Pope’s efforts to stop church child abuse appear to unravel, Vatican riven by internal battle over handling of child abuse claims
February 17, 2016 Comments Off on Pope’s efforts to stop church child abuse appear to unravel, Vatican riven by internal battle over handling of child abuse claims
Pope’s efforts to stop church child abuse appear to unravel
Will Carless, GlobalPost February 15, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A member of a commission set up by Pope Francis to advise him on child abuse says the group is a “token body” exercising in “smoke and mirrors” that won’t help children stay safe from abusive priests.
Peter Saunders, the commission member, is now on a leave of absence as he considers whether to continue with an effort he says he has lost faith in.
Meanwhile, new Catholic bishops are still being taught they’re not obliged to report cases of child abuse by priests to the police.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Francis set up with much fanfare in 2014, was supposed to issue guidelines for the Vatican on how to deal with child abuse. But the body was never consulted about the training for new bishops on exactly that topic.
These are just some of the signs that Francis’ reform efforts, and his pledge to clean up the Catholic Church’s most damaging crisis, seem to be unraveling before they’ve even really gotten started.
The problems come as Pope Francis pays a visit to Latin America, a region where, as GlobalPost has reported, the church is accused of reassigning and protecting many alleged predator priests. Among the latest scandals in the region, Chileans are outraged that the pope appointed a bishop accused of shielding the country’s most despised pedophile priest from investigation….
Vatican riven by internal battle over handling of child abuse claims
Rift comes amid signs that special commission created by Pope Francis to handle issue is being sidelined by senior church officials in Rome
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome Tuesday 16 February 2016
A battle is being waged within the Vatican over how senior clergy ought to handle accusations of sexual abuse amid signs that a special commission created by Pope Francis to handle the issue is being sidelined by senior church officials in Rome.
The rift was exposed after a report in the Guardian about a training course that was offered to new bishops last year in which a controversial French monsignor instructed them that it was “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of abuse to law enforcement authorities if local laws did not require it.
That stance was rejected this week by Pope Francis’s point man on abuse issues, Boston cardinal Seán O’Malley, who heads a special pontifical commission to protect minors.
“We, the president and the members of the commission, wish to affirm that our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society,” he said in a statement on Monday.
O’Malley also said that the special commission was committed to “extensive education efforts” within local churches since its founding two years ago, and that its members had reiterated their “willingness to provide this material at courses offered in Rome”, including at the training courses for new bishops and the offices of the Roman Curia, or bureaucracy.
But it is clear that these offers have not been accepted….
Catholic bishops not obliged to report clerical child abuse, Vatican says, Beyond clergy: Ex-Boy Scouts tap Minn. law to press sex abuse claims
February 11, 2016 Comments Off on Catholic bishops not obliged to report clerical child abuse, Vatican says, Beyond clergy: Ex-Boy Scouts tap Minn. law to press sex abuse claims
Catholic bishops not obliged to report clerical child abuse, Vatican says
Vatican guide says ‘not necessarily’ bishop’s duty to report suspects to police despite Pope Francis’s vows to redress Catholic church’s legacy of child abuse
Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign over sexual abuse scandals in his Boston archdiocese, where 150 priests were accused of molesting children.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome
Wednesday 10 February 2016
The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.
According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds, the training document states.
The training guidelines were written by a controversial French monsignor and psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Vatican released the guidelines – which are part of a broader training programme for newly named bishops at a press conference earlier this month and is now seeking feedback.
Details of the Catholic church’s policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, associate editor of the Catholic news site, Cruxnow.com.
Allen noted that a special commission created by Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had appeared to play no role in the training programme, even though it is supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.
Indeed, a church official familiar with the commission on abuse said it was the committee’s position that reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not”. The official said the committee would be involved in future training efforts….
Beyond clergy: Ex-Boy Scouts tap Minn. law to press sex abuse claims
Todd Melby Feb 10, 2016
Jim McDonough is suing the Boy Scouts of America and its North Star Council claiming he was sexually abused by his scoutmaster….
Many stories like McDonough’s have come to light in the nearly three years since the Legislature passed the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Most have been focused on the hundreds of claims made against priests accused of sexually abusing children.
But the law, which extends the statute of limitations for older abuse claims, wasn’t written to respond exclusively to clergy abuse. And the Catholic Church hasn’t been the only target of lawsuits aimed at shedding light on a hidden past. Boy Scout organizations are also grappling with accusations of child molestation.
