A RESPONSE TO AN EDITORIAL BY REV MATTHEW F MALONE SJ, PRESIDENT & EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE JESUIT PUBLICATION ’AMERICA MEDIA’.
US Catholics should not think that CSA abuses on the scale unearthed in America are unusual. In many respects you are blessed with the scale of abuse being out in the open. It means that you can now start to deal with it. In many countries it remains hidden – which means that children remain at great risk. In the UK in just one junior seminary run by the Italian Comboni Missionary Order allegations of 1000 sexual abuses against UK child seminarians by clerics of that Order were documented and handed in by Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, (after much badgering) to CDF by hand almost three years ago. There has not yet been a response from CDF. The recent Australian Inquiry and the Irish Tusla Inquiry also reveealed large scale abuses – and the effects of these are still ricocheting throughout those countries.
Again in UK, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has revealed large scale child abuse in schools run by the Benedictines – and a Scottish Inquiry is about to investigate the abuse at the Benedictine School of Fort Augustus. Thousands of Catholic orphanages throughout the world have not yet been routinely investigated and in countries like Italy and the Philippines little attempt has been made to understand the scale of child sexual abuse – but inevitably, in due course, it will be fully revealed.
Much has been reported in recent months about abuse by National and International Aid Agency workers in the developing world. There is serious cause for concern that Catholic Missionaries have also been committing CSA abuses in their Missions. Little has yet been revealed about that, but it is known that the Comboni Missionary Order in the past (if not now) routinely sent clerics accused of CSA crimes in the UK to African Missions. One was sent to a Mission where he established a school and another was placed in charge of the Ugandan Boy Scout Movement. (A third was sent to Italy to a parish).
Now that the USA ‘s scale of abuse is, at least, partially revealed you can start the process of reform. The key will be a compulsion by Hierarchs to take positive action to investigate, report and dismiss abusive clerics in short order.
The Vatican must gear itself up to establish clear procedures and it must review the actions of local church hierarchs to ensure compliance with the Canons and rules. The responsible Curia Congregations must also ensure the standardisation of administrative & judicial procedures and worldwide responses for both diocesan and Religious clergy. Inspections of failing Diocesan and Religious Orders and Institutes by a central Curia body would also assist in establishing conformity.
Of course, it is not only children who have been abused. A report was undertaken in Africa some years ago of the clerical abuse of nuns. Despite opposition by African Bishops the report was handed in to the Vatican – who took no action. The issue has again been raised in recent months.
Additionally, the plight of the offspring of male clerics who engaged in both consensual and non-consensual sexual relations with women has also been raised and that, at least, has received some attention and attempts at a solution – but it must be monitored and followed up to ensure compliance and uniformity of action.
All these events have been common, but hidden, throughout history and they must be fully confronted now. It is curious that it is within the English speaking countries of the world that most of the abuse has been or is now being investigated: the USA, Australia, England and Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland – and shortly New Zealand. Our common language and cultural heritage can be a factor in both dissemination of information and the creation of the norms of clerical behaviour and administrative processes that are urgently needed now and into the future.
The experience garnered by Hans Zollner SJ, Vice Rector of the Institute of Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome since 2010 and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since its creation in 2014 would be crucial to the success of such a process. The opportunity to learn from each other and to standardise processes and methodologies must not be lost. It cannot be stated emphatically enough that the future of the Catholic Church depends on concerted international, dynamic and thorough action now.
Most importantly, the children of the world depend on us now for their safety and an un-blighted future.
Brian Mark Hennessy
A Survivor of abuse by clerics of the Italian Comboni Missionary Order – who have yet to apologise and commit to dialogue with Victim Survivors of abuse by their clerics.
Twitter: @ArakapasHash @comboni_abuse
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England.