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).]
U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse
Catholic Church ‘systematically’ protected abusive priests, U.N. says
Gabriel Byrne compares Irish Catholic Church to the Taliban
The first domino to fall in the Roman Catholic Church’s child rape and abuse scandal in the South and Central American countries. This is just the beginning, and stories will begin to break like they did decades ago in the USA, then Europe and Australia.
The first domino to fall in the Roman Catholic Church’s child rape and abuse scandal in the South and Central American countries. This is just the beginning, and stories will begin to break like they did decades ago in the USA, then Europe and Australia..
The first domino to fall in the Roman Catholic Church’s child rape and abuse scandal in the South and Central American countries. This is just the beginning, and stories will begin to break like they did decades ago in the USA, then Europe and Australia.
September 22, 2013 by McBrolloks
Bishop accused of abuse
Lima – Pope Francis has removed a Roman Catholic bishop in Peru who an influential former prelate says is suspected of sexually abusing minors.
Gabino Miranda, 53, was removed as part of the new pope’s “zero tolerance” policy against abuse, the Reverend Luis Bambaren, the retired former Peruvian bishops’ conference chief, told reporters on Friday.
Miranda is only the second bishop known to have been removed in recent times by the Vatican over sex abuse allegations.
The Reverend Percy Quispe, spokesperson for the archdiocese of Ayacucho where Miranda was assigned, confirmed his removal to The Associated Press on Saturday.
He said Miranda departed in July but did not specify the reason.
Miranda had since 2007 led the youth ministry of Peru’s bishops’ commission. He was a close associate of the powerful Cardinal Juan Cipriani of Lima, sharing membership in the conservative Opus Dei organisation.
In bad taste
The regional prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Friday that an investigation had been opened into Miranda but did not specify the subject.
Cipriani expressed displeasure with Bambaren on Saturday in a radio interview from the Vatican, where he was to meet with the pope on Monday. “I don’t think it’s in good taste for a retired bishop to have made an accusation that is somewhat exaggerated or at the very least strong.”
Bambaren, an 85-year-old Jesuit, did not return AP phone calls seeking comment and Quispe said the archbishop of Ayacucho, Miranda’s former superior, was traveling abroad and could not be reached.
The Vatican also did not respond to AP requests for comment on the case.
Opus Dei issued a statement on Friday saying that Miranda “denied any crime having to do with minors” but said it had very little information about his situation. Attempts to reach Opus Dei officials to try to determine Miranda’s whereabouts were unsuccessful.
Miranda had spent his career in Peru’s Quechua-speaking southern Andes.
Allegations of abuse
Earlier this month, the Vatican confirmed that its ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, had been recalled and removed from his job amid a Vatican and Dominican investigation into allegations of abuse.
For decades, bishops have been virtually untouchable when it comes to Vatican discipline as they function very much as kings in their own diocesan fiefdoms.
The most prominent bishop to have been removed for alleged abuse was the archbishop of Vienna, Hans Hermann Groer, two decades ago.
UN tells Vatican to hand over details of child sex abuse cases
A United Nations committee has demanded that the Vatican reveal potentially explosive details about the systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.
Campaigners have called on Pope Francis, who was elected in March, to make tackling the issue of sexually abusive priests an urgent priority of his papacy.
The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child released its demands for information from the Holy See on Tuesday.
The committee said that “in the light of the recognition by the Holy See of sexual violence against children committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns in numerous countries around the world, and given the scale of the abuses”, the Vatican should provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by clergy.
The Vatican was told to show whether it had implemented measures “to ensure that no member of the clergy currently accused of sexual abuse be allowed to remain in contact with children,” amid claims from around the world that bishops often moved abusive priests from one parish to another.
The UN committee demanded to know about specific cases in which bishops or other Catholic leaders had failed to report suspected abuse to the police.
The Vatican was also urged to divulge details of its investigation of alleged sexual abuse and the outcome of those investigations, including any financial compensation or psychological counselling for victims.
