Catholic Church in crisis

By Peter Gould


Gửi bài này cho bạn bè đăng ngày 20  tháng 8, 2007

There has been a public outcry in the US

For the ailing John Paul II, in the twilight of his papacy, it has been a distressing time.

What turned into a global crisis for the church began with a spate of allegations in the United States.

When one former priest went on trial in Boston, victims of sexual abuse in churches across the country started hiring lawyers.

In the space of a few weeks, the accusations - some stretching back many years - multiplied at an alarming rate.

Resignation demands

Particularly damaging for the Church were claims that bishops had tried to keep a lid on the scandal by quietly moving abusing priests from one diocese to another.

But now it was all out in the open. Priests were suspended, bishops resigned, and cardinals faced demands for their resignation.

The US cardinals were summoned to Rome for a crisis meeting with the Pope. By the end of the year, a policy had been agreed for dealing with suspected paedophiles.

But the Vatican's insistence on safeguards for those accused led to complaints by victims' groups that the promised "zero tolerance" policy was being watered down.

By now the US Church found itself facing multi-million dollar lawsuits from hundreds of Catholics claiming to have been abused by priests.

Alarmed by the financial consequences, church leaders in Boston considered filing for bankruptcy. But it was the growing damage to the reputation of the church that caused most concern.

And so the city's archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, returned to the Vatican to discuss his future.

Global scandal

With many of his own priests calling for him to stand down, his position had become untenable. This time the Pope accepted his resignation.

It would have been bad enough if the scandal had been confined to the US, a relatively small part of a global church with one billion members.

But the crisis focused attention on allegations being made across the Catholic world, from Brazil to Hong Kong, from Ireland to South Africa.

In Poland, homeland of the Pope, an archbishop stood accused of molesting young men training for the priesthood.

In many countries it is difficult finding enough recruits for the priesthood
Finding enough recruits for the priesthood has been difficult

In the Philippines, the church admitted that 200 priests were suspected of "sexual misconduct".

In Australia, the church took out newspaper advertisements to apologise to victims of sex abuse by its priests.

And in the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, faced awkward questions about the way he had dealt with an abusing priest.

In country after country, a scandal that had existed just beneath the surface of church life burst into the headlines.

It forced the Vatican to confront the issue of sexual abuse by priests, and the consequences could be far reaching.

The spotlight is on gay men in the church, and many innocent priests feel they are now under suspicion.

They fear there will now be efforts to stop gay men joining the clergy. But in many countries, it is already difficult finding enough recruits for the priesthood.

This has been a painful issue for the Catholic Church to confront.

But the Pope knows that the concerns of the faithful must be addressed if trust in the priesthood is to be restored.


Vatican bows to public opinion

By Peter Gould

In the end, Cardinal Bernard Law accepted the verdict of the people - he had to go.

The resignation of the Archbishop of Boston had been demanded for months, and his position finally became untenable.

Revelations about the extent of sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese shocked churchgoers.

But the way senior members of the church tried to keep it quiet took the crisis to a new level.

Too large a proportion of the community has lost faith in his leadership
Boston Globe

The scandal was triggered by the trial of John Geoghan, a former priest, who was jailed for molesting a young boy.

He has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of children over a period of 30 years.

Although he was a known paedophile, he was simply moved from one parish to another, and continued to prey on youngsters.


Allegations about other Boston priests followed. Church leaders found themselves accused of failing to face up to a problem they had known about for years.

Demonstors with placards

In Boston, churchgoers made their feelings clear

As the city's archbishop, Cardinal Law became the focus of public anger, but seemed determined to stay in office.

He apologised to the victims, and announced a "zero tolerance" policy on sex abuse.

But he said he would remain in office to bring about changes.

Then it was alleged that he had also known about the activities of another paedophile priest, but had done nothing to keep him away from children.

It left many people in Boston with a feeling that their Church was more interested in protecting its reputation than ensuring the safety of children.

The Boston Globe called on Cardinal Law to resign, saying he was an obstacle to reform.

"Too large a proportion of the community has lost faith in his leadership," the paper said in an editorial.


An opinion poll showed that many Catholics in Boston shared that view, and when further revelations followed, a number of priests also called on their cardinal to stand down.

But as demonstrators gathered outside his residence, the cardinal made the first of two secret trips to Rome to discuss the crisis with the Pope.

After this first visit, he said that he had raised the question of demands for his resignation, but the Pope had not asked him to stand down.

Cardinal Law returned to Boston, encouraged by his reception at the Vatican.

But there was further embarrassment when he accompanied the other American cardinals on their trip to Rome for talks with the Pope and his advisers.


He found himself pursued by the media, and at the news conference at the end of the Vatican summit, he failed to appear.

Pope John Paul II
The Pope is distressed by US revelations

It was said he had a prior engagement, but it looked to the US media as if he was trying to duck their questions.

This week, after further shocking revelations, Cardinal Law made another secret trip to the Vatican to discuss his options.

He had already drawn up a plan with church officials in Boston to file for bankruptcy.

The total number of law suits faced by the archdiocese had grown to 450, with the eventual cost to the church estimated at $100m.

