Top-ranking Vatican cardinal charged with sex offenses in Australia – Julie Zauzmer

George Pell

Julie ZauzmerCardinal George Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” the Australian criminal justice system’s term for offenses committed in the past. – Julie Zauzmer

A cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s finances has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australian police, in one of the most significant indictments against a top-ranking leader of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal George Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” the Australian criminal justice system’s term for offenses committed in the past, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton announced at a news conference on Thursday morning in Australia.

That morning, Victoria police notified Pell’s legal representative that he has been charged and must appear in court on July 18, Patton said.

Patton said that Pell was treated no differently than any other defendant because of his high rank in the Vatican—notifying a legal representative and summoning the defendant to court at a later date is the recommendation of Australian prosecutors in a case like his.

Patton did not discuss the details of the case, so it was not clear whether Pell was charged with participating in abuse or covering it up.

In the Vatican, Pell’s job as secretariat of the economy is so crucial that it has been described as the second-most-powerful role in Rome, after only the pope. But for years, he has faced accusations of improper behaviour connected with clergy sexual abuse in Australia.

In Ballarat, Pell’s hometown, dozens of children were abused by priests. After the abuse came to light, priests testified under oath that Pell knew about the abuse while it was occurring.

The scale of the abuse in Ballarat was staggering: In one fourth-grade class of 33 boys, 12 committed suicide, the Post reported in 2015. Five priests who worked in the parish were convicted of crimes, including one who was found guilty of abusing more than 50 children.

Two years ago, Peter Saunders, a survivor of sexual abuse on the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, spoke out against Pell, calling him “almost sociopathic” in his lack of concern for the victims of abuse in an interview with Australia’s television program “60 Minutes.”

Saunders asked Pope Francis at the time to remove Pell from his position and take “the strongest action against him.” But Pell publicly refuted Saunders’s allegations, and a Vatican spokesman stood with Pell, saying the cardinal “must be considered reliable.”

Pell has served as a priest since 1966.

In response to an Australian inquiry into clergy sexual abuse last year, he testified in court that he had heard about “misbehavior” by two priests—including priests kissing children and swimming naked with them—but had not reported it. He had heard only fleeting references to the priests’ actions, he said, and knew little about the incidents.

He said he doesn’t remember a child ever reporting abuse to him, though he added, “My memory is sometimes fallible,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. When children did report abuse in earlier decades, he said, they weren’t likely to be believed.

“In those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial,” he said. “At that stage, the instinct was more to protect the institution, the community of the Church, from shame.” In his testimony, he said, “The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those.”

On Thursday morning, Patton did not offer any details about the charges against Pell, other than to say that the cardinal faces “multiple charges in respect to historical offenses.” – The Washington Post, 28 June 2017

» Julie Zauzmer is a religion reporter for the Washington Post in Washington, DC.

Protest against George Pell

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Sex crimes systematically covered up by the Catholic Church in India – T. K. Devasia

Fr. Vadakkumchery, Kottiyoor, Kannur, Kerala

T. K. DevasiaThe family had refused to file a police complaint against the priest, who held many important positions in the diocese including that of director of the Church-run daily, Deepika, and television channel, Jeevan TV. … The police suspect that the family may have tried to shield the priest after they were bribed by the Church authorities. They also do not rule out … intimidation by the Church. – T. K. Devasia

An anonymous letter received by a child-line in Kerala has brought to light a major operation to cover up the rape of a minor girl by a Catholic priest in the state with 18 percent Christian population.

The police foiled the operation by detaining Fr Robin Vadakkumchery, vicar of St Sebastians Church at Kottiyoor in the state’s northern district of Kannur, while he tried to escape to Canada on 27 February.

The police recorded the arrest of the 48-year-old priest, who allegedly raped and impregnated the 16-year-old girl, on Monday and a case slapped against him under section 376 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.

The priest, who belongs to the Mananthavady diocese of Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three Catholic rites in Kerala, had tried to cover up the incident by taking the girl to a Church-run hospital for delivery and thereafter shifting both the mother and the new-born baby to an orphanage under the diocese.

Iritty Deputy Superintendent of Police Prajeesh Thottathil said the hospital authorities had not reported that the delivery that had taken place three weeks ago to the authorities. He said that a case will be registered against them if they have deliberately hidden the delivery.

The family had refused to file a police complaint against the priest, who held many important positions in the diocese including that of director of the Church-run daily, Deepika, and television channel, Jeevan TV, when Kannur Child Welfare Committee reported the matter to the police following a secret investigation into the information contained in the anonymous letter received by them.The police official, who is heading the investigating team, said that legal action will also be taken against the victim’s parents if they are found to have colluded with the accused in covering up the incident.

Committee chairman Mathew Thelliyil told the Firstpost that their investigation had revealed that the priest had raped the girl, a Class XII student of IJM Higher Secondary School, Kottiyoor, where the priest served as the manager.

The mother of the victim lodged a complaint after initial investigation by the police revealed the crime, but the victim tried to shield the priest by naming her father as the rapist in place of the priest. The father, who is a small farmer, also supported her by owning up to the crime.

The victim identified the actual culprit after the investigating team grilled her. The police suspect that the family may have tried to shield the priest after they were bribed by the Church authorities. They also do not rule out the possibility of intimidation by the Church.

Fr Mathew PerumattikunnelCuriously, the Mananthavady diocese had not taken any action against the priest until the police registered the case against him. Mathew Perumattikunnel, vicar general of the diocese, claimed that the matter had come to their notice only after the police took the priest into custody.

However, the Church activists take the claim with a pinch of salt since the victim had given birth to the child in the Church-run hospital and the mother and the new-born baby were protected in an orphanage under the diocese. Moreover, the priest had announced during the mass on Sunday that he was going on leave.

Ex-Priest K.P. ShibuEx-priest Shibhu Kalamparampil, who was defrocked after he exposed the sexual abuse and corruption in the Church in his autobiography, said that it was difficult to believe that the victim and her family had tried to shield the priest without the knowledge of the higher authorities in the Church.

“I strongly believe that the family may have tried to hush up the rape after pressure was mounted on them from top echelons in the Church. A priest alone will not be able to cover up such a serious crime,” he said adding that the Church has been mostly silencing the victims of sexual abuse by threatening God’s wrath.

“Many believe this and never report incidents of sexual abuse to the authorities. This has been encouraging priests to continue with their immoral activities. The bishops turn a blind eye as it will affect the very survival of the Church,” said the ex-priest who described the nunneries as brothels in his autobiography titled Oru Vaidikante Hrudayamitha (Here is the Heart of a Priest).

Those who question this will not be able to continue in the Church. A nun, who had complained of unwanted sexual advances by the priest while she worked as a teacher in Madhya Pradesh in 2011, was thrown out. When she refused to leave, the Church silenced her by giving her a compensation of Rs 12 lakh.

Sister JesmeAnother nun, Sister Jesme was forced to quit the religious life of over three decades after she resisted sexual advances against her from priests. After quitting the Mother of Carmel Congregation in 2007, she revealed the gross sexual abuse of nuns by the priests in her autobiography, Amen.

Shibhu said nuns were silently suffering the abuse as they had no place to go after quitting the nunnery. Priests and nuns quitting the religious life are not accepted by their families or the society as they consider leaving the vocation as a sin.

There has been a rise in sexual offences involving priests in the state in the recent months. Rector of a Catholic seminary in Kannur district was arrested by the Iritty police in October last year for the alleged sexual assault on a 21-year-old seminarian who was undergoing training under him at the institution.

In January this year, a 65-year-old priest, who was working as principal of a school at Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district, was arrested for abusing an 11-year-old [boy] in the school dormitory.

Edwin FigarezIn December last year, a Catholic priest was sentenced to double life imprisonment under Pocso Act for the rape of a teenage girl. The priest, Edwin Figarez, had raped the victim many times while serving as the priest in a local church under Kottappuram diocese during 2015.

In August last year, another Catholic priest was arrested for allegedly raping and murdering a college student in Palakkad district. Four other clergymen, including a bishop were arrested for allegedly covering up the case.

Reji Njallani, who has launched an association to champion the cause of ex-priests and nuns, said that sexual abuse cases involving priests and nuns were showing an increase in the state as they are finding it difficult to maintain celibacy.

He said that the situation was alarming in the Syro-Malabar Church, which is the largest Catholic rite in Kerala. Reji told the Firstpost that a large number of priests and nuns in the Church have been demanding right to marry. This, he believes, may solve the problem to a great extent.

“This is not a difficult matter since the Syro-Malabar Church is an independent Church that is free to take a decision on crucial issues without the approval of Vatican. Seventeen out of 22 independent Catholic churches in the world have allowed the religious people to marry,” he pointed out.

He said Catholic priests in Kerala were allowed to marry until the 16th century, when the Portuguese took control of a major section of the Church. The bishops who are now trying to take the Church to pre-Portuguese days are silent on the marriage of priests as they consider celibacy as a sign of superiority over other religions.

