The Catholic Church still does not understand that child sex abuse is a crime and should be treated as such.

NYT reports: Pope Francis on Thursday issued the first law obligating officials in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to report cases of clergy sexual abuse — and attempts to cover it up — to their superiors.

Vatican officials said the pope was trying to enshrine accountability for bishops into church law.

What is needed is that people like Cardinal George Pell should be responsible to the civil authorities not to other priests like him.

The move by Pope Francis does nothing to instill confidence in the Catholic Church’s intention stall about child abuse.

Victims’ advocates say the church can no longer be trusted to police itself, which is exactly what the new law demands.

“This new law leaves it up to the bishop to report it to civil authorities — he does not have to,” said Peter Isely, an abuse survivor and the leader of Ending Clergy Abuse, an advocacy group for survivors of clerical child abuse. “Hasn’t that also been the problem? How does this change anything?”

Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal who was kicked out of the priesthood this year for sexual abuses, in Newark in 2014.

Cardinal George Pell is currently serving a prison sentence in Australia for child sex abuse. He is pictured here with his friend, fellow priest and convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale.

if the Pope’s proposed plan were in place while Ridsdale and Pell were practising, Ridsdale’s offences would be reported to his Bishop, a practising paedophile himself.

What chance of justice here?

Despite the outrage, the condemnation, the suffering, the Catholic Chuch continues to defend Robert Best

Christian Brother Robert Best to spend at least another decade in jail for abuse. Old, sick and incontinent, paedophile Robert Best will in all probability die in jail, after being ordered to spend at least another decade behind bars for sexually abusing 20 boys at Victorian schools as a Christian Brother.

His legal fees are still being met by the church. Judge Chettle said last month he was stunned to learn the Christian Brothers spent at least $1.5 million defending Best.

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The Christian Brothers have not moved to expel him despite what Judge Chettle called “the obvious disgrace” Best had brought the order.

Catholic Church continues to defend paedophile priests

The Age reports: County Court Judge Geoffrey Chettle said evidence the Catholic Church continues to fund the legal defence of one of Australia’s worst paedophiles, Robert Charles Best, “just blows me away”.

Robert Charles Best, among Australia’s worst paedophiles, continues to have his legal defence funded by the Catholic Church.

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Robert Charles Best is among Australia’s worst paedophiles

The Christian Brothers had spent more than $1.5 million in legal fees on Best, whose victims number in the dozens, according to evidence the order gave to the child abuse royal commission in 2015.

Best maintained his innocence through four trials, meaning his victims had to give evidence. He lost every one of those trials before he entered a guilty plea.

In 2015, the Christian Brothers said they would welcome the paedophile back into their ranks upon his release from prison.

 

 

 

 

A mumbling forgetful old man

Last night, I watched a mumbling, forgetful old man in front of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

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To begin with, he acknowledged that his recollections would be imperfect – that his memory might fail him in this hearing.

Then his evidence was punctuated with:

“I can’t remember.”

“I’m struggling to remember.”

“I can’t clearly recall.”

“I have no clear recollection of my knowing.”

“It’s difficult to answer that absolutely.”

“My memory is not infallible.”

“I don’t have perfect recall.”

“My level of recall is not sufficient.”

“It’s over 40 years ago and I can’t recall.”

It’s amazing that there is so much he can’t remember. It’s the same old dodgy tick, “I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m just saying I can’t remember that it did.”

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 Notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale with his friend Cardinal George Pell

I had to remind myself that this is the man who is the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy for the Vatican which makes them their top financial whiz and the third most powerful man in the Vatican. No one really knows how much the Catholic Church is worth but  the American Catholic church alone – which has the fourth largest follower base by country, behind Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines – spent $170bn last year. The Australian Federal government spent around $430 billion last year, probably well short of total Catholic Church spending worldwide.

So George is probably one of the most powerful people in the world economy. But how does he do the job when his memory is so fallible.

The saddest aspect of this testimony was that he blamed everybody else, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and the Catholic Church in particular. No mention of the fact that he held the office of Archbishop, the place where the buck stops.

What George Pell should do is walk into the  interview room at Rome’s Hotel Quirinale, go up to the group of survivors of sexual abuse who travelled to Rome, take each one by the hand in turn, look them in the eye and say “I have failed you, I am sorry, please forgive me.”

Is that really too much to ask?

 

The Cardinal Pell Dilemma

It was probably only a matter of time before allegations would surface that Cardinal George Pearl had been engaged in child abuse.

Predictably Cardinal George Pell has vehemently denied allegations that he sexually abused minors while a priest in Ballarat and as Archbishop of Melbourne.

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 Cardinal Pell’s excuse that he is too sick travel looks like a smokescreen

The Herald Sun’s report on Friday evening claims Cardinal Pell is being investigated by Victoria Police’s Sano taskforce for committing multiple offences, by “both grooming and opportunity”.

Feeling is running very high in Victoria where Tim Minchin’s satirical song “Come home, Cardinal Pell”  has gone viral, the abuse victims are preparing to go to Rome to witness Pell’s interrogation by the Royal Commission and a crowd funding campaign to provide financial support for the trip has been wildly oversubscribed.

However, the accusations against Pell raise some important questions about the way enquiries such as commission conducted and more importantly the way the media shapes public opinion. The central problem with allegations of child abuse is that there are often no witnesses and it’s the child’s word against the alleged abuser.  This is the approach that the Catholic Church has taken for years. “You’re a mere child, how can you say that about a priest, a man of God!”

As has become apparent from victim statements at the Royal Commission, the people who have suffered the abuse are often scarred for life, both emotionally and physically and are often shattered by its social and economic effects. But the people who have been accused of child abuse are members of the most powerful, influential and wealthy organisations that the Western world has ever seen: the Catholic Church which is protected them.

In this situation,  where examples of  Catholic Church child abuse are now a global phenomenon, it’s not acceptable to cast doubt upon the allegations against priests. Every allegation must be treated seriously. In addition, people are often prepared err on the side of the victims and give them the benefit of the doubt. In all the cases so far, this has been justified.

So far the best defence that Archbishop Hart has been able to think up for his friend George Pell is “I have known George all my life and he’s not a paedophile.” Unfortunately, this is what Catholic priests have been saying about each other for generations.  At best, public opinion may see Archbishop Hart as sadly deluded, at worst, colluding to protect the guilty.

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But the dilemma is that while many people would like the latest set of allegations to be true,  we need to be very careful about developing the ethos that existed when McCarthy was running his witch hunts in America.

It’s so easy to think  “If Pell were a paedophile, it would make his protection of other paedophile priests all the more damnable.  His disgrace would be complete.”

In this situation, media reports that confirm our prejudices are unlikely to be given more credence than those that do not.

You’re tempted to sympathise with Pell’s situation. But then you think about it and decide ” No.”

 

Catholic Church continues its bully boy tactics

The Age reports that Victoria Police will apologise and pay compensation to a former detective more than 30 years after senior officers covered up his investigation into child abuse allegations against a Catholic priest.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday heard from Denis Ryan, who had doggedly investigated allegations of child sexual abuse against Monsignor John Day in Mildura under intense pressure to stop. His superiors later took over the investigation and cleared Day of any wrongdoing.

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It seems incredible that the Victorian Police have now been drawn into the festering scandal involving the Catholic Church and paedophile priests.  It is even more incredible that in the 1970s  (and possibly long before) two  of the most respected institutions in our society, the Police and the Catholic Church, conspired to use their combined authority and power to protect the most obnoxious and noisome of human beings.

The signs are good that the Victorian Police will make restitution to Dennis Ryan. It should be a restitution that makes people stand back and say, “Wow, that was generous but appropriate.”

He is a man who should have on amongst us.

Such a move would be in direct contrast to the Catholic Church which continues to uses financial power to attack and denigrate the witnesses that appear  to give evidence against the paedophile priests.

One of the most striking and haunting things about the people who appear before this Royal Commission is that they are people whose faces show that their lives have been profoundly changed by the abuse they have suffered or the experiences they have had, in Ryan’s case, fighting these huge injustices.

In contrast, we have the self-satisfied and well-fed face of Cardinal Pell staring out at us from so many newspapers.

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Cardinal George Pell: protected by the wealth and power of the Church

The latest attacks on the credibility of witnesses and victims of paedophile priests by  Cardinal Pell’s lawyer Sam Duggan is a continuation of the bully boy tactics of the Catholic Church.

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Lawyer Sam Duggan

Just imagine if someone in the Catholic Church had the guts to stand up and say:

“Look, some of the people who give evidence are going to be making it up and some will  say nasty things about us but, in the greater scheme of things, we probably deserve it. So the Catholic Church will cop it sweet and take it on the chin. We will not attack witnesses credibility and subject people to cross-examination by a particularly  well-paid and articulate  lawyers.  We will accept their testimony and acknowledge their pain  and we will set and example of the healing that restorative justice can bring.”

Don’t hold your breath.

 

 

Vatican retreats behind legalism (yet again)

The Roman Catholic Church has retreated behind the law (this time international law) to deny access to information about child abuse cases in Australia.

Vatican refuses to hand over files on priests to abuse royal commission

The argument is that the Vatican is a sovereign state and would not provide documents in line with “international convention”.

Cardinal George Pell, now working in Rome, was asked if he sought an assurance from the Vatican that any document the royal commission needed would be provided.

“That is correct,” Cardinal Pell told the commission via video-link today.

“I suppose in retrospect there would be some discussion over what ‘any document’ meant.”

Weasel words again. Surely the meaning of any is absolutely clear.

The meaning of the word is, according to the Oxford Dictionary Used to refer to one or some of a thing or number of things, no matter how much or how many

When will these old men, who are arguing the Church’s case, realise that there needs to be a cathartic response to the allegations of child abuse. Nothing short of that leaves the reputation of 2000-year-old organisation hopelessly mired in a squalid scandal.

The Australian public and indeed the laity of the Catholic Church deserves nothing less.

More weasel words from George Pell

The insensitivity and arrogance of this man beggars belief:

Pell compares priests to truckers as victims given apologies

Apparently, George Pell is too busy to grace the Royal Commission into child sex abuse with his presence because he’s too busy looking after the Catholic Church’s money. As he did when he offered Christine and Anthony Foster, parents of abuse victims Emma and Katie, $50,000 compensation. The Fosters later won $750,000 in compensation from the Melbourne archdiocese. That’s 15 times the original offer. Pell’s view was that this was a good offer in the light of what other culpable organisations were offering.

Anthony and Christine Foster with daughters Aimee and Katie Both of whom were abused by a paedophile priest.. Emma took her own life at the age of 26

Anthony and Christine Foster with daughters Aimee and Katie Both of whom were abused by a paedophile priest.. Emma took her own life at the age of 26

But the most amazing and outrageous element of Pell’s defence, reported in The Age, is that the Catholic Church is like a ”trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, ”I don’t think it appropriate for the leadership of that company be held responsible.”

After all this time, the evidence presented at enquiries, the testimony of victims, the conviction of paedophile priests, he still doesn’t think that the Catholic Church is at fault. And he certainly doesn’t think that he bears any responsibility as the head of the church in Australia i.e. “the leadership of that (trucking) company”.

He is still resorting to weasel words. Argument by analogy is always dangerous. In this case the choice of analogy is ineffectual and insulting to anybody with an intelligence above about 85. The church is not like a trucking company and a hitchhiker. He argues that the trucking company has no responsibility to the hitchhiker. That is, George, until the driver picks the hitchhiker up in the company track.

But the case of the church is different. It had a responsibility for the care and protection of the children who were abused and this is what makes Pell’s appallingly badly chosen analogy so profoundly insulting. He still doesn’t think the church bears any responsibility and he keeps reiterating this point in a tribunal that is getting national and possibly international coverage.

