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Opinion piece by Geoffrey Robertson QC published in The Sydney Morning Herald

1st March 2019

Catholic symbol

 

News of George Pell’s conviction was a fitting end to a papal summit on child abuse which achieved nothing and began with other cardinals attributing the problem to homosexuals in the priesthood.

red George Pell

The reality is that priests abuse small boys not because they are gay but because they have the opportunity. Most are not even paedophiles, but rather sexually maladjusted, immature and lonely individuals unable to resist the temptation to exploit their power over children who are taught to revere them as the agents of God.

A church that has tolerated the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children – a crime against humanity in any definition – needs to face unpalatable truths and to make drastic reforms.

Cover-ups are no longer an option. The magnitude of the crimes is well-established and the evidence of how the Vatican and its bishops hushed them up in order to protect the reputation and finances of the Catholic Church is fully proved.

By insisting upon its right to deal with allegations under medieval Canon Law weighted in favour of the defendant and providing no effective punishment, the church itself became complicit.

It has allowed abusive priests to confess without fear of any report to police; it has encouraged bishops to withhold information from prosecuting authorities; it has refused to allow Vatican envoys (papal nuncios) to co-operate with government inquiries on the excuse that it is a state [which it is not, according to International Law!] and hence they have diplomatic immunity.

 

The necessary reforms must begin with recognition that child sexual abuse is a crime, not just a sin, and must be reported to and dealt with by prosecuting authorities.

Canon Law, with its pathetic punishments of prayer and penitence, and its obligations to keep proceedings secret, must have no part in dealing with allegations of sex abuse.

Nor can the veil of confidentiality any longer be allowed to shroud the confessions of paedophiles, let alone the absolution of one priest by another (“Brother, can you spare a crime?”) The confessed abuser must be told to confess to the police or else be handed over to them.

Obviously, there should be zero tolerance for clerics who confess or are convicted. They must be defrocked and certainly not allowed any appeal to the Vatican, which in the past has permitted many to remain in holy orders – the sheep’s clothing in which they have often reoffended.

Even in countries where local bishops have announced that public prosecutors will be told of sex abuse allegations, there is always the qualification “only if the victim consents”.

It is all too easy for young victims and trusting parents to be counselled that their child’s best interests lie in allowing the church to deal with the matter “in its own way” without involving the police. They give in easily to pressure and persuasion that their complaints should be dealt with in secret under canon law.

Abolishing the role of Canon Law in dealing with sex crimes will take some papal courage, but will be relatively easy, beside the radical changes necessary to stop the abuse from happening in the first place.

The reform most often suggested is to abandon celibacy. This would not be doctrinally difficult – Christ’s disciples appear to have been married and the rule was a dogma introduced in the 11th century and almost abolished by 16th-century reformers.

But marriage does not “cure” paedophilia. Moreover, many abusive priests are not paedophiles: their disordered personalities can often be ascribed to conditions that would prevent them from forming satisfactory heterosexual relationships. Abuse happens because they are too weak or emotionally immature to resist temptation.

That temptation arises because the church indoctrinates children at an early age – as young as seven or eight – that the priest is the agent of God. Communion is an awesome miracle performed by the God-priest, and then the impressionable and nervous child is made to confess his sins and seek forgiveness, from God, represented again by the priest.

Anne.

The phenomenon of children’s unflinching obedience to sexual requests from the priest is induced by “reverential fear”: the victims have such emotional and psychological dependence on the abuser that they unquestionably obey and do not tell for many years afterwards.

It follows that the only reform that could tackle the evil of clerical sexual abuse at its source would be to raise the age at which children are first given communion and confession to, say, 13. Other churches, and the Jewish faith, leave indoctrination and spiritual commitment rituals until teenage-hood. By this stage young people are much more capable of resisting sexual advances and have more courage to report them.

Could the Pope ever contemplate this reform? The Jesuits say “Give me the boy at seven …” and now we know what this has meant. But if such reforms are not implemented, there must be consequences.

One consequence could be to reconsider, not the state, but the statehood of the Vatican. It is, after all, the only religion allowed this elevated status, with diplomatic immunities, expensive embassies and a role at the UN where it condemns programs that help homosexuals or propose family planning or gender equality.

