Catholic Church still plagued by cardinal sin

View Photo Gallery: Cardinals from around the world gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave … Continued

View Photo Gallery: Cardinals from around the world gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid scandals inside and out of the Vatican and the continued reverberations of Benedict XVI’s decision to retire.

While critics of the Vatican’s handling of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal have breathed a sigh of relief at the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation and many hope that a changing of the guard will mean a change in the handling of current and past sex crimes, we must stop to consider who exactly will be selecting the next pope. As Mary Caplan, a leader in the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), noted, “We’d all like to think there could be a transformation in the church now, but we have to face the reality that the same men responsible for protecting our abusers are going to be the ones casting the ballots.”

First, there is Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Sodano famously described allegations of sexual abuse within the church as “petty gossip” and has been accused of intervening to halt investigations of two of the more notorious sex abuse cases involving his close associates. Although he is ineligible to vote due to his age, Sodano is responsible for convening the process through which the next Pope will be selected and he wields considerable influence and power in that process.

Next, there is Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who served under Joseph Ratzinger before he was pope at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the entity tasked with handling allegations of rape and sexual violence by priests. Together, according to New York Times reporting, Bertone and Benedict decided to halt proceedings in the case of Father Lawrence Murphy, who had been accused of sexually assaulting over 200 deaf students at a Wisconsin school for the deaf, a story told in the new documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. Bertone has also expressed the view that bishops should not be required to report priests they know to be committing acts of rape and sexual assault. Like Sodano, Bertone is a highly influential figure in the conclave that will be voting on the next pope; unlike Sodano, Bertone gets to cast his own vote.

Also voting is Cardinal William Levada. In 2004, a founding member of an independent review board investigating allegations of sexual abuse within Levada’s archdiocese in San Francisco resigned in protest, accusing Levada of blocking the release of the panel’s findings on sexual abuse allegations involving 40 priests. He was also sued by a whistleblower priest for retaliating against the priest for reporting suspected sexual assaults of altar boys by a fellow priest.

Sodano, Bertone, and Levada are three of the most influential people involved in the selection of the next pope. Their role in the ongoing enabling and concealment of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world is so central that they were named in a Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC). On behalf of SNAP, CCR has urged the ICC to investigate high-level Vatican officials – including Pope Benedict himself – for crimes against humanity. With more than 22,000 pages of supporting materials and evidence of the crimes committed by Catholic clergy and their cover-up, the ICC complaint is an unprecedented effort to call to account individuals leading the systematic effort to sweep sex abuse under the rug. CCR is also pressing the case for church accountability in a report filed today with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which will scrutinize the Church’s record on children’s rights later this year.

Sodano, Bertone, and Levada are hardly just three bad apples in the church barrel. The group of church leaders who will be selecting the next pope reads like a who’s who of accessories and accomplices in the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

Former Los Angeles Archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony prevented priests from seeking treatment by California therapists who would have been obligated to report suspected abuse and transferred offending priests to new diocese rather than reporting them to authorities. Under Mahony, diocese officials advised an accused priest to stay out of Los Angeles to avoid lawsuits.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, previously the Archbishop of Milwaukee and now the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, authorized payments of tens of thousands of dollars to abusive Milwaukee priests as an incentive to retire. Both Dolan and Mahony were deposed in separate ongoing abuse cases last week. Such are the men who will be deciding the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps no single figure in the Catholic sex abuse scandal is more notorious than Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign as Archbishop of Boston in 2002 after the Boston Globe revealed his role in the cover-up of 250 priests and church workers who were accused of rape and sexual assault of children. After his resignation, he was appointed to a prized position in Rome. Due to his age, he is not eligible to vote in this election, but as a cardinal he can influence the process.

Others who will be there, like Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland, have in the past enforced vows of silence not to report abusive priests, or like Darío Castrillón Hoyos, praised church leaders who refused to report priests guilty of serial rape to authorities. Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium, meanwhile denied knowledge of sexual abuse that he failed to address despite evidence that he was aware of those cases and was later recorded asking a victim to delay reporting the crime. A Philadelphia grand jury investigation into the archdiocese which was overseen by Cardinal Justin Rigali for part of the period examined, noted “[w]e would have assumed, by the year 2011, after all the revelations both here and around the world, that the church would not risk its youth by leaving them in the presence of priests subject to substantial evidence of abuse. This is not the case.”

