Archbishop Scicluna’s Chile Investigation Sidelined by Illness A National Catholic Reporter Article by Maria Benevento (Maria Benevento is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is

Archbishop Scicluna’s Chile Investigation Sidelined by Illness
A National Catholic Reporter Article by Maria Benevento
(Maria Benevento is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is

The Vatican delegate taking testimony in Chile from survivors of clergy sex abuse has been sidelined by health issues, but a second Vatican official is temporarily taking on the task. Now, Spanish Fr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will temporarily take the place of Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna. The archbishop was hospitalized while in Chile investigating Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who has been accused of covering up abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima. According to a report from BioBioChile, Scicluna entered the hospital late Feb. 20 and underwent surgery to have his gall bladder removed Feb. 21. He is expected to remain hospitalized for 72 hours, but Bertomeu, who was already serving as part of Scicluna’s team, will continue interviews with victims and others as scheduled.

Scicluna had already met with Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Barros’ main accusers, in a parish in New York, and with James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo, the other two most vocal accusers, at the apostolic nunciature in Chile. Speaking to the press after their meetings, both Cruz and Hamilton praised Scicluna. Cruz said he finally “felt someone was listening” and was “very hopeful” that the case was being taken seriously. He also reported that Scicluna was visibly moved by his testimony, and even cried during their meeting. Meanwhile, Hamilton, who had harsh words about Chilean Cardinals Ricardo Ezzati, archbishop of Santiago, and Francisco Javier Errázuriz, archbishop emeritus, for their handling of sex abuse cases, expressed confidence in Scicluna, La Tercera reported Feb. 20. “I’m very sure that the reports that come out of Chile are going to be true and sincere,” he said. “I don’t have any doubts that Archbishop Scicluna is going to communicate what is really going on in Chile.”

Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of laypeople from Osorno who have vocally opposed Barros, had also expressed hope about his group’s upcoming meeting with Scicluna, which was scheduled for the afternoon Feb. 21. According to Emol, Claret said he appreciated Scicluna’s “concrete gestures and actions that make us trust him,” including making a separate trip to the United States to meet with Cruz in person and agreeing to change the location of their meeting after the group objected to its being held at the nunciature.

The Osorno laypeople’s group mistrusts Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, apostolic nuncio to Chile, because of his prior handling of the case and because he has connections with Barros’ family, Claret told Emol TV in an interview Feb. 21, before his meeting with Bertomeu. The group had rejected Scapolo’s request that they submit testimony to him before sharing it with Scicluna. However, in the same interview, Claret expressed hope about the results of his upcoming meeting, even though Scicluna would not be present. He noted that Bertomeu has been a part of Scicluna’s team and will have the additional advantage of being able to communicate directly with the group, without using a translator, since he speaks Spanish. Although the group has “more reasons to mistrust than to trust,” said Claret, they also have more to gain than to lose. “We’re going to trust in the process, not blindly but lucidly,” he said.


Shocking scale of sexual abuse at UK boarding schools revealed by ITV documentary

Shocking scale of sexual abuse at UK boarding schools revealed by ITV documentary

An ITV documentary has revealed the true extent of sexual abuse at the UK’s boarding schools, with hundreds of people accused of carrying out sexual attacks in recent years and dozens of ongoing police investigations. In the Exposure programme to be broadcast on Monday, journalist and author Alex Renton – who was sexually abused as an eight-year-old by his teacher at one of the country’s top boarding schools – investigates the private schools that appeared willing to disregard children’s safety, with some failing to take action against predatory paedophiles who groomed and assaulted young boarders repeatedly – sometimes getting away with it for decades.

Despite the years that have passed since Alex’s time at school, the reporting of abuse allegations is still not legally mandatory at all schools in the UK. ITV’s Exposure made a Freedom of Information request to every police force in the UK and 24 responded. The results showed:

• Since 2012, 425 people have been accused of carrying out sexual attacks at UK boarding schools

• Not every force could provide further details but at least 160 people have been charged so far.

