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Pope Benedict ‘complicit in child sex abuse scandals’, say victims’ groups


Pope Benedict ‘complicit in child sex abuse scandals’, say victims’ groups

Pope Benedict XVI ‘knew more about clergy sex crimes than anyone else in church yet did little to protect children’, say critics

  • Ian Traynor in Brussels, Karen McVeigh in New York and Henry McDonald in Dublin
  • guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 February 2013 15.04 EST

From the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/11/pope-complicit-child-abuse-say-victims

For the legions of people whose childhoods and adult lives were wrecked by sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy, Pope Benedict XVI is an unloved pontiff who will not be missed.

Victims of the epidemic of sex- and child-abuse scandals that erupted under Benedict’s papacy reacted bitterly to his resignation, either charging the outgoing pontiff with being directly complicit in a criminal conspiracy to cover up the thousands of paedophilia cases that have come to light over the past three years, or with failing to stand up to reactionary elements in the church resolved to keep the scandals under wraps.

From Benedict’s native Germany to the USA, abuse victims and campaigners criticised an eight-year papacy that struggled to cope with the flood of disclosures of crimes and abuse rampant for decades within the church. Norbert Denef, of the NetworkB group of German abuse victims, said: “The rule of law is more important than a new pope.”

Denef, 64, from the Baltic coast of north Germany, was abused as a boy by his local priest for six years. In 2003, Denef took his case to the bishop of Magdeburg. He was offered €25,000 (then £17,000) in return for a signed pledge of silence about what he suffered as a six-year-old boy. He then raised the issue with the Vatican and received a letter that said Pope John Paul II would pray for him so that Denef could forgive his molester.

“We won’t miss this pope,” said Denef. He likened the Vatican’s treatment of the molestation disclosures to “mafia-style organised crime rings”.

That view was echoed by David Clohessy in the US, executive director of SNAP (Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests), an organisation with 12,000 members: “His record is terrible. Before he became pope, his predecessor put him in charge of the abuse crisis.

“He has read thousands of pages of reports of the abuse cases from across the world. He knows more about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups than anyone else in the church yet he has done precious little to protect children.”

Jakob Purkarthofer, of Austria’s Platform for Victims of Church Violence, said: “Ratzinger was part of the system and co-responsible for these crimes.”

Under the German pope, his native country, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Austria were rocked by clerical sex-abuse scandals, triggering revulsion at the clergy in Europe just when Benedict saw his mission as leading a Catholic revival on a secular continent.

Before becoming pope, there were also major scandals in the US and Ireland at a time when Pope John Paul II had put the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in charge of dealing with them.

A combination of deep rancour and disgust over the crimes and disaffection with the conservative ethics of the Catholic hierarchy has nudged the church in Austria towards schism, with rebel priests leading an anti-Vatican movement of hundreds of thousands, dubbed We Are The Church.

“He should have come clean about the abuses, but was not really able to change anything fundamentally,” said Purkarthofer. “The resignation is a chance for real change, perhaps the best thing he could have done for the church.”

While also intensely critical, some Irish victims of the seminaries, convent schools, and church-run orphanages gave the pope the benefit of the doubt, but lamented that not enough action had followed Benedict’s expressions of remorse in the spring of 2010.

“When the pope issued his pastoral letter to the people of Ireland we welcomed it,” said one Irish campaigner. “Because of the sincerity of the words in that letter from the pope in the name of the church. He said he was ‘truly sorry’ and accepted that our ‘dignity had been violated’.

“So we went on to meet the group of bishops in Ireland thinking that this would be a new era. But what we got instead were pastoral platitudes and special masses offered up.”

The fallout from these scandals continues to reverberate. Next Monday campaigners for justice are to protest in the ancient west German city of Trier when the country’s church leadership gathers. Last month a church-sponsored inquiry into the abuses collapsed in disarray amid recrimination between the clergy and outside criminologists involved in the examination.

A similar situation persists in Austria, where a church-led inquiry into the abuse and compensation has degenerated, in the view of activists, into a smokescreen. In Belgium, where the head of the church nationally had to resign and then made matters worse by going on television to plead innocence while admitting “intimacy” by having boys in his bed, there are parallel frustrations with the partial nature of the church’s openness.

