Survivors Skeptical of Vatican Tribunal

By Bob McGovern
Boston Herald
June 11, 2015

Photo by: Nancy Lane/File

A new Vatican tribunal — charged with investigating bishops who fail to protect children from sexually abusive priests — has come under fire from critics who believe the Catholic Church still isn’t doing enough to protect its most vulnerable members.

“This is a process, and a process can be used or abused,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “We fear that this will be used to encourage complacency and mollify parishioners and generate good headlines. We will be pleasantly surprised if it’s actually used to discourage cover-ups.”

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors yesterday announced what it called “a new judicial section” to examine cases of bishops accused of protecting priests who abused children. The commission is headed by Boston’s Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

O’Malley is currently in Rome, and spokesman Terrence Donilon referred all questions to the Vatican.

Those who confronted the horror of priest sexual abuse said they are encouraged but aren’t sure whether the new tribunal will be effective.

“I think we will only know if this works when cases come up and bishops are indeed held accountable,” said Charles Martel, a psychotherapist who worked with individuals who were sexually abused by priests. “This could be a good thing, but we also really hope that this isn’t a situation where we hope, but nothing happens.”

Meanwhile, Catholic Church supporters say it’s a step in the right direction.

“In the past it has been helter skelter, and this will be much more judicial and specific,” said Philip Moran, former pastoral counsel for the Archdiocese of Boston. “I think there are people on the other side who still want their pound of flesh, and this should help alleviate the situation.”

There are some who doubt whether the tribunal will be objective and whether it will retroactively affect bishops who moved predator priests to different parishes rather than report them or remove them from ministry.

“The question really is: Who is going to supervise this?” said Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who has represented hundreds of victims of clergy sexual abuse. “It’s a self-policing tool for an organization that has continuously proven that it can’t police itself.”








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