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.