The Habit Does Not Make The Monk

One of the first lessons in the monastery is: “The Habit does not make the monk.”

Why? People are easily distracted by holy garbs, nice shoes, tailored clothes, and expensive cars. White collar criminals who use their position of trust to commit crimes against children depend on this. They need children and the public to be easily distracted.

Do not be distracted by a monk’s habit, a doctor’s white coat, or a judge’s black robe. By putting on a habit, one is not instantly infused with wisdom and understanding. Rather, it comes from years of listening to people, prayer, reflection and learning to recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Why do I bring this up?

Recently, my eyes have been opened to other versions of the white collar crime I know as “solicitation in the confessional.” Crimens Sollicitationis—simply put—is the confessor’s abuse of power over the penitent.

Apparently, this kind of crime is not limited to Catholicism.

Very recently, a Rabbi was discovered to have been using the Mikvah—the ritual bath—to film the unsuspecting faithful. In the age of the internet and file sharing, one has to be concerned for those unknowingly filmed.

Even more recent is a reminder from Hollywood: actors can and do use their star power and the burning desire of unsuspecting minors for stardom to access, groom, sexually abuse and coerce them into silence.

We must remain vigilant and put children first.  The habit does not make the monk.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under canon law, catholic

Commission: All Files Went to Rome

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in Ireland is a grand example of what needs to be done to put kids first.

One of the lessons the commission learned when they investigated the Irish Christian Brothers is that all roads lead to Rome AND all files on child sexual abuse are transported to Rome.  Here is a section of the report and what the archivist found while reviewing the Roman archives of the Irish Christian Brothers:

Consistent with the American experience of Civil and Criminal Court litigation is the finding that the leadership of the Church is lethargic in producing or even making known the location of their files and knowledge of childhood sexual abuse. (emphasis mine)

6.168  The Rome Files make it impossible to contend that the issue of abuse and, in particular, sexual abuse of boys was not an urgent and continuing concern to the Congregation. In circumstances where the issue of abuse in institutions had been the object of so much media attention from 1995 onwards, it is surprising that these files were only discovered to the Committee in 2004.

Rome Files and documentary evidence

6.159In the Emergence hearings in July 2004, Br Gibson described how files, which came to be known as ‘The Rome Files’, came to the attention of the Leadership Team in Ireland.

6.160In 2003, the Leadership Team took the decision to employ an archivist to look at all the documents in the possession of the Congregation. This archivist was asked to go to Rome to look at the files there that related to the Irish Communities for any references to abuse. He explained that, in the early 1960s, a decision was taken to move the Congregation’s headquarters from Dublin to Rome. The management team brought with them the relevant archives for their own work, and left in Ireland the files and records that dealt with the Christian Brothers in Ireland.

6.161Br Gibson explained:

However, when our archivist went to Rome, she came across their minute books of their Council decisions, the General Council decisions. In those, she came across details of allegations of abuse in the institutions in Ireland that did not exist in our files … Yes, all of these dealt with incidents of child abuse in our institutions between, say, 1930 and when they closed.

6.162Br Gibson outlined the number of allegations recorded in respect of residential schools:

… we came across details of incidents of abuse in our institutions in Ireland. We came across eleven incidents of child abuse in Artane, ten in our day schools, three in Letterfrack, two in Tralee, two in the OBI,20 and two in Glin. Now, what we came across was that there had been information given to the Leadership Team at the time when they occurred. These allegations had been investigated. The investigation included getting the boys to write out what had happened to them and the boys had done that in some cases – well, in one case at the moment we have one incident of that. Then they had at the end of what they called a trial, they had a decision made, and the decision was either to give a Canonical Warning to the person, they were dismissed from the Congregation or they were rejected for the application for vows that year. Now, we wouldn’t have the details of all the allegations, but a lot of material has emerged there which we didn’t know about …

It shows that there were individual cases of abuse. It wasn’t, in a sense, systematic or widespread, but over 30 years in Artane there were eleven cases that had been discovered at the time they had occurred.

6.163Br Gibson went on to state that, in 1990, the Leadership Team in Ireland was not aware of the existence of these files at all. He asserted that it was only when he saw these files that he understood the comments that he saw in the Constitutions and Acts of the Congregation emphasizing that a Brother should never be alone with a child. He said:

That makes sense in the light of this discovery of complaints where children were abused in the institutions.

6.164He confirmed that there was no mention of the children in these records:

The focus was on the culpability of the person who did it and I am not sure how much was done for the children who suffered.

6.165The Rome Files were made available to the Committee after the Emergence hearings had been completed. They contained details of applications for dispensations or disciplinary hearings in respect of more than 130 Brothers. At least 40 of these cases referred specifically to improper conduct with boys. In the majority of cases, the actual crime being investigated was not detailed, and phrases such as ‘evidenced unsuitable moral character’ or ‘grave misconduct’ or ‘caused scandal’ were used when recommending a dispensation.

