Archbishop Scicluna – Sending Him to Chile is a Smart Move – NCR Editorial Staff

Sending Archbishop Scicluna is a Smart Move

Is sending Archbishop Scicluna to Chile a smart move on behalf of the Catholic Church?

In an online editorial Jan. 23, NCR took Pope Francis to task for the pain he caused survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.

Twice and very publicly, he dismissed the testimony of abuse victims and charging them with “calumny” against a bishop he had installed in a diocese in southern Chile over the advice of other Chilean prelates and over the loud, ardent protests of Chilean lay Catholics.

Chilean Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Orsono

Pope Francis dismissed out of hand testimony that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Orsono had for years ignored or covered up evidence that his mentor Fr. Fernando Karadima was abusing young men.

Despite at least three survivors’ public accounts to the contrary, Pope Francis insisted — in harsh, judgmental language — that he had seen no evidence against Barros.

We recognized in this an all-too-familiar script: Discredit the survivors’ testimony, support the cleric in question, and bank on public attention moving on to something else.

We said in that editorial: Pope Francis’ “remarks are at the least shameful. At the most, they suggest that Pope Francis now could be complicit in the cover-up.

Survivors of Catholic Clerical Abuse

” We continued:
History has shown that the great number of survivors were telling the truth. Any reform that has happened in the church is due to their courageous resolve.

The hierarchy was caught in its lies and humbled, but not before unknown numbers of believers were driven out of the Catholic Church.

The scandal has cost the church moral authority, credibility and billions of dollars.In recent years, we had thought chastened church leaders had begun to correct mistakes of the past. We were wrong. The supreme pontiff apparently has not learned this lesson.

It was a harsh editorial, a hard one to write, but we were and are convinced that it is on point.

The above puts into context our endorsement of Francis’ decision to send Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to Chile to take testimony in the Barros case.

Sending Archbishop Scicluna is a smart move, and it will have consequences.

Good consequences we hope, but that remains in question.

Pope Francis could have chosen no better delegate to send than Archbishop Scicluna. By all accounts, Archbishop Scicluna does not shy away from tough questions and isn’t intimidated by rank or prestige.

He is that rare individual who has credibility inside the Vatican and with the abuse advocacy community.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

In 2001, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the fateful decision to address the scandal of the abuse of minors by clergy and the cover-up of that abuse by the hierarchy.

Archbishop Scicluna was his point man.

Archbishop Scicluna’s work in 2005 forced Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the notorious founder of the Legionaries of Christ, out of public ministry and brought justice, albeit imperfect justice, to that case.

In 2014, Scicluna helped the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, find some peace and closure after the disgrace of three decades of sexual misconduct by Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Success in Chile is not guaranteed, and Pope Francis’ recent actions in Chile won’t make Scicluna’s already tough job any easier.

Catholics in Chile

Catholics in Chile made clear following the Vatican’s Jan. 30 announcement that Archbishop Scicluna has to earn the trust of the local church.

He will have to prove he has “independence from his superior, who is the pope,” and he will have to deliver a transparent investigation with a demonstrably fair outcome.

Much more is at stake than just the standing of one bishop in a small diocese in Chile. Unfortunately, Francis’ defense of Barros was only the latest in a number of missteps he has taken in his nearly five-year papacy on the issue of clergy sex abuse.

This has led some to wonder if he fully understands how the abuse scandal has damaged the church in fundamental ways.

Opposition in Roman Curia

Pope Francis has weathered opposition in the Roman Curia and certain branches of the hierarchy because he is so incredibly popular among rank-and-file Catholics.

Some of that popularity eroded over the last month. Pope Francis has an ambitious reform agenda for the church, an agenda he believes he was elected to implement.

His actions in Chile in January weakened his reform efforts. If he can’t fix this, his larger agenda will be in jeopardy.

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                                    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’!

 

Priests should face Criminal Charges for not Reporting Abuse Heard in Confession

Priests should face Criminal Charges for not Reporting Abuse Heard in Confession

By a Staff Reporter of the Catholic Herald: posted Monday, 14 Aug 2017

(Paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy)

The report by the Australian Inquiry has called for legislation to criminalise priests who fail to break the seal of the confessional. It states that Priests who do not inform the police after learning about child abuse in confession should face criminal charges, an Australian inquiry has said. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended all states and territories in the country should introduce legislation to punish priests for not breaking the seal of the confessional.

