Catastrophic Institutional Failures Can Be Fixed

Comments on the Recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission
by Kieran Tapsell

[Kieran Tapsell is a retired civil lawyer and the author of Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse and of a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Canon Law, A Systemic Factor in Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. He was also a member of the canon law panel before the Australian Royal Commission Feb. 9, 2017.]

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse spent five years interviewing over 8,000 survivors, their abusers and personnel from institutions that had covered up the abuse. The Commission found that 61.8 percent of all survivors within religious institutions had been under the care of the Catholic Church. The Commission’s 17 volume Final Report, released on Dec. 15, 2017, made hundreds of recommendations for change in structures, practices and internal laws of institutions. Many of the recommendations addressed to the church involved changes to canon law. Two of these recommendations received massive media attention: that celibacy no longer be obligatory and that civil reporting laws should not provide an exemption in the case of confession. There has been some pushback against these recommendations because they involve overturning long traditions in the church. But many other recommendations had more to do with church law and practice, and could be more easily implemented, if church leadership is willing to take up this challenge.

Recommendation 16.10: Abolish the pontifical secret
One important recommendation challenges the church to return to its long tradition from the 4th to the 19th century of requiring clergy child sexual abusers to be handed over to the civil authorities for punishment. The decrees of four church councils and three popes to this effect were abrogated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and in 1922, and thereafter canon law imposed the strictest secrecy over such matters. One of the most significant recommendations is that the pontifical secret should not apply “to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse” (Rec. 16.10). The secret of the Holy Office was imposed in 1922 by Pope Pius XI on all information about the sexual abuse of minors, and that was extended in 1974 by Pope Paul VI’s Secreta Continere under which the pontifical secret covered even the allegation. It provided no exceptions for reporting to the police, and told the bishops that there was no room for the exercise of conscience in the matter. The Commission found that “the Holy See considered that bishops were not free to report allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy to civil authorities before and during the 1990s and early 2000s.”

The pontifical secret is still imposed by Art. 30 of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of Pope John Paul II, as revised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. In 2002, the Holy See granted a dispensation to the United States to allow reporting where the civil law required it, and that dispensation was extended to the rest of the world in 2010. The Commission found that the pontifical secret still applies where there are no applicable civil reporting laws. The Italian and Polish Catholic Bishops conferences seem to agree, because they announced in 2014 and 2015 that their bishops would not be reporting these crimes to the police because their countries’ laws did not require it.

The recommendation to abolish the pontifical secret over child sexual abuse is in line with similar requests in 2014 by the United Nations’ human rights committees on the rights of the child and against torture. Pope Francis in his formal response of Sept. 24, 2014, rejected the request.

Recommendation 16.55 – A more balanced standard of proof
An equally important factor in the church’s failure to protect children is the dysfunctional nature of its disciplinary system. The Commission found that it is slow, “cumbersome, complex and confusing,” and that “the Vatican’s approach to child sexual abuse by clergy was protective of the offender.” The Australian Church authorities were reluctant to use it for these reasons. The result was that more children were abused than would otherwise have been had the abusers been quickly weeded out. Civil law prosecutions of abusive priests may fail because the criminal standard in Anglo/American law is proof beyond reasonable doubt. The church disciplinary system may have to deal with an acquitted priest who could still be a danger to children, but the standard of proof required for dismissal is “moral certainty,” the equivalent of proof beyond reasonable doubt. A practical illustration of the problem is the case of a Sydney priest who was acquitted of a criminal offence of sexual assault, and was then unsurprisingly acquitted by a canonical court over the same facts. The Commission found it was inappropriate to have such a high standard of proof for disciplinary matters, and recommended that canon law be changed to allow a test based on the balance of probabilities.

Recommendations 16.11 and 16.56 – Real zero tolerance
The Commission criticized a solely “pastoral approach”, as it was worded, embodied in Crimen Sollicitationis and Canon 1341 (for clerics) and Canon 697 (for religious brothers and sisters) of the 1983 Code which required superiors to rebuke, warn or try to cure those against whom allegations are made before subjecting them to a canonical trial. The Commission said that the “pastoral approach” had a negative effect in two ways on the church’s response: It encouraged the belief that child sexual abuse was a moral failure “rather than a crime that should be reported to the police”; and it inhibited canonical action for dismissal because the pastoral approach was a precondition to instituting it. The Commission found that the “pastoral approach” had led to “catastrophic institutional failure” in dealing with child sexual abuse and recommended abolition of the precondition.
The figures that Francis presented to the United Nations in 2014 demonstrated that only one quarter of all priests found to have sexually abused children had been dismissed. That’s 75 percent tolerance, not zero.

