Church 'routinely covered up' child sexual abuse for 30 years

Four succesive Archbishops of Dublin responded to clerical child sexual abuse over a 30-year period in their diocese with ”œdenial, arrogance and cover-up”.

This is one of the main conclusions of the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

The three-year inquiry, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, found the ”œstructures and rules” of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover-up.

”œThe State authorities facilitated the cover up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes,” the report also found.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, who published the report yesterday, said it documented ”œa scandal on an astonishing scale”.

The report also found current child protection laws did not provide adequate powers to health authorities to protect the welfare of children who are abused, or in danger of abuse, by people with privileged access to children.

The report, which took three years to complete, said the archdiocese had an ”œobsessive concern with secrecy and the avoidance of scandal” and had ”œlittle or no concern for the welfare of the abused child”.

Human Rights In Ireland (Blog): Media Mashup: Report by the Commission of Investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin

Irish Times: Vatican and nuncio ignored letters on abuse
Irish Times: Bishops lied and covered up
Irish Times: 30 years of church and State cover-up of child sex abuse
Irish Times: Complainants told of failing and betrayal by church Garda ‘failed to protect victims’ Church had ‘immunity to hide abuse’
New York Times: Report Says Irish Bishops and Police Hid Abuse
The Independent: Dublin Archbishops colluded over abuse
The Guardian: Irish church and police covered up child sex abuse, says report
The Times: Four archbishops colluded to cover up child sex attacks
BBC: Irish Catholic Church apologises for abuse by priests
BBC: Archbishops at centre of cover-up

Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation Report (Also here).

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  • BBC, March 16

    The head of Ireland’s Catholic Church “should consider his position”, Martin McGuinness has said.

    As a priest in 1975 Cardinal Sean Brady was at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints against paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth.

    The Northern Ireland deputy first minister questioned how many other children were asked to stay silent.

    He said many Catholics shared his “great sense of unease at what we’ve learned over the last couple of days”.


    Cardinal Brady has said he will only step down if asked to by the Pope.

    Church ‘clarifies’ Cardinal Brady’s role in abuse case

    BBC, March 16

    The Catholic Church in Ireland has released more details about why Cardinal Sean Brady asked child abuse victims to sign secrecy agreements.

    When he was a priest in 1975 the cardinal was at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints against serial abuser Fr Brendan Smyth.

    The church said two boys were asked to sign oaths “to avoid potential collusion” in evidence gathering.

    It added this would ensure that the complaints could “withstand challenge.”

    The church statement does not explain why either Cardinal Brady or his superiors at the time did not share their information with the police.


    The party’s spokeswoman on social and family affairs, Roisin Shortall, said the cardinal was “hopelessly compromised by what had emerged”.

    “I believe that there should be a Garda (Irish police) investigation to determine whether or not the failure to report Fr Smyth’s crimes to the civil authorities was, itself, a criminal offence,” she said.

    “I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence.”

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • New York Times, By Rachel Donadio, March 17

    ROME — As hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse surface in the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that he hoped a forthcoming letter dealing with one part of the scandal in Ireland would help “repentance, healing and renewal.”


    Speaking on Wednesday in English , the pope said he would sign a promised pastoral letter to Irish Catholics on Friday and send it out soon afterwards. He said the Irish church had been “severely shaken” and he was “deeply concerned.”

    The Irish church has been reeling from two reports. One, released in November, accused church leaders of covering up decades of child sexual abuse by priests. Another, released in May, documents decades of widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children by priests and nuns in church-run schools.

    In a meeting with Irish bishops at the Vatican last month, Benedict announced that he would issue a letter addressing the issue. But as hundreds of victims of abuse have come forward in the Netherlands and in Germany in recent weeks, several high-ranking Vatican officials have said this week that they expect the letter to speak to the broader situation beyond Ireland.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • Press Association, By David Young & Steven McCaffery, March 17

    The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland apologised today over revelations that he failed to alert police about a notorious paedophile priest.

    Cardinal Sean Brady, who has defended his role in a 1975 meeting where two children abused by Father Brendan Smyth were asked to take a vow of silence as part of the internal church investigation, also signalled today that he would reflect on his future.


    Andrew Madden, who in 1995 became the first in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, dismissed the latest comments from Cardinal Brady.

    “The notion of careful reflection is nonsense – he’s had 35 years to reflect on what he did then,” said Mr Madden.

    “If the Catholic Church in Ireland is to be led by a man who accurately reflects it in its current state, then maybe it’s only right and fitting that it should be led by a man who has covered up the sexual abuse of children by a priest.

    “He’s either going to go or he’s not going to go and if he doesn’t, the Catholic Church can’t pretend to be serious in any way about the issue of child protection and about reaching out to people who have been abused.”

    BBC Links:
    Cardinal Sean Brady ashamed of abuse ‘failings’
    Vatican forced to defend itself over abuse cases
    Abuse victims criticise Cardinal Brady comments
    Profile – Cardinal Sean Brady

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • CNN, March 19

    Pope Benedict XVI has signed a letter aimed at defusing anger in Ireland over a sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

    The pope has produced the pastoral letter — a communication use by senior Catholic clergy to offer direction to followers or admonitions to lower orders — amid growing criticism over the church’s handling of abuse cases across Europe.

    The contents of the letter, which Benedict XVI says he hopes “will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal” are to be made public on Saturday, according to the Vatican.

    The letter will be made public on Saturday.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • The Telegraph, By Benedict XVI, March 20

    Dear brothers and sisters of the Church of Ireland,

    It is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the universal Church.

    Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious.

    I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.


    For my part, considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country, I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation.


    At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.

    Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.


    The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it.


    Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person.


    In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.


    [To priests]
    At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing.


    [To the children and young people of Ireland]
    Yet all people, in every generation, are called to travel the same path through life, whatever their circumstances may be.


    Seek a personal relationship [really? Of what use are priests, then?] with [Christ] within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust!


    [To the priests and religious of Ireland]
    I know that many of you are disappointed, bewildered and angered by the way these matters have been handled by some of your superiors. Yet, it is essential that you cooperate closely with those in authority and help to ensure that the measures adopted to respond to the crisis will be truly evangelical, just and effective.


    [To my brother bishops]
    It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.


    Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred.

    All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.

    I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again.

    Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.


    Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives.

    This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal.


    [To all the faithful of Ireland]
    Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.


    I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious.


    While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.


    With great affection and unswerving confidence in God’s promises, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • National Catholic Reporter, By John L. Allen, Jr., March 17

    Gino Burresi may sound like the name of a shortstop from the ’50s, but among Vatican insiders, it marks a watershed in the sexual abuse crisis. For those with eyes to see, the fall from grace of Burresi, a charismatic Italian priest and founder of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, shortly after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, was taken as a signal that the days of lethargy and cover-up were over.

    Burresi, 73 at the time, was barred from public ministry in May 2005, just one month after the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the church’s top job. While the decree cited abuses of confession and spiritual direction, Vatican sources were clear that accusations of sexual abuse involving Burresi and seminarians, dating to the 1970s and ’80s, were a principal motive for the action against him.

    When the same axe fell a few months later on Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, the high-profile founder of the Legionaries of Christ, against whom accusations of abuse had likewise been hanging around for the better part of a decade, the message seemed unmistakable: There’s a new sheriff in town.

    In retrospect, the Burresi and Maciel cases crystallized a remarkable metamorphosis in Joseph Ratzinger vis-à-vis the sexual abuse crisis. As late as November 2002, well into the eruption in the United States, he seemed just another Roman cardinal in denial. Yet as pope, Benedict XVI became a Catholic Elliot Ness — disciplining Roman favorites long regarded as untouchable, meeting sex abuse victims in both the United States and Australia, embracing “zero tolerance” policies once viewed with disdain in Rome, and openly apologizing for the carnage caused by the crisis.


    Though it didn’t look like it at the time, the turning point in Ratzinger’s attitude came in May 2001, with a legal document from John Paul II titled Sacramentum sanctitatis tutela. Technically known as a motu proprio, the document assigned juridical responsibility for certain grave crimes under canon law, including sexual abuse of a minor, to Ratzinger’s congregation. It also compelled diocesan bishops all over the world to forward their case files to Rome, where the congregation would make a decision about the appropriate course of action.

    In the wake of the motu proprio, Ratzinger dispatched a letter to the bishops of the world, subjecting accusations of sexual abuse against priests to the authority of his office and insisting upon “confidentiality,” which critics typically regard as a code-word for secrecy.

    Whatever the merits of the 2001 letter, it set the stage for a dramatic change in Ratzinger’s approach.

    Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a Maltese priest who serves as the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — in effect, its lead prosecutor — said in a recent interview with the Italian Catholic paper L’Avvenire that the motu proprio triggered an “avalanche” of files in Rome, most of which arrived in 2003 and 2004. Eventually, Scicluna said, more than 3,000 cases worked their way through the congregation.

    By all accounts, Ratzinger was punctilious about studying the files, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest ever credibly accused of sexual abuse. As a result, he acquired a familiarity with the contours of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic church can claim.

    Driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as “filth” in the church, Ratzinger seems to have undergone something of a “conversion experience” throughout 2003-04. From that point forward, he and his staff seemed driven by a convert’s zeal to clean up the mess.

    Of the 500-plus cases that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dealt with prior to Benedict’s election to the papacy, the substantial majority were returned to the local bishop authorizing immediate action against the accused priest — no canonical trial, no lengthy process, just swift removal from ministry and, often, expulsion from the priesthood. In a more limited number of cases, the congregation asked for a canonical trial, and in a few cases the congregation ordered the priest reinstated.

    That marked a stark reversal from the initial insistence of Vatican officials, Ratzinger included, that in almost every instance the accused priest deserved the right to canonical trial. Having sifted through the evidence, Ratzinger and Scicluna apparently drew the conclusion that in many instances the proof was so overwhelming that immediate action was required.

    Among insiders, the change of climate was dramatic.

    Still, though, little evidence of cooperation with civil authorities…

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • To Sinead O’Connor, the pope’s apology for sex abuse in Ireland seems hollow

    The Washington Post, By Sinead O’Connor, March 28

    When I was a child, Ireland was a Catholic theocracy. If a bishop came walking down the street, people would move to make a path for him. If a bishop attended a national sporting event, the team would kneel to kiss his ring. If someone made a mistake, instead of saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” we said, “Ah sure, it could happen to a bishop.”

    The expression was more accurate than we knew. This month, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology — of sorts — to Ireland to atone for decades of sexual abuse of minors by priests whom those children were supposed to trust. To many people in my homeland, the pope’s letter is an insult not only to our intelligence, but to our faith and to our country. To understand why, one must realize that we Irish endured a brutal brand of Catholicism that revolved around the humiliation of children.

    I experienced this personally. When I was a young girl, my mother — an abusive, less-than-perfect parent — encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored “Magdalene laundries,” which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests’ clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.

    Q&A with Sinead where she supports her strange variant of Catholicism, but not the Catholic hierarchy

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • The Times, By India Knight, March 28

    My daughter was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith when she was two months old. She is now six, and should really be gearing up for her first communion. The fact that she isn’t is down to one factor: the parish priest at the local church was suspended, pending investigations into allegations of child abuse.

    He was eventually cleared of all charges, which was nice for him but didn’t really work for me because I don’t want any of my children left alone with adult men in any context where the words “child abuse” are hovering in the air. In recent years that context has, sadly, broadened to include the entire church.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • BBC, April 3

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost “all credibility” over the way it had dealt with paedophile priests.

    Rowan Williams said the problems, which had been a “colossal trauma” for the Church affected the wider public.

    The interview will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week programme.

    BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said Dr Williams’ words represents unusually damning criticism from the leader of another Church.

    It is the first time Dr Williams had spoken about the scandal.


    Dr Williams said: “I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it’s quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now.

    “And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility – that’s not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland.”

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • BBC, April 3

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his “deep sorrow” for any difficulties caused by his comments about the Catholic Church in Ireland.

    His claim that the Church had lost all credibility because of its handling of child abuse by priests was criticised by both Catholic and Anglican clergy.

    The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said he was “stunned”.

    Dr Rowan Williams later telephoned Archbishop Martin to insist he meant no offence to the Irish Catholic Church.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • BBC, April 22

    Catholic bishops in England and Wales have offered a full apology and said there were “no excuses” for child abuse scandals that have hit the Church.

    A statement by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales offered a “heartfelt apology and deep sorrow to those who have suffered abuse”.

    It described the crimes by some priests and religious figures which recently came to light as a “profound scandal”.

    This comes as a third Irish-based bishop quit over how abuse was handled.

    Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • New York Times, By Laurie Goodstein & David M. Halbfinger, July 1

    In its long struggle to grapple with sexual abuse, the Vatican often cites as a major turning point the decision in 2001 to give the office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the authority to cut through a morass of bureaucracy and handle abuse cases directly.

    The decision, in an apostolic letter from Pope John Paul II, earned Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, a reputation as the Vatican insider who most clearly recognized the threat the spreading sexual abuse scandals posed to the Roman Catholic Church.

    But church documents and interviews with canon lawyers and bishops cast that 2001 decision and the future pope’s track record in a new and less flattering light.

    The Vatican took action only after bishops from English-speaking nations became so concerned about resistance from top church officials that the Vatican convened a secret meeting to hear their complaints — an extraordinary example of prelates from across the globe collectively pressing their superiors for reform, and one that had not previously been revealed.

    And the policy that resulted from that meeting, in contrast to the way it has been described by the Vatican, was not a sharp break with past practices. It was mainly a belated reaffirmation of longstanding church procedures that at least one bishop attending the meeting argued had been ignored for too long, according to church documents and interviews.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • Vatican letter: Irish bishops were warned in ’97 not to report all child-abuse cases to police

    AP, By Shawn Pogatchnik, January 18

    DUBLIN – A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure with the potential to fuel more lawsuits worldwide against the Vatican, which has long denied any involvement in cover-ups.

    The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of an Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests.

    The letter’s message undermines persistent Vatican claims that the church never instructed bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.

    Catholic officials in Ireland declined AP requests on the letter, which RTE said it received from an Irish bishop.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • CNN, October 15

    Catholic Bishop Robert W. Finn and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph have been indicted by a grand jury on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse by a priest, prosecutors said Friday in Missouri.

    The class A misdemeanor carries a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000 for Finn, 58, and a fine for the diocese, said Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker. Both pleaded not guilty Friday.

    “The fact that this is a misdemeanor complaint should not diminish the significance of this charge,” Peters-Baker said. “This is a significant charge. To my knowledge, a charge like this has not been leveled before.”

    The prosecution alleges that Finn “had reasonable cause to suspect a child may be subjected to abuse” by Father Shawn Ratigan, a priest from Independence, Missouri, who was indicted in August on 13 counts related to child pornography. Finn “had reasonable cause to suspect a child may be subjected to abuse due to previous knowledge of concerns about Father Ratigan and children,” Peters-Baker told reporters. That reasonable cause included the discovery of hundreds of photographs on the priest’s laptop, “including a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch area and violations of restrictions that were placed on Father Ratigan.”


    The indictment of a U.S. bishop appears to be without precedent, said John Allen, CNN’s senior Vatican analyst. “Clearly, it indicates two things,” he said. “There is a new willingness to go after the highest officials in the church and hold them accountable.”

    Allen called Friday’s announcement indicative of “a sea change. It used to be that bishops enjoyed a lot of deference — from courts, police, the media. Obviously, all that has changed.”


    Most Catholics have learned to distinguish between their faith and the human leaders of the church, “whom they recognize can sometimes screw up spectacularly,” but Friday’s announcement represents another blow to the bishops, who are supposed to be moral leaders on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, immigration, war and peace, said Allen. “It’s very difficult to take a bishop seriously when he’s facing a criminal indictment,” he added.

  • Talk2Action, By Frank Cocozzelli, November 26

    Robert Finn, the militant Opus Dei bishop and head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri who was recently indicted by a Jackson County Grand Jury on misdemeanor charges of failing to report child abuse has cut a deal with prosecutors in nearby Clay County in order to avoid similar charges.

    Nevertheless, ubiquitous Catholic Rightist leader, Bill Donohue, is defending the bishop and his indefensible behavior.

    As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn, previously best known for his Opus Dei vision of the Church and society, had constructive knowledge of improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography by Father Shawn Ratigan (who has since been charged with the latter crime).

    Under Missouri law, failure to report such crimes is also a crime. A Jackson County Grand Jury took the unprecedented step of indicting both the bishop and the diocese on misdemeanor charges of failing to report child abuse. After being questioned by a Clay County grand jury on the same issue, a second indictment was a strong possibility.

    Now, in order to head off that possibility, Finn has an agreement with the county Prosecutor Daniel L. White. The Kansas City Star reports that the diocese has accepted five-years of oversight in its dealing with possible incidents of priestly pedophilia:

    His [Finn’s] agreement with Clay County requires him to meet face-to-face with White or his successor each month for the next five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s Clay County facilities. Finn also is to describe what steps the diocese has taken to address the allegations. White would then decide whether to encourage police to investigate any allegations.

    Finn also agreed to visit all nine Clay County parishes to outline new programs the diocese is implementing to protect children. In those meetings, Finn will be accompanied by the diocesan ombudsman and a new director of child and youth protection.

  • AFP, By Dario Thuburn, February 6

    Vatican City – Scores of Catholic leaders from around the world have gathered for an unprecedented anti-abuse summit hosted by the Vatican intended to find ways to stamp out pedophilia.

    Bishops from 100 countries and the leaders of 33 religious orders will take part in the four-day meeting, as well as the Vatican’s anti-pedophilia prosecutor Charles Scicluna and one abuse victim, Ireland’s Marie Collins.

    Pope Benedict XVI is expected to issue a special blessing for the conference at the Vatican’s Gregorian University, which will also launch a Centre for Child Protection in Germany to fight sex abuse by the clergy in the church worldwide.

    The symposium entitled “Towards Healing and Renewal” will include a service tomorrow in which representatives of seven religious orders which had pedophile clergy in their midst will plead for forgiveness.


    Father Hans Zollner, a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who heads the new Centre for Child Protection, said on Vatican Radio today: “The best measure is to listen to the suffering.”

  • 8,000 instances of abuse alleged in Archdiocese bankruptcy hearing

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, By Annysa Johnson, February 9

    Sealed documents filed in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy identify at least 8,000 instances of child sexual abuse and 100 alleged offenders – 75 of them priests – who have not previously been named by the archdiocese, a victims’ attorney said Thursday.

    Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf said she did not have enough information to respond to the assertion, made by attorney Jeffrey Anderson during a pivotal hearing before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley. Anderson represents about 350 of the 570 victim-survivors who have filed claims in the case.

    But Peter Isely of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests speculated that some are likely members of religious orders, such as Capuchins or Franciscans. Order officials do not typically make public the names of their accused members, and the archdiocese claims it is not responsible for them, though they have historically helped to staff its parishes and schools.

    “This is a public safety crisis, a child safety crisis that needs to be investigated,” Isely said at a news conference on the federal courthouse steps, surrounded by fellow survivors and reporters.

    “We need to know who they are and where they are. How can there be 8,000 crimes committed by over 100 offenders and there be no accountability?” he said.

  • Court filing: Bevilacqua ordered shredding of memo identifying suspected abusers

    Philadelphia Inquirer, By John P. Martin, February 25

    Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua ordered aides to shred a 1994 memo that identified 35 Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests suspected of sexually abusing children, according to a new court filing.

    The order, outlined in a handwritten note locked away for years at the archdiocese’s Center City offices, was disclosed Friday by lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church administrator facing trial next month.

    They say the shredding directive proves what Lynn has long claimed: that a church conspiracy to conceal clergy sex abuse was orchestrated at levels far above him.

    “It is beyond doubt that Msgr. Lynn was completely unaware of this act of obstruction,” attorneys Jeffrey Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom wrote.

    Their motion asks Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the conspiracy and endangerment charges against Lynn, or to bar prosecutors from introducing Bevilacqua’s videotaped testimony at trial.

    The cardinal died Jan. 31.


    Lynn’s lawyers argue that Bevilacqua’s testimony may have been perjury and that it colors the current case. “Had this recent grand jury been aware of the cardinal’s successful efforts in ‘deep-sixing’ a significant document prepared by Msgr. Lynn, its view of him as a potential defendant may have been entirely different,” they wrote. “It is clear . . . that Msgr. Lynn has been ‘hung out to dry.’ “

  • New York Times, By Erik Eckholm & Jon Hurdle, March 26

    The landmark trial of a senior official of the Philadelphia Archdiocese who is accused of shielding priests who sexually abused children and reassigning them to unwary parishes began on Monday with prosecutors charging that the official “paid lip service to child protection and protected the church at all costs.”

    The defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, 61, is the first Roman Catholic supervisor in the country to be tried on felony charges of endangering children and conspiracy — not on allegations that he molested children himself, but that he protected suspect priests and reassigned them to jobs where they continued to rape, grope or otherwise abuse boys and girls.

    One of Monsignor Lynn’s lines of defense was indicated in an opening statement when his lawyers suggested that he had acted responsibly and reported allegations of abuse to higher officials, including a recently deceased cardinal.

    The trial is a milestone, legal experts said, in the legal battles lasting decades over sex abuse by priests. For years, many Catholic dioceses have been battered by civil suits seeking monetary damages for failing to stop errant priests. More recently, prosecutors have brought criminal charges against abusers.

    “What has not happened up to now is for church officials to be held criminally accountable,” said Timothy D. Lytton, a professor of law at the Albany Law School and an expert on Catholic abuse cases.


    The scathing grand jury report released in January 2011, which led to the charges, described examples in which Monsignor Lynn “knowingly allowed priests who had sexually abused minors to be assigned to positions where unsuspecting parents and teachers would entrust children to their care.”

    The report alleged that Monsignor Lynn had acted with the leader of the archdiocese at the time — Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who died in January — to shield the archdiocese from scandal and financial liability.

    As the trial began, Monsignor Lynn, sitting between two lawyers and dressed in a black suit with a clerical collar, answered “not guilty” to all charges. He could face up to 28 years in prison if convicted of the two counts of endangerment and two counts of conspiracy.


    He also attacked prosecution assertions that Monsignor Lynn had been responsible for appointing suspect priests to positions where they could prey on more children. “The only man in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that could appoint a priest to any location is Cardinal Bevilacqua,” Mr. Bergstrom said.

    Editorial: A Monsignor Goes on Trial, April 1

  • BBC, May 2

    New revelations about the failure of the Catholic primate of all-Ireland to protect children from abuse have been uncovered by the BBC’s This World show.

    It found Cardinal Sean Brady had the names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, but did not ensure their safety.

    The investigation centres on a secret church inquiry in 1975 when a 14-year-old boy was questioned about abuse.

    BBC This World: The Shame of the Catholic Church

    Cardinal Brady will not resign over ‘abuse failure’

    The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

    It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

    However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

    Cardinal Brady said he accepted he was part of “an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church”.

    “With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

    BBC Ireland Correspondent Mark Simpson:

    Cardinal Sean Brady has been under pressure for some time. But he has always made it clear he will not resign, unless there is specific proof that his failure to act allowed clerical child abuse to take place.