Reji said the Association of Catholic Priests, ex-Priests and Nuns will float an open church to attract priests and nuns who are suffocated with the life in the established church. The priests joining the open church will be able to perform all priestly duties, including administration of the sacraments. Reji hopes that this will force the established Church to undertake reforms need by the changing times and solve the ills plaguing it. – FirstPost, 1 March 2017

» T. K. Devasia is a freelance journalist with about 30 years experience currently contributing to Khaleej Times, Reuters and Free Press Journal.

Cardinal George Alenchery and Pope Francis

Pope Francis has failed to punish child-abusing priests – AFP

Pope Francis
Vatican Sex Abuse Scandal“Francis has failed to definitively draw a line under decades of abuse which ruined the lives of tens of thousands of young Catholics and badly tarnished the standing of the Church in the eyes of believers and broader society.” – AFP

Many words, little action: three years after Pope Francis’s election, victims of priest sex abuse are bitter and disappointed, accusing the Church of having failed to punish guilty clerics and end a culture of complacency on the issue.

The recent Australian Royal Commission hearings of Vatican number three George Pell and a preliminary criminal probe into accusations that Lyon’s archbishop, Philippe Barbarin, covered up for a paedophile priest has put the question of Church complicity in abuse back at the top of the Vatican agenda.

Francis came to power promising a crackdown on cover-ups and a zero tolerance approach to abuse itself.

But victims still feel they are not been listened to, that bishops are still failing to hand criminal priests over to the appropriate authorities and that a conspiracy of silence remains the order of the day, right up to the top of the Vatican hierarchy.

The growing discontent with Francis’s record on ridding the Church of the taint of paedophilia is in sharp contrast with how he has performed in other areas.

As he prepares to celebrate Sunday’s third anniversary of his election, the Argentinian pontiff boasts genuine star status around the world thanks to his charismatic, simple style, his defence of the world’s poor and efforts to reform the Church and bring it closer to ordinary believers.

But despite an encouraging start, Francis has failed to definitively draw a line under decades of abuse which ruined the lives of tens of thousands of young Catholics and badly tarnished the standing of the Church in the eyes of believers and broader society.

Francis has made it clear bishops who cover up for abusers have no place in the Church and has put in place legal structures enabling paedophile priests to be tried under Vatican law. He also established his own advisory panel on the issue.

Peter SaundersBut the panel is now disintegrating with one prominent member, Peter Saunders, recently telling AFP he felt betrayed by Francis and that he had been tricked into taking part in what he described as a whitewashing exercise.

Francis won plaudits for meeting with victims in Rome and in Philadelphia during last year’s visit to the United States. But more recently he has come under fire for declining to repeat the gesture in Mexico or for the group that travelled from Australia to listen to Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission.

With the Oscar-winning film Spotlight further increasing public awareness of the abuse issue, “there is a real risk of this issue becoming the thorn in the foot of this papacy,” said Marco Politi, one of Francis’s biographers and a leading Vatican expert.

Politi said the “decisive test” of whether the Vatican hierarchy was serious about addressing the problem was whether Church authorities were truly willing to hand priests over to the criminal authorities. “Outside of cases where the judicial system gives them no option, the majority of bishoprics don’t want to talk about that.”

Ignazio Ingrao, Vatican correspondent for Italian weekly Panorama, said many local dioceses remained “incapable of moving beyond the secrecy mentality and the reflex of burying scandals.” He also noted that the Vatican’s ability to handle cases brought to its attention was severely compromised by staff shortages.

“I don’t doubt Francis’s desire to create a zero tolerance culture,” he added. “He has made it clear that the religious authorities must cooperate with civilian ones.”

John AllenDirect to the point of bluntness on other issues, Francis seems to have a “gut-level hesitation” when it comes to tackling the abuse issue, possibly fuelled by a belief that it is something he does not fully understand, suggested American Vatican expert John Allen in a column for www.cruxnow.com.

Andrea Tornielli, who writes for the website Vatican Insider and knows Francis well, says he does not detect any reticence to speak about the subject or when it comes to sanctioning offenders.

“The pope has spoken unequivocally, referring to diabolic sacrifices. He is trying to change the mentality,” Tornielli told AFP.

“One can very well understand the criticism levelled at him by victims and those close to them. But the most important task he has to accomplish is to create the conditions so that cover-ups do not happen ever again.” – IOL, 11 March 2016

Keith O'brien & Jimmy Savile

Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who had to resign in 2013 because of inappropriate sexual contact with his priests, has been further exposed as a close friend of the BBC’s notorious paedophile television personality Jimmy Savile. Click image for story.

