U.S. Media: For the Sake of Our Children, Stop Enabling Pope Francis and Tell the Truth
On June 11, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of three Chilean bishops. Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortazar and Cristian Caro Cordero had already offered their resignations when they turned 75, as do all bishops. The third, Juan Barros, involved in the biggest sex abuse scandal in Chile, had offered his resignation three times before, but the pope did not accept it until now.
When a bishop resigns, he keeps his title, income and honors.
This is how the U.S. mainstream media reacted:
Pope Francis has had a “change of heart,” said Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition. “It is “remarkable for any pope to say, I was wrong; I apologize; I seek forgiveness; I want to fix this,” said Inskeep.
“A remarkable reversal for Francis …. a new era is beginning in which bishops and the Church hierarchy will be held accountable for covering up and ignoring abuse,” noted Jason Horowitz in the New York Times.
“Pope Francis is starting to get it …. The pontiff included himself in the problem [of ignoring and covering up for pedophile priests] - ‘me first of all,’ he wrote,” stated an editorial in the Washington Post.
“Francis has become the first pope to refer to a ‘culture of abuse and cover-up’ in the Catholic Church,” proclaimed the Associated Press. (On May 31, Pope Francis had written, “'Never again' to the culture of abuse, as well as the system of cover-ups that allow it to perpetuate.” He thanked the victims for their "valiant perseverance" towards justice.)
On June 19, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, described as Pope Francis’ "top sex crimes expert," was asked whether he would make public a report he had prepared and delivered to the pope in April regarding the sex abuse scandal in Chile. He responded “the decision was up to Pope Francis, adding that the Church’s ‘freedom and autonomy’ should be respected.”
Scicluna, sent by the pope on a “healing" and "reconciliation" mission to Chile, said he had established a “listening service” for Church officials to hear the claims of survivors of clerical sex abuse. This "service" was denounced by the victims. “People are not going to be comfortable speaking to them about abuse when they are the same people who disregarded victims for years,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, survivor of Chile’s most notorious predator priest, Fr. Fernando Karadima. “The Church cannot be judge and jury. This is a backwards step,” said Eneas Espinoza, abused by a Marist brother. He said those with sex abuse claims should go to the police.
On May 15, Pope Francis scolded the Chilean bishops for their “grave negligence” in handling the sexual abuse of minors. It is necessary “to discover the dynamics that make it possible for such attitudes and evils to occur,” the pope wrote. He called on them “to take responsibility” for what happened.
On May 18, Pope Francis asked survivors of clerical sex abuse for forgiveness “from the bottom of my heart.”
On May 20, Pope Francis announced he was elevating Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer to cardinal. Last June, the pontiff promoted Ladaria to prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He had previously served as secretary, or second in command, of the congregation.
The CDF is the department responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine. (On May 30, Ladaria declared that banning women’s ordination is “definitive” Church teaching.) The congregation was assigned the additional responsibility of processing sex abuse cases in 2001. Bishops and religious superiors are required to submit all credible accusations to the CDF which decides how to proceed.
Ladaria was accused of covering up a child sex abuse scandal by a French court on April 4, 2018. French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin had sought advice about the case of Fr. Bernard Preynat, accused of being a serial predator, from Ladaria in 2015 when he was CDF secretary. Ladaria advised Barbarin to “avoid any public scandal.”
Far worse, last July, Ladaria was accused of covering up for Fr. Gianni Trotta. The CDF received complaints against Trotta in 2009 and took three years to find him guilty of child sex abuse in 2012. Trotta was removed from the priesthood but the CDF did not contact the civil authorities. In fact, Ladaria wrote to Trotta's bishop in 2012 instructing him not to divulge the reasons why Trotta had been laicized “so as to avoid scandal.”
Trotta continued to dress as a priest and became the coach of a youth soccer team.
Already convicted of sexual violence against an 11-year-old and sentenced to eight years in prison by a civil court, Trotta is now standing trial for nine other alleged cases of sex abuse against boys that occurred in 2014. “Trotta allegedly raped five, abused others in his home individually or in groups, photographing them during sexual acts.”
“If Ladaria had informed the police, these children would have been safe,” journalist and Vatican expert Emiliano Fittipaldi noted.
On May 2, “Pope Francis formally asked us for forgiveness, in his own name and on behalf of the universal Church,” three survivors of clerical sex abuse said in a statement after meeting with the pope. One survivor said the pope told him, “I was part of the problem, I caused this, and I apologize to you.”
On May 5, Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron, accused of rape and sexual assault of minors, “was given a place of honor at an event attended by Pope Francis.” This past February, Pope Francis had greeted Apuron “with affection, shaking the bishop’s hand and privately giving him a few words of encouragement.”
