Church Manual to Prevent Sex Abuse Sets Off Outrage of Its Own

A demonstration against clerical abuses was held Thursday outside Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati’s residence in Santiago, Chile.Credit

By Pascale Bonnefoy

The manual, published by the Archbishop’s office of Santiago, Chile, said that it was inappropriate to “pat the buttocks or touch the genital area or chest” of minors.

It recommended that members of the clergy refrain from a host of actions, ranging from “laying next to or sleeping with children or adolescents” to giving massages, wrestling and “hugging from behind.” Also on the list of prohibited activities: “kissing on the mouth.”

The guidelines, detailed in a document posted to the church’s website last week, were withdrawn two days later, on Sept. 29.

Chileans were outraged, in part because the guidelines never described the behavior as sexual abuse. They have watched the Catholic Church hierarchy struggle to atone and regain the trust of the faithful after decades of sexual abuse and concealment.

To many, the guidelines were evidence the church still does not understand the difference between criminal actions and “expressions of affection,” as the document called these acts.

Patricia Muñoz, who leads an agency created by the government in January to protect children’s rights, told reporters that she was “in a state of shock” after reading the manual.

The guidelines reflect “a brutal lack of understanding of the limits that a pastoral guide must have regarding children and adolescents,” she said.

Over the past few months, the Chilean Public Prosecutor’s Office has raided church offices in Santiago, the capital, and across the country, uncovering files with accusations of abuses that were never turned over to the authorities. This evidence has led to the opening of 119 cases involving 178 potential victims.

In the past two decades, 44 Chilean clergy members have been condemned for abuse by the Vatican or the courts.

An additional investigation into clerical abuse was ordered by Pope Francis in January.

Earlier that month, he had visited Chile and mounted a spirited defense of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, whom abuse victims accused of protecting the country’s most notorious pedophile priest, Fernando Karadima. This set off a storm of recriminations

In an about-face that was welcomed by his supporters, Francis issued an apology and then the following month sent the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigators to Chile to look into the accusations against Bishop Barros. The investigators probed more widely and found evidence of a decades-old “culture of abuse” and concealment within the Chilean church.

In April, Francis invited three of Mr. Karadima’s victims to the Vatican and a month later summoned the entire Bishops Conference to Rome, where they all offered to resign.

The timing of the publication of the guidelines against sexual abuse by the office of the Archbishop of Santiago could not have been worse. Signed by Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the document was posted online just a day before Pope Francis defrocked Mr. Karadima.

Cardinal Ezzati himself is being investigated on accusations of covering up abuses. This week, prosecutors in the city of Rancagua summoned him for questioning, but Cardinal Ezzati exercised his right to remain silent, on his lawyers’ recommendation. It is unclear what the next steps will be in his case.

In issuing a brief apology, the archbishop said that the nine-page manual was intended to prevent clerical abuse by detailing behavior that was unacceptable for lay or ordained members of the church toward children, teenagers or people with disabilities.

The document also warned priests against offering money or gifts to children without parental consent, transporting minors in a vehicle without the presence of another adult and looking at or taking photos of children or teenagers when they are nude, taking a shower or getting dressed.

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago on May 18, 2018. After three days of meetings with Pope Francis at the Vatican, thirty-four Chilean bishops announced their resignation over a child sex abuse scandal within the Church in Chile.

“Any sexually explicit or pornographic material is absolutely inadmissible,” said the guidelines.

The manual also covered a variety of other matters, like the safety and supervision of minors, assistance to the vulnerable, the use of technology and spiritual guidance.

The archbishop’s office said in a statement that the guidelines, which were drafted by the church’s Council for Abuse Prevention, had followed international standards but it also acknowledged problems with the text.

“We will correct certain contents that were translated too literally and are inappropriate or may be misinterpreted,” the statement said. “We apologize and will publish a new version promptly.”

Complete Article HERE!

Want To End Child Sex Abuse In The Church, Pope Francis?

Change Canon Law!

By

Last week Pope Francis acknowledged that the way the Church’s leadership has handled child sex abuse was driving away those who are the future of the Church: young people. He stated, “we ourselves need to be converted…we need to change the many situations that, in the end, put you off.”

