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From the Vatican to Sicily, France, India, Australia and Mexico – A Spotlight Should be on Pope Francis Enabling Clerical Sex Abuse

Keeping Spotlight On

In the last two weeks, global events show that Pope Francis is enabling the clerical sex abuse of children by appointing, promoting and refusing to remove bishops with terrible histories of aiding and abetting abuse and by refusing to make meaningful change.

On Feb. 4, clerical sex abuse survivor and member of the pope’s commission on sex abuse, Peter Saunders, arranged for the movie, Spotlight,  to be screened for members of the commission. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, the movie is about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations into the cover up by Catholic officials of serial pedophile priests.

Two days later, Saunders was booted off the commission. Saunders had been an outspoken critic of Pope Francis’ appointment of a Chilean bishop accused not only of covering up for the most notorious pedophile priest in that country, but also of witnessing the sex abuse. Additionally, Saunders had called the pope’s financial tsar, Cardinal George Pell, “almost sociopathic”  for his brutal treatment of victims in Australia.

“On child abuse, I now fear, there is little or no sincerity on his (Francis’) part to effectively make change,” said Saunders, who was abused by two priests as a child. “There needs to be a turning out of all these people who have got very, very grim records – either they are abusers or they are known to have protected abusers or have enabled an abuser or made excuses for abusers.”

Saunders says a call he made for more openness and transparency at a meeting last week was rejected.

“I was shot down in flames,” he said, “The commission said that they need to remain secret and it was surprising how many times that word was used – not ‘confidential’ but ‘secret’ – the word has connotations with abuse because the whole nasty, vile world of the rape and sexual abuse of children exists because it is secret; it happens behind closed doors,” he said.

Eliminating secrecy is exactly what the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has been calling on the Church to do for decades. This is what the pope and his men have refused to do. Catholic officials must open their secret files and make all the hidden documents public. The names of all Church employees with credible accusations of child sex abuse made public. There are still sexual predators assaulting children under the protection of the Church.

Prelates with “grim records” know there’ll be no “turning out” by the pope. Some have even been appointed and promoted. 

Sicily – Cardinal Paolo Romeo, as archbishop of Palermo, said it was “not my place” to report Fr. Roberto Elice for abusing minors. Romeo “knew about the abuse against three children for three years.” On Feb. 2 Italian police arrested Elice who had left the parish “only a few weeks ago” where the abuse took place.

With no objection from Pope Francis, in April 2014 the Italian Bishops’ Conference stated their official policy was that “bishops have no official obligation  to report the sexual abuse of children to any legal authorities outside of the Catholic Church.” Romeo followed that policy.

France – “In the coming days, complaints will be filed against [Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon] for failure to report pedophilia.”  On Feb. 11, three weeks after Fr. Bernard Preynat’s indictment for “aggravated sexual assault of minors,” the cardinal acknowledged he was informed of the sexual abuse of four boys by Preynat in 2007-2008. Yet he chose to keep him in ministry until May 2015. The number of victims in Lyon willing to come forward could rise to 45.

Cardinal Barbarin’s resignation is “not on the agenda” according to the archdiocese.

The Lyon victims will also be “filing complaints against Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, to whom Cardinal Barbarin had referred this matter.”

On Jan. 29, Pope Francis thanked the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, headed by German Cardinal Müller, for “its efforts and responsibility” in dealing with cases of child sex abuse by clergy. Pope Francis promoted Müller to cardinal in October 2013 even though, as bishop of Regensberg, Müller’s appointment of Fr. Peter Kramer, an already-convicted  child sex abuser, as pastor, was well-known.

In a January report: “A former official in the Diocese of Regensburg accused Müller, of systematically covering up sexual abuse cases during his decade as bishop of the Bavarian diocese.” The then-Bishop Müller introduced “The Regensburg System” which prevented such abuse cases from becoming public.

India – Fr. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was charged in Minnesota with sexually abusing two teenage girls. He fled the U.S. but was arrested by Interpol in 2012 and extradited back to the U.S. where he was convicted last year.  “Following a plea deal, Roseau County district court sentenced him to a year in jail but he was released and deported to India in June 2015 on account of time served while awaiting trial.”

The Diocese of Ooty had suspended Jeyapaul in 2010. It was reported Feb. 11 that Jeyapaul’s suspension was lifted after consultations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Ooty, said Jeyapaul’s whereabouts is unknown.

