Archive for category Clergy Sexual Abuse

How are clergy sexual abuse survivors to grasp Pope Francis calling them “slanderers”?

Voice of Faithful often receives calls from survivors seeking assistance and comfort. We received one such call from a distraught survivor on the same day that news media reports circulated about Pope Francis calling survivors “slanderers” for accusing Bishop Juan Borros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, covering up their abuse.

The survivor had been part of the original settlement between his diocese and his abuser’s victims and says he now is being denied compensation for therapy that was part of the settlement. He must ask the diocese each time he wants to see a therapist and is being denied because the diocese apparently does not consider his therapy necessary.

He has spoken with several lawyers, presented his story to many local news outlets, sent letters to his bishop, and sent innumerable emails and letters and had many phone conversations with the diocese’s pastoral support office. He has exhausted all avenues through which he might expect to receive justice. Yet, he considers himself lucky because he has not turned to alcohol or drugs to dull his pain or suicide to end it, as other survivors have, and says he knows of some who will not deal with the diocese because of the agony of disbelief they would have to endure.

Stories like these remind us at VOTF that whatever words the hierarchy may use about clergy sexual abuse, real-life failures continue. That’s one reason why, having placed renewed hope for redress of the scandal in Pope Francis, his recent remarks during his visit to Chile about survivors being “slanderers” are so disconcerting.

Just before a Mass at the end of his visit to Chile, the pope is reported to have said, “The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Earlier in his visit to Chile, the pope had wept with survivors, admonished Chile’s clergy for abuse and betrayed trust, apologized for “irreparable damage” done by abuse, and sought forgiveness from victims. Returning to Rome, the Pope is reported to have said he regretted the language of his remarks but maintained his support for Bishop Barros.

Which message should survivors hear – the Pope weeping with them and admonishing Chile’s clergy for abuse and betrayal of trust, apologizing for “irreparable” damage done by abuse, and seeking forgiveness? Or, calling them “slanderers” and demanding some sort of proof other than their testimony?

Sadly, our survivor’s story jibes more with the pope who accuses survivors of slander than the pope who weeps for suffering. His experience seems a case study in everything the Church has done wrong in addressing the abuse scandal and its victims/survivors.

VOTF has attempted to listen and to promote healing throughout the 15 years since Boston’s clergy sexual abuse crisis initiated our movement. We will continue to do so – and to insist on accountability for the bishops who covered up abuse and who even today are denying full justice for survivors.

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Pope accuses sex abuse victims in Chile of slandering bishop / The New York Times

“But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?” (Pope Francis in The New York Times)

Pope Francis has accused abuse victims in Chile of slandering a bishop who they say protected a pedophile priest, upending his efforts to rehabilitate the Catholic Church’s reputation while visiting South America.

“Francis told reporters Thursday there was not a shred of evidence against Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who victims of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, Chile’s most notorious priest, have accused of being complicit in his crimes.

“‘The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,’ Francis said before celebrating Mass outside the northern Chilean city of Iquique. ‘But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?'”

By Pascale Bonnefoy and Austin Ramzy, The New York Times — Read more …

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Pope meets with abuse survivors, weeps with them in Chile / Associated Press

“But his meeting with abuse survivors and comments in his first speech of the day were what many Chileans, incensed by years of abuse scandal and cover-up, were waiting for.” (Associated Press)

“Pope Francis met on Tuesday (Jan. 16) with survivors of priests who sexually abused them, wept with them and apologized for the ‘irreparable damage’ they suffered, his spokesman said.

“The pontiff also acknowledged the ‘pain’ of priests who have been held collectively responsible for the crimes of a few, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters at the end of the day.

“Francis dove head-first into Chile’s sex abuse scandal on his first full day in Santiago that came amid unprecedented opposition to his visit …

But his meeting with abuse survivors and comments in his first speech of the day were what many Chileans, incensed by years of abuse scandal and cover-up, were waiting for.”

