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.

Catholic Church abuses under increasing scrutiny internationally and locally

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church are under increasing pressure for their woefully inadequate handling of sexual abuse by priests, and their many failures in trying to keep the abuses secret within the church.

This is happening in many countries around the world, and has been highlighted as an insidious problem locally as well. It seems to be a systemic problem within the Catholic Church.

A recent damning report in the US has prompted action there – Stirred by Sexual Abuse Report, States Take On Catholic Church

Attorneys general across the United States are taking a newly aggressive stance in investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, opening investigations into malfeasance and issuing subpoenas for documents.

On Thursday alone, the New York State attorney general issued subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state as part of a sweeping civil investigation into whether institutions covered up allegations of sexual abuse of children, officials said. The attorney general in New Jersey announced a criminal investigation.

The new inquiries come several weeks after an explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests over decades. With Catholics clamoring for more transparency from their church, demanding that bishops release the names of accused priests, civil authorities are beginning to step up to force disclosure.

In the three weeks since the release of the Pennsylvania report, the attorneys general of Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico have also said they will investigate sex abuse by Catholic priests in their states and have asked local dioceses for records. Most bishops have been saying they will cooperate.

Cooperation by bishops has been badly lacking in the past.

And criticism goes right to the top of the church – What has Pope Francis covered up?

The Catholic Church is confronting a series of interconnected scandals so shameful that its very survival is threatened. Pope Francis himself is accused of covering up the activities of one of the nastiest sexual predators ever to wear a cardinal’s hat: his close ally Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, DC.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are also implicated; they did nothing, or almost nothing, while McCarrick was seducing every seminarian he could get his hands on. (‘Hide the pretty ones!’ they used to say when he visited seminaries.) Yet powerful cardinals kept quiet and are now suspected of lying their heads off after McCarrick’s crimes were recently made public.

McCarrick is the world’s only ex-cardinal. He was forced to resign in July when sexual abuse allegations against him were found to be ‘creditable and substantiated’ by American church authorities. But now the Pope is also being urged to step down — by his own former apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò says he told Francis in 2013 that McCarrick had ‘corrupted generations of priests and seminarians’. The Pope ignored him and lifted sanctions that Benedict, who’d been told the same thing, had imposed.

Last month – Pope in Ireland: Francis speaks of Church’s failure to tackle clerical abuse ‘scandal’

The pope has spoken of his pain and shame at the failure of Church authorities to tackle the grave scandal of clerical abuse in Ireland.

On the first day of his historic Irish visit, the pontiff said people had a right to be outraged at the response of senior figures in the Catholic Church to the “repugnant crimes” inflicted on young people.

But:

Responding to the pope’s speech at Dublin Castle, victims advocacy group BishopAccountability.org said the pontiff’s remarks “gave little comfort to heartsick victims and Catholics hoping that he has a plan for ending the abuse and cover-up crisis.

“The pope again chose to commit to no specific solutions. Nor did he acknowledge his own responsibility for the crisis.”

And a day later – ‘I won’t say a word about it’: Pope silent on abuse claim letter

Pope Francis has declined to confirm or deny claims by the Vatican’s retired ambassador to the United States that he knew in 2013 about sexual misconduct allegations against the former archbishop of Washington.

The pope was dismissive of the 11-page text by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, saying that it “speaks for itself” and that he would not comment on it.

Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal last month, after a US church investigation determined that an accusation he had sexually abused a minor was credible.

Since then, another man has come forward to say McCarrick began molesting him starting when he was 11, and several former seminarians have said McCarrick abused and harassed them when they were in seminary.

The accusations have created a crisis of confidence in the US and Vatican hierarchy.

Here in New Zealand over the last month the Otago Daily Times has published a series of articles revealing that abuse has also been perpetrated and hidden within the Catholic Church in Dunedin, around New Zealand and Australia. It appears to have been a deliberate plan to cover up abuses over decades.

