Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s Cover-up of Child Abusers Must be a Lesson to the Catholic Church by Keith Porteous Wood

Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s Cover-up of Child Abusers Must be a Lesson to the Catholic Church

by: Keith PorteousWood

Note: This Article by Keith Porteous Wood first appeared in Conatus News and was later posted in the National Secular Society’s publication “Newsline” on the 8th September 2017. Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, died on 1 September. National Secular Society executive director Keith Porteous Wood seeks to set the historical record straight with this alternative obituary below. However, the views expressed in the article below by Keith Porteous Wood are those of himself, the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of this Blog entitled – “Comboni Missionaries – A Childhood in their Hands”
______________________________________________________________________________________

The death of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has understandably resulted in obituaries lauding his achievements as a Prince of the Catholic Church. But we are pleased that few ignore entirely the Cardinal’s involvement in one of the most scandalous child abuse cover-ups this country has seen. I don’t doubt for a moment that Cardinal Murphy O’Connor did some good in his life, but there was another side to his story that should not be forgotten – a side that resulted in pain and suffering for many children. And the ruthless campaign by the Church to repress the details of the Cardinal’s many errors and misjudgements, and worse.
Despite the image of a genial old buffer that the Cardinal liked to project, it did not stop him, in 2006, from sacking his talented press secretary, a lay position, simply because he was “openly gay”. And O’Connor was “firmly against the repeal of Clause 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools”, a repressive and vindictive measure now regarded with embarrassment. This, despite the prevalence of gay men in the priesthood.

Those with long memories will also remember that, following complaints from parents, O’Connor, when Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, moved a known serial practising paedophile cleric, Michael Hill, from unsuspecting parish to unsuspecting parish. If O’Connor’s objective had been to reward Hill by affording him the greatest possible opportunities to prey on an almost unlimited supply of vulnerable unaccompanied juveniles, some of them thousands of miles from their parents, he could have done no better than appoint Hill as Catholic chaplain at Gatwick Airport. Yet this is exactly what O’Connor did, despite his knowledge of Hill’s repeat offending and psychiatric reports that Hill was likely to re-offend. Needless to say, O’Connor never shared what he knew about Hill’s criminal abusive activities with the police, contributing directly to Hill’s ability to continue his orgy of abuse unhindered. Hill was eventually convicted and jailed in two separate trials for abusing a boy with learning difficulties at the Airport, as well as eight other boys. Ten further charges unaccountably “remain on file”. To his dying day, the best Murphy O’Connor could do in his mea culpa on Hill was to say his response was “inadequate but not irresponsible”. Not much consolation to the victims and their families. Nor will have been the self-righteous indignation of his pitiful response to criticism: “Inevitably mistakes have been made in the past; but not for want of trying to take the right and best course of action.”

Richard Scorer, abuse lawyer and NSS director, examined the Hill saga exhaustively in his book Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis and demonstrated beyond doubt that O’Connor’s claims about Michael Hill were completely baseless. And, so predictably, O’Connor’s affable mask slipped again and he got pretty vicious when the media started asking what were, to his mind, too many questions and getting too close to the uncomfortable truth. It is an open secret that the BBC was muzzled from pursuing its investigative work on O’Connor by top-level representations made by O’Connor.

Few if any others than O’Connor could have managed to intimidate the BBC into silence, yet having done so, O’Connor still had the gall to claim that there was an anti-Catholic bias in the media. He wrote: “Many others feel deeply concerned by the apparently relentless attack by parts of the media on their faith and on the church in which they continue to believe.” That old trick so well practised by the Catholic hierarchy: portraying itself as the victim. That would all be shocking enough, yet there is credible speculation that the Hill saga could have been just the visible tip of the iceberg. A 2012/3 report by the group Stop Church Sexual Abuse has speculated that: “[Anglican] clergy … seem to have worked together with priests from [O’Connor’s] Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton … to abuse children. Reports include that of a Catholic priest who had multiple reports for alleged child sex offences and who was moved by the Catholic Bishop [O’Connor] over to the CoE diocese of Chichester and became an Anglican Minister.

