The U.K. is reckoning with a clerical sex abuse crisis. Again. / America: The Jesuit Review
“The government-mandated Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom revealed that along with systemic sexual abuse, the church rushed more quickly to save its image than it did to respond to the plight of survivors. According to the report, over a half-century, the Catholic Church in England and Wales had received complaints alleging more than 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse against 936 people associated with the church, among them priests, vowed religious and volunteers.” (America: The Jesuit Review)
On the night before her confirmation, Sue Cox was sexually abused by a Catholic priest at a convent where she was attending summer school to improve her catechism. She was 10. When she was 13, the same priest again raped her in the bedroom of her own home.
“My mother caught him and told me to pray for him and to offer it up,” Ms. Cox, who is from Warwickshire, England, told America. Listening to the advice her adoptive mother gave after she walked in on the priest, “I felt sacrificial,” she said.
“‘We were told that he could do no wrong,’ and that he had ‘sacred hands,’ said Ms. Cox, an award-winning addiction specialist and acupuncturist. ‘Worse than that, we were told that priests were next to God—that they were ontologically changed at ordination.’
“Ms. Cox, who is 73 years old and today describes herself as an atheist, said that this was the belief that her ‘fiercely superstitious Catholic family’ ingrained in her as a young child. ‘Well,’ she added. ‘I can tell you that a child is ontologically changed when she is abused at that age.’”
Who’s at fault? New reports on clergy sex abuse offer different views. / Sojourners Magazine
“On the same day last week (Nov. 10), two reports on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church made headlines. The first report, released by the Vatican, is the so-called ‘McCarrick report’ … The second report was released by an independent commission in the U.K … What the reports have in common is long lists of sexual abuse victims and their broken families. The testimonies of survivors are instructive for the quality of their demand for justice and yet, to paraphrase Tolstoy, each unhappy survivor story ‘is unhappy in its own way.’ Each story is unbearable in its details of the physical and psycho-spiritual torture and the chronic wounds that remain.
“Both reports released last week reveal water made toxic by clericalism, or the misuse, overreach, or outright idolatry of clergy’s authority. This leads to abuse of power, which leads to religious violence, sometimes in the form of sexual abuse, but most often in the form of spiritual and moral domination of women, laity, children, and other vulnerable or dependent adults. ‘Clericalism is our ugliest perversion,’ Pope Francis told seminarians in 2018.
“The abuse of power within the Roman Catholic hierarchy has caused many who seek God “to stumble” (see Mark 9:42). Not only is the Church’s moral authority to address key social issues undermined, but individual souls seeking a spiritual anchorage are left adrift — or they reject God altogether.”
Vatican court hears unprecedented sexual abuse trial / National Public Radio
“An unprecedented trial is underway this month at the Vatican, the result of a whistleblower going public.
“A young priest is charged with sexually abusing an altar boy over a five-year period inside Vatican City walls. An older priest is charged with covering up the abuse.
“It’s the first criminal trial for sexual abuse to take place in the Vatican court.
“The first hearing of the trial, held earlier this month, lasted just eight minutes — enough for the Vatican court to hear graphic descriptions of the charges. The alleged victim, identified by his initials, LG, was forced “to undergo carnal acts, acts of sodomy and masturbation at different times and in different places inside Vatican City,” according to charges read out by the court clerk.
“The alleged abuse took place from 2007, when the victim was 13, until 2012.”
Justices review priest abuse lawsuit’s ruling on time limits / National Catholic Reporter
“Pennsylvania’s highest court on Tuesday (Oct. 20) grappled with whether a woman’s lawsuit on claims of sexual abuse by a priest decades ago should be allowed to proceed — a lower-court ruling that has launched many other lawsuits since it was issued a year ago.
“In oral argument, the justices focused questions on whether the plaintiff, Renee Rice, waited too long to sue the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
“Rice has argued that a 2016 grand jury report alerted her to allegations that church officials’ silence about a priest who she says molested her amounted to fraudulent concealment.
“The 2016 report in Altoona-Johnstown preceded the wider 2018 report that found decades of sexual attacks on children by priest in other Pennsylvania dioceses.”
Ruling allows victims to sue archdiocese over millions transferred to parishes
“A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Albuquerque has ruled that lawyers for clergy sex abuse survivors can file lawsuits alleging the Archdiocese of Santa Fe fraudulently transferred an estimated $150 million in assets to parishes in an attempt to avoid bigger payouts to victims.
“The decision by Judge David T. Thuma in the Chapter 11 reorganization case opens the door to what could be a multimillion-dollar boon to hundreds of alleged victims. Or it could set off protracted, costly legal appeals that would tap funds that could have paid valid abuse claims.
“Lawyers for the 94 archdiocese parishes, several of which predate the archdiocese by many decades or even centuries, predicted at a court hearing in August that the “decimation” of certain parishes would result if the lawsuits into the transfers go forward.”
Poland’s powerful Cardinal Dziwisz accused of covering up abuse case
“Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish bishops, and the Vatican’s ambassador in Poland are responsible for the case of Janusz Szymik, a long-time victim of the abusive priest Fr. Jan Wodniak. Why does the injured person have to fight for justice for over 25 years, and still waits?
“The question, still hanging open, raises difficult issues for the Vatican, as Dziwisz was Pope John Paul II’s trusted secretary for 27 years before serving as the Archbishop of Krakow from 2005 to 2016.
“Szymik claims that between the years of 1984 and 1989 he was sexually abused almost 500 times by Wodniak in the village of Międzybrodzie Bialskie, about two hours southeast of Krakow.
“‘It lasted so long, because I was a child who was cornered by him, lived in a snare, because there was nobody to turn to for help, and Wodniak knew it perfectly well,’ Szymik explained to me, adding that due to the experience he came close to committing suicide.
“From 1992 forward, the village in which Szymik was abused became part of a new diocese, Bielsko-Zywiec, which was established by John Paul. It was headed by one of the Holy Father’s closest associates: Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy. This name is worth remembering as it will prove crucial to the whole story.”
Vatican trial for sex abuse in pope’s youth seminary opens
“For the first time, a clergy sex abuse trial opened Wednesday (Oct. 14) in the Vatican’s criminal tribunal, with one priest accused of molesting an altar boy in the Vatican’s youth seminary and another priest accused of covering it up.
“The case concerns the closed world of the St. Pius X youth seminary, a palazzo inside the Vatican walls just across the street from where Pope Francis lives and the criminal tribunal itself. The seminary, which is run by a Como, Italy-based association of priests, serves as a residence for boys aged 12 to 18, who serve as altar boys at papal Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“According to the indictment read aloud Wednesday (Oct. 14), the Rev. Gabriele Martinelli, 28, is accused of abusing his authority as a more senior seminarian to force a younger seminarian into ‘carnal acts’ of sodomy and masturbation, using violence and threats, from 2007-2012.”
Pennsylvania Supreme Court sets hearing in clergy abuse case
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Oct. 20 on the appeal from a Roman Catholic diocese in a case that could allow plaintiffs to sue over sexual abuse by priests in cases that otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations.
“The court will hear the case of Renee Rice of Altoona, who sued the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown alleging sexual abuse by one of its priests, the Rev. Charles F. Bodziak, in the 1970s and 1980s. The case is scheduled to be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 20, with arguments livestreamed on YouTube, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
“Ms. Rice’s lawsuit, filed in 2016, was dismissed by a Blair County judge who said the statute of limitations precluded suing over long-ago abuse.
“But the state Superior Court ruled in 2019 that she could pursue her claim that the Altoona-Johnstown diocese covered up sexual abuse by numerous priests using a pattern of alleged fraud and conspiracy that continued right up to the 2016 release of a grand jury report into sexual abuse in the diocese.”
Investigation: Abuse allegations against Catholic bishop ‘credible’ / Associated Press in The Boston Globe
“The findings of retired Judge Peter Velis provide further evidence of the Catholic Church’s continued shameful cover-up of the wholesale sexual abuse of children at all levels no matter what the human cost …,” said attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Associated Press in The Boston Globe)
An independent investigation found that allegations of child sexual abuse by a former Roman Catholic bishop in Massachusetts were ‘unequivocally credible,’ according to an executive summary of the report released Wednesday (Sept. 16).
“Retired Superior Court Judge Peter Velis’s report of abuse allegations against late Diocese of Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon also criticized the way the diocesan review board handled the allegations.
“Velis found that there was a ‘reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations against (Weldon) due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious community.’
“Velis also found that mandatory reporters had not notified law enforcement.”
Explainer: What the church has done to fight clergy sex abuse since 2018’s ‘summer of shame’ / America: The Jesuit Review
According to a ProPublica database, 178 dioceses and religious orders in the United States have now released lists of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. The lists name 6,754 alleged abusers in total. (America: The Jesuit Review)
“It has been two years since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was published on Aug. 14, 2018, documenting in at times disturbing detail at least 1,000 cases of abuse by 300 predator priests spanning seven decades. Within two months, 13 more states and the District of Columbia had launched similar investigations, and Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then-archbishop of Washington, who was named in the report as failing to deal adequately with abuse when he was bishop of Pittsburgh.
“The Pennsylvania report came in the middle of what became known as the Catholic Church’s ‘summer of shame,’ which began with the surfacing of accusations of abuse of minors by the now-laicized former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and ended with the release of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s bombshell letter accusing church leaders, including Pope Francis, of knowing about Mr. McCarrick’s actions and failing to take action.
“Two years later, the church has taken actions on local and global levels toward greater transparency regarding abuse accusations and investigations, closed loopholes that had allowed bishops who covered up abuse not to face consequences and created universal guidelines for abuse reporting systems to be established in every diocese in the world.”