• At least 171 of the total number were accused of historical abuse.

• Since 2012 at least 125 people have been accused by children of recent sex attacks at boarding schools.

• There are at least 31 ongoing investigations.

• Just over half of the forces responded, meaning the total figure is likely to be far higher.

Boarding schools are among the most influential institutions in Britain – responsible for educating many politicians, judges and business leaders and 75% of Britain’s prime ministers. An estimated one million people in Britain today went to boarding school and approximately 75,000 children still board today in around 480 state and independent boarding schools. In the programme, a number of abuse survivors are interviewed, exposing the systemic failures that allowed paedophiles to go unpunished, in some cases permitting them to continue teaching elsewhere in the private and the state sector, preying on more vulnerable children.

One of the survivors of boarding school abuse who appears in the programme is Phillip Witcomb. In 1975, aged 13, Phillip arrived at Lucton School in Herefordshire – a school for children aged five to 18. His housemaster was a man named David Panter. Phillip told ITV Exposure how Panter began to abuse him in the showers. Phillip worked up the courage to tell the headmaster, Keith Vivian, what had been happening. So you describe it in your own childish way. And I remember this big hand, cause he had massive hands, Keith Vivian, coming down on my shoulder, ‘Now boy, now let’s stop telling stories. Run along to your class. Off you go, boy.’ And you’d get washed out the door. So, that is actually what happens.

Panter continued working at the school. The following year Phillip moved into a dormitory for older boys – away from Panter’s clutches. But three years later, now a school prefect, Phillip was told that Panter was still abusing the younger children. This little kid came out of Panter’s study. And he came out crying. And he just said to me, ‘Panter’s f***** me.’ And I could smell the abuse because abuse has a smell.” Phillip went to see Keith Vivian – the same headmaster who had refused to believe him years before. I just said, ‘No, I’m not backing down this time. If you don’t do something about it I’m going to tell everybody.’ And it was quite interesting because nothing happened for quite a while in this last year and this carried on. And I went back again with the other house prefect. And he [Vivian] got angry with me…got very angry with me. Told me to go away and stop causing trouble.
The headmaster finally listened. By the next day, Panter was gone. His teaching career continued in the state sector. Exposure tracked down the headmaster who employed him at his next school – telling the programme he would have received a reference from Lucton School. In 2016, Panter was jailed for nine years for indecent assault and gross indecency against seven Lucton pupils. To avoid a contested trial, he was only convicted for the crimes he admitted. He pleaded not guilty to the allegations made by Phillip, which he still denies, as well as the allegations Phillip says were made to him by the younger boy. Lucton School told ITV Exposure that “our sympathies are with any survivors of non-recent abuse, however allegations from that period cannot be answered” because the school closed in 1985, and a new school was later opened under a trust which was “established as a new charity, a separate legal entity”.

The headmaster, Keith Vivian went on to become a vicar. He told Exposure he has “no recollection of any complaint made by Phillip”, but does remember when prefects came to him, and says he “asked Panter to leave the school premises immediately” and informed the school’s governing body. At no time would he not have acted immediately on such accusations”, but “it was not a police matter at that time”.
What are boarding schools doing to prevent abuse? All schools are expected to have sufficient safeguarding arrangements to prevent abuse. These are checked in regular inspections. Exposure has analysed the most recent inspection report for every boarding school in England. When it came to safeguarding, one in ten schools either failed to meet national standards, or else didn’t meet the requirements needed to be given a rating of ‘good’. To find out what the industry is doing today to protect children, Alex Renton spoke to the Boarding Schools’ Association, which represents 90% of boarding schools:
What I can say is that everyone who works in boarding today is professional, caring and doing everything they can to make safeguarding their number one priority. There’s no doubt, that there was a period where some people at some schools experienced some appalling abuse. And it’s absolutely shocking. But in my experience, there isn’t any school out there which doesn’t want to listen to victims and, where it can, as quickly as possible, say sorry.

Last year the BSA finally issued rules telling its members they must report any allegations of abuse, but say it is time for the government to make that law. Other leading organisations like the NSPCC, the Independent Association of Prep Schools and the Independent Schools Council told Exposure that they too support mandatory reporting for boarding schools.The government declined to give an interview but said that in 2016 they held a public consultation about whether it should be introduced, and they will publish its findings in due course.

Boarding Schools: The Secret Shame – Exposure will be broadcast on Monday 19th February at 10.45pm on ITV. You can contact Alex Renton and the Exposure team in confidence at

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised you can find details of organisations able to provide help below:

• NAPAC offers support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse.

• Victim Support offers free and confidential services to anyone in England and Wales who has experienced sexual assault or rape now or in the past. You can call the Victim Supportline, which operates 24/7, on 0808 168 9111.

• Boarding Concern offers support to former boarders and boarding school survivors.

• Mandate Now is a pressure group that seeks the introduction of law requiring all staff who work in ‘regulated activities’ to report concerns about the welfare of a child.

Alex Renton’s Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, Crimes and the Schooling of a Ruling Class
is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Francis renews abuse commission but does not reappoint six members A ‘National Catholic Reporter’ Article by Joshua J. McElwee [Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

Francis renews abuse commission but does not reappoint six members

A ‘National Catholic Reporter’ Article by Joshua J. McElwee
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is
Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

Pope Francis renewed the mandate of his clergy sexual abuse commission Feb. 17, two months after the group’s lapse into an inactive state led some survivor advocates to question whether protecting children was being given the highest priority in the Catholic Church. The pontiff reappointed eight of the previous members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and added nine new people to its ranks. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley returns as the president of the group, and Boston priest Msgr. Robert Oliver returns as its secretary.

While none of the members of the commission are publicly known as abuse survivors, the group said in a statement that some of them are survivors who have yet to publicly identify themselves. The commission said it “believes that their privacy in this matter is to be respected.”

Six former members of the commission were not reappointed by Francis, including some of the best known figures in the group, such as: French psychotherapist Catherine Bonnet, British Baroness Sheila Hollins, New Zealand church official Bill Kilgallon, and religious congregation advisor Krysten Winter-Green.

Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor who resigned from the commission in frustration last March, told NCR some of those not reappointed were among the group’s most active members. She said three were leaders of the commission’s six working groups. “I’m shocked at the discarding of some of the most active and independent members of the commission,” said Collins. “Some of those who have gone were really the most active and had the most experience of working in child protection and working directly with survivors.”

The three-year mandate of commission members had lapsed Dec. 17. Francis’ appointment of new members to his advisory body comes as he is facing some of the heaviest criticism of his papacy over his handling of accusations against a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse while he has a priest in the 1980s and 90s. After decrying the accusations as “calumny” last month, the pope made an about-face Jan. 30 and sent Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the church’s most respected investigators of clergy abuse, to examine the survivors’ claims. Scicluna is to take testimony from one of Bishop Juan Barros’ accusers later Feb. 17. He will meet in New York with abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who claims Barros witnessed his abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima.
Bonnet told NCR she had decided to resign from the commission last June after two hopes she had for the group’s work were not achieved. She said one hope was that survivors or advocate groups might be invited to a hearing hosted by the commission to bring their contribution to its work before or at its last plenary meeting in September 2017. The other hope was that the commission would vote as a group to recommend that Francis declare that church leaders around the world be mandated to report suspicion of abuse to civil authorities, in order to “reduce the suffering of children so they do not have to wait years and years for abuse to be reported.”

The other two members of the abuse commission not reappointed by Francis are Argentine Jesuit Fr. Humberto Yanez, director of the department of moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University; and Australian church official Kathleen McCormack. The nine new members of the commission come from a diverse set of places, including: Ethiopia, India, Tonga, Brazil, Australia and the Netherlands. Among them is also Teresa Kettelkamp, a former executive director of the U.S. bishops’ secretariat of child and youth protection and a former colonel in the Illinois State Police.

The commission said in its press statement that it hopes the new members will offer insights “reflecting the global reach of the Church and the challenge of creating safeguarding structures in diverse cultural contexts.” The group also said that its next plenary meeting, to be held in April, would begin with a meeting with some victims of sexual abuse. The statement added that “discussions have been underway” for creation of a new a separate advisory panel of individuals who have been abused. The other eight new members of the abuse commission are:
• Benyam Mezmur, who teaches law at Ethiopia’s Dullah Omar Institute;
• Religious of Jesus and Mary Sr. Arina Gonsalves, a vice provincial for her order in India;
• Neville Owen, a former senior judge of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Western Australia;
• Sinaelelea Fe’ao, coordinator of religious education for the Tonga and Niue diocese;
• Myriam Wijlens, a canon law professor at the University of Erfurt in Germany;
• Ernesto Caffo, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Italy’s University of Modena and Reggio Emilia;
• Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood Sr. Jane Bertelsen, her order’s congregational leader; and,
• Nelson Giovanelli, founder of a Brazilian drug rehabilitation center.

The abuse commission has come under increasing public scrutiny since its creation by Francis in March 2014.
Collins resigned March 1, 2017, citing frustration with Vatican officials’ reluctance to cooperate with its work to protect children. She cited particular dissatisfaction with one Vatican office’s refusal to comply with a request from the commission, approved by the pope, that all letters sent to the Vatican by abuse survivors receive a response. She also cited the commission’s request, approved by the pope, that the Vatican create a new tribunal to judge bishops who act inappropriately in sexual abuse cases. While that tribunal was announced by O’Malley in June 2015, it was never created.

In place of the proposed tribunal, Francis signed a new universal law for the church in June 2016 specifying that a bishop’s negligence in response to clergy sexual abuse can lead to his removal from office. It has not been clear since how the processes outlined in that law are being enforced or followed. Now former commission member Winter-Green said in an interview last August that one problem facing the group was that it is understaffed and overworked. “We have a horrendous job and a very slim budget,” she said then, calling a “lack of transparent information regarding budgetary resources” a “major challenge.”

Pope Francis Says He Meets Almost Weekly With Abuse Victims – A National Catholic Reporter Article by Joshua J. McElwee – With Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group

Pope Francis Says He Meets Almost Weekly With Abuse Victims –
A National Catholic Reporter Article by Joshua J. McElwee

Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group

Pope Francis revealed in a meeting with confreres of his Jesuit order last month that he meets with survivors of sexual abuse on a nearly weekly basis, according to a newly released transcript of the encounter. In a Jan. 19 question and answer session during his visit to Peru, the text of which was published for the first time Feb. 15 by Italian Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, the pope said the Catholic Church must hear from those who have been abused by clergy. “We need to listen to what someone who has been abused feels,” Francis told the Jesuits, according to the transcript, and continued: “On Fridays — sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known — I normally meet some of them. The process they go through is very tough,” said the pope. “They are left annihilated. Annihilated!”
Francis had previously been known to have met with abuse victims only a handful of times over the span of his nearly five-year papacy. He met with survivors once in Philadelphia during his 2015 visit to the U.S. and again last month in Chile, where he visited before Peru. Revelation of the pontiff’s apparent weekly meetings with survivors in Rome raises a number of questions about how the Vatican has arranged the encounters and who has been chosen to take part. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement following the release of the transcript that Francis meets with abuse victims “several times a month” in order to listen to them “and to try to help them heal the grave wounds caused by abuse.” Burke said the meetings are held “under the strictest privacy,” out of respect for the victims’ suffering.

Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in an email to NCR that Francis “has emphasized being close to the people, especially to the poor and those who have suffered different forms of violence.” “My understanding is that he makes a special point of meeting with victims of sexual abuse as minors,” said O’Malley. “Respecting their right to privacy, these meetings are not published. Some have become known … but most remain anonymous.”

Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor known for her persistence in pushing the Vatican to better protect children from abuse, called the revelation noteworthy and said she would like more information about the meetings. “I don’t think there’s awareness of this up to now,” said Collins, who resigned in frustration last March from O’Malley’s pontifical commission. “This is important news and it would be interesting to have more clarity around it.”

News of Francis’ weekly meetings comes as the pontiff is facing criticism over how he has handled accusations about Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, whom he appointed to lead the diocese of Osorno, Chile in 2015. Three survivors have said Barros was present as a priest to witness notorious abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima harm them in the 1980s and ’90s. During the trip to Chile, Francis called the accusations against Barros “calumny” and later doubled-down on that claim during a press conference on the plane back to Rome. Those remarks angered abuse survivors and advocate groups. Abuse-tracking website said the pope had “turned back the clock to the darkest days” of the abuse scandals, and that it would make victims afraid to come forward for fear of not being believed. Francis appeared to make an about-face on the Barros issue upon returning home, with the Vatican announcing Jan. 30 that the pope would send Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the church’s most respected investigators of clergy abuse, to examine the survivors’ claims.

The Feb.15 Civiltà Cattolica transcript of the pope’s meeting with the Peruvian Jesuits is introduced with a short preface from Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, who says the text was approved by Francis before publication. The text is in Italian, but Francis likely spoke in Spanish, Peru’s primary language and his native tongue. In the question and answer session, the pope told his Jesuit confreres that clergy sexual abuse is “the greatest desolation that the church is suffering.” The pontiff also recalled a story from his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires. He said he was walking through a square in the city and came across a couple with their child. As he passed, the couple told their child to come close and to “be careful of the pedophiles.” “How shameful I felt!” said Francis. “What shame! They didn’t realize that I was the archbishop, I was a priest and — what shame!”

The pope said the abuse scandals are “a great humiliation” and said they show “not only our fragility, but also, let us say so clearly, our level of hypocrisy.” He said has heard people cite statistics that the percentage of Catholic priests who have committed abuse is only 1.6 percent. “But it is terrible even if only one of our brothers is such!” said the pontiff. “For God anointed him to sanctify children and adults, and instead of making them holy he has destroyed them. It is horrible!” Francis said it was “notable” that some newer religious congregations have been the cause of abuse scandals.


If the Pope thinks that only 1% of clerics are committing crimes against children then he is not keeping his eye upon the ball. At the UK Mirfield seminary of the Comboni Missionary Order, 14% of the clerics were committing sexual crimes against the UK and Irish child seminarians. That 14% may not sound very great, but over a period of two decades they managed to commit about 1000 acts of sexual abuse – each event a crime in its own right. Moreover, the Australian Royal Commission findings have determined that 14% was the average for the Catholics clerics working in that country. Some of the Orders actually had some 20% of clerics offending and in one Order the number of offending Brothers was circa 40%!

Marie Collins’ comments appear to show an element of surprise understandably for why would the Pope not have mentioned this before. If the names of the victims that he receives is kept from the public then why the total blackout! Moreover, why is it mentioned now? Is it simply to recover face following the lost opportunities to solve the Chilean problem – which eventually spiraled out of both his and the Vatican’s control. On the other hand, to be fair, it may not have appeared important for the Pope to mention it and he has simply taken the opportunity of his meeting with Jesuits to do so.

Pope Francis could set at rest all the hearts and minds of victims of clerical child sexual abuse crimes by clerics if he used his unique position to ensure some positive action. These would include re-opening his Pontifical Commission on the Safety of Children, ordering a thorough re-organisation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith so that they rationalise their Canons, operating procedures and justice processes. The Vatican should also appoint clerics throughout the world – possibly within the offices of the Apostolic Delegates – to the role of ‘liaison officer’ for Victims who have made reports of abuse that have been forwarded to CDF. Victims must be a part of the process. That is what a proper judicial system must provide.
In addition, CDF at the Vatican must set up a ‘quality control’ system whereby all local determinations of sentences of cases of sexual abuse by Bishops and Religious leaders are considered at CDF by a ‘reviewing officer’ prior to a final determination of sentence. All other equitable judicial systems have such a process – whether they are civil state or military systems of justice. Such a review by Vatican Higher Authority would ensure an appropriate worldwide standard of treatment is being applied to miscreant clerics and it would open up a dialogue with the local Ordinaries about the conclusions and standards of a specific case in relation to other sentences worldwide. Thus it would also obviate the need for a tribunal system, as previously advocated, to hold bishops and Religious Leaders to account for failing to deal correctly with a cleric who had abused a child.