Yet it is in reality no more than a religious enclave in Rome, without the attributes of sovereignty or even an indigenous population (no one is born there, except by accident). If it continues as an organisation that facilitates the abuse of children, it should have no immunities.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is a former UN Appeal Judge and author of The Case of the Pope (Penguin). See my review of his book here:  The Case of the Pope

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Update: May 2015 …Pope Benedict has since been stood down, and Pope Francis has been elected. Time will tell if anything will change. 

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Pope Benedict XVI’s letter relating to the Cloyne Report has infuriated Ireland’s Prime Minister and the Irish victims of paedophile priests.  People from several countries have been hoping for constructive comments in the letter from the Vatican regarding sex abuse scandals, but they will once again be disappointed. ><

Pope Benedict XVI

>< Vatican-approved cover-ups of the sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests, have been going on for centuries in parishes and schools.  My own great-grandmother, then 14 years old, was raped by a Catholic priest in Rome in the 19th Century.  She was sent off to London to have the resultant baby while the priest’s name was protected. I’d hate to imagine how many other girls might have suffered the same fate because the Vatican turned a blind eye.   The Vatican has never put children’s welfare first in these horrendous scandals.  Foremost in the Vatican’s responses to thousands of allegations of abuse, is to protect the Catholic Church at all costs, then the abusing priests.  Some see the present Pope’s position as difficult because he was formerly the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Once The Holy Office of the Holy Inquisition), which makes, and enforces, doctrinal laws. See previous post:  The Case of the Pope; From a legal perspective.

>< It is sickening to me, to see and hear the pope expressing love for ‘God’s children’ while allowing their  torture and rape to continue.  I use the word ‘allowing’ deliberately, because that is what the present Pope is doing, and what his predecessors have done;  the Vatican’s secrecy and  inaction have ensured the abuse continues.  The scandals that first emerged in Canada and Australia in the 1980s, followed by Ireland in the 1990s, the United States this decade and, in recent months, Benedict’s German homeland, are but the tip of the iceberg.  And no-one has even begun to examine accusations coming out of Africa where many paedophile priests are sent for their protection from Western countries’ legal systems.

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Comments regarding the Pope’s letter and the Cloyne Report: Maeve Lewis, head of  ONE IN FOUR victims’ group, stated that the Pope “passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the scandal; the deliberate policy of the Catholic Church, at the highest levels, to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children”. “The Pope speaks only of failures in the Irish church and neglects the role of the Vatican. If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial”.  She said she was “astounded” at the Pope’s previous assertion that  ‘the roots of clerical sexual abuse lie in the secularization of Irish society, the falling off of religious devotion, and failures to adhere to canon law.’

“This shows a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of sexual violence and creates little hope that the church will ever respond effectively to the problem.” Author and survivor Andrew Madden said issues highlighted by him and others in a letter to the Pope had been ignored.  He said there had been no responsibility taken by the Catholic Church, regarding the sexual abuse of so many children, and its protection  of paedophile priests.   Mr Madden  goes on to say that Pope Benedict has repeated his apology for the hurt caused to those abused but then states that the Church’s only  role has been its failure to deal with criminal and sinful acts’.  According to Mr Madden, the Catholic Church didn’t fail to act; it acted very clearly to protect itself and left the abused children to fend for themselves. Another survivor, Marie Collins said she welcomed the order that church leaders should co-operate with police, but she said there had been no mention of the Vatican’s role in the cover-ups which allowed the abuse to continue.  [In fact it is not an ‘order’ but a ‘guideline’].

Alan Shatter, Justice Minister in the Irish parliament also lashed out at the Pope, saying:  “We should never again tolerate a foreign state issuing directives to members of the hierarchy and other clerics in this state to violate Irish law by concealing reports of child sexual abuse and not reporting such allegations. Nor should we ever again tolerate a foreign state requiring that an oath of any nature be taken by an adult or child to maintain a veil of secrecy over incidents of sexual abuse.” The latter was a reference to a case involving current Cardinal Sean Brady, who in 1975 swore two young children to an oath not to reveal their abuse. The Cloyne report into Catholic clerical child abuse in Ireland released on Wednesday 20th July, will identify 19 Catholic priests who allegedly sexually assaulted children in the 1990s.