6.166The Rome Files were by no means exhaustive. Brothers who left the Congregation before any allegations came to the attention of the authorities would not appear in the Rome Files.

6.167In addition, the Brothers who left following allegations of abuse did not appear in these files. For example, Mr. Brander21 a former Christian Brother, did not feature although he received a Canonical Warning for sexually abusing boys in 1953 and was ultimately dispensed from his vows in the late 1950s.

6.168The Rome Files make it impossible to contend that the issue of abuse and, in particular, sexual abuse of boys was not an urgent and continuing concern to the Congregation. In circumstances where the issue of abuse in institutions had been the object of so much media attention from 1995 onwards, it is surprising that these files were only discovered to the Committee in 2004.

6.169The scale of the problem as revealed in these documents was very serious. When other features of abuse are taken into account, there is reason to believe that the amount of such abuse was substantially greater than is disclosed in these records. First, there was the recidivistic nature of child abuse; secondly, children were frightened and reluctant to speak about it; and thirdly, many adults experienced difficulty in dealing with it.

6.170In light of the investigations that had taken place in other jurisdictions and the evidence contained in their own archives, together with the complaints received, the Leadership Team in this country could be in no doubt that sexual abuse of children in their care had occurred at an unacceptably high level in their institutions.

6.171In the circumstances, although it was legitimate to protest about exaggerated allegations and false claims, which were undoubtedly made in some instances, it was also the case that an attitude of skepticism and distrust of all complaints was unwarranted and unjustified.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Pope Francis Dodges, Weaves and Wobbles on Child Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis missed an opportunity to not repeat his predecessors’ failures on the crimes of clerical sexual abuse of minors.

Last month the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sharply denounced the Vatican’s failure since 2001 to report data to the United Nations on sexual abuse by priests.

pennVatican

“The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests…”

“The Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”

In response to this harsh critique, the Holy See thought it prudent to correct the UN’s “lack of understanding,” justify its policies, claim the Vatican is “a reality different” than other countries, and complain of moral intervention into “doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church.” This response only served to underscore the Committee’s findings on the Holy See’s conduct- the Vatican places its reputation over concerns for survivors of sexual abuse by priests.

Today Pope Francis again dodged, weaved and wobbled on criticisms of the Vatican’s handling of child sexual abuse and went so far as to defend the Church’s record. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the Holy Father spoke in defense of the Vatican’s actions in dealing with child sexual abuse, saying “no one has done more” to address the issue. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility… Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”

La Chiesa cattolica è forse l’unica istituzione pubblica ad essersi mossa con trasparenza e responsabilità. Nessun altro ha fatto di più. Eppure la Chiesa è la sola ad essere attaccata

The Pope is simply practicing revisionist history.  Penn State faced its own Marcial Maciel Degollado or Father Donald McGuire S.J.  In Gerry Sandusky, Penn State as an institution faced serious consequences for their conduct.  To date, the Holy See has not fired anyone, refuses extradition of a Papal Nuncio wanted for child sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic and is on the verge of canonizing John Paul II who allowed Maciel to go unpunished during his reign.

If the Holy See is going to claim moral authority it will be held to a higher standard, if not by the objective measures of the UN Committee, then indeed by public opinion. In turn, if the Holy See fails miserably to address the documented crisis of clerical sexual abuse of minors, fails to follow the rule of law and continues to put children at risk, the Holy See has earned every bit of criticism.  Some simply call that justice.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Two great reads

Both are by my fellow advocate Joelle Casteix:

Donohue Goes Too Far … And He’s Dead Wrong – She looks at how the Catholic League’s call for vigilante justice is dangerous, wrong and destructive

and

Women Abuse, Too – a discussion on changing societal views on women who molest children

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Things Not Remembered

What better place to find evidence of concealing clerical child abuse than in a newly opened secret archive?

For her book Fallen OrderKaren Liebreich began digging in a previously closed archive and discovered the sordid story of the Piarist Fathers and “things not remembered.”

One of those “things not remembered” was how a child abuser rose to become the General Superior of the Order. This sounds like fodder for the Darknet, but the story illustrates how the cover-up of child sexual abuse has occured in Roman circles for centuries.

Father Stefano Cherubini Sch.P. was a rich Roman lawyer’s son who was accused of sexually abusing boys in Naples in 1629. In classic cover-up language, the founder of the Piarists, Father Joseph Calasanz Sch.P. writes, “it seems best to me, that if we are allowed to be the judges of this case, we will not permit it to come into the hands of outsiders.”

