12/22/17

Children of Catholic priests chalk up win in fight for recognition

The Vatican has at last broken its silence on priests who become fathers, as their children reveal the pain of secrecy

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When he was a boy, Vincent Doyle spent most weekends with a priest he believed was his godfather.

Every Friday night they would watch MacGyver and Vincent would stay in a room that the priest, who was called JJ, kept for him. And every morning before school, he would call Vincent to wish him well.

It was not until years later when Doyle, a psychotherapist based in Galway, was sitting in the kitchen with his mother, leafing through old poems the late priest had written, that he asked the question he innately knew the answer to. “I said: ‘He was my father, wasn’t he?’ And I saw a tear come out of her,” Doyle says.

Catholic priests have been breaking their vows of celibacy and fathering children for decades, if not centuries. For just as long, the Vatican has not publicly addressed the question of what, if any, responsibility the church has to provide emotional and financial support to those children and their mothers. Until now.

A commission created by Pope Francis to tackle clerical sexual abuse will develop guidelines on how dioceses should respond to the issue of the children of priests.

The pontifical commission for the protection of minors has been criticised for doing too little on child sexual abuse. Its decision to take up the issue of priest fathers comes after Irish bishops published guidelines this year that have been hailed as a global model.

They say a child’s wellbeing must be the first consideration of a priest father, and that he must “face up” to his personal, legal, moral, and financial responsibilities.

Acknowledgement of the issue has come about in part because people such as Doyle, who has launched an organisation designed to help priests’ children cope with their difficult childhood circumstances, are speaking out like never before.

It is, says John Allen, a veteran Vatican journalist, an example of the “Francis effect”. “He has encouraged a spirit of open discussion. There is a vast global loosening up under Pope Francis, and this is one expression of it,” he says.

In the past, a bishop who was confronted with a priest father would have been most concerned about the priest breaking his vow of celibacy, Allen says. The priest would probably have been urged to avoid being “tempted” by the mother again and told to ensure the child was taken care of, but not have a personal relationship.

Doyle has loving memories of his father, whose surname he adopted. He will not talk about his parents’ relationship out of respect for his mother’s privacy, except to say one thing: they loved each other.

“He did everything he could for me in the circumstances,” Doyle says. “I simply loved him like a son would. The only problem is, you cannot say it.”

When he was a child, he says, his mother was under pressure and lacked visible social support. “People were led to believe that you were the only one.”

While he is encouraged by the signs of progress, Doyle wants the pope to confront the issue personally. When secrecy has been imposed on a child for their whole life, he says, it is a form of abuse that must be addressed.

“The big problem with children of priests is that they technically don’t exist, and until someone says they actually exist, it is a psychological battle that the children face,” Doyle says.

John Anderson, 72, contacted Doyle after hearing about his organisation, Coping International, and was moved to share his story for the first time.

Anderson says he was 18 when he learned that his father was a French priest. He never knew him and his birth certificate still states that his father is unknown. It was not supposed to be that way.

When Anderson’s mother was pregnant, he says, the plan was that she would enter a convent and that he would be adopted by his mother’s doctor.

Instead, his mother kept him and the pair took a £10 ticket to Australia when Anderson was three, armed with a letter of recommendation written by his father, which stated that his mother was a “creditable emigrant”.

As an adult, Anderson underwent years of psychotherapy and experienced bouts of mental illness, an issue he traces back to his difficult childhood with a mother who was incapable of caring for him.

Anderson says he was unable to be a proper father to his three daughters because he was too insecure and incapable of trusting anyone.

“I turned into this ice man in a way,” he says. Anderson went on to be an artist, but it was challenging because he was still unable to access his emotions.

“I had a rotten childhood. I used to pray to God to send me a friend,” he says. After learning who his father was, he wrote a letter to the priest’s order to try to find out more about him. They wrote back, calling him a gold-digger.

“My mother would have gone to her grave with the information, bless her. It’s like lifting the stone, isn’t it? Rolling the rock back from the cave mouth,” Anderson says.

“It has caused so many people so much grief. I’d just like the whole thing in the open. Jesus Christ, he wouldn’t have wanted this.”

Complete Article HERE!

12/15/17

Catholic Church Singled Out In Australian Sex Abuse Report


The bronze statue of Cardinal Moran stands by the entrance of St. Mary’s Cathedral, in Sydney, Australia.

