As the Catholic Church battles to stem their continuing exposure of clerical pedophilia, detectives have uncovered an “unprecedented” amount of child pornography including images, videos and other explicit content discovered within the walls of the Vatican.
The Vatican Promotor of Justice, Gian Piero Milano, released a report in response to the allegations which he read in full to Catholic Church officials during a judicial ceremony.
Due to the Catholic Church’s internal investigations protocol, Milano claims he is under no legal obligation to actually name names of people accused of pedophilia and possessing child pornography. However, Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, showed a rare display of openness and named Archbishop Josef Wesolowski as one of the accused that had triggered the investigation.
Although this may seem like a forthcoming gesture by the Vatican, reports of Wesolowski not only possessing more than 100,000 images and videos of children being forced into sex acts but also of him sexually abusing multiple children in Poland and the Dominican Republic have already previously been exposed in 2014. Due to the Vatican’s internal policies, Wesolowski was investigated but escaped jail for his own protection.
In an unusual move by the church, the high-ranking Catholic official was facing trial from the Vatican’s prosecution for his crimes and had been placed under protective house arrest, but mysteriously died before the case even reached a courtroom!
In North Olmsted of Ohio, youth pastor Brian Mitchell, 31, raped a 16-year-old girl who was a member of his church. He was caught and subsequently pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery. Mitchell sexually abused the teenage girl on at least two separate occasions.
The girl said she came to church looking for spiritual guidance and that she looked up to Mitchell, whom she saw as a mentor. He started texting her more frequently and talking about more personal things. Then he sexually abused her at least twice.
“I did not give him permission. I clearly said ‘no, I didn’t want to,’” the raped teen wrote in a letter to the court.
Mitchell will now spend the next decade of his life in prison.
As horrifying and appalling as an adult pastor sexually abusing a minor is, it also has become nothing very new. It’s what happened next that make this story particularly heinous.
After Mitchell was arrested and convicted for repeatedly raping the girl, leaders at the Columbia Road Baptist Church—where Mitchell and the teen were members—forbade the family of the teen victim from attending services again until the unnamed girl apologized to Mitchell’s wife!
That’s right. Church officials required that the young victim apologize to the youth pastor’s wife for being raped by her husband. Instead, of course, the family left the church.
As for Mitchell, the former youth pastor has received around three dozen letters of support, many of them from church members.
Cases of child sexual abuse crimes and subsequent cover-ups committed by priests, nuns, and members of religious orders have led to numerous revelations, investigations, trials, and convictions. The abused include boys and girls, some as young as 3 years old, with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. The accusations receive wide publicity in all media. Many relate to cases in which a figure was accused of abuse for decades; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred. Cases have also been brought against high members of church hierarchy who covered up sex abuse allegations, moving abusive priests to other parishes, where abuse sometimes continued.
The cases received significant media and public attention throughout the world, especially in Ireland, Canada, and the United States. The Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, covered up sex abuse allegations concerning many thousands of priests. Cases worldwide reflect patterns of long-term abuse and of the church hierarchy regularly covering up reports of alleged abuse.
Courts blasted thousands of predator priests who acted as wolves disguised as shepherds over many decades. The Catholic Church tried to hush the pedophilia of its disgusting priests by paying $75,000 for oral sex and $175,000 for rape.
The heinous crimes millions of children endured are absolutely unconscionable. These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe. The bishops could have changed many things, they could have saved many lives, but they covered up all crimes. Too many people have committed suicide for these abuses.
The Catholic Church abuse movie Spotlight was named best picture, the top Oscar. Spotlight traces the Boston Globe’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of child sex abuse by Catholic priests. Spotlight shows the systematic Vatican cover of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. Spotlight gave a voice to survivors, and its Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope can become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican.
Vatican finance minister George Pell admitted the Roman Catholic Church had mucked things up as he became the highest-ranking church official to testify on sexual abuse. Pell knew many priests were abusing children in Australia where he served. Among them was Australia’s most notorious pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, with whom Pell shared a house and who has been convicted for abusing a hundred children over three decades.
The practice of shuffling accused pedophiles from place to place rolls merrily along. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a long investigative story about Rev. Peter Balili, originally from the Philippines, who was brought in to replace another priest who’d been arrested for theft. Suddenly, without explanation, Balili was removed as well. Only after the issue was pressed did the diocese admit that he was being dismissed for sexual harassment of his parishioners. Not only that, they also admitted they knew of such similar conduct at his previous assignments, involving sexual images of his students.
In India, the church happily announced the reinstatement of a priest who’d fled the United States to avoid prosecution after being charged with raping two fourteen-year-old girls. While he was captured and dragged back by Interpol, apparently the church has forgiven him. The girls haven’t. They’re both quite upset. They’re disturbed and feel deeply betrayed that they would have the audacity to consider even putting him back in ministry.
