Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trial postponed for disgraced Canadian bishop

Trial postponed for disgraced Canadian bishop
February 26, 2010

The trial of Bishop Raymond Lahey on child-pornography charges has been postponed until April of next year. The former head of the Antigonish, Nova Scotia, diocese, who is currently free on bail and residing in a residence for retired priests in Ottawa, resigned last September after airport security officials found child pornography on his laptop computer.

Austrian diocese refuses to buy silence of abuse victim

Austrian diocese refuses to buy silence of abuse victim
February 26, 2010

The Diocese of Graz, Austria, has disclosed that it rejected a man's demand to be paid for his silence about sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, seeing the demand as tantamount to blackmail. Bishop Egon Kappellari said that the diocese would not consider paying the man, who was threatening to write a book about abuse. The bishop drew a sharp distinction between providing help for abuse victims and buying their silence. "We rejected the suggestion that the Church should pay hush money as immoral," he said.

Cardinal: Catholic schools in Northern Ireland must maintain Catholic character

Cardinal: Catholic schools in Northern Ireland must maintain Catholic character
February 26, 2010

Amid increasing calls for the “integration” of Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has announced he will oppose any attempts to alter the Catholic character of Catholic schools.

“All parents, whatever their denominational background, have this right to have their children educated in accordance with their religious convictions,” said Cardinal Brady. “We should never apologize for our convictions about Catholic education. I suggest rather that we reflect upon its proud history, its purpose and achievements.”

Cardinal Brady asked Catholic school principals “to support the trustees of Catholic schools in their efforts to ensure that the ethos and defining character of Catholic schools are maintained in any process of restructuring and change in education policy or provision. That ethos and character are entrusted to trustees for protection. I believe they are to be conserved conscientiously and scrupulously”.

“Consequently, the trustees will not support any change in management arrangements for Catholic schools in Northern Ireland which undermines existing rights of trustees in relation to employment, management or area planning.”

“We will not support any proposal which diminishes the current legislative status of the Catholic network of schools or the existing rights of Catholic trustees in respect of employment, management, or area based planning,” he added.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Australian judge, in sentencing priest, says celibacy is 'cruel'

Australian judge, in sentencing priest, says celibacy is 'cruel'
February 25, 2010

An Australian judge described priestly celibacy as "cruel, cruel," as he sentenced a Catholic priest to 18 months in prison for soliciting minors for sexual activity. Judge Allan Hughes said that celibacy is "a suppression of a human instinct." Nevertheless he held Father Robert MacGregor Fuller accountable for his internet solicitations, saying that children must be protected and "for an adult to exploit them is repugnant."

Legionaries of Christ apologize for founder Maciel

Legionaries of Christ apologize for founder Maciel
Feb. 25, 2010
By Catholic News Service
Accountability

MEXICO CITY -- The general secretary of the Legionaries of Christ asked for forgiveness from the people who were harmed by the "immoral actions" of the order's founder, Father Marcial Maciel.

"We ask forgiveness because we are sincerely sorry for what the church and people have suffered," Father Evaristo Sada told an audience during the Youth and Family Encounter in the Mexican capital Feb. 20.

The comments were the most recent in an effort by the order to overcome allegations of sexual abuse of young seminarians by Father Maciel and the subsequent revelation that the Mexican priest fathered at least one child.

Father Maciel died Jan. 30, 2008, at the age of 87. In May 2006 after its own investigation, the Vatican decided against conducting a canonical trial, but ordered the then-frail Father Maciel to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.

The Vatican has since ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legionaries. As part of the visitation, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver is visiting Legionaries seminaries and religious houses in the U.S.

In his presentation, Father Sada, 48, compared the difficulties facing the order with those of person in a small boat facing an immense storm.

"This year has been very difficult. Many things have converged: the economic crisis, the serious disorders in the life of our founder, and everyone has their own sufferings," Father Sada said.

Father Sada also provided a small insight into the apostolic visitation and the questions being asked by the visitors. Father Sada said one of the apostolic visitors asked him if he felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under him when his superiors told him "about the immoral behaviors in your founder's life."

"I answered, 'I was not founded on our founder,'" he said. "My human handles collapsed, and that is hard, but the rock I'm founded on is firm. It is the rock of God's love. I am founded on the certainty that this work is from God and that I consecrated myself to God."

He said that when he lived with Father Maciel he did not see the "negative things that we now know."

"I did not see them," he said. "I was only able to see the good and I did not realize the bad. God allowed it that way. Now that I know them, it hurts very much to see it. It hurts me for the people who have suffered. It hurts me that it has caused such a loss of prestige to the Catholic priesthood."

- - -

Editor's Note: The full text of Father Sada's presentation can be found online at www.legionariesofchrist.org.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women says she was abused at Mother McAuley H.S.

Women says she was abused at Mother McAuley H.S.

CHICAGO (WBBM) — A former teacher at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago has been accused of sexual abuse in a civil lawsuit. The alleged victim: a 22-year-old suburban woman who says she was abused when she was a teenager.

With her face shielded from the cameras, the young woman told reporters why she is filing a lawsuit against the man she says is twice her age – the former teacher at a Chicago Roman Catholic high school who she says abused her when she was a minor.

“Because it’s slowly ruined my life. I’ve lost my self-worth and everything. And I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I want to stop it from happening to anyone else.”

The lawsuit accuses Mother McAuley High School of being aware of an inappropriate relationship between the teacher and student – and trying to separate them – but never notifying the student’s parents.

The young woman, who is now 22, is filing the lawsuit as a Jane Doe. As she spoke to reporters, her parents and boyfriend stood with her – all with their backs to the cameras, all anonymous.

Likewise, Newsradio 780 is not naming the accused.

Newsradio 780 has asked Mother McAuley High School for reaction.

New child sex abuse lawsuit filed against Catholic teacher

New child sex abuse lawsuit filed against Catholic teacher

Alleged predator is now touring with “Sesame Street Live”

Victim’s dad will speak publicly for the 1st time (anonymously)

Despite offender’s “inappropriate” deeds, nuns kept him at school

SNAP prods 'anyone with info' about accused to “call police ASAP”

WHAT
Holding signs and childhood photos at sidewalk news conference, a young woman’s dad, her attorney and clergy child sex abuse victims will disclose and discuss:
-- a new child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit against a former Catholic school teacher, and
-- evidence that church and school officials knew of his “inappropriate” actions, yet let him keep working at a parochial school.

It’s the first time this woman and her family are speaking publicly and the first time this alleged child molester is being sued.

WHEN
Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 1pm

WHERE
Outside the Cook County Court House in Daley Center (next to the Picasso statue, near corner of Washington and Dearborn) in downtown Chicago

WHO
The young victim’s father, and two victims of child sexual abuse who belong to a support group, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org) and the attorney filing the lawsuit.

WHY
In 1998-1999, the victim was a 10-11 year old who attended a summer camp at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School (3737 W. 99th Street, 773.881.6500). She met theater coach Markus Luttrell at the school’s theater camp. Lutrell started calling the victim his “favorite” and his “little angel,” sending her emails expressing his “love” for her. He began holding her hand and expressing sexual feelings for her.

In the summer of 2004, Lutrell took her alone from the camp to her home (parents were not there), causing concern among school employees. School officials reprimanded him but still let him teach and coach. The lawsuit charges that Mother McAuley officials worked to “separate the two” while the victim was still a student. Her parents were never notified of the interactions between Luttrell and the girl.

From 2005 through 2007, Luttrell sexually violated the girl.

Luttrell is currently on tour with “Sesame Street Live: 1-2-3 Imagine” as head carpenter. The show opens Thursday, 2/25, at the Nokia Theatre in Dallas. Luttrell is a member of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 260, based in New York (212-730-1770 or 7809).

http://www.iatse-intl.org/shows/fa_123.html

Defendants in the lawsuit include Mother McAuley school and the group of nuns which operates it, the Maryland-based Sisters of Mercy and their regional headquarters in Omaha (402 393 8225). The lawsuit is being filed in Cook County Court and seeks unspecified damages.

The victim is now 22 and lives in a Chicago suburb and is represented by Attorneys Marc Pearlman 773-368-0142 and Jeff Anderson 612 817 8665.

Survivors are not just chasing cash

Survivors are not just chasing cash


Thursday February 25 2010

James Kennedy ('Victims of abuse milk the system', Letters, February 23) is of the sickeningly twisted opinion that victims of clerical sexual abuse and child rape -- as perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church over many years -- are somehow in it for the money, while "many will be quick to join the queue to get another wad of money" to help them forgive and forget.

According to the Murphy report, it would seem the only entity in it "for the money" is the Church -- considering the Archdiocese of Dublin took out insurance in 1987, with Church & General Insurance Company, to protect it against possible future claims from victims of abuse it already knew existed.

The report continues: "In return for trivial premiums amounting to £40,000, the diocese (got) €12.9m by way of indemnity.

"Church & General's actual liability under the 1987 insurance policy was reduced because the archdiocese had, at the time of the inception of the policy, significant information concerning . . . claims arising from child sexual abuse by (its) priests".

Throwing money at the issue will not, alone, help solve the misery and pain felt by victims of such heinous and despicable acts, but throwing the Church hierarchy, bishops and those priests directly involved into prison just might.

Mother of starved child believes he'll live again

Last updated February 24, 2010 1:55 p.m. PT

Mother of starved child believes he'll live again
By BEN NUCKOLS
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER


FILE - This February 14, 2006 file photo released by Seeta Khadan-Newton, shows Ria Ramkissoon and her son Javon Thompson. Three members of the now-defunct cult known as 1 Mind Ministries are on trial for murder in the death of Javon Thompson, who was around 16 months old when he died of starvation and dehydration in either December 2006 or January 2007, according to authorities. (AP Photo/ courtesy of Seeta Khadan-Newton, File)
BALTIMORE -- For more than a week, Ria Ramkissoon watched passively as her 1-year-old son wasted away, denied food and water because the older woman she lived with said it was God's will.

