The Hypocrisy of the Catholic Church

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

As Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, was giving his keynote address at the opening of “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” the Vatican was hiding a Catholic priest diplomat wanted in the United States and Canada for accessing child pornography.  That’s not only hubris but hypocrisy of the highest order.

How can the Vatican Secretary of State speak credibly about the Catholic Church’s commitment to the online safety of children when it is harboring someone who is wanted for child pornography?

Italian Monsignor Carlo Capella was recalled to the Vatican from his post at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible crimes. Police in Canada also issued a nationwide warrant for the monsignor’s arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography while he was visiting Canada.

Parolin said the Vatican was treating the Capella case with “utmost concern, utmost commitment” but also confidentiality to protect the integrity of the investigation. He spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Catholic Church-sponsored conference on protecting children from online threats.

Canadian police have issued an arrest warrant for Capella, accusing him of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography during a visit to an Ontario church over Christmas. He is now in the Vatican after being recalled from the Vatican’s embassy in the U.S.

Vatican prosecutors have also opened an investigation into Capella’s actions.

Parolin — Capella’s boss — headlined the opening of the four-day conference on protecting children online that has drawn leading researchers in public health, Interpol, the U.N., government representatives as well as executives from Facebook and Microsoft.  It’s time for these folks to demand the Church act in the best interests of children.

The cognitive dissonance was not lost on the media who immediately pounced on the church’s mode of saying one thing and doing another.  At this point, the church has little credibility in advocating for the welfare of children.  It talks a good game but its actions always belie the words spoken.

Unless and until the church stops protecting suspected criminals it will have no credibility with the public.  The bottom line is that the church has always been more concerned with protecting the institution rather than protecting children.  That has not changed and I suspect it won’t change until the church feels the effects of its actions in terms of financial support.  Perhaps once the money dries up the church will begin to listen to the world and accept its fate.  Until then, law enforcement officials and the justice system must hold the church and its officials accountable for their misdeeds.  We are well beyond hoping the church will reform or police itself.

 

Photo Credit via Telegraph.co.uk

Papal Regret and the Italian Priest Whom the Pope Gave a Second Chance

Mauro Inzoli

In a recent meeting with his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis expressed regret over his handling of sexual abuse allegations involving an Italian priest who molested again after being granted a papal reprieve.

The Pope told the Commission that he was “learning on the job” and has now come to believe that a credible allegation of sexual abuse against a minor or vulnerable person should allow for no second chances.

“Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness,” he told his advisory commission on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president – Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston – were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary assembly.

After nearly two decades of being in the spotlight for its role in the sexual abuse of children, it is difficult to believe that Pope Francis is only now learning that zero tolerance in sex abuse cases is the only path.  His remarks strain credulity when he makes remarks that make him appear to be a neophyte who had no previous dealings with such issues.

As in all matters pertaining to Catholic sexual abuse, we’ll have to wait and see if the papal remarks are supported by action.  The most recent remarks stem from Francis’ handling of the Mauro Inzoli case.  Mauro Inzoli, 67, was initially defrocked in 2012 after he was first accused of abusing minors, but Francis reversed that decision in 2014, ordering the priest to stay away from children and retire to “a life of prayer and humble discretion.”

Inzoli, who was also dubbed Don Mercedes because of his love of luxury cars, was found guilty last year by an Italian court of eight counts of sexual abuse of children aged 12 to 16. He reportedly paid $28,000 in compensation to five victims he molested between 2004 and 2008.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI first moved to defrock Inzoli but Francis decided to give him another chance.

The decision proved to be a disaster as Inzoli abused again.  While the Pope expresses regret for the fateful decision, what about the person Inzoli abused?  It’s one thing to express regret to your own Commission.  It would be quite another to reach out and try to help the young person Francis allowed Inzoli to abuse.

 

Photo Credit via La Stampa

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Announce a Sexual Abuse Compensation Plan

Catholic-Diocese-of-Brooklyn

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced last week that it will offer a sexual abuse victim compensation plan similar to the one the Archdiocese of New York began last year.

The Brooklyn program will initially consider the cases of about 280 abuse victims already known to the diocese, for claims of abuse that date to the 1930s.