    Clearly, he does not believe the evidence in the BBC documentary meets that criterion.

  • Church lawyer: ‘Somebody lied to me’ about list of priests suspected of abuse

    CNN, By Sarah Hoye, May 15

    Philadelphia – A lawyer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia testified Monday that church officials lied to him about the whereabouts of a hidden list of 35 priests suspected of sexually abusing children.

    “Everyone I spoke to said they didn’t know where it was,” Timothy Coyne, former director of legal services for the archdiocese, told jurors at the landmark child sexual abuse and conspiracy trial of two Philadelphia priests. “Somebody lied to me.”

    Jurors also heard from two priests and a paralegal from the law firm representing the archdiocese regarding items found in two separate locked safes.

  • Roman Catholic Church official convicted of endangerment in priest-abuse trial

    MSNBC, June 22

    Philadelphia — A Roman Catholic church official was convicted Friday of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, becoming the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for how he handled abuse claims.

    Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priest was being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said.

    Lynn, 61, had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced — conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted on one of the endangerment counts, leaving him with the possibility of up to seven years in prison.


    Brennan did not testify during the trial, while Lynn spent three days on the witness stand saying that he did what he could to stop molestation by clergy but that he was only doing his job when he reassigned suspected clergy.

    Lynn guilty in clergy sex-abuse trial

    Philadelphia Inquirer, By John P. Martin & Joseph A. Slobodzian, June 22

    Jurors have reached an unprecedented decision in the landmark sex-abuse and child endangerment trial of two Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests.

    Msgr. William J. Lynn, found guilty on one count of child endangerment, is the first church official nationwide to be tried for enabling or covering up clergy-sex abuse.

    He was acquitted of two other charges, one of conspiracy and a second count of endangerment.

    The jury was deadlocked on attempted rape and endangerment charges against his codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan.

    The jury was excused by Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, so the trial is over, with a mistrial on the Brennan charges.

    Prosecutors could decide to try him again.

  • Retuers, By Dave Warner, July 2

    The former chief financial officer of the embattled Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has pleaded guilty to stealing $906,000 from the church, the district attorney’s office said on Monday.

    The archdiocese, facing a $17 million budget hole and still reeling from last month’s conviction of a monsignor in a child sex abuse scandal, was the target of a forgery and theft scheme run by former financial officer Anita Guzzardi.

    The former CFO admitted on Friday that she stole the money from 2004 to 2011. Guzzardi, 43, was fired in July 2011.

    “Guzzardi was terminated from her newly promoted chief financial officer position after she was confronted and initially denied any wrong doing in July of 2011,” the prosecutor’s office said.

    She used most of the money to pay personal credit card bills for cash advances as well as purchases at casinos in the United States, Caribbean and Mexico, the prosecutor said.

  • Pa. monsignor who became 1st US church official branded felon for sex cover-up gets 3-6 years

    AP, July 24

    Philadelphia – A Roman Catholic monsignor who became the first U.S. church official branded a felon for covering up sex abuse claims against priests was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison by a judge who said he “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children.”

    Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, “helped many but also failed many in his 36-year church career,” Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said.

  • Pope OKs resignation of US bishop for not reporting abuse

    AP, By Nicole Winfield, April 21

    Vatican City — Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of a U.S. bishop who pleaded guilty to failing to report a suspected priestly child abuser in the first known case of a pope sanctioning bishops for covering up for pedophiles.

    The Vatican said Tuesday that Bishop Robert Finn had offered his resignation under the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign early for illness or some “grave” reason that makes them unfit for office. It didn’t provide a reason.

    Finn, who leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, waited six months before notifying police about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, whose computer contained hundreds of lewd photos of young girls taken in and around churches where he worked. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

    Finn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years’ probation in 2012. Ever since, he has faced pressure from local Roman Catholics to step down, with some parishioners petitioning Francis to remove him from the diocese.

    No U.S. bishop has been removed for covering up for guilty clergy.

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