Pope Francis has started making good on his promise to not let even the most senior churchmen get away with sex abuse or cover-up.
On Monday, he accepted the resignation of the embattled archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis and his deputy bishop after prosecutors there charged the archdiocese with having failed to protect children from unspeakable harm from a pedophile priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.
Separately, the Vatican indicted its own former ambassador to the Dominican Republic with sexually abusing minors in the Caribbean country — the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to stand trial for a sex crime.
The developments came days after Francis approved the creation of a new tribunal inside the Vatican to specifically hear cases of bishops accused of failing to protect minors, answering years of criticism that top-ranked churchmen have long been immune to punishment for ignoring or covering up for priests who rape and molest children…
Earlier this month, prosecutors charged the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a corporation of having “turned a blind eye” to repeated reports of inappropriate behavior by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys. No individual was named in the complaint.
The charges came two years after diocesan canon lawyer-turned-whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger alleged widespread cover-up of clergy sex misconduct in the archdiocese, saying archbishops and their top staff lied to the public and ignored the U.S. bishops’ pledge to have no tolerance of priests who abuse…
With Monday’s resignations, there have been 18 bishops who have resigned after being publicly criticized for covering up for abusers, according to Anne Barrett Doyle of the online resource BishopAccountability.org…
The criminal charges against the archdiocese stem from its handling of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys and faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin.
Prosecutors say church leaders failed to respond to “numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct” by Wehmeyer from the time he entered seminary until he was removed from the priesthood in 2015. The criminal complaint says many people — including parishioners, fellow priests and parish staff — reported issues with Wehmeyer, and many of those claims were discounted.
Another one bites the dust.
When the dust settles will the Roman Catholic Church have become a force for good, seeking progress and a better life for all their flock? Or does the opportunity still exist among reactionaries, the self-concerned still in hierarchal positions of trust and power, to outlast the term of this Pope and resume “business as usual”?
The Vatican is to face tough questioning by a United Nations committee over the Catholic church’s record in tackling child sexual abuse by its clergy around the world.
A detailed “list of issues” has been released by the Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) before the appearance of officials from the Holy See. The session is expected early next year.
The decision to ask senior Roman Catholic clerics to hand over confidential internal documents to such a high-profile inquiry marks a fresh initiative in the global debate over clerical abuse. It will present the new pontiff, Pope Francis, with a direct challenge to provide records of financial compensation given to victims of sexual abuse and disclose whether secret deals were made to preserve the church’s reputation…
The information sought includes cases where priests were transferred to other parishes, “where instructions were given not to report such offences, and at which level of the clergy”, and “where children were silenced in order to minimise the risk of public disclosure”. The CRC has also asked for “the investigations and legal proceedings conducted under penal canon law against perpetrators of sexual crimes” and “the number of child victims who have been given assistance for recovery, including psychological support and social reintegration and have received financial compensation”…
The CRC has been pressing the Vatican for greater disclosure over the issue of clerical abuse for years. Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests said last month: “The fact that a UN committee has called the Vatican to account for its record on children’s rights, including the right to be free from sexual violence and exploitation, is giving survivors all over the world hope.”
Overdue. Once again, survivors have their hopes up that a new Pope with a supposedly-refreshed staff will open the vaults of evidence against abusers in the clergy. Most important, the chance to acquire direct evidence which provides for rehabilitation of the abused.
As cardinals flock to Rome to choose the next pope, two artists have taken the opportunity to stage an exhibition taking aim at the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandals that plagued Pope Benedict.
Held in an ancient building where Italy’s patron Saint Catherine of Siena died, “The Unspeakable Act” is a life-size model of Benedict in a confessional box, his sumptuous red and cream-colored robes spread about him.
Installed on the stage of a darkly-lit theatre, the artwork is surrounded by eerie music and a track of Benedict announcing in Latin his decision to resign after eight years topped with the whispering sounds of people confessing their sins.
Benedict’s papal tiara lies on the ground and his bejeweled hands cover his face in apparent horror or shame at a phrase from the Gospel of St. Luke that lies open on his knee: “Let the little children come to me”.
The exhibition is the work of artists Antonio Garullo and Mario Ottocento who became famous for lampooning the scandals of the powerful in 2012 with an exhibit depicting a sleeping Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his hand in his trousers and a satisfied look on his face…
The artwork, that opens to the public on Wednesday, has personal importance for Garullo, 48, and Ottocento, 40, an artistic duo for 20 years who were the first Italian gay couple to be married when they wed in Holland in 2002.
Since then they have battled for their union to be recognized by authorities in Italy, which has no legal provision for same-sex couples, although a 2012 survey found 63 percent of Italians support equal rights for gays.
Their statue of Pope Benedict is surrounded by works by reformist theologian Hans Kueng and the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a liberal voice who called for the Church to modernize – since it was “200 years out of date”.
I’d add a call for taxation of the church’s business and property wealth.
Washing away responsibility is as easy as ignoring crimes
No member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically than Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests. For years, the cardinal withheld seamy church records from parents, victims and the public, brandishing endless litigation and fatuous claims of confidentiality.
The breadth of Cardinal Mahony’s cover-up became shockingly clear last week with the release in court of archdiocese records detailing how he and a top aide concocted cynical strategies to keep police authorities in the dark and habitual offenders beyond the reach of criminal prosecution.
“Sounds good — please proceed!” the cardinal, now retired, instructed in 1987 after the aide, Msgr. Thomas Curry, cautioned against therapy for one confessed predator — lest the therapist feel obliged to tell authorities and scandalize the archdiocese. The two discussed another priest, Msgr. Peter Garcia, who admitted specializing in the rape of Latino immigrant children and threatened at least one boy with deportation if he complained. Cardinal Mahony ordered that he stay out of California after his release from a New Mexico treatment center out of fear that “we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors.” Monsignor Curry worried that there might be 20 young people able to identify the priest in “first-degree felony” cases.
It was the cardinal’s obligation under the primacy of secular law to instantly notify authorities of any priest’s criminal behavior. Instead, he invoked a nonexistent church privilege to hide miscreant clergy and shield the church and his own reputation. Cardinal Mahony has repeatedly apologized in recent years and insisted that the archdiocese was mending its ways. A lawyer for the archdiocese insisted that the scandal and the cardinal’s cover-up were “part of the past.” Not really. While statutes of limitations on possible criminal charges may have run out, Cardinal Mahony and his former aide could be deposed in civil suits. Monsignor Curry also managed to advance up the hierarchical ladder and would seem to merit instant removal from his current post as auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara.
Religions that reward corruption and collusion deserve investigation and special watchdogs. We do it to corporations which persistently operate outside the laws of state and civil decency. Seems to me there’s no reason to exempt the Roman Catholic church from the same sort of scrutiny.
And speaking of exemptions — how about paying taxes?
The philanthropic arm of shipping giant UPS said it will no longer give money to the Boy Scouts of America as long as the group discriminates against gays, the second major corporation to recently strip funding from the scouts.
The UPS Foundation made the change Thursday after an online petition protesting its annual grants to the Boy Scouts attracted more than 80,000 signatures. UPS, based in Atlanta, follows computer chip maker Intel in withdrawing corporate support for the Boy Scouts…
UPS spokeswoman Kristen Petrella said groups applying for the foundation grants will have to adhere to the same standards UPS does by not discriminating against anyone based on race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
“We promote an environment of diversity and inclusion,” Petrella said Monday. “UPS is a company that does the right things for the right reasons.”
The UPS Foundation distributed $45.3 million in grants last year. Petrella said she was not aware of any other current grant recipients who would be affected by the new policy.
Petrella said the company had been concerned about discrimination by the Boy Scouts before the petition drive.
The Boy Scouts said this summer it was sticking with the divisive, long-standing policy of excluding openly gay youth and adults as members and leaders.
UPS and Intel changed course after Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality, began online petitions this fall at Change.org calling for corporations to end their financial support of the Boy Scouts. That call has been echoed by such groups as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has highlighted the case of an Ohio mother barred from volunteering with her son’s Cub Scout pack because she is a lesbian.
“Corporate America gets it better than most: policies that discriminate aren’t simply wrong, they’re bad for business and they’re hurting the scouting community,” Wahls said Monday. “You would think that after all the Boy Scouts have lost as a result of this policy, they would understand that.”
The holier-than-thou-crowd continue to specialize in hypocrisy. For decades, the Boy Scouts of America kept track of staff and volunteers who sexually abused boys – and just as thoroughly skipped reporting abusers to local coppers.
Nice to see that UPS still responds quickly – when social injustice is pointed out to them. In one of my earliest actions against institutionalized racism, I was part of a group that confronted UPS for lily-white hiring policies in the northern industrial city where I lived. It took just the one meeting for them to reverse the program and reach out to the Black and Hispanic community.
Of course, that was 50 years ago. You’d think they might have gotten beyond needing a nudge, by now?
Australia’s Roman Catholic Church has confirmed that more than 600 children have been sexually abused by its priests since the 1930s in the state of Victoria.
The archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, described the figures as “horrific and shameful”.
The admission came in a submission to a state parliamentary inquiry into the handling of abuse cases, however campaigners say the true figure could be up to 10,000 victims…
“We look to this inquiry to assist the healing of those who have been abused, blah, blah, blah!…
Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were raped by their parish priest from the mid-1980s, said the church had had decades to address the issue but had only revealed the figure to the Victorian inquiry on Friday.
“It’s only been victims coming out and going to the police that has stopped all of this”.
“The church has never lifted a finger to stop their paedophile priests,” added Foster, who said one of her daughters had ultimately taken her own life.
The Victorian state government announced the inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases by religious and non-government bodies after the suicides of dozens of people abused by clergy.
Before the Victorian state government pats themselves on the back too much – consider how long they didn’t notice there may have been a problem. The Catholic Church is guilty of aiding those who were committing crimes. The government is as guilty in their own way for ignoring the abuse.
Angel Armando Perez in his work clothes
It was close to midnight Sunday when Woodburn resident James Curths saw the 12-year-old boy running down the street toward him. Curths said the child, panting and out of breath, begged for help, telling him a man was chasing him.
Moments later, a man rounded the corner wearing only underwear. He stood a short distance away, trying to wave the boy over as Curths and his sister-in-law prepared to drive the boy to relatives.
“He was staring at us,” said Heather Rodriguez, 28, Curths’ sister-in-law, who was also outside. “Then he stood there with his hands on his hips like, ‘You’re really not going to give him to me?‘”
Rodriguez and Curths, 35, told the man they were calling the police. Only then, they said, did the man jog away.
The man who chased after the boy that night, Woodburn police say, was the Rev. Angel Armando Perez, the parish priest at St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn. Early Monday, the boy gave police a detailed account of the alleged sex abuse he said occurred at Perez’s home, leading to Perez’s arrest later Monday…
The Salem boy told authorities that Perez had asked his parents a few days earlier if he could take him on a trip to the mountains. He and his family attended a community church event Sunday night, and the 12-year-old went with Perez that night to the pastor’s house, a grayish-green home less than 200 paces from the church’s front door.
The boy told police Perez gave him a beer and they watched a movie. The boy told investigators that an air mattress was set up on the living room floor for him to sleep on. He said he fell asleep on the mattress, the affidavit said.
Later, the boy said, he was “woken up by a couple of flashes.”
He said that when he opened his eyes, he saw Perez next to the air mattress, with one hand on the boy’s genitals and one hand holding a cellphone. The boy discovered his underwear and shorts lowered to his knees, while Perez was dressed in underwear and a T-shirt, the boy told police.
The boy said he went to pack up his things when Perez went upstairs. “Father Angel called to him saying, ‘Come back to bed,'” the police affidavit says…Instead, the boy said goodbye and ran off.
RTFA for exactly what we have come to expect. Excuses that are decades old, e.g. too much to drink, blacked-out, don’t recall touching the boy, please believe in the church.
The only difference in that  we live in a day and age when the Catholic Church can’t get away with simply moving the pedophile priest to another parish and making the event disappear; and  we live in a day and age when the Catholic Church no longer wields the sort of political power that could require accommodation with lousy practices from local politicians and police. Well – most places, nowadays.
The church that has been forced to make halfway moves towards modern practices in dealings with civil society still hasn’t tried in the least to reform its internals. It ain’t going to get any better until and unless they do.
Henk Heithuis – 2nd from left
At least 10 teenage boys or young men under the age of 21 were surgically castrated “to get rid of homosexuality” while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s.
Evidence of the castrations has emerged amid controversy that it was not included in the findings of an official investigation into sexual abuse within the church last year. The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.
Joep Dohmen, the investigative journalist who uncovered the Heithuis case, also found evidence of at least nine other castrations. “These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced,” he said. “There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story.”
Mr Heithuis died in a car crash in 1958, two years after being castrated at the age of 20, while under the age of majority, which was then 21. In 1956 he had accused Catholic clergy of sexually abusing him in his Church run care home.
Two clergymen were convicted of abuse but Mr Heithuis, a victim, was nonetheless transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel later that year.
There, court papers confirm, he was castrated “at his own request”, despite no submission of his written consent. Sources told Mr Dohmen that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse…
Evidence emerged on Monday that government inspectors were aware that minors were being castrated while in Catholic-run psychiatric institutions. Minutes of meetings held in the 1950s show that inspectors were present when castrations were discussed. The documents also reveal that the Catholic staff did not think parents needed to be involved…
Dutch MPs will today call for a parliamentary investigation into the allegations.
The question is put by Khadija Arib, a Labour MP…”We must find out how many cases there were, who knew about it and why the government did not act.”
Good thing the Catholic Church doesn’t support cruelty like this anymore. Oh.
A German Catholic priest has admitted 280 counts of sexual abuse involving three boys in the past decade, saying he did not think he was doing harm.
Named only as Andreas L, the priest told a court in Braunschweig that he had first abused the nine-year-old son of a widowed woman parishioner. After being banned by his diocese from making further contact with the boy, he abused two brothers, aged nine and 13…
The priest on trial in Braunschweig faces a minimum prison sentence of between six and six and a half years. He was arrested during the summer, after the mother of his earlier victim reported him to the authorities.
She acted after her son, now aged 17, revealed to her the abuse he had undergone for two years.
Sexual assaults were made on the three boys in various settings: at the priest’s house, on skiing holidays, in a parental home, on a trip to Disneyland Paris and at a church shortly before Mass.
The priest…said that while working in Braunschweig in 2004, he had begun a close relationship with the widow.
When Fr Andreas was moved to Salzgitter, her son often spent weekends with him, and the two would go off on short trips. He would give the boy presents such as a camera and a mobile phone. Abuse would often occur three times a weekend.
The priest said it had not been his intention to get close to the boy sexually, and that it had never occurred to him that he was doing harm…
The abuse of the two brothers…began under similar circumstances, the court heard…
“It was never my impression that the children did not consent,” the priest was quoted as saying at the trial…
About 2,800 pornographic images were found on the priest’s computer, including several of his victims.
I have no idea how thoroughly the Roman Catholic Church is acting to prevent future crimes. It sounds as if they’re still focussed on cleaning up – or concealing – old crimes.
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigation.
The report by an independent commission said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse “to prevent scandals”. The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions probably lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report…
The commission said it received 1,800 complaints of abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages and that the institutions suffered from “a failure of oversight”. It then conducted the broader survey of the general population for a more comprehensive analysis of the scale and nature of sexual abuse of minors.
The commission was set up last year under the leadership of former government minister Wim Deetman to investigate allegations of abuse dating from 1945…
The investigation followed allegations of repeated incidents of abuse at one cloister that quickly spread to claims from Catholic institutions across the country, echoing similar scandals around the world.
The commission identified about 800 priests, brothers, pastors or lay people working for the church who had been named in the complaints. About 105 of them were still alive, although it was not known if they remained in church positions, the report said. It identified them as “perpetrators” rather than “offenders”, meaning they had not been proven to have committed a crime.
The Dutch Catholic Church says it will agree to a system of compensation for victims of priests and church staff. No details, yet.
Anyone expect whatever is volunteered will be closer to real compensation than the amounts contained in first offers from other national branches of the Catholic Church?