|14 Convicted Abusers Remain Priests in U.K.
By Robert Mackey
New York Times
September 16, 2010
As my colleague Rachel Donadio reports, at the start of a four-day visit to Britain on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters that the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse of children by priests had not been “sufficiently vigilant” or “sufficiently swift and decisive.” In remarks captured on video, he added, “It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry is possible.”
The night before, Britain’s Channel 4 News reported that an investigation had found that 14 of 22 Catholic priests convicted of serious sexual offenses since 2001 in England and Wales, and sentenced to more than one year in jail, have still not been defrocked and remain members of the clergy.
Antony Barnett, who led the investigation, explained on Wednesday that he had tracked down one of the convicted priests, the Rev. John Coghlan, who was sentenced to jail in 2005 for abusing a 10-year-old altar boy in London. Mr. Barnett reported that Father Coghlan now “no longer takes part in active ministry but remains listed as a priest and is living in church-owned property in the Diocese of Westminster.”
Father Coghlan’s victim, Luke Holland, told Channel 4 News in response: “It’s absolutely outrageous. It’s outrageous. It’s a kick in the teeth for me, isn’t it? You know, why did I bother exposing him for what he is?”
As Mr. Barnett explained, in 2001, following the publication of the Nolan report — the findings of an independent committee asked to review on child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales — Church officials had agreed to follow a senior judge’s recommendation that any priest sentenced to a year or more in jail for the sexual abuse of children should be removed from the priesthood — laicized, in church parlance.
Mr. Barnett reported that Church officials explained that only half of the 14 priests who were convicted of sexual abuse might eventually be dismissed. Three proposed dismissals have either been rejected by the Vatican or not pursued because of the ill health of the priest, and in four cases no moves have been made to remove the men from the priesthood.
After his arrival in Britain, the pope spoke of a struggle against “aggressive forms of secularism” in a speech in Scotland, in which he also seemed to blame “atheist extremism” for the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Matthew Weaver of The Guardian noted, in a live blog following the events of the day, that the leader of the British Humanist Society responded angrily to those comments, saying:
The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God. The notion that it is non-religious people in the UK today who want to force their views on others, coming from a man whose organization exerts itself internationally to impose its narrow and exclusive form of morality and undermine the human rights of women, children, gay people and many others, is surreal.
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