Comboni Missionaries and Clerical “Alternative Information” in a World Replete with Injustice. By Brian Mark Hennessy

Comboni Missionaries and Clerical “Alternative Information” in a World Replete with Injustice.

By Brian Mark Hennessy

It is essential that the Mirfield Seminary Victims of child sexual abuse hold on to what they have – which is their knowledge of the “Truth” of the punitive, degrading and cruel sexual abuse that was perpetrated upon them by members of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, when they were child seminarians in their care. Their “Truth” opens the doors of their right to “Justice”.  They must never waver and nor be afraid to tell it. “Justice” and “Truth” are bedfellows and are dependent on each other. You cannot have one without the other.

They must also hold on to those dear to them who are the only reliable sources of their strength and stability. There is nothing else and no one else out there that can provide their turbulent lives with a secure anchor. They must do that because in this harsh world there are few constant friends. Even those to whom you once entrusted your youth and your future hopes may betray you – as the Apostle Peter betrayed Christ in his most dire moment.

In like vein, the trust that Mirfield Victims of child sexual abuse once had in the Priests and the Hierarchy of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has been traitorously dashed also. The latter have refused to engage with the Victims in any meaningful way. To put it simply, they just do not care to quell the tempestuous storms and havoc that sexual abuse has created in the minds of those whom they betrayed.

The Combonis at Saint Peter Claver’s Seminary in Mirfield in the 1960’s and 70’s ignored the abuse when it was happening – and so why would they have heed of it now. “It all happened such a long time ago” they have often and vaguely repeated in recent years, “that simply nobody can establish the truth now”.

That is far from the true “truth”, however, for the abuse was largely reported at the time that it took place – and there are Comboni Priests alive today who have given witness to the truth of the abuse.  The sad fact is that if a concerted hierarchy states a lie often enough and with consistency – then that lie replaces the truth in the ears of both unwitting listeners and, eventually, the tellers also. So it is that in the course of time the Combonis have come to believe their own lies.

The worst of the effects of the Combonis’ “new truth”, that emanates from their distortions and denials of the “old truth”, is that these shameful, so-called clerics have destroyed their Victims’ lives. They have achieved this by their silence which is broken only by the disarming “alternative information” of the new “political speak” that they haplessly invented long before did Donald Trump. Such deliberate compulsive “dishonesty” is about as malevolent and cruel a reaction to the Victims’ injuries that could be inflicted.

In a hostile and vindictive way, silence destroys the Victims by forcing them to either give up or to become adversaries. Both outcomes are destructive to the Victims. They can win neither battle because their injuries have been inflicted already – and those wounds are the cause of inexhaustible, constant, complex and profound mental suffering – and even despair. The Combonis’ devastating and contemptuous silence, compounds that suffering – and those clerics appear to know it, welcome it and ignore it.

The Combonis’ disdain of the Victims is not fantasy. What was it that the Vice Superior and Superior of the Verona Mother House said to one Victim when less than two years ago he asked why it was that the Order was protecting a known, self-confessed, paedophile priest within their walls? There was no denial – and they responded variously, “We all make mistakes”, “He is being looked after” and “You are all money grabbers”.

The suffering of the Victims has no effect on the Combonis’ Hierarchy because they are remote and aloof. They do not feel the pain of the Victims’ hurt. Their silence and refusal to have dialogue with them has built up within them a systemic immunity to the Victims’ pain. They turn a deaf ear to the cries of Victims because, in the long run, they know well that you cannot feel remorse nor care for those for whom you have no thoughts. Victims’ cries for help and healing can become less than the sounds of whispers in the howling gale of self-deceit that they have fanned.

At Verona again, the Superior told the Victim, “We don’t want you to meet anybody here…We have nothing to say to you…Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future…It does not pay for you to be in Verona because you will not see anybody…You will be waiting in vain for an apology.”

Thus, in a disarmingly apathetic and incurious manner, the Combonis of Verona dusted their fleeting thoughts of a Victim off their cassock sleeves as if he were the occasional, irritable, noisy insect that momentarily catches their notice on a warm summer’s eventide dusk. As the slighted Victim left their Mother house in disbelief of their heartless disdain for him, the clergy within murmured their Vespers and praised the Lord. They then continued to watch the sun set over the ancient walled citadel of Verona across the valley to the West. They felt safe again after the Victim had left – and were contented in the false comfort that they were the righteous ones of the God who is constantly in the litany of the utterances of their lips.

They are wrong – and they are pitifully disillusioned. Their assumption that a Just God will overlook their injustices because they continually mouth His Holy name each Liturgical Hour of the day is a grave deception of self-conceit. They persist in their own self-delusion with an arrogance that amounts to both psychotic mental and spiritual blindness.

They fear the Victims. They fear to see their faces before them and they fear to see the stares of accusation in their eyes. They fear to hear their voices raised against them. They do not wish to be in the same space as a Victim. In such proximity, they might sense the tenuous emanations of their suffering and hear the silent outpouring of the inner grief of their hearts and minds. Such propinquity would make them feel ill at ease, perplexed and bewildered. It might even give them scruples and make an alarming dent in their arrogant, clericalist, self-perception of righteousness. It just would not do at all to be the subjects of such alarming and unnerving juxta-positioning.

So, they keep their distance, refuse to meet the Victims, refuse to hear them and put them out of their minds as best they can. Personal contact is for them a frightening prospect. Thus, to save themselves from buckling under the strength and conviction of the “Truth” that they might confront in the gaze of a Victim, they hire a lawyer.

In doing so, they close their hearts to the Victims’ distant, silent existence. Such remoteness is their safety net. It allows their self-deceit to thrive happily in their self-made, moral vacuum. Thus, from Matins to Compline daily, they carry on with their psalm recitations in the vain hope that their God is even remotely listening to them.

