Nun scolds Catholic Church about sex abuse

A Roman Catholic nun says the church hasn’t properly addressed the issue of sexual abuse at the hands of priests since the Mount Cashel orphanage scandal of the 1980s.

Sister Nuala Kenny, a pediatrician who was a member of a commission that looked into child sexual abuse by priests in St. John’s, N.L., from 1989-91, said the reaction from clergy was to turn a blind eye to the abuse and to move the offending priest to a new parish.

“It nearly killed me to be a nun, a baby doctor, sitting there listening to people describe what had happened when men of God, priests of my church, had offended against their children and teenagers,” Kenny told about 200 people at the Dalbrae Academy in Mabou.

“It nearly broke my heart. The devastation that occurred was truly heartbreaking, but I thought we learned something, I thought we wrote something important.”

The commission that Kenny served on recommended the creation of the Canadian Conference on Catholic Bishops ad hoc committee on child sexual abuse.

Without participation by Canadian bishops to deal with the systemic problems that made sexual and physical abuse possible, the church can’t begin to heal itself so it can tackle other problems, such as declining church attendance, she said.

“We have not addressed, ‘Why has it happened the way it has happened? Why have we dealt with it the way we have?’ ”

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Priest sex abuse victims rally in Catholic Poland

An international group representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests rallied in central Warsaw on Sunday to highlight the issue in the devoutly Roman Catholic country.

“It would be naive to think that there are no victims of sexual crimes by Polish priests. We suspect that there are children who have been violated and raped,” SNAP president Barbara Blaine told AFP.

“We’re here to reach out to the victims, so they know about organisations like SNAP,” she said, referring to the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The organisation has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three other Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for “their direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.”

“Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican,” Pam Spees, a lawyer for the group said in a statement.

“Paedophiles in the church. We want the truth,” read a banner held by SNAP representatives who rallied and distributed pamphlets outside the imposing Holy Cross church near Warsaw’s Old Town.

The protest drew flak from some some of the faithful leaving after Sunday prayers.

“It’s a lie to accuse Polish priest. Go to the US or England to protest,” exclaimed Alicja Krawczyk.

According to Blaine, similar attitudes of denial were prevalent for years in the United States and Britain when the taboo issue was initially raised.

“Poland is at the beginning of a long road,” Blaine, who founded SNAP in 1988, told AFP.

SNAP representatives are currently on a European tour to raise awareness of their cause having already made stops several European capitals including Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Vienna before Warsaw.

The group plans to be in Madrid on Monday and to protest at the Vatican on Tuesday.

Despite several cases of child sex abuse by priests having surfaced in Poland in recent years, none provoked widespread outrage.

Uniting around 10,000 people who allege they were sexually abused by Catholic priests as children, SNAP hope those who have suffered similar abuse in Poland will be more willing to step forward as the issue gains more public exposure.

Blaine said several victims people had contacted her after she an August visit to Poland.

More than 90 percent of Poles are Roman Catholic.

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Dublin priests’ morale is at an ‘all time low’

Morale of clergy in the Dublin diocese is at an ”all time low” according to the now resigned chairman of the Priests Council, Fr Aquinas Duffy.

Fr Duffy, who resigned in recent weeks, said he resigned from the position due to time constraints and felt that, as the three year term had just started, it was best to go now and let someone else give it ”the time that it deserves”.

Asked about the morale of the clergy, he said it is at an ”all time low” and he included lay people also.

He added that there is ”frustration at trying to change Church structures so that real change comes about. In some ways we need to start moving to a collaborative style of structure and not hierarchial.”

He said there were some ”beginnings there at parish level” but that at ”structural level there needs to be diocesan councils that have real say”.
The urgency around this, he said, is very real as ”we are moving into a situation in the future where the main function of the priest is to serve sacramentally”.

Asked what needed to be done to raise morale, he said that there is a need to ”encourage and build people up. Many feel disillusioned and sometimes abandoned.
”If only we had good planning for the future. The lack of planning causes disillusionment,” added Fr Duffy.

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Why the pope must face justice at The Hague

When it comes to holding the Catholic Church accountable for sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, all roads lead to Rome. That is what my organisation, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), concluded after years of seeking justice in other venues and being turned away.

On 13 September, we travelled to the Hague to file an 84-page complaint and over 20,000 pages of supporting materials with the international criminal court, documenting our charge that the pope and Vatican officials have tolerated and enabled the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world.

Holding childhood photographs that tell a wrenching story of innocence and faith betrayed, and joined by our attorneys from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, we stood up and demanded the justice that has so long been denied. The New York Times called the filing “the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests”.

No doubt, many people of faith are shocked that we would accuse a world church leader of crimes against humanity – a man considered by many to be infallible. But the man who is infallible must also be accountable.

By the Vatican’s own account, “only” about 1.5-5% of Catholic clergy have been involved in sexual violence against children. With a reported 410,593 priests worldwide as of 2009, that means the number of offending priests would range from 6,158 to 20,529. Considering that many offenders have multiple victims, the number of children at risk is likely in the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands.