This man is a Cardinal, a prince of the church so we can only assume that his version is the official version and response of the Vatican to the allegations of child abuse, not just in Melbourne but everywhere: it’s not our fault, it was the truck driver

It is a pity that Cardinal Pell cannot be subjected to the legislation covering mandatory reporting of child abuse. He is safely tucked away in the Vatican where he presumably enjoys diplomatic immunity.

You wonder what the Catholic Church could possibly do to make things worse

UPDATE: George Pell’s truck driver analogy veers into hostile territory

The Age reported that Trucking association chair Noelene Watson hit back at Cardinal Pell: “Cardinal Pell must realise that he cannot solve these problems by insulting Australia’s hardworking truck drivers, who deliver the goods we use every day.”

No change of tactics from the Catholic Church

One of the many damning things to have come out of the enquiry into the activities of paedophile priests and the Catholic Church was the practice within the church of moving known paedophiles to new parishes. Often this meant that they were able to continue their paedophile activities as the parishioners were not informed of the reasons for their acquiring a new priest.

Cardinal Pell will move to a new appointment in Rome after just two days in the commission of enquiry. Given the Cardinal’s propensity for legal defences for his actions in relation to the victims of abuse, it would be worth asking whether a move to Rome now provides a good Cardinal with a diplomatic defence against any further action by the legal system was in Australia.

Does Australia have an extradition treaty with the Vatican? Can we get Cardinal Pell to return to Australia if he is required to answer further questions? Wouldn’t think so.

So what’s the difference between moving a paedophile priest and moving a cardinal?

This Australian public has now had an opportunity to judge the moral, ethical and spiritual stature of the Catholic Church’s most senior prince. There has been a deafening silence in his defence And significant condemnation, particularly from groups associated with the victims of abuse. Nonetheless, the Catholic Church has decided to promote him to a small elite group of people from whom they will draw the next Pope.

The use of legal technicalities to avoid responsibility for child abuse

While the various national and state and enquiries into child abuse child in the Catholic Church continue, it is s imperative that State and Federal legislature moves to remove the so called Ellis defence.

The Ellis Defence is based on a ruling of the high court of Australia which found that the Catholic Church, as a whole, cannot be held legally (and thus financially) responsible for the actions of its priests who sexually abused children, because it is not incorporated as a single entity and there is no legal requirement for the church to do so.

Despite the utterances of Cardinal Pell this week, the church continues to use this legal technicality to limit the ability of victims of child abuse to seek just compensation.

Anyone who has doubts about the churches view of the Ellis Defence should go to the website and see what the official view of this is.

The church’s view is not that there has been immense damage that has been done by paedophile priests and that the church, either because it was responsible for the actions of its priests or because it has a duty of care towards its flock, should seek to heal the damage that is being done. Neither of these two concerns feature on the website. It is simply about the churches legal right to exploit a legal technicality to avoid accepting responsibility.

Given that the Catholic Church has decided on a legal defence rather than adopting a responsible moral and ethical position on this appalling problem, the Federal and State governments have responsibility to move immediately to close this loophole. While the church argues that it can be sued, the Ellis Defence makes the chances of the success of legal actions against the church close to zero. The plaintiff is forced to rely on the generosity of the church. Accounts from various victims of the abuse seem to indicate that this generosity is pretty thin.

There seem to be two fairly straightforward courses of action. The first is that legislation is passed to require the Catholic Church to incorporate in such a way that makes it possible for action to be brought against it by the victims of abuse. The second is for the establishment of a tribunal, much like the one that was established in South Africa. Three to five people would be sufficient: a senior judge to preside, a representative from the Catholic Church, a representative of the victims organisations and two independent, non-Catholic members. The tribunals would have the power to make binding decisions on applications for compensation for child abuse as well as to recommend prosecution for the perpetrators of the abuse.

It is a monstrous wrong that the oldest and largest church on earth is not capable of accepting its fundamental Christian responsibilities for these damaged souls. The Catholic Church appears to be avoiding its Christian responsibilities by hiding behind a legal technicality. I’m not a believer in the afterlife, but I sure would like to be present at judgement day when the people responsible for these atrocities finally face their maker.