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Analysis: In spite of itself, Vatican abuse summit may still do some good

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 12:32 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s abuse summit this week will not solve the problems plaguing the Catholic Church in the U.S.

In fact, it doesn’t aim to.

The summit was called by Pope Francis in September, shortly after he was accused of ignoring reports about the predatory behavior of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

But from the beginning, Pope Francis and meeting organizers have been disinclined to include in the summit's schedule any discussion of the issues the Church in the U.S. faces.

Conference organizers, including Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, have insisted even this week that the summit will not discuss predatory homosexual behavior.
 
In a Feb. 22 press conference, Archbishop Charles Scicluna went so far as to acknowledge a reporter’s point that homosexual behavior in seminaries fosters a culture of cover-up, before he said, curtly, that “this has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of minors.”

Scicluna said this despite McCarrick’s coercion of both vulnerable seminarians and teenaged boys, and despite the fact that most clerical abuse of minors in the West has targeted post-pubescent boys.

In fact, the first reported victim of McCarrick was 16 and 17 at the time he was abused.

Is it possible to focus discussion so myopically and insistently on child sexual abuse as to ignore the idea that sexually abusing a 17-year-old might have something to do with sexual immorality among adults?

Will Catholics accept the presupposition that those who sexually abuse 17-year-olds have an entire different moral or psychological pathology than those who sexually abuse 18-year-olds, or who coerce them into the veneer of consent against the backdrop of an extraordinary power imbalance?

Those ideas, many Catholics will conclude, simply belie credibility.

The summit will also not discuss in-depth the need for mechanisms of accountability for negligent or malfeasant bishops, despite the fact that McCarrick’s behavior went unchecked even after it was reported multiple times, and the fact that several U.S. bishops now face charges of negligence or misconduct.

While Cupich gave a presentation on some approaches to procedural investigations, he presented only the plan that would vest investigative responsibility for bishops only in their archbishops, though lay experts, including the National Review Board in the U.S., have supported alternative proposals.

His address did not mention the potential for metropolitans to incur significant legal liability through the so-called “metropolitan model,” though this is a point of considerable importance with regard to the Church in the U.S.

Critics of the summit charge that the pope called this meeting mostly as a diversion from the accusations of negligence he’s faced personally, stemming from his handling of accused prelates in the U.S., South America, and Europe. The pope still faces questions about his handling of the cases of Chile’s Bishop Juan Barros, McCarrick, Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, whom Francis promoted despite evidence of serious sexual malfeasance, among others.

But even if the narrow focus of this meeting is intended to change the topic of global conversation, this week’s abuse summit can still do some real good for children around the world. There is a serious need for safeguarding policies in most of the developing world, and introducing them in the Church may catalyze their more widespread adoption.

But by design, the Vatican summit won’t answer the issues embroiling local churches in the U.S. And Catholics are especially frustrated because when U.S. bishops attempted to vote on a reform package in November, they were stopped by the Vatican, and advised to wait until after this week’s meeting. Now some bishops wonder what, exactly, they were supposed to be waiting for.

Real reform in the diocese of the U.S., it is becoming clear, will depend a great deal on local bishops making local changes in their local churches. Last month, the Archbishop of Baltimore announced a comprehensive whistleblower policy for his diocese, rather than wait for one to be introduced nationally. Other bishops can follow suit.

In response to the crisis, they can also develop more exacting local norms for screening seminary candidates, take up new approaches to leadership of their priests and lay employees, and they can commit to making themselves accountable to independent lay leaders.

The work of the Church continues in this country, even amid the crisis it faces. Catholic schools continue to educate millions of students, many of them poor. Catholic charities continue to serve the homeless, the undocumented, and the unseen. Catholic hospitals continue to treat the uninsured. And Catholic parishes continue striving to love the unloved- those whom Pope Francis says live on the “existential peripheries” of our society. The Church does all this in service to the Gospel it professes. But to continue to do so with credibility, the sexual abuse crisis must be addressed.

Neither the Vatican nor the national bishops’ conference has yet acted decisively to address the full scope of the crisis. And this week, the Vatican seems to have demonstrated key components of the crisis. But local bishops can, and without waiting for anyone else to act. Some have already begun that work, and the rest may soon be convinced to join them.

 

Women of Catholic Worker Movement on prayerful pilgrimage for abuse summit

Rome, Italy, Feb 22, 2019 / 05:02 am (CNA).- American women from the Catholic Worker Movement are in Rome this week to pray for the Vatican’s sexual abuse summit in emulation of Dorothy Day’s Roman pilgrimage to fast and pray for peace.

“We've all been very deeply grieved by the sex abuse crisis, and the crisis it has created for the entire Church,” Catholic Worker Movement leader Johanna Berrigan told CNA Feb. 21.

“It just dawned on us that this would be an important time to be in Rome, to bear witness to the suffering Church that we care deeply about and … we wanted to address ways for reform,” she said.

Through her involvement in the Catholic Worker Movement, a group dedicated to aiding and advocating for the poor, Berrigan co-founded the Catholic Worker Free Clinic for homeless and uninsured adults in Philadelphia in 1991 and opened another medical clinic in Haiti in 2005.

Berrigan, along with six other women, decided in November that they wanted to be in Rome as the summit was happening to pray and to give a voice to women, mothers, and lay people in the Vatican’s discussion of the issue.

“When we first heard about it, it was strictly bishops that were invited, we have since learned that there has been some lay involvement,” Berrigan explained.

