Wednesday, 20 February 2013

No immunity for child sexual abuse

Mostly, I stay away from commenting on issues involving religion.  I am an ignorant atheist, scarcely qualified to venture into discussing matters of faith which are exceptionally well-considered by others, not least THM's own stargazer.

But the free pass the Catholic Church has given to it's members to sexually abuse children is not just about religion, it's about power, and I'm going to wade in there.  There are adult survivors of child sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic Church staff in at least 65 countries.  The numbers of people harmed will be in the many thousands - one survivor support group alone has 12,000 members.

Turns out it wasn't enough for Pope Ratzinger to just move priests from parish to parish while they were sexually abusing children, rather than take action against them.  Nor was it enough to take years to respond to allegations when he was chief enforcer for the church in the years before his papacy, allowing priests more opportunities to abuse.

No, now he is apparently seeking immunity from plans of a European state to issue a warrant for his arrest - sent to the Vatican on 4th February, just a week before Pope Ratzinger resigned.

Not content with staying in the Vatican forever in the hope justice will not reach him there, he's also arranged a meeting on February 23 with the Italian head of state, President Napolitano to beg for Italy's protection in allegations of child sexual abuse crimes.

Where will the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the Italian government decide to stand on the issue of child sexual abuse?  With the thousands and thousands of survivors around the world, and international criminal law?  Or with a man, sheltering other men, who carried out and/or enabled rapes of thousands of vulnerable children to carry on for decades?


Muerk said...

I think you might want to check your sources of information. These stories all originated out of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State ( which is the mouthpiece of a single man - Kevin Annett. Kevin Annett is a conman.

It's a bit like looking for information about the Dalai Lama from the Chinese Communist Party.

LudditeJourno said...

Checked and happy with them Muerk. Let's see why the first Pope to resign in hundreds of years did it, by all means. His behaviour has, after all, been impeccable so far, right?

Muerk said...

No Pope Benedict has made judgements of error, particularly when he was the Archbishop of Munich.

However it was Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith who really started looking into the scandal. It has been said that Pope John Paul II let so much abuse slide because he was convinced it was a tactic to smear the Church, apparently that was a tactic the Communists used in the Soviet states. Certainly John Paul II never believed that Marcial Maciel was a rapist. Indeed it was Ratzinger who forced the issue about Marciel.

Given the way the Church is organised I doubt there can be a criminal case made against Pope Benedict. However there certainly can against individual bishops and general superiors of various orders. It was the various bishops and superiors that moved priests around parishes, the Pope doesn't have anything to do with that.

The Church has around 5000 bishops and around 200,000 parishes and over 400,000 priests. There is no way that the Pope could deal with individual priests' movements.

I'm not sure why you would trust Kevin Annett's theory that Pope Benedict is "seeking immunity from plans of a European state to issue a warrant for his arrest" because there is no credible evidence for that.

Anonymous said...

"The Church has around 5000 bishops and around 200,000 parishes and over 400,000 priests. There is no way that the Pope could deal with individual priests' movements."

No, but the Pope gives orders and instructs other people who to deal with them. His general approach has been to reshuffle the issue rather than address it. And yes, accountability stops at the top.

I appreciate the spurious nature of the links provided in this article, but there's no arguing that Ratzinger is a bad, bad man who has wilfully and deceitfully covered up the ongoing sexual abuse of thousands of children around the world. Stop making excuses for that, please.


ZenTiger said...

Quote: "No, but the Pope gives orders and instructs other people who to deal with them. His general approach has been to reshuffle the issue rather than address it. And yes, accountability stops at the top."

Reply: I think you are confused. The people that were being "reshuffled" relate to cases mainly back in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Pope Benedict wasn't the Pope way back then.

Also, the Bishops of the various countries have typically had complete administrative control and power over the operations side, and that structure created the opportunity for the local Bishops to be more concerned over reputation than victim rights. That's where a big part of the blame and/or responsibility lies, and those are the people mostly named and shamed and, in the case of the USa, sued for millions and millions with the Church footing the bill.

Since the 80's there have been many steps to clean up the localised institutional corruption. Interestingly, those same institutional problems are now surfacing in other organisations - government run orphanages, psychiatric units, schools, scouts, etc are discovering that pederasts and pedophiles are attracted to all of the traditional jobs that put them in contact with children via positions of trust, and that those people were very good at fooling their peers. It's hard to imagine people can be so deliberately evil, especially for the vast number of good priests who commit their lives to one of service.

Also as much a part of those same times was how pathetic the secular system was. For every priest reported to their Bishop, are stories about them being reported to police and other authorities, who also took little or no action.

I recall one case where the Priest was handed in only to get the very lenient sentence of "2 years therapy".

The court system and secular system declared the pedophile "cured". No-one is suing the State for making those foolish decisions that put such people back into the community.

Up until recently, the State still had the policy of releasing child offenders back into the community and not telling any-one of the danger. In one case, Corrections placed a sex offender next door to a place with young children, and of course, he charmed the parents and abused the kids. Should the head of Corrections now be put in jail for that "reshuffling" approach 10 years ago by the NZ Government? Do we track down Helen Clark, hiding behind diplomatic immunity in the UN (to frame it the same way this nutjob you quote does) and make her pay? Does that actually achieve justice?

What we would hope is that the institutions making those decisions put the community ahead of the offender, and change their ways. Learn, repent, adapt. That is what the Church has been doing under Pope Benedict.

Muerk said...

Actually I think Pope Benedict is a very good man faced with a crisis not of his own making in a hierarchy that wanted to cover its own butt because the lawyers told it to and because spurious therapists told bishops sexual abusers were cured. He was the first of the very upper echelons to really begin to grasp the scope of the abuse.

It's not as though there was greater sexual abuse in the Church compared to other organisations. The bishops didn't deal with rapists any better or worse than other large organisations have done. The nub of the issue is that as "moral examples" the Church was supposed to do better, to have a higher standard. It's the gross hypocrisy that is so galling to everyone.

I think there has also been an element of horrific criminal naivety. "Oh Fr Bob is such a nice guy, we were in seminary together. He visits the sick and I had dinner with him last week. There's no _way_ he could be raping children!" To a certain extent I can understand this.

Look at how many people still stand behind Roman Polanski or Julian Assange or how many people are convinced that convicted pedophile Peter Ellis is innocent.

Sexual abusers are master manipulators, they commit revolting crimes and yet feel internally justified in their actions. There is no doubt in my mind that many bishops behaved appallingly, their lack of judgement is abhorrent. They tried to protect rapists at the expense of their victims, they fobbed off pedophiles into treatment and then justified sending them back out to continue abusing children.

However I think the buck stops with the bishops who were in direct control of parish appointments rather than with the Pope. There just wasn't the direct oversight of this sort of thing from the Holy See. And when greater oversight from the Vatican did begin it was instituted by Cardinal Ratzinger.

LudditeJourno said...

I find some of the arguments here appalling, frankly. This is not "a few bad apples" - this is institutionally supported sexual abuse. It's irrelevant how "bad" the Catholic Church is in relation to other institutions (though really, Muerk, where do you get your surety on the Church being no worse????).
And Cardinal Ratzinger not responsible while he was cleaning up the church? That is absolute nonsense. Check out the Guardian link above and here for specific examples of him letting child abusers off scot free.
I'm not allowing any more excuses here for the Catholic Church's sexual abuse. Any other comments which minimise or outright distort that history will be deleted. If it's too hard to read because it conflicts with your faith, go elsewhere - don't deny the experiences of thousands of survivors to make yourself feel better.

Anonymous said...

Muerk - Um....Peter Ellis ***is*** innocent. If you had any understanding of the satanic ritual abuse moral panic (Google that) then you would also see why that is the case. And this isn't something I speak lightly on as I am intimately acquainted with the case. All I can say is I would categorically trust Peter Ellis to look after my own children unsupervised.

ZenTiger - I understand he wasn't pope then but my understanding is he was a senior clergy member and helped implement the "reshuffle offenders" method of management. Also refer to stuff posted by LJ. And, yeah, it's more complicated than my initial comment implied - I understand that. I was more responding to the ridiculous apologism given by Muerk. I completely agree re: bishops and individual parishes, but I think accountability still stops at the top, even if that "top" wasn't top when all of this happened. Hard to articulate exactly and I'm sleepy, sorry.

Muerk - just because this is "no better than how xyz respond to sexual abuse" doesn't make it okay. All I'm hearing from you is just more apologism. Actively covering up child sexual abuse and helping offenders escape consequences AND allow them to offend in other locations is not a "judgement of error" it's a fucking outrageous crime against humanity.

I will end with one thought. If there was a country responsible for the same amount of harm and death as the Catholic church, the leaders would have been successfully tried and convicted in the International Criminal Court. Catholicism is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands (millions?) of deaths due to the spread of AIDS in Africa by discouraging condom use. It is directly responsible for perpetrating and covering up child sexual abuse. It is directly responsible for so much social harm it becomes difficult to measure. Look at the Magdalene Laundries. Look at the fatalities from unsafe abortions. Look at the treatment of LGBT people in Catholic countries....JUST EVERYTHING. The harm caused by the church makes the massacres of people like Slobodan Milosevic's or Pol Pot's look pretty tame.

Signing out of this now, though. My experience of Muerk is they are too blinded by their own beliefs to rationally engage with other people on the topic of religion.


Anonymous said...

And the whole thing about Dept of Corrections is kinda off track here. Personally I would overhaul the entire prison system and justice system in this country. Beyond the scope of this discussion.


ZenTiger said...

I have solid evidence that Catholic countries do better in Africa on containing the spread of AIDS than no Catholic countries, and also credible evidence that suggests when UN programs blunder in and over-ride the "non-condom" stance in Catholic countries, it makes things much worse.

I fail to understand how the Church advocating not using condoms would make ANY difference to non-Catholics. That position is simply used to mock the Church, because do you seriously think non-Catholics will "obey" this suggestion?

To repeat: Do you seriously think non-Catholics will "obey" this suggestion?

And for Catholics, this suggestion is only ever taken out of context by the media. The full message is:

1. No sex outside of marriage.
2. No condoms (be open to life)
3. No adultery

Do you think Catholics are going to follow the second directive whilst they are actively ignoring the first and third?

Repeat: Do you think Catholics are going to follow the second directive whilst they are actively ignoring the first and third?

The whole contraception thing comes off as an overly simplistic way of playing the blame game.

I'm interested in you answer to the two questions I repeated. Thanks.

PS: I could be convinced the death sentence is appropriate for some of the child abuse cases and some of the cover-ups. That does not stop me from defending those priests that are completely innocent of any such depravity. Punishing the wrong people is about as sensible as hanging the current BBC CEO for presiding over a culture of "look the other way" of its more predatory media stars back in the 70's. Nor would closing down the BBC, as a corrupt and useless institution be the answer, and it would be unbalanced not to consider the work of some amazing programs produced by the non-predatory members of the BBC.

stargazer said...

@zen tiger: if you have this solid evidence, can you please provide a link to it. i'd be interested to see who carried out the research, who funded it & what the actual results were.

DPF:TLDR said...

LJ, while I don't agree with Zentiger and Muerk about the Pope's lack of personal guilt, I do agree that the source is not credible.

There are clear errors of fact in it. For starters, Napolitano doesn't have any authority to grant Benedict immunity, simply because he is not an Italian citizen, and the Vatican is a separate subject of international law.

Anonymous said...

@Zen Tiger - I, too, would be interested to see this "solid evidence".

