Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops
By BRIAN ROSS , RHONDA SCHWARTZ and ANNA SCHECTER April 15, 2008
From the link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4656143
Even as he told reporters on his flight to America that he was “deeply ashamed” over the church sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict was accused by victims of protecting some 19 bishops accused of sexually abusing children.
“As a Catholic, I have to sadly conclude that he is not serious about ridding the church of corrupt bishops,” said Anne Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a group tracking public records involving the bishops.
According to the group, of the 19 bishops “credibly accused of abusing children,” none has lost his title, been publicly censured by the Vatican or referred for criminal prosecutions.
“The sexual corruption in the Catholic church starts at the very top,” said Doyle.
Pope Benedict told reporters on his flight this morning from Rome to Washington, D.C., he would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the scandal. “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry,” he said, according to Reuters.
While the church has moved to expel accused priests, critics say the higher-ranking bishops have been given favored treatment. “The attitude of the bishops towards the victims and the families of sexual abuse and predatory clergy is drop dead,” said Michael Wegs, of Marion, Iowa, one of nine former high schools students who said they were abused at a seminary in Missouri by former Palm Beach, Fla. Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell.
When the allegations were made public, Bishop O’Connell admitted at least two cases of abuse and was allowed to resign. He now lives on the beautiful, sprawling grounds of the Trappists Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.
“He deserves to be in jail,” said Wegs, his accuser. “I don’t think there is any justice because he is allowed to travel, go where he please. He’s still a bishop, and he’s living among priests in the hierarchical structure; he is a top dog despite the fact that he’s a sexual predator.” Wegs says O’Connell has failed to even apologize to his victims.
Bishop O’Connell did not return phone calls from ABCNews.com seeking comment, but church officials say he and other bishops have been punished appropriately. “You cannot put on clerical attire, and you cannot service in a public way in ministry,” said Austin, Texas Bishop Gregory Aymond, chair of the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.
“That is a very, very significant consequence, and I would say a significant penalty,” said Bishop Aymond, who conceded the accused bishops maintain their title. “Priests and bishops remain priests and bishops forever, regardless of what happens to them or what they do,” said Bishop Aymond.
But victims groups and church critics say the pope can and should do much more to punish the bishops and finally resolve the scandal.
Before he became pope, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was in charge of monitoring cases of pedophile priests and was directly involved in deciding what punishment, if any, would be administered to priests and bishops.
“Priests who abuse children can be removed from the priesthood, but they do not remove bishops, they do not remove cardinals,” said author Jason Berry who has been tracking the sex abuse scandal and produced a documentary film on the subject, “Vows of Silence,” which premiered in New Orleans last night. “The problem is the power structure. There is no accountability,” said Berry.
Berry says the pope’s decision to have the Los Angeles archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, accompany him on his trip proves the point. “Why would you want someone in your entourage” like Roger Mahoney, asked Berry.
“This man has overseen a great many cases in which priests were moved from parish to parish. His diocese has paid over $660 million in settlements. And yet this cardinal has refused to release the files on these priests who have abused children,” Berry said.
Cardinal Mahoney did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.
Pope Benedict’s Legacy Marred by Sex Abuse Scandal
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN Feb. 11, 2013
As the sex abuse scandal spread from North America to Europe, Benedict became the first pope to meet personally with victims, and offered repeated public apologies for the Vatican’s decades of inaction against priests who abused their congregants.
“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” the pope said in a 2008 homily in Washington, D.C., before meeting with victims of abuse for the first time. “It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention.” During the same trip to the U.S., he met with victims for the first time.
For some of the victims, however, Benedict’s actions were “lip service and a public relations campaign,” said Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who represents victims of sex abuse. For 25 years, Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Vatican office responsible for investigating claims of sex abuse, but he did not act until he received an explicit order from Pope John Paul II.
In 1980, as Archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger approved plans for a priest to move to a different German parish and return to pastoral work only days after the priest began therapy for pedophilia. The priest was later convicted of sexually abusing boys.
In 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger became head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the office once known as the Inquisition — making him responsible for upholding church doctrine, and for investigating claims of sexual abuse against clergy. Thousands of letters detailing allegations of abuse were forwarded to Ratzinger’s office.
A lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a victims’ rights group, charges that as head of the church body Ratzinger participated in a cover-up of abuse. In an 84-page complaint, the suit alleges that investigators of sex abuse cases in several countries found “intentional cover-ups and affirmative steps taken that serve to perpetuate the violence and exacerbate the harm.”
“Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, either knew and/or some cases consciously disregarded information that showed subordinates were committing or about to commit such crimes,” the complaint says.
Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican’s lawyer in the U.S., told the AP the complaint was a “ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes.”
In the 1990s, former members of the Legion of Christ sent a letter to Ratzinger alleging that the founder and head of the Catholic order, Father Marcial Maciel, had molested them while they were teen seminarians. Maciel was allowed to continue as head of the order.
In 1996, Ratzinger didn’t respond to letters from Milwaukee’s archbishop about a priest accused of abusing students at a Wisconsin school for the deaf. An assistant to Ratzinger began a secret trial of the priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, but halted the process after Murphy wrote a personal appeal to Ratzinger complaining of ill health.
In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a letter urging the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to pursue allegations of child abuse in response to calls from bishops around the world.
Ratzinger wrote a letter asserting the church’s authority to investigate claims of abuse and emphasizing that church investigators had the right to keep evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the alleged victims reached adulthood.
Ratzinger became upset — and slapped Ross’s hand — when ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross asked him a question in 2002 about the delay in pursuing sex abuse charges against Maciel.
But by 2004, Ratzinger had ordered an investigation of Maciel, and after becoming pope, he ordered Maciel to do penance and removed him from the active priesthood. After becoming pope Benedict spoke openly about the crisis, but he was repeatedly accused of having participated in a coverup.
In April 2010, Benedict and other officials were accused by members of BishopAccountability.org of covering up alleged child abuse by 19 bishops.
At the time, the Pope told reporters he was “deeply ashamed” of the allegations of sex abuse by his subordinates and reportedly said, “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”
Several other accusations followed from alleged victims around the world, prompting Benedict to make a public statement later that month from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. In his speech, he said the Catholic Church would take action against alleged sexual abusers. The Pope described a tearful meeting in Malta with eight men who claimed to have been abused by clergy there.
“I shared with them their suffering, and with emotion, I prayed with them,” said Benedict, “assuring them of church action.”
In 2010, he personally apologized to Irish victims of abuse.
“You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry,” the pope wrote in an eight-page letter to Irish Catholics. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.”
But for those who advocate on behalf of the victims, the pope’s words did not go far enough.
“Tragically, he gets credit for talking about the crisis,” said David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP. “He only ever addressed the crimes and never the cover-ups. And only in the past tense, which is self-serving. Sex crimes and cover-ups are still happening.”
Clohessy called the meetings the pope had with victims “symbolic gestures.”
“This controversy that has reached even the highest office of the Vatican won’t go away until the pope himself tells us what he knew, when he knew it, and what he’s going to do about it,” said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a Catholic priest and professor of theology at Notre Dame University.
Lena, the Vatican’s U.S. lawyer, declined to comment on charges that Benedict had participated in a cover up, but said the fact that two major cases against the Church in U.S. courts, including the Murphy case, had “been dismissed by the plaintiffs themselves, speaks volumes for the strength and integrity of those cases.”
The Dark Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI
By Matthew Fox Posted: 02/20/2013 12:32 pm
The pope has chosen to step down, the first pope in seven centuries to do so. As a Christian, I witness his legacy, and that of his predecessor, with profoundly mixed feelings: outrage over the crimes committed against the people of God, and relief that the masks covering the corruption of the papacy have at last been removed.
I see that the 42-year reign of the past two popes has so destroyed the church we once knew that now the Holy Spirit can give birth to a community far more attuned to the revolutionary Gospel of Jesus than the current and dying structures ever could be. More than ever, we recognize the warning of historian Lord Acton after Vatican Council I defined papal infallibility: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We have witnessed how Cardinal Martini on his deathbed, issued a damning call to action to a church “200 years behind the times.” We have witnessed the retaliation of the past two popes against theologians and pastoral ministers who have dared to dissent for the sake of social justice, eco-justice, gender and gender preference justice: 105 and more have been and continue to be hounded, silenced and expelled.
So as one of these dissidents, speaking now from outside the Vatican’s punitive reach, I offer a short list of some of the issues for which history will hold Ratzinger accountable, both as cardinal and as pope (I offer page numbers of my study on his life and papacy in my book, “The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved,” to see the backup evidence).
- His silence for years about the notorious pedophile priest Father Maciel, who was so close to Pope John Paul II that he was often invited on the papal plane — and who sexually abused dozens of his seminarians, had two wives on the side and sexually abused his own children. Fr. Maciel was not fully investigated until 2005 even though a New York bishop reported his actions to Ratzinger’s office in 1995 (125-130).
- His attacks while head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly “Office of the Holy Inquisition”) on theologians and pastoral leaders the world over who dared to do their job which is to think (they are listed on page 238-241 but the list keeps growing).
- His (and his predecessor’s) bringing back the Inquisition and dumbing-down the church, educing theology to 1) a catechism and 2) agreement with the dictates of the pope and his curia. History does not remember Torquemada as a theologian; neither will they remember Ratzinger as one.
- His unrelenting attacks on base communities and Liberation Theology even though this movement, like the civil rights movement of the U.S., was the most Christ-like movement for democracy and justice and freedom in centuries (41-62).
- His (and the previous pope’s) promotion of neo-fascist sects as the new “religious orders,” including Opus Dei, which is now embedded in places of great power including the financial headquarters of E.U., the U.S. Supreme Court, the CIA (especially under George Bush the first), FBI and the U.S. mainstream media (106-124).
- His and the previous pope’s support for extreme right wing groups from Maciel’s Legion of Christ to Communion and Liberation to Opus Dei (130-144). Opus Dei members are being placed as bishops and cardinals in Latin America and now in North America: Los Angeles, the biggest North American diocese, is run by an Opus Dei bishop. Likewise the diocese of Kansas City, whose bishop is convicted of covering up for a predatory priest but refuses to step down.
- His destroying the integrity of the canonization process by eliminating the role of “devil’s advocate” in pointing out the shadow side of the candidate. With this obstacle out of the way, Ratzinger pushed through the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei, Fr. Escriva — a recognized fascist who praised Hitler — faster than any saint in history (106-125).
- His covering up the scandal of pedophile clergy and putting the image of the Catholic church ahead of the rights of young children in the U.S., in Ireland and elsewhere. The recent HBO film “Mea Maxima Culpa” tells the facts about some of these horrors and how the buck stopped with Ratzinger (134-174).
- His public disrespect for other faiths and disavowal of religious ecumenism. Ratzinger as pope managed to insult Islam, Judaism, all Protestant churches (saying they are not churches) and the mind-body-spirit practice of yoga. As cardinal he presaged this anti-ecumenical attitude, unbelievably calling the globally revered Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, “the anti-Christ” (260).
- His absolute reaffirmation of a “morality” of sexism (no women priests ever; Catholic sisters in America are now being subjected to inquisitions as theologians have been; priests who support women are dismissed — but pedophile priests are not!).
- His un-Christlike diatribes against gay persons, borne out in not one but two documents: his ignoring scientific research on homosexuality has created another Galileo moment in church history.
- His irresponsible positions against condoms even in an age of AIDS and against birth control in a time of excessive human population on a crowded planet. His positions on sexuality are all about St. Augustine’s antiquated ethics and not anything Jesus ever taught.
- His interference in the presidential election of 2004, wherein Ratzinger instructed American bishops that any “Catholic politician” (i.e. Kerry) who did not denounce gays and abortion could not receive communion. This resulted in three states having very unusual Republican votes from Catholics — if just one of them had had a more normal Catholic vote, Kerry, not Bush, would have been president.
With such a track record as this, Father Ratzinger is right to retire. Unfortunately, because he and his predecessor appointed only yes men as cardinals, one should not expect any improvement in the next pope.
Instead, we should recognize that history has passed the papacy by. Now is the time for the Holy Spirit to push the restart button on Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant versions — so as to strip down to the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the Cosmic Christ tradition.
Christianity can be rebuilt without basilicas on our backs but mere backpacks. Travel lightly. Walk humbly. Do justice. And peace will follow.
Abuse Victims Ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN Published: September 13, 2011
Human rights lawyers and victims of clergy sexual abuse filed a complaint on Tuesday urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for what they described as abetting and covering up the rape and sexual assault of children by priests.
The formal filing of nearly 80 pages by two American advocacy groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests.
“The high-level officials of the Catholic church who failed to prevent and punish these criminal actions,” the complaint says, “have, to date, enjoyed absolute impunity.”
A spokeswoman at the court said the prosecutor’s office would examine the papers, “as we do with all such communications.” The first step will be “to analyze whether the alleged crimes fall under the court’s jurisdiction,” Florence Olara, the prosecutor’s spokeswoman said.
Complaints about the Vatican and child abuse by Roman Catholic priests have been received at the court before, court records showed. But Ms. Olara said details were not normally disclosed by the court unless a case went forward.
Lawyers familiar with the international court said it was unlikely the complaint against the Vatican would fit the court’s mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican, said he had no comment.
Vatican officials have often said that the decisions about priests accused of abuse are made by bishops — not by the Vatican hierarchy — and that the church is far more decentralized than is widely believed.
But the lawyers and abuse victims from the United States and Europe who held a news conference at the court on Tuesday said their action was necessary because all the investigations and prosecutions of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in various countries had not been sufficient to prevent continuing crimes and cover-ups.
Two of the victims whose cases are highlighted in the filing say the priests who sexually abused them simply moved to different countries and are still in ministry working with children, with the knowledge of church superiors. “National jurisdictions can’t really get their arms around this,” said Pamela Spees, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who helped prepare the filing. “Prosecuting individual instances of child molestation or sexual assault has not gotten at the larger systemic problem here. Accountability is the goal, and the I.C.C. makes the most sense, given that it’s a global problem.”
In addition to Pope Benedict XVI, the filing asks the court to prosecute Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the previous secretary of state and the current dean of the College of Cardinals; and Cardinal William J. Levada, who is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office designated to receive cases of clergy sexual abuse that are forwarded by bishops.
A central question is whether the accusations will fit the court’s mandate. The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after July 1, 2002, when the court opened. It is independent of the United Nations and has jurisdiction in the 117 countries that so far have ratified the Rome Statute that created the court. Italy, Germany and Belgium are signatories, while the Vatican and the United States are not.
The filing cites five cases in which priests have been accused of abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States; the priests in these cases are from Belgium, India and the United States.
Ms. Spees said she hoped to persuade the court that the cases were within its jurisdiction, because they involve abuses that she said were “systematic and widespread.”
Experts in international law said the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests was sufficiently heinous and widespread to be taken to the court.
Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, which is based in London, said he thought that the court would open a preliminary investigation to determine whether it has jurisdiction — and that it would probably conclude that it did not.
“Crimes against humanity means acts that are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population,” Mr. Ellis said. “What you’re looking at is really a policy, in which the government or the authorities are planning the attack.”
“When you look at the concept of why and how the I.C.C. was created, I just don’t think this fits,” he said. “But the filing does something that’s important. It raises awareness.”