The Vatican must emerge from its cocoon and flourish in such a way as the rest of the world will respect its processes and decisions. Secrecy and considerations of the avoidance of scandal must be flushed out of the Canonical processes. The world demands from its civil jurisdictions open, accessible and fully documented processes and results. The cloak of medieval secrecy, which was an instrument of power and unaccountability, must be swept away in the now desperate scenario in which the Catholic Church finds itself.

Child Sex Abuse Victim Reveals ‘Terrifying’ Path to Speaking Out- ‘It was eating me up’: By Tessa Hardy • Court Reporter

Child Sex Abuse Victim Reveals ‘Terrifying’ Path to Speaking Out-
‘It was eating me up’:
By Tessa Hardy • Court Reporter

A Queensland woman who suffered horrific abuse as a child says she felt compelled to speak out because it was slowly consuming her will to live. Lee Ann Powell suffered unthinkable abuse at the now notorious Parramatta Girls’ Training School, a former state-run institution for neglected and troubled girls in Sydney. She told Australian 9NEWS that while giving evidence at the Commission “terrified” her, “it was eating me up and I didn’t know how to cope with life”. “There were times in my life that I had hit rock bottom and I didn’t want to be here,” Ms Powell said.

Ms Powell statements comes as the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is released. In her commission testimony, she described being taken into a dungeon and sexually assaulted by the home’s superintendent and his deputy on about five occasions. Lee Ann Powell suffered unthinkable abuse at the now notorious Parramatta Girls’ Training School. The two men threatened that if Ms Powell told anyone about the abuse, they would find her and make her disappear, she said. “When I left the home I was looking over my shoulder, because I was told if I told anyone what happened to me that they would find me,” Ms Powell said. Parramatta Girls closed in 1974 following public outcry over conditions.
Ms Powell hopes the findings of the Royal Commission will mean other children will not have to suffer the way she did. “I would like to see that all children have equal rights…something I never got because we were told to be seen and not heard,” she said.The Queensland woman says she cried when she recently received an apology from the New South Wales Government and Child Welfare. “That meant more to me than anything getting money or anything like that,” she said.

Nichole McKewan is another survivor. She was placed in foster care as a baby and then abused by her foster father and foster brother for years. She was also frequently flogged by her foster mother. The abuse continued while her foster parents worked as residential staff at Boys Town – a residential school for boys in Sydney’s south, formerly known as Dunlea Centre – in the 1970s.

Ms McKewan and her brother were punished by their foster parents when they disclosed abuse to teachers at their school. She said through tears she feels validated after being told for years “we were liars”. “I did feel good that someone actually heard me,” Ms McKewan said. “We just need more people to listen.” Ms McKewan said she wanted to change policy for the next generation of children and to empower other women and men to come forward.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final report on 15th December 2017. It comprised 17 volumes and 189 new recommendations. Among key recommendations were creating a new criminal offence of failing to protect children within an institution. The report also suggested establishing a new National Office for Child Safety and compelling religious ministers to report information about abuse confided to them in a confessional. More safeguards for children and checks on adults working with children within institutions were also recommended. Lisa Flynn of Shine Lawyers, who represents Ms Powell and Ms McKewan, said it was important for a national framework to be established for child safety to prevent future acts of child sexual abuse.

The Guardian View on the Catholic Church and Child Abuse: Pope Francis Gets It Wrong An Editorial from the ‘GUARDIAN’

The Guardian View on the Catholic Church and Child Abuse:
Pope Francis Gets It Wrong

An Editorial from the ‘GUARDIAN’

The Pope’s defence of an accused bishop appears to put him on the side of the hierarchy
against the people in the pews!

