COLM O'GORMAN AND PANORAMA DOCUMENTARY - "SEX CRIMES AND THE VATICAN" (Oct 2006)
Colm O'Gorman - "Poor Journalism Saves A Guilty Church"
by Thomas Sutcliffe, Evening Herald and UK Independent 3 October 2006
Added to www.alliancesupport.org on October 8, 2006
[ This is interesting because the writer is hostile to the Catholic Church but still believes that Colm O'Gorman's evidence is no good ]
If you measure the success of an investigative report by the fuss it causes then Sunday night's Panorama was surely a triumph. Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, immediately denounced the BBC for sensationalism, misleading editing and prejudice.
Colm O'Gorman's report, which accused the Pope of presiding over a deliberate policy of cover-up, had obviously done nothing to dispel his belief, expressed three years ago, that the BBC as an institution is hostile to the Catholic Church.
As it happened I watched Panorama because, - in a grumbling, muttering, slightly knee-jerk way - I am hostile to the Catholic Church. So it was a surprising experience to find indignation at the impunity of some abusive priests mingling with a whispering disquiet at the editorial approach.
The first doubt occurred when O'Gorman broke down in tears, after visiting the site of an incident of abuse in Brazil. It certainly confirmed the deep trauma of O'Gorman's past abuse at the hands of an Irish priest. But shouldn't his qualification as empathetic victim have disqualified him from the reporting role in this case?
"Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face of the BBC," notes the corporation's editorial guidelines, "they can have a significant impact on the perceptions of our impartiality." That was the problem here. Perceptions.
It wasn't that O'Gorman's investigations were necessarily untrue, but it was all too easy to dismiss him as an impartial weigher of contradictory evidence.
The second doubt occurred when I actually read Crimen Solicitationis, the 1962 Vatican document which was summarised by one of Panorama's interviewees as "an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy." It took me close to an hour to get through it and at a rough guess, would take another 20 years to fully comprehend.
An abstruse, legalistic document of headache-inducing opacity it lays out the procedures to be followed in the case of a specific ecclesiastical crime - solicitation or using the confessional to tempt a penitent towards impure speech or deeds.
It is much preoccupied with secrecy. But much of this furtiveness seems to derive from the fact that the evidence and accusation occur under seal of the confessional, which must somehow be preserved through the subsequent investigation. Happy as I would have been to find hard evidence of a sinister cover up by the Vatican, it simply won't bear the crude description, which, for the sake of journalistic brevity, Panorama gave it.
Crimen Solicitationis is hardly a document any institution should want to stand by in 2006 - let alone one that sets itself up as moral exemplar.
It leaves the impression that the all-important thing is to avoid damage to the church, rather than damage to vulnerable parishioners.
It would be nice to see Archbishop Nichols explicate that line as part of his rebuttal. But I fear it will be too easy for the Church hierarchy to disappear into the small print of canon law and that part of this programme made it easier still.
PANORAMA AND POPE BENEDICT
Added to www.alliancesupport.org on October 6, 2006
Irish Times, Letters page, 4 October 2006
Sean O'Conaill (October 3rd) asks what exactly prevented bishops from reporting instances of clerical child abuse to the civil authorities. It may seem like a cruel question for victims and their parents, but what prevented them going directly to the police? When people reported such things to bishops rather than the police, what did they think would happen?
Bishops have no skills in criminal investigation. They have no authority to arrest or detain anyone for questioning. They have no forensic division.
When people reported to bishops they hoped for a shortcut - that "something would be done" which would prevent their suffering any further. And so bishops resorted to psychiatrists, counselling, promises and in many cases simply a move of parishes. But let us not kid ourselves that this sorry mess is all down to bishops. Any parent who went to a bishop instead of the police must accept some responsibility for the situation we are in.
As for the Panorama programme itself, is this supposed to be investigative journalism? An old document that has been in the public domain for years, misrepresentations, and a rather pathetic attempt to implicate the Pope, presumably to facilitate someone's lawsuit?
Unfortunately, what we've come to expect from the BBC.
- Yours, etc,
PANORAMA AND POPE BENEDICT
Added to www.alliancesupport.org on October 3, 2006
Irish Times, Letters page, 4 October 2006
You report Dr Mullaney as saying: "The confidentiality is purely an internal procedure, as with any company. It in no way stops people from making a complaint to the civil authorities."
Dr Mullaney ducks the question raised by Sunday night's Panorama programme - a question that every Catholic parent in the world wants answered: What exactly is it that prevents bishops from reporting instances of clerical child abuse to the civil authorities?
In case after case across the Catholic world bishops have acted uniformly to protect abusive clergy, leaving the protection of children to their parents. As far as is known, there has never been a case of a priest abuser being reported in the first instance by his bishop for the perpetration of this dreadful crime. Instead, bishops make every effort to keep such cases out of the public domain, often thereby endangering other children.
There is every reason to believe that this policy would still be protecting people such as Brendan Smyth, Eugene Green and Sean Fortune in Ireland if the media and the civil authorities had not acted.
If the 1962 Vatican directive Crimen Sollicitationis is not the explanation for this uniform policy of covering up, what is the explanation?
To leave this question hanging over the church is to invite the kind of conspiracy programme that Panorama has produced, gravely damaging the authority of the papacy. It is also to bankrupt the symbolism of the bishop's staff of office. It tells us that the crozier, the shepherd's crook, exists to protect abusive priests at the expense of children. The Pope, as the supreme shepherd, is also compromised by this tragic fact.
Our church simply cannot survive such a disgrace. - Yours, etc,
SEAN O'CONAILL, (Co-ordinator, Voice of the Faithful - Ireland),
Programme on Rome Sex Abuse Cover-Up was 'Grossly Incorrect'Added to www.alliancesupport.org on October 3, 2006
Irish Independent, October 3rd 2006
GRAVELY misleading claims were made in the BBC 'Panorama' programme about the Church document Crimen Sollicitationis and a supposed global conspiracy by the Vatican to cover up clerical sexual abuse.
The programme also set out to inflict maximum damage on Pope Benedict XVI by portraying him as the architect of this cover-up. The basis of this malicious, false assertion was the misleading, inaccurate interpretation of sections of the document.
The document does not invite bishops or any ecclesiastical authority to cover up sexual abuse. Rather, it is a compendium of rules and procedures required to carry out an investigation of an allegation of misuse of the sacrament of confession by a priest - a rare but very serious allegation.
It is relevant to the issue of clerical sexual abuse of minors in so much that it equates, as far as penalties go, the most serious crime of sexual abuse with other very serious sexual crimes.
Unfortunately, the programme attempted to construct a theory that this document authorised bishops to follow a policy of cover-up. Tragically, this turned out to be the primary aim of the programme, as it deflected from the horror of child abuse.
The Church has always had internal disciplinary processes for dealing with serious crimes committed by priests. These processes in no way impede civil investigations or prejudice civil courts from imposing penalties.
It is claimed the document imposed secrecy; in fact, this was nothing more than hat we understand as the good practice of confidentiality when concerning the reputations of people against whom allegations have been made. This is normally understood as a right of natural justice, not conspiracy.
The document contained penalties for Church personnel who were indiscreet with this information, and it asked the same discretion of witnesses interviewed during a process; but does not contain any automatic penalty, as asserted in the programme.
As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger has taken a consistently tough line on priests who have abused children, scrupulously working to rid the Church of this "filth", as he described it. He has dismissed five priests from the diocese of Ferns and many others throughout the world who have been convicted of this crime.
He has strongly and consistently asserted, in line with his predecessor, that there is no room in the Catholic priesthood or religious life for anyone who would harm the young.
Canon Lawyer Denies Code Silenced Sex Abuse VictimsAdded to www.alliancesupport.org on October 2, 2006
Irish Times, 2 October 2006 by Alison Healy
A Panorama documentary, "Sex Crimes and the Vatican", shown on BBC 1 last night, claimed that a church directive, which was updated by Pope Benedict when he was a cardinal, was being used to silence the victims of clerical sex abuse.
Colm O'Gorman, director of the One in Four charity for abuse victims, was the reporter on the programme and asked US canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle about the 1962 directive Crimen Sollicitationis. Fr Doyle said the directive was "indicative of a worldwide policy of absolute secrecy and control of all cases of sexual abuse by the clergy".
The programme claimed the directive imposed an oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest and any witnesses in an abuse case. Breaking the oath would mean excommunication. "What you really have here is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by churchmen," Fr Doyle said.
Dr Mullaney said the directive was about the misuse of the confessional. If someone complained about inappropriate behaviour of a priest in a confessional, then the priest and those dealing with the complaint had to treat it in a confidential manner because of the seal of confession. However, this did not prevent the complainant from bringing the complaint to the civil authorities if a crime was suspected. "The confidentiality is purely an internal procedure, as with any company. It in no way stops people from making a complaint to the civil authorities," he added.
The programme interviewed one abuse victim, Aida Doyle, who told how he was sexually assaulted by a priest at an Irish school. When he told another priest about it, the priest applied the seal of confession to the conversation, "so that you will never talk about this and it will be kept secret".
He said: "I was simply told: you don't talk about this again. It's over. You'll get over it. It will fade away in time."
The programme also heard from Judge Anne Burke, who sat on the US's National Review Board which examined the extent of clerical abuse of children. She said the abuse was endemic, with the same percentages of child sexual abuse in all dioceses.
Fr Doyle said the abuse and cover-up was not just happening in the US. "This is all over the world. You see the same pattern and practice no matter what country you go to." Mr O'Gorman also travelled to Brazil where he interviewed the grandmother of a boy who was raped by a priest when he was five years old in 2002. The priest had been first accused of abuse more than 10 years earlier and had been moved at least four times, continuing to abuse children in each parish.
Mr O'Gorman read extracts from the priest's diary which detailed how he targeted children. He sought boys from poor families, preferably without a father, and said it was very important to ingratiate himself with the family. "See what the boy is like and then ask the boy to give himself to me as payment for receiving a present," the diary read. Last year the priest received almost 15 years in prison for abusing this boy and another child.
Retired US district attorney Rick Romley, who convicted eight paedophile priests in Phoenix, told the programme: "The secrecy, the obstruction that I saw during the investigation was unparalleled in my entire career as a DA". When he wrote to the Vatican asking it to instruct three priests to return to the US after they had fled to Rome to escape prosecution, the letter was returned unopened, he said.
O'Gorman 'Maligned' the Pope