Pope’s sex abuse summit: What it did and didn’t do
By NICOLE WINFIELD
Monday, February 25
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ summit on preventing sexual abuse was never going to meet the expectations placed on it by victims groups, the media and ordinary Catholics outraged over a scandal that has harmed so many and compromised the church’s moral authority so much.
Indeed, no sweeping new law was announced to punish bishops who cover up abuse. No files were released or global reporting requirement endorsed requiring priestly rapists to be reported to police. In his final speech to the summit Sunday, Pope Francis even fell back on the hierarchy’s frequent complaint of unfair press coverage.
But something has changed.
By inviting the leaders of Catholic bishops conferences and religious orders from around the world to a four-day tutorial on preventing sex abuse, Francis has made clear that they all are responsible for protecting the children in their care and must punish the priests who might violate them, or risk punishment themselves.
“In people’s justified anger, the church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons,” the pontiff said.
And yet as strong as his words were, it was actually the handful of women invited to address the summit who drove the message home most forcefully. That too speaks volumes about the future of an institution where women are officially barred from the hierarchy’s ranks but are increasingly raising their voices and walking out when they aren’t heard.
Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, superior of her religious order, shamed the men in the room for their decades of silence over the “atrocities” committed by their priests and warned them that they would be judged for their inaction going forward.
“This storm will not pass by,” she said.
Valentina Alazraki, the longtime Vatican correspondent for Mexico’s Televisa, challenged the men in power to decide whether they are on the side of the victims, or the priests who raped them.
“We have decided which side to be on,” Alazraki told the summit, warning that unless the hierarchy too sides with victims, “journalists, who seek the common good, will be your worst enemies.”
Francis was so impressed by the address of Linda Ghisoni, a canon lawyer and under-secretary in the Vatican’s laity office, that he delivered an impromptu ode to women at the end of her speech.
And by all indications, the searing testimony of a woman who as a child endured five years of rape at the hands of a priest — and a lifetime of trauma, eating disorders, depression and suicide attempts — brought the 190 bishops and religious superiors to a stunned, shameful silence.
She told them that she had wanted to tell them something about her childhood, but couldn’t because since she was 11 years old “I, who loved coloring books and doing somersaults on the grass, have not existed.”
“Instead, engraved in my eyes, ears, nose, body and soul, are all the times he immobilized me, the child, with superhuman strength.”
The Rev. Hans Zollner, one of the conference organizers, said her tearful testimony stopped the bishops cold.
“This has really reached the heart level,” he said. “And if you get to that level, you cannot be as you were before.”
And some concrete steps were announced at the summit’s end that will change things as they were before.
For starters, the Vatican in the coming days is expected to issue a new child protection policy for the Vatican City State. Despite having instructed all the world’s bishops’ conferences to draft such a policy in 2011, the headquarters of the global Catholic Church still has none.
The Vatican will soon issue a step-by-step guidebook for bishops around the world explaining how to investigate and prosecute abuse cases. Task forces at the regional or continental level will be established to give them expert help, since many dioceses in poorer countries simply don’t have the legal resources on hand.
All indications are that the Vatican will be re-evaluating the use of “pontifical secret” in abuse cases, so that victims can actually learn the outcomes of their cases.
New “clarifications” are expected to be issued about implementing a 2016 law on holding bishops and religious superiors accountable when they cover up abuse cases.
And individual bishops conferences, such as in the U.S., are plowing ahead to articulate clear accountability proposals for their leadership.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s longtime sex crimes prosecutor, told reporters at the summit’s end that his main takeaway after four days was that there is now a recognition within the church that “abuse of minors is an egregious crime, but so too is cover-up.”
And with that, he said, “There is no going back.”
More AP coverage of clergy sex abuse at https://www.apnews.com/Sexualabusebyclergy
Vatican sex abuse summit seeks new culture of accountability
By NICOLE WINFIELD
Friday, February 22
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinals attending Pope Francis’ summit on preventing clergy sex abuse called Friday for a new culture of accountability in the Catholic Church to punish bishops and religious superiors when they fail to protect their flocks from predator priests.
On the second day of Francis’ extraordinary gathering of Catholic leaders, the debate shifted to how church leaders must acknowledge that decades of their own cover-ups, secrecy and fear of scandal had only worsened the sex abuse crisis.
“We must repent, and do so together, collegially, because along the way we have failed,” said Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias. “We need to seek pardon.”
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich told the 190 bishops and religious superiors that new legal procedures were needed to both report and investigate Catholic superiors when they are accused of misconduct themselves or of negligence in handling abuse cases.
He said lay experts must be involved at every step of the process, since rank-and-file Catholics know far better than priests what trauma the clergy sex abuse and its cover-up has caused.
“It is the witness of the laity, especially mothers and fathers with great love for the church, who have pointed out movingly and forcefully how gravely incompatible the commission, cover-up and toleration of clergy sexual abuse is with the very meaning and essence of the church,” Cupich said.
“Mothers and fathers have called us to account, for they simply cannot comprehend how we as bishops and religious superiors have often been blinded to the scope and damage of sexual abuse of minors,” he said.
Francis summoned the bishops for the four-day tutorial on preventing sex abuse and protecting children after the scandal erupted again last year in Chile and the U.S. While the Vatican for two decades has tried to crack down on the abusers themselves, it has largely given their bishops and superiors who moved them around from parish to parish a pass.
Cupich called for transparent new structures to report allegations against superiors, investigate them and establish clear procedures to remove them from office if they are guilty of grave negligence in handling cases.
He proposed that metropolitan bishops — who are responsible for other bishops in their geographic area — should be tasked with conducting the investigations, with the help of lay experts. The metropolitan bishop would then forward the results to the Vatican.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Cupich’s proposals squared with those being studied by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at large.
Those procedures, which called for a code of conduct for bishops and a third-party confidential reporting system, ran into legal snags last year at the Vatican, which blocked U.S. bishops from voting on them in November.
At the time of the blocked vote, Cupich proposed his “Metropolitan model,” which he articulated Friday from the privileged position as an organizer of Francis’ summit.
More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia, and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and Catholic officials in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia still either deny that clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or play down the problem.
Francis, the first Latin American pope, called the summit after he himself botched a well-known sex abuse cover-up case in Chile last year.
Gracias, the Indian cardinal, opened the session by saying bishops must work together to address the problem because it is not confined to a particular region. He told the conference that it is not acceptable for bishops in Africa or Asia to say the problem of clergy sex abuse doesn’t exist in their regions or that “it’s a just a problem for the USA or Europe or Australia.”
“This, brothers and sisters, is just not true. I dare say there are cases all over the world, also in Asia, also in Africa,” Gracias said.
But Gracias’ prime-time speaking slot drew criticism, since the Indian church isn’t known for its proactivity in combatting clergy sex abuse. Gracias himself has been publicly criticized for his record.
“Why was Gracias allowed to speak at the papal summit? He is a poster boy for the lack of accountability of church leaders, especially in developing countries,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of the online group BishopAccountability, which tracks the abuse scandal.
But it appeared that the Vatican may have chosen as speakers precisely those cardinals whose own national churches have not confronted the scandal openly. On the summit’s opening day, for example, the keynote speaker was Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle.
BishopAccountability says, based on public reporting and criminal prosecutions, it appears that no priests sexually abuse children in the Philippines, a scenario Barrett Doyle says is patently unrealistic. Tagle has said cultural taboos in the Philippines often prevent people from coming forward when they have been abused.
Victims have turned out in droves on the sidelines of the summit to demand greater accountability from the church, saying it has for decades put its own interests over those of the victims who have been harmed.
“They have this systematic process of covering up, moving along, transferring and not reporting,” said Tim Lennon, president of the U.S.-based survivor group SNAP.
German survivor Matthias Katsch said victims are beyond angry.
“We are really fighting for truth and justice for the survivors,” he said.
Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin said the summit had given many pause for thought.
“We are beginning to realize that perhaps there is something about the way we did things as Church, about the way we are as Church, that this issue really throws up for us. It really makes us ask questions about ‘who are we?’ ” Martin said.
US cardinals hope new accountability stops abusers in future
By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Two U.S. cardinals attending the Vatican’s sex abuse prevention summit said Friday that the downfall of their former colleague, Theodore McCarrick, was sad for the Catholic church but they hoped a new spirit of accountability would prevent future cover-ups of bishop misconduct.
Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Blase Cupich of Chicago addressed the McCarrick scandal at a press conference on the second day of Pope Francis’ summit, which was dedicated Friday to holding the Catholic hierarchy accountable for preventing sexual abuse.
Francis defrocked McCarrick, 88, last week after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adults, including during confession. His downfall has sparked a crisis in credibility in the Catholic hierarchy, since it was apparently an open secret in some U.S. and Vatican circles that he slept with seminarians.
“The situation of Theodore McCarrick is a very, very sad moment in history. It’s a shameful moment,” Cupich told reporters. “And yet, at the same time, it causes each one of us to make sure we live our lives authentically before the people of God that we serve.”
O’Malley said he expected the Vatican and the four U.S. dioceses investigating McCarrick would soon release the results of their investigations. The Holy See refused a request from the U.S. bishops conference to conduct a full-scale Vatican investigation into who knew what and when about McCarrick’s rise through the church’s ranks, agreeing instead to a limited review of the Holy See’s own archives.
The Vatican has said it would release the results, though no timeframe has been given. Separately, the four U.S. dioceses where McCarrick worked — New York City; Metuchen, New Jersey; Newark, New Jersey and Washington — are conducting their own reviews.
O’Malley said he hoped the discussions at the sex abuse summit about how bishops are responsible for the universal church would prevent another such cover-up.
“I would hope that any bishop who is aware of this kind of misbehavior would certainly make that known to the Holy See, and not feel that they in any way should try to cover up or turn a blind eye to this,” he said. “Transparency is what the way forward is about.
“We have to be able to confront our sinfulness and deal with the conflict and not sweep it under the carpet,” said O’Malley.
The Vatican starting in 2000 was aware of rumors of McCarrick’s penchant for seminarians. A New York priest wrote a letter at the urging of the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S. after his seminarians complained about his behavior. And yet McCarrick was made a cardinal in 2001 and served as a frontman for the U.S. bishops when they adopted a get-tough policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002.
Bishops, however, were exempt from that policy. The Vatican is still struggling to articulate firm protocols on how to handle accusations of misconduct against them.
More AP coverage of clergy sex abuse at https://www.apnews.com/Sexualabusebyclergy
Man charged for toppling statue of Polish priest over abuse
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish prosecutors say they have charged the first of three men who pulled down the statue of a prominent Solidarity-era priest this week amid allegations the priest sexually abused minors.
Gdansk region prosecutors’ spokeswoman Grazyna Wawryniuk said Friday the man was charged with disrespectful treatment of a monument and with damaging it.
If convicted, he could receive up to five years in prison. Two other men are expected to hear the same charges later Friday.
They pulled down the statue of the late Mgr. Henryk Jankowski on Thursday in Gdansk to protest what they called the Catholic Church and society’s failure to resolve the problem of clergy sex abuse.
The action came as Pope Francis convened world Catholic leaders to find ways of solving the church’s sex abuse crisis.
Former priest charged with new crimes in Missouri
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A former Catholic priest is facing new charges a decade after being declared sexually violent and admitting he abused about 30 boys in Illinois, California and Missouri.
Fred Lenczycki, 74, of the Chicago suburb of Berkeley, Illinois, was charged Thursday in Missouri with two counts each of deviate sexual assault and sodomy. Charging documents allege he repeatedly grabbed one boy’s genitals and tried to force another boy to expose himself in the early 1990s in the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton.
The documents say the allegations fit “within the pattern of abuse perpetrated by the defendant over many years,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Authorities said Lenczycki has not been taken into custody in Missouri. A man who answered the phone at his home address in Illinois declined comment to The Associated Press on Friday. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Bail in the case is set at $500,000 cash only.
Lenczycki was removed from the ministry in 2002, when he was charged with sexually abusing three boys at a church in Hinsdale, Illinois, in the mid-1980s. He later pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse and was released from custody in 2009 after becoming the first priest in the country to be declared sexually violent. Victims told authorities that “Father Fred” repeatedly molested them, often using the pretense of swaddling them in “Baby Jesus” costumes for pageants that never took place.
After the parents of one of victim complained, Lenczycki was transferred to California and then Missouri. As documented in diocese and court files, Lenczycki admitted molesting about 30 boys over 25 years. Multiple civil lawsuits have been filed.
“We’re deeply grateful to both the victim for having the courage to report and law enforcement for having the will to pursue charges,” said David Clohessy with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “He’s obviously a very dangerous man, and shame on every church official who knew of or suspected his crimes and ignored or hid them.”
The latest charges against Lenczycki were filed as victims of clergy sexual abuse demand more accountability and transparency from the Catholic church. The Vatican convened a sexual abuse summit Thursday to hear the testimony of several victims.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com
Capitalism Is Responsible for Your Depressing Office Building
Over a century ago, John Ruskin predicted how ugly and inhuman industrialized capitalism would become.
By Chris Gelardi
John Ruskin never set foot in Brooklyn. But if he were to walk through certain parts of Williamsburg or Bushwick today, two centuries after his birth, it’s easy to imagine what he’d make of the rapidly changing neighborhoods.
He’d make stops in several recently opened, nearly indistinguishable coffee shops, the interiors of which would all employ the same tired take on taupe walls and reclaimed wood. He’d stroll past buildings, hastily constructed by vulture real-estate developers, sporting harsh geometric facades and see apartment buildings newly renovated with a sharp black-metal trim that clashes clumsily with the original brick; venturing inside, he’d find most of the units decorated in some sort of bland and lazy minimalism.
The coffee shops, the buildings, the apartments would all scream of sterility—a standardized style of austerity disguised as clean, frictionless modernism. They are, in essence, the result of the corporate “non-place” and its metastasis into the most personal spaces of everyday life. And Ruskin wouldn’t hold back in describing them as they are: repulsive.
Ruskin was born 200 years ago this month. A Londoner of Scottish descent, he first made his name as an art and architecture critic, until, in the latter half of his life, he turned his attention to social and economic philosophy. Living in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, Ruskin allowed his aesthetic principles to inform his socioeconomic writings as he sought to inject a dose of soul into the detached pragmatism of early capitalist thought.
His unique viewpoint resulted in an acute prescience: He was one of the first thinkers to connect the rise of capital to the proliferation of severe inequality, slave-like wage labor, and environmental destruction. His seminal work, 1862’s Unto This Last, a sharp critique of the science of political economy, had a profound influence on everyone from William Morris and his Arts and Crafts movement to Marcel Proust and Gandhi, and its arguments ring just as true today as they did in the 19th century.
As a humanist and naturalist, Ruskin focused his aesthetic writings on the productive side of art and architecture. He held that a work arrives at beauty not when it achieves technical perfection, but when it successfully expresses the essence of both the person who made it and the materials from which it was made. “No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art,” he wrote in 1853’s The Stones of Venice (emphasis added).
