French TV inquiry accuses 25 bishops of abuse cover-ups

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Clerical sex abuse in France

thinboatBy Tom Heneghan , in NCR,  Mar. 27, 2017

(In the pic: Left: Bishop Bernard Fellay – CNS/Paul Haring); right: Bishop Marc Aillet (Wikimedia Commons/Peter Potrowl)

(Note: We (CCV) already published similar abuse in Italy (sex orgies in Italy, see CCV March 12) following the sex bombshell scandal in Kottiur, Kerala, India where Fr.Robin, 48, fathered a child to a minor girl, 16, and tried to escape to Canada with  alleged connivance of bishops, priests and sisters (See CCV: This ugly Indian Church must change March 6th). There were three Syromalabar bishops headed by Cardinal Alancherry to preside over the whole drama. Of course the Cardinal went through the motions of a public condemnation. So paedophilia and sex abuse  by the so-called celibate Catholic priests is a world-wide scandal;  a stinking cancer eating into the very vitals of the Catholic Church. India and Kerala may beat other countries!

One common trait to all these priestly sex abuse cases is that the Bishop of the priest caught red-handed has always and everywhere – in Kerala, India, Europe, USA or any country in the world – been busy to cover up the incident to save the  priest culprit by transferring him to another parish or to help him escape from the country and, what is unpardonable, punish the sexually abused victim with threats of divine punishment or church punishment. When all threats fail, in the last resort,  they try to buy the victim with Big Cash.

Kerala has an umpteen number of cases starting with the notorious Sister Abhaya case of Kottayam, still under investigation and cover up. Recently a secular magazine published a long article narrating many priestly sex related crimes that hit headlines in Kerala. Church publications pretend they have not seen it and so never report it. Priests and Bishops in the country will never discuss it in public. Nor will they respond to questions or reports sent to them. CCV regularly send to all Indian bishops every week some 6 to 8 attachments of reports or articles published in CCV (so that bishops can’t  say they have not heard of them) dealing with burning issues they should discuss publicly and take action.  But  all Bishops resort to the “Mechanism of silence” as alleged by Frech TV article below.

This silence on the part of the  bishops is a clear indication of  admission that they have too many things to hide; that they cannot admit mistakes in public and honestly sit on their thrones after admitting they are guilty. “Who bothers about what the Pope says,  once a bishop, always a bishop, Pope is not going to ask a bishop to step down”, is the general attitude of all Indian Bishops. In this they are very much like the French bishops. If a similar TV investigation is done in India, it is sure to unearth, not just 25 but double that number of bishops to be dismissed forthwith,  if the punishment suggested by Pope Francis is to be enforced. This is equally a tribute to the sprinkling of extremely exemplary bishops, thanks to whom the church in India survives.

So who is the main culprit in priests’ sex abuse cases? First of all it is deviant priest himself, then it is his own bishop who always tries to save the culprit, in spite of the stern directive of Francis that such bishops should be dismissed. So why no action is taken against the clear case of the bishops of Fr.Robin, the culprit? In this case, his brother priests and Sisters of the hospital where the minor gave birth to Robin’s child were actively working to hush up the case. Will any action be taken against these conspirators?  So far nothing is done except verbal condemnation Nor does anyone in India hope that action will be taken against the culprit priest and least of all against the bishop, priests and sisters who worked to cover it up.

Apart  from all these, in the final analysis who is the main culprit? To us it looks, it is the “Celibacy-stupid-irrational-law” imposed for all who wish to become priests. Who does’t kow that gunpowder kept close to the hearth will make the whole house go up in flames? If compulsory celibacy for priests  is not changed, it is due to the hang-over belief in the assumed infallibility of the church, which too many blindly believing Christians do not want to give up. The result is that too many thinking sections of the James Kottorchurch either do not believe anymore or bother about what the church (bishops) teaches and commands or just quit the church. That will make the Catholic Church in India a funny spectacle — a bunch of Generals (bishops) without soldiers to fight for their cause. james kottoor, editor)

French television investigation has accused 25 Catholic bishops of protecting 32 accused clerical sex abusers in France over the past half century and often transferring them to other parishes or even other countries when they were singled out for sexual abuse of minors.

The French bishops' conference declined an invitation to participate in the France 2 television program aired March 21. A conference spokesman accused journalists of trying to blackmail the church, an allegation the program's editor vigorously refuted.

Mediapart, an online journal that cooperated in the investigation, called the resulting report "a French Spotlight," a reference to The Boston Globe team that in 2002 reported on sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. The yearlong French inquiry was also published March 22 as a book titled Church: The Mechanism of Silence.

The controversy over the program, titled "Pedophilia in the Church: The Burden of Silence," came as the bishops' conference struggles to demonstrate its concern for abuse victims while details of past negligence keep emerging.

Last year, the bishops pleaded for forgiveness over their "guilty silence" about abuse and stepped up their work with victims. But that has been overshadowed by the news that Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, failed to remove a priest who admitted to the cardinal that he had abused boys in the 1980s.

The newsmagazine "Cash Investigation," which usually focuses on financial corruption, approached the church "as we would have done for a multinational [corporation]," according to presenter Elise Lucet. This included popping questions to Pope Francis and other prelates at church ceremonies and interviewing accused abusers with hidden cameras rolling.

The centerpiece of the two-hour program was the investigation by the television journalists and Mediapart that assembled a database concerning French abuse cases and consequences for the priests and the few deacons involved.

Of the 25 bishops it accuses, five are still in office:

  • Lyon's Barbarin;
  • Archbishop Jean-Luc Bouilleret of Besançon;
  • Bishop Marc Aillet of Bayonne;
  • Bishop Yves Le Saux of Le Mans;
  • Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St. Pius X.

Four are French and Fellay is a French-speaking Swiss native. The ultra-traditionalist society, which was in schism between 1988 and 2009 and still has no canonical status in the church, was founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and is active in France.

The inquiry found 339 victims, 228 of whom were under 15 at the time of the abuse. Only 165 of their cases were eventually reported to justice authorities. Of the alleged abusers, 28 were transferred to another parish or to a foreign country once accusations against them surfaced, it said.

Significantly, the inquiry found that 16 of the 32 alleged abusers were accused after 2000, the year the bishops' conference decided to tighten its abuse guidelines and require that abusive priests be turned over to the authorities.

"Cash Investigation" showed its journalists researching the story in Europe, North America and Africa. Among the people they interviewed were victims at a convention of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and lawyers at Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In one section, the program said then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, tried to help Fr. Julio Grassi, who was convicted in 2009 to 15 years in prison for abusing boys, by ordering a long investigation meant to exonerate him on appeal.

Lucet attended a papal audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, standing at the front barrier to first hand questions for the pope to a bodyguard walking alongside the popemobile and then shout a question to Francis in Spanish.

"Your Holiness, in the Grassi case, did you try to influence Argentine justice?" Lucet asked Francis as he walked past her in the crowd. The pope stops, listens to the question again and responds with "nada" ("not at all") and a frown.

The journalists used the same technique on Barbarin, following him at church events around Lyon asking about abuse cases in the diocese. Barbarin, who admitted in December 2016 that he had had a "late awakening" to the gravity of the abuse crisis, answered in generalities when stopped and quizzed before a Mass in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière overlooking Lyon.

As scenes like that showed, the program was aggressive and sometimes dramatic. Its introduction showed a series of empty altars with the commentary, "On the altar of truth, God's law seems to prevail over man's." The church did itself no favors, however, by declining an invitation to join in a post-program debate and offering only ill-prepared clerics for interviews.

Puy-en-Velay Bishop Luc Crepy, head of the bishops' conference committee on combatting pedophilia, appeared nervous and expressed shock when Lucet presented him with a list of 18 priests convicted of sexual abuse but still in ministry. He said it was up to the bishops to decide what to do in their dioceses.

Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, the bishops' conference spokesman, issued a statement before the broadcast. He said the church refused to participate in a post-program debate with a sexual abuse survivors activist and a sociologist because of "the methods used for the interviews." "It seems that journalistic ethics were not respected and that this program was more concerned with accusing than with explaining," he said.

He sounded more contrite after the broadcast, telling RMC radio that he watched it "with a feeling of shame. … We did not respect the victims and our approach was to first protect our institutions. … Today, the guidelines are extremely clear."

Deputy spokesman Vincent Neymon told the Catholic daily La Croix that the television team had tried to blackmail the church to gain access to a bishops' conference meeting. "We knew the approach of 'Cash Investigation' and Mediapart was basically scandal reporting," he said.

Emmanuel Gagnier, editor-in-chief of "Cash Investigation," rejected the accusations. "We regret that the bishops' conference spokesman preferred to launch public polemics rather than come to a debate in our studio despite several invitations".

Lay groups have criticized the church's approach to the inquiry. "Our bishops are often prompt to express their disagreement with society or demonstrate very visibly on the streets or in the media about abortion, end-of-life issues or gay marriage," said the reform group Catholic Conference of the Francophone Baptized.

"But when they're the ones being taken to task, they tend to slip away. It's too bad, because this gives the impression they have something to hide or feel ashamed of."

François Devaux, head of the group La Parole Libérée ("The Liberated Word") for abuse survivors in Lyon, told daily newspaper Liberation that France — which has not had as large a wave of abuse scandals as in the United States or Ireland — cannot be complacent. "We are only at the start of the process," said Devaux, who also figured in the "Cash Investigation" broadcast. "There are certainly other revelations to come in the near future." [Tom Heneghan is the Paris correspondent for the London-based weekly Catholic magazine The Tablet.]

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