Poland’s agreement with the Vatican helps protect abusers

Poland’s agreement with Vatican helps protect abusers, NSS tells UN

Via National Secular Society

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The National Secular Society has urged a UN committee to push Poland to renegotiate a treaty with the Vatican, in order to better protect child abuse survivors in the Catholic Church.

In a submission to the UN committee on the rights of the child, the NSS said the concordat between Poland and the Holy See appeared to “compromise the effective administration of justice”.

The NSS added that the concordat impeded Poland’s freedom and ability to conform to the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The NSS’s submission highlighted evidence that the scale of clerical child sexual abuse in Poland is substantial and prosecutors are expected to treat the church with deference.

The submission also said the country should take steps to tackle the discrimination and persecution faced by LGBT+ children, including by introducing inclusive relationships and sex education and reforming religious education.

The committee is taking evidence on Poland’s compliance with the CRC ahead of an examination of Poland’s five-yearly report on the subject.

Concordat undermines secular justice

The concordat, which Poland and the Vatican signed in 1993, requires conformity with the Catholic Church’s canon ‘law’ in some instances and remains valid today.

The NSS’s submission said the concordat sought to give ecclesiastical ‘law’ precedence over secular law. It said the ‘justice’ delivered as a result would not be “an adequate or just substitute for even-handed secular justice” for perpetrators of child sexual abuse.

The maximum sanction under canon law for abuse of minors, including rape, is defrocking.

The NSS also referred to a 2019 letter from the national prosecutor which suggested local prosecutors seeking documentary evidence from the Catholic Church were required to treat it with deference.

The letter suggested in some cases this should include allowing the church to withhold documents.

The prosecutor’s justification for this position was partly based on the obligations outlined in the concordat.

The NSS’s submission included reports suggesting the national prosecutor’s office initially denied the existence of the letter, then sought to misrepresent its contents as benign.

It added that Poland should make greater efforts to secure secular, rather than ecclesiastical, justice for those suspected of clerical child sexual abuse.

Scale of abuse

The NSS’s submission noted that the Catholic Church has admitted that hundreds of priests in Poland have abused children.

It also noted that pressure groups have suggested significant numbers of bishops have failed to report abusive priests and allowed them to stay in ministry, often working with children in the process.

NSS comment

NSS president Keith Porteous Wood said: “Poland’s populist government is seeking to bolster the church from unprecedented criticism over clerical abuse of minors, after three films which attracted record-breaking audiences drew attention to the extent of the abuse and the church’s cover up.

“Poland’s adherence to human rights appears to be deteriorating with every month.

“We hope our submission will assist the UN to bring pressure to bear on Poland to ensure it makes the protection of LGBT children non-negotiable, and hold it to account for its shortcomings in prosecuting clerics suspected of abusing children.”

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Byrne describes Catholic Church as ‘force for evil’

Irish actor launches stinging on attack on church, calling it a corrupt and nefarious institution

Actor Gabriel Byrne says he remains unrepetentant on his views of organised religion  Photograph:  Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Actor Gabriel Byrne says he remains unrepetentant on his views of organised religion Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Actor Gabriel Byrne has launched a stinging attack on the Catholic Church and described it as a “force for evil”.

The veteran Hollywood star had a strict Catholic upbringing in Dublin and spent five years in a seminary training to be a priest.

But he said it was his own unhappy memories of the seminary, where he says he was sexually abused by a priest, that made him decide not to raise his two children as Catholics.

And in an interview, the 62-year-old says he remains unrepetentant on his views of organised religion and even claimed the Catholic Church once drew inspiration from Hitler’s Nazis.

Recalling the the time he was sent away to an English seminary at just 11 to study for the priesthood, he said: “It was part of the culture. It was a very religious, oppressive society, though we didn’t see it as oppression at the time.

“I remember walking with my mother along a narrow pathway and she was holding onto a pram and two priests came along the footpath and she had to wheel the pram into the road to allow them to walk by, these mysterious men in black. I think the religion I had — and I don’t have any now — was rooted in a kind of childish fantasy.”

