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Diplomat’s recall not unusual, suspect should be put on trial, says expert

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The recall of a Vatican diplomat suspected by U.S. authorities of having a connection with child pornography reflects normal international protocol, but the suspect must be put on trial and receive punishment if found guilty, said a key organizer of a world congress on child protection.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection, speaks in early February at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome during a news conference launching the Center for Child Protection in Rome. At right is Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Due process has to be followed. If there is a case and if the person is found guilty, then he or she needs to be punished, whoever that is,” said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, which is hosting a world congress on protecting minors from online abuse, violence and exploitation.

The Oct. 3-6 congress in Rome came on the heels of the recall of Italian Msgr. Carlo Capella from the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

The Vatican said it opened an investigation, which involved international collaboration. Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 for the monsignor’s arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Panelists introducing the congress during a news conference Oct. 2 said its goals were to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to protect children from abuse in a “digital era.”

The panel was asked by Catholic News Service what the Vatican should do to show itself as a leader in child protection, particularly when it comes to possible crimes that involve multiple jurisdictions and when it reportedly invoked the official’s diplomatic immunity in order to conduct its own investigation.

Father Zollner said, “I am pretty well convinced that this follows the normal way of diplomatic and interstate relationships” and that the allegations were being handled similarly to the way the United States or other nations would handle them in similar circumstances.

However, he added, justice must be served and anybody “who commits a crime needs to be punished. Period.”

       

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Center for Child Protection in Rome to educate, raise awareness about child abuse

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, who has called for zero tolerance for the “despicable” crime of sexual abuse of minors, has praised new efforts aimed at helping the church better protect children.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, speaks at a news conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome Feb. 16. At right is Sheila Hollins, professor emeritus of psychiatry of disability at St. George's University of London. The news conference was held to officiall inaugurate the launch of the Center for Child Protection, (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, speaks at a news conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome Feb. 16. At right is Sheila Hollins, professor emeritus of psychiatry of disability at St. George’s University of London. The news conference was held to officiall inaugurate the launch of the Center for Child Protection, (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In letter to Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, the pope said he was “happy about what you are doing and I sincerely congratulate you.”

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley read the letter aloud at a news conference Feb. 16 inaugurating the official launch of the center and its activities. The launch followed a three-year pilot project phase.

The pope wrote that he was confident “all this work will bear fruit.”

The center, which offers an onsite and online prevention and child protection program and diploma, was established in 2012 as a way to help build awareness and train religious and lay leaders globally about the problem of abuse.

Cardinal O’Malley, 70, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, said he remembers “being raised without much awareness” about abuse and only later saw how the “climate of secrecy and shame” caused so much damage.

While the pontifical commission will be focusing on helping the church develop better policies and procedures for protecting minors, it will also put extra emphasis on real accountability for bishops who do not comply with child protection norms adopted by their bishops’ conferences and approved by the Vatican.

The Center for Child Protection, on the other hand, will focus on training, education and raising awareness as well as promoting more research on the scope of abuse in the church and its causes.

While many abuse survivors emphasize the need to hold church leaders accountable, many underestimate the continued need for education, said U.S. Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, a licensed psychologist who has many years’ experience teaching pastoral studies and leading the St. Luke Institute, a treatment center in Maryland for priests and religious with addictions and psychological problems.

“Education is really the key, it really makes the difference. It sounds trite, but it’s true,” he told Catholic News Service.

Msgr. Rossetti, who is now teaching at the Gregorian University, said because of greater awareness of the risks and problem of abuse, the church, parents and “children are more on notice.”

“It changes the whole system,” he said.

The church now is “more hostile to an abuser,” making it a place where an abuser will not be tolerated, he said.

Think of the church as a bank, he said, “and which bank are you going to rob…? The less vigilant one. So you work to make the bank stronger” and more resilient against those whose motives are to harm.

In the field of child protection in the United States, he said, after a decade of work “we are seeing the results” with the number of abuse cases reported dropping and 5 million Americans having gone through some form of the church’s child protection training.

“Education has become the most important part” in abuse protection, he said, even though much media attention right now is on leadership accountability.

While bishops must respond to allegations and be held accountable, “the 15 cases you stop because of an education program” don’t make the news, he said. “It’s something you don’t see.”

 

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Cardinal O’Malley: Papal panel to address accountability and denial of clerical sex abuse within church

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The new papal commission for protecting minors from clerical sex abuse will recommend stricter standards for accountability of abusers and those who fail to protect children, and will fight widespread denial of the problem within the church, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

“In some people’s minds, ‘Oh, this is an American problem, it’s an Irish problem, it’s a German problem,’” the cardinal told reporters May 3. “Well, it’s a human problem, and the church needs to face it everywhere in the world. And so a lot of our recommendations are going to have to be around education, because there is so much ignorance around this topic, so much denial.”

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, the lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The cardinal spoke on the third and final day of the commission’s first meeting at the Vatican. Reading a statement on behalf of the entire eight-member panel, he said the commission planned to draft statutes for approval by Pope Francis to clarify the body’s “nature, structure, activity and the goals.”

“The commission will not deal with individual cases of abuse, but we can make recommendations regarding policies for assuring accountability and best practice,” the statement said.

Later, in response to a reporter’s question, the cardinal said such policies were necessary to fill gaps in church law.

“Our concern is to make sure that there are clear and effective protocols to deal with situations where superiors of the church have not fulfilled their obligations to protect children,” he said. “There are, theoretically I guess, canons that could apply here, but obviously they have not been sufficient.”

“Our concern about accountability is accountability for everyone in the church, regardless of what their status is,” the cardinal said.

Asked about a recent directive from the Italian bishops’ conference stating that bishops have no legal obligation to report accusations of sex abuse to the police or other civil authorities, Cardinal O’Malley said: “Obviously, accountability should not be dependent upon legal obligations in the country when we have a moral obligation.”

The commission announced its plans to nominate additional members for appointment by the pope. Cardinal O’Malley said preserving the commission’s independence required a strong presence of lay volunteers, and that sitting members hoped to be joined by more victim-survivors. So far, the only survivor on the commission is Marie Collins, Irish founder of an organization to help sex abuse victims.

The cardinal said adding geographical diversity to the commission, currently made up of six Europeans, a North American and a South American, was also a priority, largely to ensure that awareness of sex abuse extends to all parts of the church.

Cardinal O’Malley was joined on stage at the briefing by Collins and another member of the commission, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner. The other five members sat with reporters in the audience.

Collins seconded the cardinal’s emphasis on education, recalling a 2012 symposium on sex abuse at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, where she said she had been “shocked” by the “sincerity of some bishops who felt the problem did not exist in their country.”

Asked to comment on remarks by Pope Francis, in a March interview, that the church had done “perhaps more than anyone” to solve the problem of sex abuse, Collins she had “found difficulty” with the pope’s words but was now “looking forward.”

“In many countries, there are improvements,” she said. “What the Holy Father said is true, but it is not universal.”

Asked about the relevance of sex abuse to the Vatican’s scheduled May 5-6 appearance before a United Nations committee monitoring adherence to an anti-torture treaty, Collins said “many survivors would probably say their abuse was torture, but it’s an entirely different thing, a separate matter altogether from state-sponsored torture.”

The commission held its meetings at the Vatican guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives. The members met the pope on two occasions during their stay, once after a morning Mass and once for a photo opportunity, but he did not address them as a group or attend any of their sessions. The cardinal said he expected the pope to address the commission once all its members had been appointed.

 

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