Yet, also, they must surely conceal the fear that their God is not listening at all to their brand of “alternative information”. Despite their “shut down” of the simple logic that must constantly  whisper in their ears that their Omniscient God has already well discerned the “Truth” that gives rise to the constant cries of Victims, they continue to don their vacant masks of false contentment. They stick it out in the certainty that one by one the victims, like them, will end their days in an earthen grave – and will there-on-in remain silent. They play the face-saving, callous and hard-bitten predictability of the “waiting game”.

This Mirfield Memories site has many devolved purposes, but the original principle purpose of it was to provide a forum for Victims to unburden their hearts, minds and souls by telling their stories to their past seminarian confreres who once, alongside them, experienced the un-loving regime of Saint Peter Claver’s Seminary in Mirfield. We must not forget, however, that child sexual abuse also took place at Stillington and Elstree. Those stories yet remain to be told.

Some dozen or so ex-seminarians have so far unburdened themselves publicly and told their stories. Another dozen of them have shared their experiences with a core of us – and have benefitted from the fraternity that that engenders. Yet another dozen are known to a very few of us, for they have not yet overcome the struggles involved in casting off the burdens of their painful silence.

Whilst the Comboni Missionary Order remains in contemptuous denial of the truths that they have known for some five decades, these struggling, and as-yet silent Victims of child sexual abuse, live lives that have been brutally blighted by the blatant blasphemy – the “magnum mendacium” –  of the Hierarchy of an Order of Religious men who with sacrilegious desecration deny Christ – not just thrice – but with consistent apparent ease.

Meanwhile, these lone, suffering Victims of Comboni child sexual abuse who are still out there in the wilderness must forever hold on to the “truth” of the debased, cruel and punitive abuse that they once suffered. We, their fellow victims, extend to them a hand of warm understanding friendship. We stand before them as witnesses to the undeniable fact that child sexual abuse was perpetrated at the Comboni Missionary Order’s United Kingdom seminaries by callous adult, paedophile clerics who took advantage of the youthful innocence of young boys who trusted and idolised them – and aspired to be one of them.

Those silent victims of abuse have no need to feel alone for we have belief in the untold truth that is hidden in their hearts. We, of necessity, also remain the Truth and Justice adversaries of all the silent, abused children of Stillington, Mirfield and Elstree. That role was cast upon us by an Order of Catholic Clerics, the Comboni Missionaries of Verona, Italy, who remain in grievous moral denial of God’s “Truth” and who are yet to find enlightenment and humble, Gospel-based leadership in a world replete with injustice.

Experts tell Australian abuse panel church must look at clerical culture

Experts tell Australian abuse panel church must look at clerical culture

U.S. Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, who served as a canon lawyer at the Vatican nunciature in Washington and spent decades working with abuse victims, told members of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he hoped their report would have a profound effect in the Vatican. He urged the commissioners to prioritize care for the victims.

see:     https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/experts-tell-australian-abuse-panel-church-must-look-clerical-culture

CARDINAL PELL MUST HAND IN HIS RED CAP – AND POPE FRANCIS MUST ACCEPT

CARDINAL PELL MUST HAND IN HIS RED CAP – AND POPE FRANCIS MUST ACCEPT

By Brian Mark Hennessy

There is no point “beating about the Australian bush”, the Royal Commission findings on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia are shocking – and are shocking beyond all expectations. This is a Black Day in the history of the Roman Catholic Church as a whole – not just the very “pits” of Australian clerical Catholicism.

In any organization, social or corporate or political, those that controlled the agenda of an edifice which has crumbled so shockingly will “take the rap” and resign. Cardinal Pell of Australia, created the seventh Archbishop of Melbourne on 16 July 1996 and in receipt of a Cardinal’s pallium from Pope John Paul II on 29 June 1997, must except responsibility for his part in the colossal failure of the Catholic Church in Australia to protect children from the cruel degradation of paedophile clerics – and hand in his Cardinal’s tassled, red cap to Pope Francis now. Pope Francis, must accept it and demote him. If he does not do so, this Pope will become a part of the story – and thus from there-on-in, the credibility of the Pontiff, the Vatican Curia and the Catholic hierarchy of Bishops will crumble into dust and ashes.

The very fact that the Australian Bishops will be called to give evidence under oath is witness to the fact that it is known that they covered up clerical child sexual abuse in Australia consistently. Not only that – it speaks volumes about the current view by the Royal Australian Inquiry that these bishops have already forfeited their moral rectitude to tell the truth. Rather than being the very epitome of rectitude and righteousness, they have become the purveyors of a callous cover up and, by their actions of simply moving pedophiles around within their dioceses, the complicit perpetrators of even more child abuse.

Let us not forget the statistics in these cases of abuse:

  • Seven per cent of Australia’s Catholic priests have been accused of abusing children in the six decades since 1950, according to new data from the royal commission.
  • Up to 15% of priests in some dioceses were alleged perpetrators between 1950 and 2015, with abusers most prevalent in the dioceses of Sale and Sandhurst in Victoria, Port Pirie in South Australia, and Lismore and Wollongong in New South Wales.
  • The numbers were even worse in some national Catholic orders. By far the worst was the order of the St John of God Brothers, where a staggering 40% of religious brothers are believed to have abused children.
  • 22 % of Christian Brothers and 20% of Marist Brothers, both orders that run schools, were alleged perpetrators.
  • More than one in five priests in the Benedictine community of New Norcia were alleged perpetrators
  • 17.2% of clergy were accused of crimes against children in the Salesians of Don Bosco order.
  • Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse relating to 93 Catholic Church authorities.
  • The abuse allegedly took place in more than 1,000 institutions.
  • The average age of victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys. The overwhelming majority of survivors were male.
  • Almost 1,900 perpetrators were identified and another 500 remained unidentified.
  • Thirty-two per cent of abusing clerics were religious brothers, 30% were priests, 29% were lay people and 5% were religious sisters.
  • 37% of all sessions held by the Inquiry with survivors from all institutions related to abuse in the Catholic Church.
  • Children were ignored or worse, punished.
  • Allegations were not investigated.
  • Priests and religious [brothers] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past.”
  • Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.”

