CLERICAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MISSION COUNTRIES – By Brian Mark Hennessy

CLERICAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE ROLE OF

RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MISSION COUNTRIES

By Carol Glatz writing for the Catholic News Service

In a continuing effort to protect children, the Catholic Church’s focus is now turning to religious orders of men and women. Much of the attention has, in the past, been on how dioceses and national bishops’ conferences have been responding to victims and protecting children. But, religious orders and congregations are sometimes left out of that picture, even though they, too, have a duty to make sure every person in their care is safe. Also, the majority of the more than 300,000 Catholic schools and orphanages around the world are run by religious brothers and sisters whose charisms are to promote human dignity and Gospel values.

Pope Francis last year authorized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate and judge claims of “abuse of office” by bishops who allegedly failed to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sex abuse. But that form of censure “wasn’t extended to the superior generals (of the Missionary Congregations), and it should be,” said Father John Fogarty, superior general of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. Canon Law and the complementary Vatican norms regarding this field “refer only to clergy” — bishops, priests and deacons — said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

While the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation asked the bishops’ conferences to develop guidelines and procedures on how they are adhered to by local bishops, he said religious brothers, religious seminarians before ordination or religious sisters are in a league of their own, and the canonical practice is different. Each religious order or congregation establishes its own policies, he said. And while some may have a set of guidelines for their whole congregation, in others, each province or region is in charge of setting up safeguarding guidelines, Father Zollner told Catholic News Service.

Father Fogarty said his “first priority” after being elected superior of the Spiritans in 2012 was to establish comprehensive guidelines and then ask each of the order’s provinces and regions to draw up procedures that would protect children and respect local laws and customs. “Not everyone is at the same point on the learning curve,” he said. But his experience working for the province in Ireland and as provincial superior in the United States “was very helpful for me for formulating policy,” said the Dublin-born missionary. He was surrounded by “lots of accumulated wisdom, lots of workshops, all the latest insights and reports,” he said. Since each local superior of his order is responsible for his territory, Father Fogarty said he uses his role “to work with the superiors” and get them all “on the same wavelength.” Not everyone in every part of the world is “at the same point” in recognizing the need to protect and care for children and survivors; “our job is to get them there, put pressure on them to produce adequate policies, procedures, hold workshops” and use every “means at our disposal” to spread awareness and resources. When new superiors meet in Rome each year, one session is dedicated to safeguarding norms, Father Fogarty said. When leaders don’t draw up procedures or get informed, he said, “we can urge them” to, “but we can’t do it in their place. We can’t replace (the local superior).”

The need to have adequate protection policies and procedures in place for religious orders is urgent since they are present in so many countries around the globe, said Mark Vincent Healy, an advocate in Ireland for services and care for survivors of child sexual abuse. For example, of the 48 Spiritan priests noted in Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children’s audit in 2012 as accused of abuse in Ireland, half of them had also served in other countries, including the United States, Canada, Sierra Leone and Kenya, Healy has said. In Healy’s situation, the Spiritan priest who abused him at the school the order ran in Ireland was transferred to a Spiritan-run school in Sierra Leone, where he allegedly abused again before being convicted in Ireland and laicized. Healy’s case was handled in Ireland — the country where the abuse occurred — but, he said, victims of Irish missionaries in other countries, particularly Africa, lack clear or any channels at all for reporting and redress.

The church already responds to the psychological, emotional and spiritual fallout of victims of war in many of those countries, Healy said, so why not extend that same care and concern to victims of abuse by its own members. Healy said he was looking at ways the order and the church as a whole could provide services across jurisdictions, especially “in countries where there are no structures” to help survivors and communities. One proposal, which he also discussed with Father Fogarty, was the creation of a global network modeled after Doctors Without Borders. Instead of addressing physical harm, the network could specialize in delivering mental health care services to people suffering from trauma caused by war, civil conflicts and abuse in underdeveloped nations. By offering comprehensive mental health services, perhaps “you can alleviate the suffering and bring some function back to a dysfunctional society. Otherwise, violence will just repeat itself,” Healy said.

Father Zollner said that in some places in Asia and parts of Africa, the Catholic Church “is the organization that is doing more to safeguard minors than other groups.” In some areas, he said, “if you didn’t have the church, you would have nothing there” to look after and care for the most vulnerable. One example, he said, is Bishop Emanuel Barbara of Malindi, Kenya. The bishop, who’s a Capuchin priest from Malta, “set up the first help desk in the whole country” for victims of the sex-tourism industry there. “All the others, including those who legitimately have the power, just look away from the problem, there is much money involved,” Father Zollner said. With one in five children in Europe expected to be victims of some form of abuse, according to the Council of Europe, and global estimates reporting 40 million children are subjected to abuse each year, many child protection advocates want to see more action and cooperation among all sectors of society. “If the Catholic Church can address it, then the larger human family can, too,” Healy said. The church can’t keep being seen as sole perpetrator and healer “because that’s not working.”

 

Notes by Brian Mark Hennessy:

> The above article raises many issues known already to the Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse at the hands of Clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order at the Mirfield Seminary in Yorkshire, England. Specifically, information contained in that Order’s own historical archive refers to a conversation between a Provincial of the Order and the Superior General who said, “Dear Father. many of our Order think that if they had behaved less well they would have been granted their desire to go to the missions and so they feel betrayed (when prevented from going). Should we be responsible for creating the idea that only the maladjusted are sent to the Missions?”. Moreover, of those clerics whose abuse was reported at the time by seminarians on 29 known occasions, two of those clerics were sent to the missions – one to South Africa and one to Uganda and the third was incardinated into a diocesan parish in Italy. Another priest against whom allegations have been made has been located in Mozambique for many decades. No sign of consideration to other children with whom these clerics came into contact appears to have been considered at all. The re-allocations of those clerics appeared to be related more to removing those clerics from the United Kingdom legal jurisdiction as fast as practically possible.

> Father Zollner may be familiar to some readers. Mark Murry met Father Zollner on the occasion of Mark’s invitation to the Vatican to speak on the effects of abuse that he suffered at the hands of a priest of the Comboni Missionary Order when Mark was a thirteen-year-old seminarian at the Mirfield Seminary. Father Zollner later contributed to an article that appeared in this forum. The priest who has admitted that he abused Mark Murray remains within the Comboni Missionary Order at the Verona Mother House under the protection of the Order. It is believed that no reports have ever been made to the Vatican regarding this priests admissions of abuse under either Canon Law or the Motu Proprio, ‘Sacramentorum Sanctitatus’ which are mandatory reports to be made by Bishops concerning diocesan priests.  All attempts to extradite the cleric to the United Kingdom have, so far, failed. It is also of note that just before Mark Murray attended the Vatican Meeting, the Comboni Missionary Order appeared to attempt to scare off Mark Murray from entering Italy and addressing the Vatican meeting. They did this by the issue of a summons through the Verona Criminal Tribunal on what turned out to be totally unfounded charges. Mark, however, was not deterred and made his presentation to the world assembly of Representatives.

