Vatican Furiously Walks Back Pope’s Understatement of Sexual Abuse Problem

When the pope told an Italian paper on Sunday that the rate of pedophilia in the church was about two percent (a number that is 50 percent lower than the rate found in the US report of the problem commissioned by the bishops) it seemed a refreshing acknowledgement of the potential severity of the problem—until the Vatican began furiously trying to walk the comments back.

A Vatican spokesperson said the interview wasn’t an interview “in the normal use of the word” and that the quote came from the journalist’s “own memory” of the conversation and that “it is not an exact transcription of a recording.”

This, less than two weeks after Francis’ meeting with survivors of clerical sexual abuse garnered widespread media coverage and promises of accountability—although it was denounced by some survivors’ groups as a PR stunt—new evidence has surfaced of the deep layers of denial and deception that still exist within the church on the issue.

The canon lawyer who used to advise the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese on handling cases of abuse has provided sworn testimony revealing a pattern of “mistakes, oversights and omissions” in the handling of abuse. Jennifer Haselberger, who served as chancellor of the archdiocese and a victim’s advocate from 2004 until 2013, accused the diocese of having a “cavalier attitude” toward the protection of children, including failing to follow-up on her concerns about abusive priests who were improperly monitored, the National Catholic Reporter reports.

Among her accusations, she said the priest charged with implementing the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People only “gave lip service to the principles” and “often failed to implement them.” She also said as of 2013, the diocese had failed to complete the required checks on all priests, had an “outdated and under-funded monitoring program for offending priests,” and had impeded efforts to investigate potentially abusive active priests and allow auditors to access diocesan records. She said she identified some 20 priests accused of abuse who were still in active ministry.

Separately, the archbishop of the diocese, John Nienstedt, is facing calls to resign after it became public that he is under investigation for “‘multiple allegations’ of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men,” Commonweal reports. Investigators for the diocese reportedly have “ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.”

In pretty much the best denial ever, Nienstedt, who is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, denied ever making any sexual advances and noted that none of the accusations “involve minors or illegal or criminal behavior.” (New slogan for the church: The sex that our celibate priests don’t have is consensual…and only with adults.)

So interviews aren’t interviews, diocesan offices charged with protecting children are reportedly protecting their backs, and clerical defenders of “traditional” marriage have an alleged expansive history of (unmarried) homosexual activity. Maybe it’s time for another photo op.

 

 

Patricia Miller is the author of Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church. Her work on the intersection of sex, religion, and politics has appeared in The Nation, Ms., and Huffington Post. She was the editor of Conscience magazine and the editor-in-chief of the National Journal’s health care briefings.

  • DKeane123

    But it is okay, because abuse and hypocrisy are evident in other isolated organizations. “Everyone else was speeding officer”.

  • colkoch

    I am up to my eyeballs with the hypocrisy, self deception, and outright lies that come from our hierarchy in the interests of protecting themselves. This will not change until lay Catholics get over the sacramental theology that tells them they are utterly powerless without the priesthood….because that’s how Jesus set up His Church. If that was true, the priesthood would do what Jesus did. The fact they don’t tells us all we need to know.

  • Smknws

    What do you want from the Vatican.. they made JP2 a saint after he embraced a pedophile priest who had a long list of abused children , he fathered two children with two women and abused his own sons . JP thanked that priest for all he has done for the church and kissed him on both cheeks . JP was aware of his yrs of abuse ..so is Pope Francis and he didn’t say a word ssssh!!!Vatican lies will be the downfall of Catholicism, It wont be long ..

  • colkoch

    Don’t forget Vatican lies are also clerical lies. The priesthood will be the downfall of Catholicism. Jesus did not ordain any priests, but Constantine found them quite useful and it has been all down hill since then.

  • cranefly

    To clarify from the USCCB report on American priests:

    “If the total of the accused priests (4,392) is divided by the total of all priests in ministry between 1950 and 2002 (109,694), the result is 4%; for diocesan priests only,(3,282/76,694), the percentage is 4.27% and for religious priests, (929/34,000), 2.7%.”

    Lest it sound like no big deal:

    “The survey responses make it clear that the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95% of dioceses and approximately 60% of religious communities. Of the 195 dioceses and eparchies that participated in the study, all but seven have reported that allegations of sexual abuse of youths under the age of 18 have been made against at least one priest serving in ecclesiastical ministry in that diocese or eparchy.”

  • Fran

    No! It is not OK because other people are doing it!! They appointed themselves: God’s spokespersons; the infallible church; the only route to salvation/heaven, whatever the heck that means – take your pick, so one would think they’d take their self-appointed infallible leadership role seriously, and be exemplary leaders of their flock. But this is the same church that indiscriminately tortured and burned at the stake, by the thousands, anyone who dared to step out beyond the very narrowly prescribed thinking and rules of living allowed by this infallible church. If they were honest, they would proclaim themselves thus: “We are the church powerful and controlling. If you don’t obediently and unquestioningly follow, it’ll be shock and awe – it’s your choice”. People, open your eyes and minds and really see what’s going on in churches everywhere; some manage to stay on the positive side of power and control, sadly, the majority are squarely in the shock and awe battlefield.

