02/19/17

US groups question Vatican’s judge choice in Apuron trial

Members of the Catholic community stage a peaceful protest outside the Archdiocese of Agana chancery office in Hagatna on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. The protest was held in conjunction with a meeting between Roland Sondia and Vatican tribunal members at the chancery. Sondia previously announce that he was allegedly sexually assaulted by Archbishop Anthony Apuron in the 1970s when he served as an altar boy at an Agat church.

By Haidee V Eugenio

Two U.S.-based groups dealing with the Catholic clergy sex abuse cases worldwide are not happy with the Vatican’s choice on who will preside over Guam Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s canonical penal trial.

The Vatican sent Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and other members of a tribunal to Guam to hear from witnesses in the trial of Apuron, who is accused of raping and sexually abusing altar boys in the 1970s. The Archdiocese of Agana, in a statement released late Saturday, said a team of four canon lawyers and another official from Rome worked here Feb. 16-17 and left the morning of Feb. 18.

“From what we know of Burke’s record on abuse, he is an odd and unpromising choice for such a sensitive task,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.orga Massachusetts-based information resource that gathers documents and data about the clergy sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

Doyle said Burke has a “troubling record” in dealing with clergy abuse cases.

“He has consistently defended accused clergy and played hardball with victims,” Doyle told Pacific Daily News.

Burke, in an Associated Press report, said he aims to wrap up the Apuron investigation by the summer. The report also said Burke denied he had been sent to Guam as “punishment,” telling Italy’s Mediaset it was normal for cardinals to take on extra jobs in their areas of expertise.

Burke is a top canon lawyer who has clashed repeatedly with Pope Francis.

The Illinois-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the Vatican’s choice has a “sketchy history when it comes to dealing with the abuse crisis.”

“(Burke) was a very controversial figure in St. Louis and the Vatican for his hard-line conservative views. He was sidelined by Pope Francis for openly criticizing the Pope,” Joelle Casteix, SNAP’s volunteer western regional director, said.

‘Canonical penal trial’

The Archdiocese of Agana, in a statement released Saturday night, said that before the team left, “They conveyed their appreciation to all individuals whom they interviewed during their work here and encouraged all of Guam’s faithful to remain grounded in Christ,” the archdiocese wrote.

Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes was appointed by Pope Francis late last year to replace Apuron if necessary,  In the same Archdiocese statement, Byrnes said he is “pleased that the Vatican is advancing this process.”

“The Archdiocese commends all witnesses who have stepped forward to tell their stories. We will continue to redouble our efforts to combat, root out and address sex abuse in the Archdiocese. We pray for a speedy and just result,” the statement said. It added that preventative measures, including formation of a task force to protect future possible victims are in place. A parish-level team from St. Francis presented the first of what will be a series of training programs followed by other Guam parishes.

Apuron is being investigated not only because of alleged sexual abuse of minors, but also other criminal activities and the investigation may have started in 2008, said Attorney David Lujan, who represents at least 18 former altar boys allegedly sexually abused by Catholic clergy on Guam and the number could double in the weeks ahead.

Lujan pointed to the length of time, nine years, before the Vatican has come out here to talk to witnesses as part of their investigation of Apuron.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, in 2016, made several statements pointing to the Vatican’s concerns about Apuron long before former altar boys publicly accused Apuron of rape and sexual abuse.

Hon said these include deeding a Yona seminary property to a group without due process in conformity with Catholic church law, disobeying the Holy See’s instructions to rescind and annual that deed restriction, failure to talk to his own priests, favoritism towards one group, inability to involve more people in decision-making for the archdiocese, and failure to ensure constant communication with the Holy See through Archbishop Martin Krebs, among other things.

Apuron has denied the sexual abuse claims.

‘Not a good choice for Guam’

The Vatican officials working on the Apuron canonical penal trial are a concern for international organizations working on the church crisis worldwide, as well as the attorney for the clergy abuse survivors on Guam.

SNAP’s Casteix said in her personal view, Burke was deputized because of the belief that he might appeal to Catholics on Guam who felt alienated by the Neocatechumenal Way.

