Other times popes have apologized for the sins of the Catholic Church

Pope Francis as he was welcomed in Edmonton, Canada, on July 25.

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Pope Francis on Monday apologized to Canada’s Indigenous community for the role the Catholic Church played in overseeing decades of abuse at some of the nation’s residential schools. The schools, which were run by both churches and Canada’s federal government, removed about 150,000 Indigenous children from their families — and used hunger, sexual violence and religious indoctrination to forcibly assimilate the students.

But it wasn’t the first time Francis — or even his predecessors — has asked forgiveness for the church’s crimes and transgressions. In fact, his remarks were the latest in a string of papal apologies in recent years.

Not all of the pleas have fully implicated the church, instead blaming individuals for wrongdoing or misconduct. Here are some of the apologies the various heads of the Catholic Church have given in recent years.

Pope Francis

Francis is in Canada this week on the first papal visit since 2002. On Monday, clad in a headdress presented to him by Indigenous leaders, he described Canada’s residential school system as “catastrophic” and asked forgiveness for the “evil committed by so many Christians.”

“I am deeply sorry — sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples,” Francis, who is from Argentina, said in his native Spanish.

Francis is the first Latin American pope and has offered several apologies since becoming the head of the Catholic Church in 2013, most notably for sexual abuse. In a letter to Chilean bishops in 2018, he admitted to “serious errors” in handling a sex abuse scandal. Later that year, he penned a lengthy letter to Catholics worldwide in which he expressed deep regret for the church’s role in the abuse of minors and the subsequent coverup, saying: “We showed no care for the little ones. We abandoned them.”

In 2015, on a trip to Bolivia, Francis apologized for the “many grave sins … committed against the native people of America in the name of God.”

“I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America,” he said, as the New York Times reported.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing on the occasion of the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings to the Curia, in the Regia Hall at the Vatican in December 2010.

Benedict XVI served as pope from 2005 to 2013, when he resigned, citing health reasons. During his pontificate, the church’s sexual abuse crisis — and his alleged involvement in helping sweep it under the rug — drew an extraordinary amount of media attention, much of which focused on Benedict himself, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2010, as sex abuse scandals swept the dioceses of Europe, Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Catholics of Ireland apologizing for decades of “systemic” abuse against children. He criticized church authorities in Ireland but did not discipline any leaders.

This year, the former pope expressed “profound shame” after a German investigation commissioned by the church accused him of wrongdoing in his handling of sexual abuse cases during his time running the Archdiocese of Munich between 1977 and 1982.

“I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness,” Benedict said. “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II places a typed and signed note into a crack at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City in March 2000.

Pope John Paul II’s papacy lasted 27 years, from 1978 to his death in 2005. The first email he ever sent, in November 2001, was an apology for “a string of injustices, including sexual abuse, committed by Roman Catholic clergy in the Pacific nations,” the BBC reported.

Before that, John Paul II offered his atonement for a number of the church’s sins. In the 1980s and 1990s, while visiting countries in Africa, he “consistently apologized for the church’s role in the slave trade,” the Associated Press reported.

He also wrote a sweeping apology to women, who “have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude,” he said, blaming “cultural conditioning” and some “members of the Church.”

The church also formally apologized during his papacy for failing to take more decisive action during World War II to stop the extermination of more than 6 million Jews, The Washington Post reported.

Complete Article HERE!

The spotlight shifts in the clergy sex abuse scandal

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For too long, the Catholic Church ignored and even hid the problem of sexual abuse by its clergy. Pope Francis, to his credit, has instituted reforms that are more far-reaching than his predecessors’. But a disturbing article in The Post by Chico Harlan and Alain Uaykani suggests that the church still has a long way to go in protecting children from predatory clerics and the bishops who enable them — particularly in less developed countries, far from the glare of effective judiciaries and unstinting journalism. There, as the authors write, “the scale of abuse remains both a mystery and a cause for trepidation.”

In one case they describe, a teenage nun-in-training said she had been raped by a priest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an incident that resulted in no serious discipline for the accused assailant owing to what an array of sources described to an elaborate coverup orchestrated by the local bishop, Nicolas Djomo. In the end, a so-called investigation, conducted under the bishop’s auspices and presented to the Vatican, concluded that the allegation was unsubstantiated. The investigators, incredibly, did not even bother to interview the young girl who said she had been raped.