The speech came not long after a Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed that over 300 priests had sexually abused at least 1000 children over a period of 70 years, and a study in Germany found a similar pattern of abuse and the Church’s failure to address it. The pope himself has been accused of protecting the now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted seminarians and a child. People have rightly wondered why, for so long, the pope and his bishops, who are supposed to be shepherds over their flock, have left the wolves to the sheep.

The pope, rather than asking for forgiveness, or having the Church’s leadership undergo an unspecified “conversion,” should focus on some basic institutional reforms. The first among those is revising the Code of Canon Law—the legal rules by which the Church operates. Bishops are sworn to follow canonical procedures as well as various instructions later issued by popes to clarify the application of canon law. As Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said in a deposition, “A bishop must obey the rules of the Church. We’re all in a society of law in the Church too.” Bishops also are only responsible to the pope—they do not answer to fellow bishops or parishioners.

It’s clear that if Francis wants to start solving the problem of how the Church has mishandled child sex abuse cases, he needs to undertake a revision to the Code of Canon Law to make the first response to abuse punitive, restore to diocesan bishops the capacity to defrock priests, raise the statute of limitations, reduce the stress on secrecy about alleged cases, require reporting to local civil authorities, and implement rules for handling errant bishops.

Canon law sees abuse through the lens of a priest violating his vow of celibacy, not from the perspective of harming a child. This has led bishops to interpret child sex abuse as a priest “really struggling with his sexuality” or as a “morals incident,” not as a case of criminal behavior.

It requires that the bishop’s first response be “pastoral”, not punitive, to the priest. Punishment, which can include removing the priest’s right to present himself as a priest in public and to perform the sacraments publicly, is only to be used as a last resort, when all other remedies have failed. That has led to the church failing to deal sternly and swiftly with suspected and confirmed cases of child sex abuse. Canon law encourages the bishop to wait and see if the priest will be a repeat offender.

Bishops are also prevented from defrocking their own priests under canon law. Between 1983 and 2001, priests had to be found guilty at a canonical trial, and the Vatican—officially, the pope—had to agree to dismiss them afterwards. Canonical trials are complicated, and require the participation of the victim, who may be understandably reluctant to be grilled by clerical judges or may have been advised by a lawyer not to cooperate pending a civil lawsuit. Verdicts are easily overturned on technicalities. Even when bishops recognized they had a sexual predator who should not be around diocesan children, their hands were tied. As one Los Angeles diocesan official wrote of a priest in 1988, “Given his past, I don’t think we can assign him to parish ministry, and there are no clear alternative options at the moment.”

After deciding it needed to control cases directly, since 2001 the Vatican has required that bishops send all credible cases of child sex abuse to the Vatican. It decides whether to order a canonical trial or use an administrative procedure to address the case. Even a finding that a priest has serially abused children does not automatically result in laicization (“defrocking”). Instead, the Vatican may decide, as it has in some cases, that the priest should live out his life in a state of “prayer and penance,” or that the events were so long ago that the priest doesn’t deserve punishment. Priests were dismissed in only 25 percent of 3420 cases sent to the Vatican between 2004 and 2013.

The statute of limitations in canon law needs to be extended or abolished. For decades it had been only five years. In 2001 it was raised to 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. With victims understandably reluctant or unable to come forward as youth, many cases eventually reported were beyond formal procedural limits. (They were usually beyond the civil jurisdiction’s statutes of limitations, too).

Canon law requires bishops maintain secrecy about suspected cases. Even though the Vatican has said bishops should obey local reporting laws, the secrecy requirement is in canon law, whereas the reporting to local authorities is not. Bishops, with a sworn moral obligation to obey the Church, opt for secrecy.

The Vatican also needs to develop formal procedures within canon law for punishing bishops who are negligent in their handling of abusive priests. There is no such procedure now. The pope needs to, at a minimum, establish a tribunal. The catch is, due to the strictures of canon law, what looks to outsiders as negligence by bishops is often behavior required by church procedures.

There are several aspects of Catholic theology that have been a hindrance to addressing clergy child sex abuse. One is the theology of forgiveness; the Church has a strong belief in the redemptive and curative power of confessing sin and being forgiven, and has applied this to priests. Pope Francis commented in 2013, “Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him pope.” The Church needs to stress that one can be forgiven—but also face consequences for their actions.

Another is celibacy, not because, as is often assumed, abusing priests are substituting children for adult heterosexual partners, but because bishops, and the Vatican, bend over backwards to retain priests, due to the substantial decline in their numbers. Statistics from the Vatican show that the number of priests worldwide is lower than it was in 1970, even though the world’s Catholic population has doubled since then. The celibacy requirement is one clear barrier that discourages many men from entering the priesthood and encourages the Church to hang onto those inside, no matter their criminal behavior.

So now we must consider, will these recent revelations finally be a turning point? We’ve been here before: cardinals and bishops passing priests around and covering up abuses, Catholics outraged, the general public appalled, and attorney generals launching investigations. What may be different is that now there is public awareness that the problem goes all the way to the top. The pope and the Vatican now need to take action to change the rules by which the Church handles abusing priests and bishops.

While the Catholic church has been affected by secular trends in declining religiosity, as have other mainstream religions, its obtuseness on how it has handled clergy child sex abuse may be further damaging adherence. It has certainly hit the Church financially. It isn’t clear that the Vatican will see this any differently. In speaking to the press on the plane home from Estonia, the Pope relativized the Church’s actions, comparing that to how child abuse in families has been handled over time. He said he has never approved an appeal from a priest after a canonical trial verdict, ignoring that he has reinstated priests who were laicized through administrative processes.

The Vatican has refused to investigate ex-Cardinal McCarrick. Francis needs to be honest that the Church does not have a zero tolerance policy on clergy child sex abuse. The hypocrisy has turned away many Catholics. The risk for the Church is that while the leadership is praying for their own conversion, the faithful will convert to something else.

Complete Article HERE!

Cloud of sex abuse scandal hangs over Vatican youth meeting

Sex abuse scandal hangs over Vatican youth meeting

By Nicole Winfield

Pope Francis opens a monthlong meeting of bishops Wednesday on engaging young Catholics as his church is again under fire for the way it covered up for priests who raped and molested young people.

One American bishop suggested postponing or cancelling the synod, given the poor optics of assembling the church hierarchy to discuss a demographic harmed by the culture of concealment the same hierarchy has been accused of fostering.

A Dutch bishop, outraged that the Vatican hasn’t responded to claims that Francis himself rehabilitated a predator American cardinal, announced he was boycotting the meeting altogether. Another American bishop asked Francis to let him stay home to cope with the scandal’s fallout in his diocese.

Despite the dark cloud hanging over the synod, organizers said they thought the rebirth of the scandal could still give the Vatican an opportunity to show that the Catholic Church isn’t just about sex abuse and cover-ups.

“The church isn’t represented by those who make mistakes. The church is more important and fundamental than that,” said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who is organizing the Oct. 3-28 meeting.

The synod is bringing together 266 bishops from five continents for talks on helping young people find their vocations in life – be it lay or religious – at a time when church marriages and religious vocations are plummeting in much of the West.

It’s a follow-on synod to the meetings Francis organized in 2014 and 2015 on family life that inspired his controversial opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

No single pressing issue is facing bishops this time around, although the way they address homosexuality will be the most closely watched topic. The Vatican’s preparatory document made what is believed to be the first-ever reference in an official Vatican text to “LGBT.”

In addition, the role of women in the church will be watched, although no woman has any vote on the final document. Only a handful of women are attending as experts or as some of the 34 young people picked to attend – a structural imbalance in the Vatican’s synod process.

On the eve of the synod, a parallel conference got underway across town in Rome organized by Catholic women’s groups, which have long lobbied for a greater say in church decision-making.

Students from the Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, Britain opened the conference by reading the letter they wrote to Francis complaining about the prejudice they feel as young women in the church. They even criticized Francis’ frequent use of the term “feminine genius” to describe the qualities he says are so necessary to the church today.

“Initially, ‘feminine genius’ sounded complimentary, but then we asked ourselves what it really means,” the girls wrote. “We think of the qualities it refers to which are supposedly inherent to womanhood, such as caring, nurturing and receptivity. We believe motherhood is really important, but for a number of reasons, focusing only on this does not relate to our ambitions as women.”

The synod’s working document says young people in many secularized parts of the world simply want nothing to do with the Catholic Church, because they find it not only irrelevant to their lives but downright irritating.

