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Can Pope Francis Keep Out Running His Sex Abuse Scandals?

stock-photo-74729579-pope-francis-in-the-usa

Fr. Alessandro De Rossi, 46, pastor of a parish in Rome, was arrested on Dec. 31, 2014, charged with aggravated sexual abuse. An Argentine judge had issued the international arrest warrant on December 26 and transmitted it to Interpol.

De Rossi, born in Rome and sent to Argentina by Church authorities, was accused specifically with corrupting and sexually abusing minors, and “causing also the practice of group sex,” while he was a missionary in the Province of Salta from 2008 to 2013 working with young drug addicts.

On Dec. 23 and 24, 2014,

Salta police officers carried out several raids to seize computers, photographs and some other information that could be used as evidence of the alleged ties between De Rossi and the sexual abuse cases that had been reported by minors.

Prosecutor Pablo Paz explained to local media that there was enough evidence to charge the priest. Paz explained that he did not only have the depositions from the victims but also e-mails that De Rossi sent to the young man who filed a complaint. According to the prosecutor, De Rossi has to face charges for aggravated sexual abuse.

The Buenos Aires Herald also reported that “Judge Diego Rodríguez Pipino of Salta did not just request that Interpol arrest De Rossi but he also requested the assistance of the Foreign Ministry, the Border Guard, the Federal Police and the Airport Security Police. The Foreign Ministry is expected to play an important role to seek the extradition of the priest.”

The article noted that Italy had recently rejected Argentina’s request for extradition of two men connected to the atrocities committed during that country’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. One “was charged with the kidnapping and torture of more than 60 people.” He had fled to Italy “trying to take advantage of his dual nationality” and “had taken refuge in a chapel in Genoa.” The other “was said to have witnessed torture in a clandestine detention centre.”

In January 2013, De Rossi had been hospitalized after he said he was attacked by a young man who had asked him for money and food. “I will not return to Italy,” he told a provincial newspaper.

“The priest, who had returned to Rome in early 2013 for health reasons, after spending several years in the mission, was accompanied by a positive assessment by the local bishop. For this reason he had been entrusted the pastoral care of the parish of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in September 2013,” the Diocese of Rome stated after De Rossi’s arrest. The diocese had “full confidence in the Italian judiciary.”

Although one of the pope’s titles is Bishop of Rome, the diocese, or “vicariate,” is administered by a vicar-general appointed by the pope. Cardinal Agostino Vallini was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and confirmed by Pope Francis.  Archbishop of Salta, Mario Antonio Cargnello, appointed in 1999 by Pope John Paul II, is the “local bishop” referred to in diocese’s statement.

De Rossi was put under house arrest by the Church for only six months after his arrest by civil authorities. Extradition to Argentina was denied on Oct. 11, 2015, by the Court of Appeal of Rome for “lack of serious evidence.” A prosecutor can decide to pursue the case further or close it.

Regardless, since October, De Rossi is a free man and under no ecclesial supervision.

After the priest’s arrest on Dec. 31, 2014, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federito Lombardi had stated, “I do not know anything … It’s something that does not start from the Vatican.”

But it does “start from the Vatican.” The failure of Cardinal Vallini and Archbishop Cargnello to protect children can be directly attributed to Pope Francis’ tolerance of such callousness.

For example, on Feb. 18, 2016, Pope Francis said that “a bishop who moves a priest to another parish when a case of pedophilia is discovered” should “present his resignation,” announcing to his hierarchs around the world that he will not hold them accountable for endangering children and only in this particular circumstance would they be expected to offer their resignation.

On March 14, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, quoted the pope’s words as justification for maintaining their policy that prelates are not required to report the sex abuse of minors to civil authorities.

Cardinal Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo, Sicily, 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.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, France’s senior Catholic prelate and now the subject of a criminal investigation on charges of failing to report and endangering the lives of others about sexual abuse of minors as required by French law, stated he would not resign.

One of Barbarin’s priests, Fr. Bernard Preynat, was indicted on Jan. 27 for “sexual abuse of minors under 15 years by a person in authority.” In an interview published Feb. 10, Barbarin admitted “having learned the facts in 2007-2008” about Preynat, but promoted him anyway in 2007, keeping him in ministry and in contact with children until he removed him in August 2015.

Pope Francis’ “comment does not in any way target Cardinal Barbarin who quite rightly suspended Father Preynat after meeting a first victim and taking advice from Rome, and this, even before a first official complaint was made,” a source close to the cardinal said.

It was first reported on Feb. 12, “In the coming days, complaints will be filed against [Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon] for failure to report pedophilia.” Preynat’s attorney stated on Feb. 16 “the facts were known by the ecclesiastical authorities since 1991” that his client had sexually abused young scouts between 1986 and 1991.

On March 1, Pope Francis told a delegation Christian social activists, “I receive you because my friend Cardinal Barbarin asked me.”

On March 4, prosecutors announced that “senior Vatican figures” would also be in included in their investigation for “failure to report a crime.” “The Vatican had given Cardinal Barbarin its backing, saying it had confidence he would deal with the matter ‘with great responsibility’ … The implicit support for Barbarin suggests that even pretensions that bishops should follow the law has been abandoned.”

The case has become so notorious that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged Barbarin “to take responsibility for his actions” on March 15   Two days later, the French state secretary for victims issues, Juliette Meadel, called on Barbarin to resign.

Also on March 17, new accusations were made that Barbarin had also promoted a priest previously convicted for sexually abusing adults in a residential home. Church officials denied the priest had been promoted but admitted he was still employed by the Lyon diocese.

So far, Pope Francis has refused to meet with Preynat’s victims.

 The scandals accumulate around the world. In 2016 alone:

Australian Cardinal George Pell, chosen by Pope Francis as head of all Vatican finance, gave testimony before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for four days ending March 3. His testimony was videolinked from a hotel room in Rome because the cardinal claimed he was too ill to travel to Australia.

The subject was what he knew about clerical sex abuse in Ballarat. In Ballarat “we have the highest suicide rate  among men in Australia. We have some of the worst drinking and violence problems. And it all stems from that abuse,” said David Ridsdale, one of the victims. “This is not just a problem in Ballarat or in Australia,” he told the press. “This is a systemic problem throughout all the world.”

Australians were disgusted by Cardinal Pell’s testimony.

“Pell’s testimony was directly contradictory … The pattern in Australia was identical to that in Ireland, Canada and the United States: countries that have also been stunned by the extent of the Church’s crimes, the enthusiasm of the conspiracy to elude authorities and the comparative indifference to victims,” wrote one columnist.

“Cardinal George Pell is finished whatever way you look at it,” wrote a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald. “This royal commission is just one example of light currently being shone, globally, upon the horror.”

“What we now know – more recently through the painful and confronting accounts of victims of crimes and testimonies during the royal commission – is that the sickening crimes of several Catholic priests were ignored by the very establishment which preaches propriety. And what Pell showed this week, was that even after these crimes were exposed for public condemnation, accepting blame by the Church appears to be a very difficult concept,” wrote the political editor of Perth Now Sunday Times. “And yet, he told journalists this week: ‘I have the full backing of the pope.’”

Pope Francis refused to meet with victims who had flown to Rome to witness Pell’s testimony in person.

“The pedophile scandal erupted in Oaxaca shortly before the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico [Feb. 12-18] but the pope did not agree to meet with relatives of the victims in this case nor others that have occurred years ago.” While Pope Francis “blasted the ‘oppression, mistreatment and humiliation’ of indigenous peoples,” the archdiocese was accused of covering up sexual abuse of 100 indigenous children. “Civil organization and relatives of victims accused the archbishop of Oaxaca, Jose Luis Chavez, and the Vatican of concealing evidence of abuse of indigenous children and refusing to listen to the victims.”

Victims’ advocate and former priest, Alberto Athie, pointed out that while the pope chastises others for corruption, “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 for 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.

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.”

Fr. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was charged in Minnesota with sexually abusing two teenage girls. He fled the US but was arrested by Interpol in 2012 and extradited back to the US 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.”

In January, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul’s suspension following a recommendation by an Indian bishop. “We have provided him accommodation but he will not have any active role in the Church,” a spokesman for Diocese of Ooty said. Essentially, Jeyapaul is a free man.

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

Unfortunately for the thousands of future victims of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis can keep out running his scandals because the US media is the most influential in the world and they continue to lie.  No, the pope DID NOT fire his US ambassador as I will explain in a future report. (For one thing, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò passed the mandatory retirement age of hierarchs in January and is still in office. Second, the 3 Vatican reporters who broke the story never mentioned Kim Davis. Third, Vigano considered this post to be “punishment” for honestly reporting Vatican corruption and would be happy to leave.) In addition to his contempt for his Church’s victims of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis is a misogynist homophobe.

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)

(Note to readers: No alternative reporter or blogger would have access to accurate information on the global clerical sex abuse crisis without the Abuse Tracker website, administered by the volunteer talent and hard work of Kathy Shaw. If you’d like to support independent journalism, please visit the website and follow the instructions to donate.)

