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Accountability

Sex abuse scandal in the Netherlands brings requiem for Dutch Catholicism

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Commentary

Last Friday, Archbishop of Utrecht Wim Eijk held a press conference to apologize for the abuse of tens of thousands of children in Catholics institutions in the Netherlands. The abuse was documented in a report that covered the year 1945 onward. Since the story is now a familiar one, the report has merited mention but little sustained attention.

But for some Catholics of my generation, the press conference was a coda, a requiem of sorts. Back in the '70s, Dutch Catholicism represented an open and engaged Catholicism. It embodied a vision of what Catholicism could become in the wake of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Report: Thousands abused by church personnel in Netherlands

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A report on a Dutch inquiry said "several tens of thousands of minors" were sexually abused by Catholic Church personnel between 1945 and 2010, and it faulted church leaders for covering up the abuse and failing to help victims.

Dutch bishops and heads of religious orders expressed "shame and sorrow" at the revelations and pledged to "take all measures provided for under church and civil law" to prevent and punish such abuse in the future.

The report, issued Dec. 16, was the result of a lengthy independent inquiry requested by the Dutch bishops' conference and the Conference of Dutch Religious. The commission that conducted the study had access to church archives, and it received 1,795 specific reports of sexual abuse of minors in the church; it also conducted a survey to estimate the scale of abuse over the 65-year period.

The report estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 children who spent part of their youth in a Catholic institution in the Netherlands suffered abuse by church personnel.

Priests for Life founder: Group 'is in jeopardy'

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Fr. Frank Pavone, the high-profile pro-life priest whose bishop has restricted his ministry because of questions about the finances of the group he runs, told his benefactors in a letter that the organization's existence is in serious doubt.

Pavone, head of Priests For Life, sent a fundraising letter to supporters in early December to tell them that "all of our work at Priests for Life, indeed the very existence of Priests for Life, is in jeopardy."

"Contributions are not nearly where they need to be in order to sustain all that Priests for Life is doing," Pavone writes. "But no matter how much you choose to give, whether a one-time gift of $160 today or a monthly Pledge of at least $27, it is absolutely vital that you respond TODAY" (emphasis included).

Pavone blames "many in the news media -- and sadly even some whom we thought were our friends in the pro-life movement -- to destroy Priests for Life and silence our voice ..."

Judge: No questioning Vatican officials in abuse case

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal judge in Portland has declined to order face-to-face questioning of Vatican officials in a lawsuit claiming that the Vatican was the employer of an abusive priest in the 1960s.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled Dec. 1 that attorneys for the plaintiff in the case, John V. Doe v. Holy See, had not proven the need for an exception to the immunity given to foreign nations under U.S. law.

The Vatican has published online more than 70 pages of documents which, it said, prove the Vatican had no knowledge of a priest's sexual misconduct until he and his religious order petitioned for his laicization. It also has provided more than 1,800 pages of documentation to the court.

The case involves the late Andrew Ronan, a former Servite priest who was laicized in 1966. A man, now 63, who says he was abused by Ronan in Oregon in 1965 is seeking to hold the Vatican legally responsible, saying Ronan was a Vatican employee.

California priest jailed on teen molestation charge

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A 32-year-old priest in the Diocese of Sacramento in California is being arraigned Friday on two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a 14-year-old girl.

Fr. Uriel Ojeda, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Redding, Calif., surrendered to police Nov. 30, one day after diocesan officials received the complaint and reported it to Sacramento County Child Protective Services and the Sacramento Police Department.

At a press conference Thursday when the arrest was announced, Bishop Jaime Soto said Ojeda has been placed on administrative leave, meaning that he may not perform any of the duties of a priest.

"I have personally spoken to the family involved," Soto said at the press conference. "They are in great pain. They have been very brave in bringing this forward. We will do everything we can to make sure they get the help they need. I admire the courage with which they have come forward to bring this to my attention so that we can bring this to the attention of authorities.

Pope: Others should be held to same abuse 'standards'

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI told bishops from New York state that "all other institutions" in society should be held to the same "exacting standards" as the Roman Catholic Church in preventing and reporting sex abuse.

Benedict spoke on Saturday, one day before New York's Syracuse University announced that it had fired its associate men's basketball coach, Bernie Fine, over charges that he had sexually abused young boys.

Speaking to a delegation led by New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the pope praised the bishops' "honest efforts" at protecting children against sex abuse, and dealing "appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise."

"It is my hope that the church's conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community" to understand and respond to sex abuse, Benedict said.

The pope also encouraged the bishops in their efforts to confront the "grave challenges ... presented by an increasingly secular society," including "attempts to still the church's voice in the public square."

Soldier joins SOA Watch march as conscientious objector

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COLUMBUS, GA. -- Mixed in among the crowd at Sunday's SOA Watch procession was a U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. Walking with his GI Rights counselor, who asked that NCR not publish the 25-year-old soldier's name for fear of reprisal, the clean-cut soldier agreed to talk about his pending conscientious objector application. Stationed at Benning since April, the soldier said he joined the Army two years ago not fully realizing what he was getting into.

"One of the biggest reasons why I joined the military: You're sold on this idea of pride and money, and for a starving college kid sometimes that's just good enough," he said as the names of the martyrs were being chanted with the crowd responding, "Presente."

"I became a conscientious objector when I was stationed in Korea in 2010."

As part of his Advanced Individual Training (AIT), which follows basic training, the soldier was assigned to "make a list of military targets of interest, to go out and find these people and drop rounds on them, you know, blow them up, basically is what it was."

Video: Why is there sympathy for sex abusers?

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Viewpoint

If the Catholic community has anything to offer from its experience with the awful sex abuse scandal, it is that the problem is complex and involves human and institutional dynamics and reactions that often run contrary to everything we consider right and just.

How does it happen? The exploration of that question will likely go on for a very long time, heightened now and again by events such as the accusations against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The current news prompted Jesuit Fr. James Martin, author and culture editor for America magazine, to appear on a video about an aspect of the problem -- the "grandiose narcissist" -- that he learned about during a conference on the church's problems. It is an element of the problem that has been discussed at length by psychiatrists and psychologists at conferences and in papers, but it's not been included often enough in the wider, popular discussion.

Prosecutor: Agreement with Finn protects children

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The county prosecutor who brokered a deal with the local bishop to give his office immediate oversight of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese's sex abuse reporting procedures says the agreement could be a model for other jurisdictions.

He also dismissed criticism that he let Bishop Robert Finn off easy by not charging him with failure to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor.

Speaking to NCR by phone, Clay County, Mo., prosecutor Daniel White said he decided to pursue the diversion agreement partly because it "cuts to the chase" and makes sure future cases of sexual misconduct are reported to the police.

Moreover, even if he were able to gain a conviction against Finn for his handling of the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, White said it would be for a misdemeanor.

"In the range of punishment for a misdemeanor, the maximum is a year in the county jail," White said. "Given the facts and circumstances surrounding what happened, I thought that I got the biggest bang for my buck with this agreement."

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