Australian Q&A on legal accountability and the Catholic Church

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“What Benedict Knew”

WI Senate frontrunner opposed bill that would have eased justice for sex abuse victims

Via TPM:

Ron Johnson, the businessman and Republican nominee for Senate in Wisconsin against Russ Feingold, is now coming under fire for a previous foray into a public position that he took last January: When he testified against a bill that would have made it easier for adults who had been victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue the responsible organizations such as the Catholic Church.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin legislature considered a bill as a result of the Catholic Church’s abuse scandals, which would have eliminated the statute of limitations for victims to sue organizations responsible for sexual abuse, and created a three-year window for past victims to file new lawsuits. The bill, which failed to pass, was opposed by the insurance industry and church organizations — and by Johnson, who had served on the Green Bay diocese’s financial council. (Johnson is not Catholic himself, but a Lutheran.)

Johnson’s testimony was first highlighted this past June by political columnist Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Then in the past week, Bice again reported that the video was posted online.

“I believe it is a valid question to ask whether the employer of a perpetrator should also be severely damaged, or possibly destroyed, in our legitimate desire for justice,” Johnson told a state legislative committee back in January.

“This bill could actually have the perverse effect of leading to additional victims of sexual abuse,” he also added, “if individuals, recognizing that their organizations are at risk, become less likely to report suspected abuse.”

The victims’ rights group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has now called upon Johnson to urge the Catholic Church to release the names of priests accused of committing abuse.

Johnson reportedly no longer serves on the financial board, but did release this statement that seems to fall a bit short of SNAP’s demand: “I call on the Diocese of Green Bay to provide the utmost transparency in order to answer any lingering questions or doubt among victims of child abuse and those who seek to prevent child abuse in the future.”

The TPM Poll Average gives Johnson a lead of 53.0%-43.1%.

This man is winning a race for a seat in the United States Senate.

I’m sickened by humanity.

Murphy victim suing Ratzinger

It’s been going on forever, ctd.

ABC News profiles Sr. Mary MacKillop, a 19th century Australian nun and founder of the  Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, now up for sainthood, but who was excommunicated in her lifetime for trying to report child rape by a priest:

Mary MacKillop, the nun who will soon be Australia’s first saint, was excommunicated by the Catholic Church because she discovered children were being abused by a priest and went public, the ABC’s Compass program can reveal.

In 1871, after only four years as a nun, she was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and turned out onto the street with no money and nowhere to go.

MacKillop’s cause for sainthood began in 1925 and has had the tireless backing of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the order she founded.

On October 17, MacKillop’s canonisation by Pope Benedict XVI will be a momentous occasion for Australia’s 5 million Roman Catholics.

But these new revelations show there were some in the church who set out to destroy the order that put her on the path to sainthood.

While serving with the Sisters of St Joseph, MacKillop and her fellow nuns heard disturbing stories about a priest, Father Keating from the Kapunda parish north of Adelaide, who was allegedly abusing children.

They told their director, a priest called Father Woods, who then went to the Vicar General.

The Vicar General subsequently sent Father Keating back to his home country of Ireland, where he continued to serve as a priest.

Father Paul Gardiner, who has pushed for MacKillop’s canonisation for 25 years, says Father Keating’s fellow Kapunda priest Father Horan swore revenge on the nun for uncovering the abuse.

“The story of the excommunication amounts to this: that some priests had been uncovered for being involved in the sexual abuse of children,” he said.

“The nuns told him and he told the Vicar General who was in charge at the time and he took severe action.

“And Father Horan, one of these priests, was so angry with this that he swore vengeance – and there’s evidence for this – against Woods by getting at the Josephites and destroying them.”

Father Horan was by now working for Adelaide’s Bishop Shiel and urged him to break the sisters up by changing their rules.

When MacKillop refused to comply, she was banished from the church at the age of 29.

“Mary was not excommunicated, in fact or in law. She submitted to a farcical ceremony where the Bishop had … lost it,” Father Gardiner said.

“He was a puppet being manipulated by malicious priests. This sounds terrible but it’s true.”

Five months later Bishop Shiel was gravely ill and dying. From his deathbed he instructed that MacKillop be absolved and restored.

A statement from the Sisters of St Joseph says the events of September 1871 have “been comprehensively documented”.

“There were several factors that led to this painful period for Mary and the sisters,” the statement said.

“The reasons for Mary’s excommunication have been written about and commented on in the public domain since that time. This is consistent with the information contained in the Compass program.”

What’s missing from Ratzinger’s “apology”

In his sermon yesterday at Westminster, Ratzinger devoted two paragraphs to the  crisis of abuse within his church, but it contained glaring omissions. Via The Guardian, the transcript:

I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives.

I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of victims, the purification of the church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people.

Three things missing:

ii.) A condemnation of not only the rapists themselves, but the officials in the church hierarchy who abbetted their violations by their passivity, slowness, or secrecy.

i.) The pronouns “I” and “my.”  Ratzinger talks about the crisis “within the church,” as if everyone were somehow collectively responsible, and not only specific parties who actually committed the crimes, and those parties who propped up ineffective prosecuting policies and actively concealed abuse from civil authorities–both of which Ratzinger himself is responsible for, each on multiple occassions.

iii.) A promise for some concrete course of action. The rapists don’t need “chastisement.” They need prosecution to the fullest extent of their respective principality’s laws.

