Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Popes, Predators, Paedophiles And Priests

Józef Wesołowski
Photo credit: Manuel Diaz / AP
Vatican Sets Trial for Ex-Ambassador Accused of Sexual Abuse - The New York Times.

Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis resigns after charges of sex abuse coverup - The Washington Post

For my 1000th blog, it's a pleasure to be presented with not one but two cases of senior Catholic clergy being involved in child abuse and coverup amounting to facilitation of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. These cases involve an ambassador for the Vatican, an archbishop and an auxiliary bishop.

On the day that the Vatican announced it is putting on trial it's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Józef Wesołowski, for molesting young boys and posessing child pornograpy, came news that the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop John Nienstedt, along with his assistant, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché had resigned. The Vatican denies any link between the two cases.

The case of Archbishop Wesołowski is revealing and tells us much of the Vatican's basic instinct - to protect its own and keep them out of the reach of the law-enforcement agencies in the countries where they commit their crimes. Józef Wesołowski from Poland was in the habit of picking up shoeshine boys from along the waterfront in Dominica, taking them off to remote spots to indecently assault them. Some boys alleged he had paid them for their services.

Shortly before this was revealed by a television journalist Wesołowski resigned and was spirited back to Rome under diplomatic protection. Wesolowski will not now face his accusers in the Dominican Republic but will be tried in the much more controllable environment in the Vatican City. He was formally defrocked last June and now faces trial under rules that weren't even in place until Pope Francis introduced them recently.

The trial will be by a tribunal appointed for the purpose. It will receive written testimony collected from the allegedly abused victims but a spokesman for the Vatican, Father Lombardi, said he doubted that witnesses would actually appear to give evidence. Józef Wesołowski will not face his victims and they will not have the satisfaction of him being cross-examined. If convicted he will have to spend the rest of his days in his apartment in the Vatican. Doubtless he will be described as spending his days in prayer and penance - to the same god he seems to have assumed wouldn't be watching or wouldn't be judging him later as he selected and abused his vulnerable victims.

There was no explanation why the trial, originally expected last winter or early spring, has been delayed to next July, nor why the Vatican is refusing to cooperate with Polish prosecutors who are also investigating similar allegations against Józef Wesołowski.

Archbishop John Nienstedt
Meanwhile another American archdiocese is embroiled in yet another cover-up scandal.

The resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis follows closely on the news that Minnesota prosecutors are to charge the archdiocese over the way it had handled child sex abuse allegations. They have charged that the Church turned a blind eye to repeated reports of inappropriate behavior by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys. The two have not been charged personally but say they are stepping down "to remove distractions".

The last three popes have removed bishops for this but no one has made an explicit statement saying this is the reason. That kind of confirmation in light of last week’s [announcement about the new tribunal] is really important. We can't continue to have popes staying mum when bishops are removed.

Anne Barrett Doyle, BishopAccountability.org
As reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest who is now serving a five-year prison term, was convicted of sexually abusing the two boys in 2010. He was pastor at the Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul at the time. Wehmeyer also faces similar charges in Wisconsin.

The resignations also comes just five days after Pope Francis announced he was setting up a new tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up child sex abuses by their clergy but the Vatican refused to say whether the resignations were by choice or whether the two were sacked.

So far, the only bishop to be convicted of covering up sex abuse in the USA has been Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City.

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