The committee wants to know what measures the Holy See has taken “to prevent further sexual violence from taking place in institutions run by the Catholic Church.” The Vatican has until January to compile all the information, in time for an open meeting of the UN committee in Geneva at which Vatican officials will be questioned.
Despite being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See had largely ignored requests for information, said Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, who gave evidence to the committee last month.
“One of the requirements of a signatory is to compile a five yearly report on compliance – or in the Vatican’s case non-compliance – with the convention. The Holy See has grossly failed to do this for something like 12 years,” he told The Daily Telegraph.”They allowed sexual abuse on an unbelievable scale and it hasn’t all come out yet – we expect many, many more cases to emerge in the developing world.”
Pope Francis’s apparent determination to crack down on allegations of corruption and money-laundering within the Vatican bank gave hope that he might take a tough line on sexually abusive clergy, Mr Porteous Wood said.
“I think it’s a good sign,” he said. “Child abuse is a major issue, along with corruption, that he needs to sort out. His legacy will be judged, I think, on his ability to deal with these immensely difficult problems.”
Geoffrey Robertson QC, the human rights lawyer, who has strongly criticised the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sex abuse scandals around the world, said: “The committee’s enquiries will inevitably lead it to conclude that the Vatican has broken multiple articles of the convention on a huge scale in many countries. The result in human suffering is incalculable.
“Francis’s papacy could well be defined by the world’s verdict on his response – more handwringing apologies or calls for a line to be drawn under the past will no longer wash.
“He will fail unless he initiates bold tangible actions, for example lifting the veil of secrecy that has protected so many clerical rapists, engaging secular authorities and offering rather than resisting appropriate compensation.”
Bill Donohue and the Catholic League: DATA PROVE NO SEX ABUSE CRISIS
Bill Donohue comments on the 2012 Annual Report by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the subject of sexual abuse:
The survey, done by an institute at Georgetown University, shows how utterly absurd it is to maintain that the Catholic Church continues to have a problem with priestly sexual abuse. Of the nearly 40,000 priests in the U.S., there were 34 allegations made by minors last year (32 priests, two deacons): six were deemed credible by law enforcement; 12 were either unfounded or unable to be proven; one was a “boundary violation”; and 15 are still being probed. Moreover, in every case brought to the attention of the bishops or heads of religious orders, the civil authorities were notified.
Not counting those of unknown status, in 88 percent of the total number of cases (independent of when they allegedly occurred), the accused priest is either deceased, has been dismissed from ministry, or has been laicized.
Most of the allegations reported to church officials today have nothing to do with current cases: two-thirds date back to the 1960s, 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. As usual, the problem is not pedophilia: 19 percent of the allegations involving those who work in dioceses or eparchies, and 7 percent of religious order priests and deacons, involve pedophilia. In other words, the problem remains what it has always been—an issue involving homosexual priests (85 percent of the victims were male).
Anyone who knows of any religious, or secular, organization that has less of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors these days should contact the Catholic League. We’d love to match numbers.
One more thing: since nearly 100 percent of our priests did not have a credible allegation made against him last year, this should be picked up by the media. But it won’t be. Look for the story to get buried.
Above is the verbatim commentary Mr Bill Donohue of the Catholic League made on the recent data released by the 2012 Annual Report by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the subject of sexual abuse.
Mr Donohue goes on to say: The survey, done by an institute at Georgetown University, shows how utterly absurd it is to maintain that the Catholic Church continues to have a problem with priestly sexual abuse.
Apparently Mr Donohue does NOT seem to get the message. He does seem to evade and avoid the real problem here in association with the rapes of children, the torture of children, the abuse of children by those of the Roman Catholic Church and the Leaders who covered it up.
While it is admirable that the church is now cleaning up it’s act, I have some reservations using a report brought to us by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops when the leaders of the RCC, especially Bishops and Cardinals had a massive hand in moving child rapists and abusers around from parish to parish without warning or telling anyone about these child rapists and abusers. Then these same abusers went on to abuse even more children.