“Unfortunately, Burke also has a sketchy history when it comes to dealing with the abuse crisis in St. Louis: blaming gay clergy and and allegedly engaging in culpable negligence,” Casteix said.

Apuron is one of 84 bishops worldwide who have been accused publicly of sexual wrongdoing, based on data that BishopAccountability.org has compiled.

Doyle said nothing in Burke’s record suggests he is a good choice to head Apuron’s tribunal.

“He does not seem capable of the extreme severity toward offending clergy that Pope Francis called for last week,” Doyle said.

In 1990, for example, Burke as a young canon lawyer defended before the Signatura an accused Pittsburgh priest that then-bishop Donald Wuerl was seeking to remove from the priesthood, Doyle said.

“When Burke won his case, Wuerl himself flew to Rome to argue for the priest’s removal and ultimately prevailed,” Doyle added.

Doyle said that on the other hand, there’s little known about Burke’s involvement since 2008 when he left the U.S. to serve as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

“Despite his disagreement with Pope Francis on many other topics, let’s hope Burke aligns with him on this most crucial issue facing the Church. In the tribunal in Guam, Burke must heed the Pope’s pledges of zero tolerance and accountability for bishops,” said Doyle. “Sadly, early indicators suggest otherwise.”

Doyle said Burke already has warned at least one Apuron victim that his testimony will be sealed under the pontifical secret, “and that does not bode well.”

“Without transparency, there cannot be accountability,” Doyle added.

Lujan was not shy to share his mistrust of the Rev. James Conn, who serves as prosecutor in the Apuron canonical trial.

The Vatican tribunal heard from some witnesses last week, but didn’t directly hear from one of Apuron’s alleged sexual abuse victims, Roland Sondia. Sondia declined to give testimony without Lujan’s presence and said he would provide written testimony later. Among those deposed was Deacon Steve Martinez, the former sexual abuse response coordinator whom Apuron fired for reportedly raising concerns about the archdiocese’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations for several years.

 Complete Article HERE!

02/18/17

Ex-altar boy refuses to testify

A former altar boy who accused Guam’s longtime archbishop of sexually abusing him refused Thursday to testify before a Vatican court headed by American Cardinal Raymond Burke on the grounds that he couldn’t have his lawyer present.

Roland Sondia met with Burke and other Vatican officials who traveled to the Pacific island U.S. territory to take testimony for the trial of Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron, attorney David Lujan said.

Lujan said the proceedings were “worse” than he had expected because he wasn’t allowed to be present to advise his client, who was to have been “questioned by the prosecutor, who is a priest, and Archbishop Apuron’s lawyer, who is a priest, and a presider who is Cardinal Burke, and a notary who is also a priest.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke

“We felt it wasn’t in my client’s best interest to be in that position,” he said. He said Sondia may submit a written declaration instead.

Apuron is facing multiple allegations of sex abuse of altar boys in the 1970s. Sondia, now an adult, has publicly accused Apuron of molesting him when he was 15. Apuron has denied the claims and has not been criminally charged.

Lujan said another witness — the mother of a deceased altar boy who also accused Apuron — would also refuse to testify.

Archbishop Anthony Apuron

It wasn’t clear how the lack of testimony would affect the church trial. The alleged victims have sued Apuron, the archdiocese and other individual priests in U.S. courts, which could explain their reluctance to testify in a separate legal procedure. Those lawsuits were made possible after the Guam legislature last year passed a law that lifts the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse.

The Vatican confirmed Thursday that Burke in October had been named presiding judge in the Vatican trial — an unusual revelation given that even the existence of such church trials is usually kept confidential. The Apuron case, though, has played out under heavy public scrutiny in Guam.

Burke’s role raised eyebrows in Rome because he has recently been involved in some high-profile clashes with Pope Francis.

Burke, a top canon lawyer, had headed the Vatican’s high court until 2014, when Francis removed him and named him patron of the Knights of Malta religious order. Francis recently sidelined Burke from that position after Burke was involved in the problematic ouster of a senior knight.

