Vatican voices ‘shame and sorrow’ over damning sex abuse report
by admin | Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2018
Pope Francis and Vatican spokesman onboard plane | Reuters
The Vatican, in its first response to a damning report by a U.S. grand jury on sexual abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania, on Thursday (August 16) expressed “shame and sorrow”.
The grand jury on Tuesday (August 14) released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke also said the Catholic Church “must learn hard lessons from its past”, and that the Vatican vowed to hold abusers and enablers accountable.
The statement stressed the “need to comply” with civil law, including mandatory reporting of abuse against minors and said Pope Francis understands how “these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers” and that he wanted to “root out this tragic horror”.
Earlier on Thursday, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops called for a Vatican-led probe backed by lay investigators into allegations of sexual abuse by former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month. — Reuters
A former Catholic priest from the Polish village of Kalinowka is serving three years in jail for molesting five schoolgirls. But Jolanta Zych, a mother whose testimony helped convict him, says the priest’s victims and their parents are the ones made to feel guilty by the village’s local residents.
“People think that the priest is innocent and that an innocent man is in prison because of me,” she said.
Zych, whose nine-year-old daughter was among those molested, said neighbours spurned the family. “I am the kind of person that says hello to everyone but people turn their backs on me and do not reply,” she said.
Another mother Reuters spoke to, Marta Zezula, said her daughter began refusing food after the court case.
During mass, Zezula said, people shrank away or refused to shake hands during a ritual greeting known as the sign of peace. She said she no longer goes to church.
Home to about 170 people, Kalinowka is a short drive from a main road, but feels more remote. The Holy Cross church, built in 1880, sits on a hill overlooking rolling farmland and forests full of deer.
One parishioner, standing outside the church after leaving mass on a chilly November evening, said the accusations against the jailed priest were “all lies, all false, not true at all.”
“The priest was great, we will never have one like him, such a pity,” another parishioner said.
Reuters spoke to seven parishioners who were sticking by the convicted priest.
The priest, who cannot be named under Polish law, is now on trial again, charged with molesting another child. His lawyer, Marek Tokarczyk, said he denies the allegations.
Similar scandals have shaken the Catholic church and split communities in the United States, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.
But the divisions are particularly stark in Poland said Marek Lisinski, the director of “Have no fear”, a group that advocates for victims of clerical abuse.
Poland is one of Europe’s most devout nations and, says Lisinski, parishioners often side with priests and ostracise victims and their families.
In October, “Have no fear” published a map that revealed the scale of the issue. It used black crosses to mark places where 60 priests had been convicted of abuses dating back to 1956.
Afterwards, said Lisinski, people called in to report another 300 cases of suspected abuse by priests which they had not raised with the church or police for fear they would be doubted or shunned.
In October, a Polish court of appeal upheld a landmark ruling which granted a million zloty ($260,000) in compensation to a woman abused by a priest as a child.
In a November statement, Poland’s bishops asked victims of clerical abuse for forgiveness and said the Church had begun collecting data to “identify the causes of these deeds and assess their scale”.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, told Reuters the Church will publish its findings within six months.
Polak encouraged victims of clerical abuse to talk to their bishops and said clerical abuse “will never be swept under the carpet.”
He said he was aware the issue had caused rifts in some communities. “Uncovering evil, acting against evil leads to redemption, serves to purify,” he said.
Senior bishops from around the world will meet Pope Francis at a conference in the Vatican in February to discuss protection of minors. Conference organisers have said everyone must be held accountable or the Church risks losing credibility worldwide.
The issue could also have political ramifications in Poland, observers say. The country is due to elect a new parliament by December 2019.
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party won power in 2015 with a blend of patriotism and piety that echoed the religious nationalism of the Church. In October, a former PiS minister, Antoni Macierewicz, credited the Polish clergy with helping the party win local elections that month.
Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, an MP for a small opposition party called Now, is seeking an independent inquiry into child abuse by priests because she says the Church cannot be relied upon to investigate itself. She says the idea has received no support from PiS or other big parties.
A PiS spokesperson did not respond to several requests asking if it did not support the idea of an inquiry. Ryszard Czarnecki, a PiS MP for the European Parliament, responded to Reuters by asking why the Church should be singled out.
Most Poles are Catholic, and more than a quarter of the population regularly attends Mass, according to a survey by Warsaw-based research centre, the Institute for Catholic Church Statistics, which showed a slight decline from 2015 to 2016.
Most children attend religious classes, but their numbers are dropping, too. In Lodz, Poland’s third-largest city, the numbers fell from 80 percent in 2015 to fewer than 50 percent now, according to local government data quoted by the daily Dziennik Lodzki. — Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis has ordered an investigation of an American bishop accused of sexual misconduct with adults and accepted his resignation, the Vatican and U.S. Church officials said on Thursday (September 13).
The announcement was made as the pope was meeting U.S. Catholic Church leaders to discuss the fallout from a scandal involving a former American cardinal and demands from an archbishop that the pontiff to step down.
Reuters correspondent Philip Pullella said, “it seems that every day there is a new surprise.”
The bishop who resigned is Michael J. Bransfield, 75, of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. The Vatican said the pope had appointed Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to run the diocese until a new bishop is appointed.
The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors. Surveys show plummeting confidence in the Church in the United States, Chile, Australia, and Ireland where the scandal has hit hardest, as well as in other countries. — Reuters
Cardinald Donald Wuerl speaking about sex abuse scandal | REUTERS
A man attending a Catholic mass led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl on Sunday (September 2) yelled “Shame on you!” and walked out as the Church leader spoke about the sex abuse scandal and the need to be loyal to Pope Francis.
“I ask your prayers for me for forgiveness in any of my errors of judgment, for any of my inadequacies as well as for the grace to find with you ways of healing, ways of moving out of this darkness,” Wuerl told parishioners at the Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington.
Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused thousands of children over a 70-year period and silenced victims through “the weaponization of faith” and a systematic cover-up campaign by their bishops, the Pennsylvania state attorney general said in August.
Prior to his current role as archbishop of Washington, Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
A grand jury report on the abuse found that during that time, Wuerl had reassigned priests who had been accused of abusing children, rather than taking stronger action.
The grand jury report did not accuse Wuerl of personally sexually abusing children. — Reuters
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