Three of the nine official speakers at the Vatican sex abuse summit Feb. 21 - 24 are women, one of whom is a religious sister from Nigeria, Sister Veronica Openibo.

On the first day of the summit, the women were invited for a surprise visit to the US Embassy to the Holy See, where they met with Ambassador Callista Gingrich to discuss their perspective on the sex abuse crisis.

The seven Catholic Worker Movement women on pilgrimage meet each day to decide which historic churches they should visit to pray for the summit.

“We have an example in Dorothy Day, our foundress, who came to Rome in another significant point in the Church's history and she and a delegation of women came on pilgrimage to fast and pray for the Church to recognize 'conscientious objection,' and really calling for an end to nuclear weapons. So we have that in our history,” Berrigan said.

Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization has been opened, founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933, starting soup kitchens, farm communities, and a Catholic newspaper. She dedicated her life to aiding and advocating for the poor and leading a life characterized by voluntary poverty and works of mercy.

During their time in Rome, the Catholic Worker Movement women attended a sex abuse survivors’ vigil sponsored by Ending Clergy Abuse Feb. 21 in solidarity with victims.

At the vigil, the women called for justice for survivors and an end to clericalism, as well as truth, reconciliation and healing for the entire Church.

“We care deeply about this Church, we are very, very grateful that Pope Francis has called this summit. It seems to be a step forward,” Berrigan said.

“The world is watching ... people of all faiths are watching to see what the outcome of [this summit] is going to be,” she said.

Tagle: Confront the 'stench of filth' caused by abuse

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- An expert on abuse prevention offered “practical suggestions” to participants at a Vatican summit on child sexual abuse on Thursday, while two cardinals encouraged bishops to work together to support victims of clerical abuse.

Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told the Vatican’s Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences on Safeguarding of Minors that bishops should make know that Catholics have both “the duty and the right” to report any sort of clerical sexual misconduct or abuse to Church officials.

Scicluna advised that the contact information for Church leaders be made publicly available and easy to access. He called for the establishment of protocols governing how the Church handles abuse, and he encouraged Church leaders to cooperate with civil authorities and other experts on abuse.

“It is important that every allegation is investigated with the help of experts and that the investigation is concluded without unnecessary delay,” he said. He also noted that the practice of establishing review boards and safeguarding commissions has “proved to be beneficial” in areas where this is commonplace.

It can be helpful for bishops to work together and share their experiences in how they have dealt with their priests being accused of abuse, explained Scicluna.

“As shepherds of the Lord’s flock we should not underestimate the need to confront ourselves with the deep wounds inflicted on victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy,” he said, and said that bishops need to be like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Christ carry the cross, by assisting abuse victims who carry the cross of their abuse.

Scicluna, a canon lawyer, also called for just canonical processes that respect the rights of accused clerics.

“The essence of a just process requires that the accused is presented with all arguments and evidence against him; that the accused is given the full benefit of the right of presenting his defense; that judgement is given based on the facts of the case and the law applicable to the case; that a reasoned judgement or decision is communicated in writing to the accused and that the accused enjoy a remedy against a judgement or decision that aggrieves him,” said Scicluna.

A canonical penal process can have three results, explained Scicluna: one in which the accused is guilty; one in which neither the guilt nor innocence of the accused can be proven; or one in which the accused is exonerated.

While the guilty and innocent verdicts are relatively easy for a bishop to digest, a verdict of decisio dismissoria, where the guilt of the accused is unclear, can be problematic for bishops to deal with, Scicluna explained. In these situations, particularly when a claim of abuse is credible but not proven, a bishop or religious superior should exercise prudence, and consult with experts in deciding what to do next. Whatever step is taken, Scicluna said, it should be guaranteed that children and young people will be kept safe.

“An essential aspect of the exercise of stewardship in these cases is the proper interface with civil jurisdiction,” said Scicluna.

Misconduct that rises to a criminal level must be reported to state authorities, who can proceed to investigate the claim and punish the crime or award damages to victims. Bishops should be aware, he explained, that the conclusion of a criminal investigation and a canonical penal process may be different, and that there are different standards of evidence in these systems, as well as different statutes of limitations.

Working with civil authorities can help better safeguard children, he explained. Scicluna cited the example of a priest accused of possessing child pornography as a situation in which civil authorities are likely better equipped to investigate and charge someone than a Church official.

Scicluna encouraged his brother bishops to focus their efforts on preventing sexual abuse, which he said is achieved through a more thorough screening process of candidates for seminary, particularly on the topics of celibacy and chastity.

“A just and balanced understanding of the demands of priestly celibacy and chastity should be underpinned by a profound and healthy formation in human freedom and sound moral doctrine,” said Scicluna. Those studying to be priests need to “nurture and grow in that spiritual fatherhood” that should be their motivation for their work in ministry.

Bishops and religious superiors should also embrace a sense of spiritual fatherhood, he said, through the priests they lead. A good bishop will lead by example, and will follow abuse protocols and codes of conduct.

“Above all, the ordinary is responsible in guaranteeing and promoting the personal, physical, mental and spiritual well-being of his priests.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila said in his Thursday address that bishops need to better understand the wounds caused by clerical sexual abuse, adding that he fears that bishops have “found the stench of filth inflicted on children and vulnerable people (they) were supposed to protect” to be “too strong to endure.”

Tagle drew inspiration from the Gospel story where Thomas doubts that Jesus has resurrected, and has to touch the wounds of Christ before he can proclaim that the Lord is his God. The action of touching Christ’s wounds was “fundamental to the act and confession of faith.”

Like Thomas, Tagle thinks that the bishops need to be “constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity,” which they can do by confronting the abuse crisis, their failings, and by providing assistance to those who are hurting.

“Our people need us to draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults if we are to give authentic and credible witness to our faith in the Resurrection,” said Tagle. He encouraged people to discard any fears of being wounded and to instead “draw close to the wounds of our people.”

Tagle argued that a two-pronged approach for both justice for those who were abused, as well as forgiveness for abusers is the best way for the Church to move forward in confronting the abuse crisis. He said it is not necessary to think in “either/or” terms, but rather, he advocates for a mentality of “both/and.”

“Regarding victims, we need to help them express their deep hearts and to heal from them,” said Tagle. “Regarding the perpetrators, we need to serve justice, help them to face the truth without rationalization, and at the same time not neglect their inner world, their own wounds.”

Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota condemned a culture of clericalism as the “deeper root” of the abuse crisis. Clericalism, he said, is a force that converts ministry “into a means to impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest.”

Clericalism, said Gómez, has led to “serious errors of authority” and has exacerbated the abuse crisis in the Church. Bishops are “hardly ever aware” that clericalism underlies their ministry, he said, and there must be an effort to “unmask” this mentality and bring about positive changes.

Bishops are responsible for increasing their own awareness that they are dependent upon each other, and that the Church and her bishops have failed in the past in their response to abuse.

“We often proceed like the hirelings, who, on seeing the wolf coming, flee and leave the flock unprotected,” said Gómez. “Fleeing,” he said, took the form of ignoring claims of abuse, failing to assist survivors of abuse, or attempting to silence survivors with monetary settlements. This “clerical mentality” places the Church above both justice and the suffering experienced by those who were abused, he explained.

In order to effectively protect the vulnerable, Gómez called for both a unified front among the bishops, as well as a “Code of Conduct” for bishops that provides a framework for the best way to handle allegations of abuse by members of the clergy.

“Its obligatory nature will be a guarantee that we all act in unison and in the right direction, since it gives us clear norms to control our conduct and provides concrete suggestions for the necessary corrective measures,” he said, and also pointed out that this code of conduct would be “a concrete way of strengthening the communion that is born of episcopal collegiality.”

 

Polish sex abuse victims meet Pope Francis, release abuse report

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- A Polish delegation of sex abuse victims and advocates met Pope Francis Wednesday, and presented the pope with a report documenting alleged clergy sexual abuse cases and cover-up throughout their country.

“It was a very powerful moment for … [the] victims in Poland to see this gesture,” Anna Frankowska, a board member of the Have No Fear foundation, told CNA Feb. 21.

The pope met a delegation from Have No Fear, a Polish organization that hosts support groups for sex abuse victims, after his General Audience Feb. 20, and Francis silently kissed the founder’s hand.

“We recognize that is a very symbolic gesture, but it is not enough. We are demanding specific action,” Frankowska said.

The Polish group presented the pope with a Spanish copy of a report published this week documenting alleged “violations of civil and canon law by Polish bishops in the context of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of minors,” and said that Pope Francis “confirmed that he would read it.”

The report documents more than 20 cases of clergy sexual abuse and the responses by their respective Polish bishops. Unlike recent reports of clergy abuse in the United States, the documented cases are not from the 1960s-80s, but only come from the last three decades.

In the report, Have No Fear accuses 24 former and current Polish bishops of having protected or transferred child-abusing priests.

“Since 2005, the Catholic Church has been particularly involved in efforts to protect children and young people against sexual abuse by clerics,” a Polish bishops' conference document states.

At least 11 of the cases listed in the report occurred after 2005, and four are alleged to have taken place as recently as 2011-2012.

In one case, a priest who had been convicted and sentenced to prison in the United States for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 2005, was deported to Poland, where he served as a parish priest working with young people beginning in 2009, and worked as a religious educator in a middle school.

The priest, Father Roman Kramek, testified to U.S. police that “he had intercourse as a therapeutic tool in order to help the girl forget an earlier rape,” according to the report.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was notified of the case nearly ten years later, in October 2018, and Kramek continues to serve as a parish priest in Poland, according to Have No Fear.

The Polish bishops' conference responded to the report by “strongly and decisively condemn[ing] all sexual abuse of minors in the Church and in society as a whole.”

“In the Catholic Church, every believer can present his case to the Holy Father as the Supreme Pastor. The Holy See, on the other hand, has the opportunity to evaluate and verify reported cases,” Polish bishops’ spokesman Father Pawel Rytel-Andianik told CNA.

“According to the Church and civil law, there is the principle of presumed innocence of a person until the contrary is proven,” he said, adding that various dioceses in Poland were already claiming misinformation in the report.

Recently, the Polish bishops' conference took additional steps to further develop prevention programs and meet with victims.

In August 2018, diocesan bishops in Poland decided to develop a prevention program for every Polish diocese against crimes of sexual abuse of children.

A Child Protection Center was established in 2014 to provide “training and educational activities in the psychological, pedagogical and spiritual fields related to the sexual abuse of minors and the preparation and development of prevention programs and examples of good practice for various pastoral, formative and educational environments in order to help them create safe environments for children and adolescents.”

Have No Fear was founded in 2013 and became affiliated with the international network Ending Clergy Abuse in 2016. The group updates a “Map of Clerical Abuse in Poland” online, which maps out 384 victims, 85 convicted perpetrators, and 95 instances of abuse reported by victims.

In the past year, the organization delivered a letter to Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezo requesting the establishment of an independent committee to analyze the scale of clerical sex abuse in Poland, abolish the statute of limitations for such offenses, hold accountable perpetrators and their superiors who conceal abuse, and provide victims of abuse with full access to the files of their canon law proceedings.

“We look in particular to the situation in Chile, where the pope dismissed bishops. We think that the situation in Poland is quite similar to the situation in Chile, and the time to act is now,” Frankowska told CNA.

Last May all of the bishops of Chile presented Pope Francis with written resignations following a CDF investigation into episcopal cover-up of the sexual abuse of Father Fernando Karadima.

“We believe that we are still years behind other jurisdictions,” she continued. “For a long time victims were ostracized or were afraid to speak out. Things are slowly changing.”

Pope proposes 21 'reflection points' for discussion at abuse summit

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 11:56 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Thursday gave participants in a Vatican summit on protection of minors in the Church a list of nearly two dozen discussion points for actions Catholic Church leaders could potentially take in the follow-up to the meeting.

The pope said during opening remarks Feb. 21 that the criteria were formulated by various bishops’ conferences and organized by him into the list, stating they are “guidelines to assist in our reflection” and “a simple point of departure.”

The 21 points include suggestions to have periodic reviews of protocols on safeguarding, handbooks of steps authorities should take in abuse cases, provisions for facilitating the participation of lay experts in investigations, and the direction to inform civil authorities and higher Church authorities in compliance with civil and canonical norms.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, responding to questions from journalists in the afternoon on Thursday said the points are complete, and a “roadmap” for the bishops’ discussions this week.

He also said that were they to be made into concrete proposals, they would need “substantial revision.”

In regard to one point, that broaches the idea of amending the Code of Canon Law to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 14 to 16, Scicluna clarified that bishops' conferences already have the power to create their own legislation in regard to the minimum marriageable age, and that many had already raised the age to 16 for both men and women.

“The pope is suggesting making that universal law,” Scicluna said.
 
Other points the pope raised in the list were to “accompany, protect and treat victims, offering them all the necessary support for a complete recovery” and to establish easily-accessible groups made up of experts, including both clerics and laypeople, to which victims can report crimes.

Several of the suggestions are on the theme of seminary formation of priests and the proper penalties for priests or religious who commit abuse.

One suggests initial and ongoing formation for seminarians and candidates for religious life, to help them “develop their human, spiritual and psychosexual maturity, as well as their interpersonal relationships and behavior.”

Another recommends observing “the traditional principle of proportionality of punishment with respect to the crime committed” and another recalls the right to defense and the importance of the presumption of innocence.

“Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the lists of the accused being published, even by the dioceses, before the preliminary investigation and the definitive condemnation,” it states.

Scicluna, a canon lawyer and adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, agreed. In reference to a question about releasing names of accused clergy, Scicluna said, “for simple allegations, it is my opinion it is premature.”

“You need a credible allegation as the lowest threshold,” he said, in order to not cause undue harm to someone’s good name. “We’re for disclosure, but in the right way. It’s legitimate to declare there are credible allegations.”

Peter Isley, victim of clergy sexual abuse and a spokesperson for “End Clergy Abuse” responded to the 21 reflection points, calling them “not very concrete points.”

“I’ll tell you what the roadmap in here is, it’s a circle,” he told journalists Feb. 21.

Isley was vocal in his opinion that the ideas presented in the list of reflection points do not go far enough in implementing “zero tolerance” against priests who have abused minors or bishops who have covered it up. “There is nothing there that wasn’t there yesterday,” he stated.

Referencing a point in the list, he said, “They put together a handbook [when] this is about the rape and sexual abuse of children!”

Isley added that he believes a priest who has abused a minor “has betrayed the priesthood,” and should not only be removed from ministry, but should have the “honor” of priesthood taken away through laicization.

If you are a bishop, “you make very, very sure, that if your priest has assaulted a child, and you know he has, that he’s not going to harm a child in the Catholic Church ever, ever, ever again,” he said.

“You take that man out of ministry, that’s the first thing, because he could harm a child. What kind of pastor wouldn’t do that?”

Scicluna said in the press conference that “punishment needs to take care of the common good, so they [clerics found guilty of sexual abuse of minors] cannot be in active ministry,” echoing a reflection point that says: “Decide that priests and bishops guilty of sexual abuse of minors leave public ministry.”

He added that in his opinion, however, the decision to dismiss a priest from the clerical state, also called laicization, should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

At the presser, Scicluna also noted that while there is currently no compiled statistics on abuse cases being handled in the CDF, the material exists. He said that he recently spoke with Cardinal Luis Ladaria, CDF prefect, and he said the possibility exists for those statistics to be compiled, contextualized, and published “in the near future.”

Francis opens abuse summit with call for 'concrete measures'

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 04:20 am (CNA).- At the start of the Vatican’s sex abuse summit Thursday, Pope Francis pointed to expectations for the meeting to produce responsibility and concrete action, not just denunciations of abuse.

“The holy People of God looks at us and expects from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but to prepare concrete and effective measures,” the pope said Feb. 21, in the Synod Hall of the Vatican.

A burden “of pastoral and ecclesial responsibility weighs on us” in this meeting, he urged bishops, noting the obligation to “discuss together, in a synodal, sincere and in-depth manner, how to face this evil that afflicts the Church and humanity.”

The pope’s brief remarks followed the opening prayer of the four-day meeting, which includes the heads of bishops’ conferences, Eastern Catholic Churches, and religious communities, and is focused on the education of bishops on the protection of minors in the Church.

Invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Francis urged the Church leaders to “listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice,” adding that they must begin the work of the summit “armed with faith and the spirit of maximum parrhesia, courage and concreteness.”

He thanked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the organizing committee, which includes Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Maltese Archbishop and CDF adjunct secretary Charles Scicluna, and Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, for their work preparing the meeting.

In his speech, Francis also pointed to guidelines from bishops’ conferences which have been handed out to summit participants as a reference point for reflection, though he added that they would “not detract from the creativity that must exist in this meeting.”

He concluded by calling on the Holy Spirit for support in helping to “transform this evil in to an opportunity for awareness and purification” and the Virgin Mary to enlighten them “to seek to care for the serious wounds that the scandal of pedophilia has caused both in children and in believers.”

In the course of the morning, the meeting participants listened to keynotes by Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and by Scicluna and participated in working group discussions.

They also heard, by video, five testimonies of abuse victims. The identities of the victims were not revealed to press, who received only text versions of the addresses.

In the first testimony, of a victim from Chile, it was noted that everyone knows the “tremendous consequences” of abuse, but for a Catholic, “the most difficult thing is to be able to speak about sexual abuse.”

The victim speaks about their desire to speak with the Church about the abuse, and that they expected respect and listening, but instead were treated “as a liar,” telling them they and others “were enemies of the Church.”

“This pattern exists not only in Chile: it exists all over the world, and this must end,” the person said, adding that victims should be “believed, respected, cared for, and healed.”   

“I wonder: but what does Jesus think. What does Mary think, when she sees that it is her own shepherds who betray their own little sheep?” the victim stated.

Another testimony was in the format of a short interview, in which a woman explained that she had been abused by a priest for 13 years, starting at the age of 15. She says she was economically dependent on the priest, who would beat her if she refused to have sex with him.

She said during the course of their “relationship” she became pregnant three times and was forced to have abortions by her abuser.

Today, she said, she feels like her life has been “destroyed” and she does not know “what the future holds.” Her message for the bishops was to love others by willing their good.

A third testimony was given by a 53-year-old religious priest, who was abused by a priest as a teenager. He said that he was also hurt by the treatment he received from his bishop, who he said first did not respond to his letters, and later attacked him, when as an adult he went to speak with him about the abuse.

“I wanted someone to listen to me, to know who that man is, that priest and what he does. I forgive that priest from the heart, and the bishop. I thank God for the Church, I am grateful to be in the Church. I have many priest friends who have helped me,” he said.

In another testimony, which was given in English, a man reflected on the loss of innocence and the pain inflicted on him and on his relationships because of priestly abuse.

He said that today he has found hope and healing, but that what he would ask for from the bishops is “leadership and vision and courage.”

He referenced a moment when Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop-emeritus of Chicago who died in 2015, spoke about the difficulties of priests who have abused, as an example of right leadership.

From Asia, in the final testimony a person described being “sexually molested for a long time, over a hundred times,” creating traumas and flashbacks across their life. The victim also stated that when they had approached provincials and major superiors about the abuse, they “practically covered every issue.”

The victim concluded by requesting bishops “get their act clear” in answering the crisis of sexual abuse.

 

Review: Not much substance 'In the Closet of the Vatican'

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- “In the closet of the Vatican,” a newly released book by the French author and LGBT activist Frederic Martel, is generating global media attention and discussion among Vatican figures in Rome.

Published Feb. 21, the same day a Vatican summit on sexual abuse and the protection of minors begins, the book is simultaneously launched in 8 languages. Martel says he had 3 years to draft the text, with funds provided to travel and conduct his interviews, and, he says, with the help of about 80 collaborators.

The general thesis of the book is that the Vatican is among the most active hotbeds of homosexuality in the world. Martel has said in interviews that his goal is to shed light on the hypocrisy of those officials in the Vatican who, he says, practice homosexuality and then condemn it.

Martel’s book constructs a dividing line between the good and the bad, those he says are in the closet but working to come out, and those who stay in the closet, often while protesting LGBT social movements.

His is an ideological investigation; his anecdotes are used to advance a thesis that many have called predetermined. His text does not seem to strive for objective analysis, or to make use of sociological research or statistical data.

The book seems to have two additional goals, which, embedded in the presuppositions of the text, might not have been even willfully intended by the author.

The first is to question the nature of the priesthood itself. At issue is not merely celibacy, Martel seems to argue, but the broader virtue of chastity, since, his perspective seems to hold that sexual impulses among the clergy cannot really be mastered.

The second seems to be advocacy for a transition in the Vatican, one that would excise the old establishment, to establish a new one built according to the spirit of the world. That is, according to a pansexual vision, beyond Catholic moral categories and concerns.

The book must be read as it is. It presents innuendos, but not evidence or documents. It is a gossip-filled, romanticized book, but does not present itself as a scholarly or objective account.

The Vatican has a long history of books like Martel’s, though their quality and utility has varied dramatically over the years.

The first of the genre was “Gone with the Wind in the Vatican,” published under a pseudonym in 1999. The author, later revealed to be long-time curial official Mons. Luigi Marinelli, wrote gossip and innuendo elegantly, without naming names. References were precise, though, and it was easy to discern the targets of his stories. In the end, Marinelli’s book, for what it was, was well-documented.

More recently, books by Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi were filled with Vatican documents, and were at the origins of the second Vatileaks trial. Though the books were filled with imprecision and a sometimes biased reading of the documents, they too were based on documents.

“In the closet of the Vatican” begins with gossip Martel collected in several interviews. The author says he recorded them all, and it would be interesting to listen to the full audio files, in order to contextualize some excerpts.

