Bishops Still Behaving Badly on Sex Abuse as Pope Francis Sets the Example

By Betty Clermont | 28 September 2016
Daily Kos

The clerical sex abuse scandal has revealed the core of corruption in the institutional Catholic Church. There have already been hundreds of thousands of victims around the world.

Since the systemic sexual abuse of children made national headlines in 2002, survivors (young people who had experienced child sexual abuse had a suicide rate that was 10.7 to 13.0 times the national rates) and their advocates have demanded essential reforms necessary to protect children in the future.

One is that the pope require that all criminal acts be immediately reported to the police. This is still optional according to Pope Francis. Another is that the pontiff hold bishops accountable. Pope Francis has never disciplined anyone for protecting child sex abusers, obstructing justice for the survivors or impeding measures to keep children safe because that’s what he does. So the scandals go on and on and on …..

On Sept. 21, 2016, Fr. Octavio Munoz appeared in a Chicago court on child pornography charges after police arrested him at a Maryland treatment center.

Last summer, Chicago Archbishop Blasé Cupich transferred Munoz from his assignment as a recruiter of young men for the priesthood to pastor at St. Pancratius Parish. When Fr. Kevin Hays, Munoz’ replacement, together with an archdiocese employee, went to inspect Munoz’ former living quarters on July 7, 2015, they found “a black Sony laptop … there was displayed a moving image on the screen that appeared to be running from a web cam. The image was of a young boy (engaged in a sexual act).”

The employee thought Hays would report this to the archdiocese. When he learned that Hays did not, the employee contacted the archdiocese a week later.

On July 17, the archdiocese hired a private investigator but did not contact law enforcement. From July 20 to July 28, private investigators went to Munoz’s home. “Their investigation uncovered a video that appeared to show two boys having sex” and “emails with ‘stories of child erotica.’” The investigators called the Chicago police and Munoz was removed from the ministry on July 28.

According to prosecutors, “as the police investigation heated up,” the archdiocese sent Munoz to Maryland for counseling without notifying authorities.

An archdiocesan spokeswoman said the archdiocese notified police that Munoz was in Maryland “though it was not immediately clear if police were told before an arrest warrant was issued Aug. 30, 2016.”

A large component of human trafficking is the “use of force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. Pornography not only contributes to the demand for sex trafficking … but it also contributes to child exploitation.”

The promotion of Blasé Cupich as head of the Chicago archdiocese has been the pope’s only major appointment in the U.S. so far. Cupich is “a pastor totally in line with Pope Francis” and “reflects the pope’s style.” Both men have dreadful records regarding child sex abuse in their previous assignments (here and here).

The pope is also guilty of not notifying the police and heartlessness towards victims of child porn similar to Cupich.

In August 2013, Pope Francis removed his ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, for soliciting and engaging in sex with poor street boys. He did not notify the police or the public. A TV exposé brought Wesolowski’s crimes to the public’s attention.

The pontiff left Wesolowski a free man until September 2014 when the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Serra reported that Wesolowski was arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” At the time, Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography. “The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults.”

Even under house arrest in the Vatican, Wesolowski was still able to access child porn on his internet. Wesolowski died unexpectedly before his Vatican trial began.

Deaf students abused by priests win record $30-million settlement.

On Aug. 23, 2016, Pope Francis tweeted “’Human trafficking and prostitution are crimes against humanity,’ a phenomenon he has spoken out against time and time again.”

On Sept. 25, 2016, about 150 Catholic activists protested outside the cathedral in Hagåtña, Guam, concerning allegations of child sex abuse against the clergy. They demanded that Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai be removed. “All he’s doing is protecting the predators and protecting the fortunes of the Church rather than protecting the souls of the archdiocese.”

Pope Francis had placed Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron on temporary leave after multiple accusations of child sex abuse. He sent Hon as a substitute in the interim. Protesters also “will continue to advocate for the removal of Apuron from his position.”

Apuron’s future depends on an investigation and canonical trial by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but he has not yet been charged with any crime.

Without any investigation or canonical trial, Pope Francis removed the “Bishop of Bling” of Germany “for spending 31 million euros of Church funds on his residence,” a South American bishop “for the greater good and unity of the Church and episcopal communion in Paraguay,” and a Spanish bishop over an alleged affair with his married secretary.

Without any investigation or canonical trial, Pope Francis excommunicated an Australian priest for supporting women’s ordination and same-sex marriage; also the president of the Austrian Catholic movement “We are Church” and her husband for celebrating Mass in their home without a priest.

Currently, there are at least 15 active bishops accused of complicity with abusive priests who need have no fear of being disciplined.

On Sept. 18, 2016, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai circulated a petition around Catholic churches on Guam demanding that the governor veto legislation “which seeks to lift the statute-of-limitations for pursuing civil claims for child sex abuse. The petition is displayed along with a letter written by the archbishop.”