> It is of further interest that it is common that clerics whose abuse of children is fully documented, are not reported to civil authorities as a matter of routine practice by either Bishops or General Superiors. This situation pertains despite calls from such notable Vatican figures as Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Member of the Pope’s personal Advisory Council, Member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Chair of the Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors – to the effect that all child sexual abuse should be reported to the Civil Police by Bishops and Religious Superiors in every instance as a basic “moral duty”.

> Recently Reports have appeared in the Vatican press to the effect that Pope Francis’ recent call, just a few weeks ago, for “no tolerance” to be shown to clerics who abuse children was little more than “whispers in the wind”. In the last week, the very same Pope has called for “mercy” to be shown to those same priests – who have demonstrated no such mercy whatsoever to innocents – many of whom were brutally and repeatedly abused and who subsequently have continued in adulthood to suffer the lifelong effects of that abuse. According to one commentator in the last week, Pope Francis’ “no tolerance” has so far applied to only 25% of priests determined to be guilty of child sexual abuse, but the remaining 75% have been granted “mercy” with no loss of clerical dignity nor privileges. If these figures are verifiable, then someone needs to point out to Pope Francis that his “no tolerance” call was outrageously misleading – and neither the 1.2 billion lay Catholics in this world who are “sick to the teeth” of the Vatican’s failure to manage the problem of the clerical sexual abuse of minors appropriately – let alone everybody else in the world watching with wry smiles on their faces and in total disbelief– will ever believe anything this Pope, or his princely Vatican entourage, ever say in the future.

> Finally – in the question of the Rules of Missionary Congregations, it has to be said that in matters of Child abuse, the Rules of the Comboni Missionary Order, despite my many misgivings, are “reasonably” sound “as written”. They were revised in 2005, by none other than a childhood friend of mine, David Glenday, to reflect the changing winds. Those Rules even allow for individual provinces of the Order to reflect local civil laws and the rules of the Conference of Diocesan Bishops that pertain to their geographical location. Great! However, the problem is, upon my very close inspection of those Rules, that, in practice, the Comboni Missionary Order in the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic, have ignored their own Rules totally. Yes – totally in every detail. In addition, they refused attempts by the Former Chair of the United Kingdom’s Catholic Safeguarding Organisation to encourage them back into line. It has to be said also, as a final comment on the lack of commitment by the Comboni Missionary Order to the issues of clerical child sexual abuse and the care of Victims, that even after the acceptance of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster’s Diocesan Rules and Guidelines by the Religious Conference of England and Wales – to which august organization the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionary Order is the Secretary (at the last time I looked) – the Order’s “tolerance” of those Diocesan Rules is 0%. Someone needs to tell them that they have misunderstood Pope Francis’ call for “no tolerance”. In respect to the Rules, the “tolerance” level is expected to be 100%. Pope Francis’ call for “no tolerance” relates to the manner in which the Order is expected to deal with those paedophile priests, still in their midst, whom they have protected for decades. 

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From the Comboni Survivor Group to Alexis Jay, the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child sexual Abuse.

 

Professor Alexis Jay OBE – Chair

Independent Inquiry into Child sexual Abuse

Milbank Tower

London

Our ref: DE/IICSA 25 November 2016

Dear Professor Jay

Open letter

We, (the Forde Park Survivor Group, the Stanhope Castle Survivor Group and the Comboni Survivor Group, Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse, F13, F25 and F35) wish to raise with you our shared concerns regarding this Inquiry, its apparent lack of direction, lack of discernible progress and its failure to allow and support Survivors in participating in this Inquiry. Together we represent over 20% of Survivor core participants in the IICSA. Our voices matter and we will be heard.

We start by saying clearly that we want the IICSA to continue, to work effectively and to succeed. But that support is not offered blindly or unconditionally. Thus far, we feel that the IICSA has seriously and repeatedly failed to live up to its promise to put Survivors at the heart of this Inquiry.

This Inquiry was set up by the former Home Secretary Theresa May, now Prime Minister, who described the Inquiry as a “once in a generation opportunity” to expose what went wrong in institutions and public bodies and to prevent it from happening again. In opening the Inquiry it was said that Survivors of child sexual abuse should be “at the centre of this Inquiry” and that “their views would inform the Inquiry throughout”. Survivors need to be allowed to take their place at the “centre of the Inquiry.”

Our wish, which we believe is shared by all Survivors, is that this statutory Inquiry achieves its aims of discovering the true extent of child sexual abuse that was permitted to take place in the past and ensuring that children are properly protected in the future. To do this, the Inquiry has to thoroughly investigate what happened in the past, as it is only by recognising and acknowledging 2

the past that we as a society can move forward and implement the lessons learned from the past so that children can be protected from organised and institutional abuse in the future.

However, despite the Inquiry having been established over two years ago, we have not seen or felt any progress. The Inquiry seems to be under constant threat and constant criticism. Rarely does a day go by without resignations of lawyers and comments in the press stating that the Inquiry is not fit for purpose or suggesting that it is falling apart at the seams.

Let us be clear, the members of our groups, and those who look to our groups to represent their experiences, are ready and willing to participate. Our lawyers have not resigned despite working without funding for up to a year. Our groups are not falling apart at the seams, despite the heavy stresses that this Inquiry has placed upon our members.

Survivors have been waiting for years, if not decades, for an inquiry such as this to take place; and once established, for that inquiry to start tackling the issues of enduring concern; to determinedly seek out the lessons from the past and begin to put into place the measures that will protect children from abuse in the future.

We have been told that you, the Chair, are conducting a review of the Inquiry and have promised that the views of Survivors will be taken into account before any changes are made to the investigations.

We wish to confirm that, as regards any proposed changes to the Inquiry, whilst Survivors will listen and consider any review of the Inquiry, we will not agree in advance without full and proper consultation to any modification or reduction in scope of the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference or Scope of investigations.

The Inquiry has been besieged by criticism and beset by resignations from many lawyers working within the Inquiry. To all intents and purposes the Inquiry appears to have stagnated. The press and the media coverage all point to problems with management, systems and engagement.

Neither Survivors nor their lawyers are being kept up to date as to any progress or about the possible future shape of the Inquiry. For many of us, this repeats the way that the police and the civil and criminal justice systems treated us after being abused. For many of us, the on-going problems with the Inquiry bring back the memories of the way we were abused and the way that we were treated after reporting that abuse.

All of us have been abused and then ignored or side-lined. The apparent mess being created by this Inquiry and the constant suggestions that the Inquiry is too broad or too unwieldy, with a stream of Chair appointments and resignations as well as lawyer appointments and resignations, is adding to our pain and the pain of other Survivors. ‘Here we go again’ we say and with good reason. 3

The press appear to be fascinated with the drama from within the Inquiry and the House of Commons seems to be treating the Inquiry as a political football. Indeed, on 21 November 2016 in the House of Commons, Sarah Newton, a junior Home Office minster, was forced to reiterate that she was “confident, as is the prime minister, as is the home secretary, in the ability of Professor Jay to lead this inquiry,” and that “She [you] has a distinguished career in social work and a longstanding dedication to child protection” after urgent questions were raised by other MPs regarding the current state of the Inquiry. The Home Affairs Select Committee continued its criticisms of the Inquiry yesterday.

Occasionally there is a statement from the Inquiry stating that Survivors are integral to the Inquiry process when in fact we are being left in the dark about what is happening and what will happen in the future. So we say, with good reason, that we are being ignored and side-lined once again.