The details of the allegation are chilling, but no less chilling than the successful efforts to sweep it under the rug and ensure that no real accountability was possible, according to The Post’s detailed reporting. In that respect, the pattern of impunity as practiced by the Catholic hierarchy, once so well entrenched in wealthy countries in North America and Europe before the Vatican’s reforms, seems little changed or improved in developing countries where the church remains all but untouchable — and often settles allegations of abuse by means of private payoffs.

Chief among the structural problems is the role played by bishops in so many aspects of church governance, including investigating and disciplining abusive priests. The reforms established by Francis leave accountability almost exclusively in the hands of bishops, who report directly to the pope. Oversight, to the extent it exists, rests in the hands of more senior, or metropolitan bishops, generally based in major urban areas.

That oversight has been exercised only sparingly in Western countries, and scarcely at all in developing nations, where the church is often beyond the law’s meager reach. Unchecked, bishops in those countries generally function as detectives, judges and juries in their dioceses — the same ineffective structure that allowed sexual predation to flourish elsewhere for decades.

In the absence of an effective mechanism to investigate abuse and protect victims, the Vatican must rethink its approach. If that involves establishing its own structure, in Rome, to intervene in fact-finding and discipline where no other credible means exist, then so be it. Without such further reforms, there will be no end to a scandal that has caused the Catholic Church such disrepute, cost it untold billions of dollars, and left so many innocent victims in its wake.

Complete Article HERE!

Another pope’s apology isn’t enough when Catholic Church’s cover-ups and hypocrisy continue to this day

As Francis visits Canada, we need to ask: have churches and governments created conditions allowing clergy to continue their sexual abuse of children?

By Pamela Palmater

The truth is, there have been many apologies issued by many popes.

But as Pope Francis’s visit to Canada begins this weekend, the question to be asked is whether these men have taken substantive actions to end the abuse in which the church they lead has been complicit.

The Catholic Church and its officials have directed, authorized, counselled and/or were complicit in the horrific physical and sexual abuse of children; subjugation, vilification and violence against women; and the deaths of millions of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South America and the African continent. According to recent inquiries, that abuse has continued into the present.

For some First Nation, Inuit and Métis survivors, this papal visit to Canada that begins this weekend in Alberta is an important part of their healing journey. For others, the Pope is the last person they want on their territories, as he represents a religious organization that has caused much misery around the world.

In 2017, Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse found that from 1950 into the 1980s, 4,445 victims were sexually abused in a Catholic setting, but not all victims were recorded before 1950. It found that the cover-up of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests and brothers was systemic — a matter of church policy — and abusers were neither reported to the police nor expelled.

Last year, an independent inquiry concluded that there have been more than 216,000 victims of sexual abuse by French Catholic clergy between 1950 and 2020. The church was found to have turned a blind eye to the abuse perpetrated by 3,000 priests and other people involved in the church. The evidence showed that the church was more concerned about protecting its image than preventing the abuse from continuing. Like the situation in Australia, the church did not hold abusers to account. To make matters worse, in some countries, those sexual predators have been left to continue the abuse.

An investigation by The Associated Press in 2019 found that nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church itself considers “credibly accused of child sexual abuse” live under the radar with easy access to children. The investigation revealed that these men are employed as teachers, counsellors, juvenile detention officers, nurses and foster parents, or work in family shelters and even Disney World — roles that keep them disturbingly close to children.

They easily pass fingerprint tests and/or criminal record checks (since they were never prosecuted); not surprisingly, a large number have gone on to commit additional sexual assaults. The fact that the church never held them to account for child sexual abuse is bad enough, but the subsequent cover-up and failure to monitor them now has put countless American children at risk.

The question needs to be asked here in Canada: have churches and governments created the conditions allowing Catholic clergy to continue their sexual abuse of children?

In 2016, the federal government spent over $1.5 million to hire 17 private investigators to identify those believed to have committed sexual abuse at residential schools. More than 5,300 perpetrators were identified, but not for the purposes of criminal prosecution. Instead, they were invited to participate in the hearings related to compensation, but not surprisingly, the vast majority did not accept the invitation.

Of the more than 5,000 sexual predators who abused the majority of 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in residential schools, a mere fraction have ever faced criminal charges. Fewer than 50 have been convicted; and of those, most spent only months in prison. It begs the question: where are they now — and how many more children have they abused because neither the churches nor law enforcement saw fit to protect children from known sex offenders?