Martel maintains he was able to enter in the “Vatican’s closet” thanks to codes he understood that helped him to be introduced to this hidden gay world. However, it seems he never got into the Vatican proper, and, when looking at the Vatican from a key-hole, he did so with a negative prejudice.

Some examples:

Martel had a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, in his apartment in the Ethiopian College, a building at the top of the Vatican gardens that is also home to Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, and was the home of the late U.S. Cardinal Edmund Szoka.

Sodano, Martel writes, “is locked up in his African ivory tower, with all his secrets. If the Garden of Eden ever existed, it must be like this little earthly paradise: when I go there, crossing a bridge, I find myself among impeccably tended lawns and fragrant magnolias. It’s a Mediterranean garden, with pines and cypresses and, of course, olive trees. In the surrounding cedars I see purple-headed and mustachioed parrots, elegant and multi-coloured, whose mellifluous voices doubtless wake Cardinal Sodano from his slumbers”.

The description might suggest that all of this “Eden” is part of the Ethiopian College. In fact, these are the Vatican’s gardens, which occupy almost all of the Vatican City State’s territory. The Vatican is the greenest state in the world, and the Ethiopian College is one of the buildings in its gardens.

One of Martel’s guides into the closet of the Vatican is Francesco Lepore, a laicized priest and a Vatican employee at the office of Latin language at the Vatican Secretariat of State. Lepore left the priesthood after discovering his homosexuality.

Telling the story of Lepore, Martel underscored that “on 30 November 2003, the Neapolitan priest joined Domus Sanctae Marthae, the official residence of the cardinals at the Vatican – and the current home of Pope Francis.”

Domus Sanctae Marthae is not the cardinals’ official residence. It is a hotel that also hosts guests who have business with the Holy See. It becomes the cardinals’ residence during the conclave, as determined by St. John Paul II in 1996. Though Pope Francis has also resided there since being elected, Domus Sanctae Marthae still functions as a hotel, and not as a cardinals’ residence.

Martel’s description of the episcopal ordination of Georg Gaenswein is also revealing of the lens through which the author reads the Vatican.

Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, now prefect of the Pontifical Household, Gaenswein was ordained a bishop by Benedict XVI on Jan. 6, 2013. Together with him, Benedict XVI ordained Bishops Vincenzo Zani, Fortunatus Nwachukwu and Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin.

In Martel’s view, that solemn celebration was merely Benedict XVI’s homage to Gaenswein, described in a text filled with innuendos about the relationship between the two.

Martel writes: “Benedict XVI insisted on giving the pastoral ring to His Bavarian Excellency Georg Gänswein in person, in a Fellini-esque ceremony engraved forever on the memory of the 450 statues, 500 columns and 50 altars of the basilica.”

Then, Martel describes the celebration as if all other papal liturgical celebrations are not the same.

“First comes the procession, slow, superb, and choreographed to perfection; the pope with his huge topaz-yellow mitre, standing in a little indoor popemobile, a throne on wheels, travels like a giant the full 200-metre length of the nave to the sound of triumphant brass, beautiful organ sounds and the children’s choir of St Peter’s, straight as unlit candles.”

The little indoor Popemobile was in fact the small wheeled device that Benedict XVI used since 2011 to “alleviate fatigue.”

Martel goes on, saying that “the chalices are encrusted with precious stones; the censers smoke. In the front rows of this new style of episcopal organization, dozens of cardinals and hundreds of bishops and priests in their finest robes provide a palette of red, white and oxblood. There are flowers everywhere, as if at a wedding.”

And yes, Vatican decorations are always like this, as are the ornamental stones on chalices.

Everything is thus seen through a distopyc lens to carry on an ideology.

The book is also filled with stories of cardinals and bishops described as well known homosexuals, sometimes targeted by name but always without reliable sources.

Cardinal Burke is presented as a cardinal who “likes to be spoken of in the feminine: ‘Votre Éminence peut être fière’; ‘Votre Éminence est grande’; ‘Votre Éminence est trop bonne’ (‘Your Eminence can be proud’; ‘Your Eminence is great’; ‘Your Eminence is too kind’).”

The feminine is in fact the “lei,”  the Italian formal “you.” It coincides with the third singular feminine person, but has an entirely different meaning, which Martel seems not to understand.

Speaking about the Karadima case – the Chilean abuser priest that Pope Francis dismissed from the clerical state in 2018 – Martel also involves Cardinal Sodano, who was Vatican Secretary of State from 1990 through 2006.

Martel writes: “The reasons that led Sodano (as well as Cardinal Errázuriz, who replaced Sodano as secretary of state in 2006) to protect this paedophile priest remain mysterious.”

Notably, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa has never been Secretary of State, though he held the position of Secretary of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from 1990 to 1996.

These inaccuracies are mixed with many information taken from press reports and gossips, sometimes presented with the sentence “other sources confirm,” but without in fact giving any real evidence.

Looking at it carefully, the biggest attacks are made against those who cannot defend themselves. It is the case for Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who died in 2008, and was president of the Pontifical Council for the Family from 1990 to his death. Martel targets him because, he says, he was an anti-gay lobbyist though he was a practicing homosexual. He offers neither proof, nor the possibility of defense.

The book presents a Vatican where everyone is gay, and those who are not would like to be.

There are certainly sins and human miseries in the Vatican, and many claim that homosexuality is part of the abuse crisis, and must be discussed.

But the Vatican is not demonstrably a gay state. Alleged homosexuality is often a weapon used in order to stamp out careers. When Pope Francis speaks about the terrorism of gossip, he is speaking about that.

It is striking that Martel initially got in touch with the Vatican’s world through Krysztof Charamsa. Charamsa is the official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who outed himself on the eve of the 2015 Synod on the family, announcing his homosexual relation with a Spanish man.

Martel writes: “The first time I heard the name of Krzysztof Charamsa was in an email, from him. The prelate contacted me when he was still working for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Polish priest had enjoyed, he told me, my book Global Gay, and he asked for my help in communicating through the media his imminent coming out, though he swore me to secrecy on the subject.”

Once Martel verified that account, he did help Charamsa. It was 2015. Shortly after, he began to draft “In the closet of the Vatican.”
 

Victims from Africa, Asia at Vatican to call for 'zero tolerance' of abuse cover-up

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- While studying at an African minor seminary at the age of 14, Benjamin Kitobo says he was abused by a Belgian priest, who had been sent to Africa after previously abusing children in Europe.

Now as an adult, Kitobo is one of the many sex abuse victims who traveled to Rome to share his story on the sidelines of the Vatican’s Feb. 21 - 24 sex abuse summit where bishops will meet in the presence of Pope Francis to discuss the protection of minors.

Kitobo told CNA at a gathering of victims and advocates from across Africa, Asia, and Latin America outside St. Peter’s Square Wednesday that he is calling for “zero tolerance” for bishops who cover-up sexual abuse, as well as the abusers themselves.

“Zero tolerance … for the people playing into the mechanism of covering up and the people abusing children,” he said, emphasizing that this needs to be “enforceable.”

“I’m addressing Pope Francis to not let the bishop go back home in Africa without any universal law against abusers and bishops who cover up for abuse,” he said.

After Kitobo complained about his abuser at his minor seminary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he found out that this priest continued to work with children in Rwanda.

“They didn’t act on this abuser. That is why I am here to complain. Many were treated the same way,” he told CNA Feb. 20.

“Abuse thrives under that kind of taboo when you can’t speak about it,” Kitobo reflected.

Kitobo was joined by sex abuse victims from Jamaica, New Zealand, Great Britain, Mexico, Chile, the United States, and elsewhere, who called for zero-tolerance for both perpetrators and bishops.

Sex abuse victims also spoke to how different countries’ cultures can exacerbate the stigma of speaking about sex abuse and cultivate a culture of silence.

“The culture that exists in society and within the Church in India makes it very difficult for survivors of abuse to come out and tell their stories,” Virginia Saldanha, an advocate for female sexual abuse victims in India explained.

Victims who do speak out “have been effectively silenced,” she continued.

“That is why I … questioned my own cardinal's place on the organizing team of this summit because in his own diocese, he has not addressed a single case successfully,” she said, referring to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, one of four members of the Vatican sex abuse summit’s organizing committee.

“I know that the victims that our group has brought to Cardinal Gracias have been silenced,” Saldanha told CNA.

Saldanha began working for the Archdiocese of Bombay in 1991 and later went on to serve as the diocesan secretary for the commission for women, where she particularly tried to get the Church to speak out about societal violence against women.

“I tried to raise awareness but I kept coming up against a wall. I felt that the Church was not serious about this,” she said.

In the years since, the diocese has created a gender policy. “And what do they do with their gender policy? I teach it every year to our seminarians, but that is about it. How effective is it? Not at all,” Saldanha said.

“In India, we've had so many cases of all these great religious teachers abusing women, Hindus also, they have been abusing women,” she said.

“It is not just India, it is all of Asia, the culture is that way … people will not speak out because Confucian culture also says, 'you have to save face' you know? Protect the name of the Church, so when a victim has to speak out, they have to think first how they are going to be affected,” she explained.

"It is a global problem. We know this from survivors around the world,” Peter Isle, director of Ending Clergy Abuse told press before meeting with the Vatican organizing committee for the summit.

“The same obstacles, the same non-transparency, the same irresponsibility that we've seen over and over again by Church officials, that is happening all over the world,” he continued.

“If you had to pick one form of zero tolerance it is this one: zero tolerance for any bishop or cardinal who has covered up for child sex crimes,” Isle said.

Dubia cardinals ask bishops to confront ‘conspiracy of silence’

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops around the world need to combat the homosexual agenda in the Church, two cardinals said in an open letter addressed to the presidents of the world’s conferences of bishops.

 

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller and Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke wrote in a Feb. 19 letter that the “horrible crime” of clerical sexual abuse of minors is “only part of a much greater crisis” that must be addressed before real change can occur.

 

“The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the Church,” said the two cardinals, “promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.”

 

The two cardinals addressed the open letter to their “dear brother” bishops who lead episcopal conferences around the world, and who are due to meet in Rome from Feb. 21-24 to discuss the crisis of sexual abuse of minors.

 

Burke and Brandmüller pointed to materialism, relativism, and hedonism as the root causes of an agenda promoted by “organized networks” and “a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.”

 

The cardinals also acknowledged the role of clericalism in the sexual abuse crisis, which many in the Church have said lends itself to to a culture of abuse of power and status. However, the letter said, “the first and primary fault of the clergy” is not an abuse of their power, but “in having gone away from the truth of the Gospel.”

 

“The even public denial, by words and by acts, of the divine and natural law, is at the root of the evil that corrupts certain circles in the Church,” Burke and Brandmüller wrote.

 

They said that some bishops and cardinals have been “silent” in response to this “drift” in the Church, and asked those attending this week’s conference in Rome if they would “also be silent.”

