ITALY - Explaining the "Dirty Dozen" list
First, we want to urge Catholic prelates to stop pretending that the worst is over regarding the clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis. Tragically, the worst is almost certainly ahead. This scandal, we believe, has yet to surface in most nations. It’s shameless spin and deliberate deception to claim otherwise. It’s tempting to reassure the public and the parishioners by making this claim. But it’s also irresponsible. (It leads to complacency, and complacency protects no one. Only vigilance protects the vulnerable.)
Clergy sex crimes and cover-ups remain deeply hidden in the vast majority of nations (where most Catholics live), and has really only become widely known - and barely addressed - in the US about a decade ago and in a few European countries even more recently.
History, psychology and common sense all suggest that since the vast majority of clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the developing world are yet to be exposed, the bulk of the scandal is yet to come. Further, we believe the worst is yet to come because it’s likely that thousands of predatory priests across the world are still molesting and still live and work among unsuspecting families and flocks. (Church officials admit that there are 6,100 accused predator priests in the US alone. And the US represents only about 6% percent of the planet’s population.)
We hear less about clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Africa, Asia, and South America because there tends to be less funding for law enforcement, less vigorous civil justice systems, less independent journalism, and an even greater power and wealth difference between church officials and their congregants (which makes abuse and cover ups harder to prevent and expose).
So let’s not kid ourselves or anyone else. This is a widespread, long-standing and deeply-rooted church crisis. It’s gone on for centuries. It’s going on now. And it won’t be reversed in a few years, especially since almost no one who causes it has experienced any significant consequences for their complicity and since the ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy that enables it remains virtually unchanged .
That said, based largely on news accounts, legal filings and victims’ experiences, here are the 12 “papabile” we considers to be the worst choices in terms of protecting kids, healing victims, and exposing corruption.
It’s tough to get a clear sense of how most of the world’s bishops handle abuse cases when they arise. Again, in most nations, victims are largely even more powerless than they are in the US. So we admit that it’s tough to get solid data.
They are Maradiaga (Honduras), Rivera (Mexico), Ouellet (Canada), Turkson (Ghana), Pell (Australia), Bertone (Italy), Scola (Italy), Sandri (Argentina), Duke (Czech Republic), O'Malley (United States), Dolan (United States), and Wuerl (United States)
Some of these names we’ve criticized before. Some may surprise observers. A few of these prelates are considered by some Catholics to be “reformers.” We obviously disagree with this depiction.
Often, this handful of so-called “reformers” has benefited from diligent and savvy public relations professionals. Sometimes, they’ve enjoyed working in jurisdictions where it’s very hard for victims to take legal action – civil or criminal – so cover ups stay covered up. Sometimes, they’ve been helped immeasurably by the very low expectations bar set by a particularly disgraced predecessor. Sometimes, they’ve gotten the benefit of the doubt from many because they’re charming and charismatic glad-handers.
There are several reasons why several Americans are on this list. We suspect virtually every bishop on the planet has dealt with child sex abuse by clerics. We strongly suspect that virtually every Vatican veteran has too. We know nearly every US bishop has dealt with a lot of cases. And we know that these four Americans have dealt with many dozens or hundreds of cases for years and years.
They have also claimed, like many of their brother bishops across the globe, that they’ve “learned” more about abuse and cover up in recent years. (We strongly doubt this.) If so, then their actions should be substantially more proactive and compassionate and effective than the actions of prelates elsewhere. We do not see that happening, however.
Most of these men have earned a spot on this list because of what they've done. Some, however, are on this list because of what they've said. We in SNAP often say "Actions, not words, protect kids." Nonetheless, words do matter. And when bishops make hurtful or misleading public comments, it hurts on two levels.
First, it hurts on a practical level. When bishops make insensitive or deceitful statements about this crisis, it exacerbates the hopelessness and helplessness many victims, witnesses and whistleblowers already feel. And when victims, witnesses and whistleblowers become even more hopeless and helpless, they're even less likely to take action. That means that more predators remain hidden. And that means more kids are hurt.
Second, it hurts on an emotional level. Hearing well-educated and powerful men minimize and mischaracterize, for self-serving purposes, the horror of what we've endured, simply adds to our pain.
So when bishops misdiagnose and mischaracterize this crisis (by claiming it involves only "a tiny percentage" of priests, or by implying it's all about individual predator's crimes, not about collective complicity by the church hierarchy), it's both harmful and wrong. When bishops try to spread the blame and diffuse outrage by stating the obvious - "abuse occurs in every institution" - it's both harmful and wrong. When bishops overstate the extent and effectiveness of their feeble new policies and procedures and protocols, it's both harmful and wrong.
When bishops pretend that their actions are proactive, ignoring the fact that they've been forced to finally respond by criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits, media exposés, parishioner pressure and their own insurers and public relations staffers, it's both wrong and hurtful.
In conclusion, we urge the College of Cardinals to elect none of these twelve as the next pope. And we urge them to stop pretending the crisis has abated.
(NOTE – Today’s list contains only church officials whose names have been reported as serious or likely papal possibilities in at least two recent mainstream news sources. There are other Cardinals who are not generally considered ‘papabiles’ who SNAP would also oppose. They include: Connell of Ireland, Brady of Ireland, O’Brien of Scotland, Sodano and Re of Italy, Danneels of Belgium and the following from the US: Egan, Rigali, Burke, Law, Maida, Levada, Mahony, and O’Brien.
Weeks ago, we strongly criticized three “papabile” cardinals; Turkson, Maradiaga, and Dolan. And earlier this week, we opposed the election of any member of the Roman Curia. We feel no current Vatican “insider” has the will to truly “clean house” in the Vatican and elsewhere. We also maintain that promoting a Curia member would discourage victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and advocates from reporting wrongdoing. (This includes “papabiles” Ouellet, Turkson, Sandri, Bertone, and Pell.