The bankruptcy option would enable the church to draw a line under the scandal, halting current legal action, and preventing any new claims being made against the archdiocese.

But lawyers representing those abused by priests were dismayed.

One said it would be a form of "moral bankruptcy" for the church to jeopardise the chances of reaching a financial settlement with victims.

Growing crisis

The scandal that began in Boston has now spread across the United States.

John Geoghan in court
The scandal began with the trial of John Geoghan

Dozens of priests are under suspicion. Some have been suspended while complaints are investigated.

The US bishops have now adopted a new policy for dealing with priests who abuse children.

But plans for a "zero tolerance" approach had to be modified when the Vatican insisted on safeguards for accused priests.

With similar scandals unfolding in other parts of the Catholic world, the church has found itself facing questions about how it deals with sexual abusers in its midst.

Many priests have said that they now feel they are under suspicion. Gay priests in particular are concerned that they have come to be seen as the problem.

In Boston, the resignation of Cardinal Law may be welcomed by victims of abuse by his priests. But the crisis in the US church is far from being resolved.

The Vatican is hoping his departure will begin the process of winning back public trust in the church.

Restoring Boston's faith

The job facing the temporary leader of the Catholic Church in Boston can be summed up in a single word: Healing.

Bishop Richard Lennon has the daunting task of taking over an archdiocese torn apart by the sexual abuse scandal.

By finally accepting the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, the Pope has bowed to the inevitable.

Churchgoers were shocked by the revelations of sexual abuse by priests in Boston, and the attempts by church leaders to cover up a scandal dating back many years.

The fact that more than 50 of Cardinal Law's own priests were urging him to stand down made his position untenable.

Cardinal Law says mass before his resignation
Cardinal Law came under massive pressure from his own priests

Cardinal Law's own future is now uncertain. The career of one of America's most prominent clergymen has ended in humiliation and disgrace.

"The resignation of Cardinal Law is very significant," said Father Thomas Reese, an authority on the administration of the church.

"His resignation shows that the church recognises how terrible sexual abuse by priests is.

"Never again can it go back to business as usual and simply move an abusive priest from one parish to another."

Cardinal Law is returning to the United States this weekend.

Although he now has no say in running the church in Boston, he remains a Cardinal of the church, giving him the right to vote in the next papal election.

Repairing damage

The man who now has to pick up the pieces has been selected in the hope that he has the ability to start repairing the damage sustained over the past year.

At 55, Richard Lennon is relatively young, although he is already an experienced church administrator, who knows the archdiocese very well.

It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed
Cardinal Law

He is described as someone who likes to consult others, but who can also act decisively. He will need all these skills in the days ahead.

"I pledge to do all I can to work toward healing as a church and furthering the mission of Jesus Christ," he said, after being told of his appointment by the Pope.

Bishop Lennon was ordained a priest in Boston in 1973. As an expert in canon law, he should be well equipped to deal with the financial and legal consequences of the present crisis.

About 500 people are now pursuing claims against the archdiocese, saying they were abused by priests. It is thought the total bill could reach $100 million.

Compensation claims

Before quitting, Cardinal Law asked church aides to draw up a plan to declare the archdiocese bankrupt, a move that would halt legal action against the church.

This is just one issue that his successor will have to grapple with.

Lawyers for the victims say the resignation of Cardinal Law changes nothing; the claims for compensation will continue.

One lawyer told the Boston Herald: "Law's departure is not the end - it is the end of the beginning."

As "apostolic administrator", Richard Lennon will be in charge of the archdiocese until the Pope names Cardinal Law's replacement as archbishop.

In the end, Bishop Lennon may just be a caretaker. But it is vital for the church, right across the United States, that he starts to restore its tattered reputation.

But while the Vatican may be hoping to draw a line under the scandal in Boston, some believe the resignation of Cardinal Law could have a "domino effect". If such a high-ranking member of the church can be forced from office, they ask, who might be next?

Cardinal Law's resignation statement

Archbishop Bernard Law of Boston has resigned amid a child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in America.

The following is his resignation statement, issued after he held talks in Rome with Pope John Paul II.

I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Boston.

It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed.

To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness.

To the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity, with whom I have been privileged to work in our efforts to fulfil the Church's mission, I express my deep gratitude.

My gratitude extends as well to so many others with whom I have been associated in serving the common good; these include those from the ecumenical, Jewish, and wider interreligious communities as well as public officials and others in the civil society.

The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure. Please keep me in your prayers.

Activists tell archbishop to repent


The resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as Archbishop of Boston looks unlikely to resolve the scandal over alleged sexual abuse of children by priests.

Activists who have been critical of Cardinal Law's handling of the accusations say his stepping down is only a beginning.

He told us that there was no reason for concern - those are not the actions of someone who is repenting
Mike Emerton,
Voice of the Faithful

"Just because there is a new person in the chair doesn't mean it's over," said Mike Emerton, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic lay group, Voice of the Faithful.

Roderick MacLeish, a lawyer representing more than 200 people suing the archdiocese, said the legal action would continue, but many of his clients took comfort in the resignation.

"It has enormous significance," he told BBC News Online. "It is a recognition by the Holy Father that children deserve protection."


Mark Serrano, a board member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), described Cardinal Law's resignation as "a long overdue step".

Protest in Boston
Protesters took to the streets over the scandal

"It's sad that it would take the Church this long to remove the man responsible for so much devastation," he told BBC News Online.

Cardinal Law's critics allege that he failed to confront accusations that priests were abusing children, instead transferring priests from one parish to another.

Mr MacLeish, whose legal action led a court to order the Church to release thousands of personnel files on priests, said Cardinal Law had engaged in a cover-up.

"The release of the documents awakened the Holy See" to the magnitude of the problem, he said.


Mr Emerton was not impressed with the prelate's plea for forgiveness when he resigned.

"Within the faith, there is forgiveness, but you have to repent as well," he told BBC News Online.

He said Cardinal Law had assured Voice of the Faithful in a meeting last month that he was taking care of the problems within the Church.

"He told us that there was no reason for concern, that he had it all under control," Mr Emerton said.

"Those are not the actions of someone who is repenting."

I'm glad that the cardinal did resign, I'm glad that this day has finally come
Christopher Fulchino

A victim of priestly abuse himself, Tom Fulchino said he allowed his own children to go to church but tried to ensure they were never left alone.

But one time his son Christopher says he was called out from Sunday school class and abused by Father John Geoghan, now in prison for molestation.

Christopher Fulchino said he was "proud" of the day that was his birthday as well as seeing Cardinal Law's resignation.

"It's the start of healing," he said. "I hope people can find the strength to come out and be strong and don't be afraid... it just gets better... every day gets easier."

He added: "I'm glad that the cardinal did resign, I'm glad that this day has finally come."

Suing the Pope


Fr Sean Fortune

Fr Fortune was charged with 66 counts of sexual, indecent

assault and buggery relating to eight boys.


The Catholic Church did not tell the locals that Fr Fortune was a brutal, predatory paedophile. They organised delegations to two Bishops - wrote to the Papal Nuncio and the Vatican. The church promised it would do something. It never did.


The new priest

Fr Sean Fortune, a newly ordained priest, appeared dashing and energetic when he first arrived in the small Irish village of Fethard-on-Sea in County Wexford.

But what the locals did not know was that Fr Fortune already faced mounting allegations of child sexual abuse.

The Catholic Church kept this knowledge to itself.

Fr Fortune soon ensnared young boys of the village, relentlessly abusing and blackmailing many of them into silence.

A desperate community

When he was not controlling children in a myriad of carefully set up "youth groups", he was pressuring their parents for money, stripping the elderly of their savings and extorting millions of pounds from government employment schemes.

The Bishop thought it was ludicrous that a man of the cloth would act like that
Patrick Jackman

In Ireland, such was the power of the Catholic Church, no one would dare to complain about a priest. But Fr Fortune's behaviour had become increasingly bizarre and dangerous.

In desperation his parishioners organised a delegation to two Bishops and, after getting no real response, wrote to the Papal Nuncio, the Pope's ambassador to Ireland.

Still nothing was done to stop this bullying, predatory paedophile.

Painful memories

Colm O'Gorman was 14 years old when Fr Fortune raped him for the first time. His torment lasted for two and a half years. This year Colm returned to Fethard-on-Sea with Correspondent.

He wanted to understand how a priest could have a series of young boys stay overnight in his parochial house without questions being asked.

He would pick me up and be the priest in front of my mother and my family and five minutes later in the car he would make me perform oral sex on him
Colm O'Gorman

"He would pick me up and be the priest in front of my mother and my family and five minutes later in the car he would make me perform oral sex on him and then five minutes after that ended, stop off and again be the priest and walk into somebody's house with me in tow behind him. I just remember the real sense of shock of it all."

Colm's journey back to Fethard has been incredibly revealing. Many locals did not appreciate his questions and he was made to feel unwelcome.

But those who did open their doors to him admitted that the abuse was well known both in the community and the church.

The courage to tell

Patrick Jackman was 11 years old when he witnessed Fr Sean Fortune sexually abusing a young boy scout in a tent. Four years later, the priest appeared at Pat's home and asked if he could take the young boy to stay at his house for the weekend.

Pat had a premonition of what was about to happen, but was powerless to stop it.

Patrick Jackman
Patrick Jackman will never leave his children alone with a catholic priest

"There wasn't a phone in the place. If I ran out screaming in the middle of the night, I didn't know where the nearest place was. I didn't know if I went and knocked on the door if they would wake up or if they did wake up whether they would believe me or not. I had a terrible sense of being trapped and caged. It was bloody horrible, absolutely horrible."

Unlike many of the boys abused by Fr Fortune, Pat had the courage to tell his parents. His father was and still is close to the Catholic Church. He complained personally to Bishop Herlihey. "The Bishop thought it was ludicrous that a man of the cloth would act like that."

After the Bishop died, Pat's father complained to his replacement Bishop Comiskey.

To this day no one from the church has asked Pat Jackman about Fr Fortune or the events of that night.

Allegations mount

Dr Brendan Comiskey, the Bishop of Ferns, was informed of allegations of abuse against not just Fr Fortune but a number of priests, when he was first appointed.

Bishop Comiskey
Bishop Comiskey failed to stop Fr Fortune's abuse

Throughout the 80s, those allegations increased. On at least two occasions, Bishop Comiskey investigated, but came to no conclusions and did nothing to stop Fr Fortune.

Fr Sean Fortune was left in Fethard-on-Sea for six years before Bishop Comiskey finally removed him. He then sent Fortune to London to study media and communications and to seek therapy with a number of psychiatrists.

Two years later, Fr Fortune was brought back to Ireland, and given not only another parish and curacy, but also made the director of a Catholic media organisation, the National Association of Community Broadcasting.

Fr Fortune quickly turned his new role to his financial and sexual advantage. He raped a 15 year old boy in a studio booth where he recorded religious programmes.

The search for answers

Colm O'Gorman finally brought Fr Fortune's reign to an end in 1995. Aged 29, he decided to tell the Irish police about his experiences as a young boy. Colm feared Fr Fortune was still abusing.

Colm O'Gorman
Colm O'Gorman wants answers from the Catholic Church

The ensuing gardai investigation resulted in Fr Fortune being charged with 66 counts of sexual, indecent assault and buggery relating to eight boys. 18 years after the first complaint, the Catholic Church was finally forced to remove him from duties.

But instead of reaching out to Fr Fortune's many victims, Bishop Comiskey disappeared from his palace without explanation. It was discovered he had fled to an alcohol treatment clinic in the US.

He returned to his diocese six months later. Bishop Comiskey claims that the ongoing litigation prevents him answering the many questions about his and the Church's knowledge of Fr Fortune's child sexual abuse.

The response so far

Bishop Comiskey did, however, tell Correspondent that he maintains an open-door policy for all victims of child abuse in his diocese and this is where he can make his best contribution.

Fr Fortune
Fr Fortune committed suicide in the first week of his trial

Fr Sean Fortune killed himself in 1999 in the first week of the criminal trial denying his many victims their first chance to be heard.

The Catholic Church has never reached out in any way to the men in this film.

Colm O'Gorman, still hoping for some answers, is suing Bishop Brendan Comiskey, the Papal Nuncio and the Pope.



Record award for Church abuse victims


Pope John Paul II

The Pope has denounced "evil" paedophiles

An Australian Roman Catholic order has agreed to pay 3.64m Australian dollars ($2.1m) in compensation to 24 mentally handicapped men who were sexually abused while in its care.

The out-of-court settlement far exceeds previous compensation awards made by the Catholic Church or religious orders in Australia in sex abuse cases.

My parents thought they were doing the right thing when they placed my brother in the care of the order - we didn't know he would be at the mercy of some paedophiles

Relative of one victim

A statement from the St John of God Brothers said: "The order acknowledges that some of the residents under its care were sexually abused by some brothers."

The disabled men, who were only teenagers at the time, were abused by up to 20 brothers in three Melbourne institutions run by the order over the past 30 years, a spokesman for the order said.

Many of the brothers are now dead. Several had been asked to leave the order or had left voluntarily, Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

'Breach of trust'

St John of God has settled some previous claims alleging sexual abuse, but the amounts paid were much smaller.

I believe we are dealing with a firestorm that, unless it's brought under control and dealt with, is going to be really destructive

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide

The victims' lawyer, Peter Gordon, said individual compensation payments ranged from A$50,000 to A$400,000.

"Clearly the damage these people have suffered is significant and represents a breach of trust," he said.

Australia's Catholic Church has recently admitted that secrecy clauses were included in compensation payments to sexual abuse victims.

But John McCarthy, a lawyer for the Church, said Australia's bishops appeared to be unaware of the clauses, which effectively rendered any compensation as "hush money".

Archbishop's warning

The Church has confirmed that since 1996 it has paid A$3m in compensation to 101 sexual abuse victims in Victoria state alone.

Adelaide's Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson will address the US Conference of Catholic Bishops called to discuss the child sex abuse scandal rocking the American Church.

The conference opens in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday.

In April, Archbishop Wilson described the scandal as a "firestorm" which could inflict "perhaps the greatest ever destruction of the Church in western civilisation".


HK investigates new child abuse claims


Pope John Paul II

The Pope has condemned paedophile priests

Hong Kong police have said they are investigating new allegations of child sex abuse involving Catholic priests.

Three more cases have been reported since police set up a telephone hotline on 6 May.

It followed allegations that as many as six priests in Hong Kong abused children in cases going back several decades.

View of Hong Kong
Hong Kong has about 250,000 Catholics

One priest was detained last week for questioning.

Superintendent Shirley Chu told reporters the three new cases allegedly took place in the 1960s and 1970s and involved boys studying at secondary schools.

The allegations come as the Roman Catholic Church worldwide grapples with accusations that it covered up abuse by priests. The biggest scandal broke in the United States where cases of abuse have come to light in at least 17 dioceses.

Pope John Paul II has said there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.

Public anger

Since the Hong Kong allegations broke, Church officials there have referred serious cases to the police, saying they are adopting a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse of children.

However the BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong says the Church has been criticised for not publicly acknowledging cases of paedophilia much sooner.

The Church's admission earlier this month that some priests were under suspicion in Hong Kong came only after allegations appeared in the South China Morning Post - the Chinese territory's English-language daily.

The priest who was questioned last week, Michael Lau, was arrested on 4 May but was released the next day on bail. No charges have been filed yet.

The priest was defrocked after the Church found in an internal investigation that he had sexually molested a 15-year-old boy twice in 1994, but Church officials did not report the case to police.

The Church had said earlier that one of the cases took place in another country before the priest was transferred to Hong Kong and that at least two of the other accused priests have moved away, one to Canada and one to Australia.

There are about a quarter of a million Catholics in Hong Kong and the Church runs more than 300 schools and nurseries. About 300 priests work in the former British colony.


Irish cardinal 'regrets' abuse


Cardinal Desmond Connell

The cardinal urged more victims to speak out


The head of Ireland's Roman Catholic Church has expressed "deep regret" for "inadequacies" in church responses to allegations of child sex abuse by priests.

In a letter read out at church services on Sunday, Cardinal Desmond Connell, whose handling of the issue has been widely criticised, praised the courage of victims who have spoken out about clerical abuse.

Child abuse victim Gerard Kelly from Waterford, Ireland
The letter praised the courage of those who have exposed clerical abuse

More than 20 Catholic priests, brothers and nuns have been convicted of sexually abusing children in Ireland in the past 10 years.

The cardinal urged other victims to speak out, saying the church needed to know the full scale of the problem to be able to respond fully.

He said those coming forward had often done so "in the face of quite inadequate responses on the part of the Church".

And he expressed deep regret for instances where this had been the case in his own archdiocese.

'Courage and perseverance'

"Only those who have suffered this terrible outrage can fully understand what is involved in revisiting what was done to them and exposing the trauma over again in the glare of publicity," the letter continued.

"We are so much in their debt for the courage and perseverance they have shown in doing this," it said.

Thirty bishops from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland held an emergency general meeting last week to discuss the issue.

The meeting followed the resignation of the Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, in the face of criticism of his handling of complaints of abuse in his diocese.

International scandal

Similar scandals have emerged in other countries - particularly the United States - and last month Pope John Paul made his first public denunciation of guilty priests.

Pope John Paul II
The Pope has denounced guilty priests

In the US on Sunday, the leader of the Los Angeles archdiocese said he "took responsibility" for making a "mistake" in transferring a priest to work in a hospital without telling the institution the man was alleged to have abused children.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cardinal Roger Mahony said he should have forced Father Michael Wempe to resign when he heard of the accusations.

On Friday, the head of the Boston archdiocese, Cardinal Bernard Law, refused to bow to pressure to resign over the case at the heart of the sex scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in America.

Cardinal Law, 70, has been heavily criticised since former priest John Geoghan was convicted of child molesting.

He has acknowledged that he transferred Geoghan to another parish despite knowing of sexual misconduct allegations against the now-defrocked Boston priest.

SA Catholics admit abuse


The Pope summoned American cardinals to a crisis meeting in Rome

The Pope says child abuse was an appalling sin

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa has admitted that about a dozen priests have been accused of sexually abusing children in country.

"All I can say is that we have had a dozen cases involving Catholic priests in different parts of the country," Cardinal Wilfred Napier told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

It's embarrassing, its a tragedy, its a great crime against the innocence of the child.

Cardinal Wilfred Napier

However, he said that the cases had taken place many years ago.

Cardinal Napier's admission comes in the wake of a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the United States.

It prompted the Pope to summon American Catholic cardinals priests to Rome amid allegations of a cover-up.


"It's embarrassing, it's a tragedy, it's a great crime against the innocence of the child," Cardinal Napier said.

"One would feel the embarrassment, the sadness and the hurt that is also suffered by the people themselves."

Cardinal Wilfed Napier said the priests found to have abused children will not necessarily be expelled from the priesthood, but he added that some of them have already chosen to leave the Church.

He described paedophilia as a pathological condition that needed treatment.

Similar scandals

At the crisis meeting in Rome, the Pope made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by priests.

He told American cardinals there was no place in the Roman Catholic Church for priests who sexually abused children.

Although sex abuse scandals have rocked dioceses in other nations, only the American cardinals have been called to the Vatican.

Similar scandals have hit the clergy in different countries in recent years, including Austria, Ireland, Poland, France and Mexico.

Catholic church shaken by sex scandals


Pope John Paul II

The Pope has spoken out against "evil" abusers

The Catholic Church is now counting the cost of the revelations of sexual abuse by priests.

The growing scandal on both sides of the Atlantic has created a crisis of trust for the church, with claims that senior clerics failed to take action for years.

In Ireland, victims of abuse by priests have called for the resignation of the Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell. The government has ordered an inquiry.

The damage has been immeasurable, the toll is tremendous

Bishop Wilton Gregory

In England and Wales, the church has set up a national child protection unit. It follows the publication last year of the Nolan Report, which called for the "great evil" of child abuse to be rooted out.

In the United States, some dioceses have already paid out millions of dollars to settle law suits brought by victims. And the abusers are now being dealt with by the criminal courts.

In New York, the church has handed prosecutors a list of priests suspected of abusing children. And in Boston, a "zero tolerance" policy is now in force.


The allegations of abuse have created a climate of mistrust that has tarnished the reputation of the church.

The perception that church leaders have kept quiet about the problem has increased public anger over the activities of a small minority of their priests.

In the past, a priest who prompted complaints might have been moved quietly to a different area.

"Initially, the church viewed sexual offences as sins to be confessed, rather than a sickness to be treated," says Father Curtis Bryant, a psychologist who has treated American priests.

"Catholic authorities liberally forgave and trusted the offending priest, as they would any penitent, instead of putting him out of ministry."

Father Bryant is a former director of inpatient clinical services at the St Luke Institute in Maryland. It is one of the few centres in the United States that treats priests who are sexual abusers.


Writing in the Catholic magazine America, Father Bryant argues that sending people who need treatment to the criminal justice system is ineffective and inhumane.

There is no screening that would identify a paedophile

Dr Frederick Berlin

"So-called zero tolerance policies can lead to conduct unbecoming a loving Christian community," he says.

"We need to find ways to meet the legitimate concerns of the criminal justice system and the ability of mental health treatments to make sex offenders responsible for their behaviour."

Priests undergo a six-month period of treatment at the clinic, to help them understand their sexual disorders.

"The priest acknowledges that he does have a sexual problem," he writes.

"He acknowledges that his sexual disorder cannot be cured but can be treated, cannot be eliminated but can be controlled."

Father Bryant says that out of 450 priests who have undergone treatment over a ten-year period, only three "relapses" have been reported, and none involved physical contact.


So how should the church now deal with sexual abusers in its midst? Recent revelations have shocked many parishes.

Lord Nolan
Lord Nolan: "Root out child abuse"

They have also left many non-abusing priests feeling that they are now under suspicion.

And among gay members of the clergy, there is concern that they will be seen as part of the problem.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops says that while priority should be given to helping victims and their families, there needs to be a wider process of healing.

And whatever may have happened in the past, priests who have offended against children should never return to any ministry that includes minors.

But what about the next generation of priests? Can more be done to prevent paedophiles from entering the priesthood?


Dr Frederick Berlin, an expert on sexual disorders who has acted as a consultant for the US church, has found no evidence that paedophiles are particularly drawn to the priesthood.

"There is no screening that would identify a paedophile," he says.

So-called zero tolerance policies can lead to conduct unbecoming a loving Christian community

Father Curtis Bryant

"We can do some common sense things, such as background checks. We can provide more treatment so that paedophiles can get help.

"But there is no way that we can identify ahead of time a paedophile who has not previously been identified, and who wants very much to keep secret his own sexual yearnings."

But the church knows action is needed to restore public confidence in the priesthood.

"While we deplore the sexual abuse of young people, especially that committed by a cleric, we are confident that the numbers of priests involved in such criminal activity are few," says the president of the US Conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory.

"The damage, however, has been immeasurable. The toll this phenomenon has taken on our people and our ministry is tremendous.

"This is a time for Catholic people, bishops, clergy, religious and laity, to resolve anew to work together to assure the safety of our children."

Sexual abuse hits Church finances


St Peter's Square

Even the Vatican is now being sued

Payments to victims of sexual abuse by priests in the United States could reach $1bn.

The estimate is quoted by the leading Catholic magazine America, which says many people are so angry about the scandal that they want to punish the church.

In addition to multi-million dollar law suits, it is thought that some Roman Catholics may now withhold donations to the church.

Estimates put the total payments at $350m to $1bn

America magazine

And many insurance companies, who used to offer the Church cover for claims of sexual abuse, are said to be no longer prepared to take the risk.

The reason is the size of the payments being made to victims, either in jury awards or out-of-court settlements.

The Archdiocese of Boston alone is facing costs estimated at $100m, and new cases are emerging across the country.

Last week two American men who say they were abused as teenagers began legal action against the Vatican.


The magazine says estimates of the total payments made since 1985 ranged from $350m to $1bn.

Father Thomas Reese
Father Thomas Reese, editor of America

"But no-one really knows, because in many cases the court records are sealed," it says in an editorial.

The amounts were often kept secret at the insistence of the insurance companies, who preferred to settle out of court because legal fees could amount to $500,000 per case.

The magazine says that following a large jury award in 1985, practically all insurance companies had excluded cover for sexual abuse from their liability policies.

It warns that if church assets have to be liquidated to settle claims, it could mean less money for scholarships, parish schools, soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless.


The editorial says the payments made to victims were not so much "hush money" as attempts to help them meet the cost of therapy and rebuild their lives.

Pope John Paul II
The Pope has condemned "evil" sex abusers

"Even so, many Catholics have expressed outrage that their donations are being used to pay millions of dollars to victims of abuse for out of court settlements or jury awards," says America.

The magazine says anger over the crimes was not only being directed at the perpetrators, but also at church officials who had failed to take action to protect children.

Many dioceses were now turning over to the authorities the names of priests accused of sexual abuse.

But many people also wanted to punish the church, specifically the bishops who moved priests to new parishes where they had abused again and again.

"Some Catholics are so angry with their bishop that they are calling for a boycott of donations to the diocese," it says.