Burke’s defense of church doctrine has made him a hero to conservative and traditionalist Catholics upset with Francis’ mercy-over-morals priorities. He is one of four cardinals who asked Francis to clarify his controversial opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Survivors of clerical abuse, though, have long criticized Burke’s record as an archbishop in the U.S. in handling cases of abusive priests. Burke has said every act of abuse by clergy is a “grave evil.” But he has also blamed gay clergy for the sex abuse crisis, saying priests “who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity” were the ones who molested children.

Complete Article HERE!

02/8/17

Child sex abuse royal commission: Archbishop says he has ‘no right’ to ask priests about sexual activity

Archbishop Coleridge says he cannot expect priests to answer questions about their sexual activity.

By Michelle Brown and Paige Cockburn

One of Australia’s most senior Catholics, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, says he does not know how many priests break their vows of celibacy, and does not think it is appropriate to question them.

Appearing at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Archbishop Coleridge said he had never had a sense of “being shackled” by his vow of celibacy but could not speak about the experiences of others.

Commissioner Peter McLellan intervened when Archbishop Coleridge said he could not say whether at any one time 50 per cent of clergy might be breaking their vows.

“It might be said Archbishop that given that you’re the leader of one of the most significant diocese in Australia that these are questions you should know about?” Commissioner McLellan said.

The Archbishop responded by explaining he could not possibly know the sexual behaviour of clergy who he works with and has no right to ask.

“I have no right to go to a priest who is not an employee of mine and say ‘excuse me, are you in a sexual relationship?'” he said.

“I have no right to ask those questions, or if I do, to expect an answer.”

Archbishop Coleridge also defended celibacy and said he did not think it was a causative factor to the abuse but the “question whether it was a major aggravating factor is on the table”.

He also said it was possible to live without sexual activity as “it’s not like sleep or food” and it did not necessarily lead to loneliness and isolation.

Commissioner McLellan said it needed to be determined whether a person was functioning effectively as previous abusive priests had been “people who in many cases are not functioning well”.

“When you find a problem with the way someone is functioning, the question maybe should be asked: ‘What is their personal life really all about?'”

Archbishop Coleridge said that was a question for someone providing professional supervision to ask rather than a Bishop to which Commissioner McLellan responded: “Well, again, those outside the church might say that reflects a management failure in the church’s structure.”

The Archbishop later said he believed Catholic bishops would probably tell police if a priest confessed to a sexual crime against children today.

“I tend to think that other bishops these days — in the light of what we are learning — would say to the priest ‘what you have confessed you understand is criminal behaviour and therefore the civil authorities must be notified’.”

Female leadership ‘needed in the church’

The Archbishop also said there was a need for more women to be making executive decisions at the top of the Catholic Church in Australia.

“If the Catholic Church says it cannot ordain women we are correspondingly obliged to explore ways in which women can exercise genuine responsibility in the decision-making processes at the highest level,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Catholics for Renewal president Mr Peter Johnstone said he believed one could argue women would have spoken up about allegations of abuse earlier.

“When you exclude the people who have had experience in bringing up children…you are not going to get it right,” he said.

Today is day three of a three-week public hearing which will focus on the extent of child sexual abuse over almost seven decades and what church leaders are doing to protect children.

Last week, Archbishop Coleridge emailed a video message to tens of thousands of Catholic school parents expressing his concern about the impact of the statistics relating to reported abuse within the church.

“My sincere hope is that all the blood, sweat and tears will produce justice and healing and ensure that the future is much safer for the young than the past has been,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

02/7/17

Catholic church doesn’t understand toll of child sexual abuse, says US priest

Father Thomas Doyle tells royal commission the church does not want to understand just how profound the impact of abuse is on survivors

Father Thomas Doyle

By

One of the first American priests to have broken ranks on child abuse said the Catholic church still fails to comprehend the depth of spiritual damage done to victims.

Father Thomas Doyle, then a canonical lawyer at the Vatican’s Washington embassy, was tasked with investigating child abuse cases in the US in the mid-1980s, preparing a 40-page report for the nuncio, or papal ambassador, which he said was handed to the pope.

Doyle’s warnings about the abuse went unheeded and he said he was pushed out of his position with the embassy in 1986.

He has spent the time since helping survivors, speaking to thousands of individuals abused by Catholic clergy.

