12 Jun 2011

Review of sex abuse guidelines at US bishops conference will not close loopholes that continue to endanger children

USA Today - June 10, 2011

Catholic bishops to take second look at abuse reforms

By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

(RNS) A review of church sex abuse guidelines will top the agenda when the nation's Roman Catholic bishops meet in Seattle next week (June 15-17). But no major changes have been proposed, according to church leaders, even after several recent reports have raised questions about the rules' power to remove abusive priests.

The stakes at the Seattle meeting will be high, as the bishops struggle to recover their moral authority and end the worst crisis in modern church history.

The U.S. church has spent more than $2 billion on sex abuse settlements, "safe environment" training for staff, and two sweeping studies that sought to explain the causes and context of a scandal that has claimed 15,700 victims since 1950.

The Seattle assembly will also provide a leadership test for Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who will guide nearly 200 U.S. bishops in his first meeting as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition to reviewing the sexual abuse guidelines, the bishops will vote on a document that denounces physician-assisted suicide and hear a report on Anglicans who wish to convert to Catholicism using a new church structure.

The sex abuse guidelines, however, are expected to dominate public sessions and private conversations during the three-day meeting.

Even as the bishops attempt to move past the scandal, advocates for victims of sexual abuse and some lay Catholics say recent reports of lapses by bishops in Pennsylvania, Missouri and New Mexico prove that serious gaps mar church rules.

"In three dioceses now, there appear to be loopholes that are being exploited by bishops who appear to be gaming the system," said Nicholas Cafardi, a leading expert on canon law and former adviser to the bishops.

Cafardi and others hope the bishops close those loopholes in Seattle, but a draft proposal provided by the bishops' conference contains no such revisions.

In Philadelphia, a grand jury report released in February accused church officials of keeping 37 priests in active ministry, despite accusations of improper sexual acts with minors. The archdiocese later suspended 26 priests and has mounted an internal investigation.

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn has apologized for failing to remove a priest from ministry despite a warning from church officials. The priest was arrested in May on child pornography charges. The diocese appointed a former U.S. attorney on Thursday to investigate its sexual abuse policies.

In Gallup, N.M., a lay review board has never met with Bishop James S. Wall during his two years in the diocese, according to the Gallup Independent, a local newspaper.

Together, the U.S. bishops passed two sets of guidelines in 2002, as the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston and spread to nearly every diocese in the country.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is essentially a set of promises from the bishops to their church. The "Essential Norms" for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy are Vatican-approved rules that have the force of church law.

Neither requires substantial revisions at this time, said Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., chairman of the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.

"The charter is working," Cupich said. "We had seven (sexual abuse) allegations that were deemed credible in 2010, out of a church of 65 million Catholics. I think it's working."

Cupich also said it would be rash to revise church rules before the internal investigation in Philadelphia is complete.

"The charter has an iconic status for us. We want to protect its integrity. We are going to be very slow in changing it without having the full picture in a given situation," the bishop said.

Cafardi agreed that the charter and norms have been effective.

"I think they have done a wonderful service to the church in greatly reducing the number of instances of child sexual abuse by priests," he said. "But we know by instances in three dioceses that there are some gaps that it would not hurt to close."

According to a draft of proposed revisions that will be debated in Seattle, the bishops plan to change the policies to bring them into accord with Vatican norms issued in 2010. Those norms equate abusing persons with mental disabilities with child abuse, and make the acquisition, possession, or distribution of child pornography a church crime.

Victims' advocates and canon law experts say the bishops should go further, arguing that church rules will remain ineffective unless they contain penalties for breaking them.

"This isn't a real set of laws, these are procedures that are honored more in the breach than in the observance," said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a watchdog website.

"If I was a bishop, I would treat Philadelphia as an alarm. This is one of the largest, most significant dioceses in the country, which clearly ignored the policy," he said.

Church rules also suggest that bishops report all abuse accusations to diocesan review boards composed of lay Catholics. Board members in Philadelphia and Kansas City have said they did not learn of accusations until they were published in the media.

This article was found at:


Catholic clergy abuse review boards made ineffective by bishops who hide cases from them

Catholic reform groups hold conference in Detroit, Archbishop warns priests who attend could be defrocked

Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church

How can Pope John Paul II be a saint when thousands of children were raped or molested by priests under his leadership?

Philadelphia cardinal and bishops hid problem priests from clergy abuse review board, put church law before civil law

Credibility of US bishops' reformed child protection policies challenged by Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal

Only one US bishop has resigned for neglect during decade of clergy crimes, Kansas City bishop unlikely to join him

Lawsuit against Kansas City diocese alleges Bishop neglected to protect children from priest who made child pornography

Missouri diocese ignored school principal's warning about predator priest who was arrested a year later for child pornography

Popes and bishops: childless old men more interested in protecting pedophile priests than the pain and suffering of their victims

New Vatican rules rely on Bishops to deal with clergy crimes before reporting to police, still don't protect children

New rules on clergy sex abuse shows there is still no moral awakening in the Catholic church

Italian priest in diocese of Cardinal assisting Pope on child protection reforms arrested on pedophilia and drug charges

A selection of critical responses to the John Jay report on the causes of Catholic clergy sex crimes

Bishops were warned of abusive priests as early as the mid-1950s

1963 letter by church expert on pedophile priests shows Pope Paul VI and Vatican officials ignored warnings to expel problem priests

Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"

Jesuit leaders concealed 40 years of warnings about pedophile priest who became spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa

US bishop's report on clergy abuse puts focus on sociological factors instead of church leaders who covered up crimes

Inquiry finds US Catholic hierarchy still endangering children and fighting justice for clergy abuse survivors

Retired Archbishop blames protective church hierarchy for clergy abuse scandal

Australian Archbishop says church culture responsible for deep-rooted child abuse crimes and cover-ups

Former Benedictine monk says church has not yet addressed child abuse crisis, most bishops still mired in obfuscation and deceit

Is the Catholic church in state of denial over clergy abuse, or is it honest and transparent?

Hundreds of admitted or credibly accused pedophile priests who escaped justice are unsupervised by church or police

Dublin Archbishop admits frustration over failed effort to promote major reforms in Catholic Church

Leaked confidential letter reveals Vatican's intention to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities


  1. UK High Court rules Catholic Church liable for crimes of priests

    By STEVE DOUGHTY, Daily Mail November 9, 2011

    Dressed as Father Christmas, with a girl perched on his lap, this is Father Wilfred Baldwin, accused of raping children at a Roman Catholic Church-run home. It is an image which still haunts the alleged victim who won a High Court battle yesterday. In the landmark ruling, the Roman Catholic Church faces having to pay millions to sex abuse victims after the court ruled it could be liable for priests' crimes.

    ‘There are things I have hated for years because of it,’ she said. ‘I can’t stand Christmas because he used to abuse me dressed as Father Christmas.’ The mother of three, an administrator, says she suffered flashbacks and nightmares and has tried to commit suicide.
    She claims she was assaulted during two years at The Firs, in Waterlooville, Hampshire, which has now closed, after being sent there with her three siblings.

    She said he would sexually assault her as ‘punishment’ for misbehaviour, adding: ‘The nuns knew. He was allowed to take any child and rape them. It was always my fault. He would even make me give money afterwards, tuppence in the poor box. He said God had told him to do it.’ JGE, as she was referred to in court, never spoke of what happened until she was contacted by police investigating abuse allegations at the home.
    ‘I didn’t tell anyone,’ she said, ‘even one of my siblings who I found out later had also been sexually assaulted.’

    In the landmark ruling, Mr Justice MacDuff said the Church can be held responsible for the sins of its clergy because of the ‘immense power’ it gave them. His judgment could lead to thousands of claims by people in England and Wales who say they were sexually abused by priests, perhaps decades earlier. It also means the Church may be held to account for other criminal acts by priests.

    In the test case yesterday, Mr Justice MacDuff found that the behaviour of Father Baldwin, who died in 2006. was the Church’s responsibility.
    The decision means the victim can sue the Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispian Hollis. The Church told the court it should not be answerable for wrongdoing by Father Baldwin because it did not employ him. Lawyers for the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust, led by Lord Faulks QC, said priests were not paid by the diocese, nor could they be disciplined or sacked by the bishop. They lived on money from the collection plate and a priest could not even be made to change his job without agreeing.

    But Mr Justice MacDuff said: ‘Father Baldwin was appointed by and on behalf of the defendants.
    ‘He was provided with the premises, the pulpit and the clerical robes. 'He was directed into the community with that full authority and was given free rein to act as a representative of the Church. 'He had been trained and ordained for that purpose. He had immense power handed to him by the defendants. 'It was their empowerment of the priest which materially increased the risk of sexual assault, the granting of the power to exploit and misuse the trust which the defendants had granted to him.’

    The diocese refused to comment but is expected to appeal. Anne Lawrence, of the victim support group Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said she was relieved by the ruling, adding: ‘We hope it opens the way for the settlement of many hundreds of cases pending in courts.’ The Church has been trying for a decade to end scandals over sexual abuse by priests, and is set to publish a report today on abuse at a school in Ealing, West London.


  2. How can we ever get rid of child abuse, especially by religious people when all they get is about 5 years. priests get 5 hail marys.
    Why does the tv stations never bring this up,but they will bring up anything to do with money.

  3. Victims blast Dolan & Vatican over serial predator priest ruling


    In a new decision, Vatican officials are refusing to defrock a serial predator priest, Msgr. Wallace A. Harris, and NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan is quietly going along with the reckless decision.

    In 2010, Dolan quietly let this prominent and powerful priest quietly resign from his Harlem parish, deliberately and deceptively leaving the impression that he was stepping aside because of alleged health problems. Dolan knew then that Harris had been accused by at least ten men of sexually assaulting them when they were kids.

    Still, despite repeated promises to be “transparent” in child sex cases, Dolan only hinted to only one group of parishioners at only one church that the accusations against Harris were credible, letting many of them believe their pastor was innocent but beset with health issues and leaving for that reason.

    And now Dolan, who so vigorously pledges to be “open” about clergy sexual abuse, refuses to even disclose where Harris is.

    Catholic officials often claim to be “monitoring” or “supervising” child molesting clerics. Hundreds of times, however, those promises have been broken and more innocent lives have been devastated. If Harris is truly in a secure, remote and professionally run treatment center, why won’t Dolan clearly say so and tell his flock where it is?

    It’s very likely that many of Harris’ former flock believe he’s innocent. Dolan can and should dispel this dangerous myth. But he hasn’t and he won’t.

    And it’s likely that Harris could be criminally prosecuted for child sex crimes. Dolan should try to make this happen, by using his massive resources and bully pulpit to beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police. But he hasn’t and he won’t.

    Like most of his peers, in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases, Dolan continues to do the absolute bare minimum.

    Here are two other recent clergy sex cases in which Dolan has acted irresponsibly.



  4. Allentown bishop at meeting where cardinal ordered sex abuse memo shredded, according to court claim

    Lehigh Valley Express-Times February 25, 2012

    Bishop Edward P. Cullen was in on a 1994 meeting in which Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered a list of 35 problem priests destroyed, according to a court filing.

    Cullen, who served as bishop of the Diocese of Allentown from 1998 to 2009 and still lives in the Allentown area, had previously served as top aide under Bevilacqua.

    Matt Kerr, a spokesman for the Allentown diocese, referred requests for comment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    In Philadelphia, Monsignor William Lynn is facing trial in a priest-abuse scandal; jury selection is under way. Lynn is the first U.S. church official charged for allegedly keeping predator-priests in ministry.

    Lynn asked Friday to have his conspiracy and child-endangerment case thrown out based on new evidence of the list, which Lynn contends corroborates his claims that efforts to conceal clergy sex abuse were orchestrated at levels above him.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Lynn’s filing claims Bevilacqua discussed the memo in a March 15, 1994, meeting with Monsignor James Molloy, the assistant vicar for administration, and Cullen, who was then the cardinal's top aide.
    After the meeting, Bevilacqua allegedly ordered Molloy to shred the memo, which Lynn had produced.

    Lynn in 1992 began combing the secret personnel files of hundreds of priests to gauge the scope of misconduct involving children, the Inquirer reported based on the court filing. He did it, his lawyers said, because he “felt it was the right thing to do,” the newspaper reported.
    Bevilacqua, who died last month, was never charged in the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

    Cullen, who also was never charged, testified before a Philadelphia grand jury in 2005 that Bevilacqua was insistent in all cases that parishioners not be told the truth about abusive priests.


  5. Clergy-abuse reporting under fire from DAs

    By Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times Union March 5, 2012

    An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that a 2002 letter from 14 district attorneys to the Albany diocese had not been made public at the time.

    ALBANY -— Fourteen district attorneys whose counties are within the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese have called on Bishop Howard J. Hubbard to reshape the diocese's handling of sexual abuse complaints against clergy and other employees.
    Citing "concerns about how these cases are being handled," the district attorneys all signed a proposed memorandum of understanding that was presented to Hubbard early last month. Hubbard, who has been bishop since 1977, signed the document Friday, a day after the Times Union asked the diocese questions about it. He declined a request for an interview.

    The district attorneys signed the memorandum in alphabetical order of their counties, which include the greater Capital Region and an area covering dozens of churches and Catholic schools from Delaware to Washington counties.

    The memorandum was shown to the Times Union by two people not authorized to comment publicly. It marks the second time since 2002 that the district attorneys have banded together and privately raised questions about the diocese's handling of sexual abuse cases, including whether church leaders had once systematically shielded accused priests from law enforcement scrutiny.

    In the letter to Hubbard, the district attorneys said the diocese's current practice is problematic because church officials screen people who come forward with allegations of sexual abuse before law enforcement officials are notified. The victims are also required to fill out detailed forms about the abuse and the effect it has had on them, and to sign waivers giving the church access to their medical records.

    "This stated policy of the Albany diocese does not require the diocese to notify law enforcement of any allegation that the diocese does not find credible or believes is beyond the statute of limitations," the district attorneys' letter says. The diocese's system "has resulted in a screening process of cases by which the Albany diocese makes a determination on credibility, requires any person making an allegation to fill out a questionnaire, provide a deposition, names of witnesses and sign HIPPA (health information privacy) releases."

    Once an abuse allegation has been processed by the diocese, Michael L. Costello, an Albany attorney whose firm has represented the diocese for decades, sends a letter to the district attorney whose county is where any alleged abuse took place.

    Costello's letters do not give many details or identify the victim. Last November, Costello withheld the name of an accused clergy member in a letter to the Warren County district attorney relaying a new abuse allegation. His letter to District Attorney Kathleen B. Hogan said the priest's name was "available upon request." He identified the victim as born in 1965 and a resident of Texas.

    The concerns raised by the region's top law enforcement officials come 10 years after their agencies issued a similar letter to the diocese to "express the grave concerns of our constituencies about the manner in which such cases have been handled in the past," said the letter, dated April 11, 2002.

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    In a statement issued late Friday, the diocese cast the recent demands from 14 district attorneys as a collective effort with the church.

    Kenneth Goldfarb, a diocese spokesman, said: "The diocese is working with the district attorneys to develop a new agreement that updates the initial 2002 protocol that established a standardized practice for reporting allegations of abuse to law enforcement agencies."

    The diocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations came under extreme scrutiny in 2008 when Gary Mercure, a former longtime priest in the Albany and Glens Falls areas, was accused of raping young boys in the 1980s and 1990s. In the mid-1990s, the diocese sent Mercure to a church-run hospital near Philadelphia, St. John Vianney, for undisclosed counseling and what church officials described as a "nervous breakdown."

    Mercure was later returned to the ministry. Then, around 2000, a mother of two former altar boys in Glens Falls contacted church officials and reported that her son had told her Mercure had once tried to kiss him on the family's front porch.

    The woman, who now lives in another state and spoke to the Times Union on the condition she not be identified, said she was put in touch with Father Louis Deimeke, a diocese official who later retired.

    "He wanted to know 'what do you want from us,'" she said. "I said we don't want any money ... I'm calling to protect other children."

    She said Deimeke acknowledged they'd "had problems" with Mercure.

    Church officials would later say Mercure denied the allegations and resumed his ministry duties in Troy.

    The woman said about a year later she learned Deimeke would be at St. Mary's Church in Glens Falls. She waited and followed him into the sacistry, where she introduced herself.

    "He did not acknowledge me in any way shape or form," the woman said. "He continued to put his coat on and walked out the sacistry door and out of the church. I stood there dumbfounded."

    In 2008, after one of her sons learned Mercure was still a priest at an area church affiliated with a school, the alleged victim contacted the Warren County district attorney and recounted years of alleged abuse at Mercure's hands. On paper, it looked as though the New York statute of limitations barred any prosecution. Hogan investigated and learned Mercure had raped some of his victims in Massachussetts, where his crimes were not time-barred from prosecution.

    Last year Mercure was sentenced in Berkshire County to more than 20 years in prison after being convicted of three counts of forcible rape.

    The former Glens Falls-area woman, whose son testified at Mercure's trial, said no one from the diocese contacted law enforcement. "They never reported it," she said. In 2000, her sons were adults but reluctant to tell the chuch what had happened. But they may have told police, she added.

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    The 2002 letter from 14 district attorneys to the diocese also outlined concerns about the diocese's reporting practices and noted that other public and private organizations "nearly universally" would contact law enforcement.
    "There is the legitimate view held by many of our constituents that the policy and practice of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese has been to shield individual offenders from the criminal justice system," the district attorneys wrote. "There exists a truly grave concern that the policy and practices of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese places individual offenders into a position where such individuals could victimize young people."

    Before 2002, it's unclear the diocese had ever proactively reported allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement.
    In December, in response to questions from the Times Union about its past reporting practices, the diocese said that prior to 2002 it would "defer to the wishes of the complainant/victim."

    "When an allegation of clergy sexual misconduct was received by the diocese between 1977 and 2002, the diocese's approach was to investigate the allegation, offer counseling and other appropriate assistance requested by the victim, and take appropriate action against the accused priest," Goldfarb said in a Dec. 22 statement. "To the best of our recollection, no complainant/victim or their attorneys ever asked that the diocese contact a law enforcement agency. The accused priest was placed on administrative leave from ministry until an independent psychologist certified that he was not at risk to re-offend."

    After 2002, and under pressure to change its handling of abuse complaints, the diocese adopted a policy to notify district attorneys when an alleged victim came forward. Goldfarb said the changes were made by a task force and that the diocese adopted recommendations from the district attorneys.

    Now, the district attorneys have asked the diocese not to ask the alleged victim or person reporting the allegation to "make or sign any statements." They also are directing the diocese to comply with any subpoenas for documents or witnesses.

    In addition, the district attorneys have asked the diocese to promptly report allegations of sexual or physical abuse without conducting any screening or "diocesan investigation." Their reports to law enforcment should include the name, address and telephone number of the accused and the victim and any contact information for the person reporting the abuse. They also asked that the diocese refrain from requesting additional information from the person reporting the abuse.

    The counties represented by the district attorneys who signed the memorandum are: Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Fulton, Greene, Herkimer, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington.


  8. Couple: Priest abused sons for years

    Family suing Albany diocese over alleged sexual abuse of their two boys gives details

    By Bryan Fitzgerald, Albany Times Union April 24, 2012

    ALBANY — The parents and a younger sister of two victims of alleged sexual abuse by a Greene County priest railed against the church Tuesday afternoon. Standing on a sidewalk a few hundred feet from the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese offices on North Main Avenue, the family detailed the painful fallout from what they say was decades of abuse.

    With their arms around each other's shoulders, Ivan Morales Sr. and his wife, Carol Morales, spoke about their sons, Ivan Jr. and Martin, and how they say Rev. Jeremiah Nunan slowly lured each of them into a web of abuse that lasted for years.

    The Morales' 20-year-old daughter, Maria, says she was not abused by Nunan, but that when she was at church with her brother Martin, the priest would tell her to wait outside and be "a good little girl" while he took Martin into a nearby room. "I never put two and two together," the College of Saint Rose junior said. Neither brother attended the news conference.

    Ivan Morales Jr. could not get time off from his work as a state trooper on short notice, his father said. Martin Morales is currently being held in a Vermont jail, awaiting trial on attempted murder charges. In February 2011, Martin Morales allegedly burst into his ex-girlfriend's apartment in the small city of Winooski, Vt., wearing a black ski mask and wielding a knife. Police say he beat, choked and tried to kidnap the woman. Morales' parents said they did not learn of the alleged abuse of their sons until after Martin's arrest.

    "Martin had never spoke about what Father Nunan did to him," Carol Morales said. "Father Nunan tormented him for years. He is a monster. What happened with our son, the way he turned out, would not have happened if (Nunan) had not abused him. Our son was trapped in a mental prison for so many years. Now his mind is free ... but he is incarcerated."

    News of the alleged abuse became public after a civil suit was filed on Martin Morales' behalf on March 29 against the diocese, Nunan and Sacred Heart Church in Cairo, where the abuse allegedly took place.

    On April 14, the diocese placed Nunan, 74, on administrative leave from Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Knock Mission in East Durham, where Nunan also serves.

    The tales of the alleged abuse began to unfold in March 2011 after Ivan Morales Sr. took over Martin Morales' finances when his son was jailed after his arraignment. Ivan Morales Sr. soon found receipts for thousands of dollars in checks made out to his son from Nunan. When Ivan Morales Sr. confronted Nunan about the money, the priest refused to talk, Ivan Morales Sr. says.

    "I asked him what was a priest doing giving my son all this money," Ivan Morales Sr. said. "He had no answer."

    It wasn't until Ivan Morales Sr. pressed his son about the money that Martin Morales told his parents about the alleged abuse, which the Moraleses say began when Martin Morales, now 23, was 7 and continued until he was 21. Nunan gave Martin Morales the money, his parents said, to keep quiet about the abuse. The parents brought copies of five checks to Tuesday's news conference. Each one was from Nunan's bank account, made out to either Martin Morales or cash and for between $500 and $3,000. The checks were issued between February 2010 and January 2011.

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    Martin Morales' parents say that their son met with Nunan just before Morales allegedly broke into his girlfriend's apartment. They say the meeting influenced their son's decision-making and emphasized that they believe more than a decade of abuse had irreparably warped their son's mind. After his brother's arrest, Ivan Morales Jr., 35, came forward to say that Nunan had abused him as well.

    The Morales' attorney, Michael Reck, said Martin Morales reported the alleged abuse to authorities after speaking with his parents in March 2011. The diocese said it first learned of the allegations in December 2011 from a one-sentence Facebook post by a third party accusing Nunan of abusing Morales. The diocese wrote a letter to the owner of the Facebook account urging the person to elaborate on the allegation, to contact them and to report the alleged abuse to authorities. The diocese never heard back from the person who posted the message, but questioned Nunan about the allegations, said diocese spokesman Ken Goldfarb. Nunan denied abusing Martin Morales.

    The diocese contacted Greene County District Attorney Terry Wilhelm on April 4, when the church learned of the lawsuit.
    The district attorney's office has an open investigation into Martin Morales' allegations of abuse against Nunan — the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged abuse of Ivan Morales Jr. — but the status of the case is unclear. Wilhelm did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

    Both Martin and Ivan Morales Jr. say the abuse began when they were each around age 7 and served as altar boys. Their parents say the church should have acted sooner to oust Nunan.

    In 2006, Nunan was placed on leave after allegations surfaced that he molested a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That case began after a California priest, the Rev. Mark Jaufmann, accused Nunan of abusing him for about three years, starting in 1967, when Jaufmann was 9. An 11-month investigation by the diocese's Independent Mediation Assistance Program concluded those claims could not be substantiated. Nunan was then restored to the ministry.


  10. Father Benedict Groeschel, American Friar, Claims Teens Seduce Priests In Some Sex Abuse Cases

    By Meredith Bennett-Smith, The Huffington Post August 29, 2012

    In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Benedict Groeschel, of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, said that teens act as seducers in some sexual abuse cases involving priests.

    It's been close to a decade since an investigation into clergy sex abuse cases by The Boston Globe unearthed a shocking scandal and cover-up that rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and around the world.

    Ten years may have passed, but the wounds have yet to fully heal in America, especially in light of the recent Penn State allegations, as well as the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary for the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    In light of this, the recent comments by Groeschel seem both puzzling and jarringly out of step with current sentiments.

    In an interview with the National Catholic Register posted this week, Groeschel was asked about his work with the very conservative Friars of the Renewal, a breakaway order he founded 25 years ago. The conversation took an interesting turn, however, when the editor asked about the 78-year-old's work with sexual abuse perpetrators.

    "People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath," Groeschel said. "But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer."

    Pressed for clarification, the New York State-based religious leader explained that kids looking for father figures might be drawn to priests to fill an emotional hole in their lives.

    Furthermore, Groeschel expressed a belief that most of these "relationships" are heterosexual in nature, and that historically sexual relationships between men and boys have not been thought of as crimes.

    "If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties — except for rape or violence — it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way... And I’m inclined to think, on [a priest's] first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."

    The fact that the interview was published, without comment, in the National Catholic Register was significant due to the publication's affiliation with disgraced Legion of Christ religious order.

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    In 1995 the legion was part of a group of investors who saved the National Catholic Register from closing. (The Legion later sold the paper, which is now owned by the Eternal World Television Network.)The powerful clerical order was also part of one of the most damaging scandals, involving its one-time leader, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the highest-profile Catholic clergyman ever to be accused of sexual abuse, according to Time magazine.

    In 2005, the Vatican scrambled to try to minimize the damage done by revelations that the extremely influential Mexican priest had been abusing seminarians for years.

    Groeschel is an influential voice in the American Dioceses and continues to maintain a high-profile in the church, writing several books and appearing weekly on a religious television network.

    The priest received a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1971 and now lives in Larchment, N.Y., where he assists with Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for the clergy he founded.

    Trinity House stirred controversy in 2006 when the press learned that New York priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children, but not legally convicted, had the option of a life-long close supervision program that began with a stay at the retreat. In the wake of community objections, the Archdiocese later removed Trinity House from the list of program's offered facilities, according to the Larchmont Gazette.

    Groeschel is also a professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


  12. Author says Vatican rules through indoctrination, control, and fear

    By Suzette Martinez Standring, For The Patriot Ledger, Massachusetts September 01, 2012

    The Vatican rules the Roman Catholic Church through indoctrination, control, and fear, rather than through nurturing love, service, and freedom, according to Father Emmett Coyne, a Roman Catholic priest. His new book, “The Theology of Fear,” exposes how far the highest church authorities have strayed from the gospel of Jesus Christ (CreateSpace, $12.25, 325 pages, July 2012). The book is available on Amazon and on www.emmettcoyne.net

    “I’m on the last lap of life and eternity is facing me. It’s my last chance to speak up and speak out,” said Father Coyne, who was ordained in 1966 and is retired at age 73.

    For 46 years, the Rev. Coyne’s ministry has focused on serving those in need. He was a parish priest at several New Hampshire parishes, and later traveled to more than 1,000 parishes nationally to raise awareness and money to help the poor. His conscience is disturbed at how the gospel of Jesus that teaches service on behalf of the least ones is subverted in favor of church power.

    “Theology of Fear” is a well-written and easy-to-read history of the systems put into place that created the Roman Catholic Church as the only religious political entity in the world through the establishment of the Vatican city state. “I think the gospel is compromised when it is processed through a political consideration,” said the Rev. Coyne who lives in Exeter, N.H.

    He believes Catholics learn more about how to go to hell than how to get into heaven, and that, historically, the sacraments were established as a way to control church members through guilt and fear. “Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God. He didn’t proclaim the sacraments,” he said.

    The book further asserts that seminarians are ordained based on their ability to follow doctrine without question, while activist priests are viewed as risks to church authority. “They (seminarians) drop out when they discover they can’t think for themselves,” said the Rev. Coyne, who once was chastised for adding the words, “Jesus, our good shepherd,” to a prayer.

    What does this long-time priest hope to accomplish with his book? The 50th anniversary of the Vatican Council will occur in October, and the Rev. Father Coyne believes change, reform, and transparency of the church’s highest echelons are crucial. He wants everyday Catholics to rediscover Jesus’ teachings that it is the person who is absolute in God’s eyes, not an institution. Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law grounded in love, never the letter of the law based on punishment. Father Coyne expects church authorities will not be happy with his book. “One has to follow the truth wherever it takes him,” he said.

    All proceeds of his book will be donated to nonprofit Partners In Health (www.PIH.org), which reflects the Rev. Coyne’s ideal of an organization that serves the plight of the poor.

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


  13. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church

    by Michael Day, The Independent September 3, 2012

    One of Italy's most revered cardinals has stunned the Catholic Church by issuing a damning indictment of the institution from the grave, calling for its "transformation".

    Hours after Milan's former Archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, died on Friday at the age of 85, the leading daily paper Corriere della Sera printed his final interview, in which he attacks the Church – and by implication its current leadership – for being "200 years out of date".

    "Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," the Cardinal said. "The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."

    Church insiders believe he wished for the interview to be published following his death.

    Cardinal Martini, who was on the liberal wing of the church hierarchy, was once tipped to succeed John Paul II as Pope. His chances of being elected fell away when he revealed he was suffering from a rare form of Parkinson's disease and he retired as Archbishop in 2002. Instead, the ultra-conservative German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

    The body of Cardinal Martini has been laid out in Milan cathedral since noon on Saturday, with thousands of people coming to pay their last respects. His funeral will take place there this afternoon.

    The left-wing Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, who recently angered church authorities by recognising gay couples and providing them with the same rights the city gives married couples, led the tributes to the dead Cardinal. "Difficult times require words of wisdom and hope from great men," he said. "Carlo Maria Martini illuminated the way for the entire city, not just for part of it. For this reason, today more than ever, Milan mourns its Archbishop".

    Cardinal Martini was noted for supporting the use of condoms, at least a decade before the Vatican grudgingly accepted they might be acceptable in certain situations to prevent the transmission of HIV. He also questioned the Church's line on gay relationships and divorce – calling on it to reconsider what constituted a family in the 21st century or risk losing even more of its flock.

    Conservative voices in the Church tried to repair damage caused by Cardinal Martini's criticism. Marco Tarquinio, the editor of the bishops' daily paper, L'Avvenire, accused the mainstream press of distorting the Cardinal's comments, although he did not give specific examples.

    "The attempts to distort and manipulate in an anti-ecclesiastical way the Cardinal's final hours on this earth are a bitter reminder of similar actions against even the blessed John Paul II," he said.

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  14. continued from previous comment...

    The suspicion – ever present in Italy – that the Vatican has tendrils everywhere, even in the mainstream press, was heightened by the failure of the article to appear on the Corriere della Sera website. Following inquiries by The Independent, Corriere's editor, Ferruccio de Bortoli, said there had been no pressure to keep the article off the website. It was then published online yesterday evening. Other leading newspapers failed to give the cardinals' comments much coverage.

    Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent of The Tablet, called for Cardinal Martini's deathbed comments to be taken very seriously.

    "They must be seen in the context of coming from a man who loved the Church and who gave his life to the institution. He made a profound statement, which he had already said many times to Benedict and John Paul II in private," he said.

    Cardinal Martini caused controversy in his final days after refusing artificial feeding, contravening church policy on end-of-life issues.

    Mr Mickens said that although Cardinal Martini's ideas had "zero support" in the Vatican, he was revered by rank and file members. "The people in the trenches looked up to him. He was a giant. We're in a very conservative period. But that won't last forever. A whole generation have been inspired by Martini's writings. That will be his legacy."

    Cardinal Martini: A holy life

    Carlo Maria Martini was born in Turin in 1927, entered the Society of Jesus in 1944 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. His appointment as Archbishop of Milan, Italy's most important diocese, in 1980 was considered highly unusual; Jesuits are not traditionally given bishop posts. He retired from the post in 2002, the year he was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson's disease. He then moved to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. He passed away at the Jesuit-run Aloisianum College in Gallarate near Milan.


  15. Priest, TV host claims “mental decline” to explain his statements that children seduce priests

    by Mike Daniels, Secular News Daily September 5, 2012

    Last week, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (based in New York) and host of EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime TV show, explained in an interview how children often seduce priests, that first time sex offenders shouldn’t get jail time, and that Jerry Sandusky was a victim. [see previous comments above]

    The National Catholic Register, has since removed the interview and apologized for . . . well, for repeating what the priest said. Were they apologizing to the readers, who got a glimpse into the real thought process involved? Or to the Church and their owner, EWTN, for embarrassing them?

    The Washington Post reports:

    Asked about working with priests involved in abuse, Groeschel said, “Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”

    In expanding on his answer, Groeschel also referenced Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State coach convicted of sexually abusing boys, referring to Sandusky as “this poor guy” and wondering why no one said anything for years.

    He also added later that anyone involved “on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.”

    Editor in Chief Jeanette De Melo posted a note apologizing for “publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize.”

    Groeschel also posted an apology to the site. “I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone,” he said.

    That’s right, Groeschel is now claiming that he is senile, and didn’t really mean the very clear comments he’d made. His organization also described him as having failing “health, memory, and cognitive ability”.

    Why, then, did they allow him to give the interview? Why did they allow him to host a weekly television show on EWTN Global Catholic Network? Could it be that his health began failing after the storm of protest against his vile commentary came to his ears?

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  16. continued from previous comment...

    Fr. Groeschel reportedly “decided” to step down from the program following the outrage. Naturally, EWTN, which also owns the National Catholic Register, was appalled:

    [EWTN president and CEO Michael] Warsaw said the comments at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register “should never have been published” and “in no way” reflect the views of the Register or EWTN.

    “It should have been obvious to the editor that Father Benedict’s physical condition and mental clarity have deteriorated and that the comments were completely inconsistent with his life’s work and witness,” the EWTN president said. “We apologize that these remarks were published and ask for forgiveness for this error.”

    Yes, it should have been obvious that a magazine owned by EWTN should not have printed potentially-controversial comments from the host of one of EWTN’s flagship programs.

    The Archdiocese of New York couldn’t help but pile on, looking for any way to deflect attention from its own covering up and enabling of kiddie-rape:

    “Although he is not a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, what Father Groeschel said cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. The sexual abuse of a minor is a crime, and whoever commits that crime deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” [Archdiocese] spokesman Joseph Zwilling said.

    David Clohessy is director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He declared that comments like Groeschel’s “rub salt into the wounds of already-suffering victims” and “discourage victims . . . from reporting horrific crimes”.

    But isn’t that the point?


  17. Ex-priests trial begins today

    By Jeff Bell, Victoria Times Colonist October 11, 2012

    The court case for Philip Jacobs, charged with sexual offences involving children while serving as a Catholic priest in Victoria, begins today in B.C. Supreme Court with a voir dire.

    A voir dire, frequently described as "a trial within a trial," is held to determine the admissibility of certain evidence during a trial. The voir dire in the Jacobs case is expected to last up to four days, after which Justice Miriam Gropper will rule on how the trial will proceed.

    Defence counsel Chris Considine and Crown attorney Clare Jennings spent the first part of this week discussing procedural matters with Gropper.

    Jacobs, a tall, balding man in his early 60s, sat through the proceedings Wednesday. The charges he is facing come from his time as parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church from 1998 to 2002, which followed two years at St. Rose of Lima in Sooke.

    He has been charged with two counts of sexual interference with a person under 14, one count of sexual assault and one count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose.

    Jacobs resigned from St. Joseph in 2002 after information surfaced that he had been dismissed from an Ohio church several years before over allegations of inappropriate conduct involving teenage boys. No criminal charges resulted.

    A Saanich police investigation of Jacobs began in 2002, but there was not enough evidence to charge him. A complaint made in 2009 led to further investigation, and Jacobs was arrested in 2010.


  18. Priest sex abuse trial begins in Victoria

    CBC News December 10, 2012

    The trial of a Roman Catholic priest charged with sexual offences against three teens in the late 1990s is underway in Victoria.

    Father Phil Jacobs was a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria at the time of the alleged abuses in the late 1990s.

    Jacobs found work in B.C. despite previous allegations involving boys in the U.S.

    He resigned his position in Victoria in 2002 after it was made public that he was dismissed from a church in Columbus, Ohio during the mid-1990s following allegations of misconduct there.

    Jacobs was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency in August 2010 while entering the country at Victoria airport.
    John Shuster, a representative of an international organization called SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — is in Victoria for Jacobs’ trial.

    Shuster said SNAP has found such trials can dredge up memories for other people who may have been abused.

    “I'm hoping that a lot of survivors will hear the message that they have options in terms of healing and learning to deal with the trauma that happened to them and they can get better if they take the right steps, and we're trying to offer that opportunity,” Shuster said.

    Shuster also said statistics show only one in 10 people who have been sexually abused ever disclose that abuse to police.


  19. Ex-student uneasy about priest’s touch


    A third complainant testified Thursday at Father Phil Jacobs’ sexual offence trial, describing how the priest touched him during tutoring sessions on the couch in his living room.

    Jacobs, 63, who was parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker in Saanich from 1997 to 2002, is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference with a person under 14 and sexual touching. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between September 1996 and June 30, 2001.

    The young man, whose identity is protected by a court order, was involved in the parish and became good friends with the priest. He recalled going to movie nights at the rectory, where Jacobs horsed around and tickled him and other boys.

    The witness also testified that he had no concerns when Jacobs became his science tutor in Grade 8 or 9. At first, they sat at the dining room table for the lessons. Then Jacobs suggested it would be more comfortable if they sat on the couch.

    They sat side-by-side with no direct physical contact, the witness said.

    “Then Phil suggested we switch positions,” he testified.

    Jacobs suggested the teen lie down with his legs over Jacobs’ lap, the witness said. His head was on the arm rest, his back and buttocks were on the couch and his knees were over Jacobs’ lap, the witness recalled. Jacobs had a pillow over his lap.

    Jacobs’ hand was on the witness’s left knee, the witness testified.

    “His hand went up and down, touching my upper body, my groin,” he told the court.

    When Jacobs’ hand touched his groin, the back of the priest’s hand touched his testicles, the witness testified. “The hand was moving back and forth. It did not stay there for any period of time,” he said.

    “How did you feel?” asked prosecutor Clare Jennings.

    “I definitely felt awkward,” he replied. “At the time, I told myself it was absent-minded.”

    It happened a few times, he testified.

    The witness described another occasion when Jacobs handed him a manila envelope and asked him to bring it downstairs. The youth peeked in the envelope and saw it contained pornography, he testified.

    When he came back upstairs, he bumped into Jacobs in the hallway, he recalled.

    “He asked me if I looked in the envelope. I lied and said I didn’t, because it felt awkward to talk about,” he said.

    The witness said Jacobs looked disappointed and said, “Oh well, it was just some pornography.”

    Then Jacobs told him a woman parishioner had caught her husband with the magazines and forced him to bring them to the priest.

    Jacobs also asked if he masturbated, the witness said. When he said yes, Jacobs told him it was OK, as long as he treated it with respect.

    “It was odd because it’s not what the Catholics teach,” he said. “You’re not supposed to do it at all.”

    The witness testified that he felt awkward, weird and nervous during the conversation.

    The young man became emotional when he described being approached by a school counsellor after allegations against Jacobs surfaced in 2002. The counsellor asked him if anything had happened to him.

    “I denied it at the time,” he said, his voice breaking.

    “It was embarrassing. I didn’t want to talk about the pornography and the touching and what it all meant.”

    During cross-examination, defence lawyer Chris Considine suggested to the witness that if Jacobs looked disappointed during the pornography incident, it may have been because the teen had just told a lie.

    Considine suggested it was only after the witness started talking to friends that he began to think there was more to the touching than being absent-minded.

    “I always had the thought it wasn’t right,” the young man testified. “It felt wrong and it was uncomfortable.”


