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The Pope and Sex Abuse: Back to Business as Usual When the U.S. Media Isn’t Looking

Just this past week, the U.S. media treated Pope Francis as the world’s leading “moral authority.” The New York Times even posted the pope’s declaration that the death penalty is “inadmissible” on its online front page for two days. Yet they, and the rest of the U.S. media, ignored what else happened the past month.

  • As of July 24, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, head of the Church in Chile, is under investigation by civil authorities. He covered up clerical sex abuse for decades even before Pope Francis elevated him to cardinal in 2014.
  • Letters dated July 12 urged Pope Francis to remove an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun. On July 24, an Indian official called the allegation “true.”
  • Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Honduran Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle on July 20. A resignation means that the prelate retains his title, honors, income and benefits. The pope has known that Pineda was accused of sex abuse and financial malfeasance since June 2017. Pineda said he handed the pope his resignation “several months ago.”

The media also ignores that the following men are still in office:

  • Luis Ladaria Ferrer, elevated to cardinal May 20 and promoted to prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope Francis, is awaiting a trial announced on April 4 by French authorities for covering up a child sex abuse scandal.

These are still members of the Council of Cardinals, chosen by Pope Francis a month after his 2013 election to help him govern the Church.

  • Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the group’s coordinator and Pineda’s mentor and close friend. The cardinal was condemned as an accomplice of the military dictatorship which overthrew the progressive Pres. Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
  • Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, made headlines in Chile for protecting  a sexual predator long before Pope Francis chose him for his counsel.
  • George Pell will stand trial in Australia for “historical sexual abuse.” Before being chosen by Pope Francis, he made national headlines for his mistreatment of sex abuse survivors. He was known for his “Melbourne response,” meaning cheating the victims out of an adequate compensation, and his “Ellis defense” where Pell “instructed his lawyers to crush this victim.”

Additionally, “88 bishops worldwide have been accused publicly of sexual wrongdoing – 60 allegedly abused minors, and 28 are publicly accused of sexual abuse/sexual misconduct with adults only.” To date, only four have been laicized or “defrocked.”

EZZATI AND ERRAZURIZ

On July 24, prosecutor Emiliano Arias summoned Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati as an accused to testify in the cover-up of sex abuse.  As archbishop of Santiago, Ezzati is considered the head of the Catholic Church in Chile. “Prosecutors investigating criminal accusations against bishops, clerics and lay workers in the Roman Catholic Church in Chile are probing claims that Ezzati and others covered up a network of 14 priests who systematically abused minors.”

In a July 31 interview, Arias said he also “believes Ezzati knew that a former diocesan chancellor had received allegations of sexual misconduct” and did nothing. The chancellor was “a direct adviser” to Ezzati.

Arias was clear what Pope Francis can do to prevent further sexual assaults:

“It’s a fact that the religious in this country don’t have the obligation to report” sex abuse to secular authorities, said Arias.

“He compared the decision that the Church does not have to cooperate with civilian authorities to having unreported ‘dead bodies’ under a chapel.” It was necessary for Arias to raid Church premises after the Rancagua archbishop’s office told him access to pertinent information was denied by the Vatican. “There have been five more raids on Church offices to seize documents, phones, tablets and computers” because “we know that Chilean religious destroyed evidence of sexual abuse,” Arias said.

On June 19, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, described as Pope Francis’ “top sex crimes expert,” was asked whether he would make public a report he had prepared and delivered to the pope in April regarding the sex abuse scandal in Chile. He responded “the decision was up to Pope Francis, adding that the Church’s ‘freedom and autonomy’ should be respected.”

On July 20, the head of the Chilean Catholic Church’s abuse prevention committee said he will not deliver Scicluna’s report to Chile’s attorney general. He said that “the pope is the only recipient of this report.”

The national prosecutor, Jorge Abbott, sent a letter on August 1 to the Vatican to request Church files “in criminal matters for nine persons who are being investigated by the regional prosecutors.”

Arias’ two complaints are among the recommendations communicated to Pope Francis in June 2014 by the UN Committee on Torture:

  •  “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.”
  • “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.”

The committee also found that “the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounts to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by Convention against Torture.”  They commended Pope Francis for statements he made on April 11, 2014, “acknowledging the damage done by the sexual abuse of children by some priests, in which the pontiff affirmed that ‘we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger.’”

Chilean historical background

Just before Pope Francis elevated Ezzati to cardinal in 2014, victims of Fr. Rimsky Rojas “accused Ezzati of obstruction of justice. One of Rojas’ reported victims was a young man who disappeared after making the accusations and has never been found.”

Juan Carlos Cruz, survivor of the notorious sexual predator Fr. Fernando Karadima, noted the “the criminal behaviors” of Chilean prelates Francisco Javier Errázuriz, Ricardo Ezzati, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela. “They are all criminals. Ezzati and Errázuriz should be in jail. [Pope Francis] knowing of all these cases, has endorsed all this rottenness. I find that Errázuriz, Ezzati, the pope and several of the bishops have blood on their hands for people who have been abused and have committed suicide. I know such cases.” “What is the use of his presence in the country?” Cruz asked prior to the pope’s January trip to Chile.

“The arrival of the Holy Father will have a special significance for our country since he was born in the neighboring Republic of Argentina, he is the first Latin American pope, and also lived and studied in Chile so he knows our reality very closely,” said the Chilean Foreign Ministry.

Errázuriz knew all about the Karadima case. The seven-hundred-page report to the [Vatican] that finally resulted in Karadima’s ecclesial censure was submitted on his watch. He repeatedly delayed the administration of justice for Karadima while he was archbishop …. It is equally clear that the current archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, worked hand-in-glove with Errázuriz. He was auxiliary bishop during Errázuriz’s tenure, and later succeeded him. Ezzati, like Errázuriz, knew the case well, and was in a position to intervene.”

When Pope Francis appointed Errázuriz as one of his closest advisers, Cruz called it “a shame and a disgrace.”

MULAKKAL

“In a July 12 letter to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumba,” a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, “and another of the same date to Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro,” Pope Francis’ ambassador to India, “168 people asked for action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.”

“An unidentified nun, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, had complained to police June 29 of being raped in May 2014 and then sexually abused multiple times over the following two years by Mulakkal.” “Following the nun’s accusation, a number of other nuns and even a few priests raised allegations against the bishop and the manner in which such complaints are swept under the carpet by Church authorities.”

On July 22, the police increased protection to a convent which is home to the nun “after the police team probing her complaint asked for it.”

On July 24, former Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan wrote to the state police chief loknath Behra demanding the arrest of Mulakkal. “It’s most unfortunate that this nun continues to be under the bishop and is living in fear. Now that the allegation raised by the nun is true, the police should immediately arrest the bishop,” said Achuthanandan in his letter.

On June 22, Pope Francis removed the administrative power of Cardinal George Alencherry of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly who was accused along with two senior priests and a real estate agent of selling several plots of land illegally, leading to a loss of over $10 million.

PINEDA

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Jose Pineda Fasquelle, the auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on July 20.  “The bishop was at the center of allegations of sexual abuse and financial misconduct in the archdiocese” leading to an investigation in May 2017 at the pope’s request. Pope Francis received the report the following month.

“The Honduran prelate was a protégé of Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, and in recent months had been left in charge of the archdiocese in the cardinal’s absence. Cardinal Maradiaga is the coordinator of the Group of Cardinals advising the Holy Father on Church reform.”

Pineda said on July 20 that he had handed the pope his resignation “several months ago.”  “There has been no indication that he has left the diocese.”

LADARIA

On May 18, Pope Francis asked survivors of clerical sex abuse for forgiveness “from the bottom of my heart.”

On May 20, Pope Francis announced he was elevating Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer to cardinal. Ladaria was accused of covering up a child sex abuse scandal by a French court on April 4. French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin had sought advice about the case of Fr. Bernard Preynat, accused of being a serial predator, from Ladaria in 2015 when he was the second highest official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican department in charge of deciding cases against pedophile priests. Ladaria advised Barbarin to maintain silence and “avoid any public scandal.”

Far worse, Ladaria was accused of covering up for Fr. Gianni Trotta in July 2017. The CDF received complaints against Trotta in 2009 and took three years to find him guilty of child sex abuse. Trotta was removed from the priesthood but the CDF did not contact the civil authorities. In fact, Ladaria wrote to Trotta’s bishop in 2012 instructing him not to divulge the reasons why Trotta had been laicized “so as to avoid scandal.”

Trotta continued to dress as a priest and became the coach of a youth soccer team. Already convicted of sexual violence against an 11-year-old and sentenced to eight years in prison by a civil court, Trotta is now standing trial for nine other alleged cases of sex abuse against boys that occurred in 2014. “Trotta allegedly raped five, abused others in his home individually or in groups, photographing them during sexual acts.”

“If Ladaria had informed the police, these children would have been safe,” journalist and Vatican expert Emiliano Fittipaldi noted.

In June 2017, Pope Francis promoted Ladaria to prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF is also responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine.

On May 30, 2018, Ladaria declared that banning women’s ordination is “definitive” Church teaching.

A month later, he remarked about the commission of which he was put in charge by Pope Francis in 2016 to study the historical role of women deacons in the early Church. As usual, this was erroneously reported by the U.S. mainstream media. TIME: “Pope Francis has created a commission to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church.” NBC News: “Pope Francis has established a commission to study whether woman should be allowed to be ordained as deacons.”

In the first public comments about the commission’s work in two years, Ladaria told reporters that while women deacons existed in the early Church they were “not the same” as their male counterparts.

ARCHBISHOP PHILIP WILSON AND CARDINAL THEODORE McCARRICK

The U.S. media did report that Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson resigned on July 30 and that American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned from the cardinalate on July 28.

