pope refused defrocking of convicted priest, church is still fighting claims
May 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
Future pope refused defrocking of convicted priest MATT SEDENSKY AP 5/30/10
The future Pope Benedict XVI refused to defrock an American priest who confessed to molesting numerous children and even served prison time for it, simply because the cleric wouldn’t agree to the discipline. The case provides the latest evidence of how changes in church law under Pope John Paul II frustrated and hamstrung U.S. bishops struggling with an abuse crisis that would eventually explode.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press from court filings in the case of the late Rev. Alvin Campbell of Illinois show Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, following church law at the time, turned down a bishop’s plea to remove the priest for no other reason than the abuser’s refusal to go along with it.
“The petition in question cannot be admitted in as much as it lacks the request of Father Campbell himself,” Ratzinger wrote in a July 3, 1989, letter to Bishop Daniel Ryan of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill….
Campbell’s misdeeds date back at least 15 years before his defrocking.
As an Army chaplain, he was reprimanded and ultimately left the service after abusing at least one boy, according to military and church correspondence. An Army letter in his file said he had exploited his rank and position as a chaplain “by engaging in indecent homosexual acts” with a child under 16 who had been under his supervision….
Campbell became a pastor upon his return to the diocese. In at least three instances after returning to diocesan work, he was forced to depart jobs as parish pastor or administrator “for reasons of health,” a euphemism for sexual abuse used within the church that Ryan himself put in quotes.
After workers at a rape crisis center alerted authorities that they were treating one of Campbell’s victims, police found he had been plying boys with video games, bicycles, watches and other gifts to get them to the waterbed in his second-floor rectory bedroom. Ryan sent Campbell to a New Mexico treatment facility after the arrest.
Campbell was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1985, after admitting to molesting seven boys during his time as pastor of St. Maurice Parish in Morrisonville, Ill. He was released in 1992 after serving about seven years for sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Ryan apparently waited four years after Campbell went to prison, according to church files, before asking for the priest’s defrocking. It’s unclear what accounted for the delay.
describes allegations of abuse
Sex abuse victims say church is still tenaciously fighting claims – Even after convictions, some lawsuits have dragged on for more than a decade; church official blames complexities of judicial system
May 30 2010 …. The pressure Caruso experienced in battling the Catholic Church is not unusual, say those suing Catholic dioceses, priests and nuns over abuse. Despite the church’s pledge to handle victims with compassion — a position repeated this month by Pope Benedict — it too often plays a game of courtroom chicken with stall tactics, hostile discovery sessions and intrusive psychological probes that unnerve vulnerable clients, say victims and their lawyers.
“They don’t want to pay out the money,’’ said Jack Lavers, a Newfoundland lawyer who has worked both sides of the liturgical legal landscape. “There are (cases) that do start and never seem to finish.”
Seemingly relentless legal campaigns — especially against victims like Caruso, whose abuser had been convicted — appear to clash with church reforms adopted two decades ago after the Mount Cashel orphanage sex scandal. Pastoral outreach for victims of clergy abuse was among the recommendations in the 1992 “From Pain to Hope” report commissioned by the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops. Counselling and empathy for the abused were again recommended in a 2007 CCCB task force….
Sharp said each victim’s circumstances are unique and claims of harsh treatment “may very well be” in some cases. But London-area victims are “immediately” offered counselling with a professional of their choice as soon as they report abuse. “In our diocese we are committed to keep these things moving as quickly and fully as we possibly can,” said Sharp, who estimates he still has 20 active Sylvestre cases….
Lavers said courtroom reality is that plaintiffs often get worn down and agree to accept smaller sums or drop their cases completely….
The 65-year-old native of St. John’s, Nfld., is among a group claiming physical and emotional abuse at the Belvedere Orphanage — a female counterpart of Mount Cashel. More than 30 women are suing the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and the province of Newfoundland. Her case is now 13 years old….