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11 Responses

  1. I am mystified that some who write about the horrors of clergy abuse in the RCC continue to credit this pope with signs of change. The Wesolowski story is the ultimate proof of this pope’s feelings on the subject, and why he has been given a pass on that story, I can not imagine.
    You, by the way, are a party of one for the coverage of that story.
    I am grateful I was taught to judge others on what they DO, not on what they SAY.

    • Thank you. I agree with you 100% including about Wesolowski.

  2. The spotlight should continue to be focused on Francis’ failure repeatedly to evade responsibility to the most vulnerable of the flock. No good shepherd here but a hireling who flees when the authorities approach for accountability. BC rightly parses his egregious behavior. Francis’ needs to be kept under the glare of the the spotlight. Amazing Francis has time on his ‘busy’ schedule to meet with a mixed bag of people, like the evangelical Hobby Lobby crowd, but vulnerable members of his own flock have to plead & plead for his vaunted mercy, but he refuses to extend any fatherly solicitude for ‘the little ones’ of the faith. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Francis!
    Predictably, the papal court will circle the wagons around Card. Barbarin. If B. is found guilty, it will reflect on poor judgment of the papacy in choosing him as a cardinal. Of course, he was a JPII pick because of his hardline dogmatic positions. Cover-up, not transparency, seems to be the modus operandi of the papacy. Francis truly is ‘a son of the church’ as he boasted & continues cover up in the dark politics of a political church.

    • Thanks so much. Well said.

  3. If Pope Francis doesn’t start moving beyond saying “nice things” and sending his photos around the world, he will slip into irrelevancy for thinking people.

    Jack

    >

  4. Thanks. One can only hope.

  5. I doubt that will happen; there are still too many unravelling historical they maybe but still relevant today.

  6. Betty, your posts should be required reading for all Catholics. It seems many of them choose to remain willfully blind.
    The disparity between what leaders of this organization say and what they do should make their arrogance and refusal to protect children very clear to all.
    What went on in Milwaukee during their crooked bankruptcy scam was ruthless and evil. The intentional pain that they caused the Milwaukee victims shows their true disdain for those so terribly hurt by the church.
    The silent approval from all but three cowards in collars and the majority of Milwaukee Catholics was disgusting.

    I get so angry when I read media stories that lead people to believe that Francis has a tribunal set up to punish bishops and imply that Francis is actually protecting children.

    The church is more dangerous than ever with the media reporting on Francis hollow words as they were actions already accomplished.

    They Jeypaul story should be causing Catholics to get angry and act. Reinstating a convicted pedophile priest should be front page news across the globe. reporters should be asking Francis why he allowed this.

    To me Francis was always a fraud. When he refused to meet with victims in Argentina Francis has clearly demonstrated who he really is.

    When Francis got caught on a tourists cell phone video calling Catholics that were concerned about Barros, “stupid” and “leftists” He showed his true colors. He will protect his fellow clerics and not our children.

    Betty, Thank you for your effort in trying to get the truth out about this arrogant and corrupt organization. You do an awesome job!!

    • Thank you, Danno. Yes, I get angry, too, at the media portrayal of Bergoglio and
      I agree this pope is a fraud.

  7. Hi Betty, Just a heads-up that WBNS 10 TV Columbus OH is having a feature on tonight’s 6 and 11 pm news about how Joel Wright got accepted by the Pontifical College Josephinum. I saw most of the ad this morning. It looks like at least one official from the Josephinum is interviewed. The VO says something about too much “trust” and an insufficient background check. I’m paraphrasing because I caught the ad on the fly while getting ready for work, so I’m not sure exactly what the station’s investigative findings will be in the feature tonight. I don’t know when/if the feature will be on the station’s website after today’s airings. http://www.10tv.com . This is a contemporary scandal, just months old (not “historical”) under Bergoglio’s watch. No official has said anything about it at all (maybe the bishop of Columbus, Campbell, is one of the people interviewed, but I only caught a split-second glimpse of a man in a dog collar who might be him). Wright was arraigned and bail set a few weeks ago, and he’s considered a flight risk. This case is horrific because Wright intended to buy Mexican infants and toddlers to rape and film himself raping them. He also offered to *pay* people to babysit their children when he was at St. Francis in Steubenville. There’s no excuse for silence regarding this case.

    • Hey Betty, here’s the link to yesterday’s features (video and text): http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2016/03/21/columbus-ohio-josephinum-to-overhaul-selection-process-after-former-student-arrested-on-sex-crimes.html

      Nothing from the Columbus bishop. The Josephinum bishop spoke on camera. A priest named John Allen is probably in hot water for not talking with the Mexican informant, put him on hold, claims the informant hung up. He equivocates a lot during the interview.

      Josephinum will be holding a press conference at 11 am edt on March 22.

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