Cardinal Sean O’Malley on sexual abuse crisis: ‘There is so much denial’

The Roman Catholic Church failed to recognize the worldwide reach of clerical sexual abuse, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said Saturday (May 3) at a press conference.

“Many don’t see it as a problem of the universal church,” said O’Malley who heads the Vatican’s new commission for the protection of minors.

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“In many people’s minds it is an American problem, an Irish problem or a German problem,” he said. “The church has to face it is everywhere in the world. There is so much denial. The church has to respond to make the church safe for children.”

O’Malley, whose Boston archdiocese was at the center of a wave of sex scandals that rocked the church a decade ago, addressed the media after the panel’s eight members held its first meeting in Rome.

Pope Francis announced the creation of the new committee in March. It includes Irish abuse victim and campaigner Marie Collins and two psychiatrists. But the committee is expected to expand to represent every continent around the world.

“We wish to express our heartfelt solidarity with all victims/survivors of sexual abuse as children and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley read from a prepared statement.

“We will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of ‘best practices’ for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation and responses to abuse.”

Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, said she, too, had been “shocked” by the denial she had witnessed among some Catholic bishops about the extent of clerical sexual abuse.

“…They truly believed it only happened in certain countries,” she said.

The committee met as the Vatican is about to face fresh scrutiny from a United Nations panel on torture in Geneva this week.

In February, a U.N. committee on the rights of the child denounced the Vatican for adopting policies that allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children and called for known and suspected abusers to be immediately removed.

Francis strongly rejected the report’s findings, saying that no other organization had done more to fight pedophilia and the church had acted with “transparency and responsibility.”

The pope recently said he took personal responsibility for the “evil” of clerical sex abuse, sought forgiveness from victims and said the church must do more to protect children.

Collins said that while she had “difficulty” with the pope’s claims that the church had done more than any other institution to act on abuse, she said she believed the church was moving forward, but stressed that the effort was still in its “early days.”

