SEX ABUSE BY ROMAN CATHOLIC CLERGY
Excerpts from the BBC program
"Sex crimes and the Vatican"
The program "Sex crimes and the Vatican" was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
on 2006-OCT-01. 1 They have
placed the complete transcript online. 2
We can only discuss general themes
from the program, and show short excerpts of the text because of copyright
||Colm O'Gorman was the program host. He claims that he was repeatedly
raped by Father Sean Fortune in Ferns, Ireland at the age of 14. The church
was aware that Fortune was an active hebephile -- a person who sexually
abuses post-pubertal youths. But it simply moved him from parish to parish
as accusations of abuse arose. Fortune
was eventually exposed. On the eve of his trial, he committed suicide. Dr. Brendan Comiskey, later resigned as Bishop of Ferns.
||O' Gorman later became director of one of Ireland's largest non-profits
specializing in the support of victims of child abuse. He pressured the
government into conducting a government inquiry. In 2005-OCT, the Ferns Report was made public. He said:
"It details allegations of the rape and abuse of over 100 girls and
boys, made against 26 priests from this small, rural diocese. It says
that there was a culture of secrecy, and a fear of scandal, that led
Bishops to place the interests of the Catholic church ahead of the
safety of children."
||The Fern Report was the first to link church actions to a secret
document called "Crimen Sollicitationis."
||Aiden Doyle described a rape by a priest of the Ferns diocese. He
disclosed the assault to another priest, who ordered Doyle to never reveal
the abuse to anyone. The priest said:
"I'm going to apply the seal of confession to you, so that you must
never talk about this, and it will be kept secret."
"I was told that.. simply told you don't talk about this again. It's
over, you'll get over it, it'll fade away in time, it'll go away, you've
nothing to worry about. You know it's all about forgiveness, it's all
about forgiving your offender as well as the offender forgiving me. They
were judge, jury and everything else. I didn't have any opportunity to
receive understanding. There was no understanding brought about. I
didn't know what this meant other than that I must never talk about it
||Father Tom Doyle, a senior Vatican canon lawyer, said that the document:
"Crimen sollicitationis is indicative of a world-wide policy
of absolute secrecy and control of all cases of sexual abuse by the
clergy. But what you really have here is an explicit written policy to
cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who
would call attention to these crimes by churchmen. You've got a written
policy that says the Vatican will control these situations, and you also
have, I think, clear written evidence of the fact that all they're
concerned about is containing and controlling the problem. Nowhere in
any of these documents does it say anything about helping the victims.
The only thing it does is say that they can impose fear on the victims,
and punish the victims, for discussing or disclosing what had happened
||The program narrator, Paul Kenyon, said that the intent of the document
was to protect priests' reputations until a proper investigation had been
completed. In practice, it has been used to create cover-ups.
Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
from about 1981 to 2005. He enforced the document. He issued an updated
version of Crimen Sollicitatiois in 2001. It was considered so confidential that
the bishops were instructed to keep it locked in a safe. He introduced a new
principle: Exclusive Competence. All child abuse
allegations were to be handled by the Vatican.
||O' Gorman noted that:
"At the same time as the scandals were erupting in Ireland in 2002,
hundreds of cases were emerging ... in the United States. A US report
tells us that almost four and a half thousand US priests have been
accused of raping or sexually abusing children."
||Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine Monk once applied Crimen Sollicitationis in
the Minnesota diocese. He has since resigned and joined lawyers acting on
behalf of abuse victims. He said:
"I was part of the system that was getting chewed up and being used
deceptively, and it was a real dark night of the soul. Everything that I
had trained for, you know, well over a decade to do, I found out that I
wasn't working for a holy institution but an institution that was wholly
concentrated on protecting itself.
"... most of the cases never saw the light of the day, hence we were
successful. That is really the ultimate definition of success for the
church, when it comes to a case of sexual abuse of a minor, that no one
ever finds out about it, that it gets shut down, that it's kept quiet.