The report into abuse allegations in the Catholic diocese of Cloyne, has been approved for publication by the Irish government. The report, known officially as the Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne, will be published by Ireland’s minister for justice, Alan Shatter, and the minister for children, Frances Fitzgerald. The last Irish government agreed to extend the Murphy commission’s remit to include Cloyne, as well as the Dublin archdiocese. The commission’s Dublin report found widespread clerical abuse and cover-up in the Irish capital which was devastating for the Catholic Church. It also found child protection practices in the Dublin diocese to be ‘inadequate and in some respects dangerous’. The commission was later asked to investigate the handling of sex abuse allegations in Cloyne by church and state authorities between 1 January 1996 – when the church’s first-published guidelines, its Framework Document, came into play – and 1 February 2009. Minister Alan Shatter said the report’s findings were unambiguous. “We cannot correct past wrongs perpetrated on our children, but we can take action to prevent, insofar as is possible, the wrongs of the past being perpetrated on our children in the future,” he said.  “We cannot depend on the undertakings of others to correct failings and introduce robust and effective structures of protection. The Cloyne Report  irrefutably confirms that some who, in the past, gave such undertakings, acted in bad faith,” the Minister told Parliament.

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Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has launched an unprecedented attack on the Catholic Church,  saying the relationship between church and state in Ireland could not be the same again following the Cloyne report. The Vatican chose to focus on the interests of the Church rather than the children abused by its clergy and shielded by its leaders. The Catholic News Service reports Mr Kenny accused the Vatican of adopting a “calculated, withering position” on abuse.   He said that “the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who – like me – have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of Church authorities to face up to what is required; deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities herewith, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the state’s authorities.”

“The revelations of the Cloyne report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture. It’s fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy reports Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children. But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order. Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic . . . as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . the narcissism . . . that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

PM Kenny said the Cloyne report told “a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children”. He said although the report had shown the need for the Vatican “to get its house in order”, it also revealed how the State had failed victims too.  “For too long Ireland has neglected its children,” he said.  “This is not Rome. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011, a republic of laws,” Mr Kenny said.

The Prime Minister was speaking during a Government motion on the report that “deplores the Vatican’s intervention which contributed to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the Irish State and the Irish bishops”. It expresses “dismay at the disturbing findings of the report and at the inadequate and inappropriate response, particularly of the Church authorities in Cloyne, to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse.” >< Italy, another predominantly Catholic country, has a similar tale to tell.

See Post:  Paedophilia in Italy

Most recent post: 

Clerical Paedophilia; Centuries Old Time Bomb

Adam & Eve. A detail from Michelangelo’s painting in Sistine Chapel in the Vatican

Updated April 2015:  Investigation launched into unmarked graves of children who once lived in Catholic Mercy Orphanage in Ballarat.  Is Ballarat Australia’s ‘Ireland’ where paedophile priests were sent by Vatican?

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Updated 2 August 2014

More and more cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy around the world are being uncovered. Not only sexual abuse, but neglect of children in orphanages and homes for unmarried mothers:

Tuam mass grave and the search for almost 800 unbaptised children. So, a foetus is worth more than a child whose mother is unwed? 

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tuam mass grave

Tuam Catholic Home For Unmarried Mothers in Ireland (now demolished)

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There is no doubt that unmarried mothers and their babies were treated with a special type of callousness by the Catholic Church at the time this home for unmarried mothers was in operation.  And those children who were not baptised were not allowed to be buried in proper, named graves.

After all, as far as the Catholic Church was concerned, these ‘inflicted’ children were full of sin!  We will never know if these children were sexually abused, as well as grossly neglected, but if history is anything to go by……..

The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny,  has authorised an inquiry into the missing children and to ascertain exactly how many children are buried at Tuam.  It is estimated that over 60,000 children were abused by Catholic Clergy in Ireland over several decades.

 Updated 20 September 2018 …Tuam Mass Grave – Read more here:

https://ciarantierney.blogspot.com/2018/03/for-peter-and-families-its-personal.html?m=1

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Because of the thousands of cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by paedophile Catholic priests, questions are being asked about the correlation between priestly celibacy and sexual abuse.The Vatican secretary of state,  insists there is no cause-and-effect link between priestly celibacy and the child abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.  But how would he know that for sure when there has never been extensive research about this issue?  And, this very issue has not only been swept under the carpet for centuries, but in some cases has been condoned by Bishops.

To quote the secretary of state: “It has been amply demonstrated that celibacy, when faithfully observed, is of great value to their vocation and in helping the people of God…..there is no direct link between celibacy and the deviant behaviour of certain priests,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, told the Spanish newspaper Vanguardia.  “On the contrary, it is precisely the failure to remain celibate that gradually degrades the life of a priest, until he ceases to be an example, a gift, a spiritual guide for others”.  This is so Catholic!   SIN is the problem!   That awful blemish we are all born with because Eve tempted Adam.   That means that the only actions  that will save the offending priests’ souls are prayers and penance.  But what about the victims: those poor innocent  children who have been robbed of their childhoods and in most cases, a peaceful adulthood.  I don’t see anywhere, the Vatican’s sorrow for the children so abused.

Last week Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of two bishops implicated in the revelations of paedophile abuse by Catholic priests that have swept Europe and the Americas since November.

In Belgium Roger Vangheluwe, the first bishop directly implicated in the affair, resigned after admitting to abusing a minor several years ago.

Bishop James Moriarty, for his part, became the fourth bishop to resign since two major sex abuse scandals hit the Irish Catholic Church.  Revelations of large-scale paedophilia spanning decades have rocked the Catholic Church in countries including Ireland, Austria, the United States and the pope’s native Germany.  Bishops and cardinals were accused of protecting guilty clergy by moving them to other parishes  instead of handing them over to police for prosecution.   The priests were protected but not the children in those other parishes the paedophiles were sent to.

One alleged victim of a priest accused of molesting up to 200 boys at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin sued the Vatican and the Pope on Thursday in a bid to access secret files on investigations into sex abuse in the Church.   As I have stated in a previous post, there is little chance of any court being allowed access to Vatican files.  All archives are closely guarded by the Office of the Inquisition renamed the Congregation For The Doctrine of the Faith.

See post & book by Geoffrey Robertson QC, a must-read for all Catholics:   The Case of the Pope; Sexual Abuse & The Vatican.

Latest News release relating to the above:

THE Vatican is asking a US  judge to reject an attempt to question Pope Benedict XVI under oath in a sex abuse lawsuit on the grounds that there has been no evidence of a link to church officials in Rome.

The arguments filed on Thursday in the US District Court in Kentucky also say that forcing Benedict, a head of state, to give a deposition would violate international law. The US considers the Vatican to be a sovereign nation. The lawsuit accuses the Vatican, referred to in papers as the Holy See, of orchestrating a cover-up of priests sexually abusing children throughout the US. Louisville attorney William McMurry asked to depose Benedict and other Vatican officials in a motion in March, and the filing on Thursday was a response. Mr McMurry has also asked that the Vatican turn over administrative documents and respond to questions related to the abuse scandal in the US.

Lawyers for the Vatican argue that thousands of documents provided in a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville several years ago have turned up no connection to Rome. The Louisville archdiocese reached a settlement in 2003 with more than 240 abuse victims represented by Mr McMurry for $US25 million ($A28.87 million). Mr McMurry will have an opportunity to reply to the Vatican’s latest arguments in a response to the court.  While US dioceses have been sued over abuse by priests, the Kentucky lawsuit is the first US case to make it to the stage of determining whether victims have a negligence claim against the Vatican.  Filed in 2004 by three men abused by priests in the Louisville diocese, it argues in part that US bishops should be considered employees or officials of the Holy See.

Pope Benedict the chief hypocrite of the Catholic Church

Updated 21 May 2015….the pope may have changed, but the Catholic Church hasn’t. Pope Francis appears to be making changes at the Vatican, but nothing convinces me that the welfare of child sex abuse victims has been put at the front and foremost by the Church.  In fact, it is still protecting paedophile priests, and Cardinal George Pell. Canon Law states that the sexual abuse of children must be covered up; this is the reason the current pope cannot do anything apart from advising these criminals to “spend the rest of their lives in prayer and penance, and to ask god for forgiveness”. 

Can you believe that  Pope Benedict,  ex chief of the  Office of the  Inquisition until 2005, (re-named the Office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF) truly believes that homosexuality between consenting adults is evil, along with divorce and abortion, yet through Canon Law, exonerates, forgives and protects from the criminal law of legitimate nations, paedophile priests who have  raped and ruined the lives of thousands of children. In his warped view, paedophile  priests are afflicted with an illness they cannot control!  It says much about the Catholic religion and its Canon Law; it considers gay relationships within the priesthood as  the most grievous of sins and  offending priests are to be excommunicated immediately! Yet those priests sodomising boys are protected by the Vatican while the victims are forced into silence.  As long as the paedophile priests  say extra hail marys after confession they will be protected forever by the Vatican.  This is the pope who has publicly stated that to ordain women as priests is an equivalent evil to sodomising children.

