Thursday, 12 November 2020

Catholic Abuse News - "A Sorry History of Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church"

Cardinal Vincent Nichol
"[Church's] moral purpose betrayed over decades" but not resigning.
Inquiry finds Catholic Church prioritised reputation over the welfare of children | IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The report published a couple of days ago by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse into the conduct of the Catholic Church in Britain, makes grim reading for anyone interested in child welfare.

It should have made grim reading for the head of the Catholic Church in Britain, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, since it called into question his leadership of the Church and his moral authority, but he has so far refused to even consider his position, claiming that he formally offered his resignation to Pope Francis when he reached the traditional retirement age for senior clergy, but Pope Francis formally declined it.

.Apparantly, Cardinal Nichols doesn't regard his betrayal of the moral responsibilities of the Church he leads, and of its victims, on his watch, as a resignation issue. Neither does his boss, Pope Francis, despite his protestations of sorrow for the abuses and his loudly professed determination to root it out, bring those responsible to justice and to ensure it can never happen again.

By their deeds so shall ye know them!

The Executive Summary, is especially savage in its' condemnation of a church which swept child abuse under the carpet and turned a blind eye to the abuses, prioritising the Church's reputation over the welfare of its victims:

Executive Summary

This investigation report examines the extent of institutional failings by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales to protect children from sexual abuse and examines the Church’s current safeguarding regime. It draws on evidence from the Inquiry’s three case studies on Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys and their respective schools, Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School, and the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Between 1970 and 2015, the Roman Catholic Church received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse against more than 900 individuals connected to the Church, including priests, monks and volunteers. In the same period, there were 177 prosecutions resulting in 133 convictions. Civil claims against dioceses and religious institutes have resulted in millions of pounds being paid in compensation.

It would be wrong, however, to regard child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church as solely a historical problem. Since 2016, there have been more than 100 reported allegations each year. Across the entire period of nearly 50 years covered by this Inquiry, the true scale of sexual abuse of children is likely to have been much higher.

As we have said previously, faith organisations are marked out from most other institutions by their explicit moral purpose. The Roman Catholic Church is no different. In the context of the sexual abuse of children, that moral purpose was betrayed over decades by those in the Church who perpetrated this abuse and those who turned a blind eye to it. The Church’s neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children and young people in favour of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and vulnerable.

Throughout this investigation, we heard appalling accounts of sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clergy and others associated with the Roman Catholic Church. The sexual offending involved acts of masturbation, oral sex, vaginal rape and anal rape. On occasions, it was accompanied by sadistic beatings driven by sexual gratification, and often involved deeply manipulative behaviour by those in positions of trust, who were respected by parents and children alike.

Victims and survivors described the profound and lifelong effect of this abuse. One witness said “the psychological effects have continued ever since, resulting in years of unbearable guilt, depression, nightmares, anxiety and PTSD symptoms”.[1] Another victim said the abuse which he experienced at junior and senior residential schools affected every aspect of his life, and led to him self-harming. It “nearly wrecked” his marriage and “destroyed my trust, not just in the church but in any authority”.[2]

In another instance, a young boy estimated that he was abused several hundred times by a senior priest between the ages of 11 and 15 years. After each incident he was required to make confession, and the priest concerned made it plain that his sister’s place at a local convent school depended on his compliance.

Amongst the many convictions of priests and monks was that of Father James Robinson. In 2010 he was convicted of 21 sexual offences against four boys. When sentencing him to 21 years’ imprisonment, the trial judge said that Robinson had used his position of authority and total trust to commit “the gravest set of offences of sexual abuse of children” that were “unimaginably wicked”.[3]

Another notorious perpetrator, Father David Pearce, was convicted in 2009 of indecently assaulting a boy aged seven or eight by beating and caning him on his bare buttocks. Pearce would smile as he caned him, and afterwards make the naked child sit on his knee. As a result of the abuse, the victim said “he hated himself” which built up and eventually resulted in him “having a nervous breakdown”.[4] His mother said:
“His father and I live with the guilt of sending him to St Benedict’s, trusting a priest … and the guilt of not realising why the change in our son was not more evident to us.”[5]

Historical response to child sexual abuse

The evidence in this investigation has revealed a sorry history of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. There have been too many examples of abusive priests and monks preying on children for prolonged periods of time. Responses to disclosures about sexual abuse have been characterised by a failure to support victims and survivors in stark contrast to the positive action taken to protect alleged perpetrators and the reputation of the Church.

Child sexual abuse was swept under the carpet. Resistance to external intervention was widespread. Father Samuel Penney was a priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham from 1967. Reports that he sexually abused children in the 1970s were raised with senior clergy on a number of occasions. He was moved from parish to parish. There was no internal investigation and the statutory authorities were not informed. Little thought was given to the victims or the risks that he posed to other children. The failure to act decisively when the allegations were first raised consigned other children to the same fate. It permeated the responses of the Roman Catholic Church with little accountability and sometimes active cover-up, until the Nolan report in 2001. [My emphasis]

The Conclusions, at the end of the report, spell out several of these points in greater detail:
L.1: Conclusions
  1. Lord Nolan’s first recommendation in 2001 was that the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales should be “an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it”.[1] This remains an aspiration.

The scale and impact of abuse

  1. Between 1970 and 2015, there were 931 allegations or concerns of child sexual abuse made by 1,753 individuals against clergy, members of religious institutes and lay workers (paid and voluntary).[2] These complaints involved more than 3,000 instances of alleged abuse made against 936 alleged perpetrators.
  2. As shown in the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission’s (NCSC) annual reports from 2016 to 2018, the Church still receives, on average, over 100 allegations of child sexual abuse per year.
  3. As a result of likely under-reporting and delays in reporting, the precise number of victims of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in England and Wales cannot be ascertained. The true scale of offending and the number of victims of child sexual abuse is likely to be far higher.
  4. As shocking as the figures are, they tell only part of the story. Child sexual abuse has a devastating and often lifelong impact on the victims and survivors. Over the course of the case studies, the Inquiry heard accounts of lives blighted by child sexual abuse, compounded by cover-ups and failures by the Catholic Church to take action against perpetrators.

The historical response of the Church to allegations

  1. The response of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to allegations of child sexual abuse focussed too often on the protection of the clergy and the Church’s reputation. Some institutions and individuals in the Church failed to report allegations and concerns to police and statutory authorities as required. In some cases, members of the dioceses and religious institutes actively took steps to shelter and shield those accused of child sexual abuse.
  2. This was done at the expense of protection of children. There were failures to consider the risks posed to children by perpetrators who were seen as colleagues, brethren and friends and not as sexual abusers of children. In some cases, suspects were moved from one institution to another – from parish to parish, abbey to abbey – with the receiving body not informed of the dangers posed by the individual being sent to them.
  3. As set out in our case studies into the institutional responses of the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) and the Archdiocese of Birmingham, some children would not have been sexually abused had these failings not occurred.[3]

[My emphasis]

None of this will come as any surprise to those familiar with the behaviour of the Catholic Clergy. We have seen exactly this casual disregard for the abusive behaviour of priests, bishops and even cardinals and for the welfare of their victims by a church that has often been complicit in the abuses and an active facilitator of paedophilia, with coverups and denial of compensation and redress to the victims as standard practice. In many ways, the Catholic Church, under the (lack of) leadership of several popes, including the present incumbent and his immediate predecessor, has acted like a vast paedophile ring and mafia-like criminal conspiracy, abusing its diplomatic privileges to evade the law in its host countries and so deny justice to its victims.

We have seen this in the USA, South America, India, Australia, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland...the list goes on... and now in the United Kingdom. The priesthood has been seen and is still seen by many as a means of gaining access to vulnerable children and adults. The sexually predatory behaviour which is endemic in seminaries where friendships and alliance are forged, to be called on in later life for protection and help, is continued into a career in which trust is systematically abused for recreational sexual gratification and often sadistic pleasure.

Clearly, there is something deeply rotten at the core of the Catholic Church, the way it selects, trains and supervises its priests, the superstions it carefully fosters and nurtures, with which it gains control over people, and the poverty, ignorance and emotional dependence in which it seeks to keep them, the better to gain their trust, offering salvation and uplift from the sickness it imposes in the first place.

The same of course can be said for any established church, beit Anglican, Baptist, Presbytarian or Mormon, or indeed any religion in which priest have authority over others.

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