“Pope will be tough on paedophile priests, says sex abuse crisis authority“ & related articles

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Monsignor Charles Scicluna says Pope Francis will not be lenient because justice matters more than protecting the church

theguardian.com

Reuters

Pope will be tough on paedophile priests, pledges sex abuse crisis authority

Charles Scicluna: ‘I have met with Francis and he has expressed great determination to continue on the line of his predecessors.’ Photograph: Martial Trezzini/AP

Pope Francis will not show leniency towards paedophile priests as truth and justice are more important than protecting the church, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor has pledged.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the most authoritative Catholic official on the church’s abuse crisis, said on Saturday that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 in 2013 from about 125 in 2012 and a peak of 260 in 2011.

Scicluna said Francis would, despite his merciful nature, be very tough on paedophile priests after an abuse crisis that the pope on Thursday called “the shame of the church”.

“I have met with Francis and he has expressed great determination to continue on the line of his predecessors,” said Scicluna, who served in the Vatican for 17 years before he was named an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta in 2012.

“His gospel of mercy is very important but it is not cheap mercy. It has to respect the truth and the demands of justice,” Scicluna said.

The pope, who was elected last March, set up a commission of experts last month to address the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church, in his first major step to tackle a crisis that has plagued it for two decades.

The group will consider ways to better screen priests, protect minors and help victims in the face of accusations that the Vatican has not done enough to guard the vulnerable or make amends.

Scicluna, who served in Rome for 17 years, was the Vatican’s expert last Thursday in Geneva when UN child protection experts pushed Holy See delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests.

Despite the unprecedented grilling of Vatican delegation, he said the experience was very helpful for the church.

“We have a great responsibility to our people … I think it was a blessing that we had this meeting before the commission is set up,” he said. The commission is still in the process of being formed and its members chosen.

He said the rise was due to “contingent backlog problems with some historical cases” and that he expected the numbers were stabilising at about 100 in 2013.

Scicluna said the numbers for most years are made up of about 50% by priests who were actively defrocked and the rest by those who had asked to leave the priesthood after they admit their crimes.

“Dismissal is imposed and dispensation presupposes the request of the priest but the effect is the same,” he said.

In 2012, while he was still in his previous job at the Vatican, he created a stir when he uttered the word “omerta” – usually used to describe the Sicilian mafia’s code of silence – in relation to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

He used it again on Saturday in response to a question.

“I think there is a clear signal that ‘omerta’ is not the way the Church should respond,” he said. “I am convinced that the best thing for the institution is to own up to the truth whatever it is.”

The church has had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation in sexual abuse cases worldwide, bankrupting a string of dioceses. Last Thursday the pope said it was right to pay damages to victims.

Victim groups have said more has to be done to protect children and that bishops who have been accused of covering up crimes by shuttling priests from parish to parish should be held accountable.

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Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for child abuse

• Priests were defrocked over two years for molesting children

• Vatican’s UN ambassador faces questioning in Geneva

The Guardian

Associated Press in Vatican City

theguardian.com,

Silvano Tomasi

Vatican’s UN ambassador Silvano Tomasi in Geneva, prior to the start of a questioning over clerical sexual abuse of children. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/EPA

Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests in just two years, for molesting children, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press.

The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been defrocked. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed that the figures were accurate.

Prior to that, the Vatican had only publicly revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received and the number of trials it had authorized.

While it’s not clear why the numbers spiked in 2011, it could be because 2010 saw a new explosion in the number of cases reported in the media in Europe and beyond.

The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting and was compiled to help the Holy See defend itself before a UN committee this week in Geneva.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics in the course of eight hours of sometimes pointed criticism and questioning from the UN human rights committee.

The statistics were compiled from the Vatican’s own annual reports about the activities of its various offices, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. Although public, the annual reports are not readily available or sold outside Rome and are usually found in Vatican offices or Catholic university libraries.

An AP review of the reference books shows a remarkable evolution in the Holy See’s in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001, when the Vatican ordered bishops to send cases of all credibly accused priests to Rome for review.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world weren’t following church law to put accused clerics on trial in church tribunals. Bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials or turn them into police.

For centuries, the church has had its own in-house procedures to deal with priests who sexually abuse children. One of the chief accusations from victims is that bishops put the church’s own procedures ahead of civil law enforcement by often suggesting victims keep accusations quiet while they are dealt with internally.

The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state. There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again.

According to the 2001 norms Ratzinger pushed through and subsequent updates, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews each case sent to Rome and then instructs bishops how to proceed, either by launching an administrative process against the priest if the evidence is overwhelming or a church trial. At every step of the way the priest is allowed to defend himself.

The Congregation started reporting numbers only in 2005, which is where Tomasi’s spreadsheet begins. UN official

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UN panel grills Catholic hierarchy on handling of child sex abuse by priests

Vatican questioned over cover-ups of abuse cases, perpetrators evading punishment and poor co-operation with civil authorities
The Guardian      theguardian.com,
Thursday 16 January 2014 16.55 GMT

in Rome

Pierre Pican, bishop of Bayeux, France, who was charged with failing to report a paedophile priest

A sex abuse case cited by the UN was that of Pierre Pican, who as bishop of Bayeux, was charged with failing to report a paedophile priest. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/EPA

The Vatican has come under intense pressure from a UN panel to explain its handling of clerical sex abuse as its representatives were questioned on the global scandal at length for the first time in public.

Experts from the UN’s committee on the rights of the child grilled a delegation from the Holy See, which is regarded as a sovereign entity, yesterday, as victims of sex abuse by priests flew into Geneva to watch the proceedings.

As the hearing got under way, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s envoy to the UN, made it clear that there was no excuse for violent or exploitative behaviour towards children. “Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programmes, in religious organisations structures,” he said.

But he kept to the line that the Holy See was distinct from the global Catholic church and had little jurisdiction in countries beyond the Vatican city state. The guidelines already put in place by the Holy See and Catholic churches around the world had, when properly applied, presented a way of eliminating the scourge of abuse, he said.

“Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican,” Tomasi told the committee. “Priests are citizens of their own states, and they fall under the jurisdiction of their own country.” However, he added that the Vatican would welcome any suggestions from the committee that would assist it in ensuring “efficient implementation” of reforms.

Those suggestions – and a torrent of questions relating to the Catholic church’s response, past and present, to the scandal – were not slow in coming.

Experts interrogated the Holy See on many issues, including an alleged lack of transparency in its handling of abuse cases and their aftermaths, punishment of abusers that was often insufficient, and inadequate co-operation with civil judicial authorities.

Questioned about an instance from 2001, when Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, a then senior Vatican official, praised French bishop Pierre Pican for not reporting to civil authorities a priest in his diocese who had raped a boy, Charles Scicluna, a former sex crimes prosecutor for the Vatican and auxiliary bishop of Malta, indicated this was an area on which the Holy See knew the approach had to change.

Pointing out that the example was from more than a decade ago, he said: “The Holy See gets it. Let’s not say ‘too late’ or not. There are certain things that need to be done differently.” He added: “It is not a policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups.” He also insisted that the Holy See “willingly collaborates” with the judicial authorities in civil states.

But his words did not convince Pam Spees, of the US-based advocacy group the Centre for Constitutional Rights, who said the Vatican’s “performance” was unsurprising. “The Vatican attempted to relegate the issue to the past and claim it is a new era, that they now ‘get it,’ but they continue to refuse to turn over records for prosecution, punish higher-ups that covered up the crimes, or provide any real evidence that they are now putting the safety of children above the reputation of the Church,” she said.

“Nonetheless, today’s hearing is a milestone in calling for an end to these days of impunity. The international community is demanding answers, and that is the first step toward true accountability and, we hope, an end to the widespread violence against children.”

The delegation’s appearance in Geneva was a mandatory part of the Holy See’s duties as a signatory of the UN convention on the rights of the child, which it ratified in 1990. The build-up to the hearing had already been hit by controversy when, in December, the Holy See refused to provide detailed information requested on abuse cases and specific information concerning their handling and investigation, citing confidentiality norms.

Yesterday, as the panel began a day of questioning, it showed little sign of wanting to indulge the delegation. Some statements appeared to be welcomed, but the Holy See was urged to take more “concrete, visible actions” to push ahead with its efforts to tackle the problem.

One expert asked specifically about the Vatican’s handling of two cases that have caused particular embarrassment to the church: one from the past, that of the sexual scandals of the disgraced Legion of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, and another, which is ongoing, concerning Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio (ambassador) to the Dominican Republic. Wesolowski was recalled to Rome this summer after facing accusations of abusing teenage boys.

Other experts focused on why in the past abusive priests had been simply moved from one area to another and often allowed to have more contact with children. Scicluna said that “offender mobility [was] a grave concern”, adding that dioceses and parishes were now obliged to pass on information concerning a priest wanting to move on.

In their remarks, both Scicluna and Tomasi said the Catholic church was keen to become “an example of best practice” in the sphere of child protection. They said that changes – including a set of guidelines unveiled in 2011 – provided a framework for effective handling of the problem.

But Scicluna acknowledged that it was “a work in progress” and that “more transparency and accountability on the local level” was needed. Last month Pope Francis announced the establishment of a new committee to fight clerical sex abuse, a direct result of consultation with cardinal advisers from outside the Vatican.

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UN condemns Vatican over handling of clerical sex abuse of children

Holy See pressed by children’s rights committee about ways abusive priests were transferred rather than reported to police

The Guardian

Thursday 16 January 2014 13.31 GMT

   Associated Press in Geneva

A UN panel has condemned the Vatican’s handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal during a hearing in which representatives of the Holy See were questioned in public for the first over allegations that it protected clerics at the expense of their young victims.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, acknowledged on Thursday that the Holy See had been slow to face the crisis but said it was now committed to doing so.

“The Holy See gets it,” he told the UN committee. “Let’s not say too late or not. But there are certain things that need to be done differently.”

Scicluna added that prosecutors across the world should take action anyone, clerical or lay, who obstructs justice.

He was responding to questioning over claims that the Vatican had repeatedly failed to abide by terms of the UN convention on the rights of the child, which calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to keep the young from harm. Critics allege the Catholic church enabled the rape of thousands of children by protecting paedophile priests to defend its reputation.

The committee’s main human rights investigator, Sara Oviedo, pressed Scicluna and other Vatican representatives before the hearing on how abusive priests were transferred rather than reported to the police. Given the church’s “zero tolerance” policy, she asked, why were there “efforts to cover up and obscure these types of cases”.

Another committee member, Maria Rita Parsi, an Italian psychologist and psychotherapist, asked: “If these events continue to be hidden and covered up, to what extent will children be affected?”

The Holy See ratified the convention in 1990 and submitted a first implementation report in 1994. But it failed to submit a progress report until 2012 following criticism over a plethora of clerical sex abuse cases that emerged two years early.

Victims groups and human rights organisations have pressed the UN committee to challenge the Vatican over its record of handling priests who sexually abuse children, providing written testimony from the abused and evidence outlining the global scale of the problem.

Their reports cite case studies in Mexico and Britain, grand jury investigations in the US, and government fact-finding inquiries from Canada to Ireland to Australia that detail how the Vatican’s policies, its culture of secrecy and fear of scandal contributed to the problem.

The Holy See has long insisted that it was not responsible for the crimes of Catholic clerics committed around the world, saying priests are not employees of the Vatican but citizens of countries where they reside and subject to local law enforcement. It has maintained that bishops were responsible for the priests in their care, not the pope.

But victims groups and human rights organisations provided the UN committee with Vatican documentation showing how the Holy See discouraged bishops from reporting abusers to police.

Committee member Jorge Cardona Llorens, a Spanish international law professor, asked how the Vatican would create “specific criteria” for putting children’s interests first, because there were none yet in place.

Scicluna said the Holy See wanted to be a model for how to protect children and care for victims. “I think the international community looks up to the Holy See for such guidance. But it’s not only words, it has to be commitment on the ground.”

He added: “The states who are cognisant of obstruction of justice need to take action against citizens of their countries who obstruct justice.”

Scicluna, a Maltese bishop, has previous said prelate who failed to do the right thing with paedophile priests must be held accountable.

3 Responses to “Pope will be tough on paedophile priests, says sex abuse crisis authority“ & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    In an effort to catch up on last week`s news from the UN I`ve posted all the articles together.

    Bishop Scicluna says Pope Francis will be tough on `paedophile`priests. I hope that means he will tough on all priests who molest, be they paedophiles or ephobophiles or whatever.

    And I hope that now the UN is on a roll it will take a necessary and closer look around the world at those States which have statutes of limitations which allow child molesters to run loose: ditto those countries where molesters are out on the streets after a mere `tut tut` from the judge, not to mention those cases where molesters never see the inside of a jail because of deals worked out between prosecution and defence.

  2. Leona says:

    On the one hand, they say the Vatican is only responsible for the 31 children on Vatican soil, they then throw out a media P.R. release that says the Pope Benedict defrocked over 400 priests. They do have control over their priests and bishops they only choose to wield that control when it suits them.
    If Pope Francis was really getting tough on those who offend against children, he would allow Weslowski to be extradited to Poland or the Dominican Republic, but instead he chooses to shield him in the Vatican.
    Were it not for the tireless work of Victims groups and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, this UN hearing would not have happened. We have to keep reminding ourselves and others that the ONLY reason we know what we do about the sex abuse crisis is because of victims and their supporters demanding accountability!

  3. Michel Bertrand says:

    400 priests defrocked, it would be interesting to get that list with cronology of service as well as travels. It would give an idea about the bishops they answered to and how the mid managers shuffled them around. In a transparent world maybe.

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