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In a far-reaching report on child sex abuse in Australia, a government commission is recommending that the country’s Catholic Church lift its celibacy requirement for diocesan clergy and be required to report evidence of abuse revealed in confession.

Those are among the 400 recommendations contained in the 17-volume final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which is wrapping up a five-year investigation – the longest in Australia’s history.

“We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report said.

The Australian reports: “More than 15,000 people contacted the commission to share their experiences of abuse, more than 8,000 of them spoke personally with the commissioner about the trauma it caused, and approximately 2,500 cases have now been referred to police.”

The commission said the church failed to properly address allegations and concerns of victims, calling the Church’s response to them “remarkably and disturbingly similar.”

The report also detailed abuse in churches of other denominations and at such institutions as schools and sports clubs. However, it concluded that the greatest number of alleged abuse perpetrators were found in Catholic institutions. The commission has concluded that 7 percent of priests who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009 had been accused of child sex abuse.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • A national strategy to prevent child abuse, with a national office of child safety.
  • Making failure to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution a criminal offense on the state and territory level.
  • Implementing preventative training for children in schools and early childhood center.
  • A requirement that candidates for religious ministry undergo external psychological testing.
  • Any person in a religious ministry subject to a substantiated child sex abuse complaint should be permanently removed from the ministry.

Currently, Australian law exempts confessional evidence from the rules that apply to other kinds of evidence in court, according to The National Catholic Register.

“We recommend that canon law be amended so that the ‘pontifical secret’ does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse,” the report said.

It said that “Religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school [counselors] should be brought into line with police, doctors and nurses who are all obliged by law to report sexual abuse,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“Without a legal obligation to tell police about abuses, many staff and volunteers failed to let anyone outside the institution know, the commission found,” the Herald reported.

The commission called for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to ask the Vatican to introduce voluntary celibacy for clergy. The commission found that clerical celibacy was not a direct cause of abuse, but that it increased the risk of abuse when celibate male clergy had privileged access to children.

In an official statement, Archbishop Denis Hart of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, apologized for past abuse, calling it a “shameful past” and said the commission’s report “will be taken very seriously.”

However, speaking to reporters later, Hart said the commission’s report “hasn’t damaged the credibility of the church” and called the recommendations on the confessional “a distraction.”

“The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that’s carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable. It can’t be broken,” Hart told reporters.

“I think everyone understands that this Catholic and orthodox practice of confession is always confidential,” he said.

Hart also pushed back on the subject of celibacy: “We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don’t have celibate clergy both face these problems. We know very well that this happens in families that are certainly not observing celibacy.”

The commission’s findings follow numerous allegations of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Australia in recent years. In June, Police in Victoria charged Cardinal George Pell, now a high-ranking Vatican official, with sex abuse dating to his time as a priest in Australia in the 1970s and 80s. Pell has denied the allegations.

The report concluded: “Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number.” the report concluded.

“It is not a case of a few ‘rotten apples.’ Society’s major institutions have seriously failed,” it said.

Complete Article HERE!

10/20/17

Time to end celibacy and ban on females in priesthood: cleric

Fr Paddy O’Kane

By Brett Campbell

A Londonderry priest has called on the Catholic Church to acknowledge changing times and “take another look” at its position on celibacy and women priests.

Fr Paddy O’Kane, of Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, said such a move could help address a growing crisis which has left a quarter of parishes around the world without a resident priest.

“Many priests might choose to be celibate, but for those who want to get married it should be an option,” he added.

Fr O’Kane warned the shortage of clergy is impacting on dioceses across Ireland. “Priest-less parishes are appearing all over Ireland and may be here in this diocese before long,” he added.

“The Church needs to adapt to these changing times. We may have to take another look at celibacy and women priests.”

Writing for Derry Now, Fr O’Kane also hinted that Pope Francis may soon fulfil a special request by Brazilian bishops to allow married Anglican converts to resume their priestly ministries.

Such a move in a country which has 140 million Catholics would alleviate the severe problem which is also manifesting itself throughout Ireland.

Earlier this year the Pope said he may consider ordaining married men – under very specific circumstances – to counter the shortage of clergy, but ruled out dropping celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.