Non-Catholic people fall victim to Catholic messages because - when these messages are endorsed by the state - it makes condoms harder to access, and makes education around their correct use very scarce. Yes, for lots of Catholic people those three rules will be fine. But as we know sex is largely irresistible to humans, inside and outside of marriage. Not to mention that over and over again abstinence-only education has proven to FAIL. Which is kinda where the problem lies. I mean are you saying there *isn't* an issue...? AIDS is rampant in many African countries and this is a continent where the Catholic message about condoms is pushed very loudly. And from where I'm standing the epidemic isn't getting better.

Not to mention that when the Pope spreads active lies (e.g. that condoms make AIDS worse/more common) then non-Catholics are likely to start believing this as well. Even if you don't believe in the religion that doesn't mean you don't absorb the messages or think perhaps there's a kernel of truth in what is being said.

But yeah, eagerly look forward to that solid evidence you have.


P.S. If you have people with AIDS obeying those three rules that still doesn't contain the issue or stop the spread to future generations through childbirth.

P.P.S. Here are a few articles that get to the point better than I can:;jsessionid=FB3C748DC4D1D0DF8C306D209FA3FB33.d04t03

I.M Fletcher said...

Any abuse is bad, of course, but in looking into the numbers (as Brendan O'Neill from Spiked! did) you find out that some of the numbers are greatly exaggerated. For instance, the media likes to report that 10,000 people have come forward in the U.S (and a similar number in Ireland) to say that have been raped. In truth, that isn't correct, as he points out.

Were 10,000 children in America and thousands more in Ireland really raped by Catholic priests? In a word, no. Instead, what has happened is that in the increasingly caliginous, almost Inquisitorial mindset of sections of the New Atheist anti-pope lobby, every allegation of abuse against a Catholic priest - whether it involved sex talk or fondling or actual penile penetration - has been lumped together under the heading of ‘rape’, and every allegation has been described as an actual proven ‘rape’ regardless of whether it resulted in a legal trial, never mind a conviction.

The 10,667 made various allegations, ranging from verbal abuse (being forced to indulge in sex talk) to being shown pornography to being touched by a priest over or under their clothing. Then there were the more serious allegations, which included being coerced into mutual masturbation, oral sex and, in some instances, rape. Yet where 3,553 of the individuals claimed to have been touched over their clothing and 3,981 to have been touched under their clothing, a smaller number claimed to have been subjected to what is described in the report as ‘penile penetration or attempted penile penetration’, that is rape or attempted rape; 990 boys and 213 girls made this allegation – a total of 1,203 individuals, not 10,000.

Of the 4,392 priests in America who were accused of sexual abuse in the period of 1950 to 2002, 1,021 were investigated by the police, and of these, 384 were charged, of whom 252 were convicted. So around six per cent of all American priests who had allegations made against them were finally convicted.

Again, this is not to make less of the seriousness of the allegations or to lessen the horrible effect on the victims, but maybe a more balanced approach should be taken? It's well known that abuse in the Church is no more than in any other secular institution, such as schools (and, in fact, the Shakeshaft report commissioned by the U.S Dept of Education in 2004 came to the conclusion that ""the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.".

I guess the Church is just easier to take aim at.

I.M Fletcher said...

Forgot that Spiked! link -

I.M Fletcher said...

ps, Anonymous - as far as AIDS and the Church, those in the know say the Pope is right -

--- snip ---

‘We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.”

So notes Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, in response to papal press comments en route to Africa this week.

“The pope is correct,” Green told National Review Online Wednesday, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that “condoms have been proven to not be effective at the ‘level of population.’”

“There is,” Green adds, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”

Green added: “I also noticed that the pope said ‘monogamy’ was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than ‘abstinence.’ The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).”

Anonymous said...

Lol. I'm not even engaging with the ridiculous bullshit you've just posted.


Celestine said...

I wonder if LJ stands by this post now?