 

Everyone will remember today and going forward the interview of Cardinal George Pell when, in response to a question from the Australian Royal Commission in a video link from Rome,

“Ridsdale’s offences were ‘a sad story’ but had not been of much interest to me when they were happening in the 1970s in regional Victoria. I had no reason to turn my mind to the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated”.

Many and countless Victims of Catholic Clerical abuse around the world have heard the same stories before – and many versions of them. Victims globally have been harassed, disbelieved, castigated, libeled, ignored, even blamed, victimised and re-victimised. Enough is enough! Heads must roll. Cardinal Pell – must show himself to be a man rather than the deaf church mouse he showed himself to be as a Hierarch in Australia in the past – and recently as a Vatican Curia Cardinal when questioned about clerical sexual abuse in Australia. He must quit now to save Catholicism and the Pope in the hearts and minds of world-wide Christendom.

TRUTH AND HUMILITY ARE THE CORNERSTONES OF THE MORAL EDIFACE – By Brian Mark Hennessy

 

TRUTH AND HUMILITY ARE THE CORNERSTONES OF THE MORAL EDIFACE

(Brian Mark Hennessy reports on an exemplary case of facing the truth with brave humility and compassion for victims of sexual abuse. Brian Hennessy has written a “Forward” in italics below and also the ultimate “Notes”. The central article is a paraphrase of a report by the Catholic News Agency dated 26th January 2017 which was reported in “CRUX”)

“FORWARD”

You need to be brave to be humble and, very often, telling the truth is both the bravest and most humble act that we, as human beings, commit to. Such a combination of self-effacing morality dignifies the spiritual essence of our humanity. In a world when all men, women and children are equal, there is an accompaniment to “truth” and that is “justice”. You cannot have one without the other. Nevertheless, in this human world, understanding truth is complex and often difficult to discern – and never more so when two seemingly honest and respectable individuals have different versions of the facts of a truth that requires determination. The wise King Solomon managed to discern the truth in a dispute over who was the mother of a child by his human understanding of motherhood, but most disputes are more complicated than that. It is uniquely refreshing, therefore, when an individual or institution embraces a totally moral route, searches for the truth of alleged wrongdoings and humbly admits that truth when it has been established.

PARAPHRASE OF REPORT BY THE CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY FEATURED IN “CRUX”

The determination of the allegations against Luis Fernando Figari Rodrigo (born July 8, 1947 in Lima, Peru), a Peruvian Catholic layman, who was the founder and former superior general of the Society Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) is a case in point. Figari, who had been accused of “sexual abuse, mistreatment, and abuse of power” was exposed in 2015 in a book, “Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados”, (Half Monks, Half Soldiers), by the author, Salinas. Figari denied all the allegations in the book, but Alessandro Moroni Llabres, elected as the Superior General of SCV in 2012, embarked on a journey of moral determination to seek the truth. Indeed, he set up an Ethics Commission for Justice and Reconciliation in November 2015, after the original allegations had been made, so that the victims “could be welcomed and served in the first instance by highly respected and objective persons.” In doing so, he set aside any fears of damage to the reputation of the Institute and he openly embraced the Victims of the alleged abuses. In April 2016, that Ethics Commission’s report detailed an internal culture of extreme “discipline and obedience by the founder, Figari, which was forged by extreme physical demands, as well as physical punishments, constituting abuses which violated the fundamental rights of individuals.”

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life which was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy. In the past few days, the Catholic News Agency has reported that the Institute has announced that 66 persons were victims of abuse and mistreatment by members of their Peruvian Sodalitium Christianae Vitae community. The still current superior general of the community, Alessandro Moroni Llabres, said, on January 21, that the society has set aside more than $2.8 million in reparations and assistance for victims. Moroni further said that “besides the norms proper to the judicial and canonical spheres, there is a necessary moral sphere.” In that respect, he reiterated the community’s pronouncements recognizing “all the harm done by Figari” – and in his condemnation of Figari’s actions, declared him a “persona non grata”. He added that, “We have also asked for Figari’s removal from our community and we have sent all the information on his case to the Holy See where Figari’s trial is proceeding in Rome. We are waiting for the final pronouncement by the Vatican authorities”. Moroni continued, “We have also recognized that some members of our community have done much harm and we have taken very concrete measures to clarify the truth about all these cases –  and this is most important thing – we are maintaining our commitment to making redress to those who suffered because of this. Those persons continue to be our priority.”

Moroni said the Ethics Commission had presented 32 cases to the Sodalits, and that another team of international experts in abuse investigations and the care of victims had discovered another 71 cases, “and so we have attended to a total of 103 persons. Of this total, sufficient elements have been found to consider 66 persons as victims of abuse or mistreatment of various natures. To determine if a person can be considered a victim,” he said, “we did not require any technical or scientific means of proof, such as would be required in any juridical investigation. Rather, we made a moral evaluation, considering the verisimilitude of the testimonies that were received. In case of doubt, we have opted to trust the persons who have given us their testimony. Among monetary compensations, medical or psychological assistance, help to return to the workforce, and support for some persons whose cases did not correspond to this process (but who had urgent needs) we have approved for this purpose an amount that so far totals more than $2,842,000,”

In a brave, humble and unique statement, Moroni concluded, “For us, the principal responsibility does not fall upon the Vatican or the Peruvian Church. Nor does the principal responsibility fall on the Attorney General’s Office; the principal responsibility of seeking the truth and repairing the damage is ours. Beyond the lofty complexity of the judicial and canonical processes, today we want to reaffirm that we are determined to fulfil our moral responsibility, with all its consequences. The community asks forgiveness from “everyone who has suffered any kind of abuse or mistreatment on the part of a member or ex-member of the Sodality. Welcoming the truth, however painful it may be, and making reparation to those who have suffered enables us to go forward on the path of service to which God calls us.”