At least 54 priests in the Brooklyn diocese, which also includes Queens, have been accused of child sexual abuse

The compensation program is intended for those whose accusations do not fall within New York State’s statute of limitations for bringing a legal or civil case for molestation, which requires victims take action before age 23.

The Brooklyn Queens Diocese released the following information:

“The Diocese has already begun reaching out to survivors who have previously reported abuse by a diocesan clergy member. These known survivors are invited to participate in Phase I of the IRCP. In the next few days, these individuals will be receiving further information by mail from Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros with details about the IRCP process and instructions for submitting a claim. (The deadline for filing a claim in Phase I of the IRCP isSeptember 30, 2017.)

Those who may come forward with a previously unreported allegation of abuse will be eligible to participate in Phase II by first registering through the program’s website to receive information for Phase II when it becomes available.”

The Catholic Church has relied on the statute of limitations to get lawsuits dismissed and avoid paying any money to those who have come forward to report being sexually abused by catholic priests. Now it appears that there is an opportunity to recovery compensation for those harmed by priests.

I represent survivors from many states in the Union and have found the Diocese of Brooklyn to be one of the most difficult dioceses in the country when it comes to sexual abuse survivors.  They’ve been aggressive in refusing to help survivors and in some cases claiming that the survivors’ allegations are unfounded without having done any investigation.

Our firm is accepting new cases for survivors of childhood sex abuse by priests that occurred in Brooklyn and Queens no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

Catholic Church Reports Dramatic Rise in Sexual Abuse Claims Last Year

Sex Abuse Claims Rise in Chatholic Church

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Catholic Church in the United States experienced a sharp increase in abuse claims last year.  It is the largest rise since the country’s Catholic bishops began keeping tallies of claims in 2004.

The annual report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which covers July 2015 to June 2016, said 911 victims came forward with allegations the church deemed credible, the vast majority of which were from adults who said they were abused when they were children.  The bishops’ report noted that the previous year there were only 384 claims of abuse.

The report attributed the rise in claims to Minnesota, the state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations in 2013 to allow alleged victims older than 24 to sue for past abuse, and the deadline to file such claims was in late May 2016.

However, other factors such as the documentary film Spotlight which served to bring the issue back into the forefront of public attention.

Victims who came forward during the most recent reporting year included 26 minors, the report said.

The report’s definition of “minors” included people under age 18 or anyone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”

As of June 30, 2016, two of the 26 cases had been substantiated, while 11 had been deemed unsubstantiated by church officials. The rest remained under investigation, the report said.

The offenders in the substantiated cases were removed from ministry, as were 26 other priests or deacons accused of past abuse, officials said.

The report did not break down the location of the allegations but said its data was based on information from all 196 diocese and eparchies of the bishops conference and from 180 of the 232 religious institutes of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The latest figures mean that between 1950 and June 2016, more than 18,500 people nationwide made clergy abuse allegations deemed credible by US Catholic officials, and more than 6,700 clerics have been accused of abuse, church records show.

Activists have questioned whether the church’s count of clergy sex abuse victims is lower than the actual total.  The Media Report, a conservative online site, hit back against the Globe’s article accusing the newspaper of attempting to keep an old story alive by rehashing old news and false claims.  Of course, they also include the obligatory criticism of lawyers.  The truth of the matter is this:  lawyers who are involved in this fight for justice are doing it to help the survivors of sexual abuse and those who come forward show a great deal of courage and their claims have been shown to be true.

Pennsylvania Diocese Collaborates with Feds to Curb Child Sex Abuse

US Attorney of Pennsylvania Collaborating with Catholic Diocese

At least that’s what officials of the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in Pennsylvania want all of us to believe.  Earlier this month, the bishop and the acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song held a press conference to announce their collaboration on preventing further child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

“This is a memorandum of understanding, it is not a court document,” Song said. “What we found is that the diocese was a willing partner.”

While the new partners appear willing to cooperate such ventures in the past in other dioceses have led to frustration on the part of secular authorities.  After a withering grand jury investigation which revealed that two former bishops of the small Pennsylvania diocese had cover-up past cases of child sex abuse by priests, the diocese is in sore need of good news.  While it is too early to know whether the present bishop is sincere, past announcements, including the Pope’s own commission, have led to recriminations, resignations by lay members, and accusations of obfuscation and secrecy.