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Bruce Snowden
4 years 6 months ago
Yes, our Catholic Church has long been in denial as to the extent of sexual abuse of minors by its clergy. Fortunately Bishops in particular are now recognizing this widespread evil in the Church and positive steps to uproot it are underway, with much more to be done. Respectfully allow me to express the following point of view. .Denial or “coverup” is everywhere, not just in the Catholic Church. So I think it necessary that the United Nations investigate as well, all religions worldwide, not just the Catholic Church. Investigate too, the people in educational, medical, legal professions, the media, perhaps especially the media, all professions. And don’t overlook families where sexual abuse of minors does exist. In other words, to be fair and unbiased, let the United Nations investigate the whole world regarding the sexual abuse of minors. Finally, of equal importance, let a panel of properly invested independent investigators, investigate the private lives of the U.N. Investigators as part of an investigation of all U.N. employees worldwide. uncovering hopefully not, examples, even patterns, of the personal sexual abuse of minors. Let the United Nations sensitize the whole world to the enormity of the offense. I believe that comprehensive, just and unbiased world-wide U.N. investigations relative to the evil of sexual abuse of minors, will show that far from being a Catholic Church problem, it is instead a human problem – a human perversity problem, affecting all levels of humanity. I dare say that it will be discovered for those who do not yet realize it that, humanity at large is capable not only of sin, but also of criminal behavior, both consequences reflected in the sexual abuse of minors, a miserable commentary on Fallen human nature in need of repentance, forgiveness and when necessary appropriate punishment administered with mercy.
Luis Gutierrez
4 years 6 months ago
Patriarchy is the root of the sexual abuse crisis. As long as the institutional church continues to have a patriarchal structure, any measures to remedy the sexual abuse crisis will be little more than window dressing. Hierarchy is not the problem. Patriarchy is the problem. Let us pray for the ordination of celibate women to the priesthood. This would not be a miracle cure for all forms of human frailty, but would go a long way to prevent the recurrence of clerical sexual abuse. This brings to mind the Vatican process of intervention in the LCWR. I hope they stop messing around with the sisters and start facing their own denial of doctrinal aberrations that negate the full humanity of women assumed at the incarnation and redeemed by Christ's death and resurrection.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Luis - sounds like you are trying to use the sex abuse crisis to change doctrine and lose our connection to the full teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Do you blame patriarchy on the sex abuse that goes on in public schools, or the government investigation into the 55 colleges by the US Government, or the sex abuse by UN Peacekeepers of a few years ago that has been insufficiently investigated to date by the UN? As to the LCWR, maybe, Barbara Marx Hubbard's ideas are the problem there, not patriarchy or matriarchy?
Luis Gutierrez
4 years 6 months ago
I am not trying to use the sex abuse crisis to change doctrine. I am suggesting that doctrine must be clarified to distinguish between patriarchal ideology and revealed truth. The eruption of the sexual abuse crisis may be a sign that such clarification is needed, here and now. See Genesis 3:15-16. We are not angels, but humanity is not the problem. Satan is the problem. Patriarchy is the cultural expression of the enmity between Satan and humanity; an enmity that has been overcome by the incarnation and the redemption but has yet to be fully internalized by humanity, including the church. With regard to the work of Barbara Marx Hubbard, what is the difference between her "conscious evolution" idea and the works of Theilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and so many other Catholic authors who have been saying for decades that the enmity between Satan and humanity is also the enmity between Satan and the entire community of creation, patriarchy being the ideology of choice to justify continued ecological abuse? Could it be that the CDF is trying to use this as a pretext to avoid facing the real issue, which is the conflation of patriarchy with divine revelation? It is not insignificant that St. John Paul II started his teaching on the Theology of the Body with an analysis of the Book of Genesis. I think we should continue to search for revealed truth, rather than assuming that all the current church doctrines are already 100% free of error. Only what has been dogmatically and infallibly defined as *revealed truth* is 100% free of error.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Luis, Thanks for these comments. I do agree that patriarchal ideology is a problem in the Church, but not the only one. I much larger problem is the culture against change under the rubric that the Church will lose moral authority by acknowledging error in moral teaching. You can almost hear the fearful consequence in the question: who will trust a guide that admits to mistakes? This fear dogs authority because of the belief that a crack in the so-called foundation of the Church will lead to the collapse of the RCC. Forget about the practical truth in the question: Do parents lose or gain authority with their children when they admit to a mistake in guiding them? For most children, the candor of the parents enhances respect for their parent's wisdom and loving care. The foundation of the family is strengthened, not weakened. I also agree with you that admitting celibate women to the priesthood and to positions of high responsibility would help as well, but ensuring the implementation of the full spirit of collegiality in the Church would also help. I believe this is what Pope Francis wants to do by giving a stronger and appropriate voice to all bishops (and to a certain degree the laity), and not have one person (the Pope) make every decision with a select and limited series of advisors with the same and/or narrow ideology and philosophy. As for the sexual abuse crisis, the Church has made progress recently and under Pope Francis I am hopeful that this problem will be substantially resolved, if not eliminated within reason. Nevertheless, as this article makes clear, we have a long way to go.
Bill Parks
4 years 6 months ago
The Catholic Church possesses the best interpretations of Christian theology on the planet in its professed body of knowledge about God, the communion of saints, etc. However, the church on earth has developed a hierarchal based culture over the centuries that goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ on two accounts. 1) Matthew 20:25-28 : 25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. It is obvious to any unbiased objective observer that the Catholic Church has developed over the centuries a separate “upper class” of clerics who act like wealthy executives, who dress like peacocks (to use Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s words) and act pompous. This is the opposite of what Christ taught, 2) Discrimination against married men to not permit them to become priests is a false Christian teaching started around 1,000 AD to keep church property within the confines of the church and not inherited by the offspring of priests. Of course there are other countless reasons proposed or taught about celibacy to prevent married men from becoming priests. This exclusivity goes against the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate. He selected and ordained eleven married men out of 12 at the Last Supper to carry on the tradition of eating the bread and wine as His Body and Blood. Some of the men were uneducated fishermen. By His example, 11 out of 12 priests should be married men in the church and our discriminatory system against us married men stopped. Also, requiring 7 years of study, the equivalent of a Ph.D. degree, to become a priest is ridiculous. We have many qualified and educated married laity with only a bachelor’s degree who can and should be ordained to the priesthood. There are many Catholic lawyers, doctors and other professionals who should be asked to become priests and perform the mass in front of the faithful on Sundays. This would also end the priest shortage and also stop the closing of small churches which are the best kind to have because the people get to know each other instead of these huge congregations where it’s like attending a football game with a lack of true fellowship. I am sorry to say the hierarchy and many traditional Catholics will come up with 100 human reasons to not follow Christ’s example spelled out above in my comments. The members of the church will continue to think the same way and as a result not follow Christ’s example in the two aspects spelled out here.
