“pope Francis, It’s Time to Protect the Children” Plea by “spotlight” Producer Falls on Deaf Ears
By Betty Clermont
March 5, 2016
In accepting the Academy Award for Best Picture, producer Michael Sugar told the world: “This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”
Earlier that day, Spotlight’s Mark Ruffalo, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, as well as Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, who together won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, attended a protest outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles. They were there to support members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
‘What better way to start the day?’” said McCarthy who called up Ruffalo and Singer that morning to join him. Singer added: “We’re trying to put a little more pressure on the Church to hold bishops accountable, have a little more transparency and do a better job protecting kids.”
Later on the red carpet, Ruffalo told Reuters they were “protesting the continued lack of transparency of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican and most of the archdioceses here in the United States on sexual abuse. There are 2,800 priests who they know are absolute sexual predators whose names have still not been released here in the United States. [There are] thousands more throughout the United States and the Vatican today is still dragging its feet on making any real reforms. So we were there today to try to bring justice closer to the hands of these poor people, this horrible thing that’s happened to these people.
Pope Francis has provided only lip-service, a promise of a still-non-existent tribunal, and a commission to solve problems someday in the future which have already been addressed and remedied by the survivors, their advocates and civil authorities. The only action taken so far by the commission has been to boot out survivor Peter Saunders for being too vocal.
“On child abuse, there is no sincerity on Francis’ side,” Saunders said later.
All American children are at risk because the bishops refuse to release the names of their credibly accused employees and because the bishops have lobbyists with seemingly unlimited resources to obstruct the passage of laws revising statutes of limitations allowing adults who were assaulted as children to expose and stop their torturers from harming more children.
Children in other parts of the world with weak or non-existent compulsory reporting laws are in even more danger. As dictator, Pope Francis can and does enact and enforce Church law on his own initiative. But he refuses to act to protect children.
Bishops follow the Church’s universal law, which gives them – and guilty clerics – lots of wiggle room. Priests who molest minors are to receive “just penalties” which can be as mild as a warning.
Permanent removal is reserved only for certain cases, which the Vatican described in a policy framework sent to the world’s bishops in 2011. A priest must be removed permanently if his ministry would be “a danger for minors or a cause of scandal” [as decided solely by the bishop].
Church officials need not report child abuse unless local secular law requires it. The result is that Catholic officials in many countries still give second chances to child molesters, with the Vatican’s permission.
Right now, immediately, as he did with the Bishop of Bling, Pope Francis can remove bishops who aid, abet and/or cover-up for pedophile priests or who do not report child sex abuse to civil authorities – but he has refused to do.
Pope Francis is able to endanger children around the world because the “choir” that Michael Sugar hopes for is humongously outmatched by the American mainstream media’s fawning and selective coverage of the “people’s pope.”
For example, the only publication of Ruffalo’s interview was in the Philippines.
The only websites to highlight Sugar’s acceptance speech were mostly trade publications: the Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly E! News and The Blaze.
What we got from the mainstream media (Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, UPI, New York Times, Washington Post, International Business Times, U.S. News & World Report, New York Daily News, The Salt Lake Tribune, Google, Yahoo and religious and broadcast media) was that the Vatican praised Spotlight. Additionally, the Boston Globe, ABC News, Vanity Fair, etc. told us that Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the pope’s do-nothing commission on sex abuse, liked it too.
Ironically, the mainstream media had praised Spotlight for showing the importance of investigative journalism and the courage and difficulty it took to uncover and report detrimental information about the powerful Catholic Church.
Coincidentally, Australian Cardinal George Pell, chosen by Pope Francis as head of all Vatican finance, was ending his first day’s testimony to the Royal Commission on child sex abuse as the Academy Awards telecast was beginning. Because his doctors claimed he was too ill to travel, Pell testified via video link from a hotel room in Rome. Pell was responding to charges that he attempted to bribe a victim, dismissed a victim’s complaint, knew about Australia’s worst predator priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and did nothing, and was complicit in moving Ridsdale from parish to parish in Ballarat.
A group of Australian survivors flew to Rome to be present during Pell’s appearance.
In Ballarat, “we have the highest suicide rate among men in Australia. We have some of the worst drinking and violence problems. And it all stems from that abuse,” said David Ridsdale, Gerald Ridsdale’s nephew and one of his victims. “This is not just a problem in Ballarat or in Australia,” he told the press at the hotel before the hearing. “This is a systemic problem throughout all the world.”
“Help us heal the future,” he asked members of the media. “We don’t need any more victims in 50 years. We need to be the last of the survivors.”
