Sixteen years after the clergy sexual-abuse crisis exploded in Boston, the American Catholic Church is again mired in scandal. This time, the controversy is propelled not so much by priests in the rectories, as by the leadership, bishops across the country who like Finn have enabled sexual misconduct or in some cases committed it themselves
When you read stories about Catholic priests who molested children not once, not twice, but repeatedly over many decades, have you ever wondered just how that could happen? Certainly their boss the bishop would do something about that, right? And certainly the ‘holy father‘ at the Vatican would do something to protect the children, right? Wrong, on both counts.
“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Matthew 18:5-7 (KJV)
The most heinous thing about the Catholic priest sex scandals, in the tens of thousands at this point, is the degree to which the Vatican has gone to cover it all up. When a local bishop hears about a priest molesting kids, that priest is quietly transferred to another parish where he is free to do it all over again. When news of the bishop who covered for the priest reaches the Vatican, that bishop is quietly moved ‘into retirement’ where he will stay, all his needs paid for from Vatican slush funds, and you never hear about him again.
And what about Pope Francis who ‘promised reform’? Not a chance. In fact, he is now labeling the victims of sexual assault by Catholic priests as ‘accusers’ in the same league as the Devil. The coverup is alive and well at the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
America’s Catholic bishops vowed to remove abusive priests in 2002. In the years that followed, they failed to police themselves.
FROM THE PHILLY INQUIRER: More than 130 U.S. bishops – or nearly one-third of those still living — have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe examination of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.
At least 15, including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington who resigned in July, have themselves been accused of committing such abuse or harassment.
Most telling, the analysis shows that the claims against more than 50 bishops center on incidents that occurred after a historic 2002 Dallas gathering of U.S. bishops where they promised that the church’s days of concealment and inaction were over. By an overwhelming though not unanimous vote, church leaders voted to remove any priest who had ever abused a minor and set up civilian review boards to investigate clergy misconduct claims.
Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal escalates amid accusations of cover-up
There are growing questions over what Pope Francis knew concerning abuse allegations. A former Vatican official, Archbishop Vigano, has demanded the pope resign. Now, a group of Catholic women are writing to the pope demanding answers.
But while they imposed new standards that led to the removal of hundreds of priests, the bishops specifically excluded themselves from the landmark child-protection measures. They contended that only the pope had authority to discipline them and said peer pressure — public or private shaming they euphemistically called “fraternal correction” – would keep them in line.
Bishop accountability has proved a contradiction in terms; resistance and indifference remain all too common. Even some of the bishops who wrote the 2002 reforms would themselves be accused of enabling or ignoring abuse. And the chairwoman of the new civilian board overseeing compliance with the reforms quickly despaired of the seriousness of the bishops’ commitment, saying, in a 2004 letter not previously reported, that their pledge to change “appears to be nothing more than a common fraud.”
In short: The price of reform has been paid, visibly, by parish priests. Their bosses, however, have been largely spared.
Meanwhile, allegations have piled up. In late October, a former assistant to Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo accused him of covering up abuse after releasing hundreds of secret documents that showed how Malone repeatedly mishandled cases.
West Virginia’s longtime bishop, Michael Bransfield, resigned in September after at least three claims emerged that he had sexually harassed younger priests. In 2015, Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Minnesota allegedly forced a deacon-in-training to retract his own accusations of being abused by a priest when he was a teen.
But there have been few consequences. The Vatican has allowed bishops who have faced credible allegations to slide quietly into church-funded retirement. Those still in power take orders only from Rome. READ MORE
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