The attorney who represented the girls, Jeff Anderson, said, “The Vatican must be held accountable. … This is on the pope.”

Australia – Comedian-musician Tim Minchin introduced a new song Feb. 16 on television. Titled, “Come Home Cardinal Pell,” Minchin called him a “pompous buffoon”, “a coward” and “scum.” Pell, the former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop and Ballarat priest, claimed to be too ill to travel from Rome to Australia to testify before the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in person. Instead, he will appear on video from the Vatican.

Pell will have to answer charges that he attempted to bribe a victim, dismissed a victim’s complaint, knew about Australia’s worst predator priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and did nothing, and was complicit in moving Ridsdale from parish to parish.

Prior to being elevated to Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy by Pope Francis, Pell’s only previous financial expertise was cheating sex abuse victims out of an adequate compensation known as his “Melbourne response” and “Ellis defense” where Pell “instructed his lawyers to crush this victim.”€

A group of victims had a goal of raising $55,000 to fly some victims and counselors to Rome to witness Pell give his video evidence. Thanks to Minchin’s song, $90,000 was raised in one day.

John Haldane, a papal adviser to the Vatican, said he was moved after hearing a “compelling, human argument” of the father of two sexual-abuse victims in which the father made the case for victims travelling to Rome. “This would,” he said, “create the conditions for the existential reality of that suffering to be present in the room at the same time in which he (Pell) was giving evidence.”

Yesterday, lawyers representing the Church’s sex abuse victims applied to the Royal Commission for permission to appear along with Pell in Rome. If granted, “it would go some way to mitigate what is publicly perceived to be a judicial and psychological imbalance of power, and unfair concession granted to the domineering Cardinal Pell.”

Mexico – Pope Francis refused requests from clerical sex abuse victims to meet with them while he was in Mexico this past week.

Victim’s advocate and former priest, Alberto Athie, pointed out that while the pope chastises others for corruption, “the clerical pedophilia should be viewed as systemic like organized crime, which stops a criminal in isolation but does not affect the criminal structure.”

Athié said that clerical pedophilia has left more than a thousand victims in Mexico and there are at least five archbishops responsible for covering up pedophile priests: three of the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosi; Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City and some of his auxiliary bishops, and the Archdiocese of Oaxaca. Pope Francis is aware of several of these cases, Athie said.

Outraged by the presence of Cardinal Norberto Rivera with Pope Francis on his arrival in Mexico, Juan Carlos Cruz Chellew, victim of clerical sexual abuse, said he is very disappointed in the pope.  Rivera is a symbol that the pope does not consider the victims of priestly pedophilia to be important, said Cruz , because the cardinal has protected Mexican priests and abusers.

“The clerical pedophilia continues in the world with Francis,” said Athie. “The pope is very skilled with words and gestures, but changes of substance fail to happen.”

Yesterday, on his flight back to Rome from Mexico, Pope Francis said that a bishop who transfers a known pedophile should resign – once again giving the green light to prelates around the world that they will not be removed from office for even the most egregious offense. He also announced an additional official would be added to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the creation of an additional tribunal when not one person or group in the Vatican has yet taken a meaningful action to address this ongoing, systemic, global tragedy.

12 Responses

  1. I find it is increasingly difficult to offer any kind of negative criticism of Pope Francis. Just about all of my friends now get angry at me if I even raise a question about the old gentleman, as I did a few days ago when he met, embraced, signed joint statement with The Patriarch of Moscow. Patriarch Kiril is a far to the right Orthodox fundamentalist and close supporter of President Putin. They have the same political agenda: the Restoration of Mother Russia……….




    • Thanks, Jack. I appreciate the difficulty in trying to get some balance on others’ assessment of this pontificate.

  2. Ms. Clermont, I cannot thank you enough for your newest column on sex abuse and the pope. You are helping the world shine the spotlight on him, the bishops, and the system! I believe this is the next thing to the ultimate pressure it will take for the civil authorities around the world to force the Vatican into transparency, to comply with the International Court’s request to release it’s files on abusers and to eventually get the conviction of some prelates. Only the civil laws can do this because the Catholic governing system continues to aid and abet their pedophiles.