“The relationship between the [Catholic] Diocese of Arundel and Brighton [O’Connor’s] and [the Anglican one of] Chichester [in which Peter Ball, mentioned below, ministered] has been historically close. In the 1980s Bishops Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Peter Ball [not imprisoned until 2015 on multiple counts of sexual abuse committed over twenty years earlier] were close friends and it is now [claimed] that both sat on multiple reports of child sexual abuse by clergy and did nothing to protect children from further abuse. “In total upwards of 17 Anglican and 19 Catholic clergy have been reported to have abused children up to the late 1990s within these Dioceses. Most lived and/or worked within one small geographic area which adds to the concern that there [may have been] a network of sex offenders shoaling for victims within church communities, schools, cathedrals, youth groups and scouting groups.” (See also Addendum by Brian Mark Hennessy below)
Even the Daily Telegraph reported police investigations into “claims that O’Connor hampered Hill’s prosecution” and if the claims above are correct about O’Connor’s close friendship and nefarious collaboration with the devious and mendacious Peter Ball, who escaped justice for decades, this does not seem in the least far-fetched. At least, however, O’Connor is still indelibly connected in the public’s mind with the disgraceful Michael Hill saga, having been widely reported including in The Times, with severe criticisms including “Victims’ groups demanded his resignation in 2002”.

The Church could not but have known very much more. But the process of rewriting history is no doubt in full progress. Does it not however speak volumes about the Pope and Catholic Church that, given all the above, they chose, out of all the possible candidates, “His Eminence Cardinal” Cormac Murphy O’Connor to be a cardinal, to be the most senior Catholic in England and Wales, to be Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, and to be the Pope’s Apostolic Visitor to investigate clerical child abuse in the Archdiocese of Armagh? But maybe we should not be surprised. The Pope tellingly did not strip O’Connor’s fellow Cardinal in Scotland, Keith O’Brien, of his cardinal’s biretta for abusing his rank with decades of predatory sexual sackable offence.

It seems from the Gibb Report into disgraced former Bishop Ball that Sussex police appear to have done a workman-like job on abuse in the Anglican diocese. I would have suggested that the Sussex Police now turn their attention to the Catholic diocese, but unfortunately the CPS told them in 2003 to abandon the investigation whilst refusing to explain why. Hopefully this was not because of O’Connor’s clerical rank, just like the Cof E’s Report suggested Peter Ball’s cleric rank was the reason he escaped justice in 1993.
_________________________________________________________________________________

ADDENDUM

Comments related to the above article by Brian Mark Hennessy:

From the 1960s to the 1990s the Chichester had some of the worst examples of child sexual abuse committed by priests. The numbers and the scope of the phenomenon were truly outstanding. Canon Gordon Ridout who was the Vicar of All Saints in Eastbourne was jailed for 10 years for 36 separate offences on 16 children between 1962 and 1973. Peter Ball, former Bishop of Lewes was convicted of abuse in the 1980s and 1990s. Former priest Keith Wilke Denford of Burgess Hill and organist Michael Mytton were convicted of historic sexual abuse. Vickery House, a former Brighton priest, was also convicted along with former vicar of Brede, Roy Cotton. Additionally, former Vicar of St Barnabas in Bexhill was charged and convicted of historic allegations.


Note By Brian Mark Hennessy:

Coincidentally and unrelated to the above article, it may be of interest to some readers that Father Herbert Brazier, the father of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was an Anglo Catholic Priest serving in the diocese of Chichester as the Eastbourne Hospital Chaplain from 1953 to 1959, during which period he met Theresa May’s mother. Earlier, at the beginning of World War II he had attended the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield where he trained for the Anglo Catholic priesthood. In the 1960’s and 70’s clerics and seminarians of the Comboni Missionary Order at Roe Head had very cordial relations with the Resurrection Community and on occasions exchanged visits. I remember one such visit well. I had a chat with a Priest of the Resurrection Community in their extensive library. He had spotted a book in the library that he wanted to read – and was in the process of learning Hebrew first so that he could do so!
__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Advertisements

Removal of Bishops or Heads of Religious Communities Negligent on Sexual Abuse — by Joshua J. McElwee, Rome

Francis gives Vatican authority to initiate removal of bishops negligent on sexual abuse –  by Joshua J. McElwee,    Rome

The new measure, comprised of five short articles, allows “the competent congregation of the Roman Curia” to begin investigations of local bishops, eparchs, or heads of religious communities when the congregation suspects a leader’s negligence has caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

——————————————————————————————-

 

Pope Francis has signed a new universal law for the global Catholic church specifying that a bishop’s negligence in response to clergy sexual abuse can lead to his removal from office.

The law also empowers several Vatican dicasteries to investigate such bishops and initiate processes of removal, subject to final papal approval.

The move, made by the pontiff in a formal document known as a motu proprio on Saturday, appears to represent a significant moment in the worldwide church’s decades-long clergy sexual abuse crisis.

In case after case in the past, the Vatican and church officials would dig in to protect bishops even when there was substantial documented evidence of negligence on their behalf. Now, the pope has formally mandated that the church’s offices in Rome must prosecute bishops who fail in protecting children.

“Canon law already foresees the possibility of removal from the ecclesial office ‘for grave causes,'” Francis states in a short preamble to the new law, given the Italian name Come una madre amorevole (“Like a loving mother.”)