Another example of the “pastoral approach” can be found in the practice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to allow priests who admitted abusing children to “live a life of prayer and penance” rather than being dismissed. Pope Francis has claimed that he and Benedict XVI practiced “zero tolerance” for child sexual abuse. Zero tolerance in a professional context invariably means dismissal. The figures that Francis presented to the United Nations in 2014 demonstrated that only one quarter of all priests found to have sexually abused children had been dismissed. That’s 75 percent tolerance, not zero. The Commission has recommended real zero tolerance, the dismissal in all cases of child sexual abuse.

Recommendation 16.12 – No statute of limitations
Prior to the 1983 Code, there was no limitation period for canonical trials for child sexual abuse. Pope John Paul II in 1983 introduced a year-year limitation period, which meant that if a 10-year-old child was abused, and did not complain by the age of 15, the canonical crime simply disappeared, and no action for dismissal could be taken. A study in 2000 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference of 402 cases of sexual abuse of minors indicated that the limitation period had expired in 96.77 percent of them. The Holy See extended the period in 2001 to 10 years from the age of minority of the victim and in 2010 to 20 years, plus a power to extend it beyond that. The Commission found that the average time in which the survivors told anyone of the abuse was 33 years. It recommended that the church return to its pre-1983 policy of no limitation period, and that such a change should operate retrospectively.

Recommendation 16.13 – Amend the ‘imputability’ test
Another discouragement for bishops wishing to dismiss a priest was the “imputability” defence in Canon 1321. Imputability means that the accused was responsible for his actions. Under the 1917 Code, imputability was assumed unless it was disproved by “moral certainty.” Pope John Paul II watered this down in his 1983 Code, whereby imputability was assumed “unless it is otherwise apparent,” thus creating a Catch-22 defence for abusers: a cleric cannot be dismissed for pedophilia because he is a pedophile. Two serial Irish pedophiles had their dismissals by Dublin canonical courts overturned by Rome because they had been diagnosed as pedophiles. The Commission recommended that the ‘imputability’ test in canon law be amended “so that a diagnosis of pedophilia is not relevant to the prosecution of or penalty for a canonical offence relating to child sexual abuse.”

  Recommendations 16.15 and 16.16 – Keep tribunals local and transparent
The Commission recommended the setting up of an Australian canonical tribunal to hear complaints against clergy, with Rome being involved only as an appellate court (Rec. 16.15). It also recommended that Vatican congregations and courts publish reasons for their disciplinary decisions (Rec. 16.16).

Recommendations 7.8, 7.10 and 33 – Mandatory reporting laws
On the civil law front, the Commission recommended that state supervisory bodies be set up to deal with “reportable conduct” which would then allow that body to supervise any disciplinary proceedings instigated against the accused. It also recommended that all Australian states and territories have comprehensive mandatory reporting laws for child abuse in institutions. The Royal Commission found that the church was seriously out of step with community standards in dealing with child sexual abuse, and that it suffered a “catastrophic failure of leadership.” If Pope Francis does not accept these recommendations, the reaction may very well be the same as that of the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, in a speech to Parliament in 2011 after the publication of the Cloyne Report, an Irish government report on clerical sex abuse:

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said: ‘Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.’ As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic. Not purely, or simply or otherwise. Children first!


Pope Francis’ trip to Chile & Peru Needs To Restore Trust In The Catholic Church by Joshua J. McElwee – Followed by a Commentary by Brian Mark Hennessy ( A member of the Comboni Survivor Group)

Pope Francis’ trip to Chile & Peru Needs To Restore

Trust In The Catholic Church


Extracts from a National Catholic Reporter Article by Vatican correspondent

Joshua J. McElwee


The pope is preparing to embark on a trip to Chile and Peru that may shift the focus from politics to problems inside the church community. Local observers and prominent expatriate voices say attention during the Jan. 15-21 visit may center on how Francis can help the Chilean church regain trustworthiness after a recent spate of cases of clergy sexual abuse. Complicating that possibility, observers say, is Francis’ own record on the abuse issue, especially his 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile. Barros has been accused of covering up abuse by a prominent priest in the 1980s and ’90s.

Mario Paredes, who has advised both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops on Latin American issues for decades, told National Catholic Reporter that he hoped the pope could help Chile’s hierarchy “restore the credibility that in recent years it has lost. No matter how you look at it, those cases have been horrendous, scandalous, and the church has lost credibility,” said Paredes, a Chile native who is now CEO of Advocate Community Partners, a network of primary care physicians in New York City. “I expect that he will make a strong appeal for a church that is really transparent and truthful.”

But Jesuit Fr. Antonio Delfau, the former longtime editor of the Jesuit ‘Mensaje’ magazine, said the Barros appointment undercuts what Francis might be able to achieve while in the country. “One of the bishops appointed by this pope is a bishop that is questioned not only by the people of the place, but also by most of the other bishops,” said Delfau, now based in Rome as the assistant to the Jesuit curia’s general treasurer. “That’s a big problem.” Barros, who served as the head of Chile’s military diocese until Francis moved him to the small southern city of Osorno in 2015, has been accused of protecting Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance in 2011. Though Barros was not implicated in Karadima’s canonical trial, victims say the bishop destroyed incriminating correspondence from the priest. Other victims claim Barros was even a witness to some of the sexual abuse.

Captured on video speaking to a Chilean in the crowd at a May 2015 general audience at the Vatican, the pope said people were judging Barros “without any evidence” and even said the allegations against the bishop were being orchestrated by “lefties.” “Osorno suffers, yes, but for being foolish, because they do not open their hearts to what God says, and instead get carried away by all this silliness,” Francis said. José Andrés Murillo, executive director of ‘Para la Confianza’, a Chilean foundation that helps survivors of sexual abuse, said people in Osorno were “completely shocked” when the video of that encounter was made public by a local news channel in October 2015. “They expected from the pope a reaction of compassion or comprehension,” but instead “received this very aggressive reaction,” Murillo said. “What the people are feeling toward the pope I think is not anger,” he said. “It is sadness. Why can the pope not comprehend the concerns of the people?”

Francis will be visiting Chile Jan. 15-18 before heading on to northern neighbour Peru through Jan. 21. His schedule in both countries follows a familiar format: He will spend his nights in the countries’ respective capitals of Santiago and Lima, but travel to different cities on successive days. As usual, the pope will meet with the nations’ presidents, Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Pedro Kuczynski in Peru; speak to the bishops in each country; and host encounters with young people and priests and religious. Murillo suggested that local attention in Chile may be drawn most to Francis’ Jan. 16 meeting with the country’s bishops and to a possible, but yet unconfirmed, meeting with survivors of sexual abuse. “The most important word I think the bishops should hear from the pope is to listen to the people, listen to normal Catholics,” Murillo said. “The bishops only hear people who say what they want to hear. They don’t accept the crisis that they are suffering. And they think they are not in a crisis.” Asked about a possible meeting with survivors, Murillo responded simply: “This is what Jesus would do.” The pope, he said, should “not only have a meeting with victims … but demonstrate that he is on the same side as the victims and not on the same side as the aggressors.”



Why Survivors Of Sexual Abuse By Priests

Doubt The Commitment Of The Catholic Church

By Brian Mark Hennessy – Comboni Survivor Group

(The ‘Comboni Survivor Group’ are ‘Core Participants’ in the United Kingdom Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse)

The above article raises specific concerns about Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno and thereby poses more wide-sweeping questions about the commitment of the Catholic Church to the challenging issues of child sexual abuse. For some victims it poses additional and worrying questions about the underlying true nature of Pope Francis’ position on that issue also. No one could reasonably doubt the Pope’s abject horror at the thought of the sexual violation of children. However, there has been a creeping suspicion amongst many victims of clerical abuse that this Pope’s early stance on the issue (at the time of and soon after his election) will not be followed through with any meaningful action. The most remembered comments of this Pope are his indictment, ‘There is no place in the Church for Clerics who abuse children!’ and his address on the same issue on the occasion of his visit to the United States, ‘God Weeps!’ Those messages gave hope to the survivors of sexual abuse that their suffering was understood and was about to be recognized. It has not worked out quite like that. The misery of their life-long psychological disorientation and their loss of Hope and Faith has not been assuaged – and they no longer look to the Catholic Church for a future that will be brighter.

