ABUSE ROUND-UP FROM THE RECENT PRESS
“SNAP WRITES A LETTER TO THE BISHOP OF YAKIMA: ‘WITHDRAW!’”
(From an original Report by Dan Morris-Young is NCR – Paraphrase and additions by Brian Mark Hennessy)
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have asked, in a letter to Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson, to remove himself from “his race for chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.” (The SNAP letter to Tyson is signed by David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, and by Robert Fontana of Seattle, founder of the central Washington chapter of “Voice of the Faithful”).
SNAP charged that Tyson had “done virtually nothing to undo the damage” done by past clerical sex abusers in the Yakima diocese and those who shielded them. A diocesan official on November 11th responded that “almost without exception, our people express gratitude for the increased awareness they have gained – information that most are not receiving anywhere else” on sex abuse. In an email to NCR, Msgr. Robert Siler, Yakima chancellor and moderator of the curia, wrote: “We have beefed up our training program this past year, introducing live ‘Virtus’ abuse prevention training sessions in English and Spanish that take 2.5 to 3 hours. We have trained more than 1,000 employees and volunteers. I have personally conducted 80 percent of those training sessions.”
To some, such comments are nothing less than a smoke screen to divert attention from the matter of Bishop Tyson’s suitability for the post he seeks to gain. In a news release, SNAP says that when Tyson “publicly expressed hopes that he would ‘take immediate steps to warn Mexican families and officials about the Deacon, named Ramirez, and tell the full truth about allegations against Fr. Darrel Mitchell.” SNAP claims Tyson, in fact, did neither.
In a 2003 public letter, Tyson’s predecessor Bishop Carlos Sevilla, wrote, “Deacon Aaron Ramirez avoided prosecution by fleeing to Mexico in August 1999 and was, in July 2000, subsequently laicized (which means that, by a decree of the Pope, Aaron Ramirez is no longer in any way to be identified or function as an ordained minister of the Church).” Ramirez was accused of abuse of a 17-year-old boy in 1999. It has been reported that Ramirez became an Episcopal priest and that he was released from Episcopal ministry in 2006.
Mitchell was accused of having nude pictures of boys on his computer in 2003. In 2014, SNAP criticized Tyson “for quietly putting Mitchell, who had been suspended twice, back into parish work,”. However, according to Siler, Mitchell “was returned to ministry by Bishop Carlos Sevilla, S.J., prior to Bishop Tyson coming to the Diocese, after a recommendation to do so by the Diocesan Lay Advisory Board. Fr. Mitchell voluntarily requested an assignment outside of parish ministry, and has done stellar work as director of Calvary Cemetery in Yakima. He has been given permission to do weekend sacramental ministry by both Bishop Sevilla and Bishop Tyson, following review and approval by the Lay Advisory Board. He has served the Church well in that capacity.”
In a statement forwarded to the National Catholic Reporter, Tyson said: “I was asked by the USCCB leadership if I would be willing to be nominated for the chairmanship of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, along with Bishop (Timothy) Doherty. I agreed. I do not view Bishop Doherty (bishop of Lafayette) as an ‘opponent,’ as SNAP characterizes it, but as a fellow bishop who is deeply committed to the protection of children and youth, as am I, and I am honored to be nominated.”
In other words, Bishop Tyson did not see that his previous inaction on the issues surrounding Ramirez and Mitchell as being “wanting” in a more robust response. This is somewhat out of kilter with the ‘Key Mission Responsibilities’ of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, which states that the role to which Bishop Tyson aspires includes: “Advising the bishops on all matters related to child and youth protection and the restoring of “trust” between the bishops and the Church including a sensitivity to the impact on culturally diverse communities”.
In the event, the election did not favour Tyson and a press briefing was issued stating: “Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman-elect of the Committee on Protection of Children and Young People in a 128-86 vote over Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington”.
Well done SNAP!
“CONFUSING VATICAN ACTION IN THE CASE OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF GUAM”
(By Joshua J. McElwee National Catholic Reporter – Paraphrase and additions by Brian Mark Hennessy)
Archbishop Apuron of the Pacific Island of Guam, has been accused of having inappropriate physical contact with at least five young altar boys in the 1960s and ’70s. The allegations emerged in May when one of the boys, now 52, came forward, prompting others to do the same. The Archbishop has denied the allegations and Guam civil authorities have not charged him with any crimes. Guam’s Catholics, however, were led to expect that Apuron would undergo a canonical trial. This had been expressed to them in a letter in September that was sent to each of the island’s 26 churches. However, a new “universal law” was signed by Pope Francis last June in which it was specified that a bishop’s negligence in response to clergy sexual abuse could lead to his “removal from office” – and all mention of a canonical trial appeared to have been dropped by the Vatican. That move is now the subject of criticism from some survivors’ advocates, who said that the change did not live up to an earlier promise to create a new Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who do not act appropriately when told of allegations of abuse.