  20. Ten Days that Made History: The Final Days of Cardinal Law, December 3-13, 2002

    by Anne Doyle, BishopAccountability.org

    Ten years ago today, we woke to the news of Cardinal Law's resignation. For Boston Catholics, it was the climax to ten days of uproar, and a bombshell finish to a tumultuous year. Our timeline below captures the fast-breaking developments of Law's final days, starting with the release of once-secret church documents. Boston had seen many church documents during 2002, but the details in the files released on December 3 were particularly terrible and the evidence of Law's cover-up particularly egregious. In the next ten days, Law was served a subpoena, priests revolted, protesters thronged the cathedral, more files were released -- and all of this was documented in a storm of media coverage. The crisis was front-page news nine of the ten days, with more than 50 articles in The Boston Globe alone.

    Tuesday December 3, 2002
    In the ten-month-long civil case brought by Shanley victim Gregory Ford and his parents, eight additional files are obtained and made public, detailing sexual abuse by priests and Law's concealment of the abuse. One priest abused girls who wanted to be nuns, telling them he was "the second coming of Christ" and instructing them to "link spiritual stages to sexual acts." Another was kept in ministry by Law despite reports that he had abused three children and violently beaten his housekeeper.

    Wednesday December 4, 2002
    The newly released files are the top stories of The Boston Globe and Boston Herald. This day alone, the two papers run 14 articles on the crisis. The Boston archdiocese's Finance Council authorizes Law to pursue a Chapter 11 filing.

    Thursday December 5, 2002
    The Fords release church records of Rev. James D. Foley, revealing that Law had re-assigned Foley to a parish after the priest confessed to fleeing the bed of the mother of his two children as she lay dying of a drug overdose.

    Friday December 6, 2002
    Cardinal Law secretly departs Boston hours before a subpoena is delivered to his Boston residence, requiring him to appear before a state grand jury. Law flies first to Washington DC, where he meets with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo. A day or two later, he flies from DC to Rome.

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  21. Sunday December 8, 2002
    More than 300 protesters chant "Law must go" outside Boston's cathedral, where Law had been scheduled to deliver a homily. Law abruptly cancels his appearance. The media and public still do not realize that he is not in Boston.
    Law is spotted having dinner at a restaurant in Rome by John Allen, Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

    Monday December 9, 2002
    58 Boston priests sign and make public a letter calling on Cardinal Law to resign: "The priests and people of Boston have lost confidence in you as their spiritual leader." The Vatican issues a statement confirming Law's presence in Rome. Seven additional priest files are made public by the Fords. Law's former aide Bishop John McCormack in New Hampshire signs a legally binding agreement with the NH Attorney General, acknowledging that the state has enough evidence to sustain the diocese's conviction on charges of child endangerment. The agreement mandates the release of a detailed report, an 8,600-page archive, and a state audit of the diocese.

    Tuesday December 10, 2002
    Attorney General Tom Reilly harshly criticizes the archdiocese in an unusually frank interview: "The archdiocese has used every tool and maneuver available to them to keep us from the facts we need."

    Wednesday December 11, 2002
    Attorneys for the Fords release the files of 10 more Boston priests and one religious brother.

    Thursday December 12, 2002
    Four additional priest files are made public in the Ford case. It is the fifth release of once-secret church documents in nine days. Voice of the Faithful calls on Law to resign.

    Friday December 13, 2002
    In a statement from Rome, Cardinal Law announces that the Pope has accepted his resignation. "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness," he writes. "The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure."

    To view the numerous documents linked to in the article above go to:


  22. Woman seeks damages for alleged sexual abuse by Vancouver priest

    By Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun December 14, 2012

    A B.C. woman filed a civil suit Thursday in Vancouver seeking damages for alleged sexual abuse by a priest when she was a teenager in the 1980s.

    Both the priest, Lawrence Dean Cooper, also known as Father Damian, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver are named in the notice of claim.

    The Vancouver archdiocese does not dispute the woman’s general claims, and said Thursday the church “regrets how she was drawn into a sexual relationship with the priest.”

    Vancouver archdiocese spokesman Paul Schratz said Cooper was “removed from the ministry” after the woman disclosed the abuse in 1994. Schratz said this meant he was not able to work as a priest anywhere in the world. However, Schratz said, Cooper went on to work for years as an associate pastor at the New York Diocese of Rockville Centre.

    In the notice of claim, Kathleen Taylor says she first met Cooper in 1985 as a 15-year-old when he was acting as chaplain at Camp Latona on Gambier Island, when she was attending a leadership retreat.

    She started seeing the priest, who was ordained in 1986, for counselling as a 16-year-old Grade 11 student after school at the Roman Catholic Cathedral offices next to Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver.

    Soon afterwards, he was giving her “prolonged embraces” after the counselling sessions.

    Then Cooper began driving her home and having long talks with her. By 1987, when she was 17, he was taking her to motels and having sex with her, according to her notice of claim.

    In 1992, Taylor broke off contact with Cooper, according to the court documents.

    Taylor is seeking damages for sexual exploitation and/or sexual assaults because she says she has suffered psychological damage.

    She is seeking general, aggravated, punitive and special damages, as well as loss of past and future earnings.

    In an interview, Taylor said that when she came forward with her story to the Vancouver archdiocese in 1994, she did not go to the police because she trusted the church and then-archbishop Adam Exner to ensure Cooper would not be in a position to abuse other girls.

    She said she has come forward with her story now because she is finally comfortable to go public with it. She chose a civil suit rather than going to the police because, she said, she feels she has more control in a civil proceeding.

    “I was afraid to tell my story. I was carrying a shame,” said Taylor. “So, part of what I’m trying to do by sharing my story is to put that shame back to the church’s leaders where it belongs.”

    Schratz, the Vancouver Catholic archdiocese spokesman, said while the church does not agree with every detail of Taylor’s interpretation of the events, it agrees she was wronged by the priest.

    “I can say without any hesitation that what happened to Miss Taylor was absolutely tragic. And that we obviously deeply regret how she was drawn into a sexual relationship with the priest,” said Schratz.

    “By any definition it’s wrong, it’s hurtful. And so we obviously extend our deepest apologies to her and her family, recognizing that may seem woefully inadequate.”

    Now, the church will go to court to try to resolve what is the appropriate compensation for Taylor, said Schratz.

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  23. Although all the details are not clear because it was 18 years ago that the abuse was reported, Schratz said the church took steps to ensure Cooper could do no more harm, including counselling and removing him from being a priest.

    However, Schratz said that after Cooper’s eight-year tenure at the Vancouver archdiocese, he went to the Parish of St. Hugh of Lincoln in Huntington Station, N.Y., in 1995. The Vancouver archdiocese had nothing to do with him going there, Schratz said.

    Cooper then served as an associate pastor in the Diocese of Rockville Centre for almost six years and was assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, N.Y. before being let go, said Schratz.

    It’s not clear exactly what Cooper’s duties were in New York, but Schratz said an associate pastor is normally a priest.

    There’s no record the New York diocese checked back with the Vancouver archdiocese about Cooper’s record, which would have shown he could not be a priest, said Schratz.

    Cooper is believed to be living in the U.S., but Schratz did not know where.

    When Taylor approached the church in 1994, she was provided with funding for counselling and living costs while she pursued a postgraduate degree in the U.S., noted Schratz. (Taylor acknowledged the church paid for counselling for a period, but declined to discuss the funding in detail because of the civil suit.)

    Schratz said the church did not go to police with Taylor’s claim of sexual abuse out of respect for her privacy.

    He noted that when Taylor came forward, she was an adult and was accompanied by her brother, a lawyer.

    “The practice at the time would have been to advise her if she wished to bring the matter to the police she was absolutely free to do so,” he said.

    Cooper served in various capacities in the Vancouver archdiocese, including as pastor at St. Joseph’s in Squamish and at St. Jude’s in Vancouver.

    Exner, who was Vancouver’s archbishop when Cooper was removed from being a priest, had been asked in 1992 to develop a national church protocol for dealing with sex abuse issues.

    Under guidelines his committee developed, Exner said at the time that Canadian Catholic Church officials concluded they must “fully cooperate” with police when they receive sex allegations against clergy.


  24. Vancouver archdiocese says it informed N.Y. diocese of priest’s history of sex abuse allegations

    By Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun December 15, 2012

    A priest removed from his duties in Vancouver over accusations of sexual abuse in the 1980s was terminated from a New York diocese for “problems of a similar nature” in 2001.

    The priest, Lawrence Dean Cooper, also known as Damian Cooper, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Vancouver were named in a civil suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday by a B.C. woman.

    Kathleen Taylor said in her suit that she first met Cooper in 1985 as a 15-year-old, and a relationship developed that led to him taking her to motels for sex by the time she was 17. She said she broke off the relationship in 1992, and in 1994 told the church about the abuse.

    The Vancouver archdiocese does not dispute the general claims, and said it took “every necessary step” to remove the priest from ministry and to ensure when he moved, the jurisdiction he went to knew about his background.

    Vancouver archdiocese spokesman Paul Schratz said Cooper was immediately removed from his priest duties — called being removed from ministry — after the archdiocese learned of his “affair” with the woman.

    It was recommended Cooper be supervised for five years while receiving ongoing counselling, said Schratz. After about six months, in February 1995, Cooper asked to be allowed to resume his priestly duties with the Vancouver diocese, which was denied.

    He then went to New York so he could receive more professional help, Schratz said Friday.

    The Diocese of Rockville Center accepted him in April 1995 on “something of a probationary basis.”

    The Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York did not respond to requests by The Vancouver Sun for information on Cooper’s six-year tenure there.

    But Schratz said in an email Friday:“We were told in 2001 that Rockville Center was terminating his ministry as problems of a similar nature had arisen there.” Schratz would not provide details on what “problems of a similar nature” meant, but said it did not involve underage women.

    The Vancouver archdiocese’s account Friday of the disciplinary action against Cooper differed from Thursday’s.

    On Thursday, it said removing him from being able to minister meant he was unable to be a priest anywhere in the world. It also said it would be impossible to alert every diocese of Vancouver’s discipline, and the onus was on any diocese to check his record at Vancouver, where he was ordained.

    On Thursday, Schratz said there was no record that the Rockville diocese checked back with Vancouver about Cooper’s record.

    But on Friday, he said: “I just learned today that we fully informed the Diocese of Rockville Centre of (Father) Cooper’s history. It seems they may have had some optimism that he could be treated successfully.”

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  25. According to the Vancouver archdiocese, Cooper went to the Parish of St. Hugh of Lincoln in Huntington Station, N.Y., in 1995.

    Cooper then served as an associate pastor in the Diocese of Rockville Center for almost six years and was assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, N.Y. before being let go, says the Vancouver archdiocese.

    An Our Lady of Perpetual Help church bulletin from May 2011 available on the Internet lists Rev. Damian Cooper as a former priest.

    In the civil notice of claim filed in Vancouver, Taylor said her first contact with Cooper was when he was acting as chaplain at Camp Latona on Gambier Island, when she was attending a leadership retreat as a 15-year-old. Cooper was about 27 years old at the time.

    The priest kept contact with Taylor and started having sex with her when she was 17 in early 1987, according to the court documents.

    In 1992, Taylor broke off contact with Cooper, says the notice of claim.

    During Cooper’s eight-year tenure in the Vancouver archdiocese, he was a pastor at St. Joseph’s in Squamish and at St. Jude’s in Vancouver.

    Tom Doyle, a U.S. priest and expert on canon law, said that when a diocese removes a priest from ministry it is not a clear-cut way of ensuring that a priest cannot perform his duties elsewhere, as it is still possible for another diocese to accept him.

    The only way to ensure a priest can no longer be a priest is through laicization, said Doyle, a former Vatican representative who is an outspoken critic of how the church has dealt with sex-abuse cases.

    Laicization — known commonly as defrocking — is a process that permanently removes a priest’s right to be a minister. It must be approved by the Vatican in Rome.

    “I’ve been involved in this kind of stuff for 30 years, and the level of irresponsibility of the bishops is higher than you can count,” observed Doyle.

    After Cooper’s termination in New York in 2001, the Archdiocese of Vancouver said it recommended Cooper request laicization.

    The archdiocese did not respond to questions on whether Cooper agreed to the laicization or why the Vancouver archdiocese did not request it.

    The Rockville Center diocese that Cooper ended up at after his Vancouver tenure was the subject of a Suffolk County Supreme Court special grand jury in 2002.

    The grand jury concluded that priests assigned to and working in the Rockville diocese committed criminal acts of sexual abuse against children.

    The jury also concluded that the history of the Rockville diocese demonstrated that as an institution, it is incapable of properly handling issues relating to sexual abuse of children by priests.


  26. Priest admits U.S. abuse, but denies any crimes in B.C.

    CBC News December 17, 2012

    A Roman Catholic priest has admitted to sexually abusing teenage boys in the U.S., but denies he did the same thing in Canada.

    Father Phil Jacobs testified in his own defence Monday at his trial on charges of sexually assaulting three teen boys in Victoria during the late 1990s.

    Jacobs told the court about being bullied into masturbating by fellow students in high school and of having ungratifying masturbation encounters with two fellow students when he was a young man while studying to become a priest.

    He's admitted to trying to teach two teenage boys how to masturbate when he was a priest in Ohio during the early 1990s. He said he felt he could teach them how they should masturbate and avoid the humiliation he had suffered as a teen.

    After one of those boys complained, the Diocese of Columbus sent Jacobs for treatment.

    Jacobs said the therapy taught him empathy for his victims and that there were ways to control his compulsion.

    Jacobs testified he did not sexually assault or sexually touch any of the three men who have testified at this trial.

    The men were altar boys at St. Joseph the Worker parish in Victoria during the late 1990s, and their stories are similar to the allegations in Ohio.

    The U.S.-born Jacobs, 60, was arrested in August 2010 while re-entering the country at Victoria airport.

    The trial continues in Victoria Tuesday.


  27. Saanich priests actions not criminal, argues lawyer


    Inappropriate conduct is not criminal conduct, the defence argued Tuesday during final submissions at Father Phil Jacobs’s trial for sexual offences against three youths.

    Jacobs, 63, who was parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker in Saanich from 1997 to 2002, is charged with sexual assault and sexual touching of a young person under the age of 14. He is also charged with sexually touching a second youth under the age of 14 and, while in a position of trust, sexually touching a third youth under the age of 14.

    The offences are alleged to have occurred between September 1996 and June 30, 2001.

    Jacobs’s defence lawyer, Chris Considine, urged B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper to look at the Crown’s evidence with a great deal of care and not to be swayed by prior allegations of sexual misconduct by Jacobs in the U.S.

    The first complainant testified that Jacobs abused him for about two years beginning in Grade 5. Jacobs separated him from other boys and, once they were alone, put his hands down the boy’s pants, the complainant testified. On at least five occasions, the priest forced the boy to touch Jacobs’s penis, he said.

    At trial, Jacobs emphatically denied that he ever touched the student in a sexual way, Considine said. He described the youth’s testimony as beyond belief, and said it raised doubts and was rebutted by other witnesses.

    The second complainant testified that Jacobs threw him on the bed and tickled him when the youth was dressed only in underwear.

    There was no touching that might be described as sexual, Considine said, and nothing in the tickling that violated the boy’s sexual integrity or gave sexual gratification to Jacobs.

    Court also heard about a conversation between Jacobs and the youth about masturbation. Although Jacobs asked the youth to flex the muscle in his penis five times, he did not touch him, Considine said. Jacobs has acknowledged his conduct was inappropriate, but that is not a criminal offence.

    And because the youth was unable to provide a date and time when the incidents occurred, the Crown has failed to prove he was under 14, he said.

    The charge involving the third complainant alleges that Jacobs brushed his hand against the boy’s testicles when he was tutoring him in Grade 8 science. The witness testified that he lay on the couch with his legs over Jacobs’s lap while he was studying.

    Jacobs admitted he may have touched the boy but said any physical contact was accidental, brief and not for a sexual purpose, Considine said.

    The trial heard that there were prior allegations of sexual misconduct by Jacobs when he was ministering in the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Ohio.

    Jacobs testified that he underwent therapy for the compulsive behaviour that resulted in the Ohio allegations. The essential elements of his compulsion were taking overnight trips with youths to get them alone and teach them how to masturbate.

    The Crown alleges that the offences against the second and third youths are a continuation of the compulsive behaviour.

    Considine argued that the incidents were not similar and that the complainants did not believe the touching was sexual at the time.

    Considine said the tickling incident does not show criminal behaviour by Jacobs, but rather the success of his therapy.

    “He was alone hundreds and hundreds of time with [the youth] and exercised self-restraint,” the lawyer said.

    The Crown will continue its final submissions today.


  28. Abuse watchdogs say bishops failings hurt their credibility

    by David Gibson Religion News Service May 9, 2013

    (RNS) Even as an annual review this week gave Catholic bishops high marks on sex abuse prevention policies, officials with the church’s oversight agencies expressed serious concerns about “recent high-profile failings” in several dioceses.

    The latest scandal has shaken Newark, N.J., where Archbishop John Myers failed to stop a priest from ministering with children in several parishes even though he had assured prosecutors that he would enforce a lifetime ban on the priest’s access to children following a molestation case.

    Myers initially defended his oversight of the Rev. Michael Fugee, but under increasing pressure he reversed himself; Fugee then resigned from ministry, but ongoing calls for Myers to step down have generated new headlines almost every day.

    “I’ll be honest with you, Newark is disheartening,” said Bernie Nojadera, head of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It is like taking steps backwards.”

    Nojadera, along with Al J. Notzon, III, head of a blue-ribbon review board of lay leaders that checks the bishops’ compliance with their policies, on Thursday (May 9) released an annual audit that found that in 2012 the number of allegations, victims and offenders continued to decline from previous years.

    In addition, the review found that almost all of the nearly 200 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. were in compliance with the policies set out in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the bishops adopted in 2002 at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

    At the same time, in accompanying letters to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, both Notzon and Nojadera noted that there has been “much disturbing news in the media” and “recent high-profile failings” that have undermined the bishops’ efforts.

    In separate interviews, both Nojadera and Notzon said they were referring to several specific cases:

    --the trial and conviction of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia last summer for shielding abusive priests;

    --the conviction of Kansas City, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn last September for failing to report a suspected abuser to police;

    --the release earlier this year of records from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles that showed the extent to which retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and a top aide covered up for abusers in the priesthood.

    Nojadera also pointed to the news in February that Fugee had been appointed to a high-profile administrative job in the Newark archdiocese, and that was before the latest bombshell over Fugee’s unauthorized work with children.

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  29. Notzon said the recent lapses underscore how important it is for the bishops to be vigilant – and accountable – because even one failure to uphold the charter can undermine the credibility that the review board has worked for a decade to restore.

    In meetings over the past year, he said, he’s been pushing the bishops to find a way to call out a fellow churchman who violates the charter.

    The review board itself has no authority to discipline bishops – only the pope can do that – and the bishops have adopted only a vague policy of “fraternal correction.” The provision has no enforcement mechanism and in any case the bishops rarely if ever rebuke their colleagues, even in private.

    Notzon said he and the review board are formulating specific recommendations to increase accountability among the bishops, and at a meeting next month will press them to “translate what we have found into action.”

    “I have no hesitancy in communicating … that this is a concern that has to be addressed and continues to be addressed,” Notzon said.

    Support for enforcement

    What’s new is that he and Nojadera may now have some high-level allies in their corner.

    Speaking in Rome before the papal election in March, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley – the American prelate with perhaps the greatest credibility on the abuse issue – said that whoever was elected pope would need to develop a clear and consistent policy for dealing with bishops whose “malfeasance” allowed abusive priests to stay in ministry.

    “Right now, it’s not terribly clear, but it’s something the next pope will have to deal with,” O’Malley told the Boston Globe. “My point is always that if you don’t have policies, you’ll be improvising, and when you improvise, you make a lot of mistakes.”

    A week later, O’Malley and the other cardinals elected Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and the new pope also indicated that addressing the abuse crisis would be a priority – something the review board and most Catholics would welcome.

    “We are looking forward with great anticipation to hearing and seeing about the specifics on that from the Holy See – what he (Francis) will be talking about or hoping to put in place, if indeed that is to be a priority,” Nojadera said.

    The annual compliance audit that was released Thursday is mainly a parish-level view of how the charter is being implemented, and it did not specifically address the recent incidents involving bishops.

