Posts Tagged Cardinal George Pell

Catholic clergy sexual abuse: moving toward accountability?

Recent events revolving around Catholic clergy sexual abuse suggest the proverbial tide may be turning in the scandal from the Church’s knee-jerk closing of institutional ranks to action against perpetrators and abettors, both by the Church and civil authorities.

A marked example of how far the institutional response has progressed toward accountability is retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick stepping down from active ministry after the Vatican determined that allegations of sexual abuse were found “credible and substantiated.” The abuse occurred nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. Nothing additional was known about the incident at the time of this writing, but McCarrick is likely the first cardinal to step aside because of sexual abuse.

Another obvious evidence of a change in the Church’s attitude is the change in Pope Francis. Over just a few weeks he has shifted from calling Chilean abuse survivors’ allegations “calumny” to removing three bishops, after he met with Chilean abuse victims and Vatican investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna turned in his report. Chilean police and prosecutors also raided Catholic Church offices in the Osorno Diocese of Bishop Juan Barros. Scicluna and his colleague, Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, have returned to Chile to help ensure “adequate responses to each case of sexual abuse of minors.”

The Archdiocese of Mexico City’s response has been a partnership with the Survivors of those Abused by Priests on programs to protect children. To date, SNAP has been so critical of the Church for its handling of the scandal that it has become anathema to most bishops, particularly in the United States.

Throughout the scandal’s history, many Catholics have taken a jaundiced view of survivor settlements. Yet, in St. Paul-Minneapolis, which rose out of bankruptcy only recently with a $210 million settlement with survivors, parishioners are actually contributing to the settlement. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Father Daniel Griffith at Our Lady of Lourdes. “We’re all part of the archdiocese, and we all need to be part of the solution.”

States’ attorneys general have long tried to pry open the scandal, with limited results, but momentum is building, most visibly in Pennsylvania. A report is due at the end of this month from a grand jury investigation covering six dioceses (Greensburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg, Pittsburg — As of this writing, the Pennsylvania Supreme court has tempoarily blocked release of the report). Those close to the report tout conclusions as the worst ever. Legislators there are hoping the report finally will prompt changes in the state’s statute of limitation for sexual assault, which devastating grand jury reports in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and Philadelphia Archdiocese were unable to achieve; although the 2011 report in Philadelphia resulted in the convictions of two priests.

Where the law allows, national governments have investigated institutional abuse of minors. The Church has figured highly in these investigations, which, for example, have taken place in Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and The Netherlands, and a statutory inquiry in the United Kingdom and Wales is ongoing. At least in Australia, the inquiry has led to changes in the law that include attempting to force priests to break the seal of confession where clergy sexual abuse of a minor is involved.

Speaking of Australia, the scandal has ensnared two highly placed prelates there. Cardinal George Pell is now standing trial on multiple counts of historic sexual abuse, while on leave from his position as Vatican treasurer. Archbishop Philip Wilson’s trial for covering up clergy abuse recently resulted in his conviction, and he is to be sentenced next month.

Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron is now appealing his Vatican conviction earlier this spring for “certain accusations” of sexual abuse of minors. He has been removed from office. The Church and lawyers there are attempting to settle more than 170 civil suits brought by abuse survivors (184 people in Guam have said they were abused by clergy or others associated with the Church).

Predicting where all this will lead is risky. These events, however, are not the same as the apologies and promises that too often in the past have not resulted in change. They are examples of the Church and civil authorities actually taking action.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of Australia’s bishop conference told Cruxnow.com that the atmosphere today in the Vatican is totally different than in 2002. Now, “there is a determination to work with all the local churches in really trying to, first of all, understand the phenomenon and the scale and the complexity, and then to tie action, not just wring the hands or have another discussion, but to actually take action … There is absolutely no room for complacency, but there is room for encouragement.”

As Voice of the Faithful was recently quoted in a PennLive.com article on the Pennsylvania scandal, perhaps “we’ve come to a point where the Church has realized this cannot go on.”

(For many more examples of how the tide may be turning on the clergy abuse scandal see Voice of the Faithful’s most recent “Focus” news roundup column.)

Reprinted from Voice of the Faithful’s In the Vineyard e-newsletter.

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Vatican silence on Cardinal Pell’s trial is a turn from a long history / National Catholic Reporter

The idea that a cardinal, who was no longer even working in Australia and who could have been given immunity from prosecution by a foreign tribunal quite easily, will be facing a secular jury without so much as a peep of protest from the Vatican is stunning. (National Catholic Reporter)

Cardinal George Pell is going on trial in Australia to face charges he sexually abused minors. As victims’ advocate Anne Barrett Doyle told my colleague Josh McElwee, this trial is a ‘turning point’ in the long saga of compelling accountability by church leaders. It is even more of a turning point than Doyle may realize. Because the big story here is the dog that did not bark, the fact that the Vatican has made no protest at the prospect of a prince of the church standing trial before a civil magistrate.

“I cannot think of a single preoccupation of the Catholic Church that has more frequently defined the stances she takes vis-à-vis the ambient culture than the concern for the church’s independence and freedom. From the Middle Ages onward, popes undertook a delicate balancing act with other powers seeking control of the Italian peninsula. In individual countries, the church often fought for her rights against monarchs who wanted to control the church’s personnel or money or both.”

