Because there should be consequences.
Mr. President, please stand with the hundreds of thousands of children who have been raped, sodomized and sexually assaulted, the children now being similarly tortured and the potentially thousands more to come because no world leader will hold the Catholic Church accountable.
Please inform the Vatican that you are canceling your March 27 meeting with the Pope due to his officials’ egregious response to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child report. The subject of the 15-page document is the Vatican’s failure to adequately address its “systematic” responsibility for worldwide child sex abuse.
The Vatican still places children “at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders (who operate under the authority of the Holy See) are reported to still be in contact with children,” according to the report issued Feb. 5.
The Committee stated it is “gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”
The Committee stated it was “particularly concerned” that in dealing with allegations of child sex abuse, “the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests, as observed by several national commissions of inquiry,” which included the Westchester Co., New York, grand jury report.
In their responses, no Church official “acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed,” expressed remorse, made an apology, committed to make amends or to do better. Rather, they tried to redirect scrutiny away from the Church’s horrendous crimes by politicizing the report, portraying the Church as a victim of ideological enemies which, by inference, includes your administration, Mr. President.
The Vatican, as a signatory to the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, pledged to protect the health and well being of children and adolescents. So, in addition to sex abuse, the Committee also cited the case of a nine-year old girl, raped by her stepfather, who underwent an emergency life-saving abortion and was excommunicated by her archbishop along with her mother and doctor. The archbishop’s action was later approved by the Vatican. Therefore, “The Committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls and to amend [Church law] relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”
Referring to the parts of the Convention “on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, on adolescent health and on HIV/AIDS,” the Committee “reminds the Holy See of the dangers of early and unwanted pregnancies and clandestine abortion which result notably in high maternal morbidity and mortality in adolescent girls, as well as the particular risk for adolescents girls and boys to be infected with and affected by STDs, including HIV/AIDs.”
“The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality.”
“The United Nations: Caring for Children or Caring for Culture Warriors” was the title of the official response by the director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Sister Mary Ann Walsh. She wrote that the report “is weakened by including objections to Catholic teaching on such issues as gay marriage, abortion and contraception.” These objections, she said, “seem to violate the U.N.’s obligation from its earliest days to defend religious freedom….when the U.N. Committee strays into the culture wars to promote abortion, contraceptives and gay marriage.”
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the Committee “extrapolated to the life of the Church, which is not their competency, and interjected many of their own ideological preferences.”
Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl claimed the Committee seemed “very upset about the Church’s teaching on abortion, as if the way to avoid child abuse is abort children? Where is the logic to something like that? And besides that, that’s not the issue that that commission was supposed to be looking at.”
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the U.N., Bishop Silvano Tomasi, responded that “we have to keep in mind that even though there are so many millions, forty million cases of abuse a year regarding children, unfortunately some cases affect also Church personnel.” He suggested the report had a pre-determined “ideological line.” “Some NGOs that support homosexuality, same-sex marriage and other issues probably presented their own views and ended up reinforcing their line of thought in some way,” Tomasi said.
The U.N. report said the Pope should:
1) Immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes. (“Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred. On the contrary, cases of nuns and priests ostracized, demoted and fired for not having respected the obligation of silence have been reported to the Committee as well as cases of priests who have been congratulated for refusing to denounce child abusers.”)
2) Ensure a transparent sharing of all archives which can be used to hold the abusers accountable as well as all those who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children. (“Although the Holy See has established its full jurisdiction over child sexual abuse cases in 1962 and placed them in 2001 under the exclusive competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), it has declined to provide the Committee with data on all cases of child sexual abuse brought to its attention over the reporting period and the outcome of the internal procedure in these cases.”)
3) Ensure that the Commission created in December 2013 will investigate independently all cases of child sexual abuse as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them. The outcome of this investigation should be made public and serve to prevent the recurrence of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
4) Promote the reform of statute of limitations in countries where they impede victims of child sexual abuse from seeking justice and redress.
