A Response to Ed Condon’s Catholic Herald Article: Entitled:
“Pope Francis’s Defence Of Bishop Barros Is A Rare Media Blunder”
By Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group (CSG)
If Catholics truly believe that the subject of clerical sexual abuse is receding from the spotlight – then they are hopelessly wrong. They are in for a shock when the full extent of both the depravity and the cover up by Bishops and the leaders of Religious Institutions eventually becomes known. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has admitted that it has some 2000 cases of clerical child sexual abuse awaiting attention. Quite how many it is dealing with is actually unknown.
One case I could describe fully was documented by the Comboni CSA Survivor Group. It is 177 pages long and relates to an estimated 1000 acts of sexual abuse of UK child and teen seminarians – each incident a crime in its own right. Some 25 seminarians have reported abuse by seven members of the staff in the period from the late 1950’s to the early 80’s – albeit the document does not include all of those cases and nor all of the clerics involved. A copy of the document was forwarded to over 1000 members of the Comboni Missionary Order three years ago. There was no response from anyone in the Order’s hierarchy. However, three priests of the Order did respond. Two said it was all lies, but eventually admitted they had not read it. One, an old Italian priest of the Order contacted me and said that he could not understand English very well, but had sat down and read the report from cover to cover over a period of three hours – and he told me, “he felt ashamed.” After a year of inaction by the Comboni Missionary Order, which had remained silent on the case and refused all dialogue with the Survivors, I sought the assistance of Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Two years ago to this very day, as it so happens, he took a copy to Rome by hand and delivered it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. There has been no response whatsoever from the Vatican.
The number of outstanding and as yet unrevealed cases of child sexual abuse by clerics of the Catholic Church means that these issues will be in the public arena for many many years to come. Yet, the Vatican stalls, fails to provide the resources in terms of legal experts, money, accommodation and administrative personnel to deal with the scale of the problem – and leaves survivors in the dark. No investigations which include survivors appear to take place. No legal framework appears to exist. It seems that they have closed their ears, eyes, minds and hearts and are just waiting for the Survivors to die. Presumably the files will then be carted off to the Sistine Chapel as kindling for the next Papal election.
Famously Marie Collins resigned over the failure to provide even the most fundamental of courtesies to Survivors. All that is needed is a letter saying simply, “Thank you for your correspondence which we promise to attend to as soon as we are able. We deeply regret the distress you have suffered as a result of the events you have described. We will update you from time to time on progress and will appoint a contact in your Diocesan Area who will be able to keep you informed and provide you with any additional assistance you may need etc etc etc….”
Sometimes I think to myself – I will give the Vatican a hand and answer the letters for them. It’s an open offer and they will not even have to pay me! If they understood even a farthing’s worth of what is going on in the hearts, minds and souls of the Victims of clerical sexual abuse – which includes a devastatingly destructive element of betrayal – then the Vatican would understand, but their only concerns are their reputation, loss of face and the welfare of the criminals that they protect. That is not a picture of a “moral” Church, but a redundant Church – and statistics of Church attendance demonstrate it.
US Catholic church attendance is now only 21%. Latin American Catholics were 92% of total population in 1970, but have reduced to 59% today and are headed to 39% by 2030. The rate of decline in the UK is such that if the decrease continues at the same pace there will not be a single Catholic priest or worshipper in the land in a hundred years time. The same effect is felt all the way across Europe. The overall result is that the “Eternal, Universal Roman Catholic Church” is destined to be a minority world religion and confined to the Continent of Africa. If that is what the Pope and the Roman Curia wish for –then just carry on doing what you are doing now!