Francis Defends Chilean Bishop Accused Of Abuse Cover-up by Joshua J. McElwee

Francis Defends Chilean Bishop Accused Of Abuse Cover-up

by Joshua J. McElwee
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

On his visit to the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Pope Francis was confronted with people holding banners reading “Neither lefties nor fools” – “Osorno Suffers” – “Bishop Barros, Accessory After The Fact,”

Pope Francis defended his 2015 appointment of a Chilean bishop accused of covering-up sexual abuse perpetrated by a fellow priest in the 1980s and ’90s, calling the charges against the prelate “calumny.” Questioned Jan. 18 by reporters at the beginning of an open-air Mass in Iquique about Osorno, Chile, Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, accused of not reporting Fr. Fernando Karadima, the pope said: “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him,” Francis insisted. “It is calumny. Is that clear?”

At least one of Karadima’s victims has said Barros witnessed Karadima’s actions. Juan Carlos Cruz has said the future bishop watched as Karadima abused him, which Barros has denied. Another Karadima victim told NCR Francis’ words Jan. 18 appear to go in the “opposite direction” of a meeting the pope held with Chilean clergy abuse victims. José Andrés Murillo said he wanted to ask Francis why he has met with Barros and not the survivors who accuse him of covering up. “I would just wonder why the pope is receiving Barros and he’s not receiving us to receive our testimony, our experience,” said Murillo, executive director of the Chilean foundation Para la Confianza, which helps survivors of sexual abuse. “If he’s defending Barros publicly he should receive us privately to know our experience and what we have to say,” Murillo continued. “Maybe he would like to hear something.”

Francis has been visiting Chile Jan. 15-18 before continuing on to northern neighbor Peru through Jan. 22. Barros served as the head of Chile’s military diocese until Francis moved him to Osorno in 2015. The Vatican sentenced Karadima to a life of prayer and penance in 2011, although the priest has denied the numerous allegations against him. New revelations about Francis’ awareness of claims that Barros protected Karadima came Jan. 12, with the leak of a previously unknown letter the pope had written to the Chilean bishops’ conference in 2015, acknowledging that the bishop was controversial. Francis has previously defended his appointment of Barros. Captured on video speaking to a Chilean in the crowd at a May 2015 general audience at the Vatican, the pope said people were judging Barros “without any evidence” and even said the allegations against the bishop were being orchestrated by “lefties.”
The pope has faced protest about Barros on each of his days in Chile. Protestors at a Jan. 17 Mass referenced the pope’s 2015 defense of the prelate, holding a sign that read: “Not lefties, nor fools, Osorno suffers. Bishop Barros covered up.”

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Barry Bennell ‘Was God’, Says Alleged Sexual Abuse Victim

Man tells court Bennell gave Manchester City youth players football kit to win them over
A Guardian Article by Daniel Taylor

Barry Bennell was regarded as “God” at Manchester City during the years when he was sexually abusing boys who had dreams of becoming professional footballers, a jury has heard. On the fifth day of Bennell’s trial at Liverpool crown court, where he is facing 48 charges relating to 11 boys from 1979 to 1991, one of the alleged victims said he could no longer go back to his home town because there were too many bad memories from his time in City’s junior system in the 1980s.

Now in his 40s, the former player is the fourth man to give evidence who was once affiliated to the club. He told the jury that Bennell had convinced him he would become a professional footballer. “We idolised him. He was God. This man was showing me how to do things with a football I’d never seen before.
“Barry took me to Maine Road, Manchester City’s ground at the time, and the Platt Lane training ground. I met some players. I met the chairman at the time. At that age, I was in awe around all these stars. It was brilliant. I was being told that when I was a certain age I’d sign schoolboy forms and had a career ahead of me. “I thought, ‘this is it, I’ve made my dreams, I’m going to be a footballer’, as everyone wants to be at that age. At Maine Road, he was God – from the security lads at the players’ entrance up to (the top of the club). He made you feel special.”

In a police interview shown to the jury, the alleged victim said Bennell drove a car in City’s colours and gave boys designer sportswear – “stuff you saw professional players wearing” – to help win them over. “He might give you a pair of football boots and say: ‘These are for you but later on you have to be good to me.’ “Barry said to me he was going to see me all right, make sure I got a contract at Manchester City, a big house, a nice car. He said he’d been good to me, so I had to be good to him. I thought he meant I had to play well.” Instead, he said there were around 10 occasions when Bennell made him perform a sex act on him, leaving him so traumatised he gave up football a year later and “went off the rails”.