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the Pope’s visit has overshadowed these important questions.

It would be wrong to assume that the legacy of Indian residential schools is about historic or past abuses. There were many horrific abuses in those schools, from medical experimentation and torture to severe beatings and deaths. The many unmarked graves being identified across the country are evidence that the extent of the crimes is far worse than has been reported.

The failure to hold the perpetrators to account — then and now — created an opportunity for the abuse to continue into the present, just as it has in other countries. While not all survivors want criminal prosecutions, some do. But the passage of time permitted by the church and government will have clearly prejudiced their cases. Had Canada created a special prosecution team when they first knew about the abuses, things may have been different — but maybe not, given the change of tactics by the church in other parts of the world.

Churches can now be covered by “church abuse and molestation” liability insurance, which means that any litigation or claims against the church for abuse may well have to face a team of aggressive insurance lawyers. In some areas, the Catholic Church has adopted more aggressive litigation tactics like hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on claimants; engaging large, powerful law firms; fighting to keep documents secret; and/or filing countersuits against parents.

In one case, the Diocese of Honolulu countersued a mother, claiming she failed to protect her children from abusive priests. These actions are clearly meant to dissuade others from bringing forward criminal or civil cases. One Roman Catholic cardinal called out the church for concealing, manipulating and/or destroying documents in an effort to cover up sexual abuse.

In addition to the Catholic Church not sharing all documents related to Indian residential schools in Canada, the federal government destroyed 15 tons of paper documents related to the residential school system between 1936 and 1944. St. Anne’s residential school survivors are still battling Canada in court for the release of documents that detail the abuse they suffered in Fort Albany, Ont.

All of these actions — from hiding documents to failing to prosecute sex offenders — betray government- and church-stated commitments to reconciliation. If either institution wants to engage in substantive reconciliation, it must listen to the survivors, the families and community leaders who have made demands that go beyond carefully worded apologies. There have been many diverse Indigenous voices calling for substantive action in addition to an apology. I believe that all of these actions should be implemented, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Government and the Catholic Church must take whatever means necessary to stop ongoing sexual abuse of children and take urgent steps to prevent it in the future;
  • Governments and the church must hold known sexual predators to account;
  • Governments and the church must contribute whatever funding is necessary to identify the children in unmarked graves across Canada, and support communities to bring them home and/or memorialize them;
  • All documents related to any aspect of Indian residential schools, day schools and other church activities impacting Indigenous peoples must be released by governments and the church;
  • Stop fighting St. Anne’s residential school survivors in court;
  • The church must finally pay its agreed-upon compensation and any additional compensation needed to make full reparations for its crimes and cover-ups related to Indigenous peoples;
  • All 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be implemented without further delay;
  • Return lands held by the Catholic Church back to First Nations who desire their return;
  • Immediately rescind, repeal or withdraw the Doctrine of Discovery (by whatever legal means necessary to give it effect);
  • Canada should appoint a special prosecutor to bring sexual offenders to justice in a way that does not retraumatize survivors, families and communities;
  • There should be an independent review of the actions of the church in relation to sexual abuse in Indian residential schools; and
  • Ensure that known abusers are listed and not permitted to work near children.

Understanding that survivors will each have their own vision of reconciliation, for many, anything less than an apology that includes an unqualified admission of the crimes committed, a full acceptance of responsibility, and a commitment to end the abuse and make full reparations will be just another empty apology and continuing injustice for First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

Complete Article HERE!

Angelo Sodano’s background: the Godfather of the Vatican

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The main accusation against the Vatican in the pederasty scandal is that it has covered up for the guilty in recent decades. As more becomes known, Benedict XVI, then Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, comes out better as someone who tried to deal uncompromisingly with the allegations, as opposed to another, more powerful sector of the Curia that chose to cover them up. As Ratzinger bitterly put it in 1995 when he found himself held back from acting on the scandal of Vienna Cardinal Hermann Groer (whom the Vatican excommunicated for sexually assaulting young Benedictine novices), “the other side has won”. He confessed this to Cardinal Christopher Schönborn. But Schönborn added that “the other side” was led by Angelo Sodano, whom he accused of having blocked five years earlier the creation of a commission of inquiry into Groer’s sexual abuse. This was an unprecedented Vatican infighting to go public.