Luis Gutierrez
4 years 6 months ago
I see your points, but hierarchy is not the problem. Patriarchy is the problem. Granted that authority is for service rather than domination, we do need some form of hierarchy for the church to remain *apostolic.* It is the continued exclusion of women from the hierarchy, which is based on patriarchal ideology, that hinders further advent of God's reign. Jesus' earthly mission was to the people of Israel. He appointed 12 men to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel. Would Christ, here and now, make the same appointments? This is what the church must discern. There are many other problems, but they are all either caused or exacerbated by patriarchy. Also, Jesus was celibate and preached the value of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. The sacraments must make visible what is invisible. What really matters to image Jesus as a priest is the personal choices he made, not his gender or the gender of the 12 apostles who obviously had to be male at that time (see John 16:12-13). Historical precedent notwithstanding, I believe in my heart that it is more important for a priest to be celibate than to be either male or female.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Luis, It may be more important for a priest to be celibate than to be male or female, but I believe the decision about celibacy should be voluntary not mandatory. Jesus selected 12 who were married. The question: would Christ here and now, make the same appointments, misses the larger issue and is unrealistic. Jesus was born 2000 years ago and that was God's will. It should be remembered that celibacy and virginity were considered superior than the married state during those times. The world and the body's sexual inclinations was considered evil and a cause of sinfulness. Many took to the deserts and mountain tops to shelter themselves from the evil in this world and to focus on the spirit and the worship of God. Today, many believe that this perspective is still in engrained into the philosophy of the Church. I don't have any issue with a celibate priesthood, but celibacy does not determine effectiveness and holiness in discipleship.
Luis Gutierrez
4 years 6 months ago
I agree. We know that celibacy is not essential for ordination to the priesthood. We know that marriage is also a sacrament and a calling to holiness (we are no saints yet, but my wife and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary). The church will have to decide what to do next. The church still has the power of the keys to unbind what has been bound before, as in Acts 15. My opinion is that, given where we are at the moment, going back to ordaining married men, while refusing to ordain celibate women, would contribute to reinforce patriarchy even more, which is the last thing we need. It is not a matter of numbers or efficacy. Needless to say, this is just my personal intuition. Let us pray for the church, and the grace to discern the signs of the times, and willingness to do what is best for the glory of God and the good of souls.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Luis, I'll take the ordination of married men as a great first step. If the Church also subsequently permits the ordination of celibate women but excludes them from positions of high responsibility in the Church, then patriarchy will continue be a major problem. Let's pray that what is mentioned by our lips enters the ears, minds and hearts of the pope and all the bishops.
Luis Gutierrez
4 years 6 months ago
Why not the ordination of celibate women next, then reconsider later the ordination of both married men and married women? If only "viri probati" can be ordained, it is hard for me to see any mitigation of the patriarchal mindset that is the source of so many problems in the church. However, according to the recent poll by Univision, only 45% of Catholics worldwide are in favor of women priests, so perhaps the church is not ready. May God's will be done!
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Luis, I have no objection to the ordination of married men or celibate women and further have no preference to whether either is first, second or are ordained simultaneously. However, note the following: From Univision's worldwide survey: The percent of Catholics who agree catholic priests should be allow to marry VERSUS those who agree that women should be allowed to be ordained priests: US: 61% vs. 59% Mexico: 32% vs. 35% Brazil: 60% vs. 54% Argentina: 65% vs. 60% France: 86% vs. 83% Italy: 57% vs. 59% Spain: 73% vs. 78% Congo: 29% vs. 18% Uganda: 27% vs. 17% Philippines: 21% vs. 21% Note that those countries that are mostly against married men and women priests are in Mexico, Africa and the Philippines. These countries have a very different culture regarding women and married priests. This does not mean that Catholics in these countries are irrelevant or unimportant, nor are those who favor a married priesthood and women priests. Interestingly, in a 2002 LA Times Poll of U.S. Priests: 46% favored the ordination of women and 69% favored the ordination of married men. I agree….may God's will be done.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
I also agree that I pray and trust that the Lord's will in His Church will always be done.
Luis Gutierrez
4 years 6 months ago
I am trying to repeat the prayer but, to be honest, I really feel that the Lord's will SHOULD agree with MY will ... :-) ... YES, on this particular issue, deep down my prayer is, "Lord, you know that what I WANT is best for you and the church" ... :-)
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Luis, Perhaps I did not fully understand what you meant. I always pray: May the Lord's will be done and not mine….that all my thoughts, words and deeds be guided by the Holy Spirit and that all obstacles that prevent me from recognizing, understanding and living the truth be removed so that I may be transformed into the man God wishes me to be. With hope and confidence I believe that the Holy Spirit leads us to the truth in agreement and disagreement. Let's pray that the Synod on the Family will be guided by the reflections of Cardinal Kasper and Pope Francis because much change is needed in our Church and certain teachings. If so, it will be with great celebration.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
I leave decisions on doctrine (faith and morals) to the method Christ left us with (Apostolic Succession, a teaching Magisterium, protection from doctrinal error, Pope and Councils, etc.). I can have my opinions on these, but I know they are just that. While I am interested in seeing what various theologians, commentators and the ordinary blogger comes up with, I leave it to the Magisterium to separate the wheat from the chaff. But, I am particularly suspicious of ideas that offer some grand theory completely foreign to the Tradition, whether it is anti-Patriarchy, some form of sexual liberation or (and especially) scientology-lite ideas like "evolutionary consciousness". As to governance, the Church indeed needs to listen to those who have experience running organizations outside the Church. Here is my list of what needs to be done re child sex abuse, in this order of importance. 1) Protect kids from any harm: expand the zero policy from the US parishes to all Catholic dioceses across the world, but also to any institutions, such as schools, that care for children. This means a) speedy suspension from duties and swift police notification for any substantiated claim of abuse, b) prompt investigation both by the police and the Church/institution (as the latter are responsible even if police falter in their duty), c) criminal indictment if charge is credible, public exoneration and restoration if innocent (I am serious about the latter too, to avoid gross injustice to innocent priests and the falsely accused teacher, etc.). 