Javon Thompson was possessed by an evil spirit, Ramkissoon was told, because he didn't say "Amen" during a mealtime prayer. Javon didn't talk much, given his age, but he had said "Amen" before, Ramkissoon testified.

On the day Javon died, Ramkissoon was told to "nurture him back to life." She mashed up some carrots and tried to feed the boy, but he was no longer able to swallow. Ramkissoon put her hands on his chest to confirm that his heart had stopped beating.

Ramkissoon and several other people knelt down and prayed that he would rise from the dead. For weeks afterward, Ramkissoon spent much of her time in a room with her son's emaciated body - talking to him, dancing, even giving him water. She thought she could bring him back.

Ramkissoon told the tale of her son's excruciating death from the witness stand Wednesday, at the trial of the woman she says told her not to feed the boy. Queen Antoinette was the leader of a small religious cult, according to police and prosecutors, and she faces murder charges alongside her daughter, Trevia Williams, and another follower, Marcus A. Cobbs.

The three are acting as their own attorneys.

Javon died in either December 2006 or January 2007; Ramkissoon isn't sure of the exact date. His body was hidden in a suitcase for more than a year and has since been buried. But even now, she maintains her faith in his resurrection.

"I still believe that my son is coming back," Ramkissoon said. "I have no problem saying what really happened because I believe he's coming back.

"Queen said God told her he would come back. I believe it. I choose to believe it," she said. "Even now, despite everything, I choose to believe it for my reasons."

Later, she acknowledged that her faith makes her sound crazy. "I don't have a problem sounding crazy in court," she said.

Ramkissoon, 23, was born in Trinidad and moved to Baltimore at age 7. She stands 5 feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds.

She wore a white sweater and blue jeans and was calm throughout her testimony, speaking in a clear and even voice. She appeared mildly agitated at certain questions but otherwise showed little emotion, even as she described how her starving son lost weight, became lethargic and lost his voice.

She was led to the courtroom in handcuffs. She pleaded guilty last year to child abuse resulting in death, agreeing to the deal only under the condition that if Javon is resurrected, the plea will be vacated. Prosecutors and a judge accepted that extraordinary condition, specifying that only a "Jesus-like resurrection" would suffice.

Because Antoinette is representing herself, she was able to cross-examine the young woman who lived with her for two years, much of that time after her son's death.

Antoinette asked whether her statement about not feeding Javon was an order or a "suggestion."

Ramkissoon said she has consistently told prosecutors and her attorney that she was not forced to starve her son, but she made clear the idea was Antoinette's.

"When I was about to feed him," Ramkissoon said to Antoinette, "you said, 'You shouldn't feed him anything,' and then you told me why. ... I believed you."

Williams and Cobbs also lived in the home, along with Antoinette's three other children and a childhood friend of Ramkissoon's. No one challenged Antoinette's statement that the boy should not be fed, Ramkissoon said.

Ramkissoon detailed how the group relocated to Philadelphia and brought Javon's body in a suitcase. She described how Javon was packed with sheets and blankets and how she sprayed his body with disinfectant and stuffed the suitcase with fabric softener sheets to mask the odor.

The suitcase was hidden in a shed in Philadelphia for more than a year before it was discovered by police, according to testimony.

Members of Antoinette's household were told to wear only white, blue and khaki. They left the home only in pairs, and they avoided doctors or hospitals. They destroyed identification cards and had little contact with their families.

Ramkissoon said she often questioned Antoinette's rules and orders but never disobeyed her because she believed her to be "a godly woman."

"Looking back now," Ramkissoon told Antoinette, "I won't say that everything you thought was right, was right."

Germans investigate Catholic school sex abuse

Last updated February 25, 2010 8:05 a.m. PT

Germans investigate Catholic school sex abuse
By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER


The Jesuit's Alosius Kolleg is pictured in Bonn, Germany, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. A sexual abuse scandal in Jesuit-run German schools involves more than a hundred former pupils. The claims date from the late 1950s to well into the 1990s. Media reported that the prosecutor's office in Bonn opened an investigation against the former director of the Jesuits' Aloisius Kolleg on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
BERLIN -- German prosecutors have opened investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at two Roman Catholic schools - the first legal action since reports of priests abusing students surfaced in January.

Senior prosecutor Andrea Titz in Munich is investigating claims of abuse against a member of a Benedictine-run boarding school in Ettal, Bavaria, her office said in a statement Thursday.

Barnabas Boegle, the abbot of the Ettal Monastery, which runs the school, stepped down Wednesday after eight former students said they had been abused by school priests in the 1950s, 70s and 80s.

News organizations also reported Thursday that Bonn prosecutors are investigating the former director of the Jesuits' Aloisius Kolleg school. The prosecutor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The daily paper Die Welt wrote that a student who is still enrolled at Aloisius Kolleg was allegedly abused in 2005 by former director Father Ludger Stueper. Several other alumni from Aloisius have also come out and accused Stueper of sexual abuse.

In addition, the number of students at several Catholic schools across Germany who claim they were sexually abused by priests has jumped to 150, a lawyer said.

Ursula Raue, an attorney appointed by the Jesuit Order to handle the charges, told the Associated Press that since seven alumni of the private Catholic Canisius Kolleg in Berlin first reported abuses in January, the accusations have "taken on a dimension of unbelievable proportions."

Raue said victims have identified 12 Jesuit priests by name and accused women in some cases.

The sexual abuse charges are the most widespread involving Catholic priests in Germany, the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI. Most of the cases date back to the 1970s and 1980s, and some as far back as the 1950s.

The statute of limitations has lapsed on most cases, meaning they cannot be prosecuted.

The German Bishops Conference noted that it drew up guidelines on dealing with sexual abuse in 2002. "We are not at the beginning of the discussion of such misconduct, even if we so far underestimated its scale," the conference said in a statement Thursday.

Mother guilty of deliberately starving daughter, 7, to death despite numerous visits from social workers

Mother guilty of deliberately starving daughter, 7, to death despite numerous visits from social workers
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:11 PM on 25th February 2010

Khyra Ishaq starved to death despite kitchen full of food
Girl's step-father believed she was 'possessed by evil spirit'
Family home was visited four times by five officials
Mother cleared of murder on grounds that she had depression
A seven-year-old girl was deliberately starved to death by her mother despite a well-stocked kitchen and numerous visits by social services.

Terrifyingly-thin Khyra Ishaq died when her fragile body succumbed to infection after months of being beaten with a bamboo cane whenever she ate too much food.

Her mother Angela Gordon was today cleared of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility and convicted of the girl's manslaughter.
Scroll down to watch video reports
Angela Gordon, left, admitted manslaughter but was found not guilty of murdering her daughter Khyra Ishaq. Psychiatrists decided that she was suffering from severe depression at the time of the child's death

Junaid Abuhamza was the child's step-father. He suffered from schizophrenia and saw both the house and Khyra as being possessed by an evil spirit
Today the court heard that Khyra was starved to death as bowls of fresh fruit, tins of sweets and shelves of groceries filled the family kitchen.

But her agonising and drawn-out death occurred despite four visits to the family home by five officials - they were teachers, police, social workers and council home-schooling experts.
Five other children, who were also in the care of Gordon, 35, and her partner Junaid Abuhamza, 31, were 'similarly starved' and assaulted, Birmingham Crown Court heard.
Jurors were also told that the girl's Muslim-convert step-father Abuhamza, who pleaded guilty to child cruelty, suffered from schizophrenia and saw both the house and Khyra as being possessed by an evil spirit.
Birmingham City Council, which was aware of concerns about Khyra's welfare almost five months before her death, came under fire within days of the tragedy in May 2008.
It emerged during the trial that the council had been notified of concerns about the child's welfare when she was withdrawn from school in December 2007.
The deputy headteacher of Khyra's school made three phone calls to social services within the space of 24 hours to express concerns for her welfare.
Cruelty: Junaid Abuhamza, left, with Gordon in Birmingham Crown Court. The step-father believed Khyra was possessed by an evil spirit
This photo of a well-stocked fridge at Khyra's family home was shown to jurors as evidence that the child was deliberately starved to death. The kitchen was kept locked with a bolt 'out of reach by the children'
It is known that several visits were then made to Khyra's home, although she was seen by social workers on only one occasion - for around ten minutes on her mother's doorstep.
Among those who called at Gordon's terraced home in Handsworth, was social worker Ranjit Mann.
Ms Mann told Birmingham Crown Court she called at the property on January 28, 2008, but no-one was in.
Ms Mann, who never met Gordon or Khyra, had no power to compel the mother to arrange another visit and passed the matter on to colleague Sanya Scott before leaving the educational welfare department on February 1.

Ms Scott and another social worker, senior practitioner Anne Gondo, went to Leyton Road more than three weeks later, on February 21.
House of horrors: This terraced house in Birmingham where Khyra and five other children lived

Rubbish and food scraps at the rear of the property. At mealtimes the children were given one bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, to share between all of them
Disappointment: Khyra's natural father Ishaq Abuzaire believes the defendants should have been convicted of murder
On that occasion, Khyra and two other children were brought to the door by Gordon, but neither social worker saw any cause for concern.
Giving evidence during the re-trial of Gordon and Abuhamza, Ms Scott estimated that the visit had lasted 30 minutes and that she had seen Khyra for about 10 minutes.

Khyra had appeared to be well, Ms Scott said, adding that she had no concerns about her health or well-being.
Recalling the same visit, Ms Gondo told the court that a man she now presumed to be Abuhamza had answered the door and refused to identify himself.
She told the jury she had not believed that further visits were necessary.