 

Burke and Brandmüller are the two living members of a group of four so-called “dubia” cardinals who submitted formal requests for clarification to Pope Francis regarding the interpretation of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, published after the Synod on the Family.

 

In the letter, Brandmüller and Burke note that they have not yet had a response to the dubia, and suggest that the need for clarification is “part of a more general crisis of the faith.”

 

“Therefore, we encourage [bishops] to raise your voice to safeguard and proclaim the integrity of the doctrine of the Church,” they wrote. “A decisive act now is urgent and necessary.”

 

The letter was released just days before the world-wide summit in Rome to address the sexual abuse crisis, and ahead of the publication of a widely trailed book entitled “In the Closet in the Vatican.” Authored by a French journalist, the book purports to expose a cultutre of homsexuality, hypocrisy, and secrecy in the upper ranks of the curia.

In private meeting, victims tell leaders of abuse summit: 'We want action'

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2019 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- About a dozen victims of clergy sexual abuse met Wednesday with the organizing committee of the Vatican sex abuse summit, expressing their desire that the week’s meeting yield action on the part of Church leaders.

Evelyn Korkmaz, an abuse victim from Canada and a member of “End Clergy Abuse” (ECA) told journalists after the Feb. 20 meeting, which lasted more than two hours, that she was happy their voices were listened to, but “we don’t want more meetings, we we want decisive action.”

The Church already knows their story, she stated: “They don't need our story, they need to take action and they need to take action now.”

In comments to journalists after the dialogue, victims noted that on Feb. 25, the day after the sex abuse summit is to conclude, a meeting of top Vatican officials will take place to debrief and discuss next steps.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Feb. 20 the meeting will be an “interdicasterial meeting” of members of the Vatican offices connected to the issue of abuse, though he did not say exactly who would be present. It was noted that the meeting will also include experts on the protection of minors.

Victims said the four members of the summit's organizing committee present at their encounter Wednesday -- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Fr. Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) -- will also be present at the follow-up Feb. 25.

Fr. Federico Lombardy, who is acting as moderator during the child protection summit, was also present at Wednesday’s meeting with victims.

Mary Dispenza, a national representative for and leader of SNAP in Seattle, Washington, said her hope is that the follow-up meeting of Vatican leaders will be able to give specific points of action: that they “are going to do one, two, three, and four.”

While the Vatican had said Pope Francis would not be a part of the meeting between victims and summit organizers, several victims expressed disappointment he did not make a surprise appearance.

According to Phil Saviano, several of the victims made requests to meet the pope, but no promises were made that they would be able to do so.

A board member of “Bishop Accountability” and a partner of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team back in 2001, Saviano during the meeting read aloud a letter stressing the importance of transparency.

In the letter, which was made available to the press in advance, he said what is taking place in the Church today is a “tipping point,” and that without total transparency, “people's faith and trust in the Vatican is rapidly washing away.”

In particular, Saviano’s letter, which was addressed specifically to Scicluna, called on the Vatican to release the names and files of any priests who have been reported to the Vatican for child abuse, in order to, he told journalists later, prevent future abuse and out of respect for victims.

“These four men seemed to agree with what I had to say about transparency about releasing the records,” he said to journalists. Saviano also said Scicluna approached him privately after the meeting to say he “agrees with me completely on what I was asking him to do.”

The caveat, however, was what several victims described as an expression of powerlessness on the part of the cardinals and archbishop present, who said, according to the victims, that they agreed with their suggestions, but that they themselves do not have the power to put these ideas into action.

The encounter with victims took place in the Maria Santissima Bambina Institute, a guest house situated on Vatican property just outside St. Peter’s Square.

Other victim survivors present included Italian Francesco Zanardi, the founder of Italy’s only network of clerical abuse survivors, Spaniard Miguel Angel Hurtado, leader of the organization Infancia Robada [“Stolen Childhood”], and members of the French association, La Parole Libérée, François Devaux and Olivier Savignac.

Also present was Chilean Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of the notorious abuser Fr. Karadima. He told journalists he is calling on bishops “to do what they have to do for this [meeting] to be successful.”

“The bishops cannot continue getting it wrong because as it is, the Church is on borrowed time.”

A woman from Jamaica who is a victim of clerical abuse was also present.

The one non-victim to join the meeting with summit organizers was Pedro Salinas. A Peruvian, he is a former member of the lay Catholic organization Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) and co-author of the book “Half Monks, Half Soldiers.”

Saviano noted that the intended purpose of the meeting on the protection of minors is very clear -- educating bishops -- so he hopes action will take place in the follow-up.

The meeting itself is “for those that understand what's going on, to make sure they’re all on the same page. And for those that don't understand, to bring them up to speed and let them know that there's going to be expectations that they'll be expected to live up to,” he said.

Dispenza, a former religious sister, emphasized that in her opinion, “this is the moment for the Catholic Church; that it's either going to survive or not. And a lot is going to depend on how Pope Francis handles these days and the actions he takes,” adding: “So we'll have to see.”

Saviano, who said he’s been public with his story of abuse since December 1992, said he thinks there’s been progress in the last decades: “I do think [the abuse summit] is a milestone and I hope that I'm not going to be really disappointed six months from now.”

“If there was ever a time for transparency, now is it. And maybe, if you do it properly, some of the Catholics who are at this point bailing out of the sinking ship, might reconsider and come back,” he stated. “But you have to give concrete signs that you're really coming up with a good plan to address this. And it can't be just talk.”