Doyle, giving evidence to the child abuse royal commission in Sydney on Tuesday, spoke of a life-changing moment in his early years of examining abuse claims, when he met a 10-year-old survivor face to face.

“When I looked into his face, I still see it, it was empty,” Doyle said. “And that moment changed my life. The parents were simple, good, decent people who could not comprehend why they were being treated the way they were by the church.

“They couldn’t understand why this man had been shifted from one place to another, to another. I had no answers.”

Doyle is one of many experts called this week to give insights into the church and the causes of the crisis to Australia’s royal commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse.

The royal commission is in its final three weeks of examining the Catholic church and, on Monday, heard damning statistics showing that 7% of priests abused children between 1950 and 2010.

In one Catholic order, St John of God Brothers, 40% of clergy were alleged perpetrators, while one in five Marist and Christian brothers were the subject of allegations.

Doyle said the church’s approach to the issue still failed to comprehend the damage done to survivors and those around them.

“One of the massive holes in the Roman Catholic church’s approach to this issue, still today, is a failure to completely comprehend the depth of the spiritual damage that is done to the victims, to their families, especially their parents, to their friends and to the community itself,” Doyle said.

Doyle said the church did not want to understand just how profound the impact of abuse was on survivors.

“Because if we learnt how bad this really is, it’s not going to make us look good in the long run,” he said. “We’d rather look the other way.”

The institutional structure of the church, as the official entity for Catholics to achieve salvation, had become sacrosanct, Doyle said.

He said the protection of the “institutional church” had become “of all-encompassing importance” to the Catholic hierarchy.

Doyle said that had contributed to efforts to cover up crimes and silence victims.

“The protection of this entity is of all-encompassing importance and that means the bishops themselves must be protected at all costs, and must be protected from embarrassment, from being lowered in the esteem of the community,” Doyle said. “Because if these things happen, the church will be seriously tainted.”

Doyle also spoke of a US priest, who had been accused of abusing five daughters from the same family. Doyle said the priest was to be sent to Holland, because there was no extradition treaty in place. That was designed to allow him to avoid court, Doyle said.

The privileged status of priests in the community, he said, put them “on a pedestal” and in positions of power and trust. He said that could be used to control and scare victims. In the eyes of children, the priest represented god.

“Many victims that I have talked to are completely confused through all of this because they’re taught that anything sexual is a mortal sin,” he said.

The training of clergy, particularly in celibacy, prevented them from maturing emotionally, sexually and psychologically, he said.

He likened priests to a highly educated groups of 14-year-olds. The few priests who stood with survivors and victims were sidelined, silenced, or punished by the church, he said.

“Because they have gone public with an issue that the system would still prefer to keep unknown and buried in secrecy,” he said.

He praised the work of the commission, saying it would have a profound impact, including on the Vatican.

“What you are doing is unique in the world, it is historic, it is going to make a mammoth difference in the long run,” he said. “You’ve taken something on that is mind-boggling.”

The prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described the abuse uncovered in the royal commission as a “national shame” in parliament on Tuesday. He said it could never be allowed to happen again, in any context.

“This is not just a history lesson, this is not just a sad tale from times past, this is a reminder to all of us today, in every part of the nation, to protect the vulnerable in our care, the children in our care, in whatever context,” Turnbull said.

The royal commission continues on Tuesday.

Complete Article HERE!

01/20/17

Northern Ireland child abuse inquiry singles out police and church

Report on historical abuse in 22 church, state and charity-run homes accuses RUC and Catholic hierarchy of serious failings

Campaigners for alleged victims of historical institutional abuse outside the hotel where Sir Anthony Hart was making his statement.

By

Police were guilty of a “catalogue of failures” over the abuse of boys at a Belfast care home run by a paedophile ring, a comprehensive report into child mistreatment across Northern Ireland has found.

The historical institutional abuse inquiry, established in 2014, found that a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) investigation into sexual abuse at the Kincora care home in east Belfast was “inept, inadequate and far from thorough”.

The report, released on Friday, also accused the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland of ignoring repeated warnings about a serial paedophile, Fr Brendan Smyth, who sexually assaulted and raped dozens of young victims.

