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“Judgment Day For Pervert Priests?”: Tackling The Enablers Of Child Abuse, The Bishops

For the first time in the long and sordid history of the Catholic Church’s saga with pedophile priests, the Vatican has approved a special judicial tribunal that could bring to justice the bishops who have helped protect offending priests.

But is it enough to protect kids? Survivors groups hope that this time the Vatican has come up with an approach that will work.

“It could be, but only time will tell,” David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests (SNAP), told The Daily Beast. “But this isn’t like horseshoes. Every ‘miss’—however close it seems to be to the peg—means more kids will be raped.”

The new tribunal was the brainchild of American cardinal Sean O’Malley, who has become a central figure in the popular papacy of Pope Francis, which may make him a major contender when it comes time for the next conclave. As head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and one of the pope’s trusted confidantes who sit on the elite Commission of Cardinals, O’Malley presented the plan at a meeting of the pope’s key men in Rome this week. They adopted it unanimously.

The tribunal will not focus on the abusers themselves per se, but rather on complicit bishops who moved the abusers around, knowing full well they were putting children in harm’s way. The five-point plan drafted by O’Malley allows for a number of changes to the current procedure, including making it a duty for diocese to report claims of abuse to Rome, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

For years, the Vatican has distanced itself from its field offices, effectively toeing the party line that what happens in individual dioceses cannot be blamed on the central church in Rome. By making it compulsory to instead alert the Rome-based tribunal of all complaints, the Vatican is effectively closing the gap and effectively taking greater responsibility for what happens in its dioceses.

The real question, though, is whether the new process will actually translate into effective punishment for proven offenders, and whether the secular courts will still be kept at bay when it comes to punishing child abusers and sex offenders. The organization Bishop Accountability, which keeps a database of extensive public records of accusations against abusers, warned that the very office that enforces accountability must itself be accountable.

“A public docket, prompt announcements of decisions, and release of documents are essential,” the group said in a statement.

The new tribunal will operate under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which was reincarnated from the old Universal Inquisition department of the Holy See. It will have dedicated staff to sort through complaints and help process claims, and it will pass down judgments if it finds bishops complicit in the abuse.

Survivors groups are hopeful, but they say they would prefer that all sex abuse cases are all handled in the secular courts, not dealt with in a Vatican-operated tribunal.

“I don’t think we welcome any new internal cleric-dominated process, especially when it’s in the CDF, which, for decades, has refused to defrock or delayed defrocking some of the worst predator priests,” Clohessy says. “On paper, a mechanism like this looks good. But church abuse mechanisms always look good on paper. If this one is used to prevent cover-ups and punish ‘enablers,’ we’ll be surprised and pleased. If, however, it’s used to mollify distraught parishioners and generate good headlines, we won’t be surprised. That’s been the history of nearly all of the hundreds of church abuse panels over the past three decades.”

At face value, at least, this plan does feel fresh, if only because the Vatican has never directly mandated the investigation of bishops before. But it does call into question what this means for some of the most high-powered Vatican officials who are now facing allegations of taking part in the cover-ups, like Cardinal George Pell the Vatican’s financial czar who has been facing allegations in his native Australia for decades that he bribed victims and mishandled the case of defrocked pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

Last week, Peter Saunders, one of the few non-clerical members of O’Malley’s Protection of Minors Commission, told Australia’s 60 Minutes program he thought Pell should be removed. “He has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, almost sociopathic,” Saunders told the program. “I consider him to be quite a dangerous individual.” Pell has threatened legal action against the program, and the Vatican was quick to distance itself and O’Malley’s commission from Saunders’ remarks, even though he is a member of the group.

Whether Pell’s case will be among the first heard by the new Vatican tribunal is anyone’s guess, but there are certainly plenty of others who could keep the tribunal busy once it is in place. Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, for one, is in Rome after being brought back from the Dominican Republic where he was the papal nuncio. At the time of his removal, the Vatican promised that Wesolowski would be investigated and brought to justice for the alleged abuse of young boys. So far as anyone knows, that has not happened. By being whisked back to Rome, he escaped secular court judgment in the Dominican Republic and even though he has been defrocked, he still enjoys immunity by living inside Vatican City.

Lombardi said that the O’Malley has given the new tribunal a five-year period to evaluate its success and effectiveness. God only knows how many children will be saved or be made to suffer while the Vatican and the victims groups work out whether the new plan works.

 

By: Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast, June 1, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Catholic Church, Vatican | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Preserving The Status Quo”: Pope’s Butler Arrested, Nun’s Investigated, Which Is The Bigger Scandal?

Let’s face it — everybody loves a juicy scandal, especially when it involves the Vatican. And dear Animals, lest you think I veer from the topic of politics to which I am pledged while guest-blogging here, I can assure you that there is nothing in the realm of the Holy See that is not political.

From the Associated Press:

The Vatican confirmed Saturday that the pope’s butler had been arrested in its embarrassing leaks scandal, adding a Hollywood twist to a sordid tale of power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of Catholic Church governance.

Paolo Gabriele, a layman who lives inside Vatican City, was arrested Wednesday with secret documents in his possession and was being held Saturday, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

At issue are confidential letters to and from Pope Benedict XVI regarding the Vatican’s financial dealings disclosed in the recently published book, His Holiness, by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. The AP notes that the scandal “has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time in which it is trying to show the world financial community that it has turned a page and shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.”

So, in arresting Gabriele, the Vatican is doing what it does best with those who would challenge its sources and methods: putting the screws to them.

You’d think that the pope and his men might be so consumed with straightening out the Holy See’s financial mess, and penitentially finding the institution’s way back to the straight and narrow that they’d have little time to do much else. But, no, instead the pope has seen fit to focus his institution’s resources on a mission designed to bring U.S. nuns into line.

From Reuters’ Stephanie Simon:

The Vatican last month accused the leading organization of U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of focusing too much on social-justice issues such as poverty and not enough on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. The Vatican also rapped the group for standing by as some nuns publicly challenged U.S. bishops on matters of church doctrine and public policy.

In a move that many nuns viewed as an insult, the Vatican put the nuns’ organization under the effective control of three U.S. bishops, who have the power to rewrite its statutes, its meeting agendas and even its liturgical texts. The board of the Leadership Conference is due to meet next week in Washington, D.C. to mull a response.

Those of a certain age may recall when, during a papal visit in 1979, Sister Theresa Kane, then president of the Leadership Conference, challenged Pope John Paul II to include women in the priesthood. At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict, was JPII doctrinal enforcer. He apparently holds a grudge.

Readers may also remember the Vatican Bank scandal of the 1980s, which involved all manner of financial shenanigans, including a counterfeiting scheme that involved the delivery of $14.5 million in bogus bonds to the Vatican. All told, the Vatican Bank scams amounted to a “$1.3 billion scandal,” according to the New York Times And back in the 1980s, $1.3 billion was real money.

In 2009, now retired from her office at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr Kane addressed a gathering of the National Coalition of American Nuns, just as the Vatican embarked on its investigation of LCWR. From the National Catholic Reporter:

“Regarding the present interrogation, I think the male hierarchy is truly impotent, incapable of equality, co-responsibility in adult behavior,” she said, not mincing any words. “In the church today, we are experiencing a dictatorial mindset and spiritual violence.”

A scandal, then, of epic proportions.

 

BY: Adele Stan, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 26, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Vatican | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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