Public reaction in Guam to the Vatican’s new approach, however, suggests that the Pope will need to deliver prompt and credible enforcement from Rome if the church is to regain the laity’s confidence. Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston lawyer who played a key role in uncovering the scandal that was featured in the film “Spotlight,” told the National Catholic Reporter that “History has shown us that the Catholic Church is incapable of objectively investigating itself in clergy sexual abuse cases.”
The fact is, as most Vatican watchers will know, that the Vatican has long had the power to remove an offending diocesan prelate, but has rarely used it. A papal spokesman says that Francis’ new order is designed to broaden that power by making it easier to fire a bishop, particularly “when there is negligence in cases of sexual abuse.” The order stresses that any accused bishop will be entitled to defend himself, but that the Pope will exercise the ultimate judgment in investigations. Some say that it is encouraging that Pope Francis is using his authority to push the Vatican machinery to act. Nevertheless, the church faithful will be watching to see whether diocesan leaders will ever be made answerable for their part in sexual abuse itself or in allowing the sexual abuse of children to continue when much of it could have been stopped.
The parishioners of the Dioceses of Guam, meanwhile, have been watching and waiting anxiously and the Guam civil authorities have taken the precaution to revoke the statute of limitations on hearing such allegations. The latest news at the beginning of November is somewhat of a surprise to many for it now appears that Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, whom Pope Francis appointed in June to step-in over Archbishop Anthony Apuron, has informed reporters that all the conditions for a “trial” have now been put in place. “I’m going to receive some news, some updates later,” said Hon, who has been serving as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator while also remaining the second-in-command of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Archbishop also reported that the “Holy Father has expressly granted His Excellency Msgr. Byrnes all the faculties, rights and obligations of the Archbishop of Agana, civilly and ecclesiastically without any exception. In other words, as coadjutor archbishop, Msgr. Byrnes has the complete right of responsibility over everything concerning the archdiocese,” said Hon.
One way or another, it seems that Archbishop Apuron is on his way out – but will it be in the form of a “dishonorable discharge” or by sentence of a Canonical Court ratified by the Commander in Chief, Pope Francis? We wait with baited breath! Nevertheless, the fate of Apuron may not end the controversy in the Island of Guam, for other members of the Guam clergy have also been publicly accused of molesting altar boys and boy scouts, including the Rev. Louis Brouillard and the late Rev. Antonio Cruz. The alleged abuses happened in the 1950s and 1970s and are yet to be resolved by the Vatican. When you turn over a stone, you never know what lies beneath!
One thing that is certain to survive in the memory of onlookers if Apuron is found guilty of sexually abusing boys, however he is sidelined in the future, will be his abject hypocrisy. This was demonstrated by his stark and controversial comment: “Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior by death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice”.
Quite what the World’s LGBT communities will make of that from out of the mouth of one credibly accused of seriously abusing young boys I cannot imagine!
“EXACTLY WHAT IS CARDINAL PELL ACCUSED OF?”
(Credits are due to the “National Catholic Reporter”, “Crux”, “Australian Broadcasting Corporation” and the “L’Osservatore Romano” as paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy)
Cardinal George Pell, the de facto treasurer of the Vatican and Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, is being investigated, as most readers will know, in connection with multiple allegations of child sexual assault that date back four decades. A top Australian police official, Graham Ashton, chief police commissioner of the Australian state of Victoria, has confirmed a report by the government-run Australian Broadcasting Corporation which stated that detectives were investigating and had submitted an account of the allegations against Cardinal Pell to Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions. “We investigated and are still investigating,” Mr. Ashton said in an interview with the radio station 3AW in Melbourne, when asked about the inquiry. Earlier, the police had refused to indicate whether the Cardinal was the subject of the investigation, which the ABC had reported. However, in an email, the police said, “Detectives are investigating allegations of historical sexual assaults committed in Ballarat East between 1976 and 1980 and East Melbourne between 1996 and 2001.” The email added: “A brief of evidence has been prepared and presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice. Once the advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions is received it will be reviewed. However, as with any investigation, it remains a decision for the Victoria police as to whether charges will be laid.”
