29 Nov 2010

Clergy abuse survivors from Belfast to Boston speak out, while U.S. Bishops quietly reinstate credibly accused priests

Belfast Telegraph - April 1, 2010

World watches as child abuse victims air grievances

As a blizzard of snow swirled around the Armagh hilltop, Cardinal Sean Brady stood at his doorstep and shook the hand of the victims of child clerical abuse.

His colour heightened and his eyes suspiciously bright, he bid farewell to his visitors, casting a quick, almost fearful, glance at the watching cameras.

His caution is understandable. He knows it is not just members of the Irish Catholic Church or the wider community in this country that are watching his every move with bated breath — it is the world.

After their meeting yesterday, queries for interviews with the victims immediately flooded in from media in Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Italy — even a request from al-Jazeera.

The cardinal spent two hours with John Kelly, Patrick Walsh and Marie Seo of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), representing 4,000 victims of institutional abuse based in Ireland and the UK; an hour and a half with Marie Collins, a Dublin woman who was sexually abused as a child by the chaplain of Crumlin Children's Hospital and a further hour and a half with Michael O'Brien — a former mayor of Clonmel who was abused at St Joseph's Industrial School and Christopher Heaphy of the Right of Place/Second Chance organisation.

A glance at the cardinal's face showed it had been a gruelling and harrowing day as, over tea and scones, he listened to the accounts of their ordeals, heard their criticisms and their suggestions.

He is supportive, they said, of an all-Ireland inquiry and says the church is committed to working to find a “just solution” for women who suffered in the Magdalene Laundries, who were left out of the loop in the Redress Board on the excuse that they were “adults” when they had been admitted.

This alone is progress, the abuse survivors yesterday rejoiced, saying this itself had been well worth travelling to |Armagh.

They believe there are at least “a couple of hundred” victims like these out there.

Cardinal Brady has met with victims in the past but never like this and never with his own head so perilously perched on the block.

John Kelly of SOCA said of the meeting that the cardinal is “not for this job much longer”.

All the cardinal would say to them is that he will be making a decision “shortly”.

When the SOCA representative put it directly to his face that he is a “lame-duck primate”, the cardinal was “a little emotional”, they said.

As for the cardinal's own suggestion that he might remain on as a “wounded healer” to implement fully child protection measures in the church across Ireland, the victims all shook their heads slowly — nobody saw how this was possible.
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National Public Radio - U.S. April 2, 2010

New Clergy Abuse Scandal Hits Old Wounds In Boston

by Deb Becker

Boston has been at the center of the U.S. clergy sexual abuse scandal since it erupted there in 2002. And during a Mass earlier this week in honor of priests at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said Europe's mushrooming abuse crisis is a painful reminder.

"These are not easy times to be a priest," he said. "Sometimes it feels like we are being walloped quite unfairly."

Not Enough

Many abuse victims say the new allegations implicating the highest levels of the church are, in part, a re-victimization — but also a validation.

"We said it eight years ago, we said, 'This is not an American problem — this is a global problem,' " says Olan Horne, who is one of a handful of victims who met with Pope Benedict during his visit to the U.S. in 2008.

"Nobody believed us," he says. "People were spitting in our faces, saying, 'Why didn't you come forward? This is all about the money. You hit the pedophile lottery.' "

Another survivor who was at that papal meeting was Bernie McDaid, who is disappointed that the Vatican has not done more for victims since that emotional meeting.

"I put my hand on his heart and said, 'You have a cancer in your flock. You need to do something about it,' " McDaid says. "The follow-through? I'm sad to say there was no follow-through."

'An Attack Against The Church'

But some Roman Catholics say the church has been addressing the issue.

"I'm sad for the priests, for the hierarchy taking so much grief," says 80-year-old Nancy Caruso, who regularly attends Mass in Boston's North End. "I'm sad for the pope. It's happened. Nobody wanted it to happen, but let's move on. Let's not forget the tenets of our religion."

For Carol McKinley, who considers herself a Catholic activist, the latest allegations are about religion.

"I definitely feel there is an attack against the church," she says. "Do we have a problem? ... I'm not quite sure we have a problem now."

The abuse survivors say the problem now is that the church must change. Neither Horne nor McDaid thinks the pope should step down, but they want to make sure their voices are heard as the Catholic Church works toward reform.