“This year the national seminary in Maynooth had only eight students entering to study for the priesthood – half of these will probably leave during their training,” Fr O’Kane said.

The priest admitted that while his own celibacy had allowed him to live a life devoted to serving others, it had come at a personal cost.

“There are times I miss having a family and there are many times of loneliness and there have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair’s breadth,” he said.

Fr O’Kane also expressed surprise at the number of pilgrims he has encountered who support a change in position.

Complete Article HERE!

10/19/17

NZ priest’s secret children to come out of hiding

The secret children of a Catholic priest in New Zealand are about to reveal their identity to their local bishop, and a New Zealander who personally briefed the Pope on the topic says the Vatican has recognised the right to know one’s parents

By Phil Pennington

The adult siblings are among thousands internationally who have contacted the Coping International website, which offers support to the children of clergy.

The site’s founder Vincent Doyle – an Irish man who himself is the son of a priest – said he expected many more New Zealanders who are priests’ children, or their mothers, to come forward as they gained courage to speak up.

“We’ve been contacted from a number of people in New Zealand – one family where there’s more than one child to the same priest, to the same woman – but they’re going to be making moves in the coming future to the respective diocese and they’ll be contacting the bishop concerned.”

The family had contacted his website in the last three months, and granted him permission to speak a little about their situation, but most details remained confidential such as how many children there were and where they had grown up.

They were among 13,500 people worldwide who had been in touch with Mr Doyle since he started the website in late 2014.

Vincent Doyle meets Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, in mid-October to talk about the children of clergy.

His site gained international prominence in August this year when featured in a new series by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight unit, which is famous for exposing clerical sex abuse of children.

The response to the website has forced the Vatican to acknowledge the issue, and last month it began working on guidelines for how to respond.

“The expectation would be that the [priest] should go and be a father to his child,” said Bill Kilgallon, an Aucklander who personally briefed the Pope last month on the issue as part of the Pontifical Commission to help protect children.

Mr Kilgallon said the Catholic Church had no idea yet how many children have been conceived by priests.

The search phrase “I am pregnant and the father is a Catholic priest” featured in about 1500 of 96,000 hits on Coping International’s website, which its founder pointed out would be mostly from English speakers with Internet access.

“How many don’t fall into that category?” Mr Doyle said.

A psychotherapist in his 30s, he found out six years ago that his godfather, Father John Doyle, was also his biological father.

He made the realisation when he came across some poetry the priest had written, and had since taken his father’s name.

The church hierarchy had mostly responded well when children had come forward, Mr Doyle said, although some priests had been shocked or resistant.

The youngest child they had been alerted to was just three years old, and the oldest an 80-year-old woman. In one case, they knew of a priest who had six children by different women, while one priest who worked in the United States had a family in the Philippines.

Mr Doyle insisted the clerical response was not the priority for his organisation, but rather the goal was to help children whose mental health had suffered without knowledge of their father, or having to keep that knowledge secret as with the New Zealand family.

“There have been efforts to kind of stifle their wellbeing, and to keep them quiet and enforce secrecy,” Mr Doyle said.

“This secrecy more than often comes from family or relatives or friends: the community around you. Not the Pope, the Vatican, the bishop, especially in today’s society in a country like New Zealand.

“They must, must get this right. This is the first time in history the church has really done this … they can’t just put out some guidelines… If they mess this up they will traumatise thousands of people.”

Mr Kilgallon acknowledged there might be complications, such as a priest’s financial obligations to a child, or the need for DNA paternity testing, but these were purely secondary to the primary responsibility of the priest.

“We’ve acknowledged … children have rights and one of the rights is to know their parents.”

“The difficulty is when children are born in a situation where the father is a priest who’s not supposed to be in a relationship and fathering children. This can often lead to the relationship being kept secret, the identity of the father being denied to the child.”

Complete Article HERE!

09/13/17

The Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse tragedy revealed in groundbreaking Australian five-year study

Celibacy a key risk factor in child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, report finds A groundbreaking Australian study describes child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as a global tragedy

Report: RMIT University’s Professor Des Cahill giving evidence at the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2012.

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MANDATORY celibacy, the denigration of women and the Catholic Church’s “deeply homophobic environment” are key factors in the church’s global child sexual abuse tragedy, a ground-breaking Australian research study by two former Catholic priests has found.