Yesterday: Scale of abuse, suffering revealed

It started with one bad apple – a paedophile priest from Dunedin who abused four boys and was jailed for his crimes. But the story of Fr Magnus Murray’s crimes has opened the floodgates, releasing a torrent of torment and abuse held back for decades.

Mr Klemick can still recall every detail of four years of abuse at the hands of Ian Thompson, a teacher at St Paul’s High School, beginning in 1979 when he was just 12 years old.

The memories are of sodomy and sex acts, including the ones he was forced to perform on another young boy, also a victim of Mr Thompson.

The experience has left him battling post-traumatic stress disorder and, despite counselling, the urge to try to take his own life again.

Michael Haggie has a similar story of torment to share.

There is much more.

Now, after a months-long investigation by ODT Insight, a clearer picture of the scale of sexual offending within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin is emerging.

It began with revelations Fr Magnus Murray, a paedophile priest from Dunedin, had many more victims than previously thought.

Fr Murray was jailed in 2003 for offences against four Dunedin boys, but ODT Insight found he could have up to 15 victims on the Taieri alone, as well as others in Australia and the North Island.

But, when ODT Insight also revealed offending by Br Desmond Fay and a second Christian Brother – who cannot be named for legal reasons – in Dunedin, more victims soon came forward.

Br Fay was accused by the mother of one victim of driving her son to suicide, but the story prompted three more men to reveal they, too, had been targeted by Br Fay.

But Br Fay, who has since died, was not alone, the man said.

He also recalled being punished by former St Edmund’s principal Br Vincent Sullivan, who “put me over his knee and gave me a light spanking and then fondled my buttocks while Br Fay watched”.

The man fondled in the swimming pool by Br Fay had also learned, years later, three of his friends had been abused by Christian Brothers in Dunedin.

Two had, separately, confided in him that they had been molested by Br Francis Henery, a teacher and rugby coach at St Paul’s High School in the 1970s, he said.

THIS week, ODT Insight has confirmed another paedophile priest from Dunedin, Fr Kevin Morton, was quietly stripped of his priestly faculties in 2002 after allegations of historic abuse emerged.

A complaint in 2002 prompted the then-Dunedin Bishop Len Boyle to strip Fr Morton of his priestly faculties, but he did not defrock him.

It was the same sanction handed down to Fr Magnus Murray, who also remained a priest in retirement despite his conviction.

Dunedin Bishop the Most Rev Michael Dooley, asked about Fr Morton this week, confirmed the diocese had “full records” of the complaint and Fr Morton’s punishment.

He would not elaborate, citing privacy, but Fr Morton was “dealt with through the approved complaints procedure”.

The procedure seems to have been to keep it covered up within the church, and allowing perpetrators to continue to offend elsewhere.

In 1993, Fr Robin Paulson, a fourth-form teacher at St Peter’s College in Gore, admitted six charges relating to historic offences against three boys in Southland.

He was sentenced to periodic detention, then returned home to England, where he remains a member of the Rosminians, the Catholic order beset by their own abuse scandals in Britain.

Teaching alongside Fr Paulson in Gore at the time was another man also later convicted of offences against boys.

In 1977, Patrick Thwaites was a deacon at Holy Cross College in Mosgiel, studying to be a priest, when he was dispatched to St Peter’s in Gore to teach third and fourth-formers.

In 1999, Fr Thwaites was a priest in Christchurch when he was found guilty of offences against schoolboy parishioners in Christchurch and on the West Coast, dating back to the 1980s.

Fr Thwaites has been removed from public ministry, but also remains a priest in retirement.

But ODT Insight has also been told of other allegations, including one by three men who shared the same story of abuses committed by a former top-level, long-serving member of the Dunedin diocese, who has since died.

There seems to have been many bad apples in the Catholic barrel.

And many victims are still suffering as the church fails to take anything like full responsibility.

BISHOP Dooley, speaking to ODT Insight last month, responded to the revelations of historic abuse within the Dunedin diocese by apologising to the city.

But, asked how big the list of offenders could be, he doubted it would mirror the revelations seen in other countries.