Sure there may be less children being harmed by sexual degenerates who prey on young children in the RCC and sure there are now eyes everywhere, there is still a massive problem with the leaders who covered it up getting away with their crimes.
There is ample and irrefutible evidence against many Cardinals: Timothy Dolan, Donald Wuerl, Roger Mahony, Justin Rigali, Bernard Law, Sean Brady, Keith O’Brien, George Pell, Franc Rodé, Humberto Medeiros, Dominik Duka, John Krol, Leonardo Sandri, William Leveda, Richard Cushing, and too many Archbishops and Bishops to name, who participated in a massive cover up of child rapists and abusers and put the church before the safety and welfare of children. Mr Donohue has to get this through his thick skull. There is still ample evidence of stonewalling in the Diocese and of course the now infamous strategy to fight and call any victim now who comes forward liars and gold diggers and fight them, delay them and subtrefuge them every step of the way.
No Mr Donohue, the Roman Catholic Church has gotten off too damn easy. Your Popes, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, your Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and others who turned a blind eye to the destruction of the soul, heart and mind of a child to satisfy some sexual perverted feelings among your clergy must be rectified before anyone can honestly believe the RCC is actually cleaning up their act. This means the immediate resignation, or forced resignation, of all credibly accused Cardinals et al who participated in these cover ups and submission for prosecution. Sure plea bargin if you will, but you all must face a court of mans law for justice to be truly gotten for the victims of your sick and twisted child rapists and abusers.
Mr Donohue, I recall when you compared what rape victims of these pedophiles go through is what you went through when you got smacked on the wrist by a nun. Well Mr Donohue, I have been smacked on the wrist by a nun for being left handed. I was raped and tortured by one of the Roman Catholic Priests. He was supposed to protect me for one damn night. Instead he consigned me to a life of living hell, where I actually believed I was pure evil, that I deserved what happened to me, that I was condemned by God and Jesus Christ himself to eternal damnation. I even took the name Damien, the name of the antichrist child in the Omen movies because I believed the horror this sick and twisted scumbag drilled into my terrified mind. He told me I was evil, doomed to hell because I broke one of the Ten Commandments. He ripped from me everything that night.
Mr Donohue, I would rather two thousand nuns smacked me on the wrist than go through what that twisted sub human put me through, dressed and disguised as a man of God that night.
Pope’s first words on clerical sexual abuse leave victims unimpressed
Friday, April 05, 2013 – 05:00 PM
Victims’ advocates are said to be unimpressed after Pope Francis called for the Catholic Church to act “with determination” against clergy sex abuse cases.
The pope pushed for decisive action during a meeting with the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the Vatican said in a statement.
“The Holy Father recommended that the congregation continue the line sought by Benedict XVI, to act with determination in regard to cases of sexual abuse,” the Vatican said.
“Once again, as have happened hundreds of times already, a top Catholic official says he’s asking another top Catholic official to take action about paedophile priests and complicit bishops,” said Barbara Dorris, an official of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a US-based organisation.
Francis cited measures to protect minors, help victims of sexual violence and necessary action against perpetrators, and emphasise that drafting and implementing directives by bishop conferences around the world is important to the credibility of the church.
US victims of clergy abuse have demanded swift and bold actions from the new Jesuit pontiff.
“Big deal. Actions speak louder than words. And one of the first actions Pope Francis took was to visit perhaps the most high-profile corrupt prelate on the planet, Cardinal Bernard Law, who remains a powerful church official despite having been drummed out of Boston for hiding and enabling crimes by hundreds of child molesting clerics,” Ms Dorris said in a statement.
The clergy child abuse scandals in many countries have drained morale and finances from the church, driving countless Catholics away, especially in Western Europe.
