Ex-Priest: Vatican Knew of Abuse in '40s

Apr 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm

A media furor has erupted over a “newly released” letter to Pope Paul VI that indicates he and the Vatican knew about child sexual abuse by priests almost 50 years ago.

News accounts report the 1963 letter was released by attorneys in California who represented sexual abuse victims in the Los Angeles Diocese. In fact, those same attorneys have previously released numerous damning documents that got little media attention until now.—-

CityBeat, however, wrote about some of the letters three years ago.

The letters were discussed when several hundred people convened for a meeting of Voices of the Faithful (VOF), held in April 2007 at Xavier University. The nationwide nonprofit group is comprised of Catholics — including clergy — who are upset by the church’s official response to the sexual abuse crisis. It works to make the Roman Catholic Church acknowledge the claims of victims and force structural changes that will prevent such abuse and cover-up from happening again on a similar scale.

Patrick J. Wall, a former Benedictine monk and priest, spoke at the meeting. Wall was so disturbed by systemic efforts to cover up for pedophile priests that he serves as a senior consultant to the California law firm that handled multiple abuse cases.

During the discovery process in litigation, several incriminating documents emerged.

As CityBeat wrote at the time:

The Pope and other church leaders first became aware of the growing problem of pedophile priests in the 1940s, Wall says. They responded by founding the Servants of the Paraclete in 1947, which operates facilities that offer services and counseling to priests and brothers "with personal difficulties." Since the flood of lawsuits were filed against the church in recent years, letters by Paraclete officials dating to the 1950s were uncovered that recommended priests found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual activity shouldn't ever be returned to service.

The Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, Servants of the Paraclete founder, described the nature of the problem in a telling September 1957 letter to a New Hampshire bishop. He wrote, "From our long experience with characters of this type, and without passing judgment on the individual, most of these men would be clinically classified as schizophrenic. Their repentance and amendment is superficial and, if not formally at least sub-consciously, is motivated by a desire to be again in a position where they can continue their wonted activity. A new diocese means only green pastures."

Despite the warning, however, many such priests simply were moved to new parishes in subsequent decades, where they offended again and again.

Although the statute of limitations for filing child sexual abuse charges varies from state to state, Wall advises victims that it's never too late to file a police report. That's because it's important to officially document allegations against specific priests and create a paper trail to help others who might be abused in the future.

"The reason you want to do a police report is there's a public record," Wall says. "And if there's a public record, the kids of the future have a chance."

Here’s a link to the complete article.

Meanwhile, the leader of the right-wing Catholic League, a U.S. group dedicated to defending the church, shocked many TV viewers this week by stating the accused priests weren't guilty of pedophilia.

Appearing Tuesday night on CNN's Larry King Live, Bill Donohue said "the vast majority of the victims (were) post-pubescent," adding that didn't meet the definition for pedophilia. Donohue added that most children become post-pubescent at age 12 or 13. He has blamed homosexuality, not pedophilia, as the cause for the crisis despite statistics showing most sexual predators and pedophiles are heterosexual.