The church hierarchy has to date put itself and the church’s reputation above the safety of children and contributed to the worldwide epidemic of rape and sexual violence committed by priests. Vatican officials and church leaders will never be the ones to bring an end to this crisis. It is up to courageous survivors and organizations like SNAP and others around the world to continue to demand accountability and change and the rest of the world to listen.

Vincent Warren is Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights

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  • Jay Sloan

    Heres something to think about.

    Not long ago the Pope’s secretary was caught selling or giving private Vatican documents to the Italian press. He was help accountable by the Vatican and a trial was held at the Vatican. Basically they police their own and deal with them in accordance with their rules. So, why are the priests and cardinals that are being accused of child molestation not being delivered to the Vatican to answer to the same court as the secretary?

  • twoten5

    Former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada (now Cardinal Levada) came to the defense of Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony being allowed to vote for pope and styles himself as a leading advocate for openness among Catholic leaders on the clergy sex-abuse issue. So why doesn’t Levada practice what he preaches on sex-abuse?

    Check Cardinal Levada’s sex abuse cover-up record on the BishopAccountability website.

  • sixthromeo

    Yet, how much is heard about the Boy Scouts of America? Tens of thousands of occurences of which were and are tracked by the organization and NOT reported and not having close to a billion dollars paid out in welfare payments to those claiming the abuse, what about them?

  • JoeSocrates

    Man made religion has all the weakness and imperfections of humans. Over the centuries all that was kept secret but in this day of openness and thorough investigation we are finding all the warts and indiscretions, sins if you will.

    While telling church members to be holy and obey God, some of the leaders cannot make their flesh submit to all of God’s demands, and they sin, often a sexual sin.

    And, what has happened to the vicar who could pray the rich into heaven for a sum of money.

    Man made religion may exist forever but certainly will crumble from the inside as more and more leaders commit greater and greater sins, and remain in power in the church.

    By the way, all this is true of any church, protestant, catholic, etc.

  • thomasmc1957

    The College of Cardinals has become a pedophile cult, the Church is doomed.

  • thomasmc1957

    Stop trying to change the subject.

  • newsreader60

    I love these bigots lining up to spew their hate whenever ‘Catholic’ or ‘Pope’ is mentioned in an article. I wonder why they feel obliged to expose themselves to ongoing self-inflicted suffering by comment on something they consider nonsense. Pathetic losers…

  • cricket44

    Yes…it’s all bigotry, having NOTHING to do with the massive cover-up of traumatized children….

    Grow up.

  • jedg1

    What about them?

  • Amos2

    Where is Anthony Quinn now that the Church needs him?

  • Gloria Sullivan

    Yes, this is true but no other church claims to be Christ here on earth to their people. Young or old. The people have bought their lies but as Jesus said .. All will be revealed at the appointed time. Nothing that is hidden will stay hidden and HE WILL DO SOMETHING. GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT THAT WILL BE.

  • NeilAllen1

    it always has been

  • NeilAllen1

    Levada doesn’t practice what he preaches on sex abuse.
    Levada practices sex abuse.

  • NeilAllen1

    The pathetic losers are you Catholics, running the world’s largest child rape cult in God’s name, and thinking God will be ok with that.

  • NeilAllen1

    A classic Catholic lie, which you would expect from a child rapt cult.

    The Catholic church admitted 4,392 substantiated, accused, child sex abusing priests in their own John Jay report of 2004, and NO INSTITUTION IN HISTORY IS EVEN CLOSE TO THIS NUMBER.

  • Gloria Sullivan

    What makes you think the Cardinals are frightened Gerry? Do they think maybe the people of the world will find out about the male prostitues that visit the Vatican daily (?) and how they all go out together to whoop it up at gay clubs in Rome etc.? Or the fact that the “abdicated Pope” knows and has
    known all about this for decades and that’s why he abdicated? What a place for the Jesus people? Keep up your good work. Your columns are too long but very good. Make them shorter and more often.

  • CalypsoSummer

    I seem to remember reading something about “a millstone around the neck” and “cast into the sea” — you think those bishops might know which verse I’m talking about?

