Pope and NZ bishops fail to adequately address abuses

The Pope has again been criticised for not appropriately dealing with the seriousness of cover-ups of  abuse over decades in the Catholic Church, and New Zealand bishops have likewise been criticised again.

New York Times editorial:  The Pope Ignores the Damage as Another Prelate Falls

In his letter on Friday accepting the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, Pope Francis praised the departing prelate for his “nobility” in not trying to defend “mistakes” in his handling of sexual-abuse allegations.

The pope misses the point.

The archbishop may not be as culpable as other bishops who more systematically covered up sexual predation, and in at least one case he took action that was initially thwarted by the Vatican.

But a devastatingly detailed grand jury report on widespread child sex abuse in Pennsylvania churches showed that Cardinal Wuerl, as bishop of Pittsburgh, was immersed in a clerical culture that hid pedophilic crimes behind euphemisms, conducted unprofessional investigations and evaluations of accused priests, kept acknowledged cases of sex abuse secret from parish communities and avoided reporting the abuse to police.

In an anguished letter to his archdiocese, Cardinal Wuerl accepted responsibility for actions described in the grand jury report. “I wish that I could redo some decisions I have made in my three decades as a bishop and each time get it right,” he wrote.

Pope Francis saw Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation as a sacrifice for the good of the church amid the attacks by critics like Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Vatican ambassador to the United States who has vigorously pressed charges of a church cover-up.

Yet by indicating that he regards Cardinal Wuerl’s past actions simply as “mistakes,” and by allowing him to remain a member of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, the pope reinforces the sense that he does not understand the extraordinary damage done by clerics who cruelly and shamelessly abused their power over trusting children and adults.

New York Times: Pope Accepts Wuerl’s Resignation as Washington Archbishop, but Calls Him a Model Bishop

Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, a moment many victims of clerical abuse had hoped would demonstrate his commitment to holding bishops accountable for mismanaging cases of sexual misconduct.

But instead of making an example of Cardinal Wuerl, who was named in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report that accused church leaders of covering up abuse, Francis held him up as a model for the future unity of the Roman Catholic Church. The pope cited Cardinal Wuerl’s “nobility” in volunteering to resign and announced that the 77-year-old prelate would stay on as the archdiocese’s caretaker until the appointment of a successor.

For some Catholics, Friday’s decision was a deep disappointment on an issue that has shadowed Francis’s papacy and threatened his legacy.

By making it clear he thought Cardinal Wuerl had served the church well, they said, Francis sent yet another mixed message on a topic that has shaken faith in the church’s leadership around the world.

This shaken faith includes in New Zealand, where bishops have failed to properly address abuses here.

ODT: Church attacked for silence

The head of the University of Otago’s theological centre has launched a blistering attack on the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Dunedin, saying their response to historic sexual abuse is “a failure of the church’s moral leadership”.

The comments by Prof David Tombs – Howard Paterson Professor of Theology and Public Issues – come as the church maintains its silence over the extent of historic abuse by clergy within the Dunedin diocese.

Since August, ODT Insight has highlighted the church’s handling of one paedophile priest, Fr Magnus Murray, and identified other offenders — including priests, Christian Brothers and Catholic teachers — who targeted children over decades.

But Bishop Michael Dooley — who publicly apologised to the city in August — has since repeatedly refused to say how many historic offenders, victims or payouts the church is aware of within the Dunedin diocese.

And, in recent weeks, he has issued ODT Insight with new “guidelines” for responding to questions, including that he would “reserve my right to exercise discretion in answering any request”.

Since then, Bishop Dooley has ignored requests for comment, including on recent allegations levelled against one of the most senior members of the clergy in Dunedin in recent times, who has since died.

At the same time, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference has backed away from an earlier commitment, given to a national survivors’ group, to make a public statement on the need for the church to be included in an expanded royal commission.

Prof Tombs said Bishop Dooley’s approach to media scrutiny appeared to be “raising [the] barrier to journalistic inquiries … as a way to evade difficult questions”.