Jesus

French cardinal covered-up priest’s sexual abuse and rape of boy scouts – Barbie Latza Nadeau

Philippe Barbarin

Barbie Latza Nadeau“The 45 Scout victims who lodged the complaint that led to Preynat’s arrest share horrifically similar stories of abuse. ‘He would say ‘tell me you love me’. And then he would say ‘you’re my little boy,’ ‘it’s our secret, you mustn’t tell anyone,’ one of Preynat’s victims said, according to criminal trial reports.” – Barbie Latza Nadeau

Bernard PreynatFor all those who say that the Catholic Church is doing all it can on clerical child sex abuse—namely the Vatican press office—there is yet another reason to doubt those lofty words. Meet the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who has denied he did anything wrong by hiding the well-known fact that Father Bernard Preynat was sexually abusing as many as 40 Catholic Scouts in France in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Preynat was relieved of his duties in the parish of Roanne in 2015 after admitting to the sex abuse. He was indicted on Jan. 27 on charges of “sexual abuse and rape of minors” and has admitted his crimes to the police.

The 45 Scout victims who lodged the complaint that led to Preynat’s arrest share horrifically similar stories of abuse. “He would say ‘tell me you love me’. And then he would say ‘you’re my little boy,’ ‘it’s our secret, you mustn’t tell anyone,’” one of Preynat’s victims said, according to criminal trial reports.

A victim named Pierre-Emmanuel Germain-Thill described to Euronews how the priest preyed on the young boys. “What shocked me the most was when he tried to put his tongue in my mouth. He stroked my genitals, I couldn’t avoid it,” Germain-Thill said, according to press reports.

“I wanted to run away, and at the same time, I didn’t know what to do, I was afraid that if I left that room, nobody would believe me.”

Another victim, Bertrand Virieux, told Euronews, “I remember the smell of sweat, I remember contact with clothes. I remember his wandering hands under my shirt, which held me tightly against him.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Barbarin is facing criminal charges by a French secular court for “failing to report a crime” and “endangering the life of others,” which could carry a three-year prison sentence and fines up to €45,000. He maintains that he shouldn’t be accused at all because he eventually removed Preynat from parish work.

Never mind that the removal came nearly 15 years after his crimes were made known. After victims and their families came forward in 1991, Preynat was removed from parish duties for six months by the then-archbishop, who is now deceased. Yet despite having confessed to the crimes, Preynat was allowed to return to his active duties after he repented, meaning he had access to children despite admitting to being a pedophilic sex offender.

When Barbarin was appointed as archbishop, he even promoted the errant priest to an administrative position in 2007 where he was in charge of six dioceses filled with children, according to court documents quoted in the French press.

Barbarin, who is well liked in France despite his harsh stance against gay marriage (which he once predicted would pave the way to legalized incest), removed Preynat from the priesthood last August when secular authorities got involved—25 years after his crimes had first emerged.

The cardinal is now arguing that he should not be criminally charged because he was not archbishop at the time of Preynat’s crimes, and that he did eventually remove the priest from active duty. But it is not enough to remove an errant priest from a parish or even defrock him, argue victims groups. David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), says any child sex-abuse offender should be turned over to secular authorities immediately and should be remanded in prison whether they wear a clerical collar or not.

“Hundreds of bishops have been publicly exposed as having protected predators, endangered kids, deceiving parishioners, misleading police, destroying evidence, intimidating victims, threatening whistle-blowers, and discrediting witnesses and suffer no consequences,” Clohessy told The Daily Beast.

The Vatican has always rightly maintained that pedophiles are not restricted to the priesthood. But the difference has always been that abusers in every other sector, from education to medicine, almost always immediately face secular court justice. There are no other professional institutions that systematically hide predators from authorities to the same extent the Catholic Church does. As the Oscar-winning film Spotlight showed, the complicity of not only the clerics but often the entire community—under pressure from the powerful Catholic churches that support community activities and run schools—is why the cycle is still so hard to break, despite the Vatican’s efforts.

George PellThat’s why when cases like Barbarin’s make it to the secular court, they underscore just how rare that action is. And that’s why when Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held Cardinal George Pell’s feet to the fire several weeks ago—for his alleged oversight of abuse in that country—victims were angry that it took so long to happen.

After Spotlight’s Oscar win, the Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi came out with guns blazing.

“The depositions of Cardinal Pell before the Royal Commission as part of its inquiry carried out by live connection between Australia and Rome, and the contemporary presentation of the Oscar award for best film to Spotlight, on the role of the Boston Globe in denouncing the cover-up of crimes by numerous pedophile priests in Boston (especially during the years 1960 to 1980) have been accompanied by a new wave of attention from the media and public opinion on the dramatic issue of sexual abuse of minors, especially by members of the clergy,” he said in a statement.