    But while the audit showed widespread compliance with the prevention policies – as well as declining numbers of allegations of abuse – it also pointed to a number of dioceses that were either ignoring the charter or were not allowing on-site inspections.

    To read the links embedded in this article go to:


  30. Church Whistle-Blowers Join Forces on Abuse

    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times May 20, 2013

    They call themselves Catholic Whistleblowers, a newly formed cadre of priests and nuns who say the Roman Catholic Church is still protecting sexual predators.

    Although they know they could face repercussions, they have banded together to push the new pope to clean house and the American bishops to enforce the zero-tolerance policies they adopted more than a decade ago.

    The group began organizing quietly nine months ago without the knowledge of their superiors or their peers, and plan to make their campaign public this week. Most in the steering group of 12 have blown the whistle on abusers in the past, and three are canon lawyers who once handled abuse cases on the church’s behalf. Four say they were sexually abused as children.

    Their aim, they say, is to support both victims and fellow whistle-blowers, and identify shortcomings in church policies. They hope to help not just minors, but also adults who fall prey to clergy who exploit their power for sex. They say that their motivation is to make the church better and safer, and to show the world that there are good priests and nuns in the church.

    “We’ve dedicated our lives to the church,” the Rev. John Bambrick, a priest in the Diocese of Trenton, said at a meeting of the group last week in New York. “Having sex offenders in ministry is damaging to our ministry.”

    The group has sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to take several significant steps to heal victims and restore the church’s credibility: revoke all oaths of secrecy, open the files on abuse cases, remove from office any bishops who obstructed justice and create an international forum for dialogue between survivors and church leaders.

    The Catholic Church in the United States put in place a zero-tolerance policy and a host of prevention programs after the abuse scandal peaked in 2002. Each year the bishops commission an audit of abuse cases, and this year’s survey, released May 9, found the fewest allegations and victims since the audits began in 2004.

    But the whistle-blowers’ group contends that vigilance is necessary because some bishops are violating the zero-tolerance policies, and abusive clergy (who now number 6,275, according to the bishops’ count of those accusations that they deem credible) still have access to children. They point to the revelations in the last month that a priest in Newark who was a convicted sex offender restricted by a court order from working with children had been ministering in a Catholic parish in Trenton, taking confessions from children and going on weekend youth retreats.

    Several of the whistle-blowers have been vocal about that priest, the Rev. Michael Fugee. Along with some New Jersey politicians, they have called for the resignation of the archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers. They fault Archbishop Myers not only for failing to restrict Father Fugee, but also for appointing him to help direct the education of priests in the archdiocese.

    Archbishop Myers’s spokesman said the archbishop was unaware of the priest’s activities, and is cooperating with an investigation by the Bergen County prosecutor. Father Fugee left the ministry, and on Monday was arrested on charges that he violated a judicial order by having contact with minors. The bishop of Trenton, David M. O’Connell, removed another priest and two youth ministers from the parish in Trenton where Father Fugee worked with youth.

    The Newark case, as well as the release of personnel records on priests by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and convictions of church officials in Philadelphia and Kansas City, convinced the whistle-blowers’ group that they have work to do despite the optimistic picture in the bishops’ audits. They do not consider the bishops’ audits credible because they are based on self-reporting.

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  31. The group discussed the latest scandal in Newark at a meeting last week in Manhattan. At that meeting, Sister Sally Butler traveled from Brooklyn; Sister Maureen Paul Turlish from Delaware; the Rev. Ronald Lemmert from Peekskill, N.Y.; and Father Bambrick, Msgr. Kenneth E. Lasch and Robert Hoatson, a former priest, came from New Jersey. The Rev. James Connell joined in by speakerphone from Sheboygan, Wis. (The Rev. Thomas P. Doyle — perhaps the church’s most famed whistle-blower — recently joined the group but could not attend.) They had been conducting their weekly meetings by conference calls, and it was only the second time most of them had met face to face.

    Each member has a history of standing up publicly on behalf of abuse victims, but until last year most of them did not know of one another. A Catholic laywoman, Anne Barrett Doyle, who lives in Boston, suggested they should meet. She is the co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a Web site and advocacy group that is building a database of documents on clergy abuse cases, and a co-worker, Suzy Nauman, had been keeping a running list of priests and nuns who had helped expose predators or had spoken out.

    Last year Ms. Doyle spoke with Father Lemmert about the backlash he experienced after exposing a case in New York, and he later told her that talking about his experiences was “very therapeutic.” The group was initially conceived more as a confidential support group for the whistle-blowers themselves.

    “I joined the group,” said Father Lemmert, “because I had been badly ostracized because I blew the whistle. There was no support out there, and this group has been a lifeline.”

    Until last week, he intended to keep his involvement in the group under wraps for fear of repercussions. But at the meeting Father Lemmert announced, “I just decided to stand up and be counted.”

    The group has evolved to take on a more policy-oriented role, drafting the letter to the new pope with six suggestions for action. They sent the letter in late April to the pope and several Vatican officials, but have not received any response yet.

    They expressed varying degrees of optimism about whether Pope Francis will follow through on the goal first articulated by Pope John Paul II that there is no room for sexual abusers in the priesthood. They noted that Pope Francis recently said that all human beings must be protected with “clarity and courage” — especially children, “who are the most vulnerable.”

    Monsignor Lasch said to the group, “The pope has asked us to speak with clarity and courage, and that’s what we’ve done with him.” Mr. Hoatson added, “It’s time that clarity and courage are rewarded rather than harassed and dismissed.”

    Mr. Hoatson and Monsignor Lasch founded Road to Recovery, a group that assists abuse victims, but Mr. Hoatson left the priesthood in 2011 after a series of run-ins with Archbishop Myers. He said he has found the recent spotlight trained on the Newark archbishop very encouraging.

    The whistle-blowers’ group plans to hold its first news conference this week in New York, and some members are bracing for the reaction. They said they know priests who spoke up and were removed from their parishes, hustled into retirement or declared “unstable” and sent to treatment centers for clergy with substance-abuse problems or sexual addictions.

    As for what they hope to accomplish, the whistle-blowers had very different answers.

    “That all the children in our church would be safe,” said Father Bambrick.

    “That the people who covered up would go to jail,” said Sister Butler.

    “That’s not what I’m in this for,” said Monsignor Lasch. “I’m in this for justice and mercy and truth and compassion.”


  32. Database of US Clerics and Nuns Who Blew the Whistle on Alleged Child Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up


    The burden of disclosing sexual abuse by Catholic clerics and its cover-up by religious leaders has fallen almost completely on victims. Most church insiders who have witnessed misconduct have chosen not to report it. However, there have been remarkable exceptions. BishopAccountability.org is building a database of whistleblowers - priests, women religious, and other church employees who reported colleagues to church or civil authorities and fought their superiors’ concealment of abuse. We have defined "whistleblower" broadly to include those who have reported sexual misconduct internally and pressed colleagues and superiors to respond correctly, but who did not go outside of the church with their concerns, to those who have reported misconduct externally to law enforcement and/or news media. By documenting this overlooked aspect of the crisis, we hope to raise awareness that whistleblowers must be protected in both the church and civil society, and help witnesses who have stayed silent to find the courage to come forward.

    Unlike priests and nuns who have taken bold stands on either traditional or liberal issues, those who expose their colleagues’ sexual assaults or their superiors’ dishonesty have no lay constituencies to support them. Many of the individuals profiled below have experienced retaliation and grief in some form – defamation, job loss, career derailment, ostracization, pressure by superiors to admit to mental illness, and in at least one case, suicide.

    We will be adding steadily to this list, as well as to our preliminary international list. Later this year, we also will post a list of lay whistleblowers. To suggest names in any of these categories, please email us.

    | Rev. John Bambrick | Marianne Benkert | Rev. Thomas Bolte | Msgr. Lawrence Breslin | Sr. Sally Butler OP| Rev. Daniel Clayton | Sr. Jeanne Christensen | Rev. Patrick Collins | Rev. John Conley | Rev. James Connell | Rev. Donald Cozzens | Bishop John M. D'Arcy | Rev. Tom Doyle OP | Rev. Thomas Economus | Jim Fitzpatrick | Rev. Joseph Fowler | Rev. Terence German SJ | Bishop Thomas Gumbleton | Rev. Gary Hayes | Rev. David Hitch | Sr. Jane Kelly | Rev. Bob Hoatson | Msgr. Kenneth Lasch | Rev. Ron Lemmert | Jane Levikow | Rev. Michael Lipareli | Rev. James A. "Seamus" MacCormack | Rev. John McNamee | Rev. John Minkler | Sr. Catherine Mulkerrin | Sr. Joyce Newton | Rev. Joseph Okonski | Lynette Petruska | Msgr. Michael Picard | Rev. Richard Reissmann | Msgr. Phillip Saylor | Fr. James Scahill | Sr. Joan Scary | Rev. Edward Seagriff | Richard Sipe | Rev. Robert Smoot | Rev. Stephen Stanbery | Rev. Joseph Starmann | Rev. Frederick E. Sweeney | Rev. Bruce Teague | Sr. Janice Thomas | Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish | Patrick Wall | Rev. Robert Williams |


  33. Bishop launches petition for global Catholic abuse council

    By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor | Reuters – June 4, 2013

    (Reuters) - A retired Australian bishop urged Roman Catholics around the world on Tuesday to sign an online petition to Pope Francis to call a new global council to take effective measures to end the sexual abuse of children in the Church.

    Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a former auxiliary bishop of Sydney who coordinated the Australian church's response to the sexual abuse crisis, said only a council of the world's bishops would have the power to make the changes needed.

    The meeting would be akin to the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, Robinson told a news conference in Sydney, referring to the historic body that transformed the Catholic Church with modernizing reforms.

    But this council would focus only on solving the abuse issue, he added.

    Robinson said Francis had "given out a lot of good signals" since his surprise election in March.

    The Argentinian-born pontiff, 76, has raised hopes for change among Catholics worldwide by ignoring Vatican protocol and openly addressing controversial issues, but it was not clear how he would react to an innovation like an online petition.

    "The petition is not to challenge him, it's to help him, to indicate that the people are with him in really looking at these factors and changing whatever needs to be changed," Robinson said at the conference broadcast by Australia's ABC television.


    The scandal of priests molesting minors has haunted the Catholic Church around the world for over two decades, sapping its moral authority, shaming bishops and priests involved in abuse or its cover-up and costing huge sums in damage payments.

    It overshadowed the eight-year papacy of retired Pope Benedict, even though he publicly apologized for the abuse several times and met victims on many of his trips.

    Robinson spoke at the launch of his new book "For Christ's Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church ... for Good".

    His petition, which has been online for several weeks, reached 15,000 signatures on Monday.

    Australia's senior Catholic prelate, Sydney Cardinal George Pell, apologized to abuse victims at a parliamentary hearing last week and promised to work with a major official inquiry due to look into child sex abuse in Australian institutions.

    Robinson's petition, online at www.change.org/forchristssake, says signatories are "sickened by the continuing stories of sexual abuse within our Church and ... appalled by the accounts of an unchristian response to those who have suffered."

    Lay Catholics should have a major voice at the Council, it said, and discuss problems such as Church teaching on sexual morality, the requirement of priestly celibacy, the lack of women's influence in Church decision-making, a culture of secrecy and a Vatican emphasis on protecting papal authority.

    The Second Vatican Council launched modernizing reforms such as using local languages in the liturgy, opening relations with other faiths, especially Judaism, and promoting more dialogue between the Vatican and Catholic bishops around the world.


  34. Pope Francis warns of fallout from poorly trained priests

    Comments made during closed-door meeting at the Vatican in November

    The Associated Press, January 03, 2014

    Pope Francis has warned that priests can become "little monsters" if they aren't trained properly as seminarians, saying their time studying must be used to mold their hearts as well as their minds.

    Francis also warned against accepting men for the priesthood who may have been implicated in sexual abuse or other problems, saying the protection of the Catholic faithful is most important.

    The pontiff made the comments Nov. 29 during a closed-door meeting of 120 superiors of religious orders who gathered at the Vatican for their regular assembly. On Friday, the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica provided a report of the three-hour, informal question and answer session. The Vatican never provided a transcript of the meeting.

    The magazine, which interviewed Francis last year, quoted the first Jesuit pope as telling the superiors he wants them to "wake up the world" with their work, particularly with the poor.

    "Truly to understand reality we need to move away from the central position of calmness and peacefulness and direct ourselves to the peripheral areas," he said.

    Francis, who headed the Jesuits' novice training program in his native Argentina in the 1970s, also warned the superiors of some of the failings of seminary training, or "formation," such as when would-be priests merely "grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told `Good, you have finished formation."

    "This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils," Francis was quoted as saying, returning to the issue of clericalism — or a certain cronyism and careerism among the men of the cloth — that he has frequently criticized.

    The training of priests, he said, must be a "work of art, not a police action."

    "We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps," he was quoted as saying.

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  35. Francis has spoken on several occasions about life in religious orders — the good and the bad — and hasn't shied from offering his own personal experiences when speaking with groups of nuns and priests. The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio was only 36 when he was made superior of the Jesuits in Argentina in 1973, during a particularly turbulent time for the order in general and Argentina in particular.

    In his remarks to the superiors, Francis flagged as a risk the "huge problem" of accepting into the seminary someone who has already been asked to leave another religious institute, and cited Pope Benedict XVI's tough line on priests who commit sexual abuse.

    "I am not speaking about people who recognize that they are sinners: we are all sinners, but we are all not corrupt," Francis said. "Sinners are accepted, but not people who are corrupt."

    The Civilta Cattolica report didn't elaborate on Francis' comments, or on how "huge" a problem this was. The priestly sexual abuse scandal has mostly concerned abusive priests who were transferred from parish to parish, not problem seminarians who were kicked out of one institute only to be picked up again by another.

    He told the superiors that conflicts within religious communities are inevitable but that problems between religious orders and bishops in dioceses where orders operate must be worked out. Francis tasked the Vatican's department for religious congregations to revise a document on the relationship between religious communities and dioceses.

    The interview was released on the same day that Francis celebrated Mass with some 350 of his Jesuit colleagues at the main Jesuit church in Rome to celebrate his recent decree naming the order's first recruit, Pierre Favre, a saint. During his homily, Francis told his fellow Jesuits to use mercy, not morality, when they preach.

    "The temptation, that maybe many of us experience, and many other people have comes to mind; that of linking the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitorial beatings of condemnation. No, the Gospel is preached gently, fraternally, with love," he said.


  36. Chicago archdiocese prepares for release of historical files on sex abuse

    Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter January 9, 2014

    To prepare for next week's release of historical files on 30 priests removed from ministry following allegations of sexual abuse, Chicago Cardinal Francis George has taken a defensive stance on his handling of the issue, asserting that the public narrative "has been largely fashioned by plaintiffs' lawyers and other activists."
    Reliance on these sources, George wrote, "deliberately distorts or ignores points that would mitigate the charge of Archdiocesan neglect."

    In a letter to be released in Chicago's 356 parishes Sunday, George says he wants to "put on the public record" several facts about his and the archdiocese's handling of accused priests.

    Among one of those facts is that when he was appointed Chicago's archbishop in 1997, he was unaware of the actions of one of the city's most notorious priest abusers, he writes.

    George states that when he took over the archdiocese from the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, he did not know of accusations against Daniel McCormack, an archdiocesan priest who pleaded guilty in 2007 of sexually abusing five young men and has been the subject since of dozens of civil suits leading to tens of millions of dollars in settlements.

    George writes that McCormack "had a reputation as a dedicated priest and an effective pastor."

    "He had been ordained by Cardinal Bernardin, who vetted his seminary record," George states.

    "[McCormack] was already, before I became Archbishop, appointed to a seminary faculty, a position of trust," George continues. "He was dedicated to ministry in African American parishes in poor neighborhoods. He was trusted and admired."

    George's letter was sent Monday to all priests in the archdiocese and to the editors of the bulletins of each of its parishes. It was accompanied by a cover letter, written by Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Francis Kane, that directs the priests and editors to either hand out the cardinal's letter after Mass this Sunday or print it with the weekly parish bulletin.

    NCR obtained copies of both documents.

    McCormack, who is currently confined to an Illinois state mental health facility pending judgment of whether he should be committed there indefinitely as a public danger, was first arrested by police and held without charge in September 2005. Abuse advocates have questioned whether the archdiocese, which kept McCormack in ministry until he was rearrested in early 2006, adequately evaluated the danger he posed to children.

    Since his 2007 guilty plea, there have been multiple civil settlements by victims claiming to have been abused by the priest, some known to have cost the archdiocese more the $10 million.

    The latest accusation, the first involving a man who was willing to make his name public, was made in December. Darryl McArthur, a 27-year-old African-American, alleged McCormack abused him in the mid-'90s at a parish on Chicago's South Side.

    Like other civil cases the archdiocese has settled, McArthur and the archdiocese are working toward a settlement through an advisory panel of former county judges and attorneys.

    According to the abuse-tracking website BishopAccountability.org, McCormack has at least 23 known accusers.

    George's naming of Bernardin in his letter is unusual in a church system where priests and bishops are usually deferential to one another and careful not to blame others by name.

    George, who celebrated 50 years of priesthood in December, is also likely to be replaced as Chicago's archbishop by Pope Francis sometime soon. On Jan. 16, the cardinal turns 77 years of age, two years past the normal retirement age of 75 for bishops.

    continued below

  37. The Chicago archdiocese cover letter does not state the day the priest files will be made public or what they will contain. Catholic News Service reports that the release is expected around Jan. 15.

    George's letter also emphasizes, in Italic and underlined letters, that the files do not concern new cases of abuse, but only those that "took place years ago and many of the priests involved are dead."

    "It is important for you and your people to be prepared for this event since it will place the Archdiocese in the spotlight," the cover letter tells the archdiocesan priests and parish bulletin editors. "It is very important for your people, so please be sure it is available."

    George's letter states that the incidents the new files cover "happened decades ago, perpetrated by priests whom neither I nor many younger clergy have ever met or talked to."

    He writes that the "general discipline of the clergy weakened during the years when sex abuse was most prevalent, during the 1970's and 1980's."

    "Chicago followed the now well-known national trends," he continues. "In the late eighties, however, the Archdiocese began to put its house in some order and started, sometimes hesitantly, to follow the path of accountability and transparency."

    "Through the nineties, Archdiocesan policy still allowed some perpetrators a restricted form of ministry, with monitoring, that kept them from regular contact with minors," he states.

    "In 2002, the National Bishops' Conference decided that zero tolerance was the only certain means to be sure children would not be molested, and I removed from all public ministry those who had been allowed some pastoral work under the rules in effect under my predecessor," he states.

    "So far as can be known from all our records, there is no priest in public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago who has been found to have sexually abused a child, no matter when the abuse took place," he continues.

    The cardinal also states that "accountability to the civil authorities constitutionally responsible for the protection of children is part of the life of the Church here."

    "The names of priests known to have abused a minor are published on the Archdiocesan website, and the Archdiocese will offer more information in the future," he states. "But publishing for all to read the actual records of these crimes raises transparency to a new level. It will be helpful, we pray, for some, but painful for many."

    Turning to McCormack's case, George says the "first association" he had of the priest with sexual abuse was when he was first arrested in September 2005.

    While he says the archdiocese began to investigate the case then, he also says "the investigation was hampered because the various offices involved did not consistently share what they knew with each other or with me."

    "From the time he was arrested and released to the time that he was arrested a second time and eventually pled guilty, no one involved in investigating the allegation, not even the review board that struggled with their justified concerns, told me they thought he was guilty," George states.

    "The response, in retrospect, was not always adequate to all the facts, but a mistake is not a cover up," he says.

    The cardinal also states that funding for the settlements of sexual abuse victims "comes from a stream of revenue entirely separate from regular donations or investments," saying the archdiocese is using sale of undeveloped properties to fund the settlements.

    "Once again, I apologize to all those who have been harmed by these crimes and this scandal, the victims themselves, most certainly, but also rank and file Catholics who have been shamed by the actions of some priests and bishops," he concludes.


