Let the Courts Intervene

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by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 24, 2018   

Attention needs to focus on abuse of seminarians and nuns that has received little media attention

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By Gene Thomas Gomulka

The sex abuse crisis currently being addressed in the media has called attention to the problem of homosexual predation in the Catholic Church in which some 80 percent of victims of sexual abuse are male teenagers — unlike in society where 82 percent of sexual abuse victims under 18 are female. In an effort to conceal the high percentage of homosexuals in the episcopacy and the priesthood, Church leaders will often blame the problem on "clericalism," while LGBT supporters will misrepresent it as a "pedophilia" problem even though "less than four percent" of abusive priests are truly pedophiles.

As serious as the clerical abuse problem is involving male teenagers, attention also needs to focus on the abuse of seminarians and nuns that has received little media attention. In the past, when a seminarian or nun complained about being abused by a bishop or priest, it was often the abuse victim that was either asked to leave or undergo a psych evaluation for being homophobic in so far as most seminarians were abused by fellow seminarians, priests or even bishops. The lesson that should be gained from this experience is that abuse victims, including seminarians and nuns, should not report their abuse to Church officials, but rather to civil authorities.

The Sept. 21, 2018 arrest of Indian Bp. Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur by Kerala police is more significant than the faint attention given it by the media. Following three days of interrogation in Kochi, the bishop was arrested on allegations that he raped a nun repeatedly over the course of two years. The fact that the bishop was imprisoned and brought to court the day following his arrest sends a message to Pope Francis and the Vatican: Because Church authorities have failed to discipline clerics guilty of criminal behavior, the state will ensure that justice is served on behalf of victims of rape, sexual abuse and other crimes.

Because Church authorities have failed to discipline clerics guilty of criminal behavior, the state will ensure that justice is served on behalf of victims of rape, sexual abuse and other crimes.

In the 1990s, several reports were submitted to the Vatican by senior members of women's religious orders asserting that sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, including rape, is a serious problem, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world. In 1994, the late Sr. Maura O'Donohue wrote a detailed report about a six-year, 23-nation study, documenting how 29 nuns had been impregnated in a single congregation. Unfortunately, instead of investigating these claims and disciplining the guilty parties, the Vatican often sent the reports back to the very clerics responsible for the crimes.

In April of 2001, the European Parliament adopted a resolution ("Responsibility of the Vatican in Regard to the Violation of Human Rights by Catholic Priests") condemning the Vatican for violations of women's human rights by priests and bishops while calling on Rome to have "the perpetrators of the crimes arrested and handed over to justice." 


Details were just leaked this month to the media of a report prepared by the German Bishops' Conference documenting that almost 3,700 minors in Germany alone were abused between 1946 and 2014. In so far as many of those abuse cases known to Church officials were covered up and never reported to civil authorities, German Justice Minister Katarina Barley urged Church leaders to "take responsibility for decades of concealment, cover-ups and denials" and to work with state prosecutors to bring every known case to justice. 

Owing to the failure on the part of Church leaders to even meet with victims of sexual abuse, the independent commissioner for child sex abuse issues, Johannes-Wilhelm Roerig, recommended that state authorities step in to clear up the crimes and ensure victims get access to Church files and compensation. Speaking with a reporter from Süddeutsche Zeitung, he said the state "has a duty of care for all children, including those who are in the care of the Church."

It is clearly time for the courts to intervene and put guilty bishops and priests behind bars not only for what they have done, but also for what they have failed to do.

Chilean Cdl. Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago de Chile was summoned recently by local authorities to testify after being accused of failing to deal with allegations of sexual abuse. The authorities are investigating allegations of a network of priests calling themselves "The Family" who are accused of engaging in abuse, prostitution and homosexuality. 

Following the release of Pennsylvania grand jury reports of eight Pennsylvania dioceses in which some 430 priests were accused of abusing over 1,000 young people, nine other states have now announced plans to investigate diocesan records involving the sexual abuse of minors.

With investigations underway in the United States, Germany and Chile, does Pope Francis fear that, were he to return to his native Argentina, he might be called to respond to allegations of having covered up sex abuse that he claimed "had never arisen" in his 2.5 million-member archdiocese of Buenos Aires? If the Pope will not discipline bishops and priests for abusive behavior which he and other bishops covered up; if he and his fellow bishops will not protect seminarians and nuns from being preyed upon by bishops and priests; then it is clearly time for the courts to intervene and put guilty bishops and priests behind bars not only for what they have done, but also for what they have failed to do.

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a retired Navy (captain) Chaplain in Coronado, California who was a priest (monsignor) of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and who served on active duty at Marine Corps and Navy commands for over 24 years until his retirement in 2004.

 

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