all the 14 victims, who at the time were altar boys and children preparing to receive their first communion, to forgive and forget. Over the course of several years, ending in 1995, they were sexually abused a total of 227 times by their priest in a village near the Dutch border. The priest involved, Father Alois B., got off lightly, with only a probation sentence.
“The church was more concerned about the offenders than the victims,” says Jörg D. “It provided them with therapy, stays in health resorts, new apartments or new positions, and it assiduously wiped away their old tracks. The abused children were left to fend for themselves.”
German Church Apologizes
New allegations of abuse by members of the Catholic Church are emerging every day. Ursula Raue, a Berlin attorney who has been engaged by the Jesuits to handle abuse cases, has counted 12 suspects and 120 victims in the space of only three weeks. Raue says that the order knew of only two suspects and seven victims in late January. “The numbers are rising by the day,” she says. Many other orders, Catholic institutions and parishes are affected, as new victims report cases of alleged abuse to dioceses, newspapers and counseling centers throughout the country.
Despite the apparent urgency of the situation, Germany’s highest-ranking Catholic, Freiburg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, had been unavailable for comment for weeks during the scandal. At a meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference this week in Freiburg, the issue of “sexual abuse” was initially intended as a secondary item on the agenda. “The aging society” was meant to be the main focus of the meeting.
However Zollitsch on Monday told the conference that he wanted to apologize in the name of the Church to the victims of abuse at Catholic schools. “Sexual abuse of children is always a horrible crime,” he said, adding that he wanted to “apologize to all those who were victims of such crimes.”
Biggest Scandal in Decades
In reacting to what is probably the biggest scandal within their ranks in decades, German bishops have seemed helpless and dazed, sometimes concerned about the victims, but often stubborn, out of touch with reality or ignorant — and generally confused. Some say they are “stunned and concerned,” while others, like Augsburg Bishop Walter Mixa, have summarily assigned some of the blame for the abuse to the “so-called sexual revolution.”
All of the publicity has overshadowed the more urgent needs of conducting a thorough investigation into the incidents, prosecution of the offenders and help for the victims.
What is needed is an independent commission, with a staff to investigate all allegations and hold accountable the offenders and those who knew about them within the church hierarchy. Such a commission would also have to ensure that the long-neglected victims finally receive counseling, therapy and compensation.
This is the way the abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church in Ireland and the United States were dealt with. Commissions in those two countries investigated thousands of alleged offenders. Ireland’s commission was headed by an experienced judge, who was given the authority to inspect secret Church records and question the parties involved. Are Germany’s bishops afraid of so much transparency and the results it could yield?
Hiding Behind Pretexts
Even the German government is unequivocally calling upon Church leaders to take action — an extremely unusual approach in the context of the relationship between Church and state.
“I expect the Catholic Church to provide concrete information on which measures are being taken for a complete investigation,” says German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. “It is not very helpful when a few people in positions of authority, like Bishop Mixa, hide behind polemical pretexts instead of helping to resolve the matter.”
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a member of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), proposes the appointment of ombudsmen and a round table of representatives of the government, the Church and victims. Such a panel, she says, would be “a good way to clear up the many abuse cases and give the Catholic Church an opportunity to enter into dialogue with the victims over voluntary compensation.
The prevalent view within the clergy, however, is still that sexual assaults are isolated cases, the regrettable transgressions of brothers gone astray. German bishops are determined to avoid the fate of their Irish counterparts, who were summoned to Rome last week for a public dressing-down over their handling of child abuse scandals.
At the same time, the many new suspected cases indicate that abuse of children and adolescents was apparently widespread throughout the Catholic world. One of the German Catholic institutions where child abuse allegedly took place is the Franz Sales House, a facility for handicapped people in the western city of Essen, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary as a “venerable institution with a great history.” It represents “a culture of attentiveness,” Essen Auxiliary Bishop Franz Vorrath said.