“I don’t believe that’s our case here, certainly not in the Dunedin diocese. I see no evidence for it and I’d be very surprised if their are further offenders.”

He confirmed the diocese kept records of every complaint received, but would not say how many there were or how much money the diocese had paid to victims.

The dirty secrets are being uncovered, but the Church still seems reluctant to deal with it openly or adequately.

Victims said the sexual offending in Dunedin was only part of a wider picture of violence at St Paul’s and other schools at the time.

Men like Br Fay, Br Wellsmore and Mr Thompson were notoriously bad-tempered and violent towards boys at the schools where they taught, they said. Several men have described how Mr Thompson would erupt over the smallest infractions and beat those responsible.

Chris Gamble, a St Paul’s pupil, remembered Mr Thompson as “the most heinous, violent man”.

And Suicide to avoid exposure

A Catholic school in Dunedin has been accused of a historic cover-up, after a teacher who sexually abused pupils for more than a decade took his own life when finally confronted, victims say.

Three men – all former pupils at St Paul’s High School in Rattray St – have told ODT Insight the teacher, Ian Thompson, targeted pupils at the school throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

The Christian Brothers had employed Mr Thompson after he was forced out of a Marist Fathers seminary in the North Island, allegedly after affairs with other seminarians, a third pupil said.

That seems to be a common pattern – moving a problem priest to fresh pastures where abuses continued.

Another article today – What victims want most: justice

Dunedin’s new Catholic Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, seems like a good and honourable man.

He has fronted media and his parishioners, expressed shock and pain at recent revelations, apologised to victims and the city for past events and urged those still suffering in silence to come forward.

But he remains reluctant to answer some tough questions.

Bishop Dooley won’t say how many complaints have been received, or how many past offenders he is aware of, within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin.

That information will only be revealed to police or the Royal Commission, not to media, the bishop  says.

He is also not yet prepared to discuss some allegations levelled against clergy, including those aimed at one of the most senior figures within the diocese in recent times.

Instead, he has insisted Dunedin’s problem remains small compared with  the shocking revelations seen in other countries, from the United States and Ireland to Australia.

But, as he does so, the list of alleged offenders from the Deep South keeps growing.

The pattern is repeated elsewhere, including in the North Island, where Hamilton Bishop the Most Rev Steve Lowe also remains tight-lipped.

The Catholic Church still seems reluctant to address a massive issue that is severely damaging the church.

For men like Paul Klemick, abused as a young pupil by a Catholic teacher at St Paul’s High School, what happened is not historic.

It remains an everyday reality  and as painful as it was when they were innocent children.

But as they speak, one word keeps coming up.

Justice.

Men like Paul Klemick want their experiences acknowledged and they want compensation.

But, most of all, they want the Catholic Church to answer for what happened.

Which is exactly why the Catholic Church, and churches of all stripes, need to be part of the Government’s pending Royal Commission into historic abuse.

But the Government is moving slowly on the Royal Commission: Cabinet yet to hear abuse inquiry proposal

Three months after receiving a report on its proposed terms of reference, Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin is yet to complete the next step in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in state care.

Martin, alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announced the inquiry as the “final commitment” of the coalition Government’s 100 day plan at the beginning of February. At the time, the stated time-frame for it to begin to consider evidence was mid-to-late 2018.

However, in a letter addressed to law firm Cooper Legal – which represents more than 900 people with claims of abuse under state care – Martin reveals she is yet to finalise her proposal to Cabinet on the inquiry. The proposal is supposed to take into account Commission chair Sir Anand Satyanand’s report on public submissions about the draft terms of reference. While Satyanand submitted his report on May 30, Martin is yet to follow this up with a proposal to Cabinet.

Before the inquiry can proceed to evidential stage, Cabinet must decide on its final terms of reference, additional commission members, and budget. That decision-making process is due to begin once Martin makes her formal proposal on the inquiry to Cabinet.

In the meantime, the many victims continue to suffer.