Indian Catholic News

Letter from Rome

Due to sex abuse scandals, the pope has 'decapitated' one cardinal and if true to his word, more will lose their red hats.

(Photo by M. Migliorato/CPP/CIRIC)
By Robert Mickens

The credibility of the Roman Catholic Church's collective leadership (i.e. its bishops) has been all but completely destroyed, thanks to the hierarchy's general ineptitude in dealing openly, honestly and effectively with priests who have sexually abused minors.

Without a doubt, we are only at the beginning of an unprecedented catastrophe that continues to plague the Church in most countries of Western Europe, as well as those of Oceania and North America.

The clergy sex abuse crisis still has yet to fully erupt in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, though a tidal wave of abuse cases is already beginning to flood the ecclesiastical shores on the pope's native "continent."

Anyone who thinks the recent four-day Vatican abuse "summit" was a significant turning point for the worldwide Catholic hierarchy, or that it initiated a process to remedy its disastrous institutional response to clergy abuse, is either blind or in denial.

At this point, naiveté is no longer an acceptable excuse.

Two cardinals facing jail sentences

Just last week a civil court in France handed Cardinal Philippe Barbarin a six-month suspended jail sentence for failing to report a credibly accused and self-admitted abuser to civil authorities.

The 68-year-old archbishop of Lyon immediately announced that he would go to Rome in the coming days and submit his resignation.

Barbarin's conviction came just seven days after fellow cardinal, George Pell, was locked up in a prison cell in Australia.

There the 77-year-old former prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy awaits sentencing on March 13 after a jury, in Melbourne, last December found him guilty of sexually abusing two adolescents in 1996.The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has since opened a canonical process to investigate the charges against the Australian.

Barbarin, who got his red hat in 2002, and Pell, who got his a year later, are appealing their convictions.

But despite the outcome of those appeals, the high-profile and unprecedented court rulings against these two cardinals are likely to open the flood gates of legal action against more bishops and cardinals elsewhere.

The guilty sentences against two men in the highest echelon of the Catholic hierarchy will no doubt encourage previously reluctant victims to come forward and denounce other bishops — either of abusing them or of covering-up for the priests that did.

This is already happening in Australia where another man has lodged a civil suit claiming damages for allegedly being fondled by Cardinal Pell at a public swimming pool in the 1970s. It is presumed, based on past experience, that other denunciations will follow.

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