sexual abuse accusations, police say
Colombia’s Catholic Church is facing around 100 criminal investigations involving sexual abuse, the religious institution’s leader admitted Wednesday.
The national church leader promised an investigation into historical child sex abuse in Colombia “as soon as we have a sufficiently qualified team and the resources to carry it out.”
The Catholic Church’s history of abuse in Colombia
Despite evidence to the contrary, Salazar told El Tiempo that there was no culture of covering up child abuse within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Can he possibly be that naive?
Over the past few years, several cases of abuse have come to light in which church authorities in Colombia have been at best negligent in ensuring the welfare of young victims, and at worst complicit in endangering it.
Journalists reporting on these abuse cases suffered harassment allegedly orchestrated by church leaders.
Medellin archbishop denies protecting alleged child rapists, accuses alleged victims of lying
Transferring alleged pedophiles
One particular practice employed by the church hierarchy has been that of transferring priests facing child abuse accusations rather than reporting them to legal authorities.
One notable example of this practice was the case of Jairo Alzate, a priest from the city of Pereira who died in prison in 2015 while serving a seven-year sentence for the abuse of 10 children.
Shockingly, before the arrest preceding his 2011 conviction, the bishop had allowed him to return to his job at a new parish, despite the priest admitting to a history of child abuse.
This decision was justified by the Judicial Vicar Francisco Salazar on the basis that he had made a “hard promise” not to repeat his past mistakes.
Moving alleged pedophiles abroad
Another common means of perverting justice was for accused priests to simply leave the country, and as of today many Colombian priests are being charged with pedophilia abroad.
Notable examples of this include Danilson Mena Abadia, who left Colombia in 1997, assumed a new identity and was convicted of rape in Nicaragua in 2001 before returning to Bogota, where he was accused of abusing a 13 year old girl.
Moreover, El Tiempo claimed in their interview with Salazar that evidence existed of bishops actively assisting accused figures to leave the country, having published a list of priests facing legal action in the US.
Catholic Church in Medellin protecting 17 pedophile priests: report
What the church is (and isn’t) doing to combat it
The Colombian Episcopal Conference, of which Salazar is the chairman set out a series of guidelines to tackle the problem of sex abuse at the order of Pope Francis.
These guidelines that followed a papal conference in February include not housing children with priests except in exceptional circumstances, and preventing clergy with past convictions or allegations from engaging with children in any capacity.
Colombia cardinal assumes responsibility over widespread sexual abuse in church
However, the guidelines also include a provision aiming to justify why those facing allegations are not removed from their posts altogether, and failed to explicitly acknowledge the need to investigate past abuses.
Child Sex Abuse
JOSEPH H. SAUNDERS
The Legal Examiner
On May 9, Pope Francis issued new rules creating worldwide accountability for reporting allegations of abuse. This new set of Papal norms, Vos Estis Lux Mundi, will govern both reporting and investigation into accusations of clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up.
This new set of rules will take effect June 1, 2019 and remain in place as an experiment for three years. It will obligate officials in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to report cases of clergy sexual abuse — and attempts to cover it up — to their superiors. Previously reporting on abuse cases in the Catholic Church varied widely in different countries and often even between dioceses in the same country. In many countries the Catholic Church still denies or downplays the existence of abuse and there are no reporting procedures in place.
Pope Francis is being heralded for trying to enshrine accountability for bishops – who are responsible for implementing the new rules – into church law. However, the new rules still rely on self-reporting and do not detail specific punishments for Church leaders who violate these norms. Nor do the new rules mandate the involvement of authorities outside the Church.
The Catholic Church has been ravaged by the plague of sexual abuse committed by clergy members. To date the response of the church has been marked by paralysis and created a crisis of confidence among the faithful. While on the surface the Vatican’s new reporting rules could be commended, a closer look reveals them to be toothless and potentially ineffectual because of the absence of full accountability to civil authorities. Sexual abuse is a crime and should be treated as such; the church should never be a shield from prosecution. History has shown the Catholic Church is not capable of policing itself against abuses of power, yet the Pope’s new rule relies entirely on self-policing. It establishes no mechanisms for reporting abuse allegations outside of the Catholic hierarchy and requires no involvement from local authorities. The rule acknowledges that many countries may require Catholic leaders to report abuse allegations to civil authorities, but does not state that this is required.
As the church’s sex abuse scandal has spread throughout the world the one universal constant has been the church’s demonstrated inability to police and punish its own. What reason do we have to believe now that anything has changed when bishops inside the church will still be in charge of investigations? Why now, and not before, will they be rigorous and impartial? The Catholic Church and its officers long ago ceded any moral authority when it comes to sexual abuse within its ranks. For too long if a priest raped a child he was transferred, not prosecuted, by his bishop. It was more important to protect the brand than the victims.
According to SNAP, a network of survivors of clergy sexual abuse, only “Oversight from external, secular authorities will better protect children and deter coverups,” Until this happens, Pope Francis can never offer full accountability for abusive priests and due justice for their victims. Self-policing has been, and will continue to be, unsuccessful and it will allow sexual predators to continue to prey on children behind the Vatican’s cloak of secrecy.
to name predatory priests
A lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota seeks to trace a direct line from clergy sex abuse victims, through Minnesota church officials, to the Vatican, with claims made by three brothers who were abused by a Catholic priest.
The plaintiffs "were harmed as a result of the Defendant Holy See's practice and policy of not reporting suspected child abuse to law enforcement officials," stated the lawsuit filed in US federal court in the state of Minnesota.
"Holy See's practices of retaining, hiding, and concealing evidence of crimes of its agents and former agents has endangered numerous children and continues to put children in peril," it added.
Stephen Hoffman, one of three brothers who are plaintiffs for the case, said at a press conference the suit's intention is to "let something like this never happen anymore."
"I don't want anyone to go through what I and my brothers went through... I just want the Vatican to do what's right," he said.
Hoffman and his brothers Luke and Benedict say they were molested by Curtis Wehmeyer, a Catholic priest arrested in 2012 and sentenced to five years in prison after the siblings' mother reported the case, sparking a scandal that caused the resignation of an archbishop in 2015.
Another plaintiff, 51-year-old Jim Keenan, said he was assaulted throughout the 1970s by a priest whose actions were documented in secret by the church.
"I come forward today to sue the Pope and the Vatican, because it needs to stop. They are not above us," he told reporters.
No kidding. Well below, I would say.
The fifth plaintiff, Manuel Vega, said he was one of 30 victims of a Mexican priest who he believes returned to his home country after being accused of abuse in the US.
"He is nowhere to be found," the 53-year-old said. "From what I heard, he is somewhere in Mexico, or in Spain, still practicing, still dangerous."
The lawsuit comes after Pope Francis announced this month that every Catholic diocese would have to come up with a plan for reporting abuse, a measure expected to bring countless new cases of molestation to light.
The Catholic church is struggling to deal with a global epidemic of sexual assault by priests, in particular of minors. Much of the abuse has gone on for decades.