Assertions that the Inquiry is taking on board, and will take on board, the opinion of Survivors have so far been nothing more than words. We ask you to make that sentiment and intention real and not just a platitude.

What we require is a firm and clear statement from you, and the Inquiry team, setting out what has gone wrong and laying down a clear path for the future progress of this Inquiry.

Conclusion

Professor Jay, we know that you have only been in the post for a short time, and that the task before you is a very large one. We want you to succeed, we are willing you to succeed, we want nothing more than to support you, but you must urgently give us reasons to have faith and for that support to continue.

What is required is a full hearing where the Chair of the Inquiry can properly address the criticisms that have been made and set out the scope and future dates of the Inquiry’s work. Such a meeting would allow Survivors and their representatives a chance to publicly state our concerns, in the clearest terms, and to have those concerns heard and addressed.

We are not happy, we are not satisfied, and we want to say so publicly.

However, we also want to say publicly that we want to support you. We want to give you the chance to show us that you understand why we are unhappy and to demonstrate to us that you have a clear road map and are determined to get to the destination of uncovering the truth and previous failings to start the process of healing and to protect children in the future. 4

We ask you to urgently schedule a hearing at which all of us can attempt to lance the boil of dissatisfaction and thereafter to recommit ourselves to the shared goals of truth, recovery and future child protection.

Signed on behalf of

Forde Park Survivors Stanhope Castle Survivors Comboni Survivors

Survivors

 

My Name is Eddie Roberts. I Was at the Verona Fathers in Mirfield

Eddie (Edwin) Roberts

Who is this visitor to the blog you may ask?

I am now 66 years old and walked the corridors of Mirfield from 1963 to 1967 and then moved up to Allanton  for a year from where I was dishonourably discharged as a result of an unhealthy (still a matter of opinion) encounter with beer and ladies.

I shared the classroom often with John Docherty, Leonard Rowland, and  David Glenday in particular and had a close association with Fritz and Bickers among others.

The list of names would go on. My pride and joy as for  others was pulling on the Inter Milan strip and roaming the right side of the field.

My laundry number was 94!

MC at Mirfield

I was elevated to the lofty position of  MC which was  the pinnacle of my then career, and though I thought it was because of my unquestioned saintliness, in truth it was because I was the worst singer since Moses tried to sing the Ten Commandments and I could swing a thurible like no other.

My class reports had a common theme of “too frivolous in class” and ” must take his duties more seriously ” !

Via a circuitous route through Israel, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Stockton-on-Tees, I arrived in Australia.

Eddie Roberts - a Verona Fathers Mirfield Boy

Eddie Roberts – a Verona Fathers Mirfield Boy

Mirfield Blog

I came upon this blog quite by accident . I was engaged in routine internet activity and like many others suddenly decided to go off task and do a bit of Google research.

Now for some as yet unconfirmed reason I entered Verona Fathers.

What  I found was an emotional tremor to say the least! How was I unaware of what was going on then and now?

Names , my name! and events from an age gone by leapt out of the pages and excited as I was , my heart became heavy as I read on.

Corridors and Dormitories

I have reflected deeply since the discovery and with the benefit of that wonderful friend hindsight, yes the signs were there, the clues were in the corridors and dormitories.

Why not me? Who knows?

I thought till now a routine weigh by an avuncular medically trained Father was quite normal. It  is hard to attach a 66 year old head to a 13 year old kid destined for the papacy.

A Time of Happiness and Fun

As my contact with some of you grows, I think of a time, for me, of happiness and fun, of challenge and camaraderie that forged my path for the future.

I must now dwell on other things, sad things, and my thoughts are with you.

I talked with Gerry recently for over an hour after a gap of around 49 years!

I don’t know the man, yet we talked of happy days, memories plucked from storage in the depths of some cerebral hemisphere.And we still have  a bond, more in common than with some people I have known for decades.

From a land down under, I wish you well and speed the day I don that Inter strip and see you again.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MORAL CONSCIENCE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH? by Brian Mark Hennessy

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MORAL CONSCIENCE

OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

 

Mark Twain once said, A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory”! He was being mischievous of course. His intention was not to utter a literal truism, but to say something that we all learn in childhood, sometimes painfully, which is that now and then “our clear conscience” is a matter of convenient, feigned memory loss to cover an inconvenient known truth. When I was a Boy Scout, getting caught up a tree trying to rescue a non-existent cat whilst in the act of “scrumping” apples was where I learned that lesson. The problem is, when it comes to “conscience” many people do not truly understand what it is and how we each came to have one?

What is a fundamental truth is that we were not born with an inherited “conscience”. There is no “conscience” gene implanted within us by an extraterrestrial “being”. The cerebrum, which is the inherited genetic organ of our intelligence, nevertheless, has a part to play in forming “conscience” because it is integral to the sense of our “consciousness” and gradually provides us with an awareness of “self” and “other” as we grow in early childhood. Our cerebral ability to observe and learn assists us in the assimilation of our environment, including our physical surroundings, our parents, extended family and the boundaries that exist in all interactions, both mental and physical during play, education and within society at large.

In the process we understand gradually what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and what are the limits beyond which we should not go. The learning process is continuous and it includes the norms of behavior in a complete and complex culture – down to whether or not it is appropriate to drive on the right or the left hand side of the road. Abstract aspects of culture are also learned – as for example the necessity to tell the “Truth” – and that necessity comes from an awareness that you will not be accepted by society if you are unreliable. “Truth”, indeed, is so fundamental to co-existence and good order within a society that an individual or group will be rapidly and permanently ostracized from other networks of interacting individuals within a community if an act of lying or deception is exposed. Implicitly, therefore, each person’s unique conscience is a learned “rule book”. Of course, in different cultures with different social mores and religious norms – whole groups of individuals will have a distinct set of conventions that have a bearing on their collective “conscience”, but they will also have a more general code of conduct, influenced by universal humanity. That code has been specifically devised to ensure our essential adaptation as individuals to living within a safe and harmonious extended society. In this context, the conscience is not specifically a vehicle of moral discernment, but a guide to the essential needs of “survival” in a complex world.

The position of the Catholic Church on “conscience” is not at odds with the above as a “general” theory. St Thomas Aquinas said in his “Summa Theologiae” – if I can deduce anything he said to a few words – that conscience is the “learned habits of the mind”. The Church today regards conscience as a “remarkable and distinctly human facility of our reason”. However, they emphasise one aspect of “conscience” by suggesting that its function is primarily to enable individuals to make “moral” judgements – and it is thus a reminder to us of the difference between good and evil. The proof of that pudding, they claim, is that we have a “guilty conscience” if we knowingly choose what they consider to be the “immoral” option. The Catholic Church further believes that an already formed set of learned habits may be faulty, even immoral, and thus each Catholic, in his or her own way, must take dutiful steps to form a new “moral” conscience in the light of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the examples of the Saints and Martyrs. Individuals can do that by learning and taking to heart the “moral” law, as found in the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. This forms an objective “moral conscience”, they claim.

Currently, in the United Kingdom, the Government is endeavoring to increase the numbers of “non-faith” or “other faith” children within Catholic Schools. The Catholic Church’s current robust determination to maintain Catholic Faith Schools primarily for Catholic children – coupled with the historic priority they have given to teaching the Catechism – should be understood as a major part of the Church Hierarchy’s aim to ensure that Catholic “consciences” are specifically formed in the light of their teachings alone. The Catholic Hierarchy perceives, correctly of course, that exclusivity of Catholic children in their schools is the only way that they will be able to ensure each individual child’s continued membership in the Church in the future. If you are a sceptic – it will ensure their future financial support also. It would not be a surprise to learn that this is a model that the Catholic Church mirrors throughout the world. Being that children are unable to make a choice about their own schooling, the process is rightly described as “indoctrination” – but then the complete process of all choices of parenting can be seen in the same vein.

Conversely, I should of course note in passing, that if the moral habits of the mind can be learned, then they can also be un-learned – and replaced over time by what the Catholic Church would most probably describe as “immoral” or “evil” habits. In any such a process of transition there will be continuous inner conflict until one set of norms dominates the mind. Such conflict is manifest in the minds of many today, particularly the youth of this world, who seek to throw off the shackles of Catholic Church teachings in order to embrace their perceived or true, innate natures. Examples of individuals who, out of necessity need to embark on this process of painful conscience re-orientation, are homosexual gays and lesbians and transgender persons.

Now we are getting to the “nitty gritty” of this tome – and that is that there are many matters of universal concern where the Catholic Church and the Civil jurisdictions of this world appear to be polarized at the opposite ends of a spectrum on moral issues. This should not happen in an increasingly “joined up” intellectual and scientific world with global institutions that have clearly defined aims in the matter of Human Rights. Nevertheless, a case in point are the differences between how the Catholic Church and the civil institutions of this world manage, in practice, the grave matter of child sexual abuse. I say “manage in practice” quite deliberately because, despite what the Pope or Vatican might declare publicly, many Bishops and hierarchs of Religious Orders often manage such issues with blatant indifference – not just to the will of civil jurisdictions, but of the Pope also.

There are many examples I could give, but I state once again the most obvious example that relates to this blog. Namely, whereas Pope Francis states that there is no place for clerics who abuse children in the Catholic Church, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy have given sanctuary to and protected a known, alleged paedophile priest for two decades within their Italian Religious House at Verona – and have no intention of handing him over to the UK Civil Legal Jurisdiction – namely the UK Crown Prosecution Service – who want to question this cleric regarding his alleged crimes. Such arrogance cannot be classified as a “difference of opinion” on how to pursue the matter. The startling and profound disjunct in attitude of this Catholic Church Religious Order, with the expressed will of both Pope and State jurisdictions at every level from the UN Human Rights Committee right down to the civil law authorities, is bulldozing a growing chasm right within the Catholic Church itself. There, the relatively small Hierarchical, Clerical Church is at extreme odds with the vastly more numerous Lay Catholic Church.

The Clerics will always blame the “secularization” of the lay church for this upheaval, no doubt, but that is clutching at straws. To quote Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, an American psychologist who has been working with abused children for thirty years: “Church officials lied, denied and projected blame on victims, parents of victims, a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, bad apple priests, the ’60s, the media. They had seen the enemy and it was not them”. The unsurprising result of this sad state of “moral blindness” is that there is a profound mistrust amongst the Catholic Church lay community of the ability of clerics to “care for their kids” and appropriately deal with predator priests. This situation has provoked many lay Catholics into walking away from the Catholic Church. The growing “mistrust” of clerics – and not just those guilty of abusing children, but also the complicit superiors who have hidden the abuse from sight – has caused a rupture and a broadening “schism” between Catholic clerics and Catholic laity.

The distinction between the two groups (clerical and lay) of the Catholic Church is very much more fundamental than having been caused by the process of “secularization”. It comes back to the formation of “conscience” – and the conscience that drives the Catholic Hierarchical Clerical Church forward has become warped by an arrogant and immoral self-belief in their function, worth and stature within the Universal Catholic Church itself. They have literally “self-taught” themselves a “false conscience” by mutually reinforcing their perceived, but misconceived, unique status within the Church – and this has created within their consciences a false sense of impunity from all criticism. In their minds, they have become “above” the law.

St Thomas Aquinas, one of their undisputed Doctors of Church theology, if not the most significant, does not agree. Perhaps the modern-day clerics of the Church need to revise their knowledge of his Summa Theologiae in the light of his declaration that “due obedience is to be given to the civilian power when there is no moral issue that precludes so doing”. In the discussion of a moral issue in the case of child sexual abuse, the need to report the matter to the civil authorities is not a matter of debate, but an overwhelming necessity. The neglect so to do within the Catholic Church points to a lack of moral self-scrutiny within the Church regarding one of the most essential elements of universal harmony, which is the need to be open and to tell the “Truth”. Implicit within the process of telling the “Truth” is the process of providing “Justice” where crimes have been committed. The forgotten victims in this matter are the young, gullible, innocent children who were cruelly abused by subversive and powerful, adult, paedophile priests who continue to be given “Sanctuary” within the walls of Religious Orders and Diocesan Bishops’ domains.

The often-appalling lack of management by Bishops and Religious hierarchs of the criminal, clerical, child sexual abusers in their midst – their failure to accept the necessity to subject these criminals to the justice procedures of civil jurisdictions and their harsh and often belittling treatment of the Survivors of child sexual abuse are the root causes for the increasing lack of trust and alienation that the lay Church has for the Hierarchical Clerical Church. If it is a fact that “conscience is learned” – then it is starkly evident that the Catholic Church Clerical Hierarchy, as a whole, has been found to have substituted the Scripture’s moral laws of truth, humility, justice, charity and the cherishment of infants with their own brand of elitist, false morality – which is based on narcissistic impunity, arrogance and sometimes avarice too. This lack of “Truth” within the Church has ostracized the Hierarchical Clerical Church from the broader World Society. As I mentioned above, “Truth” is so essential to co-existence and good order within a society that an individual or group will be ostracized permanently if any untruthfulness or deceit is exposed. That goes for institutions such as the Catholic Church as well. So, how has the Catholic Church come to this miserable state of losing its “moral conscience”?

Well, if you think of the Catholic Church as the amorphous, top-down stucture that it is, then it opens up a number of possibilities for analysis. Firstly, the Vatican does not consider itself to be accountable to anyone on this earth. It is not a “trading nation”, but it has an unending source of money garnered annually from donations and from undisclosed, but significant worldwide investments in property and other portfolios. It is a closed and secretive establishment that makes all its own rules without having to rub off the hard edges in negotiations with other societies and individuals who are not members of its own elite institution. It has a dogmatic set of Rules that are to be obeyed implicitly by its followers. In effect, as it is without a process of open, two-sided litigation, it decides who is “in” and who is “out” by having a useful tool for those who do not fully agree with them – and it is called “excommunication”. In effect, at the top end, it is akin to an exclusive “rich men’s only” club in which the top job is put to the vote of a small number of just seventy or so male “Cardinals” – appointed solely by the whim of the previous Pope out of its global half a million exclusively male priest followers. The latter, in turn, administer the needs of a world-wide lay membership of some 1.2 billion adherents – who, somewhat surprisingly, if you think about it, have no say whatsoever. The perpetuation of such a “club” depends on absolute loyalty. When that loyalty is threatened, as it has been, by attempts to cover up the corruption within the walls of the Hierarchical Clerical Church by deceit – then the tail of that Church, (id est: the 1.2 billion laypersons), will either start to wag more and more furiously until the head wonders why – or they will simply hand in their membership cards.

For the moment, loyalty is ebbing away fast because non-clerical ordinary folk like me treasure our kids and our grand-kids – and we have scant regard for those who would abuse them. We have even less regard for those in the Hierarchy of the Church who would rather protect their criminal paedophiles and lie to us than do anything more positive about it. They do so at their peril, for like it or not, the 1.2 billion supporters of their extravagant lifestyles have already started to walk away from their Church doors – and they will keep walking, in the short term at least, because they hold out no hope of determined reform. Eventually, if they still see no change, they will readily pull the plug and stand by whilst the Church goes down the Vatican’s drain into the Tiber.

How did we come to such a moment? The answer is simple: the Catholic Hierarchical Clerical Church has failed in their ability to discern their moral conscience. Their pretence of having a “clear conscience” will not do. It is a moment for choices – and there is only one choice that will save them. That is to start the process to unlearn that “grotesque conscience” that they have acquired and which is devoid of any concept of Christian, Scriptural morality – and start the process of re-learning a “moral conscience”, based on the Gospels of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all over again and from the very, very beginning.

THE COMFORT AND DISCOMFORT OF BEING ON THE SAME PAGE – by Brian Mark Hennessy

THE COMFORT AND DISCOMFORT OF BEING ON THE SAME PAGE – by Brian Mark Hennessy

“While Churches fail to deliver the messages of the Gospels by their example, rather than by their hollow words, the People of God will walk away from them. They will both seek and find their Redemption elsewhere, in direct good works and help for the poor, destitute, old, sick and those in need of comfort in the countless corners of this world which suffer from war, strife and natural disasters. In this day and age, Christians of all creeds are less and less prepared to have their contributions to the needy of the world “creamed off” to allow clerics to live a life of relative luxury, fight legal cases against the victims of clerical sexual abuse – and indulge in corruption – which is the only word that can aptly define both child abuse and the protection of paedophiles by the Heads of Religious Orders and Bishops of Dioceses. So the children of God are already walking away from Church doors and they will continue to walk. They know that men who live in palaces are not pricked by the suffering at their doors and that they live a life that is in denial of the humble life of the Gospels that they preach. The People of God will only start to listen again when Bishops vacate their palaces, when the profane and excessive material wealth of the Church is sold and all the proceeds are given to the poor and needy. They will listen only when clerics of all ranks get out into their communities which they serve – and live within those communities in modest housing, in the shanty towns and in the slums of this world – and endure the same hardships, toil and longsuffering of the world’s under-privileged and impoverished peoples. That is what it will take for the people of God to start to listen again – and re-trace their steps.”

I wrote those words a year ago. However, I did not expect any clerics to take heed of what I wrote. In the last few weeks, I found it comforting that someone else said something similar in criticism of priests and bishops. His words, as reported by the National Catholic Recorder, were, “The world is tired of enchanting liars, fashionable priests and bishops. The People of God have a ‘scent’ and they retreat when they recognize narcissists, manipulators, defenders of personal causes and standard bearers of worthless crusades. It’s a horrible thing for the Church when its pastors act like princes. Yet, we need Pastors, but may they be fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of princes”.

That “someone else” was Pope Francis – and he is persistent with these themes. Last week it was reported in the UK Catholic Herald that at his weekly audience he said that, “Clergy who use their position for personal gain rather than to help those in need do not follow the spirit of Jesus who took upon himself the sufferings of others. Jesus often would rebuke such leaders and warned his followers to ‘do what they say – but not what they do’. Jesus was not a prince. It is awful for the Church when pastors become princes, far from the people, far from the poorest people. That is not the spirit of Jesus who had tenderness toward the poor, the suffering and the oppressed and whose invitation was, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is not a master who severely imposes burdens upon others that he does not carry himself. Jesus was a pastor who was among the people and among the poor with whom he worked every day.”

I write these words in the Philippines where, in the midst of a wealthy and upward economy, poverty is still the lot of the masses – and where a multitude of underfed, barefooted children of the poor are on the streets by day and also by night for they have no bed nor shelter. There they beg and hustle and offer their limp bodies for adult abuse for a few pesos in order to survive until the next day. “Do you like me?” they ask imploringly and pitifully as you pass them in the street. The same uneducated, abandoned children watch hopelessly and helplessly as their parents die young from the result of crime or from sickness – simply because they have no funds for the basic medicine to stave off the effects of common illnesses. There, on the street, they sleep on the pavements and sniff glue to obliterate the pangs of hunger and the distress and hopelessness of neglect. The underpasses are where rejected amputees with home-made crutches find shelter, where infants of pre-school-age lead the aged blind to beg. There, countless young boys, not even in their teens, are routinely rounded up and cast into prison without charge for months for the most menial of offences such as begging or stealing a crust to stave off their hunger. Incarcerated communally with adult men, they become the prey of those intent on brutal, sexual abuse that will cast long, dark, sinister shadows over the remainder of their lives.

Yet, cheek by jowl with some of the poorest neighborhoods in Metro Manila, the smiling Cardinal Luis Tagle of the Church in the Philippines heads the richest and most cash-laden Archdiocese in the world. So much so that he was not able to remember, or even provide a close estimate, of quite how much money he did have in the coffers of his Archdiocese when asked by Stephen Sackur of the BBC in a “HardTalk” programme. He suggested, lamely, that Sackur looked on the Internet. I tried to find out myself with a bit of research. The information was not up to date – and nor was it presented by the Catholic Church – but it was garnered from the Philippine Stock Exchange by a group of disenchanted, Catholic financial experts. What was discovered was the mere tip of the ice berg. The data demonstrated that (in 2011) the Archdiocese had – as just one of its many investments, 300 million shares in banking – and together with other dioceses, the Church was within the top 100 investors in some 40 major companies engaged in such pursuits as banking, mining and construction. We do not know, however, how much more is invested in private entities, in companies outside the Philippines, in bonds, in time deposit accounts, or in real estate properties, but it is not just millions – it is billions. If you look carefully, you will also discover that at least one individual princely Bishop had both “Church:” and “private” funds of money stashed away in stock market investments.

Whilst the Cardinal was sitting on all this capital investment prior to the visit of Pope Francis in January 2015, one wonders why the Archdiocese of Manila needed to set up a fund seeking contributions from their parishioners for the repairs (that were said to have cost 200 million Pesos) for the Cardinal’s Cathedral in Intramuros (historic Manila). Yet, that is what they did. The Church will defend itself from the criticism of being “cash rich”, of course, and it will do this, most probably, by saying that in order to dispense welfare to the poor and needy of the world, it needs to produce the funds by investments to achieve it. That is a theoretical financial “truth” that I could not deny. Yet they do not divulge any details of income and expenditure – and so whether or not they do expend any money on the countless poor for housing, food, healthcare and education is not known. I could find no institutions listed, apart from two orphanages in Manila, that might fall into the category of charitable donations. On the other hand, the number of fee-paying Catholic schools in the Philippines is well over 100 – and fee-paying Catholic hospitals and clinics are also plentiful – but, they are for the wealthy – even the middle classes would struggle to afford the fees of the most of them.