“The sensationalist presentation of these two events has ensured that, for a significant part of the public, especially those who are least informed or have a short memory, it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems, and that it is necessary to start anew. Objective consideration shows that this is not the case.”

Lombardi went on to outline the various commissions and extensive work Francis and his two predecessors have accomplished, including meetings with survivors and the formation of guidelines and recommendations for clergy. But there was no mention of how the Church regularly reports its abusers to the secular justice system—primarily because it doesn’t. And there was little mention of the secular world at all beyond two references to “legal” procedures—one in Ireland and the other in Australia.

He also pointed to the Vatican’s new tribunal to try those accused of or affiliated with the cover-up of rampant sex abuse, along with an advisory committee on sex abuse, headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in shame in 2002 and whose blatant disregard for victims of sex abuse made him the central figure of Spotlight.

But as the Associated Press pointed out last week, the Vatican’s recent efforts are “going nowhere fast.” Jozef Wesolowski, the 67-year-old former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic, who was the only person ever slated to face the tribunal, died suddenly in Vatican City before his trial began.

What’s most troubling in Barbarin’s case is that Pope Francis made promises last September during his American trip that he would see to it that any bishops who were involved in the cover-up would be forced to resign. “You must not cover up, and even those who covered up these things are guilty,” Francis told reporters on his plane back to Rome.

French Boy ScoutsSo why is Barbarin not being forced out? Preynat’s lawyer, Federic Doyez, told the French judge that Barbarin knew about the abuse. “The facts had been known by the church authorities since 1991,” he said.
An unidentified source close to Barbarin told the AFP that Francis was surely talking about someone else. “This comment does not in any way target Cardinal Barbarin who quite rightly suspended Father Preynat after meeting a first victim and taking advice from Rome, and this, even before a first official complaint was made.”

Victims groups will be watching the events closely to see if French justice will set a precedent for other countries. “The pope’s refusal to honor this promise is yet another reminder that keeping kids safe in the Catholic Church is a burden that increasingly falls on brave victims, secular authorities and church members—especially whistleblowers,” says Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director.

On the third anniversary of Pope Francis’s historic election, March 13, many will be praising the success and popularity of the pontiff. But three years into the job, it remains certain that the pope’s promise to do something about the continuing clerical abuse and cover-up leaves little to celebrate.  – The Daily Beast, 13 March 2016

» Barbie Latza Nadeau is an American correspondent for The Daily Beast based in Rome.

French Boy Scouts

Abuse victim critical of pope asked to leave Vatican commission – Inés San Martín

Pope Francis

Ines San Martin“Saunders is currently in Rome participating in the commission’s third general assembly, which will end Sunday. Before the meeting, he told The Los Angeles Times that ‘Francis has said phenomenally damaging and painful things about [abuse] survivors.’ … ‘The last meeting in October was a non-event,’ Saunders said. ‘I was told that Rome was not built in a day, but the problem is that it takes seconds to rape a child.'” – Inés San Martín

Peter SaundersA clerical sexual abuse survivor who has been bitterly critical of the response from the Vatican and Pope Francis to several high-profile recent controversies involving abuse scandals has been asked to take a “leave of absence” by other members of the panel.

But the member, Peter Saunders of Great Britain, said at a press conference later Saturday that as far as he’s concerned, he’s still part of the commission.

“I have not left, and I am not leaving my place,” Saunders said. “I was appointed by Pope Francis, and I will only talk to him about my position on the commission.”

A short Vatican statement released Saturday said that Saunders, an abuse survivor named to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2015, a body created by Pope Francis in March 2014, will now ponder “how he might best support the commission’s work.”

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the commission, said Saturday that he has asked Saunders “to advise the commission on the possible establishment of a victim survivor panel to work with the commission.”

Saunders is the founder of the UK-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood, and was named to the commission in 2015 as one of nine new members. When he met Francis in 2014 as part of the pontiff’s first meeting with abuse victims, Saunders expressed optimism about his resolve.

In an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe at the time, he described meeting Francis as a “life-changing experience.”

“I believe him to be a sincere man,” Saunders said, “and I believe him to be someone who wants to do this right.”

Since then, however, Saunders has had an increasingly critical attitude toward the pope, questioning Francis’ appointment of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros to the diocese of Osorno, the pope’s apparent Juan Barros Madridsupport of spanking children, and Francis’ backing for the Vatican’s secretary for the economy, Australian Cardinal George Pell.

The choice of Barros in early 2015 sparked nationwide protest in Chile, with survivors’ groups accusing him of concealing sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a well-known local priest with strong ties to the country’s elite.

In 2011, Karadima was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of “penance and prayer” after being found guilty of pedophilia and abuse of his ecclesiastical position. No charges were brought against Barros, under either the Church’s canon law or Chilean civil law.

Saunders was also very critical of Francis when he said that he admired parents who spank their children, “but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.”

“Children don’t need to be hit. We need to talk about positive parenting … physical violence has no part in modern-day child upbringing,” Saunders told reporters at the time.

“I was hit throughout my childhood and it did me a lot of harm,” he added. From the age of 8 until he was 13, he was sexually abused by a member of his family, a lay teacher, and two priests of the Catholic school he attended.

As for Pell, handpicked by Francis to reform the Vatican’s finances, Saunders told Australian “60 Minutes” in June 2015 that the cardinal’s allegedly “callous” past treatment of sex abuse victims was “almost sociopathic”.

The prelate’s record is currently under examination by a Royal Commission in Australia, based on accusations from earlier in his career when he was a priest and auxiliary bishop, with victims saying he didn’t do enough about abuse charges against other clergy.

In a statement released at the time, Pell called Saunders’ charges “false” and “outrageous.”

Saunders is currently in Rome participating in the commission’s third general assembly, which will end Sunday. Before the meeting, he told The Los Angeles Times that “Francis has said phenomenally damaging and painful things about survivors.”

“People in Chile now see the commission as a laughingstock, and I cannot pretend the commission means anything unless he sacks Barros.”

He also said it would be “outrageous” if Francis didn’t attend the meeting, saying it would be the “end of the honeymoon” with the Argentine pontiff.

“The last meeting in October was a non-event,” Saunders said. “I was told that Rome was not built in a day, but the problem is that it takes seconds to rape a child.”

Speaking on background, a commission member told Crux on Saturday that seeing Saunders step aside was a “sad decision,” and one that resulted from lengthy internal deliberations.

“He’s been under a lot of pressure from different victims’ groups, who wanted him to take a stand on individual cases, but the commission doesn’t do that,” the member said, who asked not to be identified because members are not authorized to speak publicly.

“We don’t have all the facts, all the information and investigations, so we can’t comment on every case,” the member said.

Fernando KaradimaA Vatican official who’s close to the commission’s work told Crux on Saturday that in terms of his future role, Saunders has a decision to make.

“He has to decide if he’s an advocate and campaigner [for survivors] instead of being an adviser,” the official said.

Saunders spoke to journalists at Rome’s Marriott Grand Flora Hotel together with Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s victims in Chile. Cruz was in Rome for business, and had hoped that, with Saunders’ help, he’d be able to deliver a set of letters from the clergy and faithful of Osorno either to Francis or to the commission.

Cruz said that he’ll continue to try to deliver the letters, even if it’s by leaving them at the lobby in the Santa Marta, the hotel on Vatican grounds where Francis lives, because “the people of Osorno have been let down enough times.”

Saunders told reporters he’s going to “think and pray” about what he’ll do now regarding the commission, but he says he may attend Sunday’s meeting.

“I haven’t had a call from His Holiness, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m still a member,” he said. “I would obviously have to think about it … my priority is how we help children. My hope had been that we could do so through the commission.”

Saunders acknowledged that he’s “guilty” of speaking too much to the press. This, together with “being a campaigner,” were two of the concerns brought up by the other members of the commission, who on Saturday morning held a “no confidence” vote to remove him from the body.

“A number of the members of the commission expressed the concern that I don’t toe the line when it comes to keeping my mouth shut,” he said. “I made it clear that I wouldn’t be part of a public relations exercise. The protection of our children is much more important than that.”

Saunders also said that he’s “disappointed” in Pope Francis, because there are many things the pope could have done in the past year to help protect children. Referring to a Vatican trial against five people Money laundering in the Sistine Chapel!accused of filtering confidential information on the Church’s finances, he said he wonders why “financial whistleblowers” make headlines.

“When a child is being raped, where are the headlines?” he said. “It seems our Church is more protective of money than our children.”

Saunders called the commission “a disgrace,” adding that “they [the Church] believe that child abuse, rape, is behind us already. This is not behind us.”

While some see Saunder’s situation as emblematic of the Vatican’s failure to respond adequately to the abuse scandals, others describe his departure as long overdue.

“As a friend of Peter and someone who has seen the commission at close hand, it has been obvious that for some time there has been a tension within it over its identity and role,” said Austen Ivereigh, a British biographer of Pope Francis.

“Peter saw it as a lobby representing abuse victims’ interests and demands … [while] others saw it was a policy-making unit of experts to assist the Church in implementing guidelines beholden to no one, at the service of the Pope,” he said.

