A Vatican delegation received what was widely reported as a “grilling” at a hearing conducted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on Jan. 16. They feigned concern for victims of sexual abuse, evaded questions, hyped the Church’s continuous too-little-too-late response and gave assurances that Pope Francis will do better from now on. Like claims that the pope is “cleaning up” Vatican finances, examining his actions reveals attitudes 180 degrees different than his rhetoric.
Here’s what the corporate media reported:
AP and TIME:
The Vatican has acknowledged there can be “no excuse” for child abuse….Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva, says “such crimes can never be justified” whether committed at home, school, sports activities or in religious organizations and structures….Tomasi told a U.N. committee Thursday the Holy See welcomesany suggestions that could help it in promoting and encouraging the respect of the rights of the child.
"The Holy See gets it," Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor, told the committee. "Let's not say too late or not. But there are certain things that need to be done differently." …. "Abusers are found among members of the world's most respected professions, most regrettably including members of the clergy and other church personnel,” Tomasi said.
[O]fficials conceded that more needs to be done and promised to build on progress already madeto become a model for others, given the scale of the problem and the role the Holy See plays in the international community.
Scicluna stated in a followup interview:
[The hearing in Geneva] gave the Holy See an opportunity to respond to the Committee’s concerns regarding child abuse, to reaffirm its commitment to protect children and minors throughout the Catholic Church and all its institutions, and explain how it is doing so….And so I think it has been a very positive dialogue because the Holy See, as sovereign of Vatican City State and as central organ of government of the Catholic Church around the world, shares the high values of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee is very anxious to promote these values and we are on the same page. We had the opportunity, which was I think very important, to express our commitment with the teachings and the guidance of the recent Holy Fathers on the question of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. And we are also very grateful for the input of the Committee; that input will also help the setting up the working of the Commission for the Protection of Minors announced by the Holy Father at the beginning of December.
The foreign press were less deferential:
The Irish Times:
The Holy See appeared to emerge with a clean bill of health from a hearing of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child in Geneva yesterday.
The 5½-hour session ended with a deal of mutual back slapping as one UN delegate expressed satisfaction about a “positive dialogue”, while another said that the Vatican’s presentation indicated that “new steps” were being taken, steps which represented a “new era, a new dawn for the Holy See.” That the spotlight never actually became uncomfortable was a tribute both to the skill of the Vatican delegation and to the UN Committee’s modus operandi.
Germany’s Deutsche Welle: Vatican response 'fails smell test for ordinary people'
Venezuela’s El Nacional: The Vatican at the UN today dodged providing detailed information on issues relating to sexual abuse of minors by clergy in a rhetorical exercise in which it attempts to demonstrate determination to prevent new offenses. Venezuela
Spain’s El Pais: The Vatican still does not take responsibility for sexual abuse
The pope’s representatives made other assertions on Jan. 16, easier understood when the five members of the delegation are identified:
- Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the pope’s representative at the United Nations “where the Holy See has played serious hardball against women’s human rightsfor 50 years.”
- Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, Charles Sciluna, former prosecutor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith who decided cases involving laicization of priests. He was replaced in Dec. 2012 by Fr. Robert W. Oliver, an American who previously served as canon (Church law) lawyer in the Boston Archdiocese protecting the rights of priests accused of sexual abuse.
- Vincenzo Buonomo, Professor of International Law at the Pontifical Lateran University.
- Jane Adolphe, professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, an expert in international law assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State. Tom Monaghan, business mogul and “national power broker for GOP Catholic candidates,” founded both the town of Ave Maria and the university to bring about “his vision for a new and righteous Americafounded upon strict Catholic values.” Adolphe wrote a paper classifying struggles in the U.N. for gay and women’s rights as “Gender Wars,” i.e. “lobbying efforts to promote a radical understanding of “gender. ”
- Greg Burke, former Fox News correspondent and Vatican senior communications advisor accompanied the group.
The only one with any experience on the subject of sex abuse was Scicluna and only from the Vatican’s point of view.
BishopAccountability.org, a group dedicated to documenting the sex abuse crisis, noted five significant moments of the hearing.
- For the first time, the Vatican had to admit publicly that it still does not require the reporting of child sex crimes to civil authorities. Nor does it take this step when priests are defrocked.
- The Holy See still has refused to provide the data requested. On July 1, the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the pope 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.
- The Holy See appears to have no intention of extraditing Archbishop Józef Wesołowski to either the Dominican Republic or Poland, being accused of with sex abuse of minors in both countries. Wesoloski “liked to frequent the area of children working in the streets” and would pay to tape them with his cell phone. “We learned from the children that Wesolowski took pictures of them while they were masturbating. Oral sexwas performed," Nuria Piera, an investigative journalist in the Dominican Republic said. The pope whisked Wesolowski out of Dominican Republic this past August before the public or law enforcement officialsbecame aware of his crimes and Wesolowski has been hiding in the Vatican City State where he is shielded by the country’s sovereign immunity. In hindsight, then, we can question the timing of Pope Francis’ adding the offense of sexual abuse of a minor to the Vatican’s penal code effective July 11. That law applies not only to residents of the Vatican City State but also to anyone on the payroll of the Holy See such as members of its diplomatic corps. The pope received official notification of Wesolowski’s crimes “sometime in July,” but it is not improbable that the Vatican was aware of the situation even earlier. The Vatican announced that Wesolowski, “was facing a criminal investigation by the Vatican’sown criminal court.” When the pope begins more formal proceedings against Wesolowski, the corporate media will again trumpet how he is “serious” about sex abuse.