"Many intend to give to their local parish, but not the bishop."


The magazine also questions to size of awards being made by juries.

Many Catholics have expressed outrage that their donations are being used to pay millions of dollars to victims of abuse

America magazine

"Multi-million dollar awards, like the boycotting of diocesan collections, punish the wrong people," it argues in its editorial.

"Big jury awards make sense as a way to punish profit-making businesses, but they are a very blunt instrument for dealing with non-profit organizations, which have no stockholders.

"The church is not just the bishops, it is the people in the pews. There are no deep pockets with unlimited funds. Churches depend on the small weekly contributions from their congregations.

"Punishing the church means punishing the people of God and those they serve. Justice demands that we find another way."

Abuse claims dog US priests


Church altar

Abuse claims are causing mistrust in the Catholic Church


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has become the latest in the United States to suspend priests amid allegations that they sexually abused children in the past.

A statement from the Diocese said nine priests had been suspended while prosecutors investigated the charges.

All of us can become more alert to the dangers, more protective of potential victims

Bishop Anthony M Pilla

The diocese has also named 12 other priests who it said were "no longer in active ministry because of allegations in the past of abuse of minors".

The suspensions are the latest incident in an ongoing campaign by the Catholic Church to resolve claims of child abuse.

At the weekend, six priests from the Archdiocese of New York were suspended over similar charges.

And in Ireland, allegations of sex abuse of children by priests has led Roman Catholic bishops there to commission an independent review.

Archbishop Sean Brady, Primate of All ireland, has apologised for failings in the way the Church had responded to complaints and said he hoped the review would be aprt of the healing process.

In a statement to parishioners, the Bishop of Cleveland, Anthony M Pilla, said: "I share your grief over this terrible circumstance in the life of our Church."

Cleveland diocesan official Robert Tayek said an internal investigation had revealed no new allegations against the priests.

Evidence submitted

"To our knowledge, they have been successfully performing their ministries without incident," he said.

He said that the priests would remain on administrative leave until the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office had reviewed the allegations.

All material regarding the abuse allegations was being collected to be handed over to prosecutors.

The Rev Don Rooney
The Rev Don Rooney shot himself after being accused of sexual misconduct

He said the diocese was conducting its own review of the allegations.

In his statement distributed to parishioners at weekend services, Bishop Pilla said that "the issue of sexual abuse is a matter of open and public discussion".

"In this way, all of us can become more alert to the dangers, more protective of potential victims, more pastorally responsive to those who have been victims of abuse and more effective in dealing with those responsible for the abuse of minors," he said.

Another priest in the diocese, the Rev Don Rooney, killed himself last week after being accused of sexual misconduct in 1980.

The Cleveland diocese has 235 parishes with more than 340 priests.

BBC News Online's Peter Gould says that the growing number of allegations is creating a climate of mistrust in the Catholic church.

Claims that church leaders may have kept quiet about the problem has increased public anger.

Church agrees sex abuse payout


John Geoghan (L) and his attorney Geoffrey Packard (R) in court

Geoghan (L) has more than 80 cases still pending

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is reported to have agreed a multi-million dollar payout to alleged victims of a now-defrocked priest who has been jailed for up to 10 years for sexually molesting a young boy.

The case has challenged the Church to examine its whole approach to allegations of abuse by priests.

John Geoghan has only been convicted on one count so far - but many more people say they were molested by him over the years.

The lawyer for 70 people who say they were also victims of the man said the deal marked a major step towards overcoming the trauma of the abuse.

Painful questions

The publicity surrounding his exposure and trial has proved agonising for the Catholic Church in the diocese of Boston, the fourth biggest in the United States.

It has also raised painful questions about how many other hidden molesters there could be and about how the Church has handled allegations of sex abuse by its priests.

Newspaper reports say it could involve as much as $30m, with an independent arbitrator deciding how much each alleged victim should get.

The Church says alleged abuse should be immediately reported to Rome

Cardinal Bernard Law, who leads the Boston diocese, has been criticised for not doing more, sooner, to tackle the problem.

He has since apologised to the victims, announced what he has called a zero tolerance policy, and given police the names of 80 priests who have been accused of abusing children over the past five decades.

The Boston Globe newspaper - which has done much to publicise the alleged abuse - says the archdiocese could end up paying more than $100m to settle claims brought by hundreds of alleged victims over the last decade.

That would make it the highest sum ever paid by the Catholic Church in the United States.

Former HK priest jailed for abuse


A former Roman Catholic priest has been sentenced to four and a half years in jail for abusing a 15-year-old altar boy in Hong Kong in the early 1990s.

Former priest Michael Lau, outside court, June 2002
Lau was defrocked in 1995

Michael Lau, 42, was found guilty last month of two counts of indecent assault, one of attempted sodomy and one of gross indecency.

Lau, who pleaded not guilty, is the first person associated with the Catholic clergy in the territory to be jailed for abusing a teenager in his care.

Hong Kong's Catholic Church was hit by a series of sex abuse cases last year. Lau is among at least eight priests or former priests who are accused of abusing children over the last 30 years.

'Heinous' crime

Addressing the District Court, Judge Maggie Poon described Lau's behaviour as "heinous" and said he betrayed the trust placed in him by the victim and his parents.

Judge Poon said Lau gave the boy: "an unwelcome introduction to some of the nastiest aspects of the sins of the flesh".

"The life of the victim was devastated throughout the (past) 11 years," she said. "The victim suffered a mental breakdown and the defendant had contributed to it."

The victim, who is now 27, is said to have suffered schizophrenia for years after the abuse.

One of Lau's defence lawyers, Bernard Chung, said they had not decided whether to appeal the case.


Mr Chung said Lau, now an insurance salesman, had changed since he got married in September 2002, just months after he was charged with the assault.

Lau was a trainee priest at the time of the abuses in 1991-92. He was defrocked in 1995 after an internal church investigation found he had twice molested the boy, but its findings were never reported to the police.

The Church has since begun referring serious cases to the police, after acknowledging it had previously failed to handle some of the allegations adequately.

It now says it is adopting a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse of children.

There are about a quarter of a million Roman Catholics in Hong Kong, and the Church runs more than 300 schools and nurseries. About 300 priests work in the former British colony.

The Hong Kong abuse cases mirror a child sex scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide.


Bishop Teodoro Bacani
Accused priest, Bishop Bacani, is a well-known campaigner for the poor

Sex scandal hits Philippine Church


One of the Philippines' most prominent Roman Catholic clerics is being investigated for sexual misconduct.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani is accused of sexually harassing his secretary earlier this year.

The bishop issued a statement on Monday saying he was "deeply sorry for the consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection to my secretary".

He then left the Philippines for a planned holiday in America.

Bishop Bacani, 62, is one of the country's best-known priests.

He writes a regular newspaper column, in which he is an outspoken government critic and advocate for the poor.

President Gloria Arroyo said on Monday that the government would not intervene in the case "unless there is a culpable violation of law".

"I am saddened by the turn of events, but I also know that the church has the leadership, fortitude, and strength to surmount these trials," she said in a statement.

She also urged the public not to "dwell on speculations or rumours" surrounding the case.

Romualdo Ranada, a spokesman for Mr Bacani, also said it was important not to "pre-judge the case".

Both clerics and lay people in the diocese were standing by the bishop, he said in an interview with local television.

Mr Ranada said the Vatican was now looking into the matter, and would decide on a course of action "that would be best for the people and the Church".

A series of sex abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in several countries in recent years, notably the United States.

The Philippines Church made the unprecedented move last year of publicly apologising for abuses committed by its priests.

About 85% of the Philippines' 82m people follow the religion, making it Asia's largest Roman Catholic country.




Philippines bishop bans pregnant brides

A Roman Catholic bishop in the Philippines has banned heavily pregnant brides from having public weddings.

Bishop Jose Sorra said that for a woman to marry in church when she was visibly pregnant was contrary to the meaning of Christian marriage.

Mr Sorra said he was acting to prevent the sacrament of marriage from being ridiculed.

He told the Associated Press news agency that one of his priests had been officiating at a wedding when the heavily pregnant bride went into labour and had to be taken to hospital.

"Brides who are conspicuously pregnant are to be discouraged and disallowed from having public weddings," Mr Sorra said in a letter to his pastorate in the diocese of Legazpi, 340 kilometres (210 miles) south-east of Manila.

"They may be married in a private ceremony within the parish church or chapel (not in a house unless very sick or bedridden), or may postpone such church marriage until after having given birth," he added.

He said pregnancy outside marriage was "a counter-symbol to the purity, chastity and beauty of the bride of Christ, the Church".

"A white bridal gown over a conspicuous pregnancy is a contradiction of symbol or a ludicrous confusion of symbols," he said.

The bishop's policy is being implemented in the dioceses of Legazpi and Davao.

But he admitted that the Vatican and other dioceses in the Philippines - an overwhelmingly Catholic country - had no ruling on the issue.


For the Catholic Church, 2002 was the year the sex abuse scandal finally erupted.

Allegations about the activities of paedophile priests had been simmering for years.

But the crisis suddenly boiled over, and the Vatican was faced with a flood of damaging revelations from churches around the world.

Philippines Cardinal Sin taken ill


Cardinal Sin seen in a 1991 photograph
Cardinal Sin: Vocal and powerful

One of the most influential figures in the Philippines, Cardinal Jaime Sin, has been rushed to hospital after suffering convulsions following Sunday Mass.

The 74-year-old Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila is in a stable condition and undergoing a series of tests, his spokesman said.

Cardinal Sin wields considerable influence in the Philippines, where about 80% of the population is Roman Catholic.

He played a crucial role in a popular revolt that deposed the country's dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, in 1986.

Cardinal Sin was also one of the most outspoken critics of Joseph Estrada, who was forced to quit the presidency in 2001 over corruption allegations.

The archbishop suffered a bout of seizures after celebrating Mass at a chapel in his residence, his spokesman Bishop Socrates Villegas said.

But he is awake and conscious, Bishop Villegas added.

"The cardinal can talk and has, in fact, been complaining to the doctors about the battery of tests that he is being subjected to."

Cardinal Sin cut back his public appearances several years ago because of kidney problems.


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