Another visit to the house had been made 13 days earlier by Irving Horne, a council education department adviser, and Richard Lewis, a senior educational social worker, with a view to helping Gordon to educate Khyra at home.
They were allowed into the home on the morning of February 8, but during the hour-long visit, no children were seen.
Mr Horne, who also gave evidence at the trial, said: 'I was told that the family had had a late night and the children were still in bed.'
He paid a second visit to the home on April 16, but after knocking on the door 'several times' there was no response.
Jurors were shown a series of pictures from inside the terrace house where Khyra lived, including photographs of the kitchen and a bamboo cane used as part of a 'punishment regime'.
Unfit mother: Gordon, pictured in a family video, resisted attempts by welfare workers to visit the home
TIMELINE: HOW KHYRA WAS ALLOWED TO DIE
These are the key dates in the months leading up to the death of Khyra Ishaq, who had lost about 40 per cent of her body weight by the time paramedics were called to her home in May 2008.

December 6, 2007: Khyra is withdrawn from her primary school - where she had a 100 per cent attendance record - by her mother Angela Gordon.

December 19: The deputy headteacher of Khyra's school contacts the children's services department at Birmingham City Council to raise concerns about her welfare. The teacher and a colleague later visited Khyra's home but are not allowed into the property.

January 28, 2008: Khyra's school again contacts social services to raise concerns about whether Gordon is able to meet her daughter's educational needs by teaching her at home. Social worker Ranjit Mann visits their home at 2pm on the same day, but it appears that no one is at the property and she leaves 10-15 minutes later.

January 29-30: Gordon contacts Ms Mann by phone, leaving a message but later refuses to arrange for the social worker to visit the home again.

February 8: Educational social worker Richard Lewis and council mentor Irving Horne visit the home to offer advice on home schooling. Neither official sees any children at the property.

February 21: Birmingham City Council social workers Sanya Scott and Anne Gondo pay a joint, pre-arranged visit to the family but are refused entry to the house. The women decide that they have no concerns for Khyra's well-being after she is brought to meet them at the front door.

March 8: Amandeep Kaur, who lived nearby, sees Khyra - dressed in just her underwear - in the back garden of her home. She was later to tell police that it was a cold morning and the 'abnormally thin' child was whimpering.

April 16: Mr Horne returns to Khyra's home, but there is no answer at the door and he leaves after posting a note through the letterbox.

May 10: According to evidence presented to the court, Khyra's condition would by now have been so severe that it must have been obvious she needed urgent medical attention.

May 17: Khyra is found dying or dead by paramedics called to her home shortly after 6am. She was so thin that her body mass index could not be measured on any available chart. Ambulance service worker Steven Hadlington later likened her emaciated frame to that of a famine victim or a concentration camp survivor.
Timothy Raggatt QC told jurors that the kitchen was kept locked by a bolt 'out of the reach of the children' to prevent them helping themselves to food.
At mealtimes they were given a bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, to share between them.

The meagre meal would be placed before them on the floor of the room in which they slept on bare mattresses.

Mr Raggatt said: 'The essence of it was this, what they got was a single bowl of food to share between the six of them.

'They didn't get the means to eat it separately. They didn't get separate meals.

'They were given a bowl of food and they, as it were, got what they could from the bowl of food.

'If a child ate too much, then they would be hit with the cane that I showed you a picture of.'
The prosecutor added: 'What they did over a period of months was a series of things which directly led to her death.

'What they did was a continuous course of conduct that was cruelty of an extreme kind and had at its heart the deliberate starvation of this child, who was to all intents and purposes, a prisoner in the home in which she was supposed to live and be protected.'
Gordon's plea of manslaughter was accepted in the sixth week of a retrial after she admitted five counts of child cruelty and psychiatrists agreed that she was suffering from severe depression at the time of Khyra's death.
Her counsel, Michael Burrows QC, said psychiatrists decided that Gordon's condition substantially impaired her ability to function effectively as a mother.
Abuhamza, who lived at Leyton Road in the months leading up to the death, also pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty relating to five other children, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Speaking on the steps of the court building, Khyra's natural father, Ishaq Abuzaire, thanked his family and members of the Islamic community for their support since the death of his daughter.

He also thanked her school for its efforts to protect her and doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital for their attempts to revive her.

Although he expressed disappointment that the defendants were not convicted of murder, Mr Abuzaire said: 'As far as the law is concerned, I am satisfied with the results.

'I think manslaughter was the right decision and the right outcome.'

Mr Abuzaire said he had not been able to bring himself to look at pictures of Khyra's injuries.

Gordon and Abuhamza will both be sentenced on Friday next week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Child migrant recalls his 'stolen life'

Child migrant recalls his 'stolen life'

By Alison Holt
BBC News



Packed off with promise of better life
It is a cold, snowy morning when I meet Rex Wade at his house in Cornwall.

He is padding about in his flip-flops. He puts it down to the years spent growing up in Australia.

He is probably one of the last children sent half way round the world from Britain to Australia.

There are no exact numbers. The Child Migrants Trust estimates about 7,000 made that journey after World War II; academics put the figure at just over 3,000.

Rex was in care and thought he would find a family who would adopt him Down Under.

He was 11 when he left. He is now 51 and has no doubt his experiences there ruined his life, leading to years spent in and out of trouble as he tried to find somewhere he belonged.



Rex Wade was 11 years old when he was sent to Tasmania
He was sent to a children's home in Tasmania where he says he faced physical abuse and hardship.

"They were horrible. There will be other kids out there who know, from other homes, they were used as slave labour," he said.

"And there was no love, no kindness.

"I spent all those years out there and my life was stolen. They were all wrong, they let it go on."

'Deplorable conditions'

The Australian government has already apologised for the abuse children like Rex faced and on Wednesday, the British prime minister will say sorry on behalf of the successive UK governments who allowed them to be sent in the first place.

Although child rescue charities usually organised the migration, it was done with government approval. Its involvement can be tracked in the national archives.



It would be glib of me as chief executive of Barnardo's in 2010 to apologise for something that was done in large part before I was born

Martin Narey, Barnardo's


UK to make child migrants apology
The BBC has seen a confidential report written by British officials in 1956.

They went to Australia to look at the places where children were being sent, visiting 26 homes, two thirds of those approved by the British government. Their conclusions were damning.

For instance, one place was described as isolated, with "deplorable conditions", and the boys "appeared unhappy".

Accommodation at another was primitive, with managers "rigid and narrow in outlook".

The worst 10 places were blacklisted but while the government decided what to do with the report, children were still being sent to those homes.

According to Steven Constantine, professor of modern history at Lancaster University, child migration after the war was part of an Australian policy to increase the white British population.

And charities in the UK strongly believed children would benefit.

"The pressures on the government to continue this policy come very strongly from the Australian government and also from these very powerful and prestigious child rescue societies," said Prof Constantine.

"The Church of England were involved in sending children, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church.

"For them to suddenly be told that what they'd been doing was inappropriate, the politicians of the day were rather cautious of giving offence to such powerful lobby groups."

'Put right'

One of those powerful organisations was the Fairbridge Society which sent Rex to Australia. It now views the policy as totally unacceptable, but says it was supported by government.

Barnardo's was another organisation that sent children. It too regrets what happened, but its chief executive Martin Narey believes saying sorry is not appropriate.

"It would be glib of me as chief executive of Barnardo's in 2010 to apologise for something that was done in large part before I was born," he said.

"What I would like to do is something much more practical. It is to do everything we can to put right any hurt that is caused."

They are offering any children they were involved with help to go back through their family records.

As for Rex, he believes the apology from the prime minister is important, but long overdue.

It is time the Pope came clean about the Magdalene Laundries

It is time the Pope came clean about the Magdalene Laundries

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

When I was a young Catholic child in the 1970s, I was brought up to reject the British Royal family and everything it stood for: the class system, primogeniture, social elitism, the pomp and ceremony, the ritual, and the obscene wealth and privilege.

Well, guess what? I saw it all a few days ago when the Irish bishops were lining up in grand robes to kiss the hand of Pope Benedict. Yes, the Vatican surely leaves the House of Windsor in the halfpenny place when it comes to elitism, pomp and ceremony. I could have wept with frustration - except I never expected a full and frank apology from Pope Benedict. I wasn't expecting an admission of guilt either, because such a statement might open the floodgates of litigation. And I'm sure the Vatican doesn't want to lose any more money to the abuse survivors than it already has.

I'm sure the Vatican is hoping the unmarked graves of the Magdalene slaves will soon be covered over once more. I'm sure the Vatican is hoping the innocent young children they turned into bitter alcoholics and suicidal depressives will just hurry up and die and not collect any compensation.

No doubt when the leaders of the Catholic Church pray these days, they pray for the tidal wave of abuse scandals to dry up and be forgotten. After all, the orphanages, industrial schools and laundries have all closed down now. So they cannot send along the 'cruelty man' to scoop poor children off the streets like the child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They cannot force cheeky boys to dig potatoes in the rain and they cannot force pretty girls to hand wash bloody sheets from the hospitals any more. And it's a criminal offence these days to beat a dyslexic girl with a leather belt or to punch a stubborn boy until he is unconscious. So, as I said, the potential for fresh scandal is greatly diminished.

The nationalists of my youth used to say 'God Bless Ireland' and, 'God Save Ireland' - they were referring to 700 years of British colonialism, the Famine, Mass Rocks, discrimination against Catholics in jobs and housing and the blood-and-thunder marching bands of the Orange Order.

What a great pity they didn't think to question the tyranny of the Catholic Church while they were about it. The church that forbade birth control, yet despised big families of starving, barefoot children. The church that encouraged education yet hated free-thinkers. The church that revered Mary the Mother of God, yet treated all mortal women as sinners and whores. The church that raved about poverty and humility, yet lined the walls of the Vatican with priceless works of art.

The church that took the pocket money off children during Lent, yet covered up the brutal rape and buggery of little boys and girls for more than 50 years.

And I wondered, looking at those grovelling bishops kissing Pope Benedict's hand, do they really understand, even now, why there is a crisis in the church? Have they any idea of how the survivors of abuse must feel?

Have they no empathy whatsoever for the unnamed Magdalene slaves who died of exhaustion or malnutrition or a broken heart and were quietly buried behind those high stone walls? I'm beginning to think only snobs, sociopaths and narcissists are drawn to religious life in the first place, for I have yet to see a flicker of shame, regret or sadness from any bishops. If Jesus were here today he would rage against the Vatican for what it has done to the people of Ireland.

He would roar and weep and pull down the wall of silence that has been built around the crimes of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Jesus would smash the headstones condemning the Magdalenes as 'penitents' even in death. He would throw open the doors of the Vatican and tell survivors of abuse to carry away any art and gold they can lay their hands on. He would demolish the grand cathedrals and say Masses in the open air. He would beg forgiveness on bended knees from the men, women, children and ghosts of Ireland. But I can't see Pope Benedict doing any of that. Can you?

Victims expected too much from Pope's summit, bishop claims

Independent.ie
Victims expected too much from Pope's summit, bishop claims
By Edel Kennedy
Wednesday February 24 2010

THE victims of clerical sexual abuse were "expecting too much" to come out of last week's meeting with the Pope, a bishop has claimed.

However, the Bishop of Clonfert, John Kirby, also acknowledged that the hierarchy in Rome did not appreciate the gravity of the problem of sexual abuse for many years because of an "obligation of secrecy". Dr Kirby said that canon law had to be updated as a result.

Last night, the survivors of abuse accused the Catholic Church of "the usual spin" after hearing the comments.

Humbling

Dr Kirby made his remarks at a weekend Mass at St Brendan's Cathedral, Loughrea, Co Galway. "I was saddened that the survivors were disappointed with the outcome of the meeting," he told parishioners.

"Perhaps their expectations were too high. I got the clear impression that the Roman authorities paid great attention to our inputs." However, clerical abuse victim Andrew Madden accused the bishop of "spin".

Mr Madden added: "It's not our expectations that are high, it's our standards. Asking that the Pope fully accept the findings of the Murphy report is not a high expectation. Asking for an apology on behalf of the cover-up is not a high expectation.

"Asking for the Pope to accept without further delay the resignation of the three bishops is not a high expectation."

Dr Kirby described as "humbling" the fact that he had the attention of the Pope, cardinals and bishops during the seven-and-a-half minutes in which he spoke at the meeting.

He also spoke of the responsibility of the church in Rome.

"For years, they did not appreciate the gravity of the problem. The obligation of secrecy, originally promoted for the best of reasons, led to a culture of cover-up.

"The necessity of involving our own Irish State and reporting criminal activities was not emphasised," he added.

But Mr Madden said that the bishops should have been speaking of responsibility prior to the release of the Murphy report. "We now know there was a cover-up," he said. "But they should have been telling us that before the inquiry."

The Bishop of Cork and Ross, John Buckley, also released a short statement in which he said the bishops "spoke frankly of their sense of pain" as well as the anger of those who had been betrayed by the church. "They (the bishops) described the great work that is at present being provided by trained and dedicated lay volunteers at parish level to ensure the safety of children and to guarantee that the church's policies and procedures are followed," he said, adding that the current situation was their "dark night of the soul".

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, yesterday clarified a letter which he had sent to the Diocesan priests last weekend in which he stated that the Pope had asked for the forgiveness of the victims.

A spokesman said the Archbishop's comments were an interpretation of the verbal address given by the Pope after all 24 bishops had spoken. "Sexual abuse is a crime in civil law," he said. "It is also a sin, an offence against God, and against the dignity of the human person.

"Christian theology teaches that in dealing with sin we ask God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of those who have been hurt. The Pope was speaking in this context when he said we seek the forgiveness of victims. It was an expression of the seriousness with which he took the situation."

Ex-brother becomes fifth man guilty of sex abuse at school

Independent.ie
Ex-brother becomes fifth man guilty of sex abuse at school
By Anita Guidera and Sonya McLean
Wednesday February 24 2010

A FORMER Marist brother yesterday became the fifth man convicted of sexually abusing young boys at one national school.

Christopher Cosgrove (66) was found guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of 35 charges of sexually abusing four young boys at the school in Sligo more than 40 years ago.

His conviction drew a line under three dark decades in the history of St John's National School in Sligo.

Victims have had their wait for justice prolonged by judicial reviews, appeals and retrials.

But Cosgrove now joins two other former Marist brothers, Martin Meaney and Peter White, and lay teachers Patrick Curran and Michael Cunnane as convicted child abusers in the school's sorry hall of shame.

Between 1966 and 1984, these five teachers were sexually abusing children at the all-boys school in Temple Street in the heart of Sligo town.

But it took until 1996 for the truth to begin to emerge.

Cosgrove, of Cloughreevagh, Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris in Mayo, had pleaded not guilty to 55 charges of indecent assault at the school on dates between 1968 and 1977.

Judge Patrick McCartan had withdrawn 20 charges from the jury last Friday.

The jury of seven men and five women took seven-and-a-half hours to return unanimous verdicts on the remaining 35 charges on day six of the trial. Judge McCartan remanded Cosgrove on continuing bail to a date next May for sentence. Cosgrove had previously been convicted of the sexual assault of these boys in Sligo Circuit Criminal Court but that conviction was later overturned in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The wall of silence surrounding St John's had started to crumble when troubled ex-convict Paul Gordon began to disclose the grim details of his abuse, which came to light when he killed his alcoholic father in a row when he was 18.

His persistent complaints led to the eventual launch of a garda investigation in 1999.

Investigators travelled to the UK and spoke to hundreds of alleged victims in the US, Australia and across Ireland.

Thousand

In the end approximately 50 victims emerged and up to 1,000 charges were brought against the five teachers.

Young victims were often targeted because of their good looks or their social backgrounds.

They were routinely sexually abused in the classroom or bathroom.

In many cases they were also physically abused, struck by canes, or locked in cupboards.

They gave evidence of wetting themselves to avoid going to the bathroom, trying to put on weight so they wouldn't be targeted and one boy even of changing his hair colour so he would not be picked.

Gardai say they could find no evidence of a paedophile ring operating at the school which now faces a raft of compensation claims by victims.

Many former pupils say they were unaware of the abuse that was going on.

The now-deceased principal for much of that period, Brother Felim, gave evidence at a previous trial that he too was unaware of any abuse going on.

Ex-priest targeted by abuse suit quits in Berwyn

Ex-priest targeted by abuse suit quits in Berwyn
February 23, 2010 11:10 AM
A former Roman Catholic priest sued in 1997 for allegedly abusing a youth at Chicago's St. Rita High School has resigned from his city job in west suburban Berwyn, according to a statement released by city today.

Frank Paduch, who has served as Berwyn's advocate for senior citizens, will have no more responsibilities with the city.

Paduch was placed on administrative leave last month after the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests protested his employment and alerted the city to the 1997 suit, accusing Paduch of sexual misconduct in the early 1980s. The Augustinian religious order reached a settlement two years later. Several years later, the city of Berwyn hired Paduch as its advocate for senior citizens.

According to the statement, a police investigation found no similar complaints have been received by the city regarding Paduch during his employment there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vatican official dismisses calls for resignation

Vatican official dismisses calls for resignation

By NICOLE WINFIELD
The Associated Press
Monday, February 22, 2010; 7:08 PM



VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican's top bioethics official on Monday dismissed calls for his resignation following an uproar over his defense of doctors who aborted the twin fetuses of a 9-year-old child who was raped by her stepfather.

Monsignor Renato Fisichella told The Associated Press he refused to respond to five members of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life who questioned his suitability to lead the institution.

Fisichella wrote an article in the Vatican's newspaper in March saying the Brazilian doctors didn't deserve excommunication as mandated by church law because they were saving the girl's life. The call for mercy sparked heated criticism from some academy members who said it implied the Vatican was opening up to so-called "therapeutic abortion" to save the mother's life.

To quiet their complaints, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a clarification in July, repeating the Catholic Church's firm opposition to abortion and saying Fisichella's words had been "manipulated and exploited."

But that didn't stem the criticism, which boiled up again last week when the academy - an advisory body to the pope made up of lay and religious bioethics experts from around the world - held its annual plenary assembly.

Five members of the 145-odd member body issued a statement Feb. 16, at the end of the closed meeting, again questioning Fisichella's suitability for office.

They took him to task for his opening speech, in which he described the criticism over his article as being motivated by spite, according to participants. And they accused him of manipulating the Vatican's July clarification to make it appear that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had vindicated his original article.

"Far from creating unity and genuine harmony in the academy, Archbishop Fisichella's address ... had the effect of confirming in the minds of many academicians the impression that we are being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails," the five wrote.

"This is an absurd state of affairs in a Pontifical Academy for Life but one which can be rectified only by those who are responsible for his appointment as president."

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Fisichella to the post in 2008.

One of the signatories, Luke Gormally, the former director of Britain's Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, said he and the other four wrote the letter to set the record straight after reading comments by Fisichella saying the matter had been resolved.

"When we saw that Fisichella had given an interview ... more or less saying that everything was sweetness and light, we thought that this was in the nature of disinformation," Gormally told The Associated Press.

Not only did Fisichella refuse to retract his March article, "We were accused of spite. It was quite extraordinary," Gormally said.

Reached Monday at home, Fisichella refused to respond to the call for resignation and dismissed the matter entirely, saying: "I won't respond to these people. Too much space already has been given to them."

In his March 15 article in L'Osservatore Romano, Fisichella stressed that abortion is always "bad." But he said the quick and public proclamation of excommunication of the Brazilian bishops "unfortunately hurts the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and lacking mercy."

He argued for respect for the Catholic doctors' wrenching decision.

Writing as if he were addressing the girl, Fisichella said: "There are others who merit excommunication and our pardon, not those who have allowed you to live and have helped you to regain hope and trust."

Monsignor Michel Schooyans, an academy member and emeritus professor at Belgium's Louvain University, said Fisischella had fallen into the trap of "bogus compassion," in supporting the doctors.

"Instead of expressing compassion for the young and innocent victims, 'compassion' is extended to those who have inflicted immense harm on these victims,'" Schooyans wrote last month.

Schooyans didn't attend last week's meeting but signed the statement calling for Fisichella's resignation.

Vatican heaps insult on injury for Irish abuse victims

Vatican heaps insult on injury for Irish abuse victims
The Vatican has scored another PR disaster by again failing to acknowledge that there was a cover up of Catholic child abuse in Ireland.

After publication of two reports that showed that the sexual and physical abuse of children had been endemic for decades in Irish institutions run by the Catholic Church, the Vatican summoned all 24 Irish bishops to a conference last week. It rapidly became clear that the conference was more about saving the Church’s face than making reparation, or even an apology, to the thousands of victims of Catholic priests.

Victim support organisations condemned the whole exercise as a “charade” and “window dressing”. One group said the Pope had “washed his hands” of the scandal.

The Ryan Report found the Catholic Church and Irish government covered up almost four decades of sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns on thousands of children in State care. And the Murphy Report unveiled a catalogue of cover-ups by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin to protect the Church. But in a Vatican statement, the Pope specifically failed to acknowledge the cover-up or formally apologise for the abuse. The Pope also failed to sack under-fire Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan – or even formally accept the resignations of other bishops, who were criticised in the Murphy Report for their mishandling of cases of sexual abuse. We understand no bishop or higher-ranking Catholic prelate has ever been laicised (sacked) for active or administrative misconduct over child abuse.

Ratzinger also ignored the failure of the Papal Nuncio to co-operate with the Murphy Commission’s investigation into abuse in Dublin.

In a statement, the Vatican said the Pope had told the bishops the sexual abuse of children and young people was not only a heinous crime, but also a “grave sin that offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image”.

The Vatican created another storm by announcing that the Pope had also told bishops that the “weakening of faith” was a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors.

Maeve Lewis, of support group One in Four, said the Pope’s response was inadequate. “It is deeply insulting to survivors to suggest they were abused due to failures of faith, rather than because sex offending priests were moved from parish to parish, and those in authority looked away while further children were sexually abused,” she said.

Campaigner Andrew Madden, who was abused by Dublin priest Father Ivan Payne, said the meeting showed “self-preservation” was the Church’s priority. He said Ratzinger and the bishops placed this over the concerns of people who had been abused for decades.

“That hardly represents change,” Mr Madden said last week. “I can only conclude the Catholic Church remains a disgraced, discredited organisation that seems to be entirely incapable of responding in any intelligent, meaningful way to the findings of the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports.”

Another campaigner who was herself a victim of abuse, Marie Collins, said the Pope had insulted the survivors by failing to put the bishops’ resignations on the agenda and again ignoring the chance of reforms. “This is a clerical club in a clerical world ... they are people who live in a different century,” she said after hearing the details. “I see no hope for the future.” She said the Pope had said paedophilia was a “heinous crime” but he should have said that it was a heinous crime for a bishop to put an abusive priest in charge of children.”

Another survivor, Christine Buckley, said she was profoundly disappointed with news that the Pope is to issue a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics on the scandal. “A collection of 24 bishops who appear to have been lectured about the tensions and the disunity of their members rather than trying to find out why these abuses happened and how to resolve them,” she said. “The other part of the statement that really hurts me is there was 17 hours spent on diocesan abuse, there was half an hour spent on the Ryan abuses.”

Another victim, Colm O’Gorman, described the Vatican meeting as “a cynical PR exercise”. Mr O’Gorman said: “For the Pope simply to come out and tell us that the rape and abuse of children was a heinous crime is stating the obvious at this point.”

Rape Crisis Network executive director Fiona Neary said it was “shocking” that the “systemic failures of the institutions of the Catholic faith are not mentioned as being a significant contributory factor in the sexual abuse of minors”. It was clear that the most senior levels of Catholic institutions were unable “to take responsibility for their collusion with the abuse of children in Ireland”. The talks were an opportunity for the Pope to apologise to victims for the Church’s reluctance and failure to report sex offenders to civil authorities, but it "was an opportunity wasted”, she said.

Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group said his first reaction to the news from Rome was one of disbelief. “It’s unbelievable what we heard today from the pope. This is the man who is in charge of the Catholic Church worldwide and he hadn’t even the gumption to say he was sorry for what happened to us. All he’s done now is to add salt to the wounds and this is very hurtful. We were expecting something and we got nothing.”

Meanwhile, Irish politicians have denounced the refusal of the Pope’s diplomatic representative (nuncio) in Ireland to testify to a parliamentary panel probing the level of Catholic Church co-operation with investigations into the church’s cover-up of child abuse. The papal nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal Giuseppi Leanza, told MPs in a letter published on Monday that he would not answer questions from the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Cardinal Leanza has faced heavy criticism in Ireland for ignoring letters from two state-ordered investigations into how the church for decades suppressed reports of child abuse by parish priests and in Catholic-run residences for poor children. The investigators said the cardinal did not reply to letters seeking the Vatican’s assistance.

An Irish MP, Alan Shatter, said it was “not only deeply regrettable but incomprehensible” that Cardinal Leanza would not explain the Vatican’s lack of co-operation with Irish investigations, given “it is acknowledged in Rome that members of the clergy in Ireland are guilty of abominable sexual abuse of children”.

A campaign to expel the papal nuncio from Ireland has been started on Facebook

See also:

Never let them preach high standards to anyone again

Northern Ireland victims must not be forgotten, says campaigner

Vatican is oblivious to people’s anger

How the Church helps the criminals escape justice

How the Church destroys its victims

Why the Pope’s solution is simply beyond belief

Catholic pressure causes Government to water down sex education measures

Catholic pressure causes Government to water down sex education measures
The Government has reneged on its commitment to ensuring all children will receive broad, balanced and objective sex and relationship education (SRE).

Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, this week tabled an amendment to the Government’s Children, Schools and Families Bill which in effect will provide an opt-out for religious schools when Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, which includes SRE, becomes compulsory in schools from September 2011. The Government originally intended all governing bodies and head teachers to have regard to a set of "principles" which include statements about how PSHE should be taught. Such principles stated that PSHE should be taught in a way that endeavours to promote equality and encourages acceptance of diversity. However, the Government has now laid an amendment to this Bill which many fear would curtail the implementation of SRE and PSHE in religious schools. The new amendment states that the principles “are not to be read as preventing the governing body or head teacher of a school within subsection (7B) from causing or allowing PSHE to be taught in a way that reflects the school’s religious character.”

The Catholic Education Service (CES) was quick to claim the credit for the Government’s apparent U-turn. A statement on its website claimed the amendment was tabled following a period of extensive lobbying by the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales.

National Secular Society spokesperson Stephen Evans said, “It is disgraceful that the Government is seen to be willing to sacrifice the health and well being of children in order to satisfy the demands of a minority religious lobby. The Government has already agreed that the issues that Personal, Social, Health and Economic education covers are central to all children and young people’s well-being and to their healthy development as they grow up. It is therefore a betrayal of children’s rights for the Government to now say that children in religious schools can be denied the same entitlement to objective teaching on issues such as contraception, safe sex, sexuality and abortion as children in community schools.

“Only this week the Joint Committee on Human Rights welcomed the Bill saying it welcomed the Government's explicit acceptance that the teaching of sex and relationships in faith schools must present material that is accurate and balanced, must not present that faith's views as the only valid views, and must promote equality and diversity. However, the new amendment casts serious doubt on the Government’s willingness to ensure the rights of children in religious schools are protected from opt-outs demanded by self-interested religious groups.”

The Government’s amendment was also criticised by the Children's Rights Alliance for England. Carolyne Willow, national coordinator of the Alliance said, “This amendment was completely unnecessary as there is already provision in the Bill for PSHE to take into account different perspectives, including religious beliefs. It is absolutely vital that sex and relationships education funded by the State occurs within the context of commitment to equality and respect for diversity; anything less is discriminatory.”

In the Guardian, a spokesman from the Department for Children, Schools and Families dismissed the complaints. Faith schools would not be able to opt out of statutory SRE lessons when they came into effect in September 2011, he stressed.

"All maintained schools will be required to teach full programmes of study in line with the principles outlined in the bill, including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity.

"Schools with a religious character will be free to express their faith and reflect the ethos of their school, but what they cannot do is suggest that their views are the only ones."

This meant a Catholic school would be required to teach the facts about contraception, but would also be able to reflect the church's views on its use.

German bishops apologize to abuse victims as justice minister urges cooperation

German bishops apologize to abuse victims as justice minister urges cooperation
February 23, 2010

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, the head of the German bishops’ conference, has apologized to abuse victims in the wake of a scandal centered on a Jesuit school in Berlin, where two priests systematically abused children in the 1970s and 1980s. Throughout the nation, 120 former students have alleged they were abused at seven schools.

“Sexual abuse of minors is always a heinous crime,” said Archbishop Zollitsch. I want to associate myself with this statement from Pope Benedict and apologize to all those who were victims of such crimes.”

“Abuse weighs heavily on the Church because children and young people have a particular trust in priests,” he added. “There should be no abuse, especially not in the Church.”