2) Immediate investigation of any enabling bishop or head of a school who fails in #1 above, with a focus to the time period after these policies were promulgated. The case of Archbishop Wesolowski is a real test case for the Vatican. I will judge how effective and committed they are by how they handle this case, and will look to see what the new committee does. Conviction of actual abuse or willful enabling should result in prison sentences. 3) Care of those who were abused. This includes counselling and some financial support if needed. Try to keep exorbitant lawyer fees out of this part as the money will only come from future donors, many of who are poor themselves. (They should only receive pay for hours put in, not part or any settlement). 4) Resignation and defrocking of any proven pedophile cleric, teacher or school president. The same for any willful enabler, depending on guilt after an investigation. This should include any guilty bishop or cardinal, or lay person in the system. 5) Pope Francis' new committee should first focus on numbers 1-4 above, to protect and defend the children. But, then, they could establish methods for investigating past events of living priests and bishops, like Cardinal Law, or others who were acting under a different standard, before the zero policy was put in place, and only the cases where secular investigators have decided not to prosecute (for efficiency sake). For Bishops, they should be urged to tell their full story under oath, to the committee. Relevant witnesses should be brought forward, interrogated as well. Any resistance to the process should be looked upon as evidence against the bishop, at least requiring resignation. I am very resistant to trial-by-media, or trial-by-statistics, or trial-by-SNAP, as they are not credible and not really seeking justice. 6) Even for convicted pedophiles and enablers, while they are in prison or in retirement (if they do not deserve prison, based on the above process), they should be urged to acknowledge their sins, repent and reform their lives (I am sure some are on this route already). But, the church should never withhold the sacraments from those who repent, even as it offers the sacraments to death row criminals. 7) Expansion of this process to the public schools and all secular institutions. The UN and USA government statistics indicate over 99% of child abuse occurs outside the Church (as expected given the demographics), so I am especially suspicious of any activist or organization who is only interested in protecting children from pedophile priests or enabling priests, but shows little interest in the vast majority of abused children. They are more likely interested in weakening the doctrine of the Church and separating us from the true Gospel than in protecting the children.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, While we have serious disagreements about whether the magisterium is protected from all error in faith and, most particularly, in morals, I do agree with your listed points about how the Church should handle the sexual abuse crisis, with the following additions. 1. A formal, open, fair and balanced investigation should be conducted of all clergy and bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal regardless of when such actions were performed. All evidence must be accepted and not censored inclusive of documentation provided by the laity, theologians and clergy. If any evidence and accusations are determined not to be appropriate, sound, reasonable or not relevant, a full justification for the exclusion of such evidence must be documented and made public. 2. The investigation and evidence should be vetted in an appropriate ecclesial court. Priests and bishops found guilty of grave and immoral acts, inclusive of criminal acts, must be determined by explicit and objective criteria formulated and vetted appropriately among clergy and theologians with the appropriate expertise. These experts who will determine the criteria must represent a committee that is selected and balanced across appropriate and relevant world geographies and inclusive of the so-called traditionalist and so-called revisionist perspective. The criteria should be made public. 3. Appropriate, suitable and proportionate punishment for those found guilty by an ecclesial court should also be determined by objective criteria under the same rules as above. 4. Decisions of lower ecclesial courts can be appealed to the Roman Rota as the ultimate decision-maker with the Pope. All decisions must be made public. I seriously doubt the Vatican will agree with these rationale suggestions for a variety of reasons. Hence, the authority of the RCC continues to be damaged until all clergy and bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal are brought to justice. To date, not one bishop has been brought to justice. Cardinals Law and Mahoney are just a few examples.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Michael - I am more hopeful as I expect my list has a good chance of being enacted. You didn't explicitly state it, but I hope you would expect that all secular institutions live by your added steps as well (although civil courts in place of ecclesial ones). Let's see if and when UN and the US public schools adopt my or your reforms. Otherwise, I think you will agree that their credibility in this area as an advocate for child protection will also continue to be suspect.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, The Western secular world is a world not ruled by a theocracy or totalitarian authority where they can institute laws and rules that apply to every citizen. In the U.S. the public school system is governed by states and the Federal government has some but not complete authority. We also have different civil and criminal laws that vary by state and Judges who administer justice (often with inconsistency) which is problematic. Nevertheless, justice for the most part functions well in the U.S. but it is not perfect. The RCC as an institution or governmental state is much different from a secular one. We have seen its lack of justice in the sexual abuse scandal, in particular for bishops. I hope that justice will be embraced as you and I have outlined regarding the sexual abuse scandal. I have much hope in Pope Francis.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Michael - do you really think the police and the judicial system have "for the most part" functioned well in the sex child abuse governance? In the US, in Ireland, or in many other countries? Recall the Sandusky case or the current investigation into the 55 universities that the government has just announced. I could give you many links to cases you seem to have forgotten. Even recall the major scandal with the UN peacekeepers a few years ago http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/when-those-meant-to-keep-the-peace-commit-sexualized-violence. Sounds like the very denial we want to avoid. Juridically, you should realize that all the cases of child sex abuse, by both clergy and everyone else, occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Church. Recall, that the Church has "theocratic power," if you want to call it that, only in the Vatican City State, since the demise of the Papal States. Outside that jurisdiction, their proper role is to report to the police and cooperate with the investigation, which is what they did not do adequately or promptly before the zero tolerance policy, when they thought they could handle the cases themselves. Outside the Vatican, they can't even coerce unwilling priests to cooperate in an investigation, apart from the threat of defrocking or losing their church position or title - hardly sufficient justice if they are truly guilty. The secular forces have all the real power of coercion and conviction. That is why it is so important that the Church authorities swiftly get the police involved. They cannot and should not try to mete out justice on their own, apart from to citizens in the Vatican City State. I am not comfortable with ecclesial courts trying to adjudicate cases outside the Vatican. Even for living bishops who you think might be guilty of criminal neglect, even there, the most the Church can do is shame the prelate and force resignation, early retirement or defrocking. It is the duty of the secular judicial authorities to conduct a criminal investigation and convict and punish if it comes to that. We do not want the Church to have that authority. Their role is to give information to the police and cooperate with the investigation. I think some people forget this as they are still viewing the Church with an antiquated idea of temporal church power that no longer exists.