Bishops told paedophiles lie, victims must be heard

 

Rome

Psychologists told bishops from around the world today that priests
who rape and molest children lie when confronted with an accusation, and
that the church should listen first to victims since they usually tell
the truth and need to be believed in order to heal.

The message was delivered to bishops attending a Vatican-backed symposium on clerical sex abuse that is aimed at compelling them to draft and enforce tough policies to protect children and root out paedophiles from the priesthood. Priests and bishops from about 100 countries are attending the four-day symposium at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University ahead of a May deadline to deliver their sex abuse policies to the Vatican.

Survivors of clerical abuse have long said that when they summoned the courage to denounce their abuser to church leaders, bishops often dismissed their accusation and instead accepted the word of their priests, whom bishops consider their brothers and sons in the priesthood.

That pattern led to decades in which bishops shuffled paedophiles from parish to parish, protecting the church's reputation at all cost, while victims were left to feel like they were to blame for the abuse.

Marie Collins, who was assaulted as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland, told the bishops that dynamic led to multiple hospitalizations later in life for anxiety and depression. She told her story of abuse and how the church's response to it — refusing to believe her, telling her it was her fault, and taking the word of the priest over hers — made the initial trauma even worse.

"I was treated as someone with an agenda against the church, the police investigation was obstructed and the laity misled. I was distraught," she said.

Collins in 1996 went to Dublin's then-archbishop, Cardinal Desmond Connell with her story, knowing that the Irish bishops had just adopted tough new policy to report abusers to police. She said Connell told her that he didn't have to follow the church's guidelines.

Eventually, civil authorities prosecuted and jailed the priest, the Rev Paul McGennis, and he was sentenced two more times for molesting other children.

Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist who for a decade ran a U.S. treatment center for abusive priests, told the conference Tuesday that just like alcoholics or drug addicts, sexually abusive priests often lie when confronted with allegations. They manipulate, they con, they deny.

"There are false allegations to be sure," and it's critical to restore a priest's good name when he has been cleared, Rossetti said in his prepared remarks. "But decades of experience tell us that the vast majority of allegations — over 95 per cent — are founded."

As a result, he said, trained civil authorities, not bishops, should determine whether an allegation is well-founded. Even if prosecutors don't proceed with a criminal case, either because too much time has passed or evidence is lacking, bishops should form an advisory panel of law enforcement, mental health and canon law experts to investigate and decide how to proceed, Rossetti said.

The Vatican, however, has been more than lukewarm to the idea of so-called lay review boards helping bishops decide whether any canon laws were broken or whether the priest should be reported to police.

In ordering bishops conferences around the world to come up with abuse policies by May, the Vatican diminished the role that lay review boards might have, saying while they may be "foreseen" in some places they cannot substitute for the discernment of bishops.

There have been several recent high-profile cases in the United States and Ireland — which together have some of the toughest policies on the books — where bishops declined to inform their review boards about accusations and prosecutors later indicted the clergymen.

Collins said the church should take measures to sanction those bishops who fail to deal appropriately with paedophiles or to follow their own abuse guidelines.

Dr Sheila Hollins, a psychiatrist who participated in a Vatican-ordered investigation of the church in Ireland, said victims need to be heard by the church to start healing from their abuse.

"Not being believed or even worse, being blamed for the abuse, adds hugely to the emotional and mental suffering caused by sexual abuse," she told the bishops. The failure of the priests to admit his guilt, or for his superiors to take appropriate action "further compounds the damage."

Advocates for victims have dismissed the symposium as a farce, saying the only way children will be safe is if the Vatican releases the names and files of known molesters. But organizers say the conference shows an unprecedented commitment by the Vatican to crack down on abuse after years of turning a blind eye.

That said, Rossetti said he had no illusions that the symposium would quickly change a culture that has long protected the institution over victims.

"Children are going to be abused while we're learning, which is a pretty sad state of affairs," he told reporters. "The faster we can change the culture, the better. But it's like pushing a mountain."

The sex abuse scandal, which erupted in the 1990s in Ireland and in 2002 in the United States, exploded across Europe in 2010, with thousands of victims coming forward.

On Monday in the keynote address, Cardinal William Levada, who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which deals with abuse cases, said his office has received more than 4,000 cases in the past decade. In March 2010 the figure stood at 3,000, the bulk of them from the United States. Vatican officials privately have acknowledged some 400 cases annually are now being reported to Rome, though mostly from places other than the US.

AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12Months

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12 Months | 500/...

Business Systems Analyst - London - £40,000 plus benefits

£35000 - £40000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Business Syst...

Campaign Manager

£40000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Campaign Man...

JQuery Developer (JQuery, C#, front-end, JQuery, UI, Tomcat)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organ...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil