Australian bishop testifies on prevalence of child sex abuse in the church
Dying of cancer, Bishop Emeritus Geoffrey Robinson appeared Aug. 24 before the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to testify to the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the church.
He painted a sad picture of a brave and lonely Sisyphus with his band of bishops in tow, pushing a boulder with a reasoned response to the crisis up the Vatican Hill, only to have it pushed back by popes and cardinals who had no idea about the issue and a blindness about the incapacity of canon law to deal with it.
“However great the faults of the Australian bishops have been over the last 30 years, it still remains true that the major obstacle to a better response from the church has been the Vatican,” Robinson told the commission. Most of the Roman Curia saw the problem as a “moral one: if a priest offends, he should repent; if he repents, he should be forgiven and restored to his position. … They basically saw the sin as a sexual one, and did not show great understanding of the abuse of power involved or the harm done to the victims.”
Robinson entered the seminary at 12-years-old, was ordained a priest, and became a canon lawyer and then auxiliary bishop of Sydney. In 1996, when revelations of clergy sexual abuse of children in Australia had reached a crescendo, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference appointed him to find a solution. In 2004, he resigned as auxiliary bishop of Sydney after concluding that the church’s response was still inadequate.
“I eventually came to the point where I felt that, with the thoughts that were running through my head, I could not continue to be a bishop of a church about which I had such profound reservations,” Robinson wrote in a 2008 book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. “I resigned my office as Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and began to write this book, about the very foundations of power and sex within the church.”
He wrote books and went on lecture tours, calling for radical reforms within the church, and in the process lost and gained many friends.
He quickly came to the conclusion after his appointment by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to draw up a protocol to deal with child sexual abuse in 1996, that canon law was so inadequate for cases of sexual abuse that it would be a sham to use it. “We would have to invent something of our own,” he told the Royal Commission.
Prior to 1983, when he was consulted by the Vatican about a new draft of the Code of Canon Law, he found the words “pontifical secret” stamped over the document. He complained that if he were to give a reasoned response, he needed to discuss it with colleagues. He was told: “Just don’t give it to the media.”
In 1996, Robinson devised a protocol called “Towards Healing,” a system that was “outside, and indeed contrary to canon law.” In the first draft, he required these crimes to be reported to the police as the police were not the media. Pope Paul VI’s instruction, Secreta Continere of 1974, imposes the pontifical secret over allegations of clergy sexual abuse of children and contains no exception for reporting to the police. The barrage of statements by senior Curia figures from 1984 to 2002 made it abundantly clear that bishops should not report these allegations to the police.
But that was not the only conflict that “Towards Healing” had with canon law. It had its own system of investigation, and clergy could be placed on permanent “administrative leave.” None of this complied with canon law.
In his perceptive notes of the meeting in the Vatican in April 2000 to discuss child sexual abuse, Robinson wrote that the members of the Roman Curia showed an “an overriding concern to preserve the legal structures already in place in the Church and not to make exceptions to them unless this was absolutely necessary.”
He told the Commission how Italian Archbishop Mario Pompedda told the delegates how they might get around canon law, but he did not want a law that he had to get around. He wanted one he could follow, but “they never came up with it.” Robinson came away from that meeting knowing that the Australian bishops had no choice but to continue to go it alone, irrespective of what the fall out might be.
The extent to which he and the other Australian bishops were prepared to do that is starkly illustrated in the minutes of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference of Nov. 28, 2002, where they resolved to disobey Pope John Paul II’s 2001 Motu Proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, which required all complaints of child sexual abuse to be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which would then instruct the bishop what to do. They would only refer those cases where there was no admission by the priest that the abuse had occurred. Robinson told the Commission that the purpose behind that was to avoid being told by Rome what to do with those priests who admitted the abuse. That decision was well justified given the figures presented to the United Nations by the Vatican that only one third of priests against whom credible allegations of child sexual abuse had been made, have been dismissed. The claim that the Vatican has a policy of zero tolerance is pure spin.
This defiance of canon law was never going to last. Patrick Parkinson, professor of law at Sydney University, appointed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to review “Towards Healing,” pointed out the problems of a local protocol that conflicted with canon law: priests permanently removed from the ministry simply appealed to Rome which ordered their reinstatement. The bishop had to comply or be sacked. Robinson told the Commission that “Towards Healing” was initially successful because a number of priests accepted that they could not continue to work as a priest, but “it later fell down because both sides changed.” Priests started to defend themselves with canon lawyers, and the victims went to civil lawyers.
Robinson was very critical of Pope John Paul II for a lack of leadership on this issue, and particularly his imposition in 1983 of a five-year limitation period that effectively meant that there could be no prosecution of priest paedophiles under canon law because their crimes had been “extinguished.” Prior to 1983, there was no limitation period for these crimes. After 1983, if a child was abused at the age of 7, and did not complain by the age of 12, there was no possibility of dismissing the priest under canon law.
Figures presented to the Commission indicate that in Australia, the limitation period meant that only 3 percent of accused priests could be dismissed, and that figure only increased to 19 percent with the extension of the period to 10 years from the 18th birthday of the victim in 2001. Robinson said the church has still not had the appropriate leadership on child sexual abuse from Pope Benedict XVI and not even from Pope Francis.
Robinson also criticized Australian Cardinal George Pell for refusing to join the other Australian bishops in adopting the “Towards Healing” protocol. Pell was party to the two-year consultations leading up to its adoption in November 1996, but, without reference to anyone, announced he was setting up his own system, the “Melbourne Response,” and then claimed he was the first in Australia to do something about clergy sexual abuse. Apart from accusing Pell of destroying a unified response from the Australian bishops, Robinson said he was an “ineffective bishop” for having lost the support of the majority of his priests who wished for him to be transferred somewhere else. Their wish was fulfilled. He is now in charge of the Vatican finances.
A reading of the many documents tendered to the Royal Commission provides even more evidence that the Vatican’s all but useless disciplinary system caused far more children to be abused than would otherwise have occurred. Robinson fought the good fight, but was ultimately defeated and resigned, exhausted.
In the end, the Australian bishops abandoned the courage they displayed under his leadership, and followed the lead of Pope Benedict XVI who, in his 2010 Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, ignored the Murphy Commission’s criticisms of canon law, and blamed the Irish bishops for failing to follow it. In submissions to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and to the Royal Commission, the Australian bishops ignored what they knew of canon law’s failings, and blamed their predecessors for making “terrible mistakes” when their predecessors were demonstrably complying with canon law.
Australia has a peculiar cultural habit of creating heroes who struggle in vain, and are defeated — from the bushranger, Ned Kelly to the soldiers who were massacred at Gallipoli in the First World War. The Catholic church needs some heroes. Robinson, now terminally ill, is one of them.
[Kieran Tapsell is the author of Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican Secret and Child Sexual Abuse (ATF Press 2014).]
From the Vatican to Sicily, France, India, Australia and Mexico – A Spotlight Should be on Pope Francis Enabling Clerical Sex Abuse
From the Vatican to Sicily, France, India, Australia and Mexico – A Spotlight Should be on Pope Francis Enabling Clerical Sex Abuse
Posted on February 18, 2016 by Betty Clermon
From the Link: https://opentabernacle.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/from-the-vatican-to-sicily-france-india-australia-and-mexico-a-spotlight-should-be-on-pope-francis-enabling-clerical-sex-abuse/
In the last two weeks, global events show that Pope Francis is enabling the clerical sex abuse of children by appointing, promoting and refusing to remove bishops with terrible histories of aiding and abetting abuse and by refusing to make meaningful change.
On Feb. 4, clerical sex abuse survivor and member of the pope’s commission on sex abuse, Peter Saunders, arranged for the movie, Spotlight, to be screened for members of the commission. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, the movie is about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations into the cover up by Catholic officials of serial pedophile priests.
Two days later, Saunders was booted off the commission. Saunders had been an outspoken critic of Pope Francis’ appointment of a Chilean bishop accused not only of covering up for the most notorious pedophile priest in that country, but also of witnessing the sex abuse. Additionally, Saunders had called the pope’s financial tsar, Cardinal George Pell, “almost sociopathic” for his brutal treatment of victims in Australia.
“On child abuse, I now fear, there is little or no sincerity on his (Francis’) part to effectively make change,” said Saunders, who was abused by two priests as a child. “There needs to be a turning out of all these people who have got very, very grim records – either they are abusers or they are known to have protected abusers or have enabled an abuser or made excuses for abusers.”
Saunders says a call he made for more openness and transparency at a meeting last week was rejected.
“I was shot down in flames,” he said, “The commission said that they need to remain secret and it was surprising how many times that word was used – not ‘confidential’ but ‘secret’ – the word has connotations with abuse because the whole nasty, vile world of the rape and sexual abuse of children exists because it is secret; it happens behind closed doors,” he said.
Eliminating secrecy is exactly what the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has been calling on the Church to do for decades. This is what the pope and his men have refused to do. Catholic officials must open their secret files and make all the hidden documents public. The names of all Church employees with credible accusations of child sex abuse made public. There are still sexual predators assaulting children under the protection of the Church.
Prelates with “grim records” know there’ll be no “turning out” by the pope. Some have even been appointed and promoted.
Sicily – Cardinal Paolo Romeo, as archbishop of Palermo, said it was “not my place” to report Fr. Roberto Elice for abusing minors. Romeo “knew about the abuse against three children for three years.” On Feb. 2 Italian police arrested Elice who had left the parish “only a few weeks ago” where the abuse took place.
With no objection from Pope Francis, in April 2014 the Italian Bishops’ Conference stated their official policy was that “bishops have no official obligation to report the sexual abuse of children to any legal authorities outside of the Catholic Church.” Romeo followed that policy.
France – “In the coming days, complaints will be filed against [Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon] for failure to report pedophilia.” On Feb. 11, three weeks after Fr. Bernard Preynat’s indictment for “aggravated sexual assault of minors,” the cardinal acknowledged he was informed of the sexual abuse of four boys by Preynat in 2007-2008. Yet he chose to keep him in ministry until May 2015. The number of victims in Lyon willing to come forward could rise to 45.
Cardinal Barbarin’s resignation is “not on the agenda” according to the archdiocese.
The Lyon victims will also be “filing complaints against Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, to whom Cardinal Barbarin had referred this matter.”
On Jan. 29, Pope Francis thanked the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, headed by German Cardinal Müller, for “its efforts and responsibility” in dealing with cases of child sex abuse by clergy. Pope Francis promoted Müller to cardinal in October 2013 even though, as bishop of Regensberg, Müller’s appointment of Fr. Peter Kramer, an already-convicted child sex abuser, as pastor, was well-known.
In a January report: “A former official in the Diocese of Regensburg accused Müller, of systematically covering up sexual abuse cases during his decade as bishop of the Bavarian diocese.” The then-Bishop Müller introduced “The Regensburg System” which prevented such abuse cases from becoming public.
India – Fr. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was charged in Minnesota with sexually abusing two teenage girls. He fled the U.S. but was arrested by Interpol in 2012 and extradited back to the U.S. where he was convicted last year. “Following a plea deal, Roseau County district court sentenced him to a year in jail but he was released anddeported to India in June 2015 on account of time served while awaiting trial.”
The Diocese of Ooty had suspended Jeyapaul in 2010. It was reported Feb. 11 that Jeyapaul’s suspension was lifted after consultations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Ooty, said Jeyapaul’swhereabouts is unknown.
The attorney who represented the girls, Jeff Anderson, said, “The Vatican must be held accountable. … This is on the pope.”
Australia – Comedian-musician Tim Minchin introduced a new song Feb. 16 on television. Titled, “Come Home Cardinal Pell,” Minchin called him a “pompous buffoon”, “a coward” and “scum.” Pell, the former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop and Ballarat priest, claimed to be too ill to travel from Rome to Australia to testify before the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in person. Instead, he will appear on video from the Vatican.
Pell will have to answer charges that he attempted to bribe a victim, dismissed a victim’s complaint, knew about Australia’s worst predator priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and did nothing, and was complicit in moving Ridsdale from parish to parish.
Prior to being elevated to Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy by Pope Francis, Pell’s only previous financial expertise was cheating sex abuse victims out of an adequate compensation known as his “Melbourne response” and “Ellis defense” where Pell “instructed his lawyers to crush this victim.”
A group of victims had a goal of raising $55,000 to fly some victims and counselors to Rome to witness Pell give his video evidence. Thanks to Minchin’s song, $90,000 was raised in one day.
John Haldane, a papal adviser to the Vatican, said he was moved after hearing a “compelling, human argument” of the father of two sexual-abuse victims in which the father made the case for victims travelling to Rome. “This would,” he said, “create the conditions for the existential reality of that suffering to be present in the room at the same time in which he (Pell) was giving evidence.”
Yesterday, lawyers representing the Church’s sex abuse victims applied to the Royal Commission for permission to appear along with Pell in Rome. If granted, “it would go some way to mitigate what is publicly perceived to be a judicial and psychologicalimbalance of power, and unfair concession granted to the domineering Cardinal Pell.”
Mexico – Pope Francis refused requests from clerical sex abuse victims to meet with them while he was in Mexico this past week.
Victim’s advocate and former priest, Alberto Athie, pointed out that while the pope chastises others for corruption, “the clerical pedophilia should be viewed as systemic like organized crime, which stops a criminal in isolation but does not affect the criminal structure.”
Athié said that clerical pedophilia has left more than a thousand victims in Mexico and there are at least five archbishops responsible for covering up pedophile priests: three of the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosi; Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City and some of his auxiliary bishops, and the Archdiocese of Oaxaca. Pope Francis is awareof several of these cases, Athie said.
Outraged by the presence of Cardinal Norberto Rivera with Pope Francis on his arrival in Mexico, Juan Carlos Cruz Chellew, victim of clerical sexual abuse, said he is very disappointed in the pope. Rivera is a symbol that the pope does not consider the victims of priestly pedophilia to be important, said Cruz , because the cardinal has protected Mexican priests and abusers.
“The clerical pedophilia continues in the world with Francis,” said Athie. “The pope is very skilled with words and gestures, but changes of substance fail to happen.”
Yesterday, on his flight back to Rome from Mexico, Pope Francis said that a bishop who transfers a known pedophile should resign – once again giving the green light to prelates around the world that they will not be removed from office for even the most egregious offense. He also announced an additional official would be added to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the creation of an additional tribunal when not one person or group in the Vatican has yet taken a meaningful action to address this ongoing, systemic, global tragedy.
Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears
Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears
By Pat Stavropoulos and Samantha Donovan
From the Link: Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears
A survivor of child sex abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest and a family member was asked by police if she was wearing a neon sign saying “come and get me” above her head when she was a teenager, an inquiry has heard.
Witness Julie Stewart broke down as she told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that she was repeatedly abused by Father Searson at Doveton, from when she was in grade three.
The inquiry heard that when she was 15, she was approached by police about allegations against Father Searson after they received reports she was a possible victim.
She said because she had also been sexually abused by a relative from the ages of five to eight, she found it hard to tell anyone she had also been abused by Father Searson.
She said her admission that she had been abused by two men prompted the police officer to remark “oh my God, what, were you wearing a neon sign above your head, ‘come and get me?'”.
The police took no further action.
She told the inquiry she would blame herself, often thinking there was something wrong with her.
Priest’s abuse began in primary school
Ms Stewart said the abuse began at the Holy Family School, where Father Searson was the parish priest.
She said he would often visit her class and hug the children, including her.
“At first I loved the attention,” she said.
“He was a priest, and it made me feel special.”
Ms Stewart told the royal commission Father Searson abused her between 12 and 14 times, beginning in 1984.
“It began with kisses on the lips,” she said.
“On about the fifth time and on each subsequent occasion, Father Searson also touched me.
“When he started to touch me, I knew it was wrong and it was sexual.”
After that, she said she would wear tracksuit pants or stockings to make it harder for him to touch her.
She told the inquiry the last time she went to confession was in 1985, when she was in grade four.
On that occasion, Father Searson placed her on his lap, so she could feel his erection against her backside.
“He pushed me hard against him. It hurt. He whispered in my ear, ‘you are a good girl, the Lord forgives you’,” she said.
“I snapped, I pushed myself off him, I ran out of the confessional, I was sobbing and hyperventilating.”
‘I will no longer be a victim’: Julie Stewart
Ms Stewart also spoke about how she tried to take her life as a young teenager.
She said she had become rebellious and hated her parents.
It was not until late 1996, or early 1997, after a chance meeting with a former teacher that she was told a Queen’s Counsel had been hired by then Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell to investigate Father Searson.
She said a year later, she received a cheque of $25,000 from the Archdiocese and a letter of apology from Cardinal Pell, through the Melbourne Response.
But she said the hearing to resolve her claim was distressing.
“I was made to sit facing Father Searson, and I was questioned by his lawyer for a long time,” she said.
“I was not prepared for how hostile the cross-examination was.
“I was taken into another room and asked to sign a confidentially agreement. I don’t remember what it said but I signed it. I just wanted to leave.
“When I left the hearing I broke down and cried … I felt that the whole process re-traumatised me.”
She completed her testimony, saying she still cried for the little girl she once was, but that she wanted to be a voice for survivors.
“The little girl that never got to be a normal little girl, doing all the things that little girls should do, the little girl that always wanted to fit in but always felt like a weirdo,” she said.
“Nothing can ever give that back to me. It is a life sentence and every day I make a choice to keep going.
“It is important to me to tell my story now, because I want peace for myself.
“I’m not ashamed anymore and I no longer blame myself. I will no longer be a victim.”
Does George Pell still have questions to answer over his handling of child sexual abuse claims?
By Louise Milligan
From the Link: Does George Pell still have questions to answer over his handling of child sexual abuse claims?
Cardinal George Pell is due to re-appear before the Royal Commission next month over his handling of allegations of child sexual abuse. One survivor of abuse gives evidence for the first time and claims George Pell downplayed the conduct of her abuser at a previous parliamentary inquiry.
Transcript of video below:
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Next month, Catholic Cardinal George Pell will make his much-anticipated appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
New evidence about the case of Victorian predatory priest Peter Searson raises new questions for Cardinal Pell about how he managed allegations of sexual abuse.
The cardinal has consistently defended his handling of abuse by the clergy, but one victim claims she has evidence he knew far more than he’s let on.
Louise Milligan has the story.
LOUISE MILLIGAN, REPORTER: Julie Stewart is coming back to Melbourne, a place she ran away from almost 20 years ago.
JULIE STEWART: I just wanted it out of my life. We moved to Cairns. Been there ever since.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: What Julie ran away from is the abuse she suffered at her Catholic primary school, Holy Family Doveton in outer Melbourne. Here abused was parish priest, one Peter Searson.
JULIE STEWART: I used to see him on the playground cuddling – he was very affectionate with children and always had a smile on his face.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: One of the milestones at Holy Family that year was Julie’s first confession.
JULIE STEWART: I went to sit on the chair next to him and he said, “Come and sit on my knee.” So of course, I was delighted. “Father’s paying attention to me. Wait till I tell Nana.” And he asked, you know, “Do you love Father?” And I said, “Oh, of course.” I’m thinking the Lord – I love Father, I love the Lord. And he said, “No, no, no, do you love me? I said, “Oh, of course I love you.” And he said, “Give Father a kiss.” So I gave him a kiss on the cheek and he said, “No, no, no, give Father a kiss on the lips,” so I gave him a kiss on the lips and that was just the beginning.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: The abuse escalated over two years every time Julie went to confession.
JULIE STEWART: And then from there, it led to touching and him placing my hand on his private parts and kissing, more kissing and him trying to put his hands inside, um, my, um, my, um, underwear. His face would always light up when I walked in the room. Oof, you know, he’d light up straight away and I was just sickened by it.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Things came to a head when Searson’s abuse became more forceful.
JULIE STEWART: I snapped. And I remember putting my hands on his knees and pushing myself off. And I just turned around and I – I looked at him and he was sort of shocked that I’d done it and I just bolted out.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: She ran sobbing to a teacher and was brought to see the school principal, Graeme Sleeman.
GRAEME SLEEMAN, PRINCIPAL: I heard this child screaming and I ran out of my office. … And she was there and absolutely unconsolable.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Julie hasn’t seen Graeme Sleeman in almost 20 years.
GRAEME SLEEMAN: G’day, Jules. How are ya? Long time no see, eh? You right? It’s not the same as talking on the phone, is it?
LOUISE MILLIGAN: The principal and his former student have come to give evidence to the Royal commission into child sexual abuse about what Peter Searson did and how the Catholic Church failed to act on it. Julie only recently discovered how hard Sleeman fought for her.
GRAEME SLEEMAN: In all my life, I’ve never been frightened of anyone, but Peter Searson scared me, because he was a really, really creepy guy.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Principal Sleeman made it his mission to ensure Searson was punished for what he did to Julie. But his efforts to spur the Catholic Education Office to act went nowhere.
GRAEME SLEEMAN: Oh, they said, “We’ve passed it on, we’ve passed it on.” And they kept constantly telling me, “We do not have – that is not concrete evidence. We need concrete evidence.” I don’t know how much more concrete evidence we could give them.”
LOUISE MILLIGAN: The Church’s failure to take action against Searson led to Graeme Sleeman resigning in 1986.
GRAEME SLEEMAN: The diocese really did not assist me in providing a safe environment for any of the students in that school.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Parents sent dozens of letters supporting Sleeman and begging the Church to remove Father Searson. One letter from a 10-year-old student said, “If anyone should leave, it should be Father, as he sexually assaulted my friend”.
GAIL FURNESS, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission: No investigation was undertaken. Indeed, there was no serious investigation of any complaint made during the ’80s and early-’90s.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Out of the blue, five years after her abuse when Julie was in high school, Julie received a visit from a police officer in 1990, a police officer who interviewed her about Searson. He seemed determined to prosecute. This is her statement:
JULIE STEWART: As he was leaving, actually, my Dad saw him out and he turned around and he said to my Dad, “We’ll get him.”
LOUISE MILLIGAN: We’ll get Searson.
JULIE STEWART: “We’ll get him. We’ll get him,” is what he said. And then a few days later, he rang and said there, “Wasn’t enough evidence, Julie.”
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Julie also told her high school principal. The principal contacted the detective and called Julie in a week later.
JULIE STEWART: And he said, “Well, there’s not much we can do about it.”
LOUISE MILLIGAN: The week after she spoke to the principal, Father Searson was invited to the high school to give communion to students, including Julie, at mass. She took an overdose of tablets the following week.
JULIE STEWART: I was alone in this whole journey and that’s how I felt totally and broken. … I’ve always felt there was a cover-up.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: It was the evidence of Cardinal George Pell to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2013 that jolted Julie into anger.
QUESTIONER (May 27, 2013): Can you understand how victims regard what happened during this period as there was really hear no evil, see no evil, say nothing about evil from the Church?
GEORGE PELL, CARDINAL: I think that’s an objectionable suggestion with no foundation in the truth and I’ve – as I – no conviction was recorded for Searson on sexual misbehaviour. There might be victims.
JULIE STEWART: That pissed me off.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: “There might be victims.”
JULIE STEWART: Yeah, I was absolutely so angry … and I thought, “Let’s get ’em.”
LOUISE MILLIGAN: Julie Stewart was given a payout by the Catholic Church’s Melbourne response, set up by George Pell. She’s asking why, if George Pell believed only that there might be victims, he sent her this letter in 1998 which accepts that she had been abused:
GEORGE PELL (letter, male voiceover): “On behalf of the Catholic Church and personally, I apologise to you and to those around you for the wrongs and hurt you have suffered at the hands of Father Searson.”
LOUISE MILLIGAN: What do you think about George Pell?
JULIE STEWART: Not very much.
GRAEME SLEEMAN: It would be impossible for him not to know what was happening in Doveton.
LOUISE MILLIGAN: But it wasn’t until 1997 that Searson was finally prosecuted after he hit an altar boy. He was removed from all priestly duties.
Julie Stewart is determined the Church is now called to account for its failures.
JULIE STEWART: I was a victim as a child and I was a little girl, but I’m not gonna be a victim as an adult. And I’ll be buggered if they’re gonna try and shut me down and cover it up anymore.
LEIGH SALES: Louise Milligan reporting.
Video is online with link to story.
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.”
Tony Abbott defends Cardinal Pell’s role in church handling of abuse
- November 14, 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended Cardinal George Pell’s role in the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse cases, saying he deserved credit for being the first senior churchman to act.
Interviewed on Fairfax radio on Thursday following the release of a Victorian parliamentary report into institutional sex abuse, Mr Abbott said the church hadn’t handled the issue well, but defended Cardinal Pell.
“The only thing I’d say … is that my understanding is that the first senior cleric who took this issue very seriously was in fact Cardinal Pell,” he said.
Mr Abbott said it was well known that he had a lot of time for Cardinal Pell.
“Does that mean that he is perfect? No. Does that mean that he doesn’t bear some responsibility for the errors of the church? Of course not,” he said.
But he said Cardinal Pell was “a fine human being and a great churchman”.
Mr Abbott had not read the Victorian government’s report on clergy child sex abuse, but said that in the past the issue “wasn’t handled well” by the Catholic Church and had to be taken seriously.
“Of course, all of the institutions which have in the past – and maybe even still – not handled this thing well need to lift their game, and obviously anyone who has committed the hideous breach of trust involved in child abuse needs to be brought to justice,” he said.
He added: “I suspect that it wasn’t just the church that didn’t handle these things well.
“A generation ago, there was this general view in our community that certain things just didn’t happen. We all know now that they did happen. It was hideous, it was gruesome. It cost some people their lives. It cost some people their sanity.”
The 800-page parliamentary report said Cardinal Pell’s evidence revealed “a reluctance to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the Catholic Church’s institutional failure to respond appropriately to allegations of criminal child abuse”.
It was scathing of the Catholic Church’s leadership prior to the 1990s, giving specific examples in which former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns and former Melbourne Archbishop Frank Little moved known sexual offenders between parishes without reporting them to police.
Mr Abbott said the issue could have, and should have, been handled better, but he didn’t know about cover-ups.
“I just don’t know for a personal fact what was done,” he said. “I absolutely know that it wasn’t handled well.”
His comments came as the Catholic Church said it was prepared to fund an unlimited national compensation scheme for child sexual abuse victims.
The church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council – a national mouthpiece established after the royal commission was announced – issued a statement saying that it would ask the attorneys-general of the federal, state and territory governments to begin working on the scheme.
The Victorian parliamentary report recommended an independent redress scheme run by the government but paid for by non-government organisations to replace the Catholic Church’s internal systems for dealing with victims – called Melbourne Response, and its national equivalent Towards Healing – which victims criticised throughout the inquiry as lacking transparency.
The Catholic council chief executive Francis Sullivan said governments should consider extending the state inquiry’s proposed scheme nationally, and that it should have consistent investigative powers and payments.
“A national compensation scheme, funded by the church and other organisations, and with no caps on payments, is an important first step in taking away from institutions such as the Catholic Church the role of investigating complaints and determining compensation for victims,” he said.
This departs from the church’s traditional position to argue that its internal processes were proof that its approach to abuse had improved over time.
The Catholic Church’s Melbourne Response scheme currently places a $75,000 cap on victims’ compensation claims in Victoria, while its national equivalent, Towards Healing, is unlimited.
In Good Faith & Associates director Helen Last has said that the church had settled thousands of claims outside of Melbourne Response, in an attempt to silence them.
Mr Francis said the state inquiry’s recommendation, coupled with the royal commission’s potential to do the same, should be enough for governments to consider a national approach to child sexual abuse and child protection.
He said: “We will also call on all governments to start working towards a national approach to uniform police reporting requirements and statutory complaint-handling processes.”
Sex abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart defends role of celibacy in Catholic Church
Sex abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart defends role of celibacy in Catholic Church
The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has defended the place of celibacy in the church, even though he says it is a burden for some priests.
Archbishop Hart took the stand for a second day at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne on Tuesday, where he was questioned about the causes of abuse by the clergy.
He told the commission celibacy was fulfilling for many priests.
“I believe that celibacy, supported by prayer… is a wonderful vocation and a wonderful engagement with people,” Archbishop Hart said.
“Once it becomes limited, or once it becomes turned in upon itself, then there is a danger, but celibacy rightly lived and prepared for with proper formation, I do believe has a valid function.
“I’ve had sufficient experience with people who’ve found celibacy a burden and have asked the Pope to dispense them from priesthood.
“But on the other hand, I have a much wider experience of people living a celibate life as priests and finding it fulfilling.”
Archbishop Hart said people who trained in the church had high ideals.
“I’m a celibate, I’m not married, I need to have a link to God in prayer,” he said.
“I need to have a balance in my life of proper friendships with other people.”
He said a priest could develop “wrong attitudes” if any of those things fell aside.
“[If] keeping himself focused on who he is and what he does is being neglected, or relationships with people, there’s not a balanced relationship with a group of people and a person becomes isolated,” he said.
“So that they seek out situations which are plain wrong, and they minimise the consequences of that.”
Abuse victims received almost identical letters
The royal commission heard letters of apology signed by the Archbishop and sent to survivors of child sexual abuse were almost identical.
Archbishop Hart said the reason for the identical letters was that the compensation panel for the Melbourne Response was independent and constrained by confidentiality.
“That has the undesirable effect upon me when I write a letter of apology, that I can only refer to the suffering that they’ve undertaken for the burden, that it may be in fairly general terms,” he said.
“I do read all those letters and my apology is sincere.
“I always read them carefully, and for me it’s an important way of my saying how I am shocked by what has happened, how I share in their pain, but there are limitations about what I can do.”
Archbishop Hart said the church tried to change that in the past year.
“We’ve sought to try and get some minimal information, which wouldn’t be a violation of confidence, that might try and take away the pain that a person who’s suffered might feel if they feel they’re just being fobbed off,” he said.
“That was never my intention, and if that happened, I certainly would apologise for it.
“It was never indicated to me that this was unhelpful, had it been, I would certainly have acted sooner.”
Confession should be excluded from mandatory reporting: Church
The royal commission heard the church believes mandatory reporting of abuse should exclude the confessional.
“If that were to be swept away, and I don’t believe that it can be, the possibility of offenders confessing is completely gone. They just wouldn’t go,” Archbishop Hart said.
“In the present situation, it may be the last opportunity that an offender has to face the reality of his or her offences, to be led by the priest, either to give themselves up or to report and confront the enormity of their crimes.”
He said he saw it as an opportunity for a priest to try to persuade an abuser to report themselves to the police.
“I would see that as a valuable opportunity, because if the person in going to confession has at least shown that amount of good to admit that they’ve done wrong, well then, if the priest can lead them to the consequences of that, well that would be of benefit,” he said.
But Archbishop Hart told the royal commission he did not know if that was happening in reality, because of the secrecy of the confessional.
“I don’t know that it’s happened, I don’t know that it hasn’t happened either,” he said.
He told the inquiry he did not subscribe to the view held by some in the past that the abuse of a child was considered a moral failing, not a crime.
“People sometimes had a greater deal of sympathy for a church person than they should have, and they didn’t sufficiently identify the crime that that person had committed for what it was,” he said.
“I would have to admit that, with what we’ve been doing now shows there was too much of a tendency to minimise the seriousness of the matter, and I repudiate that totally,” he said.
“I would say that these crimes occurred to some degree, and that direct and serious enough action was not taken.”
“There was too much of a tendency to minimise the seriousness of the matter, and I repudiate that totally.”Archbishop Denis Hart
Cardinal George Pell to give evidence at child sex abuse inquiry
Pell was archbishop of Melbourne when the church set up the Melbourne Response compensation scheme
- theguardian.com, Wednesday 20 August 2014 18.20 EDT
Cardinal George Pell’s role in setting up a Catholic Church compensation scheme for victims of pedophile priests will be scrutinised on Thursday at the child abuse royal commission.
Pell was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 when the Melbourne archdiocese decided to respond to growing allegations of child sex abuse by its clergy. The church considered creating a legal entity that could be sued by victims, but designed the Melbourne Response compensation scheme instead.
Cardinal Pell told the royal commission earlier this year he believed the church should now create an entity that could be sued.
A Victorian parliamentary inquiry last year recommended the Catholic Church be incorporated so it could be sued.
Melbourne archdiocese lawyer Richard Leder said the church’s position had shifted due to a better understanding of the extent of clergy sexual abuse.
“[It is] the sheer number of victims, but [also] a much greater understanding of the long-term effects of abuse,” Leder told the commission on Wednesday.
Cardinal Pell, now working in the Vatican, will give evidence via video-link from Rome at 4pm on Thursday.
Child sex abuse royal commission: Catholic priest abused two generations of boys in the same family, inquiry hears
Child sex abuse royal commission: Catholic priest abused two generations of boys in the same family, inquiry hears
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard a devastating account of how a Catholic priest preyed on two generations of boys in the same family.
Tony Hersbach and his twin brother Will were molested by Father Victor Rubeo in Melbourne in the 1960s.
The priest then abused Tony’s two sons, Paul and Adam, in the 1980s.
Paul Hersbach gave evidence to the commission on Monday, and he and his father gave an exclusive interview to the ABC’s 7.30 program about how the domineering and charismatic priest managed to take hold and control their family.
“He was like a father, but like an incestuous father, so he had this real dark, secret side,” Tony told 7.30.
“And you know, in our family life, he was able to do whatever he wanted to. He basically took over.”
Paul said: “We called him Grandpa, which… bothers me a lot.
“And he was just there … he involved himself, uninvited, and he took over.
“He preyed upon my father. And our family. And no-one asked him. So we never did anything to keep him in our life.”
The Hersbach family immigrated to Melbourne in 1955 when Tony, now 61, was two years old.
The family were poor and lived in a housing commission home in working class Altona.
Father Rubeo lived across the road.
“He came around trying to recruit altar boys,” Tony said.
“And I put my hand up and said yeah, I’d be an altar boy. I was about nine, 10 years old.”
Tony and his twin brother Will served as altar boys for several years.
Father Rubeo would ply the boys with gifts and help them with their homework, but soon the attention became more sinister.
“He would have these rituals almost where he would make me dinner as if he was taking me out on a date,” Tony said.
“I even remember him taking me to really fancy restaurants.He would take me there sometimes on a Saturday night. [We would] have this marvellous dinner – just he and I together.
“And then he would bring me home and he would … he’d basically have sex.
“It was always premeditated. It always involved him plying me with lots of alcohol. We’d have shots of Drambuie, fine wine, all the rest of it.
“It’s not just the actual sexual abuse, it’s all of the grooming and the way that it’s done.
“I hated it. I hated it. I hated every minute of it. But I never said anything or could do anything because he had this … such a hold over me.”
Tony’s father was an aggressive alcoholic, and the priest took over the father role.
“I was someone who needed a father … and I wish I could’ve told him all that time ago to leave me alone,” Tony said.
Priest began abusing Tony’s children
But Father Rubeo did not leave Tony or his family alone.
The priest bought Tony his first car, and when Tony married his wife Lou, Father Rubeo put a deposit into their bank account for their first home.
“And it would just turn up, unannounced, stuff you didn’t want, you didn’t ask for, it just happened,” Tony said.
The abuse remained his darkest secret. He never told his twin brother, he never told his wife.
And all the while, Father Rubeo was everywhere – family holidays, christenings, and birthdays.
“He used to take all sorts of liberties. He would open our mail. He would sometimes walk in unannounced to our bedroom,” Tony said.
Tony’s wife Lou says the priest often babysat their children.
“He had full care of them, from bathing them to changing their nappies, to dressing them, the taking them to school, to picking them up, to taking them on outings,” Mrs Hersbach said.
“He was with us on holidays – he was like their surrogate grandfather.”
The family even stayed for a time in the presbytery of the church where Father Rubeo was parish priest.
That is where Father Rubeo started on the next generation of Hersbachs – turning his attention to Paul Hersbach and his older brother Adam.
“He would invite himself into my bedroom and my brother’s bedroom,” Paul told 7.30.
“He would come into the bathroom – while we were in there, bathing.
“He would also invite us and allow us to come into his bathroom when he was either showering or shaving. And times then I’d see him masturbate.”
Tony feels terrible about this now.
“The acknowledgement of the fact that as a father, I didn’t protect my children. And that’s something that I have to take responsibility for,” he said.
“There was a lot of reasons for that.
“He did have enormous control over me because of what he did to me.”
By the early 1990s and in his 40s, Tony had a breakdown and finally admitted to his wife what had happened.
He also told the Church about Father Rubeo’s crimes.
“I remember the date very clearly. Lou and I went together to see Vicar General Cudmore. It was the 10th of August 1994,” Tony said.
Father Rubeo was then parish priest at St Joseph’s Boronia in Melbourne’s outer east – a church with a school attached and attended by young families.
Years later, after getting access to Vicar General Cudmore’s notes, Tony discovered that the Church did nothing.
“Cudmore made some notes which showed that he [Father Rubeo] offered to resign and it wasn’t accepted,” Tony said.
“He was left in his parish for a further two years.”
Tony learned brother Will was also a victim of Rubeo
In 1996, the police contacted Tony and his brother Will to tell them Father Rubeo had confessed to abusing them.
That was when Tony learned that for all those years earlier, his brother had also been a victim.
Neither twin had told the other.
“He was charged with two counts of indecent assault – one against my brother and one against me. And he was given a good behaviour bond. With no conviction,” Tony said.
In 2004, Tony’s son dropped a bombshell. Paul admitted he too was a victim of Father Rubeo.
His parents were devastated.
“[I felt] immense guilt. Immense shame. Great regret,” Mrs Hersbach said.
“I felt inadequate as a mum.
“I can’t begin to re-step those years and change things and I wish I could.
“I know a lot has been taken from the kids, not just through Paul’s abuse and Tony’s abuse, but through the way the man was in our life.
“I know our family was good, it was good, but it could have been so, so much better.”
In 2010, the Hersbach family again went to the police and Father Rubeo was charged with a further 30 offences.
He died the day he was due to face court.
The Hersbachs are now rebuilding their lives.
Their family photo album is littered with gaps where the photos of Father Rubeo have been taken out and burned.
Royal commission hears evidence about Melbourne Response
Paul gave evidence to the child sex abuse royal commission on Monday, where he outlined the inadequacy of the Catholic Church’s Melbourne Response.
When he was interviewed by the Catholic Church’s independent commissioner, Peter O’Callaghan, about Father Rubeo’s abuse, he says Mr O’Callaghan told him it was unlikely the police would press charges because his case was too weak.
Both Paul and Tony, once dedicated Catholics, have lost their faith.
Now they want the Church to be called to account.
“Society has stepped in and said ‘this is not OK, we want to do something about it’,” Paul said.
“And what I want to come from it, apart from the Catholic Church having to redress what wrongs they’ve done, is for people, victims – any type of victims – to understand that you can break the cycle.”
As for his relationship with his father, Paul holds absolutely no malice and does not blame him for the abuse he suffered.
He knows what it is like to be a victim of Father Rubeo and why the priest had such a powerful hold on Tony.
“I’m very proud of him for what he did,” Paul said.
“To come out after 30 or 40 years takes an immense amount of courage – for anyone to come out in these circumstances takes an immense amount of courage.
“The crimes were committed by Rubeo. Not my father.”
New sex abuse case rocks church
August 18, 2014 – 1:25AM
By Reporters Cameron Houston and Chris Vedelago
The Catholic Church has expelled an inner-Melbourne priest after allegations of sexual impropriety as the sex abuse royal commission begins its Melbourne hearings into decades of abuse and alleged cover-ups.
The disclosure that the priest’s alleged victim received a financial settlement from the church and refused to assist police has led to the accusation that the church paid hush money. Father Mato Krizanac, 60, of the Croatian Catholic Centre at St Nicholas’ church in Clifton Hill, was the subject of a 12-month internal investigation by the church’s independent commissioner, Peter O’Callaghan, QC, of the Melbourne Response, and the Archdiocese of Adelaide, where the alleged offences are said to have taken place in the mid 1980s.
Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart told Father Krizanac in June that he would be permanently stripped of all clerical duties, while parishioners were believed to have been informed at Mass on Sunday.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Melbourne confirmed the allegations had been referred to South Australian police in April 2013 – a month before Father Krizanac was placed on “administrative leave” by the church.
The alleged victim received a financial settlement from the church, but refused to assist police, who were unable to investigate the matter.
A close friend of Father Krizanac, Anton Vucic, said the Bosnian-born priest was the victim of a vendetta by the church hierarchy, which was trying to “clear the decks” before the royal commission. Mr Vucic claimed the church had paid the alleged victim in a bid to buy her silence.
“They have paid her off and shut her up plus they get rid of a man who has been denied natural justice and due process.
“Father Mato has told me that he can refute the three main allegations against him, but the church refused to listen,” Mr Vucic said.
A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne denied any attempt by the church to silence the woman, and said the financial settlement was not bound by confidentiality provisions.
Last week, the chief of the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said: “The days of the Catholic Church investigating itself are over”.
In a letter to parishioners of the Croatian Catholic Centre at St Nicholas’ Church, Archbishop Hart said the Archdiocese of Melbourne was “committed to ensuring the protection of all children”.
“When the outcome was conveyed to Father Krizanac, he took the decision to return to Bosnia. I have had numerous communications with His Eminence, Vinko Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Sarajevo, to insure he was fully informed of the allegations, the process of the investigation and the findings,” Archbishop Hart said in the letter.
Fairfax Media can also reveal Father Krizanac, who did not respond to requests for comment, has been accused of misappropriating church funds while serving as a priest in Melbourne for more than 25 years. The Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Adelaide confirmed it had received similar complaints in May 2013. Father Krizanac had been banned from holding Mass for the Croatian community at a Fawkner church, following a dispute with another priest over the distribution of collection plate donations.
As a diocesan priest, Father Krizanac was not bound by the vow of poverty. Title searches reveal he paid $465,000 for an investment property in Fawkner, which was rented out for $380 a week.
In the early 1990s, Father Krizanac was apprehended by Australian Federal Police as he boarded a flight to the former Yugoslavia with several hundred thousand dollars in his luggage that had not been declared to customs. The money was raised by the local Croatian community and AFP officers accepted it was intended for humanitarian purposes in war-torn Bosnia.
The latest scandal to engulf the Catholic Church comes as Cardinal George Pell and Archbishop Hart face scrutiny from the royal commission this week over the church’s Melbourne Response, which was established in 1996 to deal with horrific sexual abuse by clergy.
An interim report released by the royal commission in July revealed more than 1700 private sessions had been held for victims, with the Catholic Church accounting for 61 per cent of all clerical abuse.
Commission chairman Peter McClellan has called for a two-year extension and an additional $104 million in funding from Attorney-General George Brandis, who is still considering the request.
Without more time and funding, the commission has warned, thousands of victims will not have the opportunity to tell their stories.
Christine Foster will be the first person to speak at the commission on Monday. Two of her daughters were attacked by paedophile Catholic priest Father Kevin O’Donnell, who assaulted more than 100 boys and girls over a 50-year period.