  • CalypsoSummer

    newsre, do you think it’s okay for children to be sexually assaulted by clergy they’ve been taught to revere? Do you think it’s okay to allow these men to continue to assault children? Do you think the bishops don’t know that children have been molested by their priests?

    Or do you think that the Church should be immune from any accusations, no matter what brought them on, lest it be weakened? I’m curious.

  • CalypsoSummer

    Do the misdeeds of the BSA somehow cancel out the misdeeds of the Catholic Church?

    “Well, yeah, but THEY were doing it TOO!”

    Uh, no. Sorry. Not going to work.

  • saami

    And they have people call them Father. How obscene can you be. They all need to be prosecuted including Ratzinger and if found guilty put into jail. No church is above the law of human decency.

  • saami

    The Catholic Church appears to be the world’s largest child sex trafficing ring going. It is the perfect scam. The parent or parents think how lovely that Father so and so thinks so highly of my son as to give him special attention, so if the child should tell the parent they will believe the preist. This is an outrage.

  • saami

    Is this the pot calling the kettle black?

  • CalypsoSummer

    Probably several reasons. One reason is, a certain percentage are reluctant to admit that frocked priests have committed such heinous actions, some due to moritification, some due to denial, and some because they think that the institution is more important than the individual — okay, so a few bad things happened, but the Church’s reputation would suffer if they were made known.

    Another reason might be that lines of power are interwoven throughout the bishopric and that it’s not as easy to change things as we would wish.

  • CalypsoSummer

    I’m not associated with either organization, thanks.

  • leibowde84

    Newsreader, I am a Catholic, and you are dead wrong. It is pathetic to try to cling to this false notion that people are attacking the church when articles like this come out. As a Catholic, I believe that any Bishop who failed to contact the authorities when even an accusation of innapropriateness was made deserves to die in prison. And horrible christians like yourself are a sad excuse for followers of Christ. Jesus would absolutely kick these pedophiles out of the church … no forgiveness necessary. They are scum and should be treated as such.

  • leibowde84

    I think you are forgetting something … free-will. Unless you believe the horror stories of the old testament, there is no reason to believe that God will intrude in this situation. It is up to us as human beings to make the world a better place. God has no part in it. He was glorious enough to give us this wonderful planet. Relying on him to make it better is childish.

  • SarahTX2

    Newsreader, I don’t get it. Are you saying you don’t believe that priests raped children? Or are you saying that priests should rightfully be allowed to seek sexual graitifcation from children?

  • geraldtslevin

    Thanks. Gloria. My columns are written for several audiences, so cover several perspectives.

  • Gloria Sullivan


  • juneannette

    Sir, you need to take a long hard look in the mirror before you start calling people Catholic haters!
    Roman Catholic priests . . those whom your “church” calls “Christ’s representatives on earth” abused Roman Catholic children. Roman Catholic bishops transferred known abusive priests to other Catholic parishes unbeknownsst to the Roman Catholic laity where they could prey on more Roman Catholic children. The so-called “princes of your church” failed to protect Roman Catholic children but opted instead to cover up their crimes for the “good of the church” and you have the gall to call others “Catholic haters”? ? ? That’s reckless endangerment; that’s criminal negligence; that’s reprehensible; that’s FRAUD! The fact that these CRIMES were committed by trusted members of the CLERGY makes the CRIME all the more aggravating. The fact that the Bishops deliberately adopted a 1) policy to transfer abusive priests to other locations (dioceses) where they could continue to prey upon children unbeknownst to the parents represents an egriegous breach of trust, a flagrant abuse of power, and an arrogant contempt for the laws of the land. The Bishops’ collective failure to protect children from abusive priests represents an unconscionable moral failure. – continued –

  • juneannette

    Notwithstanding their claims to the contrary, such are not guided by the Holy Spirit! Knowingly placing children in harm’s way constitutes a willful disregard for others and violates what Christ defined as the second greatest commandment, namely to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 22;39) Failure to protect the “little ones” in their flock is a refutation of the most fundamental Christian virtues . . love, mercy, compassion. That’s gross negligence, malfeasance of office, dereliction of duty and legally equates to fraud! The Bishops have effectively turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the plight of the victims of this heinous crime and have spurned Christ’s command to be our brother’s keeper! Unlike the Good Samaritan who came to the aid of the man who fell among thieves, (and those who have had their innocence and virtue stolen from men who sexually assaulted them have likewise fallen prey to thieves) they have followed instead the example of the priest and the Levite who looked the other way.( Luke 10:30-37) Such conduct is not agreeable to those who profess Christ. That my friend is the epitome of being a Catholic hater! – continued –

  • leibowde84

    I couldn’t agree more. It is pathetic that 1. the priests that have attempted to cover up these allegations haven’t been thrown in jain and 2. that the most recent pope himself was guilty of these crimes. The fact that their reasoning is trying to protect the image of the church is so backwards that it makes me sick. Anyone in the church who has looked the other way or tried to conceal the allegations made against certain priests have a warm place in hell waiting for them.

  • jdpetric

    Jesus said, “ Moreover, do not call anyone YOUR father on earth, for one is YOUR Father, the heavenly One.” Mathew 23:9

  • LeastOfThese

    Priceless !! Thanks

  • Rongoklunk

    We write because we are the unindoctrinated. We are on the outside looking in; and we see superstition all around you religionists. And we know that your god is as real Zeus is, or Apollo is, or Santa Claus is. And we know that people invent gods because of their fear of death, and have invented them since time began, and despite all we know about reality – some still believe in the supernatural. A good education would help erase that nonsense from the brain. Or you could read Dawkins new book “The Magic of Reality” which explains what’s real and what’s not. And god’s not.

  • Rongoklunk

    The sad part is – there’s nobody up there! Nobody at all. And the only father you have – you probably neglect – because you’re too busy talking to the imaginary one.

  • Rongoklunk

    My last post was directed to jdpetric.

  • Rongoklunk

    I’m inclined to think that it probably goes back hundreds – if not thousands of years, but in olden times I’m sure nothing got out.
    The difference today is everything gets out, we have radios, televisions, the internet, newspapers, magazines, books; it’s hard to keep a secret. But in years past it must have been a piece of cake for the church to do anything it liked to whomever, whenever, wherever. They’ve only stopped drowning, burning and/or torturing us civilians in the last couple of centuries, since secular authorities have taken over. So heaven only knows what they were up to when they ruled the world. And heaven isn’t telling.


    The administration of the RCC has done great damage to the RCC by their silence of the truth of the sexual abuse crimes of children to protect the image. In Ireland , the RCC had some children forced to take oaths of silence of the crime against their body. With the people informed by the media and internet, why has not the RCC administration came out with the truth? Is there more behind this pope’s retirement then age and bad health? When will the RCC administration ever learn?


    No one is above the law and the court must treat all found guilty correctly no matter who they are. All nations must protect their children from all that would violate a child in any way.


    Why do you think the Vatican is a nation and why is this retire pope going to live his final days behind the Vatican border? To be untouchable.

  • mikestech

    The attempt to drag Cardinal Dolan into this is just more evidence the press is more interested in scandal than truth. Dolan’s “payments” to abusers was not an attempt to hide their abuse; he publicly released the names of the accused priests before that was ever done. The payments were a way to fast-forward the defrocking process, essentially a “plea bargain” with the accused priests not to contest the process. The civil outcome of the cases is and always was in the hands of civil authorities. But just like in real life, in the church, accused priests are offered the chance to defend themselves in court. Had Dolan not made the payments, those accused of abuse might not have been defrocked for years, until after the court process had played itself out. But of course, the media isn’t interested in details. Just smears.


    Those RCs that look the other way dealing with the abuse cases as well as the cover cases by the RCC administration would change their tune if it was their child. They can see only good in the RCC. If the pope told them to jump, they ask how high.


    Bill and Roger where in the same class becoming priest.


    Robby Coltrane as the Pope. And a nun (“Spectacles, test*cles, wallet and watch.”


    If they get the wrong one in, they can just have another smother party like they did with John Paul 1.

  • Parsifal

    I am curious if any progress has been made on the bones that were found in the Opus Dei Crypt in Rome. They were sent away for tests in May, but for some reason there has been no news of the results. Apparently the bones may be those of a girl named Emanuela Orlandi who went missing at the Vatican. I know we can count on investigative journalists to check into the delay on the DNA results.

  • dmaurice5250

    Why are the criminals not tried in court?

  • dmaurice5250

    Dolan and others like him are Evil in disguise.

  • J. Davis

    They are not tried in court because most of the allegations against them are false.