For the ailing John Paul II, in the twilight of his papacy, it has been a
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.
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
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.
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.
Finding enough recruits for the priesthood has
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
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
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
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
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
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
It left many people in Boston with a feeling that their Church was more
interested in protecting its reputation than ensuring the safety of
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
But there was further embarrassment when he accompanied the other
American cardinals on their trip to Rome for talks with the Pope and his
He found himself pursued by the media, and at the news conference at the
end of the Vatican summit, he failed to appear.
The Pope is distressed by
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
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.
The scandal that began in Boston has now spread across the United States.
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
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
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
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
The fact that more than 50 of Cardinal Law's own priests were urging him
to stand down made his position untenable.
Cardinal Law came under massive pressure from his
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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 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
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
The Bishop thought it was ludicrous that a man of the
cloth would act like that
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.
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
"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
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
To this day no one from the church has asked Pat Jackman about Fr Fortune
or the events of that night.
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
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
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 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 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
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
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
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
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".
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
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.
Hong Kong has about
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
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
Pope John Paul II has said there is no place in the priesthood and
religious life for those who would harm the young.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
The Pope has denounced
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
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 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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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: "Root out child
They have also left many non-abusing priests feeling that they are now
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
"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
"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
Even the Vatican is now being sued
Payments to victims of sexual abuse by priests in the United States could
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
Cleveland diocesan official Robert Tayek said an internal investigation
had revealed no new allegations against the priests.
"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 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
"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
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.
The publicity surrounding his exposure and trial has proved agonising for
the Catholic Church in the diocese of Boston, the fourth biggest in the
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
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
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.
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
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
It now says it is adopting a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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: Vocal and powerful
One of the most influential figures in the Philippines, Cardinal Jaime
Sin, has been rushed to hospital after suffering convulsions following
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
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