By Betty Clermont | 7 May 2017
In last two weeks, global events show that Pope Francis is enabling the clerical sex abuse of children by appointing, promoting and refusing to remove bishops with terrible histories of aiding and abetting abuse and by refusing to make meaningful change.
On Feb. 4, clerical sex abuse survivor and member of the pope’s commission on sex abuse, Peter Saunders, arranged for the movie, Spotlight, to be screened for members of the commission. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, the movie is about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations into the cover up by Catholic officials of serial pedophile priests.
Two days later, Saunders was booted off the commission. Saunders had been an outspoken critic of Pope Francis’ appointment of a Chilean bishop accused not only of covering up for the most notorious pedophile priest in that country, but also of witnessing the sex abuse. Additionally, Saunders had called the pope’s financial tsar, Cardinal George Pell, “almost sociopathic” for his brutal treatment of victims in Australia.
“On child abuse, I now fear, there is little or no sincerity on his (Francis’) part to effectively make change,” said Saunders, who was abused by two priests as a child. “There needs to be a turning out of all these people who have got very, very grim records – either they are abusers or they are known to have protected abusers or have enabled an abuser or made excuses for abusers.” Saunders says a call he made for more openness and transparency at a meeting last week was rejected.
“I was shot down in flames,” he said. “The commission said that they need to remain secret and it was surprising how many times that word was used – not ‘confidential’ but ‘secret’ – the word has connotations with abuse because the whole nasty, vile world of the rape and sexual abuse of children exists because it is secret; it happens behind closed doors,” he said.
Eliminating secrecy is exactly what the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has been calling on the Church to do for decades. This is what the pope and his men have refused to do. Catholic officials must open their secret files and make all the hidden documents public. The names of all Church employees with credible accusations of child sex abuse made public. There are still sexual predators assaulting children under the protection of the Church.
Prelates with “grim records” know there’ll be no “turning out” by the pope. Some have even been appointed and promoted.
Sicily – Cardinal Paolo Romeo, as archbishop of Palermo, said it was “not my place” to report Fr. Roberto Elice for abusing minors. Romeo “knew about the abuse against three children for three years.” On Feb. 2 Italian police arrested Elice who had left the parish “only a few weeks ago” where the abuse took place.
With no objection from Pope Francis, in April 2014 the Italian Bishops’ Conference stated their official policy was that “bishops have no official obligation to report the sexual abuse of children to any legal authorities outside of the Catholic Church.” Romeo followed that policy.
France – “In the coming days, complaints will be filed against [Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon] for failure to report pedophilia.” On Feb. 11, three weeks after Fr. Bernard Preynat’s indictment for “aggravated sexual assault of minors,” the cardinal acknowledged he was informed of the sexual abuse of four boys by Preynat in 2007-2008. Yet he chose to keep him in ministry until May 2015. The number of victims in Lyon willing to come forward could rise to 45.
Cardinal Barbarin’s resignation is “not on the agenda” according to the archdiocese.
The Lyon victims will also be “filing complaints against Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, to whom Cardinal Barbarin had referred this matter.”
Germany – On Jan. 29, Pope Francis thanked the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, headed by German Cardinal Müller, for “its efforts and responsibility” in dealing with cases of child sex abuse by clergy. Pope Francis promoted Müller to cardinal in October 2013 even though, as bishop of Regensberg, Müller’s appointment of Fr. Peter Kramer, an already-convicted child sex abuser, as pastor, was well-known.
In a January report: “A former official in the Diocese of Regensburg accused Müller, of systematically covering up sexual abuse cases during his decade as bishop of the Bavarian diocese.” The then-Bishop Müller introduced “The Regensburg System” which prevented such abuse cases from becoming public.
India – Fr. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was charged in Minnesota with sexually abusing two teenage girls. He fled the U.S. but was arrested by Interpol in 2012 and extradited back to the U.S. where he was convicted last year. “Following a plea deal, Roseau County district court sentenced him to a year in jail but he was released and deported to India in June 2015 on account of time served while awaiting trial.”
The Diocese of Ooty had suspended Jeyapaul in 2010. It was reported Feb. 11 that Jeyapaul’s suspension was lifted after consultations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Ooty, said Jeyapaul’s whereabouts is unknown.
The attorney who represented the girls, Jeff Anderson, said, “The Vatican must be held accountable. … This is on the pope.”
Australia – Comedian-musician Tim Minchin introduced a new song Feb. 16 on television. Titled, “Come Home Cardinal Pell,” Minchin called him a “pompous buffoon”, “a coward” and “scum.” Pell, the former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop and Ballarat priest, claimed to be too ill to travel from Rome to Australia to testify before the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in person. Instead, he will appear on video from the Vatican.
Pell will have to answer charges that he attempted to bribe a victim, dismissed a victim’s complaint, knew about Australia’s worst predator priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and did nothing, and was complicit in moving Ridsdale from parish to parish.
Prior to being elevated to Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy by Pope Francis, Pell’s only previous financial expertise was cheating sex abuse victims out of an adequate compensation known as his “Melbourne response” and “Ellis defense” where Pell “instructed his lawyers to crush this victim.”
A group of victims had a goal of raising $55,000 to fly some victims and counselors to Rome to witness Pell give his video evidence. Thanks to Minchin’s song, $90,000 was raised in one day.
John Haldane, a papal adviser to the Vatican, said he was moved after hearing a “compelling, human argument” of the father of two sexual-abuse victims in which the father made the case for victims travelling to Rome. “This would,” he said, “create the conditions for the existential reality of that suffering to be present in the room at the same time in which he (Pell) was giving evidence.”
Yesterday, lawyers representing the Church’s sex abuse victims applied to the Royal Commission for permission to appear along with Pell in Rome. If granted, “it would go some way to mitigate what is publicly perceived to be a judicial and psychological imbalance of power, and unfair concession granted to the domineering Cardinal Pell.”
Mexico – Pope Francis refused requests from clerical sex abuse victims to meet with them while he was in Mexico this past week.
Victim’s advocate and former priest, Alberto Athie, pointed out that while the pope chastises others for corruption, “the clerical pedophilia should be viewed as systemic like organized crime, which stops a criminal in isolation but does not affect the criminal structure.”
Athié said that clerical pedophilia has left more than a thousand victims in Mexico and there are at least five archbishops responsible for covering up pedophile priests: three of the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosi; Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City and some of his auxiliary bishops, and the Archdiocese of Oaxaca. Pope Francis is aware of several of these cases, Athie said.
Outraged by the presence of Cardinal Norberto Rivera with Pope Francis on his arrival in Mexico, Juan Carlos Cruz Chellew, victim of clerical sexual abuse, said he is very disappointed in the pope. Rivera is a symbol that the pope does not consider the victims of priestly pedophilia to be important, said Cruz , because the cardinal has protected Mexican priests and abusers.
“The clerical pedophilia continues in the world with Francis,” said Athie. “The pope is very skilled with words and gestures, but changes of substance fail to happen.”
Yesterday, on his flight back to Rome from Mexico, Pope Francis said that a bishop who transfers a known pedophile should resign – once again giving the green light to prelates around the world that they will not be removed from office for even the most egregious offense. He also announced an additional official would be added to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the creation of an additional tribunal when not one person or group in the Vatican has yet taken a meaningful action to address this ongoing, systemic, global tragedy.
Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).
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