McDonough decided to use the law to sue the Boy Scouts of America and one of its local affiliates, the Northern Star Council. At least 16 lawsuits are pending in Minnesota against the Boy Scouts, including McDonough’s civil action. Most target the Northern Star Council. Three other lawsuits list another council as a defendant. At least 12 additional suits are expected to be filed before the law’s May 25 deadline….
McDonough’s suit seeks at least $50,000 from the Scouts. The Northern Star Council, which represent troops in 21 Minnesota counties and four counties in western Wisconsin, declined to talk about abuse suits filed by McDonough and others….
One of McDonough’s lawyers, Peter Janci, won a $19.9 million verdict against the Boy Scouts in 2010 in Portland, Ore. Janci says that when it comes to sexual abuse against children, the Boy Scouts have some things in common with the Roman Catholic Church.
“They both involve organizations that really believe in their mission. At times, that has led to them to make decisions where they put reputation of the organization above safety and health of individuals,” he said.
In the case of the Boy Scouts of America, that included the creation of what it called “ineligible volunteer” files, Janci said. When the Scouts learned that a volunteer had sexually molested or raped a child, it often created a file so it could bar that person from volunteering in another city or state.
Between 1955 and 1984, the Boy Scouts of America created 1,300 of these files. A judge ordered those files released, with some information redacted, after the Portland trial.
A small percentage of the “ineligible volunteer” files were atheists or homosexuals. The Scouts barred gay men and lesbians from the organization until just recently. But the vast majority of files focused on sexual molestation. They became known as the “Perversion Files.”
The Boy Scouts has been keeping secret tabs on suspected abusers since the 1920s, but it didn’t routinely report those people to police. The organization began requiring “mandatory reporting of suspected abuse” in 2011….
Pope Francis says Chilean protests over alleged child abuse cover-up are ‘dumb’, ‘Open Secret’ Reveals Hollywood child abuse problem, Japan’s child abuse cases to record high
October 9, 2015 Comments Off on Pope Francis says Chilean protests over alleged child abuse cover-up are ‘dumb’, ‘Open Secret’ Reveals Hollywood child abuse problem, Japan’s child abuse cases to record high
– Watch: Pope Francis says Chilean protests over alleged child abuse cover-up are ‘dumb’
– Calling Protesters in Chile ‘Dumb,’ Pope Francis Sets Off Uproar
– Controversial ‘Open Secret’ Reveals Hollywood Child Abuse Problem
– Poverty, isolation push Japan’s child abuse cases to record high
Watch: Pope Francis says Chilean protests over alleged child abuse cover-up are ‘dumb’
By Adam Taylor October 8, 2015
Few global figures have enjoyed a more positive public image recently than Pope Francis, the remarkably popular leader of the Catholic Church. But a newly released video that appears to show the pope calling critics of the church’s actions in Chile “dumb” has prompted fresh protests in the Latin American country – and could also harm the pontiff’s reputation internationally.
The video, aired by a Chilean TV channel last week, was initially filmed at the Vatican in May. According to Catholic news Web site Crux, the video shows Jaime Coiro, a former spokesman for the Chilean Bishops Conference, greeting Francis in St Peter’s Square.
In the video, Francis talks about criticism that the Catholic church in Chile was facing at the time. The appointment of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid to the Osorno, Chile, diocese had drawn protests throughout the country due to accusations that Barros had helped cover up the sexual abuse of minors by his then-superior, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, and may have witnessed some of the abuse himself.
The Vatican found Karadima guilty of sexually abusing minors in 2011 and sentenced him to a “life of prayer and penitence.” While Barros spent more than 30 years working with Karadima, he has denied any cover-up, and the Vatican released a short statement offering a defense of the bishop’s appointment in March. The newly released video, however, shows Francis going much further – not only angrily defending Barros’s appointment, but seemingly insulting the intelligence of protesters.
In the footage, the pope tells a group of tourists that Osorno’s church has “lost its freedom, allowing politicians to fill people’s heads, judging a bishop without any evidence, a man who’s been a bishop for 20 years.” Francis goes on to say: “Think with your heads. Don’t let them lead you by the nose, all these fools who have stirred this thing up.”
The pope adds that “the only accusation against this bishop was dismissed by the court,” drawing out the syllables for emphasis. “Please, don’t lose your calm. Osorno is suffering, yes, but for being dumb,” he says in the video….
Notably, while the pope appears to say that the investigation into an alleged cover-up of Karadima’s abuses was closed, the New York Times notes that the investigation is, in fact, still ongoing. The pope’s reference to politicians in the video appears to be a reference to Chilean members of parliament who had signed a petition opposing Barros’s nomination.