During their joint press conference, the US attorney and the bishop announced the following reforms:

  • The creation of an independent, multidisciplinary oversight board that will include a former U.S. attorney and a Lutheran clergyman;
  • The retention of an outside expert to develop a new, comprehensive child abuse prevention program;
  • A reporting protocol that requires the diocese to report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement within 12 hours after receipt;
  • Taking immediate steps to prevent any contact with minors by the suspected perpetrators;
  • Placing clergy on personnel or administrative leave within 24 hours of notice of a credible allegation of child sexual abuse;
  • Counseling and support services for victims by qualified and independent mental health professionals chosen by the victims.

During the press conference, US Attorney Song referred to the reform measures as “unprecedented” which may be true in Altoona-Johnstown but similar measures have been announced and failed miserably in other dioceses around the United States.  Time will tell if the parties are sincere and able to work together to protect children.  As an attorney advocate for abuse survivors, I’ve learned from experience that the Church is unable and unwilling to police itself.

Guam’s Former Archbishop Hiding in the United States

The Vatican announced recently that a canonical trial has commenced concerning Guam’s former Archbishop Apuron and the trial will be lengthy, perhaps spanning several years.

However, that contradicts what media outlets have discovered.  Under the guise of searching for a missing dog, reporters have located Archbishop living in a two-story house in Fairfield, California.  There is video footage circulating on the Internet and this new revelation makes it difficult to square with the Vatican’s assertion that there is indeed a canonical trial involving Archbishop Apuron.  How do I know this?  I was involved in a canonical trial in connection with my representation of a sexual abuse survivor a few years ago.

A canonical trial, like most civil or criminal trials, requires the presence or at least the participation of all parties involved in the case.

The Catholic Church has responded through Apuron’s lawyer concerning his whereabouts, sort of.  This afternoon, Attorney Jacque Terlaje provided a statement to KUAM: “As you are aware, I am legal counsel for Archbishop Anthony Apuron, OFM Cap. D.D. In response to your inquires(sic) regarding his whereabouts, the Archbishop is in a location where he is able to continue working on defending his innocence without distraction.”

What does that statement mean?  It seems to me that if Apuron were innocent of any wrongdoing in the Guam sexual abuse tragedy, he’d be in Rome defending himself.  He certainly wouldn’t be hiding in a previously undisclosed location in California.

For abuse survivors, Archbishop Apuron’s reticence has all the markings of what survivors have come to expect from the Catholic Church-cover-up, obfuscation, and a public relations campaign that is no better than a “don’t confuse me with the facts” campaign.  This only weakens the Church’s position in handling sex abuse cases.  It fans the flames of justice which inch closer and closer to the former Archbishop himself.

Photo Credit via Guam Archdiocese’s Website

Pope’s Actions Contradicting His Words

Pope Francis Actions Contradicting His Words

On January 2nd, Pope Francis released a letter reminding the world’s Catholic bishops that he will not tolerate any tolerance of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests.  The letter was dated December 28th.  In the letter, Pope Francis is unequivocal about the issue and if you were to judge him solely on his written words, you’d have to conclude that he was serious about stamping out clergy sexual abuse.

Yet, the press have caught Francis in at least two instances where his actions directly contradict his words.  The first incident involves Italian priest Nicola Corradi who, along with four other men, was arrested in November for sexually abusing hearing impaired children.  All but Corradi were sanctioned by the Vatican.  This was not the first time Corradi’s name had been linked to the sexual abuse of children at the school.  He was named along with other priests in 2009 for abusing children.  The students from the school sent a personal letter in 2014 directly to the Pope asking him to do something about Corradi, who was living in Argentina, the Pope’s native country.  The Pope did nothing with the letter.  In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that the Vatican acknowledged its existence.

Pope Francis Oddly Reinstates Mauro Inzoli Despite Sexual Abuse History

Mauro “Don Mercedes” Inzoli

The second instance is perhaps more troubling and indicates a papal mindset that should be deeply troubling to those of us concerned with child safety.  It involves the case of Mauro Inzoli or “Don Mercedes” as he was known for his flamboyant lifestyle.  Pope Benedict had defrocked him in 2012 for child sexual abuse.  In 2014, Pope Francis took the highly unusual step of reinstating Inzoli as a priest.  Michael Brendan Dougherty, writing in The Week wrote,

But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.

