This week, as Carnival was in full swing in many Catholic regions of the world and as the body of Padre Pio was paraded in Rome in a glass coffin, things appear to have gone from bad to worse in news of the response of Catholic officials to the abuse crisis. Patricia Miller sums up the response of many thinking Catholics (and non-Catholic observers) to the papal abuse commission's recent silencing of Peter Saunders by noting that "[f]or abuse survivors, the move to silence Saunders confirms their fears that the commission was largely a PR tactic."
In an editorial statement yesterday, the New York Times took note of Saunders's sacking by the abuse commission (and of Pope Francis's failure to attend the recent Vatican screening of "Spotlight," something Saunders made public right before he was voted off the commission). The Times notes that the Vatican could learn a valuable lesson about accountability from "Spotlight."
Then it adds:
Hierarchical accountability remains a pressing issue that the Vatican has not fully confronted in the numerous dioceses of the world where the scandal was suppressed. The pope’s 17-member commission presented fresh evidence of this failing when one of its two abuse-victim members, who had gone to the news media to criticize the slow pace of its work, was suddenly suspended on Saturday in a commission vote of no confidence.
For the Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau cites the response of SNAP leader David Clohessy to what has just happened to Saunders:
"The Pope’s abuse panel will issue recommendations. The Pope will adopt them. And nothing will improve. Why? Because there will be no enforcement," says David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, called SNAP. "Why? Because the church hierarchy is an entitled, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy. No new protocols or policies or procedures will radically undo a centuries-old self-serving structure that rewards clerics who keep a tight lid on child sex crimes and cover-ups."
Clohessy says the clear answer to this crisis remains outside of the church hierarchy "with victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers speaking up and with police, prosecutors and secular authorities stepping up."
Then, as all this was taking place, Vatican watcher John Allen broke the news at Crux that the Vatican is informing newly appointed bishops that they do not have an obligation to report sexual abuse of minors by priests to criminal officials. These instructions are being imparted to new bishops in a training document written by French priest and psychotherapist Tony Anatrella. As Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports in The Guardian,
The current guidelines written by Anatrella make only passing references to prevention policies. The French monsignor is best known for championing views on "gender theory", the controversial belief that increasing acceptance of homosexuality in western countries is creating "serious problems" for children who are being exposed to "radical notions of sexual orientation". He did not return a request for comment.
The guidelines reflect Anatrella's views on homosexuality. They also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church's legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims' right groups say continues to be a problem today.
Translation: we're now some three decades down the road from Jason Berry's initial bombshell reports that opened our eyes to what a serious abuse (and cover-up) problem the Catholic church has, and we're nearly two decades down the road from the eye-opening reports out of Boston, which confirmed Berry's research. We're years down the road, in other words, from the initial reflex response of Catholic leaders intent on continuing the cover-up, which was to pin blame for the abuse crisis on the gays — to shift responsibility for the abuse crisis to gay priests. But as the revelations from Rome about what the Vatican is telling new bishops and where it's getting its advice as it trains new bishops reveal, church officials are still seeking to shift responsibility for the abuse crisis to the gays — and still seeking to avoid transparency and accountability as they engage in this ugly homophobic finger-pointing.
They appear to have learned nothing at all in two decades. Nothing, that is, except to keep trying to shift the blame and avoid responsibility . . . . And so as Barbara Dorris notes on behalf of SNAP, these latest revelations from the Vatican are hardly surprising for many of us, when we've long recognized that "zero tolerance" is not the goal of the global church.
As Dignity director Marianne Duddy-Burke stated when news came out that the synod on the family was bringing Anatrella in as a special collaborator on family topics,
Monsignor Anatrella has a long and well-known history of making very disparaging statements about gay people. How can anyone who cares about LGBT people believe this Synod offers any hope for compassion and real reflection on the needs of LGBT people and their families when someone like this man is given such a prominent role?
As the preceding Guardian report suggests, the news that the Vatican is telling new bishops that they do not have a responsibility to report clerical abuse of minors to the police is now everywhere. It's hardly confined to Catholic publications. The video at the head of the posting is from Rishi Iyengar's report on this issue in Time, which notes that the commission Pope Francis appointed to advise the Vatican about abuse — the one that has just booted Peter Saunders — had no role in developing the training guidelines for bishops that rely on the advice of the homophobic French monsignor Anatrella.
But there's more: just as news breaks that the Vatican is instructing newly appointed bishops that they have no responsibility to report clerical abuse of minors to criminal officials, a report came out yesterday that Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of the southern Indian diocese of Ootacamund has placed Joseph Jeyapaul, a priest convicted of the crime of raping a 16-year-old girl in Minnesota, back in ministry.* With the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Bishop Amalraj has told the media that he consulted with the CDF as he made the decision to place Jeyapaul back in ministry.
That means this priest, Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul, can be put back to work, even though he was
--extradited to Minnesota from India by governmental authorities there and in the US,
--found criminally guilty of sexually assaulting one Minnesota girl,
--accused of sexually assaulting a second Minnesota girl,
--deported back to India, and
--sued by one Minnesota victim (and church officials settled that suit).
With the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith . . . .
Here's David Clohessy's response on behalf of SNAP to what he calls "an act of breath-taking recklessness and callousness":
Last year, Francis promoted and defended a complicit bishop in Chile while calling "dumb" the parishioners who expressed concern for the move.
This year, Francis lets a convicted predator priest go back to work, lets a papal panel oust an abuse survivor, and lets new bishops be taught that they don’t have to call police when abuse reports surface.
And some wonder why abuse victims "never seem satisfied." The pope's "Year of Mercy" is increasingly seeming like a "Year of Mercy for Corrupt Clergy."
David's reference to the situation in Chile is very apt: as Patti Miller notes in her Religion Dispatches article to which I link at the start of this posting, one of the primary reasons Peter Saunders was removed from the papal abuse commission is very likely that he kept publicly challenging Pope Francis's appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to head the diocese of Osorno, Chile, despite strong evidence of Barros's involvement in covering up clerical sexual abuse of minors. As Miller points out, Saunders had advocated for the abuse commission to hear the testimony of Juan Carlos Cruz, who says that Barros was present when Father Fernando Karadima sexually molested him.
As Miller notes, Cruz has stated that Latin America has been turned into a "playground for pedophiles" as priests credibly accused of having sexually assaulted minors have been removed from ministry in other parts of the world and then sent to Latin America. Hence the aptness of David Clohessy's reference to the Barros-Cruz story as he comments on the decision of Indian Bishop Amalraj to place a priest convicted of the rape of a minor in Minnesota back in ministry in India — with the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
And did you think I'd finished with my enumeration of reasons to conclude that, in this week when the corpse of Padre Pio was being exhibited in its glass coffin in Rome, things appear to have gone from bad to worse in news of the response of Catholic officials to the abuse crisis? Unfortunately, there's more: on the heels of the gut-wrenching story about the arrest of Ohio Catholic seminarian Joel Wright as he allegedly sought to make arrangements (and pay money) to sexually molest babies in Mexico — a story that has gone everywhere in the news — former priest John Feit has just been arrested in Arizona on charges that he murdered Irene Garza in McAllen, Texas, in 1960, after having raped her in his rectory.
Another story that is now going everywhere . . . .
And I somehow cannot bring myself to think that either shifting the blame for all of this filth to the gays, or parading around "incorrupt" corpses in glass coffins, is going to address the real issues that so obviously and so sorely need addressing, if the Catholic church is going to negotiate the most serious crisis confronting it from the period of the Reformation.