Archive for category Clergy Sexual Abuse

The sex abuse scandal is not over. The hierarchical culture still needs transformation. / National Catholic Reporter

What cannot be overstated at this point in the nearly 40-year public history of the scandal is the force that the hierarchical culture — that privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only construct — can apply against any movement toward radical truth-telling.

Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

“A 2004 story in The New York Times bore the headline, all in caps: ABUSE SCANDAL HAS BEEN ENDED, TOP BISHOP SAYS.

“That top bishop was a young Wilton Gregory who, two years earlier and as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had herded the rest of the U.S. hierarchy through the first phase of accountability for the scandal.

“The headline was based on a Gregory declaration, made following the release of two studies of the scandal. “The terrible history recorded here today is history,” he said.

“That, of course, turned out to be more wish than reality. The finality implied in the statement has yet eluded the bishops, a point made clear by the recent searing assessment by Barbara Thorp, who took on the job of directing the Boston Archdiocese’s response to victims back in 2002, when the ecclesial world there was exploding. She claims that despite the decades of rolling disclosures and revelations that emerged from investigative reporting, grand jury reports, civil cases, the courage of countless victims and grudging reforms resulting in greater transparency, there is still much we don’t know.”

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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20 years after Spotlight investigation of Catholic sex abuse crisis, is the church a safer place? / America: The Jesuit Review

On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” (By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Visit votf.org to read about the multitude of programs and initiatives undertaken by Voice of the Faithful in the 20 years since The Boston Globe Spotlight articles prompted the organization’s founding.

“The events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol caused shock and dismay for most Americans, many of whom feared that our political system was much weaker than we had thought. On the same date nearly two decades earlier, we witnessed a similar crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church as a protector of all children.

“On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” While the findings were not a surprise to abuse survivors, the revelations that a previously unknown number of priests in the Boston area had sexually abused minors for decades devastated Catholics in Boston and, ultimately, the faithful around the world. The Globe had learned that instead of removing many of these offenders from the priesthood, church leaders had transferred some of the men to new assignments—where the priests continued to have unsupervised access to boys and girls and had not been provided with psychological evaluation or treatment.”

By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Read more …

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Coming abuse report to review retired Pope Benedict’s tenure as German archbishop / National Catholic Reporter

Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a particularly large number of offenses.

Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter

“In mid-January, the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl is scheduled to publish a report into the handling of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

“The potentially explosive aspect is that three of the highest-ranking officials are still alive: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now retired Pope Benedict XVI — and Cardinals Friedrich Wetter and Reinhard Marx, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

“The investigation followed two years of research and covers the period from 1945 to 2019, centering on who knew what about sexual abuse and when, and what action they took, if any, KNA reported.

“Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a particularly large number of offenses.

“In early summer 2021, Cardinal Marx — the current archbishop of Munich — tried to resign from office to take responsibility — explicitly also for possible mistakes of his predecessors. Pope Francis rejected his request.”

By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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20 years after Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight,’ we need a national database of accused clergy / National Catholic Reporter

As the shame and anger moved from the offending cleric to the systemic cover-up by bishops, we now must face the grim reality that the most profound shame is the ongoing, real-time failure to act in a decisive manner to address the ‘abandonment of the little ones.’

By Barbara Thorp, National Catholic Reporter

“In the United States, the terrible truth that Catholic clergy have sexually violated children has been known publicly now for at least 36 years. For this truth-telling, we are indebted to journalists such as Jason Berry. In stark and unsparing detail he documented in May 1985, writing for the Times of Acadiana (and NCR), the predations of admitted serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.

“Over the decades others followed Berry’s groundbreaking truth-telling, often against and despite enormous pressure to remain silent. Led by many courageous survivors and their families, of notable mention are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Bishop Accountability, the Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and several state attorneys general.

“In January 2019, ProPublica published an interactive national directory of credibly accused clergy drawing on the published disclosures of dioceses and religious orders.

“The important efforts of these entities and people notwithstanding, they are all limited by the reality that they only know what they know. They don’t know what they don’t know. The full width and breadth of the story is yet to be told and is held by the archdioceses, dioceses, eparchies and religious orders.

By Barbara Thorp, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Pope approves updates to norms for dealing with ‘grave crimes’ / Cruxnow.com

“Pope Francis has given formal approval to a series of updates and modifications that have been made over the years to the norms regarding clerical sexual abuse and other crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“The newest version of the so-called ‘Norms on the delicts reserved to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’ does not introduce any new crimes, but it does seek to improve the procedural norms regarding the penal process and to update those canons connected with the recently revised ‘Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church’ that was to go into effect Dec. 8.

“The document, published by the Vatican Dec. 7, changes and updates modifications St. John Paul II in 2001 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 made to the list of canonical delicts or crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the procedures for handling such cases.

“Since then, many new measures have been established: Pope Francis’ document ‘As a loving mother’ in 2016 set out procedures for removing church leaders who mishandle abuse; ‘You are the light of the world’ in 2019 established new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and sought to hold bishops and religious superiors more accountable; a document in 2019 abolished the pontifical secret in cases of sexual violence and the abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy; and another document in 2019 raised the age to 18 of what constitutes a minor in pornographic images.”

Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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A priest ordained in 2017 is now serving a life sentence for sex abuse. How did he slip through the cracks? / America: The Jesuit Review

“Despite it all, Father McWilliams, who has not yet been laicized, made it through to ordination and placement in a parish where he soon began a process of internet ‘catfishing’ and sexual extortion involving three teenage boys.”

America: The Jesuit Review

“Just two years after his ordination in 2017, the Rev. Robert McWilliams was charged with a cascade of sexual assault and child pornography charges. He was sentenced to life imprisonment a few weeks ago, on Nov. 9, in a federal criminal court in Cleveland.

“The McWilliams case came as an unhappy shock to Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland and all over the United States who might have hoped that years of procedural changes and an enhanced screening process for seminarians would have put an end to the ordination of priests like Father McWilliams. The most recent report card from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, released the same day as Father McWilliams’s sentencing, offered some reason for optimism. Although 4,228 allegations of sexual abuse by clergy surfaced between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, only 22 came from individuals who are now minors; the rest reflected historical cases, most of them from decades ago.

“Father McWilliams entered the seminary system in Cleveland in 2008, six years after the abuse crisis detonated on the front pages of The Boston Globe. He could not have been unaware of the fall-out from that crisis and the greater scrutiny that candidates for the priesthood would draw because of it. Despite it all, Father McWilliams, who has not yet been laicized, made it through to ordination and placement in a parish where he soon began a process of internet ‘catfishing’ and sexual extortion involving three teenage boys.

“At the Nov. 9 sentencing, defense attorney Robert Dixon pleaded for leniency to allow Father McWilliams to ‘secure the therapy necessary to confront demons from his childhood and the addictions and heinous behavior of his adulthood.'”

By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Portugal’s Catholic bishops announce independent child sexual abuse commission / Reuters

“In Portugal, more than 200 Catholics sent a letter to the Bishops’ Conference earlier this month urging them to launch an investigation similar to Frances’s, arguing that child sexual abuse was a ‘systemic’ problem ‘directly related to the exercise of power’ within the church.”

Reuters

“Portugal’s Roman Catholic Church said on Thursday (Nov. 11) it would create an independent commission to investigate historical child sexual abuse allegedly committed by members of the clergy following pressure from prominent congregants to lift a veil of silence around the issue.

“Portugal’s Bishops’ Conference said in a statement that it decided to create the commission to improve the way cases are handled and to ‘carry out a study to clarify the history of this serious issue.’

“The announcement comes after a major report by an independent commission in France revealed last month that around 3,000 priests and religious officials sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years. read more

“It was the latest blow for the Roman Catholic Church, which has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals around the world, often involving children, over the past 20 years.

“In Portugal, more than 200 Catholics sent a letter to the Bishops’ Conference earlier this month urging them to launch an investigation similar to France’s, arguing that child sexual abuse was a ‘systemic’ problem ‘directly related to the exercise of power’ within the church.”

By Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves — Read more …

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New report on abuse shows ‘need for continued commitment and diligence’ / Cruxnow.com

“Composition of membership, not following by-laws of the Board, members not confident in their duties, lack of rotation of members and lack of review of Diocesan/Eparchial policies and procedures,’ according to the report. ‘Twenty-five to forty percent of Dioceses/Eparchies visited didn’t have a child protection policy or code of conduct that included language regarding child pornography,’ the report shows.”

Cruxnow.com

“The 18th annual report on U.S. diocesan and eparchial compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People found a total of 4,250 clergy sex abuse allegations for the 2019-2020 audit year, about two-thirds of which stem from lawsuits, compensation programs and bankruptcies.

“Almost all of the allegations – 4,228 – are historical in nature, meaning the alleged victim is now an adult and the abuse happened in years or decades past, according to the report. The other 22 allegations were made by minors that were minors as of June 20, 2020.

“In a letter to Archbishop José Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at the start of the report, Suzanne Healy, the USCCB National Review Board chair, called the 4,228 allegations ‘a reminder that the pain of the past remains and we as a Church must continue to reach out to all who have been harmed regardless of when the event occurred.’

“Six of the 22 allegations made by minors are substantiated. Seven of the allegations have ongoing investigations. Three were unable to be proven. Two were unsubstantiated, and four fall into an unspecified “other” category, according to the report. The number of both the substantiated and total allegations by minors dropped compared to the 2018-2019 audit year data where there were 9 substantiated and 37 total allegations by minors.”

By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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French clerical abuse report puts spotlight on confession / The New York Times

“In rare instances, it noted, the secrecy around the sacrament had been used to cover up abuse cases, again raising issues of whether church or state law should prevail.”

The New York Times

“The absolute secrecy of confession is central to the Roman Catholic faith. What is said in confession is between a penitent and God, the priest a mediator. Any priest who breaks that seal can face excommunication under church laws that the Vatican places above all others.

“But what happens when what is confessed is a violation of the laws of the state?

“It is an issue that has vexed attempts to address the sexual abuse cases that have roiled the church in any number of countries, but one that has emerged as especially charged in France, where the state long ago stripped the Catholic Church of its pre-eminence.

“A devastating church-ordered report issued in October by an independent commission on sexual abuse inside the French Catholic Church found that the sacrament of confession itself, in rare instances, had been used to cover up abuse cases.

“Some victims wishing to report past abuses or expose active abusive priests were told to speak about it during confession, effectively suppressing their revelations and turning the sacrament into a ‘weapon of silence,’ said Laëtitia Atlani-Duault, a member of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, which wrote the report.”

By Norimitsu Onishi and Aurelien Breeden, The New York Times — Read More …

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French report: 330,000 children victims of church sex abuse / Associated Press

“Victims of abuse within France’s Catholic Church welcomed a historic turning point Tuesday (Oct. 5) after a new report estimated that 330,000 children in France were sexually abused over the past 70 years, providing the country’s first accounting of the worldwide phenomenon.

“The figure includes abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and an unknown number of other people involved in the church — wrongdoing that Catholic authorities covered up over decades in a ‘systemic manner,’ according to the president of the commission that issued the report, Jean-Marc Sauvé.

“The 2,500-page document was issued as the Catholic Church in France, like in other countries, seeks to face up to shameful secrets that were long covered up. Victims welcomed the report as long overdue and the head of the French bishops’ conference asked for forgiveness from them.”

By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press — Read more …

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