Apuron was accused by four former altar boys of rape and sexual assault in the 1970s. Apuron’s nephew filed a lawsuit Jan. 10, 2018, claiming that his uncle raped him in 1989 or 1990.
An official canonical [Church law] case against Apuron was first opened in 2008. Pope Francis removed Apuron from office in 2016, meaning he found the charges against the archbishop to be credible. His Vatican trial began in August 2017.
The Vatican found Apuron guilty on March 16, 2018, of “some [unspecified] charges.” The sentence was that he leave his position as archbishop of Guam and no longer reside there. “In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution.” Apuron made his appeal the next day.
Apuron has always remained a free man and retained his title, income and honors.
The allegations against Apuron are only a few of some 150 cases of clergy sexual abuse currently being brought against the Guam archdiocese. Patrick Wall, a canon lawyer, suggested the Vatican may have intentionally "backed off" any charges of direct sexual abuse against Apuron “in order to limit the Guam archdiocese's liability about its alleged mismanagement of abusive clergy.”
On Jan. 16, 2018, Pope Francis said, “It is right to make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again.”
On February 17, Pope Francis renewed his sex abuse commission which had “lapsed into an inactive state.” There would be “nine new members, some of whom are victims of sexual abuse,” according to the Vatican. No victims of sexual abuse have yet been named to the commission.
In noting the demise of the commission in 2017, Rete l'Abuso, the Italian association for the protection of people abused by the clergy, remembered that the commission had been instituted in 2014 as a response to the first time this pontiff was criticized by the media for obstructing the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
At the time of the commission’s renewal in February, Pope Francis had been widely criticized for calling sex abuse survivors liars. They had accused Bishop Juan Barros of covering-up for Fr. Karadima. Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of BishopAccountability.org, an online archive of the Church’s sex abuse scandal, said that “this defense of brother bishops is very consistent with Pope Francis’ record when he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires. And this dismissiveness towards victims and towards Catholics who complain about Barros is consistent with remarks he’s made when he’s been caught off-script.”
Unfortunately, in reconstituting the commission, Pope Francis “discarded some of the most active and independent members of the commission," said Marie Collins, a clerical sex abuse survivor who had previously resigned from the group. "Some of those who have gone were really the most active and had the most experience of working in child protection and working directly with survivors," she said.
On January 13, 2018, the Diocese of Scranton announced that Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles, as his special envoy to the 150th anniversary celebration of the founding of the diocese. While Mahony was head of the LA archdiocese, "hundreds of children were raped, sodomized, fondled and assaulted by hundreds of priests, nuns, brothers, seminarians and other Catholic employees, many of whom were deliberately and repeatedly moved and protected by Mahony and his top aides."
Pope Francis concelebrated a Mass with Mahony in the Vatican in January 2014, the same day the UN Committee on the Rights of Children began hearings in Geneva on "the Vatican's compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which obliges it to protect children from sexual violence and safeguard their well-being and dignity."
In noting this latest glimpse behind the “Pope Francis curtain,” survivors’ advocate, Joelle Casteix, also responded to the pope’s claim he made on Jan. 16, 2018, that he meets victims of sex abuse “several times a month on Fridays.” Casteix wrote, “Every survivor I know who has ever tried to get close to the Vatican (and I’m talking about very private people who just wanted the pope’s blessing and never uttered a peep that they even knew me) was ignored. And I would think that the survivor grapevine (and yes, there is one) would be buzzing if this were actually happening.”
Pope Francis also declared on January 16 that “The percentage of pedophiles who are Catholic priests does not reach 2 percent, it’s 1.6 percent. It is not that much.”
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recently released their findings that “7 percent of Catholic priests had been accused of abusing children in the six decades from 1950 to 2010. In some Catholic religious orders the figures were much higher: 40 per cent for the St John of God Brothers and 22 per cent for the Christian Brothers. Even the church acknowledges these figures are an understatement because many victims have never come forward and never will.”
The report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States,” was based solely on information provided by the bishops. It stated that “between 1960 and 2002 … the total for priests and deacons with allegations of child sexual abuse … resulted in a percentage slightly more than 4 percent.”
There are no other studies that I know of that examined the “percentage of pedophile priests.” There have been, however, numerous studies, reports, publications, commissions – in addition to the above - that have recommended concrete actions of what must be done to stop this horrific destruction of children’s lives.
“The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive Manner” was written in 1985 by Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P. J.C - at the time a canon lawyer employed in the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. - and F. Ray Mouton, J.D., a Louisiana attorney who had been hired by the diocese to defend the serial predator, Fr. Gilbert Gauthe. This document was sent to every U.S. bishop and to the Vatican.
Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children by Jason Berry was published in 1992.
The Boston Globe published a series of reports in 2002 on the sexual abuse of hundreds of Massachusetts’ children by priests, made famous by the movie “Spotlight.” Numerous reports followed in other newspapers about their own local scandals, as did government action.
Westchester County, New York, Grand Jury Report - 2002.
Suffolk County, New York, Grand Jury Report - 2003.
Attorney General Report from Manchester, New Hampshire - 2003.
Attorney General Report from Boston, Massachusetts - 2003.
Attorney General Report from Portland, Maine - 2003.
The Philadelphia Grand Jury Report - 2005.
From Ireland, three more government actions on clerical sex abuse:
Ferns Report, a report on the Diocese of Ferns - 2005.
Murphy Report, a report on the Dublin archdiocese – 2009.
Cloyne Report, a commission of investigation on Diocese of Cloyne – 2011
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (January 2014) "told Pope Francis that the pontifical secret led to the continuation of the abuse, to impunity of the perpetrators, and that to comply with the Treaty on the Rights of the Child he should abolish the secret." He should "order through canon law mandatory reporting to civil authority. Pope Francis rejected that request."
The UN Committee Against Torture (May 2014) “ordered the Vatican to hand over files containing details of clerical sexual abuse allegations to police forces around the world, … to use its authority over the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to ensure all allegations of clerical abuse are passed on to secular authorities and to impose ‘meaningful sanctions’ on any Church officials who fail to do so.”
Not reported by the U.S. mainstream media, on April 11, 2018, Pope Francis wrote: “As for my own responsibility, I acknowledge that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of [clerical sex abuse], especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information.”
All the above reports, publications, commissions from the 1985 Doyle/Mouton document to the Australian Royal Commission report released in December 2017 concur – if Pope Francis had bothered to read any, some or all - that a pope should take the following actions if he really wanted to protect our children:
- Bishops who cover-up sex abuse must be held accountable. In particular, Pope Francis can stop promoting prelates who have done so. In addition to Ladaria, he raised Archbishops Ricardo Ezzati and Gerhard Mueller to cardinal. He appointed Cardinals George Pell, Francisco Errazuriz, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga and Reinhard Marx to his Council of Cardinals. (see http://www.bishop-accountability.org/)
- Barros and Dutarte are the only active bishops Pope Francis has removed because of accusations they covered up for pedophile priests (it is still unclear why Caro was removed) and only because of the recent publicity surrounding the Chilean Church. Meanwhile, he has taken no action against any of 17 other bishops also credibly accused of complicity with abusive priests. A recent investigation in France exposed five additional pedophile-protecting bishops still in office. We should also question whether just removing a bishop while leaving them with their incomes and honors is a sufficient deterrent to other Catholic officials.
- Pope Francis should release the names of priests already convicted by the Vatican for sex abuse and order bishops to release the names of their employees found guilty of sex abuse, or would have been were it not for statutes of limitations. (“When a crime is committed, there is a window of time that a government prosecutor has to charge the perpetrator. The laws that determine this time frame are called criminal statutes of limitations. When the victim is a child, they may not realize the criminal nature of the experience until later in life.”)
- Pope Francis should order Vatican employees, bishops and their employees, to notify civil authorities when they receive a credible report of sex abuse.
- Pope Francis should order Vatican employees, bishops and their employees, to fully cooperate with civil authorities prosecuting cases of sex abuse.
The time for Pope Francis to take action is long overdue, but he will never do so as long as he continues to be shielded by his lapdog U.S. media. There is no greater proof of this protection than when, on May 20, Juan Carlos Cruz said Pope Francis told him that God had made him gay and loved him. One observer counted 20 U.S. secular news outlets headlining the story. "First prize went to the New York Times." It not only ran the story but also an approving editorial. It even selected Pope Francis’ remark as the “Quote of the Day.”
None reported that, on May 15, Pope Francis reprimanded the Chilean bishops because some had “entrusted” their seminaries “to priests suspected of active homosexuality.”
None reported that Pope Francis said on June 16 that “family in the image of God is only one, that of man and woman.”
Mission accomplished! From November 2017 to late May 2018, Pope Francis’ approval rating among Americans increased from 62.9 percent to 68.7 percent and the approval rating for his handling of sex abuse rose from 40.6 percent to 44.3 percent during the same period.
Regrettably for our children, the U.S. media is the most powerful and influential in the world. Therefore, this is no incentive for Pope Francis to act.