  3. Important to keep the spotlight on Saunder’s role in bringing into the light what is heard in secret. Evidently, for the Vatican gospel teaching such as “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3″Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops” is not relevant.
    The Vatican will employ scripture when it supports its position but not when it will challenge it.
    Anybody that purports to reflect Jesus ought to be totally transparent, otherwise there is no difference from the powers of this world.
    The RCC prefers darkness to light. Shame on commission members who advocate secrecy.

  4. Hi Betty, Love your work! However, one case is missing, that of Joel Wright, a student (now former) at the *Pontifical* College Josephinum, who traveled to Tijuana to by children under four for sex. He also offered $150 on Craigslist to babysit small children. While this case takes place in the U.S. and I think you’re demonstrating an international perspective with this posting, I think it’s *important* that he was accepted to a *Pontifical* college, owned and run *by the Vatican*, after being rejected by more than 40 other seminaries. He had also been accepted to Franciscan University in Steubenville prior to his acceptance at the Pontifical College Josephinum. Not only have the two bishops involved in Columbus and Steubenville remained silent, but the pope/Vatican has also remained 100% silent about one of the Vatican’s students. The Pontifical College Josephinum is also one of Cardinal Law’s stops on the way to Boston. In addition, a simple google will bring up a story of how seminarians had to stand naked in a circle and look at each other back in 1959 (well before Vatican II and the Summer of Love). Homeland Security stated that it would search *all* computers at this school — whether they have or not yet, I don’t know. All I know is that a Pontifical college should be included in your international perspective, especially when one of its students travels *internationally* to Mexico to attempt to procure a trafficked child for rape purposes. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the information, ClevelandGirl. I’ll have to look into this further.

      • Awesome! I’m glad you will, as you have more time, energy, and resources than I do. I *love* how you connect the dots, follow the money, etc. It’s stuff I’ve been able to do intuitively for years, but you get it done with supporting documentation and copious citations. Your voice and that of several others are *critical* to exposing this farce of a religion that is really an organized criminal child abuse and human trafficking cult. The Wright case hits close to home for me because I live in Columbus and one of my best friends lives *right next door* to the Josephinum. The Josephinum is not a good neighbor because they keep telling people that my friend and her husband are demon worshippers because they’re not catholic and are new agers who practice alternative medicine. In addition, when Columbus area catholic school kids go to the Josephinum for field trips, they learn all about the “vacant, haunted house” next door (my friend’s *home*) where a “mass murder” took place, where blood stains “cover the floor” and the place smells of blood and decay, etc. There’s a man hanged in one of the trees, etc. As a result, for years, generations of catholic kids have trespassed onto their property and have even tried to break in and vandalize, especially on/around Halloween. Only construction in the area in the last few years has put a stop to this. I even had to post on a haunted house site about not bothering the *living* people in their *home*.

        Anyway, this guy has admitted to abusing toddlers but had yet to “go all the way”. How many kids in the neighborhood around Josephinum did he have access to? In Steubenville? In his home town in Vermont? It’s appalling that his activity, especially regarding accessing human trafficking in Mexico, is being overlooked by the pope and pretty much everyone else except for secular media and even very little there.

        Here is the link about the 1959 activity at the Josephinum via Bishop Accountability. Bernard Law graduated from there in 1961, so who knows how much he knew/was involved in.


        Heimann apparently ran a sex trafficking ring back in the day there.

        Bishop Accountability now has an entry for Joel Wright with links. In addition to the San Diego news media, I recommend WBNS and WCMH TV websites for info as well as the Columbus Dispatch.

        In my opinion, the Josephinum has been extremely overlooked. hey harbored one of the Tokyo Rose women. The seminarians come from all over the world and are (usually wealthy or well off) entitled brats. They would come into my husband’s restaurant across the street from the Josephinum in their cassocks and expect *free* meals. Hubby would only comp coffee for law enforcement and firefighters, and they would have to pay for food. Hubby did not give the cassock boys free food!

        Have fun going after this beast, too. Thank you!

  5. Thank you for shedding light on another grotesque chapter in this awful history.

  6. I love your words, your blogs and your attitude. Not too many people have an attitude like I do about this, who are not truly afraid to say it like it is and pull absolutely no punches.

    We are two peas in the same pod, going after this cult of Pedophile Pimps and Pedophile Perverts.

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