Sunday, 6 July 2014

More Trouble Down Under for Paedo-Protecting Pope

"We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. We have to be even stronger".
Pope Francis, 11 April 2014
In stark contrast to Pope Francis' public professions of sorrow and wheedling apologies for the Catholic Church's role in facilitating institutionalised sexual abuse of vulnerable children by it clergy, and his assurances that the Vatican will do everything to bring them to justice, the Vatican has declined to cooperate with an Australian Royal Commission set up to investigate abuses by Catholic priests in Australia.

As reported by Lindy Kerin for ABC News:

The head of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, revealed last month that he had personally written to the Vatican, seeking copies of all documents relating to complaints about abuse involving priests in Australia.

The Vatican has provided documents to the royal commission relating to two cases, but Justice McClellan wanted more information to find out how church authorities in Australia, under the guidance or direction of the Vatican, responded to allegations of abuse.

In a written response, the Vatican says the Holy See maintains the confidentiality of internal deliberations, adding that it would be inappropriate to provide such documents.

Last June, Justice McClellan revealed that the Royal commission had received accounts of abuse from over 1,700 individuals involving more than 1,000 institutions of which a significant proportion were faith-based. He said that the Royal Commission had written to the Vatican requesting copies of all documents held in Rome relating to complaints of abuse by members of religious orders. He said:

We have asked for copies of documents which reveal the nature and extent of communications between Catholic congregations in Australia and the Holy See. From these documents we should be able to determine how church authorities in Australia, under the guidance or direction of the Vatican, have responded to individual allegations of abuse.

He also reported that he had referred 160 matters to the police for investigation.

This latest obstruction from the Vatican comes as no surprise:

I'm not surprised ... I feel like the Catholic Church believes it is above the laws of Australia and probably the world. It's just a replica of their behaviour for the last 200 years in this country. It's treating the Australian public with contempt, and the royal commission as well.

Leonie Sheedy, founder and chief executive of Care Leavers Australia Network, a support group for victims of child sexual abuse

It's not as if there's no material at all in Australia to assist - there is - and it's been of use, But I would simply say that it will certainly prevent the inquiry being as thorough as the royal commission wish it to be, and it's a lack of cooperation that's disappointing but unsurprising.

The Vatican claims the status of independent nation and in those circumstances there's nothing which can be done by government, let alone by the royal commission, to compel it to produce documents.

Andrew Morrison, Australians Lawyers Alliance spokesman who has represented many victims of church abuse.

Once again we see that the Vatican's perception of the problem of sexual abuse of vulnerable people by those under holy orders is not in terms of the harm it did and continues to do to the victims, but in terms of the damage it is doing to the Catholic Church. This follows just a few months after the Vatican committee established to deal with the problem, advised the Italian College of Cardinals to invoke a clause in the Lateran Treaty of 1929 by which Italian priests can refuse to cooperate with the Italian authorities if it involves information learned in the confessional - again in contrast to the Pope's assurance that nothing would be concealed.

The instinct of Vatican officials is still to cover up and prevent the truth getting out into the public domain, and the current Pope, as with his two immediate predecessors, appears unwilling or unable to change that modus operandum. The code of omerta still rules in the Vatican and secretive, unaccountable background figures still appear to hold the strings.

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