The Vatican Commission referred to above was announced on Dec. 5, the day after the Holy See refused to provide the U.N. Committee with information it had requested in July regarding the Church’s internal investigation on the sexual abuse of children by its clergy, brothers, nuns and lay employees. As yet, the Commission hasn’t really been “created.” The Pope has not named its members nor given any direction to its function, methods or goals.
By comparison, Pope Francis has created four commissions, hired 6 internationally-renowned consulting firms, and appointed numerous clerics to protect and prosper his finances. This past week, with cardinals arriving from around the world for a series of meetings, the first order of business was the Vatican’s money. There was nothing on the agenda about child sex abuse.
It is the U.N. Committee’s recommendation about statutes of limitations which most directly effects the lives and health of American children. Professor Marci A. Hamilton, one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, wrote:
This recommendation would require the Vatican and the United States bishops to do an about-face. The statutes of limitations (SOLs) have been the primary and often the only barrier to justice for the vast majority of child sex abuse victims in the United States and elsewhere.
Most victims can’t come forward until adulthood, on average age 42, so a deadline for filing criminal charges or civil claims that occurs before age 50 prevents access to justice. This deadline has halted cases where the perpetrator admits the abuse, the diocese has proof of its knowledge about the perpetrators is in its own files, and the victim has corroborating evidence.
Victims deserve a chance at justice. Their cases would educate all of us on who the hidden predators are, and who among us is now suffering in silence.
SOLs are often valuable in cases involving property and contracts or crimes where the victim is more likely to contact the authorities close to the crime, e.g., a burglary or armed robbery or car theft. In contrast, there is no SOL on murder, because the victim has no way to report the abuse. Child sex abuse is similar in that the victims are often incapacitated from coming forward for years. Unlike murder, though, where perpetrators tend not to be serial murderers, when it comes to child sex abuse, the perpetrator tends to have multiple victims, and is likely to do so even late in life. Therefore, shutting victims out of court at any age endangers other children, who might have been protected had the earlier victims been able to get into court.
Any case filed against a perpetrator holds out hope that others will be vindicated and will join forces with that victim against the perpetrator and any institution that empowered him. The only entities in the United States investing millions of dollars in blocking victims’ access to justice are the Catholic bishops in each state….Prosecution and lawsuits crack open the truth for the public to see. They are the only reliable path to the truth.
In the U.S., 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse according to the National Center for Victims of Crimes. During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized.
“Victims of child sexual abuse are at an increased risk of suicide and accidental fatal drug overdose,” concluded a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. “Child sex abuse victims who died as a result of self-harm were predominantly aged in their 30s at the time of death,” the study said.
“In the U.S., victims of sexual assault report higher levels of psychological distress and the consumption of alcohol than non-victims,” noted the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
As reported just this past Thursday:
For now, the Catholic Church in South Dakota- along with schools, religious orders and other churches and institutions – appears to be off the hook for sexual abuse that Native Americans say they suffered while attending Church-run boarding schools during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. On February 18, the state legislature’s Senate Judiciary Committee listened to statements for and against Senate Bill 130, which was intended to give their day in court to Native victims who’d had their lawsuits against the Church terminated after legislative action in 2010….Finally, the members voted 5-2 to kill the measure, while noting that they opposed sexual abuse of children and “felt for” the victims….
The 2010 law, written by a Catholic Church lawyer, was passed after scores of middle-aged and elderly Native Americans sued the Church and individual perpetrators under the childhood-sexual-abuse statute of limitations in existence at the time….
During the meeting, one survivor recounted abuse as a student at what was then St. Paul’s Indian Mission, in Marty, South Dakota. “If you knew what happened to us you’d be appalled. I was raped, and they murdered my baby. We have to tell today’s children, ‘we will stand by you; when someone does this to you, you are not to blame.’”
“The Church and its employees were – and are – merciless,” said Ken Bear Chief, a Gros Ventre/Nez Perce/Nooksak paralegal and investigator with Tamaki Law Firm, in Washington State. “Native American survivors of childhood sexual abuse can’t get justice in South Dakota.”
The last time the Vatican conducted a “study” of child sex abuse two years ago, two Americans with ties to the U.S. episcopate reported “roughly 100,000 boys and girls in America have been sexually violated by Catholic priests. [However] this 100,000 estimate is the same number of alleged victims that was put forth in 1993 by Fr. Andrew Greeley in an article in the Jesuit magazine America.”
Pope Francis’ own actions communicate a powerful message to his officials around the world that aiding and abetting the rape and sodomy of children is no hindrance to receiving papal approbation or advancing one’s ecclesial career.
The Pope showed particular contempt for American children when, the day after his election, he cordially met with the infamous Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, virtually run out of the U.S. for his crimes against children. Additionally, on the same day in January his delegation was meeting with the U.N. Committee in Geneva, Pope Francis concelebrated Mass with and granted a private audience to the equally notorious Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. Mahony blogged that during the private meeting with the pope following Mass, the “topic of scandal never came up.” Together, Law and Mahony were responsible for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unspeakably vile and violent crimes against children. Except for statues of limitations, both men would justifiably be behind bars.
Nor can we expect that the U.S. episcopate under the new Pope will stop sponsoring legislation dangerous to all our children. The above quoted Cardinal O’Malley was chosen by Pope Francis to be among his “kitchen cabinet” of closest advisors. Cardinal Wuerl was appointed to the important Congregation of Bishops which helps the Pope select U.S. bishops. Another American reconfirmed as a member of the same congregation, Cardinal William Levada, has a horrible record of protecting pedophile priests while archbishop of Portland and San Francisco.
The Pope promoted Green Bay’s Vicar General Fr. John Doerfler as the new bishop for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan in December. During the trial of a serial child molesting priest, Doerfler admitted under oath that he had deliberately destroyed “nearly all records and documentation in the secret Church files of at least 51 priests reported to have sexually assaulted children after the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file fraud suits against Catholic dioceses in the state for covering up for clerics….When specifically asked if it bothered him that clerics who abused children were being dumped into the community without public notice, Doerfler chillingly answered: ‘No’”.
In January, Bishop Ronald Gainer was promoted head the Harrisburg diocese. While a bishop in Kentucky, Gainer allowed Fr. Carroll Howlin to live unmonitored and “minister” in eastern Kentucky. A four-time accused predator priest, Fr. Howlin allegedly used money to garner sexual favors from impoverished boys, was suspended for sexually abusing Illinois boys and has reportedly also molested two Kentucky boys, one of whom committed suicide. Additionally, “Gainer put Fr. William G. Poole back into a parish even though Poole was twice charged with public indecency (1990 and 2001) and accused (in 2003) of molesting a boy. A Catholic lay panel in the Covington diocese found the child sex abuse allegation against Poole to be credible and paid a settlement to the victim. But Gainer recklessly put Poole back on the job.”
Nor are children in the rest of the world safer in this pontificate. As I’ve written before, as cardinal primate of Argentina, Pope Francis “discredited young victims” and “advocated” for Fr. Julio César Grassi, convicted of sexually abusing a boy in his orphanage. In August, the Pope removed his nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, before the public and law enforcement officials became aware that he was seducing and performing oral sex with minors working in the streets.
Along with O’Malley, Pope Francis named two other cardinals to be his closest advisers, the Australian George Pell and Chilean Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa both of whom had made headlines in their countries for protecting predator priests. (The findings of a Vatican inquiry conducted under the authority of Pell and issued last month, “attacked the credibility of the alleged victims and said a decision to offer financial compensation was made ‘for actuarial reasons and to appear pastorally concerned.’” ) The head of this “council of cardinals,” the Honduran Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, blamed the “Jewish controlled media” for the sex abuse scandal.
The Pope’s choice for Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop (to become cardinal this weekend) Gerhard Ludwig Müller, while bishop of Regensburg, Germany, promoted an already-convicted pedophile priest who later was convicted of additional child sex abuse. Another new cardinal, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, is also a Chilean prelate who protected a child abusing priest.
Mr. President, please – there should be consequences.
If you agree, you can email the President at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/…
You can email the Secretary of State, John F. Kerry at http://contact-us.state.gov/…
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