“NOTES”

The brave response of Alessandro Moroni Llabres to the allegations made against Figari, the former Founder and Superior General of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, could not be further removed from the response of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy to allegations of criminal sexual abuse of child seminarians at their Mirfield Seminary in England. The Combonis, also known as the Verona Fathers, have ignored the Victims of the childhood abuse consistently, failed to investigate the allegations against clerics of their Order and refused to have any dialogue with the Victims. Indeed, the Combonis have gone to extreme lengths of publicly denying that the abuse, which was reported to them and has been known to them for almost five decades was true. Moreover, this denial flies in the face of assertions by living members of their Order that the allegations were factual. Their denial is a symptom of their cowardly arrogance – the very opposite of “Truth” and “Humility”. Indeed, rather than embracing the truth with brave humility and embracing the victims, the Order, even went to the length of falsely accusing one Victim of crimes in the Criminal Tribunal of Verona in Italy in a macabre attempt to conceal the ‘Truth” that they have a cowardly fear of embracing.

REPORT ON THE INQUIRY INTO HISTORICAL ABUSE – By Brian Mark Hennessy

REPORT ON THE INQUIRY INTO HISTORICAL ABUSE

IN NORTHERN IRELAND.

(Paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy from an article published by BBC News on 20th January 2017).

Sir Anthony Hart, the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Inquiry into Historical Abuse released his report this week. The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 to 1995. He declared that children’s homes run by some churches, charities and state institutions in Northern Ireland were the scene of widespread abuse and mistreatment of young residents.

These were facilities run by the state, local authorities, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the children’s charity Barnardo’s. However, the largest number of complaints related to four Catholic-run homes. There was also sexual abuse carried out by priests and lay people, he reported.

Sir Anthony Hart, recommended a tax-free Government-funded compensation award ranging from 7,500 up to 100,000 pounds Sterling should be paid to the Victims. In addition, he recommended a permanent memorial at Stormont and a public apology to abuse survivors. He added that 12 people who had given evidence had since died and it was only “just and humane” that their spouses or children should receive a payment of 75% of the total lump sum. Other recommendations made were the establishment of a commissioner for survivors of institutional abuse and specialist care and assistance tailored to the needs of the victims.

The HIA heard evidence from hundreds of people who spent their childhood in residential homes and institutions. A total of 493 applicants engaged with the inquiry, in one form or another, and while the majority were seen in Belfast, others were seen in the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Australia.

Setting out the findings of his report, the retired judge said the largest number of complaints received related to four Sisters of Nazareth homes. ‘Children were raised in bleak lovelessness’ in Sisters of Nazareth homes, one commentator has remarked. It found nuns had physically and emotionally abused children in their care. Sir Anthony said it was not uncommon for children to have Jeyes Fluid, a brand of disinfectant, put in their baths. Many of the incidents relating to sexual abuse were known by members of the clergy who did nothing to stop them. In a statement, the Sisters of Nazareth apologized, stating the ‘Deepest regret’ to anyone who had suffered abuse while in their care. “It was always the desire of the order to provide a safe place for children and when we failed on any occasion, we want to express our deepest regret,” the Order said. “This has been a traumatic time for those survivors and victims who have come forward, however, we sincerely hope it has also been an opportunity to find some relief.”

Sir Anthony said the inquiry had “stripped away decades of half-truths masquerading as facts, in relation to Kincora and what state agencies did or did not do regarding the abuse there. “Thirty-nine boys were abused at some point during their time at Kincora,” he said. Three men, William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains, who were senior “Care Staff” at Kincora, were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys. Sir Anthony said when the police became aware in 1974 of complaints against McGrath, the investigation was “inept and inadequate”. He said a proper investigation into McGrath may have meant the children who were abused after 1974 could have been spared. Nevertheless, Sir Anthony also found no evidence that security agencies were complicit in the abuse that took place at Kincora. Sir Anthony said that the boys were let down by those three individuals, who committed sexual abuse “of the gravest kind” to teenage boys in their care. He added that the majority of the young boys at Kincora between 1958 and 1980, who gave evidence, said they were not sexually abused during their time there.

The HIA inquiry found that the Norbertine Order failed to take steps to expel Fr Brendan Smyth, from the priesthood despite being aware that the Northern Ireland-born cleric had committed dozens of offences against children over a 40-year period. The Irish Norbertines said in a statement that they recognised the “tragic harm and hurt” caused to innocent children by Fr Brendan Smyth. A spokesperson for the Norbertines said they “again unreservedly apologise most sincerely for the hurt and harm caused to so many young people, while also accepting that our management of the man concerned (Smyth) and the accusations presented to us was grossly inadequate.”

The inquiry also heard from adults, who as children, were sent from Northern Ireland to live in Australia. Sir Anthony said the HIA inquiry was the first in the UK to look at the child migrant scheme and said some of those who were sent away had been abused before they (left) and others believed the scheme itself was abusive. Sir Anthony said they had been unable to establish exactly how many children were sent to Australia, but at least 138, under the age of 13, were sent and, possibly as many as 144.

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, “apologised unreservedly” to all those who had suffered in church-run institutions. “I am ashamed and I am truly sorry that such abuse occurred, and that in many cases children and young people felt deprived of love and were left with a deep and lasting suffering,” he said.

Margaret McGuckin, who has been the public face of the campaign for survivors of historical institutional child sex abuse, said that the report was what they had “waited for for a lifetime. Today we are believed. As young children we tried to complain about our abuse and no one would listen,” she said.

Jon McCourt, from the Northwest Survivors group in Londonderry, said that Sir Anthony Hart had listened and that political representatives now had to listen. He stated, “In particular, the religious orders and these holy devout Christian people disbelieved us and even bullied us more for daring to complain, today we have been vindicated. We want the rest of the delivery of what the HIA report entails. Don’t let us down now.”

(Comment by Brian Mark Hennessy: Survivors of clerical abuse at the Mirfield Seminary in Yorkshire, England – (to whom this blog is dedicated) – which was an institution run by the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, will recognize chilling similarities with the contents of the above report. “Children raised in bleak lovelessness” at the Nazareth homes is one comment that struck me, an ex-Mirfield boy, for I have heard similar comments from other members of the “Comboni Survivor Group”.