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, The judicial system in the U.S. for the large part does function well. This does not mean that certain cases, in particular child sexual abuse, is unproblematic. More should be done and more will be done. I am as outraged at any injustice as anyone else, and there are many cases where the justice for child rapists are inconsistent and deplorable. That is not my argument. What you fail to admit, and often deflect from, is the fact that not one bishop has been brought to justice by the Church over the sexual abuse scandal. I believe that if there is criminal evidence against any priest or bishop, then this should be handled by the appropriate civil authorities. My argument is that bishops such as Cardinal Law was given a comfortable position in Italy and this is not justice for his immoral actions in the sexual abuse scandal. Cardinal Mahoney merely retired and does what he wants for his immoral actions. I should remind you that the Church has not been the beacon of transparency or cooperation in the sexual abuse scandal, and that is being kind. Things are changing and that is a good thing, but this does not dismiss the lack of justice for those bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal. You can argue or imply that justice for all the bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal has been appropriately handled by the Church, but your arguments lack facts and common sense. I will not be a judge and jury about what type of justice is appropriate for bishops guilty of immoral actions. I already described the Church's process that makes sense to me. Frankly, any process of the Church that does not bring bishops who were involved in the sexual abuse scandal to justice, so that all the evidence is properly vetted and a just verdict of guilty or not guilty is rendered, and an appropriate punishment for the guilty is carried out, is unacceptable.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Michael - I do not argue or mean to imply that "all the bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal has been appropriately handled by the Church." I differ from you and others only in that I refuse to judge them when I do not have all the facts, just what is in the media and some outlandish claims by bloggers. In my list above, I call for an investigation into cases such as Cardinal Law (see #5 above) but I will not judge before I see the result of that investigation. I also believe the new "zero tolerance policy" is working much better in the Church than in secular institutions (where it is not even implemented), and I would like to see it extended into other parts of the Catholic world and into the secular world. It is not perfect, but is a great improvement in a somewhat intractable problem because of the fallen nature of man and the temptation to choose evil. I think the Church is not capable of "bringing them to justice" apart from exposing, shaming, forcing resignation, or defrocking clergy, which it has been done to hundreds of pedophile priests. (I know defrocking hasn't reached bishops yet, but we may be seeing a case now in the Vatican). The new committee that Marie Collins and Cardinal O'Malley are on is a good step forward. I also think insufficient attention has been paid to the civil authorities lack of action. It is they who are duty-bound to bring criminal charges if they believe they have a case and it is not the Church's role to bring criminal charges, only to support the civil systems (outside the Vatican). Finally, I believe many try to use the past bad management to try to coerce doctrinal change in the Church, and I will always oppose that.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, You and I can agree that no priest or bishop should be judged guilty of either criminal or grave immoral acts before all accusations and evidence are vetted appropriately by a just, open and unbiased judicial process (Church and Civil). This does not mean that Catholics cannot have an balanced opinion given the accounts and evidence released to the public by attorneys who represent victims. This evidence and accusations demand a proper investigation, not only by legal authorities, but by the Church. The only justice, so far by the Church, is the defrocking of some priests found guilty of child sexual abuse. No appropriate investigation has been conducted and made public by the Church concerning "all the bishops" involved in the sexual abuse scandal, save for a few you mentioned. This is what I suspect is the difference between you and I. I want a comprehensive Church investigation, not one limited to a few bishops. I think the Church is making progress but it has a long way to go. As to your reference to changes in doctrine or teachings, that is another matter. We will likely witness changes in teachings as a result of the Synod on the Family and the decisions of Pope Francis. It will be interesting to see how changes in the application of moral norms (pastoral theology) can be independent of the teachings about certain moral norms that the Church has proclaimed as truth for centuries. This is why traditionalist theologians and those who hold to an extreme and rigid orthodoxy (e.g., regardless of circumstances) are fearful of Pope Francis, and others like Cardinal Kasper.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Your “some” is actually 848 priests defrocked and 2,572 other priests given lesser sanctions for child sex abuse. Since 2004, under the new policy, the Vatican has received 3,400 cases (0.8% of priests), mostly of abuses committed decades earlier (so, they are not ignoring cases committed long ago). So, it appears the Vatican is presently sanctioning nearly every priest whose case reaches them. As to the bishops, I am aware of only 2 bishops that civil courts are willing to prosecute: Bishop Finn (who was convicted) and probably Archbishop Wesolowski. Since you have decided that other bishops deserve criminal prosecution, and you think the police are going a good job, don’t you wonder why they have not indicted any others (most have not left their country). Nor have they asked for extradition for anyone in the Vatican that I am aware of? Do they know something you don’t? No one need fear for our teaching, as we have the protection of the Lord that the Church will not lose the deposit of the faith and teach untruths. If any traditionalist theologians do fear, I say they should have more faith. Same for those who will no doubt be disappointed when Pope Francis does his job and keeps the faith. It all comes down to fidelity, or the lack of it, across the spectrum and to both extremes.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, You are forever making deliberate foolish and false remarks about what I said. Here is what you said: "Since you have decided that other bishops deserve criminal prosecution, and you think the police are going a good job, don’t you wonder why they have not indicted any others (most have not left their country)." I NEVER said that other bishops, or any bishop, deserve CRIMINAL prosecution unless there is appropriate and substantive evidence about the possible guilt of criminality according to civil criminal law. All you know how to do is exaggerate, deflect and make false accusations about what I said in order to make some point in support of your argument and your illusion that such remarks are winning the day. No bishop has been brought to justice BY THE CHURCH for grave immoral acts committed during the sexual abuse scandal. I never questioned how many priests were defrocked, but I do notice that you don't give the number of bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal. Don't you track that number, Mr. O'Leary? How many of those bishops should be investigated thoroughly by the RCC as you and I have suggested? Don't you have an opinion? I don't deny the truth about the deposit of faith, but this covers the fundamental tenets of our faith, not every moral teaching. We will have to wait for the Synod on the Family to see if certain moral teachings, taught as truth for centuries, will be reformed and developed. According to your philosophy, the magisterium teaches the "absolute" moral truth with "certainty". History has taught us that many moral teachings have been changed for good reasons. Thus, your assertion is unsubstantiated and non-sense. I am sure of one thing. When the Pope and the Synod on the Family change or develop certain moral teachings, you will offer some "spin" about how that was possible given your claim about "absoluteness and certainty" of every moral teaching. Faith is not obedience to the magisterium Tim, it is obedience to Christ and His Gospel. Wake up!