If anyone pointed out that Pope Francis had left Wilson in office after  he was criminally charged in 2015 with concealing a child sex abuse allegation and convicted in May 2018, and that Wilson resigned only after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked Pope Francis to “sack him,” I missed it.

On 20 June, McCarrick was removed from public ministry due to an accusation of having raped a teenage boy 45 years ago while he was a priest in New York. Every U.S. media outlet covered the story as well as subsequent revelations that McCarrick was a sexual predator of younger seminarians, abusing his position of power within the Church. More shocking was the accusation by a man whose family was close to the cardinal. McCarrick had baptized him and then sexually abused him for 20 years beginning when the boy was 11 years old.

As usual,* only after extensive negative U.S. media coverage, Pope Francis took insignificant action.

On July 28, the pope “accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the cardinalate” but he retains the title and honors of “Archbishop emeritus of Washington.” “At the same time, the Holy Father barred him from the exercise of any public ministry, directed Cardinal McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial” and “remain in a house yet to be indicated to him.”

No one in the U.S. media that I know of observed that telling an 88-year-old that he has to retire with full income, free housing and free medical care for the rest of his life is hardly a deterrent for any other prelate who wishes to spend sixty-plus years as a sexual predator.

No one is going to supervise McCarrick’s “life of prayer and penance.” The Chilean predator Karadima was given the same “punishment” but failed to observe the restrictions without penalty.

“A regular canonical trial” is equally meaningless.

Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron was accused by four former altar boys of rape and sexual assault in the 1970s. Apuron’s nephew filed a lawsuit Jan. 10, 2018, claiming that his uncle raped him in 1989 or 1990.

Pope Francis removed Apuron from office in 2016, meaning the pope found the charges against the archbishop to be credible but leaving him with his title, honors, income, benefits and freedom. Apuron’s “regular canonical trial” began in August 2017. He was found guilty on March 16, 2018, of “some [unspecified] charges.” The sentence was that he leave his position as archbishop of Guam and no longer reside there but “in the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until a final resolution.” Apuron made his appeal the next day.  So Apuron keeps his title, honors, income, benefits and freedom.

*A History of Negative Publicity Followed by Insignificant Action.

In July 2013, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child (CRC) asked Pope Francis for a written response to a list of concerns regarding child sex abuse.

The November 1 deadline for a response to the CRC came and went.

Pope Francis responded to the CRC on December 4 by stating that it was not the practice of his government to “disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings” and “that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property.”

A rarity, the pope’s response was criticized. The next day, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley stated that the pope would create a special Commission for the Protection of Minors with no authority other than to advise him on ways to address the subject.  The commission accomplished almost nothing of any use.

For weeks in the spring of 2015, articles in the U.S. were critical Pope Francis’ lack of action against Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse, and St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt after the Ramsey County prosecutor brought criminal charges against the archdiocese for its handling of abuse allegations.

Pope Francis accepted their resignations and announced he was establishing a tribunal, hailed as “unprecedented,” to investigate bishops “accused of covering up sexual abuse of minors or of failing to protect children from pedophile priests.” It never happened.

Meanwhile, Finn and Nienstedt settled into comfortable semi-retirement.

When Pope Francis called Chilean survivors of Keradima “liars” earlier this year, there were negative reports in the U.S. media. As part of the damage control to his reputation, the pope accepted the resignation of three Chilean bishops, two of whom had already offered their resignations when they turned 75, as do all bishops. The third, Juan Barros, involved in the biggest sex abuse scandal in Chile, had offered his resignation three times before, but the pope did not accept it until now.

Pope Francis has had a “change of heart,” said Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition. “It is “remarkable for any pope to say, I was wrong; I apologize; I seek forgiveness; I want to fix this,” said Inskeep.

“A remarkable reversal for Francis …. a new era is beginning in which bishops and the Church hierarchy will be held accountable for covering up and ignoring abuse,” noted the New York Times.

“Pope Francis is starting to get it …. The pontiff included himself in the problem [of ignoring and covering up for pedophile priests] – ‘me first of all,’ he wrote,” stated an editorial in the Washington Post.

“Francis has become the first pope to refer to a ‘culture of abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church,” proclaimed the Associated Press.

This was followed by ignoring Pope Francis’ lack of action and/or grossly inadequate response to the prelates mentioned in this blog.

And so thousands of children around the world continue to have their lives destroyed because of U.S. media malfeasance.

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2 Responses

  1. The makers of sacraments, transubstantiators, etc. who share altars and sacraments with their pedophile colleagues of all clerical status, do not do the work of Holy, but Holy’s opposite. A mockery of divine teachings, producing evil instead, and from altars and confessionals where these same men are still privy to all the village secrets. Are we supposed to believe that men who further sexual torture against kids keep confessional secrets?
    Thank you, dear Betty Clermont, for all that you do to keep us informed.

    AW

    • Well said! Indeed, “a mockery of divine teachings, producing evil instead.” Thanks for posting a comment and for your encouragement.

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