It is five years since Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic world by announcing he would resign. His time in office had been blighted by the emergence of terrible stories of sex abuse and institutional cover-up. Even though most of these dated from the time of his predecessors, Benedict’s efforts to make things right were clumsy and inadequate to the scale of the problem. His successor, Pope Francis, seemed as if he were going to change all that as part of the openness, energy and realism that has characterised his approach. But developments in recent weeks have cast Francis’s sincerity and seriousness into question and threaten to overshadow many of the other accomplishments of his papacy.

Earlier in his pontificate, Francis had to deal with the enforced departure of one of his closer collaborators, Cardinal George Pell, who left the Vatican to face charges of historic child abuse, which he vigorously denies, in his native Australia. Several members of the Church’s commission for the protection of minors, which the pope had set up, resigned in protest at the obstructionism of some parts of the Vatican bureaucracy; but these are the parts that are thought hostile to Francis, too, so he was not widely blamed for what happened.
All that changed with the pope’s visit to Chile. The church there had been convulsed by the discovery that children had been abused by an influential priest for years. It is claimed that many other priests knew or even witnessed what was going on. Among them was Juan Barros, whom Francis made a bishop in 2015 and installed in a southern diocese in the teeth of furious protests from both clergy and congregation. Bishop Barros, who denies the claims, was prominent among the bishops who received Francis on his visit: the two men were photographed embracing; and when Francis was asked on the flight back what he thought of the allegations against the bishop, he replied that they were merely slander, and that he had not seen any proof to back them up.

This was outrageous enough. He later apologised for his language, saying it must have come as “a slap in the face” for survivors. He has sent the Vatican’s chief prosecutor to Chile to reinvestigate the case. But he reiterated his belief in Bishop Barros’s innocence. Now it emerges that an eight-page letter detailing the accusations against the bishop was handed to the pope by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the man in charge of relations with survivors, who is trusted by both sides.

Either the pope failed to read the letter or he read and then discounted it. Either explanation must damage his reputation, and he has legions of enemies inside the church who want to destroy him. Most of these enemies denounce him for appealing to lay people over the heads of the priesthood, especially when it comes to sexual morality. In the case of Bishop Barros he seems to be committing a dreadful mistake by siding with the clergy and the establishment over the instincts of his flock.

Cupich Defends Pope’s Record On Abuse A ‘Catholic Herald Article by Dan Hitchens – With Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group

Cupich Defends Pope’s Record On Abuse

A ‘Catholic Herald Article by Dan Hitchens

Cardinal Cupich called for a ‘paradigm shift’ in pastoral practice and said that the Pope recognised the need to ‘listen’ to abuse survivors.

Cardinal Blase Cupich has defended Pope Francis’s record and called for a “paradigm shift” in Catholic practice. Addressing the Von Hügel Institute at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, under the title “Pope Francis’ Revolution of Mercy: Amoris Laetitia as a New Paradigm of Catholicity”, Cardinal Cupich called for “a major shift in our ministerial approach that is nothing short of revolutionary”. The hoped-for “paradigm shift”, the cardinal said, would be from an approach focused on “the automatic application of universal principles” to one which is “continually immersed” in “concrete situations”. Vigorous debate has followed the publication of Amoris Laetitia in April 2016, with different cardinals, bishops and theologians advancing varying interpretations. In a question-and-answer session after the cardinal’s lecture, the historian and philosopher Professor John Rist suggested that “the Pope’s ‘paradigm shift’ should be recognised as an attempt, under cover of offering solutions to genuine social problems in Western society, to impose on the Church radical changes of doctrine”. Cardinal Cupich replied that those with such concerns should ask themselves: “Do we really believe that the Spirit is no longer guiding the Church?”