A couple of years ago US activists sought to file a criminal suit against the Vatican at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, while victims’ associations responded to the current drama by demanding an international commission be set up to examine Catholic paedophilia, independent of the church.i

Clohessy said a big question for Benedict’s successor is “what he will do in a very tangible way to safeguard children, deter cover-ups, punish enablers and chart a new course.

“There are 30 bishops in the US [who] have posted on the diocese websites the names of predator priests. The pope should require bishops to do that and to work with secular lawmakers to reform archaic sex abuse laws so that predators from every walk of life face justice.”

John Kelly, one founder of Ireland’s Survivors of Child Abuse group and a former inmate at Dublin’s notorious Artane Industrial School, which was run by the Christian Brothers, said Benedict had resisted their demands to properly investigate and disband religious orders tainted by sexual and physical abuse

“In our view, we were let down in terms of promises of inquiries, reform and most importantly of all the Vatican continuing not to acknowledge that any priest or religious bodies found guilty of child abuse would face the civil authorities and be tried for their crimes in the courts.

“I’m afraid to say Pope Benedict won’t be missed as the Vatican continued to block proper investigations into the abuse scandals during his term in office. Nor are we confident that things are going to be different because of all the conservative Cardinals he appointed. For us, he broke his word.”

The Austrian campaigner called for church files on paedophilia to be opened and generous compensation for the victims.

Denef pointed to the discrepancies between the response in the US and in Europe, insisting that clergy suspects must be brought before the law.

“From our point of view, Ratzinger did nothing to support the victims. Instead, perpetrators and serial perpetrators were protected and moved to new jobs,” he said.

“Victims in the US have been compensated sometimes with more than a million dollars and the personal files of the perpetrators were put on the internet. But the victims of sexual violence by the clergy in Germany had to settle for a few thousand euros, often conditional on pledges of silence and no more claims.

“We demand from German politicians that this concern [the church] is no longer beyond the rule of law. That’s more important than waiting to see whether a new pope will be more reactionary than the old one.”

• This article was amended on 13 February 2013 because the original attributed quotes from Norbert Denef, of NetworkB, to Matthias Katsch. Katsch is not a member of NetworkB. The original has also been amended to correct the description of NetworkB. It is not a “group of German clerical-abuse victims” as the original said, but a group of German abuse victims.

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Abuse Victims Ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican


Abuse Victims Ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican

By       Published: September 13, 2011
From the link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/world/europe/14vatican.html?_r=1

Human rights lawyers and victims of clergy sexual abuse filed a complaint on Tuesday urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for what they described as abetting and covering up the rape and sexual assault of children by priests.

The formal filing of nearly 80 pages by two American advocacy groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests.

“The high-level officials of the Catholic church who failed to prevent and punish these criminal actions,” the complaint says, “have, to date, enjoyed absolute impunity.”

A spokeswoman at the court said the prosecutor’s office would examine the papers, “as we do with all such communications.” The first step will be “to analyze whether the alleged crimes fall under the court’s jurisdiction,” Florence Olara, the prosecutor’s spokeswoman said.

Complaints about the Vatican and child abuse by Roman Catholic priests have been received at the court before, court records showed. But Ms. Olara said details were not normally disclosed by the court unless a case went forward.

Lawyers familiar with the international court said it was unlikely the complaint against the Vatican would fit the court’s mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican, said he had no comment.

Vatican officials have often said that the decisions about priests accused of abuse are made by bishops — not by the Vatican hierarchy — and that the church is far more decentralized than is widely believed.

But the lawyers and abuse victims from the United States and Europe who held a news conference at the court on Tuesday said their action was necessary because all the investigations and prosecutions of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in various countries had not been sufficient to prevent continuing crimes and cover-ups.

Two of the victims whose cases are highlighted in the filing say the priests who sexually abused them simply moved to different countries and are still in ministry working with children, with the knowledge of church superiors. “National jurisdictions can’t really get their arms around this,” said Pamela Spees, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who helped prepare the filing. “Prosecuting individual instances of child molestation or sexual assault has not gotten at the larger systemic problem here. Accountability is the goal, and the I.C.C. makes the most sense, given that it’s a global problem.”