  38. The Fight to Reveal Abuses by Catholic Priests

    By CLYDE HABERMAN, New York Times March 30, 2014

    Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the former Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, is in no way the principal face of the sexual abuse scandals that have buffeted the church and its priesthood almost without pause for three decades. But he embodies a certain mind-set among some in the highest clerical ranks. It is an attitude that has led critics, who of late include the authors of a scathing United Nations committee report, to wonder about the depth of the church’s commitment to atone for past predations and to ensure that those sins of the fathers are visited on no one else.

    In 2002, with the scandal in crescendo and the American Catholic Church knocked back on its heels, Cardinal Egan reacted with obvious ambivalence to accounts of priestly abuses that occurred in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., which he had led before moving to New York. “If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry,” he said in a letter to parishioners.

    The conditional nature of the apology, a style favored by innumerable politicians caught with hands in the till, was not lost on many listeners. Nor was the cardinal’s use of “mistakes” to describe a pattern routinely described by district attorneys as a cover-up. As if that were not enough, the reluctant penitent turned thoroughly unrepentant a decade later. By then retired, he withdrew his apology. “I never should have said that,” the cardinal told Connecticut magazine in 2012. “I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

    That sort of unyielding stance amid institutional promises of change continues to bedevil the American church, the Holy See in Rome and, no doubt, many among the faithful. This issue shapes the latest installment of Retro Report, a weekly series of documentary videos, with this one reaching back to the mid-1980s to explore clergymen who prey.

    By now, the story is amply familiar. Thousands of wayward clerics have been found to have sexually abused and emotionally scarred many more thousands of boys and girls. It is, too, a story of the church hierarchy as enabler: bishops who ignored the criminality, or evaded public exposure by shuffling abusers from parish to parish. The scandals have cost the church dearly, both in lost moral suasion and in its coffers. According to a monitoring group called BishopAccountability.org, United States dioceses and their insurers have had to pay out more than $3 billion, most of that money going to victims.

    Nor is this a uniquely American peril. Similar scandals have erupted in Europe, Latin America, Canada and Australia. The Vatican, struggling to show it is far from indifferent to the problem, confirmed in January that it had defrocked 384 priests worldwide in 2011 and 2012. That was an unusually large number, though some cases may have been decades old.

    continued below

  39. For sure, sexual maltreatment of children and cover-up are not Catholic monopolies. Charges have been brought against predatory rabbis in New York and elsewhere. In the Hasidic world, a code of silence governs much of life in this regard. Those who break it, by taking allegations to the civil authorities, find themselves ostracized. The existence of a website like StopBaptistPredators.org points to problems in other denominations. As for secular institutions, who could be unaware of abuses within the Boy Scouts of America and at Penn State?

    But the Catholic Church has a hierarchical structure unlike any other, not to mention two millenniums of tradition and a claim to universality. It also has a history of moving glacially on a broad range of matters. (It took 359 years, after all, for the Vatican to acknowledge that it was wrong to have condemned Galileo in 1633 for proving that the earth orbited the sun.)

    Then again, the church in this country has plenty of concerns other than sexual misconduct. There are more American Catholics than ever — about 67 million, says the Official Catholic Directory — but for many of them, unquestioning adherence to doctrine is in the rearview mirror. Only one in four attends weekly Mass, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

    The number of American priests, 39,600 last year, is two-thirds what it was at the time of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. Ordinations of new priests, 511 in 2013, amount to barely half the total of five decades ago. The painful closing of Catholic schools by financially burdened dioceses has become routine. There are bright spots: the Georgetown researchers say that Catholic seminary enrollment rose in 2013 to 3,694, the highest level in years. Still, that is less than half what it was 50 years ago.

    But it is the abuse scandals that loom ever-large. In early February, the report by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sternly took the Vatican to task for, in the panel’s view, not having acknowledged the extent of past criminality and not doing enough to protect today’s children. The relatively new pope, Francis, recognizes the problem. He has spoken about the horrors of pedophilia. This month, he named four women and four men to a special commission that is supposed to advise him on how to proceed in cleansing this enduring stain. Among the appointees was an Irish activist on this issue, Marie Collins, who as a girl in the 1960s was abused by a priest.

    Yet as popular as Pope Francis is, he has left some skeptics wondering where his heart lies. He did not endear himself with support groups for abuse victims when, in an interview with two newspapers in early March, he said of the scandal: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to have been attacked.”

    To some ears, those remarks sounded almost Egan-like in defensiveness.


  40. At UN Vatican sex abuse compared with torture

    By Associated Press, May 4, 2014

    GENEVA — A U.N. committee compared the Vatican’s handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal with torture Monday, raising the possibility that its failure to investigate clergy and their superiors could have broader legal implications.

    But the Vatican’s top envoy in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, claimed that the Holy See was getting its house in order after a decade-long effort to deal with a global priest sex abuse scandal.

    “There has been, in several documentable areas, stabilization and even a decline of cases in pedophilia,” he told a committee of experts in charge of the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the Vatican ratified in 2002.

    At the Holy See’s first appearance before the committee, experts mainly peppered the Vatican with tough questions to be answered Tuesday. For instance, they asked why the report on its implementation of the treaty was almost a decade late, and why the Vatican believes its responsibility for protecting against torture only applies within tiny Vatican City, a nation of less than 1,000 inhabitants.

    “I wonder if you could tell us how you insure that the criminal prohibition against torture in Vatican City covers all individuals for whom the Holy See has jurisdiction,” asked committee member Felice Gaer.

    Experts said a finding by the committee that the systematic abuse amounted to torture could have drastic legal implications for the church as it continues to battle civil litigation around the world resulting from the decades-long scandal that saw tens of thousands of children raped and molested by priests.

    Katherine Gallagher, a human rights attorney for the New York-based nonprofit legal group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, said such a finding could open the floodgates to abuse lawsuits dating back decades because there are no statutes of limitations on torture cases. Gallagher, whose group represents Vatican sex scandal victims, said rape can legally constitute a form of torture because of the elements of intimidation, coercion, and exploitation of power.

    “The torture committee’s questions really were about sexual violence and rape, and they made it clear that these acts fall within the definition of torture and the Vatican’s obligations under the torture convention,” she said after the hearing.

    “A recognition by the torture committee that this is one of the most significant crimes could really open up a new level of prosecutions and accountability,” she added.

    Pope Francis has said he takes personal responsibility for the “evil” of clergy sex abuse, and has sought forgiveness from victims. He has insisted that the church must be even bolder in its efforts to protect children.

    On Saturday, members of the Pope’s sexual abuse advisory board said they will develop “clear and effective” protocols to hold bishops and other church authorities accountable if they fail to report suspected abuse or protect children from pedophile priests.

    Francis announced the creation of the commission last December and named its members in March after coming under initial criticism for having ignored the sex abuse issue.

    The U.N. committee, which is composed of independent experts, will issue its final observations and recommendations May 23.

    In January, a U.N. committee that monitors a key treaty on children’s rights accused the Holy See of systematically placing its own interests over those of victims. That committee rejected the Vatican’s argument that it had limited geographical responsibility.

    Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.


  41. Facing fresh UN grilling, Vatican envoy pushes back

    By John L. Allen Jr. | BOSTON GLOBE STAFF MAY 03, 2014

    Ahead of what’s likely to be another grilling tomorrow by United Nations officials over child sexual abuse, as well as matters such as abortion and homosexuality, the Vatican’s senior envoy in Geneva is projecting bravado.

    “We can take a few knocks, especially for the sake of people’s welfare,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, an Italian prelate.

    Tomasi spoke to the Globe ahead of an appearance in Geneva Monday before the UN’s Committee against Torture, part of a hearing to monitor implementation of a 1984 antitorture pact signed by 155 nations, among them the Holy See.

    It comes on the heels of a similar date in January with the Committee for the Rights of the Child, which ended with a scathing report blasting the Vatican for fostering “impunity” for abusive clergy and pointedly urged that the church change its teachings on matters such as abortion, contraception, and gay marriage.

    This time around, Tomasi seems determined to land a few punches, as well as taking them.

    In his Globe interview, Tomasi vigorously defended the church’s efforts to turn a corner in the fight against child abuse and charged that some seem deliberately “deaf and blind” to the progress made. He also warned that if the UN committee’s conclusions appear skewed by ideological bias, such as styling opposition to gay marriage as “psychological torture,” it could damage the body’s credibility.

    Tomasi said that while the Vatican welcomes constructive criticism on the abuse scandals, that’s different from “bureaucrats wedded to a particular ideological cause” taking potshots. He also said the Vatican remains committed to the United Nations as a forum for promoting peace and development, complaining that those aims are frustrated when components of the system seem determined to pick fights.

    Knowing what’s coming on Monday, the Vatican and its allies are pushing back.

    Two Vatican-friendly NGOs will testify before the Committee against Torture, to defend the church’s recent record on abuse prevention and to insist that a UN body has no business poking its nose into a religious group’s teachings. The Vatican’s mission in Geneva has circulated a seven-page response to six frequent accusations leveled against the church vis-à-vis the abuse scandals.

    In essence, they appear set to make three basic arguments:

    Despite a checkered history on the abuse scandals, today the Vatican and the broader church are fully committed to the protection of children and vulnerable adults. Sexual abuse is hardly, they insist, a problem only in the Catholic Church, and “polemics” get in the way of a concerted effort to do something about it.

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  42. The experts on these panels are obligated to focus on matters spelled out in the treaties whose implementation they monitor, and stretching their mandate to attack a church for its teaching amounts to illegitimate “mission creep” as well as a violation of religious freedom.

    These experts don’t represent anyone but themselves, and thus it’s not accurate to say that “the UN” is blasting the church. Moreover, they charge, members of these panels are often identified with cultural positions at odds with the Catholic Church, raising questions about their objectivity.

    In addition, the Vatican and its friends undoubtedly will point to Pope Francis’s expressions of resolve in confronting the abuse scandals, especially his creation of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

    With Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of clerical abuse, among the members, the commission wrapped up its first three-day meeting Saturday. In a Rome press conference afterward, O’Malley said the principle of “the best interests of a child or vulnerable adult” will drive its work and that one focus will be accountability in the church “regardless of status.”

    That was probably a reference to a common complaint among critics of the church’s response to the crisis, which is that Catholicism now has “zero tolerance” for clergy who abuse but not equally stern accountability for bishops who cover it up.

    “We won’t deal with individual cases of abuse,” O’Malley said, “but we can make recommendations on policies for ensuring accountability and best practices.”

    Collins, the lone abuse survivor in the group, was asked about Monday’s UN hearing. She said that sexual abuse is “completely different” from state-sponsored torture and that she came away from the initial meeting of the papal commission with a “very positive feeling.”

    Pope Francis said Mass for commission members Friday. Collins told reporters that the pope was right when he said recently that the Catholic Church has done more to fight abuse than other institutions, but said that’s not true everywhere and that a number of bishops still think clerical abuse “could not happen in their country.”

    It remains to be seen if such efforts to project a commitment to reform and to hear the voice of victims will have any impact on the final conclusions of the UN’s Committee against Torture. In the meantime, Tomasi claimed that the last knock he took from a UN panel actually had some positive fallout.

    “My service at the UN has become more visible,” he said. “It was kind of a backhanded compliment, though not one I’d want very often.”

    Interview with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi

    The Globe’s interview with Tomasi expanded on these topics.

    Read the interview with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a Vatican envoy to the United Nations; on exorcism and left v. right; and Pope Francis on ecology at:


  43. Cardinal Sean O Malley on sexual abuse crisis: ‘There is so much denial’

    by Josephine McKenna | Religion News Service May 3, 2014

    VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Roman Catholic Church failed to recognize the worldwide reach of clerical sexual abuse, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said Saturday (May 3) at a press conference.

    “Many don’t see it as a problem of the universal church,” said O’Malley who heads the Vatican’s new commission for the protection of minors.

    “In many people’s minds it is an American problem, an Irish problem or a German problem,” he said. “The church has to face it is everywhere in the world. There is so much denial. The church has to respond to make the church safe for children.”

    O’Malley, whose Boston archdiocese was at the center of a wave of sex scandals that rocked the church a decade ago, addressed the media after the panel’s eight members held its first meeting in Rome.

    Pope Francis announced the creation of the new committee in March. It includes Irish abuse victim and campaigner Marie Collins and two psychiatrists. But the committee is expected to expand to represent every continent around the world.

    “We wish to express our heartfelt solidarity with all victims/survivors of sexual abuse as children and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley read from a prepared statement.

    “We will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of ‘best practices’ for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation and responses to abuse.”

    Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, said she, too, had been “shocked” by the denial she had witnessed among some Catholic bishops about the extent of clerical sexual abuse.

    “…They truly believed it only happened in certain countries,” she said.

    The committee met as the Vatican is about to face fresh scrutiny from a United Nations panel on torture in Geneva this week.

    In February, a U.N. committee on the rights of the child denounced the Vatican for adopting policies that allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children and called for known and suspected abusers to be immediately removed.

    Francis strongly rejected the report’s findings, saying that no other organization had done more to fight pedophilia and the church had acted with “transparency and responsibility.”

    The pope recently said he took personal responsibility for the “evil” of clerical sex abuse, sought forgiveness from victims and said the church must do more to protect children.

    Collins said that while she had “difficulty” with the pope’s claims that the church had done more than any other institution to act on abuse, she said she believed the church was moving forward, but stressed that the effort was still in its “early days.”


  44. Abuse Victims Leader: Popes Meeting A Gesture

    by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NPR May 27, 2014

    Pope Francis says his plan to meet with a group of sex abuse victims is part of an effort to move forward with "zero tolerance" in confronting and preventing clergy abuse. But the head of a U.S. victims' group has dismissed the upcoming session as a meaningless gesture.

    The meeting with a half-dozen victims, announced Monday, is being organized by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston. It will mark the first such encounter for the pope, who has been criticized by victims for not expressing personal solidarity with them when he has reached out to other people who suffer.

    "On this issue we must go forward, forward. Zero tolerance," Francis said, calling abuse of children an "ugly" crime that betrays God. He said the meeting and a Mass at the Vatican hotel where he lives would take place early next month.

    The Archdiocese of Boston said in a statement that the details of the meeting haven't been finalized yet, and that O'Malley "looks forward to supporting this effort by Pope Francis in whatever manner will be most helpful." The archdiocese said the meeting was expected to take place "in the coming months."

    O'Malley was instrumental in setting up a meeting six years ago between clergy sex-abuse victims and Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. In April 2008, Benedict and O'Malley met for about 25 minutes with about a half-dozen victims, all adults from O'Malley's archdiocese who had been molested when they were minors.

    David Clohessy, executive director of the main U.S. victims' group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said Pope Francis has shown himself to be capable of making real change in other areas such as church governance and finance but hasn't done so in dealing with sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

    "The simple truth is this is another gesture, another public relations coup, another nice bit of symbolism that will leave no child better off and bring no real reform to a continuing, scandal-ridden church hierarchy," he said.

    Clohessy said the meeting "is just utterly, utterly meaningless."

    But a lawyer who represents clergy abuse victims said he hoped the meeting would be "substantive and meaningful" rather than for cosmetic purposes.

    Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said "meeting directly with victims is the most powerful tool that the pope can use in understanding the ugliness and horror of clergy sexual abuse and why it must be stopped or prevented." He added that there should be more than one such meeting.

    The pope also revealed that three bishops are currently under investigation by the Vatican for abuse-related reasons, though it wasn't clear if they were accused of committing abuse itself or of having covered it up.

    "There are no privileges," Francis told reporters en route back to Rome from Jerusalem.

    Winfield reported from aboard the papal airplane, and Hajela reported from New York. Associated Press writer Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia contributed to this report.


  45. Watchdog group alleges Pope Francis covered up sex abuse

    by BY ERIC MORALES, DigitalJournal.com July 7, 2014

    Buenos Aires - Pope Francis is accused of looking the other way when sex abuse occurred while he was still the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

    Pope Francis is just one year into his papacy and is considered by many as a champion of the poor, and the marginalized and on a day when the Bishop of Rome meets with victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, a report by Bishop Accountability could not have come at a worse time.

    Jorge Mario Bergoglio now known to the world as Pope Francis served as archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 until his election as pope last year, and before that as a bishop in Buenos Aires and Auca from 1992 until 1997. During that time, according to Cardinal Bergoglio's conversations with Argentine Rabbi and friend Abraham Skorka, his diocese didn't have to confront child sex abuse.

    "In my diocese it never happened to me, but a bishop called me once by phone to ask me what to do in a situation like this and I told him to take away the priest’s faculties, not to permit him to exercise his priestly ministry again, and to initiate a canonical trial."
    However, others would strongly disagree, according to BishopAccountability.org over 100 priests in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires offended against children, the watchdog organization goes on to allege in its report that at least a dozen of these such cases were known to Bergoglio.

    However, others would strongly disagree, according to BishopAccountability.org over 100 priests in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires offended against children, the watchdog organization goes on to allege in its report that at least a dozen of these such cases were known to Bergoglio.

    Five cases of note are pointed out by Bishop Accountability that most certainly were known to Archbishop Bergoglio. In 2009, Fr. Julio César Grassi a priest in the suffragan diocese of Morón was convicted of molesting three young boys at a home for street children run by the Fundacion Felices los Niños (the Happy Children Foundation) which Grassi founded in 1993. As a suffragan diocese Bergoglio had limited authority in Morón, he could only step in at the sign of neglect by church authorities according to Canon Law.
    Grassi was convicted of 32 counts of sexual abuse by one of the longest trials in Argentinian history. Throughout his trial Grassi boasted of the support he had of numerous bishops and in particular the support of Cardinal Bergoglio.

    (Cardinal Bergoglio has) never let go of my hand and is always at my side.” Grassi said.

    As President of the Argentine Bishops' Conference Bergoglio approved the hiring of leading defense lawyer and scholar, Marcelo Sancinetti to conduct a private investigation into Grassi's conviction. The investigation concluded that Grassi was innocent of all the charges.

    "(Justice will determine) Grassi's innocence although there is a media campaign against him, a condemnation in the media." Cardinal Bergoglio told Veintitres magazine in 2006.

    In 2003 Father Rubén Pardo, a Catholic priest in Berazategui was found to be hiding from Argentine law enforcement in a Buenos Aires vicarage, teaching at a Flores neighborhood school and hearing confessions. Just a year prior Pardo had admitted to Monsignor Luis Stöckler to the rape of 15-year-old Gabriel Ferrini in a 'moment of weakness.' Pardo was instructed by an ecclesiastical court to leave the jurisdiction of his parish, refrain from saying mass and not to speak about the matter either publicly or in private. Two years after a criminal complaint was filed against him Pardo died of AIDS.

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  46. Cardinal Bergoglio served as a moderator in the ecclesiastical tribunal hearing in which the victim Ferrini was allegedly asked 'lascivious' questions concerning his sexuallity however Bergoglio was not present during the hearing.

    Sebastián Cuattromo reported to the Vicar of the Flores district Father Mario Poli that when he was 13-years-old Brother Fernando Enrique Picciochi of the Society of Mary, molested him twice in 1989 and 1990, as well as another boy who was in the 7th grade.
    Picciochi fled Argentina and was arrested in 2007. Three years later he was extradited from Texas back to Argentina where in 2012 he was sentenced to 12-years in prison for sexually assaulting five children. Cuattromo alleges that Father Poli did nothing about his accusations against Picciochi.

    In 2013, Pope Francis appointed Poli as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

    Father Mario Napoleon Sasso was diagnosed as a pedophile at a church-run treatment center in 2001. The following year Sasso was assigned to the San Miguel de La Lonja parish in the Zárate-Campana diocese, the parish also operated a community soup kitchen. It is there that between 2002 and 2003 Sasso is accused of raping five girls in his bedroom at the soup kitchen. Sasso fled Argentina with the alleged help of fellow officials in his parish. Sasso was arrested in 2006 after re entering the country from Paraguay to renew his passport. As his case languished in the courts victims families appealed to Cardinal Bergoglio, receiving no response.

    At the Instituto Monseñor Stillo, a Catholic school in Flores Rev. Carlos Maria Gauna was accused in a criminal complaint of groping two teenage girls. In 2001 Archbishop Bergoglio stated he would personally 'resolve the priest's situation. ' According to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires' website is an active deacon and chaplain at a hospital.

