IS THE PEDOPHILIA CRISIS RE-IGNITING?
Atila Sinke Guimarães
After a period when the fire was burning under the ashes, four recent cases seem to indicate that the flames of the shameful crisis of pedophile priests and the correspondent cover-up by Bishops/Vatican are rapidly re-igniting and becoming an open blazing fire.
In Rome Card. George Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy and former Archbishop of Sydney, was summoned by an Australian court of law to give evidence about sexual abuse. The Royal Commission on Child Abuse is questioning Pell in a series of hearings about his alleged role in moving pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale from one parish to another in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
In order to avoid the trip to Australia – and also not to receive a legal prohibition to leave Australia – Pell’s lawyer alleged his serious heart condition. So, it was agreed that he would answer questions of the Commission via a video link connecting the Hotel Quirinale in Rome to the Commission’s hearing room in Sydney as well as a public room in Ballarat, a town 60 miles northwest of Melbourne where the abuse was allegedly committed. One hearing of this ongoing series took place yesterday.
The Australian police is presently investigating accusations that Pell himself committed sexual abuse when he was a priest in Ballarat. These accusations were published by the press thanks to a police leak. Card. Pell’s office in the Vatican affirmed these accusations are baseless and false. They are made, the statement affirms, with the sole aim of harming Pell’s reputation and the Catholic Church.
In principle, since Card. Pell has been outspoken against Francis’ encyclical on ecology, we cannot exclude the possibility that this “leaked” scandal involving him is orchestrated and fueled by some of Francis’ minions inside the Vatican.
Actually, this would fit with the fact that on his return trip from Mexico, Pope Francis said that when a Prelate is found transferring a pedophile priest from one parish to another, “the best thing he can do is to present his resignation.” (Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2016, p. A3)
In Belgium 1046 cases of pedophilia were reported in the last three years (2012-2015). Of this number, 418 victims accused priests or religious men of sexually abusing them. The additional 628 cases were settled with the victims since the crimes were committed more than 30 years ago and the statute of limitation had expired. These accusations were presented in the many hearing offices the Belgian Bishops established for this purpose. The Catholic Church spent more than 4 million euro (US$4.35 million) in compensations to the victims.
These data come from the joint report presented to the press by Bishop Guy Harpigny of Tournai and Bishop Johan Jozef Bonny of Anvers. The two Belgian Bishops are part of the Inter-Diocesan Committee for the Protection of Children and Youth.
Here is my comment, first, on a noteworthy fact in these cases: The complaints were made straight to the Bishops’ offices and are no longer lawsuits against the priests judged in civil tribunals. This fact signals an improvement. The Bishops are now acknowledging that pedophile crimes exist in the Church in gigantic proportions.
Second, it is not clear whether the Bishops will actually punish the guilty priests since all the legal procedures – it seems – will take place under the secrecy of ecclesiastical tribunals, which do not allow the public access to their procedures and decisions. I believe that if the Bishops were really concerned about resolving the problem of pedophile priests, they should make all their juridical decisions transparent – who was punished, why and how – giving the public full access to coverage of these procedures and judgments.
Third, it is certainly much more advantageous for the Belgian Bishops to pay 4 million euros to settle 628 cases than it was for Card. Roger Mahony to pay US$660 million to settle with 500 victims in Los Angeles in 2007. Thus, some questions necessarily come to mind: Were these hearing offices established simply to avoid much larger expenses if the cases were brought to civil courts of law? Then, what is real motive of the Bishops behind this move: to assist the victims or to benefit themslves?
In India, Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of the Diocese of Ootacamund announced on February 11, 2016, that he has lifted the suspension of predator priest Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul. The latter had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl by a Minnesota court of law a decade ago. The suspension of the priest was lifted on January 16, 2016 after the Bishop consulted with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reports Jeff Anderson, the lawyer for the two victims involved.
This lifting of the priest’s suspension was inspired by the “year of mercy” of Pope Francis.
At the time of his alleged sexual abuse, Fr. Jeyapaul was working in Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, Minnesota, in the Diocese of Crookston. Megan Peterson went public in 2004, accusing Jeyapaul of forcing her to have oral sex with him at age 14 when she went to him privately to ask his advice about becoming a nun. In 2005 a lawsuit was filled; later he was convicted of the crime. Soon after he was publicly accused, the priest fled the United States. In 2006, another girl, Jane Doe, went public, alleging she was also sexually abused by Jeyapaul when she was 16.
In 2010, reporters found the priest working at a job overseeing schools in the Diocese of Ootacamund, India. Both Fr. Jeyapaul and his supervising Bishop Amalraj alleged ignorance of the criminal charges against the priest. On that occasion he announced his intent to return to the U.S. “to prove his innocence,” which in fact never happened. Instead, he disappeared again.
In 2012, he was found and arrested by the Indian police at the request of Interpol after seven years as a fugitive. He went to trial in a New Delhi court, which postponed his extradition to the U.S. and made arrangements with Bishop Amalraj to hold a canonical trial. The priest was suspended and sentenced to some time in a monastery “to pray.”
On February 11, the Bishop announced that the suspension had been lifted in the name of the year of mercy…
The simple exposition of these facts shows that we are again facing a case of a cover-up of a pedophile priest by Bishop Amalraj, in addition to a clear case of obstruction of justice.
In Rome & England the press has given great publicity to the statements of Peter Saunders, who was a British member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at the Vatican. This Commission was created in 2014 by Pope Francis on the suggestion of Card. Sean O’Malley of Boston. In 2015, Sanders had been invited to become a member by Francis.
In an official communiqué of that organ dated February 6, Saunders was advised “to take a leave of absence” from the Commission. The reason for this virtual dismissal was that he spoke too much to the press.
Top, Francis embraces Bishop Juan Barros; bottom, the people of Osorno protest against the cover-up
The real reason, however, seems to be that Saunders was criticizing the inefficacy of the Commission and, above all, was/is openly criticizing Francis for naming Juan Barros as Bishop of Osorno in Chile in 2015. Barros had been publicly accused of covering up the pedophile activity of Fr. Fernando Karadina, who was canonically convicted for sexual abuse of children.
So, the bottom line is that Barros covered for Karadina and Francis covered for Barros.
My reader can watch the protest of the Chilean population of Osorno on March 21, 2015, at the inauguration of Bishop Barros, even inside the cathedral here.
Since Saunders has attacked the Commission as a façade organization with no effective way of either investigating individual cases or pressuring Bishops to follow its counsels, the mentioned Commission communiqué affirms in passing that the Vatican recently has expelled 880 priests guilty of the abuse of minors.
I record this datum with the hope it is true, but without understanding why the Vatican maintains secrecy about these alleged expulsions. Does it not realize that providing more details would project to the public a more positive image of the Holy See and its concern for abused children?
The reasons for this Vatican lack of transparency are open to speculation. I advance just one: Would it be because providing details could trigger a chain reaction, which would reveal that the number of pedophile priests is much higher than those expelled?