Cardinal Pell, now aged 75, was elevated to his current rank of Cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. Following his summons to the Vatican, he became the Catholic Church’s Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. His financial acumen on behalf of the Australian Catholic Church was spotted by Pope Francis following his accession and Cardinal Pell was later entrusted by Pope Francis with improving the Holy See’s financial planning, auditing and reporting. In the process, financial functions, previously conducted by other arms of the Holy See, were ceded to Cardinal Pell.
In 2013, Australia established a Royal Commission to conduct an investigation into matters of “great national importance” ie: sexual abuse of children within institutions. As archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, Cardinal Pell co-ordinated the response by the church in the city to allegations of child sexual abuse. Later in 2012, he complained that the news media had begun a campaign against the Catholic Church and since then he has had to answer questions continually about abuse allegations before both the Royal Commission and a Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry. In 2014, he apologized to a former altar boy who was abused by a priest, and he has also said that victims of abuse have the right to sue the church. When questioned in Rome recently in a live television interview regarding his actions in relation to his management of Child Sexual Abuse as a bishop and archbishop he appeared to demonstrate historical, naïve unconcern and disregard of matters relating to child abuse. The result was that the international press poured scorn upon his faltering submissions and responses to the Inquiry.
It is of note that having been appointed as the “Vatican’s Banker”, Cardinal Pell took over many responsibilities for financial affairs from other Departments of the Vatican – notably from the Vatican Secretary of State. Following accusations against Cardinal Pell of a failure to deal adequately with reports of child abuse, that situation has been reversed by Pope Francis who has issued a legal edict, delineating new divisions of responsibility between the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (under the control of the Vatican Secretary of State) and the Secretariat of the Economy run by Cardinal Pell. According to John L Allen Jnr, a “Vatican Watcher” writing for “Crux”, “There are many ways of analyzing the fault lines in the Vatican, but perhaps the most time-honored is the tension between an Italian old guard and pretty much everybody else. By conventional political logic, the Pope’s new legal edict saw the Italians notch a fairly big win over the New World Cardinal Pell”.
No meaningful explanation, however, has been given by the Vatican for this reversal in the portfolio of Cardinal Pell, but the timing of it shortly after Cardinal Pell was publicly questioned by the Australian Inquiry into allegations of child abuse in the Catholic Church is curious. If the Vatican wanted to be protective of Cardinal Pell they would surely have left things at the level of the “status quo” until the Inquiry had concluded its investigations. Pulling the rug out from under the feet of Cardinal Pell at such a sensitive moment in the proceedings does nothing to suggest that they have confidence in any positive outcome for Cardinal Pell in the Commission’s eventual findings. We will have to wait and see before we can judge, but we cannot help wondering if the Vatican has seen already what is written in the writings on the proverbial wall.
So, what is it that Cardinal Pell himself has actually been accused of – apart from the mismanagement of allegation of child sexual abuse by subordinate clergy in Australia? Well, Cardinal Pell was born and grew up in Ballarat, a Victorian country town. After being ordained as a priest, he began work in his hometown area, best known as a center for gold mining in the 1850s. The “ABC” network reported that two men have said that Cardinal Pell sexually abused them at a swimming pool in Ballarat in the 1970s. “Ballarat”, if you recall from the text above, is where the current investigations by the Australian Police are concentrated. Moreover, one of the accusers Lyndon Monument, has mention Cardinal Pell by name. He told the ABC broadcaster. “I didn’t like it, but because it was the church (and) he was George Pell, we just weren’t game ever to say anything.”
In a statement to the ABC, the cardinal’s office denied the allegations. “Claims he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong,” the statement said. The details of the evidence have not been fully published, but one thing is certain in the world of today that was less than certain historically – is that evidence put forward by Victims alleging historical child sexual abuse is more likely to be given the most serious and grave of considerations today – and believed – than it was in the past. Gone are the days when a white collar around a cleric’s neck would be considered to be the emblem of sacrosanct and impeccable Godly righteousness that it once was. If Cardinal Pell does have anything to hide, he needs to start concocting his letter of resignation now. It may be, of course, that the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – or indeed the Vatican Secretary of State, on behalf of Pope Francis, has already sent him, just in case he needs it, a draft for consideration!