Thursday, May 6, 2010

Italy, Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up in the Vatican's Backyard

     The baldacchino is falling!  The baldacchino is falling! 

     Even in Italy, where Catholics have long bowed in silence to Holy dysfunctional Mother Church, the victims of rape by clergy are coming forward and demanding justice and accountability.

     The AP reports (My comments are interspersed):
     Victims of a Florence priest who was defrocked for sexually and psychologically abusing his young parishioners are now demanding that his bishops be held responsible for keeping his crimes quiet. The victims' appeal is the latest sign that clerical abuse in Italy, long so taboo that it was rarely spoken of much less acted on, is increasingly getting public attention and forcing the Vatican to confront the problem in its own backyard.
      Let's look at this another way: if you had a neighbor, who had a backyard full of rusted husks of vehicles, rotting trash piles, and waist-high weeds, would you believe this neighbor, if he/she claimed authority over the proper maintenance of backyards throughout the world?  But you'd trust a church who can't clean up after serial priest-rapists in its own backyard to tell the rest of the world how to handle sexual abuse.
     In a letter to the pope obtained Wednesday, 17 victims of Lelio Cantini said that his bishops — one in particular — should be forced from office for having allegedly tried to keep his crimes quiet. The case of the 87-year-old Don Cantini is one of the most explosive to have rocked the Italian Catholic Church. Victims who had stayed quiet for some 30 years emerged in 2004 to accuse him of creating a sect-like atmosphere in his Queen of Peace parish on the outskirts of Florence, where he allegedly subjected youngsters to sexual and psychological abuse.
     Initially, Florence's then-archbishop, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, moved Cantini to another parish for "health" reasons. But three years after the victims first went to the auxiliary bishop with complaints, Antonelli announced in 2007 that Cantini had been found guilty in a canonical trial of "sexual abuse against some girls from 1973-1987, false mysticism and control and domination of consciences," according to a diocesan statement.
     How many more girls did Father Cantini rape that were too psychologically damaged to come forward?  And, "domination of conscience"?  Isn't that what the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is all about?  Dominating the consciences of Catholics throughout the world, by prescribing the tenants of a well-formed conscience.  Pope Benedict and Cardinal Levada have been the last two heads of the CDF, and yes, they definitely are qualified to define the moral attributes of  Catholic consciences.
     No criminal charges were brought because the statute of limitations had expired. As his punishment, Cantini was forbidden from celebrating Mass in public and hearing confessions for five years, and was forced to recite a lengthy psalm every day and make a charitable offering, according to Antonelli's statement.
     Seriously, a lengthy psalm every day?  This is rape, over and over of helpless children, and a five year ban on public celebrations of Mass and reciting a lengthy psalm were Father Cantini's punishment?  Sounds like more of a penance than a punishment.  Say your prayers.  Say you're sorry.  God will forgive you, wash away your sins.  Go forth and sin no more, my holy priest.  

     This is how pedophile priests were handled for decades, maybe even centuries.  Then, consciences "well formed," they went on to rape more kids.
     In Verona, the bishop has been told by the Vatican to conduct a more thorough investigation into allegations that priests raped and molested dozens of deaf boys at a church-run institute.
     More deaf boys raped by priests?  The priests of Wisconsin and Verona do have something in common, after all.  They have been formed by a system to prey on vulnerable sinners, who need Father to gain access to god, forgiveness, and salvation.  If Father's sexual gratification gets in the way, no harm.  Jesus will forgive him, too.
     To date, no Italian bishop is known to have resigned for having shielded a pedophile priest.

Cincinnati Bengals Asked Draftees if They Were Gay

     The NFL (well, at least the Cincinnati Bengals) have been outed for asking what could be perceived as a fear-based, and maybe even discrimination-based, question while interviewing possible draftees.

     DT Geno Atkins was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the NFL Draft last month. But before that, Atkins had at least one interesting question posed by an NFL team in a pre-draft inerview.
     “The only unusual question I got was if I was straight or gay,” said new Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. “And that was about it.”
     Unfortunately, he didn’t say what his answer was. Either way, you have to assume it’s not just one team asking, or that Atkins was the only one asked.
     This is just one example of the need for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  

     Besides, gay men can play football.

What Would Timmy Tebow Answer?

Cardinal Levada, Pope Benedict, & Sexual Abuse, the Paper Trail Continues

Pope Benedict XVI Installs William Cardinal Levada, 2006     
"Who's your Papa?"

     What do you do with a Catholic bishop, say William J. Levada, whose years of leadership in the archdioceses of Portland and San Francisco are marred with sexual abuse, scandal, and cover-up?  If you are Pope Benedict XVI, you promote the obedient archbishop to cardinal and give him your old job, which is overseeing all the sexual abuse cases worldwide, where he can defend you as being credible when it comes to handling sexual abuse.  Trust me, this makes total sense, if you live within the myopic walls of the Vatican.

     The New York Times has unearthed another paper trail implicating Pope Benedict and one of his closest friends and advisors, Levada, in the cover-up and enabling of Catholic clergy sexually abusing minors.