    At a time when many Bishops in the United States and throughout the world were taking proactive steps against child sex abuse in the Catholic church, Bergoglio issued no apologies during his time as archbishop, released no documents, and never listed any priests accused of abuse, or outlined any policy concerning the handling of abuse claims.

    Today as Pope Francis, Bergoglio met with six victims of abuse, comparing the abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests to the performing of a satanic black mass.

    “Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you,” Francis said during his homily, according to a text released by the Vatican. “And I humbly ask forgiveness I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”


  47. Trailer released for ‘Spotlight,’ film chronicling Boston Globe’s sex abuse investigation

    By Michael O'Loughlin, Crux National Reporter July 29, 2015

    The first trailer for “Spotlight,” the film starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams chronicling The Boston Globe’s investigation of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, was released Wednesday.

    Reporting by the Globe’s Spotlight team eventually led to the resignation of the once-powerful Cardinal Bernard Law, former archbishop of Boston. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for its coverage.

    A decade earlier, when the paper reported on abuse allegations against the Rev. James R. Porter — accused of molesting up to 100 children in the 1960s — Law famously condemned the paper.

    “St. Paul spoke of the immeasurable power at work in those who believe. . . . We call down God’s power on our business leaders, and political leaders and community leaders. By all means we call down God’s power on the media, particularly the Globe,” Law said in 1992.

    The Globe’s reporting in the early 2000s revealed that rather than report priests accused of sexual assault to police, the Catholic hierarchy in Boston shuffled offenders from parish to parish, and paid settlements to victims with the requirement that they stay silent. That pattern of abuse and cover-up was eventually discovered to be the norm in several American dioceses and in other places around the world.

    Law, who now lives in Rome, was never charged with criminal misconduct, and remains the highest-ranking Church authority to resign over the scandal. In recent years, the Vatican has adopted tougher standards for bishops. One of the chief proponents of such measures has been Law’s successor in Boston and a top advisor to Pope Francis, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

    A little more than a decade after uncovering the sex abuse scandals, the group that owns the newspaper, Boston Globe Media Partners, launched Crux, a website devoted to covering the Catholic Church.

    The movie, which will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, followed by a showing at the Toronto Film Festival, hits a limited number of theaters Nov. 6, followed by a wider release Nov. 20. Directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy, the film also features Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci.


  48. The Pope is Dishonest About Zero Tolerance for Child Sex Abuse

    Pam Spees of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Barbara Blaine of SNAP say the Catholic Church and Pope Francis are not serious about addressing the church's on-going struggles with child sexual abuse

    The Real News Network September 24, 2015

    JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I'm Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

    With Pope Francis now visiting the United States, groups working domestically and in the region on issues related to the Catholic church are seeking greater attention for their causes. Among them are of course those still wanting to ensure that the church be held accountable for its support in defense of members who have both in the past and still today sexually abused children. While the pope has publicly condemned these acts and reconfirmed his support for the church's zero tolerance policy, there are those who want to remind him and others that the atrocities are far from over.

    To help us better understand this and related issues are our next two guests. Barbara Blaine is the founder and president of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. A survivor of clergy abuse herself, Blaine works tirelessly to protect the innocence and safety of children and vulnerable adults by exposing coverup in the church. Also joining us is Pam Spees, senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she has represented the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests at the International Criminal Court in the Hague and the United Nations in Geneva. Welcome to you both, to the Real News Network.

    BARBARA BLAINE: Thank you.

    PAM SPEES: Thanks.

    BALL: Barbara, let me start with you, if I can. How do you assess Pope Francis' response to this issue of child abuse in the church? We have heard of his establishing a tribunal to deal with church abuses, and of course his claim of zero tolerance. Is he an advance, as many think or claim, and is there hope behind his position regarding sexual abuse in the church?

    BLAINE: Well, thanks for having me. I'm happy to be with you today. I'm not so sure that Pope Francis has actually made a zero tolerance policy. I know that's the policy here in the United States, the U.S. bishops have adopted that. But it's my understanding that the U.S. is the only country that actually operates that way. And I think that for us as victims, what we are looking for is concrete action on the part of the pope. We just don't want any more children to suffer as we did. And we believe that children remain at risk today, so we think that Pope Francis should clearly state that all sexual perpetrators have to be removed from the priesthood. They shouldn't get to keep their jobs, and yet they do.

    BALL: Pam, is it not true, as has been reported recently in the Boston Globe, that despite the zero tolerance policy something similar to what I think Barbara was just alluding to, that the church requires that first the secular, legal world must generate the cause for concern before the church will involve itself? And even then when it does, often the punishment is little more than a warning. Does that comport with what you understand to be the case?

    SPEES: Often I believe that is the case. And it's, you know, we have seen a number of examples of that. I would say that even though there is a zero tolerance policy on paper here in the U.S. we do have examples where when certain diocese have been certified by their review boards as having been, as functioning and in compliance with that policy, investigators have still found credibly accused priests to be actively serving.

    continued below

  49. One clear example of that is the archdiocese of Philadelphia, where a grand jury looked into the matter after the archdiocese had been certified as functioning properly. They had found 37 credibly accused priests still functioning. So you know, it's not to say that the problem is solved here in the U.S., it's still--there are still a lot of underlying policies and practices that are still very problematic.

    BALL: Could you both take a shot at briefly explaining the procedures here or the process, or even the hierarchy? We understand the pope obviously is at the top of the chain here, but also if I understand correctly, bishops have a great deal of autonomy in their region of leadership. And I'm wondering, you know, what exactly the pope can do to assure this zero tolerance policy is adhered to, or to bring those who are accused of these atrocities to “justice”. What exactly is the process or procedure here? Barbara, I'll start with you.

    BLAINE: Well, I think that first of all, we should understand that the “tribunal” that the pope said he will set up has not been set up yet. He just says it's going to be set up. But we don't believe that he needs a tribunal. He is the pope, after all. He can fire any bishop he wants at any time. And we think that if he really wanted to protect children he would be firing some of those bishops who had transferred perpetrator priests, or covered up, or concealed information about crimes from police.

    So our concern is that children remain at risk. We think Pope Francis should open all his files and turn them over to the police, and he should order all the bishops to do likewise. And he should punish the bishops, and we should post the identities of these perpetrators on websites so that parents and employers can know to keep children away from them.

    BALL: Pam, I ask you the same question.

    SPEES: Well in terms of the procedure, it's just not true to say that the bishops have a lot of autonomy and they're operating sort of independently of Vatican instructions and guidelines. We saw under Pope Benedict that the process was streamlined even more than it had been before, where all allegations of abuse were supposed to go from the diocese and archdiocese and religious orders to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is one of the congregations operating in the Vatican in Rome. So all of those allegations were supposed to be directed directly back to Rome. And Rome was exercising oversight over the handling of these cases.

    And we've seen in, for instance, in documents that have come through in discovery in several cases here in the U.S., they've learned that bishops have often sought guidance from those in Rome as to how to handle certain accused priests. And often they were pleading to be able to remove these priests from the priesthood, and there was delay and often, you know, there were instances even when Joseph Ratzinger, when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was declining those requests.

    So it's just not true that the Vatican doesn't exercise control over this issue. And many others. Very tight control over bishops. For instance, you will see the swift removal of a bishop who speaks out on certain issues or goes astray of certain doctrine. But on this issue what we've seen repeatedly is that for instance, in the case of Cardinal Mahony in the Los Angeles archdiocese, repeated instances of very elaborate efforts to shield accused priests. This is known. And yet Cardinal Mahony is alongside Pope Francis now. And he's still a cardinal. So it's just--it's not true. The process is very clear.

    And I think it speaks to this issue of the tribunal that was set up, because there were mixed messages going from the Vatican to bishops. If you're a bishop, and the mid-2000s there was a letter that was sent from a higher-ranking official in Rome to the bishops ...

  50. ...basically praising a bishop in France for having protected and having refused to cooperating with the court, cooperate with civil authorities, and report a priest who had admitted, basically, to sexually assaulting at least ten boys in that diocese. And what the Congregation for the Clergy said is you did the right thing, and you're to be congratulated, and we're going to share this letter with bishops around the world so they know how to act.

    So it's not true that bishops are just acting on their own and the Vatican, those in the Vatican have clean hands in this. They're directing policy for--they've been directing policy. And you can set up a bishops' tribunal, but what do we do about the accountability for those within the Vatican?

    BALL: Well, so just, Pam, staying with you and to wrap up here, what are each of your demands going forward? And what do you each expect as restitution from the church?

    SPEES: Well, I think actually Barbara can speak to that with the voice of survivors who have been working on this for over two decades. But first of all, let's start with the UN's recommendations. The Vatican as a state is a party to the treaties, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the convention against torture. For the first time last year they were called to answer questions about their handling of this matter. And those committees have asked for data and information, and they've issued a series of recommendations about the kind of accountability that's needed.

    And what we've seen, and this is in stark contrast to the public messaging on this from Pope Francis and others in Rome, what they have submitted to those committees on paper is that they basically don't have to cooperate. They have not, particularly with the committee against torture, they basically told them we're not responsible for anything that happens beyond Vatican walls. And we don't think that these issues of rape and sexual violence rise to the level of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, so we're not even going to answer those questions.

    So that's very telling. And you can start with the recommendations these UN committees have made.

    BALL: Barbara, anything to add to that?

    BLAINE: I think that it's interesting because one of the first recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child was that the Vatican officials should remove the known perpetrators from ministry. So in the investigation that the independent body at the United Nations did, they found perpetrators were still working in ministry. And so that's why when you say that the pope is claiming that there's a zero tolerance policy it's just not true. I don't know whether it's true that he's really claiming that zero tolerance for the whole world, because it was my understanding that that didn't go beyond the U.S., but even so.

    What should happen is that those who abuse children should be removed from the priesthood. And when you ask what we as victims want, you know, nothing can give us back our innocence and our childhood that was taken from us. We can't go back and grow up over again. But it would mean the world to us to know that maybe the other 12 and 13-year-olds are not getting raped like we were when we were children. And that's the most important thing for us as victims.

    BALL: Well, Barbara Blaine and Pam Spees, thank you very much for joining us here at the Real News Network.

    SPEES: Thank you.

    BLAINE: Thank you.

    BALL: And thank you for joining us here as well. For all involved I'm Jared Ball again here in Baltimore saying as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you're willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we'll catch you in the whirlwind.

    watch the video of this interview at:


  51. UN Human Rights Council: EHF criticise Catholic Church over failure to address child sex abuse

    European Humanist Federation September 22, 2015

    During the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the European Humanist Federation (EHF) and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) have issued a joint written statement and an oral statement raising the Holy See’s (HS) continued failure to protect the rights of the child.

    Last year, following years of National Secular Society (EHF member) campaigning to bring the Catholic Church to account for abuse against minors, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a scathing report accusing the Vatican of putting the reputation and interests of the Holy See above the interests of children.

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed “deep concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic Church operating under the authority of the HS” and said it was “gravely concerned that the HS has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, nor taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have enabled the continuation of sexual abuse by clerics and impunity for the perpetrators.”

    In light of the Holy See’s refusal to engage with the serious criticisms presented to it, IHEU and the EHF have called on the Human Rights Council to press the Holy See to

    “- accept its Convention obligation to do everything in its power to enforce the Convention worldwide;

    “- make all information on Child Abuse, including suspected perpetrators and facilitators, held by the Church worldwide (including under the auspices of the VCS) available to relevant law enforcement authorities;

    “- instruct the Church worldwide to report suspected perpetrators and facilitators to national law enforcement authorities even when not required to do so by local law;

    “- instruct the Church worldwide, and its lawyers and insurers, to fairly and expeditiously settle claims and cases against the Church, including for compensation.”

    The statement, prepared by the National Secular Society (UK), an affiliate of both IHEU and EHF, accuses the Vatican of “almost entirely ignoring the concluding recommendations of the Committee [on the Rights of the Child]”.

    For more information see:

    Sexual violence against minors: The Holy See’s failure to protect the rights of the child


  52. God weeps says Pope Francis calling for accountability on sex abuse crimes

    David Gibson | Religion News Service September 27, 2015

    PHILADELPHIA (RNS) Pope Francis began the final day of his U.S. visit by meeting privately with five adults abused as children by clergy, teachers or family members, telling them they should expect the church to look after them and vowing “the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all,” including bishops.

    “For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears and believes you,” he told the three women and two men — who he called “survivors” — at the private meeting at a seminary here on Sunday morning (Sept. 27).

    A leading victims’ advocacy group in the U.S. quickly dismissed the meeting as another “feel good, do nothing” papal meeting with survivors. This is the second time Francis has met with victims; the first was in the Vatican in July last year.

    According to the Vatican’s account of the meeting, Francis expressed “deep regret” that some bishops shielded abusive priests, and added: “I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”

    The pope praised the witness of the victims, who were not identified, and said their presence was “so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced.”

    In later remarks to a group of bishops, he called the victims “heralds of hope and ministers of mercy” — mercy being a key theme of Francis’ efforts to make the church more open and inclusive.

    “I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps,” Francis told the bishops in an unscripted start to his speech to them Sunday morning.

    Concluding his brief remarks in English to the survivors, the pontiff compared the church to the disciples who asked Jesus to stay with them, and he said: “Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the church.”

    Francis, a native of Argentina, also made similar remarks in his native Spanish, which may be an indication that some of the victims were Latinos.

    In the weeks leading up to this U.S. trip, church officials said Francis wanted to meet with victims on this visit. But many victims’ groups and their allies denounced the prospect of such a meeting as a “publicity stunt” that would have little impact on church policy or on protecting children.

    There were some indications that Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a close adviser to the pope and point man on the church’s increasingly vigorous response to the abuse crisis, was having difficulty finding U.S. victims who would meet with the pope.

    It was notable that not all the victims were abused by clergy, and that some were assaulted by teachers or family members. Church officials said Sunday that the composition of the group of victims — two or three of the five were clergy victims — was also a sign that the Catholic Church wants to focus on the prevalence of abuse in other areas beyond religious groups.

    Francis, accompanied by O’Malley and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, greeted each victim, plus a relative or support person who was with them, and prayed with them individually. The entire encounter lasted about a half an hour.

    continued below

  53. David Clohessy director of SNAP the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had been critical of the proposed meeting and what he heard of Sunday morning’s encounter did not change his mind.

    “Is a child anywhere on earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No,” Clohessy said in a statement. “A smart public relations move. That’s what this meeting is. Nothing more.”

    Francis’ predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, met five times with victims during his eight years as pope, including a meeting during his 2008 visit to the U.S., which in many ways was the epicenter of a scandal that has spread across the globe.

    While Benedict, who initially downplayed the extent of the scandal, was credited for eventually doing more on the crisis than the late John Paul II, there was still a clamor for the Vatican to take the further step of holding bishops accountable.

    After a slow start responding to the crisis following his March 2013 election, Francis has taken significant new steps, creating a Vatican commission to propose global policies for the church and naming two victims along with lay experts and church officials in equal numbers.

    Marie Collins of Ireland, a victim who is on the commission, wrote on Twitter after reading about Sunday’s meeting that “like most survivors it is the actions following the words I feel are most important.”

    In June, Francis also announced that he was creating the first-ever system for judging, and possibly deposing, bishops who fail to protect children from abusive clerics. In separate moves, the pope also forced the resignation of two U.S. bishops who had failed to discipline predator priests.

    “(W)e need to see the new tribunal up and running … before anyone can be sure how things will develop as we go forward,” Collins wrote.

    In other respects, Francis’ record remains open to criticism.

    He sparked a furor in Chile when he named a bishop there who many believe had knowledge of a priest who abused children, and even his statements on this visit — to bishops in one case and priests in another — lamented the scandal while praising all that the U.S. church has done already to combat it.

    He also allowed prelates who have been implicated in the cover-ups to take part in public events and liturgies, most notably retired Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali and former Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt, whose resignation Francis accepted earlier this year.

    That the papal apology and vow of further accountability, as well as the promised meeting with victims, did not occur until the last day of the visit threatened to turn the abuse story into a long-running narrative and headlines that would dominate the final day of what has otherwise been a pathbreaking visit for the Catholic Church.

    to read more Religion News Service coverage of the pope in the U.S. go to:


  54. Tell Pope Francis It's Time to End Sexual Violence in the Catholic Church

    Petition by Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and The Center for Constitutional Rights


    Today Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is the largest, oldest and most active self-help group for clergy sex abuse victims, whether assaulted by ministers, priests, nuns or rabbis. SNAP is a confidential, safe place for wounded men and women to be heard, supported and healed. SNAP works tirelessly to achieve two goals: to heal the wounded and to protect the vulnerable.

    The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

    about the petition

    By some estimates, the number of victims of clergy sexual violence is in the hundreds of thousands and on the rise as more survivors come forward and civil authorities begin investigations in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. The Vatican’s own experts have said there are 100,000 cases in the U.S. alone. Sexual violence in the Catholic Church is not a historical crisis but an ongoing problem, as is the lack of accountability.

    Today, throughout the world, perpetrator priests who are known to church officials continue to hold posts in congregations, schools, orphanages, and elsewhere, unbeknownst to local communities. The church has shown over and over that it cannot police itself. In 2014, the United Nations issued a series of recommendations on what the Vatican must do to fulfill its obligations to human rights treaties and end this epidemic of sexual violence.

    Pope Francis has all the authority he needs to move from words to action and stop further abuse. By signing this petition, you’re standing with SNAP, CCR, and many others to demand that Pope Francis take the following concrete steps to address the violence:

    --Immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment, and refer the matter to relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution;

    --Hand over files containing details of cases of sexual violence to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution of abusers as well as those who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children, and demand bishops do the same in their local jurisdictions;

    --Encourage and protect church whistle-blowers who have come forward with information about the crisis of sexual violence. So far church officials have intimidated and retaliated against whistle-blowers.

    To: Pope Francis

    The church has failed to protect hundreds of thousands of children and vulnerable adults from sexual violence in the Catholic Church and institutions and adequately address this ongoing global crisis.

    We are asking you to ensure that the church complies with the United Nations recommendations, beginning with the immediate removal of all known and suspected abusers from assignment, increased transparency when dealing with these crimes, and ordering that all cases and reports be turned over to local civil authorities for independent investigation of the perpetrators and those who concealed or otherwise enabled these crimes.

    Words are not enough. You must act to bring real, meaningful change to the church and accountability for these crimes.


    [Your name here]


  55. Popes Child Abuse Commission Is Smoke and Mirrors

    Pope Francis portrays himself as a man who leads by example, but his protection of bishops who protected child-abusing priests continues.

    by Jason Berry, THE DAILY BEAST February 22, 2016

    Jason Berry is author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and was co-producer of Frontline’s 2014 “Secrets of the Vatican.”

    Pope Francis, speaking to reporters on the flight from Mexico City to Rome last week, gave his strongest comment yet on the clergy sex abuse crisis.

    Francis called such acts “a monstrosity,” according to the Associated Press. In the Holy See’s transcript, the pope went beyond current Vatican policy in stating: “A bishop who moves a priest to a different parish if he detects a case of paedophilia is without conscience and the best thing for him to do would be to resign.”

    But the official church policy on such bishops remains unclear, and the Vatican reform on this issue, charitably put, is a lurching work in progress.

    By using the present tense—“a bishop who moves”— Francis may be signaling a going-forward stance when new cases surface. But what is the policy on bishops with past transgressions?

    The pope echoed a Vatican Radio statement earlier in the week by one of his key advisors, Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who chairs the Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors: “The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret for any longer.”

    “We all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society,” declared O’Malley.

    But in the view of Peter Saunders, an international leader of the abuse survivors’ movement who was suspended Feb. 5 from the commission O’Malley chairs for giving candid media interviews, Vatican policy is “smoke and mirrors.”

    “When I met with the pope and joined the commission [in December 2014] I thought Francis was serious about change,” Saunders told The Daily Beast from London in a wide-ranging telephone interview. “I don’t think so any more. I don’t see any major reform achievement.”

    The Vatican historically has given de facto immunity to negligent cardinals and bishops. Francis personally has defrocked two bishops who abused children.

    But in another case Archbishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo. stayed in office more than a year after his conviction for a criminal misdemeanor. He had sheltered a priest who had child pornography and is now in prison for child abuse. Finn now ministers to a Nebraska community of nuns.

    Former St. Paul, Minn. Archbishop John Nienstedt, who recycled abusers and resigned in a huge scandal, was working in a Michigan parish in January, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

    “On the oversight of bishops, the Vatican has to set up rules regarding their conduct in response to wrongdoing,” Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke told The Daily Beast.

    Justice Burke, a member of the Sovereign Order of Malta, was a founding member of the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board, which advised the prelates on reform measures back in the early part of the last decade. Burke has been critical of American bishops for failure to abide by their 2002 youth protection charter which announced “zero tolerance” for clergy sex offenders.

    Finn and Nienstedt flagrantly violated the charter; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voiced no criticism of them, waiting for a Vatican response.

    “They need world-wide rules for bishops’ conduct,” says Burke.

    “An archbishop over a given region needs rules that his bishops and he have to abide by. If they don’t abide by them, then there has to be a penalty. Catholics in pews must know what the rules are.”

    continued below

  56. Under Francis the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican has established a special tribunal to deal with charges against bishops; but it has been slow getting off the ground. The credibility of any Vatican policy turns on two overarching questions:

    Will the tribunal accept legal findings damaging to bishops from court cases with democratic jurisprudence? Will Pope Francis promulgate a law, under the church’s monarchical governing system, specifying that cardinals and bishops lose their titles and priestly rights if found guilty?

    Many complicit bishops in Western countries remain in their positions, most notably Cardinal Roger Mahony. From 2002 to 2006, Mahony spent millions of dollars in legal fees to blunt a subpoena by the Los Angeles district attorney seeking files of clergy child molesters. The DA wanted to indict Mahony for recycling predators; the cardinal claimed a freedom-of-religion privilege in refusing to turn over the files. Over four years, the appellate courts rejected the novel argument. Meanwhile, the criminal statute of limitations ran out. The DA’s indictment strategy tanked.

    Mahony personally met with and apologized to many victims of priests. In 2007, the archdiocese agreed to $775 million in settlements to 554 sur-vivors. In 2013 Mahony voted in the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Now retired, Mahony is archbishop emeritus, a cardinal in good standing.

    Peter Saunders’ unvarnished public criticism of complicit bishops and cardinals put him at odds with 15 of the 16 other papal advisory commission members, and with O’Malley.

    In a previous Daily Beast interview, Saunders singled out one of the pope’s close advisors, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz of Chile as a particular obstacle to justice.

    Errázuriz had called a prominent Chilean survivor activist, Juan Carlos Cruz, “the serpent” in an email to another cardinal which surfaced in the Chilean media. Cruz was under consideration to join the papal commission at the time; his nomination did not go forward. “What the pope said and those cardinals said was dreadful,” Saunders told The Daily Beast.

    Church officials denouncing, counter-suing or trying to muzzle survivors and whistle-blowers from the clergy is a theme threading through the decades-long crisis. The hierarchy has translated crimes into sins, while putting the defense of pedophiles over justice and the human rights of children.

    Saunders’s criticism of Errázuriz triggered a blow-back.

    “The Daily Beast [interview] certainly got them riled up,” Saunders says of his colleagues on the papal advisory commission. “You gave me the opportunity air my opinion and not everyone wanted that. Certain members of the commission were unhappy about the piece.”

    Ironically, the candor that offended his commission colleagues actually helped them with their most important constituency: sexual victims of clergy, and leading reform advocates. Because of his suspension by the commission, Saunders has become more a flash-point figure in the crisis, as the Commission struggles to demonstrate that it has leverage with Pope Francis.

    “Every time Pete Saunders criticized the Vatican, the credibility of the Commission shot up in the eyes of outsiders,” Anne Barrett-Doyle, a director of the online archive BishopAccountability told The Daily Beast.

    “There were Catholics and survivors starting to believe that this Commission was different from advisory boards we’ve seen in the past, which ended up being compromised by bishops,” said Barrett-Doyle. “Suspending Pete indicates that the Commission won’t produce the systemic reform we need. Pete gave them credibility as a bracing truth-teller. He’s a devout Catholic. Loyal critics are crucial to reform.”

    continued below

  57. Saunders in phone calls and emails with The Daily Beast, described an almost surreal obsession with secrecy among commission members.

    “The day before I was ejected [Feb.5], they were talking about the need for bishops to report, and O’Malley said he thought it a moral duty,“ says Saunders.

    “I put forward an agenda item to discuss more openness and transparency. That was shot down,” said Saunders. “Secrecy is why we have this crisis in the first place! I wasn’t suggesting they livestream the meetings, but in our previous meeting last October, Austen Ivereigh spoke to us on dealings with the media and said that as commission members we should not engage with the press.”

    Ivereigh is an activist-journalist and the author of a respected biography of Francis, The Great Reformer. He is director of a conservative group in the UK, Catholic Voices, whose agenda includes briefings for conferences of bishops on church issues.

    Ivereigh’s partner in Catholic Voices is Jack Valero, the Opus Dei spokesman in Scotland. Saunders took offense at the presentation Ivereigh made to the commission.

    “Austen tried to imply that the reason the press is interested in you is because you’re on the Commission. I said, ‘Sorry, Austen, I’ve been speaking to the press for years.’He tried to say that our job is to keep our mouths shut; but once he realized that wouldn’t work he gave a description of how the media work and what they’re after. Then we did a mock-interview in front of a TV camera with someone asking questions.”

    “I never said they shouldn’t speak to the media,“ Ivereigh told The Daily Beast by email. He said the session had come at the request of a communications staffer at the Vatican, Emer McCarthy.

    “The whole training was about helping them speak to the media,“ continued Ivereigh. “I proposed that they should not address specific cases because that was the rule that the Commission was moving to agree on. Peter wouldn’t accept that; the others did.
    I proceeded with the training anyway, and left it to the commission to resolve the issue at their subsequent meeting. Which they did—with the result that Peter was asked to leave because he couldn’t abide by their decision.”

    Saunders has a different view: “It was all part of damage control. I’m absolutely certain that the impetus for [Ivereigh] being there was related to the interview I did about George Pell on Australian TV.”

    Cardinal Pell of Australia—now an influential Vatican official—has been trailed for years by damaging news reports about his handling of clergy predators, inconsistent statements he has made, and cold response to victims.

    Saunders, in a June 7, 2015 interview with the Australian news program, 60 Minutes, said Pell has a long history of “denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness— almost sociopathic I would go as far as to say, this lack of care.”

    “I think it’s critical that George Pell is moved aside, that he is sent back to Australia, and that the pope takes the strongest action against him,” said Saunders.

    Pell refused to be interviewed by the Austrailian 60 Minutes, but his attorneys in a statement to the program called Saunders’s claims "false” and outrageous.”

    Pell, 74, has recently cited health problems in refusing to return to Australia to give testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, a sweeping investigation not limited to the Catholic Church. He is scheduled to give testimony in Rome by video link on Feb. 29.

    continued below

  58. Pell is a towering broad shouldered man who was known for a sometimes stormy tenure as an archbishop in Melbourne and Sydney when Francis, shortly after the 2013 conclave, chose Pell as a member of the Council of Eight—top advisor-cardinals.

    A police investigation is underway into Pell’s early years as a seminarian and young priest, according to fresh reports from Australia. Several years ago Pell denied charges, which were never substantiated, that he had sexual contact with a minor years earlier.

    "Pell has called for a public inquiry to be conducted into the Victorian [Australia] police, saying the allegations were leaked to damage him," The Guardian reports.

    Should the royal commission final report portray Pell as an obstructionist protecting clergy child abusers, or worse, Pope Francis would face a real crisis. Pell is one of the most powerful men in the Vatican.

    As Prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy—a pivotal agency created by Pope Francis in response to Vatican financial scandals— Pell has a concentration of power unrivaled under the old Roman Curia bureaucracy.

    The oversight powers invested in Pell’s office allow it to probe the budgets of various Vatican congregations (cabinet-level offices), bypassing the prefect, typically a cardinal or archbishop of the offices.

    The turf wars within the Curia that spilled out in the Vatileaks scandal—leaks widely seen as an attempt to drive Pope Benedict’s Secretary of State, the unpopular Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone, to resign—ignited a counter-shift that some Vatican insiders believe has produced a new imbalance of power favoring Pell.

    “You’ve never had a cardinal, not surrounded by a commission, with the authority to enter into affairs of another Congregation of his own will,” a well-placed source in the Vatican told The Daily Beast. “If you have a weak pope it could become a significant problem, because Pell controls the budget of other offices.”

    This source speculates that Pell “may be an unfair target” in Australia, while being “an avatar of economic virtue“ in Rome.
    Nevertheless, according to this insider who spoke on condition of anonymity, Pell has made his share of enemies in the Curia because “his view of transparency is whatever he wants. He does not share. He acts in a small closed circle of people. If you’re not with him, you’re against him. It’s a pretty intense mentality.”

    Meanwhile, Saunders, whose TV interview put a hole in Pell’s credibility, is mulling over his place in the limbo created by the commission, which suspended him, but did not fire him.

    Holding his tongue is not exactly Peter Saunders’ style.

    He told The Daily Beast: “Francis has a great opportunity to put his hands up and say,‘I got it tragically wrong in my dealings with survivors in Argentina. I toed the party line like many other bishops, and now’s the time to atone.’ To get rid of bishops who are protectors and abusers, he probably needs not a commission of devout Catholics, but a body akin to an FBI flying squad who do not have an allegiance to the church but know their work and go around the world however it needs to be done and eject these people or hand them over to authorities.”


  59. Cardinal George Pell admits indefensible errors in abuse crisis

    by Rosie Scammell | Religion News Service February 29, 2016

    ROME (RNS) Australian Cardinal George Pell, now a top adviser to Pope Francis, testified in a landmark clergy sex abuse inquiry that the Catholic Church made “enormous mistakes” in trying to deal with the scandal.

    Speaking to an Australian commission investigating the church’s response to abuse, Pell — who had previously been archbishop in Sydney — also said that during the 1970s he was “very strongly inclined to accept the denial” of a priest accused of abuse.

    The 74-year-old Pell, who serves as the Vatican’s finance chief, appeared before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Sunday (Feb. 28) via video link from a Rome hotel because he said a heart condition prevented him from traveling.

    The decision to allow Pell to testify via video has been strongly criticized by abuse victims, and a crowdfunding effort in Australia enabled some 15 of them to travel to Italy to be present in the hotel conference room with Pell.

    Pell’s testimony, the third time he has spoken to the commission, is part of a broader Australian investigation into child abuse over past decades and even centuries.

    But various circumstances have combined to make the event headline news: Not only is Pell the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to testify on the scandal, and in Rome, but his testimony came just before the movie “Spotlight,” about The Boston Globe’s explosive investigation of clergy abuse more than a decade ago, won the Academy Award for best picture of the year.

    “This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” producer Michael Sugar said in his acceptance speech. “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

    Francis has taken major steps in continuing to clear the ranks of the clergy of predators and to hold the hierarchy accountable, but critics say he has still not gone far enough, especially in disciplining bishops and cardinals.

    Pell, a feisty conservative who is used to giving as good as he gets on a range of controversial issues, is one churchman the critics hope to target.

    As he rose through the ranks of the Australian church, Pell recalled in his testimony that numerous allegations “certainly were dismissed and sometimes they were dismissed in absolutely scandalous circumstances.”

    “They were very, very plausible allegations made by responsible people that were not followed up sufficiently,” he added during the four hours of testimony that largely centered on his role in the church in Australia in the 1970s.

    continued below

  60. Pell met with Francis on Monday the day after his opening testimony, which is expected to continue over the next few days. As is the custom, the Vatican provided no information on the meeting.

    Francis brought Pell to Rome two years ago to help clean up the scandal-plagued Vatican finances; the Australian turns 75 in June, the standard age at which church officials retire.

    Pell conceded again in the latest session that the church had made grave errors in its handling of abuse.

    “The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has made — let people down. I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” he said.

    Overall, Pell said such failures were personal rather than institutional mistakes.

    During the questioning of Pell on Sunday, he was also asked about specific cases, including the case of Gerald Ridsdale, a former priest who was convicted on multiple counts of abusing children as young as four.

    Pell told the commission he was unaware that Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, the bishop overseeing Ridsdale in the Diocese of Ballarat, had sent the priest away for treatment over his sexual crimes. Ridsdale was also moved between dioceses and continued abusing children.

    Pell was ordained a priest in Ballarat in 1966 and was a consultant to Mulkearns.

    “The way he was dealt with was a catastrophe, a catastrophe for the victims and a catastrophe for the church. If effective action had been taken earlier, an enormous amount of suffering would have been avoided,” said Pell.

    The cardinal has previously denied allegations by a victim of Ridsdale that Pell tried to pay him for his silence. Ridsdale’s nephew, David Ridsdale, told the royal commission last year that Pell tried to bribe him after being told he was abused by his uncle.

    “At no time did I attempt to bribe David Ridsdale or his family or offer any financial inducements for him to be silent,” Pell said at the time.

    Gerald Ridsdale is in prison after being convicted of 138 offenses against 53 victims.

    David Ridsdale is in Rome for the testimony and told media that longtime abuse in his heavily Catholic hometown of Ballarat in Australia’s Victoria state has left a legacy of trauma and tragedy.

    “We’re here to seek the truth. We’re here to heal our city,” David Ridsdale said, according to The Associated Press. “We have the highest suicide rate among men in Australia. We have some of the worst drinking and violence problems. And it all stems from that abuse.”

    The cardinal’s nighttime testimony is due to continue late Monday, to account for the time difference with the commission in Australia, with one or two further sessions to be held in the coming days.


  61. How Spotlight missed the story

    by William F. Baker, USA Today February 23, 2016

    William F. Baker, director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Public Policy and Education at Fordham University, is a voting member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

    'National Catholic Reporter' exposed priest abuse and the Catholic Church coverup in 1985.

    It is just a single line of dialogue from Spotlight, up for Best Picture and five other Academy Awards this Sunday, but it could be a movie in itself. It's an allusion to an entire unknown chapter in the history of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals: the role of the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) in first uncovering the clerical conspiracy to shield abusing priests.

    “Have you read Jason Berry’s book? He wrote about the Gauthe case,” an abuse survivor asks the team of investigative reporters featured in the film.

    The survivor, Phil Saviano as portrayed by Neal Huff, holds up a copy of Berry’s 1992 book, Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children, which expanded on Berry's reporting for the Times of Acadiana in partnership with the NCR.

    The June 7, 1985, edition of the NCR was earth-shattering. Berry — whose child had recently been baptized Catholic — published a lengthy piece on Father Gilbert Gauthe’s sexual crimes and their concealment by the highest clerical authorities in Gauthe’s diocese in Lafayette, La. In the same issue, reporter Arthur Jones detailed the concealment of pedophile priests throughout America, and NCR wrote an editorial accusing American Catholic bishops of systemic inaction and silence.

    “The concealment of pedophiles reminded me of the Watergate coverup,” Berry said in a recent essay, recalling how he felt when he first dug up reports of guilty priests other than Gauthe being shuffled around the Lafayette diocese.

    In its 1985 exposé, the NCR laid bare the two essential outrages of the crisis: the scope of the abuse and the magisterial heights from which it was concealed. Berry and Jones’ reporting in that issue loosed a flood of testimonials from abuse survivors throughout America, many of which were later reported for the first time in the NCR.

    By the time The Boston Globe succeeded in bringing the scandal to the attention of the entire world, the NCR had been doggedly covering the story for 17 years, often alone. Secular publications, including The New York Times and The Nation, wouldn’t go near the topic at all. Even the rest of the Catholic press stayed silent.

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  62. The NCR is an independent not-for-profit publication, staffed by lay people, neither owned nor controlled by the Catholic Church, with a paid circulation of about 35,000. What it lacks in scale, it makes up for in editorial independence, expert reporting and risk-taking in pursuit of the truth.

    Berry said recently that without the NCR’s financial backing, he would not have had the finances to finish his investigations. The story might have taken many more years to come to light, he said, or might never have come to light at all. Because of its refusal to back down in its coverage of the crisis, the NCR lost a prominent board member and droves of subscribers, and suffered intense pressure from civil and church authorities.

    Spotlight and the events it dramatizes deserve every bit of attention and praise they are receiving. But it is important to remember the limits of cinematic storytelling. Feature films cannot possibly convey the full scope of historical events. By condensing whole groups of people into a few composite characters, and reducing conflicts to a binary struggle between good and evil, filmmakers sacrifice fact for story, and leave us with a kind of after-image of the truth.

    Spotlight understandably stays close to the crisis as it unfolded in Boston, getting its narrative drive from the struggles of the Globe’s investigative team. The film does make passing references to the earlier work of smaller Boston publications, The Phoenix and The Patriot Ledger, but it leaves out the crucial fact that it was a vigilant Catholic publication, the NCR, which first told the truth about an issue that would transform the Catholic Church and the lives of its members around the world.

    The NCR’s work embodies the virtues of robust print journalism, especially investigative reporting. Though most Americans get their news from TV and the Web, 61% of substantive new information in the media still originates from the newsrooms of print publications, according to a 2010 Pew study of the media ecosystem. And in an era when economic pressure has forced general interest publications to lay off their specialty reporters, we need niche publications such as the NCR more than ever, to pursue the truth and provide context and deeper understanding when crises become common knowledge.


  63. The Pedophile-Blind Cardinal Who Could Bring Down Pope Francis

    An Australian royal commission on clerical crimes finds damning evidence that one of the Vatican’s most senior cardinals turned a blind eye to sex abuse. So why doesn’t the pope fire him?

    by Barbie Latza Nadeau The Daily Beast March 3, 2016

    ROME — Whatever one’s religious affiliation or belief, it must be argued that the Gods of Glorious Coincidence were at work this week. Just as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was handing out the Oscar statuette for Best Picture to Spotlight last Sunday night, Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s No. 3 official, was seated in a dingy hotel event room testifying by video link about the very same sort of systematic clerical sex abuse exposed in the film.

    But in what is really an unfathomable disconnect, accolades for breaking the silence and exposing serious clerical sex abuse in the United States seemed completely lost in Rome.

    Pell, who heads the Vatican’s Secretariat on the Economy, was called to give voluntary evidence to Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

    The 74-year-old spent a total of four very late nights answering a slew of questions about a number of clearly predatory priests in Australia from the time he was a young cleric to when he was the Archbishop of Melbourne. The hearings started at 7 or 8 a.m. in Sydney, which meant they began at 9 or 10 p.m. in Rome. The latest of the hearings wrapped up around 3 a.m. local time.

    To whatever extent Pell was negligent, and, make no mistake, it seems a question merely of levels and degrees, it is completely baffling that Pope Francis doesn’t see this as a divine opportunity to put his foot down and show that “zero tolerance on abuse” really, truly means zero tolerance and, therefore, demand Pell resign.

    This is especially true given Pell’s admission that, among other things, he knew first-hand a young boy was being abused by a cleric named Brother Edward Dowlan in 1974. “With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more,” Pell said.

    In fact, if he had gone to the police or church officials then, he might have stopped Dowlan. Instead, the cleric went on to abuse dozens of other young children as Pell kept the secret and climbed the church hierarchy, all the while knowing about Dowlan and others like him.

    When one of the attorneys for a sex abuse victim pushed Pell, asking why he, then head of an education division of a Catholic school, didn’t do something, he shrugged.

    “You didn’t go straight to the school and say, ‘I’ve got this allegation, what’s going on?’” the lawyer asked.

    Pell responded, “No, I didn’t. People had a different attitude then. There was no specifics about the activity, how serious it was, and the boy wasn’t asking me to do anything about it but just lamenting and mentioning it.”

    This was a young boy “lamenting” sexual abuse. How could the child even ask for specific help? No doubt he had no clear idea what was even really happening to him or why. Instead Pell brushed it away, insisting, “It was an extraordinary world of crime and cover-ups and people not wanting the status quo disturbed.”