Then more familiar too, was“the tragic harm and hurt” suffered by the boys in the Norbertine’s homes. It has a clear parallel with the Mirfield seminary where all forms of alleged abuse, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape, have been alleged – and whose victims have been dealing with the complex psychological effects ever since.

Moreover, there is also a striking parallel in the action taken by the Comboni Missionary Order to the response of the Norbertines, who were aware of the abuse being perpetrated against children in their care, but they did not respond in any way to the abuse that they were aware of. Similarly, following reports of sexual abuse that took place within their institutions at the Mirfield seminary, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, (from the local Rector, to the London Province Provincial Superior and, indeed the Superior General of the Order at the time) did nothing at all regarding making mandatory reports to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as required by Canon law. Nor did the inform the West Yorkshire Police, which they were bound to do under the Law of Misprision that was effective at the time. Nor did they offer assistance to the Victims and nor did they report the abuse to the Welfare Authorities. Indeed, in the case of the Comboni Missionary Order, three of the priests whose abuse of seminarians were known to them from reports – were simply moved on to other locations where they would also have unfettered access to children – and where, theoretically, at least, they would have been able to continue their abuse of children unchecked).

CLERICAL ABUSE ISSUES -ROUND UP

CLERICAL ABUSE ISSUES – ROUND UP

(PARAPHRASED FROM PRESS STORIES BY BRIAN MARK HENNESSY)

NETWORK ABUSE – THE ITALY BASED INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION REPORTING ON CLERICAL PAEDOPHILES PUBLISHED THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE ON 11TH JANUARY 2017

(Translated and paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy. Whilst having no cause to doubt the facts presented in this article, this Blog is unable to guarantee the veracity of its content. Readers must make their own conclusions.)

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, when he was named the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Bergoglio, the first pope from the Americas, took his papal title after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy. It is alleged that documents have been delivered into the hands of Pope Francis denouncing Don Nicola Corradi and 14 other priests. There has been no response from the Vatican. Consequently, dozens of documents clearly demonstrating that the church authorities knew of priests accused of molestation by members of the Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verona have been filed a few days ago with the public prosecutor of Verona Criminal Court.

The first precedent in Italy for this case was created in 2012 in Savona when the judge for preliminary investigations, Fiorenza Giorgi, deduced that there was a clear case of omission by the bishop, Dante Lafranconi, who, despite knowing of the pedophile tendencies of one of his priests, did nothing to prevent the continuation of abuse against other children. The legal principle that convicted the Italian Bishop was found in the second paragraph of Article 40 of the Criminal Code which reads “failing to prevent a crime for which it is a legal duty to prevent, is equivalent to causing the crime”. This legal principle, in a different formula, is also found in article 108 of the Argentine Penal Code, according to the lawyer Carlos Lombardi, and that situation could also prove legal responsibility against the Argentinian Provolo Institute for the Deaf in the diocese of Mendoza and La Plata. This has raised a number of questions as to whether Pope Francis, when Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was also informed on the scandal relating to the Provolo Institute in Verona and whether he knew of the dangers to children associated with the priest, Don Corradi. The children in the Argentinian Institute have stated that “They wailed as the two Roman Catholic priests repeatedly raped them inside the small school chapel in remote northwestern Argentina”. Sadly, only their tormenters would have heard their cries since the other children at the school were all deaf.

According to a report by Network Abuse, Pope Francis was informed three times of abuse by Don Corradi and also of at least 14 other priests accused of abuse by former students of the Institution, but the then Archbishop Bergoglio wanted to maintain the pretence that nothing had happened. Now, we are told that the Holy See has sunk into a “shameful and deafening silence typical of the Church that talks the talk, but does not walk the walk”. On May 9, 2014, the leading Italian News outlet, “TGcom 24 Mediaset ” released a video produced by “Network ABUSE” and it was taken up by all the Italian national newspapers and many others around the world – and was aimed directly at Pope Francis. A copy was delivered to the Vatican Secretariat of State. It included the names of 17 victims – former students of the Provolo Institute – and a list of names of the abusing clerics – including that of Don Nicola Corradi. However, no response to those victims was received –  and so on 20th October 2014, the Association of the Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf at Verona sent registered letters to the Bishop of Verona Giuseppe Zenti, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Francis. In that letter were the names of Don Corradi and the 14 other priests accused of abuse (four of them hidden in Argentina). No response was received. Thus, letters with the same content repeating the allegations were delivered once again to the Vatican on 28th October 2015. On this occasion, however, they were placed directly into the hands of Pope Francis by one of the victims of the Institution named Joseph. It so happened that, in very recent days, Pope Francis has again declared that, “The church is crying for the pain brought about by priests!”.  To the victims of abuse – and to all those who still trust the Church, such cries are “outrageous”, said Francesco Zanardi, the President of  “Network ABUSE Onlus”.

Francesco Zanardi continued, “It is sad to see that, despite the severe indictment that the UN Commission on the Human Rights of the Child made against the Vatican in 2014, the church continues to protect its image and to give scant regard to the care of victims and of associations that protect them. They continue to refuse dialogue. The management of pedophile clerics can no longer remain in the hands of the Catholic Church Hierarchy. If Pope Francis really wants to seriously address the problem, there is only one avenue open to him – which is to insist on the requirement that Bishops (and Religious Hierarchs) refer all allegations against clerics to the law authorities and the courts of the civil states in which the offences were committed”.

 

THE PRICE PAID BY FATHER JOHN GALLAGHER FOR REPORTING ABUSE

Terry Spencer of the Associated Press has reported in the News Outlet “CRUX” that a priest from West Palm Beach is suing his former diocese. Father John Gallagher, a Catholic priest filed a suit on Wednesday against his former diocese, saying that the bishop pushed him aside and lied about him because he made a call to a law enforcement agency after another priest showed child pornography to a teenage boy and cooperated with the investigation. He said that Bishop Gerald Barbarito of the Palm Beach Diocese forced him from the church where he worked and publicly called him a liar after he refused to cover up for the other priest, Joseph Palimattom, who was convicted of showing obscene material to a minor, spent six months in jail and was deported home to India.

