Posts Tagged U.S. bishops

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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Retired Washington cardinal out of ministry after credible abuse accusation / National Catholic Reporter

He is likely the first cardinal to step down from active ministry for sexually abusing a minor. (National Catholic Reporter)

“In a shocking announcement, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who served as the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., before retiring in 2006, has announced that he is stepping down from active ministry after allegations of sexual abuse were found ‘credible and substantiated.’

“‘The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry,’ according to a statement from the New York Archdiocese where the complaint was lodged.

“He is likely the first cardinal to step down from active ministry for sexually abusing a minor.

“‘I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest,’ McCarrick said in a statement.

“The incident of sexual abuse of a teenager occurred 47 years ago, when McCarrick was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, the statement said. No other details about the allegations were given.”

By Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Study ranks dioceses’ online financial transparency; Sacramento on top / National Catholic Reporter

Transparency in diocesan financial statements is a means to keep dioceses accountable while also encouraging donations, Margaret Roylance, a member of the Voice of the Faithful committee that put together the study, told NCR. (National Catholic Reporter)

Separated by a continent, the dioceses of Sacramento, California, and Camden, New Jersey, are also divided by degrees of financial transparency.

“Parishioners in Sacramento can find out where their donations go with the click of a button on the diocesan website. Those in the Diocese of Camden, which covers southern New Jersey, will have a more difficult time.

“That is a takeaway from a study on financial transparency undertaken recently by Voice of the Faithful, a church watchdog group. The study surveyed dioceses and archdioceses across the country, rating them from most transparent to most opaque. The study was based on how much financial information is accessible on diocesan websites.”

Peter Feuerherd, Naitonal Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Ex-Catholic bishop of Phoenix accused of sex abuse of boy / Associated Press in The New York Times

The bishop acknowledged in a 2003 immunity deal that he let church employees accused of sex abuse continue to have contact with children. Weeks after the deal, O’Brien resigned as bishop after he was arrested in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian. (Associated Press in The New York Times)

A former bishop who led the Roman Catholic church in metro Phoenix during a worldwide child sexual abuse scandal has been accused of molesting a young boy 35 years ago.

“Retired Bishop Thomas O’Brien is accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing the boy on several occasions at parishes in Phoenix and Goodyear from 1977 to 1982. The Diocese of Phoenix says O’Brien denies the allegation.

“O’Brien, now 81, led the diocese in Phoenix as it became embroiled in a global scandal that rocked the Catholic church after allegations surfaced in Boston about pedophile priests going unpunished.

“The bishop acknowledged in a 2003 immunity deal that he let church employees accused of sex abuse continue to have contact with children. Weeks after the deal, O’Brien resigned as bishop after he was arrested in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian.

“O’Brien’s accuser says the clergyman sexually abused him when he was a child and he had suppressed his memories of it, said Tim Hale, his lawyer.”

By Associated Press in The New York Times — Read more …

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Annual audit of church abuse allegations shows work still needed / Catholic News Service

“Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, said the audits show that even with all of the work being done to fulfill the requirements of the bishops’ charter, developed in 2002, allegations involving current minors have still occurred.”

The 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church’s ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ shows that church leaders have taken steps to help many find healing as victims of clergy sexual abuse, but there is still work to be done.

“Introductory remarks in the 2017 report urge church leaders not to assume that ‘sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is a thing of the past and a distant memory. Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must rededicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance,’ wrote Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees the audits …

“Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, said the audits show that even with all of the work being done to fulfill the requirements of the bishops’ charter, developed in 2002, allegations involving current minors have still occurred.”

By Carol Zimmerman, Catholic News Service — Read More …

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Atlanta archbishop says clericalism continues to hinder sex abuse reforms / America

If only clericalism could be quashed and the Vatican II promise of a broad, deep, significant, and effective participation of equal lay and ordained in the Church could be fulfilled — but we don’t see this happening anytime soon.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the tumultuous years when the wide scope of the clergy sexual abuse scandal was brought to light, said in a new interview that clericalism is still hampering efforts to address the issue, even at the highest levels of the church.

“‘I would say there is a resistance to do the hard thing,’ the Atlanta archbishop told NPR affiliate WABE in a March interview broadcast on April 10. ‘I think it’s culturally driven as much as it is ideologically driven.’

“Archbishop Gregory addressed allegations by Marie Collins, an Irish laywoman and survivor of sexual abuse who resigned from the pope’s child protection commission. She complained that the Vatican refuses to implement recommendations from the group, even with the backing of Pope Francis himself. Ms. Collins, the archbishop said, ‘has touched on a truism.’

‘”‘It is the ugly face of clericalism that unfortunately still has too much influence in our church,’ Archbishop Gregory said. ‘Marie Collins is a very brave woman, and she is a very determined woman, and I believe she’s a grace for the church.’

By Michael O’Loughlin, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Clerical culture blamed in abuse survivors resignation from papal commission

bishopshatswebIn editorializing today (Mar. 3) on the resignation of abuse survivor Marie Colllins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, National Catholic Reporter has once again pointed out that a clerical culture blocks Church reform that would better address the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

NCR says, “A resistance to change that is planted deep within the all-male clerical culture is the largely unaddressed issue at the heart of the scandal and has been since the first major story about it appeared in these pages more than 30 years ago.”

From the beginning of its efforts against clergy sexual abuse, Voice of the Faithful has pointed to the clerical culture as an underlying cause. By May 2011, the U.S. Catholic bishops had produced their study of the scandal, releasing the results of its John Jay College report. VOTF reviewed the study and released its conclusions that October. Among many points in this exhaustive review of the report,

VOTF concluded that conspicuously absent from the bishops’ study was clericalism, as a major influence “in explaining why priests sexually abused minors and the hierarchy enabled it to continue.” VOTF then defined clericalism as “the lived belief that clergy are different, separate, and exempt from the norms, rules, and consequences that apply to everyone else.”

You can read “Voice of the Faithful’s Conclusions About the John Jay College Report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” by clicking here. VOTF also maintains a webpage called “Clericalism: Reality & Concerns” that can be reached by clicking here.

NCR has editorialized in the same vein a day after Collins’ resignation:

“What we know now is that all of the emotional and intellectual investment of victims, all the lofty words and intentions of countless bishops forced to acknowledge the deep corruption of the institution, all of the straining for some manner of justice by those in the wider, secular culture, mean nothing inside the community if the clergy culture continues to refuse to confront itself and its entrenched and unyielding role in sustaining the sexual abuse scandal … What is necessary to finally put this scandal behind us is a chorus of clerical voices demanding reform of their own culture, demanding that the all-male clerical caste engage in the painful work of understanding what their culture has become, how it could be so deformed that it was able to justify what some have termed the “soul-killing” of the community’s children.”

VOTF will continue to join our voices with NCR’s to proclaim that “until that culture changes, children will remain in harm’s way within this church.”

Read the entire editorial here …

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