“Peter could have a role, but the commission members have made a definite decision to be an independent Vatican policy-making body,” Ivereigh said. “This frees it now to do its work.” – Crux, 6 February 2016

» Inés San Martín is an Argentinean journalist who has moved to Rome to help cover the Vatican for Crux.Vatican Protects Paedophiles!

Woman journalist threatened for describing sexual abuse in a Kerala madrassa – Haritha John

Rajeena's Facebook Profile

Haritha John“Ever since Rajeena put up the Facebook post, she was at the receiving end of a barrage of abuses and threats, forcing her to write another post in which she declared that despite everything, she would remain fearless.” – Haritha John

On 22 November, a senior journalist working with a prominent Malayalam newspaper wrote a poignant post on her Facebook account about sexual abuses her classmates had to face in a madrassa years ago. For more than 24 hours now, journalist VP Rajeena’s Facebook account has been blocked, and she continues to receive threats.

In the Facebook post that became controversial Rajeena reminisced about an ustad or teacher at a Sunni madrassa in Kozhikode city, who would feel up her male classmates’ private parts. She described how young boys in the class would be summoned by the ustad and asked to unzip their shorts. Rajeena said that even as the boys squirmed, the girls too were left embarrassed and shocked. The ustad would then tell the boys that he was only checking the size, she wrote. She also talked about how such experiences were spread out across her six years of education at the madrassa and even the girls in her class were not spared. The journalist also alleged that another ustad who was above 60 years would move around the class during power cuts and sexually abuse minor girls.

Ever since Rajeena put up the Facebook post, she was at the receiving end of a barrage of abuses and threats, forcing her to write another post in which she declared that despite everything, she would remain fearless.

“Curses… Abuses… Venom spewing… Let everything befall on me. But I am least afraid because Allah is with me. And so, even if the whole world turns against me, I will not fear. It is becoming clearer that whatever I did was the correct thing. Even my life is at stake. History is replete with such stories of annihilation of voices that dissent. I am ready to face that.” (Translated by Firstpost).

“After I put up the Facebook post my account was blocked for some time and it later came back. But from Wednesday morning it was blocked again and has not been reinstated by Facebook,” Rajeena told The News Minute (at the time of writing this on Wednesday night Rajeena’s Facebook account was still blocked, but the account was restored on Thursday morning.)

Rajeena's FB Post

Rajeena believes she is being targeted for various reasons.

“I am a woman, a Muslim woman that too and a journalist, so such a revelation from me was unacceptable for many. What should have led to a healthy debate on child sexual abuse has [degenerated] to a fight against me. I have been called an anarchist and someone with an agenda to defame a particular religion,” she said.

Read some disgusting comments that Rajeena got for her post, which show how rotten some people are.

Many prominent voices in Kerala like V. T. Balram, M. A. Baby, Sarah Joseph and B. R. P. Bhaskar have come out asking for Rajeena’s Facebook account to be restored and for a sane discussion on madrassas and other educational institutions. Read what they have to say here. – The News Minute, 25 November 2015

V. P. Rajeena

V. P. Rajeena is a Ramnath Goenka awardee. She has vowed to come out with more disclosures on sexual abuse and misconduct in madrassas through social media.

V. P. Rajeena interviewed by A. Mili in The New Indian Express

Q: You belong to an orthodox middle-class Muslim family in Malabar and studied in a madrassa run by a particular faction? Where there any religious or political reasons that prompted you to make such a post?

A: I am not a follower of any political party, and as many people claim I am not a member of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Though, I work for a newspaper which subscribes to that ideology, you cannot associate me with a particular ideology. I have specified in my post that the madrassa referred to was E. K. Samastha Sunni madrassa for better clarification. The divide among the separate groups of Sunnis is so deep that a less lucid post could lead to further divide among the public.

Q: There is nothing new in your post. There have been sexual abuse cases involving madrassa teachers. Then why did you make such a disclosure now?

A: I was patiently waiting for the opportune time. India is facing a major threat from communal fascist forces. Religious intolerance has grown to such a level that even girls and boys are not allowed to sit together in classes. The major criticism against me was that I gave the communal forces a reason to criticise the Muslims again. See, my point is that, in order to fight the communal fascist elements, we must be clean. We should be tolerant enough to face criticism. It is the intolerant clerics, who have given enough fodder to those flaying Muslims. Had they reacted in a healthy manner, the discussion would have brought in a sea change in the community.

Q: What next? Are you planning to move ahead with the crusade for gender equality or are you withdrawing following the online attack?

A: I am part of a progressive group of Muslim women, who want to usher in change in  society. We have issues pertaining to divorce and dowry within the community. There are many questions to be answered like, where should the girl go after the divorce, what is her status? Who should she remarry? And coming to the dowry system, it is a larger context to be discussed in the society. There is no gender inequality in the religion. It is the clerics who create the divide. Those, who threatened me, are a large group of men moulded by the clerics.

Q: Unfortunately, no major political party came to your rescue, especially the secular parties. Why?

A: I got the backing of many activists and writers. B. R. P. Bhaskar, singer Shahabaz Aman, director Ashiq Abu, critic Abdul Kareem Uttalkandiyil, Rekha Raj and many other online activists supported me. I have not faced any issues from the media organisation where I am working. I am getting the support of a majority, who are not active on Facebook. This is a positive sign. We are getting more energy to work for the better.

Q: Are you planning to bring the offensive comments to the attention of Cyber Cell?

A: We are taking the screenshots of the offensive comments and will approach Cyber Cell if needed. I am scouring all the comments on my FB wall. This is not the first time a woman has been harassed online for expressing her bold views. – TNIE, 28 November 2015

» Haritha John reports for The News Minute in Kochi, Kerala.
» Anupama Mili reports for The New Indian Express in Malappuram, Kerala.

V. P. Rajeena

Though Hindus support V. P. Rajeena, she has joined the specious intolerance debate created by the secularists and has adopted their abusive terminology!

Hundreds of boys raped by Benedictine monks in famous US abbey – David Ferguson

Finian McDonald

David Ferguson“The documents show that the abbey moved priests from parish to parish when abuse allegations were levied against them, covering up the problem and keeping secrets within their own ranks. There are 14 more priests associated with the abbey whose records have yet to be produced.” – David Ferguson

Personnel records made public on Tuesday, Nov. 24th revealed that Catholic priests at St. John’s Benedictine Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota engaged in a sustained and coordinated campaign of child rape, which they took pains to keep secret from the public for decades.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, a court case brought by one of the priests’ former victims has resulted in a judge’s order for the monastery to release records on all priests and monks credibly accused of child abuse.

The documents released regarding five abusive priests on Tuesday mark the first time the monastery has opened its records to the public after being embroiled in abuse lawsuits for more than 20 years. The files include psychiatric assessments of the five men, records of abuse allegations and the abbey’s responses dating back from the 1960s to the last few years, including records of one priest who molested more than 200 victims, all boys, from the sons of parishioners to child prostitutes as young as 13 in Thailand.

Rev. Finian McDonald (pdf) confessed in a 2012 psychiatric session that he molested more than 200 boys, 18 of whom were children under his care in the dormitories of St. John’s Preparatory School, the private boys’ school run by the monks. McDonald admitted that he drank heavily and freely preyed on students during his years as a dormitory prefect.

The abbey released a written statement in an effort to minimize the damning reports.

“There are documents in each file which may be quoted and framed in a lurid context,” wrote Brother Aelred Senna. “But the huge majority of the documents in each of these files acknowledges the very real failures of some monks while showing each of the accused monks as a fallible, relatable person.”

Senna alleges that the abbey made no attempt to cover up abuse allegations when they were brought to church leaders’ attention.

Troy BramlageHowever, Victim Troy Bramlage’s attorney Jeff Anderson said in a press conference on Tuesday that the documents show a clear pattern of systematic abuse with no serious efforts made to protect the children in the monks’ care.

“So many offenders were allowed access to so many kids for so many years,” Anderson said. “This reflects to us … that there are dozens and hundreds of survivors that are yet to be known.”

Four other predator priests were profiled in the documents: Rev. Tom Gillespie, former priest Fran Hoefgen, the Rev. Bruce Wollmering and the Rev. Richard Eckroth. Fran HoefgenWollmering and Eckroth, said the Star-Tribune, are deceased.

Hoefgen was acquitted of sexually harassing a teen boy earlier this year, but the newly released records show that he exhibited a pattern of predatory behavior toward boys, beginning in the 1980s and continuing through the next two decades.

Rather than alert authorities and dismiss Hoefgen, however, the abbey presented him with $30,000 to help him “transition out of the priesthood.”

The documents show that the abbey moved priests from parish to parish when abuse allegations were levied against them, covering up the problem and keeping secrets within their own ranks [re Abbot John Klassen]. There are 14 more priests associated with the abbey whose records have yet to be produced.

Troy Bramlage, the St. Cloud abuse survivor whose lawsuit spurred the release of the documents told reporters that he hopes more victims will come forward as the priests’ records go public.

“People need to know they don’t have to suffer alone,” he said. – Raw Story, 25 November 2015

» David Ferguson is a senior editor at The Raw Story in Washington, DC.

Bishop