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National Public Radio - U.S. March 31, 2010

U.S. Bishops Quietly Reinstate Accused Priests

by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

While the Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandal unfolds in Europe, the Catholic Church in the U.S. is under renewed scrutiny.

In the wake of its own scandal almost a decade ago, the U.S. church says it has reformed its policies for handling sexual abuse allegations and will remove from ministry every priest who is credibly accused of abuse.

But some of those priests are now being quietly reinstated.

One Case That Settled

Juan Rocha was 12 years old when he says he was molested by his parish priest, the Rev. Eric Swearingen. He eventually brought his complaints to the bishop of Fresno, Calif., John Steinbock. When Steinbock said he didn't find the allegations credible, Rocha sued the priest and the diocese in civil court.

In 2006, the jury found 9 to 3 that Swearingen had abused Rocha. But it could not decide whether the diocese knew about it. Rather than go through a new trial, the two sides settled.

At the time, Steinbock said he thought the jury got it wrong, and that while the Catholic Church should protect children, "doing this cannot be done in such a manner as to punish innocent priests."

"Bishop Steinbock continues Swearingen in ministry to this day, choosing to believe the priest is innocent, choosing to protect the priest, and choosing to disregard entirely the judicial finding by a jury that found he had committed the crime of sexual abuse against Juan," says Rocha's attorney, Jeffrey Anderson.

Today, Swearingen serves as priest at Holy Spirit parish in Fresno, where he also oversees the youth ministry. Swearingen did not return phone calls, and Steinbock declined requests for an interview.

Returning Priests Back To Ministry

Swearingen's case is not an isolated one, says Anne Barrett Doyle, who works with the watchdog group BishopAccountability.org. She says that recently, bishops have started quietly returning to ministry priests who previously have been accused of abuse.

"I think they feel that the crisis has died down in the public mind," she says. "Therefore, they have some confidence that if they go ahead and reinstate these priests, that they'll get very little backlash."

Doyle and others have identified about a dozen clergy who have been accused, arrested or sued for abuse and returned to ministry. She says the process for investigating priests is secret, and often the diocese says nothing about the charges against a priest when it returns him to ministry.

In 2003, a criminal-trial jury convicted the Rev. Michael Fugee, a priest in Newark, N.J., of molesting a teenage boy. Later, an appellate court overturned the verdict because of the judge's instruction. Rather than undergo a new trial, the prosecutors and the Archdiocese of New Jersey agreed to keep Fugee away from children.

When officials at a local hospital where Fugee was serving as a volunteer chaplain — saying Mass and ministering to families — learned of the criminal trial in his past, they were horrified.

Archbishop John Myers declined to speak on the record, but his spokesman says that Fugee's assignment was only temporary and did not involve regular ministry to children.

The case is troubling even to the church's internal watchdog.

"If there's a credible allegation, they're out of public ministry. Period," says Theresa Kettlekamp, who oversees the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She says there are no exceptions to this policy.

"There's not a caveat that says, 'You're out of public ministry but you can volunteer at Goodwill. You're out of public ministry but you can be a priest over at Feed the Children,' " she says. "No, it's very clear. They're out of public ministry."

How Bishops Interpret Policies

But Kettlekamp points out that the church also has to take priests' rights into account — especially those who have been cleared. In the outside world, if a person is found not guilty of abuse, "we don't then send you to prison, or we don't banish you or put you on some registry that says you've been charged with a crime. You're returned to full status as a citizen, and I think this is a similar analogy in the church."

Kettlekamp says that since 2002, the bishops have adopted strict policies to identify abusers and keep them away from children.

But how to interpret those rules is left up to the individual bishops. Although they have to report cases involving minors to the police, what constitutes abuse is left to their discretion.

And that means the public doesn't trust the bishops, says Anne Burke. Burke served from 2002 to 2005 on the National Review Board, which the U.S. bishops set up to oversee how they were handling sexual abuse claims. Burke says she is dismayed that many bishops have failed to disclose even the basics.

"I haven't seen any public document that shows how many cases they've had, what the outcomes have been, and if any of those matters have been forwarded to Rome," she says. "So it's really hard to speculate on what actually is happening in United States. And I think it's a good question that we all should probably get some answers to, and I'm not exactly sure where to go to get those answers."

But with new scandals erupting overseas, people are looking for those answers once again.

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