These intellectual tendencies were undoubtedly rooted in his strict religious upbringing. But even as he abandoned his faith in his middle age, Ruskin’s focus on the sanctity of the soul continued to reveal itself in an idiosyncratic kind of aesthetic moralism. Other 18th- and 19th-century moralistic philosophers—such as Ruskin’s predecessor and fellow Scot, David Hume, or Friedrich Schleiermacher in Germany—grappled with the notion that a work’s artistic qualities could be judged morally, but Ruskin took that thinking a step further: A structure’s beauty or ugliness, he argued, is also a lens into the moral quality of the society in which and for which it was made.
This moralism helped him arrive at a more concrete and expansive social critique—one that was explicitly pro-worker. If architecture’s beauty lies in the humanness of its creation, his thinking went, the architect and the stonemason should work in concert, to ensure that both can affirm their being through their labor. It’s an argument about the basic dignity of work that has wide societal implications, regardless of profession; rather than simply toiling for wages at the behest of one’s boss at the most productive rate possible, shouldn’t all workers also be able to spend their days expressing their humanity? This line of critique in Ruskin’s thought reached its rhetorical zenith when, in the same 1853 work, he threw a jab at another Scottish thinker, Adam Smith, for his defense of efficiency and the division of labor:
Now, it is a good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins in a day; but if we could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished—sand of the human soul, much to be magnified before it can be discerned for what it is—we should think there might be some loss in it also.
Smith, like today’s capitalists, argued that hyperproductivity is worth the price of dehumanizing, machine-like work, but Ruskin demanded that such dynamics be rethought.
In 1860, arriving at the logical conclusion of his ideas, Ruskin finally became disillusioned enough with the nature of work, as well as with the destitution, exploitation, inequality, and pollution—in essence, the ugliness—brought on by the rise of industrialized capitalism, that he finally began work on the four essays that would become Unto This Last, an extended polemic against what was then referred to as the science of “political economy,” the precursor to the modern study of economics. Ruskin’s primary critique was that political economy strips the study of production and consumption of their human elements—with disastrous moral and material results.
Like the other pseudo-sciences—“alchemy, astrology, witchcraft”—“political economy has a plausible idea at the root of it,” Ruskin wrote at the beginning of the first essay: the idea that wealth is better than poverty, and thus it behooves society to “examine by what laws of labour, purchase, and sale, the greatest accumulative result in wealth is attainable.” But in examining those laws, political economy presents a reductionist view of human nature and society that is neither realistic nor useful. “Observe, I neither impugn nor doubt the conclusion of the science if its terms are accepted,” Ruskin writes. “I am simply uninterested in them, as I should be in those of a science of gymnastics which assumed that men had no skeletons.” The simple study of growth is pointless if one doesn’t consider the humanistic ends and reasons for it.
Predictably, in critiquing the inhumanity of early capitalist economics, Ruskin came to dispute the entire system that the discipline sought to justify. He predicted the issues that would arise out of capitalism’s shortsighted focus on accumulation: environmental disaster, the proliferation of unfulfilling jobs, the effective slavery of wage labor, and inequality so severe that the masses go hungry and homeless even though society’s productive powers, evenly distributed, could feed and house everyone with the surplus. Just as a cookie-cutter apartment complex is little more than a money grab for the landlord, and provides no aesthetic nourishment for the human soul, so an economic system that takes growth as its sole end is little more than a vehicle for the enrichment of the few, while ensuring that the rest cannot flourish—either materially or in their higher human capacities.
Ruskin’s conclusion was summarized in his most famous, if somewhat earnest and romantic passage, which is found in Unto This Last’s final essay: “There is no Wealth but Life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.”
In this, Ruskin pinpointed the root of capitalism’s deficiencies—deficiencies for which, some 160 years later, the system’s apologists are still unable to answer. It is a profoundly corrupt and inadequate way to organize a society, because it does not have as its end that which any healthy socioeconomic system should: beautiful buildings, happy workers, human fulfillment. Instead, it is organized solely for the benefit of capital. And the result, as Ruskin predicted, is ugly.