Gallagher told The Associated Press that his case shows the church has not reformed as promised after it became public knowledge that church leaders had covered up sexual abuse by priests for decades around the world. “Any priest could be in this situation,” Gallagher said. “Any priest in this situation should know that if it happened to them, they will not get the support of the church. You will be ostracized.”

The diocese declined specific comment on the lawsuit, but pointed to Barbarito’s previous denials of Gallagher’s allegations. In those statements, made last year after Gallagher went public with his accusation, Barbarito says that he and other church officials acted appropriately when Gallagher informed them of Palimattom’s crime. “We not only immediately reported the incident to the police and state attorney, but cooperated as fully in the investigation as we could,” Barbarito said in one statement that was read in churches throughout the diocese. “Father Gallagher’s harmful assertions are an embarrassment to my brother priests as well as to me.”

Gallagher, 49 and a priest since 1992, came to the United States from his native Northern Ireland in 2000 and became the head priest at Holy Name of Jesus in West Palm Beach in April 2014. That following December, Palimattom arrived from India and was assigned to be Gallagher’s assistant. According to the lawsuit, church officials in India did not tell Gallagher that Palimattom had been previously accused of sexually abusing children.

Gallagher says in the lawsuit that on Jan. 5, 2015, three weeks after Palimattom’s arrival, a 14-year-old boy complained that Palimattom had shown him sexually explicit photographs of naked boys who were approximately 6 years old. Gallagher says he immediately confronted Palimattom, who admitted showing the photographs to the teen. The conversation was witnessed by a retired Palm Beach County sheriff’s detective and his wife, the church’s office manager. “His (Palimattom’s) answer was, ‘I’ve done this before, I have gone to confession, been told to say my prayers and everything will be OK,’” Gallagher said Wednesday.

Gallagher says he and the retired detective contacted the state attorney’s office and were told that the teen’s father had already reported Palimattom, who was arrested the next day. He said he then called the diocese and was told that the normal procedure would be to send Palimattom home to India. He says he was also told not to offer too much information to investigators, but he says he recounted his entire conversation with Palimattom to detectives. He also turned over a security video showing the conversation.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office issued two commendation letters to Gallagher thanking him for his assistance. Chief Deputy Michael Gauger and Detective Debi Phillips each wrote that in previous investigations of sexual abuse the local church had not cooperated, so they were pleased by how helpful Gallagher had been. (Two previous bishops of the diocese resigned after admitting to sexually abusing boys before arriving in Florida).

Gallagher said he then wrote letters to high-ranking Catholic officials, saying Palm Beach Diocese officials had tried to cover up the Palimattom case. He said Barbarito retaliated by driving him from Holy Name of Jesus by turning the Spanish-speaking portion of the parish against him. He said that in May 2015 when he was hospitalized for a possible heart attack, Barbarito showed up in his room and berated him, accusing him of faking. He said that when he was released, he found that he had been locked out of the parish.

After some Holy Name of Jesus parishioners publicly protested his dismissal, Barbarito had diocesesan priests read a statement in January 2016 at all Masses saying Gallagher was spreading falsehoods. On a Facebook page, one diocese official wrote Gallagher “is blatantly lying and in need of professional help as well as our prayers and mercy.” Similar statements were made to local news media.

Gallagher said Wednesday that he is unsure if he wants to remain a priest. “Why would I ever trust them again?” he asked.

 

GOODNEWS FOR SURVIVORS IN SWITZERLAND

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, the Austrian correspondent for the London-based weekly Catholic magazine “The Tablet”, has written the following article for the US National Catholic Reporter concerning the Swiss Bishops’ Conference positive act of setting up of a fund for abuse cases outside statute of limitations.

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference has set up a special compensation fund for victims of clergy sexual abuse whose cases are barred by statute of limitations. Victims who were abused years ago and whose cases, according to both state and church law, fall under the statute of limitations were particularly distressing for the Swiss bishops, Lausanne Bishop Charles Morerod told the press in Sion, Switzerland. “For far too long, the church turned a blind eye on these victims who are in a particularly difficult situation and have not been provided with any reparation,” Morerod, president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, said, “The conference decided to create a fund for those victims who no longer had the right to seek redress in court”.

The bishops put aside an initial sum of 500,000 Swiss francs (US$493,500) for the special fund. All Swiss dioceses, the Union of Religious Major Superiors of Switzerland, and other church organizations in the country are contributing to the fund. An independent commission has been set up to decide on the amount of compensation each victim should receive, Morerod said. Many of the recorded cases dated back to the 1950s but the Swiss bishops and religious superiors said they continue to be grateful for every report of sexual abuse by clergy or church employees. They called on victims to keep coming forward, deserving justice even if the abuse occurred long ago.

Before the press conference, all 11 members of the bishops’ conference, representatives of the religious superiors group, and a delegation of victims gathered at Valère Basilica in Sion for a penitential service. The 12th-century basilica, which is situated on a hill, has been a place of pilgrimage “to which people have brought their burdens and troubles for centuries,” Morerod said. He added that “zero tolerance” and “complete transparency” were called for as far as clergy sexual abuse was concerned. He thanked the public for pressuring the church regarding the abuse. One of the victims at the service, a woman in her 50s, came forward and related her life story in a broken voice. Her father had been a priest and she had four half-siblings who all had different mothers. The bishops and religious superiors joined her in saying, “We pray that clergy sexual abuse may never again be swept under the carpet, belittled or relativized.”

The bishops then knelt and, led by Morerod, prayed, “A grievous sin committed by individual members of the church but facilitated by certain patterns of behavior and thinking in the church has come to light. The sin has several levels: the abusive act, the complicit silence and the failure to render assistance to the victims. We feel responsible and thank the victims for opening our eyes.”

The Swiss bishops’ conference updated its sexual abuse guidelines for the third time in 2014. They now include religious groups and activities not previously under the responsibility of the dioceses. New church employees have to undergo a check of their criminal record. The new guidelines also aim to ensure better transparency when priests are moved from one diocese to another.