“With the following letter I intend to specify that among those ‘grave causes’ is included negligence of bishops in the exercise of their office, particularly relative to cases of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults,” he continues.

 

 

Marie Collins, a member of Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and an abuse survivor, told NCR she welcomes the new procedures and “hope they will succeed in bringing the accountability survivors have waited for so long.”

“The most important aspect of any new procedure is its implementation and that is what we must wait to see,” she said.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the head of the commission, called the motu proprio “clearly an important and positive step forward.”

“We are grateful that our Holy Father has received the recommendations from our Commission members and that they have contributed to this new and significant initiative,” he said.

The new measure, comprised of five short articles, allows “the competent congregation of the Roman Curia” to begin investigations of local bishops, eparchs, or heads of religious communities when the congregation suspects a leader’s negligence has caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

“The diocesan bishop or the eparch or whoever has the responsibility for a particular church, even if temporarily … can be legitimately removed from his position if he has by negligence, placed or omitted acts caused serious harm to others, whether their physical persons or the community as a whole,” states the first article.

“The diocesan bishop or eparch can be removed only if he has objectively been lacking in a very grave manner the diligence that is required of his pastoral office,” it continues, specifying: “In the case of abuse against minors or vulnerable adults it is sufficient that the lacking of diligence be grave.”

The law obliges the Vatican to notify the local bishop or leader of the investigation and to give him the possibility to produce relevant documents or testimony.

“To the bishop will be given the possibility to defend himself, according to the methods foreseen by the law,” it states. “All the steps of the inquiry will be communicated to him and he will always be given the possibility of meeting the superiors of the congregation.”

 

 

The law states that “if it becomes necessary to remove the bishop” the congregation involved in the matter can either proceed “to give, in the shortest time possible, the decree or removal” or “to exhort the bishop fraternally to present his resignation within 15 days.”

“If the bishop does give his response in that time, the congregation can release the decree of removal,” it states.

All decisions by Vatican congregations, the law states, “must be subjected to the specific approval of the Roman Pontiff.” The pope, it continues, will be assisted in making his decision “by a special association of legal experts of the designated need.”

The new law appears to modify a suggestion Francis was given last year by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to create a new tribunal at the Vatican to judge bishops who respond inappropriately to sexual abuse claims.

Where a new tribunal would have likely required much time and effort to create, the law deputizes current Vatican offices to undertake that work.

The U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement they were “highly skeptical” of the pope’s new law.

“A ‘process’ isn’t needed,” said the group. “Discipline is what’s needed. A ‘process’ doesn’t protect kids. Action protects kids. A ‘process’ is helpful only if it’s used often enough to deter wrongdoing. We doubt this one will be.”

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, said in a note Saturday that four Vatican congregations would be charged with investigating prelates: for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Oriental Churches, and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will not be involved with the new law “because it is not a matter of crimes of abuse but of negligence of office,” Lombardi said.

The spokesman also said that the “special association” that is to assist the pope in deciding on these matters will be a new group of advisers and “you can foresee that this association will be composed of cardinals and bishops.”

The new law is to take effect Sept. 5.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent.

His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

 

Sexual Abuse Investigations Stymied by the Vatican at the Expense of Truth —- by Brian Mark Hennessy

Sexual Abuse Investigations Stymied by the Vatican at the Expense of Truth

By Brian Mark Hennessey

Canonists are currently tying themselves in knots to find justification (excuses) for Bishops and Heads of Religious Orders for not reporting child sexual abuse to civil authorities. Most of the arguments centre on the the 1974, “Secreta Continere” of Pope Paul VI. Previous to that Pope Pius XI’s 1922 “Crimen Solicitationes” was in force. In 1962 Pope John XXIII had added “Crimen Pessimum. Neither of the 1922 or 1962 documents prevented reports of paedophile behaviour being made to the Civil Authorities. Yet, Paul VI, found justification – somewhere in Scripture I must assume – to prevent heinous crimes of child sexual abuse committed in civil jurisdictions by paedophile clerics from being reported to the law enforcement authorities of those very same civil jurisdictions.

Unsurprisingly, I have not yet discovered the Biblical reference upon which it hinged. Presumably, there must be a reference somewhere for going back a few years, those Australian bishops who wanted to be very open about child sexual abuse in the Australian Catholic Church were famously summoned to Rome and were obliged to sign a “Statement of Conclusions” that referred to a crisis of faith in the Australian Church. The document insisted that the “Church does not create her own ordering and structure, but receives them from Christ Himself”. So – there must be a biblical reference somewhere. I just cannot find it. I’ll start at page 1 again and read it more carefully.

The case of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, who is being investigated by the French State for another failure to report abuse to the French civil authorities is a further case in point – and is in the headlines at the moment. According to one canonist Barbarin’s failure to follow the civil laws of France was justified as he was acting in accordance with the overwhelming weight of opinion of the church’s most senior cardinals and canon lawyers about his moral, ethical and canonical obligations at the time. His holy, Christ inspired, duty was go to jail rather than report the crime. Bit odd to me! Sounds immoral! Yet, historically there have been other cases which have cast doubts about the morality of the Vatican’s resort to secrecy to protect its own image.

One such case was that of Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux, France, who was given a three-month suspended jail sentence in 2001 for failing to inform authorities about a serial paedophile priest. In September 2001, Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, at the time the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, wrote to Pican congratulating him for the “cover up” and his letter reads: “I rejoice to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and all the others bishops of the world, preferred prison rather than denouncing one of his sons, a (paedophile, criminal) priest.” The brackets are mine! Hoyos said that he was sending a copy of his letter to all the bishops of the world, holding up Pican as a model to follow. He also said his congratulatory letter was approved by Pope St John Paul II. Similar statements condemning the reporting of paedophile priests to the police by bishops were made in 2002 by high ranking prelates in the Roman Curia and Church leaders in France, Germany, Belgium and Honduras.

More recently, in 2015, the Holy See would not assist the civil authorities in the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli, accused of abusing dozens of children over a ten year period. The priest was dismissed by Pope Benedict in 2012, but Pope Francis reinstated him (would you believe it) with restrictions on his ministry. When Italian investigating magistrates wanted to see the documentation of his canonical trial, the Holy See refused, saying: “The procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are of a canonical nature and, as such, are not an object for the exchange of information with civil magistrates.”
Quite where the Vatican finds evidence for the concealment of crimes of child abuse and the protection of criminal paedophile clerics in the Gospels and Epistles puzzles me. I thought I knew them pretty well – having received a copy of both the Old and New Testaments from my father as a Christmas present (I was deflated at the time) as far back as 1956! I still have the same Bible today and have pretty much read all of it. I was taught and have subsequently always deduced that to tell the Truth was always a matter of an outstanding, higher, moral obligation to do so. I always believed that priests, priors, abbots, bishops, Cardinals and Popes thought the same as me! Indeed, as the pre-eminent regard of the very Canon Laws all the canonists at the Vatican keep quoting is the protection of the integrity of the Doctrines of the Disciples and Apostles in the Gospels and the Acts, then there is no better Biblical proof of the moral obligations of the Church’s ministers than in James the Just (James 4:17): “Whosoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin”. Moreover, any over-riding duty to conceal the truth in order to avoid “scandal” does not feature in my copy of the Bible either! At least, it was not condoned by St Paul famously when he stated “Quench not the Spirit” in Thessalonians 5:19 – which is widely accepted as meaning that the Truth must “always” be told despite any of the adverse consequences of doing so. My Bible is the Knox Version – a translation from the Latin Vulgate and from Hebrew and Greek Originals. It’s a Catholic version in one volume. Is it the wrong one?

Comboni Missionaries and Pope Francis’s Attitudes to Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries (Missionari Comboniani)

We received this from Danny Sullivan who is the Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission for England and Wales.

A clear statement from the pope

The Roman Catholic church will always be judged on how it engages with victims and survivors of abuse (“Sins of the Fathers”, Magazine). Unfortunately, the account of the experience of victims in relation to the then Verona Fathers (now Comboni Missionaries) reflects a stark difference of attitude from that of Pope Francis.

I was present at the mass where Pope Francis addressed all victims and survivors of abuse in a Catholic church setting.

Where the leader of the now Comboni Missionaries indicates that if anyone (and note the qualification) has been hurt by one of its priests his thoughts and prayers are with them, Pope Francis identified the experience of survivors of abuse and humbly asked forgiveness.

He even more profoundly begged forgiveness of those who were not believed or listened to and he praised the courage of survivors in coming forward, recognising how difficult that is in itself.

Evidence shows that paedophiles have on average at least four victims and often significantly more the longer they remain undetected, a profoundly painful reality that all of us in the Catholic church need to recognise.

Victims and survivors of abuse will only believe statements from the church when private practice matches public pronouncements.

Pope Francis this year, by approving the removal from ministry of an archbishop accused of abuse who was a papal nuncio and placing him under house arrest and subject to trial in Vatican State, is making a clear statement of intent to all victims.

“The sins of our fathers” shows just how far we yet have to go. Thank you for publishing it.

Danny Sullivan

Chair, National Catholic Safeguarding Commission for England and Wales