Bennell, who has served prison sentences in England and the United States for abusing children, denies all the charges, but has pleaded guilty to seven counts relating to three other junior players. Earlier, the court was told Bennell had a separate coaching job at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Pwllheli, Wales.. He had been invited to work there because of his role at Manchester City and his ability to involve first-team players. Another of his alleged victims, also from City’s youth set-up, had met a girlfriend at Butlin’s. According to that player’s evidence, Bennell had disliked that so much that he “humiliated” him by excluding him from the team and by playing him as a goalkeeper.

Bennell, who also coached at Crewe Alexandra and Stoke City, said in police interviews he was attracted to the boy and had put him through “my usual procedure” of grooming. “I thought I was quite good at what I did,” he later said, but never followed it up because he had been unable to arouse him and “couldn’t get past the first stage”. That, he said, had been a “complete turn-off” and “a bit of a shock”. (The trial continues).

ANNOUNCEMENT:
The Comboni Survivor Group Denounce all forms of Child Abuse, whatever its nature, wherever it takes place and by whomever it is committed. Child Sexual Abuse is a crime. Justice must prevail.

Church In India Prepares Policy To Address Clergy Abuse

Church In India Prepares Policy To Address Clergy Abuse

A Global Sisters Report, GSR, by Jose Kavi

Jose Kavi is the editor-in-chief of Matters India, a news portal focusing on religious and social issues in India.
This article is part of a collaboration between GSR and Matters India.

Two top bodies of the Catholic church in India are now busy finalizing a policy to address sex abuse and other forms of abuse by clergy. “A draft policy is in the final stage now. It has been circulated among all bishops and major superiors in India,” says Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. Mascarenhas, who in July also became spokesperson for the church in India, says the standing committee, the executive body of the bishops conference, will finalize the draft at its biannual meeting Sept. 21-23 in Bangalore, southern India.

The bishop spoke to Global Sisters Report following a June 24 story citing an increase in cases of clergy sex abuse of women religious, withholding sacraments as punishment and otherwise denying rights to nuns. The issues were detailed in a “letter of concern” that the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for women religious, addressed to the bishops and major superiors in February. Also in February, Mascarenhas was elected secretary general of the bishops conference. Mascarenhas says the new policy, tentatively titled “policy on sexual harassment in work places,” will address all such issues systematically and comprehensively. He clarifies that the new draft is different from the “Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India” the conference promulgated in 2010. (The 2010 gender policy did not specifically address sexual abuse by clergy.) “This is a more structured response to the problem.”However, he declines to say more on the draft. “It is better we wait for the draft to be finalized.” He says the policy will deal with abuse of women in general, not just Catholic religious women. “Sisters are also women,” he says.

Besides the forum’s concerns, the GSR report included insights from Catholic clergy, theologians and women religious. Emails and posted comments by sisters and their supporters soon afterward reflected approval that the clergy abuse issue was coming to light.Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad told GSR that the article “was very well done” and addressed the issue comprehensively. “There is exploitation. Covering up such issues is not right. It was quite bold to bring it up,” said the Syro-Malabar prelate whose diocese covers five northern Indian states. Forum members said they were forced to write the letter as their analysis of current challenges to religious life revealed certain issues that need urgent attention by church leaders. The forum’s letter cites:

• An increase in sex abuse cases involving clergy and religious.
• “Use of the sacraments by the clerics to punish the faithful, especially religious women,” demanding an immediate end to such practices.
• Attempts to “domesticate” religious life by giving a bishop “total control” over priests and nuns in his diocese. The letter holds that such moves violate “the very nature and role of religious life,” where men and women try to exemplify “radical evangelical living” in a prophetic way.
• The need to protect and sustain the “legitimate autonomy” of religious life.