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
What an uncivil and defensive reaction! You are forever saying that no bishops have been "brought to justice" so to know that you must have concluded an injustice has been committed. The common understanding of this phrase, when dealing with child sex abuse, implies serious criminal wrong-doing. You forget Bishop Finn has been convicted and sentenced and surely, given the case, he has accepted his justice and doesn't deserve more? Or, since you say he has not been brought to justice, what do you possibly want? Some bishops have been forced into retirement or early resignation, but you must believe they too have not been "brought to justice" by your judgment, since you say none have. Be specific on what actions you want to see that will satisfy your "brought to justice" meaning. Is it defrocking of a repentant bishop or is it excommunication or something abstract? If you mean prison, that would imply criminality. I got the numbers in my quote from those committees in the Church who reported to the UN. I have no official way of tracking the number of bishops you are certain need to be brought to justice. Do you have that number, with any exactitude, from a credible source? If you have a number, please share it. I will then look into the source. If I complained you have never been "brought to justice" for your persistent attacks on the teaching of the Church, a complaint like that would imply I judged some penalty was due. But, I have never asked for that. Maybe, you should "wake up" and see your blatant judgmentalism?
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, Your definition of injustice is not mine, and it does not necessarily mean criminal wrong-doing. I used the words "immoral acts" almost exclusively in my previous comments when I discussed the bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal. I said nothing of criminal acts. Injustice is when nothing is done about grave immoral acts by bishops that can be substantiated by a thorough Church investigation. When bishops deliberately moved known pedophile priests around from parish to parish where they committed more child sexual abuse, then covered up the scandal, an apology or a retirement from office is NOT JUSTICE. Nor is giving such bishops, like Cardinal Law a comfortable position in Italy. I call for a thorough investigation of all bishops who were accused of grave immoral acts based on adequate evidence in reference to the sexual abuse scandal. This must be determined by a comprehensive, open, and unbiased investigation by the Church. If found guilty, then an appropriate, suitable, and proportionate punishment should follow. THAT'S IT!! Unfortunately, the judicial process we both outlined is not being followed to date. When bishops are not investigated appropriately by the Church, as we both agreed, then justice is not being carried out. That is called injustice. Tim, you are the one being highly sensitive because anyone who constructively criticizes the Church somehow is, according to your judgment, unjustly attaching the Church with hidden bad intentions and motives. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to my respectful arguments and comments. Wake Up Tim and try to see how you are being judgmental and misrepresenting my comments. Unless, you can offer something new and reasonable, we are done here Tim. I am comfortable with letting others who follow our comments judge for themselves if the Church has carried out justice for all the bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Michael - here is my problem with your approach. You have set a nebulous standard of "bring to justice" without indicating how it might be met, apart from an investigation. You refuse to even discuss what appropriate or proportionate punishment would look like. I give several possible punishments and you refuse to address them. I even raise Bishop Finn's case and you refuse to even describe what a just punishment would look like. If Cardinal Law is as guilty as you say, what kind of punishment would meet your "brought to justice" test. This approach gets you to claim the hierarchy is not meeting an unstated standard. Do you know if an investigation was undertaken into Cardinal Law's case? You assume it couldn't have been because the nebulous punishment that you won't describe hasn't happened. You do not consider the possibility that mitigating factors uncovered in an investigation led to his current situation. As to grave immorality that is not criminal, this is typically addressed in Catholic circles by repentance and prayer, as when a person participates in an elective abortion (surely a direct example of grave immorality). I certainly do not defend all actions or inactions by the hierarchy. For example, it is a scandal that Catholic politicians are permitted to vote for partial-birth abortion or even veto born-alive laws without being "brought to justice." It is a scandal that obstinately heterodox professors are permitted to continue teaching at Catholic universities. The practice of bishops before the zero-tolerance policy on child sex abuse was also a scandal. A so-called lavender mafia in some Catholic seminaries or certain religious houses is indeed a great counter witness to their vows. I have a long list.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, I already proposed a judicial process for bishops that supplemented your suggested process. As for an appropriate, suitable and proportionate punishment for those bishops found guilty of moving known pedophile priest to other parishes where they continued to sexually abuse more children, then covered up the scandal…was also addressed…but you deliberately ignored it. I called for a balanced committee of expert theologians to determine the criteria to be used by ecclesial courts in determining the severity, or lack thereof, of any grave immoral acts performed by bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal, as well as an appropriate punishment of those found guilty. I gave you a few examples of bishops who did not face a known ecclesial judicial process. The lack of any known ecclesial process to investigate and render decisions about bishops does not help to erase the damage to the credibility of the Church and their handling of the sexual abuse scandal. I wish that they would make such a process public so that the healing can accelerate. It seems to me that the only thing that will satisfy your specific questions (e.g., appropriate punishment of those found guilty) is to become judge and jury. I will not and should not, nor should anyone else. Any person is innocent until proven guilty. What you imply by your remarks is that every allegation and evidence proposed by victims and their attorneys are merely wrong, exaggerated and inappropriate. I don't deny that some or many allegations against priests or bishops cannot be substantiated and that some or many accusers have recanted their testimony or made false testimony. However, this is what a fair, balanced, open and thorough ecclesial judicial process is expected to do. You and those who offer evidence that some or many claims are false, want to classify anyone who constructively criticizes the Church for its lack of ecclesial process for bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal as hateful and severely misguided Catholics who call for justice (as I have outlined to supplement your suggestion). You say you do not defend all actions or inactions by the hierarchy. However, your entire argument comes across very differently, as defending the Church against those who responsibly disagree with either certain church teachings or the lack of any known judicial process for bishops because they have bad intentions and motivations. You also misrepresent my comments far too often to somehow score points, an illusion I have pointed out to you many times. If you agree with the judicial process I have outlined to supplement your suggested process, we have no disagreement. Nevertheless, your exchanges always seems to move to side issues and attacks on character, intentions and motivations. Many bloggers have brought this to your attention but you don't get it.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Michael - I do not consider all allegations and evidence proposed by victims as "wrong, exaggerated and inappropriate." I also do not consider constructive criticism of the Church as hateful. Where do you come up with these unsubstantiated charges? I do not want bishops slandered or libeled based on media reports. You demand that bishops be "brought to justice" but refuse to even describe what punishments would look like. You only want an investigation. My question is, IF the investigation occurs (assuming it has not been done privately already, as could have happened with Cardinal Law, for example) and IF it finds a bishop guilty of negligence in moving a priest from one parish to another, what possible punishment will satisfy you? My guess is you will not say, so that you can go on claiming that "no bishop has been brought to justice" even after an investigation. I want an investigation and I have thought through to the possibility of them being guilty. My recommendations for non-criminal but moral wrong-doing are resignation, penance (and forgiveness if repentant) and perhaps some assignment for the good of the Church or the abused going forward. But, I think some bishops have done this already. So, I am assuming you have some other punishment in mind short of prison (since you point out that you are not referring to criminal events). But, you won't say, again. This is not a side issue for those interested in justice for all concerned. As to my criticisms of the hierarchy, you are right that I have concerns different from you. I criticize the Church for failing to fully implement their stated teaching and governing authority and you want them to depart from their teaching or change it. Fine. we differ on this. No surprise here.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, You are asking the wrong question when you say: what punishment would satisfy justice for bishops found guilty of grave immoral acts during the sexual abuse scandal? It is not what I would be satisfied with Tim. I am comfortable with the decisions of a fair and balanced committee of experts in the Church. The removal of current duties as bishop is one possibility (as you say), another is the lost of his title and another is a prohibition against running another diocese or to be assigned to another high position of responsibility in the Church. I am open to an assignment that benefits the good of the Church within reason. I am not a judge or jury, nor do I want to be. You just don't like the answer I give you. You can think through your form of justice and punishment for bishops, but that does not mean it is the right one. All the Church has given Catholics is mostly "silence" about those bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal. We don't know if all the bishops involved in the scandal were investigated and subject to a open and fair judicial process. We don't know of any judicial process for bishops that the Church followed at all, because the Church is not telling us anything, save for the removal of some bishops from current duties. Perhaps if they gave us a list of the bishops who were appropriately investigated and the judgment and punishment, if any, that was enacted, then Catholics would not be so critical of the Church's handling of the sexual abuse crisis. I am comfortable with the judicial process I outlined. You think whatever has been done is fair and appropriate for all bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal, even when you have no knowledge that any fair and balanced judicial process was ever followed. I am skeptical about whether all bishops have been brought to justice when the hierarchy provides only silence and does not provide adequate information. This is called transparency and it is lacking when it comes to the sexual abuse scandal. That is the difference between you and I. As for our differences, I disagree with certain moral teachings for good reasons. You believe that every teaching of the magisterium is the absolute moral truth with certainly. This is an absurd argument because history has shown us that some teachings, taught as truth for centuries, were changed. It is also a weak argument because you fail to take into consideration the agent's good motivations, ends and intentions, as well as circumstances, or if the action chosen is appropriate, suitable and proportionate to the good in those ends. However, we also differ on style of argument (to be kind) and I have given you examples of this for some time. Hence, I am never surprised about anything you say. You say I am not answering your questions, but you fail time and time again to ignore the answers I give you because you don't like the answers. This is one reason our exchanges go around in circles.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Finally! Some specific answers. Thank you, Michael. I agree with several of them. I agree too that some bishops have been removed from their posts following their investigations. I am also for greater transparency in the investigational procedures and I think the investigation into the Irish dioceses and religious orders is a model of the right amount of transparency. In today's Irish Times, we see that the dioceses have received a very good report whereas there was some strong criticism for the slow implementation of the zero policy in some religious orders and missionary congregations. Encouraging progress there. So, maybe, the vicious circle can stop here.
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tim, Progress may be good in Ireland, but the sexual abuse scandal is worldwide. We still are in a fog whether the hierarchy in other countries will embrace adequate transparency and a open and balanced judicial process including appropriate punishment for bishops involved in the sexual abuse scandal. Thus, most, not all, of the negative criticism leveled at the Church relative to its handling of the sexual abuse scandal has been both constructive and reasonable. We can now stop our circular exchanges.
Tom Helwick
4 years 6 months ago
It's apparent that there are others in the hierarchy who have different opinions. http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/cardinal-kasper-popes-theologian-downplays-vatican-blast-us-nuns
Michael Barberi
4 years 6 months ago
Tom, Thanks for this article. I love Cardinal Kasper and Pope Francis. The article is precious and demonstrates that the harsh criticism of those who disagree with the small-minded legalistic and rigid CDF and orthodoxy (for good reasons) is fading and a more forgiving, open and merciful Church is emerging. I always say and believe that the Holy Spirit leads us to truth in agreement and disagreement. Thanks be to God.
James O'Reilly
4 years 6 months ago
Isn't the pedophilia denial in the Church over the past two decades a symptom of a larger issue--the Clericalism in the Church? Many in the clergy, particularly in the hierarchy, believe "they know best" about virtually anything to do with the Church, ignoring the wisdom, expertise and commitment of the laity, and the Sisterhood.There is a "circle the wagons" mentality, a willingness to treat, and protect, fellow-priests as members of a brotherhood who are a bit above normal civil institutions and laws. I firmly believe that if we had married priests with their own children in the past the apparent willingness of many clergy to close their eyes to the aberrant behavior of fellow clerics when in contact with children would not have been tolerated, and perhaps even more so if we had women priests ( I'm not advocating for ordination of woman just for this issue, that's a debate for another day). As the availability of priests shrinks, more responsibilities in parishes and dioceses will have to be delegated to lay persons, it is already beginning. Most of the financial administration of the Church could be handled by competent laity, and that might put a stop, for instance, to the lax oversight of accountability for funds in many parishes and dioceses. Priests should use their time for administering the sacraments, counseling and teaching, not in deciding how to repair parish property etc. when lay persons in the parish make their living in such activities. Some younger priests are beginning to act less self-important (not all) but are also held back by a concern about censure from more senior priests and diocesan authorities. Clericalism is a way of life for so many older clergy members and it will take time to change. Perhaps the humility and example of this new Pope will begin to change behavior. I am convinced that the Devil infiltrated the Church in recent decades, enabling seminaries to loosen vetting standards that allowed for the ordination of individuals who should not have been made priests, and also allowing for the denial of pedophilia when it became apparent that it was a major issue in the clergy worldwide. this scandal is truly a victory of the Devil's. I pray for the opening up of the Church, the clergy and the hierarchy in particular, to the grace that God provides for those who ask sincerely for guidance in decision-making. The Vatican needs fresh air, this Pope appears to be acting under the grace of God in trying to change the culture, but it will be a decades-long struggle, beyond most of our lifetimes, as it has taken many centuries to arrive at the sorry state of Church Administration of the present time. Doctrine and preservation of the Faith as Jesus taught us is vital to the Church, but needs to be administered in a culture of openness to all in the Church. My understanding of the Church is that it consists of the Laity, the Religious, and the Saints in Heaven. For too long the Laity have been second-class citizens, perhaps it will change in the future?
Rory Connor
4 years 6 months ago
I note that "Irish abuse victim and campaigner" Marie Collins is on the new Papal Committee re child abuse and I fully agree with Cardinal Sean O'Malley that there indeed "so much denial" about the issue. Much of this denial comes from within the ranks of child abuse campaigners themselves who either propagate false atrocity stories OR remain silent when the stories are proved to be false. Remaining silent ensures that similar bouts of hysteria erupt elsewhere. I posted the following recent on the "Mother Jones" website in relation to allegations that children were murdered in a residential school in Florida. It is a reprise of similar discredited scandals in Ireland: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/02/returning-to-dozier-florida-school-for-boys QUOTE "At least 96 children died at Dozier between 1914 and 1973, according to school records, and while state officials say there’s no proof, former students insist that some of the deaths were the result of foul play. Boys of all races were routinely, brutally, and even fatally beaten by staff, they allege; some were raped, and “runners” were fired upon—at least seven kids were reported dead after trying to escape." ENDQUOTE Well now, how very familiar this is. In Ireland over a period of ten years, we had numerous claims that children had been murdered in orphanages and reformatory schools run by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy. Some of these allegations relate to periods when no child died of ANY cause. Accordingly I coined the phrases "Murder of the Undead" and "Victimless Murders" (try Googling these). I was told that one Garda (Police) Superintendent was furious at the amount of police time wasted by his predecessor in searching for the bodies of these "murdered" children. Of course if his predecessor had declined to involve himself in this lunacy, he would have been accused of being in the pocket of the Catholic Church! This hysteria has more or less died away now in Ireland but how lovely to see that it's started in the good old USA! I did a summary of most of the Irish child-killing claims in the following essay - which may give you an inkling of how things are likely to develop in your country. Happy hunting! http://irishsalem.com/irish-controversies/allegations-of-child-killing-1996to2005/SunTribune25May06.php
Rory Connor
4 years 6 months ago
The essay I mentioned above, was supposed to be a summary of all the child-killing claims in Ireland as of 2006 (There were more afterwards, although they seem to have ceased now). However at the time I wrote it, I had forgotten about a very significant allegation - in fact it was the very first one a decade earlier. A Sister of Mercy was supposed to have murdered a baby girl by burning holes in the baby's legs with a red hot poker. For details see the following: http://www.irishsalem.com/irish-controversies/allegations-of-child-killing-1996to2005/Goldenbridge-ChildKilling.php AND http://www.irishsalem.com/individuals/accusers/christine-buckley/hotpoker-wasused-11oct97.php The title of the latter article in the Daily Mirror dated 11 October 1997 says it all: HOT POKER WAS USED ON LITTLE MARION.. NO CASH WILL GET HER BACK; I THINK MY BABY WAS MURDERED AT THE ORPHANAGE, SAYS PAYOUT MUM. I dare say that this is the kind of thing you can look forward to in the USA as this latest lunacy develops. Since denials by the Church (or other accused organisations) are routinely discounted by the media, genuine campaigners against abuse should be condemning this type of hysteria that only serves to discredit REAL victims!
Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
Rory - thank you very much for these links and your summary. I didn't know of these allegations that were proven false. The crime of child sex abuse is so abhorrent that many people take a guilty-until-proved-innocent position on priests and are resistant or even indifferent to procedures to protect the innocent priest. Yet, they revert to an innocent-until-proven-guilty stance for a teacher in a public school or other secular organization. For example, bishopaccountability.com keeps a large database of priests who were accused in a court case or just in a media report. While the site has the legal disclaimer at the top of the page (the database contains “merely allegations,” and “innocent until proven guilty”), once on the list, it is very hard for a priest to get taken off it. On their policy page, they say they keep a priest on the list even if they have been acquitted in a court, or exonerated after an investigation and returned to ministry. The only sure way to get removed is if the victim recants or withdraws the allegation, or is himself convicted of a false accusation. The database includes people who were no longer priests when an alleged event occurred and they include priests who were dead when the accusation surfaced. Same problem with accusations of bishops. No concern for due process, contemporary best-practices or standards of law. Oh well.
Rory Connor
4 years 6 months ago
Thanks a lot Tim. I deliberately concentrated on false allegations of child MURDER because - unlike decades old claims of abuse - the truth or falsehood of such allegations CAN be determined even many years later. This is especially the case where no child died during the period in question! Leading members of at least four "Victims'" organisations have made child-killing claims in Ireland and they were supported by various journalists, broadcasters and politicians. All such allegations have been discredited and I trust that we have seen the last of them in Ireland. (I suspect they are the Celtic equivalent of the Satanic Ritual Abuse witch-hunt which did NOT affect this country!). I'm not surprised that BishopAccountability.com adopts a "guilty till proven innocent" approach. In Ireland I am not aware of a single TV documentary or even newspaper feature article that discusses the background to our Celtic witch-hunt. The problem is that all our major newspapers AND the national broadcaster RTE AND the independent broadcast company TV3, were pushing this hysteria over the years. Accordingly none of them will now commission an investigation into it, because they would be damning themselves!

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