 

SHARING STORIES OF SEXUAL ABUSE “HELPS TO HEAL THE HURT”

(Augustinian Fr. Paul F. Morrissey (author of “The Black Wall of Silence) wrote the following article for the National Catholic Reporter. Sharing stories of sexual abuse ‘helps to heal the hurt’).

Having the horror heard helps to heal the hurt.” My stepmother, Dot, shared her wonderfully alliterative mantra with me years ago as we pondered the benefits of a person going to a counselor when stuck in pain. In her wise and eye-twinkling way, Dot, whose husband had been struck by a car and killed many years before, leaving her with 12 children to raise, was telling me how she had survived.

After my mother died suddenly from brain cancer at 64, my father, Tom, was traumatized with grief and seemed to be on his way “out of the picture,” as he used to say of others who had died. One of my nine sisters, Kate, challenged him to get up and start living again. “Because at least you had a life before Mama, but we never did,” she reminded him. My father not only started to live again, five years later he married Dot. Between the two of them, Dot with her 12 kids, and Tom with his 14, they had 26 mostly grown children. Talk about having the horror heard!

Dot’s mantra shows how she understands people getting over the pains of life. They need to be heard. If someone is willing to listen to the horrors that befall us, it feels like we are not alone. We can bear it and even find meaning in it. As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” I believe this is one of the keys to understanding and healing the sexual abuse wounds in the church. It isn’t that people are just looking to bash the church, or that they want to wallow in victimhood. They desperately need to be heard so that the hurt can be healed in God’s way. When I experienced this phenomenon recently, Dot’s almost hokey way of describing our primal human need came back to me.

At first I had resisted the invitation. The “Circle of Healing” would be dealing with the clergy sexual abuse crisis and cover-up in the Catholic church. Even though this gathering would take place in a beautiful, sunny, comfortable living room of someone’s Victorian home in Philadelphia, I wondered what the real agenda was. I knew the facilitator who had invited me, a former member of my religious order’s novitiate class over 50 years ago, and I trusted him. But as one of perhaps only a few priests participating, would I be a target for the anger of any survivors of abuse there? Could I really listen to all of their grief on a Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? I phoned my friend and shared my fears. As a former director of the Voice of the Faithful organization, he assured me that it would be a safe process, one where all 12 participants could get in touch with the feelings we have about the crisis. This would be an opportunity for me to share my own feelings as well, but only what I felt comfortable sharing, and listen to other Catholics who have been struggling to be faithful to the church.

A few survivors of sexual abuse by priests would be present. The goal was to provide an opportunity to begin healing, not necessarily forgiveness, to whatever extent this grace came to each participant. It would even help the church as a whole, he said, in this small step of faith taken by some of its members. Yet, who heals the priests, I thought? Even though still wondering about what I would feel safe sharing or hearing, I decided to attend. It turns out that I was helped in my own healing process. First by being welcomed as a person, not so much as a priest who represents the organization in which the abuse occurred. Like everyone, I was invited to be present and speak as one who has his own unique history with the church.

As the “talking stick” was passed around, I began to feel my two-sided experience of the abuse and cover-up crisis. First, I have my own personal spiritual-sexual journey with its joys and wounds, including experiences long before I became a priest on up to the present. Second, as a priest I am in a position of authority in the church, even one of “them.” I realized that I needed to express and receive forgiveness on both of these levels, if I felt safe doing so. Surprisingly, I felt this safety, almost like I had “come home”, as each participant spoke so honestly about themselves. There was no “cross talk” after each person took a turn speaking, but I could sense in their listening the love and respect they had for each other and for me. Most of all, I discovered that I needed to hear the stories of the group’s three survivors of sexual abuse. I wanted to see their faces and to hear their pain, their sense of betrayal and anger at their church leaders, even if this was in a way that included me. Each of their faith journeys was astounding, even more their continued involvement in the church. I came away with more hope for the church. Our people are stronger in their faith than we may think.

Yet, more than my own experience of this Circle of Healing, it seems important to recount the words of one of the survivors. Jim had wept at times when he spoke, and I reconstruct what follows from conversing with him afterward. He has graciously granted me permission to publish this so it might help others. As a victim of clergy abuse, one often wonders why you were picked. Why did Father pick me? He was the assistant pastor in charge of the altar boys. Sadly, he had access to many boys. I know there were others. How many I have no idea.

One of the participants mentioned choosing vulnerable kids and I was certainly one of those. Growing up in an alcoholic family was extremely difficult. When I was 8, 9 and 10, I was often awakened by my parents arguing one floor below. It was so loud and frightening that I would hide in the bedroom closet with a pillow held over my head. I prayed to God for the fighting to stop. It never did. After a while I stopped praying. When I was 11, a group of boys were playing in a wooded area near our homes. One of the boys decided he needed to relieve himself and peed against a tree. Another boy followed. One of the boys who was there lived across the street from me. He was an only child. I don’t know what he told his mother but when I got home, I was sent to my room. When my father got home, I was beaten for almost an hour on my bare backside with a belt. I refused to admit I had peed in the woods because I had not. At one point, I remember my father saying he was going to beat the queerness out of me. I was an 11-year-old Catholic kid. I had no idea what he was talking about. It took me years to realize that the beating had nothing to do with me. My father was beating his own demons.

Less than a year later, I was molested by a Catholic priest. How did he molest me? By trumping up a false charge and spanking me on my bare backside. Coincidence? I think not. When I was in seventh grade, the priest who molested me gave a class on the birds and the bees to the boys in my class. Someone was writing four letter words on the blackboard between classes. So, they decided to have a sex talk. Father didn’t talk about pedophilia or how some people get a kick out of spanking little boys.

