Rome/Argentina--Pope picks accused wrongdoer for new church abuse panel
For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 11
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
The first member of a new church abuse panel is an archbishop who was ousted months ago for alleged financial misdeeds and has a dismal track record on abuse in his home diocese and nation.
He is Archbishop José Luis Mollaghan, who was suspended in May as head of the Rosario archdiocese in Argentina due to accusations that he mismanaged church funds, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.
So Francis apparently believes that Mollaghan is too untrustworthy to head a diocese but is a good choice to handle predator priest cases.
The independent, Boston-based archive group BishopAccountability.org has documented a number of reckless, callous and deceitful moves by Argentinian Catholic officials in child sex abuse and cover up cases. See: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/Argentina/
Some of those cases involve Mollaghan, especially the case of Fr. Reinaldo Narvais, who faces allegations by “at least eight people, one of whom was a minor with a mental disability,” according to an Argentinian newspaper.
One source says Mollaghan admitted that “the congregation agreed to pay a 200 thousand pesos compensation to one of the alleged victims of Father Reynaldo, which does not mean to accept that the crime actually occurred.”
And Mollaghan was among Argentinian prelates who just last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, “did not comply with a Vatican call to create guidelines for handling sexual-abuse allegations in the country,” a delay which “opens new questions about the new pope's record of addressing the issue of sexual abuse by priests. . .”
The Pope’s public relations team is smart. They know that headlines matter most and the headlines here will likely remain “Francis to speed up appeals process.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? But “the devil is in the details,” as they say, and the details here look at best unimpressive and at worst distressing.
Mollaghan was appointed Rosario Archbishop in 2005. Before that, he was bishop of the San Miguel diocese in 2000 (also in Argentina) and suffragan bishop of Buenos Aires in 1993, one year after Francis became suffragan bishop there, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.
Francis tapping Mollaghan for this panel reminds us of Benedict’s tapping of then-St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke to head the Vatican’s highest court. Both moves were rumored to be “kicking” a problematic prelate “upstairs” to reduce his power and visibility. That strategy didn’t seem to work well for Benedict. We doubt it will work well for Francis.
But regardless, it rubs salt into the wounds of abuse victims and dashes the hopes of adult Catholics who, polls show, want to see real reform from Francis on the abuse crisis (not just on church finances and governance). But such reform won’t happen as long as corrupt church officials continue to be promoted.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)