“The right to practice one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all. In particular, such reports must be made in cases of children’s safety from sexual abuse,” the commission wrote. “Institutions directed to caring for and providing services for children, including religious institutions, must provide an environment where children are safe from sexual abuse. Reporting information relevant to child sexual abuse to the police is critical to ensuring the safety of children.”

The recommendation will likely be strongly resisted by the Church, which has always guarded the absolute confidentiality of confession. Under canon law, priests may never break the seal of the confessional, even under threat of death. Any priest who breaks the seal faces automatic excommunication. Archbishop of Melbourne Denis J Hart said in a statement: “Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest. It is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognised in the Law of Australia and many other countries. It must remain so here in Australia. Outside of this all offences against children must be reported to the authorities – and we are absolutely committed to doing so.”

Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy

Whilst indeed Canon Law does make the statements on Confessional secrecy reiterated by the Catholic cleric Hart above, Canon Law is out of step with St Augustine of Hippo whom the Catholic Church claims, rightfully, to be perhaps the most significant Doctor of their very own Catholic Church. In his “Summa Theologiae”, Augustine clearly states that Christians are bound to report to the civil authorities matters for which the civil state has a right to provide legislation and dispense justice – and where there are no “moral” grounds that prohibit such reporting. In most modern democratic Nation States such a moral ground prohibiting reporting would be almost impossible to define. The only theoretical instance of which I can readily (and reasonably think to be debatable) that would preclude reporting of a crime of sexual abuse to a State authority is one in which a State provides capital punishment as a penalty for the crime committed.

In the case of “child abuse” there are not only no moral grounds for not reporting the facts to the civil authorities, but there is a “moral imperative” for doing so. Christ said, “Suffer not little children to come unto me”. That is a moral imperative to protect children if ever there was one. It is, moreover, a fundamental “Christian Gospel” obligation. To state otherwise is an act of age-old Catholic Church ostentation, moral sterility and institutional senility.

Moreover, there is nothing to prevent a Confessor Priest clearly stating to a penitent who has committed a crime against any third party that absolution is always conditional upon “true penitence”. In cases of crimes against children and vulnerable adults, who have no capacity to understand and to report such crimes committed against them themselves, the Confessor must state clearly to the penitent that absolution is both conditional upon and demonstrated by an admission of the crime by the penitent, herself or himself, to the civil authority.

It should be further explained to the penitent that the civil authority has the moral duty to protect from harm all citizens, particularly children and vulnerable adults, and to provide appropriate justice on their behalf. In cases where the penitent does not give an obligation to do so – or where subsequently a Confessor learns emphatically that a penitent has not done so, then the Confessor has a clear moral obligation to make such a report himself. It is a “no-brainer” not so to do and has no moral Christian foundation. The Catholic Church is repugnantly outrageous to either do or state anything to the contrary.

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.

The “Truths” that are Hidden by Clerical Masters of Understatement

(Written and posted on this Blog by the authorised contributor: Brian Mark Hennessy)

Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil Resigns

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, (which can be accessed on-line at NCRonline.org.), Lise Alves reports on the resignation, recently accepted by Pope Francis, of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil. The retirement from Aldo’s bishopric was accepted on the grounds of Canon 401.2 which covers many issues from poor health to “grave”, but unspecified causes.

Curiously, the Vatican has not specified the grave matter that  led to the resignation. Nevertheless, the Archbishop of Paraiba himself vaguely admitted that he had made errors – one of which was, in his own words of explanation: ” I made the mistake of being too trusting.  I gave shelter to priests and seminarians in order to offer them new chances in life. Among those were some who were later suspected of committing serious derelictions.” (“Derelictions”, we should note, is Vatican Canon Law “speak” for sexual abuse).

Lise Alves reports that some of the clerics taken in by Pagotto had been accused of “paedophilia” –  a word which the Archbishop seemed reluctant to use. In all probability his reluctance stems from the un-challenged claim that Archbishop Aldo was well aware, at the time he gave shelter to those  priests and seminarians, that the accusations of child sexual abuse against them were already known to him.

Paedophile Priests Suspended

Another piece in the Catholic National Reporter (by Catherine Lagrange, Dominique Vidalon and Gareth Jones) reports that the Roman Catholic Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, has announced that he has suspended four priests accused of paedophile activities and that their cases “are known” to French judicial authorities.

Curiously, this Cardinal was equally obscure about the details for he said in his statement that the un-named four had been working in the Lyon region in central France – but he would not say where. Apparently, according to Barbarin, other un-named priests are the “object of special measures”, but he would not elaborate what those measures were and nor the reason for those measures.

Prior to those announcements, the French Gendarmerie had questioned Cardinal Barbarin for more than 10 hours over the activities (in the early 1990s) of a pedophile priest, Father Bernard Preynat, and why Barbarin had not reported the facts to the civil authorities in the circumstances that such a failure to report a crime is an offence in France.

Meanwhile, several victims of alleged paedophile abuse have made complaints against Barbarin to the authorities for leaving accused priests in place, but Barbarin has denied any wrongdoing. He has acknowledged, however, mere “errors of management” in respect to the appointment of some priests.

Cardinal Barbarin’s Errors of Management

The “errors of management” of Cardinal Barbarin are a direct parallel to the excuses of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil who pleaded that he had simply been “too trusting”! These deliberately understated reasons for their failures beg the question as to what planet do the senior clerics of the Catholic Church inhabit in their spare time?

We are talking about criminal paedophiles who sexually molest and abuse children.  These criminals have been molly-coddled, pampered, cosseted and secreted within the walls of Catholic Church establishments – instead of being reported and handed over as alleged criminals to the legal authorities of the Civil States who have jurisdiction.

Bishops Guilty of Looking the Other Way

I cannot help but note that in June, Pope Francis warned that bishops guilty of looking the other way or covering up child abuse by priests within their dioceses could be removed from their duties. He has also said that protecting paedophile clerics is a “crime”.

So, in these cases, if the Archbishop of Paraiba and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon have protected paedophile priests or seminarians from the jurisdiction of the legal authorities within their dioceses, why has the Vatican Curia not stated it specifically?

The Vatican does not constitute the “Church” in its totality. If a crime has been committed – then it is a crime against the whole “Church” – and thus all members of that “Church” have a right to know the details of crimes committed within and against the Church!

Vatican Curia Pussy-Footing

These episodes appear to be yet other Vatican Curia acts of “pussy-footing” confusion in which they wave a big rhetorical stick one day – and then camouflage the damaging details the next.

In today’s world, the Vatican must treat all members of the Church – both lay and clerical – as adults who are capable of a surprising degree of discernment – and not as the children of the Edwardian era who were to be “seen, but not heard” and in front of whom “delicate matters” were discussed only in obscure, coded, hushed whispers.

Those days are long since gone – and are unacceptable in the Catholic Church of today.

Comboni Missionaries Paedophile Priests

Closer to the home of this blog, there are parallels to the above within the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, whose paedophile priests, past and present, have never been handed over to the civil authorities – but who instead were moved rapidly out of the jurisdictions of the law enforcement agencies of the states in which their crimes were committed.

In some cases they were sent to distant Mission territories, in another case to the smallest of parishes in an Italian mountain diocese – and in a current case one, Father Romano Nardo, is confined to a “secret location”.

The nature of Fr Nardo’s crimes have been known to the Comboni Order since 1970, but he was then whisked out of the United Kingdom’s legal jurisdiction the day after reports were made to the Order by one of their own clerics, Father Cocchi, (who saw a boy in his pyjamas coming out of Romano Nardo’s room at an uneartthly hour one morning).

Father Romano Nardo’s Child Abuse Accusation

Thirty years later, when that same Victim confronted the Order with Father Romano Nardo’s historical criminal acts of child abuse in detail, the Order recalled Nardo from the Missions.

Eventually, it was admitted by the Comboni Missionary Order, in a letter dated 17 May 1997, that an Inquiry had concluded, in true clerical masterful understatement, that Father Nardo had “acted inappropriately by taking the boy to his bed and teaching him to make the sign of the cross”.

That statement is devoid of the detail of the baptismal rite of mutual purification of genitals in which the child was induced to participate – and it does not mention the naked child lying upon the naked body of the priest who was breathing the Spirit of Jesus into the boys mouth.

That sign of the cross, to which they refer, was engraved on the priest’s torso by a sharp implement, the sight of which caused the boy to attempt to emulate it by self mutilation in order to be closer to the God of that priest.

No Extradition of Father Nardo

The latter, Father Romano Nardo, who is alleged to have committed such masochistic and macabre sexual crimes veiled in religious overtones against a series of young boys at the Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire England,  has been prevented from extradition to the United Kingdom by doubtful claims over two decades that he is not fit to travel.