The video of Francis’s comments was published online Friday and has sparked outrage against the Chilean Catholic Church, with renewed protests in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Osorno over the weekend calling on the Vatican to remove Barros from his post….
Calling Protesters in Chile ‘Dumb,’ Pope Francis Sets Off Uproar
By PASCALE BONNEFOY OCT. 7, 2015
….In the video, Pope Francis asserted that the accusations against Bishop Barros were unfounded and that a Chilean court had dismissed such claims. However, a judicial investigation into the presumed negligence and cover-up of church officials regarding Father Karadima’s abuses is still in progress.
Three of Father Karadima’s victims filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Church in 2012, demanding nearly $660,000 in compensation after a criminal investigation into abuses committed from 1980 to 1995 was dismissed in 2011 because the statute of limitations had expired.
One of the victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, contends that Bishop Barros was frequently present in Father Karadima’s bedroom when he and others were abused; threatened seminarians who dared denounce them; and destroyed letters reporting the abuses to the archbishop of Santiago at the time, Juan Francisco Fresno, when Bishop Barros was the archbishop’s personal secretary in the 1980s.
Bishop Barros is one of two dozen witnesses who the plaintiffs have requested be interrogated as part of the lawsuit.
“The pope’s statements are not surprising, but it is sad,” Mr. Cruz said. “The vision of a pope closer to abuse victims has been unmasked.”
Controversial ‘Open Secret’ Reveals Hollywood Child Abuse Problem By David A. Patten Thursday, 08 Oct 2015
When actress Ashley Judd recently revealed that an unnamed studio executive tried to “groom” her for sex by using his powerful position, Gabe Hoffman, a film producer and hedge-fund executive, was hardly surprised.
“The casting couch is almost as old as time,” he told Newsmax. But he adds, “I think the casting couch has just about run its course in our society. We don’t tolerate that stuff anymore. We shouldn’t.”
Hoffman is considered an authority on the subject because his documentary film “An Open Secret” reveals an even darker, unrelated predilection that he says plagues the entertainment industry: Sexual exploitation of child actors.
The film’s director, Amy Berg, was nominated for an Oscar for “Deliver Us From Evil,” her 2006 examination of sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.
Berg deftly wields all the narrative tools of the storyteller’s craft – rising action, suspense, plot twists, interludes, surprise endings – to create a documentary that holds together surprisingly well considering the abject subject matter. She offers a gut-wrenching, un-hyped account of the emotional carnage wreaked on children by industry predators.
The documentary introduces five erstwhile child actors identified only by their first names and last initials. Each story follows a predictable arc, how they were discovered, groomed, and ultimately used….
Many of the film’s sordid tales involve Marc Collins-Rector, the co-founder of the now-defunct Digital Entertainment Network, an attempt at online video streaming….
According to the film, Collins-Rector would invite high-profile entertainment mavens to join in sybaritic parties at an Encino, California, mansion. There, aspiring child actors would cavort about the pool and powerful adults – who held the power to realize or destroy their dreams of stardom – enticed them into the hot tub. Some of the children had not yet even reached their teens.
In 2004, Collins-Rector pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child sexual abuse. Among other heinous acts, he admitted to luring five minors across state lines for sex. At sentencing, he was credited with the time he’d spent in a Spanish jail prior to his extradition. He later fled the country after a court awarded a $4.5 million judgment to his accusers….
Sexual abuse involving children is hardly new. In 2011, actor Corey Feldman, who starred in the 1980s films “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me,” wrote a memoir, “Coreyography,” in which he stated he and his late co-star Corey Haim were sexually abused as children….
Poverty, isolation push Japan’s child abuse cases to record high
Kyodo Oct 8, 2015
Child welfare authorities dealt with nearly 90,000 child abuse cases in the fiscal year ending March, a government survey showed Thursday, with experts blaming the record-high figure on increased poverty and the isolation of some families.
Logging the largest-ever increase of 20.5 percent from the previous year’s 73,000, the preliminary survey by the health ministry showed the number of cases handled by 207 child consultation centers across the country in fiscal 2014 reached 88,931, up for the 24th consecutive year since the survey started in 1990.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare attributed the rise to the widened scope of circumstances that can be reported as abuse following an August 2013 notice that instructed the centers to deal with siblings of abused children as they may also be suffering from psychological abuse.