He continued: “The Jesuits have that expression, ‘give us a child until he is seven and he will be ours for life’. That was why the Catholic Church and the Nazi party fed off each other. “

After the rally at Nuremberg, the then pope said: “We need to be doing something similar and we have the theatre for it with St Peter’s, so that was when he started coming out on the balcony to address the crowds.

“And the Nazis meanwhile were learning from the Jesuits and making sure they got the child by seven in order to have them for life. The Hitler Youth. “De Valera signed the book of condolence when Hitler died. There was a sneaking regard among many Irish people for Germany and Hitler. England’s pain was Ireland’s gain.”

The New York-based actor, who recently triggered a storm when he described The Gathering as a “scam”, said in the interview with the Sunday Telegraph’s Seven magazine that he feels fortunate to have escaped from the clutches of the Catholic Church.

“They have way too much hold on this country. It’s a very corrupt and nefarious institution. The nuns were vicious because you have all these women living together in denial of love.

“They turned inward on themselves, became twisted creatures. I saw nuns being awfully cruel to me and to my sister. Horrific. Horrific.”

He went on: “I think if you are lucky you eventually come to a place where you are able to question these things, and I did. I read a lot on the subject and had many conversations and I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is a force for evil.

“How can you enslave women? How can you deny men who are supposed to be serving you the comfort of marriage and children? How can they deny sending condoms to Africa? How can they deny women becoming priests? It’s an anti-woman and anti-love church.”

Referring to his decision not to raise his two grown-up children [he had with ex-wife, actress Ellen Barkin] as Catholics, he added: “I never discussed religion with them. As far as I’m concerned, it didn’t do me any good.

“And it’s interesting to watch two people grow up without it and find their own kindness and conscience.”

Byrne’s latest move, All Things To All Men, is out next Friday.

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Investigators Raid Offices of President of U.S. Catholic Bishops

Image: Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, left, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is also president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.CreditCreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

By Laurie Goodstein


Dozens of local and federal law enforcement officers conducted a surprise search of the offices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on Wednesday, looking for evidence in a clergy sexual abuse case that has ensnared the local archbishop, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, who also serves as president of the United States Catholic bishops’ conference.

The raid in Houston is the latest sign of crisis in the church, with prosecutors growing more aggressive in their search for cover-ups of abuse, and the bishops — led by Cardinal DiNardo — hamstrung by the Vatican in their efforts to carry out reforms.

The church is under a barrage of investigations around the country. Attorneys general in at least a dozen states have opened inquiries, and the Justice Department has told bishops not to destroy any documents that could relate to sex abuse cases. Last month, the attorney general in Michigan executed search warrants on all seven Catholic dioceses in that state.

The scene outside the archdiocesan offices in Houston on Wednesday morning was extraordinary, with police cars lined up on the street and about 50 uniformed officers headed inside, some carrying boxes to hold evidence.

As the public face of the American bishops, Cardinal DiNardo has encouraged full cooperation with law enforcement, and his archdiocese struck the same tone as its offices were being searched. The archdiocese said in a statement on Wednesday that “the information being sought was already being compiled,” and that characterizing the search as an involuntary “raid” was unjustified.

But the assistant district attorney in charge of the investigation said that a search of the church offices was necessary because the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston had turned over only a portion of the evidence.

“We anticipate there being a large volume of records,” said J. Tyler Dunman, an assistant district attorney and chief of the special crimes bureau for Montgomery County, who is in charge of the case. “What we’ve been provided is nowhere near what we expect to find.”

Investigators were searching primarily for records on the Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, who was arrested in September on four felony counts of indecency with a child. “But if we come across additional documents or evidence of criminal conduct,” said Mr. Dunman, investigators would gather those up, too.

Father LaRosa-Lopez worked for the archdiocese for decades. Cardinal DiNardo had assigned him to work in a parish and appointed him as the vicar for Hispanics for the archdiocese, despite knowing that Father LaRosa-Lopez had been accused in 2001 of molesting a teenage girl.

Image: The Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, who has been accused of abuse.Credit Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

A lawyer for Father LaRosa-Lopez, Wendell Odom, said last month that his client “denies any improper touching that would be considered a criminal act.” But he said that Father LaRosa-Lopez may have committed a “boundary violation,” and had apologized years ago to the young woman.

The priest was arrested after a second alleged victim — a man — came forward to the archdiocese and to police this year. Investigators are now working with four alleged victims of Father LaRosa-Lopez, and are communicating with others who may have been abused by him, Mr. Dunman said in a telephone interview.

Cardinal DiNardo has found himself on the defensive over his handling of Father LaRosa-Lopez, just as he has been frustrated in his campaign to reassure the public that the bishops are being transparent. Last month, the cardinal presided over a deflating national meeting in Baltimore at which the American bishops were prevented by the Vatican from voting on a package of policies intended to hold bishops accountable.

In an op-ed published in The Houston Chronicle on Monday, Cardinal DiNardo said that he had removed Father LaRosa-Lopez from ministry immediately after the second alleged victim came forward. He appeared to blame Child Protective Services for failing to act on the teenage girl’s report of abuse, saying that in the future the archdiocese would report abuse cases to both Child Protective Services and law enforcement. He did not explain why he had kept Father LaRosa-Lopez in ministry or named him vicar for Hispanics.

He wrote, “The vile and horrid acts of a small minority has shaped the perception of the media and many in the public about all priests — and now, our bishops. While this is understandable, it is regrettable and it is only through actions based on faith and just principles that this evil that afflicts the Church will be eradicated.”

The law enforcement officers who searched the archdiocesan offices on Wednesday were from the Texas Rangers, the Conroe Police Department, the Montgomery County district attorney’s office and other federal agencies, Mr. Dunman said, though he declined to specify which agencies. They combed through the building searching for documents, electronic communications and other evidence.

The Justice Department declined to comment, and it is unclear whether any of its agents were involved in the search of the archdiocese in Houston. The investigation of Father LaRosa-Lopez was underway before the Justice Department warned American bishops not to destroy their files.

Over more than 15 years, other bishops have had their offices searched when law enforcement suspected they were withholding records.

“Files can be in quite a few different places, and there are different sets of files,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a research and advocacy organization that documents the Catholic church’s abuse scandal.

Catholic dioceses keep personnel files as well as secret archives — confidential files that would contain any allegations of misconduct or details of treatment for problems such as addiction or pedophilia.

After Father LaRosa-Lopez was accused in 2001 of touching the teenager, he was sent to the Shalom Center, a treatment facility in Splendora, Tex. Law enforcement agents raided that center in September, as well as two parishes where Father LaRosa-Lopez had worked. He was released on bond in September, and is scheduled to appear in court in January.

Katie Benner contributed reporting from Washington.

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Catholic diocese forced to deal with more allegations

– January 13, 2011

The Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is again being forced to respond to allegations of misconduct in its clerical ranks.

Thursday, a representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, held a news conference in front of the diocese’s headquarters to talk about a $75,000 settlement with an alleged victim of sexual abuse by a longtime priest. The group also spoke about alleged abuse by two other priests who are now dead. The three priests, the group said, all served at Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa.

SNAP, which claims membership of more than 10,000 in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe, also addressed the ongoing controversy at the Cathedral School of St. Jude in St. Petersburg. Parents are upset about the way they say a priest handled the sacrament of confession with their children in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Diocese spokesman Frank Murphy confirmed a $75,000 settlement in July to man who claimed he was abused by Monsignor Norman Balthazar, who was working at Christ the King at the time of the abuse in 1980.

“We don’t know that anything did occur,” Murphy said.

“But yet they paid $75,000,” countered Martha Jean Lorenzo, the Tampa representative of SNAP, at the news conference.

“Given the cost of investigation and legal fees and you’re dealing with someone who wants to settle, it is easier to provide a settlement,” Murphy said.

Between 1996, when Bishop Robert N. Lynch took over the diocese, and 2006, the diocese paid out $2.8 million in settlements. Some of that was covered by insurance, Murphy said.

SNAP accused Lynch of keeping silent about allegations against Balthazar and the settlement. Murphy said that since the alleged abuse happened to an adult, not a child, the diocese did not have to make it public.

MORE: http://www.tampabay.com/news/religion/catholic-diocese-forced-to-deal-with-more-allegations/1145359