The appointment and later defence by Pope Francis of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, is a matter of concern, but there have been other examples of the Pope going back on his promises. Most notably was the lack of follow through on his proposed establishment of a Tribunal to examine Bishops and Religious Superiors who covered up sexual crimes and who had given safe haven to clerics who had committed abuse. He allowed other prelates, including Cardinals, to quietly resign after a filial chat. I cannot recall any Bishops being removed from their thrones, albeit there may have been some of whom I am unaware. There was one Archbishop who was summoned to Rome to be tried at a Tribunal of the Holy Rota for his own contemporary abuse of children – but he died of a heart attack awaiting trial. The predictable conspiracy theories of Borgia-style malevolence have surrounded that incident.

From the standpoint of the Comboni Survivors, the Group is aware of at least 25 seminarians who were sexually abused by Comboni Missionary Order priests and a lay brother at the Stillington and Mirfield seminaries in Yorkshire and the London Elstree seminary between the early 1960’s to the beginning of the 1980’s. Not all the priests accused of abuse in those years have been named publicly by survivors, but their names are known to the Group and their movements to new locations are constantly tracked. One, named Padre Romano Nardo, is held at a secret location to prevent the knowledge of his whereabouts becoming known to the Comboni Survivor Group. Those priests openly accused of abuse have been the subject of credible statements which were provided by a dozen seminarians and other witnesses – some of whom are now ordained clergy. Additional statements were made to the West Yorkshire Police who determined the statements to be both credible and consistent. There are just over 40 such statements in all. The total number of individual sexual assaults on these seminarians has been calculated to have been in the region of 1000, albeit the precise figure will never be known. Admittedly, that is a frighteningly high figure, but as some of those seminarians claim to have been abused almost routinely night after night and week after week during term times over periods as long as two years, it can be understood that the final count will be very significant. Nevertheless, whatever the exact figure may be, each case was an undoubted serious crime in its own right. A document detailing this abuse was collated over a period of two to three years from those witness statements and by interviews. The Comboni Missionary Order’s response to the document and some subsequent civil actions was simple. They said it all happened so long ago that the truth cannot now be determined – if it ever happened at all.

The former Chair of the UK Catholic Safeguarding Commission approached the Order on a number of occasions to ask them to adopt a more conciliatory manner with the Victims, but the Comboni Order would have none of it and refused all dialogue. Ultimately, a copy of the document was taken by hand of Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster to Rome and handed by him in person to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). He did so, according to one source, because he considered the Comboni Missionary Order’s response to the matter to be ‘foolish’. That was two years ago – and there has been no response from CDF to date. Why? Well, apparently, there are so many other cases awaiting study at the Vatican that CDF cannot cope. They have been so overwhelmed that they cannot even acknowledge a receipt of the documents sent to them – besides which, the Prefect of CDF, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller once explained, he did not consider it necessary anyway. That was the moment, some readers will recall, when Marie Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (That Commission has since fallen into a state of temporary abeyance, I should add, and there is yet no sign of it being re-constituted). Moreover, the Pope has intimated himself in the last couple of weeks that the

Vatican lay ‘civil service’ is an immovable log jam of retrenched incompetence (my paraphrase). That inspires me with no confidence that I will receive a response in my natural life span – and so I am taking much exercise, have abandoned red meat and I am drinking no alcohol in an attempt to extend it. It is no secret that I firmly believe that the early natural death of Victims is what the Catholic Church hopes for – if you get my reasoning.

Whilst there is no answer to why there is a delay in the response in CDF responding that I can reasonably provide, there may be other factors affecting that delay. For instance, three consecutive Superior Generals of the Italian Comboni Missionary Order, based in Rome, have now had audiences with this Pope. One of those is currently the Secretary General of the Union Of Superiors General working within the Vatican walls (as does another Bishop belonging to the Comboni Order). I have to ask whether or not these Comboni hierarchs, three of whom have shown varying degrees of hostility to the Victims, have whispered into the ear of this Pope something akin to what they have also published in the UK press: “It all happened so long ago that the truth cannot now be determined – if it ever happened at all”.

Some readers might be surprised that I would even begin to suggest that a Catholic Order would abandon the charitable and caring Gospel message of Christ, but one member of the Comboni Survivor Group has suffered outright public hostility from the Order very recently. The circumstance, much publicized in the Italian press at the time, was the occasion of a visit of a former child Victim of abuse to see his abuser to gain understanding of the reason why he had been selected for the abuse. That Victim believed, hopefully, that his understanding and subsequent forgiveness of the priest concerned would put his own mind at rest. He did indeed meet the priest who apologized for the hurt inflicted on the former 14 year old – and the victim did forgive him in return. A ‘happy ending’ appeared to be the result of this interaction – until the former Victim opened his mail one morning in North Wales and was greeted with a Court Summons from the Criminal Court of Verona in Italy for ‘trespassing, stalking and interfering in the life of the priest’ (who had abused him when he was a young teenager)! The action had been taken, presumably, at the behest of the Comboni’s new Superior General – whose metaphorical finger prints were all over the wording of the summons. Ultimately, the Judge ruled that there was no evidence for any of the charges and dismissed the case. The hostile Comboni Order, suffering a large dose of unwarranted ‘chagrin’, appealed. The astute, wise and most judicious Appeal Judge again dismissed the case as baseless – adding that the Victim was to be commended for forgiving the childhood abuse perpetrated by the priest!

The implication of the Judge’s dismissal of the Appeal was that since the original charges were dismissed as baseless, the subsequent appeal by the Comboni Order was tantamount to making false allegations – and that was, ‘per se’ illegal. Nevertheless, the Victim ended up paying for expensive Court fees for his defence counsel at the two trial cases at Verona Criminal Tribunal. A third trial is now in the offing, but this time it will be the Comboni Order in the dock for making false allegations against the Victim! In due course we will see how that one is adjudicated!

The Comboni Missionary Order has some 1,500 members across the world – working mostly in Africa and South America. Historically, it is known that as far back as the mid 1900s it was the reckless custom of the Comboni Order to send priests, accused of child sexual abuse in Europe, to the mission territories where those priests again had unfettered access to countless minors. One was even placed in charge of the Ugandan Catholic Scout Movement! From observations of the movements of some other of their priests accused of abuse in recent years, that custom appears not to have ceased. Indeed, in the last decade, one attempt of the Order to send to Uganda a priest who had acknowledged that he had sexually abused a child was halted only following an intervention by a member of the Comboni Survivor Group itself.

Regrettably, experience has taught Survivors that the Comboni Missionary Order has learned nothing from the clerical sexual abuse scandal that has been revealed to the world in recent decades. Whilst the Order will be able to produce documents and Codes of Conduct that include child safeguarding policies, their words and actions demonstrate that those policies exist only to demonstrate ‘theoretical’ compliance. Indeed, their last Code of Conduct that I was able to read, clearly stated on multiple occasions that the reputation of the Order must be considered at all times in order to avoid ‘scandal’ – a word that appeared 19 times in the text. It is clear to see that far from any Comboni Order engagement with rectifying past errors relating to the issues of child sexual abuse, the hidden reality is starkly different.

The Comboni Missionaries, being the largest Italian Religious Order and being based in Rome, have a lot of clout around the world and in the Vatican. Victims have no similar avenue of outreach. Their faith in the Vatican’s ability to even acknowledge receipt of a document outlining countless numbers of the most abhorrent crimes committed by humanity was dashed long ago. They have, in their hearts and minds, only the truth and the psychological scars of the abuse that they suffered. Those same Victims have also come to doubt that any of the public words uttered by this Pope, once seen by them as their hopeful Champion, are meaningful or even part of a consistent, church-wide crusade against a dreadful evil that besets not just the Roman Catholic Church, but all humanity. Paradoxically to all expectations, it is the United Nations and the national, civil jurisdictions of the World that are leading the charge against the evil of child sexual abuse – and not any of the dominant world Religions – which have hardly started to play the game of ‘catch up’!





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. 

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


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.


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



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.





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.



“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.