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the nation’s justice minister, called for a meeting between victims, bishops, and state government representatives to discuss the voluntary compensation of victims, most of whom have no judicial recourse because of the expiration of the statute of limitations.

“I expect concrete information from the Catholic Church on measures taken for a complete clarification,” she siad.

Ms. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also criticized Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg after he partly attributed the abuse to the sexual revolution.

Bishop Mixa, who also serves as the nation’s military bishop, is “hiding behind polemic excuses instead of contributing to clearing up” the crisis, the nation’s justice minister said.

Ex-Glen Ellyn church music director expected to get out of jail

Ex-Glen Ellyn church music director expected to get out of jail
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald StaffContact writer Brian K. Milnikel


Glen Ellyn church 'shocked, stunned' by child porn arrest[1/19/10]The former Glen Ellyn church music director accused of distributing child pornography may soon be a free man again after a judge slashed the man's bond in half.

Brian K. Milnikel of Naperville has a clean criminal record, strong community ties and does not pose a flight risk, his attorney argued Monday.

Milnikel, 45, remained in the DuPage County jail on a $200,000 bond since his Jan. 19 arrest. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the felony.

He pleaded not guilty at Monday's arraignment, during which DuPage Circuit Judge George Bakalis agreed to reduce Milnikel's bond to $100,000.

The defendant's roommate, Christopher F. Kontopoulos, 20, who faces similar charges, earlier posted $10,000 bail.

Prosecutor Demetri Demopoulos fought the bond reduction. He said police seized several computers containing illegal images of children during a search of Milnikel's home on the 600 block of Nelli Court.

"They found a number of horrific videos of children as young as 8 engaged in sex acts with other children and adults," Demopoulos said. "Both of them admitted using the child pornography to enhance their sex life."

Milnikel worked as full-time music director at St. James the Apostle Church of Glen Ellyn before his arrest. He also taught music at several other area churches for the previous 20 years, including St. Raphael's Catholic Church in Naperville and Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle, records indicate.

Milnikel is expected to post the required 10 percent bail. He remained in custody late Monday. If released, Milnikel is barred from having contact with children under 18, using the Internet or being within 500 feet of a school, park or day care facility.

After the arrest, St. James removed Milnikel of all his duties. He is not accused of harming any of the children he taught.

He is due back in court next month.

Accused pedophile priest taken off city’s website

Accused pedophile priest taken off city’s website

Victims want answers on Berwyn’s alleged “investigation”

Group also blasts Catholic officials over “continuing inaction”

SNAP urges church officials to tell flock and citizens about predator

Worried that a predator ex-priest walks free and may still be on the payroll of a Chicago suburb, clergy sex abuse victims are now asking city officials to clarify his status and whereabouts while reaching out to others he may have hurt. Victims also want Catholic officials to do more to locate and help other victims.

Leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (www.snapnetwork.org), are concerned about Fr. Frank Paduch, who allegedly molested five children in the 1980s. Since 2005, Paduch has worked for the City of Berwyn. He was suspended in mid-January, after SNAP publicly disclosed the accusations against him and the fact that a civil child sex abuse lawsuit against him was settled in 1999. City officials said they’d launch an investigation into Paduch’s past.

In a letter sent today, leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (www.snapnetwork.org), are urging Berwyn Mayor Robert J. Lovero to disclose the results of their investigation.

“It’s been more than a month since Berwyn suspended Paduch and more than a decade since Catholic officials settled a child sex abuse lawsuit against him,” said Barbara Blaine of SNAP. “It’s time for clarity, honesty and outreach by both entities. The public, parishioners, taxpayers, Catholics and victims deserve no less.”

On January 14, SNAP submitted a letter to the Berwyn City Hall asking for an investigation into Paduch’s past.

On January 22, a Texas bishop admitted that Paduch has been defrocked because of credible child sex abuse allegations there.

Recently, Paduch’s name reportedly disappeared from the town’s website where he is employed as “Senior Advocate.” Neighbors say he hasn’t been seen around his apartment in the suburb and that men have moved furniture out.

“That suggests your town has made some findings or decisions about his future with Berwyn,” said SNAP’s letter. “If this is true, you owe the public an explanation of both why he’s not with Berwyn any more and of how he got hired in the first place, given the serious allegations against him.”

The support group also believes Catholic authorities should speak out, warn the public and reveal what they know about Paduch's history of abusing children.

“Without a peep, Catholic officials settled a child sex abuse case against Paduch, and their silence no doubt helped this predator get a taxpayer-funded job working across the street from a school,” said Blaine. “This is essentially what the church hierarchy has done for decades – deal secretly with predators and enable them to go elsewhere and put other kids at risk.”

Specifically SNAP wants the Chicago archdiocese and a religious order called the Augustinians, which employed Paduch, to use church websites and newsletters to urge anyone with information about his crimes to call law enforcement.

“For the sake of public safety, this is the absolute bare minimum Cardinal (Francis) George and other church staffers should do,” Blaine said.

SNAP alleges Paduch, who has worked for the city since July of 2005, lives with Josh Hamilton, a registered sexual offender. Hamilton, who shares the same address as Paduch, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Tennessee, according to the Illinois Sex Offender Information registry.

Berwyn City Administrator’s is Brian Pabst and the town’s Police Chief is William Kushner.

Irish sex abuse victims said to be close to despair

Irish sex abuse victims said to be close to despair
Clergy abuse survivors met with Dublin archbishop Feb. 19
Feb. 19, 2010
By Cian Molloy Catholic News Service
Accountability

Pope Benedict XVI meets with Irish bishops at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS) Printer-friendly version
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PDF versionDUBLIN, Ireland -- Victims of clerical child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin said they are close to despair because the church will not take full responsibility for covering up the abuse.

Clergy abuse survivors met with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Feb. 19 to discuss the outcome of the meeting of Irish bishops with Pope Benedict XVI and senior officials from the Roman Curia. The Feb. 15-16 Vatican meeting reviewed a November report by an independent commission that investigated how the Dublin Archdiocese handled complaints of clerical child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004.

The commission, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, "found that the church deliberately covered up allegations of child abuse, but the only senior person who seems to accept that is Archbishop Martin," Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four abuse survivors' group, told Catholic News Service.

She said that in the statement issued by the Vatican Feb. 16, the pope only accepted ''the failure of Irish church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious."

"That is not good enough," she said, adding that the abuse survivors want "complete acceptance by the pope of the findings of the Murphy report."

"Archbishop Martin also told us that there was a chance that the pope wouldn't accept the resignations of the three auxiliary bishops named in the report who have offered him their resignation. If that would happen, the victims would find it unbelievable, they really would despair," she added.

Four bishops criticized in the Murphy report have offered their resignations, but so far the pope has officially accepted only one of them.

Asked about the idea of the pope meeting survivors, Lewis said: "Without a meaningful dialogue it's hopeless. The pope would have to listen to survivors and accept what they say before there could be some kind of reconciliation, but that seems to be an unlikely proposition given the way meetings between the pope and survivors of clerical abuse were handled in Australia and the U.S."

Another survivor, Marie Collins, told RTE News that she was "totally depressed by what transpired at the meeting" with the Dublin archbishop.

She said Archbishop Martin "seemed like a defeated man. He told us he had passed on our concerns to the pontiff, but that none of them were addressed."

Collins was among the survivors who reacted with a mix of anger and disappointment to the Vatican statement about the papal meeting with Irish bishops. She told CNS she thought the statement was "pathetic" and "so far away from accepting that there was a policy of cover-up."

"I wasn't expecting much from the meeting, but the fact that the resignation of bishops was not even on the agenda had been insulting," she said.

Christine Buckley, who was abused in a home run by the Sisters of Mercy, said in a statement that the meeting was "an absolute and utter charade from beginning to end."

"It was a pretend slap on the hand from Pope Benedict," she said.

Buckley said she had hoped the pope would announce that he was coming to Ireland to meet with victims of institutional and sexual abuse when he visits Britain in September.

Michael O'Brien of Right to Peace, a group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, told CNS that his first reaction to the news from Rome was one of disbelief.

"It's unbelievable what we heard today from the pope," he said after the Vatican statement was issued Feb. 16. "This is the man who is in charge of the Catholic Church worldwide, and he hadn't even the gumption to say he was sorry for what happened to us.

"All he's done now is to add salt to the wounds, and this is very hurtful," he added. "We were expecting something and we got nothing."

The Vatican statement said Pope Benedict called sexual abuse of children and young people "a heinous crime" and "a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image." The statement said the pope "challenged the bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage."

Father Patrick McCafferty, who as a boy in Northern Ireland was abused by a priest, said he was trying desperately to take something positive from the meetings.

"There's such raw and deep hurt that it's going to take a long, long time to ever recover what's been lost," he said.

Shortly after the meetings, in response to criticism of the fact that the Vatican statement did not contain an apology, Archbishop Martin said "there comes a time when repeating the word apology may even be empty."

He also said the bishops and Vatican officials agreed beforehand that they would not discuss bishops' resignations.

A spokesman for Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the government was "considering the (Vatican) statement" and recognized the great progress the church has made in safeguarding children.

Alan Shatter, Irish opposition spokesman, said it was "regrettable that the press release did not refer to the failure of the papal nuncio and the Vatican to cooperate with the Murphy commission's investigation into the manner in which the church has dealt with child sexual abuse."

Shatter also criticized the fact that the papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, has refused to appear before a parliamentary committee to discuss the failure of his office to respond to queries from the judicial commission.

"I am repeating my call on the Vatican and the Irish hierarchy to bring about a change of attitude and to engage in constructive, transparent dialogue with regard to the manner in which the church has dealt with the issue of clerical child abuse and the failure of the Vatican to provide assistance to the Murphy commission when it was sought," Shatter said.