Mandatory celibacy “remains the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse”, Dr Peter Wilkinson and Professor Des Cahill of RMIT University’s Centre for Global Research found after a five-year study into systemic reasons for child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

Catholic children, and particularly boys, remained at risk from “psychosexually immature, sexually deprived and deeply frustrated priests and religious brothers”, and the “deeply homophobic environment” within the church and its seminaries “contributes to psychosexual immaturity”, the report released on Wednesday found.

An assessment of 26 key Catholic child sexual abuse studies around the world, including the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into Maitland-Newcastle diocese, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, shows about one in 15 priests commit offences against children.

Rates differ across dioceses and among religious congregations. The risk of offending is much higher among religious brothers with little contact with women, who were educated at male-only schools, appointed to male-only schools and living in all-male communities, the report found.

“The lack of the feminine and the denigration of women within church structures is one key, underlying risk factor in the abuse,” Dr Wilkinson and Professor Cahill said.

Peter Wilkinson and I set out to try to answer the question: Why has the Catholic Church and its priests and religious brothers, more than any other religious denomination, become synonymous with the sexual mistreatment of children? – RMIT University Professor Des Cahill on new report

A decision by Pope Pius X in 1910 to lower the confessional age to seven indirectly put more children at risk of abuse, and popes and bishops created a “culture of secrecy” which led to “gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust”, they found.

The study explored how Catholic organisational policies, practices, processes and attitudes predisposed, influenced and facilitiated individuals to commit sexual and physical abuse against children.

It also explored how the church’s theological frameworks, organisational structures, governance processes and culture contributed to the abuse and church leaders’ inadequate responses.

It included an assessment of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry in 2013 into offending by priests Denis McAlinden and Jim Fletcher in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese over decades, and the responses of former bishops Leo Clarke and Michael Malone.

The report concluded McAlinden, an Irish Redemptorist priest sent to Australia in 1949 at the age of 26, was one of the country’s “most prolific paedophile priests”, whose transfer from Ireland was because his religious leader “wanted McAlinden out of Ireland, and far-away Australia seemed a good bet”.

Professor Cahill and Dr Wilkinson said the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, headed by Margaret Cunneen, SC, had “undoubted achievements”, but it was unfortunate that it did not examine all cases of priest offending in the Diocese of Maitland–Newcastle in the post-World War II period.

“It is also unfortunate that, because of its technical and narrow legal focus, it did not examine the personal, family and seminary circumstances of either offender, or the structural and systemic factors that permitted McAlinden and Fletcher to offend for so long without being held accountable,” they found.

The lack of the feminine and the denigration of women within church structures is one key, underlying risk factor in the abuse. – Professor Des Cahill and Dr Peter Wilkinson

The groundbreaking report, Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry, is believed to be the first informed by researchers with significant theological training and knowledge of church practices. Both men trained as Catholic priests and later left the priesthood.

Professor Cahill is Professor Emeritus of intercultural studies in the school of global, urban and social studies at RMIT University in Melbourne. Dr Wilkinson is a founding member of the Melbourne-based Catholics for Renewal group.

“Peter Wilkinson and I set out to try to answer the question: Why has the Catholic Church and its priests and religious brothers, more than any other religious denomination, become synonymous with the sexual mistreatment of children?” Professor Cahill said.

“From any perspective, whether in size, complexity or historical legacy, the Roman Catholic Church is an awesome entity. One may not like the Catholic Church, but no one can ignore it.”

While the global Catholic Church child sexual abuse issue had been described as a crisis, scandal, nightmare or scourge, “the sexual and emotional abuse of children within Catholic settings by priests, religious brothers and sisters, is ultimately a tragedy of immense proportions”, he said.

The report found that by 2015 the number of baptised Catholics in the world was 1.285 billion people, or 17.7 per cent of the world population.

Growth in the church was particularly strong in Africa, while in Asia and the Americas growth was in proportion to the population growth in each continent.

Between 1975 and 2015 the number of priests worldwide increased by just 2.7 per cent. The number of religious sisters and brothers declined significantly, with a 30 per cent drop in the number of sisters, and a 21 per cent drop in the number of brothers.

In 2014 6263 priests were ordained, 4484 priests died and 716 “defected”, or resigned.

There were 136,572 church mission stations around the globe without a resident priest, the report found.

Complete Article HERE!