  • DKeane123

    Sorry – but I was being sarcastic. That comment was actually directed at a commenter from another article on this website. We are actually in full agreement :)

  • cranefly

    Lately I’ve been thinking of all Christianity as the Church, and the Reformation as the time when Catholics began to do just that. A huge problem in Catholicism today is that Catholic identity has become largely about clinging to what separates us from Protestants: Literally, the magic spells. In my experience, the theology being taught in Catholic high schools today is much less magical than it was 50 years ago, because common sense makes it so, but the sexist, homophobic sacramental systems remain. So Catholics are just growing up with cognitive dissonance and either leaving or doubling down on “traditional” Catholic occultism. I think long-game ecumenism is the only hope for the Catholic Church.

  • Smknws

    I know, some times A joke or sarcasm isn’t recognized . But what a great response from Fran .

  • Smknws

    the theology being taught in Catholic high schools
    today is much less magical than it was 50 years ago

    Kids in high school today are smarter and are
    able to see thru the mythology but the five year olds in Catholic school are
    still being taught Adam & Eve, years ago 3 popes accepted “evolution as
    Gods plan ” it didnt make the headlines !! Teachers were told it was their
    choice which version , Pope Francis was talking about sin ..satan & hell a couple of
    weeks ago apparently he didnt get the message .

    Adam & Eve were 2 microscopic organisms ,
    fast forward a couple of billion yrs .. not sure when we stood on 2 legs ?!
    Anyway evolution = no Eden no serpent no apple no temptation no original sin
    ((that we are born with )) !!! no Cain & Able.. what else isn’t true ? Some
    one should tell Pope Francis His mind is still living in the first , not the
    21st century . Gods Evolution should be mandatory in Catholics schools 5 yr
    olds are so intelligent .. I hear certain people who are running for president
    dont believe in evolution , God help us if one of them get in !!

  • Jim Reed

    A church needs some control if it is going to grow and propagate itself to the next generation. A church based only on love and respect can work well for the person who sets it up that way, but it has no way to continue for long when that person is gone. It can’t advertise or recruit, or do any of the things that make churches big and popular.

  • Smknws

    Fran , now i know we are all connected , we all are “one” some times I write things and don’t know where it comes from ;-) I think you hear the same little voice .some times i have an unanswered question on my mind .. I was wondering how much of the bible is “true”.. I do what my friend says is automatic writing ???? below is a small sample

    The words in the story were written for you,
    the words in the holy books were written by me ,so I could explain “Myself”to Thee But alas words written were mistaken for rules,
    they were mistranslated and used as tools.
    You handed over your mind and your soul .
    You handed your power to the ones in control. It hasn’t worked out and it never will,
    as long as you are deprived of your free will.
    Their control has divided you one from the other,The love you once shared as
    sister and brother,You know it’s still there
    you feel it inside ,and yet you stay silent, in
    fear you hide. Take back your power, no need to fear. You have written the message
    “I” spoke in your ear.

    there is more but your words connected to me , good to know i am not so crazy as i thought :-)

  • cranefly

    Yeah. Though, I don’t have a problem with them teaching Adam and Eve, as long as they teach it for what it is, an ancient myth.

    I’m sure the church changed its position on evolution as quietly as possible. And maybe that’s just as well, so that today even smarmy, traditionalist Catholics can say “Of course the Catholic Church never had a problem with evolution,” because they don’t remember when it did, and they can’t recall any notable change taking place. If they noticed a change, they’d probably reject evolution. There’s nothing they disdain more than “our modern world,” and nothing they like more than exalting the past. The longer we’ve known it all along, the more true it is.

  • duck

    I get so tired of the endless rhetoric…it means nothing as nothing changes. The Catholic Church is just another corporate/political entity and does what it must to protect itself.

  • Conrad J. Noll

    I have thrown up in my own mouth (a la Jon Stewart) more times now than I care to count upon reading news about the Roman Catholic Church. Today was no exception.

  • colkoch

    For sure Catholics are growing up with a lot of cognitive dissonance and I think you hit on the two choices most Catholics are faced with, double down on the magic, or leave.

    I used to have more hope in long term ecumenism and then came JPII and Cardinal Ratzinger, and with them OD, the Neo Cats, Communion and Liberation, and the Legion. They all gained a great deal of power in the Vatican. They are not about ecumenism but all about their particular brand of Catholic magic. All of this makes me think it will be a very long time before real ecumenism has any influence……unless some major Western country announces we have had contact with an alien intelligence, then we’ll see some ecumenism. LOL