Catholic abuse issue festers on with more insiders speaking up

Even the official Catholic line is for a significant change in approach to world-wide scandals of abuse that have been swept under the church gowns for decades.

The Pope is under increasing pressure and criticism:

The ‘gravely negligent’ charge (and similar) is becoming common, including in New Zealand. There is a campaign to change the name of a Dunedin High School named after a Bishop who effectively allowed priests to continue abusing.

In August:  Not ready to condemn Kavanagh

The Bishop of Dunedin is not yet ready to condemn a predecessor, but says the actions of a priest who aided a paedophile Christian Brother would ”definitely not” be appropriate today.

Bishop Michael Dooley yesterday defended former Dunedin bishop John Kavanagh, who had jurisdiction over Fr Magnus Murray and Br Desmond Fay at the time of their offending in Dunedin.

Fr Murray, who in 2003 admitted offences against four Dunedin boys dating back to 1958-72, was sent to Australia by Bishop Kavanagh for treatment after details of his offending were raised in 1972.

Bishop Kavanagh later endorsed Fr Murray’s return to public ministry in the North Island, where more victims have since emerged.

Bishop Kavanagh also had ultimate jurisdiction over Br Desmond Fay, who was principal at Christian Brothers Junior School when he allegedly abused a young boy who later committed suicide.

Br Fay, who also taught at St Edmund’s School in South Dunedin, was sent overseas after the intervention of a Dunedin Catholic priest, Fr Kevin Kean.

Moving abusing priests on to other locations where abuse continued seems to be a common story.

ODT last Thursday: Emotions high amid calls for name change

Tears mixed with calls for healing as more than 50 people gathered in Dunedin to demand a new name for Kavanagh College last night.

The meeting was organised by former Kavanagh College pupils Christian McNab (25) and Sam Murphy (26) following ODT Insight revelations about sexual offending within the Dunedin diocese.

Much of the abuse occurred under the watch of Dunedin Catholic bishop at the time John Kavanagh, from whom the college took its name in 1989.

And, as current Dunedin Bishop Michael Dooley watched from the audience, survivors and their supporters stood, one by one, to share their stories and join the call for a name change last night.

Board member Paul O’Neill told last night’s meeting the decision was ultimately for Bishop Dooley to make, but the issue was being considered ”seriously”.

So one bishop gets to make the decision. A bishop who has so far failed to adequately acknowledge the severity of the situation for the Catholic Church in Dunedin and in New Zealand. This seems to be a failing that goes right to the top, the Pope.

But some in the church are prepared to stand up. Last Monday Alexandra’s priest speaks out

A Central Otago priest has broken his silence by criticising the Catholic Church’s handling of historic sexual abuse allegations.

Alexandra parish priest Fr Vaughan Leslie said the church’s response, within New Zealand and overseas, had helped fuel the “abuse crisis” now engulfing the church.

It had failed to remove men from ministry when credible complaints were received, and “misguided protectionism” had occurred “at the expense of truth and justice”, he said.

The response also highlighted the need for culture change within the church hierarchy, here and overseas, to put an end to a situation in which “in-groups of clergy hold all the reins of power”.

“I speak out because I love the Catholic Church, but not always the way she is run.

Saying this as a priest could well challenge some members of the Catholic hierarchy, but not doing so makes me guilty of saying the status quo is OK – which I do not believe [will do] if we are to regain our credibility, particularly in the moral area.

“Only when this occurs will victims of all forms of church-based abuse be able to trust the church again and have confidence that her processes will effectively protect the vulnerable, now and in the future.”

He had been compelled to speak out once before, in 2003, when he wrote to Dunedin paedophile priest Fr Magnus Murray in prison, urging him to seek forgiveness for his “truly evil” crimes.

Fr Murray had responded by complaining to the church hierarchy from his prison cell, and Fr Leslie was reprimanded for his actions.

He would not name the church official who reprimanded him, but said it was now clear clergy needed to hold other clergy and the church leadership – himself included – to account.

I don’t know if church leaders are capable of dealing with this properly. Praying amongst themselves doesn’t cut it.

Ageing bishops seem lout of touch with the damage this is doing their church. Their reluctance to publicly hold people to account leaves a further stain – are they trying to avoid responsibility for hiding and perpetuating past abuses?

 

 

 

 

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.