The very bottom line is, of course, that being sensible with money and investing it for good causes does not require the prelates of the Philippines themselves to live like princes, it does not require them to live in grand houses like millionaires and deal privately in the financial markets, nor does it necessitate them owning vast diocesan estates – and, most certainly, it does not sanction them to grow portly whilst a multitude around them, who like street dogs, are literally scavenging through the garbage to find a bone to chew upon. I have seen them doing just that outside the popular fried chicken outlets.

So, until the cash-rich Church in the Philippines provides the laity with accurate, up-to-date financial information on how their money is being used, their Bishops can be harshly criticized with justification. After all – it is not the Bishops’ money to spend on themselves and their entourages. It is the “Church’s” money held by them in trust. The vast majority of that “Church” are the laity. Harsh criticism is especially justified when there is no evidence that any of their fabulous wealth is being utilised to alleviate the dire state of poverty outside their very church doors. In my book, that is called neglect on a scale that is equivalent to the gravest abuse of their priestly mission. If that is not the case, then I misjudge them, so let them publish the independently audited facts of their income and expenditure – both on official Church business and their private household expenses. I guess in advance that it will not be difficult to spot the cavernous, immoral disparity between their lifestyle and that of the destitute street ragamuffins who are in a state of serious physical underdevelopment for their age – due to the absence of even the most minimal of regular nourishment and healthcare.

One should note also, that whilst the Philippine Catholic Church does not condone any excesses and failures of the State, neither do they risk preaching against it in the pulpit. The reason for that is simple to understand (if you are an economist) for any Church edifice that is used to highlight matters of the conduct of the State – could be deemed by the State to be a “political entity” used for a “political statement or purpose”. That could lead to the parish or diocese being taxed on its income. It is true that the Bishop’s Conferences have made critical representations to the State in documentation in both past and present – but very few laymen will be aware of such documents. The silence of clerics in the pulpits in important moral guidance for their flock, therefore, ensures the continued liquidity of Church property – at the expense of the moral education of the populace. It is little wonder, indeed disastrous, that the vast proportion of Filippino Catholics do not make informed and cognizant moral decisions in so many pressing issues that face them in their lives today – and which are currently being reported worldwide. Such a lack of moral leadership for the sole purpose of defending “Mammom” is a part of a widespread and sinister culture of clerical self-interest – for the sake of their own preservation as a vibrant, financial institution. The result of this failure, most regrettably, is the moral decline of a whole nation which does not understand the perils that lie upon the road they willingly travel today.

In my three years in the Philippines, said to be the most Catholic country in the world, I have never seen a priest on the streets outside the doors of where I live or in the thriving city hubs. You will see them Sundays, of course, saying Mass in the local shopping malls – and of course gathering in a collection. Apart from that, they hold court only in their churches where they dictate to the desperate how they must lead their moral lives. Pope Francis certainly understood this situation in advance of his visit in January 2015. He castigated Filipino priests for failing to work for the poor in the streets. More recently he said about clerics that “Jesus is not a Master who severely imposes burdens upon others that he does not carry himself. He was a Pastor who was among the poor and He worked every day with them.” Yet, the Philippines remains a hell for countless thousands of children who are born – and then abused, physically and sexually, and then discarded by callous adults. Some parents even discard their own children because they are only able to feed a limited number of mouths. Thus, when another is born into this world, the oldest child in the family, whatever age or sex – and even before they reach their teens, are cast out to fend for themselves. Such infants are products of a ridiculous Dogma decreed by a Church that has not yet been able to grasp that God gave us a brain as well as genitals – and so this brainless Church infamously continues to claim that the use of condoms is forbidden on pain of Divine retribution.  The result is more homeless, neglected, abused, sick and wretched kids. That is Church abuse in the form of sinister dogmatic power piled upon the inexcusable abuse of neglect.

When Pope Francis came to Manila, these homeless and hungry castaway children were rounded up and bussed away out of site. The Shepherd of the Catholic Church was not allowed even to see them, let alone to walk amongst them – the most vulnerable of his flock. Cardinal Tagle did not object to their absence from the scene. He wanted to show a vibrant, cheerful and healthy Church to his guest. Neglect of street kids by the mainstream of the Philippine Church is a grave injustice that leads to both physical and psychological abuse. Yes, neglect is a form of abuse when you have a stated sacred mission to the poor – and you ignore it – and when you have the wealth to do something truly significant about it – but you do not. The Church is not listening to this Pope. Did he not state that, “There is no place in the Church for those that abuse a child.”  Yes, the Pope was talking about sexual abuse – but any abuse of children is equally reprehensible.

Dwelling for a moment on the sexual abuse of children, it has to be said also that the clerics of the Philippine Church, like so many other Bishops and Religious Orders worldwide, continue to sordidly protect and foster criminal, paedophile clerics amongst them, whilst they malevolently neglect the crimes committed against Victims by those very same errant priests. Here in the Philippines even the parents of abused children are told that the sexual abuse of “their” children is a “Church” matter and it is not for the laity to meddle in Church affairs”! I am not over simplifying! I read that exactly as stated by the Manila Diocesan Canonist in a Catholic news Bulletin in 2014. What they are saying, in fact, is that only the Clerics “are” the “Church”. Poppycock! Pope Francis would describe such a response of the Philippine Church as “Clerical arrogance and narcissistic clericalism”– but then this is Manila – it’s a long way from Rome – and, to be even more ironic, we are only talking about child victims of sexual abuse and destitute street kids – those annoying dregs of humanity who keep thrusting themselves by the thousands in our faces – and so who cares?

I fully believe that by “gut instinct” Pope Francis is on the right page – indeed the same page as all victims in this world and especially the page of victimized children. That is comforting to a degree. Yet, the Pope does not have full control of the Vatican curia – and nor the clerics in dioceses and Religious Orders. He cannot achieve all that is required, realistically, but he must at least try to ensure that the Bishops who govern the Church and the Superiors General of the Orders of the Church – are men of the Gospels – and true men in their hearts, who, with his leadership, can shake the dead wood from out the Church’s many branches. Ruthless pruning now will produce a rejuvenated tree in the new Spring. It is an urgent need – for the Church, as a clerical institution, has currently forfeited the good will of the lay Church that Christ founded. Those laymen and women are as integral to the Church as are the clerics who arrogantly and falsely claim it to be their own personal heritage and realm.  The Pope must put these clerics back in their place as servants of the Church, not it’s Masters.

For the moment, Pope Francis must face the fact that the traditional trust between clerics and laypersons has dissolved almost totally. Being on the same page as the Pope is comforting, but it is tainted by nothing other than the grave “discomfort” of knowing that what Pope Frances says – is not what his clerics deliver. The Pope must act and set out boldly and clearly, in the short time that he has, a root and branch radical reform programme. The Catholic Church must start to deliver for the most vulnerable in the Church – who are children. Whether those children are victims of sexual abuse, physical hardships, parental and clerical neglect, poverty, incarceration in prisons where they do not belong – or beatings on the streets of Manila – they must be cherished and not discarded as flotsam and jetsam amongst the turbulent seas of cruel, avaricious, selfish humanity. Make no mistake – and Pope Francis knows this well – that the latter “selfish humanity” includes, to the disgrace of the Catholic Church, so many Catholic prelates, clerics and religious who, whatever habit they wear and whatever their role in the Church, are demonstrably idle, indolent and undeserving of their daily bread.

“THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR CLERICS WHO HAVE ABUSED CHILDREN — By Brian Mark Hennessy

“THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR CLERICS

WHO HAVE ABUSED CHILDREN”

(By Brian Mark Hennessy)

With penetrating clarity and absolute authority, Pope Francis gave a speech in Santa Marta in 2014, and said that, “there is no place in the Church for clerics who have abused children”. His words rang loud, chiming bells of hope in my mind that here was a man who understood in his heart how pernicious and evil it was for an adult to abuse a child. When I now think back on his words, I feel somewhat amazed at how momentous they appeared to be about a matter which was so downright obvious to the vast majority of people in the world – and not just to parents – but to most adults who had ever given it a thought – and, of course, to the countless children who had been abused! On reflection, my surprise – and even inner joy at hearing him say it – was down to the simple, sad fact that I had never ever heard a Catholic Cleric, let alone a Pope, say it before in such a blatant and brazenly obvious way.

Pope Francis has said many other things since that time in the early few years of his papacy that have had a similar effect on me – and I presume he has prompted a like reaction in many others. It has given many hope that the Pope, who has the leadership of the Catholic Church in his hands, is truly on the path of change. This matters – not just for the Catholic Church – but for the moral guidance of many others in the world also. It suggests, in addition, that this Argentinian, non-Curial, diocesan prelate is now listening, not so much to the dogmatic, scarlet-hatted prelates that frequent the old palaces of the Vatican Curia, but to the Christian men, women and children in the streets – the people with whom he is much more familiar – and the streets he identifies as the place where he also belongs. He, and not the Curia “Old Guard”, understands that the laity are suffering the burdens of centuries of dogmatic indoctrination that has sought to compel them to live constricted and at times almost un-natural lives. The Church has historically dictated to them consistently and without offering any alleviation for their plight in the face of distressing circumstances that were not of their making. It has burdened them with demands on the decisions they make at times of misfortune – and warned defaulters of unpleasant retribution for failures.

To get his message across, the Pope has had to talk directly to his flock and over the heads of the Curia and their traditional, strictured, theological interpretation of dogma. This has been a most effective operation – for the Pope knows that his Curia dogmatists are a “turn off” in this modern age. The last thing the laity needs is a message, accompanied by the severe penalties of damnation and the eternal Bosch-like fires of Hell, which the dogmatists unstintingly attach to any failure to comply. The Pope recognizes, but the Curia do not, that for countless multitudes in this world, the achievement of the perfection postulated by theoretical dogma is often both incongruous and incompatible with the realities and the daily hardships of basic survival. Those realities are a way of living that the Curia Old Guard, imbibing and sleeping in their princely palaces, do not comprehend because for the most part, quite probably, they have never had to face and nor endure those hardships for any time much longer than a brief, afternoon pastoral visit.

Hence we now have discussions with the laity, un-envisaged before the arrival of Francis, about divorce, abortion, homosexuality and communion – and so on. Francis understands that life is a journey and that true perfection is unattainable for most. His simple message to his flock is to keep walking, even to limp and to crawl, down that road that points to perfection as best they can, within the circumstances of their individual lives, and with the constant aim, rather than any real expectancy being placed upon them, of reaching the destination.

It is regrettable, given the above, but quite unsurprising, that some of the Curial Princes of the Church are fighting a rearguard action against both the Pope and the faithful to whom he appeals. The old heads in the Curia are unaware that the vast number of the informed and educated of those admiring throngs of Francis believe that they have an undisputed and inalienable right to be able to discern what is right and wrong for themselves. Yet, the Vatican “scarlet hats”, for the most part, remain entrenched in the past and there are many of them, it seems, who are most reluctant to end their traditional ability to dictate, to scold, to ex-communicate and to damn. Who would relinquish such power, that has been invested in them for centuries, over the many millions of their followers in the world? Without the dogma-subjugated, vast throngs of believing faithful throughout the history of “Peter’s Pence”, who would, in the future, continue to fund the princely lifestyle that those prelates enjoy? The wearers of fashionable scarlet socks know that it was the big sticks of “dogma” and “everlasting fire” that maintained the Curia princes in a lifestyle of luxury in the past. So in their unwitting minds the faithful must continue to be subdued by their incomprehensible, doctrinal interpretations of “God’s Law” and kept in line by the fear of excruciating punishment. Only thus can the masses be denied the exercise of their own right to discern good and bad for themselves.

Unfortunately, for these intellectually sterile, reptilian relics of history at the Vatican, it may be an unpleasant surprise to know that the informed and educated laity both know and assert that their soul and their conscience belongs to them and to nobody else. The greater number of the faithful – which is the world’s abject poor who wearily struggle through life wondering how they will feed tomorrow the large numbers of children that they bore yesterday, in accordance with Church Rules, are forgotten. They, remain down-trodden and often de-humanised by miserable circumstances in both the foul-flooded slums and the rain-parched deserts of the world today – as did their forebears in the inescapable biblical, sore-bandaged, leper colonies. They act, for the most part, in accordance with necessity and the ungracious rules of survival rather than dogma. There is a disconnect, therefore, that has not yet penetrated the minds and the luxurious style of life of the Vatican cascades of isolated, enclaved male dignitaries that arrogantly tell the rest of the world how to behave. Thus, the Curia is, collectively, the downside to the hopeful words that the Pope utters day by day.

Those quiet, unseen Curia “dogma-worms”, secretly munching away at the paper piles left to rot in Vatican “in-trays”, leave me with an uneasy feeling that for them, the whole of Christianity is just a game of theatrical charades. It is a scene complete with its Cathedral stages, its saints, torture, blood, haloes, rites and rituals, its candles and incense, its colourful, richly embroidered, swirling costumes, its promises and its threats, its pledges and betrayals, its dogmas and its stories of angels and devils – and of purgatory, heaven and hell. It is a stage of unending drama upon which, in their minds, the curtains will never be drawn. Yet, that is a dangerous misconception for, whilst they stand still in glorifying in their eternal, fantasy world, the real world is transient – here today and gone tomorrow – and ever-changing at an alarming and increasingly hectic rate. Thus, their reluctance to deal judiciously, decisively and with alacrity with urgent matters such as the contagion of clerical child abuse within their realm has already seen, and in the future may well see a further and irreversible shift in their former fortunes. The more tardy they are in putting right the wrongs thet they have committed, condoned and hidden – the more rapid is the decline in their relevance. They sit on their fumbling hands in peril of being consigned to a chapter in the annals of history – fittingly entitled, if Edward Gibbon can be resurrected to complete his task, as: “Part Seven – The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church”.

We return, therefore, as we must, to add to this dire picture the Curia’s specific failure to provide any consistent, visible, coherent, practical outcomes to what Pope Francis said so early on in his Papacy: “There is no place in the church for clerics who have abused children”. The Comboni Survivors (known originally as the Mirfield 12) have written endlessly to prelates of the Catholic Church to act on the commitment of Pope Francis to rid the Catholic Church of all clerics who have abused children. The survivors of child sexual abuse in the seminary of the Comboni Missionary Order at Mirfield, Yorkshire, England have compiled witness allegations to some individual 1000 crimes of child sexual abuse in a volume of near 200 pages – and that evidence includes the facts of the protection of a living, allegedly paedophile priest. This volume was distributed to all the Bishops of the British Isles and to Bishops’ Conferences throughout the world. Cardinal Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster took a copy by hand to Rome and gave it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He confirmed to me, bless his scarlet socks, sash and cap, that he had done so.

The allegations of the crimes of this paedophile priest have been buried by the Catholic Church for nigh on half a century since the Order were first aware of them. Their immediate reaction was to send him to the Missions in Uganda to get him out of the way. He stayed there for decades (hopefully he was not abusing even more innocents) until he was finally brought to account two decades ago at the insistence of one of his Victims. His admissions at that time – downplayed and reduced in correspondence to the victim as “inappropriate actions” should have been reported to the Vatican immediately. Yet, even after admissions of wrongdoing those two decades ago, the Order has continued to give him sanctuary from full investigation and arraignment before a civil or canonical court. The priest remains wanted for questioning about crimes against a child by the West Yorkshire Police in the United Kingdom. The UK Crown Prosecution Service has sought his extradition on a number of occasions. It is believed also, that the Order never reported him to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at any time in the past fifty years and so it is certain that he has never been brought before a Vatican Canonical Court. If he had been, he would have been defrocked long ago and cast out as the criminal he is alleged to be. Even then – that would have been a lenient outcome – for he would probably have received a pension from the Order (provided in their Rules for such miscreants) and also escaped the long prison sentence that any civilian court would have imposed upon him for his alleged heinous crimes.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have had the information regarding this priest, provided by the Comboni Survivor Group, in their hands for almost a year. Within the text of that document it is detailed with clarity that this living priest of the Comboni Missionary Order, who is alleged to have committed crimes of child sexual abuse in the guise of religious rituals against a young seminarian, then aged 11 years, has had no action taken against him by the Order. Almost the last words heard uttered by the Order about this priest were, “We all make mistakes!”, as if that casual, verbal shrug of the shoulders should both be the end of the matter – and the signal to the Victim that it is time for the wretchedness that has excrutiated and brutalised his psyche since childhood should now, in a flash, be forgotten. Life is not like that.

I do not expect that Pope Francis has ever heard of this case that I have related, but his Curia officials most certainly have. They have neither acknowledged receipt and nor responded. This is not just abject discourtesy to the Writer, the Victim and the Comboni Survivor Group, it is also a grievous sleight both to the Cardinal Archbishop who took the trouble to present it to them – and to the clearly expressed will of Pope Francis. The Curia is sitting on its hands – as it has done for centuries – and, therefore, they are not just a part of the historical problem in cases of child sexual abuse – they are also the current problem. Their inaction, believe me, reflects their declared independence from anything Pope Francis says and does. His Church is in the Curia’s hands. Our only remaining hope is that Pope Francis reads this blog – and then diligently undertakes the much needed firing and hiring process within the Curia. Pope Frances must ‘have done” with words of benevolent encouragement – and reveal his skills as an incisive surgeon.

SUPPORTING AND ENDORSING THE WORK OF SNAP — by Brian Mark Hennessy

SUPPORTING AND ENDORSING THE WORK OF SNAP  —  by Brian Mark Hennessy

 

SNAP, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, will be well known to most readers of this Blog as it is the world’s oldest and largest support group for persons abused by priests – but not only priests of the Catholic Church. It has also provided a place of focus to nuns, rabbis, bishops and Protestant ministers. Their basic quest is to urge “every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids” by calling the police, getting help by calling therapists, exposing wrongdoers by calling law enforcement agencies, getting justice by calling attorneys, and being comforted by calling support groups like theirs”.

The Comboni Survivors Group support these aims wholeheartedly – as this is the only way that children will be safer, adults will recover from the traumatic and long-term impacts of childhood abuse, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred, the truth will surface, lessons can be learned and safeguards can be put in place to protect the children of the future. In order to achieve these aims – and to encourage participation – an essential ingredient of the process is total and permanent confidentiality

The aims of SNAP are, indeed, also very closely aligned to those that the United Kingdom’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse also fosters. The ultimate aims of both are to relieve suffering, examine wrongdoing and bring institutions that have failed to protect children to full public account. That is why the Comboni Survivors Group (also known as “The Mirfield 12”) have given their full support to that Inquiry and why they have fully supported the “Truth” Project” that is associated with the Inquiry and which legally provides them with total anonymity. Indeed, the Comboni Survivor Group are also dignified as victims by being granted “Core Participant Status” within that Inquiry. This grants the Group a range of privileges that includes anonymity and a formal role, defined by legislation, in the Inquiry. They also have special rights in the Inquiry process which include receiving disclosure documentation, being represented and making legal submissions, suggesting questions and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s Report.

It is with some alarm, therefore, that a report by Brian Roewe, in the National Catholic Reporter on 2nd September 2016, stated that a “St. Louis federal judge levied sanctions last week against the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests for resisting a court order to turn over documents containing victim information”. SNAP had resisted the Order, it seems, as it had genuine concerns that to hand over the documents would have given rise to serious issues about survivor confidentiality going forward. The judge enforced the sanctions, which included a hefty fine, against SNAP after determining that SNAP had refused to comply with the court order and, in so doing, “had been willful and in bad faith.”

Brian Roewe further explained that David Clohessy, representing SNAP, had said that the order had worried the organization’s members. He had explained that he considered the pursuit of the documents was “part of an escalating campaign to discredit us and defund us” and to prevent victims, witnesses and law enforcement officials from seeking SNAP’s help”.

Lorenz-Moser, acting on behalf of SNAP, added that SNAP had turned over between 600 and 700 pages of documentation that included internal communications, but had omitted or redacted those concerning victims and advocacy work on their part. “If victims are scared that they don’t have confidentiality or their names might be disclosed to their abuser or to others, or that their private communications might be disclosed, they don’t come forward. Not only do they not come forward, but they don’t seek services that they need, they don’t feel protected, they don’t report crimes, and they don’t end up in a position to be able to vindicate themselves, and to stop the abuser from abusing other people,” she said.

The UK Comboni Survivor Group are not competent to comment on the niceties of US State Law. Yet, we do insist that any Justice procedure in any land should, in its pursuit of justice, examine the serious effects that any legally enforced disclosure of documentation relating to a vulnerable victim of abuse might have on that victim. Documentation, such as an abused victim’s voluntary statement, are made by the victim with an expectancy of absolute confidentiality. I suggest that it would be essential that a qualified medical doctor, cognizant of the effects that disclosure might have on the victim, be called as a witness before any such disclosure is made legally binding. An organization such as SNAP, should be able, without penalty, to honour the expectancy of confidentiality of a vulnerable victim of abuse – unless that victim has rescinded confidentiality – and medical evidence supports that is safe for the victim so to rescind it.

Written by Brian Mark Hennessy