One of the most serious accusations against Sodano is that he was the protector of Mexico’s Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, an ultra-conservative order promoted by John Paul II, who is now considered by the Holy See to be “an unscrupulous criminal”. After the investigation ordered by Benedict XVI, it turned out that he was a paedophile, had two wives, three children, three different identities and managed funds worth millions. There were allegations against him in the Vatican, but thanks to Sodano they were bogged down.

The National Catholic Reporter, a prestigious American Catholic publication, has published a devastating investigation that denounces how Maciel bought his protection in Rome with donations to Sodano and other heavyweights of John Paul II’s old guard, such as his personal secretary, Stanislaus Dziwisz, who was archbishop of Krakow, and the Spaniard Eduardo Martinez Somalo. The magazine claims that Maciel paid Sodano US$10,000 for a talk and organised the 200-cover banquet for his appointment as cardinal in 1991. Maciel also hired Sodano’s nephew Andrea, an engineer, to build the order’s lavish university in Rome. Another reputable publication, America, of the American Jesuits, reacted thus: “There is a cardinal whose head must roll, Sodano”.

He started out in a diplomatic career and was nuncio in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. He had a friendly relationship with him and was one of the architects of John Paul II’s controversial visit to the country in 1987. It was during this visit that Karol Wojtyla was famously locked in, as he was shown a door behind a curtain and suddenly appeared on the balcony with the dictator, where photographers were waiting for him.

Nevertheless, something about Sodano’s opaque and sinuous character must have appealed to John Paul II, who appointed him Secretary of State in 1991. In 1999 Sodano still remembered his friend Pinochet and intervened in his defence on humanitarian grounds when he was arrested in London. “The Holy See is in the front line when it comes to defending human rights in any area,” he claimed when it became known.

In 1994, Sodano had another offender close to him, his own brother Alessandro, convicted of corruption in “Clean Hands”, and it was even more so in 2008 with his nephew Andrea, the engineer. He was a partner of Raffaello Follieri, an executive and playboy swindler who posed as a Vatican man in the United States. He was young, a millionaire, a friend of Bill Clinton and his girlfriend was the actress AnneHathaway, until he was arrested by the FBI and got four years in prison. They had a curious idea to make money: to buy up the real estate properties of US dioceses bankrupted by the pederasty scandal at a good price.

The clergy sex abuse scandal and its institutional cover-up in Chile probably all but closed the chapter on his long reign as the Vatican’s most influential. But it will not erase the immense, and not always positive, impact he has had on the church and its institutional shape to which he devoted his long and prodigious life as a career diplomat of the Holy See.

One incident in which his power and influence were particularly decisive dates back to 22 June 2006. On that day, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Sodano was retiring and handed the job of Secretary of State to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a trusted aide from the Pope’s time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Although the transition would not take effect until three months later (15 September), it was on that day that Benedict XVI inflicted a mortal wound and slowness on his own pontificate by rejecting Cardinal Sodano.

The Italian had tried to dissuade him from choosing Bertone for the post that was de facto second only to the Pope in the Vatican hierarchy. In the weeks leading up to the retirement, Sodano had advised Benedict to select an experienced diplomat for the post, which was not Bertone, a mediocre canon lawyer and Salesian.

One of the names on the outgoing list of candidates proposed by the Secretary of State was Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican’s “Minister of Foreign Affairs” at the time.

Lajolo was one of Sodano’s trusted allies and came from the same region of Italy as him, Piedmont. But, more importantly, Lajolo had also been papal nuncio to Germany (1995-2003) and spoke the Pope’s native language, which his cardinal protector believed made him an attractive choice for Benedict to accept.

But the now Pope Emeritus rejected Sodano’s advice and insisted on appointing Bertone. In doing so, he lost the vital support of the majority of Vatican diplomats in the Roman Curia, led by Angelo Sodano, who astutely fed the narrative that the pope had marginalised them by choosing the undiplomatic Bertone. From that moment on, Ratzinger’s pontificate went from one major crisis to another, both within the Vatican and on the world stage. After nearly eight agonising years he and his small circle of trusted aides were largely isolated. Faced with all this, the venerable theologian Pope resigned.