If a payoff is needed, or if some kind of a settlement is needed, it's
done. We had a $7 million budget in 1996 to do such things. ... but the
thing that we had to have was a confidentiality order where it
absolutely had to be agreed that everything was quiet. And you work with
the victims as best you can, but the ultimate desire is to maintain
stability, peace and calm, and the biggest thing you have to do is
absolutely shut down the scandal.
||The Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. responded to the abuse crisis by
creating a independent National Review Board in 2002. Judge Anne Burke
was on that board from 2002 to 2005. She noted that the board found that abuse
wasn't an epidemic, where one the abuse was limited to one or a few dioceses. It was endemic: across America, the same percentages of criminal
sexual assault against minors occurred in every diocese.
||In 2003, the head of the Board, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating
compared some church leaders to La Casa Nostra. In his letter of
resignation, Keating wrote:
"To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending
clerics, that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church."
||Judge Burke continued:
"We haven't seen sufficient evidence to show that we
are satisfied with what has been done, and I think we're not able to
trust. And that's getting reinforced periodically with the watering down
of the charter, the failure of some diocese' to remove priests when
there's an allegation. So I think we cannot trust at this point. We
would have thought that the last four years would have taught us enough,
and would have taught the Bishops enough to handle the situation. But we
see every week, every month, something new happening that would lead you
to believe that perhaps they didn't learn from the past mistakes."
||The Church adopted similar reforms in other countries. For example
the church in Britain has introduced comprehensive guidelines for child
protection. But these have been piecemeal effort; the Vatican does not
have a global global child protection plan.
||Father Doyle said:
"There's no policy to help the victims, there's absolutely no policy
to help those who are trying to help the victims, and there's an
unwritten policy to lie about the existence of the problem. Then, as far
as the perpetrators, the priests, when they're discovered, the systemic
response has been not to investigate and prosecute, but to move them. To
move them from one place to another in a secret way, and not reveal why
they're being moved. So there's total disregard for the victims, total
disregard for the fact that you're gonna have a whole new crop of
victims in the next place. Now this is just... this is not in the United
States where this is happening. This is all over the world. You see the
same pattern and practice no matter what country you go to."
||Rick Romley is a former District Attorney in Phoenix, AZ. He has
convicted eight abusive priests and obtained a written confession from the
bishop admitting that he knowingly hid child sexual abuse from the police.
"I will tell you that the secrecy, the... I mean the obstruction that
I saw during my investigation was unparalleled in my entire career as a
DA here in Phoenix Arizona. It was so difficult to obtain any
information from the church at all. In fact we knew of certain meetings
that had taken place, and yet no documentation was ever produced to be
able to ... show that that meeting had even occurred."
"... we came across, in the canons for the church, that there are
supposed to be secret archives to where this type of material is to
provided and not given to civil authorities no matter what the
circumstances. We had information that there is an instruction from the
Nuncio, who is Ambassador status, to shift all this ... incriminating
type of information to him because ... under the law we could not
subpoena that material because he would have protected status as an
Ambassador from the Vatican. I think that that's really what the story
is. Is that the church.. the church's failure to acknowledge such a
serious problem. But more than that, it is not a passiveness. It is a..
it was an openly obstructive way of not allowing civil authorities to
try to stop the abuse within the church. I mean they fought us every
step of the way.
||Father Doyle continued:
"Cardinal Ratzinger, who now is Pope, could tomorrow get up and say
'here's the policy for throughout the church. Full disclosure to the
civil authorities. Absolute isolation and dismissal of any convicted
cleric. Complete openness and transparency. Complete openness of all
financial situations. Stop all barriers to the legal process. Completely
cooperate with the civil authorities everywhere.' He could do that."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Sex crimes and the Vatican" Panorama, BBC One,
Transcript of the program is at:
Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-OCT-08
Latest update: 2006-OCT-08
Author: B.A. Robinson