     In January 2006, Cardinal William J. Levada, the highest ranking American official in the Vatican, slipped into a San Francisco office building, sidestepping a gaggle of media lying in wait. On leave from Rome, he was submitting to a day of questioning before a flotilla of plaintiffs’ lawyers.
     For eight strenuous hours, the cardinal was pressed to explain why he had decided to return priests who were confirmed sexual abusers back to ministry. He acknowledged that he had failed to notify the authorities of allegations of abuse. He struggled to recall why he had chosen not to share information with parishioners.
     With such a great memory, Levada would be perfect for being in charge of handling the Church's sexual abuse cases, rights?  Perfect for forgetting them. 

     But an examination of his [Levada's] record, pieced together from interviews and a review of thousands of pages of court documents, show that he generally followed the prevailing practice of the church hierarchy, often giving accused priests the benefit of the doubt and being reluctant to remove them from ministry. 

      Catholics continue to come to the defense and aid of their bishops and pope, saying things like "Well, it was a gradual learning process, this dealing with sexual abuse, and we've learned." or "We've adopted a zero tolerance policy in the United States.  Since 2002, we're tackling the issue.  Trust us.  God does, why can't you?" or "No one understood that sexual abuse to children was damaging, until 2002.  We were doing what everyone else was doing, so why are you picking on us, you heathen Catholic hater."
     These clerics really think that the rest of the world is ignorant and will blindly follow them.  Their patronizing tone, exhibits the fact that they are out of touch and living in a world that is grounded neither in reality nor in truth.  

     Here's the truth.  Levada, the bishops, and the Vatican were warned from within about the extent of the sexual abuse crisis back in 1985 and did nothing.

     The Times:

     In the spring of 1985, the alarm was sounded by an unlikely trio of concerned Catholics, the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Vatican canon lawyer; Raymond Mouton Jr., a Louisiana criminal lawyer who defended the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, a notorious pedophile priest; and the Rev. Michael Peterson, a psychiatrist.
      In the wake of the Gauthe case, the three men produced a strongly worded 92-page report that argued for immediate action to deal with sexual molestation in the church.
      In May 1985, Cardinal Levada, then a young auxiliary bishop from Los Angeles, was sent by church leaders to meet with the men. The meeting at a Chicago airport hotel went on all day, Father Doyle and Mr. Mouton said recently, with Bishop Levada going through their report almost line by line. They said he seemed enthusiastic about their proposals.
     Two weeks later, however, the bishop called Father Doyle and told him that their report was being shelved and that the bishops would convene their own committee to examine the issue. But no such group materialized. Two decades later, in various sworn depositions, Cardinal Levada would assert that he recalled little from the meeting. But his detailed briefing would have given him a far deeper awareness of the issue than a vast majority of church officials at the time.
     Cardinal Levada is a self-serving liar.  

     The document trail exposed by the New York Times exposes Levada's record and consistent themes of delaying punishment of accused/convicted priests and/or outright returning of abusive priests to ministry with nothing more than a "don't do it again" even when there was a long trail of accusations against a priest-purpetrator.

     Levada's main concern was protecting the church and keeping documents from being subpoenaed in court that would expose sexual abuse cases.  So, let me get this right.  Levada understood the intricacies of civil law.  If he could understand that, how was he lacking intelligence enough to understand the warning of Doyle and Mouton in 1985?  He understood them.  He chose to aid, abet, and protect his pedophile-priests.

     Here's a summary of some of the evidence against Levada.  See the New York Times' article for the full paper trail.

     While in San Francisco, Levada failed to restrict two priest-perpetrators.  Rev. Milton Walsh who abused a 13-year-old, remained in ministry, telling  Levada "You can trust me (to be around kids), 'cause I don't trust myself."  He was rector of the cathedral and remained in his venerated position under Levada's rule.  

     In the case of Rev. Gregory Ingels, who was a canon lawyer and a national expert on clergy sexual abuse until he was charged in 2003 for having abused a child, the case was dropped due to statute of limitations restrictions.  Levada left the sexual abuse "expert" in ministry, unrestricted.

     In the case of Rev. James Aylward, who was caught "wrestling" naked with a boy by his pastor Rev. John P. Conley, Levada did not restrict Aylward, but instead, suspended Conley, who then sued Levada for defamation.  It wasn't until Aylward admitted under oath that he'd gotten off by wresting with boys that Levada finally removed Aylward from ministry. 

     This is the man in charge of the Vatican's office that handles sexual abuse accusations.  This is the man we are supposed to trust.  If this were any other secular or corporate institution in the world, Levada would be out of a job.  His record shows that he failed repeatedly to understand the gravity of sexual abuse in the church and did not act to protect innocent children from priest-perpetrators.  Levada is a slow learner.  

     So, why should we believe that he can learn quickly now and implement change?  Because he's a cardinal, an ordained minister in the Catholic Church?  

     He is a human being like every other one of us.  He, the pope, and all bishops should be held to the same standards.  They are not holier.  They are not worthy of more respect.  They are not qualified to be trusted to do what is right, especially in matters of sexual abuse.

Image Credits:
Levada Kissing Pope Benedict's Ring, New York Times/Eric Risberg/AP
The Pope's Toilet, Film Movement
Vatican Toilet, Webshots