“This request does not stem from uncritical or impulsive scorn, but is deeply rooted in serious and respectable reasons: sexual and economic scandals,” for which they demand the church enforce a zero-tolerance policy.

But at the same time, the Vatican itself has fueled the latest scandal by refusing to respond to claims by a retired ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, that Francis and a long list of Vatican officials before him covered up for ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington.

Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined an allegation that he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible. But it was apparently common knowledge in the Vatican and U.S. church that McCarrick pressured seminarians to go to bed with him.

The one bright spot for the meeting is that for the first time, two bishops from mainland China are participating in a synod, the first tangible result of last month’s breakthrough agreement between the Vatican and Beijing over bishop appointments.

Complete Article HERE!

Australian Church Catches Hell After Introducing Electronic Collection Plates

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney turned people off with a $10 minimum.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia.

By Andy McDonald

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Australia is taking heat for implementing a “tap and go” collection plate. Similar to what you would see at a McDonald’s, these devices allow patrons ― or in this case, parishoners ― to tap their chip-enabled credit cards and pay a certain amount.

The Roman Catholic cathedral in Sydney announced the moved on its Facebook page, but the outcry was so swift that the post was deleted soon after ― though, as always, someone took a screenshot.

“Multiple payments of $10 can be made by tapping your card once with several seconds in between each transaction,” St. Mary’s said in the post.

Multiple payments! The response was certainly not all negative, and seemed more focused on the minimum donation being set at $10.

“If you had made it [a] $2 minimum we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said one Facebook user.

“I hate it when I turn up to mass and realise I don’t have any cash,” another user said in support. “I would love this option at my parish.”

St. Mary’s followed up on the outcry by thanking those who made “rational and coherent comments” about the new collection plates.

St. Mary’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church must face reality

Scandal rocks the church, and wrongly it still opposes ordaining women as priests.

Pope Francis greets the crowds in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in July.

By Roy Bourgeois

As a Catholic priest, I did the unspeakable. I called for the ordination of women. The Vatican’s response was swift. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informed me that I was “causing grave scandal” in the church, and that I had 30 days to recant my support for the ordination of women or be expelled from the priesthood.

I told the Vatican that was not possible. Believing that women and men are created of equal worth and dignity, and that both are called by an all-loving God to serve as priests, my conscience would not allow me to recant. In my response, I also made clear that when Catholics hear the word “scandal,” many think about the thousands of children who have been raped and abused by Catholic priests — not about the ordination of women.

In 2010, the Vatican called women’s ordination a crime comparable to sexual abuse of children. Judging from its actions, however, it would appear that the Vatican views women’s ordination as a crime more serious than child abuse. Among the thousands of priests who raped and sexually abused children, the vast majority were not expelled from the priesthood or excommunicated. But the Vatican has excommunicated every woman ordained to the Catholic priesthood.

And in November 2012, after serving as a Catholic priest with the Maryknoll order for 40 years, I was expelled from the priesthood for refusing to recant my support for the ordination of women.

Today, scandal again rocks the Catholic Church. This time, it’s six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. According to a grand jury report, beginning in the 1950s, more than 300 “predator priests” sexually abused more than 1,000 children.

The 1,400-page report, written by 23 grand jurors over the course of two years, said, “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” Among the horrific crimes that Catholic priests committed:

  • In the Pittsburgh diocese, “a ring of predatory priests shared information regarding victims, as well as exchanging the victims among themselves. The ring manufactured child pornography and used whips, violence and sadism in raping the victims.”
  • One priest abused five sisters in the same family, including one girl beginning when she was 18 months old.
  • Another priest was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a young girl and arranging for her to have an abortion.
  • A priest raped a 7-year-old girl in her hospital room after a tonsillectomy. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviewed his crime and decided that he should remain a priest and “live a life of prayer and penance.”

The Pennsylvania grand jury report concluded that the Catholic hierarchy “protected the institution at all cost and maintained strategies to avoid scandal.” Priests who got into trouble were shuffled to another diocese where more children were abused. The FBI determined that church officials followed a “playbook for concealing the truth,” minimizing the abuse by using words like “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues” instead of “rape.”

If the Catholic Church had women priests, the church would not be in the crisis it is in today. I am equally confident that if the Catholic Church does not dismantle its all-male priesthood and welcome women as equals, it will drift into irrelevance.

Complete Article HERE!