Posts Tagged catholic bishop accountability

What do the Church’s victims deserve? / The New Yorker

The Catholic Church is turning to outside arbiters to reckon with its history of sexual abuse. But skeptics argue that its legacy of evasion continues. (the New Yorker)

Like many Catholics, I wonder whether this story will ever be over and whether things will ever be set right.

“Often called a crisis, the problem is more enduring and more comprehensive than that. Social scientists report that the gravest period of priestly sexual abuse was the sixties and seventies, and the problem has been in public view for the past three and a half decades. For most American Catholics, then, the fact of sexual abuse by priests and its coverup by bishops has long been an everyday reality.

“Priestly sexual abuse has directly harmed thousands of Catholics, spoiling their sense of sexuality, of intimacy, of trust, of faith. Indirectly, the pattern of abuse and coverup has made Catholics leery of priests and disdainful of the idea that the bishops are our ‘shepherds.’ It has muddled questions about Church doctrine concerning sexual orientation, the nature of the priesthood, and the role of women; it has hastened the decline of Catholic schooling and the shuttering of churches.

“Attorneys general in more than a dozen states are investigating the Church and its handling of sexual-abuse allegations. In February, New York State loosened its statute of limitations for sex crimes, long the Church’s bulwark against abuse claims. And that is just in the United States. Priestly sexual abuse has had grave effects around the world, including in Rome, where the three most recent Popes have been implicated in the institutional habits of concealment or inaction, and where Pope Francis has yet to find his voice on the problem …

“In all of this, a distinctly American solution to the problem has emerged—the commissioning of an independent, secular authority to arrange settlements between the Church and survivors of abuse. This strategy has been taken up by an unlikely advocate: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and a traditionalist who generally relishes defending the Church against its adversaries.”

By Paul Elie, The New Yorker — Read more …

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Peru bishop wants excommunication for abuse scandals, not just defrocking / Cruxnow.com

When it comes to cover-up, including the transfer of abusers from one parish to another, Schmalhausen said it has become obvious that civil justice is more proactive than the Church, which has sheltered abusers and allowed them to have access to other potential victims. (Cruxnow.com)

Bishop Kay Schmalhausen of Ayaviri, Peru believes current punishments for both the crime of clerical sexual abuse (usually expulsion from the clerical state) and the cover-up are ineffective, and suggested harsher penalties including excommunication.

“As a former member of a group whose founder has been charged with abuses of conscience, power and sexuality, Schmalhausen told Crux that some key questions need to be asked.

“‘What has been done so far with the perpetrators of such crimes? How is the damage to the victims, along with the scandal caused to the faithful of the Church and in the eyes of the world, being repaired? Is there even a minimum of proportionality and justice in the measures implemented so far?’ he asked.

“‘Clearly the answer today seems to be no …'”

By Elise Harris and John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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Abuse summit achieved something, but not what pope or bishops expected / National Catholic Reporter

“The clergy abuse phenomenon is the worst crisis the church has experienced in more than a thousand years. The Protestant Reformation and its follow-on, the Council of Trent, were about doctrine, church structures and inept clergy. This is about something far worse, the pandemic of sexual violation and rape of countless vulnerable people, especially children, and the systemic enabling of the same by the popes and the hierarchy.” (Tom Doyle in National Catholic Reporter)

The so-called ‘summit’ on the clergy sex abuse crisis was not a total failure. The process and the outcome of the Feb. 21-24 meeting of bishops at the Vatican were clearly a serious disappointment to the victim-survivors, their families and countless others who hoped for something concrete to happen. The accomplishments can only be understood in the context of the totality of the event: the speeches, especially those of the three women, the bishops’ deliberations, the media reaction, and the presence and participation of the victims-survivors from at least 20 countries.

“I have been directly involved in this nightmare since 1984, when the reality of sexual violation of the innocent by clerics, and the systemic lying and cover-up by the hierarchy (from the papacy on down) emerged from layers of ecclesiastical secrecy into the open. By 1985, Pope John Paul II and several high-ranking Vatican clerics possessed detailed information about what was quickly turning into the church’s worst crisis since the Dark Ages …

“.. The clergy abuse phenomenon is the worst crisis the church has experienced in more than a thousand years. The Protestant Reformation and its follow-on, the Council of Trent, were about doctrine, church structures and inept clergy. This is about something far worse, the pandemic of sexual violation and rape of countless vulnerable people, especially children, and the systemic enabling of the same by the popes and the hierarchy.

“When will it be over and what is needed to fix it? The answers are obvious, but they invoke such fear in the clerical elite that they aren’t even able to discuss them. This nightmare will continue as long as the hierarchical system that created and sustained it exists in its present state. The reasons for this phenomenon are deeply rooted in the church’s institutional structures and the theological excuses that support them.

“It will take a radical, fundamental process of change before the entire church truly reflects what it is supposed to be, the people of God.”

By Thomas P. Doyle, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Cardinal George Pell of Australia sentenced to sex years in prison / The New York Times

“I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave,” the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd, said during the sentencing. Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added: “Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.” (The New York Times)

George Pell, an Australian cardinal who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday (Mar. 13), for molesting two boys after Sunday Mass in 1996.

“The cardinal was convicted on five counts in December, making him the most senior Catholic official — and the first bishop — to be found guilty in a criminal court for sexually abusing minors, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

“Cardinal Pell, who stood stone-faced with lips pursed when his sentence was read aloud, will not be eligible for parole for three years and eight months.

“‘I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave,’ the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd, said during the sentencing. Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added: ‘Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.'”

By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave, The New York Times — Read more …

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One Step Forward / Commonweal

One line in particular from (Cardinal Blase) Cupich (of Chicago) stood out: his claim that the “structural elements” of reform would not be enough unless “we anchor all our deliberations in the piercing pain of those who have been abused and of the families who have suffered with them.” (Commonweal)

In the lead-up to last month’s four-day Vatican summit on the sexual abuse of minors, organizers made a concerted effort to lower expectations. A crisis decades in the making, the full scope of which is still coming into view, would not be solved in one meeting, they insisted. There would be no sweeping policy changes from on high, no declaration from Pope Francis that definitively addressed every concern about how the church handles sexual abuse, no “closure.” But even if such a gathering was never intended to do everything, it’s still fair to ask whether it did enough.

“The unsatisfying answer is that no one knows—yet.

“The effectiveness of the summit may only be revealed in the weeks, months, and perhaps years ahead, after the bishops have returned home and continue—or in some cases, start—the work of responding to, and safeguarding against, sexual abuse. It’s an approach in line with what Francis once described as a “healthy decentralization,” recognizing that bishops in different parts of the world might need to develop different strategies, perhaps above all when it comes to how the church relates to civil authorities. But this shouldn’t be mistaken for a lackadaisical, “hands-off” approach. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will provide the bishops with a handbook that clearly lays out their responsibilities for dealing with accusations of abuse—and, as Austen Ivereigh points out, the 2016 motu propio “As a Loving Mother” makes it clear they’ll be removed if they fail. It was also announced at the summit that special task forces would be created to offer bishops additional support. And there were proposals for how the bishops themselves, along with religious superiors, should be held accountable. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich offered a framework, rooted in synodality, for discussion and discernment about such reforms.”

By The Editors at Commonweal — Read more …

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Vatican should sanction Cardinal Pell immediately

BOSTON, Mass., Feb. 27, 2019 – Cardinal George Pell has become the highest ranking Catholic Church official known to be convicted of child sexual abuse. Pope Francis has prohibited him from publicly exercising his priestly ministry. Voice of the Faithful suggests Pope Francis immediately remove Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and his cardinal’s red hat.

Pell, on leave from his role as Vatican treasurer in order to face charges in Australia, actually was convicted in December 2018, but a judicial gag order prevented reporting on the trial and conviction because Pell was awaiting a second trial, which now will not take place. He faces sentencing this week for five charges related to sexual abuse of two boys in 1996. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, so Pell potentially could face a 50-year sentence.

The Vatican, according to a spokesman, will wait for Pell’s appeal before taking further action. In the prevailing atmosphere of zero tolerance, Voice of the Faithful expects more, especially after the recently concluded Vatican summit where bishops talked about “transparency, responsibility and accountability” and the Pope called for an “all-out battle against the abuse of minors.”


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Feb. 27, 2019
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Vatican bishops’ summit on clergy abuse has ended. Now we wait.

Bishop sash and crossBOSTON, Mass., Feb. 27, 2019 – Ever since Catholic clergy crimes of sex abuse became widely known, the Catholic faithful have waited for accountability and healing. Voice of the Faithful is among them; this time waiting for concrete action on clergy sex abuse after bishops from around the world recently concluded a four-day summit at the Vatican to address this festering issue.

A general conclusion is that the summit at least made Church hierarchy in the rest of the world as aware of the seriousness of clergy abuse as the hierarchy in the United States – and in other countries that have long been aware of the abuse and its cover-up. Based on the Pope’s concluding speech, however, the hierarchy has yet to shift its thinking about clergy abuse from sin and forgiveness to crime and punishment. The message from the hierarchy continues to be, “this is intolerable, but …”

Summit participants talked about transparency, responsibility, and accountability. We would like to have seen at least one concrete move to attack the clerical culture at the core of the scandal that was equal to the summit’s rhetoric—one concrete move that would have overcome what summit presenter Sister Veronica Openibo, S.H.C.J., called the hierarchy’s “mediocrity, hypocrisy, complacency.” Of Sister Openibo’s presentation, VOTF trustee Margaret Roylance said, “The bishops had to sit there silent and listen to her—no denials, explanations or blaming others.”

Prior to the summit, there were expectations that the Church might at last achieve true transparency, responsibility and accountability. Then the backpedaling began: maybe expectations were too high; perhaps the summit was just the first step in a global response; its aim was to educate those who still believed this was an American problem, or a gay priest problem, or all in the past, rather than produce immediate corrections.

In one respect, new transparency did take a bow. The Vatican live-streamed all the main presentations; they invited survivors to speak first; and they listened to frank, unadorned descriptions of abuse and misuse of power. In another instance, German Cardinal Reinhardt Marx admitted that the Church had destroyed documents about abuse cases. In yet another, a Vatican spokesperson told the media that the Church does have secret protocols for priests who father children. Perhaps most astonishing for the bishops was hearing in a worldwide forum testimony from survivors of abuse that priests had ordered survivors to have abortions—a claim long whispered within the Church but never openly acknowledged.

Despite these efforts, by the conclusion of the summit, we heard little about steps that would address the crimes of abuse and cover-up. Primary results thus far seem to be a promise that the Vatican will distribute a rulebook to bishops worldwide explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities with regard to protecting children. Also promised was a meeting among Vatican summit organizers and Vatican curia to discuss, “What next.” We suggest starting instead with removing from their positions all bishops who participated in cover-ups or molested others.

The Pope in his concluding remarks hit on two issues he cited as being at the root of the problem. One was evil at work and the other the “plague of clericalism, fertile ground for all of these disgraces.” “However, the issue seems still to be recognizing that evil and doing something about clericalism,” said Mary Pat Fox, Voice of the Faithful president. “We all want to believe people we know and trust are good, but in reality that is not always the case, and the Church and the Pope need to get better at recognizing and battling the evil in front of them – the bishops who have moved and protected abusive priests. Yes, the priests who perpetrated these crimes are sick and need to face justice, but the criminals who made this crisis bigger are the bishops who exposed children to already credibly accused priests.”

Eventually, to rebuild trust, the Church must take these steps if it hopes to regain credibility and begin healing the wounds it has inflicted on victims and all members of our global faith community. Much more will be required as well, but that’s the obvious and immediate need.


Anyone who would like to read in detail about the Vatican bishops’ summit on clergy abuse, “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” and listen to presentations and news conferences can visit the Vatican’s website on the meeting, http://www.pbc2019.org.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Feb. 27, 2019
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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