By Peter Prengaman and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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Pope letter details concern over Chile bishop / Associated Press

“In his Jan. 31, 2015, letter, written in response to Chilean church leaders’ complaints about the Barros appointment, Francis revealed for the first time that he knew that the issue was controversial and that his ambassador in Chile had tried to find a way to contain the damage well before the case made headlines.” (Associated Press)

The Vatican was so concerned about the fallout from Chile’s most notorious pedophile priest that it planned to ask three Chilean bishops accused of knowing about his decades-long crimes to resign and take a year’s sabbatical — a revelation that comes just days before Pope Francis makes his first visit to Chile as pope.

“A confidential 2015 letter from Francis, obtained by The Associated Press, details the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Vatican and Chile’s bishops to deal with the prelates connected to the disgraced Rev. Fernando Karadima. And it reveals the bishops’ concern about Francis naming a Karadima protege, Bishop Juan Barros, to the helm of the diocese of Osorno — an appointment that roiled the diocese, with hundreds of priests and lay Catholics staging protests against him.

“Those protests are expected to greet Francis during his visit to Chile, which begins Monday (Jan. 15).

“Chile’s Catholic Church was thrown into crisis in 2010 when former parishioners publicly accused Karadima of sexually abusing them when they were minors, starting in the 1980s — accusations they had made years earlier to Chilean church leaders but that were ignored. The scandal grew as Chilean prosecutors and Vatican investigators took testimony from the victims, who accused Barros and other Karadima proteges of having witnessed the abuse and doing nothing about it.”

By Eva Vergara and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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Clergy abuse database releases new names in Chile / National Catholic Reporter

“This list — is a fraction of the total number of accused clerics who would be known if Chile’s church leaders were required to report to law enforcement …” (National Catholic Reporter)

The leading Catholic clergy sexual abuse tracking website has identified nearly 80 priests in Chile that have been publicly accused of sexually abusing minors, releasing their names online just days before Pope Francis is to visit the country.

“BishopAccountability.org calls the list only a sampling of the number of Chilean priests who have likely committed abuse, saying that unlike in the U.S., the church in Chile has yet to face substantial outside investigation into its handling of sexual misconduct.

“‘This list — is a fraction of the total number of accused clerics who would be known if Chile’s church leaders were required to report to law enforcement, if its legal system allowed victims more time to bring criminal and civil charges, or if dioceses and religious orders were investigated by prosecutors or state commissions,’ the group notes in a statement accompanying the database.”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Cardinal Law’s complex role in the contemporary history of clergy sexual abuse / National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal Bernard Law’s scandalous cover-up and resignation led to a phenomenon that was not expected nor clearly obvious at the time, but it was real. (National Catholic Reporter)

Public awareness of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy actually dates from 1984. It was triggered by the public exposure of widespread sexual violation of children by a single priest in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, and its systemic cover-up by the church’s leadership that lasted well over a decade.

Cardinal Bernard Law, who went from in 1974 being bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to in 1984 being named archbishop of Boston, became the most powerful and influential Catholic bishop in the United States. This all came to a screeching halt in 2002. In one day Law became the face of hierarchical treachery and dishonesty when The Boston Globe revealed the systemic cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by Boston priests, most of it his doing. He remained the face of the hierarchy’s disgraceful attitude towards the violation of minors and the vulnerable. Even in death he remains the focal point of the anger and rage of countless victims of sexual abuse by clergy — certainly Boston victims, but also others worldwide.

Law’s role in the history of clergy abuse is more than the systemic cover-up in Boston. What is little known is the influential part he played in the early days when the extent and depravity of this evil was first exposed. In those very early days in 1984 and 1985, I believed that when the bishops realized the nature of sexual abuse and potential plague before them, they would lose no time in doing the right thing.

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

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Statement from Voice of the Faithful on the death of Cardinal Bernard Law

We pray for the family and friends of Cardinal Law, whose coverup of clergy sexual abuse was one of the greatest scandals of the Catholic Church. The child sex abuse and coverup, once revealed, pried open many other coverups and failures of the Catholic Church hierarchy. His passing also reminds us that so many of those damaged by the abuse and its coverup have yet to experience healing. We hope, particularly during this season of Advent, that we will see stronger support from the Church for that healing.

Here are notices published elsewhere regarding the death of Cardinal Law:

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