Vatican sex abuse commission meets amid new hopes, old concerns

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Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi.

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi.

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VATICAN CITY (RNS) “Priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors," Pope Francis said.

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  • Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh

    Thankyou for this informative article. As a victim/survivor of clergy sexual abuse as a young doctor in Ireland, I was grateful that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was willing to listen to my story, and do something positive to remove the predator priest from active ministry. As an American, I have been saddened by the lack of care and the re-victimization of victims by the American hierarchy. I fear that the Vatican policies of secrecy and denial of the truth, reinforced by Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI are still active. If that is true, then the hierarchy might feel bound under a misguided obedience to ignore the command of Jesus to protect the innocence of children.

  • Judy Jones

    Sadly the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their power and the institution rather than protecting innocent children.

    As long as Pope Francis avoids taking decisive action by firing and demoting bishops who cover up child sex crimes, nothing will change and children are still not safe within this secret system.
    Judy Jones, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

  • MIchael Skiendzielewski

    From the Pope’s letter to the Commission for the Protection of Minors:

    “…For all of these reasons, I now ASK for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors….”
    (capitals inserted for emphasis)

    And what are the consequences should certain bishops and cardinals choose NOT to cooperate with the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors? In those dioceses, who will ensure that the rules, regulations and protocol are being followed as outlined in the Pope’s letter? Non-compliance is not that unlikely given that we had certain dioceses here in the US that would not conduct or allow audits of their programs as directed by the USCCB guidelines relative to clergy abuse.

  • JuneAnnette

    And what of the PONTIFICAL SECRET, a legal loophole / technicality in RC Canon Law that remains in force and insures that the cover up of Roman Catholic clergy abuse crimes will continue! This is what transparency and accountability in the unholy Roman Catholic “church” looks like!
    READ it and Weep: Popes ordered silence, former judge Kieran Tapsell claims in book / Source: Newcastle Herald – Australia / May 27, 2014

    A FORMER NSW judge who studied to be a priest with a future notorious Hunter child sex offender has launched a devastating critique of the Catholic Church’s six popes, including two new saints, who covered up a global child sex abuse crisis for nearly a century.

    Popes Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, Benedict XVI and the recently named papal saints John Paul II and John XXIII ‘‘effectively facilitated child sexual abuse’’, retired acting NSW district court judge Kieran Tapsell argues in his new book, Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse.

    While canon law until 1917 required sex offender priests to be dismissed and reported to police, a series of canon law changes and papal decrees since imposed a ‘‘permanent silence’’ that continues to prohibit reporting of some matters in some Australian states even today, Tapsell said.

    He reserved some of his most devastating criticism for Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who blamed Irish bishops in 2010 after the release of damning reports into child sexual abuse in that country, but failed to mention bishops were prohibited from reporting cases to police.

    ‘‘The cover-up of child sexual abuse did not occur because of bad faith or incompetence on the part of bishops, albeit in some cases that existed, but because they were ordered to cover it up through canon law by six popes since Pius XI in 1922,’’ Tapsell said.

    Benedict XVI ‘‘knew that he was part of the Roman Curia that was administering, confirming and entrenching a system of privilege of clergy that not only protected child sex offenders from going to jail, but that led to further sex attacks by them on children’’.

    While Australian bishops in the 1990s had shown ingenuity and even courage in trying to deal with child sex offender priests including the notorious Hunter priest Denis McAlinden, that courage had ‘‘now gone out the window’’ because they refused to ‘‘face the truth about the six popes who have orchestrated a cover-up’’.

    Tapsell trained to be a priest for six years in the 1960s. He remembers fellow trainee, the late Hunter priest Jim Fletcher, as ‘‘just an average sort of person’’ whose conviction in 2005 for child sex offences was a shock.

    Pope Francis’s comments on the child sexual abuse crisis were a concern, but secular inquiries like the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into Hunter cases, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would force change, Tapsell said.

    ‘‘Some things are already clear because of the royal commission. Towards Healing [the Australian Catholic Church’s system of dealing with child sexual abuse cases] is finished. The days of the Church investigating itself are finished.’’

    Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse, ATF Press.

  • Jeanne B Richards

    As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, this topic is near and dear to my heart, and I feel that those who perpetrate this crime should be held responsible for their aberrant behavior against children – those innocents that priests, above all, were entrusted to protect, and should be brought to justice.

    When the priest sexual-abuse scandal was made public, and the laity lost their trust and faith in the clergy, the RCC suffered greatly because of it. We – as the laity – knew that it would take more than a few years, if ever, for the Church to gain back the trust that was lost due to the bad judgement and cover-ups by bishops, and the subsequent mishandling of the situation by the heads of parishes – be they bishops, archbishops, or cardinals – who covered-up this issue. Since the beginning, the priest sexual-abuse scandal was mishandled by the Vatican. Once the scandal publicly broke, victims and their families expected the Vatican to: acknowledge the issue, confess to the roles certain bishops, archbishops, and cardinals had in exacerbating the issue by transferring problem-priests to other parishes, cooperate fully with law-enforcement, and make full-restitution to the victims of these crimes (even though one can never, ever compensate a child for the innocence a pedophile has stolen from them). Instead investigations were delayed- and in some cases dismissed entirely due to “lack of evidence”, no apologies were made, and restitution to victims came much too late. Furthermore, it took until Frances’ time for the Church to take responsibility for what happened to these innocent children, acknowledge its culpability in allowing pedophilia to continue and run rampant among the clergy, and take steps to assure parents their children will be safe in the future.

    Look, not all priests are bad, and Pope Francis is currently leading the charge to deal with the issue of pedophilia among the clergy in a very aggressive and public manner, so those who were affected by the priest-abuse scandal know that they are not being shoved into the background and ignored. It is a fact that Francis operates with much greater transparency than the pontiffs of the recent past, and I have every reason to believe that he is a man of action. I have faith the Pontiff will take positive steps to make certain this situation will be resolved once and for all, and that he will make no exceptions to the law for those priests who defiled their oath to protect the innocent and act as Christ would have them act.
    JB Richards
    Author of “Miriamne the Magdala-The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series” and Content Creator for The Miriamne Page

  • JuneAnnette

    Recommended Reading for those following this discussion:
    The Roman Catholic “church” has always maintained that her Canon law trumps civil law. Moreover, historically they have likewise sought to suppress freedom of religion wherever it held sway and has proven to be a threat to both religious and civil liberties. This they do through their CONCORDATS.
    1) “A concordat is a legal agreement between a country and the Vatican. It can set up a theological fiefdom where certain human rights do not apply—and where they can never again be reintroduced without the consent of the Catholic Church. This is why concordats represent a fundamental threat to both democracy and human rights. The Vatican finds many uses for its approximately 200 current concordats. In May 2012 the Italian bishops even said that their concordat excused them from having to report to the police suspected cases of child abuse by fellow priests.”

    2) IRELAND . . a CATHOLIC country by design, powerfully illustrates what happens when the RC “church” gains control of a nation and the rights of individuals are subordinated to the church!

    1) Article: ‘Concordats – human rights – separation of church and state / Source: Concordat Watch
    2) Article: ‘Everything you need to know about Ireland’s disaffected Catholics / Source: the week / June 28, 2014