We believe the thousands of pages of evidence we filed this week will substantiate our allegations that an operation has been put in place not only to hide the widespread sexual violence by priests in all parts of the world, but also to obstruct investigation, remove suspects out of criminal jurisdictions and do everything possible to silence victims, discredit whistleblowers, intimidate witnesses, stonewall prosecutors and keep a tighter lid than ever on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. The result of this systematic effort is that, despite a flood of well-publicised cases, many thousands of children remain vulnerable to abuse.

While many pedophile priests have been suspended in recent years, few have been criminally charged and even fewer defrocked. Worse, no one who ignored, concealed or enabled these predators has suffered any consequences. At the head of this hierarchy of denial and secrecy is the pope, who has served as an enabler of these men. We believe the Vatican must face investigation to determine whether these incidences have been knowingly concealed and clergymen deliberately protected when their crimes have come to light.

I know this story well, because I was sexually abused by a parish priest, from my time in junior high school until graduation. Because of the shame and trauma, several years passed before I was able to tell anyone. By that time, it was too late to file criminal charges. Church officials refused to restrict that priest’s access to children or take action against him for several more years, despite other victims coming forward.

Indeed, powerful factors prevent all but the most assertive, healthy and lucky victims from seeking justice. Many others succumb to drugs, anorexia, depression or suicide when the pain of innocence betrayed becomes too much to bear. A recent investigation in Australia revealed a case in which 26 among the numerous victims of a particular priest had committed suicide.

For the safety of children and the prevention of yet more heinous wrongdoing, the international criminal court may be the only real hope. What other institution could possibly bring prosecutorial scrutiny to bear on the largest private institution on the planet?

Our journey for justice has been a long one, and it’s not over yet. But we know where it must end: with justice at The Hague.

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Polish Catholic journal criticizes church over abuse

A Catholic journal has criticized the Polish church’s handling of sexual abuse by priests, following repeated claims that local church leaders failed to confront the problem.

“The harm caused by sexual molestation of children is unquestionable, but the evil is much greater when pedophilia occurs in the community of faith, and when, in a falsely conceived defense of the church, the authorities hide the facts, conceal the perpetrators and ignore the suffering victims,” the Wiez bimonthly said in an editorial in its August-September edition, dedicated to clergy sexual abuse.

The journal questioned whether the Polish church’s handling of abuse claims complied with Vatican instructions and whether the good of the church meant “the good name of clergy or the good of the weakest.”

“In Poland, church superiors react in different ways. Sometimes sentences are passed on the quiet against priest-pedophiles in secular courts. Sometimes, everything is consistently denied,” it said.

However, the Catholic archbishop in charge of legal affairs for the Polish bishops’ conference told Wiez abuse accusations were best handled with pastoral care and “appropriate therapy” and said the bishops would not be publishing guidelines on the issue adopted in 2009.

Archbishop Andrzej Dziega of Szczecin-Kamien said he believed Poland’s Catholic bishops had their own “competence and experience” on sexual molestation and would not need a commission — like that established by the church in neighboring Germany — to examine abuse cases.

“The duty to handle cases, appropriately establish the truth and define the scope of responsibility of concrete people lies with the church superior — but this remains an internal church activity and does not replace the competence of the wider judicial process,” he said.

“Personally, I’m in favor of totally separating church and secular procedures, upholding the civic rights that belong to everyone in the state and the rights of believers in the church community,” he said.

Jakub Spiewak, president of the Kidprotect Foundation, which runs a hotline for abuse victims and seven separate child-protection programs, told Catholic News Service Sept. 12 that the Catholic journal’s warnings were “important and unprecedented” and said some bishops had shown “extraordinary laxity” toward abuse cases.

“I’d prefer the church to draw conclusions from the mistakes of others, rather than waiting to make its own, since people will be hurt when it does,” he said.
“But it sometimes seems as if the church is thinking like a child — that if it closes its eyes, the danger will go away,” he added. “People won’t tolerate a situation in which priests are above the law, answering only to their bishops and claiming different rights and duties than other citizens.”

Leading Catholics, including Poland’s children’s rights spokesman, have urged the church to adopt clear procedures for handling various abuse claims since the 2002 resignation of the Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Poznan for molesting seminarians.
In 2008, a Dominican, Father Marcin Mogielski, was suspended by the church after testifying to prosecutors about abuse by the priest in charge of Catholic schools in the Szczecin-Kamien Archdiocese.

Other cases have involved allowing convicted abusers to remain in their parishes.
Writing in the journal, a Catholic psychologist, Ewa Kusz, said the Polish church lacked psychological checks for its seminarians and priests or “transparent norms” for vetting lay and religious employees and had no policies or norms for handling abuse accusations.

She added that there was a “lack of cooperation between church and state” on abuse issues and said church cooperation with clinical professionals also “left much to be desired.”

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, co-author of a book on pedophile priests, told Wiez the situation in Poland was comparable to that of Germany before a wave of abuse scandals in 2010, when “cases from the past were partly known about, but the scale of the problem wasn’t understood or dealt with.”

“If the church in Poland doesn’t confront this reality and doesn’t take the bull by the horns, the same thing will happen which we witnessed in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Austria and recently in Belgium,” the priest said.
“If the church doesn’t know how to react to such situations because it hasn’t bothered to ascertain the facts, its image will suffer much more than if it had said, ‘Yes, we had such cases — they were very painful, but we tackled them.'”

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