The U.S. media headlined that in giving testimony, Pell was contrite and honest: “says Church made enormous mistakes,” “admits ‘indefensible’ errors in abuse crisis,” “admits ‘scandalous’ response to abuse allegations.”
The following quotes by Pell regarding clerical sex abuse, sometimes buried but most often omitted by the American media, were published in Australia:
“For good or for ill the Church follows the patterns of the society in which it lives.”
“I don’t think it calls into question the divine structure of the Church … I think the faults overwhelmingly have been more personal faults rather than structures.”
”I was certainly unaware of it … If [the leadership of the Catholic Church had] been gossips, which we weren’t…we would have realized earlier just how widespread this business was.”
Business Insider Australia compiled a list of thirteen things “the man in charge of the Catholic Church’s finances couldn’t recall or didn’t know anything about during his testimony today.”
Completely omitted by the U.S. media was that Pell had been making headlines in Australia long before he was promoted by Pope Francis. Accounts of clerical child sex abuse in Australia were so egregious that in 2012 the state of Victoria (capital Melbourne where Pell was archbishop) initiated a parliament inquiry, the state of New South Wales (capital Sydney where Pell was cardinal) investigated complaints that the Catholic Church hampered police investigations, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the formation of a Royal Commission– the highest form of investigative body in that country – to study child sex abuse by religious and non-government bodies.
Pell’s response was to complain about a “’persistent press campaign’ and ‘general smears that we are covering up and moving people around,’ and then capped it off with the claim that abuse by Catholic priests had been singled out and exaggerated.’”
“Catholic clergy commit six times as much abuse as those in the rest of the Churches combined, and that’s a conservative figure,” a Sydney University law professor told the Victoria inquiry. (Catholics are 25% of Australia’s population) “Of thousands of offences, not a single crime was reported by a Church official to the police,” the Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner testified.
Anthony Foster, father of two young daughters repeatedly raped by a priest – one committed suicide, the second struggled with alcohol addiction and while intoxicated was struck by a car leaving her paralyzed – told the Victorian inquiry that Pell showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy typifying the attitude and response of the Catholic hierarchy” when he was Melbourne archbishop.
Pell’s apology was described as “full of criminal cliches” and “a cynical exercise in damage control.”
In an essay titled, “Rules Are for Schmucks: How to Succeed in Rome,” Luis Granados recalled what happened to John Ellis, who was abused by a priest for many years as an altar boy, when he brought a lawsuit for $100,000 against the Sydney archdiocese.
[…] Pell brought in high-powered lawyers to defend the case.
They subjected Ellis to a grueling two-day cross examination about the details of his abuse and whether he was really a closeted homosexual, systematically trying to convince the court that he was a greedy liar. They hired a public relations expert to help smear Ellis in the court of public opinion.
So how does media darling Pope Francis treat this guy? He promotes him – to the single most important position in the Church. Cardinal Pell is now in charge of all the Church’s money, including the notorious Vatican Bank. The fine moral sensibility he displayed in spending $550,000 to defeat a $100,000 claim to set an example for others, will now guide an institution unregulated by any government and that has a long history of financial fraud, tax evasion, facilitating Mafia money laundering, and possibly much worse …
(For more information, you can read my blog: “Why a Miscreant like Cardinal Pell is Head of Vatican Finance.”)
“I’ve got the full backing of the pope,” Pell told reporters before the second day’s testimony after he met with Pope Francis.
After the four days of testimony were completed: Associated Press, “Australian Cardinal George Pell admits abuse failure, wants to help town [Ballarat].” Reuters: “’Evil was done,’ Australian cardinal says after meeting abuse survivors.” Both wire services are picked up by dozens of U.S. news outlets.
The survivors wanted, but were denied, a meeting with Pope Francis. As were the survivors in Mexico during the pope’s recent trip.
The Australian press: The Age, “Cardinal George Pell has to resign, or Pope Francis must act.” Sydney Morning Herald, “After four days of evidence, we’re still in the dark about what Cardinal George Pell really knew.” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “If the media coverage – from left and right – is any sign, Cardinal George Pell angered many people with his evidence this week to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”
A Sydney priest who knows Pell for more than 30 years: “I think I share the dismay and disgust of a great many people, Catholic and others, with the cardinal’s display, and the interesting thing about it of course is it’s just made plain to the world who he is and what he’s like.”
Except in the United States.
(Note to readers: No alternative reporter or blogger would have access to accurate information on the global clerical sex abuse crisis without the Abuse Tracker website, administered by the volunteer talent and hard work of Kathy Shaw. If you’d like to support independent journalism, please visit the website and follow the instructions to donate.)