- The Vatican believes that it is the obligation of the individual perpetrator, not the Church, to compensate victims.
- Religious orders, which comprise one third to one half of the world's Catholic clerics, still are not being compelled by the Holy See to create abuse policies. (Pope Benedict XVI ordered the world’s bishops to do this in 2011. The order was widely ignored, even by the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.)
Tomasi and Scicluna were questioned about “uncovering the whereabouts of the children born to young, unmarried women who were essentially enslaved in Ireland’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and forced to relinquish their babies to adoption, a situation brilliantly dramatized in the film Philomena.” Issues raised such as Church-supported abortion laws which force children to bear children, forced child relinquishment, abandonment of children by Catholic priests – as noted by Angela Bonavoglia at Religion Dispatches - received the same response as a host of other questions: not our problem.
Pope Francis is washing his hands of any responsibility for whatever happens outside his city state or those not on his immediate payroll. “On the level of the Holy See, as the Sovereign of Vatican City State, the response to sexual abuse has been in accord with its direct responsibility over the territory of Vatican City State,” stated Tomasi. "Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican....They are citizens of their own state and fall under the jurisdiction of that state." Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement on Jan. 16. Questions posed by the U.N. committee and others "seem to presuppose that bishops and religious superiors act as representatives or delegates of the pope, something which is without foundation."
Since every bishop is appointed (obviously some with the advice of others, but the pope chooses his advisors) and can be removed by the pope; religious superiors can be removed by the pope and every priest is approved by a bishop or religious superior, then papal authority and influence is direct. Yet the pope has never discouraged his bishops, their expensive attorneys and high-powered lobbying machines from battling against civil efforts to revise statutes-of-limitations which obstruct the “jurisdiction of the state” from bringing prelates, clerics and religious to justice. (Unlike other crimes, experts agree it takes children sometimes decades to come to terms with the results of their trauma.)
News of the questioning before the U.N. commission was followed the next day by the Associated Press reporting that 400 priests had been defrocked in the years 2011 and 2012. The information used by the AP “was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting to help the Holy See defend itselfbefore a U.N. committee this week in Geneva.”
The Vatican Insider website noted that of 159 cases in 2011, 135 were requests from priests for a “dispensation,” or voluntary removal, from the priesthood, and 124 were forcibly dismissed. In 2012, 418 cases of abuse of minors by priests had been reported to the Holy See. That same year, there were 67 requests for voluntary dispensation and 57 dismissals.
Reuters: Pope Francis will not show leniency towards pedophile priests as truth and justice are more important than protecting the Church, the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor has pledged….Monsignor Charles Scicluna said on Saturday that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 [voluntary and dismissals] in 2013 from about 125 in 2012 and a peak of 260 in 2011.
"Yes, these men were defrocked, but…they are out there. We don't know who these men are, we don't know what kinds of crimes they committed, we don't know what countries they're in, we don't knowanything about them. They've been kicked into society with no repercussions,” noted Joelle Casteix, member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) on the MSNBC.
“I’ve seen a reliable report that more than 700 cases have been sent [to the Vatican] by America alone,” said Nicholas Cafardi, a canon and civil lawyer at the Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh. “So400, that’s not surprising.” “To put it in another perspective, there have been 276 priests accused of sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese alone, according to BishopAccountability.org.”
In early 2012, “a senior Vatican cardinal revealed how more than 4,000 casesof sex abuse by priests on children have been investigated during the last ten years. The shock figure was announced by American cardinal Joseph William Levada as he opened a conference on the wide scale phenomenon which has rocked the Roman Catholic church with cases reported all over the world.
Described as a “Vatican summit,” two American experts told the same conference “that there may have been as many as 100,000 total victims of clerical sex abuse” in that country alone.
After missing the Nov. 1 deadline for responding to the request for information by the U.N. CRC, Pope Francis responded 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," generating the first negative publicity of his reign. Within two days, the pope 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 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.
In addition to the above-mentioned 2012 conference, those “mountains of information” include “a landmark unofficial report, the 1985 Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy, which emerged from the close involvement of the Holy See’s U.S. delegation and Archbishop Pio Laghi in abuse cases in the state of Louisiana. In 1997, the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Luciano Storero, intervened to adjust reporting commitments approved by the Irish bishops’ conference. These are not isolatedinstances.”
