New twist in Belgian Catholic abuse legal row

After the Belgian police controversially raided the bishops’ offices and Cardinal Daneels’ home, confiscating truckloads of material relating to allegations of church sexual abuse, two lower courts ruled that the raid had been inaoppropriate, and ordered that the material would be inadmissable as evidence. However, this is not over yet.  “Expatica” yesterday reported from Belgium that there has been a

New twist in Belgian Catholic abuse legal row

BRUSSELS: Belgium’s highest court ordered magistrates on Tuesday to re-examine evidence seized by police relating to decades of child abuse and alleged Roman Catholic Church cover-ups.

The court overturned two previous decisions by lower courts that rendered inadmissible evidence taken from church headquarters, the home of a former archbishop and a church-backed commission investigating sex crimes perpetrated by priests.

Responding to lawyers acting for alleged victims who lodged appeals, the judges said the lower courts were wrong not to hear civil parties and therefore magistrates should look again at the evidence in a new light.

It means that truckloads of material gathered by police in spectacular raids in June that drew the ire of Pope Benedict XVI himself could potentially be used to relaunch state prosecutions for abuse.

However, it does not automatically mean a prosecution case will be launched, because the lower judges could reach the same decisions as before, saying they have done so this time while considering aggrieved parties’ accusations.The raids on June 24, conducted as a Vatican ambassador was meeting with church leaders, opened the eyes of the world to the scale of the scandal within the Belgian Catholic Church, but the church and retired archbishop, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, asked that the material seized be declared out of bounds.

Read more:

Child psychologist Peter Adriaenssens then unleashed nationwide controversy with the release on September 10 of a report by a commission he led which revealed nearly 500 people reported abuses by priests since the 1950s and 13 victims committed suicide.

Adriaenssens subsequently called on the pope to resign.

Suicide, Abuse, and the Catholic Church

One of my earliest memories from primary school religion lessons is that suicide is a grievous sin, one of the worst of all. If that is so, how serious is it to be responsible for another person’s suicide? And how serious is it if that person is a representative of the Catholic Church, or indirectly, the whole impersonal structure of the Church itself?

 

The Church has by now become accustomed to being sued by survivors of clerical abuse, of boys, girls, and adults alike. It is also now accustomed to paying out large sums, as the result of court judgements, out-of court settlements, or (in some cases) plain hush money, all for abuse. Read the rest of this entry »

US Abuse: Ratzinger’s Failure to Act

When Pope Benedict rebuked the Irish bishops for their failure to act on priests abusing those in his care, he made no made no mention of his own failures to act.  We already knew that there were many such failures, simply because Vatican requirements were that all allegations of abuse were to be referred to his office at the CDF, and the bulk of them resulted in no action being taken.  What has not been known, are the specifics. That will change, as more facts are swept out from under the Vatican , such as this story from the NY Times:

John Pilmaier from Milwaukee, and Peter Isely of the SNAP bureau (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), during a press conference in front of the Vatican on Thursday. Photo: AP

Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

To put this into context, it is worth noting the reports elsewhere, such as this one (from the BBC which remind us of how very well- informed Benedict usually is: he has an impressive reputation as a man who is a stickler fr detail, and is believed to have read every on of over 3000 cases of abuse that crossed his desk. Claims that he “didn’t know” are just not believable: Read the rest of this entry »

Irish Bishops’ Resignations Over Abuse: 1 Accepted, 4 (5?) to go.

One of the big disappointments of the pope’s “pastoral” letter to Irish Catholics, was that it contained no reference at all to the resignations of four bishops in the wake of the Murphy report on the cover-ups in Dublin. (A fifth bishop refused to resign, insisting that he had done “nothing wrong”.) In an under-reported press-conference at the time the pastoral letter was released, the obvious question was asked, “What about the resignations?” The only response was that they would be dealt with “in time” by the “appropriate Vatican department”. How long does it take, I wondered, to accept a resignation? The answer may have come this morning: a year.

In a matter entirely unrelated to the Murphy report and the Dublin diocese, Bishop John Magee, formerly of the Cloyne diocese, quit the day-to day running of his diocese a year ago, in March 2009. It has taken the Vatican a full year to accept his resignation. If this is a reliable guide to form, we might expect the acceptance of the four resignations arising from the Dublin Murphy report early in 20011. How long it will take to get rid of the one who is in denial, or of Benedict himself who has overseen the whole sorry mess, is anybody’s guess.

Vatican accepts resignation of Irish Catholic bishop John Magee

The Vatican has accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who was once the personal secretary to three popes, it was announced today.

The papacy said Bishop John Magee was stepping down over his mishandling of allegations of clerical sex abuse in his Irish diocese.

Although Magee quit the day-to-day running of parishes across rural Cork last March, it has taken the Vatican bureaucracy a year to formally confirm his resignation.

The cleric, originally from Northern Ireland, faced scathing criticism after the church’s watchdog found he had taken minimal action over accusations against two of his priests.

He served as personal assistant to Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II in Rome.

There have been many calls for Magee’s resignation since the report into the Cloyne diocese earlier this year.

The announcement of his official resignation was made in statement released through the Irish Catholic Bishops’ conference.