  • JuneAnnette

    A Case in Point . . Background on Archbishop Josef Wesolowski Case . .
    Article: How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges / Source/Website: Concordat Watch
    Diplomatic immunity in action: Archbishop Wesolowski is whisked away to the Vatican (start quote)
    However, this treaty was never meant to allow accused rapists of children to go free. Yet this appeared to be the intention when Bishop Paul Gallagher, the papal nuncio or pope’s ambassador to Australia refused to hand over to prosecutors documents on two priests who had abused more than 100 children over 40 years. [x] The nuncio invoked diplomatic immunity. However, as a UN committee later reminded the Vatican, [y] as a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was obliged to hand over this evidence. [z] Pope Francis was apparently so pleased by the nuncio’s attempts to block justice in Australia’s worst clerical abuse scandal, that the next year he promoted him to archbishop and to the number three post in his kingdom  the Vatican’s Foreign Minister. [zz]  
    as happened in the Dominican Republic. [5] There on June 24, 2013 a deacon was arrested and admitted to procuring impoverished boys to be sexually abused by the papal nuncio Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski. [6] By the time the deacon appeared on TV and said that others in the Church knew about this [7] the nuncio had vanished. He had been secretly whisked away and reappeared in the Vatican. 
    At the TV station they suspected that there had been a leak.
    A “dossier” accusing papal nuncio Archbishop Josef Wesolowski of sex abuse of minors was sent to Pope Francis sometime in July [2013] by Santo Domingo Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez. The pope found the information credible enough to dismiss Wesolowski, nuncio to both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, on Aug. 21 via confidential letter N.2706/PR to the bishops of both countries.
    Neither the civil authorities nor the public knew about Wesolowski until a local TV program did an exposé on Aug. 31. The result of a year-long investigation, the broadcast contained testimony from residents of the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo that Wesolowski paid minors for sex.
    Three days after the TV broadcast, a local bishop confirmed that Wesolowski had been recalled for sexually abusing minors.
    Wesolowski reportedly had left the country only a few days before. [8]
    In this case the Vatican acted against its own much-touted guidelines:
    the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome […] before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic. [9]
    Once he was safely in Rome the Vatican “confirmed that Wesolowski is a citizen of the Vatican city state, that the Vatican doesn’t extradite its citizens and that as a nuncio, or Holy See ambassador, Wesolowski enjoys full diplomatic immunity”. [10] Experts in international law say that the Vatican could have lifted the nuncio’s diplomatic immunity to let him face trial in the Dominical Republic (which could hardly be accused of having an anti-Catholic judiciary). [11]
    However, the Church came under increasing pressure when the United Nations Committee against Torture stepped in. In June 2014 it urged the Vatican, if the investigation warranted it, to either try Wesolowski itself under the Vatican State criminal code (not canon law) or let someone else do so — and report back on the outcome. [12]
    In August 2014, the Vatican gave Wesolwski a secret canon law trial to determine if he had violated Church doctrine. The Vatican tribunal found Wesolwski’s guilty of abusing young boys and defrocked him. But it refused to provide any information about his whereabouts or how he pleaded to the charges and refused to release contact information for his lawyer. [13] This deprived Mr. Wesolowski of his diplomatic immunity — so the Vatican then fell back on his Vatican State citizenship as the reason for not handing him over.
    To avoid further challenges to its jurisdiction, the Vatican refused to provide the necessary documents to Polish prosecutors, who had hoped to try Wesolowski, a dual Vatican-Polish citizen. [14] The Vatican also got the Dominican Republic to fall into line. In August 2014, the day after Wesolowski lost his diplomatic immunity, the Santo Dominican prosecutor’s office announced that it was launching an investigation. [15] However, by the end of the year, the Dominican Republic’s top prosecutor was expressing “appreciation and satisfaction” with the Vatican’s actions (!) and said that the Vatican was the right place for the trial. [16] The Dominican authorities even stonewalled the legal inquiries of Polish prosecutors about Wesolowski,  [17] which forced Poland to suspend its inquiry. [18] This cleared the way for the Vatican to conduct its own trial under the criminal law of its own state, which would satisfy the UN commitee, but keep control over the proceedings.
    A Polish expert on church law, Prof. Pawel Borecki, explained why the Vatican was determined to maintain control:
    The Vatican will seek that this case does not go beyond its borders. Wesolowski is a high-ranking diplomat. He has knowledge of how the Roman curia works. He may also know about pedophilia in the church and if other high-ranking priests are involved in the crime. In a trial abroad he could reveal everything. Therefore, we can expect that the Vatican will not release him and it will hand down a severe punishment. [19] (end quote)

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