The implications of the Smyth scandal and other clerical abuse in the region were so serious that a senior Catholic cleric was due to discuss the findings with the pope later on Friday.

Kincora care home was run by a number of paedophiles whom it was alleged were agents of the state. They included the prominent Orange Order member William McGrath, who was accused of being an informer for MI5 and special branch in the 1970s, spying on fellow hardline loyalists.

At least 29 boys were sexually abused by McGrath, the Kincora housemaster, and others at the home. One boy is said to have killed himself by jumping off a ferry into the Irish Sea in the late 1970s following years of abuse. Three senior staff at Kincora – McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains – were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys.

The retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, who chaired the inquiry, said if the RUC had carried out a proper investigation into Kincora many of the victims might have been spared. He said 39 boys were abused byMcGrath and others running Kincora at the height of the Troubles.

But Hart said the notion that the home was a homosexual “brothel” used by the security services to entrap paedophiles to spy on influential political figures was without foundation.

Controversially, he also dismissed the notion that McGrath was a state agent. “We are satisfied that McGrath was never an agent of the state. William McGrath was a sexual pervert who had political views of a bizarre type.”

Hart was extremely critical of a number of individuals who had previously made claims about Kincora, including the former army intelligence officer Colin Wallace, who first raised allegations of a paedophile ring at the home.

The judge said the cooperation of the current Police Service of Northern Ireland was in “marked contrast to the unwillingness of some individuals”.

He stressed that all requests by the inquiry for classified files relating to Kincora were “honoured” by government and security agencies.

Hart said there was “no credible evidence” to support allegations that a paedophile ring including senior British establishment figures had abused children in Kincora. The report had “stripped away decades of half-truths masquerading as facts in relation to Kincora”.

The inquiry, which sat at Banbridge courthouse in County Down for two years, investigated children’s care homes and institutions from the Northern Ireland state’s foundation in 1922 to 1995.

During the Kincora section of the inquiry it emerged that MI5 and MI6 were legally represented at Banbridge. Critics of how the hearing into Kincora had been framed expressed concerns the government would use the Official Secrets Act to prevent the inquiry gaining access to files from MI5 and MI6.

Among the other scandals highlighted in the report was that surrounding Fr Brendan Smyth. He was a paedophile priest whom the Catholic hierarchy kept moving around parishes in both Ireland and the United States long after it knew about his abuse of children in places such as west Belfast.

The report severely criticised the Catholic Church’s behaviour.

“Father Brendan Smyth was able to carry out widespread sexual abuse of children, including some children resident in homes investigated by the inquiry, due to the failure of branches of the Roman Catholic church to properly address his behaviour from before he was ordained as a priest, despite clear warnings,” it said.

“There was repeated failure to assess the risk he posed to children, to confine him to his abbey, to thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse, to notify the police and social services, and to share information between dioceses and report matters to the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical authorities.”

The report also criticised an order of Catholic nuns, the Sisters of Nazareth. Of the homes they ran in Belfast and Derry, it said: “In each of the four homes, some nuns engaged in physical and emotional abuse against children. Emotional abuse was widespread in all homes.”

Hart and his team found that a disinfectant was used in baths in the orphanages. He said there was a significant number of cases of sexual abuse involving priests and lay staff. Many of these incidents were known to members of the clergy, who did nothing to stop them, the report said.

The leader of Ireland’s Catholics, archbishop Eamon Martin, said he would discuss its findings with Pope Francis when he met the pontiff in Rome later on Friday.

He said the report “reminds us that much work remains to be undertaken in this regard”.

Public hearings were held into 22 institutions across Northern Ireland which were run by the state, local authorities, the Catholic church, the Church of Ireland, and other voluntary organisations. Hart’s report runs to 2,300 pages and contains 10 volumes of findings and testimonies.

The NSPCC children’s charity said: “This inquiry has shed light on horrendous and widespread abuse carried out against children in Northern Ireland in the past. Institutions must now be held to account for the prolonged, systematic failings against the children in their care. It is right that the survivors receive the justice they deserve and we support the recommendation for redress.”

Complete Article HERE!