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  64. Full transcripts of the hearings are available on the Royal Commission’s website for anyone who questions whether this is a witch hunt or whether Pell holds responsibility.

    Pell wasn’t the only priest on duty during the years of systematic abuse in his hometown of Ballarat and beyond, and when the abuse started, he, too, was a young cleric. But he did hold administrative responsibilities, and he was on a committee that made recommendations that ultimately resulted in exposing hundreds of children to known pedophiles.

    During his often disturbing testimony, Pell admitted to blatant accusations that he failed to act when he was told about one young girl who was made to kneel between the legs of a priest during weekly confession, and he claimed that the corroborated allegations of sexual abuse of young children against another priest were sad, but “weren’t of much interest to me.” He later clarified that, by that comment he only meant that reading the details of the abuse disturbed him.

    In almost every case presented to him, and there were many, he explained away his inaction by victim blaming or offering what became his blanket excuse that “no one asked me” to intervene.

    These were children and desperate parents grappling with the reality that the priest they trusted committed the worst violation possible. Wasn’t it obvious enough they needed help? Did they really have to ask explicitly?

    Apparently not, and what’s perhaps most disturbing is that Pell still doesn’t seem to get it.

    When asked (PDF) if he, in his current position of power, would ever suggest a cleric be tried in front of the Vatican’s new tribunal dealing with sex crimes, like some of the men he knew were covering up abuse or committing it in Australia, he said no.
    “As a Vatican official, that probably would be less than appropriate,” he told the commission. “That should come from the Australian—or present Australian authorities if they choose to do so.”

    Pell is basically saying that, even as a top ranking Vatican official, he feels no responsibility whatsoever to point fingers and name names about people he knew were committing the very crimes the Vatican says it is keen to stop.

    On the contrary, after Pell’s first night of testimony, he and the pope met for a private audience in Vatican City during which, Pell told the commission, he did not specifically discuss his evidence with the pontiff. Instead he said he “arranged to have daily briefs sent to the pope” about the hearings. He then arrived in court that night making the proud proclamation, “I have the full backing of the pope.”


    Stephen Woods, one of the survivors of sexual abuse by the worst of the offenders, Father Gerald Ridsdale, told reporters outside the Quirinale Hotel on Wednesday that Pope Francis really needs to intervene, not support the cardinal.

    “They clearly colluded, and so it raises this very serious question about what is wrong with the thinking amongst the leaders in the church that they don’t want to know what has gone so seriously and tragically wrong that we have to come to the other side of the world to get answers,” he said.

    “We are wishing the pope intervenes here, that the pope is willing to meet with us and just hear our concerns, hear the pain of so many thousands of victims in Australia and that this is shedding such bad light on the church and shedding such bad light on everybody who says that the Catholics are good.”

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  65. How can the pope—this pope!—back Pell on this issue that has been so damaging and divisive for the Roman Catholic Church? Does he not know that Pell has admitted inaction? Is it enough that Pell said he would not “defend the indefensible” and has regretfully offered that the Australian Church “mucked up” on its handling of abuse under his very own watch? Is the pontiff unaware of the many witnesses who say that they, as young children, went to Pell for help, only to be turned away?

    During one phase in the questioning, lead counsel Gail Farness, a sort of Australian Marcia Clark, asked Pell to confirm or deny five points against one priest Pell could have clearly stopped. The first offense she asked the cardinal if he knew about was: “Small group of children shown dead body in coffin.”

    Pell’s response: “Yes.”

    “Cruelty to an animal in front of young children,” which consisted of swinging a dead, bleeding cat around the school yard in a threatening manner.”

    Pell: “Yes.”

    Other points: “Unnecessary use of children’s toilets” and “harassment of children.”

    Pell: “That’s correct.”

    The same priest apparently wielded a handgun at some of his victims, many of whom have never come forward out of obvious fear of retaliation.

    Pell ended his last night of testimony around 3 a.m. Rome time with a brief meet and greet with the remaining bleary-eyed members of the press, many of whom had come from Australia to cover the story. “It’s been a hard slog, at least for me. I’m a bit tired,” he said. “I hope that my appearance here has contributed a bit to healing, to improving the situation.”

    He was then asked if his testimony, in any way, hurt his reputation in the Vatican. “I don’t think it hurts it at all,” he said. “And this event might do a little bit of good in Europe.”

    The Australian survivors, who came to Rome thanks to a crowd-funding initiative, don’t find that comforting. Pell has agreed to meet with some of them before they return to Australia on Friday, but they have heard enough from their cardinal and want the pope’s ear instead. They sent a letter to the pope to try to get his attention. “This is about children. Children who were abused and damaged in the past. We would like to request a meeting to discuss the commitment to the children of the past and children of the future, to implement systems so that this is never repeated again.”

    Pell is now excused from the royal commission’s questioning and will likely live out his final years in relative peace in Rome. Maybe he will even find a common bond with Bernard Law, the disgraced Boston cardinal featured in Spotlight, who also lives in the
    Eternal City without fear of repercussions for his inactions.

    But the victims of these heinous crimes will never find that relative peace. David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests or SNAP, which was featured heroically in Spotlight, told The Daily Beast that the pope should suspend Pell.

    “There may be no more powerful step Francis could take, short of defrocking, demoting, or disciplining a dozen complicit, high-ranking clerics,” he told The Daily Beast. “If Francis wants the world to believe he’s serious about reform, about zero tolerance, and about ending cover-ups, putting Pell on the shelf is a solid first step. Otherwise, the pope’s words will continue to ring hollow.”

    The question now is whether the deafening silence from the pontiff will continue, or whether Francis will finally give this very serious issue the attention it deserves.


  66. Off with his hat
    Why we want to see cardinals punished in the abuse scandal

    Cathy Lynn Grossman, Faith and Reason | Religion News Service March 3, 2016

    We’ve all seen some sad spectacle about the Catholic Church this week.

    “Spotlight” – portraying Boston Globe’s shattering expose of Cardinal Bernard Law’s archdiocese sheltering, promoting and protecting sex-abusive priests – won the Academy Award for Best Picture prize.

    The next day, Australian Cardinal George Pell testified to a Vatican commission that he cared little or nothing about the victims of sex abuse – even as he called such neglect “indefensible.”

    Thursday (March 3) , he met with Australian abuse victims and pledged to work with them on care and compensation for people who had experienced abuse.

    Is that enough?

    Between Law and Pell, two princes of the church, we have witnessed decades of the church staggering to recognize and apologize for its failure to protect uncountable numbers of victims.

    Here and there, a bishop has stepped aside. Just last month, Pope Francis said on his flight home from Mexico that any bishop who moved an abusive priest from one parish to another should resign.

    Sadly, that stark comment was lost in the hubbub over his remark on Donald “not a Christian” Trump.

    But even if anyone had noticed — is that comment still too little, too late?

    Forgive me, Lord, but like many outraged by this scandal — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — I still want a perp walk.

    You remember the perp walk — accused bad guys led off before cameras. It leapt from TV crime shows to the financial front pages in 2002 when we were treated to scenes of humiliated, hand-cuffed Enron top executives facing charges for financial chicanery. Suits in cuffs!

    I don’t need to see handcuffs on cardinals but the optical equivalent would work. I want to see someone take Cardinal Pell aside and make him turn in his red cap.

    Francis doesn’t need publicly show this, like a disgraced legionnaire getting publicly stripped of his epaulettes in old movies. But a photo of Pell, sans cardinal regalia, toting his own suitcase back to Sydney to face the music there, would work for me.

    The Sydney Morning Herald puts it bluntly: “If Pope Francis wants to retain his reputation as the people’s Pope he must force Cardinal George Pell to either resign or retire.”

    Pell didn’t resign Thursday. Neither did he retire. And would retirement be good enough? Consider Cardinal Law.

    Law was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston after his own priests went public calling for him to go. And go he did – to a posting in Rome where, for years, he was assigned a lovely church for saying Mass and served on the secretariat that suggests names to the pope for potential new bishops. He still lives far from those he harmed.

    There’s my problem, wrapped in cardinal red.

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  67. The Rev Thomas Reese an expert on Vatican polity explains the dilemma: Cardinals are princes of the church and bishops are its nobles. They can’t resign from their spiritual status. But they can resign from their institutional role.

    “The minimum we want is for them to stand up and say that they did wrong and they take full personal responsibility and resign. If they did that, I think we can accept that. We might even forgive them,” said Reese.

    “But when they fight tooth and nail to stay in their job with all its perks, we are offended,” he said.

    “The cardinals wear red because they are willing to die for the church,” said Reese. “They ought to be willing to take a bullet for the good of the church and resign. It’s the closest thing the church has to capital punishment.”

    Why do I feel so vengeful about this? And am I alone in this feeling? I suspect not.

    It’s human, says criminologist and lawyer Gray Cavender, who co-authored a scholarly paper on the social and emotional dynamics of the “perp walk” in the Enron case.

    “We all grew up with movies and novels where the story ends with the bad guy getting shot or arrested. We like that. It seems just. They hurt someone and they shouldn’t get away with it.”

    “There is a symbolic dimension to punishment. It expresses society’s condemnation of the wrongdoer,” said Cavender, a professor in the department of Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.

    Cavender was well aware of the decades of abuse within the church. He cited the 1985 expose on victims in Louisiana published by the National Catholic Reporter and the early 1990s years when Dallas journalists revealed the church’s failure to remove a pedophile priest, Rudolph Kos.

    (The “Spotlight” movie alludes briefly to earlier investigations and then, tragically, to how the Globe, too, had lightly covered the issue and then let it drop for years before turning full force on it in 2002.)

    “What makes the Catholic Church’s situation doubly a problem is that it went on for so long and even when exposes were written, it still went on,” Cavender said.

    We are angry that leaders of “a powerful institution, one that people revere and love, knew they were hurting people and hit it and lied about it. People are suffering victimization,” he said.

    This underlies our applause for the Spotlight ensemble’s Oscar night message that this honor be a message all the way to the Vatican.

    The Vatican response: It was full of praise for the film, coupled with long lists of all the things the church is now doing to try to right the wrongs. It’s even set up an internal court to examine colluding clerics.

    It just hasn’t heard any cases yet.

    And too much time has gone by apologies to be sufficient.

    The public, says Cavender, is past that. “Saying sorry is not enough.

    There are harms not reparable by apologies, he said. What we want them to do is ‘own it.’ There is a symbolic, communicative aspect to punishment. We need to see it.”



  68. George Pell Australian cardinal released from jail after high court quashes child sexual abuse conviction

    by Melissa Davey, The Guardian April 7, 2020

    Cardinal George Pell, the former financial controller of the Vatican and the most senior Catholic in the world to have been found guilty of historical child sexual abuse, has been freed from prison and had his convictions overturned following a two-year legal battle.

    The bench of the high court in Brisbane, Australia, on Tuesday granted leave for Pell to appeal, ordering his immediate release and quashing the conviction.

    The high court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to Pell’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.

    In other words, it was not enough that the jurors found the witness believable, compelling and honest. The other evidence should have called his account into question, the bench found.

    In a summary of the judgment, the bench said that “on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents”.

    There was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”, the bench found.

    Pell has maintained his innocence since being charged in June 2017. In a statement issued after the decision, Pell said he “holds no ill will towards my accuser”.

    “However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic church, nor a referendum on how church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.”

    In December 2018 a Melbourne jury unanimously convicted Pell on five charges, believing the complainant who gave evidence that some time in December 1996, after presiding over Sunday solemn mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral as archbishop of Melbourne, Pell sexually assaulted him and another 13-year-old boy in the priest’s sacristy.

    The allegations had been the prosecution’s to prove, with many of the witnesses called during the trial in 2018, including former altar servers and senior choir managers, now elderly.

    Former choirboys who gave evidence struggled to remember details about the choir procession and the church layout more than two decades after the fact. To convict Pell, the jury had to believe without doubt that the complainant was reliable and honest. They did, but the high court on Tuesday found belief in the complainant as a compelling witness was not enough to convict.

    Pell’s legal team was led by the prominent Sydney silk Bret Walker SC. In June at Pell’s first attempt at appeal before Victoria’s appellate division of the supreme court, Walker argued it was “literally impossible” for the complainant to have been abused, saying there was a “formidable list” of factors and events that needed to line up for the offending to be possible.

    There was “strong, credible and undispelled” alibi evidence, including from the master of ceremonies at the time, Monsignor Charles Portelli, and sacristan Max Potter, that it was Pell’s practice to greet parishioners on the front steps of the cathedral immediately after mass, which would have made it impossible for Pell to be in the sacristy offending, Walker said.

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  69. However the court rejected the appeal by a majority of two to one, forcing Pell’s team to take the case to the high court, the final avenue of appeal. Over two days in March, Walker argued before the full bench of seven judges in Canberra that just because the complainant was believable, it should not discount other evidence that placed his evidence in doubt. Walker told the court that Victoria’s appellant judges may have been unduly influenced by the complainant’s testimony by watching a recorded video of it rather than just reading the transcript of his evidence.

    Judd responded by saying that given Pell’s legal team made so much of the complainant’s lack of credibility and believability, Victoria’s appellate court was entitled to watch the video. It did not mean they had elevated it above other evidence, or that they had not given due weight to other evidence from the trial, she said. The jury had considered the entirety of the evidence in context, she added.

    But ultimately, the court accepted Walker’s arguments. In an unusual move, the court did not grant Pell leave – in other words, permission – to appeal until Tuesday, after the arguments had already been heard in March. Usually, leave to appeal is granted, then arguments are heard.

    In a statement after the verdict, Victoria police said: “We respect the decision of the High Court in this matter and continue to provide support to those complainants involved.

    “Victoria Police remains committed to investigating sexual assault offences and providing justice for victims no matter how many years have passed. We would also like to acknowledge the tireless work on this case by Taskforce Sano investigators over many years.”

    The complainant who brought the case against Pell has not commented on the decision. The father of the other choirboy, who died in 2014 of an accidental overdose, issued a statement through his lawyer, Lisa Flynn.

    Lisa Flynn, the national practice leader at Shine Lawyers, which represents the man in a separate civil lawsuit against the Catholic church, said the firm’s client is gutted by the outcome.

    “Our client is currently in shock,” she said. “He is struggling to comprehend the decision by the High Court of Australia. He says he no longer has faith in our country’s criminal justice system.

    “He is furious the man he believes is responsible for sexually abusing his son was convicted by a unanimous jury only to have that decision overturned today allowing George Pell to walk free from jail. Our client says he is heartbroken for the surviving victim who stuck his neck out by coming forward to tell his story but was ultimately let down by a legal process that forced him to relive his pain and trauma for no benefit.”

    The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Mark Coleridge, said the “outcome will be welcomed by many, including those who have believed in the Cardinal’s innocence throughout this lengthy process”.

    “We also recognise that the high court’s decision will be devastating for others,” he said. “Many have suffered greatly through the process, which has now reached its conclusion.”

    The premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, said in a statement: “I make no comment about today’s High Court decision.

    “But I have a message for every single victim and survivor of child sex abuse,” he said.

    “I see you. I hear you. I believe you.”

    The conclusion of the case paves the way for Australia’s child sexual abuse royal commission, which released its final report in December 2017 after a five-year inquiry into institutional child sexual abuse, to release its redacted findings into Pell, which have not yet been published out of concern it would prejudice the legal process.


  70. Child sexual abuse victims should not be put off by George Pell decision, experts say

    by Melissa Davey, The Guardian April 9,2020

    Victims of child sexual abuse should not be dissuaded from coming forward and reporting perpetrators as a result of the jury conviction of Cardinal George Pell being overturned by the high court, a barrister and professor of law at La Trobe University in Melbourne says.

    Prof Gideon Boas said he was concerned by those questioning the merit of future cases brought in the criminal or civil jurisdiction based on the Pell ruling.

    “It would be unfortunate and legally wrong if the message in the community was that the high court’s ruling has weakened the strength of, or point in, bringing such cases to court or making properly founded allegations,” Boas said. “The risk to this kind of messaging is that victims will give up or not bother coming forward. The bottom line is that the ruling will have little or no effect on civil cases and limited effect on future criminal cases.”

    He said the Pell case had a set of unique and complex circumstances that would not necessarily be a factor in other jury trials.

    “However, any case with an allegation of abuse that is historical and decades ago will have evidentiary issues, especially in cases with only one surviving complainant,” he said. “It doesn’t mean cases with one complainant are not capable of succeeding going forward.”

    Boas added that the jurors who convicted Pell should not feel as though they had failed, and that the public should not read the high court decision as a challenge to the sanctity of the jury.

    “Victoria’s court of appeal upheld the jury decision by a majority, and the high court went the other way,” Boas said. “I’ve heard it said a lot in this case: ‘how could the jury get it so wrong when the high court decided unanimously it was an unreasonable verdict?’

    “My response is: what’s to say the high court had it right? You had a jury process that functioned, you had a court of appeal that by majority agreed with them, and gave it serious consideration, and a high court who saw it differently. There is no system that is flawless. Some juries will give verdicts that are perverse or unreasonable and, sometimes, so will judges. But victims should know that overturning a jury decision happens rarely.”

    On Tuesday the high court ordered Pell’s immediate release from prison and quashed his convictions finding the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to Pell’s guilt. There was “strong, credible and undispelled” alibi evidence presented at trial, including from the master of ceremonies at the time, Monsignor Charles Portelli, and sacristan Max Potter, that it was Pell’s practice to greet parishioners on the front steps of the cathedral immediately after mass, which would have made it impossible for Pell to be in the sacristy offending, Pell’s defence barrister Bret Walker had told the high court.

    But what are victims to make of the fact that jurors are told throughout a trial that it is up to them who they believe and whether they accept all, some, or none of the evidence from witnesses? That it was open to them, in other words, to believe the complainant but not in the reliability of other witnesses called.

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  71. A professor the Queensland University of Technology faculty of Law, Ben Mathews, said it was “a fantastic question that’s really difficult to answer”.

    “It gets grey and murky and one thing that helps create this is the this tension in different court conclusions about the indeterminate notion of reasonable doubt,” he said. “So you have different courts and individuals making judgments about whether reasonable doubt should have been present when that concept isn’t even defined. The reason for that lack of definition in Australia is we put the trust in juries to make the decision.”

    What happens in the jury room in Australia is secret. Those discussions can never be disclosed, and a juror is breaking the law if they reveal them. Jurors also have their identities protected.

    Dr Tyrone Kirchengast, a barrister and solicitor of the high court, said the jury process was sacred, but that also meant it was difficult for studies to be done on how jurors come to their decisions or how much weight they gave different aspects of the evidence.

    “Even after the trial is complete researchers can’t interview them about their decision-making processes,” he said. “The best we have is mock jurors put together to try to study what happens. We should remember that it is only in rare cases where this overturning of a jury verdict occurs, and this is a case of significant notoriety.

    “I think we have to also understand that justice isn’t perfect and it can’t always be perfect. It’s the case that sometimes innocent people are convicted and guilty people aren’t, and what we strive for in Australia is a system that eliminates errors as far as possible.

    “But it’s impossible to think of criminal trials as a process of a perfect case being put to a perfect jury.”

    He added that trial procedures were being continuously reformed to assist jurors to do their jobs and to lessen chances of error.

    Prof David Hamer, with the University of Sydney law school, researches the way criminal courts deal with evidence in determining whether to convict or acquit defendants. He said the Pell case was complex and even experts had different readings and views of it and the high court decision.

    He said while it was true that jurors were told it was up to them to be arbiters of the facts and to decide which evidence they believed, Pell’s barrister had strenuously argued throughout the appeal that prosecutors had never sufficiently challenged evidence from witnesses such as Portelli.

    With Portelli’s testimony unchallenged, jurors should have given more weight to it, the high court found.

    The complainant in the case against Pell who made the allegations said in a statement issued on Wednesday that he did not want victims to be disheartened by the decision.

    “I would like to reassure child sexual abuse survivors that most people recognise the truth when they hear it,” he said. “They know the truth when they look it in the face.”