After the sex abuse scandal made U.S. headlines in 2002, investigations were conducted by Boston, Manchester and Portland, Maine attorneys general and Philadelphia, Westchester and Suffolk Co. New York grand juries. Those were followed by Ireland’s Murphy, Ryan, Cloyne and Ferns Reports. This year, government inquiries are being conducted by the Australian federal government’s Royal Commission as well as the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Additionally there are reports compiled in Canada, Mexico, Britain and Spain.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and SNAP gave the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor at The Hague “more than 22,000 pagesof supporting materials consisting of reports, policy papers, and evidence of the crimes by Catholic clergy committed against children and vulnerable adults” to support their request that Vatican officials, under the concept of superior responsibility, be investigated for crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, the court declined to take the case.
The reports, inquiries, investigations lead to the same conclusion: even Catholic bishops who were not themselves child abusers covered-up, enabled, aided and abetted the rape and sodomy of minors by vast numbers of priests, religious and lay employees. In addition to the indescribably horrific physical torture, victims and their families who dared report these crimes to the chanceries were threatened, maligned and persecuted.
The corporate media will laud the pope whenever he gets around to actually forming his commission while he and his churchmen continue to ignore the “mountains of information” already available.
Is it possible for a pope with Francis’ record, who has chosen other Church officials who have acted to conceal and promote pedophiles, to take the steps needed to end the horrific sexual torture of children?
The most shocking event on Jan. 16 happened not in Geneva but in Rome. While the rest of the world swoons over his pronouncements, the pope’s churchmen pay attention to his actions, appointments and promotions. At Mass that morning, while lamenting that “Scandals are the shame of the Church,” Pope Francis’ co-celebrant was Los Angeles Archbishop Emeritus, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who supervised more than 200 known pedophile priestswith 500 known victims to whom the cardinal paid $720 million.
Mahony blogged that during his private meeting with the pope following Mass, the “topic of scandal never came up.” “To the Church’s walking wounded, for the pope to ‘honor’ such a man was painful and insulting,” noted SNAP founder Barbara Blaine.
As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the pope’s recent “advocacy for Father Julio César Grassi, a convicted sex offender, and his effort to discredit young victims raise fundamental questions” about the pope’s “current willingness to protect children, punish predators, and support victims who testify against their abusers.”
The first pontifical action Bergoglio took after his election was to form a group of eight cardinals to advise him. He named Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, as the group’s leader. Rodríguez Maradiaga is best known in Honduras because he “participated actively in the 2009 coupagainst the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya.” He also “blamed the Jews for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests toward young parishioners” comparing the “Jewish controlled media with Hitler” for its “persecution against the Church.”
Group member Cardinal George Pell received a scathing assessment on Nov. 13 from the Australian parliament’s inquiry into child sex abuse. A committee concluded that Pell’s responseindicates 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. Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney provided compelling research that Catholic clergy in Australia are responsible for six times more child sexual abuse than all the other churches combined.
Another member, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, made headlines in Chile for protecting Fr. Fernando Karadima. In January 2011, a judge ordered that Karadima be interrogated about allegations he sexually abused children. According to court testimony, Church officials, including 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 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 wrote in a public letter that he did nothingbecause he thought the allegations were beyond the statute of limitations.
On September 21, 2013, Pope Francis approved Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the office of the Holy See that has dealt with all sexual abuse cases since Pope John Paul II consolidated its role on April 30, 2001. Fr. Peter Kramer had been convicted in 2000 of sexually abusing two boys, ages nine and twelve, while he was assigned to the Regensburg diocese in Germany. Kramer was sentenced to three years probation on condition that he not work with children. When Müller was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 2002, Kramer was already working with children in the parish of Riekhofen. In violation of the German bishops’ 2002 “binding” guidelines which forbid appointments to ministry of a priest who has been convicted of abusing a child, Müller promoted Kramerto pastor. Müller concealed Kramer’s conviction from his parishioners. When victims learned of Kramer’s new assignment, additional victims came forward and Kramer was convicted of additional child abuse.
While Bergoglio was pretty quick to remove German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg for an extravagant lifestyle, a contradiction of the “humble” image which the pope wishes the Church to project, he leaves such notorious guardians of criminal priests as Chicago Cardinal Francis George, Twin Cities Archbishop Nienstedt, Kansas City Bishop Finn and Newark Archbishop Myers untouched and unchastised.
Unanimously reported as “proof” that Pope Francis was ridding his Curia of “conservatives,” he replaced the flamboyant and exquisitely costumed Cardinal Raymond Burke with Washington’s Cardinal Donald 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.) The pope also reconfirmed American Cardinal William Levada to the same committee although Levada has one of the worst records among the U.S. episcopate for covering up for criminal clerics.
Bergoglio recently made his first selection of new cardinals. Missing was Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the only active (not retired) prelate in the world widely recognized as being sympathetic to victims. But in addition to Müller, the pope included Santiago Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, another Chilean prelate who protected Karadima.
In the U.S., the pope promoted Green Bay’s Vicar General Fr. John Doerfler as the new bishop for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan. During the trial of a serial child molester, Doerfler admitted under oath that he had deliberately destroyed “nearly all records and documentation in the secret Church files of at least 51 reported to have sexually assaulted children 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….When specifically asked if it bothered him that clerics who abused children were being dumped into the community without public notice, Doerfler chillingly answered: “No”.
The world's children deserve better.