Sodano and his allies survived, however, and at the 2013 conclave, as dean of the College of Cardinals, his duties included presiding at mass and moderating the pre-conclave discussions. It is known for certain that once the vote was underway, he had persuaded other cardinals to cast their votes for Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, the man who is now Pope Francis.

It is unclear whether Sodano delivered the decisive votes for the election of the Argentine pope, but those counts were essential. And Francis was and remains aware of that.

He began his pontificate in full knowledge that Sodano still had considerable reach and influence over much of what was happening in ecclesiastical Rome. He also had personal experience of the former Secretary of State’s fervent willingness to decide and promote, especially in Latin America, at least since the 1970s, political decisions and appointments of bishops.

During the 1992 CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Conferences) meeting in Santo Domingo, Bergoglio, as a newly ordained auxiliary bishop, witnessed how Cardinal Sodano – together with one of his Chilean protégés, the future Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez – went over the bishops’ heads and, although not entirely successfully, tried to dictate the content of the meeting’s final document.

Besides his native Italy, Latin America is probably the part of the world that Angelo Sodano loved most. During his more than 50 years of service to the Holy See, his only diplomatic postings abroad were there. His first assignments as a priest were in Ecuador (1961-1963), Uruguay (1963-1965) and Chile (1965-1967). After another ten years in Rome in the Secretariat of State, he returned to Chile in early 1978, newly ordained to the episcopate and ready to serve a full decade as apostolic nuncio.

Sodano, more than any other Vatican official, played a decisive role in the formation of Chile’s episcopal leadership. From the rise of the late Cardinal Jorge Medina to that of Bishop Juan Barros, linked to the Karadima case, Sodano’s fingerprints are everywhere.

When he became Secretary of State, Sodano was able to continue to exert his influence over the appointment of bishops in Chile (and elsewhere) as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, a post he held until 2007.

It is highly likely that Sodano intervened in the Barros case and advised Pope Francis not to listen to recurring accusations that the bishop turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children by his mentor, Fernando Karadima.

Who knows how many more times he used his power and position to stop investigations into crimes committed by his ecclesiastical colleagues out of concern for “the good of the church”?

Finally, and boasting of Sodano’s extensive and dark tentacles, Henry Kissinger himself called him the world’s most cunning politician-diplomat. Too bad he used that cunning to do evil. It will be difficult for his soul to rest in peace.

Complete Article HERE!

New head of Italian bishops launches sex abuse query

The new president of the Italian Conference of Bishops on Friday said he would launch an independent inquiry on sex abuse by Catholic clergy in Italy, but the announcement disappointed victims advocates because it will only go back 20 years.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the new head of the Italian bishops conference, arrives for a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 27, 2022. Pope Francis named a bishop in his own image, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, as the new head of the Italian bishops conference, as the Italian Catholic Church comes under mounting pressure to confront its legacy of clerical sexual abuse with an independent inquiry.

By Paolo Santalucia

The Italian church is coming under mountain pressure to confront its legacy of clerical sexual abuse. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who was appointed this week by Pope Francis, said the investigation will limit its scope to two decades in order to be “more accurate and accountable.”

Zuppi promised a report would be delivered by Nov. 18 by a panel of independent experts selected among university professors.

“We are starting from them (the victims),’’ Zuppi told a news conference. “It is clear that their suffering drives us, and it should stimulate us to give responses that are trustworthy and serious.”

Victims’ advocates say the initiative does not go far enough. They want investigations to span 50 years, and they want to be directly involved in drafting the report.

Francesco Zanardi, founder of Rete L’Abuso (Abuse Network), one of Italy’s main victims’ advocacy groups, said most of the victims report the abuse only after decades have passed.

“The maturation of a trauma takes between 30, 35 or 40 years, when it goes well,’’ Zanardi told reporters in Rome. “I, for example, spoke about my trauma (when I was) 40 years old … more than 30 years went by … this says that 20 years is not enough.”< The Italian Catholic Church is one of the few in Western Europe that has not opened its archives to independent researchers to establish the scope of abuse and cover-up in recent decades. Whether by government mandate, parliamentary investigation or church initiation, such reports in Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France have shown systematic problems that allowed thousands of children to be abused by Catholic priests. The churches in Spain and Portugal have recently agreed to launch similar investigations. By Zanardi’s count, 164 priests are under investigation for abuse in Italy and another 162 have been convicted. His group has gathered information another 161 new cases that have come to light this year. Complete Article HERE!