In Australia, the Diocese of Ballarat formally requested that the Vatican dismiss Fr. Paul Ryan from the priesthood. That was nine years ago, while Fr. Ryan was serving time in jail for child sex abuse. What has the Vatican done, throughout the period of Francis’s papacy? Nothing. Ryan is still a priest.
In Florida, we see an unusual case of the police writing a letter of high praise for an Irish priest, Fr. John Gallagher, for volunteering timely evidence leading to the conviction of a fellow priest. “I truly believe that if it wasn’t for the cooperation I received from Fr. Gallagher, other children would have been victimized,” the detective wrote. The response from the church? Fr. Gallagher has been ostracized and demoted.
The story in Chile is a little more complicated but even more grotesque. In 2011, under Pope Benedict, the Vatican determined that one of the most influential priests in Santiago, Rev. Fernando Karadima, was guilty of serial pedophilia and abuse. Four close members of Karadima’s circle, including the military chaplain Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, sprang to his defense by trying to discredit his child victims. They were so out of line that the Chilean Bishops Conference forced them to apologize. Then Benedict retired and was replaced by Pope Francis, the great liberal darling who can do no wrong.
Francis’s take is a little different: He decides to promote Barros by making him a full bishop. Outrage ensues in Chile, with thousands of Catholics petitioning to block the Barros appointment.
For the past sixteen hundred years, the Catholic Church has flatly refused to concede that it is subject to governmental authority. It obeys a higher law, one that allows its officials to do as they please. That’s the culture that leads to sex abuse, not just among Catholic clergy but among others as well. Only grudgingly has the church acknowledged that it needs to obey the sex abuse reporting laws—all the while demanding huge exceptions—but there is every indication that they don’t really mean it and will revert as completely as they can to the bad old days as soon as the heat dies down. If the church was serious it would say: Everyone on the payroll who has any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in the ranks must report it to the police, immediately. If you don’t, then (1) you’ll be fired the minute we learn of it, and (2) any expenses we suffer from that abuse will be deducted from your pension.
Which brings us to the testimony of Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, whom Pope Francis appointed to the second most powerful position in the Vatican—some would say the most powerful—as head of the Vatican Bank. Catholic child sex abuse has become so rampant in Australia that the government there set up a Royal Commission to investigate it and make recommendations. Pell claimed he had a heart condition that would prevent him from flying back to testify, so the commission arranged for video testimony instead. Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, fifteen abuse survivors were able to fly to Rome to hear his testimony directly (though Pope Francis refused to see them).
What the survivors heard was Pell admitting that he had been told about a priest sexually abusing children and done nothing about it. He was fully aware, he also admitted, of priests kissing and swimming naked with boys. Pell himself says he should have done more, but that if a priest denied such activity, he was very strongly inclined to accept the denial.
What he did not admit was becoming angry at the bearers of bad news who informed him of the problem or yelling, “Young man, how dare you knock on this door and make demands!” as other witnesses before the commission swear happened. He also denied trying to bribe victims to drop their charges, as other witnesses have sworn.
While Pell was serving as an assistant bishop, his boss was busily engaged in shuffling pedophile priests from parish to parish, exactly as portrayed in Spotlight and exactly what the pope now says should require resignation. Yet Pell had no idea such shuffling was going on—he was utterly oblivious to what his immediate boss, whose paperwork it was Pell’s precise job to help with, was doing. In fact, he laments, everyone around him, including the Catholic Education Office, was busily pulling the wool over his eyes. If he’s telling the truth, he’d seem to be the last, most naïve person in the world anyone would want to put in charge of a place with as sordid a history as the Vatican Bank.
One Australian who traveled to Rome described how his oldest daughter committed suicide after being repeatedly raped by a priest and how her sister turned to binge drinking for the same reason and was later struck by a car while in a drunken stupor.
But this is harsh. Pell has actually burbled with empathy for some who are caught up in the saga. When the notorious serial abuser Fr. Gerald Ridsdale suffered the indignity of being hauled into court, there was Pell by his side, giving him moral support. Ridsdale was then convicted on charges involving a hundred different children. Here’s how Pell now casually dismisses the Ridsdale case: It’s a sad story, and it wasn’t of much interest to me.
The undertone to Pell’s testimony, and to the rest of the church’s posture, is: “That was then, this is now.” It’s somehow unfair to apply rigorous twenty-first century standards to the ancient era of a few decades ago. “We weren’t alert in those ways anything like we are alert today,” Pell whines. It’s a posture as ludicrous as it is offensive. Child sex abuse was every bit as evil then as it is now, and everyone knew it to be so. Pell and his ilk just thought (and still think) that priests should be above the law.
The allegations against Pell were common knowledge in the press long before Francis appointed him to his current position of immense power. The fact that Francis appointed him anyway shows how little he really cares about child abuse. The fact that he’s not removing him now, after this public disgrace, is even worse. The Sydney Morning Herald put it bluntly: The cardinal must go, and Pope Francis must be involved.