By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Cardinal George Pell to stand trial on historical sex offenses / The New York Times

The church has found itself at the center of a spiraling sex abuse scandal, spanning countries and decades. (The New York Times)

“Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking official, must stand trial on several charges of sexual abuse, an Australian court ruled on Tuesday (May 1), promising to prolong a case that has already dragged on for months, and which many see as a moment of reckoning for a church racked by scandal.

“Belinda Wallington, a Melbourne magistrate, found there was sufficient evidence for prosecutors to bring the cardinal’s case to trial, ending a two-month pretrial hearing, in which witnesses described abuse they said took place decades ago.

“But the majority of charges against the cardinal were either withdrawn or dismissed, including several of the most serious allegations, which were said to have taken place in a playground, on an altar, on a mountaintop and during a 1970s screening of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ in Ballarat.”

By Adam Baidawi, The New York Times — Read more …

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Australian mining town breaks its silence about grim past of sexual abuse / The New York times

The scale of the abuse in Ballarat was staggering. Gerald Ridsdale, the former chaplain of St. Alipius Primary School in Ballarat, was imprisoned for sexually abusing 65 children from the early 1960s to late 1980s. He was only one of several priests convicted of abusing children. (The New York Times)

Rob Walsh was outside Melbourne Magistrates’ Court recently awaiting a pretrial hearing for Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking official, when, he said, he unexpectedly walked into the cardinal himself.

“The encounter wasn’t their first. They both were raised in the same old mining town, which could be why the cardinal extended his hand, inviting Mr. Walsh to shake it. Mr. Walsh declined — a gesture that signified the lasting impact of a decades-long sexual abuse scandal that has rocked this town, Ballarat, and sent shock waves around the world.

“‘The ripple is still on the lake and it’s still occurring,’ Mr. Walsh said from his home in Ballarat, referring to the lingering effects from that scandal, in which priests preyed on children, including Mr. Walsh, during the 1960s and 1970s.

“‘It’s gone through families and generations.'”

By Jacqueline Williams, The New York times — Read more …

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Cardinal to face Australian court on sex abuse charges / Associated Press in The Boston Globe

Pope Francis’s former finance minister was charged in June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the cardinal have yet to be released to the public. (Associated Press in The Boston Globe)

The alleged victims of the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis began giving secret evidence to an Australian court on Monday.

“Australian Cardinal George Pell wore his clerical collar for the first day of the hearing in the Melbourne Magistrate Court to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put him on trial. The committal hearing is scheduled to take up to a month.The testimony of alleged victims was suppressed from publication and the courtroom was closed to the public and media. Prosecutor Mark Gibson said the complainants would give evidence by a video link.

“Pope Francis’s former finance minister was charged in June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the cardinal have yet to be released to the public.

“Monday’s testimony of alleged victims was suppressed from publication and the courtroom was closed to the public and media.”

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Australian church facing biggest crisis in its history, says Brisbane archbishop / The Tablet

High on the agenda at the Vatican summit was Australia’s Royal Commission inquiry into how institutions handled child sexual abuse. This has seen the Catholic Church facing unrelenting criticism for its response to the scandal. (The Tablet)

A leading Australian bishop says the Church in his country is facing the biggest crisis in its history after taking part in talks with the Vatican over how to address the problem. 

“The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, who is Vice President of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, told The Tablet that he and fellow bishops were in Rome to discuss the fallout of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, and how the Church will adopt a new approach. This, he says, will look at how to include women in positions of ‘governance.’  

“High on the agenda at the Vatican summit was Australia’s Royal Commission inquiry into how institutions handled child sexual abuse. This has seen the Catholic Church facing unrelenting criticism for its response to the scandal. The problem has been magnified after the Australian police’s decision to charge Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican treasurer and former Archbishop of Sydney, with historic sexual offences.”

By Christopher Lamb, The Tablet — Read more … 

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Australian Catholic Church falls short on safeguards for children, study finds / The New York Times

In nearly 400 pages, the report traces the history of child sexual abuse in the global church and tries to identify factors that have contributed to it, with a particular focus on Australia. (The New York Times)

A study that examines child sexual abuse worldwide in the Roman Catholic Church has found that the Australian church has done less to safeguard children in its care than its counterparts in similar countries have.

“The report, released on Wednesday by the Center for Global Research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, also found that the church’s requirement that priests be celibate was a major risk factor for abuse. And it said that the possibility of abuse in Catholic residential institutions, like orphanages, should be getting more attention, especially in developing countries.

“Experts said the report could put pressure on Pope Francis, and particularly the church in Australia, to do more to prevent abuse. The Australian church was rocked in June when Cardinal George Pell, an Australian who is one of the pope’s top advisers, became the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged with sexual offenses.

“Desmond Cahill, the report’s lead author, said its findings pointed to an urgent need to rethink the priesthood in the 21st century. He said the church should reconsider the celibacy requirement for priests.”

By Jacqueline Williams, The New York Times — Read more …

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