The Pope  visited African countries recently and warned against the evils of divorce and contraception but neglected to warn the people  about the paedophile priests who have been sent to that continent in their hundreds to shield them from certain imprisonment in Europe, Ireland,  America and other countries,  for the sexual abuse of innocents;  in order to protect the Vatican’s   vast assets and the reputation of the Catholic Church.  The welfare of the children so sexually abused is not considered.  It is estimated that when the child sexual abuse scandals do break in developing countries (in Asia as well) the total number of victims added to those already uncovered, could reach in excess of 100,000, and will as usual be the tip of the iceberg.

The little book with so much to say about Catholic paedophile priests and the Vatican ‘State’ which protects them

I bought a book on Saturday at one of my favourite   little book shops.  It is  adjacent  to the Sun Theatre in Yarraville and I often spend time looking for that special book  when I  go to a movie at the theatre.  This particular book is a ‘Penguin Special’ and is so up to date, it features the visit of  Pope Benedict to the UK in the last few days.  If you are, or have been,  a Catholic, this book will stun you.  I had believed the Vatican to be corrupt in the past, but I am absolutely incredulous at what the author has uncovered in his book.  That the pope and the officials at the Vatican could be so hypocritical and uninterested in the plight of all those hundreds of innocent victims is criminal.

The Vatican and the pope protect,  from outside scrutiny, their highly secret documents and decisions regarding  abusive priests, through the process of Canon Law and  constantly declare that the Vatican is a sovereign state and by definition beyond the reach of the national criminal law of other countries.  However, Geoffrey Robertson the author of  ‘The Case Of The Pope; Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse’ explores the legality of recognising the Vatican as a state.  He documents the vast numbers of child sex abuse cases around the globe which reached new heights during the reign of  the two previous popes before Pope Benedict, when he as Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Office of  Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   The three were a formidable team.  When the first sex abuse scandals involving numerous priests erupted in America in 2001, various cardinals, Bishops and other Vatican spokesmen blamed: “Jewish journalists working on the  New York Times”, “petty gossips”, “natural enemies” of Catholics, “the American problem”, modernity, “the media’s treatment of Catholic church leaders is comparable to Hitler’s treatment of the Jews”.  When scandals broke in Ireland these spokesmen had to re-think who to blame.

“……Congratulations sent to Bishop Pican, with the approval of Pope John 2nd and Cardinal Ratzinger, for refusing to  report his paedophile  priest to the police; congratulations were also circulated to bishops to encourage them to do likewise.  This really disposes of the  fallacious argument that the Vatican would be quite content for law enforcers to arrest its guilty priests.”

I won’t quote any more from the book because you really need to read the book to grasp the extent of the scandals and the extreme failure of the Catholic Church to protect the innocent.  It is all about the protection of reputations, and wealth; no matter what the pope tells the families in his audiences, children are well down the list of priorities in the Vatican machine.  You will be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of victims that individual priests abused.  The sections on the extensive results of research carried out into  celibacy and the effect on priests, the fact that around 80% of victims are boys,  and the lifelong consequences of the damage done to victims, is both heartbreaking and riveting.

How corrupt is the Vatican?  This so-called state which appears to be above international law, is currently being investigated for money laundering and several million dollars  have been seized! Robertson documents in detail how  the Holy See uses threats of excommunication towards Catholic politicians in foreign countries who do not follow the edicts of the pope and he explains graphically why e.g. the Catholic Church is so powerful in Australia.

You will also be amazed at how the Vatican and Holy See have managed to  maintain such a powerful hold over decisions made at the United Nations, World Health Organisation and other world groups even though the Vatican is not a recognised state: it has intervened time and again  to prevent family planning clinics from opening in third world countries and has banned the use of condoms for the prevention of aids.

reverse of book

The back cover

Read Opinion piece by Geoffrey Robertson QC Here:
Reverential fear’: The only reform that could tackle Catholic clerical sexual abuse
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