From Sat May 18 20:30:08 2002
Subject: AANEWS for Saturday, May 18, 2002
Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 20:09:04 -0400
Precedence: bulk

In wake of Papal summit, Vatican now telling prelates to conceal evidence, protect pedophile priests

American Atheists, #1026, 18 May 2002

An article published in an influential Jesuit magazine said to reflect Vatican thinking is telling Roman Catholic bishops to avoid any public exposes about pedophile clerics and sexual abuse, and says that church leaders have no legal or moral responsibility if such abuses take place.

An article in the journal Civilta Cattolica by Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, published today according to a report in Associated Press, says that the Vatican must protect the “good name” of priests, and that only a guilty cleric is truly responsible for actions. Ghirlanda adds that senior church officials should not be held accountable for the actions of priests under their control since “The cleric doesn’t ’work” for the bishop or for the superior, but is at the service of god.”

“He also said church leaders confronted with accusations of abuse should attempt to resolve the problem without going to the authorities,” noted AP writer Tom Rachman in a story appearing in today's Boston Globe newspaper.

“The (pedophile) cleric's right of good name must be protected by the bishop and superior,” Ghirlanda declared. “Therefore any act that has public repercussions, undertaken by the bishop or superior in dealing with one of his clerics, is legitimate only if the good of the community requires it and if the bishop and superior have reached moral certainty.”

The article, carried in a major Catholic publication which has served as a mouthpiece for Vatican policy makers, comes as the American church is pummeled by almost daily revelations of priestly pedophilia and official cover-up. The church has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in various fines and settlements. Civil and criminal suits have also uncovered evidence that church officials often moved abusive priests from parish to parish, and failed to report child molestation to civil authorities.

David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said that he found Rev. Ghirlanda's statements “disturbing,” especially after the high-profile Vatican summit on the sex abuse scandal ordered last month by Pope John Paul II.

“It seems like the pope was very clear last month: there's no place in the ministry for these men (pedophiles)—none—and it's a crime. Ever since, we’ve seen church leaders hemming and hawing and making exceptions.”

Scandal Continues To Widen

If indeed Ghirlanda's article reflects a new hard line by Vatican traditionalists, it may be too little too late to save the American Catholic Church. The pedophile scandal continues to grow with new revelations.

During a deposition made yesterday in the case of Rev. Paul R. Shanley, arrested earlier this month for child rape, Rev. Charles J. Higgins admitted that the pastor had confessed to allegations of sexual abuse before given the new assignment to oversee church affairs for parishes in Braintree, Milton, Quincy and Randolph. The offending cleric is identified by the Boston Globe as Very Rev. Daniel M. Graham. A document from the archdiocese revealed that a review board formed by Cardinal Law in 1993 to probe allegations of sexual misconduct looked into Graham in June, 1995 and continued with investigations and discussions up to February, 1998. The victim had first complained about Graham in the mid-1980s, saying that he had been repeatedly molested by the priest over a two-decade period. He eventually received a letter from an unidentified church official saying that Rev. Graham had admitted the crime, but denied abusing anyone else.

By all accounts, this information was never conveyed to civil authorities.

Under deposition, Rev. Higgins acknowledged that the names of more than 70 abusive priests have now been turned over to investigators, and that it would be “conservative” to say that each had served in at least three parishes.

“Recounting his search for abuse complaints in church files,” noted Globe writers Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer, “Higgins described a record-keeping process marked by confusion and disorder. The filing system included a personnel file, a confidential file, an assignment card file and an archival file.”

The “confidential” file reportedly contained information on priests who had “difficulties” such as alcoholism, psychiatric evaluations and complaints, including sex abuse.

For further information (”Cardinal retreats on sex abuse settlement; Will state, taxpayer rescue church?” 5/12/02) (”As cardinal flock to Rome, church skirts issue of accountability, reporting,” 4/25/02)