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Religious Tolerance logo

Clergy sexual abuse

2015: Who/What is Causing Priest Abuse?
Priests, Feminists, Abuse Victims...?
2017: Cardinal Pell Accused of Child Abuse.

Cardinal Pell, innocence or guilt

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2015: Cardinal blames feminists for priests who abuse children:

Cardinal Raymond Lee Burke is an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the head of the Vatican's highest court, but was transferred to a role of lesser responsibility with the Knights of Malta during 2014.

During 2015-JAN, Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, writing for The Independent, said that Cardinal Burke:

"... claimed that 'radical feminism' is to blame for a host of issues within the Catholic Church and blamed feminists for creating pedophiles, or sexually confused 'disordered men' who entered the priesthood and sexually abused children." 9

During an interview with The New Emangelization, [sic] Cardinal Burke said:

"I think there has been a great confusion with regard to the specific vocation of men in marriage and of men in general in the Church during the past 50 years or so. It’s due to a number of factors, but the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.

Unfortunately, the radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church, leading the Church to constantly address women’s issues at the expense of addressing critical issues important to men; the importance of the father, whether in the union of marriage or not; the importance of a father to children; the importance of fatherhood for priests; the critical impact of a manly character; the emphasis on the particular gifts that God gives to men for the good of the whole society.

The goodness and importance of men became very obscured, and for all practical purposes, were not emphasized at all. This is despite the fact that it was a long tradition in the Church, especially through the devotion of St. Joseph, to stress the manly character of the man who sacrifices his life for the sake of the home, who prepares with chivalry to defend his wife and his children, and who works to provide the livelihood for the family. So much of this tradition of heralding the heroic nature of manhood has been lost in the Church today. 10

He feels that this, in turn, causes men to be attracted:

"... to pornography, sexual promiscuity, alcohol, drugs, and a whole gamut of addictions."

He claims that:

"... there was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood -- sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors ..."

He called this"

"... a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns." 10

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2015-SEP-16: Bishops in Syracuse, NY make statements about whether some victims of child abuse by adults may be partly responsible for their own abuse:

Charles Topher, writing for the Church and State web site, said:

"Bishop Robert Joseph Cunningham [the current Bishop] of the diocese of Syracuse, NY doesn’t think priests should take all of the blame for decades, if not centuries, of sexual abuse against young boys. According to Cunningham, the 'age of reason' in the Catholic church is seven, so those [abused] boys [aged 7 or older] are culpable for their actions.

The shocking statement came during testimony that was recently released from a deposition for a federal lawsuit. Charles Bailey, a survivor of a priest’s abuse, asked then-Bishop James Moynihan whether the church held children victims partly responsible for sexual abuse from priests. '(Bishop) Moynihan said that right to my face – ‘The age of reason is 7, so if you’re at least 7 you’re culpable for your actions.’ That kind of floored me,” said Bailey'. ..."

Bishop Moynihan served as Bishop of Syracuse from 1995 to 2009; he died in 2017-MAR.

Subsequently, Bishop Cunningham was asked:

"... if he could imagine any circumstance in which a 14- or 15-year-old boy could be held responsible in the eyes of the church when a priest asks him to engage in sex.

'Obviously, what the priest did was wrong,' Cunningham said. 'You’re asking me if the young man had any culpability, and I can’t judge that'."

Topher asserted:

"Actually, you can judge that. Anyone can judge that. What happened is priests used their influence and position as 'messengers of God' to force children to comply with their perverted sexual desires. In the very least they were forced to make adult decisions they didn’t have the capacity to make. This bishop and all the priests he defended with this mindless argument betrayed the trust of the parishioners and especially the children of the Diocese of Syracuse." 10

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2017: Australian Cardinal George Pell accused of child abuse:

His Eminence Cardinal George Pell (1941-) from Australia was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1966. He has served as auxiliary bishop, and later as archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in Australia. Subsequently, he became the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. He was made a Cardinal in 2003 and became the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014 in the Vatican. He is considered the third most important individual in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. 1

According to Wikipedia, in Australia:

"... Pell was a witness at the 2013–2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organizations. His testimony at both inquiries attracted criticism. ... [Pell had initiated] the Melbourne Response by the church to the abuse ... [During] the inquiries. Pell stated:

"It's a matter of regret that the Catholic Church has taken some time to come to grips with the sex abuse issue adequately."

