Vatican sex abuse summit organizer unsure if accused priests still active

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‘I find it beyond belief that they could … not know who the perpetrators are,’ says survivor


Father Hans Zollner, organizer of the Vatican sex abuse summit and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, says he doesn’t know the names of abusers in cases described by survivors. (Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press)

A dramatic feature of the sex abuse summit now underway at the Vatican has been the testimony of eight victims from around the world anonymously recounting their experience of abuse.

But the Vatican has no idea of if the victims’ abusers are still active as priests, a main organizer of the summit told CBC News.

Father Hans Zollner told CBC that none of the people who gave testimony at the four-day conference told the Vatican who their abusers were or where their cases had been dealt with.

When asked if the Vatican had looked into whether the priests accused by the victims are still in active ministry, Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and president of the Center for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said: “No, they [the victims] have not disclosed it to me and my understanding is that maybe they don’t know [if the priests are still active in the Church]. But I can’t say because I don’t know it.”

Zollner said all but one of the victims the Vatican chose to provide testimony to a closed-door room of bishops wanted to protect their anonymity.

“They went to great effort not to reveal any detail,” Zollner said. “In some cases the family doesn’t know that they have been abused. In some places it would destroy the family. It would destroy their professional career and so forth.”

When CBC sent a text message later asking Zollner if he wanted to further comment on his statement that the Vatican had not verified the victims’ accounts since none had identified an abuser to the Vatican, he responded that was “not accurate.”

When asked to be more specific, his answers were vague.

He said the victims he was in contact with “did not disclose where their proceedings are,” adding that the victims were “verified by the people on the ground who had first contact with them.”

When asked what that meant, he did not respond.

Marie Collins, an Irish sexual abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors, says the fact that the Vatican does not know if the predatory priests of these eight victims are still active in the Catholic Church undermines the credibility of the whole event.

Marie Collins, an Irish sexual abuse survivor, is pictured in 2012. She questions the credibility of the church if it does not know if the abusive priests are still in ministry. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

“I find it beyond belief that they could put forward eight survivors and not know who the perpetrators are,” said Collins.

“It’s not that I’m doubting any of these people. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like they are genuine survivors,” said Collins. “But I’m just totally thrown at the idea that the Vatican would present eight survivors to a conference at this level and not have taken any interest whether their abusers have been removed from ministry or the church or in any way sanctioned. It’s mind-boggling.”

Survivors’ groups have been critical of the way in which the Vatican selected sexual abuse victims to testify at the conference, which has as its theme bringing responsibility, accountability and transparency to how the Catholic Church and its bishops around the world deal with sexual abuse of children by priests.

Pope Francis called the unprecedented meeting of some 200 top bishops, Vatican officials and a small number of nuns to help the church hierarchy confront what he has called the scourge of sexual abuse by the clergy.

Sex abuse survivors and members of the group Ending Clergy Abuse hold a wooden cross as they march in downtown Rome on Saturday. (Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

Survivors who have gathered outside the conference in Rome this week have called the Vatican’s process of selecting victims to testify of their abuse secretive. They’ve asked why the Vatican presented most survivors in recorded form rather than in person and why organizers chose only people who wished to remain anonymous to recount their abuse by priests.

Marie Collins added she is also concerned about the mental and emotional health of the people the Vatican chose to provide video testimony of their assaults.

“If victims are at the point in their coming to terms with their abuse that they’re still unable to name their perpetrator, then in no way should they be asked to do something like this,” she said.

When asked by CBC if all the priests accused by the Vatican’s selected victims had been permanently removed from active ministry in the Catholic Church, another organizer of the bishops’ summit, Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna, a former top prosecutor for sex abuse at the Vatican, said, “I do not have that information.”

“I will try to find out because that’s a very important point,” he said. “But I don’t know.”

He said Zollner was the one who contacted and selected the victims who provided testimony for the first three days of the meetings that ended late Saturday.

7 Responses to Vatican sex abuse summit organizer unsure if accused priests still active

  1. Sylvia says:

    Good for CBC’s Megan Williams for smelling a rat here. Good for her.

    All but one of the victims who gave testimony before the bishops wanted to retain their anonymity?

    Really? What are the chances of that? What are the chances of choosing eight victims from around the world and only one is ready to identify his/her molester by name?

    Do you smell a rat? I certainly do.

    And there’s that nonsense claim that the victims want to retain their anonymity ergo the abuser can’t be identified. Absolute nonsense. Clerical molesters are frequently identified while retaining the anonymity of their victim (s).

    I know countless victims with heart breaking accounts of both abuse and cover-up who would be more than prepared to speak to the bishops publicly.

    All that aside, do you not for a moment think that organizers would have wanted to ensure that the anonymous molesters referenced are either dead, defrocked, not in active ministry and being monitored and ‘not in contact with minors’? Those who truly care about the safety and well being of children tend to think that way, do they not? Are other innocent children safe? And those who care about sacrilege in the sanctuary tend to want to know if a molester is still in the sanctuary.

    How many self-identified victims do not want to identify their abuser? I have had contact with hundreds of victims over the years, and honestly, I know of only one. One. But – of we are to believe father Zollner – from the pool of thousands of victims world-wide those who pulled together this summit ‘happened’ to find seven ?

    I do indeed smell a rat.

    Perhaps there were indeed seven victims who still, for whatever reason, feel the need to protect their molester> I don’t denigrate them in any way, but a question the fact that seven such persons happened to be found worldwide when their are thousands who have no problem situating both their abuse and cover-up by naming their abuser.

    Or, perhaps, as is sometimes the case at gatherings such as this, the speakers (victims) were given directives of what could and could not be said? and perhaps they were told, for reasons unknown, NOT to identify their abuser?

    The bottom line is that it smells to high Heaven, And, bottom line, I personally do not think it was happenstance.

    I have said frequently that I firmly believe that our Church was hijacked by these predators. And I firmly believe that those hijackers are not about to turn control over to those who want to get these predators out of the priesthood.

    Anyway, this whole summit has been a ruse. There many be a few crumbs thrown at us under the table, but, my take, it;s been a ruse. A little something to try to calm the troubled masses.

    • PJJ says:

      You are right on the money with this post, Sylvia. They absolutely know who the collars are but are once again covering them up. It infuriates me to no end that the protectors of those collars would do everything in their power to keep the collar in their midst. In our case, sullivan would have been removed from the clergy within a few years of his ordination had the bishop taken the proper steps according to the vatican documentation they issued on his case. But oh no, the bishop thought sullivan could be “saved” and continued to move him. Over 30 subsequent abuse victims by that pervert did not need to happen…including me!!! I would have loved to have had the opportunity to speak to that group of bishops! In public!

  2. MS says:

    Personally, I believe this Summit was an act. I don’t believe it was about the topic we think it was; that’s why it was so secretive. Smoke and mirrors. All we “saw” was cardinals and bishops sitting with papers, occasionally turning them, trying not to fall asleep. It doesn’t take 3 days to come up with what they did or to hear from a selected few survivors with a gag order on them. And the cover-up continues. Does anyone know who the President of the Pedophilia Association and/or LGBQT is? My stomach churns to think of the sheer politics behind this “oppressed” group.

  3. William McDuff says:

    As Yogi Berra used to say “deja vu all over again”. I find it repugnant and an insult to my intelligence that they put on this sham and expect intelligent people to swallow this malarky.
    One of the best cases of poetic justice was when they bulldozed Mount Cashell and sold the land to pay abuse victims. Maybe they should do likewise with the Vatican.
    You may find my judgement harsh but do they deserve any better after all the abuse they’ve aided and abetted over the years. Bill from Lachine

  4. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    William McDuff – your judgement is VERY appropriate and true. It’s gotten out of hand in the Vatican, and indeed it has spread.
    There is a stench emanating from Rome, and it is vile and putrid.
    No shame in calling a spade a spade! mike.

  5. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    I find it remarkable that all over the globe, judiciaries are investigating the Roman Catholic Church in all countries with the BIG exception being Canada.
    Why is that?

    We have bishops and cardinals here who are VERY complicit in their cover-ups and misrepresentations.

    Why is Canada exempt?

    Our judiciary would do well in deciding to formally investigate the Catholic Church, and find out publicly what they are hiding.

    I can personally assure the authorities that they would not be disappointed in their quest for the truth. Mike.

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