He also wanted to see “much greater urgency” from Bishop Dooley, and New Zealand’s other Catholic bishops, in pressing for the terms of the royal commission to be expanded.

“If the terms do not change … then Bishop Dooley is in effect saying that the church will not take positive steps for truth or justice.

Evidence overseas was that when an inquiry began asking probing questions, the extent of the abuse and the cover-up were both shown to be “much more serious” than previously acknowledged.

It looks like new Zedaland bishops are trying to cover up the extent of abuse by priests here.

“So it seems the church [in New Zealand] is trying to avoid this by saying as little as possible — beyond its regret, sorrow and sense of failure.

Bishop Dooley, contacted yesterday, would only say he would “welcome the opportunity to meet with and discuss the concerns David Tombs has about my response”.

“At this present moment I am meeting with local victims and survivors and my primary concern is to listen to them.”

Good on the bishop for meeting local victims and survivors, but if he and the Catholic Church are to restore any faith that they are capable of properly addressing the abuse problems they need to stop trying to keep everything secret.

The church’s response was also criticised by members of the Network of Survivors of Faith-based Institutional Abuse and their Supporters.

The group had met Hamilton Bishop Steve Lowe — as the bishop responsible for professional standards — in September to discuss the need for a fresh statement from the NZ Catholic Bishops Council, calling for the church’s inclusion in an expanded Royal Commission.

Bishop Lowe had said one would be forthcoming, but it took until this week for the council’s new executive officer, James van Schie, to email the group, only to reiterate the church’s earlier submissions.

Network spokeswoman Liz Tonks believed the church needed to go further, or the majority of victims of faith-based abuse would be excluded from the inquiry.

“At this point, the bishops … would appear complicit in avoiding any investigation of the church in the Royal Commission and have not demonstrated the ethical and moral leadership expected.”

It is bad enough that victims are having to fight for disclosure and acceptance of the degree of the problem in the church, but in failing to be up front and open about the problems and appearing to be trying to avoid any proper investigation, the bishops leave themselves open to accusations of being complicit in cover ups in the past as well as now.

Bishops may have difficulty answering to being held to account by ordinary people and the laws of the country, as they are used to answering only to ‘god’ (which means answering to their own imaginations and self-importance), but if they are to live up to the moral standards they purport to support they need to realise that they on sexual abuses of priests they are not judge, jury and forgiver.

Leave a comment

10 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  October 14, 2018

    Criminality on an unprecedented scale.

    Praise the Lord…yeah..right!!

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  October 14, 2018

    “faith-based abuse” – Good God!

    the bishops … have not demonstrated the ethical and moral leadership expected

    Sadly, they have, and soiled their religion and institution.

    Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  October 14, 2018

    I don’t think it’s possible for the Papacy or the Catholic Church to recover from these revelations. It was telling that on the Pope’s recent visit to Ireland, a country steeped in Catholicism, the crowds were tiny.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  October 14, 2018

      Yes, to lose Ireland would have seemed inconceivable a generation ago.

      Reply
  4. Ray

     /  October 14, 2018

    I wonder if a serious threat to remove their tax free status might sharpen their game.

    Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  October 14, 2018

    14 October 2018 (nz time)
    Pope Francis defrocks two Chilean bishops for sex abuse of minors
    An abuse and cover-up scandal has engulfed Chile’s Catholic Church, with a probe identifying more than 160 abusers.


    The announcement came shortly after the pope met with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera

    The embedded video is showing as an Al Jazeera tv news item today.
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/pope-francis-defrocks-chilean-bishops-sex-abuse-minors-181011060123701.html

    Reply
  6. Blazer

     /  October 14, 2018

    Not a very popular thread today…the rednecks are all in Church repenting.

    Reply
  7. MaureenW

     /  October 14, 2018

    The sooner this clown show is put to rest, the better. For some reason the biggest lies are most easily swallowed – they couldn’t possibly just be pedos in frocks – spouting bullshit and collecting money from the gullible.

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  October 14, 2018

      I agree … but I reckon the world is going to find Catholicism much more resilient than we think … unfortunately …

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s