Read the full report at the Guardian

Read the rest of this entry »

Abuse: Mormons, Boy Scouts.

In all the storm around clerical abuse in the Catholic church, there is one are where I agree with the Vatican.  To avoid any misunderstanding, I want to make this absolutely clear:  the Catholic Church is not alone in its culpability.  (Now, I do not buy the claim by some Catholic apologists that the church is no worse than any others – but I’m not going to explore that today.) It is undeniable that there are other individuals and institutions also at fault. It is undeniable for instance, that the bulk of abuse takes place within the family, by close relatives or family friends.  There are also well-known stereotypes of figures popularly believed to get a little too close to the young people in their care:  choirmasters, for instance, or scoutmasters.

My own experience of childhood sexual abuse was by a scoutmaster. (Earlier  the abuse I received at the hands of the church had been physical, not sexual). Even at that age, about twelve or thirteen, it was obvious to me that this man’s activities were well known to the other adult scouters, who ignored them. There is no reason to assume that he was unique, or that the popular stereotype had no grounding in reality. Yet, in all the public outcry and endless US lawsuits for compensation, the allegations have primarily been against people inside the Catholic Church. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Walsh on the Vatican’s Problem: Abuse and Renewal

At Open Democracy, there is one of the clearest analyses 0f the problem in the  Vatican that I have yet seen. Here are some extracts:

There are many reasons given for the imposition of celibacy on (the majority of) Catholic clergy, an obligation with a long and problematic history. Some of these reasons are practical, others ascetical, but there are good arguments for claiming that celibacy was originally imposed to mark off clergy as a separate caste within an increasingly Christian society. That was a long time ago, but the “caste” mentality survives to this day.

It is not true, of course, for all Catholic clergy, many of whom are well adjusted human beings, but it is true for some that they socialise almost entirely within clerical circles. ….. There is, in other words, a distinctive clerical culture which celibacy has an obvious role in maintaining. In their daily lives they are not challenged by wives or children. Read the rest of this entry »

Church Sexual Abuse: Train (& Tame) the Rottweiler

Now here’s a nice idea:   Benedict XVI, in his earlier incarnation as head of the CDF, was known as “God’s Rottweiler”, for his diligence in guarding the faith from all threats.  Every dog owner knows that Rottweiler’s for all their skill as watchdogs, need training, lest they themselves become a threat to those they are supposedly protecting.  Ergo – train the Rottweiler.

Rex

Benedict’s career has been woefully short on pastoral or administrative experience. He started out as a celebrated academic theologian, in which capacity he made a renowned contribution to the proceedings of Vatican II.  Later, he served briefly  as Archbishop of Munich. Now, recall that the origin of the post of Bishops” was as an “overseer” for the diocese, implying management and supervision.  We now know that in Munich, Ratzinger’s supervision skills in overseeing his priests and protecting the people were somewhat underdeveloped. EITHER he was remiss in allowing a know paedophile priest to return to active ministry against strong professional advice; OR he was remiss in leaving the required supervision to a junior underling, who has now accepted full responsibility.  However, as has been pointed out elsewhere, one can delegate tasks and decisions to subordinates: one cannot delegate the responsibility.

He was soon recalled to Rome to head the CDF (successor to the old and notorious Inquisition) , where he earned the soubriquet “God’s Rottweiler” for his enthusiasm and vigour in reigning in and silencing dissenting opinion:  opinions in dissent, that is, from the views of John Paul II and his own. Read the rest of this entry »

Danish Church to Probe Abuse

From Straits Times.

COPENHAGEN – FOLLOWING pressure from its members, the Danish Catholic Church will probe a number of cases involving sexual abuse of children, it said in a statement on Sunday.

‘The Catholic Church in Denmark has recently been criticised by its members for not investigating and reporting to the police cases of sexual abuse which date back 100 years,’ the statement said.

‘Bishop Czeslaw Kozon now addresses this criticism by, as soon as he comes back from an official visit to the pope on March 27, setting up a group of competent people to investigate these cases.’

Around 35,000 catholics live in Denmark, according to the Ritzau news agency, which said the Church’s declarations were brought about by ‘massive pressure.’

On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI apologised in a letter for child sex abuse by Irish priests and spoke of the ‘shame and remorse’ he felt over the scandals.

Similar scandals have also emerged in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Hand Wringing & Blame

The pastoral latter is carefully constructed to address several groups of people affected by clerical sexual abuse, or implicated in it as perpetrators, or as complicit in their protection. Benedict speaks directly to the survivors and heir families, and to the rest of the Irish people.  He speaks to the priests who were guilty, and to the bishops who shielded them. He speaks also to the rest of the Irish clergy ,to those priests and bishops who were not implicated, but are now shamed by mere association with the rotten eggs in the clerical basket.  But – where’s Wally? Who’s missing from the line-up?

Vatican Cardinals: Free from blame?

In treating this as an entirely Irish affair, in speaking only to the Irish priests and clergy, are we really to believe that culpability lies solely on those flawed Irish, and none in his own domain, the Cardinals of the Curia? Read the rest of this entry »

Catholic Abuse: More Questions Than Answers*

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog