Friday, May 22, 2015

News in Catholic Abuse Crisis: Continued Outrage that Finn Will Ordain Seminarians, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese Under New Criminal Investigation, Sensational Accusations Against Vatican Official Cardinal Pell

In the area of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, several stories and pieces of commentary in recent days that deserve attention, I think:

1. In her editorial today for NSAC News entitled "Tin Ears, Hard Hearts, and Hubris," Kristine Ward of National Survivors Advocates Coalition publishes once again the recent text of the letter to the national USCCB advisory board on which I commented a week ago. The letter expresses consternation that resigned, criminally convicted Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City will be ordaining seminarians tomorrow.

An important excerpt from Kristi's statement:

But ultimately, Pope Francis bears responsibility. 
For all the lovely words that have been said about healing, protecting, getting it and moving on in the sexual abuse scandal, - the largest crisis in the Roman Catholic Church in 500 years - this action, allowed to stand, shows the Church's true colors. 
We hope those who plan to be cheering in the streets of the United States' cities where Pope Francis will travel in September will remember this Saturday in May.

2. CBS Minnesota reports yesterday that the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is under new criminal investigation in the case of Father Curtis Wehmeyer, now doing prison time for molesting a minor, exposing himself to another minor, and possessing child pornography. Continued questioning of witnesses in this case has led the Ramsey County Attorney's Office to question what archdiocesan officials knew when about Wehmeyer — especially as his supervisor from 2001-2006, the period in which Wehmeyer approached youths for sex and was arrested cruising for sex in a park, was Father Lee Piche, now a bishop and second in command in the archdiocese.

Reading the CBS report makes me remember something Jennifer Haselberger, the whistle-blowing former canonical authority for the archdiocese who resigned in April 2013, wrote at her blog site two days ago: commenting on the news that a priest of the archdiocese, Father Gerald Dvorak, had just been placed on leave due to credible allegations that he abused a minor, she wrote, 

[T]his may be only the beginning of what will end up being many weeks of bad news regarding the Archdiocese.

3. Earlier this week, as Oliver Milman and Stephanie Kirchgaessner report for The Guardian, at a hearing of the Australian royal commission into child sexual abuse, abuse survivor David Ridsdale made the sensational assertion that in 1993, he reported to then Bishop (now Cardinal) George Pell that he had been sexually molested by his uncle Father George Ridsdale, who is in prison after having committed more than 130 offenses against minors. David Ridsdale maintains that when he told Pell about his abuse, Pell offered him a bribe to buy his silence.

As Milman and Kirchgaessner point out, this story is sensational due to the fact that Pope Francis has given Pell a high office overseeing the Vatican's finances and has made Pell part of his inner circle of advisors. 

The UK Catholic Herald reports that Pell vehemently denies Ridsdale's claims. 

As The Guardian notes, the opposition party leader in Australia Bill Shorten is now calling for Pell to return to Australia and face the abuse commission. A senior Catholic priest of Victoria, Father Kevin Dillon, is echoing this call for Pell to testify, according to Marissa Calligeros in The Age.  In the video attached to this article, note the statement of Neil Wileman, an abuse survivor, that "he [Pell] seems to have made a big mess and then run away to the Vatican."

That statement, of course, will implicate Pope Francis in many observers' eyes, since Francis chose, after all, to bring Pell to the Vatican. Or, as abuse survivor Andrew Collins puts the point

I would like to see George Pell and the current Pope seriously have a look at this whole issue. If they were serious about child abuse, the very first thing they would do is do something. There's a lot of words but no action.

Instead, the top officials of the Vatican including the pope continue to give many of us the distinct impression that they put the concerns and needs and reputations and power of hierarchs over the well-being of the people of God, including defenseless children. And permitting the disgraced, criminally convicted former bishop of Kansas City Robert Finn to ordain seminarians surely does nothing to dispel that notion.

In fact, it shouts it louder and clearer than ever.

(Thanks to Chris Morley for valuable assistance with several links to the Pell story.)

I find the old photograph of a family listening to the news on the radio at many websites online, with no indication of its original source.

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