What can you say to this man? During the day of sharing I felt myself avoiding his glance. And yet I wanted to reach out to him, but how? A hug could be dangerous I thought, given his history. So, I sidled up at a coffee break and thanked him, yet didn’t shake his hand. This mix of feelings, a paralysis even, is what stymies the church from offering any system-wide approach to healing for our people. Anything the clergy does will be suspect. So, we hire lawyers to keep ourselves safe and it all winds up being tried in courts. But has anything really been reconciled by this? I believe that a way for the church to move forward and build trust again, possibly discover forgiveness in God’s time, is through these Circles of Healing. But this model by itself is too small, with too few able to be helped. Somehow, we’ve got to magnify this experience of healing for the church as a whole. Some brave bishops need to participate in this process. What would be crucial to be determined ahead of time is confidentiality. For example, would anything the bishops heard or said be grounds for legal claims and issues? It is daunting to even think of these issues and potential complications. But if we do nothing, we remain in the present model, most of it reduced to court cases and settlements, jail sentences, no real reconciliation, and the church locked in a “no trust” path. Surely something can be done differently. A Circle of Healing could be a start. If we are willing to listen to each other’s pain and sense of betrayal, we may begin to heal and discover our awesome ability to set each other free. Having the horror heard helps to heal the hurt.

 

ENDS

 

Pope Francis to World’s Bishops: Have Courage to Protect the Innocent — ‘Forward’- by Brian Mark Hennessy

Pope declares ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual abuse in Catholic church —  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/03/pope-declares-zero-tolerance-for-sexual-abuse-in-catholic-church

 

Pope Francis to World’s Bishops: Have Courage to Protect the Innocent

‘Forward’- by Brian Mark Hennessy

A number of news outlets have published a letter written to the Bishops of the World on 28th December 2016, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, but which has only just been released to the public by the Vatican. Pope Francis has said the Church “weeps bitterly” over minors sexually abused by priests and how such cases have been mishandled, saying it is a “sin that shames us”. It is another of the landmark homilies of Pope Francis on a range of world issues affecting children and it deserves to be repeated in full in this blog – which is dedicated to the long list of Victims of Child Sexual Abuse at the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mirfield Seminary in Yorkshire, England. In his letter, Pope Francis says that the clerical sexual abuse of minors – “is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power”. Regrettably, it is imperative that I comment that the Hierarchy of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has not heeded the words of Pope Francis on the subject of child sexual abuse in the past and continually fails to acknowledge events of sexual abuse that have been known to them for some five decades.  I anticipate that they would do so only grudgingly even if Pope Francis, through his Curia and on pain of sanctions determinedly endeavoured to coerce them to comply.

 The letter of Pope Francis sent to the Bishops of the world on

December 28, 2016, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.

Dear Brother,

Today, on the feast of the Holy Innocents, as the words of the angel to the shepherds still resound in our hearts – “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Lk 2: 10-11) – I feel the need to write to you. We do well to listen to that proclamation again and again; to hear over and over again that God is present in the midst of our people. This certainty, which we renew each year, is the source of our joy and hope. In these days we experience how the liturgy leads us to the heart of Christmas, into the Mystery which gradually draws us to the source of Christian joy.

As pastors, we are called to help foster this joy among the faithful. We are charged with protecting this joy. I ask you once again that we not let ourselves be robbed of this joy, for we can be disillusioned at times, not unreasonably, with the world around us, with the Church, or even with ourselves, and feel tempted to indulge in a certain melancholy, lacking in hope, which can lay hold of our hearts (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 83).

Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They did not indulge in words that were comforting but unrelated to reality. For them, Christmas was not a flight to fantasy, a way of hiding from the challenges and injustices of their day. On the contrary, they relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief. Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest of terms: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (2:18). It is the sobbing of mothers bewailing the death of their children in the face of Herod’s tyranny and unbridled thirst for power.

Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence. In our world – I write this with a heavy heart – we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.

To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbours, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that that sad chapter in history is still being written today. To contemplate the manger in isolation from the world around us would make Christmas into a lovely story that inspires warm feelings but robs us of the creative power of the Good News that the Incarnate Word wants to give us. The temptation is real.

Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?

Saint Joseph was the first to be charged with protecting the joy of salvation. Faced with the atrocious crimes that were taking place, Saint Joseph – the model of an obedient and loyal man – was capable of recognizing God’s voice and the mission entrusted to him by the Father. Because he was able to hear God’s voice, and was docile to his will, Joseph became more conscious of what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.

The same thing is asked of us pastors today: to be men attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and hence more sensitive to what is happening all around us. Today, with Saint Joseph as our model, we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand (cf. Mt 2:20). The courage to guard this joy from the new Herods of our time, who devour the innocence of our children. An innocence robbed from them by the oppression of illegal slave labour, prostitution and exploitation. An innocence shattered by wars and forced immigration, with the great loss that this entails. Thousands of our children have fallen into the hands of gangs, criminal organizations and merchants of death, who only devour and exploit their neediness.

To illustrate this point, there are at present 75 million children who, due to prolonged situations of emergency and crisis, have had to interrupt their education. In 2015, 68% of all persons who were victims of sexual exploitation were children. At the same time, a third of all children who have to live outside their homelands do so because forcibly displaced. We live in a world where almost half of the children who die under the age of five do so because of malnutrition. It is estimated that in 2016 there were 150 million child labourers, many of whom live in conditions of slavery. According to the most recent report presented by UNICEF, unless the world situation changes, in 2030 there will be 167 million children living in extreme poverty, 69 million children under the age of five will die between 2016 and 2030, and 16 million children will not receive basic schooling.

We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters, but also because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance”. 

Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call – the same call that Saint Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow. It is a time that challenges us as bishops to find new courage. The courage that generates processes capable of acknowledging the reality that many of our children are experiencing today, and working to ensure them the bare minimum needed so that their dignity as God’s children will not only be respected but, above all, defended.

Let us not allow them to be robbed of joy. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of joy, but guard it and nourish its growth.  May we do this with the paternal fidelity of Saint Joseph and guided by Mary, Mother of tender love, so that our own hearts may never grow hard.

 

With fraternal affection,

FRANCIS

From the Vatican, 28 December 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs