Pope Francis has signaled his officials that his Church's response to the sytemic and global crimes of sexual torture remain unchanged by apppointing and promoting prelates regardless of their shameful response to the violation of children and adolescents.
By shielding one of his prelates who preyed on poor boys from arrest and stonewalling a UN inquiry, Pope Francis has set an example of almost contemptuous indifference to both the suffering of his institution's victims and the efforts of others to protect our children.
On July 1, the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the Holy See (the juridical name of the Church’s government) for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nun” for the past fifteen years and set November 1 as a deadline for a reply.
As one of the signatories to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Church was fifteen years late in delivering a report describing whether it has acted to "protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence" as the convention requires. Additionally,
The questionnaire sought to establish whether "perpetrators of sexual crimes" were allowed to remain in contact with children and what legal action was taken against them. The appraisal also asked whether reporting of suspected abuse was mandatory. In addition it included queries about support for victims, and any incidents where complainants were silenced.In response to the CRC inquiry, Pope Francis immediately issued an update to his civil law making rape, sexual torture or sodomy of a child inside the Vatican City State punishable by up to twelve years in prison. (At the same time, he also enacted a law that anyone who reveals or receives confidential information which concerns the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations faces eight years in prison.)
By issuing its questions, the Geneva-based CRC brushed aside a Vatican warning that it might pull out of the Convention on the Rights of the Child if pushed too hard on the issue. In a report of its own in late 2011, posted on the U.N. website last October, the Holy See reminded the CRC of reservations on legal jurisdiction and other issues it made when it signed the global pact. It said any new "interpretation" would give it grounds "for terminating or withdrawing" from the treaty.
The Nov. 1 deadline came and went.
Pope Francis responded to the CRC on Dec. 4 by stating that it was not the practice of his government to “disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings” and “that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property.”
"Many will be disappointed and surprised by this slap in the face to the tens if not hundreds of thousands of suffering victims suffering and to a United Nations body," Keith Porteous Wood of the UK's National Secular Society said in a statement. The U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the response marked one of the Holy See's "most explicitly disingenuous and misleading positions on the issue to date" because the Vatican has required all bishops to report all cases of clerical sex abuse to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 2001.
The Vatican has actually been aware of the problem for centuries. Also, in an address to a Vatican conference on sexual abuse in 2012, Cardinal William Levada said that more than 4,000 cases involving the sexual abuse of minors have been referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the past decade.
Within two days, Pope Francis announced that he would form a commission to study the problem of sex abuse. “A new Church panel is the last thing that kids need. Church officials have mountains of information about those who have committed and those who are concealing horrible child sex crimes and cover-ups. They just have to give that information to the police,” David Clohessy, executive director of the SNAP, said in a telephone interview.
The second last thing that kids need is a photo op of Pope Francis hugging a victim or equally meaningless rhetoric while the pontiff continues to send his officials powerful messages in ways that count. While a German prelate who was spoiling Francis' carefully created image of a "poor Church" was swiftly given a leave of absence, such notorious guardians of offending priests as Twin Cities Archbishop Nienstedt, Kansas City Bishop Finn and Newark Archbishop Myers have not been removed.
More importantly, the pope has appointed and promoted prelates regardless of their records.
Pope Francis' first pontifical action was the appointment of eight cardinals to assist him in governing the Church. Two of them - Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa and Australian Cardinal George Pell - had made headlines in their own countries for protecting pedophile priests.
Cardinal Errázuriz is notorious in Chile for withholding information regarding Fr. Fernando Karamina, a spiritual leader among Santiago’s most influential families and accused of the sexual abuse of four boys.
In January 2011, a judge ordered that Karadima be interrogated. According to court testimony, Church officials, including Cardinal Errázuriz, tried to shame accusers into dropping claims, refused to meet with them or failed to carry out formal investigations for years.
The first known reports of abuse by Karadima had reached Errázuriz in mid-2003. In 2006, a priest appointed by Errázuriz to investigate the claims made his report to the cardinal, stating that he believed the accusers to be credible. Errázuriz did nothing. By November 2011, a judge dismissed the criminal case against Karadima because the statute of limitations had expired but also determined that the allegations were “truthful and reliable.”
In Australia, the number of reports of clerical sex abuse became so egregious that the state of Victoria (capital Melbourne) initiated a parliament inquiry into child sex abuse. On Nov 13, the parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee concluded that:
Cardinal Pell's response revealed "a reluctance to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the Catholic Church's institutional failure to respond appropriately to allegations of criminal child abuse".The Australian state of New South Wales (capital Sydney) is investigating complaints that the Catholic Church hampered police investigations. The NSW Crown Solicitor's Office made requests to the papal nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher on Aug. 30 and again Oct. 22, asking for copies of any relevant documents held in the archives of the Apostolic Nunciature in Canberra or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
In a swipe at Cardinal Pell's evidence, its report said that following repeated questioning he agreed some bishops and religious superiors had covered up the issue.
