All around the world, from Pennsylvania, to Chile, to Australia, the Catholic Church continues to fight truth and transparency. By now, one would hope that the institution has learned from its past mistakes when it covered up the sexual abuse of children by the Church’s priests, bishops and other clerics. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In Pennsylvania, the Attorney General is wrapping up investigations involving six Catholic dioceses, including Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Greensburg. Three of the dioceses have publicly stated they will not challenge the release of the grand jury reports, while three bishops have remained silent, refusing to acknowledge whether they will challenge the release of the grand jury reports. Truth and transparency appear to be at the bottom of the bishops’ lists.
Meanwhile in Australia, Cardinal Pell, the highest ranking Vatican official to be charged with child sexual abuse, is facing two separate criminal trials. Recently, Australian prosecutors announced the filing of a “super injunction” to bar news coverage of Pell’s trial. One possible explanation of this rare and extreme request was to preempt Pell’s lawyers who will likely argue that the publicity of Pell’s case will prevent him from receiving a fair trial. Prosecutors have since narrowed their application for the media ban, but the story remains the same: Keep the dirty secrets and public scrutiny of the trial far away from the public eye.
In South America, sexual abuse survivors in Chile have been speaking out for years against several bishops who were complicit in covering up the child sex abuse scandal, including Bishop Juan Barros. After publicly defending Barros, Pope Francis changed course and finally took some semblance of action and sent Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Father Jordi Bertomeu, two officials at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Chile to investigate the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse by Barros. After receiving a 2,300 page report containing interviews of 64 witnesses, Pope Francis did his best to keep the report under lock and key. Again, transparency and truth were at the bottom of the Vatican’s list.
Today, 31 Chilean bishops have offered their resignations to Pope Francis. The resignations were announced after portions of the Chilean report were leaked after Pope Francis included citations from the investigative report in a 10-page document he gave to the Chilean bishops during an emergency Vatican summit. In the report, Francis accuses the bishops of “destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring church investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing grave negligence in protecting children from pedophile priests.”
Despite the historical and ongoing efforts of sexual abuse survivors and advocates across the world, the Vatican and its bishops continue to fight truth and transparency when threats of public exposure arise. However, one thing is certain: we will continue the fight to expose the deplorable and criminal actions that have been hidden behind the walls and gold palaces of the Vatican for far too long.