Pope Benedict Must Resign

Survivor calls on pope to resign
Clerical abuse survivor Andrew Madden yesterday reiterated his call for the resignation of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Seán Brady after studying the Papal pastoral letter.
Expressing disappointment with the document, he said: “It changes nothing. They should both resign.”

Mr Madden said that the document represented “not an inability to do the right thing, but an unwillingness to do the right thing”. He did not feel that the pope would be any more willing to do it on a visit to Ireland than in Rome.

Mr Madden was speaking to journalists in Killarney yesterday where he was addressing the Fine Gael national conference on the theme “cherishing our children”.

He said that a major problem with the pastoral letter was the pope’s failure to accept the cover-up of clerical sex abuse.

“The whole Murphy report was about the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests in this country for three decades,” he said.

“For the Pope not to acknowledge the cover-up, and the part that Irish bishops and the Vatican played in it, is really just not on.

“Obviously, if we are going to respond in any meaningful way to the Murphy report, in particular, and the Ferns report, because it revealed the same thing…that ought to have been addressed.”

Dismissing the suggestion that the Papal document was part of a process, Mr Madden said that approach was “buying time, moving things out.”

He said that when the Irish bishops went to Rome there were great expectations that something useful would come out of that meeting. Instead, he added, the bishops had said at the time that people should wait for the pope’s letter.

“They beefed up that quite a lot, as if this was going to be the thing,” he added.

Speaking separately at the Fine Gael conference, the party’s spokesman on children Alan Shatter described the pope’s “silence” on the issue of abuse victims being sworn to secrecy by the church as “surprising and disturbing”.

He said a new criminal offence should be introduced “which expressly applies to the concealment of information about child abuse, both past and present, and to the administration of any oath obliging any individual to conceal such conduct from either An Garda Síochána or our child care services.”

Mr Shatter said it was not acceptable that the Vatican used its ecclesiastical authority to interfere in the Republic’s internal affairs and also invoke diplomatic protocol when it suited it to withhold information from a Government-appointed commission investigating allegations of clerical abuse.

“Nor is it acceptable that the Vatican refuses to permit its ambassador, in the guise of the Papal Nuncio, to co-operate with such a commission or to attend at a parliamentary committee meeting requested by members of the sovereign parliament of this State to discuss these issues,” he added.

At the very minimum, he added, he expected that the Pope would have pledged that the Vatican would now fully co-operate with, and make all requested information available, to the Murphy commission in its ongoing investigation into other dioceses that might take place.

“I also expected an announcement that the Papal Nuncio would now accept the request previously rejected to meet with the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee to discuss these important issues,” he added.

Abuse scandal-riddled Ratzinger must resign

Dragan Pavlovic – Every officer in charge, politicians and representatives of public responsibility should have to be underwritten for what happens in his house. And if one’s own organization offenses weight as heavily as in the widening scandal around the abuse of children in church-run facilities, there can be no alternative but the resignation of Benedict XVI.

The extent of the Catholic child abuse in Germany points to Irish conditions. In Ireland children were beaten for the last decades and thousands of children were systematically and sexually abused as reported in a study of the Irish Commission for the Investigation of Child Abuse (the Commission of Inquiry Into Child Abuse), the ‘endemic’ rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care.

Ratzinger is the head of the last absolutist state in Europe. Thus he finds himself in the company of politically backward countries like Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Qatar and Oman. The international status of the Vatican as a state permits with other “brothers in spirit” to voice-power the blockade of vital health programs (HIV prevention, prevention of unwanted pregnancies and abortion) of the United Nations (UN) in the 3rd World.

Noting that the state status of the Vatican is anachronistic and must fall, the place as absolute ruler of Ratzinger in the Vatican City can not protect him against the responsibility for the widening scandal of mass child abuse, and his resignation have to be accepted.

The Vatican as church and state institution has gambled away with lasting effect of lost trust in society. Therefore, religion can have no role model in schools any longer. The religious lessons need to be replaced from its current form to life-practical lessons, with no possible cancellation. Old laws in Germany still stand in the way, they date back to the Third Reich during the Nazi dictatorship and the Vatican Agreement, and are finally set to be unwound.

The abuse cases already show that with the church’s statements, the Christian religion have reached the modern age, and its differentiation for not being in the same relevant man made image of the Islamic religion, is in fact not credible.

Ratzinger, in his recent term of office could prove how difficult is it for him to acquire any merits, through the arguments of the Berlin political scientists and journalists Prof. Dr. Otto Kallscheuer and Munster social ethics and religion sociologist Karl Gabriel – they drew a largely negative review after five years of Benedict XVI.

The reigning pope can no longer direct past and today’s issues with nice words and cheap gestures – he must face the consequences.

Dutch Catholic Church faces child sex abuse scandal
Published on : 26 February 2010 – 3:24pm | By Robert Chesal (Photo: St. Agatha, Erfgoedcentrum Nederlands Kloosterleven, Archief Salesianen van Don Bosco)
More about: Ad van Luyn Catholic sex-abuse scandals child sexual abuse Don Rua Cloister Herman Spronck Janne Geraets Johan Marsman Leonie Cramwinckel-Bloch Roman Catholic church Salesians of Don Bosco the Netherlands Yvo van Kuijck
“There was a knock at the door. I tried to scream but I couldn’t utter a sound.” Janne Geraets, now 57, suffered repeated sexual abuse from the age of 11 at the hands of a priest at the Roman Catholic school where he was a boarder.

Amid the high-profile child sexual abuse scandals in the United States and other European countries, the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands has remained unsullied. But a joint investigation by Radio Netherlands Worldwide and NRC Handelsblad reveals that this is unjustified.

Lured out of bed
Janne Geraets’ ordeal began in 1964, at the Don Rua monastery in the town of ‘s-Heerenberg in the east of the Netherlands. He was being trained by the Salesian Fathers of Don Bosco, in the hope of one day becoming a missionary. After a party, one of the priests lured Janne to the infirmary under the pretext of giving him medicine to ease his sore throat. “All of a sudden he was right up against me. He unzipped his trousers and forced my hand inside. I was in a state of utter confusion.”

After the incident, Janne returned to bed. But the next morning he was summoned by the same priest. “I remember how my heart was pounding as I knocked on the door. He opened it and said ‘That should never have happened’. He gave me absolution; he pardoned my sin. That confused me even more.”

Janne Geraets was summoned to that same room again and again. “He would lie on his couch and put me on top of him, riding back and forth. I remember a knock at the door on one occasion. I tried to scream, but no sound came out. I wanted to yell ‘this isn’t right, this isn’t allowed’. But there was no one to turn to. You’re too afraid to say anything. You think you are the dirty one and that they’ll throw you out of school.”

Slideshow: images of Don Rua monastery. Story continues below.

Large-scale abuse
At the boarding school in ’s-Heerenberg, 80 to 100 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 slept in four large dormitories. “Sometimes you knew for sure: there’s something going on between that boy and that priest. And that other priest has a number of boys up in his room. It happened on a large scale. Several of the priests were involved.”

Janne Geraets thinks that not all of the contact was involuntary. “Some priests were more popular than others. You could tell because more boys visited them.” The priest who abused Janne is now 98 years old. “Everything I held sacred turned out to be a façade,” says Janne. “It was a huge blow to my self-confidence.”

Too little, too late
Sexual abuse of children by priests has been brought to light in a number of countries, but the recent apologies from the Vatican are “too little too late”. At least, that is the opinion of Yvo van Kuijck, former chairman of the independent Assessment and Advisory Committee (Beoordelings- en Adviescommissie, BAC) which cooperates with Hulp & Recht, the Netherlands’ hotline for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Since it was set up in 1995, the hotline has received almost 300 reports of sexual abuse. “It has taken too long for the Church to apologise and take action. (…) The Dutch bishops adopted the same ‘wait and see’ approach. I didn’t get the impression that dealing with sexual abuse was a priority for them.”

Committee resigns
Two years ago, dissatisfied with the attitude taken by the Dutch bishops, Yvo van Kuijck, now vice-president of the District Court in Arnhem, resigned along with the entire Assessment and Advisory Committee. Priests guilty of abuse in one parish were simply transferred to another parish where they were free to find new victims. “Not only is that unprofessional, it’s inconceivable.”

Listen to a Newsline interview with the author, Robert Chesal

Girls as well as boys
Leonie Cramwinckel-Bloch was 15 years old and in her fourth year at secondary school in Doetinchem when she went on a school skiing trip. Her class was supervised by the English teacher, another Salesian father from the nearby monastery in ‘s-Heerenberg. It was December 1970. Leonie, who is now 54, says the priest sexually assaulted her, fondling her genitals on more than one occasion. She didn’t dare tell anyone.

“But I knew that he was wrong. Looking back, I was surprised by how easy and self-evident it was for him. That made me realise that it couldn’t have been the first time.” Back at school, she steered clear of the priest and only told her parents a few years later. The priest in question has since died.

Sexual harassment
There were other cases of abuse outside the monastery. Another Salesian father, now 72, taught maths in ’s-Heerenberg during the 1960s. He later became the parish priest at Saint Martin’s in Hoogland near Amersfoort. But in 1994, the archbishop of Utrecht suspended him following accusations of sexual harassment involving a young boy.

More from NRC International
No investigation
In a response, the priest says that there was little substance to the accusations. “We were in the sauna at a sports centre. The boy saw me naked. Nothing more. A man sitting next to me had an erection. But I didn’t touch the boy. It was a long time ago. I don’t think it’s right to stir all this up again.”

Wim Flapper, former provincial head of the Salesians of Don Bosco, admits that the order did not try to get to the bottom of this incident. He says of the priest in Hoogland “He received psychotherapy. We took care of that. But we did not investigate whether there were other victims.”

Cause for investigation
Now that three priests from the same institution have been subject to accusations, former chairman of the Assessment and Advisory Committee, Yvo van Kuijck, sees cause for further investigation. Although it is no longer his responsibility, he believes that it is in the interests of the church to look into the matter. “If it’s a structural problem at an institution, then there is every reason to take a good look at what’s going on. The victims can still report abuse to the Hulp & Recht hotline. Even cases where the culprit has died are investigated.”

Johan Marsman, now 68, ran the farm for the Salesians in ’s-Heerenberg during the 1960s. He has written a book about the Don Rua monastery. He is aware that the priests had relationships with the boys. “Under the previous head Wim Flapper, nearly 15 years ago, a meeting was organised for former students and the abuse was discussed. He expressed his regret and conceded that mistakes had been made.” Johan says most of the former students no longer want to talk about the incidents. He himself left the monastery in 1968.

When asked whether the priests at Don Rua had relationships with ‘favourite boys’, Johan Marsman nods. “Yes, I’ve heard that.” He says the situation at Don Rua was not unique. “It happened everywhere, especially at the boarding schools. But it cannot be excused.”

Trail to the top
In the period that Janne Geraets was abused at the Don Rua boarding school, the current Bishop of Rotterdam, Ad van Luyn, was working there as a teacher. In the 1970s, Bishop Van Luyn was provincial head of the Salesians. Since 2008 he has chaired the Netherlands Synod of Bishops.

Ad van Luyn declines to discuss “past issues”. Through a spokesman, he explains that “matters relating to the congregation are the responsibility of the current father superior, even if they relate to previous governors.”

Father Herman Spronck, currently the most senior Salesian in the Netherlands, denies all knowledge of abuse in ’s-Heerenberg, and refers all inquiries to his predecessors. He is not opposed to an investigation and is keen to emphasise that sexual abuse goes against the vow taken by the Fathers of Don Bosco. “At Don Bosco, the inviolable sanctity of youth is key to our system of education.”


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