Some dioceses have had to close parishes and take other drastic actions after paying out millions for counselling and other compensation to victims in cases settled in and out of court.
The Vatican’s brief announcement about Francis’ meeting Friday with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the office that shapes and enforces policy on what to do about any abuse allegations and what happens to the abusers – depicted Francis as urging assertive action to protect minors.
“The Holy Father in a special way urged that the Congregation, following the line sought by Benedict XVI, act decisively in sex abuse cases, above all promoting measures to protect minors, assistance for all those who in the past suffered such violence, necessary measures against the guilty,” the statement said of Francis’ meeting with Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller.
The Vatican quoted Francis as saying abuse victims were always present “in his attention and in his prayers.”
Victims of Murphy’s law
Paul Byrnes March 16, 2013
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I am old enough to remember those words as part of the Latin Mass. I learnt them growing up in the Catholic Church in Australia. We spoke them to ask forgiveness for our sins. ”Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault …”
As I was learning them, the Vatican was receiving the first reports of the extent of one priest’s sexual abuse of deaf children at St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Father Lawrence Murphy, ordained in 1950, was a master of American Sign Language, a charismatic personality and a great fund-raiser. He may also have abused more than 200 deaf children in the three decades in which he was allowed to remain at St John’s, even after his activities were reported to the Vatican.
Father Murphy took a holiday in 1958. Father David Walsh came to the school. Some of the boys told him what Father Murphy was doing. Father Walsh reported the allegations to Archbishop Meyer of Milwaukee and to the Vatican’s apostolic delegate in Washington, DC. Walsh never came back. In 1963, Father Murphy was promoted to head of the school.
This setting gives extra meaning to the title of Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa. Many of these boys arrived at St John’s aged just four, from families in which they could not easily communicate. Many hearing parents never learnt to sign.
When the abuse started, Murphy would interpret for the children when they spoke to their parents.
Interviewed against a black background, victim Terry Kohut, now a teacher in his 60s, signs with expressive gestures.
”I was afraid to tell my mother because I didn’t think she would believe me,” he says. ”She would say a priest would never do something like that to children. I kept it a secret.” On that word, he clenches his fists in front of his mouth, signing ”secret”.
These interviews, with four of the children Lawrence Murphy abused, offer a story of unimaginable sadness. Gradually, their testimony becomes heroic. In 1973, Bob Bolger wrote a letter to Archbishop William Cousins of Milwaukee about Murphy. Later that year, he and two fellow former pupils, Arthur Budzinski and Gary Smith, went to the police. The police did not file charges, so these angry young men made a flyer with Lawrence Murphy’s face and the words ”Most Wanted”. They passed it out at church.
Murphy was finally removed as director of St John’s a year later after a staff member threatened to go to the parents. Murphy was allowed to retire to a family home in another diocese, where he continued to abuse other children. He died in 1998, still a Catholic priest. He is buried in a Catholic cemetery in his vestments. A canonical trial, begun in 1997 by the new archbishop of Milwaukee, was abandoned in 1998 just before Murphy died.
Alex Gibney examines several other cases in this superb documentary. The director talks to high-profile former priests, who criticise the church’s response to the tsunami of sexual-abuse cases in the US. Gibney then takes the allegations to Rome. For 25 years, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as ”the Inquisition”. Many of these cases went across his desk. After 2001, all cases concerning a minor went to him. Most of them were dealt with in secret. Even when he wanted to investigate, Ratzinger was sometimes blocked by Pope John Paul II, a man now on the way to sainthood.
Gibney exposes the same worrying trends that we’ve seen here – disbelief, followed by leniency towards the abuser and scant concern for the victim.
The film left me sick to my stomach and speechless with anger. I left the church long ago. If I had still been part of it, this film would have made me leave. As the cardinals gathered this week to choose a new pope, I wondered how many would choose to watch it?
Shame on you for cheering the Pope
My letter to the Editor that appeared in the Berlin Daily Sun on Friday March 1, 2013