Ratzinger addresses abuse on arrival to UK

Via the NY Times:

EDINBURGH — As Pope Benedict XVI arrived here Thursday for the first state visit to Britain by a pope, he offered his strongest criticism yet of the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the sex abuse crisis, saying it had not been “sufficiently vigilant” or “sufficiently swift and decisive” in cracking down on abusers.

Speaking to reporters on his flight from Rome, Benedict also said that the church’s “first interest is the victims.”

“I must say that these revelations were a shock for me, a great sadness,” he said of the crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority in many parts of Europe and beyond.

He expressed “sadness also that the authority of the church was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently swift and decisive to take the necessary measures.”

His remarks showed that the Vatican had perhaps begun to learn from its mistakes after stumbling in its response to the crisis.

Asked how the church could restore the faith of those shaken by the revelations of widespread priestly abuse, the pope said: “The first interest is the victims” and the church needed to determine “how can we repair, what can we do to help them to overcome the trauma, to re-find their lives.” He also said that priests who are guilty of abuse had a “sickness” and needed to be kept away from children.

There are nine names one must take into account when Ratzinger insists on his sincerity in punishing abusers:

i.) Rev. Peter Hullermann, to who Ratzinger prescribed “therapy” to remedy his pedophilia, and who after the administration of these treatments was allowed by the then-archbishop was transfered to another succession of parishes wherein he raped again, and who was only excused from clerical duties earlier this year;

ii.) Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, the rapist of approximately 200 deaf children entrusted to his care, and who Ratzinger refused to press any charges against the abuser of 200-plus deaf children on account of the abuser’s old age;

iii.) Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a scam artist, bigamist, and serial rapist who abused the seminarians under his own care and the children he fathered, against whom Ratzinger only initiated a secret investigation against, only to sentence the criminal to a pacific retirement;

iv.) the “satanic” Rev. Michael Teta, violater of children for some twenty years, and whose case under Ratzinger’s office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith resulted in the rapist’s explusion from the clergy only after sitting on the case for 14 years;

v.) Msgr. Robert Trupia, a rapist whose case wallowed for twelve years in the same office before being permitted an “early retirement” to a “Baltimore condo and  leather-seated Mercedes-Benz,”

vi.) Rev. Stephen Kiesle, the pedophile who admitted he was unfit for the priesthood and begged laicization, and who Ratzinger explicitly refused to remove from duty, citing “the good of the universal church” and the “young age” of the perpatrator,

vii.) Cardinal Hans Hermann  Groër, rapist of children and the seminarians entrusted to his care, and who Ratzinger failed to vet before nominating him for the position of archbishop of Vienna, and

viii.)  Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, the conspirator behind the coverups of rape in his jurisdiction of Boston, against whom Ratzinger never initiated investigations or penalties, clearing the path for him to resign his post and assume several cushy jobs in the Vatican and a vote in the 2005 Papal Conclave. Since assuming the papacy, Ratzinger has not removed Law from any of his duties or publically condemned his actions.

ix.) Rev. Allen Campbell, a rapist who would be convicted of his crimes in 1985, but whose ecclesiastical investigation was dropped by Ratzinger’s office after Campbell refused to accept the charges.

Also, as pope, Ratzinger has extended the stature of limitations on abuse cases, so that victims might press ecclesiastical charges against their rapist up to 20 years after their eighteenth birthday. So anyone who can only summon the courage to face their abuser only after the age of 39 has neither recourse within the church. Why they would even seek it at this point is beyond my imagination, but Rome isn’t helping me expand that faculty on this matter.

Nor has he addressed his personal tweaking of church policy; since assuming the papacy, Ratzinger has never publically addressed his 2001 declaration that sex abuse cases be handled with the highest level of secrecy within the church, pontifical secrecy, nor is it clear he ever rescinded that policy. As pope, has publically articulated, but not updated, the church’s longstanding unofficial policy of requiring bishops to report their underlings’ abuse to civil authorities if and only if they can be legally procecuted for abetting by keeping silent under local statutes. And it is clear this exposition was only made grudgingly; at least one high-ranking Vatican official has described such mandates of the barest decency and sense of responsibility “onerous.” Perhaps more importantly, no one in the Vatican has made any comment on individual bishops, like Milwaukee’s own Listecki, who petition their local governments not to extend the stature of limitations in crimes of sexual violence, thus shielding their flock not only from ecclesiastical punishment, but civic justice as well. Until Ratzinger or one of his spokespersons denounces this lobbying, we can only assume Qui tacet consentire vidétur, “He who keeps silent is assumed to consent.”

Finally, and tellingly, the organizational culture of the current Vatican does not seem to recognize the severity of the crisis. In the same document making explicit rules for bishops handling abuse cases, pedophilia was described as one of the “more grave delicts,” and placed on par with the ordination of women and disagreement with Church dogma. So either the coterie Ratzinger assembled to address the paramount crisis facing his institution was tonedeaf to the severity of that crisis, or unselfconscious of how their insinuations about women would be recieved, or both. In any case, tone is set from the top. 

All this taxes the good faith of one trying to believe Ratzinger is really committed to expending all his intellectual energies to ridding the church of its filth. Even if he does feel real symapathy for the victims, he lacks either the courage or competency to recognize the fundamental change to organizational structure and culture needed to atone for it. He has yet to apologize for, or even acknowledge, his part in bungling the discipline of the nine figures listed above. The policies he has clarified or implemented throughout his career are feeble, reactionary, reassertive to demonstrably failed mechanisms, counterproductive. Ratzinger’s apparatus is not even impotent to bring to justice its most abominable members; it is unwilling.