Most Catholics in the United States and other Western countries now affected by the priest sex abuse scandal understand that in any other organization so deeply damaged by what one archbishop has termed “spectacularly wrong” handling of the problem, heads would have long ago rolled and a serious search for the causes of the tragedy would be well underway.
Following are excerpts from the pastoral letter “Seeing the Faces, Hearing the Voices: A Pentecost Letter on Sexual Abuse of the Young in the Catholic Church” by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia. The full text can be found at www.cg.catholic.org.au/about/default.cfm?loadref=86.
Here I mention briefly several factors which, in my view, may have combined to make the problem cultural rather than merely personal, at least in the Australian situation. ...
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — In two surprise moves Aug. 13, the Brussels attorney general’s office declared that the June 24 police raid on the offices of the Catholic archbishop in Mechelen were unlawful and that any evidence that may have been unearthed during the raid is inadmissible in court. The same day, the Brussels court of prosecution issued a judgment that all confiscated documents and computers had to be returned.
The attorney general's declaration and decision of the court were made public not by the court but by Fernand Keuleneer, a lawyer representing the Archdiocese of Brussels-Mechelen and Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the retired archbishop.
However, the court of prosecution also ruled that investigations into allegations of the sexual abuse of children by clergy could continue for cases that came to light after police seized documents and computers in June.
In statements, speeches, interviews and at least one pastoral letter, bishops in various parts of the world have begun raising provocative questions about whether something intrinsic to the Roman Catholic church -- perhaps its clerical culture, its manner of governance, its exercise of authority, or a combination of such elements -- has either caused or abetted the priest sex abuse tragedy.
In a rare stroke of good news for Rome vis-à-vis the sexual abuse crisis, attorneys for three alleged victims in Kentucky have said they’re dropping what many analysts regarded as the most serious civil lawsuit against the Holy See in American courts.
Louisville-based attorney William McMurry gave two reasons for abandoning the case of O’Bryan v. Holy See, one legal and the other practical.
As a legal matter, McMurry told media outlets in mid-August, the Vatican’s sovereign immunity under American law set the bar too high. More practically, McMurry said, he couldn’t find additional victims willing to come forward who haven’t already been part of a lawsuit against the church. Without more plaintiffs, it’s unlikely that any settlement or verdict would have been sufficient to offset the costs of litigation, even if the lawsuit had prevailed.
The O’Bryan case was originally filed in 2004, and McMurry had hoped to turn it into a class-action suit on behalf of thousands of victims nationwide.
About 300 survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters met this weekend in Chicago for a national conference sponsored by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). NCR contributor Heidi Schlumpf was at the conference and filed a series of stories to the NCR Today blog.
SNAP leaders said that the revelations this past year in Ireland, Germany and Belgium prove that the sex-abuse crisis is not merely "an American problem" caused by a few bad apples, the morally lax 1960s or anti-Catholicism in the media.
PITTSBURGH -- The Diocese of Pittsburgh has denied any negligence or wrongdoing in the case of a man who had alleged he was abused by a diocesan priest as a child in the early 1980s and committed suicide in May.
A lawsuit filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on behalf of the estate of Michael R. Unglo, 39, contends that the diocese had stopped paying for Unglo's psychiatric care before he took his own life May 4 while a patient at Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Mass.
DUBLIN -- In the wake of a series of clerical child abuse scandals, the country's newest prelate, Bishop Liam S. MacDaid of Clogher, called on the people of his diocese to join him in "a repentant return to the well of salvation."
Speaking at his consecration at St. Macartan's Cathedral, Monaghan, July 25, Bishop MacDaid said: "Society has forced us in the Irish church to look into the mirror, and what we saw were weakness and failure, victims and abuse. The surgeon's knife has been painful but necessary. A lot of evil and poison has been excised. There comes a time when the surgeon's knife has done what it can, is put away and a regime of rehabilitation for the patient is put in place.
ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI has given his new papal delegate broad powers of authority over the Legionaries of Christ as part of a major Vatican-led reform of the order.
The delegate, Italian Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, has authority over the order's current superiors and can even override the order's constitutions. He will have a say in all areas of the order including its governance, decisions involving personnel, education and ordination, as well as how assets are spent.
In a letter to Archbishop De Paolis announcing him as papal delegate, the pope said the archbishop was to be in charge of the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and all its members "for as long as it takes to carry out the path of renewal and lead it to the celebration of an extraordinary general chapter, whose main purpose will be to bring completion to the revision of the constitutions."
Many people, including bishops, date and label the "Crisis in the Catholic Church" to Jan. 6, 2002 when The Boston Globe began publishing its series about sexual abuse of minors by priests and revealing the conspiracy of bishops in covering up crimes. That was the flash point of a worldwide scandal. The crisis it epitomizes is more profound.
The uncontrollable public exposure and sharp focus on clergy sex abuse shocked everyone, but the fact of a church and priesthood in crisis did not come as a surprise to the United States hierarchy. "It is clear that we are in some kind of a crisis of priestly ministry. The nature of the crisis is not at all that clear." Those were the words Daniel Pilarczyk archbishop of Cincinnati directed at his fellow bishops on June 14, 1986. He went on to provide a checklist of possibilities: "Is it a crisis of image? Is it a crisis of numbers? Is it a crisis of celibacy? -- change? -- lay ministries? -- prayer? -- secularism? -- confidence? It is probably all of these and perhaps other things as well. And we have to respond to the crisis."(1)