Compensation for victims was capped at $50,000 in Australian Dollars. This is currently equivalent to about U.S. $38,000. The process was widely criticized as being legalistic and offering inadequate support to victims." 2

During 2016-JUL, Police in Victoria, Australia confirmed that they were investigating complaints against the Cardinal involving sexual activities.

On 2017-JUN-29, Pell was formally charged with multiple sexual abuse offences involving multiple complainants. His legal representatives in Australia have been informed that he is required to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court in July.

A separate hearing will be held on JUL-06 to decide whether to release to the public the details of the allegations against Cardinal Pell.

Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said that:

"I want to be perfectly clear -- the process and the procedures that have been followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offenses whenever we investigate them. Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation. 3

He also said:

"The fact that he has been charged on summons -- we have used advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions and also we have engaged with his legal representatives, which is common and standard practice." 2

If this case evolves instances of abuse like many other cases involving charges of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, then the allegations have made by males who were youths in their older teen years at the time of the alleged incidents. Unfortunately, these are often incorrectly perceived by the media and public as involving persons who were young children at the time.

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Responses to the allegations:

  • By the Vatican:

The Vatican released a statement:

"The Holy See expresses its respect for the Australian justice system that will have to decide the merits of the questions raised.

At the same time, it is important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable, the acts of abuse committed against minors, has cooperated in the past with Australian authorities (for example, in his depositions from the royal commission).

And as a diocesan bishop in Australia, [he] has introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse." 4

  • By Cardinal Pell:

On JUL-29, at the Vatican, he railed against what he referred to as almost two years of:

"...relentless character assassination."

He criticized leaks to the media about the police investigation.

"I'm looking forward to finally having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse to me is abhorrent." 5

  • By Noel Debien, a religious commentator:

    "... the Vatican has not invoked diplomatic immunity..."

    "As for Cardinal Pell, what we saw today was a man of great resolve; His demeanor was extremely confident, and he did not look like a man whose nerves are shattered and who doesn't know how to defend himself.

    I expect he will defend himself vigorously and strenuously, as he has done to this point. ..."

    "... today he did use strong and emotional language to express abhorrence, which was likely quite deliberate on his part, to dispel that criticism. 4

  • By Robert Mickens, of the Catholic publication "La Croix International,"

He said that the allegations are:

"... a major blow" for the church. You have to understand that the Vatican language is always going to be more conciliatory. Cardinal Pell said the Pope has 'given' him a leave of absence -- it's very likely that the pope stood him down."

To "stand a person down" is a common Australian phrase for suspending an individual. 6

Since Australia does not have an extradition treaty with the Vatican, Cardinal Pell could have avoided prosecution if he simply ignored the charges. But he is clearly anxious to clear his name from the allegations.

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This essay will be expanded as further information becomes available.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. George Pell, Wikipedia, as on 2017-JUN-29, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "George Pell, Catholic cardinal, charged with historical sexual assault offences," ABC News, 2017-JUN-29, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  3. Joshua Berlinger and Laura Smith-Spark, "Top adviser to Pope charged with sexual assault offenses," CNN, 2017-JUN-29, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  4. Kathy Lord, et al., "George Pell granted leave by Pope to fight historical sexual assault offences," ABC News, 2017-JUN-29, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
    Webmaster's note: These are not offences at this time; they are allegations of sexual assault offences that have not been proven in court."
  5. "Cardinal insists 'abhorrent' sex assault charges are 'false,' CBS News, 2017-JUN-29, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
  6. "Stood Down," Pain in the English, 2011, at: https://painintheenglish.com/
  7. "George Pell: Cardinal addresses media after being charged with sexual assault offences," ABC News, 2017-JUN-29, at http://www.abc.net.au/
  8. "Pell responds to allegations of historical sexual offences," The Bulletin, 2017-JUN-29, at: https://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/
  9. "Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke on the Catholic 'Man-crisis' and what to do about it ," The New Emangelization, 2015-JAN-05, at: http://www.newemangelization.com/

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Copyright © Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Latest update on: 2017-JUL-21

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