I use the word “doubtful” in the following context which is that: after almost 27 years working in Africa, Father Nardo (who returned from Africa late 1995 at the age of 54 to attend an internal Comboni Inquiry into the allegations against him), would, according to correspondence forwarded to the Victim by Father David Glenday, the Superior General of the Order in 1997, “be able to return to active ministry in the missions within a month”.

Yet in 1999, after his further four years sojourn in the peaceful, green valleys of the pleasant city of Verona, Italy, the Superior General, Father Enrique Sanchez stated in correspondence that Father Romano Nardo was unable to travel because he had become “worn out by many years working in Africa”!

Was it, perhaps, that this sudden loss of health was something to do with the fact that in 1999 the West Yorkshire Police had wanted to question Father Nardo about criminal charges of child sexual abuse – that he had already admitted he had perpetrated ?

Mother House in Verona

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has rigorously confined this cleric to the Mother House in Verona Italy since 1997 (almost two decades to date) so that he “does not have access to children”. Father Nardo, currently aged 72, has agreed, apparently, to this confinement – which is to last, it seems, until the end of his days.

I ask myself “why would the Comboni Order confine him for so long and why would Father Nardo accept his confinement for acts committed in 1970 which were merely “inappropriate”? Such “life imprisonment” is in excess of many State law authorities’ penal punishment limits for a single, albeit dispicable, crime of child sexual abuse.

Clearly, as in the cases of Archbishop Aldo and Cardinal-Archbishop Barbarin, the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order (that is Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez) who are closely associated to the decision of the long confinement of Father Nardo, are, in true clerical, tradition, “masters of understatement” in matters of criminal child sexual abuse.

Call it Sexual Abuse not Inappropriate Behaviour

They need education – and so I offer it here: the abuse perpetrated agaist seminarian Victims of Father Romano Nardo at Mirfield were not acts of “inappropriate behaviour”, but serious and heinous crimes of sexual abuse against children.

So grave are such crimes that the United Nations Convention against Torture actually described child sexual abuse as a form of torture on account of its cruel and punitive nature – and, unsurprisingly in 2014, even the Vatican agreed to that definition. The truth is that Father Romano Nardo is alleged to have abused many boys – and in the cases of some – he destroyed their lives and, subsequently, the lives of their families.

Father Romano Nardo is, thus, an alleged criminal that Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez have actively protected and in the case of the latter, prevented from facing questions by the law authorities of the United Kingdom. They are thus allegedly complicit in his alleged crimes – which they have sought to downplay, in true clerical fashion and deceitful understatement, as merely “inappropriate behaviour” .

Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie

Moreover, the current Superior General, Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, (to whom the Comboni Survivors pleaded for dialogue when he was elected, but from whom they received no response), is still intent on the further destruction of victims of child sexual abuse – as is witnessed by the scurrilous and malicious accusations he has authorised to be heaped on a victim of that abuse at a hearing in the Verona Criminal Court.

Why has Father Tesfaye, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order and his Curia committed themselves to this action? It is to deflect the “truth” of the scale of child sexual abuse within that Order ever being fully uncovered.

It is to disguise to the Vatican and to the Worldwide Catholic Church their complicity in harbouring a paedophile so as to protect themselves from the implementation of the Ecclesial action of dismissal from the clerical state under 401.2 of Canon Law.

Rightful Justice for Abuse Victims

It is to deter further Victims from telling their stories and seeking rightful justice. I declare, however, that both he – and the Order have already failed in that venture – for the allegations of 1000 crimes of child sexual abuse committed by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, at the Mirfield Seminary, Yorkshire, England and their every attempt to deny them and hide them are now known globally – from the Vatican to the furthest reaches of each continent.

“No! No! No!”, I hear Father Tesfaye exclaiming, “The case in the Verona Criminal Court against the Victim of alleged crimes of child sexual abuse is nothing to do with me. It has been brought by Father Nardo’s own Court appointed legal Guardian”.

Well, yes, technically it has, but it has the fingerprints of Father Tesfaye and the Comboni Missionary Order Curia all over it. Indeed it has their big footprint right in the middle of it – as I will explain. The claim, which is, I suggest, factually devoid of every grain of truth whatsoever anyway – is that of “tresspass”.

Abuse Victim Walked Through Open Gate

The charge against the Victim who walked through an open gate which had no signs stating “No Entry” in sight, the Victim who walked through an open door and spoke to the Receptionist, the Victim who was shown into the Chapel by the Receptionist and who contacted Father Nardo on the Victim’s behalf to see him – and the Victim who returned on two occasions at agreed times for further meetings – cannot be brought against the Victim by a Legal Guardian appointed by the Court on behalf of Father Nardo. Why?

Well it is quite simple really : Father Nardo is not the registered owner of the Verona Mother House and its grounds. The Comboni Missionary Order, or a legal entity nominated on its behalf, is the registered owner of the Verona Mother House. Only the registered owner, or the legal representative of the registered owner, would be able, technically, to bring a charge – even this false charge – of trespass against the Victim.

Nardo’s Legal Guardian

Of course, it may be that the Legal Guardian appointed by the Court is the Comboni Missionary Order in disguise. In fact such a deception would be par for the course of an Order that has endeavoured to deflect all criticism of its behaviour for decades.

That is beside the point. Father Tesfaye and his Curia have overlooked this small detail. That charge of trespass, implanted within a case said to have been brought on behalf of Father Nardo by his Court appointed Legal Guardian, is the big footprint of the Comboni Missionary Order itself.

Indeed, I suspect that Father Nardo knows little or nothing of this legal case brought technically by his legal guardian on his behalf in the Verona Criminal Court.

Abuse Victim Bashing by Comboni Missionaries

It is brought, duplicitously, I suggest, by the Comboni Missionary Order itself to deflect from itself any criticism that the Comboni Missionary Order is engaging in one of their regular bouts of “victim bashing”!

When a storm suddenly threatens, it is wise to change tak and alter the windward direction of sail. Failure to do so has consequences.

If the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, continues to protect paedophile criminals, whilst lashing out against distressed victims seeking succour and understanding, events will surely come to overwhelm them.

Hell, Hope and Healing — part three – by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea – paraphrased and abridged for this site by Brian Mark Hennessy

Healing through Post Traumatic Growth

(Note: Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea is the author of “Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church” and a psychologist who has been working with sexual abuse survivors for 30 years. In the American Catholic Journal entitled the “National Catholic Reporter”, (which can be accessed on-line at NCRonline.org.), Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea has published the third of four parts of an article entitled “Hell, Hope and Healing”. Mary’s article has been paraphrased and abridged for this site by Brian Mark Hennessy)

 

Too many children and teens are faced with soul-battering betrayals, abuse, neglect or terrifying family dynamics that send normal developmental pathways, including those related to the brain, off the rails.

If healing can occur from the truly devastating consequences of adverse childhood experiences — including sexual abuse by clergy — can survivors also experience meaningful growth through their confrontation with trauma? Can post-traumatic growth also occur in institutions that fostered abuse, as well as in the advocacy organizations that have worked on behalf of survivors? Let me be very clear: No one ever is “better off” because they were abused or suffered other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Every child and adolescent is entitled to a “good enough” childhood where suffering is manageable and betrayal is minimal. Unfortunately, too many children and teens are faced with soul-battering betrayals, abuse, neglect or terrifying family dynamics that send normal developmental pathways, including those related to the brain, off the rails. At the same time, none of us gets from the cradle to the grave without a full measure of suffering in some way or another. Studies have shown that the meaning we derive from our suffering and how we carry the remnants of that suffering into the future determines to a great extent what kind of life we live and how fulfilled we are by it.

Through a tragic loss of innocence early on in life, these survivors accept that life is not fair and therefore demonstrate greater resilience when it is not.

 

Over the last decade or so, researchers have begun to study post-traumatic growth, defined by Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi, University of North Carolina, psychologists and post-traumatic growth experts, as “positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances.” Trauma survivors who achieve post-traumatic growth develop a perspective on life that is balanced and pragmatic. Through a tragic loss of innocence early on in life, these survivors accept that life is not fair and therefore demonstrate greater resilience when it is not. They embrace the reality that there really is no justice for a survivor of ACEs because a shattered childhood can never be returned whole. Continued anger and resentment for them is, as the saying goes, like swallowing poison and hoping the other guy dies; these survivors do not want to give more of their soul space to the trauma or to those who caused it. Post-traumatic growth thus engenders a greater appreciation of life and a changed sense of priorities that privilege living and loving and making life work. While trauma survivors who experience post-traumatic growth maintain a clear sense that really bad things can happen in life, they also feel that having survived the original trauma(s), there is not much else they cannot handle. Again, that does not mean that they will not hurt — terribly sometimes — but they have a confidence forged in the fires of trauma recovery that they will also survive and even thrive through future losses, betrayals and traumas.

“Victimization occurs when a person or group exerts destructive power over an innocent person or group”

.

When adverse childhood experiences are exposed, perpetrators, abusive or neglectful families, enabling institutions and others are often traumatized also. Here it is important to differentiate between “victimized” and “traumatized.” Trauma is a response to an experience, including but not limited to one that is victimizing. Even a perpetrator can be traumatized when she/he is exposed for victimizing another. Life is changed forever. Shock, anger, fear and other post-traumatic symptoms may ensue, including minimization, denial and dissociation. A central issue here is whether individuals or groups can engage with a traumatic experience in a way that promotes growth. Or do they harden defenses and avoid the kind of self-examination, pain and mourning that a victim has to endure in order to heal, become resilient and grow? Post-traumatic growth here emerges primarily from rigorous self-examination and a painful mourning process. The Catholic church is an institution traumatized by the sexual abuse crisis. The earliest response of the institution was to preserve its long-held identity as a source of goodness and godliness. Yes, its leaders acknowledged in a vague way that of course there is sin within the church, but the sense was always that sin was somehow a general thing and not assigned to specified actors in the church drama. I sin, you sin, we all sin was an implied mantra that attempted to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violated kids, and of bishops who protected perpetrators and covered up abuse.

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.

It is still happening today, as when Germany’s Cardinal Gerhard Müller recently excoriated the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.” In his mind, the movie led to the generalization of blame for sexual abuse by some priests onto the shoulders all priests, and it was too hard on bishops who did not respond appropriately to reports of abuse. To be fair, another prelate*, Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna, once the Vatican’s chief prosecutor and deeply involved in investigation of the sex abuse crisis, said that all bishops and cardinals should see the movie to understand that reporting the crimes, not silence, “will save the church.”

Arrogance and clericalism abounded as a church official worked hard to restore power, control and an idealized view of the church and its clergy.

The 2,000-year-old monarchy refused for a very long time and, in some places, still refuses to embrace self-examination and mourning, and it hoped that this, like so many past scandals, would just blow over. It didn’t and it hasn’t, and that’s a good thing. There is also now a papal commission mandated to develop policies and procedures on sexual abuse. Victims, experts and clergy on that commission are talking with each other and are listening to each other. They are getting to know each other as people and not as straw figures. They are determined and most are hanging in even when the going gets discouraging. Many are justifiably doubtful about the ultimate success of this commission, but its members deserve suspension of judgment about the outcome until there is one, and they deserve support for their mission.

It is too soon to tell whether the hierarchy of the Catholic Church can or will grieve and repent enough for the destruction visited upon all of the people of God through sexual abuse of its youth.

Still, it is too early to determine if or when the church will do enough self-examination, engage in enough honest investigation of all the root causes of sexual abuse, and submit to a thorough enough mourning for the church that never was and can never be again. It is too soon to tell whether the hierarchy can or will grieve and repent enough for the destruction visited upon all of the people of God through sexual abuse of its youth. It would be indicative, for example, of real post-traumatic growth and institutional change if bishops and provincial superiors were clearly instructed to report all known or suspected abusers to secular authorities like the police and child protective services.

If church officials who cover up abuse lost their jobs, it would reassure Catholics that the church is convinced that covering up abuse is just as sinful and criminal as committing it.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign of potential change is the election of Pope Francis. The cardinals knew who he was when they elected him. And he has not stopped surprising. Although he has been imperfect, contradictory and even at times infuriating when it comes to sexual abuse, he also has attacked the kind of clericalism and ecclesiastical arrogance that fueled decades, even centuries, of the vilest sexual violations of the young. Welcoming the homeless into the Vatican; washing the feet of women; caring for the incarcerated; taking a relatively passive position on homosexuality; embracing other religions and even atheists as fellow travelers; rehabilitating previously excoriated “dissenters”; chastising bishops to get out on the street and pastor; modeling humility, humor, joy and mercy; reminiscing with the press about once having been in love.

 

All are death by a thousand cuts to the hierarchical hubris that enabled priests to soul-murder the young, with bishops and provincial superiors serving as accessories.

Whilst there are reasons to hope and reasons to remain doubtful that the church is capable of post-traumatic growth, it is understandable that many victims and advocates judge change to be too slow and too circumspect.

(If any Comboni Survivor recognises the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and feels that he needs professional assistance, then they may contact Mark Murray on this site who will strive to assist by suggesting appropriate counselling services. Alternatively, Survivors of childhood abuse can seek the assistance of their local General Practitioner Doctor who will be able to refer them to an appropriate specialist).