The new policy draft has been prepared by the bishops conference’s Office for Women in consultation with a committee comprising bishops and officials of the Conference of Religious India, the national association of major superiors of Catholic religious in the country. The committee meets every six months to address various issues related to the church and the religious. The bishops conference comprises bishops in 171 dioceses belonging to Latin and the two Oriental Catholic ritual churches in India. The conference of religious represents more than 125,000 Catholic men and women religious in the country, the largest in Asia. Mascarenhas stresses that it is wrong to conclude the lack of a policy thus far means that bishops are not concerned about the problem. “Bishops are concerned about anything that is affecting the church,” he says. The 55-year-old prelate wants aggrieved parties to meet church authorities personally to seek justice, instead of writing letters. “In most cases what happens is between two persons, with one accusing the other. At times it becomes very complicated as there are no witnesses. “He says there are two ways to address an issue in the church. “One is to go to the press and the other is to treat it as a justice issue and deal with it accordingly,” says the prelate, who is a member of the Society of the Missionaries of Saint Francis Xavier, or Pilar Fathers, an indigenous congregation. He was made a bishop two years ago, when he returned to India after 21 years of service in the Vatican office of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Regarding priests witholding sacraments to penalize nuns, Mascarenhas says the canon law says such priests should be excommunicated. The new policy is the second attempt of the Indian church to address sex abuse cases, including those involving Catholic priests, women and children. The issue of sex abuse in the church was on the agenda of the meetings between the bishops and major superiors for years, says Montfort Brother Mani Mekkunnel, who was national secretary of the Indian religious conference for nine years until 2013.He told GSR that, during his tenure, the two groups had gathered much material, held several consultations and that a draft on some areas of agreement had reached the second stage. “The purpose of this long and agonizing effort was the hope of reducing all cases of abuse by 50 percent and to do justice in some cases of violation.” However, the effort was “effectively checkmated by interested parties within the church” in India, says the brother who now coordinates his congregation’s education apostolate globally based in New Delhi.

The draft policy was shelved with the excuse that the Vatican had issued norms in 2010 to deal with the issue. But Mekkunnel says the Vatican norms and the Indian church’s draft policy differed greatly. “The Vatican norms addressed mostly problems in the West whereas our policy was geared to deal with the local situation.” The brother says their intention was to set up some mechanism for the Indian church to deal with the overall sex abuse issue. In Geneva in 2014, Vatican officials were questioned by the U.N. for not having an effective mechanism to deal with child sexual abuse cases. Mekkunnel says the church in India may not be able to eliminate the problem, but it can reduce the number of cases if it has a mechanism to deal with it. “Someone has to be accountable for such cases,” he adds. Their aborted policy had called for setting up an ad hoc committee to study a complaint a bishop or major superior receives. “If it finds that there is truth in the complaint, the matter will be referred to the Holy See, which will set up an official committee to go deep into the case,” he explains.

The brother says most cases of clergy abuse of sisters do not involve rape. “By and large they are consensual cases that end up in quarrels,” he says. However, Sr. Manju Kulapuram, secretary of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, says it is not right to dismiss clergy abuse of nuns as “consensual” cases. Nuns are not on equal terms with priests, she says, and some may have agreed to physical relationships under pressure.

Kulapuram says a clearer picture could emerge at a national consultation on the “Impact of Religion and Culture on Women’s Empowerment — an Indian Perspective” to be held Sept. 23-26 in Hyderabad, India. The meeting is expected to draw women from different religious backgrounds “to raise a common voice to demand rights within religions and the state,” an invitation to the program reads. Isaac Gomes, a lay leader from Kolkata, commented on the Matters India website, where the June 24 GSR story was shared. “The good thing is that there are many brave young nuns who are not taking the hegemony of the clergy (passively) and are coming out in the open about clergy abuse of nuns in parishes, schools and social service centers where nuns work as subordinates to priests,” he says.
Mekkunnel says the issue of clergy abuse is “much larger and deeper than” incidents the church addresses now and then. “I have dealt with many incidents and got frustrated in the absence of a credible process and authentic leaders. I know this is the case of many well intentioned leaders among major superiors and bishops.” The former conference of religious official welcomed the forum’s efforts to keep alive the issue of clergy abuse against all odds. “Many battles have to be fought in order to win a war,” he says.