Instead of being punished to a life of prayer and penance, Cherubini was promoted and became General Superior in 1643. Complaints against Cherubini, then at the Piarists Roman School, continued. Instead of facing the issue, Pope Innocent X dissolved the religious order. Pope Alexander VIII resurrected the Piarists in 1656.

So, when you read the newly released LA priest files of the Piarist Fathers and sense a cover-up, know that the Piarist cover-up reaches back to the 17th century with the founder of the order.

Find the LA priest files here:

Father Armando Pena Sch.P.

Father John Salazar Sch.P.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Chancellor Shows Courage

Before the recent revelations of child porn sitting in the Secret Archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul, most people never stopped to think about the role of a Archdiocesan Chancellor. Some may have an image of Thomas Beckett or a librarian type. But most, honestly, just scratch their head.

So, what is a chancellor supposed to do? And how did St. Paul Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger stumble upon child porn in Archbishop Nienstedt’s secret archives?

The office of Chancellor in the Roman Catholic Church is first and foremost to “take care that the acts of the curia are gathered, arranged and safeguarded in the archive of the curia”. (1983 CIC 482)  This sounds a lot like a librarian, but the job also includes maintaining the entire inventory, or catalogue, of both the historical, secret and criminal archives.

What makes this job different than that of a librarian is that the cover up of clerical sexual abuse of minors in Saint Paul goes back to (at least) Archbishop Leo Binz in the 1960s. The cover-up documents have been stored at the Chancery on Summit Avenue as mandated by the Pope in the code of canon law. For instance, Father Jerome C. Kern’s file contains evidence the Archbishop was aware Kern was sexually abusing minor boys in 1969.

But why is there an explosion now when the Archbishop knew of the child porn in 2003?

The answer is simple: Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger.

Haselberger was the first lay female ever appointed Chancellor in St.Paul. She does not belong to the clerical “caste” and apparently she didn’t absorb the “Tradition of clerical immunity.” When she found the porn in the secret vaults, Haselberger followed her conscience and called law enforcement.

When the Archbishop was about to transfer Father Jon Shelley, Haselberger naturally reviewed the files under her care. She found a Saint Luke Institute report, an investigation by the Vicar General Kevin McDonough, and the porn vault. She found evidence that there were three computers, half a dozen morally disturbing searches and thousands of nefarious images sitting in the archives. There was nothing ambiguous about it.

What Now?

First, the Haselberger experience informs us that all church archives need to be reviewed by independent prosecutors in law enforcement. These prosecutors answer to the people, not the Pope.

Second, this 2013 experience teaches us that the Roman Catholic Church has not learned and in fact may not have the capacity to learn how to protect children in their care.

Third, we must press our leaders. Experience tells us that St. Paul is NOT unique. Are there priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors in ministry today?  We must press church leaders to make public what they know, urge prosecutors to demand files, and implore Catholics to withhold contributions until they and we can be assured that there are no criminals in active ministry.

5 Comments

Filed under canon law, clergy abuse

What if a perpetrator is getting out of jail?

S/he has served his or her time. Now what?

For victims, it can be sheer horror

There is both relief and joy for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and their families when a convicted perpetrator goes to jail.  The perpetrator can no longer gain access to a child. But that relief can be short-lived.

The typical felony child abuse sentence is a 2-3 years, unless there are special circumstances.Why? The economics of prison overcrowding and state constitutional rules regarding civil commitment.

The situation of Oblate priest James Rapp OSFS is different. Rapp is a Roman Catholic priest convicted to 40 years for child abuse, reduced to 16 years. He will be free in 2015. But his case is the exception, not the norm.

Recent Changes

The cases Bishop Finn in Kansas City and the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia have changed how criminally charged clerics plead. The last four priest perpetrators on 288 (a) child abuse in California (Father Denis Lyons in Orange; Rafael Venegas and Luis Jose Cuevas in Los Angeles and Uriel Ojeda in Sacramento) all pled guilty to reduced sentences. Why plead guilty? To keep the bishop or archbishop from testifying at trial.

But what is the perpetrator is still a threat?

If a state has a Sexual Predator Act, victims can suggest that the District Attorney charge the perpetrator as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). From a lay person’s viewpoint, SVP is a hybrid of criminal and mental health law, forcing an inmate to go before a mental health board before release is granted.

The public then can intervene and argue against the release for public safety reasons. They can show the perpetrator is still a danger, or that the paraphilia that he/she suffers from is a permanent psychic infirmity for which there is no guaranteed treatment.

Does SVP work? You bet! 

Every state needs a Sexual Predator Act to protect Children. The key is to act early and affirmatively. If your state has such a law, ensure your police report and criminal complaint plead all the violent acts with specificity. It will make the SVP determination.

It is hard and takes courage to make a police report. But do it for you—and the kids of today and tomorrow. If you know other survivors, encourage them to also come forward and make a report to law enforcement.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized