Pope meets sex abuse victims: Is it enough?

According to the latest AP report, Benedict XVI celebrated a private mass with four hand-picked sexual abuse victims on his last day in Australia:

“He listened to their stories and offered them consolation,” the Vatican said in a statement. “Assuring them of his spiritual closeness, he promised to continue to pray for them, their families and all victims. Through this paternal gesture, the Holy Father wished to demonstrate again his deep concern for all those who have suffered sexual abuse.” The pope made a similar gesture in a service with abuse victims in the United States when he visited there in April.
The head of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, who attended the Mass on Monday, said the four victims had requested anonymity and no details were released. During his six-day visit to Australia for World Youth Day, the pope addressed the subject of sexual abuse, a controversy that has dogged the church for years, and alleged attempts by the Catholic hierarchy to cover it up.
Speaking to a congregation of priests, seminarians and others contemplating religious life on Saturday, the pope departed from his prepared remarks to apologize to the victims. “I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I, too, share in their suffering,” he said.
But victims’ groups criticized him for not meeting the victims face to face. Cardinal Pell, speaking to the media after the left, said that Monday’s Mass was not a response to the criticism.
“This had been organized over a number of weeks,” he said, adding that the group had been chosen by the Professional Standards Office, which was set up to coordinate the Australian Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program, which is addressing the issue of sexual abuse.
Chris MacIsaac, the president of Broken Rites, a support group for victims of sexual abuse said the victims were still not satisfied. “I rejoice with these victims to got to go to Mass with the pope, but I feel heartfelt sorrow for all those others who still feel they are outside the church,” she said in a telephone interview.
She said she was suspicious that the group that attended Mass with the pope had been selected because they had not spoken out publicly and added that she believed the church was unwilling to engage with those who went public with their complaints.

Is it enough? Or are words and actions required? And what of Pell and others?

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Little Bear

posted July 21, 2008 at 11:25 am

The system for dealing with abuse victims in Australia is much different than in the United States. And in some dioceses in Australia, the situations is even more stringent. Those who have been abused are required to observe secrecy—if they go public—they are practically ignored by the “official” Church. The amount of payment is capped in certain diocese, with $50,000 being the max. in some dioceses.
The sexual abuse has rocked the Church in Australia, with only 14% of all registered Catholics attending church regularily. Cardinal Pell and other arch/bishops like Archbishop Hickey (Perth), have not done enough. But if they believe in the Pope’s vision of a “smaller, purer
church” then they (bishops) are satisfied that they have done more than enough.
What the Church needs now are more courageous bishops like Bishop Geoff Robinson and Bishop Gumberton—from the active bishops to come out and demand or implement change in the Church’s Governance style.
Governance style is not a dogma, and not a doctrine in the Church. It can be changed to reflect the society that we live in. After all, the official once adopted the imperial style of Constantine—and kept it.
It can adopt the more democratic style of today–giving more authority to local churches, and to the diocesan pastoral councils—so that the people have more grassroots access.

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Bob Nunz

posted July 21, 2008 at 12:19 pm

The Pope had a lot of good things to say in Australia, as he did in the US. Those messages were adressed to humanity in general, however.
His message about abuse inside the Church, as does other messages he and his curia send out (on women priests, for example.) receive lots of criticism from within – a major divide in Catholicism.
Little Bear is right, of course, that more action towards Bishops, say, who are responsible for letting abuse perdure would be welcome and might even buttress other pronouncements.
Right now, though, the division line in the Church, and in Australia and the US continues to be quite strong and this matter is a clear example of that.

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posted July 21, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Actually, little bear, the “Towards Healing” process does not require confidentiality from the victims. It explicitly denounces any attempt to impose such rerstrictions. any diocese which may attempt to impose such restrictions – and I am aware of only one – does so either in ignorance ( the reason given in the example I know of) or in defiance of the protocol.

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Lillian N

posted July 22, 2008 at 12:49 am

The church needs to stop the usage of silence to deal with these situations. I know the silence firsthand and it is very damaging. Silence should be replaced with sound. Listen, be present, and take responsibility morally for what has happened in our lives. Remove the people who hurt us from ministry.
The anger survivors feel is over being ignored by the church. The sound should start from everywhere in the Catholic Church. There is no room for the silent treatment in this much needed healing process.

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posted July 22, 2008 at 8:40 am

Little Bear is consistently misinformed! It’s always wiser to gather the facts and bening informed, offer a constructive opinion.

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posted July 22, 2008 at 5:26 pm

On one hand there are those for whom nothing will be enough and the other those who wish to blame something or someone else for this terribel scandal. [I should get a million dollars, the fix for pedophilia is getting rid of homosexual priests, (which by the way ignores girls as victims)etc.]
What would it take to repay a victim of childhood rape? Millions are not enough. Don’t we need to take a look at the entire ethic of sexuality and reproduction, fearlessly? Don’t we need more acccountability from our hierarchy?
Perhaps a lot of those RC not in the parish pews are as frustrated and concerned about these issues that still are not even close to resolution. Is the answer really more “orthodoxy”?

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posted July 22, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Think it was a PR move…not much is going to change.

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posted July 23, 2008 at 10:29 am

the bishops in both countries have nothing but complete blame for the handling of this issue….they did more to protect there office of bishop and themselves then to face the issue and come face to face with the victims….they forgot as a group that they are the servants of the people….the people come first…they alllowed the entire church to crumble just so they looked innocent…the church doesnt the bishops to protect it….CHRIST PROTECTS IT….THE BISHOPS NEEDED TO ACT AS PASTORS AND EMBRACE THE VICTIMS…email me if you like

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Little Bear

posted July 24, 2008 at 2:04 pm

For Jim—who claims that I am “consistently misinformed”. I took this l o n g report from those who have worked with abuse victims in Australia and know first-hand what is going on with abuse victims. Jim, get the blinders off of your eyes—many of us who criticize the Church don’t do so because we hate it—we want it to live up to what it claims to be—THE CHURCH FOUNDED BY JESUS CHRIST! This article was published on Catholic Australia–an Australian web-site very much like beliefnet.
Priests call for change in abuse processes
Published: July 18, 2008
Geelong priest Fr Kevin Dillon yesterday called on priests to stop trivialising sexual abuse allegations while Sydney’s Fr Chris Riley says that the Church’s Towards Healing process is a joke and should be scrapped.
Fr Chris Riley, who heads Youth Off The Streets, a Sydney welfare service that assists homeless, drug addicted and abused young people, said the Towards Healing program hurt the Church’s credibility and meant victims often did not have their day in court, reports say.
He told the Nine Network that any family confronted with sexual abuse should go straight to the police and have the matter dealt with in court.
“Towards Healing, to me, I have to say, is a joke,” he said.
“The perpetrator is the only winner there because often they are not charged, because it (the case) is settled.
“This is obscene, settling those sort of cases behind closed doors,” Father Riley said.
“It should be out in the court, and then if they (victims) want to deal with the Church, we then do that after the person is … found guilty, and my position is, jailed for a long time.
“Then, if they want to go to the Church, let’s heal them then, but get justice first.”
The Geelong Advertiser reports the regional city’s top priest Fr Kevin Dillon yesterday spoke out against members of the clergy who have tried to trivialise sexual abuse allegations troubling the Church.
Fr Kevin Dillon said the attitude of some of his colleagues made him cringe with embarrassment.
“Sexual abuse can’t be written off, it’s never old, it’s always fresh,” he said.
“People have been violated, it has affected their families, their loved ones and it’s turned their lives upside down.”
Fr Dillon said the Catholic Church’s reputation was at risk if people at the top trivialised sexual abuse claims and dodged questions.
“We should offer as much compassion as we can; we should be the ones binding up bonds, and not be the wounders,” he said.
Fr Dillon also criticised the $50,000 cap put on compensation claims for sexual abuse victims.
“For most people it’s a life sentence and I can never understand why compensation is capped, because each case is different,” he said.
WYD coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher earlier told people to stop “dwelling crankily” over sexual abuse claims within the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, Melbourne archdiocese abuse system probably saved the Catholic archdiocese more than $40 million that should have gone to victims, the father of two schoolgirls who were repeatedly raped by a priest suggested yesterday, The Age reports.
Anthony Foster said that only in Melbourne, under the system set up by now Sydney Archbishop George Pell, was compensation capped (at $50,000). There was no cap in the Towards Healing protocol that applied in the rest of the Catholic Church in Australia or in the civil courts.
“When we went to court — as invited to by Cardinal Pell — they settled for a much larger sum. It’s all about saving money,” Mr Foster said.
He suggested there had been at least 200 compensation cases in Melbourne at an average of $25,000. That should have been $400,000, which was $80 million, he said. Mr Foster and his wife, Christine, flew into Sydney yesterday to try to confront Cardinal Pell before World Youth Day on Sunday.
Their daughters were raped over five years at Sacred Heart Primary School in Oakleigh by a now dead priest, Kevin O’Donnell. One, Emma, killed herself in January. On Wednesday, World Youth Day coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher sparked controversy by suggesting some people were “dwelling crankily on old wounds” rather than delighting in the beauty and goodness of the young people at World Youth Day.
Bishop Fisher did not meet the media yesterday, but World Youth Day chief operating officer Danny Casey held a press conference away from the media centre and suggested Bishop Fisher’s comments were “about how some of the media seeks to portray the church about abuse matters and shouldn’t in any way suggest he is lacking in compassion.”
Scrap sex abuse program – priest
Father Kevin Dillon urges Church colleagues to stop trivialising sex abuse allegations
Sex abuse victims ‘denied proper compensation’

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