The number of cases reported by police to the centers in which children witnessed abuse of a parent or other family member has also increased, it said….
2 Bishops Resign in Minnesota Over Sexual Abuse Scandal, Vatican ex-envoy Wesolowski faces child sex abuse trial
June 16, 2015 Comments Off on 2 Bishops Resign in Minnesota Over Sexual Abuse Scandal, Vatican ex-envoy Wesolowski faces child sex abuse trial
2 Bishops Resign in Minnesota Over Sexual Abuse Scandal
By MITCH SMITH and LAURIE GOODSTEIN JUNE 15, 2015
CHICAGO — Two bishops in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis resigned their posts Monday, the second time this spring that American church leaders have stepped aside after complaints over their handling of sexual abuse claims involving priests.
In Minnesota, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt and an auxiliary bishop, Lee A. Piché, announced their departures less than two weeks after prosecutors in St. Paul accused the archdiocese of willfully ignoring warning signs of a pedophile priest. Their resignations followed the April exit of Bishop Robert W. Finn from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, who had been convicted of a misdemeanor for failing to report a priest who took pornographic pictures of girls….
John J. Choi, the prosecutor in Ramsey County, Minn., said the resignations would not affect his office’s criminal and civil cases against the archdiocese, which accused church leaders of failing to intervene against a priest despite repeated complaints of misconduct. That priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, has since been defrocked and imprisoned on sexual abuse charges involving boys in his parish.
“While today’s resignation will be viewed as a positive development by many in our community, the pending criminal action and civil petition and the ongoing investigation will continue,” Mr. Choi said in a statement. “As we have said, the goals of our actions are to hold the Archdiocese accountable, seek justice for the victims and our community, and to take appropriate steps to ensure that what we have alleged and intend to prove about the past conduct of church officials will never be repeated.”….
The Minnesota and Missouri church leaders are hardly the first bishops to resign under scrutiny or accusations that they failed abuse victims. Since the papacy of John Paul II — now St. John Paul — began in 1978, 16 other bishops have resigned or been forced from office under a cloud of accusations that they mishandled abuse cases, according to research by BishopAccountability.org, an advocacy group in Waltham, Mass. Archbishop Nienstedt is the 17th, by that group’s count.
Archbishop Nienstedt had become one of the most embattled figures in the American Catholic hierarchy, under fire in the courts, in the pews and on newspaper editorial pages. He had refused to resign about a year ago after coming under sharp criticism from his own former chancellor for canonical affairs, Jennifer M. Haselberger, who charged that the church used a chaotic system of record keeping that helped conceal the backgrounds of guilty priests who remained on assignment….
Catholic Archdiocese in Minnesota Charged Over Sex Abuse by Priest
By MITCH SMITH JUNE 5, 2015
CHICAGO — Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.
The charges and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say that from 2008 to 2010, when they were under age, a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them.
The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese….
Mr. Wehmeyer, 50, who was dismissed as a priest in March, was sentenced to five years in a Minnesota prison in 2013 for criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. He also has been charged with sex crimes in Wisconsin.
The six criminal charges filed Friday, misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $3,000 each, accused the archdiocese of failing to protect children. Mr. Choi also filed a civil petition against the archdiocese that he said was intended to provide legal remedies to prevent similar inaction from happening again.
The 44-page criminal complaint states that concerns about Mr. Wehmeyer date to the 1990s, when he was in seminary and supervisors suggested that his past sexual promiscuity and alcohol abuse made him a poor candidate for the priesthood….
The charging documents also say that archdiocese officials knew that Mr. Wehmeyer used a boys’ bathroom at a parish elementary school instead of the staff restroom; tried to give an elementary-age boy a tour of the rectory in violation of policy; and took camping trips with boys where some of the sexual abuse was said to have occurred.
The archdiocese placed Mr. Wehmeyer in a monitoring program for priests facing complaints of abuse or other problems, but prosecutors said in court documents that the supervision and follow-through was “lax or nonexistent.”….
Vatican ex-envoy Wesolowski faces child sex abuse trial
15 June 2015
The Vatican is to put its former envoy to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, on trial on child sex abuse and child pornography charges.
Pope Francis has also accepted the resignations of a US archbishop and his deputy, accused in Minnesota of having ignored a priest’s child abuse.
Jozef Wesolowski is accused of sexually abusing children in the Dominican Republic from 2008 to 2013. He is under house arrest in the Vatican.
The trial is to begin on 11 July.
Wesolowski, 66, is also charged with possession of child pornography, dating from his return to Rome in 2013….
Wesolowski, who is originally from Poland, was recalled from the Dominican Republic in 2013, after allegations surfaced accusing him of abusing Dominican boys.
He had spent five years in the Caribbean country as the papal envoy.
He was defrocked in June last year after he was found guilty by a Church tribunal – he is the highest-ranking church official to be defrocked for such abuse.
He will now be tried by a Vatican criminal court….
June 3, 2015 Comments Off on Vatican defends Cardinal George Pell in child sex abuse scandal
Vatican defends Cardinal George Pell in child sex abuse scandal
June 02, 2015
THE Vatican has defended its finance chief, Australian Cardinal George Pell, after he was accused by one of Pope Francis’ commissioners for child protection of being almost sociopathic.
Spokesman Federico Lombardi says Peter Saunders, who called for Pell to be dismissed over allegations he covered up abuse and denigrated victims, was expressing his personal views and not speaking on behalf of the commission.
Lombardi told journalists Pell, formerly the top Catholic cleric in Australia, has replied to all questions posed by the authorities and his defence must be considered reliable and worthy of attention and respect.
Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday requested Pell give evidence when the inquiry next meets at a date to be determined.
Pell says he will be present at the hearing.
Mr Saunders, an abuse survivor, made headlines earlier this week when he called on the Pope to sack Cardinal Pell as the Vatican’s financial chief over allegations he helped cover up paedophile activity in Australia.
Now Mr Saunders has revealed the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors may not be able to do its job properly due to a lack of resources.
“George Pell is in the Pope’s cabinet, the inner sanctum, and is in charge of Vatican finances,” he said….
Cardinal Pell, who denies the cover-up allegations, said he was consulting his legal advisers after Mr Saunders said the Australian’s lack of care for victims was “almost sociopathic”.
Mr Saunders responded by stating the threat of legal action wasn’t surprising and he wouldn’t shut up for anyone.
Members of press issue mea culpas on botched Bill Cosby coverage, Spain arrests Granada priests over child sex abuse
November 26, 2014 Comments Off on Members of press issue mea culpas on botched Bill Cosby coverage, Spain arrests Granada priests over child sex abuse
Members of press issue mea culpas on botched Bill Cosby coverage November 25, 2014
Some members of the press who covered Bill Cosby over the past 40 years are now issuing mea culpas, saying they failed to follow up on the many accusations leveled at the comedy legend over the years.
Bill Cosby’s official biographer Mark Whitaker says he was wrong in not addressing the numerous allegations of sexual assault leveled against the comedian. Whitaker’s admission comes on the heels of New York Times columnist David Carr taking to task a number of writers – himself included – for turning a blind eye to the claims….
Cosby, 77, has been publicly accused by at least 18 women of sexually assaulting them or attempting to sexually assault them over the past four decades. His lawyers have denied the claims and called many of the women liars and opportunists. Cosby refused to address the stories in recorded interviews with the Associated Press and National Public Radio. He told the publication Florida Today: “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos.”
But despite the denials, venues on Cosby’s tour are dropping like flies….
Spain arrests Granada priests over child sex abuse
24 November 2014
Police in Spain have arrested three priests and one layman on suspicion of child sex abuse, according to the country’s interior minister….
The Archdiocese of Granada suspended several priests last week after a man wrote to Pope Francis saying he was abused when he was an altar boy….
However, Spanish newspaper El Pais said all were believed to be members of the ultraconservative group known as Los Romanones….
September 26, 2014 Comments Off on Pope sacks Paraguay bishop accused of protecting abuser priest
Pope sacks Paraguay bishop accused of protecting abuser priest
Pope Francis’s latest crackdown on clerical sex abuse comes days after Vatican ordered Polish archbishop to be put on trial for allegedly abusing young boys
Livieres Plano, a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, has been removed by Pope Francis from a Paraguayan diocese
By Nick Squires, Rome 25 Sep 2014
Pope Francis has sacked a bishop in South America who for years protected a priest accused of sexual misconduct.
The Pope, who has vowed to adopt a much tougher stance than his predecessors on priests accused of sexual abuse, forcibly removed Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano from his post as bishop of a diocese in Paraguay.
The bishop is accused of protecting an Argentine priest whose former superiors in the United States had described as a “serious threat to young people.”
The bishop’s removal was the result of an investigation instigated by the Vatican earlier this year.
He had refused to resign, leaving the Pope no option but to remove him in what the Vatican described in a statement as a “hard decision”….