Prosecutors: Boy starved to death at cult's hands

Last updated February 22, 2010 3:11 p.m. PT

Prosecutors: Boy starved to death at cult's hands
By BEN NUCKOLS
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

BALTIMORE -- The leader of a religious cult was "outraged" when a 1-year-old boy did not say "Amen" before a meal and ordered her followers to deprive him of food and water until he died, a Baltimore prosecutor told jurors Monday.

Three members of the now-defunct cult known as 1 Mind Ministries are on trial for murder in the death of Javon Thompson, who was around 16 months old when he died of starvation and dehydration in either December 2006 or January 2007, according to authorities.

After the boy died, the cult members prayed for his resurrection, then destroyed all evidence of his death and stuffed his body in a suitcase, which they hid in a shed behind a home in Philadelphia, Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake told jurors.

The cult members - Queen Antoinette, 41; her daughter, Trevia Williams, 22; and Marcus A. Cobbs, 23 - are representing themselves at trial. Antoinette declined to make an opening statement, while Williams and Cobbs spoke briefly; Williams in a voice so quiet that jurors, prosecutors and the judge strained to hear her.

Williams suggested the prosecution's theory of the case was flawed. "Pay attention to details," she said.

Cobbs pledged that "when the truth comes out," jurors would realize the defendants are not guilty. "The truth shall set you free," he said.

The jury of seven men and five women listened intently as Drake recounted how Javon's mother, Ria Ramkissoon, was recruited into the cult and did nothing to stop her son from wasting away, even though she was "distraught" over his slow and agonizing death.

Ramkissoon pleaded guilty last year to child abuse resulting in death and plans to testify against Antoinette, Williams and Cobbs. At her insistence, the plea deal included an extraordinary provision: If Javon comes back to life, the plea will be vacated.

Ramkissoon, then a teenage single mother, joined the cult because she wanted to become a Christian and was told she wouldn't have to work or go to school, Drake said.

The cult members lived together in a small apartment and were forced to abide by an increasingly strict set of rules, and Antoinette was "leery" of Javon, Drake said.

"If she perceived a rebellious spirit in someone, she would characterize it as demonic," Drake said.

The cult members "did everything they could think of" to make Javon say "Amen" before Antoinette ordered them not to feed him until he did, Drake said. She later took the boy away from his mother and placed him in Williams' care, the prosecutor said.

"In full view of every member of that household, Javon wasted away," Drake said. "If this little boy had ever had the capacity to say 'Amen,' he surely lost it. He could not say anything."

Ramkissoon prayed for days for Javon to be resurrected, and Antoinette "told her it was her fault" the boy did not come back to life, Drake said.

Prosecutors are seeking a first-degree murder conviction for Antoinette - also known as Toni Sloan - and second-degree murder convictions for Williams and Cobbs.

Antoinette smiled and scoffed throughout Drake's opening statement, at one point laughing out loud. Cobbs occasionally smiled and shook his head.

Williams had little reaction. After announcing that she wanted to make an opening statement, she stood silently for more than a minute before beginning to speak. Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory asked her twice to speak louder, but she did not raise her voice either time. At least one juror beckoned for her to move closer to the panel, which she did.

Williams and Cobbs acknowledged that the state's witnesses would present testimony consistent with Drake's opening statement, and neither indicated that they planned to call their own witnesses.

"I'm sure the testimony will all collaborate, seeing as how the defendants have all been in jail for 21 months," Williams said.

She specifically disputed the assertion that the cult members brought the suitcase with Javon's body to a Red Roof Inn outside Philadelphia.

"How a dead body was taken to a hotel and not noticed, I don't know," Williams said.

The jury was seated after a selection process that took up parts of two days. More than 150 potential jurors were brought in, and many said they could not be impartial because of the age of the victim.

Two jurors were struck and replaced by alternates before opening statements began. One of those could be heard telling Judge Doory he had read media coverage of the case after he was called in last Wednesday as a potential juror.

The dismissals left the jury with just one alternate, meaning a mistrial would be declared if two more jurors are struck.

Monday, February 22, 2010

German archbishop issues apology

German archbishop issues apology
German archbishop Robert Zollitsch today apologised for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and said he would discuss the matter with the pope.

A growing number of sexual abuse cases at Jesuit high schools in Germany has come to light over the past month, with over 100 former pupils complaining of abuse. That has prompted apologies from leading church officials.

While paedophilia scandals have rocked the church in Ireland and the United States in recent years, there had been little abuse known in the pope's native Germany.

"I apologise to all the victims," Archbishop Zollitsch told a news conference. "This issue is so important to me that I will speak to Pope Benedict about it when I visit him in March."

Archbishop Zollitsch said the bishops would discuss ways to improve prevention of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions and regulations on how to deal with such cases.

Cases of sexual abuse have come to the light in at least seven Catholic schools and institutions across Germany, Spiegel magazine said this week.

The issue was thrust back into the international spotlight in November with the release of the Murphy Commission Report, a damning indictment of the abuse of children by Catholic priests in Ireland.

Pope Benedict last week held crisis talks with Irish bishops about the scandal, but critics say the Vatican and the church have not gone far enough in handing over suspected abusers to civil justice.

Archbishop Zollitsch said he wanted German state authorities to start investigating cases of sex abuse as soon as possible. "We need to be vigilant about what happens behind closed doors," he said. "And we need to recognise injustice when it happens and call it by its name."

Neighbor: Accused Bible school teacher had teen girls at apartment

Neighbor: Accused Bible school teacher had teen girls at apartment
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Last updated 10:30 p.m. PT

KOMO-TV STAFF

The neighbor of a Bible school teacher accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student says he saw the teacher bring underage girls into his townhouse apartment several times over the past year.

The teacher, Scott A. Spies, 49, was arrested Tuesday and booked into jail for investigation of molestation, indecent liberties and sex with a minor, police said. He was released late Saturday after posting bail, records show.

Spies has been fired by the Auburn Adventist Academy, where he taught Bible study classes, and school officials are helping the 16-year-old victim in any way they can.

Even before the arrest, however, some neighbors said they were puzzled by "weird" things they saw going on at his apartment - especially given his image as a nice, Christian guy.

In an exclusive interview with KOMO News, one of Spies' neighbors said he saw the teacher bring high school-age girls to his apartment several times beginning about a year ago.

The neighbor, who asked not to be identified by name, says it never looked like the girls were in danger - but, he says it raised plenty of red flags.

On one occasion, the neighbor said he saw Spies bring three Asian teenage girls to his apartment.

"It was weird because I knew he was a teacher, it was Saturday night - it was a weekend, and three girls were there - going to his place," the neighbor said.

At other times the neighbor said he witnessed Spies hold parties and "get-togethers" with high school girls inside his townhouse.

The neighbor said there were never any other adults at these gatherings.

He said he and other neighbors were shocked by the news of Spies' arrest, but this turned to concern when he remembered all the times he had seen the teacher bring young girls to his apartment.

Asked if he thought the behavior was inappropriate, the neighbor answered, "Oh yeah, totally."

Sgt. David Colglazier of the Auburn police said Spies allegedly started a relationship with a teenage girl who attended one of his classes in February 2009, when the girl was 15 years old.

The relationship became sexual last fall, after she returned from a visit to Thailand, and the two had intercourse about 15 times - usually at Spies' apartment in Auburn, Colglazier said.

The sexual relationship continued until about two weeks ago, Colglazier said.

A KOMO News reporter tried to contact Spies by going to his house and knocking on his door, but was unsuccessful.

Someone on the other side of the door said, "Don't answer it" - and nobody did.

Neighbors say Spies hasn't come out of his townhouse since he was released from jail, leaving all them wondering.

"What teacher - especially in his right mind - is going to put himself in that kind of situation to where maybe he's falsely accused of something - but why even put yourself in that position?" said his neighbor.

Marvin Mitchell, principal of Auburn Adventist Academy, says he talked with Spies about the alleged relationship - then he fired him.

"We did terminate him and suspend him immediately from campus," Mitchell said. "He was very remorseful. Very remorseful."

According to online records, Spies has a master's degree in theology and began teaching at the Auburn Adventist Academy in 2009. He also is an alumnus of the school, graduating in 1979.

Established in 1919, Auburn Adventist Academy is a private coeducational Christian boarding and day high school operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

© 1998-2010 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Christian school teacher arrested for alleged sex with student

Seattle Post – Local
Christian school teacher arrested for alleged sex with student
A religion teacher at a private Christian-based high school has been arrested on suspicion of having sex with a female teenage student there, police said Saturday.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vatican's textbook case of how not to manage news

The Irish Times - Saturday, February 20, 2010
Vatican's textbook case of how not to manage news
St Peter's Basilica, Rome: that the Holy See did not see fit to prepare more fully the terrain for the media in the build-up to this week's meetings between Pope Benedict XVI and the Irish bishops comes as no surprise. The Holy See marches to a very different beat, works to a very different timetable from that of the secular world.

ANALYSIS: A little explanation might have gone a long way to averting some of the widespread negative Irish reaction to the Rome meeting, writes PADDY AGNEW

AS THE Irish media gathered in the Vatican’s Sala Stampa in Via della Conciliazione, just off St Peter’s Square, last Tuesday lunchtime, the Vatican’s senior spokesman, Jesuit priest Federico Lombardi, was preparing a briefing on the outcome of this week’s historic meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Irish bishops.

Knowing the aggressive nature of the secular media and having learned over recent months to recognise Irish public and private anger at the clerical sex abuse phenomenon, some of Lombardi’s closest advisers told him not to hold the briefing at all. You will simply be bombarded with an avalanche of aggressive, ill-informed questions that you cannot possibly answer, they told him. This really will be a case of a Vatican lamb offered up to the media wolves, they suggested.

Lombardi is a decent, honest, competent and patently good man and one who has long been recognised as such by the Vatican’s permanent press corps. True to his nature, he ignored the advice and stepped up to the plate for what was a decidedly uncomfortable briefing which focused on controversial issues such as: the lack of an invitation from the pope to the Irish abuse victims; the failure to address the question of Irish episcopal resignations, in particular the position of Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway; the refusal of the papal nuncio in Ireland, Giuseppe Leanza, to appear before the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee; the level of overall Holy See responsibility for the entire clerical sex abuse crisis.

It says much about Holy See thinking that there were those who thought that maybe the best thing to do would be to not hold a briefing at all but rather let the Vatican press release speak for itself. At this stage, there are plenty of people in the Holy See who realise all too well that there is no way to spin the clerical sex abuse story. This is simply bad, bad news.

Yet, not for the first time, the Vatican offered up a textbook study of how not to manage news.

The basic problem was the unrealistic expectations raised by this encounter. Having summoned Irish bishops to Rome for an unprecedented meeting, it was only normal that expectations would be raised. The problem, for the Holy See, was that they then needed, but failed, to play down those expectations by explaining the true nature of the meeting.

A little explanation might have gone a long way to heading off some of the widespread negative Irish reaction to the meeting. For a start, it could have been explained beforehand that meetings between the pope and abuse survivors (which have a precedent) are never pre-announced, to avoid them becoming a media scrimmage-cum-photo-op.

Likewise, it should have been clarified in advance that the meeting would not be discussing the question of espicopal resignations, something for which the Catholic Church has its own tried and true procedures, involving the Congregation of Bishops. Thirdly, it could have been pointed out that many ambassadors, including those from countries such as the USA and the UK, refuse to appear before foreign affairs committees, or the equivalent thereof.

Explanations about all of the above would have done nothing to appease many of the church’s critics but they would at least have avoided the widespread criticism that this week’s meeting was a waste of time because it had failed to address the “outstanding” issues.

That the Holy See did not see fit to prepare more fully the terrain for the media in the build-up to this week’s meeting comes as no surprise. The Holy See marches to a very different beat, works to a very different timetable from that of the secular world. In a sense, nothing is more alien to the Holy See than the idea that its actions and deliberations should be dictated by the requirements of either public opinion or the world’s media, both likely to be strident but transient.

There is, too, the very obvious consideration that Rome rules the affairs of 1.2 billion Catholics. Four million Irish Catholics do not, never have and never will represent a top priority for the Holy See – issues such as relations with the Islamic world, relations with the worldwide Jewish community, relations with the various Eastern Orthodox churches, the plight of besieged Catholics in places such as the Middle East and the People’s Republic of China and global warming, to name but the most obvious, come much higher up on the Vatican’s post-it list of things to fix.

That is not to say, however, that the Holy See takes the question of clerical child sex abuse, in Ireland or anywhere else, lightly. If this week’s meeting has achieved anything, it may be the universalising of the problem.

When he met the media last Tuesday, Cardinal Seán Brady said: “We also know that it is now recognised that this is not an Irish problem, not an anglophone problem; it is not a problem of the Catholic Church, but it is a great problem.”

Gone, it would seem, are the days when senior Curia figures could lightly dismiss the problem as an Anglo-Saxon matter. Eight years ago, at an infamous Vatican news conference, the Colombian Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, then head of the Congregation for the Clergy, when asked about clerical sex abuse, responded by pointing out that most of the questions had been put in English, adding that “this in itself is an X-ray of the problem”.

Most of us understood that remark to mean that this was an issue for the anglophone world but not necessarily for anyone else. Cardinal Hoyos compounded a negative impression that day by going on to defend the church’s preference for “keeping things within the family”. On top of that he gave the impression that he suspected many media outlets to be working off an anti-clerical agenda.

In November of 2002, speaking in Murcia, Spain, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, had sounded a similar note when saying that extensive media coverage of the US sex abuse crisis had led him to conclude that it was part “of a planned campaign . . . It is intentional, manipulated, there is a desire to discredit the church.”

Those days would seem to be gone. Holy See sources argue that both the pope and the Curia have been on a steep learning curve since then. They point to the exceptional nature of the forthcoming pastoral letter to the Irish faithful, the first time that the pope has dedicated an entire document in large part to the clerical sexual abuse problem. Even if it will be addressed to the Irish, this is a document that will inevitably have a universal, benchmark dimension as part of the church’s magisterium.

Underlining the point about the universal nature of clerical sex abuse is the case of Padre X, in the archdiocese of Bologna, Italy, a case which resurfaced in the Italian media just prior to the Irish bishops’ meeting with the pope. This case makes very familiar reading to Irish eyes since Claudia Colombo, a lawyer for the families of 10 children, aged three to six, allegedly victims of abuse by an elderly priest, has denounced the “embarrassment” and “mafia silence” of the archdiocese, suggesting that the church was concerned only with “avoiding a scandal”.

Which brings us to one of the bottom lines of Holy See thinking on the question of clerical sex abuse – a bottom line which explains all the insistence on “appropriate diplomatic channels” for contacts between the Murphy commission and the Holy Office or indeed the papal nuncio’s refusal to go before the foreign affairs committee, namely, that co-operating with the commission or going before the Oireachtas committee could in some way be interpreted as admission of legal (whatever about moral) responsibility for clerical sex abuse.

The Holy See has looked on aghast as the US Catholic Church has paid out upwards of $2 billion in damages to victims of clerical sex abuse. This is one buck that it does not want to see stop at the Apostolic Palace.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paddy Agnew is Rome Correspondent

There was no apology to the survivors, nor to the Irish State for years of delay and denial

Medb Ruane: There was no apology to the survivors, nor to the Irish State for years of delay and denial

Saturday February 20 2010

The tangled web of Church-State relations was rarely so knotted as this week, when two events conspired to tease it further. Pope Benedict met Irish Bishops in Rome to discuss the child abuse scandals, especially after the Murphy report.

In Dublin, however, the Pope's diplomatic representative Giuseppe Leanza decided he was unable to attend the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the same sad story. It was extremely unfortunate.

From Rome, people heard that the bishops hadn't asked Benedict or his Curia why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Papal Nuncio hadn't co-operated with the Murphy Commission. Instead, Benedict seemed to present the difficulties as a faith-based issue with particular ramifications for the Irish hierarchy.

He said that a weakening of faith "has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors" and connected the 'crisis' to "the lack of respect for the human person" in society. It sounded like a campaign slogan aimed at the wider world, rather than at abusive priests or secretive Church habits.

A lack of respect for the human person struck the Vatican too because no one had invited abuse survivors to Rome. This meant neither Benedict nor his Curia heard any first-hand testimony about what happened in Dublin, as well as in Ferns, Cloyne and elsewhere.

One of the most touching elements of the abuse scandals is how deeply survivors want Benedict to meet and hear them, almost as though there's a hope that his better judgment will win out after he realises what was done to them. For some, there's still a deep faith that good will triumph over evil in the Catholic Church.

But the survivors are ignored, reduced to statistics and denied a voice where it matters. Their suffering is voiced, if at all, by representatives of the hierarchies who frustrated them for so long.

The ethical basis for this cutting-off of survivors must be dubious. Indeed, Benedict's comments about a weakening of faith contributing to child abuse are exactly opposite to the Irish situation, where faith was so strong that people were encouraged to believe their Pope and bishops would act in their best interests. They trusted them.

Not inviting abuse survivors to speak also meant ignoring the human consequences within Ireland's Catholic community. A door was closed to any words about their feelings of betrayal, as well as the crimes and cover-ups which made it worse.

There was no apology to survivors, nor any apology to the Irish State for years of obfuscation, delay and denial. Instead, there were the beginnings of an attempt to situate the scandal in terms of theological politics, which hark back to old 1960s and 70s rows that were basically power struggles for ideological control of the Catholic Church.

Practically speaking, you'd have to wonder what kind of pastoral letter Benedict could write without survivors' evidence, given that he's also closed off official diplomatic routes by failing to instruct the CDF and the Nuncio to work with the Murphy commission and the State, where survivors were given some space to speak. How can he speak to people without listening first?

It's striking, hearing men such as Andrew Madden and Colm O'Gorman, how deeply abandoned survivors feel by the Church into which they were baptised. Yet these men are also citizens of a Republic which has a duty of care towards them. Brian Cowen and Micheal Martin are more relevant here than Benedict.

The mountain range of theologies, politics, secret documents and papers buries principles underneath, especially those involving the Irish State. The web is so enmeshed it hides enormous questions about the Vatican's relationship to the State, and the State's procrastination in seeking acknowledgement and justice from the Vatican on behalf of injured citizens.

If such abuse of Irish citizens had happened in an agency managed by another state -- Alliance Francaise, the Goethe-Institut, a tourist board -- the lines would be easier to see. If, say, the French or German ambassadors then refused to co-operate with an official investigation, Irish politicians would have to act.

Yet, with the exception of a few, notably Fine Gael's Alan Shatter, Irish politicians seem content to live with the confusion and to have the public eye kept on how the bishops interact with the Vatican rather than what the State is doing to win the information and redress it needs.

Cowen and Martin should ask why the Vatican and CDF didn't/won't co-operate with Irish authorities, and what practical reasons can possibly justify the Catholic Church's continued role in public affairs, given its lack of respect for the way the State has to conduct itself. Giuseppe Leanza's refusal to attend the Dail Committee is an insult, in the circumstances.

It's especially pernicious because local tradition gives the Nuncio the highest status of all diplomats to Ireland, even though only 117 men are eligible to vote in his state.

The message protocol-wise is that if the unofficial leader of the diplomatic corps can ignore the State's commissions and committees, why should other ambassadors be more respectful? At least, it's a bad example. At worst, it ridicules the democratic basis of the Irish State.

Irish Independent