Rolf-Michael Decker describes what he claims happened to him there as a 14-year-old. “We were sometimes locked into rooms in the attic, for example after attempts to run away,” he recalls. “One night K., one of the teachers, stood in front of my bed and told me to come with him. He took me to his room, locked the door and told me to take off my nightshirt. He began fondling me and undressed himself in the process. It was all very strange to me, and I felt uncomfortable, but he threatened me, saying that if I didn’t keep quiet I would be locked up for much longer.”
According to Decker, other boys were also subjected to rape and anal sex over a period of years. He also accuses a priest who worked at the facility of sexual abuse. “During confession, he would ask us about obscene things while masturbating.” Decker, 55, has already found four other witnesses.
An investigation into the dark past of the Franz Sales House could have been launched once before, in 2002. At the time, the director, who had been accused of sexual abuse, albeit not at the Franz Sales House itself, resigned immediately “so as not to harm the good reputation of the Franz Sales House over a transgression that happened long ago.” The Church was apparently not interested in pursuing the issue further.
Today, however, the current director of the institution, Günter Oelscher, does want to see the abuse allegations cleared up, “regardless of (the effect on) the institution’s image.”
Apparently the order of the Salesians of Don Bosco has been particularly hard-hit. As a spokeswoman admitted in response to a SPIEGEL inquiry last Friday, abuse allegations have been leveled against four individuals currently or previously associated with the order, both members of the order and employees. They relate to the former Salesians of Don Bosco, where two priests and an employee allegedly molested underage youths until the 1970s.
Another accusation is directed against a former member of the Salesian order, who worked in the Don Bosco Students’ Home in the Bavarian city of Augsburg until the mid-1970s. According to spokeswoman Gabriele Merk-Horstmann, the order intends to look into “all allegations without regard to the identity of the individuals involved,” and to “offer victims the support available to us.”
Sexual abuse is also believed to have occurred in a children’s home run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in the town of Oggelsbeuren in southern Germany. A victim says that, as a child, he was required to bring the pastor his meals in his room. The pastor apparently showed the boy pornographic images while fondling him. The man was later transferred abroad. The case was submitted to the abuse commission of the Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese late last week.
At a Catholic Marist boarding school in the Bavarian town of Mindelheim, boys aged 13 to 15 were allegedly summoned to the room of a lay teacher which was adjacent to the students’ dormitory during the night. According to a former student, the teacher would then give the children brandy until they were drunk, and would then molest and, in some cases, rape them.
The witness estimates the number of affected boys at “10 to 15,” just in his dormitory alone. Father Winfried Schreieck, the former director of the school, says today that he never heard of the abuse allegations. He adds that he is also certain “that those in charge of the order attempt to clear up any accusations that abuse victims report to the order.”
Dozens of former victims of abuse have contacted SPIEGEL in the last two weeks with similar reports. Some say that now, decades later, they still feel disgust at the thought of the fondling, flirtation and kisses coming from the priests and laypeople, while others remain traumatized today after having been raped as children.
‘Nothing Was Right in My World Anymore’
The names of the institutions, parishes and orders involved read like a who’s who of the Catholic establishment. The Franciscans, for example, are dealing with charges of sexual abuse at a boarding school, long since closed, in Grosskrotzenburg near Frankfurt. A former student claims that several priests at the school engaged in abusive acts between the late 1960s and early 1970s. “We have contacted the former student, so that we can discuss the charges and, if possible, clear them up,” says Hadrian Koch, the Franciscan provincial vicar in charge of the case.
Many Catholic entities and organizations, including the Salvatorians, the Pallottines, parishes, Church-run children’s homes and scouting organizations, must now deal with allegations from former students.
Given their experiences, however, many victims have little confidence in an investigation conducted by precisely the institution that concealed the abuse, sometimes for years or even decades.
“What I experienced changed something fundamental in me,” says a man who, as a child, was placed in a kind of relocation camp in Unna-Massen near Dortmund for ethnic Germans who were immigrating to Germany from former Communist countries. There, he was abused in a car by a priest from the Paderborn diocese.
“All of a sudden, nothing was right in my world anymore,” the man recalls. “An offender like that has no idea what he’s destroying in someone.”
FRANK HORNIG, SVEN RÖBEL, MARCEL ROSENBACH, PETER WENSIERSKI
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
One in 20 priests an abuser, inquiry told
- October 23, 2012
- Called for married priests, as are being allowed now in the Anglican ordinariate within the Catholic Church, as a “circuit-breaker” that would reduce child sex abuse. The state should remove the Equal Opportunity Act exemption letting the church discriminate on grounds of marital status, he said.
- Described the Church as “a holy and unholy mess, except where religious sisters or laypeople are in charge, for example schools and welfare agencies”.
- Called for an “eminent Catholic task force” of lay people to work with the Church on reform and transparency.
- Said other religions were not immune from child sex abuse, including credible anecdotal evidence of two incidents within Melbourne’s Hindu community where the offending monks were “shipped back to the home country”.
AT LEAST one in 20 Catholic priests in Melbourne is a child sex abuser, although the real figure is probably one in 15, the state inquiry into the churches’ handling of sex abuse was told yesterday.
RMIT professor Des Cahill said his figures, based on analyzing conviction rates of priests ordained from Melbourne’s Corpus Christi College, closely matched a much larger American analysis of 105,000 priests which found that 4362 were child sex offenders.
The intercultural studies professor also told the inquiry that the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming itself because of its internal culture. He said the Church’s Melbourne Response abuse protocol had to go, and the state would have to intervene to achieve it.
In other key testimony, Professor Cahill:
Professor Cahill said that 14 of 378 Corpus Christi priests graduating between 1940 and 1966 were convicted of child sexual abuse, and church authorities had admitted that another four who had died were also abusers, a rate of 4.76 per cent.
But the actual figure was much higher when under-reporting was taken into account, along with cases dealt with in secret by the Catholic Church. “One in 20 is a minimum. It might be one in 15, perhaps not as high as one in 10,” he said.
He suggested that, though the Church tried to “fudge the figures” by including other church workers, Catholic priests offended at a much higher rate than other men. If the general male population now over 65 offended at the same rate, there would be 65,614 men living in Australia who had been convicted of child sex abuse — very far from the case.
Professor Cahill said the Church’s “culture of caste clericalism” and its pyramid structure rendered it incapable of the systemic reform needed. The organisational culture was “verging on the pathological”.
“Bishops are caught between canon law and civil law, and Rome has put a lot of pressure on bishops to make sure canon law and the rights of priests are being observed, but canon law has nothing to say about the rights of child victims,” he said.
The Melbourne Response — the internal protocol used by the Melbourne archdiocese — was designed to protect the image and reputation of the church and to contain financial liability, and had to be changed. “The church is incapable of reform, so the state will have to do it,” he said
He suggested a new structure involving the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner and a new “eminent Catholics task force”, appointed by the Government, to work with Church leadership. Possible candidates included former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent, La Trobe professor Joseph Camilleri, former Geelong mayor Frank Costa, former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Mrs Diana Grollo, state chief health officer Rosemary Lester, retired Ballarat bishop Peter Connors, retired Melbourne priest Eric Hodgens and Australian Catholic University professor Gabrielle McMullin.
Professor Cahill said child sex abuse had existed in all ages, cultures and religions, shrouded in secrecy and poorly responded to by religious authorities. He said a church council in 309 AD was concerned about child sex abuse in monasteries.
One in 11 Victorians identified with a religion other than Christianity, up 68 per cent in 10 years, and Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all had issues to do with sex abuse, especially in other countries.
In Sri Lanka, child sex abuse was rampant in Buddhist monasteries, and more than 100 monks had been charged in the past decade. Child sex abuse had been called “India’s time bomb”, especially the plight of street children, while many Muslim communities were in denial, he said. Melbourne Jewish groups were making their own submission to the inquiry.