"That is quite different from the whole church ... the whole church is not guilty of that," he told the inquiry.
The parliament's Family and Community Development Committee also challenged Cardinal Pell over a speech he gave in Ireland in 2011 in which he said a Supreme Court judge had advised him the sex abuse scandal "would bleed us to death" if not cleaned up.
Its report said Cardinal Pell - the archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001 - seemed to indicate the church's central aim was to safeguard its own interests.
"It is noteworthy that this description of objectives contains no acknowledgement of the terrible suffering of victims," the report said.
Accompanying the questions raised over Cardinal Pell is a claim in the report that Catholic clergy in Australia are responsible for six times more child sexual abuse than all the other churches combined.
Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney and a former consultant on the church's Towards Healing protocol provided compelling research to the inquiry.
"The levels of abuse in the Catholic Church are strikingly out of proportion with any other church, and that is the reality," he said.
The committee also rejected evidence of other church leaders that awareness of sexual abuse was "slow to percolate through society and the church".
"Rather than being instrumental in exposing the issue and the extent of the problem, the Catholic Church in Victoria minimalized and trivialized the problem, contributed to abuse not being disclosed and ensured the community remained uninformed," the report said.
It also ensured perpetrators weren't held accountable.
The committee noted the Catholic Church's structure assisted in covering up sexual abuse through a system of non-accountability.
On Sept. 2, the nuncio sent an interim response, stating that he was submitting (chair of the special commission of inquiry, Margaret Cunneen SC,)’s request to his superiors in Rome and would write again soon when he had a reply.In the U.S., Pope Francis promoted Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair as the new archbishop of Hartford. “It’s just more of the same,” Vatican reporter Robert Mickens said. “It’s clear that the same old ‘old-boys network’ is at work.”
On Nov. 13, Gallagher replied again, reminding Cunneen that his office is "the high diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the Commonwealth" and citing "the protections afforded by international agreements, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."
Article 24 of the 1961 Vienna Convention states that the archives and documents of a diplomatic mission "shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be."
The nuncio says Article 24 "thus states a high principle of international relations without which diplomatic missions would no longer be able freely to carry out their domestic and international responsibilities."
Gallagher goes on to say that his office will, however, be pleased to consider "specific requests" for information, "bearing in mind the expectation that it would not be appropriate to seek internal communications."
In the end, though, Gallagher decided to turn over documents sought as part of the New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, said Gallagher told him the Apostolic Nunciature had handed over the documents Dec. 6.
Best known as the bishop who led the investigation of American nuns, Blair was also criticized for his actions when one of his priests, Gerald Robinson, was arrested in 2004 for the brutal 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl. (Robinson was convicted in 2006.) Blair also lobbied strongly against Ohio Senate Bill 17 which would have extended the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits on sexual abuse of minors. The bill did not pass.
The pope promoted Green Bay’s Vicar General Fr. John Doerfler as the new bishop for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan.
In a March 2011 deposition in the case of serial Green Bay child molester, Fr. John Feeney, Doerfler, then chancellor and Vicar General of the diocese, admitted under oath that in 2007 he deliberately and systematically destroyed nearly all records and documentation in the secret Church files of at least 51 reported to have sexually assaulted children. The shredding took place just after the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file fraud suits against Catholic dioceses in the state for covering up for clerics like Feeney.Before being promoted to the Vatican, Cardinal William Levada had one of the worst records among U.S. bishops for covering up for criminal clerics. Pope Francis just reconfirmed him as a member of the important committee which selects bishops.
When specifically asked if it bothered Doerfler that clerics who abused children were being dumped into the community without public notice, Doerfler chillingly answered: “No”.
Pope Francis’ officials continue to persecute gays and lesbians, obstruct women’s rights, and accept funding from plutocrats like the Koch brothers for the same reason they obstruct justice for the victims and survivors of sex abuse: Pope Francis leaves those who do in position and appoints more like them.
Unanimously reported as “proof” that Pope Francis was ridding his Curia of “conservatives,” he appointed Washington Cardinal Wuerl to his committee which selects bishops. In 2010, Wuerl’s "Catholic Charities - the archdiocese's social service arm - said that it would end its 80-year-old foster care program rather than place children with same-sex couples." Wuerl also told his employees that spousal health benefits would be denied to new employees and those who married in the future because he didn't want to provide that benefit to same-sex couples.
Like his boss who holds to the letter the same dogmas and doctrines as his predecessor, Wuerl has learned how to sound like a moderate.