Regardless of their religion or none, “victims often need many years to overcome the pain of their abuse and time to obtain the courage needed to speak out about the abuse that they have suffered,” the bill’s author, Senator Frank Blas, said. Hon, however, said he would lobby [against the law] arguing it would have “damaging unintended consequences” for the Church in Guam.

The real fear is that this bill, if made law, will expose DOZENS of sex-abusing clerics on Guam. Worse (for him) still, victims will have the opportunity to find out WHAT church officials knew and WHEN they knew it.

The law will also most likely expose clerics who molested kids and are STILL WORKING IN CHURCHES. Priests like Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who *ahem* is still the Archbishop. (Note: The Vatican has done NOTHING to help Guam’s victims, properly punish Apuron, or end abuse. NOTHING.)

Since Apuron has now been accused of sexual abuse numerous times, Hon’s real problem isn’t money. His real problem is the exposure of an archdiocese that knew about abuse and abusers for DECADES.

Instead of calling the police, archdiocese officials silenced victims, promoted abusers, and conned every single Catholic on the island into believing that their churches were safe.

On Sept. 27, 2016, the Archdiocese of Agana issued a new statement encouraging anyone who knows about sexual abuse by clergy or others in the archdiocese, “today or in the past,” to contact the Church’s sexual abuse response coordinator, but not the police. The statement comes shortly after Gov. Eddie Calvo signed the statute of limitations bill into law.

On Sept. 26, 2016, Cardinal Timothy Dolan removed a priest accused of sexual abuse. “But the archdiocese has not shared its findings with the public [and] would not comment on where the disgraced priest has been living.”

“Children must immediately be made safe from predators like Monsignor John J. O’Keefe,” Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said. “The archdiocese failed miserably in its supervision of O’Keefe, and now it is placing more children in potential jeopardy.

The secrecy of the Archdiocese of New York surrounding the sexual abuse of an innocent child by Monsignor John J. O’Keefe is another example of why statute of limitations laws must be changed to help sexual abuse victims heal and to protect innocent children,” Garabedian said.

It was reported in May that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan “spent $2M on major N.Y. lobbying firms to block child-sex law reform.” The Child Victims Act “would make it easier for child sex abuse victims to bring cases as adults, for about a decade.”

 Timothy Cardinal Dolan heads the state's Catholic Conference, which in recent years hired major lobby firms to block legislation designed to help child abuse victims seek justice. (Photo: James Keivom / New York Daily News)
Timothy Cardinal Dolan heads the state’s Catholic Conference, which in recent years hired major lobby firms to block legislation designed to help child abuse victims seek justice. (Photo: James Keivom / New York Daily News)

In June, “Roman Catholic legislators said they have been publicly shamed during Mass, called out in church bulletins and disinvited to parish events as the Philadelphia Archdiocese campaigns against a bill that would give victims of child sexual abuse more time to sue the Church.” Opposition to the statute of limitation reform, “was led by Archbishop Charles Chaput, by way of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference which he leads, and the heads of the Pennsylvania dioceses who dutifully follow orders.”

And why? It’s the fact that the bishops, the members of the hierarchy, will continue to do whatever they have to do, and what they have done for decades if not centuries. And that is to do whatever it takes to protect a powerful institution and its secrets.

Also this past May, Pope Francis refused a request by Chile’s Supreme Court to provide information regarding the investigation of Bishop Juan Barros. Barros is charged with covering-up child sex abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima.

When Pope Francis removed Peruvian Bishop Gabino Miranda Melgarejo for sexually abusing minors, he did not notify the police or the public. A Spanish lawyer first broke the news. A government prosecutor asked the pope for the information upon which he had based his decision to remove Mirada, but he refused.

Miranda is still a free man as far as I can tell.

Two weeks ago, there was more of the usual dishonest headlines: “Pope Francis’ push to end sexual abuse,” “Pope’s sex-abuse panel scores awareness victory in Vatican” and “The Catholic Church Is Taking A Big Step To Curb Sex Abuse.”

The sex abuse commission – created in December 2014 by Pope Francis the day after he was publicly criticized for refusing to provide information requested by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – has finally done something.

The members addressed some Vatican departments and purportedly will be involved in a training course for new bishops. They will be instructed that “the single most important thing a bishop can do is to meet with and listen to survivors.”

(Note to readers: No accurate information on the global clerical sex abuse crisis would be available without the Abuse Tracker website. Please visit the website and follow the instructions to donate.)

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).

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  1. I think it's sick how everyone has taken this view that the catholic church is suddenly "new" after they switched popes. Especially troubling is the way the states won't go after these offenders! As a protestant I'm a tad ashamed when anyone saying they are christian even shakes the man's hand.

    But thank you for this article, I didn't believe they stopped their old tricks but no one is calling attention to it.


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