Speaking to the Catholic Herald before his lecture, the cardinal also defended Pope Francis’s actions over the abuse scandal in Chile. The Pope’s support for Bishop Juan Barros, whom he appointed to the diocese of Osorno, has recently been under scrutiny. It emerged last week that in 2015 Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Francis’s top advisor on child protection, gave the Pope a letter in which an abuse survivor alleged that Bishop Barros had turned a blind eye to abuse. Last month Cardinal O’Malley said the Pope’s sharp words in defence of Bishop Barros had caused “great pain for survivors of sexual abuse”.
Asked to comment on Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks, Cardinal Cupich said: “I think that now, the Holy Father sees that by sending Archbishop Scicluna, that we have to listen to those who have come forward and made accusations. And I think that was right. I’m pleased the Holy Father did that: I think Archbishop Scicluna is particularly suited for that kind of review.” The cardinal said that the Church was “moving forward” in implementing Benedict XVI’s reforms on child protection, and that the pope had set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “to do everything to keep people on the track”.


The purpose of Cardinal Cupich’s visit to the Von Higel Institute at Cambridge University was to discuss the controversial Papal document ‘Amoris Laetitia’, but I have excluded the extensive references from the original article as that subject is not appropriate to this forum. Of more interest are Cardinal Cupich’s comments regarding the issue of clerical sexual abuse.

The cardinal’s comments – “that the Church was moving forward in implementing Benedict XVI’s reforms on child protection, and that Pope Francis had set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “to do everything to keep people on the track” – is of more interest to me. Pope Benedict XVI served as pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013. He is best known for his rigid views on Catholicism and topics such as birth control and homosexuality. Nevertheless, he did make some strides into the clerical sexual abuse problem prior to his papacy when he was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In 2004, when Benedict XVI was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, he reopened a stalled investigation into the accusations against Father Maciel. As pope, Benedict XVI removed Father Maciel from active ministry, a step that John Paul II had resisted. And in 2010, Benedict XVI took control of Father Maciel’s order, the Legionaries of Christ, in what was then the Vatican’s most direct action on sexual abuse.
Yet that same year, the scandal came closer to Benedict XVI himself, with revelations concerning a case that unfolded when he was an archbishop in Germany in the 1980s. After a priest in his archdiocese was accused of molesting boys, he approved the transfer of the priest for therapy. The priest was later allowed to resume pastoral duties, despite repeated warnings to archdiocesan officials from his psychiatrist that he should not be allowed to work with young children. The priest was later accused of molesting other boys and convicted of sex abuse in 1986. A subordinate took responsibility for allowing the priest to resume work with children, but Archbishop Ratzinger knew of the priest’s reassignment, according to church officials.

Amongst survivors of clerical sexual abuse Cardinal Ratzinger, however, is better remembered for dismissing large numbers of priests from the clerical state following secret investigations and judicial declarations to which the victims themselves played no part, gave no evidence and were not even specifically consulted. Victims claim that such secrecy does not provide justice.

Cupich’s claim that Pope Francis has continued the reforms of Benedict XVI would be hard to spot without a microscope. The Vatican still does not acknowledge the receipt of cases of child sexual abuse forwarded to them. Victims are still not involved in the process of ‘Secret’ investigations and action may or may not be taken against the cleric – but no demonstrable informative steps are taken to advise the victim of the procedures undertaken, the details of the evidence presented and nor, in many if not most cases, a full description of the outcome. So again – there is no deliverance of justice to the victim.
Moreover the response to the provisions of Canon Law by both Bishops and the Heads of Religious Institutes and Abbots of the Orders – is very much a take it or leave it attitude. Canons are routinely ignored by all – and Victims of clerical sexual abuse remain ignored, un-consulted, disparaged, trivialized and undervalued. The Vatican has not yet even begun to upgrade the language they use to describe Victims of Clerical Sexual abuse itself. Out in the Dioceses and Religious Institutes they are still being labelled shamelessly to their very faces as ‘money-grabbers’! As for Pope Francis’ creation of the Pontifical Commission – well ‘Yes’ he did set it up – and then he closed it again!