In addition to Pope Benedict XVI, the filing asks the court to prosecute Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the previous secretary of state and the current dean of the College of Cardinals; and Cardinal William J. Levada, who is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office designated to receive cases of clergy sexual abuse that are forwarded by bishops.

A central question is whether the accusations will fit the court’s mandate. The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after July 1, 2002, when the court opened. It is independent of the United Nations and has jurisdiction in the 117 countries that so far have ratified the Rome Statute that created the court. Italy, Germany and Belgium are signatories, while the Vatican and the United States are not.

The filing cites five cases in which priests have been accused of abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States; the priests in these cases are from Belgium, India and the United States.

Ms. Spees said she hoped to persuade the court that the cases were within its jurisdiction, because they involve abuses that she said were “systematic and widespread.”

Experts in international law said the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests was sufficiently heinous and widespread to be taken to the court.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, which is based in London, said he thought that the court would open a preliminary investigation to determine whether it has jurisdiction — and that it would probably conclude that it did not.

“Crimes against humanity means acts that are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population,” Mr. Ellis said. “What you’re looking at is really a policy, in which the government or the authorities are planning the attack.”

“When you look at the concept of why and how the I.C.C. was created, I just don’t think this fits,” he said. “But the filing does something that’s important. It raises awareness.”

Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up


From the link: http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2012/04/gerald-t-slevin-update-criminal-charges.html

Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jerry Slevin continues to be vigilant about what’s happening with Catholic church officials and the child abuse cover-up, from a legal standpoint.  He has just sent another outstanding statement, this one about SNAP’s filing last week of new charges updating their previous filing of criminal charges against the Vatican with the International Criminal Court, for the Vatican’s internationally orchestrated cover-up of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
Here’s Jerry’s statement:
SNAP, the international victims advocacy network, filed on April 11, 2012 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) a 19 page letter (“New Charges”), plus supporting documentation, updating  SNAP’s  prior September  2011  original  charges ( “Original Charges”).
The New Charges, include additional evidence supporting SNAP’s allegations against Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) and three top Vatican subordinates, Cardinals Bertone, Levada and Sodano. SNAP alleges this Vatican clique for years has been, and still is, orchestrating a worldwide criminal cover-up by Catholic bishops of  priest child sexual abuse, including acts involving  systemic rape, sexual violence and torture, of hundreds of thousands of defenseless children. These collectively would constitute “crimes against  humanity” under the ICC treaty.
After SNAP filed the Original Charges, almost 500 additional victims from over 60 countries contacted SNAP with new allegations that SNAP has added to the Original Charges. The New Charges (accessible by clicking here) also contain brief and clear updates, with citation links, concerning other recent relevant developments since the Original Charges, including:
(1) September 2011: The issuance of the scathing and devasting report, “In Plain Sight”, by Amnesty International Ireland, concerning the recent  history of priest sexual abuse of children  in Ireland and of the Irish government’s “hands off” approach until recently  to the Catholic Church hierarchy’s and priests’ appalling misdeeds;
(2) October 2011: The indictment of Cardinal Justin Rigali’s protégé, Opus Dei Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, for failing to report a child pornographer priest, and the April 5, 2012 court decision denying Finn’s motion to dismiss the criminal charges;
(3) November and December 2011: The issuance in Ireland of the sordid remainder of the Cloyne Diocese Report and the results of governmental audits in six additional Irish dioceses, all confirming in varying degrees a familiar pattern of abuse and bishops’ cover-up;
(4) December 2011: The issuance in the Netherlands of the massive Deetman report indicating tens of thousands of Dutch children had been sexually abused by priests over several  decades, supplemented by reports of several children being castrated following their reporting that they were sexually abused by clerics;
(5) January 2012: The publication of several articles highlighting the escalating  reporting of priest abuse of children in Poland and the special difficulty of getting governmental officials to confront the entrenched Polish Catholic hierarchy on priest abuse issues;
(6) March 2012: The publication by a former Legion of Christ priest of evidence of special canon law favoritism by the Pope and Cardinal Bertone towards admitted sexual deviant, Fr. Maciel, of Mexico;
(7) March-April 2012: The unprecedented ongoing  Philly criminal trial of a former top aide to Cardinals Bevilacqua and Rigali and the almost daily revelations of a decades-old cover-up, including document shredding by bishops and another  bishop’s admission under oath that  the important priest personnel decisions were always made by the Cardinals. The trial is establishing that a similar cover-up pattern was followed over a half-century by three different Cardinals with episcopal experience from five dioceses in four states, as well as in Rome. Each of the three Cardinals had close ties to the Vatican. The common cover-up pattern is indicative of at least policy coordination with Rome and, in some instances even, of direct coordination, as SNAP has alleged to the ICC generally with respect to the Vatican clique. This is discussed in more detail in my April 13, 2012 article about the Philly trial, accessible here.
(8) February-April: In New York, District Attorneys in the State Capitol, Albany, area have banded together to tighten up significantly the handling of claims of child sexual abuse by priests. In Milwaukee, a Federal bankruptcy judge has to date ruled against releasing massive records relating to priest child abuse in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Generally, the US bishops’ latest annual report confirms a rise in overall priest child sexual abuse claims, including some  additional new claims, as well as the continued failure of some bishops to follow even the weak US bishops’ child protection guidelines.
In addition to the foregoing, the New Charges also spell out clearly the long standing directives to the bishops from the Vatican to resist adopting mandates that Catholic bishops must promptly report priest child abuse claims to the police.
Finally, the New Charges crisply summarize the effort of senior US bishops and their highly paid apologists and attorneys to retaliate against SNAP, apparently for filing criminal charges against the Vatican clique with the ICC. The recent appointment of a woman and a mother as the new ICC lead prosecutor may be giving the Vatican clique some sleepless nights about SNAP’s ICC case. The New Charges will likely only increase the retaliatory efforts against SNAP.
The protections from prosecution  surrounding the pope have been extensive to date, but they may eventually prove to have been in vain. The pope runs a tight ship, perhaps a throwback to his teenage German military service in the dangerous days at the end of World War II. For more infomation on this, please read the comments under, “An Opportunistic Pope,” “The Pope at the Masters” and “Kids, Women and Bishops Beware,” accessible by clicking here.
The International Criminal Court, or the ICC, is structurally independent of the United Nations and the World Court, and was established as a permanent tribunal at the Hague, Netherlands, a decade ago by an international treaty now ratified by over 120 nations that are annually assessed to support the ICC’s staff of over 500 professionals, as described here.
The ICC’s  special focus is on handling crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes that, for various reasons, cannot readily be tried elsewhere, as in this case involving the Vatican. Given the geographical and chronological scope of the Vatican clique’s alleged crimes against humanity, there appears to be clear ICC juridiction over the Vatican clique if the ICC prosecutor decides to pursue the criminal case fully. Decisions to pursue criminal prosecutions frequently take a long period to evaluate, given the voluminous facts and documents, etc., sometimes taking over a year just for the decision to prosecute.
A new lead ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, presently Deputy Prosecutor, takes office  in a few weeks. She has been an advocate on behalf of African victims of violence, including those in Rwanda, and is a mother with two sons, one of whom reportedly  lives currently in the United States.  For more on Mrs. Bensouda, please see this recent Irish Times article.
Ironically, as the pope is increasingly engaged in a war against women’s rights  as part of his US efforts to replace Barack Obama, the pope’s fate may now be decided initially by a woman ICC prosecutor in a case led by a woman, Pam Spees, a no-nonsense and very competent international human rights attorney, with her excellent professional colleagues and experienced staff at SNAP’s legal advocates, the Center For Constitutional Rights, an exceptionally successful and highly regarded human rights advocacy group based in New York City and described more fully here.
For 300 years, the early Church generally prospered and grew under and obeyed  Roman law applicable to all Romans, including bishops. For most of the next 1,700 years after Constantine’s virtual takover of the Church hierarchy, the imperial Church hierarchy have mostly made their own rules as an unaccountable hierarchical monarchy and frequent player in European power politics. The power politics ended substantively in 1870  when the Papal States were lost to Italian populists, but the pope still clings to the fantasy that the Vatican is a sovereign nation and player yet in power politics. Of course, the hierarchy has personally benefited, and continues to benefit, greatly from the monarchical structure, which is mainly why it  fights so fiercely to maintain its power and wealth.
Almost 150 years later, the pope is still resisting becoming accountable to the international rule of law that applies to almost all other world leaders and nations. The ICC  and European financial regulators will likely soon change that permanently.

Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.