This summer, civil authorities finished their own trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses. Another 15 lay beyond the statute of limitations. The Italian press hammered the Vatican, specifically the CDF, for not sharing the information they had found in their canonical trial with civil authorities. Of course, the pope himself could have allowed the CDF to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired.”

Dougherty intimates that Pope Francis in speaking one way but doing the opposite is more of a Machiavellian figure than a vicar of Christ.  He’s not the only writer to come to that conclusion.  Rod Dreher, writing on the same topic, concludes, “As ever with church leaders who talk about reform, don’t listen to what they say, but rather watch what they do.”

Photo Credit By Tânia Rêgo/ABr (Agência Brasil) via Wikimedia Commons

 

Guam’s Governor Lifts Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Cases

Gov. Eddie Calvo has signed into law signed bill 326 into Public Law 33-187, effectively allowing sexual abuse survivors to bring perpetrators and the institutions that protected them to justice.  In signing the legislation, Calvo penned a letter of explanation to the people of Guam.

“I am a practicing but imperfect Catholic; a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and son; a Chamorro man, who believes in second chances, yet has no tolerance for those who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable, the children. Thanks to the trust of our people, I’m also the governor. And on days like this, when my different roles may not join in harmonious conviction, I am resolute about this decision. It comes after days of listening to very different opinions, hearing the cries, considering the consequences, separating one issue from another and then reconciling it all within my conscience. So, today, though I am pleased that our community has confronted what once was unthinkable, I am saddened that even a single injustice had to happen in order to make this law necessary. There are no winners. Justice is the only victory.”

Gov. Calvo got it right.  In spite of fierce pressure from the Catholic Church in Guam, Calvo kept the interests and welfare of abuse victims foremost in his mind.  In signing the bill, Calvo admitted that the retroactivity (survivors can sue their abusers and the institutions that protected them even if the abuse occurred many years ago) section of the bill may face technical and constitutional hurdles.

In lobbying the Governor to veto the bill, the Catholic Church argued that passage of the bill may bankrupt the Archdiocese.  However, Calvo remained resolute and brushed aside the Church’s lobbying efforts.  

Governor Calvo should be praised for his conviction and his courage.  If only some of our own stateside governors would have the same qualities.

Six of Eight Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses Subpoenaed in Sex Abuse Probe

An investigation into the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis in Pennsylvania has reached a new and unprecedented height of scrutiny.  Last week, four more Catholic dioceses received subpoenas regarding child sexual abuse including Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.  The diocese of Harrisburg is already part of the probe.  The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese did not get a subpoena because the attorney general’s office released its grand jury report of that region in March. The report led to charges against three Franciscan friars for alleged child endangerment and criminal conspiracy. The agency also set up a hotline for people to call to report abuse claims across the state.

The Diocese of Allentown would not confirm or deny receipt of a subpoena. The diocese is presently dealing with a related crisis-a pastor has been arrested for possessing child pornography.

In 2005 and 2011, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was the subject of two grand jury reports which detailed the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests as well as the cover-up of Philadelphia’s archbishops dating back into the 1950’s.

Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Rozzi, a sex abuse survivor himself, has already testified before a grand jury and will hold a news conference this week about a new legislative proposal that would change the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases.

In light of the statewide probe of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, the state’s Catholic Conference may have a more difficult time fighting the legislation and protecting an institution that has covered up abuse and corruption for years.  The New York Catholic Conference was successful in blocking similar legislation but it didn’t do so in the light of a statewide investigation.  

Testimony in all six dioceses will begin soon and Rozzi believes Keystone state citizens will be shocked by the magnitude of the problem.  Rozzi told one media outlet, “people are going to be really, really shocked” when the Pennsylvania Attorney General uncovers their findings.

Image courtesy of http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/

Priest Abuse in the Diocese of Harrisburg

First, it was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Then, a grand jury revealed scores of sexual abuse incidents in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.  Now, the Diocese of Harrisburg is in the spotlight for priest sexual abuse.

In fact, it was the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report that led investigators to look into the Diocese of Harrisburg.  The York Daily Record’s investigation compelled diocesan officials to reveal details about 15 priests accused of sexual abuse. Read More