Abuse Victims Seeking Compensation Told Catholic Church Would Endure Long After They Were Dead

Abuse Victims Seeking Compensation Told Catholic Church Would Endure Long After They Were Dead

An Australian ‘Victoria News’ article by Jane Lee

Ballarat’s Bishop Paul Bird told survivors seeking compensation that the Catholic Church would endure long after victims died and were forgotten, the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has heard.
Survivor Andrew Collins, 46, told the commission on Thursday that he met with Bishop Bird in May 2013 with fellow survivor Peter Blenkiron asking for financial compensation to help other survivors “even if it was just to help them survive the week” to help survivors who can no longer work to afford things like counselling and basic household bills. Mr Collins said they asked Bishop Bird to pay the $252 difference between the disability pension and the pension paid to returned servicemen. “We knew that some of the guys were just in so much difficulty and struggling to pay for things like medication,” he said.
“Bishop Bird told us that if the church had to pay that amount to every survivor, the church would go bankrupt and that we were intent on destroying his church. He said ‘Andrew, you need to understand something, the church has endured for thousands of years and in another 40 years or so, you people will all be dead and all this will be forgotten about and the church will endure for thousands of years more’.”
The Diocese of Ballarat later started paying some medical expenses of some survivors, Mr Colins said. “As far as I am aware, they are the only diocese in Australia doing so.” Bishop Bird invited Catholics to pray for survivors giving evidence before the royal commission in a public letter to all parishes days before the Ballarat hearing began. “We pray that they will be able to continue the journey and find peace and hope for the future,” the bishop said in the letter, which was also distributed to media. He said he hoped the commission would “provide an opportunity for people to have their voices heard”.
Peter Gray, SC, for church witnesses including Bishop Bird, declined to cross-examine Mr Collins when he finished his testimony on Thursday, in line with the church’s position not to “out of respect for the survivor witnesses”. Mr Collins told the commission of how his family refused to believe he had been abused, and shunned him after he went public about the way he was raped by priests and Christian Brothers since he was in grade four. His father had said his mother would let him “be part of the family again” if he published a letter saying he had “made everything up and none of the abuse had happened” in a local paper. “I’ve literally lost my whole family to this … They don’t even talk to my family and children.”

Mr Collins had attempted to take his own life a number of times and his marriage had previously almost broken down. Reports have said he will never work again, or if he does, only in a part-time repetitive job. But he counted himself lucky because he was eligible for Work Cover and income insurance unlike others who relied on a lower disability pension. Most days his brain “just does not work” and he often struggled to get out of bed: “I never know which day is going to be a bad day.” Mr Collins will continue giving evidence to the commission next week, when Bishop Bird is also expected to be called as a witness.

Christ Statue in Peru Damaged By Fire Days Before Pope Visit

Christ Statue in Peru Damaged By Fire Days Before Pope Visit
An abridged and adapted Article of the Associated Press original

A giant Christ statue in Peru’s capital that was donated by a construction company at the center of Latin America’s largest corruption scandal was damaged Saturday in a fire, days before Pope Francis is set to arrive in the South American nation. Peruvians awoke to find nearly the entire back of the statue, perched on a barren desert bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, charred black. A spokesperson with Peru’s firefighting corps told said that two dozen firefighters responded to the blaze and that an early working theory was the “Christ of the Pacific” was purposely set aflame.

The Christ statue’s burning comes five days before Francis is scheduled to arrive in Peru.
The pope has hoped to highlight the need to protect the Amazon rainforest during his visit, but Peruvians will be paying close attention to whether he addresses corruption. It’s an issue close to his heart, and he has called graft more insidious than sin and a plague that hurts the poorest the most. The statue cost about $1 million, Odebrecht said in 2011.
Alan Garcia, whose second stint as Peru’s president ran from 2006 to 2011 and who’s under preliminary investigation into whether he took Odebrecht bribes, has said he contributed about $30,000 out of his own pocket for its construction. “I want it to be a figure that blesses Peru,” Garcia said at the time. Francis will arrive first in Chile on Monday. Authorities there are on guard after several Roman Catholic churches in the capital, Santiago, were firebombed with pamphlets left at one scene threatening the pontiff: “The next bombs will be in your cassock.” The pamphlets also extolled the cause of the Mapuche indigenous people, who are pushing for a return of ancestral lands and other rights.

Some regard the burning of the statue as a bad omen. Others attribute it to the unpopularity of the Catholic Church by the many social, political and religious factions in South America. The clerical sexual abuse issue has turned many once devoted Catholics into a vociferous opposition to their priest and Bishops. That is now being directed at both the Vatican – which has known about much of the abuse and which did nothing. The Pope’s visit has culminated in much of the anger being directed at the Pope.